Storm of 1899

[Editor’s Notes:  Since most of us are recovering this month from the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, we thought it might be interesting to you to read about one of the most disastrous storms on record on this coast.]

It was the Caribbean Storm of November 1, 1899, which reached Wilmington in full force Monday night at 10 o’clock.  Telephone connections had been cut off and no details could be secured from Carolina Beach, but the ocean made almost a clean wreck of the cottages.  Mr. Tom McGee, who is in charge of the beach, wrote to Captain John. W. Harper, general manager of the New Hanover Transit Company, that nearly every cottage was washed away.

It is said that in all eighteen cottages were either washed clean away or totally wrecked.  The hotel, Sedgeley Hall Club House, Hanover Seaside Club House, Mr. D. McEachern’s cottage, and Mr. Hans A. Kure’s cottages were about the only houses left standing on the beach.  The railroad track was also washed away in places.  The damage at Carolina Beach is estimated at about $12,000.  Carolina Beach pier sustained very little damage.

New Hanover Transit Co.’s pump house turned over and water tank undermined and tilted.  New Hanover Transit Co.’s pump house turned over and water works destroyed.

The bridges and gangways on the beach are all gone.  The New Hanover Transit Co.’s railroad track from the Kure Cottage No 2, up the beach to Sedgeley Hall Club, totally destroyed and washed over into the sound.  The track from the Curve near Mr. Kure’s club house to the beach is ruined.

Telephone connection had been cut off and as the beach could not be reached, nothing definite could be secured for publication yesterday morning.

The most intense anxiety was felt by the cottage owners, and many of them went to the beach yesterday, expecting, however, to find little to give them hope.  A party went down in a wagonette, others went in buggies, and some went on the steamer Wilmington and reached the beach from the pier by means of a hand-car.  Among those who went down were Major D. O’Connor, and Messrs. J. A. Springer, H. C. McQueen, J. C. Stevenson, D. McEachern; Major Croom, G. W. Linder, J. J. Fowler, A. D. Brown, R. C. Stolter, J. G. L. Gieschen, Dr. Webster, and others.  They returned to the city in the afternoon.

Capt. J. W. Brock, who with his party of fishermen consisting of three other men, were thought to have been lost during the recent storm on Zeke’s Island, arrived in the city yesterday afternoon from Federal Point all safe and sound.

It will be remembered that on Tuesday his trunk was found floating with the tide up the river by J. W. Howard, janitor at the Custom House, and this gave rise to apprehensions for his safety.  The trunk was restored to him upon his arrival yesterday and this with a small boat in which he and party escaped to Federal Point, constituted all his earthly possessions, the waves having demolished his houses on the island and swept all his household goods, fishing tackle and other property up the river, on the occasion of last Tuesday morning’s storm.

On the island were two cottages in which he and companions lived.  The tide began rising at 8 o’clock Monday night, he said, and reached a climax at 4 o’clock Tuesday morning, when the entire island was covered and the breakers were rolling high over their heads.

He and companions managed to hold a boat between them by steadying themselves with a few bushes, which were above water.  They were then standing in water waist deep and remained so until Tuesday afternoon, when they managed to bail the water from the canoe, clear it of sand and by desperate effort reach the land at Federal Point.

Besides houses and household belongings, Capt. Brock lost two fishing shacks, five nets, and a large interest in between twenty and twenty-five barrels salt mullets.  He said it was the roughest experience of his life and he had given up hope at one time of escaping alive.

Capt. Brock says that the jetties built from the island to Federal Point to throw the current in Cape Fear channel are cut in twain in nearly a dozen places.  Zeke’s Island is now a sand bar, not enough soil being left, as a member of the crew expressed it “to raise a row on.”  Formerly vegetation grew upon the land and gardens were cultivated by fishermen.

The other fishermen on the island are reported safe and there is known to have been no loss of life at this point.

 

The above excerpts were taken from an article published in the Wilmington Star News, November 1899.

 

October Meeting – Ben Wunderly, Surfing History in North Carolina

Monday, October 15, 2018   7:30 pm

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, October 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Benjamin Wunderly from the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Beaufort. He will be speaking on the history of surfing in North Carolina.

