Memorial to the Wright Brothers Dedicated, 1932

The Wright Brothers National Memorial, circa 1939. Image from the State Archives.

On March 2, 1927, President Calvin Coolidge signed legislation authorizing the Kill Devil Hills National Monument. Five years later, a 60-foot granite monument was dedicated in Dare County.

The monument itself was built on a 90-foot sand dune stabilized through the planting of special grasses. The dune was part of a larger natural embankment that the Wright Brothers used to launch gliders in the years leading up to their famed first powered flights in 1903.

The groundbreaking of the memorial. Image from the State Archives.

Designed to mimic the look of a marine beacon, the monument’s double entrance doors each have six panels depicting moments from mankind’s attempts at flight. The inscription notes the momentous achievements in the history of flight that the Wright Brothers attained at Kill Devil Hills.

Though the monument’s 1932 dedication was expected to draw tens of thousands of people bad weather kept all but a handful away. Orville Wright was in attendance and the featured guest of honor. In 1953, Congress renamed and designated the monument as the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

It continues to be on the premiere attractions on the Outer Banks, drawing more than 425,000 visitors each year.

Visit: The Wright Brothers National Memorial, located in Kitty Hawk operated by the National Park Service, is open to visitors year-round.

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The Holding Family and First Citizens Bank

A First Citizens branch on S. Broad Street in Brevard, crica 1950s-1960s. Image from the Transylvania County Public Library.

A First Citizens branch on S. Broad Street in Brevard, crica 1950s-1960s.
Image from the Transylvania County Public Library.

On March 1, 1898, the Bank of Smithfield, now known as First Citizens Bank, opened for business.

The bank, Johnston County’s first, was founded by Allen W. Smith who remained president until 1906.  The institution became First National Bank of Smithfield before merging with Citizens National Bank to become First and Citizens National Bank. In 1929, the company adopted the now-familiar moniker of First Citizens Bank & Trust Company.

Clayton Banking Company, which eventually
became part of First Citizens, circa 1919.
Image from the State Archives.

Robert Powell Holding, who joined the bank as an assistant cashier in 1918, became president in 1935. He piloted First Citizens through the Depression and World War II, and by the time of his death in 1957, it was the second largest bank in North Carolina. Holding’s three sons continued in their father’s footsteps by occupying the key posts of chairman of the board, president and vice president.

The Holdings grew First Citizens into one of the largest family-controlled banks in the United States, and the family continues to own the bank today.

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.

Governor Thomas Bickett of Monroe and Louisburg

Gov. Thomas Bickett in a cotton field near Raleigh, circa 1918.
Image from the State Archives.

On February 28, 1869, Thomas Bickett, North Carolina’s World War I governor, was born in Monroe

After studying law at UNC, Bickett settled in Louisburg and was elected to represent Franklin County in the state House in 1906. During his single term in the General Assembly, Bickett made his mark as the sponsor of the “Bickett Bill,” which set aside a half-million dollars to help care for the mentally ill.

Gov. Bickett and his wife stand on the steps of the Executive Mansion. Image from the State Archives.

Drawing attention at the 1908 state Democratic Party convention in Charlotte, Bickett was nominated for attorney general. During his two terms in that office, Bickett successfully defended the state’s interests in numerous state Supreme Court cases and five before the United States Supreme Court.

Bickett was elected governor in 1916, the first year primary contests were held. Three months after his inauguration, the United States entered World War I. Though motivating the public to help the war effort became a major focus of his term, he also helped overhaul the state’s parole system, expand higher education, reform the tax code and increase spending on public health. A strikingly successful politician, Bickett saw the General Assembly adopt 40 of the 48 proposals made during his term.

Bickett died in December 1921 and is buried in Louisburg.

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Cherokee Attack on Fort Dobbs

An artist's rendering of Fort Dobbs. Image from the N.C. Historic Sites.

An artist’s rendering of Fort Dobbs. Image from N.C. Historic Sites.

On February 27, 1760, Fort Dobbs was attacked by a force of more than 60 Cherokee warriors. The fort had been constructed four years earlier to protect the western frontier during the French and Indian War.

Fighting between the British settlers and their former allies broke out in 1759 as settlers were killed in revenge for the murder of several Cherokee the year before. As the only permanent fort on the colony’s frontier, the fort served as a safe-haven for settlers, and its garrison of soldiers helped to defend the region.

