Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The ghost town of Buffalo City

Continuing with our recent theme of North Carolina places ...

I had no idea that there was a "booming" town of Buffalo City in Dare County way back when. In fact (according to Wikipedia), Buffalo City's population of 3,000 in the early 20th century "made it the largest community in Dare County."

Buffalo City was apparently "a logging and moonshine town in Dare County, North Carolina. It was on the mainland, 19 miles (31 km) west of Mantoe, near present-day Manns Harbor. The marshy land where Buffalo City once stood, near U.S. 64, is now part of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The town's history lasted approximately 80 years from the 1870s to 1950s ... A hotel, post office, schoolhouse, general store, 100 miles (161 km) of railroad track, and rows of homes once stood on the now-abandoned area. Today, the only remnants of the ghost town include a road sign, rusted rails, and building debris now overgrown with weeds."

An interesting aspect of Buffalo City is that it was founded "shortly after the Civil War by the Buffalo Timber Company, Buffalo City was constructed on the north side of Milltail Creek by African-American laborers and more than 200 Russian immigrants. Many of these immigrants stayed and worked at the new logging town and composed half of the town’s population."

In 1920, Prohibition laws were passed in the United States and moonshine became a popular way for Buffalo City citizens to make extra money. When logging camps at Buffalo City began to close in the 1920s, moonshine became the primary revenue source for citizens. Almost every family in Buffalo City operated a still. Speakeasie throughout the eastern United States sold moonshine made in Buffalo City. The liquor was made deep in the woods and transported by the same methods as logging: by mules and boats. A 30-foot (9.1 m) boat named the Hattie Creef sailed down Milltail Creek and across the Albemarle Sound to Elizabeth City, where the liquor was sold. The boat returned with large amounts of sugar, an ingredient in making moonshine. Federal prohibition enforcers, called revenuers, began to crack down on Buffalo City’s moonshine industry. Several men in the town were sentenced to jail.

When prohibition ended in 1933, Buffalo City’s economy was severely affected. With the loss of moonshine revenue, citizens began focusing on the logging industry once again. Most good timber had already been felled, but the sawmill continued to operate for the next two decades. Outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, smallpox and the flu swept throughout the community in the 1940s. The combination of these diseases and lack of work resulted in Buffalo City’s population declining to 100 people. The sawmill closed in the early 1950s and the town was abandoned.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some funny/quirky/disgusting place names in N.C.

This follows along with the recent discussion of nicknames.

In my office is a map of North Carolina that is about five-feet wide. It appears to have every city, town, crossroads, community, hamlet, burg, etc., that exists in this fine state. I will occasionally take a look at a section of the map and find some place name that I had never heard of. More often than not I come across a place with a name that is, well, interesting and makes me chuckle. Through the years, I have attempted to jot some of these down. I claim that these are -- or were at one time -- real places in the Old North State. And I'm sure I've only scratched the surface. Enjoy!

Floral, fruit, food and gem names:



South Hominy





Heavenly names:



Job names:



Spies (?)





East Laport (but there’s no West Laport)


Mashoes (Possibly pronounced “my shoes?”)

Walla Watta

Blatant shills:

Duke Power Village

Texaco Beach

Named for famous -- and not-so famous -- people?


Standing Indian Mountain















Named for natural traits:

Newfound Gap


Paint Rock

Thermal City

State Road

White Stone

Old Field

Merry Oaks

Orange Factory

Bushy Fork


Outlaws Ridge

Stumpy Point

Named after feelings or human traits:







Named for other states/large cities:




Long Island




W. Philadelphia









Buffalo City



Bat Cave

Meat Camp

Roten Fig


Bee Log

Boger City

Frog Pond




Bug Hill


Goat Neck

Crab Point Village

“Store” names:

Hesters Store

Gentrys Store

Dennys Store

Dixons Store


Democrat (in the west, or “left” part of the state)

Republican (you guessed it -- in the east/right!)

