“Blockading”: The oral autobiography of Dove Coble

October 24, 2013
Ready to run the Blockade.

Ready to Run the Blockade, from http://www.louisville.com

This is about half of an oral history interview I recorded with Dove Coble (1900-2000) at his daughter’s house on 1 March 1997.  Dove was a delightful fellow who remembered just about everything that had ever happened to him.  I had a great time talking with him, and it was the only interview I ever did with someone willing to talk about the business of running moonshine, a big part of the economy of the county in the late Nineteenth and the first half of the Twentieth centuries.

The long and colorful tradition of moonshining in Randolph County ran from Black Ankle on the Montgomery County border, through Seagrove and Millboro all the way north to Level Cross.  After the Civil War the federal government established a system of licensed distilleries in which Treasury Agents would collect a tax on each gallon of whiskey produced.  There were many “Government Stills” established across Randolph, but for each legal still there were at least two illegal producers.  Moonshiners refused to run a “government still” and pay the excise tax.  In Prohibition days (and afterwards) running the illicit liquor from the stills deep in the Randolph County countryside up to the thirsty markets in the North was a major source of cash income.  Though glass “Mason” jars were invented before the Civil War (many were produced up into the 1900s with the mark “Patent Nov 30th 1858″), moonshiners kept many a Randolph and Moore county potter in business up until World War II.  And transporting those containers to the ultimate buyers was the province of the “Blockade Runner,” or “Blockaders,” a very conscious reference to the Civil War “greyhounds of the sea” which ran the federal blockade of southern ports to supply the Confederate war effort. 

Dove Coble died just a few weeks short of his 100th birthday, and was buried in Gray’s Chapel, or “York Town,” as he called it.

My name’s William Dove Coble.  Senior.  That’s my boy at Eastern Randolph [his son, Dove Coble Jr., was a teacher at ERHS].  I was born the 11th of June, 1900.  If I live to see June I’ll be 97.   I was born over there on Sandy Creek; Brower’s Mill.  It’s Kidd’s Mill now, on Sandy Creek, back in the woods there. My daddy, Rossie Coble, died in 1917, and was buried over at Gray’s Chapel, and I’ve been there ever since.  There was five of us boys and three girls.  I was the oldest child.  They’ve all gone but me and my youngest brother, Truman Coble, lives there in Ramseur.  Seventeen years younger than me.  My daddy died in March, and in June I was seventeen, and then Truman was born after that.  My father lived in the country.  Shelly Coble was my daddy’s brother, and Will Coble, and Clem Coble, they’re buried this side of Town, there where Joe Buie’s father is buried.  Charlie Coble and Ham Coble, they’re my closest kin.  I lived over here at Gray’s Chapel, not at the schoolhouse, but on up the road where that dairy barn is, at the rock wall.  Hackett Road.  That’s where Dove Jr. lives.  My wife passed away and I’ve been over here at Opal’s [his daughter in Asheboro] since ’82, when Curtis Coble passed away….

I never did get no education, never got to seventh grade.  I get more now out of the Upper Room than I can the Bible.  The stories, you know; I ain’t got no education.  I can read, and write my name.  I started off at Patterson’s Grove.  The schoolhouse was on what you called the Ferguson road, the road from Ramseur to White’s Chapel.  I went there four years, and then over to White’s Chapel, at a little schoolhouse there, didn’t go there but one.  Just five or six years.  I moved all over the country.  I wasn’t doing nothing but running around.  We just drug up, to tell the truth about it.  I’m lucky to be here.  I lost my daddy, and I wasn’t 17; there was nine of us, and no welfare nor nothing.  It was Hoover days.  Can you imagine how I lived?  Just drug up.

I lived over there in the country when the war ended, close to Brower’s Mill.  My daddy died in 1916, and the next year I had to register.  I was up plowing corn there in the back yard, plowing around saw logs in the field.  Momma come out in the field and waved at me; we heared the bells and whistles blowing at Franklinville.  We didn’t have any telephones.  They tied them whistles down; you can imagine the racket.  Both mills sounded the same; they both had whistles; you couldn’t tell one from the other.  I registered for the war in Ramseur.  I.F. Craven ran the draft board.  He lived in a big house behind the drug store beside Fred Thomas, who run the broom shop.  I’ve got that little card; it’s the only thing I’ve got to know when I was born; didn’t get no birth certificate.

My grandpaw W.H. Coble, William, is buried right there in that old cemetery, Old Salem.   I never remember any church there, I don’t know where it fell down or what.    He’s where the William come from.  Leeshy, my grandmaw, that’s where they got the Dove;  from Dunc Dove’s crowd; my grandmaw was his sister.  They lived up towards White’s Memorial.  Dunc and his son Tracy lived there on the hill next to Dr. Fox, on that street above Burnice Jones.  My grandpaw come down on a wagon and we went to that old wooden store [the lower company store]; went and got molasses out of a fifty-gallon drum with my grandpaw.  That was back before I went to school, Nineteen Five.  The Company stores were just old country stores.  They had everything in the world you wanted in there.  But I didn’t buy nothing.  Didn’t have to buy nothing.  Wasn’t nothing I could buy.  I didn’t have no money; what could I buy?

1924 Open Cab Express Body Model TT- Ford's first pickup.  Before that model year Ford only provided the truck chassis, and local wagonmakers purpose-built the bodies.

1924 Open Cab Express Body Model TT- Ford’s first pickup. Before that model year Ford only provided the truck chassis, and local wagonmakers purpose-built the bodies.

I come there to Franklinville in Twenty.  Ed Routh, Ernest’s daddy, and Paul, and Iula, found out I needed work.  I drove a truck, the first one they ever had in Franklinville.  One ton Ford truck, open bed, to haul flour and feed and everything they made.  Had a cover for it, but it was open, open bed.  Open cab, no glass.  I hauled flour to Seagrove and Siler City, and loaded it on the train.  They shipped it to the college up there.  Women’s College bought the flour direct from the mill, and had it shipped up there.  It was too far to drive then.  Wasn’t no such thing as a hard surface.  64 wasn’t built.  No road down to Ramseur, or anywhere.  Did without ‘em.  Parks Buie told me that Joe would order five gallons of oysters of a morning, tell them to put them on the train down on the coast, and they’d come to Greensboro and down to Franklinville on the second train, that run after dinner, and he’d get it of an evening.  Five gallons of oysters for a dollar and a quarter.  The train went up in the morning, met the trains and stuff in Greensboro, and come back after dinner.

Guess how much I made in six days.  Ten dollars a week for six days, ten hours a day.  All day.  Went in six in the morning, stayed till five in the evening.  An hour out for dinner.  If they didn’t fix for me I walked back to the house for dinner, next door to Burnice Jones, where he lives now.  That house above it.  I lived with my great aunts, Bell and Lizzie and Effie Luther.  They’re all buried around there.  They worked in the mill before I went down there. My aunts were fine people, but they was old then.  They was retired.  Two of them never married.  Old widow women.  They looked after me, they was good. I maybe paid $5 a week; if I wanted to pay them anything I did, but I didn’t have to.

Ed Routh was the head knocker and manager.  He was the flour man.  Bascom Kinney ground the corn meal.  Old Davis, across the river, he was there part of the time.  They’re all gone.  They bought the truck while I was there.  I was the first driver they had, anyway.  I could drive anything then.  The first job I had, I helped put flour in the sacks, meal, flour and everything.  Corn meal went in little bitty bags, ten pounds.  Plain corn meal. They didn’t have no self-rising to start with; they put it in after I went down there. Excelsior was the plain flour; Dainty Biscuit was the self-rising.  I bagged that flour, and Ernest helped before he went on the road.  Ten pound bags; twenty-five; and them big bags is what they shipped.  They put ninety-eight pounds in them.  The college got maybe ten bags in a shipment, every week, or whenever they needed it.  I first hauled stuff through the wooden bridge, the covered bridge.  Mr. Routh lived right up there by the mill.  Basc Kinney lived next door, that worked for Ed as a miller.…

[I] Went to work in the roller mill.  Me and Ernest worked there, and his daddy.  Ed Routh done the most of the work.  He could do most anything, kept everything just as clean as a woman.  He kept us wore plumb out to keep the spider webs and things cleaned up. That mill, it run by water then.  The water wheel was in the lower end, the back end.  The race run around behind the mill, and a chute come out of there, going under to the water wheel, and the shaft run back under the mill and the belts went on up.  All of it was ground by water then.  Didn’t have no lights to start with; they finally got up to date, and got electricity.  And the cotton mill run by water then, too….

I had an old T-model, $150 copper head T-model, ‘Fifteen.  I got Joe Buie to let me have a little money, maybe a hundred dollars, and my aunt give me some. There wasn’t no bank, they put that in after I went there.  That store opened up, and the office for both mills.  I didn’t have to have but two or three hundred dollars, but I didn’t have none.  I got it the first year I was down there.  Twenty-one.  $150; drove it; kept it for five years, and I got that much out of it when I sold it.  Then when the A-Models come out, I got another one.  I had a A-Model when I got married….

1927 was the first production year for the Model A Ford.

1927 was the first production year for the Model A Ford.

[John] Clark changed everything [about Franklinsville in 1923].  But of course I was blockade running around all over the country, wasn’t married or nothing; didn’t stay down there much.  I was maybe in Siler City one night and somewheres else the next.  But I still worked every day, ten hours a day.  Back then, the hours weren’t nothing. Bob Craven, who lived in that last house by the trussell, said he could remember me going by there of a morning at daylight, going to the mill.  He said, “You was crazy as hell, then.”  I said, I didn’t have no choice.  I stayed at home there, piddled around so we didn’t starve.  You know what we had.  Just nothing.  Hoover Days.  I don’t care what your politics are. If you lived through Hoover Days, you won’t forget it, if you live to be a hundred.  I sold liquor of a night, when I was driving the truck [for the roller mill]; me and Benton Moon.  Did you know him?  Fanny Burke was his wife, and Roy Holliday married her later.  Me and Benton would go over in York Town and get a case every night.  All of them around there, Doc Cheek, that run the drugstore, he’d drink it just like water.  That’s what Franklinville was like when I went down there.

You could buy liquor anywhere you wanted it. There were a few government stills around, but I never did go to none of them. Over here in Lineberry where I live now, George Allred had one back up in the woods there.  And there was one there at Shady Grove.  Sharp Kivett, he’d give you the history of that.  Fletcher Pugh, owns that sawmill on that road, he could tell you the truth about it.  Sharp Kivett and George Allred, that’s the only two government-mades I ever went to, knew where the places were.

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia

But I went to all these others, all over the country.  We had plenty of it around White’s Chapel. York Town, or White’s Chapel, it’s all the same to me.  People there made blockade whiskey, it wasn’t government liquor.  My daddy made liquor all his life.  Old man Warren Langley over here at Staley, down close to the government still at Staley; his boy Clarence died here last year;  Warren Langley was number one.  The Toomeses were good up in Level Cross.  But if you wanted good liquor, back in below Seagrove, down towards the river, old man Lucas was the one. Cross the railroad and go back down there by Luck’s, and wind around not more than a mile back over in there.  If he had bad liquor he’d tell you so.  He’d say, “I ain’t got nothing for you this week.”  I wouldn’t buy no burnt liquor.  And he

had enough sense, if had a little burnt liquor, he wouldn’t put it off on one of his customers.  You know, the mash, what makes the steam off the whiskey, if it stuck to the bottom of your still, it burnt.  It ain’t nothing to brag about, but they’d take me when I was little, and they’d poke me there after the fire was took out, and have me clean that still out.  I’ve been in one many a time.   If you make it right, you had copper from where you put it in the still.  Then it went to the wooden doubler, and then it went up in the cooler, and when it went on out down there where you catch it in a jug, it was liquor.  If it come out there, and there weren’t no bead on it, they wouldn’t save it.  You’d check the temperature by looking to see if it beaded up on the copper.  You’d shake it.  If it’s right fine on you, it ain’t rig

ht.  It all used to be made out of corn; they made out of sugar later.  That man in Staley, to start off with, he wouldn’t have no sugar liquor.  He made corn liquor.  Oscar Langley was one of Warren’s boys.  He used to play ball in Ramseur and he was drunk as a fool, and they couldn’t tell it.  He was a pitcher, I believe.  It’s all behind me, but I’ve seen lots of things in my time.   There ain’t a place between here and Staley, creek or branch or road nor nothing else that I ain’t been.  I’ve been down to a still on that Hickory Mountain road, from Siler City to Pittsboro.  It ain’t nothing to brag about, but I’ve been there.  It was the way to make money.  But I didn’t drink none of it.  I found out, it was to sell, not to drink.  I’ve never been drunk in my life.  My brother, he took enough for me and him both.  It just ruint him.  But you can’t convince him of that, even now.

Not many people would fool with brandy.  Some of them made it, and some didn’t.  I had the most brandy that’s ever been over in there.  I had twenty gallons up there in Lineberry, in the barn.  Clark Millikan made it for me, the first brandy he ever made in his life. That was R.C. Millikan, who died here recently.  I went to the mountains and got a whole load of apples, put it in the barrell, and kept it till it worked over.  Made cider.  Put them in a barrell, put your sugar in it, or after it sours you can make it without if you clear it up.  While it’s working you can’t still it.  It’s got to work over.  Clark made a little money.  But he died over here with his britches open [in the nursing home], just like me and you’s gonna do.

Moonshine run, from serbianforum.org

Moonshine run, from serbianforum.org

I could make $10 in a night.  That’s the reason I went home; I told Ed Routh I could make more than that by going to York Town one day a week.  Well, he said, you just come on and work for me while you’re here, and I’ll pay you as much again as you’re getting.  They paid me five out of the mill and five out of the Company.  It all went to different names.  Roller mill got credit for this; the mill got the other.  I still run around everywhere, but he didn’t know it.  I didn’t ever fool with it around there [the roller mill].  Ed would take a drink, but I didn’t know till after he was Register of Deeds that he ever did.  He wasn’t a drunkard, but after he’d come back to Ramseur, he told me, when you get some good, you can bring me half a gallon once in a while.  But politics didn’t change that man.  He didn’t change because he had an office job.  If you’d started down there where I did, barefooted, no daddy, you’d know about how you’d feel.  Then when you’d get up a little, you’d get above it.  But Ed was number one, and Joe Buie was just as good.  He wouldn’t tell you no lie, nor cheat you either.  And that old Spoon boy, one armed man, the banker there, run the bank beside the office; if I didn’t have a dollar I could go in there and get it.   The Sumners lived in that house across the road.  John, and George, the county doctor.  And two girls.  Dave Sumner let me put my new car in that shed behind the house, wouldn’t charge me a cent.  Edison Curtis lived up on that hill on Depot Street, and Henry Curtis, and Polly Newsom, and Will Thomas lived down through there.  There wasn’t anybody in Franklinville or between here and Staley I didn’t know.

