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Baron von Graffenreid and the Swiss Colony of New Bern

This Day in North Carolina History - 4 hours 10 min ago

Image of von Graffenreid courtesy Tryon Palace.

On October 23, 1711, Baron Christoph von Graffenreid, founder of the Swiss colony of New Bern, penned a lengthy description of his capture by the Tuscarora Indians.

In mid-September of that year, von Graffenreid and John Lawson led a surveying expedition up the Neuse River. Lawson was the Surveyor General of the colony and was well-known to the Indians. When the Indians discovered the party in their territory, and unannounced to their leader King Hancock, they captured the men and took them to the Tuscarora village of Catechna, near present-day Grifton.

The Indians were angry over encroachment on their lands and they believed the surveying party was out to take more.  Graffenreid was spared, but Lawson was executed.  Held at the village for several weeks, von Graffenreid, bargained for the safety of the New Bern colony. Nevertheless the Tuscarora, in alliance with other aggravated tribes, attacked settlements on the Pamlico, Neuse and Trent Rivers, and in the Core Sound region in what would become known as the Tuscarora War.

A drawing of von Graffenreid and John Lawson under capture by the Tuscurora. This drawing is sometimes attributed to von Graffenreid.

After his release from the Tuscarora, von Graffenreid wrote his account of the ordeal in order to explain Lawson’s fate and to clarify the promises that he made to the Indians during his capture.

Painter Elliott Daingerfield of Fayetteville, Blowing Rock and NYC

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 10/22/2016 - 05:59

On October 22, 1932, painter Elliott Daingerfield died at age 73 in New York and was buried in Cross Creek Cemetery in Fayetteville, where he was raised. Daingerfield left for New York when he turned 21 to apprentice at the National Academy of Design. He joined the Holbein Studios in 1884 where he was influenced the naturalist Barbizon School technique and by artist George Inness.

Recuperating from diphtheria in Blowing Rock in 1886, Daingerfield began painting the surrounding mountains, and built three homes, one of which, “Westglow,” today operates as a spa and is open to the public.

Daingerfield returned to the northeast and taught composition at the Philadelphia School of Design and the Art Students League in New York City. He received the National Academy of Design Clark Prize for the best figure composition in 1902, and traveled in the southwest under commission by the Santa Fe Railroad Company, painting the Grand Canyon in 1911.

His work is noted for capturing the light and mood of various scenes, and is now featured in some of leading museums of the South and the nation, including the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Smithsonian American Museum Art in Washington, D.C..

Tom Dula: Poor Boy Was Bound to Die

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 10/21/2016 - 08:29

On October 21, 1866, Tom Dula was convicted of the murder of Laura Foster.  It was at daybreak that the jury returned the verdict in the Iredell County Courthouse, where it had been moved from Wilkes County.  The jury had not received their orders from the judge until about midnight the night before. They deliberated during the night.  The defense moved for an arrest of judgment, which was overruled and the judge pronounced sentence: that Thomas Dula be hanged by the neck until dead on November 9, 1866.  Former Governor Zebulon B. Vance represented Dula pro bono.

Speculation abounded as to Vance’s reasons for taking the case, one of the few he ever lost before a jury. Regardless of his motives, he gave a spirited defense and succeeded in twice taking the case to the North Carolina Supreme Court.  The crowds of spectators and reporters that appeared in the courtroom were as likely there to see the charismatic Vance as they were to hear the sensational testimony.  Ultimately, however, the High Court upheld the conviction and Dula was hanged for the crime in May 1868.

Lincolnton Native Stephen Ramseur, Casualty of Shenandoah Campaign

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 10/20/2016 - 06:00

On October 20, 1864, Maj. Gen. Stephen Dodson Ramseur died from wounds received the previous day. Born in 1837 in Lincolnton, he attended Davidson College, where he studied mathematics briefly before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1856. There he became close friends with several future Union generals including George Armstrong Custer.

