The Ghosts of 1898

Ghosts of 1898 - Wilmington

The Daily Record of Wilmington was reportedly the only black owned newspaper in America in 1898. White supremacists destroyed it, killed dozens of peaceful citizens, then posed for this photograph.

Wilmington, North Carolina was a thriving progressive town in the early 1890s where whites, blacks and Indians worked and lived together. Wilmington was North Carolina’s successful hub of business and commerce led by an interracial coalition.

The community built a new political party, the Fusion party, that was more progressive than either the Democratic party, which was controlled  by conservative white supremacists in North Carolina, or the Republican party, which was once the party of Lincoln.

This rise of interracial progressive populism was a grave threat to the slave-wage labor economic model of the wealthy white land owners who had very effectively used racism to divide working class whites from blacks and Indians. If average white folks accepted black leadership and saw that their local economy thrived, elite white landowners and businessmen would lose much of their power.

The feudalistic plantation system, that had ruled the south since the foundation of the republic, when the land was stolen from the Indians, was gravely threatened. The white supremacist elites could not allow a thriving interracial society to develop, but they had a problem.

The African American population in the coastal plain was larger than the white population. The cotton plantations in the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plain depended on enslaved labor. There were more enslaved black laborers than white bosses and workers in eastern North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

The Fourteenth Amendment had given African Americans the right to vote and vote they did. To restore white supremacy and their power, the elites would have to find a way to slash the black vote. In the mid 1890’s the elites revived the white militias that were used by the Confederate States to terrorize enslaved people into submission.

They dredged up the racist white dregs of North Carolina society to make gangs of white thugs called the Red Shirts. The Red Shirts, who lacked equestrian skills, were lower class  than the KKK. The Redshirts began to lynch and terrorize African Americans to keep them from voting and to put them in their place. The Redshirts were egged on by none other than Josephus Daniels owner of the Raleigh News and Observer.

Over 100 years later the News and Observer published an unvarnished report that confessed their historic involvement in the white supremacist coup in Wilmington that set the stage for decades of lynchings and violence against African Americans.

The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON’S RACE RIOT AND THE RISE OF WHITE SUPREMACY

On Nov. 10, 1898, heavily armed columns of white men marched into the black neighbor-hoods of Wilmington. In the name of white supremacy, this well-ordered mob burned the offices of the local black newspaper, murdered perhaps dozens of black residents — the precise number isn’t known — and banished many successful black citizens and their so-called “white nigger” allies. A new social order was born in the blood and the flames, rooted in what The News and Observer’s publisher, Josephus Daniels, heralded as “permanent good government by the party of the White Man.”
The Wilmington race riot of 1898 stands as one of the most important chapters in North Carolina’s history. It is also an event of national historical significance. Occurring only two years after the Supreme Court had sanctioned “separate but equal” segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, the riot marked the embrace of virulent Jim Crow racism, not merely in Wilmington, but across the United States.
 
 

 

August Meeting – Jack Fryar on the American Revolution in the Cape Fear Area

Jack E Fryar Jr

Jack E. Fryar. Jr.

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

Join author and historian, Jack E. Fryar. Jr. as he details the second half of the war in the South, especially as it occurred in North Carolina and the Cape Fear.

With the fall of Charleston in 1780, the Revolutionary War returned to the Carolinas with a vengeance. While the most famous battles of America’s war for independence were fought in the North, the decisive battles were fought in the South, at places like Camden, Ninety-Six, Cowpens, King’s Mountain, and Guilford Courthouse.

When Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis began his Southern Campaign to return the Carolinas to the Crown’s control, Wilmington and southeastern North Carolina played a pivotal role in his plans.

Jack E. Fryar, Jr. is the author or editor of twenty-two books of Cape Fear and North Carolina history. He holds masters degrees in history and teaching and is the owner of Dram Tree Books, a small press specializing in books about the four centuries of great history in the Carolinas.

Jack is about to launch Carolina Chronicles Magazine, a new digital history publication that will focus on the history of both North and South Carolina. A lifelong resident of the Cape Fear region, Jack lives in Wilmington with his wife, Cherie.

 

Steve Pfaff, Seneca Guns – April Meeting

NOAA

Monday, April 18, 2016  7:30 PM

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, April 18, 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 Steve Pfaff of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who will speak to us about the mysterious phenomena called the Seneca Guns.  What are Seneca Guns?  That’s the question.

Now and then, often on a beautiful, clear and sunny day, people in Southeastern North Carolina hear/feel strange booming noises. Some people report them as earthquakes others claim they are hearing something like cannon fire. Others swear they are hearing sonic booms from aircraft.  However, upon investigation none of these things are happening.

Steve Pfaff serves as the Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) at the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Wilmington, NC.  At the WCM since 2008, he is responsible for promoting weather safety outreach and awareness to the public. Steve is also responsible for providing emergency and decision support services to Emergency Management as well as a Seneca gunsmultitude of local, state, and federal partners.

He first arrived at NWS Wilmington, NC as a Senior Forecaster in 1998 where he served as the Marine Program Leader. Prior to his NWS career, he worked at WNBC-TV in New York where he prepared the forecast and graphics for Al Roker. Steve received his degree in Meteorology from Kean University in Union, NJ in 1994.

