[Click any image – for a larger image or full-screen slide show]
[Peter Karl Meyer MD died on April 12, 2016, at the age of 63. He was a loving husband, exceptional father, dedicated physician, talented writer, inquisitive coastal naturalist, and an exemplary role model to many. StarNewsOnline April 17, 2016 ]
Background: Peter and Cathy Meyer – ‘Coastwalk North Carolina’
by Nancy Gadzuk
Rebecca Taylor introduced the main speakers of the July 20, 2015 FPHPS Open Meeting , Peter and Cathy Meyer with ‘Coastwalk North Carolina‘.
Rebecca first met Peter when she was a New Hanover County librarian and Peter’s best-selling Nature Guide to the Carolina Coast was regularly stolen from the library by discerning patrons and regularly replaced by library staff as a must-have reference volume. Peter and Cathy have extensive knowledge of the North Carolina coast, and the Nature Guide is filled with photographs, drawings, and information on the flora and fauna of the region.
Several years ago, Cathy proposed that the couple walk the entire length of the North Carolina shoreline. So, over the course of 18 months, the Meyers walked every bit of the North Carolina coastline (with the exception of off-limits Browns Island at Camp Lejeune), from South Carolina to the Virginia border: 425 miles of coastline along 21 barrier islands.
Tonight they presented an informative and inspiring talk—complete with numerous photographs, short videos, and shells and other artifacts they collected on their walks—to chronicle their forays along the barrier islands, which Peter referred to as “the necklace gracing the neckline of the mainland.”
The Meyers divided their presentation of their Coastwalk into four sections, based on the titles of their four e-books ‘Coastwalk North Carolina’:
* SOHO—Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island (the shortest section, at 4.5 miles)
* Between Capes—Cape Fear to Cape Lookout
* The Wild Banks—Cape Lookout to Hatteras Inlet (5 islands, very much undeveloped)
* Out There—Hatteras Inlet and Bodie Island to the Virginia border (the longest section, with 56 miles)
The Meyers’ knowledge and appreciation of the Carolina coast was evident in their Coastwalk experience and presentation.
Their talk, incorporating both photographs and videos of the shoreline wildlife they encountered, as well as maps and diagrams detailing the logistics of how they completed sections of their walk, was varied, informative, and made several important points.
Some of their presentation highlights:
First, the North Carolina coastline belongs to all of us. According to the North Carolina Public Trust, all beach lands up to the vegetation line are public lands and we all have the right to access these beaches. That means there are no private beaches in North Carolina (unlike some other states) and we are all able to take advantage of the entire coast (with the exception of Browns Island.)
Second, Coastwalk North Carolina can be done in any way that works—as much or as little as anyone wants to do, or is able to do. The Meyers showed us various ways they put together pieces of their coastline walk: sometimes they approached a segment by car, sometimes by boat, sometimes with the assistance of a bicycle to keep from having to double back by foot to their starting point for the day. As Peter put it, “It is like the Appalachian Trail but shorter, flatter, kinder, great for beachcombers and the public can access every beach with the exception of Browns Island.”
Third, beaches should not become piles of rocks. They should be allowed to be the wide expanse of sand they are naturally, serving as barrier islands.
Finally, the Meyers reminded us to appreciate our coast for all that it is, and preserve it. As they quoted Thoreau, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
The presentation ended with a lively Q&A session. One of the young people in the audience asked if they considered doing a coastline walk from Florida to Maine and Peter answered that it was up to the questioner’s generation to make that walk. Passing it forward!
Images of Seabreeze – taken on March 16, 2006 – 6:33am – 8:25am
Source: Our State, North Carolina – Oceanside Divide – By Herbert L. White
A small strip of land near Wilmington entertained thousands of visitors — some famous — during the Jim Crow era in North Carolina.
African-American men riding through Carolina Beach to access black-owned Bop City, now called Freeman Park, were required to wear shirts over their swimsuits. African-American swimmers could access the ocean from Carolina Beach on Mondays only, although it was directly across from Seabreeze.
In many ways, Seabreeze and Carolina Beach, resorts separated by a half-mile — one for blacks, the other for whites — were in different worlds. Seabreeze, a nearly two-mile strip of unincorporated hamlet, was a busy seaside retreat tucked among mossy oaks and crape myrtles. It was the place to see and be seen.
Seabreeze was home to 31 juke joints, or taverns, where jukeboxes supplied the soundtrack of American culture and attitudes.
…. then ….
On October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel blew in from the Atlantic. Hazel’s estimated 140-mile-per-hour winds and 18-foot storm surge devastated Seabreeze. The hurricane littered the sound with debris from trees torn from their roots; homes caved in or blew from their foundations.
Rather than rebuild, many property owners shuttered entire lots, hastening Seabreeze’s demise with the loss of businesses.
… continue reading this interesting history of the people of Seabreeze … from Our State Magazine
Source: Our State, North Carolina: Oceanside Divide – By Herbert L. White
A Reader Response: to Oceanside Divide
D Franklin Freeman PhD says:
April 19, 2014 at 13:09
Alexander Freeman was actually not a “Freed Slave” but a Free Person of Color i.e. Black and American Indian – our dates for him are 1788-1855. He is the son of Abraham Freeman (and a brother of my 6th Great Grandfather Moses Freeman) who is listed in the books as a Free Person of Color; and owned much land (thru land grants) around Columbus, Brunswick, Bladen and New Hanover, NC as well as Craven County, SC. We are apart of the currently named Waccamaw-Siouan and Lumbee Tribes. We are proud of our contributions to North Carolina. We just had family from Wilmington, Delco, Leland, Bolton and Buckhead visit our remaining family at Seabreeze last month. I hope that we are able to save this as a major part of North Carolina history.
…. But Wait! … There’s More …… local content
Seabreeze was the black resort just up the coast across the Intracostal Waterway at Snow’s Cut. Originally called Freeman’s Beach from the 1920’s to the 1950’s, locals made a living serving black tourists with sandwiches, beer, and plenty of room for family picnics in the day and adult entertainment at night. Chicken Hicks found his way to Seabreeze in the early 40’s, returning often for white hot Carolina moonshine, and even hotter music on the piccolos (jukeboxes) at places like the Ponco, The Big Apple, the Daley Breezey Pavilion, Bruce’s, Ponco #2, the Monte Carlo, and as Jim recalled, “a place called Big Mama’s.” … more »»»
SeaBreeze had some boats that went across the water and you would dance til you got ready to come back over to this side.
It was an evening thing and a weekend thing, not an everyday thing. Everybody at Seabreeze worked weekends and holidays.
There used to be a place over there just for Blacks called Bop City. A lot of Black soldiers from Ft. Fisher used to come up to this neighborhood. Matter of fact, Dot’s sister married a soldier that used to be at Ft. Fisher in the service. Some of the Freemans married some of the guys that used to be down at Ft. Fisher.
Dot remembers Hurricane Hazel going through here tearing everything up. She saw the buildings from Carolina Beach floating down the Inland Waterway – refrigerators, stuff that come out of some of the businesses at Carolina Beach, furniture and big stuff from the houses came floating down the river. And at Seabreeze that water was almost to her mother’s house. … more »»»
What is Seabreeze?
by: Ben Steelman, May, 2009, Wilmington StarNews
“White kids from nearby Carolina Beach, such as Malcolm “Chicken” Hicks, would cross over to check out Seabreeze’s night spots and the local dance steps. Local historians such as Jenny Edwards — who wrote a master’s thesis on the history of Seabreeze for the University of North Carolina Wilmington — credit this musical cross-pollination with promoting, if not inspiring, the later crazes of shag dancing and beach music.” … more »»»
“Between the 1920s and the 1960s Freeman Beach\Seabreeze developed rich cultural traditions and history as blacks from across eastern and central North Carolina traveled for miles to experience the wooden dance floors and jukeboxes. With Freeman Beach they found a place to vacation, relax, and play. From the 1920s through the 1960s, the beach had three hotels, ten restaurants, dozens of rental cottages, a boat pier, a bingo parlor, and a small amusement park, complete with Ferris wheel. During the summer months thousands of visitors flocked to the area. ” … more »»»
“As I got older, I learned more of my family history. For all of us, the only thing worse than not knowing our history is believing we have no history. My parents were from a small farming town in the Wilmington area called Lake Waccamaw, located on the shore of the largest natural lake in the eastern United States by the same name. Some historians claim Osceola, the great war chief of the Seminole Nation (of mixed Native American and African ancestry) was born on Lake Waccamaw. The lake feeds south and into the great Okefenokee Swamp which stretches through Florida.
During slavery, many Africans and Native Americans escaped into these swamps. Their descendants cultivated farm land around the lake and throughout the Wilmington area. There is also a town in that area called Freeman, NC, founded by my grandmother’s great-grandfather, Alexander Freeman.
Following Alexander Freeman’s death, his son, Robert Bruce Freeman (b. 1830) inherited the land, and parlayed the investment to become one of the largest landowners in New Hanover county. In the 1920’s, [Robert’s heirs] began to develop a recreational community known as Seabreeze. During the Jim Crow years, Seabreeze was the only beach community in the state that black families could visit. When black people were forbidden from even traveling through Carolina Beach to get to Seabreeze, the Freeman family bought a boat to ferry people back and forth to the resort.” … more »»»
By Bill Reaves
(Wilmington Morning Star, June 17, 1927)
D. R. Connor, 97 years old, and a native of Robeson County, NC died on June 16, 1927, at the home of his daughter, Mrs, A. M. Roberts, 309 Dawson Street, in Wilmington, NC. He served in the War Between the States with North Carolina troops. He was among the defenders of Fort Fisher when that stronghold fell and was made a prisoner at the time of its capture.
Following the death of Connor, the Wilmington historian, Andrew J. Howell, recalled a story that he had been told by the deceased when they had a visit together earlier. Connor told Howell about finding a satchel of geld coins in the surf at Fort Fisher while he was a soldier there.
It was on the beach below the “Mound Battery” at the southeastern corner of the Fort, which has since been washed away. One morning he went to a secluded spot, where he often went for secret prayer, when he noticed an object in the shallow water close to the shore. He went for it, and found it to be a satchel containing some heavy material. When he opened it, his eyes fell upon a quantity of gold coins!
This was too big a discovery for a mere private to keep so he carried the bag to the headquarters of his company and was given the information that the officers would make the proper disposition of the money. He naturally expected to be rewarded with some of the prize, but he said he never received any of it. He felt pretty sure, however, that he afterwards could trace the whereabouts of at least some of the money.
The satchel was supposed to have been the property of Mrs. Rose Greenhow, the Confederate secret agent, who lost her life in the breakers while attempting to land from the blockade runner, Condor, on September 30, 1864.
Mr. Connor was an honored citizen of the Fair Bluff area of Columbus County, NC, and was much beloved by his fellow Confederate veterans, at whose reunions he was often seen.
(Wilmington Morning Star, June 17, 1927; June 19, 1927)
[This article was originally published in the January 1998 – FPHPS Newsletter]
[Originally published in the March, 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter]
At last month’s [Feb, 1996] meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, Mr. Bill Dennis, a civil engineer with the US. Army Corps of Engineers – Wilmington District, presented a thorough site history and review of the Fort Fisher revetment project to a well-attended audience. Mr. Dennis, a native of New Jersey, began his slide presentation and discussion with a quick overview of the Federal Point area and how changes in its shape led to a need for a protective seawall to save the fort.
In 1761 a hurricane drastically reshaped Federal Point when it opened a passage known as New Inlet between the ocean and the Cape Fear River.
New Inlet, however, later played an important role during the Civil War as an entrance for sleek, fast blockade runners to slip past the Union fleet and enter the river under the protective guns of Fort Fisher. These ships were able to successfully deliver their valuable cargoes to Wilmington and on to the rest of the Confederacy until early 1865.
