26 August 2007

The Monument: Chatham's Confederate Soldier

[Update August 20, 2017 -- A fourth part has been added, The Monument 4: Removal.]
Last week, a notable Chatham centennial came and went, as far as I know, with little or no fanfare. Thursday, August 23, marked the hundred-year anniversary of the unveiling of the Confederate memorial that stands in front of the Chatham Courthouse. The dedication ceremony represented probably the last sizable reunion of the county's Confederate veterans. The Rabbit has for some time planned a series of posts to mark the event, explain the origins of the monument, and discuss it as a symbol. But personal matters made posting difficult last week.

Here, then, is the Rabbit's Confederate memorial series, which consists of three parts and relies mostly on accounts from the Chatham RECORD.

The Monument 1: Project. Discusses the efforts primarily of the Londons, Henry and Bettie, to raise funds for the monument (posted August 26, 2007).

The Monument 2: Event. Chronicles the event of the monument's unveiling (posted August 29, 2007).

The Monument 3: Symbol. Discusses the defacement of the monument just after its unveiling, and the symbolism of Chatham's and other Confederate monuments over the years (posted September 3, 2007).

Who Defaced the Chatham Confederate Monument?. Follows up on "Monument 3: Symbol" with comments based on correspondence with readers (posted September 10, 2007).

The Monument 4: Removal. Updates the story in the context of national debate surrounding Confederate monuments, following hateful and violent actions by white supremacists groups and individuals (posted August 20, 2017).

The Monument 3: Symbol

[Part 4 of a 4-part series]

As far as I know, the person who put blackface on Chatham's Confederate monument a week after its unveiling never was caught. To be honest, I can't say that it was blackface. It's just a hunch; for one thing, Henry A. London rarely if ever shrank from itemizing the heinous and lurid deeds of humankind for the Chatham RECORD, but his report of September 5, 1907 pulls up curiously terse:
Monument Defaced.

On last Monday night was perpetrated one of the most disgraceful acts of vandalism ever known in a civilized community. On that night some person or persons defaced the monument recently erected in front of our courthouse in memory of Chatham's Confederate soldiers. The defacement was made with black shoe polish (a bottle of which was found near the monument next morning) and with grease. After several hours of hard scrubbing most of the shoe polish was removed, but still a few streaks remain on the monument.

Of course such an outrage aroused great indignation when discovered next day, and the county commissioners as soon as they met promptly offered a reward for the arrest and conviction of the guilty person or persons. Such an outrage is a misdemeanor and is punishable by fine and imprisonment, and every effort will be made to detect and punish the guilty party as he deserves. We regret to know that our county is disgraced with the presence of any human being mean enough to commit such a despicable act.
There follows the commissioners' reward notice:
REWARD!

The board of county commissioners of Chatham county hereby offer a reward of $25 for the arrest and conviction of each of the persons who, on last Monday night, defaced the Confederate monument erected in front of the court-house of said county. S.W. HARRINGTON, Chairman, September 3rd, 1907
A search of the RECORD for the fifteen months following turns up no report on the capture of the perpetrator. The likelihood of a corroborating account with more detail seems remote, but the Rabbit promises to keep the eye on one side of his head open for one. Still I can't help but think that the event that left H.A. London, for once in his life, bereft of descriptive powers must have breached some taboo. And in 1907 North Carolina, an act with the transgressive power to turn Henry London mealy-mouthed may well have touched on the matter of race.

To be sure, lacking details, it lies beyond the Rabbit's ken to say exactly what symbolic statement the vandal intended. With no spraypaint in 1907, the perpetrator may have merely used the shoe polish to scrawl "Matthews Township RULEZ!" on the granite. Was it simply a person, white or black, who hated the pretensions of the statue, the overbearing pitch of the London fund-raising drive, or the pomposity of the previous weekend's unveiling ceremonies? Could the gesture have come from someone whose ax was stolen or porch peed on during the weekend of celebration?

Or was it truly a racially-charged act, done by an anonymous dissident making a point about apartheid in the era of Jim Crow? Given the risks to a person of color, who in that community would have done the deed? If the perpetrators never did get caught, they either kept mum about it -- which, given the public nature of the gesture, seems unlikely -- or they confessed only in circles tight enough that no one betrayed them for $25. There hadn't been a lynching in Chatham for some time, and London, who vehemently opposed the lawlessness of lynching, would not have countenanced it. But African-Americans would have known that the person, if caught, would be in for a heap of trouble.

Furthermore, can we even say that the blacks of 1907 Chatham saw a potent racial symbol in the Confederate monument? Was there clandestine organizing; what affairs of race did the members of the African-American community discuss when they met privately? What were their private thoughts about the memorial, the cult of the Lost Cause, and its connections to the Jim Crow regime? Unfortunately, the marginalization of African-American voices of the county limits us to nibbling at the edges of these questions.

Whatever the particulars of the defacement, it must have stung Henry London deeply, given his and Bettie's personal investment in the statue as a project. For London and his contemporaries, the movement to memorialize the Confederacy represented a sweeping, nationwide project to sanctify the remembrance of the American Civil War. A carefully-shined sheen of racial harmony illuminated their world view. Recall the words of Chief Justice Walter Clark, speaker at the memorial dedication, when he addressed the graduating class at St. Augustine in 1920: "The colored people do not wish social equality, and the white people would not tolerate it, and there the matter ends.".

But let's not kid ourselves regarding the integrity of that veneer; the cracks were there. One of the more chilling comments that the Rabbit has read in the RECORD comes from the "Local Records" section of May 31, 1906:

The colored pastor (C. Campbell) of the A.M.E. Zion Church, near here, has requested THE RECORD to deny a report that he has advised his congregation not work for the white people. On the contrary he says that he has always tried "to promote peace, Christian fellowship and happiness" between the two races, and has always met the approval of the best white people.
Whatever underlying fissures may have prompted the item, we may never know, but it hints at something larger going on under the surface. An imbalance in documentary evidence tips any question of race in Chatham County 100 years ago decisively to one side of the color line, where Henry A. London's voice dominates. So it may help to explore the question along a line from London himself to a place where a statue like Chatham's had clear racial resonance.

London had become a mainstay at veterans' reunions around the state and national reunions in places like New Orleans and Richmond. In October of 1906, during the height of the fund-raising drive for the Chatham memorial, London traveled to Oxford, the seat of Granville County, and gave an address at a Confederate veterans' reunion there. He called it "one of the pleasantest that it has ever been our good fortune to attend." The Governor of N.C., Robert Glenn, also spoke at the event. Less than three years later, in June of 1909, Granville County would erect its own Confederate monument. It stood then in the center of the main intersection of Oxford and was built to resemble Chatham's in several of its particulars.

As it happens, the Confederate monument at Oxford figures in the story that Tim Tyson tells of the racial murder in Oxford, North Carolina in his book, Blood Done Sign My Name [see Chapter 7, "Drinkin' That Freedom Wine"]. The story centers on the death of African-American Henry Marrow, killed by whites in 1970. Tyson writes of where, in his view, the monument stood both literally, and in the figurative realm of the town's racial politics:
The old Rebel soldier in the town's main intersection was more a monument to white supremacy than to the Confederacy and in 1970 most whites either liked it or simply did not think about it. But neither white supremacy nor the Confederacy had always unified the white population. The monument's appearance in 1909 had marked the consolidation of the new social order of segregation and the establishment of a new degree of racial solidarity among whites, who had been deeply divided by the Populist upheavals of the late nineteenth century and the changing politics of race in the decades after the Civil War.
Tyson tells of the 19th-Century Fusionist alliance of poor white farmers and blacks that put African-Americans in office in county and municipal governments, and white Populists and Republicans in control of most of the state government. He relates how the elections of 1898 returned power to Democrats following an intense summer-long campaign of white supremacy. Unsatisfied with their electoral gains in November, the white supremacists then marched their Redshirts or stormtroopers into Wilmington and seized control of the city's government by force.

