Monday, November 5, 2012

July 4 Celebration In 1859

A patriotic spirit seemed to pervade the entire community. The arrival of the annual visitor was announced by the cannon’s deafening peal and the ringing of bells. Our hearts leaped with joy when we reflected we were fulfilling the prophecy of one of our revolutionary ancestors who said while urging his countrymen to declare their independence, “This day will be celebrated by our posterity with bonfires and illumination.”

The patriotic lines of Whittier’s …

“Go ring the bells and fire the guns
And fling the stormy banner out
Cry Freedom! Till our little ones
Shout back their tiny shout.”

 This 33-star Flag became the Official United States Flag on July 4th, 1859. A star was added for the admission of Oregon (February 14, 1859) and was to last for 2 years.

At half past ten a procession composed of the citizens, proceeded by martial music, marched to the courthouse. Elder C. B. Hassell offered up a fervent prayer in our behalf as a nation after which the marshal of the day, L. E. Satterwaite, Esq., introduced Theodore Hassell as the reader of the Mecklenburg Declaration.
Mr. Hassell performed his duty in a manner perfectly satisfactory to all.

Reading slowly and distinctly, Dr. Chas. W. Knight was next presented as the person selected to read the National Declaration.
Dr. Thos. C. Pugh arose and after an introduction proceeded to deliver the oration for the day. On taking his seat he was greeted with rounds of applause.

The exercises being over, a procession moved down to Main St. and then dismissed. At night a cotillion party was given at the old hotel.
The amusement was kept up until a late hour when the company, wearied from exertion, dispersed.

[This account is from the newspaper,  Democratic Banner, and describes the 1859 celebration at the Martin County Courthouse in Williamston. The article was first printed in the Tales Along The Roanoke by Louise R. Booker, Illustrated by Bailey Phelps, Edited by Deane R. Phelps: 1974.]


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 ]

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Susan Dimock, Beaufort County Native

Early Physician


Susan Dimock
Susan Dimock was born in 1847 in Washington, Beaufort County, North Carolina. She was to become the first woman licensed physician from North Carolina and the first female to be accepted as a member of the North Carolina Medical Society.
Susan’s parents were Henry and Mary Melvin Owens Dimock. She grew up in the age of slavery and she was to say later, “I am slow to take an idea; I was always slow: I was eight years old before I perceived the sin of slavery.”[1] While Florence Nightingale was nursing English soldiers injured in the Crimean War (1854-1856), Susan was “borrowing anatomy books from the family doctor and accompanying him on his calls.”[2]

Susan’s mother, Mary, was the daughter of the Beaufort County, NC sheriff. Henry Dimock was a native of Maine who moved to Washington, NC and taught school, studied law and became the editor of the North State Whig. After he married Mary, the couple purchased the Lafayette Hotel in Washington, NC. The family lived in the hotel and Mary taught Susan and managed the hotel. When she later attended the Washington Academy, Latin was her favorite subject.
By the age of twelve, Susan had made up her mind to become a doctor. Dr. Solomon S. Satchwell, who was a founding member of the N.C. Medical Society, lived across the street from the hotel and “… often allowed her (Susan) to join him on house calls and actively encouraged her interest in medicine.”[3] A story was told about her when she was about 14 that, at a resort, she was absorbed in a book for quite a long time. Someone asked, “What interesting story has Susie got?” An old physician, standing by, replied: “It is one of my medical books, which I have lent her, and one of the driest, too.” [4]

But the Civil War brought changes for the Dimocks. The Union troops took over the town of Washington early in the war. “Some of the (Union) officers made their headquarters at the Lafayette Hotel and the Dimocks were greatly criticized by loyal Confederates for being friendly with them. But, after all, Dimock himself was a Yankee.”[5] Henry Dimock died not long after the Union troops occupied Washington. “A year and a half after his death, the Lafayette was burned to the ground in the holocaust that destroyed most of the town.”[6]
Susan and her mother moved to Massachusetts where Susan attended school briefly and read every medical book she could find. At the age of 17, Susan accepted a teaching job in Hopkinton, Mass. She was fortunate to become friends with Bessie Greene and it was through Bessie and her father that she met Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, who had established the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston. Dr. Zak accepted her as a student at her hospital, although she could not earn a medical degree there.

