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Acclaimed Beauty Ava Gardner, Pride of Grabtown

This Day in North Carolina History - 4 hours 54 min ago

Image from the New York Public Library.

On January 25, 1990, Johnston County native and world-famous actress Ava Gardner died in her London apartment.

Born on a Grabtown farm, Gardner moved around North Carolina as a child, graduated from high school in Wilson County and began a program in secretarial studies at what is now Barton College.

Discovered by chance after her brother-in-law posted a photograph in the window of his New York City studio, Gardner was offered a contract with MGM Studios. Since her mother would not allow her to head to Hollywood alone, both Garner and her sister moved to the West Coast in 1941.

Appearing in mostly minor and nonspeaking roles during the first five years of her career, Gardner saw her profile raised significantly after her 1946 performances in Whistle Stop and The Killers. Gardner went on to make at least 55 movies, including On the Beach (1959), The Night of the Iguana (1964) and Earthquake (1974). She also achieved notoriety for her marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.

Gardner moved to Spain in 1955 to escape constant hounding from the press, and after nearly decade there, moved to London, where she spent the final years of her life.

Visit: The Ava Gardner Museum in downtown Smithfield holds an extensive collection of artifacts from Ava Gardner’s career and private life.

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 1759 “Enfield Riot,” Precursor to the War of the Regulation

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 06:30

On January 24, 1759, a group of men from Halifax and Edgecombe Counties rode to Francis Corbin’s house in Edenton and seized him during the night. The men were upset because Corbin had extorted money from them when collecting rents for Lord Granville who controlled the land on which they lived.

Corbin was taken to Enfield, where he was held in jail with his co-conspirator Thomas Bodley. The pair was forced to pay a bond as a guarantee to appear in court in the spring and agree to new rules governing rent and tax collection. Furthermore, they promised not to sue their captors. During the court session, Corbin and Bodley were released after they promised to return all illegal fees and taxes they collected.

Though Corbin eventually was removed from office by Lord Granville, the Colonial Assembly investigated the incident, now called the “Enfield Riot” and punished some of the “rioters” severely, imprisoning several. In response, sympathizers and friends broke the imprisoned out of jail.

Modern historians considered the actions of the Halifax citizens as a foreshadowing to the War of Regulation.

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.


Light Returns to Cape Hatteras Beacon, 1950

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 07:30

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1991. Image courtesy
of the National Park Service.

On January 23, 1950, after a 14-year hiatus, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse once again shone its beacon over the Atlantic Ocean to warn mariners of the dangers of Diamond Shoals. The 208-foot tower had been abandoned because of the encroaching sea, and its signal was temporarily replaced by a light atop a steel structure, known as the skeleton tower, built near the lighthouse site.

At the time of its construction in 1870, the iconic black and white-striped lighthouse was 1,500 feet from the ocean. The lighthouse was constantly at risk from the quickly receding shoreline, but several measures were taken to keep it safe.

During the 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps crew constructed sand dunes and planted grasses that helped to build up the shoreline in the area. The construction of groins, the placement of sand bags and the installation of artificial seaweed offshore were also tried at the time, but by 1936 waves had reached the structure’s base, forcing the Lighthouse Service to close it.

After being saved in 1950, the lighthouse was threatened once again by the Atlantic during the 1980s, when waters came within 200 feet of its red brick base. Because of its historical and cultural significance, several options for preserving the structure were discussed by scholars, public officials and lighthouse lovers. After much debate, the 2,800-ton lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet from the shore in 1999.

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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.


Justice for Edgecombe County Slave

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 08:11

A court document from the State v. Negro Will
case. Image from the State Archives.

On January 22, 1834, Will, a slave belonging to James Battle of Edgecombe County, killed a white man. The killing resulted in the State v. Negro Will case, in which the North Carolina Supreme Court protected slaves from a charge of murder when acting in self-defense.

The day started with an argument between Will and a slave foreman named Allen over the possession of a hoe. Tempers flared and Will broke the hoe before going to work at a nearby cotton mill. After learning of Will’s behavior Richard Baxter, Battle’s overseer, set off on horseback with his gun. Allen followed with his whip. Confronted by Baxter, Will attempted to flee but was shot in the back. Wounded and running for his life, Will was overtaken. Armed with a knife with poison on the blade, Will fought off Baxter. A deep knife wound to Baxter’s arm proved fatal.

