Remembering the Forgotten Dead of a Forgotten War

Sidney Wyatt Hinson was one of the over 18 million dead of World War I

Sidney Hinson portrait taken at Clement Studio, Goldsboro, NC, 1917
Sidney Hinson portrait taken at Clement Studio, Goldsboro, NC, 1917.

Born April 23, 1896 in Wayne County, NC, Sidney Hinson was the oldest son of Council, a carpenter, and Fannie.

Sidney joined the North Carolina National Guard on April 1, 1916 at almost 21 years of age and was assigned to the local Company D of the NC 2nd Infantry. His unit was sent to the Mexican border near El Paso, TX later the next year, where they spent several months patrolling the border during the Mexican Revolution.

Entering the fight in France

After the American declaration of war against Germany and Austria-Hungary on April 2, 1917, Sidney’s National Guard unit was called up and he was assigned to Company D of the 119th Infantry Brigade, 30th Division, nicknamed “Old Hickory”. The 30th arrived at the Liverpool docks on May 18, 1918 and France two days later.

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Pic of the Week: Lonely Bachelor [Updated]

Steak for One

Old photographs like this are great but frustrating. Unlike a formal portrait or important event, photos like these capture the mundane business of everyday life.

Unfortunately, his identity is unknown. The photo was taken in 1939 somewhere in Wayne County, NC, probably Goldsboro.

I call him the “lonely bachelor”- steak for one, slumped shoulders, blank stare, and frayed tie. There is an aura of sadness and solitude to his existence but pictures can only capture a specific moment in time so his life as a whole is a mystery.

Update – 7/6/2018

The “lonely bachelor” has been identified. His name is Deward Malcolm Heath, born August 3, 1912 and died September 27, 2001. Mr. Heath was married to Eunice (b. 1917, d. 2005) and had children. He owned and operated Heath Grocery, located at 619 N. William St. in Goldsboro.

Deward Heath grave, Wayne Memorial cemetery
Grave marker at Wayne Memorial cemetery, just outside Goldsboro. Photo from

Pic of the Week: LBJ

Lyndon B. Johnson touches down at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base

LBJ at Seymour Johnson AFB, May 7, 1964

The photo was taken May 7, 1964 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC.  In the background is Air Force One, VC-137C SAM 26000, the Boeing 707 on which Johnson was sworn in as president on November 22, 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In the back left is Marine One, probably a Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King.

He gave a brief speech on the tarmac at 6:05 pm and was accompanied by his wife and daughter, along with North Carolina governor Terry Sanford and US Senators Everett Jordan and Sam Ervin, Jr (of Watergate fame).

On this day alone, Johnson began his day in Washington D.C. and traveled to Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, and finally Atlanta, Georgia, where he arrived after 10:00 pm and spent the night.

Johnson’s schedule for the day, from the LBJ Presidential Library:

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Pic of the Week: Mt Rushmore

The Jewel of the Black Hills

Mt RushmoreMount Rushmore, carved between 1927 and 1941, was the brainchild of South Dakota historian Doane Robinson as a way to increase tourism in the Black Hills of western South Dakota.

It worked. The site, run by the National Park Service, receives well over 2 million visitors a year.

I took this picture in April 2008 while living in the Black Hills and it is far and away the most artistic thing I’ve ever captured with a camera (though admittedly that’s a pretty low bar).

It’s a fantastic site but I was honestly a bit deflated by the monument’s size. The heads are roughly 60 feet tall, the eyes 11 feet wide, and the noses 21 feet tall.

No doubt impressive but perhaps the distance between monument and visitor skews the sense of size. I think the fact that it is one of the most recognized monuments in the country (and the world) also plays a part. You see it constantly in photographs, movies, and the like, and assume it to be mythic in scale.

The Tree of Life: The development of the RR in NC

The establishment of railroad lines was the single most important event in North Carolina history

NC Railroad Company loBefore the middle of the 19th century, North Carolina had the dubious reputation as the most backwards of the states (and colonies). In a world driven by maritime transit, the Outer Banks proved to be a monumental barrier, not to mention the lack of any suitable, natural deep water ports.

The emergence of the railroad transformed the state, today home to over 10 million people, some of the fastest growing cities in the nation, and numerous world class universities.

Frederick Law Olmstead, famed landscape architect and designer of Central Park, traveled through the South and in 1856 published his findings and opinions in A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States. Entering by carriage from Virginia, he wrote that the roads were,

as bad as anything, under the name of a road, can be conceived to be. Wherever the adjoining swamps, fallen trees, stumps, and plantation fences would admit of it, the coach was driven, with a great deal of dexterity, out of the road. When the wheels sunk in the mud, below the hubs, we were sometimes requested to get out and walk. An upset seemed every moment inevitable.    p311

His remarks on the “character” of North Carolina were also less than kind.