The Rabbit may in time relate the events of the white supremacist summer of 1898 as they unfolded in Chatham County, but in the end Chatham and the rest of the state saw the apartheid era of Jim Crow take its hold. North Carolina all but led the way for much of the rest of the South to mimic the disfranchisement of African-Americans and segregation of schools in the coming years. Tyson sees the movement to memorialize the Confederacy as part-and-parcel; he writes of the monument in Oxford that the "tall bronze figure testified to the entrenched power of the new social order, standing guard in front of the courthouse for the next sixty-five years -- until the next revolution in racial politics came to town."

The killing of Henry Marrow set off that revolution in Granville County, and on the day of Marrow's funeral, Golden Frinks, a civil rights firebrand from eastern North Carolina, led a march from the cemetery to the Confederate monument at Oxford. Frinks told Tyson, "I saw that Confederate monument and I thought it was a good time for this. There was something in the core of these black people's psyche that carried a little racism that is still there, but they can't see it." Addressing the crowd that gathered around the Confederate monument, Frinks used it as a symbol of the repression that they had so long known.
Frinks, the veteran SCLC warrior, spoke about the meaning of the old Confederate's vigil in the center of town. The monument needed to be moved, he said, "because it's a stigma, because it stands for hundreds of years of a repressive period -- slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, discrimination, bigotry, and all of that complicity of keeping a people down. But we ain't staying down no more," he declared. Years later, Frinks told me how he had waved his broad hands to the assemblage and leavened the fiery rhetoric with humor: "I talked about that man, this old Confederate soldier, how he hadn't been the bathroom since 1865, and it was time for him to come on down now and get some relief."
With Golden Frinks we see at least one proponent of racial equality in 1970 who looked at the memorial of a Confederate soldier and saw a racial "stigma," and a symbol for Jim Crow. Frinks used ridicule and mockery -- bathroom humor, even -- to bring that figure low. Was there something in the core of the black people of Chatham in 1907 that "carried a little racism?" Did one among them try to dispel it with ridicule and mockery for the Chatham statue?

A movement to erect Confederate memorials swept North Carolina and other parts of the country in the decades around the turn of the century. Attitudes have changed since then, not least those regarding race. The monuments now lie at the center of debates about the role of race in American society, and stand implicated by one side in undeniable crimes of racial injustice. The debate that swept over Oxford on a wind of deadly violence moved the monument itself; it now stands off the center of the town, in a small park near the library.

An opposing view sees the monuments as well-intended war memorials. In this view, the linkages to race are overblown, products of Civil-Rights-era revisionism, and political attacks upon well-intentioned caretakers of Southern heritage. Mainstream supporters of public display of such symbols of Southern heritage unflaggingly maintain the rhetoric of honor that resonates in London's ideal of "perpetuating the memory of the heroism and self-sacrifices of the Confederate soldier." For them, if race ever was a part of it, it shouldn't be now.

This point of view may be heard across a whole spectrum of voices, including one as rarefied as that of Louis Rubin, Jr., former professor of English at UNC-Chapel Hill and founder of Algonquin Books. In the Chapel Hill News of June 16, 2000, Rubin penned a column titled "Of Statuary, Symbolism, and Sam" and lamented that "our community may soon be embroiled in a dispute over whether Silent Sam, the Confederate memorial statue on the UNC campus, should or should not be hauled down." Rubin, arguing that the community should leave the statue be, emphasizes its symbolic value as a war memorial:
The statue of Silent Sam, however, is another matter, as are the multi-hundreds of similar statues of Confederate soldiers on courthouse lawns and other public places throughout the Southern states. Sam is the product of another and different time, when thousands of white-bearded old men wearing grey uniforms were looking forward to their approaching oblivion. They wanted their place in time to be marked.
Rubin does not acknowledge the coincidence of Jim Crow with the widespread movement to erect the statues. His point of view, in fact, resembles London's. However, Rubin identifies the statues with race when he proposes a solution to the controversy-to-come over Silent Sam.
To return to the matter of Silent Sam, I would leave him exactly where he now stands. But I would also commission and erect another statue. It would be of that most remarkable of all 19th-century North Carolinians, the slave poet George Moses Horton, who was in and about our town at the same time that the young white college students of Sam's generation were.

I would place George Moses Horton's statue on the front campus, not far away from Sam's, both in clear view for all to see. I daresay that present and future passersby would get the point.
The Rabbit certainly cannot let the quote pass without remarking that the distinguished man of letters in Orange County would solve his place's problems by building a second statue of a Chatham man!

But when Rubin says that people "would get the point" of the two statues, what is the point? Simple; it's race. Rubin's approach divides the baby, in a sense. For those who argue that the Confederate monuments merely honor the southern dead in a manner , Rubin's proposition must represent one of the worst compromises. After all, to ameliorate the linkages of racial injustice by juxtaposing a second memorial selected along racial lines serves to confirm those linkages rather explicitly. The only act that could create a more racially-charged ground around the statues would be to ... well, let's just say a modern vandal could use spraypaint.

So we inevitably come to the question of what, if anything, we in Chatham should do with our Confederate monument. After all, I brought it up, and so I should either address the question, or scamper around it.

Let me caution the reader that rabbits are iconoclasts. For pete's sake, we leave pagan fertility symbols in the hedgerows for Christian children to find on Easter morning! Just ask Elmer Fudd about us (though I daresay Elmer has had our number in Chatham). If I thought it would release the hold that race still has on our politics and society to put the plinths through a rock crusher and melt the figures down into (non-commemorative) door knockers, I'd take that bargain in a heartbeat. But it won't, and I do sympathize with the unattributed quotation employed by London: "A people who forget their dead deserve themselves to be forgotten." And I will admit, Chatham, iconoclasm aside, I have been touched by the monuments that you put up for my brethren and sistren slaughtered over the years (see the rabbit icons in the sidebar to the right).

Now, rabbits don't solve problems, at least none that extend beyond "too many vegetables in the garden." But I think that "Rubin's juxtaposition" doesn't take the solution far enough. In the Rabbit's estimation, plain and simple, the monument no longer belongs at the center of civic affairs in the county. I think it should be moved, to a dignified memorial park where it can reside with memorials of a wide variety of origins. I also support making explicit the linkage to race by balancing the Confederate soldier with a memorial to those who fell victim to the scourge of slavery and the divisions of racial apartheid.

We could, of course, select Rubin's choice, "that most remarkable of all 19th-century North Carolinians, the slave poet George Moses Horton." But while Horton lived a slave, he died a freedman. And besides, we have a school named for him already. Further, we can choose to honor someone who died in the long and continuing conflict for racial equality. Four names stand out: Jerry and Harriet Finch, John D. Pattishall and Lee Tyson. They were victims of a lynching in Chatham County in 1885, stripped of freedom and denied justice, taken from the jail in the Chatham Courthouse to a spot a mile south, and hanged. Their story will have to wait for another day on the Rabbit blog. But in our new and dignified memorial park in downtown Pittsboro, let's raise a monument to them, and to all the victims of slavery and racial apartheid when it reigned in Chatham.

So where is this dignified memorial park of which I speak? Where are the funds for this memorial? They don't exist. The Londons and the Daughters of the Confederacy raised money for the statue and succeeded because they managed to convince enough people that it was important. Would enough people feel the same way about our memorial park, set within a few blocks of the courthouse? As I said, a rabbit doesn't solve problems. Community, I leave the matter to you.

Meanwhile, as we think it through, it's safe to say that the monument that Henry and Bettie raised in the center of things ain't going anywhere. May I suggest that in the time being, we let it do double duty? Let the soldier continue to stand for the souls of Chatham who fought and suffered in the American Civil War. Think of it also as a memorial to those subjugated by the Jim Crow era in which it was born. Take it from a furry mammal who lays colored eggs in the spring -- symbols can mean whatever we say they mean.

The Monument 2: Event

[Part 2 of a 4-part series. The following account is based except where noted on the August 15, 22, and 29 issues of the Chatham RECORD, 1907.]

