Monday, October 29, 2012

February Court in Gatesville in the 1920s

By: Dick Carter

 Having moved from Roduco to Gatesville [Gates Co.] in 1918, I learned the comings and goings of things that happened in the 1920s and 1930s. One special event came on the first Monday in February— this being in the time of few cars and no tractors. Farmers and local residents met in Gatesville on this day to trade horses and mules before spring plowing started.
There was in Gatesville at that time two livery stables—one was located where the Gatesville Baptist Parsonage now stands. It was owned by Jim Hoffler. Both of the stables traded, bought and sold horses, mules, buggies, harnesses, etc.

On Sunday afternoon late you could see the horse traders coming to Gatesville driving one mule or horse and leading about three or four behind—all roads were sand at that time. They came from Ahoskie [Hertford Co.], Suffolk [VA], Edenton [Chowan Co.], and other places and made camp in the street behind the courthouse and in front of the jail and other places that they could tie up.
At about sunrise on Monday morning the fun started and continued on during the day—horse trading, drinking corn liquor, cooking over open fires, fist fighting, and cussing (some of the best you ever heard). The Langston’s from Gates and the Carters from across the Creek always put on a good fight. When the fighting got real good old man Charlie Ellis, an undertaker that had a place where Southern Bank now stands would stand on the side and sing, “Shave Mr. Shaver and grease Mr. Greaser Grease". One day when the fight got real good, Tom Riddick, a boy of my age at that time, got on top of the chicken house in order to better see the fight. Well the roof fell through—from that day on he was known as Rooster Reddick. However, when you called him that you had better be prepared to run or fight.

Down Main Street toward the Creek about where the Askew home now stands, under a large sycamore tree, two colored women, "Mariar and Sane", lived in a small house and had food for sale, such as it was. They cooked the best apple jacks for 10 cents that you ever ate. I guess this was Gatesville's first fast food.

Needless to say, the bootleggers had a good day. White corn liquor was 35 cents a pint. It was said to be two-man liquor—one man would hold the other while he took a drink.
At about 4:00 pm everything moved out leaving the alleyways strewn with paper, hay, food, horse manure, etc. Everyone was happy—some made good deals, some bad. But everyone was looking forward to next year, the first Monday in February.

[Taken from Just Down the Road in Our Own Words, compiled and typed by Peggy Lefler for the Gates County Historical Society: 2009]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friendly Visits?

Middleton, Hyde County, N. C.
May 11th, 1878

Dear Miss,
            For some time, past I hav bin trying to hav a serious talk with you but some how or other, you all ways manage to prevent it. I do not no whether the fault is mine or yours, be that it may. I hav determined to Releave my mind by a letter whither you tear it up, in disgust, or preserve it as a memento, for the future; (words scratched through and C. B. Gibbs inserted) feeling an interest in you that it is impossibly to describe in words, and hav resorted to my pen and I hope I may not offend you in so doing, and if I know my own heart, it heaves such sympathy or delacacey of feelings for you that no effort of mine can shake off; I wish you could appreciate this feeling, and I am sure you wold pitty me, if you did not – except me as a suitor.

            Object of this note is to ask your permission to pay you friendly visits with a view to closer tie should my Society prove agreeably.
            So nothing more at present; hopeing you will favour me with a kind answer soon, Yours truly,

Alexander H. Gibbs

[This letter was in the Mrs. Walter Carr Cox papers, Kinston, N. C. The letter was first printed in the High Tides, Hyde County, North Carolina Historical Society Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, Fall 1982]

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Early Days of Aviation

In Eastern North Carolina

By Foy Pullen, Pilot and Mechanic

In the early days of aviation, a pilot had to be both a flyer and a mechanic. When something broke, as it often did, you had to fix it yourself most times. On the old planes, the landing axle went up into a V and was held there by elastic cord like bungee cords with a safety cable to hold it in place in case the bungee cord broke. The elastic cords allowed the axle to give a little, acting like shock absorbers on the landing. It was a pretty primitive setup, but it worked.
Rocky Mount, NC Airport in 1936

