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Published: April 12th 2014
MapQuest estimated my trip from High Point NC to the North Carolina State Fairgrounds Campground in Raleigh NC at about 90 miles with a travel time of 1-3/4 hours so there was no need to rush my departure from the Oak Hollow Family Campground on Wednesday, November 13, 2013. The trip was uneventful until I reached the main entrance to the fairgrounds complex. I circled the complex but saw nothing of a directional sign for the campground. I really didn’t want to tow the Pilgrim on an off-road scavenger hunt but had no other logical option.
In my travels through the fairgrounds complex, I spotted numerous horse haulers and a flurry of activity at the horse arena – I put that on the “check out later” list. Eventually, I found the campground adjacent to a road that, essentially, dissects the complex. There is no gate or registration shack but, instead, a sign instructing new arrivals to call XXX to contact security. I called, left a voice mail, waited thirty minutes, selected an RV site and called again describing my course of action along with my site number. Fast forward two days to Friday, I saw the security officer on routine
patrol, hailed him and paid the fee for my planned two-week stay.
Not only did I have attractions to visit in the Raleigh-Durham area, I have two cousins (sons of my aunt in Florida) who also live in the area. Their father was a career Navy man so we didn’t see much of each other growing up, but we have hit it off pretty good when I’ve seen them during their trips to Florida to visit their mother.
Thursday found me heading for downtown Raleigh and the North Carolina State Capitol. During the Colonial period and the American Revolution, the capital of North Carolina was migratory because of shifts in the population center – meeting in courthouses when available or in private homes. While governors lived in their own homes, the General Assembly moved from place to place (now THAT is something with which I can identify). In 1788, a State Convention voted “to fix the capital within ten miles of Isaac Hunter's plantation.” The location was chosen for being close to Isaac Hunter's Tavern, a popular gathering place frequented by the state legislators and because the central location would protect it from coastal attacks.
named for Sir Walter Raleigh, sponsor of Roanoke (the "lost colony" on Roanoke Island) and is one of the few cities in the United States that was planned and built specifically to serve as a state capital. A committee purchased 1,000 acres of Joel Lane's plantation; and a plan for Raleigh was drawn based on the nation's capital at the time – Philadelphia. Construction of the state house began on the town's central square in 1792, and that building, first occupied in 1794, served as the capitol until it burned in 1831. The General Assembly of 1832-1833 ordered that a new capitol be built as an enlarged version of the old State House.
The Capitol is cross-shaped with a domed rotunda where the wings join. It is 160 feet from north to south, 140 feet from east to west (including the porticoes) and stands 97-1/2 feet from the rotunda floor to the crown atop the dome. The exterior walls are built of gneiss (a form of granite) that was quarried in southeastern Raleigh and hauled to the site on the horse-drawn Experimental Railroad – North Carolina's first railway.
Construction of the capitol building was completed in 1840 and
cost $532,682.34 – more than three times the yearly general income of the state at the time. It housed all of North Carolina's state government facilities until 1888 when the Supreme Court and the State Library moved into a separate building. The North Carolina General Assembly relocated to its current location in the North Carolina State Legislative Building in 1963. Today, the governor and lieutenant governor, along with their immediate staff, occupy the Capitol’s first floor offices. The Capitol was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
I try to visit “kid friendly,” learning-opportunity attractions on weekend days when school is not in session, but visiting state capitols is a Catch-22 – many state capitols are open only Monday–Friday. The North Carolina State Capitol does have guided tours on Saturday; however, I had committed to spending Saturday with my cousins. Soooo, my Thursday visit found me added on to a grade school tour group. This is not a problem from a visual perspective, but the commentary, understandably, is presented differently than it would be for an adult group.
I had to perform some research to compose an adult account of a very interesting statue that stands in the
rotunda of the Capitol. The exterior of the State House was considered very plain by many. To add dignity to the structure, the General Assembly funded a statue to honor George Washington in 1816. The work was sculpted by Italian artist Antonio Canova. Since Canova had never seen Washington, he was sent a plaster bust and a drawing of Washington to aid him in his effort; however, Canova never received the drawing. Washington's body was left to the artist’s imagination, so he depicted Washington as a great war hero – a Roman general – yup, dressed in a tunic, body armor and a short cape.
The statue was acquired by the state in 1821. Ironically, some thought that the statue should be put on rollers so that it could be quickly moved should something happen to the State House. The rollers were discounted as lacking in dignity; however, when the State House burned in 1831 and the statue was destroyed, many “wheeled proponents” might have been heard saying, "I told you so."
In 1910, the King of Italy presented the State with the plaster model Canova used as a guide to create the marble statue. That plaster model
is now housed at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. In 1970, Italian artist Romano Vio used the model to sculpt the marble copy that stands in the rotunda of the capitol building today. Seeing the face of George Washington connected to a Mark Antony-like body is something one doesn’t see every day! The North Carolina State Capitol is, as are all state capitols in my opinion, a “must see” while in the capital city, and the George Washington statue punctuates the uniqueness of the landmark.
I had a 3 PM tour reservation for the North Carolina Executive Mansion but had several hours to wait so I decided to walk across the street to the North Carolina Museum of History and see as much as possible before my appointment at the nearby Executive Mansion. Someplace in this verbiage, “Fast forward to Saturday, November 14, 2013” should be inserted; however, I decided to merge the descriptions of my museum visits for continuity’s sake.
The museum opens with European exploration and settlement and briefly discusses the “Lost Colony” on Roanoke Island that I visited in the spring of 2012 and the birth therein of Virginia Dare, the first
child of English parents to be born in the New World. Highlights of sites I have visited, such as the Battle of Alamance, and subjects I have previously blogged, such as the pirate Blackbeard and his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge, are also included as part of North Carolina’s early history.
The introduction of tobacco to Europeans and the rise in importance of the plant to that of a major cash crop is noted, but the first major exhibit area focuses on the various agricultural lifestyles found in North Carolina in the 18th
centuries and the social structure that was attached to each lifestyle – planters, yeoman farmers, American Indians, freed blacks and slaves. The discovery of gold and the opening of the Charlotte Branch of the United States Mint are recapped. Maritime subjects, such as fishing, lighthouses and lifesaving, are summarized and are smoothly transitioned into the next major subject – naval stores; the production of the pine tar that was used to paint, caulk and preserve wooden sailing ships of the day; the production of turpentine from the pine resin; and the manufacture of the barrels used to ship those products. Of course, speculation about the
Just What Is A Tar Heel?
North Carolina Museum of History - Raleigh NC
genesis of the moniker “tar heel” is offered.
Extensive coverage of the institution of slavery is provided including an acknowledgement that, “White society saw them as economic assets, but slaves were first of all people.” After Nat Turner’s slave uprising in Virginia in 1831 and with enslaved African-Americans accounting for one-third of North Carolina’s 1860 population, it is not surprising that resistance and rebellion were on the minds of slaves and fear dominated the thoughts of many whites. The actions of people like David Walker, Nat Turner and John Brown are recapped, well-known North Carolinian abolitionists are identified and the post-Civil War reactions of many whites to the elevation of Blacks from members of the lowest rung on the social ladder to that of equals under the law is discussed.
Many whites felt their world was in upheaval and saw voting by former slaves as the ultimate humiliation. Some resorted to vigilante violence in an attempt to reestablish the former social order while others enacted legislation to the same end. African Americans and white Republicans both were the targets of intimidation and physical violence. The overthrow of the biracial city government in Wilmington NC on November 10, 1898
is discussed briefly. The exhibits conclude with an examination of the New South – tobacco, textiles and furniture – the great Depression, World War II and the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century.
Another (I believe temporary) exhibit in a separate room recaps the Watergate break-in and the resulting Congressional investigation. I can only wrap my brain around the rationale for its inclusion by realizing that the Chairman of the Watergate Committee was none other than the “Old Country Lawyer” North Carolina Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr.
My hats off to the museum brain trust for stepping “outside the box” and taking the visitor to the heart and soul of the history of North Carolina. It avoids standard fares such as prehistoric artifacts and comprehensive coverage of the Civil War found in many state museums (or is that musea – English is sooo easy, not – LOL). All the exhibits are well done and the subjects are enlightening. Two subjects come to mind that were not addressed but, nonetheless, are entrenched in North Carolina’s history. They are moonshining and the resulting sport of NASCAR. NASCAR historical information is readily available and would take a lot of space,
but a temporary exhibit about moonshining would make a wonderful addition to an already extraordinary museum. Who knows? Perhaps that WAS a temporary exhibit a few months ago!
On Saturday, when I completed my tour of the North Carolina Museum of History, I found the museum was hosting a Native American event. Inside, there were numerous displays of artifacts and tables with wares for sale. Outside, a pow wow was under way with performances by chanters and dancers. I haven’t attended a pow wow since a few years before I departed New Mexico in 2010, and I found it thoroughly enjoyable.