New England Hospital for Woomen and Children
(Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

In 1868, with much encouragement from Dr. Zak and after she was rejected by Harvard Medical School, Susan enrolled in the University of Zurich where there was less hostility to women as doctors. As her first semester began, she wrote the following:  “Sunday finds me safely through with last week’s herculean labors. You know I had a hundred formalities to go through with, and no German to speak of. Looking back upon it, I do not see how I managed it; however, it is plain sailing now, and I have nothing to do except to listen to lectures, study hard, and learn German, &c. Oh, it is so nice to get here, at a word, what I have been begging for in Boston for three years! I have every medical advantage that I can desire. I told the professor of anatomy, for instance, that I wanted a great deal of dissecting; and he immediately bowed, and said so kindly, ‘You shall have it; I only desire you shall tell me what you prefer.’ And so it is with everything. I only have to go through the necessary formalities, and pay the fees, and I find that in every respect I have equal advantages with the young men; and then I find also the warmth and protection and feeling of interest which a young man finds in the university. And it is delightful; the professors are all very kind to me.” [7]

Susan Dimock was awarded her degree in 1871. She was the first American woman to earn her degree in Zurich. After further studies and work in Europe, she returned to the New England Hospital in 1872.
North Carolina Historical Marker in Washington, NC
Dr. Dimock began her practice with a three year appointment as resident physician at Dr. Zak’s hospital, working in obstetrics and gynecology. Although her salary was only $300 per year, she had enormous responsibilities. She handled the day-to-day management of the hospital. She saw patients in the wards and in the dispensary, taking a special interest caring for poor and unwed mothers. This interest must have influenced two of her friends who began the charity, Invisible Institution, to help poor mothers take care of their babies.

Dr. Dimock also did most of the surgery at the Hospital for Women and Children. Her success at surgery enabled her to build a large private practice. As if her hospital duties and her patients were not enough, she also managed to carry out an extensive restructuring of the hospital’s nursing school, establishing the first graded nursing school in this country. All of this was accomplished in just three years! In spite of the long hours and hard work, Susan Dimock wrote, in 1875, “I have not one wish unfulfilled.”
At the end of her three year term, she was offered a second term, which she accepted. However, she requested a five month leave to return to Europe during the summer of 1875.

Dr. Dimock and her friends, Bessie Greene and Caroline Crane, left New York on April 27, 1875 on the steamer Schiller. On the night of May 7 the ship struck a reef and wrecked off the coast of England. The three friends from America were lost, along more than 200 others. Susan Dimock’s body was recovered and returned to Boston where she was buried in Forest Hills Cemetery. Susan Dimock was only 28 years old.

1.      The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. Vol. XCII. January 7, 1874. No. 1.

2.      Sandra L. Singer, Adventures Abroad: North American Women at German-Speaking Universities, 1959.

3.       Lillian Freeman Clark, “The Story of an Invisible Institution,” The Outlook: Vol. 84, Sept. 1, 1906:Page 983 [Google Book]

4.       Mass Moments:

7.       American Association for the History of Nursing:

9.       North Carolina Historical Marker Program:



[1]Lillian Freeman Clark, “The Story of an Invisible Institution,” The Outlook: Vol. 84, Sept. 1, 1906:Page 983 [Google Book]
[2] Mass Moments
[3] N. C. Highway Marker Program Essay, Marker B-14, Susan Dimock, in Washington, NC.
[4] Lillian Freeman Clark, “The Story of an Invisible Institution,” The Outlook: Vol. 84, Sept. 1, 1906:Page 983.
[5] NCPedia:
[6] Ibid
[7] Sandra L. Singer, Adventures Abroad: North American Women at German-Speaking Universities, 1959.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Claudius Peter Cary, fencing master, who was endeavouring to get out of the enemies way, died with fatigue in the Dismal Swamp.

[Virginia Gazette. Williamsburg: Printed by Dixon & Nicholson. May7 22, 1779]
NOTE: The Dismal Swamp is on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. In North Carolina, it includes parts of Gates, Pasquotank, and Camden Counties.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

            Across the twilight of the ages past
            A spectral figure moves vague, undefined;
            And where it goes a shade comes o’er the mind,
            As‘t were some picture overcast.

IN the early part of the seventeenth century, that is, about the year 1615, or 1620, the Indian hunters who lived on Roanoke Island were greatly excited by seeing a milk-white doe among the herd of deer that were then commonly found on the island.

