Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Great Cabarrus Turkey Scam

Buying Thanksgiving Turkey, c.1910-1915. Library of Congress,

In late November of 1915, a slick-tongued stranger came to No. 10 Township (Midland area) and Bost Mill. He represented himself to be the agent of a large poultry concern in Danville, Virginia and was looking to buy all the turkeys the farmers would sell: and so began the great Cabarrus turkey scam.

The stranger identified himself as E. S. Bowen. After securing lodging, he began making the rounds with a wagon and driver to the area farmers. Bowen hired one of the farmers to make crates to hold turkeys. The going rate for turkeys was 15 cents a pound, and many of the farmers had already committed their birds to area sellers for the holiday season. Bowen said he wanted the birds for his Danville connection and would make it worth their while. He said they had provided him with a big checkbook and he would be able to pay much more than the going rate at markets in Concord and other places, so why not sell to him? Bowen began manipulating the market to bump up prices. The result was that the price of turkeys in No. 10 Township, as well as in Concord and other nearby markets, suddenly went up to a 17 and 18 cent per pound minimum. The news of the high prices spread all over southern Cabarrus and the turkeys were sold in such numbers that Bowen soon purchased about $800 worth.

The deal sounded too good to be true, but was not without controversy. It was reported in the December 7, 1915 Concord Daily Tribune that one housewife came near to severing relations with her family because it was suggested that the family turkeys had already been committed to markets in Concord. She responded:
"They only pay 15 cents a pound. They are my turkeys, my means of making Christmas money and buying a few extra things and I am going to sell for 17 cents."
She did sell them for 17 cents and accepted a check for $66. Many others did as well. It was expected that Christmas money would be plentiful as there were an unusually large number of turkeys.

Bowen convinced everyone he was good for the purchase because he would take one of the No. 10 farmers to Danville and show him the place where the turkeys were prepared for market. Additionally, a prominent well-known farmer was letting him take his team [of horses] to haul in the turkeys. Bowen and the unnamed farmer made the trip, but after arriving in Danville, Bowen became unusually busy. After spending a part of a day looking after various matters, Bowen informed the Cabarrus citizen that it was necessary for him to make a trip to another town, and so the Cabarrus man returned home. 

Soon after the Cabarrus man's return, the checks began to bounce. They were marked "No Account Here" by the First National Bank of Danville. Needless to say, none were too happy. They retained the service of T. D. Maness, a local lawyer to track down Bowen and bring him to justice. By all accounts, efforts proved unsuccessful and there was no trace of  "Bowen" or the destination of the turkeys. Not everyone was sympathetic with the scam victims, for it was felt they had gotten what they deserved for being greedy and reneging on commitments to local buyers. Now everyone would have to suffer without turkey for Christmas.

The Tribune further reported that not since a photographer "passed through a certain section of the county, took a number of pictures, collected money for them and then departed to "return no more" had such a 'skin game' been pulled off in the area." 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cabarrus Halloween Matchmaking Party

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Its origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain and the All Saints Day celebration called All-hallows or All-hallowmas.

By the late nineteenth century, there was a move to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Hostesses enjoyed creating unique and elaborate celebrations. Of course Jack O'Lanterns glowed from every nook and corner. Refreshments were often mulled cider, grapes, apples, and nuts while a "dutch lunch" was served at midnight. This was typically bread, coffee, cold meats and cheeses.Young women also believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks and telling fortunes. 

On Saturday, October 29, 1904, Miss Anna Belle Barrier of Mount Pleasant had just such a party. According to the October 31 issue of the Concord Daily Tribune, she had "quite a large number of young people gather at her home...The early part of the evening was filled with a mingling of weird ghost stories and the merry voices of players as they frantically yelled, 'Robber,' 'Thief,' 'Burglar,' etc." in a game of Sherlock Holmes. "As the wee small hours began to draw near a professional fortune teller was produced, and today a score of young ladies are rejoicing in the fact that they know precisely whom they are going to wed."Miss Bessie Heilig and Miss Jennie Cook followed with other parties on Monday the 31st.

The Concord Daily Tribune on October 30, 1906 suggested other Halloween matchmaking games such as mystery cake, three bowls, and the candle fortune. For mystery cake, tiny white bags were to be inserted under the icing containing flour, which indicates a rich marriage; sugar for love; cornmeal meant that you will have to work for a living; and an empty bag foretold single blessedness for the next year. The cake was cut by drawing lots and cutting the first slice was considered a great honor. 

For the bowl game, three bowls were placed on a table, one filled with water, one with milk, and the other empty. Each young lady was then blindfolded, turned around three times and faced toward the bowls. If she put her finger in the water she will marry a bachelor, in the milk she will marry a widower, and if her finger touches the empty dish she is fated to remain single. 

For the candle fortune, lighted candles were to be placed in an open window. The one which burns the longest is the one who will remain faithful to the end. Of course the candles are named before being lit.

It is not known if Anna Belle Barrier's fortune came true, however she did marry North Carolina lawyer Willard M. Axley in Spokane, Washington in 1912. She was the daughter of Paul A. Barrier and Mary Cooper Bangle. By 1920 Anna Belle and Willard returned to North Carolina and settled in Murphy, Cherokee County where they remained with their daughter Ellen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Black Tongue" Takes a Toll in 
Cabarrus County and Across the South

The following contains excerpts from Gail Jarrow's book Red Madness:How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat and her website

Pellagra struck all age groups.
Between 1900 and 1940, at least 100,000 individuals in the South died of pellagra, or "black tongue," a dietary deficiency disease. The accelerated rise of pellagra was especially difficult in farming and mill communities. Its effects were felt in Cabarrus County as workers struggled to feed their families during times of economic hardship. 

The July 6, 1911 Charlotte Observer reported that "Mr. J. D. Bost, a well-known and popular young man of the city [Concord], was taken to the Charlotte sanatorium this morning to be treated for pellagra. Mr. Bost's health failed several months ago and and it became necessary for him to resign his position as book-keeper... and since that time he has been in a sanatorium for treatment but the cause of his illness was not generally known." 

Also called Italian leprosy and Alpine scurvy, the first reported U. S. case of pellagra was in 1902 when a young Georgia farmer sought a doctor’s help. The man felt too weak to work. He vomited when he ate. His skin was covered with blisters and crusty scabs. The doctor was shocked when he realized his patient appeared to have pellagra, a dreaded disease from southern Europe. Pellagra was known for its 4-D symptoms: dermatitis (a red rash), diarrhea, dementia (insanity), and death. The affected tissue would darken, thicken, and become scaly; cases were sometimes misdiagnosed as leprosy. Symptoms would increase with sun exposure and could progress to depression, stupor, and an irrational violence.

A poor diet of hominy grits, mush, molasses, cabbages, potatoes,
and rice was the main cause of pellagra, c.1920. Photo:
Recognized in Europe since the 18th century, no one was sure what caused pellagra or how to cure it. It made its first appearance in North Carolina near Wilmington and by 1907 there was one reported case in Cabarrus.2 Physicians were worried but not yet taking it seriously. Then the federal census bureau's death registration for 1910 reported that North Carolina led the country in pellagra mortality with 368 deaths, 263 (71.5%) of which were female. The largest numbers were in Raleigh (23); Durham (17); Charlotte (16); and Wilmington (8).3 Many went mad as the illness attacked their brain, and about 30% died. As the disease crossed the South, people panicked. 

Although there were only four reported cases in Cabarrus by 1912, nearby Mecklenburg had 156.3 As the number of cases continued to increase, concerned doctors said it was second only in importance to tuberculosis. Annual deaths in North Carolina peaked at 1,015 in 1930. The yearly total stayed well into the hundreds through the Depression and beyond; it did not fall to double digits until 1944.

Some thought it was caused by defective corn imported after the Civil War or food made from old or fermented corn. People stopped eating corn bread or anything made with corn meal. Since it seemed to run in families, was it hereditary? Was pellagra spread by an insect carrying a dangerous microbe? Was it contagious, passed from a victim to everyone around him?

Joseph Goldberger's observations in southern
mental hospitals, orphanages, and mill towns
led him to believe pellagra was not infectious,
but nutritional. This theory contradicted commonly-
held medical opinions, but he fought to convince
critics that social reform was necessary to improve
diets of Southern tenant farmers and mill workers.
The United States Public Health Service was determined to find the answers. The Surgeon General appointed a skilled epidemiologist to lead the investigation. In 1914, Dr. Joseph Goldberger headed to the South in search of clues.

Goldberger noticed more cases of pellagra among certain groups of people—sharecroppers and tenant farmers; cotton mill workers; children in orphanages; prisoners; and patients in insane asylums. After careful observations, he formed a hypothesis: Pellagra was caused by a diet high in corn and cereals and low in animal-protein foods (meat, eggs, milk).

By 1916, Goldberger had proved that pellagra was caused by a diet deficiency, but he didn’t know exactly what crucial element in food prevented the disease. Despite years of searching, he died in 1929 before anyone discovered the final solution to the mystery.

In 1937, Conrad Elvehjem, a biochemist, identified that missing element—nicotinic acid, now known as niacin or vitamin B3. Later research showed that the amino acid tryptophan, found in high-protein foods, also prevents pellagra because the body is able to change it into niacin.

Today niacin is added to bread, flour, cornmeal, and cereals. Although still common in some underdeveloped countries, Pellagra is now rare in the United States. The first year that North Carolina recorded no pellagra deaths was 1960, b
ut during the first half of the twentieth century, more than 3,000,000 Americans became victims of the “awful and loathsome” disease, and at least 100,000 died. Sadly, many families in our area were affected. Some known deaths in Cabarrus County which were attributed to, or complicated by pellagra, include:

Pearl B. McDonald, Concord, 1914
Travis Fry, Concord, 1914
Adam Lentz, Concord, 1915
John Franklin Murph, Kannapolis, 1915
Augusta A. Robinson, Concord, 1916
William Thomas Brindle, Kannapolis, 1921
Polly Blackwelder, Concord, 1923
Charles Alexander Weddington, Kannapolis, 1926
Lottie Lemmonds Burris, Concord, 1935
Rev. Columbus Washington Beam, Kannapolis, 1943

1. Kevin Kinsella, "Changes in Life Expectancy, 1900-1990," The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1992;55:1 l96S-1202S.
2. Bulletin of the North Carolina State Board of Health, Vol 22-24, Secretary of the Board, 1907, p.93
3. Transactions of the National Association for the Study of Pellagra: Second Triennial Meeting at Columbia, South Carolina, October 3 and 4, 1912, R. L. Bryan Company, 1914, p.33-34

Monday, August 31, 2015

Pioneering Cabarrus Dentist, Dr. W. C. Houston

Dr. William Cyrus Houston. Photo courtesy of
D. Rudge,
It's fascinating to see how far we have progressed over the past 125 years or so when it comes to the field of dentistry. When Dr. William Cyrus Houston set up his practice as the third dentist in Cabarrus County history on April 8, 1890, it was a crude and painful business by today's standards. Located in Concord, Dr. Houston rented the rooms on the second floor over what was then Misses Benson & Fisher's millinery store at 14-1/2 South Union Street (now Angela's Gift Boutique), and spent all of his 54 years of practice in the same office. The only other dentist practicing in Concord when Dr. Houston arrived was H. C. Herring.

