Sunday, June 21, 2020


AMY BURFOOT, SR. ca 1734-1798
AMY BURFOOT, JR. ca 1760-1810
Mother and Daughter

     "When Amy Burfoot became a widow in 1780, she faced two conventional modes of procedure. She could remain more or less in retirement, performing such tasks as carding, spinning and weaving while managing her estate. Or after what was considered a decent interval, she could take another husband, leaving the management of the estate to him, while she still continued to card, spin, and such like. … Amy Burfoot … decided not to proceed according to the conventional pattern; she decided to employ her own talents in a business world which the menfolk considered reserved for their activities alone.
    " … Quite probably she encountered some masculine resentment at what was considered an improper feminine intrusion in an arena reserved heretofore for the male population. She also labored under another handicap in not being able to write her name … . Nothing daunted and with confidence, she embarked upon her career with vigor. Sometimes a deed reads as if she had dictated it, as, for an illustration, 'this being the very spot I bought of Josiah Gallop.' Her transactions were never large, … but they were regular and continuous until her death. …"

Map of Camden County
     Amy Sr.'s daughter, Amy Jr. was as practical as her mother. "She was a minor when her father died in 1780. About the same time the elderly John Griffin, well-to-do planter and millwright, became a widower. Before long he looked about him, as widowers often do, and proposed to the young Amy.
     "Now John Griffin was a highly respectable citizen and his possessions were sufficient to insure a wife a comfortable existence. Amy herself was not entirely destitute, having (received a small inheritance from her father.) Since a husband in those days practically acquired control of his wife's property, however, she may have been disturbed as to what provision an elderly widower with children might make for his second wife. … She may have felt that with her youth and the groom's advanced years, merely a marriage would hardly be a fair transaction for her. … Before she married (John), he deeded the prospective bride one hundred and fifty acres of land, ten slaves and a windmill, in fact all his possessions except the property he had acquired from his first wife.
     "… John Griffin and Amy were married. She bore him a son and a daughter. He seems to have been quite happy with the marriage inasmuch as at his death after nine years he left to his wife additional properties to those he had given her before the ceremony.
     "As a widow Amy Griffin faced a situation similar to that which her mother had known. She was still less than thirty years old and, unlike her mother, she decided to marry again. The situation was now somewhat in reverse to that of her first marriage. She had two young children, and there was the possibility that after marriage the control her husband would acquire over her property would deprive those children of what she considered rightfully theirs. Her fiance was an excellent young man, but before she married him she deeded to young Samuel and Fanny Griffin the real estate which had been given her by their father. …
    "Amy Griffin went on to marry Jonathan Lindsey of Currituck, and from all appearances they lived happily ever after. They negotiated several business transactions and they prospered, the husband no doubt receiving practical assistance from his astute helpmeet."

[Taken from Three Hundred Years Along the Pasquotank, A Biographical History of Camden County by Jesse Forbes Pugh, 1957]

Saturday, June 20, 2020


Thousands Saw Aviators, 
Flying From Washington to Fayetteville.

     Hundreds of Henderson (Vance County) people Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning got their first close up view of the big army airplane. Speaking of the incident the Henderson Daily Dispatch says:
     "The airmen circled over the city for ten or fifteen minutes Tuesday afternoon before they could find a place to alight. They viewed from aloft the race track at the fair grounds and also open lots to the south of the city, but none of these were suitable. The open field just to the left of the Middleburg road, beyond North Henderson, offered them their one best chance, and, as Lieutenant Murray said at  the hotel Tuesday night, it seemed so difficult to find a landing that he was 'beginning to pray for some soft trees to drop into.' It  would have been impossible for them to have remained in the air for more than a very few minutes longer, the flyers said, for gasoline was getting extremely low.
We don't know what plane landed in Henderson, but this is a Dayton-Wright DH-4 which was in use at that time.
Dayton-Wright Airplane Company

     "They said Henderson was on a direct air line between Washington and Fayetteville (Cumberland County), and that if it would prepare a landing field and let the army aviators know it, many of them would put in here for gasoline and spend the night when passing. It was their view, too, that there would be much flying from this time on through this section, the planes traveling between Washington and other points north to the artillery training station at Camp Bragg, at Fayetteville, which is to be a permanent camp for the future."
[Henderson Oxford Public Ledger ]

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Burning of the Steamer Greenville.

(Cor. of The News and Observer.)