It attracted the attention of the hunters because it was the most beautiful one of all the herd, because it was the fleetest, and because the most skillful marksmen had never been able to kill it with an arrow. Okisco, a noted hunter, who lived among the Chawanooke tribe, was sent for, and he drew his bow upon the beautiful white doe, but he never could do her harm.
She came to be well known to the Indian hunters of Roanoke Island, and was often found on the situation of the old city of Raleigh, apart from the herd of deer, with her sad face toward the east. Again and again she was hunted, but all the arrows aimed at her life fell harmless beside her. She bounded over the sand-hills with the swiftness of the winds and always turned in the direction of Croatan.

Hunting parties of Indians were made up to entrap her by stationing themselves along the tracks of her flight, which had become known to the hunters by her always taking the same course. But all their efforts were without avail. The swift white doe seemed to have a charmed life, or to be under the protection of some Divine power. Everyone now talked of the white doe, and everyone had his own opinion about her. The braves, the squaws, and the papooses talked of the milk-white doe. Some had fears of evil from the strange apparition. Some thought she was the omen of good, and some thought it was the spirit of some sad departed.

Sometimes she would be seen on the high grounds of Croatan, sometimes in the swamps of Durant’s Island, sometimes upon the Cranberry bogs of East Lake, often on Roanoke Island near Raleigh City, and sometimes, though rarely, on the sands of Kill Devil Hills; sometimes alone, always sad and beautiful.

The news of the white doe spread far and wide, and old Wingina determined to call a council of chiefs to determine what to do.

Okisco, chief of the Chawanookes; Kuskatenew and Kilkokanwan, of the Yeopems, and others, attended the council. The all came with their attendants, all armed with their war weapons, the bow and arrow. They determined to have a grand hunt in the early Indian summer time, and without delay. In November, when the leaves had fallen and the earth was carpeted with its brown and russet covering of forest leaves, all the friendly chiefs came to Roanoke Island to join the fierce Wingina in his appointed hunt for the milk-white doe, and each with his chosen weapon of the chase.

The chiefs, after their feast, prepared by the wife of Wingina, agreed that they should station themselves along the course of the white doe when pursued by the hunters, and either exhaust her in the chase, or slay her with their deadly arrows. Wingina, the most powerful of all, took his place at Raleigh City, where the doe always passed and always stopped.

Old Granganimeo, the brother of Wingina, took his stand at Croatan Sound, where she crossed to Roanoke Island.

Okisco took his stand upon the goodly land of Pomonik, in the low grounds of Durant’s Island.

Kind old Manteo went up into the shaky land Wocokon, among the prairies and cranberry bogs of East Lake.
Minatonon, the fierce chief who made his home at Sequaton, took his stand at Jockey’s Ridge, by the sea, in the land of the Coristooks.

Wanchese took his stand at Kill Devil, in the country of Secotan.
Kill Devil Hills
Photo by David Martinek

They had all brought with them their best bows and arrows, and also their chosen archers. But the bow of Wanchese differed from the others. When, long ago, he had gone over the sea to England, the great Queen had given him an arrow-head made of solid silver, like the stone arrow-head that Armadas carried to Sir Walter Raleigh with his other Indian curiosities. It was made by her most expert workers in silver, and she told him it would kill the bearer of a charmed life that no other arrow could wound. Wanchese carried this with his other weapons, and determined to test its power upon the swift white doe.

Manteo started the doe in the shaky land of Wocokon. She started unharmed at the twang of the bow-string. She sped with the swiftness of the north wind’s breath. Through the tangle wood of Wocokon, through the bogs and morasses of Pomonik, across the highlands of Croatan, on, on, she went, and the twang of the bowstring was the harmless music of her flying bounds. She plunged into the billows of Croatan Sound. She reached the sand hills of Roanoke, leaving the Indian hunters far behind her. As she came to the island, old Granganimeo drew his bow and sped his harmless arrow. She stood upon the top of the old fort at Raleigh City, sniffed the breeze and looked sadly over the sea. Wingina carefully and steadily drew upon her panting side the deadly arrow. All in vain. She bounded into Roanoke Sound and across to the sea. Menatonon was at Jockey’s Ridge, but his arrow, too, was harmless. The panting white doe found time at the Fresh Ponds to slake her thirst, and the, turning to the sea that she seemed to love with an unnatural affection, sped onward, until she reached the steep hills of Kill Devil. There, alas! was her doom. Wanchese, taking aim with his silver arrow, aimed at her heart, let fly the fated bowstring, and the sad and beautiful milk-white doe sprang into the air with the fatal arrow in her heart, and fell to the ground.