Shooting Creek

Mountain Home


Happy Valley




Pumpkin Center





Gum Tree



Old Hundred


Quail Roost











Old Sparta


Ed McMahon and his Onslow County ties

The Jacksonville Daily News has an article about the late Ed McMahon's ties to Onslow County. The legendary sidekick died Tuesday. He was 86.

... McMahon visited Onslow County to purchase a boat, a life-long hobby of his, more than two decades ago.

At the time, McMahon was a member of the board of directors for Murray Chris-Craft Yachts, which then had a factory in Onslow County. He owned two boats previously built by the company and visited the Swansboro boatyard in August 1985 to check on the progress of a 50-footer being built there at the time.

It was McMahon's first trip to the area since being stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point as a young man, according to Daily News archives.

When his yacht - christened the Queen Victoria III - was completed, it was shipped via flatbed to Marina Del Ray, Calif. ...

"Ed McMahon's voice at 11:30 was a signal that something great was about to happen," said David Letterman. "Ed's introduction of Johnny was a classic broadcasting ritual — reassuring and exciting."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

To each his own, I guess

From the Myrtle Beach Sun News ...

A nudist resort in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., 30 miles north of Myrtle Beach, is flinging open its gates and welcoming everyone to be part of a world record for the largest simultaneous skinny dip.

Whispering Pines resort near Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., is ready for the clothed to come in and undress for the dip on July 11.

The American Association for Nude Recreation is coordinating the event across the country at legally sanctioned nude beaches and resorts. The Guinness World Records Association is adding a category for the largest simultaneous skinny dip so any number of participants will set the record. As the pink-hatted woman turned to adjust herself in a lounge chair, she asked that her name or hometown not be used.

The dip begins at 3 p.m., but Gloria Waryas, the resort's secretary and liaison to the American Association for Nude Recreation, said the resort will open to the public at 2 p.m. so people can get into the pool and pond to be ready for the 3 p.m. start time.

The modest can get in the water wearing their bathing suits, kneel down to undress, then hold the suits over their heads to qualify as authentic skinny dippers without ever exposing themselves.

Everyone must be in their birthday suits to be counted for the official Guinness record, but "They just have to hold up a suit to show they are nude," Waryas said. "At one time or other in people's lives, most people have skinny dipped. We're just saying come on out and skinny dip for the world record." ...

The resort has been operating since the mid-1970s off a dead-end dirt road west of U.S. 17 in Brunswick County. The scheduled dip marks the first time the resort will roll out the welcome mat for an event like this. The 33-acre resort has its pool and pond, plus a horseshoe pit, volleyball court, and a clubhouse for billiards and relaxing.

It even offers nude counseling when needed. ...

Friday, June 19, 2009

'Peak of Good Living' .... 'City of Oaks' ... 'Clogging Capital of the World' and other N.C. nicknames

You gotta love Wikipedia. Wanna know the GPS coordinates of Schuyler, Nebraska? No problem. Ever wondered who was the first person to swim the English Channel? Bingo. Wanna know how fireflies produce light? You got it.

And if you want to know what are the nicknames of North Carolina places, then you can (kinda-sorta) find that too. Of course, it being Wikipedia and all, some of the ones listed are possibly incorrect or just plain not something the local Chamber of Commerce is likely to promote. (Ex: "Torture City" or "Fayettenam" for Fayetteville.)

But it's still neat to see a repository of some of these nicknames. For instance, most people know that North Carolina has two places known as the "Paris of ..." Asheville is the "Paris of the South" (not listed by Wikipedia, by the way), while Carrboro is the "Paris of the Piedmont."

Speaking of fireflies, I had no idea that Boone was the "Firefly Capital of the World." Other "Capitals" include Calabash ("Seafood Capital of the World"), Chadbourn ("Strawberry Capital of the World"), Erwin ("Denim Capital of the World"), High Point ("Furniture Capital of the World"), Maggie Valley ("Clogging Capital of the World") and Pinehurst ("Golf Capital of the World").

