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Troutman Family Historical Association - Preserving Family Grounds & Traditions

Feb 15, 2022 04:30PM ● By Kristie Darling

The Family Cemetery

Two and a half miles northwest of the Town of Troutman lies a family cemetery. It’s over 200 years old. Birth dates among the marked headstones date back to the mid 1700s. Many of the stones, some cut, some natural, have no dates, no names. A tall, iron gate announces that you are entering The Troutman Family Cemetery.

Troutman ancestors sailed from Germany in 1751 on the Neptune. Jacob Trautmann (original German spelling) was born in Pennsylvania in 1767. About three years later, his family traveled south from Philadelphia on the Old Wagon Road to a German settlement in Rowan County. His father died in 1778, and Jacob moved west a bit. He bought 200 acres, and over time, some 2,000 in Iredell County. Jacob settled in with his mother near where the family cemetery sits today. In fact, Jacob Troutman’s tombstone tells his story, “Jacob Troutman…originated this cemetery, erected the initial rock wall, and his son John Jefferson, the blacksmith, forged the iron gate at the entrance. He was by trade a carpenter, hat maker, cooper, stockman, schoolteacher, and realtor.”

The genesis of the Troutman family here in Iredell County began when Jacob married Margaret Fesperman. They had eight children, and eventually 71 grandchildren. The Troutman Family Historical Association was established in 1909 “to secure and maintain in a permanent way all the records and traditions of the Troutman Family.” The family has since added to its mission, “to honor and preserve the historic grounds and memory of their ancestors.” Indeed, the Association’s records document ancestors back to the 1500s. And the two historic buildings on site—a school and a depot—have been preserved and maintained by family for decades. 

The Reunion

Annual family reunions started in 1904. At the fourth reunion, the Statesville Landmark printed this account of Jacob’s story, “…he built a house, then chopped off a field, then brought home a wife and began life as a farmer. Soon the woods were full of shoats and yearlings and little Troutmans.” 

This year’s October 8th reunion is number 118. The gatherings are held to “keep memories alive, enjoy the present, and make new memories,” and feature an early morning memorial service in the cemetery, recognition of all veterans and the youngest and oldest family members. The president presides over Association business. The Troutman Clan Song and favorite hymns are sung by hundreds of people who’ve traveled from as far away as California. Stories are shared, old photo albums and smart phone pix are passed around. Children are introduced to cousins they’ve never met. Plans are made, donations are collected. And, of course, there’s a delicious meal, served at tables set up in a big T.

The School

The Norwood School was built in 1906 and opened its doors in 1907. Named after the creek nearby, it’s a wood-frame schoolhouse with a wide portico and bell tower above. North Carolina historic preservationists say the Norwood School is one of the better examples of early 20th century schoolhouses that exist across the state, virtually in its original condition. It is also known as the Troutman Graveyard School because it sits directly beside the family cemetery. The schoolhouse is used by family members as the gathering place for the annual reunion, weddings, funerals, and meetings. Its rustic interior and furnishings are enhanced by Barbara Shoemaker’s hand-illustrated, life-size family tree that begins its growth in late 1600’s Europe and branches up and out to identify early 1800’s families. 

The Depot 

Originally built almost directly across from where Randy’s BBQ now sits in Troutman, the mid-1800’s Atlantic Tennessee & Ohio Railroad depot had been moved from its original site and was in a state of deterioration. In 1976, Association members rescued the depot and moved it to the family’s historic grounds, made necessary repairs, and have maintained it since that time. With a revived paint scheme of red, yellow, and green, and a new roof, the depot has many stories to tell, from the Civil War through both World Wars to its current resting place today. 

Last year, Norwood School and the Troutman Family Cemetery were listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of their historic value to the community and the state. Brent Warren is current chairman of the board. His love of history reflects the family’s dedication to the family’s important place in Iredell County’s earliest days. “Everything we do here is dedicated to our ancestors who came before,” Brent said…that just about sums it all up.