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Before there was a train there was a tram

In the early 1800s, the iron makers were having quite a bit of difficulty getting their products to market.
David Smith knew of this problem. He and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of John Gottfried Arndt, were closely associated with many of these iron makers.
David purchased a tract of land near the furnaces. The furnaces were located in the eastern part of Lincoln County. After buying the land, he left for Virginia. Arriving there, he spent nearly a year studying the various types of homes. He chose one of these and returned to North Carolina. Arriving home, he started building his new house.
A part of his workforce was making bricks. Another group was laying the bricks and another was responsible for carpentry.
The house was divided into three parts. There was the basement, first floor and second floor. There was a stairway connecting all three floors. In all aspects it was a true Southern plantation home.
After the home was finished, it was time to put the plantation in order. Since all Southern plantation homes “needed” a name, Smith turned to Andre Micheaux, a botanist sent to America by the King of France to study the flora of this new part of the world.
In a small corner of Lincoln County, Micheaux discovered a new species of tree. He named it “Magnolia.” It had all the aspects of the regular tree except the leaves. They could grow two to three feet in length. Another oddity was that they only grew in small areas of North Carolina.
Thus David Smith found a name for his plantation home, “Magnolia Grove,” named for the long-leaf trees that grew on the property.
Now that he had built a home, established a plantation and found a name for it, it was time to help his neighbors, the iron makers. He would do this by helping them expand their market.
To broaden the market, they needed an operating tram. To accomplish this, he would need land and a route through it. He established a starting place, Boger City, and a delivery place, High Shoals.
To enable him to do this, he purchased and leased land between the two points. Smith plotted a route that would follow a tree line north from High Shoals to a point where he could turn west (through what is the country club golf course today).
The next step was to cut and level a bed that would allow the laying of crossties and rail with a smooth path beside them. The path would provide footing for the horses that pulled the tram carts holding the ironware. The only problem was, the railroad to Lincolnton came in 1861, putting an end to the tram.
Today there is a “Tram Street” facing the golf course on the west side. It’s a continuation of the old tram bed that crossed the golf course.

David C. Heavner is a pre-eminent historian of Lincoln County, whose lore he shares with this newspaper’s readers is truly a gift of the ages.
by David Heavner

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