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  • Chandler West

Your Guide to Gaston County's Museums

Centuries before Gaston County's 1846 founding, its land belonged to the Cherokee and Catawba people, who used the peaks of Crowders Mountain to mark tribal hunting territory. As was the case in many regions, European settlers pushed the native tribes out of the area, forcing them to relocate to reservations throughout the Southeast.

As time progressed, Gaston County would find its footing in the textile and agricultural industries, allowing for growth within its economy in the mid-1800's. This boom led to a population increase and economic prosperity, bringing about the founding of Belmont Abbey College in 1857 and continued expansion in the textile industry that would shape the county as we know it today.

The Schiele Museum of Natural History - Photo Courtesy of GarlandBurks

Each of these eras hold their own relics which have been preserved by local historical societies and museums around the county. County museums like The Schiele Museum hold artifacts used by the Cherokee and Catawba peoples before their displacement. Cherryville's C. Grier Beam Truck Museum houses freight trucks from a bygone era while the Millican Pictorial Museum is filled with historic photographs.

Gaston County’s history, rich in Native American heritage, textiles, and still-standing historic homes, has situated the area as home to a handful of beautifully curated museums that attract locals and visitors alike. Whatever your interests, you’re certain to find something intriguing in one of Gaston County’s many museums. Stop by one of these museums for a fun and educational experience.

African American Museum of History & Culture at Loray Mill

Loray Mill - Grant Baldwin, Gaston Outside

300 S. Firestone Street, Suite P • Gastonia, NC 28052

Tuesday – Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. , Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The African American Museum of History & Culture, located in the historic Loray Mill, opened in February 2019. The museum educates visitors on the accomplishments and contributions of pivotal Black figures in Gastonia and across the United States, from Dr. Herbert Erwin (the founder of the Negro Colored Hospital, who brought the Negro Baseball Team to play in Gastonia), to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Obamas. It also highlights people who are making history today, like Gastonia Mayor Walker Reid. You’ll find books by local African American authors in the Little Korner Bookshop and examine story quilts and other historical artifacts as you explore the collection.

Don’t miss: The feature on pivotal Black women, like Charlotte McClee who was enslaved before she became the county's first midwife and lived to be 111 years old.

Brevard Station Museum

112 S. Main Street • Stanley, NC 28164

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Otherwise by appointment

The Brevard Station Museum was founded in 1991 to display heirlooms related to the history of the town of Stanley, NC. Those interested in genealogy will find an abundance of reference books of vital records and family histories dating back to the mid-1700s. You can also see articles from domestic life, military artifacts, vintage clothing, and relics from town government happenings.

Don’t miss: The display about French botanist Andre Michaux’s discovery of the large leafed magnolia in Stanley in the 1700s.

C. Grier Beam Truck Museum

C. Grier Beam Truck Museum - Anna Naphtali, Gaston Outside

111 N. Mountain Street • Cherryville, NC 28021

Thursday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Otherwise by appointment

The Carolina Freight Carriers Corporation was born in Cherryville in 1932 and was an integral part of the county’s business landscape until 1994. Today, you can explore the company’s history, as well as the greater history of the trucking industry, in the gas station where it all began, which has been remodeled and now houses seven decades of vintage trucking memorabilia.

Don’t miss: The timeline room, where you can get a sense of how Carolina Freight grew and changed over the years.

Gaston County Museum of Art & History

Gaston County Museum - Photo Courtesy of Gaston County Museum

131 W. Main Street • Dallas, NC 28034

Tuesday – Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. , Saturday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Gaston County Museum focuses on our local stories and art through a range of permanent and rotating exhibits. You can try on fashions from the Victorian era and view historic graffiti in the Hoffman Hotel Rooms exhibit or immerse yourself in Gaston County’s rich textile heritage in the Ties That Bind exhibit. Both of these exhibits are permanent. Art lovers should make sure to check out the rotating collection in the Bullpen Gallery.

Don’t miss: The backyard Sculpture Garden

Millican Pictorial History Museum

35 E. Catawba Street • Belmont, NC 28012

Monday – Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Millican Pictorial History Museum, a unique treasure in downtown Belmont, houses over seventeen thousand historic photographs. Take your time as you gaze through these windows to the past, which offer an intimate look into how daily life has changed over the years with images dating back as far as the 1800s. A large part of the collection focuses on textile mills and villages in Gaston County and across the nation with images of Bonnie Mill in Kings Mountain, Belmont Hosiery Sock Mill, Gastonia Weaving Company, and more.

Don’t miss: Historic cookware, yarn reels, and other heirlooms spread through the museum.

The Schiele Museum of Natural History

The Schiele Museum of Natural History - Photo Courtesy of GarlandBurks

1500 E. Garrison Boulevard • Gastonia, NC 28054

Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. , Sunday: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Schiele Museum, Gastonia's renowned science museum, educates visitors about the plants and animals that inhabit the earth, as well as our place in the universe at large. No visit to the Schiele is complete without a peek in the planetarium, which not only shows you a 360-degree view of the stars in the sky, but also features a variety of educational films projected on its domed screen. Take a walk on the 0.7-mile nature trail and explore the Memorial Wildlife Garden, complete with a creek and outdoor exhibits designed to provide shelter for many of the Carolina Piedmont's native species.

Don’t miss: The Hall of North Carolina Natural History and the Henry Hall of the American Indian.

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