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Sylvia Ray
Ransom-Sherrill #653, Newton

The only recorded incident of wartime military action in Catawba County, North Carolina occurred
during the War Between the States, and a ceremony in Newton on June 3, 2009, rekindled memory
of that fateful moment of history. Ransom-Sherrill Chapter 653 dedicated a new street-side marker
commemorating the skirmish.

The ceremony took place at the site of the tall metal sign on Courthouse Square. UDC members
unveiled the newly fabricated marker that replaces an earlier, less explanatory, one which was
accidentally toppled during a post-snowstorm by a street cleaning plow more than two decades ago.

The sign was originally created and installed in 1940, one of a series of similar ones erected in
western NC by the state to make the 1865 “Stoneman’s Raid� by US troops under the
command of General George Stoneman. That raid commenced in eastern Tennessee as the bloody
four-year war between the US and the Confederate States of America was ending. Federal troops
looted communities in the western portion of NC including Taylorsville, Statesville, Hickory, Newton
and Lincolnton.

Most of the Highway Historical Markers (refer to above photo), as the project was termed, are still
standing today. The new historic sign will stand in exactly the same spot as the earlier one, in front of
the building that was in 1940 the US Post Office (now the site of the Old Post Office Playhouse
being developed by a community theatre organization.)

Carolyn Vaughan Isenhower of Conover, current president of the Ransom-Sherrill UDC Chapter
commented that the new signage is more complete in its recounting of the events of April 17, 1865,
than the previous marker, which simply noted that Stoneman’s raiders had passed through
Newton on that date.

“The Ransom-Sherrill Chapter has members from throughout Catawba County and from Burke
and Caldwell counties as well,� she stated, “and we feel we have a duty to work with others
who care about local history in preserving the past for our citizens of today and tomorrow. We
believe people will be interested in seeing the handsome new marker, and we are grateful to the City
of Newton for providing it. We are proud that government officials know that such markers-and there
are several in the community- make the city appealing to visitors as well as teaching our local
residents the stories of our communal past.�

Sylvia Kidd Ray, former chapter president and Newton newspaper editor, composed the wording for
the new sign and conferred with state and local history officials before submitting it to the
municipality. This replacement sign became one of four similar roadside markers bear a multi-colored
representation of the city seal at the top which were erected in Newton as part of its 2005
Sesquicentennial projects.

The wording on the new sign reads: “On a Civil War raid through Western North Carolina by Gen.
George Stoneman’s US Cavalry, troops commanded by Col. William J. Palmer passed through
Newton on April 17, 1865, burned the Confederate Commissary depot and the county jail and shot
and killed Confederate Capt. Charles F. Conner.�

“The original Stoneman’s Raid sign in Newton was decommissioned by the state in 1989,�
Mrs. Ray explained. “It is fitting that the new one will be on display as NC approaches an
extensive series of activities from the mountains to the coast in a major project, NC Civil War
Sesquicentennial. The 2001-2015 events are being planned by the Department of Cultural Resources,
Office of Archives and History. A team was formed in 2006 to plan for the commemoration of the
150th anniversary of the 1861-65 war.�

She continued, “The dramatic and terrifying hours when Stoneman’s troops were in Catawba
County are a part of our history. My studies have indicated that the commissary in Hickory where
supplies for the Confederate forces were to be shipped by train was burned, as was the commissary
near downtown Newton. Besides the train depot-commissary, the county jail in downtown Newton
was also burned, and local records note that Confederate Captain Connor took off on horseback to
chase the union soldiers away from the county seat community. Apparently Stoneman’s troopers
turned on him and shot him near the Court Square area. Connor had returned to his native county
following the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee, which took place at Appomattox, VA several weeks

“Skirmishes, even some battles, continued for weeks at locations all over the South after Lee
surrendered,� Mrs. Ray continued. The retired journalist added, “The fabric that is life in
Catawba County has been woven for several hundred years. Not all its threads and patterns are plain;
there has been high drama through the centuries. This new marker recounts on such incident.

The highway marker is one of three major stone monuments on Courthouse Square in Newton that
mark its Confederate history. In 1907 the Ransom-Sherrill Chapter – which was founded in 1903 -
dedicated a tall monument topped by a soldier statue and in 2005 the chapter and local SCV camp got
a large bronze plaque added to the county War Memorial listing the names of the more than 600
county Confederates who died during the war. The county in 1860 had a total population of 10,000,
and sent some 1,500 men to fight for the Confederacy. The county in the 21st century has a
population of some 150,000.