Fewest foreign-born? Let’s not brag about it

“[In 1952] Senator Willis Smith hailed ‘the people of Greek ancestry’ who had come to North Carolina and ‘conducted themselves in a businesslike way.’ Smith was sure there were ‘no better citizens’ of his state. But, of course, their successful absorption reflected the fact that ‘the percentage of foreign-born in my state is the smallest of any state in the union.’ ”

— From “American Crucible: Race and Nation in the 20th Century” (2001) by Gary Gerstle

Fifteen years earlier, Dr. Frederick Hanes of Duke University, appointed by the General Assembly to head a committee on mental illness, brought back a message legislators may not have expected: “There is considerable pride in this ‘100 percent American stock,’ but it is possible that some new stock, especially from northern European countries, would have been beneficial….These population facts have a direct relation to the incidence of mental illness….”

Weekend link dump: from horses to thieves

— In the Pilot of Southern Pines, Stephen Smith finds a silver lining in the theft of the historical marker identifying the Weymouth Center as the former home of novelist James Boyd.

— Volunteers in Eden retrieve a  sunken 40-foot bateau replica from the Dan River.

— Ben Steelman answers a reader’s question about the checkered tenancy of downtown Wilmington’s old Masonic Temple, aka St. John’s hall. 

— Is North Carolina’s official state horse really unAmerican?

UNC soph gets into swing of Long Island society

” ‘Some Harvard gymnasts had been doing stunts,’ said Sophomore Eaton Brooks of the University of North Carolina, nervously fingering his smartly striped tie. ‘The gentleman from Harvard who was on the other gentleman’s shoulders was swinging the chandelier back and forth. I was up on the mantelpiece, watching people crawl on the rafters. One of the other boys up there swung to the floor on the chandelier, and about ten minutes later I guess I wanted to be a gymnast, too.’  That was when the chandelier collapsed and dumped Tarzan Brooks on the floor.

“Suffolk County [Long Island] Court House was hearing a repeat of one of society’s best late late shows: the house-wrecking escapade of some 65 young bloods after the Southampton coming-out party of Philadelphia Debutante Fernanda Wanamaker Wetherill. Seven veterans of the after-party brawl were charged with causing $6,000 in damage to a beach house Fernanda’s stepfather had rented to put up a bunch of the boys for the weekend.

“All seven were released because of legal technicalities and insufficient evidence — such as lack of proof that the chandelier had been damaged ‘consciously and deliberately with a wrongful intent.’

“Chandelier-swinger Brooks said he was ‘not ashamed of what I did,’ went on to explain. ‘We had been drinking for two straight days, with no sleep…. We weren’t the same people we are today. I agree that someone has a moral obligation about this damage, but I don’t know who is responsible for the atmosphere that caused what happened….’ ”

— From Time magazine, April 24, 1964

Without their language, who are Cherokee?

“Tom Belt, elder-in-residence in the Cherokee studies program at Western Carolina University, said there are approximately 300 native speakers among the 14,000 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee.

” ‘Herein lies the crux of the problem,’ he said. ‘How do we get more spoken? We’re at such a low ebb…. And that’s why we’re here [at a  conference in Philadelphia on preserving Native American languages].’

“Why is preserving the language so important?

” ‘The language not only validates but embodies the idea of being something…’ Belt said. ‘Without it we can’t be who we are. All language is the way we interpret the world — any language is….  And if we have to interpret our world with the language with which another people interpret the world, then it is no longer our world.

” ‘We’re not that people. We’re something, but we’re not what we say we are. So in order to be Cherokee…  we have to say that, we have to speak that, we have to think that.’ ”

— From “Trying to save vanishing languages” in the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 2010

Seven sites win roadside recognition

Thanks to Michael Hill for this list of state highway historical markers approved by the advisory committee May 25:

Pea Island Lifesavers. Only U.S. Lifesaving Station manned by black crew. Led by Richard Etheridge, 1879-1899.

George H. White, 1852-1918. Represented the state’s “Black Second” district, U.S. House, 1897-1901. Last black Southerner in Congress for 72 years. Lived two blocks east. [Tarboro]

Anna J. Cooper, 1858-1964. Educator, orator & early black feminist. Graduate, St. Augustine’s. Author, A Voice from the South (1892). Grave 2 1/2 blks. S. [Raleigh]

Fairgrounds Speedway. After 1928 popularized Indy-style car racing. Site hosted the last NASCAR race on dirt track, 1970. Half-mile oval was 250 yds. SW. [Raleigh]

Lewis Leary, 1835-1859. Free black abolitionist & conspirator in 1859 with John Brown in attack on U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Killed in assault. Lived in this vicinity. [Fayetteville]

Omar Ibn Said, ca. 1770-1863. Muslim slave & scholar. African-born, he penned autobiography in Arabic in 1831. While living in Bladen Co., worshipped with local Presbyterians. [Fayetteville]

Nimrod Jarrett Smith, 1837-1893. Principal Chief, Eastern Band of Cherokee, 1880-1891. Led incorporation of Band & centralization of Tribal government on his property, here. [Cherokee]

Expected by week’s end: Details on each marker.

