It’s unclear whether Governor David S. Reid’s offer of a $300 reward resulted in the arrest of the three members of Johnson & Co’s People’s Circus charged with killing Milton Mathis. But perhaps the answer lies in a subsequent edition of William Woods Holden’s Semi-Weekly North-Carolina Standard. Consider this your invitation to search.
I’m happy to report that your search may have just gotten easier. The Standard and a host of other North Carolina newspaper titles are now available online and searchable via Chronicling America, a joint project by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities to make available online historic U.S. newspapers published from 1836 through 1922. The North Carolina Collection and its partner, the N.C. Office of Archives and History, received funding in 2012 to scan microfilm of titles from the Old North State and prepare them for publication on Chronicling America. It’s a slow process. But in the coming months you should gain online access to 100,000 pages from 21 North Carolina newspapers.
In the coming months you’ll find issues of The Independent of Elizabeth City; the New Bern Weekly Progress; the Rockingham Post-Dispatch; the Fisherman & Farmer of Edenton and Elizabeth City; The Review of High Point; The French Broad Hustler from Hendersonville; The Durham Daily Globe; The Semi-Weekly Messenger from Wilmington; The Sun from Fayetteville; the Journal of Freedom from Raleigh; The Gold Leaf from Henderson; The Weekly Caucasian from Clinton, Goldsboro and Raleigh; the Wilmington Journal; and the Cherokee Scout of Murphy.
The titles were chosen by an advisory board that included historians, librarians and even a representative from the N.C. Press Association. I know that you probably have your favorite newspaper that you’d like to see online. We have ours, too. And we hope to add more in the coming years. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, get reading and searching. You’ve got to solve the Mathis murder.
Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in the entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library.
” ‘Since the invention of types [printing], monuments are good for nothing,’ North Carolina congressman Nathaniel Macon declared on the House floor in 1800. Working himself up to a fever pitch, he explained why he could not support a lavish memorial in the nation’s capital even for the most deserving of men, George Washington. Words, not stones or statues, preserved the memory of great men, he said….
“Macon’s speech… continued to endure in national memory and was still quoted in newspapers as late as 1821. Yet in the late 1810s, this slaveholder from North Carolina helped his home state procure an elaborate monument to Washington for the State House in Raleigh, perhaps the most ambitious sculptural monument erected in the United States to that date — a seated figure in Roman military garb designed by the most famous sculptor in Europe, Antonio Canova.
“This was an amazing act of self-promotion for North Carolina, aggrandizing the local planter elite who claimed Washington as one of their own, though in typical ‘republican’ fashion the monument misrepresented the plantation’s social order by depicting Washington, in a subsidiary image, as a modest farmer outside a rude cabin.”
Due to popular interest, the exhibit has been extended — but it will be up for just a couple more weeks in the North Carolina Collection Gallery, until February 9.
Highlights include 19th-century views of the Wilmington waterfront, Linville Falls, and St. Mary’s Chapel in Raleigh; an exhibit case highlighting the evolution of stereographic viewers (including that Fisher Price Viewmaster you had as a kid); and, best of all, a 19th-century viewer you can use to look at twelve reproduction stereograph cards.
Digging again through old newspapers, I came across another very early use in print of the nickname “Tar Heels.” A little over a year ago I wrote about the appearance of the nickname in an ad in an 1864 Fayetteville paper, which was a contender for the earliest use of “Tar Heels” in print. Now we can move it back another year to 1863 thanks to a letter from a Civil War soldier to a Raleigh newspaper.
Sgt. G. W. Timberlake, a member of Company A of the 3rd Regiment of North Carolina Troops, had a letter published in the Raleigh Semi-Weekly Standard on June 2, 1863. Writing from a “Camp Near the Old U.S. Ford” in Virginia, Timberlake describes the action of the second Battle of Fredericksburg and lists casualties from the regiment. Apparently the North Carolina soldiers did a particularly good job of holding their line. Timberlake writes,
The troops from other States call us “Tar Heels.” I am proud of the name, as tar is a sticky substance, and the “Tar Heels” stuck up like a sick kitten to a hot brick, while many others from a more oily State slipped to the rear, and left the “Tar Heels” to stick it out.
It’s a great quote, and confirms the origin of the nickname in the Civil War.
