There’s nothing like a good ghost story to get you in the mood for Halloween.  This week we will bring you stories of haunted houses, friendly ghosts, and lingering spirits from each region of the Old North State.


Edwin Wiley Grove first opened the Grove Park Inn in 1913. Located in Asheville, NC, this picturesque hotel is rumored to be haunted by a ghost that people call the Pink Lady. Apparently this woman, who is identified by the pink color of her dress, fell (voluntarily or not) from the balcony of room 545 and tragically died nearly one hundred years ago. Guests and hotel employees have told stories of doors and windows in the room where she stayed that mysteriously open and close on their own, along with lights and other electrical devices throughout the inn turning on and off independently. Other guests have seen a pink mist, felt the Pink Lady sitting on their beds, holding their hands, or told stories of her comforting sick children. Maybe if you go to the Grove Park Inn and stay in room 545, you will see this friendly ghost, or feel her tickling your feet while you lay in bed.


Grandfather Mountain, aptly named due to its profile resembling that of a bearded old man lying down, is a popular hiking destination near Linville, NC. There are many miles of hiking trails on the mountain, and people tell stories of seeing a solitary hiker walking along the twisty paths at dusk. He never acknowledges those he passes, his clothes appear to be from many decades past, and he vanishes from sight. This is the Phantom Hiker of Grandfather Mountain, and no one knows who he was or why his spirit haunts the mountain. But, if you go for a visit you might catch a glimpse of him.



George Washington Vanderbilt constructed the magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, as a vacation home for his family. He and his wife Edith spent much of their time enjoying their impressive library full of antiques, artwork, and famous editions, along with throwing opulent parties. George died in 1914, less than twenty years after his cherished house was completed. But, some say George’s spirit never left the house and that he still visits his library, especially on stormy nights. People also report hearing the voice of his wife, Edith, calling George’s name, or the sounds of party guests laughing or playing music as they walk around the lavishly decorated, empty rooms.

“The Scotswoman Janet Schaw took a dim… view of Southern laundry practices. Staying with her brother and sister-in-law [in Wilmington] in 1775, she praised North Carolina soap, made from ‘the finest ashes in the world’ (although she observed that rather than make soap for themselves, many housewives made do with an inferior-quality Irish soap ‘at a monstrous price’).

“But laundresses were another matter entirely. ‘They are the worst washers of linen I ever saw,’ Schaw declared, attributing the mediocre results to mixing different colors and fabrics ‘promiscuously’ into a single kettle and neglecting to ‘blue’ white garments (a process that counteracted yellowing) or make use of the sun’s rays…. She was impressed by neither the boiling technique nor the ‘Negro wench turn[ing] them over with a stick.’ ”

— From “Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America” by Kathleen M. Brown (2009)


Club Girls Hoe Tomatoes

From the February 4, 1915 issue of the High Point Review.

With this past weekend’s freeze, North Carolina’s tomato growing season has come to a close. In the early 20th century, you could still enjoy local tomatoes long into the fall and winter months thanks to the work of tomato club girls.

Marie Samuella Cromer founded the first tomato club in South Carolina in 1910 after attending a program of the South Carolina School Improvement Association. O.B. Martin, an agent with the Department of Agriculture in charge of boys’ corn clubs, outlined a plan in which girls would grow and can tomatoes. Seeing the success boys had experienced in growing and selling corn in corn clubs, Ms. Cromer took the charge, and organized 46 girls in her community into a tomato club. She and five other pioneering Southern women, including Jane S. McKimmon of North Carolina, worked to sprout tomato clubs throughout the southeast through their work as home demonstration agents. Girls aged 10 – 20 learned how to plant, harvest, can, market and sell their tomato crops. On plots sized one-tenth of an acre, girls grew and then canned tomatoes by the hundreds of pounds. The money they earned, McKimmon emphasized, was to be spent as they saw fit. Young girls previously entirely financially dependent on their families found themselves with pocket money and sometimes substantially more. The movement peaked from 1911 through the end of World War I.

"Emancipation of Farmers Daughter" headline from Western Caroliina Democrat

From the August 20, 1914 issue of the Hendersonville Western Carolina Democrat and French Broad Hustler.

In 1914, a young girl named Ina Colclough won first prize in the Durham County girls’ tomato club contest for making $137.00 profit from her own one-tenth of an acre. This was at a time when $15.00 could buy a man’s suit and Stetson hat, $5.00 a lady’s coat and $4.00 a pair of Knox shoes. Newspapers nationwide reported on the success of the movement. An article in the New-York Tribune describes young girls plowing with horses, harrowing without them, and working in every way necessary to grow their tomatoes.

The state fair of 1915 featured an exhibition of the tomato club girls’ work, a description of which can be found here.

McKimmon began her career in 1909 with the Farmer’s Institutes, where she served as a lecturer and also director of its women’s activities. In this work she traveled throughout the state teaching women and girls cooking, baking, sewing and other homemaking skills. In 1911, she accepted the position of North Carolina’s State Home Demonstration Agent, and began planning and organizing the work of the state’s farm girls. Here tireless efforts and enthusiasm for the work of the tomato clubs resulted in thirty-two counties participating by 1914 with 1,500 members, 259,091 cans and $35,631.50 worth of canned tomatoes. McKimmon went on to have a thirty-two year career in home demonstration.

Portion of article on "Emancipation of Farmer's Daughter"

Excerpt from the August 20, 1914 issue of the Hendersonville Western Carolina Democrat and French Broad Hustler.

During World War I, McKimmon played a significant role in directing North Carolina’s food conservation efforts. Girls used the skills they learned in the clubs to make their own contributions to the cause. The work of the girls’ tomato clubs, as well as the boys’ corn clubs, was eventually absorbed into the broader work of North Carolina’s 4-H clubs.

Jane Simpson McKimmon

Jane Simpson McKimmon (1867-1957), in the Portrait Collection #P0002, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Visit North Carolina State University Libraries’ online exhibit Green ‘N’ Growing to learn more about the history of home demonstration and 4-H development and to view girls’ handwritten and illustrated reports on their tomato growing, canning and marketing activities.

“While the integration of white and black athletes in the 1960s and ‘70s took place with relatively few problems, cheerleading squads were more problematic.

Pamela Grundy, a [Charlotte] sports historian, told a crowd at the county library [in Brevard] that ‘Either you can hit the basket or you can’t…. It’s clear who’s good…. Cheerleading was very different from sports.’

“Since blacks were often in the minority, they rarely were selected by the student body to be on the squad. When it came to committees or the cheerleading coaches, they too were mostly white and selected white cheerleaders.

“Grundy said selections were based more on style and culture, not necessarily race.

“A photo of the Myers Park (a top-tier all-white school in Charlotte) cheerleading squad revealed girls with similar hairstyles standing very straight with limbs in the same position….

“Another photo showed cheerleaders from the same year at West Charlotte (the black equivalent of Myers Park). They had different hairstyles and different poses. Grundy said they used their legs and hips more than their arms.

“And [black] cheerleaders involved the crowds, often in a ‘call and response’ format whose precursors were African chants.  ‘Foot stomping was turned into an art,’ said Grundy.

“When black girls were excluded from cheerleading [at predominantly white schools], students protested. In 1969 in Burlington, violence erupted when Walter Williams High selected all-white cheerleaders. One man was shot to death.

“Grundy said that once those who selected the cheerleading squad realized what a huge issue it was and that blacks were being excluded, either intentionally or not, things began to change….”

— From “Historian: Integration Of Cheerleaders Was Difficult To Achieve” by John Lanier in the Transylvania Times (Oct. 8)


Our October Artifact of the Month, a 50-cent note, was issued by a merchant in an uncommon and now obsolete profession. The note is a rare survivor of private North Carolina paper money issued because of the Civil War.

sutler note

I’ll bet many of you join me in what until recently was my ignorance of the meaning of the word sutler. The term is unfamiliar these days because sutlers are no longer needed. During the Civil War (and other wars before it), the sutler was a civilian merchant who travelled with armies and sold goods to the soldiers.

Why did sutlers exist? In our nation’s early years, federal, state, and local governments provided only limited support to institutions we now consider to be publicly-funded services. Soldiers in the military, for example, did not receive the same level of resources they do today. A soldier was expected to provide some of his own necessities and other goods to make life more livable.

A section about sutlers appears in the Confederate Army Regulations of 1863. The regulations state that “Every military post may have one Sutler, to be appointed by the Secretary of War on the recommendation of the Council of Administration, approved by the commanding officer.” Once appointed the sutler could move his wagon or tent or establish a more permanent structure near or on the grounds of an army post.

The sutler often had a monopoly on many non-military goods, including food, clothing, and stationery. As a result, prices were often unfairly inflated. And the quality of the goods, especially the food, was often very low.

Sutlers developed a less-than-respectable reputation, and were regarded as, at best, a necessary evil. Seen from another perspective, though, they operated a high-risk business, a target for local thieves and enemy army raiders.

Sutlers were important to both sides during the American Civil War. After the war ended, though, the need for sutlers diminished as the government increased the quantity and quality of its services to soldiers. The post exchange evolved to be a great benefit to the soldier, providing quality goods at desirable prices. The memory of the sutler is largely kept alive by modern self-described sutlers, merchants serving Civil War buffs with facsimile period military merchandise.

Most surviving documentation of Civil War sutlers pertains to those of the Union Army. A photo from the Library of Congress (source) shows a Union sutler, A. Foulke, and his tent at Brandy Station, Virginia, headquarters of 1st Brigade, Horse Artillery, in the winter of 1863-64.

sutler tent

Sutler money

Lack of circulating money was a big problem during the Civil War. Coins were scarce, leading to private substitutes. Like many other merchants, sutlers often made small change with their own paper money or tokens. Numismatists have studied and cataloged sutler money, and most surviving Civil War examples are from Northern sutlers. Southern examples are quite rare. The North Carolina Collection recently acquired this piece of paper money from a North Carolina sutler.