A quart Kerr jar of white liquor.

A quart Kerr jar of white liquor.

Sometimes you’d pay $5 for six gallons; you’d take it and peddle it out; people would buy it, and you could double it.  I took it right down town there [Asheboro], where the bank used to be [Bank of Randolph], and people would give me orders to take some to Greensboro.  They couldn’t get blockade liquor in Greensboro.  They had to come out somewhere else and get it.  They could buy liquor, but they didn’t want that.  That man at the bank would say, “You go take Ben Cone five gallons.  He lives out there toward White Oak.  Just drive on out there like you own the place.  Drive in there like you have groceries.”  I had pretty good nerve then.  But they never caught me.  Tommy Brookshire that lived at Randleman was the deputy here one time.  I was going to town one night, right down here where the hospital is; I was in one of those A models.  Well, he just drove up to me and was gonna stop me, and I just turned round and went down that side street, and didn’t see him any more that night.  And he didn’t see me.  That’s as close as anybody ever caught me, but I didn’t stop.  Them days is all gone.

I stayed there till the last day of Twenty-five.  Got married, and never did work any more down there.   I moved up here to Lineberry, Acie’s Store up above Gray’s Chapel.  I didn’t have no land, and I bought that schoolhouse for $200.  Put a new roof on it, and rented it since I’ve been over here.  I give it all to the young’uns, where Acie Lineberry’s store was.   And that Highway from Asheboro to Liberty wasn’t built then.  They built it with horses. That’s how long I’ve been there.  I met my wife over here at Grays Chapel.  She was a Hackett.  She come from over at White’s Chapel.  I got married the last week of the year.  Went up there and still run around all over the country and everywhere else after I was married.  Siler City and Seagrove, or below Seagrove, was as far as I ever went.  You know what they call Black Ankle?  I used to take to a store back in there, ten miles back on that river.  Mandy’s Store.  I’ve been in there and bought liquor since I been big enough to go back.  See, I stayed down there, sold liquor, peddled liquor, and everything else.  I don’t mind telling you.  All around Franklinville, and Black Ankle, and everywhere else.  I got pretty good on my feet then.  In 1928,  I had a little money I’d saved, and I got an A-model.  Paid for it peddling liquor.  But I went in debt building this bridge here in Central Falls in Twenty-eight.  That’s where I went in debt.  I made enough to get out there, but went in debt $500, and had to give my bootlegging car away.

But I had an old truck. Do you believe I drove an A model from Greensboro to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in one day?   I had that truck, and I knew a boy that had business up there, and he helped me buy a new truck here, and I went to South Carolina and sold liquor; earned enough to pay for my land over yonder in two years.  Now, then, what can you do in two years?  Go in debt, that’s all you can do. But there was money in trucks, if you worked it out.  I had to work it out; it wasn’t give to me.  I went to Greensboro and I told them, I gonna mark me a route to Pennsylvania.  He laid down a sheet of paper and said you just follow this highway till you hit the mountains.  You don’t go round them mountains, go right on through them till you get to Pennsylvania.  It’s seventy miles from where the President is over to Lancaster.  I drove up there from 8:00 till 9 that night.  I went by myself.  My old truck was up there; kept my new one here, and went to South Carolina.

When I got out of debt I quit fooling with it.  Old man Jewell Trogdon, a preacher here in town, he was the one caused me to get out.  He just told me, over here in Gray’s Chapel Church, “What if the Lord would take these two girls away from you?”  He knowed I was running around here and yonder and everything else.  Old man Trogdon showed me where I was wrong.  So I told the man over here who built this bridge, “Ed, you better make good of this liquor.  These two cases is the last.”  He said, “What do you mean?  You can’t quit!”  I said, “Yes, I have, I’ve done quit. You can drink it, but I ain’t even gonna sell this.”  I stayed and got enough to pay for my land off what I done that year.  I had $2,000 when I got done.  I got my first truck in ’28, over here at Central Falls.  And then went down there and got enough to pay for my land.  And I went on to carpentry work, and never fooled with no more liquor.

I know time changes everything, but I’ve seen a lot of things since ‘seventeen.

The History of Water

September 22, 2013
Lassiter Mill Dam on the Uwharrie, destroyed 9-4-2013 to open the river to the annual shad run.

Lassiter Mill Dam on the Uwharrie, destroyed 9-4-2013 to open the river to the annual shad run.

Before there were counties, before there were towns, before there were road names and 911 addresses, there was geography.  In the past as in the present, local landmarks of whatever description oriented residents as to time and place, (how often do we say something like, ‘Turn left where the Hardees used to be”?).   Before the advent to sophisticated surveying instruments, let alone aerial photography, satellite images and Google Maps, residents depended on their intimate and granular knowledge of local geography.  This big rock or that big oak tree was known to be the corner between one landowner and his neighbor in the medieval English common law system inherited in the eastern United States, known as “metes and bounds” surveying.  The Metes, or measurements, carefully established the unique directions, distances and calculated angles of the boundary lines; the Bounds, or terminal points, delineated the extent of the tract of land described.

The Bounds also oriented the description in larger segments of time and place, from the largest to the smallest extent, with the growing recognition of political boundaries.  A tract of land purchased by an immigrant could be located in North America (before 1492); the United States (1776); Carolana (1629); North Carolina (1691) ; Randolph County (1779); Asheborough (1792); Back Creek Township (1868).

The natives and earliest explorers and colonists, of course, had few or none of these reference points.  Dr. John Lederer (b.1644) a German immigrant and explorer, first travelled from Fort Charles, (now Richmond), Virginia into Carolana in May 1670.  Lederer’s party of 20 white men and 5 Indian guides had dwindled down to just 4 people by the he returned to Fort Henry (now Petersburg, VA) in July 1670.  But during that 90 day period Lederer had become the first recorded European visitor through Piedmont NC, all the way to the Catawba River near what is now Charlotte.  His expedition journals were translated into Latin and published, forming the first guidebook for subsequent travelers.

Moseley Map, 1733

Moseley Map, 1733

In 1701 Swiss explorer John Lawson visited the area and first gave us many of the landmark names we still use today.  He lived with the Keyauwee Indian tribe (now spelled Caraway) and crossed the Heighwaree River to get to them (now spelled Uwharrie).   Lawson evidently heard no local name for the other major local watercourse, which he only noted as “two pretty Rivers, something bigger than Heighwaree, but not quite so stony. We took these two Rivers to make one of the Northward Branches of Cape-Fair River, but afterwards found our Mistake.”  One of these “two pretty Rivers” was certainly Deep River, which is in fact a “Northward Branch” of the Cape Fear.  Early explorers, however, had the impression that the Deep was a tributary of the Uwharrie; Col. William Byrd, in his “History of the Dividing Line” (1728), says in tracing the route of the Trading Path that the Deep is “the north branch of the Pee Dee.”  The error was first inaccurately mapped on the 1733 Moseley map of North Carolina, where the Deep and “Uharee” merge and flow into the “Sapona or Yadkin River”. [Byrd’s book is the first recorded use of the name “Yadkin.”]

The lack of a received native American name for the Deep has also provided much confusion to historians and local residents; for more than one hundred years it has been accepted in Randolph and Guilford counties to claim “Sapona” as the Indian name for the Deep.  This is incorrect, as Lawson clearly refers to the “Sapona” native town as being on the Trading Ford of the Sapona River, some 20 miles west of the Keyauwee town.  However, Lawson himself had confused the issue by stating that the Sapona was “the west branch of the Clarendon, or Cape Fair River.”

In the present era of satellite photographic maps from space, it is too easy to dismiss these early errors as stupid mistakes.  It was a difficult matter in the 17th and18th centuries to track a watercourse from its source to the sea.  The amazing thing to a historian is that local residents had in fact such an intimate acquaintance with each body of water that they knew where it flowed.  Up until the Civil War, the most familiar landmarks of Randolph County were natural, physical, environmental distinctions of water, earth, wind and fire.  Everyone was familiar with them, and every body of water, no matter how large or small, shallow or deep, had a name.

The junction of Sandy Creek with Deep River at the Wildlife boat landing

The junction of Sandy Creek with Deep River at the Wildlife boat landing

Before there were county names, the name of the major local river was the primary landmark in any deed.  “Waters of Deep River” sent the reader to the east side of what became Randolph; “Waters of Uwharrie” directed them to the west side.  From 1752 to 1770, Deep River waters were in Orange County, St. Matthew’s Parish, and Uwharrie River waters were in Rowan County, St. Luke’s Parish.  In 1770 parts of Orange and Rowan were combined to create Guilford County, which was itself divided in 1779 to create Randolph.

Each tract could be and usually was further subdivided to pinpoint the location:  “Sandy Creek, waters of Deep River,” or “Caraway, waters of Uwharrie” indicated particular areas of each watercourse.  Muddy Creek, Polecat Creek, Solomon’s Creek, Bush Creek, Sandy Creek, Gabriel’s Creek, Mill Creek, Brush Creek, Richland Creek- all are major tributaries (or “Forks” or “Prongs”) of the Deep.  Little Uwharrie, Caraway, Back Creek, Bettie McGee’s Creek, Little River, are all major tributaries of the Uwharrie.   Each creek was further subdivided into numerous “Branches,” and each branch could be divided into “Runs” or “Brooks.”  A “wash” or “draw” was a dry creek bead, only intermittently or seasonally wet.

“Spring Branches” were the head sources of a watercourse, where natural springs bubbled up from the ground.  These were highly sought-after pieces of property, and often a spring retained the name of its first owner long after that person had departed.  “Adam’s Spring,” for example, is in New Salem, a tributary of Polecat Creek, and was the place where the doomed heroine of the ballad “Naomi Wise” met her alleged killer, Jonathan Lewis.  “Mineral Springs”  indicated that the water from a particular spring had dissolved substances that provided a particular taste, often thought to have healthful or healing qualities.  “Hot Springs” were naturally heated, and were developed into spas and resorts.

Shelter built over Adams' Spring, New Salem (now gone)

Shelter built over Adams’ Spring, New Salem (now gone)

The smallest and most personal branches were those that began or “headed” on a homeplace, where the residents carried water for their animals and washing.  Sidney Swaim Robins (1883- 1979) wrote of his boyhood at 177 South Main Street in Asheboro that the branch behind his house was named after them, then their neighbors. “Below our place the Robins Branch became first the McAlister Branch, then the Penn Wood Branch, on its way to make Haskett’s Creek, which we used to cross on a covered bridge about four miles out on the road to Randleman.  Of course we fished that creek all the way from Ed Walker’s line [now the site of Central Methodist Church, 300 S. Main at Academy St.] way down past “Eck’s” dam [unknown] to the place where Garland Pritchard grew up [647 E. Pritchard St., now an Acme-McCrary factory, but once Garland Lake Dairy].  We caught suckers, sun perch, catfish (after rains), now and then an eel, a few of them big enough to eat.  I knew the small pond on the McAlister place to freeze over thick enough for skating only about three times in my real Asheboro years.” (Sketches of My Asheboro, 1880-1910, p. 2)  The branch he describes now runs between Elm and Randolph streets, flowing roughly north toward Haskett’s Creek.

Penn Wood Branch to Haskett's Creek

Penn Wood Branch to Haskett’s Creek

In 1793 Jesse Henley conveyed two acres of land on Abram’s Creek to the Justices of Randolph County for use as a courthouse.  This land covered what is now the intersection of Salisbury and Main Streets, in Asheboro, and the nearest watercourse is the one to the northwest, which headed in what became Dr. J.M. Worth’s cow pasture, now the location of the 2002 Randolph County Courthouse.  Before the county demolished the houses that sat in the present parking lot, a stream ran diagonally through that lot and crossed Salisbury Street at the intersection with Cox.  Now buried in a culvert, the stream emerges east of Cox Street behind 236 North Cox Street and runs east, merging with Penn Wood Branch near 214 North Elm Street.  J.A. Blair wrote in 1890: “When Henley entered this land [1786] there was a small cabin on it, near the spring a little north of where the old Hoover House now stands, and an old man lived there by the name of Abram.  He had a small patch cleared around his house and lived chiefly by fishing and hunting and, it is said, could stand in his door and shoot deer and wild turkeys.” (p43)

Abram's Creek area

Abram’s Creek area

The point here is that the tributaries of Deep River were “heading” on the east side of Asheboro, and flowing downhill and northeast into the river.  Whether Robins’ or McAlister’s or Penn Wood’s Branch, the stream that now flows along Elm and Meadowbrook started at a spring behind 835 South Cox Street in Asheboro, meandered its way into Deep River, and eventually flowed into the Atlantic Ocean through the Cape Fear River at Southport, NC.

The 1851 Plank Road (now Fayetteville Street) followed the Ridge Line through Asheboro.

The 1851 Plank Road (now Fayetteville Street) followed the Ridge Line through Asheboro.

On the west side of Fayetteville Street, any rain drop that hits the ground goes in a different direction.  Back Creek is the tributary of the Uwharrie that drains the western half of Asheboro.  The first reference I have found to Back Creek itself is in the 1763 Survey Book of Henry Eustace McCulloh (see my 1895 Architectural History of Randolph County for a more detailed discussion of McCulloh).  Back Creek Friends Meeting is first referred to in 1775; Back Creek Mountain is first referred

to in 1786 (Deed Book 2, Page 223); and Back Creek Township was established in 1868.

Back Creek

Back Creek to its junction with Caraway Creek

“Cedar Fork” is described as a tributary of Back Creek in a 1786 deed of Thomas Winslow (DB2, Page 230).  Google Maps shows it as running between Bunting Road and Lexington, which would make it the major feeder stream from downtown Asheboro.  The primary prong of Cedar Fork heads in the parking lot of the State Employees Credit Union, 1036 S. Park St., and then meanders northeast almost to the railroad track to the intersection of Cooper Street, Armfield Avenue and Hammer Avenue, where it turns northwest.  From there it runs in a culvert under Memorial Park tennis courts, runs between Spencer Avenue and West Kivett Street; crosses Uwharrie Street at Occaneechee Street and then runs through a deep ravine to cross under the I-73/74 Bypass at Old Farmer Road, just south of East Street.  It continues through the ravine at the end of West Street, and intersects another tributary of Back Creek just west of the dead end of Northridge Drive.

The source of Cedar Fork of Back Creek

The name of this second stream, which runs north from an area behind Klaussner Furniture, crosses Old Farmer Road at Register Street, and crosses Bunting Road running north, is not clear from any records I have seen.  A third stream runs north parallel to the second from two ponds located north of Old NC Hwy 49 and south of US 64, west of Cranbrook Circle; this crosses US 64 just east of Westside Circle and flows north parallel to Jarrell Drive to the end of Bunting Road, where it enters Lake Bunch, one of the City of Asheboro’s original 1920s-era raw water reservoirs.  Another, Lake McCrary, was created by damming a fourth tributary of Back Creek which heads north of Westchapel Road and flows north parallel to Westminister Court.  Lake McCrary overflows into Lake Bunch, which meets the main prong of Cedar Fork near the dead end of Little Lakes Trail, just west of the intersection of a sixth stream, which runs south across Old Lexington Road from its source between Berkeley Lane and Viewmont Drive just south of Northmont Drive.

