Linville Caverns: McDowell County’s “Wondrous Splendors” Open to the Public

linville-caverns

Visitors at Linville Caverns, circa September 1966.
Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On July 1, 1939, Linville Caverns, North Carolina’s only show cave, opened to the public. The caverns became an overnight success, as their development coincided with construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway in McDowell and Avery Counties in 1938.

The natural limestone cave sits at the base of Humpback Mountain and showcases colorful mineral formations resulting from the effects of acidic water as it has moved through the shady dolomite for millions of years. Development of the site, led by Marion businessman by J.G. Gilkey, began in 1937, and electric lights were installed to illuminate the features that continue to change in the active cavern.

In 1859, young Fayetteville naturalist and school teacher Henry Colton published one of the earliest accounts of exploration of the cave.  He wrote of the “wondrous splendors of that hidden world” that could be found in the caverns, from the arctic cold water, to the formations, which he called the “grandest of nature’s stony tapestry.”  He noted the caverns’ inhabitants included bats, mice and a “perfect grasshopper, petrified and covered with a crust of lime.”

Linville Caverns has operated as a private enterprise since 1939 and remains open to the public today.

Visit: Linville Caverns, located near Marion in McDowell County, is open to the public daily March through December and on weekends in January and February.

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.

Freedom Rallies Began in Williamston, 1963

Firefighters ready to dispel Williamston protesters with fire hoses.
Image from the Greenville Daily Reflector.

On June 30, 1963, a month of protests known as “Freedom Rallies” began in Williamston.

The seat of Martin County on the Roanoke River was a “hotspot” of the civil rights movement, and Green Memorial Church, a Disciples of Christ church rooted in the Holiness tradition, was the epicenter.  Discontent had simmered in the area since the 1957 acquittal of white men charged with the murder of a local black man.

Protest organizers Sarah Small and Golden Frinks.
Image from the Greenville Daily Reflector.

Protesters, keenly aware of civil rights movement sweeping across the South, made it their goal to desegregate schools and the public library. Local woman Sarah Small and Golden Frinks of Edenton, a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the efforts. As the protests continued, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference held biweekly nonviolence training sessions at the church.

Protests continued for 32 consecutive days and involved as many as 400 people, many of them children and teenagers who sang and prayed at the church before marching uptown, about a half-mile to the courthouse. State troopers and local deputies kept close watch over the nonviolent summer rallies.

Rallies were suspended temporarily after Governor Terry Sanford’s office organized interracial meetings but resumed in the fall, when 12 white ministers and seminarians from Boston joined the effort. The fall protests were a bit more violent with protesters throw, but ended following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November.

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“Moonlight” Graham and His Place in Baseball Lore

The 1905 New York Giants. Image from the Library of Congress.

On June 29, 1905, Cumberland County native “Moonlight” Graham played in his first and only Major League Baseball game. His story came to national attention after being incorporated into the 1989 hit film Field of Dreams.

Born Archibald Wright Graham in Fayetteville in 1879, Graham was raised there and in Charlotte, where he honed his baseball skills, playing with family and friends. He went on to a stellar career playing baseball at UNC, and began playing with a Charlotte minor league team while still studying medicine in Chapel Hill.

“Moonlight” Graham, when he was on 1900 UNC baseball team. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

After stints with several minor league teams in North Carolina and New Hampshire, Graham signed with New York Giants in February 1905, while at the same time taking more medical courses at the University of Maryland.

In his only major league appearance, Graham played three innings as a right fielder. A ball was never hit in his direction, and he was on deck to bat when the game ended. Grahm’s baseball career ended shortly after that June 1905 game, and he moved to Chilsholm, Minnesota, for a job as a doctor in 1911, staying there until his death in 1965.

A decade later, author W. P. Kinsella happened to notice Graham’s story in The Baseball Encyclopedia, and included it in his 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, on which the movie Field of Dreams was based.

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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.

Paint Rock, Landmark for Intrepid Travelers

Some of the pictographs on Paint Rock. Image from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On June 28, 1799, land agent and mapmaker John Strother measured the American Indian pictographs on Paint Rock in Madison County. Strother wrote in this diary on that day that the vertical formation was 107 feet tall and that the:

Pictures of some human’s – wild beasts fish & fowls were to be seen plainly made with red paint.

