It’s only fitting that this story is about a place called “Clio”. If any of you reading this are students of or familiar with Greek mythology, you might know Clio as the muse of history, with the responsibility of calling to remembrance things past.
In this case, the muse strikes in a rather crafty manner, and a discovery of ephemera sent me on a journey I did not expect to take.
It begins with a cache of papers given to me. This bundle of ephemera had items related to the work and history of a man named James Washington (or “J.W.”) Hager.
Hager was born in 1855 in Iredell county, probably not far from where he lived and died. Little is in print about his life, and none of it easily discoverable. However, through various sources I have been able to find that he was a prolific beekeeper and was by trade a merchant. His store would have been active in the general area we will from here on out call Clio sometime after the Civil War.
When the store exactly began, when it ended, and where exactly it was, I have been unable to discover. His own father, Samuel C Hager also apparently worked as a merchant and miller after being released from a Union prisoner of war camp at the end of the Civil War, and so it could have been a family business that J.W. took up.
The building was likely somewhere near Liberty Hill road, which today is just west of NC Highway 115, with Statesville to the south and the cowboy town of Love Valley to the north. This would give us some idea where Clio might have been.
The earliest direct account I can find of the store’s existence is 1883, when the Clio post office was established in Hager’s store with Hager himself as the community’s postmaster.
The store makes it past the turn of the century, with ads appearing as late as 1908. In 1915, Hager would move to the Stony Point community , and would later die there in 1929 at the age of 74.
But where the heck is Clio? It’s not on any modern maps. But I knew from the papers I had it was local, somewhere in Iredell, and the information about Hager’s store gave me an area to pitch horseshoes in.
There was one clue I already had though. A memory of a state marker on NC Highway 115 for a place called “Clio’s Nursery”. There is unfortunately only slightly more known about it than about Hager. NCPedia has a brief account of that institution.
Clio’s Nursery, established by pioneer Presbyterian minister James Hall, was a successful eighteenth-century classical academy located in what is now east-central Iredell County, about ten miles north of Statesville. Although the exact date that the school opened is uncertain, a certificate given to a student in 1780 confirms that it was in operation by August 1778. After the first building was destroyed by a fire, the second schoolhouse was built on top of an adjacent hill.
Hall maintained an active interest in the academy while leaving the teaching to others. During the Revolution, he served both as captain of a militia company and as regimental chaplain. When Hall’s militia unit was called to active service, classes continued at Clio’s Nursery under the supervision of Hall’s brother-in-law, James McEwen. McEwen died a short time after his appointment, and he was succeeded in November 1779 by Francis Cummins. Cummins, who later became a Presbyterian minister, had been born in Pennsylvania and moved to Mecklenburg County with his family.
Because of the invasion of the British army, Clio’s Nursery was closed from May 1780 to April 1782, when it was reopened under the direction of John Newton. The last teacher at the school was Charles Caldwell, who began teaching there in 1785 or 1786. The school apparently never reopened after Caldwell left in 1787 to reestablish Crowfield Academy in the bounds of Centre Presbyterian Church in Mecklenburg County.
In the short history of Clio’s Nursery, an unusually large number of prominent individuals attended the school. A sketch of the academy published in 1858 listed as alumni George W. Campbell of Tennessee, who served as secretary of the treasury in the James Madison administration; Moses Waddell, who later became president of the University of Georgia; a U.S. congressman; three judges; and eight ministers.
To quote an article I would find later, “It has been said that where ever the Scotch-Irish built a church to the glory of God, they built beside it a schoolhouse for the education of their children“. There would then be a high likelihood of a Presbyterian church near the site of Clio’s Nursery, and it’s existence might give some boundaries to the area that was once called Clio.
CLIO PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Despite Clio’s Nursery having such influential students, little of it’s history remains. Not so for the church built nearby, and it was easily found in the various sources. Despite the quote I mentioned above, the church was not built when the Nursery originally was, but it was chartered in 1879 by 26 members from what was the Concord district, which is just west of Statesville near what today would be called Loray. It seems they had been members of Concord Presbyterian Church, which was inconveniently far from Clio. The presbytery decided the best way to remedy this problem was to open another church closer to the congregants. And so the church at Clio was born.
