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Chatham County “Blood Shower”

A journal article by F. B. Venable on the phenomenon. Image from OpenLibrary.org.

The first page of a journal article by F. B. Venable on the Chatham County “Blood Shower.” Image from OpenLibrary.org.

On February 25, 1884, Mrs. Kit Lasater, “noted for truthfulness,” was walking near her home in the New Hope township of Chatham County when she heard what she thought was a hard rain fall. Glancing up she saw only clear sky but when she glanced down she saw what appeared to be the aftermath of a “shower of pure blood.”

None of the liquid had fallen on her but it had drenched the ground and surrounding trees for some 60 feet (some accounts say yards) in circumference from the spot where she stood. Upon hearing her story, neighbors rushed to see for themselves and, when later interviewed, confirmed the story as related by Mrs. Lasater.

Samples were collected and sent to Dr. F. P. Venable, a professor at UNC, for evaluation. By mid-April he addressed the topic to the Mitchell Scientific Society. In every test performed except one, the conclusion was the same. The samples appeared to be blood. Venable could offer no explanation beyond the results of the tests, suggesting that “the subject is quite a puzzle and offers a tempting field for the theorist blessed with a vivid imagination.”

Similar cases of blood showers have been reported for centuries in various locations around the world.

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.

Annie Oakley, Star Attraction at Pinehurst

feb-11

Annie Oakley shoots for a crowd in Pinehurst.

On February 11, 1917, Annie Oakley exhibited her skills as a markswoman in Pinehurst.

Born Phoebe Ann Moses in Ohio in 1860, Oakley first demonstrated that she was skilled with a gun while hunting game as a teenager. She was discovered after defeating Frank Butler, a well-known sharpshooter, in an exhibition in Cincinnati in 1876, and married Butler soon thereafter.

In time she became an international celebrity. European royalty adorned her with medals and she was adopted as “Little Sure Shot” (she was 5 feet tall) by Lakota Chief Sitting Bull. One of Oakley’s favorite routines involved shooting an apple that had been placed on top of her dog Dave’s head.

A train wreck outside Lexington in 1901, involving Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West troupe, left Oakley temporarily paralyzed and brought an end to that part of her career.

Beginning in 1915, Oakley and her husband wintered at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst. There she mingled with society’s elite and taught women how to handle guns. She regarded her time in North Carolina as the happiest years of her life, since she was only employed part-time and enjoyed freedom n her schedule and the chance to rest.

In 1918, she was severely injured in an automobile accident in Florida, and she died in 1926.

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.

“Lilliputian” Golf Rooted in Pinehurst

Photographs of holes number 10 and 12 on "NAME" course from the August 1919 edition of Popular Science.

Photographs of holes number 10 and 12 on “Thistle Dhe” course
that appeared in the August 1919 edition of Popular Science.

On January 26, 1918, James Barber and his wife gave a garden tea and held a miniature golf tournament for the local ladies of the Advertising Golf League.

According to the following week’s edition of the Pinehurst Outlook, which termed the game “Miniature Golf” in its headline, the course could be “negotiated with a well pitched mashie shot, and bends and curves calling for nice and discriminating slices and pulls.”

A map of “Thistle Dhe” course that appeared in the August 1919 edition of Popular Science.

Like standard golf, the date and location of the invention of miniature golf remains the subject of debate. The Sandhills golf mecca, Pinehurst, is widely believed by many to be the ancestral home of miniature golf in the United States, and the January 1918 game may be one of the first mini golf games played in the country.

Barber, a wealthy New Jersey shipping magnate, built one of the country’s first, if not the earliest, “Lilliputian” golf courses at his Pinehurst home. Called “Thistle Dhu,” by its owner, the course was constructed sometime between 1916 and 1918. It was designed by amateur architect Edward H. Wiswell and was located on the west side of the Barber’s stately mansion amidst its formal gardens.

Visit: The putting course at Pinehurst Resort in Moore County is named in honor of Thistle Dhu.

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.

Acclaimed Beauty Ava Gardner, Pride of Grabtown

Image from the New York Public Library.

Image from the New York Public Library.

On January 25, 1990, Johnston County native and world-famous actress Ava Gardner died in her London apartment.

Born on a Grabtown farm, Gardner moved around North Carolina as a child, graduated from high school in Wilson County and began a program in secretarial studies at what is now Barton College.

Discovered by chance after her brother-in-law posted a photograph in the window of his New York City studio, Gardner was offered a contract with MGM Studios. Since her mother would not allow her to head to Hollywood alone, both Garner and her sister moved to the West Coast in 1941.

