Sunday, September 13, 2009


The Mecklenburg County Home

For the Aged and Infirmed:

I Remember


Vernon M. Herron

When I was (5) five years of age (1933), I remember a twenty year old male by the nickname of “Sub” Harris sharing our crowded household as a roomer. He was limited in education, his ability to make a profitable living and in his sociability, yet “Sub” was always a gentleman. He was a product of a culture in which Afro American families often reached out to like-minded families in need of survival and love.

I do not know of “Sub’s” point of origin, his full correct first name, the meaning of “Sub,” nor of his ancestors. I only know that he found a “home” in our “house” for approximately eight years and that he became a part of our family. I later learned from the 1930 census and from a review of several City Directories that “Sub” was identified as a Louis/Lewis Harris, approximately 20 years of age, a porter at the Builders Building in the barber shop shining shoes.

When I was (10) ten years of age (1938), I remember having an adventurous experience, when I accompanied a church group to the Mecklenburg County Home for the Aged and the Infirm for worship and fellowship. What joy was revealed by the residents in knowing that someone who cared had come to show them love and remembrance.

In keeping with southern tradition and practices, Blacks were housed in the “Negro” wing of the institution. This wing was vastly different from the facilities used to accommodate the White race. Members of the two races lived in separate quarters and rarely came in contact with one another. It was not until the early ‘60’s, that the Black population had a separate chapel, eating facility, TV room and lounge. Prior to that time, all such activities were conducted in their sleeping area.

In the Fall of 1969, the Mecklenburg County Grand Jury recommended that “adequate provision be made for the care of the Negro population at the county home.” According to THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER NEWSPAPER, the grand jury said that they found upon inspection, that “beds in the Negro quarters were worn out and that the facilities were woefully inadequate and a firetrap.” It called for a new Negro building at the county home or a major repair of the present wing. A new Negro wing/facility was approved and built at a cost of $150,000.

In fact during that same year, the County Commissioners considered a new “statement of policy” calling for the integration of its facilities, recognizing that such policy has been in effect since 1967 but implied that it had not been enforced by all employees.

The question is, was this action motivated by moral conviction or by legal prudence? It is noted that by January 1, 1970 the nursing home which accepts public money will have to agree to desegregate their facilities in keeping with Title 19 of the 1967 medicaid legislation. Title 19 is the Civil Rights provision that says in effect that the government cannot purchase medical care from a segregated facility.

When I was (12) twelve years of age (1940), I remember that “Sub” had become a ward of the county home where he lived until his death and was buried in its cemetery.

When I reached a research point in my retirement period (2009), I wanted to know more about the Mecklenburg County Home, sometimes called “The County Home,” “The Old Folks Home,” “Home for the Aged and the Infirm,” or “Green Acres Rest Home.” It consisted of 500 acres of land located between routes US 29 and NC 49 in the vicinity of N. Tryon Street and WT Harris Blvd. Today that area contains the Grande Promenade Shopping Center, the CMC hospital, the UNCC and the old county home’s cemetery.

The county home was built approximately at the close of the century (c1900) and closed its operation c1979. Its food supply was supported by a farm owned by the county but operated by John Miller. It supported the County Home but also furnished meat, vegetables, milk and fruit to other county institutions. The cost of agricultural operation was excessive, the dairy herb products were not self sustaining, so the majority of the County Board members decided to go out of the farming business.

The County Home had its own cemetery, which was located in a wooded area between two businesses: Kinko’s Copy Center and Buffalo Wings and is across the street from the University City Regional Library. More than 300 souls are buried here. The two oldest gravesites read. “Eva Robinson -1936; the most recent burial date was for Tom Goins who died in 1960.

We lost contact with “Sub” who was a resident of The Mecklenburg County Home at the time of his death and who is assumedly buried in the home’s cemetery. Rest in peace “Sub.”