New Roundhouse at Spencer, 1924

A circa 1950 aerial view of Spencer Shops. Image from N.C. Historic Sites

A circa 1950 aerial view of Spencer Shops.
Image from N.C. Historic Sites

On December 2, 1924, the Bob Julian Roundhouse at the Spencer Shops Southern Railway Repair Facility opened. The structure replaced

A locomotive inside the roundhouse in 1945. Image from N.C. Historic Sites

A locomotive inside the roundhouse in 1945. Image from N.C. Historic Sites

a smaller 15-stall roundhouse that had been built in 1896. The new building was more than twice the size, with 37 work bays for repairing and servicing Southern Railway’s growing number of locomotives. Southern officials announced the project in February 1924, and construction began almost immediately. In addition to the roundhouse, a new turntable was built to accommodate the increased number of stalls.

Remarkably, the old structures were demolished and the new ones erected within a span of only 10 months. The new 120,000 square-foot roundhouse and the 100-foot turntable cost approximately $500,000. Railroad officials named the new facility for roundhouse supervisor, Bob Julian.

The Bob Julian Roundhouse is now a part of the North Carolina Transportation Museum at Historic Spencer Shops. Visitors can see restored locomotives, passenger cars, a mail car and a World War II hospital car in the refurbished roundhouse. They can take a ride on the still-functioning turntable and learn more about the roundhouse’s history, as well as the entire facility that made up the once-thriving Spencer Shops.

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The Spanish Explore the Interior

Helmets like these were worn by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. This particular one can be seen at the N.C. Museum of History.

Helmets like these were worn by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. This particular one can be seen at the N.C. Museum of History.

On December 1, 1566, Spanish Captain Juan Pardo left Santa Elena (in present day South Carolina) with 125 men to explore the region and claim the land for Spain while pacifying local Indians.  It was also hoped that he would find an overland route from Santa Elena to the Spanish silver mines in northern Mexico.

In January 1567, Pardo and his company arrived at Joara, a large native town in the upper Catawba Valley near the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountains. At Joara, he built Fort San Juan, and manned it with thirty soldiers.  Although previous expeditions in the interior had made seasonal encampments or had temporarily occupied native towns, Pardo explicitly built Fort San Juan to expand Spanish holdings. In so doing, he founded the earliest European settlement in the interior of what is now the United States.

Although relations between the two groups were good initially, by May 1568, news reached Santa Elena that Indians had attacked all of Pardo’s forts and that all were destroyed.

In Morganton, where significant Spanish ceramics and hardware have been recovered, archaeologists have identified a compound of five burned buildings. It is believed that the Spanish artifacts and burned buildings represent the material remains of Fort San Juan.

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Warren Wilson College Established

1912 photo of Asheville Farm School campus, courtesy of the Warren Wilson College website.

On November 30, 1894, the Asheville Farm School, primary forerunner of Warren Wilson College, was established as a mission school by the Presbyterian Church. The site selected was a 420-acre farm in the Swannanoa Valley about ten miles east of Asheville.

By combining farm work with education, the school aimed to provide new opportunities for young men in the mountains. In 1942, the school merged with the Dorland-Bell School, a Presbyterian institution for young women in Hot Springs. Junior college classes were added and the new school was named for Warren H. Wilson, a leader in Presbyterian rural mission work.

In 1966, Warren Wilson became an accredited, four-year, liberal arts college offering the bachelor of arts degree.  The school is no longer associated with the Presbyterian Church’s national missions, but true to its origins, Warren Wilson requires that every student, in addition to classwork, to contribute three hours of labor each day to the college in return for room and board.

A highway marker in Buncombe County honors the college.

SS James Iredell Launched

The SS Zebulon Baird Vance being launched. The Iredell would have been launched in a similar way. Photo from NCpedia

The SS Zebulon Baird Vance being launched. The Iredell would have been launched in a similar way. Photo from NCpedia

On November 29, 1942, the SS James Iredell, a Liberty Ship constructed by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, was launched.

