In March 1915, a bill was passed in both houses of the State Legislature naming Mount Mitchell as the first state park in North Carolina. The bill was largely encouraged by Governor Locke Craig, the 53rd Governor of North Carolina. He acted in response to concerns from the citizens of North Carolina regarding deforestation.
The namesake of Mount Mitchell was Dr. Elisha Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell, a science professor at UNC, measured elevations of the Black Mountain region until he met an untimely and unfortunate death after falling off a cliff over a large waterfall. Mitchell is buried on the summit of the mountain. Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The second highest point, Mount Craig, was named in honor of Governor Craig. Read more about North Carolina’s first state park in Chronicling America and on the website of the N.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. Additional information about North Carolina woodlands is available from The Forest History Society.
Spring is just around the corner! In the last couple of weeks, Chapel Hill and the East Coast have been abuzz about the weather. With all of our modern day radar and forecasting technology, the elements are still unpredictable. What resources were available 100 years ago to predict the weather? The above article from the April 18, 1905 issue of The Progressive Farmer and the Cotton Plant discusses some of the tools and techniques U.S. government forecasters used to predict the weather in 1905. It touts forecasters’ 80 percent accuracy rate in calling the weather.
Since its inception in 1886, The Progressive Farmer has transformed from a local newspaper to a country life oriented magazine with a strong web presence. The online weather briefing delivered by today’s Progressive Farmer includes numerous forecasts as well as indices for drought and crop moisture.
Exactly one hundred years ago, the Western Carolina Democrat and French Broad Hustler published an editorial welcoming the arrival of 1915. The article speaks about 1914 with rhetoric familiar to modern day musings about the transitions and fresh beginnings associated with the New Year.
The article concludes by bidding both the paper itself and its readers well. Despite the continuing uncertainty of war in Europe, the paper gave “a sincere wish that one and all may realize, before its close, that the year 1915 has been exceedingly kind to them.” To read more from the article, visit the December 31, 1914 issue of the Western Carolina Democrat and French Broad Hustler.
In 1889, Mr. E. J. Stephenson made an arduous journey from Henderson, North Carolina to Newark, New Jersey via bicycle. At times, Stephenson was unable to ride his bike and resorted to walking along dusty and bumpy roads, sometimes for twenty to thirty miles. At one point, the roads would have been so difficult to travel on that he was advised to take a brief train ride.
During his two weeks of travel, he wrote about his journey documenting the sights and his expenditures as he made his way to New Jersey. He observed the Blue Ridge Mountains, crossed the Shenandoah River, and gazed across the Susquehanna River. In addition to this, he stopped for a day in Washington D.C. to visit many of the sights that are still popular destinations today. Notably, he visited the Washington Monument stating that it “is 500 feet high and took the elevator 8 minutes to get up.”
When he arrived in Newark sixteen days after departing Henderson, Stephenson had traveled 533 miles and spent $13.00 (approximately $340.00 in modern day currency.) The current time from Henderson, North Carolina to Newark by bike is approximately 44 hours since roads can be more easily traversed by bicycles since the year Stephenson made his trek. Read about the adventure, including broken spokes and free pears from farmers, in the published pages of Stephenson’s diary in the September 26, 1889 issue of The Gold Leaf.
The scuppernong grape has a long history in the state of North Carolina. As a cultivar of muscadine, it is noted for large, sweet fruit with tough, bronze skin. The grape is native to North Carolina and was examined by explorers as early as 1524. The grape grows well in hot, humid environments, such as that of the Piedmont and Coastal regions of North Carolina. Scuppernong is a versatile grape and is used in cakes, pies, jelly, cider, and wine.
The scuppernong grape is the official state fruit of North Carolina and the state lays claim to the Mother Vine, a scuppernong vine on the north end of Roanoke Island that some claim dates pre-dates the arrival of Europeans in the 1580s. Newspapers in the mid-19th century often published articles about this revered vine, such as the September 12, 1857 issue of Raleigh’s Semi-weekly Standard.
