Posts Tagged ‘history’


H. H. Brimley, founding director of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. Image from the State Archives.

When the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, activists sought to harness the increased consciousness Americans had about the environment and the counterculture movement then sweeping the nation to motivate people to speak out and act on environmental issues.

In celebration of the watershed moment 46 years ago, here are the stories of eight North Carolina conservation leaders and the places they sought to protect:


Baum at Jockey’s Ridge. Image from Friends of Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

Carolista Baum. After her children saw a bulldozer flatten out part of Jockey’s Ridge on a quiet morning in August 1973, Baum went to investigate and discovered that the dune was slated for destruction to make way for a residential development. Baum planted herself in the way of the earth moving equipment, halting construction.

She went on to help found the People to Preserve Jockey’s Ridge, which led to the creation of a state park in 1975.


Plan Your Visit to Baum’s Legacy, Jockey’s Ridge State Park →



“Big Hugh” Bennett. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

“Big Hugh” Bennett. Now know as the “father of soil conservation,” Hugh Hammond Bennett grew up in the drainage basin of the Pee Dee River in Anson County and became aware of the woeful effects of soil erosion at an early age.

He is widely credited with selling the benefits of soil conservation to a skeptical public and spreading the message of the importance of topsoil preservation among farmers. Bennett served with the federal Soil Conservation Service for 50 years.

Learn More About Bennett’s Life on NCpedia →


H. H. Brimley. After emigrating to North Carolina from England, Brimley and his brother opened a taxidermy shop in Raleigh. They quickly gained reputations as two of the South’s leading naturalists.

After Brimley created an exhibit on waterfowl and fishes for the State Exposition of 1884, the state Department of Agriculture found the exhibit too valuable to discard. The department found a more permanent place in its halls for the exhibit and, in time, found a more permanent place for Brimley, too, as the exhibit’s curator and director of the museum it began, now the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.


Explore the Museum Brimley Helped Create →



Kephart camping in the Smokies. Image from his book.

Horace Kephart. A former librarian from Pennsylvania, Kephart came to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina in 1904 seeking solace. He would spent the rest of his life living outside of Bryson City, writing about the environment and outdoor life. By 1913, he had published three books on self-reliant living and the natural world.

An early advocate of the mountain region, Kephart tirelessly promoted the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His book Our Southern Highlanders, published in 1913, is the classic work on the region.


Read More About Kephart on NCpedia →


Hugh Morton. Perhaps best-known as the developer of Grandfather Mountain, which he inherited in 1952, Morton was also instrumental in saving some of the state’s historic treasures including the Battleship North Carolina and Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Morton gained notoriety for his fight to keep the Blue Ridge Parkway from crossing Grandfather Mountain and spoiling its aesthetic appeal, and took close to a quarter-million photographs which helped promote North Carolina’s scenic beauty.


Plan Your Trip to Morton’s Grandfather Mountain →


Margaret Nygard. After the city of Durham announced plans to build a reservoir on the Eno River to increase the area’s water supply, Nygard and her husband ignited a grassroots campaign to fight to preserve the unique history and environment of the Eno and advocate for the creation of a state park along it.


Discover the Magic of the Eno at Eno River State Park →


T. Gilbert Pearson. Originally from Illinois, Pearson settled in North Carolina after studying biology and botany at Guilford College and UNC. He had a strong interest in birds and assembled one of the largest collections of bird eggs in nation at the time.

After writing his first book, Stories of Bird Life, Gilbert became active in policy work, founding the Abudon Society of North Carolina and advocating for state and national legislation protecting birds and their habitats. He founded the International Committee for Bird Preservation in 1922 and served as its first president for more than a decade.


Dive Deeper into Pearson’s Story on NCpedia →



Carl Schenck. Image from NCSU Libraries.

Carl Schenck. A German by birth, Schenck came to North Carolina to manage the woodlands on Biltmore Estate for the Vanderbilt family. He started the nation’s first school of forestry on the Biltmore grounds in 1898, teaching students about the care of nurseries; the transplant and cultivation of seedlings; timber selection; felling; logging; and sawing, and using Biltmore’s tens of thousands of acres of forest as a classroom.


Read More About Schenck on NCpedia →


This Earth Day weekend we hope you get in touch with North Carolina’s scenic beauty and natural splendor at the state park, aquarium or science museum near you or at the North Carolina Zoo.

You can also learn more about the conservation movement in North Carolina on NCpedia and find a guide to resources related to North Carolina’s environmental heritage produced by the State Library.

Happy exploring!

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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.


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.


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


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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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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Last Friday, we debuted a GIF that showed the formation of North Carolina counties. You all seemed to love it, but also gave us some great feedback about slowing the speed down and adding the ability to pause.

We’ve cut the frame speed in half to give you a better view (available below and on our website) and also posted a version of the animation on our YouTube channel to enable you to pause, if that’s something you’re interested in.

As you watch this interestomh transformation, you might notice that some of the places listed on the map at certain points now longer exist. Here’s what happened to them:

  • Albemarle County was divided into Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank and Perquimans precincts in 1668, and ceased to exist the next year when each of those precincts became its own county.
  • Bath County, which was formed in 1696, suffered a similar fate in 1705, when the three precincts it was divided into became Beaufort, Craven and Hyde Counties (Beaufort County was originally called Pamtecough).
  • Organized by the Lords Proprietors around the mouth of the Cape Fear River in 1664, by 1667 Clarendon County was abandoned. Since it predated 1700, this name actually doesn’t appear in the animation, but we wanted to make sure it was mentioned.

