• Jerry and Jackcine Laughlin in front of the remnants of a hearth on their family's historic property. Photo: Jeff Michael

    Jerry and Jackcine Laughlin: Maintaining family ties to the land

    The land at this particular crossroads in southern Randolph County has a storied history.  It once belonged to Miles and Healy Lassiter, and some of it still belongs to their descendants, including Jerry Laughlin.   Miles was born into slavery circa 1777, but apparently this status wasn’t fully enforced.  At the time of their marriage circa 1810, Healy was a free woman of color who already owned land in the area.  Together, they eventually held 400 acres, a vast estate in a mountainous area inhabited by small-scale subsistence farmers.  
  • A mowed yard, traditional fence posts, managed grasslands and a small, forested mountain. For many, the landscape is a vital part of what makes the Uwharries home. Photo: Ruth Ann Grissom.

    Rural by Choice: Navigating identity in the Uwharries

    The narrative around rural areas has often held that people need to leave for a better chance to find success, typically in the city. But for many, leaving the place they love and call home never really feels like an option. Here are seven stories of people who are turning that narrative on its head. 
  • Ashli Stokes, Jeff Michael and Jeff Gillman stand near the planned trail outside the new Urban Institute offices.

    UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens’ Historical Trail to interpret cultures

    An outdoor, living exhibit on its way to the UNC Charlotte campus will tell the story of North Carolina through plants and crops crucial to the state’s development.
  • Charlotte suburbs grow faster as developers seek cheap land

    Development has been sprawling. Places that were once rural now seem urban. Take Fort Mill, S.C., whose population, according to the American Community Survey, has nearly doubled since 2010. Many small towns have grown into bustling suburbs as developers search for large tracts of land to build residential communities. As the population grows, low-cost land and high volume are necessary to meet the regions demand for single family housing.
  • A 2.2-mile section of Carolina Thread Trail weaves through a 358-acre permanently conserved area that’s protected by Catawba Lands Conservancy (CLC) within the Girl Scouts’ Dale Earnhardt Environmental Leadership Campus at Oak Springs in Iredell County. The trail is called Girl Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council Trail. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    Forging connections across the Carolinas – one greenway, trail and waterway at a time

    Natural aesthetic appeal, increased economic vitality, a reason to leave your car behind, a walking and biking connection between communities in two states: Organizers hope to deliver all of that, and more, through the growing Carolina Thread Trail network of greenways, waterways and trails.
  • 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.