Crime and punishment, North Carolina-style

On this day in 1786: A judge in Pasquotank County certifies that “John Rose, an inhabitant of this county and State aforesaid, being with part of his left ear left off, had the misfortune to be deprived of that by a bite of a Malicious Mare… “

As late as the early 1800s, N.C. courts commonly punish offenders by loss of one or both ears. A perjurer in Ashe County, for example, is fined 10 pounds and sentenced to “stand in the pillory for one hour, at the expiration of which time both his ears be cut off and entirely severed from his head, and… be nailed to the pillory and there remain till the setting of the sun.”

To avoid being taken for convicted criminals, citizens such as John Rose petition the courts to certify that their missing or maimed ears resulted from other causes.

A North Carolinian With Lewis And Clark

We recently had a question about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and whether or not the University Library had any relevent resources. The Library does, but it made me start thinking (of course) about whether or not there was a North Carolina connection. I found at least one…a member of the Corps of Discovery was from North Carolina. Can anyone name this person? Were there others? Are there other North Carolina connections of which our loyal readers know?

DOT link dump: A plane, a train, an automobile

— Will World War II bomber pulled from South Carolina lake wind up north of the border?

— Was engineer’s race “to put her in Spencer on time” wrongly blamed for wreck of the Old 97?

— Now this is an irresistible headline:  “Is it true a Cadillac fell off the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge into the river?”?

It took more than Tweets to challenge segregation

“One crucial fact about the four freshmen at the Greensboro lunch counter — David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, and Joseph McNeil — was their relationship with one another. McNeil was a roommate of Blair’s in A. & T.’s Scott Hall dormitory. Richmond roomed with McCain one floor up, and Blair, Richmond, and McCain had all gone to Dudley High School. The four would smuggle beer into the dorm and talk late into the night in Blair and McNeil’s room….
“It was McNeil who brought up the idea of a sit-in at Woolworth’s. They’d discussed it for nearly a month. Then McNeil came into the dorm room and asked the others if they were ready. There was a pause, and McCain said, in a way that works only with people who talk late into the night with one another, ‘Are you guys chicken or not?’ Ezell Blair worked up the courage the next day to ask for a cup of coffee because he was flanked by his roommate and two good friends from high school.”
— Malcolm Gladwell, arguing in The New Yorker (Oct. 4) that the tight bonds typical of the civil rights movement are far more effective at bringing about change than  “the kind of activism associated with social media” such as Twitter and Facebook.

Billy Graham on JFK: Religion is relevant issue

“Pausing in Geneva while preparing for his two-month crusade in Switzerland and West Germany, Evangelist Billy Graham plunged into U.S. politics by announcing that religion — meaning John F. Kennedy’s Roman Catholicism — was a legitimate issue in the campaign and would be decisive in the outcome. ‘A man’s religion cannot be separated from his person,’  said North Carolina Baptist Graham. ‘The religious issue is deeper than in 1928 [when the Democratic nominee was Al Smith, a Catholic]. People are better informed today.’

“Protestants might be hesitant to vote for Kennedy, Graham added, because the Roman Catholic Church is ‘not only a religious but also a secular institution, with its own ministers and ambassadors.’ ”

— From Time magazine, August 29, 1960

How Chesterfields saved Eddie Fisher’s life

“[Movie producer Mike Todd, third of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands] had rented a twin-engine Lockheed Lodestar and renamed it the Lucky Liz, which Elizabeth had decorated for him….

“In March 1958 Mike was to be roasted by the New York Friars Club…. Sammy Cahn had written risque lyrics to ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ that I planned to sing at the dinner. Mike wanted me to fly with him to New York on the Lucky Liz, but I had to go to Greensboro, North Carolina, to film a commercial for Chesterfield….

“I was watching television…. when it was announced that Mike’s plane had crashed into the mountains of New Mexico.”

— From “Been There, Done That” by Eddie Fisher [fourth of Taylor’s husbands] with David Fisher (1999)

A Poem from Torpedo Junction

North Carolina Public Radio this morning featured a report on efforts to get veteran status for Tar Heels who ferried supplies along the East Coast during World War II. Merchant marines and small boat captains dodged German U-boats in an area off of Cape Hatteras that came to be known as Torpedo Junction. During the first four months of 1942, nearly 70 US naval and merchant ships were sunk by German U-Boat attacks.

