Cabarrus County’s Poplar Tent Community

29 Aug 2014

Dr. John Robinson was pastor and teacher of Poplar Tent Presbyterian’s classical school. Portrait ca. 1800. Courtesy of

“Clustered around the name of Poplar Tent are woven some of the most sacred emotions, and no spot in the world has a richer heritage from the pioneers of the years long gone than this place. In intelligence, in patriotism, in all the high graces that endowed a proud and noble manhood and womanhood of the old school of the seventies the people of this section were richly endowed.”

So G. E. Kestler begins his reflections upon the history and contributions of the Poplar Tent Community to Cabarrus County, and to the United States. Kestler’s letter to the editor appears on the front pages of the August 29 and August 30 editions of the Concord Evening Tribune in 1906.

G. Ed Kestler was secretary-treasurer of H. L. Parks and Company, a Concord store which sold dry goods, shoes, clothing and groceries. Born in 1869, he was the son of V. W. and Jennie R. Kestler. In Kestler’s day, it was not unusual for a businessman to write such an article or for a newspaper to print it.

Among notable Poplar Tent residents, Kestler includes Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church members Rev. Hezekia J. Balch, Benjamin Patton, Robert Harris, Zacheus Wilson, John Phifer and David Reese, all signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. He notes that Poplar Tent is the birthplace of such men as Charles Wilson Harris (1771-1803), first president of the University of north Carolina; and Israel Pickens (1780-1827), Alabama senator and governor.

Poplar Tent was home to one of the best classical schools in North Carolina, taught by Dr. John Robinson before 1800. Prominent Robinson students include N. C. governor John Owen (1787-1841); Alabama governors Pickens and John Murphy (1785-1841); N. C. congressmen Charles Fisher (1778-1849), Daniel Munroe Forney (1784-1847). Henry William Connor (1793-1866), and Daniel Moreau Barringer (1806-1873), also a U. S. Minister to Spain

Another important Poplar Tent school was Dr. Charles Harris’ medical school. Harris (1762-1825) is believed to have started the first such school in North Carolina, ca. 1795-1800, and he educated over 90 students, training many future Cabarrus and North Carolina doctors. Kestler concludes:

“The history of this township should be an inspiration to the young men of No. 2 [congressional district], for the descendants of such illustrious forefathers should never lower the standard that they have raised aloft.”

G. Ed Kestler died in 1939 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Concord. More information about the Poplar Tent community, Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church, Charles Harris’ medical school and others in this article, may be found at the Cabarrus County Public Library’s Lore Local History Room.