Returning to Thursday, November 14, I arrived at the North Carolina Executive Mansion where a tent-like shelter protected the security personnel and the security equipment as the visitors passed through a checkpoint. I have yet to pass through a metal detector unchallenged whether from suspenders, from snaps on a western shirt or from rivets on my jeans. Asked whether I had a pocket knife, I responded that I had remembered to leave it at home and was told they would have held it for me during the tour. Very nice, I already have sacrificed one knife when
I opted not to return to the truck about a mile from the Alamodome in San Antonio TX and have forfeited a tour of the new Capitol in Jackson MS for the same reason. In fairness, I have had my knife held for me on at least two occasions, but one never knows!
A school group arrived, and we were split into three groups. Fortunately, the children and their chaperones were placed in two groups and the other adults made up the third. I love kids and feel they need these kinds of experiences; however, I, perhaps selfishly, merely want the narrative of the tour guide to be presented at an adult level. Our tour guide provided a very interesting narrative. Even though barriers prevented entry to the individual rooms, large entry doors (and unselfish visitors in my group who looked, shot and got out of the way) provided ample opportunities for photography
of the appointments and the furnishings.
Since Raleigh was established as the permanent capital of North Carolina in 1788, there have been three official governors' residences in the city. The first was a two-story frame residence purchased in 1797, but by 1810 the structure proved
Stately Dinners In A Stately Room
North Carolina Executive Mansion - Raleigh NC
inadequate. A large brick house with elaborate white columns was built and became the second official residence in 1816. From the burning of the State House in 1831 to the completion of the present Capitol in 1840, the governor's house also served as the meeting place for the General Assembly. During a portion of the Civil War, Union Gen. William T. Sherman used the structure as his headquarters, and after the War ended the state decided to abandon this building as the official executive residence. Ya think Sherman mighta stunk up da joint?
From 1865 to 1891 North Carolina governors had to fend for themselves. In 1883, the legislature passed a bill authorizing the construction of Raleigh's third official governors’ residence, required that the governor occupy the new dwelling and directed that officials use prison labor for construction as a cost saving measure. Inmate construction of the mansion was supervised by the prison warden, and, whenever possible, building materials were acquired from within the state. The Executive Mansion was completed in 1891 and has seen continuous use with each successive Governor and First Family. In 1970, the mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
though the tour of the Executive Mansion was limited to the first floor, I must say that the time was well spent. There are some logistical issues to overcome in securing a tour appointment that make spontaneity unwise. A reward is in the offing for those who can plan ahead; however, I cannot say in good conscience that the North Carolina Executive Mansion is an “absolutely must see” landmark.
Friday, November 15, 2013, again found me headed for downtown Raleigh and the Raleigh City Museum. Aptly, the former Briggs Hardware store houses the museum, and a welcoming placard proclaims that the visitor is not merely looking at the history of Raleigh but walking through a diary of the city: “… For over 125 years, Briggs Hardware store remained a constant on Fayetteville Street. Raleigh’s first skyscraper at four stories tall – representing much more than a hardware business (sic). Within these walls are rich stories of enterprise, growth, decline and rebirth.”
Thomas Briggs and James Dodd partnered to start a manufacturing company in 1850 and opened their hardware store after the Civil War. Dodd left in 1868, but the prosperity of the business allowed Briggs to build this
four-story building which opened in 1874. Fayetteville Street was Raleigh's main street, and Briggs Hardware was the epicenter - not only a commercial enterprise but also a social center where locals would gather to exchange news and gossip while munching on freshly made popcorn.
In the middle of the twentieth century, many businesses relocated to suburbia; and, following the trend in many cities suffering urban decline, Fayetteville Street was transformed into a pedestrian mall. When that concept failed to generate resurgence, Briggs Hardware relocated to North Raleigh in 1994. The building was acquired by Preservation North Carolina in 1997 and restoration efforts began. Fayetteville Street remained a pedestrian mall until 2006 after which a revitalization of the downtown occurred, and Fayetteville Street regained its former splendor.
The next exhibit area focuses on Raleigh’s black community, its businesses and its leaders with a smooth transition to racial topics via stories of the local members of the Tuskegee Airmen. Stories are told of early attempts to integrate Raleigh’s public schools, swimming pools and lunch counters along with supplemental stories of the players, the court rulings and the reactions of the local governmental leaders and the citizenry at large. Exhibit areas
that follow include the four USS Raleigh ships, the evolution of the official Raleigh city flag and the local growth of “hillbilly music” – including the discord and split of the Monroe Brothers (which happened in Raleigh) and the eventual establishment of Bluegrass by Bill Monroe as a genre unto its own.