After looking at the evidence Battle believed that Will acted in self-defense, and he hired two prominent lawyers to insure that Will received justice.

The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that any slave under such provocation could only be charged with manslaughter. This challenged the 1829 State v. Mann decision which held that a master’s power was absolute.

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.


Burnt Swamp Association, Set Up in 1881 to Serve American Indians

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 06:30

On January 21, 1881, the elders of three churches met at Burnt Swamp Baptist Church in Robeson County to form what became the Burnt Swamp Association.

The formation of the group solidified what had been a strong, informal relationship. Burnt Swamp Baptist was founded in 1877 by 20 Lumbee Indians. They received encouragement from two local white churches, Raft Swamp and Clyburn Baptist. Prior to Burnt Swamp’s organization, impromptu religious meetings and revivals had been held for two decades, but no organized religion was available to the community.

At their 1885 meeting, members resolved to adopt Burnt Swamp Indian Association of the Croatan Indians as their official name, the first in a series of name changes over the years. After years of struggling to gain acceptance, the Association was admitted to the Baptist State Convention in 1929.

The Association was instrumental in the effort to develop schools for Indians in Robeson and surrounding counties. In 1887, members helped organize Croatan Normal School, the forerunner of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Today the Association includes Indian churches in nine counties in North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as in Baltimore. The Association now consists of 69 churches and a mission. The tribal groups represented include the Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Pee Dee, Coharie, Waccamaw-Siouan and Tuscarora.

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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.


Old Bute County, One for the History Books

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 06:30

A 1775 map from Davidson College showing Bute County.

On January 20, 1779, the North Carolina General Assembly abolished Bute County less than 15 years after establishing it.

The legislature had established the northeastern county in June 1764, and named it in honor of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. A Scottish nobleman, Bute was the tutor of Great Britain’s Prince George. After the prince became King George III in 1760, Bute served as the king’s advisor and eventually became prime minister.

James Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. Image from the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Carved from eastern Granville County, Bute County provided the residents of the area better access to local government. In 1766, the legislature expanded the county by annexing part of northwestern Northampton County.

By the late 1760s, though, the Earl of Bute had become very unpopular with Americans. Many blamed him personally for instituting the 1765 Stamp Act. With Bute County’s population growing, support for dividing and renaming the county grew during the mid-1770s. After two years of discussion, the General Assembly decided to divide Bute County along Shocco Creek with the northern part becoming Warren County and the southern part, Franklin County.

With the incorporation of the two new counties, Bute ceased to exist. The courthouse that once served Bute County no longer stands.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit the N.C. Department of 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 Facebook and Twitter.


Department Store Magnate Paul H. Rose

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 06:30

Paul H. Rose. Image from the State Library.

On January 19, 1955, Paul Howard Rose, founder of the chain of Rose’s discount department stores, died at age 73.

Born in 1881 in Seaboard, Rose discovered his knack for merchandising early on. At age 12, he set up a wooden packing crate outside his hometown pharmacy and sold bundles of wood, his mother’s homemade cookies and other items. After business school in Virginia, Rose opened a store in Littleton. At times his capital was so limited he used empty shoeboxes to help fill the shelves. For a time he worked as a traveling salesman. He used that experience to educate himself about competitive pricing strategies.

Rose partnered with two businessmen, purchased stock in United 5 & 10 Cent Stores and opened retail outlets in Henderson and Charlotte. The venture failed, but in 1915, Rose borrowed $500, bought a shop in Henderson and opened the first Rose’s store. Rose removed merchandise from behind counters (where it had to be retrieved by stock clerks) to shelves that shoppers could peruse at their own pace.

The entrepreneur eventually operated 280 Rose’s stores in 11 southeastern states. Today, about 106 Rose’s stores remain.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit the N.C. Department of 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 Facebook and Twitter.


Oil Transport Torpedoed by German U-boat, 1942

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 01/18/2015 - 05:30

The SS Allen Jackson. Image from the U.S. Navy Memorial.

On January 18, 1942, the Standard Oil tanker Allan Jackson was torpedoed by a German submarine 70 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras.