Following the war, Federal Point again underwent a major transition in appearance when the US. Army Corps of Engineers closed New Inlet to improve river navigation. During the 1870s and 1880s the Corps built a stone structure known as “The Rocks” in two sections across the inlet and swash that still exists today.
The upper section of the dam extended from Battery Buchanan on Federal Point to Zeke‘s Island, a distance of 5,300 feet. The continuation of the lower section known as the Swash Defense Dam from Zeke’s Island to Smith’s Island [Bald Head Island], a distance of 12,800 feet, made the entire closure just over 3 miles in length.
In addition to the natural deterioration of Federal Point, serious erosion problems occurred near Fort Fisher alter the state intentionally removed coquina rock from the shore just north of the earthworks during the 1920s for use as road construction fill. Since that time approximately 200 yards of sea front has been lost to wave action.
This loss forced the state in the early 1950s to realign the very same highway that had been built with the use of the coquina rock. The North Carolina Highway Department, and later aided by local communities, then began dumping concrete and other large construction debris along the sea front near Battle Acre. As a further means of slowing erosion at Fort Fisher, the state placed a line of rocks along the shoreline in 1970. Storms since that time showed the revetment to be too short. Shoreline erosion continued at a rate of nearly 10 feet per year.
Since the end of the Civil War the ocean has claimed nearly half of the fort.
A more substantial solution to the site erosion problem came in 1995 when matching federal and state funds for a larger revetment project became available. The state and Corps of Engineers approved a plan for a permanent seawall based upon a design of Mr. Dennis.
After two years of planning, an acceptable design called for the construction of a 3,040-foot seawall to extend from south of Battle Acre to north of the Fort Fisher mounds.
Bids went out for the construction of the seawall. Selected for the construction project was Misener Marine Construction, Inc. of Tampa, Florida, at a bid of 4.6 million dollars.
Beginning on the south end, the construction company dug a trench to 3.5 feet below mean sea level in which to lay the revetment ends. Within the trench at both ends, and along the shoreline, a fabric liner was first applied topped by a layer of gravel. Slightly larger bedding stone was then applied and finally a layer of armor stone.
The armor stone, weighing approximately two tons apiece, came from a quarry near Raleigh, while the smaller bedding stone was mined near Castle Hayne.
Approximately 68,000 tons of rock form the seawall. Along Battle Acre the revetment overlaid most of the preexisting rubble. To prevent the new stone from washing into the sea from the sloping shoreline, Misener Marine placed a line of concrete sta-pods at the toe of the protective stone. Nearly four hundred of the pods, weighing 5 tons each and shaped like a tri-pod, were interlocked in a parallel row to the shoreline.
The revetment rises slightly above the natural ground elevation at about 12-15 feet above sea level. Behind the revetment, sand was placed to form a gentle slope from the crest of the revetment to the existing ground. Currently landscaping with trees and scrubs is occurring near the revetment.
A security fence, walkway with stairs leading down to the beach on either end, and two observation gazebos are being constructed. The landscaping and construction projects are expected to be completed by April.
The new revetment should halt the ocean-side erosion of Federal Point for the next fifty years.
Mr. Dennis summarized his work on the design and construction of the seawall project when he jokingly indicated, “It took a Yankee to finally save Fort Fisher.”
March 1996 Newsletter (pdf) – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society
Changes to the Federal Point Landscape – webpage – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society
US. Army. Corps of Engineers:
Revetment stability study, Fort Fisher State Historic Site
by: Howard Hewett, Jones Creek, TX – July, 2015 – Part 7
Some of the following background information is from my recollection of the events as I grew up on Federal Point between 1939 and 1956, and what my father, Howard Curtis Hewett Sr, and my grandmother, Addie Jane Lewis Hewett, related to me. Other background information is from research and is so noted.
A major portion of our seafood came out of the bays south of where we lived in Fort Fisher. But first, it is important to understand how those bays were formed.
A major Atlantic storm in 1761 opened an inlet that crossed the peninsula south of the current Fort Fisher monument. The New Inlet had a major impact on the main channel or ‘Bald Head’ channel of the Cape Fear River resulting in the significant decrease in depth.
By 1839, sand, silt and forming shoals from the New Inlet threatened the southerly approach to the river from the Bald Head channel. There were concerns that the Bald Head channel would not be available to shipping coming into the river from the southerly approach. The alternate route would force shipping to go out around ‘Frying Pan Shoals’ and enter the river through the New Inlet. This added to their passage time into Wilmington.
Northerly shipping traffic could enter the New Inlet, which avoided the treacherous Frying Pan Shoals, located 29 southeast of Smith Island.
In 1870 funds were appropriated to close the New Inlet and other breaches that occurred as a result of storms and gales. The land mass was a narrow strip of sandy beach with very low swampland on the river side. The map above is an excellent representation of the topography of Federal Point in 1864. By observing the map, one can see what a formidable task the closing of the New Inlet and breaches were.
In 1871, another storm further deepened the New Inlet. Actual construction work to close the New Inlet took place from 1870 to 1891. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were the overseers of the rock dam project.
They sank wooden cribbing and then added stones to bring the dam to sea level. Asst. Engineer Henry Bacon suggested that they add heavy granite capstones to bring the structure to two feet above sea level.
In 1877, a storm opened a breach between Smith Island, commonly called ‘Bald Head’ and Zeke’s Island which Civil War Military Maps recorded as ‘Zeeks Island’ (see the map above).
From 1881-1891, a dam similar in construction to the one built between Buchanan Battery to Zeke’s Island dam was built from Zeke’s Island to Smith Island.
When all the construction was completed, the upper section from the Buchanan Battery to Zeke’s Island was approximately 5,300 feet. The Swash Defense Dam from Zeke’s Island to Smith’s Island was 12,800 feet. The total distance of the project was over three miles (Reaves, 2011).
In 1891, the New Inlet was declared officially closed (Jackson, 1995). This rock dam is known by the locals as “The Rocks.” With the closing, tidal basins formed between The Rocks and the Atlantic. For our family, these bays became a plentiful source of shellfish.
During the time that I was growing up on Federal Point, there was the existence of another inlet south of the original New Inlet. We called it “Corncake Inlet.” I do not know exactly when Corncake Inlet opened, but it was a much smaller inlet. I do recall that Corncake Inlet would be wider and deeper depending on storm activity. Corncake Inlet was the source for fresh seawater for the bays.
My best recollection from stories told by my dad is that a schooner carrying corn went aground on a shoal while entering the inlet and remained there for a several days. These schooners were called corn-crackers because of their cargoes. I always wondered if that is how the inlet received its name. I assume it was opened before The Rocks were completed, but these breaches opened and closed depending on storm activity.
Dad liked to take our boat up toward the Corncake Inlet to fish for sheepshead at a place that he referred to as the “cribbing.” As I can best remember, it was east of the rock dam, basically located in the direction of Corncake Inlet. I believe that the cribbing was the remains of a temporary cofferdam that controlled some of the water flowing through the inlet into the river during the rock dam construction. I based this on the heavy flow of water traveling through this cut when we were fishing at this location.
However, after completing some research, I discovered another possibility. The cribbing may have been the remains of a stone dike cribbing built in 1853 by Captain Daniel P. Woodbury (Rayburn, 1984). What I recall seeing was mainly a wooden structure at water level. There could have been stones under the water.
Seafood on Federal Point
Acquiring seafood on Federal Point was a family affair. On a falling tide or low tide, we would head for the bays located just south of where we lived at 833 S. Fort Fisher Blvd (images).
Our family believed that what we called the upper bay was a clamming paradise. The upper bay was east of the Fort Fisher munition bunkers.
When the tide was out, the large sand flats would yield clams about the size of a small to medium fist. Our tools of the trade were four-prong rakes. You did not have to rake very deep – usually less than an inch. A bubble hole would sometimes indicate the presence of a clam.
The resulting designs in the sand from the raking process were quiet similar to “Karesansui” as in Japanese Zen garden art. I assure you that at the time, I did not have any idea what a Zen garden was.
