St. John’s at Colonial Williamsboro in Vance County

The church in 1961. Image from N.C. State University Libraries.

The church in 1961. Image from N.C. State University Libraries.

On September 30, 1956, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamsboro was reconsecrated by the Right Reverend Edwin A. Penick, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, following the building’s careful restoration.

The Anglican church building, constructed in 1773, is one of only three intact Colonial era churches remaining in North Carolina and the only one of frame construction.

The simple but well-crafted rectangular gable-front building rests on a Flemish bond brick foundation, is sheathed in molded weatherboards and features a modillion cornice and tall 16-pane-over-16-pane double-hung sash windows that illuminate the bright interior characteristic of the auditory Anglican church model.

The interior has an arched ceiling, original gallery with turned posts and boxed pews.

Master carpenter John Lynch built the church according to specifications drawn up in 1771, but it took two years of sporadic effort to complete. It originally was named Nutbush Church and was consecrated as St. John’s in 1825.

The small town of Williamsboro sprang up around the building at the heart of the wealthy plantation community in what would become northern Vance County.

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“Old Hickory” Division Breaks Hindenburg Line

The actions of the Old Hickory Division around the Hiddenburg Line in September and October 1918. Image from the State Archives.

The actions of the Old Hickory Division around the Hidenburg Line in September and October 1918. Image from the State Archives.

On September 29, 1918, the 30th Infantry Division broke the Hindenburg Line, an important segment of the German defensive network on the Western Front during World War I. The action was part of a series of Allied assaults known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which led to the Armistice of November 1918.

The 30th Division was organized from National Guard regiments from North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, supplemented by volunteers and draftees from around the United States. It was nicknamed the “Old Hickory Division” because of the historic ties that all three states had  to Andrew Jackson.

The 60th Brigade of the 30th Division's Signal Headquarters near Premont, France, in October 1918. Image of State Archives.

The 60th Brigade of the 30th Division’s Signal Headquarters near Premont, France, in October 1918. Image of State Archives.

The Division was assigned to the Second Corps of the American Expeditionary Force, which in turn was detached and operated under the control of the British. During the attack on the Hindenburg Line, the Division was part of the British Fourth Army.

The 119th and 120th Infantry Regiments, originally North Carolina National Guard units, led the assault. The Germans opened fire and inflicted heavy casualties. The attack of the 119th made little progress, but the 120th captured the village of Bellicourt after heavy fighting, breaking the Hindenburg Line.

Later in the afternoon, the Australian Corps took over the assault and further exploited the initial breakthrough.

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Creation of Lake Norman Altered the Landscape

Boating on Lake Norman, circa 2002. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

Boating on Lake Norman, circa 2002. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

On September 28, 1959, Southern Power Company—now Duke Energy—broke ground on the Cowan’s Ford Dam on the Catawba River. The dam was the starting point for creating what is now Lake Norman in Catawba, Iredell, Lincoln and Mecklenburg Counties.

The company’s plans for the area actually had their origins in the late 1800s, when the company began buying land around the Catawba River, but it continued to allow people to live on the property for many years.

A ranger and hikers at what was then Duke Power State Park, circa 1965. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

A ranger and hikers at what was then Duke Power State Park, circa 1965. Image from North Carolina State Parks.

Duke Power began filling the area with water in 1962 but, since the Catawba River’s flow was not very strong and the dam was not completely finished, it took more than a year to fill it. Lake Norman now covers more than 32,000 acres, making it the largest manmade body of water in North Carolina.

The lake is named for former Duke Power CEO Norman Atwater Cocke. A state park, originally named for the company, was established on part of the lakeshore in 1962.

In late 2012, archivists from Davidson College began a crowdsourcing project to try and get a firmer grasp of structures and locations that went underwater when the lake waters rose in 1963.

One of the most significant of those locations is the original site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Cowan’s Ford.

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Scalded to Death by the Steam: The Wreck of the Old 97

Image from Encyclopedia Virginia.

Image from Encyclopedia Virginia.

On September 27, 1903, arguably the most famous train wreck in U.S. history, the wreck of the old 97, occurred in Danville, Va. The mail train was in route to Spencer in Rowan County.

