Samuel A. Ashe, Confederate Soldier and Historian

Samuel A. Ashe

Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On August 31, 1938, historian Samuel A. Ashe died.

A descendant of Governor Samuel Ashe of Pender County, Ashe was born near Wilmington in 1804 and studied at the U.S. Naval Academy. At the outbreak of the Civil War he went to work for the Confederacy as a soldier and engineer. His final assignment of the war was at the Fayetteville arsenal in 1865.

After the war, Wilmingtonians elected Ashe to one term in state House of Representatives. Having moved his law practice to Raleigh while serving in the legislature, Ashe remained in the capital, reviving what became the News and Observer in 1881.

As he aged, his interests moved toward history and he compiled the still-vital Biographical History of North Carolina. He also wrote the two-volume History of North Carolina among numerous other historical works.

On what would have been his 100th birthday, and only three years after his death, Ashe received the rare tribute of a monument on the grounds of the State Capitol with the dedication of a bronze tablet in his memory.

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A Reunion Without Precedent, at Somerset Place in 1986

A reunion at the 1986 "Somerset Homecoming." Image from Somerset Place.

A reunion at the 1986 “Somerset Homecoming.” Image from Somerset Place.

On August 30, 1986, “Somerset Homecoming” took place at Somerset Place State Historic Site in Creswell. The homecoming was the first-ever event of its kind: a reunion of descendants of the enslaved community of a large southern plantation.

Organized by Dorothy Spruill Redford–a descendant of the enslaved community and in time the site manager of Somerset Place–the happening brought together hundreds of family members from around the country and garnered international attention.

Gov. Jim Martin greets visitors on the steps of the Collins House during the 1986 "Somerset Homecoming." Image from Somerset Place.

Gov. Jim Martin greets visitors on the steps of
the Collins House during the 1986 “Somerset Homecoming.” Image from Somerset Place.

Somerset Place was home to more than 850 slaves when it was active from 1785 until 1865. As a historic site it was interpreted for years mainly in terms of the wealth of the Collins family, which owned the plantation, and the fact that the operation was among the largest and most economically successful in the state. Redford shifted the site’s focus and began telling the stories of all the families who lived there.

Recognizing the enslaved people’s contributions to the success of the plantation, Redford was quoted by the New York Times during the homecoming, saying, ”From this day forward, there will always be a shared recognition. They’ll think of the Josiah Collins family, but they’ll think of my family too.”

She described the state historic site as ”a living monument to ordinary folks – to our toil, our lives, our lineage.”

Visit: Somerset Place, located near Creswell in Washington County, is open to visitors Tuesdays to Saturday.

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Betty Debnam and the “Mini Page”

The first issue of the Mini Page. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

The first issue of the Mini Page.
Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

On August 29, 1969, the News and Observer published the first issue of the “Mini Page.”

From its first appearance in the Raleigh newspaper in 1969 to its final publication in 2007, the “Mini Page” engaged children through fun and educational activities. Through the paper, kids could be like adults, reading their own page in the newspaper and learning at the same time.

Created by UNC graduate, News and Observer editor and former elementary school teacher Betty Debnam, the “Mini Page” quickly took off. In 1970, the Charlotte News became the first paper outside of Raleigh to publish the section; and national syndication followed in 1977. At its peak, the “Mini Page” appeared weekly in more than 500 newspapers weekly.

Debnam was the section’s sole staff member for many years, writing and editing all the content and laying the feature out, though she did eventually have two staff members come on board. During her time with the publication, she wrote several “Mini Page” companion books and won numerous awards including the Newspaper Association of America’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Debnam sold the “Mini Page” in 2007, but every issue is now available online for free through UNC-Chapel Hill’s digital collections.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base and Glider Warfare

Laurinburg-Maxton postcard

Laurinburg-Maxton postcard. Image from the Library of Congress.

On August 28, 1942, the U.S. Army activated Laurinburg-Maxton air base in Scotland County. The facility, where glider pilots trained, played a little known role in the Allied victory in World War II.

Germany had pioneered the use of gliders, demonstrating their effectiveness in Holland and on Crete.

The individual most responsible for incorporating gliders into the U.S. military was Maj. Gen. William C. Lee, who had initiated the use of airborne forces at Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall.

