Federal Judge John Stokes Appointed by George Washington

Highway Marker to John Stokes

On August 3, 1790, John Stokes was named first federal judge for the district of North Carolina.

Born in March 1756 in south central Virginia, Stokes entered military service at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War and became a captain in February 1778. He served throughout the northern campaigns of Washington’s army, fighting at Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. He was severely wounded in action at Charleston.

After the war, Stokes moved to Halifax, to live near his brother, Montfort Stokes. He operated law offices in Rowan and Montgomery Counties and tutored several law students, including Andrew Jackson. After marrying in 1788, Stokes moved close to what is now Cooleemee in Davie County and became one of the original trustees of the University of North Carolina in 1789.

Stokes also entered politics, winning election to the General Assembly in 1789. Later that year, he took part in the constitutional convention in Fayetteville. A staunch Federalist, Stokes was appointed the first federal judge for the North Carolina district by George Washington after William R. Davie turned down the post.

Stokes’s career as a judge lasted only one term. He died in October 1790 while riding home from his first court appearance in New Bern.

Stokes County, created in 1789, is named in his honor.

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.

James Larkin Pearson, Longtime Poet Laureate

Image from the Iredell County Public Library.

On August 2, 1953, James Larkin Pearson was appointed the second Poet Laureate of North Carolina by Governor William B. Umstead. He would remain in the post until his death at age 102 in 1981.

Born in a Wilkes County log cabin in 1879, Pearson showed talent for rhyming despite his limited formal education. Determined to become a poet from an early age he practiced his craft and saw some early successes. A local Wilkes County newspaper published some of his work in 1896 and The New York Independent bought one of his poems for $8 in 1900.

To support himself Pearson pursued farming and carpentry at first, but soon turned to news. He started his own newspaper and later worked for The Yellow Jacket in Wilkes County and the Charlotte Observer. In 1910, he returned to Wilkes County to publish a monthly paper, The Fool-Killer, which eventually achieved a circulation of 50,000.

He printed five volumes of poetry from the basement of his farmhouse, continuing to work on the farm while writing poetry.

His poems are lyrical, optimistic and traditional, with simple, lighthearted dialect verse. Selected Poems (1960) and My Fingers and My Toes (1971) were well-received collections from commercial publishers.

In 1934, the News and Observer wrote:

More than any other living North Carolinian he has put the life of the people into poetry, made it tangible and beautiful and easily seen.

Pearson remained Poet Laureate until his death. His printing press, library, manuscripts, and portrait are housed in the James Larkin Pearson Building at Wilkes Community College.

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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 subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Lowe’s and Homegrown Home Improvement

Lowes founded his first store in North Wilkesboro  in 1921. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Lowes founded his first store in North Wilkesboro in 1921. Image from
the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

On August 1, 1952, Lowe’s Home Improvement was incorporated.

The chain can trace its roots to 1921 when I. S. Lowe founded a hardware store in North Wilkesboro. His son, Jim Lowe, and son-in-law, Carl Buchanan, took over the store after his death, but the two disagreed on whether or not to expand the business, and Buchanan ultimately bought out Lowe.

Buchanan recognized the post-World War II building boom that was coming to the county, and narrowed Lowe’s focus to selling only hardware, appliances and building materials (at the time hardware stores tending to sell a lot of general merchandise). He quickly tied the company’s reputation to low prices, buying products directly from manufacturers and operating on very slim profit margins to keep costs.

Buchanan’s model took off, and by 1960, Lowe’s had 15 stores and $30 million in annual sales. The company continued to grow quickly in the 1960s and 70s by focusing on selling primarily to contractors. After a new chairman took over in 1978, the hardware chain began marketing directly to the general public.

Still based in North Carolina, Lowe’s is one of the nation’s 50 largest companies, according to Fortune. It operates nearly 2,000 stores across the United States and Canada, and had  revenues of more than $52 billion in 2014.

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.

J. C. B. Ehringhaus, Governor, 1932-1936

Image from the State Archives.

On July 31, 1949, Depression-era governor John Christoph Blucher Ehringhaus, died.

Born in Elizabeth City in 1882, Ehringhaus represented Pasquotank County in the General Assembly and served as the modern-day equivalent of a district attorney before becoming governor.

