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Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History: Electronic Edition.

Johnson, Guion Griffis, 1900- 1989


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           THE "Cotton Plant," a "new and elegant Steam Boat," rode easily at her moorings in the Cape Fear at Fayetteville's main dock before making her maiden trip to Wilmington on April 12, 1826. Her owner had invited a large party of ladies and gentlemen aboard to witness the first performance of the boat and "to enjoy an aquatic excursion." "Freighted with the beauty and fashion of the town," the boat proceeded a few miles down the river; "while music, dancing, and other diversions, and a profusion of good cheer, enlivened the scene." 1

For days afterward, crowds overflowed the docks when the "Cotton Plant" arrived in Wilmington or in Fayetteville, but after the novelty of a steamboat on the Cape Fear wore off, the towns returned to their usual order and quiet.

           A traveler in North Carolina early in the century found the quiet little towns of the State a relief from "the bustle, the speculation, and the embarrassment of large Cities." Raleigh was "an Oasis of calm repose" with "a polished simplicity of manners, which was very pleasing." 2

A resident, however, might find this calm to be only dull monotony, and long for a thunder bolt to "dispell the unwelcomed enchantment." In 1843, for instance, "an esteemed Correspondent" of the Raleigh Register lamented "the want of any place of amusement or recreation, in our little City." 3

           The townspeople relieved the routine of every-day life with friendly visits and petty gossip. Indeed, the Moral Society of Charlotte appointed a committee in 1826 which presented as the first grievances on its list:

           In the course of each day's work the men of the town were accustomed to "take a daily lounge." The village tavern, the grog

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shop, the courthouse, and the corner store were favorite places of rendezvous.


           A town was not a town without a tavern. Almost every community of more than a thousand inhabitants had two or more of these "public houses" where the men of the upper classes congregated to drink grog and talk politics. A young aristocrat was said to have received half his education hanging about a tavern, and the chief occupation of a dandy was thought to have been dangling his legs on the front porch of the most fashionable hotel in town. 5

Early in the century, the leading taverns in Raleigh were Casso's near the State House and the Indian Queen next door to the courthouse. For many years, the town bell was suspended at Casso's corner. In 1812 Charles Parish built a three-story brick building, one of the first in Raleigh, which he called the Eagle Hotel. 6 By 1835 all the old names had disappeared and new ones now took their place: Guion's Hotel, Carter's Hotel, Blatchford's Hotel, and seven boarding houses, including Miss Pulliam's which would accommodate forty persons. 7

           The Lafayette was for many years the most popular hotel in Fayetteville. When Captain Basil Hall of the British Royal Navy toured North Carolina with his family in 1828 he took rooms at the Lafayette, and found himself to his "surprise and joy" lodged "in one of the best hotels in the country." It had "a number of rooms, with single beds, fire-places, and bells, . . . several handsome drawingrooms, and apartments particularly suited for the private accommodation of travelling families." 8

In 1849 the Fayetteville, said to have been the handsomest and best equipped hotel in the State, was built and at once became popular.

           As grog shops became more numerous, despite the temperance

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movement, they came to rival the tavern as a daily gathering place. The gentry still clung to the tavern bar, but the lower classes turned to the tippling houses, known also as doggeries. "It is notorious," said a citizen of Raleigh in 1856, "that more ardent spirits are consumed here than at any former period." 9

           The grog shop was especially popular on holidays and Saturday nights. The practice of having a Saturday night frolic was common even among the upper classes. In 1820 a reformer declared that drinking in public was "very prevalent in what is called the higher circles." "For instance," he said, "a set of young fellows about town will get together, drink until they are shamefully intoxicated, and then call it taking a frolic! I have known it to happen that their friends had to send for them and put them to bed." 10

In 1832 residents of Hillsboro petitioned the General Assembly against grog shops, saying that they became, despite every effort that the owners made to conduct them properly, the "rendezvous for all the idle, profane, drunken and profligate of the Town & its vicinity, to the evil example of the young & unexperienced, and to the disturbance of the public peace." 11 The petitioners begged in vain for a law making it an indictable offense to retail spirituous liquors of any kind within the limits of the town. Before 1800, however, the Legislature had begun the policy of permitting town commissions to pass upon the application of those wishing to retail liquors and by 1860 it had extended this privilege to twenty-three towns. In 1844 the Guilford County Court had refused to grant any petitions asking for retail liquor licenses; but when the case reached the Supreme Court, Judge Ruffin declared that a county court did not have the power to prohibit entirely the retailing of liquors. 12

           The townspeople were fond of gathering at the village stores where everything from "Nigger shoes" to a yard of broadcloth might be purchased, served up with politics and town gossip. Small wooden buildings housed most of the village stores. Sometimes the money invested in stock would not have bought a workable Negro of any description. William H. Tucker, founder of the prosperous firm of W. H. and R. S. Tucker and Company, opened a store in Raleigh in 1818 with a cash capital of $125. Previous to this, Randolph

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Webb had at "the sign of the Mortar, nearly opposite Capt. Mitchell's tavern," one of the leading stores in Raleigh. He kept on hand "a general Assortment of Medicines, Paints, Oils and Turpentine; China Glass, Queens & Hardware; Stationery; Groceries and Confectionary; with foreign and domestic fruits:" As the ante-bellum period wore on the mercantile business experienced greater specialization. Grocery stores, dry goods stores, drug stores, jewellers' and stationers' shops, and bookstores began to appear where once the general store had served for all.

           Nevertheless, the popularity of congregating at places where things were bought and sold never waned. In 1827 the shop talk of Fayetteville was violently agitated for more than a week over a question of such interest as to supersede all other topics of conversation. The presidential election, the West Indian trade, the price of cotton, the weather, everything gave way to a knotty question propounded in the National Intelligencer: "How many dollars will 500 cents multiplied by 500 cents produce?" Bets ran high. The question was hotly argued day and night without being settled. A few insisted that the answer was $25, but little faith was placed in it and sums varying from two and a half cents to $2,500 were bet upon as being correct. 14

           In fair weather the men took their problems outside. A few town loafers might sit on a box in the sun all day whittling away at a pine stick and spinning yarns; but the merchants, lawyers, and planters chose rather to stand in groups at a favorite corner, in front of the post office or on the courthouse steps and discuss the news of the day. This was so cherished a custom that groups of men might be seen on the street engaged in conversation at almost any time during the day except from one to three o'clock in the

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afternoon in mid-summer. The women, too, were not above the pleasure of a stroll on a public street, although no "lady" would be guilty of pausing to greet a friend for more than a few minutes. Fayetteville Street early became a favorite parade ground on Sunday afternoon for the belles and beaux of Raleigh. Newspaper correspondents were sometimes ungallant enough to condemn the Sunday afternoon stroll as a shameful indulgence of the women in their fondness for dress and display.

           The village church, like the country church, was a center of activity in every community. The building itself was the meeting place of most of the reform and educational societies of the period. Church work and its related activities furnished the ante-bellum woman almost her only opportunity for public service. 15

           The village academy was also beginning to play a leading role in town life at the opening of the century. Sometimes the school contained an auditorium large enough to accommodate village audiences and thus it soon became the recreational center of the community. The academy programs, the public examinations, the concerts, and the commencement exercises were welcomed interruptions. It was customary for academy teachers to quiz their pupils once or twice a year in oral examinations before the elite of the town, the ministers and lawyers sometimes joining in the questioning. In 1821 the semi-annual examination of the students of Raleigh Academy closed with the presentation of honorary certificates and gold medals. Dr. James M. Henderson delivered "a very appropriate Address" in behalf of the trustees, and the Amateurs' Band furnished music for the occasion. 16

In 1854 George Setzer wrote to a friend in Raleigh:

           The ceremony of crowning the queen of May, revived by the "female academies," always drew large crowds. By four o'clock in the afternoon of May 1, 1825, most of the townspeople of Charlotte had gathered on the college green to witness the crowning of Miss Eliza Henderson. "Under some large oaks, whose boughs afforded protection to the company against the rays of the

