This week's Fact Friday comes to you from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
Biddleville was one of several ring villages which grew around Charlotte in the years following the Civil War. Other nearby African-American communities included Greenville and Irwinville to the north of Charlotte and Blandville to the southeast. Another village, Seversville, was located near Biddleville and was populated by white residents. Biddleville existed as an adjunct entity to Charlotte for many years. In 1878 the village attempted to incorporate under the name Biddletown, but this effort was unsuccessful. By the early 1880s, the name of the village had transitioned to Biddleville. In 1895, again Biddleville attempted to incorporate but failed; instead the village was annexed into Charlotte.
Three civic institutions dominated life in both black and white southern villages: churches, schools, and civic organizations. Given Biddle University's (the institution changed its name from Biddle Institute in 1876) ties to the Presbyterian Church, it is not surprising that the first organized institutions in Biddle were churches. The first of these was Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, founded in 1876. Students and Biddle faculty served as ministerial staff until 1882, when former Biddle President Rev. Stephen Mattoon became pastor for a three-year period. Biddleville Presbyterian Church first held services on October 17, 1880, on Mattoon Street, with Rev. Thomas Lawrence serving as pastor until 1883. Original trustees included brothers Alexander Phifer (1848-1920), Henry Phifer (1846-1914), Amizi Phifer, and George Phifer (1865-1929). Other denominational churches formed in the community with Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in 1878 and Greater Gethsemane A.M.E. Zion Church in 1874.
Because of the presence of Biddle Institute and the many churches in the community, Biddleville hosted many regional and state meetings of various religious bodies. The Catawba Presbytery, which included the African-American Presbyterian churches in the region, regularly met in Biddleville. Other denominations also held meetings in the village. The Baptist Minister's union held a four day meeting at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in November 1890.
With the growth of the village, elementary schooling became a need for the community. In March 1885, the Mattoon sold one half acre of land to School Community District No. 88, represented by Biddleville residents Thomas Walker and Alexander Phifer, to be used for a school. Until the establishment of an African-American high school in Charlotte, male students would continue secondary education at Biddle University. Female students attended Scotia Seminary in Concord. Local Biddleville students included William R. Young (1881-1943), an 1899 graduate, George W. Pharr (1887-1933), and Claude J. Bradshaw (1878-1918). Biddle also sponsored a Summer School for teachers in which many local residents attended, including Mary French Henry (1884-1938).
Residents of Biddleville also maintained membership in a number of fraternal and social organizations. Many of these institutions were established in Charlotte and surrounding communities following the Civil War. Paul Drayton Lodge #7, A Prince Hall Masonic chapter, was founded in 1872. Chapters of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows were present by 1873. Local members included Amistead Brown (1818-1893). Three years later, chapters of Independent Order of Good Samaritans and Daughters of Samaria, which were open to both men and women, were founded in Charlotte. In October 1884, the Supreme Grand Lodge of the Grand United Order of the National Laborers' Aid Protective Society held a meeting to elect officers in Biddleville. Among the officers elected were Biddleville residents Rev. Samuel Milius Pharr (1858-1936), Junius Nathan White (1862-1919), Rev. Warren Thomas (1830-1910), and George W. Phifer (1865-1929), all of whom are interred in Biddleville Cemetery.
Biddle also served as a meeting place for black political activity in the Charlotte area. A rally held on July 4, 1876 at Biddle Institute saw 8,000 African-Americans gather to hear speeches against Democratic (equivalent to today's Republican Party) gubernatorial candidate (and former Confederate officer) Zebulon Vance. In late 1890, Mecklenburg County black Republicans (equivalent to today's Democratic Party) met at the university to protest discrimination within the local party.
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Until next week!
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, "Biddleville Cemetery: Located in Five Points Park, French Street," November 2016
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“History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” - James Baldwin