North Carolina’s First Rosenwald School

On October 8, 1915, the Warren Grove School, North Carolina’s first Rosenwald School, was completed. During the 1914-1915 academic year, North Carolina received funding for its first Rosenwald schools, although the Rosenwald Fund’s School Building Program did not begin until the nonprofit was incorporated in 1917.

Using Tuskegee’s architectural plans for school houses as a model, the Warren Grove School in Chowan County, a two-teacher floorplan, was built for a total cost of $1,622. The Black community had contributed $486, the white community and the school system furnished $836, and Julius Rosenwald himself had contributed $300, the maximum amount initially allocated for any schoolhouse.

Sears and Roebuck president Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington established the fund to provide grants to African American communities to improve education. By 1928 one in every five rural schools in the South was a Rosenwald school; the schools housed one-third of the region’s rural black schoolchildren and teachers. At the program’s conclusion in 1932, it had produced 4,977 schools, 217 teacher’s homes, and 163 shop buildings that served 663,625 students in 15 states.

Financial aid from the Rosenwald Fund often subsidized only fifteen to twenty percent of a building’s total cost. To cover the balance, monies from local and state education departments, as well as white communities (a requirement of aid from the fund) were used. In North Carolina the fund assisted with 817 projects in ninety-three counties.

Maritime Disaster Off Ocracoke in 1837

On October 9, 1837, the steamship Home ran into a powerful hurricane that became known as the “Racer’s Storm.” The ship was en route from New York to Charleston and was operating with a damaged boiler.

Steamships, built for speed and comfort, were not designed for rough ocean travel, so the choppy surf was treacherous for the Home. Hoping to wait out the storm, Captain Carlton White grounded the struggling vessel about 100 yards off shore near Ocracoke Village, but the surf tore the vessel apart.

Although there were 135 people aboard, there were only three lifeboats (one of which was destroyed in the wreck) and a mere two life preservers. The two men who secured the life preservers lived, but 70 passengers and 25 crew members were lost. It was not until 1852 that Congress enacted legislation that required ships to carry an adequate number of life preservers.

Jazz Giant Thelonious Monk of Rocky Mount

On October 10, 1917, Thelonious Monk was born in Rocky Mount. Though Monk lived most of his life in Manhattan, his North Carolina roots ran deep.

Monk’s style was original and unorthodox, incorporating elements of stride piano and gospel to create a “rhythmic virtuosity,” striking dissonant notes and playing skewed melodies. He collaborated with Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and many other noted jazz musicians of the time. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, another of his collaborators, Monk is credited as an architect of bebop; The third composition he copyrighted, and his first as sole composer, was also his best-known, “’Round Midnight.”

Personally, Monk had a reputation as the ultimate hipster, with his goatee, skullcap and bamboo-rimmed sunglasses. He often left his keyboard to dance while onstage and, at random moments, on the street or in public spaces, would twirl for several minutes. Viewed by some as temperamental and eccentric, he is described by his biographer Robin Kelley as essentially rebellious. Kelley documented that Monk suffered from bipolar disorder most of his adult life.

In 1972, Monk withdrew from public appearances and was hospitalized intermittently until his death. Among his last extended stands was a week at the Frog and Nightgown in Raleigh’s Cameron Village in 1970. A park in his hometown has carried his name since 2000.

African American Surfmen and Daring Rescue of the E. S. Newman

On October 11, 1896, the Pea Island Lifesavers, led by Richard Etheridge, rescued the survivors of the schooner E. S. Newman. The operation would prove to be the most dramatic in their many years of service to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The United States Lifesaving Service (USLS) established 18 stations along the Outer Banks in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Black veterans of the Civil War-era United States Colored Troops found work in the stations not only as cooks and stewards, but also as lifesavers, known as surfmen.

In 1879, a ship wrecked near Pea Island and received no assistance. When the survivors reached shore, they found the surfmen of the Pea Island station fast asleep. An inquiry by the Lifesaving Service found the members of the all-white crew grossly negligent, and the entire group was fired.

In their place, the senior inspector suggested the appointment of a local African American veteran, Richard Etheridge, as the new station keeper. A former army sergeant he proved exceptional at his job, Etheridge hired a crew composed mainly of veterans with whom he had served.

