Friday, October 5, 2007

I'm Back .... (almost)

Finally, everything (minus three and a half storage units full of furniture still in Murfreesboro) is in the new house in Petersburg.

Now I'm just looking forward to the day when the boxes are empty and things have found a proper place in the house. But much of that involves having bookshelves constructed, etc.

I ask the readers of this blog to please extend a tiny bit more patience with my lack of posts, and I promise there will be lots of Murfreesboro news in the near future.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Historic Petersburg Virginia Building # 29 ...

Excuse my sparse blogging over the past few weeks.

It's been a busy summer. Not the "busy" summers of my youth - spent each year on Chincoteague Island - when summer days stretched out before me and the light didn't fade until almost bedtime. No, this has been a "busy" adult summer, mainly spent driving back and forth between Richmond and Murfreesboro. It's been a summer of vacation days spent packing boxes, renting storage units, and looking for a new places to live. The good news is that the effort has paid off - and a new house has been found !

Historic Petersburg Building Number 29, cited by the VA Historic Landmarks Commission as "a rare Italianate Double House of outstanding significance and of great importance to the neighborhood" will soon be called home. The new house is half of a double house that was completed in December 1861. (Gee .... in hindsight, 1861 probably wasn't the best year to be building a new house in Petersburg VA !)

My favorite part about the new house is that it has been completely restored by an award winning contractor. He just finished the restoration last month. For once I'll be moving into a historic house without having to try to explain to my friends and family "what it will look like when it's done." .

Two complete house restoration's (New York and North Carolina) have worn me out. It can be very rewarding to restore a house, but at this point in my life I'm really glad not to have to !

Give me a little time - and then you will all be invited over for a tour of the new house !

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Mother's Love ....

Susan J. Myrick, or Murfreesboro, appears to have struggled when writing her will dated Novemeber 24, 1916. She had specific bequests to family and friends, but seemed frustrated by her desire to divide the estate evenly between her two sons.

Ultimately, common sense pervailed. Or perhaps her lawyer, B.B. Winborne, played the role of wise King Solomon and suggested a solution.

In Item 12 of her will, Myrick explained that although she loved them both equally, her sons were not equal. One son was financially successful and had grown children, while the other had young daughters and serious health problems. She felt that she had no choice but to provide more for the son that had less.

I'm not sure why I find comfort in reading Myrick's will .... unless perhaps it's because I'm younger and less successful than my brother.

North Carolina, Hertford County.

I, Susan J. Myrick, of sound mind and memory, but realizing the uncertainty of life do make and declare this to be my last Will and Testament hereby revoking all former wills made by me.

Item 1 – I bequeath to my son Walter Myrick, my silver sugar dish.
Item 2 – I bequeath to my niece Lizzie B. Hubbell, my mahogany table in my dining room in Murfreesboro.
Item 3 – I bequeath to Blanche Myrick, widow of my Step-Son C.E. Myrick, the painting over the mantel in my parlor in Murfreesboro.
Item 4 – I bequeath to Julia Myrick, wife of my son Walter, my breast pin and ear rings.
Item 5 – I bequeath to Susan Baker Myrick, daughter of my son Lawrence Baker Myrick, the portrait of my late husband Dr. Thomas N. Myrick.
Item 6 – I bequeath the portrait of Mrs. Julia Myrick, the first wife of my late husband, to her Grand-daughter Mary Myrick, daughter of Charles E. Myrick.
Item 7 – I bequeath the remainder of my silver ware to my two sons, Walter D. Myrick and Lawrence Baker Myrick.
Item 8 – I bequeath to Sophia Tyner, My faithful servant, twenty-five dollars in money.
Item 9 – I devise and bequeath to my son Walter Douglas Myrick of Texas my house and lot in the town of Murfreesboro, N.C. together with all furniture not herein otherwise disposed of, subject to the next item.
Item 10 – I bequeath to Miss Maggie Jeggitt all the furniture in the South bed room in my dwelling in Murfreesboro and all the bed clothes in said dwelling.
Item 11 – I devise to my son Lawrence Baker Myrick for life, my house and lot in the City of Norfolk, State of Virginia now occupied by him, and after his death I devise said house and lot to the children of my son Lawrence Baker Myrick, upon the condition that my son Lawrence Baker Myrick pays to my dear friend Maggie Jeggitts the sum of One Hundred and Fifty Dollars per annum during her life.
Item 12 – I regret that I have to make a distinction in value of the property given to my two sons. It has always been my desire and purpose to make an equal division between them, but my son Lawrence has grown very deaf and his health is not good and he has a family of young girls to rear and care for, while my son Walter’s children are almost grown and he is in much better circumstances. I hope and believe that my son Walter will understand and appreciate my feelings and will approve of the division that I have made. There is no difference in my love and affection for them.
Item 13 – All other property which I own and have not herein disposed of, I give to my two sons, Walter and Lawrence, equally.
Item 14 – I nominate and appoint my son, Lawrence Baker Myrick, my sole Executor. This the 24 day of November 1916.

