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African American Troops Organize in New Bern, 1863

This Day in North Carolina History - 14 hours 56 min ago

A reunion of the 35th United States Colored Troops in Plymouth, circa 1905. Image from the State Archives.

On June 30, 1863, the 35th United States Colored Troops regiment officially mustered in New Bern.

The organizing and recruiting of North Carolina’s African American troops had already been underway for nine months. In July 1862, Congress issued a Second Confiscation and Militia Act. The act allowed President Abraham Lincoln to use as many African Americans as he deemed necessary to suppress the South, and to use them in whatever way he thought best to accomplish that end.

The use and treatment of African Americans varied, and men were frequently assigned fatigue duty rather than combat. However, Lincoln did authorize African Americans to assume combat roles in the January 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

That May, General Orders No. 143 established a Bureau of Colored Troops and all future regiments would be designated as United States Colored Troops.

North Carolina units began organization under the Corps D’Afrique designations and as state-named regiments, but entered into service under United States Colored Troops designations.

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Governor Martin and His Campaign Promise to Complete I-40

This Day in North Carolina History - Wed, 06/29/2016 - 06:30

Construction on the final link of I-40 near the Pender-New Hanover County line, circa 1985. Image from the Wilmington Star-News.

On June 29, 1990, Governor Jim Martin dedicated the final segment of Interstate 40, a 2,554-mile highway that stretches from Wilmington to Barstow, California. The first Interstate-funded construction on I-40 nationwide had taken place in Haywood County more than three decades earlier.

Nearly 3,000 people were in attendance for the opening ceremony at the interchange of I-40 and North Carolina 50/55 just outside of Newton Grove, where 900 pounds of barbecue and a descent by the Fort Bragg’s Green Beret Sport Parachute Team were also part of the fun.

A sign marking the beginning of I-40 in Brunswick County, circa 2001. Image from the State Library.

The day’s festivities continued with an ice cream social at a rest area west of Warsaw and a final ceremony at Wilmington’s Grace Baptist Church not from the eastern end of the interstate.

Though an extension of I-40 through Raleigh to Wilmington appeared in the final Interstate System map adopted by the Eisenhower administration, opposition to the Raleigh-to-Wilmington stretch remained strong through the early 1980s. Major pushes by Governor Jim Hunt, local officials and Wilmington area state legislators were no match for the opposition led by U.S. Senator Jesse Helms.

Martin finally turned the tide after he was elected governor in 1984 and construction began to move forward. The final price tag for the 122-mile Raleigh-to-Wilmington project was $417 million.

The benefits of the project, which cut an hour off the travel time between Raleigh and Wilmington were realized fairly quickly. In the first decade following I-40’s opening, tourist spending in New Hanover County increased by more than 52 percent, according to a study done by state Department of Commerce.

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Hollerin’ Since 1969

This Day in North Carolina History - Tue, 06/28/2016 - 06:30

An early National Hollerin’ Contest. Image from the contest’s archive.

On June 28, 1969, the first National Hollerin’ Contest was held in Spivey’s Corner in Sampson County.

The contest is the product of the farm culture of the Sandhills region. Before the advent of the telephone, yelling loudly, or hollering, was the primary way farmers and neighbors communicated in rural North Carolina. As new technologies made communication easier, the practice began to disappear.

The idea for the contest grew out of a conversation on a local radio program. The contest’s two goals were to preserve agricultural heritage and attract tourists to a struggling region. Though Spivey’s Corner only had about 50 residents in 1969, the first contest attracted between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors and garnered national media attention from North Carolina’s own Charles Kuralt and others.

The contest’s first winner was 70-year-old Dewey Jackson. For his prize-wining rendition of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Jackson earned an appearance on The Tonight Show and a congratulatory letter from President Richard Nixon.

Held annually since 2015, the contest continued to draw large crowds to rural Sampson County and expanded to a full day of family events. Organizers announced that the contest would be suspended in 2016.

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.


Wilkes to Watauga Wagon Train Commemorated Carolina Charter

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

The wagon train during its first trip in 1963. Image from the Wilkes Journal-Patriot.