“The name Seneca Guns seems to come from Seneca Lake in upstate New York, where the sounds are often heard. In 1850, James Fenimore Cooper (author of “Last of the Mohicans”) wrote a story, “The Lake Gun,” describing the phenomenon, which seems to have popularized the term.

The sounds are heard in coastal areas; observers insist they are never heard at sea. In 2005 and 2008, residents in Brunswick County reported they were loud enough to rattle windows and shake houses.

In December 2001, a Seneca gun event prompted more than 100 calls to New Hanover County authorities. No serious damage, however, has ever been attributed to a Seneca gun.” – Wilmington StarNews, My Reporter column.

Scott Lem on the CCC – January Meeting

CCC-poster 113x160The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, January 18, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker will Scott Len, who will talk about a subject he has done a great deal of research on The Civilian Conservation Corps in the Lower Cape Fear. He will present a slide program titled: “CCC Camp Sapona.”

cccTENTRegaled with Civilian Conservation Corps stories told by his grandfather, who served at a camp in Utah during 1936, Scott Len has had an interest in the CCC camps since he was a boy.

In 2013, Scott retired from a 27 year career with the Federal Government. He and his wife Lisa decided to relocate to Southport where they had purchased the Doc Watson house several years before. Scott discovered that not only did Southport have a CCC camp of its own between 1934 and 1937, but it was physically located just yards from his own home.

Len will begin his talk with a broad overview of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), its background and inception, as well as the impact of this nationwide New Deal conservation program during its tenure from 1933 — 1942. He will explore the variety of work accomplished in North Carolina before zeroing in on the background and work projects of the camp located in Southport.

 

Diary of Mary J. White (Age 15) – Part 2

Part 2 of 2
[Editor note: In Part 1, Mary J. described her family preparing to accompany her father, John White, on a buying trip for the Confederacy in England. Attempts to get out of the country by blockade runner had failed for two weeks. The remaining portion of Mary White ’s diary describes their continued efforts.]

Blockade Runner Advance

Blockade Runner Advance

Aug. 15, 1864 – Smithville, NC. I have just written a long letter to Bettie Hunter. The Cape Fear came up just a minute ago and Dr. Boykin, Hugh and Tom have gone to see if there are any provisions on board for us. They just returned and say there are none. We are nearly out of bread and don’t know where to get any.

This morning the pilot of one of the ships lying in the river died of yellow fever. Ships that came in the last few days, say that yellow fever is raging in Bermuda, so the Ad-Vance will not touch there but proceed to Halifax.

Aug. 16, 1864 – Smithville, NC. The boat came down today and brought abundant supplies of bread, bacon, pickles, corn meal, lobsters, tomatoes, watermelons, etc…. We went on the margin of the river and counted ten vessels lying in quarantine near here, besides an old ironclad which they say is worthless from the number of barnacles fastened to the bottom.

Aug. 19: 1864 – Smithville, N.C. Last night we had a most delightful serenade. The serenaders were a Mr. Everett and his violin, and two Mr. Laniers, from Georgia, one with a flute and the other a guitar. They played “Ben Bolt”, “Bonny Jean” and two very spirited waltzes besides two tunes which I do not recollect.

Aug. 20, 1864 – This morning between ten and eleven o’clock, we saw the Ad-Vance coming down beautifully from Wilmington, but she stuck on the bar and had to remain there till the next high tide, which was a little after seven, when she got afloat and came opposite this place and anchored. Father and Mr. Morris came ashore from the Ad-Vance while she was aground.

Aug. 22, 1864 – on board the Ad-Vance – Another attempt will be made tonight to run the blockade. About 13 steamers are in now. Eight large Yankee ships are so near that we can distinctly see them with the naked eye, but we will not encounter them as we go in the opposite direction, but there are five where we will have to go.

Aug. 23, 1864 – Last night at about 8:30 we started off to make the attempt. We went very well until we got to the inner bar and there, as usual, we got aground and while we were vainly attempting to get off, the moon rose and shone very brightly and then of course we were effectively prevented from trying any more. After awhile, we got off and got back to Smithville, where we are lying now.

Aug. 24, 1864 – The Lillian started out last night and it was thought she got through safely, but is not certainly known. We stayed on the cotton bales to see it go out, saw the Yankees throw several rockets, then saw the flashes and heard the reports of 15 guns.

Aug. 26, 1864 – Last night we heard a quantity of guns firing and the occasion was not known until this morning, when it was found that the Hope was aground at Fort Fisher and a couple of sails were raised on board to get her off. The Yankees saw her then for the first time and began firing into her rapidly. The crew thought all was over and deserted the ship. One shot only struck the ship and that knocked a hole in the deck about the size of a man’s fist. The blockaders were fired on from Fort Fisher and that kept them in a measure… They got her off and came down here to quarantine ground to lay. It is a tremendous vessel, carrying 2000 bales of cotton, double the cargo the Ad-Vance carries, and does not draw as much water as the Ad-Vance, but this is thought to be the most trustworthy vessel at sea. The privateer, Tallahassee, is reported to have come in last night.

