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Forty years ago this week, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company put on the biggest picnic in North Carolina history. There was a stage at midfield in Groves Stadium, where Sound Generation, the Eliminators and the Roy Clark show performed. There were carnival rides and free food and drink across Thirtieth Street at the fairgrounds.

50,000 people showed up. They ate 55 tons of food and drank 10,000 gallons of drinks. And they danced in their seats and everywhere else.


The show began with dignitaries onstage at 11:30 AM and an unplanned event. A stray dog wandered onto the field at Groves and, excited by the crowd, raced from the end zone to the stage. That got the crowd going, and it never stopped. By the time Roy Clark arrived a little over an hour later, the fun was well beyond anyone’s control.


What was this all about? R.J. Reynolds, the company that provided the fuel for the economic engine that built the Twin City, was celebrating its 100th birthday. It was an unseasonably hot day, with temperatures hovering around 90. And when Clark and Buck Trent teamed up for their version of “Duelin’ Banjos”, the heat level ticked up a few more notches. By mid-afternoon, folks were seeking shade and covering their heads with handkerchiefs and napkins. But a good time was had by all.

A week later, the Forsyth County Public Library formally opened it’s brand new North Carolina Room. After all, those tens of thousands of folks who had made RJR and its many contractors a big success needed a place where they could find out where they came from. That party has been going on ever since, for forty years.


NC Room, Phase 1…Anne Corrrell, the founding mother…


NC Room, Phase II…Jerry Carroll…


NC Room, Phase III…Billy King…

Join the latest version of that party here:



Last year, we got our 60,000th blog hit. That seemed like a lot at the time. But today, we hit 100,000…thank you all for making our blog one of the most read public library local history and genealogy sites in the nation.

Below you will find links to some of our most popular blog entries from the past…just click the pics…pages will open in a new tab for easy return here…

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On August 27, 2013 we posted a thank you to our loyal friends for having reached a total of 60,000 hits on our blog. See it here:

60,000 is one more than 59,999…

A couple of weeks ago, we hit 70,000, and now the total is 70,459…we’ve averaged almost 2,500 hits per month since August and set a new monthly record in December, with 2,616.

The total since August is over 15% of all the hits we have had since our tentative start in February, 2008.

We’re glad that you have enjoyed our stories of local history. But we are even gladder that thousands of you have discovered the many resources and links contained on our web pages. Those resources will continue to increase as time goes by. Check out our basic web page now to see what I’m talking about:

NC Room Web Page

And again, thanks for being such loyal visitors! Your comments are always welcome, and if you have questions about anything that you find on our website, please call us at 336.703.3070 anytime during our opening hours, which are:

9 AM – 9PM  Monday-Wednesday

9 AM – 6 PM  Thursday & Friday

9 AM – 5 PM  Saturday

1 PM – 5 PM  Sunday

We are closed on Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day













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Salem College varsity basketball team, 1927.

Salem College varsity basketball team, 1927.

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Al and Tallulah Dahlen were passionate yard sale devotees. Over the years they bought many items. Monday, their son Tom, a retired career Winston-Salem police officer, called me and began describing one of those items.

He said that it was an old document, badly deteriorated, dated 1882. He began reading the document to me: “Tribute of Respect…Unanimously adopted by the Board of Commissioners of Winston, N.C at their regular meeting April 4th 1882…Whereas, it has thus pleased the wise disposer of all things to summon by death one of our number…”

Without thinking I said out loud “Israel L. Clement”.

Tom said “Yes, that’s right. How did you know? I guess it means that this is a fake.”

“Just the opposite,” I said. “You’re holding a very important piece of local history.”

❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉ ❉

As reported by the weekly newspaper the Union Republican, late on Saturday afternoon, August 7, 1880, two black women got into a fight. A Winston police officer was summoned. He attempted to arrest one of the women, but she resisted, so he called for backup. The policemen eventually overwhelmed her and took her to the calaboose. But a crowd of black citizens had gathered at the scene and some of them were angry at what they perceived as excessive force applied by the policemen.

The crowd broke up into small groups and left, discussing what had just happened. One group ended up at the courthouse square, where others began to join them. Tom Pfohl, a white city tax collector, panicked and asked the captain of the Forsyth Rifles to order his men to the square.

At that point, realizing what might happen if armed militia confronted the crowd, two black men went to a nearby hotel where Major A. J. Pinkham, another white city tax collector, lived and asked him to intervene. Major Pinkham went to the square and persuaded the people to disperse. By the time that the Riflemen arrived, the event was over. There was no one there.

At that point, the mayor, A.B. Gorrell, arrived on the scene and ordered the Riflemen to leave. The Union Republican reported that that Saturday night turned out to be one of the quietest ever in Winston.

But there were those who had their own agenda. Three black men, all tobacco workers, were arrested. Two, James Henly, who worked at Leak & Wilson, and Spencer Tunstall, who worked at Brown & Brother, were charged with interfering with a police officer. Horace Jeffers, who worked at Bitting & Whitaker, was charged with inciting to riot. In a separate article, the editors of the Union Republican delivered a self-righteous lecture to the black community on the proper way for citizens to behave.

A few days later, the charges against Jeffers were dropped when the arresting officer testified that Jeffers had actually assisted him in making the arrest. And despite a passionate appeal by prosecutors for stiff sentences for the others in municipal court, they were all released under $500 peace bonds. The Union Republican’s editors were forced to eat crow with a headline that simply said “No Riot”.

