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John Reed and the Yellow Doorstop

This Day in North Carolina History - 5 hours 17 min ago

A sketch showing the discovery of gold at Reed Gold Mine. Image from the State Archives.

On May 28, 1845, John Reed, the owner of the property where the first documented discovery of gold in the United States took place, died.

In 1799, Reed’s son Conrad found a 17-pound yellow rock in Little Meadow Creek in Cabarrus County. Conrad brought the rock home, where the family used it as a doorstop for years.

The elder Reed made several unsuccessful attempts to discern the rock’s value. In 1802, a merchant in Fayetteville paid the family $3.50 for it. Later Reed discovered that the rock was in fact gold and that the merchant received $3,600 from its sale.

In 1803, after turning a substantial profit selling nuggets found along the creek, Reed ventured into a partnership to purchase slaves to search for gold. The venture was rewarded with a 28-pound nugget, the discovery of which sparked an era of gold fever.

The Reed Mine helped establish North Carolina’s mining industry 20 years before the California gold rush. So much gold was discovered in the Charlotte area that, in 1837, the federal government established a branch United States Mint there to transform it into currency.

Visit: In recognition of the mine’s contribution to state history, the Reed Gold Mine is now a state historic site.

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.


Brief Return to Native State for Edward Stanly

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 05/27/2016 - 06:30

A portrait of Stanly from the Library of Congress.

On May 27, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Edward Stanly appointed military governor of North Carolina.

Born in New Bern, Stanly served in the state legislature and practiced law in Beaufort County before being elected to Congress in 1837. After losing his third bid for re-election he returned to the state legislature, briefly served as state attorney general.

He moved to California after losing the Whig nomination for governor in 1848.

Stanly fiercely opposed the secessionist movement in California and believed that North Carolina was tricked into joining the Confederacy, so he volunteered to return to the Tar Heel State to work for peace.

Stanly found few friends back home in New Bern. Those on the Confederate side viewed him as a traitor, while many Unionists were angry that he wouldn’t authorize schools for African Americans. Outraged at Lincoln for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation which he believed would make peace between North and South impossible, Stanly resigned from his post less than nine months after taking it.

He returned to California where he died in 1872.

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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.


“Foxy Brown,” “Jackie Brown” Star Pam Grier

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 06:30

Grier in Foxy Brown. Image from the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

On May 26, 1949, actress Pam Grier was born in Winston-Salem.

Grier’s father was an Air Force mechanic, keeping the family constantly on the move, so it was in Colorado that her acting career got its start. Spotted by an agent at the Colorado state preliminary to the Miss Universe pageant, Grier accepted the agent’s offer to come to Hollywood to try to make it in the film industry.

After making her debut on the silver screen in the 1971 film Big Doll House, Grier quickly became a staple of the so-called “Blaxploitation” genre of films—films geared toward urban black audiences whose plots and characters relied heavily on black stereotypes. She played the starring role in Foxy Brown, perhaps the best-known movie of the genre.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Grier acted in several blockbuster, more mainstream movies and began working in television as well. In her later career, she is perhaps best known for playing the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 movie Jackie Brown, and she continues to work in movies and television to this day.

Grier was the first black woman to appear on the cover of Ms. magazine in August 1975, and Ebony included her on its list of the “100 Most Fascinating Women of the 20th Century.”

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.


Entombed at Sea in a Cask

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 06:30

Martin’s grave at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington. Image from the New Hanover County Public Library.

On May 25, 1857, Nancy Adams Martin died at sea. Her body was placed in a cask of alcohol to preserve her remains until the ship reached port.

Affectionately known as “Nance” by her family, Martin was the daughter of Wilmington businessman Silas H. Martin. A captain and shipper by trade, Silas planned a trip around the world, and his eldest son John and daughter Nance accompanied him on the voyage. It would be an ill-fated journey for the Martins.

Nance took ill about three months into the trip and quickly succumbed to the sickness. The only means of preserving her body for later burial was to store it in a cask of rum. The thought of her body sloshing around in a cask was too much for her father and brother, so it was decided that a chair would be placed in the cask, nailed in place and Nance seated and tied into the chair to keep her from swishing around.

The voyage continued and tragedy struck again. John was swept overboard and lost at sea.

