“Ringgold, Ga., has a mayor who’s one generation removed from the Civil War.

“Joe Barger’s grandfather — that’s right, his grandfather — Jacob A. Barger served as a private for the South in North Carolina’s infantry. Mayor Barger grew up in Salisbury, N.C., about 35 miles north of Charlotte.

” ‘He was born in 1833,’ Barger said. ‘So it’s 96 years’ difference between when he was born, and I was born.’

“The births were spaced that way because both Barger’s grandfather and father married younger women after their first wives died.

“Being the grandson of a Civil War soldier is so unusual, the 84-year-old mayor said, that when he tells people about it, ‘I don’t think they believe me.’ ”

– From “Civil War scion: Ringgold mayor is living history….” by Tim Omarzu in the Chattanooga Times Free Press (June 28)


“If you have any oyster shells lying around, the U.S. Army wants five dumptrucks’ worth. You don’t even have to include the delicious oysters inside. And they’re willing to pay up to $15,000 for them.

“That’s the gist of one of the stranger U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracts in recent memory. Last week, the Army put out a call for the empty shells — specifically, shells that have been ‘shucked and air dried,’ ready for transportation. There was, intriguingly, no additional detail….

“After I tweeted the bizarre contract on Thursday, Slate’s Matthew Yglesias speculated that the Corps sought to aid an existing project to rebuild the oyster population of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Other guesses include the construction of good luck charms for the Navy; a crustacean-based fragmentation grenade; and, per the New York Times‘ Annie Lowrey, ‘scenic, Cape Cod-style driveways’….

“But it turns out the shells are destined for the southeastern corner of Roanoke Island, N.C. abutting Wanchese Harbor. That’s where the Army Corps of Engineers has a marsh creation and restoration project. There’s no military value to the enterprise; it’s part of the Corps’ longstanding civil works and environmental mission. To complete it, the Army needs 4,000 bushels of oyster shells.”

– From “Army Is Buying 4,000 Bushels of Empty Oyster Shells” by Spencer Ackerman  (July 25, 2012) at Wired

And let’s not forget “oyster-tecture.”


On this day in 1836: A new element appears in North Carolinians’ celebration of the Fourth of July — the “occasional popping of squibs,” as the Tarboro Free Press refers to firecrackers.


American Lasagna - A Taste of the Old and the New

American Lasagna from A Taste of the old and the new.

All American Hamburgers - Family Circle

All-American Hamburgers from The Family circle cookbook.

Early American Casserole - Favorite Recipes of the Carolinas

Early American Casserole from Favorite recipes of the Carolinas : meats edition, including poultry and seafood.

Martha Washington Creams - Nightingales in the Kitchen

Martha Washington Creams from Nightingales in the kitchen.

American Raised Waffles - Keepers of the Hearth

American Raised Waffles 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.

D.C. Spoon Bread - America Cooks

D. C. Spoon Bread from America cooks : practical recipes from 48 states.

All American Apple Pie - Dixie Classic Fair

All-American Apple Pie from Dixie Classic Fair for Northwest North Carolina : favorite recipes from friends of the Fair.

“On February 18 [1915] Wilson and his daughters and his Cabinet gathered in the East Room for the first running of a motion picture in the White House  ["The Clansman," later retitled "The Birth of a Nation."]

” ‘It was like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true,’ Wilson purportedly said when the lights came up. In fact, Wilson almost certainly never said it. The encomium does not even appear in the unpublished memoirs of the self-serving Thomas Dixon. The only firsthand record of Wilson’s feelings about the film appear in a letter three years later, in which he wrote , ‘I have always felt that this was a very unfortunate production and I wish most sincerely that its production might be avoided, particularity in communities where there are so many colored people.’ … Another member of the audience that night reported that the President seemed lost in thought during the film and exited the East Room upon its completion without saying a word to anybody….

“The comment did not appear in print for more than two decades. In any case, word of a White House screening circulated, and that was tantamount to a Presidential endorsement.”

– From “Wilson” by A. Scott Berg (2013)



The daily citizen. (Asheville, N.C.), 20 Feb. 1890. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

As droves of Tar Heels take to the road this summer in search of cool North Carolina mountain air, we are thinking about what this trip would have been like 150 years ago. As it turns out, it would have likely meant traveling on a plank road. Think of a plank road as a wooden highway for wagons and coaches. In the mid 1800s, North Carolina had a proliferation of plank road building.

One of these roads was the Western Turnpike, which North Carolina state legislators first discussed during their 1848 and 1849 session. In its original plan, it was to be a toll collecting plank road beginning in Salisbury moving westward to the Georgia state line. Two survey maps, drawn by state engineer S. Moylan Fox in 1850, depict the route from Salisbury to the Blue Ridge and the Blue Ridge to the Georgia state line. The state comptroller reports payment to Fox for his survey work in the December 12, 1849 issue of The North-Carolina Standard.

Construction of the Western Turnpike began in Asheville in 1850. In the same year, it connected with the Buncombe Turnpike. The Buncombe Turnpike, a dirt road completed in 1828, moved northwest from South Carolina, through Asheville, and into Tennessee. It had been key in opening up the region commercially, facilitating the arrival of tourists and allowing for agricultural trade.