The museum brain trust saved the best for last! The final exhibit examines the kit, or mail order, homes that were sold (primarily) by Sears. I have heard of kit homes but have never seen this topic addressed before! Not only does the exhibit identify the kit homes that were built in Raleigh, it outlines the ordering process, has a typical materials list and a placard listing Internet and library references. After selecting a model, the kit home was delivered to Raleigh by train. How the homeowner transported TWO RAILROAD BOXCARS of materials to the building site is left to the imagination of the visitor!
The “kit” consisted of precut pieces of lumber that were numbered for the builder/homeowner to match to the blueprint. A materials list for “Modern Home #111, The Chelsea,” is outlined on a placard and selectively includes, in addition to the dimensional
The Westly By Sears
Raleigh City Museum - Raleigh NC
lumber and the sheeting: 20,000 shingles, 750 pounds of nails, 25 doors, 28 windows, 400 feet of sash (window) cord, 72 sash weights, 27 gallons of paint, 6 dozen coat hooks, 10 pounds of wood putty and, of course, 1 doorbell! Absolutely amazing! For me, this exhibit alone was worth the drive.
Again, I must take my hat off to the museum decision makers for stepping “outside the box” and not presenting a plethora of commonplace artifacts that are readily found in many local museums. By attaching a local persona to an important topic such as segregation, the visitor learns the nuts and bolts of the subject at a local level. By taking a handful of topics and thoroughly exploring their impact on the community, the visitor learns how decisions, such as the creation of a pedestrian mall, (adversely) affected the community. I don’t know if all the exhibits are permanent or if all are temporary. Temporary, by my standard, could mean changing one exhibit per year and a total “changing of the guard” in 5-7 years. A rotation of the exhibits surely would give the citizens of Raleigh a reason to return. Well done, and highly recommended.
Vintage Tobacco Warehousing Equipment
Duke Homestead State Historic Site & Tobacco Museum - Durham NC
After spending not only Saturday but also Sunday with my cousins (Mike applied some VERY mild arm-twisting to get me to watch the final NASCAR race of the season on his big-screen TV), Monday found me heading for the Duke Homestead State Historic Site & Tobacco Museum in Durham NC. George Washington Duke was born in the eastern part of Orange County NC (which is now Durham County) on December 18, 1820. The death of his first wife and his subsequent remarriage brought him to what is now the Duke Homestead in 1852. He planted typical crops such as corn, wheat, oats and sweet potatoes until the late 1850s when he planted his first tobacco crop.
When the Civil War erupted, Duke was drafted into the Confederate Navy and was soon captured and imprisoned in Richmond VA. On his arrival back at the homestead after the war, he learned of the Union soldiers' love of Bright Leaf tobacco. With his children, he began processing smoking tobacco in a small log “factory” on the homestead. His product proved to be so popular that after only a few years, Duke was in his third, and much larger, factory. In 1874, he
Fewer Choices Than In The Late Twentieth Century
Duke Homestead State Historic Site & Tobacco Museum - Durham NC
sold his rural home and moved to the city of Durham where his tobacco business found workers hand processing tobacco into a form that could be sold by the bag for pipe smokers or for rolling cigarettes by hand.
In 1881, the W. Duke Sons and Company was established as a tobacco manufacturer and was soon a marketer of pre-rolled cigarettes. In 1885, James Buchanan “Buck“ Duke acquired a license to use the first automated cigarette making machine (invented by James Albert Bonsack), and by 1890, the Duke brothers controlled 40% of the American pre-rolled tobacco market. After a "tobacco war" among the five largest tobacco manufacturers, Washington's sons James and Benjamin consolidated control of their four major competitors under one corporate entity – the American Tobacco Company – and emerged as president and vice-president respectively.
George Washington Duke used his influence to have Trinity College moved to Durham. The institution opened its new campus in 1892 with him and his son Benjamin as its principal benefactors. In 1896, Duke gifted the college with $100,000 (about $2.75 million in 2012 dollars) on the condition that its doors be opened to women. George Washington Duke died on May 8,
Some Pipes Are Very Ornate
Duke Homestead State Historic Site & Tobacco Museum - Durham NC
1905. In 1906, the multi-national American Tobacco Company monopoly was found guilty of antitrust violations and was ordered to be split into three separate companies: American Tobacco Company, Liggett and Myers and the P. Lorillard Company. Now the principal stockholders of three companies, the Duke fortunes mushroomed.
