Graham, NC - It's one of the best kept secrets of Alamance County. Just about 40 minutes East on I-40/85, Graham is rich in history, based mostly on textiles.
E.M. Holt was one of the wealthiest men in North Carolina in the mid 1800's. He created Alamance Plaids, which was the first plaid material where the color adhered to the fabric. He shared his wealth with his 10 children.
He was so wealthy he gave each of his seven sons and three son-in-laws a house. The three sisters lived in a row on South Main Street in Graham. Two of the houses are still standing. One is now a Bank of America building. And a second house about a block away houses the Alamance County Arts Council. There was a third house in the middle but it was torn down and is now city hall.
Today, there's an elementary school named after the family. E.M. Holt Elementary. And there was even a North Carolina governor who was a Holt. Thomas Holt was the state's 47th governor. Here's a fun fact: Alamance County, not Graham specifically, but Alamance County produced three North Carolina Governors.
Down the road from the historic houses, smack dab in the middle of the city's rotary is the Graham courthouse. It was the center of development in Graham. It was supposed to be built in the middle of Alamance County but the center point turned out to be a swamp about a quarter mile down the road. Crews ended up building it on what we now know as South Main Street. The 1851 courthouse was replaced by one built in 1924 and the county just spent over a million dollars to renovate and add new features. But at one point during the remodel they almost lost it all.
"Everyone that used to go through the beach would come through here and you'd say you'd from Graham and they'd say oh that's where the courthouse is," said Mayor Jerry Peterman. "We were scared to death we were going to have some problems as they remodeled it. And sure enough we had a fire."
Lucky for them the fire station is literally a block away. Crews were able to put the fire out and all is well.
The city's history begins about a mile or so from the courthouse at Historic Providence Christian Church. It was on the stagecoach trial from Hillsboro to Charlotte years before the United States was founded. At the time, Graham was part of Orange County. The city was separated from the rest of county by the Haw River. Leaders came together and formed Alamance County just for the sake of having court in one place and making it more accessible for people to do their business. That was 1849. The split opened the door for more development, particulary for colleges.
"They decided because of all the oak trees they'd call it Oak College. The scholarly people who liked Hebrew looked up the word oak. There are six words for oak in Hebrew and they picked Elon and called it Elon college," said Pastor Darryl Peebles.
There is a ton of history in Graham's Historical Museum, including a 1930's Seagraves Fire Truck and Miss North Carolina Jeanne Swanner Roberson's Miss America competitive dress. You can check out that and more at the Graham Historical Museum located on Elm Street. It's open Sundays from 2pm-5pm.
And the Historic Providence Christian Church is celebrating 250 years of history in Graham. The church is located at 819 North Main Street in Graham. Call Pastor Peebles at 336-228-1974 for more information.