Political squabbles plagued the Western Turnpike plan. Finally, during the 1854 and 1855 term, legislators abolished plans for the Salisbury to Asheville segment of the route. The Western Turnpike’s starting point would be Asheville, where it moved westward through the remote mountain towns of Waynesville, Bryson, Franklin, Jarretts, Welch’s Town and Murphy.

The Western North Carolina Railroad Company took the next big step in conquering the resource rich yet difficult terrain of the western most part of the state. The railroad completed service to Murphy in 1891 with the Murphy Branch line. The February 20, 1890 issue of Asheville’s The Daily Citizen records the railroad’s progress in blasting and grading its way west.

Western Turnpike Map

No 2 Map of the surveys for the western turnpike from the Blue Ridge to the Georgia line. From the North Carolina Collection.


How many professors have represented North Carolina in the House or Senate?

This somewhat imprecise list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education says 11, each of whom taught at a different college — including of course UNC Chapel Hill.


Grilling Picture - Favorite Recipes of the Carolinas

from Favorite recipes of the Carolinas : meats edition, including poultry and seafood.

Grilled Garlic Steak - Supper's at Six

Grilled Garlic Steak from Supper’s at six and we’re not waiting!

Grilled Corn on the Cobb-Carolina Cuisine

Grilled Corn on the Cob from Carolina cuisine : a collections of recipes.

Genghis Khan - Southern Cookbook

Genghis Khan from Marion Brown’s southern cook book.

Grilled Zucchini with Mint, Chile Oil, and Toasted Pine Nuts - Cooking in the Moment

Grilled Zucchini with Mint, Chile Oil, and Toasted Pine Nuts from Cooking in the moment : a year of seasonal recipes.

Grilled Tuna Steak with Vidalia Onion and Pineapple Chutney - Mountain Elegance

Grilled Tuna Stead with Vidalia Onion and Pineapple Chutney from Mountain elegance : a collection of favorite recipes.

Fire-Roasted Onions - Mario Tailgates NASCAR Style

Fire-roasted Onions from Mario tailgates NASCAR style.

Easy Grilled Ham - Granny's Drawers

Easy Grilled Ham from Granny’s drawers : four generations of family favorites.


stones90Does anybody remember when it was Hammer Time at the Dean Dome? Looking through some of the digitized copies of the Yackety Yack available on DigitalNC, one of the things that struck me was that, beginning shortly after its opening in 1986, the Dean E. Smith Center was one of the premier concert venues in central North Carolina.

bocephus89Looking through the concerts listed in the yearbooks from 1987 through 1991 you find many of the top names in rock, rap, and country visited Chapel Hill, some more than once. The first concert held in the Dean Dome was The Monkees on October 17, 1986. For the next several years, the venue welcomed some of the biggest names in music, including the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac (twice), and Billy Joel. The acts coming through weren’t just limited to “classic” rock music: Public Enemy, Hank Williams, Jr., New Kids on the Block, and Bill Cosby all performed on campus. And nobody who was here at the time is not likely to forget the two nights that the Grateful Dead came to town in the spring of 1993.

publicenemy90By the mid 1990s, the number of concerts at the Dean Dome began to dwindle. These days, we rarely see big musical performances there. With so many newer and more convenient venues now spread throughout the Triangle, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to the golden era of big concerts on campus. We’re left only with photos and memories of a few fun years when the Dean E. Smith Center was not just home to some of the best college basketball in the country, it also rocked.

Concerts at the Dean E. Smith Center by School Year, 1986-1991 (Source: Yackety Yacks):

The Monkees (first concert, October 17, 1986)
Lionel Richie and Sheila E.
Jimmy Buffett
Billy Joel

Fleetwood Mac
David Bowie
James Taylor
Pink Floyd
Level 42
Tina Turner
Whitney Houston
Jimmy Buffett
Bruce Springsteen

INXS and Ziggy Marley
Amy Grant
The Temptations
Robert Plant
Bon Jovi
Hank Williams, Jr.

Mötley Crüe
New Kids on the Block
Elton John
Bill Cosby
Public Enemy
The Doobie Brothers
Tom Petty
Janet Jackson
The Rolling Stones
The Cure
David Bowie
Eric Clapton

Neil Young
Billy Idol
ZZ Top
Paul Simon
James Taylor
Fleetwood Mac
They Might Be Giants
Faith No More
Jane’s Addiction
MC Hammer
En Vogue
Randy Travis

robert e. lee's hair

“Gen. Lee’s Hair” has been carefully written in pencil on the paper that was wrapped around the lock.

When Ellen Douglas Brownlow asked the former Civil War general in 1870 for a lock of his hair as a keepsake, he would not have considered it a strange request. In fact, it was common in the Victorian era for friends to exchange a cutting of human hair. Civil War soldiers often left some of their long tresses with loved ones before departing for service. Hair was preferred over autographs, and prominent people were known to give clips of hair to admirers.

According to Brownlow’s account in 1903, Lee good-naturedly made the cut himself. The lock was then divided among several ladies, which explains why this one is more a collection of strands. It eventually ended up in the Southern Historical Collection’s Boyd Family Papers before its transfer to the North Carolina Collection Gallery earlier this month.

While many locks from historical figures are safely preserved in manuscript collections, others are part of a thriving souvenir market in celebrity hair. Prices for a few strands can reach five figures, as shown in 2011 when a fan paid over $40,000 for a lock of Justin Bieber’s hair. According to a New York Times article, a locket with a sample of Lee’s hair sold in 2012 for $12,500 at auction.

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