These photos may knock you for a loupe

This week’s speculation over the identity of Clyde Hoey (and a camera-shy Harry Truman?) brought to mind, “a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s” (’60s, actually). Some are familiar (Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange), but others may surprise.

Some North Carolina examples:

— Petersburg provost marshal’s office, 1864

— Mount Airy Indian-themed 1964 birthday party

— Mount Olive homestead, 1800

— Pitt County 1910 chain gang

— Sapphire lodge, 1902 and (here too)

Governor talked, but lynch mob still walked

“Just after one midnight last week 200 masked men drove up to the Edgecombe County jail in Tarboro, N. C., gained admittance by pretending they brought a prisoner. Silently they drew revolvers, covered the deputy sheriff, brought out Negro Oliver Moore, 35, who was being held for trial in September on a charge of attacking Ethel and Lucile Morgan, white sisters aged 7 and 5.

“In a motorcade of 50 cars without licenses the 200 took Oliver Moore 15 mi. to his home in Wilson County, there strung him from a tree. As his body twisted and writhed, all shot at it until he was dead; first lynchee in North Carolina since 1921, twelfth in the U. S. for 1930.

“Said North Carolina’s Governor Oliver Max Gardner: ‘I am horrified. It is a black spot on a fine record … of nearly a decade. … A disgrace to North Carolina! The State will do everything in its power to find the guilty parties and bring them to justice.”

— From Time magazine, Sept. 1, 1930

Despite Gardner’s promise, investigation of the lynching was cursory at best, and no arrests were ever made.

Link dump confesses lack of Otto Wood news

— The case against pardoning Gov. Holden.

— How “Chicken” Stephens was named and claimed.

— Pine, ‘shine and the decline of Buffalo City.

Avett Brothers on Flatt and Scruggs: “We wouldn’t even recognize their music.”

Mary Ann McQueen, Lucy Bryant and the tangled skein of racial identify.

‘The most barbarous place in the Continent’

“The London-based Society [for the Propagation of the Gospel] sent the first missionary to North Carolina in 1704, John Blair, a graduate of Glasgow College. On his arrival in the province he observed that the population was ‘exceedingly scattered’ and the people ‘backward in religious matters and little disposed to assist in the support of a minister of the Church of England.’

“After a brief period he returned to England ‘enfeebled with poverty and sickness,’ having found North Carolina ‘the most barbarous place in the Continent.’ ”

– From “A War of Religion: Dissenters, Anglicans and the American Revolution” by James B. Bell (2008)

Link dump resists move to digital subscriptions

— Was the Civil War avoidable? Maybe if Lincoln had listened to John Gilmer….

— Exactly when were those “Greetings from Raleigh”?

— Outer Banks overdevelopment: doing the job nuclear weapons didn’t?

— Before Dino De Laurentiis there was… Mabel Evans Jones.

— Today’s health tip: Don’t eat snot otters.

‘Granny Clampett’ takes on the Rolling Stones

“The [Rolling Stones’ 1965] tour continued successfully through Baltimore, Knoxville and Charlotte, where [photographer] Gered Mankowitz and [drummer] Charlie Watts were beaten up in the hotel coffee bar by a little old lady with an umbrella, who looked exactly like Granny Clampett of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ She’d taken a dislike to them because of the length of their hair. The manager finally led her away.”

— From “Stone Alone: The Story of a Rock ‘N’ Roll Band” (1990) by Bill Wyman with Ray Coleman

South of the border, down Charlotte way

Like Charlie Brown forever believing this time Lucy won’t snatch away the football, we Charlotteans always expect our latest civic triumph to hammer our identity deep into the national consciousness. Big banks, NBA (twice!), NFL, Final Four, NASCAR Hall of Fame….

But before Charlotte was chosen to host the next Democratic National Convention, early returns for 2011 (as so often before) hadn’t been encouraging.

When we landed the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane, for instance, the trade journal Flight International responded, “You can now add Charlotte, South Carolina, to your aviation attractions list.”

And Inside Tennis magazine reported that “Atlanta — which boasts the largest tennis-playing population in the world — comes up just short in the USTA’s Best Tennis Town competition…  narrowly finishing second behind Charlotte, S.C.

But now that Charlotte has  wooed and won the convention — deftly elbowing aside St. Louis, Cleveland and Minneapolis — surely our South of the Border days are behind us.

Surely, Congressional Quarterly this month wouldn’t refer to “an ICE operation swooping up 45 suspected gang members in and around Charlotte, S.C.

Surely, Lucy wouldn’t….

A rumble in the mountains

Bald Mountain, North Carolina. The scene of the earthquake phenomena and threatened volcano

The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan sent us into the annals of North Caroliniana searching for tales of tremors in the Tar Heel state. There we found the story of Rumbling Bald Mountain, a series of tremors in 1874 that led locals to fear a volcano and drew the attention (and skepticism) of the New York press.

