Welcome to new members Ken and Nancy Purdy of Wilmington and Bene and Van Deacon of Cleveland, Tennessee.
The History Center recorded 62 visitors in October. We had 30 in attendance at the October Meeting. The gift shop took in $476.79.
The History Center was used by Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club and the UDC this month.
Thanks to our active volunteers this month; Darlene Bright and Demetria Sapineza. Thanks, also, to Tony Phillips and James Kohler for manning our booth at the Primrose Marketplace. Tony Phillips and Juanita Winner brought the wonderful refreshments at the October meeting.
Jim McKee, Site Manager of the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site, spoke at the September 19, 2016 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Jim spoke on The Archaeology of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson.
The Brunswick Town archaeological collection is the largest in the state of North Carolina.
Several conditions contributed to the large number of artifacts. First, Brunswick Town was prosperous and a world-class port. The density of people and cargo passing through the area was conducive to numerous artifacts (defined as anything man-made) being left in the area.
The people of Brunswick Town, and many colonial areas, disposed of their refuse in the streets. The streets were literally paved with refuse. Back in the day, this was called refuse or garbage. Now, this refuse is called historical artifacts.
Brunswick Town had three wharves, and the area immediately surrounding the wharves has been a treasure trove of colonial artifacts. Much of what shipped out of Brunswick was naval stores, products made from pine tar and sap.
Pine tar, river muck, and salt water all combined to make an excellent preservative for anything that fell into that marine environment. Most of the artifacts Jim shared with us were found near Captain William Dry’s wharf.
Archaeologists use the artifacts they find to form a theory of what happened at the time – from the mundane to the outrageous, with reality generally found somewhere between the extremes.
At Captain Dry’s wharf, for example, they found six leather shoes in the muck, a step or two from the edge of the wharf. Each shoe was pointed toe first, suggesting some kind of panic on the wharf, so that sailors jumped, fell, or were pushed into the water.
Also found were a Spanish silver coin stamped by the mint master of Seville and fabric with buttonholes in the style of the Havana garrison uniform. These artifacts supported the belief that Dry was largely responsible for repelling a Spanish invasion in 1748.
Many Brunswick Town inhabitants were wealthy landowners who also had property elsewhere.
Other artifacts gave us a glimpse of a well-traveled, prosperous population: water jugs from Germany, a Dutch copper mouth harp, an intricate pocket watch key, an Irish half penny.
One person’s careless discards can, over time, become an important historical record.
The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, October 17, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.
This month our program will be “Remembering Hazel.” Steve Pfaff, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, returns to give an overview and how Hazel rates in the history of North Carolina hurricanes.
In addition we have Byron Moore and Charlie (Tommy) Greene, both long time members of our Society, on board to talk about their personal experiences during and after Hazel.
From Wikipedia: At landfall on October 15, 1954, the hurricane brought a storm surge of over 18 feet to a large area of coastline, producing severe coastal damage; the damage was greater since the hurricane coincided with the highest lunar tide of the year.
Brunswick County, North Carolina, suffered the heaviest damage, where most coastal dwellings were either destroyed or severely damaged. For example, in Long Beach, North Carolina, only five of the 357 buildings were left standing.
The official report from the Weather Bureau in Raleigh, North Carolina stated that as a result of Hazel, “all traces of civilization on the immediate waterfront between the state line and Cape Fear were practically annihilated.” According to NOAA, “every pier in a distance of 170 miles of coastline was demolished”.
Nineteen people were killed in North Carolina, with several hundred more injured; 15,000 homes were destroyed and another 39,000 were damaged. The number of people left homeless by the storm was “uncounted thousands.” Damages in the Carolinas amounted to $163 million, with $61 million incurred by beachfront property. Total damage in the United States ranged from $281 million to $308 million.
While Hazel caused the most damage in the Carolinas, the storm did not lose all of its intensity. Going north, Hazel turned extratropical by midday when it merged with a cold front; however, it retained hurricane-strength winds and it was continuing to drop heavy rainfall.
Sixty-two years ago on October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel slammed into our area as the only Category 4 storm to hit the Carolinas in all of the Twentieth Century or since. It came in on a lunar high tide which added to the flooding damage with winds at our beaches clocked at almost 100 miles an hour. It was possibly the most devastating hurricane to ever hit the NC/SC border.
This picture shows what is now the 200 block of Carolina Beach Avenue North with the two-story Sessoms’ Rooms and Apartments (on the right) after Hazel. It was pushed over with the bricks formerly covering the exterior tumbled on the sand.
This post card (below) shows what Sessoms’ looked like before Hazel. It is not postmarked, but the Ford parked next to the building is a 1952 model. So, this card could be 1952, 53 or even 54 since Hazel hit in October and the photo could have been taken earlier in that year.
On the porch sit several aluminum chairs with webbing which were very popular in the fifties. You entered through a screen door with an aluminum floral design also popular mid-century. All the windows have screens to let the cool ocean breezes in. You can also see a parking meter by the curb showing that at one time Carolina Beach had meters along that stretch of Carolina Beach Avenue North. Do you think the guests parked in the sand lot cordoned off by the chain?