In a 1964 newspaper article, Dr. Houston recalled that those were the days before local anesthesia. In fact, at that time, general anesthetics were almost never used by dentists. He described his patients as "hardy people." It was reported that he winced when telling the story from the early days when he once pulled 27 teeth from one woman at one sitting without using anesthetic. "That was bad judgement; I realized that later," he said. "I never would pull more than six teeth at a time after that." He also confessed to not having a license to practice when he first started. 

Advertisement, The Concord Times
September 17, 1891.
About 1895, local anesthetic--cocaine--came into wide use among dentists, but many people were suspicious of its use. He said, "They got it in their minds that the anesthetic was what made their teeth hurt afterward." The disadvantages of cocaine soon became self-evident. Fortunately, less toxic local anesthetic drugs were developed.  

Dr. Houston pioneered the use of electricity in the dentist's office in Cabarrus County when he returned from the Chicago World's Fair in 1903 with a newly-developed electric motor. He previously had used pedal power, and then a water motor to operate his drill. There were no laboratories in the early days to make plates for dentures. He made his own using rubber.

Dr. Houston was born in Monroe, Union County in 1867, son of Benjamin Franklin Houston and Mary Elizabeth Hudson. He enrolled at Bingham Military School in Orange County at age 17. After leaving the academy, he clerked in a grocery store for a year and then studied dentistry under his second cousin, Dr. W. B. Houston of Monroe. David Franklin Houston, brother of W. B. Houston, was Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of the Treasury under Woodrow Wilson.

W. C. Houston then attended Vanderbilt University and received his degree in dentistry in 1890. He came immediately to Concord and opened his office where he practiced until his retirement in 1944.

In 1893 he married Nina Adams, also of Monroe, and 10 years later they bought the oldest, most historic house in Concord. Called the Victor Barringer home, it was widely known as the one in which Jefferson Davis spent a night during his journey south following the surrender at Appomattox.
Top: The Victor Barringer house located at 25 North Union Street
in Concord, 
last owned by Dr. W. C. Houston and his wife Nina. 

Photo courtesy of the 
Concord Library Lore Local History Room.
Bottom: Marker in front of the Concord library.

Other renown historic figures had been entertained in the home, among them Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette and founding father Thomas Jefferson. Sadly, the home was later demolished and is now the site of the Concord Public Library.

In addition to his dental practice, Dr. Houston maintained substantial farm and business investments. Throughout his career, he was on the board of directors of of the Cabarrus County Savings and Loan, Concord National Bank, Concord Telephone Company, and Kerr Bleaching and Finishing Works. In 1948 he founded the Houston Preaching Mission.

Dr. W. C. Houston died in December of 1965 at the age of 98. He and Nina never had children. They are buried in Suncrest Cemetery in Union County.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Emma Hudson Eagle: First Matron of Cabarrus'
Stonewall Jackson Training School

Emma Hudson Eagle, 1939.
At an age when most are considering retirement, Emma Hudson Eagle took her first job outside her home. She was 53 when she became the first matron of the King's Daughters Cottage at the Stonewall Jackson Training School in 1911.

A native of the Rocky River community, Emma J. Hudson was born the fourth of six children to farmer Seth Hall Hudson and Frances Alvira "Fannie" White on 8 Dec 1858. Her father was a Confederate soldier, and although he survived the war, he died shortly after his return. After his death, the family moved to Concord. In a 1939 interview, The Concord Tribune described Emma's childhood schooling in the years after the war:
"She went to an old log school house with an immense log fireplace at one end. One long desk was nailed to one side of the room and there the older students sat to do their writing. The others sat on crude, backless benches made of slabs with legs made of poles. Her first teacher was a schoolmaster named Robert Brown and he had between 75 and 80 children on his roll...her last teacher being James C. Fink, who at the time was but little older than herself."
As her siblings left home, Emma stayed as a companion and caretaker of her mother. After her mother's death, Emma married widowed farmer Joseph Travis Eagle, Sr. in 1903 when she was 45. For the next seven years they lived at his home in Rowan County. Joseph, who was 18 years her senior, died in 1911. Emma then returned to Concord.

Uniformed boys and an instructor pose on the steps of the
King's Daughters cottage, c. 1920s. Photo: Images of America,
, by Michael Eury.
It was at this time Emma was hired as a matron at Stonewall Jackson Training School. Considered a pioneering progressive institution, the school was established as a reformatory for troubled young white males to separate them from adult institutions. Its founding was the result of twenty years of organizing by women's groups in North Carolina.

Although she left several times to care for family members, over the next 20 years Emma served in various capacities at the school, primarily as a matron and director of the Sewing Room. She watched the school grow from two residential "cottages," or homes, housing about sixty boys, to fifteen cottages with nearly five hundred. 

The King's Daughters cottage, where she first worked, was named for the organization which donated the funds for its construction. Erected in 1908 and opened January 12, 1909, it was built of solid brick and a slate roof. All the cottages were similar in size and interior arrangements, equipped to accommodate about 30 boys. Each had two stories and a basement. The basement contained a pantry for food supplies, a locker room, a clothes room, and bathroom and bathing facilities. On the first floor of each cottage was a kitchen, dining room and sitting room for the boys and cottage parents. The second floor had a dormitory for the boys and living quarters for the cottage parents.

