This is the first of three entries in a special Halloween-inspired blog series highlighting a collection of ghost stories, legends, folklore, and facts from North Carolina. Like sweet tea and college basketball, folklore is a major part of North Carolina’s cultural heritage. Legends and stories passed down from generations keep the state’s history alive and ultimately help us remember life as it once was.
The Murder Mystery of Nell Cropsey
On November 21, 1901, Nell Cropsey mysteriously vanished from her family home near the Elizabeth City waterfront. Her body was discovered nearby in the Pasquotank river 37 days later, a mere 130 yards from where she was last seen. The first glaring suspect: Jim Wilcox, her suitor. Despite two trials and the subsequent conviction of Wilcox, many questions about her death remain unanswered. Some say her spirit haunts her family home to this day.
[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]
1st Lt. Bennis M. Blue (third from right) pictured during parachute jump training for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1978. Blue was the first female officer of the 82nd Airborne. From the Bennis M. Blue Papers, Cold War Papers, Military Collection.
The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina is excited to announce the launch of the digital Veterans Oral History Collection through the North Carolina Digital Collections. The interviews, conducted since 2015 as audio interviews, are part of the Military Collection’s North Carolina Veterans Oral History Program, whose goal is to capture and provide access to the memories and experiences of the military servicemen and servicewomen from North Carolina, preserving them for the future scholarship. The collection is comprised of more than 1,100 oral history interviews, the majority of which are in analog formats and scheduled for future digitization. These initial 25 interviews—all conducted with state-of-the-art digital audio recorders used by the State Archives—document veterans from World War II to the Iraq War, as well as individuals serving during peacetime.
The interviews include: a U.S. Army helicopter crew chief who flew missions in Cambodia during the Vietnam War; women who served during the integration of the Women’s Army Corps into the regular Army in 1978; a U.S. Air Force Russian language specialist conducting radio communications surveillance by aircraft of Soviet Union radio communications from the northern Arctic coast of Russia during the 1970s; and a woman whose family farm was taken under eminent domain for the creation of Camp Butner in 1942. There are also interviews with Vietnam War intelligence officers, U.S. Air Force communications specialists during the era around the September 11th attacks and the early days of the Iraq War, and a U.S. Army Air Force as a tail gunner with the 14th Air Force in China during WWII.
Additional interviews will be added as they are conducted in the coming years. The audio is available for streaming only through the Internet Archive, linked through pages on the North Carolina Digital Collections. In the future, interview summaries with subjects and time dates will be uploaded, to increase access to the interviews. Digital copies of the interviews can be ordered through the State Archives’ Reference Unit under the duplication services for audiovisual materials.
“Sawyer, Thomas 1771,” from the District Superior Court Records, one of the new collections being added to the NC Digital Collections.
The State Archives of North Carolina will be closed Sept. 2-4, 2017 for the Labor Day holiday. However, our online catalog and digital collections are available to you any time. Over the last few months we’ve added several new collections to the North Carolina Digital Collections, so watch for upcoming blog posts about those materials.
In other news, if you don’t follow our records management blog you may have missed these posts:
Deciphering the Handwritten Records of Early America
Since beginning my work with digitizing the General Assembly Session Records collection at the State Archives, I have had to do a bit of research on how to effectively interpret 18th century manuscripts in order create the appropriate metadata for the records and improve discoverability of these records in our digital collection. The following sections include a brief history of writing during this time period, characteristics of 17th and 18th century British-American handwriting, and some tips on deciphering the text found within these records.
Deciphering the Handwritten Records of Early America
Since beginning my work with digitizing the General Assembly Session Records collection at the State Archives, I have had to do a bit of research on how to effectively interpret 18th century manuscripts in order create the appropriate metadata for the records and improve discoverability of these records in our digital collection. The following sections include a brief history of writing during this time period, characteristics of 17th and 18th century British-American handwriting, and some tips on deciphering the text found within these records. This is the first blog post of a series on how to read handwritten colonial documents.
As a skill most take for granted today, writing was not a widespread accomplishment during this time period; however, with the growth of commerce and industry, the need for this skill became more apparent.
According to Monaghan (1988), reading and writing were considered to be two separate endeavors, as the ability to read was not dependent on the ability to write. Initially, reading was simply a means to an end—a skill that provided direct access to the Scripture. The Bible was this era’s most popular book, so it comes as no surprise that it was the first text children learned to read. Thornton (1998) contends that “reading was taught first, as a universal spiritual need; writing was taught second, and then only to some.”
Session of November-December, 1768: Lower House Papers, messages to and from Governor Tryon. Available online through the NC Digital Collections.
The General Assembly Session Records collection is now available online via the North Carolina Digital Collections. This collection features records of early North Carolina state legislatures from the State Archives of North Carolina. The documents consist of bills and resolutions, petitions, committee reports, messages from the governor, legislative messages, tally sheets, election certificates, resignations, and other material related to the work of each session of the General Assembly. The physical collection includes items from 1709 through 1999, but the digital collection will focus on the earliest materials. This digital collection is currently in progress, and more items will be added as they are digitized. Check back for future updates on the status of this project.
While the first official assembly was said to occur around 1665, it wasn’t until 1776 that the first state constitution was ratified by the “representatives of the freemen” and the General Assembly was given full legislative power as well as the authority to choose all state executive and judicial officers. Several amendments have been made to the state’s constitution over time, which has altered the powers and structure of the General Assembly.
For more information on the history of the North Carolina General Assembly, please check out these NCpedia pages developed by the State Library:
For more information on the General Assembly Session Records collection, please search our MARS catalog. Another digital collection of interest includes the Federal State and Constitutional Materials, which highlight North Carolina government’s role in the ratification of federal amendments and its own internal efforts to protect the rights of its citizens dating back to the Declaration of Rights in 1776.
April 6, 2017 marked the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I. This summer several North Carolina institutions are teaming up to share World War I history through social media. Every Wednesday from June through August, they will post information about items from their collections using the hashtag #WWIWednesday. The groups taking part include:
Follow the conversation on social media this summer to learn more about North Carolina’s role in World War I.
Postcard: “When shall we meet again,” addressed to Warren McNeill, Sept. 14, 1918. From the Warren C. McNeill Papers, part of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina. Available online through the North Carolina Digital Collections.