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Kenan Progenitor James Kenan

On May 23, 1810, Revolutionary era military and political leader James Kenan died.

Born on his family’s plantation near what’s now the town of Turkey, Kenan was elected sheriff of Duplin County when he was 22. He displayed strong leadership early, assembling a group of volunteers to go to Wilmington in vocal opposition of the British Stamp Act.

After serving in the colonial assembly and provincial congress, Kenan joined the Duplin militia at the outset of the Revolutionary War. He helped lead a group of volunteers against Scottish loyalists at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in 1776, and rose through the ranks to become brigadier general for the Wilmington District shortly after the war ended.

A Revolutionary War voucher issued to James Kenan. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

Kenan served more than 10 terms in the state legislature after independence and was prominent in the state’s political scene, acting as a member of the State Constitutional Conventions of 1788 and 1789, becoming a member of UNC’s original board of trustees and sitting on the council of state under Richard Caswell.

Active in the Freemasons, Kenan was the first Master of the original Masonic lodge in Duplin County.

Kenan died 1810. His descendants remained active in North Carolina’s civic, political and social life for generations.

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Worth Bagley Memorialized at Capitol, 1907

The unveiling of the Bagley Monument on Union Square. Image from the State Archives.

The unveiling of the Bagley Monument on Union Square. Image from the State Archives.

On May 20, 1907, the Ensign Worth Bagley monument on Union Square in Raleigh was dedicated.

Bagley was the first United States naval officer killed in the Spanish American War in 1898. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he was Raleigh native and grandson of William Henry Bagley, private secretary to Governor Jonathan Worth. Bagley’s 1898 death was extolled as a moment for of reunion for the nation, the first death in the Spanish American War coming from a reconstructed Southern state.

The front page of The North Carolinian, completely dedicated to the monument unveiling. Image from the State Archives.

The front page of The North Carolinian, completely dedicated to the monument unveiling. Image from the State Archives.

Bagley laid in state at the State Capitol before his burial in Oakwood Cemetery.

The monument dedication in 1907 expanded on the view of reunification. The federal government sent 200 flags to adorn Union Square and the downtown Raleigh area. Official military speakers were authorized.

Bagley’s brother-in-law Josephus Daniels, editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, drove publicity and media coverage of the monument dedication.

The statue of Bagley, designed by New York sculptor F. H. Packer, was paid for by a nationwide fundraising effort.

An estimated 20,000 people attended the dedication. Bagley’s nephew and namesake unveiled the monument. Governor Robert Glenn honored Bagley by identifying him as the

boy who had so cemented the country together.

Visit: The monument still stands today on the grounds of the North Carolina State Capitol, one of 27 state historic sites.

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Rough Justice in the Backcountry, 1865

fort-hamby-markerOn May 19, 1865, Confederate vigilantes led by Captain R. M. Sharpe began the siege of Fort Hamby in Wilkes County.

A simple log house in Wilkes County that between 18 and 30 Union army deserters called home, the fort took its name from its previous occupants, a group of “disreputable” women. The men used it as a staging point to plunder homes in Wilkes, Watauga, Caldwell and Alexander counties and to murder people who had been left defenseless by the war.

Led by a man with the surname of Wade, the band benefited from the lack of law and order in the region that followed Lee’s surrender in April 1865.

After a 22-man group of former Confederate soldiers unsuccessfully tried to capture Wade and his associates, Sharpe led two companies of local men to try and eliminate the group. Shots were fired back and forth all day and into the night. Only after two men set fire to the house did Wade and his men finally ask to surrender. Sharpe’s reply was:

We will shoot you.

Wade managed to escape, but four of his men were captured, tied to a stake, and executed. Inside the house, the victors found a wealth of stolen goods. Once the valuables had been removed, the house was burned to the ground.

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Joseph McDowell, Not to Be Confused with Joseph McDowell

On May 18, 1795, Revolutionary War veteran Joseph McDowell died in Burke County at the age of 38.

The only son of “Hunting John” McDowell, a pioneer of Scotch-Irish descent who arrived in western North Carolina in the mid-1700s, Joseph was born on the family plantation, Pleasant Gardens, in what was then Burke County.

Because McDowell had a cousin of the same name, he was referred to as “Pleasant Gardens Joe” so as not to be confused with “Quaker Meadows Joe.” During the American Revolution, both men enlisted in a military unit under the command of their kinsman Charles McDowell and fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain.

