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Defender of the Alamo, Micajah Autry

This Day in North Carolina History - 9 hours 51 min ago

The Fall of the Alamo by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk.

On March 6, 1836, North Carolina native Micajah Autry died defending the Alamo.

Born in Sampson County around 1794, Autry grew up in Cumberland County before moving to Tennessee in 1823, where he practiced law and tried his hand as a merchant. In Jackson, Tennessee, he met David Crockett, who some believe influenced Autry’s decision to try out life on the Texas frontier.

Autry set out for Texas in late 1835 and sent a series of remarkably descriptive letters home to his wife. Those letters survived and one is on display at the Alamo to this day. In the letter he states, “I go the whole Hog in the cause of Texas. I expect to help them gain their independence and also to form their government, for it is worth risking many lives for.” A postscript to the letter reads, “Col. Crockett has joined our company.”

In Texas, Autry and Crockett enlisted in the Volunteer Auxiliary Corps and arrived at the Alamo in February. Autry was likely among the first to die in the Mexican’s siege of the mission.

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


A Look Back at Streakers

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 05:30

A March 1974 article describing streak week in The Decree, then the student newspaper at
N.C. Wesleyan College.

On March 5, 1974, at the end of “Streak Week,” students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill loosely organized the American Streaker Society. Under a banner proclaiming “Home of the World Champion Streakers,” about 900 naked students ran across campus through a crowd of 6,000 onlookers, accompanied by the University pep band.

Western Carolina University laid claim to the first major streak of the short-lived fad, making North Carolina the streaking epicenter of the nation. All of the major universities in the state and many of the smaller universities and colleges had streaking events on their campuses. Authorities reacted in many different ways to the campus craze, from amused tolerance to arrests and threats of expulsion.

A North Carolina state senator said that he was mulling over the efficacy of introducing a Streaker Ban Bill. It was unnecessary, though, since the phenomenon faded almost as suddenly as it had appeared.

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


Lafayette’s Visit to His Namesake Town, 1825

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 05:30

On March 4, 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette visited Fayetteville, a town that was named in his honor in 1783. While in the Cumberland County town, Lafayette stayed at Duncan McRae’s home, which sat on the site of what’s now the Cumberland County Courthouse.

Lafayette was a close confidant of George Washington and one of the great heroes of the Revolutionary War. After the close of the Revolution, he returned home to France and didn’t visit the United States again until his nationwide celebratory tour in 1824 and 1825. Although he originally planned to only visit New England and the mid-Atlantic, he extended his trip to the southern states as well, including North Carolina.

Before arriving in Fayetteville, Lafayette stayed at the Indian Queen Inn in Murfreesboro, visited at the Rocky Mount home of Henry Donaldson and attended a banquet at the Eagle Tavern in Halifax. He also traveled to Raleigh where he visited Governor Hutchins Burton and William Polk, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He also made stops in Jackson and Enfield. He only stayed in Fayetteville for one night and departed for South Carolina the next day.

Fayetteville, incorporated in 1783, was one of the first towns in the newly independent United States named for the Marquis de Lafayette.

Read more about Lafayette’s visit on NCpedia.

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


Mount Mitchell, First Among the State Parks

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 03/03/2015 - 05:30

A scenic view of Mount Mitchell, circa 1911. Image from the State Archives.

On March 3, 1915, the General Assembly appropriated $20,000 to purchase Mount Mitchell. It would become the first of North Carolina’s state parks.

At the time, the virgin-growth forests rich with balsam and spruce that once dominated the Black Mountains were quickly disappearing because of a thriving timber trade in the area. The effort to preserve the Yancey County mountain from rampant logging came about, in part, from extensive lobbying by Governor Locke Craig.

At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. It was named for Elisha Mitchell, a science professor who first visited the area around it as part of the North Carolina Geological Survey. In the 1830s and 1840s, he took barometric pressure readings from the state’s tallest peaks and used mathematical formulas to determine their elevations. Until Mitchell’s calculations, New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, only 396 feet shorter than Mitchell was thought to be the tallest peak in the east.

