Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Wake Wednesday - Declaration of Independence - First Reading in Wake County - What was it like then?

An article from the N&O has haunted me for years. It was about the first reading of the Declaration of Independence in Wake County and what that must have been like.

I saved it. Can't find it now, but every summer at this time I think of it and how it captured my historic fancy those several years ago. So much so, that my young family including my two sons, husband and my father and step-mother made the trek downtown that hot, hot July 4 to tour the Joel Lane house and stand at the Boylan Bridge spot and imagine (despite construction detritus all around) what it must have felt like and sounded on that hill at the first reading in August of 1776.

Well, it haunted me enough to go searching for the article again. After several failed attempts - success!

I must give mad props and a plug to the NC Government and Heritage Library for their library card and the online access it provides. From their site, with my library card to log in, I was able to search the N&O Archives to find the article and I am so pleased. Now it is safely saved to my hard drive so I can pull it out each year and imagine being "in the room where it happened..."

The original reading in Raleigh would have looked very similar
to this reenactment in Aiken,SC in 2019 (source)

"Raleigh hears the Declaration - maybe"

M. Jacobs, C 2006, 'Raleigh hears the Declaration - maybe', News & Observer, The (Raleigh, NC), 30 Jun, p. A15, (online NewsBank).

You may need a subscription or a G&H library card to log in and read the article, but it is so worth it. No telling what else you might find with your card access.

This is my favorite passage from the article and the bit that propelled us down to that historic corner on a hot July afternoon:
In a chapter on the American Revolution, (Charles) Heck recorded that a colony-wide Council of Safety met at Halifax, N.C., on Aug. 1, 1776, and legislated that the citizenry would be "fully informed" about the Declaration of Independence.

He proceeded with "historic license:"

"[W]e have a right to conclude that [Colonel Joel] Lane was the 'Commissioner' or head of the Wake County Committee of Safety and was naturally the man who called the citizens available together before the little courthouse steps and read them as ordered on August 1st, 1776, or thereabouts, the Declaration of Independence."

Emboldened, he continued:

"How the sacredness of this hillside just north of Boylan Bridge [the present southwest corner of South Boylan Avenue and West Hargett streets] has so little been appreciated, the writer cannot understand. There, facing upward toward the crest of the hill where Joel Lane's new house stood, the words as Joel Lane, the political leader of the county, sounded them out in the experienced tone of a speaker, the people heard and the words reflected the words that spelled freedom and a new life to these pioneers and the echo must have resounded back over the fields and trees that covered the land where the city of freedom, so soon was to be born and where years of earnest effort were to make it become the embodiment of all that declaration stood for."
If you venture down to this historic "sacred hillside," I bet you will hear the ghosts of freedom too, 

... But hurry. I hear that development is changing the landscape quickly...

SW corner S. Boylan and West Hargett in Yellow

Happy Independence Day, Wake County.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Wake Wednesday - Raleigh's First Suburbs ca.1900

Something is pulling my attention to Raleigh/Wake County around the turn of the century (1900's). It was a time of accelerated growth and prosperity. Perhaps it is that parallel that with today's frantic growth pace that has me looking backwards.  

I started looking at the historic neighborhoods that built up in the early 1900's:

  • Glenwood  - c.1905. It's development a direct result of the streetcar line providing access north and west.
  • Boylan Heights -  c.1907. Built on 180 acres of the William Montfort Boylan Mansion on the western outskirts of Raleigh.
  • Cameron Park - c.1910. Built on land that half a century earlier was Cameron Plantation.
  • Bloomsbury - c. 1914. It's construction signaled the transition from streetcar access to automobile access as Raleigh expanded ever outward.

Trolley time in Raleigh (source)

As I did more research, I
 became amazed and a little unsettled at the historical, cultural and sociological details that are unearthed when you start to read about them. What started as a curious and nostalgic look at some quaint Wake communities lead to a whole different perspective on Raleigh as it emerged into the 20th century. (The links above will take you directly to individual historic profiles for each neighborhood.)

I was going to do several posts on these lovely nostalgic neighborhoods and their role in the changing mores of Wake County. As luck would have it, my research led me to someone else with the same interest in these communities who had already covered this topic in full detail and really honestly. So rather than "re-invent the wheel," I will now direct you to the well written blog post, City of Oaks by blogger David Fleming.  While I am mainly interested right now in the Raleigh communities that sprung up right after 1900, David has covered the development of Raleigh in its entirety. This will necessitate some scrolling on your part to bypass the original layout of Raleigh and the stagnation of growth around and after the Civil War years.  The part that I am most interested in about a quarter way down the page just after he discusses Josephus Daniels. 

He starts with pretty much the same jumping off point that I had arrived at - the building of the streetcar line on Glenwood Avenue and how it both enabled and depressed parts of Raleigh's population. Like I said, some of this is unsettling, but he does present a thorough unvarnished look the racial divide and class isolation that grew through the first half of the 20th century.

David's post is filled with wonderful photos, maps, historic perspective and even some useful statistics. If times allows, read the whole article and take in the massive amount of work that David has done here.

I am sure grateful for his efforts. I could not begin to present the subject as well as he did.

I have recently found another reminiscence from a Mr. Howard Lake on an old Rootsweb post. The post is here if you want to read it in the original format. Caution - black background, multicolor text, and frequent font changes in the original. It is a shame to lose such valuable content that preserves how things were - 

My Uncle Samuel Holland (1917-1990), who grew up at 202 Linden Avenue, built a little trolley car from the street down the hill where the Baha'i Unity Center is now located. It would roll down the tracks and then be hauled back up by a rope. All the neighborhood children used to play on the trolley.
Raleigh itself had real trolley service. One line went from downtown to Bloomsbury Park at the end of Saint Mary's Street. Nothing remains of Bloomsbury Park, except the post for the merry-go-round that was restored and is now enjoyed by children at Pullen Park.  Bloomsbury is now a residential area, and was between Aldert Root School and the intersection with Lassiter's Mill Rd.  This explains why there is that weird switch in the names of the roads, a frequent occurrence in Raleigh.  It used to be the jumping off place for the city limits, but is now some 8 miles inside Raleigh.  Just to finish up my blabbing, we have been blessed with an excellent economy for the last 50 years.  Our unemployment rate is about 2%, and has rarely gone over 5%.

Raleigh's early years of the twentieth century was the creation of three planned suburban neighborhoods, Glenwood, Cameron Park, and Boylan Heights. All three of these suburbs were platted between 1906 and 1910 on lands situated to the north, west, and southwest of the 1907 expanded city limits. Although the neighborhoods were designed to attract Raleigh's newly arrived or those newly ascended to the middle class, they vary in their layout, architecture, and topography. From the outset, these neighborhoods had water and sewer services, electric power and access to streetcar transportation which were vital amenities to the new city dwellers. 
In addition to the white suburbs, black residential expansion continued at an unprecedented rate in the south and east sections of Raleigh. South Park, bordered by Bledsoe, Wilmington, Hoke and East streets, was platted in 1907 by the white-owned Raleigh Real Estate and Trust Company. Soon after, in a twelve month period, 122 lots had been sold and were in various states of improvement. Farther to the north and east, around St. Augustine's College, two other black suburbs were created in the early 1910s. Battery Heights and College Park attracted skilled workers and a rising middle class sector. The domestic architecture consists of one and two story frame Triple A's and shotguns, cottages and I-houses decorated in a variety of styles. Although South Park, Battery Heights and College Park were in outlying areas, by 1920, streetcar service along Hargett Street was extended and an increased use of automobiles attracted would-be homeowners.

Besides providing improved access to the outlying residential areas, the Carolina Power and Light Company (CP&L) sought to expand its ridership base. In 1911, the utility extended northward the Glenwood Avenue route to the Carolina Country Club which bordered a one hundred acre park. Bloomsbury Park opened in 1912 and featured an electric powered carousel, a roller coaster and a penny arcade. The general manager of CP&L reported, "we now have a long railway line for joy riders which terminates at the park and we are hopeful that the combination will prove most beneficial to us". By 1915, however, Bloomsbury Park had ceased operations, terminated by CP&L. The carousel was bought by the city and placed in Pullen Park. What was left along both sides of the rail lines was mainly farmlands filled with cultivated fields, fallow expanses, and woods that had been ogled by every paying passenger up to that time. In mid-decade, continued residential expansion occurred when large plots of land were purchased by Thomas Ruffin, James H. Pou, and others. Situated north of the Five Points intersection, the lands would beckon to prospective homeowners for several more years until the outbreak of World War I temporarily suspended development.

