The little village of Charlotte, the seat of justice for Mecklenburg county, was in 1775, the theater of one of the most memorable events in the political annals of the United States. Situated on the beautiful and fertile campaign, between the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers, and on the general route of the Southern travel, and among the earliest settlements in the Carolinas and Georgia, it soon became the centre of an enterprising and prosperous population. The fertility of the soil, the healthfulness of the climate, and abundance of cheap and un-appropriated lands, were powerful inducements in drawing a large influx of emigrants from the Northern colonies, and from the Old World. These natural features of middle and western Carolina; in particular, were strongly attractive, and pointed out, under well-directed energy, the sure road to prospective wealth and prosperity.
The face of the country was then overspread with wild “pea vines,” and luxuriant herbage; the water courses bristled with cane brakes; and the forest abounded with a rich variety and abundance of food-producing game. The original conveyance for the tract of land, upon which the city of Charlotte now stands, contained 360 acres, and was made on the 15th day of January. 1767, by Henry E. McCullock, agent for George A. Selwyn, to “Abraham Alexander, Thomas Polk, and John Frohock as Trustees and Directors, of the town of Charlotte, and their successors.” The consideration was “ninety pounds, lawful money.” The conveyance was witnessed by Matthew McLure and Joseph Sample.
A few words of explanation, as to one of the Trustees, may be here appropriate. The Frohock family resided in Rowan county, and, before the revolution, exerted a considerable influence, holding places of profit and trust. William Frohock was Captain of a military company, and at one time, (1771) Deputy Sheriff under General Rutherford. Thomas Frohock was Clerk of the Superior Court, in Rowan, and Senator to the State Legislature from the town of Salisbury, in 1785 and 1786. John Frohock, named in the conveyance, was, for several years, Clerk of the County Court, an active Surveyor, and resided, during much of his time in Mecklenburg, employed in the duties of his profession.
Soon after the town of Charlotte was laid out, a log building was erected at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets, and in the centre of the space now known as “Independence Square.” This building was placed upon substantial brick pillars, ten or twelve feet high, with a stairway on the outside, leading to the court room. The lower part, in conformity with primitive economy and convenience, was used as a Market House; and the upper part as a Court House, and frequently for church, and other public meetings. Although the original building has long since passed away, yet it has historic associations connected with its colonial and revolutionary existence, which can never cease to command the admiration of every true patriot.
In May, 1775, its walls resounded with the “tones of earnest debate and independence”, proclaimed from the court house steps. In September, 1780, its walls resounded with the “tones of the musket”, by the same people, who “knew their rights, and knowing, dared maintain.”
At this period, there was no printing press in the upper country of Carolina, and as no regular post traversed this region, a newspaper was seldom seen among the people. Important information was transmitted from one colony to another by express messengers on horse-back, as was done by Captain Jack in bearing the Mecklenburg Declaration to Philadelphia. The people were accustomed to assemble at stated places to listen to the reading of printed hand-bills from abroad, or to obtain verbal intelligence of passing events.
Charlotte early became the central point in Mecklenburg county for these assemblages, and there the leading men often met at Queen’s Museum or College, to discuss the exciting topics of the day. These meetings were at first irregular, and without system. It was finally agreed that Thomas Polk, Colonel of the militia, long a surveyor in the province, frequently a member of the Colonial Assembly, and a man of great excellence of character should be authorized to call a convention of the Representatives of the people whenever circumstances seemed to require it. It was also agreed that such Representatives should consist of two delegates from each Captain’s Company, chosen by the people of the several militia districts, and that their decisions, when thus legally convened, should be binding upon the whole county.
When it became known that Governor Martin had attempted, by his proclamation, issued on the 1st of March, 1775, to prevent the Assembling of a Provincial Congress at Newbern, on the 3d of April following; and when it was recollected that, by his arbitrary authority, he had dissolved the last Provincial Assembly, after a session of only four days, and before any important business had been transacted, the public excitement became intense, and the people were clamorous for some decisive action, and a redress of their grievances. A large majority of the people were willing to incur the dangers incident to revolution, for the sake of themselves, their posterity, and the sacred cause of liberty.