Then and Now
New London, North Carolina today is a "quiet little residential town of several hundred persons, four churches, a school, local government, several businesses, and one industry," located in the northern part of Stanly County ("too small to have an 'e' ".) It is "ideally located in a triangle embracing Radin and Albemarle, and also convenient to the industries at Richfield. Many of the residents there work in plants at Richfield, the nearby Federal Pacific plant a mile to the south, or are employed in Albemarle or Badin. Two stores, an antique shop, and a gun shop are among the business facilities. Providing a new residential area is a mobile home village just to the north edge of town which ranks as one of the most modern in this section of the state." Information for this page has been provided by the Albemarle - Stanly County Historic Preservation Commission is at 245 East Main Street, Albemarle NC 28001. The phone is (704) 983-7316. For information on Stanly County schools and Community College click here.
NEW LONDON, NC - THEN (when it was Bilesville)
Once upon a time, New London, North Carolina was bigger than nearby Albemarle, now the county seat. It was founded around 1870 and originally called Bilesville, for one of the first families to settle there and run a log store. With the coming of the railroad in 1891, business boomed - saw mills, roller mills, cotton gins, blacksmith and livery, one of the first bottling plants, foundry, and a rope factory, also an academy. It was prominent in the gold mining era and in the early days of the Whitney enterprise on the Yadkin River.
The old Parker Mine, which has been worked spasmodically through the years, dates to pre-Civil War days when it was operated by slave labor and big chunks of pure gold were found. Early family names were Ivey, Culp, Napier, Mauney, Parker, Ritchie, and Cotton. According to legend, the name of the town was changed in 1891 from Bilesville to New London by an English mining engineer, in honor of his native city.
Here is a first hand account of this early history, reprinted by Wallace Ivey in his "Hawkeye" Column in the Stanley News and Press, April 22, 1983. It was written by his sister, Charlotte ("Lottie") Ivey Hastings, then ninety and living in Winter Park, Florida.
"…For ninety years, I have chased a special Evergreen Tree… Before I was born that tree was the starting point for many things. First, it was growing in a virgin forest with lots of wildlife, and nearby was a river filled with fish. Tommy Biles, who owned the big tract of land, loved to fish, so he selected a spot near the tree for a homesite, barn, garden, and farm which later became the home of the first family in the village.
Slaves were still owned or lived with their masters, so help was plentiful and close by. Trees were cut and heart of pine timber hand-dressed for a large home – two rooms downstairs and two upstairs, with a wide porch across the front. Built on the back was a long dining room and kitchen with a porch and a shelf for a wooden bucket, and gourd for everyone to drink from. When the house was finished Uncle Tommy Biles, his wife, and three daughters moved in, bringing with them their chickens and fishing poles. Just a hop and skip beyond the Biles property was a tiny settlement called "Albemarle" which later became the county seat. Adjoining that was another large tract of land owned by my great-grandfather, Benjamin Ivey, who with his wife and seven children, made up a family of nine. His father, also named Benjamin, had sold the land he inherited from his father, Adam Ivey, in Edgecombe County, and moved to Randolph County. John Reece, the oldest son, soon made a trail through the forest to see Sarah Ann Biles, the oldest Biles girl. That had a happy ending; they married and lived in the Biles house. The mail got through occasionally by stagecoach so the post office got the name "Bilesville."
By this time John and Sarah had seven children, five boys and two girls - and had acquired a vast estate. Uncle Tommy, who lived to be quite old, had gone on to happier fishing grounds. Had he been a close observer he would not have missed the gold nuggest in the sticky, red mud. When a younger generation came along and discovered it, the gold rush was on and a town was born. Stores went up overnight. Two rather prosperous mines were opened and sold to English companies.
One of the companies built a very large house that was different from the other houses in the area. It had two porches, one downstairs and one upstairs; they were built completely around the house. The first occupant was "Captain Nance." He had two loves, riding horses and drinking corn liquor. He immediately made a race track out of the lower porch. One Sunday morning, while pursuing his love of the taste of corn, he decided to ride his horse up the stairs and try out the upper porch as a race track. The horse balked, and it so infuriated Nance that he pulled out his gun and shot the horse.
The next miner to come was Mr. Judd, from London, England, his wife, and daughter, Doris. They moved in with a full staff of servants, uniforms, silver, side saddles, riding horses, dogs and "style" – things people had never dreamed of in the little village.
During this time, the Ivey children had grown to manhood and had married, and each was given a farm from the Ivey lands. They built big homes, had large families, and all but one settled near the homeplace. With fifty grandchildren, the "Ivey Clan" was well established.
In 1880 a railroad was built from Salisbury to Norwood through Albemarle and a daily train came to Bilesville, stopped atht ewater tank for water and on to the depot where all the people of the village were there to see who was riding the train, to get a glimpse of the red plush seats they were sitting on and hear the conductor say, "All aboard."
Surrounded by such grandness, they soon realized that they needed a more dignified name for such a modern town, so a meeting was called for the purpose of selecting one. Mr. Judd represented everything - prestige, wealth, travel, imagination, and things to hope for – so he was given the honor of naming the town. Certainly the town would surpass anything in the New World; so he suggested New London in honor of London, England.
The end of my ninety year old trail is coming up…and as I look back on the marvelous changes that have taken place…my most vivid memory is of that little "evergreen" that started my chase. The Judds had a Christmas party for Doris, and her playmates were invited. When I got my first glimpse of the tree I thought that all the doors in heaven were thrown wide open. There in all its glory was my little evergreen, full grown, ablaze with thousands of lighted candles, and so brilliant it looked like pure gold. Each branch of the tree had strands of popcorn and cranberries and it was loaded with toys and presents from London, England. My present was a little white lamb on a stick and when you shook it, it said, "Baa! Baa! So, Baa! Baa! Bilesville Hi!! New London, North Carolina, a beautiful, relaxing place to live.