‘George Washington didn’t sleep here’ (here’s why)

“[George] Washington’s complaints only increased in the southern states [during his first-term tour of all 13 states]. Instead of comfort, he experienced martyrdom, at least in the small towns along the road.

“In April 1791 he crossed into North Carolina from Virginia hoping to find an inn where both he and the horses could recover from an unpleasant day of traveling in the rain. He had no luck. The single tavern open for business was so repellent that Washington could not bring himself to suffer a single night’s stay. The inn, he explained in his diary, ‘having no stables in which the horses could be comfortable, & no Rooms or beds which appeared tolerable, & every thing else having a dirty appearance, I was compelled to keep on to Halifax.’

Tarboro, North Carolina, offered ‘a very indifferent house without stabling.’ There followed a series of ‘indifferent’ inns, a description that in Washington’s rating system apparently meant barely tolerable….”

— From “George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation” by T.H. Breen (2016)

“Indifferent” may have been Washington’s pejorative of choice for North Carolina inns, but he was more memorably dismissive of Charlotte — and Greenville — as “trifling.”

 

Pitt County’s little-known No. 1 in the nation

I wasn’t shocked to see Bloomberg Best (and Worst) list Asheville as having the highest concentration of Scotch-Irish ancestry among U.S. metro areas.

But I’d never have guessed the national leader in concentration of Palestinian ancestry: Greenville.

 

The perfect track-warming gift: bronzed antlers

On this day in 1889: Greenville, for decades thwarted in its desire for a branch of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, eagerly welcomes its first train.

The Eastern Reflector will note that “four of our beautiful young ladies” presented the engineer with “a handsome bronzed pair of antlers,” which he proudly mounted on the front of his engine.

Just wondering: Any chance those grand antlers have survived 125 years?

 

Silent Sam’s stony-faced band of Confederates

Tom Vincent, records management analyst at the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, is the latest historian to take on the task of tallying the state’s Civil War monuments (and the first to have compiled a searchable database).

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Tom, how many “standing soldier” Confederate monuments have you recorded?

Fifty-four, out of a total of 110 Confederate memorials. Seven are in cemeteries; the remaining 47 are at more public locations such as courthouse lawns.

The database also  includes the monument to the United States Colored Troops in Hertford, a monument to Union troops in Hendersonville and the monuments in the National Cemeteries in New Bern and Salisbury.

Where did these statues come from?

Many were ordered from catalogs. Companies such as McNeel Marble Co. (Marietta, Ga.) and  American Bronze Co. (Chicago) often advertised in “Confederate Veteran” magazine.

Cooper Bros. of Raleigh supplied some of the stone bases. I’m not sure if Cooper Bros. provided any of the actual monuments.

Was marble the predominant material? Cast concrete? Bronze?

I have file folders full of newspaper articles about the dedications, but I haven’t really collated what the monuments were made of. I think more were granite than marble. Some were bronze, and some were hollow metal skins on a frame (like the Statue of Liberty, I guess). Some of the more inexpensive ones were cast concrete.

How long ago was the last standing soldier dedicated?

The monument in Taylorsville (Alexander County) was dedicated in 1958, which made it a bit of an outlier. Before that, the last was Beaufort (Carteret County) in 1926.

Are you still turning up statues?

I’m reasonably confident I’ve found all the standing soldier monuments in North Carolina, but the database is a work in progress, subject to change. People are still dedicating memorials, though, usually of the “slab” type, like an oversize gravestone. Here is one from 2000 in Surry County.

And the General Johnston monument, on private land near the Bentonville Historic Site, was dedicated on March 20, 2010.

Is “Silent Sam” the only one that provokes calls for removal?

There have been protests against the Confederate monument in front of the Pitt County courthouse in Greenville.

And J. Peder Zane in the Feb. 22, 2009, News and Observer [sorry, link eludes me] called for removal of the Confederate monument in front of the Capitol.

Link dump’s research untouched by decline effect

— If Western North Carolina was so big on Unionism, why weren’t its legislators?

— 18th century “stone” dollhouse from defunct Old Salem Toy Museum blows away auction estimate.

— I hadn’t realized that Pearl Fryar, the topiary wizard (and movie star) of Bishopville, S.C., had such extensive roots in Clinton and Durham. And he’s appearing Jan. 29 in Greenville.

— “Site of the nation’s first student lunch counter sit-ins”: Baltimore?

— Making the case for “a Rutherford Platt Hayes Day in Asheville.”

— J.B. Rhine, father of the “decline effect”?

North Carolina was no place for all that jazz

“At the time I was making a reputation… I couldn’t go South….

“Greenville was a nice little country town… It became a university place  later, but it was not a place I could take my family. That’s a terrible thing to live with… and I guess John [Coltrane] and [Thelonious] Monk experienced some of the same things. We knew about people being lynched….”

—  The late Billy Taylor, recalling the North Carolina he and his fellow jazz giants left behind.

Quote from “John Coltrane and Black America’s Quest for Freedom, Spirituality and the Music,” edited by Leonard Brown (2010).