After graduation Ramseur served with the 3rd United States Artillery stationed in Washington, D.C. He never reported to his new command after a promotion in February 1861 and instead he resigned his commission and offering his services to the Confederacy.

After briefly serving with an artillery unit, Ramseur was appointed colonel of the 49th North Carolina, a regiment he led with distinction at Malvern Hill where he was severely wounded. Promoted to brigadier general and assigned a brigade in the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, he led his brigade at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. In the fall of 1864, Ramseur led his division in the Shenandoah Campaign. On October 19, 1864, he was mortally wounded at Cedar Creek, Virginia. Taken prisoner, he died the next day at Union headquarters surrounded by many of his former friends and West Point classmates including General George A. Custer.

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The Road to Yorktown via the North Carolina Piedmont

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 07:53

On October 19, 1781, Lord Cornwallis surrendered more than 8,000 troops to a combined Franco-American force at Yorktown. The surrender came on the heels of much fighting in North Carolina. From January to March 1781, Cornwallis’s army pursued troops—including some local militia—under Daniel Morgan around the state. He continued chasing Morgan’s successor Nathanael Greene, in what became known as the “Race to the Dan.”

The campaign included several skirmishes, namely Cowan’s Ford, Bruce’s Crossroads, Clapp’s Mill and Weitzell’s Mill. It culminated in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, the largest engagement fought in North Carolina during the Revolution. Although an American defeat, Cornwallis lost more than a quarter of his army; so many men that he had to retreat to British-held Wilmington. Charles Fox, a British Parliamentarian, reportedly exclaimed upon learning of Cornwallis’s losses, “Another such victory will ruin us.”

After Guilford, as Cornwallis’s army marched for Virginia, and Greene headed into South Carolina, North Carolina became a battleground for an ongoing civil war between local Patriots and Tories. Loyalist David Fanning terrorized the region, and in September captured Governor Thomas Burke and other lawmakers in a raid on Hillsborough. Fanning left North Carolina for the relative safety of the British forces at Charleston after the surrender at Yorktown.

Thomas Wolfe and “The Old Kentucky Home”

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 06:00

The Old Kentucky Home in Asheville in 1946. Photo from the State Archives

On October 18, 1929, Charles Scribner’s Sons published Look Homeward, Angel, the best-known novel by Asheville author Thomas Wolfe. Inspired by a marble angel outside his father’s monument shop on Pack Square, Wolfe wrote his first and largely autobiographical novel about the fictional Gant family wherein the father is a volatile stonecutter and the mother a business-minded boardinghouse operator.

Wolfe was only 6 when his own mother, Julia Westall Wolfe, left her husband and older children and bought the “Old Kentucky Home,” a rambling Victorian boardinghouse in downtown Asheville, to which she brought young Tom. With his family divided, Tom felt lost amongst his mother’s tenants and resentful of the changes the tourists were wreaking on his hometown.

Always aware of the life and people around him, Wolfe later turned his observations into a novel in which his mother’s boardinghouse became “Dixieland” and Asheville, the fictional town of “Altamont.”  Although names were changed, Asheville residents still recognized Wolfe’s characters as themselves and were scandalized. Only in 1937, a year before he died, did Wolfe return home to visit. He was, however, buried in Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery. His mother’s boardinghouse is now the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, one of 27 state historic sites.

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“Choo Choo” Justice Barreled Down the Football Field

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 10/17/2016 - 06:00

Justice with fellow Tarheel teammate Art Weiner in 1949. Image from the UNC-Chapel Hill Library

On October 17, 2003, football star Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice died at his home in Cherryville at the age of 79. A native of Asheville, Justice acquired his nickname in the Navy, into which he was drafted in 1943. Seeing him dodge tacklers for the Bainbridge Naval Training Center team, an officer remarked, “He looks like a runaway train. We ought to call him ‘Choo Choo.'”