The only way our family prepared clams was by making clam chowder. You could go to the bays and get a “mess” of clams and have clam chowder for dinner. Chicken soup was a well-known combatant for the common cold, but in our family clam chowder was used exclusively.
Oysters for Dinner
There were two methods of oystering that we used. The favorite and most productive was chipping oysters off the rocks with a homemade chipping hammer. With approximately three miles of rocks, there were ample surfaces for oysters to grow. Most of the oysters grew on the bay side of the “Rocks.” The accessibility to the rocks was made available by a concrete cap that was installed in the 1930’s by the Corps of Engineers (Jackson, 1995). The farther you walked out on the rocks, the availability and quality of oysters increased.
Prior to moving to Texas in 1956, we went oystering on the Rocks for the last time. On this trip, we came off the rock with four bushels of oysters. Dad and I each carried the inside handles of two bushels while Grandmother and my brother Tom Hewett carried the outside handles. We had to stop from time to time to rest, but we were able to make it to the trailer.
The reason I share this particular event is that Grandmother had been claiming her hip had been hurting for a couple of weeks. A couple weeks after the oystering trip we found out she was suffering from a broken hip. My grandmother, Addie Lewis Hewett Todd, was around 70 years old at that time; it could be said that she was cut from some very good cloth – one tough pioneer grandmother. Grandmother lived to be 96 years old.
The other oystering method required a boat and a clam basket device that had long handles. Mechanically the mechanism was similar to a post-hole digger. However, instead of two shovel devices there were two baskets that opened and closed with the movement of the handles. I would refer to them as long-handle tongs. This method required positioning the boat over an oyster bed that was maybe two to three feet under the water. You could locate these beds at low tide so at high tide we could position the boat over the top of the bed. This method was more of a hit and miss operation because you could not see exactly what you were doing and you brought up a lot of mud and shells.
North Carolina Oyster Roast
We had a fire pit made of brick that had a metal plate over the pit. Oysters were placed on the plate with the oyster’s mouth pointing down; joints were in an upward position. Wet burlap bags were placed over the oysters. A fire was started in the pit and when the metal plate became hot a little water was poured over the burlap to get the process started. As steam was created, the oysters would open up their mouths resulting in the liquid inside draining down on the plate, which converted to more steam. Dad would monitor the oysters and would enhance the steam process by adding more water as needed. He always liked to see a lot of steam. Within a short time all of the oysters would be opened and very tender.
The oysters were then brought to the table. If wanted you wanted to eat, each individual had to shuck his or her own oysters. When we had guests that were not familiar with the methods of shucking oysters, someone in the family would get them started; most folks were able to quickly get a feel for the process and could be left alone.
The shucked oysters went into a cup containing each individual’s favorite sauce mixture. Our family was partial to a melted butter, heated ketchup and vinegar mixture with a little hot sauce. Crackling cornbread was the family’s favorite accompaniment to be eaten along with the oysters.
Shrimping on the Cape Fear River
Some of my fondest memories are of late afternoon trips to the river. Dad had purchased some fairly good shrimp nets on one of our trips to Holden Beach in Brunswick County. With the panels from the net he made a seine net with lead on the bottom rope and corks on the top and two staffs on each end. It is hard to say how long it was, but my guess it was approximately four feet high and 150 feet long. We would load the whole family, along with those who happened to be visiting on the flat-bed trailer pulled by our Cub Cadet Tractor and head over to the river using Davis Road.
The Davis’ river front property was adjacent to the Hewett’s river front property. Living on a beach with the Atlantic at our door, we had a lot of summer visitors. Visitors who wanted to help would split up into two groups with Dad (Howard Curtis Hewett Sr.) manning the staff closest to the shore. Dad was the director of operations and I was in charge of the other end. We would pull the net out into the river until it was approximately 3-1/2 feet deep. Then we would pull the net parallel to the shore for 50 yards or so; finally, we headed for the shore.
The key was to have both staffs arrive at the same time. This process would yield (depending on the conditions) anywhere from a 2-1/2 to a 5-gallon bucket of shrimp. On lean days more pulls were required. Sometimes the Cape Fear River had such an abundance of shrimp that only a short-haul was necessary to fill a 5-gallon bucket.
On one occasion, I remember a small wave from a ship going down the channel causing shrimp to jump up on the shore, but I only recall seeing that once. By suppertime, we had shrimp peeled and ready for the frying pan.
An eight-foot long sink that was purchased from the surplus sold at the closing of the Army base after the war enhanced processing the shrimp. I recall it being a four-person process consisting of a couple of peelers, a person to devein, and a quality control inspector. The inspector was usually my grandmother because she was noted for her food preparation quality control. When it came to seafood, Grandmother’s seafood preparation techniques put her in a league of her own.
I have a special memory about Grandmother Roebuck (Meme) on one of the trips to the river. It was one of those times that we did not have a big group so Meme wanted to help on my end. Actually, I think she just wanted to get out in the water to cool off. On our second pull, we had moved farther down the beach than normal. This area of the beach had more of a muddy bottom than the usual sandy bottom.
As we started to shore, Meme got bogged down to her knees in the shallow water. To help her, I had to drop the staff. After getting her legs back on the surface of the bottom, she still could not stand up so I rolled her out of the area until she could stand up. Of course, she was laughing all the way. Now leaving the staff did not make my “no-nonsense” dad happy and I can’t write what he said to me but Meme sat down on the beach and roared with laughter. The more dad fussed with me, the more her laughter increased. To this day I have a hard time not smiling when I think about that afternoon at the river.
There was an abundance of fish, but the variety depended on the time of year. The fall mullet run provided the family fish for a good part of the year. It was the only seafood that we salted down for short-term storage. When needed, the mullet was removed and soaked in fresh water until most of the brine was removed. Regardless of the soaking, the fish was always on the salty side.
The surf provided trout, blue fish, some flounder, croakers and Virginia mullet. Offshore there was an abundance of black bass around the wrecks of the blockade runners.
The most prolific flounder fisherman of the family was my Uncle Crawford Lewis. Dad may have been a close second. Their method was to pull a small skiff with a rope tied to their waist along the shallow waters of the bays.
Their gigging tools consisted of a three-prong pitchfork and a gas lantern. With one hand holding the lantern and the pitch fork in the other, they would gig a flounder, set the lantern down on the bow of the skiff and in one fluid motion flip the flounder in the boat without actually reaching down into the water. The quantity was not what floundering was all about. Quality and size were more important. They would be looking for large flounders around 4-5 pounds.
Just enough for three families to have baked flounder and sometimes maybe a little fried fish. If the moon and the tide were right, it seemed like they would go every night. This might seem strange, but there was no television back in those days so when it got dark, it was time to go floundering. Providing food for a growing family was paramount. The favorite way to prepare the flounder was to bake the whole flounder in a roasting pot with onions and potatoes.
I think it is important to say that regardless of the abundance of seafood, we only took what we needed.
Davis G. B., Perry, L. J., & Kirkley, J. W. Compiled by Cowles, C. D. (1983). The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War. New York, NY: Fairfax Press.
Hewett, H.C. (2014). Fishing off Fort Fisher in a Small Boat in 1940s and 50s. Oral History, Federal Point Historical Preservation Society.
Jackson, S. (1995). The Closing of New Inlet (The Rocks) 1870-1881 … and the Swash Defense Dam 1881-1891.
Rayburn, R. H. (1984). One of the Finest Rivers in the South: Corps of Engineers Improvements on the Cape Fear River below Wilmington, 1870-1881. Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Inc., Volume 27, Number 2, May, 1984.
Rayburn, R.H. (1985). One of the Finest Rivers in the South: Corps of Engineers Improvements on the Cape Fear River below Wilmington, 1881-1891. Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Inc., Volume 28, Number 2, February, 1985.
Reaves, Bill. (2011). Federal Point Chronology 1725-1994. New Hanover Public Library & Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Wilmington, NC. (Compiled by Bill Reaves from Wilmington newspapers articles.)
The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, July 20, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.
