The bustling mill town just west of Chapel Hill went through a relative flurry of renaming in the early 20th century. The unincorporated area was known locally as West End, a mundane name reflecting its location relative to Chapel Hill. With the establishment of a textile mill there in 1898, the area began to grow and develop an identity of its own separate from Chapel Hill. It was known briefly (and informally) as Lloydsville, after Thomas Lloyd, original owner of the first mill. In 1911, the town was incorporated under the name of Venable, after Francis P. Venable, President of the University of North Carolina.

Detail of a map showing the town of Venable.  From a 1913 map of North and South Carolina, NCC.

Detail of a map showing the town of Venable. From a 1913 map of North and South Carolina, NCC.

I have not been able to find any record of why the town leaders chose to honor President Venable. Perhaps, while they were setting up a separate community, they wanted to commemorate their close ties to the University. The only railroad stop in the immediate area was the depot near the mill, meaning that every student and faculty member traveling by train would make their way to Venable. All I have been able to track down so far is what Venable himself thought having the neighboring town named after him: he didn’t like it.

Evidence of Venable’s displeasure is in a very interesting letter we just came across in the University Archives. The letter is from Julian S. Carr, prominent alumnus, and the owner, since 1909, of the West End/Venable mill and neighboring buildings. Given his investment in the business community, Carr would have been a much more likely person to honor with the name of the town. Nobody thought so more than Carr himself.

In a letter dated 20 January 1913, Carr wrote to President Venable:

My Dear Dr. Venable:-

Letter from Julian S. Carr to Francis P. Venable, 20 January 1913. University Papers (collection 40005), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Letter from Julian S. Carr to Francis P. Venable, 20 January 1913. University Papers (collection 40005), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I recall a conversation I had with you some time ago with reference to the naming of Venable, the factory town West of Chapel Hill. If I remember correctly, you were not especially pleased that the town had been named as a compliment to you. Since then my boys and I have purchased the other Tom Lloyd mill, and we now own about all of Westend, otherwise styled Venable, and I am thinking that if I had your consent, I would have the name changed from Venable to Carrsboro. However, I will take no action in this matter until I hear from you. Of course you understand I want your full consent and assent to this proposition, and I will do nothing without it.

Bespeaking your prompt response, I beg to remain,

Yours very truly,

Julian S. Carr

Venable did not mind at all. The following day, Venable’s secretary sent a response: “Dr. Venable directs me to write to you that he is entirely willing to have the name changed and thinks the name suggested by you an excellent one.”

Local histories usually say that the name was changed to honor Carr after he agreed to pay for electricity for the town. While this is true, the majority of the residents of the town at the time were likely Carr’s employees, so his was not a purely philanthropic gesture. Carr was clearly interested in having his family name memorialized on the North Carolina map. He got his wish. Later in 1913, the town name was formally changed and remains Carrboro today.

“About the time we crossed the white chalk line which divides Virginia from North Carolina, we became aware that some sort of dispute was taking place in the interior of the car….When we reached a town of some size we sought out the largest garage and demanded an inspection….

“[The mechanic] glanced in at the knickerbocker-clad Zelda, seated in nonchalant gravity in the front seat….

” ‘It’s a pity that a nice girl like you should be let to wear those clothes.’

“It was fifty years of provincialism speaking; it was the negative morality of the poor white — and yet it filled me with helpless and inarticulate rage…..

“We got ourselves eventually from the garage…but we could not erase it from our minds that, so long as Zelda wore her white knickerbockers, the surrounding yokelry regarded us with cold, priggish superiority, as ‘sports.’ We were in Carolina, and we had not conducted ourselves sartorially as the Carolinians….

“At twilight we came into Greensboro, which offered the O. Henry Hotel, an elaborate hostelry, at sight of which Zelda decided to slip on a skirt over her knickerbockers….”

— From “The Cruise of the Rolling Junk” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a somewhat fictionalized account of a trip the Fitzgeralds took from Westport, Conn., to Montgomery, Ala., in 1920.  Serialized in Motor magazine (March-May 1924)


On this day in 1787: Andrew Jackson, age 20, is admitted to the Rowan County bar.

An acquaintance of Jackson during the several years before he moved to Tennessee will recall him as “the most roaring, rollicking, game cocking, cardplaying, mischievous fellow that ever lived in Salisbury.” (Well over two centuries later, a gamecock that continues to attack after losing an eye is still known as a “Jackson.”)


