In the May 31, 1893 issue of the Asheville Daily Citizen, Rowland Howard describes his ride along the Nantahala River on horseback: “Riding along the rushing river with high mountain walls one either side, one realizes the grandeur of the scenery ten fold more than one could on the railroad train.”

Nantahala, meaning “land of the noon day sun,” was so named by the Cherokee Indians for its dense, lush vegetation in which sunshine only reaches the forest floor at high noon.

Visitors today create an $85 million impact on the local economy as they raft down the river with the Nantahala Outdoor Center or another of the area’s numerous rafting outfitters, ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad alongside it, and frequent the area’s other attractions, restaurants and lodging establishments.

Read more about the economic impact of rafting in the area and the role of Duke Energy’s Nantahala Hydroelectric Project in its success, here.



“Mickey Rooney has made a TV spot urging support of the Bakkers, the former PTL evangelists and proprietors of the collapsing Heritage USA….

” ‘Won’t you call Jim and Tammy now?’ Rooney says. ‘They need your friendship’….

“What you get for the price of your long-distance call is a two-minute recorded message from the Bakkers talking about their hopes and dreams — and troubles.

” ‘Do you really want PTL back?’ asks Tammy…. ‘I really don’t want to go back,’ he replies. ‘The Charlotte Observer has attacked us for 15 years straight. To go back there is going to be hell. We know that.’ ”

– From the Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1987

The entreaties by Rooney and the Bakkers would prove futile.  Less than a month earlier, a federal grand jury had convened in Charlotte to begin considering a wide range of fraud charges against Jim Bakker that would send him to prison for four years.

Rooney, Ava Gardner’s last surviving ex-husband, died Sunday at age 93.


On this day in 1947: Before 1,500 fans at Charlotte’s Griffith Park, Buck Leonard has three hits to lead the Homestead Grays to a 17-0 exhibition victory over the hometown Charlotte Black Hornets.

First baseman Leonard began his career in 1925 with his hometown Rocky Mount Black Swans. He becomes best known for his 17 seasons with the Homestead (Pa.) Grays. The Grays are the New York Yankees of the Negro National League, and Leonard and teammate Josh Gibson are the league’s Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

In 1972, Leonard, despite having being barred from the major leagues by segregation, will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.


“Hoping to cash in on the famine [in countries such as Ethiopia and Bangladesh was] Malcolm McLean, a North Carolina native who’d made a fortune from his trucking business. In 1974 McLean shelled out $60 million for 375,000 acres in eastern North Carolina where he planned to grow corn and feed a million hogs a year. ‘It’s a question of supply and demand,’ explained one of McLean’s employees. ‘People are starving. It’s just like the energy crisis except that people are going to find it difficult to wait in line for food.’

“McLean’s First Colony Farm (named for its proximity to the settlement established by Sir Walter Raleigh) bore ‘the same relation to a farm that a computer does to an abacus,’ observed a newspaper reporter….

“Environmentalists pounced, and rightly so. First Colony occupied a large chunk of the Dismal Swamp, an environmentally complex area between the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. But no one in state government was inclined to stop the project, because, explained an official with the state’s Department of Natural and Economic Resources, ‘The food crisis is up and coming, and I guess the feeling is that it’s just not good to stop and do an environmental study when it will take so long and cost so much.’ ”

– From “In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America” by Maureen Ogle (2013)


According to this map tallying Facebook likes — hat tip, Business Insider –  North Carolina’s major-league baseball loyalties are closely divided between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees.

Why would the Yankees engender such fan interest east of I-95? Could it be residual reverence for Catfish Hunter? Or a previously underestimated  in-migration of  New Yorkers?

Neither, apparently. As Business Insider observes, “The Yankees are the default team in areas without a team close-by: Louisiana, southern Virginia, New Mexico, Utah, etc.”


“Baseball history was made at Oates Park in Asheville, North Carolina, on August 30, 1916, but nobody noticed. In fact, nobody noticed until some 50 years later –  and even then the discovery was accidental and did not receive the lasting attention it deserved. On that day, two baseball teams in the Class D North Carolina State League played a nine-inning game in only 31 minutes….

“Only some 200 fans witnessed this historic event — perhaps because it ended before it was scheduled to start.”

– From “Quicker Than Quick: A 31-Minute Professional Game” by Wynn Montgomery in Baseball Research Journal (Fall 2011).”


“The Augusta National golf course’s most distinctive feature is the bright white sand in its bunkers.

“However, contrary to Augusta lore, that sand is not ‘feldspar sand,’ according to Drew Coleman, professor of geological sciences at UNC Chapel Hill.

“Feldspar is ‘dirty quartz,’ that is, quartz that contains other elements like aluminum and potassium. If you went to a beach in North Carolina, you’d find about 88 percent of the sand is quartz, while 10 percent is feldspar.

“The Spruce Pine Mining District in North Carolina is famous for its feldspar and quartz, and since the 1700s feldspar has been mined there. When they mine the feldspar for aluminum, they just discard the quartz. What we call ‘feldspar sand’ is a waste byproduct, Coleman said, and there’s likely not any feldspar in it.”

” ‘That’s why the bunkers are so white,’ Coleman said. ‘Spruce Pine quartz is the best in the world, and the quartz created from the feldspar mining process is so white and so pure.’

“More recently, the quartz has become more valuable than the feldspar, according to Coleman. The same stuff in those Augusta National bunkers is now used for silicon chips.”

