Then and Now


Stories and Snapshots

Hal Swindell (Memories from the 1930s)

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I would rise at 5 am on week days and go down to the courthouse to light the fires in the wood stoves in two of the courthouse offices. The two offices were Mr. Ronald Payne who was the Register of Deeds and Mrs. Maude Jones, the County Accountant. I also had to take care of the stove across the street, upstairs in the Berry Building where the Highway Department had an office. The wood would already be stacked in a box near the stoves, and I got the fires going so the offices would be warm when the courthouse opened for business.

I remember that on election nights there was a trailer sitting on the corner where the men would hang out waiting for the votes to be counted. There would be music playing and lots of loud talk as the men discussed the merits of their candidates. The men would sometimes imbibe too much and there would be fights.

I also remember when this bell hung outside of the courthouse on the west end of the building. There were outside wooden steps that led up to the 2nd floor (and a door that led into the jury room) on that end. At the top of the steps there was a landing and the bell was mounted so that someone could come out of the jury room and ring the bell to summon the court back to order after the lunch break. They also stood on that landing and hollered up to the 3rd floor where the Grand Jury met to summon them back downstairs.

We've been gathering photographs of the Historic Courthouse and the village of Swan Quarter and they will soon be published here. Come back and visit this section often so you can see them all! Have a photograph you'd like to share? Let us know!

Ross-Meehan Foundries Bell that hung outside on the West end of the Courthouse.

Ross-Meehan Foundries Bell that hung outside on the West end of the Courthouse.

William Cochran, Jr. (Memories from 1939-41)

I remember when a famous politician visited Hyde County. Sometime around 1939-41, the former US Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels (1862-1948) visited Hyde County. Daniels was born in Washington, NC and had relatives in Hyde County. His parents are buried somewhere in the Sladesville area and he had come to visit.

He arrived by sea-plane that landed in Swan Quarter Bay. Boats from Swan Quarter went out to meet him and bring him to shore. My father, William Cochran, Sr., took me along with him in one of the boats. I’m not sure if he stopped to visit in the courthouse, but it wouldn’t have been surprising as he would have passed right by it.

Daniels served as Secretary from 1913-1921 and oversaw the US Navy during World War I. He later served as Ambassador to Mexico under President Franklin Roosevelt. However, was probably better known to North Carolinians as the editor and publisher of several newspapers in eastern North Carolina, including the News and Observer.

Josephus Daniels arrives by seaplane in Swan Quarter Bay.

Norma Swindell Cahoon: (Memories from the 1940s)

In the evenings, the grown-ups would gather in Swan Quarter and shop - the stores stayed open until 9 pm - or just sit around and talk and visit with one another. The kids would play outside around the courthouse. There were hitching posts where horses were tied while their owners conducted business in the courthouse during the day. At night we would jump from one of those hitching posts to another, and another and then over and over again. Mr. Milton Carawan stored his cotton bales at the courthouse and we would play on the cotton bales too. We’d get tired and thirsty. We’d go to the pitcher pump and pump water to drink and play some more!

Emily Cahoon Thomas: (Memories from 1960)

I remember when the Hyde County courthouse was the location for various functions and events in Swan Quarter.

In May 1960, the late Miss Aleph Cason organized the May Day activities that included a maypole dance for the younger children of the county. The maypole was erected and decorated with colored crepe paper and the children were in their Sunday best. Later in the day the crowning of the May Queen took place. The participants had sold votes for a penny per vote, with the winner who sold the most being crowned Queen of May.

That year, I was the crowned the winner and Carolyn Marshall (Dunbar) was the runner-up. The court consisted of Linda Carawan, Annette Richards (Harris), Dianna Sadler (Williams) (deceased), and Joy Swindell (Brewer). Hal McGee, Carlton Harris and Joseph Cahoon served as escorts. Sallie Carter and Peggy Ann Carawan served as attendants.

Local politician Dick O’Neal and Herbert Bonner from Beaufort County were on hand for this festive occasion and to campaign. Both were running for US House of Representatives. [Note Dick O’Neal’s campaign tent in the background of the picture below.] In the photographs, the exterior of the courthouse is clearly visible with the original brick showing. Celia Cahoon can also be seen with a baby carriage (perhaps with Carla inside?). Another photograph shows the exterior of the Agriculture Building and the Credle House.

Merita Lewis Spencer: (Memories from the 1980s-2003)

Courthouse Memories - A Short Story

My memories begin in 1986, which is fairly recent. Some folks might not be all that interested but I'm going to share them anyway!

I came to work for Lora M. Byrd on July 1, 1986 in the Register of Deeds Office. In September 1987, we moved out into what was last used for the Hyde County Planner's office so that our offices could be remodeled. The Planner's office in previous years had been Mr. Charlie Cahoon's and Roland Dale's office (our county sheriffs). This was much needed due to one corner of the floor falling down and a snake coming in. That was a scary and hilarious time. We had to leave our records in the vault and walked across a board to get to and fro to retrieve requested records. So we had to keep our balance.

Then in 1998, we moved down the hall in the meeting room for renovations again. This time we moved all our books and didn't have to go back and forth other than to inspect what was being done to our offices. 

In September 1999, we moved back to our space after much clean-up from Hurricane Floyd with 18" of water and mud in our offices. We, along with other helpers, pushed mud out with our brooms and used the water hoses and got wet and nasty. But we were washable. There were an awful lot of folks doing the same thing in their homes. People really came together for each other as a whole. We cried, prayed, cussed a little, and hung in there. We all worked together along with the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.

We were relocated once again after Hurricane Isabel in 2003 with 36" of water. The Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and the National Guard came and helped. These people were God-sends. We worked out of what was Toppings Restaurant for four years. Two people from our office suffered home damages as well, and had to deal with all that.

Occasionally, Pam Sawyer and I would have to go in the attic for this or that. That place was a little spooky to me. We'd go and get older books to verify something. On one day we nosed around a bit and found the bell that was used to call court back in session years ago. We ended up carrying that bell - donging it all the way - down from the attic to our office so we would know it was kept safe. When we moved, that bell went too, except the very last time it was in storage. Before long it will have a permanent home in the renovated Historic Courthouse.

I just have to say something about Mr. Dick Lupton. I used to tell him he needed to write a book and even if he just wrote in composition books. He knew a awful lot that some people might never know. He was just a walking book of knowledge. Usually on Friday, you could hear Mr. Dick tapping down the hall with his cane, coming from - most likely - Jennie's office. He'd come and sit a spell and visit if I weren't busy. Anyone that remembers Mr. Dick also knew he took a toddy for his body. So, now here we go...

I had been told by several people in our building that only two people received Christmas gifts from him. I happened to be one. This particular Christmas, he stopped in and asked me to stop by when I got off, so I did. He had his fireplace hearth lined with poinsettias, he told me to pick one and proceeded to ask if I'd like a glass of wine. I had already noticed his glass beside his chair. He didn't just have a wine glass. He had a tall tea glass. I declined. I knew I had to drive home. Mr. Dick knew I like good homemade wine. Mrs. Margaret just seemed to take things in stride with a grain of salt.

After Mr. Dick died, Mrs. Margaret relocated with their son in another state. They had a yellow fuzzy cat named Sammie they had adopted, she couldn't take Sammie to her new home, so I ended up with Sammie. He had a lot of camaraderie with my David while he was recouping from a heart attack.

Another 'realy, really' memorable episode is: In years past, smoking and having liquids in the valut were permissible. Then that changed due to that being high risk. However now remember, I was the newest red neck kid on the block at the time. There was a person that carried a canned drink in the vault one day while working. So, ole Merita here, being the dutiful person that I tried to be, went in the vault and calmly said "you know that you're not supposed to have that in here." Well, Lord have mercy, I surely said the WRONG thing that time, this size three foot almost choked me. I came out, sat down behind my counter and here that person came - puffed up like a bull frog. Now, I was raised in a house with six brothers but the words that came from that mouth I had NEVER heard. The canned drink was thrown across the counter - aimed for the trash can - but meanwhile splashed on me, the wall, and the desk. After being told to leave, that's what happened. Since then, we've aged and mellowed and have an admiration for one another. It became fun later but certainly wasn't at the time.

Ahhh, but such sweet, precious memories to me and worth sharing and certainly not to offend anyone.