• From the President – March, 2017

    Carolina Beach Hotel Part III

    By Elaine Henson

    The trial for hotel owners H.T. Ireland and J.L. Byrd was slated to begin on Wednesday, January 18, 1928, but was continued to Thursday, January 19th, by Judge N.A. Sinclair because a witness subpoenaed by the state was a no-show on January 18th.  Mrs. S.R. Petty of Greensboro was believed to have important information regarding the whereabouts of a certain unnamed party on the night of the fire. It was also believed that Mrs. Petty was in Ohio and had been there for a while having left unanswered another subpoena from January 3rd. The state contended her testimony would have important bearing in the case. But Judge Sinclair decided the trial would proceed on Thursday without her.

    The state began with testimony from the treasurer of the Carolina Beach Corporation, W.W. Walsh of Winston- Salem, who stated that the sale of the hotel was, in reality, a trade for a business property in Winston-Salem.  The CB Corporation got the Winston property with a mortgage of $50,000 and John R. Baker got the hotel with 75 lots and a mortgage of $85,000.  Mr. Baker was supposedly purchasing the hotel for a Mr. R.L. Nisson who planned to move his family to Carolina Beach to live and implement plans of vast improvements for the hotel and lots.  As it turned out Mr. Baker bought it for himself and immediately sold it to Sam Jackson of Mecklenburg County who sold it to Highway Park West, Inc. Ireland and Byrd were two of the owners of that company.

    Mr. Walsh also testified that the hotel had to turn away guests “by the hundreds” for July 4, 1917, but by August, business had dropped off considerably owing to the beach season coming to an end.

    [I have an idea that being a summer season hotel may have influenced their decision to sell it coupled with the location. It was eight blocks southwest of the boardwalk, the pavilion and all the many activities there. This may have created a problem for hotel guests as it was a long walk back and forth to the boardwalk and they would have to drive.

    Guests at the Bame and Greystone Hotels could walk out the front door to the boardwalk and ocean. Also, the fresh water lake may have turned out not to be as much of a draw as anticipated and the guests would have to walk or drive four blocks for ocean bathing. 

    Indeed, in the trial’s second day the Wilmington Morning Star reported that the “Defense Counsel poked fun at the advertised slogan that the hotel was located in front of the only freshwater lake located within a few hundred feet of ocean along the Atlantic coast.” 

    CB Corporation Treasurer W.W. Walsh also touched on the location by testifying that the hotel was 3,000 feet from the ocean to be closer to the fresh water lake and the lots owned by the corporation.  I can’t quite see the advantage of the hotel being close to potential neighborhoods full of homes. But, of course, the corporation didn’t own any lots on the ocean.]

    Further testimony by Marsden de Rosset of the firm de Rosset and Hazlehurst, fire insurance agents, revealed that Mr. Ireland purchased $28,500 additional insurance on the hotel on September 6, 1927.  That was seven days before the fire on September 13th.  Oddly, the premium was paid on September 16th, three days after the fire. The additional insurance meant the hotel was insured for over $100,000.

    The State called W. W. Lewis, who lived about a block north of the hotel, who testified about hearing shouts and gun shots about 2:30 in the morning of September 13th.  He ran to the hotel where he helped rescue Byrd and Ireland from the porch roof of the burning building and described the scene there.  Also testifying at the end of day one was Captain W. A. Scott of the North Carolina Fire Commission. He explained the details of the department’s investigation against the pair leading to their indictment, but the newspaper account of his testimony was almost nonexistent.

    The second day began with defenses’ unsuccessful motion of a direct verdict of not guilty as to end the trial.

    The defense then proceeded with a lengthy list of character witnesses. The witnesses included J. Elmer Long, Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina; B.T. Baynes, president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce; C.L. Story, Sheriff of Alamance County; Dr. W. W. Harvey, coroner of Guildford County; bank presidents, real estate developers, builders, insurance executives and attorneys, among the many prominent citizens who testified to the defendants’ character.

    The three defense attorneys, led by Wilmington attorney John Bright Hill, then gave ending arguments without calling a single material witness.  The judge spent 20 minutes instructing the jury who returned in 50 minutes with the verdict. This is the headline in the Morning Star’s Saturday, January 27, 1927’s, edition:

     

    One can only wonder why the State’s failed witness, being from Greensboro, was in Ohio at the time of the trial ignoring two subpoenas.   And, one can further wonder if that witness’ testimony could have had a different bearing on the case. That, we will never know.

    Next month: Part IV: Carolina Beach School on the site.

     

    World War I “The War to End All Wars”

    In conjunction with our WWI exhibit, we will be publishing a short brochure on the causes and history of WWI.  The text is from American Political and Social History by Harold Underwood Faulkner, published in May 1937, by F.S. Crofts & Co., New York

    Part III – WHY WE FOUGHT

    While economic interests were tying the United States more closely to the Allied nations, organized propaganda was effectively used.  Propaganda agencies, both of the Triple Entente and of the Central Powers, exerted themselves to the utmost to influence public opinion, but in this the Entente were far more successful.

    “Entente propaganda in the United States,” wrote Professor Hayes, “was even more general than that of the Teutons; it was also more adroit, more sympathetic, and more conformable to American prejudices and American wishes.”

    Above all, it was more successful because Great Britain, through control of the cables and strict censorship, was able to color the news that reached America.  Honest, unbiased news largely disappeared from American papers after August, 1914.

    With this great advantage to start with, propaganda was adroitly pushed through weekly reviews of the war distributed to hundreds of newspapers, moving pictures, articles in newspapers and magazines (written when possible by sympathetic Americans), contacts with influential men in all professions, speeches, debates, and lectures by American citizens-in brief, by every known method of influencing public opinion.

    While the British talked of saving the world from barbarism and the French played up their contributions to American independence, famous men like James Bryce, highly respected in America, lent their names to the most incredible stories of German atrocities.

    Against the skillful Allied propaganda the blundering efforts of Germany to subsidize the American press and influence American opinion made little progress and were eventually utterly discredited when, in 1915, President Wilson demanded the recall of the Austrian ambassador, Dumba, and the German attaches, von Papen and Boy-Ed.  These men had exceeded their official rights in pushing German interests in war time and were without doubt involved in plots to sabotage the production of munitions for the Allies.

    That the presentation of the Entente case was far more efficient than that of the German, there can be no question.  This does not mean, however, that the United States was thus tricked into the war on one side.  It undoubtedly helped to build up sympathy for the Entente Powers and hostility toward Germany, but the continual blunders in the policy of the Central Powers were quite sufficient to accomplish that without other aid.

    Furthermore, the traditions and culture of the American people were largely based on those of Great Britain; language, literature, and legal and constitutional institutions stemmed from the British Isles.  If this country was to enter the war at all – and there were many influences that appeared to be driving her inevitably into that course – the choice she made as to sides was the natural one.

    Most Americans felt very definitely that they were fighting on the side of civilization and liberal institutions, an attitude enunciated by leaders in all walks of life and an attitude effectively and repeatedly expressed by Woodrow Wilson.