Clouds covered the sun all day on August 23, but it didn't rain like the day before. By ten o'clock that cool morning, thousands had arrived in Pittsboro by rail and wagon to view the unveiling of the Confederate monument. They streamed past houses decorated with Confederate flags and red-and-white bunting, and filled the town square on the north side of the courthouse, where chairs sat waiting for the ceremonies. In the hour leading up to the event, a brass band played from the portico of the courthouse.

The home of Henry A. London, a block-and-a-half from the courthouse, would have stood out among the houses trimmed for the occasion. London, Chatham RECORD editor and former courier with the Confederate army, would serve as master of ceremonies, and his wife, Bettie, dedicate the monument as president of the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In the window of the store owned by London's brother William a dummy stood garbed in the shopkeeper's old Confederate uniform; a hole in the front showed where a bullet passed through William's body at Winchester, September 1864. Some 300 veterans milled among the crowd of 6000, and doubtless many of them could give evidence of the wounds that war left them.

The veterans gathered on the south side of the courthouse at 10:30 and began marching behind John R. Lane, "the last colonel of the famous 26th North Carolina regiment," who rode on horseback. The six-year-old grandson of William London followed Lane on a "Shetland pony not much larger than a Newfoundland dog." The procession headed northward up Hillsboro Street to the London home and there emitted a "rebel yell" for the day's guest orator, the Daughters themselves, and the children who would disrobe the statue. Then they marched back toward the courthouse and mounted a four-foot high stand to await the speakers.

Rev. A.H. Perry, himself a veteran, said a prayer, and then Henry London introduced the orator. North Carolina Chief Justice William Clark had what the Rabbit would call a "small-p populist" approach to the issues of the day. Clark ran as a Democrat but won support from Populists and Republicans. He attacked the tobacco and railroad trusts and supported reforms such as popular election of U.S. senators, income tax and women's suffrage. The "Fighting Judge" [article available to JSTOR subscribers] stirred up controversy as he labored for "socialized democracy" with a fervor that presaged the New Deal. Yet for his audience of Lost-Cause warriors on the day of Chatham's unveiling ceremony, he tucked into a states'-rights stemwinder to warm whatever cockles pulsate in the heart of a modern-day Southern Strategy Republican.

The hopes of our perpetuity as a government and the maintenance of our liberties as a free people depend upon upholding this guarantee of the rights of each state, in its integrity. There are a few good men who panic stricken at the result of the war of 1861-5 have declared that "state's rights died at Appomattox." Nothing is farther from the truth. [...]

It is true that there is the fourteenth amendment which was passed solely (if indeed legally adopted at all) to secure the rights of the newly emancipated colored people. The monopolies and plutocracy of this country quickly seized upon it as a device to draw all jurisdiction of all questions concerning them from the state courts, whose judges are mostly elected by the people, and responsible to them, into the subordinate federal courts whose judges are in most instances selected by the great capitalistic combinations and hold for life. "Like sappers and miners," to quote the words of Mr. Jefferson, they have been at work night and day to wrest the fourteenth amendment into something very different from its true meaning, and to make it repeal both the tenth and eleventh amendments and, indeed, nullify the whole spirit of the constitution.

Should this succeed, there would be no longer use for state judges or state legislatures, and even the acts of Congress would be set aside at will by judges appointed for life at the selection of Wall Street.
Clark's reputation as a liberal and forward thinker on social and economic issues resonate still in the literature that recalls him. But he conformed to the damning social conventions of the time in his recognition of the color line. In 1920, Clark would deliver the commencement address at historically-black St. Augustine's School of Raleigh, and utter the following:
It is true that our colored people wear "the shadowed livery of the burnished sun" and there is no social equality between the races, but the latter condition exists in every country where there are two or more distinct races of people. The colored people do not wish social equality, and the white people would not tolerate it, and there the matter ends. It is not a matter of debate, but is settled and not a cause of strife like the divergence in language, in religion, in national aspirations which exists in nearly every other country.
The Chief Justice of North Carolina came to Chatham county for the unveiling of the Confederate monument and held forth with a populist-tinged but recognizable "states' rights" argument against the U.S. constitutional amendment that enfranchised African-American voters and guarantees due process and equal protection under the law. In the next post in this series, the Rabbit will draw a connection between the Chatham memorial and race, and some may protest. But let's make it clear -- the featured orator on the day of the monument's dedication put forward the very arguments that held fast against racial equality until the civil rights movement cut them down to size.

A good orator finds ways to connect whatever cause he or she is addressing to past causes that resonate with the audience, and Clark went all the way back the Regulators and the Battle of Alamance Creek:
In short, I hold with that grand old patriot, James Hunter, who declared after the battle of Alamance was lost, "I believe that the people are as much master now as ever." That was in 1771. At Mecklenburg in May, 1775, at Halifax in April, 1776, at Philadelphia in July, 1776, his declaration was taken up and repeated and its echoes have been rolling down the years ever since and will never cease.
Clark went on to speak in some detail discussing the history of the various companies in which Chatham's men served. The RECORD reports that he spoke for fifty minutes.

Following Clark's speech, Bettie London "delivered a few appropriate remarks" in her capacity as president of the Winnie Davis Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Oran A. Hanner, a veteran of the 26th Regiment, made "an appropriate response" on behalf of the veterans. The RECORD did not reproduce their remarks. Then it was time for the unveiling.

Twenty children dressed in white, each bearing a red shield with the regiment and letter of a company in which Chatham men served, tugged red streamers attached to the top of the statue. The white covering "began to fall gracefully, first exposing to view the bronze soldier and then gradually the entire monument." London goes floral describing the audience reaction:
A cheer from the upturned faces and the "rebel yell" from the veterans greeted that bronze figure as it was first seen, standing there as a silent sentinel with his empty musket at parade rest. And then tears filled the eyes of many veterans and others as that life-like figure recalled to their minds the "long ago" with all its sad associations. The unveiling of that bronze soldier was like the raising of one dead, and like uplifting the shroud that covered the corpse of some loved one long since passed away!
A dinner followed for veterans in the corridors of the courthouse, then a meeting of the Leonidas J. Merritt Camp of United Confederate Veterans. The agenda included elections and the presentation by the Daughters of "crosses of honor" to selected veterans. Reading of verses, short speeches and then singing wrapped it all up, with the final number, "When the roll is called up yonder" echoing in the afternoon as the meeting adjourned.

London estimated the crowd at 6,000 strong and "only three men at all under the influence of liquor." He called it "the grandest occasion ever known in Chatham" and suggested that the crowd would have been larger if not for the threat of rain earlier in the day. In any event, some of the young people of the town took advantage of the gathering to socialize. The RECORD reported the following:
The dance which was given in the old Academy building Friday evening by the young men of the town complimentary to the visiting young ladies was largely attended and was one of the most successful affairs of the kind that has taken place here in several years. The music was furnished by the Chapel Hill string band.
No doubt some of the visitors left Pittsboro immediately following the ceremonies, but it's no stretch to imagine many of them remaining in town at least an evening, visiting with old friends, spending time together perhaps one last time. The Rabbit's imagination may be overstimulated in seeing a couple or two wriggling free from the chaperones at the Academy building where it stood on the corner of Chatham and Fayetteville Streets, and setting out for a stroll in the meadows beyond the Rectory two blocks southwest, or over to the groves of Kelvin off of West Street.

The RECORD had reported the day before on a comet "visible an hour so before daydawn in the sky a little north of east." In fact, Daniel's comet appeared for two months in the skies that summer. Maybe a handful of old friends stayed together reminiscing through the night, so they were awake in the early morning hours to lay eyes on the comet for the few minutes that it rode low on the horizon.

For those who attended the festivities, the occasion must have seemed a wholly right and appropriate way to honor the lives of the veterans and place a final, monumental blessing on their service and sacrifice. But there are two points worth considering before we leave the story on this idyllic, fraternal scene. First, one fact stands clear from the RECORD's account -- the events occurred on one side of the color line. The newspaper never failed to designate the African-Americans who figured in the life of Chatham with the "colored" or some other epithet, but not one reference to a "colored" person appears in the account of the unveiling. And second, the RECORD of September 5 makes it clear that not everyone in the county regarded the monument with the same reverence as London and the veterans. In the third and final post of the series, the Rabbit speculates wildly about lines that connect these two points.