Of course flora and fauna play into some of the nicknames as well: Brevard ("Home of the white squirrels"), Fayetteville ("City of Dogwoods") and Raleigh ("City of Oaks").

As with the aforementioned "Fayettenam," there are several "unofficial" nicknames out there: Cary ("Conentrated Area of Relocated Yankees") and Greenville ("G-Vegas" -- or the cynical "G-Wilson" and "The Emerald City") come to mind.

Other place nicknames include:

Apex - Peak of Good Living
Brevard - Land of Waterfalls
Chapel Hill - The Southern Part of Heaven
Charlotte - the Queen City
Durham - City of Medicine
Fayetteville - All-America City; Tar Heel Town
Greensboro - The Gate City
Hendersonville - City of Four Seasons
Kannapolis - City of Looms
Raleigh - Raleighwood
Thomasville - Chair City
Winston-Salem - Twin City
Wilmington - The Hollywood of the East

What are some other place nicknames that we've left off?

(Image from drivehq.com)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fantastic OBX shots

Keeping with today's OBX theme are several shots from Manteo, Nags Head, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Rodanthe and Ocracoke from a fantastic "new" photographer (and friend), Kelly Capps. Be sure to click to enlarge to fully appreciate the shots.


An official state horse?

North Carolina can boast a state reptile, gem, boat, dog, insect, etc. But up until now, there's been (as far as I can tell) very little clamor for a state horse. (After all, our northern neighbors in Virginia and Kentucky seem to hog the equestrian limelight.)

Now some students in Currituck County want to change that by campaigning for the Outer Banks mustang -- the banker -- to be the official state horse [says the Daily Advance].

Fourth-graders in the Currituck County Schools have started a letter-writing campaign to save the bankers — not the Wall Street kind, the equine kind.

Students have already written more than 400 letters to state lawmakers, asking them to make “banker ponies” — as the wild horses of Corolla are sometimes known — North Carolina’s official state horse.

“The marvelous Colonial Spanish Mustang is the perfect fit for North Carolina’s state horse,” writes student Lauren Cutler, in one of the letters. “So if the Spanish Colonial Mustang was our horse, maybe it won’t be endangered anymore.”

The horses, about 100 of whom roam the northern Outer Banks, are believed to be the descendants of the Colonial Spanish mustangs brought to the New World by Spanish explorers nearly 500 years ago. They’re called “bankers” because they live on the Outer Banks and ponies because of their small size — 14 to 15 hands, or about five feet from ground to shoulder.

Advocates for the horses worry about their future, particularly as the Outer Banks becomes more developed and their contact with humans increases. ...

School officials hit on the idea of making the wild herd North Carolina’s official state horse the subject of fourth-graders’ writing assessment this year. Students have to complete the writing assignment in order to pass their grade. ...

To prepare students for the writing assignment, each fourth-grader in the county schools learned about the horses’ history, how they came to the Outer Banks and how the breed has dwindled from human interaction, Jensen said. They also got to meet one of the horses — a tame 3-year-old named Uno who was rehabilitated after being injured, and now lives on a farm in Jarvisburg. ...

According to Netstate.com, 11 states have horses listed as a state animal or honorary equine, but only seven have an official state horse. North Carolina isn’t among them.

Organizers hope the letter-writing project creates more awareness about the wild horses and their place in the history of the Outer Banks, Jensen said.

“People don’t understand or realize about the history of these horses and how important it is to protect the breed,” she said.

Good luck to the students. I hope they are successful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quick hits: Skylight highlighted, and a artists mourns for her husband -- and fights jetties

Ayden's Skylight Inn in the spotlight again
"The spotlight is once again on Ayden's Skylight Inn barbecue restaurant," says the Daily Reflector. "The Pitt County purveyor of pig, East Carolina-style, will hit the big time in the Big Apple this weekend as part of a popular festival that celebrates roasted pork.