The radio report got us digging around in the North Carolina Collection for materials on Torpedo Junction and the battles that took place there. We came across a poem, supposedly written by U-boat commander Johann “Jochen” Mohr as he reported to his superiors yet another sinking of an American vessel.

The new-moon night is black as ink
Off Hatteras the tankers sink
While sadly Roosevelt counts the score –
Some fifty thousand tons – by

Mohr and the crew of U-124 are credited with sinking four ships off the North Carolina coast on May 12, 1942. He and his crew were killed 11 months later when a British naval vessel sank U-124 off the coast of Portugal.

We’ll leave it to others to figure out why Mohr’s poem rhymes so well in English when we suspect he wrote his dispatch in German.

To whom it may concern — from Orville Wright

“Someone from Dayton, Ohio…  visited the towns around eastern North Carolina and handed out flyers with a kindly request asking, ‘Please return whatever parts of the plane you still have, and I [Orville Wright] will send each of you a letter of thanks and a small sliver of wood from the actual plane that made the first flight, now on display at the Smithsonian.’ ”

The headline “An incredible piece of aviation history” may be a bit hyperbolic (Amelia’s logbook, that would be incredible), but Palmer Wood does unfold a fascinating story.

All Hail the Muscadine

The Scuppernong variety of Muscadine grape

Lovers of the grape are scheduled to gather Saturday for the sixth annual N.C. Muscadine Harvest Festival in Kenansville. In honor of the occasionally-maligned vitis rotundifolia, we present herewith a few facts about Muscadines.

–There are numerous varieties of Muscadine grapes. The terms Muscadine and Scuppernong are often used interchangeably. In fact, Scuppernong is one variety of Muscadine. “All Scuppernongs are Muscadines. But not all Muscadines are Scuppernongs.”

–Muscadine varieties range from bronze to dark purple to black in color. They are characterized by a thick, often bitter skin and a juicy, gelatinous pulp. Varietal names include Magnolia, Fry, Triumph, Nesbitt, Black Fry and Ison.

–Writing in the early 1700s, naturalist John Lawson described six sorts of wild grapes growing in North Carolina. According to Lawson, they differed in their color and the season in which they were ripe.

–The Scuppernong, also once known as the White Grape, the Big White Grape and the Roanoke, earned its name from the Scuppernong River, Scuppernong Lake (now Lake Phelps) and the settlement of Scuppernong. Not the other way around.

–The word Scuppernong is believed to be derived from the Algonquian word askuponong, which means at the place of the askupo, sweet bay or Magnolia virginiana (a small evergreen common in the states lowlands).

–In 1840 North Carolina was the premier winemaking state in the U.S.

–At the turn of the 20th century Halifax County native Paul Garrett took top honors at wine competitions in Paris and St. Louis for his scuppernong wines. Garrett’s Virginia Dare wine was one of the most popular wines in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century.

–Muscadines are reported to have an antioxidant level 40 times higher than any other grape. The main antioxidants found in Muscadines can play a key role in preventing cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol and in treating such ailments as arthritis, topical burns and the flu.

–The Scuppernong was named North Carolina’s state fruit in 2001.

Want to know more? Try these sources:

Clarence Gohdes’s Scuppernong: North Carolina’s Grape and Its Wine

The North Carolina Muscadine: A Historical Timeline

The North Carolina Muscadine Grape Association

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Muscadine Media Kit.

Hendersonville’s moment in boxing spotlight

On this day in 1926: Heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, who trained for the fight outside Hendersonville, loses a 10-round decision to Gene Tunney in Philadelphia.

Developers of Laurel Park Estates paid Dempsey $35,000 and “other considerations” to set up camp there. The minister of Hendersonville’s First Methodist Church opposed Dempsey’s month-long visit because of the undesirables he would attract — and 200 sportswriters did show up.

Dempsey liked the mountain air but found the water, according to local accounts, “too pure.”