Monday, April 14, 2014

Friday in Hillsborough

Grandpa is someone who always likes to have a plan—in fact, he was asking about "the plan" before they'd even left the airport parking lot—so while much of this first week with Grandma was spent working around the house, going to the park on a whim, or just sitting around playing and reading, this weekend was full of Plans.

Friday's Plan was to explore Historic Hillsborough. Our first stop was at the visitor's center to get some information. The kids enjoyed exploring a few of the trees that are finally in bloom. Spring is out in full force now, everything is covered with a fine dusting of pollen and, although my family is suffering with allergies, it's beautiful!

While Grandma was checking out places to see, we explored the gift shop. Rachel found this toy gun and pretended to take aim with it...upside down.

"Must be the child of liberal parents," Grandpa scoffed jokingly.

Grandpa also spotted a mirror on the floor (leaning against the wall) and pointed it out to the children. "Look! It's a picture of a monkey!" he said. All three kids had fun pretending to be monkeys in the mirror and now Benjamin is completely trained to find himself in the mirror when you ask him where the monkey is. This is especially entertaining the car where he's got his own little baby mirror to entertain himself with and he'll strain on the straps of his car seat and make a funny face at himself at the mere mention of monkeys.

Anyway, as we were walking out of the visitor's center we saw a desk that had a taxidermic armadillo on the desk.

Grandpa said, "Oh, look—a deskadillo!"

Rachel rushed in to the office to look at it. She stroked it and tenderly repeated, "Deskadillo."

"Come on, Rachel," I said. "That's somebody's office."

"Alright, I'm coming," she said, swinging her arms wildly as she turned around, sending a cardholder full of business cards clattering to the floor.

She giggled nervously as she picked them all up and handed them to Grandma, who straightened them into a pile before plopping them back in the card holder.

It was quite embarrassing for her, but fortunately embarrassment fades quickly when you're six years old.

Here are the kids playing around another old tree on the grounds of the visitor's center. Not only is it allergy season, it's also voting season. Can you tell?

First up on our itinerary of free stuff was a visit to Burwell School, which was founded when the local preacher's wife started educating her daughters, raising the attention of other families who asked her to also educate their daughters. Eventually they had 20 or so day students as well as 20 or so boarding students, in addition to their own twelve children (though the boys were shipped off to boarding school by age nine since it The Burwell Academy for Young Ladies was no place for young men to be roaming about). In total they educated about 200 young ladies, many of whom went off to found their own schools out here.

The school/house has always been famous within Hillsborough but after the movie Lincoln came out they had an explosion of tourists—Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, seamstress for First Lady Lincoln after she gained her freedom, was enslaved in the south and spent her teenage years at the Burwell home.

Elizabeth did not seem to particularly enjoy her time in Hillsborough (though she does say the Reverend Burwell was "unusually kind" though he beat her severely). She was a slave, after all, but she did go on to achieve great things after leaving Hillsborough, with her ownership passed to Burwell's younger sister. Not only was she a seamstress for Mary Todd Lincoln (and many other prominent/political women) after she purchased freedom for herself and her son, she taught other former slaves how to sew and later worked at Wilberforce University as "head of the Department of Sewing and Domestic Science Arts."

All my research comes from Wikipedia and the Burwell School website, but I do intend to read her autobiography (though our library's copy is checked out...I can get the kindle version for 99 cents...or just wait). The publication of Keckly's book actually caused quite the stir. Mrs. Lincoln was not impressed that her friend and confidant would publish private conversations and letters.

In Mrs. Lincoln's defense, this was the victorian era...and she was also maybe going a little insane (following the death of her husband and two sons) she was justified in getting upset. But it's now considered a reliable and important record.

Here are my girls standing in the Burwell girls' bedroom:

Rachel was impressed that the sampler on the wall above the fireplace was done by a nine-year-old. I need to get a cross-stitch kit for her to work on so she can be "just like Felicity!" (It's kind of odd to me that she associates the name Felicity with American Girl Dolls because I associate it with Felicity King with Anne of Green Gables—clearly I need to put that book next in her reading list).

When we encountered Mrs. Burwell's "study," which featured a spinning wheel rather than a desk and accounting books and the like, Rachel said, "Ooh! A spinning room! Wee!" and started spinning around in circles. I told you she was getting witty.

