Abe Lincoln-Lost Colony Link

Generations of Tar Heels have debated whether or not Abraham Lincoln was conceived in North Carolina while his mother, Nancy Hanks, was a servant in the household of Abraham Enloe. Who could have imagined that there might be a connection between Lincoln and the primeval North Carolina story–that of the Lost Colony?

Seth Grahame-Smith did. Grahame-Smith, author of the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, recasts our sixteenth president as a vampire killer in his new novel, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. In Grahame-Smith’s telling, several of Lincoln’s family members, including his beloved mother, were killed by vampires. Burning for revenge, Lincoln leaves home to hunt these monsters. Lincoln’s success rate is low until the vampire Henry Sturges takes him in and tutors Lincoln on the habits and vulnerabilities of the bloodthirsty undead. Henry was a good man, made a vampire by the evil doctor among the colonists on Roanoke Island. The reader of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is treated to a ten-page retelling of the Lost Colony saga. “CROATAN” is explained, and we learn Virginia Dare’s fate (not good). I guarantee that the story is not the one you learned in school.

Plymouth native achieves ‘climax of sensation!’

“As we walked home one night, in need of a culminating incident in [his 1867 play ‘Under the Gaslight’], my brother said, ‘I have got the sensation we want — a man fastened to a railroad track and rescued just as the train reaches the spot!’

“On the first night the audience was breathless….It became the town talk. The houses were thronged. An old theatre-goer who stood up in rear of the crowded seats turned to those about him after a long-drawn breath and said, ‘It is the climax of sensation!’ So it was, and so has remained.”

– From “The Life of Augustin Daly” (1917)  by Joseph Francis Daly. John Augustin Daly, born in Plymouth in  1838, had a long and fruitful career writing and producing plays — the tied-to-the-tracks device was only the most visceral of his creations. Taking a troupe on a Southern tour in 1878, Daly wrote his brother

“To-night we are in Raleigh — a city without a paved street, & yet  an extensive and important-looking place. At any rate its citizens have turned out to-night en masse, headed by the Governor (not that Governor of North Carolina who made the historical remark to the Governor of South Carolina) but Governor Vance, to whom I was introduced & whom I escorted to a box amid the enthusiastic approbation  of the entire audience. Everybody seems to know I’m a native & they welcome me as a brother….”

Worlds That Might Have Been

Recently we found in the stacks a “Parking Facilities Study” for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill done by the Office of the University Engineer in 1961. Parking is a sore subject for most of us, and for those of us working in Wilson Library the parking proposal in this study looked like a little bit of heaven. The proposal was for a parking deck to be built on the south side of South Road, behind and to the west of the Bell Tower. The deck would be below ground with its top at about ground level for the Tower. The top was to be landscaped and planted with bushes and shrubs and even a tennis court. This conjured up visions of walking out of Wilson at the end of a spring day and taking a short stroll over to our car in the new deck. But before driving home we might take a walk around the deck’s roof garden or, for the more athletically inclined, perhaps a game of tennis. Dream on.

Dare Stone: Does debunking need debunking?

In the July 2009 North Carolina Historical Review, David La Vere, professor of history at UNC Wilmington, argued for taking seriously the “Dare Stone” found near the Chowan River in 1937:

“Scholars have dismissed the stone as a forgery, but a closer look shows it might well be what it purports to be: a last message from Eleanor Dare and the Lost Colony…. It tells a credible story….”

Now Dram Tree Books in Wilmington has published Dr. La Vere’s  “The Lost Rocks: The Dare Stones and the Unsolved Mystery of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony.”

I asked him whether the stone might yield its secrets to modern forensic science.

“The Stone’s language has been examined many times,” he replied. “I had an Elizabethan scholar look over the language. He went in with the idea to discredit and came away amazed how it all fit Elizabethan English. He was particularly interested in the word ‘salvage’ (for savage) which was used in English (from the Italian word for forest) during only a few years…. The Lost Colony fit in with that period.
“I don’t know when the physical aspect of the stone was examined last. In the 1980s it was looked over, but they found they could not come to any new evidence on it. It still looks like a chisel did it. The problem was that it was ‘corrupted’  from the time it was found — gone over with a wire brush, pencils and nail. New techniques would entail destroying parts of the stone, and Brenau [University, where it resides] doesn’t seem willing to do that.

“So it could be real, or it could be a good fake.”

Paging Sam Spade….

The Nash-Hooper House, Hillsborough, NC


The postcard above shows an image of the Nash-Hooper House in Hillsborough, NC. William Hooper, a Revolutionary War hero and signer of the Declaration of Independence, moved into the Nash house in 1782.

The caption on the back of the postcard alerted us that Inglis Fletcher featured the Nash-Hooper House in two of her novels.  These novels are from Fletcher’s fabulous historical fiction series, “The Carolina Series,” documents events and people in North Carolina’s early beginnings.  These novels have been reviewed on our sister blog, Read North Carolina Novels, and you can read the reviews here:

  • The Wind in the Forest
  • Queen’s Gift
  • Outhouse mailbox: $1 worth of beautification?

