198 Park History

Big Rock Park is the 23 acre tract of natural open space directly north of the Thornhill Pavilion and bounded on the east by High Creek Court and to the west and northwest by several owners living on Whitfield Ridge, Hastings Mill, and Wolf Run. This area holds a special historical significance. This area is maintained by the Mecklenburg Park and Recreation Department

Historical Perspective

The Big Rock was a campsite, rendezvous point, and observation post for the first human beings who inhabited what is now Mecklenburg County. Ancient Native Americans, whose forbearers had migrated from Asia, some 40,000 years ago. These initial nomads reached the Carolina Piedmont about 12,000 years ago. They had wandered over the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains in pursuit of big game. Living in highly mobile and lightly equipped groups, the Indians ambushed their prey, principally now extinct giant mammals, by thrusting spears into their flanks at close range.

There is a small crevice or indentation on the backside of the eastern wall of the Big Rock. It would have provided protection from the strong, cold winds that blew across the almost treeless grasslands that covered the surrounding countryside in ancient times. Imagine what it must have been like for the small bands of Indians who spent wintry nights at the Big Rock thousands of years ago. The howl of wolves would have echoed in the pitch-black darkness. The Indians would have chipped stones into spear points, and roasted hunks of fatty meat in the flickering flames of the campfire. Arising at first light, these small assemblages of nomadic hunters would have resumed their ceaseless chase after the herds of mammoth, horses, camels and bison that meandered across the Piedmont landscape.

A momentous event in the history of the Native Americans of this region occurred about 2000 years ago. Indians of the so-called "Woodland" tradition began to practice agriculture and establish permanent settlements. Interestingly, the great majority of the Native Americans who inhabited what is now the Carolina Piedmont, including the Catawbas of this immediate area, were still following these Woodland customs when the first white men arrived in the 16th century. People of this tradition developed a sophisticated culture, replete with religious ceremonies and complex ethical systems. Their religion was polytheistic, meaning that Woodland Indians believed in many gods. Woodland Indians also had no concept of private property. Land was for use, not for ownership. Native Americans believed that carving up the earth into separate plots, and fencing it off, was as senseless as parceling out the air or cutting up the water. Such notions would come into direct conflict with the cultural values that white settlers would bring to the Carolina Piedmont.

A History Of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County
Dr. Dan L. Morrill
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Complete Article


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