The vessel, transporting oil from Colombia to New York, was struck by two torpedoes. The second blast split the ship in two, spilling 7.5 million gallons of oil. Of the 35 crew members, 22 perished. The survivors told harrowing tales of clinging to scattered pieces of wreckage and trying to avoid the burning oil.

During World War II, German U-boats were a very real threat to vessels along the coast of North America. Survivors from one merchant vessel said that enemy submarines were “almost as thick as catfish” in the waters where they were attacked. In 1941 and 1942 about 100 ships were sunk at Diamond Shoals, off the coast of the Outer Banks, in what became known as the “Battle of Torpedo Junction.”

Coast Guard patrol planes, the Civil Air Patrol, antisubmarine vessels and underwater mine fields eventually brought an end to the menacing U-boat presence in North Carolina’s waters.

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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 Destruction of Fort Caswell, January 1865

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 01/17/2015 - 05:30

An 1865 sketch of Fort Caswell from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.
Image from the State Archives.

On January 17, 1865, Fort Caswell was abandoned as Confederates retreating from Fort Fisher detonated the fort’s powder magazines. The explosion destroyed the entire southeast face of the fort and damaged the western face.

A soldier quoted in The Daily North Carolinian stated “We were aroused from our slumbers at 2 o’clock yesterday morning by an explosion, which shook our office to its foundation. We have ascertained since that it was Fort Caswell, blown up by our troops after its evacuation.”

Another witness recorded from his position at what’s now Southport, “As I looked, a vivid flash of light shot through the darkness and traveled with lightning rapidity, toward the fort, and then, as if a mighty volcano had sprung its blazing contents from the sea into the sky, a great light flashed up from Caswell, accompanied by a roar and a jar that smashed the glass in our house like a wave of an earthquake.”

The 1865 explosion ended the most active period of Fort Caswell’s military history although it was occupied by troops in both the Spanish-American War and World War I.  Today the property is a retreat and conference center for the Baptist State Convention.  Remnants of the fort remain on the site.

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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.


Asheville’s “Old Kentucky Home,” Now State-Owned

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 05:30

Thomas Wolfe and his mother Julia pose on the front port of the “Old Kentury Home.” Image from N.C. Historic Sites.

On January 16, 1975, the state of North Carolina obtained Thomas Wolfe’s “Old Kentucky Home” from the city of Asheville. The boardinghouse at 48 Spruce Street was the setting for Wolfe’s first novel, Look Homeward, Angel. He renamed it “Dixieland” and incorporated his own experiences among the boarders into the novel.

The property dates at least to 1883, when Asheville banker Erwin Sluder built a smaller residence on the site. Between 1885 and 1889, Alice Johnston Reynolds, who had purchased the property from Sluder, made a massive addition to Sluder’s original structure and began operating the building as a boardinghouse in 1890. A subsequent owner, Rev. Thomas M. Myers, named it the “Old Kentucky Home” in honor of his home state.

Julia E. Wolfe, Thomas’s mother, bought the house for $6,500 in August 1906, and used it as a source of income to reinvest in real estate. Her husband, W. O. Wolfe, disliked boardinghouses and, although he went for meals and visits, rarely stayed the night. The Wolfes maintained two residences, with all the children except Tom living with their father. As the youngest child, Tom stayed with his mother at the boardinghouse.

Visit: The building is now the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, open to the public as one of 27 state historic sites.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit the N.C. Department of 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 Facebook and Twitter.


The Fall of Fort Fisher

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 05:30

The capture of Fort Fisher. Image from the State Archives.

 

On January 15, 1865Fort Fisher, nicknamed “Gilbraltar of the South,” fell to Union troops.

Built on a peninsula known as Federal Point at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, 18 miles south of Wilmington, Fort Fisher was the largest earthen fortification in the Confederacy. It guarded the port of Wilmington, and, in that capacity, was the most powerful seacoast fort in the South.

Fort Fisher was the last remaining lifeline in the closing months of the Civil War, allowing blockade runners to take advantage of the Cape Fear River to route supplies to troops inland.

On December 23 and 24, 1864, the Union Navy bombarded the fort. At the same time, the fort’s forces were reinforced with about 600 more men from Wilmington, increasing the number to around 2,000. The Union Navy attacked again on January 13, 1865. After two days, Union forces led by Gen. Alfred Terry overwhelmed the Confederate defenders led by Maj. Gen. W.H.C. Whiting and Col. William Lamb, and captured Fort Fisher.

