I found this very interesting “Chapel Hill Letter” in an issue of The Mebane Leader from May 18, 1915. The letter describes a project led by Kemp Plummer Battle to preserve a collection of “articles used in industries in avocations” in 1915 and seal them up in a “hermetically sealed box” to be opened again in 1965 and 2015. At each opening, one of Battle’s descendants would offer a prize of $50 to a student to “write a thesis on the change of the preceding semi-centennial period.”
The North Carolina Historical Society, led at the time by J. G. deRoulhac “Ransack” Hamilton, was charged with keeping the box.
So what happened to it? Does anybody know whether it was opened in 1965? And if we can succeed in tracking it down sometime in the next couple of years, are there any Battle descendants out there who would be willing to offer the $50 prize for an essay?
Here’s the full letter:
On this day in 1938: John Early, referred to in newspapers as “the nation’s most famous leper,” dies at the federal leprosarium in Carville, La. Early, 64, was born near Weaverville. He contracted leprosy (later known as Hansen’s disease) while serving in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. On his return he was captured and quarantined — leprosy was widely feared, though only slightly contagious.
After the first of many escapes, he took refuge on a small farm near Tryon. Neighbors objected, however, and he admitted himself to the Carville leper colony, then operated by the Catholic Church. In 1921 he escaped to Washington, where he walked in on a startled congressional committee and spoke for a bill that would put the Carville facility under the U.S. Public Health Service. In large part because of his lobbying, the bill passed.
In 1927 Early again fled to Tryon. This time his neighbors petitioned the surgeon general to suspend the federal law mandating segregation of lepers and to let him live in isolation on his farm. Their effort failed, however, and Early was returned to Carville for the last time.