“Brenau [University] President Ed Schrader… has begun to assemble a team of experts in various disciplines—archaeology, geology, history and the study of Elizabethan writing—to re-examine the quartz stone. Sometime in this year or next, he wants to launch an expedition to the Chowan River near Edenton, N.C., where the first [Dare Stone] is believed to have been found, to search for more evidence.

“ ‘If it is real, it is the most important pre-colonial artifact by Europeans in the Americas,’ the 64-year-old says, softly placing is fingers on the stone. ‘The speculation’s gone on long enough.’ ”

— From “Is This Stone Linked to the Lost Colony of Roanoke?” by Cameron McWhirter in the Wall Street Journal (Jan. 21)


A recent addition to the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s numismatic collection tells a lesser-known story related to American independence. That $7.50 note is our January Artifact of the Month.


North Carolinians asserted their independence from British rule at the Fourth Provincial Congress in a session convened at Halifax starting April 4, 1776. The first North Carolina battle of the war had occurred that February at Moore’s Creek Bridge, where North Carolina troops led by Richard Caswell defeated a Loyalist force.

Independence was on the minds of the legislators, who called for a declaration of independence and the right to create a constitution. The Halifax Resolves passed unanimously on April 12. This action influenced other colonies to adopt similar resolutions, and together these actions led to the Declaration of Independence. (If the April 12 date is ringing distant bells, it’s because you’ve seen it on the current North Carolina state flag.)

That same session of the Provincial Congress led to a lesser-known assertion of independence. North Carolina, along with the other colonies, had long issued paper money. Massachusetts was the first colony to do so in 1690. North Carolina followed in 1712, the first of twenty-five 18th-century issues, the last in 1785. The 1776 session of the Provincial Congress authorized perhaps the most interesting of all the issues.

That issue is significant for several reasons. A total of seventeen different denominations were authorized, from 1/16 dollar through twenty dollars. (Aside: Bonus points to any Miscellany reader who can tell us in the comments why 1/16 of a dollar was used as a denomination.)

The denominations were issued in 56 different varieties with some denominations having as many as eight designs. The legislation specified neither the number of varieties nor the designs themselves, and it is unknown how these decisions were made.

Each note design displays a vignette, or illustration, usually of an animal, sometimes a plant. One even shows a cupid. But one design, the sole example of the 7 ½ dollar denomination, displays an unfurled flag.

Close-up of the flag vignette on the note.

Close-up of the flag vignette on the note.

Adopted by the Continental Congress in 1775, the Grand Union flag is usually considered the first American flag. It is also known as the Continental Colours, the Congress Flag, the Cambridge Flag, and the First Navy Ensign. The flag displays the familiar thirteen stripes but the canton features the British Union Jack flag. In 1777, thirteen stars replaced the Union Jack, and the Grand Union became our historic first flag.

The Grand Union flag.

The Grand Union flag.

First Lieutenant John Paul Jones hoisted the Grand Union flag over the USS Alfred in February 1776. This was the first appearance of an American flag on a naval ship. It is believed that the same flag was raised by George Washington on New Year’s Day, 1776, at Prospect Hill, now part of Somerville, Massachusetts. Today, you might see the Grand Union flying over the Capitol in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

Oil painting by W. Nowland Van Powell, depicting  the Grand Union flag flying on the USS Alfred.  Original in the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.  U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NH_85212-KN.jpg

Oil painting by W. Nowland Van Powell, depicting the Grand Union flag flying on the USS Alfred. Original in the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NH_85212-KN.jpg

“The Story of the American Flag” in the October 1917 issue of National Geographic claims that the image on the North Carolina note is the “earliest perfect representation of the Grand Union ensign.”

Many examples of the note have survived, probably because of its odd denomination and the flag illustration. We were excited to add one of these proud patriotic notes to our numismatic collection. For North Carolina collectors, the vignette of the flag gives it special historical meaning and a bold statement of early patriotism.

“…In North Carolina the legal status of slave unions was among the first issues on the agenda of the 1865 constitutional convention. The final act declared all unions of ex-slaves who ‘now cohabit together in relation of husband and wife’ to be lawful marriages from ‘the time of commencement of such cohabitation.’

