Franklinsville Manufacturing Company Store

August 30, 2022

(“The Upper Store”)

From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most vital parts of any textile mill village was a shop selling a variety of goods not otherwise locally available. When the Randolph Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1838, the stockholders were first concerned with building the mill, and then houses for the workers. Work on those began in April 1838, but a corporate store was just getting underway eleven months later.  The local newspaper reported that “a little village has sprung up at the place which has assumed the name of Franklinsville, embracing some eight or ten respectable families.  A retail store of goods has just been opened here on private capital.  And the company have now resolved to establish another one on part of their corporate funds.” [Southern Citizen, 8 March 1839]. 

There is no exact date that the Company Store opened for business, but it probably was ready by the time the factory began cotton spinning operations in March 1840.  (SCit (Ral Reg 31 Jan 1840) .  When the Island Ford factory was proposed a mile downstream, construction of the “Store house” was one of the first orders of business. “Resolved, that we proceed to build a Store house 32 feet by 42 feet immediately to be used as a work Shop while building the factory.”  [Island Ford Directors’ Minutes, 6 March 1847 ]

The original Franklinsville Store was about the size of this shop at Old Sturbridge Village.

That first company store was built by the Randolph Manufacturing Company across the road and facing the main entrance of the mill, before 1840. The granite foundation, 20×20 feet in plan at the northeast corner of the intersection of Buie Lane and Andrew Hunter Road is almost certainly its original location.  That placed it 15 feet above the north entrance of the factory, and about fifteen feet below the line of worker tenements known as the “Cotton Row” – perfectly placed for workers walking to and from the mill. Little else is known about this institution, except that it was a wood frame structure, painted red. From 1853 the rebuilt Randolph factory was managed together with the Cedar Falls factory under the supervision of George Makepeace, who lived on the hill high about the mill and store. His second-in-command in the store and counting room at Franklinville was William Henry Ragan (at Cedar Falls it was John M. Odell). Superintendent George Russell noted in 1923 “The old red store was burned April 18, 1884 just thirty-three years after the old cotton mill was burned.”

The “Upper Company Store” was rebuilt in 1884 in the popular “Carpenter Gothic” style.  The one-story board-and-batten building was painted pink with alternating gray battens. From foundation to gable peak the exterior was twenty-two feet high, with the ceiling inside 12 feet tall. The interior walls were plastered with a tongue-and-groove wooden ceiling. At some point a shed-roofed wing was built along the south wall, and even later a millinery shop was added on the north side near the railroad tracks, and a larger office for the mill was built on the southwest corner. 

Drilling a new well in 1917

Yet another community necessity was situated on the Company Store lot- the community well. A well producing water for the steam engine was located on the south side of the factory, but drinking water for the factory and the nearby tenements was pumped from a well about 15 feet east of the Red Store. In 1917 a new well was needed, and a steam well drilling rig was brought in to create a new 71-feet-deep well with an electrical pump powered by a Delco “light plant.” But the old wooden pump and water barrel can still be seen nearby in the photograph.   

This Company Store housed the first library in the community, noted when it expanded in 1903: “Prof.  C.H. Julian moved the library from the Company Store to the academy and it will hereafter be under the management of Prof. Weatherly.” [The Courier, 10 Sept. 1903] J.H. Marley was the manager of the store from 1915 until it merged with the lower store. ” “It was in 1920 when it was decided to consolidate the two stores and build a new brick building 45′ x 90′ with basement; this was completed and goods moved into the new building December, 1920, and run in the name of the Franklinville Store Co.”

Detail of the 1917 photo showing the wooden hand pump

The building was used for storage until the fall of 1924, when a “wet wash laundry” was installed inside. “We feel that this will be a great convenience to our people as trucks will call and deliver the laundry. Mr. C.F. Benson, who has had two week’s training in one of the best laundries in Greensboro, will have charge as manager.” [Courier, 10-16-24]. “Mr. J.L. Andrews, of Danville, Virginia, who has had several years of experience in the laundry business, will assist C.T. Henson in operating this plant.”  The laundry was apparently a success, as just a year later it expanded into something like a dry cleaners: “Mr. J.C. Johnson has opened up a steam cleaner and pressing club in the Franklinville Laundry building.” [The Courier, 9-17-25]. 

It isn’t clear how long the laundry business lasted, but the first hint of another use came in 1928, when “W.W. Wilson, of Raleigh, has opened up a roller cover shop in the north room of the laundry building, near Randolph Mill No. 1. Mr. Wilson has had several years experience and is well prepared to do this kind of work. [The Courier, 2-9-28]. Spinning frames used rollers covered in leather sheaths to draw out and twist the cotton sliver into yarn, and these leather covers had to be replaced regularly.  By the late 1930s the 1884 store had become the Randolph Mills machine shop, consolidating the two separate machine shops which had been part of each mill since their inception.  When a brick machine shop was built near Mill #2 in 1956, the old frame store was abandoned. A careless smoker caused a fire which destroyed the building in 1986.

Upper Store in 1978

But the history of a Company Store must include far more than the simple construction details and uses.  The Store was the economic face of the mill corporation. While some visitors might be invited to tour the factory, anyone at any time could patronize the store. For a mill village, the company store was the source of food, fuel, clothing, news of the outside world (as the location of the post office) and, for all intents and purposes, the local financial institution.  Those aspects of the store are explored in a separate post.

Mill girl at her spinning frame

Company Stores, Truck Farming, Tokens and Checks

August 29, 2022

When a reporter from Raleigh visited the new mill village of Franklinsville in September 1849, he counted forty-two dwelling houses clustered around the upper factory, which indicated a work force of at least one hundred. The market for produce at the factories, he wrote, “is worth a great deal to the community. Extensive stores are connected with each Factory, where groceries and a great variety of merchandise are kept for the public trade. At Cedar Falls it is estimated, by those in constant superintendence of the business transactions of the Company, that there is annually purchased at that place 3,000 bushels of corn, 35,000 pounds of bacon, 300 barrels of flour, 2 beeves a week, and chickens, eggs, butter, & c., in quantities difficult, to estimate. At the other Factories the amounts bought are the same in proportion. Indeed, we were informed that the purchases of corn at Franklinsville the past year was estimated at about 15,000 bushels. [Greensboro Patriot, 18 Aug. 1849 p3].

But sales of food, clothing and “sundries” was not the only function of the Company Store; it also played a major role in the financial operations of the company.  “Twelve hours per day is the average time of work the year round, except on Saturday, when it is only nine hours,” the reporter noted. “Wages average from 12 1/2  to 37 1/2  cents per day, according to the age, skill and experience of the hand. Some make nothing at this, owing to their habits of expenditure; while others lay up money. For instance, Mr,. Makepeace informed us that some of the girls employed by the Randolph Company, had the Company’s notes for over one hundred dollars, now going on interest.”  

George Makepeace

George Makepeace, the factory superintendent, had been recruited to Franklinsville from southeastern Massachusetts, where he had once been part-owner of a factory in Wrentham.  Makepeace was intimately familiar with the “Rhode Island System” of small mills set in villages built specifically for their workers. Company stores were not part of the “Waltham System” of large mills in urban areas, but were necessary in the isolated rural river valleys of southeastern New England.  Samuel Slater, who had established the first successful cotton mill in the country in 1790, had himself built what was the first American “mill village” in 1803  at his new town of Slatersville on the Blackstone River in Rhode Island.  There Slater built not only a factory, housing, schools and churches, but a “Company Store” which made over-the-counter retail sales and operated a crude system of credit.  In the cash-poor early Republic, before the development of a national banking system, Slater paid wages in the form of credit slips that could be redeemed at the company store.  This system was widely copied by other businesses, and widely viewed with suspicion by employees. 

Cedar Falls Company Store about 1920

Those early New England mills offered workers merchandise as a part of quarterly wage, or on credit against future earnings. Having the mill office or “Counting Room” in the store centralized all the financial operations in one place.  The Superintendent was responsible for production activities in the factory, but the “Agent” was responsible for financial affairs, as the on-site representative of the absentee stockholders.  The Agent supervised the Clerk or Clerks who ran the store; he transferred payroll information into the store accounts. For the first few decades this system apparently worked well, as the rural farm economy also largely depended upon credit accounts with rural storekeepers, who would accept produce, eggs, butter, cheese and handicrafts in satisfaction of accounts. For women and children used to seasonal farming, factory wages were a new way to live and work. Employment in a mill offered twice the wages she could make as a seamstress, tailor or schoolteacher. Factory work as offered female companionship and an independent income, with many, as in Franklinsville, able to save money and gain a measure of economic independence.

The dark side of this system was that it was hard for a worker to know what he or she was actually earning.  When an account was in the red, it was not easy for a worker to know whether to blame an unscrupulous Agent or his own spendthrift habits. But the top production workers in the company often had enough leverage to find out if they had been cheated.  Hannah Borden Cook, one of the very first power loom weavers in Rhode Island recounted this experience in an 1889 interview.

Salisbury mill worker doffing a Spooler- Photo by Lewis Hine

“A person could work in a mill from the end of one month to the end of another and never get a cent of cash for it. The Yellow mill had a store where the help had to trade, and at the end of each month when pay day came around the wages due and the store account were balanced and the balance was generally in favor of the store. The system of bookkeeping in vogue at the store resulted in accounts that became suspiciously large, till Mrs. Cook, finding herself in debt to the company, requested to see the books, and Matt Durfee and Sam Crary, the clerks, wouldn’t show them. Mr. Anthony [the Superintendent] himself came in as the discussion grew heated and Mrs. Cook appealed to him, and Anthony promptly said, “Show her the books at once.” The books came down and an overhauling ensued. Molasses, flour, sugar, dresses, were freely charged that she’d never had even a thought of getting.  “What’s this? You know she never had such a thing.” After that, she saw the books every month, while the clerks grumbled that they didn’t see why she should as no one else did. Mrs. Cook said if other folks were content to be cheated she wouldn’t stand it. ”  [Fall River Daily Globe, 27 Feb. 1889 in Stephen Victor et al, eds., The Fall River Source-book: A Documentary History of Fall River, Mass. (1981), pp37-39.]

This system of payment “in kind” instead of in money wages is known as the “truck system.” [When I was growing up my mother’s father referred to himself as a “truck farmer,” and I thought it was because he sold corn on the cob, tomatoes and beans out of the bed of his pickup. In fact, “truck” in this sense is an ancient English word meaning “barter”- truck farmers traded their produce in exchange for store credit at places like the Franklinsville Company Store.] This system benefitted the company in several ways: by using printed or metal “tokens” representing what the company owed the worker, the company avoided having to handle large amounts of cash. This was especially important in Randolph County, where up until 1890 the nearest banks were in High Point and Greensboro, more than 30 miles away. It also tied the employees, at least loosely, to shop at the company store to the exclusion of other competitors.  A closed system such as this depended upon the trust between employee and employer that prices in the company store wouldn’t be inflated or set artificially high. A final justification sometimes expressed by mill owners was  that limiting cash flow improved the moral character of the community by preventing the workers from spending on immoral goods and services like alcohol or prostitution.

As with many aspects of  industrialization, the system had its roots in 18th century Britain, and its drawbacks were recognized at the time. In May 1824, Peter McDougal and William Smith, cotton spinners from Glasgow, testified to a Parliamentary committee in London that labor unrest in Scotland had been triggered by abuses in payment.  “Mr. Houldsworth [mill owner of Glasgow] had what is called a store, and gave out tokens instead of current money; he paid hardly any current coin, and the workmen had to go to his store for the articles they wanted, and if they refused to take what they needed from his store, they were discharged.”  In April 1823 the workers went out on strike in protest, and the mill was closed for 8 or 9 weeks. [Parliamentary Papers, 1780-1849 · Volume 52, Part 7 : Reports of Select Committees of the House of Commons/ Trade and Manufactures, Artizans and Machinery, Testimony of Peter McDougal and William Smith, 20 May 1824  (House of Commons, Session 1837)

In North Carolina is was used in one of the state’s earliest textile mills, Henry Humphrey’s Mt. Hecla Mill in Greensboro. Humphreys, a wealthy merchant, was experienced in granting store credit and making loans to facilitate purchases in his store.  His first attempt at manufacturing in the late 1820s used slave labor, as did several other early mills. But within three years Humphreys began using only white employees, and faced a regular payroll.  With currency lacking in a tight money market, Humphreys in the 1830s began issuing his own paper money. This ran afoul of the law, as shown in the North Carolina Supreme Court case “State of North Carolina v. Henry Humphreys,” 19 N.C. 555 (Dec. term, 1837), where “On 10 Oct. 1837, Henry Humphreys, Guilford County resident and proprietor of the Mount Hecla Steam Mills in Guilford County, issued to an unnamed person a promissory note for 25 cents, payable to “the bearer on demand.” [Tom Brawner, in The Guilford Genealogist, Vol. 26, No. 3, Summer 1999, Issue No. 86.] The state charged Humphreys with a criminal violation (essentially counterfeiting), and he was found guilty. The Supreme Court reversed the conviction, finding no evidence that the note “was part of a series, was made from a plate impression or otherwise was intended to substitute for money.”  Yet fifty-cent, Dollar, and Three Dollar denominations of the printed bills are known to exist, and in 1908 grandson Thomas R. Tate stated that “These steel [printing] plates are still in possession of the family.” [Bettie Caldwell, Founders and Builders of Guilford County, p. 36.]  

Henry Humphreys’ Store and Home in Greensboro

Paper “scrip” was the most common example of factory “tokens of payment” in the 19th  century, but few were issued in the form of actual dollar bills. Thomas Tate, Humphrey’s son-in-law and successor at the factory, issued promissory notes or “I.O.U.s” in size and shape of a greenback. Examples of such $.15 and $.75 notes issued by the Lexington NC factory in 1839 are also known.  Of uncertain use were the paper tickets of the 1830s and ’40s known from the Randolph Manufacturing Company in Franklinsville, the Granite Factory in Haw River, and the Long Island Factory in Catawba County, which are labeled “5 lbs. No.  ___ Twist” or “5 lbs. No. ____ Warp.”  From known examples, the Franklinsville factory made #9 warp and the Granite factory #8 twist. As a record of production, this relates to the system of numbering spun yarn based on the weight of 840 yards of yarn per skein, or “hank.” Warp and twist were synonums for the yarn running from back to front of a loom. It was coarse, heavier spun and twisted more firmly to withstand the constant pull of winding up the fabric.  Coarse yarns were those where forty or fewer hanks weighed one pound.  Numbers 8 or 9 twist or warp yarn meant that 8 or 9 hanks containing 840 yards each were needed to weigh 1 pound.  “Filling” yarn, used in a shuttle to weave back and forth across the warp, was lighter, with counts from 40s up the sewing thread level where 120 hanks were needed to weigh 1 pound. 

Bundle label for 5 lbs of #9 Warp Yarn

These paper tickets may have been made as a sort of inventory control, attached to each bundle to indicate the type of yarn being sold. The High Falls factory on Haw River in 1837 advertised that they were making cotton yarns of counts 4 (4 hanks per pound) through 15 (15 hanks per pound), with the wholesale price of 4s&5s 20 cents per pound; 6s and 7s worth $.22; 8s,9s & 10s worth $.25 and #15 worth 30 cents per pound. So that 5-pound bundle of warp yarn from Franklinville was valued at $1.25, and potentially could be traded for at least that amount. Some mill companies gave tickets or brass tokens known as “checks” so the employee could keep track of her production- a weaving “check” for each “cut” of cloth woven, or a spooler “check” for every box of empty bobbins doffed and replaced.

Harriett Herring, one of the pioneer researchers of life in North Carolina mill villages, recorded a refinement of the “truck system” from Randolph County in the 1870s and ’80s:

“…the mills paid their employees through the store, either in orders on it or in some form of script or check redeemable at the store in goods and once a month in cash. Before 1890 many of the mills used a system of cardboard disks about the size of a silver dollars, with different colors to distinguish the denominations, there being a disk for each coin in current use– $1.00, $.50, $.25, $.10, $.05, $.02, $.01. One side bore a large figure showing the denomination, and the other he name of the issuing company, with the signature of the treasurer. When money was tight, these tokens or “checks” as they were commonly called, came to be used in the localities of the issuing mill as regular currently, and were accepted by farmers and others as well as mill employees, with apparently few calls for redemption in cash. In Randolph County several mills issued such checks, and their use was common all up and down Deep River. They were accepted at face value as far away as High Point and Greensboro, twenty-five mils from the issuing mills. Some forty years ago [before 1890] a man was tried and sentenced to seven years in federal prison for counterfeiting these Randolph County mill checks. It is probable that this is the first time the system had come to the attention of the government, for not long afterwards a man was sent from the Atlanta mint to stop the practice of issuing them. These  and other mills paid in script for another decade, until as one superintendent expressed it, ‘the people got more enlightened and they wanted real money.’ Perhaps the growth of small stores created more demand for actual coin, when the greater each, after the early and middle nineties, of securing it made cash payments more common.”  [Harriet L. Herring, Welfare Work in Mill Villages (Chapel Hill, 1929), p190.]

Other factories in North Carolina, such as the Henrietta and the Cliffside Mills in Rutherford County, used a similar cardboard ticket well into the 20th century, carefully labeled “redeemable only in merchandise” from the issuing company store.  Cotton mills in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina commonly used metal tokens issued by the Ingle system and the Osborne Coinage Company (aka ORCO) in Ohio; these private mints served company stores all over the United States up to the Second World War (and still make tokens for subway systems, casinos and the Mardi Gras).

5 cent token, Hopdale Company Store, Alamance County NC

December 25th Through the Years.

December 25, 2021
Elisha Coffin, circa 1860.

Two hundred years ago, December 25, 1821, a miller from Guilford County named Elisha Coffin bought a defunct mill site on Deep River in eastern Randolph County. His improvements would soon be known as “Coffin’s Mills on Deep River,” and by 1839, as the village of Franklinsville, but at the time it was referred to as “Schean’s old Mill Site.” This Christmas day I refer to it as “my home,” as the 20-acres I own in Franklinville include the house Elisha Coffin built about 1835, just up the hill from the mill site on Deep River.

Elisha Coffin’s grist mill turned into the Franklinsville Mfg. Co. in 1838.

I think it’s valuable to consider how our modern picture of “Christmas” is a construction of our post-World War II consumer society. Our Christmas and Santa Claus paraphenalia is made in Asian countries that aren’t Christian and had no clue who Santa was until they started sewing millions of Santa suits for pennies a day. Russians celebrate New Years with presents and trees, and for them Christmas (January 6th) is a religious day that Babuskas spend cleaning icons in church.

Old Christmas Celebration on Hatteras Island. Image from UNC Library

January 6th in fact was Christmas in eastern North Carolina up to the 1920s, when American culture first started its homogenization through recorded music, radio, movies and television. It survived in the Hatteras Island village of Rodanthe with the annual appearance on that date of “Old Buck,” a mythical bull who headed up the Christmas festivities, which started on “New Christmas,” the 25th of December, and lasted for the next twelve days.

Those twelve days of Christmas happened when Pope Gregory XIII ordered Catholics to observe a new calendar year starting in 1582, which added 10 days to account for the fact that the Julian calendar started by Julius Caesar in 46 BC had been gradually growing out of sync with the cycles of the moon. (The Roman calendar also invented Leap Years and the month of January, but that’s another story). Since Jewish holidays were then (and now) keyed to the lunar calendar, this discrepancy was gradually creating an untenable situation where Easter and Christmas were happening later and later each century. To forestall Easter in July and Christmas in April, the Pope decreed a new calendar.

Except in England, where Henry VIII had just rid himself of meddling Catholics priests and started his new Church of England, and he wasn’t about to let the Pope tell him what to do. So it wasn’t until 1752 that England adopted the Gregorian calendar, and since 170 years had passed they were now 11 days out of sync, so by Act of Parliament the days from September 3 through September 13, 1752 just disappeared.

The Gregorian Calendar

To further complicate things for Genealogists, the medieval church had always considered March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation, as the beginning of the Christian New Year. This made sense to rural farming communities, as March coincided with Spring planting season. So the dates of births, deaths and weddings in parish records up to 1752 will write, for example, “February 1, 1750,” now noted in and other databases as “1750/51, as we would now consider any date after January 1st to be in the year 1751, not 1750. Confusing, for sure; which is another reason why regular people resisted adopting the new dating system which tinkered with the dates of important annual events.

Charles Dickens, of course, is as much responsible for the apotheosis of English-speaking Christmas in world culture, through the popularity of his “A Christmas Carol.” Published in 1843, it wasn’ t concerned with the calendar changes, but in the mistreatment of the poor, and the popular festivities ignored by Ebenezer Scrooge until his transformation into a kinder, gentler man. The book begins on Christmas Eve, where we are introduced to Scrooge’s miserly attitude by his reluctance to give his employee Bob Cratchit Christmas Day off, with pay. Since that has become virtually universal and expected benefit of modern life, we don’t actually register that it wasn’t the universal custom even then. When the transformed Scrooge awakens on Christmas Day, he has no trouble sending a boy to “the Poulterer’s in the next street” to buy “the big prize turkey in the window” and having it delivered to the Cratcit family- early on Christmas morning. So Christmas 1843 was still more of a religious holiday than a work holiday.

As it was in America. Not only could Elisha Coffin get a lawyer to make a deed and have it recorded on Christmas Day, the state legislature of North Carolina, meeting on Christmas Day, 1796, created the new town of “Asheborough,” among other bills on a busy day. Here again, the busy seasons in an agricultural society were from March through October, and not even legislators and attorneys had the free time then for extracurricular activities. The “season for schooling,” also ran from October to March, and “summer vacation” didn’t end until September even up to the 1960s so children could help with the harvests.

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector

North Carolina, and Randolph County in particular, had a questionable attitude about Christmas through their association with the Society of Friends, or Quakers. The Friends arose during a time of schism in the 17th Church of England and in the British Civil War. King Charles I married a Catholic bride against the wishes of Parliament, and tried to arrest its leaders in 1642, The Parliamentary army, or “Roundheads, under Oliver Cromwell were ultimately victorious and executed the King. A devout Puritan, Cromwell was named “Lord Protector” by Parliament, and instituted a religious dictatorship which persecuted Catholics and “Separatists,” who disagreed theologically with the Church of England. Quakers were one of these dissident sects, and were jailed, tortured and sometimes executed by the Puritans. This caused the mass emigration in the 1660s of many Quakers to the colonies of Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. (Ironically, with the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1662, many Puritans fled England and settled in Massachusetts and Connecticut.)

Roman Saturnalia

The reason for this detour into British religious history is that Puritans and Quakers alike both disliked Christmas, considering it a Papist, and even worse, a pagan festival. (Which it was, having its origins in the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which happened at the winter solstice.) In 1659 the Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed Christmas, making it a criminal offense to publicly celebrate the holiday “by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way…” Quakers agreed, noting that there was no scriptural basis for commemorating the birth of Christ, or that it even happened in December. Increase Mather, noted Puritan minister, noted that it was only promoted as a church holiday in the 4th century AD, and that they were just trying to merge the pagan holidays into the Christian calendar to appease converts.

Christmas traditions in pre-Puritan England had gotten rather wild, with the twelve days from Christmas Eve to Old Christmas degenerating into feasting, drinking, gambling and other questionable behaviors. Even in antebellum Asheboro, as I have written previously in the entry “A Confederate Christmas in Randolph County,” people would wear masks and costumes and loudly beat pots and pans until residents fed them or gave them presents, a survival of medieval “wassailing.” Not until after the Civil War is there reliable evidence that Christmas trees were put up locally (as recounted in this blog, “Randolph County’s first Christmas Tree?”)

Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle, 1857

Our modern Christmas is our modern creation, as different from Dickens as Dickens was from Cromwell.

Even so, two hundred years ago, the man who built the house I live in today bought the land I now own. Christmas Eve 2021 is now history for all of us, as Christmas Day 2021 will be tomorrow. As Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead; it’s not even past.”

Our modern Christmas is our modern creation, as different from Dickens as Dickens was from Cromwell.

Coffin-Makepeace House about 1955.

Even so, two hundred years ago, the man who built the house I live in today bought the land I now own. Christmas Eve 2021 is now history for all of us, as Christmas Day 2021 will be tomorrow. As Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead; it’s not even past.”

Coffin- Makepeace House, Thanksgiving 2021
Coffin- Makepeace House, Thanksgiving 2021

Randolph County and the Society of Friends

July 12, 2021
Quakers on Barbadoes- New York Public Library

One of the most common questions I get asked is, Why was Randolph County so different from most of the rest of North Carolina? The short answer is, Quakers. The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, were not the most numerous religious group in Randolph and Guilford counties, but they were by far the most influential in setting the social and behavioral norms of Randolph County and central North Carolina from the 1750s to the 1850s.

From the time it was established by Henry VIII in 1534, membership in the Church of England was required of anyone holding public office. All other religions were illegal, and “dissenters” were persecuted and punished. The largest group of these were the Puritans, followers of John Calvin, who became the dominant religious group in New England.  George Fox (1624-1691), considered the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, was born in a strongly Puritan village in Leicestershire, England, but rebelled against the Puritan government instituted after the English Civil War.  Critics claimed his followers “quaked” or shook with religious excitement when they spoke, and “Quaker” became their common name. Fox travelled throughout Britain as a dissenting preacher, and was arrested and jailed numerous times for his beliefs.  The lack of tolerance for dissenters in England caused Quakers to move to America, particularly to Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, all of which permitted religious freedom for Christians.  Fox visited the Chowan River settlements in the Albemarle region in 1671, and preached the first worship services in the colony.  The North Carolina Yearly Meeting was established in Perquimans County in 1698, and the first school in North Carolina was established by the Quakers of Pasquotank County in 1705.  John Archdale, Governor of the colony of North Carolina from 1694-96, was a member of the Society, but by the 1760s being too involved with the politics of “the  World” was no longer considered proper by Quakers.

George Fox

Fox organized the Society of Friends on a mystical principle, that direct experience of God was possible if people “waited on the Lord” to speak to them. Perhaps the most important belief that distinguished Fox and his followers from other Christians was that this “Inner Light” was a characteristic of all human souls, male, female, yellow, brown, black, or white.This meant that all human beings were  already part of God, so there was no belief in damnation, nor any need for salvation.  A portion of the Holy Spirit, the Inner Light helped people distinguish good from evil, speaking directly to the conscience.  With a part of God in every soul, all people were literally connected, and harm to anyone was harm to oneself. This led to the Quaker belief in pacifism, and their opposition to human slavery.  This also meant that Quakers held “meetings,” and did not need “hireling ministers,” churches or “steeple houses,” and that women as well as men could lead their groups in silent prayer or meditation.

Similar to modern Sikhs in their turbans, early Quakers could be recognized as such by their distinctive modes of dress and speech. These also arose from the fact that the Inner Light was in everyone; therefore no person was better than anyone else.  A concern with outward appearances or valuing material objects indicated that a person valued worldly rewards over those of the spirit. Plain clothing was such a symbol of Quaker beliefs, as it was a sign of pride to wear flashy dress or jewelry.  Similarly, “plain speech” indicated that Friends did not believe in rank or titles. In 17th century English, the second-person-singular used “thee” and “thou,” as demonstrated by the Kind James translation of the Bible.  The British upper-class, however, expected to be referred to with the second-person-plural “You,” an indication of greater respect. Quakers insisted on referring to everyone as equals, and were often made fun of by their continued use of “thee” and “thou” even as English grammar gradually changed.  Quakers also refused to show “hat honor,” by removing their hats as a sign of respect to “their betters.”  Finally, Quakers refused to swear oaths, as the Inner Light in everyone meant that God was already present, and didn’t need to be called upon to verify the truth of what was said. One of the earliest changes to the North Carolina state constitution of 1776 allowed Quakers to affirm rather than swearing an oath, and is still the law today.

Quakers first began to settle in central North Carolina in the 1740s, and the first meeting, Cane Creek, now in Alamance County, was founded in 1751, with the second, New Garden in Guilford County, founded in 1754.  Herman Husband, a Quaker, came from Maryland and settled near what is now Liberty in the 1750s, and his relatives the Coxes and Allens began to settle the Mill Creek area about the same time.  Friends met in private homes for many years, with the Western Quarterly meeting in 1760 allowing Cane Creek to sponsor “friends on Deep River adjoining… William Cox… to have a meeting of worship settled among them.” In 1787 the Mill Creek congregation accepted a deed of 50 acres “for the use by the Society of the people called Quakers;” and Holly Spring became an independent Monthly Meeting in 1818.  Meetings began in the Polecat Creek/ Providence area in 1762, with a “little meeting near Benjamin Beeson’s.”  A meeting house was built there in 1769, but Monthly Meeting status was only granted in 1792.  Meetings also began in the Back Creek area in the 1760s.  Thomas Winslow deeded the trustees 26 acres of land in 1785; the Preparatory Meeting was established in 1786. It became an  independent Monthly Meeting in 1792, the first meeting in what became the Southern Quarterly Meeting.

At one time Randolph County had at least 16 active Friends meetings, the most of any county in North Carolina. But strict adherence to Quaker beliefs was difficult when surrounded by as many different immigrant sects and beliefs as were found on the southern frontier. Friends could be disciplined for dressing or speaking “contrary to discipline,” or for “marrying outside of unity.”  The most severe penalty was being disowned from membership. Service in the military was forbidden, which created a real problem in a society such as North Carolina which was organized on the basis compulsory white male militia service. Tax listing, voting, petitions for new roads, bridges and services were all done at quarterly militia meetings, and Quakers who refused to participate gradually lost their voice in political affairs. But their moral influence in the county remained extensive. For example, even when capital punishment was common and expected during the 19th century, Randolph County sheriffs refused to execute convicted prisoners here, sending them instead to adjoining counties.  Randolph is also the only county in central North Carolina where there is no recorded example of a Negro being lynched, or of any Ku Klux Klan murders.  While Randolph was by no means a haven for African-Americans before 1865, neither did it countenance the hellish mistreatment of an Alamance County, or the Deep South states.

Quaker Wedding at Holly Spring Friends Meeting

While the Revolutionary War was certainly a trial for Quaker beliefs, the period after the war saw the issue of slavery come to the forefront. The North Carolina Yearly Meeting on November 23, 1787, adopted and presented a petition to the state legislature which called “for the emancipation of the Slaves, the property of the people called Quakers, under certain rules and restrictions.” [ State Records of NC, XX, 144]. Unfortunately, rather than easing restrictions on freeing the enslaved, the state gradually increased them to the point of prohibition. By 1800 many Quakers were choosing to leave North Carolina for the newly created free states in the Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois), where none of them had to worry about the scourge of chattel slavery.  For a time citizens of Randolph and Guilford supported the Manumission and Colonization Society, which promoted the gradual emancipation of slaves and their return to Africa.  Not only Quakers but many Randolph County slaveholders supported this idea, which eventually resulted in the creation of the new African country of Liberia.  Randolph County had an usually large percentage of “free people of color,” slaves freed before changes in North Carolina law made that impossible. North Carolina law gradually began to force even Quakers to comply with laws that required them to assist in capturing escaped slaves. Out of this conundrum- how could Friends comply with the laws of man when they conflict with the leadings of the Holy Spirit?- grew the Underground Railroad.

Levi Coffin

There are virtually no written records documenting private anti-slavery activities.  It is clear that many of the leaders of this movement in North Carolina were Quakers, specifically those descended from the 1771 Quaker emigrants to New Garden from the island of Nantucket.  Levi Coffin, “the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad,” wrote in his autobiography of working with his Uncle Bethuel and cousin Elisha Coffin in smuggling an escaped slave to Ohio in 1821.  (Elisha was then a prominent landowner and mill developer in Randolph County, and later founded several early cotton mills with other Quaker investors.) Joseph Newlin, operator of the toll house at the New Market Inn, is also known to have assisted travellers on the ‘underground road’ both before and during the Civil War.

Civil War Punishments for Conscientious Objectors

During the war Friends were again subject to the universal military service requirements of the Confederacy. At first they were allowed to pay for a substitute, but some friends refused to participate in the war even to that extent. As the war dragged on, the conscription laws forced Quaker men into the army.  Men who refused to fight or even carry a gun were tortured, and sometimes executed.  Some deserted, or hid in the woods from the enrolling officers.  An Account of the Sufferings of Friends of North Carolina Yearly Meeting, in Support of their Testimony Against War, from 1861 to 1865 (Peace Association of Friends in America, 1868) and Fernando G Cartland’s Southern Heroes or The Friends in War Time (London, 1897) contain the most evocative accounts of Randolph County Quakers during this period.  After the war Northern Friends were so concerned about the destitution of their brethren in North Carolina that they established special missions and schools to support local Quakers.  The Springfield Model Farm north of Archdale, and Evergreen Academy near Holly Spring were both established by the Baltimore Association. 

Bill Auman’s Book

The war damaged or weakened almost all of the traditional Quaker “testimonies”: Peace, Simplicity, Integrity, Community and Equality, and the western exodus of Friends continued and even accelerated. In the 1870s many meetings began to hire preachers, and to adopt an order of service similar to every other Protestant denomination. This caused a schism that resulted in 1906 in the formation of the North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative), a group that retained the tradition of silent worship. While there were some Conscientious Objectors during World Wars I and II who followed the Peace Testimony, it was never again the moral imperative it had been during the Civil War.  More and more southern Friends adopted the attitudes and political leanings of their neighbors.  Tensions arose over fundamentalist theology, the Civil Rights movement, homosexuality, women in pastoral leadership, and commitment to the Peace Testimony. Fundamental disagreements with traditional Quaker thought were expressed to the Yearly Meeting by Poplar Ridge Meeting in Trinity in 2014, and subsequently joined by more than a dozen other meetings. In 2017 the divergence of North Carolina Friends from traditional Quaker testimonies was so stark that the 300-year old Yearly Meeting divided into two separate organizations, the North Carolina Friends Fellowship and the Friends Church of North Carolina, subscribing to an evangelical theology which attracted most of Randolph County’s former meetings. 

[For a more thorough treatment of the history of Friends in North Carolina, see Max L. Carter, “Quakers,” in W. Glenn Jonas, Jr., ed., Religious Traditions of North Carolina (McFarland & Co., 2018), 248-265.]

Monuments and Memorials in Randolph County

February 15, 2021
Original 1946 plan of War Memorial Park in Asheboro; none of the features shown were built as designed.

[The following was part of the report I gave to the county commissioners at a public hearing held Aug 30, 2017. The other two sections, dealing with the Confederate monument, I put on my blog soon after. For some reason this first section never made it here until now. -Mac Whatley]

Randolph County has a rather meager history of any kind of monuments or war memorials.

Faith Rock DAR plaque 1928

The oldest privately-erected marker in the county dates from around1928 and commemorates Andrew Hunter’s Revolutionary War-era ride down Faith Rock in Franklinville. It consists of a bronze tablet installed by the Guilford Battle Chapter of the D.A.R. on the concrete bridge across Deep River built in 1925 just north of the rock. When a new bridge was built in 1986, the plaque was moved to a stone at the footbridge across the river south of the upper mill. It is inscribed “In Memorial, Randolph County Patriots. Faith Rock, 200 yards down the river is where Andrew Hunter in 1781 escaped from David Fanning, Tory, rode Fanning’s horse, Bay Doe, down the rock into the river and to safety.”

Daniel Boone marker, Staley

Another from the early 1930s commemorates Daniel Boone, who otherwise has no known connection to the county. Between 1913 and 1938 J. Hampton Rich of Davie County established the Daniel Boone Trail Highway and Memorial Association to raise awareness of the need for better roads in North Carolina, educate the public about the pioneer era and promote patriotism. Rich erected more than 350 stone markers across the state with an plaque inserted of Alonzo Chapel’s illustration of Boone and his hunting dog. Every plaque included some bronze from the battleship USS Maine, the sinking of which in Havana Harbor in 1898 triggered the Spanish-American War. Only about 100 of Rich’s markers still exist. At least two were once in Randolph County, both located on the route of US 421. Marker 32 was located in Liberty until destroyed in a traffic accident in 1959, and never replaced. The other still stands in the center of Staley, near the railroad tracks. [See and ]

About 1950 the Randolph County Historical Society erected a series of painted wooden markers at sites around the county, but none still exist.

Dedicating the marker to Gov. Worth, 1937.

There are at least 12 state Highway Historical Markers, including one to Governor Jonathan Worth, which is on the Salisbury Street right of way on the courthouse property.1 This program has been operated since 1936 by the Office of Archives and History in the Department of Cultural and Natural Resources, and has no connection with and requires no input from the county.

Randolph County Commisioners 1993

The Sheriff’s Department has a Memorial Wall listing every Randolph County Sheriff. There are no memorials or even public lists anywhere on county property of the names of county commissioners, justices of the peace, Clerks of Court, Registers of Deeds, or other elected officials. Group photographs of the boards of county commissioners since 1984 are displayed on the wall leading to the county manager’s office at the Randolph County Office Building so that visitors will have a historical image of those who made the decisions that have helped Randolph County get to where it is now, but no group photographs of the boards of commissioner prior to 1984 have not been found.

There are and have been a number of Veteran’s Memorials erected in the county both on public and private property. There are no known memorials or monuments to veterans of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, or Spanish-American War (although there is, on the grounds of the State Capitol, a monument to the first casualty of the Spanish-American War–Worth Bagley, the grandson of Governor Jonathan Worth). There are, or have been in and around the Randolph County Courthouse, monuments and memorials to veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and subsequent national conflicts.

