North Carolina’s Milestone Move Toward Self-Government, 1774

First Provincial Congress

On August 25, 1774, 71 delegates were present at the roll call for North Carolina’s First Provincial Congress. It was the first such meeting held in any of the colonies. Though the rebellious Congress was held in New Bern near royal Governor Josiah Martin’s residence at Tryon Palace, no attempt was made to stop the assembly.

A month earlier, William Hooper had convened a meeting of colonists from the Cape Fear region who felt that a Provincial Congress, separate from North Carolina’s royal government, was urgently needed. Invitations to send delegates were dispatched and, in response, 30 counties and four towns held elections without delay.

The congress, which only lasted for three days, endorsed the proposal that the colonies hold a Continental Congress. To that end, the group selected William Hooper, Joseph Hewes and Richard Caswell as delegates to that convention.

Aside from revolutionary topics, the delegates also discussed basic rights and responsibilities of government. They were eager to exercise control over North Carolina’s affairs. The concluding pledge to support the actions of the forthcoming Continental Congress was a testament to their goal of self-government and to their preparedness to achieve that goal.

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Dolley Madison and the British Assault on the White House, 1814

An engraving of Dolley Madison saving an important document.

On August 24, 1814, Dolley Madison rescued several important state documents and a now-famous oil portrait of George Washington from the White House as Washington, D.C., was being burned by invading British forces.

Born Dolley Payne in 1768 in Guilford County, the future First Lady met her would-be husband through mutual acquaintance Aaron Burr in Philadelphia 1794. The couple married less than a year later. While James Madison served as Secretary of State for the widowed Thomas Jefferson, Dolley became the unofficial “first lady,” hosting events for politicians and international guests. The 1809 inauguration of her husband, therefore, made for an easy transition to the role of the president’s wife.

As Washington came under siege from the British as part of the War of 1812, President James Madison asked his wife to stay behind in the White House and gather important documents so that the building could be abandoned quickly if needed. As the invading force drew near, the First Lady decided to abandon the Pennsylvania Avenue mansion.

Though popular legend tends to tell the story in such a way that Madison herself ripped the portrait out a frame and hand-carried it and other important documents out of the White House, contemporary historians revisiting the subject argue that household slaves most likely did the heavy lifting under her orders.

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The Lost State of Franklin

John Sevier

On August 23, 1784, the State of Franklin declared its independence from North Carolina. The independence would prove to be short-lived.

Settlers in far western areas had long discussed separating from the Old North State, criticizing the General Assembly for ignoring western interests. Led by John Sevier, the settlers formed their own state. Though they wrote their own state constitution and elected an assembly, western representatives were still sent to North Carolina’s General Assembly.

Governor Alexander Martin was outraged by the separatists and threatened to use force against them.  The Confederation Congress, the federal governing body at that time, refused to recognize the new state and it quickly fell apart. Sevier was elected to the North Carolina Senate in 1789 and the state of Franklin came to an abrupt end. That same year, North Carolina ceded its western lands to the United States government, and, in 1796, those lands became part of the new state of Tennessee.

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North Carolina’s “Year Without a Summer,” 1816

Mountain waterfalls in ice and snow, circa 1910. Image from the State Archives.

On August 22, 1816, a heavy frost was recorded in the state.

The unusually early frost was attributed to the Mount Tambora volcano eruption in Indonesia in April of the previous year. The eruption was the most powerful of the 19th century and is thought to have caused a number of strange weather phenomena around the world. Mount Tambora is still an active volcano to this day.

The year 1816 is often referred to as the year without a summer because of the unusually cold weather during the spring and summer months. The bizarre and destructive weather was the result of massive amounts of volcanic dust being thrown into the upper atmosphere by the eruption.

Much of what we know about the climate of the period comes from The Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Those records indicate a fickle weather pattern of unusual heat in June, an abnormally stormy July, an early August dominated by drought and heat and the descent of the frost on the 22nd. The frost was followed by more drought, extended periods of rain and cold and raw weather from late September to the end of the year.

Many crops failed and others had dangerously low yields that threatened the livelihoods, and indeed, the lives of many North Carolinians.

For more, check out a guide on resources related to weather from the State Library.

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.

Dirty Dancing Filmed at Lake Lure

August21On August 21, 1987, the blockbuster movie Dirty Dancing was released in theaters across the country.

Though set at a resort in the Catskills Mountains of Upstate New York, Dirty Dancing was shot entirely in Virginia and North Carolina. The filming came to the Southeast almost by accident. When the crew began production in September 1986, they found all the resorts in the New York mountains were closed, so they headed South.

Many of the film’s most famous scenes, including the “lake lift” scene where Patrick Swayze lifts Jennifer Grey in the water, and the shots of Grey practicing her moves to the song “Wipe Out” on the stairs on a mountainside were shot at Lake Lure. The nearby Rumbling Bald Resort’s golf course was used for the scene where Grey asks her dad for money, and the Esmeralda Inn was used for interior dance shots.

In 2010, the town of Lake Lure decided to begin celebrating its close association with the smash hit by hosting the Dirty Dancing Festival. Now an annual event, the festival draws thousands to Rutherford County each August to commemorate the now classic film and raise money for pancreatic cancer research.

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.

Long Political Career for Governor Cameron Morrison

Gov. Cameron Morrison on his inauguration day in 1921. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Gov. Cameron Morrison on his inauguration day in 1921. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On August 20, 1953, “Good Roads Governor” Cameron Morrison died.

Born in 1869, Morrison attended school in his native Richmond County. He did not attend college, but briefly studied law before opening a practice in Rockingham in 1892. Morrison began his political career as mayor of Rockingham, before being elected to the state Senate in 1900. After serving there for one term, Morrison took a 20-year break from politics before being elected governor in 1921.

A Democrat, Morrison devoted himself to internal improvements. He prompted the legislature to fund the construction of 5,500 miles of hard-surface roads. He also advocated for improvements in higher education and increases in funding to the state’s charitable institutions.

Though he was a leader of the “Red Shirts” and promoted white supremacy tactics that included harassment and threats of violence against African American voters earlier in life, as governor, Morrison sought to improve race relations and all but ended lynching in the state.

Following his term as governor, Morrison returned to private life. In 1930, he was appointed to fill an unexpired U.S. Senate term. He served one term in U.S. House in the early 1940s, but was defeated in another bid for the Senate in 1944. He died in 1953.

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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.

Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain Date Back to 1956

The caber toss at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill

The caber toss at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill

On August 19, 1956, the first Grandfather Mountain Highland Games were held near Linville.

The Grandfather Mountain games were conceived by Agnes MacRae Morton and Donald MacDonald. Already active in with several Scottish-affiliated organizations in the U.S., MacDonald was inspired to start games in North Carolina after attending a similar event on a trip to Scotland. Morton heard of a similar gathering in Connecticut and thought that Grandfather Mountain would be the perfect setting to try something comparable in North Carolina.

The pair chose the August 1956 date to commemorate the anniversary of an important event in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion against in Scotland, though the event was moved to the second weekend in July two years later.

The Avery County event quickly gained international fame, and its competitions in athletics, bagpiping, drumming and dancing are recognized worldwide. The games also have the distinction of being the largest “clan gathering” in the world since it draws so many Scottish family heritage groups.

The tradition of highland games across North Carolina is owed to the face that the Tar Heel State had the largest settlement of Highland Scots outside of Scotland until well into 1800s.

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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