Pop Quiz! Test Your Knowledge of Raleigh History

Are you in the know? Test your knowledge of our fair city with these ten trivia questions. Keep track of your choices, then scroll to the bottom for the answers.
by Glenn McDonald

1. Wake County is named after … whom?

A. Jeremiah Wake, early pioneer

B. William Wake, early leader of the General Assembly

C. Margaret Wake, wife of colonial governor William Tryon

D. Eddie “Flying Wagon” Wake, colonial daredevil

2. What is the name of Raleigh’s official cocktail?

A. The Whiskey Twist

B. The Cherry Bounce 

C. The Olive Oil Spritzer

D. The Sassafras Forward Pass 

3. What are the first names of Raleigh’s famous Delany sisters, authors of Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years? 

A. Bessie and Sadie 

B. Bonnie and Sophie                               

C. Biddy and Shirley

D. Belle and Sebastian 

4. What is the official state marsupial of North Carolina? 

A. The brushtail wombat

B. The ringtail bandicoot

C. The North Carolina opossum

D. The Virginia opossum, for some reason 

5. The General Assembly of 1893 adopted the Latin phrase Esse Quam Videri as the state’s official motto. What is the English translation? 

A. To be rather than to seem 

B. To endure with stoicism 

C. To the mountains, to the sea 

D. To watch college basketball

6. Where did Sir Walter Raleigh first step on to North American soil in the late 18th century? 

A. Jamestown, Virginia

B. Salter Path, North Carolina

C. St. Augustine, Florida 

D. None of the above

7. Raleigh’s original municipal water tower, built in 1887, initially drew from what local body of water? 

A. Falls Lake

B. Jordan Lake

C. Walnut Creek

D. A remarkable puddle on Blount Street 

8. The North-Carolina Minerva was the city’s first… what? 

A. Omnibus

B. Newspaper

C. Commissioned sculpture

D. Ill-fated riverboat casino 

9. What was North Carolina State’s first mascot? 

A. A ridged rooster named Pogo

B. A bull terrier named Togo 

C. A baby wolf named Bitey 

D. A Virginia opossum

10. Raleigh’s flag famously features an oak tree on the front. What’s the symbol on the back of the flag? 

A. A Scottish broadsword

B. The constellation Gemini

C. Sir Walter Raleigh’s family crest

D. A stylized I-40 traffic jam


The answers….

1. C. Margaret Wake

In 1771, Wake County—then a sparsely settled wilderness—was established around a small settlement with a church, courthouse, jail and tavern. Early settler Joel Lane, who initially owned the property, named the county in honor of Margaret Wake, wife of colonial governor William Tryon. The reason why is lost to time. It’s fun to speculate, though.

2. B. The Cherry Bounce

Raleigh’s official cocktail, the Cherry Bounce, was a popular regional drink before the founding of the city in 1769 (it’s said to have been George Washington’s favorite). According to lore, the city fathers went through alarming quantities of Cherry Bounce when deciding upon the location of the capital. The original recipe was a hot mess of brandy, sugar and dubious spices, but you can find updated versions of the drink at many Raleigh establishments. 

3. A. Bessie and Sadie 

The 1993 bestselling memoir, an oral history of the famous North Carolina sisters and civil rights pioneers, is required curriculum for those who love Raleigh. Sarah “Sadie” and Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany wrote the book at age 103 and 101, respectively. Their story later inspired a Broadway play and a feature film. Double secret bonus trivia: The sisters’ nephew is legendary science fiction author Samuel R. Delaney. 

4. D. The Virginia Opossum

 The only marsupial found north of Mexico is known as the Virginia opossum, which makes state marsupial designations terminally confusing. Luckily, North Carolina is the only state in the Union with an official marsupial, so that solves that. Opossums are omnivorous, nocturnal and adaptable to any habitat within their ecological range. Much like N.C. State University undergraduates. 

5. A. To be rather than to seem 

The Latin phrase is taken from a longer sentence in the treatise On Friendship by Roman orator and statesman Marcus Cicero. The full statement is Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt, which translates, kinda-sorta, as “Fewer possess virtue, than those who wish us to believe that they possess it.” Can’t argue with that.  

6. D. None of the above

Walter Raleigh, namesake of our fair city, never actually set foot in North America-—he tended to get distracted looting Spanish vessels in the Atlantic. Raleigh did, however, bankroll various expeditions and colonies along the eastern seaboard. Double secret bonus trivia: Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London for secretly marrying one of Queen Elizabeth’s maids of honor. 

7. C. Walnut Creek 

The Raleigh Water Tower, now a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark at 115 W. Morgan Street,  was a marvel of engineering in its time. Walnut Creek, just south of the city proper in those days, delivered the water to steam engines, which then forced the water through sand filters to the top of the 85-foot octagonal structure. Double secret bonus trivia: The original water tank had a 100,000 gallon capacity. 

8. B. Newspaper

According to records kept by the American Antiquarian Society, The North-Carolina Minerva and Raleigh Advertiser was the first newspaper to be published in the city, with the earliest issue dating to 1799. The Minerva joined several other delightfully named regional publications, including The Herald of Freedom, The Anti-Jacobin, The Encyclopedian Instructor and The Hornet’s Nest.

9. B. A bull terrier named Togo 

Togo the bull terrier was mascot for N.C. State University teams in the 1910s, when the team name was the Red Terrors. In 1921, students adopted the Wolfpack moniker when someone wrote a letter to the school paper complaining that the football players were as “unruly as a pack of wolves.” In the 1960s, students pitched in to buy a timber wolf mascot, which proved wildly popular… until it was revealed to be a coyote. True story. 

10.  C. Sir Walter Raleigh’s family crest

According to municipal lore and the North American Vexillological Association, Raleigh’s official flag was commissioned in 1899 and designed by a “Miss Kate Densen” for a fee of $52. It’s one of the few double-sided civic flags still flying in the United States. The Raleigh family crest on the back is topped with a figure of a deer or stag, for reasons no one remembers anymore. 

At least it’s not a possum.

How’d you score?

1-3: You have underperformed. Sir Walter Raleigh is disappointed in you. 

4-7: You have a working knowledge of Raleigh history. Go forth and prosper.

8-9: Your knowledge of city history is exceptional. Bask in the glory.  

10: Treat yourself to a Cherry Bounce and send the bill to the Mayor.