Appetizers - Bone Appetit

Image from A book of favorite recipes.

Nut Tid-Bits - Gourmet...Eating

Nut Tid-Bits from Recipes for gourmet eating : a compilation of favorite tested recipes of housewives of Greenville and out of town friends.

Mushroom Pinwheels - Company's Coming

Mushroom Pinwheels from Company’s coming : a recipe collection from North Carolinians who enjoy company coming.

Salmon Ball - Heavenly Delights

Salmon Ball from Heavenly delights.

BLT Dip - Count Our Blessings

BLT Dip from Count our blessings : 75 years of recipes and memories / Myers Park Presbyterian Church.

Cocktail Tomatoes - Bone Appetit

Cocktail Tomatoes from A book of favorite recipes.

Meat Balls Extraordinaire - Peace Cookbook

Meat Balls Extraordinaire from Peace cookbook.

“Two aspects of life in Charlotte intrigued [Harry] Golden from the minute he arrived in the early 1940s: hookers and segregation.

” ‘All the whores frequented the post office,’ he wrote. ‘On a weekday evening, dozens of salesmen repaired to the Charlotte post office to send in their reports to home offices in Cincinnati or New York or Chicago. The minute a man dropped that brown envelope in the brass out-of-town slot, the women watching knew he wasn’t a cop and he was probably lonely.’

“He added, ‘The cheap night rates for [telephone] long distance did more to subdue prostitution that all the vice crusades ever mounted.’ “

— From “Carolina Israelite: How Harry Golden Made Us Care about Jews, the South, and Civil Rights” by Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett (2015)


“John, in 1977, out of sheer boredom, had taken to watching preachers on TV. It was something else to do besides sleep and program dreams…. He somehow became a big fan of the Reverend Billy Graham. At first he watched only for entertainment. Then, one day, he had an epiphany — he allowed himself to be touched by the love of Jesus Christ, and it drove him to tears of joy and ecstasy. He drew a picture of a crucifix; he was born again, and the experience was such a kick he had to share it with Yoko.

John and Yoko sat in front of the TV watching Billy Graham sermons. Every other sentence out of John’s mouth was Thank you, Jesus or Thank you, Lord.  Then, as quickly as Jesus came, Jesus went, and John apologized to Yoko for subjecting her to Billy Graham.”

— From “Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon” by Robert Rosen (2002)

Bob Dylan’s appreciation of Graham was considerably more thoughtful, not to mention longer lasting. 


On this last day of our ghostly journey, we head to the Outer Banks of North Carolina where tales of pirates and mysterious shipwrecks abound.

Blackbeard - Outer_Banks_NC

Ocracoke Island is home to the final resting place of the notorious pirate Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. It was here, at Teach’s Hole, in 1718, that Blackbeard’s career of plundering was brought to a dramatic and violent end. Lt. Robert Maynard of the British Royal Navy, on orders of Virginia governor Alexander Spotswood, attacked Blackbeard’s ship The Adventure. A bloody battle ensued, ending with the famed pirate’s death. The story goes that Lt. Maynard threw Blackbeard’s headless body into the waters of Ocracoke Inlet. The pirate’s captured crew looked on as his body swam three laps around the ship before sinking to the watery depths below. Maynard affixed Blackbeard’s head to the bowsprit of his ship as proof of the pirate’s death. Apparently, Blackbeard‘s ghost still haunts Teach’s Hole, crying out and searching for its head.

Carroll A Deering - Wreck_of_the

Shipwreck stories from North Carolina’s Outer Banks are common enough; but, the story of the wreck of the Carroll A. Deering remains one of the most mysterious. The Carroll A. Deering was a massive, five-masted commercial schooner. On her return voyage from Brazil to Virginia, the Carroll A. Deering met her fate off Cape Hatteras in January, 1921. A keeper at the Cape Lookout Lighthouse reported seeing the ship on January 19th. Two days later, the Coast Guard discovered the ship run aground at Diamond Shoals, an infamous area for shipwrecks. Due to storms off the coast, it was another four days before the waters were calm enough for the Coast guard to approach the ship. February 4th, 1921, the Coast Guard boarded the Carroll A. Deering only to find it abandoned. But, more than just the crewmembers were unaccounted for; all personal effects, lifeboats, navigational equipment, and ship documentation were missing. What they did find was evidence suggesting a hasty departure. Despite an extensive investigation by the US government, no one knows what happened to the crew of the Carroll A. Deering. Many theories have surfaced including piracy, hurricanes, and mutiny. Some even blame paranormal activity, citing the Bermuda Triangle as the culprit to the disappearance of the ship’s crew.