Croatan National Forest

 Wanchese ran to the spot and found the victim writhing in the death agony. She lifted her dying, soft eyes to the red man and uttered her last sound, “Virginia Dare.” Under her throat the words “Virginia Dare” were plainly penciled in dark hair, and on her back was penciled in brown hair the name “Croatan.”

 [Source: Richard Benbury Creecy Grandfather’s Tales of North Carolina History. Raleigh, N.C.: Edwards and Broughton Printers. 1901, pages 15-18. ]


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mrs. Joe Person's Remedy

Alice Morgan Person - An Extraordinary Woman

“My life has been out of the ordinary run of woman’s life. Circumstances have forced me to the front, where I have met both Knights and Cowards. Circumstances have compelled me to stand my ground and fight the great Fight single-handed and alone. …” This is in the Foreword of Alice Morgan Person’s autobiography, The Chivalry of Man as Exemplified in the Life of Mrs. Joe Person, the story of Alice Morgan Person and “Mrs. Joe Person’s Remedy,” from 1858 until 1892.
In the Preface of her book, Mrs. Person gives us a glimpse of her life: “…For fifteen years I have led a drummer’s life, have come into contact with all manner of mankind, high and low, rich and poor, patricians and plebeians, knights and cowards, and it must be an opaque nature that could not, in turn, learn a lesson from each, as they came along. …”

Alice Morgan Person was a colorful woman who met life’s challenges head on. She succeeded as a business woman—at a time when women were supposed to stay close to the hearth; as a talented professional musician—when women were supposed to play sweet melodies for dinner guests; as the primary provider for her family of nine children—not to mention producing the children; and as an example of what a determined woman could do—when women had few such examples!
Mrs. Person’s primary business was the manufacture and sale of “Mrs. Joe Person’s Remedy,” a well-respected patent medicine. In 1872, she was given the mixture by a neighbor who convinced her to use it to treat her gravely ill daughter, Josephine. Her daughter survived what was thought to be a fatal illness, and for the next six years Alice Person gave the remedy to friends and family and observed its success in the treatment of a variety of illnesses.

In 1878 she registered the remedy’s trademark with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office, making it official that she was now a business woman. She continued to sell “Mrs. Joe Person’s Remedy” until 1910 when, at the age of 70, she sold the trademark and the formula to her son, Rufus.
Alice Person’s career was not an easy one. At first, she sold her product locally. Her children helped her prepare the mixture. In February 1882, filled with big dreams of expanding her market, she approached several doctors in Raleigh, seeking their help in performing supervised trials of her remedy with the expectation that, having seen its usefulness, they would prescribe the medication. They turned her down, and, for several months, she seemed to have lost her buoyancy about the future of business. However, in the fall, she traveled to Charlotte for the same purpose, and there she was more successful.

In Charlotte, Alice tried a more direct approach. She had only a few circulars describing “Mrs. Joe Person’s Remedy” and could not afford to print more, so she attached a label to each one that asked the recipient to read and save the circular which she would pick up the next day. She then left them at every house along a prominent Charlotte street. The next day, when she called to redeem her circulars, she was invited into many homes to talk about it, but she didn’t sell a single bottle. However, within two weeks of returning home, she began to receive orders from Charlotte doctors whose patients were asking for it. She had developed a successful marketing strategy which she continued to use.

Mrs. Person’s story is one of many ups and downs. She spent a good part of her life on the road, visiting towns and stopping at houses throughout the area of North Carolina east of Charlotte and in central South Carolina and Central and eastern Virginia. She kept a record of the places she stayed—those that were satisfactory and those where she would not stop again.