The Randolph County Veterans Memorial

For many years the Pilot Club of Asheboro honored county veterans by placing paper bag luminaries on the sidewalks in front of the 1909 Courthouse. Beginning around 1993, Frank Rose,organizer of the Randolph County Veterans Council, together with members of the local Vietnam Veterans chapter, proposed building a Randolph County Veterans Memorial on the courthouse grounds. This was evidently triggered by the emotional popularity of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall which opened on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in 1982. This was one of the first war memorials in the United States to list the names of all servicemen and women who were casualties of a war.

Their original plan of the local veteran organization was that donations from the public and contributions from family members could fund the memorial, but this did not prove feasible. At the Randolph County Commissioners’ meeting held in January, 1995, the commissioners approved spending $31,700 for construction of a granite monument to be built on the courthouse lawn. At the request of County Commission Chair Phil Kemp and County Attorney Alan Pugh, Superior Court Judge Russell G. Walker, Jr. approved the final placement of the 900 square-foot memorial in a grassy area at the entrance to Courtroom C. Rose stated that the memorial was “open to all honorably discharged Randolph County veterans who served in any branch of the military since 1898 during war or peace.” At that time Rose stated that there were 11,310 living veterans in Randolph County, comprising more than ten percent of the population.

The monument was designed to look like the veterans memorial in Hillsville, Virginia, and was built by Wiley Brothers Marble and Granite Works. When dedicated on Veterans’ Day1995, it included the names of 3,333 living and deceased Randolph County veterans whose families or descendants applied for inclusion and paid a fee to have the name engraved on the granite panels. Four hundred additional names were added on Memorial Day, 1996. In 2003 the names of some 20 soldiers killed in action were added, and in 2004 two additional granite panels were added to provide space for as many as 1800 more names.

The Randolph County Commissioners approved spending $8,439 for the expansion in November 2004. At that time it was clarified that to be added to the wall a veteran“must be a native of Randolph County, a county resident for at least two years, or have been inducted locally with active military service of at least two years;” members of the National Guard and Reserves are eligible only if called to active duty. The new panels were dedicated with 544 new names on Memorial Day 2005. Frank Rose stated at that time that the memorial honored 3,899 military personnel. Names have subsequently been added so that the memorial currently honors more than 3,900 persons, including the names of 165 service men killed in action. It is recognized that this does NOT include the name of every Randolph County casualty of war since 1898.

Rotary WWII Plaque

World War II

A concerted effort was made by North Carolina during World War II to keep track of service men and women and of the casualties of war. A War records committee was appointed with representatives from every county. In 1942 Mrs. Laura Worth, the county historian, was appointed War Records Collector for Randolph County, and Dr. C.A. Barrett, Principal of the Randolph County Training School,was appointed to collect “Negro War Records.” Worth and Barrett regularly forwarded materials to the state archives.

Every town had a Wall of Honor; in Liberty and Asheboro, pictures of servicemen were posted in storefronts. In Franklinville a large wooden sign was erected on the baseball field. In Asheboro the names of everyone in service were painted on 4×8’ sheets of plywood erected in a grove of oaks at the present location of Wachovia/ Wells Fargo. The newspapers of the time printed short biographies of every serviceman, particularly when killed or wounded, and Miss Worth clipped those and created scrapbooks for the Army, Navy/ Marines and other topics.

There are also handwritten casualty cards for 113 men and women reported killed or missing in action. Reports of deaths were slow to be released by the military, and trickled out into public knowledge. By late 1943 enough deaths had accumulated that the Asheboro Rotary Club decided that some official memorial needed to be erected, and the club paid for a wooden plaque to be constructed by Lucas Industries, builder of furniture for the army. That plaque was dedicated at the courthouse in a public ceremony on April 28, 1944. Names of those who died in service were engraved on bakelite plates and affixed to the plaque, which was inscribed– “IN MEMORIAM: Dedicated to those men and women from Randolph County who have given their lives in service of our country during World War II. Erected by the Rotary Club of Asheboro.”

The Courier Tribune article about the plaque stated that it would be updated to “contain the county’s war dead to date.” But as the war continued, the names outgrew the space on the plaque. So another, larger plaque was made, and it was suggested that the smaller plaque could be converted into a memorial for the dead of the First World War (this was evidently never done). By the end of the war the plaque had 75 names affixed to it; but the official count as released by the Army and Navy lists in 1946 showed that there were at least 135 Randolph County residents killed in action or who died in service. And that list evidently did not include all of those missing in action. But evidently there was little interest in finalizing the list of war dead, and neither plaque was ever completed as a World War memorial. When the court house was renovated in 1964, the plaques were given back to Joe Ross, historian of the Asheboro Rotary Club. He stored them in the basement of his building at 100 Sunset Avenue. These plaques are now located in the lobby of the Historic 1909 Courthouse.

Several other projects began locally immediately after the war to memorialize those who fought and died in Europe and the Pacific.

Ramseur Ranoca Garden Club at Blue Star Highway plaque

Blue Star Highways

During World War I, families with relatives in service flew flags with a gold star for each loved one fighting overseas. In World War II (and still today) a blue star is used to designate a home with active military members; a gold star replaces the blue star to indicate the home of immediate relatives who die in service. In 1950 the Garden Club of North Carolina designated US 64 as a “Blue Star Memorial Highway,” in “tribute to the National Armed Forces who served in World War II.” Two Bronze markers designed by the National Council of Garden Clubs were erected in the county. One in Asheboro is in Oak Lawn municipal cemetery beside Asheboro Middle School; the other now stands near Fidelity Bank in Ramseur, its third location since it was erected in 1950. That marker was just the fourth erected in North Carolina.

future site of War Memorial Park, Asheboro, 1946

Asheboro Memorial Park

Construction of the swimming pool, Memorial Park

The Asheboro Memorial Foundation, Inc. acquired 12 acres of property in 1945 to build “An Everlasting Memorial to our Service Men and Women;” promoted to be “A Tribute to Our Heroes of World Wars I and II.” Officers of the foundation were W.C. Lucas, President; A.I. Ferree, Vice President; Cleveland Thayer, Secretary; H.A. Millis, Jr., Treasurer; Roy Cox, Fundraising Campaign Chair; C.C. Cranford, D.W. Holt, J. Frank McCrary; S.B. Stedman; and W.L. Ward, Directors.

In a radio address, Idol Ferree announced that the Foundation would build “a recreational park consisting of a swimming pool, softball and tennis courts and grounds adequate for outing and picnicking. It will be a memorial to all ex-servicemen and women.”

the Never-built community building, now the site of tennis courts

Grand plans were made for the park, but fundraising difficulties required these to be severely curtailed. Initial development was limited to the pool and two clay tennis courts. A substantial element of the fundraising campaign were the proceeds from the annual Kiwanis Easter Monday Horse Show at the county fairgrounds.

Construction of Church Street extension to the park
Breaking Ground, 1946

Groundbreaking was held June 15, 1946, and grading work on the $100,000 project began in August. The contractor was A.H. Guion Co. of Charlotte, with concrete provided by the Cox-Lewis Hardware Company. Fundraising for the construction of the bath house, built by S.E. Trogdon, delayed the completion of the facility. The T-shaped, 82-foot long, 235,000-gallon pool opened in June 1948, and featured a three-meter diving board and 70-foot lap lanes in the deep end.

Dedication of the pool, 1948

A “kiddie” or wading pool was completed in 1949, and a bronze plaque in honor of World War veterans installed there, but when that feature was later removed, the plaque disappeared.

A miniature railroad, the “Asheboro Flyer,” was opened in May 1955, circling the park on a 1300-foot track. Three passenger cars capable of seating 45 children or 35 adults were pulled by a gasoline-powered engine. Within ten years the train and tracks had been removed for the construction of additional tennis court, but the curved “round house” were it was stored survived until the 1970s.

For a quarter century this was the only “public” pool in the county. The smaller pool at the Acme-McCrary gym, built about the same time, was normally limited to employees of the company, not the general public. Asheboro Country Club, also founded in 1946, did not built a pool until 1964, and Pinewood Country Club was opened with its own pool in 1971. The Asheboro Memorial Foundation transferred officially transferred ownership to the City of Asheboro in September 1968; at which time the use of the pool was also opened to black citizens.

the finished pool

In his 1949 radio address, A.I. Ferree recalled that “When I was a boy, Henley’s swimming hole, a typical one, was the most popular place to go swimming in the summertime. Sundays, holidays and many week days found us paddling around in an attempt to satisfy that desire in man to go swimming in the summertime…. A swimming pool is something that every boy and girl is interested in. there was a time when only boys frequented the old swimming hole. The girls were left out of the picture. We have long ago abandoned that idea and custom. Today we are building for the enjoyment and development of the boys and girls.”

Summer Fire Hydrant Day at Central School, circa 1955.

In practice that meant the enjoyment and development of Asheboro’s white boys and girls, although I have not found that stated in print. The Memorial Park Foundation was set up to own and raise money to build the park, while the Town (now City) of Asheboro was responsible for its upkeep and operation. This created the legal fiction that the park was a private club, which made it easier to exclude African-Americans from using the facilities and give the City plausible deniability. While the plans for the park may have been progressive in the sense of allowing coeducational use by males and females, it would be twenty years before black citizens could use it, and still longer until private clubs accepted minority members.

World War I and the First National Bank Veterans Clock

Belk Department Store Windown, Asheboro ca. 1943

The first veteran’s memorials listing the names of veterans were erected privately during World War I. In Asheboro a list of the members serving in Company K, the local National Guard unit, was displayed on a painted wooden sign erected in the small park facing Fayetteville Street north of the Bank of Randolph. When a soldier was reported killed, a star was painted by his name. This list did not include all of the more than 1600 Randolph County men who served in World War I, but only those in Company K. Similar public lists were maintained by local municipalities such as Ramseur and Franklinville. When the war ended, these sign boards were not maintained and eventually were taken down.

Liberty store window, ca. 1943

During World War II, an elaborate window display of the photographs of servicemen was maintained by Belk Department Store on Sunset Avenue in Asheboro. A similar exhibit was erected in a store window in Liberty. These also were removed at war’s end, but efforts for a more permanent monument were soon begun by veterans of the first war through their “American Legion” and “Forty and Eight” organizations.

On July 4, 1946, a bronze clock mounted on the corner of First National Bank at the southwest intersection of Fayetteville Street and Sunset Avenue was dedicated as a World War II Memorial. The dedication brochure states that“This beautiful and very living Memoral we are unveiling today was made possible by the graciousness of Mrs. J.B. Ward, Jr.”

The clock was made by the O.B. McClintock Company, which made street clocks, but specialized in bank clocks because they also made bank alarm systems. There was a mahogony Seth Thomas master clock inside the bank, and the mechanism of the clock repeated that time, with Westminister chimes striking each quarter hour. The iron frame of the clock was covered by a bronze and copper skin, with stained glass panels were customized for each locality. The four faces of the Asheboro clock had three slogans: “Honoring All Who Served”/ “Lest We Forget”/ “It’s Later Than You Think”. [The fourth side

The last was from a poem by Robert W. Service, published in 1921 about an author in Paris–

Lone amid the café’s cheer,

Sad of heart am I to-night;

Dolefully I drink my beer,

But no single line I write.

There’s the wretched rent to pay,

Yet I glower at pen and ink:

Oh, inspire me, Muse, I pray,

It is later than you think!

The dedication brochure goes on to state–

Lest We Forget Those Who Served… This big and useful clock is dedicated to those who served in World War II in any capacity whatsoever. As the years go by, may its chimes bring comfort to those whose sons did not come home. The victory is won. Now, we must not forget our obligation to those who shared in its cost.

The ideals on which America was founded still oppose aggression. Our sons and daughters of Randolph County took a large part in preserving America’s freedom. We still believe that all men are created equal. To pay tribute to them, we regard as a privilege.”

Asheboro and Randolph County’s memory for this kind of thing being not much more than a generation long, the clock was dismantled in 1968 when First National Bank was rebuilt. The clock was given back to the American Legion, where it lay outside until it was vandalized and stolen by metal scavenger thieves. The wooden master clock hangs on the wall of the bar inside the Legion “Hut”.

White privilege and systemic racism

December 29, 2020
East Market Street facade of the Greensboro S&W.

Martin Evans Boyer Papers, 1910-1993 (UNCC MC00094), J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

There are events which happen in our lives that are so startling that we immediately feel the breath of history in the air.  2020 has already had more than its fair share- the current Black Lives Matter protests; COVID-19; the presidential impeachment trial. I can count back to 9/11; to the Challenger disaster; to July 4, 1976; to the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy. Events such as those are such radical departures from normal life that we know some part of our lives will never be the same again.

