Loss Prevention

You think this subprime mess is bad?

 

It should come as no surprise in this banking center that protecting the contents of a bank vault became a number one priority when Charlotte was threatened in the waning days of the Civil War.

Mecklenburg County had escaped the worst of the war, but tensions were high as the conflict entered its final days in April 1865. General Sherman's troops had devastated Columbia and were reported to be moving north. Stoneman's Raiders had burned Morganton and Lincolnton and were rumored to be heading toward Charlotte.

Then, on a warm afternoon in early April, the long, wooden railroad bridge over the Catawba River at Rozzell's Ferry burned. The Yankees were coming closer.

At 122 South Tryon Street, home of the Charlotte branch of the Bank of North Carolina, the board of directors met in urgent session. In the bank's vault were a quarter of a million dollars in gold and coins, all that remained of the once prosperous statewide Confederate banking system. Also in the vault were priceless records of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

The bankers, led by T. W. Dewey and James H. Carson, agreed the valuables couldn't be allowed to fall into enemy hands, but were unsure of where—or how—to move the treasure. Finally, a bank stockholder, A. A. Kennedy, volunteered to loan his sturdy wagon and team of strong mules.
Around 7 p.m., the bankers, still unsure of their destination, rode out Lawyers Road (now Central Avenue) because it seemed less crowded. They drove all night and day before stopping at a spot about eighteen miles from town. Here, along the banks of a stream, they unloaded and buried what they believed were the sole remaining fiscal assets of the Confederacy of North Carolina.

The area was carefully mapped, and the bankers returned to Charlotte. The war ended officially a few weeks later and, ironically, Union troops helped retrieve the gold and return it to the bank vault.

 

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