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Cornelius News

What’s in a (street) name?

John Connor Road and Connor Quay Court

FOUNDING FAMILIES | By Tonya Rivens. Names help define a community.  And the street names in Cornelius provide a road map of history in the town. A drive around Cornelius is one way of learning the history of the town. Here are a few of the streets with historic names:

Jetton Road

Jetton Road  is named for the Jetton family. Alexander Brevard Jetton, a prominent member of the North Mecklenburg community, bought and sold land, according to the Jetton Family Papers archived at UNCC’s Atkins Library. The Jettons also invested in cotton cultivation and owned a plantation.  One of Alexander’s sons, John Lewis, was an educator, served in the military and worked as a surveyor.  Francis Potts Jetton, another son of Alexander, inherited land near the Catawba River where he built a home in the 1900s. 

Potts Street

Potts Street runs from North Main Street into Davidson, recognizes the Potts family, owners of a plantation near Mt. Zion United Methodist Church. As one of the plantations in the area, they played a major role in life here well before Cornelius was incorporated in 1905.  In addition, Smithville Lane, honors Jacob Smith, who provided the land for Blacks to build homes in Smithville.  Smith married Lily Potts, of the Potts Family. 

Nannie Potts Lane

Nannie Potts Lane, is named in memory of Nannie Raye Houston Potts, the first and only African American Mayor of the town.  Potts was a life-long educator who considered every child to be a student whether in her classroom or in the community.  It’s also understood that the Mickey Potts family, husband of Nannie, was owned by the Potts family prior to Emancipation.

Bethel Church Road

Bethel Church Road is the home of Bethel Presbyterian Church which dates back to 1830.

Torrence Chapel Road

Torrence Chapel Road is where Torrence Chapel AME Zion Church is located, dating back to 1869.  By the way, Torrence Chapel planted two additional churches in the area:  Union Bethel AME Zion, Cornelius, and Reeves Temple AME Zion, Davidson.

John Connor Road

John Connor Road and Connor Quay Court honor an African American farmer and businessman who bought 125 acres near Jetton Road in 1921. It’s been reported that Connor asked a white friend, Hugh Kelly, to make the land purchase at the courthouse since African Americans were not allowed to do so. Connor sold Duke Power 25 acres, where Lake Norman was created, and farmed the remaining land, which also was home of the Lakeview Country Club, known as Connors’ Place. 

Burton Lane

Burton Lane in Smithville is still home to members of the Burton family. still reside. Some of their family members were able to purchase land. The legacy of the Burton family includes the historic Burton Plantation Farm, the Governor Burton House, Governor Burton Island and Burton Creek.  The Burton family also owned land on Beatties Ford Road, which was later flooded by Lake Norman.  The family includes Governor Hutchins Gordon Burton and Colonel Robert Burton, who served as a Revolutionary War officer and a member of Congress. Family members not only had an impact in the North Mecklenburg area but also made a huge impact in the state of North Carolina. M.K. Brotherton “Lake Norman-Piedmont History”, Vol. 2, H & B Printers (1993)

Sherrill Avenue

Sherrill Avenue is located off of Washam Potts Road, east of South Main Street. Frank Sherrill was the town’s first postmaster, an officer with the town bank and the president of Gem Yarn Mill.  Sherrill’s Ford in Catawba county is named for Adam Sherrill, who built his home there in the 1700s.  And Ann Sherrill Cornelius was married to Joseph Benjamin Cornelius, founder of the town.

Tonya Rivens

Tonya Rivens is a multi-skilled journalist in radio and television and is currently heard on Streetz 103.3/100.5 FM, blogs at tonyarivens.com.