CONGRESSMAN GEORGE H. WHITE The NC Congressman first introduced an anti-lynching bill in 1900. Senate passed it in 2018; however, the House of Representatives still hasn't done anything to it as of press. Photo via public domain
xcuse me, sir, can you give us directions to the corner of Broad and Metcalf streets?” I asked the man with the New Jersey accent behind the counter at the Pepsi's birthplace in New Bern. “Yeah, you see that street right there? Turn right; go two blocks," he answered a bit distractedly. He was helping a lady maneuver a couple of trays of fountain drinks. “What’s at the corner of Metcalf that you want to see?” Jock asked. “It’s the NC Highway historic marker for Congressman White," I answered. “Alex and Carrie Manley were married in his living room in Washington D.C. after she got back from Europe. When Alex and Frank left Wilmington after 1898, Alex got a job working for Congressman White.” I finished off the last of the popcorn before asking, “Do you mind if we go see it? It says his home still stands.” “It’s your birthday! We can do whatever your want.” “I know chasing down a highway historic marker for a dead U.S. congressman is not what you expected for a birthday celebration,” I apologized. Jock shook his head and smiled. “No, darlin’, it is exactly what I expect. Happy birth-
Gwenyfar day-trips to New Bern to tour the Tryon Palace, birthplace of Pepsi and historic marker of Congressman White day.” My birthday this year was on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Though I very much would liked to have spent it at Bethel Woods in New York, it was just not in the cards for us time-wise or money-wise. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I finally asked Jock for a very specific birthday present: drive the VW Van we have been restoring for almost five years on its first out-of-town trip. It could be a day trip, but I wanted to have an adventure with him in the van. New Bern seemed like an attainable goal. I have such a fascination with North Carolina history, especially the colonial period and revolution. I wanted to see Tryon Palace and do recon for the possibility of bringing Hilda
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back on several walking tours. But Tryon Palace does not allow dogs, so this would need to be a humans-only trip. The last time I visited Tryon Palace I was 7 years old and part of a rather disastrous elementary school field trip. For weeks Mrs. Higgins had built up the excitement about our trip to Tryon Palace. Now, if there is one thing 6- and 7-year-olds are experts on, it is what a palace or a castle should look like. This was not a palace; it was a large house. It did not have a proper moat, drawbridge, tower, or dungeon. It was clearly misnamed. Whoever built it had never seen a palace. Clearly, no princesses lived there. We knew princesses. This was not a princess palace. Our list of complaints went on and on throughout the tour and the entire drive home. Thirty years later, I felt better prepared to soak in the structure that was considered a major tipping point for the revolution in the Carolinas. But here’s the thing: Tryon Palace actually disappeared. The area was turned into a 19th-century housing development.
In the first half of the 20th century, a group of ladies got together and decided North Carolina needed to rebuild Tryon Palace. After some major fundraising and incredible force of will, as only Southern matriarchs can exert, 'lo and behold is the rebuilt palace. The tour, which lasted roughly an hour, explained the daily functioning of the household and significance of the Royal Governor in Colonial life. The kitchen makes food from the period and is functional. In spite of all the pretty things to look at, there was remarkably little discussion about how the governor moved to New Bern from Brunswick Town, and why the palace seriously was a sore spot with the colonists. I mean, it is not like the American Revolution came out of nowhere. This opulent house was built on taxes of the working and farming classes and it was not well-received—especially since large land owners were not taxed the
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