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An Unexpected Senator’s Column in “The Coastland Times”

Two adults wearing suits shaking hands.  On the left is Bobby Franklin; on the right is former Senator Sam Erwin.
Bobby Franklin (left) shaking hands with Senator Sam Ervin (right).

More issues of The Coastland Times from Manteo, N.C. are now available in our Newspapers of North Carolina collection thanks to our partner, the Dare County Library. These issues span from September 1963 to August 1964 and touch on many regional events of the coast.

A cartoon of Senator Sam Erwin's bust in front of the capitol building. Next to it are the words, "Senator Sam Erwin Says."

Within this span of issues is a column published by former U.S. Senator Samuel J. Ervin Jr. called “Senator Sam Ervin Says.” Ervin was from Morganton, N.C., and was known during his political career for opposing civil rights legislation. The Coastland Times was one of many N.C. papers that published Ervin’s column, including The Jones County Journal (Trenton, N.C.), The Yancy Record (Burnsville, N.C.), The New Bern Mirror (New Bern, N.C.), and The Transylvania Times (Brevard, N.C.).

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.

You can read more of Ervin’s unexpected (by contemporary standards) columns and more of The Coastland Times in this latest batch of issues. You can also browse all of our digital newspapers in our North Carolina Newspapers collection. To see more materials from the Dare County Library, visit their partner page and their website.

Scrapbooks: A Look Inside Haywood County Women’s Social Clubs

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.

Black and White photograph with dispalys of recreation activities for women like canned food items, a bookshelf, gardening and crafting supplies.

Women’s Recreational Activities, (1958)

To explore more Haywood history, please visit the Museum of Haywood County History’s website.


Browse Bookbags & Burial Records From Harnett County

Several local history materials have just been added to our site thanks to our partner, the Harnett County Public Library. This batch includes three sets of cemetery records, which may be of particular interest to family genealogists, and three decades of local library newsletters.

A black-and-white photo of graves askew after a storm. The tallest grave stone on the right says "Wade."

Graves after a storm, Harnett County

The three collections of cemetery records document are from the Colonial Dames of America in Wilmington. The Cemetery Records of Cumberland, Harnett, and Iredell Counties is a compilation of records from 1939; this copy of the Richmond County Graveyard Record is from 1969. The Cemetery Records of Mecklenburg County are undated, but the records seem to begin in the 17oos and extend into the late 1800s.

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). 

A black-and-white photo of Garfield the cat sitting in a Christmas wreath

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.

The full batch of materials is available here and under all of the materials from Harnett County Public Library. To see even more materials from Harnett County, check out their partner page and their website.

“Young, Gifted, and Black” – Bennett College 1970 Yearbook is on DigitalNC

Yearbook page, "Young, Gifted, and Black," Bennett (1970)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.


Yearbook page, art of women's faces, Bennett (1970)Yearbook page, art of woman in window, Bennett (1970)

To view more yearbooks from North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Yearbooks section of our site. To learn more about Bennett College, visit their website and our collection.






Mitchell CC Video Tackles the Mystery of Marshal Ney

A black-and-white image of a French military officer looking toward his right shoulder. He has a long face and is posed with one hand on his hip.
Marshal Michel Ney

The myth of Marshal Michele Ney, Napoleon’s trusted lieutenant, has long fascinated North Carolina storytellers. Thanks to our partner, Mitchell Community College, we now have a video version of the story, told by Bill Moose, a Mitchell CC alumnus and former instructor.

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.

You can see the full batch of videos from Mitchell Community College, including the Mystery of Marshal Ney, here. You can also browse all videos from Mitchell CC and our other partners in our North Carolina Sights and Sounds collection. To see more from Mitchell Community College, you can visit their partner page and their website.

Burwell School Historic Site Materials Now Available on DigitalNC!

Thanks to our newest partner, Burwell School Historic Site / Historic Hillsborough Commission, over 50 new records are now available on our website. These materials focus primarily on Margaret Anna Robertson Burwell; the Burwell family; and The Robert and Margaret Anna Burwell School. These materials, which include diaries and letters, provide a look into 19th century life and education in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Black and white portrait of an older woman with curls. She is looking straight at the camera and is wearing a black top.

