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Worth Bagley of Raleigh, Casualty of the Spanish-American War

Bagley-Funeral

Worth Bagley’s 1898 funeral at the State Capitol.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On May 11, 1898, in battle at Cárdenas, Cuba, Ensign Worth Bagley became the first naval officer and first North Carolinian killed in the Spanish-American War.

The sinking of the USS Maine in February 1898 led the United States to declare war against Spain. North Carolina met President William McKinley’s call for troops by establishing three regiments.

An 1898 portrait of Bagley. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

An 1898 portrait of Bagley. Image from
the N.C. Museum of History.

Born in Raleigh in April 1874, Worth Bagley graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1895. He achieved the rank of ensign in July 1897, and, in November, was appointed inspector of the new torpedo boat Winslow. When she was commissioned the following month, Bagley became her executive officer. In April 1898, the Winslow was mobilized, with the fleet it was a part of, for operations in Cuban waters.

On the morning of May 11, the ship went with two others to force open the entrance to the harbor of Cárdenas. The Winslow was fired upon by a Spanish gunboat and a battle ensued. The ship was disabled and was hauled out of range of the Spanish guns. Just as the engagement ended, Bagley and four sailors were killed by a shell.

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African Diplomat Denied Service in Raleigh, 1963

technician-cover

A story in The Technician covering the Brooks-Lowenstein incident.
Image from NCSU Libraries.

On April 30, 1963, Angie Brooks and Allard Lowenstein attempted to have lunch together at two restaurants in downtown Raleigh but were denied service because Brooks was African.

Brooks, Liberia’s United Nations ambassador and a Shaw University graduate, was in Raleigh to deliver a speech at N.C. State University. After the speech, Allard Lowenstein, then a professor at the university, invited the ambassador to lunch.

Angie Brooks when she was president of the United Nations General Assembly.

Angie Brooks when she was president of the United Nations General Assembly.The pair, with a few students in tow, visited the S & W Cafeteria and Sir Walter Coffee Shop in downtown Raleigh. Despite her diplomatic credentials, Brooks was refused service at both establishments. In fact, the manager at the coffee shop went so far as to say that he would not serve Brooks, but could offer her a job as a cook or a waitress.

The press was on hand to report the story. The incident brought national attention to North Carolina, and Gov. Terry Sanford issued an apology to Brooks on behalf of the state. Since Lowenstein chose restaurants that were frequented by state officials, many believed he was an agitator who wanted to stir up controversy. Although he was aware that the establishments were segregated, he denied staging the event.

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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.

The Fall of Raleigh to Sherman’s Army

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The State Capitol, circa 1861. Image from
the State Archives.

On April 13, 1865, the city of Raleigh surrendered to the army of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. The city’s loss was the latest in a growing accumulation of Confederate setbacks.

Three days earlier, Sherman began his advance towards the state capital. As the outnumbered Confederate army of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston prepared to withdraw, Governor Zebulon B. Vance decided to negotiate with Sherman for the surrender of Raleigh and a separate peace. On April 12, he dispatched former governors William A. Graham and David L. Swain to discuss terms with Sherman. The Federal commander responded favorably to the proposal regarding Raleigh, but refused to cease military operations.

By the time Swain and Graham returned to Raleigh on April 13, Vance had fled after hearing rumors they had been taken prisoner. Later in the day, Mayor William H. Harrison formally surrendered the Oak City to Brevet Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick outside of the city.

Apart from a futile violent incident involving a reckless Confederate cavalryman, the Federal occupation was accomplished peacefully. Although active campaigning continued, the inability of the Confederate military to defend Raleigh was a sign that the Civil War would soon be over in North Carolina.

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Raleigh and Gaston Railroad Completed, 1840

Raleigh & Gaston Railroad president W.R. Vass stands on
the locomotive, 1850. Image from the State Archives.

On March 21, 1840, work was completed on the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad. A week later, the Raleigh depot received 20 bales of cotton from Petersburg, Virginia, the line’s first commercial shipment on record. In June 1840, a “Grand Celebration” was held in Raleigh to commemorate two milestones, the new railroad and the new State Capitol.