When one thinks about the words history and surfing together, the mind may conjure up images of surfers challenging the big waves off Hawaii, or perhaps even of Samoans or Australians riding a lonely beach in the remote Pacific. Then, when one considers the famous surfing locations along the East Coast of the United States, one might dream up images of Cocoa Beach, Florida or Atlantic City, New Jersey.

One might not be inclined to include North Carolina among such hallowed surfing locales, but that would be a mistake. Although it is impossible to determine who rode the first wave or made the first surfboard at any of these places, we do know that surfing has been taking place in the Old North State for more than a century.

Benjamin Wunderly is originally from southern Virginia. He had his introduction to North Carolina on the Outer Banks. His fascination with the ocean has led him to spend the past 30 years exploring the beaches, sand bars, tidal creeks and waterways of coastal North Carolina from Currituck to Brunswick County.

He takes pride in researching and sharing all things maritime from Tar Heel country. Having spent 20 years working under the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources at educational centers in Dare, Onslow and Carteret Counties, he has learned extensively about the rich history, culture and environment of eastern North Carolina.

Currently, a Museum Curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, Wunderly’s latest project has been a collaboration with fellow curator, John Hairr, to uncover the history of the sport of surfing in North Carolina. They have received help from numerous folks along the way, including the Cape Fear region’s own surfing history experts Joseph Funderburg and Peter Fritzler.

Surfing NC – A Timeline of the History of the Sport of Surfing in North Carolina (pdf)
by John Hairr and Ben Wunderly
North Carolina Maritime Museum – Beaufort

 

September Meeting — Sean Palmer on Gullah Geechee Cultural Corridor

[Note: Hurricane Florence closed Pleasure Island and the meeting was postponed.]

Originally scheduled for Monday, September 17, 2018 @ 7:30 pm

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Sean Palmer from the UNCW Upperman African American Cultural Center. He will be speaking on the Gullah Geechee Cultural Corridor which is a Federal National Heritage Area.

Gullah Geechee Cultural Corridor was established by the U.S. Congress to recognize the unique culture of the Gullah Geechee people who have traditionally resided in the coastal areas and the sea islands of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida  — from Pender County, North Carolina, to St. Johns County, Florida.

Sean Palmer has served as Upperman Center Director since March 2016. Palmer earned his

Sean Palmer, Director of Diversity and Inclusion PHOTO BY: JEFF JANOWSKI/UNCW

Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School, a master’s degree in African and African American Studies from Clark Atlanta University and a bachelor’s degree in English with double minors in African American studies and religious studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.

He previously served as the assistant director of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke University. While at Duke, Palmer advised several student organizations, managed and advised the National PanHellenic Council, planned academic lectures and events, and was a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students. He has also served as director of student activities and residence life at Paine College in Augusta, GA.

 

The Gullah Geechee People

Excerpts from the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor website

THE PEOPLE

The Gullah Geechee people are the descendants of Central and West Africans who came from different ethnic and social groups.

They were enslaved together on the isolated sea and barrier islands that span what is now designated as the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor – a stretch of the U.S. coastline that extends  from Pender County, North Carolina to St. John’s County, Florida and for 30 miles inland.

The result was an intense interaction among Africans from different language groups in settings where enslaved Africans and their descendants formed the majority.

Over time, they developed the Creole Gullah Geechee language as a means of communicating with each other and they were also able to preserve many African practices in their language, arts, crafts and cuisine.

LANGUAGE

Gullah is a unique Creole language spoken along the Sea Islands and adjacent coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia.  The residents in Georgia are typically referred to as “Geechee.” Gullah language began as a simplified form of communication among people of different languages including European slave traders, slave owners and diverse African ethnic groups. The vocabulary and grammatical roots come from European and African languages.

Gullah Geechee language is the only distinctly African Creole language in the United States and has influenced traditional Southern vocabulary and speech patterns.

ARTS, CRAFTS AND MUSIC

 

Enslaved Africans brought a rich heritage of cultural traditions in art, foodways and music.  ​Arts and crafts are the result of products designed by necessity for activities of subsistence and daily living such as making cast nets for fishing,  basket weaving for agriculture and textile arts for clothing and warmth.