Sessoms’, 52 Carolina Beach Avenue North, address was before the center of town was moved 2 blocks north which would put it in the present day 200 block. It was owned by Edger and Novella Sessoms who also owned another Sessoms rooms and apartment. across the street.
Their niece, Carol Sessoms Ford, used to live in the white 2-story building in the Hazel picture. It was purchased by the Sessoms in the late 1950s or early 1960s and still remains at 236 Carolina Beach Avenue North, now part of Surfside Motel. Carol stated that the Sessoms’ brick building was torn down to make room for a three-building modern motel with a pool in the center which is still there, and also, a part of Surfside.
[Betty Jo’s daughter, Susan, submitted this essay to the History Center. If you have any family stories or essays, we would LOVE to have them to add to our Oral History Collection.]
My family and I remember Hurricane Hazel well. A severe hurricane had not hit the North Carolina coast since the early 1940’s. We had a lot of close calls, but they always veered away or managed to miss us. In October, 1954, when we heard that a hurricane named “Hazel” was headed toward the southern US Coast, no one seemed too concerned – it would turn and go north or out to sea, or so we thought. How very wrong we were.
Meteorologists did not have the technology for tracking hurricanes in 1954 as we have now in 1995. Radio and newspapers were our main source of information. There were only a few tv’s. Our local tv station had recently opened and was only on the air about six hours a day. Not everyone had a phone or car either.
On October 14, 1954, when it was determined that the hurricane was fast approaching the southeastern NC coast, volunteers went door to door notifying residents to evacuate immediately or seek safe shelter.
Herman and I lived at 235 Atlanta Avenue, across from the lake and only three blocks from the ocean. Mama and Daddy’s house was at Fourth and Columbia Avenue, also near the lake. Delores and Tiny lived across the street from us. Shirley and Jerry lived in an apartment on Raleigh Avenue. We were all affected in a great way.
Mama had stopped by our house about 7 PM to tell us she heard on their tv that the hurricane was headed directly toward us and that people should start to seek safe shelter. Herman just laughed and said he wasn’t worried about it, it would probably miss us, as usual.
The wind and rain wasn’t too bad so we went to bed at our usual time. We were awakened about midnight by a volunteer fireman telling us that the hurricane was fast approaching us and residents were urged to evacuate immediately. We dressed very quickly and left with the fireman, we did not have a car. There was no time to pack anything.
I was worried about Mama and Daddy, but I was told they had been notified and were leaving. Mama told me later about stopping by our house to get us and the first thing she noticed when she went in was Herman’s pajamas beside the bed where he had stepped out of them rather hurriedly. She always got a chuckle out of that. I was taken to stay with Herman’s mother on Wilson Avenue. He joined the other volunteers in alerting people to evacuate. I slept very little that night. I could not believe winds could be that strong, but that little house remained intact during the entire storm.
The hurricane struck on high tide and full moon. The winds were up to 140 miles per hour, but the water caused the greatest damage. When I looked out the window the next morning, the water from the yacht basin was half way up Wilson Avenue.
Shirley and a lot of others were staying in the Baptist church not far away. She said the first floor or basement was completely under water.
We were able to see the flames from a house that burned down to the water because firemen were unable to get to it due to the deep water. The draw bridge across Snow’s Cut became stuck about 2 AM. No one was able to leave the area then. People took shelter then wherever they could find a safe place.
The ocean cut an inlet across Highway 421 to the lake. The sea water went as far back as Fifth Street, one block beyond the school. A lot of people had taken refuge in the school. They had to get on the stage in the auditorium when the water came inside.
Some people also stayed on the third floor of Bame’s Hotel. They probably thought it was the safest shelter they could find. They were not able to see much that happened until daybreak. The power and phones were out and few people had transistor radios. We did not know what was happening or how bad it really was until it was over.
Mama, Daddy, Delores, Peggy and Brenda had stayed at the train station in Wilmington. Almost everyone was able to get back to the beach soon after the storm had passed. Herman and I went to check on our house late in the afternoon. The water was still waist deep in our yard.
Our house was built six feet off the ground on pilings. The water line inside had been three feet deep. The doors had blown open and furniture was turned over. Some of our things had been washed out of the house. The first thing I noticed after we climbed inside was our two cats and our dog, “Bullet,” on the sofa that had turned over. I’m sure they could have told a horrifying tale had they been able to talk.
The house and everything in it was a wreck, but at least it was still there. So many houses had washed away completely. Three houses had been swept into the lake and remained there until they were torn down. When we left, with a few muddy clothes and possessions, we each took a cat.
When we got outside in deep water both cats went berserk, got away from us and took off swimming. I really did cry then. Herman was laughing and kept saying “Look at ‘em swim, look at ‘em swim”. They came back a few days later after the water went down. “Bullet” didn’t present any problem getting him to the car.
Delores and Tiny’s house, across the street, had washed back off the foundation about six feet and was sitting rather lop-sided. (The only two pictures of Hurricane Hazel’s destruction.) Mama and Daddy’s house had 18 inches of water inside but no major damage. The picture albums were kept on the bottom shelf of the closet and most of the pictures were ruined.
