History of Graham, NC

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History of Graham, NC

Graham is home to several historic landmarks and the venue of notable events in the history of America. It is a planned city and the county seat of Alamance County due to its prime location and to bridge the gap between the towns across the Haw River. Today, learn more about the history of Graham, NC, and how it became a part of the Burlington, North Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area

As a dentist in Graham and a proud member of the community, Rose Family Dentistry aims to highlight the humble beginnings of our community and the events that shaped it to become a vibrant city today. It now ranks 14th out of 184 suburbs for being the most diverse suburbs in North Carolina in 2021. 

Haw River train in Alamance County

Graham as a planned city along the Haw River

Graham started as a small settlement next to the Haw River. It was a strategic solution to transportation and local governance back in the day. One of the three reasons behind its inception was to split Orange County since residents thought that the span of Orange County was too large.  

Another reason was to aid in the transportation difficulties of early North Carolinians across the river to Hillsborough during the 1800s. Lastly, it was at the heart of the proposed county where the Historic Alamance Historic Courthouse was geographically located. With that, Graham also marked a big part of the history of Alamance County. 

In 1841, Graham was registered as a town named after the United States senator and North Carolina governor William Alexander Graham. It became an official town by the year 1851. Since then, the lots around the courthouse were set for sale, which was immediately sold to its pioneer community members. The surrounding properties around the courthouse are now considered the Graham Historic District

The development of textile mills in the town and the birth of Burlington

Since the community had become an official town, the economic development of Graham began. One of the first employers in town was the Oneida Cotton Mill, owned by the Scott-Donnell Company, which was later sold to L. Banks Holt. The company opened another textile mill, the Sidney Cotton Mill, located at the north of town. 

Revitalized Oneida Cotton Mills in Graham, NC
Photo by John Teague (www.johnteaguephotography.com)

L. Banks Holt was the son of E.M Holt, who owned around 24 cotton mills across Alamance County. Their family was part of the textile heritage for being the first suppliers of colored cotton material called Alamance Plaids in the Southern United States. 

In 1857, the North Carolina Railroad Company was considering placing their maintenance shop near the town. The residents opposed the idea because of the noise and smoke that it could cause. So, the repair shops and the railroad tracks were placed to the far north of the town, which started the town of Burlington. 

Graham soldiers that served during WWII 

The first mode of transportation around Burlington, Graham, and Haw River was the streetcar line owned by The Piedmont Railway & Electric Company. However, during World War II, many soldiers from Graham were sent to war and utilized all resources available in town, even the metal from the railroad tracks of the streetcar line, which also halted its service across the towns. 

Streetcar line servicing Graham, Burlington, and Haw River during the 1930s.

Aside from World War II, Graham also witnessed other notable events in history like the Battle of Alamance and the War of Regulation

Volunteer firefighters of Graham

The Graham Historical Museum was once home to the Volunteer firemen in Graham Hose Company No. 1. As the city got back on its feet after WWII, the local government maintained the pumper of the firefighter volunteers from 1903 to 1930. After its closure, the local authorities turned its building into a city hall and later renovated it to serve as the museum we see today.

Graham today

Today Graham looks like a piece of a time capsule in a modern world. Residents who live in Graham love the city for its family-friendly environment and friendly community. Basic resources like health care, schools, and commercial facilities are all available in the city. Many visitors can also enjoy plenty of things to do in Graham, NC

Best things to do in Graham, NC

Graham has a lot to offer for history lovers, artistic individuals, and outdoorsy ones. Families can enjoy strolling with their kids along the historic downtown and visit the Alamance Arts Center and Children’s Museum of Alamance County. You may also enjoy watching some kid-friendly movies in an old-school cinema at Graham Cinema

For the outdoor-loving couples, you may enjoy a picnic by the river at the Graham Paddle Access or a sumptuous dinner at Smokehouse at Steve’s. We hope that you’ll add Graham to your cities to visit with your family. Enjoy your visit, and we hope to see you around!

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