The many 'prongs' of Back Creek south of Dave's Mountain

The many ‘prongs’ of Back Creek southwest of Dave’s Mountain

The names of these six streams are currently not known with certainty, but could possibly be recovered from a detailed historical search of land titles.  For example, the 1929 deeds (DB 234, P99 and DB250, P514)into Sulon Stedman who built a house at 745 Lexington Road (now Robert C. Shaffner) state that the property is bounded in part by Malley’s or Mallie’s Branch and Bunting Road- a large area which encompasses the main fork of Cedar Fork but could describe yet another branch (#7) which flows from the Episcopalian Church on Mountain Road, across Old Lexington Road and around the City of Asheboro Water Treatment Plant at the end of Bossong Drive to intersect with Cedar Fork.  At the same time, however, there is still some confusion- one of the deeds (DV144, P258) into the City of Asheboro for the property which became Lakes McCrary and Bunch says that the land lies “where Cedar Fork and Mollie’s Creek unite, about 1 ½ miles west of the Town of Asheboro.”  So, Mollie’s Creek or Branch could be either of the two tributaries (#3 and #4 above) which formed the old city lakes.

For good measure, let me mention that yet another tributary of Back Creek was involved with the creation of a third Asheboro city lake, Lake Lucas.  Lake Lucas was created in the late 1940s by damming Back Creek itself, but one of the acquisition deeds (DB 384, P499 and Plat Book 4, Page 77) refers to 16.35 acres bisected by Moulder’s Branch, “North of Maple Grove Dairy.”  Most of the dairy pasture land is now under water, but the Maple Grove Dairy house itself still stands at 2882 Old Lexington Road.  Since the head of the main fork of Back Creek runs north almost all the way to US 311, it may be that “Moulder’s Branch” is the tributary which runs west out of Back Creek Lake, crossing Lake Country Drive, Northmont Drive and I-73/74 to head just west of North Asheboro School Road, just west of Balfour Elementary School and North Asheboro Middle School.

Every area of Randolph County could benefit from detailed analysis of historic deeds to determine the names of the neighborhood watercourses.  This commonplace information has been lost to the present generation, which since the 1930s has been more concerned with automobiles, roads and street names than with geography.  But Randolph County is rich with the forgotten history of water.  Just tell your friends you know a shortcut that allows you to walk from the Pee Dee River to the Cape Fear River in fifteen minutes or less.  Then take them on a walk from 1036 S. Park Street to 835 South Cox Street.

The walking route

The walking route: Green Pin Pee Dee; Red Pin Cape Fear.

Randolph County Agriculture: Wheat

September 20, 2013
Harvesting Wheat with a Cradle, Southeast Randolph County, circa 1900

Harvesting Wheat with a Cradle, Southeast Randolph County, circa 1900

I’ve promised various people for years that I’d write up some of the history of agriculture in Randolph County.  It’s one of my favorite topics, but like all of them, I find a bit and a piece here and there that add up over the course of time to something locally unique.  As each separate element is part of a larger whole, that adds richness and complexity to the individual part, sometimes it is hard to sit down and write about the pieces before the big picture takes shape.

Randolph County never followed the plantation agricultural system of the eastern part of the state and the Deep South.  The hilly, rocky terrain broken up by numerous small rivers and creeks precluded the assembly of large open flat fields, and the Quaker and German cultural heritage of the Piedmont did not support the ownership of the slave labor required to profitably grow cotton.

The last census of slavery in the United States in 1860 included 393,975 named persons holding 3,950,546 unnamed slaves, or an average of about 10 slaves per holder.  One American citizen out of 70 was a slaveholder, with an average of about 10 slaves per holder.  The year before the war that ended the practice, slaveholders of 200 or more slaves, (constituting less than 1 % of the total number of slaveholders, or 1 out of every 7,000 free persons), held 20-30% of the total number of slaves in the U.S.

One of the largest American slaveholders, Joshua Ward of Georgetown, SC, owned more than 1,100 enslaved African workers.  This was not the case in Piedmont North Carolina.  In Guilford County just 22 citizens owned more than 20 slaves, with only one owning more than one hundred (James T. Morehead- 107), and the next largest owning just 53.[i] In Randolph in 1860, just 11 persons owned 20 or more slaves, with the largest, General Alexander Gray of Trinity, owning 104.[ii]  Gray (1768-1864), a General in the War of 1812, was probably the largest slaveholder in both counties before he began distributing slave families among his children as they married and came of age.  In keeping with Randolph County’s contrarian nature, Gray was also a member in good standing of the Manumission and Colonization Society, a slave emancipation group, which met in his new barn in 1817.[iii]

Benjamin Swaim, writing in the local newspaper The Southern Citizen in 1839, noted that “our provisions are mostly of the domestic kind- plenty of cheese, Butter and Milk, from the cool recesses of the Dairy.”[iv]  Fred Burgess of Ramseur noted in 1920 that only 10% of the county’s agricultural production was from non-food crops. [v]  In 1933, County Farm Agent E.S. Millsaps reported that those non-food crops consisted of 3,086 acres of tobacco and 1,403 acres of cotton—just 6% (4,489 acres) of the 76,263 total acres cultivated in the county’s 4,000 farms.[vi]

Millsaps went on to say, “Randolph is one of twenty North Carolina counties that raise wheat on a commercial basis.  The crop in Randolph, however, is not primarily commercial, being raised chiefly for the making of flour and corn meal for family use.  In 1933 the county had 16,373 acres sown in the grain, each acre yielding an average of twelve bushels, bringing the total crop to 196.500 bushels.   Sold on the average for $1.03 per bushel the crop had a total value of $202,095.00, or a value of $12.36 per acre.”[vii]

Wheat and corn had been the region’s primary crops even before the county itself was formed in 1779.  Even as late as 1894, the county still had what apparently was the largest number of water-powered grist mills in the state- more than 90. [viii]  Wheat and corn production required grist mills to make the raw product into something more valuable- flour.  Without a mill, homemakers could grind some grain by hand for baking and cooking.  But the only commercial alternative without a mill was to ferment the grain and corn into mash in a distillery- and the county had an unusual number of those, as well.

Cutting Wheat with Cradles, Iredell Co. NC (NCSU Archives)

Cutting Wheat with Cradles, Iredell Co. NC (NCSU Archives)

Randolph County Varieties of Wheat

A snapshot of the farm economy of a local Quaker family on the eve of war is found in a letter written by  Nathan Barker [1805-1886] and wife Catharine Cox Barker [1806-1866] of Buffalo Ford, to their son Ezra [1838- 1929], a student at New Garden Boarding School.

“6th month the 21st, 1860….  [We] cut our winter oats yesterday, finished cutting wheat the day before; the wheat came on all in a few days.  We commenced on 6th day last and cut and put up what was about 17 acres that day, so thee [may] suppose we had help.  We also had one hand 7th day and two 2nd day.  The two fields of purple straw at home turned off well and we think is well-filled.  The fields of white grained wheat was thin on the ground; that away from home did not turn off very well tho I think the grain is good.  To day planting out potato slips; so busy in the corn field last week there was [no] spare time for potato planting.  No mowing done yet except some to give to the horses green.  The flax is not ripe enough to pull yet; some of ours looks pretty well, some not so well where the ground has been rather wet.”[ix]

Purplestraw

One of the interesting questions to modern historians is whether any of the agricultural products grown in the mid-19th century are still available today.  Even today, such information is glossed over in private conversation.  We say, “I planted begonias,” not “I planted Burpee’s hybrid Purple Zinger Begonias.”  The above passage is more than usually helpful, and actually includes a recognizable name: “Purple straw” wheat.  The genealogy of American wheat starts with a 1922 USDA publication, “Classification of American Wheat Varieties, by Jacob Allen Clark.  Clark surveyed wheat production across the entire United States, and collected 25 named varieties of wheat being grown in North Carolina in 1919.  One of those, “Purplestraw,” was being grown on 86,500 acres, 13.9% of the state’s total wheat production.  In his technical description Clark noted that Purplestraw was a spring-planted, early harvested midtall wheat, awnless, with red kernels and a purple stem.   Its origins were unknown, but it was first described by the Virginia agricultural writer Edmund Ruffin in 1822 as “Early Purplestraw,” and was also commonly called “Bluestem.”  “This variety is fairly hardy and has been grown from fall sowing in the southeastern states for many years.  Its principal advantage over other varieties in that section is its early maturity, which in part is due to its spring habit.”[x]

Purplestraw Wheat - Carpenter Farm, Gaston Co., NC (1929- NCSU Archives)

Purplestraw Wheat – Carpenter Farm, Gaston Co., NC (1929- NCSU Archives)

Clark’s 1919 collection of wheat varieties formed the basis of the US Department of Agriculture’s National Small Grains Collection, still grown and maintained at the Small Grains Germplasm Research Facility at Aberdeen, IdahoNot all of the 1919 grains survive, but 3 different strains of Purplestraw are still available. [xi]  In addition to the 25 varieties of which Clark collected, 21 more named varieties were reported where he was unable to obtain samples.  These 46 total named varieties reported from North Carolina were by far the most diverse collection in the Southeast.  South Carolina, in contrast, reported 10; Virginia 23.[xii]

Nathan Barker’s other wheat variety was describes only as “the white-grained wheat.”  What appears to be a poor description is actually quite specific and helpful in searching Clark’s lists, as most of the North Carolina-grown wheats have red or pink kernels.  Only three are listed as having white kernels: “Goldcoin,” “Greeson,” and “Kivett.”    The first can be immediately disregarded as post-1860– Goldcoin was first commercially distributed in 1900, a strain formerly known as “White Clawson” from Seneca, New York.[xiii]   Greeson and Kivett, however, are strong contenders, as one has a Guilford County origin, and the other evidently Randolph County roots.

Kivett.

Clark notes simply that “Kivet is a white-kerneled wheat which has been grown in NC for many years.  It was obtained by Blount (47) and reported in 1892 in his New Mexico experiments.  It is possibly the same wheat as White Wonder, as both are grown in the same localities.”[xiv]  Samples of Kivett were not found by Clark in 1919, but White Wonder was obtained is still available at the Aberdeen test station.  Franklinville native Robert A. Craven, when I interviewed him in 1997, said that Kivett was similar to Greeson (which he called “Greensboro Wheat”), but that Kivett “wasn’t quite as big a grain” [see below].[xv]

Ag Extension Agent with Wheat (NCSU Archives)

Ag Extension Agent with Wheat (NCSU Archives)

Greeson, or Greensboro.

Of “Greeson,” Clark reports a veritable mountain of information.  His technical description Is a model of how much information can be noted by a close inspection of one stem of wheat: “Plant winter habit, midseason, midtall; stem glaucus, white, midstrong to strong; spike awnless, oblong-fusiform, middense, erect to inclined; glumes aglarous, white, midlong, wide; shoulders wide, square to elevated; beaks wide, obtuse, 1mm long; apical awns few, 2 to 20 mm. long, somewhat incurved; kernels white, midlong, soft, ovate, acute; germ midsized; crease midwide, deep; cheeks rounded; brush small, midlong.”[xvi]

Distribution: grown in Chatham, Randolph and Guilford Counties, NC.

History—According to W.H. McLean of Whitsett, NC, ‘this variety originated by a man whose name was Greeson, and has been grown in this country for a number of years and is very popular.’ He reported that it constituted 40 percent of the wheat grown near Whitsett, Guilford County, NC, in 1919.”  [The seed now maintained in the Idaho germplasm bank under the name ‘Greeson’ was evidently obtained, “date unknown,” from H. P. Moffitt, of Ramseur, NC.]

Synonym- ‘Greensboro.’  Because the seed was obtained at a fair held at Greensboro, NC, this name is used for the variety in Randolph County, NC, where the wheat is most widely grown.”

Clark’s notation of possible synonyms for each variety recognizes that, in an age where each farmer or local miller saved the seed of his personal favorite variety, the seed saver often felt entitled to name the variety as he saw fit.  My cousin Danny Whatley, whose mother was a Bonkemeyer, records another such synonym as part of that Randolph County family’s history.  The immigrant ancestor Frederic Gerhard Bonkemeyer left Germany in 1853 and arrived in Randolph County in 1855, supposedly bringing from German a pocket full of seeds- what came to be known as the “Bonkemeyer Strain” of wheat. [xvii]

However, Robert Craven in his 1997 interview, without even being asked about either variety, shared an alternative history:

“They had a kind of wheat in this country they called ‘Greensboro Wheat.’  The way it got its name, an old man Bonkemeyer, I knowed him, went to Greensboro one time, to the Guilford County Fair.  I never did get to go.  He went one time, and he was looking over the grain, and he seen a pretty nice stack of wheat there that he liked the looks of, and he stuck him a handful in his pocket.  And he come home, and come wheat-sowing time, he fixed him a row out there somewhere and sprinkled that handful of wheat in that row.  Well, the way I got it, that handful growed enough wheat, after the ground it out by hand, that he had about a half a gallon the next year.  Well, he sowed that, and from then on, that’s the way Greensboro Wheat got in this country and got its name.  I’ve growed its since I’ve been a’living here.  It was a good wheat.  It made good flour.  I reckon it would be counted a hard wheat. It didn’t have no beards on it.  I always dreaded that.  They had a bearded wheat, but it didn’t go over so big.  You never did work out in that none.  If you’d ever got some of them beards in your shirt, you’d a’ quit raising it too.  I never did raise no rye to thrash on that account.  You know that rye’s got beards on it, and about the only way to get rid of them is to burn your britches and shirt.  It would irritate the life out of you.

“Greensboro Wheat was smooth wheat.    Then they had a kind they called ‘Double-Head’”  You part your hair in the middle… and that Double-Head wheat had a crease on each side, like you’d laid it off, just like you’ve parted your hair.  And then there was a kind they called ‘Kivett Wheat.’ It wasn’t much different than the other.  Wasn’t quite as big a grain.”[xviii]

For the record, I note that the USDA also has a variety named “Gleason,” collected in 1929 in Statesville, NC.  Clark listed Gleason with the “unidentified” varieties of wheat of which he had been unable to trace samples.  The similarity between the names “Greeson” and “Gleason” has me wonder if the latter is the same as the former, but the name became confused the further it travelled away from Guilford County.  Only some future comparison of the two plants and seeds could tell if they are identical.


