February Meeting – Bernhard Thuersam on the Secession Crisis in Wilmington 1860

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, February 17 at 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

This month our speaker is Bernhard Thuersam, of Wilmington. His presentation topic will be “The Secession Crisis in Wilmington, 1860-1861,” which focuses on local people, viewpoints and events leading to North Carolina’s reluctant withdrawal from the political union of 1789. A fundamental point to be examined is prominent North Carolina Whig and Unionist Jonathan Worth’s assertion that his State was “forced out of the Union.”

Early news of the “Star of the West” relief expedition of early January 1861 sent to Fort Sumter by President James Buchanan startled Wilmingtonians who feared Forts Caswell and Johnston would be seized by federal forces. This would be a repeat of the British occupying Smithville some 80 years earlier and thus sealing off the Cape Fear River to commerce. Prominent citizens of Wilmington acted quickly.

In the postwar, the war-widowed wife of Col. William M. Parsley recalled, “In 1861, when, amid great popular excitement and enthusiasm, South Carolina seceded from the Union, the people of Wilmington were deeply stirred by conflicting emotions. Meetings were held and speakers for and against secession swayed the multitudes which attended them. A prominent secessionist was attorney Oliver P. Meares.”

Mr. Thuersam is a Wilmington historian specializing in nineteenth-century American history, especially the Civil War and Reconstruction, and often interviewed by local and international radio/television sources seeking analysis and historical perspective.

Since 2003, he has served as Director of the Cape Fear Historical Institute, an online resource of prominent people, events and history of the Cape Fear region (see: www.cfhi.net). He has served as historian for the North Carolina Azalea Festival, Chairman of the Cape Fear Museum Board of Trustees, and Chairman of North Carolina’s War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission (www.ncwbts150.org).  Mr. Thuersam regularly conducts walking tours of  “Civil War Wilmington,” “Historic Wilmington Architecture,” and “The Defense of Fort Fisher.”

A resident of Key West prior to relocating to Wilmington, Mr. Thuersam is currently researching “Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here”: Key West’s Civil War,” to be published this year.  The book follows Key West’s occupation by Northern forces in early January, 1861, subsequent martial law and loyalty oaths, and local men escaping to assist in Florida’s defense.

 

 

President’s Message – February 2020

By Elaine Henson

Andrew Emile “Punky” Kure, Jr.   – Part 1

Andrew and Betty Kure

Punky Kure was born February 13, 1927, at James Walker Memorial Hospital in Wilmington.  His parents were Andrew Emile Kure, Sr. (b. 3-30-1893- d. 3-3-1950) and Elizabeth Hall Singletary Kure (b. 5-1907- d. 11-28-1958).

When Punky’s grandmother, Ellen Kure, first saw him as a baby she said, “He’s a punky little thing” and the name stuck.

His family lived in Wilmington at 1504 Nun Street and spent summers at Kure Beach. In those days the only road to Carolina and Kure Beaches was the one completed in 1916 which is now called Dow Road.

To get to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk area you had to turn off this road onto Harper Avenue or Cape Fear Boulevard. It continued on to Kure and ended at the Kure Pier. Then it went for a couple of blocks along the ocean to his Uncle Hans Kure’s house, known as Kure Cottage, which is still there and has a FPHPS plaque.

His father worked at the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad as auditor in the freight department.  As a boy his father would take him to see the dredging at Snows Cut during the Intracoastal Waterway project (1929-1932).  He remembers the temporary wooden bridge over the cut being one lane.

He also remembers his mother telling him about her Grandfather George Washington Hall, who served the Confederacy being captured at Fort Fisher during the Civil War and taken to the Federal prison at Point Lookout, Maryland.  The prison was known for its harsh living conditions. Point Lookout was on the Potomac River which flooded the camp at high tides daily.  The prisoners were often fed rats, miraculously he survived and returned home to Elizabethtown.

Summers at Kure Beach in the 1930s were mostly spent with family since the 4 or 5 houses there were occupied by Kures and other relatives. The Andrew Kure’s first home at the beach was a two-story cottage on Third Street about where the gazebo is between Kure Memorial Lutheran Church and the parsonage.  Their second home was at 217 L Avenue on the corner of Third and L Avenue and is still there.  Their third home was in the first block of K Avenue near the corner of the main street now named Fort Fisher Boulevard. Punky had a great time playing with his cousins Son, Hall and Robert Waters.  Their mother Mae Singletary Waters was Betty Kure’s sister.

The Kures cooked on a kerosene stove which was a big improvement over a wood cook stove.  Their ice box was made of oak with a metal lining and held a large block of ice.  “Big Charlie” came daily selling blocks of ice cut to order. Most of their groceries came from stores in Carolina Beach, but “Uncle Frank” and his wife rode the bus from Sea Breeze selling fresh fish, shrimp, crabs and seasonal vegetables.

The only phone was at the Kure Pier; it cost ten cents to call Wilmington which was considered long distance. Since there were only a few houses in those years, electricity was provided by generators.  There was one for the houses and another for the Kure Pier and parking lot. They usually turned them on at dusk and off at bedtime.  Crawford Lewis, who lived just before the Fort Fisher gates, would come up and get the one for the houses started.  Uncle Lawrence handled the one for the pier.

Since the family lived in town during the school year, Punky went to Isaac Bear School for grades 1-8.  It was on Market Street across from present day Brodgen Hall.  He usually walked to school or rode his bike and took lunch until he was old enough to bike home for lunch and ride back to school.  If the family happened to be at the beach on a school day, he rode with beach resident, Mrs. L. W. Fickling, to Wilmington.  She taught at Washington Catlett School which served the Delgado/Spofford Mills area. In 9th grade Punky went to New Hanover High School.

L-R, J.R. Hewett, Robert Waters, Punky Kure, Son Waters, Jr., and Hall Waters at Kure Beach in 1936

 

Next month: Andrew Emile “Punky” Kure, Jr.  Part 2

 

Another Anniversary – Fall of Wilmington

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY — The Fall of Wilmington

February 22, 1865

[Editor: I’ve always wondered what Wilmington was like as it fell to the Union troops.  The following excerpt is the new book; Wilmington’s Lie by David Zucchino, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2020.]

“As the Union forces approached Wilmington that February, General Bragg destroyed several railroad lines leading out of the city and set fire to bridges, wharves, and shipyards. Positions of the main rail line – the Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherford Railroad – remained intact, though some of the rails on the line would later be ripped up for use as scrap iron by Union troops. Before the Confederate soldiers retreated, some looted shops. When Union soldiers arrived, they looted, too. Food shortages broke out. Whole hams were briefly offered for sale at the preposterous price of $525. Corn sold for $40 a bushel and salt pork  for $5 a pound. People begged for food in the streets.

“By the time General Alfred Howe Terry led a column of Union soldiers on bay chargers to city hall to take command of Wilmington on February 22, the city had become a vast refugee camp. Many Union soldiers released from Confederate prisoner of war camps were afflicted with “jail fever” – typhus – a contagion characterized by rash, chills, and fever that killed two doctors who treated them. Carpenters struggled to build enough caskets for the estimated forty to fifty people who died daily. – from jail fever but also from battle wounds, sepsis, and other maladies. Every available house or outbuilding was crammed with people seeking shelter. One visitor claimed that rents in Wilmington were higher than in New York City. Thousands of people lived in camps, tents, and shanties, watched over warily by an occupying force of nearly fifteen thousand Union soldiers, among them blue-suited colored troops.

“The Wilmington Herald reported that despite “a large force of darkies .. cleaning the streets,” the city was an open sewer. “There is not a private residence, kitchen, or business house of any kind that does not have filth enough about and around its doors to make every person in city sick…no person can pass without holding their breaths…cows, pigs, dogs and low negroes are together in this pen.”

 

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino.  Atlantic Monthly Press, 2020.

The author is a multiple Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and of all the books written on the 1898 Race Riot, this is by far the most broad reaching and readable. His research is impressive; including time at the New Hanover Public Library and the Cape Fear Museum, and even walking the streets of Wilmington with Beverly Tetterton.

He clearly traces the story of race relations in the Lower Cape Fear back to slavery and in the years after the Civil War and how that led to the violence in 1898. Most precisely, he manages to draw the lives of Abraham Galloway, Alfred Moore Waddell, Hugh MacRae, James Sprunt and  into a narrative that clearly presents the tensions and stresses that existed in the town of Wilmington in the Fall of 1898.  – Rebecca Taylor

 

Society Notes – Feb. 2020

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

Fort Fisher Fundraiser A Huge Success!

On January 18 & 19, 2020, Fort Fisher celebrated the 155th year of the Second Battle at Fort Fisher reenactment.  Once again, the Society was invited to “feed the troops” and feed those that attended.  What a great success it was for the Society and we  cleared just over $2,400.00.  It took many people to make this event happen.

The following is a list of all the people that made this event possible starting with the volunteers that came for one or both days:  Leslie Bright, Darlene Bright, Jay Winner, Steve Arthur, Jim Dugan, Jay Hockenbury, Jim Kohler, Paul Laird, Don Snook, Sylvia Snook, Barry Nelder, Shelley Wiltshire, Ray James, Helen James, Sammy Bright (Leslie’s son), Jacob Price (Leslie & Darlene’s grandson), Katherine Shultz, Jo “Rock Star” Dheilly & Cheri McNeill.

The volunteers that provided the sweets and chili are:  Ramona Hovey – chili, and the following provided sweets:  Kim Bauman, Pam Capel, Rebecca Taylor, Sylvia Snook, Elaine Henson, Shelley Wiltshire, Mary Ann Targonski, Jasmine McKee and Girl Scout Troop 1535, Jane Dugan, Steve Arthur, Juanita Winner, Darlene Bright, Cindy Clark (Darlene’s daughter) and Cheri McNeill.

A GREAT BIG THANK YOU GOES OUT TO EACH AND EVERY ONE THAT HELPED TO MAKE THIS A HUGE SUCCESS.

 

 

  • The History Center recorded 86 visitors in January. There were 40 people at the January meeting.
  • The History Center was used by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Club and UDC and the Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr. Civil War Park .
  • Welcome to new members The King Family, Wendy, Bella and Neb of Wilmington, Suzanne and Frank Ruggiers of Monroe, Georgia, Rodney and Susan Jones of Topeka, Kansas and Lori Sanderlin and Bob Springle of Southport.

Happy 83rd Birthday to Punky Kure!