The 50-cent note is signed by W. Shelburn, indistinct here, but clearer on some of the other examples. He served the Fourth Brigade, N. C. T (North Carolina Troops). The statement of obligation declares that the note will be received for goods (from the sutler) or in “current funds,” which means any other scrip that the sutler might possess.

An unusual feature is the quite specific June 1863 printed date. One wonders if Shelburn had printed scrip with other dates.


Notes like this one tell an important story about the conduct of the Civil War – how militaries operated, how goods were exchanged, the life of soldiers on the front.

Can you tell us more?

The identity of W. Shelburn remains a mystery to us. We know of a William Shelburn, a North Carolina photographer active from about 1856 to 1907. It’s possible that he provided sutler services during the Civil War. But Shelburn is a relatively common name.

If you have any suggestions for identifying Shelburn, or other information about North Carolina sutlers, please leave a comment!

On this day in 1911: The Glidden Tour, a cross-country caravan promoting the automobile, approaches North Carolina from Virginia, where residents have complained about their dogs being run over. The Charlotte Observer, however, doesn’t hesitate to roll out the welcome mat:

“Roaming dogs are not held in high esteem in this community. . . . Speed up and enjoy yourselves. . . . “


On this day in 1908: William Howard Taft becomes the first Republican presidential candidate ever to campaign in North Carolina. His train makes whistlestops in Statesville, Salisbury, Lexington, High Point and Greensboro before continuing on to Virginia.

Taft will easily defeat Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan for the presidency, but another 20 years will pass before North Carolina goes Republican, choosing Herbert Hoover over Al Smith.


In honor of the official opening day of the 2015 North Carolina State Fair we bring you fried foods from our cookbook collection.

Clam Fritters-From Coastal Carolina Cupboards

Clam Fritters from From coastal Carolina cupboards.

Fried Racoon, Panamanian Style-The Wild and Free Cookbook

Fried Raccoon, Panamanian Style from The wild and free cookbook.

Orange Fritters - Keepers of the Hearth

Orange Fritters 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.

Fried Eel-The Wild and Free Cookbook

Fried Eel from The wild and free cookbook.

Grove Park Inn's Fried Swiss Cheese in Beer Batter - Historic Restaurants

Grove Park Inn’s Fried Swiss Cheese in Beer Batter from North Carolina’s historic restaurants and their recipes.

Fried Kelp Chips-The Wild and Free Cookbook

Fried Kelp Chips from The wild and free cookbook.

And it’s not just attention seekers, like [Ken] Kesey, who throw open the doors to the man in the white suit. [In 1965 Tom] Wolfe writes a piece on the origins of this new sport called stock-car racing and its greatest legend, Junior Johnson. Junior Johnson doesn’t talk to reporters. He’s famously reticent: no one outside his close circle of family and friends has any idea who he really is. Without a word of explanation, Tom Wolfe is suddenly describing what it’s like to be in Junior’s backyard, pulling weeds with his two sisters and watching a red rooster cross the lawn, while Junior tells him everything … and the reader learns, from Junior himself, that NASCAR racing basically evolved out of the fine art, mastered by Junior, of outrunning the North Carolina federal agents with a car full of bootleg whiskey.

“Wolfe’s Esquire piece about Junior Johnson, ‘The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!’ is another sensation — and still no one writes to ask him: How did you do that? How did you get yourself invited into the home of a man who would sooner shoot a journalist than talk to him? (This fall, 50 years after Wolfe introduced the world to Junior Johnson, NASCAR Productions and Fox Sports released a documentary about the piece. That’s the effect Wolfe routinely has had: to fix people and events in readers’ minds forever)….”

— From “How Tom Wolfe Became … Tom Wolfe” by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair (November 2015)

Lewis turns up numerous eye-popping nuggets in his mining of Wolfe’s papers, which became available earlier this year at the New York Public Library.


“In the hands of its literary interpreters, the Roanoke colony… became the literary property of post-Confederate nostalgia, the ‘lost colony’ linked symbolically to the ‘lost cause.’

“In an 1866 novel called ‘Roanoke; or, “Where Is Utopia?” ‘ Calvin H. Wiley, who had been superintendent of public schools in Confederate North Carolina, set the colony’s descendants in a place where ‘the wild and restless demon of Progress has not yet breathed … its scorching breath on the green foliage of nature,—filial reverence, parental tenderness, conjugal fidelity, neighbourly kindness, and patriotic integrity.’

“In 1875, an anonymous ‘M. M.’ published a story in Our Living and Our Dead, a North Carolina magazine dedicated to Confederate nostalgia and anti-Northern fomentation, in which Indian magic had turned Virginia Dare into an enchanted white doe who haunted the coastal forests for a century and witnessed the Indians’ ‘extinction, and the wide occupation of their forfeited patrimony, by that superior race, the Anglo-Saxon, with their bondsmen, the sable African, the red man’s inferior.’ M. M.’s Virginia Dare also prophesied the Civil War as a national disaster: ‘divided, brave brothers fall beneath the yoke of despotism.’ ”

— From “The Earliest American Heroine” by Duke law professor Jedediah Purdy in the New Yorker (Oct. 10)


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