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sun, an elegant arch, decorated with such flowers as are the pride of May, had been constructed by the hands of female ingenuity." The flower-laden throne was placed under the arch. At five o'clock the queen entered, "attended by her festive train, adorned with wreaths of flowers." A little girl addressed Her Majesty "in a distinct and correct manner," and then stepped aside for another to place the crown of flowers on the Queen's head. During the ceremony one of the teachers played on a piano, and a band of amateur musicians furnished music for a rural dance by the queen and her train. 18

           The Masonic lodges and, after 1841, the Odd Fellows were not only important social and recreational agencies in town life, but the buildings which they erected also provided the community with gathering places. The Royal White Hart Lodge of Halifax was also the schoolhouse for several years. 19

In Raleigh, however, Hiram Lodge, Number Forty, for many years kept the hall sacred to the use of the order, having refused in 1827 to lend the refreshment room for a formal ball in honor of Governor H. G. Burton. 20 The first floor of Masonic Hall in Fayetteville was the town theater. In September, 1851, "Dr. A. Crane, Professor of Phrenology, Physiology, and Physiognomy" was delivering lectures in the Wilmington Masonic Hall, describing "the ancestry and the physical organization and predispositions to any disease" of all heads presented for examination. 21


           Subscription balls were already popular at the turn of the century, and the vogue continued throughout the ante-bellum period. In 1803 a few gentlemen of Raleigh met and resolved "to establish Subscription assemblies for the season, instead of having occasional Balls as heretofore," and set the dates at the second Friday in November, January, February, March, April, May, and the Fourth of July. 22

Usually from three to ten managers would be appointed for the season and they would have charge of all arrangements, such as obtaining a ballroom and providing the music and refreshments. They fixed the subscription price, usually five

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dollars, and determined the eligibility of an applicant. A general rule prevailed that all "respectable" men should be permitted to subscribe. The managers also assigned dance partners, conducted the introduction of strangers, and extended invitations to visitors. 23

           The manner in which these public balls were conducted led a visitor in the State to marvel at the "republican equality" of the social life. "There was no invidious distinction, based on wealth, or station, or party spirit," he said. "Industry and integrity, and good behavior were sufficient passports to public associations and private civilities." 24

Had the visitor been intimately acquainted with the life of the town he would have observed that a gentleman's daughter seldom danced with a mechanic's son. At a ball in Warrenton several ladies refused to dance with a butcher's son because he was beneath their social class. 25 After the regular sets on the program, dancing was usually confined to those who visited in the same circles.

           In 1820 a correspondent of the Hillsborough Recorder objected to subscription balls because they created class feeling between those who attended and those who did not. "The former feel a disposition to look down with contempt upon the latter, as beneath their rank and standing in society," he said. He also thought them injurious to female health and morality. A ballroom lighted with many candles and filled with sixty or seventy persons was not a suitable place for exercise. Young ladies, thinly clad and overheated with dancing, rushed out into the open air and as a result caught violent colds and coughs, which too frequently terminated fatally. Then, too, when a girl's mind was once possessed with the vain though pleasing anticipation of a dancing party, she could no longer pursue her school work calmly or attend to her domestic duties. And finally, subscription balls

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"nourished and increased the disinclination to attend divine worship," already too prevalent. 26

           The evangelical denominations did not have the same success in the towns as they did in the country in their opposition to dancing. Such pressure was brought to bear upon the Reverend Dr. Freeman, rector of Christ's Church, Raleigh, because he disapproved of dancing that he resigned in 1840. In his formal resignation the rector stated that he did not deem it consistent with the vows taken by the communicants for them "to give at their own houses, or attend at the houses of others, those worldly entertainments, commonly called dancing parties" or to "attend places of worldly amusements, such as Theatres, Circuses, and Balls." 27

In reply to this charge, George E. Badger and John H. Bryan stated on behalf of the vestry that there were many things in the conduct of life, "on which every member of the church has a right to form his own judgment, and is not justly liable to condemnation for it by them who embrace an opposite opinion." 28 Undoubtedly, however, the lower social classes in the towns came to join with the clergy in considering ball room dancing an evil, just as they considered evil most things from which social status barred their participation and of which, consequently, they had little knowledge.

           Dancing was, indeed, the favorite form of amusement at any social gathering of the gentry. Their balls were usually formal and well appointed. A Raleigh ballroom was "spacious and handsomely furnished." "A range of sofas, rich and yielding, were placed around the room; from the centre of the ceiling a large chandelier was suspended, from which a flood of trembling light was thrown over the interesting company." 29

The women were clad in "light, flowing garb" and the men in dark broadcloth and satin waistcoats. Dancing parties, as distinguished from balls, were, as a rule, informal and lively.

           In 1801 John Bernard, an English comedian, attended a wedding party in North Carolina, "which wound up with violent exercise under the title of a ball":

           At the opening of the century, the favorite dances in North Carolina, even among the upper classes, were still the rural dances, or "scampers" as they were called. As late as 1822 William B. Shepard, later a member of Congress, found "the collected beauty and fashion" of Elizabeth City dancing only scampers. "I reprobated the things and collected a set in a cotillion," he wrote his sister, "but I found that I was too deep for them." 31

           Dancing masters were teaching "the fashionable light steps," the minuets, and Parsby's Rigadoon, early in the century in Raleigh, New Bern, Wilmington, and Fayetteville. Stephen Perrin was one of Raleigh's first instructors in "this polite branch of education." 32

In 1805, William H. Clay, an itinerant dancing master, who claimed to know thirty-one different steps "in the latest and fashionable Dances," opened a school in April at Mr. Mear's house in Raleigh. 33 Under the influence of these dancing masters, fashionable society in the State gradually accepted the cotillion which remained the most popular form of dancing throughout the ante-bellum period. In 1858 "Prof. P. Whitaker . . . reputed as adept in that graceful accomplishment," was teaching "Polkas, Shottisches, Highland Fling, Cotillions," and "those tasteful and highly agreeable Fancy Dances" at Williams' Hotel in Oxford. 34

           The "flowing bowl" was as necessary a part of the "mazy dance" as were the colored "operators on catgut." Wine, whisky,

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and brandy were sometimes served at a dance, but the favorite refreshment was fruit punch flavored with domestic peach moby 35 or blackberry wine or with an imported liqueur. Although some-drunkenness did occur, the amount has been exaggerated by advocates of the temperance movement and those opposed to dancing. Usually, respect for the host and hostess "gave to all a dignity of sentiment and manners that forbade excess, and preserved the most perfect decorum." 36

           In 1820, however, one who called himself "A Stranger" declared in the July 25 issue of the Western Carolinian that it was customary for the beaux of Salisbury either to go to a subscription dance disgracefully drunk or to get so "blue" after arriving as to stagger in their movements. Instead of being ordered from the floor, they were invited to walk up to the side-board and take another drink, while a servant now and then was sent with water and lemonade for the ladies. These "drunken fellows" would dance three or four times in succession with favorite girls and leave all the married women and old maids to shift for themselves. If a staggering beau sometimes ruffled the cape and tread on the toes of a fair one, she smiled her forgiveness for she preferred having a staggering beau to none at all. The "Stranger" later admitted that this description was too highly colored but insisted that it was at least half true.


           The gentry occasionally relieved the boredom of village life with teas, set suppers, and visiting parties. A large tea party in Halifax, as described by the North-Carolina Journal, was "decorated with taste and elegance, adorned by beauty and wit, enlivened with vocal and instrumental music, and the evening gaily closed with the sprightly dance." 37

Small teas were less formal and of more frequent occurrence. A few friends might be invited to call at five-thirty. They would be served in the parlor with muffins, beaten biscuits, waffles, nut bread, thinly sliced ham, brandied peaches, ginger and lemon preserves, fine coffee and tea. The hostess poured the hot drinks at a mahogany tea table in the parlor while a black servant passed about the tidbits. After a pleasant

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hour over the teacups, the guests left for home or, upon invitation, spent the rest of the evening in conversation and music. Instead of an invitation to tea, friends might be asked "to take a glass of wine immediately after supper."