"A short documentary film about the local restaurant, titled 'Leave It to Cleaver: The Story of North Carolina's Skylight Inn BBQ,' is scheduled to be shown at 4 p.m. Sunday as part of New York's seventh annual Snapple Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. According to the Web site, bigapplebbq.org, the film 'showcases the Jones family of Ayden, N.C., whose restaurant The Skylight Inn carries on a family tradition of whole hog barbecue that has continued in an unbroken line since the 1830s.'

"The film was created by filmmaker Joe York and the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi. ..."

Fight groins (jetties)
My mother alerted me to this blog, whose aim is two-fold: to honor the passing of the artist's husband (shown) AND to help lead the cause against ocean groins.

Says the Sierra Club (via the blog): "For the third year in a row, legislation is before the NC General Assembly that would punch a hole in North Carolina’s long-standing ban on hardened structures that keeps our beaches public & natural. We need your help today if North Carolina’s public’s beaches are to be protected for tomorrow. Please oppose SB 832, Coastal Resource Commission may permit a Terminal Groin, by Sen. Julia Boseman.

"The natural beauty and economic value of North Carolina’s public beaches and inlets exists today in large measure because our state leaders long ago adopted a conservative management policy that bans the use of hardened structures—seawalls, jetties and groins of any kind—from our coast. ..."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Birthplace of the state song

Our good friends at Goodnight, Raleigh! have a wonderful piece (and photo) on the place where the state song, "The Old North State Forever," was written.

There is a marker in Raleigh on the "Hargett Street side of the Edmisten Building denoting the spot where Judge William Gaston penned the official North Carolina state song 'The Old North State Forever,'" says the site. From The North Carolina History Project ...

In late 1830s, he composed the song to counter the charge that North Carolina was the “Rip Van Winkle State”—backward and unchanging. This motivation is evidenced in the following line: “Tho’ the scorner may sneer at and witlings defame her, Still our hearts swell with gladness whenever we name her.” In 1927, the state officially adopted Gaston’s song.

I was attending a state conference last year where a children's choir performed the song. The audience was asked to sing the chorus, but few people knew the words or tune, which is a shame. Hopefully this is a song that can regain prominence, perhaps in the public schools, so that it's not completely forgotten.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The original USS North Carolina?

The above is a shot of the gangway gate to the USS North Carolina (1836), 19th century warship (and on display at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh). The gangway features a black walnut engraving of the state seal "surrounded by tobacco, cotton, corn, oak leaves and pine needles with a sun rising over an American flag, eagle, and shield."

(Click to enlarge the closeup photo to really get a feel for the intricate carving work.)

Below is a artist's depiction of the "old" USS North Carolina, not the one in Wilmington.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Quick hits: Burns' movie debuts and Cherokees vote to allow the alcohol

Ken Burns' national parks documentary debuts in Asheville
"Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the rest of the nation's national parks are a uniquely American invention that brings democracy to the landscape, according to the writer and producer of a new Ken Burns film series," says the Citizen-Times.

" 'This is the Declaration of Independence applied to a beautiful continent,' said Dayton Duncan 'Only a democracy would come up with the idea that the most special places should be preserved for everybody, not just the rich and royalty.'

"An Asheville audience got a preview Wednesday of 'The National Parks: America's Best Idea' in a screening at the Diana Wortham Theatre. The six-part, 12-hour series will air this fall on PBS.

" The Smokies, celebrating its 75th anniversary as a park, plays a prominent role in the historical narrative. ..."

N.C. tribe votes to allow casino alcohol sales
"Alcohol sales at a North Carolina mountain casino have been approved by members of the Cherokee Indian tribe," said the AP.

"The Asheville Citizen-Times reported Friday that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians approved alcohol sales at Harrah's Cherokee Casino by a vote of 1,847 to 1,301 after nearly half the tribe's registered voters went to polls.

"Supporters of alcohol sales said it would boost profits at the tribe's casino. The tribe uses half the profits from the 11-year-old casino to run its government and half for twice-a-year payments to tribal members.

