George Badger

George E. Badger“While there may be some question as to who should be regarded as the greatest North Carolinian, certainly in a list of the five greatest, the name of George E. Badger should be included.”

We’ll bet he wasn’t on your list. That quote, and the portrait, are from volume seven of Samuel Ashe’s Biographical History of North Carolina, published in 1908. Badger (1795-1866), a native of New Bern, held a number of government posts, including Secretary of the Navy under William Henry Harrison. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1846.

We ran across Badger in researching North Carolinians who had been nominated to the Supreme Court. In 1853, President Millard Fillmore nominated Badger to fill a seat left vacant by the death of Justice John McKinley. The discussion over Badger’s nomination focused on his views on a strong federal government and slavery. Southern, pro-slavery Democrats ultimately turned against Badger, a Whig, and his nomination was defeated by a vote of 26-25. After leaving the Senate in 1855, and with the demise of the Whig party, Badger did not hold another prominent position in government.

Yardley on Franklin

Jonathan Yardley reviews Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin in yesterday’s Washington Post. Franklin, currently Professor Emeritus of History at Duke and one of the nation’s pre-eminent historians, has a long connection with North Carolina. His doctoral dissertation at Harvard was on free African Americans in antebellum North Carolina and was later published by the UNC Press in 1943 as The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860. Franklin has taught at a number of colleges and universities including North Carolina Central.

Jonathan Yardley is a Tar Heel himself, a 1961 graduate of the University of North Carolina, and former editor of the student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel.

John J. Parker

The recent political skirmishes over Supreme Court nominees bring to mind the case of John Johnston Parker, which shows, if anything, that getting onto the nation’s highest court has never been an easy task.

Parker (1885-1958) was a native of Monroe, N.C. He was a successful lawyer and an active member of the Republican party, which put him firmly in the minority in the then staunchly Democratic state. Parker worked for the U.S. Attorney General’s office and served as a judge on the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals before being nominated in 1930 by President Herbert Hoover to the Supreme Court.

Although widely considered an able jurist, Parker quickly drew the ire of organized labor and the NAACP. Labor interests opposed his nomination due to a decision he’d made on the appeals court that limited union organizing, while the NAACP pointed to comments he’d made in a gubernatorial campaign a decade earlier that were perceived to be racist. It was a close fight, and one that did not fall strictly along party lines. When the vote came before the Senate, Parker’s nomination was defeated by a vote of 41-39.

Tar Heel Cookery

North Carolina cooking is getting lots of attention these days. UNC Press has recently published Marcie Cohen Ferris’s Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South and Mildred Council’s Mama Dip’s Family Cookbook. Another well-known Chapel Hill chef, Bill Smith, has just come out with Seasoned in the South: Recipes from Crook’s Corner and from Home.

Naturally, we started to wonder how all of this began and searched our catalog for the oldest North Carolina cookbook that we could find. We came up with the book The Family Token, or Book of Practical Arts and Sciences, by “An Eminent Physician,” published in Greensboro in 1854. There is an impressive amount of information in this slim volume. It contains not only recipes, but home remedies and moral advice. Thus, not only can you learn how to roast mutton and fowls, the author gives advice on treating a common sore throat (gargle salt, vinegar, pepper, and water), and killing weeds in a brick walk (keep them moist with brine three weeks in spring and one week in fall).

As a service to our readers, we present the following recipe from The Family Token:


One cup of sugar, one of cream, three eggs, a tea-spoon of saleratus; cut in strips, twist and fry in lard.

If you don’t have any saleratus in your cupboard, baking powder is an acceptable substitute.

State Songs

All true Tar Heels know that our state song is William Gaston’s “The Old North State,” adopted as the official song by the state legislature in 1927.

