“Forty-five days had passed since Charleston received the news of Lincoln’s election — forty-five days of a sustained, wild excitement….
“With secession accomplished, there could be no more anxiety that [South Carolina’s ] leaders would fail at this task. Whether other states would follow, and when, was a worry for another moment — and no matter if some thought, as a North Carolina planter wrote a friend in the city, that in Charleston, ‘everybody is drunk or crazy.’ ”
— From “Madness Rules the Hour: Charleston, 1860 and the Mania for War” by Paul Starobin (2017)
The blunt-spoken planter was James Cathcart Johnston of Edenton. Though Johnston owned 550 slaves, he was an unwavering Unionist and referred to secessionists as “wicked.”
On this day in 1790: George Washington appoints James Iredell of Edenton to the U.S. Supreme Court. Among Iredell’s attributes, says Washington, is that “he is of a State of some importance in the Union that has given no character to a federal office.”
The English-born Iredell, who proves to be one of the court’s sharpest minds, serves until his death in 1799.
North Carolina’s only other Supreme Court justice will be Alfred Moore of New Hanover County, appointed by John Adams in 1800.
“EDENTON — About 40 young women came out to Swain Auditorium in response to an open casting call to portray on camera Edenton-born Harriet Jacobs.
“Stacey Harkless, the film’s producer, said she would love to see a three-night miniseries.
“Much of the story [will be filmed] in Edenton, because the town is an important part of the story, and it would be expensive to recreate its locations elsewhere.
“Harkless said the film will focus on the role faith plays in Jacobs’ story and will not include graphic depictions of violence or sex.
“Harkless said she read ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’ and was struck by its emotional power. It was difficult to believe, she said, that the book had not already been adapted as a movie. [It does have a history as a stage production.]
“Harkless stressed that the film was not envisioned as a ‘whip and chains epic’: ‘It’s a Horatio Alger story It started in slavery, but it ended with her becoming one of the most incredible people on the planet.’”
— From “Casting call busy for movie on Jacobs” by Reggie Ponder at the Chowan Herald (Aug. 21)
“When I look back, I think my greatest mistake [was] my failure as editor of the News & Observer to make sure we had a top-notch investigative reporter on the Little Rascals [Day Care] case in Edenton…. That prosecutor had gone wild, eaten up by ambition, I suppose, to hang these people….
“All the kids talked about being borne through the air this way and that way and flying all over, and it was crazy stuff. As it turned out, [the Edenton Seven were eventually released], but it wrecked their lives forever. And I still feel sorry about that….
“I think had we sent someone like Pat Stith down there, that would have been it. But see, at that time, Edenton already was a pretty far reach for the News & Observer…. [Our] pulling out of eastern North Carolina [to cut expenses] might have affected my thinking [about] whether we were really responsible for doing something about that miscarriage of justice.”
— From Joseph Mosnier’s interview with Claude Sitton, editor of the News & Observer from 1968 to 1990 (Southern Oral History Program, Southern Historical Collection, UNC Chapel Hill, July 12, 2007)
My blog, littlerascalsdaycarecase.org, has Sitton’s complete comments on the case.
Aside from posting on the Miscellany, your Charlotte correspondent has been busy launching into the blogosphere littlerascalsdaycarecase.org.
The tragic injustice of the Little Rascals Day Care case — which produced the longest, costliest trial in North Carolina history — has galled me for more than two decades. This blog is my modest attempt to keep alive the memory of the Edenton Seven’s assault by hysterical parents, biased therapists and shameless prosecutors. When charges were finally dropped, the defendants deserved an apology and a statement of innocence — what they got was a gratuitous kick to the curb.
For more information, you now know where to look.
On this day in 1819: President James Monroe, making a tour through the South, is honored at a ball in the upstairs courtroom of the Chowan County Courthouse in Edenton.
The elegant brick courthouse, adorned with cupola, clock and weather vane, was built in 1767 after William Byrd, the acerbic Virginia aristocrat, likened the county’s 50-year-old wooden courthouse to “a common tobacco barn.”