The Ploughman Poet, as Burns was known, was born in the Scottish lowland town of Alloway on January 25, 1759. Although the son of tenant farmers, Burns gained an education and, by all accounts, was an avid reader. He found the pen more enticing than the plough and, at 27, published his first collection of poems. Such works as To a Louse, To a Mouse and The Cotter’s Saturday Night garnered Burns fame and he moved to Edinburgh where he was celebrated in literary and social circles. Burns continued to write poetry while also enjoying plenty of drink and female companionship. He fathered several children out of wedlock.
Burns’s time as solely a poet was brief. He spent much of his earnings from published poetry over an 18-month period and, consequently, he was forced to take a job as a tax officer in the town of Dumfries. Though working, he continued to write poetry as well as songs. He also resumed his relationship with Jean Armour, a women with whom he had twins. Over time, however, Burns’s health declined and he died on July 21, 1796. He was 37. Burns was buried with military and civilian honors.
The tradition of Burns Night or the Burns Supper is believed to have started several years after the poet’s death. A group of his friends gathered on July 21 to celebrate his life. Over time fans of Burns’s poetry formed clubs and began holding celebratory meals on the date of his birth. These days the Burns supper often follows a prescribed order with “The Selkirk Grace,” penned by Burns, preceding the parade of the haggis, during which a bagpiper leads someone bearing the haggis to the table. The host of the supper then recites Burns’s “To a Haggis.”
Along with haggis, celebrants dine on neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Wine or ale accompanies the meal. Whisky (to use the Scottish spelling) has often been used during the cooking of the haggis. After the meal participants listen to the “Immortal Memory,” a recitation of Burns’s biography and a toast to the poet. Then there is a toast to the lassies. More poems and songs may follow before the evening concludes with guests rising to join in singing Burns’s “Auld Lang Syne.”
The Burns supper had made its way to the United States by the mid-19th century. A New York City celebration of the 100th anniversary of Burns’s birth, in 1859. reportedly drew large numbers. It was held at the Astor House hotel and featured an oration by Henry Ward Beecher.
It is unclear when the first Burns supper took place in North Carolina. As Celeste Ray points out in Highland Heritage: Scottish Americans in the American South, celebrations of Burns’s birthday began as a lowland Scots tradition. Consequently they were likely, at least initially, an uncommon occurrence among the Scots-Irish (many originally from the Scottish highlands) who settled in North Carolina in the 18th and early 19th centuries. But, as the clipping from the Wilmington Morning Star suggests, by the early 20th century North Carolinians of Scottish descent had latched on to Burns’s birthday as a way to celebrate their heritage. The state was home to St. Andrews societies and, eventually, Burns societies. Donald F. MacDonald, a one-time Charlotte News reporter who played a crucial role in the founding of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, helped form a Robert Burns Society in Charlotte in 1955. In fact the publicity surrounding that group and its Burns supper is said to have played a part in connecting MacDonald with Agnes MacRae Morton, the mother of Hugh Morton and another key figure in the founding of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
These days Burns suppers take a variety of forms on this continent and back in Scotland. Ray writes of a Burns supper she attended at Old Salem that featured homemade haggis in a deer stomach. And the 2014 Big Burns Supper in Dumfries will feature three days of music and performances as well as the release of Hamish the Haggis
On this day in 1994: Pat Crawford, last surviving member of the famed “Gashouse Gang” — the 1934 world champion St. Louis Cardinals — dies at a Morehead City nursing home at age 91.
Crawford had been the top pinch-hitter for the Gashouse Gang, named for the club’s rambunctious style. Unlike such teammates as Pepper Martin, Leo Durocher and Dizzy Dean, however, Crawford held two college degrees (Davidson and Ohio State), abstained from tobacco and alcohol and preferred to turn in early.
The Gang’s next-to-last survivor, Tarboro native Burgess Whitehead, died two months before at his home in Windsor.
“The days here [in February] are like Northern October; cool in the morning, warm at midday and cool at night. The air here is cool without being chilly. It has a stimulating quality which makes one eat much, laugh heartily and feel frisky. People come here pale, coughing, all bundled up and, in about a week, you see them racing about, eager to climb Mt. Mitchell and with the ‘terrible cold’ dwindled to a fast fading recollection.
“Of course the reputation which the Hot Springs [resort in Madison County] have acquired brings here many invalids who cannot recover in a week, or, perhaps at all, but even this class brighten up and in many cases turn the corner to recovery.”
— From “Western North Carolina: The Best Place in the World to Spend February” in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 3, 1891)