American Farmer And His Wife
By Dr. Dan L. Morrill
John Dolphus Connor
John Dolphus Connor was a proud, hard-working, God-fearing man. A native
of Lincoln County, he purchased a 69.3 acre farm on Beatties Ford Road near
the Catawba River on November 9, 1922. The price was $26 per acre.1
His wife was Roxie Burton Connor (1887-1964) of Mecklenburg County. 2
In an era when most farmland was owned by whites, John and Roxie Connor
succeeded in making their own living from the cotton and other crops they
planted and harvested in the fertile soil of the Catawba River Valley. "We
got enough,"says one of their children. 3 At the time of her
death on July 26, 1964, Roxie Connor was survived by seven sons, three
daughters, and two step-sons, all of whom grew up on the Connor farm.4
John D. Connor (1917 - ) remembers his parents with deepest affection and
admiration. "I never heard them swear or utter a profane word." John
especially appreciates the high ethical standards his mother and father
instilled in their children. "They gave us good hinges," he asserts. His
mother, says John, was the "backbone of the family." She cared deeply for
her children. She would rise early in the morning to prepare a big breakfast
of grits, bacon and eggs and end the day by walking quietly to the bedside
of each child, making sure that everything was okey.5
John and Roxie Connor
John and Roxie Connor were members of Hunters Chapel United Methodist
Church. John took care of the church building, which stood just up the hill
from the farm.6 He performed routine repairs and swept out the
sanctuary before the Sunday services. As Christians, John and Roxie believed
that they should help the needy. John would loan money at no interest to
other church members and let them pay it back over extended periods of time.
He even persuaded his wife to take in children who otherwise would not have
a good home. "He was good-hearted and concerned about others," his eldest
Hunters Chapel United Methodist Church
Life on the Connor farm was challenging but pleasurable. There was a
large vegetable garden. John and his sons would labor "making a new ground,"
meaning that they would prepare the fields yearly for planting. Cotton had
to be hauled each fall to the nearby town of Cornelius for ginning. The
children worked hard, but they did have time to play. Favorite pastimes
included baseball, horseshoes, and hide-and-seek.
Connor Family, May 1998
Connor Family, 1980s
The boys also enjoyed curling up in discarded automobile tires and
rolling across the farmyard, while the girls entertained themselves with
games like "Little Sally Walker Sitting In The Saucer." An evergreen tree
would be cut each year and decorated for Christmas. Santa Claus usually
brought fruits as presents, mostly oranges and apples. The children began
their schooling at the Caldwell Rosenwald School, which still stands on
Highway 73. 8
The Connor farm underwent dramatic changes in the early 1960's. Duke
Power Company erected the Cowans Ford Dam across the Catawba River; and Lake
Norman, North Carolina's largest lake, began to fill up in late 1962 and
early 1963.9 "As Lake Norman fills it will touch off a mammoth
scrabble for its byproducts," proclaimed the Charlotte News on
February 25, 1961. Beatties Ford Road, the main road to Charlotte, was
inundated with water just north and south of the Connor property, making the
farm part of a peninsula. John Dolphus Connor, however, continued to call
himself a "farmer." He lived to be ninety-eight years old. He died on
October 16, 1982. His death certificate lists his occupation as "farming."
10 John and Roxie are buried side by side in the small cemetery
at Hunters Chapel United Methodist Church. Old Beatties Ford Road has been
re-named John Connor Road in honor of this enterprising man and his faithful
The graves of John and Roxie Connor
Cemetery at Hunters Chapel United Methodist Church
1 Mecklenburg County Deed Book 485, Page 41. Mecklenburg
County Certificate of Death 2712. The Certificate of Death states that John
Connor's father was Chesseman Connor and that his mother's name was Janie
Johnson Connor. His date of birth was May 23, 1884.
2 Mecklenburg County Certificate of Death 1323. The
Certificate of Death states that Roxie Connor's father was John Cathey and
that her mother's name was Georgia Burton. Her date of birth was August 25,
1887. Her family believes that her place of birth was Mecklenburg County
(Interview of Members of the Connor Family by Dr. Dan L. Morrill, May 4,
1998), hereafter cited as Interview. This writer could find no record that
John Connor and Roxie Burton Connor were married in Mecklenburg County.
However, they are clearly listed as married on the Certificates of Death.
Roxie Connor's obituary article in the Charlotte Observer states that
among her survivors was a brother, Bert Cathey, who lived in Lincoln County
(Charlotte Observer, July 28, 1964). It is possible that Roxie
Connor, like her husband, began her days in Lincoln County.
4 Charlotte Observer, July 28, 1964. The children and
step-children of John and Roxie Connor were John Connor, Garfield Connor,
Robert Connor, Cheeseman Connor, Louis Connor, James Arthur Connor, Rossie Connor, Dowdard
Connor, Josephine Connor Brown, Georgia Connor Torrence, Janie Connor
Alexander, Maggie Connor Russell, Joe Connor, and Sherman Burton.
6 The present church building was erected in 1961 to replace
an earlier structure.
8 The schools were built with matching funds provided by the
Julius Rosenwald foundation, created by the Chicago entrepreneur who
directed the booming growth of Sears, Roebuck and Company. From 1917 to 1932
the building program of the Rosenwald Fund helped construct over 5300 black
school buildings across the South, 813 of them in North Carolina. Rosenwald
not only provided money and architectural assistance to improve school
facilities, but also promoted white-black cooperation in the era of Jim
Crow. To receive Rosenwald money, the local black community and the local
white community both had to contribute funds.
Mecklenburg County built 26 Rosenwald schools between 1918 and 1929. The
old Caldwell School was purchased from the School Board in 1953 by T. W.
Burgess, and used for many years as a storage building for Burgess Supply
Company, the family's building materials business. In 1987 family-member Ben
Griffith began restoring the structure as a showroom. He is proud of its
past: "My teacher in school told me she used to go here. People in the area
have stopped by to say they have old school books from the building. We want
to fix it up as much as we can like it was, with a display on its history."
9 Lake Norman is named for Norman A. Cocke, who was secretary
of the Charlotte Electric Company, the Charlotte Power Company, and Piedmont
Traction Company as well as vice-president of the Industrial Development
Corporation. He was eventually to become president of Duke Power and
Chairman of the Board of Duke University.
10 Mecklenburg County Certificate of Death 2712.