In an unfortunate twist of fate, Mitchell died while exploring the mountain that bears his name in 1857, when he slipped and fell from a cliff, drowning near a waterfall now known as Mitchell Falls.

One hundred years later, the North Carolina State Park System is thriving It now preserves nearly 220,000 acres of North Carolina’s natural beauty at 74 parks, recreation areas natural areas, lakes, rivers and trails and attracted more than 15 million visitors last year.

Visit: Mount Mitchell, located near Burnsville, is one of the 74 properties managed by the North Carolina State Park System.

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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.


Memorial to the Wright Brothers Dedicated, 1932

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 05:30

The Wright Brothers National Memorial, circa 1939. Image from the State Archives.

 

On March 2, 1927, President Calvin Coolidge signed legislation authorizing the Kill Devil Hills National Monument. Five years later, a 60-foot granite monument was dedicated in Dare County.

The monument itself was built on a 90-foot sand dune stabilized through the planting of special grasses. The dune was part of a larger natural embankment that the Wright Brothers used to launch gliders in the years leading up to their famed first powered flights in 1903.

The groundbreaking of the memorial. Image from the State Archives.

Designed to mimic the look of a marine beacon, the monument’s double entrance doors each have six panels depicting moments from mankind’s attempts at flight. The inscription notes the momentous achievements in the history of flight that the Wright Brothers attained at Kill Devil Hills.

Though the monument’s 1932 dedication was expected to draw tens of thousands of people bad weather kept all but a handful away. Orville Wright was in attendance and the featured guest of honor. In 1953, Congress renamed and designated the monument as the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

It continues to be on the premiere attractions on the Outer Banks, drawing more than 425,000 visitors each year.

Visit: The Wright Brothers National Memorial, located in Kitty Hawk operated by the National Park Service, is open to visitors year-round.

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


The Holding Family and First Citizens Bank

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 03/01/2015 - 05:30

A First Citizens branch on S. Broad Street in Brevard, crica 1950s-1960s.
Image from the Transylvania County Public Library.

On March 1, 1898, the Bank of Smithfield, now known as First Citizens Bank, opened for business.

The bank, Johnston County’s first, was founded by Allen W. Smith who remained president until 1906.  The institution became First National Bank of Smithfield before merging with Citizens National Bank to become First and Citizens National Bank. In 1929, the company adopted the now-familiar moniker of First Citizens Bank & Trust Company.

Clayton Banking Company, which eventually
became part of First Citizens, circa 1919.
Image from the State Archives.

Robert Powell Holding, who joined the bank as an assistant cashier in 1918, became president in 1935. He piloted First Citizens through the Depression and World War II, and by the time of his death in 1957, it was the second largest bank in North Carolina. Holding’s three sons continued in their father’s footsteps by occupying the key posts of chairman of the board, president and vice president.

The Holdings grew First Citizens into one of the largest family-controlled banks in the United States, and the family continues to own the bank today.

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


Governor Thomas Bickett of Monroe and Louisburg

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 06:30

Gov. Thomas Bickett in a cotton field near Raleigh, circa 1918.
Image from the State Archives.

On February 28, 1869, Thomas Bickett, North Carolina’s World War I governor, was born in Monroe

After studying law at UNC, Bickett settled in Louisburg and was elected to represent Franklin County in the state House in 1906. During his single term in the General Assembly, Bickett made his mark as the sponsor of the “Bickett Bill,” which set aside a half-million dollars to help care for the mentally ill.

Gov. Bickett and his wife stand on the steps of the Executive Mansion. Image from the State Archives.

Drawing attention at the 1908 state Democratic Party convention in Charlotte, Bickett was nominated for attorney general. During his two terms in that office, Bickett successfully defended the state’s interests in numerous state Supreme Court cases and five before the United States Supreme Court.

Bickett was elected governor in 1916, the first year primary contests were held. Three months after his inauguration, the United States entered World War I. Though motivating the public to help the war effort became a major focus of his term, he also helped overhaul the state’s parole system, expand higher education, reform the tax code and increase spending on public health. A strikingly successful politician, Bickett saw the General Assembly adopt 40 of the 48 proposals made during his term.

Bickett died in December 1921 and is buried in Louisburg.

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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.