This month Peter and Cathy Meyer will present “Coastwalk North Carolina.” The program will chronicle their walk along North Carolina’s barrier island beaches. In all, the Meyers walked 425 miles, starting at the South Carolina border and finishing at the Virginia border.
Enjoy the story of their hikes, along with the observations and discoveries the authors make along the way. They will use photos and video clips to bring their trip into sharp focus. Journey with the Meyers, and become inspired to take your own coastwalk of North Carolina.
Peter grew up in Columbus, Ohio, the youngest of four children, three of whom went to medical school following in their surgeon father’s footsteps. Peter received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Miami University in Ohio and his doctor of medicine degree from Ohio State University. After his residency at Bowman-Gray Hospital in Winston-Salem, he accepted a position as emergency room physician at Cape Fear Hospital. More than 20 years later he left the hospital and was Student Health Center physician at UNCW for seven years.
Cathy grew up in Fairmont, West Virginia, the third of four children. Cathy and two of her siblings entered the medical profession following their mother who was a nurse. Cathy received her training at Fairmont State College then continued taking classes and earned a bachelor’s degree in English, concentrating on technical writing.
When she came to Wilmington to visit her brother, Cathy fell in love with the coast and accepted a position at Cape Fear Hospital. Within months she began working at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. She had met Peter at Cape Fear Hospital but didn’t see him at a social event until seven months later. Now they’ve been married 29 years.
Starting from the South Carolina border on Sunset Beach, the Meyers used cars, boats and ferries to access the islands until they reached the northern end of the Outer Banks at the Virginia border. The Meyers broke the trip up into segments, and the entire hike took 18 months to complete. They reached the Virginia border sooner than 18 months, but they had to return to some of the islands they were forced to skip along the way due to logistical issues and weather.
Peter says, “It is like the Appalachian Trail but shorter, flatter, kinder, great for beachcombers and the public can access every beach with the exception of Browns Island.”
An e-book (in 4 volumes) of their trip is available for download at: www.aviancetaceanpress.com .
Last month I wrote about Big Daddy’s at Kure Beach on the corner of K Avenue and Fort Fisher Boulevard. If you look closely you can see that the restaurant was actually two buildings housing a seafood restaurant (behind Tommy Lancaster) and steak house (one story on extreme right) sandwiched together. The family lived upstairs.
In 1963 Tommy Lancaster started out on that corner serving short order food in a much smaller building called the Sea Isle Pavilion. He also had a miniature golf course, an arcade with pool tables and rented motor scooters and bicycles. It quickly became a hangout for local and visiting teenagers. They thought that Tommy resembled the “Big Daddy” character, played by Burl Ives, in the 1958 movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and began calling him by that name. It stuck and he changed the name to Big Daddy’s Pavilion and later it became the name for the new restaurants he built on that same corner.
Tommy Bryant Lancaster was born in Wayne County on June 20, 1918. As a husband and father, he would take his family to Kure Beach for summer vacations and decided to open a business there which grew into Big Daddy’s Restaurant. His son Bryant Fred Lancaster or “Bud” grew up working in the restaurant at Kure Beach. Tommy bought a restaurant at Lake Norman near Mooresville, NC sight unseen in 1974 and named it Big Daddy’s too.
Bud’s son and Tommy’s grandson, Freddie Lancaster, grew up in the Lake Norman restaurant and is the present owner/operator. Freddie is assisted by his wife Susie and two daughters Sarah and Nikki and son-in-law, Marcus Young.
The family sold the Kure Beach Big Daddy’s in 1981 to Doris and Joe Eakes.
Their patriarch, Tommy Lancaster, died March 28, 1995 in Wayne County and is buried in the Pikeville Cemetery.
Many thanks to Nikki Lancaster Young and her dad, Freddie Lancaster, who are my sources for much of the information in this article.
Voting will take place at the July 20 meeting.
President: Elaine Henson Board Members: Jim Dugan
Vice-President: Tony Phillips Chris Fonvielle
Secretary: Nancy Gadzuk John Moseley
Treasurer: Demetria Sapienza Skippy Winner