There are discrepancies as to which Joseph led the troops at Kings Mountain, but it is most likely that Major Joseph McDowell (Pleasant Gardens) was under the command of Colonel Joseph McDowell (Quaker Meadows).

Following the war McDowell practiced law and served in the state legislature, as a delegate to two Constitutional Conventions and as an early member of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina.

He married Mary Moffett and they had three children, John, James and Annie. McDowell County is named in his honor.

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Textile Executive Stuart Cramer and Air Conditioning

An ad for Cramer's air conditioning system in 1909 cotton industry periodical. Image from Google Books/University of Chicago Libraries.

An ad for Cramer’s air conditioning system in 1909 cotton industry periodical. Image from Google Books/University of Chicago Libraries.

On May 17, 1906, Stuart Cramer coined the term “air conditioning” during a speech in Asheville.

Born in Thomasville and trained as an engineer, Cramer contributed significantly to the cotton mill industry by using his engineering and invention skills.

In 1895, he established a textile business and, over the next 10 years, designed and equipped more than 150 cotton mills in the South, or roughly a third of all mills in the South at the time.

Cramer invested his profits back into his own mills, especially those in the community that came to bear his name, Cramerton.

Though he got his start in cotton, Cramer is best known for the role he played in the development of air conditioning. The holder of more than 60 patents, he pioneered humidity control and ventilating equipment for cotton mills and installed scores of such systems in plants across the South.

In a paper read before an American Cotton Manufacturers Association convention in May 1906, Cramer was the first to use the term “air conditioning.”

Though credit for the invention of air conditioning does not belong to one person, the biographer of industry giant W. H. Carrier attributes 11 technological advances and “outstanding work which later had a large part in the air conditioning industry” to Cramer.

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Women’s Education in North Carolina Began at Salem

The Salem Academy and College campus in the 1880s. Image from the Forsyth County Public Library.

The Salem Academy and College campus in the 1880s. Image from the Forsyth County Public Library.

On May 16, 1804, Salem Academy opened the doors of its new dormitory, South Hall, to students and officially transitioned from a day school to a boarding school.

The Moravians had established the all-girls’ school in 1772 soon after the first women trekked 500 miles from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to join the community at Salem. One of their number, Elisabeth Oesterlein, became the first teacher at the school. The unmarried women of Salem, known as “single sisters,” governed the academy during this early period.

The Senior Study Parlor at Salem Academy and College, circa 1904. Image from Old Salem Museum and Gardens.

The Senior Study Parlor at Salem Academy and College, circa 1904. Image from Old Salem Museums and Gardens.

The Moravians believed women and other disenfranchised groups of the time deserved an education. As early as 1785, records indicate the inclusion of African-American students, and in the 1820s, the daughter of a Cherokee chief attended the school.

By the late 19th century, Salem Academy began awarding college degrees. Eventually the academy and college split into two separate institutions, although they still share the same campus.

Salem Academy and College both remain all-female, though some continuing education programs for men over age 23 are offered. The American Council on Education recognizes Salem College as the oldest such institution strictly for women in the United States.

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.

St. Augustine’s Bishop Delany and His Carolinas-Wide Charge

Delaney’s consecration. Image from History of the Afro-American Group of the Episcopal Church via Archive.org.

On May 15, 1918, Henry Beard Delany became the first black Episcopal bishop in North Carolina and only the second in the United States.

A portrait of Delaney in 1918. Image from the Archives of the Episcopal Church.

A portrait of Delaney in 1918. Image from the Archives of the Episcopal Church.

A native Georgian who grew up in Florida, Delany came to North Carolina in 1881 when he enrolled at what’s now St. Augustine’s University. He remained at the school teaching courses, overseeing facility construction, serving as vice principal and, after he was ordained an Episcopal priest, as the school chaplain.

Delany was elected bishop “in charge of Negro work” and served in that capacity broadly across North and South Carolina.

His work is credited with the improvement of the quality of life among African Americans in the South. At his death, he was memorialized as having risen:

to a position of eminence in which he had won not only the esteem of his white colleagues throughout the country but also their love.

Two of Delany’s daughters became famous in the 1990s for their book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. The book was later adapted into a play and a film.

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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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