Peas or Peanuts: What’s Going On?

"Pea picking near Goldsboro" postcard
This postcard was recently added to our North Carolina Postcards online collection. Although the title reads,”Pea Picking Near Goldsboro, N.C.,” at least one North Carolina Collection staffer (hint: a proud Haligonian) thinks the pictured individuals are actually picking digging or, maybe, dusting peanuts. The foliage of pea and peanut plants is similar so we can’t rule out the Haligonian’s theory based on that distinction. And we’re starting to wonder whether he might have a point. That’s a massive field of peas. Did anyone grow peas on such a large scale in North Carolina? We’re still searching the stacks for a definitive answer. Care to weigh in?

Death noted: William Styron’s roommate

“Am now rooming [at Duke] with Art Katz of Memphis and Claude Kirk of Montgomery, Ala. Both are transfers from Emory, and they’re good guys.”

— Letter from William Styron to his father, March 12, 1944

“[Florida Gov. Claude Kirk] rises to the challenge, occasionally with a fine and almost classic use of the language… ‘Styron taught me about language, about balance and words and how to put them together and get the most out of them.’ ”

— Harper’s magazine, 1968

“Styron settles down to his second Bloody Mary, made with lemons sent him every year by his college roommate….”

— Yale Literary magazine (Fall 1968)

Hard to imagine odder roomies than the saturnine man of letters and the “spectacularly colorful” demagogue…. also hard to imagine that Kirk absorbed such an appreciation of the language while bunking with Styron — couldn’t have been more than a semester or two. I think I once asked Styron about their relationship but can’t find any evidence thereof.




Glitter of gold once pulled Cabarrus together

In 1949 the 150th anniversary of Conrad Reed’s discovery of a 17-pound nugget in Little Meadow Creek — which predated the California gold rush by half a century — was celebrated locally with pride and enthusiasm. Events in Concord included an outdoor drama, a beard-growing contest, a Miss Cabarrus Gold pageant, an air show, a midway, a performance by massed choirs and a visit by Gov. Kerr Scott.

In 1977 Reed Gold Mine opened as a state historic site — an idea envisioned and advocated by H. G. Jones during his tenure as state archivist.

By the gold bicentennial in 1999, however, Cabarrus County had more than doubled in size. Age and emigration had diminished the pool of those who claimed deep roots, and newcomers lacked their sense of place. Though spirited, celebration at Reed Gold Mine paled beside the ambitious community undertaking of 1949.

Pictured: From the collection a silk (I think) ribbon from the Sesquicentennial.

The Mills of Carrboro – 32 Years Apart

Cropped 1915 Sanborn map featuring Carrboro

Cropped fire insurance map of Pacific Mills facilities in Carrboro
Today’s assignment is to compare and contrast. The images above are portions of fire insurance maps depicting Carrboro. The top one is a 1915 map produced by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company. The other is a 1947 map produced by Associated Factory Mutual Fire Insurance Companies. The full maps are included on North Carolina Maps. As you might image, Carrboro changed a little between 1915 and 1947. What’s the same? And what’s different?

Here are a few facts we already know. The 1915 map depicts the facilities of Durham Hosiery Mills, a textile manufacturing company started by Julian Carr in the early days of the 20th century. Those same factories were owned in 1947 by Pacific Mills, a Lawrence, Massachusetts-based textile manufacturer. Pacific Mills bought the buildings and property in 1945, by which point textile manufacturing in Carrboro had ceased. The re-opened mills provided jobs for about 550 people and they produced worsted wool. But the revival of textile manufacturing in Carrboro was short-lived. By 1955 Pacific Mills had closed its plants there.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance map is among many in our collection. The map produced by Associated Factory Mutual hangs in the Carrboro town offices. The folks there allowed us to scan it and share it with the wider world. We’re honored to do so. And we hope that you can tell us how the Paris of the Piedmont changed between 1915 and 1947. And, while you’re at it, feel free to tell us how the depictions compare with what you see today.

Black soldiers went on high-stakes strike in Pisgah Forest

“When blacks disobeyed orders, in contrast [to whites], they were punished severely. In July 1918, B company of the 328th Labor Battalion downed tools after cutting wood for several days without rations in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina. Two white officers, with one gun and 18 bullets, faced 300 disgruntled draftees.

