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“Cherokee Clay” and Wedgwood Pottery

This Day in North Carolina History - 7 hours 20 sec ago

A Wedgwood bowl commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Roanoke Voyages. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On December 18, 1767, an agent of England’s Wedgwood potteries finished extracting several tons of fine white clay from the mountains of North Carolina.

By the 1740s, people in England and across the American colonies knew of the valuable white clay deposits in the Cherokee region of the North Carolina mountains. A British patent was filed around 1744 “for the production of porcelain from an earthy mixture, produced by the Cherokee Nation in America.

Josiah Wedgwood’s great-great-great-great grandson speaks at the dedication of the a highway marker to Cherokee clay. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

With increasing interest in creating porcelain in England and the colonies, Josiah Wedgwood launched efforts to secure what was called Cherokee Clay. He hired an agent, Thomas Griffiths, to travel to America to conduct the business. Griffiths went to the Indian settlement of Ayoree in what is now Macon County to negotiate an arrangement for the purchase of five to six tons of Cherokee Clay. The clay was carried down the mountains by pack horses. Griffiths delivered the Cherokee Clay to Josiah Wedgwood in April 1768.

Because of the expenses incurred, Wedgwood never pursued additional shipments of the clay. His supply lasted 15 years. In 1783, he wrote that Cherokee Clay was the basis of his newly manufactured biscuit porcelain.

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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 Declaration of Rights: Milestone at Halifax, 1776

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 06:30

A Declaration of Rights document adopted by the North Carolina’s Constitutional Convention of 1788. Image from the Library of Congress.

On December 17, 1776, the Fifth Provincial Congress at Halifax issued the North Carolina Declaration of Rights. Consisting of 25 articles, the document outlined the basic rights of citizens of the new state and became part of the state constitution, which was issued the following day.

The Declaration of Rights was the work of a 28-man committee chaired by the president of the congress, Richard Caswell, and it was modeled on English legal and political traditions. The first provision emphasized that all political power is comes from and is vested in the people, and other articles:

  • guaranteed free and frequent elections;
  • prohibited excessive bail, fines and punishments;
  • enshrined the right to a fair and speedy trial by jury;
  • protected freedom of the press, assembly and worship;
  • ensured taxation by public consent only;
  • established the right to bear arms in state defense;
  • placed the military under civil control; and
  • barred the creation of laws with retroactive penalties.

Notably at the time, these rights applied to free people only, and not to slaves.

In an ironic twist, the citizens of the state did not vote on either the Declaration of Rights or the new constitution. Instead, they went into effect on the authority of the congress.

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.


John A. Copeland Jr., Participant in John Brown’s Raid

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 09:12

Image from the Kansas Historical Society.

On December 16, 1859, John A. Copeland Jr., was executed for his participation John Brown’s raid on the United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

Copeland, a free mulatto, was born in Raleigh in 1834. In 1843 his family moved to Oberlin, Ohio, and became involved with the abolitionist movement. In 1858, Copeland assisted in the rescue of a man who was arrested for being a fugitive slave and was arrested for his actions, but never tried.

Remaining an ardent abolitionist, Copeland and another North Carolinian, Lewis Leary, joined with John Brown in Ohio in September 1859. When Brown attempted to cause a slave revolt by taking the arsenal in October 1859, Copeland, Leary and another man were assigned the task of taking the Hall’s Rifle Works at the arsenal. When surrounded, the three raiders attempted to flee across the Shenandoah River. Only Copeland survived but he surrendered, and was put on trial for murder and slave insurrection.

Upon his conviction, Copeland was sentenced to death at the gallows in Charleston, Va. At his death, Copeland was reported saying “If I am dying for freedom, I could not die for a better cause – I had rather die than be a slave.”

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 Walton War: North Carolina Versus Georgia

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 06:30

A map showing what used to be Walton County in western North Carolina. Image from the State Library.

On December 15, 1804, Buncombe County constable John Havner was killed, beginning what became known as the “Walton War.”