Aug. 28 1864 – This is Sunday and promises to be more dull than any other day. This morning we saw a little torpedo boat coming down the river…. It is a regular little steam propeller, has an iron rod projecting from the bow to which a torpedo is attached. When they get it near enough to the Yankee ships, the torpedo is made to explode by pulling a string – I think – and the vessel is blown to pieces.

Aug. 30: 1864 – An attack on Wilmington is daily expected. There are nineteen blockaders in sight of here and a turreted monitor.

SS AD Vance

SS Advance

Sept-2, 1864 – Ad-Vance – Last night we got up steam about twilight and started out. We went splendidly, got over the rip as nicely as possible without touching and thought we would certainly go through, When the 1st Officer discovered something on the bar, and when the glasses were turned on, a large blockader was distinctly seen lying directly in our path. She saw us and flashed her light, so of course we had to put back to Smithville. It was supposed to be a monitor, as no masts were seen, and if it was, we would have passed so near that we would have been blown to atoms. On our way back to Smithville we passed the Coquette just going out, but she soon came back also.

Sept 3, 1864 – Last evening we got up steam, heaved the anchor and were just on the point of starting, when Capt. Wylie had a telegram sent him by a physician on shore, saying that he might not be well enough to navigate today if we got out to sea and consequently just had all the steam turned off and the vessel anchored again… It is reported that the Lillian was taken in the Gulf Stream, and the Mary Barnes ran into some obstacle going into Charleston.

Sept. 4, 1864 – Last night we started out, as Capt. Wylie is still unwell, with another navigator to steer in case our Capt. should have a relapse. We got beyond the bar and the range lights were set, so we had to turn back, intending to try again, but the ship was so hard to turn that she had to be anchored and let the tide swing her around. We started out again, but by the time she got to the rips the tide had gone down so much that we could not cross them, so are back again for the night. The City of Petersburg missed the channel and got so far aground that she had to stay there until morning and was slightly injured.

Sept. 5: 1864 – Wilmington – Last night for the 7th time an attempt was made to run out. We got to the rip, got aground and had just started off and were going at half speed, when the Old Dominion, which had started a little after us, actually ran into us. Mother and the small children were down between the cotton bales, while Mrs. Boykin and I were on top of them. One of the stewards, who was on the cotton bales with us, seeing the Old Dominion coming along at speed, said, “Look at the Old Dominion, she’s coming into us. Get a hold, get a hold.” And with that he tumbled off. Mrs. Boykin and I were much nearer the shock, and we thought he was in fun and stayed up there. We saw the boat booming but thought, of course, that they would take care and not run into us, but the first thing we knew there was a most fearful crash…. The bow of the Old Dominion was very sharp and strong, but our ship was so strong that it did not run in until it had scraped the length of three feet and a half… They say if this vessel had not been remarkably strong, it would certainly have gone down.

Sept. 7, 1864 – Ad-Vance – This morning we came down to Smithville and anchored at our same old place. The Will-o-the-Wisp, the Helen, the Owl and the Lynz and other vessels are lying here in quarantine, having just come in.

Sept. 8, 1864 – Last night as our pilot, Mr. Morse, had been ordered on another shift, another pilot was detailed to carry us out. He got on a spree and was not notified he was to go out on the Ad-Vance until about an hour before time for him to come on board. When he did come, the guard had to wake him up and bring him on board as drunk as a fish. Of course, we could not risk ourselves with him and have to wait until tonight.

Sept 15, 1864 – Warrenton, N.C. – On the 8th we made our 9th attempt and failed. We got to sea that night and the pilot had just given the ship over to the Capt, when it was discovered that we were about to be surrounded… She was anchored in sight of the Yankees all day, and everybody thought it would be so perfectly desperate that Father and Dr. Boykin took their families off.

The Ad-Vance got out that night, on the 10th. 35 shots were fired at her were heard at Smithville…. We went to Mr. Parsley’s where we got dinner and started home on a freight train at 4:00 pm … and got home a little after 8:00. Father went to Raleigh yesterday and came back today, He expects to go out on some other vessel on the next moon, but is very doubtful about taking his family.

Father has decided not to take us with him as blockade running is so dangerous now….

Dec. 1864 – A few days after I last wrote in my diary, we were shocked to hear of the capture of the Ad-Vance. She was captured on Saturday, Sept. 11th, off Cape Hatteras.

Father left home on Oct. 22nd, and we remained. He wrote us on Oct. 26th from Smithville, on board the Virginia, that he expected to go out that night and have heard nothing from him since he sailed, which has been about a fortnight, so we suppose he is safe…

He arrived in Bermuda on the 28th, and did not go ashore but stayed on board the Virginia that night and started for Halifax the next day.


[Additional resources:]

Culpepper, Marilyn Mayer. Women of the Civil War South: Personal Accounts from Diaries, Letters and Postwar Reminiscences Jefferson, NC:  McFarland, 2004.  p. 7-10 ….. an excellent narrative.

Ad-Vance
Advance

Mary White’s diary was originally published in the FPHPS Newsletters of Feb 1998 and March 1998

 

Diary of Mary J. White (age 15)

John White, Warrenton NC

John White, Warrenton NC

[Editor’s note:  In 1864 John White, a merchant of Warrenton, NC, was sent abroad by authority of the NC Legislature and Governor Zubulon B. Vance to buy supplies for the NC State Troops during the American Civil War.