Stepping back to 1892, the Dukes had opened their first textile firm in Durham NC. At the turn of the century, Buck Duke organized the American Development Company to acquire land and water rights on the Catawba River. In 1904, Buck Duke established the Catawba Power Company and the following year he and his brother founded the Southern Power Company, which became known as Duke Power, the precursor to the Duke Energy conglomerate of today. The company supplied electrical power to the Duke's textile factory and, within two decades, their expanded power facilities were supplying electricity to more than 300 cotton mills and other industrial companies.
In December 1924, Buck Duke established The Duke Endowment, a $40 million trust fund (about $531 million in 2012 dollars), and some of that money was earmarked for Trinity College. The institution subsequently was renamed Duke University in honor of his father, George Washington Duke.
An Extensive Collection Of Spittoons Is On Display
Duke Homestead State Historic Site & Tobacco Museum - Durham NC
The James B. Duke Library, the main library at Furman University, is named for Buck Duke because of his philanthropic relationship with that university.
On his death, he left approximately half of his huge estate to The Duke Endowment, which gave another $67 million (about $868 million in 2012 dollars) to the trust fund. In the indenture of trust, Duke specified that he wanted the endowment to support Duke University, Davidson College, Furman University and Johnson C. Smith University; not-for-profit hospitals and children's homes in the two Carolinas; and rural United Methodist churches in North Carolina, retired pastors, and their surviving families. The remainder of Duke's estate, estimated at approximately $100 million (about $1.3 billion in 2012 dollars), went to his only child, Doris, then a twelve-year-old, making her "the richest girl in the world." Doris Duke continued the Duke family philanthropic legacy.
In 1931, the Duke Homestead was purchased by Duke University, was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1966 and became a North Carolina State Historic Site in 1974. Today it is administered by the North Carolina State Division of Archives and History.
The Tobacco Museum traces tobacco history from
The Homestead Does Not Yet Reflect Duke’s Imminent Wealth
Duke Homestead State Historic Site & Tobacco Museum - Durham NC
Native American times to contemporary times. The soil and weather conditions found in North Carolina that are conducive to tobacco production are noted before the basic steps employed to grow tobacco are discussed. Essentially, the growing steps haven’t changed since Colonial times, but the farming tools (also on display) have changed remarkably. The last step for the tobacco farmer is the sale of his or her crop to the warehouse and a video of a tobacco auction is presented.
The wide variety of tobacco products is discussed, and vintage manufacturing equipment (which was the foundation of the Duke enterprise) is displayed. Short biographical sketches of five prominent tobacco entrepreneurs are given and early advertising is covered. A variety of tobacco tins, vending machines, posters, spittoons and pipes are presented before the tobacco debate, which dates back at least to King James I in 1604, is weighed. Stepping outside, the visitor can see the Duke family's restored home, a curing barn and an early factory where Washington Duke processed some of his first tobacco. As I was departing the museum, I passed two costumed interpreters who, given the time of day, might have been taking their lunch break. My outdoor
One Of George Washington Duke’s First Factories
Duke Homestead State Historic Site & Tobacco Museum - Durham NC
journey was quite unremarkable; however, my visit during the off season has met with other similar “less than stellar” results.
Since first introduced to early settlers by native peoples, tobacco has been a vital part of the economic heritage of North Carolina. During colonial times, bundles of this "cash crop" were used as currency. Today, tobacco is still the leading export crop of North Carolina. The UNC School of Education produced a video which I found (mostly) interesting about Harvesting, Curing and Selling Tobacco
(13:43) “the old fashion way.” Interestingly, the video was made at the Duke Homestead State Historic Site & Tobacco Museum. For those interested in the heritage of the locals, this attraction is a “must see.”
My next stop was the Stagville State Historic Site in Durham NC. Before I explain “what,” I feel a “why” is appropriate. The Bennehan and Cameron families left posterity a vast collection of personal and business documents. These documents provide detailed accounts of many of the activities on their plantations and greatly enhance our understanding of life on their North Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama plantation lands. The enslaved communities that lived and worked on the Bennehan-Cameron lands are among the best documented in
the entire South.
Briefly, some background on the Bennehan-Cameron connection. Richard Bennehan married Mary Amis in 1776 and had become quite successful by the time he built the Bennehan House in 1787. The couple had two children, Rebecca and Thomas. The two siblings maintained a very close relationship throughout their lives. Thomas, who never married but devoted his life to his family and the operation of the plantation, lived at Stagville Plantation his entire life.
In 1777, Duncan Cameron was born into a well-connected family in Mecklenburg County VA and had established himself as a lawyer in Hillsborough NC by 1799. He married Rebecca Bennehan in 1803. Endowed with the same business acumen as his father-in-law, a legal background and ambition; Cameron soon acquired a fortune. The couple lived in Hillsborough until 1807, when they moved to Stagville. At about that time, all the Cameron’s property (including the enslaved community) was combined with the Bennehans. The resulting enormous plantation complex was run as a partnership.
