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Elon University’s Beginnings Date to Nineteenth Century

This Day in North Carolina History - 4 hours 15 min ago

A circa 1923-129 postcard showing an aerial view of the Elon Campus.
Image from the Belk Library at Elon University.

On September 2, 1890, Elon College opened as a four-year liberal arts college in Alamance County.

Plans for the school had been underway since 1872, when what is now the United Church of Christ, decided to open a college. The institution was first called Graham College, but when the trustees were unable to acquire land in that small Alamance County town, a different location for the campus was selected west of Burlington. When the land, filled with old oak trees, was being cleared, the name Elon seemed like a natural fit, since “elon” is the Hebrew word for oak.

A circa 1919-1923 photo of an Elon football player from the N.C. Museum of History‘s collection

The community around the school grew quickly and was incorporated in 1893 as Elon College. The town’s streets were given names commemorating important figures in the development of the Christian Church and of the college. In January 1923, the main campus building was destroyed by fire. During the reconstruction, which took about three years, the campus was expanded with five new buildings.

Elon College added graduate degree programs in the 1980s. To reflect the school’s diverse programs and growing student body, the college changed its name to Elon University in 2000. With that change, the surrounding town changed its name, too, from Elon College to Elon.

Check out Elon’s yearbooks going back 1913 on Digital NC to discover more of the college’s history.

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 Facebook and Twitter.


“Human Spider” Inspired Classic Harold Lloyd Film

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 09/01/2014 - 08:59

Srother scales a building in downtown Los Angeles

On September 1, 1896, Bill Strother, who became nationally acclaimed as the “Human Spider,” was born in Wayne County.

Strother acquired his nickname in Kinston in 1915. Frustrated that handbills he ordered to advertise a real estate auction he was organizing did not arrive in time, Strother indicated to a fellow diner at a lunch counter that he’d now have to climb the courthouse walls to advertise the sale. The diner, who happened to be the editor of the Kinston Free Press, published a story about the proposed climb and thousands showed up to watch.

The PR stunt worked, and that day Strother sold a fortune in real estate, while also unknowingly launching his career as the Human Spider. For a while Strother only climbed buildings to advertise real estate sales, but in December 1917 he began climbing just for climbing’s sake.

In 1922, silent film star Harold Lloyd saw Strother climb a building in Los Angeles. The chance meeting resulted in movie called Safety Last!, in which Lloyd’s character climbed a building to win over a girl. Strother played Lloyd’s friend “Limpy” Bill in the 1923 release. He continuing climbing buildings across the country before retiring after a fall in 1930.

Strother died in a car accident in 1957.

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 Facebook and Twitter.


Dorton Arena Architect Matthew Nowicki

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 06:30

Nowicki. Image from NCSU Libraries.

On August 31, 1950, architect and designer Matthew Nowicki, best known for engineering the landmark Dorton Arena on the State Fairgrounds, died in a plane crash. He was returning from a trip to India where he was engaged in planning the new Punjab capital city of Chandigarh. He had sketched the building’s preliminary drawings just before his departure.

A Polish immigrant to the U.S., Nowicki and his wife were members of the founding faculty of N.C. State’s School of Design. He became involved in the Dorton Arena project after one of his colleagues at State introduced him to N.C. State Fair Manager J. S. Dorton, who sought to make the fair the most modern in the world.

After his death, Nowicki‘s wife, Siasia, teamed up with Raleigh architect William Dietrick to realize his vision. Upon its completion, the designers were recipients of the first American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1953, and Dorton Arena was recognized as a National Civil Engineering Landmark.

The structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 for its exceptional national significance only 21 years after its construction.

Though remembered mainly for his work on Dorton, the project was only one of Nowicki’s masterpieces. Before his work on the Raleigh stadium, Norwicki was well-known for designing several public structures in Poland, helping to rebuild the greater Warsaw area after World War II and working on the team that designed the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Other related resources:

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 Facebook and Twitter.


Astronaut William Thornton and the Space Shuttle Challenger

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 08/30/2014 - 06:30

Thornton conducting research on the Challenger space shuttle.
Image from the State Archives.

