One of the striking things about this collection of articles is how often they reflect on the Civil War in a romanticized way. Adickes sometimes refers to it as the “war between the states” and reminisces about some of the institutions of Chatham county before the war, including the Taylor Plantation. These kinds of articles are significant because they are from the 1950s—almost 100 years after the Civil War ended—documenting a resurgence of racism during the Jim Crow era.
This kind of rose-tinted retrospection has been in the news recently in relation to Confederate statues and monuments, many of which were erected during the early 20th Century. These newspaper clippings give some context to the historical moment in which many of these monuments were constructed.
According to our partner, these photographs were taken in the 1950s by Arthur Hill London III, grandson of Arthur Hill London Sr. (1974-1969), who was the secretary and treasurer of the Odell Manufacturing Company at the time.
These photos are only part of a batch from our partner, which also includes a set of yearbooks and an early home movie of the Siegrist family on a visit in Pittsboro around 1933. The movie shows some of the centennial celebration of the St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, scenes of a cemetery, and some footage of people gathering at a family member’s home.
One yearbook in this batch is the 1940 edition of The Seniorogue yearbook from Siler City High School. It is the second-oldest edition in our digital collection so far (after the 1939 edition), and it has a surprising amount of information about each student along with their picture, including the names of their parents.
Thanks to our partner, Chatham County Historical Association, over 600 architectural images of Chatham County and 64 funeral programs are now available to view on our website. The architectural images are particularly interesting. They cover a broad variety of building types and ages including houses, businesses, churches, masonic lodges, and schools all the way back to the 16th century. Below is a small sample of the different types of buildings that were photographed in Chatham County.
Built circa 1850, the Haughton-McIver House is a beautiful two-story home. Some of its features include a five-bay facade, six-over-six sash windows, symmetrically molded corner boards, and a central entry composed of paneled double-leaf doors framed by transom and sidelights.
The Chatham County courthouse, built in the 1880s and still standing today, is a two-story rectangular brick structure. The structure’s dominant feature is a classical two-story portico crowned with distinctive three-stage cupola.
The former Hinton-Beckwith School, built around 1930 near Farrington, is an especially important landmark for the area’s Black community. Beginning in the earliest part of the 20th century and continuing for 40 years, the school served as a place where Black individuals in the community would go to learn. The building’s rectangular structure is set off by three recessed double-leaf entrances that are surmounted by transom and framed by rows of tall nine-over-nine sash windows. Other features include a main entrance marked by sidelights and protected by a portico.
To learn more about the Chatham County Historical Association, please visit their website.
To view more architecture materials available on DigitalNC, please click here.
During his position as Chatham County’s first Clerk of Court, William Hooper executed a myriad of legal documents. Over the years, three of these legal documents were donated to the Chatham County Historical Association where they were held until 2022. In March 2022, the historical association learned that the Hooper court summonses should have originally been transferred to the State Archives since they are responsible for the preservation of records from all counties, state agencies, and government offices in North Carolina—no matter how old the material. After contacting the State Archives, a representative came to collect the three court summonses from the association. At the State Archives the court summonses are being curated and properly preserved. To learn more about the Chatham County Historical Association’s experience with the State Archives, please read the association’s post here.
William Hooper was one of North Carolina’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence and the North Carolina representative member of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777. After graduating from Harvard College in 1760 at the age of 18, Hooper went on to study law under James Otis. In 1764, he temporarily settled in Wilmington, North Carolina to begin practicing law. Popular with the people of the area, he was elected recorder of the borough two years after his arrival in 1766. From May 1771 to November 1772, Hooper served as Chatham County’s first Clerk of Court despite never living in the county. In the years leading up to the American Revolution, Hooper traveled across North Carolina as a lawyer, was appointed deputy attorney general of the Salisbury District, and officially entered into the political world when he represented the Scots settlement of what is currently named Fayetteville in the Provincial Assembly in 1773. In the years leading up to the American Revolution, Hooper traveled across North Carolina as a lawyer, was appointed deputy attorney general of the Salisbury District, and officially entered into the political world when he represented the Scots settlement of what is currently named Fayetteville in the Provincial Assembly in 1773.
On July 21, 1774, he was elected chairman and presided over the selection of a committee to a call for the First Provincial Congress. When the Congress met, Hooper was chosen as one of three delegates that would represent the state of North Carolina at the First Continental Congress. Over the next two years Hooper served as a delegate for both the Provincial and Continental Congress on various committees including one that was in charge of stating the rights of colonies, one that reported on legal statutes affecting trade and commerce in the colonies, Thomas Jefferson’s committee to compose the Declaration of Independence, a committee for the regulation of the secret correspondence, and many more. Despite Hooper’s triumphs in the political sphere early in the revolution, his return to Wilmington in early 1777 due to contracting yellow fever began a steady decline for his political career and, consequently, his health.