Upon his death in 1847, Thomas Bennehan left his fortune to his nephew Paul Cameron, Rebecca and Duncan’s son. When Duncan Cameron died in 1853, he was survived by four children, two
sons and two daughters; but Paul Cameron was the sole heir to his father’s large estates which added to the assets he had inherited from his uncle.
Paul Cameron’s holdings were among the largest in pre-Civil War North Carolina and, indeed, amongst the largest in all of the South. By 1860, he owned almost 30,000 acres and nearly 900 slaves. Stagville, a plantation of several thousand acres with buildings constructed from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century, lay at the center of this enormous estate. There were many skilled craftsmen in the enslaved community. These carpenters and artisans were responsible for the erection of the Horton Grove slave quarters, the Great Barn and all of the other buildings on the plantation except for the Bennehan House.
Throughout the South, a typical house for an enslaved family would have been a one-room, one-story structure with a dirt floor. The Horton Grove slave houses, constructed between 1851 and 1860, are the only two-story slave quarters remaining in North Carolina. The design of the Horton Grove homes employed brick nogging which provided insulation from the heat and cold and deterred rodent infestation – which could have created health problems.
Might “Simplicity” Be An Overstatement?
Historic Stagville State Historic Site - Durham NC
Family records reveal the design of these buildings was a deliberate attempt on Paul Cameron’s part to provide a healthier living environment for his slaves – an architectural expenditure to protect his human investment. Significant archaeological finds around the houses have given archaeologists and historians a glimpse into the lives of the many enslaved people who lived and worked at Stagville.
The Great Barn was built during the summer of 1860 from huge timbers felled and milled on nearby plantation land. The structural members of the barn were hand hewn while the flooring and siding were prepared in the sawmill. The barn, which was primarily intended to house 70-80 mules, features rare, complex joinery and is an enduring tribute to the skills of the enslaved craftsmen.
In 1976, Liggett and Meyers Tobacco Company, which had owned and worked the land for decades, donated the property to the state of North Carolina. Today, Stagville State Historic Site consists of 71 acres, the late 18th-century Bennehan family plantation home, the four Horton Grove slave dwellings, the Great Barn, a pre-Revolutionary War yeoman farmer’s home and the Bennehan Family cemetery. The Bennehan House was placed on the National Register of Historic
Places in 1973, and Horton Grove was registered in 1978.
The Stagville State Historic Site portrays the antithesis of my perception of “typical” pre-Civil War plantation life in two primary respects. First, slaves were not routinely abused but were valued and, in the case of Stagville, attempts were made to protect them from disease and illness. Second, not all plantation mansions were (to use words I ascribed to the mansions of Newport RI) vulgarly opulent. There are dozens of features found in the attraction that are neat or cool but few that create the wow factor many might presume of a “must see” attraction; however, the historical significance and the subtle uniqueness of the buildings elevate Stagville a step or two above a ho-hum, fair-to-middlin’ caliber in my opinion. “Must see,” no; very worth while, yes.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 found me heading east to the Country Doctor Museum in Bailey NC. Of the four country doctor museums in the United States (so I am told), I had visited only the Arkansas Country Doctor Museum in Lincoln AR during the first year of The Great Adventure
– 2010. The Arkansas museum was focused on the doctors who had
practiced in the community and was replete with accounts of incidents the doctors had encountered over the years. The Bailey NC museum has more artifacts in the collection but has fewer artifacts with an attached story and is more oriented to the practice of rural medicine in general during the early 20th
century. The docent was very knowledgeable and provided an extremely interesting and well done tour of the facility.
My next stop was the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly NC. The Duke Homestead State Historic Site and Tobacco Museum I visited earlier is focused the history of one family who was involved in the manufacturing of tobacco products whereas the Tobacco Farm Life Museum is exactly what the name describes – life in the first half of the 20th
century on a tobacco farm or in a small town in the tobacco belt (I guess if Bibles can have a belt, then tobacco can as well). More attention is given to the various processes and stages in the production and marketing of the tobacco crop with little attention given to the transformation of the crop into a retail product. For example, the evolution of soil conservation techniques,
Early Tobacco Pest-Reduction Tools
Tobacco Farm Life Museum - Kenly NC
the steps employed in the tobacco-curing process, the social atmosphere at the tobacco auction and the methods used to abate tobacco parasites all are discussed in quite some detail.
