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Devastation from the Flood of 1916. Image from State Archives.

Devastation from the Flood of 1916. Image from State Archives.

In mid-July 1916, the remnants of two hurricanes collided over western North Carolina, inundating the mountain region and the western Piedmont with historic rainfall.

The result was catastrophic. Landslides wiped out whole families. Currents ripped babies from their parents’ arms. Rivers washed away thousands of jobs. When the water finally receded, at least fifty lay dead, damages totaled in the millions of dollars, and a thick black sludge remained where crops once stood. The scope of the devastation was almost inconceivable.

Exhibit Examines Flood’s Impact

One hundred years later, the storm remains one of the worst ever experienced in the Tar Heel state. To commemorate the event, the North Carolina Office of Archives and History has developed a traveling exhibit that will visit 12 different venues throughout the region over the course of the next year.

The exhibit, entitled “So Great the Devastation: The 1916 Flood,” debuts at the History Museum of Catawba County in downtown Newton next Tuesday, March 1.

A schedule of the exhibit stops over the next six months appears in the table below. Click on the Venue name for directions.

Dates Venue City/Town
March 1 to March 31 History Museum of Catawba County Newton
April 1 to April 30 Madison County Public Library Marshall
May 1 to May 31 Mountain Gateway Museum Old Fort
June 1 to July 15 Pack Memorial Library Asheville
July 16 Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Asheville
July 17 to August 31 Belmont Historical Society Belmont
September 1 to September 30 Lincoln County Historical Association Lincolnton

4/22 Update -additional tour stops have been announced. Check out our website for the whole list.

Symposium to Take a Closer Look

As part of the commemorative initiatives, the Office will also be hosting a symposium on the flood at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College on July 16. We’ll announce more details about this landmark event as they become available.

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“Presidents North Carolina Gave the Nation” outside the State Capitol

When you think of a state with a rich presidential legacy, chances are you think of Virginia (home to eight men who have held the nation’s top job) or Ohio (home to seven), but North Carolina has some rich presidential history of its own, and in honor of Presidents Day, we’ve share some of it here.

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James K. Polk

How Many Presidents Are From North Carolina? It’s Debatable.

If you visit the State Capitol in Raleigh, you’ll see a statue honoring the three “Presidents North Carolina Gave the Nation,” but many sources list just two presidents as calling the Tar Heel State home. The debate surrounds Andrew Jackson, who was born right on then unmarked line between North and South Carolina.

James K. Polk, our 11th president, was born in the Carolina borderlands as well, though farther west near Pineville. Polk is perhaps best remembered for spearheading the Mexican-American War, which greatly increased the size of United States, and a memorial representing his birthplace is now one of 27 state historic sites.

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Andrew Johnson

The 17th president, Andrew Johnson, was born in a kitchen in Raleigh and ascended to the nation’s top job after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The only U.S. senator who remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, Johnson was impeached for his handling of Reconstruction, though he was acquitted at trial.

While North Carolina claims all three presidents as native sons, all were elected to office while residents of Tennessee.

A Few Notable Presidential Visits

Our friends at the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill have noted that every president since Chester A. Arthur, who was in office between 1881 and 1885, except for Warren Harding, has visited North Carolina.

We’ve mapped five of the more interesting visits below, from our first president’s stay at Tryon Palace to the time President Lyndon Johnson’s kicked off a tour of Appalachia in Rocky Mount, hundreds of miles from the region.

Explore More With Our Collections and Other Resources

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A bumper sticker from Terry Sanford’s 1976 presidential campaign, now held by the N.C. Museum of History.

Our collections are abound in photographs, campaign ephemera, documents and artwork related to our nation’s 44 chief executives. Start exploring on our digital collections and collections database. The Presidential Signatures portion of the Treasures of the State Archives and State Library is a great place to begin, too.

Our This Day in North Carolina History Project contains more interesting anecdotes connected to the U.S. presidents from First Lady Dolley Madison’s dramatic rescue of White House treasures to the mysterious connection between Raleigh and the JFK assassination. Check out NCpedia for more in-depth explorations of people, places and topics related to the presidency.

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Staff from the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer showing off their Panthers pride.

Staff from the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer
showing off their Panthers pride.

Governor Pat McCrory today made a wager with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper over this weekend’s Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos.