[i] 1860 U.S. Census of Guilford County, Slave Schedule:  James T. Morehead- 107;  Jno. A.Gilmer-53; C.P. Mendenhall- 48; Miss Mary Staples- 43; Letitia Walker- 41; Strudwick Summers- 40; Isaac Thacker- 40; A.H. Lindsay- 38; Arch Powell-34; J.M. Donnell- 30; David Scott-29; Jno. A. Mebane- 27; Delphinia Mendenhall- 27; J.A. Hughes- 25; Eli Smith- 25; Alex Robbins- 25; Wm. Barringer- 24; Emsley Donnell- 23; Ralph Gorrell; C.P. Jones-23; Peter Adams- 23; Elizabeth Troxler- 22.

[ii] 1860 U.S. Census of Randolph County, Slave Schedule:  Alexander Gray, 104 slaves; son RH Gray owned 22; son in law (md. Letitia Gray) AG Foster owned 30; Josiah Cheek- 39; Lewis Lutterlough-33; O.A. Palmer- 33; Noah Smitherman- 33; Thomas Marley- 21; Thomas A. Finch- 20; Abner Coltrane- 20; Allen Skeen-20.  Among many other prominent county leaders, Clerk of Court Hugh McCain owned 16 slaves; Dempsey Brown of Trinity, 15; AS Horney of Franklinville, 10; Dr. JM Worth of Asheboro, 9.

 [iii] Randolph County (1979), p. 72.

 [iv] Quoted in Zuber, Jonathan Worth, p. 42.

 [v] RC, Economic and Social, 1924, p.55.

 [vi] “Randolph Is Great Agricultural County,” The Courier, 1 Nov. 1934, p.C-3

[vii] Id.  The article also noted that “The Farm Forecaster reports the acreage in rye for the county in 1933 at 1,853, yielding on average of 9 bushels per acre.  The total yield of 16,677 bushels, selling for an average price of $1.06 per bushel, brought $17,678.00, a little better than $9.50 per acre.”

[viii] 1894 Business Directory of Randolph County, “Branson’s Directory.”  Eli Branson, a Randolph County native, meticulously listed each individual county property owner, with the acreage owned and its tax value.  It is the best source for raw farm figures outside of the decennial census.

[ix] Original letter in the possession of Leanna Barker Roberts of Westfield, Indiana.

[x] Jacob Allen Clark, “Classification of American Wheat Varieties,” USDA Bulletin No. 1074 (Washington, DC, Nov. 8, 1922), p. 212.

[xi] The collection holdings are searchable at http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/docs.htm?docid=2884 .

 [xii] Id.

 [xiii] Id.

 [xiv] Clark, p. 206.

 [xv] Robert A.  Craven (1909- 2000)— interviewed 8-8-1997 at his home on Iron Mountain Road south of Franklinville.

[xvi] Clark, p. 60.

[xvii] Daniel J. Whatley, “Bonkemeyer Family,” Randolph County Heritage Book #1 (1993), p. 148.

 [xviii] It is an interesting question whether Craven, when he describes Greensboro wheat as “smooth,” meant that it had a shallow crease, or no crease.  Clark’s description, of course, says the Greeson kernel had a “deep” crease.  Craven goes on to contrast Greeson with another variety he calls “Double-Head,” because the crease was even deeper.   Perhaps some day if the variety is grown again, some of these questions can be answered.

July 1, 1863.

July 1, 2013

NC Monument GettysburgKilled in the battle of Gettysburg, July 1st, 1863, Lieut. John H. Palmer, of the 22d Reg’t N. C. T., in the 24th year of his age.

He was a native of Randolph county, and among the first to volunteer in defence of his beloved country. Thus has fallen one so young, and promising, in the opening bud of manhood. He died a true patriot and soldier, fighting the enemies of his country and home. He was ever gay and lively; polite in his manners and strict in the discharge of his duties. Gallant in action, and heedless of danger—he feared not to follow where the colors went.

In him his parents have lost an excellent son, and North Carolina one of her brightest stars.

“He sleeps on Pennsylvania’s plains,
Amid the fallen brave,
The wild wind of her native hills
Sing requiems o’er his grave;
Deep toned notes of cannon’s roar,
Nor musket’s deeply rattle
Can rouse him from his sleep no more,
Nor wake him up to battle!
Green be the turf o’er his head,
And sacred be the sod;
Oh! may his spirit find a home
In glory, with his God.”

–J******.
[Published in the Fayetteville Observer, September 14, 1863]

John H. Palmer was the oldest of the twelve children of Oron Alston Palmer (1813-1890) and Sylvania Selvina Staley (1817-1896) of the Long’s Mills community north of Liberty in Randolph County.  He was born October 21, 1837, and enlisted in Company I, the “Davis Guards,” of the 22nd N.C. Infantry, on June 5, 1861.

John’s younger brother Joseph N. Palmer, born July 16, 1841, enlisted in the same company at the same time, but “mustered out… at home” on December 17, 1861—that is, he died at home, probably of one of the diseases that spread through the camps in the early months of the war.  So the war had already taken at least one member of the family before Gettysburg.

John Palmer was promoted to Sergeant Major on July 31, 1861; to 3rd Lieutenant on June 14, 1862; and to 1st Lieutenant on July 18, 1862.  Lt. Palmer was not by any means the only loss from Company I that day.

Lutheran Theological Seminary's Schmucker Hall

Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Schmucker Hall

From the Greensboro Patriot, September 24, 1863 (also published in Fayetteville Observer)

TRIBUTE OF RESPECT.
HEADQUARTERS 22D N. C. REGIMENT,
Camp near Orange C. H., Va., Aug. 26, 1863.


At a
meeting held by the officers of the 22d N. C. Regiment, Capt. C. F. Siler was called to the Chair, and Lts. R. W. Winborne and S. G. Caudill were appointed Secretaries.

The Chairman having explained the object of the meeting to be for the adoption of resolutions expressive of the sorrow for the death of Lieuts. J. F. PALMER [sic- J.H. is correct]  and I. S. ROBBINS, Company I, 22d N. C. Regiment.

The following gentlemen were appointed a Committee to draft resolutions: Lts. B. W. Birkhead, G. F. Gardin and W. A. Tuttle, Sergts. T. J. Hooper and F. M. Birkhead.
WHEREAS, It has pleased Almighty God in His infinite wisdom to remove from our midst our beloved comrades in arms, Lts. J. F. PALMER and I. S. ROBBINS, of Co. I, who left their professions under bright auspices, at an early date and hastened to the rescue of their country, and fell on the bloody heights of Gettysburg, under the majestic folds of the banner of liberty, while bravely leading their company.

Resolved, That while we bow in humble submission to the ways of Divine Providence, in his dealings with men, we cannot refrain to mourn the loss of these brave and noble young men whose gallantry and skill as officers has been tried on every field that their company has been engaged in, and found to be of the highest order; whose gentlemanly bearings had reached the acme of perfection towards all those they became associated with, and won for them the confidence and admiration of all who knew them.

Resolved, That in their death their company and regiment has sustained an irretrievable loss, and our righteous cause two of its most noble defenders.

Yes! before that terrific fire was begun,
The mission of these noble men was done;
Ere the flowers of summer were in bloom,
The noble martyrs were laid in one tomb;
Secret, yet swift, the fatal missile sped,
And friends now weep over their early bed.

Resolved, That we wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days.
Resolved, That we extend our heart-felt grief to the bereaved families, and for comfort would point them to that Being who has vouchsafed all that is good for man.
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be sent to the families of the deceased, and to the Greensborough Patriot, Catawba Journal and the Fayetteville Observer, for publication.

Lieut. B. W. BIRKHEAD, Co. I, }
G. H. Gardin, Co. B, }
W. A. TUTTLE, Co. A. ) COM.
SEGRT. HOOPER, Co. E,
}
BIRKHEAD, Co. L, }

Lt. R, W. WINBORNE,       } Secretaries.

Lt. S. G. CAUDILL, }

[This very formal expression of grief was a common feature of men’s clubs before the war- Masons, or social clubs would meet to eulogize a departed member, and write such flowery Victorian messages for publication in the local papers.  As time between battles permitted, the officers and men continued the tradition until the losses came too fast to keep it up.]

Isaiah Spurgeon Robins (b. 5-30-1837 ) was Company I’s 2nd Lieutenant.  His family history will be outlined in another post, but he enlisted in Company I on July 5, 1861, mustering in as 1st Sergeant.  He was promoted to Ordinance Sergeant in March 1862 and transferred to the regimental Field Staff.  On July 18, 1862 he was elected 2nd Lieutenant and transferred back to Company I.  How did the company lose both its lieutenants on July 1st?

On June 30th, J. Johnston Pettigrew’s brigade of eastern North Carolinians was sent into the little town of Gettysburg, PA, to look for supplies (“especially shoes.”)  They ran into John Buford’s Union cavalry and cocked the trigger for what became the turning point of the war.

A.P. Hill awakened his men to march into the town before dawn, and fortified them with an unusual allowance: any man who wanted an issue of whiskey at 5 AM was to receive one.  A five-mile march along the Chambersburg Pike brought them within sight of the town by 10 AM- and also within sight of federal artillery, which began a bombardment.  By 2:30 battle had become general along a front just west of the ridge where the local Seminary was located, and Robert E. Lee ordered Pettigrew’s 26th NC to press the federal line- which happened to be held by the famous Iron Brigade.  The federals were pushed back, but at a heavy cost- Pettigrew’s brigade suffered 40% casualties.

Dorsey PenderAbout 4PM Dorsey Pender’s troops advanced to relieve Pettigrew.  Pender’s Division of North Carolinians, including the 22nd NC Regiment, had led the march of A.P. Hill’s corps into Pennsylvania. They were in high spirits, impressing a British observer, who wrote “The soldiers of this Division are a remarkably fine body of men, and looked quite seasoned and ready for any work.  Their clothing is serviceable … but there is the usual utter absence of uniformity as to colour and shape of their garments and hats; grey of all shades, and brown clothing, with felt hats predominate.” [Lt. Col Arthur J. Freemantle, Three Months in the Southern States (London, 1863), pp229-230];  Dorsey Pender himself noted that “I never saw troops march as ours do:  they will go 15 or 20 miles a day without leaving a straggler and hop and yell on all occasions.” [ James I. Robertson, Jr., General A.P. Hill (1987), p204.]

His men charged right into a ferocious artillery barrage- 20 cannon spaced 5 yards apart threw iron at the Confederates.  One of the Union officers wrote that his cannon were “cutting great gaps in the front line of the enemy.  But still they came on, the gaps being closed by regiments from the second line, and this again filled by a third column which was coming over the hill.  Never have I seen such a charge.  Not a man seemed to falter.  Lee may well be proud of his infantry.” [Wainwright, Diary of Battle, quoted in Robertson, AP Hill, p212]

Gen. Alfred Moore Scales

Gen. Alfred Moore Scales

The brigade commanded by Alfred Moore Scales, a Rockingham County attorney, formed the extreme left of the attack.  The brigade, which included the 22nd NC, attracted a storm of musket fire from Union troops dug in at the Seminary in addition to the artillery, which fired case, canister and explosive rounds into the massed men.  The North Carolinians held, and pressed the attack, at horrific costs.   The color-bearer of the 13th NC his right arm blown off by an artillery shell, grabbed the flag with his remaining hand and pushed ahead shouting, “Forward, Forward!”  It was one of the fiercest artillery barrages of the war, and “virtually annihilated” Scales’ five North Carolina regiments.  Scales, himself wounded, reported that “only a squad here and there marked the place where regiments had rested.”  (McPherson, p. 212)  The brigade’s 500 casualties included every field officer. (id.)

How did Lts. Palmer and Robins die?  I’ve found no details- but the specifics can be imagined from the context.  Company I, the “Davis Guards,” their company, was at or near the center of the 22nd NC Infantry regiment, which was in the thick of the attack on Seminary Ridge by Scale’s Brigade, which was decimated by the Union artillery.  Other sons of North Carolina died there that day, and no doubt more Randolph County boys died with them.  We know these two, one 25 years old, one 26, and they can stand for them all.

Scales Brigade Monument Gburg

New Market Inn

March 30, 2013
New Market Inn, from the southeast, circa 1950.

New Market Inn, from the southeast, circa 1950.

During the winter months I try to get out and investigate the parts of Randolph County that are not so accessible when the animal and vegetable elements of creation awake in the spring and summer. Saturday March 30th, 2013, was a beautiful warm and sunny day, and as I was driving down 311 I steered through that odd left-hand crook in the road in Sophia that I’ve wondered about a thousand times. Whether going north just past New Market Elementary School or south just past Marlboro Church Road, cars must jog left as 311 for some unexplained reason swerves in its path beside the railroad. As a historian I’ve long been aware that this is the site of the New Market Inn- the one colonial or federal inn that retained its identity into my generation. For some reason I’d decided or been told ages ago that the inn itself was on the lot where a garage and auto salvage yard now covered all the acreage, but this last Saturday B.U. (Before Undergrowth) seemed like a good reason to double back and check out what my friend Colon Farlow recently asserted to me: that the inn wasn’t on the garage lot, but on the adjacent lot just to the west, a wooded lot now for sale. Not only did I stop and hike that lot, I got the first tick of spring for my efforts, so here’s the story.

New Market Inn, circa 1940.

New Market Inn, circa 1940.

In my book Randolph County: Images of America, the New Market Inn is illustrated on page 70 (and shown above) in a photo taken in 1935. This and one other image of the building in the historic photo database at the county public library document the house after its demotion in status into use as a barn, and before it collapsed or was demolished circa-1960. They show a house that architectural historians would term “Georgian,” the style that takes its name from the 18th century kings of England and is usually reserved to structures built before 1810. Georgian style houses show a strong formal symmetry, often with a five-bay center-hall plan. Georgian proportions emphasize verticality, with tall, narrow windows and steep roofs and boxed cornices which are cut flush to the gable ends. In Piedmont NC such houses were always of heavy timber construction, as brick was too expensive to use for residential bearing walls until the 1830s. Interiors would have had simple finishes, with exposed floor joists, raised panels on doors, mantels and wainscots, and enclosed “dogleg” or “boxed” stairs.
Conversion of the house into a barn has removed most of the decorative information I usually use to date a structure, and there are no photos of the interior known, but exterior photos of the New Market inn definitely exhibit the Georgian vertical emphasis and the symmetrical five-bay plan. The entrance door has been expanded into a barn door, but on the second floor what appears to be an original door opening suggests that the house had a center-hall plan. Most of the windows have been removed and boarded up; the two remaining may have been reused from other locations, as they appear to be short 6×6 sash. Visible through the open center door is another window on the far side of the house; it is located where a door should be, but the shadow appears to indicated a repurposed 9×9 sash. At the lower southeast corner an assymmetrical door and window could be later changes to the original plan; they may also mark the location of a separate entrance to the inn’s tap room.

