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Charlotte Airport Dedicated

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

On April 21, 1941, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia dedicated the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in front of a crowd nearly 10,000 local residents.

The airport has its roots in Morris Field, which was constructed in 1936 with funds from the Works Progress Administration at the urging of local business leaders. With the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941, the Army Air Corps took control of the field and transformed it into an airbase to support several large military facilities in the Charlotte region.

In May 1946 the Air Corps vacated Morris Field. Charlotte officials then converted the base’s structures into apartment buildings to relieve the postwar housing shortage. The airport is named after Mayor Ben E. Douglas who was instrumental in the completion of the airport project.

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Myrtle Grove Sound Third Site for State Salt Works

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

On April 21, 1864, the state salt works in New Hanover County were attacked by Federal forces and about a third of the site was destroyed.

An important ingredient for the preservation of the meat, salt was essential for the security of the food supply during the era. Salt works were established in Currituck County and near Morehead City, though both were captured by federal troops who controlled much of northeastern North Carolina by the end of 1863.

For the remainder of the war, state salt production was anchored in the Wilmington area, where numerous private salt works had previously been operated. The state brought 220 acres near Myrtle Grove Sound for its works, and soon began assembling the required furnaces. In November 1862, Governor Zebulon B. Vance reported 200 kettles in operation, producing 1,200 bushels of salt per day. At peak of production, the facility was putting out 8,500 bushels each day.

Late in the war Gen. W. H. C. Whiting, the Confederate commander at Fort Fisher, suspended state salt works operations in the Cape Fear region, and principal center of production shifted to the mountains of Virginia.

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Warm Welcome in New Bern for President Washington

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

On April 20, 1791, George Washington visited Tryon Palace in New Bern during his Southern Tour.

In 1791, the federal government was new and so was the presidency. Washington had been elected only two years before in February 1789, and North Carolina had become part of the Union in November of the same year.

Like any political move, the formation of the United States was seen with much skepticism from both citizens and government leaders. Washington’s tour of the Southern states allowed him to explore the nation he led, giving him the opportunity to promote national unity among its people. In his diary, Washington reported details about the geography of the states, exports such as tobacco and the attitudes of the citizens.

Washington’s visit was warmly received by New Bernians. During his two-day stay, the president dined at Tryon Palace and attended a “dancing assembly” with about 70 ladies. He also visited many of New Bern’s well-known citizens including John Wright Stanly, John Sitgreaves and Richard Dobbs Spaight.

Leaving New Bern on April 22, Washington headed south toward Wilmington.

Visit: Tryon Palace and the New Bern Preservation Foundation will celebrate the anniversary of Washington’s visit to the area with a whole host of activities this weekend.

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

Asheville Engineer Charles Waddell

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

On April 20, 1945, pioneer electrical engineer Charles E. Waddell died.

Waddell grew up in Asheville, and was educated at Bingham Military School before teaching himself electrical engineering. He worked as superintendent of the Asheville fire alarm system when he was only 14-years-old. He continued his engineering training in New York and Maine.

Waddell returned to Asheville to start his own business, and one of his company’s first projects was the development and installation of an electrical heating system for the Biltmore House. From 1901 on Waddell was the electrical consultant for the Vanderbilt estate.

Biltmore wasn’t Waddell’s only project, however. He went on to build hydroelectric power plants for Weaver Electric Company and served for many years as a director of the business, which later became the North Carolina Electric Company.

Skilled beyond electrical engineering, he also designed a bridge over the Swannanoa River at Biltmore—one of only two area bridges to hold up in the flood of 1916. He was instrumental in the industrialization of western North Carolina, overseeing large projects for Champion Fiber Company and American Enka Corporation, among others.

An active patriot during World War I, Waddell served as an engineering consultant for the state and federal governments. His genius and influence helped shape industrialization across the state and region.

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Hydroelectric Power Introduced, 1898

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

On April 20, 1898, the Fries Manufacturing and Power Company transmitted electrical power 13 miles from the generating plant to the Fries-owned Arista textile mill.

The transmission, which originated near the Yadkin River bridge west of Clemmons in Forsyth County, was North Carolina’s first long-distance transmission of electricity.

