Signers in Philadelphia Endorse Federal Constitution

Howard Chandler Christy's Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, with the North Carolina signers identified.

Howard Chandler Christy’s Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the
United States,
with the North Carolina signers identified.

On September 17, 1787, a majority of delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approved the U.S. Constitution, with North Carolina representatives William Blount, Richard Dobbs Spaight and Hugh Williamson signing on behalf of the state. Despite advocacy for its adoption by Federalists Spaight and Williamson, the North Carolina Convention declined to ratify the Constitution until the Bill of Rights was proposed in 1789.

A composite of North Carolina's delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

A composite of North Carolina’s delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Interestingly, Williamson and Blount were not among the delegates originally selected. When the legislature met the previous January, it selected then Governor Richard Caswell, William R. Davie, Willie Jones, Alexander Martin and Spaight as delegates. Jones, staunchly anti-Federalist, did not accept the appointment, and Caswell was ill and unable to travel. Williamson and Blount were appointed in their stead. Davie and Martin left the convention early, leaving Williamson, Spaight and Blount remaining as signatories.

Richard Dobbs Spaight, from New Bern, later served as governor, and. Hugh Williamson—sometimes referred to as North Carolina’s Ben Franklin—was a physician, scientist scholar and resident of Chowan County. William Blount, a Bertie County native, was later governor of the territory that is now Tennessee, and U.S. Senator from that state as well.

A plaque in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Raleigh commemorates the three signers.

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Rockfish Storekeeper Destined to be a Founder of California

An 1846 photograph of Larkin from the California Historical Society.

An 1846 photograph of Larkin from the California Historical Society.

On September 16, 1802, Thomas Larkin, the first and only U.S. consul to the territory that became the state of California, was born.

Though not a native North Carolinian, Larkin made his way to the small Duplin County community of Rockfish, where he operated a store, served as justice of the county court and as postmaster at age 19. After about 10 years in the Tar Heel state, he became dissatisfied with life in the South and boarded a ship for Monterey, the capital of Alta California, as it was known under Mexican rule. There he ran a dry goods store and operated flour and saw mills, trading with other Mexican communities and as far away as Hawaii.

In 1843, Larkin was appointed U.S. consul to California. He went on to play an important role in the Mexican War during the presidency of James K. Polk. and covertly worked to encourage secession from Mexico at the request of Secretary of State James Buchanan.

Following the war Larkin moved to San Francisco and represented that city in the 1849 California Constitutional Convention. Benefiting from the economic boom that followed the 1849 gold rush, Larkin continued to engage in land speculation.

He died of typhoid fever in 1858.

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Greensboro Hosted Base Vital to World War II Allied Effort

A circa 1943-45 aerial view of the O.R.D. Image from the Greensboro Historical Museum.

A circa 1943-45 aerial view of the O.R.D. Image from the Greensboro Historical Museum.

On September 15, 1946, the massive Greensboro Overseas Replacement Depot closed its doors.

The O.R.D., as it was known, originally operated as a training base, buy by May 1944, the Air Force had reached its projected capacity and the facility became the primary point in the eastern U.S. where soldiers were prepared and processed for overseas duty. In February 1945, the O.R.D. took on added duties as a redistribution station, working to place about 31,000 troops in the Far East, as the focus of fighting shifted. In September 1945, the station began processing personnel for separation from duty. Thus, during its period of service, the Greensboro depot provided a wide range of services to the military. More 330,000 troops were processed in or out of service or redistributed to another location through the center.

Eating in one of the O.R.D.'s dining halls, circa 1943-45. Image from the Greensboro Historical Association

Eating in one of the O.R.D.’s dining halls, circa 1943-45. Image from the Greensboro Historical Museum.

The base was truly massive. At 652 acres in size, it was the largest base in America located within the boundaries of a city, and as many as 40,000 soldiers were stationed at the Greensboro facility at any given time.

Spread over nearly 1,000 buildings, the base included 500 barracks, 14 mess halls, 55 recreation rooms, four movie theaters, ten post exchanges, five chapels, three libraries, thee gyms and a hospital. The base even had its own newspaper and radio station to keep the troops entertained.