On June 27, 1963, more than 150 people in mostly 19th century garb and nearly 25 wagons pulled by livestock departed from a Wilkes County farm for a three-day, 35-mile journey to Boone.

Designed to recall a 1773 trip that famed frontiersman Daniel Boone took through the area, the “reenactment” was more a reflection of the 1960s than it was of 1663, the year the Carolina Charter was granted. The Daniel Boone Wagon Train as it was called was first intended to commemorate the Charter’s 300th anniversary. In fact, it seems that organizers drew more upon Wagon Train, a popular TV show of the time.

Likely more spectacle than history, the journey actually ended up being relatively difficult, mostly because of bad weather, uncooperative animals and a number of unfortunate accidents. Despite that fact, the Wagon Train became an annual event and grew in size for much of the rest of the decade.

The Wagon Train was cancelled in 1974 due to increasing rowdiness, and saw a brief revival in the 1980s.

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Bar Code, Retailing Innovation, Product of IBM and RTP

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

A clerk in Troy, New York scans an item with a barcode in the mid-1970s. Image from Dayton History.

On June 26, 1974, a scanner at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio scanned a pack of chewing gum. It was the first product to be checked out by Universal Product Code, an invention largely credited to Research Triangle Park scientist George Laurer.

The first barcodes were developed by New Jersey engineer N. Joseph Woodland in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but the technology wasn’t brought into use largely because the scanners needed to put checkout systems into place were too expensive to produce.

In 1973, a group of supermarket executives decided some sort of universal symbol and system needed to be adopted to make checking out of stores faster. They formed a “Symbol Selection Committee,” developed a set of specifications and invited companies to pitch ideas. Though RCA had already successfully demonstrated a technology to the committee, IBM—where Laurer worked—submitted a surprise bid.

Laurer had the advantage of having not worked on a similar project before, and was thus able to tackle the problem with fresh eyes. He adapted Woodland’s bullseye-shaped design into the now universally-recognizable rectangular bar code.

The committee unanimously adopted Laurer’s symbol and code in 1973, which they named the Universal Product Code, or UPC.

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.


Marion’s Daniel Kanipe, Survivor of Custer’s Last Stand

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

A 1929 painting of Custer’s Last Stand. Image from Dayton History.

On June 25, 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer led the 7th Cavalry under his command on an attack against an Indian encampment at Little Big Horn. The incident is now commonly known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”

Custer’s troopers were quickly encircled by the Native Americans under Chief Sitting Bull, who were expecting them, and Custer and 265 of his men were killed in under an hour.

An image of Kanipe from the N.C. Highway Historical Markers Program.

Marion native Daniel Kanipe and one other soldier were the only two from Custer’s battalion to survive Little Bighorn. The two were sent to relay messages to Captain Frederick Benteen and others in the train of pack mules supplying the unit. Seeing Custer’s mistake, Benteen held his battalion back and refused to allow the couriers to return to battle.

Kanipe remained in the reconstituted 7th Cavalry until receiving his discharge in 1877. He returned to North Carolina where he operated a farm in McDowell County. He went back to the Little Bighorn battlefield in 1908 on a publicity tour to raise money to preserve graves there.

Often called upon to relate his experience at Little Bighorn, Kanipe became a celebrity among admirers of the “Old West” and researchers of “Custer’s Last Stand.” His recollections became the basis for many of the 20th century accounts of the battle.

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.


James Davis of New Bern, Fit to Print

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

On June 24, 1749, James Davis, a printer trained in Williamsburg, Virginia, printed the first official publication for the colony of North Carolina at the colony’s official press in New Bern.

Although printers had been active in some colonies for more than 100 years, North Carolina delayed acquiring a press. The provincial government liked to control the distribution of information and feared challenges to its authority, and the colony didn’t have the dense population necessary to finance a press.

Nearby printing presses in Williamsburg and Charleston also made it relatively easy to farm out the work that needed to be done.

A $10 bill printed by Davis in 1778. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Complaints by Royal Governor Gabriel Johnston in 1736 prompted the Assembly to begin the process of hiring a printer and acquiring the press. In 1747, Johnston appointed James Davis to the position of public printer. Davis came to North Carolina specifically for the job and held it for 33 years. He printed at least 100 titles during that time. His first task in the job was likely the printing of currency.

