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Vermont Royster, Wall Street Journal Sage

Image from the State Archives

Image from the State Archives

On July 22, 1996, Vermont Connecticut Royster, a journalist affiliated with the Wall Street Journal for 60 years, died.

Born in 1914 in Raleigh, Royster was not the only one in his family to have unusual first and middle names. His great-grandfather started the tradition of naming people after places and relatives had such names as Arkansas Delaware and Iowa Michigan.

A graduate of UNC, where he began his writing career as a reporter for the Daily Tar Heel, Royster moved to New York in 1936 and found part-time work as a writer for the Journal for $15 a week.  He quickly worked his way up the paper’s ranks, leaving only for a brief stint in the Navy during World War II. As editor from 1958 until 1971, Royster set the Journal’s political policy, aligning it closely with business interests and the resurgent conservative movement.

In 1971, upon retirement from full-time employment at the Journal, Royster returned to UNC as Kenan Professor in the School of Journalism. His autobiography, My Own, My Country’s Time, was published in 1983. His column, “Thinking Things Over,” remained a staple of the Journal until his last year, 1996.

Among his many achievements, Royster received two Pulitzer Prizes, journalism’s highest honor, in 1953 and 1984. In 1986, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.

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Modest Beginnings for Duke University Hospital

People gathered outside the Duke University Medical Center, circa 1930. Image from the Duke University Medical Center Archives.

People gathered outside the Duke University Medical Center, circa 1930.
Image from the Duke University Medical Center Archives.

On July 21, 1930, Duke University Hospital opened to patients after three years of construction.

The idea for the hospital can be traced back to 1925, when industrialist James B. Duke made a $4 million bequest to establish a medical school, nursing school and hospital to help improve health care in the Carolinas. Duke’s dream was to create what he hoped would become the best medical institution between Baltimore and New Orleans.

Although Durham already had two hospitals – Watts and Lincoln – Duke would be unique in offering specialized medical care, and with 400 beds, it would be by far the largest hospital in the city’s history. Some experts were skeptical about the idea of a medical facility of this size in Durham, arguing that the area was not densely populated enough to support it.

But patients were willing to travel. On the hospital’s first day, 17 patients were registered. The number continued to grow at an extraordinary rate and, by 1932, over 10,000 patients had been treated.

While it began as a regional hospital, today the Duke University Medical Center is recognized as one of top health care organizations in the country, known for its commitment to education, research and innovation.

A special thanks to the Duke University Medical Center Archives and Assistant Director Jolie Braun for putting this story together. 

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.

Rocky Mount Mills Burned by Union Troops, 1863

Rocky Mount Mills in 1924. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Rocky Mount Mills in 1924. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On July 20, 1863, Union cavalry led by Gen. Edward Potter torched Rocky Mount Mills, the second cotton mill in North Carolina after the short-lived Schenck-Warlick Mill in Lincoln County.

Manufacturing began in Rocky Mount in 1818 on a 20-acre tract at the falls of the Tar River. The mills were initially operated by Joel Battle and two partners, but by 182,5 Battle was the sole proprietor.

Built from local granite, the facility, housing cotton and grist mills, was three stories plus a basement. Slaves and a few free African Americans supplied the labor from the earliest days until about 1852, when the Battles began to substitute white workers, many of them women and children. By that time, local slaveowners were less inclined to hire their slaves out for factory work.

After the Civil War, Battle rebuilt the mills on the original foundation. The new brick building, four stories with a basement this time, burned in 1869 and Battle again rebuilt the mills.

When Rocky Mount Mills closed in 1996, it was believed to be the oldest operating cotton mill in the South. It now comprises a local historic district and is undergoing redevelopment.

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Sixteenth Century Vengeance on Roanoke Island

A watercolor by John White depicting a Roanoke village. Image from the British Museum.

On July 18, 1585, the Indian village of Aquascogoc was burned by men from the second of three Roanoke Voyages.

The voyagers on the second expedition left England in April 1585 with the goal of establishing a new colony on Roanoke Island. After arriving on the Outer Banks in June, a detachment of colonists, with Native American Manteo as their interpreter, explored the mainland and visited several villages, including Pomeiok, Aquascogoc and Secotan.

All but one of the boats of the detachment returned to settlers’ camp at Wococon on July 18. The remaining boat took Captain Philip Amadas, Manteo, and a few others back to Aquascogoc to “demand a silver cup which one of the Savages had stolen from us.”

