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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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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.

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Charles Frazier and the Crafting of Cold Mountain

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 00:00

On November 4, 1950, Charles Frazier was born in Asheville. Growing up, Frazier has admitted, he was “a great reader of junk.” When he was introduced by a friend to some of the better works of American literature he was hooked. After earning his Ph.D., he traveled widely and co-wrote a Sierra Club travel guide to the Andes region.

In 1986, Frazier returned to his home state, taking a teaching position at North Carolina State University.  During that time he researched all aspects of mountain culture, folklore and natural history. He knew that he wanted to write a novel but was unsure of the precise subject.  He had a moment of clarity when his father recounted a story of their great uncle, a Confederate soldier who deserted, leaving his hospital to return to his home at Cold Mountain.

Quitting his teaching job to stay home with his daughter, Frazier spent most of his time writing. The resulting book, based loosely on the family legend and more firmly rooted in the wider Appalachian heritage, was on the bestseller list for 61 weeks and won the Sir Walter Raleigh and National Book Awards for fiction in 1997. Cold Mountain was adapted for a film, released in 2003 to wide acclaim.

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Billy Graham Born in Charlotte

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 7, 1918, Billy Graham was born in Charlotte. A worldwide symbol of evangelism, he has preached to millions of people. Hundreds of millions more, in every corner of the globe, have heard his message through television, radio, print and film.

Ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1940, Graham studied Scripture at Florida Bible Institute and graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1943. It was during a tent crusade in downtown Los Angeles in 1949 that Graham and his evangelistic team were launched into worldwide prominence. Originally scheduled for three weeks, the meetings drew overflow crowds each night for more than two months. Subsequent crusades, both in the United States and overseas, witnessed similar enthusiasm.

In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The organization, now headquartered in Charlotte, is also home to the Billy Graham Library. The Billy Graham Training Center is located in Asheville.

Often listed by the Gallup organization as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World,” Graham has prayed with every U.S. president since Harry Truman. He now resides in Montreat in Buncombe County.

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Ponder Brothers, Madison Powerbrokers

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 7, 1950, Elymas Yates “E. Y.” Ponder was elected sheriff of mountainous Madison County, defeating Republican incumbent Hubert Davis by 31 votes.

Davis disputed the outcome and, supported by his deputies, refused to relinquish the office. Ponder brought suit in superior court, and Davis was ordered to vacate his office in early January 1951. Davis appealed the case to the state Supreme Court, which ultimately decided in Ponder’s favor. A genial man who never wore a uniform and rarely carried a gun or drove a marked patrol car, Ponder remained the “law” in Madison County until 1986.

Ponder’s younger brother, Zeno, was appointed chairman of the county elections board in 1950. An army veteran with a wispy mustache and wily manner, he promptly remade Madison, a long-time Republican stronghold, into a Democratic machine. Nearly every election over the next 40 years was fraught with charges of voting law violations and, occasionally, violence.

Zeno Ponder ran for public office only once. In 1964, he sought a state senate seat. When  the results of the primary election were tabulated, they showed that Ponder had won more votes in some precincts than there were registered voters. Though the election was overturned, the Ponders remained powerful into the mid-1980s.

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Water Impoundment Began at Fontana Dam

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 7, 1944, water impoundment began at Fontana Dam in western North Carolina. At 480 feet, Fontana Dam is the highest dam  east of the Rocky Mountains.  Like other TVA projects, it was constructed for flood regulation, regional power and economic development. Electricity generated by the dam was also used to power Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where research on development of the atomic bomb was underway.

Several communities were covered under 10,600-acre Fontana Lake. Forty cemeteries and 2,043 known graves were relocated. At the peak of construction more than 6,000 workers worked shifts around the clock. In 1947, the workers’ village was converted into the present-day resort community of Fontana Village.

The concrete dam, which is 376 feet wide at its base, and the accompanying six-story glass-walled powerhouse at its foot, cost about $74,681,000; that’s about $969,883,116 in today’s dollars. Every five years, the lake’s waters are drawn down for dam inspection, and during these times the remnants of earlier times can be seen.

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William B. Umstead, North Carolina Governor for 22 Months

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 7, 1954, attorney, teacher, congressman and North Carolina Governor William B. Umstead died of heart failure.

Born on a Durham County farm in 1895, Umstead served as a lieutenant in the 81st “Wildcat” Division during World War I before being elected to Congress. During his three terms in the House of Representatives and a single term in the Senate, Umstead focused mostly on rural issues, including soil conservation and rural electrification.