When classes officially began on Tuesday, many in-state undergraduate wallets were $8,374 lighter after paying tuition and fees. Over the past four years, tuition has increased about $2000. However, a century ago, the cost of attending UNC held steady for 38 years. Between 1886 and 1924, tuition was only $60 for in-state students. The advertisements from a 1900 issue of the Fisherman & Farmer and an 1887 issue of The Progressive Farmer provide information about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including tuition and available curriculum.
Using an inflation calculator to adjust prices according to the historical Consumer Price Index data, a tuition payment in 1900 of $60.00 would be around $1,654 in today’s currency. The second advertisement lists room and board in 1887 at $5.00, which would be around $138.00 for a modern semester. In addition to this, education demand has gone considerably up as teaching faculty increased from 38 in 1900 to 3,696 active faculty in 2013. The newspaper images were obtained from Chronicling America.
Tabitha Anne Holton was a 22-year-old woman who became North Carolina’s first female attorney after successfully passing the bar examination, alongside her brother, Samuel Melanchthon Holton, in 1878. Her success was published in both Northern and Southern newspapers and drew a variety of comments, including some about her appearance. She practiced with her brother in Yadkinville and conducted research for their firm. Tabitha Holton died of tuberculosis in 1886. She is buried at the Springfield Friends Church in High Point, North Carolina.
The waters off the North Carolina coast have long proved treacherous for ships. By some estimates more than 3,000 vessels have met their fates in the area commonly known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” A particularly dangerous location along the North Carolina coast is known as Diamond Shoals. Here, cool water from the north and warm water from the south collide to create a maze of sandbars, small islands, and inlets extending miles out to sea. Though a lighthouse was constructed at Cape Hatteras in 1802 (the current Cape Hatteras Light was rebuilt in 1870), its light did not project far enough to warn ships away from the outer Diamond Shoals.
In 1889, United States Lighthouse Board officials decided that a lighthouse should be built on the outer Diamond Shoals to augment the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The Board provided $500,000 for its construction.
An article from The Charlotte Democrat, dated September 19, 1890 and available through Chronicling America, relates the excitement with which North Carolina residents and mariners alike greeted the possibility of the new Diamond Shoals lighthouse:
“Should it be a success, it would be a cheap accomplishment at any price, for there is no other place on the seacoast of the United States, where so many noble ships have been lost, so many valuable cargoes destroyed, and so many human beings swept into eternity as in the raging waters of Outer Diamond shoals. Should the enterprise prove successful, all maritime men of every nation and all our countrymen will owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Ransom, of North Carolina, who, placing implicit confidence in the statements made by eminent engineers that the work could be accomplished, and knowing the inestimable boon it would be to humanity and to commerce, employed his great popularity with the older members of both houses of Congress to induce them to pass a bill authorizing this stupendous undertaking, national in design and purposes, but international in its prospective benefits.”
Unfortunately, the same shifting sandbars that made it difficult for mariners to navigate the area also created problems with the construction of the lighthouse. After several attempts, workers abandoned efforts to build the lighthouse and a lightship was anchored there instead. A permanent lighthouse was not constructed on Diamond Shoals until the 1960s. A light remained in that location for more than 30 years. The lighthouse suffered significant damage from Hurricane Fran in 1996, making it difficult for workers to repair. The light was finally extinguished in 2001, though the structure remains and is a popular fishing spot. In 2012, a Minnesota man bought the lighthouse for $20,000 and announced plans to use it as a research, development, and product testing facility.
While browsing The Independent, an historic newspaper from Elizabeth City, I was intrigued by an advertisement for The Shad Man. Although the nickname amused me, I questioned the ad’s presence in a North Carolina newspaper. The advertisement was for a vendor at the Dock Street Fish Market in Philadelphia—some 300 miles north of Elizabeth City!
Why was a Philadelphia fish merchant seeking shad from North Carolina? It’s hard to say with certainty. Clearly there was a demand. That’s confirmed by the number of ads appearing in The Independent from other fish merchants in Philadelphia, as well as those in New York and Baltimore. All are seeking shad.
