This Day in North Carolina History

Beginnings of the Tuscarora War

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 01:00

On September 22, 1711, Tuscarora Indians attacked settlers along the Neuse, Trent and Pamlico Rivers, beginning what would become known as the Tuscarora War.

The conflict, which erupted initially between Native Americans and Swiss colonists, was fought mostly because of colonial encroachment on native lands and because of mistreatment of the Indians by colonists. It came after colonists continually ignored treaties signed by their government and the Tuscarora.

After unsuccessfully requesting military aid from Virginia, colonial Governor Edward Hyde asked South Carolina for help. Neighbors to the south sent Colonel James Moore, who marched his combined force of North and South Carolina militia and allied Indians to Nooherooka in Greene County. He had been informed that the Tuscarora had placed its largest concentration of warriors at a fort there.

The fort fell in March 1713, signaling the end of concerted Indian resistance to colonists in eastern North Carolina. By the end of the Tuscarora War, approximately 200 whites and 1,000 Indians were killed, with an additional 1,000 Tuscaroras sold into slavery and more than 3,000 others forced from their homes.

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Lincoln Takes Initial Step to Free the Slaves

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 01:00

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, stating his intention to free slaves in states that were rebelling against the Federal government.

Although he had conceived the idea earlier that year, Lincoln heeded the advice of his cabinet and waited for a Union battlefield victory to introduce the proclamation so it would not be viewed as an act of desperation. The Union victory at Antietam provided Lincoln with the opportunity, and he seized the moment.

The Federal military governor of North Carolina, Edward Stanly, disapproved of the proclamation. He understood his duty was to return the state to the Union as it was prior to the crises—a Union where slavery was included. Lincoln offered exclusions and exemptions in the proclamation, including the exclusion of any area that had a representative in the Federal legislature.

Stanly seized upon this as a possible avenue to forestall the implementation of the proclamation in North Carolina, calling for and holding elections for the statewide office of U.S. Senator. Congress refused to seat the person who won the election, and Stanly resigned rather than implement Lincoln’s proclamation.

The final Emancipation Proclamation became active on January 1, 1863, freeing slaves in occupied eastern North Carolina.

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Scholar/Activist John Hope Franklin’s Pathbreaking Textbook

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 01:00

On September 22, 1947, John Hope Franklin published From Slavery to Freedom. The definitive history of African Americans traces origins in Africa, years of slavery, and struggles for freedom.

Still in print with more than 3 million copies sold, the book has been translated into many languages. It is widely considered the definitive survey text for courses in African American history.

Franklin held teaching appointments at Saint Augustine’s and North Carolina Central before capping off his academic career at Duke, where an interdisciplinary and international studies center continues his pioneering work.

During his storied career, Franklin served as president of Phi Beta Kappa, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association and the Southern Historical Association. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1995.

Aside from his role as historian, scholar, civil rights activist and adviser to presidents, Franklin was known for nurturing more than 300 orchids in his Durham greenhouse and helping to establish the Durham Literacy Center.

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Bearded Brinkley Buried at Buladean

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 21, 1850Sam Brinkley, who became known for one of the world’s longest beards in the early 20th century, was born near Burnsville in Yancey County.

As an adult Brinkley stood at 6 feet, two inches with a beard that measured in at 5 feet, 4 inches at its peak length. Notoriety came with the remarkable growth of his beard. He began by exhibiting it to the curious, and he went on tour with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. He reportedly earned thousands of dollars by charging people to see his beard, which he kept tucked in a pouch.

Brinkley was a late bloomer when it came to facial hair. According to newspaper accounts, until he was 21, he had no real beard to shave. By 23, the growth had reached the astounding rate of a full beard in a week’s time. One article reported that the beard was entirely natural, not the result of restorers or invigorators. Another called it “soft and beautiful.” For decades Brinkley was known as the world’s expert on the cultivation of beards.

He died in 1929 from complications of tonsillitis, and he is buried at Buladean in Mitchell County with a striking photo featuring his legendary beard recessed into his tombstone.

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Federal-Era Power Broker John Gray Blount, of Washington

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 21, 1752, John Gray Blount was born in Bertie County.  He was destined to become one of the wealthiest men in North Carolina, albeit less well-known than his half-brother William, governor of Tennessee, and Thomas, member of Congress.

