Tank Town

Morning Minute: Friday, June 21, 2019

News About Town: Getting a jump start on campaign season, three incumbent candidates held their first meet and greet at Seaboard last night. The mayor and five commissioners were in attendance, as was the town manager. Candidates for Matthews Board of Commissioners don’t officially file to run until next month, so the full roster is yet to be known. Early voting begins Wednesday, October 16 and ends Friday, November 1. The general election is on Tuesday, November 5 from 6:30 am until 7:30 pm at your regular polling location.


News Around Town: NCDOT is hosting an open house/preconstruction meeting for the I-485 Express Lane project. This project will include the on/off ramps at Weddington Rd. and improvements to the John St. interchange. The express lanes will be tolled with cost depending on demand, existing lanes will not be toll lanes. Stop by anytime Thursday, June 27, from noon to 7 pm at the Endhaven Elementary School (6815 Endhaven Ln., Charlotte) to chat with NCDOT and Turnpike Authority representatives.

One Fun Thing: There’s one more chance to hear from Barbara Taylor, Director for the Matthews Heritage Museum, about the Tank Town exhibit. Barbara will be at Matthews Library presenting the history of the schools and churches in the community as well as some stories highlighting life in Tank Town. Saturday, June 22, 2 to 3 pm, Matthews Library.

#ThrowbackThursday: February 23, 2006

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews News and Record  (also called Matthews News and Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today.  This story was originally published February 23, 2006.

With the land being cleared for apartments at 10252 Monroe Road, this article explains the significance of the cemetery on the rear portion of the property.

Old Cemetery Tells Stories of Matthews’ African American Community

By Janet Denk

The unmarked Roseland Cemetery gets only a handful of visitors these days. Tucked back in the woods off Monroe Road on private property belonging to the Renfrow family of Matthews, the African American cemetery has all but disappeared beneath pine trees and rambling vines.

Periwinkle crawls across a few marked headstones. Other graves are marked by large stones the rudimentary markers used by people at the time. Depressions in the undulating landscape indicate rows and roes of sunken graves.

The cemetery served as the primary burial ground for members of Tank Town’s Roseville AME Zion church, which had an active congregation until 1928. The church, located on Ames Road near the railroad tracks, was abandoned and eventually collapsed.

Residents were share croppers or day laborers in Matthews. Many farmed or worked on the railroad. Tank Town was the original African American community neighboring Matthews, named because it was the site of the water tank used to supply steam engine trains.

Known today as Crestdale, annexted in 1998, the area is developing rapidly. The rise of housing developments and the natural outgrowth of I-485 will directly impact the area.

The Roseland (Roseville) Cemetery is an important part of Matthews history.

“One of my twins is buried over there. My mother and grandmother, too,” says longtime Crestdale resident Viola Boyd.

Like many African American cemeteries throughout the state, Roseland is rich with the history. Many descendants of people in these resting places have moved or died or were unable to maintain them. The location of many cemeteries like Roseland is difficult to find - giving the impression of being abandoned and uncared for. Back when the area was mostly rural, traveling to the gravesites after the original burial meant traveling long distances by surreys, mule carts, and ox carts.

Residents in the surrounding subdivisions are aware of the old cemetery. Many recall an elderly gentleman who, year after year, came on Mother’s Day to lay flowers on a grave. The say he doesn’t come anymore.

A storehouse of African American history and cultural identity lies beneath that soil.

Mrs. Boyd, speaking with local historian Paula Lester, is one of the surviving links to Crestdale’s past. Born just after the turn of the century, Mrs. Boyd and other elderly folks like her are treasured resources. Her son and caretaker, Harvey Boyd, is a tireless proponent of historical understanding.

They are not alone in their desire to see Roseland Cemetery preserved.

Local citizens - black and white, native and newcomer - are committed to taking care of this historically important part of Matthews. The 50-plus acres of land where the cemetery sits has been eyed by developers for single family homes, but the zoning restrictions have kept them away. The land is still up for zoning.

Whoever develops the land, by state law, will be responsible for moving the graves or putting a fence around the cemetery. The development of that property could be years from now. But many feel that the gravesites occupying a small area within that property should be addressed much sooner.

Interested citizens would like to see the cemetery portion of the land deeded to the Matthews Historical Foundation, in order to secure funding for upkeep. Paula Lester and Harvey Boyd are currently working on the development of a committee which can devote more time to the cemetery.

