Have you ever passed by the Hugh Torance House and Store off Gilead Rd. in Huntersville and just kept driving?
Next time stop! The Hugh Torance House and Store is full of history about Huntersville and North Carolina and the famous Torance family.
If you head west on Gilead Road in Huntersville, the dense population of houses and buildings seems to fade for a minute and you are greeted with a tree lined winding road. If you are anything like me, in that ‘house free’ zone you are enjoying the scenery, but also keeping a keen eye out for deer who might shoot out across the street at any minute. It is also very possible that because of that winding road and scenery, you may just fly by The Hugh Torance House and Store Historical Site and the Cedar Grove home.
I had to drive a few more miles before there was a place for me to turn around. I have lived here for 13 years and had no idea what the Hugh Torance House and Store was, or that it even existed. Do you know? The Torrance family kept a tremendous amount of paperwork, including receipts, letters, trade documents and more which has allowed historians to put together a time frame of the history of the Torrance Family. However, before we get started, it is important to note, Mr. Torrance spelled his name three different ways.
It is said about Hugh Torrance that he “…supposedly changed his name to avoid being confused with his cousins and other Torrance families in the area”. For simplicity of this article, we will use the most common spelling of “Torrance”. Hugh Torrance emigrated from Ireland in 1763. Hugh was a merchant by trade and initially settled in Salisbury. He would travel via a horse drawn wagon selling and bartering his wares. In 1779, Hugh purchased more than 600 acres in Mecklenburg county and built a log cabin. Hugh joined the revolutionary forces and fought in North Carolina in a light cavalry company, the “Partisan Chargers” led by Captain Galbraith Falls. Captain Galbraith Falls was killed on June 20, 1780 at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. After the war, Hugh married Captain Falls’ widow, Isabella Kerr Falls. He and Isabella and her eight children initially lived in Salisbury. They had one child together, James Galbraith Torrence who was born on November 19, 1784.
Hugh wanted to pursue planting in Mecklenburg County, but knew his log cabin would not be sufficient for his wife and children, his farm equipment and more. In 1787, the Torrance family moved from Salisbury to Mecklenburg county, into what is now known as the Hugh Torance House and Store.
Prior to moving in, Hugh Torrance painted the log cabin white, a room was added to accommodate Hugh’s inventory and the loft had been made into a dormitory for the girls. When James was young, his father Hugh became concerned about his education and sent him to live with his uncle Albert who lived in Salisbury. Hugh felt James would be closer to schools and could become an apprentice to his uncle in the store Albert owned. Hugh spent his time selling his wares and trying to keep up with crops. In 1796, Hugh built a brick house just west of the log house where he and his family moved. Brick houses were rare and impressed upon the community that Hugh was an important man. When James returned to his father’s house, he was practically a man at 20 years old. Hugh suggested that James move into the log cabin and take over the store so Hugh could focus on his crops.
Hugh also sent his son to Philadelphia in order to buy wares for the store so that the Torrance store could be “grandest” of all stores in Mecklenburg. Prior to leaving for Philadelphia, James had suggested to Hugh that the log cabin should be remodeled to be similar to the Latta house; tall, more windows, brick fireplaces, and a whole additional room to accommodate the store. When James returned from Philadelphia work on the house had already taken place. Some of the changes included the square portion of the log house had now taken on an L shape, the larger room was fitted with shelves, and a beautiful mantle had been placed over the fireplace. As you walk into the Hugh Torance House and look around, you just imagine the Torrance family sitting around the fireplace, you can imagine the girls running up to the loft.
In 1816, both Hugh and Isabella passed away, leaving James Torrance the houses, the property, land in Tennessee and all of the land at the plantation the land, which by now had grown to over 1400 acres. James continued to prosper, married three times, and produced 12 children. During those years, James Torrance grew his plantation even more. He eventually closed the store and moved his family into the brick house previously occupied by his parents. Always with his eye set on bigger and better things, he moved his family back into the cabin while he tore down the existing brick house and built a bigger brick house, known as Cedar Grove. In 1825 he sold his store inventory to Samuel McComb and got out of the mercantile business. James Torrance died in 1847 and left behind and estate of 3200 acres. Both the Cedar Grove house and his store remained in the family. The store decayed behind weeds, trees, and dirt, James Torrance’s great grandson, Richard Banks, restored the “Torance House and Store”.
The “Torance House and Store” is the oldest commercial structure in the county. Visits to the Hugh Torance House and Store are led by well versed docents who know the history of the house, its occupants and the surrounding land. Visiting will take you back in history. You will also see that for the most part, the structure is as it stood almost 175 years ago. The home and store are open to tour the 1st and 3rd Sundays June-September from 2pm – 5 pm. Admission is $5
More information about the Hugh Torance House and Store.
Torance House and Store
8231 Gilead Road, Huntersville, NC
Tours are offered on the 1st & 3rd Sundays June – September
Tours are offered between 2pm – 5pm
Admission is $5.
Also, check out the book, “Your Affectionate Daughter, Isabella” a historical book about the Torance Family. I loved it!