“Aunt Dill” was a Mother Figure to Many in Eastern Cabarrus

11 May 2015

Idelah Misenheimer Heilig.

This weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day. It is not only a special day to honor women who have children, but also the women who have given of themselves for the betterment of the life of a child. Although Idelah Misenheimer Heilig of Mount Pleasant had ten children of her own, she is said to have helped bring into the world many more. 

Idelah (depending on the source it may be spelled Idella) also went by the name of Dilly and later Aunt Dill. She was born in Stanly County on March 25, 1848 to slaves Abner Misenheimer and Edith (last name unknown). She was initially the property of Rev. Levi Shankle of Albemarle and moved to the Mount Pleasant area when she was age seven. In In 1860 she was willed to Shankle’s daughter Martha along with another slave named Elmira. Martha Shankle married Jacob J. Misenheimer in 1855 in Cabarrus County and settled in Mount Pleasant. It is reported that Dilly may have been a wedding present to Martha. In the 1863 slave census, Dilly is listed as the property of J. J. Misenheimer and had a value of $1,400. 

After emancipation, Dilly married Harry Heilig in 1866. Harry was the former slave of L. G. Heilig, also of Mount Pleasant. Dilly and Harry had ten children, six of which survived to adulthood. Although neither Dilly or Harry could read or write, all the children attended school. Harry worked in a tanyard, perhaps that of L. G. Heilig, for that was his business. Sadly, Dilly became a widow sometime between 1885 and 1900, but she was a respected and beloved member of the community in her own right. In addition to rearing her own large family, “Aunt Dill” assisted numerous families in the community. Tradition states that she was a midwife and helped to deliver many of the children of Mount Pleasant, nursing approximately one hundred, both black and white.

Late in life she went to live with her daughter Beulah in Asheville, where she died at the age of 93 on August 28, 1941. She left five surviving children, twenty-one grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren. Among her descendants were teachers, ministers and members of other professions.

This former slave left a legacy to be proud of. She is buried at First Congregational Church cemetery in Mount Pleasant.

Courtesy of Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society and Museum