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P. T. Barnum Begins to Organize Circus

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 12, 1836, Phineas Taylor “P. T.” Barnum arrived in Rocky Mount after leaving Aaron Turner’s Traveling Circus, for whom he managed the side show acts and took tickets.  Barnum convinced some of the Turner acts to join his own traveling circus.

Their first stop was in Rocky Mount Falls (now Rocky Mount).  Arriving on a Saturday evening, Barnum spent the night at the Stage Coach Inn. In his autobiography, Barnum wrote that, the next morning, he accompanied the landlord to the Baptist church.

Before entering the church, Barnum noticed a grove with a stand and benches. Desiring to speak to the congregation, Barnum was permitted by the preacher to speak for a half an hour after the service.

Approximately 300 people stayed to listen to Barnum preach. While not yet known as the Greatest Showman on Earth— it is reported that the crowd was certainly pleased with his performance.

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State’s Confederate Vets Defend Their Honor, 1904

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 12, 1903, the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association appointed a committee to investigate and report on the various claims made about North Carolina’s involvement in the Civil War.

The following spring the group received the committee’s report, boasting that North Carolinians indeed had been “First at Bethel, Farthest at Gettysburg, Farthest at Chickamauga, and Last at Appomattox,” as a popular saying coined by editor and state Supreme County Justice Walter Clark suggested.

Specifically, the saying refers to claims that:

  • The First North Carolina Volunteers were instrumental at the Battle of Bethel in Virginia, and that Henry Lawson Wyatt from Edgecombe County was the first solider to die in a major Civil War conflict,
  • North Carolina soldiers advanced the greatest distance during Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg,
  • The 58th North Carolina Troops advanced far behind enemy lines at the Battle of Chickamauga and
  • Company D of the 30th North Carolina Troops fired the last shots at Appomattox before Lee’s April 1865 surrender

Just as Gov. Charles B. Aycock sought to redeem the state from a legacy of ignorance, the members of the association sought to raise the cultural awareness of citizens. Early leaders made it their task to “correct printed misrepresentations about the state.” J. Bryan Grimes, who took office as Secretary of State when Aycock was governor, persuaded the Literary and Historical Association to answer perceived slights.

The specific claims the report sought to prove were intended to counter competing claims made by Virginians. A substantial publication on the topic, with documentation and first-hand accounts, appeared in 1904 under the auspices of the North Carolina Historical Commission.

Though the group endorsed all four claims, we know now that they aren’t easily provable.

The full report is available online through the State Library’s State Publications Digital Collection.

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.

Jesse Helms and “Viewpoint”

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 11, 1976, WRAL-TV broadcast the last segment of Viewpoint, a nightly series of political editorials, which ran on the station for nearly 16 years.

One of the first televised outlets for punditry in North Carolina, Viewpoint was a springboard for the growing conservative movement. For Jesse Helms, it became a podium to spread his own politically conservative views on topics such as integration and national defense, as the world around him was changing drastically.

Viewpoint’s nearly 3,000 episodes aired on Raleigh’s CBS affiliate every weekday after the evening news broadcast and again the next morning. The program was also syndicated to the Tobacco Network, which then included more than 60 radio stations statewide.

Viewpoint helped usher in political change across the state. In 1970, Helms announced on Viewpoint that he would be changing his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican, boosting the political shift in North Carolina’s electorate.

The final broadcast of Viewpoint aired four years after Helms left television to campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in 1972.

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.

Long-Delayed Dedication of NCSU Belltower, 1949

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 11, 1949, the Memorial Belltower, a prominent landmark on the campus of North Carolina State University, was dedicated. Gov. Gregg Cherry was one of the many dignitaries in attendance.

Conceived as a memorial to those alumni who died in service to the country during World War I, the Belltower is a symbol of the university and a gathering point for the campus community. The cornerstone was laid in 1921, with sections added in 1924, 1925 and 1926.

Despite the Great Depression and World War II, construction continued through the 1930s and 1940s. The Depression-era federal Works Progress Administration program supplied the funds to complete construction of the stone tower in 1937, and the class of 1938 donated a clock and the class of 1939 added flood lighting.

Subsequent alterations include the addition of chimes, a shrine room and a memorial plaque. The plaque lists 35 alumni who died, but one name was listed in error. That name was changed and left on the plaque to represent the unknown soldiers from NSCU and elsewhere.

Students have been raising funds since 2008 to install real bells in the tower.

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.

Remembering Veterans

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

Each November 11,  Americans celebrate Veterans Day, which was once called Armistice Day. The date marks the end of World War I, fought by America in 1917 and 1918.

