11/01/07 — Aycock's lost sheep back home

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Aycock's lost sheep back home

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on November 1, 2007 2:01 PM

FREMONT -- Annabelle, the lost sheep from the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace that local officials feared was already mutton on someone's table is back safe and sound in her pen.

Leigh Strickland, manager of the historic site, said today that the sheep, one of three stolen from the site this year, was found Wednesday afternoon wandering about seven miles from the birthplace by Bill Bennett, who lives on Bartlett Road in northeastern Wayne County.

It took lawmen and historians about 20 minutes to corral her.

"We're very glad to have her back," Ms. Strickland said, "and she seems to be glad to back."

The ewe, just over a year old, was discovered missing Sunday. Two other sheep had disappeared from the historic site earlier this year and law enforcement authorities said they believed the animals had been stolen and likely wound up butchered.

Since the earlier thefts, officials had added security measures at the sheep barn, including a surveillance camera that caught Annabelle's captor on tape.

The news of the theft was widely broadcast and state Historic Sites Director Keith Hardison said he believes spreading the news helped convince the thief to turn Annabelle loose.

The sheep is one of eight at the site, which is the homestead of turn-of-the-century Gov. Charles B. Aycock.

Annabelle and her flock mates are Gulf Coast/Florida native sheep, Ms. Strickland said. The breed is an historic one, popular on farms in the Southeast a century ago. She said historians don't know if the same breed was originally kept by the Aycocks, but that the sheep are well-suited to the hot and humid North Carolina summers.

Ms. Strickland said Annabelle seemed in fine fettle and showed no signs of distress from her ordeal. She was back at work today, helping give visitors a glimpse of early 19th century farm life. She said she expected nearly a dozen school classes to visit the site today.

Detectives with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office said they will continue their search for the thief.