Bookmark and Share

Allegheny, Ashe, Avery: Top Christmas Tree Producers

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 06:30

A Fraser fir farm in Watauga County. Image from the Watauga County Christmas Tree Association.

On August 23, 2005, the Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) was adopted as the official state Christmas tree of North Carolina.

The idea came from eighth graders at Spruce Pine’s Harris Middle School who petitioned legislators to bestow the special recognition upon the popular conifer after learning of the economic impact the tree had in the state. The bill was introduced by state Representative Philip D. Frye, also of Spruce Pine.

A diagram of a Christmas tree from a 1979 state guide to growing the crop. Image from the State Library.

Known as the Cadillac of Christmas trees, 50 million Fraser firs are grown in North Carolina. The tree was named for Scottish botanist John Fraser who explored the Southern Appalachian mountain region during late 1700s. The evergreen grows in a cone shape and can reach 80 feet.

Fraser firs represent more than 90 percent of Christmas trees grown in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State’s Christmas tree industry is the second largest in the United States, behind Oregon’s, and produces 20 percent of all Christmas trees sold in the nation.

Trees are raised in more than a dozen western counties, with Alleghany, Ashe and Avery being the top producers.

North Carolina Fraser firs are known throughout the country and North America. They have been displayed in the White House on 12 occasions, more than any other species of tree.

Other related resources:

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.


Eugenics Lawsuit Dismissed, 1974

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 06:30

On August 22, 1974, a federal district court judge threw out the suit of Nial Ruth Cox in action now known as Cox v. Stanton. Cox sought to sue to the state for damages after she was forcibly sterilized under the state’s eugenics program at a Plymouth hospital in February 1965.

Cox’s suit was thrown out in part because she waited too long after the procedure was conducted to file her case.

Cox was represented by a number of attorneys, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU’s general counsel. Cox’s attorneys appealed her case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which largely upheld the lower court’s decision.

Between 1933 and 1977, state action led to the sterilization by choice or coercion of more than 7,600 people through a program authorized by the General Assembly in 1929. Though North Carolina’s was only one of many such programs across the country, it was one of the most active.

A movement to compensate those who had been victims of the program began to gain strength in the early 2000s, and in 2013, the General Assembly authorized funds to give each individual victim up to $50,000 in compensation.

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.


Cherokee Code Talkers and Allied Success in WWI

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 06:30

Cherokee and Choctaw code talkers from World War I at Fort Benning, Ga. Image from the U.S. Army.

On August 21, 1918, British forces began attacking German positions along a 10-mile stretch of the Western Front in northwest France. The assault was part of the World War I action now known as the Somme Offensive.

Attached to the British troops fighting in the region were the 119th and 120th U.S. Infantry Regiments, which both contained a number of Cherokee soldiers from western North Carolina.

In last September and early October as the offensive continued and preparations were underway to break through the German defensive positions known as the Hindenburg Line, the commanders in the area discovered that German troops were intercepting their telephone communications. The Germans then used those messages to discover the position of Allied forces and attack them.

That’s where the Cherokee came in. The signal officers at the time guessed that the Germans wouldn’t be able to understand the Cherokee language, and instructed Cherokee troops to deliver messages by telephone in their native tongue. The tactic proved to be a success.

The Cherokee “code talkers” were the first known use of Native Americans in the American military to transmit messages under fire, and they continued to serve in this unique capacity for rest of World War I. Their success was part of the inspiration for the better-known use of Navajo code talkers during World War II.

Other related resources:

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.


Stage Set for War in Hillsborough, 1775

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 08/20/2016 - 06:30

A note of currency issued under the authority of the Third Provincial Congress. Image from Carolana.

On August 20, 1775, the Third Provincial Congress, formed to replace the Colonial Assembly dissolved by Royal Governor Alexander Martin the previous April, convened in Hillsborough.

Samuel Johnston of Edenton was selected to preside, and the body declared itself the province’s temporary government and created the Provincial Council to conduct business when the Provincial Congress was not in session and to oversee the Committee of Safety.

For the purpose of organizing a militia and arranging representation in the Provincial Council, the congress determined that the six existing judicial districts would become military districts. The districts contained between four and eight counties and were named for the most prominent towns they contained:  Edenton, Halifax, Hillsborough, New Bern, Wilmington and Salisbury.

