New in the collection: Old Mill scratch feed bag

There are only a handful of working gristmills in North Carolina today, but they once played a vital role as community centers.

“ ‘In the South, we used to have a mill in almost every county. Everyone knew their local miller,’ says Bryan King, fourth-generation miller of Lakeside Mills in Spindale.

“Though they may not be as commonplace, a few mills have stayed in business thanks to the natural fondness for Southern – and often nostalgic – recipes.

“ ‘The traditional cooks want to buy what they recognize from childhood,’ King says. ‘That’s what your local mills produce. We’re now a niche market.’ ”

— From “Run of the Mills: North Carolina Gristmills” at North Carolina Field & Family (Sept. 20, 2015)

W. J. Worsham’s Old Mill in Ruffin may have produced flour and meal for human consumption, but this paper bag contained five pounds of scratch feed — cracked wheat and corn — for chickens. According to a 1921 issue of the trade journal Operative Miller, Worsham had recently purchased a steel overshot water wheel, 12 feet diameter. Here’s a 1982 photo of a defunct Worsham’s Mill in Ruffin (the bag illustration is probably stock).

Also in the collection: bags from Boonville (Boonville’s Choice), Mt. Olive (Williams mill), Albemarle (Lowder), Princeton (GNC), Marshall (Silvers), Raleigh (Lassiter), Goldston (Dixie), Lenoir (Happy Valley), Whitakers (Fish Creek), Monroe (Morning Glory), Washington (Jo Ho Mo), Lilesville (Allen), Old Fort (Tar Heel), Eureka (Premium), Morganton (Rich), Hiddenite (Hiddenite), Autryville (Autry), Faison (Carolina), Deep Run (Old Fashioned), Warrenton (Whites) and Newton Grove (Houses).


So you think you know North Carolina….No. 17

 1. A 1938 visit to the U.S. Fisheries Station at Beaufort inspired what biologist to write about shorebirds in “Under the Sea-Wind”?

2. True or false: The oldest known North Carolinian lived to be 115 years old.

3. What was the “Route of the Pacemakers”?

4. Who was North Carolina’s last popularly elected Roman Catholic governor before Mike Easley?

5. In 1799 Joseph Rice recorded North Carolina’s last known sighting of what animal?






1. Rachel Carson. In “The Edge of the Sea” (1955) Carson describes the estuarine region near Beaufort now known as the Rachel Carson Reserve. Her next book was the environmentalism landmark “Silent Spring” (1962).

2. True. Maggie Barnes of Kenly died in 1998. (Nine of 10 people who live beyond 110 are women.)

3. A slogan of Piedmont Airlines.

4. There wasn’t one.

5. The buffalo. He killed it in Bull Creek Valley in Buncombe County.


New in the collection: Yogurt Pump pinback button

Tasty Dipper button from Yogurt Pump“Dropping our bags in our room at the Carolina Inn after a half-hour drive west by rental car procured at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, we hoof it several blocks to the Yogurt Pump. Fleeing a luxurious room in a historical hotel for a local frozen yogurt shop may seem odd. But then YoPo, as it is known, is not your typical purveyor of chilled dairy treats. Just ask any of the students and alums who cheerfully stand in lines extending well outside its unassuming door….”

— From “There’s more in Chapel Hill than the Tar Heels, a family finds” b in the Washington Post (Sept. 14)

According to this thumbnail history, the Yogurt Pump opened on Franklin Street in 1982. A Daily Tar Heel classified the following year suggests potential customers still needed a little guidance: “Come try free samples…. at the former location of Austin’s Sno-cones, between Mr. Gatti’s and Pizza Hut on the way to He’s Not Here.”


Hesitant Wilmingtonians risked ostracism by Patriots

“In spring 1775, the entire committee of safety in Wilmington, North Carolina, visited each family to request that the head of household sign a paper in support of the [Continental] Association or to state his motives for refusing. Few felt they could deny their signature when their neighbors were watching on their doorstep.

“Eleven Wilmingtonians nevertheless refused; these dissenters were effectively ostracized and called out in the Cape-Fear Mercury, an outlet specially founded for such purposes.”

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


So you think you know North Carolina….No. 16

1. True or false: When the sun rises in Murphy in the state’s westernmost corner, it has already been up more than half an hour in Manteo on the coast.

2. Who spoke these words at Duke University in 1979?

“If you understood what communism was, you would hope and pray on your knees that we would someday be communist.

I am a socialist, I think that we should strive toward a socialist society — all the way to communism.”

3. Serial bomber Eric Robert Rudolph was a student for two semesters at what N.C. university?

4. Jack Johnson, heavyweight boxing champion and Dr. Charles Drew, father of the blood bank — what cause of death did these two black men share?

5. The likeness of what influential financial figure appears as a banker in one of the bronze sculptures on The Square in Charlotte?




1. True

2. Jane Fonda.

3. Western Carolina University, 1985-86.

4. Both died in car crashes on N.C. highways.

5. Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.


New in the collection: Shad Festival license plate

Municipal license plates are no longer being issued by Grifton (or most  other towns), but the Shad Festival lives on. This year’s will be April 20-22 (and will of course include the traditional Shad Toss).

