Execution by the Tuscarora: John Lawson

A drawing of DeGraffenreid and John Lawson under capture by the Tuscurora. This drawing is sometimes attributed to Graffenreid.

A drawing of von Graffenreid and Lawson under capture by the Tuscurora. This drawing is sometimes attributed to von Graffenreid.

On September 20, 1711, explorer and surveyor John Lawson was killed by the Tuscarora.

Lawson and Baron Christoph von Graffenried planned to travel up the Neuse River from New Bern in an attempt to explore the area and discover the river’s source. The Tuscarora, angry about incursions into their lands, the kidnapping of their women and children, and disrespectful treatment by traders, stopped the expedition and imprisoned the leaders.

Graffenried’s account of the incident stated that Lawson got into an angry exchange with a leader which resulted in the seizure and burning of their hats and wigs, and a sentence of death being pronounced over them.

The next morning, Graffenried reportedly chastised Lawson for antagonizing their captors and spoke with an Indian interpreter.

After several days, one of the Indians made a plea on Graffenried’s behalf. He was released but kept in a hut, during which time Lawson was executed. It is believed that the Tuscarora thought Graffenried was the governor and that they would incur the wrath of the English if they killed him.

Graffenried later heard of several ways in which Lawson was supposedly executed but the actual method of death was uncertain.

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The Elizabeth II, Built for America’s Four Hundredth

The launch of the Elizabeth II in 1983. Image from Roanoke Island Festival Park.

The launch of the Elizabeth II in 1983. Image from Roanoke Island Festival Park.

On September 19, 1985, the Elizabeth II set out on its maiden voyage from Manteo to Ocracoke, Beaufort, New Bern and back again.

Constructed as part of America’s 400th anniversary, the 69-foot, square-rigged sailing ship was meant to be representative of the vessels used to bring the first English colonists to Roanoke Island in the late 1500s.

It was named for the original Elizabeth, one of the seven ships that was part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s second expedition in 1585. That ship was captained by Thomas Cavendish and most likely carried people and supplies to aid England in building a military garrison near what is now Manteo.

Students cheer on the ship right after its launch. Image from Roanoke Island Festival Park.

Students cheer on the ship right after its launch. Image from Roanoke Island Festival Park.

Built almost entirely by hand during 1983, the ship was in the water by early 1984 and was christened by British Princess Anne that summer. A private corporation raised $650,000 to finance the ship’s construction, while the General Assembly allocated $1.4 million for the development of other attractions on Roanoke Island.

Though the ship sometimes sails along the North Carolina coast, it is moored at Roanoke Island Festival Park for most of the year.

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“Cherry Bounce King,” Amos Owens

On September 18, 1906, Amos Owens, a notorious moonshiner from Rutherford County, died.

Known as the “Cherry Bounce King,” Owens was renowned for the delightful mixture of whiskey, honey and cherries that he made at his “castle” on Cherry Mountain.

Described as a fearless yet energetic Irishman, Owens achieved success quickly. People from all over the South visited him to taste his celebrated beverage.

Owens was also an infamous fixture in the local courthouse. Vehemently opposed to taxes on alcohol, he believed that he owed nothing to the government after fulfilling his civic duty as a Confederate soldier. Often arrested for his activities, Owens was occasionally acquitted for minor crimes, but didn’t always manage to escape the long reach of the law. He frequently had to pay fines or spend time in jail.

At one point he was locked up for an entire year.

Despite the risks that came with it, Owens continued to distill Cherry Bounce and every summer he hosted lively gatherings at Cherry Mountain to celebrate the cherry harvest.

A colorful local figure who embodied the vitality and grit of Appalachia in the aftermath of the Civil War, Owens didn’t stop making moonshine until he was sent to prison in his 70s.

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L. O’B. Branch Rose through Confederate Ranks

Branch in 1859. Image from the Library of Congress.

Branch in 1859. Image from the Library of Congress.

On September 17, 1862, Gen. Lawrence O’Bryan Branch was shot and killed by a sharpshooter at the Battle of Sharpsburg.

Born in 1820 in Halifax County, Branch was placed in the care of his uncle, U.S. senator and former North Carolina governor John Branch, following the death of both of his parents.