June 1791: George Washington Visits Salem, NC

This Month in North Carolina History

“Old Tavern Where George Washington Was Entertained In 1791, Winston-Salem, N.C.” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill. View in the digital Durwood Barbour collection.

In the spring of 1791 President George Washington began a tour of the southern states, not only to learn first hand about the condition of the country but also to give the citizens of the young United States a chance to meet their first President. The tremendous enthusiasm with which Washington was greeted as he journeyed to New York after his election must surely have revealed to him the great admiration in which he was held.

A proponent of the new constitution and determined that the government created under that constitution be firmly rooted in the support of the people, Washington saw the advantage of linking his popularity as closely as possible to the new government. As president he tried to remain a national symbol, staying as much as possible above political strife. His tour of the southern states, as well as visits to other parts of the country, also helped to strengthen the growing sense of American union.

Washington’s travels during his presidency were also a testimony to his remarkable physical stamina. In his late fifties at the time of the southern tour, with years of military campaigning behind him, the rigors of travel in America at the end of the eighteenth century had little impact on him. His day often began well before dawn, and Washington would cover as much as fifteen miles before breakfast. In bad weather he traveled in a carriage, but if the day was fine he was in the saddle.

Washington must also have felt the stress of being the most popular figure in the country. Wherever he went Washington was lionized. People poured out to see him in cities, towns, and villages all along his itinerary. Meeting and greeting, speeches, dinners and entertainments were all part of the routine. With as many as a dozen toasts at a dinner, Washington either had an amazing head for alcohol or took very small sips.

Washington first traveled south through the eastern parts of the Carolinas and Georgia and then returned to Virginia by a route that took him farther to the west. He entered North Carolina on the return trip late in May near Charlotte. Passing on through the state, Washington intended to spend the night in Salem, and word came to the town to expect the President in the afternoon of May 31st.

It is easy to imagine that Washington’s visit to Salem, while it was certainly the occasion of much enthusiasm was also the cause of a bit of anxiety. Throughout the south Washington’s tour was a celebration of the Revolution. He was hailed as the Father of his Country. Speeches and toasts memorialized his service in the war against Britain. Many of those who greeted and entertained him had been his fellow soldiers in that war. Salem was something of an exception.

The Moravians of Salem and the surrounding countryside — the old tract of Wachovia — had, at the time of the American Revolution, a tradition of pacifism going back more than three hundred years. When hostilities began between the British government and its colonial opponents the Moravians asked to be left alone. The official diary of the Moravian settlements records simply, “It does not accord with our character as Brethren to mix in such political affairs, we are children of peace.” To patriots or loyalists, who were sacrificing much for their cause, this was hard to accept. The Moravian settlements were persecuted by both sides as they tried to maintain their religious commitment.

Whatever concern there may have been, the meeting between the President and the Moravians went smoothly and pleasantly. We are fortunate to have several accounts of Washington’s visit to Salem, the most important ones being the diary of the President himself and the official diary of the Moravian community. Washington was impressed with the neat orderly appearance of the town as well as with the demeanor of its inhabitants. He considered it a well governed, hard-working community. The people of Salem were impressed with Washington’s simple, friendly manner, particularly with children.

The Moravians loved music, and Washington was so pleased with the band which played for him on his arrival that he asked if he could have music to accompany his dinner. The next day, June 1, Washington toured Salem, visiting its workshops and Choir houses. He was particularly taken with the waterworks. In the afternoon the leaders of the community made a formal address to the President to which he responded. Governor Alexander Martin arrived late in the afternoon, and he and the President attended a “singstunde” with singing and instrumental music. At four o’clock on the morning of June 2nd, the presidential party left Salem and on June 9 crossed back into Virginia.


Alden, John R. George Washington: a biography. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, c. 1984.

Henderson Archibald. Washington’s southern tour, 1791. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1923.

Fries, Adelaide, ed. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, Vol. V. Raleigh, NC: The North Carolina Historical Commission, 1941.

Image Source:

“Old Tavern Where George Washington Was Entertained In 1791, Winston-Salem, N.C.” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.