A recurring theme is the pride found in the tobacco-farming families and the tobacco belt communities even after the acceptance of tobacco usage waned in the second half of the 20th
century. The museum follows with small focused exhibits of a more generalized nature such as country medicine, the farm kitchen and laundry room, the community church, transportation, education and recreation – fishing, hunting and baseball. Outside, there are several outbuildings that contain relatively commonplace artifacts seen in many museums of this type – the exception being the tobacco curing barn. The two museums are totally different and supplement each other to truly enhance the visitor’s understanding of the lifestyle and culture of the tobacco belt. Both are worthy of a visit.
My final stop for the day was the Wayne County Museum in Goldsboro NC. The Wayne County Museum building was constructed in 1927 by the Goldsboro Woman's Club and was used by the United Service Organization (USO) during World War II. Attendance reached as high as 12,000
soldiers, sailors and airmen per month. By the 1980’s, the woman’s club membership had dwindled, and the executive board voted to donate the building to the Wayne County Historical Association.
As with virtually all local museums, one or two artifacts and/or one or two stories are memorable. I left with two memories. The first is a doll house designed and built by Marjorie Patrick. She had built a doll house for each of her granddaughters and had presented it on their tenth birthday. In 1991, she began construction of her own miniature "dream" house. The detail captured in the piece is simply astounding and the craftsmanship is superb. The second is the story of a local boy who doctored his birth certificate so he could join the U.S. Marine Corps. After boot camp, he was sent to Vietnam and was killed one month after arriving in country. At the age of 15, he was the youngest U.S. serviceman to die in that war and perhaps the youngest American to die in any war since the Civil War. Interestingly, he was born on December 21, 1953. Rudy was killed on his 14th
birthday – December 21, 1967. The museum is
Very Nice But Unremarkable
Joel Lane Museum House - Raleigh NC
nice, but definitely is not a “must see.”
Friday, November 22, 2013 found me setting out for the Joel Lane Museum House in Raleigh NC. Some might remember from earlier in this blog that 1,000 acres of land was purchased from Lane in 1792 upon which to establish the city of Raleigh as the permanent state capital. Lane owned thousands of acres, which enabled him to be influential in politics, and he served in the State Senate in 11 of 14 sessions. He also was a delegate to the 1789 convention that ratified the United States Constitution. Lane is known as the "Father of Raleigh" and the "Father of Wake County." The house, built in 1769, is the oldest dwelling in Wake County and contains collections of 18th century artifacts and period furnishings.
After Lane’s death in 1795, ownership of the house changed several times before being purchased by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of North Carolina in 1927. That organization continues to operate the museum today. The museum is nice but unremarkable. Save some interesting stories conveyed by the costumed docent, I would suggest all but Raleigh locals and those who
The Generals’ Approach To The Bennett Farm
Bennett Place State Historic Site - Durham NC
have an intense interest in 18th
century dwellings skip this attraction.
Next, I tossed my Colonial-era headwear onto the passenger seat, donned my Civil War-era hat and made my way to the Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham NC. After Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, General Joseph E. Johnston realized he could not continue the war. Johnston sent a courier with a message to General Sherman that proposed a meeting to discuss a truce. Johnston, escorted by a detachment of about 60 troopers, traveled east along the Hillsborough Road toward Durham Station as Sherman was riding west to meet him with an escort of 200 men. When the two groups converged, Bennett Place happened to be the closest and most convenient location for the negotiations.
April 17, the first day of discussion, was intensified when Sherman shared the telegram containing the notification of the assassination of President Lincoln with Johnston. They met again the following day and signed the terms of surrender. Unfortunately, the negotiated terms were rejected by government officials in Washington because they were more generous than those Grant had given Lee.
The Reproduction Farm House Is Well Done
Bennett Place State Historic Site - Durham NC
The opposing generals met again on April 26, 1865 and signed the final papers of the surrender of 89,270 Confederate troops – the largest group to surrender during the Civil War. The farm of James and Nancy Bennett, simple yeoman farmers, became the site where the Civil War ended.
Like many families, James and Nancy Bennett suffered tremendously during the four years of war. They lost a son and a son in law in combat. Their 3rd child, who was not in the war, also died during the Civil War years. The Bennetts never fully recovered from the war. After James Bennett died in 1878, the family moved to the new community of Durham to begin a life without him. The Bennett Farm was abandoned and fell into ruin. A fire destroyed the farmhouse in 1921. In 1923, the Unity monument was dedicated on the site; and, in 1960, the Bennett Farm site was fully reclaimed and restored by local preservationists. It was then turned over to the State of North Carolina and became a state historic site.