Late leaving and under company orders to get back on schedule, engineer Joseph A., “Steve” Broady had the steam engine rolling at about 90 miles an hour, way too fast for safety.

Nine people of the 18 railroad and post office employees on board, including Broady, were killed immediately when the train left the Stillhouse Trestle and crashed into a ravine. Three others died later of their injuries and the other seven were injured but survived.

Three survivors, all North Carolinians, believed they survived because they jumped from the train. Spencer was 166 miles away from Monroe, Va., the trip’s origin, and the route usually took more than 4 hours to make. The usual, and safe, speed was about 39 miles an hour.

Shortly after the tragic wreck a ballad, “The Wreck of the Old 97” became popular and has remained a mainstay of bluegrass artists. Various people, most with a close connection to one of the dead from the wreck, have claimed authorship of the song.

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Longstanding Lions Club Commitment to the Blind

On September 26, 1934, the first annual meeting of the North Carolina State Association for the Blind was held at the Vance Hotel in Statesville, in conjunction with a regional Lions Club conference.

Lions Club International was already committed to civic service on behalf of the visually impaired, and the North Carolina clubs looked for opportunities to carry out the mission. By the 1930s it became clear that the work of the clubs lacked continuity, and the Charlotte Lions Club began to seek ways to improve services for the state’s entire blind population.

During the Depression, local Associations for the Blind were established in Guilford, Durham and Mecklenburg Counties. The local associations, together with the Lions Clubs, established the infrastructure for launching a statewide effort to assist the blind citizens of North Carolina.

In 1974, the group solidified their connection with the Lions Clubs by becoming the North Carolina Lions Association for the Blind, and it is now known simply as the North Carolina Lions Foundation, Inc.

The original association was successful in focusing public attention on the needs of the state’s blind and visually impaired citizens. The modern successor continues the work with projects and programs throughout North Carolina.

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Astrochimp Ham’s Retirement Years in Asheboro

Ham prepares for his space flight. Image from NASA.

Ham prepares for his space flight. Image from NASA.

On September 25, 1980, Ham, the “astrochimp,” arrived at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro.

Ham, an acronym for Holloman Aero Med, was born in July 1957 in the French Cameroons in West Africa. He was taken to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico when he was about 2-years-old. Space researchers at Holloman began using animals, initially monkeys and mice, in the late 1940s to test whether they could send a living creature into space and return it to Earth alive.

In January 1961, Ham became the first chimpanzee in space aboard the Mercury Redstone rocket on a sub-orbital flight.

Following his mission Ham was found to be slightly fatigued and dehydrated, but otherwise, in good health. His flight heralded the launch of America’s first human astronaut, Alan B. Shepard Jr., later that year.

Ham spent many years alone on display at the Washington Zoo, but was moved to North Carolina where he could live among other chimpanzees.

After his death in 1983 his skeleton was removed for further study and his other remains were buried at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Visit: One of the largest “natural habitat” zoos in county, the North Carolina Zoo attracts more than 700,000 visitors annually.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Nathaniel Batts, Carolina’s First Permanent Settler of European Descent

The Batts Deed. Image from N.C. Historical Publications.

The Batts Deed. Image from N.C. Historical Publications.

On September 24, 1660, King Kiscutanewh sold Nathaniel Batts a tract of land in what is now Pasquotank County. The deed, recorded in a Chesapeake, Va., deed book, included all land southwest of the Pasquotank River from its mount to the head of Begin Creek.

Batts was the earliest-known white settler and owner of the earliest-known house within what is now North Carolina. His house, built in 1654 or 1655, is shown on the 1657 Nicholas Comberford map.

Batts was a large property owner in southeastern Virginia and divided his time between his holdings there and the property in what is now northeastern North Carolina. A witness to the deed was another early North Carolina European-settler, George Durant.

Batts would go to acquire a small island in the nearby Yeopim River that eventually came to be named for him. The northeastern region of the state still has place names that honor both Batts and Durant.

The discovery of the 1660 deed in 1966 made newspaper headlines.

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