DigitalNC is excited to announce that our new partner the Perquimans County Restoration Association has contributed a collection of materials on historic homes located in their communities. The collection of newspaper clippings, correspondence from the PCRA, and brochures that include tour maps cover various years between 1990 and 2010. Featured in documents throughout the collection are pictures and descriptions of the historic homes that communicate the extraordinary stories behind these living spaces.
Historic Homes Brochure, 2006.
Histories of homes built in the 18th and 19th-century.
This collection is perfect for people interested in architecture dating back to the 18th century and the histories associated with these beautiful North Carolina homes. One may be tempted to take a trip to Perquimans County to explore the area firsthand after viewing this collection. But before you make travel plans, start your journey to the historical homes of Perquimans here. And to learn more about the Perquimans County Restoration Association visit their contributor page.
DigitalNC partner Cleveland County Memorial Library provided us with a rich collection of documents, photographs, and yearbooks related to the history of Black citizens in the area. Much of the collection focuses on Black schools that were established during the era of Jim Crow and segregation. These schools were created out of necessity but did not survive integration, leaving their history vulnerable. Fortunately people like Ezra A. Bridges, a longtime educator and community activist, made it a priority to preserve items related to the Black experience in Cleveland County.
Biographical Information on Ezra A. Bridges.
Ezra A. Bridges at groundbreaking.
A few highlights from the collection are the yearbooks, various histories of schools in the area, and photographs of students and educators. There is a lot more in this important collection of materials that stress and celebrate Black citizens of Cleveland County and their relentless pursuit of education and proper representation. To see more from Cleveland County Memorial Library visit their contributor page.
A third batch of photos provided by the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum have been digitized and added to DigitalNC. These photographs and newspaper clippings are about the athletes and coaches in Wilson, including teams from Darden High, Speight High School, and Frederick Douglass High School, as well as hall of fame members. The Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum is located in Wilson, North Carolina and has artifacts relating to the contributions of African Americans to Wilson.
Past blog posts about items from the museum can be seen here and here. You can view more from the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum on their contributor page and learn more about them on their website.
We’re also pleased to present four very fragile scrapbooks from the Museum. The first three are full of portraits and family scenes. Although the photos are labeled with a good number of first names or familial titles, we have very little definitive information about the people inside. (If you know more, contact us.) The fourth scrapbook has a collection of pressed leaves.
Forty-five photographs from the museum are now available online, in addition to a number of other documents and items related to Freeman and others in Wilson. You can view all of the items here.
Yesterday the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center staff visited the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum in Wilson, N.C. The museum celebrates African American history in Wilson County and honors the memory of Oliver Nestus Freeman, a local stonemason and builder who had a fascinating life and career.
Stone dinosaur created by Oliver Nestus Freeman; Round House Museum in the background. Photo by Kristen Merryman.
Freeman was a Wilson County native, born in 1882. He attended the Tuskegee Normal School where he gained experience in construction and masonry. He returned to Wilson in the 1910s and worked as a mason for decades. He worked on many projects, incorporating a distinctive style using a variety of stones of different shapes and sizes. Many of his projects are still standing in Wilson today.
In addition to his masonry work, Freeman was also known for the animals he kept at his house. The yard was filled with wild birds, rabbits, a goldfish pond, and several small bears. It became a sort of a tourist attraction with residents and visitors stopping by to give peanuts to the bears.
One of Freeman’s most distinctive buildings was the round house he built in the 1940s to rent to veterans returning from World War II. The house had fallen into disrepair by the 1990s when it was chosen by local citizens to serve as a new African American history museum. The house was moved in 2001 to its current location at the intersection of Nash and Hines streets near downtown Wilson. The museum contains photos and documents commemorating African American pioneers and leaders in Wilson and includes a nice display of photos and artifacts from Freeman’s life.
The museum is open for visitors and is well worth a visit next time you’re in or passing through Wilson. There is more information on the their website.
Acting as an umbrella organization for all Asian American groups on campus, the Asian Student Association published East Wind: The Asian American Student Voice. In 1998, the focus of the publication was to share Asian American culture and experience with students at the University and surrounding community through educational, service, and social events. In addition, it sought to invoke change to the University’s cultural diversity course curriculum and faculty demographic to actively reflect and be representative of Asian Americans on campus.
Now named the Asian American Students Association (AASA at UNC-CH), the Association’s mission is to advance the interests and needs of the UNC-CH’s Asian/Asian American student population. To do this they provide members with resources and opportunities to define themselves Asian American’s roles as part of American culture through 1) uniting students interested in Asian/Asian American culture, 2) promoting Asian/Asian American cultural awareness, and 3) encouraging dialogue about the Asian American identity.