“People have to understand their past, in order to appreciate what they’ve got now,” Boyd says.

If you are interested in being a part of this effort, please contact Harvey Boyd at 704-847-4983 or Paula Lester at 704-847-7610.

#ThrowbackThursday: June 18, 2009

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published June 18, 2009 and was written by Janet Denk.

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Crestdale at the Crossroads

Group seeks to create a piece of work that will preserve the history of the Crestdale community and its people

They called it a Crestdale Reunion - and it had all the makings of one: food, family, laughter, some tears. But the gathering at the United House of Prayer was a chance for members of the longstanding Matthews community to pay tribute to loved ones gone before, honor their elders, and celebrate their journey.

The most recent journey in the Crestdale area of Matthews is The Crestdale Community Project - a collaborative effort of community and arts groups celebrating the history and cultural stew that is Crestdale. The past couple of weeks have been part of a Kick-Off event scheduled for July 11. Pastor Greg Watson of the United House of Prayer welcomed guests. The church has generously offered space to the Crestdale Community Project supporters which will include a series of workshops around town focusing on fine art, music, storytelling, film making, and more. The Matthews Community Center will also be offering work space. Project participants are hoping other groups step up to host workshops, too.

Through a grant from Crossroads Charlotte, the Arts & Science Council is partnering with the The Light Factory and fiber artist Sunya Folayan to create a piece of work that will preserve the history of the Crestdale community and its people. All of the work produced will be placed in a formal exhibit this winter in various locations throughout Matthews.

“It’s time that all the communities in the area come together in tribute to share the history and culture of Crestdale with the rest of Matthews, and the surrounding area,” said Walter Stewart, who was joined by Harvey Boyd and other life-long residents of the area who attended the first two meetings planned for The Crestdale Community Project.

The Crestdale neighborhood is one of the oldest African American communities in the nation, established soon after the Civil War. Located along the railroad tracks in Matthews, between old Highway 51 and Charles Street, the community has become home to a patchwork of different cultural communities. Habitat for Humanity Matthews is located within the Crestdale Community, including Fullwood Trace, a modest neighborhood of brick homes off Charles St. Sunrise Crossing is the newest development. Rainbow Ridge is home to many Montagnard families. Pronounced “mountain-yard,” the term is French for “mountain dweller” or “mountain people.” North Carolina is one of the largest settlements for Montagnards, who fought alongside US Special Forces during the Vietnam Conflict. Crestdale Crossing is a subdivision of one and two-story bungalow-style single family homes with green space shared by all. It was developed on land belonging to the Stewart family.

The Light Factory promotes the power of image by informing, challenging, and stimulating audiences using photography, film, and other light-based media to see their world through a different lens. It is located in Spirit Square in uptown Charlotte.

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Morning Minute: Friday, February 8, 2019

News About Town:  Monday, February 11 is the first Board of Commissioners meeting for February.  As it’s the first meeting of the month the Board will focus on Planning and Zoning business for much of the meeting. Other items of interest include reports from the Mecklenburg Education Advisory Committee, Tree & Appearance Committee and the Historical Preservation Committee. Of note on the Consent Agenda (a list of items on which the Board generally votes ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ as a group) is the Budget Adoption Schedule for Fiscal Year 2019-2020. If you’re curious about how the Town will address new property tax valuations, the meetings on that schedule might be worth attending.

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News Around Town: “Tank Town: A Good Place to Live” opens next week (February 16) at the Matthews Heritage Museum, 232 N. Trade Street. On display will be a year’s worth of research and findings about Crestdale, a portion of Matthews formerly known as Tank Town. The area, settled by freed slaves and post-Civil War freedmen. Learn how the area was settled by former slaves and freedmen after the Civil War, about the segregated schools, and the significant community organizations of the neighborhood.
Open Thursday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Entry fee: $4 for adults, $2 for children 10 to 17, and Free under 10.  The first Saturdays of the month are free.

One Good Thing: This Sunday, February 10, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Bright Blessings will hold their annual Baby Shower and Open House. Members of the community are welcome to drop in and learn more about Bright Blessings’ work serving homeless and impoverished children, in particular their Bless-a-Baby program. Attendees may also partake in refreshments, games, and service projects. Donations will be collected for Bless-a-Baby, which must be new and unused: Diaper bags, Bottles (8 oz minimum), Hooded Baby Towels, 0-3 month outfits, and 0-3 month onesies. Bright Blessings is located at 1150 Crews Rd, Suite C, in Matthews.

