World War I and its “Indescribable Desolation”

By Nancy Gadzuk

Jan Davidson, Historian at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, spoke at the January 16, 2017 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

Jan spoke on Service, Sacrifice, and Memorialization: New Hanover County Residents and World War I.

The United States entered World War I in 1917. The war was sold effectively to citizens as a fight for democracy, and colorful propaganda posters promised “Adventure and Action” while serving the country.

World War I was considered a total war that required mobilization on every front. Everything and everyone had to come together: mobilizing business, labor, finances, and, especially, mobilizing “Red Blooded Fighting Men Between 18 and 40.”

Wilmington became the biggest source of draftees in the region, with the majority of its draftees African American. Women were called to serve as nurses.

It was a terrible war, known for its “indescribable desolation” and killing its soldiers both in action and through disease, all the while setting the stage for World War II.

Those soldiers who did return did not come home unharmed. As one North Carolina returnee wrote from a psychiatric hospital, “We aren’t the same animals at all who left home.”

Wilmington’s World War I Memorial was first erected in 1922 to honor New Hanover County’s war dead. The monument was moved, restored, and rededicated along the downtown Riverwalk in 2014.

The following quote from the Roman poet Horace (born 65 B.C.) is inscribed on its base: “Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori. ” This was a well-known rallying call during World War I, translating to: “It is sweet and proper to die for your country.”

Dulce et Decorum Est is also the name of the best known poem from the first World War, written by British soldier Wilfred Owen. Owen was killed in action in France one week before the Armistice.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.


Cape Fear Museum’s Historian Jan Davidson:  A Moving Monument – Wilmington’s World War I Memorial

 

February Meeting – Cape Fear Riverwatch

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

Our speaker this month will be Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper and Executive Director of Cape Fear River Watch, where he works to protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River.

Kemp’s academic background is in geology and history, graduating from UNCW magna cum laude with honors, and he holds a master of public administration (MPA), also from UNCW. He holds a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University, as well.

Kemp spends most of his free time with his two daughters, Olivia and Caroline, working in his garden, or tinkering in his workshop, or exploring the waterways and swamps of the Lower Cape Fear Region. He has been the Executive Director and Riverkeeper for Cape Fear River Watch since 2010.

Cape Fear Riverwatch organizes monthly environmental seminars that cover topics and issues affecting the Lower Cape Fear River Basin. They encourage working internships for students. At Greenfield Lake, they offer Environmental Education classes and provide Eco-Tours and Bird Watching Tours.

CFRW offers water-quality education programs to groups including schools, civic groups, developers, homeowner associations and others. They provide storm water management training for local government staff.

 

Hurricane Hazel – A Special but Evil Storm

By Nancy Gadzuk

hurricane-hazel-1954Steve Pfaff of the National Weather Service spoke at the History Center’s October 17, 2016 meeting. Originally Steve was scheduled to make a presentation on Hurricane Hazel. And then Hurricane Matthew happened on October 9th.

steve-pfaffDespite working long hours dealing with the aftermath of Matthew, Steve found the time to weave his original presentation on Hazel into a fascinating presentation that combined information on both Hurricanes Hazel (1954) and Matthew (2016).

paths-of-hurricanes-hazel-mathewHe began by sharing some information about Hurricane Hazel, a “special but evil storm.” Hazel became a Category 3 hurricane very quickly and killed over 1,000 people as it tore through Haiti, a pathway that Matthew would unfortunately follow as well.

He cautioned that we should not let radar fool us when determining how big a threat a hurricane may pose. Over-reliance on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale to determine hurricane strength and possible destructive effects has been problematic, especially with storms such as Hazel and Matthew, where storm surge and high water levels have been so destructive.

hurricane-hazel-impactsHe cited meteorologist Ryan Knapp’s apt example to show relative destructive impacts: I can breathe in 100 mile per hour winds, but I can’t breathe under 10 feet of water.

Hazel had what Steve called “good air”: high barometric pressure that allowed for a very large storm surge. High temperatures preceding the hurricane and a high lunar tide, along with unusually warm water temperature, all contributed to a powerful 18 foot storm surge that wiped out most of the oceanfront dwellings in Brunswick County.

byron-mooreByron Moore, long-time History Center member who lived in Carolina Beach during Hazel, shared some of his recollections of the storm and its aftermath. His family lived on Canal Drive and water went up to the speedometer of the car sitting in the driveway. He remembered seeing propane tanks floating down Canal Drive and 6 to 8 feet of sand on Carolina Beach Avenue North. Other audience members contributed their own memories of the devastation Hazel caused.

return-period-for-hurricanesSteve warned us that the return period for hurricanes along the North Carolina coast was 5 to 7 years. Also, since 1999 there have been five 500 to 1000 year flood events in the Southeast in case anyone has a notion to become complacent and let their insurance lapse.

