The 75th annual family reunion of what have become the Stinson, Grier and Nelson families was held Aug. 15-17. These families, who trace their first generation back to this area, have a tradition of meeting each year on the third weekend of August to celebrate and remember their family's history. They believe that their reunion is one of the oldest family traditions in North Carolina.
This year's reunion was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Concord. Following tradition, Friday was a picnic, Saturday night was a banquet, and Sunday was a worship service. They also gave college scholarships to two girls from the families.
There were five generations of the family at the reunion. All the members of the first generation are deceased. The sixth generation consists of the babies and the little children. There are still 15 members of the second generation, all in their 90s, and they received special recognition at this year's reunion. The younger members of the family interviewed the members of the second generation, and those interviews were gathered in a souvenir book.
Members of the second generation said the reunions originally were just on someone's property, not in a hotel. They would make tables out of lumber and have about seven long tables.
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Each household would prepare the food. Armetta Cathcart, part of the third generation, remembers they served “Kool-Aid in a big tin washtub with a big chunk of ice and lemons in it. It was really good,” she said.
Cathcart described what it was like living in Cornelius when she was a little girl. Her uncle's farm used to be where the McDonald's in Cornelius is now located. She remembers walking to the farm to visit her grandmother. Back then, everyone lived close together, and most people didn't have cars. Where the overpass for I-77 is now, there used to be a little bridge over Highway 21. Cathcart said she had to walk on that bridge to get to the farm, and she was afraid of going on the bridge.
Cathcart also said that she still goes to the same church that she went to as a little girl: Union Bethel AME Zion Church in Cornelius. However, back then, “We couldn't wait to get out of church,” Cathcart explained. As soon as the service was over, “We'd run across the street to the store to spend our pennies.”
She also remembers walking over to the “5 and 10 cent store, right near where the Potts barber is now. The post office used to be on the other side of the (railroad) tracks, and we had to walk there to get our mail. It wasn't delivered.”
Cathcart is worried that the reunion might not continue, and she feels it's up to her generation to keep it going.
“I knew some of my grandmother's brothers and sisters. My kids don't know them. It's real to me because I knew them (the first generation). We have to make it real to our children so they'll keep the reunion going. We're trying to keep it going for 75 more years.”