A frequent topic discussed in issues of East Wind is the experience of double consciousness as an Asian American. Introduced in 1903 by W.E.B. DuBois (pronounced “Do-Boys”) in The Souls of Black Folk, the concept of double consciousness, in very simplified terms, is a feeling that you have two or more social identities which makes it difficult to develop a sense of self. Melissa Lin writes about her experience and frustration with double consciousness in her article titled “The Asian American Experience” in the Spring 2001 issue of East Wind.
In her article, “The Asian American Experience,” Melissa Lin writes about her frustration and experience with double consciousness as an Asian American. A first generation Chinese American, Lin emphasizes the importance of getting to understand oneself with cultural identity being a large part of that. She recounts trying to redefine the Asian heritage that she viewed through her parents as well as her realization that being Asian American made her both different and affected how others treated her in America and Asia. Lin concludes that the Asian American experience in 2001 “can at best be to live in both spheres, continuously adapting,” so that she, along with others, can create a niche for themselves somewhere in the middle.
The same 2001 issue presents a glimpse into anime and Pokémon’s rise in popularity in the United States. Although seen as a ploy created by advertisers and the anime industry by older anime fans at the time, Pokémon reached (and continues to hold) an incredible level of popularity in the early 2000s.
Before the late 1990s/early 2000s, it was difficult to find or watch anime on cable television in the United States. The author, Melissa Loon, credits the early Pokémon explosion with pushing “anime to new heights in North America.” After the explosion, supply began to accommodate the demand with video stores, movie theaters, and basic cable beginning to offer anime as part of their selections. Whether a ploy or not, Pokémon and the anime industry remain incredibly popular in the United States with a market value in the billions.
Margaret Anna Robertson Burwell, who went by Anna, is noted as an early pioneer for women’s education in North Carolina. She was born in and raised primarily by her maternal aunt, Susan Catherine Robertson Bott, in Virginia. Leading up to her arrival in the Old North State in the mid-1830s, Anna had received a good education, acquired teaching experience, married Presbyterian minister Robert Armistead Burwell, and had two children (Mary Susan Burwell and John Bott Burwell). While pregnant with their third child in 1835, Anna and her family moved to Hillsborough, North Carolina after her husband was called to be the minister of the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church.
Their first two years in Hillsborough, the Burwell family survived on Robert’s income as a minister. With an additional child and eventually more on the way, however, Anna decided to supplement her husband’s income by teaching after a local doctor asked her to undertake the education of his daughter. You can dig deeper into Anna’s life during this period by reading her digitized diaries on DigitalNC.
The Robert and Margaret Anna Burwell School and Continued Women’s Education
With Anna’s mind set on teaching, the Robert and Margaret Anna Burwell School (also referred to as the Burwell School) was opened in 1837. From its opening to its closure in 1857, Anna taught classes, handled student accounts, managed the school as well as her household.
During its 20 years of operation over 200 young women from North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, New York, and Florida were taught in accordance with the school’s mission to “qualify young ladies for the cheerful discharge of the duties of subsequent life […] [and] to cultivate in every pupil a sense of her responsibility for time and for eternity.” To complete their mission, The Circular [1848-1851] shows that the students took classes such as Lessons on Astronomy, Watts on the Mind, Parsing Blank Verse, Philosophy of Natural History, and Botany.
Though the Burwell School closed in 1857, the family was not finished contributing to women’s education in North Carolina. In fact the same year the Burwell School closed, the Burwells assumed leadership of the Charlotte Female Seminary (now Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina). Fourteen years after assuming leadership of the Charlotte Female Seminary, Anna passed away at the age of 61. Possibly due to his wife’s death, Robert and their son John left Charlotte, North Carolina and assumed ownership of a different girls’ school named Peace Institute (now William Peace University in Raleigh, North Carolina).
Property History After the Burwell Family
Following their departure, the property was rented out by the Burwell family to various individuals until 1862. In November 1862, members of the Collins Family (from Somerset Place near Edenton, North Carolina) bought the property and lived there during the Civil War. Seven years later in 1869, the property was auctioned off as a result of the Collins Family being unable to afford to keep the home. The winning bid was placed by David Parks.
From 1869 to 1895, the home changed hands between the Parks brothers, David and Charles. It is believed that during this 26 year period designer Jules Kerner was hired to raise the first floor ceilings and add the Victorian embellishments found on the interior and exterior of the home.
In 1895, Charles Park sold the property to a local dentist named John Sanford Spurgeon and his wife Carrie Spurgeon. The couple brought in even more exciting updates during their lengthy ownership which included the addition of electricity and plumbing. The home stayed in the Spurgeon family for 70 years until the children of John and Carrie decided to sell it in 1965.
