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The Mixed Fortunes of the Land of Oz

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 06/21/2017 - 01:00

On June 15, 1970, the Land of Oz theme park opened on Beech Mountain in Avery County.

The theme park, based on the book and movie The Wizard of Oz, was the brainchild of entrepreneur Grover Robbins, the same man who opened Tweetsie Railroad. The park featured costumed characters reminiscent of the movie with a recreation of the city of Oz, complete with a yellow brick road. In its early years the theme park attracted many visitors and experienced much success.

That began to change in December 1975, when a fire caused major damage to many of the park’s structures. The park began to experience financial troubles and attendance declined.  It closed in 1980.

The property was abandoned for several years until the landowner restored the park in the late 1990s. A few former employees decided to hold an “Autumn of Oz” festival to commemorate their days of working at the park. The festival became an annual event.

Today the “Land of Oz” is used primarily as a venue for special events and private parties. Individuals can also rent the facility and spend the night in Dorothy’s house.

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.

Civil War General and Episcopal Priest Leonidas Polk

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 01:00

On June 14, 1864, Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk was killed at Pine Mountain, Ga.  While he was observing the Union’s position with Gens. Joseph E. Johnston and William J. Hardee, a shell fired by federal artillery struck Polk in the left arm, traveled through his body and exploded on a nearby tree. Nearly cut in half, he died instantly.

Born in 1806 in Raleigh, Leonidas Polk was the second cousin of James K. Polk, the eleventh President of the United States. Shortly after he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Polk resigned his commission to attend Virginia Theological Seminary. He became an Episcopal priest in 1831 and worked his way up in the church hierarchy to become Bishop of Louisiana in 1841.

Despite limited military experience, Polk was appointed a major general by his West Point classmate and Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, in 1861. This made him one of the most controversial leaders in the Confederate Army.  Nevertheless, in 1862, he was promoted to lieutenant general. His relationship with other officers was often strained, if not adversarial, but he was always loved by his men.  Polk often ministered to his troops, putting on his robes over his uniform.

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John Scott Trotter, Arranger for Bing Crosby and Charlie Brown

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 01:00

On June 14, 1908, arranger, composer and orchestra leader John Scott Trotter was born in Charlotte.

A piano student from a young age, Trotter began playing piano professionally with Hal Kemp’s band after meeting Kemp as a student at UNC. At the end of his first year Trotter left college to continue with the band, serving as their arranger as well as the pianist.

In 1936, Trotter left Kemp’s band and began orchestrating for Bing Crosby, an association that would last for almost 20 years.

In the 1950s, Trotter, known for his easy-going style and large physical size, began working in television, first as music director for The George Gobel Show and later on several specials for Crosby.

Trotter later directed the music for the Charlie Brown specials, receiving nominations for both an Oscar and a Grammy for A Boy Named Charlie Brown. He is credited with the idea of using the trombone for the teacher’s voice that became a hallmark of the animated movies.

Trotter died in 1975 in Los Angeles and is buried in Sharon Memorial Park in Charlotte.

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.

The Pulaski Explosion, 1838

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 01:00

On June 14, 1838, a boiler on the steamship Pulaski exploded while the ship was off the North Carolina coast. The vessel was bound for Baltimore from Savannah. She carried a crew of about 36 and close to 150 passengers, many of whom were killed immediately by the scalding steam. Others drowned or perished when struck by falling wreckage. Two of the Pulaski’s small boats with survivors made it to shore the following day, landing in Onslow County.

Of the passengers who were not killed instantly or who made it to the lifeboats, many floated on two large chunks of the wreck, while others drifted on pieces of furniture lashed together or small shreds of debris.  After four days drifting in the open sea, 23 people were taken off a portion of the wreck by the schooner Henry Camerdon. The bleak survivors shared that they had seen another group that morning and the ship headed in that direction and found and saved another seven people.

Two of the survivors, who drifted together on pieces of wreckage for a number of days, had plenty of time to get to know one another and after experiencing each other’s knack for enduring, became engaged at sea.

