Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Than Just Tar Heels

Magnet # 98:  Map of North Carolina

Material:  Wood, Laminated Paper

Purchased By:  Me

North Carolina became the 12th state to join the United States on this day back in 1789.  Prior to then, it had experienced some of the most interesting moments of any of the original thirteen states. The Spanish were the first Europeans to try to settle the area, but they left for good after Native Americans destroyed the six forts they had built there and killed off most of their soldiers.  Before long, Sir Walter Raleigh had secured Elizabeth I's permission to establish English settlements there and built two - although both would end in failure.  One was the notorious disappearance of the entire "Lost Colony" on Roanoke Island, with only the word "Croatoan" carved on a tree.  To this day, what happened to these settlers is one of our country's greatest mysteries, and it has inspired both latter-day DNA testing and numerous fiction writers to search for an explanation (personally, I like Dean Koontz's take on the subject in Phantoms).  Regardless of these setbacks, settlers kept streaming into the Carolina colony, often moving south from Virginia.  Eventually, the area split into northern and southern colonies in 1710.  When the time came to fight for independence from Britain, North Carolina was first to order its delegates at the Second Continental Congress to vote for separation, but it was actually more divided than most of the colonies.  The eastern side, settled mostly settled by those from England and the Scottish Highlands, remained loyal to the Crown, while the settlers that came from Germany and Ireland and occupied western areas of the colony, wanted freedom.  When the Revolutionary War erupted, these two groups engaged in guerrilla warfare until its conclusion, and the Americans won a major victory over the British at King's Mountain in the southern area of the state near the South Carolina border.  Another battle took place in North Carolina in 1781, when the British managed to win the Battle of Guilford Court House, but it cost them dearly.  The ramifications of this conflict helped ensure American victory, allowing North Carolina to eventually claim its hard-earned statehood.

Present-day North Carolina, known as the "Tar Hill State" perhaps for the abundance of the material to be found there, is one state that can boast a great deal of beauty in fairly diverse settings.  It has flat, picturesque beaches on the shores of the Atlantic that eventually stretch into hills in Piedmont cities like Charlotte and Raleigh before they grow into the Great Smoky Mountains not far from Asheville.  Really, how many states can claim tourist destinations as diverse as the Outer Banks and the Blue Ridge Parkway?  The beauty throughout this state has inspired accomplishments as varied as the Wright Brother's first flight near Kitty Hawk and George Vanderbilt's construction of the Biltmore mansion, the largest private home in America.  And in the center of the state, large metropolitan areas have grown up in Charlotte, its largest city, and its Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, which have more than a million residents when combined.  Clearly, people are drawn to all this state has to offer, as a 2008 study showed its population is growing faster than any other east of the Mississippi River.  It's currently the tenth most populated state in the Nation.

While I have spent time in North Carolina, I've never really had an extended stay to check out all it has to offer.  But I've found a few places in the state I'm curious to check out.  When I drove through on I-95 on my way to Virginia in October, I saw billboards for an Ava Gardner Museum that is just off the interstate that sounds pretty interesting.  From there, it wouldn't be too far of a trip to Raleigh, where I could tour yet another state capitol building and a few nearby museums.  I'm also a bit intrigued by the Outer Banks.  Near Corolla, on the Currituck beaches, there is a herd of Wild Spanish Mustangs that have roamed the area for hundreds of years.  It would be pretty awesome to see them running across the sands.  There are also a number of lighthouses there, including the one at Cape Hatteras, which is the largest in the country and is open for tours.  There is also some dark history to be found in the Outer Banks, as the area was favored by pirates, most notably Blackbeard, who tended to favor Ocracoke Island.  Of course, Roanoke Island is also there, and visitors can take in a performance of "The Lost Colony," a play which offers an account of the settlement and has been showing since 1937.  Whatever one chooses to do during a stay in the state, there's certainly no lack of choice, a fact that keeps many people coming to North Carolina to have a look around and, occasionally, make it their new home.

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