“As [Duke] historian Laura Edwards argues, the date of commencement was important: ‘If the date had been set at either emancipation or the ratification of the act, then all children born in slavery would have been illegitimate and their maintenance could have fallen to the state.’ ”

— From American Marriage: A Political Institution” by Priscilla Yamin (2012)



In 1912, the Asheville Gazette-News reprinted a letter (A portion of which is above. Click on the image to sell the full letter), originally from 1858, from Bedent Baird of Watauga County to Zebulon Baird Vance, who at the time was a very young Congressman. Bedent Baird describes what he knows about his family lineage and wonders if his Watauga County Baird clan was in any way related to the Buncombe County one represented by Vance. The paper itself adds a little bit about the family’s history for context. Unfortunately, the matter could not have been settled with this information, because the family tree described in the article is wrong.

To make a somewhat complicated story (filled with many Zebulons and Bedents) short: the two Baird clans in Western North Carolina are indeed related. Their common ancestor was John Baird, born in 1665 in Scotland. He came over in 1683 and settled in New Jersey. He and his wife, Mary Bedent, had five sons: Andrew, John Jr., David, William, and Zebulon.

The Watauga County Bairds are descended from Andrew. Andrew’s son Ezekiel was the first of that line to end up in North Carolina. They have been quite prominent in the community, particularly for being some of the earliest settlers in Valle Crucis. Bedent Baird, author of the 1858 letter, was also a magistrate and politician, representing the part of Watauga that used to be Ashe County.

The Buncombe County Bairds are descended from William. William’s sons Bedent and Zebulon were some of the earliest settlers in Buncombe County. The brothers had the first grist mill in the county and they played significant roles in the early days of what is now the City of Asheville. They bought a large amount of land, with Bedent settling on Beaver Dam and Zebulon near the French Broad. Zeb rose to some political prominence, serving as Senator for multiple terms. They also forged a friendship with David Lowry Swain, who helped manage Zeb’s affairs after he died in 1824. Swain also helped his deceased friend Zebulon’s grandson, Zebulon Baird Vance, attend UNC Chapel Hill.

There are couple things that the article and letter in the Asheville Gazette-News get wrong, therefore muddying the process of answering the question about a common ancestor. The most confusing is in the listing of John Baird’s children. In doing so, they completely skip a generation. Bedent, Samuel, Adabiah (also spelled Obediah), Borzilla, Jonathan, Ezekial/Ekeziel, etc. were the children of John Baird’s son Andrew, and therefore grandchildren of the patriarch. Bedent himself completely forgets to mention his own grandfather, Andrew, the actual son of John and Mary Baird, which is a bit of a glaring omission. The letter also claims that his uncle was the “first Bedent.” As is probably clear, the two Baird families in North Carolina did not seem to know much about each other, and therefore Bedent Baird didn’t know about his own cousin Bedent, son of William, over Asheville-way.

It is unclear if this relationship between the clans was resolved, at least not in the public’s imagination. The article is certainly curious for how much it got wrong. And for featuring a letter over 50 years old that quite possibly never made it into the hands of Zeb Vance. Most importantly, though, it shows the affection and curiosity the readership and citizens had for Vance and for the Bairds. Indeed, the significant roles that both families played in the history of Western North Carolina make them a fascinating study, and not just due to the predilection for naming children Bedent and Zebulon.

For further reading:

Arthur, J. P. (2002). A history of Watauga County, North Carolina : with sketches of prominent families. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co.

Arthur, J. P. (1973). Western North Carolina; a history, 1730-1913. Reprint Co.

Biddix, C. D. (1981). The Heritage of old Buncombe County. Asheville, N.C.: Hunter Pub. Co.

Blackmun, O. (1977). Western North Carolina, its mountains and its people to 1880. Boone, N.C.: Appalachian Consortium Press.

Dowd, C. (1897). Life of Zebulon B. Vance. Charlotte, N.C.: Observer Print. and Pub. House.

Edwards and Broughton Company (Raleigh, N.C.). (1890). Western North Carolina : historical and biographical. Charlotte, N.C.: A.D. Smith & Co.

Gaffney, S. R. (1984). The heritage of Watauga County, North Carolina. Winston-Salem, N.C.: Heritage of Watauga County Book Committee in cooperation with the History Division of Hunter Pub. Co.