As towns became cities and citizens longed for the open spaces and trees of pre-industrial communities, recreational parks became a part of the urban landscape. Pullen Park, a gift of eighty acres from businessman Richard Stanhope Pullen in 1887, became a site where Raleighites could picnic, boat, skate, and enjoy nature. Bloomsbury, also at the end of a trolley line and built in 1912 by the Carolina Power and Light Company, was advertised as the Electric Park Amusement Company and provided diversions associated with amusement parks today, such as roller coasters, penny arcades, and merry-go-rounds. A carousel, built by the Dentzel Carousel Company of Philadelphia (1903-9) and featuring the handcarved animals of Salvatore Cernigliaro, was among the most popular features of Bloomsbury Park.

According to one writer, "Raleigh was stung by the report that Charlotte had beat it to electric car service." Dr. S. J. Jacobs of Iowa purchased the existing streetcar charter and announced ambitious plans. Arrangements were made for Edison General Electric Company to furnish electrification and four elegant trolley cars to be purchased from Philadelphia. Disputes developed between the owners and construction company, and some electric wires were removed. To resolve matters, Baltimore bondholders became involved, and Raleigh residents bought $50,000 in bonds to finance construction of the streetcar system. When he became unable to pay a bill for machinery, Dr. Jacobs quietly left Raleigh and never returned.
The Raleigh Street Railway Company, however, began scheduled runs on September 1, 1891. The system covered the same general route as the mule-drawn system. From downtown, the tracks ran west along Hillsboro Street (now Hillsborough) as far as St. Mary's College, north on Blount Street to Brookside Park near Oakwood Cemetery, and down Fayetteville and Cabarrus streets to the depot southwest of downtown.  When the company failed in 1894, James H. Cutler of Boston, who already had streetcar interests in Asheville and other southern cities, acquired more investors and reorganized the company as the Raleigh Electric Company.

Carolina and Power & Light Company, organized in 1908 in Raleigh, incorporated Raleigh Electric and its streetcars, other area utilities, and the newly built Buckhorn dam and plant on the Cape Fear River. Only Fayetteville Street, of all the streetcar routes, was paved at the time.  Frank Shearin, a conductor, recalled, "People in the residential areas used to complain about the dust." To solve the problem, CP& L bought a 4,000-gallon capacity tank car to water down the roads. This was only one example of how CP& L invested the necessary funds to modernize Raleigh's streetcar operation.  

By 1915 the system boasted twelve miles of trackage. It served the state technical college (now N.C. State University) and reached the State Fairgrounds, ran along New Bern Avenue to the east, and in (1912) arrived at the new 100-acre Bloomsbury Park out Glenwood Avenue to the north.  As a student at N.C. State in the early 1930s, Willie York (developer of Cameron Village Shopping Center and other properties) recalled riding streetcars downtown to the California Fruit Store to meet girls from Meredith College.

In June 1888, the Raleigh Street Railway Company opened Brookside Park just north of the city near Oakwood Cemetery, connected to the mule-drawn streetcar system by a spur track. Baseball was a major attraction, along with a merry-go-round and picnicking. The same year, the city opened Pullen Park on the western edge of the city. Brookside Park was developed to a greater extent than Pullen, probably because it was  privately owned and on the streetcar line. By 1912 Raleigh was growing fast and there was no room to expand Brookside. CP& L, at that time owner of the city's electric streetcar system, opened Bloomsbury Park on 100 acres located three miles out Glenwood Avenue. Using 8,000 lights, the park was nicknamed the "electric park." The park's features included an octagon-shaped pavilion where orchestras played for dances; a Dentzel carousel with a Wurlitzer organ, costing $12,000; a roller coaster; and a penny arcade.

Thank you Mr. Lake. We've got to keep these old memories alive! 

Update: View early maps of Raleigh's first Suburbs from the Wake Register of Deeds Consolidated Real Property Index that was highlighted in last week's Wake Wednesday post. Find these areas on Google Maps by looking up street names and compare the changes that you see today!