The United States was unprepared to fight a war in Europe. The army was small and short of men, weapons and equipment. President Woodrow Wilson used the draft to increase the size of the army. Training camps were set up, but there were not enough rifles, uniforms or artillery.

Soldiers had to practice with sticks for rifles and pine logs for cannon. It took almost a year before America had any troops ready to fight. North Carolina sent more 86,000 soldiers overseas to fight for the United States.

World War I, once called the Great War, is an important chapter in the history of both North Carolina and of the country at-large. At the time, Americans thought it would be the “war to end all wars.” But it was not.

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Drexel and the Furniture Maker That Took Its Name

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 10, 1903, Drexel Furniture was founded by six partners in the small Burke County town of Drexel. One of the partners, Samuel Huffman, managed the business until his death in 1935. At that time, his son Robert took control of the operation.

Robert transformed the enterprise from a small one manufacturing mostly low-cost pieces to one of the leading producers of traditional and modern furniture in the country. Throughout the 1950s, the company acquired a number of its competitors and, in the 1960s, it secured several lucrative contracts with the U.S. State Department and schools and hospitals that literally took the brand around the world.

In the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the company changed hands a number of times, eventually becoming part of the massive Masco Corporation which sells a variety of home improvement and construction products.

Today, the company is a division of Furniture Brands International, which owns a number of other North Carolina companies including Broyhill, Hickory Chair and Thomasville.

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James Murray and the Argyll Colony

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 10, 1739, Wilmington merchant James Murray wrote his friend Henry McCulloh about the promising prospect for settlement by Scots in the upper Cape Fear region. Murray himself had been in America for only four years and wished to see his fellow Scots populate the backcountry.

The lands that Murray promoted became the Argyll Colony. That name is best known today for a knitted sock pattern but originates from a county in western Scotland. In 1740, five leaders of the colony petitioned the Assembly for an exemption from taxes in order that their numbers might flourish.

The new immigrants became the vanguard for a wave of settlers and, by the 1770s, Highland Scots comprised about a third of the population of the Cape Fear region. The lower Cape Fear area became known as the “Valley of the Scots.”

Murray was an ally of colonial governor Gabriel Johnston, also a Scot. He kept his home at “Point Repose” north of Wilmington and grew rice and indigo on his land. Among North Carolina’s leading Loyalists, Murray went into exile in Nova Scotia after the Revolutionary War and died there in 1781.

Learn more about the impact of Scottish settlers in North Carolina on NCpedia.

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.

Just Happy to Be Here: Donna Fargo

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 10, 1945, Yvonne Vaughan, better known by her later stage name Donna Fargo, was born in Mount Airy.

After growing up in North Carolina, Vaughan moved to California, where she finished college and began teaching English by day and singing in Los Angeles clubs by night. She met Dan Silver who agreed to be her manager and, shortly, her singing career took off.

In 1966, the couple, who would eventually marry, moved to Phoenix. There she adopted the name Donna Fargo and began recording. Although she had not achieved wide commercial success, Fargo was named the Academy of Country Music’s “Top New Female Vocalist” in 1969.

Fargo, who wrote her own songs, signed with Dot records in 1972 and released “The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA,” which topped the county music chart and peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. Her follow-up song, “Funny Face,” performed even better. Both were proclaimed gold records.

The next year Fargo logged more country music hits, won a Grammy Award and was named “Top Female Vocalist” by the Academy of Country Music.  Her songs have been recorded by a variety of artists.

In 2015, a section of highway in Mount Airy was named in her honor, billed as “the Happiest Road in the Whole USA.”

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Wilmington Race Riots

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 10, 1898, the year’s white supremacy campaign culminated with a race riot in Wilmington, marking the onset of the Jim Crow era of segregation in the state. Though traditionally termed a “race riot,” many have called the event a massacre.

In the days preceding the November election, a local citizen named Alfred Mooree Waddell called for the removal of the Republicans and Populists then in power in Wilmington. He proposed in a speech that the white residents, if necessary, “choke the Cape Fear with carcasses.” Adding to Wilmington’s trouble was Alex Manly’s writings in the Daily Record, a local black-owned newspaper.

Tensions came to a head on November 10, when Waddell led about 500 white men to the Daily Record office. In expectation of violence, Manly, along with many other black citizens had already fled the city. The mob broke into the building, a fire broke out, and the top floor of the building was consumed. The crowd swelled to nearly 2,000 as it moved across town, spreading violence. The number of dead is disputed but the coroner’s office reported fourteen.

