Today Charlotte may just seem like a Southern cultural hub with a lot of banks, some delicious bites and a few awesome sports teams, but the city is a hidden treasure of history. Its stories date back to the colonial days and are shrouded in excitement and mystery. Did you know that Charlotte was home to America’s first gold rush? Or that until the ‘90s a bagel was considered “exotic fare?” Here are eight strange and interesting facts you may not know about this North Carolina city.
1. Charlotte was named in honor of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III. But the city’s nickname, The Hornet’s Nest, dates back to the Revolutionary War when the British General Cornwallis, who had been holding the city for two and half weeks, was eventually driven out due to attacks from the city’s rebelling locals. He called the city, a “veritable nest of hornets,” and the name stuck.
2. Charlotte was the site of America’s first gold rush. In 1799, local Conrad Reed found a 17-pound lump of gold in his family-owned creek and the subsequent goldmine, Reed Mine, produced over $1 million per year. Almost all the gold discovered between 1799 and 1828 came from Charlotte's mines, and in 1835, Andrew Jackson established the Charlotte branch of the US Mint to process the millions of dollars’ worth of gold coming out of the state. It remained open until it was seized by the Confederacy in 1861.
3. Charlotte, and its surrounding Mecklenburg County, were built on the intersection of two Native American crossroads. Scott-Irish and German settlers began to populate the well-traveled area in the 1750s. One such setter was Thomas Polk, who was the great-uncle of President James K. Polk. This original intersection can still be found at the corner of Trade and Tryon Streets and is marked with statues commemorating the city’s history.
4. Charlotte is considered the “City of Churches” with over 700 houses of worship from Roman Catholic establishments to Jewish temples and Islamic mosques. While most would find it impolite to discuss religion, the city is part of the Bible belt, and they consider it quite normal to casually discuss beliefs and religious affiliations.
5. It might sound strange but until the ‘90s Charlotte subsisted primarily on Southern cuisine. Everyday foods like bagels were considered “exotic fare” until residents from the northeast began to migrate southward in the ‘80s and ‘90s, introducing the area to new foods. Today you can find everything from Chinese to Mediterranean, but they still favor their Southern staples.
6. There are still some pretty strange laws still on the books in North Carolina. One such law states that men are not allowed to make a marriage proposal and then not follow through. Seducing an unmarried woman under promise of marriage is punishable by up to a year in jail.
7. Native Charlotteans are rare. The city is constantly growing, expanding and improving, so that most people living in the area now are transplants rather than born-and-bred locals. Of course the city loves natives, and adopted natives, equally. So have no fear, everyone is welcome.
8. Local historians believe there was a Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence signed on May 20, 1775. This document, if it existed, was a declaration of independence from the British signed by local Charlotteans a year before the national Declaration of Independence. Of course, the document was reportedly destroyed in a house fire in 1800, so unfortunately no proof of the original remains.