Long interested in the use of electricity to power industrial machinery, Henry Fries of Salem founded the company to harness the hydroelectric capability of the river.

Construction on the power plant began in 1897 and it soon became known as Idol’s Hydroelectric Station, after a ferry that was once located on the same site. The dam built for the station was 482 feet long and the reservoir covered about 35 acres. The flow of the dam generated about 2,500 horsepower.

The station later provided power for other textile and grain mills, fertilizer plants, the Winston-Salem electric railway, electric street lights and wood and metal working shops in Winston-Salem.

Fries sold his power company in 1913 to Southern Public Utility Company, which was purchased by Duke Power in 1914. Duke Power, now Duke Energy, operated the Idols station until 1996. The station burned two years later.

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The Beginnings of Busing

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

On April 20, 1971, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case, allowing for school desegregation by busing.

In 1965, attorney Julius L. Chambers filed suit on behalf of 10 pairs of African American parents who contended that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education’s assignment plan did not sufficiently eliminate the inequalities of the formerly segregated system. The board tried to redo the assignment plan, but the plaintiffs argued decades of discrimination could only be undone through extensive busing. Federal district court judge James B. McMillan agreed.

Disagreements between the board and McMillan on the specifics of the plan landed the case in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reaffirmed McMillian’s decision with qualifications. The school board and plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously reaffirmed the ruling in April 1971.

Though initially quite divisive in the community, many Mecklenburg residents eventually began to take pride in their new schools, and some observers have linked the city’s growth and prosperity in the 1980s to the school board’s continued commitment to full integration.

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States’ Rights Champion, Governor and Senator David Reid

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

On April 19, 1813, David Settle Reid, governor and member of both houses of Congress, was born in Rockingham County.

Reid was raised in a community that in time became the city of Reidsville, named for Reid’s father. After first holding public office as a state senator at age 22, Reid won his second bid to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 30. Reid was elected governor in 1850, calling for sensible internal improvements, support for public schools and states’ rights.

Reid’s two terms as governor were marked by expanded internal improvements; appointment of Calvin H. Wiley as the first Superintendent of the Common Schools; initiation of a statewide geological survey; and confirmation of land titles held by Cherokee Indians who had remained in North Carolina.

In late 1854, the General Assembly elected Reid to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Reid in turn transferred his duties as governor to Warren Winslow. Reid served only one term in the Senate, where he championed the defense of states’ rights.

After being defeated for reelection in 1858, Reid retired to private life. He suffered a severe stroke in 1881 that left him paralyzed. He fought failing health for a decade before dying in 1891. He was buried in Reidsville.

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Wanchese and Manteo Conclude Visit to London, 1585

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

On April 19, 1585, Algonquian Indians Wanchese and Manteo set sail aboard the English vessel The Tyger to return to the Roanoke Island region. The Indians had sailed to England in 1584 with Arthur Barlowe and Thomas Harriot. They caused a sensation when they were presented at the English Court.

While in England they were hosted by Sir Walter Raleigh at the Durham House. There they met with Thomas Harriot and, over the course of several visits, taught him the Algonquian language. Wanchese, unlike Manteo, was not curious to learn English.

Wanchese remained suspicious of English motives and the English in general and eventually thought of himself as a captive rather than a guest. These ill feelings would cause trouble for the colonists once he returned to Roanoke.

The Tyger raided Spanish shipping lines during the voyage to America and forcibly exchanged goods with Spanish traders on Puerto Rico, where the ship waited to reunite with its fleet. From there the vessel continued on to Roanoke, arriving near Ocracoke Inlet in June 1585.

Wanchese slipped away from English control in early July. He urged resistance to the settlers, setting himself at odds with the English and Manteo.

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Asheville Launching Pad for the “Singing Brakeman,” Jimmie Rodgers

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:00

On April 18, 1927, Jimmie Rodgers – one of country music’s first superstars – got his big break on Asheville radio station WWNC.

Born in 1897 near Meridian, Mississippi, James Charles Rodgers liked to yodel and won an amateur talent contest at age 13. That same year he became a railroad water boy. In March 1927, Rodgers moved to Asheville, working as a railway brakeman and doing other jobs until he and friend Otis Kuykendall began performing live weekly on WWNC. The duo soon added other musicians and billed themselves as the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers.

