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Albemarle Settler John Harvey, of Harvey’s Point

harvey-marker

On May 3, 1775, John Harvey, Speaker of the Assembly, moderator of the Provincial Congress and a politically powerful Revolutionary era leader, died in Perquimans County.

While he had long been of delicate health, he actually died of injuries received from a fall from his horse. He was buried at his home on the shores of the Albemarle Sound in a large tomb that has since washed into the sound. It was last seen, covered in barnacles, in 1908.

Born about 1724 to a privileged family, Harvey entered the political arena by the time he was 21. He served as a justice, member of the Assembly, speaker of the Assembly and as a member of the revolutionary Committee of Correspondence, the body appointed to communicate with other colonies concerning Crown policies deemed detrimental to America, before the advent of the Revolutionary War.

Harvey first adopted the cause of resistance to the tyrannies of the British Crown after the the British government imposed new taxes on the American colonies under the Townshend Acts. Historian R. D. W. Connor called Harvey:

Father of the American Revolution in North Carolina

Like their father, two of Harvey’s sons, Thomas and Miles, went on to serve in the Assembly.

A 1998 story in the New York Times includes some fascinating details on Harvey Point, the family’s Perquimans County property.

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Discovery of Calcium Carbide Process in Eden, 1892

An ad for an acetylene

An early ad for an acetylene generator. Image from the Online Archive of California.

On May 2, 1892, in what’s now Eden, Canadian chemist Thomas L. Willson accidentally produced calcium carbide and acetylene with an electric-arc furnace. By August of that year, Willson had applied for a patent for the new process.

By 1897, acetylene was competing with electricity as a means for providing light, especially in rural areas and those places where gasoline was unavailable. Portable acetylene generators provided light to mines, bicycles, automobiles and railroads. Willson developed the acetylene gas buoy as a maritime navigational aid that was used worldwide. Oxygen was also combined with acetylene to allow for faster welding and cutting of metals.

Thomas L. Wilson. Image from the Library and Archives of Canada.

Thomas L. Wilson. Image from the Library and Archives of Canada.

In August 1894, Willson and business partner James Turner Morehead sold the patents for using calcium and acetylene for lighting to the Electrogas Company but kept the manufacturing rights.

That same month, Morehead, using borrowed money, completed the first commercial calcium carbide plant by expanding the Eden operation. The plant burned in 1896, though Morehead later built a larger plant in Virginia. A factory in West Virginia also made ferro-alloys using methods developed at Eden.

Morehead eventually sold the rights to the Union Carbide Company, which was formed in 1898. That company eventually became Union Carbide Corporation.

It was acquired by Dow Chemical in 2001.

Read more about North Carolina inventions on NCpedia.

This Day in North Carolina History is a production of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online at www.ncdcr.gov.

Gas Chamber in Use at Central Prison After 1935

Allen Foster, the first man executed by lethal gas in North Carolina. Image from the State Archives.

Allen Foster, the first man executed by lethal gas in North Carolina. Image from the State Archives.

On May 1, 1935, the state Senate approved a bill making lethal gas the method of execution in North Carolina. It replaced electrocution, which was used until that time.

Dr. Charles Peterson, a Spruce Pine physician who served as a member of the General Assembly during the first half of the 20th century, was the primary advocate for the change. The Raleigh News & Observer described bringing about the change as his “pet project.”

Doctors and dentists testified before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Penal Institutions that lethal gas was a more humane method of execution than electrocution, and a bill Peterson authorized was quickly sent to and approved by both houses of the General Assembly.

A lethal gas chamber was constructed at Raleigh’s Central Prison by December 1935, with many across the state seeing the change as a positive technological innovation.

Allen Foster, who had been convicted of rape in Hoke County, was the first to be executed by lethal gas. His January 1936 execution demonstrated that the change in method was not necessarily a positive one. Because prison officials kept the temperature in the gas chamber near freezing, the gas failed to work effectively and Foster didn’t die for 11 minutes and convulsed violently in the process.

Death row inmates could choose between lethal gas and lethal injection until 1998, when the General Assembly made lethal injection the only method of execution in the state.

This Day in North Carolina History is a production of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online at www.ncdcr.gov.

The Siege and Burning of Washington, April 1864

The shelling of Washington. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

The shelling of Washington. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

On April 30, 1864, Federal troops partially burned the town of Washington in Beaufort County.

Washington was first occupied by the Federals in March 1862 following the fall of New Bern. Although many of the inhabitants fled before troops arrived, those who remained were generally strong supporters of the Union.

In March 1863, Confederate Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill laid siege to the town in an unsuccessful effort to recover it for the Confederates.