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Alexander H. Stephens Visited the Wilmington Arms Factory

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 9, 1861, Confederate vice president Alexander H. Stephens visited the Wilmington Arms Factory and “made a spirited address” while holding a sword and lance. He promised to carry the weapons to other parts of the Confederacy to show others what “the Old North State was doing.”

Louis Froelich and a partner opened the factory that month, offering swords, bayonets, lances and bowie knives. They soon renamed the company “C.S.A. Arms Factory.”

By the summer of 1862, Froelich was sole owner of the factory. A yellow fever epidemic that July killed most of his workers, and a fire the following February destroyed the main building. Shortly afterwards, Froelich moved his remaining operations to Kenansville. Three months later, a Federal expedition burned the factory to the ground.

Froelich rebounded, and by November 1863 the factory was again operational. Today, Froelich swords, of which only a few dozen are known to remain, are some of the most rare and valuable Confederate artifacts.

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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.

Aviator Louise Thaden and the Ninety-Nines

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 9, 1979, Louise Thaden, early aviation pioneer, died of a heart attack in High Point.

One of the first women to make flying her business, Thaden flew her first solo flight and received her pilot’s license in 1927. By 1928 she set the woman’s altitude record at 20,260 feet, and the next year she claimed the woman’s endurance record after flying for 22 hours, 3 minutes and 28 seconds. That same year she was the first woman to win the National Air Races.

She continued to set records until retiring in 1938 to spend more time with her family. That year Thaden published her autobiography, High, Wide and Frightened about her time in the early days of aviation.

In 1929, Thaden teamed up with Amelia Earhart and Ruth Nichols to found the Ninety-Nines, a group whose aim was to provide inspiration and fellowship to female pilots.

One of the great ladies of the Golden Age of Aviation, Thaden was born in Arkansas in 1905. She and her husband moved to High Point in 1956 and established Thaden Engineering, which was a company for developmental engineering in plastics. She remained active in local aviation unit her death.

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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.

Floyd McKissick and Soul City

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 9, 1973, civil rights activist Floyd McKissick broke ground on Soul City in rural Warren County.

The Soul City project sought to improve the economic prospects of underprivileged African Americans by providing them with affordable housing and creating an alternative to urban slums. Warren County was chosen for the project because it was one of the poorest areas in the state.

McKissick, the driving force behind the project, was the first African American man to go to law school at the University of North Carolina and thought that economic power was the first step to political freedom. The project received several million dollars in support from the state and federal government, as well as from private donors.

The first facility constructed at Soul City was an impressive water system and factory named SoulTech I.  However the project was largely derailed by a 1975 exposé in the News & Observer that charged McKissick with corruption. Even though the accusations were found to be false, the controversy that surrounded the article led the project to be audited and caused it lose support from the business community.

The project fell into a slump and effectively ended when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development withdrew its support in 1979.

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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.

Medical Pioneer S. S. Satchwell

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 9, 1882, Solomon S. Satchwell, physician and founding member of the Medical Society of North Carolina, died in Burgaw.

During the 1850s, Satchwell became one of the preeminent physicians in the state. In 1852, he reported to the Medical Society on his malaria research, determining that the disease was the number one killer of people in the South. He recognized the correlation between bodies of stagnant water and the disease, but did not surmise that the disease was transmitted by mosquitoes.

From 1854 to 1856, Satchwell served as the Society’s secretary and later president, and, in 1858, he was one of the main proponents for the publication of the Medical Journal of North Carolina. The following year he successfully lobbied the state legislature for the authorization of a state board of medical examiners. Throughout his career, he worked diligently to improve the status of the medical profession in North Carolina.

During the Civil War, Satchwell served as the head surgeon at the Confederate hospital at Wilson. After the war, he opened a private practice in Pender County. He remained working in the medical field until his death, and he is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.

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Medal of Honor Recipient Lawrence Joel

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 8, 1965, Specialist/SFC Lawrence Joel of Winston-Salem, a Korean War veteran, began a routine patrol near Bien Hoa, Vietnam. Joel and his unit, the 1st Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry, were ambushed by a Viet Cong battalion that outnumbered them six to one. Wounded twice by machine gun fire, Joel, who was a medic, bandaged his wounds, self-administered a shot of morphine and continued to tend to his unit’s many wounded paratroopers.

The fighting continued for nearly 24 hours and, during that time, Joel put his life at to risk to save the wounded in his company and another unit. After the battle he spent three months in Saigon and Tokyo hospitals before returning to the United States.

In March 1967, Joel received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was the first medical aidman to ever receive the award, the first living African American to receive the award since the Spanish American War, the first enlisted man to receive the award from President Johnson and the first soldier from Winston-Salem to be so honored.