[Detail of photograph of Daniel's comet taken from the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, Wisconsin, August 21, 1907. From Barnard, E.E. "Photographic Observations of Daniel's Comet." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 49, No. 194. (Jan. - Jun., 1910), pp. 3-16. Article available to JSTOR subscribers]

The Monument 1: Project

[Part 1 of a 4-part series.]

The rain that drenched Chatham County on the afternoon of August 22, 1907 must have made for anxious times in the London house. The next day would mark the unveiling of the Confederate monument that stood now covered in white cloth, in front of the county courthouse in Pittsboro a block-and-a-half away. Henry A. London wrote in that day's Chatham RECORD that the "largest crowd ever assembled in Chatham was here at the veterans' reunion in August, 1888 ... [and i]f tomorrow (Friday) is a good day almost as large a crowd will be here ...." Visitors had already begun arriving in the town, and no doubt many called at the Londons' to pay respects. Talk probably edged into nervous concerns for the next day's weather.

Yet it almost surely mixed with congratulations and gratitude for the Londons as prime movers of the monument project. For years London, a Confederate veteran and editor of the weekly RECORD, had used the pages of his newspaper to advocate for the monument and solicit donations to the fund. No -- the words "advocate" and "solicit" do not do justice -- more like, harass, cajole, harangue and shame. London knew when folks were flush: "With cotton now selling at a good price contributions ought to be made promptly" (October 18, 1906). London appealed to guilty feelings: "Are not Chatham's soldiers as worthy of being honored as those of any other county? Why wait until all of them are dead?" (December 6, 1906). London called out the slackers: "The last contribution to Chatham's Confederate monument is one dollar by Mr. A.T. Womble, of Matthews township, a one-arm man. This ought to put to shame those two-arm men who are much more able to give and yet have not given one cent." (April 4, 1907). And London walked the color line; after a contribution of one dollar from a G.G. Smith of Fayetteville, London noted it as "the first that has been received from a colored person," and wrote (June 7, 1906):
He was born and reared in this county, near Haywood, and is now a teacher in the graded school for the colored race at Fayetteville, and is highly thought of by all who know him. In his letter sending his contribution (which was unsolicited) he wrote these words: "Gratitude demands that I give my mite to any cause that will perpetuate the glory of the old soldiers." This surely should stimulate our white countymen to contribute!
The real organizers and heavy lifters on the monument project, however, were the women of the Winnie Davis chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The former Bettie Louise Jackson, or "Mrs. H.A. London" as she was known in the pages of the RECORD, served as chapter president, and the London home served as a frequent meeting place. Bettie also joined her husband in hectoring the county from the editorial pages of the RECORD. On February 15, 1906, she expressed hope of unveiling the statue that coming August, and entreated her fellow countypersons in plaintive all-caps:
[N]ow we appeal to ALL to come forward and make up the balance right away. We know that all will give; but we want it NOW. WE ARE READY FOR IT. Or a written PROMISE for the amount to be paid in June.
Dedication to memorializing the Lost Cause brought Bettie renown and admiration; the RECORD on May 16, 1907 conveyed the following Fayetteville OBSERVER report on the recent Memorial Day parade there:
[W]hen the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry reached the Highsmith hospital, on the decorated balcony of which sat Mrs. H.A. London, they halted and presented arms, then came the veterans, seventy-five strong, who raised their hats and gave the "rebel yell." Mrs. London acknowledged the compliment by waving a Confederate flag.
The fund-raising did not come easily in hard-scrabble Chatham, and the memorial project took longer than the Londons had expected. Target dates came and went, and the fund grew in dribs and drabs. By early summer 2006, it had languished for months, but a pair of fifty-dollar pops in April-May 1906 got it going again. One came from Dr. Isaac Emerson of Baltimore, inventor of Bromo-Seltzer and "a native of this county," and the other from American Tobacco Company attorney W.W. Fuller, a Durham transplant to New York, and "one of the most successful lawyers in the United States" [see this Endangered Durham post with photos of Fuller's since-demolished, gorgeous Durham manse]. With the balance at $1343.84 in October of 2006, London still complained that "in several other counties twice that amount has been raised in half that time for their soldiers." Even as the fund approached the target amount of $1600, London's edge of disappointment never dulled. In February of 2007, he wrote:
When the effort was started three years ago to raise money enough for the proposed monument many persons laughed at the prospect and predicted that even $500 would never be raised. Of course more should have been contributed [than] has been, but enough is now on hand to make certain that the required amount ($1600) will soon be raised.
Finally on July 19, 1906 the RECORD announced that the Daughters had signed a contract with Durham Marble Works, and threatened that the monument "will not be unveiled, but will remain covered, until every dollar due for it is paid." Nearly a year later, on July 4, 1907, the newspaper announced the date of August 23rd for the unveiling. The full moon would provide light for those traveling to Pittsboro, but also, it was one of four days of the year on which the Daughters could present "crosses of honor" to the veterans. By August 8 the monument at last stood in place, veiled in white cloth and awaiting the grand occasion of its unveiling.

As the day of the unveiling drew close, the London home became de facto headquarters of the Winnie Davis chapter of the U.D.C., who met frequently as the final plans for the unveiling ceremony took shape. The Raleigh drum corps, "composed of Confederate veterans, who were musicians during the war, ... said to be the only Confederate drum corps now in existence," committed to the program. A repair and paint job improved the looks of the courthouse. A dinner in the corridors of the courthouse was planned for the veterans.

Henry London devoted the editorial page of the August 22 edition of the weekly RECORD to framing the next day's events. Just a week earlier, he had announced the start of the paper's thirtieth volume, three decades over which "no other paper has been exclusively and continuously owned and edited ... by the same person." This former Confederate courier and longtime voice of the county took the moment to wax editorial:
The bronze figure, standing on this monument, will forever typify and call to mind the most magnificent soldiers who ever marched to battle in any age or country. In the ages to come that silent sentinel, standing with his empty musket at parade rest, will speak more eloquently than the glowing words of the impassioned orator, in perpetuating the memory of the heroism and self-sacrifices of the Confederate soldier. In a few more years the last of those whom he represents will like him, be at rest. Let posterity revere their memory so long as that bronze figure stands its silent watch!

It has been well said that "A people who forget their dead deserve themselves to be forgotten." It is eminently right and proper, therefore, for the people of Chatham county thus to honor the memory of their Confederate heroes.
So it rained buckets that day, and the paper ran an item announcing the deaths of the snare and kettle drummer from the Raleigh drum corps. The Londons probably worried, as any organizer does the night before the grand event. But these setbacks would not have blunted the underlying sense of satisfaction with which both Henry and Bettie lay their heads down that night.

Their efforts of three-and-a-half years had placed a seven-foot "bronze statue or figure of a fully equipped Confederate soldier with his gun at parade rest" atop a twenty-foot granite base practically within sight of their own front porch. It stood facing north in the town center, in the shadow of the stately courthouse they had seen built there a quarter-century earlier. It stood, in fact, in the very center of civic life in the county that London had chronicled in his newspaper for three decades, and would for another. Over the years, London had made himself a fixture at veterans' reunions all over the south. For him and Bettie, remembrance of the war provoked a passion and a deep commitment to public service. Now as they entered into old age, they could point to an embodiment of that passion, in the form of a durable stone-and-bronze figure that would watch over the affairs of Chatham County for years to come.

21 August 2007

The Rabbit's Bookshelf

[This page collects bibliographic entries of books that the Rabbit uses and references, which deal directly with the history of Chatham County. The two-letter abbreviation that precedes each entry may appear in the text of posts as a shorthand reference linked to the entry on this page. This post will be updated on an ongoing basis, taking the form of a running bibliography.]

