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.