Sketch of the stone foundations

Sketch of the stone foundations

The second, slightly later photo is a valuable view of the eastern side, showing the steep roof pitch of 10 or 12 inches of rise to every foot of run. The attic floor has two narrow windows crowded into each side gable, leaving space for a large end chimney which, if it existed, has been removed. A shed-roofed one-story addition is visible to the north side; the large barn-like additions on the west which were visible in the previous photo are here hidden behind a large cedar tree. The later photo documents a catastrophic structural failure progressing in the west-central portion of the house, where the inward slump indicates that the floor joists have rotted or been removed.

Corn Crib

Corn Crib

On my exploratory hike, the only standing structure I found was this corn crib/ tractor shed combination, probably dating to the 1930s or 40s and of little interest. Much more unusual was the blooming carpet of purple “Grape” or “Roman” hyacinth, which covered at least an acre southwest of a stone foundation. The briars, brush and vines, even in their temporarily leafless state, did not allow close inspection, measurement or adequate photography of the foundation. By my analog paced measure, the fieldstone foundation is 10-12 inches above grade and measures approximately 30 feet wide by 45 feet long. A water-filled depression indicates a cellar under the western end of the structure, at least 15 by 30 feet. A flat 4 by 5-foot rectangular stone a foot thick lies near the center of the façade, and another one approximately 2 by 4 feet lies at the southeast corner. Both may have been step stones to the doors shown on the photos. Chimney bases are not discernible to the east or west, but a large pile of brick and stone inside the foundation could be the remains of a chimney positioned either at the west end or at the center of the house.

Foundation stones

Foundation stones

Like much 20th-century journalism, newspaper accounts of the house sell romance and nostalgia over actual history. “YE OLD TAVERN, LANDMARK OF PIONEER DAYS, STILL STANDING IN NEW MARKET,” spins an article dated April 24, 1938 from The Randolph Tribune:

A few miles above Randleman on the High Point Road in New Market Township stands one of the earliest landmarks of pioneer days in Randolph County. It is a symbol of the sturdy and cultured type of pioneers who set up well-built homes in a country hitherto uninhabited except by Indians. There is something about this old landmark that seems to shout, “Mine is an interesting story.”

Today the old tavern, known formerly as one of the best on the Plank Road, is a barn, sheltering the owner’s stock and housing the hay and fodder. The chimneys have crumbled to dust, the front door has been replaced by a big swinging barn door, and the steps are gone. An investigator will find that there were eight rooms downstairs besides the dining room and kitchen. On the second floor were a large hall and six bedrooms. At the top of the narrow stairway the third floor consisted of two big loft rooms. The remaining windows are very narrow, the ceilings are low, and the wood has been painted several different colors. There are several original handmade doors. The fireplace used eight-foot logs.   At one corner of the house is a huge, long rock which some say was an “upping block,” others a doorstep.

Hearthstone, Doorstep or Upping Block?

Hearthstone, Doorstep or Upping Block?

This is the only description of the interior, but the writer evidently included the additions and expansions of the house in his room count, as the original block could not have had ten rooms downstairs and six bedrooms on the second floor. It is also interesting that the writer notes only one fireplace.    The article goes on to state: “Just who built this huge house is uncertain, but the earliest known occupants were Sidney Porter and his wife, Ruth Worth Porter, who later removed to Greensboro.” Addison Blair’s 1890 history doesn’t discuss the house in particular, but of New Market itself he writes

This is an old settled place, and was the home of Capt. John Bryant, a Whig, who was shot in his old house by Colonel Fanning. The place afterwards came into the possession of Shubal Gardner, who had a store there and was regarded as a big man. He owned a number of lots in Johnsonville and at one time drove a heard of beeves to Philadelphia. Joseph Newlin bought the property in 1840 and called it New Market and for many years carried on an extensive store and tin shop.

(J.A. Blair, Reminiscences of Randolph County, Asheboro, 1890; p. 49)

In the 1960s, local historian Addison Wall (who lived only a half mile from the site) wrote The Randolph Story for the Randleman Rotary Club, and noted on page 106 that “The inn closed down some time after the Civil War and was converted into a barn.  The lower floor was used as a granary and storage by Mr. Snider who bought the farm seventy-five years ago.  The New Market elections were held for a number of years in the building…. The building was torn down about 1950.”

To fully examine all these personalities involved with the property will take additional posts!

The Asheboro Sit-Ins

January 18, 2013

AA Hops

On February 1,1960, four freshmen students from N.C. A&T asked for coffee at the lunch counter in the Woolworth’s “dime” store in downtown Greensboro, just 25 miles north of Asheboro. When they were denied service, they refused to leave, in a nonviolent protest that became known as a “sit-in.” The next day they were joined by twenty more students; on the third day there were more than 60 demonstrators, and on the fourth day, more than 300, as the protest spread down the street to the nearby Kress lunch counter. Within a week, the protest was joined by other cities in North Carolina; within a month, sit-ins were occurring all over the South. On March 16th, President Eisenhower supported the students, saying that he was “deeply sympathetic with the efforts of any group to enjoy the rights of equality that they are guaranteed by the Constitution.”

The first sit-ins, sponsored by the NCAACP Youth Council in 1958, had desegregated lunch counters in Kansas and Oklahoma. The Greensboro protests gathered wide media attention and resulted in the tactic spreading all over the South. Success came faster in some places: students in Nashville, TN achieved citywide desegregation in May, 1960. In Greensboro the black employees of Woolworth’s were the first to be served at the store’s lunch counter, on July 25, 1960. The entire Woolworth’s chain was desegregated the next day.

What is the history of the civil rights movement in Randolph County? With our history of Quaker anti-slavery activism and the Underground Railroad, was Randolph out in front of desegregation? Nothing has been published on this subject, and little research has been done. One exception can be found through the website of the Southern Oral History Project interview database, at http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/sohp/id/4046 . This is a recorded interview of Melvin Benjamin Marley, born in Ramseur in 1943, by Sarah McNulty, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill. Marley was a participant in a series of sit-ins that took place at businesses along Sunset Avenue that finally resulted in the desegregation of public eating establishments in Asheboro.

This is a uniquely valuable primary source document, available in a uniquely modern way, but it well illustrates some traditional challenges in taking oral history alone as the last word in research. Marley, as a freshman at NC A&T, also participated in the Greensboro sit-ins. He remembers the Asheboro demonstrations as part of the same continuum of social protest.

“So me and my brother was in college at A&T State University in Greensboro and the sit-ins there was going on at the same time, so we would actually go to jail up there through the week and come home on the weekend. So we was home one weekend and they were having demonstrations in Asheboro so some people approached us and said, since ya’ll… were in those in Greensboro, would you like to come help us organize? So we came over and organized with them…”

Newspaper accounts actually show that the Asheboro sit-ins were nearly four years after the Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro, beginning Saturday January 25th, 1964, and still going strong as of February the 17th, 1964. While the Marley brothers may have joined the original sit-ins as freshman, Asheboro’s eating establishments remained segregated well into the end of their senior year. I think this is an example of the passage of time telescoping the time frame of history- fifty years later, the four-year time frame seems almost simultaneous in memory.

Burrell Hopkins

Burrell Hopkins

Melvin’s memory of the details seems unclouded, however. Two NAACP organizers, a Reverend Banks and a Robert Blow, of Thomasville, conducted meetings at the Greater St. John’s Baptist Church to map out the protests. Groups were sent to the Walgreen’s soda fountain, the Little Castle sandwich shop, and to Hop’s Bar-B-Que. Melvin and his twin brother Elvin were assigned to Hop’s, a restaurant in a converted taxi stand seating just 21 stools at a counter. Hop’s was the eponymous establishment of Burrell “Hop” Hopkins, who opened it in 1954 after four years as a cook at the StarLite Drive-In on Salisbury Street near Bossong Hosiery Mills. When Hopkins died in 1986, the community remembered him fondly. “He was one of the free-heartedest men you ever meet,” said Leon Strickland, an employee for 28 years. “He wanted to give folks the impression he was mean as hell, but he was 100 percent the opposite,” said Hal York, a long-time customer. (See article by Chip Womick in The Courier-Tribune, November 28, 1986). But whatever his eulogy, Hopkins was cast in the black hat role in this historic drama. He barred the door of his restaurant, saying, according to Marley, “No, you can’t be served here!” [Katie Snuggs, also arrested that day, remember Hopkins saying "You niggers can't eat here!"]  In response, the demonstrators” just lay down in front of the door where nobody could go in… laying down at arm’s length, everybody touching the tip of the other’s hand, forming a big circle [around the building] where nobody could get through.”

The protest quickly attracted white bystanders. Marley recalled that the demonstrators took “a lot of abuse, just laying there. It was a really, really hard job to keep everybody under control, not to show anger or not to say anything to anybody… just lay there, a peaceful-type demonstration. My twin brother was laying beside of me and a lady came up and talked real big and spit in his face and when she spit in his face, I caught a’hold to his hand because he was about to get up and I held him down and I said, “No, No, No!” And while we were laying there, there was another incident; a lady walked up with her high heels on and took the shoe and started beating on one of the demonstrators…”

They didn’t react, said Marley, because “we had something in mind. It had to be nonviolent because you couldn’t accomplish anything by rolling up your sleeve and taking someone on. The hecklers called us many names, the one that was the most devastating to us was to be called niggers; niggers, go home, such as that was being said…. And with the name calling, it hurt to a point that you would want to do something, but you would realize that this was nonviolent and that was the only way it would work because these individuals that came to Asheboro were playing under the Martin Luther King system. And so… we took the abuse and laid there, spit upon, kicked, hit and stuff. It was hard, but we had a goal in mind… because we didn’t want anybody hurt, but we wanted justice.”

When the police came the demonstrators were arrested, but refused to walk to the police cars. “We tried to get as many people of size to help because that would not only make the lines larger but also the police would have a hard time picking them up; because we wouldn’t get up, we’d lay there; they’d have to bodily take us to the car to put us in. And we’d just lay limp and wouldn’t cooperate with being led from laying down to be put in police cars.” With the Marleys at Hop’s was “a lady named Emma Jean Stinson, she weighed somewhere about three hundred and some pounds… so they said, “Mrs. Stinson, will you please get up?” And she said no, and it took about four of them to get her up and put her in the car. And you know, by the time they had put all of us in the car the policemen were sweating and tireder than we were and probably wanted something to eat.”

“So they took us to jail, to the old Randolph County jail… And they would lock us up in cells that usually hold ten or twelve people, but at one time there was something like thirty-five of us in one cell… the women were downstairs and the men were upstairs. So the organizers were out in the parking lot and we would…call off our names, who all was in jail. And… they would go back and get people with property to come and sign our bonds so we could get out of jail…. our parents that had property would come and get us. And then other people that didn’t have kids, there was a man in the city back then named Mr. Tom Brewer and Mr. Lon Strickland who owned right much property on the east side… and they signed a lot of bonds.”

Almost Fifty Years Later

For an “objective” account of the event described by Melvin Marley, see the entry on this blog “60 Negroes Arrested in Sit-In Incidents,” from The Courier-Tribune, Monday, January 27, 1964.

What the Newspaper Had to Say…

January 15, 2013
the original article

the original article

60 Negroes Arrested in Sit-In Incidents

The Courier-Tribune, January 27, 1964.

There were 60 Negroes—24 juveniles and 36 adults—arrested here Saturday at Hop’s Bar-B-Que and the Little Castle in the first wave of sit-ins.

All 60 were charged with breaking a local ordinance dealing with congregating in the doorway of a business.

The Negroes posted bond Saturday night of $25 each to appear in Recorder’s Court Feb. 13.? A sheriff’s department spokesman said most of the Negroes posted bond on an individual basis, but that Rev. I.C. Everett and Mabel Haskins posted bond for some members of the group.

The names of the 36 adults are as follows:

Russell Siler, Ramseur; Archie C. Leak, 411 Woodlawn St; Mackie Lewis, 621 Loach St; Queenie Greene, 823 Cross St.; Dexter L . Trogdon, Rt. 1, Asheboro; Grady Ritter, Jr., 728 Frank St.; Tommy McMasters, 503 Loach St.; Melvin Marley, Rt.2, Ramseur; Robert Lee Bostic, 706 Tucker St.; and Shelly Manuel, Rt. 1, Asheboro.

Also, Elvin L. Marley, Rt.2, Ramseur; Edward McNeil, 426 N. McCrary St.; Joe Bell, 608 Greensboro St.; Archie Lee Little, 534 Greensboro St.; Woodrow Everetts, 501 Washington Road; Clinton McQueen, 460 Glovenia St.; Charles Farr? 1316 Forest St.; James Freeland, 508 Cross St; Lionel Baldwin, 443 Watkins St.; and Thomas Timmons, 427 N. Spring St.

Also Troy Franklin, Rt.1, Asheboro; Joe Morrison, 502 Cross St.; Macy Holley, Thomasville; George Lowery, 818 Brewer St.; Floyd Chalmas Thomas, Jr., 429 Loach St.; Ann Ledwell, 511 Loach St.; Barbara Ann Bostic, 706 Tucker St.; Brenda Ewing, 161 Greensboro St.; Grace Massey, 103 Washington Road; and Lille Mae Snuggs, 544 Loach St.

Also, Penny Bennett, Cedar Falls Road; Barbara Massey, 100 Washington Road; Earlene Crowder, 827 Railroad St.; Ollie Mae Little, 534 Greensboro St.; Clara Davis, 402 Loach St.; and Daisey Crump, 823 Cross St.

The Sunset Theater Incident

January 12, 2013

The “Little Castle,” 232 Sunset Avenue, Asheboro, date unknown.

Despite his detailed memories of the Hop’s Barbecue Sit-In, Melvin Marley said that the most memorable event of the Asheboro sit-ins was the night “when they would not let the young girls out of the Sunset Theater.”   His interviewer (who was actually the grand-daughter of Burrell Hopkins) didn’t question him about that incident, which was evidently the one time where the peaceful protests threatened to get out of control.

“It was nonviolent for a long time until one day some black girls went to the Sunset Theater, which is right beside of Little Castle and Hop’s, in that area.  And they went upstairs, you know [Negroes could only sit in the balcony], to see a movie, and when they got ready to come out, they wouldn’t let them out.  They [white people] had them surrounded and said they were going to kill them and all that stuff, and called them all sorts of names, and so somehow the word got back to the church that they were being held and the police wasn’t doing anything about it.  And so that’s when, actually a little bit of violence came into play.  The way they had them get out of the theater was that somebody went up and shot a shotgun in the middle of town and fled, and so they came out running and just kept on running and they were hitting them and kicking and all that, but they got away.”

That’s all of Marley’s account, but the next day’s local newspaper adds some detail to this or a similar incident:

[The Little Castle was under the canopy to the right.  The roof of Hop's is visible to the left.]

Drug Store, Theater hit By Sit-In Wave

Courier-Tribune, Feb. 17, 1964

Arrests continued here this weekend as Negroes sat-in at the Little Castle, Walgreen’s Drug Store and the Carolina Theatre.