[CC] Hadley, Wade Hampton, Doris Goerch Horton and Neil Craig Strowd. Chatham County, 1771-1971. Lillington, North Carolina: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1976.

[AH] Osborn, Rachel and Ruth Selden-Sturgill. The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, North Carolina. Edited by Marjorie Ruth Hudson and Rachel Osborn. Pittsboro, North Carolina: The Chatham County Historic Architecture Committee, 1991.

20 August 2007

Rabbit Lore #10 (1914)

From Chatham County, 1771-1971, Chapter IX, "Towns, Communities, Townships and Early Post Offices," section titled "Siler City", pp. 214-5:
1895: W.S. Durham opens business. Mr. Durham was the town's leading dealer in poultry, eggs, and rabbits for many years. His place of business was located on the west side of South Chatham Avenue near the center of the 100 block. Volume of business is reported to have reached a maximum in 1920 when country produce bought totaled $65,000. During the fall of 1914 the following appeared in the Siler City Grit:

"Durham's Rabbitt Letter to the Boys

Dear Boys:--

The rabbit season is here again and I am ready to buy. I want your rabbits and will pay you every cent for them I can afford to pay.

I have a nice present for every boy who sells me his rabbits. Bring them along and I will treat you right.

Yours truly,
W.S. Durham"

19 August 2007

Rabbit Lore #9 (1907)

Chatham RECORD, 1907 DEC 19, "Local Records":
Did you ever hear of catching rabbits in a well? Mr. T.M. Bland is having a well dug at his farm, near here, and since it was begun about twenty-five rabbits have been caught in it. They would fall or jump into it at night. Pretty good rabbit trap, isn't it?

Rabbit Lore #8 (1907)

Chatham RECORD, 1907 DEC 5, "Local Records":
Sheriff J.R. Milliken headed a rabbit hunting party on the morning of Thanksgiving Day and bagged 13 of Chatham's celebrated game in a few hours.

Rabbit Lore #7 (1907)

Chatham RECORD, 1907 NOV 21, "Local Records":
Did you ever hear of a cat catching rabbits? Mrs. M.A.Y. Wheeler, who lives near here, has a large Maltese cat which came to the house some days ago dragging a rabbit which it had caught.

Rabbit Lore #6 (1907)

Chatham RECORD, 1907 OCT 31, "Milliken on Rabbits":
The Raleigh Evening Times of last Friday contained an interesting interview with Sheriff Milliken on the quality and quantity of Chatham's crop of rabbits, a large part of which is engaged from year to year by our Raleigh neighbors. The interview, which is really the opinion of an expert on this important topic, is as follows:

"Sheriff J.R. Milliken, of Pittsboro, is in the city today, being on his way home from Goldsboro, where he took a negro to the insane asylum. Sheriff Milliken reports an unprecedented crop of Chatham's chief staple, the rabbit. 'People treat our rabbits as a joke,' laughed the sheriff, 'but really the cotton tail forms a big item in the commerce of the county. Thousands of the things are marketed each year, and they bring from eight to ten cents apiece. One man at Siler City last year sold wagon loads of them.

"'Do you know,' continued Sheriff Milliken, 'on what the rabbit fattens? It's frost. 'Possums eat persimmons, but rabbits love frost, and they are already getting fat. There won't be many 'possums this fall, but we have thousands of big rabbits, and there are plenty of birds, too.'"

17 August 2007

Lee Takes Egypt (1906-1908)

[The Rabbit samples stories from past issues of Chatham County's longest-running newspaper. See Chatham Rabbit Reads the RECORD, version 2.0.]

When the General Assembly first created Chatham out of Orange in 1770, the county was larger and more square. When a border dispute between Chatham and Alamance was settled in the nineteenth century, a little bit of Chatham went to Alamance, but the county was still pretty square. All that changed in 1907 when the General Assembly voted to create Lee County from Chatham and Moore (technically, they voted to give the people in the area of the proposed county a vote on the matter). Chatham lost the part that lay below the Deep River, including the coal-mining area once known as Egypt, later Cumnock. The county's border along the south now runs with the course of the Deep River, making it much more of a challenge to draw freehand. Chatham's representative in the state House at that time was Henry Mauger London, son of RECORD editor Henry A. London. Here's how the RECORD reported on it ...

1906 OCT 11, "Local Records":

Do the people of Chatham wish any more of their county cut off for another county like the Fusionists did in 1895? A mighty effort will be made in the next Legislature to take part of Chatham for the proposed new county of Lee. It is important then that our county should have a solid representation in the Senate and House for a Republican senator or representative would have no influence in preventing it.

1907 JAN 24, "Local Records":
The bill to create the new county of Lee was introduced into the Senate last week by Senator Seawell, and its promoters are making desperate efforts to pass the bill. They have raised a large sum of money to pay lawyers to lobby for it, among them being Mr. Walter D. Siler, of this county, Hon. Locke Craig, of Asheville, Messrs. Jas. H. Pou and J.N. Holding of Raleigh. If the people of Chatham are opposed to losing any of their county they ought to be stirring in opposition to this new county. Large delegations of the best citizens of the proposed county are in Raleigh nearly every day working actively for their county.

1907 JAN 31, "Local Records":
On next Wednesday afternoon the Senate committee will consider, and hear discussion on, the bill to create Lee county out of parts of Chatham and Moore. The advocates of the new county are making every effort to get it, and citizens of Moore are actively opposing it. But few citizens of Chatham are making any effort about it, though opposed to losing any part of our county. They had better be stirring themselves and help Senator Rives to defeat the bill.

1907 FEB 14, "Lee County":
The advocates of the proposed new county, to be called Lee, are making desperate efforts to get it.

The proposed lines are to run so as to take from Chatham all south of Deep river and west of Cape Fear river. It is estimated that this slice from Chatham contains nearly fifty thousand acres with property assessed for taxation at over half a million dollars and with a popullation of nearly 2,000.

On Wednesday afternoon of last week the Senate committee heard the bill discussed by its advocates and opponents. A large crowd from the proposed county was present, every one wearing a white ribbon on which were printed the words Lee County. The bill was discussed for three hours in the Hall of the House of Representatives, which was crowded with a deeply interested audience. Next day the committee by a vote of seven to two voted in favor of the bill, which then passed the Senate by a large majority.

But on last Tuesday "Linden saw another sight" and the advocates of the proposed county met a disastrous defeat in the House committee, which after a long discussion voted against the bill by a vote of twelve to seven. This discussion before the House committee was even more animated and interesting than that before the Senate committee. A large crowd from the proposed county attended this committee meeting and also quite a number from Chatham and Moore counties in opposition. Those from Chatham were W.L. London, R.H. Hayes, H.A. London, James B. Atwater, F.C. Poe, Joe W. Mann, A.H. London, E.J. Riggsbee, H.T. Chapin, Jacob Thompson, Fred. W. Bynum, J.L. Griffin, W.E. Brooks, J.R. Milliken, Jesse Milliken, R.S. Thompson, C.W. Hanks, Spence Taylor and W.H. Ward.

Of course the delegations from Chatham and Moore rejoiced greatly at their victory before the House committee, which was the more notable because of the almost unanimous vote for the new county in the Senate. Everybody admitted that this great victory in the House committee was due chiefly to the influence and efforts of Chatham's young Representative, who received many congratulations upon thus "snatching victory from the jaws of defeat."

The bill will considered in the House today (Thursday) and it is confidently predicted that the House will by a large majority sustain the action of its committee and defeat the bill. It is hoped that a large delegation of our countymen will go to Raleigh today (or whenever the bill is considered in the House) and help its defeat by such a majority that his vexatious question will not disturb our people again.

1907 FEB 21, "Lee County Defeated":
By the close vote of 48 to 49 the bill creating Lee county failed to pass its second reading in the House of Representatives on last Friday.

1907 FEB 28, "Local Records":
Carthage News: The people of Moore county hold the Hon. H.M. London of Pittsboro in the highest esteem for his noble work in leading the fight against the division of our county. In a great measure the defeat of the bill was brought about by his untiring zeal and persistent work in our behalf. Any time he needs our support, it is his without the asking.

