2017-04-19 / Editorial

We can learn from the lessons of the past 225 years in Person County

This year marks the 225th anniversary of Person County’s creation.

Carved out of Caswell County in 1792, the county was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Thomas Person, who went on to become a major supporter of the University of North Carolina.

Person Hall, on the Chapel Hill school’s campus, is named in his honor.

Over the past 225 years, it’s interesting to note that each decennial census has shown growth in the county, even during the lean years of the 1980s and 1990s.

From a population of 6,402 people in 1800, the county was home to 39,464 people in 2010.

No one would call that startlingly fast growth. In fact, local government types would probably call it a great growth rate.

That’s because it gives today’s government time to respond to changing needs without having to act fast and get overly creative about paying for the services people want.

At the same time, it’s instructive to look at where we’ve come from to inform where we are going.

Immigration is among the present-day debates we are all engaged in as the furor grows over whether the United States should be more open and welcoming or more guarded about who it lets in the country.

Immigration laws have never really impeded movement within a state or even from state to state, but it’s likely the Native Americans who called what is now Person County home, felt they were being run out of town on a rail by all the white people who were moving in and taking up residence in the area and using the natural resources the natives had grown accustomed to having for themselves.

In the last 30 years of so, we’ve seen a lot of textile jobs leave the county and residents have had to adjust their expectations and they’ve found themselves competing more with new immigrants for the jobs that remain.

For the most part, Person County hasn’t had to deal with an influx of Middle Eastern immigrants.

Nationally, both groups of immigrants have captured the spotlight. Hispanics are criticized for taking American jobs.

Middle Eastern immigrants are lumped unceremoniously under the label of terrorism.

The truth is, neither group is really as bad as their detractors would have us believe.

Hispanics who come here looking for work are also here looking for a better life, something that drew millions to this country in its early days.

And while many of the people accused and convicted of recent terrorist attacks have been of the Muslim faith, it seems patently unfair to take the actions of a few and drape an entire community of people in the same colors.

As Person County continues its year of celebration, it would be great if we could all dive deep into that history to find out what drove our community to do some of the things it has done. If we can recognize the bad decisions and avoid them, and work to repeat good ones, we would all benefit.

Return to top