Hooper attended the General Assembly, serving on multiple committees as the member for Wilmington each year from 1777 until the city was taken over by the British in 1781. Considered a fugitive by the British, Hooper hopped to various friends houses in the Windsor-Edenton area while his wife Anne and children fled to Hillsborough. Reunited in 1782 in Hillsborough, the family was permanently removed to the backcountry where they remained out of touch with national and state current events. In that same year, Hooper’s election to General Assembly as member for Wilmington was declared invalid (presumably since he was now in Hillsborough). The following year, he ran for the General Assembly’s Hillsborough seat and lost. In spite of this loss, Hooper ran again in 1784 and was this time elected. He would serve in the General Assembly as a representative for Hillsborough until 1786.
Although he enjoyed some political success since he left Philadelphia in 1777, Hooper was devastated when he was not elected a delegate to the 1788 Constitutional Convention. Certainly adding to his feelings of discontent, the convention met at Hillsborough’s St. Matthew’s Church, which was within sight and sound of Hooper’s house. As a result of what he saw as a failure, Hooper began to drown his feelings of disappointment in rum. At the age of 48, Hooper died the evening before his daughter’s marriage in 1790.
To learn more about the Chatham County Historical Association’s experience with the State Archives, please read the association’s post here.
To learn more about the Chatham County Historical Association, please visit their website.
This minute docket is a primary source of legal cases from Chatham County, N.C. in the mid-1800s, including names of those who were called to court and what the disputes covered. Notably, this record was saved from the Chatham County Courthouse fire that occurred on March 25, 2010.
Also, you may be wondering what the object at the left corner of the docket image is; it’s a bone folder! We use bone folders to assist with digitization. In this case, you’ll find it gently holds back the pages that wouldn’t stay flat. You’ll also find weighted strings doing the same work on several other pages.
To look at the entire Chatham County Superior Court Minute Docket, click here. To learn more about the Chatham County Historical Association, you can view their homepage here.
The Chatham County Funeral Programs digital exhibit grew recently as we added 72 more programs, thanks to our partners at the Chatham County Historical Association. The new programs document the lives of African Americans from Chatham County who passed on from 1967 until as recently as 2018. The majority of these funerals took place in or near Goldston, though others were in Siler City, Pittsboro, and other towns. Several of these individuals were from the Alston, Bynum, Dark, Headen, Hooker, Turner, and Wicker families.
The funeral program collection from Chatham County Historical are a great resource for family history research and for research on the Black community in the central part of the state. To see all Chatham County funeral programs, check out our digital exhibit here. To learn more about the Chatham County Historical Association, visit their contributor page here or their website here.
The Cape Fear and Deep River profile and its story are DigitalNC’s first additions to provide insight into North Carolina’s inland navigation system, though this information is complemented by several photos of the Cape Fear river on our site. The Deep River, along with the Haw River, is a tributary of the Cape Fear River. The two rivers meet just south of Jordan Lake in Chatham County, near Moncure and Haywood, North Carolina. The Cape Fear and Deep River Navigation Company was organized in 1849 in Pittsboro, NC, to enable steamboats to traverse the rivers. The company ensured navigation of the rivers by building dams and locks as a slack water system of navigation. To learn more about the company, visit Wade Hadley, Jr.’s history of the organization from 1980.
This batch of materials also includes nearly 100 new photographs of twentieth century Chatham County. Several showcase local high schools, activities at the Gilmore Hunting Lodge, dam construction, the Carolina Power and Light Company, churches in Mount Vernon, and other subjects.
A large number of funeral programs from the Chatham County Historical Association have been added to the Chatham County Funeral Programs digital exhibit. The programs are primarily from African American families who lived in or had strong ties to Chatham County.
Memorial Services for James Odell Alston
The Homegoing Celebration in Loving Memory of Mother Ollie C. Burnette
In Memorium Larry Edward Scurlock
The programs added recently include several from the Alston, Burnette, Scurlock, and Baldwin families.
1970 was the last year that Horton High School graduated a class. It became Horton Middle School the following year, in light of integration that was merging several white and Black student populations in Chatham County. Horton is named for George Moses Horton, an enslaved man from Chapel Hill who taught himself to read and was the first Black man published in the south, with a book of poetry he composed.
This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features the latest news and highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from organizations across North Carolina.