“Cherokee Clay” and Wedgwood Pottery

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

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.

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

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

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

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

A map showing what used to be Walton County. Image from the State Library.

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

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

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

Part of Ladshaw’s initial plan. Image from American Whitewater.

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.

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

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

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.

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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.

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