Ehringhaus is probably best remembered for balancing the state’s budget during the turbulent times of the Great Depression. He improved the way the state’s public schools were managed, while ensuring no teachers lost their jobs or pay, and made certain that the schools kept functioning eight months a year with busing and textbook rentals.

Ehringhaus cut the state budget and returned the government to fiscal stability, while increasing its power with the introduction of a state sales tax to fund the public school system. He reorganized the prisons to make them self-sufficient and left the state with a $5 million surplus.

An advocate for farmers, Ehringhaus closed the state’s tobacco markerts in 1933 and traveled to Washington, D.C. to demand the federal government set higher prices for the crop. He publicly supported Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, but did little to help implement them.

Ehringhaus’s popularity declined in the mid-1930s, and he returned to his law practice in Raleigh after his term.

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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.

Fascist Writer and Politician William Dudley Pelley Lived in Asheville

Pelley

A signed photograph of Pelley.
Image from iCollector.

On July 30, 1965, American fascist and anti-Semite William Dudley Pelley died. A writer, novelist and screenwriter from Massachusetts, he turned to politics and religion after a near-death experience.

Pelley spent the 1930s in Asheville where he developed his “Liberation Theology,” a combination of elements of Christianity, fascism, nationalism, theocracy and socialism. In Asheville, he established Galahad Press, through which he published his radical magazine New Liberator. In 1932, he founded Galahad College where he further promoted his political and economic theories.

In 1933, Pelley founded the Silver Legion of America, better known as the “Silver Shirts,” an organization modeled on Hitler’s Brown Shirts. He ran for president in 1936 as a candidate of the Christian Party.

Convicted of fraud in North Carolina, Pelley moved to Indiana in 1940. Arrested in 1942 and charged with sedition and treason, he spent the rest of the 1940s in federal prison. After his release in 1952, he lived the rest of his life in Noblesville, Indiana, developing and publishing on another religious philosophy called “Soulcraft,” which was based on UFOs and later on his reported contact with souls of famous historical figures.

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.

Loyalists and Patriots Clash at Alston House, 1781

A re-enactment of the skirmish at the House in the Horseshoe. Image from North Carolina Historic Sites.

A re-enactment of the skirmish at the House in the Horseshoe.
Image from North Carolina Historic Sites.

On July 29, 1781Phillip Alston and a small band of patriot militia were besieged at the Alston home by forces loyal to the king under the command of David Fanning.

The attack occurred in the early morning hours and, trapped in his house, Alston ordered his men to barricade the doors and windows. Fanning posted his men along a split rail fence outside the home and, for several hours, the men exchanged fire with no side gaining a real advantage.

As her house was being riddled by bullets, Temperance Alston, Phillip’s wife, was level-headed enough to hide her children in the chimney, standing them on a table so that their bodies were behind the brickwork. Just as Fanning was considering retreating, his men found a small wagon in Alston’s barn. He ordered it loaded with hay and set it afire with the aim of pushing it into the house.

In an effort to save the lives of everyone in the inside, Temperance cautiously stepped out and negotiated a surrender.

The Alston House, near the Moore County town of Carthage, is now known as the House in the Horseshoe and is a North Carolina State Historic Site.

Visit: House in the Horseshoe will commemorate the anniversary of the skirmish with re-enactments Saturday and Sunday.

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Confederates Repulse Union Army at Boon’s Mill, 1863

On July 28, 1863, a skirmish was fought at Boon’s Mill near Jackson. It marked the end of a Federal raid against Weldon, a major railroad hub linking the Deep South to Richmond.

The operation began three days earlier, when infantry under Maj. Gen. John G. Foster landed near Winton on the Chowan River. The next day they advanced toward Murfreesboro and defeated a Confederate force at Potecasi Creek.

The Union advance was slowed when a cavalry column under Col. Samuel P. Spear assigned to strike Weldon was delayed after losing a pontoon bridge in a storm. That, in turn, gave the Confederate military time to dispatch Brig. Gen. Matt Ransom’s brigade from Petersburg as reinforcements.

Ransom established a position at Boon’s Mill with the few companies that had arrived at that point. In the meantime, Spear reached Winton and headed for Weldon. Ransom and his staff were almost captured as they encountered the Federals, but raced back to their line. Spear made little effort to take the position, and the confrontation settled into an artillery duel which was ended by a storm.

Casualties were light on both sides. Spear retreated, and the railroad line was safe again for the moment.

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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