He planned to take his family with him through the Federal Blockade at Wilmington on board the state-owned blockade runner, Advance, in August, 1864.

The following was extracted from a diary by John White’s daughter, Mary J. (age 15, born July 21, 1849).  It portrays the difficulties they and others encountered in attempting to run in and out of the federal blockade of Wilmington.

It’s highly recommended that you read the following book excerpt (link) written about Mary White’s diary. It’s a well written narrative inspired by Mary J. White’s diary. It describes well the cultural and social anxieties of 1864 in Wilmington and Smithville.

Culpepper, Marilyn Mayer. Women of the Civil War South: Personal Accounts from Diaries, Letters and Postwar Reminiscences, Jefferson, NC:  McFarland, 2004.]


Mary J White’s diary:
Part 1 of 2:    August 2, 1864 – August 14, 1864

Tuesday, Aug. 2, 1864 – I left our home in Warrenton, NC for England with Father, Mother, Bro. Andrew, Hugh, Kate and Sue.  Father had to go to buy supplies for the NC Soldiers, and things were so awful here and Mother and he suffered so much being separated and our baby sister Lizzie died while he was away, so he promised Mother he would never leave her again. . . . It all seems very strange, but we are going with Father and I hope everything will be all right.

Aug. 8, 1864 – We left Raleigh, Friday the 5th, for Wilmington, where we arrived safely the same night about 10:00 o’clock. . . . We left there Saturday morning for the S.S. Ad-Vance, which was lying in the Cape Fear River, near Wilmington. We expected to run the blockade that night, but there was some mistake in the ship’s papers and before they could be corrected, we were too late for the tide and had to cast anchor and lie there all night. Our family and Dr. Boykin’s went ashore and spent the night. Mr. Parsley said we shouldn’t try the poor hotel accommodations, so we went to his house and spent the night there and started again the next morning about 8:00 for our ship. . . .

We passed Forts Fisher and Caswell and all went well for a time but finally went aground. . . . Not far behind us is the Mary Celestia from Bermuda, in quarantine. It is reported that the yellow fever is in Bermuda and a man died on the Mary Celestia this morning, it is thought from yellow fever. There is also an ironclad to our right.

We passed a good many obstructions in the river, that were put there for the purpose of entangling the Yankees, if they should try to go to Wilmington. The Little Hattie went out the first night that we intended to go. . . . The Helen, which had been lying near us all day, went out, and as no guns were heard and no news from the ship, it is supposed that she escaped uninjured. Today, three more cases of yellow fever were reported on the Mary Celestia.

Aug. 9, 1864 – It is thought, as we did not get out last night, we will try once more tonight, but this will certainly be the last time. Last night the Annie came safely from Bermuda and is now in sight of us. We saw a small boat carrying a coffin to the yellow fever boat, so another of the poor fellows must have perished. . . .

Blockade Runner Advance

Blockade Runner Advance

The Ad-Vance is a very fine steamer, 235 ft. in length, 22 ft. in width, a very fast ship and successful blockade runner. It was fitted up splendidly, for passengers, before it was put to its present use and was named the Lord Clyde. The saloon was removed and cotton bales put in instead and the accommodations for ladies are very poor.

Aug. 10, 1864 – on board the Ad-Vance. Last night, we made a last effort to run the blockade and were over the rip, and it was thought that we would get out without much difficulty, but they did not steer properly and we missed the channel and fastened in the sand.

Aug. 12, 1864 – Wilmington, NC.  Yesterday morning about twelve o’clock, we got off the sand bar and came back to Wilmington. All the passengers came ashore, our family to Mr. Parsley’s again. This morning at 9:00 we expect to go to Smithville with Dr. Boykin’s family, to stay until the Ad-Vance sails. Smithville is a small village on the Cape Fear River, about 30 miles below Wilmington. . . . The house we are staying in belongs to a family named Cowan. . . . It is a very comfortable house with six rather small rooms and three piazzas. . . . The City of Petersburg came in today.

Aug. 14, 1864 Smithville, NC.  Father and Capt. Wylie have just left for Wilmington. Father expects to go home to Warrenton before he returns. He expects to be back the last of next week.

…. Continued in Part 2 ›››

Pilots of the Cape Fear River – Brooks Newton Preik

brooks Newton Preik #2

Brooks Newton Preik

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, November 16, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Author and historian Brooks Newton Preik is our November speaker. Her topic will be the River Pilots of the Cape Fear River.

From the plight of the European explorers of the 1600’s whose ships foundered on Frying Pan Shoals, to the Union naval officers outsmarted by the elusiveness of the Confederate Blockade Runners, to present-day seamen with their sophisticated, electronic, navigational equipment, one truth has remained the same: no ship’s captain with any sense at all would risk taking his ship through the treacherous waters of Cape Fear without the aid of an experienced local pilot to guide it.

Southport Pilot Station

Southport Pilot Station

The history of this always small group of talented, intrepid men who braved the shifting shoals and shallows of Cape Fear to guide ships safely through its waters is the stuff of legends.

Descended from a host of these courageous pilots, Brooks Preik will share with us some of the tales of their exploits, the dangers they faced and their unique legacy which has shaped the history of this region. Stories of shipwrecks, pirates, adventurers and even a few ghosts are among the stories Brooks will tell.

