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Our Extraordinary Hometowns: Badin, North Carolina

Honorable mention nominee Nikki Laster’s entry in our “What’s Extraordinary in Your Hometown?” Essay Contest captured our attention with its historical details and natural story-telling rhythm. It’s clear from her description that there’s more than just gold in the hills of the Uwharries.

It’s not just my town that’s extraordinary, it’s all the communities in Stanly County, North Carolina.

Stanly County encompasses more than 10 townships and probably the largest number of small-sized communities—like Frog Pond, Big Lick, and Finger—than most counties here.

It includes a prototypical town built in 1840 that became our county seat, Albemarle (not to be confused with Albemarle County near the coast).  It was a “wild west town” for many years and was built to attract folks to the area.

Stanly County is divided by Bear Creek and surrounded by the oldest mountain range, the Uwharries, which before roads and bridges made it mostly inaccessible to folks, and those who did make it just wanted to be left alone and live in peace.  This idea of independent living has come through its generations and can still be found in the people who inhabit the area.

Culture is unique to each individual town, like that in Badin, NC, which is in the Eastern most part of the county, near the Falls Dam and Lake Tillery.  Badin is tagged as the “Little French Town in the Uwharries” and consists of many townhouses or “apartments” built for the Dam Workers who built Falls Dam between 1913 and 1916.

Until the Hoover Dam was built, Badin housed the largest dam to be built in the United States, which helped provide power to ALCOA.  The history is what makes Badin so charming.  Many of the original structures still exist; including one of the first hospitals in Stanly County, the oldest still operating elementary school, and almost all of the original homes.

Even more extraordinary, many of the residents who still live in Badin were born in the homes they live in and have seen the devastating effects of time and disuse take over their small beautiful town.  It has taken their opera house, their theatre, and many of their small businesses.  Yet they can still recall living in small mill houses, 5 children, two adults, in a two-bedroom home, and they miss that.  It’s a mill town for sure, and it’s unique to itself.

Stanly County is a remarkable story of folks coming here and dispersing across the United States.  Genealogy for many people starts in the heart of Stanly County, and goes to Arkansas, Tennessee, and onto Oregon and beyond.

It’s a tale of adventurers and artists.  It’s a tale of two twin brothers who walked from Western Stanly County to Millingport in Northeastern Stanly County, who had almost 40 children between them, and established themselves as forefathers of those “beyond Bear Creek”.

Where else can you find places like Big Lick, Frog Pond, and Finger?  Where else do you find the history of Morrow Mountain, the beauty of Lake Tillery, and the adventure of roots? Nowhere but Stanly County.

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