There were 52 Negroes arrested and charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.

Two white men were also arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon, interfering with an officer performing his duty, inciting a riot and one of the men was charged with using indecent and profane language.

These arrests came at 4:10 p.m. in front of the Little Castle and the men arrested are Charles Douglas Deese of Salisbury and Edward Donald Powell of 416 Levairn Drive. Deese is 32 years old and Powell, 29.

Sgt. B.S. Cagle reported that “while I was assisting in the arrest of demonstrators… [Deese] called [the demonstrators] s.o.b.’s…”

Deese was arrested, and while he was being placed in the police car, passed a .22 caliber pistol to Powell. There were approximately 120 persons in the area at the time.

Both men were placed in Randolph County jail and later released on $1000 bond each for appearance in court March 17.

Of the 51 Negroes arrested, 40 were adults (19 females and 21 males) and 11 were juveniles (8 males and 3 females). One person was arrested three times.

The names and addresses of the adults are as follows:

Sandra K. Nicholson, Rt. 4, Asheboro; Phyllis Ann Lineberry, 327 Dunlap St.; Irlean Williams, Rt. 1, Siler City; Helen Fox, 814 Frank St.; Queenie Green, 623 Cross St.; Pauine S. Laughlin, Rt. 1, Asheboro; Gracie Massey, 109 Booker Washington Road; Rosa Marie Siler, Siler City; Barbara Ann Massey, Rt. 4, Asheboro; and Judy Brooks, Siler City.

Also Mattie R. Laughlin, 107 Booker Washington Road; Annie Ruth Laughlin, Randleman; Katie Snuggs, 544 Loach St.; Ann Ledwell, 511 Loach St.; Callie Lowery, 818 Brewer St.; Christine Hallmon, 815 Brewer St.; Elzie Coble, Rt. 4, Asheboro; Pauline Coltrane, Rt.2, Asheboro; Cacille McMaster, 503 Loach St.; and Russell Lee Siler, Ramseur.

Also William Percy Shoffner, 610 Greensboro St.; Elven L. Marley, Ramseur; Thomas Lee Timmons, 422 Spring St.; Tommy Lee McMaster, 503 Loach St; Macy Holly, Thomasville; Howard Junior Spinks, Siler City; Lionel Baldwin, 443 Watkins St.; Edward McNeil, 426 N. McCrary St.; and Eugene Hoover, 730 Tucker St.

Also Harry D. Laughlin, Rt. 1, Randleman; Charlie Harrison Laughlin Jr., Rt. 1, Asheboro; Wilber Franklin JR., Rt.1, Asheboro; Lemuel C. Brady, 451 Loach St.; Charlie Leak Jr., 411 Woodlawn St.; Charles Wilson Harris, 410 Spring St.; Eddie Tom Horton, Siler City; Lindo O. Mason, Siler City; Shelton Rogers, Siler City; and Floyd C. Thomas Jr., 429 Loach St.

All the demonstrators were detained in jail overnight and released on bond between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday.

 

Linbrook Hall

February 15, 2012

When I researched and wrote my Architectural History of Randolph County in 1978, the “historic” criteria I used purposefully excluded most of the 20th century.  I included a few “modern” houses, of 1950s Wrightian or 1970s passive solar designs, but most of the illustrated properties were at least 50 years of age, and the majority of those were more than 100 years old.

It seemed to me then that “modern” architecture, usually connected to the architectural office Randolph County native Hyatt Hammond, had a precarious foothold in a residential environment which was overwhelmingly the product of the 20th century Southerner’s infatuation with the “Williamsburg Style”.  The Williamsburg restoration began in the 1930s and almost immediately had an impact on local residences.  In the late 1920s the upscale homes of Frank and Charles McCrary on Worth Street in Asheboro were designed with textbook exactitude in the English Tudor and Classical Revival styles.  “Revivalist” architects such as W.C. Holleyman and Harry Barton had been trained in the old Ecole des Beaux Arts school, and were proud of their academic command of the rules and  vocabulary of each style.  Combining stylistic details just would not have been considered proper.

By the late 1930s floor plan was considered more important than the façade; functionality was the new goal of architecture instead of mere appearance.  In 1939 the Sulon Stedman House on Old Lexington Road won awards by mixing and matching the red-brick details of early Williamburg with the monumental portico of Mt. Vernon and the modern open floor plan popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright.   In the 1960s and 70s, almost every new “spec house” in Asheboro was grafting some kind of “neo-Colonial” detail to the “ranch house” plan that became the first choice of subdivision developers.   Few owners or builders went to the expense or trouble of actually duplicating the kind of archeological correctness that was the hallmark of the actual Williamsburg restoration—the major exception in Asheboro being the Tucker Yates/ William W. Ivey house on Old Lexington Road, which is a near-copy of the Carter’s Grove plantation house near Williamsburg.

A point I made in my book is that all this new construction harking back to the 18th century environment of Williamsburg, Virginia, was completely unknown to the actual built environment of 18th century Randolph County.  Randolph County was still the frontier for most of the 19th century, and while the expert local cabinetmakers made furniture which doesn’t look out-of-place in Williamsburg, they usually made it for use in one-story log or frame cabins.  The few high-style houses which survived aspired to the Federal style of coastal New York and New England rather than the Christopher Wren Baroque of Williamsburg.

Brick homes were not seen in Randolph until the 1830s, the Dempsey Brown House of Trinity (1836) or the Elisha Coffin House in Franklinville (c. 1835) being the first known examples.  A residence with 1200 square feet of heated area would have been considered a large house in the county from the 18th century through the 1950s.  When my architectural survey was published in 1985 I didn’t realize it would come to document the end of local traditions such as textile and apparel manufacturing and rural farm buildings.  At the very time I was researching the survey, American society was experiencing changes in communications, computerization and global connectivity that makes the Randolph County of 1980 seem quaint in comparison to the Randolph of 2011.  Nothing in the social and built environment of the county better exemplifies those changes than the county’s newest old house, Linbrook Hall in Tabernacle Township.

A house that is more than a home, Linbrook Hall was built between 2002 and 2004 by high-tech entrepreneur Jerry D. Neal and his wife Linda Stewart Neal.  Neal was one of the founders of RF Micro Devices, a 1991 Greensboro start-up company that became one of the world’s leading suppliers of the radio frequency semiconductor chips powering the cell phone revolution of the past 20 years.  In October, 1998 Neal purchased 160 acres adjoining his home on Snyder County Road south of Trinity (full disclosure: I was his closing attorney for the purchase) which had been the proposed site of a mobile home subdivision.  The deceased owners of the tract, Jack and Virginia Jackson, had built there a long low-slung rock Wrightian-style house they called “Stonehenge Farm” which the Neals restored.  But they went on to build on the highest point of the tract a house “dedicated to giving.”

Students of historic architecture, the Neals knew what they liked, and came armed to design their dream house with photographs and magazine articles of features and details that appealed to their particular tastes and sensibilities.  Fortunately, luck and the yellow pages directed them to Charleston architect Bill Huey [http://www.hueyarchitect.com/index2.html ] who took their many details and desires and combined them all in a strong traditional design, grounded in Jeffersonian Classicism and high-style Greek Revivalism.

Sited high on top of a hill in an east-west orientation and approached by a mile-long driveway, the house is impressive in its command of its site.  Its size quickly becomes apparent- eight columns 32-feet high anchor a pediment and cupola on the main block which rise almost 60 feet high.  The portions of the exterior echo the principles of symmetry espoused by Andrea Palladio, Italian author of the 1570 “Four Books of Architecture” which first codified the principles of classical Roman design.

Linbrook at first look can be identified as a Palladian “villa,” or country house.    One of Palladio’s innovations was the adaptation of the temple portico to the villa, and at Linbrook the monumental portico is the signature statement of the entire composition.  In architectural shoptalk, Linbrook Hall displays a “monumental tetrastyle prostyle Palladian portico.”  Translated into regular English, that means the house has four free-standing columns across the front which project forward from the façade and create a two-story porch.  The most familiar four-columned portico in the United States is that of the North Portico of the White House, which is itself a product of late 18th-century America’s fascination with classical architecture, as transmitted through British architectural sources such as Vitruvius Brittannicus (1725).  That was one of the architectural works in the library of Thomas Jefferson, a particular aficionado of Palladian design principles.  Jefferson used them in his own constructions and promoted them all across the South, where they took fertile root and blossomed into the kind of Greek Revival mansions that have come to exemplify the antebellum period.  At Lynbrook, the most visible Jeffersonian design element is the floor-to-ceiling windows of the ground floor, which can be raised to provide ventilation (in the days before air conditioning) as well as easy access to the veranda or gallery.

Another hallmark of Palladian design is its emphasis on symmetry, which is most evident in the design of the main block, three stories high on a raised basement or “piano nobile”.  The eastern guest house wing connected to the main house by a glass conservatory hints at the traditional Palladian tripartite villa plan which was popular all across the South.  In that plan a central block was flanked on each side by service wings of “dependencies”, themselves connected to the main block with “hyphens” or enclosed corridors.  The most influential early example of this plan was the Duke of Buckingham’s house, built in London in 1710, which is now known as Buckingham Palace.  At Linbrook the Palladian symmetry is oddly missing- the eastern wing has no matching western wing, and is correspondingly unbalanced.  (Instead of the expected western pavilion there is only a very modern approach road to an underground garage.)

Everything else on the exterior is right out of the Southern plantation design vocabulary.  The Neals particularly admired the antebellum plantation houses of the Mississippi delta, and elements of Chretien Point Plantation (1831), Oak Alley (1839) and Nottoway (1859) in Louisiana are visible, especially in the monumental portico columns of the rear or southern façade.  In keeping with the Palladian organizing force, the columns are of the Colossal Roman fluted type (i.e., they extend two full stories in height, and the fluted shafts have a smooth edge instead of the Greek knife-edge).  The columns are four feet in diameter on a five-foot-square base, and have the proper classical “entasis” or taper (they are 8 inches smaller at the top than at the bottom).

The Colossal Order was not a true classical Roman order, but an invention of the Italian Renaissance, sometimes called the “Baroque” style, which makes it all the more appropriate that the capitals used are not of the standard classical orders.  The Scamozzi capital was invented by one of Palladio’s apprentices, Vincenzo Scamozzi, who took the classic Ionic capital (two volutes, or scrolls, with an egg-and-dart molding) and angled the volutes at a 45-degree angle so that the capital appeared symmetrical instead of bilateral (that is, an Ionic capital looks the same from the front and back, but a Scamozzi capital looks the same from all four sides). 

Under the north portico, the entrance doors (solid oak, with each leaf weighing 400 pounds) are topped by a fanlight and framed by limestone engaged columns in the Tuscan order which support a balcony accessible from the second floor.  Another fanlight lights the gable of the portico, and square cupolas (properly called “lanterns”) provide light to the center halls of both the main block and guest house. 

The entrance hall is the most impressive interior space, and again it has a Jeffersonian aspect, being reminiscent of the rotunda at his University of Virginia, with the proportions of the center hall of his Poplar Forest summer house in Lynchburg.  A very un-Jeffersonian element, however, is the sweeping double-flight or “Imperial” staircase- an exuberantly extravagant and romantic design which Jefferson would have considered a waste of space!

The first floor of the main block is organized in a modern version of the Greek Revival “double-pile” plan.  A Sitting Room (to the west) and Dining Room (to the east) flank the center hall.  In the rear, a more informal living area opens into a kitchen and passage into the rear garden.  The formal Sitting and Dining Rooms open into the hall through tripartite frames which would be called Palladian if the central space were arched, but here the flat arches flanked by Tuscan columns and pilasters hark back even further to Palladio’s architectural predecessors Serlio and Bramante. 

All of the interior trimwork comes from the familiar Charleston Greek Revival design vocabulary which was established in the 1830s by use of northern pattern books by the local craftsmen.  Particularly influential were the works of Minard Lafever of New York and Asher Benjamin of Boston.  Lafever, author of The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833), was known for his high-style townhouse designs and archeologically correct classical detailing.  Benjamin, whose 1830 book The Architect, or, Practical House Carpenter, first popularized the Greek Revival style for mass American tastes and profoundly influenced vernacular home builders.  Several Randolph County homes built in the 1830s used elements from Benjamin’s 1830 pattern book in designing interior woodwork, making this a very appropriate source for Linbrook to reference.

At 40,000 square feet of heated area, Linbrook is now one of the largest residences not just in Randolph County, but in the Piedmont.  This raises the question of another late-20th century phenomenon, the construction of “trophy houses,” also known as “McMansions.”  Such houses are not just public victory laps by the rich and successful; indeed every historical period has seen homes built by the wealthy which become expressions of the high styles of the era.  Trophy houses in North Carolina have over the last twenty years been a subject of controversy in established neighborhoods in Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro, as solid 1920s and 30s-vintage homes on large urban lots are purchased, demolished and replaced by bloated pastiches of historic styles.  So often has this occurred across the country that Wikipedia even defines “McMansions” as houses that “…mix multiple architectural styles and elements…multiple roof lines, unnecessarily complicated massing…producing a displeasingly jumbled appearance. The builder may have attempted to achieve expensive effects with cheap materials, skimped on details, or hidden defects with cladding…”  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMansion]

I would argue that Linbrook Hall is not an example of a McMansion; not just because no established homes or neighborhoods were harmed in its construction.   A discussion of the introduction of classicism to English domestic architecture, The National Trust Book of the English House, (Penguin Books, 1985, p.78)states that  “It is often said that Classical architecture is a game, and the benefit of the rules is to make the players concentrate on excellence.  Originality does not greatly matter, it is the creative use of precedent which is the standard of judgement.”   Linbrook Hall is one of the few residences built in Randolph County within the past 75 years to aspire to play the game of Classical Architecture.  All its elements fit and work together, and the house commands its setting as if it grew there, belongs there.  The combination of house and landscape gives us the same sense of satisfaction and exhilaration we experience when viewing some natural wonder.   That Linbrook triggers our sense of beauty, of proportion, harmony and balance, is demonstration enough that it is playing by the rules.  Whether in the design, or in the quality of execution and materials, the Neals and Bill Huey have created excellence and have given a gift to the built environment of Randolph County.

Benjamin Swaim and the “Man of Business”

January 17, 2012

[A comment on this blog last month asked for information on Benjamin Swaim.  I have written about him twice; the biogrpahy of him in Volume “S” of the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography is by me, and actually contains a portion of the following paper.  This study of his life and one of his books was originally written in 1981 as an assignment for my Masters Degree courses at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Library and Information Science.  For Mr. Powell at DNCB I abstracted the basic biographical information about Swaim.  The bibliographical information is here presented to the public for the first time.  One thing I realize is not clear from this paper is that Benjamin Swaim's legal books are the first known Randolph County imprints-- that is, they are the first books printed in the county.]

