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Endor Ironworks Saved from the Forces of Nature

The Endor Iron Furnace in the 1950s. Image from the Railroad House Historical Association.

On April 25, 1862, the Endor Iron Company was chartered. Two months later investors purchased the Deep River plantation of Alexander McIver and constructed a smelting furnace on it.

It is likely that the furnace supplied the Confederate arsenal at Fayetteville in addition to small nearby arms factories. The ironworks changed hands twice before a Maryland manufacturer purchased Endor and, with a local partner, invested heavily in the operation. By 1872, their Cape Fear Iron and Steel Company was one of the South’s largest and best equipped iron furnaces.

Two years later, it was determined that local mineral deposits were smaller than had first been thought and by 1876, the company had ceased operation. Though most of the machinery was dismantled and removed, the furnace continued operating until 1896 on a smaller scale, serving only local manufacturers.

With cooperation from the Triangle Land Conservancy and the financial support of the nonprofit Railroad House Historical Association, the original structure is now being prepared for stabilization and ultimately restoration, with plans for greater public access and appreciation of this important chapter of North Carolina industrial history.

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Herring and Devane’s Gun and Bayonet Factory

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/24/2015 - 06:30

On April 24, 1776, prominent patriots Richard Herring and John Devane founded a gun factory on the Black River north of Wilmington in what’s now Sampson County.

Money to build the factory, buy some of the initial materials needed and pay the workers was provided by the colonial government. The 1,000 British pounds the government allocated would be worth about $40,000 in today’s money. Records indicate that the factory produced simple muskets with 3-foot, 8-inch barrels and one-and-a-half-foot-long bayonets.

Documents from the period indicate that the objective was to produce guns at a cost of no more than five pounds apiece. The bayonets were to include a “trumpet mouthed” loop at one end. The point of the factory was to ensure a well-armed local militia.

The factory made about 100 muskets and a few rifles and smooth-bore guns before being destroyed by forces loyal to the Crown. Five other gun factories, located in and around New Bern, Edenton, Halifax, Hillsborough and Salisbury, operated during the Revolutionary period.

Learn more about the arms the average soldier carried during the Revolutionary War 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.


Major Depression-Era Loss at Wingate

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/23/2015 - 06:30

Wingate’s Administration Building before and
after the 1932 fire. Image from Ethel K. Smith Library at Wingate University.

On April 23, 1932, the Administration Building of what’s now Wingate University was destroyed by fire.

At the time, the building housed the college library and chemistry labs, classrooms, an auditorium and offices. The library, which had more than 5,000 volumes at the time, and the chemistry labs were totally destroyed.

The building was valued at $50,000 and the loss was only partially covered by insurance. Some equipment and furniture in the building was saved, as were the surrounding buildings. The fire began in the boiler room, even though the furnace had not been lit for several days.

Firefighters from Monroe and Marshville tried to save the building but a lack of water pressure and the chemicals from the lab hampered their progress. Another fire that night destroyed the W. A. Chaney building nearby. An investigation into a break-in there led to suspicions that the fire was set on purpose. There were suspicions too, that the Wingate fire was intentionally set, but its cause remain undetermined.

The board of trustees voted quickly to have a new building erected before classes began the next year and began fundraising. Local Baptist churches helped as much as they could in the Depression-strapped times.

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.


Tar Heel Junior Historians Learn, Boost State History

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 06:30

Judges take a look at projects during the 1968 Tar Heel Junior Historian Association annual contest. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On April 22, 1953, the General Assembly established the Tar Heel Junior Historian Association program to advance the study of North Carolina history in public and private schools.

Administered by the North Carolina Museum of History, the association enrolls about 8,000 students in grades four through eight each year. The highlight of program comes each spring when students gather at a convention in Raleigh to share projects and conduct competitions.

Educators William H. Cartwright and J. C. McLendon were the driving force behind the creation of the program. They studied junior history programs in other states and met with Christopher Crittenden, then director of the state Department of Archives and History to sketch out a plan for the program.

In 1961, the association first issued the Tar Heel Junior Historian magazine, which is still published to this day. The North Carolina History Quiz, later renamed the Christopher Crittenden State History Quiz, was started in 1976.

When state history as was reintroduced as a separate eighth grade course in 1988, the association’s enrollment increased exponentially, and in 1995, the Tar Heel Junior Historian Gallery opened in the new Museum building in downtown Raleigh, giving the association a permanent space to display student work.

Visit: History in Every Direction: THJHA Discovery Gallery, an exhibit at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, showcases the most recent winners of THJHA Annual Contests, allowing junior historians to share what they have learned with thousands of annual visitors.

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Myrtle Grove Sound Third Site for State Salt Works

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 06:30

On April 21, 1864, the state salt works in New Hanover County were attacked by Federal forces and about a third of the site was destroyed.

An important ingredient for the preservation of the meat, salt was essential for the security of the food supply during the era. Salt works were established in Currituck County and near Morehead City, though both were captured by federal troops who controlled much of northeastern North Carolina by the end of 1863.

For the remainder of the war, state salt production was anchored in the Wilmington area, where numerous private salt works had previously been operated. The state brought 220 acres near Myrtle Grove Sound for its works, and soon began assembling the required furnaces. In November 1862, Governor Zebulon B. Vance reported 200 kettles in operation, producing 1,200 bushels of salt per day. At peak of production, the facility was putting out 8,500 bushels each day.

Late in the war Gen. W. H. C. Whiting, the Confederate commander at Fort Fisher, suspended state salt works operations in the Cape Fear region, and principal center of production shifted to the mountains of Virginia.

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Warm Welcome in New Bern for President Washington

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 06:30

On April 20, 1791, George Washington visited Tryon Palace in New Bern during his Southern Tour.

In 1791, the federal government was new and so was the presidency. Washington had been elected only two years before in February 1789, and North Carolina had become part of the Union in November of the same year.

Like any political move, the formation of the United States was seen with much skepticism from both citizens and government leaders. Washington’s tour of the Southern states allowed him to explore the nation he led, giving him the opportunity to promote national unity among its people. In his diary, Washington reported details about the geography of the states, exports such as tobacco and the attitudes of the citizens.

Washington’s visit was warmly received by New Bernians. During his two-day stay, the president dined at Tryon Palace and attended a “dancing assembly” with about 70 ladies. He also visited many of New Bern’s well-known citizens including John Wright Stanly, John Sitgreaves and Richard Dobbs Spaight.

Leaving New Bern on April 22, Washington headed south toward Wilmington.

Visit: Tryon Palace and the New Bern Preservation Foundation will celebrate the anniversary of Washington’s visit to the area with a whole host of activities this weekend.

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.


Agricultural Research Stations Date to 1877

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 04/19/2015 - 06:30

The Border Belt Tobacco Research Station in Whiteville, circa 1940. Image from NCSU Libraries.

On April 19, 1877, the first agricultural experiment station opened in a one-room chemistry lab at UNC. It was the first such station in the South, and the second in the nation.

A movement had been building to found the research station since 1885, when the General Assembly directed the Board of Agriculture to start acquiring land and machinery for it. The actual legislation establishing the station was passed in February 1877 with a focus on research that would aid in plant nutrition and develop new fertilizers.

In 1889, management of the station was transferred to what is now N.C. State University. The change was the result of the federal Hatch Act, which sent federal funds for agricultural research to the states through land grant colleges.

At the same time, the N.C. Department of Agriculture began establishing “test farms” across the state to try different crop, fertilizer and soil combinations and discover which crops were best suited to particular regions.

The program has continued to grow, and today the department and the N.C. State jointly operate 18 research stations around the state.

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Asheville Launching Pad for the “Singing Brakeman,” Jimmie Rodgers

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 04/18/2015 - 06:30

Jimmie Rodgers with the Carter family of country music fame.
Image from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

On April 18, 1927, Jimmie Rodgers – one of country music’s first superstars – got his big break on Asheville radio station WWNC.

Born in 1897 near Meridian, Mississippi, James Charles Rodgers liked to yodel and won an amateur talent contest at age 13. That same year he became a railroad water boy. In March 1927, Rodgers moved to Asheville, working as a railway brakeman and doing other jobs until he and friend Otis Kuykendall began performing live weekly on WWNC. The duo soon added other musicians and billed themselves as the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers.

In August 1927, Victor Records recorded Rodgers doing two songs. One, “The Soldier’s Sweetheart,” became an instant hit. Another hit, “Blue Yodel,” quickly followed. By 1929, Rodgers was a star. He appeared in a short film, “The Singing Brakeman”; toured the Midwest with humorist Will Rogers; and recorded with a young trumpeter, Louis Armstrong.

By the time he returned to Asheville in December 1929, the “Father of Country Music” had been living with tuberculosis for five years. He died in 1933. In 1961, Rodgers became the first performer inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A state highway historical marker in downtown Asheville also honors him.

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Startling News at Initial Bennett Place Meeting

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 06:30

An engraving showing Johnston and Sherman meeting at Bennett Place.
Image from the UNC-Chapel Hill Library.

On April 17, 1865, Gen. William Sherman met with Gen. Joseph Johnston to discuss terms of surrender for Johnston’s forces. They met at the home of James Bennitt near what was then a rail stop, Durham Station. Once alone, Sherman handed Johnston a telegram that bore the news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Accounts differ on the Confederate general’s reaction. Sherman later said that Johnston broke out in large beads of sweat and expressed hope that the Union officer did not suspect the assassination plot to have been organized by the Confederate government. Johnston later recalled saying to Sherman that Lincoln’s death “was the greatest possible calamity to the South.”

Remarkably, Sherman managed to keep the news in the telegram from his own men. Only the telegraph officer knew of the information, and Sherman swore him to silence. Sherman has just returned from a meeting with Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant where the topic was the terms of peace.

With the news, Sherman offered Johnston what he thought was Lincoln’s terms for peace. Those terms, in the wake of the assassination, were deemed too generous and rejected. Sherman and Johnston would meet again on April 26 to complete the surrender process.

Visit: Durham’s Bennett Place State Historic Site will be offering a number of programs during the next couple of weeks to commemorate the 150th anniversary of landmark surrender there.

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Physicians Form Professional Alliance, 1849

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 06:30

Doctors and nurses operate on a patient at a tonsil and adenoid clinic in
Elizabeth City circa May 1922. Image from the State Archives.

On April 16, 1849, the Medical Society of North Carolina was established after several state legislators, who were also physicians, called for a state medical convention.

The organization wasn’t the first statewide group for doctors. An earlier association had been chartered by the General Assembly in 1799 but was no longer meeting by 1805. The new organization’s goals were largely the same as its predecessor’s: to unite physicians across the state, represent their interests and to help professionalize the practice of medicine.

Edmund Strudwick, an Orange County native and surgeon, was the group’s first president. He had an excellent reputation, having served in the General Assembly and Congress, helped establish UNC’s medical school and aided in the construction of the Dorothea Dix Hospital.

The society’s first goals were creating stricter educational standards for students entering medical school, starting a medical journal, pushing for more concrete vital records laws and founding a state licensing board for doctors.

The group, now called the North Carolina Medical Society, has continued to meet annually since 1849, except for a few years during the Civil War and World War II. It now has more than 10,000 members statewide.

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Governor Ellis and Building Confederate Sentiment

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 06:30

A copy of Ellis’s letter from the State Archives.

On April 15, 1861, North Carolina governor John Ellis responded to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops with the often quoted statement: “You can get no troops from North Carolina.”

Although North Carolina as a state had seemed moderate during the Secession Crisis of 1861, Ellis had worked behind the scenes to align North Carolina with the budding Confederate government. In February 1861, citizens of the Old North State rejected a call for a Constitutional Convention to even consider the secession question.

Southern state after southern state declared for secession in early 1861 following South Carolina’s declaration in December 1860.  President Lincoln inherited a nation at the breaking point, and he ordered the federal fort in Charleston harbor to be resupplied.  South Carolina forces prevented the effort and fired on Fort Sumter.  Lincoln then issued a call for troops to put down the rebellion.

Ellis. Image from the State Archives.

Ellis considered Lincoln’s call to arms an unacceptable power grab, and he immediately ordered state troops to seize the federal forts in North Carolina as well as the federal arsenal at Fayetteville. He called the General Assembly into session two weeks later and rushed through a bill that called for a secession convention and authorized Ellis to send troops to Virginia. North Carolina left the Union just a few weeks later.

Though Ellis’ pithy last sentence is often quoted, the full text of his reply to Lincoln lays out a number of Constitutional justifications for secession that were popular at the outset of the war.

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Hysteria Over Day Care in Edenton

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 06:30

The first page of a 1993 story on the Little Rascals case
that appeared in Elle Magazine.

On April 14, 1989, the first arrests were made in Edenton in what would become known as the Little Rascals Day Care case. The case came amidst a nationwide flurry of prosecutions of daycare workers for alleged “satanic ritual abuse” of children.

Twenty-nine students at the Little Rascals center accused 20 adults, including Edenton’s mayor and the sheriff of Chowan County, with 429 instances of sexual and physical abuse over a three-year period.  The children’s’ descriptions of the incidents were mind-bending. Some described incidents as involving space ships, hot air balloons, pirate ships and trained sharks.

As in other similar cases from across the country, the children’s stories were concocted through sessions with investigators and therapists, many of whom used leading and suggestive questioning techniques. Prosecutors did not produce evidence or eyewitnesses. Today social scientists consider the scandal a “moral panic,” and it has been compared to a witch hunt.

In the most notorious of the Little Rascals trials, the defendant was convicted of 99 indictments and sentenced to 12 consecutive life terms in prison. The court of appeals overturned the convictions of all seven defendants in 1995. The Little Rascals case is said to have been the state’s longest and costliest criminal trial.

The PBS program Frontline aired a series of programs on the case and still maintains a website with a variety of materials related to it..

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.


The Fall of Raleigh to Sherman’s Army

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 06:30

The State Capitol, circa 1861. Image from
the State Archives.

On April 13, 1865, the city of Raleigh surrendered to the army of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. The city’s loss was the latest in a growing accumulation of Confederate setbacks.

Three days earlier, Sherman began his advance towards the state capital. As the outnumbered Confederate army of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston prepared to withdraw, Governor Zebulon B. Vance decided to negotiate with Sherman for the surrender of Raleigh and a separate peace. On April 12, he dispatched former governors William A. Graham and David S. Swain to discuss terms with Sherman. The Federal commander responded favorably to the proposal regarding Raleigh, but refused to cease military operations.

By the time Swain and Graham returned to Raleigh on April 13, Vance had fled after hearing rumors they had been taken prisoner. Later in the day, Mayor William H. Harrison formally surrendered the Oak City to Brevet Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick outside of the city.

Apart from a futile violent incident involving a reckless Confederate cavalryman, the Federal occupation was accomplished peacefully. Although active campaigning continued, the inability of the Confederate military to defend Raleigh was a sign that the Civil War would soon be over in North Carolina.

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Stoneman in Salisbury, Liberator and Scourge

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 06:30

On April 12, 1865, Union Gen. George Stoneman and his forces burned the already abandoned Salisbury Prison, as well as the town’s other public buildings, industrial structures and supply depots as part of raid through western North Carolina.

The raid began on March 24 when Stoneman led 6,000 cavalrymen from Tennessee into western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia to disrupt Confederate supply lines by destroying sections of the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad, the North Carolina Railroad and the Piedmont Railroad. He also sought to liberate Union prisoners-of-war held in Salisbury, cut off avenues of retreat available to Confederate armies and encourage Unionists in western and central North Carolina to rise up.

Image from the Library of Congress.

Stoneman struck Boone on March 28, then divided his force and sent part of it into Virginia. On April 12, the Federals occupied Salisbury. Stoneman moved west the next day, dividing his command again. Other than a fight at Swannanoa Gap, Stoneman and his cavalrymen encountered only bushwhackers and isolated groups of Confederate soldiers.

Stoneman’s forces approached Asheville on April 23, negotiated a truce and then rode through the streets on April 26. Two days later, part of Stoneman’s force returned to Asheville to loot. Other elements either continued to Tennessee or joined the pursuit of Confederate President Jefferson Davis into Georgia.

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