North Carolina has a proverbial reputation for the ignorance and torpidity of her people; being, in this respect, at the head of the Slave States. I do not find the reason of this in any innate quality of the popular mind; but, rather, in the circumstances under which it finds its development. Owing to the general poverty of the soil in the Eastern part of the State, and to the almost exclusive employment of slave-labor on the soils productive of cotton; owing, also, to the difficulty and expense of reaching market with bulky produce from the interior and western districts, population and wealth is more divided than in the other Atlantic States; industry is almost entirely rural, and there is but little communication or concert of action among the small and scattered proprietors of capital.    p366

It’s true that North Carolina suffered from a lack of easily navigable rivers and ports but as a North Carolinian, Mr. Olmstead can eat it. I also take exception to his assessment of the poor soil in the eastern portion of the state as NC is one of the highest producing agricultural areas in the nation. But I digress.

The longest railroad in the world

Wilmington & Weldon schedule, 1859
Wilmington & Weldon northbound time table, adopted October 1859. UNC-CH archives

At just over 161 miles long, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad was the longest line in the world upon its completion in 1840. Running from the port of Wilmington in the southeastern corner of the state up to the town of Weldon on the Virginia border, the W&W created the town of Goldsboro, which sprang up around the offices of the line’s engineer Matthew Goldsborough.

With access to the port at Wilmington and connection to both the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad (to Portsmouth, VA) and the Petersburg (VA) Railroad to the north, merchants and farmers had access to new markets across the East Coast and beyond.

The “Tree of Life”

The success of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad lit a fire under the political and business classes of the state. Led by former governor, John Motley Morehead, calls became louder for a state sponsored line running East and West to complement the North and South running Wilmington & Weldon.

In a speech to the General Assembly in 1854, Morehead proclaimed,

Let the North Carolina Railroad, like a huge tree, strike its roots deeply into the shore of the Atlantic, and be moistened by its waters, and at last stretch its noble trunk through the center of the state, and extend its overshadowand protecting branches through the valleys and along the mountain tops of the west, until it becomes, indeed, the Tree of Life to North Carolina.


Pearce's new map of the state of North Carolina, 1870
“Pearce’s new map of the state of North Carolina”, 1870. Library of Congress

Authorized in 1848 and completed in 1856, the North Carolina Railroad ran 223 miles from Charlotte to Goldsboro, where it met the Wilmington & Weldon line. The three largest cities in the state today, Charlotte (873,363), Greensboro (290,519), and the capital Raleigh (476,746) all owe much of their growth and development to the NCRR, not to mention countless other smaller towns along the line, including my hometown of Goldsboro.

Railroads drive development

Train on Neuse River bridge, ca1865
“Neuse River Bridge” near Goldsboro taken by J.D. Heywood’s Photography Room of New Bern, NC. The date is likely between 1865 and 1870. The caption reads “Wilmington & Goldsboro R.R.”, certainly meaning the Wilmington & Weldon. However, if you zoom in on the end car it reads “A&NC RR”. The Atlantic & NC Railroad, completed in 1858, began in Goldsboro at the terminus of the NCRR and ran east to the port of Morehead City, NC. It is likely that this this train was on the W&W bridge just South of Goldsboro, as the A&NC did not cross the river in Wayne County, probably through a lease agreement with the Wilmington & Weldon RR. Library of Congress


Goldsboro, NC owes its existence solely to the railroad and profited doubly as the site of a major intersection of railroad lines running North-South and East-West. Just over 50 years after its creation, the town was one of the largest in the state and a major transportation hub.

Goldsboro train downtown, 1873
Two trains on Center St. in downtown Goldsboro, 1873.


Like so much of human history though, the town turned on its creator. By the 1920s, residents had come to resent the noise, smoke, and activity of trains running through the center of town at all hours.

Southern Railway engine, downtown Goldsboro
Southern Railway Company engine on Center Street in downtown Goldsboro, circa 1900.


The Southern Railway Company refused to relocate the track running down Center Street so in March of 1926 the town council secretly agreed to tear up the line. On the night of April 2, town manager Claude Grantham organized over 100 men downtown to do the work. None had been told beforehand what the job would be yet they managed to dismantle the track before dawn, going so far as to neatly stack the rails and wooden crossties in the Southern Railway yard north of Ash Street.

Southern sued City Manager Claude Grantham and all the alderman. Judge R.A. Nunn ruled that the City of Goldsboro would pay $3500 in damages plus Southern’s lawyer fees. However, because neither Southern or the NC RR had a title or easement for the track, Judge Nunn decreed that neither had claim to rebuild the track downtown.


The railroad connected North Carolina to the rest of the world and ushered in an era of growth that continues today. From 1854 to 1872 the freight receipts of just the North Carolina Railroad Company totaled nearly $8,000,000 which today would equal roughly $166,000,000.

Civil War railroad lines map


The railroad created thousands of jobs, including John R. Coltrane, father of legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. His 1958 song “Goldsboro Express” was inspired by his father’s work on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, the successor to the Wilmington & Weldon.



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