That time at a demography dinner party….

“Picture this: You’re at a demography dinner party. (Let’s pretend we can have dinner parties again.)

“And the demography enthusiast next to you says, ‘Hey! Got a question for you. Which county in North Carolina is most like the state?’

“How would you answer?”

— From “Which county in NC is most like the state?” by at Carolina Demography (Nov. 12, 2021) 

Spoiler alert: It’s not Orange.

h/t Charlotte Ledger

A fine line — a mighty fine line, they realized

At first, the trial was, as murder cases go, pretty straightforward. William Hall and Andrew Bryson were friends in their early 20s who lived near each other in the mountains north of Murphy. When the moonshine still that the two of them used went missing, they blamed each other. Then Hall, accompanied by a friend, John Dockery, hunted down Bryson. And on a warm summer day in July 1892, way up on a ridge, they confronted each other. Hall raised his Winchester rifle and shot Bryson dead.

“Hall and Dockery found themselves some good lawyers who brought up an interesting point. The ridge, it turned out, formed the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee….”

— From “How a Tar Heel Moonshiner Got Away with Murder (in 1892)” by

Asheville blacked out (mostly) for air raid drill

“In the wake of Pearl Harbor and America’s subsequent entry into World War II, Asheville prepared for the threat of additional foreign strikes on American soil….

“At 10 p.m. Aug. 10, 1942, the mountains went dark for 30 minutes. ‘The blackout test was almost 100 per cent effective,’ The Asheville Citizen wrote.  ‘Excessive cigarette lighting by persons in the downtown area was reported from one town. Carelessness by autoists was reported from another.’

“A lighted window on the top floor of the building on the corner of North Market and East Walnut streets ‘offered a perfect target, until an air raid warden got busy,’ the paper explained.

“The newspaper concluded its account of the blackout with a gruesome anecdote:  ‘A group of boys and girls tied a dead mouse to the doorknob of the Battery Park avenue store which did not observe the black-out. One of the boys borrowed a lipstick from a girl and scribbled this on the glass door. “You had better black out next time.”'”

— From “Air raid warnings sound in WNC, 1942” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (Nov. 29, 2020)

Unsolved mysteries: Whence Mrs. Calabash?

“According to legend in Calabash, N.C., comedian Jimmy Durante and his troupe passed through the little Brunswick County town sometime in the 1940s. While there, he made friends with a young restaurant owner.

“Brunswick County historian Susie Carson says that woman was Lucille ‘Lucy’ Coleman, a claim repeated in Theresa Jensen Lacey’s ‘Amazing North Carolina.’ Soon afterward, Durante adopted his trademark sign-off — ‘Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are!’ — for his radio show. According to Coleman’s daughter, Clarice Holden, and others, it was Durante’s anonymous tip of the hat to her mother, who died in 1989.

“Not everyone accepts this theory, though….”

— From “Who is Mrs. Calabash?” by Ben Steelman in the Wilmington Star News

Beach developers ousted black farmers

“At the start of the twentieth century, [historian Andrew W.] Kahrl writes, shorelines were the South’s ‘most forsaken and forgotten lands.’ They were unsuited to most agricultural purposes, prone to violent storms, and covered in forests where dangerous animals lived. But developers were beginning to see the promise in creating seaside getaways.

“One barrier standing in their way was Black farmers, many of whom had been relegated to the less-fertile land near the ocean. By the 1920s, nightriders were burning Black-owned homes across the coastal South and warning African Americans to sell their land. Local jumps in real estate values were accompanied by increased racial terrorism.

“Some Black locals responded with their own development plans. In 1923, a group of Black doctors, lawyers, and ministers bought Shell Island, North Carolina, and turned it into a resort.

“ ‘After three successful seasons, it suffered a series of fires “of undetermined origin” that eventually forced investors to cut their losses and abandon the property, thus restoring the “color line” in North Carolina’s coastal real estate market,’ Kahrl writes.”

