This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.
John Hawkins had forgotten about Caldwell County History Month.
Hawkins is the director of the Caldwell Heritage Museum in downtown Lenoir. Last year, he gathered his board and various local leaders – Lenoir’s mayor and city manager, members of the chamber of commerce and the like – for a discussion of the board’s future.
At that meeting, the idea of an annual Caldwell County History Month first came up. All around the table agreed, and they targeted March for the event (it’s the month Caldwell County was founded).
Hawkins didn’t think of it again until February.
But when he received an email from County Manager Stan Kiser’s office asking if he still wanted the commemorative month to happen, he sprung into action.
“We immediately jumped on it,” he said. “They said, ‘Write a proclamation,’ so we wrote the proclamation.”
Now Caldwell County History Month is official, as of the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Feb. 18 meeting.
The resolution the commissioners passed makes the month a recurring celebration, one that will take place every March.
The Lenoir City Council quickly joined in, passing legislation to declare March Caldwell County and City of Lenoir History Month. Sawmills, Granite Falls and Hudson are considering following suit.
When Hawkins’ resolution was presented to the county and the city, it was received warmly. Hawkins joked at both meetings it was because the officials weren’t used to having people come before them without asking for money.
The text of the resolution is, as it has to be, serious and staid. Lots of “whereas” clauses and $10 words.
The month itself, though, will be livelier.
The centerpiece comes March 1, with an event at Sweet T’s on Main. Actually, the event will take place at the 1841 Café – Sweet T’s is changing its name, and timing the switch in honor of Caldwell County History Month. 1841 is the year the county was founded.
At the newly named restaurant that night, anyone who purchases a $25 ticket will get a buffet meal and access to a showing of “From a Wilderness to a Barn.”
The first in a series of films produced by the heritage museum, “From a Wilderness” explores the area’s earliest history, from its first settlers to the founding of the county.
The event serves a triple purpose: It’s a fundraiser for the heritage museum, it’s the grand opening of the newly named café and, of course, it’s an educational event.
Later in the month, the 1841 Café will pitch in again. Its regular Trivial Pursuit night on March 12 will feature questions based on Caldwell County history.
From all of it – the Trivial Pursuit questions, the film, the existence of the month itself – Hawkins hopes Caldwell residents will gain a better understanding of their county’s history.
“We learn from the past as we build the future,” he said. “Hopefully, we learn not to make the same mistakes that were made in the past and we learn to emulate the things that were good.”