           In 1833 a New England visitor described an evening after supper spent in the home of a member of the gentry in Salisbury as a delightful affair: "Wine, almonds, and raisins are set in the room and you help yourself when you please--there is no sitting around the fire--but all is life, and conversation and music. I did not take much part in the conversation--it was light, but with sense enough scattered through it, to keep it from flying off to the moon-- . . . broke up about 12." 38

           A party was a general term for an evening of conversation, music, and elaborate refreshments to which formal invitations had been issued. The company, both ladies and gentlemen, usually assembled at eight o'clock and remained until twelve. A "set supper" required a large dining table and a superabundance of dainties. In 1828 when John H. Bryan, who was in Washington serving a term as United States congressman, found that his wife had undertaken a set supper he was irritated at her extravagance:

           The Washington style of entertaining had little vogue in North Carolina, for the practice of serving a variety of heavy and expensive foods prevailed throughout the ante-bellum period. 40

Mrs. Bryan, perhaps, had forgotten her husband's rebuke of twelve years earlier when she wrote to him in 1840: "Ma had her

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party last Thursday, it was very pleasant. I think you would have enjoyed it, she had many good things to eat." 41

           The members of the lower social classes had neither the time nor the money to indulge in such festivities. Their wives gave no formal teas or set suppers. Domestic duties kept them thoroughly occupied. The lower classes did have occasional fireside chats at which a bottle of "home-made" might be passed, but their chief diversions were those to be enjoyed at public gatherings in common with the rest of the townspeople.

           The young mechanics and store clerks might decide to have a charivari, and, after all were in bed, serenade the town with a mighty beating of tin pans and buckets. Every town had a group of rowdies which could always be relied upon to play pranks at unexpected times; nor were the rowdies always confined to the lower classes. The prank would be hatched over a bottle of whisky. 42

If it were cold weather the scheme perhaps would be to ring the town bell sharply at midnight and, amid the rapid shooting of guns, to give the alarm of fire. As the citizens would come hurrying to the scene with night shirts flapping in the winter breeze, someone against whom the disturbers had a grudge would suddenly be drenched with a bucket of water. In the confusion which would follow the rowdies would make their escape.

           "When a spree breaks out" in town, wrote the Carolina Watchman of Salisbury in 1845, the rowdies "seem mostly inclined to make awful noises and to sing pretty songs. . . . We have heard them, before now, braying like asses; and bellowing like bulls, and bull frogs. If they do mischief at all, it is more frequently on the small order; such as breaking decanters and glasses, shattering chairs and tables, exchanging sign-boards, taking carriages apart, piling boxes and barrels in the streets, &c." 43

In 1858, however, rowdies of Hillsboro perpetrated "a gross outrage" which led to the arrest of three of the young fellows. 44


           The townspeople occasionally formed clubs and societies which afforded recreation for the members and not infrequently had a

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salutary effect upon the life of the whole town. This was true of most of the women's clubs which were concerned chiefly with charitable work. Foreign mission societies were the most general type of women's clubs throughout the ante-bellum period but female benevolent societies 45 were also active in the large towns of the State. The first of these benevolent societies to be incorporated was the Newbern Female Charitable Society in 1812. It had a precarious existence for several years and finally ceased to function. Another organization under the name of the Female Benevolent Society of New Bern was organized in 1837 and chartered in 1854. This society exists today and continues to do much relief work. 45a

           The Raleigh Female Benevolent Society was incorporated in 1821 with Mrs. Sarah Hawkins Polk, wife of William Polk, as "directress." She was the life of the organization until her death, and under her influence a thriving charity school for the instruction of orphan girls was maintained. The society observed an anniversary celebration which was the occasion for a sermon at one of the local churches and the collection of funds for the maintenance of the school. In 1846 the Raleigh Register thought the society was one of the most valuable influences in the life of the town. 46

           Prior to 1813 a group of Fayetteville women had organized themselves into the Female Orphan Asylum Society and in that year obtained a charter to carry on their school. By 1822 the society had given place to the Female Benevolent Society of North Carolina, of which Mrs. Sarah McIver was first directress. 47

This society had ceased to exist by 1830, for in that year the Female Society of Industry organized from the congregation of St. John's Church seems to have been the only active organization of the kind in Fayetteville. 48 Edward J. Hale of the Fayetteville Observer lent his support to the school, declaring in his paper that he was

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"pleased to see that a portion of the Ladies of our town, instead of engaging in the common crusade of Foreign Missions, have turned their attention to objects at home. 49

           The clubs which attracted the membership of the village men were of a different nature. Some of them, such as the library, literary, and debating societies, were designed chiefly for the entertainment of the members, while others, such as the theatrical and lyceum clubs, were planned to furnish recreation for the entire town. These clubs seldom had an existence of more than ten or fifteen years, while the average duration was but two or three. A library society was organized by a number of men in the community joining in the payment of a small annual membership fee of from fifty cents to ten dollars and thus obtaining a few books which circulated among the subscribers. As the number of books increased, the society usually sought incorporation by the General Assembly. If the society prospered over a period of several years, the members occasionally established a reading room equipped with newspapers, maps, and globes.

           In 1808 the students of the Raleigh Academy and a few prominent men of the town organized a circulating library club under the name of the Polemic Society. The books were kept at the academy and a student acted as librarian. No person was allowed to keep a book longer than two weeks on penalty of a fine of fifty cents or to take out more than one book on the same day. 50

In 1813 the society aspired toward a reading room. "There are reading rooms in Newbern, Wilmington, & Fayetteville," wrote the Star, "and they are the fashionable resort of all respectable people of those places. It would be a reproach to this Metropolis to remain longer without such an establishment. The town wants a fashionable lounging place, where intelligent citizens and strangers can meet daily, and enjoy the pleasures of reading and conversation." 51

           It was not until two years later with the organization of the Raleigh Library Company, including the membership of the Polemic Society, that Raleigh actually had a reading room. The company was made up of forty members who paid a membership fee of ten dollars the first year and five dollars a year for five years

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thereafter. The reading room was actually opened early in November, 1815, to subscribers and "respectable strangers" who were to be in the city not longer than a week. It was provided with maps, gazetters, public documents, four magazines, and sixty-seven newspapers, with one from every State in the Union and three printed in foreign languages. General Calvin Jones, a planter near Raleigh and former co-editor of the Star, deposited there some of the articles which he had collected for a museum. The funds necessary for such an establishment were difficult to obtain so that the Library Company was forced to abandon its reading room sometime after 1820.

           During this time, a collection of books which was later to develop into the North Carolina State Library had been accumulating in the various offices of the State officials. Most of these books were destroyed when the capitol burned in 1831. In 1837 the General Assembly instructed the Secretary of State to begin the collection of books for the State Library and authorized him to discharge the duty of librarian, but it was not until 1840 that the Assembly made an appropriation for the purchase of books. The few books saved from the fire were moved into the new capitol upon its completion in 1840, and, with the $500 "annually appropriated for the increase of the Public Library," the North Carolina State Library came into existence. 52

By 1860 it had grown to a thousand or more volumes, and the librarian was collecting and preserving the principal newspapers of the State, forming the basis of the valuable newspaper collection now in possession of the State Library. But the library was in an obscure corner of the capitol, little used except by state officials and a few members of the Assembly; and the townspeople of Raleigh still felt the need of a public reading room.

           In 1856 the Oak City Guards had a reading room "in the second story of Smith's Building, Corner of Fayetteville and Hargett Streets, . . . very neatly fitted up," which the corps kept open day and night for the accommodation of subscribers and strangers. 53

           As early as 1810 the Register commented upon the increasing number of library clubs, and expressed the hope that they would become general as they were "better calculated to enlighten the

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Public Mind, and to improve the condition of society, than any other means that could be devised." 54 Between 1794 and 1848 the General Assembly incorporated thirty-two library societies. 55

[55 The General Assembly of 1852-1853 passed an act whereby literary institutions and benevolent societies might be incorporated without legislative act. It was necessary for the society desiring incorporation to file articles of agreement with the clerk of the county court who transmitted the document to the secretary of state. The governor then issued letters patent to the society. Sessional Laws, 1852-1853, Chap. LXVII.]