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USS Cyclops, Lost at Sea, 1918

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 01:00

On June 14, 1918, following a 90-day search operation, the U.S. Navy declared the crew and passengers of the USS Cyclops dead. Of the 293 souls on board, six were North Carolinians: Junius L. Dellinger, Leonard Calvert Day, George Henry Allred, Isaac P. Dancy, Robert Hardy Powers and Robert Earl Riddle.

The Cyclops was last seen on March 4 at Barbados and was heading toward the port of Baltimore at half speed because of engine trouble. Radio contact with the ship was lost that same day. In April, more than a month after the Cyclops’s disappearanceNavy officials finally released the ship’s overdue status to the Associated Press. French and American vessels searched trade routes between the two ports but found no trace of the ship or its passengers.

Rumors regarding the ship’s fate spread rampantly in the media. Sabotage by the ship’s German-born commander, capture at sea, a German submarine attack and a sudden hurricane were all cited as possible causes for its disappearance. The true reason for the ship’s loss remains a mystery to this day, though many modern investigators have surmised the over-loaded ship, which had a documented problem with extreme side-to-side tipping, quickly sank in rough seas.

Visit: The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras tells the story of North Carolina’s treacherous coast and high concentration of shipwrecks.

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Regulators Hanged in Hillsborough

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 01:00

On June 19, 1771, six Regulators were hanged in Hillsborough following the Battle of Alamance on May 17.

The hanging represented a culmination of the War of Regulation and the “backcountry” rebellion by Orange County Regulators. Like many of those throughout the colonies discontented with the control of and taxation by the British government, the Regulators wanted the Currency Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765 to be repealed.

As both sides anticipated confrontation, Regulators sent petitions to Governor Tryon, then camped out on Alamance Creek with 1,400 troops, on May 14 and May 16. Tryon rejected the Regulators’ terms and a battle broke out until the Regulators retreated.

Several Regulators were captured and tried. After the trial, Tryon pardoned six men and sent the others – Benjamin Merrill, Robert Matear, James Pugh and two other unrecorded men – to be hanged not far from the courthouse in Hillsborough. Their exact burial location is unknown.

The site of the hanging was memorialized in 1963 by a marble slab monument erected by the N.C. Society of the Colonial Dames in America and placed next to the historic Hughes Academy schoolhouse in Hillsborough.

Check out NCpedia’s resources on the Regulators and Battle of Alamance for more information on this topic.

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.

Revelry Ensues After Stanley Cup Victory, 2006

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 01:00

On June 19, 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes won their first ever National Hockey League championship. The Stanley Cup win came after the Canes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in front of a sold out crowd in the last game of a seven-game series.

In addition to the team win, 22-year-old rookie goaltender Cam Ward was recognized with the Conn Smythe Award, given to the most valuable player in the playoffs, for his stellar performance in relief of veteran netminder Martin Gerber.

The win kicked off two days of celebration in Raleigh with Gov. Mike Easley declaring June 20 “Carolina Hurricanes Day” and urging North Carolinians to wear the Hurricanes colors of red and black in support of the team. A victory parade held at the RBC Center, now the PNC Arena, drew 30,000 fans and was covered live by WRAL for viewers at home.

A second parade was held in downtown Raleigh the next day, ending with a celebration at the State Capitol. Even the General Assembly paid homage to the victors, holding a special joint session where legislators greeted head coach Peter Laviolette, Hurricanes players and the Stanley Cup with enthusiastic applause.

The Hurricanes’ 2006 Stanley Cup win was North Carolina’s first professional men’s sports championship.

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.

Springs Altered Race History

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 01:00

On June 19, 1949, NASCAR held the first race in its top division at a ¾-mile dirt track at the Charlotte Speedway.

Promoter Bill France intended that the race provide a test of driving skill in cars similar to those actually driven by fans. The crowd of more than 13,000 confirmed France’s conviction that people would flock to see late-model sedans race.

Glenn Dunnaway finished first; however, the victory did not stand. Officials conducting a post-race inspection found altered rear springs, disqualified Dunnaway and declared second-place finisher Jim Roper the winner. It was later revealed that the springs had been modified in a manner common to cars that were used to haul moonshine.