Appearing in mostly minor and nonspeaking roles during the first five years of her career, Gardner saw her profile raised significantly after her 1946 performances in Whistle Stop and The Killers. Gardner went on to make at least 55 movies, including On the Beach (1959), The Night of the Iguana (1964) and Earthquake (1974). She also achieved notoriety for her marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.

Gardner moved to Spain in 1955 to escape constant hounding from the press, and after nearly decade there, moved to London, where she spent the final years of her life.

Visit: The Ava Gardner Museum in downtown Smithfield holds an extensive collection of artifacts from Ava Gardner’s career and private life.

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.

The Most Popular Posts of 2014

From the rise and fall of the Land of Oz theme park in Avery County to the “South’s Woodstock” in the small Iredell County community of Love Valley to the origins of the “Lost Colony” mystery on Roanoke Island at the coast, we’ve told you some pretty cool stories from the Tar Heel State’s past last year (if we don’t say ourselves!).

To celebrate the New Year, we took a look at the numbers and wanted to share the 14 most popular posts of 2014 with you:

1. Legendary Percy Flowers, “King of the Moonshiners”

2. The Trail of Tears and the Roundup of N.C. Cherokees

3. Festival Rocked Iredell County Community, 1970

4. The Mixed Fortunes of the Land of Oz

5. Popcorn Sutton, Moonshiner and Colorful “Character”

6. North Carolina’s “Year Without a Summer,” 1816

7. The Flood of 1916 and Unprecedented Destruction in Western North Carolina

8. The Lumbees and the Road to Recognition

9. Civil War Origins of “Tar Heel”

10. Swain County’s “Road to Nowhere”

11. Mystery of the Dare Stones

12. Origins of the “Lost Colony” Mystery

13. Secret Basketball Game of 1944

14. Carnival Worker Preserved, Abandoned in Laurinburg

Which of our 2014 stories did you like the best? Did you learn something new? Tell us in the comments. Know a great story from North Carolina’s history that we haven’t told yet? Tell us about it, and you just might see it here in 2015!

Thomasville Chair, Fit for Paul Bunyan

A man looking at the "Big Chair" in Thomasville. Image courtesy of the UNC-Chapel Hill Library.

A man looking at the “Big Chair” in Thomasville. Image courtesy
of the UNC-Chapel Hill Library.

On January 9, 1951, the cornerstone of the “World’s Largest Chair” was laid in downtown Thomasville. The purpose of the chair was to recognize the significant role that Thomasville, then home to Thomasville Furniture, and the entire foothills region played in the furniture industry.

The big chair actually wasn’t Thomasville’s first. That monument was built in September 1922, and at 16 feet, six inches tall, was fabricated by Thomasville Furniture Company from the materials it took to make 100 normal chairs.

A victim to the elements, the wooden structure was scrapped in 1936, and it wasn’t until the formation of local chamber of commerce in 1948 that interest in reviving the roadside landmark was revived. A team of designers drew up plans, and the decision was made to build this giant chair out of concrete and steel.

A Winston-Salem company fashioned a steel skeleton, which was covered with a wire mesh outlining the design and topped with a half-inch layer mixture of cement and granite. That in turn was painted to make the chair look like furniture.

The sculpture took six months to complete and today stands proudly at 30 feet tall.

Visit: See the “World’s Largest Chair” at the corner of Main Street and Highway 109 in Thomasville. For other over-sized attractions across the Tar Heel state, be sure and see this great list from our friends at VisitNC.

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.

No Parade as Duke Lost Rose Bowl Game in Durham, 1942

Duke Stadium during 1942 Rose Bowl. Image from the Duke University Archives.

On January 1, 1942, the Rose Bowl was played in Durham—the only time the game has not been played in Pasadena, California. Since America had just joined World War II, there was concern about holding the game, or, indeed, any large public gathering, on the West Coast for fear of attack from the Japanese. The Duke University Blue Devils, Oregon State University Beavers and all of their fans would potentially be in great danger if the game was played in California, organizers reasoned.

Before the Tournament of Roses Committee officially called the game off, Duke football coach Wallace Wade offered to host the game in the Bull City. The city of Durham and Duke University only had about two weeks to prepare for the festivities, and during that time, they managed to increase the capacity of the Blue Devils’ football stadium from 34,000 to 56,000 seats by borrowing bleachers from neighboring UNC and N.C. State. Tickets for the history-making game sold out in three days.  The face value of tickets for bleacher seats was $4.40, though scalpers offered tickets for as much as $25.

Duke was the clear favorite to win the hastily relocated bowl game. Wade had led the Blue Devils to an unbeaten and untied season in 1941. The game, however, was a major upset.  Oregon State won, 20 to 16.

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 Facebook and Twitter.

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