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Dirty Dancing Filmed at Lake Lure

This Day in North Carolina History - 15 hours 32 min ago

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.

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Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain Date Back to 1956

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 06:30

The caber toss at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill

On August 19, 1956, the first Grandfather Mountain Highland Games were held near Linville.

The Grandfather Mountain games were conceived by Agnes MacRae Morton and Donald MacDonald. Already active in with several Scottish-affiliated organizations in the U.S., MacDonald was inspired to start games in North Carolina after attending a similar event on a trip to Scotland. Morton heard of a similar gathering in Connecticut and thought that Grandfather Mountain would be the perfect setting to try something comparable in North Carolina.

The pair chose the August 1956 date to commemorate the anniversary of an important event in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion against in Scotland, though the event was moved to the second weekend in July two years later.

The Avery County event quickly gained international fame, and its competitions in athletics, bagpiping, drumming and dancing are recognized worldwide. The games also have the distinction of being the largest “clan gathering” in the world since it draws so many Scottish family heritage groups.

The tradition of highland games across North Carolina is owed to the face that the Tar Heel State had the largest settlement of Highland Scots outside of Scotland until well into 1800s.

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Origins of the “Lost Colony” Mystery

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 06:30

A sketch of John White discovering “CROATOAN”
on a Roanoke Island tree

On August 18, 1590, Englishman John White returned to Roanoke Island to resupply the colony established on the island in 1587.  White found the settlement abandoned. A single word “CROATOAN” was carved on a post in the fort.

In 1587, at the urging of fellow colonists, Governor White had returned to England to gather supplies for the blossoming colony. Before leaving Roanoke Island, White and the colonists agreed that they would carve a message in a tree if they moved. Additionally, a Maltese cross would also be carved if the move was a forced. Since White didn’t find that particular distress signal, he was hopeful that the colonists would be found alive. White’s granddaughter, Virginia Dare, had been born exactly three years earlier.

After arriving back in England in October 1587, White was prevented from immediately returning to Roanoke Island because of England’s war with Spain. His attempt to do so in 1588 ended when pirates stole all his supplies. Finally, he was granted permission to return in early 1590.

White had the misfortune of arriving at Roanoke Island in poor weather and terrible landing conditions, leading to the death of seven mariners by drowning. The weather forced White to leave without searching adjacent areas for the colony.

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Frank Stick, Lindsay Warren and Cape Hatteras National Seashore

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 06:30

Surf fishing with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the background, circa 1956. Image from the State Archives.

On August 17, 1937, the U.S. House of Representatives authorized the country’s first national seashore at Cape Hatteras.

North Carolina Congressman Lindsay C. Warren sponsored the bill that sought to preserve the distinctive barrier islands of the Outer Banks. Because support for the park waxed and waned over the years, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was not officially established until 1953. The formal dedication ceremony was held in 1958.

The park was a long-time dream of conservationist and developer Frank Stick, who first came to the area on a fishing excursion in the late 1920s and was impressed with the pristine beaches and seemingly endless opportunities for recreation. He began lobbying for “a coastal park for North Carolina and the nation” soon after moving his family to the Outer Banks in 1929.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, administered by the National Park Service, now includes more than 70 miles of beach from Nags Head to Ocracoke. Initial plans called for a much larger park that included portions of Roanoke and Colington Islands. More than 2 million people visit the seashore each year to enjoy its beaches, fish, swim, surf, bird watch or see one of the lighthouses−Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke–that are found in the park.

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Diminutive Circus Duo Retired to Salisbury

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 06:30

John and Mariah Nail Mertz, circa 1883. Image from the Davie County Public Library.

On August 16, 1883, circus performers John Mertz and Mariah Elizabeth Nail were married on the stage of the Buckingham Theater in Louisville, Kentucky.

According to one story, the justice of the peace asked if they were old enough to wed because they were so small, with Mariah standing at 36 inches and John only about 10 inches taller. At the time they married, they were both around 30-years-old.

Nail was born in Mocksville in 1852. Her husband, Mertz, also known as “Major,” was born in Austria or Hungary around 1853. At age 21 he joined the circus, where he met Nail. After a long career of touring with several circuses, the pair retired from circus life sometime around 1911 and made their home in Salisbury. Mertz worked in Salisbury as a store clerk at T. F. Kluttz & Co., among other job.

The couple quickly became famous in Salisbury and has continued to live on in the community’s memory. Nail passed away at age 69 in 1922. Mertz died in 1938 at age 85. They are both buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery.

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.


Monroe Nathan Work of Tuskegee Institute, Chronicler of Black History

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 06:30

On August 15, 1866, Monroe Nathan Work, one of the most distinguished historians of the African American experience, was born in Iredell County.