Born and raised in Southport, Brooks Preik has been a resident of Wilmington for more than 40 years. Some of her earliest ancestors are buried in the Newton Cemetery at Federal Point. She is a graduate of St. Mary’s Junior College in Raleigh and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. For 10 years she was an elementary school teacher and following that, for the next 35 years, she was a real estate broker.

Brooks began her writing career in 1993 when she co-authored a guidebook to the area entitled What Locals Know about Wilmington and Its Beaches. Her collection of “true” ghost stories, Haunted Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast, published in 1995 by Banks Channel Books, is now in its sixth printing and she has published more than 80 freelance articles in regional magazines since that time.

She has shared her love of local history and her stories with countless numbers of area school groups, civic clubs, UNCW sponsored events, and various community organizations.

Back in March 1998, Brooks did a presentation about John W. Harper at a monthly meeting at the Federal Point History Center.

Copies of Haunted Wilmington will be available for purchase and signing by the author.

 

Celebrating July 4th, Through the Years

From the Bill Reaves FilesJuly 4th

July 4, 1873

The 4th of July holiday was celebrated by a group of 15 gentlemen who went down the river on the steam tugboat JAMES T. EASTON to Federal Point. They celebrated the 4th by raising a large flag and listening to an oration by A. T. London, Esq. Some of the officers and soldiers from the garrison at Smithville were present and the occasion was hugely enjoyed. While there, the group visited the New Inlet Dam or as we call the Rocks, and inspected them with Henry Nutt, who was chairman in charge of the work. WILM.WEEKLY STAR, 7-11-1873

July 4, 1888

The Fourth of July holiday was celebrated by hundreds of pleasure seekers at Carolina Beach. Throngs of bathers covered the beach in front of the hotel and a few wrestled with the tireless roaring ocean. Some people not caring for surf bathing roamed along the beach gathering shells and bits of seaweed cast up by the waves. Others took a drive in the hack that plied hourly between Battery Gatlin on the north and the storm-beaten blockader wrecks on the south. The drive was refreshing, over a firm, smooth beach, and within the sweep of the surf at times. In the evening there was a grand display of fireworks sent off from the bow of the steamer SYLVAN GROVE under Captain Harper‘s direction. The fireworks continued on the river trip from the beach to Wilmington. WILM.STAR, 7-6-1888; WILM.MESSENGER, 7-6-1888.

July 4, 1891

Everything was perking early making preparations for the crowds of visitors coming to celebrate the Fourth of July. The first arrivals sought the surf at once. There was a good sea and the water was pleasant and beautifully blue.

By noon the beach was crowded. Dancing began early and the ball room at the hotel was soon thronged with merry dancers who kept time to Miller’s Band or listened with delight to their playing. Everywhere at the Beach one would meet members of the Fayetteville colony who had taken up residence at the beach for the season. Visitors at the beach were “free from care, light hearted, in the delightful salt air, one could eat the horns off the brass billy goat.” Joe Hinton, of the Oceanic Hotel, said he believed that all of Wilmington was visiting the Beach and all were hungry. From early dinner until late tea and the last train, there was a great deal of interest in the hotel’s dining room. Soft shell crabs, fish and other delightful food was offered. They gave a good dinner, a fine supper, and pleased all.

Fun was going on all day at Kure’s bowling alley. The place was dressed in flags and banners which made it bright and inviting. The afternoon train brought another 500 visitors. There was plenty of dancing, bathing, fishing and eating. About 1,600 visitors came to the beach and it seemed that one mile of the beach was alive with people and the surf seemed speckled with bathers. The first train home departed at 5:30 p.m., and the last train left at 9 p.m. Carolina Beach closed with increased success and pleasure, another Fourth of July for the Beach. WILM.STAR, 7-7-1891.

yankee doodleJuly 4, 1898

The greatest crowd in its history visited Carolina Beach and the day was delightfully spent by the great crowd of pleasure-seekers. The Concordia Castle Knights of Golden Eagle had charge of the holiday excursion and afforded every opportunity for enjoyment. A brass band discoursed music at the Oceanic Hotel and a string band furnished music for dancing at the pavilion. The dancing continued until the last boat left the beach. The target match between teams of the Wilmington Light Infantry and the Naval Reserves attracted great interest. The scores resulted in a tie. WILM.DISPATCH, 7-5-1898.

July 7, 1906.

Justice G. W. Bornemann meted out justice with an impartial hand. The judge is a firm believer in order at our two beaches and says that whenever disturbances are raised at the resorts he intended to deal with them in the severest possible manner. Two men, Will Hudson and ―Bill ― Terry were before the judge charged with an affray at Carolina Beach on July 4th. The fighting began over Hudson cursing at Terry. Terry knocked down Hudson. The judge said Terry was justified in his action as he was not looking for any trouble at the time that he was cursed. Terry still had to pay the costs of court, and Hudson received the severe sentence for his conduct, the judge imposed a fine of $10 and costs, which amounted to $16.45. WILMINGTON DISPATCH, 7-7-1906.

Speaking of Inlets… What Do You Think?