Paint Rock was created approximately 5,000 years ago during the Archaic Period. Its creators used pigments that were apparently of exceptional quality and complex design from ingredients that were clearly local. The rock outcropping, which features red and yellow markings, straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border and has long been a landmark for travelers.

A historical view of Paint Rock. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

A historical view of Paint Rock. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Paint Rock sits in a gorge along a road archaeologists suggest may have been a major travel route through the mountains and to natural crossings of the French Broad River. The panel of Paint Rock on the North Carolina side of the border displays alternating red and yellow rectilinear lines painted against the vertical cliff face.

Archaeologists have suggested the paints may have been created as a road marker, for use in healing rituals and for a combination for a combination of both, since healing pilgrimages to nearby hot springs may have been popular.

Campfires and weathering over the centuries have damaged the pictographs. In 2004, images on the rock panels were formally recorded, and archaeologists did more mapping and sampling in 2006 to support conservation and management.

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Cherokee Clash with British Along Frontier, 1760

On June 27, 1760, Chief Occonostota, leading a band of Cherokee warriors, attacked British forces near what’s now Franklin in Macon County, pushing them back into South Carolina.

When the French and Indian War broke out in 1754, the Cherokee allied with the British against the French. However, by 1758, relations between the Cherokee and British had soured. A dispute that year over stolen horses touched off an escalation of hostilities between the two groups, culminating with the British murder of several chiefs who had traveled to Charleston to negotiate peace in 1759.

Following the deaths of the would-be peacemakers, the Cherokee tribes united in their efforts to resist the British in the Carolinas. As part of their strategy, they laid siege to Fort Loudon in eastern Tennessee. Col. Archibald Montgomery and his men responded by burning the Cherokee villages along the trading path near the Keowee and Oconee Rivers.

As a result of this victory, Fort Loudon was surrendered to the Cherokee the following month. The Anglo-Cherokee War would last until 1762, when the two nations came to an uneasy peace.

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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.

Prominent Wilkes Family Lost Son to 1862 Battle

Col. Montfort Sidney Stokes

Col. Montfort Sidney Stokes. Image from
the Archive.org.

On June 26, 1862, Col. Montfort Sidney Stokes of the First Regiment, North Carolina State Troops, was mortally wounded in an engagement at Elyson’s Mill, Virginia. He died 11 days later in a Richmond hospital.

Stokes was born in Wilkes County in 1810. His grandfather had served with Gov. William Tryon during the Regulator rebellion, and his father was a major general during the War of 1812, governor of North Carolina from 1830 to 1832 and a U.S. Senator.

Stokes was appointed a midshipman in the Navy in 1829, training at the Norfolk Navy Yard and the Norfolk School. His naval career lasted 10 years before he returned to Wilkes County to become a farmer. After serving in the Mexican War, he returned to farming, serving on the Council of State at the same time.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Stokes volunteered for the Wilkes Valley Guards and was chosen as the unit’s first lieutenant. He saw service at Goldsboro and in Virginia. Following his death, he was buried in the family cemetery on the banks of the Yadkin River.

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C. Chance Protested Segregated Rail Cars, 1948

A man waits outside a segregated bus station in Durham, circa 1940.
Image from the Library of Congress.

On June 25, 1948, Parmele native William Claudius Chance was ejected from an Atlantic Coast Line Railroad passenger train car in Emporia, Virginia, for refusing to move to a car for black passengers.

Chance was a well-respected educator in Martin County, having established and operated the Parmalee Industrial Institute. He was returning home to Parmele from the Republican National Convention, held in Philadelphia that year, when he was instructed to leave a “white car” at the stop in Emporia. When he refused, Chance was placed under arrest for disorderly conduct.

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Station, Fayetteville, NC, c.1920's.

The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Station in Fayetteville during the 1920s.
Image from the State Archives.

After the incident, Chance sued the Atlantic Coast Line and conductor Alva S. Lambeth for $25,000. A jury in Richmond initially determined the railroad had committed no crime in ejecting Chance from the train, but awarded him a sum of $50 for wrongful arrest.

With the support of the NAACP, Chance appealed the case to the Fourth U. S. Circuit Court where the initial decision was overturned in January 1951. The court determined that the Atlantic Coast Line’s enforcement of Jim Crow laws on their passenger lines was an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce.

The railroad’s  attempts to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court fizzled, essentially outlawing segregation on interstate travel.

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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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