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Universalists and Inman Chapel Near Canton

Haywood County's Inman Chapel. Image from Harvard Divinity School.

Haywood County’s Inman Chapel. Image from Harvard Divinity School.

On July 23, 1868, western North Carolina’s first Universalist congregation was organized in Haywood County after traveling preacher Benjamin F. Strain converted a handful of citizens.

Universalists, also known as Hell Redemptionists, were a denomination whose beliefs were based on a benevolent God and salvation as opposed to damnation.   

Strain granted a Universalist license to Jonathan Plott, who in turn designated native James Anderson Inman, to serve as the congregation’s permanent pastor. With assistance from the North Carolina Universalists Conference, which was organized in 1896, a chapel was built in 1902 and named for Inman who donated much of the construction funds.

Following Inman’s death in 1913, the chapel reverted to management by the Universalist’s Women’s National Missionary Association (WNMA). Though it had almost dispersed by 1921 when Hannah Jewett Powell became regional denominational representative, the congregation flourished under Powell’s leadership.

Following Powell’s retirement in 1942, the congregation of Universalists declined and the WNMA closed the chapel and community center in 1957. 

In 1961, the Universalists merged with the Unitarians to become the Unitarian Universalist Church. A congregation was established in Asheville in 1969. The Inman Chapel has undergone restoration and is used by the Inman family for homecoming gatherings.

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.

Matters of State at Issue in Hillsborough, 1788

hillsborough-convention-of-1788-marker

On July 21, 1788, 270 delegates convened in Hillsborough for what would become a two-week debate on ratifying the national Constitution that had been drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. The Anti-Federalist delegates outnumbered their Federalist colleagues by a margin of two-to-one.

The Federalists wanted to strengthen the powers of the federal government to help keep the country from dissolving. They argued that the powers granted to the federal government in the Articles of Confederation were not sufficient.

On the other side, the Anti-Federalists were suspicious of the federal government, and did not want self-rule to come under fire from a government that could intrude on state and individual rights.

Knowing that they would likely lose, members of the Federalist minority brought a stenographer to the convention to record their arguments for publication in hopes of changing public opinion in the future.

The debate resulted in the delegates voting 184 to 84 to neither ratify nor reject the Constitution, meaning that North Carolina would not become part of the Union until the 1789 Fayetteville Convention.

One of the major reasons why North Carolina didn’t ratify the Constitution was the lack of a Bill of Rights.

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Surveying of the State Boundary and the Block House Near Tryon

On July 20, 1813, representatives from North Carolina and South Carolina met near the present-day town of Tryon and marked the state boundary at a prominent building of the period known as the Block House.

The event was designed to help resolve a series of bitter boundary disputes with South Carolina. The Proprietary province of Carolina was divided into two separate colonies as of 1712, but no official boundary was specified for many years.

An initial agreement in 1730 called for the boundary to start 30 miles south of the mouth of the Cape Fear River and run northwest parallel to the river. Surveys in 1735 and 1737 brought the diagonal line beyond the settled regions to a remote meadow that was thought to lie on the 35th parallel.

As early as 1750, the Block House site stood as a prominent landmark along the line between the Carolinas, although technically 300 feet within South Carolina. It was used a trading post and fortification.

In 1764, another survey began at the same meadow where the line had ended in 1737. Work began on the boundary again in 1772. After years of disagreements, both states finally accepted the 1764 and 1772 survey lines in 1813, reasoning that what each state lost in one survey was made up for by the other.

Border disputes have continued into the modern era, and after more than 20 years of debate over minor adjustments, the Carolinas reached a final border agreement in 2016.

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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.

Justice at Nuremburg: Judge Fitzroy Donald Phillips

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A poster advertising Phillips’s run for solicitor. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On July 19, 1982, former Superior Court Justice Fitzroy Donald Phillips died in Rockingham. He was one of two North Carolina judges who participated in the second phase of trials of former Nazi officials at Nuremberg, Germany (the other was Richard Dillard Dixon).

Phillips was born in Laurinburg in 1893, where he practiced law after studying at UNC. After service in the American Expeditionary Force in the First World War, he was elected mayor of Rockingham. In 1923, he was elected solicitor of the Thirteenth Judicial District, a role similar to that of district attorney, and 11 years later he was elected a Superior Court justice for the same district.