Susan J. Myrick

Signed, published and declared in the presence of Stanley Winborne, B.B. Winborne

North Carolina,
Hertford County.
I, Susan J. Myrick, desire to make the following codicil to my last Will and Testament above written.

Item 1 – I bequeath to my son Lawrence Baker Myrick my China dinner set.
Item 2 - I bequeath to my son Walter Douglas Myrick my piano and organ.

This November 24th 1916 Susan J. Myrick

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Balancing Small Town Charm with Economic Viability

Murfreesboro faces significant challenges in the planned development of the land along the riverfront. Hopefully we'll know a little more about the site's future in the coming months.

A potential buyer and developer would have a prime piece of real estate, nestled in the heart of historic downtown Murfreesboro. But they'd also have a unique problem: building something that's cost effective while maintaining the historic integrity of the area. The location of the original King's Landing, the Murfree House, the Indian Queen Tavern, the Dr. Thomas O'Dwyer residence, and by some accounts a significant nineteenth century free-black community, fall within the area being considered for possible development.

The site needs structures that will enhance Historic Murfreesboro and that will last and get better over time. Understandably, the development needs to be economically viable for the private sector, but it also needs to be something that starts out good and ages even better. One cannot overstate the importance of crafting a development that enhances the historic district. From a visitor's standpoint, it is the one element that best sets Murfreesboro apart from other northeastern North Carolina towns.

(stay tuned ... more thoughts to come)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mary Ann Little and Her Four Mahogany Tables

An interesting Murfreesboro will:

In the Name of God Amen. I Mary Ann Little being of sound and perfect Mind and Memory do this 1st day of June 1812 Make and publish this My last will & Testament in Manner following that is to say - First I give and bequeath unto William P. Little one Mahogany Table (Tea) one Bed & Furniture & Floor Cloth likewise his own Picture. Secondly I give and Bequeath to William Blunt all the Household Furniture that I bought at the Sale of Sharp Blunt,
Three Lots in Murfreesboro one on the Main street and two Back Lots. His Mothers Picture and the eldest of My Bay Mares Fillys to him and His Heirs forever. Thirdly I give and bequeath unto George Blunt the following Negroes: Old Lamb, Aggy, James son of Aggy, Little Lamb, Riddick, Mary, Creasey, Martha, old Tim, Daphney, Liddey, Pompey son of Daphney, Chloe, Matilda, Hampton, young Will, Rhealy, Leving, Tempy, Harry & Simon. Also the tract of Land I bought of the Estate of Abram Porter. My Bay Mare & Colt & Two Mahogany Tables to Him and His Heirs forever. Fourthly I give and bequeath unto Jacob Blunt the following Negroes - Patty, Scott, Beck, Essex, Ephraigm & Exum also My other three Lots in Murfreesboro & My Bay Horse & one large Mahogany Table to him & His Heirs forever. .
Fifthly I give & bequeath unto Thomas P. Little all the rest of my Negroes after all My just debts shall be paid to him and his Heirs forever. Sixthly I give & bequeath unto George Little son of William P. Little the tract of Land whereon I now live to him and his Heirs forever.

My Will & desire is that the Negroes that I have given to George Blunt should be kept on the Plantation whereon I now live for the benefit of George Blunt until he shall arrive to Lawful age or dies.

Seventhly My will & desire is that all the residue of My Estate after the payment of all My just debts should be equally divided between my four grand daughters - Mary Ann Little, Lucy Little, Nancy Little & Cinthia Little to them and their Heirs foreverAnd hereby Make and ordain My Worthy Friends Timothy Ridley, William H. Murfree & My Son William P. Little Executors of this my Last Will & Testament. In witness whereof I the said Mary Ann Little have to this My Last will and Testament set My hand & Seal the day & year above written signed sealed published & declared by the sd Mary Ann Little, the testator as her last will & Testament in the presence of us who were present at the time of signing and sealing thereof Henry Wright & Isaac Langston.

I Mary Ann Little being of perfect Mind & Memory do Make & ordain this to be a Codicil to My Last Will & Testament bearing the date of the first day of June anno Dom 1812, and to Make & Constitute a part thereof as Much as if it had been Contained in the Body of My said will : First the Land whereon I now live which in My will to which this is a Codicil is devised to George Little. I do hereby give unto the said George Little & Thomas P. Little sons of William P. Little to them and Their Heirs forever to be equally divided between them. It is however my desire & Will that the Negroes given to George Blunt should remain on & be kept on the plantation whereon I now live until the end of the year 1821 unless he should die previous to that time & my son William P. Little have one half the profit thereof as compensation for his Trouble as one of my Executors & that George Blunt have the other half. Secondly it is My Will & desire that my son William P. Little convey to George Blunt a tract of land lying near Granvill Court House containing four hundred acres More or Less adjoining the Land of the Heirs of Pomplorey Davis decd. Thirdly It is My Will & desire that My woman Aggy have the free use of her time during three years Next succeeding My Death as a compensation for her faithful services & that after the expiration of that time she is considered the property of George Blunt, as Expressed in My Will. Fourthly I give unto William Little, son of William P. Little a Negro Child named Moses, son of My woman Ruby Boon. Making my Will above mentioned. Lastly It is My Will & desire that My friend Doctor James Maney Act as one of the Executors of this My last Will & Testament with these heretofore Named in My Will signed sealed & acknowledged as a codicil to her Last Will & Testament by the Testatrix in presence of us - J.S. Baker, Lewis Gatling, This 25th Feby AD 1813.

I wonder what became of those four mahogany tables that were so important to Mary Ann Little ? As important (or more so) than the human lives she equally divided amongst her kin? Were the tables handed down from one generation of Littles to the next? Did they travel West as the country expanded? Are they in a museum, on display somewhere? Or perhaps they were lost over the centuries - to war, or natural disasters, or perhaps just benign neglect.

I wonder what became of them ....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

There is a difference between "Progress" and "Development" ...

A recent article from the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald:

M'boro studies waterfront development

By Amanda VanDerBroek
Friday, June 29, 2007 7:53 PM CDT

MURFREESBORO - Every town is always trying to find a way to bring progress to the neighborhood and Murfreesboro is no different.A special meeting of the Murfreesboro Town Council was held on Wednesday to discuss possible development of the water front and other properties in the town. Murfreesboro officials along with citizens and interested developers from William E. Wood and Associates Realtors attended the meeting. Bobby Roberson, planning and development director of Washington, NC, was on hand to give recommendations to the board and community. Roberson shared his experiences and lessons he learned from being a part of Washington’s downtown development. He said the city often ran into problems with land regulations, building density and parking. “There was a lot of outcry from the public,” said Roberson, concerning the citizens’ desire for buildings located on the same block to be the same height. That similar concern was echoed by Murfreesboro citizen Gertrude Revelle. She explained while traveling she has seen cities that have lost their history to progress. “I don’t think we should encroach on history,” she said. Revelle also expressed concern for local restaurant owners in the area. “I would not want to run those people out of business,” Revelle said. All of the developers agreed that in order for development to happen, everyone, including the town, Chowan University and the Murfreesboro Historical Association, had to work together. “There has to be value to what we do,” said Geary Crist of William E. Wood and Associates Realtors. “Murfreesboro is a piece of clay; we can mold it as long as we communicate. We can make it work for everyone.” Mayor Lynn Johnson asked Roberson if he thought the flavor of Washington had been lost due to development. “I don’t think so,” Roberson replied. Roberson said Washington has a lot of history and noted there were retail shops and a civic center. Developer Ray Roenker added to Crist’s comments about wanting to work with the Murfreesboro community. “We’re just saying tell us what you want,” Roenker said. “This is not Reno. You don’t build glass buildings around here, it doesn’t fit here.” “I recommend a request for proposals and get someone on staff, like a city planner,” said Roberson. Roberson also noted the current wastewater project and suggested to make sure the town could provide sewer hookups before anything was done. Councilman Bill Theodorakis noted he would like to see completed projects done by the developers. “I’m all for it,” said Theodorakis. “If it’s done correctly it could be beneficial.”
Johnson described the meeting as “good dialogue.”

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Happy 4th of July !!

Sorry for the delay in posting recently - summer has arrived and I seem to be constantly on the run. But check back soon and you'll find lots of new Murfreesboro related information.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Digging Up the Past

Archaeological remains are a finite and non-renewable resource, in many cases highly fragile and vulnerable to damage and destruction. Appropriate management is therefore essential to ensure that they survive in good condition. In particular, care must be taken to ensure that archaeological remains are not needlessly or thoughtlessly destroyed. They can contain irreplaceable information about our past and the potential for an increase in future knowledge. They are part of our sense of national identity and are valuable both for their own sake and for their role in education, leisure and tourism.

It has been a very LONG time since Murfreesboro has undertaken even a small archaeological survey. With several key historic sites now threatened by development - this might be the perfect time to start thinking about such projects again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Is the Board Bored .....

I know many men and women who serve on the boards of local historical societies. Most of them are extremely dedicated to their sites. They bake cookies, serve at various fundraisers, buy and sell tickets (tons and TONS of tickets), and often give up precious summer weekends to lead walking tours and introduce new visitors to a bit of local history.

These individuals read minutes and financial reports, and they know about grant deadlines, proposals, and matching funds. They represent the voice of the membership in forming policy, and they reach out - good board members do - into the community and find out what people think of and how they use the local historical association.

But with all the education board members receive concerning policy and board etiquette, rarely do they ever receive any education about history.

When was the last time a Murfreesboro Historical Association board meeting agenda contained an item about history; how it's done, why one topic is considered more important than another, or about a subject that has been suggested by recent academic interest. When was the last time a discussion was held at an MHA board meeting about what makes a particular book of history popular - or not? Or about a debate in the media over a controversial historical exhibition? These are national issues, but concern ideas that could easily be applied to local sites.

I understand that board meetings are times to move along agendas, to vote for resolutions, and to listen to administrative reports. But, members of history boards should be able to bring historical perspectives to their conversations. They should be able to talk about more than just the need for money or for new members.

Shouldn't a history board devote time to questions of interpreting history?

Shouldn't this happen at least some of the time?

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Love is just friendship - set on fire."

It's June - and that makes me think of weddings. (OK, actually June makes me lazy and sleepy and I spend a lot of time thinking about vacations at the beach. But since I wanted to post some historic Murfreesboro marriage notices, I decided to think about weddings instead.)

One of the most rewarding moments, during my time at the Murfreesboro Historical Association, was spent attending a local wedding. I've attended many weddings (and just between us - I'm not a big fan of weddings), but this one was unique.

A descendant of one of the Wheeler slaves had decided she wanted to get married at her "ancestral" home ... the John Wheeler House (one of MHA's house museums). I thought it was a brilliant idea and encouraged her by offering to help in any way I could.

Well, it turned out to be one of the hottest, most humid afternoons I can recall - without even the slightest summer breeze. There was absolutely no escape from the mid-day sun. (Oddly, the air conditioning in the house was also not working that afternoon.) But when the bride walked toward the Wheeler house, from the direction of the slave cabin, I forgot all about the heat. I sat there in stunned silence. Here we were, watching a wedding take place on the exact site where the bride's ancestors had been held in bondage.

The fact that this lovely June bride could overcome that painful shared history, and still appreciate the natural beauty of a site where her ancestors had suffered such oppression .... humbled me.

There was a good lesson to be learned that afternoon on the back porch of the Wheeler House. It's a shame that more MHA members were not present.

Some historic Murfreesboro marriage notices:

Near Murfreesboro, on the 27th ult. Mr. Augustus C. Moore, to Miss Mary Finney
(Raleigh Register, and North-Carolina Gazette, March 12, 1813)

On the 27th ult. In Murfreesborough, N.C. Mr. Matthias B. Murfree, of Murfreesborough, Tenn. To Miss Mary Roberts, daughter of Benj. Roberts, Esq. decreased, of the former place.
(Raleigh Register, and North-Carolina Gazette, June 21, 1816)

At Murfreesboro’, in this state, on the 13th ult. Mr. Benjamin B. Camp to Miss Mary Rea, daughter of Ww. Rea, Esq.
(Raleigh Register, and North-Carolina Gazette, March 22, 1822)

In Washington City, on the 19th inst. John H. Wheeler, Esq., a member of our Legislature from Hertford county, to Miss Mary, only daughter of the Rev. O.B. Brown, of that city.
(Raleigh Register, and North-Carolina Gazette, April 26, 1830)

In Murfreesboro’, by the Rev. James Dey, Mr. F.M. Capehart, to Miss Martha Cowper. (Raleigh Register, and North-Carolina Gazettte, November 11, 1830)

At Philadelphia, on Thursday morning, the 8th inst. By the Rev. Mr. Furness, Col. John H. Wheeler, Superintendent of the U.S. Mint, at Charlotte, in this State, to Ellen, daughter of Thomas Sully, Esq. Of Philadelphia.
(Fayetteville Observer, November 14, 1838)

At Murfreesboro’, on the 14th inst. By the Rev. Chas. E. Disbow, Mr. John Kimberly, of New York City, to Miss Carolina Amelia, only daughter of Tristam Capehart, Esq. Of the former place.
(Raleigh Regsiter, and North-Carolina Gazette, July 29, 1842)

On the 19th inst., in the Methodist Episcopal Church, by the Rev. B. Devaney, Dr. Thos. N. Myrick to Miss Julia R. Eldest daughter of John W. Southall, Esq., all of Murfreesboro’, N.C.
(The Weekly Raleigh Register, and North Carolina Gazette, January 05, 1848)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Like Finding a Needle in a .... Towel ?!?!?

Carolina Observer
(Fayetteville NC)
April 03, 1828

Death Notice:

In Hertford County, North Carolina, a short time since, Col. William D. Britt. The cause of his death was apparently trivial; After washing his hands, he took a towel to dry them, in which a needle was stuck, without perceiving it, which entered the back of his hand, giving him, however, but little pain. - The next day his hand inflamed, and the inflammation and swelling extended to his arm. He died on the 9th day, though, it is said, there was no mortification nor tetanus. He was of full habit, and looked healthy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Daily National Intelligencer
(Washington DC)
February 08, 1828

Two counterfeiters have been arrested at Murfreesboro', N.C.

Two counterfeiters have been arrested at Murfreesboro', N.C. they had succeeded in passing several fifty dollar spurious notes of the Farmers' Bank of Virginia, and also several ten dollar Newbern notes. They were both professional gamblers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ROUGH ON RATS .... Rough on Humans !

In 1936, Mary Francis Creighton (of New Jersey) was executed in Sing Sing for the poisoning of Mrs. Ada Appelgate. It was a sordid story involving child sexual abuse, betrayal and murder. At the center of the vortex was Creighton, a deeply disturbed woman who was acquitted at two murder trials and later killed her boyfriend's wife so he could marry her 14-year-old daughter. Her "murder weapon of choice" was arsenic, which she purchased over the counter in the form of a chemical designed to kill rodents.

"Rough on Rats" was the brand name.

And that's the Hertford County NC connection (you were beginning to wonder weren't you). Nearly four decades earlier, in 1897, a young girl in Hertford County was equally attracted to "Rough On Rats" when she too decided to murder.

The following article appeared in the News and Observer (Raleigh NC) on May 18, 1897:

Little Colored Girl Attempts Murder of a Whole Family.

Norfolk, Va., May 17 - A little colored girl living near Union, Hertford County, North Carolina, with the family of Mr. William Horton, attempted to murder the family yesterday by putting "Rough on Rats" in the food. Three of the family were affected and came near dying. Mrs. Horton is still in a precarious condition, but the rest are recovering. The girl has been arrested. She gave her reason for attempting the wholesale murder "that she was tired of living with the family."

Luckily "the little colored girl" was not as skilled with rat poison as Mrs. Creighton. I wonder what happened to that young girl, whose name was not given ? Or to the William Horton family, of "near Union" ?

Does anybody know more details of this story ?

(Look, there was even a song advertising "Rough on Rats")

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


A few years ago I stumbled on this very early newspaper advertisement for a runaway slave. Although mis-identified as "Hartford County, North Carolina", it was clearly meant to read "Hertford County, North Carolina".

I sent the transcript to Alice Eley Jones, a native Murfreesboro historian who was working on a book about African-American tradesmen in North Carolina. Alice included it as part of the introduction to her book.

I think it's worth repeating:

April 16, 1767. RUN AWAY from the subscriber, near Williamsburg, last Saturday night, a Negro fellow named BOB, about 5 feet 7 inches high, about 26 years of age, was burnt when young, by which he has a scar on the wrist of his right hand, the thumb of his left hand burnt off, and the hand turns in; had on a double breasted dark coloured frieze jacket and yellow cotton breeches. He was lately brought home from Hartford [Hertford] County in North Carolina, where he has been harbored for three years past by one Van Pelt, who lives on Chinkopin creek; he passed for a free man, by the name of Edward or Edmund Tamar, and has got a wife there. He is an extraordinary sawyer, a tolerable good carpenter and currier, pretends to make shoes, and is a very good sailor. He has been gone for eight years, a part of which time he lived in Charlestown, South Carolina. He can read and write; and, as he is a very artful fellow, will probably forge a pass. All masters of vessels are hereby cautioned from carrying him out of the colony, and any person from employing him. Whoever apprehends the said fellow, and conveys him to me, shall have 3 [pounds] reward, if taken in this colony; if in North Carolina, 5 [pounds], and if in any other province, 10[pounds]

William Trebell

The Virginia Gazette.
Williamsburg [Va.]
Printed by Alexander Purdie and John Dixon.

It's a fascinating document, listing the many skills "Bob" (Edward/Edmund Tamar) possessed, a description of his clothes, and it points out that many slaves had their own names (including surnames).

With a little online digging I was able to "flesh out" some of the references.

The custom ports with their large warehouses were King's Landings. Van Pelts' on Chinquapin Creek was such a landing. It had been established by John and Jacob Van Pelt, New York Dutchmen, who began visiting Carolina around 1722. They were mariner-merchants. They bought 100 acres of land in Chinquapin Neck. John was master of the Sloop "John and Mary", built in New York 1732. This sloop was owned by John Van Pelt and Paul Richards, New York merchants. The second customs' warehouse in the vicinity of the Wiccacon River was on the Wiccacon and Catherine Creek near the present town of Harrellsville. There was a short lived settlement, four miles above Murfree's Landing on the Meherrin River that was called Pitch Landing, later known as Princeton. Afterwards, Van Pelts' on the Chinquapin Creek was called Pitch Landing and that name identifies the spot today.

And some specific information about the Van Pelts:

Captain John Van Pelt (1691-1748), his brothers, and his sons settled in this area beginning in the 1720s and 1730s. Today, this land would be found east of Bethlehem as you approach Chinkapin Bridge. His descendants gradually moved northeast of this area toward Wiccacon Creek. When they first settled in this area it was part of Bertie County until Hertford County was formed in 1759.

Captain John Van Pelt died in 1748, so "Bob" (Edward/Edmund Tamar) was more likely harbored in Hertford County by one of his sons (John or Daniel).

Monday, May 21, 2007

MHA Board of Directors

The Murfreesboro Historical Association, Inc.
Board of Directors

Term Expires

Danny Blowe
Lynette Bunch
Norman Buskill
Liz Brown
Eley Whitehead


Phyllis Underwood Bryant
Jimmy Gray
Lynn Warren
Tim Barnes
Dwight Kirkland


Brenda Davis
Carole Farnham
Carol Lassiter
Dale Neighbors
Arthur Warren

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Pork Fest 2007

Today is PORK FEST 2007 - an annual fundraiser for the Brady C. Jefcoat Museum of Americana (in Murfreesboro NC).

In honor of Pork Fest 2007, I thought I'd post another primary research tool. This time it's the transcription of a letter related to the historic PIGS of Murfreesboro !

March 29th, 1904

Mr. B.B. Winborne
Murfreesboro N.C.

Dear Sir:

Your valued favor of 25th just reached me here in New York having been forwarded by Mrs. Owens. I thank you very much for the order for eggs which Mrs. Owens wrote you about and wish you every success with them. You will certainly get the best that can be bred. Its alright about the money and you can remit to Mrs. Owens.

Now about the Duroc Jersey pigs. While I claim to have the best fowls in the State I know I have the best hogs east of Ohio. Had an order today for a pair of pigs to go to Morehead City to be shown at the State Fair this fall and they will win first prize sure. Can furnish you a fine pair of Duroc Jersey pigs entitled to registry, one boar and 2 sows 8 weeks old for $22. The pigs will not be ready to ship for several weeks but you had better place your order at once for I have orders booked now for 20 pigs and orders and queries coming in every day. I thank you very much for your query and trust I may be favored with your order and guarantee to give you the best that can be bred.

Very sincerely yours,
William G. Owens & Co
"The Cedars"
Poultry and Stock Farm
Midlotian Virginia

Eggs and Ham ... hmmmmm .... suddenly I have an strange craving for breakfast !

Friday, May 18, 2007

Question: Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road ? Answer: To Live in Historic Murfreesboro !

Chickens crossed the Atlantic with the Jamestown settlers, but proper breeding only gained attention in the mid-1800s, when gentrified American farmers made caged chickens all the rage. According to historian Glenn E. Bugos, “Traveling merchants, naval officers, and diplomats – under instruction from the U.S. Treasury Department – combed the seaport markets of Europe and Asia for chickens to ship back to fanciers in America, chickens with rainbow tails, feathered feet, freakish shapes, or the long curved neck of a fighting cock.” Bugos concluded that though the chicken had come first, with all its dazzling plumage, the egg gave the chicken its industrial future. “Though poultry fanciers had popularized systematic breeding, progressive farmers redefined the role of the breeder so that, by the 1880s, breeding looked less like gambling and more like an industry.”

Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Leghorns, and other distinctly “American chickens” were designed as general purpose chickens – good egg-layers that grew large enough to make a meal. These breeds could be housed virtually without cost. They gleaned the fields or ate spoiled grain. The farmwife or farm children collected the eggs for breakfast or cakes and slaughtered the hens when they grew too old to lay. By the 1880s hens and “roosters” (Protestant mores demanded a term more genteel than the traditional “cock”) had become fixtures on the American landscape.

Based on the transcription of the following Murfreesboro chicken related manuscript – by the 1890s, they had also become fixtures on the Murfreesboro landscape.