Elected governor in 1952, Umstead suffered a heart attack just two days after his 1953 inauguration and spent most of his term as governor confined to his bed, forcing him to run meetings and conduct other state business in the Executive Mansion.

A political moderate, Umstead advocated for fair parole for prisoners, bonds for school construction and better conditions in mental institutions during his time in the state’s top job. He also oversaw school desegregation after the Supreme Court’s Brown decision, creating a biracial panel to study the process and make recommendations to the General Assembly to ensure it was rolled out as smoothly as possible.

Umstead died in 1954, and was the first North Carolina governor to die in office in more than 50 years.

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A Civil War Surrender Six Months After Appomattox

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 6, 1865, the CSS Shenandoah lowered the Confederate flag and James I. Waddell surrendered command of the vessel to British authorities in Liverpool. The surrender came a full six months after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. In that time, Waddell, a native of Pittsboro, had led his men on the only circumnavigation of the world by a Confederate ship.

The CSS Shenandoah was a Confederate raider, and as such, its objective was to destroy Union merchant ships. The Shenandoah captured thirty-eight Union vessels and took more than 1,000 prisoners of war while it was in commission. The crew did not know about Lee’s surrender until June 1865 because of slow communication.  The Shenandoah captured twenty-five vessels between May 27 and June 28.

Waddell received official word of the Confederate defeat while approaching San Francisco in August 1865. Directing his ship southward to avoid American retribution for unintentional acts of piracy, he rounded Cape Horn and sailed for England during the fall of 1865, where he surrendered in Liverpool.

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Dobbs Tabs Waddell as Indian Negotiator, 1755

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 6, 1755, Captain Hugh Waddell was named North Carolina’s commissioner in treaty negotiations with the Catawba and Cherokees.

At the beginning of the French and Indian War, it was imperative that England’s colonies solidify their alliances with neighboring native tribes. North Carolina was particularly concerned with relations between the Cherokees and the Catawba. The two tribes had been enemies for generations, yet both were allies of England and both had grievances with colonial settlers.

Informed that Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia was sending commissioners to negotiate alliances, North Carolina Governor Arthur Dobbs decided to add a delegation from North Carolina. He appointed the senior military officer in the western part of the colony, Waddell.

Waddell was to, “Joyn with the Virginia Commissioners And Treat with the Cherokees and Catawbas” which he did for “above a month” in February and March 1756. Dobbs was certain that the efforts would ensure the continued support of the English cause by the Cherokee and Catawba.

The Cherokees ultimately remained loyal to the British and the Catawbas did not, though by the outbreak of the American Revolution most of Catawbas were in South Carolina. American troops clashed with Cherokee during the Rutherford expedition, with the Patriot troops destroying most of their towns and crops.

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.

Honor for State’s Cherished Capitol Building

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 6, 1973, the State Capitol became a National Historic Landmark. The designation by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior is reserved for nationally significant historic places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting American history. There are fewer than 2,500 of them across the country.

The Capitol that stands today was not the first in Raleigh. That building was completed in 1794 and burned in 1831. The cornerstone of the present State Capitol was laid at the site of the former State House in 1833. The exterior walls are built of gneiss, a type of granite quarried in southeastern Raleigh and hauled to the site on the horse-drawn Experimental Railroad, the state’s first railway.

Completed in 1840, the Capitol is one of the finest and best-preserved examples of a major civic building in the Greek Revival style of architecture. It housed all of North Carolina’s state government until 1888, when the Supreme Court Building (now the Labor Building) was completed across Edenton Street. The General Assembly left the Capitol and moved into the State Legislative Building in 1963.

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Rector Adam Empie of St. James Episcopal Church in Wilmington

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 6, 1860, clergyman and educator Adam Empie died.

Born in New York in 1785, Empie attended Union College before his being ordained as an Episcopal minister. He traveled to North Carolina in 1811 after being appointed rector of St. James Church in Wilmington. There he instituted a number of new programs and grew the congregation exponentially.

In 1814, Empie left Wilmington to become a professor and the first chaplain at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He returned to North Carolina a few years later, worked at the same parish and helped to organize the Episcopal Church in North Carolina, before becoming president of the College of William and Mary in 1827. The Williamsburg school grew and prospered during his nearly 10 year tenure.