Today it seems unlikely that a tract of land in Transylvania County would have been claimed as part of the state of Georgia, but that was the case in 1803 when the Peach State laid claim to the territory and named it Walton County. North Carolina Governor James Turner actively defended the Tar Heel State’s claim, leading to confusion for the 800 or so residents of the region.

The dispute was submitted to Congress, where a committee initially accepted Georgia’s claim. Meanwhile, lawlessness prevailed in the area. It was difficult for Buncombe County to assert authority over Georgians. Events came to a head late in 1804 when Waltonians killed the constable. The Buncombe County militia marched into Walton County, taking 10 Walton officials prisoner.

In June 1807, officials from the two states met in Asheville to iron out their differences and set a boundary. They discovered that North Carolina’s claim was accurate. The Georgia commissioners were “astonished and mortified.” They relinquished claim to the territory that same year, and amnesty was granted to those responsible for the violence, but confusion reigned for some time.

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General Robert Howe, Revolutionary War Commander

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 06:30

On December 14, 1786, Robert Howe, Continental army general, died on his way to Fayetteville to serve in the state legislature.

Born in 1732 in New Hanover County, Howe inherited a considerable fortune and owned several large plantations in the region. When Brunswick County formed, he was elected to the colonial assembly, a post he held for six terms. He also served as a militia officer and commanded Fort Johnston from 1769 to 1773.

During the War of the Regulation, Howe commanded the artillery at the Battle of Alamance. At the outbreak of the Revolution, he served as a member of the Wilmington Committee of Safety and led the local militia that took control of Fort Johnston. In 1775, Howe was appointed colonel of the 2nd North Carolina Continental regiment, and the next year, he was promoted to brigadier general. While he was serving in South Carolina, his plantations were burned by British troops.

Howe was ultimately appointed commander of the Southern Department and was promoted to major general in October 1777.  He was the highest-ranking officer from North Carolina to serve in the American Revolution.

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Ella Baker and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

This Day in North Carolina History - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 06:30

SNCC members harassed during a protest. Image from the Ella Baker Center.

On December 13, 1986, Ella Baker, civil rights leader and organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), died. Called “the mother of the civil rights movement” by one scholar, Baker culminated a life dedicated to civil rights work by helping to establish SNCC at her alma mater, Shaw University, in April 1960.

Raised in Virginia and Halifax County, Baker graduated from Shaw in 1927. She moved to New York in 1903 and joined the Young Negroes Cooperative League with the aim of developing black economic power through collective planning. In 1940, she began work for National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as field secretary, where she eventually rose to become the director of branches.

In 1957, Baker joined with Martin Luther King Jr. and others to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); she was the only woman present. After the sit-ins in Greensboro, she organized the meeting at Shaw in April 1960 that gave rise to SNCC.

She advocated that the budding organization be student-directed and not under the umbrella of the SCLC. The members of SNCC were the “shock troops” of the civil rights movement, called “probably the most courageous and the most selfless” of the activists of the 1960s by John Hope Franklin.

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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.

 


George Ladshaw, Accidental Hero to Kayakers

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

A postcard of the Green River. Image from the Buncombe County Public Library.

On December 12, 1906, George Ladshaw submitted a survey of the Green River basin in Henderson and Polk counties, proposing dams and hydroelectric power plants along the waterway.

His report on the “Available Power and Cost of Development” would have destroyed the riverbed and natural flow of the Green River, which today is legendary among kayakers for its exciting slides and drops. Other parts of the river are popular for tubing, canoeing and kayaking for beginners.

The most treacherous section of the Green, called the Narrows, consists of a series of Class V rapids with names such as “Go Left and Die,” “Gorilla” and “Sunshine,” that challenge even the most seasoned kayakers. Since 1996, Saluda has been home to “The Green Race,” a world-class kayak race on the Narrows attracting participants and thrill-seekers from around the globe.

Devotees of the Green River rapids have become aware of the so-called Ladshaw Plan, possibly because of an archival collection of documents related to speculation lands digitized by UNC-Asheville. Today kayakers celebrate the great near miss of having never known the precipitous rapids of the Green River by recognizing December 12 as Ladshaw Day.