It is unclear exactly what transpired at Aquascogoc—whether the Indians denied having the cup or whether they thought the English were taking back a gift. The leader of the village apparently promised the cup’s return in an effort to stall the English long enough for the women and children to escape. After noticing the people clearing the village, Amadas reacted with unconscionable violence.  It was written that the men “burnt, and spoyled their Corne, and Towne, all the people being fledde.”

Not a month had passed into the attempted colonization of the “New World,” when the English committed the first act of violence against the natives. It is believed that Aquascogoc was southeast of modern-day Belhaven in Beaufort County.

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Royal Governor Gabriel Johnston in Office for 18 Years

Southport's Fort Johnston, which is named for Gov. Gabriel Johnston

Southport’s Fort Johnston, which is named for Gov. Gabriel Johnston.
Image from the State Historic Preservation Office.

On July 17, 1752, Colonial-era Governor Gabriel Johnston died.

Johnston served in the colony’s top job for 18 years, holding the post longer than any governor in North Carolina’s history down to the present day. Perhaps even more remarkable is that, due to problems collecting the rents and taxes that paid his salary, he was left uncompensated for 13 of those years.

Johnston was born in the Scottish lowlands, before being educated at the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Sometime around 1728, he moved to London, where he lived in the home of Lord Wilmington, president of the Privy Council, which was a panel of king’s closest advisers.

Named governor of North Carolina in 1733. Johnston didn’t arrive at his post in October of the following year. He advocated for the establishment of Newton in 1735, and later renamed the town Wilmington in his patron’s honor.

Johnston’s term saw many changes in North Carolina, including the first printer and thus the first newspaper and printed laws, new agricultural techniques and the building of several forts. North Carolina’s population also tripled during his term, thanks in part to Johnston’s efforts in encouraging immigration, especially from his native Scotland.

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Henry Gatling and His Flying Machine

James Henry Gatling and his Flying Machine . Image copyright F. Roy Johnson and from the State Archives.

James Henry Gatling and his Flying Machine . Image copyright F. Roy Johnson  and his family, and held by the State Archives.

On July 15, 1816, Henry Gatling, inventor of an early flying machine and brother of Richard Gatling of Gatling gun fame, was born in Hertford County.

In interviews, Gatling claimed the flight of the turkey buzzard as his inspiration. The bird, he observed, could soar for long intervals with only slight wing movements. To try to mimic this method of flight, he developed a flying machine with hinged triangular wings that could be moved with wires.

Gatling selected hand-cranked engines with blower-type wooden blades in front of each wing. The blades blew air to the underside of the wings to keep the plane aloft until necessary momentum was achieved.  Anticipating the ground maneuvering needs of aircraft, Gatling placed large wooden wheels at the front and a smaller one under the tail of his “aeroplane.”  The completed contraption was about 18-feet long with a 14-foot wingspan.

A reproduction of the Gatling Aeroplane. Image courtesy of the Murfreesboro Historical Association, Inc.

A reproduction of the Gatling Aeroplane. Image courtesy of the Murfreesboro Historical Association, Inc.

Gatling performed a number of ground and air trials of his airplane the summer and fall of 1873. Eyewitnesses to machine’s 1873 first (and only) trip through the air recalled an approximately 100-foot flight from a raised platform, with the plane descending rapidly suggesting that it was actually more of a “glide” than a “flight.” The descent left the machine badly damaged, and Gatling never made the repairs necessary to attempt further flights.

The flyer garnered wide press attention in 1872 and 1873. One article claimed that the machine was “destined at some future day to eclipse the [his brother’s] famous gun, and fly triumphant over time, space, and water.”  There is little doubt that the statement reflects the inventor’s aspirations on both counts.

Gatling was murdered on his property in September 1879.  The airplane, which had been stored in a barn, was destroyed by a fire in 1905.

A group of enthusiasts in Murfreesboro have built what they believe to be an accurate replica of the Gatling flying machine.

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The Flood of 1916 and Unprecedented Destruction in Western North Carolina

Asheville's railroad yard after the 1916 flood. Image from the State Archives

Asheville’s railroad yard after the 1916 flood. Image from the State Archives

On July 14, 1916, the worst flood in western North Carolina’s history occurred after six days of torrential rain. In one 24-hour period the region saw more than half of a normal year’s total rainfall. The 22 inches of rain that fell that day set the record for the most rainfall in a single day in the United States.

