Henry Lawson Wyatt, Dead at Bethel, 1861

On June 10, 1861, Henry Lawson Wyatt lost his life at the Battle of Bethel in Virginia.

It was the first battle of the Civil War and Wyatt was among the first casualties. A member of the Edgecombe Guards, part of the 1st North Carolina Infantry, Wyatt was mortally wounded as he dashed across an open field with four others.

A volley ripped through the squad and all hit the ground. Wyatt was shot, and seen to have “a clot of blood on his forehead as large as a man’s fist.” His fellow soldiers found him still breathing and carried him to a hospital in Yorktown. He weakened through the evening and, the following morning, the 19-year-old carpenter died.

Wyatt’s compatriots escorted his body to a boat that carried him up the York River. From there, his remains travelled by rail to Richmond. He was interred at Hollywood Cemetery there, the first of 18,000 Confederate burials.

As early as 1866, Wyatt was hailed as the Confederacy’s first war casualty. Others pointed to earlier deaths in smaller actions, setting a stage for a debate that rages to this day. Wyatt defenders have countered by recognizing him as the first casualty in a line of battle.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt Visits Homesteaders at Penderlea, 1937

On June 11, 1937, Eleanor Roosevelt kicked up her heels with the homesteaders at Penderlea. The First Lady visited Pender County to check on the progress at one of her husband Franklin’s premier homestead sites.

During the depths of the Depression, Wilmington industrialist Hugh MacRae conceived the idea of creating a model farm community at Penderlea on a grand scale. He had experimented with similar communities across southeastern North Carolina early in the 20th century.

The intention at Penderlea was to build the “best planned rural community in the world.” A tract of 10,000 acres was set aside, land was cleared and homes and a community center were built. MacRae disagreed with those in Washington as to how Penderlea should be managed, and, in May 1934, the entire program was federalized.

Though Roosevelt and his New Dealers were pursuing similar programs across the country, no other rural project was as large as Penderlea, though the original goal of 500 20-acre farms was never met. A total of 142 units were leased but, by 1941, few of the original homesteaders remained.

Memories of the experiment remain vivid at Penderlea, where a large community building remains.

Hanes Brand Began in Winston-Salem

On June 12, 1886, James G. Hanes, founder of Hanes knitwear, was born in what’s now Winston-Salem.

Following his 1909 graduation from the University of North Carolina, Hanes returned to Forsyth County and joined the family textile business. His factory, Hanes Hosiery Mills, became the world’s largest manufacturer of women’s nylon seamless hosiery. He was known to have said,”Nature gives you seamless legs; Hanes gives you seamless nylons.”

In 1965 Hanes Hosiery Mills Company merged with P. H. Hanes Knitting Company to become the internationally-known Hanes Corporation.

In addition to his work with the family business, Hanes served on the board of directors for organizations including the Norfolk and Western Railway, the New York City-based Savoy Hotel, Hanes Dye and Finishing Company, the National Association of Manufacturers, and Wachovia Bank and Trust Company. He also took an active role in local government, most notably serving for four years as mayor of Winston-Salem and for 22 years on Forsyth County’s Board of Commissioners.

At his death in 1972, James G. Hanes willed his stately English manor-style home and the adjoining 32-acre estate to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art.

Bob Scott Followed Father Kerr Into Executive Mansion

On June 13, 1929, Governor Robert W. Scott was born in Alamance County to family active in the state’s political and social life.

After attending school at Duke and N.C. State, Scott returned home to manage his family’s dairy farm. He served in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps in Asia before being elected the state’s lieutenant governor in 1964.

Elected to the state’s top job in 1968, Scott became the second governor in North Carolina history (after Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr.) to follow his father into office.

Scott’s signature achievement was a reorganization of state government and a realignment of the state’s system of higher education. He consolidated more than 300 state agencies and offices into 17 cabinet-level departments and centralized the state’s public universities in one system.

Scott also helped institute a kindergarten program, increased vocational education in the high schools and resolved conflicts arising from court-ordered busing to achieve racial integration.

At the close of his term as governor, Scott became vice president of the N. C. Agribusiness Council. He went on to co-chair the Appalachian Regional Commission, to unsuccessfully challenge Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. in the Democratic primary for governor in 1980 and to serve as president of the state’s community college system.

Scott’s governorship marked the end of a 72-year Democratic monopoly on the office.

The Pulaski Explosion, 1838

On June 14, 1838, a boiler on the steamship Pulaski exploded while the ship was off the North Carolina coast. The vessel was bound for Baltimore from Savannah. She carried a crew of about 36 and close to 150 passengers, many of whom were killed immediately by the scalding steam. Others drowned or perished when struck by falling wreckage. Two of the Pulaski’s small boats with survivors made it to shore the following day, landing in Onslow County.

