Welcome to Year Three!

Today marks the start of our third year of the This Day in North Carolina History project. As we pass this milestone, all of us at the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources want to extend our thanks for your continued support of our efforts and to let you know about a few exciting things coming up.

229216501First, we’re happy to announce that beginning November 1, you can see the stories we tell on this blog across the state on Time Warner Cable News. The stories will run in an abbreviated format several times throughout the day, usually right before and after commercial breaks.

We also want to let you know that while you may have seen some of the stories we tell this year before, we’ll continue to bring you as much fresh content as we can. To that end, if you have ideas for stories that we haven’t yet covered, tell us about it. We’ve set up a nifty form on our website that makes submitting an idea easy.

Last thing—we’ve tried to be consistent in tagging each post with the city and county of the event or the person we’re covering and with relevant subjects, so we encourage you to use the search feature to discover more interesting tidbits about your hometown or county, or about the subjects that interest you most.

Thanks again for following us! We hope you enjoy reading these posts each day as much as we enjoy researching and writing them.

Rose Greenhow, Confederate Spy, Drowning Victim

Image from Duke University

On October 1, 1864, Rose O’Neal Greenhow died while trying to run the blockade and pass into the port of Wilmington.

The Washington, D.C. socialite and spy had been in Europe seeking support for the Confederacy from England and France. While she found a great deal of sympathy there, neither nation would officially sanction the Southern government.

Greenhow, who had been imprisoned in 1861 by the federal government for spying, was on her way home to Richmond in 1864 onboard the blockade runner, Condor, when it was pursued by a blockader. Although the Condor was within the protective reach of the guns at Fort Fisher, Greenhow did not know that and was afraid of recapture by federal authorities, so she insisted on being put into a small boat to make for shore. She was the only woman aboard and the only one who drowned when the small boat capsized.

At the time of her death $2,500 in gold, which she had received from the sale of a book published in London about her imprisonment, was found in her clothes. Greenhow’s body was carried to Fort Fisher and from there to Wilmington where a full military funeral was conducted. She was buried at Oakdale Cemetery.

Visit: Fort Fisher, where Greenhow’s body was found, is now a state historic site that tells the story of the largest amphibious attack by American forces before World War II, and of Civil War naval warfare more broadly.

Other related resources:

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.

Fairgrounds Hosted Last NASCAR Race on Dirt Track

A NASCAR race on a dirt track during the 1960s. The number 43 car belongs to
Richard Petty. Image from NASCAR.

On September 30, 1970, the last NASCAR race on a dirt track was held in Raleigh at the State Fairgrounds, Richard Petty took away the day’s top prize, in what was billed as the Home State 200.

Dirt track racing appeared in the South just prior to World War I. When the N.C. State Fair moved to its present site in 1928, the increasingly popular sport came with it. As a premier venue with access to fairgoers from across the state, the speedway boosted the racing phenomenon.

The half-mile track has only seen three NASCAR events in its history. The first was held in 1955, but was called due to rain while Junior Johnson was leading. The next one was fourteen years later in 1969, which James Hylton won. The last was the 1970 event, though the grandstand remains and sections of the old track are used each October.

Safety concerns were the main reason more modern, paved tracks replaced their dirt counterparts, the remains of some of the old ones still dot the Carolinas, with saplings poking through the stands and undergrowth overtaking sites where stock car racing had its start.

Other related resources:

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.

John Hope Franklin, From Greenwood to the White House

Image from the Washington Post.

On September 29, 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to John Hope Franklin of Durham.

A pioneering historian who focused on the social and economic conditions of African Americans, A native Oklahoman Franklin was educated at Fisk and Harvard before moving to North Carolina in 1939 to teach at St. Augustine’s and North Carolina Central. He taught elsewhere and returned in 1982 to join the history faculty at Duke, where he remained until his death in 2009.

Not just a historian, Franklin helped shape American history. His research formed the historical basis for the groundbreaking NAACP brief that led to the Supreme Court’s dismantling of school segregation in the 1954 Brown v. Board decision and, in 1965, Franklin joined a cadre of academics who supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march.

During the course of his long career, Franklin wrote more than 15 books and received honorary degrees from almost 100 institutions. His 1947 book From Slavery to Freedom is still widely regarded as the best single-volume history of African Americans and has sold more than 3 million copies.

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.

David Walker and His Appeal, a Transformative Book

On September 28, 1829, North Carolina native David Walker published his Appeal.

A free-born African American raised in the Wilmington area, Walker traveled south to Charleston, which had a large free black population, before settling in Boston by 1825. A businessman, Walker also founded the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which actively opposed the colonization of free blacks to Africa. He spoke out publicly against slavery and racism. The Appeal carried those efforts into print.

The Appeal argued for the black community to take action against slavery and discrimination. Walker argued the key was to transform one’s self through individual moral improvement by education, temperance, religion, regular work habits and self-regulation. Through action, Walker contended, blacks could refute racism and claim the rights of citizenship. Walker did not advocate overthrowing the government, but rather sought to transform society.

The reaction of North Carolina’s white leaders to the Appeal was typical of that seen in other Southern states. Unsuccessful in their attempts at restricting the rights of free blacks prior to Walker’s Appeal, legislators quickly passed a series of limiting acts – including the ban of similar materials from entering the state – once the book was presented to the assembly.

Walker died in 1830 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Boston.

Other related resources:

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.

Circus Tragedy in Charlotte, 1880

A preserved Chief visits the University of Cincinnati after his death.
Image from the University of Cincinnati.

On September 27, 1880, Chief, a performing elephant, killed his trainer, John King, in Charlotte.

The John Robinson Circus, of which Chief was a part, had arrived in Charlotte that day with two shows planned. Crowds of spectators were camped out near the circus, anticipating the next day’s shows. Many of them witnessed the horrifying events of that evening.

John King’s grave marker in Charlotte. Image from the University of Cincinnati.

Chief, a large male elephant, charged his keeper and smashed the man into a railcar, mangling him to the point that he was dead within minutes. The elephant then charged away from the scene, chased by circus workers who finally caught and lassoed him to an older, female elephant named Mary. Mary appeared to grasp the enormity of the younger elephant’s deed and beat him with her trunk as they were returned to the circus grounds.

King was buried in Elmwood Cemetery with the circus band playing and two other circus elephants in attendance. For the grave, Confederate veteran Billy Berryhill carved an obelisk monument with an elephant in the shaft.

Chief never worked in the circus again, although he remained with them and marched in the parades until he was exiled to the Cincinnati Zoo. Unfortunately, he did not curb his murderous ways and, after killing several other keepers, Chief was killed himself.

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.

Adelaide Fries and the Moravian Archives

On September 26, 1911, Forsyth County native Adelaide Fries was appointed Archivist of the Southern Province of the Moravian Church.

Born in 1871 and from a long line of churchmen, Fries graduated from Salem College with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Guided to research primary sources from a very young age by her father, Fries learned to read Old German script so that she could translate the diaries in which she was interested. The culmination of that education came in 1899, when Fries accompanied her father to Germany where she examined many of the earliest records of the church.

Fries’s work as archivist of the Salem church began very unofficially when someone suggested that she find a room somewhere to house all the manuscripts that she was collecting. After that, with no official sanction, she began an intense collecting campaign that resulted in the preservation of many valuable papers.

Fries held the official position of archivist for the rest of her life, while pursuing companion interests in genealogy and church history. A popular speaker and author, Fries received honorary doctorates from Wake Forest and UNC.

She died in 1949 and was laid to rest in the Moravian burying ground known as God’s Acre.

Other related resources:

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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