Home Lifestyle COLUMN: History holds a community together

COLUMN: History holds a community together

Alfred Victor Dockery. Souce: findagrave.com

In last week’s episode of “McDonald Rambles On,” our hero, after promoting the merits of an art culture in a community, left us to consider that you can also build a community on its history. So, join us as we return to the past on “a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty ‘Hi-Yo Silver!’”

OK McDonald, reel it in, reel it in dude.

Sorry … here we go.

The history of a community is always an interesting topic — and somewhat a controversial one, especially in the South. Our history, in some aspects, is a proud one. In others, not so much. Facing our history and learning from mistakes, we can build a better community.

There is so much history to be proud of in Richmond County. From the origins of NASCAR, to the successful textile industry, to the local family farms, to the historical churches, to the historical houses, to the historical buildings that ring the downtowns of Rockingham, Hamlet and Ellerbe. The county has a lot to offer on the topic of history.

There are many … um… eccentric members of the community who, although may be unknown, add to the local flavor and tradition of the county.

Alfred Victor (A.V.) Dockery is just one of these people.

Born in 1851, Dockery and his brothers were described by Ike London, editor of The Rockingham Post-Dispatch, as being the epitome of virality.

“Dockery men were not ordinary men,” London wrote. “(They were) remarkable for physical manhood, vigorous intellect and hospitality extended to any and all as who visited their homes.”

Dockery would become publisher of The Southern Protectionist.

The newspaper was described in an article in the March 29, 1888 issue of The Rockingham Rocket as “a Republican paper, but it bitterly opposes (Gen. William Tecumseh) Sherman as the Republican candidate for the Presidency.”

After a distinguished career as an American consul in Germany, Portugal and England, Dockery returned home in 1885. He was involved in an incident in the Yarboro House Hotel in Raleigh that was reported in two separate versions … depending on the reporting newspaper’s political leanings.

The Goldsboro Daily Argus (Democrat-leaning publication) reported the incident in saying:

“A Mr. Smith of Wilmington, traveling man, was talking with some friends. A.V. Dockery of Raleigh, a stranger to him, interrupted him and called him a liar, Smith did not notice the remark…Dockery whipped out a pistol…placing it at Mr. Smith’s ear…(the pistol misfired)…The pistol was taken away from Dockery by bystanders who then formed a ring and watched Mr. Smith wallop him.”

The Evening Visitor of Raleigh (Republican-leaning publication) reported the incident thusly:

“Last evening Mr. A.V. Dockery of this city and a gentleman from Wilmington became involved in a heated discussion that finally led to blows…Mr. Dockery drew a pistol. He did no shooting but wielded the weapon as a club, striking the Wilmington man a heavy blow on the head with the but (sp). Bystanders parted the fighters and quiet reigned again in the hotel.”

Quite a character indeed.

The website from the UCLA History Public History Initiative characterizes the importance of history in a society: “Without history, a society shares no common memory of where it has been, what its core values are, or what decisions of the past account for present circumstances. Without history, we cannot undertake any sensible inquiry into the political, social, or moral issues in society.”

We are fortunate to live in a community that has incredible history. We are also fortunate to have a historical society that is dedicated to the preservation of history.

How beautiful are the stained-glass windows in all of the local churches? From Leak Street to Firetower Road in Ellerbe to other churches throughout the county, what kind of history do they hold?


Churches hold a community together. Art holds a community together. History holds a community together.

Throughout the county, many of the historical houses and buildings are being refurbished. In downtown Rockingham, on Main Street in Hamlet and on Main Street in Ellerbe, store fronts are slowly popping up with new local businesses. New business locales with emphasis on the past.

We must embrace the past in order to promote the future. A.V. Dockery wouldn’t want it any other way.

Click here to read the column the arts.

Christopher McDonald is a defender of the verb “to be,” enemy of the Oxford comma, and loyal to the OED. Reach him at cmcdonald@richmondobserver.com.

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