Experiments in the 1830s with horse-drawn rail cars preceded the state’s first self-propelled railroad, the Raleigh and Gaston line. Gaston in Halifax County was its northern terminus and Raleigh its southern end point. Slaves were leased to lay the rails on heavy wooden planks. Setbacks with financing and materials delayed the railroad’s completion.

An ad for the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad.
Image from the State Archives.

Throughout North Carolina in the1840’s, the sound of the locomotive horn was heard, signifying a new era of unprecedented prosperity. The benefits of the Raleigh and Gaston line were apparent immediately.  The train allowed for quick transportation of goods and provided new jobs. The Confederacy used the Raleigh and Gaston heavily during the Civil War.

In 1900, the railroad was incorporated into the larger Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. The Seaboard building stands today on Salisbury Street in Raleigh as a reminder of the beginnings of rail transportation in the state.

Check out the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer for more awesome pieces of history from our transportation past.

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.

Village People’s Cowboy Hailed from Raleigh

The original Village People. Randy Jones is on the far left. Image from Getty Images.

On September 13, 1952, singer Randy Jones of the disco group Village People was born in Raleigh.

Jones grew up in Wake County, graduating from Enloe High School in 1970. After attending the North Carolina School of the Arts and UNC, he began to dance and act professionally in New York City.

The concept of the Village People group was the brainchild of record producer Jacques Morali. Jones was cast as the original cowboy in 1977, and remained with the act for three years. The idea of a concept group was not a new one, but the Village People were imbued with such energy, irony and campy enthusiasm that they were wildly successful. In fact, some form of the group has been performing since the Village People scored their U.S. first hit with “Macho Man” in 1978.

The group racked up a number of big hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s with “Y.M.C.A.,” “In the Navy,” “Go West” and “Can’t Stop the Music” among others. That period of great creativity was the group’s heyday.

Jones, appropriately, lives in Greenwich Village. He continues to perform and act.

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Homegrown Raleigh Powerhouse, CP&L

A CP&L steam plant on Jones Street in Raleigh, circa 1925.
Image from the State Archives.

On July 13, 1908, the Carolina Power & Light Company (CP&L) was chartered.

The corporation, with a customer base primarily in Raleigh, was the result of a merger of the Raleigh Electric Company, the Central Carolina Power Company and the Consumer Light and Power Company. Within a few years, CP&L owned or controlled local power companies in Oxford, Henderson, Asheville and Goldsboro.

The interior of the Blewett Falls Hydroelectric Plant, circa 1920-1930. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

The interior of the Blewett Falls Hydroelectric Plant, circa 1920-1930. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

In the early part of the 20th century, electric streetcar systems operated by companies that would become part of CP&L were an integral part of the utility’s business and played an important role in the development of suburban neighborhoods in Asheville and Raleigh. After World War I, the company benefited from the demand created by the proliferation of electrical appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and stoves that were once were considered luxury items.

To generate power for electricity, CP&L used coal, oil and water until the 1960s, when the company built its first nuclear power plant in South Carolina. The company constructed costly nuclear plants in Brunswick and Wake counties before scaling back its production of nuclear energy.

In 2000, CP&L merged with Florida Progress Corporation form Progress Energy, and Progress in turn merged with Charlotte-based Duke Energy in 2012.

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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.

Episcopal Bishop of Alaska Installed in Raleigh, 1948

On May 18, 1948, William J. Gordon Jr. was consecrated Episcopal bishop of Alaska. At the time, he was youngest priest in the United States ever elevated to such a post. The ceremony at the Church of the Good Shepherd was only the third consecration to take place in Raleigh.

Since 1943, the native of Rockingham County had served as a missionary in Point Hope, Alaska. In 1949 Gordon earned his pilot’s license and became known as the “Flying Bishop of Alaska.” Before he got a plane, Gordon had traveled about 6,000 miles by dogsled to minister to the Arctic Coast villages. His journey to visit all of the churches in his diocese was 3,500 miles long and took 3 months to complete by boat. Once he began flying to visit his churches he logged over a million miles in the small plane purchased for him with monies raised by the women of the Episcopal Church.

