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Creation of Lake Norman Altered the Landscape

This Day in North Carolina History - 17 hours 2 min ago

Boating on Lake Norman, circa 2002. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

On September 28, 1959, Southern Power Company—now Duke Energy—broke ground on the Cowan’s Ford Dam on the Catawba River. The dam was the starting point for creating what is now Lake Norman in Catawba, Iredell, Lincoln and Mecklenburg Counties.

The company’s plans for the area actually had their origins in the late 1800s, when the company began buying land around the Catawba River, but it continued to allow people to live on the property for many years.

A ranger and hikers at what was then Duke Power State Park, circa 1965. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

Duke Power began filling the area with water in 1962 but, since the Catawba River’s flow was not very strong and the dam was not completely finished, it took more than a year to fill it. Lake Norman now covers more than 32,000 acres, making it the largest manmade body of water in North Carolina.

The lake is named for former Duke Power CEO Norman Atwater Cocke. A state park, originally named for the company, was established on part of the lakeshore in 1962.

In late 2012, archivists from Davidson College began a crowdsourcing project to try and get a firmer grasp of structures and locations that went underwater when the lake waters rose in 1963.

One of the most significant of those locations is the original site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Cowan’s Ford.

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Scalded to Death by the Steam: The Wreck of the Old 97

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 09/27/2016 - 06:30

Image from Encyclopedia Virginia.

On September 27, 1903, arguably the most famous train wreck in U.S. history, the wreck of the old 97, occurred in Danville, Va. The mail train was in route to Spencer in Rowan County.

Late leaving and under company orders to get back on schedule, engineer Joseph A., “Steve” Broady had the steam engine rolling at about 90 miles an hour, way too fast for safety.

Nine people of the 18 railroad and post office employees on board, including Broady, were killed immediately when the train left the Stillhouse Trestle and crashed into a ravine. Three others died later of their injuries and the other seven were injured but survived.

Three survivors, all North Carolinians, believed they survived because they jumped from the train. Spencer was 166 miles away from Monroe, Va., the trip’s origin, and the route usually took more than 4 hours to make. The usual, and safe, speed was about 39 miles an hour.

Shortly after the tragic wreck a ballad, “The Wreck of the Old 97” became popular and has remained a mainstay of bluegrass artists. Various people, most with a close connection to one of the dead from the wreck, have claimed authorship of the song.

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.


Longstanding Lions Club Commitment to the Blind

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 09/26/2016 - 06:30

 

On September 26, 1934, the first annual meeting of the North Carolina State Association for the Blind was held at the Vance Hotel in Statesville, in conjunction with a regional Lions Club conference.

Lions Club International was already committed to civic service on behalf of the visually impaired, and the North Carolina clubs looked for opportunities to carry out the mission. By the 1930s it became clear that the work of the clubs lacked continuity, and the Charlotte Lions Club began to seek ways to improve services for the state’s entire blind population.

During the Depression, local Associations for the Blind were established in Guilford, Durham and Mecklenburg Counties. The local associations, together with the Lions Clubs, established the infrastructure for launching a statewide effort to assist the blind citizens of North Carolina.

In 1974, the group solidified their connection with the Lions Clubs by becoming the North Carolina Lions Association for the Blind, and it is now known simply as the North Carolina Lions Foundation, Inc.

The original association was successful in focusing public attention on the needs of the state’s blind and visually impaired citizens. The modern successor continues the work with projects and programs throughout North Carolina.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Astrochimp Ham’s Retirement Years in Asheboro

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 09/25/2016 - 06:30

Ham prepares for his space flight. Image from NASA.

On September 25, 1980, Ham, the “astrochimp,” arrived at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro.

Ham, an acronym for Holloman Aero Med, was born in July 1957 in the French Cameroons in West Africa. He was taken to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico when he was about 2-years-old. Space researchers at Holloman began using animals, initially monkeys and mice, in the late 1940s to test whether they could send a living creature into space and return it to Earth alive.

