Carry Nation finds Salisbury a ‘hell hole’

On this day in 1907: Billed as “an extra added attraction,” Carry Nation appears in Salisbury’s Fourth of July parade. After inspecting local saloons — at 61, she is no longer busting them up — she declares the town a “hell hole.

Nation’s month-long N.C. tour concludes in Raleigh. Raleigh Electric Co., whose streetcars profit from ferrying her supporters to Pullen Park, pays her $35. She makes an additional $25 from sale of souvenir cardboard and pewter hatchets.


Audience participation at ‘Birth of a Nation’ in Salisbury

“In later showings [of ‘The Birth of a Nation’] some Southern blacks became more demonstrative in their opposition….According to the Chicago Defender, ‘a near riot was precipitated’ in Salisbury, North Carolina, in the 1920s when black spectators in the balcony applauded and cheered at what the white spectators deemed inappropriate moments….Whites threatened ‘vociferous’ blacks that they would ‘come up there and get you,’ to which some black spectators replied, ‘Come on up.’

“When it played again in Salisbury several years later, the theater didn’t advertise ‘until the last minute’ so that protesters would have ‘no time to form an organization.’ City officials urged black citizens to stay home and ‘blacklist’ the film….”

— From Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940″ by Amy Louise Wood (2011)


An inauspicious beginning for Salisbury prison

On this day in 1861: L. P. Walker, Confederate secretary of war, approves purchase of an abandoned cotton mill at Salisbury for use as a prison for captured Union soldiers. To their later regret, the owners agree to take payment in Confederate bonds.

Before being closed four years later Salisbury prison will become notorious for its unhealthy and crowded conditions.


Jackson left mark on Salisbury (and on cockfighting)

On this day in 1787: Andrew Jackson, age 20, is admitted to the Rowan County bar.

An acquaintance of Jackson during the several years before he moved to Tennessee will recall him as “the most roaring, rollicking, game cocking, cardplaying, mischievous fellow that ever lived in Salisbury.” (Well over two centuries later, a gamecock that continues to attack after losing an eye is still known as a “Jackson.”)


Irritated by Salisbury’s ‘Bath-Tub Aristocracy’

“[Southern] towns prided themselves on their new water works and sewers….When a new water system came to Salisbury, North Carolina, in the late [1880s], Hope Chamberlain recalled, ‘Some of the younger married folks put in bathrooms. We girls called them “The Bath-Tub Aristocracy.” ‘ Those ‘aristocrats’ mentioned their new conveniences as often as possible, deeply irritating those ‘who had not yet graduated from the class with the tin-tub-on-the-back-fence, to be brought in with cold water and warm, in pails for the semi-weekly rite.’ ”

— From The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction by Edward L. Ayers (2007)


UNC rudely rejected abolitionist professor

On this day in 1856: Benjamin Hedrick, chemistry professor at the University of North Carolina, publishes a defense of his abolitionist views in the North Carolina Standard of Raleigh.

In response, the faculty denounces him, the board of trustees dismisses him and an unsuccessful attempt is made to tar and feather him at an educational conference in Salisbury. Hedrick, a native of Davidson County, flees to New York and spends the rest of his life in the North.


Believe it: He’s grandson of Civil War veteran

“Ringgold, Ga., has a mayor who’s one generation removed from the Civil War.

“Joe Barger’s grandfather — that’s right, his grandfather — Jacob A. Barger served as a private for the South in North Carolina’s infantry. Mayor Barger grew up in Salisbury, N.C., about 35 miles north of Charlotte.

” ‘He was born in 1833,’ Barger said. ‘So it’s 96 years’ difference between when he was born, and I was born.’

“The births were spaced that way because both Barger’s grandfather and father married younger women after their first wives died.

“Being the grandson of a Civil War soldier is so unusual, the 84-year-old mayor said, that when he tells people about it, ‘I don’t think they believe me.’ ”

— From “Civil War scion: Ringgold mayor is living history….” by Tim Omarzu in the Chattanooga Times Free Press (June 28)


Salisbury women take command of homefront

On this day in 1863: Hungry and unable to pay inflated prices, 75 Salisbury women, most of them wives of Confederate soldiers, arm themselves with axes and go in search of hoarded food.

The railroad agent turns them away from the depot, claiming he has no flour. They break into a warehouse, taking 10 barrels, and find seven more at a store. After coming up empty at a government warehouse, they collar a suspected speculator and relieve him of a bag of salt.

The women then return to the depot, storm past the uncooperative agent and claim 10 more barrels of flour.

Soon after, a farmer arrives at the station with a wagonload of tobacco for shipment. When the agent tells him about the rampaging women, according to a contemporary account, the farmer hurriedly drives off, “fearful that they would learn to chew.”


What’s in a name? A reflection of its creator

On this day in 1982: Posing for a publicity shot, Food Town president Tom Smith climbs atop Store No. 1 in Salisbury to watch installation of new letters changing the name of his rapidly growing supermarket chain to Food Lion.

The name has been changed to avoid conflicts with Food Town stores in Tennessee and Virginia. Chairman Ralph Ketner — legendary for his tight-fistedness — chose the new name because it would require changing only two letters on store marquees.

Dr. Livingstone’s son dies in Salisbury prison riot

On this day in 1864: Robert Moffat Livingstone, eldest son of missionary Dr. David Livingstone, is fatally injured in a riot at the Confederate prison at Salisbury.

Young Livingstone, born in Africa and reared in Scotland, enlisted with a New Hampshire regiment using a false age (21, instead of 18) and name (Rupert Vincent).

In a letter to his father he cryptically referred to the alias as a means to avoid “further dishonoring” the family name. He expressed regret at having joined the Army. “I have never hurt anyone knowingly in battle,” he said, “having always fired high.” He was captured at the battle of New Market Road in Virginia and taken to Salisbury.

A friend will later quote Dr. Livingstone as saying, “I am proud of the boy, and if I had been there, I should have gone to fight for the North myself.”

Robert Livingstone is likely buried in a mass grave in what is now Salisbury National Cemetery.