House boys and matron preparing a meal, c. 1940s. Photo: History of
the Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School (1946).
The cottage matron was to act as a mother to the boys. According to History of the Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School (1946), "she cultivates an appreciation of neatness and cleanliness, and through her high ideals she promotes a cooperative spirit among the boys. She sets the standard for happy home life in the cottage." Duties included supervising food preparation, cooking and dining activities, managing supply orders, directing and assisting with mending of clothes and linens, overseeing bedroom cleanliness, teaching good table manners and courtesy, and taking care of all indoor recreational activities and playthings.

Working in the Sewing Room, c. 1940s. PhotoHistory of the
Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School (1946).
One of the chief functions of the program at the Jackson Training School was to provide trade training and work experience. Emma became the director of the Sewing Room. Its primary purpose was to make new garments and mend worn garments. Among the items they made were: shirts, pajamas, sheets, towels, pillow cases, aprons, table linens and window curtains. Items for mending were such things as shirts, overalls, underwear, coats, sweaters and athletic goods. The boys learned such skills as cutting patterns, operating sewing machines and button hole machines, and hand sewing. They also learned to sort out materials and classify finished articles. Such learned skills were practical and could be applicable for textile mill work. 

Emma Hudson Eagle was a devoted member of Rocky Ridge Methodist church and the Women's Missionary Society and was known for her talents in crochet and quilting. Although she had no children of her own, she cared for many. She died 28 Nov 1944 at the age of 85 and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Concord.

The original cottages of the now named Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center are no longer used and have fallen into disrepair and neglect, however, they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cabarrus Troops Called to the 
Mexican Border on June 24, 1916

Headline of The Concord Times, June 19, 1916.

During the early 1900s, the United States found herself with a very uncomfortable neighbor to the south. The violence of Mexican revolution frequently spilled across the border into Texas and New Mexico. After Mexican bandit and general Pancho Villa deliberately killed over 30 Americans and burned Columbus, New Mexico, President Woodrow Wilson called the nation's militia to arms.

In June 1916, Company L of Cabarrus County assembled for the trip to the Mexican border. The 65-man National Guard unit quickly recruited the additional manpower needed to meet war strength of 142 men. On Saturday, June 24, Company L departed by train for Camp Glenn, Morehead City, NC, to be placed under the 1st North Carolina Infantry, Colonel J. T. Gardner commanding. By September, Company L was camped at El Paso, Texas for border patrol.

Luckily, Company L was able to return home to Cabarrus on February 8, 1917, where they found a big homecoming awaiting them. According to the Concord Times, they arrived by train at 3:00 a.m., but remained on the train until 8:30 a.m. and then marched to the court house where they were met with a large reception and parade. Unfortunately, the worsening war in Europe again forced Company L to recruit to full war strength in March of the same year.

The below photograph of Company L was taken on July 20, 1914, two years before their Mexican border action and three years before entering World War I. It shows the company assembled on the side steps of the Post Office building (corner of S. Union and Foard Streets), facing Foard Street. The only man positively identified is company artificer (blacksmith who makes fuses, shells, grenades and other armaments) John F. Barnhardt, fourth from left, front row. The man in front of Company L is probably Captain Louis A. Brown, president of Brown Construction Company, the building seen at top right.

Cabarrus County National Guard Company L. Photo taken July 20, 1914, donated by John C. Barnhardt, courtesy of Concord Library, Lore Local History Room.

The roster as reported by The Concord Times was as follows:

Captain: L. A. Brown   
First Lieutenant: R. C. Thompson
Second Lieutenant: Z. B. Thornzurg
First Sergeant: J. A. Benfield
Quartermaster Sergeant: C. E. Clark

Sergeants: J. M. Rowe, W. L. Elliott
W. M. Dorton, C. N. Alston

Corporals: L. W. Stallings, J. W. Elliott,
M. H. Caldwell, Jr., C. H. Wadsworth
E. D. Fink, R. Y. Safrit

Cooks: D. H. Hathcock, P. P. Cook
Musicians: J. B. Raiford, G. A. Ritchie
Artificer: J. F. Barnhardt
Clerk: F. R. Bost

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Take Me Out to the Ball Game: 

Cabarrus Doctor J. W. Moose Patents Early Baseball Bat

Patent No.377,656 baseball bat drawing by Dr. John W. Moose, filed 9 Sep 1887.
"To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, John W. Moose, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Mount Pleasant, in the county of Cabarrus and State of North Carolina, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Base-Ball Bats; and I do hereby declare that the following is a full, clear and exact description of the invention, which will enable others skilled in the art to which it appertains to make and use the same..."

Dr. John Wesley Moose of Mount Pleasant had an idea to improve upon the wood baseball bat. In the 1860s, there were almost as many types of baseball bats as there were baseballs. And like early pitchers, who made their own balls, early batters were known to sometimes whittle bats to suit their own hitting style. For many years there was room for experimentation: some bats were flat on one side and some were hook-shaped rather than straight. In 1884, the most famous name in baseball bats made its debut when 17-year-old John A. “Bud” Hillerich took a break from his father’s woodworking shop in Louisville, Kentucky and created an all-wood bat which became known as the Louisville Slugger. Although it eventually set the standard in the industry, the all-wood bat was never patented, but became what is known as a patent prior art: all baseball bat patents are on inventions that improve or change the bat - and the very first was that of Dr. Moose's hollow core bat in 1888!

With his application, filed on September 9, 1887, Dr. Moose made a trip to New York City, where he went in the interest of his baseball bat. Dr. Moose claimed that his new invention was "everything that a professional player could wish." By creating a bore throughout the length and inserting a metal tube, the intention was to provide a means in which bats could be strengthened without adding weight. His hope was "that it wouldn't be long before it would be on sale so its merits could be tested."

