Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Man from Hemp


Bill Clinton was known as The Man from Hope, as that was where he grew Hope, Arkansas. John Edwards is The Man from Hemp...and no, I don't mean marijuana. I mean Hemp...a small town in North Carolina whose current name happens to be Robbins.

Hemp was not the first name of Robbins though. The town of Robbins began in 1795 when Alexander Kennedy, a revolutionary war soldier (who happens to be my 5th great-grandfather, and the son of John Kennedy, the immigrant), settled in the area and established what would become the largest gun factory in the South. The promise of jobs drew others to the area, which became known as Mechanics Hill. In 1838, the gun factory closed and the townspeople cleared the land for agricultural purposes. It was during this time that gold was discovered in the area, and the town experienced a minor gold rush.


"At the turn of the twentieth century, the Durham-Charlotte railroad came through, and a depot was built in the town. In 1900, the town registered its name as Elise, in honor of the daughter of the president of the railroad. The railroad brought many more jobs and people to the town. In 1904, Elise Academy, now Elise Middle School, was established to educate the children of Elise. It was at this time that the townspeople applied for an official U.S. post office; they were notified that there was already a town in North Carolina with the name Elise. The post office assigned the town the name of Hemp, and after much argument among the townspeople, the new name was begrudgingly adopted in 1915. However, many people continued to refer to the town as Elise for years to come. In 1935, Hemp was incorporated as a town."

"During the 1920's, the town experienced industrial growth. Hemp was supplied with power in 1923, and the following year, Moore Mills Textile plant, the first textile mill, was established. The mill was purchased by Karl Robbins in 1930 and renamed the Robbins Silk Mill. The textile industry continued to play a significant role in the town until 1990. "

I believe it is this mill that John Edwards' father worked in.

ECONOMY: Kennedys, Guns & Gold

"The economy of Robbins has been marked by periods of growth and decline. In 1795, the Kennedy family opened the largest gun factory in the south in an effort to supply revolutionary war soldiers with rifles. The Kennedy gun factory created 75-100 jobs for the area; the factory continued to grow through the early 1800s, employing 150 people at its peak (Changing the Name of Hemp, 1943). When the gun factory closed in 1838 the land was cleared for agriculture. It was at this time that gold was discovered (City Government of Robbins, n.d.). Mining kept the town alive through the transitions in major industries. The gold mines are now being utilized to mine for talc."

My family still has ties and land in Moore County, where not only one may find Robbins, Elise, Hemp and Mechanics Hill (which are the same place), but one may drive to the southern end of the county and play fine golf at Pinehurst. It is a testament to the American Spirit that a small-town boy can, through hard and good work, rise to become the de facto leader of the world. I, for one, think the world would be well served.