So we were surprised to see another song staking the claim. Bettie Freshwater Pool’s Literature in the Albemarle (published by Ms. Pool in Elizabeth City, 1915) includes the poem “Carolina,” labeled as “(State Song).” It begins:

I love thee Carolina!
Broad thy rivers, bright and clear;
Majestic are thy mountains;
Dense thy forests, dark and drear;
Grows the pine tree, tall and stately;
Weeps the willow, drooping low;
Bloom the eglantine and jasmine;
Nods the daisy, white as snow.

Then the chorus:

Let me live in Carolina
Till life’s toil and strife are past!
Let me sleep in Carolina
When my sun shall set at last!
Where the mocking bird is singing–
Where my heart is fondly clinging.
I would sleep when life is o’er
Sweetly on the old home shore.

The closing lines proclaim that the “Brightest star of all the Union / Is the glorious Old North State.” Perhaps this was an unofficial state anthem before Gaston’s got the nod? We think the only way to settle this is with a head-to-head matchup, just like on American Idol. Let the people decide.

Alamance Plaid

Alamance PlaidWhenever we walk through the county history section in the North Carolina Collection, one book always catches our eye. Most hardcover books used to be bound in cardboard which was then covered with cloth (many still are today, though more and more publishers go simply with the board covers). When it came time to bind Walter Whitaker’s Centennial History of Alamance County, 1849-1949, they probably didn’t have to think very hard about what kind of cloth to use.

Alamance Plaid, the cloth that made the county famous nationwide, is purported to have been the first plaid produced commercially in the Southern United States. We’re disappointed, however, that it never really caught on with bookbinders. Our libraries would be so much livelier if it had.

Western N.C. Reads Ehle

Community reading programs are popping up all over North Carolina. We can’t think of a better way to get to know your neighbors, especially when the books chosen deal with the history and culture of our state. Folks throughout western North Carolina are participating in the fourth annual “Together We Read” program by reading and discussing The Road, John Ehle’s 1967 novel about the coming of the railroad to the North Carolina mountains. Ehle will be honored on Wednesday at a program at Western Carolina University.

Ehle’s 1965 non-fiction book, The Free Men, about the Civil Rights movement in Chapel Hill in the early 1960s, is an excellent companion to Timothy Tyson’s Blood Done Sign My Name. Tyson’s book has been a popular choice for community reading programs, already used in Wilmington and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

David Sedaris on Dogs

Sedaris The North Carolina Collection attempts to acquire translations of novels and other works by North Carolina authors. We’ve been particularly successful acquiring translations of popular novelists such as Orson Scott Card, Patricia Cornwell, and Nicholas Sparks. Hundeleben is something a little different—original verse (dog poems!) by Raleigh native David Sedaris, translated into German and amusingly illustrated.

Fall Book Preview

The Washington Post has published their great fall book preview, which includes a few works by North Carolina authors to which we can look forward.

The Life Around Me by Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons is a long-awaited sequel to her 1987 novel, Ellen Foster. Mirror to America, the memoir of John Hope Franklin, acclaimed historian and emeritus faculty member at Duke, will be published in November. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the publication this month of Driven From Within, the fifth book by Michael Jordan.

October 1864: Rose O’Neal Greenhow

This Month in North Carolina History

Image from Harper's Monthly titled "Mrs. Greenhow and the Two Other Passengers Demanded to be Set Ashore."

At dawn on the first of October 1864 the body of Rose O’Neal Greenhow washed ashore in the surf near Fort Fisher in North Carolina. Perhaps the most famous spy of the Confederate States of America had died as dramatically as she lived.

