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W. H. Thomas’s “Legion of Indians and Mountaineers”

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 9, 1862, William Holland Thomas joined the Confederate army and brought his Cherokee recruits with him. Thomas’s Legion, as Thomas and his men came to be known, was a Civil War unit unlike any other. Made up of both whites and Cherokees, the Legion fought in western North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

A native of Waynesville, Thomas became close to the Cherokees at an early age and was adopted into their tribe. He studied law and successfully represented the tribe against the federal government during Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal efforts.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Thomas recruited soldiers from the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee to serve in the Confederate army. His Legion was made up of several infantry and artillery units, including an Indian Battalion. After fighting throughout the region, Thomas’s Legion was given the task of protecting the local people in the North Carolina mountains, a task made especially difficult by the high concentrations of active Union sympathizers in the area.

Toward the end of the war, Thomas negotiated the surrender of his troops in Waynesville. When his men returned home, the region was still a no-man’s-land with pro-Union and pro-Confederate factions skirmishing throughout the area.

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Baseball Legend “Catfish” Hunter

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 8, 1946, famed baseball player James “Catfish” Hunter was born in Perquimans County.

Though Hunter excelled in a variety of sports in high school, his pitching skill was what stood out. Word spread fast, and soon major league scouts began to make the trip to Hertford to see him play. Though wounds from a hunting accident jeopardized Hunter’s prospects in the eyes of many professional scouts, the Kansas City Athletics had faith in the young pitcher and signed him to a contract.

Hunter was an immediate success with Kansas City, earning his first major league victory in July 1965 in Fenway Park in Boston. He pitched a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins after the Athletics moved to Oakland in 1968. After a contract dispute in 1974, he left the Athletics for the New York Yankees. He was the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed with the team in 1975. After retiring from baseball in 1979, Hunter returned to his native Herford, where he lived until his death in 1999.

Hunter’s numerous accolades include spots in the National Baseball and North Carolina Sports Halls of Fame, five World Series titles, and eight All-Star team appearances.

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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.

Karastan Rugs, Product of Carolina

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 8, 1928, the first machine-made oriental design rug came off the loom in Leaksville in Rockingham County. Branded Karastan, the process used to make the rug replicated the detailed craftsmanship of a hand-woven rug.

The Karastan method has its roots in 1912 when retailer Marshall Field acquired several textile mills in Rockingham County. His employee Eugene Clark, a New England inventor, began to modify a spool Axminster power loom in 1926 to pull pile yarns through the back, making it possible to weave up to 50 colors with a soft feel and hand-knotted appearance on both sides.

The advanced manufacturing process led to Karastan rugs becoming known as “mystery rugs.” At the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago more than 5 million people walked on a large Karastan traditional Persian-patterned rug, which when cleaned displayed its original luster, earning the brand a reputation for producing ”wonder rugs.”

Karastan expanded to produce carpets woven with its innovative Kara-loc process and on computer controlled Van de Wiele Wilton looms. Now a subsidiary of Mohawk Industries, Karastan still makes wool rugs in Eden and is the only U.S. maker of Axminster spool rugs.

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.

Poor Naomi Wise, “Sacrificed to the Beast in Man”

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/14/2017 - 01:00

On April 8, 1808, Jonathan Lewis was arrested for the murder of Naomi Wise. Wise, an orphan, cook and an occasional field hand noted for her beauty and her innocence, lived in the household of William Adams in Randolph County. Lewis was a frequent visitor to the Adams house.

Courting Naomi while promising marriage to another woman, Lewis led the pregnant Wise to the Deep River and pushed her off a bluff, drowning her. Jailed in Asheboro, he escaped and made his way to Ohio. He was eventually tracked down by a bounty hunter and returned North Carolina, where he was acquitted of murdering Wise for lack of evidence. Legend has it that he confessed to the crime on his deathbed.

Much of what we know of the murder comes from an account by Braxton Craven, president of nearby Trinity College, who researched the story. Craven based his 1851 retelling of crime on the memories of local residents. Lewis, by Craven’s account, was a “merciless wretch, a hyena.”

The site of Wise’s death came to be known as Naomi Falls. The story was brought to people nationwide largely through the folk ballad, “Naomi Wise,” which was a favorite of Doc Watson’s.  Like “Tom Dooley” and “Frankie and Johnny,” the song relates the story of a North Carolina murder with drama and pathos.

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.