If the Panthers prevail as Governor McCrory predicts, Hickenlooper will donate Colorado products to North Carolina food banks and animal shelters. In the unlikely event that the Panther lose, Governor McCrory will donate North Carolina turkey products to Colorado food banks and animals shelters.

Two state historic sites and the North Carolina Zoo have followed Governor McCrory’s lead by either accepting or making friendly wagers with their counterparts in Colorado.

Zoo Directors Put State Pride On The Line

The North Carolina Zoo accepted the Denver Zoo’s Super Bowl challenge. The losing zoo’s director will be welcoming visitors next week in the winning team’s jersey.

Transportation Museums Participate in Turntable Challenge

The North Carolina Transportation Museum will deck out its diesel engines in Broncos regalia with staff riding the turntable while singing the Broncos fight song if the Panthers lose, in addition to supplying to the Colorado Railroad Museum with a number of the Tar Heel State’s favorite foods.

This afternoon the Colorado museum accepted NCTM’s challenge.

Gold ore is being wagered by the Reed Gold Mine..

Gold ore is being wagered by the Reed Gold Mine..

Mine Museums Wager Gold

North Carolina and Colorado are connected through the spread of gold discoveries across the United States during the 19th century, and Reed Gold Mine and the Western Museum of Mining and Industry are raising the stakes on Super Bowl wagers by putting a gold ore specimen valued between $40 and $50 on the line.

Discounted Admission for #PanthersPride

To celebrate the Panthers and help get everyone in the team spirit, the North Carolina Zoo will be offering $2 off admission to guests wearing Panthers’ gear now through Sunday.

The North Carolina Aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores and Fort Fisher and Jennette’s Pier will be offering $1 off admission to visitors in Panthers’ gear Sunday only.

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The “Greensboro Four” at Woolworth’s. Photo from the (Greensboro) News & Record.

Fifty-six years ago today four students, now known as the “Greensboro Four,” sat down at the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s Department Store in downtown Greensboro and asked to be served. They were refused service, launching a sit-in movement that would spread throughout North Carolina and the South and transform the struggle for civil rights for African Americans.

The first page of a March 1960 memo describing Hodges' constitutional authority in law enforcement.

The first page of March 1960 memo describing Hodges’ constitutional authority in law enforcement.

Several documents available online through the North Carolina Digital Collections show how North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges and other state officials responded to the situation and demonstrate how public opinion was divided over the protests.

The Response from State Officials

The first—a public statement made by state attorney general Malcom B. Seawell on February 10, 1960—argues that though North Carolina did not have a law mandating the segregation of restaurants, businesses could refuse to serve whoever they choose.

Seawell calls the protesters as out-of-state “trouble-makers” and describes their actions as having:

posed and continue to pose a serious threat to the peace and good order in the communities in which they occur…Such trouble-makers are irresponsible, and their actions can only result in irreparable harm being done to racial relations here in North Carolina.

He also argues that the colleges which student protesters attend should work to curb their student actions, a sentiment Hodges later echoed in a phone conversation with a Woolworth’s executive.

Two memos—one laying out the governor’s constitutional authority to deal with the sit-in demonstrations and another describing the actions of governors in other states in similar situations—were immediately followed by a statement Hodges made on March 10 where he expressed his view on the sit-ins, saying:

…I do not think these demonstrations do any good or in the final analysis will even serve to accomplish the objectives of the demonstrators….I have no sympathy whatsoever for any group of people who deliberately engage in activities which any reasonable person can see will result in a breakdown of law and order as well as interference with the normal and proper operation of a private business.

A letter to Gov. Luther Hodges opposing the sit-in protesters.

A letter to Gov. Luther Hodges opposing the sit-in protesters.

The Public’s View

Four letters sent to Hodges’ office on the sit-ins reflect how divided the state’s citizens were on the issue.

A Burlington couple called on Hodges to close N.C. A&T and save what they viewed as wasted taxpayer money, while a Durham woman wrote that the demonstrations were “disgusting” and said that many of the protesters were “from the North.”

On the other side of the debate, a UNC-Chapel Hill student penned a note to express solidarity with the sit-in demonstrators and an ECU student rebuked the governor for not promoting freedom and free expression for all.

More to Explore

The papers described here are part of a larger Civil Rights digital collection that helps tell the story of the struggle for justice in North Carolina. An online exhibit from the N.C. Museum of History tells that story in another way.