It’s history is as long as the Nursery’s is short, and so I wont list every detail and name associated with it, but will include all I can on the sources page for this article.
To simplify things, a Google search lead me to an article by local historian O.C. Stonestreet. Through that article, I discovered the church remained in use until 2011, when membership had fallen into the single digits, with only a handful of elderly congregants remaining. That year, by order of the Salem Presbytery, the church was finally closed. I now knew where Clio had been.
As an aside, when looking for old churches, the easiest tool a genealogy or history enthusiast can use is most likely going to be Find A Grave. If a church exists or existed very long it most likely has a cemetery. If it has a cemetery, the volunteers who keep Find A Grave updated will have found and catalogued it.
Unfortunately, there were no listings for a “Clio Presbyterian Church” when I looked. This could mean one of several things. First, it could mean that the cemetery is lost and uncatalogued, which is a particularly exciting prospect for someone interested in such things. Second, it could mean for some reason the graves were moved. Lastly, there’s the slim possibility that despite the church being active for so long it could be atypical and not have a graveyard at all.
Despite having no luck on Find A Grave, through genealogical research I was able to find a single burial at the church. In December of 1917, James Lola Hill was buried there upon his own instructions. He would be the first and the last person to laid to rest on the church’s plot. An unknown time later he was disinterred and his body reburied at Pisgah UMC in Hiddenite. So, no graveyard for the church.
After reading Mr. Stonestreet’s article, I knew a visit to the church was in order. With hours of poring over names, dates, histories, and maps behind me, it was time to see something tangible, and with my own eyes. Today, I visited what is left of Clio.
Despite now knowing roughly the area Clio occupied, I still know very little about the community. Here’s what I can find committed to print.
-A newspaper from 1883 mentions that the Nursery was built on land that was part of a plantation the people at the time called “Keaton Place”. That plantation’s beginning and ending are unknown to me.
-Likewise, Clio’s Nursery begins at an unknown date, but would have been in operation by at least 1778. I don’t think NCPedia’s listing for it is entirely accurate.
I wholeheartedly believe that the name of the school came before the community was ever called by the same name. Naming an institution of higher learning after a classical figure from mythology with ties to history seems more than apropos.
The location and building change over the course of the years, being at one time along Snow Creek, and called “Clio’s Nursery” in the early years, and in later times would also be known as “Clio Academy”. For more on this, see the sources page that will be linked at the bottom of this article.
It’s unknown how these various iterations of the school are related.
According to one article from 1875, the original academy building burned in 1787. The son of a “Col. John Walker” and a “negro belonging to John Sharp” were charged with the arson, and were eventually deemed not “innocent”, but “not proven guilty”.
-In 1879 the church is chartered, and building started. The completion date is unknown.
-In 1883 the community gets a post office, which is based out of J.W. Hager’s store.
-The church was completed at an unknown date and finally dedicated in 1892.
After this, there seems to be no great changes. Hager’s store continues, and he is installed as a deacon in the church. A position he keeps until he moves away to Stony Point. I would assume his store is sold, shuttered, or taken up by family if it was still open for business.
There are various articles in the local papers through the years about anniversary celebrations at the church, mentions of it and the academy in obituaries, but it seems to slowly disappear from the collective consciousness. In 2011, the church is closed for good.
The community that was once called Clio gets simply swallowed up by Statesville’s limits, and today even the church (if it still had an address) would be listed in Statesville. All that remains is an empty church building and a small dirt road called Clio Lane.
I hope this article isn’t the muddled mess for you, the reader that it seems to me. If it is, it’s only because the actual story I’ve tried to discover is just as hazy. With that in mind, I’m including many of my sources on a separate page, just as I did for the Trivette Clinic.
You can see many of my sources here.
In addition, the original papers that catapulted me into this search can be found on the ephemera page.
Also, if you would like to see more pictures of the church, it will have it’s own page and will be linked from the locations page.