Today I am remembering a visit to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The center is located on a quiet hallway a floor below the great library’s main reading room and contains vast collections of oral histories, music and other audio recordings. You can hear Mississippi sharecroppers singing the blues there. You can hear Polish immigrants playing polkas. You can hear Navajo sacred songs. I was there to listen to audio recordings that the playwright Arthur Miller made on the North Carolina coast in the fall of 1941.
Today I am remembering a visit to the Outer Banks History Center on Ice Plant Island, which is part of the little town of Manteo, North Carolina. The OBHC is a relatively small branch of the State Archives of North Carolina, but it is home to a unique collection of books, manuscripts, and photographs that focus on the history of the Outer Banks and the coastal counties along the eastern end of Albemarle Sound.
Now that I’m home, I’m thinking back on my time on the Belle of Washington and remembering some of the highlights of the voyage. I know I’ve already written a good deal about the “Tour of Old Albemarle” and the history of that part of the Albemarle Sound this week.
Tom and Bland and I and all the good people who are sharing this voyage on the Belle of Washington with us are now looking ahead to Edenton, our next port of call, and Edenton for me has always been and remains, far and away above all else, the town of Harriet Jacobs.
I want to conclude my look at runaway slave advertisements from Albemarle Sound with another love story. This one comes from Chowan County, where the Belle of Washington will dock tonight.
The second runaway slave advertisement that I want to talk about concerns an enslaved man from Bertie County, N.C., his love for his wife and a long and impossible journey.
As we begin the next leg of our voyage on the Belle of Washington, I thought that I’d conclude my look at runaway slave advertisements with three stories from the Albemarle that I found especially moving.
Now I’d like to share a few of the runaway slave advertisements from Nixonton with you. I thought about them as I prepared for our voyage on the Belle of Washington because I remembered that there were some especially interesting ones that refer to that old seaport on the Little River.
Welcome back to the Belle of Washington. We left Elizabeth City early this morning and came down the lovely waters of the Pasquotank River. Now we're passing the Little River and, up on its northern shore, the little hamlet of Nixonton. I’ll say more about Nixonton’s history in a second, but first I think this is a good time and place to talk about runaway slave advertisements because there are some especially interesting ones that refer to Nixonton.
Last night our voyage on the Belle of Washington began with a reception at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, N.C. It was a lovely night. A large crowd of local folks came to see us off, and Tom, Bland and I had the pleasure of meeting the people who will join us … Continue reading Elizabeth City, N.C.– 6 AM
Today I’m excited to be writing from Elizabeth City, N.C. I’m here to co-host a riverboat voyage that will explore the history, culture and environment of the Albemarle Sound region of coastal North Carolina.
The ram schooner Edwin and Maud in New Bern, ca. 1935. She is resting at Union Point, where the Neuse and Trent Rivers come together, probably at the wharf for the J.A. Meadows Company. In the background, we can see the Trent River Bridge.
A fish market crowded with fishermen, fish buyers and fishmongers at the bottom of Middle Street, on the Trent River waterfront, New Bern, N.C., circa 1905. A pair of fishermen in a sail skiff are culling their catch, while a boy, obscured by an older man, probably his father or an uncle, poles what is probably a log-built skiff around them.
A shad fisherman’s camp on the Lower Neuse River, possibly at or near James City, N.C., circa 1900. Fishermen constructed their huts out of cedar limbs or another supple hardwood and thatched them with saltmarsh cordgrass or black needlerush. Typically they bound them together with yucca fibers. These round huts with conical roofs were a spartan home away from home for shad fishermen and, occasionally, for their families.
A memory. I am at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. It’s one of my favorite museums: 17 acres of maritime exhibits, historic boats, nautical trade shops, a planetarium, a working shipyard and wharves lined with the country’s largest collection of 19th-century sailing vessels.
ENFIELD, N.C., 1930. Another letter in the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst also got my attention for its look at eastern North Carolina life in the throes of the Great Depression.
I found the letter in the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst. It was dated 22 April 1918 and was from Miss Mary C. Euell of Wilson, N.C. She had written the great African American scholar and activist to tell him about “my trouble here in Wilson.”
One of my favorite of Sonny Williamson’s recordings is with a gentleman named Pritchard Lewis. Pritchard was born in Sea Level, N.C., in 1906, and Sonny talked with him in 1986. At that time, Sonny was obsessed with the history of the Core Sound sharpie, which was a popular, flat-bottomed workboat that had its heyday … Continue reading Oyster Shells, Hound Dogs & a Rooster– Sonny Williamson’s Tapes
I love to walk around old graveyards. One of my favorite places to wander among the headstones is near where I grew up. The graveyard is called Oceanview Cemetery, and it’s in the little coastal town of Beaufort, N.C.
A final memory. I will never forget a day that I stood on a bluff over the Chowan River and talked with an old gentleman that used to be the head of the cannery room at the Perry-Wynns Fish Company in Colerain.
Welcome to the penultimate installment of my special series on the history of the great herring and shad fisheries on Albemarle Sound. This is photograph of the the engine house on the east end of the Greenfield fishery in Chowan County, N.C., circa 1905. One of the great 3 and ½ inch thick warps (hauling ropes) ran from the sea-end fishing flat to this structure, where an engine with a steam drum hauled one end of the seine ashore.
Greenfield fishery, 1905. Welcome back to my Herring Week! In today’s post, we’re looking at the building that was called “the Office,” shown in the middle of this photograph. The fishery’s owner, Frank Wood, lived at the Office during the shad and herring season, along with his wife and children.
Welcome back to Herring Week, my special series on the history of the great herring and shad fishery on Albemarle Sound. Today I have just a brief scene that I want to describe that I hope will give you a sense of an important, but rarely appreciated part of the fishery.
A historian has to love the clerks at the Albemarle seine fisheries: they kept meticulous daily records of the weather and water conditions, and the numbers and kinds of fish caught and their sales. They also broke the sales down into categories: corned, cut, raw and “at the beach.”
Welcome back to Herring Week! This is part 8 of my special series on the history of the great herring and shad fisheries on the Albemarle Sound, once one of the largest fisheries in North America. In today’s post, I’m looking at a photograph from the Capehart family’s Avoca fishery in Bertie County in 1877.