#ThrowbackThursday: January 22, 2009

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published January 22, 2009 and was written by Janet Denk.

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Dreams of the Promised Land

Viola Boyd has lived nearly 100 years. All of it in Matthews. As a witness to a century of civil rights struggle, she will finally see the dream realized.

“He’s allowed me to go up the mountain!”

The preacher was referring to his sovereign Lord who had blessed him with the gift of heart, mind, and speech.

“I looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land,” he told a jam-packed room in Memphis that evening back in 1968. Then hauntingly added, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

These powerful words were refreshing to people like Viola Teeter Boyd, who was halfway through her life when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King gave that speech.

Like any Christian woman, she understood intimately through her faith that she would make it to the Promised Land.

The Bible told her so.

But, being black in the segregated south told her something completely different. It told her that, despite having her own business in a home that she and her husband Sam built on their own land, where they raised four kids, that they were second class citizens.

This was not God’s rule. This was man’s rule. And man’s ways can change.

For what good were rules which allowed her to vote as a woman, but denied her the right as a black?

Battle cries, such as those articulated by Dr. King, were being heard around the world.

And things changed.

This week, the inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, was cause for lively discussion in the Boyd home in Matthews, which today includes the matriarch and her last surviving son, Harvey Boyd, who buried his brother Calvin this past month.

“Lord no!” Mrs. Boyd replied when asked if she thought she would ever see a black man become president in her day. She will turn 90 years old this summer. Mrs. Boyd is practical about the election, if not politically-minded.

“Aren’t we blessed? But, let’s just see, “ she added, the product of a people with a lifetime of dreams deferred.

Son Harvey, a senior citizen himself, articulates the artist’s heart.

“This is an exciting time,” he said about the election of an African American president. A time of renewed hope and inclusion for all people. “It’s a chance for the world to see America living out all the dreams they represent. This is a victory for all people.”

Mrs. Boyd’s practical nature, or perhaps her memory, is what caused her to blurt out, when discussing the foibles of powerful men in office, “they would’ve hung him, in my day.”

That practical nature cautions her to remember that men are not gods.

Viola Teeter’s world began right here in Matthews in 1910. Most likely, it will end here, in her house on Crestdale Road.

Married at 14 years old, she moved to Philadelphia when Sam was looking for work up there.

“I didn’t like it, there were too many buildings,” said the small town girl who moved back south. The couple became the first black couple to really settle in the area of Matthews known today as Crestdale. Sam Boyd worked for the railroad and became known as the Mayor of Crestdale, for his community activism. Viola opened a beauty shop in her home.

“Customers came from all over the place…Monroe, Charlotte,” she said. “That’s how I got to know so much about people.”

That, and her practical nature.

Harvey Boyd said his mother was a voracious reader - newspapers, magazines, church bulletins, anything she could get her hands on. She was also an Angel of Mercy - part of a group of women who lent others less fortunate a helping hand.

“Some people couldn’t pay me for their hair. I’d say, ‘Can’t you pay me just a little?’ Then I’d find out that somebody lost a job or they ran out of money and didn’t know what to do. So I showed them how to get what was theirs,” she recalled.

Harvey said his mother helped with dozens of people in the area with medical or insurance benefits and claims. Many had no money, or a means to take care of themselves because they were not taught. Poverty didn’t help.

“I just opened my mouth,” she confessed, when asked how she learned to navigate a system that didn’t always work in her favor. “We didn’t have a lot of education, but we had knowledge!”

She squirreled away every dime she earned from her business and whatever else she could scrape up from watching other people’s children.

“I jimmied the lock, so couldn’t nobody get in the box where I put the money,” she laughed. She collected paper and cans for recycling cash. Then she took $10,000 in cash to Wachovia.

“I don’t think the man believed me. But I had it.” Whatever interest she earned, she put right back in. “I wanted to make that money grow,” she said with great animation. Her three favorite presidents were Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Carter. The last one, she says, because her CDs did well.

Practicality and determination keep Viola Teeter Boyd going.

And dreams of the Promised Land continue to make the trip worthwhile.

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