Recently, I attempted to give a short geography lesson to a new resident of North Carolina. As we were discussing the locations of various counties and cities, I was reminded of how many towns and cities were not in the county one would suspect. To name a few….
- Davidson (town) is not in Davidson County…it is in Mecklenburg County.
- Henderson (town) is not in Henderson County…it is in Vance County.
- Hertford (town) is not in Hertford County…it is in Perquimans County.
- Lenoir (town) is not in Lenoir County…it is in Caldwell County.
- Rockingham (town) is not in Rockingham County…it is in Richmond County.
- Yanceyville (town) is not in Yancey County…it is in Caswell County.
- Neither Asheboro nor Asheville is in Ashe County. They are (respectively) in Randolph and Buncombe Counties.
I am not sure of the reason or reasons behind this, though I have had at least one idea emailed to me. If you’ve got a theory, float it our way.
The latest Independent Weekly has an article on the renaissance of beach music and dancing, in particular, the shag. The article points out several places in the Triangle where people gather to dance in the style that originated in Myrtle Beach in the 1940s, but neglected to mention a particularly important one: Wilson Library. Year after year, “Learn to Shag the Carolina Way,” produced by Sonny and June Carver in 1991, has remained one of the most popular videos in the North Carolina Collection. Come on in if you need a lesson.
This older view of Fayetteville Street has a postmark dating it at 1912. When the road is opened back up to traffic, I hope the horse-drawn carriages will return.
The NASCAR section of the North Carolina Collection is one of the fastest growing areas in the library, with one of the latest additions being Pit Road Pets: NASCAR Stars and Their Pets. Yellow labs look to be the most popular among the pets shown here, though my favorite is Stacy Compton’s pet goat, Billie. Proceeds from the book will go to the Humane Society of Catawba County, N.C.
Now that Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street is about to be returned to glory, I decided to take look through the North Carolina Collection’s postcard collection to find images of the street in the past. This great postcard shows Fayetteville Street in livelier days. The postcard is not dated, but I’m guessing that it would have been produced sometime in the 1940s. I’ll try to post images of the street from different time periods later this week.
Last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review ran reviews of a couple of new children’s books on colonial North Carolina’s most famous temporary resident: Blackbeard. I couldn’t help but notice that the illustration that ran with the reviews showed the one of the most notorious and curious aspects of the pirate’s appearance — the matches under his hat. This legend may have originated with a description from Charles Johnson’s General History of the Pyrates, first published in London in 1724:
“. . . In Time of Action, [Blackbeard] wore a sling over his Shoulders, with three Brace of Pistols, hanging in Holsters like Bandaliers; and stuck lighted Matches under his Hat, which appearing on each Side of his Face, his Eyes naturally looking fierce and wild, made him altogether such a Figure, that Imagination cannot form an Idea of a Fury, from Hell, to look more frightful.”
The picture shown here is a detail from the Johnson book. Read more about Blackbeard in This Month in North Carolina History.
I’ve been perusing the new NASCAR Encyclopedia, and learning quite a bit. Of the eight races held in 1949, NASCAR’s first year, three were in North Carolina. Charlotte and North Wilkesboro hosted races, which seemed about right, but the third, I was surprised to read, was in Hillsborough. It’s hard to imagine the small, picturesque town as the site of a major stock car race, but they held quite a few at the dirt-track Occoneechee Speedway. Hillsborough hosted Grand National Races from 1950 until 1968, when its race date was assumed by Talladega.
The first Hillsborough race, held on August 7, 1949, was won by Bob Flock, driving a ’48 Oldsmobile and completing the 200-mile race at an average rate of 76.8 miles per hour. That’s probably close to the speed at which most cars zip through town on I-40 today.
During much of North Carolina’s colonial period, the capital of the colony depended on where the governor lived—and that was wherever he wanted to reside. In the 1750s, however, colonial governor Arthur Dobbs attempted to establish a permanent capital on land that he owned in Johnston County (now northeastern Lenoir County). In 1758 the legislature approved an act to purchase the 850-acre “Tower Hill” plantation from Dobbs for the new seat of government. (Conflict of interest? Maybe. Though Dobbs did offer to sell the land for the same amount he paid for it—plus interest.) The new capital was to be called “George City” in honor of King George II. North Carolina’s attempt at flattery was ignored, and the British government did not approve the legislation authorizing the town.
There was a story in Monday’s Greensboro News & Record about Carole Boston Weatherford’s new book, The Carolina Parakeet: America’s Lost Parrot in Art and Memory (Avian Publications, 2005). Weatherford traces the history and decline of North America’s only native parakeet. The Conuropsis carolinensis was once common throughout the eastern United States and is depicted in brilliantly-colored drawings by naturalists Mark Catesby and John James Audubon. A victim of hunters, collectors, and a changing environment, Carolina Parakeets have not been seen since the 1920s.
I was excited to read about the new “Barbecue Park” proposed for Rocky Mount. I think that the park should emblazon the immortal words of William Byrd of Westover over the entrance:
“The only business here is raising of hogs, which is managed with the least trouble, and affords the diet they are most fond of. The truth of it is, the inhabitants of North Carolina devour so much swine’s flesh, that it fills them full of gross humours.”
Byrd wrote this passage around 1730, proving that our appetite for barbecue goes back quite a while. Personally, I think that a few “gross humours” are a small price to pay for an excellently-prepared plate of pulled pork.