Lobby of the S&W.

Martin Evans Boyer Papers, 1910-1993 (UNCC MC00094), J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

But not every event feels all that ‘historic’ at the time.

When I was about 8 years old, something happened to me that I barely recall, but my parents never forgot. Our family lived in Asheboro, but at least one Friday night each month we would drive 25 miles north to Greensboro, the Big City, to eat out and go shopping. For the shopping part my preference was the tiny peanut shop beside Wills Book Store on South Elm, or the big downtown Sears store where we saw Santa Claus and the Christmas decorations.

8 year old Mac

When we ate out, my preference was always the glittering palace of the S&W Cafeteria, attached to the Belk store but with its main entrance off a side street. S&W was a Charlotte chain, long gone now, except the surviving shell of the magnificent Asheville Art Deco cafeteria, now condos and lofts, like the rest of Asheville. I didn’t know all this at the time, but the Greensboro S&W, all aluminum and glass curves with shiny terrazzo floors and a broad swooping staircase up to the mezzanine, was a masterpiece of the 1930s and ‘40s style known as Art Moderne, popularized in the movies by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and actors who always dressed in white tie and tails.

S&W Lobby and second floor mezzanine dining room.

Martin Evans Boyer Papers, 1910-1993 (UNCC MC00094), J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Barely 8 years old, for some reason I loved that place, its cafeteria line, its mezzanine, its public bathrooms intriguingly located down in the basement. There was nothing like it, not even close, in Asheboro. But my favorite thing was the revolving glass entrance door, thick as bullet-proof glass but balanced so that even I could push them like a merry-go-round, and I always made sure to be the first one through. 

One Friday night in May, 1963, our family- my mother, father and younger brother- went on our jaunt to the Big City and headed to the S&W. I really remember nothing except pushing my way into the revolving door and some young man jumping into the compartment with me, walking the circle behind me, and then being grabbed by a policeman as we stepped inside.  I don’t remember being scared, though my parents certainly were, trapped outside, the door held shut by the police, who wouldn’t let anyone else inside.

The circle at the bottom of the Lobby plan is the revolving glass entrance door.

They told this story over and over through the years, me running ahead, ‘that black man’ jumping into the revolving door with me, them stuck outside.  When I asked about it in later years, they just said it was a bunch of students, protesting, nothing to worry about. 

As a historian now, I realize that I was caught in the middle of some history that night.  Friday, May 17th, 1963, some five hundred protestors attempted to enter the downtown Greensboro movie theaters and the Mayfair and S&W Cafeterias. It was part of an 18-day confrontation with the Greensboro police and power structure, organized by CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality, and its leader A&T football star Jesse Jackson. With the Woolworth Sit-Ins two years in the past, little progress had been made in Greensboro in integrating private businesses. As recounted in the book Civility and Civil Rights, CORE’s tactic in Greensboro was to pressure public officials and the Chamber of Commerce to open downtown businesses to black residents by filling the jails and exhausting police.  Two hundred college students from A&T and Bennett Colleges had been arrested just two days before when they blocked the entrance of the S&W after being refused admission. That Friday night the manager of the S&W only unlocked the revolving doors for white customers as they walked to the entrance, so the protestor could only enter by jumping into the revolving turnstile with me. I don’t know who he was or where he came from, but he was one of more than 850 students arrested that week, so far overflowing the capacity of the city jail that they were housed in a defunct polio hospital on the outskirts of the city. 

Mayor David Schenck had described Greensboro as “a city of liberal tolerance,” but after three weeks of protests he was actively considering cutting off the public water service to A&T and Bennett in order to clear out the students. Even Governor Sanford became involved, asking the heads of each school to damp down the protesters. It came to a head on June 5th when Jesse Jackson was arrested at a local church for inciting a riot, and even more protestors began to march. Mayor Schenck finally wrote to the Chamber of Commerce, “How far must city government go to protect your private business decisions? Now is the time to throw aside the shackles of past custom… Let us now more to restore to Greensboro the progressive spirit which is rightly ours.” 

Downtown Greensboro protesters, June 1963.

By June 13th, a quarter of the city’s restaurants had agreed to open to African-Americans, as well as four theaters. The changes were not as sweeping as those in Durham, or as violent as protests in Lexington. But “past custom” had been cracked open by nonviolent protests, and equality ratcheted forward another few notches. Monuments today memorialize the Greensboro Four who refused to leave the counter at Woolworth’s, and rightly so, but the thousand or so who were arrested in the protests of May and June 1963 are just footnotes to history.  

That was the racist environment where I grew up in Asheboro, in North Carolina, and in the South in general. It wasn’t as overt and ugly as it was in 1860, or in 1960, but it was everywhere. I grew up in a North Carolina where black people were not allowed to eat in restaurants with white people, or use the same bathrooms, or sleep in the same hotels. That was in the air we breathed in 1960 and the water we drank, the norms that were taught us by our parents and grandparents.  I don’t remember much about that night in 1963, but if I asked my mother and father why that young black man couldn’t eat in the restaurant where black men and women cooked and served the food, I’m sure they must have said, ‘that’s just the way things are.” 

Jefferson Square “sit-down” in Greensboro, June 1963.

Things aren’t exactly that way today, but racism has been all-pervasive in the South, justifying why black people, brown people, Asian people, gay people, can be considered inferior to whites in ways large and small. Our Randolph County community was never part of the stereotypical South, our black community always less than 6% of the population, and the influence of our anti-slavery Quaker community always strong. But it was never strong enough to overcome the pervasive, systemic racism of the entire South. That’s why thousands of local Quakers moved West before the war, trying to get their families away from the stagnant, intolerant racist environment. The ones who stayed made valiant attempts to change the system from within, supporting the Underground Railroad, or the Abolition movement; voting against joining the Confederacy; refusing to serve in the rebel army; joining the Red String anti-Confederate secret society, and later joining the national Radical Republican party. 

But it was still a racist environment they lived in, home to the Ku Klux Klan, the Grandfather Clause, Jim Crow, Separate but Equal and Segregation. It’s still a racist environment we live in, with Obama’s Birth Certificate, Charlottesville White Nationalists, Ferguson Missouri, the Charleston Church Massacre, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd… 

Greensboro employees being told the restaurant was closing and they were out of a job, 1975.

We chip away at the institution of racism in many different ways. Find yours. I let a black man squeeze into the revolving door at the S&W Cafeteria, and I try to find the truth of Randolph County history.  Someone else in the last week, the great-grandson of a man drafted into the Confederate Army against his will, who deserted and joined Union Army, hired the only African-American driver in NASCAR, who drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville, and triggered NASCAR’s first-ever ban on Confederate flags and symbols. 

Our community was never part of the stereotypical South, and it’s up to us to be more than passive participants in history. It happens all around us whether we realize it or not.

Greensboro S&W being dmolished, 1976.

POSTSCRIPT: This was written as a letter to the editor of our local paper, the Courier-Tribune, which can trace its origins back to 1876. It was published in June, as one of the last accepted submissions from local people. By December, the last staff reporter retired, leaving the news room empty and what remained of the paper supplied by Gannett stringers. This winnowing-out of local newspapers happened over and over in 2020, making we local historians wonder what will be the source of local news in another 10, 20 or 50 years. I’m republishing this here at the end of 2020 lest it disappear forever.

East Market St. facade, 1976.

The S&W chain was founded in1920 by Frank Sherrill and Fred Webber, who opened their first Cafeteria in the Ivey’s department store in Charlotte, NC. The restaurant served Southern buffet-style food at a low cost, and quickly expanded to locations all across the major cities of the South, from Washington, DC to Atlanta, GA. The Greensboro protests triggered the integration of the entire chain in June 1963.

Charlotte architect Martin E. Boyer, JR. (1893-1970) designed most of the restaurants. The Knoxville, TN and Asheville NC locations are considered Art Deco masterpieces, and both are now on the National Register of Historic Places. The post-WWII Richmond, VA, and Greensboro (built 1947) locations were similar in appearance, with swooping Art Moderne staircases and mezzanines. The Greensboro location closed in 1975 and was torn down in 1976. After being a vacant lot for longer than the restaurant existed, a parking deck is now (2020) under construction at the site.

Washington DC S&W serving line, 1936.

The illustrations of the pristine, new S&W are to be found in the Martin Evans Boyer Papers, 1910-1993 (UNCC MC00094) in the library at UNC Charlotte, and now digitized by NC State. Historical photos of the sit-downs can be found at . The sad record of the building’s destruction can be found in the Greensboro News & Record in 1976: .

A Family Tradition: Working more than 175 years in North Carolina’s Textile Industry.

May 28, 2020

Franklinsville Mfg Co. 1874

The Franklinsville Factory, as rebuilt after the 1851 fire.

The textile mill started by the original Franklinsville stockholders in 1838 wove its first yard of cotton sheeting in March 1840 and its last yard sometime before Easter 1978.  During that 180-year span the mill not only wove millions of yards of cloth but trained thousands of workers in the craft and technology of spinning and weaving, The skills learned and used by those workers spread all over North Carolina to a degree that became invisible and unrecognized.

When I first became interested in Franklinville in 1978 I met Margaret Williams, the always helpful and voluable clerk at the Franklinville Store Company. Margaret and her sister Katherine Buie (the retired Town Librarian) were lifelong residents and between them knew everything that went on in the mill village. They welcomed me, encouraged my curiosity about Franklinville, and let me spend many hours with them, talking and asking questions, being directed to other residents who’d know more, and looking at their many photos of the mill and community.

Margaret Buie Williams

Margaret Buie Williams on duty at the Company Store

In that situation, as is common with oral history, they toldme more than I knew I needed to know, more than my ability to assimilate. Thankfully I was able to record some of those conversations, and looking back at them thirty years later, I’m able to make connections and recognize many things I was too overwhelmed to understand at the time. One such is the fact that Margaret and Katherine’s own family, the Buies, were and are one of primary examples of how family traditions of textile work have shaped the economic development of North Carolina.

The Buies were among the 350 Scots who emigrated to North Carolina with the so-called Argyll Colony in 1739. An Archibald and Daniel Buie were with that group, as was my own ancestor Alexander McKay, all settling on the Cape Fear River between Cross Creek and the Lower Little River near what was then known as Campbelltown and now is Fayetteville.

In 1788 on Big Juniper Creek in what is now Moore County, a John Buie was born, son of Neill, grandson of John, and probably grandson of Archibald, though the exact 18th century connections for us all have become obscured. Lots of Scots came to America to start a new life, and records show a number of John Buies.

But Margaret Buie was the historian of her family, and her contribution to the book “The Family Buie: from Scotland to North America” (1980) shows that her great-grandfather was John A. Buie, born 7 April 1812 in Moore County (now Lee County). A tailor by profession, he married Mary Jane Campbell (b1822) and had at least seven children.

Spring Lake/ Manchester

Spring Lake, the former Manchester, flooded during Hurricane Florence.

The 1860 census of Cumberland County shows that John Buie and his family were living in Manchester, a mill village named after the great manufacturing city of northern Britain. All of Buie’s children, ages 6 to 19, were listed as “factory operatives” by the census taker, and must have worked in the Little River Manufacturing Company, which was the focal point of the village of Manchester. It is not clear what jobs the children may have had, but it was not uncommon for children as young as 6 and 8 to work as sweepers and doffers in a mill. Coincidentally another John Buie, born in North Carolina, is listed as a “Manufacturer” in the 1850 census of Prattville, Alabama, home of a large cotton mill and cotton gin factory. Several of his children were also listed as “Operatives,” showing that factory work was a Buie family tradition well before the Civil War.

The Manchester factory was one of three new Cumberland County mills authorized by the legislature in January 1841. By 1850 there would be seven factories ringing Fayetteville, making it the largest manufacturing community in the state. Little River is a tributary of the Cape Fear River, big enough to power a small mill capitalized at $35,000 while the nearby factory on Rockfish Creek was valued at four times that. The railroad from Fayetteville to the Deep River coal mines in Chatham County passed through Manchester, but the community has today vanished inside the town of Spring Lake just east of Pope Army Airfield at Fort Bragg.

Boys doffing a slubber at Cherryville Mfg. Co.

