The Strange Case of Dr. Deilan and Mr. Smith. It’s a witch DOCTOR!

Does the title sound a little familiar? That’s because it’s a parody of the famous novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. This court case, while not as famous as the title it refers to, is certainly just as intriguing.

In 1899, Mr. Martin Smith of Burke County was the key witness in a trial of embezzlement against Chris Detter. Mr. Smith had called on his friendly neighborhood witch doctor, Dr. Deilan (aka Detter), to assist with a troublesome witch problem. The witch doctor assessed the situation and concluded that Mr. Smith’s sister was bewitched along with the entire house.

The solution

  1. Burn down the house!

As the Smith family watched their home burn to the ground, the witch doctor stood by with a large stick to defeat the fleeing witches. Unfortunately, these rather clever witches escaped through the chimney and possessed the family’s hog.

  1. Strike the hog!

Mr. Smith once again did as the witch doctor ordered and struck his hog on the head to expel the witches from the hog. The first strike didn’t do the trick, so the witch doctor ordered a second which killed the poor, delicious looking hog. Luckily, the hog’s head and shoulders had not been touched by the witches. Mr. Smith slaughtered the hog and the witch doctor took the tainted/meatiest parts thus saving the Smith family from death by bewitched meat ingestion. The hog was gone but the witches remained.

  1. Move out of town!

Mr. Smith once more put his faith in the witch doctor to rid his family of these pesky witches once and for all. The only action left; buy a new house and leave town. The witch doctor found a suitable, witch-free house for the low price of $240. Of course, the doctor didn’t bother to tell the Smith’s that the real cost was only $165.

In the end, the Smiths were rid of their witches and Chris Detter (Dr. Deilan) was rid of his freedom.

“Strange Case of Dr. Deilan and Mr. Smith” The Asheville Daily Gazette (Asheville NC). April 11, 1899. p 3.

Tony Earley namechecks the heck out of North Carolina

“John told the salesman at a Home Depot in Durham that the chain was for a porch swing, the concrete block for a step to the utility building in his back yard. The backpack and sleeping bag he purchased without explanation at an R.E.I. in Raleigh, the inflatable plastic raft, foot pump, and two-piece paddle at Walmart. He made up the name Jimmy Ray Gallup and, at a Goodwill in Mebane, picked out a hoodie, a navy T-shirt, work pants, and boots that Jimmy Ray Gallup would wear. He bought the toolbox and three padlocks from an Ace Hardware in Pittsboro. He paid cash for everything and threw the receipts away in trash cans outside the stores. He bought nothing in Chapel Hill….”

— Opening paragraph of “Backpack,” short story by Tony Earley in the current The New Yorker

Though born in San Antonio, Texas, Earley grew up in Rutherfordton, studied English at Warren Wilson College and worked news at the Thermal Belt News Journal in Columbus and the Daily Courier in Forest City.

Horse’s mane tied in knots? It’s a witch!

During the days leading up to Halloween, North Carolina Miscellany is posting articles from North Carolina newspapers about one of our favorite Halloween characters, the witch.

“Do witches ride horses?” One man posed this question to the Greensboro Record in 1911 looking for an explanation as to why his horses’ hair was knotted every morning. He took care to comb out their manes and yet when he checked in the morning, the manes were so badly tangled again no comb would help. The man was skeptical of the explanation he received as a child that the tangles were due to witches riding the horses at night and tying their manes and tails into knots. The query was subsequently posted in several other papers across the state. See this reprint from The (Charlotte) Evening Chronicle for the explanation to this man’s life long question.

The Evening Chronicle (Charlotte, NC.). January 17, 1911. p 4.

Sir Walter Raleigh–Illustrator?

Walter Raleigh, a man of many talents and accomplishments, distinguished himself as a soldier, historian, poet, businessman, and politician.  As an explorer, he helped set the stage for English colonization of the New World.

He was not, however, renowned for his facility with a paint brush.

Days before the 400th anniversary of his death this October 29, historians discovered a wall painting under layers of peeling paint in the Tower of London’s Bloody Tower, where Raleigh was once confined.  This loosely painted sketch features a man wearing a laurel wreath.  A self-portrait? Historic Royal Palaces staff believe the painting dates to the early seventeenth century, the period in which Raleigh was incarcerated in the Bloody Tower.  See

In addition to sharing the painting with the public, the Tower has also opened a special “Lost Garden” to commemorate the anniversary of Raleigh’s death.  This is one of several worldwide remembrances, including one at the North Carolina State Capitol on Saturday, October 27.

To learn more about the multifaceted Raleigh, visit the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s newest exhibition, Sir Walter Uncloaked:  The Man, the Myths, the Legacy, on view through January 31, 2019.

She laid the baby’s hand on scrap of paper….

“For Americans during the Civil War, embracing loved ones on paper was a hardship they could only with difficulty overcome. Most of them, no doubt, would have rather not had to resort to it. For us, their efforts created a record of something we rarely get to see: glimmers of the emotional lives of ordinary people long gone.

“Martha [Hendley] Poteet of western North Carolina endured labor and delivery, for at least the ninth time, during her husband’s absence in 1864. When she wrote to Francis a month later, she cheerfully described the easiest postpartum recovery she ever had experienced. ‘I had the best time I ever had and I hav bin the stoutest ever sens I haint lay in bed in day time in two Weeks today.’ Of the baby, a girl she was waiting to name until Francis came home, Martha could report no weight — scales and doctors were rare things in the Blue Ridge.

