Unsolved Murder in Jamestown

pistolWhen the remains of the individual known to archaeologists as JR102C was found in 1996, it was clear from the lead ball and shot fragments in his crushed leg that the young man had been murdered, probably in a duel.  Investigators may have uncovered the identity of the victim and the murderer from newly uncovered accounts of a duel in 1624 where a man named George Harrison (not the one in the Beatles) died after being shot in the leg.  The perpetrator of Mr. Harrison’s death was a Jamestown merchant named Richard Stevens.  Stevens should have stopped there but he later got in a fistfight with the Virginia Gov. John Hardy in 1635 and had his teeth knocked out.

Source The Archaeology News Network

1927 Wilson Baseball Team


1927 Wilson Baseball Team

This is a picture that was recently donated.  The names of the players from the top, left to right are:

Warren Whitehurst, Zeke Cozart, Coach McWherter, Unknown, Bill Tilghman

Wade Lee Lancaster, Ellis Fysal, Unknown, Ollin Winstead

Bill Tomlinson, Joe E. Eagles, WM Rose, Mebane Lea

Wilson County Mills Redux


Wiggin’s Mill circa 1920’s

Yate's Mill

Yate’s Mill in Wake County (est. 1750). Last operational mill in Wake County.  Yeah, not in Wilson County but there’s no mills left here 😦
Photo by Will

Finch's Mill, circa 1950's

Finch’s Mill circa 1950’s

I made a really uninteresting post about Barefoot Mill a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty much just a picture without any information about the mill.  But this post will make amends .

If you wanted the makings for cornbread, corn pone (corn meal and lard) or grits you had to take your corn to a grist mill (almost nobody made flour at the time). The grist mill harnessed the energy of flowing water to turn their grinding stone and building one was no small feat.  First you had to seek permission from the county court, especially if someone else owned land that would be flooded by the dam.  Damages were assessed and paid.  Most dam sites were at the narrow part of a stream and were constructed with earth by men and carts with a wood spillway in the middle.

The mill was also a hotspot for socializing and talking crops, politics, religion and spreading gossip or news.  The grinding was a slow process so there was plenty of time to chew the fat. It was a time of few books and newspapers and the locals got their intellectual stimulus from the mill, church or Statonsburg where “boughten” goods arrived on shallow-draft boats from the coast.

Barefoot’s Mill (later Wiggin’s Mill) was originally called Cobb’s Mill after Captain Stephen Cobb and it may have supplied British forces during the Revolution.  On May 5, 1781 Lord Cornwallis wrote to Tarleton (Bloody Ban) that he wanted to get 1500 pounds of meal ground there within 24 hours.  On May 8th Cornwallis was near Viverett’s mill North of Lamon’s Ferry at the Tar River.  There he told Tarleton to meet him there or at Cobb’s Mill in case it seemed better for them to return to Wilmington.  At the time of the Civil War the Cobb’s Mill was known as Hadley’s Mill and by the turn of the century it had become Barefoot’s mill.  J.T. Wiggin’s purchased it at the end of WWI and by the mid-1920’s Wiggin’s was bankrupt.

Here is a list of all the mill sites in Wilson County as found in a letter from Hugh Johnston to Horst Garloff.

