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Posts Tagged ‘Duke Homestead’

Explore Asheville’s haunted history with tours of Riverside Cemetery led by staff of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

With Halloween just a week away, the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources offers a variety of ways for visitors to have a “boo-tiful” cultural experience.

The fun has already begun at the Museum of the Cape Fear, where visitors can take Victorian-themed Halloween tours of the Poe House and enter their prized pumpkins in a Jack-O-Lantern contest. The Museum will also offer nighttime tours of Poe House and a trick-or-treat event on the weekend.

Friday afternoon, the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City will have hands-on activities for children complete with junior docents telling local ghost stories. Later in the evening, visitors can witness a recreation of a séance popular in the 19th century and hear performances of North Carolina folk ballads at Duke Homestead in Durham. Friday also features haunted exhibit halls at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, and ghost ship Ghost Ship tours Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington, which will be continued on Saturday.

Saturday afternoon, staff from the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville will lead tours of the historic Riverside Cemetery exploring the personalities and stories of the people of Asheville’s past, while the N.C. Maritime Museum in Southport will present games, stories and other activities for the little goblins and ghouls in your family. Visitors to Town Creek Indian Mound in Mount Gilead will have the chance to experience the night as it appeared to the Mound Builders nearly 1,000 years ago on firelight tours, while the North Carolina Symphony presents its annual Halloween Spooktacular in Raleigh.

The spooky season rounds out with a Halloween bash complete with trick-or-treating, a bounce house and an animal petting zoo at the Battleship North Carolina on Tuesday and Halloween Safe Night at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh on Wednesday.

For more on North Carolina’s haunted history, check out the NCpedia articles on Ghosts and Folklore.

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Nearly 20 teams of three competed in a traditional tobacco tying contest Friday at the N.C. State Fair. The annual contest, hosted by Duke Homestead, demonstrating a common chore on farms across North Carolina performed until the mid-20th century.

Farmers tied tobacco onto sticks and loaded them into barns, where the tobacco was cured.  The practice originated after the accidental discovery of the method for curing bright leaf tobacco by a slave on a Caswell County farm in 1839. The practice largely fell by the wayside as technology improved and tobacco began to be cured in a bulk barn in large containers.

If you missed Friday’s contest, have no fear. There are more opportunities to learn about North Carolina’s tobacco heritage at the Fair. All week long, volunteers from Duke Homestead and the state tobacco growers association are staffing a working tobacco barn in Heritage Circle. Visitors will be able to take a peek at the curing process during the week. Weekend visitors to the barn can see the finished product.

Duke Homestead will also put on a mock tobacco auction Friday at 2 p.m. in the Expo Building (see coverage of last year’s auction here). Though tobacco is now sold primarily through contracts between farmers and tobacco companies, auctions were the primary method of tobacco trade between 1859 and 2004. The mock auction celebrates that legacy. We hope to see you there!

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Workers in the dome of the State Capitol.

From the mountains to the coast, there are plenty of opportunities to experience North Carolina culture this weekend. Whether your interest lies in agriculture, the environment, film, music or architecture, there’s something for everyone this Saturday and Sunday.

Start your weekend morning with Saturdays in the Garden at the N.C. Museum of History. The program offers an informal tour of the History of Harvest exhibit. Across Edenton Street, behind-the-scenes tours will offer visitors a chance to see parts of the State Capitol that are usually off-limits.

Saturday  afternoon, Dr. William Still will present a lecture on Civil War ironclads in North Carolina at the N.C. Maritime Museum at Beaufort, while the N.C. Museum of History will present a screening of Gone With The Wind as part of its “Real to Reel” exhibit on the making of the film.

All day long Duke Homestead will host its annual Harvest and Hornworm Festival, complete with demonstrations of tobacco tying and curing, a tobacco auction and a MoonPie eating contest. The Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville will celebrate the Revolutionary War era with its Festival of Yesteryear, and the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer will give visitors the chance to drive into the past with its All-Mopar Show.

On Sunday, author Charles R. Knight will present a lecture on the Battle of New Market and Shenandoah Valley campaign of the Civil War at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City. The Old Fort Pickers Band will celebrate traditional mountain music at the Mountain Gateway Museum near Asheville, while the N.C. Symphony will kicks off its 80th anniversary season with a free 7:00 p.m. concert at the Raleigh Amphitheater.

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I grew up in Wilson—long nicknamed the World’s Greatest Tobacco Market—but I never heard the extraordinary tale of how bright leaf tobacco was first cured.

An accident in 1839 led to one of the most important breakthroughs in North Carolina agriculture history.   A slave named Stephen on Abisha Slade’s Caswell County farm worked as a blacksmith and oversaw the curing of the tobacco crop. On one occasion, due to the warmth created by the fire, Stephen fell asleep in the curing barn. A few hours later, he woke up to find the fire almost completely out. To try to keep the heat going, he rushed to his blacksmithing pit, retrieved charcoal and threw hot coals on the curing fire, creating a sudden, intense heat. His actions caused the tobacco to cure quickly, leaving it with a vivid yellow color.

Cured bright leaf tobacco. Photograph courtesy of Michael T. Southern, N.C. State Historic Preservation Office.

The new tobacco, which became known as bright leaf tobacco, soon became popular with smokers.  Within a generation, the success of bright leaf made North Carolina a leader in the United States’ tobacco industry.

Tobacco has long been a critical factor in North Carolina’s economy and history.  The tobacco barns that used to dot the landscape, however, are disappearing.  Many farmers have turned to different crops.  And those who still cultivate tobacco use modern technology for curing.  The State Historic Preservation Office has a nifty website that examines surviving tobacco barns of various types and gives tips for preserving them and suggestions on adaptive reuse.

The state’s oldest flue-cure barns are found in the Old Bright Belt and the northern Middle Belt along the Virginia border. The compact barns are most often built of hewn logs. Photograph courtesy of the State Historic Preservation Office.

Both the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly and  Duke Homestead State Historic Site in Durham offer opportunities to explore and learn about traditional tobacco culture.  On September 8th, Duke Homestead is hosting a free  Harvest and Hornworm Festival. Activities will include demonstrations of historic tobacco harvesting, stringing and curing, hornworm races, a MoonPie eating contest, musical entertainment, and craft vendors.

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