“She had a better idea. She laid the baby’s hand on scrap of paper, traced a line around it, and carefully cut it out to tuck into the envelope. Some days later, in a long-besieged trench outside Petersburg, Virginia, Francis [Marion] Poteet opened that envelope and held his new daughter’s hand in his….”

— From “The Civil War Art of Using Words to Assuage Fear and Convey Love” by Chrisopher Hager at Zócalo Public Square (Jan. 15, 2018)

Thirty-six examples of the Poteets’ wartime correspondence can be found in the State Archives. The couple’s story is detailed here by Philip Gerard.


Old West Hall: A View Changes With Time

It could have been the result of damage from hurricane Florence or tropical storm Michael.  Maybe it was just (extreme) old age.

During the week of October 21, UNC Grounds Crew felled one of the most consistently photographed trees on UNC’s campus.

Don’t worry… the Davie Poplar is fine…

Another tree, not as prominent or easily identified as a landmark on campus as the Davie Poplar, a majestic Post Oak that was a fixture in images of Old West Hall (when photographed from the north side looking to towards South Building), was cut down.

The tree was there when Old West was constructed in 1823 and appears in the first images in the University’s possession of the building, dating from the 1880s-1890s.

In 2005 the (UNC) Chancellors Buildings and Ground Committee approved a report from the Task Force on Landscape Heritage & Plant Diversity.

In that report the committee identified and described it as:

“(Heritage Tree #) 74. Quercus stellata (Post Oak) — an impressive specimen.”

Close up of page from 2005 UNC report on heritage trees and plant diversity.

A rendering of a tree appears to be in the same location on the north side of Old West in this early engraving by W.  Roberts from a drawing by William Momberger of the University campus as it appeared circa 1855 (Old West is right side of illustration).

P0004/0162: Campus view: Engraving by W. Roberts (facsimile), 1855


Circa 1880s-1890s:

P0004/0393: Old West Hall and New West Hall, circa 1880s-1890s; North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive

It was difficult to get a “long-view” of the west face of the building AND include the Old Well…. without capturing “Tree 74” in the image.

Circa 1880s-1890s

P0004/0393: Old West and Gerrard Hall, circa 1880s-1890s; North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive

Circa 1940s

P0004/0393: Old West, circa 1940s; North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive

On October 23, 2018 this is what remained of “(Heritage Tree #) 74. Quercus stellata (Post Oak) — an impressive specimen.”

(Images by Patrick Cullom)

North side of Old West looking east. Stump of Tree 74 is at the far left side of image.
View of stump of Tree 74 (North of Old West).
View of stump of Tree 74 with timeline of approximate age/size of tree indicated. (Timeline is from unverified source)
View of stump of Tree 74 (North side of Old West).

All historical views from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection Collection #P0004

So you think you know North Carolina…. No. 43

1. In TV commercials in the early 1970s, who sang, “Hurry on down to Hardee’s, where the burgers are charcoal-broiled”?

2. When it opened in 1965, this 29-story skyscraper was the South’s tallest — what was it?

3. Among the failed early ventures of this future fast-food pioneer was a motel and restaurant in Asheville that opened in 1939 and closed a couple of years later. Who was he?

4. What Mary Chapin Carpenter hit grew out of her annual visits to the Outer Banks?

5. In 1930 Currituck County philanthropist Joseph Knapp founded the More Game Birds in America Foundation. By what name is the organization known today?

Answers below





1.  Cass Elliott, formerly of the Mamas and the Papas.

2. The Wachovia building (now Winston Tower) in Winston-Salem. Today that distinction belongs to the 60-story Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte.

3. Colonel Harland Sanders. He thought he could repeat the success of his Sanders Court in Corbin, Ky., but a combination of wartime rationing, stiff local competition and tourist-poor winters proved insurmountable.

4. “I Am a Town.” (“I’m a town in Carolina, I’m a detour on a ride / For a phone call and a soda, I’m a blur from the driver’s side.”)

5. Ducks Unlimited, which now has 700,000 members worldwide.


Slaveowners found Burnside’s actions belied his words

“In authorizing the assault on North Carolina, General-in-Chief George McClellan advised [Ambrose] Burnside to avoid linking the invasion to emancipation….In a February 1862 ‘Proclamation made to the People of North Carolina’ Burnside assured them that rumors that he intended to ‘liberate your slaves’ were ‘not only ridiculous, but utterly and willfully false.’

“His actions immediately after the invasion indicate the opposite. Shortly after the invasion of New Bern, Burnside wrote to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that…. he had adopted a policy to ‘allow all [slaves] who come to my lines to enter’ and ‘to give them employment as far as possible, and to exercise toward old and young a judicious charity.’ ”

— From Driven from Home: North Carolina’s Civil War Refugee Crisis” by David Silkenat (2016)


New in the collection: Pearl Jam concert poster

Poster for Pearl Jam concert

Pearl Jam played a liberal benefit concert in Charlotte, North Carolina last weekend, a show billed hopefully as a ‘farewell’ party for conservative North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, who’s running for his fifth term. Also on hand was singer Eddie Vedder’s new political guru — Ms. magazine founder and inner-child advocate Gloria Steinem, back from the ’70s.

“Vedder: ‘We get a lot of letters, requests to play bar mitzvahs, Sweet 16 birthday parties and things like that, so when we heard there was a retirement party we didn’t think we could do it. When we heard it was for Jesse Helms we said, ‘Sign us up.’ ”

— From “Pearl Jam lends a hand” by MTV News Staff (Oct. 4, 1996)

Despite the efforts of Pearl Jam and Steinem, Helms for the second time turned back challenger Harvey Gantt. This is a signed mini version of the artist Emek’s widely praised gig poster.