  1. Horn’s Mill on Little Swamp, 1804
  2. Silver Lake, Farmer’s Mill, and John Dew’s Mill on Toinsnot Swamp, 1785
  3. Wilson Reservoir, Winstead’s Mill, Barnes’ Mill, Dew’s Mill in 1751, Viverett’s Mill, established in 1744 as Lott’s Mill and is the oldest mill site in Wilson County
  4. (Caswell) Finch’s Mill on Bloomery Swamp, 1875
  5. Lamm’s Mill, Bloomery Mill on Great Swamp, dates back to Revolution
  6. (Stanley) Boykin Mill, (Peter) Bailey Mill on Moccasin Creek
  7. (Robinson) Baker’s Mill on Contentnea Creek, 1870-1900
  8. Barnes’ Mill on Hominy Swamp, 1801
  9. (James Reddick) Barnes’ Mill on Poplar Branch, 1865
  10. (Irvin) Boykin’s Mill N. of Contentnea Creek
  11. (Stephen Plummer) Boykin’s Mill E. of Filmore
  12. (Condary) Boykin’s Mill on Flat Rock Branch
  13. (David) Daniel’s Mill at site of Wiggin’s Mill, 1897-1904
  14. Davis’ Mill on Great Swamp, 1790
  15. Davis’ Mill on Black Creek
  16. Davis’ Mill on Turner’s Swamp
  17. (Raymond) Eatman’s Mill on Flat Rock Branch
  18. (Peter) Eatman’s Mill on Juniper Creek
  19. (Wiley W.) Farmer’s Mill on Silver Lake, 1871-1907
  20. (William Dew) Farmer’s Mill on Rocky Branch
  21. (David “Dick”) Flower’s Mill on 1901 at Taylor’s Mill
  22. (Martin) Gardner’s Mill on Gardner’s Mill Swamp, 1788
  23. (Thomas) Hadley’s Mill at Wiggin’s Mill, 1833-1863
  24. (Nathaniel) Hickman’s Mill at Wilson Reservoir
  25. (Henry)(Thomas) Horn’s Mill at Baker’s Mill on Contentnea Creek, 1778
  26. (John) Lott’s Mill on Wilson Reservoir, 1744-1748
  27. Simm Family’s Mill on Mill Branch, Antebellum period
  28. (James H.) Newsome’s Mill on Upper Black Creek
  29. (Arnold) Nichol’s Mill W. of the main fork of Marsh Swamp
  30. Odom’s Mill on the site of Nichol’s Mill
  31. (Joseph) Pender’s Mill  prior to 1813 near Pender’s Crossroads
  32. Shallington’s Mill at Gardner’s Branch
  33. Stanton’s Mill at Toisnot Swamp, 1826
  34. (Manuel) Sullivant’s Mill at Mill Branch
  35. (Enos) Tartt’s Mill on Bear Branch, 1817
  36. (Dr. J.M.) Taylor’s Mill ginned cotton and ground cornmeal on Contentnea Creek, 1859-1882 see also Flower’s Mill
  37. Thompson’s Mill is said to have been built in 1879 by Dr. GW Ward, Later sold to William Applewhite, inherited in 1905 by Lena Applewhite and her husband Benjamin Joyner Thompson on Toisnot Swamp.
  38. (Martin) Thorne’s Mill on Cattail Swamp
  39. Tomlinson’s Mill on Cedar Branch
  40. Tory Mill (Shallington’s Mill qv) is reputed to have been begun by a Tory Family that were burned out by their neighbors during the Revolutionary War then run by the Gatlin Family before the Shallingtons.
  41. (William) White’s Mill on Little Swamp, 1792
  42. (Colonel David) William’s Mill on William’s Branch, 1848
  43. (J.H.) Williamson’s Mill on Buckhorn Branch
  44. (J.J.) Wilson’s Mill Pond on Marsh Swamp
  45. Woodard’s Mill was established before the Civil War by Dr. AG Brooks on Dickinson’s Branch befor it enters easterly into Contentnea Creek.  It was later owned by Frederick Augustus Woodard.
  46. (Benjamin) Simm’s Mill Swamp

Two Cannons retrieved from the Wreck of Blackbeard’s Flagship


Blackbeard, a pirate

After a 300 year sabbatical two of the Queen Anne’s Revenge cannons have been retrieved from the bottom of Beaufort Inlet in  Cateret County NC by researchers from the state’s Underwater Archaeology.

Researchers have identified 27 known cannons at the site, with 26 made of cast iron and one of bronze. Counting the two raised Thursday, 15 cannon have been recovered.

The two 6-pounders that are the latest recovered are about 8-feet long and with the concretions covering them after hundreds of years under water, they weigh about 2,500 pounds each.

They will now be transported to the QAR conservation lab in Greenville.

Conservator Sarah Watkins-Kenney said each cannon is a new piece of the story that is the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

“Each one is unique,” she said.

Of the ones that have already been recovered, markings have shown that some were English made and others were Swedish made. There have also been some that were loaded when the ship sank.

Knowing which ones were loaded and how they were positioned on the ship can give information about what Blackbeard and his crew were doing when the ship ran aground, she said.

“If all the guns were loaded and ready to go, that’s different than if they weren’t,” she said.

That’s awesome!

Source Jacksonville Daily News

Evil Air: Malaria in the American South


Image shows the range of Plasmodium Falciparum in North and South America.
From 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

Feb. 6, 1692: Taken ill a Seventh time:  with a Tertian Ague: about 3h p.m .it began & was of the same nature with my last which I had all January, but this was the worst.
Feb. 12, 1692: Before noon, a 4th fit. With which I shook about 3h p.m. & then went to bed: where I had a very violent Feaver; this being the worst fit of all: my breath very short; & delirious…
(Mann 2011, pg. 106)

Samuel Jeak, a merchantman in Southeast England, was suffering from an infection from a plasmodium.  The plasmodium is an insidious parasite that conducts a coordinated assault causing red blood cells to burst open with up to ten billion new parasites overwhelming the immune system and causing chills and fevers.  Although the immune system can eventually beat back the assault, the plasmodium will hide out in your liver for years waiting to attack again.  This is of course malaria, a disease that was endemic to the American Southeast at least until the 1940’s and had a strong hand in the formation of the South’s economy and culture.  Recently, well yesterday, I finished reading Charles C. Mann’s sequel to 1492, 1493: The New World that Columbus Created.  And although I had an extensive discussion of the entirety of 1492 in an earlier blog post I am going to focus on a chapter titled Evil Air.  The author, Charles Mann, does a superb job in drawing on resources to show how malaria impacted the Columbian exchange.