Blount had business dealings up and down the Atlantic seaboard and extending into the Caribbean, but his base of operation was in Washington in Beaufort County after his 1778 marriage. Blount made the town his home when it was still known as Forks of the Tar River.

Blount and his partners had substantial shipping interests, owning wharves, flatboats and seagoing vessels.  They owned sawmills, gristmills, tanneries and cotton gins, and engaged in agricultural pursuits and the slave trade.

Blount was also heavily involved in land speculation, employing agents to buy and sell large tracts in western North Carolina and Tennessee. He represented Beaufort in the state House and state Senate, and served in the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Blount died in 1833 and is buried at St. Peters Episcopal Church in Washington.

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William Gould and his Flight to Freedom

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 21, 1862, 22 fugitive slaves boarded three small sailing boats from the docks on Orange Street in downtown Wilmington and rowed 28 nautical miles to the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The escape was one of the largest ever in the Cape Fear region.

One of the escaped slaves that night was William B. Gould, a 24-year old plasterer who worked on the Bellamy Mansion. What is known of the daring escape is based on Gould’s diary.

The slaves’ goal was to reach the Union blockading ships and thus gain freedom.  At one point, they had to pass directly beneath Fort Caswell, a Confederate stronghold heavily armed to keep Union naval forces out of Wilmington harbor. Escapees aboard all three ships ultimately were picked up by Union ships. Gould went on to serve aboard two ships in the U.S. Navy. His diary—the only known diary of a black soldier during the Civil War who was a former slave—provides a unique insight into the Maritime Underground Railroad and the day-to-day life of a former slave fighting to secure freedom for himself.

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William R. Davie’s Victorious Assault at Wauchope Plantation

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 21, 1780, William R. Davie, in time known as the “Father of the University of North Carolina,” led a surprise attack on British troops southeast of Monroe. Cornwallis had marched into North Carolina days earlier after his victory at Camden, South Carolina.

Familiar with the terrain from his boyhood, Davie found the “lawless marauders” on the plantation of James Wauchope at around 2 a.m. At sunrise, appearing from the corn that grew right up to the house, Davie and his corps of 150 assaulted the band of 300 to 400 Tories, mounted and awaiting their orders to ride. The plan worked and the enemy fled in confusion, but not before setting fire to the house and other buildings.

By Davie’s account, confirmed by reports of Jethro Sumner and William Lee Davidson, 60 Tories were left on the ground, 20 of them dead. No Patriots were killed and only one was wounded.

The attack, also known as the “Battle of the Waxhaws,” was a prelude to the Battle of Charlotte on September 26 and the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7.

Today a large 1869 Greek Revival style house, built by a descendant of Wauchope, stands on the site.

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Execution by the Tuscarora: John Lawson

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 20, 1711, explorer and surveyor John Lawson was killed by the Tuscarora.

Lawson and Baron Christoph von Graffenried planned to travel up the Neuse River from New Bern in an attempt to explore the area and discover the river’s source. The Tuscarora, angry about incursions into their lands, the kidnapping of their women and children, and disrespectful treatment by traders, stopped the expedition and imprisoned the leaders.

Graffenried’s account of the incident stated that Lawson got into an angry exchange with a leader which resulted in the seizure and burning of their hats and wigs, and a sentence of death being pronounced over them.

The next morning, Graffenried reportedly chastised Lawson for antagonizing their captors and spoke with an Indian interpreter.

After several days, one of the Indians made a plea on Graffenried’s behalf. He was released but kept in a hut, during which time Lawson was executed. It is believed that the Tuscarora thought Graffenried was the governor and that they would incur the wrath of the English if they killed him.

Graffenried later heard of several ways in which Lawson was supposedly executed but the actual method of death was uncertain.

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Food Town (Now Food Lion) Founder Ralph Ketner

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 20, 1920, grocer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Ralph Ketner was born in Cabarrus County. Hale and hearty at 95, Ketner is known as the longtime television face for the Food Lion grocery store chain.

After college in Indiana and service in World War II, Ketner and two partners opened their first store in Salisbury in 1957. Their primary competitors were Winn-Dixie, Colonial and A&P. Investors who joined them to raise capital of $62,000 in time became millionaires.