An article in the June 14, 1925 issue of The News and Observer, hints at one reason the merchants had turned their attentions southward. The writer notes,”The waters here, unpolluted as they are, have a tremendous advantage over the waters of the sounds to the north, with their vast cities.” Pollution, it seems, was causing a decline in shad in the north.
In fact, by the time the article appeared in The News and Observer, shad were already dwindling in North Carolina waters, too. The reduced supply had caused the price to increase from 25 cents to $2.50 per pound, according to the article.
The number of shad continued to decline into the 1930s. Writer and conservationist Rachel Carson was among those who raised the alarm. As a junior aquatic biologist for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, Carson was responsible for studying fish populations and writing brochures and pamphlets to educate the general public. An article she penned on shad appeared in the February 28, 1937 edition of The News and Observer. She wrote:
Many of the major rivers of New England, where shad once furnished a commercial catch of two million pounds are no longer considered shad streams. From New York to Delaware the catch has dropped from nearly 22 million pounds in 1901 to less than a million in 1934. Shad fishermen of the Chesapeake, center of the industry, took 17 million pounds annually in the late 1890s; in 1934 the catch failed to total five million pounds. On the South Atlantic coast the yield had dropped from 11 million to 2 1/2 million pounds.
The amazing picture of depletion is the product of the triple menace of overfishing, obstructing dams and polluted waterways. In narrow-mouthed bays and river estuaries the maze of nets and traps obstructing the passage upstream takes a heavy toll of fish before they have spawned. Dams for industry and navigation have spelled the destruction of the shad runs in the upper and middle reaches of the rivers. Fishways, providing a graded ascent, have been built into certain of the dams, but the shad, in contrast to the aggressive salmon, is a shy and retiring fish and will not use the ladders. In other areas lumber mills have dumped sawdust into the streams, choking their channels; silt washed from eroded hillsides covers the spawning beds, smothering the eggs and fry; industrial and municipal pollution has poisoned other waters so that shad will not enter or spawn in them.
As the shad population dwindled, state and federal officials along with fishermen attempted to find remedies. Their solutions included altering the length of the fishing season and restricting the types of nets that could be used. Some even suggested killing cormorants, a protected bird known to attack the nets of caught shad.
Today, thanks to federal and state regulations as well as the removal of some dams, shad are again returning to North Carolina waters. And each spring shad lovers can again enjoy their favorite fish and its roe. Perhaps there’s even a shad man somewhere in Philadelphia at this very moment doing his best to find some North Carolina-caught shad.
Tippoo S. Brownlow, owner of the La Vallee Female Seminary, placed this advertisement recruiting students to his new school in an 1836 issue of the North Carolina Standard. The school was in operation from 1833-1850, and was located between Halifax and Warrenton, North Carolina. The La Vallee Female Seminary was run out of a small building behind what is now known as the Gray-Brownlow-Willcox House. The school building had two floors in which there would have been space for classes to be conducted and for students to eat meals and socialize, and an attic area which was likely the living quarters for the students. La Vallee Female Seminary was forced to close in 1850, when Brownlow could no longer support the school financially.
The La Vallee Female Seminary was benefited by an experienced staff. Brownlow had also run a school called the La Vallee Academy elsewhere in Halifax County in the late 1820s, before moving his school to the grounds of the Gray-Brownlow-Willcox House. In addition, the advertisement includes testimonies to the ability of La Vallee’s principal. Mrs. Emma McElvey had previously taught at a female seminary in Schenectady, New York, and her success in that position is attested to by no less than the mayor and the First Judge of Schenectady, the City physician, and several ministers.
It is interesting to note the course offerings at La Vallee Female Seminary. The courses one would expect to see offered at a ladies’ finishing school might include subjects like music and painting. However, La Vallee offered its young ladies courses in chemistry, astronomy, history, geography, and algebra. The course listings for music and art lessons appear at the end of the advertisement, as these courses incurred extra fees.
This advertisement comes from the oldest issue of a North Carolina newspaper that has become available on Chronicling America thus far. View the full advertisement here.