"It was the second alcohol sales vote, but the first since the casino was constructed. Tribal members voted 2-1 against alcohol sales in 1980. ..."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dr. Beach loves Cape Hatteras

Not sure how on Earth I missed this. (I mean, I look forward to the wacky Dr. Beach's Best Beach list every year!)

Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka "Dr. Beach," released a couple weeks ago his latest top 10 list of the best American beaches. Making the top 10 was Cape Hatteras, last year's runner-up.

The best beach was Hanalei, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. (The beach photo ain't Hanalei, but it IS Kauai.

Here is the list of top 10 beaches for 2009 Dr. Beach --- that would be N.C. State graduate Dr. Beach, thank you very much.

1. Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

2. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Fla.

3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, N.Y.

4. Coronado Beach, San Diego

5. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii

6. Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.

7. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, N.C.

8. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Fla.

9. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.

10. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Quick hits: Hurricane names, 49er gridiron, EC in photos and longleaf pine art?

Hurricane names released
My "grandparents" could cause havoc this year. After all, two of the latest round of hurricane names include a "Bill" and an "Ida."

Those wacky weather people. They've also included a "Joaquin" and a "Peter" to be followed by "Rose."

Click here for the full list.

UNCC remains on track for football
"A tough economy and some disappointment in the number of prospective buyers who have followed through with a commitment to buy football seat licenses is not slowing the Charlotte 49ers' efforts to start a football program in time for the 2013 season," says the Charlotte Observer.

"Although circumstances have changed since September, when the school's board of trustees first approved moving ahead on football, athletics director Judy Rose said Tuesday that the 49ers remain on track for a program that would begin in a temporary on-campus stadium and eventually move to a new, on-campus facility.

"Any of Charlotte's football goals are contingent on the selling of at least 5,000 FSLs. As of Tuesday, just over 1,700 had been purchased. ..."

Old photo collection preserves Elizabeth City's history
"For 84 years, Cecil Richardson Jr. has lived in the area and amassed a local photo and newspaper clipping collection that fills more than 75 three-ring binders.

"Some of the photos he’s taken himself, including his shots of the night the wooden blimp hangar burned in Weeksville in the 1990s," says the Daily Advance. "Others he has collected from various residents and labeled with the address or names of those pictured. He knows most of the people in the photographs and can give background stories to places that recent Elizabeth City residents don’t even know existed.

"Cindy Williams, an owner of MMT Printers, wants to help Richardson preserve this knowledge and is collaborating with Richardson to make a photo book that would be available for sale. ..."

Craftswoman makes art from longleaf pine needles
"What can you do with pine straw? Well, there's mulch. And then there's ... mulch.

"Melanie Walter has another use: She makes baskets out of pine needles," says the Star-News.

"She has baskets on the display at the Asheville Art Museum. Her baskets won a third-place ribbon at the Orange Street ArtsFest on May 23. And she has received an invitation to show her work at the prestigious Ann Arbor Street Art Fair in Michigan.

"Most of her sales come through Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts, a crafts cooperative with a store in the Cotton Exchange. Her baskets are also available at the Sunset River Marketplace in Calabash and at the Cameron Art Museum. ..."

Monday, June 01, 2009

Love for Smokies runs deep

The Charlotte Observer has put together a wonderful online package about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's 75th birthday. You can access it here.

Among the features are historic photos, essays and a look at the park today.

Ferry tickets (online)! Get your ferry tickets (online)!

From The Charlotte Observer:

The N.C. Department of Transportation is selling advance tickets for the toll ferries that operate to islands along the coast.

This service might be of help to anyone who is planning to visit the islands this summer. The service will continue throughout the year.

Ticket sales will require a credit car[d] (Visa or Mastercard), and any refunds or cancellations must be made by 4 p.m. of the day prior to departure.

By the way, that website address is http://www.ncdot.org/transit/ferry/reservations/default.html