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Sensational 1890s Murder in Winston-Salem

The Zinzendorf Hotel. Image from the Forsyth County Public Library.

On July 20, 1892, Ellen Smith was fatally shot by Peter DeGraff near the Zinzendorf Hotel in Winston-Salem. The murder became the subject of a popular turn-of-the-century ballad, “Poor Ellen Smith.”

The maid in the home of a Winston-Salem merchant, Smith became pregnant while romantically involved with DeGraff, a local ladies’ man and ne’er-do-well. The child was stillborn or died after birth during a visit to Smith’s family in Yadkin County. On that visit, Smith was allegedly accompanied by DeGraff, who denied that the child was his.

A headline in Winston paper announcing the discovery of Smith's body. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

A headline in Winston paper announcing the discovery of Smith’s body. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

DeGraff subsequently broke off the relationship and threatened to shoot Smith if she attempted to contact him again. On July 17, the two had a major quarrel at the home of Smith’s employer. Tensions cooled the next day and DeGraff sent a note Smith telling her that he loved her and asking to see her on evening of the 20th. Smith’s body was found the next morning when individuals were directed to the site by a man who was apparently DeGraff himself.

DeGraff soon fled and lived under an assumed name in Mt. Airy, but returned in June 1893 and was arrested. At the trial, the accumulated evidence pointed convincingly towards DeGraff, who pled innocence, as the killer.

Convicted, DeGraff’s execution was held in 1894. He confessed to the murder in front of the large crowd of onlookers right before he was executed.

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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.

“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 two innings as a right fielder. A ball was never hit in his direction, and he was on deck to bat when the game ended. Graham returned to the minor league 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.

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 FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

“Brad’s Drink,” now Pepsi-Cola, Stirred Up (in) New Bern

A 1953 ad for Pepsi. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

A 1953 ad for Pepsi. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On June 16, 1903, the U.S. Patent Office registered the trademark of New Bern, pharmacist Caleb Bradham’s new soft drink, Pepsi-Cola.

Fond of concocting fresh syrup flavors to mix with soda water at his drugstore’s soda fountain, Bradham had developed the formula for his new beverage in 1893. His friends initially dubbed it “Brad’s Drink,” but Bradham renamed his product “Pepsi-Cola” in August 1898, combining the names of two of the drink’s ingredients: pepsin, a digestive enzyme, and kola nut extract. Other ingredients were sugar, vanilla and “rare oils.”

Caleb Bradham. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

Working in his pharmacy’s back room, Bradham launched the Pepsi-Cola Company and incorporated it in 1902. He first applied to register “Pepsi-Cola” as a trademark on September 23 of that year. The application, approved in 1903, described his product as “flavoring syrup for soda water.”

At first, he mixed the syrup and sold it exclusively to soda fountains. Then, realizing that a ready-to-drink beverage might appeal to more people, he began bottling and franchising Pepsi-Cola in 1905. In April of that year, he applied for a second Pepsi-Cola trademark for a “tonic beverage.” Registered a year later, that trademark was renewed and is currently owned by the multinational corporation, PepsiCo, Inc., of Purchase, N.Y.

Visit: The Birthplace of Pepsi in downtown New Bern preserves the site of Bradham’s pharmacy where Pepsi was invented in 1898.

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.

Tortoises Take Up Residence at the Zoo

Two Galapagos tortoises. Image from the Decatur Park District.

On June 7, 1973, two Galapagos tortoises became the first residents of the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, slated to open the following year.

The huge reptiles, native to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, were purchased by the North Carolina Zoological Society from Evelia Burr of Concord, whose late husband had hatched them from eggs. The pair, considered endangered species, cost $5,000.

ebra, giraffes, and ostriches at North Carolina Zoo.

Zebra, giraffes and ostriches at North Carolina Zoo. Image from the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The public was enlisted to help find monikers for them in a “Name the Tortoises Contest.” More than 2,000 entries were submitted, and a Raleigh woman had the winning suggestion with the names Tort and Retort. The 400-pound tortoises, both in their 20s, were housed in a temporary enclosure until permanent quarters could be built.

The idea for the North Carolina Zoo was first proposed by the Raleigh Jaycees in 1967. The Jaycees and other community leaders led a statewide fundraising campaign to convince North Carolinians of the need for a zoo, and a site in Randolph County was selected. The zoo opened temporary exhibits in 1974 before moving into its permanent home in 1979.

One of the largest “natural habitat” zoos in county, the North Carolina Zoo remains popular today, attracting more than 700,000 visitors annually.

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.

Gertrude Weil of Goldsboro Remembered for Social Activism

Suffragettes, including Gertrude Weil, far left c.1920

Gertrude Weil, far left, with a group of suffragettes, circa 1920.
Image from the State Archives.

On May 30, 1971, Gertrude Weil died at the age of 91.

A humanitarian, social reformer and philanthropist, Weil was born in 1879 in Goldsboro to department store owners Henry and Mina Weil. The Weils were a wealthy Jewish family who settled in North Carolina around the end of the Civil War.

Gertrude Weil

Gertrude Weil. Image from
the State Archives.

After graduating from Smith College in 1901, Weil traveled extensively and turned her energies toward social reform. By 1920, she helped found the North Carolina Suffrage League, the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs and the North Carolina League of Women Voters. She also helped establish the Wayne County Health Department, served as president for the North Carolina Association for Jewish Women and worked tirelessly for interfaith activities and initiatives.

Civil rights became Weil’s focus in the 1950s when she funded a park and swimming pool for African Americans and founded the Bi-Racial Council in 1963. During her lifetime Weil received many awards, including the Smith College Medal, given to alumnae who “exemplify in their lives and work the true purpose of a liberal arts education.”

Just weeks before Weil’s death in 1971, North Carolina finally ratified the 19th Amendment, which granted women suffrage, 50 years after it had become the law of the land.

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 FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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.

Cross Burnings by Ku Klux Klan, Fifty Years Ago

Klansmen in robes with burning cross

Klansmen in robes with burning cross. Image taken from
the State Archives.

On May 28, 1965, members of the Ku Klux Klan burned crosses on the grounds of courthouses and city halls in 13 North Carolina cities and towns.

Crosses were burned in places large and small across the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, including Burgaw, Currie, Elizabethtown, Henderson, Oxford, Roxboro, Salisbury, Southport, Statesville, Tarboro, Ward’s Corner, Whiteville and Wilmington.

The coordinated campaign of cross burning was part of a wider wave of violence undertaken by the KKK in reaction to the growing civil rights movement that was sweeping the nation and state.

Just months later, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Un-American Activities Committee found that North Carolina had the largest Klan presence of any state in the Union, with more than 6,000 members organized into at least 112 local chapters and scores more sympathizes. The Klan had even set up a booth at the State Fair.

Despite the violence and tension, then Governor Terry Sanford continued to quietly lead business and other community leaders toward desegregation not by calling for changes in law, but by setting up programs like the Good Neighbor Council, which encouraged fair employment practices to improve race relations.

Klansmen (Ku Klux Klan) in robes at tent meeting

Klansmen in robes at tent meeting. Image taken from
the State Archives.

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.

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