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.


Modern Novelist Discovered Farquard Campbell

This Day in North Carolina History - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 06:30

On December 11, 1790, a state Senate resolution declared that Farquard Campbell’s actions during the Revolutionary War were justifiable.

Campbell’s early life remains a mystery, but it is known that he emigrated from Scotland by the 1750s. He rose to prominence in Cumberland County, first as a justice of the peace and then as surveyor and a representative in the legislature. Campbellton, which later became Fayetteville, was named in his honor.

After the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, Campbell was found guilty of aiding the British and was imprisoned for about two years. He reestablished himself politically and was thus forgiven.

The name Farquard Campbell might sound familiar to readers of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series of books. Much of the fourth book, Drums of Autumn, takes place in 18th century North Carolina, and in that volume Campbell appears as a fairly significant character in the book—a local justice of the peace and loyal friend of Jamie Fraser’s aunt Jocasta. He is described in the novel as “the usual justice in this district.”

Gabaldon paid considerable attention to the veracity of her portrayal of North Carolina in the 1700s, writing about a great many real and thinly-veiled characters from the state’s history.

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William Miller, Governor During War of 1812

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 06:30

Image from the State Archives.

On December 10, 1825, former North Carolina Governor William Miller died in Key West, Florida.

Born around 1783 in Warren County, Miller worked as a private lawyer, the state’s attorney general and a member of the General Assembly before first being elected governor in 1814. He went on to serve three terms in the post, and was the first to occupy the newly completed Governor’s Palace at the south end of Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street.

Active on the national political stage, Miller supported the military policies of President James Madison during the concluding weeks of the War of 1812 by ordering out additional militia forces for potential service on the southern frontier.

In North Carolina, he lent his support to the early efforts to establish a system of public education, helped improve trade and transportation and sought to reform the penal code and judicial system. One of his appointees to the bench was instrumental in the organization of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

In 1825, President John Quincy Adams appointed Miller a diplomatic agent to Guatemala. He died of yellow fever en route to assume his new post, and was probably buried at sea.

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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.


Confederate Prison at Salisbury Opened, 1861

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 12/09/2014 - 06:30

An 1864 sketch showing a bird’s-eye view of the prison.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On December 9, 1861, the Confederate prison at Salisbury took in its first Yankee prisoners.

Early in the war, the Confederacy purchased an old cotton mill in southeast Salisbury for $15,000 and converted the structure into a place of confinement. Many of the incarcerated spent their time writing, whittling or playing baseball. These constituted some of the first baseball games played in the South. One prisoner noted that early life within the prison was “more endurable than any other part of Rebeldom.”

In time, however, the Salisbury prison reached capacity. In the autumn of 1864, it contained almost 7,000 prisoners, far more than the facility was designed to accommodate. Statewide supply shortages and rampant disease led to a surge in death rates, forcing guards to prepare mass graves for deceased inmates and casualties from nearby hospitals.

Near the close of the war, conditions at the prison convinced leaders to conduct prisoner exchanges, the most notable of which took place in February 1865. In April of that year, General George Stoneman’s Union troops set fire to the prison, which had been abandoned and converted into a supply depot. Only the garrison house survived from the original prison camp, along with a few artifacts including a tattered Confederate flag.

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S. B. Alexander, Advocate for Agriculture

This Day in North Carolina History - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 05:30

S. B. Alexander. Image from Archive.org.

On December 8, 1840, Sydenham Benoni Alexander, Confederate officer, legislator and agriculturalist, was born in Mecklenburg County.

Though Alexander graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1860, the Civil War intervened before he could begin his professional life. He enlisted in the First North Carolina Volunteers in April 1861, saw action and was promoted through the ranks to captain before he joined the staff of General Robert Hoke as an inspector-general.

After the war, Alexander became a successful farmer. He was appointed the master of the Grange in North Carolina in 1877. Two years later he was elected as a Democrat to the state Senate, where he would go on to serve several terms.