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William Ashe, Railroad Proponent, Handcar Crash Victim

On September 14, 1862, William Ashe, railroad president and commander of the Confederate government’s transportation network between New Orleans and Richmond, died after being struck by a train.

Born in 1814 in what is now Pender County, Ashe was a lawyer and rice planter before entering politics. He was elected to the state senate in 1846, and in that chamber, worked to secure appropriations for railroads, particularly for ones that would connect the western part of the state with the port in Wilmington. He was re-elected to the state senate in 1848 before entering Congress in 1849, where he continued to focus on internal improvements. He became president of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad in 1854.

An outspoken supporter of secession, Ashe was asked by President Jefferson Davis to take control of the Confederate government’s rail transportation in 1861. In 1862, when he heard that one of his sons had been captured, he commandeered a hand car to make a trip home. As he traveled, an unlighted train struck him during the night.

Ironically, the very thing that Ashe had worked so hard to bring to life took his own.

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Village People’s Cowboy Hailed from Raleigh

The original Village People. Randy Jones is on the far left. Image from Getty Images.

On September 13, 1952, singer Randy Jones of the disco group Village People was born in Raleigh.

Jones grew up in Wake County, graduating from Enloe High School in 1970. After attending the North Carolina School of the Arts and UNC, he began to dance and act professionally in New York City.

The concept of the Village People group was the brainchild of record producer Jacques Morali. Jones was cast as the original cowboy in 1977, and remained with the act for three years. The idea of a concept group was not a new one, but the Village People were imbued with such energy, irony and campy enthusiasm that they were wildly successful. In fact, some form of the group has been performing since the Village People scored their U.S. first hit with “Macho Man” in 1978.

The group racked up a number of big hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s with “Y.M.C.A.,” “In the Navy,” “Go West” and “Can’t Stop the Music” among others. That period of great creativity was the group’s heyday.

Jones, appropriately, lives in Greenwich Village. He continues to perform and act.

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Bounty Off Cape Hatteras in Shipwreck of the Central America

Sept-12

The SS Central America. Image from the Library of Congress.

On September 12, 1857, the S.S. Central America sank 200 miles off Cape Hatteras with great loss of life. The side-wheel steamer was bound for New York from Havana when she encountered a hurricane and sprung a leak.

In addition to about 500 passengers and a crew of 100 aboard, the Central America was carrying mail and more than $1.5 million in gold, including coins minted in San Francisco. Around 145 people aboard the ill-fated ship were rescued by three vessels that were in the vicinity of the wreck at the time of the sinking, but the rest perished.

The great loss of gold was a contributing factor to the Panic of 1857, a short yet severe economic downturn fueled by a loss of confidence in the banking system. The panic was marked by the suspension of gold payments by financial institutions, the failing of businesses, factory closings and a rise in unemployment.

Treasure hunters discovered the wreck of the Central America in 1988, and salvage of the gold began but was halted by a court order in 1991. In April 2014, Odyssey Marine Exploration resumed recovery of the Central America’s lost treasure. To date more than 13,500 coins, bars and ingots have been recovered.

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Moses Hopkins, From Slavery to Liberia via Franklinton

September11

On September 11, 1885, Moses A. Hopkins was appointed Minister to Liberia.

Born into slavery in Virginia in 1846, Hopkins worked as a cook in Union camps during the Civil War. In 1866, at age 20, he learned to read, launching his lifelong interest in education. When he completed his degree in theology in 1877, he was the first African American graduate of Auburn Seminary in New York. Ordained by the Presbyterian Church in 1877, Hopkins moved to Franklinton.

In Franklinton, Hopkins founded Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church and Albion Academy. He led Albion through its formative years, and published a newspaper, The Freedmen’s Friend, with his wife, Carrie. The only known issue is from August 1884.

When Hopkins was appointed Minister to Liberia, he reported to Monrovia within a month. He died there in August 1886. His place of burial is unknown.

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