Incumbents win in Hillsborough

Hillsborough voters welcomed two incumbents and one newcomer to the Town Board.

Commissioner Evelyn Lloyd returns for her seventh term in office. Commissioner Brian Lowen returns for his fifth. Lloyd received 618 votes; Lowen 611.

Eric Hallman opted not to run for re-election, paving the way for Mark Bell to take his place, beating out challengers Ashley DeSena and Cindy Talisman. Bell received 602 votes. DeSena received 167 votes and Talisman received 116 votes.

Bell has served on the town’s Historic District Commission and on the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough.

Historic preservation played a surprisingly prominent role in Hillsborough’s municipal election, as town leaders wrestled with how to preserve the crumbling Colonial Inn, and what to do about the words “Confederate Memorial” on the Orange County Historical Museum.

The incumbents and Bell supported the town board’s decision to begin the process of seizing the 176-year-old Inn via eminent domain. They also backed a plan to remove the lettering from the museum and put up a historical marker instead.

Both DeSena and Talisman rejected these proposals. They also challenged the board’s vision for growth in Hillsborough, and criticized the town’s Unified Development Ordinance.

In the mayor’s race, incumbent Tom Stevens ran unopposed, locking in his sixth term with 677 votes.

Hillsborough Police Asking for Public’s Help in Connection with Shooting

Hillsborough Police are looking for information regarding two recent incidents.

Officers responded to a report of a shooting on Faucette Mill Road in Hillsborough, at approximately two o’clock in the morning on Sunday, October 18.

Authorities say police then found 26-year-old Victor Glover in a vehicle at the scene suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Glover was reportedly taken to Duke Hospital for treatment.

Hillsborough Police were also called to a scene of an armed robbery at approximately 10 o’clock the night of Tuesday, October 20, at the Domino’s Pizza on John Earl Street. Two employees were at the business when a white male wearing a mask and black clothing entered the business with a handgun and demanded money. The suspect stole cash and was last seen running from the business, according to police.

The employees were not injured in the robbery.

If you have any information regarding either of these incidents, please contact Hillsborough Police.

Hillsborough Leaders Vote To Take Colonial Inn By Eminent Domain

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens and other town leaders say the best hope for saving the beleaguered Colonial Inn is to take the property away from its current owner, Francis Henry.

“We’ve had issues with this building and the property for over 13 years now,” says Stevens. “What’s triggering the urgent action is concern for public safety.”

The building at 153 West King Street dates back to 1838. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the town’s most well-known local landmarks. But since buying it at auction 13 years ago, Henry has let the Inn fall into disrepair. Stevens says it’s in such bad shape the Fire Marshal has declared it a hazard.

“We’ve gone from trying to prevent demolition by neglect, to a minimum housing violation where the owners just plain could not live there because it was not safe for human habitation, until finally the Fire Marshal had to step in to say, ‘Look, this has deteriorated to the point where we can’t even have people in there unless they’re contractors actually working on the building,’” says Stevens

Henry twice asked for permission to demolish the former Inn. Hillsborough’s Historic District Commission denied both requests. Stevens says the most recent request opened the way for the town to take action.

“The town gained some statutory authority to proceed with eminent domain over a year ago when the owner applied to demolish the building,” Stevens explains. “There is legislation that allows local government to proceed with eminent domain on properties that are historically significant, and where an application is made to demolish the significant structure.”

After years of debate, the town board voted unanimously on Monday to begin eminent domain proceedings to take control of the property. The first step is for an independent auditor to determine what constitutes just compensation for the property.

Henry paid $410,000 for it at auction in 2002. In 2008, the tax value was estimated at $600,000. But now, due to extreme neglect, officials say it may only be worth the value of the land, about $143,000.

The actual renovations to restore the building could be as much as $3 million, but Stevens says the board is not planning to invest that much town money in the project.

Ultimately, he says the town’s goal is not to own the landmark, but to turn it over to a public-private partnership to restore and run.

“We’re interested in getting it into the hands of a group that would involve organizations like Preservation North Carolina, local folks who are very interested in saving the Colonial Inn, restoration experts, and business folks. We see an inclusive process that would have a very good chance at moving forward.”

Depending on how the court proceedings go, it could be as long as a year before the town takes control of the former Colonial Inn, but Preservation North Carolina is already working to establish a fund to collect donations to support the restoration.

You can find a full timeline of the town’s actions regarding the former Colonial Inn here.

Rabid Bat Found on Hillsborough Playground

Orange County Animal Services reports a rabid bat was found at a Hillsborough elementary school last week.

Last Thursday, several children came across the carcass of the bat on the playground. Some reportedly kicked the dead bat around before teachers became aware of the situation. The bat was removed for testing.

A nurse from the Orange County Health Department is consulting with the families of the children involved to determine if they require post-exposure treatment.

The incident is the eighth reported case of rabies in Orange County so far this year, and the third to involve a bat. Last year, 23 cases were confirmed. The majority of those involved raccoons.

Hillsborough Hosts “Colonial Kids Day”

This Saturday, September 12, is Colonial Kids Day in Hillsborough!

The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough hosts the annual event, “a family-friendly day of free living history activities” at the Burwell School Historic Site on N. Churton Street. Activities include colonial dancing demonstrations, colonial games, and hands-on craft-making opportunities including butter churning, candle-making and quilt-making. There will also be spinning and weaving demonstrations down the road at the Orange County Historical Museum – and the Alliance will host a walking tour of colonial sites in Hillsborough.

Alliance for Historic Hillsborough executive director Sarah DeGennaro joined Aaron Keck on WCHL.


Colonial Kids Day runs from 11 am to 3 pm; the walking tour begins at 11:00 from the Hillsborough Visitors Center at 150 E. King Street. It’s $5 for the walking tour, but all other activities are free.

Get more info here.

Hillsborough Historic District Commission to Review ‘Confederate Memorial’ Sign

The Hillsborough Historic District Commission could decide Wednesday if the words “Confederate Memorial” should come down off 201 North Churton Street.

It’s a topic that’s been hotly debated in recent months, but Mayor Tom Stevens says the Commission’s discussion will likely focus on the aesthetics of the building more than the idea of heritage.

“I do think there will be a fair number of folks who will want to see how that turns out, but in terms of lots of discussion about the words “Confederate Memorial” and what that means to heritage, that’s not gong to be appropriate the what the Historic District Commission is going to be looking at,” says Stevens.

The building on the corner of Churton and West Tryon was constructed in 1934 by the Daughters of the Confederacy to serve as a whites-only library. It now houses the Orange County Historical Museum. Museum staffers in June asked town officials to take down the lettering, saying it made some visitors uncomfortable.

That request sparked outrage from those who said it was an attempt to erase Southern history. Five hundred people gathered last month in front of the courthouse for what they called an “educational rally about Confederate heritage.”

Mayor Tom Stevens says town leaders want to replace the lettering with a sign commemorating the 1778 Constitutional Convention that took place on that spot.

“We want to talk about the history of that particular corner, so what the Historic District Commission will be looking at is not about the content of the sign,” says Stevens. “It really doesn’t matter if it says ‘Confederate Memorial” or what it says. Are the materials appropriate? Is the signage appropriate?”

The Historic District Commission meets at 7 o’clock in the Hillsborough Town Barn. You can read the full agenda here.

Bat In Family Playroom Marks Orange County’s 6th Rabies Case

Orange County Animal Services reported the sixth case of rabies this year, following an incident in which a bat was found inside a house.

Hillsborough residents trapped a bat in an upstairs playroom of their home on Tuesday. Animal Services was called to remove it for testing.

Though no members of the household reported contact with the animal, officials say it’s possible they were inadvertently exposed if the bat was in the house overnight.

Bat bites can be undetectable, so people sleeping a room with a bat might not even know if they’ve been bitten. In this instance, no family members slept in the playroom and the door was reportedly left closed all night.

Nonetheless, a public health nurse is working with the family to determine if they should undergo post-exposure treatment.

In the United States, rabies in humans is very rare, but the few cases reported in recent years have been linked to bats. Officials say if you come in contact with a bat, it’s crucial to contain it without further contact and call Animal Services immediately. Outside of office hours, you can reach an Animal Control officer by calling 911.

You can learn more here.

Whooping Cough Confirmed in Hillsborough

A second-grader at The Expedition School in Hillsborough has tested positive for pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

“We have one confirmed case of pertussis and one suspect case of pertussis in Orange County. They are two children that are both of the same family,” says Stacy Shelp, spokesperson for the Orange County Health Department.

The Expedition School is a year-round charter school serving children from kindergarten through 6th grade.

Patricia Brummit is the school’s business director. She says administrators received word of the diagnosis Monday afternoon. Parents have been notified, and some children who came in close contact with the student are taking preventive antibiotics to limit the spread of the disease.

“We have sent out all the information from the Orange County Health Department and then parents have made their own decisions about taking their children to the doctor,” says Brummit. “We have sent home some children who are showing symptoms and coughing for a while, just to be cautious.”

Shelp says pertussis is highly contagious.

“It is spread through coughing and sneezing. The good thing is it can be prevented through vaccination, so we do recommend that children receive the DTaP, it is actually one of the required vaccinations for school unless you have either a religious or medical exemption from that.”

Symptoms include runny nose, congestion, watery eyes, fever and a cough that can worsen until patients are left gasping for air. Shelp notes it can be especially serious for infants and young children.

“They are a lot more susceptible to this and often times they either end up hospitalized or it can be fatal, so we want to make sure people who are around newborns, infants or those who are immune-compromised have received their vaccination.”

While Orange County has high rate of school-aged children who are fully vaccinated, Shelp says our area also has one of the highest exemption rates in the state.

For more on whooping cough, click here.