On August 30, 1983, Faison native William Thornton barrelled into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard the shuttle Challenger.

Born in Duplin County, Thornton received bachelors and medical degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and worked as electronics engineer before entering the Air Force. It was during his two-year tour of duty with the U.S. Air Force that he became involved in space medicine research and subsequently applied for astronaut training.

After being selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in August 1967, Thornton worked on a number of Skylab simulation missions and spent decades doing research work. Two of his primary areas of focus were measuring mass (weight) in space and the reaction of the human body to conditions in space.

Thornton holds more than 35 patents that range in subject from military weapons systems to the first real-time EKG computer analysis. Among other things, he developed a treadmill for in-flight exercise and designed the first mass measuring devices for space, which remain in use today.

A veteran of two space flights, Thornton has logged over 313 hours in space. After serving as a mission specialist on the shuttle Challenger in 1983, he held the same role on Challenger’s 1985 mission. He retired from NASA in 1994.

In 2010, Thornton donated his priceless collection of documents and photos from his work in medical research, physics, electronics, the military and space to the State Archives.


Connie Guion, Pioneering Female Physician

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 06:30

On August 29, 1882, pioneering physician Connie Guion was born on a plantation near Lincolnton.

Educated at Wellesley College and Cornell Medical School, Guion interned at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital during the flu epidemic of 1918 after earning her medical degree. Her success in a time of crises there gained her a national reputation in medicine at a time when few women entered the field.

For almost 50 years she was associated with the Cornell medical clinic, where she became a full professor in 1946. Known for working 12-hour days until her retirement at age 87, the New York Herald Tribune called her the “greatest lady of our time.”

At her death in 1971, Dr. Guion was the dean of the nation’s women physicians. The first female professor of clinical medicine at an American university, the first female member of the medical board of New York Hospital and the first living female doctor for whom a major hospital building was named, Guion was a true pioneer for women in the medical field.

She visited her native state often and is buried in Charlotte.

Other related resources:

  • Resources related to medical history from the State Library
  • Resources related to women’s history from the State Library

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.

 


“Brad’s Drink” Becomes Pepsi-Cola, 1898

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 06:30

Caleb Bradham’s daughter, Mary, poses with an early Pepsi poster, circa 1905-1910. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On August 28, 1898, “Pepsi-Cola” got its name.

Beginning in 1893, New Bern pharmacist Caleb Bradham developed and began serving a carbonated drink he called “Brad’s Drink.” He served the beverage from the soda fountain in his pharmacy at the corner of Pollock and Middle Streets.

As a pharmacist who had undergone some medical training, Bradham believed in the health, energy and digestive benefits of his sweet and bubbly brew, which originally included the enzyme pepsin and the cola nut. It is likely that these ingredients resulted in the renaming of the drink, although at some point pepsin was removed from the formula.

After the renaming, Bradham managed to purchase the trade name “Pep Cola” from a New Jersey company and, in 1902, he incorporated the Pepsi-Cola Company under North Carolina law. Shortly thereafter he registered a patent for the formula.

From there the business quickly grew. By 1910, the beverage was being bottled at more 300 companies in 24 states. A combination of factors including fluctuations in sugar prices and supply, imperfect bottling technology and poor marketing resulted in a failing business after World War I, and Bradham was forced to sell the company.

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.


Tragedy at Bostian Bridge, 1891

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 06:30

The wreck at Bostian Bridge. Image from the State Archives.

On August 27, 1891, one of the worst train wrecks in North Carolina occurred at the Bostian Bridge, two miles west of Statesville.

In the wee hours of the morning, a westbound passenger train jumped the tracks and hurtled off the 60-foot high bridge. At the bottom of the fall, seven train cars crashed into Third Creek. A few of the passengers walked into Statesville for help. Others crawled out of the wreckage, dazed and confused, while some wandered around. Still others sat on top of the train cars until help arrived.

When that help did come in the form of Statesville townspeople, the group began to pull and cut people out of the wreckage. Since the water in the creek was high, some of the injured drowned. By dawn a large crowd of townspeople had arrived and began to move the dead and wounded into town.

The dead were laid out in the Farmers’ Tobacco Warehouse. Twenty passengers were killed outright and nine were seriously injured. About 20 more received minor injuries.

The Bostian Bridge train wreck has been the subject of many ghost hunting expeditions, as a ghostly specter of the train is said to be seen each year on the anniversary of the tragedy.

Other related resources:

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.


David Schenck and the Battleground at Guilford Courthouse

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 06:30

Schneck. Image from the National Park Service.

On August 26, 1902, David Schenck, the “father” of Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, died.

Born in 1835 in Lincolnton, Schenck and his family moved to Greensboro for his job as a lawyer for the company that became Southern Railway.

Schenck became immersed in local history almost immediately after moving to the area, and he showed a special interest in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. He traversed the ground with locals, inquiring as to the specific pieces of property associated with the 1781 engagement. He knew that, if the battlefield was not protected, it would be lost to encroaching development.

In 1886, he recorded in his diary that he decided to buy the land to, in his words, “redeem the battlefield from oblivion,” and the same day he purchased 30 acres of the battlefield to achieve that end.

The following year Schenck organized the Guilford Battle Ground Company. Although he died in 1902, the organization carried on and, through its actions, the battleground was donated to the U.S. Department of Interior, which organized it as the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in 1917.

The battlefield was the first from Revolutionary War to be protected by the federal government. The Guilford Battleground Company, as Schenck’s organization is known today, continues to purchase property associated with the site and donate it to the National Park Service.

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.


North Carolina’s Milestone Move Toward Self-Government, 1774

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 06:30

On August 25, 1774, 71 delegates were present at the roll call for North Carolina’s First Provincial Congress. It was the first such meeting held in any of the colonies. Though the rebellious Congress was held in New Bern near royal Governor Josiah Martin’s residence at Tryon Palace, no attempt was made to stop the assembly.

A month earlier, William Hooper had convened a meeting of colonists from the Cape Fear region who felt that a Provincial Congress, separate from North Carolina’s royal government, was urgently needed. Invitations to send delegates were dispatched and, in response, 30 counties and four towns held elections without delay.

The congress, which only lasted for three days, endorsed the proposal that the colonies hold a Continental Congress. To that end, the group selected William Hooper, Joseph Hewes and Richard Caswell as delegates to that convention.

Aside from revolutionary topics, the delegates also discussed basic rights and responsibilities of government. They were eager to exercise control over North Carolina’s affairs. The concluding pledge to support the actions of the forthcoming Continental Congress was a testament to their goal of self-government and to their preparedness to achieve that goal.

Other related resources:

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Dolley Madison and the British Assault on the White House, 1813

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 06:30

An engraving of Dolley Madison saving an important document.

On August 24, 1813, Dolley Madison rescued several important state documents and a now-famous oil portrait of George Washington from the White House as Washington, D.C., was being burned by invading British forces.

Born Dolley Payne in 1768 in Guilford County, the future First Lady met her would-be husband through mutual acquaintance Aaron Burr in Philadelphia 1794. The couple married less than a year later. While James Madison served as Secretary of State for the widowed Thomas Jefferson, Dolley became the unofficial “first lady,” hosting events for politicians and international guests. The 1809 inauguration of her husband, therefore, made for an easy transition to the role of the president’s wife.

As Washington came under siege from the British as part of the War of 1812, President James Madison asked his wife to stay behind in the White House and gather important documents so that the building could be abandoned quickly if needed. As the invading force drew near, the First Lady decided to abandon the Pennsylvania Avenue mansion.

Though popular legend tends to tell the story in such a way that Madison herself ripped the portrait out a frame and hand-carried it and other important documents out of the White House, contemporary historians revisiting the subject argue that household slaves most likely did the heavy lifting under her orders.

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.


The Lost State of Franklin

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 10:10

John Sevier

On August 23, 1784, the State of Franklin declared its independence from North Carolina. The independence would prove to be short-lived.

