“In the summer of 1877, Mark Twain became fascinated by the case of a real life Flying Dutchman, a Bermuda-based schooner seen drifting helplessly, seaweed-encrusted and sails drooping, in the Gulf Stream waters off Cape Fear, North Carolina. The Jonas Smith had been sold piecemeal for scrap and then taken out to sea one last time by her owner. No one knew what had become of the captain or her 13-man crew, said to be bound for Savannah, Georgia.

“The ship’s star-crossed journey set Twain to thinking about his own life of travel. ‘I have heard of a good many dismal pleasure trips, but this case leads the list,’ he wrote to the editor of the hometown Hartford Courant. ‘And if ever the tired old tramp is found, I should like to be there to see him in his sorrowful  rags & his venerable beard of grass and seaweed, & hear those ancient mariners tell the story of their mysterious wanderings through he solemn solitudes of the ocean….’ ”

-- From “American Vandal: Mark Twain Abroad” by Roy Morris (2015)


Henry Owl photo

Henry Owl

In 1929, Henry Owl, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, became the first American Indian to graduate from the University of North Carolina.

Owl received a master’s degree in history with a thesis called “The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Before and After the Removal.” A year later, officials in Western North Carolina denied voting rights to Cherokees on the supposed basis of illiteracy. Owl pointed to his thesis as evidence to the contrary.

When officials pivoted and barred Cherokees from voting because they were not U.S. citizens, Owl testified before Congress. The federal government passed a law guaranteeing Cherokee suffrage — although Cherokees didn’t vote in North Carolina until after World War II.

Because of his achievements, Henry Owl’s name has been immortalized in the Virtual Museum of UNC History, the Sports Hall of Fame at Lenoir-Rhyne University (his undergraduate institution), and an endowed scholarship for UNC students.

It has not been immortalized in Wikipedia… at least, not yet.

On April 1, we hope to change that.

Wikipedia edit-a-thon

Next week, the North Carolina Collection will host its third Wikipedia edit-a-thon, with the theme American Indians in North Carolina. At the event, participants will create, update, and improve articles about people, places, events, and organizations associated with American Indian history in North Carolina.

Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never edited Wikipedia before. Staff will be on hand to help with Wikipedia edits and find books and articles on topics that interest you. A list of suggested topics, and additional details, can be found on the event meet-up page.

Please bring a laptop if possible.

April 1, 5:00 to 8:45 p.m.
Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in the entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library.

Cookbooks aren’t just for recipes.  You can find all sorts of helpful hints and household tricks but also diagrams and instructions on how to set your table for any affair.

USED 3-26-15 Table setting - Kitchen Kapers

The Correct Table Setting for a Family Dinner from Kitchen kapers.

USED 3-26-15 napkin folding 1 - Columbus County Cookbook II

Napkin Folding from Columbus County cookbook II.

napking folding 2 - Columbus County Cookbook II

Napkin Folding from Columbus County cookbook II.

USED 3-26-15 Dessert Table - The Young Housewife's Counselor and Friend


Dessert for Christmas Dinner from The young housewife’s counsellor and friend : containing directions in every department of housekeeping; including the duties of wife and mother.

USED 3-26-15 quick centerpiece - Columbus County Cookbook II

Quick Centerpiece from Columbus County cookbook II.

USED 3-26-15 Setting the Scene - Rush Hour Superchef!

Setting the Scene from Rush hour superchef! : with step-by-step menus.

“Despite [my] being a professional Jew perpetually in the spotlight, North Carolina and its legions of Christian soldiers have been kind to me and my mishpucha, my extended family. We are, after all, the original chosen people who received the covenant at Sinai, begat the Apostles, and perfected the art of curing pastrami.

“They have made me feel at home…. Carolina is nothing like the treacherous land of exile our Eastern European ancestors endured; Scripture-quoting plumbers are not the sword-wielding Cossacks of yesteryear. But should Jesus ever return, I fear that all bets are off.”

– From “I Survived Teaching Jewish Studies in North Carolina” by Jarrod Tanny in the Jewish Daily Forward (March 27)

Tanny is associate professor of history at UNC Wilmington.


Even relative newcomers to UNC remark about the seemingly endless construction on campus. The orientation of the University seems forever attuned to building and changing, moving toward the future.

Fortunately, there are people on campus paying careful attention to UNC’s past — foremost among them the Research Laboratories of Archaeology. The RLA is responsible for our March artifact of the month, a fragment of a red clay tobacco pipe associated with the presidential campaign of Millard Fillmore.

millard fillmore pipe

The pipe was excavated in the 1990s at the site of the Eagle Hotel, where Graham Memorial Hall now stands. The Eagle Hotel, built about 1796, was first a tavern house and later a hotel and boarding house. It was also one of the first commercial structures in Chapel Hill.

In the decades leading up to the Civil War, the Eagle Hotel served as a center of social life at the university. The University reacquired the property in 1907 and turned it into a dormitory, which was used until its destruction in a 1921 fire.

Glimpses of the 19th-century campus on display

The Millard Fillmore pipe, along with many other fascinating artifacts on loan from the Research Laboratories of Archaeology, can be seen in the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s exhibition The Hidden Campus: Archaeological Glimpses of UNC in the Nineteenth Century.

Steve Davis, Associate Director of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology, will deliver a lecture associated with the exhibition on April 14. More details about the exhibition and the lecture can be seen on the Gallery’s current exhibition page.