Glenwood (not found in BM1911, BM1915, BM1918)

Boylan Heights1, Boylan Heights2

Cameron Park1, Cameron Park2


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Thursday, June 15, 2023

Wakecogen Members - It is time to vote for your Board Members!

It is once again time for our annual elections for WCGS Board of Directors. We have three positions on the ballot this year; VP of Communications, Director, and Treasurer. We also have one new position, Diversity and Inclusion Officer. 

Your Board of Directors are the people who represent you, the membership, and work diligently to manage the Society in a way that adheres to our Mission and supports our membership.  

We also ask that you vote on the updates to our Bylaws. A link is provided in the survey to the recommended updates.  

Additionally, there is one question about how you use our journal, Wake Treasures. You'll have an opportunity to provide your name and contact, if you'd like us to reach out to you. This is completely optional.  

If you did not receive your email link to vote or can't place it, please visit the Wake County Genealogical Society home page where you will find instructions directing you to the voting ballot right at the top of the page.

Thank you for taking the time to vote!  We will send a reminder on June 22 and the ballot will close on June 24. The results will be announced at our general meeting on June 27, 2023 as well as on our website, blog, and Facebook page. 

Online Learning with a Juneteenth focus from Family Search

 From FamilySearch:

Celebrate Juneteenth with 6 New Free African American Genealogy Classes Online

RootsTech by FamilySearch is excited to celebrate Juneteenth with free online classes focused on African American genealogy and taught by nationally known research experts at Six new classes will be live and interactive online June 19, or Juneteenth, and hosted by Thom Reed of FamilySearch. Join us also throughout the month of June to discover more about your African American ancestry through dozens of webinars from past RootsTech events. Register for free at to add classes to your personal playlist for future on-demand viewing. Most classes offer a free, downloadable syllabusRead full details at FamilySearch.

Classes include:
  • Juneteenth: Understanding This History and Why It Is Important, by Janice Gilyard
  • How I Found an Enslaved Ancestor in My Family Tree: Aaron Anderson, by Karen Strickland
  • From Ali to Clay: Taking the Family Narrative to DNA by Cheri Daniels, Donald Shores, Sherman McRae, Keith Winstead, and Eric Brooks
  • Unveiling Partnerships: Accessing and Using Cohabitation Records at by Taneya Koonce
  • A Lineage Society for Descendants of Enslaved Africans: Sons & Daughters of the U.S. Middle Passage by Evelyn McDowell and Ruth Hunt
  • America's True Forgotten Patriots by Ric Murphy

Register for free at

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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Wake Wednesday: Can you name the Freedman's Villages of Raleigh?

Sometimes when I decide to write about a particular topic, in my research I find that one or several other persons have already covered the subject so well that there is not much that I can add to the conversation except curiosity. That is the case here, so bear with me.

A recent conversation with some friends started with cemeteries (because that is where all conversations with me seem to start these days…), settled on black cemeteries and then veered over to the Freedman's villages in Raleigh. 

If I asked you to name some Freedman's villages in Raleigh, could you? 

Many people could name Oberlin Village. A few others could add Method. 

These are only two of thirteen Freedman's villages that sprang up around postbellum Raleigh in the late years of the Civil war and in the years immediately after. Blacks, no longer enslaved and with little to no livelihood, fled to Raleigh (and other large cities across the South) seeking refuge from hostility, jobs and assistance from the US Army and the Freedman's Bureau. 

Oberlin and Method remain. Oberlin as a Historic Preservation site and the grounds of Method can still be walked, observed and appreciated dispite the struggle of a loyal few supporter to keep the Method heritage alive.The history and physical evidence of the rest of these villages has been all but erased in the face of progress. 

A friend had shared a handout that fueled my curiosity. That handout was from a lecture by Carmen Cauthen, a writer specializing the Raleigh's historically Black communities. I suspect the handout came from the lecture captured on the YouTube link mentioned below. It listed the thirteen villages. The list included:

Lincolnville - destroyed to build the NC A&M College

Brooklyn - near St. Augustine

Method (formerly Masonville) - southwest Raleigh.

Oberlin - now a historic preservation site

Nazareth - the site became the Catholic orphanage and now the new cathedral

Idlewild - split by the building of New Bern Avenue into Idlewild and Cotton Place

Old Fairground - (south of St Augustines)

Hayti - (near Washington School)

Cannon Lands - formerly Robert Cannon estate

Hungry Neck - downhill from the Capitol

St Petersburg - a portion of Govenor Manly's extate

Smith-Haywood - south of Raleigh

Wilmington/Blount - near Oakwood

Manly - on property of Gov. Charles Manly

Carmen Cauthen's lecture on YouTube, "The History of Housing in Raleigh," references the thirteen Freedman's villages with some great maps running from about 8 minutes in until 15 minutes.The video is a much more broad look at housing that is worth watching.

It is very easy to find details about Oberlin and slightly more challenging to find information on Method. The rest are fairly difficult to find anything written, but I did manage to find a few articles which mention Freeman's villages which I will share with you. 

These descriptions and approximate locations above were gleaned from a document from the Historic Preservation Office. See "The Evolution of Raleigh's African-American Neighborhoos in the 19th and 20th Centuries," by Richard Mattson for a much more in depth picture of the villages and their place in history.

Also, the National Register of Historic Places document prepared for Oberlin Village contains some comparisons to the other villages along with historical and cultural context of the time period.

This birds-eye map of Raleigh from 1872 may help anchor the locations into the landscape back then.

Lastly, I did manage to find a great post by Heather Leah. See Heather's post here. You will find location descriptions that are much easier to visualize with landmarks from today.

Update and question --
Does anyone know the names and whereabouts of Freedman's Villages in the rest of Wake County? I have located one more through the Wake Cemetery Survey - Shiloh near Morrisville. I am sure there are others. If you can get me started on this search,  please send me details of FVs in the more rural parts of Wake County. Credit will be given and the help is much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Online Learning Special Opportunity - GRIP offers free webinar series in June

 Great news for genealogists everywhere!

The GRIP (Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh) program, through the generosity of various sponsors, is hosting four free online evening lectures June 19-22. There's one by Judy Russell, one by Michael Lacopo, and one on DNA with Paul Woodbury (and one other...). You have to register separately for each session through the links at the above webpage and must attend the event at the scheduled time - no recordings will be made. 

The June series will air at 7pm Eastern June 19-22 online via Zoom. 

Brief Overview

Monday, June 19 - Presenter Judy G. Russell, JD, CG - “From 1619 to Juneteenth – Slavery and the Law Before the Civil War” 

Tuesday, June 20 - Presenter Deborah Abbott, Ph.D. - “Genealogy Strategies: Memorable Moments in the Life of Bob Hope, An American Icon”

Wednesday, June 21 - Presenter Paul Woodbury - “Right Place, Right Time, Right Person: Intersections of DNA and Document Evidence”

Thursday, June 22 - Presenter Michael D. Lacopo, DVM - “Telling Their Story: Adding Character to Your Genealogical Narrative” 

Click through to the GRIP announcement for full descriptions and registration details.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Wake Wednesday - Highlighting Wake County Historic Maps accessed though the Wake Register of Deeds

 Here is another great find that resulted from researching the Wake Cemetery Survey project

A large number of historic maps have been scanned and put on line by the Wake County Register of Deeds. The restored and peserved historic maps are available in the Online Consolidated Real Property Index. Currently available map time frame spans years 1885 to 1927

To View Preserved Historic Maps Online - Follow the Instructions Below:

  • Visit:
  • Enter one of the BM Years into the Book field one of the following years.
    In the Page field enter %

This collection is extremely useful for tracking changes to an area over time and locating buildings or landmarks that may no longer exist. Here is an example map from 1913.

It is interesting to see what is the same and what has changed in the ensuing years. Notice how the original small lot sizes have been absorbed and the whole area is now large commercial eneavors.
Where the original market site covered roughly one eigth of the square, the current City market encompasses four full blocks of space. Notice that what was once Pullen Street is now Wolfe Street. 

There are so many maps to browse. Set aside a bit of time to go exploring and comparing. 

Heather Leah's article for WRAL on this map collection is very interesting. Click this link to read more about the wake county historic maps at the Register of Deeds office.