Death of Edward Dudley of Wilmington, Governor

T_81_5_5 Edward Bishop Dudley NC Governor 1836-1841

Image from the State Archives.

On October 30, 1855, Edward Dudley, North Carolina’s first governor elected by a vote of the people, died.

Born in Onslow County in 1789, Dudley served in both houses of the state legislature, was the colonel of the Onslow County militia during the War of 1812 and filled a vacant seat in Congress before winning the state’s first gubernatorial election in 1836. Dudley was perfectly positioned for the win over Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. after advocating for the development of the Whig Party as an alternative to then-dominant Democrats.

Before 1836, governors were elected by the members of the General Assembly.

Dudley’s administration initiated a period of progress. The completion of several railroads, the beginnings of the public school system and the opening of several colleges were all highlights of his tenure. After his term in office, Dudley returned to leading the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad, which he had helped organize shortly before his election.

He retired to his home on the Cape Fear River where he died in 1855. He is buried in Wilmington.

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The Execution of Sir Walter Ralegh, 1618

A 1588 portrait of Ralegh. Image from the National Portrait Gallery, London.

On October 29, 1618, Sir Walter Ralegh was beheaded on a charge of treason in London. The former court favorite of Elizabeth I of England had fallen far from his once-respected status.

Born sometime around 1554, Ralegh was a true Renaissance man before leading efforts to colonize the New World, serving as a courtier, soldier, poet, historian and member of Parliament.

His first foray into colonization began in in 1584 when he received a royal patent for colonizing the region between Florida and Nova Scotia. An exploratory voyage to Roanoke Island led to the establishment of a colony in 1585, but it was abandoned due to supply problems. In another ill-fated expedition, the crew left the colonists at Roanoke Island, and when a relief expedition arrived in 1590, the colonists were missing—the now-famous Lost Colony.

An 1860 sketch of Ralegh before his beheading.

In 1603, Ralegh was implicated in a plot against James I, and imprisoned for more than 10 years. In 1617, he led an expedition into Spanish-controlled Guyana in search of a legendary golden city. The enterprise failed, and the resulting diplomatic crisis it caused led to the restoration of Ralegh’s treason charges and his execution.

North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh stands as a reminder of his important role in the origins of the state.

Visit: Roanoke Island Festival Park, a celebration of England’s first attempt at permanent colonization in the New World. Ralegh was the expedition’s main backer.

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State’s Longest Plank Road Reaches Salem

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On October 28, 1854, the Fayetteville and Western Plank Road was completed. Stretching nearly 150 miles west to Forsyth County, it was the longest plank road in the state.

Plank roads were wooden highways that were easier to navigate than rough, rutted and often muddy dirt roads. Tolls were collected along the route to pay for their maintenance.

A certificate for a $50 share of the Fayetteville and Western Plank Road Company. Image from the State Archives.

A certificate for a $50 share of the Fayetteville and Western Plank Road Company. Image from the State Archives.

The plank road movement began in North Carolina in the late 1840s in response to arguments from many that the state’s existing road system was the worst in the country. Enthusiasm for such projects grew and by 1860, nearly 500 miles of plank road had been laid in North Carolina.

Plank roads failed to flourish for a variety of reasons. First, building these roads was slow and difficult work. One crew could be expected to lay about 40 miles in a year. Also, railroads were faster and the public cheated the toll system by avoiding tollbooths. The Civil War ultimately destroyed much of the infrastructure. Though decidedly a failure, the plank road movement was an important step by the state toward improving transportation infrastructure for economic growth.

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Salvage of the CSS Neuse from the Muck

On October 27, 1961, Henry Casey, Lemuel Houston and Thomas Carlyle began serious efforts to salvage the remains of the ironclad CSS Neuse from the Neuse River in Kinston.

The first stages of recovery proceeded easily since the river level was low and the weather was ideal, but ultimately the project would take much longer than anticipated.

Local interest was strong and many people came to the site to observe the work of the trio and their fellow volunteers. Donations were collected from spectators, and anyone willing to work was given a shovel. During the next two years financial support continued to pour in from various local and state agencies.