The colony’s first official publication, published in June 1749, was the Journal of the House of Burgesses of the Province of 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.


R. Stanhope Pullen, Philanthropist and Benefactor

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

A plaque honoring Pullen’s contributions on Pullen Hall on N.C. State’s Campus. Image from NCSU Libraries.

On June 23, 1895, Raleigh’s R. Stanhope Pullen, an astute capitalist who conducted business on his own terms, died. Pullen was widely known for the generous gifts he gave to North Carolina.

Born in the Wake County community of Neuse in 1822, Pullen moved to Raleigh in 1852. There he managed the finances of his widowed aunt Penelope Smith. Upon her death, Smith made Pullen her principal heir and his investments in real estate made him a wealthy man.

In 1872, then-closed Peace Institute (now William Peace University) was mortgaged to Pullen. He organized a new charter and offered most of the stock to the Presbyterians. As a member of Edenton Street Methodist Church, Pullen was the largest donor of money that paid for a new church structure.

In 1887, Pullen donated 80 acres to Raleigh for a park, now named Pullen Park in his honor. In that same year, he made a gift of land next to the park for the North Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts (now North Carolina State University.)

R. T. Gray and Pullen also donated the original 10 acres for the Normal and Industrial School in Greensboro (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro).

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.


The Aberdeen and Rockfish, An Independent Rail Line

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

A&R’s original yard in Aberdeen, circa 1900. Image from the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad Company.

On June 22, 1892, the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad (A&R) Company was organized by Moore County resident and Civil War veteran John Blue

Blue sought to build the line because he needed a way to transport to market the timber and turpentine he was harvesting from his largest holdings in the Aberdeen area. Construction began almost immediately after Blue established the company and continued into the early 1900s. The line reached its original terminus in Rockfish, a small community in Hoke County, in 1902.

As the company’s logging business began to decline, the railroad began two extensions, one southwest from Raeford to Wagram, and another northeast from Rockfish to Fayetteville. The first extension was ultimately sold, but the second proved successful and remains part of the Aberdeen and Rockfish line to this day.

A&R did away with its passenger service in 1921, but continued a rail motor bus service commonly called the “jitney” to handle mail and carry passengers until 1950.

The A&R line was a vital link for carrying passengers and freight to Fort Bragg during World War II, and continued to innovate throughout the 20th century. It was among the first railroads to use diesel power for freight trains, harness radio for train operations and computerize its accounting systems.

Today, the company’s 46 miles of track are still owned and operated by Blue’s descendants despite the widespread consolidation across the industry.

Visit: The N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer interprets the history of railroads and other methods of Tar Heel transportation.

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.


The School of the Arts, Pride of Winston-Salem and North Carolina

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

William Ball leads a drama class at NCSA, circa 1965.-66 Photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Archives.

On June 21, 1963, what’s now the UNC School of Arts (UNCSA) was chartered by the General Assembly as the nation’s first public arts conservatory.

The idea for the school—known until 2008 as the North Carolina School of the Arts (NCSA)—came from then Governor Terry Sanford and Asheville-born author John Ehle.

In addition to providing a $325,000 appropriation, the 1963 legislation established an advisory board of nationally-renowned artists to select a site for the school. The board sought a community that would be engaged with the school, and the citizens of Winston-Salem responded by raising more than $850,000 for the new institution in a two-day phone drive.

The original sign used for NCSA at the Chapel Street entrance, circa 1965. Photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Archives.

High school and undergraduate level classes began in September 1965 on the old campus of Winston-Salem’s Gray High School. The school’s first chancellor was composer and Julliard School instructor Vittorio Giannini.

A $1.5 million challenge grant from the Ford Foundation helped NCSA expand its offerings, and the school became part of the UNC system in 1972. Throughout the 1980s, NCSA continued to expand its offerings, adding its first graduate program in 1982.

Today, UNCSA is one of the nation’s premier creative and performing arts conservatories offering programs across five disciplines—dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking and music.

For more, check out a guide to the school’s history, which features a timeline, important early documents and more on the UNCSA Archives website.

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.


