3 Charlotte Trails Steeped in American History

Captain James Jack memorial
Captain James Jack memorial Rob Glover
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As the tale goes, on May 19, 1775, news of a battle in Massachusetts, where American colonists were massacred by British troops, hit Charlottetown. Mecklenburg county colonists, already annoyed by laws and taxes they felt unjust, pulled an all-nighter to write up their declaration of independence from the British crown. The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (MecDec) and a subsequent document, the Mecklenburg County Resolves, were ferried to Philadelphia by local tavern owner Captain James Jack.

In recognition of risking life, limb, and tavern on his dangerous ride through British controlled colonies, Captain Jack was the first figure to be immortalized in bronze along the Charlotte Trail of History. The trail is an ongoing project to erect a series of statues along Little Sugar Creek Greenway; each one depicting those that helped shape Charlotte.

Little Sugar Creek Greenway is just one historic location around Charlotte where you can combine your love of the outdoors while learning more about the area. Here are three other trails to get some exercise along with a little bit of historical knowledge.

1. Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve

2900 Rocky River Road, Charlotte NC

Rob Glover

History: Back in the 1760s, long before Captain Jack took his trip to Philly, Robert Robinson acquired a plot of land northeast of uptown Charlotte. Sometime around 1790 the Robinsons built a stone house, which is thought to have remained inhabited until 1899. Most likely due to poor access to quality internet, the house was then left unoccupied and fell to disrepair. While a bit of a fixer-upper, the Robinson Rock House ruins are one of oldest examples of rock houses in the area.

Trails: Runners and hikers at Reedy Creek Park, and the adjacent Nature Preserve, have 10 miles of trails to choose from. Paths range from gravel (Dragon Fly Trail) to moderately rugged natural surface (Sierra Loop Trail). The Robinson Rock House trail is about halfway around Sierra Loop.

Other Amenities: Within the park and nature preserve are a dog park, playground, bathrooms, and nature center. The park is also home to one of the first 18-hole disc golf courses in the area, although it’s believed the Robinsons hated the game and would never return errant discs that landed in their back yard.

2. Kings Mountain State Park and National Military Park

2625 Park Rd, Blacksburg, SC

National Park Service

History: The victory of American patriots over British-led loyalists at the battle of Kings Mountain was significant in boosting the moral of American militias after a string of recent defeats. The drubbing—in which loyalists lost 225 soldiers compared to the opposing Patriot’s 28—was called the battle that “turned the tides of success” by Thomas Jefferson.

Trails: There’s actually two parks here. Kings Mountain State Park to the east and Kings Mountain National Military Park adjacent to it. Two hiking trails of significant length spend time in one or both parts. The 16-mile loop travels through both parks and is fairly rugged and hilly. The Ridge Line Trail travels north for about 10 miles from Kings Mountain State Park to Crowders Mountain State Park.

Other Amenities: The two parks have bathroom facilities, a gift shop, fishing, canoe/kayak rentals and an equestrian trail.

3. Latta Plantation

5225 Sample Rd, Huntersville NC

Latta Plantation

History: Home to historical reenactments of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and even used as a mock European town for WWII events, Latta Plantation is a fantastic place to learn about Charlotte’s past. Regular tours of the Latta home allow visitors a view of what life was like in the mid-1800s. The grounds include several outbuildings to tour and a working farm where short-staple cotton grows. (It was the cash crop originally grown by the home’s original builder, James Latta.)

Trails: It takes 16 trails to make up the 16-mile trail system at Latta. For the most part each trail flows well into the next but keeping track of where you’ve been can get confusing. It’s a good idea to take a map  or a friend with knowledge of the trails on your first visit. The pleasant trails meander through the woods and along Mountain Island Lake but pay attention—most are also equestrian trails so there’s plenty of road apples along the way. An easy place to start is at the visitor’s center just past the main gate on Sample Road.

Other Amenities: The nature center has bathrooms and drinking fountains. Latta Plantation is also home to an equestrian center and the Carolina Raptor Center.

Boosted by so many transplants, Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. Taking advantage of outdoor history lessons is a great way for newcomers to learn a bit about their new city and get in some trail miles at the same time.

Originally written for OrthoCarolina.

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