Shortly afterward, several of the town’s leading white citizens, including Darius H. Starbuck, the local superior court judge; J.W. Goslin, publisher of one of the weekly newspapers; and others sent a petition to the mayor suggesting that the town hire a black police officer as a way of avoiding such incidents in the future. They even suggested a specific individual, Israel L. Clement, one of the most respected men in the community.

The mayor’s reply was that he and the town commissioners were way ahead of the petitioners. They had already offered Clement a place on the police force. Clement had asked what the pay was and pointed out that he could not afford to take the job as he made considerably more working as a roller in Hamilton Scales’ tobacco factory. So the petition was dismissed.

But behind the scenes it was decided that there were other ways to solve the problem. In 1881, Israel Clement ran for a seat on the town commission in the third ward and won, thus becoming the first black Winston town commissioner. Reconstruction was long over. This was not something enforced by outsiders. It was a simple and rational solution to a local problem.

URApr61882Union Republican, April 6, 1882

Unfortunately, barely a year into his first term, Israel Clement died, thus triggering the “Tribute of Respect”. It would be almost a decade before another black man was elected to the town commission.

Rufus E. Clement, a janitor, and later a grocer on Depot Street, near Seventh Street; and J.B. Gwynn, who operated a grocery store in the 900 block of North Main Street served during the 1890-91 term.

Aaron A. Moore, a marble cutter, served during the 1892-93 term.

In 1894, Rufus Clement was reelected and was joined on the board by J.G. Lattie who is listed in the city directories as “janitor, Colored Graded School”.

Again, unfortunately, the 1890s saw a couple of brief but severe economic depressions, which triggered racial tension between the white underclass and successful middle class blacks, affecting most of the South. Winston’s run of black elected commissioners came to an end in 1896. There would not be another black man elected to the local board until 1947, when the Reverend Kenneth Williams won a seat in the third ward.

In all, a total of five black men (Israel Clement, Rufus Clement, J.B. Gwynn, Aaron Moore and J.G. Lattie) won a total of six elections in the 19th century.

On Tuesday morning, Tom Dahlen brought the “Tribute of Respect” document to the North Carolina Room at the Central Forsyth County Public Library. For me, it was a treat to see the actual document, which I had previously only read about in Robert Neilson’s history of city government, a two volume set published in 1966 to commemorate the bicentennial of the founding of Salem in 1766.

Tom filled out and signed a donor agreement, specifying that the donors of the document be identified as his parents, Al and Tallulah Dahlen. As soon as I was able to gain access to our very busy workroom computer, I used our high resolution scanner to digitize the document at 600 dots per inch, resulting in a 4645 x 7984 pixel tiff file of 111.3 megabytes saved using Adobe Photoshop’s sRGB IEC61966-2.1 color format. That will enable us to share the image with the community at a wide range of sizes and resolutions.

The document itself is being catalogued and will be stored in our locked cage in an acid free lightproof container, thus significantly retarding its deterioration. Anyone who now has or later comes into possession of such documents is invited to take advantage of our facilities for digitizing and preserving such items. You can call our information desk at 336-703-3070, or contact our NC Room Library Supervisor Billy King at kingwh@forsyth.cc or me at brownlfl@forsyth.cc.

Here is a medium resolution version of the document. If you click on it, it should expand into a quite readable image.


The document is signed by Mayor A.B. Gorrell. He was the founder of the Farmer’s Tobacco Warehouse. He built his house on Fifth Street, at the southwest corner of Poplar, which was the beginning of the later famous “Millionaire’s Row”, which extended along Fifth from Poplar to Summit Street.


A.B. Gorrell, Mayor

The other signature on the document is that of James A. Gray, Sr., a current member of the board of commissioners who was elected by them to be the board secretary. It is likely that the document itself is in his handwriting. He was one of the founders, in 1879, of the Wachovia National Bank.


James A. Gray, secretary of the 1882 Winston board of commissioners and cashier of the Wachovia National Bank

Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of Israel Clement. That is not a permanent situation. Almost certainly, someone has a picture of the man of honor. If you are that person, please contact us via the methods described above.

We hold several print copies of Robert Neilson’s history of local government. An online version, originally created by J.R. Snyder and somewhat modified at a later date, can be found at the City of Winston-Salem site http://www.cityofws.org/Home/DiscoverWinston-Salem/Articles/CityGovernmentHistory

Thank you Audra for the many accomplishments you have made to the NC Roon during your short 15 month tenure and for being such a warm and friendly colleague. Thanks to you we now have a blog which celebrates its first anniversary this weekend. Thanks to you we have a locked cage to protect our most valuable materials. You also helped us move into our new space and you organized our archival materials. Our loss is Wake Forest University’s gain. We will miss you but we know we have not heard the last from you. Good luck with everything!

In the header of every post on this blog is a link that allows you to comment on that post. As shown in my previous post “War Hill Found,” reader comments can contribute important information for us and other readers as well. We would like to see this blog become a place where such information can be exchanged.

We would also like to hear what you think about specific posts or the blog in general. Was a certain post helpful or not? Was it the sort of information you would like to see more or less of? Suggestions are also welcome.

After the blog had been up for a few months, I began to wonder why we weren’t seeing any comments. Recently I was looking around inside the dashboard and discovered that there had been several attempts to make comments, but that a box requiring administrative approval before comments could appear had been checked. I apologize for the delay in posting caused by that. I unchecked the box and approved all of the comments, which immediately appeared.

A few had been routed to a spam file. Most of those were garbled, but one or two made a little sense. I tried to e-mail the people who sent those, but the e-mails were rejected as invalid addresses. Please be careful to supply your correct e-mail address. We will never post your address without your permission.

If you have tried to post a comment and it has never appeared, please try again. We welcome all civil discourse, critical or not.