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From Antebellum to Present Day
Smithville began, like many communities in the South, in the wake of the Civil War. The freed slaves who resided here were brought together by two churches: Torrence Chapel AME Zion Church (built 1869) and Union Bethel (circa 1917). These churches sowed the seeds of community, and in 1908, landowner Jacob L. Smith began parceling out his land in the hopes of giving families a place to live and grow together.
Pictured: the women of the Smithville Better Community Center.
The community began to flourish following the establishment of these families. Work was found in a number of industries; some residents became barbers, agricultural laborers, or performed domestic duties for white families. The Smithville Better Community Center was built in the 1950s and soon became a social hub for Smithville. The first female and Black mayor of Cornelius, Nannie Potts, said of the center: "It’s where everyone came on the weekends, and we would go and dance our hearts to death."
Ron Potts, a Smithville CommUNITY Coalition (SCC) leader and Smithville native, said that the community has always been close-knit. He recalls his childhood here as being filled with friendly faces and helpful neighbors. As the region inevitably changes, Smithville hopes to preserve the sense of family that has always existed there and welcomes new neighbors with open arms.
Looking Ahead
The SCC is developing a plan for revitalizing its community to be presented to the Town Board on March 1. Their plan includes making sure that long-time residents can age in place, inspiring young families to plant their roots, and setting an example that other communities can follow. On top of making organizational improvements within the SCC, the organization has also set a docket of goals with the help of Willie Jones, an experienced community organizer and affordable housing developer.
Willie said that being in Smithville at this time, with so many challenges present, is his calling in life. He looks forward to making Smithville a more enticing neighborhood for current and new residents alike, as well as preserving the history of the community.
Celebrate Black History with the SCC and Town of Cornelius
As per our tradition, the Town is partnering with the SCC for two big events this month to celebrate Black history and honor the Smithville community.

Charlotte Artist Bryan Wilson's work will be on display at Town Hall through February 26.
This collection is on loan from the Foster's Frame & Art Gallery in Huntersville. Stop by anytime Town Hall Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to check out this work.

The SCC will host a virtual tour of historic Smithville on Saturday, February 20. All are invited to join via PARC's Facebook account. The tour will include sites like the former Rosenwald School, Union Bethel AME Zion Church, and more from one of the oldest Black communities in Mecklenburg County.

Safer Cycling
New Bicycle Safety Signs Installed
The Town's former "Share the Road" signs, which broadcasted an ambiguous message to both drivers and cyclists, have been replaced with a new, clearer message: "Bikes May Use Full Lane."

This change is part of the continuous effort to make our streets safer for everyone on them.
Pictured: Scott Higgins, Ed.D, SAFE Board Member, and tremendous advocate for this change, with the new safety sign.
COVID-19 Vaccine Safety
Tested, safe, and effective, COVID-19 vaccines will help us gain control of our lives and get back to the people and places we love.

Learn more from the CDC about the COVID-19 vaccine and understand how the COVID-19 vaccine was developed.