Today we travel to battlefields and cemeteries of Eastern NC for our daily dose of paranormal activity.

Bentonville - Union_Army_Trenches_Built_in_1865


Four Oaks, NC, was home to the last major Confederate offensive against General Sherman’s Union army. The Battle of Bentonville, which lasted three days, is the largest battle in North Carolina history and some say remnants of the fight linger. Visitors to the Bentonville Battleground State Historic Site recount experiencing the sounds and smells of battle: shouts, rifle shots, cannon fire, gun smoke, and even burning flesh. Harper House, which stands on the battlefield, is also rumored to be haunted. The house served as a hospital for both the Union and Confederate armies. The structure is now a museum. Staff, civil war re-enactors, and visitors describe seeing ghosts in the home’s windows and walking the surrounding grounds. Soldiers from both sides and John Harper, the owner of the house, are among the haunts reported.


Message on front of card: “Here, the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.”

Cedar Grove Cemetery was established in 1800 to serve as the resting place for victims of yellow fever in New Bern, NC. In 1854, workers built a wall, including an elaborate entryway known as the Weeping Arch, around the graveyard. The arch is said to have a chilling ability to predict the future. According to legend, the arch weeps for all the dead who pass underneath. Occasionally it sheds a tear for the living, too. And, if it does, that person will soon die. What’s more, the arch’s tears are not ordinary ones. Instead, they’re tears of blood.

Today’s spectral travels take us to the Triangle area where some residents never want to leave.


The Carolina Inn on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus was built by alumnus John Sprunt Hill. This historic inn has served Chapel Hill guests since 1924, including some guests who supposedly never checked out. Among the inn’s most popular ghosts is Dr. William Jacocks, previously a physician with the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation. Dr. Jacocks lived in room 256 (room 252 in his time) from 1948 until his death in 1965. But, visitors staying in the doctor’s old room believe that his spirit lingers. Known as a gentle joker in life, Dr. Jacocks seems to have carried his love of pranks into the afterlife. The doctor’s ghost sometimes locks guests from room 256 or moves furniture and personal belongings. People say they have seen him in the hallway trying each of the doors as he moves down the corridor. When visitors speak with him, he vanishes. Dr. Jacock’s is just one of many spirits reportedly haunting the Carolina Inn. Like the doctor, most of them are said to be friendly.

Mordecai House

The Mordecai House of Raleigh, NC, was originally built by Joel Lane for his son Henry in 1785. The house is named for Moses Mordecai, who married Joel Lane’s granddaughter, Margaret, in 1817. The home was once the hub of the largest plantation in Wake County. Today, the house is renovated as a museum in Mordecai Historic Park and is open to the public for tours. Tour guides and guests say that family photos fly from the walls when the Mordecai’s name is mentioned. They also report encounters with the ghost of Mary Willis Mordecai Turk, a descendant of Moses Mordecai, who is sometimes seen playing the piano in the drawing room.


North Carolina’s State Capitol Building in Raleigh was built in 1840 and is one of the best preserved capitol buildings in the country. It served as the base for all of North Carolina’s state government until 1888. Today the Capitol houses the offices of the governor and the lieutenant governor. Building employees have reported hearing unexplained footsteps, sounds of locked doors slamming, and books falling to the ground. Some people claim to have actually seen ghostly figures. More than one person heard a piercing scream with no explanation, and several people felt a presence when they were alone in the building. The building is open for tours and other events, so visit and see for yourself if there are any paranormal happenings.


“For some years, I’m now prepared to admit, I somehow labored under the impression that Rocky Mount is the line of demarcation that separates the two principal schools of North Carolina barbecue. Wrong. The line of demarcation is….”

— From “In Defense of the True ’Cue: Keeping pork pure in North Carolina” by Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker (Nov. 2)

Who but the peripatetic Trillin could quote in a single (if lengthy) article not only such regional stalwarts as John Shelton Reed, Doug Marlette,  Dennis Rogers and Jerry Bledsoe, but also Ada Louise Huxtable?

Kim Severson, Atlanta-based food reporter for the New York Times, calls it “a deceptively simple story about heat and meat…. I defy anyone but the staunchest vegetarians and kosher keepers to not want a pork sandwich after they read it.”


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