Old Claremont and Education in Hickory

An 1898 sketch of Claremont College. Image from the State Library.

An 1898 sketch of Claremont College. Image from the State Library.

On August 25, 1880, North Carolina granted a charter to Claremont Female College in Hickory. The school, founded by the Evangelical and Reformed Church, started in an old church building. It was modeled after Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Classes began in September with 21 students. Work was completed on a series of college buildings three years later. Following the resignation of Claremont’s first president, the school suffered financially until the trustees leased the college to William H. Sanborn, president of nearby Davenport College. He resigned after four years.

From 1892 to 1907, the college operated with moderate success, attracting students chiefly from North Carolina, but also from across the South. The trustees, tired of leasing the college to individual presidents, offered the college to the North Carolina Classis of the Reformed Church. Under the Classis, the school was renamed Claremont College.

Claremont operated until 1917, when money troubles caused the school to close indefinitely. Representatives from Horner Military School in Charlotte considered buying the property, but the deal fell through.

Claremont’s board of trustees dissolved the charter in 1937.  Higher learning continues at the site, as the location for Catawba Valley High School, now operating as Hickory Career and Arts Magnet.

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.

Dolley on the Spot: White House Items Saved

Dolley Madison saving paintings, documents and other important White House artifacts. Image from the Montpelier Foundation.

Dolley Madison saving paintings, documents and other important White House artifacts. Image from the Montpelier Foundation.

On August 24, 1814, Dolley Madison rescued several important state documents and a now-famous oil portrait of George Washington from the White House as Washington, D.C., was being burned by invading British forces.

As Washington came under siege from the British as part of the War of 1812, President James Madison asked his wife to stay behind in the White House and gather important documents so that the building could be abandoned quickly if needed.

As the invading force drew near, the First Lady decided to abandon the Pennsylvania Avenue mansion.

Though popular legend tends to tell the story in such a way that portrays Madison herself ripping the portrait out a frame and hand-carrying it and other important documents out of the White House, contemporary historians revisiting the subject argue that household slaves most likely did the heavy lifting under her orders.

Born Dolley Payne in 1768 in Guilford County, the future First Lady met her would-be husband through mutual acquaintance Aaron Burr in Philadelphia 1794. The couple married less than a year later.

While James Madison served as Secretary of State for the widowed Thomas Jefferson, Dolley became the unofficial “first lady,” hosting events for politicians and international guests. The 1809 inauguration of her husband, therefore, made for an easy transition to the role of the president’s wife.

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.

Allegheny, Ashe, Avery: Top Christmas Tree Producers

A Fraser fir farm in Watauga County. Image from the Watauga County Christmas Tree Association.

A Fraser fir farm in Watauga County. Image from the Watauga County Christmas Tree Association.

On August 23, 2005, the Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) was adopted as the official state Christmas tree of North Carolina.

The idea came from eighth graders at Spruce Pine’s Harris Middle School who petitioned legislators to bestow the special recognition upon the popular conifer after learning of the economic impact the tree had in the state. The bill was introduced by state Representative Philip D. Frye, also of Spruce Pine.

A diagram of a Christmas tree from a 1979 state guide to growing the crop. Image from the State Library.

A diagram of a Christmas tree from a 1979 state guide to growing the crop. Image from the State Library.

Known as the Cadillac of Christmas trees, 50 million Fraser firs are grown in North Carolina. The tree was named for Scottish botanist John Fraser who explored the Southern Appalachian mountain region during late 1700s. The evergreen grows in a cone shape and can reach 80 feet.

Fraser firs represent more than 90 percent of Christmas trees grown in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State’s Christmas tree industry is the second largest in the United States, behind Oregon’s, and produces 20 percent of all Christmas trees sold in the nation.

Trees are raised in more than a dozen western counties, with Alleghany, Ashe and Avery being the top producers.

North Carolina Fraser firs are known throughout the country and North America. They have been displayed in the White House on 12 occasions, more than any other species of tree.

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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.

Eugenics Lawsuit Dismissed, 1974

eugencis-board-marker

On August 22, 1974, a federal district court judge threw out the suit of Nial Ruth Cox in action now known as Cox v. Stanton. Cox sought to sue to the state for damages after she was forcibly sterilized under the state’s eugenics program at a Plymouth hospital in February 1965.