    “Not the most beautiful portions of the U. S. are the Carolinas. Apart from the sea islands to the east and the mountains to the west, the bulk of both States is flat, sandy, scrubby, down-at-heel. Yet local pride burns high. The Carolina Motor Club of Charlotte decided that the ugliest excrescences on their land’s flat face were the rural rows of raffish, rusty mail boxes propped on old wagon wheels and rotting fence posts. Prize money was assembled, and the  Rural Mail Box Improvement Campaign was launched.

    “The North Carolina prize committee, chairmanned by Author Struthers Burt (“The Diary of a Dude Wrangler,” “Festival”), [awarded] $5 to B. B. Britt of Garner. Mr. Britt’s mailbox [had been] propped on a fence rail between tin signs advertising Coca-Cola and a tonic known as DR. PEPPER (“Good for Life”). Beautifier Britt took down these signs, cleared away assorted lengths of rusting barbed wire, old tomato cans, broken peach baskets, bits of kindling, corn stalks. Then he bowered his mailbox in flowering vines, shrubs, sun flowers, and a border of sweet alyssum.

    “There were also $1 prizes for Lula Williams at Autryville, who moved her mailbox to an oak tree and planted petunias around it, and for Mrs. Z. I. McBane of Graham,  who put her mailbox into what looked like an outhouse on stilts.”

    — From Time magazine, Jan. 21, 1935

    Saving family papers from ‘vile Yankee drawl’

    On this day in 1865: Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, wife of a Halifax County planter, writes in her journal after hearing the news from Appomattox:

    “How can I write it? How find words to tell what has befallen us? Gen. Lee has surrendered! Surrendered the remnant of his noble Army to an overwhelming horde of mercenary Yankee knaves & foreigners. . . .

    “For the past few days our constant employment [has been] burning our private papers. . . . The thought of seeing them in Yankee hands, of hearing them read in vile Yankee drawl amidst peals of vulgar Yankee laughter, or worse still, of knowing them heralded abroad in Yankee sensational newspapers, restrained me [from saving any letters]! This has been the fate of thousands of my fellow countrywomen, for the Northern journals teem with private papers stolen from Southern Households and published to a vulgar curious world as specimens of Southern thought, Southern feeling, and Southern composition. When I thought of all this . . . turning to Mr. Edmondston, I buried my face in his lap and fairly wept aloud!”

    For FDR, ‘the greatest tribute — utter silence’

    “Franklin Roosevelt, honorably discharged from all his wars, rode slowly through Charlotte’s sorrowing thousands last night….

    “Stretching the length of the railway station and packing the streets that opened out upon the tracks, the people… paid him the greatest tribute they knew — utter silence.

    “As the crowd awaited the arrival of the train, they stood quietly and talked in low tones. And as it came slowly through, the only noise was that of the soldiers as they brought their rifles smartly to the salute.

    “When the train had passed, and only a glimpse could be caught of the great American flag that covered the copper casket in which lay the body of the fallen chief, the crowd, still without a discordant word, turned and went away.

    “As some 40 singers from the various churches… began singing ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ and ‘My Faith Looks Up to Thee,’ hats went off all up and down the tracks.

    “Farther down the tracks at the other end of the station, a Negro group sang spirituals. For Negroes were there, too, hundreds of them, paying their tribute to the man whom hey looked upon as the best friend they ever had in the White House.”

    — From “Sorrowing Charlotte Thousands Pay Final Homage to Roosevelt” by LeGette Blythe, Charlotte Observer, April 14, 1945

    Blythe, a prolific newspaperman and historian, was the grandfather of Will Blythe, author of “To Hate Like This Is to be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry” (2006).

    FDR train pauses at ‘Noplace in the Carolinas’

    “The funeral train plunged through the darkness [on April 14, 1945], changing engines and crews again at Salisbury, North Carolina, where 8,000 people (including 145 honor guards from Fort Bragg), stood in silence — and presented still another floral wreath. Sometime after midnight, the train rumbled through Greensboro. The countryside between the big cities was land that one journalist [Jim Bishop]  later termed ‘Noplace in the Carolinas.’ With a schedule to keep, the funeral train simply could not stop in such locales….

    “The exception was a place — never identified — where the railroad tracks slipped into a narrow cut of earth with farm fields abutting the crevasse on either side….. The locomotives chuffed to a halt beneath a tall wooden water tank….

    “As the fireman wrestled the filling spout over the hatch of the first tender, an elderly black sharecropper — awakened by the hiss and clang below — wandered over to investigate. He peered down  and saw the train paused in the ghost light, its windows all dark except for those of the last car, where he saw the flag and knew what it meant.

    “Shocked and humbled, the man began to sing ‘Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Cane.’ His sonorous baritone boomed across the moonlit fields, drawing other farm hands out of their shanties. One by one they added their voices to the chorus. One of the engineers looked up, certain he could hear singing from somewhere above and away….”

    — From “FDR’s Funeral Train” by Robert Klara (2010)

    Klara’s book is authoritative and engaging, but I was disappointed he didn’t make use of reporter LeGette Blythe’s deadline account of the funeral train passing through Charlotte. I’ll post an excerpt tomorrow.