The still young sport of American baseball did not yet have set regulations. In 1893, the second season of the National League and American Association of Base Ball Clubs, the bat was no longer allowed to be flat on one side but was required to be round. The length was limited to 42 inches and the thickness of the thickest part was two and on-half inches. The thickness of the bat was increased to two and three-quarters inches in 1895. This is more or less the standard today, as defined in the MLB rule book:

(a) The bat shall be a smooth, round stick not more than 2.61 inches in diameter at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. The bat shall be one piece of solid wood.
The decision by professional baseball to stay with the solid wood bat disqualified Dr. Moose's bat, but the baseball bat was not Dr. Moose's only patent. On April 27, 1888, The Concord Times reported that "Dr. J. W. Moose left on last Monday in the interests of his patent for managing kicking horses and mules." The invention intended to confine the movements of the hind legs of an animal to keep them from kicking.

The entrepreneurial John Wesley Moose was born 7 Feb 1853, the second of nine children to George and Elizabeth "Hannah"(Moody) Moose in Stanly County. He graduated from North Carolina College (later Mount Pleasant Collegiate Institute) in 1877 and from the college of physicians and surgeons in Baltimore in 1879. He returned to Mount Pleasant and opened a practice located in the H. C. McAllister & Co. Drug Store. In 1882 John married Rosa Wadsworth, then a teacher at Mont Amoena Seminary, and built a home on Hwy. 73 just east of Main Street. John and his brother Archibald Walter Moose also founded the A. W. Moose Drug Co., initially located on the corner of E. Franklin St. & S. Main St.

In 1888 John and Rosa's young family intended to follow other Moose family members to Texas, but the plan had to be postponed when Rosa suffered from a severe case of typhoid fever. The following year, they made the trip with a newborn baby and settled in Parker County, Texas. There they remained and Dr. Moose continued to practice medicine for the next 30 years, until his death in 1919.

Although professional baseball did not adopt Dr. Moose's baseball bat, his is the first in a long list of composite and hollow-core patents: No. US377686 is the first one cited in all subsequent applications.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cabarrus Man, Bill Allman, Was an Alaska Pioneer and Larger Than Life Adventurer

Bill Allman, c. 1983
If you lived in Concord in the 1970s and early 1980s, you may remember Bill Allman. Each year, he headed south like a snowbird from Alaska to Concord. Here he would rent a small room at the Hotel Concord and spend the winter months visiting family and old friends, sharing stories of his great adventures in the frozen north. Then each spring, the old gold miner and prospector would return to the life he loved in rural Alaska. 

The spring of 1984 was no different. As he had done for half a century, he headed out on May 30, 1984 to prospect for gold in the rough tundra near Marshall, Alaska, about 550 roadless miles north of Anchorage. He was taken by float plane to his claim on Tom Gray Creek, near the Yukon Territory and was to be picked up at a prearranged spot on July 18 for a return trip. But unlike previous excursions, this time he didn't show up. Bill Allman had disappeared without a trace.

Bill was born Willis Watkins Allman on March 6, 1900 to parents Florence Robert Allman and Margaret Elmina Steele in Mecklenburg County. The family later moved to Concord and he went by the name William or "Bill". Bill was young when he struck out on his own seeking adventure in the west. He worked in the mines, on Scandinavian whaling ships and held jobs as an Arizona cowboy, a Washington lumberjack and a railroad employee. At age 18, he was drafted to serve in WWI. Although he never got to Europe, as an Army pilot he learned to fly, a skill which he would use throughout his life. After the war he tried working on commercial fishing boats in Alaskan waters but did not find it to his liking. In December 1922 he visited family in Concord but declared that after serving with the U. S. Forestry Service in Alaska, southern weather was uncomfortably warm. By 1923, Bill moved to Alaska permanently, joining two old trappers who taught him to survive in the wilderness.

Marshall, Alaska
Bill is recognized as one of Alaska's Pioneers, with a lake and a mountain named after him. Over the years he prospected for gold, trapped, worked as a guide for hunters and for two years carried the U.S. mail via dogsled. His route, which ran 160 miles across Alaska, was made every 30 days for $100 per month. When he wasn't working his gold claims, hunting wild game or panning gold, he would mush across the Bering Strait into Russia, or lead wilderness expeditions that included the likes of Walt Disney. During the months-long darkness of Alaskan winters, he read encyclopedias in his small antler-strewn sod cabin on the Yukon River. During some of his spare time he would build miniature cabin dioramas that included a sod roof and a brass gun shell for the chimney. A meat cache and other normal cabin outdoor fixtures would also be included. After visiting with friends, he would often leave them with one of these dioramas.

Marshall, Alaska today. Population in 2000 was 349.
He put his experience as a WWI flier to use as a bush pilot. Like most bush pilots, he crashed a few times. In a 1983 Charlotte Observer interview Bill said that he did get hurt "pretty bad a time or two. I crashed in the woods once and I run over a cabin once and another time I ran over a bear. The bear got the worst of it." Other stories included getting clawed by a polar bear and being trapped on a drifting iceberg for 12 days.

He was married once and had two daughters. One died of pneumonia at age 3. The other grew up to become an airline stewardess. When in her 20s in about 1953, she died in a plane crash somewhere between Vera Cruz, Mexico and Hong Kong. Bill and his wife were divorced and he never remarried. Although he had no family in Alaska, he was considered by many of the children of Marshall as a grandpa.

It was only after brain tumor surgery in the 1970s and the increasingly arduous task of daily woodcutting to keep warm at night, that Bill was persuaded to leave Alaska and live in Concord for the winter months. But each spring he was anxious to head back north to the land he loved.

