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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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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.

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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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.

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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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.

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.

SNCC’s Raleigh Roots

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

On April 15, 1960, about 150 student leaders from 10 states met at Shaw University in Raleigh for the “Southwide Leadership Conference on Nonviolent Resistance to Segregation.” The meeting took place just two months after the Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro had launched the protest effort.

The session was designed to consolidate isolated sit-in efforts and map strategy. It was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference whose executive director, Ella Baker, was a Shaw graduate. The conference created the “Temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee” headquartered in Atlanta.

The weekend’s keynote speaker, the Reverend James Lawson of Nashville, criticized established older groups such as the NAACP for moving too slowly and acting too conservatively. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a large group in Memorial Auditorium, urging students to adopt the nonviolent philosophy of Ghandi and face jail time for peaceful protest if necessary.

SNCC members were the “shock troops” and frontline leaders in the civil rights movement, especially in Mississippi in the summer of 1964. John Hope Franklin called them “probably the most courageous and the most selfless” of the civil rights workers.

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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.

Enigma Machine Plucked from Its Watery Grave

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

On April 14, 1942, the destroyer USS Roper sank the German submarine U-85 off the Outer Banks between Wimble Shoals and Cape Hatteras.

By January 1942 as many as 19 German U-boats patrolled the Atlantic coastline on any given day, with two or three hiding at Diamond Shoals at any given time to attack ships as they rounded Cape Hatteras. At the height of what is now called the Battle of Torpedo Junction, the Germans were sinking a ship nearly every day; between freighters, tankers and passenger ships the losses were tremendous.

At the same time, the American military was learning how to detect and defeat the U-boats. The first hit was on U-85. Navy divers surveyed the area near the wreck and attempted to salvage the ship, but efforts were not successful. Since men were needed elsewhere, the submarine was left to the elements.

The wreck was explored by recreational divers for many years. In July 2001, divers salvaged the submarine’s Enigma machine. The Germans used the complex coding device for secret communications, especially for divulging locations of enemy vessels and supply convoys.

Although it is still being conserved, the stable parts of the machine are on display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras.

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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.

Fort Macon, Contested Ground during the Civil War

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

On April 14, 1861, a militia company from Beaufort, acting on its own, boated over to Fort Macon, near Atlantic Beach, and seized the fort in the name of the state from a lone Union army caretaker.

Only two days after the firing on Fort Sumter, North Carolina had not yet left the Union to join the Confederate States of America. By the time North Carolina did secede on May 20, Fort Macon was securely in state hands with hundreds of Confederate soldiers making it ready for war. Over the next year, the fort was armed with 54 heavy cannons.

However, the Confederacy did not manage to hold the fort for long. In April 1862, after an extended siege led by Union Brig. Gen. John G. Parke, Fort Macon’s Col. Moses J. White surrendered the garrison to Union forces. The fall of Fort Macon closed the port of Beaufort to the Confederacy. The seizure was part of the Burnside campaign which saw much of coastal North Carolina fall into Union hands.

Today, Fort Macon is one of 35 state parks.

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Hysteria Over Day Care in Edenton

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

On April 14, 1989, the first arrests were made in Edenton in what would become known as the Little Rascals Day Care case. The case came amidst a nationwide flurry of prosecutions of daycare workers for alleged “satanic ritual abuse” of children.

Twenty-nine students at the Little Rascals center accused 20 adults, including Edenton’s mayor and the sheriff of Chowan County, with 429 instances of sexual and physical abuse over a three-year period.  The children’s’ descriptions of the incidents were mind-bending. Some described incidents as involving space ships, hot air balloons, pirate ships and trained sharks.

As in other similar cases from across the country, the children’s stories were concocted through sessions with investigators and therapists, many of whom used leading and suggestive questioning techniques. Prosecutors did not produce evidence or eyewitnesses. Today social scientists consider the scandal a “moral panic,” and it has been compared to a witch hunt.

In the most notorious of the Little Rascals trials, the defendant was convicted of 99 indictments and sentenced to 12 consecutive life terms in prison. The court of appeals overturned the convictions of all seven defendants in 1995. The Little Rascals case is said to have been the state’s longest and costliest criminal trial.

The PBS program Frontline aired a series of programs on the case and still maintains a website with a variety of materials related to it..

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 Ellis and Building Confederate Sentiment

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 01:00

On April 15, 1861, North Carolina governor John Ellis responded to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops with the often quoted statement: “You can get no troops from North Carolina.”

Although North Carolina as a state had seemed moderate during the Secession Crisis of 1861, Ellis had worked behind the scenes to align North Carolina with the budding Confederate government. In February 1861, citizens of the Old North State rejected a call for a Constitutional Convention to even consider the secession question.

Southern state after southern state declared for secession in early 1861 following South Carolina’s declaration in December 1860.  President Lincoln inherited a nation at the breaking point, and he ordered the federal fort in Charleston harbor to be resupplied.  South Carolina forces prevented the effort and fired on Fort Sumter.  Lincoln then issued a call for troops to put down the rebellion.

Ellis considered Lincoln’s call to arms an unacceptable power grab, and he immediately ordered state troops to seize the federal forts in North Carolina as well as the federal arsenal at Fayetteville. He called the General Assembly into session two weeks later and rushed through a bill that called for a secession convention and authorized Ellis to send troops to Virginia. North Carolina left the Union just a few weeks later.

Though Ellis’ pithy last sentence is often quoted, the full text of his reply to Lincoln lays out a number of Constitutional justifications for secession that were popular at the outset of the war.

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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.