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William Blount, a Founding Father of Tennessee

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Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On March 26, 1749, signer of the Constitution and early political leader William Blount was born in Bertie County.

Blount served in the Continental Army as paymaster before being elected to six terms as a state representative and senator. He went on to accept a position with the Continental Congress, and later served both state conventions called to consider adopting the U.S. Constitution.

A supporter of handing the state’s western lands over to the federal government, Blount became territorial governor of what’s now Tennessee. After leaving North Carolina, Blount worked as the federal Superintendent of Indian Affairs and helped found the state of Tennessee, chairing the convention that drafted the Volunteer State’s first constitution in 1796.

When Tennessee was admitted to the Union in 1796, Blount was elected to the U.S. Senate, but the following year he was expelled from that body for having been involved in a scheme to incite the Creek and Cherokees to aid the British in conquering Spanish-held West Florida.

After leaving Congress, Blount was elected to the Tennessee state senate and chosen as president at its first session in December 1797. He died in Knoxville in 1800.

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Verrazzanno Anchors Off the Carolina Coast

On March 25, 1524, an expedition under Giovanni da Verrazzano anchored off the Outer Banks.

The voyage marked the first European exploration of the North Carolina coast. Verrazzano sought a northward sea route to Asia’s lucrative markets on behalf of Francis I of France.

Usually identified as a native of Florence, Verrazzano was a navigator before being commissioned by King Francis to look for a new route to Asia in 1523. He reached the North American coast with one of his four original vessels sometime in March 1524, and probably first explored the Bogue Banks area. After a brief excursion southward he returned and explored the Outer Banks, anchoring twice and encountering some of the native peoples when going on land. The geography convinced him that the Outer Banks were an isthmus beyond which lay the Pacific.

After leaving what’s now North Carolina, Verrazzano explored the coasts of New York, Rhode Island and Maine. He returned to France convinced that these more northward shores were part of one continent distinct from Asia.

Although he was the first European to explore much of the North American coast, his findings were not immediately followed up on by other explorers. On a later voyage to the Caribbean, he was killed and eaten by Carib Indians.

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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.

Tar Heel Turned Alabaman Briefly Vice President

Image from UNC-Chapel Hill.

On March 24, 1853, William R. D. King was elected vice president of the United States.

Born in Sampson County, King distinguished himself early on as an excellent student, graduating from UNC in 1804 at age 18. He moved to Fayetteville to study law and established his own practice in nearby Clinton a year later. He entered politics in 1808 as a member of the North Carolina House of Commons at age 22, and was elected to United States Congress in 1810. There he allied himself with prominent politicians of the time including Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun.

In 1818, King left North Carolina for Alabama, where an abundance of inexpensive, yet fertile, land offered significant profits. In 1819, King helped draft Alabama’s state constitution and was elected to the United States Senate, where he served for 20 years.

Shortly after being elected in 1853, King traveled to Cuba to ease his tuberculosis. His health forced him to become the first and only vice president to be sworn into office while on foreign soil. Soon after his return to America, King succumbed to his illness before ever reaching the District of Columbia.

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.

Culminating Battle of the Tuscarora War, 1713

A painting depicting English settlers and Native Americans locked in battle.
Image from the Native American Encyclopedia.

On March 23, 1713, the Tuscarora Indian stronghold known as Neoheroka fell to colonial militiamen. As a result of the action, 950 Indians were killed or captured.

The conflict was years in the making. As European settlers encroached on Indian land to meet the needs of the growing colony of North Carolina, tensions escalated between the two groups. In 1711, the Tuscaroras, who controlled most of the land between the Neuse and Roanoke Rivers, began a war with the colonists.

In 1713, the government of North Carolina appealed to South Carolina for assistance. That colony sent Colonel James Moore, who marched his combined force of North and South Carolina militia and allied Indians to Neoheroka. He had been informed that the Tuscarora tribe had placed its largest concentration of warriors at a fort there, on a branch of Contentnea Creek in what is now Greene County.

Archaeological investigations of the fort have revealed a series of interconnected bunkers and tunnels supplied by large quantities of provisions. The fort covered an acre and a half and had high palisades.

The fall of Neoheroka signaled the end of concerted Indian resistance to colonists. By the end of the Tuscarora War, about 200 whites and 1,000 Indians had been killed. An additional 1,000 Tuscaroras were sold into slavery and more than 3,000 others forced from their homes.

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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.

Carolina City, Union Encampment, Confederate Target

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On March 22, 1862, Union Gen. John G. Parke occupied and set up his headquarters at Carolina City, a small village of about 100 inhabitants just west of Morehead City.

With the previous successes at Roanoke Island and New Bern, Union commanders set their sights on Fort Macon at Beaufort Inlet. Morehead City, just across the sound, was a strategic target, since it was the terminus of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad. Beaufort was also captured and occupied. Union forces used the Carolina City location as a launching point to ferry weapons and supplies across the sound to Bogue Banks.

Parke and the Union troops selected Hoop Pole Creek, about five miles west of Fort Macon and directly across the sound from Carolina City, as their landing site on the banks. On April 11, the first skirmish took place between the Union landing force and the detachments from the fort. Union troops set up artillery positions on the banks leading up to the fort and began bombarding the fort on April 25.

In the end, Fort Macon’s commander, Col. Moses J. White, posted the white flag. Today, the campus of Carteret Community College and the Crystal Coast Civic Center mark the approximate location of Carolina City.

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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.

Wife Accompanies Husband into Confederate Service

Malinda Blalock holding a portrait of her husband. Image from the Avery Museum.

On March 20, 1862, Malinda Blalock disguised herself as a young man and enlisted in the Confederate army.

Malinda and her husband Keith were Unionists from Watauga County. Keith was pressured by recruiters to join the Confederate army, which he did with the intention of deserting into federal lines at the first opportunity.

Stories differ as to whether Keith was aware of Malinda’s intentions, but the more romantic version is that Keith looked over at the private walking next to him and did a double-take when he recognized his wife, who had cut her waist-length hair and donned baggy men’s clothing to become “Sam” Blalock. Sam Blalock, purportedly Keith’s brother, was described as “a good looking boy aged 16.”

Keith and Malinda served in Company F of the 26th Regiment, and they shared a tent in Kinston during training. Malinda performed all of the duties of a soldier and did not raise suspicions.

When Keith realized that they would not easily be able to desert, he obtained a medical discharge by creating a severe rash by rubbing poison oak or sumac all over his body. At that point “Sam” revealed his secret and was discharged. Keith was soon pursued as a deserter.

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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.

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