In January 1961, Ham became the first chimpanzee in space aboard the Mercury Redstone rocket on a sub-orbital flight.

Following his mission Ham was found to be slightly fatigued and dehydrated, but otherwise, in good health. His flight heralded the launch of America’s first human astronaut, Alan B. Shepard Jr., later that year.

Ham spent many years alone on display at the Washington Zoo, but was moved to North Carolina where he could live among other chimpanzees.

After his death in 1983 his skeleton was removed for further study and his other remains were buried at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Visit: One of the largest “natural habitat” zoos in county, the North Carolina Zoo attracts more than 700,000 visitors annually.

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.


Nathaniel Batts, Carolina’s First Permanent Settler of European Descent

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 06:30

The Batts Deed. Image from N.C. Historical Publications.

On September 24, 1660, King Kiscutanewh sold Nathaniel Batts a tract of land in what is now Pasquotank County. The deed, recorded in a Chesapeake, Va., deed book, included all land southwest of the Pasquotank River from its mount to the head of Begin Creek.

Batts was the earliest-known white settler and owner of the earliest-known house within what is now North Carolina. His house, built in 1654 or 1655, is shown on the 1657 Nicholas Comberford map.

Batts was a large property owner in southeastern Virginia and divided his time between his holdings there and the property in what is now northeastern North Carolina. A witness to the deed was another early North Carolina European-settler, George Durant.

Batts would go to acquire a small island in the nearby Yeopim River that eventually came to be named for him. The northeastern region of the state still has place names that honor both Batts and Durant.

The discovery of the 1660 deed in 1966 made newspaper headlines.

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C. M. Stedman of Fayetteville, Confederate Veteran

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 06:30

On September 23, 1930, Charles M. Stedman, the last Civil War veteran (Union or Confederate) to serve in the U.S. Congress, died.

A native North Carolinian, Stedman was born in Pittsboro in 1841. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1861 and enlisted as a private in the 1st North Carolina “Bethel Regiment.” Stedman was promoted to major of the 44th North Carolina Infantry.  Afterwards, he returned to Chatham County to teach. While in Chatham County he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1865.

His interest in politics began with the 1880 Democratic Convention. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1884, but failed in his bid for the governor’s office in 1888.

Stedman was a University of North Carolina trustee from 1899 to 1915, the president of the North Carolina Bar Association in 1900 and had a second unsuccessful run for governor in 1904.

First elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in 1910 and was reelected nine times,  serving until his death in 1930. He was buried in Cross Creek Cemetery in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

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Scholar/Activist John Hope Franklin’s Pathbreaking Textbook

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 06:30

 

On September 22, 1947, John Hope Franklin published From Slavery to Freedom. The definitive history of African Americans traces origins in Africa, years of slavery, and struggles for freedom.

Still in print with more than 3 million copies sold, the book has been translated into many languages. It is widely considered the definitive survey text for courses in African American history.

Franklin held teaching appointments at Saint Augustine’s and North Carolina Central before capping off his academic career at Duke, where an interdisciplinary and international studies center continues his pioneering work.

During his storied career, Franklin served as president of Phi Beta Kappa, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association and the Southern Historical Association. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1995.

Aside from his role as historian, scholar, civil rights activist and adviser to presidents, Franklin was known for nurturing more than 300 orchids in his Durham greenhouse and helping to establish the Durham Literacy Center.

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Federal-Era Power Broker John Gray Blount, of Washington

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 06:45

 

An 1829 portrait of Blount. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On September 21, 1752, John Gray Blount was born in Bertie County.  He was destined to become one of the wealthiest men in North Carolina, albeit less well-known than his half-brother William, governor of Tennessee, and Thomas, member of Congress.

Blount had business dealings up and down the Atlantic seaboard and extending into the Caribbean, but his base of operation was in Washington in Beaufort County after his 1778 marriage. Blount made the town his home when it was still known as Forks of the Tar River.