Each military district was authorized to establish a regiment of minutemen that was to serve within the boundaries of North Carolina. Furthermore, each of the 35 counties was asked to raise a company of militia.

The Third Provincial Congress ordered the enlistment of the first two units of Provincial Troops to join the Continental Army later that year.

Other related resources:

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 Story Behind Hammocks Beach Earthworks

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 06:30

On August 19, 1862, a Union force commanded by Colonel Thomas G. Stevenson of the 24th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry burned the Confederate fort at Huggins’ Island near Swansboro. Both the barracks and ammunition magazine collapsed into ashes.

In the fall of 1861, North Carolina found its vital defenses at Hatteras Inlet compromised, making the sounds vulnerable to Union naval invasion. Confederate Brigadier General Walter Gwynn, in charge of coastal defenses from New Bern to the South Carolina line, strongly recommended construction of a series of small forts to protect critical inlets.

Among those was a six-gun battery at Bogue Inlet on Huggins’ Island, later called Russell’s Island.

Construction of the fort was completed in December 1861 and a company of artillery was then stationed at the fort to man the cannons. The company did not remain long at the fort as they were ordered to join General Lawrence O’B. Branch’s brigade at New Bern in March.

They took the cannons with them when they marched out of Swansboro.

After the fire, only the earthen embankment remained as evidence of the fort’s existence. Those earthworks, however, have somehow dodged development and erosion, and are now a part of Hammocks Beach State Park.

Other related resources:

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.


No Quickie Divorce in 1940s

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 06:00

Divorce law’s complexity gained notoriety in 1940s North Carolina.

On August 18, 1945, Caldwell County residents Otis Williams and Lillie Hendrix legally married in the state of North Carolina, ending a five-year battle against bigamy charges.

The saga began in 1940, when Otis, a married storekeeper, and his handyman’s wife, Lillie, traveled to Nevada to secure divorces from their respective spouses. After spending the legally required time as “residents” of the state, divorces were granted, and Williams and Hendrix married before returning to North Carolina.

The action infuriated the first Mrs. Williams, who in retaliation brought charges of bigamy against the newlyweds. A Caldwell County court convicted the pair and delivered multiyear prison sentences for each. Subsequent appeals to the Supreme Court resulted in the overturning of that conviction, but a dogged state prosecutor continued the crusade.

By this time, the spurned Mrs. Williams had died, but her desire to see the couple jailed lived on as county courts upheld the convictions. State courts, however, ultimately decided to take pity on the pair, offering them a reprieve so long as they legally wed in state.

The case made national news, throwing a spotlight on the labyrinth-like nature of divorce law at that time.

Read more about divorce law in North Carolina on NCpedia.

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.


Twelve O’Clock High and Frank Armstrong

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 08:46

Image from the U.S. Air Force.

On August 17, 1942, Frank Armstrong led the first daylight bomber attack by the United States. He flew over Axis territory in occupied France and earned the Silver Star, a military honor for valor, for his actions.

A native of Hamilton in Martin County and a graduate of Wake Forest, Frank Armstrong enlisted in the military in 1928 as a flying cadet. He received and conducted bombardment training and witnessed the Nazi blitz bombing of London.

Armstrong’s involvement in the war did not end with the 1942 campaigns. In 1943, he led the first U.S. raids over Germany in a B-17 “Flying Fortress,” and, in 1945, he flew some of the last bombing raids over Japan targeting oil depots in a B-29.

His official military biography states that he “led the first and last heavy bombing raids of World War II.”

In 1948, Beirne Lay, Jr., who had served alongside Armstrong in the bombardment team in Europe, collaborated with Sy Bartlett to publish Twelve O’Clock High! The authors made clear in the foreword that Colonel Frank Savage, the novel’s central character, was based on Armstrong.

The 1949 film version of the book was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Other related resources:

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.


Eno River’s Patron Saint, Margaret Nygard

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 08/16/2016 - 06:30

Nygard sits on the banks of the Eno River. Image from North Carolina State Parks and Recreation.