The ship began to suffer damage from high water, exposure to the air and vandalism making the need to finish the job more urgent. In May 1963, D.C. Murray, a house mover, contracted to move the vessel out of the river and, within a few months, Governor Terry Sanford allocated $10,000 to relocate and preserve the ship’s remains.

The recovery process was completed in 1964 when the vessel was relocated to Caswell Memorial Park, where a State Historic Site was established. Today, the remains of the ship are housed in a museum in downtown Kinston.

Visit: The CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center in downtown Kinston. The Neuse is one of the few remaining Civil War ironclads on display.

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Illegal Forward Pass, 1895, Set Up College Football Rule Change

A UNC football team, circa 1900-1909. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC.

A UNC football team, circa 1900-1909. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC.

On October 26, 1895, UNC fullback Joel Whitaker threw the first forward pass in football to his teammate George Stephens.

The history-making throw happened in Atlanta where the Tar Heels were playing the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Whitaker was punting from the Carolina end zone and, to avoid the Georgia players charging him, tossed the ball forward. As luck would have it, Stephens was the one to catch the toss. It probably looked to many in the audience like the ball was knocked out of Whitaker’s hands and that the whole situation was an accident.

A football game in the early 1900s. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC.

After catching the pass, Stephens sprinted 70 yards down the field, scoring a touchdown and stunning his opponents. The pass was then illegal, but despite Georgia coach Glenn Warner’s best efforts to get it thrown out, the touchdown stood since the referee hadn’t seen the pass.

Legendary athlete and coach John Heisman happened to be in the audience that day and, after he saw the fateful throw, spent years lobbying the predecessor organization to the NCAA to change the rules. That didn’t happen until 1906 when the forward pass was legalized as part of an overhaul of college football’s rules.

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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 Facebook and Twitter.

Women of Edenton Resolve to Forego English Tea, 1774

An engraving of the Edenton Tea Pary. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On October 25, 1774, women in Edenton resolved to stop buying English tea and cloth to protest taxation without representation. The event became known as the Edenton Tea Party.

The women, some of whom likely gathered at a home in Edenton, drew up resolves which were signed by 51 local ladies. In January 1775, a British newspaper reported that “many ladies of this Province [North Carolina] have determined to give a memorable proof of their patriotism” having resolved not to drink anymore tea or use any British cloth.

The step was a momentous one for colonists, because drinking tea was an English tradition that defined social gatherings. To suspend the custom, which was a part of everyday life, showed just how disgusted they were with the English government. Like the much more famous Boston Tea Party, the Edenton Tea Party was a bold demonstration of patriotism and the belief in individual rights.

Penelope Barker, wife of the treasurer of the Province of North Carolina is believed to have organized the protest.

Visit: Historic Edenton is celebrating the 240th anniversary of the tea party today with family activities on the 1767 Chowan Courthouse lawn.

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.

Bennehan and Cameron Interests Merged at Stagville

A slave dwelling at Horton Grove.

A slave dwelling at Horton Grove.

On October 24, 1823, Richard Bennehan purchased more than 400 acres known as Horton Grove from William Horton. The land became part of Bennehan’s vast holdings across what are now Granville, Durham, Orange and Wake counties.

The plot then included only the modest Horton Home but, by 1860, also incorporated several two-story, four-room timber-frame slave quarters, some smaller tobacco barns and the Great Barn, which was the center of the extensive Stagville plantation,

Most of Horton Grove’s structures were built by Paul Cameron, Bennehan’s grandson. Family records reveal that the unique design of the slave cabins was a deliberate attempt on Cameron’s part to provide a healthier living environment for his slaves.

Stagville was one of the largest pre-Civil War plantations in the upper South. By 1860, the Bennehan-Cameron family owned nearly 30,000 acres, several businesses and almost 900 slaves, and Stagville, a plantation of several thousand acres on its own, was at the center of the enormous estate.

Horton Grove was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and today Historic Stagville is one of 27 state historic sites.

Visit: Located in northern Durham County, Historic Stagville is open to visitors Tuesday though Saturday.

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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