Following the major war crimes trials held before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946, the United States established military courts to try lesser Nazi officials. In November 1946, Phillips resigned his judgeship to serve as one of the three judges of what was called Military Tribunal II, which presided over two trials in 1947.

The tribunal met again in 1948 to hear additional details concerning the second case. The Nuremburg trials collectively established the precedents for the successful prosecution of war criminals.

Phillips returned home to serve as Superior Court judge before retiring in 1962.

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.

Scourge of Poverty Target of North Carolina Fund

The North Carolina Fund headquarters in Durham, circa 1968. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

The North Carolina Fund headquarters in Durham, circa 1968. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On July 18, 1963, Governor Terry Sanford announced the establishment of the North Carolina Fund, an interracial antipoverty initiative that predated and anticipated President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”

Sanford laid out his course in a speech at N.C. A&T State University in April 1963, rejecting segregation and proclaiming, “We must move forward as one people, or we will not move forward at all.”

The governor and his aides, principally novelist John Ehle, crafted a plan, using nonprofit and federal monies, to promote objectives without legislative interference. Startup funds, in the amount of $2.5 million, came from Z. Smith Reynolds and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundations. A boost came from the Ford Foundation, in the amount of $7 million.  Over the course of five years, federal funds totaling $7 million, were routed to the Fund.

George Esser directed the effort, with the assistance of hundreds of student volunteers. Headquarters were set up in a former auto dealership in Durham, but the focus was statewide and not entirely urban. Special focus went to four mountain counties, Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey.

The project in time became a political target, and while the Fund did not succeed in eliminating poverty, its ideals inspired subsequent efforts and activists.

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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.

State Treasurer Edwin Gill, “Mr. Integrity”

Gill at his desk at an unknown date. Image from the State Archives.

Gill at his desk at an unknown date. Image from the State Archives.

On July 16, 1978, long time state treasurer Edwin Gill died in Raleigh. Gill was known as “Mr. Integrity” during his more than 30 years of service as a public finance official.

Born in Laurinburg in July 1899, Gill opened a law practice there in 1924 after attending what’s now Duke University in the early part of the decade. He represented Scotland County in the legislature for one term before working as Governor O. Max Gardner’s private secretary.

Gill being sworn in as state treasurer by Associate Supreme Court Justice R. Hunt Parker. Image from the State Archives.

Gill being sworn in as state treasurer by Associate Supreme Court Justice R. Hunt Parker. Image from the State Archives.

Gill became the first head of the North Carolina Paroles Commission in 1933 before serving as the state Commissioner of Revenue, his first financial post, for much of the 1940s. He was federal internal revenue collector for the state from 1950 until 1953, when he was appointed state treasurer.

After that initial appointment, Gill was consistently re-elected and remained the state treasurer for five consecutive terms until he retired in 1977. Under his direction, the state attained the highest possible credit rating, reflecting his saying, “In North Carolina, we have made a habit of good government.”

An avocational painter, he served on the boards of the North Carolina Arts Council, the North Carolina Museum of Art and the State Art Society. He was considered a “respectable” pianist and organist. An avid reader, he collected books and donated to libraries.

He is buried in Laurinburg.

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.

So Great the Devastation in 1916 Flood

Devastation from the flood at an Asheville power plant. Image from the State Archives.

Devastation from the flood at an Asheville power plant. Image from the State Archives.

On July 14, 1916, the worst flood in western North Carolina’s history occurred after six days of torrential rain. In one 24-hour period the region saw more than half of a normal year’s total rainfall. The 22 inches of rain that fell that day set the record for the most rainfall in a single day in the United States.

Because the ground was saturated, most of the water immediately filled streams and rivers, causing them to reach flood stage in just a few hours. At least 50 people lost their lives and the property damage surpassed $22 million, $1 million of that in Asheville alone.

Asheville and Hendersonville were completely cut off from the outside for weeks. Railroad tracks that were not destroyed had their supports washed out from under them, leaving tracks eerily suspended over mud-covered ravines—895 miles of track were rendered useless.

Everyone was taken by surprise at the speed with which the water rose. People were stranded in trees when their cars or homes were overwhelmed and they had nowhere else to go. Industrial plants along the rivers were swept away and landslides engulfed homes.

For most of western North Carolina the 1916 flood remains the benchmark for disasters.

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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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