The Little River mill and all but one of the other Cumberland mills would be burned by Sherman’s troops in March, 1865, and it wasn’t rebuilt until 1869.  The destruction of their home and workplace must have caused the Buie family to relocate to Randolph County, where the  mills had all survived the war. [When James Buie died in 1934 his obituary stated that he had lived in Franklinville for 69 years, indicating that the family moved from Manchester in 1865.] The 1870 census shows John Buie and wife Catherine living in Franklinsville, 66 miles west of Manchester, where he was again occupied as a tailor. Their children Matthew G. (“Gib”), John A., Catherine E. (Kate), Nancy and William all lived at home and all but youngest worked in the cotton mill there.

Card Room (1916).

Card Room Hands (1916). James Buie sits in the center.

It was usual for children in a mill to start with the most menial jobs, such as sweeping up cotton dust and lint, or oiling the machinery. Older boys and girls could “doff,” or remove full bobbins of yarn from a spinning frame (while it was running) and load empty bobbins in their place. Such jobs gradually gave young employees knowledge of the various manufacturing operations, and they could be put to work in the specialized ‘rooms’ of equipment. The mill had a hierarchical structure, with sections of each room under the supervision of “Second Hands,” who reported to the Overseer or “Boss” of the Room, who reported to the Superintendent of the Factory; who reported to the owners and stockholders.

Weaving Room Hands (1916). Hugh Buie stands in left foreground.

Weaving Room (1916).

It isn’t known what jobs the Buie children may have done in the Manchester factory, and the Franklinville employee records are fragmentary so far back, but it is clear that they grew up working in cotton mills, and became good at mill work. Jane and Lettie worked in the Weave Room; Catherine (known as Kate), Nancy (Nannie) and John Allen Buie never married, and lived together into the 20th century, all working standard wage jobs in the mills.

M.G. Buie
Overseer of Spinning, 1882-1883
Overseer of Weaving, 1882-1912
Died October 10, 1912

Their brothers William, James and Matthew Gilbert (“Gib”), however, all became higher level supervisors in various departments. The early career of William, the youngest brother, is not known but in 1900 he was listed as the “Boss Weaver” of the Lower Mill. He held that job for 55 years, indicating the stability and job security enjoyed by skilled technical workers in the early industry. His son Lacy Buie served as Chief Engineer of the factory at Cedar Falls, and other children worked in factories in High Point and Hamlet.

James Buie 1915

James Buie
Overseer of Spinning, 1877-1882.
Overseer of Carding, 1882-1923.
Died June 13, 1923.

James Buie House

James Buie House, 159 Rose St., Franklinville

In 1870 James was working in the mill as a machinist, but in 1877 at age 23 he was made Overseer of the Spinning Room at the Upper Mill; he transferred to the position of Overseer of the Card Room in 1882, a job he remained in for the next 43 years.  When James went to the Card Room his brother Gib was made Overseer of Spinning, but he only held that job a year until he was made Overseer of the Weave Room, perhaps the most important supervisory position in the mill under that of Superintendent. Gib Buie served as “Boss Weaver” until 1916, when his son Hugh Buie took over that job. Hugh had been a loom fixer in the mill when he was promoted to Second Hand in the Weave Room in 1912. Hugh had tried jobs outside the mill- in 1903 he was running a store and livery stable in Franklinville- but obviously the pull of family connections in the mill brought him back into the dynastic structure of the factory. When he died in 1934, Hugh Buie was both Overseer of Weaving and Foreman of the Finishing Department.

Joe T. Buie
Book-Keeper, 1912-1923.

Gib Buie’s other children also had careers in the mill. His son Joe became the mill book-keeper and office manager; daughters Jane and Fannie worked as weavers, and Blanche and Mattie were Drawing-In Hands, hooking the warp yarns through the heddles and reeds to create weave patterns. Fannie left the mill to marry George Russell, then the Chief Engineer of the Upper Mill, and later its Superintendent.

Hugh B. Buie, Overseer of Weaving, 1912-1923.

Hugh Buie’s children included my friends Katherine, the original Franklinville Librarian, her sister Margaret, who married Clyde Williams and worked in the Company Store. Youngest son Mack Buie was working in the Lexington Silk Mill when he was drafted in 1942, and son Charles (1906-1960), began working in the Montgomery County mill town of Capelsie by the time he was eighteen years old. He became Superintendent of the Aileen Mills in the nearby town of Biscoe, and ultimately was President of Spring Mills there. His son Charles Jr. in 1967 opened Charlescraft, Inc.- originally making kitchen towels, dishcloths and potholders, but gradually diversifying into polyester and blended industrial yarns. Today the family-owned and operated company is one of the country’s best-known manufacturers of high-performance flame-resistant and cut-resistant yarns and fabrics, spinning Aramid fibers such as Kevlar and Nomex for commercial and military applications.

Drawing-In Hands (1916).
Miss Mattie Buie
Miss Ellie Martindill
Miss Blanche Buie.

So a North Carolina family which started to earn a living in textile trades in Cumberland County in the 1840s, then moved to Franklinville in the 1860s, has remained heavily involved in the state’s textile industry ever since. I’m not sure if there are other North Carolina families who can match this record of service, but certainly the Buie family of Franklinville can be proud of one of our longest traditions in the state’s textile industry.


The “Spanish Flu” Pandemic

April 18, 2020

Sp flu ward 2The worst pandemic to hit the United States before COVID-19 was the “Spanish” influenza epidemic that followed the end of World War I.  The parallels between that epidemic of one hundred years ago and today are striking, and show both how American society has advanced and regressed.

Though commonly called Spanish Flu, was first widely known among the troops in Europe, and was called ‘trench fever.’  Though wartime censorship makes it hard to track, it may have been endemic to German troops on the eastern front in late 1917; in the spring of 1918 they postponed a western offensive until influenza subsided in 3rd week of March. The Kaiser himself fell ill with the flu in July, 1918. It evidently took the name “Spanish” flu because Spain was neutral in the war and had no press censorship, so the first mentions of the severity of the illness came from Spanish newspapers.

Sp Flu liberty bonds

Modern studies attempting to track the spread of the virus think that it may have arrived in America via Chinese workers being sent to work on the war front in France; a “serious outbreak of pneumonia” was noted in Shantung province, on the Mongolian border in December 1917, and pandemic influenza struck Shanghai in May 1918.

An army cook at Camp Funston, Kansas is considered to have been the first U.S. influenza victim, dying in March 1918. In April 1918 the USS North Carolina docked at Norfolk, reporting 100 mild cases of the influenza.

flu ad 2

Communicable diseases were not uncommon in one hundred years ago. Many were deadly, and most were debilitating. Before the flu arrived in the fall, there had been more than 2200 deaths in NC in 1918 from typhoid fever and tuberculosis.  Older forms of influenza were seldom deadly- called “the Grippe,” it was most dangerous to the weak and elderly. North Carolina created a State Board of Health in 1877 but the first local health department was established by Guilford County in 1911.

A bulletin from the U.S. Public Health Service (The Courier, Asheboro, 10-10-18, Page1) noted that-

“Epidemics of influenza have visited this country since 1647. It is interesting to know that this first epidemic was brought here from Valencia, Spain. Since that time there have been numerous epidemics of the disease.  In 1889 and 1890 an epidemic of influenza, starting somewhere in the Orient, spread first to Russia, and thence over practically the entire civilized world. Three years later there was another flare-up of the disease. Both times the epidemic spread widely over the United States.”

sp flu wardThe difference with the influenza of 1917/18 (now called the Influenza A Strain) was that it triggered a virulent reaction in the immune system of those who were strongest- those twenty to forty years old, young and fit; in many cases it killed in less than 48 hours from first fever to last breath.  As its victims’ lungs filled with fluid and their respiratory systems failed, their skin, starved for oxygen, turned blue- giving the tabloid headline name the “Blue Death” to the new influenza.

The virus came in 3 waves, the first breaking out from October 1918 to Feb 1919 and eventually spreading to every corner of the earth. A second wave occurred in the summer of 1919, and the third wave in 1920 claimed another 100 thousand. As many as 40 million people may have died and half the world’s population was infected.  No vaccine was ever created, and even today no treatment would be available for this type of flu.

In April 1919 Dr. William Rankin, secretary of the State Board of Health, reported that more than a third of the state’s 2.5 million citizens had been infected, and 13,644  had died, including 17 doctors- 13 times the number of Tar Heels killed by the Germans in WWI.

The influenza first appeared in North Carolina in Wilmington on September 19th, 1918, and within a week it had overwhelmed that city’s hospital, considered one of the state’s best.  The contagion spread West from Wilmington into the heart of the state along the railroad lines, ravaging military camps across the state.

Flu dangerous as poison gas

On October 3, 1918- Governor Thomas Bickett issued statement from the Board of Health on dangers of sharing eating and drinking utensils, unrestrained sneezing or coughing; he issued an order recommending curtailing social functions and public gatherings, and proposing quarantine for those infected- they were prohibited from leaving home without a doctor’s note

Although we are missing many issues of the local newspaper for the years 1917 and 1918, the first mention of the flu from the Asheboro Courier is found on October 10, 1918, just three weeks after it was first noted in Wilmington. “Spanish influenza is rapidly spreading in this county, and the schools have all closed, as well as all other public gatherings. We think that the prohibition of the Greensboro fair was right and proper.” (Courier, 10/10/18, pg4).


Surgeon General Blue

A interview with Surgeon General Rupert Blue (called “Uncle Sam’s Advice on the Flu”) published a week later noted- “In contrast to the outbreaks of ordinary coughs and colds, which usually occur in the cold months, epidemics of influenza may occur at any season of the year, thus the present epidemic raged most intensely in Europe in May, June and July….

“In most cases a person taken sick with influenza feels sick rather suddenly. He feels weak, has pains in the eyes, ears, head on back, and may be sore all over. Many patients feel dizzy, some vomit.  Most of the patients complain of feeling chilly, and with this comes a fever in which the temperature rises to 100 to 104. In most cases the pulse remains relatively slow.

Sp flu stop spitting“In appearance one is struck by the fact that the patient looks sick. His eyes and the inner side of his eyelids may be slightly “bloodshot” or “congested,” as the doctors say. There may be running from the nose, or there may be some cough. These signs of a cold may not be marked; nevertheless, the patient looks, and feels very sick….

“No matter what particular kind of germ causes the epidemic, it is now believed that influenza is always spread from person to person, the germs bring carried with the air along the very small droplets of mucus, expelled by coughing or sneezing, forceful talking, and the like by one who already has the germs of the disease. They may also be carried about in the air in the form of dust coming from dried mucus, coughing or sneezing, or from careless people who spit on the floor or on the sidewalk.” (The Courier, Asheboro, 17 Oct 1918, p6)


Rupert Blue

An interesting sidelight is that Surgeon General Rupert Blue was a native of Rockingham, in Richmond County, North Carolina.  Blue (1868-1948) entered the US public health service in 1892, and made a name for himself coordinating the federal response (yes, there was one even back then) to the San Francisco bubonic plague outbreaks of 1900-1904, and again after the earthquake of 1906. He was also involved in efforts to control yellow fever in New Orleans in 1905. He was appointed Surgeon General by President Taft in 1912 and served until March 1920, and oversaw the dramatic expansion of US public health services during WWI. The U.S. Hygenic Laboratory which Blue established created vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, typhoid and smallpox, and after the war, laid the foundation for the creation of Veterans’ Administration hospitals and clinics. So it is no exaggeration to say that the foundation of our modern health care system was put in place by Surgeon General Blue. [And I might interject, that he is probably some kind of relative of my father’s mother, whose maternal grandfather was Evander McNair Blue of Moore County.]

flu ad 4

Back on the home front, the Randolph County Board of Health took decisive action based on years of knowing what had worked to stem the spread of incurable communicable diseases. Schools were closed. Both live and moving picture theaters were closed.  There were no bars, as prohibition had ended alcohol sales, and there were few restaurants, as most people cooked at home. The Randleman Chrysanthemum Show was cancelled.  Joel Trogdon, minister of Charlotte Methodist Church, announced that the Richland Circuit quarterly conference was cancelled, as well as the associated preaching services. He rescheduled for the next month, “we hope influenza will be subsided by this time, if not perhaps we can hold our meeting out of doors.” (Courier, 24 Oct 1918 p5)

In Asheboro, “The influenza situation in Asheboro has greatly improved over what it was last week. The people have been using precautions and should continue to do so…. Much anxiety is felt in Asheboro and Randolph County for the Randolph boys in France and especially for those in the Thirtieth Division, as they have evidently been in the thick of the fighting during the recent battles. One boy has written that he has been in the trenches sixteen days at a time.” (id)

In Trinity, “Trinity High School has suspended on account of Spanish influenza. Some of the older people say, this is the first time the doors of Trinity has been closed in October for over 70 years. In other words, the school has been in progress here for 70 years, probably a little longer. The doors were not closed during the Civil War.” (id)

And in Franklinville, the war also precluded too much worry about the flu: “The last report of all Spanish influenza cases in the community are on the mend, and it is not expected that any cases will prove fatal…. Our farmers are busy gathering and husking corn, and preparing to sow a large crop of wheat this fall and are doing all they can to help our boys push their way to Berlin.” (id)

Sp Flu ambulance stationBut the same edition of the paper showed that local people were dying.

