One of North Carolina’s most prolific baseball players, Jim “Catfish” Hunter excelled on the baseball mound from his young days in Hertford to his last professional years with the New York Yankees. Catfish was known for his precision pitching, and he won five World Series during his 14 year career in the major leagues. The all-star pitcher retired in 1979 to his family home in Perquimans County, and he passed away in 1999 after battling Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Region: Coastal Plain
Once the strongest Algonquian tribe in North Carolina, the Chowanoac, or “people at the south,” thrived in areas that now make up the Bertie, Chowan, Gates, and Hertford Counties. Ralph Lane and other English explorers first encountered the tribe in 1586. Between 1666 and 1676, several conflicts led to the downfall of the once powerful Native American group. By the 1750s, the Chowanoac had sold most of their land holdings to English colonists.
An eastern Siouan tribe that once resided in the southeastern part of North Carolina and upper sections of South Carolina, the Waccamaw lived, hunted, and fished along the rivers and swamps of the region. The Yamassee and Tuscarora Wars proved detrimental to the Waccamaw, a tribe that remained in relative obscurity until the late eighteenth century. Although the federal government has yet to recognize the tribe, North Carolina has recognized the Waccamaw, and some 1,500 members reside in Bladen and Columbus Counties.
European settlement near the Pamlico River in the 1690s led to the creation of Bath, North Carolina’s first town, in 1705. The town’s location seemed ideal with easy access to the river and the Atlantic Ocean 50 miles away at Ocracoke Inlet.
As the oldest courthouse in North Carolina, the historic Chowan County Courthouse was constructed in 1767 in Edenton. Joseph Hewes, Samuel Johnston, and other important North Carolina Patriots used the courthouse during the 1770s and 1780s. With the Cupola and Barker House, the Chowan County Courthouse remains an important historical structure and popular attraction in Edenton. Today, the courthouse is the oldest government building in use in the state.
One of the largest and most ornate buildings in colonial North Carolina, the Tryon Palace was built in the late 1760s at the behest of its namesake, Royal Governor William Tryon. John Hawks was the architect, and the government assembly chambers and the house were dedicated on December 5, 1770. Increased taxes to pay for the palace’s construction angered many Piedmont colonists. After the American Revolution, the palace burnt down in a fire in 1798. In 1959, after efforts to restore the site, Tryon Palace opened as the state’s first historic site.
Congress established Kill Devil Hills National Memorial on March 2, 1927 to commemorate Wilbur and Orville Wright and their contribution to aeronautics and for conducting the world’s first successful heavier-than air flight.
Somerset Place is a representative state historic site offering a comprehensive and realistic view of 19th-century life on a large North Carolina plantation. Originally, this atypical plantation included more than 100,000 densely wooded, mainly swampy acres bordering the five-by-eight mile Lake Phelps, in present-day Washington County. During its 80 years as an active plantation (1785-1865), hundreds of acres were converted into high yielding fields of rice, corn, oats, wheat, beans, peas, and flax; sophisticated sawmills turned out thousands of feet of lumber. By 1865, Somerset Place was one of the upper South’s largest plantations.
Born in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1915, Robert Ruark became one of the state’s most prominent writers during the 1940s and 1950s. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Ruark wrote for local newspapers until he moved to Washington, D.C. In the mid-1940s, Ruark gained popularity for his Washington Daily News columns, and he started writing fiction novels. His most popular work was Old Man and the Boy (1957), a semi-autobiographical work that details Ruark’s childhood with his grandfather in Southport, North Carolina.
Born in Martin County in 1811, Asa Biggs grew up in the area to become a lawyer in the Williamson region. Biggs was admitted to the bar in 1831 and a high point of his career occurred when he helped codify North Carolina’s law in 1854. As both a judge and U.S. senator, Biggs remained a Democrat that supported state rights and slavery.