The Bishop was a strong believer in rights of Alaskan native people and fought for the development of native clergy. He is buried in Point Hope, Alaska, where he first ministered, in a grave marked with whale jawbones, a high honor in the Arctic.

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Raleigh Broadcaster Tangled with Former First Lady

On May 15, 1950, W. E. Debnam published Weep No More, My Lady, his response to former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s newspaper column earlier that year.

In her nationally-distributed “This Day” column, Mrs. Roosevelt, the liberal stalwart and defender of her husband’s legacy, wrote of her recent visit to North Carolina that she was “not so sure that there are not signs of poverty and unhappiness that will gradually have to disappear if that part of the nation is going to prosper.”

Debnam, a Raleigh native, had spent a lifetime in journalism, including several years at the Standard-Laconic, his family’s weekly in Snow Hill.  During World War II, he covered the war in the Pacific for Raleigh radio station WPTF, tagging each broadcast with “This is Debnam.”

Eleanor Roosevelt eats in Chapel Hill during her February 1950 visit to North Carolina. Image from the North Carolina Collection

After the war he stepped into his news commentary role. First on the radio and then in a widely-circulated 60-page softcover book, he took Mrs. Roosevelt to task. He attributed the South’s weak economy to Sherman’s destructive campaign during the Civil War and to the “tragic era” of Reconstruction. Race relations, Debnam contended, were better in the South than in northern cities.

Debnam’s book reached a ready audience, selling a half-million copies at 50 cents each.

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.

Ironclad Raleigh Ran the Cape Fear River Blockade

Capt. William F. Lynch. Image from
the U.S. Navy

On May 5, 1864, Flag Officer William F. Lynch decided to take the war to the enemy using the recently completed Richmond-class ironclad CSS Raleigh.

Built at J.L. Cassidey and Sons shipyard on Eagle’s Island in the Cape Fear River opposite Wilmington, the Raleigh measured 172 feet long. It was protected by two layers of 2-inch iron plate and armed with two 6.4-inch Brooke rifles and two 7-inch Brooke rifles.

After being commissioned on April 3, the ironclad was placed under the command of Lt. Pembroke Jones. After Lynch gave his orders on his on May 5, the Raleigh steamed out into the Atlantic and made contact with several Union vessels.

The ensuing engagement was shrouded in darkness and marked by confusion. The Raleigh made contact with several Union vessels, but because of its slow speed, it was unable to mount a serious attack. Flares and gunfire alerted the rest of the blockading squadron, but most commanders, unaware of the ironclad’s presence, assumed a blockade-runner had been cornered.

For the rest of the night, the Raleigh steamed blindly through the blockading squadron, unnoticed by the Federals. It returned to the Cape Fear River the next day, but ran aground shortly thereafter and was lost.

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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.

Prelude to Attica: Prison Riot in Raleigh, 1968

Gov. Bob Scott visits Central Prison. Image from the State Archives.

Gov. Bob Scott visits Central Prison. Image from the State Archives.

On April 17, 1968, inmates at Central Prison in Raleigh began a riot.

The riot started as a peaceful protest, with roughly 500 inmates “sitting-in” in an attempt to get prison officials to listen to their grievances. They were upset about restricted visiting hours and poor living conditions in the aging facility.

When the prisoners were ordered to return to their cells, a violent riot began in an open yard. Inmates threw torches which started fires that damaged several buildings. Prisoners with homemade weapons attacked the staff. Riot-control officers were called in and ordered to open fire. Guards fired down from the walls. Six inmates were killed and more 75 people, including two state troopers and two corrections officers, were injured.

Today, Central Prison still houses male prisoners with sentences over 20 years. Major renovations in the 1980s included the destruction of the original castle-like building. The prison also now provides inmates with a mental health facility, therapy sessions, worship groups and educational opportunities.

The facility has not had another inmate riot since 1968.

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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