Empie returned to Wilmington in 1853 due to poor health, but continued working with Episcopal schools in Raleigh and Richmond. He died in 1860 and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

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Congressional Rivals Shoot It Out

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 5, 1827, Congressman Samuel Price Carson shot Robert Brank Vance, his predecessor in the House and uncle of Civil War-era Governor Zebulon Vance.

Early that morning, the two engaged in a duel just south of the North Carolina-South Carolina border and the present-day Tuxedo community in Henderson County. Dueling adhered closely to an accepted body of rules, by which gentlemen walked 10 paces, turned and fired upon one another.

Vance, who died the next day, was born in Buncombe County and was elected to Congress in 1823. Carson was born in Pleasant Gardens near Marion. He was elected to Congress in 1825, forcing Vance into an 

unwanted early retirement. Vance ran for election again in 1827. It was a bitter campaign during which Vance accused Carson’s father of turning Tory during the Revolutionary War and called Carson a coward in his hometown. Carson held his temper until after the election, which he won.

Carson then challenged Vance to a duel. Vance was buried in his family cemetery on Reems Creek.  Carson moved to Texas and was appointed Secretary of State there in September 1836. He died two years later.

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Governor and UNC Founder William Davie Died

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 5, 1820, soldier, politician, and founder of the University of North Carolina, William R. Davie died at the age of 64.

Davie graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) in 1776 and moved to Salisbury, N.C., to study law. Davie had a brief military career in 1779-1780, but was wounded. Later, he organized cavalry, and mounted infantry and embarked on a campaign of partisan attacks in the Carolina backcountry.

Around 1786, Davie built a house in Halifax that still bears his name. He would represent Halifax in the General Assembly off and on for the next ten years. Davie was selected to be one of North Carolina’s five delegates to the Confederation Congress of 1787, and he campaigned for the Constitution’s ratification. At the 1789 convention in Fayetteville that ratified the Constitution, Davie introduced a bill to charter a state university.  As founder, he guided the university through its formative years.

Elected governor of North Carolina in 1798, Davie went on to represent the United States in treaty negotiations, eventually retiring to his plantation in South Carolina where he died.

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Tuberculosis Vaccine Perfected in Asheville, 1912

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 5, 1922, medical pioneer Karl von Ruck died in Asheville.

Born in Turkey in 1849 and raised in Germany, von Ruck immigrated to the United States shortly after receiving his medical degree

Von Ruck, who studied and treated tuberculosis and related lung and throat diseases, settled in Asheville because the climate was therapeutic for people with such problems. There he opened a research laboratory and sanitarium before focusing his efforts on creating a vaccine for tuberculosis.

He produced such a vaccine in 1912 in the hopes of preventing children from contracting the disease. The vaccine was found to both prevent and treat TB. He was instrumental in establishing Asheville as the primary area for tuberculosis treatment in the United States.

Von Ruck continued his medical research and treatment of patients until only weeks before his death in 1922. He is buried in Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery.

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Two Troopers Murdered, 1957

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 5, 1957, North Carolina State Trooper Wister Lee Reece was shot and killed near Ellerbe and, less than an hour later, Trooper James Thomas Brown was murdered near Sanford. The crimes would grip the nation.

Reece’s murder came after a traffic stop. Witnesses described the car that was stopped as a black Oldsmobile with Pennsylvania license plates. During the next few weeks a nationwide manhunt—the largest ever in North Carolina’s history—ensued.  An Oldsmobile was found abandoned in Chattanooga and fingerprints recovered.

About 10 days after the shooting, the FBI homed in on New Yorker Frank Wetzel as a person of interest and several days later found him jailed in California. His fingerprints matched those inside the Oldsmobile, though a witness who said he was a hitchhiker in the assailant’s car at the time of Reece’s shooting gave a description of the gunman that didn’t match Wetzel.

Wetzel, who had escaped from a New York mental institution, had been on his way to break his brother out of prison in Mississippi, where the younger man was on death row.

Wetzel was convicted of both murders in 1958 at separate trials, and he remained in prison until his death in 2012 at the age of 90. He maintained his innocence until his death, pointing to that fact that Brown was shot nearly 50 miles away from Reece and the murders were committed roughly 20 minutes apart.

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.

Hornets Establish NBA in Charlotte, 1988

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 4, 1988, the original Charlotte Hornets franchise played its first game, a 113-93 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

That first game was a formal affair, with men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns, and when the new team hit the court they were wearing a new style of uniform in teal and purple, making a fashion statement that swept the nation. The creation of internationally-known clothing designer and Chapel Hill native Alexander Julian, the uniforms were also distinctive for their use of pinstripes—a first for an NBA team.