Since 1971 the town has been celebrating the annual return of shad upstream from the Atlantic Ocean to Contentnea Creek, a tributary of the Neuse River.

But the festival idea, proposed by Cooperative Extension Agent Ed Comer, didn’t meet instant acceptance. Many anglers disdain the predominant local variety, the hickory shad, which is smaller and bonier than the American shad. (Both are in the herring family.)

Mayor Dave Bosley saved the day for the hickory shad: “We don’t have to eat the shad; they don’t eat azaleas at the Azalea Festival or mules at Mule Day in Benson.”


So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 15

1. To what experience was actress Susan Sarandon referring when she said, “It’s kind of like taking a hallucinogen. You have to have someone that goes with you on your first trip and kind of walks you through it.”

2. True or false: Until being imported by wildlife authorities, no beavers lived in modern North Carolina.

3. In the late 1950s what two NFL teams played an annual exhibition game in Winston-Salem?

4. “It was the hour of twilight on a soft spring day toward the end of April in the Year of our Lord 1929, and George Webber leaned his elbows on the sill of his back window and looked out at what he could see of New York.” This is the opening sentence of what well known novel?

5. The largest freshwater fish ever caught in North Carolina weighed how much — 77, 97 or 117 pounds?







1. Eating one’s first Krispy Kreme doughnut.

2. True. The last native beaver was sighted in Stokes County in 1897.

In 1939 a shipment of 29 beavers from Pennsylvania was released in the coastal plain. They thrived, stocking expanded and trappers prospered, until timber damage and flooding necessitated beaver control programs in some areas.

3. The Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins. The week before the game the Packers trained in Greensboro, the Redskins in Winston-Salem.

4. “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe, 1940.

5. In 2016 Landon Evans of Benson, fishing from a dock on Lake Gaston, caught a 117-pound, eight-ounce blue catfish.


April Artifacts of the Month: What is a token?

A token is usually thought of as a coin-like object used as money.  Tokens are not used much today but were common in the past when coins were in short supply.  But in thinking about tokens in the North Carolina Collection, I began to realize that such a simple definition falls short.  Let’s look at some of the NCC tokens.

Phenix Mills tokenPhenix Mills token

The trade token is perhaps the most common variety of token.  The token above was issued by the Phenix Mills Store in Kings Mountain, N.C., most likely in the early 1900s.  Denominated simply as “10,” it is about the size of a dime, made of base metal, and was good for merchandise.  It likely would have been given to company employees in exchange for work or as small change from a purchase in the company store.  It was issued by the company, and its purpose was to keep wealth in the company store.

Charlotte transit tokenCharlotte transit token reverse

About the size of a quarter and made of two different metals, the Charlotte Transit token from 2000 is denominated $1 and is good for the trolley or for street parking.  While it served as a transportation trade token, its attractive design both commemorates and promotes Charlotte Transit.

Civil War tokenCivil War token

The cent-size 1863 copper token is an example of a Civil War patriotic token issued in the North.  It might have circulated as a cent, since coins were very scarce during the Civil War because of hoarding.  The token also functioned as propaganda and perhaps also as a morale booster.

cotton bale tokencotton bale token

Another type of token is from the Wilmington Champion Compress & Warehouse Company. This token is made of aluminum and probably dates to the early 1900s.  These were issued to workers who loaded bales of cotton.  The quantity of tokens possessed by a worker documented the amount of work he had done, one token for each bale carried.  The tokens could be redeemed for money or perhaps goods in a company store.  While these tokens served as a limited kind of money, their use also constituted a simple work accounting system.

There is no comprehensive reference for this aspect of Tar Heel numismatics.  At least one researcher is working on one, and it will surely tell us a great deal more about this surprisingly complex topic.

North Carolina photographer Billy E. Barnes covered the “March in Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King” on 5 April 1968 in Durham, N.C.

Last week the nation reflected on the work and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., as we marked the 50th anniversary of his assassination on 4 April 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. Included in these remembrances were the events and marches held across the country as the nation grieved together in gatherings both large and small.  On 5 April 1968, residents of Durham, N.C., marched peacefully through the city’s downtown district. The march was sponsored by several organizations to honor the memory of Dr. King. By the following evening on 6 April 1968, arson fires were burning. Governor Dan K. Moore activated the National Guard, and a curfew was imposed.

The North Carolina Collection contains the work of Billy E. Barnes who photographed the peaceful march. Several of the images have been digitized and can be viewed online through the collection’s finding aid:

Billy Barnes photo of protestors from behind with their hands in air
Barnes photo of policeman standing near protestors

Barnes image of protestor grabbed by police

The North Carolina Collection’s Durham Herald Co. Newspaper Photograph Collection also includes images from events in Durham on April 5 and 6, 1968. Several images from the Durham Herald are featured in a Durham County Library online exhibit about the aftermath of King’s assassination.

New in the collection: country ham bag from Central Falls

Is there a country ham expert in the house? I’d like to know more about Tom’s Ham Co. of Central Falls, but the Randolph County Public Library hasn’t been able to help, and I’m still awaiting approval to join the enthusiastic Facebook group I Grew Up In Asheboro, North Carolina!!!

Considerably less understated than Tom’s is Mom “n” Pop’s  of Claremont, which pulls out all the stops on this ham bag commemorating Dale Earnhardt….