Malaria had impacts beyond the immediate sufferings of its victims. It was a historical force that deformed cultures, an insistent nudge that pushed societies to answer questions in ways that today seem cruel and reprehensible (pg. 116).

Could malaria be a reason that slavery became entrenched in the American South but died out north of the Mason Dixon line?  It’s an interesting question that Mann tackles expertly.

            The English word for malaria comes from the Italian word for evil air.  But the old Latin term for malaria is tertian fever which describes periods of fever and chills that occur in a forty-eight hour pattern. You are sick one day and then fine the next, fine the next day and then sick the following day.  The pattern continually repeats itself which is why it was it was given the Latin term for three days which follows the Roman pattern of counting time from the beginning of one period to the beginning of the next.

Malaria did not exist in the Americas before 1492.   Europeans brought the plasmodium vivax parasite to the Americas from southern England, where it thrived during the colonial period.  Europeans from areas where the plasmodium vivax historically lived acquired certain immunity to the disease if they suffered from it at some point in their life (and survived), which is called seasoning.  Therefore these Europeans did not suffer as severely as did the Native American population during the early years of colonization.  Even so the plasmodium vivax caused much suffering and death among European colonists who hadn’t been seasoned. However, a new type of malaria, brought over from Africa with the first African slaves, was devastatingly fatal to all Europeans as well as the Native Americans.  This was the plasmodium falciparum.

The original slave trade in the South was of Native American slaves.  The Mississippian Native American culture that dominated the Southeast was a culture that practiced slavery on a large scale.  They usually took slaves through ritualistic warfare.  Eventually  these slaves could become members of the tribe, or they could be killed in reciprocation for the killing of a tribe member.  The newcomer Europeans were quick to take advantage of this labor force made available through Native American slave catchers until its collapse in the early 1700’s as Native American populations imploded due to Old World diseases, which included malaria.   The possible replacements for Native American slaves were indentured servants from Scotland and Northern England and African slaves.

To the North, Colonial New England was a society that had slaves.  But slaves from Africa were expensive, much more expensive than indentured servants from Europe.  Adam Smith even stated that slaves were not economically viable.  This was true in New England where slavery eventually fell out of favor and the more economical indentured servants became the labor of choice.  However, indentured servants usually came from regions in Britain that did not have any malaria.  These newcomers that had never been exposed to any type of plasmodium died in staggering numbers soon after they arrived in the South, and with the introduction of falciparum, no European was safe.  In some parishes around Charleston three out of four children died by the age of twenty.  In the same period of these malarial fueled die-offs, there was a people that were increasing in number to the colonies that were almost completely immune (ninety-seven percent) to vivax and about fifty percent immune to falciparum.  These people were coming over as slaves from West and Central Africa.

The Southern plantation owners did not know that Africans had a strong resistance to malaria, nor did they know what malaria even was.  They just saw that Africans survived where Europeans and Native Americans died.  Still, Africans died in large numbers from brutality and other diseases that they were subjected to in the chattel slave society that existed in the South.  But when malaria and yellow fever (another deadly mosquito born disease that Africans have resistance to) outbreaks occurred the Africans were left standing while other populations withered away.  These outcomes gave the advantage to the large plantation owners with an African slave labor force over the small farmers with indentured servants.  Also, it just so happens that falciparum is very temperature sensitive and the dividing line where falciparum can live is below the Mason Dixon line.  Above the line is too cold for it to survive.  It is also no coincidence

General Wade Hampton III's plantation house ruins on top of Quinine Hill in Columbia, South Carolina.  The Hamptons went to their home in the North Carolina mountains during the fever season.

General Wade Hampton III’s plantation house ruins on top of Quinine Hill in Columbia, South Carolina. The Hamptons went to their home in the North Carolina mountains during the fever season.

that plantation homes with their high windows that let in a breeze (that kept away mosquitoes) were frequently on a hill with a manicured, treeless lawn that happened to keep away mosquitoes; nor that the plantation families usually went North to Rhode Island or to the mountains during the worst times of the year (fall) for malaria,  while the yeoman farmer and poor had to stay and suffer and die in the malarial zone, therefore creating a more stratified society.  African slavery was not caused by malaria but malaria offset the economic impediments as defined by Adam Smith. The author also documents a similar pattern occurring in the falciparum ravaged slave state of Brazil as compared to the falciparum free Argentina where indentured servants made up the labor force.

Mann also gives evidence for malaria helping to win the revolution by severely reducing the effectiveness of Cornwallis’ largely Scottish troops.  And may be a major reason that the Northern armies lost so many battles in the early years of the American Civil War marching into the falciparum zone where the tertian fever rate was calculated as high as 233% with soldiers suffering from fever 2 times or more.

To conclude, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created provides a extremely well researched overview and analysis of the mosaic of the changes that happened as a result of the Columbian Exchange.  As well as an intense examination of how the introduction of Old World diseases such as malaria to the Americas was a large factor in the destruction of the Native American cultures and peoples that had existed for millennia and the helped to bring about the brutal enslavement of the Central and Western Africans.