Rose was born in 1813 or 1814 into a planter family in Maryland. Her father, John O’Neal, was murdered by one of his slaves in 1817. His widow, Eliza O’Neal, was left with four daughters and a cash-poor farm to manage. In part to help family finances, Rose was sent, in her mid-teens, to Washington, D. C. along with her sister Ellen to live with their aunt, Maria Ann Hill. Mrs. Hill and her husband managed a highly regarded boarding house across from the U. S. Capitol. The house was often referred to as the “Old Brick Capitol” since it originally had been built as the temporary meeting place of Congress after the Capitol had been burned in the War of 1812. Pretty, lively, and intelligent, Rose was popular with the members of Congress who boarded with her aunt, and she had several suitors. In 1835 she married Robert Greenhow, a wealthy bachelor who had trained as a physician but ultimately became an official in the United States Department of State. In addition to bearing a large family, Rose became an important figure in Washington society. She was charming, witty, politically astute, and a fervent champion of the southern states in the increasingly bitter sectional struggles of the 1840s and 1850s. The death of Robert Greenhow in 1854 left Rose financially stretched, but she continued her association with important national political figures, particularly President James Buchanan. Rose considered the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 to be a national disaster and whole-heartedly supported secession and the newly formed Confederacy.

Sometime in 1861 Rose Greenhow was recruited as a spy for the Confederacy. She quickly formed a network of agents from among her Washington circle of Confederate sympathizers and began enthusiastically and efficiently gathering information about the Union Army camped around the capital, which she transmitted to General P. G. T. Beauregard who commanded Confederate forces in nearby Virginia. Rose charmed information from important beaureaucrats, army officers, and politicians including, it was rumored, a Republican senator who sent her passionate love letters. She gave Beauregard the date on which the Union Army would began its advance on his position in 1861 and was credited by him with an important contribution to the subsequent victory at the battle of Manassas. Rose refused, however, to become the stereotypical spy who blends in with her background to escape detection. She continued vigorously to defend the southern cause and lambast Republicans. After Manassas she began to come under suspicion. She was arrested in August of 1861 and held for the next year and nine months without being charged or brought to trial. Rose was hardly a model prisoner, reviling her guards, complaining about her treatment and generally making herself a thorn in the side of the Lincoln government. At the end of May 1863 she was exiled to the Confederacy.

Rose Greenhow was given a heroine’s welcome in Richmond and thanked personally by President Jefferson Davis for her aid to the Confederacy. Davis also took the unprecedented step of asking Rose to promote Southern interests in England and France as his personal, if unofficial, representative. In August 1863 Rose and her youngest daughter, also named Rose, sailed on a blockade runner from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Bermuda where she booked passage to England. Rose was warmly greeted by many in the English aristocracy who sympathized with her and her cause. Over the next year she spoke with a number of leaders of British politics and society including Thomas Carlyle and Lord Palmerston. She was granted an audience by Napoleon III of France and visited with southerners who had taken up residence abroad. A British publishing house brought out her memoir, My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolitionist Rule at Washington, which was a success.

In August 1864 Rose returned to America, convinced that she could do nothing to persuade the British or French governments to recognize the Confederacy. On the last night of September her ship, the blockade runner Condor approached the mouth of the Cape Fear River on the run to Wilmington. It was spotted by a U. S. naval vessel early on the morning of October 1st and ran aground trying to escape. Rose was carrying dispatches for President Davis and her book profits in gold coins in a leather bag around her neck. She demanded that the captain set her ashore immediately, although he tried to convince her that the ship was safe under the guns of Fort Fisher until she floated off the shoal. In the end Rose had her way and with several other people was launched in a boat for the shore which was only a few hunded yards away. Within minutes the small boat capsized. Rose sank out of sight immediately while the others clung to the overturned boat and ultimately survived. Her body was buried in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Blackman, Ann. Wild Rose: Rose O’Neale Greenhow, Civil War Spy. New York: Random House, 2005.

Ross, Ishbel. Rebel Rose: Life of Rose O’Neal Greenhow, Confederate Spy. New York: Harper, 1954

Greenhow, Rose O’Neal. My Imprisonment and the first year of Abolition Rule at Washington. London: R. Bentley, 1863.

Image Source:
“Mrs. Greenhow and the Two Other Passengers Demanded to be Set Ashore.”
Half-tone plate engraved by C.E. Hart from a drawing by Stanley M. Arthurs.
In Harper’s Monthly Magazine, March 1912, p. 575.