What was then Food Town expanded gradually until 1967 when Ketner took his account books and retreated into a Charlotte motel. Three days later he emerged, with a slogan “Lowest Food Prices in North Carolina” and a formula, selling 10 categories at cost or below and ensuring all products cheaper than competitors.

The strategy worked, propelling the chain to expand into Virginia and Tennessee, where the existence of stores with the same name necessitated the change in 1983 to Food Lion.

A Belgian company, Delhaize, acquired majority ownership of Food Lion in 1976. Tom Smith succeeded Ketner as president and commercial spokesman in 1981. The company now has 1,100 stores and 48,000 employees in 11 southeastern states.

Ketner funded the business school at Catawba College that bears his name.

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Lucy Morgan, Founder of the Penland School

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 20, 1889, Lucy Calista Morgan was born in Franklin in western North Carolina. After graduating from what is now Central Michigan University in 1915, she taught school and worked for the Children’s Bureau in Illinois. Morgan returned to North Carolina in 1920 to teach at the Appalachian School in Penland. During winter break in 1923, she accompanied a former student to Berea College in Kentucky, where she learned to weave.

Inspired by the Berea community cottage weaving industry, Morgan returned to Penland with a loom and a Craft Revival mission to “…bring about a revival of hand-weaving…[and] provide our neighbor mothers with a means of adding to their generally meager incomes without having to leave their homes….” She had to convince the Episcopal Bishop responsible for the Appalachian School to support a weaving program, convince the women of the region to participate, and find a market for their creations. By 1928 the Penland Weavers and Potters was a destination welcoming visitors. Lucy Morgan established the Penland School of Handicrafts in 1929.

Known as “Miss Lucy,” Morgan promoted North Carolina crafts to the National Park Service, at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, at the 1934 International Exhibition of Folk Art in Switzerland, and to visitors from throughout the world. She published a memoir Gift From the Hills in 1958, documenting the social value of crafts in strengthening community. Morgan retired to Jackson County in 1962 and continued to visit Penland until her death in 1981.

Her legacy continues as North Carolina communities identify authentic cultural traditions as a resource for arts-based economic development. The Penland School of Crafts has grown to be the premier art craft school in the country.

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Martin Luther King’s 1958 Surgery Led by North Carolinian

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 20, 1958, Beaufort County native Dr. John Cordice operated on Martin Luther King, Jr. in a Harlem, N.Y., hospital. He is now widely credited with saving Dr. King’s life.

Born in the small community of Aurora, east of Greenville, Cordice was raised in Durham. After college and medical school at New York University and a work as a doctor alongside the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, Cordice became a heart surgeon at Harlem Hospital.

On the day in question, King was stabbed by a woman outside a New York department store while autographing copies of a book he was promoting. He was brought to Harlem Hospital, where then New York Gov. W. Averell Harriman requested that African American doctors work on him. Cordice, who wasn’t even on duty that day, happened to stop by Brooklyn medical office where he received a call to come at once and operate an important person who had been injured.

After rushing to the hospital, Cordice and other surgeons used a hammer and chisel to crack King’s sternum and remove the blade with which he had been stabbed, thereby saving King’s life.

At the time, credit for feat was given to Dr. Aubré de Lambert Maynard, the hospital’s chief of surgery, but historians have since concluded that it was Cordice and Dr. Emil Naclerio, an Italian-American , who truly ensured King’s survival.

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Cherokee Defeat by South Carolina Militia, 1776

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 19, 1776, troops from South Carolina defeated a band of Cherokee Indians in what is now Swain County. The battle took place in a mountain cove known as the “Black Hole,” and was coordinated with a larger effort, now known as the Rutherford Expedition, to punish the Indians for raids on white settlers in the area.

The conflict had its roots earlier that month, when Colonel Andrew Williamson led 2,000 South Carolina militiamen north into Cherokee territory in early September. As they came to the cove, his men marched into an ambush in a gorge. The ensuing battle lasted for nearly two hours. The militiamen were surrounded by Cherokee and forced into a circular formation, leading to the engagement being known in time as the “Ring Fight.”

Williamson eventually led a bayonet charge, driving the Cherokees from the field. Relatively few casualties were incurred. The Cherokee left four dead on the field; 11 militiamen were killed and 24 wounded.

A week later, Williamson’s force united with Rutherford’s men at Hiwassee.