Cherokee Attack on Fort Dobbs

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 06:30

An artist’s rendering of Fort Dobbs. Image from N.C. Historic Sites.

On February 27, 1760, Fort Dobbs was attacked by a force of more than 60 Cherokee warriors. The fort had been constructed four years earlier to protect the western frontier during the French and Indian War.

Fighting between the British settlers and their former allies broke out in 1759 as settlers were killed in revenge for the murder of several Cherokee the year before. As the only permanent fort on the colony’s frontier, the fort served as a safe-haven for settlers, and its garrison of soldiers helped to defend the region.

Colonel Hugh Waddell, the fort’s commander, noted that the Cherokee “found the fire very hot” as ten of his men engaged the Cherokee near the fort around nine o’clock at night. “I ordered my party to fire which we did not further than 12 steps each loaded with a bullet and seven buck shot,” Waddell later wrote. “They [the Cherokee] had nothing to cover them as they were advancing either to tomahawk or make us prisoners…”

Waddell retreated to the fort and the Cherokee broke off the attack. The combined casualties, killed or wounded, from the brief encounter included 12 Cherokee, two soldiers and one settler child.

Visit: Fort Dobbs in Statesville is now one of 27 sate historic sites, open to the pubic Tuesday through Saturday.

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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.


Lynching of Wyatt Outlaw and the Kirk-Holden War

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 06:30

On February 26, 1870, Graham town commissioner Wyatt Outlaw, an African American, was lynched by a band of Ku Klux Klansmen.

Outlaw served in the 2nd Regiment United States Colored Cavalry during the Civil War. In 1866, he attended the second freedmen’s convention in Raleigh and soon after organized the Union League, an organization that aimed to promote loyalty to the United States after the Civil War, in Alamance County, as well as a school and church. Outlaw became the target for a Klan mob because he was an effective leader, able to work with both races.

With Klan violence mounting following Outlaw’s murder, Governor William Woods Holden declared a state of insurrection in Alamance and Caswell counties in July 1870. A militia force under George W. Kirk of Tennessee suppressed the Klan in those counties.

Nearly 100 Klan suspects were arrested during the “Kirk-Holden War,” but most were released on technicalities and none were ever tried. White supremacists gained control of the General Assembly in elections that November and impeached Holden for using the militia against the Klan. He was cast out of office in March 1871.

Superior Court judge Albion Tourgee indicted 18 Klansmen for Outlaw’s murder, but an amnesty bill from the legislature resulted in their never going to trial.

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.


Chatham County “Blood Shower”

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 06:30

The first page of a journal article by F. B. Venable on the Chatham County “Blood Shower.” Image from OpenLibrary.org.

On February 25, 1884, Mrs. Kit Lasater, “noted for truthfulness,” was walking near her home in the New Hope township of Chatham County when she heard what she thought was a hard rain fall. Glancing up she saw only clear sky but when she glanced down she saw what appeared to be the aftermath of a “shower of pure blood.”

None of the liquid had fallen on her but it had drenched the ground and surrounding trees for some 60 feet (some accounts say yards) in circumference from the spot where she stood. Upon hearing her story, neighbors rushed to see for themselves and, when later interviewed, confirmed the story as related by Mrs. Lasater.

Samples were collected and sent to Dr. F. P. Venable, a professor at UNC, for evaluation. By mid-April he addressed the topic to the Mitchell Scientific Society. In every test performed except one, the conclusion was the same. The samples appeared to be blood. Venable could offer no explanation beyond the results of the tests, suggesting that “the subject is quite a puzzle and offers a tempting field for the theorist blessed with a vivid imagination.”

Similar cases of blood showers have been reported for centuries in various locations around the world.

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


Greenville Long Home to Voice of America

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 06:30

The Voice of America Control Room in Greenville, circa 1983.
Image from East Carolina University.

On February 24, 1942, the Foreign Information Service, precursor to the Voice of America (VOA), made its first broadcast from New York City to Europe.

Within months 23 transmitters were in place and 27 language services on the air. VOA technical facilities and programming saw vast improvements as America aimed to thwart the propaganda of communist bloc countries which, in turn, sought to electronically jam the broadcasts. International radio became an instrument of American foreign policy.

A sign announcing the construction of the VoA facility in Greenville. Image from East Carolina University.

A key link in the network was built in eastern North Carolina. The facility consisted of three sites west, east and southeast of Greenville. The sites were chosen to ensure the best “electronic propagation conditions.” Programs originating from the Washington studios were beamed via microwave to Greenville and then were relayed from there to Latin America, Europe and Africa.  With its inauguration in 1963, the $23 million Greenville operation doubled the VOA’s power.

The federal government suspended operations at Greenville in 1989, and one of the sites is now home to the Queen Anne’s Revenge conservation lab.

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.


Avery County, High Country Tourist Beacon

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 06:30

Looking out at a sunrise or sunset from Grandfather Mountain in Avery County, circa 1960s-1970s. Image from the UNC-Chapel Hill Library.

On February 23, 1911, Avery County became the last of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Located on the Tennessee border in the mountainous northwest corner of the state called the “High Country,” Avery was formed from parts of neighboring Mitchell, Watauga and Caldwell counties. It was named for Colonel Waightstill Avery, a Revolutionary War officer and the state’s first attorney general.

A 1968 geodetic survey map of Avery County.
Image from the State Archives.

The county’s large strands of Fraser fir trees have made it known as “the Christmas tree capital.” A popular tourist destination, Avery County also has become known as the home of Grandfather Mountain, its annual Highland Games, Linville Caverns and the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Linn Cove Viaduct, a curved, 1,234-foot-long, elevated bridge recognized as one of America’s major engineering feats.

The town of Newland, incorporated in 1913 and named for lieutenant governor William Calhoun Newland, is the county seat. At 3,589 feet in elevation, it is the highest county seat in the eastern United States.

Avery’s Beech Mountain ski resort community, which got its start in the late 1960s, became a town in 1981. Located at 5,506 feet in elevation, it is the highest municipality in eastern America and receives nearly 100 inches of snow each winter.

See more stunning historical images of Avery County from the UNC-Chapel Hill Library.

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.


George Burrington, Controversial Colonial Governor

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 02/22/2015 - 06:30

On February 22, 1759, Governor George Burrington, first royal governor of North Carolina, was murdered in London.

An interesting and controversial figure in the colony during the proprietary and royal periods, Burrington appears in records as contentious, inflammatory and sometimes violent.  At various times he was accused of attempting to blow up colonial chief justice Christopher Gale’s house, throwing colonial official Edmund Porter’s written defense of his judgeship into the fire, horse theft and stealing the council’s secretary’s commissioning seals.

Burrington was a man of contrasts, though. Interested in the expansion and promotion of the colony, he traveled and planned for internal improvements, founded what is now Wilmington and effectively opened the lower Cape Fear area for settlement. In the 1730s, Burrington was removed from his royal governorship, just as he had been removed from his proprietary governorship a decade earlier.

He returned to England and remained there until his death, which was the result of an attack in a robbery attempt.

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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.


Haywood v. Skinner (1903)

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 06:30

A New York Times article on the
Haywood-Skinner shootout.

On February 21, 1903, prominent attorney Ernest Haywood shot and killed Ludlow Skinner, the son of a popular Baptist minister, in broad daylight on Raleigh’s busy Fayetteville Street.

Several newspaper accounts of the incident say that right before the shooting the pair were spotted arguing on the post office steps, and that it was actually Skinner who attacked first, apparently striking Haywood on the side of the head, causing him to fall. Haywood retaliated by firing two shots. The first caused Skinner to turn away from Haywood, and the second was fatal, hitting Skinner as he staggered across the street.

The dispute seems to have concerned Haywood’s quite close relationship with  Skinner’s sister. Rumors swelled that Skinner’s sister and Haywood were secretly married and that Skinner’s sister had a child by Haywood. It’s unclear whether the marriage actually occurred.

Initially held without bond, Haywood was eventually released on a $10,000 bail. At his trial in October, Haywood claimed self-defense. After deliberating only 15 minutes, the jury found him not guilty. The Raleigh community was split on the verdict, with many residents convinced that the trial was fixed in Haywood’s favor.

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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.


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