Cox’s suit was thrown out in part because she waited too long after the procedure was conducted to file her case.

Cox was represented by a number of attorneys, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU’s general counsel. Cox’s attorneys appealed her case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which largely upheld the lower court’s decision.

Between 1933 and 1977, state action led to the sterilization by choice or coercion of more than 7,600 people through a program authorized by the General Assembly in 1929. Though North Carolina’s was only one of many such programs across the country, it was one of the most active.

A movement to compensate those who had been victims of the program began to gain strength in the early 2000s, and in 2013, the General Assembly authorized funds to give each individual victim up to $50,000 in compensation.

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.

Cherokee Code Talkers and Allied Success in WWI

Cherokee and Choctaw code talkers from World War I at Fort Benning, Ga. Image from the U.S. Army.

Cherokee and Choctaw code talkers from World War I at Fort Benning, Ga. Image from the U.S. Army.

On August 21, 1918, British forces began attacking German positions along a 10-mile stretch of the Western Front in northwest France. The assault was part of the World War I action now known as the Somme Offensive.

Attached to the British troops fighting in the region were the 119th and 120th U.S. Infantry Regiments, which both contained a number of Cherokee soldiers from western North Carolina.

In last September and early October as the offensive continued and preparations were underway to break through the German defensive positions known as the Hindenburg Line, the commanders in the area discovered that German troops were intercepting their telephone communications. The Germans then used those messages to discover the position of Allied forces and attack them.

That’s where the Cherokee came in. The signal officers at the time guessed that the Germans wouldn’t be able to understand the Cherokee language, and instructed Cherokee troops to deliver messages by telephone in their native tongue. The tactic proved to be a success.

The Cherokee “code talkers” were the first known use of Native Americans in the American military to transmit messages under fire, and they continued to serve in this unique capacity for rest of World War I. Their success was part of the inspiration for the better-known use of Navajo code talkers during World War II.

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Stage Set for War in Hillsborough, 1775

A note of currency issued under the authority of the Third Provincial Congress. Image from Carolana.

A note of currency issued under the authority of the Third Provincial Congress. Image from Carolana.

On August 20, 1775, the Third Provincial Congress, formed to replace the Colonial Assembly dissolved by Royal Governor Alexander Martin the previous April, convened in Hillsborough.

Samuel Johnston of Edenton was selected to preside, and the body declared itself the province’s temporary government and created the Provincial Council to conduct business when the Provincial Congress was not in session and to oversee the Committee of Safety.

For the purpose of organizing a militia and arranging representation in the Provincial Council, the congress determined that the six existing judicial districts would become military districts. The districts contained between four and eight counties and were named for the most prominent towns they contained:  Edenton, Halifax, Hillsborough, New Bern, Wilmington and Salisbury.

Each military district was authorized to establish a regiment of minutemen that was to serve within the boundaries of North Carolina. Furthermore, each of the 35 counties was asked to raise a company of militia.

The Third Provincial Congress ordered the enlistment of the first two units of Provincial Troops to join the Continental Army later that year.

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The Story Behind Hammocks Beach Earthworks

Huggins-Island-Fort-Marker

On August 19, 1862, a Union force commanded by Colonel Thomas G. Stevenson of the 24th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry burned the Confederate fort at Huggins’ Island near Swansboro. Both the barracks and ammunition magazine collapsed into ashes.

In the fall of 1861, North Carolina found its vital defenses at Hatteras Inlet compromised, making the sounds vulnerable to Union naval invasion. Confederate Brigadier General Walter Gwynn, in charge of coastal defenses from New Bern to the South Carolina line, strongly recommended construction of a series of small forts to protect critical inlets.

Among those was a six-gun battery at Bogue Inlet on Huggins’ Island, later called Russell’s Island.

Construction of the fort was completed in December 1861 and a company of artillery was then stationed at the fort to man the cannons. The company did not remain long at the fort as they were ordered to join General Lawrence O’B. Branch’s brigade at New Bern in March.

They took the cannons with them when they marched out of Swansboro.

After the fire, only the earthen embankment remained as evidence of the fort’s existence. Those earthworks, however, have somehow dodged development and erosion, and are now a part of Hammocks Beach State Park.

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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.

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