That fateful summer of 1984, Bill's last known correspondence with family in North Carolina was just before he was dropped off at the lake 45 miles from Marshall. In a letter dated May 28 written to his niece, Ruby Womack of Charlotte, he stated, "This Alaska's a tough place to live...It's cold at is going out of the Yukon River now but big king salmon fish is's daylight 24 hours a day. 

When he didn't show up at the designated pick-up spot on July 18, the National Guard, Alaskan state police, family and friends spent weeks combing the wilderness area where Bill should have been. One of his small survival trail cabins had been found burned, but corrugated metal from the roof had been salvaged and stacked at the site, indicating someone had been there after the fire. Another of his trail cabins was boarded up, as if it had been secured for the winter, but there was no sign of Bill. Eventually the search was terminated. 

As an Alaska Pioneer, Bill Allman became part of the lore of those whose spirit of adventure helped to settle the wilderness frontier. As Bill's nephew James Allman stated in 1984, "He loved Alaska; it was all he wanted, all he talked about, all he lived for. If Uncle Bill just dropped dead up there, the family feels that's the way he'd want it."
  • Monday, May 11, 2015

    "Aunt Dill" was a Mother Figure to Many in Eastern Cabarrus

    Idelah Misenheimer Heilig.
    This weekend we celebrated Mother's Day. It is not only a special day to honor women who have children, but also the women who have given of themselves for the betterment of the life of a child. Although Idelah Misenheimer Heilig of Mount Pleasant had ten children of her own, she is said to have helped bring into the world many more. 

    Idelah (depending on the source it may be spelled Idella) also went by the name of Dilly and later Aunt Dill. She was born in Stanly County on March 25, 1848 to slaves Abner Misenheimer and Edith (last name unknown). She was initially the property of Rev. Levi Shankle of Albemarle and moved to the Mount Pleasant area when she was age seven. In In 1860 she was willed to Shankle's daughter Martha along with another slave named Elmira. Martha Shankle married Jacob J. Misenheimer in 1855 in Cabarrus County and settled in Mount Pleasant. It is reported that Dilly may have been a wedding present to Martha. In the 1863 slave census, Dilly is listed as the property of J. J. Misenheimer and had a value of $1,400. 

    After emancipation, Dilly married Harry Heilig in 1866. Harry was the former slave of L. G. Heilig, also of Mount Pleasant. Dilly and Harry had ten children, six of which survived to adulthood. Although neither Dilly or Harry could read or write, all the children attended school. Harry worked in a tanyard, perhaps that of L. G. Heilig, for that was his business. Sadly, Dilly became a widow sometime between 1885 and 1900, but she was a respected and beloved member of the community in her own right. In addition to rearing her own large family, "Aunt Dill" assisted numerous families in the community. Tradition states that she was a midwife and helped to deliver many of the children of Mount Pleasant, nursing approximately one hundred, both black and white.

    Late in life she went to live with her daughter Beulah in Asheville, where she died at the age of 93 on August 28, 1941. She left five surviving children, twenty-one grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren. Among her descendants were teachers, ministers and members of other professions.

    This former slave left a legacy to be proud of. She is buried at First Congregational Church cemetery in Mount Pleasant.

    Courtesy of Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society and Museum

    Monday, April 27, 2015

    Cabarrus Coal and Ice Man A. B. Pounds
    Concord coal and ice distributor A. B. Pounds.
    On October 26, 1933, well known businessman A. B. Pounds, age 53, was found shot three times in the office of his former ice plant in downtown Concord. One of Concord's outstanding businessmen for more than twenty years, his name was synonymous with coal and ice distribution.

    Arthur Bundy (A. B.) Pounds was born in Cabarrus County in 1879 to John Taylor Pounds and Laura Katherine Dove and had lived most of his life in Concord. He was married on Christmas eve 1901 to Annie Misenheimer and had two sons, Frank and Carl, and a daughter Emily. One of his earliest business successes was as an oil distributor, and then later as a coal and wood dealer. For many years Pounds served on the directorate of Cabarrus Bank & Trust Company and was also affiliated with the Imperial Cotton Mills of Edenton, Georgia. He and his family lived on West Corbin, but also had a stock raising farm near Salisbury called Edgewood. 

    As an economically minded businessman, Pounds had diversified his coal and wood fuel distribution business to include ice. Ice was widely sold to consumers for food preservation before the age of in-home electric refrigeration. Home iceboxes date back to the days of ice harvesting, which had hit an industrial high that ran from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1930s. Ice was harvested in winter from snow-packed areas or frozen lakes, stored in ice houses and delivered domestically as iceboxes become more common. As early mechanical refrigerators became available, they were installed in large industrial plants producing ice for home delivery. The ability to produce clean, sanitary ice year-round gradually replaced ice harvested from ponds and lakes. Icemen, such as those working for Pounds, would make daily rounds delivering ice from a wagon, cart, or later a truck.

    Home ice delivery, c. 1930
    Pounds' ice business grew. By October of 1913, Refrigerating World Magazine reported that Pounds was having plans prepared for an ice plant to be erected on West Corbin Street in the heart of downtown Concord, allowing production to increase from 10 tons daily to 22 tons. 

    In April of 1915, Pounds advertised the recent enlargement of his ice plant. He said that with the hot weather coming, ice made in Concord was better than buying ice shipped from outside the city. He could guarantee prompt service and better prices than any of the larger towns in the state. Besides, during the summer months, he would work 35 to 40 local men and boys - and more pay rolls is what Concord needed. If the money was all spent locally, it would support the city. Pounds further exclaimed, "It is the duty of all merchants and business men to boost the manufacturing plants of the city and I hope to receive the hearty support of all who live here." During WWI, Pounds was told that his coal supply would be redirected in support of the war. He turned to the further expansion of the ice operation. In August of 1922 it was announced that he would install a 25-ton electric drive ice plant. About 1928, he sold his ice business to the American Service Company, where his son Frank was appointed business manager.

