Blockade Runner John N. Maffitt

Maffitt in 1863. Image from the
N.C. Museum of History.

On May 15, 1886, John Newland Maffitt, captain of Confederate blockade runners, died.

Born at sea in 1819, Maffitt split his formative years between northern schools and his uncle’s home near Fayetteville. At age 13, Maffitt was commissioned as a midshipman in the United States Navy and spent 15 years with the U. S. Coast Survey, experience that proved invaluable during his time as a blockade runner.

Following the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861, Maffitt resigned his commission in the Navy and received a commission as lieutenant in the Confederate States Navy. After a two month stint in command of blockade running operations out of Nassau, Maffitt assumed command of the CSS Florida and was promoted to the rank of commander. At the helm of the Florida, Maffitt shifted his attention to raiding merchant vessels during an eight-month cruise, capturing 23 ships.

Maffitt is credited with making the Confederacy’s last run of the blockade, which took place after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender. Obeying final orders from the Confederate government, Maffitt delivered the Owl to agents in England, where he remained until 1868.

With his career at sea largely over, Maffitt retired to a farm near Wrightsville Beach.

Visit: The N.C. Maritime Museum at Southport interprets the history of the blockade runners that operated in the lower Cape Fear region.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Inaugural Concert for the North Carolina Symphony, 1932

The N.C. Symphony plays an education concert in the mid-1970s.
Image from the N.C. Symphony.

On May 14, 1932, the North Carolina Symphony played its first concert at Hill Hall on the campus of UNC. The concert included music by Wagner, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and others, and featured 48 musicians from around the state under the direction of conductor Lamar Stringfield.

The symphony had its origins earlier that year as a work relief project of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and became the first symphony orchestra to receive state aid with the passage of what became known as the “Horn Tootin’ Bill” in 1943.

Today, the North Carolina Symphony is a first-class, professional orchestra with 65 members led by Music Director Grant Llewellyn, based at Meymandi Concert Hall in downtown Raleigh. In addition to classical series in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Fayetteville, New Bern, Southern Pines and Wilmington, their schedule also features a Pops Series, Young People’s Concerts and the annual Summerfest outdoor concert series at Cary’s Booth Amphitheatre.

Always the “people’s orchestra,” the symphony has an especially strong legacy of music education, with more than 3 million schoolchildren reached since it began its children’s concerts series in 1945. Each year the symphony puts on more than 50 educational programs in nearly as many communities across the state.

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

It’s a Shell of a Building

On May 13, 1976, the iconic Shell Service Station on East Sprague Street in Winston-Salem was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Built by R.H. Burton in 1930, the station was one of eight constructed around Winston-Salem that year in an effort by the Shell Company and its local affiliate, Quality Oil, to boost marketing in North Carolina. The Sprague Street station is the only one of the eight still in existence.

The building’s design was modeled on the logo of Royal Dutch Shell Oil at the time, and the structure was built by first boxing in the interior office and then adding a wire frame in a shell shape around it. Concrete was then poured on the wire like stucco, giving the building its distinct shape. The station reflects the literalism of advertising of the era, and it is a great example of the Pop architecture that became popular around the time.

After the structure was used as a lawn mower repair shop and had fallen into disrepair, Preservation North Carolina raised funds to bring the landmark back to its original condition in the late 1970s.

Other related resources:

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Modern-Day St. Mary’s School True to Its Nineteenth Century Roots

The Main Building, Smedes Hall, on the campus of Saint Mary’s School,
circa 1910. Image from the State Archives.

On May 12, 1842, the first classes got underway at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh.

Established through the vision and fundraising efforts of Episcopalian minister Aldert Smedes and his wife Sarah, the school for women was converted from a similar institution for young men, built in 1831. Smedes and his wife greeted the new students at the door, and from then on the couple acted more like family than faculty to the students.

Smedes personally interviewed each student for admission, and though most students came from prosperous families throughout North and South Carolina, Smedes would grant scholarships to girls whose families were unable to provide tuition.  He understood that the education of young women, as well as the confidence and skills it confers, was essential for coming generations.

The chapel at St. Mary’s School, circa 1910.
Image from the State Archives.

The school offered a junior college program until 1997, but shuttered that program to focus on high school and college preparatory classes, which it continues to offer this day.

The school’s entire 23-acre campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its iconic Gothic Revival style campus chapel, designed by architect Richard Upjohn in 1857, continues to be a Raleigh landmark to this day.

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Worth Bagley of Raleigh, Casualty of the Spanish-American War

Bagley-Funeral

Worth Bagley’s 1898 funeral at the State Capitol.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

On May 11, 1898, in battle at Cárdenas, Cuba, Ensign Worth Bagley became the first naval officer and first North Carolinian killed in the Spanish-American War.

The sinking of the USS Maine in February 1898 led the United States to declare war against Spain. North Carolina met President William McKinley’s call for troops by establishing three regiments.

An 1898 portrait of Bagley. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

An 1898 portrait of Bagley. Image from
the N.C. Museum of History.

Born in Raleigh in April 1874, Worth Bagley graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1895. He achieved the rank of ensign in July 1897, and, in November, was appointed inspector of the new torpedo boat Winslow. When she was commissioned the following month, Bagley became her executive officer. In April 1898, the Winslow was mobilized, with the fleet it was a part of, for operations in Cuban waters.

On the morning of May 11, the ship went with two others to force open the entrance to the harbor of Cárdenas. The Winslow was fired upon by a Spanish gunboat and a battle ensued. The ship was disabled and was hauled out of range of the Spanish guns. Just as the engagement ended, Bagley and four sailors were killed by a shell.

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Military Order Beginning the Trail of Tears

Cherokees at the Cherokee Indian Reservation in 1936.
Image from the State Archives.

On May 10, 1838, General Winfield Scott issued a proclamation to eastern Cherokees, by order of President Martin Van Buren, to evacuate their ancestral homeland. The subsequent military-enforced migration to what is now Oklahoma became known as the Trail of Tears.

The events leading to the migration were set in motion eight years earlier, in 1830, with the passage of the Indian Removal Act by the U.S. Congress. The act gave the president authority to exchange unsettled land west of the Mississippi River for Indian land in existing states.

An order issued by Scott later in May 1838.
Image from the National Archives.

In 1835, an unauthorized group of Cherokee leaders entered into the Treaty of New Echota in Georgia with the Federal government, giving all Cherokee territory in the South to the Federal government in exchange for land in the west. Chief John Ross, with more than 15,000 Cherokee signatures, petitioned the Senate not to ratify the treaty. The effort was to no avail; the treaty was ratified in 1836.

Two years later, in 1838, with the Cherokee still occupying their lands, General Scott came to issue the ultimatum to evacuate, backed by more than 5,000 troops. His May 10 proclamation read in part:

Cherokees! The President of the United States has sent me, with a powerful army, to cause you, in obedience to the Treaty of 1835, to join that part of your people who are already established in prosperity, on the other side of the Mississippi. . . . The full moon of May is already on the wane, and before another shall have passed away, every Cherokee man, woman and child . . . must be in motion to join their brethren in the far West.

Cherokee people were initially placed in internment camps in western North Carolina where many died prior to the tragic exodus.

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U-Boat Survivors Added to POW Camp Rosters

German prisoners of war.

German prisoners in batches of 1,000 arriving at a prisoners of war cage. the Library of Congress.

On May 9, 1942, the U.S. Coast Guard sank German U-boat 352 off the Outer Banks.

Thirteen German sailors died and 33 were plucked from the water. They were taken to Fort Bragg and confined as prisoners of war. During the course of the war thousands of POWs—mostly Germans and Italians—were captured and sent to camps in North Carolina.

Most POWs were brought to North Carolina from abroad. Fritz Teichmann was a member of the German Luftwaffe (the air corps) and was captured in Sicily in July 1943. He was held as a POW at Camp Butner in Granville County. Giuseppe Pagliarulo, a soldier in Benito Mussolini’s Italian army, was captured in Tunisia in North Africa in May 1943 and held at Camp Sutton in Monroe.

So many POWs were brought to the state that men were sent from larger military bases to smaller branch camps. These smaller camps housed up to 500 men each and were located in 16 communities around the Tar Heel state, including Whiteville, Roanoke Rapids, Williamston and Hendersonville.

From there, they were placed on compulsory work details and sent out to cut pulpwood, dig ditches, wash dishes and pick apples. Their employers—farmers, loggers and restaurant owners—knew of the camps but otherwise their presence was relatively secret.

Visit: The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras interprets the shipwreck history of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Other related resources:

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 Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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