Apex honors its roots with Founders Day Celebration

aramos@newsobserver.comMarch 3, 2014 

— From the antique cars to demonstrations of rug hooking, activities during the town’s first Founders Day Celebration were designed to harken back to yesteryear.

Several dozen people attended the Founders Day Celebration hosted by the Apex Downtown Business Association on Saturday. The event was created to help introduce newcomers and children to the town’s history around the time Apex was chartered on Feb. 28, 1873.

Members of the Piedmont Rug Hookers Guild spent hours at The Halle Cultural Arts Center demonstrating the traditional methods of making a rug.

Each used a hook to weave pieces of wool through linen burlap sack replicas in simple designs.

Rug hooking started in the mid-1800s as a way to cover the floors and beds in New England and northern homes, said Betsy Sarver of Pittsboro, a member of the Piedmont guild.

“Old feed sacks or flour burlap sacks is what they would traditionally use to make the rugs,” she said. “The wool they used usually came from old coats or clothing. The dyes they used they made themselves from vegetables.”

Weavers from Common Thread, a nonprofit in Sanford, were also at The Halle to show their modern twist on the ancient craft. Common Thread upcyles plastic bags and other textiles into strips that are woven into rugs, handbags and dish towels using a loom.

The money the group makes from its products is donated to charities such as food pantries and shelters.

Local historian Toby Holleman, co-author of “Pluck, Perseverance and Paint Apex, NC: Beginnings to 1941” gave a presentation chronicling everything from the town’s name to notable residents.

Some people believe that Apex got its name for being the highest point on the Chatham Railroad line between Richmond, Va., and Jacksonville, Fla. But Holleman said that’s false.

“If you study the elevation maps there were other higher points than Apex,” he said.

Apex was likely named by railroad surveyors who were looking for a good spot for a watering station between the Haw River and Raleigh, according to Holleman. The Apex area, then called Log Pond, was a good endpoint.

Apex was also home to some famous bootleggers such as Cyclone Mack and Joseph Baldwin.

The Baldwin Gang ran liquor from Apex to Martinsville, Va., Holleman said.

The irony was that Baldwin was a preacher’s kid. Perhaps his religious background guided some of his actions.

“He took the money he got from liquor and gave it to towns to improve their quality of life,” Holleman said.

Baldwin gave money for new schools, parks and a swimming pool, he said.

Apex native Tom Robbins drove from Lenoir for Founders Day.

“It’s amazing how much the whole area which depended on tobacco has changed,” Robbins said. “I think it’s good for people to learn about the town’s history.”

The light turnout didn’t dampen Robbins’ expectations for the success of the festival.

“I think it’s something that is going to take a few years to catch on,” he said.

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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