As a result of Brig. Gen. Robert F. Hoke’s capture of Plymouth on April 20, the garrison received orders to evacuate the town on April 26. Hoke’s forces laid siege to Washington on April 27. Beginning that night and continuing for the next three days, Federal troops looted and vandalized the town.

As the last of the troops prepared to board ships on the afternoon of April 30, fires broke out across the town. At least half of the settlement was destroyed, leaving many of the inhabitants destitute and homeless.

The conduct of the departing Federal garrison was harshly condemned by both the Confederates and by Brigadier General Innis Palmer, Federal commander of the District of North Carolina.

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The Fall of Saigon and Ambassador Graham Martin

Americans evacuating South Vietnam on April 29, 1975. Image from Hugh van Es/UPI.

On April 29, 1975, the last Americans, including Ambassador Graham Martin, were evacuated from Saigon just hours before the city fell to the communists. A few days earlier, President Gerald Ford declared that the Vietnam War was “finished as far as America is concerned.”

Although military involvement in Vietnam had come to an end, the U.S. still had to evacuate all of the Americans who remained. It was the biggest helicopter rescue of its kind in history—an 18-hour operation that carried more than 1,000 Americans and well over 5,000 Vietnamese to safety.

Martin speaks to the press aboard the USS Blue Ridge shortly after evacuating Saigon. Image from Dirck Halstead/Getty Images.

Born in Mars Hill in 1912, Martin served as a U. S. Army Intelligence Officer during World War II. He began his diplomatic career in 1947 in Paris and served as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations and as the American Ambassador to Thailand and to Italy before he was appointed Ambassador to South Vietnam in 1973.

The helicopter that carried Martin to safety is on display at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego. Martin died in 1990 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

An urgent telegram from Martin to the White House and a cable from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Martin, both concerning the evacuation, are available online from the National Archives.

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.

The First of the Roanoke Colonies

A map of the Roanoke region made by John White. Image from the British Museum.

A map of the Roanoke region made by John White. Image from the British Museum.

On April 27, 1584, Captains Arthur Barlowe and Philip Amadas sailed from the west coast of England in two ships “well furnished with men and victuals” to begin a four-month exploration of the New World.

The expedition was the first English exploration of Roanoke Island and was commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh. The report which Barlowe produced on the expedition was written for Raleigh’s benefit.

After sailing through the Caribbean via the Canary Islands, the group arrived in present-day North Carolina in July 1584. First landing somewhere between Ocracoke Island and the Oregon Inlet, the party made their way to Roanoke Island in smaller boats.

The expedition developed friendly relationships with Native Americans through trade, gift exchanges and a mutual hospitality. The goodwill fostered between the groups led the Algonquian Indians Manteo and Wanchese to return to England with the group when they departed toward the end of the year.

The wealth of information provided by Amadas and Barlowe and the fascination with Manteo and Wanchese in England helped encourage Raleigh in his plans to colonize North America.

Barlowe’s report of the expedition describes the region and people in vivid, admiring detail. John White, a member of the mission who would be the governor of the ill-fated “Lost Colony,” added pictures of the Native Americans as well. A phrase describing North Carolina’s soil captures the spirit of the document well:

the most plentifull, sweete, fruitfull and wholesome of all the worlde.

The text was ultimately published in The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation, by Richard Hakluyt, who used Barlowe’s admiring words to help encourage colonization.

Visit: Roanoke Island Festival Park and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, both in Manteo, interpret this rich part of our state’s history.

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The Marines of Montford Point

A trio of Marines training at Montford Point. Image from National Archives.

A trio of Marines training at Montford Point. Image from National Archives.

On April 26, 1942, the United States Marine Corps opened Montford Point at Camp Lejeune, specifically for the training of African American recruits.

Before President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order that ended segregation in the armed forces, blacks who served did so in segregated units, like the one at Montford Point. In the era of strict segregation, interaction between white and black Marines during training was practically nonexistent.

The larger base, Camp Lejeune, had been established one year earlier as part of mobilization for World War II.  Shortly after that time, the Corps constructed barracks and support facilities including a chapel, mess hall, steam plant and recreational area on the 1,600-acre peninsula that became Montford Point.

More than 19,000 black Marines served in World War II, all in units trained at Montford Point. Among the units organized there were the 51st and 52nd Defense Battalions, which were dispatched to the Pacific but saw no combat action, and 11 ammunition and 51 depot companies that did see action.

The 51st Battalion Band, led by musician Bobby Troup, lent to the sense of esprit de corps.

The facility became obsolete after Navy Secretary Francis Matthews ordered the end of racial division in the Navy and Marines in June 1949.

Other related resources:

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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