 
SWAIM, BENJAMIN (13 May 1798 – 23 Dec. 1844), lawyer, printer, author and newspaperman, was almost certainly the son of William (10 March 1770 — 1 June 1850), and Elizabeth Sherwood Swaim (8 Nov. 1773 — 14 Aug. 1835).  They and several other branches of the numerous Swaim clan were residents of the Timber Ridge Community, east of Level Cross in Randolph County. [i]

Life and Career.
Benjamin’s early life and education are obscure, although he perhaps attended schools taught by his uncle Moses Swaim.  Benjamin first appears in the records of the North Carolina Manumission Society, when, on August 27, 1819, he attended the society’s convention and began a sixteen-year association with the abolitionist group.[ii]   In the fall of 1822, he was hired to teach day classes of Mt. Ephraim schoolhouse in Guilford County.  Swaim, a law student at the time, was considered to be a teacher of great ability.  The number of students attracted to this school was so large that an assistant teacher was needed, and his second cousin William Swaim was hired for the position.  Benjamin and William organized a debating club at the school known as the “Polemic Society,” which became a forum for local men of all ages to join in oratorical contests.   In 1823, Guilford County Sheriff and state legislator Col. William Dickey asked Benjamin to take over Dickey’s private school.  Swaim instead successfully recommended cousin William for the job.

By  Line

Benjamin Swaim then relocated to the Randolph County town of New Salem, where he opened a law practice.  New Salem was (and is) located about a mile southwest of the Swaim family farms at Timber Ridge.  It was a crossroads community located at the point where the road between Asheboro and Greensboro intersected the ancient Indian Trading Path.  Land was conveyed to trustees of a Quaker meeting house there in 1815, but an informal group had probably met there as early as 1792.  New Salem was the commercial hub of Randolph County during the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century, hosting more stores and businesses than Asheborough.[iii]  The state legislature chartered town government in New Salem in 1816, appointing commissioners Benjamin Marmon, Jesse Hinshaw, Peter Dicks, William Dennis and Moses Swaim.

Moses Swaim, a brother of Benjamin’s father William and the only non-Quaker on the board, was the first president of the North Carolina Manumission and Colonization Society.[iv]    Benjamin, also a charter member of the organization, was in 1827 elected its President as well as delegated to attend the National Convention of the Abolition Society.  His opinions on the subject of slavery are revealed in his 1829 “Report of the President”, as printed in the Greensborough Patriot.  In it, he declares that “…the hour of Negro Emancipation is fast approaching.  It must and will assuredly come.  And all that we can do is prepare for its approach by a timely and gradual improvement of their debased condition….  Aided by Divine assistance, we may fearlessly encounter all the opposition of our enemies and confidently stand forth, the advocates of truth and justice, with such unyielding firmness and determined purpose as no earthly Interest, power or prejudice can successfully resist.” Swaim was reelected President of the Manumission Society until its discontinuance in 1835.

Perhaps as early as May, 1831, Swaim began planning a serial law publication, The Man of Business or Every Man’s Lawbook , a pioneer reference work of business law and legal forms.[v]   Swaim called The Man of Business “new in character and design’, and publicly appealed for the approval of other lawyers, since “the prudent and seasonable prevention of ruinous litigation is no less a professional duty than the skillful management of it.”  Benjamin’s partner in this venture was his cousin William, had founded The Patriot, Guilford County’s first newspaper in 1829.[vi]  William Swaim printed the first volume in 1833-31.  However, the successful reception of The Man of Business , and the trouble involved in traveling repeatedly from his home to the printing office in Greensboro, led Swain to open his own shop in October, 1834.  The New Salem operation was staffed by R.J. West, printer, and John Sherwood (a cousin)[vii].  Volume II of The Man of Business was produced there in 1834-35.
In February, 1836, Swaim began editing and publishing a newspaper from his office in New Salem.  Titled Southern Citizen, it had been proposed in November, 1834 by William Swaim. [viii]  William’s prospectus, published in the Patriot, lamented the low esteem in which Southern newspapers were held, and sought to supersede his Patriot with a new “splendid, superfine” publication, “the largest and most usefull family newspaper… devoted to the interest, amusement, and edification of the American people Swaim was roundly abused in the state’s periodical press for his pretentious statements, but within a year he had attracted enough subscribers to begin preparations for publication.  His death age 33 in December, 1835 threw these preparations into disarray.  The Patriot continued to be published for the benefit of William’s estate, while Benjamin took up the challenge of publishing the Southern Citizen.


The first issue of the Southern Citizen appeared in February, 1836.  The editorial content was of an uncompromising Whig political persuasion, promoting agriculture, internal improvements, universal education, and literature. (Its motto: “What do we live for but to improve ourselves and be useful to one another?”) An unusual feature was the “Legal Department,” subtitled “Ignorance of the Law Excuseth No Man.” Here Swaim, obviously inspired by the success of The Man of Business, answered the questions of subscribers on various points of law.

In December, 1836 Swaim moved his newspaper, printing business and law office to Asheboro, the Randolph County seat.  The Southern Citizen was issued from there weekly without interruption until April of 1842, when publication was suspended.  Either debt and financial instability or the recent death of Swaim’s wife following the birth of a daughter may have contributed to the shut-down.  Publication was resumed on 14 October 1843, and continued until 17 October, 1844, when Swain sold the newspaper and printing office to John Milton Sherwood.[ix]  Whether the newspaper continued after that date is unknown.

On 7 Feb. 1829 Swain married Rachel Dicks (Aug. 1808 – 3 March 18141), daughter of Peter and Rachel Seals Dicks. They were the parents of five children: Anna Dicks (b. 17 Apr. 1830), Thomas Clarkson (10 May l832- 1 March 18kb), Matilda Rosalie (8 March 1835 — 26 Feb. 1837), Charlotte (b. 9 Dec. 1837), arid Rachel Dicks (b. 21 Feb. 1841). Benjamin Swaim’s sudden death while on a trip to Raleigh revealed the fact that he was “indebted beyond the account of his personal assets.”[x](x)  Although his executors discovered more than 300 debtors owing money to Swaim’s estate, very little money could be collected and his property was sold in a futile attempt to pay his creditors.

Publications.

Swain’s legal career after 1836 consisted mainly of writing and publishing form-books and digests of North Carolina state law.  A proposed third volume of The Man of Business grew into Swain’s 540-page opus The North Carolina Justice, printed in Raleigh in 1839 [The North Carolina Justice:  containing a summary statement of the statues and common law of this state, together with the decisions of the supreme court, and all the most approved forms and precedents relating to the office and duty of a justice of the peace and other public officers].  In 1841 Swain published, “at the Southern Citizen office” in Asheboro his The North Carolina Executor . . . a safe guide to executors administrators in their practical management of estates. . .   And in 1842, Swaim likewise published  The North Carolina Road Law… with all the necessary forms and practical observations pertaining to the… responsibilities of overseers and road hands.

Swaim therefore made a career of writing and publishing form-books and digests of North Carolina state law related to various public offices and private professions.  All of his works seem to have been relatively popular;  The Man of Business was still in print in 1841 and offered for sale (along with Swaim’s Justice and Executor) in the catalog of law books of the Raleigh bookseller Turner and Hughes.  A second edition of the popular North Carolina Justice was updated by Swaim and published posthumously in 1846.  Another purported revision of The North Carolina Justice was edited by an Edward Cantwell and published by Henry D. Turner of Raleigh in 1856; although titled “Swaim’s Justice—Revised,” it was subtitled The North Carolina Magistrate, a practical guide to the laws of the state…under the Revised Code, 1854-55, and its preface states that the work is not a revision of Swaim, but a “new and original publication.”  That a “new and original publication” would wish to trade on Swaim’s name in its title twelve years after his death suggests that his reputation as a North Carolina legal authority was high.

Precedents.

The author of “Legal Practice and Ethics in North Carolina, 1820-1860” muses that “when one remembers that he was a lawyer, one is amazed that Swaim was eager to help the common man and to assist him in being his own attorney.”   Yet to some extent Swaim was following in the footsteps of legal predecessors in the state.  North Carolina’s first printer, James Davis, published in 1774 his  Office and Authority of a Justice of Peace.  And Also, the the duty of Sheriffs, Coroners, Constables, Churchwardens, Overseers of Roads and other Officers, Together with precedents for Warrants, Judgements, Executions and other legal process….  New editions by different authors appeared in 1791 and 1800 which were also subsequently revised and reprinted[xi]; Swaim’s North Carolina Justice therefore had a long pedigree.   Likewise, his Executor was preceded by Francois-Xavier Martin’s Treatise on the Powers and Duties of Executors and  Administrators according to the Law of North-Carolina, published in Raleigh by J. Gales in 1820.  However,  Swaim’s Road Law does not seem to have had North Carolina antecedents, and The Man of Business appears to have been a completely original conception.  An 1819 self-help book which could represent a parallel idea was J.H. Conway’s The North Carolina Calculator; or New Practical Arithmetic…  of utility to merchants, traders and others, in their general occupations; this was a prototype small-business accounting treatise.

Swain asserted, however, that The Man of Business was “new in character and design,” and worried that those in the legal fraternity might protest the popularizing of the law.  Though the work was “calculated to render every man his own counsellor in matters of ordinary business,” Swaim declared himself motivated by the desire “to improve the modes of doing business, and thereby to render the ends of justice more easy and accessible to all classes of the community…”  While today every state (except Louisiana) operates under the Uniform Commercial Code (a model state law package governing all commercial transactions), the nineteenth century operated under the burden of a bewildering array of local laws regulating business. Although business law is taught as a separate curriculum in modern business schools and economic departments, Swaim may have been an originator of the concept of uniform laws as a vital part of business administration and financial efficiency.  His most direct influence lay in the inspiration of imitators such as Franklin Crosby, who in 1860 in Philadelphia published Everybody’s Lawyer and Counsellor in Business:  containing plain and simple instructions to all classes for transacting their business according to law…. [xii]

Vol II Title Page

Characteristics of the Printed Page.
The Man of Business was considered by Swaim to be a periodical “published simultaneously at Greensborough and New Salem, N.C.  It will consist of four hundred and thirty-two duodecimo pages (in twelve monthly numbers) neatly printed, pressed, -folded, stitched and trimmed.”  Each monthly number consisted of 18 leaves or 36 pages made up of 9 signatures of 4 leaves each.  Four pages of type were printed at once on one side of an 8 x 13-inch sheet of rough-laid paper from the Emmanuel Shober paper mill in Salem.[xiii]

The joint publishing arrangement may have arisen from the difficulty of a single press publishing a weekly newspaper as well as a monthly magazine.[xiv]  Although the printing work for volume one was stated to have occurred at William Swaim’s Greensborough Patriot office, four versions of volume one exist.  This physical evidence indicates volume one was set in type by hand and printed four separate times, and perhaps only once in Greensboro.  Two versions of volume one exhibit a simple masthead on page one, and two begin with title pages.

The masthead design resembles a tiny newspaper masthead, with title, editor, and imprint information.  “THE MAN OF BUSINESS./ (motto)/ Benjamin Swain, Editor./ NEW SALEM, N.C. JULY, 1833/ VOL. I NO, 1/ PROSPECTUS…” Version one also includes the “TERMS” at the foot of the page, ending with “…stitched and trimmed.”  Version two does not include TERMS, ending instead with “…ordinary business.”  Version one of the ‘title page’ design ends “VOL. 1/ OCTOBER, 1834-5/ WILLIAM SWAIM, PRINTER,/ GREENSBOROUGH, N.C./ 1834.” Version two of the title page ends “VOL. 1/ OCTOBER, 1833,/ Reprinted,/ New Salem, N.C./ 1836.”

Vol II No. 6 Title Page

The imprint of version one of the title page is obviously incorrect. Volume one, number one is dated July, 1833, not October, 1834. The printer has taken the title page for volume two, printed in 1834, and replace the “II” of that “VOL. II’ with “I’, making no other corrections, This suggests that volume one originally appeared with no title or imprint information other than its masthead.  Moreover, since the title page of the 1836 reprint corrects 1834-5 to 1833, but has not corrected “October” to ‘July”, we may surmise that the type for the reprint was set from a copy of the 1834 title page, with some mistakes corrected and others overlooked. Which one of the two “masthead” versions may be original requires further study.

In volume one, number twelve, Swaim complains of the trouble and expense of traveling back and forth to the printing office, and says “I hope to find some relief in the location of the whole concern in one place… In future it will be printed and published in the town of New Salem, Randolph County, N.C., provided its patronage should be sufficiently increased to justify the purchase of a press, etc.” However, at least volume two, number one must still have been printed in Greenshorough, for in number two Swaim states “Since the appearance of the first number of this volume, I have engaged in the services of a young printer,[xv] who has recently set up, and is commencing business in this place… it is therefore hoped, and confidently expected, that the publication will, in future, go on with more promptness and regularity, as the whole concern is now at home.”

Numbers three through twelve of this volume all bear the imprint “R.J. WEST PRINTER,/ New-Salem, N.C.” No versions of the volume two title page exist. Version one bears the imprint “VOL. II/ NEW SALEM,/ OCTOBER/ 1834’5.” The page is printed in six different point sizes of type, including two versions of an unusual ball-serif italic, one slanting to the left, the other slanting right.[xvi]  Title page version two has already been mentioned, bearing the imprint “VOL. II/ OCTOBER, 1834-5/ WILLIAM SWAIM, PRINTER./ Greensborough, N.C./ 1834.”
Volume one is indexed by a simple contents list following the numbered page sequence. This is complicated by the fact that pages 37 through 48 are misnumbered 1 through 12 (noted in an Erratta on page 72), and by the fact that “Pages from 352 to 417 are erroneously numbered by mistake. The index, however, is made out as the pages are, and not as they should be…” This indexing system cannot have been very satisfactory. Volume two provides a classified alphabetical index to both volumes; it indicates both the true page number and the erroneous page number (bracketted). The mistakes were probably perpetuated due to the exigencies of legal citation, which demands that page numbering be uniform from copy to copy— even uniformly incorrect.
Swaim ends volume two hinting at a third volume which was, however, never published and probably grew into his North Carolina Justice, which appeared two years later.  He indicates throughout volume two that complete files of both volumes could be bought “in good law binding.”  Therefore, in addition to “young printer” R.J. West, Swaim also evidently secured the services of a bookbinder.  A copy of The Man of Business in the Peacock collection at Duke has the damaged label “(torn)/ BOOK BINDER/New-Salem, N.C.”  A copy of Volume 2 now in the possession of the author includes a paper label inside the front cover, imprinted “JOHN SHERWOOD/ BOOK BINDER,/ New-Salem, N.C.”  This is evidently his cousin John Milton Sherwood who was subsequently the purchaser of the Southern Citizen printing office.[xvii]

In view of the numerous pleas throughout the work asking subscribers to pay their bills, and from the fact that none of Swain’s subsequent works appeared serially, it may be assumed that his experience with subscription sales was an unhappy one.  The problems of sale and distribution of such published materials in the early nineteenth century must have discouraged many local printers from even attempting a project of the magnitude undertaken by Benjamin Swaim— nearly 900 pages of material related to the study of business law. [xviii]

Copies Examined.
UNC-CH, North Carolina Collection (call number: C347.05-M26)

Vol. I
(c.i) New Salem reprint, 1836.
Stephen B. Weeks Collection.
Number 1, p.1 ends “…ordinary business.”
(c.2) Greensborough, 1834.
Stephen B. Weeks Collection.
(c.3) No title page (t.-p.); rebound.
Gift of the N.C. Baptist Historical Commission.
(c,4) No t.-p.; ‘S’ dropped from masthead: “PROSPECTU .”