1907 FEB 28, "Local Records":
The fate of Lee county will be decided today, as the bill for its creation is made the special order for 12 o'clock today. The vote will be close and both sides are claiming a victory. Some of the members who voted against the proposed county before will now vote for it, and some who voted for it will today against it. So, the result is in doubt.

1907 MAR 7, "Chatham's Representative Complimented":
From the News and Observer, 2nd. During the entire session of the Legislature no member has waged a more magnificent fight against greater odds than the capable and resourceful young member from Chatham. His earnest and powerful opposition to the creation of the Lee county has won him the gratitude of the people of Chatham and the admiration of the people of Lee county.

1907 MAR 7, "Lee County Wins":
After a long and desparate contest the Lee county bill has at last passed and our neighbors in Sanford have come out victorious in their efforts to have a new county.

The bill, as heretofore stated, was defeated in the House three weeks ago by one majority. Another bill was introduced and this was passed by the House on last Thursday by a vote of 60 to 44, and no fight over it was made in the Senate. The difference between the first and second bills was very slight. The last bill leaves the question to a vote of the people of the proposed county, which election will of course be a farce and useless, because there is no doubt a majority of the voters in the new county are in favor of it. An amendment to the bill was offered by Representative London to allow Moore as well as Lee county to vote on the question, because the people of Moore are greatly interested, as much so as the people of the proposed county -- in the creation of the county. This amendment was voted down by a large majority.

The election will be held on the first day of July on the question of having the new county, and of course a large majority will be given for it. The first officers of Lee county will be appointed by the governor and will begin their terms on the first Monday in April of next year. The people of the new county will pay their taxes this year in Chatham and Moore. The line between Chatham and Lee will be the middle of Cape Fear and Deep rivers, so that both counties will have to keep up the bridges on Deep river. The new county will have to assume its proportionate part of indebtedness of Chatham and Moore.

The court-house is to be built about half way between the depots in Jonesboro and Sanford, which will be rather a long walk from either town, but the two towns may grow so much that a street railway may be built before long running by the court-house and connecting Jonesboro and Sanford.

We will greatly regret to lose so goodly a part of our county, but hope that our countymen living in the strip taken from Chatham will continue to prosper and always remember kindly their old county.

1907 APR 4, "TO ORGANIZE NEW COUNTY":
Raleigh, Special. -- The first step in carrying out the legislative enactmetn [sic] for forming the new county of Lee out of parts of Moore and Chatham, was taken here Monday." [...] "The new county is to take on official life on the first day of April, 1908.

1907 JUL 11, "Lee County":
In accordance with the act of the last Legislature establishing Lee county an election was held in the proposed county on Tuesday of last week, at which 875 votes were cast for the county and only 40 against it. The Governor will appoint the county officers, who term will begin next April and continue until the election in November, 1908.

While of course we regret to lose any part of Chatham, yet we extend our best wishes for the prosperity of the new county and hope that the most sanguine expectations of its promoters may be fully realized.

1908 FEB 12, "Local Records":
Lee county will be organized and enter on its career next Monday. On that day her new officers will be sworn in and enter upon the discharge of their duties.

15 August 2007

"Deer Killed In Chatham." (1906)

[The Rabbit samples stories from past issues of Chatham County's longest-running newspaper. See Chatham Rabbit Reads the RECORD, version 2.0.]

Anyone who has driven the roads of Chatham County the last, oh, several decades is bound to be startled by the letter that follows, from the February 22, 1907 edition of the Chatham RECORD. WARNING: Animal lovers, you might want to turn away. We have here a genuine example of "History, red in tooth and claw." It's not as if the evident thrill that the hunters took in their chase is remarkable of itself; but the author of the letter does have a certain flair for detail, and his sense of revelry in the kill comes through. But for the strong-of-stomach, the real kicker lies in the editor's note at the end. Let's just say that where the rabbit once held dominion over the lands of Chatham, the deer now rules ...
Deer Killed In Chatham.
Williams Township, N.C.
Feb. 12, 1906.

Mr. Editor:

Yesterday afternoon as Mr. N.W. Beckwith was feeding his sheep, he discovered a fine female deer a short distance from the flock of sheep. He knowing that I had a Winchester rifle came in a hurry for me to go and shoot the deer. It so happened that Mr. W.H. Goodwin, a well known turkey hunter and trapper, was visiting me. So Messrs, Beckwith, Goodwin and I got on Goodwin's buggy and drove to the sheep pasture in great haste. It was only a very few minutes before we came in sight of the deer. All hearts thumped very hard at the sight of the deer. At this point we separated for the deer was disappearing down in a certain bottom. I went around and headed the deer off and got the first shot, about 100 yards distant. I being excited and so nervous, missed my mark, but not the deer. That shot took effect in the upper part of the shoulder and went through and through. The deer fell on its fore-legs, but arose and took to flight. I shot three other shots at it on the run, one shot taking effect in its fore-legs, almost severing it. At this point I gave Mr. Goodwin the rifle and he again headed the deer (it could not travel fast with two severe wounds) and got four shots. The third shot made a mortal wound, piercing the body through and through behind the shoulders.

Mr. Goodwin, not being satisfied with that last shot, fired the 4th shot and sent a steel-cased ball through the head. That one killed the deer. In all, the deer had six severe sounds, but did not give up until shot through the head.

The shooting on Sunday attracted much attention, and before the deer had been dead five minutes it was surrounded by many excited neighbors. We tied its legs together and bore it to Mr. Beckwith's home where we dressed it, (but before dressing it we weighed it, 101 pounds being the weight.) Before we finished dressing the deer many others came to see the sight.

Since writing the above, I have enjoyed two fine meals off of the deer. I can not describe the flesh more than it is very firm, sweet and wholesome. I dare say that more than a hundred people have tasted some of the venison.

D.J Williams.

[The above letter ought to have been received in time for last week's RECORD. This deer must have escaped from some park, as no wild deer have been roaming in this county for many years. -- ED. RECORD.]

Auspicious Debut? (1907)

[The Rabbit samples stories from past issues of Chatham County's longest-running newspaper. See Chatham Rabbit Reads the RECORD, version 2.0.]

From the Chatham RECORD, 1907 MAR 28, "Local Records":
The first automobile ever seen in Pittsboro passed through here on last Tuesday afternoon, having come from Danville, Va., via Durham and being en route to Horry county, S.C., via Sanford. It was an unusual sight for our ancient 'Boro' and attracted quite a crowd of our citizens as it stopped on Main street for a short while.

14 August 2007

Rabbit Lore #5 (1907)

Chatham RECORD, 1907 SEP 26, "Local Records":
What do you think of a rabbit being paid as a marriage fee? Well, that what was paid one of our popular Chatham preachers some time ago by a happy groom as the fee for marrying him.

Rabbit Lore #4 (1906)

Chatham RECORD, 1906 NOV 22, "Chatham Rabbits" (added 2007 AUG 14):
The Industrial News, the Republican daily at Greensboro, humorously accounts for the big Democratic victory in Chatham at the recent election, as follows:

"In the first place Chatham county has a statewide reputation for the number, size and juiciness of its rabbiits [sic]. Nothing that falls a victim to the hunter's gun throughout the entire confines of North Carolina can compare with the Chatham rabbit.

"In the second place, election day was an ideal rabbit-hunting day, and being a general holiday the temptation to go rabbit hunting for a few hours before voting must have been too strong for a number of the Chatham voters. We further conclude that the plentifulness of rabbits and the ideal character of the day must have proved too much for the men who had intended to bring home their bag in time to vote, with the result that the would-be voters upon returning found the polls closed."

Rabbit Lore #3 (1906)

Postcard from "Wm. R." to "Miss Marie Elliot", 1906 NOV 28:

[From the North Carolina Postcard Collection at the North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill. Photo postcard shows a young boy holding a rabbit.]

"I am sending for today's express a sample of our favorite game which, I trust will reach you o.k."

