STEELE CREEK — For its 250th birthday, Mecklenburg County wants one present. Or would it be one past?
The county is asking residents to share stories about living locally for a sestercentennial celebration throughout 2013. Mecklenburg residents are asked to provide stories, pictures or videos of meaningful moments, from happy occasions to more trying ones.
A website is being set up at mecklenburg250.org, and submissions also can be emailed to mecklenburg250@mecklenburg countync.gov or sent via Facebook. Original online and television programming will be created, and a birthday party for the county will be held Feb. 26. Several business and government groups are partnering.
“This is going to be a wonderful birthday celebration for the community and especially for the Steele Creek community,” said Vilma Leake, Steele Creek’s representative to the county board of commissioners. “We’re just grateful to be your representatives, and to be a part of the story.”
The commission made a proclamation Jan. 2 recognizing a holding of court on Feb. 26, 1763, as the founding moment for Mecklenburg, and 2013 as the sestercentennial celebration.
Leake is one of only two representatives to her post since 1999. She’s excited about the way the county is choosing to tell its story through the voices of its residents.
“Can’t anybody tell it like us,” Leake said.
Linda Blackwelder is a 51-year resident of Steele Creek. For two decades she’s put out a quarterly on Steele Creek history, estimating maybe 500 pages of accounts. The member of Steele Creek Historical and Genealogical Society has seen land grants mentioning Steele Creek from as far back as 1749, and knows many of the family names that came to label coves and creeks in the area.
“People were here before 1763,” Blackwelder said.
Mecklenburg broke from Anson County after counting up the required number of residents. Early on, as it is today, the Catawba River served as a major draw for large pockets of people.
“They needed water,” Blackwelder said. “They didn’t have a way to dig a well back then.”
Still, much more focus over the years was given to Charlotte and other more urban areas, she said.
“It was a farm community for so many years,” Blackwelder said of Steele Creek, even into her early years there. “The outlying areas in 1763 were very remote.”
Mecklenburg has for years had an impact on neighboring York County, said Culture & Heritage Museums historian Michael Scoggins. And not just of late, with Charlotte providing economic and other opportunities nearby. From 1748-72, North Carolina actually claimed much of upstate South Carolina.
“South Carolina never recognized it, and neither did the British government,” Scoggins said.
York County officially came to be through a state act in March 1785, though prior to that time three North Carolina counties – including Mecklenburg – had laid claim to the area, even west of the Catawba. Though the lines and stories have changed through the years, there’s still history being made in Mecklenburg County worth sharing, Blackwelder said.
Something she found out, though never expected, when she married a fifth-generation Steele Creek resident.
“No, I didn’t,” Blackwelder said, “but I’ve loved every minute of it.”