The art of making cast nets for fishing has been passed down by enslaved Africans brought to the southeastern shores of the United States.  Gullah Geechee people continue to use the nets to harvest from the Sea Island waterways, but the tradition is labor intensive and artists are dwindling in numbers as younger generations have lost interest.

African textile traditions that included sewing strips of cloth into larger patterns were combined with European quilting methods and a Creole art form emerged. Quilts with bright colors and designs were originally made for necessity. These traditions also allowed women a  time for social interaction.

Sweetgrass baskets, originally designed for rice production and processing and other domestic uses in Africa, were used for agricultural purposes such as planting and harvesting of coastal crops. Made of bulrush, sweetgrass and split oak, the African art of basket making was significant as a traditionally passed down handicraft practiced by both men and women using similar materials from their homeland.  Baskets also gained recognition for the skill of an artist and uniqueness in style. Even in historic times, baskets were sold to non-Gullah Geechee people and were a source of additional income.

African songs are the foundation for what may be referred to as Gullah music. Deeply rooted in music traditions brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans, the music evolved out of the conditions of slavery that characterized their lives.  The influence and evolution of musical forms that arose out of Gullah music can be heard in many musical genres such as spirituals and gospel music,  ragtime, rhythm and blues, soul, hip hop  and jazz.

FOODWAYS

Food has always played an important role in social traditions in many cultures. Gatherings, celebrations, and religious rituals are often accompanied by food.

The Gullah diet consisted of items available locally such as vegetables, fruits, game, seafood, livestock; items  imported from Europe,  items imported from Africa during the slave trade  (okra, rice, yams, peas, hot peppers, peanuts, sesame “benne” seeds, sorghum and watermelon),  and food introduced by  Native Americans such as corn, squash, tomatoes and berries.  Rice became a staple crop for both Gullah and whites in the southeastern coastal regions.

Although a bounty of food types existed, there was not always a bounty of food available for enslaved Gullah people or their descendants. Making use of available food (or rations), making a little go a long way, supplementing with fish and game, leftovers from butchering and communal stews shared with neighbors were African cultural practices.

African cooking methods and seasonings were applied in the Gullah homes and plantation kitchens.  Because plantation cooks were primarily enslaved women, many of the African cooking traditions were employed along with creatively incorporating foods introduced by European, Spanish and American Indian influence, much of the food today referred to as “Southern” comes from the creativity and labor of enslaved African cooks from the plantations.

 SPIRITUAL EXPRESSION

 

Religion and spirituality have a sustaining role in Gullah family and community life. Enslaved Africans were exposed to Christian religious practices in a number of ways and incorporated elements that were meaningful to them into their African rooted system of beliefs.  These values included belief in a God, community above individuality, respect for  elders, kinship bonds and ancestors; respect for nature, and honoring the continuity of life and the afterlife.

Some plantation owners had regular religious services on the plantation and required slaves to attend. Some plantations had separate services for blacks with black preachers. Plantations frequently had a praise house or small structure where slaves could meet for religious services, but these also had significance in maintaining community cohesion, social structure and conflict resolution.

 

Upcoming Event

Cape Fear History Symposium: Focus on Forts

Learn the story behind the brick and stone.

Are you a history fan that likes to learn about the past by getting up close and personal with it?

Perhaps you are someone who has visited us before, noticed the brick, stone, and concrete fortifications on campus and wanted to know more about them. If so, you aren’t alone, and we want you as our guest!

The Cape Fear History Symposium’s 2018 event is a 2-day trip (Aug 24-25) to the past where guests will not only meet, eat, and sleep at Fort Caswell, but will enjoy a program topic that we’ve never offered before.

Hear from the nation’s leading experts on U.S. Coast defense history through a series of lectures and seminars, witness a live artillery demonstration, and tour the campus with the experts, getting up close with the relics and ruins as you learn about them.

Speakers include John Weaver, Lt. Col. Quentin W. Schillare, Glen Williford, Dale Floyd, as well as Vincent Melomo and Tom Beaman on the archaeology of Fort Caswell. Go to http://fortcaswell.com/project/cfhs/  for the registration form, a schedule of the symposium and details on the speakers and their topics.

