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Tobacco, steamboats focus of Library exhibit

(Sept. 10, 2001)   —   Eastern North Carolina's early days of steamboats, tobacco and the events leading up to the start of East Carolina University can be seen in a photo and documents collection exhibited on the Internet by East Carolina University's Joyner Library.
The exhibit is at The site provides glimpses of eastern North Carolina a hundred years ago when steamboats were popular for travel and trade, tobacco turned into the state's "golden crop" and ECU glimmered in the eyes of politicians and town council members.
An opening celebration for new interactive display will be held in Joyner Library on Thursday Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. in the Special Collections area. The public is invited.
"Descendents of people who lived in eastern North Carolina around the turn of the 20th century are encouraged to attend the opening celebration," said Diane Williams of the library's staff.
She said that most longtime eastern North Carolina families have been touched in some way by the history covered in the exhibits that show photographs, post cards, old newspaper articles, pamphlets, letters, census entries and other historical information.
Some of items include the first tobacco barn in the county that was built on the farm of Jacob Joyner in 1886. Before the plaster had dried, J. T. Seat, an agricultural agent, scratched his initials in it.
In the 1890's Greenville's "Eastern Reflector" printed an article about how the community had raised funds to buy a gold-headed walking cane for "G.F. Evans, the pioneer tobacco farmer of Pitt in recognition of his efforts in the tobacco culture of Pitt County."
There are stories about the steamboat "Bertie" that carried passengers, freight and mail on the eastern rivers that empty into Albemarle Sound. One printed notice on display advertises an "excursion" for "all who are interested in pretty girls, music and flowers" to Murfreesboro to attend the Commencement of the Wesleyan Female College.
Competition with neighboring towns marked the start of East Carolina Teachers Training School. Greenville's selection followed a successful bond referendum and the approval by the State Board of Education. Photos of the ground breaking for the school along with photos of faculty and students are on display in the exhibits.
The Eastern North Carolina Digital History Exhibits was prepared as part of the N.C. Exploring Cultural Heritage Online (NC ECHO) project for the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. The purpose of the project is to make historical information from the state's museums, library archives and historical societies readily available to the public over the Internet.