She worked with several partners, all of whom turned out to be unsatisfactory—one embezzled from her, one failed to pay her the agreed on price for his partnership, and one didn’t understand her business methods. Despite these setbacks, she persevered and somehow managed to provide for her family.
Before the Remedy

Alice Morgan Person’s beginnings were ordinary enough. She was born in Petersburg, VA in 1840. Her father was often in financial straits, but she seemed to have received a good education for that time. She married Joseph Arrington Person in 1857 when she was 17 and he was 42.
Joseph, who was from Franklin Co., NC, was well-to-do and he and his bride made their home at Greenwood, his 466 acre plantation. In her autobiography she says: “…I found that my lines had indeed been cast in pleasant places. Not a care, not a responsibility, not a thought or fear for the future did I have.”

But this ideal life did not last long. The Civil War was just around the corner and change was coming for the Person family. Joseph suffered a debilitating stroke in 1863 and was no longer able to look after his growing family. Alice says, after the end of the war: “At one fell stroke our means of income were swept away and we were left … with only a tract of land, which my husband was powerless to look after, and a family of little children depending upon us. Our income became less and less and I knew we were powerless to stem the tide. My husband’s condition improved so that he could walk around some, look after his stock, hitch his horse to the buggy and visit his neighbors, could saddle his horse and ride to town, but, as a man of business, his career was ended.” [Joe Person died on April 8, 1884. A few months before he died, Person signed the documentation necessary for Alice Person to register herself as a free trader. This was not possible without her husband’s permission.]
As the years passed and the Person family continued to grow, Alice felt she had two choices: try to make a living on the land, with the help of her children, or sell the land and use the money to continue their way of life. She chose the latter. But the money could not last forever, and she began to dream of what she could do with her marvelous remedy. And so, when the time came, she was ready.

How did she know what to do? How did she know about registering her trademark and formula? How did she arrive at a design for the packaging for her remedy or know where to get it? How did she know how to write the circulars that were her main tool for selling her product? How did she have the courage to leave home and live the life of a door-to-door saleswoman? It is hard to imagine where her knowledge and strength originated.
Her Music

Alice Person was not satisfied with a single career. Beginning in the mid-1880s, she found a way to add to the family income with her piano-playing ability. She began traveling to fairs and expositions where she was employed to demonstrate pianos. She also played regularly at a hotel near Kittrell, Vance Co., NC. In 1889, she published an assortment of her musical arrangements, Collection of Popular Airs as Arranged and Played Only by Mrs. Joe Person at the Southern Expositions. From then on, she was busy selling both the remedy and the music.


Mrs. Person’s son, Rufus, joined his mother’s business in 1887. By that time, the operation had been set up in Kittrell, N. C. In 1898, the Kittrell laboratory burned and had to be rebuilt. In1904, mother and son moved the enterprise to Charlotte. In 1910, the company was incorporated as the Mrs. Joe Person’s Remedy Company and in that same year, Rufus leased the remedy and trademark to Guy Barnes. After Mr. Barnes died in 1916, Rufus again took up the reins and continued the company as the sole proprietor. It was finally closed in 1943 when no buyer could be found for it.

Seeing the West

Alice and her sister Lucy traveled to San Diego in 1908 to visit the grave of her brother Rufus who had died there after eating poisonous mushrooms. The sisters made a second trip out west in 1911 and were in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on their third western journey when Alice Morgan Person died suddenly of a stroke on June 12, 1913. Her sister brought her back to Charlotte for burial.

Preserving the Memories

Beginning in October 2007, several people donated material about Alice Morgan Person to the East Carolina University Library. This included copies of her musical publications. In 2009, David Hursh, head music librarian and associate professor at East Carolina University’s J.Y. Joyner Library, published a biography of Alice Person which also included her own autobiography. The book is Good Medicine and Good Music. He also assembled a digital collection from the material in the Alice Morgan Person Collection. The music she played at the expositions around the south can be heard by accessing the ECU Digital Collection at:    Select Alice Person: Good Medicine and Good Music, Browse, and select Collection of Popular Airs and Plantation Melodies  or Transcription of the beautiful song The blue Alsatian mountains. Click on Audio File(s) to hear any of the songs in the collections.

Source: The material for this story was taken from Good Medicine and Good Music by David Hursh and Chris Goertzen [McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers: Jefferson, North Carolina and London] 2009.

The illustrations were taken from the Alice Morgan Person Collection (#1116), Special Collections Department, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA which can be found at:

The University of North Carolina also has a collection of Alice Person papers in the Southern Historical Collection: Collection Number 03987, Alice Morgan Person Papers, 1872-1972. A description of this collection can be found at :,Alice_Morgan.html