“The house faced Bald Mountain, 4000 feet high, a hill that had a very bad reputation some years ago [1874], and was visited by newspaper reporters. This is, in fact, the famous Shaking Mountain. For a long time it had a habit of trembling, as if in an earthquake spasm, but with a shivering motion very different from that produced by an earthquake.

“The only good that came of it was that it frightened all the ‘moonshiners,’ and caused them to join the church. It is not reported what became of the church afterwards.”

– From “On Horseback”  by Charles Dudley Warner (1885)

Warner’s droll observation considerably understates the religious response to Rumbling Bald — John Blythe provides the extraordinary details.


From the Hickory Democrat, March 18, 1915.

From the Hickory Democrat, March 18, 1915.

On a Saturday night in Hickory, one hundred years ago this week, Pink Goodson, a 56-year-old African American man, was murdered in his home. Around one o’clock in the morning, shots from multiple guns were fired from outside of the house into the bedroom where Goodson and his wife were sleeping. Goodson got up and was in the process of trying to escape into the interior of the house when a bullet struck him in the head, killing him instantly. His terrified wife crouched by the dead body until morning, afraid to leave the house until she was certain that the killers had gone.

The Hickory Democrat reported that the home of another African American man in the neighborhood had been “shot up in much the same manner some time ago.” The Democrat said that the motive for the killing was not known, unless it was “to frighten the negroes into leaving that section.” The Charlotte Observer also suggested that “the crowd had no intention of killing anybody, but were again expressing their dislike of the negro’s residence there.”

Ten young white boys were quickly arrested for the crime and held without bond in the town jail. The Charlotte Observer reported that “the young men are all sons of good families and there is surprise over the charge lodged against them.”

The killing received attention in newspapers statewide and at least one mention in the national press. In May 1915, the case was listed in the crime section of The Crisis, the publication of the national NAACP. The Crisis reported regularly on lynchings, listing their victims and causes. Their summary of the case was simple, “Pink Goodson, Hickory, N. C., — living in a white neighborhood.”

A few days after the murder, the Charlotte Observer ran a letter from G. M. Garren in Raleigh, who attributed the crime to “the agitation now going on in the State against the privilege that the negro has of purchasing a home and owning land.” Garren goes on to place the blame for the unrest on leaders of the Farmers Union and politicians, arguing that “the laziest way of reaching an office in the South is an agitation of some phase of the race question.” He then predicts that “the perpetrators of this crime will never be punished. The trial will be a farce. No jury can be found who will convict. If the guilty ones are ever brought to trial, they will be turned loose, the heroes of their respective communities.”

On March 20, the same day that Garren’s letter was published and just a week after the murder, the ten young men arrested for the crime were brought to trial. According to the newspaper report, “Before all the witnesses had been examined, Judge Councill arose and asked the court to discharge the boys.” The judge cited insufficient evidence as the explanation for the quick release.

The Hickory Democrat published an editorial on March 25, justifying the handling of the case by local police and courts. Despite reporting in a previous issue that the home of another African American family had been “shot up,” the Democrat insisted that “No evidence has been shown to prove that there was a spirit of ill feeling between the whites and blacks in that neighborhood.” The paper assured its readers that “had the situation been reversed and a white man killed, under the same identical circumstances, we conscientiously believe the progress of justice would have been identical.”

A few weeks after the trial, the Catawba County Commissioners met and agreed to offer a $100 reward for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the “parties connected with the murder of Pink Goodson.” Goodson was mentioned only once more in local newspapers, when another home was shot into a few months later. No further progress in the case was reported.

On this day in 1793: Samuel Spencer, justice of the state supreme court, dies as a result of wounds inflicted by a turkey gobbler.

Spencer was sitting on the porch of his home near Wadesboro when he became sleepy and began to nod; his bobbing red cap apparently provoked the turkey to attack. The 59-year-old judge was thrown from his chair and suffered numerous scratches, which became fatally infected.


Sunday, March 12, dawned blustery. McLendon had scheduled the game when most of Durham, including its police force, would be in church. He hadn’t told the school administration about the game; when a reporter for The Carolina Times, Durham’s black weekly, found out, he agreed not to write anything. No spectators would be allowed.

Just before 11 A.M., the Duke team piled into a couple of borrowed cars. ‘To keep from being followed, we took this winding route through town,’ Hubbell recalls. They pulled their jackets over their heads as they walked into the small brick gym.

Inside, stomachs had been churning all morning. ‘I had never played basketball against a white person before and I was a little shaky,’ Stanley says. ‘You did not know what might happen if there was a hard foul, or if a fight broke out. I kept looking over at Big Dog and Boogie to see what to do. They were both from up North.’

The game began with a sputter. Both teams botched routine plays, and shots caromed off the rims. One of the Duke players made a gorgeous pass—right into the hands of a North Carolina College player. ‘On that particular morning, you didn’t exactly need to play skins and shirts,’ Hubbell says with a laugh….

The Duke players had never seen anything like it. By the end of the game, the scoreboard told the story: Eagles 88, Visitors 44.

Then came the day’s second unlikely event. After a short break, the two teams mixed their squads and played another game, an even more egregious violation of Jim Crow. This time it was skins and shirts. ‘Just God’s children, horsing around with a basketball,’ says George Parks….

The Durham police never found out what happened. Nor did the city’s two daily newspapers, and the black reporter kept his word. No scorecard exists, and as far as official basketball recordkeeping is concerned, the game never took place.

From “The Secret Game” by Scott Ellsworth. The article appeared in the New York Times Magazine on March 31, 1996. A fuller account of the March 12, 1944 basketball game between students from North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University) and medical students from Duke University—an illegal game in the Jim Crow South—is now available as The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph.

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