Along the Tar Heel coast maritime industries mobilized with the coming of World War II. Mine sweepers were built at New Bern and submarine chasers at Elizabeth City; naval repair stations operated at Morehead City and Southport. By far the largest construction effort of the war, the building of 243 Liberty Ships and other cargo vessels took place at a shipyard on the Cape Fear River three miles south of downtown Wilmington.  Workers there could complete a ship, from the laying of the keel to launch, in 25 days.

Initially the yard built only Liberty Ships, cargo vessels 440 feet in length. Called “ugly ducklings,” the Liberty Ships were the workhorses of the war. The 126 Liberty Ships built at Wilmington were named for prominent historical figures, many of whom were from North Carolina. as James Iredell, for instance, was one of the first U.S. Supreme Court Justices.  The SS James Iredell was scuttled as a breakwater off of Omaha Beach as part of the U.S. invasion of German-occupied France on June 8, 1944.

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Arthur Talmage Abernethy Appointed State’s First Poet Laureate

55745686_14531404461On November 28, 1948, Arthur Talmage Abernethy was appointed Poet Laureate, just before the end of Governor R. Gregg Cherry’s term of office.

Abernethy’s term was to expire with the end of Cherry’s term.  Abernethy was therefore officially Poet Laureate for only a few weeks, from November 28, 1948 through January 5, 1949.  However, because Governor Kerr Scott did not appoint a successor, Abernethy remained the designated Poet Laureate until August 1953, when Governor William Umstead appointed James Larkin Pearson to the post.

Abernethy’s career included time as a professor and a journalist, and he also served as a Magistrate and Justice of the Peace, frequently filing his annual reports in verse. He also found time to write more than 50 books and thousands of poems.  The books covered history, southern folklore, and evangelical subjects. Surprisingly, history records none of his poetry published in book form.

North Carolina has had seven Poets Laureate.  Writer and professor Shelby Stephenson  was named to the position in September of this year, succeeding Cathy Smith Bowers.

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Rehearsal Speech in Rocky Mount

An image of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks in Durham in 1958 from the State Archives

An image of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks in Durham in 1958
from the State Archives

On November 27, 1962, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered a speech in Rocky Mount. Before a crowd of nearly 2,000 in the gymnasium at Booker T. Washington High School, King used a number of expressions that made their way into his landmark “I Have a Dream” address at the Lincoln Memorial, which was part of the March on Washington in August 1963.

Near the close he built toward these lines: “I have a dream that one day right here in Rocky Mount, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will meet at the table of brotherhood, knowing that one God brought man to the face of the Earth. I have a dream tonight that one day my little daughter and my two sons will grow up in a world not conscious of the color of their skin, but only conscious of the fact that they are members of the human race. . . .”

Clayborne Carson, editor of the King Papers, notes that while this was not the first use of the “I have a dream” phrase, it “appears to be an important new rhetorical formulation.” By the spring and summer of 1963 the words were among the most frequent of King’s refrains.

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Alexander Mebane, Patriot and UNC Trustee

mebane1On November 26, 1744, Alexander Mebane was born at Hawfields in Orange County. An ardent patriot, Mebane played an active role in the Revolutionary War. In December 1776, he served as a delegate to the Provincial Congress in Halifax and, the following year, became sheriff of Orange County, a post he held until 1780. Mebane also served as an officer in the Orange County militia.

At the war’s conclusion, Mebane was elected as an Orange County representative to the General Assembly and served as brigadier general of Hillsborough District militia. He also served as auditor of the Hillsborough Constitutional Convention of 1788 and the Fayetteville Convention of 1789. An Anti-Federalist, Mebane voted against ratification unless a bill of rights was included.

That same year, Mebane joined the first board of trustees of the University of North Carolina. In 1792, he served on the committee that chose New Hope Chapel Hill as the site for the new school. He even helped lay the cornerstone of Old East, the first building erected on campus. In 1793, Mebane was elected to Congress. The Alamance County town of Mebane is named in his honor.

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