After the war, Justice played for the UNC, though many other college vied for his talents. From 1946 to 1949, while Justice played for the Tar Heels, the team had a record of 39-9-2, went to three bowl games and even achieved a number one ranking in the AP Top 10. Justice was named National Player of the Year in 1948, was runner up for the Heisman Trophy in 1948 and 1949 and remains in the record books at UNC for a number of achievements.

Justice played for the Washington Redskins in the National Football League in 1950 and again between 1952 and 1954, before retiring to work in the oil business and then in the insurance industry. He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1963.

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Dorton Arena Dedicated in 1961

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 10/16/2016 - 06:00

Dorton Arena against the backdrop of the 1962 N.C. State Fair.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History

On October 16, 1961, the Livestock Judging Pavilion at the North Carolina State Fair was dedicated and renamed the J. S. Dorton Arena, honoring the memory of “Doc” Dorton, a longtime fairgrounds manager who had died earlier that year.

Internationally recognized for its revolutionary architectural design, the arena opened in 1952. Its soaring, criss-crossed parabolic arched roof amazed fairgoers right from the start. The innovative creation was the work of Matthew Nowicki, a Polish architect who was then head of of the architecture department at what is now N.C. State’s School of Design.

Nowicki had sketched the building’s preliminary drawings in 1950, prior to his departure for India where he was engaged in planning the new Punjab capital city of Chandigarh. Returning to the United States, he was killed in a plane crash in Egypt, and Raleigh architect William Dietrick carried out the construction of Nowicki’s visionary work. Recipient of the first American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1953, and recognized as a National Civil Engineering Landmark, the arena was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 for its exceptional national significance only 21 years after its construction.

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Alfred Moore, Soldier and Supreme Court Justice

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 10/15/2016 - 06:34

On October 15, 1810, Alfred Moore, Revolutionary War officer and associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, died. Born in 1755 in New Hanover County, Moore was descended from the early settlers of the Cape Fear region and was the grandson of the founder of Brunswick Town.

During the Revolutionary War, Moore was commissioned as a captain in the First North Carolina Continental Regiment. He saw action at Brunswick Town, Moore’s Creek Bridge and Charleston before resigning and returning home to manage the family estates. At the war’s conclusion, Moore began a lengthy career in public service, first as a state senator from Brunswick County, and then as state attorney general. He resigned that position in 1791 to return to the state assembly a year later. In 1795, he ran for a United States Senate seat, but lost.

In October 1799, President John Adams appointed Moore an associate justice to the United States Supreme Court upon the death of Justice James Iredell. Moore retired from the Supreme Court in 1804 due to ill health.  He is buried in the graveyard of St. Phillips Church in Brunswick Town, and Moore County is named in his honor.

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Randall Jarrell, “War Poet”

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 10/14/2016 - 06:29

On October 14, 1965, poet Randall Jarrell was struck and killed by a car while walking at dusk along the side of NC 54 Bypass. At the time, Jarrell was staying in the hospital in Chapel Hill recovering from a suicide attempt and being treated with antidepressants. Jarrell left behind nine volumes of poetry, four books of literary criticism, four children’s books, five anthologies, a novel and a reputation as a brilliant, if troubled, writer.

Born in 1914 in Nashville, Tenn., Jarrell attended Vanderbilt University where he captained the tennis team and studied under Robert Penn Warren. Hoping to become a pilot, Jarrell entered the Army Air Force in 1942.  He failed to qualify and served as a celestial navigation instructor for the remainder of the war.  From that experience came Jarrell’s best known poem, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,” ending with the line “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.”

In the fall of 1947 Jarrell began teaching at what is now UNC-Greensboro, where he would live and work for the remainder of his life.

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“General” Julian Carr and Tobacco in Durham

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 10/13/2016 - 13:28

On October 13, 1845, tobacco magnate Julian S. Carr was born in Chapel Hill.  After serving in the Confederate cavalry and returning to a hometown largely in decline, Carr pursued business interests in nearby Durham. In 1870, he joined two partners there in the manufacture of Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco. Owing to Carr’s marketing skills, the brand and its hometown became internationally famous. Tobacco was only the first of his successful businesses, which also included banking and textiles.

