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Who Founded Hamlet?

Johh Shortridge, Founder of Hamlet
Photo courtesy of Historic Hamlet

HAMLET – John Shortridge was born in Carlisle, England in 1818. In 1836, he and his family immigrated to America, originally settling in Rhode Island.  In 1847, he moved to Rockingham with his family and began working in a textile mill.

In March of 1865, near the end of the Civil War, Union forces destroyed the mill.  Shortridge was not detoured, however; he saw this as an opportunity to start a business. He moved a few miles east of Rockingham and opened his own mill, a woolen and saw mill located on the banks of Marks Creek. This stood where Hamlet City Lake is today. The mill was known as Shortridge Mill.

In 1873, during a conversation with Laughlin McKinnon, Champ Terry, and Thomas J. Steele, Shortridge mentioned that in England, a small cluster of houses is referred to as a “hamlet.”  And thus, the town of Hamlet was born.

To christen the name, Shortridge, Terry, and Steele planted a sycamore tree in town. The tree was located near where the McLaurin Center stands today, what was then known as Bridges’ Triangle.

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Shortridge saw a need for rail service in the area and began working with railroads to lay tracks in Hamlet.  Shortridge was correct and his efforts proved to play an important role in the development of the town; in 1876 the Raleigh & Augusta Railroad began to lay tracks throughout Hamlet.

 Hamlet grew as rail workers moved into town and businesses prospered as trains brought hungry and weary travelers all the way from New York and Florida. The town of Hamlet was incorporated in 1897.

Shortridge, unfortunately, was unable to see the thriving town that resulted from his vision; he passed away in 1882 at the age of 64, having left numerous contributions to what was to become our beloved town of Hamlet.

Shortridge was originally buried beside his wife in Rockingham, but his decedents later thought it more proper to have him in the town that he founded, so he and his wife were moved to Mary Love Cemetery and this is where they lie today.

 

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