As his involvement in state politics deepened, Alexander was fundamental in the formation of the college that would become North Carolina State University. He was appointed commissioner of the state board of agriculture, as well as president of the North Carolina State Fair and the North Carolina Railroad. That same year he became first president of the North Carolina Farmers’ Alliance.

Alexander was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for two successive terms. In 1901, he returned to the North Carolina Senate where he aided in the appropriation of $200,000 for public schools.

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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.


Archaeology Work at Future Jordan Lake

This Day in North Carolina History - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 06:30

On December 7, 1970, the groundbreaking for what would become Jordan Lake took place. The lake was full about 12 years later.  Its namesake was U.S. Senator B. Everett Jordan.

Today many North Carolinians enjoy the water, beaches, trails, and woodlands at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, but the area was not always a recreational space. After a devastating tropical storm in 1945, the government began to look at methods of flood control for the Cape Fear River basin.  In 1962, the Army Corps of Engineers submitted a plan that recommended building three reservoirs. Ultimately only the construction of Jordan Lake was realized.

As a regulatory requirement, a thorough archaeological investigation had to be made.. The cultural resources management project was conducted in 1978 and 1979 by a Michigan company, led by principal investigator Steve Claggett, who ultimately would return to North Carolina to become State Archaeologist.

The project’s archaeological surveys determined that there were about 350 sites in the area; two were the focus of extensive excavations. Archaeologists verified that Indians had inhabited the vicinity as far back as the Early Archaic period—or about 10,000 years ago. To this day the work stands as one of the largest salvage archaeology programs carried out in the state.

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.


Gyrocopter Took Flight in Kitty Hawk, 1955

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

A Bensen Gyrocopter. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On December 6, 1955, Russian immigrant Dr. Igor Bensen made the world’s first gyrocopter flight in Kitty Hawk.

After working for General Electric, Bensen created his own company, Bensen Aircraft Corporation, to mass produce personal flying machines near Raleigh-Durham Airport. The Bensen Gyro-Copter was designed to be built by the purchaser in a garage with ordinary hand tools. It was relatively inexpensive, with kits priced at less than $2,000. The finished product could be converted from a gyrocopter to an automobile by locking the rotary blades in place.

The most famous of Bensen’s gyrocopters was the Spirit of Kitty Hawk, in which he duplicated the first flight of the Wright Brothers on its 60th anniversary in 1963. During the next few years the craft set more national and world records that any other civilian rotary aircraft in the world. Law enforcement agencies and crop dusters continue to use gyrocopters in their work. A highly modified Bensen gyrocopter appeared in 1967’s Bond film, You Only Live Twice, complete with non-standard smoke screens and rocket launchers.

The Bensen Aircraft Corporation closed in 1989.

Visit: A Bensen gyrocopter is on display at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh and the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer covers a wide range of aviation-related topics.

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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.


Oakdale, Wilmington’s Antebellum Cemetery

This Day in North Carolina History - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 08:10

A postcard showing the cemetery’s entrance.
Image from the New Hanover County Public Library.

On December 5, 1854, the first lots of Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington were sold.

Oakdale, Wilmington’s first municipal burial ground, is one of the most beautiful and scenic graveyards in the Old North State. It remains the town’s largest cemetery, and is noted for the abundance of prominent Wilmingtonians and other North Carolinians who are buried there.

The cemetery’s roots can be traced to early 1852, when several prominent citizens of Wilmington met to discuss establishing a new burial ground. A site was selected on a neck of land northeast of the town limits on the east bank of Burnt Mill Creek, and an initial tract of 65 acres was purchased for $1,100.

Many who died before the cemetery was established were later moved and re-interred at Oakdale. A large area of unmarked graves reveals the mass burial ground where victims of the 1862 yellow fever epidemic were interred.

Civil War-era burials are numerous, including a mass grave marked with a large monument for hundreds of Confederate soldiers killed in battle at Fort Fisher in 1865. Oakdale is also the resting place of Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a Confederate spy who drowned in the surf off Fort Fisher in 1864.

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.


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