– From “The bunkers at Augusta National are spectacular, but they are not ‘feldspar’ sand” by Mike Walker at golf.com (April 8, 2011)


Cookies poem - Favorite Recipes of Women's Fellowship of the United Church

From Favorite recipes.

USE Cuckoo Cookies - Mountain Elegance

Cuckoo Cookies from Mountain elegance : a collection of favorite recipes.

USE Skillet Cookies - Nightingales in the Kitchen

Skillet Cookies from Nightingales in the kitchen.

USE gumdrop cookies - Dixie Dishes

Gumdrop Cookies from Dixie dishes.

USE Pie Crust Cookies - Pass the Plate

Pie Crust Cookies from Pass the plate : the collection from Christ Church.

USE Frozen Orange Juice Cookies - Carolina Cuisine

Frozen Orange Juice Cookies from Carolina cuisine : a collections of recipes.

USE Mrs.Allen's Ginger Puffs-Our Own Kitchen Survival Kit

Mrs. Allen’s Ginger Puffs from Our own kitchen survival kit.

USE Butterscotch oatmeal crispies - Favorite Recipes of Women's Fellowship of the United Church

Butterscotch Oatmeal Crispies from Favorite recipes.

” ‘The army burned everything it came near in the State of South Carolina,’ Major [James] Connolly concurred, ‘not under orders, but in spite of orders…. Our track through the State is a desert waste.’

“But, Connolly added, ‘Since entering North Carolina the wanton destruction has stopped.’ It was true…. North Carolina was not a part of the Deep South, was known to harbor significant Unionist sentiment, and had been one of the last states to secede [the last, in fact]….

“The abrupt cessation of the maelstrom that engulfed South Carolina formed one of the strongest proofs of the sense of discriminating righteousness that animated the Federal rank and file. For some it had an Old Testament flavor to it….”

– From “The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865″ by Mark Grimsley (1997)


Postcard of Aunt Betsy, Uncle Bill and Joe the Bull

We pride ourselves on quick responses in the North Carolina Collection. But in one instance (and I’d like to believe it’s just one), we failed.

In April 2010, we featured this postcard of Aunt Betsy Holmes, Uncle Bill and Joe the Ox on North Carolina Miscellany. We have several different postcards of Aunt Betsy, her bull and the carriage. And four years ago, my colleague Bridget Madden asked if anyone could supply more information about Aunt Betsy (sometimes spelled Betsey). Three months later Pearl Bell Follett suggested that we check the papers of Alfred Mordecai in the Southern Historical Collection here at Wilson Library. Follett said that we could find mention of Aunt Betsy in a paper on medicinal plants written by Mordecai.

We failed to follow up on Follett’s lead. And we may have never done so if we hadn’t gotten a gentle nudge from Adrienne Berney, a colleague in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. She posted a comment on the original blog post asking,”Has anyone in the library followed up with Ms. Follett’s reference to learn more about Aunt Betsy?” Then she added, “If so, please continue blogging on the topic! We need local color (and memories of it) in Raleigh.”


Mordecai was a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and based at Fort Benning, Ga., when he wrote “Common Plants of Medicinal Interest, Fort Benning Reservation” in 1934. The paper was prepared for the garden section of a women’s club at Fort Benning. And Mordecai, a Raleigh native and a descendant of Moses Mordecai, dedicated his work to Aunt Betsy and Uncle Billy Holmes. He describes them as “a gentle and lovable old couple of the colored-race; ex-slaves and relics of plantation life before the days of 1865.”

Aunt Betsy, according to Mordecai, was a familiar site at the Raleigh city market, where she ran a small stand selling garden herbs and medicinal plants. Market goers might find such items as thyme, sage, hoar-hound, rosemary, lavender leaves, red peppers, sassafras roots and hearth brooms made of field straw or sedge.

In winter she had holly with pretty red berries; sometimes mistletoe and teaberries. In the spring there were little posies of trailing arbutus. In the summer big bunches of daisies; and, in autumn, goldenrod and bunches of brightly colored autumn leaves along with a few pumpkins.

Mordecai adds that Aunt Betsy kept her carriage, with Joe the ox still attached, nearby. And from there, he writes, “she ran the more serious business of crude drugs, such as Snake-root, Pink-root, Lions-tongue, Indian-physic, Cramp-bark, Cat-nip, Golden-seal and the like.” Aunt Betsy’s customers for these items were mostly African-Americans. “But curiosity led the whites there, too,” according to Mordecai. “And no doubt many an intelligent citizen laughed in ignorance at the funny assortment which they regarded as so much conjure.”

Aunt Betsy and Uncle Billy lived near Marsh Creek about three miles north of Raleigh. The rafters of their house contained bunches of drying herbs and gourds “filled with interesting things belonging to her trade.”

As a boy, Mordecai recalls, he visited Aunt Betsy and Uncle Billy. “What are those funny roots, Aunt Betsy,” he asked. “They smell sort of sweet, but aren’t they dried up and ruined?”

Excerpt from Alfred Mordecai paper

Mordecai, who later served as health officer in Davie, Yadkin and Stokes counties, writes that on his visits to the couple’s house, he often found Uncle Billy sunning by the back door.

Uncle Billy Holmes

Mordecai recalls that Uncle Billy, who had served as carriage driver for Henry Mordecai during the ante- and post-bellum periods, was “well in his nineties” when he visited. But the old man still would led the young boy on hunts for rabbit.

Excerpt from Alfred Mordecai paper

Mordecai provides no other details about the couple. But he credits them with inspiring his interest in “crude drugs” and botany.

Perhaps there are other stories about Aunt Betsy and Uncle Billy. Please let us know if you come across them.

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