Both of Work’s parents had been enslaved and, so with the promise of new horizons outside the South, the family moved to Illinois shortly after he was born. Work attended seminary in Chicago but decided that being a minister wasn’t for him and became a sociologist. While teaching in Georgia, he attracted the attention of Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute.

At Tuskegee, Work found his calling and life’s work. At the height of the Jim Crow era, he dedicated himself to documenting African American life and history and to assisting those seeking social justice.

In 1912, Work began compiling The Negro Yearbook, a sort of almanac with information and statistics on the black experience. Among other endeavors he took care to document lynchings, lending credibility to the anti-lynching movement.

His masterwork was the Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America, which appeared in 1928 and included 17,000 entries.  That year he received the Harmon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement.

Work died at his home in Tuskegee in 1945.

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Couple Immortalized on V-J Day

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 08/14/2014 - 06:30

V-J Day in Times Square. Photo by
Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

On August 14, 1945, Life magazine photographer Albert Eisenstaedt captured the spirit of celebration of the United States’ victory over Japan in World War II in an iconic photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square.

The sailor had been running down the street kissing random women when he was spotted by Eisenstaedt, who snapped a few quick pictures when he grabbed a nurse in white nearby. Because of the chaos in the streets Eisenstaedt did not have time to get the names of the couple.

Many people have claimed to be the sailor or the nurse over the years, but North Carolina native Glenn McDuffie went to lengths to prove that he was the kissing sailor. Tired of disputes as to the sailor’s identity, McDuffie asked Lois Gibson, a forensic artist with Houston Police Department, whether she could make a positive identification.

Glenn McDuffie with a Navy photo of himself during World War II and V-J Day in Times Square

In 2007, Gibson, who also compared the photo with those of several other kisser-claimants, reported that McDuffie’s features were an exact match to those of the sailor in the photograph. He enjoyed several years of celebrity, being invited to fundraisers and veterans’ events.

Born in Kannapolis in 1927, McDuffie was 15 years old when he forged documents to join the Navy. He died in 2014 in Texas.

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“Glory” Hancock, World War I Nurse

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 06:30

“Glory” Hancock with her husband

On August 13, 1914, Madelon Battle Hancock, the most decorated nurse to serve with the Allied Forces in World War I, left for service in Antwerp, Belgium, with the first British Hospital Unit.

Hancock grew up in Asheville where her father, Westray Battle, was a prominent physician and outspoken community leader. In 1904, she married Mortimer Hancock, an officer in the British Army, and after graduating from the Presbyterian Hospital School for Nursing in New York City in 1905, moved with him to England.

Madelon, who was soon called “Glory” by the troops that she enthusiastically served, went to Belgium with the first detachment of soldiers sent into the war from Britain, and she remained in service with them for the entire war. She was often close to the battle front and survived artillery fire and gassing.

For her skilled nursing of the sick and wounded and her bravery under fire, Hancock received 12 decorations: five from Great Britain, five from Belgium and two from France.

Several letters Hancock wrote to family on the home front have survived and are archived at UNC Greensboro.

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Showman Cecil B. DeMille, Raised in “Little Washington”

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 06:30

DeMille (center) directing a film. Image from
the New York Institute of Photography.

On August 12, 1881, movie producer and director Cecil Blount DeMille was born in Massachusetts where his family was vacationing for the summer. The DeMille roots, though, were deeply embedded in eastern North Carolina and Cecil (not yet “C. B.”) grew up in Washington along the Pamlico River.

The DeMilles were a show business family. Cecil’s father was playwright Henry C. DeMille, a leading figure in New York drama circles, and his niece, Agnes, was a dancer who spent her last years teaching at the North Carolina School of the Arts.

In 1913, DeMille moved to California and joined Samuel Goldwyn in founding what would become Paramount Pictures. He played himself in the classic 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. In time DeMille’s name became synonymous with spectacle. He produced 70 films including The Greatest Show on Earth and The Ten Commandments. During production of the latter, he suffered a heart attack after climbing a ladder to the top of the set made to look like Pharaoh Ramses’s temple.

DeMille died in 1959 of congestive heart failure. At the time he was negotiating the directing rights to Ben-Hur.

The Golden Globes Lifetime Achievement Award is named in his honor.

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Keith and Malinda Blalock, Couple in Confederate Service

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 08/11/2014 - 06:30

Keith Blalock. Image from
the Avery Museum.

On August 11, 1913, Keith Blalock died while operating a hand car on a mountain railroad. He was the husband of Malinda Blalock, who was North Carolina’s only known female Civil War soldier.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Keith and his wife, Malinda, lived near Grandfather Mountain in Watauga County. Despite being Unionists, the couple both enlisted in the 26th North Carolina Troops in March 1862. Malinda enlisted under the name Sam. Keith’s decision to enlist was made primarily to avoid being drafted by the recently passed Confederate Conscription Act, and Malinda simply did not want her husband going to war without her.

Malind Blalock holding a portrait of her husban. Image from the Avery Museum.

While their regiment was stationed near Kinston, Keith devised a plan to be medically discharged by rubbing his body with poison oak and causing a rash. Once he obtained his discharge, his wife disclosed her gender, and promptly received a discharge as well.

Upon their return to the mountains, the Blalocks joined Unionist guerrillas operating in and around Grandfather Mountain. Keith was wounded several times fighting Confederate home guard units.

After the war, Keith ran for political office in Mitchell County, but was defeated. Malinda died from natural causes in 1901. The couple is buried in Avery County.

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The Civil Air Patrol and World War II off North Carolina’s Coast

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 08/10/2014 - 06:30

Civil Air Patrol volunteers in Greenville, circa 1950.
Image from East Carolina University.

On August 10, 1942, pilots from North Carolina’s first Civil Air Patrol (CAP) base at Skyco on Roanoke Island began making patrols.

North Carolina’s notorious “Torpedo Junction” spurred officials to establish a CAP base near the coast. Aircraft from the base patrolled the area from Norfolk to Ocracoke Inlet. The Navy and Coast Guard also used CAP aircraft to escort convoys along the coast, survey and chart wrecks that might pose risks to navigation and conduct search and rescue missions.

As the federal and state governments began to see the value in the CAP, a second coastal patrol base was established in Beaufort in 1943. Although critically underfunded, North Carolina’s two coastal patrol bases provided vital support for military operations.

While North Carolina’s Civil Air Patrol bases were in operation during World War II, only two vessels were torpedoed off of the coast. The civilian airmen assisted military pilots in effectively blockading Torpedo Junction. Service in the CAP was voluntary and did not carry draft deferment. Participating aviators received pay for their time and equipment use when performing official services such as patrol or courier duty.

Today the Civil Air Patrol continues to conduct search and rescue operations and provide disaster relief and emergency services.

Read more in North Carolina and the Two World Wars from N.C. Historical Publications.

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.


State’s First Newspaper Issued in New Bern, 1751

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 06:30

An August 1751 edition of the North-Carolina Gazette held by the State Archives.

On August 9, 1751, James Davis issued the North-Carolina Gazette, the first newspaper to appear in the colony.

The newspaper wasn’t Davis’ first foray into publishing; he had established the colony’s first printing press two years earlier in New Bern. In that capacity he printed currency and various official publications.

The newspaper, unlike modern print papers, did not have headlines or much local news. It focused mostly on international news and the arrivals and departures of ships. The Gazette was supposed to have been published weekly but, from the issues that survive, it appears to have had no regular schedule and wasn’t published at all between 1759 and 1768.

A terrible storm destroyed Davis’s print shop in 1769, forcing him to salvage what equipment he could and rebuild his business. The Revolutionary War also presented Davis with problems in regularly issuing his Gazette, making it difficult for Davis to get paper and forcing his son, who was his assistant, to serve in the army.

Davis served as the colony’s public printer until 1782 and he kept issuing the Gazette until just before his death in 1785. The paper appeared in another form between 1786 and 1798, when it was used by another printer to promote the Bill of Rights and other causes.

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Mary Reynolds Babcock, Patron of the Arts and Education

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

On August 8, 1908, Mary Reynolds was born in Winston to tobacco magnate R. J. Reynolds and his wife Katherine.

Both of her parents had died by the time she was 15, so Reynolds and her three siblings were left in the care of their uncle Will Reynolds at the family homeplace in Winston-Salem, Reynolda. After studying art in France, Reynolds returned to the United States and, in 1929, married investment banker Charles Babcock.

The couple lived in Greenwich, Conn., before buying up the Reynolds’ siblings interests in Reynolda.  Two years later, Reynolds inherited $30 million from her father’s estate, making her one of the wealthiest women in America.

After using some of the money to renovate Reynolda, Babcock turned her interests to philanthropy.   In 1951, Babcock and her husband donated more than 300 acres to Wake Forest University, allowing the college to move to Winston-Salem from Wake Forest and construct an entirely new campus. A few years later, she established with $12 million a charitable foundation that continues to support Wake Forest University, the arts and social welfare.

Babcock died in New York City in 1953. In keeping with one of her lifelong passions, Reynolda House is now a celebrated museum of American art.

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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