Colonel Hugh Waddell, the fort’s commander, noted that the Cherokee “found the fire very hot” as ten of his men engaged the Cherokee near the fort around nine o’clock at night. “I ordered my party to fire which we did not further than 12 steps each loaded with a bullet and seven buck shot,” Waddell later wrote. “They [the Cherokee] had nothing to cover them as they were advancing either to tomahawk or make us prisoners…”

Waddell retreated to the fort and the Cherokee broke off the attack. The combined casualties, killed or wounded, from the brief encounter included 12 Cherokee, two soldiers and one settler child.

Visit: Fort Dobbs in Statesville is now one of 27 sate historic sites, open to the pubic Tuesday through Saturday.

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Lynching of Wyatt Outlaw and the Kirk-Holden War

Marker-G-120On February 26, 1870, Graham town commissioner Wyatt Outlaw, an African American, was lynched by a band of Ku Klux Klansmen.

Outlaw served in the 2nd Regiment United States Colored Cavalry during the Civil War. In 1866, he attended the second freedmen’s convention in Raleigh and soon after organized the Union League, an organization that aimed to promote loyalty to the United States after the Civil War, in Alamance County, as well as a school and church. Outlaw became the target for a Klan mob because he was an effective leader, able to work with both races.

With Klan violence mounting following Outlaw’s murder, Governor William Woods Holden declared a state of insurrection in Alamance and Caswell counties in July 1870. A militia force under George W. Kirk of Tennessee suppressed the Klan in those counties.

Nearly 100 Klan suspects were arrested during the “Kirk-Holden War,” but most were released on technicalities and none were ever tried. White supremacists gained control of the General Assembly in elections that November and impeached Holden for using the militia against the Klan. He was cast out of office in March 1871.

Superior Court judge Albion Tourgee indicted 18 Klansmen for Outlaw’s murder, but an amnesty bill from the legislature resulted in their never going to trial.

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.

Chatham County “Blood Shower”

A journal article by F. B. Venable on the phenomenon. Image from OpenLibrary.org.

The first page of a journal article by F. B. Venable on the Chatham County “Blood Shower.” Image from OpenLibrary.org.

On February 25, 1884, Mrs. Kit Lasater, “noted for truthfulness,” was walking near her home in the New Hope township of Chatham County when she heard what she thought was a hard rain fall. Glancing up she saw only clear sky but when she glanced down she saw what appeared to be the aftermath of a “shower of pure blood.”

None of the liquid had fallen on her but it had drenched the ground and surrounding trees for some 60 feet (some accounts say yards) in circumference from the spot where she stood. Upon hearing her story, neighbors rushed to see for themselves and, when later interviewed, confirmed the story as related by Mrs. Lasater.

Samples were collected and sent to Dr. F. P. Venable, a professor at UNC, for evaluation. By mid-April he addressed the topic to the Mitchell Scientific Society. In every test performed except one, the conclusion was the same. The samples appeared to be blood. Venable could offer no explanation beyond the results of the tests, suggesting that “the subject is quite a puzzle and offers a tempting field for the theorist blessed with a vivid imagination.”

Similar cases of blood showers have been reported for centuries in various locations around the world.

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.

Greenville Long Home to Voice of America

The Voice of America Control Room in Greenville, circa 1983. Image from East Carolina University.

The Voice of America Control Room in Greenville, circa 1983.
Image from East Carolina University.

On February 24, 1942, the Foreign Information Service, precursor to the Voice of America (VOA), made its first broadcast from New York City to Europe.

Within months 23 transmitters were in place and 27 language services on the air. VOA technical facilities and programming saw vast improvements as America aimed to thwart the propaganda of communist bloc countries which, in turn, sought to electronically jam the broadcasts. International radio became an instrument of American foreign policy.

A sign announcing the construction of the VoA facility in Greenville. Image from East Carolina University.

A sign announcing the construction of the VoA facility in Greenville. Image from East Carolina University.

A key link in the network was built in eastern North Carolina. The facility consisted of three sites west, east and southeast of Greenville. The sites were chosen to ensure the best “electronic propagation conditions.” Programs originating from the Washington studios were beamed via microwave to Greenville and then were relayed from there to Latin America, Europe and Africa.  With its inauguration in 1963, the $23 million Greenville operation doubled the VOA’s power.

The federal government suspended operations at Greenville in 1989, and one of the sites is now home to the Queen Anne’s Revenge conservation lab.

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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