NC Rep. Michael Lee proposes doing away with “The Rocks”

Excerpted from StarNews Article by Gareth McGrath, April 28, 2015

For more than a century “the Rocks,” a breakwater built by the Army Corps of Engineers, has separated tMichael Leehe channels at the southern tip of New Hanover County from the Cape Fear River. But language added to legislation that would allocate funding to help North Carolina maintain the state’s inlets and waterways is looking to change that.

Senate Bill 160, which is currently before the NC Senate Finance Committee, calls for the portion of the Rocks south of Zeke’s Island – between Zeke’s and Smith Island – to be removed.

The language also would shift the boundary of the Zeke’s Island Reserve 200 feet eastward toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Rocks form part of the reserve’s boundary. According to the bill, the reason for the move would be “for ecosystem restoration and protection of navigational safety.”

But the idea of removing the Rocks has left officials – many of whom didn’t know about the proposal until it was added to the bill in committee – scratching their heads, wondering if there is more to the dam’s removal than just what’s stated in the bill. State Senator, Michael Lee, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said that’s not the case. He said removing The Rocks would simply help restore the area’s natural equilibrium. “The general idea is that they don’t need to be there, so let’s see if we can get them removed,” Lee said.

Zeke's Island #1Removing the Rocks, part of which extend more than 30 feet down, would change the dynamics of the ecosystem that now inhabits the lagoon.

But the increased tidal flow also would likely put into motion a process that would see New Inlet reopened.

That inlet, which was opened by a hurricane in 1761, closed in the late 19th century – although other channels, including Corncake Inlet, have opened and closed nearby over the decades.

Historically, New Inlet was popular with ship captains but a thorn to officials trying to keep the Cape Fear River shipping channel open. As early as the mid-19th century engineers had concluded that the best way to solve the shoaling woes was to close the inlet.

So in 1875 the Army Corps began work on the Rocks, finishing the 4.25-mile-long dam in 1891 at a cost of $766,000. Shutting off the inlet’s tidal flows stopped most of the sand washing into the shipping channel – and allowed subsequent deepening of the channel to be feasible, including today’s 42 feet.

“Partially opening up the structure would significantly increase the chances of inlet breaches in the vicinity of the opening, which would cause shoaling problems to immediately reappear,” said Spencer Rogers, a coastal engineering expert with NC Sea Grant. But the reopening of the inlet also could offer vessels, assuming the channel was deep enough, a much faster and safer route to the open ocean – a point championed in a column in the April 25, 1971, issue of the Wilmington StarNews. “Reopening of the inlet would have immediate and long-range benefits,” the article states. “The initial results would be to reopen the once available channel from Southport to the Atlantic at Fort Fisher and northward without the long voyage around the shoals which extend seaward from the tip of Bald Head Island.”

But while a reopened inlet could save shippers time and the government maintenance dollars, it also could have major impacts on the environment – and that has some Bald Head officials concerned.

“If you’re opening up an inlet, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Andrew Sayre, mayor of the island village.

Of chief concern is what might happen to the island’s now-healthy East Beach, which could be starved of sand if the sediment that naturally flows down from Pleasure Island gets washed out to sea or into the Cape Fear.

“This could have a devastating impact on our island,” said Suzanne Dorsey, executive director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy.

Officials with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which manages the Zeke’s Island Reserve, also are zeke's Island #2concerned about what the removal of the Rocks would do to the reserve’s ecosystem.

Then there’s the question of whether the federal government would approve a change in the reserve’s boundaries, since the reserve is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve system under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

DENR spokeswoman Michele Walker said the state in 1980 used $1.18 million in federal funds to purchase most of the land that encompasses the reserve.

With so many questions out there, no one expects anything with the Rocks to happen quickly.

Lee said if the provision is approved by the General Assembly he expected a series of studies to take place to gauge the environmental and other impacts from any removal work.

“This wouldn’t be a quick process,” the state senator said. “We’d certainly want to know all of the potential impacts before we took any action.”

Removing the Rocks, part of which extend more than 30 feet down, would change the dynamics of the ecosystem that now inhabits the lagoon. But the increased tidal flow also would likely put into motion a process that would see New Inlet reopened.

That inlet, which was opened by a hurricane in 1761, closed in the late 19th century – although other channels, including Corncake Inlet, have opened and closed nearby over the decades.

But while a reopened inlet could save shippers time and the government maintenance dollars, it also could have major impacts on the environment – and that has some Bald Head officials concerned. “If you’re opening up an inlet, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Andrew Sayre, mayor of the island village.

Of chief concern is what might happen to the island’s now-healthy East Beach, which could be starved of sand if the sediment that naturally flows down from Pleasure Island gets washed out to sea or into the Cape Fear. “This could have a devastating impact on our island,” said Suzanne Dorsey, Executive Director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy.

Officials with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which manages the Zeke’s Island Reserve, also are concerned about what the removal of the Rocks would do to the reserve’s ecosystem. Then there’s the question of whether the federal government would approve a change in the reserve’s boundaries, since the reserve is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve system under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). North Carolina Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman, Michele Walker, said the state in 1980 used $1.18 million in federal funds to purchase most of the land that encompasses the reserve.