The fall of Fort Fisher robbed Robert E. Lee’s army of its last connection to the outside and served as the beginning of the Wilmington Campaign, which also resulted in the fall of Fort Anderson and the occupation of Wilmington.

The Union attack on the fort, featured in the recent film Lincoln, was the largest amphibious attack by American forces until World War II.

Visit: Fort Fisher will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Fisher Saturday and Sunday. Check out the Friends of Fort Fisher website for parking information and a complete schedule, and don’t miss our tips on how to get the most out of the event.

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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.


Black Delegates Had Voice at 1868 Convention

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:30

Title page of the journal of the 1868 convention.

On January 14, 1868, a North Carolina constitutional convention, now known as the “Convention of 1868,” opened in Raleigh.

The convention was required by an act of Congress which ordered North Carolina to create a new state constitution. The General Assembly decided to hold a referendum in November 1867 to choose delegates to a constitutional convention to be held in early 1868.

Many former Confederate leaders had not yet taken an Oath of Allegiance to the United States and were not eligible to vote or serve. Chosen for the convention were 107 Republicans and 13 Democrats. The members of the first “Black Caucus” were all Republicans.

An 1865 drawing of Parker Robbins in the collection of the N.C. Museum of History.

The participants of the Black Caucus were not legislators, exactly. But they came together at the State Capitol in January 1868 to take part in a very important process— to expand freedom for all.

The members of this first Black Caucus were: James Walker Hood; Parker Robbins; Henry Cherry; Bryant Lee; Wilson Carey; Clinton Pierson; John H. Williamson; Cuffie Mayo; Henry Eppes; W.T.J Hayes; John Hyman; Abraham Galloway and James H. Harris.

Other related resources:

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.


St. Augustine’s: Freedmen’s School to University

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 06:30

St. Augustine’s College in 1900. Image from the Prezell R. Rboinson Library.

On January 13, 1868, classes began at Raleigh’s Saint Augustine’s University.

Episcopal Bishop Thomas Atkinson pressed for the creation of the school, originally called, St. Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, to educate teachers to serve African American children across the state and nation. Atkinson said that such a school would be indispensable to the church in its mission to assist the nation’s newly freed African American population

Brinton Smith, who had come to North Carolina from New Jersey in 1866 to aid African Americans, was hired as the school’s first principal. Many of the school’s first students were former slaves.

The national Episcopal church began to officially support the St. Augustine’s in 1907, and the school began offering junior college classes in the early 1920s. In 1928, the college gained four-year college status, conferring its first bachelor’s degrees in 1932.  St. Augustine’s was the first historically black college to develop on-campus commercial radio and television stations.

It became a university in 2012, and despite persistent financial difficulties, has remained vibrant, offering more than 30 areas of study to just under 2,000 students from around country and the world.

Check out this digital collection from the HBCU Library Alliance to see more photographs and other primary materials from Saint Augustine’s early years.

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.


Campus Hijinks at Davidson Involved X-rays, 1896

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 06:30

The first X-ray taken at Davidson College. Image courtesy of the Davidson College Archives.

On January 12, 1896, three students at Davidson College experimented with x-rays.

Six days earlier, the Associated Press announced that German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen had discovered a new form of radiation. While experimenting with cathode rays, he discovered that mysterious “x”-rays passed through a variety of objects. He put his hand in front of the rays and saw the silhouette of his bones. At the time, many physics labs had equipment to duplicate the x-ray. Henry Louis Smith, a physics professor and future president at Davidson, was the first professional in North Carolina to work with x-rays.

It was a group of Smith’s students who appear to have been the first people in the state to perform x-ray experiments. Three juniors professed to having bribed a janitor to let them into the building housing the physics equipment less than a week after Roentgen’s announcement reached America.

The students placed objects on photographic paper taking photographs, then called roentgenograms, of objects including an eggshell with a button in it, a rubber-covered magnifying glass, a cadaver’s finger, pins, cartridges and paperclips.

Years passed before the students’ escapade was made public. The original x-ray images are now housed in the Davidson College Archives.

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.


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