That is one reason these few pictures on our early years are so precious. The entire beach was devastated. It was the worst sight I have ever seen. It would take an entire book to describe it. As I think on it, I am amazed that there were no casualties or serious injuries. Everyone always had a great respect for hurricanes after “Hazel”.
I was six months pregnant with Toni at the time and our few baby clothes were completely ruined. A bassinet and a crib had washed up on our yard and we didn’t have either. Most people, including us, received aid from the Red Cross. The clean-up, repairing and rebuilding took a long, long time, but, eventually, everything got back to normal.
That was the first of many hurricanes that I rode out during the fifties and sixties.
Primrose Cottage is one of the very best consignment stores in New Hanover County. We are very happy to welcome them as Business Members of The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.
Sue and Doug Walker moved to North Carolina from the Hudson River Valley in New York State in 1994. Doug remembered that Sue had once told him, “I want to be an entrepreneur.” And what a great one she has turned out to be.
Sue and her daughter, Jill Lyons, opened the doors of Primrose Cottage in 2006. Primrose has a vast selection of consignment goods that are constantly changing from day to day. Nothing stays long enough to collect dust. And if it does over stay its welcome, it goes into the 50% off room in the back.
Primrose Cottage is located behind the ABC Store in the Federal Point Shopping Center in Carolina Beach. They are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The phone number is 910-458-0144. New consignments are taken every day except Saturday. They accept checks, credit and debit cards and, of course, cash is always welcome.
Don’t miss the next Primrose Market Place on Saturday, October 22, from 8 am to 4 pm.
In September we lost two long time members of the Society. Our thoughts go out to the the families of past president, Ron Griffin, and to Richard, and the family of Nancy Graham.
Welcome to new members Ally Ferreira of Royal Oak, Michigan and Charles Yeager and Bonita McDaniel of Beaver, Pennsylvania. And, last month, I forgot Sandra Shugart’s husband, Wayne, of Winston-Salem.
The History Center recorded 167 visitors in August. That is even higher than last month, and now the highest month in our records. We had 34 in attendance at the August Meeting. The gift shop took in $396.50.
The History Center was used by Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club and the UDC this month.
Thanks to our active volunteers this month; Darlene Bright, Andre Blouin, Tony Phillips, and Lois Taylor for helping Rebecca with the August newsletter. Thanks to DemetriaSapienza for the refreshments at the September meeting.Thanks to all the Island Day volunteers; Leslie and Darlene Bright, Cheri McNeill, James Kohler, and Cindy Clark.
We need “old” photos!
We’re working on enlarging our photo collection.
Do you have photos that document “the way things were?”
We would love to scan and archive a copy. Lend them to us for a few weeks and we’ll scan them, and give them back to you, and share a digital copy with you, if you want one. We need pictures of buildings, people and events that have taken place in Federal Point from the 1920s to the 1970s.
The Federal Point History Center’s August 15 meeting featured Jack Fryar, well-known local historian, prolific author, publisher, and, as his T-shirt proclaimed, History Buff. (His T-shirt also mentioned that, as a history buff, he’d be more interested in you if you were dead.)
Jack spoke on The Cape Fear in the Revolutionary War Part II: 1777 – 1781. He illustrated his detailed walk through various battles with numerous pictures of modern-day war reenactments alongside period maps from the Revolutionary War era.
He referred to this time period as the “first civil war,” because after the Battle of Moore’s Creek in 1776, settlers began to split into two camps: those who wished to remain loyal to the King, and those who wanted independence.
Charleston and Savannah had been important in the early Revolutionary War effort, but with the fall of Charleston in 1780, the British gained a toehold in the South and Wilmington became a critical focus.
The Cape Fear region was geographically very important to the war effort. First, the Cape Fear River is the only river in North Carolina with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. This was critical for fighting a war in which the Loyalists were coming from across the Atlantic Ocean. Second, the Cape Fear River went inland 147 miles to Fayetteville, and effectively served to divide the state.
The Loyalist Major Craig used Wilmington as a base of operations until forced to evacuate by the Independent forces in 1781, marking the end of significant British presence in North Carolina.
Jack talked in detail about battles, battle routes, winners, and losers. It’s important, however, to also keep in mind the human cost of all wars — the death, devastation, and destruction.
The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, September 19, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.
Jim McKee will present a program called “Archaeology of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson.” According to McKee, archaeology has been the primary source of information about the history of Brunswick.
After a nearly forty-year hiatus, archaeology is once again being regularly conducted at the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson site. McKee will talk about what has been done in the past and what is planned for the future. Artifacts give us an idea of what life was like during Colonial times.
McKee plans to bring along a number of original items discovered during recent archaeological digs at the site – items that are not yet on public display.
Jim McKee is the site manager at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site. He is a graduate of Greensboro College and a passionate life-long student of American history.
He serves on numerous historic battlefield boards and participates in living history programs throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Previously, he worked for the National Park Service and the NC Maritime Museum at Southport.