Upon returning to Wilmington, Silas had Nance buried. Rather than disturb the remains they buried her in the cask in the port city’s Oakdale Cemetery.

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.


Dramatist Lula Vollmer, Acclaimed for “Sun-up”

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 06:30

An ad for a 1929 performance of Sun-Up. Image from Community Players Theatre.

On May 24, 1923, Moore County native Lula Vollmer’s play “Sun-up” premiered on Broadway. Her first and most successful drama, “Sun-Up” depicted people of the southern mountain region. She donated her royalties of more than $40,000 to help educate them.

Born in 1898 and educated at what later became Asheville College, Vollmer went to New York after graduation in 1918 to try to sell the play. Although she worked for the Theatre Guild as a box-office clerk, the Guild joined other producers in rejecting “Sun-Up” until it was produced at the Provincetown Theater.

A portrait of Vollmer. Image from the State Library.

Subsequently it was performed in Chicago, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Budapest.

In 1925, “Sun-Up” was published in book form. Between 1923 and 1946, Vollmer wrote many other plays, among them “The Shame Woman,” “The Dunce Boy,” “Trigger” and “Sentinels,” although none had the commercial success of her first.

Except for Paul Green, Vollmer had more plays produced in New York than any other North Carolina dramatist. Grant Wood, famous for his painting American Gothic, was scene designer for one of her early works.

Vollmer also wrote a variety of radio serials and in later years wrote short stories for the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s Magazine and other magazines.

She died in 1955.

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Kenan Progenitor James Kenan

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 06:30

On May 23, 1810, Revolutionary era military and political leader James Kenan died.

Born on his family’s plantation near what’s now the town of Turkey, Kenan was elected sheriff of Duplin County when he was 22. He displayed strong leadership early, assembling a group of volunteers to go to Wilmington in vocal opposition of the British Stamp Act.

After serving in the colonial assembly and provincial congress, Kenan joined the Duplin militia at the outset of the Revolutionary War. He helped lead a group of volunteers against Scottish loyalists at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in 1776, and rose through the ranks to become brigadier general for the Wilmington District shortly after the war ended.

A Revolutionary War voucher issued to James Kenan. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

Kenan served more than 10 terms in the state legislature after independence and was prominent in the state’s political scene, acting as a member of the State Constitutional Conventions of 1788 and 1789, becoming a member of UNC’s original board of trustees and sitting on the council of state under Richard Caswell.

Active in the Freemasons, Kenan was the first Master of the original Masonic lodge in Duplin County.

Kenan died 1810. His descendants remained active in North Carolina’s civic, political and social life for generations.

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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.


Jennette’s Pier: A Nags Head Institution

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 06:30

An early postcard featuring Jennette’s Pier. Image from the Jennette’s Pier.

On May 22, 1939, work began on Jennette’s Ocean Pier in Nags Head, the first fishing pier on the Outer Banks.

The 750-foot wooden structure was built by Elizabeth City’s Warren Jennette, Sr., who purchased the former site of Camp Weaver, a WPA transient camp that housed workers who built sand dunes in the area. Some buildings were converted into overnight accommodations for fishermen.

The pier opened for business that summer with a snack bar, bait stand, guest rooms and restrooms for the public. Located across from Sam and Omie’s restaurant and near Whalebone filling station, the pier helped establish the business district in South Nags Head.

Jennette’s Pier suffered damage from sea worms, nor’easters, hurricanes and even a wayward shipwreck, and was rebuilt a number of times. But it was Hurricane Isabel in 2003 that caused its final demise. A new 1,000-foot state-of-the-art green pier with educational exhibits, wind turbines and concrete pilings was built to replace the old pier.

The new pier was dedicated in May 2011, with Governor Beverly Perdue taking part in the opening celebration. Now a facility of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Jennette’s Pier hosted nearly 200,000 anglers and sightseers last year.

Visit: Jennette’s Pier, now a unit of the North Carolina Aquariums system, is open to the public daily year-round.

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Here’s to the Land of the Longleaf Pine

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 05/21/2016 - 06:30

A 1908 postcard with language matching closely to Martin’s poem. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On May 21, 1957, the General Assembly adopted an official state toast.

The toast was first read by the Rev. Walter W. Moore in May 1904 in Richmond at a banquet hosted by the North Carolina Society of Richmond. Moore’s toast came from “The Old North State,” a poem, written by Leonora Monteiro Martin, which was reportedly commissioned for the event.

