Flossie’s Fridays: Week 48

Flossie wants to show you a monument that has been seen on the streets of Bath since 1924.  It was a big job and a long time in the making!  The North Carolina Historical Commission and the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners presented the Bath Historical Society with a bronze plaque commemorating the founding and incorporation of Bath.  It seems the original intent was to mount the plaque at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, but for some reason, that installation never happened.

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Several years went by and Flossie doesn’t know where the plaque stayed in the meantime.  The town needed a monument on which to display the plaque!   Mr. and Mrs. Timothy A. Brooks and Miss Lida T. Rodman traveled to the Neverson Quarry near Raleigh to select stones.  They were very heavy stones – two were chosen – the base weighed 16,000 pounds!  The top stone weighed 12,000 pounds.  After the stones were shipped by train to Bunyan (about 10 miles west of Bath) it became a real challenge to get them the rest of the way to town.  The bumpy road that the truck and trailer had to ride caused both stones to bounce out of the trailer!  Surry Bowen of Pinetown sent equipment to help reload the boulders.  Once they arrived at the Bath bridge, there was some worry that the wooden bridge couldn’t withstand the weight of the stones.  Mr. Brooks used heavy wooden beams from his lumber mill to brace the bridge.

Whew!  The monument was finally erected and was placed in the center of Carteret Street/Main Street intersection.  An unveiling celebration was held on June 19, 1924.  About 4,000 people attended the ceremony.  Men barbequed 32 pigs all night to get ready.  School children raised money to help with other food costs; they raised $150 but only $50 was needed for the lunch, so extra money was donated to the Bath Elementary School library for books.  The two girls who tied in raising the most money were able to unveil the marker.  The picture below shows the brand new marker with Mary Arcadia Tankard on the left and Helen Waters on the right. Their mothers or someone else made Colonial style costumes for them to wear for the occasion.

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In 1960, the marker was moved back from its original location; it was pushed back onto North Main Street’s entrance due to the new bridge and widening of the road to allow for the paving of Highway 92 through Bath.  Flossie wants to thank Dr. Alan Watson for capturing this and much more information in his book Bath: The First Town in North Carolina, with a chapter of Bath’s 20th century history contributed by Bea Latham and Patricia Samford.

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Flossie’s Fridays: Week 47

Flossie is beginning to get a little depressed in Bath…………..we’ve been having LOTS of rain, and now there is Hurricane Joaquin nearby in the Atlantic Ocean!  Earlier this week she had a quick chance to get outside and take a fly around town and she wanted to go check out the knot tying station that was added to the Lawson Walk path on the north side of town earlier this summer.

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When Bath was a young town in the early 1700s, it functioned as a port of entry for the colony.  Lots of boats came in and out of Bath and the ships needed ropes!  A few of the jobs for which ropes would be needed are for hoisting sails, dropping anchor, creating foot ropes for climbing up to reach the sail lines, and creating “ladders” to climb up to the crow’s nest to look out a great distance.  Rope helped with small jobs too……….like hanging the clapper inside a bell in order to ring it and announce meal time or to alert sailors of things like when it was time to finish their work shift and for others to begin working. Sailors also used rope to help pass the time when they didn’t have to work……..they played a game similar to horseshoes called quoits.  Circular hoops of rope were used rather than iron horseshoes since those may have damaged the deck or more easily slid off deck into the water.  Sometimes sailors made decorative coverings for bottles, knife handles and hammocks, etc. in their spare time.  This ancient type of art form is called macramé; it is a form of textile-making that uses knot-making instead of weaving or knitting cloth.  Materials used would be cotton twine, linen, hemp, jute, leather or yarn.  Bracelets made in this manner are popular again today!

Flossie wants everyone to stay dry and safe during this hurricane………it looks like the storm may head out to sea, but do what you can to prepare.  That is one advantage we have today over folks in the 1700s…………we have some time ahead  to be forewarned and to prepare emergency supplies, thanks to television and weather satellites!

The Way of Old Houses

How many of you drive by old, abandoned houses and imagine the “if these walls could talk” stories?  Recently, I traveled to Historic Halifax for business.  Along the way, I saw many houses that spoke to me and I put down my thoughts once I returned home.  It may be a stretch to call these thoughts poetry, but I will, for lack of a better description!  The photographs included here are an example of lost history here in Bath, NC. The Buzzard Hotel stands no longer……….I remember seeing it in a neglected state when I was a child.

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I am sorry you were abandoned – your dusty grey beauty in shambles

Perhaps not unloved, but unneeded.

You probably recall being the “Belle of the Ball” and

Now you’re just a shell of your former glory.

What treasured memories do your cracked and colorless beams hold?

Did the strips of lathing covering your soul hold much more than plaster?

Do the echoes of a family’s laughter and cries of anguish spill out of your

walls?

And further back still, how many swings did your rafters hold while young

boughs on the tree?

Sometimes your sisters have been violently taken back to the dust in the

name of “progress”

Is that better than the sad, gaping holes, so forlorn, that remain standing?

As does man, you shall return to the earth…..may you find peace at

journey’s end by knowing your cool cross breezes and front porch swing,

your hiding spaces and shelter provided during every storm………….these

things mattered.

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Flossie’s Fridays: Week 34

Recently, Flossie wanted to pose with these two precious girls who came to visit Historic Bath – they took the guided house tours and made rope for some extra fun!  Here is a picture showing the girls and Floss posing with the rope-making machine and holding a BIG rope……much too large to have been made on the machine that the historic site owns.

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Since Bath was the first official seaport town for this colony, many ships would have needed to replenish their supply when they came to port. There was probably a building in town called a ropewalk in Bath’s earliest days and we know that Jacob Van Der Veer operated a ropewalk in the 1800s. Can you think of jobs on a ship that would require using rope?  How about ways that rope might have been used in everyday life in a colonial village?  Might children have found ways to make games using rope?

Flossie invites you to share your answers by tagging @HistBathSiteNC using #HowRopesWereUsed or on Facebook (again tagging us as @Historic Bath Site and using #HowRopesWereUsed).

Interesting articles about ropemaking can be found at http://www.davidwebbfowler.com/2012/01/sons-of-liberty-occupation-rope-maker.html

http://www.angelfire.com/journal/millbuilder/rope.html

Recognizing Dorothy Tankard: A Strong Face for Bath

March is Women’s History Month –http://www.nwhp.org/womens-history-month/womens-history-month-history/ .   In the story of our nation, many accounts focus on what men have accomplished.  Many women in the past had to take the back seat when it came to making history – perhaps taking the opportunity to bend their husbands’ ears before deals were made and wars were fought.  Bath, North Carolina seemed a bit progressive in 1921 when all the town council positions were filled by women, albeit only unofficially – it seems their elected husbands didn’t have the time to commit to town business while running their own!  Many town improvements were made during the ladies’ tenure, including a successful campaign to pave a road between Bath and Washington and completion of Bath High School.

As I have been giving some thought about the women who have made their mark on our town, one person kept coming to mind. I want to dedicate this blog in the memory of Dorothy “Dot” Tankard, a modern trailblazer.

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Mrs. Tankard was not only the first site manager of Historic Bath State Historic Site, she was the first woman in the Department of Cultural Resources to be named to that position in all of North Carolina!  One might say that town founder John Lawson put Bath on the map, and so he did, literally speaking – but Mrs. Tankard put our town on the map figuratively!  In fact, she came on the Bath restoration scene when efforts were being made on the local level.  Edmund Harding, a nationally known humorist and speaker, was heading the Beaufort County Historical Society in the 1950s and this group saw to the purchasing and opening of the 1751 Palmer-Marsh and 1830 Bonner Houses in 1962.  The following year, the grassroots preservation effort was rewarded with the acceptance of Bath’s buildings into the system run by the state of North Carolina.

Since I never had the pleasure of knowing Mrs. Tankard, I asked some questions about her legacy of Gerald Butler, the man who followed in her footsteps.  Mr. Butler became the second manager of Historic Bath Site and began his work on the site in 1983 after his tenure at Somerset Place and Historic Halifax.  He was in a unique position to see the impact Mrs. Tankard had on the site, the town of Bath and the state.  He told me that although his feet were larger than hers, he knew he would have a difficult time filling her shoes.  Her mark on Bath as a native and as a proactive champion of the newly formed historic site made her “a strong face for Bath.”  Mr. Butler remarked that “Dot seized what media was available, which was only about three television stations.  I daresay she had more exposure than all the other managers together.”  I cannot say I had ever before given much thought to that fact, but those early managers had the job not just as a manager of day-to-day operations of an already established business – they were basically starting from scratch and had to let the public know that they were here, worth seeing and ready for business! Butler noted that Tankard’s “lack of timidity in front of the camera” would have been necessary to get the public awareness up to a level to begin having sizable visitation at the site.

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In addition to being present for the creation of a new historic site and assuming the management and all the efforts required to get a new business off and running, Mrs. Tankard was a very active charter member and officer of the Historic Albemarle Tour – http://www.historicalbemarletour.org/.    She was also involved in the Ocean Highway Association, which is now defunct.  She was instrumental in the site obtaining about $180,000 in federal grant money to bulkhead Bonner’s Point, which was washing away.

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She was here when the c. 1790 Van Der Veer House was moved onto the historic site, a gift from a local family. She was one of the founders of the outdoor drama that ran in Bath from 1977-1986, Blackbeard: Knight of the Black Flag, which was written by Stuart Aronson.   Mr. Butler put it this way: “She was integrally involved in every house on the site except for the Carson Cottage.”  (The Carson Cottage, part of which dates circa 1900, was given to the state by The Historic Bath Foundation, Inc. a decade ago.)

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Without naming all the members of Mrs. Tankard’s family, suffice it to say that her legacy has had a far-reaching influence over them.  They continue to have Bath’s best interests at heart, serving on historic boards, helping our site and the local community college with projects, etc.

To date (1962-2015), Historic Bath State Historic Site has only had four managers………does that tell you something of the magic of this place?  As the current person in this lineup, I am indeed grateful that Dot Tankard created such a firm foundation on which we can continue to build Bath’s story for the public to learn from and enjoy.

Leigh Swain, Historic Bath Site Manager June 2007 –

Flossie’s Fridays: Week 33

Today, we see that Flossie is visiting the grave of William Marsh, which sits in a cemetery between our visitor center and the Palmer-Marsh House – he was the grandson of the first Marshes to live in that home, Jonathan and Ann Bonner Marsh (Ann was Joseph Bonner’s sister. He built the 1830 house in town called the Bonner House.)  Flossie was sad reading about Mr. Marsh’s death on fancy gravestone, which is called an obelisk.   Its four sides allowed more room for writing and its tall presence with a top reminds us of the shape of a pyramid.  The look of such a stone is dramatic and eye-catching, worthy of a Civil War hero, which is the way his family and town would have regarded him.

William Marsh was born on July 1830 here in Beaufort County, North Carolina. The writing on his tombstone tells us that he died from a serious wound he received during the Battle of Antietam. This battle took place in Maryland and is called the bloodiest single day in American military history!   The man suffered a really bad injury, but it took eight more days before he died!  The obelisk tells us that he died in the home of strangers “who yet soothed his final hours with their sympathy and kindness.” Flossie was so glad that there were kind people to take care of him that she started to feel better!

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You can watch an animated story of the battle Mr. Marsh fought in at the following website:  http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/antietam/maps/antietam-animated-map.html .  Our country has been recognizing the sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, of the Civil War over the past four years.  It is getting closer to the end of the war, which ended in 1865.

If you can go to Bentonville Battleground this weekend, there will be a very large reenactment of the battle that occurred in that part of North Carolina.  Learn more about the big event at http://fobb.net/150thBentonville.aspx.