What children can resist a field of wild flowers? Not any of mine.

Miriam is wearing what she calls her "magic bracelet." It's really an Insect Repelling SuperBand. I heard about them at a Relief Society activity and thought they might help convince Miriam to go outside. They worked like a charm. She thinks she's invincible now (though not to the point of throwing caution to the wind, merely to the point of not crying when a bee flies past her).

They're kind of pricy but each band lasts up to 200 hours, which is over a week, and if you seal it in a ziplock bag between outdoor excursions (Miriam doesn't wear it to bed, for example) then it lasts even longer. It smells quite strongly of lemongrass/citronella/whatever's in it.

Mosquitoes haven't been too bad this year (thanks in part, I'm sure, to all the ice storms we kept getting) but I'm interested to see how well this band works once mosquito season is in full swing. I don't really like spraying my kids with chemicals all the time so I'm hoping these work well.

Here are some pictures of Benjamin goofing off with Daddy:

Next up was the Orange County Historical Museum where we were greeted by a very enthusiastic employee. "Welcome to the museum!" the host boomed when Grandma, Miriam, and I walked through the door. "Have you been here before?" he asked before turning his attention to Benjamin.

"Do you know what a museum is?" he asked her.

She made no move to respond. Not a head nod. Not a squeak. Not a blink.

"It's a time machine!" the host continued.

We were soon joined by Grandpa, Daddy, Benjamin, and Rachel. The host greeted them, realized we were together, and continued on his tour. "We're going to take you through thousands of years of history in just under ten minutes!"

And with that we started on our whirlwind tour of Hillsborough history. We saw some interesting things and learned some interesting things and enjoyed our tour guide's contagious laughter.

Here's Rachel admiring what is perhaps the only existing set of colonial weights and measures in the United States (circa 1750):

And here's a map of Hillsborough from 1768. Our guide said that if we took a map of Hillsborough today and overlaid it on this map that the streets and buildings would line up exactly because Historic Hillsborough is largely unchanged.

I tried but I think the cartographer got the river a little wrong over by the old race grounds (in bottom right corner). Maybe it's just me.

Both maps have Occoneechee Mountain in the bottom left and the race track in the bottom right but somehow the river is running the wrong side of the racetrack. I suppose our guide did say that only the streets would line up and I have to give the cartographer credit since they didn't have aerial photography or satellite images back in the 1700s.

At the beginning of the tour the guide asked where we were from so Karen explained that she and Reid had come out from Utah to visit us, and that we had moved here for graduate school. He must have momentarily forgotten because he said, "We even have a real mountain in Hillsborough! Occoneechee Mountain is the highest point in Orange County and is the highest place between here and the ocean!" He paused for a split second and said, "But I guess you'd be pretty unimpressed by our mountain. It's hardly a mountain at all by your standards, only 800 feet or so above sea level. You're probably used to sweeping vistas and soaring snow-capped peaks."

Timpanogos is 11,752 feet above sea level (with a prominence of only 5,270 feet it still beats out Occoneechee, which has a prominence of only 350 feet), so I'd say he's perfectly correct.

Occoneechee Mountain is what we'd describe as a hill in the west, but it's really an ancient mountain—our guide said it's technically part of the Appalachian range—older than the Rockies, older than the Alps, worn away to almost nothing.

We didn't quite see Occoneechee (it was maybe hiding behind one of the many other hills in Hillsborough) but perhaps some day we'll hike it just to say we hiked the highest peak around (ie. without driving to the Appalachians).

The guide was so kind about Benjamin's explorations. When he saw me scanning the room he said, "Most everything in here's pretty sturdy. I know it says not to touch but really—what's he going to do to a butter churn? Just relax." I rather appreciated that, though we all did our best to keep Benjamin's curious hands away from the open-air artifacts.

Quite a few important things happened in Hillsborough that I had no idea about, the Hillsborough Convention being one of the most important. It's where/when North Carolina's delegates decided we needed an official Bill of Rights before they'd agree to ratify the constitution (and I think we were standing on the very corner that happened; though not in the original building because the building we were in was the old Confederate Memorial turned public library turned museum).

Hillsborough is also the final home of William Hooper, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was only 30 years old when the Declaration of Independence was created and ratified—that's Andrew's age!—and he died only eighteen years later. Sometimes I'm amazed at how much people can accomplish in so short an amount of time.