 

May Meeting – Jan Davidson of Cape Fear Museum

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, May 21, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Join this month’s speaker, Jan Davidson, Cape Fear Museum’s historian, as she takes you on a historical tour of Federal Point’s history through artifacts.   Learn a little bit about what’s been acquired over the years and the stories you can tell through exploring the Museum’s collection.   Cape Fear Museum has a range of items—photographs, bullets, cash registers, brochures, commemorative plates, cameras, flags, postcards, and even a urinal–that shed light on the region’s stories.

Jan Davidson grew up in Wales and moved to the US in 1988.  In 2000, she earned her PhD from the University of Delaware.  She worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History as the historian for the exhibit, America on the Move, before she came to North Carolina in 2005.  Since that time, she has served as the Cape Fear Museum’s historian, where she researches the history of the region for talks, exhibits, and programs.

 

Did You Know?

In March of 1898, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) first opened the Museum in one room on the second floor of the Wilmington Light Infantry’s (WLI) building. Since its founding, the Museum has moved around the city. It was housed in two rooms in the County courthouse annex in the late 1920s and then on the third floor of the Police Station building in the 1960s. Since 1970, it has been located at 814 Market Street, in what was a National Guard Armory building.

Just as the building and management has changed over time so too has the scope of the Museum’s collection and its mission. Originally, the institution was founded to preserve Confederate objects and Confederate memories of the Civil War. After the reopening in the 1930s, many new objects were collected, broadening the Museum’s holdings to include a wider range of historical items.

Over the decades, the collection grew to represent regional, national, and international art, history, and science artifacts. Today, the Museum draws on a collection of more than 52,000 items to help us explore a wide range of topics and to tell balanced and inclusive local stories.

 

February Meeting – Jim McKee on the Wilmington Reserve Fleet

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 7:30 PM at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Jim McKee from Brunswick Town – Fort Anderson.

Jim will be speaking on the Wilmington Reserve Fleet which was one of eight National Defense Reserve Fleet’s (NDRF) anchorages established around the United States to store merchant vessels after World War II.

By 1951 the Wilmington Reserve Fleet was at full capacity, and was the second largest reserve fleet in the nation. There are thousands of people who still remember the ships moored in the Brunswick River, but have no idea why they were there or what their purpose was.

Jim McKee is the site manager at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site in Winnabow, NC. He graduated from Greensboro College, has his Master’s from Southern New Hampshire University, and has worked for the National Park Service and the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport. He has been researching the Wilmington Reserve Fleet since 2007.

 

Tanya Binford: Crossing the Wake

By Nancy Gadzuk

Tanya Binford, author of Crossing the Wake: One woman’s Great Loop Adventure spoke at the August 21, 2017 meeting of the History Center. She talked about her experiences traveling the 5,000 mile Great Loop Cruise Route around the eastern United States in a 25-foot Ranger tug motor boat. Alone.

Usually I take copious notes during our History Center meetings, but Tanya’s presentation was so spellbinding all I could do was listen with my mouth open in awe. Fortunately, Tanya also wrote a fascinating memoir to provide backup for the notes I didn’t take, and I recommend reading Crossing the Wake for an in-depth look at her trip.

Tanya dreamed of learning to sail, even though she spent most of her life in Arizona. She didn’t want to wait until she was able to retire to pursue her dream.

“Sometimes we have to make the adventure,” she said. At the age of 45, she decided to take a year off when she turned 50 to pursue the dream. Fortunately, she had a job she could do from anywhere that had a good Internet connection. She drew a line on a map from her home in Arizona due east and it led to Southport, North Carolina.

Once in Southport, she made every mistake a beginning boater could make, bought several boats that weren’t right for her, realized sailing was too difficult to do solo, and finally ended up with a 25 foot ranger tug motor boat.

She decided to travel America’s Great Loop Cruise Route, through the Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Approximately 100 boats make the loop each year, but most of them are much, much larger than hers, and very few people make the trip solo.