     WASHINGTON, N.C., September 17, 1880.
     An alarm of fire was given at 8 o'clock this morning and the entire fire department turned out promptly. The steamer Greenville was found to be in flames, and although two streams of water were soon playing upon her, the fire gained headway for several minutes. The hurricane deck, various saloons, pilot house, engine rooms, &c., were composed of inflammable material, so that the flames shot with fearful rapidity from one part to another until all the woodwork above the lower deck was destroyed. The hull was saved almost intact and the boiler and engine are not materially injured. The loss is estimated at from $2,000 to $2,500. Current report at this instant says she is insured for $5,000. I can get no reliable information on this point, her owner being absent. The steamer Greenville is owned by Capt. A. W. Styron and runs from this point to Tarboro (Edgecombe County) in connection with the Northern Clyde line.
Steamship Greenville
Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center in Morehead City, NC
     The fire is supposed to have originated by the explosion of a kerosene lamp in one of the saloons. No other loss occurred, although several warehouses were in imminent danger.

[News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) 19 Sept 1889]

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Hardy Robinson
          Hardy Robinson of Pitt County, NC applied for a Revolutionary War pension on November 3, 1818. In his application, he gave an account of his service.
            Robinson enlisted in Bertie County and joined a company commanded by Capt. Redding Blount of the 10th Regiment of NC on July 20, 1778. He served until July 5, 1779 when he was discharged at Halifax, NC.
            Hardy Robinson was not in battle during the war. Instead, he spent much of the time working on a Fort at West Point.
            At the time of his application Hardy Robinson was in reduced circumstances and the following is a schedule of his property.
     one Horse bridle & saddle $70
     One pair of scissors $0.10
     One Cow & calf $15
     two chunk Bottles $0.20
     One Sow and Eight Shotes Seven or eight months old $8
     A ½ doz. Knives & forks $0.40
     one wheel and cards $1
     Two Benches one Small pot $0.50
     Fifteen Dollars owing $15.00
     one dutch oven $1.25
     one Axe $1
     one skillet $.50
     Two weeding hoes $1
     Two Cutter plows $2
     Two Baskets $0.50
     one scouter plow $0.75
     Corn standing in the field say about 20 barrels out of which $40 Rent is to be paid $5
     one shovel plow $0.75
     ½ Barrel flour $1.50
     one gimblet
Gimblet - Hand Drill
Taken from Etsy:

     15 or 20 lbs of salted Beef $0.50   
      half Dozen spoons $0.25
     half dozen earthen plates $0.25
     1 Pail 1 Piggin $0.50
Piggin - a small wooden pail with one stave extended upward as a handle
From Merriam-Webster Dictionary
      I certify that the above Schedule contains a true account of the whole of my property of every description.
S/ Hardy Robinson, X his mark
[Taken from Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Pension Statements at]

Aeroplane's Limitations
as Seen by an Expert
[Orville Wright]
      In the opinion of one of the most celebrated air-sailors of the present day, the aeroplane, which he regards as the most practicable vehicle used for flights through the air,will never do much of a passenger business. And if this is true of the aeroplane as a common carrier, how much more true must it be when taken in connection with these military "invasions" about which so much has been written? Anyhow, this is what Orville Wright said just before he sailed for Europe this week to join his brother, Wilbur: 
     "I believe our machine is he best means of navigating the air. The aeroplane will fly faster, is cheaper to run and easier to handle than any other machine. The airship will have its uses, but will never be as practicable as the aeroplane.

[Soldiers at Fort Myer pull the 1909 Wright Military Flyer out of its temporary hangar.
Taken from Wright Brothers Aeroplane Compay website: ]

     "I do not think that air machines will ever take the place of trains and boats as passenger carriers. Our present machines, of course, are not built to carry more than four or five persons, but when the demand comes we will build machines that will carry a great many more. I would not begin to predict what the passenger limit of the aeroplane will be, but I believe it will eventually be used in special passenger service, to transport a small number of passengers from point to point."
     The English—even more so than the French—have been expressing alarm over the prospect of an aerial invasion by "the enemy." According to one estimate that has served to excite the London fire-eaters, an invading army of 100,000 men could be borne across the channel during the night. It sounds terribly practical to the layman, in view of the successes made by the Wrights; but Orville Wright now wakes the dreamers up rather rudely. Practicable as the aeroplane is, its use is apparently very limited. And this authoritative view is matched by the opinion offered by a foreign scientist, who shows that even if it were possible for all the aeroplanes that would be required to carry 100,000, an army of invasion, to make a massed attack, which, he argues, it is not, the still greater difficulty would remain of directing the movements of the aeroplanes safely and smoothly.
     These views are not merely conservative; they are eminently sensible.

[Raleigh Times (Raleigh, NC) 13 Jan 1909

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Who Stole the Pork?

        I THINK Mr. S. T. Jennings must be mistaken in his dates about “Who Stole the Pork?” for my regiment moved to Deep Creek, Virginia, on the 9th of March 1863. The reason I have the time so well fixed in my mind is that my father, who was in the same regiment, said to me, “You can remember this as long as you live, because it is your birthday.” We left there a few days before the battle at Gettysburg, and raided that country all the way to South Mills, [Camden County] North Carolina, and there were not ten loads of pork in all that country. Jennings says they stole ten loads of pork from th4e First New York Mounted Rifles, which they had captured from the farmers along the Deep Creek Canal. I went with a squad twenty-two miles out one day to look for some pork, and all we got was one small pig, and we had to kill that.
[Western Veteran (Topeka, Kansas) 8 May 1889]

Sunday, June 14, 2020


            Poughkeepsie, Dec. 19.—On Saturday Officer Thomas P. Bryant, of Hudson, came to this city and informed the Police here that, at 3 o’clock in the morning, he had arrested a well-dressed man in Hudson, who was suspiciously loitering about a store on Warren Street. On him were found letters which seem to indicate that a serious crime had been committed at Greenville, Pitt County, N. C. When arrested he gave his name as “John Y. Johnson, of Washington, D. C.,” but afterward said the last place he came from was Poughkeepsie, where he had been a student in a college. One letter found on him was addressed to “H. E. Nelson, Poughkeepsie,” and dated “Greenville, Saturday, Oct. 30,” and signed “Your devoted wife, Lizzie Nelson.” Besides other matters of a private nature are these sentences:
            “I do not know what to write you. In your first letter you expect me to believe you are coming home. You know that I know you can never, no, never, come home again. If you had given me more warning when you left, if you had intimated anything was wrong, if you had let me know it was an everlasting farewell, it would not have been so hard. *** You know I expected to go to the convention, and of course went to work to get ready. If you had only warned me. *** Let me hear from you. Do not run any risk to do so. I am afraid to send this. This may be the last you will ever get from me.”
            Another letter found on him was dated Poughkeepsie, Nov. 23, but not signed. It was addressed to no one, and seems not to have been enveloped. Among other things in it are the following:
            “I have only been a drawback to you ever since I was married to you. It is hard, so hard, to part with you. While I may have treated you wrong in a great man instances, your happiness was my only thought. But it is all over now. I have nothing more to look forward to. Our little boy is too young to know anything. My only hope is to see you and the baby once more and kiss you both and lay down and die beside my little girl. When you have received this I shall have solve the great mystery. I shall, the good God willing, be with my little girl and my mother in that better world. I shall have learned whether the good God is lenient or kind with such a wre3tched man as I am. I shall be before God to receive the reward; I am not afraid to go; not afraid to meet my darling little girl. And Oh, my darling, we will plead so much for your happiness. You must look as everything happening for the best. I would have only been a burden to you. You have no further risk to run in writing to me. This is the last letter a human being will receive from my hands, and this requires no answer, for in a few hours, if the Bible is true, I shall know what the future is. My last words and blessing, and a prayer to good God to watch over you that you may know no want or suffering. Kiss our little boy good-bye for me, and for God’s sake, for the love you have for me, don’t let him forget me. If I could take you in my arms and kiss you both, but to die so far away from home is hard. May God forever bless and keep you, and may we meet in that other world where all is brightness and joy and peace, is the last prayer and last words of your miserable husband.”
            The above, it will be seen, was penned a month ago. There was also found on the man a diary, in which was written the following:
            “Left Poughkeepsie on my tramp Dec. 14; roads full of ice and snow, and I walked 13 miles with nothing to eat. I passed through Pleasant Valley and Washington Hollow, and slept in a barn with a farm Laborer.
            “Dec. 15—Started at 8 A.M. and passed through Clinton Corners, where I bought 10 cents’ worth of crackers and cheese, and staid all night with a Mr. Case, at Case’s Corners, where I was well treated.
“Dec. 16—Started again at 8 A.M., and Dr. Herrick gave me a ride for a mile. Then I walked and passed through Rock City, Upper Red Hook, Clermont, and Blue Stones. Staid all night at this latter place, at a farm-house.”
            The diary contains no record of what he did on the 17th. When he was arrested he said he was looking for work. He said that the letters found on him were given to him in Savannah, Ga., by a man named Nelson to send to Greenville, but he had neglected it. While a student in Poughkeepsie he boarded in Crandell Street, and went away owing considerable board, and also took a student’s overcoat, which the Hudson Police have recovered. When he first came here he seemed to have plenty of money, and paid his tuition fee in advance and paid some board in advance. He also spent money freely among companions. Ion his diary also wee names of females known to the Police as disreputable. It also contained numbers of disreputable houses and sporting houses in New York City. One letter found on him was, apparently, from his sister, and in it she thanks him for a large sum of money sent her to complete her education at some college. The entire case is yet shrouded in mystery, though the Hudson police are of the opinion that the prisoner has committed a serious crime. Letters describing the case have been seen to Greenville, Pitt County, N. C.

[The New York Times, Published December 20, 1880]

Henry E. Nelson, the Defaulting Postmaster at Greenville, in Limbo Here—His Crime and its Consequences

            As was mentioned in this paper yesterday, Col. T. B. Long, superintendent of the United States mail service for this district, on Sunday brought H. E. Nelson, the defaulting postmaster at Greenville, N.C., to this city from New York, and placed him in the care and keeping of Sheriff Nowell. We had an interview with Nelson in his cell, and he was quite outspoken. Entering the jail, we gained access to the upper floor through a tiny doorway, and thence to a cell at the northwest angle of the building. In this lies the prisoner, in company with two other culprits.
            There was a clank and a clash of bolts and bars and the double doors swung open. Entering the cell, the first thing observable in the uncertain light was the figure of a man standing with pipe in mouth at a window slit. This proved to be the prisoner Nelson, about whom so much has been said. He is a man 36 years of age, and looks all of it. Rather squat in figure, he has a tolerably heavy beard, and is poorly clad. His manner impresses one by its uncertainty, for while at times he looks at one squarely, at others there is a sinister shifting of the glance, coupled with a dogged look.
            The man speaks in a mater-of-fact way of his crime and its consequences, acknowledging his faults, reproaching himself bitterly for his cowardice and expressing a willingness to accept the consequences, how hard so ever they may be. His statement of the facts of his life and the crime is as follows:
            … He was appointed postmaster at Greenville, Pitt county, in February of the present year. He held the office until August, when he was horrified, he says, to find that he was behind in his accounts. He was too great a coward to go and face the sureties on his $10,000 bond and tell them of his deficiency. His only idea was to get away, and, as he declares, get into some employment in which he could make enough money to set his accounts square by reimbursing his sureties. He went to New York, therefore, in the latter part of August, and in a day or two went thence to Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson, where, under the name of J. Y. Johnson, he entered as a pupil of the great business college there. He had in earlier life studied bookkeeping, and his desire was to perfect himself. He only remained at the school about nine weeks, and then concluded to come home. He had gotten as far as New York City, when his pocket was picked of all his money, which was but little, he declares. He managed to get back to Poughkeepsie in a few days. He knocked about there for a space, finding no employment, until finally he met a man who informed him that work was probably to be had at Hudson, a town forty miles away.
            To this town of Hudson Nelson then tramped, arriving there about two weeks ago. He reached the place late at night and started out to walk the streets until morning. About 3 o’clock in the morning a policeman arrested him and took him to the station house. There the officer charged him with being with a couple of men who were engaged in an attempt to enter and rob a jewelry store. These two men had been watched by the policeman and had finally run off. Nelson declares that he neither knew nor saw the two men, but was merely walking along the street. The authorities searched him, and on his person were found [the letters presented above.]        … Col. Thos. B. Long at once went to Hudson after him. He … was brought to this city. Nelson … refused an offer of bail which was made.
            The prisoner throughout the interview reproached himself bitterly for “not being man enough to face his sureties.”  He declared that in all the months he was absent life was a terror and a curse to him. He was glad to be back in North Carolina, though he lay in jail, for he had had more peace of mind since Col. Long got hold of him. “Life had been a perfect hell,” said he, and remorse and shame struggled for the mastery. He declared that he would not give bail unless he became seriously sick.
            In regard to the shortage of his accounts as postmaster, he was rather reticent, saying that in his hurried examination in August last, when he first discovered it, he estimated it at about $600. Col. Long estimated it at $1,800, and that amount his sureties were called on to pay. Both the post office and money order accounts were involved.
            Nelson says he wrote his wife only once while away, signing his own name to the letter. This he did while at Poughkeepsie as J. Y. Johnson. She had written him once using his own name. He did not tell her of the deficiency in his accounts before he left home, but the investigation by Col. Long in August showed her the facts in the case.

[News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) 31 Dec 1880]

Monday, June 8, 2020

Chowan River Bridge

            A map of northeastern North Carolina shows a small cluster of counties dangling from the southeastern corner of Virginia, cut off from the rest of the state by the Chowan River. Until 1927, these counties were only accessible by boat or from Virginia. The isolated counties were Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, and Currituck. 

Six NC Counties Cut Off By Chowan River

            A bridge between Windsor (Bertie County) and Edenton (Chowan County) was approved in 1925 and the Chowan River Bridge was opened to the public on 2 July 1927. It was 1.5 miles long, the longest bridge in the state, and reduced the distance between Edenton and Windsor from 89 miles to 21 ½ miles.
            The official opening of the bridge on July 20 was a spectacular event. The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) 21 July 1927 said: 
No Such Spectacle Seen By This Generation In State As That Yesterday at Eden House; While Bands Play, Throng Yells and Aircraft Motors Buzz, Ribbon Is Cut Removing Last Symbolic Hindrance To Union of Rich North East With The State; Admirals of The Navy, Generals of The Army and Men High In Public and Private life Present For Momentous Occasion; Edenton Distinguishes Itself Forever In Manner In Which It Handles Big Undertaking.
            Ben Dixon MacNeill, a reporter with the News & Observer, described his experience at the opening in his column, “Cellar and Garret” on 26 July 1927:
            “… most magnificent spectacle I have ever witnessed, and … the most delightful experience I have had this year. It was almost worth living a generation for. …I climbed aboard a naval torpedo airplane in Edenton Bay and after a little was wandering around in the sky above the bay and the river and the bridge. It was a big ship, and I could walk around and poke my head out first one window of the big cabin and then another.
            Scarcely had Lieutenant Commander Moloney pulled the craft gently out of the water when we began to have company in the air. Flying low over the great oaks at Hayes came the army dirigible TC-5, almost dragging its anchor-lines on the tree tops. Then its sister ship the TC-9i came over, and together we went toward the bridge where the celebration was to be presently staged. Beneath us the revenue cutter Pamlico was steaming its way slowly, and from its decks came faithfully the strains of martial music.
            At first the bridge looked like a spring stretched across the two miles of water, and as we drew nearer it widened. We came lower and swooped down, almost touching the masts of the cutter and soaring upward. The torpedo ship rode the air smoothly and easily, its great motor roaring. The slower dirigibles wee coming along in the rear, seeming scarcely to move. The bridge became a bridge, and there were automobiles crawling along its length. If you looked carefully enough the ceremonial ribbon across the Bertie end of the bridge could be seen. From out of the mists came a squadron of army observation ships, swift and magnificent, sweeping out of the haze in wild-goose formation. They wheeled and turned back, circling for their bearings. The dirigibles cruised over the scene and the navy ships zoomed and climbed up. Then the hour of the ceremony came, and the pilots of the aircraft, observing the time, moved across for the processional. The official parade arrived at the eastern end of the bridge.
            The dirigibles crossed over and turned, flying close together and low over the bridge. The squadron of army ships came over and took up position above and behind the dirigibles, and the big torpedo planes of the navy above and behind them, with their motors throttled back and drifting serenely. The parade moved across the bridge—the groundling automobiles bearing a distinguished company, and above them the silver dirigibles and above them the yellow-winged observation squadron and above them the navy’s craft.

            Never has there been such a parade anywhere. It almost made one delirious to look down upon the spectacle. I guess I behaved like a child at a Christmas tree. Anyway, I had my head poked far out of the rear cockpit, in the full stream of the exhaust from the great motor that was carrying us. I got dirty, but I had an enormous time. The procession moved on and came to the place of ceremony. The pilots gave their mounts full throttle and they soared up and broke the magic formation.
            Time may bring me to witness such another spectacle and I shall hesitate at no length of accumulating grim to be able to witness it. My white pants can get as black as Egypt and such hair as I have accumulate all the exhaust a motor can discharge and all the talkative females in Christendom can assemble to discuss my deplorable condition, but I shall give the, no mind. It was worth it.”