Freeze of 1857 ranks with meteor shower, Hurricane Hazel

“The diary [of John N. Benners] is an almost daily account of the years 1857 to 1860. I open the old volume to the first page and I am immediately swept up: Jan. 24. 1857. The river still frozen, navigation entirely impeded. A large sea vessel frozen up at Wilkinson’s Point [in what is now Pamlico County]. The weather was so very cold this week no work could be done outdoors….

“The ‘large sea vessel’ was the schooner Isaac W. Hughes. Benners was witnessing the great freeze of ’57, of which there are many accounts, though few so poignantly rendered.

“At Wilkinson Point , the Neuse is opening into the Pamlico Sound and is miles wide. Benner had never seen the river freeze from shore to shore before, and I have not heard of it doing so since.

“The freeze of 1857 became an enduring benchmark in the passage of time on the North Carolina coast, like the great meteor shower of 1833 or Hurricane Hazel in 1954….”

— From “John N. Benners’ Journal: A Saltwater Farmer & His Slaves” by David Cecelski at (Oct. 2, 2017)


Soldiers demanded auction of Cherokee women, child

“In 1776, seeking revenge for raids committed by the militant Chickamauga faction of the Cherokees, militias from several colonies set out on a scorched-earth campaign designed to bring the entire Cherokee nation to its knees….

Captain William Moore commanded a portion of the North Carolina soldiers. In early November, the expedition captured two Cherokee women and a boy. Clearly uneasy about the capture of noncombatants, Moore declared that the three should be held in prison until the Continental Congress could decide their fate. The soldiers disagreed; according to Moore, ‘the Greater Part Swore Bloodily that if they were not Sold for Slaves upon the Spot, they would kill and Scalp them Immediately.’

“Moore conceded to the demands of the mob, and the women and boy were auctioned off to the soldiers….”

— From “The Native South: New Histories and Enduring Legacies,” edited by Tim Alan Garrison and Greg O’Brien (2017)


RJR: ‘Happy Holidays and Happy Smoking!’

“Recently, an investigation into the history of the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ as a seasonal greeting in the United States by self-described history nerd Jeremy Aldrich turned up its usage as early as 1863, in the Philadelphia Inquirer. By the middle of the 20th century, the phrase was well established in popular usage, as shown in a study of ads run by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in Carolina Magazine from 1935 to 1942 to encourage giving the gift of tobacco.

“A 1937 ad proclaimed: ‘A gift of Camels says, “Happy Holidays and Happy Smoking!” ‘ Other ads from the 1930s and early 1940s stuck to ‘Season’s Greetings,’ but all featured jolly, grinning Santa Clauses, reindeer, Christmas trees and other recognizable Christmas symbols….”

— From “The War of Words behind ‘Happy Holidays’” by at (Dec. 14)


State’s ski industry began with not a lot of ambition

On this day in 1961: Tom and Judy Alexander, looking to occupy their ranch hands during the offseason, open Cataloochee Ski Ranch in Haywood County. Three college students become the first paying customers of North Carolina’s infant ski industry.

By 2015 more than 650,000 customers are visiting the state’s six ski resorts each winter.


Slaves built South’s railroads — when it didn’t kill them

“At the outbreak of the war in 1861, 15,000 slaves were working for Southern railroads….

“Housing often consisted of little more than a tent, and diseases such as scarlet fever, cholera and malaria were rife. [Theodore Kornweibel Jr.] cites a particularly egregious case where a contractor on the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad kept slaves ‘in a square pen, made of pine poles, through which one might thrust his double fists, [with] no shutter on the door…. no chimney and no floor, no bed clothing and no cooking utensils.’

“Conditions were routinely so bad that many owners refused to hire out their slaves to railroad companies, knowing that they might lose their valuable asset.”

— From The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America” by Christian Wolmar (2012)


Happy Birthday, dear Bayard


As captioned in Light and Air: The Photography of Bayard Wootten, "The staff of the Wootten-Moulton Chapel Hill studio joined Wootten in a birthday celebration about 1940. George C. Moulton, her half brother, stands on the far left. In front of him and leaning over the table is T. C. Moore, Wootten's successor in the business. Margaret Howland Fowler, a secretary in the studio for two decades, is to Wootten's right. (Mary Moulton Barden Collection)"
As captioned in Light and Air: The Photography of Bayard Wootten, “The staff of the Wootten-Moulton Chapel Hill studio joined Wootten in a birthday celebration about 1940. George C. Moulton, her half brother, stands on the far left. In front of him and leaning over the table is T. C. Moore, Wootten’s successor in the business. Margaret Howland Fowler, a secretary in the studio for two decades, is to Wootten’s right. (Mary Moulton Barden Collection)”

Today marks the 142nd birthday of photographer Bayard Wootten.  Born 17 December 1875, Wootten began her photographic career in 1905 in New Bern.  The photograph above depicts Wooting blowing out candles on one of her many birthday cakes, probably around 1940.  She died on 6 April 1959 in her 83rd year.

