Friday, November 16, 2018



An Extract from Cowper’s Reminiscences of the Good Old Times Before the War in Northampton County.

            In his reminiscences in the Patron and Gleaner (Rich Square, Northampton County, NC) this week, Mr. Pulaski Cowper tells of some practical jokes played in the old times in Jackson (Northampton Co.) by Mr. John M. Calvert, who had a keen sense of the ridiculous and a quick perception of a practical joke. After giving some of the jokes Mr. Calvert played on others, Mr. Cowper does not spare himself, but adds the following story, which appeared in the Washington Post some years ago:
            “Some years ago Col. Pulaski Cowper… was reading law in the town of Jackson, the county seat of Northampton County.
            “In the vicinity of Jackson lived Uncle Tom Wheeler. …It is said Uncle Tom was possessed of considerable means though somewhat miserly. At any rate, very few people saw him spending money.
           “One characteristic of Uncle Tom was, when away from home he was never seen without his gun, ‘Old Betsy,’ as he always called it. … Though he never went anywhere without his gun, no one ever saw him with any game.
            “It made but little difference in what direction Uncle Tom started from home to take a ‘little hunt,’ it was always nearer to go via Jackson; and some of his neighbors insinuated that the ‘wet groceries’ had some attraction for him, as it was almost a daily occurrence for him to be seen in town, and while he was ever ready, if drinks were proposed, he was never known to ‘set ‘em up.’
The occupation of Jackson, Northampton County, in 1863.
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, August 29, 1863, p. 368. Neg. 80-455. FP1-46-W79-C582w-C18.
            “This reminiscence occurred during a court in Jackson, and, on account of an important case to be tried, there were a large number of people in attendance, estimated by some at five thousand. Near the court house was the store of Mr. John Randolph. … In the South, the storehouse in the towns and villages is not considered complete without a piazza in front. Randolph’s store had a very large one, on which were seated some fifteen or twenty men, including Uncle Tom. He had set ‘Old Betsy’ inside the store near the door, and he was sitting in the porch. …  
            Col. Cowper had become somewhat weary at the wrangling of the lawyers, over the admission of some evidence, so he took up his hat and walked out of the court house over to Randolph’s store, where he found the crowd in the porch teasing Uncle Tom about always carrying his gun and never having any game and some intimated that they did not believe he could kill anything. 
          Col. Cowper, seeing Mr. John Calvert, who was inside the store, take up the gun, and draw out the shot, leaving only the powder in, and set it back where Uncle Tom had left it, and being confident he had a ‘sure thing’ on the old man, joined in with the others in teasing him. Col. Cowper proposed to bet treats for the crowd that Uncle Tom could not hit his hat, if placed on a large oak stump about fifteen feet off. (Col. Cowper had on a fine silk hat, for which he paid $5.00 the day before.) Uncle Tom said ‘Well Laski,’ (that’s what he always called the Colonel) ‘I don’t want to hurt your new hat, but as you insist upon it, and propose drinks for the crowd, and as I feel a little dry, if you will let me take a rest, I’ll see what Old Betsy can do.”  
            “The Colonel said, ‘All right, you can take a rest, and sit down too, if you like.’ He sent five of six boys around town to tell everybody to come quick round to Randolph’s store, there was going to be a ‘free treat.’ He and Uncle Tom then went to the oak stump to put the hat in position. It was some little time before Uncle Tom could place the hat just exactly as he wanted it. While all this was going on, John Calvert took up the gun, which was near to the shot pouch, and filled her about half full of shot and set it back in place.

Starting from the 1890s, the blazer wasintroduced, and was worn forsports, sailing, and other casual activities.Throughout...
Taken from "Fashion in the Victorian Era and Regency Period"
            “Everything in readiness, Uncle Tom took up his gun, remarking, ‘Old Betsy, you have never failed me. Now do your best.’ Seating himself in a chair he rested the gun on the railing, took aim, pulled the trigger. Uncle Tom was picked up at the other end of the piazza, and the gun went cavorting through the air, and landed on the other side of the street. The hat, not a piece of it as big as a ten cent piece, could be found in the whole town. ‘Snaked by jings,’ exclaimed Col. Cowper. ‘A conspiracy—some one has played fool on me, but I’ll set ‘em up.’ All were invited to a saloon near by, where he arranged with the proprietor for drinks for the crowd. The Colonel then went to the hotel to get his dinner, and about two o’clock p.m. the line was formed, and the drinking commenced. They would go in at the front door, get a drink, and pass out at the rear.
            “About sunset the colonel went over to settle the bill, when to his astonishment, the drinking was still going on. The line had resolved in a ring, and was repeating, and ever and anon there would go up a yell, ‘Rah for Cowper.’ He called a halt on the bar-tender, who, knowing the Colonel’s ability to pay, was keeping the glasses filled. He asked for the amount of the bill. The proprietor told him it would take some time to count it up, as he had chalked it down on the side of the house. The Colonel asked how many barrels they had drank, and was told about two. He said he would pay for it at wholesale prices, and it was compromised for $117.50.
            “Colonel Cowper became so disgusted with the whole affair that he resolved to give up the study of law, and immediately packed his trunk, and hired a man to take him to the railroad. Just outside the town, on ascending a hill, an obstruction was noticed in the road. The driver got down to see what it was, and reported that a cart was bottom upwards. They took hold to remove it, when a voice underneath stammered out, ‘Hic: come in boys, free treat—rah for Cowper.’
            “Reaching the station, the colonel took the first train for Raleigh, (Wake County) where he opened an insurance office, and he is today considered one of the best and most reliable insurance men in or out of the State.”

[From the News and Observer (Raleigh, NC) 8 April 1897]

*Pulaski Cowper (1832-1901) was the son of  Lewis Meredith and Annice Collins Cowper. He grew up in Murfreesboro, Hertford County and studied law under Thomas Bragg of Jackson, Northampton County. He became private secretary to Thomas Bragg when he became governor. During the Civil War, he was clerk to Gen. Mallet in the conscript Dept. in Greensboro. After the war, he became involved in the insurance business, and for a number of years was the president of the North Carolina Home Insurance co. of Raleigh

            Cowper write for the University Magazine in Chapel Hill and for several newspapers. He also wrote biographies of Gov. Bragg, Judge David Caldwell, and compiled letters of Gen. Bryan Grimes to his wife during the war.

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