A succinct overview of the Civil Rights movement can be found as NCpedia as can dozens of other in-depth articles on the subject.

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The year 2015 was a great one for our This Day in North Carolina History project. Views on the project topped 250,000, a 57% increase over 2014.

To celebrate, here are top 10 posts of the previous year:

 

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On November 30, 1963, a Dallas County switchboard operator attempted to call Raleigh numbers for JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. The Carolina connection to the case remains a mystery.

 

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Six “Regulators” were hanged in Hillsborough on June 19, 1771. The hangings came two months after the Battle of Alamance.

 

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North Carolina formally gave six western counties to the Continental Congress on December 22, 1789. The area was briefly the independent state of Franklin, but would become party of Tennessee in the next decade.

 

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Ellen Smith was murdered by Peter DeGraff at the Zinzendorf Hotel in Winston-Salem on July 20, 1892. The dramatic case gained national fame from a popular turn-of-the-century folk ballad.

 

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Notorious pirate Blackbeard was killed at Ocracoke Inlet on November 22, 1718 by soldiers sent by the governor of Virginia.

 

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The Category Four storm Hurricane Hazel made landlfall on Brunswick County’s beaches on October 15, 1954. The storm was among the worst of the 20th century.

 

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The town of Old Fort rededicated the once nationally-known Andrews Geyser on this day in May 6, 1976.

 

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A Works Progress Administration worker described seeing an iceberg the size of small island off the Salter Path coast on January 30, 1940.

 

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After being arrested for the murder of Randolph County woman Naomi Wise on April 8, 1808, Jonathan Lewis escaped to Ohio. A folk ballad was inspired by the case.

 

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On October 21, 1851, rival mountain legislators shot it out in a Morganton courtroom over an estate dispute.

The This Day project features hundreds of stories of the people and places of the Tar Heel state, told day by day. Each post is tagged by location and subject, so you can use the search feature to browse the archive by your location or interest area.

We’re always on the look out for new topics, and if you have an idea for a topic we haven’t yet covered, feel free to shoot us an email and let us know about.

Thanks for your continued support of this project. We’re glad to see people enjoy reading these posts as much we enjoy writing them!

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A look at the lifesaving service in Beaufort, Beethoven’s Ninth for kids in Raleigh and discussions of a Thomas Wolfe short story in Asheville are just a few of the opportunities for fun and discovery you’ll find this weekend with the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Here are 10 things on our weekend agenda:

1. Discover the storied history of the U.S. Lifesaving Service in North Carolina Thursday at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

 

 

2. Join the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh for a lively performance by funk, soul and jazz musician Kim Arrington Sunday.

 

 

 

 

4. Enjoy a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony adapted for kids and families by the N.C. Symphony Saturday in Raleigh.

 

 

5. Explore facts about the majestic black bear Saturday at South Mountains State Park in Connelly Springs.

 

 

6. Help the New Hope Audubon Society count the number of bald eagles at Jordan Lake in Apex Sunday.

 

 

7. Take your kids to Lake James State Park in Nebo Sunday to explore leaves up close with ranger.

 

 

8. Hear about how mammals are reacting in an era of extreme environmental change Thursday at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

 

 

9. Learn the basics of using maps and a compass for navigation Sunday at Pilot Mountain State Park in Pinnacle.

 

 

10. Create a cool three-color illusion piece with Perler beads inspired by M. C. Escher Friday at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh.

 

 

Check out DNCR’s calendar for more information on these and other events, and a enjoy a great North Carolina weekend!

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Still looking for a way to ring in 2016? We have a few ideas for both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day across North Carolina:

 

1. Start your new year off Friday with a First Day Hike at one of North Carolina’s state parks. Most parks will have guided programs, and all parks will be open.

 

 

2. Ring in the new year Thursday with First Nigh Raleigh activities at the N.C. Museum of History and N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

 

 

3. Commemorate the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution with patriotic music, historical reenactments with costumed characters and a dramatic reading of amendment’s text Friday at Tryon Palace in New Bern.

 

 

4. Swing in the New Year with Camel City Jazz Orchestra and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem Thursday at the Resolution 2016 Jazz Party.

 

 

5. Celebrate the arrival of 2016 with music by Strauss, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and others as performed by the N.C. Symphony Thursday in Raleigh.

 

 

Check out DNCR’s calendar for more information on these and other events, and a enjoy a great North Carolina weekend!

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