In 1985, the NBA set plans to expand by four teams by the 1988-1989 season. Kannapolis entrepreneur George Shinn sought to bring one of those teams, assembling a group of prominent local businessmen to rally behind the effort and pointing out that the Charlotte Coliseum, then under construction, would be one of the league’s largest arenas.

Though the Hornets finished their inaugural season with a record of 20 wins and 62 losses, they were a runaway hit and led the NBA in attendance, a feat they would achieve seven more times in Charlotte.

Perhaps one of the highlights of that first season, came just before Christmas when the Hornets beat Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls 103–101 at the buzzer in Jordan’s first return to North Carolina as a professional.

Longtime league executive Carl Scheer was the team’s first manager, and veteran college and pro coach Dick Harter was the team’s first head coach. Notable players from the first season include ex-Pistons guard Kelly Tripucka; sharpshooting rookie Rex Chapman; and floor general Muggsy Bogues, the shortest player in NBA history at 5’3″.

The team owned by Shinn relocated to New Orleans in 2002, and the NBA established the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004. After the New Orleans team rebranded as the Pelicans, the Hornets name returned to Charlotte in 2014.

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John Branch, Governor of North Carolina and Florida

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 4, 1782, John Branch, governor of North Carolina, was born in Halifax.

During the period Branch was raised in Halifax, the town was center of North Carolina’s political life. In fact, another prominent politician of the era, John Eaton, was born just a few years after Branch in the same area. Both men would go on to serve in Andrew Jackson’s cabinet and as governors of Florida.

Branch was remarkably progressive for his day. As North Carolina’s governor for three years beginning in 1817, he endorsed much of the reform agenda of Archibald D. Murphey, a leading progressive advocate who is known as North Carolina’s “father of education.” Among other things, he took steps to promote public education, initiate internal improvements and liberalize the penal code.

Initially an ally of Jackson, Branch came to be identified with John C. Calhoun and nullification in time. Branch’s opposition to Jackson contributed significantly to the rise of the Whig Party in North Carolina. At the 1835 constitutional convention, Branch even argued for the removal of religious qualifications for office and against the disfranchisement of free blacks.

Branch later moved with his family to Florida, and in 1843, was appointed governor of that territory. It was during his term in office that Florida became a state. He died in 1863 and is buried in Halifax County.

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Richard Gatling Patented the Gatling Gun

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 4, 1862, Richard Gatling patented his 6-barrel repeating gun known as the Gatling Gun.

Richard Jordan Gatling was born in Hertford County in 1818.  His first invention was a screw propeller for a boat but he lost the patent to another inventor.  He then patented a rice-seed planter, which he converted to a wheat planter after moving to the Midwest.  There he earned a medical degree and practiced as a physician.

At the onset of the Civil War, Gatling was distressed by the number of troops dying from disease.  He believed that if he could invent a gun that fired more efficiently, that the armies would need fewer soldiers.  With that in mind, Gatling invented the gun that bore his name—the first Gatling gun was capable of firing 200 rounds per minute.  He continued to improve upon the gun, patenting a new model in 1865.

Before selling his patent rights to the Colt Firearms Company in 1870, he created a gun capable of firing 1,200 rounds per minute.  Needless to say, the humanitarian benefits that inspired Gatling to invent such a weapon were never realized.

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Klan-Nazi Shooting Left Five Dead in Greensboro

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 00:00

On November 3, 1979, the “Death to the Klan” March took place in Greensboro. The march resulted in a shootout between members of the Communist Workers Party (CWP), the Ku Klux Klan and a neo-Nazi group.

Only four city police officers were assigned to the demonstration in hopes that the low profile would avoid trouble. An unusual stipulation of the parade permit was that CWP members would not carry weapons. The Klan had been informed of the march and planned an armed confrontation, but the CWP was not warned of this.

Demonstrators gathered at Morningside Homes, where the march was slated to start, singing protest songs and making picket signs. Local media filmed them. Unknown to anyone else, some of the CWP workers had weapons in their vehicles. Klansman and Nazis drove past the assembling demonstrators. The heckling turned to a physical confrontation and escalated to shooting.

Five CWP workers, often using a media van for cover, were killed in the 81-second shooting. Only one vehicle from the 10-vehicle caravan of Klan members and neo-Nazis was apprehended, though numerous CWP members on the scene were arrested. The next day 14 Klansmen and Nazis were charged with first-degree murder, felony riot and conspiracy.

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.