Confederate Flag Supporters Rally In Hillsborough

Hundreds of Confederate flag supporters gathered in downtown Hillsborough Saturday for the “Southern Heritage Ride and Rally.”

From the steps of Hillsborough Town Hall, Gary Williamson spoke to a crowd of about 600 people. There were old people, young people, families and couples. Most carried or wore the Confederate battle flag. Even toddlers waved their own pint-sized versions of the Southern Cross. Williamson’s message was that their beloved symbols were under threat.


“They are trying to take it away from us, they are trying to make it disappear,” Williamson warned. “No government, no liberal idiots, no crybabies, no anybody is going to take that away.”

The crowd cheered and gave rebel yells as drivers or motorcyclists roared by on the street below with the Confederate flag flying above their vehicles.

Photo credit: Jess Clark

Photo credit: Jess Clark

Thomas Holmes drove in from Orange Grove for the rally. His friend Jesse Britt carried a giant Confederate battle flag. But Holmes’ Southern Cross is tattooed on his arm.

“It’s where I’m from. It’s who I am. It’s my blood,” Holmes said. “My great-great-grandpa died in the Civil War. He was a prisoner of war in New York almost all the Civil War, and he escaped. And in the last six months he got killed.”

Like many in the crowd, Britt says he and his friends are frustrated that the use of the Confederate flag has come into question after the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, South Carolina.

“We’ve had this flag for years, and nobody said anything about it until some nutshell comes out and shoots some people,” Britt said. “It makes no at all sense to me—why they’re putting it on the flag. It’s not us. It has nothing to do with us. It’s one nutshell that probably played video games too much and saw too much violence in his life.”

When pressed about the flag’s use by hate groups, Britt says he wouldn’t use it, while Holmes rejects the idea that the flag is associated with hatred.

“I was raised in the South, and we were never raised around that hate with the flag,” Holmes asserted. “We’ve never known the flag to have hate to it.”

Across the street, Christine Gattis disagrees. She’s beating a makeshift drum in a counter-protest of about thirty people. Many are wearing white t-shirts printed with the words “Black Lives Matter.”

“I understand that it’s their heritage,” Gattis said, “but they’re ignoring the fact of what their heritage really is. It’s about slavery. It’s what the Confederate War was about.”

To try to prove the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol, organizers of the “Southern Heritage Ride and Rally” brought in speaker H.K. Edgerton. Edgerton is a well-known supporter of the Confederate flag, and he’s African-American.

Edgerton tried to distance the Confederate flag supporters from the murderer of nine black worshipers at Emanuel A.M.E.

“If that baby boy had gone to the Sons of Confederate Veterans website, he would have learned about the place of honor and dignity that folks who looked like me earned under the Southern Cross,” Edgerton said.

“He would have learned about those trains carrying black folks on plantations all around the Southland of America who made all the implements of war for General Lee’s army. He would have learned about those black folks who made food stuffs for General Lee’s army. And while they weren’t there legally, he would have learned about all those black folks who went out beside our man and fought beside him—a man that he not only called ‘master,’ but a man he called ‘family,’ and ‘friend.’”

Edgerton is, surprisingly, a former president of the Asheville NAACP. He was a hit with the virtually all-white crowd, especially when he made this statement:

“The only people that ever cared for black folks is the Christian man in the Southland of America. White folks in the Southland of America care more for black folks than they care for themselves.”

But his words disturbed Hillsborough resident Robyn Davis-Ellison. Davis-Ellison is African-American and so are her two sons. They watched Edgerton speak from the edge of the crowd.

H.K. Edgerton conducts the crowd in singing "Dixie." Photo credit: Jess Clark

H.K. Edgerton conducts the crowd in singing “Dixie.” Photo credit: Jess Clark.

“I don’t think he believes what he’s spewing,” Davis-Ellison said, aghast. “I don’t know how he can believe it, because he watches television. He sees everything on. I’m sure he was raised by African-Americans. He seems older than me, so I know the stuff I was taught to believe. And I think he’s a token, and maybe that equals money.”

Event organizers did pay Edgerton 400 dollars to speak with money raised through a GoFundMe page. Edgerton says he makes a full-time job being an activist for the protection of Confederate symbols.

“I spend seven days a week fighting for my babies in the Southland of America and my flag,” Edgerton said. “My computer right now when I left this morning had 47,000 emails and 30,000 Facebook messages. My babies are crying out for help all over the land.”

While the rally drew people from as far as Virginia, it was not as large as the Town of Hillsborough anticipated. Protestors from both sides crossed the street to share their views. And while some had angry words, the rally appeared to be peaceful.

Hundreds Gather in Hillsborough to Support Confederate Flag

Several hundred confederate flag supporters gathered in downtown Hillsborough Saturday for a ‘Southern Heritage Ride and Rally.’

It was pitched as an educational event to learn more about the history of the flag and other Confederate memorials. WCHL’s Jess Clark was there, listen below:


Last Thursday, on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, NC NAACP leaders held a press conference aimed to “promote the accurate history of ugly racist policies and symbols of hatred.”