One time, when we were barnstorming in a little country town, a bungee cord broke and we had no replacement. A farmer brought us some plow line. We tied that on in place of the plastic cord. It held the axle, but there was no give to it and it made for a hard landing!
The engines in the planes we used for barnstorming were water cooled engines left over from World War I. I can remember one time when we only had one bucket and we needed to fill the plane with gasoline from a drum and also add water. We got water from a nearby ditch. Then, using the same bucket, with water still in it, we drained gasoline from the gasoline drum. We poured the gas into the plane’s gas tank through a felt hat. That felt hat was the best water trap I’ve ever seen!
OX-5 Engine
This was the first mass-produced engine for airplanes in the United States.
It was put in all old Jennie-typeaircraft in World War I. 
It was a V-8 water-cooled engine and developed 90 horsepower at 1400 RPMs.
Those old World War I engines didn’t have starters. You had to hand crank them like the old cars. To help get the engine started, we had a rig that we could hook up to the magneto that would generate enough current to start the engine. It beat cranking it!

We would go barnstorming on Saturday, always a busy day in town. As we approached the town, we would circle around a couple of times and then crank up the generator. It would wound like the engine was coming to pieces! Everybody would get excited looking up and expecting us to crash. Then we’d make what appeared to be a forced landing.
After we got down, we would open the cowl [hood] and pretend to be working on the engine while everybody gathered around. In a few minutes, we’d close it up and tell everybody it was fixed and ready to fly and that we needed a volunteer to take a test flight. Somebody always got pushed up to the front and we’d take him up. After that, we’d start hauling passengers.

Fairchild Travelair Speedwing-1937
We charged $2 per person for a flight that lasted about 10 minutes. We’d circle around the town, pointing out various sights and then land and load up again. It was a lot of fun!
In one small town, we had a man who said he would be glad to fly, if he could just keep one foot on the ground. We put a bucket of dirt in the plane and he flew with his foot in the bucket, and he was happy.
Military Aircraft in Hanger in 1938
Tommy Moore from Wilson [Wilson Co., N.C.] would barnstorm with us sometimes and he would parachute from the aircraft. The early parachutes were made of canvas and they were too bulky to be worn, so they were packed in sacks. The sack was tied to the wing step so that when the daredevil jumped, the sack would turn over and spill the parachute out. We would pack stuff in the sack with the chute so when it opened, debris would fly out and it looked like the chute had blown up. That would really excite the crowd.

Foy Pullen was born 4/17/1915 and died on 2/22/2011 at the age of 95. He wrote 90 Years of Aviation in Rocky Mount: 1917-2007. In the book, he told the story of aviation from its early beginnings in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe/Nash Counties, NC through 2007. Much of the story was told from his memories of a 60 year career as a airplane pilot and mechanic. Mr. Pullen also had a scrapbook filled with old pictures. Many of these pictureswere included in the book.
This article was first published in Vol. 12, Issue 3 of The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society.

Friday, October 19, 2012



          The following points can now be reached over the lines of this company:

Ashville,        N. C.                                     Atlanta, Ga.
Charlotte,                                                Baltimore, Md.
Beaufort,                                          Chattanooga, Tenn.
Durham,                                               Charleston, S. C.
Enfield,                                                   Chase City, Va.
Goldsboro,                                                   Chicago, Ill.
Greensboro,                                            Cincinnati, Ohio
Henderson,                                               Columbia, S. C.
Littleton,                                                       Danville, Va.
Louisburg,                                                 Lynchburg, Va.
New Berne,                                              Nashville, Tenn.
Oxford,                                                    New York, N. Y.
Raleigh,                                                   New Orleans, La.
Rocky Mt.,                                                      Norfolk, Va.
Warrenton,                                                  Petersburg, Va.
Weldon,                                                   Philadelphia, Pa.
Wilmington,                                               Richmond, Va.
Winston,                                                       St. Louis, Mo.

          And all other important and intermediate points east of the Mississippi River.