November Meeting – Travis Gilbert on the Ladies Memorial Association

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, November 21, 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 presented by Travis Gilbert. He will talk on the Ladies Memorial Association, which, just confederate-monument-wilmingtonafter the Civil War, made it their mission to inter or re-inter the bodies of  Confederate soldiers and to raise monuments in their honor.

The first Ladies’ Memorial Association sprang up immediately after the end of the Civil War in Winchester, Virginia, which had suffered significantly during the war. Mary Dunbar Williams of Winchester organized a group of women to give proper burial to Confederate dead whose bodies were found in the countryside, and to decorate those graves annually.

Within a year seventy such organizations had been founded throughout the South. The Wilmington Ladies’ Memorial Association was founded in the summer of 1866 to provide an honorable burial for the hundreds of Confederate soldiers buried in unmarked, often unidentified, graves across Southeastern North Carolina.

confederate-soldiers-moundFounded by women such as Elizabeth Parsley, Catherine DeRosset Meares, and Julia Oakley, the Wilmington Ladies’ Memorial Association organized bazaars, hosted entertainments, and lobbied their male counterparts to establish the Confederate Soldiers Mound in Oakdale Cemetery.

Confederate Mound Plaque:  This monument was dedicated May 10, 1872. / To perpetuate deeds of the brave and in grateful tribute to the memory of 550 honored unknown / Confederate dead at the Battle of Fort Fisher / who live buried here.

By the spring of 1868, the association facilitated Wilmington’s first Confederate Memorial Day, and in 1872, dedicated a monument above the Confederate Mound. The ladies’ endeavors were an unprecedented expansion of the traditional southern women’s gender sphere and would lay the foundations for Wilmington’s chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the city’s Confederate relic room, and New Hanover County’s three Confederate monuments.

confederate-memorial-alabamaTravis Gilbert received his Bachelors of Arts in history from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, where he completed original research on the Barbara Fritchie Memorial Association and Maryland secessionist, Enoch Louis Lowe. In addition, Gilbert worked at public history sites such as Monocracy National Battlefield and the Barbara Fritchie House Museum.

Gilbert is a docent at the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society and a volunteer at the Battleship North Carolina Memorial. Currently, he is completing a manuscript narrating women’s contributions to the rise of the Lost Cause in Wilmington, North Carolina, from 1865 until 1924. Please visit portcityredux.blogspot.com for updates on the manuscript’s progress or follow Gilbert on twitter @_travisjgilbert or Instagram @travisjgilbert

 

From the President – November, 2016

By Elaine Henson

Most residents on our island consider 1954’s Hurricane Hazel as the worst hurricane ever to hit our area.  It was the only Category Four hurricane in southeastern North Carolina in all of the 20th Century or since. And, it came in on a lunar high tide. It is often the benchmark to which all other hurricanes are compared. 

Hazel’s reputation often overshadows the 1955 hurricane season which had three hurricanes impacting coastal North Carolina with two of the hurricanes hitting within 5 days of each other.

Hurricane Connie hit on August 12, 1955 as a Category Two with typical strong winds, high tides and heavy rainfall.  It caused heavy crop damage and 27 deaths in North Carolina.

Five days later, on August 17, Hurricane Diane made landfall in North Carolina as a Tropical storm with winds of 50 mph and gusts of 74 mph in Wilmington.  The waves were 12 feet, tides were 6-8 feet above normal and the storm surge caused damage to homes along the beach and coastal flooding on top of the rain-soaked area from Connie. hazel-cb This August 17, 1955 press photo of Hurricane Diane shows the 1600 block of Carolina Beach Avenue North featuring two flat top houses on the ocean front. Their porches are gone and waves are splashing at the front door. 

Lane Holt, whose parents Dan and Margaret Holt operated the Carolina Beach Pier on the north end, confirmed that these two houses were just a few yards south of the pier.

He remembers Connie and Diane well and reports that the post Hazel rebuilt pier held up through the two storms, but the tackle shop was destroyed again. Then on September 19, 1955 Hurricane Ione made landfall near Wilmington as a Category Two storm leaving more flooding, strong winds, storm surge, more crop damage and 7 dead in North Carolina.

Not only did Pleasure Island have to rebuild after Hazel in 1954, a year later it suffered three hurricanes in just 37 days and faced more rebuilding and repairs.  It makes one understand just how strong and resilient our residents are.

 

Jack Fryar—History Buff

by Nancy Gadzuk

Jack FryerThe 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.

Title - Jack FryerHe 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.

Burgwin's House - FryerThe 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 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.