A career soldier, Lawrence Joel retired from the service in 1973 and died in 1984. He is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

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.

Military-Political Leader Richard Caswell

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 8, 1789, Richard Caswell, the first governor of the independent state of North Carolina, suffered a stroke that led to his death.

Before becoming governor, Caswell served as a member of the colonial assembly for 21 years. In 1771, he led part of Governor William Tryon’s army in its defeat of the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance. With the approach of the Revolution, Caswell was made a commander of militia and led his brigade in the decisive victory over Loyalist forces at Moores Creek Bridge.

When the Fifth Provincial Congress convened at Halifax late in 1776, Caswell served as its presiding officer and as chairman of the committee to draft the state’s constitution. He was elected to the first of three successive one-year terms allowable under the Constitution.

When his third term as governor expired in April 1780, Caswell was pressed into duty as commander of the state militia. He was elected to the state Senate in 1780 and served there for the next four years.

Caswell returned to the governorship in November 1784, and was reelected to that post in both of the next two years. After reaching three-consecutive term limit, Caswell was elected to the state Senate in 1789.

Caswell died in Fayetteville after suffering a stroke in the Senate chamber. He is buried near Kinston at the CSS Neuse/Governor Caswell Memorial.

Photographer Ignatius Brock of Asheville

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

On November 8, 1950, internationally-renowned photographer and painter Ignatius Brock died at age 83.

Born in Jones County in 1866, Brock got his start in photography as an apprentice at the Gerock Studio in New Bern. He moved to New York to study art at the Cooper Union Institute, before returning to North Carolina and opening his first studio in Asheville.

Through at first he mostly painted landscapes and used photographs simply as sketch notes for future paintings, Brock turned to photography as his primary art form because of his considerable skill with a camera. His focus in photography was on portraits and landscapes, and his fame quickly began to grow as he won several international photography competitions and had his work featured in many of the prominent magazines of the time. Brock was also interested in the technical aspects of photography, and invented a blue light bulb for use in dark room processing.

Throughout his career, Brock continued to maintain studios in Asheville for both painting and photography, and his thousands of works in both media provide a fascinating glimpse into the history of western North Carolina during the first half of the 20th century.

Check out Photographers in North Carolina: The First Century, 1842-1941 from North Carolina Historical Publications for more on Brock and other photographers of the period.

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.

Richard Caswell Suffered A Fatal Stroke

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 00:00

 

On November 8, 1789Richard Caswell, the first governor of the independent state of North Carolina, suffered a stroke that lead to his death. Before becoming governor, Caswell served for 21 years as a member of the colonial assembly. In 1771, he led part of Governor William Tryon’s army in its defeat of the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance.  With the approach of the Revolution, Caswell was made a commander of militia and led his brigade in the decisive victory over Loyalist forces at Moores Creek Bridge.

When the Fifth Provincial Congress convened at Halifax late in 1776, Caswell served as its presiding officer and as chairman of the committee to draft the state’s constitution.  He was elected to the first of three successive one-year terms allowable under the Constitution.

When his third term as governor expired in April 1780, Caswell was pressed into duty as commander of the state militia. He was elected to the state Senate in 1780 and served for the next four years.

Caswell returned to the governorship in November 1784, and was reelected to that post in both of the next two years. After reaching three-consecutive term limit, Caswell was elected to the state Senate in 1789. He died in Fayetteville after suffering a stroke in the Senate chamber. He is buried near Kinston at the CSS Neuse/Governor Caswell Memorial.

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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.

Jane McKimmon Was Born

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 00:00

On November 13, 1867Jane McKimmon, leader of North Carolina’s home demonstration movement, was born.

State-sponsored home demonstration work began in North Carolina in 1911. Its aim was to educate girls on canning, gardening and other domestic tasks, and the home demonstration movement was a forerunner to what’s now the 4-H system. McKimmon, who was known for keeping a neat garden on Raleigh’s Blount Street, was hired to “take charge of the ‘girl’s canning work.’”

McKimmon expanded the size and scope of the program, growing its enrollment from 416 women in 14 counties to 75,000 women in all of North Carolina’s 100 counties by 1941. Her work, by one estimation, “led rural women and girls to a fuller, more comfortable, and efficient life.”

McKimmon was the first woman in the nation to receive the “Distinguished Ruby Award” of Epsilon Sigma Phi, the honorary extension fraternity. In 1966, she was elected to the North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame which is located in the Agriculture Building in downtown Raleigh.

The continuing education center at North Carolina State University, built in 1975, is named in her honor.

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.