The success of the race led France to promote seven more “Strictly Stock” races that year, forming the foundation for what would become NASCAR. The original Charlotte Speedway would continue to be an important stop for the tour until construction of the larger, new track near Concord in 1960.

Today nothing remains of that old track. Interstate 85 sits atop one of its banks, though a highway historical marker on Little Rock Road marks the place.

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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.

Hanes Brand Began in Winston-Salem

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 06/18/2017 - 01:00

On June 12, 1886, James G. Hanes, founder of Hanes knitwear, was born in what’s now Winston-Salem.

Following his 1909 graduation from the University of North Carolina, Hanes returned to Forsyth County and joined the family textile business. His factory, Hanes Hosiery Mills, became the world’s largest manufacturer of women’s nylon seamless hosiery. He was known to have said,”Nature gives you seamless legs; Hanes gives you seamless nylons.”

In 1965 Hanes Hosiery Mills Company merged with P. H. Hanes Knitting Company to become the internationally-known Hanes Corporation.

In addition to his work with the family business, Hanes served on the board of directors for organizations including the Norfolk and Western Railway, the New York City-based Savoy Hotel, Hanes Dye and Finishing Company, the National Association of Manufacturers, and Wachovia Bank and Trust Company. He also took an active role in local government, most notably serving for four years as mayor of Winston-Salem and for 22 years on Forsyth County’s Board of Commissioners.

At his death in 1972, James G. Hanes willed his stately English manor-style home and the adjoining 32-acre estate to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art.

Visit: The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, open to visitors Tuesday through Sunday.

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.

Seymour Johnson Field Transferred to U.S. Army Air Force

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 06/18/2017 - 01:00

On June 12, 1942, the U.S. Army Air Force took over Seymour Johnson Field for use as a training center. In 1941, the Works Progress Administration built a municipal airport south of Goldsboro; the dedication was held one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The field was named for Seymour Johnson, a Goldsboro native, U.S. Naval Academy graduate and test pilot for Grumman Aircraft who died in a crash shortly before the war.

At the peak of its strength, the base hosted 27,000 troops. During the course of the war more than 250,000 troops trained there. The 326th Fighter Group arrived in 1943, and in 1944, basic training of F-4 pilots became the primary mission of the base. At the close of the war the base functioned as a separation center. In May 1946, it was deactivated.

In April 1956, the U.S. Air Force reopened the base following a successful campaign by Goldsboro community leaders. Today the base is home to the F-15 Strike Eagle. It is the only Air Force base named for a naval officer.

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.

The Trail of Tears and the Roundup of N.C. Cherokees

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 06/18/2017 - 01:00

On June 12, 1838, Gen. Winfield Scott ordered troops to begin rounding up Cherokee Indians for internment at Fort Butler near what is now Murphy and eventual forced relocation to Oklahoma.

The order was part of a larger effort led by Scott at the behest of President Martin Van Buren to remove the Cherokee from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina as authorized under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Scott was personally involved in the action in southwestern North Carolina because the Army believed the area was most likely to be a center of conflict.

After a week, the troops had arrested more than two-thirds of the local Cherokee population and, by early July, nearly 2,500 Cherokee were in custody. Those and approximately 12,500 others would ultimately make the journey westward on the Trail of Tears between October 1838 and March 1839, while about 300 or 400 Cherokees hid out in North Carolina, laying the foundation for the purchase of the Qualla Boundary property and the establishment of North Carolina’s Cherokee Reservation.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee was not formally granted freedom to live in North Carolina until 1866, and was not recognized as a separate entity from the Cherokee living in Oklahoma until 1868.

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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.

U.S. Army Rounds Up Cherokees, 1838

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 06/18/2017 - 01:00

On June 12, 1838, Gen. Winfield Scott ordered troops to begin rounding up Cherokee Indians for internment at Fort Butler near what is now Murphy, leading to their eventual forced relocation to Oklahoma.

The order was part of a larger effort led by Scott at the behest of President Martin Van Buren to remove the Cherokee from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina as authorized under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Scott was personally involved in the action in southwestern North Carolina because the Army believed the area was the most likely to be a center of conflict.