“Private A.M. Phillips died at Camp Joseph E. Johnson, Jacksonville, Florida, last Tuesday morning at ten o’clock from pneumonia following an attack of influenza. The deceased had been ill about two weeks. The fact that he had suffered from four previous attacks of pneumonia probably made it harder for him to combat the disease. Mrs. Phillips and Miss Kate Phillips were with the husband and brother when the end came. The body is expected today, after which the funeral will follow. Private Phillips went to Camp Hancock, Augusta, Ga, July 26, last, with an increment of Randolph men, and was later transferred to Camp Johnson. He was at home on furlough just a few weeks ago.

The deceased is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs L. C. Phillips, Asheboro; one brother, Mr. Hal Phillips. Asheboro: and four sisters, Mrs. Walter Davis, Randleman Route; and Misses Kate, Lizzie and Alice Phillips, Asheboro; besides his wife, who was Miss Erma Lynch, of Asheboro Route 1, and to whom he was married about six mouths aero. A large circle of friends throughout the county sympathize with the bereaved family.”


“Mr. Gurney Davidson died at his home west of town last Thursday from pneumonia following an attack of Spanish influenza. The burial was at West Bend church the following day…  Mrs. Gurney Davidson died in the evening of the same day her husband was buried from the same fatal disease, and was laid to rest at West Bend on Saturday… Mr. Davidson was about 35 years of age… Three small children, the oldest only six years of age, are left orphans by these deaths.”

A week later, the headline was that flu had claimed the President of the University of North Carolina.

Sp Flu Edward_Kidder_GrahamDr. Edward Kidder Graham, eighth president of the University of North Carolina, and a prominent educational figure in the nation, died last Saturday night at his home, Chapel Hill, from pneumonia following an attack of Spanish influenza. Dr. Graham had been ill less than a week, the disease assuming the most malignant type and turning to the dread pneumonia in two or three days. The funeral was held at Chapel Hill, Monday afternoon. There was no service at the church or home, but a simple service at the grave… All work at the University was suspended for the day and the faculty and students attended the funeral in a body. [The Courier, 10-31-18, p7.  Marvin Hendrix Stacy, the chairman of the faculty, became the acting university president after Graham’s death. On 21 January 1919, Stacy also died from influenza. [ ]


On October 31, the State Board of Public Health reported that “Taking the State as a whole, the influenza situation is looking better, the reports showing marked improvement in a number of towns. On the basis of imperfect reports, it is estimated that the number of cases in North Carolina, dating from the first outbreak in Wilmington, will pass a quarter of a million before it runs its course. The death rate in Raleigh so far has been about three per cent of the cases, as estimated, and on such a basis the ravages of the disease will kill 7,600 North Carolinians.”

But the end of the war brought a setback. Social distancing restrictions were loosened following Armistice Day, with unintended complications. By the end of the month, T. Fletcher Bulla, the Secretary of the Board of Health, put even more restrictions were in place.

“On account of the influenza situation and the danger of spreading the disease, the County Board of Health has decided it is inadvisable to hold the regular term of court for the county scheduled to begin December 6th. After a conference with local officials, the members of the local bar, and Judge Long, I am directed to say that the term has been called off. Parties, witnesses and jurors are all hereby notified that they need not come.” [The Courier, 11-28-18, pg5].

“Ramseur has been struck with influenza the past two weeks. Over two hundred cases have been reported, with three fatalities. We hope the worst is behind us now. It seems to be abating but we find this is a very subtle thing, it come unawares and spreads like fire. Let us be as careful as we possibly can lest it takes a heavy toll from us yet.” [The Courier, 12-12-18, pg1].

In January 1919 the Courier reported that it was unable to print the newspaper on schedule.

“INFLUENZA RAGING IN ASHEBORO ATTACKS COURIER FORCE.  During the past few days many people of the town have been stricken with influenza, few homes having every person confined to bed. The disease seems in lighter form than it did during the first epidemic which was visited upon the town during the first of November. The Courier force has been so afflicted, having three members out, that we are unable to appear in usual form. We feel that our readers will understand the unfortunate situation. It is under difficulties that we appear at all. We hope’ next week to make our usual appearance.”[The Courier, Jan. 16, 1919, pg1]. Neither of the paper’s linotype operators, L.B. Lambert and C.L. Scott, had fully recovered by February 6th.

Sp flu nurse masksThe second wave of flu had disappated by May, 1919, but then reappeared full blast in the winter of 1920. “For more than two weeks the epidemic of influenza has been in full blast at Coleridge. Practically everybody in the town has had it, there being more than 250 cases. Up to date only two deaths have occurred, that of Mrs. L. B. Davis, and Mrs. A.M. Poole. Mrs. Davis died the latter part of last week. She was 35 years of age, and a daughter of the late Gurney Cox. At the time of Mrs. Davis’ death her husband was seriously ill with influenza. Mrs. A.M. Poole was a daughter of Mr. W.A. Poole, of Coleridge. She is survived by her husband and three children.” [The Courier, 5 Feb 1920, pg1.]

When the Randolph County Board of Health met in February 1920 “a number of schools, churches and Sunday schools of the county were closed on account of the prevalence of influenza. Among the schools that have closed are: Coleridge, Pleasant Grove, Brower, Richland, Grant, Columbia and Tabernacle townships, also Miller’s school and Wheatmore school in Trinity township and Central Falls school in Franklinville township. It was further ordered that the stores in the county be closed at 7 o’clock p.m. and unnecessary congregating in cafes, barber shops and other public places be prohibited. It was also ordered that all moving picture shows of the county be closed for a period of two weeks. Another order was that all the children in a family where there is a case of influenza be kept out of school for two weeks. The matter of losing other schools in the county and taking further precaution to prevent the spread of influenza was left in the hands of Messrs. W.L. Ward, T.F Bulla and Dr. C. A. Hayworth, who were authorized to take any steps that they deemed wise without consulting the county board of health further.”

In late March, one of Asheboro’s best known citizens died of the flu. “The news of the almost sudden death of Capt. A.E. Burns at his home in Asheboro on Wednesday of last week was a distinct shock to his many friends in Randolph County. Capt. Burns had influenza but was improving and at the time the call came he was sitting up in bed, talking to some friends, assuring them he would be out in a few days…. Mr. Burns was the son of B.B. and Fannie Moss Burns. He was born in Asheboro and has spent his life here, consequently was known by every body- to his old friends he was known as “Eck Burns”… At the age of eighteen years Mr. Burns went in the employ of Southern Railway and came in to Asheboro on the first train as baggage master. Twenty five years ago he was promoted to conductor and has served the railroad in that until his death… “  [The Courier, 25 March 1920, p1]

flu ad 1During the 1920 epidemic, the Fletcher Bulla recommended 9 suggestions for good public health.  Some show that some major improvements have occurred in a century-

“Don’t use public drinking cups that have not been properly sterilized. Every school child should carry an individual cup… while at school.”

Others would be familiar today, human nature having not changed that much-

“Avoid coughing, if you must cough or sneezing, place a handkerchief over your mouth.

“If you go into a room where any patient is confined with … gripe or colds, use a mask or handkerchief over your mouth and nose and wash your hands if you have touched the patient, bedding or other furniture in the room.

“Promiscuous kissing should be avoided.”

Sp Flu sign

*Final note:  I know of no official statistics for the number of Randolph County citizens who died during the Spanish Flu pandemic. Because of wartime censorship, the figures that might have been available were not published, and because of the lack of testing and treatment facilities, the number was probably much higher than was known at the time.  Some day perhaps, a comprehensive review of death certificates might give us a ball park figure. But the number was shockingly large, even to a generation used to sudden death and incurable disease.

For more information on the 1918 pandemic, see the following excellent sources:

Cockrell, David. 1996. “A Blessing in disguise’: The influenza pandemic of 1918 and North Carolina’s medical and public health communities.” NCHistRev 73 (3) 309-327

Pettit, Dorothy Ann. 1976. “A Cruel Wind: America Experiences Pandemic Influenza, 1918-1920. A Social History. Univ. New Hampshire PhD Diss., 1145.

Plague and the Pest House

April 15, 2020

Pest House patientI am writing this from my home in Franklinville, NC, in the midst of COVID-19 self-isolation. For most of America, home isolation is designed to “flatten the curve”- to impose community isolation measures that slow the spread of infection and keep the daily case load at a manageable level for our existing health care resources.  In my case, it’s to protect me in the wake of my recent heart surgery, and keep me from the risk of pneumonia on top of asthma and post-anesthesia breathing issues.

All this was getting underway as I entered the hospital, and ten days later was in high gear in North Carolina, with public schools and university classes cancelled or forced online; public libraries, museums, historic sites and non-essential businesses closed; restaurants and bars reduced to drive-through and take-out service, if at all; and Americans all over the country urged to practice ‘social distancing’ by not meeting in groups or religious services, wearing masks and gloves, and maintaining a six-foot distance from one another.

Pest House isolation

As I write this, these measures have had some success when adopted early, as in San Francisco, but have failed to stem the tide of infection in cities such as New York and Philadelphia. They seem to be helping in North Carolina, despite vocal opposition from a minority who consider any such restrictions overwrought, bogus, or unconstitutional.

It has been accepted in modern America that the fall of every year brings the onset of ‘flu season,’ and persons susceptible to lung problems are urged to get prophylactic flu shots developed to take the edge off last year’s version of the flu. People die every year from complications of the flu, and, like gunshot victims and automobile accidents, are accepted as part of modern life.

Pest House Dr McCoy

I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!

The current pandemic, affecting virtually every country on earth, is different because it is NOT last year’s flu, but something new, and the traditional flu meds don’t seem to be working. It is also different because our national ability to respond to this kind of crisis has been nibbled away by lack of funding, or crony capitalism, and simple complacency.  Even though 2019 was the centennial of the worst pandemic in modern history, we came to believe that such things just didn’t happen any more, that modern medicine and modern technology could whip up a vaccine at the same speed Dr. McCoy could cure the malady of the week in one episode of Star Trek. This is not the case as a look at the history just underneath our present day will show.

Pest House Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever in New Orleans

When I first moved to Franklinville I interviewed a lot of people about the history of the community, and one of the first things I learned was that, while life wasn’t exactly cheap, death was always just around the corner. Families were large, but would have been even larger without the regular deaths of young children from incurable diseases such as mumps, measles, whooping cough, and polio.  At any point of the year, ancient adult diseases such as smallpox, yellow fever, typhus, cholera, typhoid fever and tuberculosis might flare up and take friends and family away with little or no warning.

Pest Gleason_cooling_board_ad_reduced

Death was so common, and so accepted, that there was a rote process for dealing with it. In the weave room of the Lower Mill, I was told, a 3×6-foot wooden tabletop was stored in a rack over the windows- the “Cooling Board,” the community catafalque. When someone died, the cooling board was taken to their house and set up in the largest room, to clean and embalm the body and hold the coffin for the wake. After the funeral, the cooling board was taken back to its rack in the weave room.

Pest House Burlington KY

A mill village, an urbanized community with houses set closer together than in country living, was especially vulnerable to communicable disease. While Franklinville had its own doctor, it had no hospital, and indeed, there was no hospital in all of Randolph County until the 1920s.  What Franklinville did have was its “Pest House,” short for ‘Pestilence House.’

Pest House London 2

London Pest-House, St. Giles Cripplegate

As community health-care facilities, ‘Pest Houses’ date back to medieval times. Daniel Defoe in A Journal of the Plague Year, states that in 1165 London “it was a great mistake that such great city as this had but one pest-house.”


In fact, many if not most North Carolina towns and counties of the early 20th century had their Ppest Houses. A look through contemporary state newspapers of the time shows that Wilmington spent $350 building a frame pest house 50 feet long by 20 feet wide. Charlotte in 1914 built a new one with ten rooms “divided into male and female compartments.”  High Point, Lexington, Concord, Gastonia, Asheville, Alamance County, Durham, Oxford, Raleigh and New Bern all budgeted for the operation of their pest houses, paying cooks, cleaners, wood choppers, and guards for both day and night shifts during peak periods of operation- which at the time were chiefly during smallpox epidemics.

