Q. Who was Hugh Chatham? Why is the bridge between Elkin and Jonesville named after him? -- D.D.
A. Hugh Gwyn Chatham (1864-1929) is the namesake of the Hugh Chatham Memorial Bridge as well as of Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin. He was a prominent North Carolina businessman.
A native of Elkin, in the 1890s he became president of Chatham Manufacturing Co., a textile mill founded in Elkin by his father and another man.
It "produced woolen blankets, flannels, jeans, and knitting yarns," according to William S. Powell's Encyclopedia of North Carolina.
In 1906 or '07 (sources disagree on the year), the company built a mill in Winston-Salem and Chatham lived here for many years.
In addition to his work in business, Chatham was involved in public service.
In 1914, he was elected to the state Senate, and during his term, he "laid the foundation for the construction of the Elkin and Alleghany Railroad," according to a tribute to Chatham read during the dedication of Chatham Memorial Hospital on Sept. 6, 1931.
He was nominated to run for the Senate again in 1916, "but retired on account of the injury sustained to his plant by the great flood of the Yadkin River in July of that year," the tribute said.
During World War I, the company produced blankets for the armed forces, and Chatham served as a member of the Council of National Defense. He served on the board of directors for Wachovia Bank and Trust Co.
He is also credited with helping to make Roaring Gap a summer resort.