Rabbit Lore #2 (1906)

Chatham RECORD, 1906 NOV 29, "Local Records":
One of our townsmen, when at a hotel in another town some days ago, got into conversation with a travelling man from Connecticut, who, when he learned that our townsman was from Chatham county, exclaimed, "Oh yes, that is the county where the Populists wanted to make rabbit skins a legal tender."

Rabbit Lore #1 (1976)

John Wesley Snipes Interview, 1976 SEP 20 and NOV 20 (added 2007 AUG 14):
[Excerpts from an oral history with Bynum resident John Wesley Snipes, born 1901 in Bynum. Brent Glass of the Southern Oral History Program conducted the interview, the full transcript of which is available on the Documenting the American South web site.]
Snipes: And it's the only county in the world that I've ever heard tell of (and the records bear this out) that ever shipped a solid carload of rabbits to New York. Chatham rabbits; we were known for Chatham rabbits. They caught them in hollows and boxes. And you could go in New York seventy-five years ago and call for Chatham rabbit on the menu in New York City [laughter].

BG: Wow. I tell you, I didn't know that.

Snipes: Rabbits run just like ants or grasshoppers. They shipped them by the carload to New York.

[...]

BG: How about hunting or fishing? Did you do much of that when you were a boy?

Snipes: Well, we didn't have nothing to fish. I mean, there's nothing but little old branches and creeks, and not much water up in that area. And we didn't get to go nowhere. I'd never seen the river 'til I was a great big boy. We rabbit hunted. Now, that was a big occasion: go out and kill thirty or forty rabbits a day.

BG: What would you kill them with, guns?

Snipes: Sticks and guns, and the dogs'd run them down and catch them. We'd just take the entrails out in real cold weather and hang them up in the smokehouse with the hide on them, and dry them out. Then we made rabbit hash, and cooked them. And they replaced a whole lot of meat, hog meat. There was a lot of quail way back there, a lot of turkeys. Chatham County has been blessed with rabbits: just thousands and hundreds of thousands of them way back seventy-five years ago.

BG: And you were telling me that Chatham County supplied. . .?

Snipes: It's the only county in the United States that ever shipped 'em by the carload, a carload of nothing but rabbits with the entrails taken out with the fur on them: just pack 'em down and fill the whole car full. Like this place over here Rabbit's Crossings, they've shipped them from there here in Chatham County, and Devil's Tramping Grounds and over there at Hogs Crossing and all that. They shipped them by the carload. But the foxes got so they destroyed them, and we don't have that many rabbits now, very few.

Rabbit Lore

[This post collects quotations and references regarding the onetime flourishing rabbits of Chatham, whom this blog honors with its persona. To be updated on an ongoing basis. Items are numbered in the order that they're added and listed in the reverse, so that more recently-added items appear toward the top.]



14) Chatham RECORD, 1909 SEP 15, "Rabbits at the North Pole" (added 2007 SEP 29):
From the Asheville Gazette-News.

Tar Heels will recognize a lamentable weakness in Dr. Cook's story. He says the last signs of life he saw was a bunch of rabbits, as they disported themselves about a glacier. As all North Carolinians in general, and the good people of Chatham county in particular, will at once realize, this is a most extraordinary rabbit tale. Your well regulated rabbit is a vegetarian, and as there are no turnips and parsnips in the region of the pole, no rabbit would think for a moment of abiding there. This is a part of Dr. Cook's story that may only be explained upon the theory that they have a carniverous [sic] breed of rabbits up that way, such as the Washington Post is most familiar with.


13) Chatham RECORD, 1910 FEB 23, "Chatham Rabbits" (added 2007 SEP 29):
From the News and Observer.

Rabbit is the principal diet of Chatham's connoissuers and epicures. No rabbits are shipped from Pittsboro because the fastidious people of that county seat get their beauty and many other good qualities from a diet of rabbits. The best cooks have ninety-seven different ways of cooking the rabbit, and the animal is so good in each way that when Pittsboro folks go away from home they carry enough rabbits to give them at least one a day while they are gone. They have been known also to carry a broiler and to be found by their hosts broiling a rabbit in their room after they thought everybody else had retired. They do not understand how anybody can prefer canvas-back ducks or Lynnhaven bays to the succulent Chatham rabbit.


12) Washington POST, 1882 OCT 18, "Protection in North Carolina" (from ProQuest Historical Newspapers; added 2007 SEP 29):
John Gubbins in the Raleigh News.

The season is approaching when hares and 'possums will be plentiful, and when large quantities of this species of game will come pouring into Raleigh by the Chatham wagons. Now, I have a splendid 'possum dog, and brother Jim, he has a good dog for rabbits, and his boys are cute, too, in setting rabbit gums. But it is a well-known fact that Wake county rabbits and 'possums are much shyer and harder to catch than Chatham rabbits and 'possums, and besides, they are scarcer here than they are in Chatham.

Now, Mr. Editor, I think these facts will justify me and brother Jim in asking the county commissioners to levy a tariff on Chatham rabbits and 'possums to enable our dogs and Jim's boys' rabbit gums to complete with these foreign rabbits and 'possums, which I think would produce some revenue to the county, if it did not amount to prohibition. At any rate, it would enable us to declare a larger dividend on the products of our dog and rabbit gums. It is true it would raise the price of rabbits and 'possums to the consumers of those delicacies to, perhaps, double what they now have to pay, but it is necessary that individuals must suffer for the general good. Indeed, brother Jim thinks the higher the tariff the commissioners should lay on Chatham 'possums and rabbits the cheaper they would be in the Raleigh market. I don't know how that is but if the argument will hold water, pleaes use it in inducing the county commissioners to grant us the relief asked for.


11) Chatham RECORD, 1913 JAN 15, "Chatham Rabbits Electrocuted" (added 2007 SEP 9):
From Raleigh News & Observer,

The electrocution of one hundred rabbits Tuesday morning on the lot of the Buckhorn Power company's property is a Chatham rabbit story that former Representative R.H. Hayes, tells with full comprehension of its astoundingness.

The superintendent of this transmission company has been greatly worred by the Chatham rabbits, which have made depredations upon his cabbage patch and utterly annihlated his prospects for food. Last week set "hollows" for them, but the rabbits demurely dodged the dead fall. It made him mad, and built an expensive barbed wire fence about the patch. The wires pulled together so ingeniously that when Brer Rabbit bounded up he got stuck and when he started to crawl through the barbs harpooned him. The Buckhorn superintendent then threw the electric current into the wires. Tuesday morning the rabbits, making an effort to escape, jumped against the fence and were shocked to death. One hundred were found by the fence that morning.

10) From Chatham County, 1771-1971, Chapter IX, "Towns, Communities, Townships and Early Post Offices," section titled "Siler City", pp. 214-5 (added 2007 AUG 20):
1895: W.S. Durham opens business. Mr. Durham was the town's leading dealer in poultry, eggs, and rabbits for many years. His place of business was located on the west side of South Chatham Avenue near the center of the 100 block. Volume of business is reported to have reached a maximum in 1920 when country produce bought totaled $65,000. During the fall of 1914 the following appeared in the Siler City Grit:

"Durham's Rabbitt Letter to the Boys

Dear Boys:--

The rabbit season is here again and I am ready to buy. I want your rabbits and will pay you every cent for them I can afford to pay.

I have a nice present for every boy who sells me his rabbits. Bring them along and I will treat you right.

Yours truly,
W.S. Durham"


9) Chatham RECORD, 1907 DEC 19, "Local Records" (added 2007 AUG 19):
Did you ever hear of catching rabbits in a well? Mr. T.M. Bland is having a well dug at his farm, near here, and since it was begun about twenty-five rabbits have been caught in it. They would fall or jump into it at night. Pretty good rabbit trap, isn't it?


8) Chatham RECORD, 1907 DEC 5, "Local Records" (added 2007 AUG 19):
Sheriff J.R. Milliken headed a rabbit hunting party on the morning of Thanksgiving Day and bagged 13 of Chatham's celebrated game in a few hours.