In early February 1874 residents near Chimney Rock in western Rutherford County reported feeling the ground shake and hearing loud booms coming from the direction of Bald Mountain, a 3,020 foot peak in the Broad River basin. Some claimed to see smoke and vapors coming from within the earth, giving rise to fears of a soon-to-explode volcano. Panic set in among the locals as tremors continued over the ensuing two months.

As word spread of strange happenings in the mountains, the press descended on the region and wrote of the religious fervor the tremors inspired. J. Timothy Cole, author of The Rumbling Mountain of Hickory Nut Gap: The Story of North Carolina’s Most Celebrated Earthquakes, writes that the most vivid accounts of the Bald Mountain earthquake and resulting panic are found in the Daily News of Raleigh, the New York Herald and the Asheville Western Expositor. Capt. E.C. Woodson of the Daily News reported that on the evening of February 9th a local preacher holding a religious revival prayed that God would move the ” ‘the strong hearts of this wicked people’ ” by causing ” ‘the mountain to shake and tremble beneath their feet.’ ” According to Woodson’s account, the first tremors near Bald Mountain occurred the following day.

Whether coincidence or divine intervention, the earthquake prompted more religious meetings and a revival-like atmosphere. The Western Expositor records that residents stopped work. “Cattle, horses and hogs were turned to the woods,” the paper reported, “And the entire people within range of this awful excitement have concluded that they have but a few more days to live.” The New York Times eventually printed a dispatch from a Knoxville reporter under the multi-line header “A Volcano in North Carolina. Extraordinary agitation of Bald Mountain.Terrible Sights and Sounds.The Terror-Stricken Residents Praying During Sixteen Days.” Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News also joined in the coverage.

The New York press’s interest in the story may have been little more than an attempt to sell papers or poke fun at the odd mountain folks south of the Mason-Dixon. Within days of running the first article about the tremors and possible volcano at Bald Mountain, the New York Times ran a second article suggesting that “the Bald Mountain Volcano, of North Carolina, has been regarded as a third-rate hoax.” The source of “this new sensation,” the Times suggested, was an Indian legend about “the original formation of the ridge known as Bald Mountain, or of an eruption which occurred many years ago.”

Wofford College professor Warren DuPre was sufficiently intrigued by the reports to mount an expedition to the region. Accompanied by a civil engineer, a preacher and about a dozen students, DuPre interviewed residents and hiked the terrain near Bald Mountain. During the course of its investigation, the team experienced several tremors firsthand. The group found no evidence of “gaping rocks, smoking peaks, sinking caverns, melting snows, etc, with which our newspapers have been teeming for many weeks past.” Eventually DuPre prepared a report for the Smithsonian Institution in which he ruled out rock blasting and electrical storms. But his explanation for the tremors was hardly conclusive. “The phenomena,” he wrote,”must be referred to that general volcanic or earthquake force, which seems as necessary to the economy of nature as light, heat or electricity.”DuPre’s words likely would not have calmed the fears of residents had the tremors not stopped by early May 1874.

Later investigators of the tremors have suggested that the rumblings may have resulted from rock falls occurring in a vast network of caves that lies under Bald Mountain. Scientists continue to investigate the plates and substrata that lie underneath North Carolina’s mountains and debate the seismic risks faced in this part of the country. But there seems little dispute as to the origins of the descriptor that sets Rutherford County’s Bald Mountain apart from similarly named peaks in Avery, Jackson, Wautauga, Yancey, Davidson and Orange counties. Rumbling Bald Mountain claimed its title in the winter of 1874.

Chain gangs: ‘Good roads make good men’

“For [antebellum] Southern critics the notion of locking up white men and making them toil amounted to an intolerable inversion of a divinely ordained social hierarchy. ‘Under the Penitentiary system, the free-born citizen is made to labor directly under the lash as a slave,’ fulminated a North Carolina commentator in 1846. ‘Is this not worse than death?’…

“Border states and those with thriving commercial cities built prisons first… only Florida and the Carolinas held out beyond the Civil War….

“With their penitentiaries in ruins and criminal convictions on the rise, every Southern state handed over prisoners to for-profit contractors in the decades after the Civil War. In North Carolina, state officials stuffed convicts into padlocked boxcars and shipped them off to Appalachian railroad camps.

“In response to the powerful ‘good roads movement’ [of the early 20th century, states such as North Carolina] put prisoners to work on state chain gangs.

“The chain gang, in which thousands of prisoners, most of them black, were loaded onto cattle trucks and carted around the state to pound rocks and shovel dirt, was celebrated as a humanitarian advance…. ‘Good roads make good men,’ proclaimed Joseph Hyde Pratt, a geologist and convict labor advocate in North Carolina. ‘Life in the convict road camp… is more conducive to maintaining and building up the general health and manhood of the convict than when he is confined behind prison walls.’ ”

— From “Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire” by Robert Perkinson (2010)