Carr’s interests extended well beyond business. A generous philanthropist, he supported the education of a number individuals, provided the funds for a dormitory at UNC and helped establish Trinity College, the forerunner to Duke. As a politician, he was less successful; he failed in runs for the governorship and the U.S. Senate mostly because he refused to play hardball.

Despite his political failings, Carr was one of the most popular North Carolinians of his era. He was often called General Carr, and following the death of his wife Nannie in 1915, he was courted heavily. He often signed notes to female admirers as “Your Sweetheart General.”

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Old East, UNC-Chapel Hill Landmark

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 10/12/2016 - 11:24

An image of Old East from the State Historic Preservation Office

On October 12, 1793, Grand Master Mason and future North Carolina governor William R. Davie helped lay the cornerstone of Old East, the nation’s oldest state university building and a dormitory at UNC-Chapel Hill for nearly 220 years.

The brick building housed the university’s first student, Hinton James, in 1795, and the future eleventh U.S. president, James K. Polk. Over the years Old East has also held classrooms and offices. It was home to the university library from 1853 through 1869.

Set at the crest of McCorkle Place, the structure originally stood two stories tall but had a third floor added in 1824 to mirror Old West, another dormitory constructed opposite it.  The “north towers” added to both buildings in 1848 became the library and debating chambers for the university’s two literary societies. Old East was home to the Philanthropic Society (the “Phi”), which took in students from eastern North Carolina, while Old West housed the Dialectic Society (the “Di”), which claimed students from the western half of the state.

Condemned as unsafe in 1922, Old East was extensively remodeled in that year and again between 1991 and 1993, when air conditioning and elevators were added.  It became a National Historic Landmark in 1966. 

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World War I Medal of Honor Recipient Robert Blackwell

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 10/11/2016 - 06:00

On October 11, 1918, Person County native Robert Lester Blackwell was killed when he attempted to
deliver a message asking for help for his unit near St. Souflet, France.

Blackwell’s unit had been cut off from the remainder of the force engaged in battle and was exposed to artillery and machine gun fire. The platoon commander ordered that a messenger be sent back for help; that man was promptly killed as was the second person sent behind him. Blackwell volunteered for the task and also lost his life. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The citation commended Blackwell for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.”

Blackwell’s father received the award in a ceremony in the State Capitol. Governor Thomas Bickett spoke, noting that no medal could compensate for Blackwell’s death. The family subsequently donated the medal to what is now the North Carolina Museum of History. Blackwell was one of two North Carolinians to receive the medal in World War I, the other being Samuel I. Parker. Blackwell also received the Cross of War from both the Portuguese and Italian governments.

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Opening of Palmer Memorial Institute

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 10/10/2016 - 06:20

The entire Palmer Institute student body in front of Memorial Hall in 1910. Image from the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum

On October 10, 1902, the Palmer Memorial Institute, a preparatory school for African-Americans, opened in Sedalia. Founded by scholar Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, the school was dedicated to providing educational opportunities for blacks in rural North Carolina.

The Palmer Institute baseball team in 1920. Image from the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum

In its early years the school’s curriculum focused on the industrial and domestic sciences and included grades ranging from elementary to high school. Once the first public school for African-American students opened in Sedalia, Palmer closed its elementary program and evolved into a college preparatory school. To compensate for the loss of local students to the public school, it began recruiting top students from out-of-state.  In addition to providing a stellar academic curriculum, PMI also emphasized the importance of proper etiquette and training in the arts.

The school, which educated more than 2,000 students during its history, was forced to close its doors in 1971. In 1987, after much campaigning by Dr. Brown’s family, friends and former students, the state of North Carolina bought the campus and created the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Memorial State Historic Site.

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