The property was obtained by the Historic Hillsborough Commission, a non-profit organization established by the North Carolina General Assembly, in 1965. After acquiring the site, the Commission began to restore the existing buildings including the Burwell home, brick classroom, and “necessary house.”
Officially opened to the public since 1977, the Burwell School Historic Site continues to follow its mission to “maintain and preserve the Burwell School Historic Site; to interpret the history of 19th century Hillsborough for the enrichment of the public; and to celebrate and promote the culture and heritage of Hillsborough and Orange County.”
Information from this post was gathered from the materials uploaded in this batch, the Burwell School Historic Site’s website, previous Burwell School Historic Site site coordinator Carrie Currie, and from Ashlie Brewer’s knowledge from her internship at the site in summer 2022.
Speaking of bygone Washington cultural touchstones, the other two videos focus on the Patrician Inn, a popular place to stay founded by the Pickle family. One video offers a tour of the rooms, which feature several antiques and items of unique furniture. The second video provides some context to the inn’s collection in an interview with Mrs. Ellen Vincent Pickles and Emily Pickles Williams. Although the camera operator takes some artistic liberties that we probably wouldn’t see today, we do get even more footage of the treasures in the room as Mrs. Pickles tells some of her stories.
Since the Patrician Inn has since been converted to a parking lot, we will probably never encounter the subject of one of her most intriguing stories: the ghost(s) that haunted the inn (4:47). Mrs. Pickles tells the story of a couple of guests who claimed to have seen “the most beautiful ghost that [they’d] ever seen in [their] life,” who was apparently wearing a “white wig and a blue satin jacket” and “silver buckles.” This was not the ghost that Mrs. Pickles was familiar with; her usual ghost was named Paul Bregal (spelling unclear), and he liked to snuff out her candles on the end of the mantle. He, apparently, did not wear such finery, and he usually lived in a closet rather than a guest room.
This week we have the final 35 newspaper titles for this project up on DigitalNC! Over the past 11 months we have uploaded over 2.4 million pages of North Carolina newspapers – bringing our total number of newspaper pages on DigitalNC to 4,175,076 and our total number of titles on DigitalNC to 1,161 – all freely available to anyone! In this closing batch we have our first paper from Bower, North Carolina (which you may know as Clemmons today) and an article in the Union Republican about Stokes County’s would be Wright brother: Jacob A. Hill.
Jacob Hill, Winston-Salem Journal, March 9, 1902
Before Orville and Wilbur’s iconic first flight in 1903, the race to create a manned flying machine was fiercely competitive. One of the contenders was a man from Vade Mecum Springs named Jacob Hill. Hill was born 1862 in Davie County and had been fascinated by the flight of birds ever since he was a child. In 1901 he decided to take that curiosity a little further and solve “the problem of aerial navigation” by building his own dirigible.
Union Republican, March 14, 1901
Danbury Reporter, December 5, 1923
Mr. Hill’s machine could have been the first piloted aircraft, but we’ll never know for sure if it could actually fly and be controlled. Momentum ran out when Hill couldn’t secure funding for his invention. According to Thomas Parramore’s First to Fly, witnesses claimed the craft could get off the ground, but couldn’t do much more than hover in place. Even though Hill’s airship became something of a local joke for a time, the legacy of his wild aspirations continues to live on in North Carolina history.
Danbury Reporter, December 15, 1904
Business Guide, February 16, 1906
Over the past year, we’ve added millions of newspaper images to DigitalNC. These images were originally digitized a number of years ago in a partnership with Newspapers.com. That project focused on scanning microfilmed papers published before 1923 held by the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Special Collections Library. While you can currently search all of those pre-1923 issues on Newspapers.com, we have made them available in our newspaper database as well. This will allow you to search that content alongside the 2 million pages already on our site – all completely open access and free to use.
If you want to see all of the newspapers we have available on DigitalNC, you can find them here. Thanks to UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries for permission to and support for adding all of this content as well as the content to come. We also thank the North Caroliniana Society for providing funding to support staff working on this project.
One of the ongoing columns in the paper is “This Week in Washington,” which recaps national news from the Capitol. Some of the articles are all business, like the April 5, 1933 column describing President Roosevelt’s efforts to aid farmers. Others are more light-hearted; the one from December 24, 1934 that begins:
“Lest the reader of this column get the impression that nothing but serious matters of weighty moment are talked about in Washington, here are a few paragraphs of casual gossip heard in the corridors of public buildings and on the street corners.”
The gossip edition also has a section called “Interesting Women” that lists some of the jobs women in Washington were doing, such as advocating for uniform labor laws across states, increasing job opportunities for women, and selecting the supply of books sent to sea with the Navy.
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.