Blount and his partners had substantial shipping interests, owning wharves, flatboats and seagoing vessels.  They owned sawmills, gristmills, tanneries and cotton gins, and engaged in agricultural pursuits and the slave trade.

Blount was also heavily involved in land speculation, employing agents to buy and sell large tracts in western North Carolina and Tennessee. He represented Beaufort in the state House and state Senate, and served in the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Blount died in 1833 and is buried at St. Peters Episcopal Church in Washington.

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.


Execution by the Tuscarora: John Lawson

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 06:30

A drawing of von Graffenreid and Lawson under capture by the Tuscurora. This drawing is sometimes attributed to von Graffenreid.

On September 20, 1711, explorer and surveyor John Lawson was killed by the Tuscarora.

Lawson and Baron Christoph von Graffenried planned to travel up the Neuse River from New Bern in an attempt to explore the area and discover the river’s source. The Tuscarora, angry about incursions into their lands, the kidnapping of their women and children, and disrespectful treatment by traders, stopped the expedition and imprisoned the leaders.

Graffenried’s account of the incident stated that Lawson got into an angry exchange with a leader which resulted in the seizure and burning of their hats and wigs, and a sentence of death being pronounced over them.

The next morning, Graffenried reportedly chastised Lawson for antagonizing their captors and spoke with an Indian interpreter.

After several days, one of the Indians made a plea on Graffenried’s behalf. He was released but kept in a hut, during which time Lawson was executed. It is believed that the Tuscarora thought Graffenried was the governor and that they would incur the wrath of the English if they killed him.

Graffenried later heard of several ways in which Lawson was supposedly executed but the actual method of death was uncertain.

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The Elizabeth II, Built for America’s Four Hundredth

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 06:30

The launch of the Elizabeth II in 1983. Image from Roanoke Island Festival Park.

On September 19, 1985, the Elizabeth II set out on its maiden voyage from Manteo to Ocracoke, Beaufort, New Bern and back again.

Constructed as part of America’s 400th anniversary, the 69-foot, square-rigged sailing ship was meant to be representative of the vessels used to bring the first English colonists to Roanoke Island in the late 1500s.

It was named for the original Elizabeth, one of the seven ships that was part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s second expedition in 1585. That ship was captained by Thomas Cavendish and most likely carried people and supplies to aid England in building a military garrison near what is now Manteo.

Students cheer on the ship right after its launch. Image from Roanoke Island Festival Park.

Built almost entirely by hand during 1983, the ship was in the water by early 1984 and was christened by British Princess Anne that summer. A private corporation raised $650,000 to finance the ship’s construction, while the General Assembly allocated $1.4 million for the development of other attractions on Roanoke Island.

Though the ship sometimes sails along the North Carolina coast, it is moored at Roanoke Island Festival Park for most of the year.

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“Cherry Bounce King,” Amos Owens

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 09/18/2016 - 06:30

Image from the Rutherford County Historical Society.

On September 18, 1906, Amos Owens, a notorious moonshiner from Rutherford County, died.

Known as the “Cherry Bounce King,” Owens was renowned for the delightful mixture of whiskey, honey and cherries that he made at his “castle” on Cherry Mountain.

Described as a fearless yet energetic Irishman, Owens achieved success quickly. People from all over the South visited him to taste his celebrated beverage.

Owens was also an infamous fixture in the local courthouse. Vehemently opposed to taxes on alcohol, he believed that he owed nothing to the government after fulfilling his civic duty as a Confederate soldier. Often arrested for his activities, Owens was occasionally acquitted for minor crimes, but didn’t always manage to escape the long reach of the law. He frequently had to pay fines or spend time in jail.

At one point he was locked up for an entire year.

Despite the risks that came with it, Owens continued to distill Cherry Bounce and every summer he hosted lively gatherings at Cherry Mountain to celebrate the cherry harvest.

