Pronouncing Edgecombe

When we put up the fun and instructive “Talk Like a Tar Heel” website a few years ago, there were plenty of comments from around the state. Many of these were in the form of polite corrections to some of the pronunciations given on the site.

One of the place names that came up most often was Edgecombe County. The debate was whether the first syllable should be accented (as in “EDGE-cum”) or whether the stress was placed equally on both syllables (as in “EDGE-COMB”). I’ll leave it to current residents of the region to decide on the proper way to say it these days, but I’ve found a clue as to how the name might have been pronounced in colonial North Carolina.

On a 1781 map published in London Magazine, I spotted this:


Now surely the British publishers would have known the standard way to spell the name. The county was, after all, named after Baron Edgecombe, a member of Parliament and one time lord of the treasury. So why would they spell it differently, unless this alternate spelling was used to reflect the local pronunciation of the name?

Home State Of Blackbeard?

Our recent posting concerning the Bostic Lincoln Center Museum and its claim that Abraham Lincoln was born in North Carolina created quite the furor, especially among some Kentuckians who monitor this blog. Well, a new book by author Kevin Duffus may cause a similar outbreak. In The Last Days of Blackbeard the Pirate, Duffus claims that the infamous pirate was born in North Carolina, not Bristol, England.


Read more about this and other claims from the forthcoming book in this Raleigh News and Observer article.

Happy Birthday, Ed!

Today would be the 100th birthday of journalist Edward R. Murrow. Murrow worked throughout his career to inform the American public, first at CBS and later as the director of the United States Information Agency. He is perhaps most famous for attacking Joe McCarthy on his television show See It Now and for his World War II-era reports broadcast from Europe, which he often ended with the signature phrase, “Good night, and good luck.” But did you know that this great journalist was also a great North Carolinian? Born Egbert Roscoe on April 25, 1908, Edward was the youngest son of Ethel and Roscoe Murrow. He lived on the family’s farm at Polecat Creek, near Greensboro, until his family left North Carolina in 1914 and headed west to settle in Washington state.

Abe Lincoln’s Carolina Roots

Sunday’s News & Observer offered an article discussing the recent opening of the Bostic Lincoln Center Museum. What is the Bostic Lincoln Center, you ask? A Rutherford County group whose mission is “to preserve, study, prepare and make visitor-friendly the traditional birthplace of Abraham Lincoln,” which, by the way, is in Bostic, North Carolina.

Ok, most people would agree that the traditional birthplace was actually in Kentucky, but the Bostic Lincoln Center claims evidence to the contrary. For instance, records of Bostic’s Concord Baptist Church showed that Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, was listed as a member at the time of his birth, suggesting that little Abe was born out of wedlock. With a little searching, I found a number of books here in the North Carolina Collection that support Lincoln’s Carolina roots, such as James H. Cathey’s 1899 work, The Genesis of Lincoln, pictured below.


Each of these sources disagrees on one detail: who’s the father? Among the seven sires of Abraham Lincoln, as listed by William Barton, are Abraham Enloe, Andrew Marshall, and John C. Calhoun. Even Napoleon Bonaparte has been accused, fictionally speaking. Perhaps playing on this Western North Carolina lore, the accusation was made by a character in Thomas Wolfe’s short story “Gentlemen of the Press.”

To settle the matter, the Bostic Lincoln Center is calling for a DNA test. Will they ever find Honest Abe’s illegitimate father? Stay tuned.


We recently found this gem hiding in the stacks, on the back of a 1923 state highway system map of North Carolina:


We had to look up the meaning of “flivvering”, and some of the rhyming is a bit strained, but overall this is a wonderful view into what life was like in the 1920’s, when motoring was new and people were out exploring their country.

Isn’t it nice to know that “Ol’ No’th Ca’lina” was such a great place to visit?

Cartooning At UNC Topic Of Lecture, Exhibition

Political cartoonist John Branch will speak about his career in a lecture titled “A Tar Heel Cartoonist in Texas: Drawing the Line in the Lone Star State” on April 17 at 5:45 p.m. in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Branch has been the editorial cartoonist of the San Antonio Express-News since 1981. He graduated in 1976 from UNC, where he launched his cartooning career at the The Daily Tar Heel. Branch’s work has been reprinted in The New York Times, USA Today, and Newsweek, and he has published two collections of his work: Out on a Limb (1976) and Would You Buy a Used Cartoon from this Man? (1979).

A reception and viewing of the exhibition “Lines of Humor, Shades of Controversy: A Century of Student Cartooning at UNC” will begin at 5 p.m. in the North Carolina Collection Gallery of Wilson Library. The event is free and open to the public.

“Lines of Humor, Shades of Controversy” presents 177 cartoons from undergraduate publications at UNC between 1907 and 2006. The earliest cartoons appeared in yearbooks around the turn of the twentieth century and student humor magazines by the 1920s. The Daily Tar Heel first introduced student-drawn cartoons on its editorial page in the late 1950s. Many of the topics—freshmen, campus food, athletics—are quite consistent over time; however, many of the older cartoons provide a window on attitudes that would today be considered racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive.

Exhibit highlights include two original cartoons by Jeff MacNelly, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist and creator of the comic strip Shoe. MacNelly attended UNC from 1965 to 1969. One cartoon depicts the student strikes and boycotts of the University’s dining services in 1969. The other is a watercolor painting featuring Shoe characters in front of Howell Hall to commemorate UNC’s bicentennial in 1993.