Vol. II
(c.l) Greensborough, 1834.
John Sprunt Hill Collection.
(c.2) New Salem, Oct. 1834’5.
Stephen B. Weeks Collection.
(c.3) Greensborough, 1834.
Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies.

UNC—CH, Law Library (Rare Book Room) (call number: S971m-1834)

Vol.  I
(c.1) New Salem reprint, 1836 (#241180),
Bound in calf; black label; stamped “1” on Spine.

Vol. II
(c.1) No t.-p. (#180548),
Bound in calf; red label; stamped “2” on spine.
Duke University Library, Peacock Collection (call number: 347.6—3971-P)

Vol, I
(c.1) Greensborough, 1834 (#23290)
Rebound in red library bindings
(c.2) New Salem reprint, 1836 (#23291),

Number 1, p.1, ends “…In short it will be calcu-“

Signed on t.-p.: “Wm. M.B. Arendell”

(c.3) No t.-p. (#23292)
Number 1, p. 1 ends “. . .and trimmed.”
“B.F. Swaim/ A.D. 1852” in ink on front cover.

Vol. II
(c.1) Greensborough, 1834 (#23293)
On flyleaf: “B.F. Swaim’s/ Law Book/ May the 2nd. 1852” In ink on cover: “B.F. Swaim/ 1852”
(c.2) Greensborough, 1834 (#23294)
Inside front cover: “(torn)/ BOOK BINDER/ New-Salem, N.C,”

“DICK” stamped (in ink?) on spine.

Bibliography.
1. Arnett, Ethel Stephens, William Swaim, Fighting Editor: The Story of O. Henry’s Grandfather. Greensboro Piedmont Press, 1963.

2. Blackwelder, Fannie M. F. “The Bar Examination and Beginning Years of Legal Practice in North Carolina, 1820-1860.”  North Carolina Historical Review XXIX (April, 1952), pp. 159-170.

3. ——-, “Legal Education in North Carolina, 1820-1860.” N.C.H.R., XXVIII (July, 1951), pp. 271-297.

4. ——-, “Legal Practice and Ethics in North Carolina, 1820-1860.” N.C.H.R. (July, 1953), pp. 329-353

5. Davis, Jewell Faye, Bibliography of North Carolina Imprints, 1801-1820.  Washington, D.C. Catholic Univ., M.S.L.S. thesis, 1955.

6. Fox, Charlesanna M., ed., Randolph County 1779-1979. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Co., 1980.

7. Gibson, Virginia E. Salmon Hall, N.C. Printer, 1800-1840, UNC School of Library Science: MSLS paper, 1967.

8. Gress Edmund F.  Fashions in American Typography, 1780-1930. New York Harper and Bros., 1931.

9.  Hall, Francis H. Public Printing in North Carolina, 1816-1861.  UNC School of Library Science: MSLS thesis, 1957.

10.  Jones, H.G.  Union List of North Carolina Newspapers. Raleigh, N.C., Dept. of Archives and History, 1966.

11.  McFarland, Daniel M, “North Carolina Newspapers, Editors and Journalistic Politics, 1815-1835.” N.C.H.R., July, 1953.

12.  McMurtrie, Douglas C.  Eighteenth Century North Carolina Imprints, 1749-1800. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1938.

13.  Paschal, George Washington.  A History of Printing in North Carolina. Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton Co., 1946.

14.  Raleigh Register, 16 Feb. 1836, 16 March 1841, 24 Dec. 1844.

15.  Sherrill, P.M., “The Quakers and the North Carolina Manumission Society,” Trinity College Historical Society Papers, Series X, 1914.

16.  Robert N. Tompkins, ed., “Marriage and Death Notices from Extant Asheboro, N,C., Newspapers, 1836—1857”, N.C. Genealogical Society Journal (Nov. 1978);

FOOTNOTES


[i]  Swaim Bible Records, published in Randolph County Genealogical Society Journal, Vol. X, #2, p.28 (1986); Sidney Swain Robins, A Letter on Robins Family History (nd.); Swaim family genealogical records (possession of Mrs. Francine Holt Swain, Liberty, N.C.)

[ii]  H.N. Wagstaff, ed., “Minutes of the N.C. Manumission Society, 1816-1831”, The James Sprunt Historical Studies, Vol. 22 (1934)

[iii]  Peter Dicks was a storekeeper in the Town, as well as the operator of a mill on Deep River some 2 miles southwest. William Dennis was a potter of slip-decorated redware whose home and kiln were sited half a mile east of town. Dr. John Milton Worth, born in the nearby Centre Friends Meeting community just north across the county line, opened his first practice in New Salem.  William Clark, a future organizer of the Union Factory, operated a “flourishing” tannery and store in the town.  (J.A. Blair, p. 50)  The Adams family, who employed Naomi Wise as a servant girl, lived just South of town.

[iv] At that first meeting, says Levi Coffin in his autobiographical Reminiscences, Moses Swaim, “a lawyer of Randolph County, delivered a lengthy and able address, which was afterward printed and widely circulated.  It was a strong abolition speech, and would not have been allowed a few years later.”  (p.74)  Moses Swaim was elected Clerk of Superior Court in Randolph County in 1837 and served for several years.

[v]  The phrase “Man of Business” had come into English writing as early as 1660, but it had only begun to assume its modern form, “business-man,” in 1829.

[vi]  William Swaim also happens to have been the grandfather of novelist O. Henry, and so has merited the monograph William Swaim– Fighting Editor by Ethel Stephens Arnett (1963). William’s cousin Lyndon Swaim later took over editorship of his newspaper. “The Life of William Swaim” was a multi-part biographical series written by Lyndon Swaim and published in the Patriot from May 18 to June 22, 1866. In transmogrified form, the Patriot survives today, becoming the Greensboro Daily News, now known as  The News and Record.

[vii]  John Sherwood (27 Sept. 1806 – 5 July 1895) was the son of Benjamin Sherwood (1783-1865) and Sally Swaim (b. 29 Sept. 1787).  Sally Swaim was the daughter of distant cousin Michael Swaim; Benjamin Sherwood was evidently a brother of Benjamin Swaim’s mother Elizabeth Sherwood Swaim.  On 26 Sept. 1835 John Sherwood was the grantee of a deed of trust (Randolph County Book 20, Page 111) encumbering property described as “one quarter acre lot in New Salem adj. B. Swaim (formerly Jesse Watkins”.  In 1837 John Sherwood was a candidate for Randolph County Clerk of Superior Court, printing circulars on June 10th , decrying prejudice against candidates who were not Randolph natives and on July 29th,  printing a diatribe against “racing candidates” and describing himself as a “man in limited circumstances, with an extensive family.”  Moses Swaim was the victor in this contest (see Deed Book 21, Page 151).

[viii]  In October 1834, Williams Swaim proposed merging the Patriot into the Southern Citizen beginning July 4, 1835.  He planned to enlarge the weekly paper with three times the editorial material, “printed in new type, on a new press.”  The prospectus of the new paper was printed Nov. 19, 1834; in it he said 2.000 subscribers would be required to begin publication.  Lyndon Swaim, “The Life of William Swaim,” in The Patriot (Greensboro, NC) published from May 18 to June 22, 1866.

[ix]  From The Southern Citizen, Vol. V, #52 (17 October 1844)—“We have recently sold out to Mr. John Milton Sherwood, a young gentleman who was partly raised in this office, and , for the past year, has been the foreman in the establishment.  He will issue the first number week after next./  This number of our paper concludes the Fifth volume of the Southern Citizen, and closes, for the present, at least and very probably forever, the Editorial Career of its present Editor and Proprietor.”

[x] From the Patriot, Greensboro, 12-28-1844:  “Died/ In Raleigh, on Monday the 22nd inst., about 12 o’clock, BENJAMIN SWAIM, of Randolph county, counselor at law, and author of several legal works.

“A friend who watched his dying bed informs us that the deceased ‘had been indisposed about two weeks ago, but had got much better, so as to consider himself well.  On Friday night he was taken with a violent cholera morbius, which proved fatal on Monday.  His suffering was intense.  He had the best medical aid, and attentive nursing, but all failed.  He retained his senses in a most remarkable degree, and submitted to his fate without a murmur- observed, after he was conscious of the near approach of death, that he had no disposition to complain of any act of Providence.  He had but few friends present, but these few gave every possible attention that could be bestowed.’

“Always under the depressing influence of pecuniary want, and afflicted from his birth with a radical defect in his sight, he labored under more of the difficulties of life than fall to the lot of most men.  But nature had endowed him with a remarkably clear intellect and a patient disposition, which enabled him to press forward in the attainment of knowledge to an extent highly creditable to himself and useful to the community.  His mind, patient to investigate, delighted to follow the old law writers through the mazes of their learning into the latent recesses of truths and right reason.  The law was his favorite study, and in it he had made uncommon proficiency for one of his age and proscribed opportunities. He enjoyed the reputation of a clear and correct legal theorist and a safe counselor.  And the practical legal works which he compiled and published will long be used and appreciated by the business public.  He was a man of inoffensive manners and most amiable disposition.  Peace be to his ashes!

“We have deemed this meager public tribute due to one who was, during a portion of our youth ‘our guide, companion, and familiar friend.’—EDS. PAT.”

[xi]  i.e., Francois-Xavier Martin, The Office and Authority of a Justice of the Peace of Sheriffs, Coroners, &c., According to the Laws of North-Carolina (1791) ; or The Office and Duty of A Justice of the Peace and A Guide to Sheriffs, Coroners, Clerks and Constables and Other Civil Officers  According to the Laws of North-Carolina (John Haywood, ed., printed in Raleigh by William Boylan in 1806; and Henry Potter, ed., published by J. Gales and Son of Raleigh in 1828 (2nd ed.).

[xii]  Interestingly, Brantley York (1805-1891), Randolph County native, teacher and founder of Trinity College, is credited with authoring The Man of Business and Railroad Calculator:  Containing such part of arithmetic as have a special application in business transactions (Raleigh: J. Nichols & Co., 1873).  The work contains legal forms edited by Richard Watt York, “A.M. and Counsellor at Law,” but it does not appear to relate to Swaim’s Man of Business in anything but title and subject matter.

[xiii]  On Feb. 7, 1838, in the midst of a financial crisis, Benjamin Swaim mortgaged his house and lot in New Salem, his household property in Asheboro, and “also the printing press, cases, gallies, and all other Materials belonging to the printing office of the Southern Citizen of Asheboro, including the Dog Press, also the Library of books belonging to the said Swaim, consisting of about 200 volumes.”  Swaim owed 4 local businessmen $770, as well as $33.87 to printer R.W. West, and $260 to Salem paper mill owner Emanuel Shober.  “Dog Press” was evidently a generic name for a traditional wooden screw-type printing press.

[xiv]  According to Ethel Stephens Arnett, William Swaim used a Ramage press to print The Patriot (Greensboro, North Carolina, The County Seat of Guilford (1955), p. 240).  Adam Ramage of Philadephia  built wooden printing presses from about 1800 until he died in 1850.  They were available in three sizes: a full-size common press, an intermediate free-standing press which he called his “screw press,” and the smallest, the “foolscap,” named for the size of sheet paper it could print.

[xv] Identified on all subsequent monthly title pages as “R.J. WEST, Printer/ New-Salem, N.C.”

[xvi]  A modern “trutype” version of this typeface is available on computers as Elephant Italic, an adaptation of early 19th century “fat face” types made by designer Matthew Carter.

[xvii]  Swaim’s reference of October 17, 1844 to the purchase of the Southern Citizen by John Milton Sherwood is the only known use of that middle name, but the buyer appears to be the same as the “John Sherwood, Book-Binder” of the Man of Business.  While Sherwood’s latter career with the Southern Citizen is not clear, he also is apparently the same man responsible for another first in N.C. journalism.  A John Sherwood, editor of The Farmer’s Advocate and Miscellaneous Reporter, published in Jamestown from Aug. 1838 to June 1842, is cited by James Oliver Cathey as publishing North Carolina’s first agricultural journal.  [see “Agricultural Developments in North Carolina, 1783-1860,” published in James Sprunt Studies in History and Political Science, Vol. 38; Chapel Hill, UNC Press, pp. 84, 102-103] .  Says Cathey, “John Sherwood… was one of the leading advocates of greater efficiency in farm operations. ‘What you undertake, do well,’ he urged.  Farmers were encouraged, in the interest of efficiency, to keep business-like records of their activities, to include notations of stock on hand, implements, methods used, weather conditions, time of planting, time and methods of culture, and of all experiments conducted…. Sherwood, in his Farmer’s Advocate, was the most forceful and persistent in advocating this feature of the reform program.”  Sherwood’s program to make farmer’s more business-like seems very much akin to Swaim’s program to codify and demystify business law.

And as regards book binding, Swaim’s estate papers indicate that Daniel Clewell of Salem in 1842 bound 29 copies of the N.C. Executor and 4 sets of the Man of Business.

[xviii] Swaim’s estate papers in the NC State Archives contain records of an auction sale of his assets held in August 1845; for sale were 185 copies of the N.C. Road Law, which sold for 5 cents each; 8 copies of the Man of Business which sold for $1.35; 53 copies of the N.C. Executor, and 1 N.C. Justice.  5 bound volumes of the Southern Citizen were sold to Joseph P. Julian.  At least one of these bound volumes survived into the 21st century, which the local owner, refusing to sell to the local historical society, auctioned it off to a paper dealer on eBay who cut the pages apart and sold them as “SLAVE ADS!!!”  Among the law books in Swaim’s sale were Haywood’s Justice; Haywood’s Manual; a Revised Statutes (of N.C.); Iredell’s Digest; N.C. Reports; Battle’s Reports; Martin’s Sheriff; N.C. Sheriffs, and “Right’s M of B.”  This last title is intriguing; if “M.O.B.” is short for “Man of Business” then this might indicate some other work related in title or subject to Swaim’s periodical.  But so far nothing under that title or author (either Right or Wright) has been found in union catalogs.


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