Endor Ironworks Saved from the Forces of Nature

The Endor Iron Furnace in the 1950s. Image from the Railroad House Historical Association.

On April 25, 1862, the Endor Iron Company was chartered. Two months later investors purchased the Deep River plantation of Alexander McIver and constructed a smelting furnace on it.

It is likely that the furnace supplied the Confederate arsenal at Fayetteville in addition to small nearby arms factories. The ironworks changed hands twice before a Maryland manufacturer purchased Endor and, with a local partner, invested heavily in the operation. By 1872, their Cape Fear Iron and Steel Company was one of the South’s largest and best equipped iron furnaces.

Two years later, it was determined that local mineral deposits were smaller than had first been thought and by 1876, the company had ceased operation. Though most of the machinery was dismantled and removed, the furnace continued operating until 1896 on a smaller scale, serving only local manufacturers.

With cooperation from the Triangle Land Conservancy and the financial support of the nonprofit Railroad House Historical Association, the original structure is now being prepared for stabilization and ultimately restoration, with plans for greater public access and appreciation of this important chapter of North Carolina industrial history.

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Herring and Devane’s Gun and Bayonet Factory

On April 24, 1776, prominent patriots Richard Herring and John Devane founded a gun factory on the Black River north of Wilmington in what’s now Sampson County.

Money to build the factory, buy some of the initial materials needed and pay the workers was provided by the colonial government. The 1,000 British pounds the government allocated would be worth about $40,000 in today’s money. Records indicate that the factory produced simple muskets with 3-foot, 8-inch barrels and one-and-a-half-foot-long bayonets.

Documents from the period indicate that the objective was to produce guns at a cost of no more than five pounds apiece. The bayonets were to include a “trumpet mouthed” loop at one end. The point of the factory was to ensure a well-armed local militia.

The factory made about 100 muskets and a few rifles and smooth-bore guns before being destroyed by forces loyal to the Crown. Five other gun factories, located in and around New Bern, Edenton, Halifax, Hillsborough and Salisbury, operated during the Revolutionary period.

Learn more about the arms the average soldier carried during the Revolutionary War on NCpedia.

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.

Major Depression-Era Loss at Wingate

Wingate's Administration Building before and after the 1932 fire. Image from Ethel K. Smith Library at Wingate University.

Wingate’s Administration Building before and
after the 1932 fire. Image from Ethel K. Smith Library at Wingate University.

On April 23, 1932, the Administration Building of what’s now Wingate University was destroyed by fire.

At the time, the building housed the college library and chemistry labs, classrooms, an auditorium and offices. The library, which had more than 5,000 volumes at the time, and the chemistry labs were totally destroyed.

The building was valued at $50,000 and the loss was only partially covered by insurance. Some equipment and furniture in the building was saved, as were the surrounding buildings. The fire began in the boiler room, even though the furnace had not been lit for several days.

Firefighters from Monroe and Marshville tried to save the building but a lack of water pressure and the chemicals from the lab hampered their progress. Another fire that night destroyed the W. A. Chaney building nearby. An investigation into a break-in there led to suspicions that the fire was set on purpose. There were suspicions too, that the Wingate fire was intentionally set, but its cause remain undetermined.

The board of trustees voted quickly to have a new building erected before classes began the next year and began fundraising. Local Baptist churches helped as much as they could in the Depression-strapped times.

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.

Tar Heel Junior Historians Learn, Boost State History

Judges take a look at projects during the 1968 Tar Heel Junior Historian Association annual contest. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On April 22, 1953, the General Assembly established the Tar Heel Junior Historian Association program to advance the study of North Carolina history in public and private schools.

Administered by the North Carolina Museum of History, the association enrolls about 8,000 students in grades four through eight each year. The highlight of program comes each spring when students gather at a convention in Raleigh to share projects and conduct competitions.

Educators William H. Cartwright and J. C. McLendon were the driving force behind the creation of the program. They studied junior history programs in other states and met with Christopher Crittenden, then director of the state Department of Archives and History to sketch out a plan for the program.

In 1961, the association first issued the Tar Heel Junior Historian magazine, which is still published to this day. The North Carolina History Quiz, later renamed the Christopher Crittenden State History Quiz, was started in 1976.

When state history as was reintroduced as a separate eighth grade course in 1988, the association’s enrollment increased exponentially, and in 1995, the Tar Heel Junior Historian Gallery opened in the new Museum building in downtown Raleigh, giving the association a permanent space to display student work.

Visit: History in Every Direction: THJHA Discovery Gallery, an exhibit at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, showcases the most recent winners of THJHA Annual Contests, allowing junior historians to share what they have learned with thousands of annual visitors.

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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.

Myrtle Grove Sound Third Site for State Salt Works

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On April 21, 1864, the state salt works in New Hanover County were attacked by Federal forces and about a third of the site was destroyed.

An important ingredient for the preservation of the meat, salt was essential for the security of the food supply during the era. Salt works were established in Currituck County and near Morehead City, though both were captured by federal troops who controlled much of northeastern North Carolina by the end of 1863.

For the remainder of the war, state salt production was anchored in the Wilmington area, where numerous private salt works had previously been operated. The state brought 220 acres near Myrtle Grove Sound for its works, and soon began assembling the required furnaces. In November 1862, Governor Zebulon B. Vance reported 200 kettles in operation, producing 1,200 bushels of salt per day. At peak of production, the facility was putting out 8,500 bushels each day.

Late in the war Gen. W. H. C. Whiting, the Confederate commander at Fort Fisher, suspended state salt works operations in the Cape Fear region, and principal center of production shifted to the mountains of Virginia.

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Warm Welcome in New Bern for President Washington

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On April 20, 1791, George Washington visited Tryon Palace in New Bern during his Southern Tour.

In 1791, the federal government was new and so was the presidency. Washington had been elected only two years before in February 1789, and North Carolina had become part of the Union in November of the same year.

Like any political move, the formation of the United States was seen with much skepticism from both citizens and government leaders. Washington’s tour of the Southern states allowed him to explore the nation he led, giving him the opportunity to promote national unity among its people. In his diary, Washington reported details about the geography of the states, exports such as tobacco and the attitudes of the citizens.

Washington’s visit was warmly received by New Bernians. During his two-day stay, the president dined at Tryon Palace and attended a “dancing assembly” with about 70 ladies. He also visited many of New Bern’s well-known citizens including John Wright Stanly, John Sitgreaves and Richard Dobbs Spaight.

Leaving New Bern on April 22, Washington headed south toward Wilmington.

Visit: Tryon Palace and the New Bern Preservation Foundation will celebrate the anniversary of Washington’s visit to the area with a whole host of activities this weekend.

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.

Agricultural Research Stations Date to 1877

The Border Belt Tobacco Research Station in Whiteville, circa 1940. Image from NCSU Libraries.

On April 19, 1877, the first agricultural experiment station opened in a one-room chemistry lab at UNC. It was the first such station in the South, and the second in the nation.

A movement had been building to found the research station since 1885, when the General Assembly directed the Board of Agriculture to start acquiring land and machinery for it. The actual legislation establishing the station was passed in February 1877 with a focus on research that would aid in plant nutrition and develop new fertilizers.

In 1889, management of the station was transferred to what is now N.C. State University. The change was the result of the federal Hatch Act, which sent federal funds for agricultural research to the states through land grant colleges.

At the same time, the N.C. Department of Agriculture began establishing “test farms” across the state to try different crop, fertilizer and soil combinations and discover which crops were best suited to particular regions.

The program has continued to grow, and today the department and the N.C. State jointly operate 18 research stations around 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.

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