14 August 2007

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.

No comments: