Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving recipes from 1896 New Bern

Advertisement from the Elm City Cook Book, 1896.
By John B. Green III

Church fundraising cookbooks are well known today, but they were a new thing in 1890s New Bern.  When the ladies of Centenary Methodist Church decided to raise money for the church, they turned to this new medium.  The resulting Elm City Cook Book was published in 1896 and quickly sold out.  A second, retitled edition, the Best by Test Cook Book was issued in 1908.  Although the recipes were not signed it was stated that they had been "selected from the manuscript collections of ladies of well known culinary skill."

What follows are recipes for a few favorite Thanksgiving dishes as presented in these two cookbooks.

Advertisement from the Best by Test Cook Book, 1908

Monday, November 24, 2014

Southern belles and northern silver

By John B. Green III
Generations of Southern women once bore a grudge against the soldiers of the Union army whom they felt had engaged in excessive souvenir collecting during their extended sightseeing tour of the South, 1861-1865.  The slaughter of livestock, the looting of larders, and the burning of houses, barns, and fences could be borne with a certain grim equanimity.  But one thing enraged these ladies above all else - the purloining of cherished family and church silver.  Union General Benjamin F. Butler gained such a reputation in New Orleans for "collecting" Southern silverware that he became known as "Spoons" Butler.  In New Bern, St. John's Masonic Lodge lost its silver candlesticks and the officers' silver insignia, and the lodge cornerstone was robbed of its engraved silver dedication plaque.  The 18th-century silver communion service of Christ Episcopal Church was saved only because it was spirited away to Fayetteville, and then barely saved, when that city fell, by being hidden beneath a pile of old clothes in the back of a closet.

So imagine the surprise of New Bern's ladies when, on two different occasions, former Union soldiers presented them with handsome pieces of silver.  The silver gifts were tokens of appreciation and gratitude from the Union veterans for the kind reception and gracious hospitality they had experienced while revisiting New Bern.

Dedication of the New Jersey monument, May 18, 1905.
Between 1894 and 1909 four Northern states dedicated monuments to their dead in the New Bern National Cemetery: Connecticut in 1894, New Jersey in 1905, Massachusetts in 1908, and Rhode Island in 1909.  Much to their apparent surprise, these delegations of Union veterans and state officials received warm welcomes from New Bern city officials, townspeople, school children and  Confederate veterans.  Speeches, processions, tours of the town and battlefields, and receptions accompanied the monument dedications.  The Confederate veterans served as honor guards and escorts and reminisced with their Union counterparts.  And the Daughters of the Confederacy,  hosting receptions and assisting in the unveilings, charmed their way into the hearts of the aging Boys in Blue.

Massachusetts monument dedicated Nov. 11, 1908
It was the last two dedications, Massachusetts in 1908 and Rhode Island in 1909, which inspired the gifts of silver.  The letter which accompanied the Massachusetts gift read:

Boston, Mass., Dec. 3, 1908

Mrs. Charles L. Stevens, New Bern, N.C.
     Dear Mrs. Stevens - The undersigned were appointed a committee by the Massachusetts Delegation to New Bern to present to the New Bern Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, a suitable memorial, that they may realize in a slight degree the deep sense of gratitude which the Massachusetts Delegation feels toward them; and we have, accordingly purchased a sterling silver punch bowl and ladle, which we are shipping you by express today.

Wm. D. Chapple
Wm. H. Brigham
Chas. B. Amory
Ephraim Stearns
Horace Forbush

Punch bowl and ladle presented by the Massachusetts Delegation
The inscription on the punch bowl reads: 

Presented to New Bern Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, by the Massachusetts Delegation of State Officials and Veterans of the War of 1861-1865, in grateful appreciation of the hospitality, kindness and sympathy shown them at the dedication of the Soldiers Monument in the National Cemetery, New Bern, North Carolina, November 11, 1908.

Rhode Island monument dedicated Oct. 6, 1909
The Rhode Island gift was likewise accompanied by a letter of presentation:

Providence, R.I. 
Jan. 5, 1910

To the United Daughters of the Confederacy, New Bern, N.C.:

     The members of the Rhode Island party that visited New Bern, N.C., October 6th, 1909, for the purpose of dedicating the Rhode Island monument in the National Cemetery, remembering with much pleasure the cordial reception and delightful entertainment accorded them by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, respectfully desire your acceptance of the accompanying gift, as indicating their appreciation of the friendly greetings extended to them on that occasion, and also express the hope that memories recalled by it will be as pleasing to you as the recollections of the visit are gratifying to them.

Very respectfully,
Phillip S. Chase

Ewer presented by the Rhode Island delegation
The inscription reads:

Presented to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, New Bern, N.C. by the Delegation from Rhode Island at the Dedication of the State Monument, New Bern, N.C., October 6, 1909.

These prized pieces of silver were used by the New Bern Daughters of the Confederacy for as long as the chapter existed (it is now defunct).  The last members transferred the silver to the Tryon Palace Historic Sites and Gardens in 1990 for display and safekeeping.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Vanished New Bern, No. 8

a series of views of lost area buildings

By John B. Green III

The Swert House

Swert House, 600 block Broad Street, north side, photo c. 1900.
The Swert House was named for the family which owned and occupied it for ninety years from 1878 until it was demolished in 1968.  Most probably constructed during the first quarter of the 19th century for Frederick Jones, this imposing gambrel-roofed house stood at 614 Broad Street, where Tabernacle Baptist Church now stands.  Although the house was lost in 1968, some of the elaborate Federal-period interior woodwork survived the demolition.  Much of the parlor woodwork, including the mantel seen below, was removed from the house by Swert family descendants and installed in a new house on Change Street.

Early 19th century woodwork in the parlor of the Swert House, photo c. 1960.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Yo, Ho ...Who?

or why Blackbeard's House wasn't Blackbeard's House

By John B. Green III

Simpson-Oaksmith House, photo c. 1890.
Perhaps the strangest legend to arise out of the imaginations of 20th century New Bern adolescents was that the house at the corner of East Front and Pollock streets was the former home of Edward Teach - Blackbeard the Pirate.  The legend had it all - treasure-filled basement chambers, tunnels leading to the river for the secret comings and goings of the pirate, tunnels leading to Tryon Palace so that Governor Tryon could receive his cut of the loot (never mind that Tryon wasn't born until eleven years after the death of Blackbeard.)  And best of all, that the decorative terracotta heads on the building's tower represented the heads of the many wives that Blackbeard had married and murdered (thus conflating his legend with that of Bluebeard.)

Blackbeard's wives (actually two lions and a Greek goddess)
Known as the Simpson-Oaksmith House, the large and unusual house had an equally complex and bizarre history.  That, combined with its slightly dilapidated, and thus spooky, appearance in its last years, most probably led to the development of the Blackbeard tale.

Simpson-Oaksmith House, photo dated 1884.
The Simpson-Oaksmith House was constructed by Samuel Simpson ca. 1843-1846 after the great New Bern fire of 1843 had destroyed virtually everything in that neighborhood.  Erected on the southeast corner of East Front and Pollock streets, it closely resembled the Dr. John R. Justice House built at the same time half a block away at 216 Pollock Street.

Simpson-Oaksmith House, photo ca. 1900.
The Simpson House was acquired in 1874 by Appleton Oaksmith, political and military adventurer  and all-around character, who transformed the house between 1884 and 1886 into the tower-clad wonder that New Bernians remember.  In that form it served as a boarding and day school known as the Vance Academy between 1889 and 1891.

Handbill advertizing the Vance Academy, c. 1889-1891.
The Simpson-Oaksmith House changed hands several times during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, acquiring a third story and a two-level front portico in the process.  The house served as a private residence in its last years and was demolished in 1974.

Simpson-Oaksmith House, March 1971

But what about Blackbeard and his treasure and his wives and his tunnels? 