[The societies incorporated prior to this act are as follows:
Year Incorporated Place Name
1794 Fayetteville Fayetteville Library Society
1799 Williamsboro Franklin Library Society
1803 New Bern Newbern Library Society
1815 Person County Person Library Company
1816 Raleigh Raleigh Library Company
1817 Iredell County Centre Library Society
1818 Lincoln County Buffalo Library Society
1818 Fayetteville Fayetteville Library Company
1819 New Salem New Salem Library Society
1819 Guilford County Alamance Library Society
1820 Randolph County Carraway Library Society
1821 Iredell County Union Library Society
1822 Guilford County Richland Creek Library Society
1822 Hillsboro Franklin Library Society
1823 Mecklenburg New Providence Library Company
1823 Davidson County Sandy Creek Library Society
1824 Stokes County Clinton Library Society
1825 Northampton County Farmers' Library Society
1825 Greensboro Library Society
1825 Davidson County Abbott's Creek Library Society
1826 Randolph County Ebenezer Library Society
1827 New Garden Library Society
1827 Nazareth, Guilford County Library Society
1827 Hookerton Library Society
1829 Asheville Vance Circulating Library Society
1831 Lenoir United Brothers' Library Society
1833 Hookerton Library Society
1833 Chatham County Farmers' Library Association
1834 Providence, Mecklenburg County Juvenile Library Society
1840 Fayetteville Franklin Library Institute
1844 Fayetteville Fayetteville Library Institute
1848 Williamston Library Association

           Toward the close of the period these library societies gave rise to a movement for town libraries. By November, 1855, the Wilmington Library had been opened. It "will succeed--it must," wrote the Wilmington Herald, November 30, 1855. "Donations of books are coming in every day from far and near."

           Debating clubs and literary societies were also popular during this period. The clubs met sometimes as frequently as once a week and held public debates several times a year to which ladies and gentlemen of the town were invited. Popular subjects for debates were such abstract ones as, "Which contributed the most to mankind, Columbus in discovering, or Washington in defending, America?" and "Which would be the greater blessing to mankind,

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kind, the mineral or animal kingdom, provided the other should be extinct?" 56 A current political question was usually unsafe, for it might create such feeling as to disrupt the organization. The literary, or reading societies as they were also called, were organizations for the discussion of geography, history, philosophy, and related subjects. The club usually purchased a few books which were the basis of the group discussions held at the meetings. Some young men obtained their chief education through these literary societies. In 1820 a young man who had himself acquired a taste for reading in this manner urged the organization of literary societies throughout the State as a substitute for a formal education. 57


           The lyceum society, which began to appear in North Carolina about 1830, was an outgrowth of the literary society. A few educated and influential citizens, those generally in the learned professions, would organize a society, purchase a small library, and deliver public lectures during the winter months. The first lyceum association of Fayetteville was formed in 1834 and Robert Strange, a prominent lawyer and political leader, gave the first lecture. "It is expected that this Lecture will be the first of a series, to be delivered by different members of the Association, to which the public are respectfully invited," the society announced. "The happy effects produced by such means in other places, justify the hope that the taste for literature in the community will be greatly increased thereby." 58

Later the Fayetteville Observer wrote that the large room in which the lectures were being delivered was crowded at each meeting. "The increasing attention bestowed on the Lectures delivered by members of the Lyceum," said the editor, "are not only highly gratifying to those who projected and have commenced them, but afford undoubted evidence, that it is a mistaken notion, too hastily adopted here, that commerce and literature cannot flourish together in the same community." 59

           Following closely the plan of the lyceum association, Salisbury organized in 1848 an Institute which devoted itself to the investigation of "all subjects of practical utility to man,--politics and

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religion excepted." 60 Agriculture, mechanics, and the various branches of the arts and sciences were to be studied and their origin, progress, and benefits made known to the public. This laudable object was to be accomplished by assigning members of the Institute various topics which were to be prepared and delivered in the form of lectures. It was planned to have one lecture a week before a small group of friends, a more public lecture once a month, and a still more important one every court week. The first of the series was delivered by Charles Fisher, for many years the most influential political leader of Western North Carolina, in the courthouse in November, 1848, on the subject of railroads and the applicability of steam as a moving power.

           Perhaps it was Salisbury's Institute that led residents of Raleigh to feel "the want of an association for mutual improvement and entertainment, in the nature of a Lyceum or Debating Society, with a suitable Hall for meeting, a well selected library, and Periodicals; which may become a place of resort for social and intellectual enjoyment, as well as improvement, and which could not fail also to exert a happy moral, as well as refining influence." 61


           The temperance societies which began to be organized in North Carolina about 1822 were an expression of the general movement for humanitarian reform which was sweeping over the country, but they also had their recreational side. Some of the societies combined the features of the library and literary societies with the new vogue for moral reform. For instance, the society in the Spring Hill settlement, now Wagram, in Robeson County went by the name of the Richmond Temperance and Literary Society. In August, 1860, the society had a program in its new hall, a small octagonal-shaped building made from brick molded by the young men of the community and burned in a home-made kiln. 62

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           The prototype of the temperance society was the moral or beneficent society organized about 1815 under the influence of the religious denominations, especially the Presbyterian and Baptist. In 1815 the North Carolina Synod of the Presbyterian Church urged the congregations under its care to organize "Moral Associations for the suppression of Vice and Immorality," and the Reverend James Hall called a state-wide meeting at Centre Church in Iredell County in November to create a State society and to encourage the formation of auxiliary branches. 63

In 1818 the Beneficent Society of New Providence petitioned the General Assembly against the "flagrant evils prevailing in society at large," declaring that "the intemperate use which is daily made of ardent spirits" is "the chief inlet to almost all the evils referred to." 64

           It was not until 1822, however, that temperance societies as such seem to have been organized, although newspaper correspondents were calling for their organization in 1819. 65

In 1822 "a number of the inhabitants of Guilford County," having "formed themselves into a society for the suppression of intemperance occasioned by the immoderate use of spirituous liquors," appointed Hance McCain chairman of a corresponding committee "to invite the friends of morality in the neighboring counties . . . to form similar societies." 66 In 1826 Presbyterians organized a Society for the Suppression of Intemperance within the bounds of Orange Presbytery, including "several Eminent divines and some of the most respectable gentlemen in the State," in its membership. 67

           By the close of 1828 two societies affiliated with the American Temperance Society, which had been organized in Boston in 1826, had been established in North Carolina and by 1830 this number had increased to thirty-one, the societies being restricted, for the most part, to the piedmont area. 68

After about four years, the North Carolina societies drifted away from the American Society and some became affiliated instead with their own State society. In 1841 John F. Carey, one of the founders of the Washingtonian

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Movement, was in the State attempting to reorganize local societies upon the Washingtonian principles. This "messenger of good tidings from the North" gave new life to societies wherever he spoke, but the Washingtonian Movement had no permanent effect upon temperance societies in the State. 69

           In the meantime, a North Carolina Temperance Society had been organized at Hopewell Academy near Stantonsburg on January 9, 1828, with Dr. Josiah R. Horn as president and Lemuel D. Berry as secretary. The society was to solicit membership but does not seem to have sought auxiliary societies. 70

It was not until January, 1831, that a North Carolina Temperance Society, formed on the basis of auxiliary societies, was organized in Raleigh. 71 The State Society immediately employed the Reverend Thomas P. Hunt, a Presbyterian minister, to travel for three months through the State, organizing local societies and obtaining signers to the "entire abstinence pledge." By the close of February, Hunt had traveled through the Fayetteville, Lumberton, and Wilmington sections, had organized several temperance societies, and "enrolled on the principle of entire abstinence upwards of four hundred names." 72 Years later, the Reverend Mr. Hunt, writing the memoir of his life, said of his efforts in behalf of organized temperance: "At the first efforts to organize a temperance society in Raleigh, we could not get a sufficient number to fill the offices. Indifference, hesitation, opposition, and ridicule met us on every hand. . . . Three months effort in raising funds, found me three dollars and fifty cents over expenses," and there had been no expenses. 73 In 1834 the State Society had 51 auxiliary societies located in 27 counties, composing a total membership of about 4,700. 74

           In 1843 a representative of the Sons of Temperance, a fraternal order with benevolent features founded in New York in 1842, organized a branch of that order in Raleigh. Although a secret organization with a grip, signs, and symbols, the Sons of Temperance also had the total abstinence pledge. The order "followed a member to the grave" and contributed $15 toward the

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funeral expenses and $10 toward the expenses of a member's wife or brother. In case of sickness, a member might draw $1 a week for a given length of time. In return for these benefits, the member paid a small fee of not less than five cents a week. The order grew slowly, having in 1846, when the Grand Division of North Carolina was organized, only four divisions with 139 contributing members.

           In 1851, however, the Sons of Temperance employed Philip S. White, a successful temperance lecturer, to tour the State, and the order gathered new members wherever he went, the Sons estimating at the close of the year a membership of 12,000 in 281 divisions. 75

"On Friday and Saturday last, Mr. White again favored our citizens with humorous and instructive addresses on the subject of Temperance," wrote the Tarborough Press, March 22, 1851. "On Friday night, the Edgecombe Division had a procession with their regalia and fancy lights. Several Sons from neighboring counties were in attendance. The Division appears to be rapidly increasing in numbers, and bids fair to be of great utility." This growth was short-lived, for the following year the order endorsed state prohibition, becoming involved in politics 76 and other controversies to such an extent that some divisions, notably the Edgecombe, 77 repudiated the laws of the organization.

           A division of the Daughters of Temperance was organized in 1849 and in October, 1850, delegates from three divisions organized a Grand Union in Raleigh. 78

By 1852 there were twenty-nine divisions. When the Reverend Thomas P. Hunt was traveling for the State Temperance Society in 1831 he organized branches among academy students wherever he could, 79 but the juvenile order of Cadets of Temperance was not organized until about 1849. Soon afterward it had fallen into decay.

           Although ministers and other leading men in the community were influential in organizing temperance societies, the movement made its greatest appeal to the masses. The recreational features of the societies were as important in the life of the community as

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was the moral reform. Temperance lectures and debates gave the people some place to go. On January 27, 1848, for instance, J. E. Lumsden of Raleigh and Dr. S. Weller of Halifax County debated at the Wake County Courthouse on the subject: "Will the increase of vineyards in our country prove detrimental to the cause of temperance therein?" 80

           Anniversary days and county temperance conventions were gala occasions. In October, 1845, Iredell County had a county temperance convention at Centre Church which was attended by twelve or fifteen hundred people, including "five hundred ladies." The convention had a procession, speeches, and "then came the Temperance feast, and a feast indeed it was. The table literally groaned under the weight." 81

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Sons of Temperance "a goodly company of ladies and gentlemen" celebrated the event in the Masonic Hall in Raleigh. There were speeches, "appropriate songs," and "at the close of the services, the large and well filled waiters of lemonade and delicious eatables circulated freely." "The way we blessed the Temperance folks and packed way the delicacies, was what we call comfortable," wrote the Star, of May 8, 1844.

           Some temperance societies, instead of celebrating the Fourth of July in the usual way, had cold water celebrations much to the amusement of the State press. After "a party of gentlemen" in Raleigh had a cold water celebration in 1829 at which all intoxicating liquors had been excluded, the Camden Journal regretted that "the march of improvements" should force gentlemen to make jackanapes of themselves. 82

Another paper suggested that since the men had taken to temperance societies the women might organize Anti-lacing-too-tight societies. 83


           The regalia, the processions, and the ceremony of the Sons of Temperance were attractive features of the order. The same love of display, added to the desire to have "an ever-ready protection in time of danger," led every ambitious town in the State to organize a corps of "city guards." A village boasted as much of its

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uniformed company of guards as it did of its academy or its town pumps, and on every public occasion the guards were out in full regalia. "Their dress, we had supposed would be neat, but we were by no means prepared for seeing one of the richest, and at the same time, one of the most tasteful costumes in which we have ever seen a Military Company equipped," wrote the Wilmington Journal after the first parade of the Clarendon Horse Guards. "The dress of the private is blue, faced with scarlet: that of the officers blue, gorgeously faced with gold lace." 84

           There had been volunteer military companies sanctioned by legislative act prior to 1800, but in 1806 the Legislature passed a general act authorizing volunteer companies of artillery, light infantry, grenadiers, or riflemen to organize and provide themselves with uniforms of their own choice and fashion. These companies, officered by the village gentry, were important socializing agents in ante-bellum life. The companies made a practice of having a dinner in celebration of the Fourth of July; occasionally they gave balls; sometimes they functioned also as literary or debating societies. In 1857 the Oak City Guards of Raleigh organized itself into a lyceum association and brought prominent southern men to Raleigh to give public lectures. William Gilmore Simms, the South Carolina novelist, gave four lectures in February as one of the speakers in the series. 85

           The young ladies of the local female academy sometimes embroidered banners for the city guards and the ladies of the town occasionally presented a gold medal to the best marksman in the company. In 1859, Charles H. Thompson, captain of the Oak City Guards, offered a gold medal to the best shot in the company. On the occasion of the match the company paraded to the suburbs of Raleigh where the contest was to be held. Each member was entitled to three rounds. After the match, the company marched back to town, and, after parading through the principal streets, proceeded to Capitol Square where a large crowd had assembled to witness the presentation of the medal. In a neat and appropriate address, Quentin Busbee awarded the prize to Sergeant Pool who, being more expert with his musket than his tongue, blushingly received the medal and requested a friend to reply. W. H. Finch,

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accordingly, responded with an acceptance speech "in his usual felicitous style." 86

           The tradesmen also came to have organizations of their own. As early as 1795 mechanics' associations 87

had been organized in Wilmington and Fayetteville. In 1802 the Wilmington Association petitioned the General Assembly against Negro slaves being employed as mechanics. 88 There were similar organizations in New Bern and later in Plymouth, Fayetteville, Raleigh, Oxford, and Asheville. These societies were forerunners of the present labor unions. As the century progressed, mechanics began to seek a fair wage and to unite for that purpose. The associations were local and had occasional meetings for the discussion of ways of protecting the skilled trades from encroachment by the Negro mechanics and the ways of securing prompt payment from their customers.


           Nearly every town of more than five hundred inhabitants had at least one band; and, if an academy was located in the community, it might even have a music club. All who owned and could play a musical instrument were usually eligible for membership. The band master was frequently a local music teacher. Occasionally, such an organization evinced its modesty by choosing such a name as the Amateur's Band; but, after faithful practice and especially after uniforms were obtained, it became "the City Brass Band."

           The band appeared on all important occasions. If students were to be examined at the local academy, the band enlivened the occasion by a few selections. If the Fourth of July was to be celebrated, the band led the parade; a criminal to be hanged, the band cheered the crowds with flare of trumpets and beating of drums. In 1829 the Raleigh band gave a concert to the ladies. The grove in Capitol Square was lighted with variegated lamps and the seats were arranged in a semicircle. After the program, refreshments were served and "a part of the company joined for a

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short time in the mazy dance." 89 Young Mary Bryan, when visiting friends in New Bern in 1848, wrote to her mother that the town had two very good bands, the Negro band and the City Brass Band.

           Only a few towns could boast of Harmonic or Euterpean societies, and even these clubs were usually short-lived. In 1819 Goneke of Raleigh announced a concert at the State House by his music pupils and the Harmonic Society. Greensboro had a glee club in the fifties, directed by Heinreich Schneider, the music teacher of Edgeworth Seminary. 90

His music classes at the academy also gave concerts.

           Strolling bands of players had visited North Carolina prior to the opening of the nineteenth century, but their trips were few and their performances indifferent. Notable exceptions were the troupes from the two Charleston theaters which occasionally appeared in North Carolina. By 1800 there were groups of young men in the State who, having some leisure at night, turned their attention to amateur theatrical performances. In New Bern there was a Theatrical Society composed of "the Gentlemen of the town," prosperous enough to erect a handsome brick building which Bishop Asbury thought would have made a fine church. 91

In 1806 the North-Carolina Journal of Halifax was pleased to announce that a number of gentlemen had organized themselves into a company for the purpose of amusing the public with theatrical representations and that they would perform the comedy of Who Wants a Guinea? by Coleman, the younger.

           The Thespian Society of Raleigh, which had a checkered career for three decades, was organized in 1807 to entertain the public and to obtain funds for the Raleigh Academy. 92

In 1814 the society erected a theater which was opened in January of the following year with Morton's comedy Secrets Worth Knowing and a farce entitled The Bee Hive. The design of the interior, extravagantly praised as being "superior to that of any theatre of its dimensions in America," was the work of A. Lucas. 93 The society had scenery and decorations, which were "almost unrivalled in splendor and tasty execution," and it bought copies of the most

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fashionable music for the orchestra. The all-male casts must have done justice to their new building, for the Raleigh papers when praising a production would often say that it "evoked soft showers from the sympathetic eyes of the fair part of the audience."

           By 1835 the old Thespian Society had fallen into decay, and a Mr. Preston had taken over the Raleigh theater. "The House, of late years, being so neglected as to render it almost unfit and uncomfortable for Ladies to enter, is now undergoing a thorough repair," wrote the Raleigh Register. "And, instead of the cold stony (painted) walls on the Proscenium and fronts of the Boxes, which gave the looker-on a chill, will be found a soft warm painting of variegated colours, intermingled with gold. Over the Stage doors and Hollow wooden windows, will hang a pair of festooned curtain Drapery, neatly fitted up. . . . And 'last not least,' the Ladies Boxes, are handsomely decorated, and the hitherto cold, thick, clumsy benches, are transported into beautiful crimson cushioned seats. The broken walls and windows will have been repaired, and in short, the whole interior of the house is so altered as to make it almost unknown to the Theatre-going people of Raleigh." To this statement, the manager added significantly, "A strict Police will be employed to preserve order." 94

           Local clubs may have performed in the Preston theater, but it was not until 1838 that another Thespian Society was organized in Raleigh. The club made its debut with that favorite comedy She Stoops to Conquer, but even the Raleigh Register, which encouraged the society, admitted that the players were raw. The next performance showed a marked improvement, and the Register thought that with a little more promptitude in scene-shifting the society could safely challenge criticism. "We attribute the success of the last performance in some measure," said the editor, "to the good order enforced in the House, which may still be further improved, if gentlemen, who prefer the Pit, will bear in mind that the seats were made to sit and not to stand on--and if the junior branches of the audience will crack fewer nuts." 95

           The Thalian Association of Wilmington which had been organized prior to 1800 had a career similar to the Thespian Society of Raleigh. It was organized three different times during the

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ante-bellum period, the last being about 1846. 96 This society had made an arrangement with the trustees of Innes Academy for the exclusive use of the lower part of the building as a theater. The building was completed about 1800; and, long after the academy had closed, the Thalian Association continued to hold possession of the building. Among its members were such influential men as Governor Edward B. Dudley; James S. Green, treasurer of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Company, who was the star comedian; and William M. Green, later Bishop of Mississippi, who excelled in the role of heroine.

           Fayetteville also had a Thalian Association which was incorporated in 1814, and Salisbury, a Thespian Society incorporated in 1813. The Salisbury society, like the one in Raleigh, was organized to encourage the establishment of a local academy. 97

John Lawson Henderson, president of the society for a number of years, associated with him such men as Charles Fisher, James Martin, Stephen Lee Farrand, Thomas L. Cowan, and John Giles. A barn served for a time as the Thespian playhouse, but by 1822 the society had a somewhat better theater. Later, Salisbury had a Thalian Association which was giving performances in the summer of 1829 at the house of Mrs. Yarborough, the widow of Colonel Edward Yarborough of Revolutionary fame. 98 Other towns, such as New Bern and Warrenton, also had their Thalian and Thespian societies. In 1859 the Semi-Weekly Standard praised the Thespian Society of Warrenton, saying that the company was made up principally of "the clerks and mechanics of the town." In the early spring the all-male cast gave The Lady of Lyon in a room "well fitted up" with very good stage scenery. 99

           Under the influence of female academies, young ladies also gave plays for the amusement of their classmates. It was but a step from these school plays to the presentation of plays for the public. In 1851 five girls of Little Bend, near Henderson, "joined in a play called 'Copen Hagen,' in which," wrote one of them, "I don't think there is any harm." But "Bro. Faning heard that [I]

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played old sister Phebie" and he "is about to bring us to law 100 for playing." 101

           Theatrical companies from the North also visited the State, usually playing at Raleigh, Fayetteville, New Bern, and Wilmington. A company might spend several weeks in one town, giving two or three performances a week. After a few plays, the companies would then give benefit performances for the actors, the receipts of the ticket office going to the player specified. In 1818 a northern company played several times in Raleigh before "a numerous and fashionable audience." Some claimed that the patronage of the theater had never been surpassed in a town of that size in America. 102

           With the appearance of the Beggar's Opera in America, the press of North Carolina as well as that of other states began to carry protests against "the eternity of terrors" which a theater hid beneath its magnificence. "The necessity for theatrical exhibitions does not exist in our day" said a correspondent of the Raleigh Register. 103

"Every time we indulge in these amusements," wrote another, "we run the risque of giving nature a victory over conscience. . . . A month has not elapsed, since part of the audience abandoned the theater, during a performance, in a neighboring city, on account of indecent exposure of person in a female! Perhaps it will be said that this argues a virtuous refinement, prevalent among those who attend the Theatre in our day. Not so--for the number that retired, was unfortunately but small." 104 Shakespearian plays were denounced as being nothing more than oaths and imprecations clothed in poetic language.

           This attitude on the part of a few citizens and especially of the evangelical clergy, together with the inferiority of most of the strolling companies, led to an increasing distrust of the theater after 1825 which was not overcome during the remainder of the period. When a visiting company appeared in Fayetteville in 1828, only a handful of men attended the first few performances.

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At length, a "Grateful Auditor" assured the public that the plays were of the right sort. "Perhaps the best evidence of this," he said "is that their audience has doubled each night, and that a number of Ladies honored them with their presence on the two last nights." 105 In 1835 the Fayetteville Observer wrote that a theatrical company had for the first time in many years made money by a visit to that place. "And it is accounted for," said the editor, "by their good acting, and the uniformly correct and gentlemanly deportment for which they were distinguished." 106

           Other performances, such as wire walking, comic singing, Negro minstrels, and the exhibition of natural and artificial curiosities usually drew large crowds. In 1829 "the Wonderful Birds of Knowledge, Tippo Saib and Fairy, from England, India and the Canary Islands" were being exhibited in Fayetteville. "Tippo Saib, the Little Indian Tumbler," would "balance, stand on his head, mount sentry, lie down and feign to be dead, and jump up at the word of command." Fairy played "a Match at Dominoes with the Canine Philosopher." 107

The Siamese Twins, who were frequently exhibited in North Carolina, aroused great curiosity and the state press followed their subsequent history with interest, especially since they married and settled at Mt. Airy.

           Every few years a circus company passed through North Carolina, visiting the most important towns. The company usually stayed several days or even a week in one place. In the decade of the thirties Joseph D. Palmer's Circus, Harrington's Circus, and Miller, Yale, Sands and Company's Menagerie and Circus visited the State, while in the fifties Robinson and Eldred and Raymond and Company exhibited in North Carolina. Raymond boasted "the astonishing performance of Mons. Schaffer" who harnessed and drove a large lion under the pavillion. 108

           Negro minstrels, with an all-white cast, began to appear in the State in the forties. In December, 1844 the Original Plantation Melodists, "composers and singers of all the most Popular Negro Songs and Chorusses of the present day," gave a "grand concert" in Wilmington. 109

Parrow's Sable Minstrels "gave entire satisfaction" to "very respectable audiences" in Salisbury in 1849, 110

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and West and Piel's "old and original Campbell Minstrels" were singing "The Campbell's Are Coming" in Wilmington in 1851. 111

           Despite these performers, the average town in the State had few opportunities to spend its money on commercialized recreation. In 1832, for instance, Tarboro had only one public performance of any kind and in 1852, twenty years later, it had only five: three concerts, one circus, and the exhibition of a natural curiosity. 112


           The townspeople were as ardent sportsmen as were the country folk. The century opened with cockfighting in general favor. The main usually consisted of twenty-one cocks with a purse of from three to five hundred dollars a main. Easter Monday was a popular time for cock mains, but there were also spring and fall contests. On the day of a fight, all roads leading to the town where the main was to be held were alive with carriages, horses, and pedestrians hastening to the cock pit which might be at a tavern, a store, or in a spacious square near the center of town. Spectators crowded about, the gentry with the yeomen "without regard to status," waiting for the birds to be produced. 113

The cocks were often beautiful and well trained fowls. Each was armed with long, steel-pointed gaffs firmly attached to its spurs. Amid the lusty shouts of the crowds, the birds stepped proudly about, advancing nearer and nearer, until with a rush each suddenly drove its gaffs into the other. Both might be struck dead at the first thrust, but, if not, they fought on with spirit. After repeatedly being pierced, they would continue to make stabs as long as they were able to crawl.

           In 1806 a three-day main was fought in Pittsboro at Joseph Harman's tavern for ten dollars each fight and three hundred dollars the main. 114

In the same year a number of gentlemen of two lower counties in North Carolina and of two counties in Virginia offered to meet gentlemen of Maryland at Norfolk any time between March 20 and July 18, 1807, to show fifty cocks and match not less than twenty-one in the main. The main was to be for a purse of from one to ten thousand dollars according to the amount agreed upon. 115

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           Church people generally frowned upon cockfighting as being barbarous and irreligious, and this opinion increased as the camp meeting movement spread. In 1810 a correspondent of Thomas Henderson, editor of the Star, stated that the religious beliefs of the people of Moore County had caused them to give up cockfighting as contrary to benevolence and humanity. 116

In 1824 James Wellborn, senator from Wilkes County, presented a bill to suppress the sport, but it was immediately defeated. 117 In 1845 a correspondent of the Star was indignant at finding in Dr. Thomas Dick's Philosophy of Religion that "our own North Carolina should be held up to Europe, and to all the world as the theatre of such inhuman amusements." 117a

           After about 1815 the State press no longer published advertisements of cock mains, for cockfighting had definitely come under the ban of the church. In time, the towns drove the sport outside the city limits by passing such ordinances as Salisbury did in 1858: "Ordered, That any person who shall engage in Cock Fighting in the town of Salisbury either for amusement or profit, shall forfeit and pay the sum of Ten Dollars for each and every offence." 118

But cockfighting has continued under cover to this day. 119

           However exciting cockfighting may have been, horse racing was the favorite sport of the ante-bellum period. By 1800 jockey

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clubs had already been organized in several counties; thoroughbreds had been imported from England; and Hillsboro, Halifax, Pittsboro, Warrenton, New Bern were having their fall and spring races. 120 The races were usually held over a period of three days; the town was crowded with visitors; bets ran high; and a tremor of excitement pervaded the whole community. Each day was usually concluded with a ball, attended by the fashion and beauty of the surrounding country. In the North Carolina Journal of October 21, 1805, a "Friend to the People" rejoiced to see that the people of North Carolina were "getting in the spirit of raising fine horses."

           At first, course-racing was carried on in a small way, for very little time was spent in preparing tracts or in training horses and very little money ventured in purses. The following advertisement which appeared in the Raleigh Register of September 28, 1802, is typical of the favorite type of racing at the beginning of the ante-bellum period:

           On the fifth Friday in October next, will be run for, at Cedar Hill Course, near Lewisburg, one Mile Heats, an elegant Saddle, Bridle, Martingale and Whip, free for any Nag that never won a Purse, carrying weight for Age, agreeable to the New-Market Rules. Entrance Five Dollars, to be paid at the Time of subscribing. The saddle &c., will be hung up at the starting-Post. All the Money subscribed after paying for the Saddle, will be run for on the succeeding Day, free for any Saddle Horse. Entrance Five Dollars, to be paid as above. The Field will be furnished with the best Liquors and Provisions.

           Quarter-racing was pursued with great spirit. It was a quarter-mile race by two or more horses along parallel paths, 121

the village streets sometimes serving for the purpose. It was not uncommon for these races to be made for as much as a thousand dollars by men in moderate circumstances. 122 As the years advanced toward 1860 more money was invested in horses, and more attention given to training. 123 Competition was keen and the races sometimes

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resulted in fights, duels, and trickery. In 1839 Major David McDaniel's stable was set fire at midnight; and his valuable race horse and stallion, Red Wasp, probably worth $10,000, perished. 124

           In 1827 the Baltimore and Washington City jockey clubs began to penalize the entrance of southern horses. The Washington races were free only for sportsmen and horses north of the Pamunkey River. "We are afraid that our friends of N. Carolina are displeased at our Jockey Clubs having excluded the Roanoke racers, but surely without reason," wrote the National Intelligencer. "Whenever we can produce animals that are able to compete, with any chance of success, with those South of the Pamunkey, our friends may be assured that they are welcome." 125

           A turf convention was held in Charleston in February, 1835, at which North Carolina sportsmen were present, for the purpose of fixing the time for holding the important races of the South and for improving the sport in general. 126

Three years later, North Carolina formed a State jockey club of its own, of which General Beverly Daniel was president and Major David McDaniel treasurer and proprietor. The course was located near Raleigh. The State association announced that its purses would be "equal to those of almost any Jockey Club in the United States." ". . . from the Location of the Track, and the fine order in which it will always be found . . . we anticipate with some confidence that it will speedily become the Central Race Course of the Union." 127 The first races on the State course were run in November, 1838, with purses "greater than those of any club south of Baltimore or north of Mobile." 128 So popular had the Raleigh track become that the Register had begun to carry several columns of racing news and the paper developed a special sports style by 1840. 129

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           The interest in horse racing very likely led to the development of the ring tournament, 130

a spectacle of horsemanship and pageantry. This sport, which was begun in Maryland in 1840 and in Virginia in 1841, appeared in North Carolina in the late fifties. The tournament 131 was a joust patterned after the sport of medieval days. Riders, dressed in "their Sunday-best" or in the costumes of chivalry, drove their horses rapidly over a designated course in the attempt to remove with a long lance rings which had been suspended on a hook fastened to a bar. The course, which varied from 100 to 125 yards, was either straight or semicircular and must be covered in a given time, usually ten seconds. The rings, placed in a series of three, twenty-five or thirty yards apart, might be from two inches to half an inch in diameter. The rider must carry the rings triumphantly on his lance to the judges' stand. At the close of the contest, the rider who had removed the greatest number of rings was declared winner and had the privilege of crowning the "Queen of Love and Beauty."

           Each tournament rider chose the name of a knight, taken most often from the works of Scott, Spenser, Tennyson, and Cervantes. When the spectators had assembled and the knights were in place, a distinguished person, chosen for the occasion, delivered a stirring charge. The oratory at an end, each knight answered to his name and charged down the field. Often the winner received a substantial

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prize as well as the privilege of crowning "the queen of his heart," for a tournament was often held as a means of raising money for some benevolent purpose.

           The coronation ceremony, which usually followed at night, was a dramatic part of the pageantry. The victor chose the queen and together they usually selected the knights and maids who were to compose the royal party. After a brief oration by one of the judges or by the victor himself, the queen was crowned with a wreath of flowers and seated upon a flower bedecked throne. Later came the maids, escorted by their knights, to pay homage and receive their crowns. The royal party then led the opening dance of the ball.

           Prior to the tournament in the field or occasionally following it, a burlesque tournament by riders in amusing costumes some times entertained the spectators with their drollery. The performers might be local wags or a strolling company of professionals who cavorted for whatever they might collect from the hat. A favorite knight of the burlesque tournament was Don Quixote accompanied by his servant Sancho Panza on a mule. References to these knights of the burlesque appear in the North Carolina newspapers prior to the appearance of the serious tournament in the State. In the Fayetteville Observer of November 1, 1855, a correspondent, describing a day at a county agricultural fair, refers to "the ridiculous performances of a passing company of Don Quixote Invincibles," and the Raleigh Register of October 6, 1858, welcomed the ring tournament at the State Fair as a substitute for "that abominable and now stale exhibition of fantasticals who style themselves D. Q. I.'s."

           A ring tournament was held in Weldon, September 15, 1857, and another the following year. The tournament at the State Fair probably popularized the sport, but the ring tournament as a form of recreation did not become well known in North Carolina until after the Civil War.

           As early as 1810 an attempt was made to pass a law preventing horse racing, but all efforts to make the sport illegal were abortive. Attempts were also made to restrict betting at horse races. In 1806 a bill was introduced to prevent bets on horse races for a distance less than a mile, and in 1810 a bill was passed to prevent recovery at law of any bet made on a race. 131a

The result was that bets,

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which had been made openly through the newspapers in the early part of the century, came now to be wagered privately.

           There was a distinction in the public mind between betting on a sport and gambling at a game of chance. Anthony Trollope, writing on British sports in 1868, declared that "the noblest gambling in existence" was betting on the speed and endurance of a race horse. "Without betting there would be much fewer owners of race horses in England." 131b

Excessive gaming was a term generally applied only to games of chance. In 1764 it was made illegal to win more than five shillings at a game of chance within twenty-four hours. 132 Several laws against "excessive gaming" had been passed in colonial days but the first drastic one was that of 1791 whereby public gaming tables, such as those commonly called A.B.C., E.O., or faro bank, were forbidden under a penalty of two thousand dollars. 133 This law was reinforced in 1798 by another making it illegal for a person to suffer games at such tables to be played at his house under a penalty of two hundred dollars, and any money or property staked on such a game was liable to seizure by a justice of the peace. In 1799 tavern keepers and retailers of spirituous liquors were forbidden to permit any game at cards at which money or property was staked to be played on their premises. Lotteries, which had been popular in the first quarter of the century as means of raising money for the erection of academies, churches, and lodges, were forbidden in 1834 on penalty of two thousand dollars, 134 and in 1835 it was made an indictable offense to play at a gambling table of any variety.

           Gambling continued despite these laws. Dr. Jeremiah Battle in his history of Edgecombe County, written in 1811, listed card playing as an amusement "confined to a few" who were "not much disposed to make the winning & losing any great object." "The Ladies," he said, "have never been known to play here for money." 135

Alexander Sneed of Rockingham, listing the sports of his county, said, "I forbear to mention that vile and abominable practice of card playing &c and many other nefarious practices to delude the young and unwarrey; as they cannot be too severely reprehended by every honest and patriotic Citizen." 136 Bartlett

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Yancey included card playing as one of the amusements of Caswell County, saying, "Now and then may be seen a party with an old rusty pack of cards playing for whiskey."

           Perhaps the best-known instance of gambling in the ante-bellum period was the case of Robert Potter, already notorious for his connection with the anti-bank movement. In 1835 he was deprived of his seat in the House of Commons for having "behaved in an ungentlemanly manner at a card game." It appears that Potter lost a considerable sum of money at cards at a game one night during the sitting of the Legislature. 137

Suddenly he snatched his former holdings which were lying on the table before him, drew a gun, and made his retreat.

           The bills against gambling had not restricted billiard and backgammon tables and shuffle boards, but permitted them to be maintained on the payment of a tax. Some of the State papers, led by the Fayetteville Observer, began a crusade against the billiard table as early as 1830, denouncing it as giving rise to the licensed gambling house. 138

"It may plead the sanction of law and the countenance of the law-giver," said the editor "but it is the destroyer of public morals; the corrupter of individual character; the assassin of the peace and prosperity of persons and families." In the issue of October 29, 1835, the North Carolina Standard thought that it might be necessary to resort to "Lynch-law" to get rid of the "den of licensed Blacklegs" in Raleigh. Oxford had a town meeting in 1837 for devising ways of dealing with "a certain class of itinerant gamblers, black-legs or vagabonds, called Faro-bank dealers." 139 In 1856 the Fayetteville police seized a faro-bank and burned the cards and boards in the public street. 140 One of the owners escaped from the window of the room in which the apparatus was in operation, while the other deposited a bail of $1,050. Gambling continued, however, for it was hard to detect and its fascination difficult to combat. 141

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           To escape the heat and malaria of the coastal towns the people of Eastern North Carolina had retired in colonial times to the edge of the piedmont where they might find cool springs out of reach of the "miasma." This custom was continued in the antebellum period until it came to be a means of distinguishing those who were fashionable in town life from those who were not. There were some who made a yearly pilgrimage to Saratoga and other northern resorts as well as to springs in Virginia and North Carolina. "The 'Spring season' is almost at hand, and soon the moneyed part of our population, who have time at their command, will be moving off on various lines of travel, in pursuit of health and excitement, at the numerous watering places and fashionable resorts of the Union," wrote the Southern Weekly Post of Raleigh on July 2, 1853. "Newport, Saratoga, Niagara, Cape May, the Virginia Springs, Old Point, Nag's Head, and many other places of less note, will be thronged with visitors, and almost every one of these will have some plea of ill health, some dyspepsia or rheumatism or other, to reveal to their acquaintances as the true cause of their travels."

           In 1802 Lenox Castle was perhaps the most popular summer resort in the State, but by 1810 a few were also visiting the Warm Springs near Asheville. By 1850 the number of visitors to Asheville had increased to five hundred but of that number only fifty were North Carolinians, for, as the Raleigh Register complained, residents of the State had rather gad off to Virginia or the North than to patronize Western North Carolina. Shocco Springs and the Sulphur Springs near Warrenton were popular resorts for many years where one might spend his days "in intercourse with the elite of the State, denuded of its useless and oppressive forms." 142

In addition to the Warren County springs, the popular summer resorts in North Carolina in 1860 were the Piedmont in Stokes, the Warm Springs in Madison, the Sulphur Springs and the Warm Springs in Buncombe, the Piedmont in Burke, the Wilson Springs in Cleveland, the Catawba Springs in Lincoln, and the beaches at Nags Head, Beaufort, Wrightsville, Masonboro, and Ocracoke.

           A day at the springs might be as full of gaiety as a day in

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Washington with Congress in session, if one were disposed to be convivial. Breakfast over, one might sing or dance with a group in "the long room," or, if he preferred, play a game of whist or go for a ride. Several nights a week there was a ball with music furnished by a band, under contract to play for the season. Shocco was thought in 1857 to be an ideal place for love-making and engagements. "We have seldom seen a more handsome or a more brilliant display of female beauty than we looked upon in the ball room at Shocco on Saturday and Monday evenings," wrote the North Carolina Standard. "The young men were of course gallant and attentive to the fair, and some of them were positively handsome." 143

           In the last two decades of the period, as society became gayer and more restless in its search for amusement, some of the North Carolina resorts had a remarkable growth, drawing guests from Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. 144

Within a few years the Piedmont Springs in Stokes County had been transformed from "Dame Nature's rough ground work" into a smart watering place. "Simon" described the transformation in a letter to the Raleigh Register on August 4, 1858:

           It seems but yesterday, I used to come to these Springs when in their original native simplicity. The worst kind of "old corn Whisky" was retailed by "Flinchem" in a gourd, from a brown jug with a corn-cob stopper. Now champagne, &c., is the order of the day.--We then scraped away the "trash," leveled the dirt, and sprinkling down the bran, had the real bran dances of primeval times to the music of the Banjo. Now, fair ladies trip the light fantastic in fine saloons, to the music of brass, catgut, or whatever you wish. Then, a tough sheep, stolen by "Dick Chamberlain," was a delicacy rare as tough. Now "anything you call for" is furnished by polite and trained servants. Then, log cabins, ox wagons, and tents sheltered our beavers from the mountain showers. Now, splendid, big buildings, all white and stately, cast their proud shadows across the way.

           The summer months at a resort were, indeed, more lively than the winter months in town, and at the end of the season might leave one exhausted from the gaiety. For this reason, Mrs. Ebenezer Pettigrew wrote from her plantation home in Washington County to her sister in New Bern, "I think those people who are

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constantly gadding about from Shocco to Saratoga, from thence to the city &c.--are in a state of most perfect derangement." 145

           Town life in ante-bellum North Carolina was monotonous, nevertheless. Despite the gay respite in July and August, despite visiting parties, teas, balls, public celebrations, literary societies, and theaters, time hung heavily on the hands of those who had much leisure. Horse races came but twice a year, and there was only one Fourth of July. In 1826 Edward J. Hale of the Carolina Observer declared that Fayetteville had been so long without any form of amusement he was happy to announce the coming of a circus. The Raleigh Register in the issue of October 10, 1843, suggested the organization of "conversation societies by which the dull monotony that lingers around us might be broken." The majority of the townspeople, however, had little time for polite social gatherings. They took their recreation in Saturday night frolics, in visits to the tippling houses, and in the free whisky and barbecue of election day. They were little concerned about social status, and, as long as they were able to make an honest living, they were satisfied with their lot.

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