From The Road: Thoughts about old papers, swamps, and the other Carolina.
Here are three things I've been thinking while I'm holed up here in northeast North Carolina.
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Good day to you from Roanoke Rapids, a city I’ve never been to before. I’ve ended up in a ton of towns across North Carolina, and I feel that it is noteworthy whenever I land in a place that I haven’t visited. I’m here in a hotel overlooking I-95 and the, um, Randy Parton Theater and since I’m coming off of a fairly long travel and work day, this is going to be a fairly short edition. But, here are a few things to know about northeast North Carolina:
The Meck Dec vs. the Halifax Resolves
I spent some time in Halifax yesterday. The population is about 200. It’s home to a great little restaurant, a nice gift shop, and a pretty fantastic courthouse:
If there’s one thing you should know about this place, it’s that it’s where the Halifax Resolves were signed. In short, it was the first written declaration that an American colony wanted to break away from Britain. If you drive into town, you’ll see plenty of signs marking the date of the signing: April 12, 1776.
However, Charlotte, a city more than 5,000 times larger than Halifax, and ostensibly with a larger marketing budget, would like to dispute that. You see, on May 20, 1775, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was signed, almost 11 months before the Halifax Resolves. That document was given to Captain James Jack (There’s a statue of him in Charlotte, along with, surprise! A beer), who took it by horseback to the Continental Congress. Problem is: The earliest reference anyone can find to the Meck Dec is a newspaper article published in 1819. And, unlike the Halifax Resolves, no original copies of the document have been found. Even Thomas Jefferson thought the Meck Dec was a hoax.
In any event, the North Carolina flag isn’t taking sides here. It listed both signing dates and called it a day:
Not Great. Not Dismal. Not a Swamp. YET.
I have been to the Great Dismal Swamp, and I’ve got bad news for you. It’s not a swamp. At least, not anymore. In 1763, before George Washington became that George Washington, he visited the swamp, and decided that the soggy ground should be converted into farmland. That’s right: Washington became the first would-be president to announce that he would drain the swamp.
The idea was this: By building a series of canals, the water would drain away and make it easy to cut down trees and sell the logs. That happened later, on the backs of slaves. But it also meant that the swamp was a swamp in name only, although it was still thick with vegetation, and it gave runaway slaves a place to hide (Shameless plug: I did an episode of Away Message about this).
If you, then, are a fan of swamps, then you should know that Ducks Unlimited is attempting to turn back the clock here. According to the Virginian-Pilot, they bought a big tract of land near Lake Drummond, just across the border in Virginia, with the hopes of converting 900 acres of it back into wetlands. It’s a noble idea, and will hopefully be a better idea than, say, building several castles on top of it.
South Carolina: From SAS’s Heart I Stab At Thee
North Carolina has twice as many people as that other state to our south, but we’re also much more urban than them. Case in point, the following cities are larger than Charleston, which is South Carolina’s largest city:
Of note, Greenville, North Carolina is bigger than Greenville, South Carolina (also, Gastonia has Greenville, SC beat, population-wise). Spartanburg, the traditional training camp home of the Carolina Panthers, is the size of Holly Springs, and smaller than Wake Forest, Hickory, Kannapolis, and Huntersville. The population of Gaffney, the home of that giant peach that looks like a butt, wouldn’t even crack the top 50 if it was in North Carolina.
All of which is to say that South Carolina is inferior to our much larger state, except when it comes to fantastically confusing directional town names:
I, Jeremy Markovich, am a journalist, writer, and producer based outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. I do not give actual investment advice. If you liked this, you might like Away Message, my podcast about North Carolina’s hard-to-find people, places, and things. Season 4 was all about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Author avatar by Rich Barrett.
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