Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence

On the tour route of Charlotte’s Longest-Running Daily City Tour by Queen City Tours(sm) and Travel, you will come across the Old Old County Courthouse off East Trade Street in Uptown Charlotte right next to the county jail. The obelisk/monument just off East Trade and outside the main entrance of the courthouse has been there since the late 1800’s and it commemorates the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (Meck Deck).

That document was signed in the center of Charlotte on May 20, 1775. It was on that date that the folks of Mecklenburg County officially declared independence from King George III of England – Charlotte’s husband. The signing of that document preceded the signing of the Declaration of Independence by one year and nearly two months. Unfortunately, the United States Government does not recognize the signing of the Meck Deck today mainly because they can not locate the original. The original document was somehow misplaced between Charlotte, NC and Philadelphia, PA – site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

As such, that story today is more of a local and statewide historic tidbit however you will still find that date – May 20, 1775 – on the North Carolina State Flag as well as on the Mecklenburg County Seal created by local artist Harvey H. Boyd of Matthews, NC. From 1882 to 1982 former Presidents Taft, Wilson, Eisenhower, and Ford all participated in celebrations of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and there is a regurgitated version of that document inside the Old Old County Courthouse on East Trade Street in Uptown Charlotte as well as at the Charlotte Museum of History in East Charlotte; and we have a copy of it on our web site at www.queencitytours.com. If you get a chance to check it out on our web site you will see that some of the wording is similar.

There is still an annual celebration at the Square – Corner of Trade and Tryon Streets – however it is usually attended only by the Mayor of Charlotte, a few historians and guests, and by folks in passing who have no earthly idea of what is happening.

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Brief History of Charlotte, NC

Charlotte became the largest city in the two Carolinas' in the 1930’s when it overtook Charleston, South Carolina as a major distribution, textile, and banking center. Today distribution – In terms of trucking and the railroad – is a stable industry here, textile is just about all gone – Either gone out of business or gone over seas – and banking is still somewhat of a major industry in Charlotte, however, its future is in limbo. As far as I know, Charlotte is still number two behind Wall Street in New York in terms of banking and financing.

Charlotte was incorporated in 1768 after the General Assembly of North Carolina along with Royal Governor William Tryon decided to name this new city in honor of the young wife of King George III of England; Charlotte of Mecklenburg, Germany. This was an attempt to get on or stay on the good side of the king. As a tribute to the governor, the General Assembly renamed Charlotte's major street in his honor; Tryon Street.

The city portion of Charlotte began in Uptown which was divided into four wards in 1869 that served as voting and political districts. Dividing the wards in Uptown Charlotte are the two oldest streets in the city; Trade Street from the East to West, and Tryon Street from the South to the North. Trade and Tryon Streets were Native American trade routes from the South to the North and from the East/Coastal Plains to the West/Mountains of North Carolina.

The two major Native American tribes that were already here in the 1750’s -- When the first settler’s arrive from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- were Catawba and Cherokee Indians. Today, the Catawba Indians are located just south of Charlotte in York County, South Carolina and the Catawba River – Just ten miles West of Uptown Charlotte – is named in their honor. The Cherokee Indians are located in the mountains just Southwest of Asheville, North Carolina and operate a gaming facility called Harrah’s Cherokee Pavilion.

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg


One of the first things people want to know when they take Charlotte's Longest-Running Daily City Tour by Queen City Tours is "Why is Charlotte called the Queen City?" The answer to that question is located at the corner of East 5th and North College Streets in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina.

Charlotte Sophia was born in May of 1744 and at the young age of 17 married King George III of England in 1761 -- he was 23 years old. A year later in 1762, a new county was created from the larger Anson County, and it was named in honor of the queen’s birth place – Mecklenburg-Strelitz, today Mecklenburg Vorpommern Germany. It is located in the Northeast corner of Germany near the Baltic Sea. Six years later in 1768, part of the county of Mecklenburg was incorporated into a city and the General Assembly of North Carolina -- Along with Royal Governor William Tryon (Tryon Street) – wanted to flatter Charlotte’s husband – King George III – by deciding to name this new city after the king’s young-German-born wife – Charlotte.

The queen loved flowers and did a lot to start botanical gardens in Germany – Some still there today. She also loved dogs; there are two of the several hundred dogs that she had at one time depicted near her statue in Uptown Charlotte. She also loved children; she loved them so much that she had 15 of them! Nine of her children were boys, six of them where girls; two of them died as infants, and one as a young adult.

She is the grandmother of Queen Victoria who was reportedly between 46” and 51” tall, and the great-great-great-great grandmother of King George VI. He is the one who was married to Queen Elizabeth of England – We called her Queen Mum – who died in 2002. She is again the reason why Charlotte is called the Queen City and her crowns are represented on our street signs around town and largest crown atop the Bank of America tower.

Several years ago the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) did a special on her ancestry and has uncovered proof that Charlotte was of African descant. It has been determined that she was directly descended from the Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a black branch of the Portuguese Royal House.