Chatham County Historical Association

Note New Phone Number: 919-542-6222


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Unique Smokehouse History

Chatham County & Secession

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Open: Wednesday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m.

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Please send your 2015 dues to
CCHA, PO Box 93, Pittsboro NC  27312.
Membership form
Individual  $18.00
Family  $20.00
Student  $10.00
Patron  $50.00
Corporate $100.00

Donations in addition to these rates are greatly appreciated.

Looking for a Chatham County burial or cemetery? CCHA’s extensive database and many photos are available at

CCHA publications
make great gifts!

Chatham Rabbit
Historical Ornament
Available in museum bookstore
or order online

Western Chatham history featured in upcoming
program with John Emerson

Sunday, November 15

The small towns of Bonlee and Bennett will be the topic of a historical program by Mr. John Hudson Emerson on Sunday, November 15, 2:30 pm in the Historic Courthouse at Pittsboro.

Mr. Emerson has long been a friend of the Chatham County Historical Association.  Over the years he has enlightened us on the career of Sheriff John Emerson, the Bonlee and Western Railroad, the Regulator Movement in the area, numerous other topics, as well as provided extensive genealogy work on the Dunlap and Emerson families.  His programs are always in depth, informative, and fun.  CCHA is pleased to provide another opportunity to share history with Mr. Emerson.

The towns of Bonlee and Bennett were bustling with business and community life in the early 1900’s.  Many factors came into play to transition them to what they are today.  Mr. Emerson’s photographic collection included in his presentation will be supplemented by some artifacts on display in the museum. 

The program is free and open to the public.  The Chatham County Historical Association, Inc. is a non-profit corporation [501(c)(3)] with the goal of preserving and sharing the history of Chatham County, North Carolina.  Would you like to share your time and talents to help us reach our goal?  For more information or to contact us, call 919-542-6222 or visit our website at

CCHA Documents History of Property for New County Agricultural Center and Saves Unique Smokehouse

Work is well underway on the construction of a new County Agricultural Center in Pittsboro on the west side of town. Before the land was cleared for the project, the county allowed the Chatham County Historical Association to examine the site for clues to its history. There were many.

A small group of volunteers, including two local professional archaeologists, spent a few days on site—from July to December 2014—photographing several structures and ruins, mapping 50 large trees (most over a century old), and researching early residents who made the property their home from the early 1800s to the late 1990s.

Smoke HouseWhile most of the structures on the site had been razed or were in advanced stages of deterioration, a smokehouse was found largely intact. The structure had several unique features. It was overly tall—about 25 feet at its roof apex, with a cantilevered roof and an unusual decorative pattern made with nails on its single door. Above a more recent dropped ceiling, the original ceiling of the smokehouse was intact, complete with riven sticks or pegs set directly into the upper rafters—once used for holding meat.

The CCHA Board felt that the smokehouse offered a rare opportunity to preserve something of the county’s early agricultural past and vernacular architecture, and voted to move the structure to a secure location while construction proceeded. It is the Board’s hope that the smokehouse can be worked into future plans for the site and returned to serve as an example of Chatham County’s early traditional architecture.

To learn more and to see photos of the site prior to the start of construction, see CCHA Documents History of Property for New County Agricultural Center and Saves Unique Smokehouse the report prepared by the volunteer team who researched the site.

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