After college at UNC and Princeton, Branch moved to Nashville, Tenn., to work as a newspaper editor and to study law. He opened a law practice in Florida and served as an aide to Governor Robert R. Reid during the Seminole War.

Branch married on a trip to North Carolina and eventually opened a law practice in Raleigh. He held a number of prominent positions in the decade prior to the Civil War including a term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

When North Carolina seceded in 1861, Branch enlisted as a private in the Confederate army, but was soon appointed the state’s Quartermaster General by Governor John W. Ellis. Branch obtained a commission as colonel of the 33rd North Carolina Infantry and was appointed a brigadier general in January 1862.

Branch went on to command his brigade at the Battle of New Bern and led the command at the engagements of Hanover Court House, the Seven Days’ Battles, Second Manassas and Sharpsburg.

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From Cotton Field to University: Fayetteville’s Methodist

An early postcard of Methodist College. Image from the State Archives.

An early postcard of Methodist College. Image from the State Archives.

On September 16, 1960, the first class of 88 students was admitted to Methodist College.

About five years earlier, citizens of Fayetteville offered the Methodist Church a 600-acre tract and $2 million to establish a school in their town. Fayetteville attorney and future governor Terry Sanford was elected the first chairman of the board of trustees and L. Stacy Weaver was chosen as the first president.

When it first opened, the campus included a grouping of contemporary buildings; the architectural plan, created by Stevens and Wilkinson of Atlanta, earned a national citation for creativity and unity of design.

The school’s first major expansion came in 1978, when it began offering two-year associate’s degrees in addition to four-year bachelor’s degrees.

In 1993, trustees recommended that the college borrow funds to build additional residence halls over the next five years to accommodate 300 new resident students. The trustees further recommended that the college undertake a major capital campaign of at least $10 million for increasing the endowment and constructing a library addition, and two new academic buildings.

In 2001, the school had a record enrollment, and inaugurated the first graduate program, which trains physician assistants.

In 2006, trustees voted to change the name of the school from Methodist College to Methodist University.

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Namesake for Campbell’s Camel, Baseball’s Gaylord Perry

Perry after throwing a pitch. Image from USA Today.

Perry after throwing a pitch. Image from USA Today.

On September 15, 1938, Major League Baseball pitcher Gaylord Perry was born in Williamston.

Perry grew up helping his tenant farmer family, but his father, who was an athlete and sports fan, gave him time to play sports. Though he played every sport at his high school, Perry was most competitive at baseball.

A right-handed pitcher, Perry drew attention from scouts early and attended Campbell College for two years before turning pro. He signed with the San Francisco Giants and played in their farm system until his League debut in 1962.

Quickly developing a reputation for using the “spitball,” Perry often appeared to doctor the ball by smearing it with various substances (like petroleum jelly). This might have accounted for the sometimes miraculous spin he could produce.

Regardless of the cause, Perry was a pitching phenomenon. He earned the Cy Young Award, baseball’s top honor for pitchers, in both the National and American Leagues, and struck out out 3,534 batters during his more than 20-year career.

Over the course of his career, Perry played for eight major league teams and won 314 games.

Perry became a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1973, and was honored with membership in Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. Campbell University named its mascot “Gaylord the Camel” in honor of Perry.

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An Independent Man: John Penn’s Short Life

On September 14, 1788, John Penn died in Granville County at age 47. With nothing more than a very basic education, Penn rose through legal and political circles to become one of three North Carolinians who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Born in 1741 in Virginia, Penn received instruction in rural schoolhouses. After his father’s death, a neighbor offered young Penn use of his library. Through self-instruction, Penn acquired knowledge of the law sufficient for admittance to the bar in 1762.

In 1774, Penn and his family settled in what is now Vance County, a center of the colony’s growing independence movement. Penn served in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1775 and soon earned the respect of constituents and colleagues.

In the summer of 1776, he joined North Carolinians William Hooper and Joseph Hewes in signing the Declaration of Independence.

Later in his career, Penn served on North Carolina’s Board of War, established by Governor Abner Nash, and on an advisory council to Governor Thomas Burke. He retired to his home near Stovall, where he was buried. In 1894, Penn’s remains were transferred to what would become Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro.

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