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James Davis of New Bern, Fit to Print

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 06/24/2016 - 06:30

On June 24, 1749, James Davis, a printer trained in Williamsburg, Virginia, printed the first official publication for the colony of North Carolina at the colony’s official press in New Bern.

Although printers had been active in some colonies for more than 100 years, North Carolina delayed acquiring a press. The provincial government liked to control the distribution of information and feared challenges to its authority, and the colony didn’t have the dense population necessary to finance a press.

Nearby printing presses in Williamsburg and Charleston also made it relatively easy to farm out the work that needed to be done.

A $10 bill printed by Davis in 1778. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Complaints by Royal Governor Gabriel Johnston in 1736 prompted the Assembly to begin the process of hiring a printer and acquiring the press. In 1747, Johnston appointed James Davis to the position of public printer. Davis came to North Carolina specifically for the job and held it for 33 years. He printed at least 100 titles during that time. His first task in the job was likely the printing of currency.

The colony’s first official publication, published in June 1749, was the Journal of the House of Burgesses of the Province of North Carolina.

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.


R. Stanhope Pullen, Philanthropist and Benefactor

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

A plaque honoring Pullen’s contributions on Pullen Hall on N.C. State’s Campus. Image from NCSU Libraries.

On June 23, 1895, Raleigh’s R. Stanhope Pullen, an astute capitalist who conducted business on his own terms, died. Pullen was widely known for the generous gifts he gave to North Carolina.

Born in the Wake County community of Neuse in 1822, Pullen moved to Raleigh in 1852. There he managed the finances of his widowed aunt Penelope Smith. Upon her death, Smith made Pullen her principal heir and his investments in real estate made him a wealthy man.

In 1872, then-closed Peace Institute (now William Peace University) was mortgaged to Pullen. He organized a new charter and offered most of the stock to the Presbyterians. As a member of Edenton Street Methodist Church, Pullen was the largest donor of money that paid for a new church structure.

In 1887, Pullen donated 80 acres to Raleigh for a park, now named Pullen Park in his honor. In that same year, he made a gift of land next to the park for the North Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts (now North Carolina State University.)

R. T. Gray and Pullen also donated the original 10 acres for the Normal and Industrial School in Greensboro (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro).

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 Aberdeen and Rockfish, An Independent Rail Line

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

A&R’s original yard in Aberdeen, circa 1900. Image from the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad Company.

On June 22, 1892, the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad (A&R) Company was organized by Moore County resident and Civil War veteran John Blue

Blue sought to build the line because he needed a way to transport to market the timber and turpentine he was harvesting from his largest holdings in the Aberdeen area. Construction began almost immediately after Blue established the company and continued into the early 1900s. The line reached its original terminus in Rockfish, a small community in Hoke County, in 1902.

As the company’s logging business began to decline, the railroad began two extensions, one southwest from Raeford to Wagram, and another northeast from Rockfish to Fayetteville. The first extension was ultimately sold, but the second proved successful and remains part of the Aberdeen and Rockfish line to this day.

A&R did away with its passenger service in 1921, but continued a rail motor bus service commonly called the “jitney” to handle mail and carry passengers until 1950.

The A&R line was a vital link for carrying passengers and freight to Fort Bragg during World War II, and continued to innovate throughout the 20th century. It was among the first railroads to use diesel power for freight trains, harness radio for train operations and computerize its accounting systems.

Today, the company’s 46 miles of track are still owned and operated by Blue’s descendants despite the widespread consolidation across the industry.

Visit: The N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer interprets the history of railroads and other methods of Tar Heel transportation.

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 School of the Arts, Pride of Winston-Salem and North Carolina

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

William Ball leads a drama class at NCSA, circa 1965.-66 Photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Archives.

On June 21, 1963, what’s now the UNC School of Arts (UNCSA) was chartered by the General Assembly as the nation’s first public arts conservatory.

The idea for the school—known until 2008 as the North Carolina School of the Arts (NCSA)—came from then Governor Terry Sanford and Asheville-born author John Ehle.

In addition to providing a $325,000 appropriation, the 1963 legislation established an advisory board of nationally-renowned artists to select a site for the school. The board sought a community that would be engaged with the school, and the citizens of Winston-Salem responded by raising more than $850,000 for the new institution in a two-day phone drive.

The original sign used for NCSA at the Chapel Street entrance, circa 1965. Photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Archives.

High school and undergraduate level classes began in September 1965 on the old campus of Winston-Salem’s Gray High School. The school’s first chancellor was composer and Julliard School instructor Vittorio Giannini.

A $1.5 million challenge grant from the Ford Foundation helped NCSA expand its offerings, and the school became part of the UNC system in 1972. Throughout the 1980s, NCSA continued to expand its offerings, adding its first graduate program in 1982.

Today, UNCSA is one of the nation’s premier creative and performing arts conservatories offering programs across five disciplines—dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking and music.

For more, check out a guide to the school’s history, which features a timeline, important early documents and more on the UNCSA Archives website.

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.


Thomas F. Price, Co-Founder of the Maryknoll Fathers

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

Price (far left) with Maryknoll co-founder James A. Walsh and other Maryknoll Fathers. Image from the Maryknoll Mission Archives.

On June 20, 1886, Thomas F. Price was ordained a Catholic priest and assigned to St. Paul’s in New Bern. He served as pastor there for nine years before departing for Raleigh, where he became the head of Sacred Heart Church.

While in Raleigh, Price became enmeshed in missionary works and founded Nazareth House, an orphanage. In 1904 and again in 1910, Price lectured about his missionary methods at the meetings of the Catholic Missionary Union and developed the concept of establishing a permanent American seminary for foreign missionaries.

