Niagara falls in North Carolina

Perhaps varying in rate but seemingly unending is the migration of northerners to The Old North State, a process that led to the development of Pinehurst and Southern Pines in the late 19th century, and the population explosion in the late 20th century of the town of Cary (resulting in the acronym CARY = Containment Area for Relocated Yankees). Not all the land speculation schemes resulted in great success. An example of one that did not is Niagara, North Carolina.

The town of Niagara was a planned development by the New England and Southern Improvement Company of Boston, Massachusetts. (Yes, that company name irritates me).  A promotional pamphlet was printed circa 1902: Niagara, Moore County, North Carolina; The land of pines, sunshine, birds and flowers. Likely published simultaneously was the following map of the developing community.

Image provided by Boston Rare Maps

Image provided by Boston Rare Maps

Confirmation of the 1902 date of publication of the map was obtained from the following newspaper story:

From the Dec. 4, 1902 issue of "The Chatham Record" (Pittsboro, NC), courtesy of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center

From the Dec. 4, 1902 issue of “The Chatham Record” (Pittsboro, NC), courtesy of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center

Given the unflattering photographs at the top of the map, it is no wonder that Niagara never achieved a permanent place on the map like its older Sandhills sisters. However, there was some initial success, including the establishment of the Webster Library in 1912. (For a fascinating discussion of the Webster Library, please refer to pages 342-347 of Ronald E. Bergquist’s 2006 PhD dissertation, available on line here.) The following image of the Webster Library’s dedication in January 1912, is courtesy of the Moore County Historical Association‘s Facebook photo album.

Niagara Webster Library Dedication Jan1912

The Webster Library also served as office for the Niagara Water Company for many years.

The following advertisement appeared in the Journal of Education, Vol. LVIII, Number 21; Thursday, Nov. 26, 1903:
HEALTH, STRENGTH, AND A LIVING.

One question always confronts, and
two frequently confront the men or
women with worn-out bodies or fagged-out
brains who would build up one or both
to enjoy the years naturally theirs on
earth. First, where can rest and health
be obtained? And second, where can a
living be made while or when these
processes are completed? Both of these
questions seem to be answered by some
of the townships now building up in the
Long Leaf Pine belt of North Carolina.
The soil is sandy, and in consequence
dry; the water, filtered and re-filtered by
Nature’s alchemy, has an unsurpassed
purity; the air is soft and balmy, and
heavy with the balsamy odor and life-
giving and healing properties of the pine
woods, and vigor and health are in every
attribute. Tired brains are rested, and pul-
monary diseases, if not past all help, are
arrested, and not infrequently completely
cured.
In this semi-tropic region every
kind of vegetable and fruit flour-
ishes, its peaches, plums, straw-
berries, blackberries, and grapes being
unsurpassed by any in the world, and
unlike the conditions obtaining in many
such places, access to market is easy.
The demands of Nature in this genial
climate are not as great as in colder
climates, and the garden and field will
almost furnish the entire food supply,
sales from the surplus easily supplying
money for other expenses.
The town of Niagara, Moore county,
which is in the very heart of the Long
Leaf Pine belt, is easily the leader. It
contains about 1,000 lots, ranging in size
from 5,000 to 24,000 square feet, every one
of which is high and dry, and suitable for
building purposes. The prices range
from $10 to $250 each, either for cash or
easy payments. The title to each is per-
fect. Many houses have been built, all
of which are occupied, and plans are
drawn for many more, which will be
built by private parties who have bought
lots. Some of the houses are elaborate
and costly, and all are built substantially
and for permanent occupancy.
There is an abundance of the purest
water about forty fet down. Present
occupants of the houses have their own
wells, but almost before this reaches our
readers, a water service will be installed
and in use, as T. S. Richardson, manager
of the New England and Southern Im-
provement company of 85 Water street,
Boston, is in Niagara now on that er-
rand. A water company has been organ-
ized, the stock was at once subscribed
for, and artesian wells, pumps, and all
the paraphernalia will be in operation.
An electric lighting system is also part
of the general plan. For the sewage dis-
posal, the McClintock system by septic
action has been adopted. This is the
most advanced system known to science.
It will be noted that the railroad and
station are things not of the future, but
of the present, and it may be said that
one hotel is built and opened, and that
another is to be started within a few
weeks. The town is laid out on the New
England park system. It has 2,500 feet
of frontage on the Seaboard Air Line
railroad, and is two and one-half miles
from Southern Pines, and 700 feet above
sea level. There are about 10,000 North-
ern people in the pine belt of North
Carolina to-day, resting or working, and
regaining lost health and strength.
Niagara is sixty miles southwest of
Raleigh, 125 miles from the seacost, and
lies on the southern slope, sheltered from
the North winds by the great Blue Ridge
Mountains. One can reach it from Bos-
ton, all by rail, in twenty-four hours, or
by palatial steamers to Norfolk, and
thence by rail, making a delightful com-
bination of water and land travel.
As an investment, although the com-
pany prefers to sell to those who will
build, and at once, and offers special in-
ducements to such, the proposition is of
phenomenal excellence. “Long John”
Wentworth advised (and made himself
rich by following his own advice) people
to buy town lots. “Plant cabbages in
them,” he said. “The cabbages will pay
your taxes, and the growth of the city
will make your land valuable.” A lot
bought to-day in Niagara will multiply
in value many times in a very few years.
Lots that sold for $25 or less a few years
ago in Southern Pines are valued to-day
at more than $1,000, and the prospects
for Niagara now are far brighter than
they were for Southern Pines then.
All needed information, plans, etc., will
be furnished by the New England and
Southern Improvement company, No. 85
Water street, Boston, Mass., or Niagara,
N.C. J. B. L. Bartlett, treasurer.

There are a smattering of early 20th century postcards featuring the town, if one could call it that. Here is one from the North Carolina Postcards archive in the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill:

NiagaraStation

Eventually, Niagara succumbed to the economic pressures of the Great Depression. The Webster Library building survives, and there are remnants of the planned intricate street plan, including Park Hill, Virginia, Vermont, and Connecticut as seen in this image from Google Maps:

NiagaraGoogleMapsTo read more about the rise and fall of Niagara, NC, check your local library for Patsy Tucker’s article, “Niagara Never Quite Made It”, which appeared in the August 1978 issue of The State magazine (Vol. 46 Issue 3, p18-19, 28, il). The author concludes: Today Niagara is a quiet place off of the main highway…much the way it was before the land schemers came in. A nice place to live. 

UPDATE: As of January 2015, the above article is now accessible on line here!

If you have comments or memories about Niagara, NC, please share them with us via “Leave a Reply” below.

 

3 thoughts on “Niagara falls in North Carolina

  1. T. S. Richardson (Thomas Sidney) was my 2x great uncle and one of the developers of this project. I just found him after so many years of researching so I want to thank you for having this site posted and a way to make him even more real to me and his descendants!

    • Jeri,
      Thank you so much for your kind comments and for sending me the information about the article in The Chatham Record, which I’ve added to the post above. I found other articles about the Niagara grape crops from Moore County. Those articles predate the founding of the town by at least 10 years. It’s quite possible that the town received its name from the presence of the Niagara grape vineyards in the region.

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