Extraterrestrial community had ally in NC native

“The Rev. Kirby Hensley, who ordained millions around the world through a mail-order ministry based in Modesto, Calif., died [March 19, 1999] of cancer. He was 87.

“Rev. Hensley’s Universal Life Church was viewed as something of a lark by many who sent him $5 for ministerial licenses, but it was an intensely serious matter for the Internal Revenue Service, [which] spent years challenging his tax exemption.

“His church had no doctrine other than ‘Do that which is right,’ and its patriarch thumbed his nose at organized religion and government tax collectors. His philosophy: ‘I always stand for freedom, food and sex. That’s all there is. It sets people free.’

“Rev. Hensley started his ministry in 1962 in his garage. By the early 1990s it claimed 16 million members, but he continued to live in a modest home and to work as a carpenter.

“In 1968 he ran for president under the label of the Universal Party. One of his issues: civil treatment for visitors from other worlds.

“Rev. Hensley was born July 23, 1911, in Low Gap, N.C., in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He had preached in Southern Baptist churches by the time he was 20. He and his family moved to Stanislaus County [Calif.] in 1959.”

— From the Modesto Bee (March 20, 1999)

The Universal Life Church survived the death of its founder and now claims “Over 20 million ministers ordained worldwide!”

I suspect “Low Gap” is in fact the Lowgap community in Surry County. (Would you have guessed the Gazetteer lists no fewer than 11 topographic Low Gaps? But no High Gaps?)

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).


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.