                                                             F. C. TOEPLEMAN,
                                                                        Gen. Manager

[The Eastern Reflector, Pitt County, North Carolina: July 12, 1904]

Sunday, October 7, 2012



August 25, 1793

Mrs. Sarah DeCrow


In the absence of the Postmaster General, I have received your letter in which you expressed a wish to resign your office in consequence of the small compensation that you received for your services. You are mistaken in supposing that you were entitled to no more than 20% compensation. You are entitled to 40% which is the highest rate of compensation the Postmaster General is authorized to allow to any of his deputies. I am sensible that the pecuniary advantages arising from your office cannot be much inducement to you to hold it, yet I flatter myself you will continue to do the business for the benefit of the town and neighborhood. If, however, you should decline holding the office any longer, be pleased to recommend some suitable character to succeed you. Mr. Blount's contract for carrying the mail does not expire until 1 June 1794, when proposals will again be received for the conveyance of the mail, and you will then have an opportunity of making yours which will be duly attended to.

(Signed) C. B.

From: Postmaster General Letter Book of June 13, 1792—October 27, 1793.

"In 1792 Sarah Decrow was recorded as the first woman postmaster appointed under the Constitution. She was in charge of the Hertford, [Perquimans County] North Carolina, Post office. Disappointed with the small compensation she was receiving, Decrow sent letters [including the one above] to the Postmaster General on several accounts, expressing her intent to resign from her post. On behalf of Postmaster General Timothy Pickering, the Assistant Postmaster General responded by asking her to reconsider her decision. In his letter to her, he claimed that Decrow was receiving the 'highest rate of commission the Postmaster General is authorized to allow to any of his deputies.'
"The Assistant Postmaster General's statement proves the ambiguous treatment of women in the postal system. In that one sentence, he defends equal pay between men and women."[1]

[1] “Women in the U. S. Postal System,”

[The letter was taken from Town of Hertford bi-centennial, 1758-1958 : and historic data of Perquimans County, North Carolina]

Monday, October 1, 2012

Carteret County Woman Patents Invention

In the 19th century, women were seldom involved in commercial activities. However, creativity can often be found in unexpected places. The following is taken from the1892 Patent Application of Leah Donnell Jones of Carteret County, NC. I was not able to find more information about Leah Jones.


­­­­­­­­SPECIFICATION forming part of Letters Patent No. 519,632, dated May 8, 1894.

Application filed December 9, 1892. Renewed January 22, 1894. Serial No. 497,721. (No Model.)

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, LEAH DONNELL JONES, a citizen of the United States, residing at New Berne, in the county of Craven and State of North Carolina, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Pantaloons-Protectors; and I do hereby declare the following to be a full, clear, and exact description of the invention, such as will enable others skilled in the art to which it appertains to make and use the same.

… It is well know how the use of ordinary rubber shoes to keep the feet dry does not prevent the necessity of turning up the pants to keep them from being soiled by the spattering of mud and water, and how such turning produces creases and destroys the shape of the lower ends of the pants. The turning up may be obviated by the use of rubber and other boots with longer or shorter legs, but with these also it is impossible to maintain the proper shape and contour of the pants, as the same are soiled and folded, creased and rumpled to fit the shape and movements of the confining boot leg.
The object of my invention is to protect the lower ends of pantaloons from wear and wet, and from being soiled and spattered and at the same time to maintain their proper shape and contour.

Drawing of invention.

To this end my invention consists of the combination of a shoe with upright parts forming a leggin constructed as a part of the shoe, the lower ends of said parts surrounding the mouth of the shoe turned outwardly and then projecting upwardly from the quarters and vamp at some distance below said mouth forming a pocket to hold and protect the lower end of the trousers leg in its normal position on the shoe, as hereinafter described and claimed.
My invention is illustrated in the accompanying drawings in which—

Figure 1, is a side view in elevation of a shoe with my improvement attached, the mouth of the shoe within the protecting pieces being show in dotted lines; Fig. 2, a top view, and Fig. 3, a side view showing the lower portion of a pantaloons leg in position in which it is held by the protector.
… B, B', are the protecting pieces made of canvas, or other cloth, leather or rubber, or other sutable material, and lined or unlined, and are secured to the top of the shoe around and outside of the mouth thereof. … The upright parts B,B', form a leggin constructed as an integral part of the shoe, …


            W. B. Boyd,
            K. B. Boyd

[This patent was included in the WOMEN INVENTORS INDEX - 1790-1895  data base at ]