Arapahoe to Celebrate 101 Years on Oct. 16

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Having recently turned 90, Emily Smilor holds a full page ad, promoting the event. Smilor has lived for many years on Hwy 306 directly across from the former Belangia’s Grocery Store. Meet her and many others on the big day.

Arapahoe was founded a few years after New Bern, North Carolina by settlers leaving the New Bern colony. This area was settled in 1703 on the old Indian trail from the big bend in the river heading west to Core Point. The community was called “Bethany Crossroads”.

That Indian trail is still in use today but is now called North Carolina Highway 306. In 1886 Bob Hardison, after discussing it with his friend Bob Bowden decided to apply to the U.S. Postal Department for a Post Office to be located at “Bethany Crossroads” in Pamlico County. They filled out an application and both signed it. When it was returned to them it was addressed to “Bob’s Town”, the reason being that there was already a “Bethany Crossroads” in the vicinity of Fayetteville. Neither of the Bobs liked “Bob’s Town” so they had to come up with a different name. After a lengthy discussion Bob Hardison said “Well if you have no objection, we will name it after my old white horse, Arapahoe.” So it was decided and a new application filed. It was likely a year or longer before all paperwork was completed, but “Bethany Crossroads” was no more and thereby named the Town of Arapahoe. Arapahoe is a Native American tribe whose historic territory spanned regions of present-day Wyoming and Colorado.

On August 11, 1909, off the coast of Cape Hatteras, telegraph operator Theodore Haubner called for help from the steamship, S. S. Arapahoe. He was momentarily confused because a new telegraph code “SOS” had recently been ratified by the Berlin Radiotelegraphic Conference to replace the old “CQD”, so he wondered which signal he should send. He sent both. Haubner’s transmission was the first recorded American use of “SOS” to call for help.

The “SOS” representation as three dots, three dashes, and three dots was distinctive and easy to relay on the telegraph. Just as with “CQD,” which meant “calling all stations-distress,” the code indicated that radio traffic should cease until the emergency is over but, if possible, those on the receiving end should answer the distress signal. The disabled S. S. Arapahoe was rescued when the signal was heard by the wireless station at Hatteras. Only a few months later, Haubner, the telegraph operator, received an “SOS” from the S. S. Iroquois making him the first American radio operator to both send & receive a distress call.

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