We tried to find his grave in the cemetery behind the church (which is behind the museum) but we eventually gave up. It looks like his remains were moved to Greensboro anyway (though the original headstone is still in Hillsborough).

Rachel climbed onto the wall surrounding the church/cemetery...

So naturally Benjamin did, too...

He was rather excited to find a lamb in the cemetery (though lambs usually mean the grave of a child so I'm sure he'll eventually catch on that they're meant to be somber).

This is the gravestone of William Alexander Graham:

It's the largest obelisk in the cemetery so is relatively easy to find. He was a state senator and also was governor for a while.

Benjamin really couldn't get enough of this lamb:

Here's Benjamin, Miriam, and Grandpa, fanning out while hunting for Hooper's headstone (actually, I think they were playing, picking flowers, and resting, respectively, not helping look).

Like I said, we never found the headstone. But we did find a little playground. We're assuming it's for the church's nursery...

Benjamin wanted to go down the slide on his tummy but Andrew told him that it was just a little slide that he could go down sitting up like a big boy.

He should have gone down on his tummy.

Eventually Grandma started calling to us from another part of the cemetery.

"I found something!" she said. "Come here!"

We all went to see what she had found—it was a black cat (very fitting for a cemetery). The kids flocked to it.

Benjamin got tired of petting it after a while and sat on a tombstone. The cat walked right up to him and rubbed up against him, starting with its nose and ending by flicking Benjamin in his face with its tail. Benjamin wasn't quite sure what to make of that behavior.

After the cat thing everyone decided they were hungry so we headed back to the van and out to lunch.

We ate at Hillsborough Barbecue Company, which was your quintessential North Carolina barbeque. I had a Po' boy (though with pork, cabbage, and french fries (yes inside) not with any sea food). We were all so stuffed that we didn't get dessert but I like that they called their banana pudding nanner puddin'. I had never ever associated my nickname "Nanners" with bananas before this moment (because I had always associated it with Nannyberries since "Nannyberry" was another childhood nickname of mine (so in a weird roundabout name, this menu made me think fondly on my cousin Don, who passed away last year—he's the one who started the whole Nannyberry thing)).

After lunch we stopped by the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail—evidently it's NASCAR'S last remaining dirt track. It's a beautiful walking trail now, though it looks like it occasionally hosts events (as in it's the venue... Andrew had a bit of confusion with the abbreviation of the name on all the signs posted along the trail: HOST).

We had a fun walk together. Benjamin enjoyed all the rocks and pine needles and things.

Here are a lot of pictures:

And here we are, finally at the racetrack. Rachel wanted to race me the whole way around but got a stitch in her side around the "No. 2 Turn" and I convinced her we should just go back to everyone else because it could take us 10 minutes (or longer) to run a mile and I wasn't sure everyone wanted to wait around that long. Rachel was confused about why there would be "no two turns." I explained that No. is an abbreviation for 'number.' She said that was crazy. I said it was Latin.

On our way back we met up with Grandpa, Benjamin, and Miriam, who'd come to find us.

Here we are "racing" back to Daddy and Grandma:

I photobombed this picture of Grandma and Grandpa with the girls (I am so funny):

We'd stuffed ourselves at the barbecue place so no one was hungry for dinner even after playing/napping the afternoon away. So instead of dinner we went to Pelican's for snow cones and then home for some snacks. Everyone always loves Pelican's!

So, that was our Friday. You have no idea how relieved I am to be finished with this post. Do you know how much we've done that I haven't written about? A lot.

Grandpa's leaving early in the morning tomorrow. And the weekend was full of Plans, remember? So if his trip is over that means there are a lot of fulfilled Plans I have to write about.


  1. Oh she was kind of crazy even before he died. I learned this from some biography about Lincoln that apparently she was padding her household expense report to buy clothes on the tax payer dime and then Lincoln would have to pay thing off in secret. Benji is so cute in that little lamb!

  2. Oh, I like this Plan idea although it seems a bit tiring for you. :) Great post. I loved learning more about Historic Hillsborough. Glad you shared all this information!

  3. I was thinking that both Felicity girls seem pretty similar -- I can totally see Felicity King as a cross-stitching kind of girl.