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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Cherokee Wrestler and Chief

An image of Saunooke from UNC Libraries

On July 19, 1906, Osley Bird Saunooke, super heavyweight wrestler and Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI), was born in Cherokee.

Professional wrestling was a natural fit for Saunooke, who served in the Marine Corps, stood 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed more than 350 pounds. During the Depression, he began wrestling and his rise in the sport was quick. In 1937, he became the Super Heavyweight Champion of the World, and he went on to hold that title for 14 years. When he retired from the wrestling in 1951, Saunooke had fought 5,217 matches all over the country.

After retiring from the ring Saunooke changed gears quickly. He was elected Principal Chief of the ECBI almost immediately, serving in that capacity from 1951 to 1955 and again from 1959 to 1963. Saunooke is widely credited with turning the Cherokee’s home in western North Carolina into a model reservation. He is also often praised for working closely with the federal and state governments to ensure greater autonomy for the Cherokee.

Respected for his leadership abilities, Saunooke was the first Indian east of the Mississippi River elected to an office in the National Congress of American Indians. He died in 1965.

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.

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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Festival Rocked Iredell County Community, 1970

A shot of the crowd looking toward the stage at the Love Valley Music Festival. Image courtesy of Ed Buzzell Photography

The crowd looking toward the stage at the Love Valley Music Festival.
Image courtesy of Ed Buzzell Photography.

On July 16, 1970, the “South’s Woodstock” was launched at Love Valley. The rock festival swelled the small Western-themed community of about 100 people to almost 200,000.

Located north of Statesville, Love Valley was the creation of Andy Barker in 1954, who had always wanted to live like a cowboy in an Old West town.  The idea of the rock festival was Barker’s and he charged $5 a person for the three-day event.

The crowd at Love Valley. Image courtesy of Ed Buzzell Photography

The crowd at Love Valley. Image courtesy of Ed Buzzell Photography.

While the festival could not draw the band lineup of Woodstock, which the Iredell County event was modeled after, the headliner was the Allman Brothers Band. Young and on the rise, the band played several sets during the weekend festival and documentarians captured it in about 20 minutes of film. Several local bands, including Kallabash of Greensboro, were also on the program

Organizers had hoped to do a documentary like the one made at Woodstock, but a lack of funds meant that they were only able to capture parts of each band’s performance. In spite of some locals’ dire worries about illegal and immoral behavior, the weekend passed without major incident, and the festival in the valley lived up to its name.

Don’t forget to check out the N.C. Arts Council’s summer performing arts guide for suggestions on how you can experience great Tar Heel arts experiences now.

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