Garysburg NC
March 3rd, 1896

Dear Capt. Anderson:

Remembering our “chicken conversation” on “New Year’s night”, I embrace the first opportunity to send you down a game chicken cock. I send down a pair of them by Wednesday’s boat from Franklin. One of them is for Herod. But you can take your pick of the two and give him the other one.

They are both stags and I have just cut their combs off. The red one is the offspring of an English cock that Senator Murphy of New York gave to General Ransom and is one of the best bred chickens in the State. The other is a cross between the “Tennessee White” and the old “Red War Horse”. He s a real blue grey in color, but lacks weight. I send him to you in pleasant remembrance of the night we “stormed you”.

I would send you some hens if I had them, but have only fifteen, in all, and would like to add a few to mine if could get the kind I want. Give Herod the one you like less, with my love to him.

Very truly yours,
F.S. Faison Jr.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Washington Slept Here ?!?!?!

While working on an upcoming exhibition for the Winborne & Winborne Law Office, I recently discovered an interesting letter addressed to B.B. Winborne. The letter was written in 1904, by a gentleman busy preparing a catalogue announcing a school that Judge Winborne was planning for Murfreesboro.

Trinity, N.C. June 15, 1904

Judge B.B. Winborne, Murfreesboro N.C.

Dear Sir:-
I am down at work on the catalogue and I happened to think that we never said a word as to terms ! Strange, is it not ? So far as I now can tell, there will be two main divisions in the school - Primary and High School. The charges will be the customary charges for the studies pursued in each - not too little nor yet too large. I should be glad if you would suggest the charges as these ordinarily are put in the catalogues. I never thought to ask the customary charges for such and such a grade and I am afraid I should either make them too large and thus scare pupils away or too small and prevent the school from being self supporting.

Another thing or two will help me: - Have some pictures made of the mineral spring showing as much as possible of the hill back of it, also of the long bridge near the wharf (A splendid picture of it can be found in J.C. Scarborough's C.B.F. Institute catalogue). I want in these pictures to show the hills and that deep ravine. Besides these I want a picture of the house Washington stayed in. These can be easily had and are essential to my plans. Have clearly cut outlines in these pictures and let the contrast of light and shade be emphasized. This will assist the engraver and the best results will be obtained.

I want the following information also: - How far is it from Tunis by boat to Murfreesboro? What is the name of the stream upon which Murfreesboro is situated ? (Is it called the Meherrin?) Maps do not show the name, only as "Kirby's Creek" - What is the usual charge for board? What is the usual charge for washing ?

Now one or two more things and I am done. Send to me the pictures thus made of Mineral Springs, Long Bridge, Watson House (where Washington stayed), and the above information about Tuition, Board, Washing, and answers concerning Murfreesboro, etc. and I shall soon show you a fine catalogue.

Again let me thank you for your recent kindness and assure you I shall do all in my power to have a good school at that place. With the very best wishes,

I am, Sir,
Very respectfully,

P.S. How many catalogues can we use this year ? W.F. Mc.

An interesting letter about the production and design of a proposed school catalogue. As a longtime Photo Curator, I especially like that he requested photographs to illustrate the catalogue.

But I was stunned to read the part about "the house where Washington stayed" ! He later identified it as the "Watson House". I don't recall ever hearing anyone mention the "Watson House" or the suggestion that Washington visited Murfreesboro.

Is that possible? Could George Washington have actually "slept here" ?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Murfreesboro NC: Genealogical Notes at LVA

Note: The National Genealogical Society's "Conference In the States" is being held in Richmond Virginia this week (May 16-19, 2007) !

In honor of that event, I thought I'd include some Murfreesboro NC genealogical material found at The Library of Virginia:

  • Mary Priscilla Hill - Place of residence at the time of her death: Murfreesboro NC
    (Richmond Enquirer, May 24, 1831)
  • Lizzie Trader Carter (of Murfreesboro NC) married William J. Echols (of Senatobia MS) in Memphis TN
    (Petersburg VA Daily Progress, October 19, 1871)
  • W.W. Edwards (of Murfreesboro NC) married Martha A. White (of Elizabeth City NC)
    (Petersburg VA Daily Democrat, August 25, 1856)
  • Professor William M. Jones (of Murfreesboro NC) married Pattie J. Lee (of Nansemond County)
    (Petersburg VA Index, December 28, 1868)
  • Married- In Murfreesboro, N.C. on Apr. 2, by Rev. Henry Hines, Capt. Edward Murphy, to Miss Martha Cook of Northampton County, N.C.
    (American Beacon and Norfolk and Portsmouth Daily Advertiser , April 9, 1836)
  • Smith, Dora. Race: Black. Gender: Female. Date of death: July 12, 1888. Age at death:
    9 month(s). Place of birth: Murfreesboro, North Carolina. Source of information: Southampton County Death Records, 1888.
  • Died- Near Murfreesboro, N.C. on October 2, Mrs. Mary Long, wife of Henry W. Long.
    (Visitor and Telegraph, October 31, 1829. )
  • Married- In Murfreesboro, N.C. on Oct. 14, by Rev. James Dey, F. M. Capehart, to Miss Martha Cowper, both of that place.
    (Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald, October 25, 1830. )
  • Died- In Washington on Oct. 15, at the residence of the Secretary of the Navy, Rev. Daniel Southall, of Murfreesboro’, N.C.
    (Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald, October 18, 1830. )
  • Married- On Apr. 14, Dr. Samuel Jordan Wheeler, of Murfreesboro, N.C., to Miss Lucinda Pugh Bond, daughter of Lewis Bond, of Bertie County, N.C.
    (American Beacon and Norfolk and Portsmouth Daily Advertiser, April 23, 1836. )
  • Married- In Murfreesboro, N.C. on Thursday, May 12, by James Wells, Dr. Euclid Borland, to Miss Elizabeth R. Moore, only daughter of Captain Augustus Moore.
    (American Beacon and Norfolk and Portsmouth Daily Advertiser, May 19, 1836. )
  • Married- In Murfreesboro, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 6, by Rev. James Wells, Bowers H. Wade, to Miss Elizabeth Cowpen, all of that place.
    (Virginia Gazette, September 13, 1836. )
  • Married- In Murfreesboro, N.C. on Thursday (June 28), by Rev. William Neil, Dr. Godwin C. Moore, to Miss Julia Monroe Wheeler, daughter of John Wheeler.
    (American Beacon and Virginia and North-Carolina Gazette, July 3, 1832.)
  • Married- In Washington City, on Monday, March 29, John H. Wheeler, of Murfreesboro’, N.C. to Miss Mary Brown, only dau. of O. B. Brown.
    (Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald, April 23, 1830.)
  • Married- In Murfreesboro, N.C. on December 10, by Rev. William Neil, Mr Joseph Exum, to Miss Esther Roberts.
    (Visitor and Telegraph, December 25, 1829.)
  • Married- In Washington, D.C. on April 29, John H. Wheeler, of Murfreesboro, N.C. to Mary Brown, daughter of O. B. Brown.
    (Southern Religious Telegraph, May 1, 1830. )
  • Barrett, Lewis A. Race: White. Gender: Male. Date of death: July 12, 1873. Place of death: Franklin Township. Cause of death: Cholera Infantum. Age at death: 1 year(s).
    Place of birth: Murfreesboro, North Carolina.
  • Kelly, Thomas. Race: Black. Gender: Male. Date of death: November 25, 1882. Place of death: District #1. Age at death: 1 year(s). Place of birth: Murfreesboro, North Carolina. Source of information: Southampton County Death Records, 1882.

Storytelling by Booker

Last night I had the pleasure of attended a storytelling program. It was Open Mike Storytelling, which is held every 3rd Tuesday of every month at the Ashland Coffee and Tea, in Ashland Virginia.

What does that have to do with Murfreesboro history? One of the storytellers was Booker Daniel from Murfreesboro, who told several interesting stories related to Murfreesboro NC. My favorite was an amusing "funeral related" story that seemed to capture the true "Murfreesboro experience".

It was a fun evening and reminded me just how important the oral history tradition is to capturing the flavor of a small town. In recent years oral history has emerged as a powerful means of recording and preserving the unique memories and life experiences of people whose stories might otherwise have been lost. It enables us to eavesdrop on events, feelings, attitudes and ways of life which have been hidden from history, and thus create a more vivid and accurate picture of our past.

Oral history can enliven static displays in museums and galleries and more directly engage visitors in their own past. Isn't it time to try to revive the idea of starting an oral history project in Murfreesboro?

The generation that originally founded the Murfreesboro Historical Association is quickly disappearing. Shouldn't their memories and thoughts of those early years and projects be captured on tape .... before it's too late ?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Welcome ....

Welcome to the new Murfreesboro NC - History blog !

I'm hoping to use this new blog as an informal method to offer quick news updates about Murfreesboro NC history, to keep you informed about routine day-to-day happenings, and generally try to converse with those people interested in the history of Murfreesboro, North Carolina in a less formal, less structured way.

I'll report on new acquisitions by the Murfreesboro Historical Association, historical properties, new displays and revised interpretations. Plus, I imagine I'll include lots of Murfreesboro history and genealogy as I stumble across it. This is very much a "work in progress", so it will be interesting to see how it develops (or doesn't).

Comments are always encouraged. Please let me know what you think.