Martin, a writer who had lived in North Carolina, was living in Richmond with her husband, Harry Culver-Martin at the time.

Beginning in May 1904, lines of the poem appeared in newspapers in accounts of tributes and toasts given at other occasions. The poem became almost instantly ubiquitous in association with patriotic and nostalgic feelings for the state, and within a few years it appeared on postcards and in anthologies.

In the 1930s, Mary Burke Kerr, a music teacher in Sampson County, composed music for Martin’s poem, and in 1933 the General Assembly officially recognized Kerr’s composition with a resolution and requested that WPTF, a Raleigh radio station, began to play a recording to acquaint North Carolinians with it.

From that point, generations of North Carolina school children learned the song before the General Assembly officially recognized the combined creations of Martin and Kerr as the state toast in 1957.

The full text of the toast reads:

Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to “Down Home,” the Old North State!

Here’s to the land of the cotton bloom white,
Where the scuppernong perfumes the breeze at night,
Where the soft southern moss and jessamine mate,
‘Neath the murmuring pines of the Old North State!

Here’s to the land where the galax grows,
Where the rhododendron’s rosette glows,
Where soars Mount Mitchell’s summit great,
In the “Land of the Sky,” in the Old North State!

Here’s to the land where maidens* are fair,
Where friends are true and cold hearts rare,
The near land, the dear land, whatever fate,
The blest land, the best land, the Old North State!

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Worth Bagley Memorialized at Capitol, 1907

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 06:30

The unveiling of the Bagley Monument on Union Square. Image from the State Archives.

On May 20, 1907, the Ensign Worth Bagley monument on Union Square in Raleigh was dedicated.

Bagley was the first United States naval officer killed in the Spanish American War in 1898. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he was Raleigh native and grandson of William Henry Bagley, private secretary to Governor Jonathan Worth. Bagley’s 1898 death was extolled as a moment for of reunion for the nation, the first death in the Spanish American War coming from a reconstructed Southern state.

The front page of The North Carolinian, completely dedicated to the monument unveiling. Image from the State Archives.

Bagley laid in state at the State Capitol before his burial in Oakwood Cemetery.

The monument dedication in 1907 expanded on the view of reunification. The federal government sent 200 flags to adorn Union Square and the downtown Raleigh area. Official military speakers were authorized.

Bagley’s brother-in-law Josephus Daniels, editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, drove publicity and media coverage of the monument dedication.

The statue of Bagley, designed by New York sculptor F. H. Packer, was paid for by a nationwide fundraising effort.

An estimated 20,000 people attended the dedication. Bagley’s nephew and namesake unveiled the monument. Governor Robert Glenn honored Bagley by identifying him as the

boy who had so cemented the country together.

Visit: The monument still stands today on the grounds of the North Carolina State Capitol, one of 27 state historic sites.

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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.


Rough Justice in the Backcountry, 1865

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 06:30

On May 19, 1865, Confederate vigilantes led by Captain R. M. Sharpe began the siege of Fort Hamby in Wilkes County.

A simple log house in Wilkes County that between 18 and 30 Union army deserters called home, the fort took its name from its previous occupants, a group of “disreputable” women. The men used it as a staging point to plunder homes in Wilkes, Watauga, Caldwell and Alexander counties and to murder people who had been left defenseless by the war.

Led by a man with the surname of Wade, the band benefited from the lack of law and order in the region that followed Lee’s surrender in April 1865.

After a 22-man group of former Confederate soldiers unsuccessfully tried to capture Wade and his associates, Sharpe led two companies of local men to try and eliminate the group. Shots were fired back and forth all day and into the night. Only after two men set fire to the house did Wade and his men finally ask to surrender. Sharpe’s reply was:

We will shoot you.

Wade managed to escape, but four of his men were captured, tied to a stake, and executed. Inside the house, the victors found a wealth of stolen goods. Once the valuables had been removed, the house was burned to the ground.

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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.


Joseph McDowell, Not to Be Confused with Joseph McDowell

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 06:30

On May 18, 1795, Revolutionary War veteran Joseph McDowell died in Burke County at the age of 38.