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Elizabeth II, a Legacy of America’s Four Hundredth

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 19, 1985, the Elizabeth II made its maiden voyage from Manteo to Ocracoke, Beaufort, New Bern and back again.

Constructed as part of America’s 400th anniversary, the 69-foot, square-rigged sailing ship is meant to be representative of the vessels used to bring the first English colonists to Roanoke Island in the late 1500s. It was named for the original Elizabeth, one of the seven ships that was part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s second expedition in 1585. That ship was captained by Thomas Cavendish and most likely carried people and supplies to aid England in building a military garrison near what is now Manteo.

Built almost entirely by hand during 1983, the ship was in the water by early 1984 and was christened by British Princess Anne that summer. A private corporation raised $650,000 to finance the ship’s construction, while the General Assembly allocated $1.4 million for the development of other attractions on Roanoke Island.

Though the ship sometimes sails along the North Carolina coast, it is moored at Roanoke Island Festival Park—one of 27 state historic sites—for most of the year.

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The Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 19, 1918, the contagion known as the “Spanish Flu” appeared in the port city of Wilmington. Within a week the hard-struck city reported some 400 cases of the illness. It was a sign of the devastation yet to be wrought by the pandemic.

At the height of the flu outbreak during the winter of 1918-1919 at least 20% of North Carolinians were infected by the disease. The so-called “Spanish Lady” killed nearly 14,000 citizens of the state.

A confluence of events created a viral strain of the contagion, and that mutated virus found more victims than normal due, in part, to the ongoing world war. Large numbers of people were traveling around the county and the world like never before, and the virus was able to travel by hosts and spread.

The flu outbreak forced a reorganization of the still-budding North Carolina health care system. Home Relief groups formed and only an outpouring of public charity helped to check the spread of the disease. At least 17 doctors succumbed to the virus while tending to the infected.

Many North Carolina communities suffered during the pandemic but Wilmington remained of the hardest hit by the “Spanish Lady.”

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“Cherry Bounce King,” Amos Owens

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 18, 1906, Amos Owens, a notorious moonshiner from Rutherford County, died.

Known as the “Cherry Bounce King,” Owens was renowned for the delightful mixture of whiskey, honey and cherries that he made at his “castle” on Cherry Mountain.

Described as a fearless yet energetic Irishman, Owens achieved success quickly. People from all over the South visited him to taste his celebrated beverage.

Owens was also an infamous fixture in the local courthouse. Vehemently opposed to taxes on alcohol, he believed that he owed nothing to the government after fulfilling his civic duty as a Confederate soldier. Often arrested for his activities, Owens was occasionally acquitted for minor crimes, but didn’t always manage to escape the long reach of the law. He frequently had to pay fines or spend time in jail.

At one point he was locked up for an entire year.

Despite the risks that came with it, Owens continued to distill Cherry Bounce and every summer he hosted lively gatherings at Cherry Mountain to celebrate the cherry harvest.

A colorful local figure who embodied the vitality and grit of Appalachia in the aftermath of the Civil War, Owens didn’t stop making moonshine until he was sent to prison in his 70s.

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Occonneechee Speedway, NASCAR in Orange County

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 18, 1947, Bill France Sr. and four other racing entrepreneurs incorporated the Hillsboro Speedway in Orange County with the aim of bringing auto racing to central North Carolina.

Racing, however, long had been a pastime in the area. The land on which the speedway was built was located on property previously owned by tobacco magnate Julian Shakespeare Carr, who constructed a horse racing track. The site of the track later became the site of the Occoneechee Speedway.

It was in the late 1940s that Bill France Sr., an auto-racing organizer from Daytona Beach, saw the racetrack from the air as he was flying over Orange County. He gathered investors and secured the land. Less than a month later, France and a group of racing promoters formed the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing, that is, NASCAR.

The original plan was to build a one-mile oval racetrack with 5,000 seats but, when finished, the Occoneechee Speedway had wooden grandstands that held 10,000 and sloped hillsides that could fit 25,000 more. The track opened in June 1948 with a 10-mile NASCAR race watched by about 20,000 fans. It closed in 1968, and the site is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

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L. O’B. Branch Rose through Confederate Ranks

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 17, 1862, Gen. Lawrence O’Bryan Branch was shot and killed by a sharpshooter at the Battle of Sharpsburg.