7) Chatham RECORD, 1907 NOV 21, "Local Records" (added 2007 AUG 19):
Did you ever hear of a cat catching rabbits? Mrs. M.A.Y. Wheeler, who lives near here, has a large Maltese cat which came to the house some days ago dragging a rabbit which it had caught.


6) Chatham RECORD, 1907 OCT 31, "Milliken on Rabbits" (added 2007 AUG 19):
The Raleigh Evening Times of last Friday contained an interesting interview with Sheriff Milliken on the quality and quantity of Chatham's crop of rabbits, a large part of which is engaged from year to year by our Raleigh neighbors. The interview, which is really the opinion of an expert on this important topic, is as follows:

"Sheriff J.R. Milliken, of Pittsboro, is in the city today, being on his way home from Goldsboro, where he took a negro to the insane asylum. Sheriff Milliken reports an unprecedented crop of Chatham's chief staple, the rabbit. 'People treat our rabbits as a joke,' laughed the sheriff, 'but really the cotton tail forms a big item in the commerce of the county. Thousands of the things are marketed each year, and they bring from eight to ten cents apiece. One man at Siler City last year sold wagon loads of them.

"'Do you know,' continued Sheriff Milliken, 'on what the rabbit fattens? It's frost. 'Possums eat persimmons, but rabbits love frost, and they are already getting fat. There won't be many 'possums this fall, but we have thousands of big rabbits, and there are plenty of birds, too.'"


5) Chatham RECORD, 1907 SEP 26, "Local Records" (added 2007 AUG 14):
What do you think of a rabbit being paid as a marriage fee? Well, that what was paid one of our popular Chatham preachers some time ago by a happy groom as the fee for marrying him.


4) Chatham RECORD, 1906 NOV 22, "Chatham Rabbits" (added 2007 AUG 14):
The Industrial News, the Republican daily at Greensboro, humorously accounts for the big Democratic victory in Chatham at the recent election, as follows:

"In the first place Chatham county has a statewide reputation for the number, size and juiciness of its rabbiits [sic]. Nothing that falls a victim to the hunter's gun throughout the entire confines of North Carolina can compare with the Chatham rabbit.

"In the second place, election day was an ideal rabbit-hunting day, and being a general holiday the temptation to go rabbit hunting for a few hours before voting must have been too strong for a number of the Chatham voters. We further conclude that the plentifulness of rabbits and the ideal character of the day must have proved too much for the men who had intended to bring home their bag in time to vote, with the result that the would-be voters upon returning found the polls closed."


3) Postcard from "Wm. R." to "Miss Marie Elliot", 1906 NOV 28 (added 2007 AUG 14):

[From the North Carolina Postcard Collection at the North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill. Photo postcard shows a young boy holding a rabbit.]

"I am sending for today's express a sample of our favorite game which, I trust will reach you o.k."




2) Chatham RECORD, 1906 NOV 29, "Local Records" (added 2007 AUG 14):
One of our townsmen, when at a hotel in another town some days ago, got into conversation with a travelling man from Connecticut, who, when he learned that our townsman was from Chatham county, exclaimed, "Oh yes, that is the county where the Populists wanted to make rabbit skins a legal tender."


1) John Wesley Snipes Interview, 1976 SEP 20 and NOV 20 (added 2007 AUG 14):
[Excerpts from an oral history with Bynum resident John Wesley Snipes, born 1901 in Bynum. Brent Glass of the Southern Oral History Program conducted the interview, the full transcript of which is available on the Documenting the American South web site.]

Snipes: And it's the only county in the world that I've ever heard tell of (and the records bear this out) that ever shipped a solid carload of rabbits to New York. Chatham rabbits; we were known for Chatham rabbits. They caught them in hollows and boxes. And you could go in New York seventy-five years ago and call for Chatham rabbit on the menu in New York City [laughter].

BG: Wow. I tell you, I didn't know that.

Snipes: Rabbits run just like ants or grasshoppers. They shipped them by the carload to New York.

[...]

BG: How about hunting or fishing? Did you do much of that when you were a boy?

Snipes: Well, we didn't have nothing to fish. I mean, there's nothing but little old branches and creeks, and not much water up in that area. And we didn't get to go nowhere. I'd never seen the river 'til I was a great big boy. We rabbit hunted. Now, that was a big occasion: go out and kill thirty or forty rabbits a day.

BG: What would you kill them with, guns?

Snipes: Sticks and guns, and the dogs'd run them down and catch them. We'd just take the entrails out in real cold weather and hang them up in the smokehouse with the hide on them, and dry them out. Then we made rabbit hash, and cooked them. And they replaced a whole lot of meat, hog meat. There was a lot of quail way back there, a lot of turkeys. Chatham County has been blessed with rabbits: just thousands and hundreds of thousands of them way back seventy-five years ago.

BG: And you were telling me that Chatham County supplied. . .?

Snipes: It's the only county in the United States that ever shipped 'em by the carload, a carload of nothing but rabbits with the entrails taken out with the fur on them: just pack 'em down and fill the whole car full. Like this place over here Rabbit's Crossings, they've shipped them from there here in Chatham County, and Devil's Tramping Grounds and over there at Hogs Crossing and all that. They shipped them by the carload. But the foxes got so they destroyed them, and we don't have that many rabbits now, very few.


08 August 2007

Chatham Rabbit Reads the RECORD, v. 2.0

[hmmm ... this one got "bloggered" ... see updated explanation in item #3 of the September 9, 2007 Miscellany.]

Reads the RECORD: [JUL-SEP 1906] Excerpts from the "Local Records"

[The Rabbit samples stories from past issues of Chatham County's longest-running newspaper. See Chatham Rabbit Reads the RECORD, version 2.0.]

A Remarkable Fish Story; Death of a Carpet-Bagger; First Cotton ...

[Note: The "Excerpts" series features selected items from the "Local Records" section of the Chatham RECORD, the following for the period of July to September of 1906. Henry A. London edited the Chatham RECORD during this time, and the reader should presume his voice as the first-person below.]

JUL 12:

Quite a remarkable fish story was told the THE RECORD by Mr. W.O. Farrell. He says that on the 4th a party of neighbors went on a fishing frolic near the mouth of Robeson creek, and a large eel was caught. When they started to prepare the eel for smoking two snakes were found in it and one of them was alive. We understand that the party did not 'see snakes' on that occassion.
JUL 19:
The wife of a colored man in New Hope township, named Dud Farrar, has turned almost white. Her face has become white except a few dark spots under her eyes, and she is quite a curiosity. While the leopard may not change its spots, yet it seems that an Ethiopian may sometimes change its color.
JUL 26:
The notorious John T. Deweese died a few days ago at Washington City. He will be remembered by our older citizens as the carpet-bag Congressman from this district, who resigned in 1870 in order to escape expulsion for having sold a cadetship at West Point. Probably some of our old Bear Creek friends will remember the discussion between him and this writer at the old 'locust tree' election ground in October 1868.
JUL 26
A colored man, named John Alston, was carried on last Monday to the hospital for the insane at Goldsboro. Until quite recently he was the mail rider on the star route from here to Siler City.
AUG 9
A large assemblage of the good people of western Chatham attended on last Saturday the unveiling of a monument to Mr. Abel Edwards and wife erected by their descendants. The exercises were impressive and were held at Providence church, in Bear Creek township. An appropriate memorial address was delivered by Rev. J.B. Craven, and short addresses were made by several others. We regret that we have not been favored with a full report of the interesting exercises.

AUG 16:
The first new cotton that we have seen this season is an open boll brought to the THE RECORD by one of our colored subscribers, Charles Thompson, who lives near here.
SEP 6:
We much regret to hear of the death of Rev. O.T. Edwards, which occurred at his home near Mr. Vernon Springs, on last Thursday. He was one of the ablest and most prominent preachers in the Sandy Creek Baptist Association, and for several years taught school.

SEP 27:
The editor of THE RECORD will speak today at a reunion of the Confederate veterans of Granville county at Oxford.