“Excuses were later made for the officers’ incompetence, and the Camp Jackson, S.C., intelligence officer claimed that the trouble had been brewing for weeks and that the black NCOs were ineffectual. At the subsequent court-martial, the testimony of the black men was dismissed as ‘a mass of lies’ and three soldiers were sentenced to death for mutiny, later commuted to 10 years in prison.”

— From “Race, War and Surveillance: African Americans and the United States government during World War I” by Mark Ellis (2001)

Stu Lillard, a former UNC Charlotte and Queens librarian who now volunteers at the National Archives, is researching the dramatic but little-remembered Pisgah Forest Mutiny. Apparently the alleged ringleaders avoided death by firing squad only because the armistice had just ended hostilities in World War I.

To obtain more details — or to contribute your own — email Stu at



Ngram: Good old mountain dew? Not exactly

More phrase-frequency charts from Google Books Ngram Reader:

— mountain dew vs. Mountain Dew

— Michael Jordan vs. Thomas Wolfe, Andy Griffith and Sam Ervin

— Lumbee Indians vs. Catawba Indians

— Wilmington 10 vs. Chicago Seven

— Charlotte Hornets vs. Charlotte Bobcats

Ahoskie Kiwanians played by own racial rules

“Harvey Jones is a young Negro Navy veteran who grows peanuts on 18 acres his father owns near Ahoskie, N.C. Two months ago Harvey was approached by a white man selling lottery tickets for a 1947 Cadillac. A good Southern Negro, Harvey asked if  ‘anyone’ could get in. The man said yes. Harvey bought a ticket.

“At Ahoskie’s Kiwanis Festival, Harvey’s ticket number was drawn. But the Kiwanians did not want a Negro to win. Three men went outside and explained to Harvey that he had made a mistake. The lottery was for white folks. They gave him his dollar back. After another drawing the car went to Dr. Charles Townes, a Waverly, Va., dentist. That, so far as Ahoskie’s Kiwanians were concerned, settled the matter.

“But a month later the news leaked out and the nation got highly indignant. Telegrams and letters startled the fly-specked town. Thundered the Atlanta Constitution, ‘The South just hasn’t got an excuse for this one.’

“Pressure from Kiwanis International induced the Ahoskie chapter to promise Harvey a new car anyway….”

– From Life magazine, July 28, 1947

According to Jet magazine, Harvey Jones received instead a check for $3,200, the value of the Cadillac.

Black job-seekers’ exodus from N.C., circa 1890

“Communities in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia watched as huge crowds of local blacks gathered at railroad stations to await transportation to the Mississippi Delta, the Louisiana rice or sugar fields, or the turpentine camps of the piney woods.

” ‘At the depot an interesting spectacle presented itself in the huge mass of luggage piled on the platform,’ a New Bern, North Carolina, newspaper reported in 1889. ‘Old meat boxes, various other boxes, barrels, trunks of all shapes and sizes, were piled 10 feet high. The train could not accommodate all who wanted to go.’

” ‘The negro exodus now amounts to a stampede,’ David Schenck of Greensboro wrote in his diary in 1890. ‘Nineteen passenger coaches filled to the doors, nine cars filled with baggage, 1,400 negroes… on their way to Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.’ ”

— From “The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction” by Edward L. Ayers (2007)

Ayers writes that states of the Upper South such as North Carolina suffered the greatest relative loss of blacks in search of work. Despite the awestruck accounts from  New Bern and Greensboro, most headed north rather than west.

Up North, Southern accent carries high cost

“One way to handle stereotypes about Southerners was to stop acting Southern….Sociologist Lewis Killian interviewed a young woman in the late 1940s who had successfully dropped her Southern accent and spoke Northern, at least most of the time.

” ‘When I went to Columbus, Ohio, from North Carolina, they called me … hillbilly, stumpjumper and all that stuff. Right then I decided to get rid of my accent. The only time I talk like a Southerner now is when I get schnapps under my belt.’ ‘

— From “The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America” by James N. Gregory (2007)

Charlotte Featured on C-SPAN this Weekend

The cable network C-SPAN will be featuring the history and literature of Charlotte this weekend. One of their Local Content Vehicles was in Charlotte a few weeks ago, and seems to have made the rounds, visiting libraries, bookstores, historic sites, and talking to local authors. Get a sneak preview online at

Among many other features, there’s a great tour of the Special Collections department at UNC-Charlotte, and a nice capsule history of the Mecklenburg Declaration from Tony Zeiss of Central Piedmont Community College.