— From “How the Beaches of the South Got There” by Livia Gershon at JSTOR Daily (July 6) 

Samuel A. Ashe still has fans in SCV

“The arguments [made in the Sons of Confederate Veterans Heritage Defense manual, 2016] are drawn exclusively from…  ‘The Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern states and the War of 1861-65,’ published by Samuel A. Ashe in 1935. Ashe served in the Confederate army, was elected to the North Carolina state house in 1870 and was vice president of the SCV’s forerunner organization, the United Confederate Veterans.

“The document follows Ashe in arguing that the war was not primarily about slavery, but driven by anger at taxes imposed by a Congress dominated by Northern politicians, and a fear not about the dissolution of slavery per se, but because emancipation would ‘devastate the capital infrastructure’ in the South.”

— From “Manual advises how to stop removal of Confederate statues: don’t mention race” by Jason Wilson in The Guardian (July 4) 

‘Died Fighting for Liberty!’… Uh-huh

” The most terrible thing about War, I am convinced, is its monuments – the awful things we are compelled to build in order to remember the victims. In the South, particularly, human ingenuity has been put to it to explain on its war monuments, the Confederacy. Of course, the plain truth of the matter would be an inscription something like this: ‘Sacred to the memory of those who fought to Perpetuate Human Slavery.’ But that reads with increasing difficulty as time goes on. It does, however, seem to be overdoing the matter to read on a North Carolina Confederate monument: ‘Died Fighting for Liberty!’ ”

— From “The Perfect Vacation” by W. E. B. Du Bois in The Crisis (1931)

“Died Fighting for Liberty!” certainly fits the content and tone of Confederate monument inscriptions, but I can’t find evidence of where Du Bois might have spotted it…. Is there a monumentalist in the house? 

‘A disastrous period called Reconstruction’

“A travel guide to North Carolina [published by the Department of Conservation and Development, circa 1950] proudly informed visitors that the state contributed more ‘heavily in men to the Confederate armies than any other.’

“After the war, the guide reported, the ‘State went through a disastrous period called “Reconstruction” [that] included temporary military occupation by African-American troops and passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, giving full citizenship to the newly freed slaves….'”

— From “Driving While Black” by Gretchen Sorin (2020)

Travels with Zeb (post mortem)

“The controversy began shortly after his April 14, 1894, death, when The Asheville Daily Citizen reported that [Zebulon] Vance’s second wife, Florence Steele Martin Vance, had removed the former governor’s body from its original plot ‘to the spot on the highest part of Riverside cemetery.’

“Florence had visions of a monument placed at the site of his new burial (as opposed to its eventual 1898 placement in Pack Square). The problem, however, was Zebulon’s grown children claimed no foreknowledge of their stepmother’s plans and disapproved of her actions.

“On June 11, 1894, The Asheville Daily Citizen informed its readers that the former governor’s son Charles N. Vance had had his father’s body once again disinterred and relocated to its original plot. Furthermore, ‘Special officers Sam and Howell have been guarding the grave day and night[.]’ ”

— From “The three burials of Zebulon Vance” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (May 30)

Would Brad’s Drink have hit the spot?

“Coca-Cola’s success spawned a host of cola imitators. The drink that would prove Coke’s strongest and most enduring copier was conceived in a North Carolina drugstore in 1896.

“New Bern pharmacist Caleb D. Bradham, an erstwhile medical student, served dyspeptic customers a drink he had created to calm their stomachs. To his surprise it became a hit with his other patrons, who would ask for ‘Brad’s drink.’ Forfeiting his opportunity for immortality, Bradham rechristened the drink ‘Pepsi-Cola.’ The name suggested two of the drink’s ingredi­ents, the digestive enzyme pepsin and the kola nut, in a form and cadence suggestive of Pepsi’s Atlanta competitor.”

— From “Charles E. Hires and the Drink that Wowed a Nation: The Life and Times of a Philadelphia Entrepreneur”  by Bill Double (2018)