Not quite a golden spike, but a milestone nonetheless

On this day in 1927: Gov. Angus McLean of North Carolina and Gov. Harry Byrd of Virginia unlock a ceremonial gate across the section of U.S. 1 now linking their states.

The nation’s first major border-to-border highway will eventually cover 2,467 miles from Canada to Key West. In North Carolina it enters in Warren County, runs through Henderson, Raleigh, Sanford and Rockingham and exits from Richmond County.

Addendum: Several decades ago in an antique mall near Elkin I saw a photo of this ceremony, but I couldn’t deduce what I was looking at. Google doesn’t yield up an image, but surely one survives.


Carbine Williams’ ‘collision of inventive thoughts’

On this day in 1926: Firearms inventor David Marshall “Carbine” Williams, imprisoned at Caledonia Farm, writes his mother:

“I am not in a writing mood. I am at present under stress of an unusual type of blues caused by a collision of inventive thoughts on a certain subject in my mind that is hard pressed to solve with other thoughts that come in, in the form of a most lonesome mood. Inventive thoughts in themselves to me are serious, and when other thoughts far more serious and of a most lonesome nature bombard each other at the same time in one small head [it] generally gives me the blues.”

While in prison for second-degree murder of a revenue agent in a raid on a moonshine still in Cumberland County, Williams develops — with the warden’s permission — the M1 carbine that will be used by 8 million soldiers during World War II.

His invention wins him a pardon from Gov. Angus McLean in 1929. In 1952 Jimmy Stewart will portray him in the movie “Carbine Williams.”


What didn’t work in 1925 hasn’t worked in 2011

Rick Perry’s entrance into the presidential race has renewed attention to his ambitious if fruitless prayer for rain  in drought-afflicted Texas.

But Perry certainly isn’t the first governor to seek such divine meteorological intervention. In 1925, reacting to a brutal drought across the South, N.C. Gov. Angus McLean proclaimed “a day of humility and prayer to God who sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. . . . ”

Among those responding was the Rev. A.A. McGeachy of Charlotte’s Second Presbyterian Church, who prayed for rain for 30 minutes before the Sunday service.

Relief was minimal. The summer of 1925 remains the driest on record in many areas of the state.