1800s brought mansions to villages, plantations

“Rather than appearing exclusively on fashionable city streets or on the hills overlooking the largest cities, 19th century mansions were constructed everywhere. Eighteenth century North Carolina was noticeably lacking in distinguished Georgian mansions, because of its relative poverty, but in the 19th century scores of elegant houses in the latest styles arose in little towns all over the state. Some were erected by migrants from Virginia who grew rich in Warren and Halifax, the prime tobacco counties…. William Williams  owned three plantations spread over 6,000 acres and built Montmorenci with the fabulous curving staircase that now stands in the Winterthur Museum.

“By the middle of the century nearly every town across the northern and eastern regions of the state had a mansion of some proportions, and some had a half dozen or more. These houses stood as evidence that gentility and polite society had come to country towns.”

— From “The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities” by Richard Lyman Bushman (1992)

Civil War opened classroom jobs to N.C. women

“In the North, a feminization of teaching had already occurred in the antebellum era, but… in North Carolina in 1860 only 7 percent of teachers were women. During the war this proportion rose significantly, until by the end of the conflict there were as many female as male teachers in the state….

“As Calvin Wiley, superintendent of common schools for North Carolina, noted in 1862, ‘Many ladies are compelled  by the circumstances of the times to labor for a living; and there is no employment better suited to the female nature, and none in which ladies can labor more usefully, than in the business of forming the minds and hearts of the young’….

“J. K. Kirkpatrick, president of Davidson College, perceived a parallel between male soldiers and female teachers — and anticipated some of the same parental resistance to sending daughters to the classroom as sons to battle: ‘You have made your sons an offering on your country’s altar. Would you withhold your daughters from a service, noble in itself, and befitting their sex, without which their country must be subjected to a yoke more disgraceful and oppressive than that our ruthless enemies would lay upon our necks — the yoke of ignorance and its consequences, vice and degradation?’ ”

— From “Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War” (1996) by Drew Gilpin Faust

Silent Sam Under Fire Again

Postcard of dedication of Silent Sam
Unveiling of Confederate Monument, June 2, 1913
The monument to the Confederate dead on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, commonly known as Silent Sam, was the site of protest yesterday. Leaders of the Real Silent Sam movement seek to draw attention to the monuments and buildings on campus that honor people and ideals that they consider non-representative of today’s students and their views.

Want some background before you form an opinion? Our collections include speeches from the dedication and newspaper coverage of Silent Sam over the years–both the praise and the criticism.

Bettie Jackson London spoke on behalf of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Industrialist Julian Carr, a UNC trustee and Confederate veteran, also delivered a speech. You can read the first few pages by going here, selecting item 93 and then clicking next within the blue band at the right of your screen until you reach item 100. An additional 12 pages are here. Select item 101 and click next within the blue band on the right. I know. We don’t make it easy. But the speech is worth the effort.

Settlers vs. Cherokees not for faint-hearted

“The [white settlers’] 1776 retaliatory expedition against the Cherokees illustrates the increasingly racial tone of border warfare….

“At Tomasee [in what is now northeast Georgia], where General Williamson’s troops surrounded a group of Cherokee warriors, some engaged in hand-to-hand combat. During one intense fight, a North Carolina bruiser… placed his long thumbnails on either side of the Cherokee’s eye, about to gouge it from the socket. According to a witness, the Cherokee man cried ‘Canaly!’ which he took to mean ‘Enough!’ (but which may actually have been ‘Ga-na-li!’ meaning ‘Beast!); ‘Damn you,’ says the white man, ‘you can never have enough while you are alive.’

“He threw the Cherokee down, scalped him alive, then beat him to death with the butt of a rifle.”

— From “Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America” by Christina Snyder (2010)

Camp Catawba Remembered

Camp Catawba pamphlet cover
A recent posting on church assemblies in the mountains has led some readers to reflect back on their own summer camp experiences. It also sparked Asheville journalist Jon Elliston to bring Camp Catawba to our attention. Elliston (with the help of illustrator Phil Blank) recently penned a short history of Camp Catawba for the Asheville news weekly, Mountain Xpress. The Blowing Rock camp for boys was started in 1944 by Vera Lachmann, a poet, classics scholar and refugee from Nazi-era Germany. In addition to offering such traditional activities as hiking, swimming, horseback riding and volleyball, Lachmann provided lessons in the classics Lachmann shared her love of the classics with campers. Campers read The Illiad and The Odyssey She retold The Iliad and The Odyssey in her words and guided campers as they staged performances of works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Shakespeare and Moliere. Tui St. George Tucker, Lachmann’s companion and a composer, directed the camp’s music program, which included an orchestra, choir and private music lessons.

While rich in culture, Camp Catawba perpetually lacked cash. It limped along financially until 1970 when Lachmann and Tucker hosted their last group of boys. Lachmann died in 1985 and left the camp to Tucker, who moved to the camp full time and continued to compose music. Tucker eventually sold the camp to the National Park Service, but she remained on the property until her death in 2004.

Campers, many of whom hailed from the New York City area, shared their memories of life at Camp Catawba in a 1973 book. We found the pamphlet below in our collections. Lachmann’s forbiddance of comic books (see p. 6) makes us wonder how she’d feel about having her camp memorialized in the comic-book style.

Elliston and the Mountain Xpress have created links to other Camp Catawba-related items from collections elsewhere.

Civil rights museum keeps visitors on short leash

“Most frustrating…  is that everyone who comes to this museum has to be taken on a guided tour; no one can explore the galleries, exhibits and artifacts at their own pace. While the docents are usually well trained and work from thorough scripts, visitors get only one interpretive angle ….

“Why is the museum insisting on this guided tour, unlike most other major civil rights museums?… Part of the answer… is apparent in the core exhibit, where there is a curious absence of explanatory panels in most display cases and virtually no object labels whatsoever…. ”

— From a mostly favorable review of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro by David A. Zonderman, N.C. State history professor, in the North Carolina Historical Review (July 2011)