In August 1927, Victor Records recorded Rodgers doing two songs. One, “The Soldier’s Sweetheart,” became an instant hit. Another hit, “Blue Yodel,” quickly followed. By 1929, Rodgers was a star. He appeared in a short film, “The Singing Brakeman”; toured the Midwest with humorist Will Rogers; and recorded with a young trumpeter, Louis Armstrong.

By the time he returned to Asheville in December 1929, the “Father of Country Music” had been living with tuberculosis for five years. He died in 1933. In 1961, Rodgers became the first performer inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A state highway historical marker in downtown Asheville also honors him.

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Battle of South Mills, April 1862

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:00

On April 18, 1862, Federal forces landed in Camden County to begin a two-day march and fight directed at finding and destroying the locks on the Dismal Swamp canal system. Closing that system would prevent Confederate naval forces from sending ships from a shipyard in Virginia to the Albemarle Sound.

The landing action, now known as the Battle of South Mills, involved about 3,000 Union soldiers commanded by General Jesse L. Reno and 900 Confederates commanded by General Ambrose R. Wright. The battle was part of the Burnside Expedition, which had the wider goal of reclaiming northeastern North Carolina for the Union.

After the federal troops landed and moved toward locks on the canal, one group of men took a wrong road on the advice of their guide. That misstep led to an unplanned 10-mile march, and by the time the stray group reunited with the larger force, they found their fellow soldiers hotly engaged by entrenched Confederates.

The confusion prevented Union troops from reaching the locks, so the federal forces broke off the engagement allowing the Confederate troops to retreat from the scene. Both sides claimed victory—Union forces for retaining the field of battle and the Confederates for preventing the locks’ destruction.

Purportedly, Federal forces executed the guide who took the circuitous road.

Visit: Dismal Swamp State Park preserves land near where the battle was fought.

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Washington’s Tarboro Layover, 1791

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:00

On April 18, 1791, President George Washington arrived in Tarboro. Washington was met at the Roanoke River by Col. John B. Ashe who escorted him into town. The procession was welcomed by a salute from a single cannon.

While in town, the President was entertained at the home of Major Reading Blount. After a single night’s stay, Washington left Tarboro for Pitt County. In his diary, Washington remarked that the town of “Tarborough” was “more lively and thriving” than Halifax.

Washington’s stay in Tarboro was part of tour of the Southern states that he embarked on in early 1791, after establishing a site for the new “Federal District” along the Potomac River. The tour was part his effort to visit every state during his term of office.

After leaving Virginia and crossing the Roanoke River, Washington’s first stop in the Old North state was Halifax. From there, the President’s carriage tour took him through Tarboro, GreenvilleNew BernTrenton and Wilmington before heading to South Carolina. On his return trip, Washington came back into North Carolina near Charlotte and traveled northward, visiting SalisburySalem and Guilford Court House.

NCpedia has a great overview of Washington’s Southern tour.

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

Agricultural Research Stations Date to 1877

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:00

On April 19, 1877, the first agricultural experiment station opened in a one-room chemistry lab at UNC. It was the first such station in the South, and the second in the nation.

A movement had been building to found the research station since 1885, when the General Assembly directed the Board of Agriculture to start acquiring land and machinery for it. The actual legislation establishing the station was passed in February 1877 with a focus on research that would aid in plant nutrition and develop new fertilizers.

In 1889, management of the station was transferred to what is now N.C. State University. The change was the result of the federal Hatch Act, which sent federal funds for agricultural research to the states through land grant colleges.

At the same time, the N.C. Department of Agriculture began establishing “test farms” across the state to try different crop, fertilizer and soil combinations and discover which crops were best suited to particular regions.

The program has continued to grow, and today the department and the N.C. State jointly operate 18 research stations around the state.

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Co-Op Leads the Way to Rural Electrification

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

On April 17, 1937, the first switch was thrown at the Eason-Tarboro substation, jumpstarting rural electrification efforts in North Carolina.