In 1998 the University of North Carolina Press published Jerry Cotten’s biography of Wootten, which received the Mary Ellen LoPresti Award from the southeast chapter of the Art Libraries Society of North America.  In October of this year on the eve of the books twentieth anniversary, UNC Press reissued the biography as a paperback edition featuring photographs reproduced from Wootten’s original negatives using twenty-first digital imaging technology.  The results are photographs reproduced with even more richness, both subtle and dramatic, than the first printing.

When you get your new 2018 calendar, circle March 27th.  On that evening, Jerry Cotten and I will each give a presentation during a program titled, “Bayard Wootten: Then and Now.”  Jerry will talk about Wootten and her accomplishments as featured in the biography, and I will discuss what we have learned about Wootten during the twenty years since the book’s initial publication.  The presentations will follow a brief opening reception for a new exhibition in The Pleasants Family Assembly Room in Wilson Library, and a book signing will follow the presentations.

Signs of segregation disappeared quickly (unless they didn’t)

“Segregation of public facilities — including water fountains and restrooms — was officially outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson….

“In Raleigh, Wilmington and other Southern cities, businesses seem to have complied grudgingly but promptly…. In smaller towns and rural areas, however, Jim Crow customs lingered longer.

“Local history librarian Beverly Tetterton remembers seeing fading ‘White’ and ‘Colored’ signs on the restrooms of shuttered gas stations when she first came to town in the 1970s.

“Elliott Erwin of Magnum Photos took a celebrated black-and-white photo of a segregated water fountain in North Carolina in 1950.”

— From “When did segregated water fountains end?” by Ben Steelman in the Wilmington StarNews (June 5, 2009)


“In one of his anecdotal books, ‘Only in America,’ [Harry] Golden said that he once persuaded a North Carolina department store owner to put an ‘Out of Order’ sign over his ‘white’ drinking fountain. Little by little, whites began drinking out of the ‘colored’ fountain, and by the end of the third week ‘everybody was drinking the “segregated” water.’ ”

— From “Harry Golden, an editor and humorist, 79, dead” in the New York Times (Oct. 3, 1981)


Who said it was OK to display Chang and Eng’s liver?

Chang and Eng Bunker’s widows didn’t want to give away their husbands’ bodies after death, even when offered large amounts of money, even though they were left with many children to support. But the College of Physicians of Philadelphia convinced them it was ‘a duty to science and humanity that the family of the deceased should permit an autopsy,’ so the widows allowed the postmortem on the condition that the band between the brothers not be cut….

“If you go to the museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia – the Mütter Museum – today, you can see the conjoined livers of Chang and Eng displayed right below the plaster death cast the college made of their bodies while they were briefly in its possession. It isn’t clear if the Bunker widows knew that the livers would be taken, no less displayed. One of Eng’s descendants asked me, years ago, if I could help her figure out if there had, in fact, been permission from the Bunkers. She had been to the museum and found it a little strange to have people making fun of her ancestors’ organs. Not disgusting or upsetting or anything – just strange….

“I asked the descendant what she’d want to do if we did find evidence that the Bunker widows explicitly did not want the livers kept by the college. She laughed…. Should it be buried, she asked me rhetorically, at the gravesite containing the bodies, in Mount Airy? Should it be passed around the hundreds of living descendants, displayed on various mantels around the country in turn?

“I pictured an old conjoined liver treated like the Stanley Cup….”

— From “Visiting your leg” by Alice Dreger at Aeon (Nov. 16, 2016)


Loyalist found a fate (slightly) preferable to being hanged

“As both Patriots and Loyalists recognized the war in the South as particularly violent, predictably, each side blamed the other. Among the most notorious rebels was Colonel Benjamin ‘Bull Dog’ Cleveland, who terrorized Loyalists in the Yadkin country. When [British Major Patrick] Ferguson‘s proclamation just before Kings Mountain men­tioned the rebels ‘murdering an unarmed son before the aged fa­ther, and afterwards lopped off his arms,’ he was referring to an infamous incident involving the ‘Bull Dog.’

“In another instance, Cleveland’s men broke out two Loyalists from a prison, stood one of them ‘on a log, put the noose around his neck, threw the end of the rope over a tree limb, fastened it, and kicked the log out from under him.’ Cleveland then gave the second Loyalist a choice: he, too, would be hanged, unless he cut off his own ears. The man grabbed a knife, sliced off his ears, and was let go.”

— From Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth” by Holger Hoock (2017)

Cleveland County is named for the ‘Bull Dog.’


FDR: ‘Liberal forces have often been killed and buried…’

On this day in 1938: Accepting an honorary degree at the University of North Carolina (three years after the school gave one to his wife, Eleanor), President Franklin D. Roosevelt shrugs off New Deal losses in the recent elections: “The liberal forces have often been killed and buried, with the inevitable result that they have come to life again more vigorous than before.”

In a phrase that will come to identify the speech at Woollen Gymnasium, FDR denies that his favorite breakfast dish is “grilled millionaire.”

[How a persistent UNC student managed to “land a whale on a trout hook.”]