The school was ultimately developed at a site in Maryknoll, New York, and in 1915 received a “Decree of Praise” from Pope Pius X. Following World War I, Maryknoll priests departed for their first assignment in southern China. Price went with them, but a year later he died from complications associated with appendicitis.

He was buried initially in Hong Kong, but in 1936 his remains were returned to Maryknoll where they are interred at the chapel of the Mother House of the Missionary Society.

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.


Springs Altered Race History

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

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.

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.


He Met Her on the Mountain and There He Took Her Life

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 06/18/2016 - 06:30

A court document from Dula’s murder trial. Image from the State Archives.

On June 18, 1866, the body of Laura Foster was found in a shallow grave in Wilkes County. She had been stabbed in the chest and reportedly was pregnant at the time of her death

Foster had last been seen on May 25 riding a horse down Stony Fork Road. Tom Dula, who had liaisons with both Foster and Ann Melton, was charged with her murder. Dula, a Confederate veteran, was returned to North Carolina from Tennessee, where he had fled.

Melton and Dula were brought to trial for murder during the fall term of Wilkes County court, but a change of venue moved the trial to Iredell County. Dula was convicted but Melton was found not guilty. The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned Dula’s conviction and he was tried again in January 1868 only to be convicted a second time. This time the verdict was sustained by the Supreme Court.

Dula was hanged in May 1868 in Statesville. The subject of mountain folk ballads sung even before his execution, Dula and Foster were immortalized in the best-selling “ Tom Dooley,” recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1958.

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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.


The Vagabond Players and Robroy Farquhar

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 06/17/2016 - 06:30

A historical view of the Flat Rock Playhouse. Image from the New York Public Library.

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.

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.


Miranda’s Plans for Tryon Palace Recovered

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

Plans for Tryon Palace developed by architect John Hawks. Image from the Office of Archives and History.

On June 16, 1783, Francisco de Miranda visited Tryon Palace. The Venezuelan revolutionary soldier, scholar and world traveler evaded political arrest in Havana, Cuba, by coming to the United States.

Arriving in New Bern on June 10, he stayed in a local tavern for about a month. Miranda, a lifelong journal keeper, recorded his thoughts and impressions of places he visited. Of his trip to New Bern, he mentions a barbeque held in town to celebrate the end of the Revolution. Attended by common folk, gentry and government officials, the event, in Miranda’s eyes, was democracy in its purest sense.

Francisco de Miranda.

Miranda’s journals now reside in an archives in Caracas. When research began for the restoration of Tryon Palace in the 1940s, historians consulted them and found a reference to the original drawings of the garden but not the drawings themselves.

In 1991, researchers renewed efforts to obtain copies of the drawings and finally succeeded.

Despite the landmark find, the documentary evidence in the drawings was not straightforward and conflicts with other historical evidence that remains about the Palace gardens. The decision was made not to alter the current landscape until additional research was done, and none of the historic garden plans have ever been implemented at the Palace. 

Visit: Tryon Palace Historic Sites and Gardens is open to the public seven days a week.

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.


G. W. Creef and the Shad Boat

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

George Washington Creef at work on a shad boat at the Creef Boatworks at Wanchese, circa 1890s. Image from the N.C. Maritime Museums.

On June 15, 1987, the shad boat was designated as North Carolina’s official state historical boat.

The legislation was introduced by Senator Marc Basnight of Dare County – the state’s easternmost county –which in addition to bordering the ocean, is flanked by a number of sounds where shad boats were employed by local fishermen.

The design originated with boat builder George Washington Creef, Sr. who crafted the vessel in his boat building shed on Roanoke Island in the years following the Civil War. The shad boat was used to retrieve fish from pound nets and was particularly suited for navigating the shallow sounds and weathering unpredictable wind shifts.

Shad boats were built from native white cedar, which grows in abundance on the Dare County mainland and is prized for its light weight and ability to resist rot. The small watercraft featured a rounded hull and were powered by three sails–a main sail, a jib and a topsail.

The advent of the gasoline engine and rising price of materials caused shad boats to fall out of vogue by the 1930s.

Visit: The North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort has a collection of shad boats, including an original built by George Washington Creef, Sr.

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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.


John Scott Trotter, Arranger for Bing Crosby and Charlie Brown

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

Trotter standing at a conducting podium holding a baton while looking down at music with an unidentified man. Image from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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.


Bob Scott Followed Father Kerr Into Executive Mansion

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

Governor Bob Scott’s official portrait. Image from the State Archives.

On June 13, 1929, Governor Robert W. Scott was born in Alamance County to family active in the state’s political and social life.

After attending school at Duke and N.C. State, Scott returned home to manage his family’s dairy farm. He served in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps in Asia before being elected the state’s lieutenant governor in 1964.

Elected to the state’s top job in 1968, Scott became the second governor in North Carolina history (after Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr.) to follow his father into office.

Scott’s signature achievement was a reorganization of state government and a realignment of the state’s system of higher education. He consolidated more than 300 state agencies and offices into 17 cabinet-level departments and centralized the state’s public universities in one system.

Scott also helped institute a kindergarten program, increased vocational education in the high schools and resolved conflicts arising from court-ordered busing to achieve racial integration.

At the close of his term as governor, Scott became vice president of the N. C. Agribusiness Council. He went on to co-chair the Appalachian Regional Commission, to unsuccessfully challenge Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. in the Democratic primary for governor in 1980 and to serve as president of the state’s community college system.

Scott’s governorship marked the end of a 72-year Democratic monopoly on the office.

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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.


U.S. Army Rounds Up Cherokees, 1838

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

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.


Tobias Knight, Charged with Accessory to Piracy

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

A will associated with Knight now held by the State Archives.

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.

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.


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