As part his New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in May 1935 with the dual goals of helping rural areas get electricity and providing work to the unemployed. High startup costs and anticipated low returns on investments, made existing electric companies unenthusiastic about entering rural markets, so communities turned to cooperative ventures instead.

North Carolina’s first co-op–the Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation, or EMC-EMC, was formed by citizens in the northeastern part of the state. After receiving a $32,000 loan in June 1936, work quickly began to bring electricity to the region. The switch was thrown on April 17 at the Eason-Tarboro substation and electricity began to flow. The plant is still in operation today.

Before the EMC-EMC, North Carolinians had long been interested in rural electrification. The state actually established its own Rural Electrification Authority in April 1935, one month before Roosevelt’s REA. North Carolina’s progressive attitude toward rural electrification helped to make the EMC-EMC more than a flash in the pan.

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

Prelude to Attica: Prison Riot in Raleigh, 1968

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

On April 17, 1968, inmates at Central Prison in Raleigh began a riot.

The riot started as a peaceful protest, with roughly 500 inmates “sitting-in” in an attempt to get prison officials to listen to their grievances. They were upset about restricted visiting hours and poor living conditions in the aging facility.

When the prisoners were ordered to return to their cells, a violent riot began in an open yard. Inmates threw torches which started fires that damaged several buildings. Prisoners with homemade weapons attacked the staff. Riot-control officers were called in and ordered to open fire. Guards fired down from the walls. Six inmates were killed and more 75 people, including two state troopers and two corrections officers, were injured.

Today, Central Prison still houses male prisoners with sentences over 20 years. Major renovations in the 1980s included the destruction of the original castle-like building. The prison also now provides inmates with a mental health facility, therapy sessions, worship groups and educational opportunities.

The facility has not had another inmate riot since 1968.

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

Startling News at Initial Bennett Place Meeting

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

On April 17, 1865, Gen. William Sherman met with Gen. Joseph Johnston to discuss terms of surrender for Johnston’s forces. They met at the home of James Bennitt near what was then a rail stop, Durham Station. Once alone, Sherman handed Johnston a telegram that bore the news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Accounts differ on the Confederate general’s reaction. Sherman later said that Johnston broke out in large beads of sweat and expressed hope that the Union officer did not suspect the assassination plot to have been organized by the Confederate government. Johnston later recalled saying to Sherman that Lincoln’s death “was the greatest possible calamity to the South.”

Remarkably, Sherman managed to keep the news in the telegram from his own men. Only the telegraph officer knew of the information, and Sherman swore him to silence. Sherman had just returned from a meeting with Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant where the topic was the terms of peace.

With the news, Sherman offered Johnston what he thought was Lincoln’s terms for peace. Those terms, in the wake of the assassination, were deemed too generous and rejected. Sherman and Johnston would meet again on April 26 to complete the surrender process.

Visit: Durham’s Bennett Place State Historic Site will be offering a number of programs during the next couple of weeks to commemorate the 150th anniversary of landmark surrender there.

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Ill-Fated Donner Party Included North Carolinians

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

On April 16, 1846, the 87 men, women, and children known as the Donner Party set out from Sangamon County, Illinois, on their ill-fated journey to California.

Already running behind schedule and facing an early winter when they reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the group saw its situation made worse by an enormous blizzard with snow as high as 16 feet that trapped them in place for five months. So desperate was their situation that some members resorted to cannibalism. Before the winter was over, 46 of the group had died.

George and Jacob Donner, who led the group, were Rowan County natives. The Donners moved from North Carolina to Kentucky, and then to Indiana and Illinois. George was elected leader of the group, and so the party bore his name.

George’s wife Tamsen Eustis was a well-educated woman from Massachusetts who also had a North Carolina connection. She was an administrator at the Elizabeth City Academy before moving to Illinois and meeting George. Unfortunately, George, Tamsen, and Jacob Donner all perished in the cruel winter of 1846-47. When rescuers did come, Tamsen refused to leave her husband, who was dying from an infected wound. Tamsen’s three daughters and two stepdaughters were all rescued and survived.

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

Luck’s Canned Foods Originated in Seagrove

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

On April 16, 1953, Seagrove’s Mountain View Canning Company was incorporated. Before the year was over, the business would change its name to Luck’s.

