Story Ideas for Exploring Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina
Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina author Georgann Eubanks unearthed a treasure trove of unique destinations during her travels along the back roads of 45 counties. Here’s a sampling of ways to write about Literary North Carolina.
CIVIL WAR STOPS
Our country continues to honor the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865. Literary Trails highlights some significant stops along the Civil War trail. (The stops correlate to tours in the book.)
Averasboro, Tour 8. Much has been written about the clash in Averasboro, the first calculated resistance to Sherman’s march from Georgia through the Carolinas.
Visit: Averasboro Battlefield and Museum, 3300 Hwy 82, Dunn, www.averasboro.com
Bentonville, Tour 8. The largest Civil War battle in the state and where Sherman’s troops won their final victory.
Visit: Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, 5466 Harper House Road, Four Oaks, www.nchistoricsites.org/bentonvi/
Kinston, Tour 10. Kinston houses the hull of the Confederate ironclad the CSS Neuse, and a replica of the ship sits on the banks of the Neuse River on the edge of downtown.
Visit: Governor Richard Caswell Memorial, 2612 W. Vernon Ave., and Neuseway Park, 401 W. Caswell St., www.nchistoricsites.org/neuse/caswell.htm
Great Dismal Swamp, Tour 14. During the American Civil War (1861-1865) the canal was in an important strategic position for Union and Confederate forces, and the Battle of South Mills was fought nearby.
Visit: Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center, 2294 US 17 U.S. 17, South Mills. www.dismalswampwelcomecenter.com and www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/disw/main.php
Hatteras Island, Tour 17. The literature of Hatteras is rife with military dramas played out in the rough waters here, including the sinking of the Monitor, an ironclad ship deployed by Union forces.
Visit: The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, 59200 Museum Drive, Hatteras, www.graveyardoftheatlantic.com.
Note: For an interesting look at the war, see Two Captains from Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War (UNC Press, 2012), the latest book by Bland Simpson, “bard of Eastern North Carolina’s waterways.”
Before you head to the coast, let these “Literary Trails” writers inform your stay and ignite your imagination, then make sure to visit the sources of inspiration.
Nicholas Sparks’ New Bern, Tour 10. Nicholas Sparks, famous novelist and film producer, lives in New Bern and has set and/or filmed many of his stories on the coast.
Read: The Notebook (Warner Books, 1996), set in New Bern. Other books include Nights in Rodanthe, Rodanthe, on Hatteras Island, The Best of Me, Oriental; A Walk to Remember, Beaufort; and Safe Haven Southport
Visit: The New Bern Convention and Visitors Bureau, 203 S Front St., www.visitnewbern.com, for information on guided and self-guided tours
Elizabeth City and Albemarle Sound, Tour 14. Bland Simpson, who grew up in Elizabeth City, where the Pasquotank River flows into the Albemarle Sound, has spent his adult life writing about the state’s rivers and sounds.
Read: The Inner Islands: A Carolinian's Sound Country Chronicle, with Ann Cary Simpson (UNC Press, 2010); The Coasts of Carolina: Seaside to Sound Country, with Scott D. Taylor (UNC Press, 2010)
Visit: Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, 400 S. Water St., Elizabeth City, www.discoverelizabethcity.com
Roanoke Island/Outer Banks, Tour 18. Chatham County writer Marjorie Hudson blends fact and fiction to explore the story of Virginia Dare, the first English child born on these shores, who disappeared with the rest of the Lost Colony.
Read: Searching for Virginia Dare: A Journey into History, Memory, and the Fate of America’s First English Child (Press 53, 2007)
Visit: Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, 1401 National Park Drive, Manteo, www.nps.gov/fora
Plymouth Island/Outer Banks, Tour 17. Greensboro author Michael Parker also relies on fact and fiction to examine the mysteries surrounding uninhabited Portsmouth Island, part of Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Read: The Watery Part of the World (Algonquin Books, 2012)
Visit: From Ocracoke to historic village: Austin Boat Tours, www.portsmouthnc.com
Information: Cape Lookout National Seashore, 131 Charles St., Harkers Island, www.nps.gov/calo. Information also at www.friendsofportsmouthisland.org
Pea Island/Outer Banks, Tour 17. The Pea Island Lifesavers were the only African American lifesaving team on the Atlantic coast at the turn of the 20th century, and the subject of a children’s book by High Point writer Carole Boston Weatherford.
Read: Sink or Swim: African American Lifesavers of the Outer Banks (Coastal Carolina Press, 1999)
Visit: Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and Visitor Center, Highway 12, Rodanthe, www.fws.gov/peaisland. Information also at www.outerbanks.org
Create your own buried-treasures road trip using fascinating cemetery finds from Literary Trails as your guide.
Millie-Christine McKoy, Welches Creek Cemetery, Whiteville, Tour 5
A century ago, Millie-Christine McKoy, conjoined twins born into slavery in 1851, died in their home community of Welches Creek after a full life of touring and performing for audiences around the world, including President Lincoln and foreign royalty. They share one grave, but two dates of death, as Christine died the day after Millie.
Read: Millie-Christine: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, by Joanne Martell of Southern Pines (John F. Blair Publisher, 2000)
Visit: Welches Creek Cemetery, Millie-Christine Road, Whiteville
Various, Historic Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, Tour 1
Seven governors and many state leaders are buried in this cemetery, which dates from 1869. A fascinating quasi-literary figure is Berrien Red Upshaw, the first husband of Gone With the Wind writer Margaret Mitchell, and rumored to be the inspiration for character Rhett Butler. Also interred here are Josephus Daniels, patriarch of the literary Daniels clan; and Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, whose literary success came with her 2009 memoir Resilience.