A colorful local figure who embodied the vitality and grit of Appalachia in the aftermath of the Civil War, Owens didn’t stop making moonshine until he was sent to prison in his 70s.

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L. O’B. Branch Rose through Confederate Ranks

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 09/17/2016 - 06:30

Branch in 1859. Image from the Library of Congress.

On September 17, 1862, Gen. Lawrence O’Bryan Branch was shot and killed by a sharpshooter at the Battle of Sharpsburg.

Born in 1820 in Halifax County, Branch was placed in the care of his uncle, U.S. senator and former North Carolina governor John Branch, following the death of both of his parents.

After college at UNC and Princeton, Branch moved to Nashville, Tenn., to work as a newspaper editor and to study law. He opened a law practice in Florida and served as an aide to Governor Robert R. Reid during the Seminole War.

Branch married on a trip to North Carolina and eventually opened a law practice in Raleigh. He held a number of prominent positions in the decade prior to the Civil War including a term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

When North Carolina seceded in 1861, Branch enlisted as a private in the Confederate army, but was soon appointed the state’s Quartermaster General by Governor John W. Ellis. Branch obtained a commission as colonel of the 33rd North Carolina Infantry and was appointed a brigadier general in January 1862.

Branch went on to command his brigade at the Battle of New Bern and led the command at the engagements of Hanover Court House, the Seven Days’ Battles, Second Manassas and Sharpsburg.

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From Cotton Field to University: Fayetteville’s Methodist

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 09/16/2016 - 06:30

An early postcard of Methodist College. Image from the State Archives.

On September 16, 1960, the first class of 88 students was admitted to Methodist College.

About five years earlier, citizens of Fayetteville offered the Methodist Church a 600-acre tract and $2 million to establish a school in their town. Fayetteville attorney and future governor Terry Sanford was elected the first chairman of the board of trustees and L. Stacy Weaver was chosen as the first president.

When it first opened, the campus included a grouping of contemporary buildings; the architectural plan, created by Stevens and Wilkinson of Atlanta, earned a national citation for creativity and unity of design.

The school’s first major expansion came in 1978, when it began offering two-year associate’s degrees in addition to four-year bachelor’s degrees.

In 1993, trustees recommended that the college borrow funds to build additional residence halls over the next five years to accommodate 300 new resident students. The trustees further recommended that the college undertake a major capital campaign of at least $10 million for increasing the endowment and constructing a library addition, and two new academic buildings.

In 2001, the school had a record enrollment, and inaugurated the first graduate program, which trains physician assistants.

In 2006, trustees voted to change the name of the school from Methodist College to Methodist University.

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.


Namesake for Campbell’s Camel, Baseball’s Gaylord Perry

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 09/15/2016 - 06:30

Perry after throwing a pitch. Image from USA Today.

On September 15, 1938, Major League Baseball pitcher Gaylord Perry was born in Williamston.

Perry grew up helping his tenant farmer family, but his father, who was an athlete and sports fan, gave him time to play sports. Though he played every sport at his high school, Perry was most competitive at baseball.

A right-handed pitcher, Perry drew attention from scouts early and attended Campbell College for two years before turning pro. He signed with the San Francisco Giants and played in their farm system until his League debut in 1962.

Quickly developing a reputation for using the “spitball,” Perry often appeared to doctor the ball by smearing it with various substances (like petroleum jelly). This might have accounted for the sometimes miraculous spin he could produce.

Regardless of the cause, Perry was a pitching phenomenon. He earned the Cy Young Award, baseball’s top honor for pitchers, in both the National and American Leagues, and struck out out 3,534 batters during his more than 20-year career.

Over the course of his career, Perry played for eight major league teams and won 314 games.

Perry became a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1973, and was honored with membership in Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. Campbell University named its mascot “Gaylord the Camel” in honor of Perry.

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