Because the ground was saturated, most of the water immediately filled streams and rivers, causing them to reach flood stage in just a few hours. Eighty people lost their lives and the property damage surpassed $22 million, $1 million of that in Asheville alone.

Asheville and Hendersonville were completely cut off from the outside for weeks. Railroad tracks that were not destroyed had their supports washed out from under them, leaving tracks eerily suspended over mud-covered ravines—895 miles of track were rendered useless.

Everyone was taken by surprise at the speed with which the water rose. People were stranded in trees when their cars or homes were overwhelmed and they had nowhere else to go. Industrial plants along the rivers were swept away and landslides engulfed homes.

For most of western North Carolina this flood remains the benchmark for disasters.

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Homegrown Raleigh Powerhouse, CP&L

A CP&L steam plant on Jones Street in Raleigh, circa 1925.
Image from the State Archives.

On July 13, 1908, the Carolina Power & Light Company (CP&L) was chartered.

The corporation, with a customer base primarily in Raleigh, was the result of a merger of the Raleigh Electric Company, the Central Carolina Power Company and the Consumer Light and Power Company. Within a few years, CP&L owned or controlled local power companies in Oxford, Henderson, Asheville and Goldsboro.

The interior of the Blewett Falls Hydroelectric Plant, circa 1920-1930. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

The interior of the Blewett Falls Hydroelectric Plant, circa 1920-1930. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

In the early part of the 20th century, electric streetcar systems operated by companies that would become part of CP&L were an integral part of the utility’s business and played an important role in the development of suburban neighborhoods in Asheville and Raleigh. After World War I, the company benefited from the demand created by the proliferation of electrical appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and stoves that were once were considered luxury items.

To generate power for electricity, CP&L used coal, oil and water until the 1960s, when the company built its first nuclear power plant in South Carolina. The company constructed costly nuclear plants in Brunswick and Wake counties before scaling back its production of nuclear energy.

In 2000, CP&L merged with Florida Progress Corporation form Progress Energy, and Progress in turn merged with Charlotte-based Duke Energy in 2012.

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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 Grove Park Inn and Its Host of Prominent Guests

The Grove Park Inn while still under construction. Image from
UNC Asheville’s Ramsey Library.

On July 12, 1913, the Grove Park Inn opened on Sunset Mountain near Asheville. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan delivered an opening address officially welcoming guests and indicating that the inn was “built for the ages.”

The brainchild of Edwin W. Grove, a Missouri pharmacist often called the “father of modern Asheville” because of the extensive development work he did in the city, the inn was designed by Fred L. Seely. Seely was an adherent of the Arts and Crafts movement, and that’s evident in the inn’s distinctive architectural style.

The Inn’s opening banquet on July 12, 1913.
Image from UNC Asheville’s Ramsey Library.

Construction on the building with its original 156 guest rooms took less than a year, thanks to the large crew of 400 laborers and 20 Italian stonemasons who worked 10-hour days to ensure the project’s speedy completion.

Over the years, the inn has played host to a number of notable personalities including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and exiled Philippine president Manuel L. Quezon, who established the headquarters of a government-in-exile for the Philippines at the inn.

An extensive renovation in the 1980s increased the hotel’s size to include 510 guest rooms, 40 meeting rooms, 2 ballrooms, 4 restaurants, a full-service sports center and a number of other facilities. It continues to attract guests from around the world today.

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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.

Lutheran Leader J. G. Arends

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On July 9, 1807, minister, educator and founder of the North Carolina Synod of the Lutheran Church J. G. Arends died in Lincolnton.

Born in Germany in 1740, Arends arrived in Rowan County in 1773 to become a Lutheran teacher. When the minister who served the area left in 1774, Arends was ordained to take his place.

Arends traveled extensively throughout the western part of North Carolina ministering to those who otherwise had no other form of pastoral care. By the end of his ministry he had served 19 churches, most of which he helped establish. Although many in the Lutheran Church in North Carolina were supportive of the Crown, Arends dedicated himself to the cause of American independence.

Responding to the “outburst of intensive religious activity” and the “alarming deterioration of both faith and morals” during revivalism known as the Second Great Awakening, Arends and other Lutheran ministers in North Carolina saw the need to organize and bring authority to the Lutheran Church. They met in Salisbury in May 1803 to form the North Carolina Synod of the Lutheran Church. It was only the third Lutheran synod in America, and Arends was elected the group’s first president.

He died four years later.

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.

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