StarNews 4/28/15:  The complete StarNews article

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Updates:

Lumina News 7/14/15:  Rock wall removal could cause shoaling in shipping channel, some say

The Rocks, south of Zeke’s Island near the tip of New Hanover County, is more than three miles long and at some points 37 feet high and 120 feet wide, said Spencer Rogers, a coastal construction and erosion specialist with N.C. Sea Grant.

Its purpose was to hold back sediment flowing in from an inlet that was opened by a hurricane in the 1800s.

“It’s the most complicated section of oceanfront in all of North Carolina,” Rogers said.

During the Civil War, the inlet was an asset to Confederate forces because blockade runners could navigate the shallow water near the opening, allowing them to get around Union ships that blocked the main channel, he said. But after the war it impeded shipping up the channel.

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StarNews 7/29/15:   Plan to remove ‘The Rocks’ opposed

BALD HEAD ISLAND | Local governments and marine experts say the explanation being given for a bill removing the structure known as “The Rocks” doesn’t pass muster, and they’ll oppose it until they get a better one.

The removal of “The Rocks” between Zeke’s and Smith (Bald Head) Island  on the southern tip of New Hanover County, which would also shift the boundary of the Zeke’s Island Reserve 200 feet east toward the Atlantic Ocean, is part of N.C. House Bill 97, the 2015 Appropriations Act. N.C. Senate Bill 160, which originally proposed the action, passed the state Senate in May, but has been stalled in a House committee since. Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, is a sponsor of the Senate bill.

“Ecosystem restoration and protection of navigational safety” are cited in the legislation as key reasons for removing The Rocks, but local experts say such action could have negative effects such as increased shoaling in the Cape Fear River and erosion on Bald Head Island’s East Beach. Local experts and officials also don’t think the ecosystem restoration reason holds water.

“What I smell in this is that we’re not being leveled with about what’s really going on,” said Larry Cahoon, a professor and oceanographer at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. “Ecologically, I haven’t heard an argument about what’s broken that needs fixing.”

The ecosystem in that area, Cahoon added, has developed over the nearly 150 years The Rocks have been there, and any major changes could be disruptive, particularly if an inlet were to reopen between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River.

Shipbuilding along the Cape Fear River

By Sandy Jackson

[Originally published in the September, 1995 – FPHPS Newsletter]

Native Americans - Hollowed Out LogsThe earliest watercraft along the lower Cape Fear River were dugout canoes, or log boats, used by the native population. The dugout canoe was commonly built from a single cypress or pine log, quite common within the coastal swamp forest. Cut from a large section of tree, the canoe was shaped by ax or adze and hollowed to its appropriate thickness by slow-burning embers.

Early colonists to the region in the late seventeenth century used steel tools to adapt the dugout canoe to fit their own needs. By splitting a canoe down the middle and installing boards in the bottom, it could be enlarged. This larger version, about 4 or 5 tons, was known as the periauger and could be fitted with either masts for sails or oars for rowing. The larger of the craft were capable of carrying forty or barrels of pitch and tar. Periaugers were sometimes used by the inhabitants as ferries across rivers or larger creeks.

Types of Sailing Ships Built on the Cape Fear River

Types of Sailing Ships
Built on the Cape Fear River

During the early eighteenth century, settlement of the lower Cape Fear River quickly increased as royal governors granted to various individuals large sections of land along the liver and major tributaries.

On these large sections of land, called plantations, crops or naval stores were often produced and transported by flat, also called a pole boat, to deep-water points, where they were loaded aboard seagoing ships. The flatboat, so named because of its flat bottom and squared sides, was larger than the earlier periaugers and built of boards.

The majority of those transport vessels and small sailing craft were constructed at plantation landings. Often flats were used as ferries across major waterways.

Deep-water sailing craft known as sloops gradually became the watercraft commonly used to transport products between coastal ports. Sloops were as small as 5 tons burthen, or as large as 60 to 70 tons. They had a single mast with a large mainsail and one or more headsails on a bowsprit. The larger sloops were primarily used in long ocean voyages and had one or more square sails in addition to the usual fore-and-afi sails .

Second in popularity and use after the sloop was the brigantine or brig, from 30 to 150 tons. The rig of this craft has varied with time and location. Generally, before 1720, the brigantine has been described as being a two-masted vessel, square-rigged on the foremast, fore-and-aft rigged on the main, but also with a square topsail.

After 1720, the main square topsail was omitted in most brigantines. Other vessel types in use during the late seventeenth and eighteenth century included the ship, schooner, bark, snow, pink, and shallop.

Single-masted sloops were eventually found to be too small to carry the increasing amount of commerce on the Cape Fear River. The need for a larger vessel capable of transporting more cargo led to the development and use in the early eighteenth century of a two-masted, fore-and-aft-rigged craft known as the schooner.

The Schooner allowed distribution of the sail canvas on two masts and made it feasible to build this type of craft in tonnages exceeding those of the sloops. The smaller sail sizes also required fewer crew to operate. The design and operation of the two-masted schooner proved both popular and economically beneficial. The schooner quickly became the most common vessel type until the mid-nineteenth century. Sloops and schooners were constructed at several of the shipyards located along the lower Cape Fear River. Some of the last wooden schooners built during the early twentieth century at Wilmington were four-masted.