    On that fateful day in October of 1933, A. B. Pounds telephoned his son Frank at his office at American Service Company and said he was coming to see him. Pounds had recently been in ill health and was known to have a history of domestic problems and business differences with Frank. For an undisclosed reason, A. B. attacked Frank and bludgeoned him with a stick. After receiving head wounds, Frank shot him in self defense. Sadly, A. B. did not survive. Frank was released after a hospital stay and short time in jail. A. B. Pounds and Annie Misenheimer Pounds Caswell are buried in Concord's Oakwood Cemetery. Frank later worked in real estate and went on to be a veteran of WWII.

    Sunday, April 19, 2015

    Harris Documents Early Farm Life in Cabarrus County

    "American Farm Yard - Evening," Currier and Ives, 1857. Library of Congress.
    Previous blog articles have discussed William Shakespeare Harris' twelve-page, hand written essay titled "Essay on Agriculture" (9 Apr 2014 and 30 May 2014). The essay details early life in Cabarrus County, including crops, farming and building techniques, clothing and lifestyle. Presumably, Harris learned much through his own experiences and those of elder Harris family members. Unfortunately, the date and circumstances of the essay are unknown. However, William Shakespeare Harris seems to have written the essay in response to a request from another party, most likely between 1850 and 1875 after Harris had farmed for a number of years.

    After the passing of his first wife Elizabeth Torrence Powe in 1849, William Shakespeare Harris married Jane Witherspoon Ervin about 1851. They had at least four children, listed in the 1870 census as E. Ervin, age 13; Charles J., age 11; Brevard E., age 8; and Jane E., age 6. William Shakespeare Harris (1815-1875), Elizabeth Powe Harris (1824-1849) and Jane Ervin Harris (1825-1890) are buried at Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Concord, where Harris served as Church Elder for 26 years.

    "Favoni," the home of Dr. Charles Harris, and later son William Shakespeare Harris,
    was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. It is located near
    Poplar Tent, in Concord. The two-story log section was built about 1791, with a two-story
    frame addition forming an "L" shaped dwelling, about 1840.
    The Agricultural Census schedules of 1850-1870 show Harris' successes in farming. In 1850, Harris liste 840 acres, with his farm valued at $8,000. He kept 8 horses, 12 milk cows, 14 other cattle, 25 sheep and 107 swine. His largest crop was Indian corn, but he also grew wheat and oats. In 1860, his holdings expanded to 915 acres, still valued at $8,000. he kept 7 horses, 9 mules, 12 milk cows, 18 other cattle, 20 sheep and 100 swine. Indian corn was still his largest crop; although he added some cotton and increased his wheat production. His oat harvest remained the same. Harris had 48 slaves.

    By 1870, the Harris farm decreased in size, probably due to the post Civil War economic depression. Harris owned only 455 acres valued at $4,000, 1 horse, 3 milk cows, 7 other cattle, 10 sheep and 9 swine. He no longer produced oats, and his wheat, Indian corn and cotton productions all were down by half. Despite the decline, Harris still ranked as a fairly prosperous Cabarrus farmer and his essay is worthy of consideration for its details on agriculture and many other aspects of life in Cabarrus County.

    In one passage, Harris describes the land as it appeared to the earliest settlers in the area: they found "a wilderness of cane, through which they cut their pathways with hatches brought with them from Pennsylvania...such was the exuberance of the virgin soil--that the pathways would fill up every spring--the tread of a sparse population and few domestic animals not being sufficient to keep them open...The timber...was principally large trees but was abundant enough for fuel and building."

    Early houses were built of "exceedingly ponderous" logs, "preserved through a century of time," and "covered with boards secured against the wind and storm." It was expensive and very difficult to get nails. In later years, some houses had thatched roofs: "When farmers began to raise rye, they adopted the quaint mode of covering their farm houses with rye straw. So thoroughly thatched and laid in parallel [sic], that such roofs have been known to last 70 years.

    William Shakespeare Harris' "Essay on Agriculture" reveals much more about everyday experiences and way of life of early Cabarrus county settlers. The entire essay is available in the Concord Library Lore Local History Room.

    Courtesy of the Concord Library Lore Local History Room.

    Thursday, April 9, 2015

    Dear Brother: A Cabarrus Soldier Writes Home

    Library of Congress: "News from home". (Soldier at Culpeper, Va.,
    Sept. 30, 1863). Pencil drawing by Edwin Forbes, 1863.
    Today marks the sesquicentennial of the The Battle of Appomattox Court House, fought on the morning of April 9, 1865, and the subsequent surrender of Confederate Army general Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to the Union Army under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The signing of the surrender documents occurred in the parlor of the house owned by Wilmer McLean on the afternoon of April 9. On April 12, a formal ceremony marked the disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia and the parole of its officers and men, effectively ending the war in Virginia. This event triggered a series of surrenders across the south, signaling the end of the war.