Blackbeard, also known as Edward Teach or Thatch, was killed near Ocracoke Island, North Carolina on November 22, 1718 or at least ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE years before the Simpson-Oaksmith House was built.  And that's why Blackbeard's House wasn't Blackbeard's House!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Vanished New Bern, No. 7

a series of views of lost area buildings

By John B. Green III

Ebenezer Presbyterian Church

Engraving from L.C. Vass, History of the Presbyterian Church in New Bern, N.C., 1886
This unusual Carpenter Gothic-style church, with its gable-roofed spire, once stood on the west side of Pasteur Street opposite the Atlantic and North Carolina depot and rail yard.  It was constructed in 1880 for the recently formed Ebenezer Presbyterian Church.  This African-American congregation was organized in 1878 and initially was composed of former members of First Presbyterian Church.  The church was constructed by African-American builder and church member William O. Randolph.  The corner stone of the church was laid with great ceremony on May 13, 1880 and the church was dedicated on November 7, 1880.  The unusual spire was not completed until 1884.  The last detail was the installation of a bell donated by Mrs. Julia P. Wickes of Poughkeepsie, New York, which bore the inscription "John Witear Fairfield, Fecit, 1770."  This spire was blown down and the bell broken during a strong storm on February 16, 1903.  The tower was rebuilt  by November of that year.  Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, along with its manse, was destroyed in New Bern's Great Fire of 1922.  It was replaced in 1924 by a new brick church erected on the southeast corner of Cedar and Bern streets.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dave Sampson

Cooking for The Babe

By John B. Green III

Babe Ruth and Dave Sampson, c. 1930.
He was born a slave yet he lived to become a valued companion of some of the greatest sports figures of the 20th century.  His parents were sold away when he was only three weeks old yet he survived to marry and have a family of his own.  His name was Dave Sampson and for more than thirty years he was perhaps the best known camp cook and hunting guide in eastern North Carolina.

Babe Ruth and Dave Sampson, c. 1930, probably at Camp Bryan.
Dave's story, nearly forgotten today, is told in a number of articles which appeared in North Carolina newspapers of the late 1920's and early 1930's.

David Sampson was born in Craven County, North Carolina in 1853, the slave of Michael Fisher.  Both his parents were sold and sent to Mississippi by Fisher when Dave was three weeks old.  Raised in his master's house, Dave learned to wait on the ladies of the household and, following the Civil War, remained with the family to learn to cook and wait on tables.  At the same time he developed into a prodigious hunter and fisherman.  This combination of talents would make him much sought after as cook, guide, and companion in later years.

Sampson moved away from the area for a time but returned to marry Mary Jane Mitchell, his childhood sweetheart, in 1885.  Together they had five children : Alfred, Annie, Rosa, Effie, and Eva May.  Their first home was a 10 feet by 12 feet log cabin which Dave built himself.  In time, Dave was able to accumulate enough money to acquire a large tract of land and build a frame house.

Dave Sampson Home, photo c. 1930.
Although Dave Sampson farmed his land, it was his work as a cook and guide that provided a reliable income of wages, tips, and presents from his hungry and admiring fans.  Dave was the regular cook at Camp Bryan, a sizable hunting preserve in the Lakes Poccosin area of Craven County.  Serving faithfully for thirty years, he became known as "the cook that never failed."  It was during these years that he cooked for a number of national figures who invariably sang his praises.  Many were baseball heroes such as Babe Ruth and Christy Mathewson, while others were writers such a Irving S. Cobb and Rex Beach.  Bud Fisher, creator of the Mutt and Jeff cartoons, and H.H. Brimley, curator of the North Carolina Museum of Natural History, were also numbered among Dave's friends.

"Keller's Banquet," Camp Bryan, Jan. 15, 1911.  Dave Sampson seated at left.
Dave preferred the title cook to that of chef and described himself as being not "much for style but strong for substance."  He could cook almost anything but numbered among his specialties barbecue, cornbread, and lemonade.

Dave Sampson, Camp Bryan, January 15, 1911.
His cooking was popular with men, especially men with hearty appetites.  Of Babe Ruth he would say, "No wonder he weighs so much.  He shore kept me busy cooking.  I just couldn't cook him enough collards and cornbread."

Dave Sampson, cook, and Ben, caretaker, Camp Bryan, January 15, 1911.

"Gator Hunters," Dave Sampson and H.H. Brimley, photo c. 1910.
Dave Sampson usually enjoyed good health and claimed never to have called a doctor, but his health began to fail in 1931 (it would prove to be cancer.)  He was unable to work at Camp Bryan that fall and winter.  When Babe Ruth and Frank Stevens arrived for their annual visit in December of that year, they sorely missed his presence about the camp.  They placed him on their payroll for the season and carried Dave to Camp Bryan just to enjoy his company.