As I entered the visitor center and approached the attendant, I was told a tour had just started and that
I could join them if I wanted. I opted to forego the introductory materials and scurried out to the group where I was warmly received. The docent provided an excellent narrative and aptly answered the few questions that were generated. The reproduction of the Bennett home is well done and lends itself to a quick image of the generals amidst surrender negotiations. The visitor center has a handful of interesting artifacts and numerous placards with interesting factoids about the event. Without the historical significance, I easily could recommend a “pass,” but the import of Bennett Place State Historic Site elevates the attraction to a “must see” for all history buffs.
The web site for the Mordecai Square Historic Park in Raleigh NC clearly states, “Public Tours are not offered when school tours are on site,” and then adds for those without degrees in Rocket Engineering, “School tours are not held on Saturdays.” Soooo, Saturday, November 23, 2013 found me heading for the historic landmark. Not only did the Mordecai Mansion itself intrigue me, the Mordecai Square Historic Park also is the current location of the birthplace of President Andrew Johnson.
The Joel Lane house, built in 1769, might
be the oldest dwelling in Wake County; however, the Mordecai House, built in 1785, is “the oldest residence in Raleigh on its original foundation.” Always read the modifiers carefully! Interestingly, the first section of the Mordecai Mansion was built by Joel Lane for his son, Henry; and was, at one time, the centerpiece of a 5,000-acre plantation. The house was named after Moses Mordecai, whose first wife, Margaret Lane, had inherited it from her father, Henry. After she died, Mordecai married her sister Ann Lane. Does the plot thicken? Stay tuned!
Henry Mordecai’s daughter, Margaret, inherited the mansion, and her descendants owned and occupied Mordecai House until 1967. When the house and the surrounding block were put on the market in 1967, local preservationists protested, the city purchased the property and ownership was given to the Raleigh Historic Sites Commission to supervise and develop as an historic park. The commission was able to obtain many original Mordecai furnishings, as well as to preserve the family papers and library. In addition to the Mordecai House and the original birthplace of President Andrew Johnson, Mordecai Square Historic Park hosts the Ellen Mordecai Garden, the Badger-Iredell Law Office, Allen Kitchen and Saint
Keeping The Baby Close To Mama
Mordecai Square Historic Park - Raleigh NC
Mark's Chapel which is frequently used for weddings.
My visit found two docents leading two separate tours. The first was a tour of Mordecai House which was spectacular when compared to most of the plantation houses I have seen recently. Although small when compared to the standardized image of a plantation house, the appointments are quite luxurious. The number and types of artifacts seem appropriate for the attraction, and the tour guide was interesting and knowledgeable. The second portion of the tour found a new docent at the helm who took the group to the outbuildings. Again, the tour guide was refreshing and well-informed.
I found the birthplace of Andrew Johnson the most interesting structure on the campus. I suppose that makes sense given that I am not a local. Johnson was the 17th President of the United States and assumed the office after Lincoln’s assassination. The house is a small, one-story structure that was moved to the park from its original location. Interestingly, when Johnson returned to Raleigh in 1867 to dedicate a monument at his father's grave, local newspapers precisely described his itinerary; yet, no mention whatsoever was made of a visit to, inquiry about, or
interest in the house in which he was born.
The Johnson birthplace stood on its original site until the early 1880s when it was moved to a lot on Cabarrus Street. The association of the house with Johnson inspired the Wake County Chapter of the North Carolina Society of the Colonial Dames of America to buy it for $100 in 1904 and arrangements were made with the City of Raleigh to have it moved to Pullen Park, where it could be preserved as part of the state's heritage. A restoration project was undertaken, and the house opened to the public in 1940. Closed during World War II, it reopened in 1948 while restoration continued. In 1975 the Andrew Johnson Birthplace traveled to its fourth, and perhaps final, location in Mordecai Square Historic Park.
Overall, my sixteen-day stay in the Raleigh-Durham area was very enjoyable. I have yet to be thoroughly disappointed with a state capitol city, and spending several days with my cousins was a great break from the self-imposed routine I usually enjoy on my “off days.” My scheduled Wednesday before Thanksgiving departure was delayed until the day following Thanksgiving via some very mild arm-twisting applied by
my cousin’s wife. We spent a great day together. Compared to most cities its size, the traffic in Raleigh is absolutely horrific! Without immediate intervention, future commuters might get home for a meal and a nap before again departing for work; however, the diversity of attractions in Raleigh still should give almost everybody an opportunity to have a relatively enjoyable visit.
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