On August 16, 1966, a group led by local activist Margaret Nygard and her husband, Holger, voiced opposition at a Durham City Council meeting to a plan to dam the Eno River. The city had been perusing the plan for more than year in attempt to bolster the local drinking water supply.

Nygard, a Durham teacher and social worker, and a group of concerned local citizens used the energy generated by that meeting to form the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley, now known as the Eno River Association. The association, in turn, worked with The Nature Conservancy to build a partnership with the area’s local governments and the state to formulate a plan to save the natural and cultural resources of the Eno area.

The idea for a state park was proposed and an initial donation of 90 acres from a local farm family was made in 1972. A state conservation board endorsed the park that same year, and the following year, Governor Jim Holshouser officially announced the park’s creation.

Thanks to the stewardship of the state and the Eno River Association, Eno River State Park has continued to grow since its inception. Today it encompasses more than 4,000 acres along 35 miles of the river’s course through Orange and Durham Counties.

Visit: Like all other state parks, Eno River State Park is open to the public every day of the year except for Christmas Day.

Other related resources:

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.


Jockey Ridge’s Patron Saint, Carolista Baum

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 08/15/2016 - 06:30

Baum with Jockey’s Ridge in the background, circa 1973. Image from North Carolina Parks and Recreation.

On August 15, 1973, Carolista Fletcher Baum placed herself in the path of a bulldozer removing sand from Jockey’s Ridge and refused to move. The driver cut off the engine and talked with Baum, who, after some time, left the dune unscathed. When the operator left, Baum took the distributor cap so the machine would not start.

Baum received word of the bulldozer from her three children who long had climbed the dune for the spectacular views it offered.

Though local groups had talked about protecting the large dune from encroaching development for years, Baum was the driving force that made the idea a reality. She helped form the People to People to Preserve Jockey’s Ridge after her dramatic protest, raising money and organizing petition drives to capture the attention of state and local lawmakers.

She even drove to Raleigh every day for three weeks to keep the dune in the minds of legislators.

In 1973, the Division of Parks and Recreation issued a report in favor of preserving Jockey’s Ridge as a state park, and a year later the dune was declared a National Natural Landmark. When the General Assembly appropriated funds to create the park in 1975, the preservation of the dune was secured for generations to come.

Visit: Like all other state parks, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is open to the public every day of the year except for Christmas Day.

Other related resources:

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.


Kannapolis Man Laid Claim to Photographic Immortality

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 08/14/2016 - 06:30

V-J Day in Times Square. Photo by
Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

On August 14, 1945, Life magazine photographer Albert Eisenstaedt captured the spirit of celebration of the United States’ victory over Japan in World War II in an iconic photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square.

The sailor had been running down the street kissing random women when he was spotted by Eisenstaedt, who snapped a few quick pictures when he grabbed a nurse in white nearby. Because of the chaos in the streets Eisenstaedt did not have time to get the names of the couple.

Many people have claimed to be the sailor or the nurse over the years, but North Carolina native Glenn McDuffie went to great lengths to prove that he was the kissing sailor. Tired of disputes as to the sailor’s identity, McDuffie asked Lois Gibson, a forensic artist with Houston Police Department, whether she could make a positive identification.

In 2007, Gibson, who also compared the photo with those of several other kisser-claimants, reported that McDuffie’s features were an exact match to those of the sailor in the photograph. He enjoyed several years of celebrity, being invited to fundraisers and veterans’ events.

Born in Kannapolis in 1927, McDuffie was 15-years-old when he forged documents to join the Navy. He died in 2014 in Texas.

Other related resources:

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.


Banker Ponies Protected Since 1998

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 08/13/2016 - 06:30

Wild horses on the Shackleford Banks. Image from Zach Frailey.

On August 13, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Shackleford Banks Wild Horses Protection Act.

The act, which amends the 1966 law that created the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, directed the National Park Service to partner with a local non-profit, Foundation for Shackleford Horses, Inc. to manage the herd of wild horses located on the uninhabited 9-mile long island east of Morehead City between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout.

The banker ponies, as they are often called, are small horses believed to have been descend from Spanish mustangs abandoned in the area about 400 years ago. Some have also tried to link the horses’ ancestry to Ponce de León or the Lost Colony, though their exact lineage is lost to history.