    The author of the letter reprinted below was Richard Martin Patterson (1830-1909), a farmer and carpenter from northwestern Cabarrus County. He was married to Mary Ann Propst on 16 Feb 1854. They had five children. Richard and Mary are buried in Center Grove Lutheran Cemetery in Kannapolis. Patterson served in the 52nd Regiment, North Carolina, which fought at Gettysburg in 1863 and surrendered at Appomattox Court House in 1865. Patterson's letter has been reproduced with his own spelling and lack of punctuation.
    January the 4 the
    Camp Near liberty Mill
    Dear Brother I seat my self to drop you afew lines to let you no that I am in tolerable helth my foot is very sore I hav not had my shoe on my foot in a month it looks like it will have to be taken off I hope thoes few lines ma find you an famley all well I wold like to be at your house to day it is snowing as hard her now as I ever saw if I was there we wold go a hunting and a hunting wold giv me som thing good to eat I cant get nothing her I want you to send me somthing to eat the first chants you can I cant say any thing about the war for I dont her any thing her the soldiers has mor hops of peas now thern ever was her be fore I hope the time is near at hand when the pore soldirs can get home an be a free peple again you hav no idia how glad I sold be to see my dear litle Betie but I hope I ma be spard till the 30 of Augest 1864 an then we will come home an see you all I expect to be a sconscrip in some other Ridgment I wist you new my mind an my notion about som thing I wold tell you if I cold see you I want you to let me no what you think about this war I want you to tell G A Propst that I think of him often and think of the good times I hav had at his house it makes me feal sory to think about theas good times we youst to hav and see what we hav come too tell him to rite an giv me all the news tell George an Jacky howdy for me Giv my respects to all my friends if you think I hav any but it is very doutful for I cant her from any person onley my Wife I want you to let me no how Charles is geting along Martin A Propts is well I see him evry day or too I Must Close it is very cold and we hav to keap our house dore shet to keep the snow out and it is so dark that I cant see to rite you must excues my bad riting an spelling for I am so easy bothered an somutch fuss that I cant do any beter I want you to rite soon an fail not I remain your treue
    R M Patterson
    un till deathe an
    I wish to be rememberd
    by you all 

    Courtesy Cabarrus County Library, Lore History Room 

    Friday, April 3, 2015

    Cabarrus Businessman Bascom Umberger 
    Financed Education Through Music

    Bascom Umberger in his office instructing a salesman. The office was upstairs on the corner of Union Street, S. and Barbrick Avenue.

    The following article contains excerpts from the June 1974 issue of Progress Magazine, produced by the Concord Telephone Company. 

    About 1905, an enterprising and ambitious young man by the name of Bascom Leonard Umberger established a new business in Concord called The Home Educational Company. He was vitally interested in education, and his new enterprise sold and distributed books and other educational materials in North Carolina and several adjacent states. Included in the activities of this new establishment was the promotion and sale of a stringed musical instrument known as the "Mandolin-Guitar Harp."

    The Mandolin-Guitar Harp has strings arranged so that the notes
    of chords occur in groups.
    The Mandolin-Guitar Harp, a type of modern chord zither, was actually manufactured by the Phonoharp Company, of East Boston Massachusetts. In spite of its beautiful tone and appearance, and the ease in which it could be played, the harp was was not selling. About the time the manufacturer was considering its discontinuation, it was discovered by Bascom Umberger. Since he had sold books door to door during his summer vacations from college, the idea came to him that if he had salesmen to take this harp to the home and show how even the children could play tunes on it, the harp should sell.

    After working out an arrangement with the manufacturer to be an exclusive representative, he set up a business in Concord under the name The Home Educational Company. His first move was to visit some of the colleges and engage students who would work on commission selling harps over summer vacation in order to finance their education. Soon the business grew and there were hundreds of men in the field each summer, in addition to a number of men who worked for the company the year-round. These sales representatives worked in various locations across the country.

    Bascom Umberger enjoyed successful and lucrative business until the tide changed in 1913. Mr. Umberger suffered an illness that hospitalized him in New York for some months. Although he recovered, 1914 proved to be a fateful year for The Home Educational Company. An economic slump occured when World War I broke out in Europe. The draft then called the young men into service who otherwise might have been his sales representatives. These conditions along with the worsening physical condition of Mr. Umberger finally ended the existence of The Home Educational Company.

    Umberger family home "The Luberger Place."
    Bascom Umberger was born December 16, 1872 in Wytheville, Virginia. He was the son of Abraham Umberger, a Confederate Civil War veteran, and Elizabeth Martin Umberger. In 1899 he married the lovely Miss Jennie Bell Ludwig of Number 4 Township (now part of Kannapolis), Cabarrus County. Mr. and Mrs. Umberger built a beautiful home atop a ridge near Cook's Crossing, Number 4 Township, and named it "The Luberger Place." This home was destined to survive for more than one-half century and to be occupied solely by the Umberger family. The building was demolished in 1971.

    Mr. Umberger was active in all phases of religious and civic life in the Winecoff community. He served as a member of the school committee and was very active in Mt. Olivet Methodist Church. He was gifted with a rich tenor voice and could play many musical instruments. His talents were in great demand. He was principal in the development of the Parkwood Community and was a member of the Citizen's Bank & Trust Company Board of Directors. It is thought that he owned the first automobile in Cabarrus County and organized the first Boy Scout troop in the county (excluding the City of Concord). Along with Mr. C. J. W. Goodman and Mr. Will M. Barnhardt, Mr. Umberger was instrumental in securing the first telephone and electric service in the community.

    Today, very few people in Concord have heard of The Home Educational Company, or even knew of its existence when at its height, because most of its operation was carried on in distant locations, and most of its salesmen lived elsewhere. Noted singer and musician Barbara Mandrell is known to own one of the mandolin-guitar harps, given to her from an admirer. Somewhere, sometime, it was sold by one of Mr. Umberger's traveling salesmen.

    Bascom Umberger died in 1929. Jennie Ludwig Umberger survived him until 1968. They, as well as other family members, are buried at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church Cemetery in Concord.

    Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room