After a week, the troops had arrested more than two-thirds of the local Cherokee population and, by early July, nearly 2,500 Cherokee were in custody. Those and approximately 12,500 others would ultimately make the journey westward on the Trail of Tears between October 1838 and March 1839.

About 300 or 400 Cherokees hid out in North Carolina, laying the foundation for the purchase of the Qualla Boundary property and the establishment of North Carolina’s Cherokee Reservation.

Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee were not formally granted freedom to live in North Carolina until 1866, and the Band was not recognized as a separate entity from the Cherokee living in Oklahoma until 1868.

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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.

Explosives Advanced by Gabriel Rains during the Civil War

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 01:00

On June 17, 1864, Brigadier General Gabriel Rains was appointed chief of the newly created Torpedo Bureau of the Confederate army.

Born in New Bern in 1803, Rains graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1827. He began experimenting with mines, then called “torpedoes.” in 1839, during the Seminole War. At the outbreak of the Civil War he resigned his commission and offered his services to the Confederacy.

Rains continued to develop his “infernal machines” for use on land and in waterways throughout the war. Many officers in both the Union and Confederate armies thought torpedoes constituted an improper form of warfare, but Rains defended his use of explosive devices as a means to discourage a night attack by an enemy, to defend a weak point of a line and to check enemy pursuit.

While in service in Richmond, Rains began to formulate plans for the torpedo defense of Confederate ports. Impressed with the plans, President Jefferson Davis directed him to put his plans into operation. Rains was first sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and then to Charleston, South Carolina and Mobile, Alabama.

Rains’s torpedoes were a great success, providing an effective deterrent to Union naval attack and sinking about 58 Union vessels in all.

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God Bless Kate Smith

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 01:00

On June 17, 1986, Kate Smith, “The Songbird of the South,” died of complications from diabetes at Raleigh Community Hospital.

A native of Greenville, Va., the singer renowned for her rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” spent the final years of her life in the Capital City near her sister Helena Steele. While living in Raleigh, she resided in a quiet cul-de-sac off Millbrook Avenue.

For an earlier generation, Smith was representative of all that was good and right about America. Her professional recording career began in 1925, and she became a major star of radio. She was a large woman and could belt out songs, such as her personal theme “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,” like nobody’s business.

A professional hockey team, the Philadelphia Flyers, played her recording of “God Bless America” before a game in 1969. As it brought them a victory that night, they made it a team tradition and brought Miss Smith to the arena where she created near pandemonium and provided the Flyers with an assist on their road to the Stanley Cup.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Smith in 2010.

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Prominent Patriot William Hooper

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 01:00

On June 17, 1742, William Hooper, one of North Carolina’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence, was born. Hooper grew up in Boston and attended Harvard before moving to Wilmington and opening a law office there in 1764. Within a few years he was active in politics.

In 1774, Hooper wrote to a friend that the colonies’ independence would not be far off, and within a few weeks he was selected to play a central part in it. At the First Provincial Congress in North Carolina, Hooper was elected as one of the colony’s three delegates to the Continental Congress. He remained in Congress for the next few years. Although absent when the Declaration of Independence was voted on, he signed his name to the document on August 2. The next year he helped with devising the North Carolina state seal.

In April 1777, Hooper resigned from Congress and returned to Wilmington, which he represented in the General Assembly for several more years. When the British took Wilmington in January 1781, the family fled to Hillsborough.

Hooper died at age 48 in 1790. A 19-foot tall statue at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park memorializes Hooper, whose remains were moved there in 1894.

For more, check out North Carolina Signers on Kindle from North Carolina Historical Publications.

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 Vagabond Players and Robroy Farquhar

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 01:00

On June 17, 1961, the Flat Rock Playhouse in Henderson County’s village of Flat Rock was named the state theater of North Carolina. The venue is home to the Vagabond Players, the oldest Equity acting troupe in the state.

The ensemble formed in 1937 in New York City under the direction of Robroy Farquhar. In 1940, the Vagabond Players made their way south to North Carolina and performed for two summer seasons in a converted grist mill–the Old Mill Playhouse–near Highland Lake.

Following World War II the troupe resumed performing in a schoolhouse near Lake Summit that had been renovated into a theater for use by the Carolina Players.  In 1952, the Vagabond Players purchased a lot in Flat Rock and began staging plays under a 50-by-85-foot tent erected on the site.

The current playhouse, built in 1956, seats 500 people. Through the years, tens of thousands have enjoyed performances. Proclaimed as one of the top summer theaters in the nation, the Flat Rock Playhouse is where many actors, actresses, directors and stagehands have honed their craft. 

Today, the Flat Rock Playhouse season runs 9 months from April through December, and features drama, musicals, comedy and children’s performances.

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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.

Eleanor Roosevelt Visits Penderlea, 1937

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 01:00

On June 11, 1937, Eleanor Roosevelt kicked up her heels with the homesteaders at Penderlea. The First Lady visited Pender County to check on the progress at one of her husband Franklin’s premier homestead sites. Hugh MacRae of Wilmington first had the idea, during the depths of the Depression, to create a model farm community at Penderlea on a grand scale. He had experimented with similar communities across southeastern North Carolina early in the 20th century.

The intention at Penderlea was to build the “best planned rural community in the world.” A tract of 10,000 acres was set aside, land was cleared and homes and a community center were built. MacRae disagreed with those in Washington as to how Penderlea should be managed, and, in May 1934, the entire program was federalized.

Though Roosevelt and his New Dealers were pursuing similar programs across the country, no other rural project was as large as Penderlea. The original goal of 500 20-acre farms was never met. A total of 142 units were leased but, by 1941, few of the original homesteaders remained. Memories of the experiment remain vivid at Penderlea where a large community building remains and a museum interprets that page in history.

Read more in the Penderlea and Penderlea Homestead articles on NCpedia.

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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First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt Visits Homesteaders at Penderlea, 1937

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 01:00

On June 11, 1937, Eleanor Roosevelt kicked up her heels with the homesteaders at Penderlea. The First Lady visited Pender County to check on the progress at one of her husband Franklin’s premier homestead sites.

During the depths of the Depression, Wilmington industrialist Hugh MacRae conceived the idea of creating a model farm community at Penderlea on a grand scale. He had experimented with similar communities across southeastern North Carolina early in the 20th century.

The intention at Penderlea was to build the “best planned rural community in the world.” A tract of 10,000 acres was set aside, land was cleared and homes and a community center were built. MacRae disagreed with those in Washington as to how Penderlea should be managed, and, in May 1934, the entire program was federalized.

Though Roosevelt and his New Dealers were pursuing similar programs across the country, no other rural project was as large as Penderlea, though the original goal of 500 20-acre farms was never met. A total of 142 units were leased but, by 1941, few of the original homesteaders remained.

Memories of the experiment remain vivid at Penderlea, where a large community building remains.

Visit: The Penderlea Homestead Museum near Willard preserves the story of Penderlea to this day.

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.

Tobias Knight, Charged with Accessory to Piracy

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 01:00

On June 11, 1719, colonial official, attorney and judge Tobias Knight died.

While he appears in North Carolina records as early as 1710, it wasn’t until two years later that he figured prominently as the secretary and collector of the colony.

Soon after acquiring those two posts, Knight was beset by a series of scandals. The first came when Knight was accused of stealing from the Church after refusing to repay a debt, which Governor William Glover had accrued and which many felt was Knight’s responsibility on behalf of his wife, Catherine Glover Knight. Catherine was Glover’s widow.

A more significant scandal came later, and involved the notorious pirate, Blackbeard. After Blackbeard’s death, some of his slaves were tried in Virginia. They testified that Knight had worked with the pirate. Charged as an accessory to piracy, Knight was tried in 1719. As an attorney, he spoke on his own behalf and convinced Governor Charles Eden and the council of his innocence.

In spite his acquittal, Knight resigned as the colony’s chief justice and was accused again, this time along with Governor Eden and others, of collusion with pirates.

Before he could be investigated further, Knight died after a long illness.

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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.