Ervin’s column stands out today for how it differs from contemporary political propaganda. For one thing, it was published in local papers, which tend to focus on local and regional news. For example, one column from the September 13, 1963 issue runs next to a news brief headlined, “Sea Hags Will Meet,” referring to a local fishing club.
Another notable quality of Ervin’s column is that it is… relatively boring. Rather than employing inflammatory language or focusing on hot-button issues, Ervin tends to give technical overviews of the mechanisms of the Senate. In the column published on October 18, 1963, the Senator references a “controversial Foreign Aid Bill” and then writes, “Present prospects are that there may be no action taken by the Senate as a whole on the tax bill. There is a growing feeling that action on the tax measure should be postponed until after the President’s Budget message to Congress the first of the year.” Even though it is presumably written for a general audience, Ervin often chooses to use technical language and focus on bureaucratic details rather than argue for a bigger picture or stance.
Thanks to our new partner Museum of Haywood County History, a batch containing four new scrapbooks have been added to our website.
These scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings of club announcements like meeting time and place, upcoming community events, winners of annual awards, the election of officers, along with various accompanying photographs and other ephemera. These scrapbooks give insight into what life was like for some women, families and communities in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
For Lillington community members and library lovers, these issues of The Bookbag (from 1977-2007) are full of local stories and excellent library programming. One program that deserves a shoutout is the pet memorial project from 2002, where patrons could donate to the library in honor of a beloved pet and have their pet’s name inscribed on a bookplate. Of course, this raises the timeless issue of whether your pet shares your last name (looking specifically at Bee Bee Davis and Crook Tail Rosser here).
From the January-March 1984 issue of The Bookbag
The library newsletters also give a historic glance into popular technology over the last few decades, as evidenced by this article on the “New Microfiche Printer/Reader” from the January-March 1985 issue.
Bennett College’s 1970 yearbook, titled “Bennett Belle,” is now available on DigitalNC, thanks to our partnership. Bennett College is a historically Black women’s college in Greensboro, North Carolina. The first page shares Bennett Belle’s theme for 1970: young, gifted, and Black.
The note from the editor, Alice E. Baldwin, informs readers that the 1970 edition “centers around Black awareness” in response to that year’s “upsurge” in campus activism. Baldwin also notes the students’ prolific talents in writing and art.
The yearbook is full of poetry, drawings, and photography. Many poems, like “Where is the End?” by Cynthia Holloway and Gladys Ashe’s “From Black Women,” reflect on the students’ places in the world and in the civil rights movements.
The romantic myth, first told by one of Peter Stewart Ney’s former students, says that Michel Ney escaped his own execution and fled to the United States, living out the rest of his days as the school teacher Peter Stewart Ney in North Carolina. The legend pulls in the life of the real Peter Stewart Ney, a teacher who happened to share the Marshal’s last name and who was an immigrant to South Carolina near the time of Michel Ney’s execution (though records suggest he was from Scotland rather than France). Peter Stewart Ney’s grave in Rowan county reads, “a native of France… and soldier of the French Revolution… under… Napoleon Bonaparte,” and his birth year is listed as 1769, the year Michel Ney was born. Though many storytellers have attempted to explain the ways that Michele Ney could have escaped and the similarities between the two men, historians have established that Peter Stewart Ney was not the Marshal.
Moose’s version tells how Michele Ney faked his own execution and was able to escape France by ship. Once in America, Moose theorizes that Ney could have connected with friends in Philadelphia. According to Moose, Michele Ney’s son, Eugène Michel Ney, was trained as a doctor in Philadelphia, and Peter Stewart Ney may have visited him. Moose also focuses on the oft-repeated story that Peter Stewart Ney allegedly attempted suicide when he heard of Napoleon’s death, though the source of that story is unclear.
The Ney myth runs so deeply in NC history that Peter Stewart Ney’s body was exhumed in 1887 and examined for evidence that he was the Marshal. In Moose’s telling, the lack of evidence found on the body (which was mostly decomposed) allowed the myth to continue.
Though he was not Napoleon’s lieutenant, Peter Stewart Ney did receive some acclaim as a teacher and scholar, according to Moose’s version. He developed a shorthand writing style and designed the seal and motto of Davidson College, Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas. Sadly, not much is known about the early life of Peter Stewart Ney.
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.
Digital NC would like to thank our partner, the Person County Museum of History, for allowing us to help make available these new materials. To see more from Person County Museum of History, visit their website or their partner page!
The Lena Martin Pennington photo collection is an additional 384 photos of Edgecombe County dating from the late 1800s-early 1900s. Almost all of the photos were annotated by Pennington with brief descriptions.
Here are some additional items in this batch:
Photos and genealogical research documenting the Wiggins and Nettles families
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 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.