The 1998 act provides for a target range for the herd of between 110 and 130 horses. When the herd exceeds that target, a round up is held and excess healthy horses are adopted to out to different places around the country.

The seashore, in conjunction with the foundation, is charged with the management of the herd for its own protection and health, as well as that of the natural resources of the seashore.

The Shackleford Banks herd is one of four herds of wild horses that can be found up and down the Outer Banks.

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.


Plott Hound Native to Haywood County

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 08/12/2016 - 06:30

A man and Plott hound on a bear hunt in western North Carolina. Image from the State Archives.

On August 12, 1989, the Plott Hound was officially designated as the State Dog.

One of only four dog breeds native to the United States, the breed was developed in Haywood County by the Plott family. The foundation stock for the dogs that became Plott Hounds came to America with Johannes George Plott in 1750.

The Plotts bred hard-working, tenacious and loyal dogs that would hunt bears and wild boars with boundless courage. Plott enthusiasts describe the breed as bold and energetic hunting dogs, gentle with people and loyal to their owners. The breed was popular across the region as early as the mid 1800s; people from near and far would travel to Haywood County to get puppies from the Plott family.

Plott hounds on the Plott family farm in Haywood County. Image the State Archives.

The dogs, once black, brown or brindle, are now usually brindle—meaning stripes of varying color. They stand 20 to 25 inches at the shoulder, weigh about 45 to 55 pounds and are strong and fast. The Plott Hound has a distinctive high-pitched bark that is effective in alerting hunters to treed prey.

The American Kennel Club recognized the Plott hound as a distinctive breed in 1998.

Other related resources:

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.


Robert B. Glenn of Winston-Salem, Prohibition Governor

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 08/11/2016 - 06:30

Glenn works at his desk in Raleigh, circa 1905-1909. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On August 11, 1874, Governor Robert B. Glenn was born in Rockingham County.

After being educated at Davidson College and Richmond Hill Law School, Glenn practiced law in Rockingham and Stokes Counties. His entry into politics came in 1880 when he was elected to a single term in the General Assembly, representing Stokes County.

In 1885, Glenn moved his law practice to Forsyth County and served as U.S. attorney for the western district of North Carolina before returning to politics as a state senator in 1899. While in the General Assembly the second time, he spoke widely on behalf of white supremacy and supported the successful efforts in the legislature to disfranchise black voters.

Glenn ran against the Democratic machine in the 1904 gubernatorial primary for that party and went on  to win the general election by a wide margin.

Glenn focused his term in office on expanding public education and on increasing funding for hospitals, public health and care of the insane. He successfully spearheadeda campaign to ban the sale and manufacture of liquor, the “crowning act of my administration,” in his words.

After leaving office, Glenn returned to his law practice in Winston-Salem and served on an international boundary dispute commission. He died in 1920.

Other related resources:

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.


Archdale Home to Rodeo Champion

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 08/10/2016 - 06:30

Davis (left) with fellow bull rider J.W. Hart. Image from Professional Bull Rider.

On August 10, 1972, Jerome Davis, who would ultimately put North Carolina on the bull riding and rodeo map, was born in Colorado Springs, Colo. His father, stationed in Colorado while in the military, brought his family home to their ranch in Archdale, in Guilford County, just six months later.

Davis rode his first bull at age 11. On his fourth ride, he lasted the required eight seconds and committed himself to becoming a competitive bull rider. Davis won his first event as a freshman in high school. He was the North Carolina State High School Bull Riding Champion in 1990 and won the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s Bull Riding Championship two years later.

In 1992, he joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), a dream only a few cowboys experience.

Davis had a stellar career on the bull riding circuit. He earned a World Championship in 1995 and was elected to the Professional Bull Riders Ring of Honor in 1998. His career ended in March 1998, in Fort Worth, Texas, when he was paralyzed from the chest down after being thrown from a bull.

Davis returned home to Archdale and continues to run the Davis Ranch and his bucking bull and rodeo business.

Read more about sport in North Carolina on NCpedia

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.


Grey Squirrel - Click me to return to the top of the page