Settlers in far western areas had long discussed separating from the Old North State, criticizing the General Assembly for ignoring western interests. Led by John Sevier, the settlers formed their own state. Though they wrote their own state constitution and elected an assembly, western representatives were still sent to North Carolina’s General Assembly.

Governor Alexander Martin was outraged by the separatists and threatened to use force against them.  The Confederation Congress, the federal governing body at that time, refused to recognize the new state and it quickly fell apart. Sevier was elected to the North Carolina Senate in 1789 and the state of Franklin came to an abrupt end. That same year, North Carolina ceded its western lands to the United States government, and, in 1796, those lands became part of the new state of Tennessee.

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.


North Carolina’s “Year Without a Summer,” 1816

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 06:30

Mountain waterfalls in ice and snow, circa 1910. Image from the State Archives.

On August 22, 1816, a heavy frost was recorded in the state.

The unusually early frost was attributed to the Mount Tambora volcano eruption in Indonesia in April of the previous year. The eruption was the most powerful of the 19th century and is thought to have caused a number of strange weather phenomena around the world. Mount Tambora is still an active volcano to this day.

The year 1816 is often referred to as the year without a summer because of the unusually cold weather during the spring and summer months. The bizarre and destructive weather was the result of massive amounts of volcanic dust being thrown into the upper atmosphere by the eruption.

Much of what we know about the climate of the period comes from The Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Those records indicate a fickle weather pattern of unusual heat in June, an abnormally stormy July, an early August dominated by drought and heat and the descent of the frost on the 22nd. The frost was followed by more drought, extended periods of rain and cold and raw weather from late September to the end of the year.

Many crops failed and others had dangerously low yields that threatened the livelihoods, and indeed, the lives of many North Carolinians.

For more, check out a guide on resources related to weather from the State Library.

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.


Dirty Dancing Filmed at Lake Lure

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 06:30

On August 21, 1987, the blockbuster movie Dirty Dancing was released in theaters across the county.

Though set at a resort in the Catskills Mountains of Upstate New York, Dirty Dancing was shot entirely in Virginia and North Carolina. The filming came to the Southeast almost by accident. When the crew began production in September 1986, they found all the resorts in the New York mountains were closed, so they headed South.

Many of the film’s most famous scenes, including the “lake lift” scene where Patrick Swayze lifts Jennifer Grey in the water, and the shots of Grey practicing her moves to the song “Wipe Out” on the stairs on a mountainside were shot at Lake Lure. The nearby Rumbling Bald Resort’s golf course was used for the scene where Grey asks her dad for money, and the Esmeralda Inn was used for interior dance shots.

In 2010, the town of Lake Lure decided to begin celebrating its close association with the smash hit by hosting the Dirty Dancing Festival. Now an annual event, the festival draws thousands to Rutherford County each August to commemorate the now classic film and raise money for pancreatic cancer research.

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 Political Career for Governor Cameron Morrison

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 06:30

Gov. Cameron Morrison on his inauguration day in 1921. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On August 20, 1953, “Good Roads Governor” Cameron Morrison died.

Born in 1869, Morrison attended school in his native Richmond County. He did not attend college, but briefly studied law before opening a practice in Rockingham in 1892. Morrison began his political career as mayor of Rockingham, before being elected to the state Senate in 1900. After serving there for one term, Morrison took a 20-year break from politics before being elected governor in 1921.

A Democrat, Morrison devoted himself to internal improvements. He prompted the legislature to fund the construction of 5,500 miles of hard-surface roads. He also advocated for improvements in higher education and increases in funding to the state’s charitable institutions.

Though he was a leader of the “Red Shirts” and promoted white supremacy tactics that included harassment and threats of violence against African America voters earlier in life, as governor, Morrison sought to improve race relations and all but ended lynching in the state.

Following his term as governor, Morrison returned to private life. In 1930, he was appointed to fill an unexpired U.S. Senate term. He served one term in U.S. House in the early 1940s, but was defeated in another bid for the Senate in 1944. He died in 1953.

Other related resources:

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.


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