Margaret Anna Robertson Burwell

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.”


To learn more about the Burwell School Historic Site, please visit the Burwell School Historic Site website.

To learn more about Burwell family history, please visit the Burwell School’s Our History page.

To view more materials from Hillsborough, North Carolina, please click here to view NCDHC’s Hillsborough related records.

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.

Students Tell Their Stories in Person County!

School Catalog
Commemoration Booklet of Student Activities at Roxboro High School from 1929 to 1930
The front page of The R.E.S. Gazette
Front page of the 1961 R.E.S Gazette from Roxboro Elementary School.

Take a deep dive into students’ lives with new additions of newspapers, yearbooks, and so much more from the Person County Museum of History. This batch includes a variety of materials, including catalogs and school yearbooks, like The Hilltopper from Bethel High and The Rocket from Roxboro High.

Also included in this collection of materials are newspapers from Roxboro Elementary (The R.E.S Gazette, 1961), the historically Black elementary school in the county; Person County High School (The Panther, 1961-1969); and Roxboro High School (Rocket, 1953). It is interesting to see the different topics of conversation from elementary students to high school. From diving into the Christmas holiday to stories about students on campus, each of these newspapers gives a small preview into students’ lives in Person County.

The yearbooks in this batch range from 1921-1969 and represent nine schools across Person county. While many are from Roxboro, others come from Woodsdale, Timberlake, Allensville, Hurdle Mills, and Olive Hill.

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!

Be sure to check out our wide variety of high school yearbooks, newspapers, and more on Digital NC!

Boy and Girl Scouts of America Photographs and Scrapbooks Now Available on DigitalNC

Thanks to our partner, Chapel Hill Historical Society, a batch containing three scrapbooks and over 100 slides featuring trips and experiences of Chapel Hill Boy Scout Troop 835 and Girl Scout Troop 59 are now available on our website.

The scrapbook topics include Troop 835 in the news; the life of Scoutmaster, Paul B. Trembley; and Troop 835’s trip to Europe in 1968. Traveling numerous places from North Carolina to Canada, the slides in this batch show stunning and silly images of the troop’s trips and experiences taken from the late 1950s to early 1990s.












To view more materials from the Chapel Hill Historical Society, please visit the DigitalNC Chapel Hill Historical Society material page.

To learn more about the Chapel Hill Historical Society, please visit the Chapel Hill Historical Society website.

To learn more about the history of Troop 835, please visit the Troop 835 website.

Lena Martin Photo Collection along with Wide Variety of Items Added from Edgecombe County Memorial Library

black and white photograph of a snowy downtown with adults sitting in a boat drawn by two horses
“A Boat Put in Service”

Photos, genealogical research, and a scrapbook make up this latest batch from Edgecombe County Memorial Library. The images were scanned by the library’s staff, who requested they be added to DigitalNC.

Over 500 loose photos of Edgecombe County document people, town scenes, architecture, views of the Tar River, the tobacco industry, and notable events. There are some really compelling 19th century images, including a bird’s eye view of Tarboro, Princeville during one of the Tar River floods, and the burning of the Bryan House Hotel.

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:

You can view all of the items Edgecombe County Memorial Library has shared on DigitalNC through their contributor page.

Videos Offer Glimpse of Old Washington, Including Now-Demolished Patrician Inn

A marching band parading down the street in Washington, N.C., with large crowds on either side.A batch of four videos of Washington, N.C. has been added to our collection thanks to our partner, the George H. and Laura E. Brown Library. Two of the videos, which are silent but in color, show footage of Washington from 1939, including notable buildings, Warren airport, boats on the water, and tulips in bloom. They also have footage of the Tulip Festival parade, which features floats, marching bands, and several excellent costumes. Since the annual festival is no longer celebrated, these videos give us an idea of what it looked like in its most popular era.

An old-fashion sign reading "The Patrician Inn"

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.

You can watch all of the videos here or explore our North Carolina Sights and Sounds collection. To see more from the Brown Library, you can visit their partner page and their website.

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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.

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