The only son of “Hunting John” McDowell, a pioneer of Scotch-Irish descent who arrived in western North Carolina in the mid-1700s, Joseph was born on the family plantation, Pleasant Gardens, in what was then Burke County.

Because McDowell had a cousin of the same name, he was referred to as “Pleasant Gardens Joe” so as not to be confused with “Quaker Meadows Joe.” During the American Revolution, both men enlisted in a military unit under the command of their kinsman Charles McDowell and fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain.

There are discrepancies as to which Joseph led the troops at Kings Mountain, but it is most likely that Major Joseph McDowell (Pleasant Gardens) was under the command of Colonel Joseph McDowell (Quaker Meadows).

Following the war McDowell practiced law and served in the state legislature, as a delegate to two Constitutional Conventions and as an early member of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina.

He married Mary Moffett and they had three children, John, James and Annie. McDowell County is named in his honor.

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Textile Executive Stuart Cramer and Air Conditioning

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 06:30

An ad for Cramer’s air conditioning system in 1909 cotton industry periodical. Image from Google Books/University of Chicago Libraries.

On May 17, 1906, Stuart Cramer coined the term “air conditioning” during a speech in Asheville.

Born in Thomasville and trained as an engineer, Cramer contributed significantly to the cotton mill industry by using his engineering and invention skills.

In 1895, he established a textile business and, over the next 10 years, designed and equipped more than 150 cotton mills in the South, or roughly a third of all mills in the South at the time.

Cramer invested his profits back into his own mills, especially those in the community that came to bear his name, Cramerton.

Though he got his start in cotton, Cramer is best known for the role he played in the development of air conditioning. The holder of more than 60 patents, he pioneered humidity control and ventilating equipment for cotton mills and installed scores of such systems in plants across the South.

In a paper read before an American Cotton Manufacturers Association convention in May 1906, Cramer was the first to use the term “air conditioning.”

Though credit for the invention of air conditioning does not belong to one person, the biographer of industry giant W. H. Carrier attributes 11 technological advances and “outstanding work which later had a large part in the air conditioning industry” to Cramer.

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Women’s Education in North Carolina Began at Salem

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 06:30

The Salem Academy and College campus in the 1880s. Image from the Forsyth County Public Library.

On May 16, 1804, Salem Academy opened the doors of its new dormitory, South Hall, to students and officially transitioned from a day school to a boarding school.

The Moravians had established the all-girls’ school in 1772 soon after the first women trekked 500 miles from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to join the community at Salem. One of their number, Elisabeth Oesterlein, became the first teacher at the school. The unmarried women of Salem, known as “single sisters,” governed the academy during this early period.

The Senior Study Parlor at Salem Academy and College, circa 1904. Image from Old Salem Museums and Gardens.

The Moravians believed women and other disenfranchised groups of the time deserved an education. As early as 1785, records indicate the inclusion of African-American students, and in the 1820s, the daughter of a Cherokee chief attended the school.

By the late 19th century, Salem Academy began awarding college degrees. Eventually the academy and college split into two separate institutions, although they still share the same campus.

Salem Academy and College both remain all-female, though some continuing education programs for men over age 23 are offered. The American Council on Education recognizes Salem College as the oldest such institution strictly for women in the United States.

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.


St. Augustine’s Bishop Delany and His Carolinas-Wide Charge

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 05/15/2016 - 06:30

Delaney’s consecration. Image from History of the Afro-American Group of the Episcopal Church via Archive.org.

On May 15, 1918, Henry Beard Delany became the first black Episcopal bishop in North Carolina and only the second in the United States.

A portrait of Delaney in 1918. Image from the Archives of the Episcopal Church.

A native Georgian who grew up in Florida, Delany came to North Carolina in 1881 when he enrolled at what’s now St. Augustine’s University. He remained at the school teaching courses, overseeing facility construction, serving as vice principal and, after he was ordained an Episcopal priest, as the school chaplain.

Delany was elected bishop “in charge of Negro work” and served in that capacity broadly across North and South Carolina.

His work is credited with the improvement of the quality of life among African Americans in the South. At his death, he was memorialized as having risen:

to a position of eminence in which he had won not only the esteem of his white colleagues throughout the country but also their love.

Two of Delany’s daughters became famous in the 1990s for their book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. The book was later adapted into a play and a film.

Other related resources:

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.


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