Thomas F. Price, Co-Founder of the Maryknoll Fathers

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

Price (far left) with Maryknoll co-founder James A. Walsh and other Maryknoll Fathers. Image from the Maryknoll Mission Archives.

On June 20, 1886, Thomas F. Price was ordained a Catholic priest and assigned to St. Paul’s in New Bern. He served as pastor there for nine years before departing for Raleigh, where he became the head of Sacred Heart Church.

While in Raleigh, Price became enmeshed in missionary works and founded Nazareth House, an orphanage. In 1904 and again in 1910, Price lectured about his missionary methods at the meetings of the Catholic Missionary Union and developed the concept of establishing a permanent American seminary for foreign missionaries.

The school was ultimately developed at a site in Maryknoll, New York, and in 1915 received a “Decree of Praise” from Pope Pius X. Following World War I, Maryknoll priests departed for their first assignment in southern China. Price went with them, but a year later he died from complications associated with appendicitis.

He was buried initially in Hong Kong, but in 1936 his remains were returned to Maryknoll where they are interred at the chapel of the Mother House of the Missionary Society.

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.


Springs Altered Race History

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

On June 19, 1949, NASCAR held the first race in its top division at a ¾-mile dirt track at the Charlotte Speedway.

Promoter Bill France intended that the race provide a test of driving skill in cars similar to those actually driven by fans. The crowd of more than 13,000 confirmed France’s conviction that people would flock to see late-model sedans race.

Glenn Dunnaway finished first; however, the victory did not stand. Officials conducting a post-race inspection found altered rear springs, disqualified Dunnaway and declared second-place finisher Jim Roper the winner. It was later revealed that the springs had been modified in a manner common to cars that were used to haul moonshine.

The success of the race led France to promote seven more “Strictly Stock” races that year, forming the foundation for what would become NASCAR. The original Charlotte Speedway would continue to be an important stop for the tour until construction of the larger, new track near Concord in 1960.

Today nothing remains of that old track. Interstate 85 sits atop one of its banks, though a highway historical marker on Little Rock Road marks the place.

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He Met Her on the Mountain and There He Took Her Life

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

A court document from Dula’s murder trial. Image from the State Archives.

On June 18, 1866, the body of Laura Foster was found in a shallow grave in Wilkes County. She had been stabbed in the chest and reportedly was pregnant at the time of her death

Foster had last been seen on May 25 riding a horse down Stony Fork Road. Tom Dula, who had liaisons with both Foster and Ann Melton, was charged with her murder. Dula, a Confederate veteran, was returned to North Carolina from Tennessee, where he had fled.

Melton and Dula were brought to trial for murder during the fall term of Wilkes County court, but a change of venue moved the trial to Iredell County. Dula was convicted but Melton was found not guilty. The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned Dula’s conviction and he was tried again in January 1868 only to be convicted a second time. This time the verdict was sustained by the Supreme Court.

Dula was hanged in May 1868 in Statesville. The subject of mountain folk ballads sung even before his execution, Dula and Foster were immortalized in the best-selling “ Tom Dooley,” recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1958.

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The Vagabond Players and Robroy Farquhar

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

A historical view of the Flat Rock Playhouse. Image from the New York Public Library.

On June 17, 1961, the Flat Rock Playhouse in Henderson County’s village of Flat Rock was named the state theater of North Carolina. The venue is home to the Vagabond Players, the oldest Equity acting troupe in the state.

The ensemble formed in 1937 in New York City under the direction of Robroy Farquhar. In 1940, the Vagabond Players made their way south to North Carolina and performed for two summer seasons in a converted grist mill–the Old Mill Playhouse–near Highland Lake.

Following World War II the troupe resumed performing in a schoolhouse near Lake Summit that had been renovated into a theater for use by the Carolina Players.  In 1952, the Vagabond Players purchased a lot in Flat Rock and began staging plays under a 50-by-85-foot tent erected on the site.

The current playhouse, built in 1956, seats 500 people. Through the years, tens of thousands have enjoyed performances. Proclaimed as one of the top summer theaters in the nation, the Flat Rock Playhouse is where many actors, actresses, directors and stagehands have honed their craft. 

Today, the Flat Rock Playhouse season runs 9 months from April through December, and features drama, musicals, comedy and children’s performances.

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