McKinney, G. B. (2004). Zeb Vance : North Carolina’s Civil War governor and Gilded Age political leader. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Sondley, F. (1977). A history of Buncombe County, North Carolina. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co.


Episode and Interlude. (February 20, 1912). Asheville Gazette-News. p. 4.


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.

“Mr. Edison’s phonograph preserves a conversation for 100 years. But conversations can be preserved that long without a phonograph. For instance, there is the celebrated conversation between the Governor of North Carolina and the Governor of South Carolina….”

— From Daily Alta California, Dec. 26, 1887 (via Louisville Courier-Journal)

How many people today would recognize this once world-famous expression, much less any of its numerous origin stories?  

Not many, the Google Ngram Viewer suggests. 


“We have had a few folks get to the end of our 50-minute tour of the old boardinghouse before they realize we are not talking about the guy in the white suit…. As a tour guide it is rewarding for us anytime we see the light bulb going on and someone finally making connections… but you do have to wonder where they were over the last 45 minutes.”

— Tom Muir, historic site manager at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville, quoted by Tyler Malone at Full Stop (April 14, 2015)

“The guy in the white suit” tells George Plimpton his thoughts about the first Tom Wolfe.  


“During the mid-50s at The Raleigh Times, I worked across the hall from a News & Observer features writer named Florence King. Ms. King had a distinctive style that paved the way for a career as a nationally recognized author, essayist and columnist. Her piercing pen could puncture the most inflated egos.

“In one of her books, ‘Southern Ladies and Gentlemen,’ she recalled Raleigh as a place ‘Where people thought of the South as the womb and the rest of the country as “up North.”

“ ‘I suppose that has changed now, which makes me rather sad,’ she continued. ‘A Southerner without paranoia is like an egg without salt.’

“The local folks were ‘set on Raleigh becoming the Athens of the South,’ she wrote. ‘They never realized the flaw in the logic. Ancient Athens was not criss-crossed with pickup trucks containing gun racks driven by good ol’ boys who bragged that they had never gone further than the eighth grade.

“ ‘Plato and Aristotle did not punch each other in the ribs and say, “Let’s go git some beer.” ’ ”

— From “Raleigh, the Athens of the South?” by A. C. Snow in the News & Observer (May 10, 2014) 

Miss (her preference) King’s obit in the Washington Post lists her reporting tenure at the N&O as 1964-67. Half a century later, her feature on Slimnastics remains a classic of zeitgeist-nailing.


On this day in 1939: At the Museum of Modern Art in New York, artist Josef Albers tells an audience about Black Mountain College’s avant garde educational philosophy, while Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer — key figures in the modern architecture movement — display a model of their proposed new campus overlooking Lake Eden.

The approach of war in Europe will derail fund-raising efforts, however, and the college abandons the Gropius-Breuer concept in favor of something less ambitious.


Winter came in with a bang to North Carolina.  We went from 70s to 20s in a matter of weeks.  Nothing like a pot of soup to battle the winter chill.

A Warm Bowl of Soup Picture - Keepers of the Hearth

Image from Keepers of the hearth : based on records, ledgers and shared recipes of the families connected with Mill Prong House, Edinborough Road, Hoke County, North Carolina.

Vegetable Soup - The Cat Who...Cookbook

Vegetable Soup from The cat who– cookbook.

Don't Double Dribble Tomato Bisque - Hornets Homecooking

Don’t Double Dribble Tomato Bisque from Hornets homecooking : favorite family recipes from the Charlotte Hornets players, coaches, staff and special fans.

Corn & potato chowder - Buffet Benny's

Corn & Potato Chowder from Buffet Benny’s family cookbook : recipes, stories & poems from the Appalachian Mountains.

Nickleby's Fish Stew-North Carolina's Historic Restaurants and their recipies

Nickleby’s Fish Stew from North Carolina’s historic restaurants and their recipes.

Kale Soup - Welkom

Kale Soup from Welkom : Terra Ceia cookbook III, a collection of recipes.

Bean & Bacon Soup - Heavenly Delights

Bean & Bacon Soup from Heavenly delights.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »