A native of Jackson County, North Carolina, Gertrude D. McKee became the first woman to serve in the North Carolina Senate. Her terms were from 1931-33, 1937-39, and 1943-44. She was known as a “pioneer of welfare programs” in North Carolina that served as models for other Southern states.
Author: North Carolina History Project
Over the past year and a half, I have been traveling across North Carolina with my colleague Michael Sanera leading constitutional workshops. In them, we emphasize the federal nature of the American government and remind Tar Heels that knowledge of history is essential to understanding original intent and the Constitution’s meaning. The question-and-answer sessions are interesting, so I thought I’d share some of the oft- repeated questions with readers.
The home of Revolutionary War general William Lenoir, Fort Defiance was built in 1792 in what is now Caldwell County. Prior to Lenoir’s ownership, the house was built on a fort site that was used by British colonists.
Not the only incident in the turbulent wartime mountains, the Shelton Laurel Massacre of Madison County proved, writes historians John Inscoe and Gordon McKinney, that “guerrilla warfare blurred the lines between combatants and noncombatants and obscured the rules of war.” It also revealed that Confederate sympathizers were as willing as Union sympathizers to be bushwhackers and redefine mountain warfare.
The American Civil War was a tumultuous time. In the North Carolina mountains, in particular, the war offered opportunities for mountaineers to be unjustifiably violent. In some high country places, civility ended, outlaws ruled, and cruelty prevailed. The Fort Hamby Gang of Wilkes County provides an example.
The last commander of Fort Fisher before its surrender to Union forces, James Reilly’s postwar years reveals the bond that many former Confederate and Union soldiers exhibited during the 1880s and 1890s. They had declared an ideological truce and recognized each other as Americans and the bravery that each side had shown approximately 30 years prior.
Named after Joseph Caldwell, the first president of the University of North Carolina, Caldwell County was created in 1841 and formed out of Burke and Wilkes counties by the North Carolina legislature.
After the Civil War, many educators and reformers flooded into North Carolina and into its mountains, to uplift the Tar Heel. According to historians John Inscoe and Gordon McKinney, there were writers who perpetuated an endearing hillbilly stereotype, and some Americans discussed visiting the mountains again on vacations.
Governor of North Carolina from 1699-1703, when North Carolina was still under proprietary rule, Henderson Walker is known for being the executive during a time of economic growth and overall peace. However, his efforts to have the Anglican denomination become the official church of the colony angered a few and contributed greatly, some argue, to the later Cary Rebellion.
Formed out of Guilford County in 1785, Rockingham County was initially inhabited by the Cheraw Indians and later by the English, Germans, and Scotch-Irish. Its current population is approximately 92,000. Although not the county’s largest town, Wentworth serves as the county seat.