One of the frightening parts of her presentation was her description of going through close to 100 locks on the canal system along the route, where she was surrounded by much larger commercial vessels in a tight-fitting trough of moving water. She frequently needed to be in two places at the same time, holding a line on one side of the boat while doing something on the other.

Any long boat trip requires time, money, and energy for boat repairs. At one point, Tanya limped into a marina for a needed engine repair. (An impeller, whatever that is.) Tanya was working with Bob, the marina owner, on the repair and she was trying to get a bolt attached somewhere on the engine.

Bob asked what was taking her so long, and she yelled from under the engine, “I’m screwing as hard as I can! Can’t you feel it?”

There was silence until Bob said, “I’ve never had a woman say that to me before,” and they both burst out laughing.

A sense of humor is also useful for any adventure.

 

Cape Fear River Watch

By Nancy Gadzuk

Madi Polera, fisheries biologist with Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW), spoke at the February 20th meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Madi stepped in for Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper, when Kemp was unable to make the meeting.

Madi explained the mission of Cape Fear River Watch: To protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River basin. The Cape Fear River basin is the largest in the state, covering more than 9000 square miles, with one-third of North Carolina’s population living within the area.

The environmental and economic importance of the Cape Fear River cannot be overstated. The river basin itself is home to a diverse variety of animal and plant life, including ancient bald cypress trees.

The river watershed is also home to more factory farms than any other watershed on the planet.

A major concern of CFRW—and it should be a concern to all of us in North Carolina, especially those of us who drink Cape Fear River water—is the proliferation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs.

The Cape Fear region has the highest density of CAFOs in the world. There are 9.8 million people in North Carolina, and 10 million hogs. Poultry production is also exploding.

Animal waste can and does cause significant pollution as run-off into river waters. Hog lagoons can be managed and monitored to minimize their impact, but poultry waste is not currently monitored by the state.

Madi acknowledged the need to balance the economic benefit to the state of CAFOs with the environmental impact of the animal waste. The battle is with pollution, not with farmers.

She also shared the recent success of the CFRW Fishing Restoration project to build a fish ladder or fish ramp on the Cape Fear River.

Migratory fish like striped bass and Atlantic sturgeon had not been able to migrate up the Cape Fear River naturally for more than 100 years until this fish ladder at Lock and Dam #1 on the Cape Fear River was completed.

Progress can happen with persistence and hard work.


Additional video resources:
YouTube videos of Cape Fear fish ladder

 

March Meeting – Medal of Honor Recipients of the Lower Cape Fear

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, March 20, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

This month John Moseley will present his talk “Medal of Honor Recipients of the Lower Cape Fear.”

By the summer of 1861, the US Congress created the only award to recognize the acts of bravery by Union enlisted Navy, Marine Corps, and Army personnel during the Civil War. By war’s end, this award would be issued to 1,523 members of the Federal Army and Navy.

Between June 1864 and January 1865, seventy-two sailors, soldiers and Marines awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at Fort Fisher. During the Civil War the US Marine Corps were awarded 17 Medals of Honor.

The struggle on the beach in front of Fort Fisher witnessed 6 of those Marine Medals of Honor. In addition, 35% of the recipients of the Medal of Honor for actions at Fort Fisher were foreign nationals.

Today, the Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded by the President, in the name of the Congress, to members of the Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and courage at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty. In its history, 19 North Carolinians have been recognized for their actions with the Medal of Honor. New Hanover County recognizes four citizens of our Nation’s highest award.

John Moseley is the Assistant Site Manager at Fort Fisher State Historic Site. He received his undergraduate degree in History from The Citadel in Charleston, SC, in 1989. He then spent the next decade and a half working in the for-profit and non-profit business world. During the 1990s, he spent large amounts of time researching North Carolina’s role in the American Revolution and 18th century medical and dental history.

He began working at Fort Fisher in 2011 and is currently in charge of the educational programming for the State Historic Site.

Since the summer of  2012, John has been the historian with “Tasting History” where he leads a walking tour of Carolina Beach focusing on the history of Federal Point and sampling local restaurants.

Currently, he continues working on Fort Fisher’s Medal of Honor recipients and the role of Fort Fisher during World War 2.