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Former slave Ransom Hunter left his mark on Mt. Holly

Feb 27, 2020 10:26AM

This is an archival photo of Ransom Hunter’s home in Mt. Holly. From Images of America

By Alan Hodge

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Ransom Hunter rose from the bonds of slavery to become one of Mt. Holly’s leading businessmen and citizens and though he died a century ago, his name is still remembered to this day.

Hunter was born a slave on a plantation near Charleston circa 1825. As a boy he was sold to the Hoyle family who owned a large farm near Dallas and Stanley in Gaston County.  

Just before the Civil War broke out in 1861, Hunter’s owner set him free and gave him a plot of land near the Catawba River that Hunter named “Freedom”. It is believed that Hunter was the first free black in Gaston to own property.

Though the land was rugged, Hunter pitched in and through his sweat and sinew created a prosperous farm.

During Reconstruction following the war, Hunter’s hard work enabled him to purchase additional land in what is today’s appropriately named Freedom neighborhood in Mt. Holly. He  operated a livery stable on  Main St. and ran a general store for the local African_American populace making him one of the first black business owners in the area. He also helped recently freed slaves find jobs and housing.

 Hunter was a strong believer in education. He learned to read, write, and do math. He also learned carpentry and blacksmithing. He served on the Public School Committee of District No. 12, which at the time was called the “colored” school district, and deeded land to what became Rollins School in 1887.

Hunter also had strong faith. He was the founder of two Mount Holly churches still in existence today: Rock Grove Methodist Church, which became Burge Memorial United Methodist Church, and Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.

Hunter died in 1918 at the age of 93 in Mt. Holly. He’s buried near a large oak in the cemetery at the corner of Hawthorne and West Catawba  Ave. in Mt. Holly.

Hunter has recently been remembered for his many contributions to Mt. Holly.

In July 2014, his descendants held a family reunion and a new headstone was placed under the big tree near his grave.  In 2017, Hunter was named as the very first Mt. Holly Historic Person of the Year by the Mt. Holly Historical Society.