In the early decades of the nineteenth century steam-powered vessels began plying the waterways of eastern North Carolina and effectively replacing much of the sail- or oar-powered craft in use. Large, and often dangerous, steam engines and boilers converted, steam into a mechanical motion that turned wooden side or stem paddlewheels. Fueled by either coal or firewood (found plentifully along the river banks), the shallow-drafted steamboats proved to be an efficient means of transporting produce and other farm goods plantation landings to market.

As a result of the improved means of transportation, steamboat companies developed and provided regular scheduled service for passengers and the transportation of freight between coastal ports, plantations, and river towns. Until the early twentieth century steamboats of a wide variety of sizes and designs were the most popular form of transportation on the Cape Fear River. Several shipyards within the Wilmington vicinity specialized in the construction and repair of this type of vessel.

Naval technology developed significantly in response to the Civil War. The success of early vessels of a new type known as ironclads brought about changes in the materials and methods used for the construction of ships. The building of wooden vessels highly susceptible to fire, decay, and destruction by enemy attack during war slowly declined as an increasing number of iron ships were constructed.

During the Civil War at least three ironclads were built in Wilmington. While the upper structure of this class of vessel was covered in iron, the lower portion of the hull below the waterline was wooden. The need for vessels completely encased in iron ended with the conflict, but the method of ship construction established with the ironclads continues to this day.

Beery Shipyard - just North of Memorial Bridge

During World War I, Wilmington was established as a prime shipbuilding location for a new method of building vessels of concrete. In April 1918 the US. Shipping Board selected Wilmington as one of its sites for a government yard. Seven concrete ships were planned to be built at the city. The larger of the vessels, 7,500 tons, would be used as tankers with capacities of 50,000 barrels of oil. The smaller, 3,500-ton, vessels would be cargo ships.

The new type of cargo vessel, or “stone ship,” required approximately 300 tons of concrete and was poured in three sections-bottom, sides and decks. Drying of each section had to occur before the next section could be poured. When all three sections were complete, the vessel had to “set” for a month before launching. Some of the last large wooden ships were also constructed at Wilmington during this period.

Liberty Ships - built in Wilmington

Liberty Ships – built in Wilmington

The greatest boom in shipbuilding on the Cape Fear River occurred during World War II.  Wilmington was again selected as the site for construction of cargo ships needed for the war effort. Two types of cargo vessels were built in Wilmington: Liberty ships and Victory ships.

The Liberty ships were officially designated as the EC-2 (Emergency Cargo) type. The standard Liberty was more than 441 feet in length, with a beam of 56 feet and a draft of 27 feet. Libertys often carried more than their stated capacity of 9,146 tons of cargo with a full load of fuel. The ship had five holds: three forward of the engine spaces and two aft. One hundred twenty-six of these class vessels were produced at the Wilmington shipyard.

1949 - Mothballed Liberty Fleet in Wilmington

1949 – Mothballed Liberty Fleet
along Brunswick River in Wilmington

The second vessel class, the C-2 or Victory ship, was also constructed at the Wilmington yard. It was hoped that this type of vessel could be used as merchant ships following the war. The C-2 ships were 460 feet long, 63 feet in beam, and had a dead-weight tonnage capacity of 8,500 tons. The North Carolina Shipbuilding Company produced 117 vessels of the C-2 type.

There were many variations in the C-2 design that caused considerable delays when compared to the amount of time required to build an EC-2-type vessel. Each variation of the C-2-type ships required different means of propulsion and prevented standardization. The Liberty ship was much easier to produce by comparison.

Mothballed Libertys - Brunswick River

Click

Shipbuilding along the river drastically declined during the last half-century.

When military vessels were not being built in Wilmington, private shipbuilding companies constructed small river craft, yachts, or speedboats on the sites of the abandoned war shipyards.

Presently only fishing boats or small craft for government use are built along the shores of the lower Cape Fear River.

 

[Editor:  Claude V. (Sandy) Jackson III included this article in a book he later published titled: ‘The Big Book of the Cape Fear River‘.  

Following this article in the ‘The Big Book’, there’s an extensive (42 page) listing of all the Shipyards, Boatyards, Repair Yards and Marine Railways along the lower Cape fear River, along with descriptions, locations and pictures.

All but one of the images included on this page are from ‘The Big Book of the Cape Fear River‘.

Google Maps: Brunswick River in Wilmington, NC

 

September, 1995 (pdf) – FPHPS Newsletter]

The Confederate Ironclads Raleigh and North Carolina – built in Wilmington

Bibliography
Alford, Michael B.
1990 “Traditional Work Boats of North Carolina“. North Carolina Maritime Museum. Harkch Island, N.C.: Hancock Pub.

Chapelle, Howard I.
1935 “The History of American Sailing Ship“. New York: Bonanza Books.

Johnson, F. Roy.
1977 “Riverboating in Lower Carolina”. Murfreesboro, N.C.: Johnson Publishing Company.

Still, William N., Jr.
n.d. “Shipbuilding in North America: A Case Study in the South’s Maritime Heritage.” Unpublished data base.

Wilmington Dispatch (Wilmington, NC.) 1918, 1919.

Wilmington Star (Wilmington, NC.) 1918, 1919, 1941.

Wilmington News (Wilmington, NC.) 1941.