Of the passengers who were not killed instantly or who made it to the lifeboats, many floated on two large chunks of the wreck, while others drifted on pieces of furniture lashed together or small shreds of debris. After four days drifting in the open sea, 23 people were taken off a portion of the wreck by the schooner Henry Camerdon. The bleak survivors shared that they had seen another group that morning and the ship headed in that direction and found and saved another seven people.

Two of the survivors, who drifted together on pieces of wreckage for a number of days, had plenty of time to get to know one another and after experiencing each other’s knack for enduring, became engaged at sea.

”Bull Durham” Premiered

On June 15, 1988, Bull Durham premiered. The film, starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, was a blockbuster hit, grossing more than $50 million in North America alone. Sports Illustrated put it at the top of its list of the greatest sports movies of all time.

The film centers around the Bulls, Durham’s minor league baseball team. “Crash” Davis—played by Costner— is brought in to help prepare “Nuke” LaLoosh—played by Robbins—for the Major Leagues. Baseball groupie Annie Savoy—played by Sarandon—initially becomes involved with Nuke, but finds herself increasingly attracted to Crash.

The phrase “Bull Durham” has its origins in the post-Civil War era. Durham tobacco industrialist John R. Green based his tobacco advertising on a popular brand of mustard made in Durham, England, that featured the head of a Durham bull on its label. The tobacco was widely advertised and became one of the most recognized American products of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Bull Durham brought national attention to both the famous tobacco name and the Durham Bulls.

G. W. Creef and the Shad Boat

On June 15, 1987, the shad boat was designated as North Carolina’s official state historical boat.

The legislation was introduced by Senator Marc Basnight of Dare County – the state’s easternmost county –which in addition to bordering the ocean, is flanked by a number of sounds where shad boats were employed by local fishermen.

The design originated with boat builder George Washington Creef, Sr. who crafted the vessel in his boat building shed on Roanoke Island in the years following the Civil War. The shad boat was used to retrieve fish from pound nets and was particularly suited for navigating the shallow sounds and weathering unpredictable wind shifts.

Shad boats were built from native white cedar, which grows in abundance on the Dare County mainland and is prized for its light weight and ability to resist rot. The small watercraft featured a rounded hull and were powered by three sails–a main sail, a jib and a topsail.

The advent of the gasoline engine and rising price of materials caused shad boats to fall out of vogue by the 1930s.

Visit: The North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort has a collection of shad boats, including an original built by George Washington Creef, Sr.

“Brad’s Drink,” now Pepsi-Cola, Stirred Up (in) New Bern

On June 16, 1903, the U.S. Patent Office registered the trademark of New Bern, pharmacist Caleb Bradham’s new soft drink, Pepsi-Cola.

Fond of concocting fresh syrup flavors to mix with soda water at his drugstore’s soda fountain, Bradham had developed the formula for his new beverage in 1893. His friends initially dubbed it “Brad’s Drink,” but Bradham renamed his product “Pepsi-Cola” in August 1898, combining the names of two of the drink’s ingredients: pepsin, a digestive enzyme, and kola nut extract. Other ingredients were sugar, vanilla and “rare oils.”

Working in his pharmacy’s back room, Bradham launched the Pepsi-Cola Company and incorporated it in 1902. He first applied to register “Pepsi-Cola” as a trademark on September 23 of that year. The application, approved in 1903, described his product as “flavoring syrup for soda water.”

At first, he mixed the syrup and sold it exclusively to soda fountains. Then, realizing that a ready-to-drink beverage might appeal to more people, he began bottling and franchising Pepsi-Cola in 1905. In April of that year, he applied for a second Pepsi-Cola trademark for a “tonic beverage.” Registered a year later, that trademark was renewed and is currently owned by the multinational corporation, PepsiCo, Inc., of Purchase, N.Y.

Visit: The Birthplace of Pepsi in downtown New Bern preserves the site of Bradham’s pharmacy where Pepsi was invented in 1898.

God Bless Kate Smith

On June 17, 1986, Kate Smith, “The Songbird of the South,” died of complications from diabetes at Raleigh Community Hospital.

A native of Greenville, Va., the singer renowned for her rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” spent the final years of her life in the Capital City near her sister Helena Steele. While living in Raleigh, she resided in a quiet cul-de-sac off Millbrook Avenue.

For an earlier generation, Smith was representative of all that was good and right about America. Her professional recording career began in 1925, and she became a major star of radio. She was a large woman and could belt out songs, such as her personal theme “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,” like nobody’s business.

A professional hockey team, the Philadelphia Flyers, played her recording of “God Bless America” before a game in 1969. As it brought them a victory that night, they made it a team tradition and brought Miss Smith to the arena where she created near pandemonium and provided the Flyers with an assist on their road to the Stanley Cup.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Smith in 2010.

Staff writer Miles Layton can be reached at mlayton@ncweeklies.com