• Paddlers on the South Fork of the Catawba River, which was once an industrial powerhouse when Gaston County was a major player in the textile industry. Photo: Nancy Pierce.

    From textiles to trails: A river’s changing path to prosperity

    Cramerton’s mills are long gone, as they are in most of the small towns that depended on textiles for generations. But Cramerton and other former textile towns are embracing the South Fork for what they hope is a new economic spark: outdoor recreation 
  • Musical heritage: Meet Earl Scruggs and Don Gibson

    Meet Earl Scruggs and Don Gibson, two men who changed country music and helped save their hometown. 
  • Finding the Music, Part 3: 'A 38-year overnight success story'

    The revivalists in Shelby focused on Uncle Earl and Gibson, approaching the county, the courthouse’s owner, about a first-rate Scruggs exhibit and arranged to lease it for $1 a year. The city of Shelby had bought the empty theater 30 years earlier and was threatening to tear it down for a parking lot, until task force members asked to rent the space for the same amount, said Anthony, the mayor.
  • People jamming out at the Bluegrass & Old-Time Jam Session on trhe square in Shelby, at the Earl Scruggs Center. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    Finding the Music, Part 2: 'We needed to do something bold'

    What happened in Shelby played out across the Carolinas, where textiles were once the driver of small-town economies. Shelby’s mills once paid some of the state’s highest wages. The industry’s long collapse in Cleveland County started in the late 1940s with a boll weevil infestation that destroyed the state’s largest cotton production, and ended in the late 1990s and early 2000s when global trade policies expanded markets, flooding the United States with cheaper goods.
  • Bluegrass & Old-Time Jam Session on the square in Shelby, at the Earl Scruggs Center. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    Finding the Music, Part 1: A town reaches into its past to fuel a revival

    With the textile industry in steep decline and Forbes magazine ranking Shelby among America’s most vulnerable cities, a task force set out to see what other towns and cities in similar distress had done to pump energy into their downtowns and draw out-of-towners.  They landed on an idea to fully embrace Cleveland County’s musical legacy and celebrate the global fame of two native sons.
  • The Birkhead Wilderness, part of the Uwharrie National Forest east of Charlotte. Photo: Dan Harvey.

    National Land Trust Rally comes to North Carolina

    The National Land Trust Rally put on annually by the Land Trust Alliance, the umbrella organization for land trusts, is in Raleigh this year. The Land Trust Alliance also administers the national accreditation program and serves as a clearinghouse and learning center for land trust staff across the U.S. The rally includes optional field trips on Wednesday and Thursday of the conference week hosted by local land trusts, giving us an opportunity to show off the Piedmont region.
  • Transforming the South Fork of the Catawba River and its towns

    Cramerton has turned to the South Fork of the Catawba River, which once powered mills and was known as a hotbed of pollution, to help power the town's revival in the wake of the textile industry.