As anyone who does a lot of historical research knows, some of the best stuff comes through serendipity.

Recently, while looking for something else, I came upon a reference to a book that intrigued me. We didn’t have it in our collection, but I found a copy available at Abe Books, so ordered it. Here is the title page.


What a neat fit for next week’s centennial celebration, a book published locally in 1913 by a local man. Colonel H. Montague was one of the more interesting citizens as Winston and Salem became joined by a hyphen. A native of Wake County, the son of a Wake Forest College professor, he moved to Winston in the 1880s to practice law and became a major player in the local real estate world.

Every year, around high school graduation time, his name is widely published, so many have heard of him, yet have no idea why.

But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of his life was his name, always rendered as “H. Montague”. Soon I will do another post about him and the epic search for his real first name, which he took great pains to conceal. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, you might ask “Who was Josh Billings?” Colonel Montague’s book gives us an image.


Suffice to say that “Josh Billings” was actually Henry Wheeler Shaw, probably the second most popular humor writer of the 19th century. Unfortunately for him, there was this other guy, Sam Clemens, who wrote under the pseudonym “Mark Twain”. “Billings” was eclipsed by the might of “Twain”, but he is not quite forgotten. He appears in many anthologies of American literature, so is at least known to college English professors.

Winston-Salem’s Centennial Celebration begins next week. Visit these two links for more information:

Official Centennial Website

Winston-Salem Journal article, May 2, 2013