If you live in the University area, chances are you have seen the silo behind Back Creek Presbyterian Church.
The church is at N.C. 49 and Back Creek Church Road. You can also see the silo from I-485, near exit 33. It has two large crosses that are sometimes outlined with lights.
Several weeks ago, a reader suggested I write a column about the silo. It took a bit of research, but I finally got the entire story.
The silo was built in the early 1960s to store corn for the beef cattle on Ralph Cochran’s farm. But the story is much more interesting than that.
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I met with two people who knew Cochran: Chip Wampler, scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 49 (sponsored by Back Creek church), and Ben Stroup, a retired dairy farmer and lifelong member of Back Creek church.
Stroup and Cochran used to have adjoining property before the highways came along. Back then, the area was called Newell, not Charlotte.
Besides raising black Angus cows, Stroup said, Ralph Cochran worked as a sawmill operator, sawing timber. Cochran built his barn in 1953. Stroup said they got the plans for the barn from what was then N.C. State College (now N.C. State University). Construction of the silo was contracted out, Stroup said. The corn stored in the silo was used for winter feed.
Both men were interested in maintaining their agricultural community.
Cochran died in 1996. He had no family and left his entire estate to Back Creek church. His wishes were to expand the church cemetery and create a large play area for children, including ball fields.
Wampler was blown away by that gesture.
“There had always been a false rumor that Cochran did not like children,” Wampler said.
And as a child, he used to push the preacher’s kid over a fence onto Cochran’s property just to see what would happen.
In the early ’90s, the late Ken Hoffman, a fellow church member, came up with the idea to put two canvas crosses on the silo. He recruited his son-in-law Eddie Stroup, Ben Stroup’s son, to help with the project.
Ben Stroup said, “They did it to recognize our savior.”
Wampler said his Boy Scout troop replaced the canvas crosses with wood and lights and floodlights. They also built a fence to stop kids from climbing the silo.
In 1998–99, the Scouts also refurbished the adjoining barn on the property, including the installation of a $30,000 brick floor. There was no cost to the church.
The barn is beautiful and can be used for church community activities, Wampler said, adding, “Many of the projects on the church property were Eagle Scout projects.” It is obvious a lot of work was involved.
“Other projects included painting the barn, replacing tin on the roof and even constructing a memorial area for veterans,” Wampler said.
Wampler said the troop would love to put LED lights on the crosses one day, when they can afford it.
If you would like to help their LED lights shine, call Wampler at 704-995-3559.