Pest House Lynchburg VA

Lynchburg, Virginia Pest House

So common were the annual outbreaks of small pox that Raleigh in April 1899 voted to change the name of its Pest House to the “Raleigh Small Pox Hospital.” Said the city Superintendent of Health, “The people of Raleigh are now, I believe, ready for compulsory vaccination. It has been shown in other places- Charlotte and Rocky Mount have used it to good effect…. At Charlotte, one man was put in jail for refusing to be vaccinated, and at Rocky Mount, two were sent to the roads.” [i.e., the county jail road maintenance gang].

Pest House lysolMiss Kitty Caviness, a retired teacher, first told me about Franklinville Pest House, which was in the hollow between her house and the Lower Mill. It was a small cabin or “fever shed” with beds, and if the illness was something that could endanger the whole village, the patient was taken there under quarantine.  I never saw the building; as far as anyone could remember, the Franklinville Pest House was last used during the “Spanish Flu” epidemic of 1918-1920.  “It smelled like sulpher,” said Miss Caviness, and undoubtedly this was due to the common practice of the time of disinfecting the air by burning sulpher in open pans in each room.

Pest House wardI’m told that Randleman also had a Pest House, perhaps shared with Worthville, and this may have been a feature of all the Deep River Mill villages.  Universal vaccination for communicable deadly diseases gradually did away with the need to isolate patients from their neighbors, but the sudden rise of the “Spanish Flu” in 1918 brought them back into wide use for a few years- and triggered a movement to build community hospitals in rural areas.

More on this in a separate entry.

Heart Surgery in the Plague Year

April 5, 2020


There are times when events gang up on us and deliver punches to the gut so that we have no choice but to recognize that ‘this is history’ – we’re experiencing something we will look back on as a turning point, a life-changing event.

The swift and radical upheaval of society triggered in early 2020 by the COVID-19 Coronavirus is certainly one of those time, locking down nursing homes, flooding emergency rooms and ICUs; prematurely ending school years and college careers; closing businesses and squeezing restaurants and bars into drive-throughs, take-outs and food truck equivalents; and forcing families to stay inside at home as if beautiful spring weather was the same as ice-bound snow days.

signboard informing unavailability of sanitizers

Photo by cottonbro on

The pressure for this started in China at the end of 2019, and built up gradually in January and February 2020. By the first week of March it was obvious that major challenges were on the horizon in the USA, despite the ‘fake news’ assurances of the Administration.  The fact that this is a global pandemic is brought home to me by the fact that it affects my son Roman in Moscow and my son Vlad in the army in Iraq just as much as me here in North Carolina.

person holding a mug

Photo by cottonbro on

But my own personal story of 2020 has taken a turn that sent me on a different, yet oddly parallel course. Back before Thanksgiving I had my annual physical where I told Dr. Dough I had noticed something going on with my breathing- that walking fast, walking uphill, working hard out in the yard, caused me to have shortness of breath and tightness in my throat. No pain, just odd pounding heart beats. He scheduled me to meet with a heart specialist, Dr. Munley, who proposed a CT scan at Moses Cone. In February, after it had finally been approved by my insurance, I drove myself to Greensboro and had the scan inside the big magnetic doughnut. The next day Dr. Munley called and wanted me to come back to his office; he was recommending that I have a heart catheterization as soon as possible. The CT scan on March 12th showed that the arteries in my heart had some serious blockages, and the cath procedure could pinpoint where they were, and even insert stents to open them up if they were mild or moderate. He recommended that I go back to Moses Cone for the next available catheterization slot, not only because the results were worrying, but because the thundercloud of COVID-19 was blowing up on the horizon. He didn’t want me to delay and at best risk being hospitalized with virus patients and at worst having to delay surgery until the pandemic was over. That weekend the coronavirus began to assume the aspect of a real crisis, as cities and states began to cancel public events, close restaurants and bars, and event cancel entire school years and professional sports seasons.


On Tuesday, March 17th, my sister Jill drove me to Greensboro. She had come up from her home in Morehead City because I wouldn’t be allowed to drive home or be by myself after any procedure. It seemed lucky that I would have Dr. Kelly doing the catheterization on St. Patrick’s day, and I hoped I would get a stent or two and be on my way home by dinner time.

That didn’t happen. I was awake during the catheterization, watching on a big TV as they pushed a wire through my wrist and poked around inside my heart, using dye to show blood flows and blocks. The bad news was that four of the arteries feeding blood to my heart had blockages; one of they was almost 95% closed. They set me up for the next available heart bypass surgery, two days away.


Swept up in events, I became something little more than an interested bystander to my own health care. The surgery schedule was being pushed not just by my condition, but the looming spectre of the potential collapse of the health care system. After I became a piece of the puzzle on March 17th, events rapidly began to cascade. The hospital was closed to all ‘elective’ surgery (cardiac problems were considered mandatory); visitors were limited; and the news from other states began to look grim.

Those two days waiting were filled with tests, so many different tests that had to be done before surgery that I began to wonder how anybody suffering an actual heart attack ever got into surgery in less than 48 hours. They said they can hurry it up when they have to, and it was unusual that I had the luxury of time. Everyone seemed to agree that it was odd that I hadn’t had chest pains, or any other symptoms besides shortness of breath. They also said I was an odd cardiac patient in that I was generally healthy, did not smoke and did not have diabetes. What I did have, though was a family history of heart issues: my father died at age 59 of his first and only heart attack; his father died in 1964 at Moses Cone of complications from heart disease; my brother had had a catheterization years ago. I didn’t eat read meat and barbecue; I thought I had a pretty healthy diet. Just as some families share histories of cancer, others just have cardiac problems written into their DNA, the doctors said.

Very early that Friday morning I was awakened for a shave, not of my beard but of my legs, chest and anywhere else they’d be sticking needles or cutting. They rolled me into an operating room about 7:15, I met Dr. Gearhart and about two dozen other mysterious masked and gowned figures, and that was pretty much all I remember for 12 or 15 hours. I woke up in what I soon knew as the ICU with a breathing tube stuck down my throat, and about two dozen other wires and tubes anchoring me pretty securely to the hospital bed. Time telescopes in that situation; I can’t say how long I lay there in a gradually lifting fog. The nurses said that I began to come out of the anesthetic surprisingly quickly, responding to questions and instructions. I think the breathing tube came out some time Saturday morning; maybe it was earlier in the night. After that I could talk, with some difficulty


At some point Saturday afternoon I was standing by the bed; early Sunday I up and walking around the room. The rehab people are very insistent on walking and moving ASAP, as this helps the rest of the body get back to normal. As I learned, my bodily functions had pretty much been turned off for about 8-10 hours while I was on the heart-lung machine. My breathing stopped, my lungs deflated; my intestines and digestion had stopped; my heart was stopped while they sewed four grafted veins to bridge over the blockages. The longest piece of vein, about 14 inches, came from my left leg; I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t all that necessary, and that blood flow out of the leg would reroute through other veins. Another piece came from my chest, as the most major part of the surgery was sawing my breast bone in half to get at my heart. This leaves me with a scar about 15 inches long that is the badge of honor of CABG (i.e., Cardiac Artery Bypass Graft, or open-heart surgery) patients. I’m told that this Frankenstein-esque scar is what puts us in the “Zipper Club,” though these days there are no railroad-track stitches or staples, they use super glue on the skin and it’s not so obvious over time. Underneath, however, there is stainless steel wire holding my chest together for 6-8 weeks while the bone heals, something I’ll have to declare to airport security from now on.

e57f9c51-e1f5-4538-a287-5fbe1f69647aRecovery in the ICU is measured not just by walking and talking, but in getting tubes and wires removed day after day. The electrocardiogram leads were the first I got, 8 of them even before surgery (another 8 during surgery, which came off Friday). Then there were IVs in both wrists, one in the left arm and one in the groin, which came out pretty soon. There were left and right chest tubes, to drain post-operative blood and fluid from the operation site. There was a Foley catheter, so I didn’t have to get out of bed to pee. And there was the “Central Line,” on the right side of my neck, a large IV-type tube that went straight into an artery and had about half a dozen other tubes branching out of it for various purposes. That, my sister said, was the thing that looked the worst.

IMG_1184The things that felt the worst, though, were those chest tubes. I’m sure my body was in some shock from the chest cutting and etc., but as I discovered, there was a morphine drip, and soon, Oxycodone taking the edge off that. But the chest tubes interfered mightly with breathing, and rehab people were very insistent on me breathing. Not that I wasn’t; a lifetime of asthma has taught me to be very aware of my breathing; but these tubes made it amazing difficult to breathe deeply or cough. (Or, God Forbid, to sneeze!) As if this wasn’t bad enough, what turned out to be my only major complication started Saturday afternoon and continued all through Sunday- burps, belches and hiccups. That doesn’t sound so bad, you say? Well, as I learned, when you’re cut open for hours laying on your back in the operating room, air gets into places in your body where air doesn’t normally go, and sooner or later it has to come out. Also, while open heart surgery doesn’t usually go anywhere near the diaphragm, which is a major breathing muscle behind the navel, the chest tubes to poke around in there and irritate it. And when the diaphragm is irritated, sometimes in some people, it responds with hiccup spasms. I was one of those lucky people. The older nurses knowingly said this often happened with women who get C-sections, and there is little to do short of Haldol, usually used to treat schizophrenia. Since I’d already had my first brush with all the scheduled pain killers I used to talk about in criminal court, I decided to avoid the Haldol. But dealing with those hiccups was agony, as every upheaval felt like I was about to pop open my chest stitches.

IMG_1220Gradually they became less frequent and finally stopped; One chest tube came out Sunday; the other on Monday, and that helped with the hiccups and breathing. Gradually my kidneys started to work again and get more of the meds and anesthetic out of my system. This was important as they had given my lots of IV fluids for several days, and when I finally weighed on Sunday I was 17 pounds heavier than when I went into the hospital- all water, they said, as I wasn’t really eating. On Monday that began to balance out, as diarrhea showed my digestion getting back in the game and eliminating lots of water at the same time.

By Monday I was out of ICU and on a regular ward, but by then no visitors were allowed of any kind, as the virus precautions progressed. What I saw on TV made being inside Fort Moses Cone look pretty good, as I walked around the hallways. As I had tubes removed I could try getting in and out of bed by myself, still a painful process which they drilled into me was helped by clutching my heart-shaped red pillow over my chest ‘wound’. The central line was removed on Monday, with a couple of the IV patches. The last thing to go on Tuesday were the pacemaker wires, which had been left inserted into the heart just in case they were needed before I left.

Tuesday afternoon I was given the green light to leave the hospital; I was progressing at least a day better than average, and Dr. Gearhart thought it would be prudent for me to go home before more virus patients started to arrive (Guilford county had 5 at that time; Randolph had 3). So I called my sister and she and Nina Foust came to get me. (First they had to send my clothes up through security, as when she left a week ago, they had her take everything with her). I was wheeled out to “Valet Parking,” valeted no longer, but access limited by police cars with flashing blue lights. That sobering first look at the way the outside world had changed in a week was my reintroduction to the new normal, life under lockdown.

Jill stayed with me at my house for another week, as I learned to move and maneuver, and as the pain and soreness lessened. The weather is beautiful, spring has sprung, and the end of March and first of April would be awesome except for the shelter-in-place, go out only as absolutely necessary rules. Not that I’m trying to push the envelope- doctors said not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk (8 lbs), not to rake, weed-eat, chain saw or otherwise work outside; and especially not to drive for at least 30 days, or until the doctor gives me a written release. (Twisting the steering wheel back and forth isn’t good for that broken breastbone, the one major issue that supersedes all other movements).

IMG_1206So I’m on the mend from open-heart surgery in the COFID-19 plague year, trying to heal up, deal with seasonal allergies that also limit breathing, and trying very hard not to get the virus that can lead to pneumonia. Hard enough to recover from one of the most major invasive surgeries, but now I must worry about an even worse problem potentially arising from every social interaction, Amazon delivery or grocery store visit. I’ve seen three actual people in the last week, one of whom took out the last chest tube stitches.

So March 2020 seemed to be about six months long, for a multitude of reasons. While this sudden illness has hit me hard, I’m on the road to recovery faster than most. And the fact that there are worse things out there than heart surgery was underlined the other day when I got a call from a newspaper reporter. “Do you have the Corona?, “ he asked. No, I said, I just had open-heart surgery with four bypass grafts. “Oh,” he said with obvious disappointment, “I heard you had the Corona!”

I’m thankful that I had an old traditional standby, heart disease, and that I had doctors and nurses and institutions so well versed in its diagnosis and care that I never had a heart attack, never killed any heart muscle, and should be radically improved by the end of the summer. I hope we are all radically improved by the end of the summer.