Why Are There Two Dakotas and Two Carolinas?

ThinkStock
ThinkStock

It’s possible you’ve heard of North and South Dakota. You may have also heard about North and South Carolina. If so, then you already know that these states are strong, independent honeys makin’ money.

But why did these states divide to become geographic variants of each other? Here are the answers.

North and South Carolina

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris' Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718

The foundation and settlement of the Carolinas—originally dubbed the Carolana Colony—was a comedy of errors ... an extremely bloody and diseased comedy of errors.

Early French settlers arrived only to be immediately driven out by Native American tribes. There was open rebellion, corrupt officials, uncontrollable strains of malaria and smallpox, and a dirty lunatic who called himself the pirate Blackbeard (top) prowling up and down the Carolina ports tormenting landlubbers. (His ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was recently discovered off the coast of North Carolina.) When it came to becoming a thriving new colony, Carolana was all thumbs.

In 1629, Sir Robert Heath claimed the Cape Fear territory under King Charles I of England. Heath made no attempts at colonizing the area (because, see above), and following the execution of King Charles I in 1649, Heath fled to France where he died. Heath’s heirs would eventually try to reassert their claim to the territory, but King Charles II ruled the claim invalid and passed the land off to an 8-person club of very rich white men, known as the Lords Proprietors. The Lords—helmed primarily by Lord Shaftesbury and an enigmatic assistant named John Locke—would retain control of the area from 1663 to 1729.

The Lords Club proved to be totally ineffectual. They fought constantly and were unable to make decisions that made sense for the enormous land. The governors they had appointed were nothing but a hilarious laundry list of disasters: "John Jenkins was deposed," "Thomas Miller was overthrown and jailed by ... 'armed rebels'," "Thomas Eastchurch was forbidden to enter the colony," and "Seth Sothel was accused ... of numerous crimes for which he was tried, convicted, and banished." The Proprietors themselves disagreed about everything from the church to dealing with the Tuscarora and Yamasee tribes (all-out war would eventually break out with both tribes).

In 1710, after nearly two years of the Carolina territory living virtually ungoverned, the Proprietors appointed Edward Hyde as the governor of North Carolina, rather than the government of Carolina. In 1729, North and South Carolina were officially recognized as separate royal colonies until the Revolutionary War.

Other than this horror show of a beginning and total inability of its early leaders to agree on anything, there does not seem to be any significant reason for the split.

North and South Dakota

Unless you were a fur trapper or a trapped fur, it was unlikely that you were anywhere near the Dakota territory before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Not until the 1874 discovery of gold in the Black Hills—sacred land to the Sioux—did prospectors really begin settling the area, wherein the word “settling” means "cannibalizing the land and escalating hostilities with the Sioux." (Ironically, Dakota is a Sioux word meaning “friends” or “allies.”) Railroads quickly followed the gold rush; settlers poured into the Dakota prairie and the population surged. Until 1883, the capital of Dakota Territory had been located in southeastern Yankton. Northerners, growing quickly and in need of governance, refused to recognize the remote area as the state capital and declared their own: Bismarck. This caused enough tension to facilitate a split in the land, and rather than pull this car over until you two knock it off, I mean it, Congress indulged the young state and cut a line straight down the 46th parallel.

In 1889, under the Enabling Act, both North and South Dakota were admitted to the union, becoming the 39th and 40th states, respectively. South Dakotans—in addition to creating their own constitution—christened Pierre as their capital, selected for its proximity to the new geographical center of the state. The town of Yankton was unceremoniously dumped. (Rumor has it that if you chant "Yankton" three times while looking in the mirror on Halloween, it will appear extremely rejected and sad.)

Most historians agree that the real reason for Congress’s eagerness to accept the separate Dakotas was a Republican ploy to bolster numbers in Congress. Former Indiana Senator Benjamin Harrison, a Republican (and noted man with a beard), became president in 1889. Congress had been predominantly Democratic until Harrison took office, and the admission of the two Dakotas gifted the House with a Republican majority.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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Are Halloween Pumpkins Edible?

Diane Helentjaris, Unsplash
Diane Helentjaris, Unsplash

When people visit their local family-owned pumpkin patch around Halloween, they aren’t usually looking for dinner. The majority of the nearly 2 billion pounds of pumpkins cultivated in the U.S. each year are carved up instead of eaten, making the squash a unique part of the agriculture industry. For people who prefer seasonal recipes to decorations, that may raise a few questions: Are the pumpkins sold for jack-o’-lanterns different from pumpkins sold as food? And are Halloween pumpkins any good to eat?

The pumpkins available at farms and outside supermarkets during October are what most people know, but that’s just one type of pumpkin. Howden pumpkins are the most common decorative pumpkin variety. They’ve been bred specifically for carving into jack-o’-lanterns, with a symmetrical round shape, deep orange color, and sturdy stem that acts as a handle. Shoppers looking for the perfect carving pumpkin have other options as well: the Racer, Magic Wand, Zeus, Hobbit, Gold Rush, and Connecticut field pumpkin varieties are all meant to be displayed on porch steps for Halloween.

Because they’re bred to be decoration first, carving pumpkins don’t taste very good. They have walls that are thin enough to poke a cheap knife through and a texture that’s unappealing compared to the squashes consumers are used to eating. “Uncut carving pumpkins are safe to eat; however, it's not the best type to use for cooking,” Daria McKelvey, a supervisor for the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden, tells Mental Floss. “Carving pumpkins are grown for their large size, not the flavor. Their flesh can be bland and the fibers are very stringy.”

To get the best-tasting pumpkins possible this autumn, you’re better off avoiding the seasonal supermarket displays. Many pumpkin varieties are bred especially for cooking and eating. These include Sugar Pie, Kabocha, Jack-Be-Little, Ghost Rider, Hubbard, Jarrahdale, Baby Pam, and Cinderella pumpkins. You can shop for these varieties by name at local farms or in the produce section of your grocery store. They should be easy to tell apart from the carving pumpkins available for Halloween: Unlike decorative pumpkins, cooking pumpkins are small and dense. This is part of the reason they taste better. McKelvey says. “[Cooking pumpkins] are smaller, sweeter, have a thicker rind (meatier), and have less fibers, making them easier to cook with—but not so good for carving.” These pumpkins can be stuffed, blended into soup, or simply roasted.

If you do want to get some culinary use out of your carving pumpkins this Halloween, set aside the seeds when scooping out the guts. Roasted with seasonings and olive oil, seeds (or pepitas) from different pumpkin varieties become a tasty and nutritious snack. Another option is to turn the flesh of your Halloween pumpkin into purée. Adding sugar and spices and baking it into a dessert can do a lot to mask the fruit’s underwhelming flavor and consistency.

Whatever you do, make sure your pumpkin isn’t carved up already when you decide to cook with it. There are many ways to recycle your jack-o’-lanterns, but turning them into pie isn’t one of them. "If one does plan on cooking with a carving pumpkin, it should be intact,” McKelvey says. “Never use one that's been carved into a jack-o'-lantern, otherwise you could be dealing with bacteria, dirt and dust, and other little critters.”