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“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.

Modern Novelist Discovered Farquard Campbell

On December 11, 1790, a state Senate resolution declared that Farquard Campbell’s actions during the Revolutionary War were justifiable.

Campbell’s early life remains a mystery, but it is known that he emigrated from Scotland by the 1750s. He rose to prominence in Cumberland County, first as a justice of the peace and then as surveyor and a representative in the legislature. Campbellton, which later became Fayetteville, was named in his honor.

After the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, Campbell was found guilty of aiding the British and was imprisoned for about two years. He reestablished himself politically and was thus forgiven.

The name Farquard Campbell might sound familiar to readers of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series of books. Much of the fourth book, Drums of Autumn, takes place in 18th century North Carolina, and in that volume Campbell appears as a fairly significant character in the book—a local justice of the peace and loyal friend of Jamie Fraser’s aunt Jocasta. He is described in the novel as “the usual justice in this district.”

Gabaldon paid considerable attention to the veracity of her portrayal of North Carolina in the 1700s, writing about a great many real and thinly-veiled characters from the state’s history.

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For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit the N.C. Department of 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.

Beach Music Classic “Girl Watcher”

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 7.55.25 AMOn December 3, 1968 the O’Kaysions, a pop music group, earned a gold record for their hit, “Girl Watcher.”

Originally from Wilson, the blue-eyed soul group is generally known as a beach music band. With Donnie Weaver as the lead singer, the band first formed as the Kays in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1968 that they scored their biggest hit with “Girl Watcher.” The song remained in the top 10 for nine weeks.

“Girl Watcher” was recorded at Pitt Sound Studio in Greenville on a local label but was released nationally by ABC Records. The song’s catchy tune and lyrics have made it ripe for parody, and in 1987, it was reworked as “I’m a Wheel Watcher” to promote the game show “Wheel of Fortune.”

Incarnations of the band still perform, but the original members have only reunited one time to be inducted into the Carolina Beach Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2003. Wayne Pittman, the group’s guitarist, is the only original member still playing. He serves as the band’s manager as well.

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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.

Kingston Trio Hits the Top of the Charts with “Tom Dooley” in 1958

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 7.22.59 PMOn November 19, 1958, the Kingston Trio’s version of the folk song “Tom Dooley” hit number one on the music charts. The song is based on the true story of Tom Dula, hanged in Statesville in 1868 for the murder of Laura Foster.

The case drew wide attention, including a series of reports that appeared in the New York Herald. After being hanged, Dula was buried in a family cemetery in Wilkes County. Many in the community to this day defend him, arguing that he took the fall for a woman named Ann Melton. North Carolina guitarist Doc Watson’s grandmother claimed to have heard Melton’s deathbed confession that she, not Tom Dula, killed Laura Foster.

While Watson sang the traditional folk ballad “Tom Dula,” the best-known version of that song was a bestseller for the Kingston Trio, renamed “Tom Dooley.” Members of the group actually visited Dula’s grave on a concert swing through the state.

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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.

Federal Writers Project Director Edwin Björkman

Untitled3On November 16, 1951, renowned writer, journalist and literary critic Edwin A. Björkman died in Asheville.

Born and raised in Sweden, Björkman worked as a clerk, journalist and actor before coming to the United States in 1891. Upon arrival, he briefly stopped in Chicago and then joined a Scandinavian colony in Minnesota, writing for newspapers to support himself. He later wrote for several papers in New York, served in the short-lived League of Nations’ news bureau and taught Scandinavian drama at Yale before moving to Waynesville in 1925.

In North Carolina, Björkman worked as the literary editor of the Asheville Times, and, during the Depression, directed the North Carolina Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration. While working with that project he led the effort that produced North Carolina: A Guide to the Old North State.

Throughout his career, Björkman was a prolific writer, producing no less than 10 original novels and translating countless plays and other works into English from European languages. He married four times before dying at age 85, and he is buried in Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit the N.C. Department of 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.

Eastern North Carolina Artist Francis Speight

On November 13, 1989, award-winning artist Francis Speight died at age 93 in his Greenville home.

Speight grew up on a Bertie County plantation before enrolling in college at Wake Forest. While there he took art lessons at Meredith College. After briefly serving in the Army during World War I, Speight studied and taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he would remain for more than 40 years.

Speight focused on painting rural and suburban landscapes and, though some of his work was inspired by his adopted Pennsylvania, he continued to use the landscapes of his native eastern North Carolina as a muse as well.

Belmont Hills by Francis Speight. Image from the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

In 1961, Speight moved back to North Carolina where he taught as an artist-in-residence at East Carolina until his retirement in 1976.

Speight’s work remains on display in public and private art collections across the country. He was the first North Carolina artist to be honored with an exhibition of his works in the newly opened N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh. His many accolades include the North Carolina Award and memberships in the National Academy of Design and the American Institute of Arts and Letters.

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.

Photographer Ignatius Brock of Asheville

A Christmas greeting card that depicts Brock. Image for the Pack Memorial Library.

On November 8, 1950, internationally-renowned photographer and painter Ignatius Brock died at age 83.

Born in Jones County in 1866, Brock got his start in photography as an apprentice at the Gerock Studio in New Bern. He moved to New York to study art at the Cooper Union Institute, before returning to North Carolina and opening his first studio in Asheville.

Through at first he mostly painted landscapes and used photographs simply as sketch notes for future paintings, Brock turned to photography as his primary art form because of his considerable skill with a camera. His focus in photography was on portraits and landscapes, and his fame quickly began to grow as he won several international photography competitions and had his work featured in many of the prominent magazines of the time. Brock was also interested in the technical aspects of photography, and invented a blue light bulb for use in dark room processing.

Throughout his career, Brock continued to maintain studios in Asheville for both painting and photography, and his thousands of works in both media provide a fascinating glimpse into the history of western North Carolina during the first half of the 20th century.

Check out Photographers in North Carolina: The First Century, 1842-1941 from North Carolina Historical Publications for more on Brock and other photographers of the period.

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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