Paratroopers practice at Laruinburg-Maxton Army Air Base during World War II. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Paratroopers practice at Laruinburg-Maxton Army Air Base during World War II. Image from the
N.C. Museum of History.

The Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base housed the First Troop Carrier Command. The 4,600-acre base contained three 6,500-foot long runways that formed a triangle. The triangle’s center was 510 acres of Bermuda grass, the landing site for the gliders.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps considered the glider concept viable as well, and incorporated the craft into their own training exercises. From 1942 to 1945, thousands trained for combat in Scotland County, including troops that took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

At the war’s conclusion the base was deactivated. With the advent of helicopters, the military had no further need for the glider program.

The Scotland Memorial Hospital was housed on the base’s former site from 1946 to 1951, and today the facility houses an industrial park and public airport.

Other related resources:

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.

Flight of Robert Williams as Racial Tensions Rise in Monroe, 1961

A headline in the Statesville Record and Landmark announcing the

A headline in the Statesville Record and Landmark announcing the violence in Monroe. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

On August 27, 1961, civil rights protests in Monroe escalated into a riot, leading to local NAACP leader Robert Williams being charged with kidnapping and fleeing across state lines.

In late August 1961, Freedom Riders and members of other civil rights organizations traveled to Monroe where they hoped to assist Williams. He aimed to press charges against a Ku Klux Klansman who had assaulted him the previous year. They planned to carry out peaceful demonstrations to protest the injustice.

The FBI’s “Wanted” poster for Williams. Image from the FBI.

Despite the group’s nonviolent discipline, confrontations escalated, and on August 27, as the crowd at the courthouse grew unruly, the police line collapsed and a white mob attacked some of the activists. The remaining picketers were loaded into cars and taken into custody. Gunfire was heard around Monroe for hours, and a policeman was wounded.

Shortly thereafter, a white couple made a wrong turn onto the street where Williams lived. Williams’s supporters forcibly removed the couple from their car and took them to Williams’s house where they were held by armed individuals before being released unharmed.

Before learning of the kidnapping charges against him, Williams escaped with his family to Cuba where, by 1963, he was broadcasting a radio program called Radio Free Dixie.

Other related resources:

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.

Spanish Attack on Beaufort, 1747

Aug-26-b

A 1960 re-enactment of the Spanish invasion of Beaufort.
Image from Beaufort, North Carolina History.

On August 26, 1747, Spanish privateers attacked and plundered Beaufort. The attack was one in a multi-year series of assaults by the Spanish on the largely undefended coast of North Carolina. It dramatically demonstrated the constant threat posed by the Spanish on the colony.

After three days under siege, the colony’s inhabitants fought back and drove the privateers away. From records it is clear that some Spanish captives were taken in the skirmish. What was called “the alarm” was in effect until September when it became clear that the marauders would not be returning.

The next year, however, the Spanish attacked again, temporarily driving away the inhabitants of Brunswick. As part of an inter-colonial war with the Spanish and French that had roots in Britain’s battles with the two countries, the skirmishes ended in 1748 with a treaty that was but a brief respite before the French and Indian War began in 1754.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Little Eva and Her 1962 Classic “Loco-Motion”

On August 25, 1962, Little Eva hit the top of the charts with her recording of “The Loco-Motion.”

Eva Narcissus Boyd, fresh from her home in Belhaven, can be said to have been in the right place at the right time. In 1960, she left North Carolina and headed to New York to try to break into the music business.

While she sang backup in some studio sessions early on, it was not until “The Loco-Motion” that she got her big break. At the time of the song’s release, the 17-year-old Boyd was working as babysitter to songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The duo wrote “The Loco-Motion” and asked Boyd to sing on the demo with King doing the backup vocals. While they had intended the song for Dee Dee Sharp, who turned it down, producer Don Kirshner decided that the demo was fine as it was.

Little Eva had some modest success with other songs but none equaled the popularity of “The Loco-Motion.”

The song has the distinction of being one of the few to reach #1 in three different decades with three different artists. After Little Eva’s success with it in 1962, Grand Funk Railroad and Kylie Minogue had break out versions of the song in in 1974 and 1987, respectively.

Boyd died in Kinston in 2003.

Other related resources:

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.

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