Guns and Lightning

The one thing missing from our fine local newspapers these days is a good social column. We found these items in the “Local News” section of the Watauga Democrat from June 29, 1893:

Master Tommy Hine has proved himself quite an efficient young Nimrod. The long looked for day arrived when he was permitted to fire his first gun. Behold the result! The first five shots he brought down four ground squirrels and a weasel. Of course he is very much pleased over his success, which is wonderful for so small a boy.

If the threat of eagle-eyed Tommy Hine on the prowl wasn’t enough to keep you indoors, then the weather certainly would:

Some days ago during a heavy thunder storm Jerry Lenoir (col) who lives near the residence of Mr. J.F. Spainhour, had two fine hogs killed by lightning. During the same storm a telephone post near M.B. Blackburn’s was torn to pieces and the widow Moody, who lives two miles west of town, lost a cow from the same cause.

Tar Heel Lit

So where do depressed Tar Heel basketball fans look to ease the pain of their team’s early exit from the NCAA tournament? In books, of course. Will Blythe’s excellently-titled book about the UNC-Duke rivalry, To Hate Like This Is to be Happy Forever has received nationwide attention, with a reviews in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Longtime UNC Professor of English Fred Hobson also looks at the lasting influence of basketball in his life in his new book, Off the Rim: Basketball and Other Religions in a Carolina Childhood. Hobson’s book was reviewed in Sunday’s News & Observer.

And finally, of interest to Tar Heel faithful everywhere, but especially those living far from Chapel Hill, the UNC Press has just published Carolina: Photographs from the First State University, a very nice collection of images of the campus.

It’s Carrboro

We were surprised, but, we admit, not shocked, to learn that Carrboro now has its very own rap song. After all, Carrboro might well be the only municipality in North Carolina with its own poet laureate, and the leap from rhyming to rapping is not a big one.

What can explain this burst of creativity from the former mill town in Orange County? Is it the proximity to UNC-Chapel Hill? The excellent schools? Something in the water? No, we think it all comes down to one thing: density. Carrboro has the greatest population density of any municipality in North Carolina at 3,161 people per square mile. More populous cities such as Charlotte and Durham have their citizens much more spread out, at 2,265 and 2,014 per square mile, respectively. All that closeness must foster a true spirit of collaboration. At least it gives Carrboroites something to rap about.

We think this is an excellent trend and hope that more North Carolina cities follow Carrboro’s example. We’re especially curious to see if an enterprising poet or rapper can come up with a rhyme for Fuquay-Varina.

First in Hoops

We realize that it’s a little late to get your NCAA tournament picks in, but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to point out that if, like us, you had given up on trying to pick a winner and just closed your eyes and jabbed at the bracket, then you would be more likely to hit a team from North Carolina than from any other state. With five teams in this year’s tournament (Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, UNC-Wilmington, and Davidson) North Carolina has the most teams, by state, in the field of 64. We don’t want to take anything away from the Wright Brothers, but perhaps it’s time to change the state’s slogan from “First in Flight.”

Tall Ships

We admit it, we weren’t too impressed when we read that the tall ships were coming to North Carolina. It’s just a boat race, right? What’s the big deal about that? But then we looked into it. The America’s Sail 2006 will hit Beaufort and Morehead City this summer, June 30 – July 5. The event will include a 15-mile race off of Atlantic Beach by ships as impressive as the 54-foot Meka II, a replica of a 17th-century pirate ship and captained by Beaufort resident Capt. Horatio Sinbad. Now that’s no ordinary boat race.

March 1840: Wilmington & Weldon Railroad

This Month in North Carolina History

Image from Wilmington Advertiser of Wilmington and Weldon Railroad train

On the seventh of March, 1840, the last spike was driven to complete the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad. As well as being the pride and joy of Wilmington, North Carolina, at 161½ miles the Wilmington & Weldon was the longest railroad in the world.

Chartered originally in January 1834 as the Wilmington & Raleigh, the line was organized in the Fall of 1835 and construction began in October 1836. The idea of the railroad grew out of the concern of Wilmington’s leaders that, while the port city had excellent communication by sea, overland connections were poor at best. In 1834 only two stage lines served the city going north, one through New Bern and the other through Fayetteville. Although still in its early years, the railroad seemed a promising alternative. The initial plan was to build the line to Raleigh, but people in the capital were slow to support the railroad while folks in Edgecombe County showed much more enthusiasm. The company decided, therefore, to turn the line north through Edgecombe to Weldon on the Roanoke River near the North Carolina/Virginia border. This would allow the Wilmington & Weldon access to the produce of the Roanoke Valley and bring it near to Virginia railroads which had reached the Roanoke River from the north.

In Wilmington the official celebration of the completion of the railroad was marked by the firing of cannon and ringing of church bells. A large group comprising the officers and employees of the Wilmington & Weldon and invited guests from Virginia and South Carolina as well as all sections of North Carolina paraded down Front Street, accompanied by a military band, to a banquet at the railroad depot. The Wilmington & Weldon operated successfully for the rest of the nineteenth century, ultimately forming part of a major north-south railroad network. In 1900 it became part of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad system which merged into the Seaboard Coast Line in 1967 and finally into CSX Transportation.

James Sprunt. Chronicles of the Cape Fear River. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Printing Company, 1914.

John Gilbert and Grady Jefferys. Crossties Through Carolina: The Story of North Carolina’s Early Day Railroads. Raleigh, NC: Helios Press, 1969.

Image Source:
Wilmington Advertiser, February 1, 1839