Morning New Bernian, Tuesday, 26 Jan 1932.
Dave Sampson died on the morning of January 25, 1932, aged 78 years.  He was buried the next day in his family plot at Mt. Olive A.M.E Zion Church in Riverdale, Craven County.

Dave Sampson with the tools of his trade, photo c. 1930.
Dave always attributed his good health to his outdoor life and his habit of not worrying.  He expressed the essence of his philosophy thus:

What's the use of worrying?  If I've got what I want, it's all right.  If I ain't got it, it wouldn't do any good to worry.  I've always trusted in the Lord.  He will always provide for his children.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Vanished New Bern, No. 6

a series of views of lost area buildings

By John B. Green III

The Claypoole House

Claypoole House, photo c. 1925.

Looking at the only good photograph of the Claypoole House, it is hard to determine its age.  Constructed on the southwest corner of Craven and Broad streets, it faced Craven.  Local newspaper writers in the 1920's claimed great age for the structure and emphasized it rough-hewn and pegged timbers, its large exterior chimney, and the fact that some of its door sills were worn down level with the flooring.  The Dewey and Claypoole family were proud of the fact that they had occupied their old home for more than one hundred years.  Oliver Dewey had leased the structure in 1820.  His son Henry had then purchased the house in 1825.  Owners since that time had been Miss Adeline Dewey, Mrs. Henrietta Dewey Kilburn, and Mrs. Emily H. Dewey Claypoole, the owner in 1925.

Great age and family pride, however, could not save the Claypoole house from the automobile and its incessant needs.  The Gulf Refining Company took a option on the property in 1926 with the intent of building a gasoline filling station on the prominent corner lot.  The resultant uproar emphasized the destruction of a quiet, residential neighborhood, the lowering of property values, and the history of the house.  The Gulf Refining Company retired from the field.  The battle was taken up again by Texaco and won in 1930 when the Dewey and Claypoole heirs sold them the property.  The old Claypoole home was demolished in 1931 and soon thereafter replaced by a service station.

Monday, November 3, 2014

By the Book

By John B. Green III

The design sources for much of New Bern's justly admired architecture are often obscure and subject to spirited debate among architectural historians.  The earliest surviving buildings represent local modifications of English styles popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries although certain details of mantels or stairs can sometimes be traced to a particular architectural pattern book available at the time.  These pattern books advertised the work of an architect and contained engravings of various building elements as well as plans and elevations of entire structures.  The number of such pattern books dramatically increased from the mid-19th century onward and it is obvious that New Bern builders and their clients frequently had access to them.   The books were used to derive decorative elements for houses, churches, and commercial buildings and, in at least three instances, appear to have been used as inspiration for complete structures.

The first example is the Green-Guion House which once stood on the north side of the 300 block of Broad Street.  Constructed c. 1855-1860, its inspiration seems to have been Plate 29, "Italian Residence," of Samuel Sloan's The Model Architect published in Philadelphia in 1852.

Plate 29, "Italian Residence," Samuel Sloan, The Model Architect, 1852.

Green-Guion House, photo c. 1862. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

The second example is the Elijah Ellis House which once stood on the north side of the 200 block of South Front Street.  It was constructed in 1882 for Elijah Ellis by New Bern builder George W. Charlotte, who appears to have based the house on a design by D.B. Provoost, Architect, of Elizabeth, New Jersey.  The plan was printed as "Supplementary Plate 1" in A.J. Bicknell's Bicknell's Village Builder & Supplement published in New York in 1878.

Supplemental Plate 1, Bicknell's Village Builder & Supplement, 1878
Supplemental Plate 1, side elevation, Bicknell's Village Builder & Supplement, 1878

Elijah Ellis House, photo from Annual Catalogue and Announcements New Bern Military Academy, New Bern, N.C., 1904

The final example is the Old Baptist Parsonage, 304 Johnson Street, erected by First Baptist Church c. 1884-1885.  The source for its design is almost certainly Plate 23, "Southern Cottage" from Palliser, Palliser & Company's Palliser's American Cottage Homes, published in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1878.

Plate 23, "Southern Cottage," Palliser's American Cottage Homes, 1878.

Old Baptist Parsonage, detail of a photograph of Johnson Street c. 1890. New Bern-Craven County Public Library.