Visit: 701 Oakwood Ave., Raleigh, www.historicoakwoodcemetery.com/
John Charles McNeill, Spring Hill Cemetery, Wagram, Tour 3
Poet and journalist John Charles McNeill was hugely popular across the state in the 1900s. He died at age 33 at the peak of his popularity and was buried near the center of the cemetery under a massive longleaf pine. A white marble obelisk marks the grave. His birthplace was moved to a spot across the road from the cemetery and restored.
Visit: Main Street, Wagram
Guy Owen, Clarkton City Cemetery, Clarkton, Tour 5
Teacher, mentor, poet, and novelist Guy Owen taught at North Carolina State University. His novel The Flim Flam Man, about a rural con artist, was made into a movie starring George C. Scott in 1967.
Read: Journey for Joedel, his 1970 semiautobiographical coming of age story, reissued on its 40th anniversary. (Press 53, 2010).
Visit: North College Street, on the left as you enter town
“Show Boat” Epitaph, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Bath, Tour 16
The oldest church building in the state, from 1734, houses a curious piece of literary history. In 1925, novelist Edna Ferber spent a week in Bath researching a floating theater for her novel “Show Boat,” later translated into a musical and a movie. A gravestone inscription for the book’s character of Mrs. Suzanne Ravenal was a verbatim transcription of the epitaph of Mrs. Margaret Palmer (wife of Robert Palmer), who was interred to the right of the altar, where the inscribed marker remains.
Visit: 101 Craven St., www.stthomasparishnc.org
IS ANYONE HOME?
Literary Trails is filled with tales of houses that have lodged both real and fictional characters. Here are a few you might want to explore.
Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities, Southern Pines, Tour 2
This grand residence and one of the state’s most important literary landmarks once belonged to novelist James Boyd, where he hosted literary luminaries including William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway. Now the early 20th-century home, open to the public, contains sprawling gardens, the James Boyd Library, and the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.
Read: Drums, by James Boyd (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925), called the classic Revolutionary War novel for North Carolina.
Visit: 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines, www.weymouthcenter.org
Gertrude Weil House, Goldsboro, Tour 9
Gertrude Weil was involved in a wide range of progressive and often controversial causes, including women's suffrage, labor reform, and civil rights and her family’s philanthropy is well known in the region, including forming Goldsboro's Congregation Oheb Sholom. Local writer Emily Weil, who married Gertrude’s nephew David, has published many books on state and local history and lore.
Read: The Bed She Was Born In (Parkway Publishers, 2006), by Jeri Fitzgerald Board, a historical novel that includes Weil by name.
Visit: The historic house, not open to the public, sits at the corner of James and Chestnut streets in Goldsboro
Jack Kerouac house, Rocky Mount, Tour 15
Beat Generation novelist and poet Jack Kerouac often stayed with his sister at her Rocky Mount home, often sleeping on the back porch, a pleasure he wrote about in The Dharma Bums.
Read: The Dharma Bums: 50th Anniversary Edition (Viking, 2008)
Visit: The modest home, not open to the public, is at 8116 West Mount Drive, Rocky Mount
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood house, Tour 9
The movie based on the book by Rebecca Wells was shot by the film industry stationed in Wilmington, also known as Hollywood East. The grand house between Beautancus and Faison was used as the setting for the movie.
Visit: The historic home, not open to the public, is at 422 Taylor Town Road, Faison
“One Tree Hill” house, Wilmington, Tour 7
Many movies and television shows have been shot in and around Wilmington. New York Times Magazine writer John Jeremiah Sullivan, who lives in Wilmington, wrote an amusing essay about how he and his family made enough money to pay off the mortgage of their grand neocolonial house by allowing it to be used as the set for the television series “One Tree Hill.”
Read: Peyton’s Place, in Pulphead: Essays, by John Jeremiah Sullivan (Macmillan, 2011)
Visit: The historic home, not open to the public, is at 1901 Chestnut St., Wilmington
Literary Trails author Georgann Eubanks says perhaps there is no better place for inspiration than this secret writing spot on the coast.
Kindred Spirit, Bird Island, Sunset Beach, Tour 6
For travelers wanting to create their own literary masterpieces, “Kindred Spirit,” a mysterious mailbox set on a dune near Sunset Beach, beckons. It invites writers to leave messages, poems, and notes for other beachcombers and has even been written about itself. Perhaps you’ll be inspired as well.
Read: The Mailbox, by Charlotte writer Marybeth Whalen (David Cook, 2010)
Visit: Take the last westward walkover at 40th Street on Sunset Beach, www.ncbrunswick.com
You can find the companion website to the guidebook here: http://www.NCLiteraryTrails.org.
Books are available online at UNC Press http://www.uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=3247 and at books stores throughout the Southeast after April 1, 2013.
To arrange an interview with Georgann Eubanks contact Rebecca Moore at Rebecca.Moore@ncdcr.gov or (919) 807-6530.
Literary Trails of North Carolina is a project of the N.C. Arts Council’s cultural tourism program. An early leader in cultural tourism the agency has developed trails featuring important arts assets, such as music, North Carolina craft, and Cherokee heritage to brand the state as a place that sustains unique and significant arts resources. To find out more visit www.NCArtsTrails.org.