Founded in 1947 by Alfred Spencer and Ira Luck, the original purpose of Mountain View Canning was to can homegrown vegetables and farm raised meat. The first commercial product produced at the two-story cinderblock cannery was Mountain View Beef and Gravy.

Pinto beans, Great Northern beans, and black eyed peas–-all home-style with pork seasoning–were added to the company line in 1950 and 1951.

When Luck’s Beans sponsored the country group Tommy Floyd and the Blue Ridge Buddies for a series of short musical spots syndicated on television stations in the Southeast, it helped the canned legumes grow in popularity.

In 1967, Luck’s merged with American Home Products. Then in 2000, Lucks was acquired by food processing giant Con Agra and the production of the canned beans was moved to Tennessee. The Seagrove cannery ceased operations two years later.

Luck’s Beans continue to be canned and sold today with their signature yellow label, although they are now produced in Tuscon, Arizona, by the Arizona Canning Company, which purchased the line in 2011.

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.

Noted Politician W. Kerr Scott

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

On April 16, 1958, Governor, United States senator and state commissioner of agriculture W. Kerr Scott died. He was born in the Haw River community of Alamance County. Scott remained a farmer and dairyman with close ties to his home and church for all of his life.

After working as an agricultural agent in Alamance County and serving as master of the North Carolina State Grange, Scott fulfilled a promise made to his father by successfully running for state agriculture commissioner in 1936. As commissioner, Scott was a leading proponent of rural electrification and led the successful fight to rid the state of Bangs disease among cattle. He forced manufacturers of feed and fertilizer to eliminate sawdust and sand from their products.

Scott was elected governor in 1948.  During his four-year administration, the state paved more roads than had been paved up to 1949. Scott also directed the utilities commission to extend electricity and telephone service to rural areas.

In 1953, Scott left Raleigh to return to his farm at Haw River. The following year he was elected to the U.S. Senate where he served on the Agriculture Committee and helped frame legislation to finance the Interstate Highway System.

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Physicians Form Professional Alliance, 1849

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

On April 16, 1849, the Medical Society of North Carolina was established after several state legislators, who were also physicians, called for a state medical convention.

The organization wasn’t the first statewide group for doctors. An earlier association had been chartered by the General Assembly in 1799 but was no longer meeting by 1805. The new organization’s goals were largely the same as its predecessor’s: to unite physicians across the state, represent their interests and to help professionalize the practice of medicine.

Edmund Strudwick, an Orange County native and surgeon, was the group’s first president. He had an excellent reputation, having served in the General Assembly and Congress, helped establish UNC’s medical school and aided in the construction of the Dorothea Dix Hospital.

The society’s first goals were creating stricter educational standards for students entering medical school, starting a medical journal, pushing for more concrete vital records laws and founding a state licensing board for doctors.

The group, now called the North Carolina Medical Society, has continued to meet annually since 1849, except for a few years during the Civil War and World War II. It now has more than 10,000 members statewide.

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Daniel Kanipe of Marion, Survivor of Custer’s Land Stand

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 01:00

On April 15, 1853, Daniel Kanipe, one of two survivors of Custer’s battalion at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, was born in Marion.

Kanipe enlisted in Company C of the 7th United States Cavalry in 1872 and briefly served with the federal forces occupying Lincolnton during the Reconstruction era.

In 1876, Lt. Col. George A. Custer led the 7th Cavalry into present day Montana, eventually reaching a large Native American encampment along the Little Bighorn River. Underestimating the number of warriors at the camp, Custer decided that a frontal assault was the best strategy. He chose to ride directly towards the Native position with his own battalion, leaving Captain Frederick Benteen’s battalion in reserve.

Kanipe and John Martin, both part of Custer’s battalion, were sent to relay messages to the train of pack mules supplying the unit and to Benteen. With the destruction of Custer’s column imminent, Benteen held his battalion back and refused to allow the couriers to return to battle.

Kanipe was often called upon to relate his experience at Little Bighorn. He became a celebrity among admirers of the “Old West” and researchers of “Custer’s Last Stand.” His recollections became the basis for many of the 20th century accounts of the battle.

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.