Until its closing in 1947, Pea Island remained the only all-black facility in the United States Lifesaving Service.

Monument Dedicated 1923 at Bennett Place Symbolizes Unity

On October 12, 1923, the Unity Monument was dedicated at Bennett Place in Durham, memorializing the end of the Civil War and reunification of the country.

Sponsored by the Samuel Tate Morgan family and the state of North Carolina, the monument is composed of two Corinthian columns symbolizing the Union and the Confederacy topped by a beam bearing the word “Unity.” The inscription on a stone at the monument’s base details the surrender of Confederate troops by General Joseph E. Johnston to General William T. Sherman in 1865 at the farmhouse owned by James and Nancy Bennitt.

Sherman and Johnston met at the Bennitt farm three times during the month of April 1865 to negotiate the war’s largest surrender of Confederate troops. Their first meeting came just two days after Lincoln’s assassination. Although Lee’s April 9 surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House is often considered the end of the Civil War, Johnston’s April 26 surrender of the armies of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida to Sherman is more correctly viewed as the close of the conflict.

Following the surrender, the two generals became friends. Johnston even served as a pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral in 1891.

“General” Julian Carr and Tobacco in Durham

On October 13, 1845, tobacco magnate Julian S. Carr was born in Chapel Hill. After serving in the Confederate cavalry and returning to a hometown largely in decline, Carr pursued business interests in nearby Durham. In 1870, he joined two partners there in the manufacture of Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco.

Owing to Carr’s marketing skills, the brand and its hometown became internationally famous. Tobacco was only the first of his successful businesses, which also included banking and textiles.

Carr’s interests extended well beyond business. A generous philanthropist, he supported the education of a number individuals, provided the funds for a dormitory at UNC and helped establish Trinity College, the forerunner to Duke. As a politician, he was less successful; he failed in runs for the governorship and the U.S. Senate mostly because he refused to play hardball.

Despite his political failings, Carr was one of the most popular North Carolinians of his era. He was often called General Carr, and following the death of his wife Nannie in 1915, he was courted heavily. He often signed notes to female admirers as “Your Sweetheart General.”

Charles Lindbergh Lands in Greensboro

On October 14, 1927, Charles Lindbergh landed at Lindley Field in Greensboro to celebrate its opening.

Greensboro businessmen in the 1920s touted their city as the site for a major airport, their city being the mid-point between northern cities and those in the Deep South. Leaders from Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem worked to establish an air field on property purchased by Guilford County and Greensboro from Paul C. Lindley in 1927. Drawing visitors to the opening ceremony for Lindley Field was national hero Charles Lindbergh in his famous airplane, Spirit of St. Louis.

Lindbergh completed the first nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris in May 1927. Drawing on his success, he flew throughout the United States to encourage air flight. He visited Lindley Field as part of a three-month tour that took him to forty-eight states and eighty-two cities, racking up 147 speeches and 1,290 miles of parade routes.

As a result of his tour, interest in the uses of air flight, particularly the use of air mail, exploded. Lindbergh’s Greensboro visit, one of only two in North Carolina during the tour, highlighted the potential prominence of the city as an aviation center.

Wake Forest Sets Up New Campus, 1951

On October 15, 1951, President Harry S. Truman spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Winston-Salem campus of Wake Forest College. The president spoke for 20 minutes covering the history of the college and praising the people who made the move possible. A scale model of the planned campus was available for attendees to examine.

The move was several years in making. College trustees and the Baptist State Convention had agreed to move the school to the Forsyth County site during the previous decade, after the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation promised to fund the college in perpetuity if it moved. Charles and Mary Babcock, the daughter of R. J. Reynolds, donated 350 acres near Reynolda House for the campus.

The school’s roots, though, go back much further. The Baptist State Convention launched Wake Forest Institute in 1834 on the site of a Wake County plantation with an enrollment of 16.

Designed to teach Baptist ministers and laymen, the school required students to spend half their day performing manual labor on the plantation.

In 1838, the school was renamed Wake Forest College, and the provision for manual labor was abandoned in favor of rigorous academic training. The village in Wake County that developed around the college became known as Wake Forest.

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