Born in 1820 in Halifax County, Branch was placed in the care of his uncle, U.S. senator and former North Carolina governor John Branch, following the death of both of his parents.

After college at UNC and Princeton, Branch moved to Nashville, Tenn., to work as a newspaper editor and to study law. He opened a law practice in Florida and served as an aide to Governor Robert R. Reid during the Seminole War.

Branch married on a trip to North Carolina and eventually opened a law practice in Raleigh. He held a number of prominent positions in the decade prior to the Civil War including a term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

When North Carolina seceded in 1861, Branch enlisted as a private in the Confederate army, but was soon appointed the state’s Quartermaster General by Governor John W. Ellis. Branch obtained a commission as colonel of the 33rd North Carolina Infantry and was appointed a brigadier general in January 1862.

Branch went on to command his brigade at the Battle of New Bern and led the command at the engagements of Hanover Court House, the Seven Days’ Battles, Second Manassas and Sharpsburg.

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Samarcand, 1918-2011: Evolution of a Correctional Institute

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 17, 1918, Samarcand, the State Home and Industrial School for Girls, was established in as a correctional institute for young women in Moore County.

The concept of the school originated through the work of Presbyterian minister A. A. McGeachy, who believed the state needed a protective care center for delinquent juvenile girls, many of whom were homeless or prostitutes.

Intended as the female counterpart to the Stonewall Jackson Training School in Concord, Samarcand offered a school curriculum that focused on Biblical studies, music, science and math, though the girls received training in weaving, canning and laundry preparation, too. The girls also worked on the chicken and cattle farm adjacent to the facility.

Discipline at Samarcand could be harsh. Corporal punishment and solitary confinement were often administered, and a 1940 account of the disciplinary ward described mattresses on the floor with no beds and a single washbasin and toilet for nearly 30 girls.  In 1974, the school was transferred to what’s now the Department of Health and Human Services, remaining a rehabilitation center for delinquent children.

The state closed the facility in 2011, and it is now the site of a training academy for corrections and law enforcement officers.

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Signers in Philadelphia Endorse Federal Constitution

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 17, 1787, a majority of delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approved the U.S. Constitution, with North Carolina representatives William Blount, Richard Dobbs Spaight and Hugh Williamson signing on behalf of the state. Despite advocacy for its adoption by Federalists Spaight and Williamson, the North Carolina Convention declined to ratify the Constitution until the Bill of Rights was proposed in 1789.

Interestingly, Williamson and Blount were not among the delegates originally selected. When the legislature met the previous January, it selected then Governor Richard CaswellWilliam R. DavieWillie JonesAlexander Martin and Spaight as delegates. Jones, staunchly anti-Federalist, did not accept the appointment, and Caswell was ill and unable to travel. Williamson and Blount were appointed in their stead. Davie and Martin left the convention early, leaving Williamson, Spaight and Blount remaining as signatories.

Richard Dobbs Spaight, from New Bern, later served as governor, and. Hugh Williamson—sometimes referred to as North Carolina’s Ben Franklin—was a physician, scientist scholar and resident of Chowan County. William Blount, a Bertie County native, was later governor of the territory that is now Tennessee, and U.S. Senator from that state as well.

A plaque in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Raleigh commemorates the three signers.

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From Cotton Field to University: Fayetteville’s Methodist

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 01:00

On September 16, 1960, the first class of 88 students was admitted to Methodist College.

About five years earlier, citizens of Fayetteville offered the Methodist Church a 600-acre tract and $2 million to establish a school in their town. Fayetteville attorney and future governor Terry Sanford was elected the first chairman of the board of trustees and L. Stacy Weaver was chosen as the first president.

When it first opened, the campus included a grouping of contemporary buildings; the architectural plan, created by Stevens and Wilkinson of Atlanta, earned a national citation for creativity and unity of design.

The school’s first major expansion came in 1978, when it began offering two-year associate’s degrees in addition to four-year bachelor’s degrees.

In 1993, trustees recommended that the college borrow funds to build additional residence halls over the next five years to accommodate 300 new resident students. The trustees further recommended that the college undertake a major capital campaign of at least $10 million for increasing the endowment and constructing a library addition, and two new academic buildings.

In 2001, the school had a record enrollment, and inaugurated the first graduate program, which trains physician assistants.

In 2006, trustees voted to change the name of the school from Methodist College to Methodist University.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.