A section of a 1775 map of North Carolina showing Dobbs County.
Image from the State Archives.

The remaining four defunct counties were all eliminated or had their names changed because the people they were named after became unpopular.

  • Since former royal governor William Tryon was serving as a British officer at the time, area citizens petitioned the General Assembly to divide Tryon County into Lincoln and Rutherford Counties in 1779.
  • Many North Carolinians blamed Bute County’s namesake, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, personally for the 1765 Stamp Act, so by 1779 it was divided into Franklin and Warren Counties.

Don’t forget to visit the DNCR website and NCpedia to learn more about North Carolina’s unique places.

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A chance to meet Santa by the sea in Kure Beach, a winter birds hike in Southern Pines and performances of holiday music from throughout history in Pineville 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 eight things are our weekend agenda:

1. Meet Santa by the sea and enjoy holiday games, crafts and storytelling at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach Saturday.



2. Join Tryon Palace in New Bern for a 1940s, USO-style Christmas show Friday and then return to the site Saturday to celebrate a candlelight Christmas.



3. Encounter the birds that call the Sandills region home during the winter on a hike through the Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve Saturday in Southern Pines.



4. Enjoy holiday music from throughout history Saturday at the President James K. Polk Historic Site in Pineville.



5. Marvel at a Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular with music by the N.C. Symphony throughout the weekend in Raleigh.



6. Celebrate the season with Escher-inspired art making and games, music by Sandbox, free treats for the kids and a visit from Santa Friday at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh.



7. Spend an evening under the stars at Town Creek Indian Mound in Mount Gilead Saturday.



8. Take a 90-minute canoe tour of William B. Umstead State Park’s Big Lake 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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A 1923 map showing North Carolina's counties created by the U.S. Geological Survey and now held by the State Archives.

A 1923 map showing North Carolina’s counties created by the U.S. Geological Survey and now held by the State Archives.

North Carolina is known for its varied people and places. While researching a post for our This Day in North Carolina history about Avery County, the last county in the Tar Heel State to be formed, we got curious: how did those boundaries evolve over time? Where did some of those unique names come from?

Luckily, there’s a wonderful book on the subject, David Leroy Corrbit’s 1950 work The Formation of North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943. The book, now in in sixth printing, discusses the boundary changes in painstaking detail and also features some neat drawings that visually show the evolution.

Inspired by the Digital Public Library of America’s amazing GIF IT UP contest that ended last month, we took the drawings in Corbitt’s book, originally done by L. Polk Denmark; added some highlights; and made a GIF of our own, illustrating the changes in the Tar Heel State’s internal boundaries.

Check it out below:



(See a Larger Version of This GIF)


If you’re interested in learning more about North Carolina geography, NCpedia has a host of great resources, including an overview of each county and the entire North Carolina Gazetteer online for free. Corbitt’s book, available for sale from our Historical Publications Section and at a local library near you, is great, too.

We’ve also added a new page on our website aggregating these and other great resources our agency produces related to North Carolina places all in one location. Happy exploring!

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The annual state tree lighting in Raleigh, a new exhibit of Star Wars artifacts in Asheville and a colonial Christmas weekend at the coast 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 18 ideas for making the most of your weekend:

1. Celebrate a Colonial Christmas weekend with activities with open houses at Historic Edenton and Historic Bath, and the annual Candlelight celebration at Tryon Palace in New Bern.



2. Join Governor Pat McCrory for the annual State Tree Lighting on the grounds of the State Capitol in Raleigh, and then stop by the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences across the street for a special meet the animals program.



3. Visit a special exhibit of Star Wars artifacts at the Western Regional Archives in Asheville, and take your kids to a special Star Wars Lego class there Saturday.



4. Meet Santa by the sea Friday at the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and Saturday at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach.



5. Marvel at the Executive Mansion’s elaborate Christmas decorations during its annual holiday open house in Raleigh throughout the weekend.



6. Step back in time to an 18th century Christmas at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Sunday in Winnabow. You’ll find colonial refreshments, traditional games, special tours and an authentic period candlelit service.



7. Enjoy a concert of Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite” and other holiday favorites Thursday at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem.



8. See what 18th century life was like along the North Carolina frontier Saturday at Fort Dobbs in Statesville.



9. Experience a Civil War Christmas Saturday by learning about the holiday traditions from the period at the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center in Kinston and seeing a period holiday brought to life at Bennett Place in Durham.



10. Find a gift for the art lover in your life at the Folk Art Center’s Guild Artist Holiday Sale Saturday in Asheville.





12. Explore the dramatic landscapes and diverse peoples that have shaped the South at a new exhibit of Southern paintings opening at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh Friday.



13. Spend a festive Sunday afternoon at Duke Homestead in Durham as part of the site’s annual Victorian Family Christmas program.



14. Browse of the one largest selections of local pottery in mountains Friday and Saturday at Mud Dabbers of Brevard‘s holiday open house.



15. Listen to some of your favorite holiday tunes as performed by the North Carolina Symphony Thursday in Jacksonville and Saturday in Wilmington.



16. Get into the spirit of the season with holiday open houses Saturday at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras, Historic Halifax, House in the Horseshoe near Sanford and the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort.



17. Watch the Geminid Meteor Shower Sunday night with N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences at Medoc Mountain State Park in Hollister.



18. Go on a candlelight tour to celebrate the holiday season. Aycock Birthplace in Fremont will offer tours Thursday, and both Duke Homestead and Bennett Place in Durham will offer tours Friday.



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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