by: Howard Hewett, Jones Creek, TX – October, 2015 (Part 2 of 2) (Read Part 1)
Winter Time Camping
In 1951, my scout troop, along with our scout master, Chevis Faircloth, liked to use the abandoned ammunition bunkers in the winter as one of our camping locations. I remember it well because on one occasion a yellow jacket bit my ring finger just in front of my new scout ring. Before I could get the ring off, my finger swelled to the point that I could not remove it. It was good the Chevis had a pair of side cutters. It is reported that someone known as the Fort Fisher Hermit lived in one of the bunkers for 17 years from 1955 to 1972.
Another one of our favorite camping spots in the winter was Silver Lake. My friend Jimmy Collier’s dad was in real estate. At the time, he had purchased the lake and the land around it. You could get to it by a dirt road. Jimmy’s dad had poured a concrete slab and had built a fireplace a hundred or so yards off from the lake. This made a good camping spot.
I recall Jimmy and I frying chicken on an open fire in the fireplace. We decided to it would be great if we made some milk gravy. I think we had too much oil so we continue to add flour and milk resulting in a semi-brown mixture. It was definitely a learning experience. Our final product was more like glue than gravy, but the chicken was good.
Summertime Camping on Bald Head Island
From time to time, there were camping trips on Bald Head Island. Our scout leader Chevis Faircloth would organize the trip and someone with a large boat would take us to the south side of Corncake Inlet and put us ashore.
With our camping gear of fishing poles, some staples, very little clothing and jungle hammocks, we hiked about five miles to the general location of the wrought iron and steel frame lighthouse. We set up camp in dense grove of live oaks within 100 yards or so of the lighthouse because, as I can best recall, there was a source of water there. The grove of oaks was thick enough to enable all of us to hang our hammocks. All of our hammocks were surplus purchased at the Army surplus store at Carolina Beach. They were referred to a “jungle hammocks.” I assume most of them were surplus from the Pacific theater.
The hammock could be used with a spreader – two 30” sticks cut from the brush to hold the hammock open – or without the sticks, which allowed the canvas bottom to come up around you. This was all right when it the weather was cool, but on hot summer nights, I preferred the stick spreaders. Attached to the bottom canvas was a four-wall mosquito net.
Once in the hammock, you would zip yourself in, which was needed because of the abundance of mosquitoes on Bald Head Island. Attached to the top of the netting was a tarp like material, which acted as a tent. It had eight lines that connected to the corners and sides of the tarp. The lines on the ends could be attached above the rope that was holding up the hammock and the other six could be attached to low hanging branches to form a tent over your hammock. This provided good shelter when it rained.
Because of the heavy population of hogs that roamed the island, it was not unusual to have hogs visit the camp at night; it was good to be sleeping above ground. Some nights when it got too hot in the oak grove, we would slip out to the beach and lay at the edge of the water on our back and watch the stars between the flashes of light from the lighthouse. There always seem to be a sea breeze on the point in the direction of Frying-Pan shoals.
We basically had the island to ourselves, other than the wildlife and occasional Coastguard men, the island had no human inhabitants. Our days were spent fishing and exploring.
There was an old lighthouse that stood on the riverside of the island, which as the time was just called “Old Bald Head Lighthouse.” It was covered in a jungle of grape vines and was a little on the spooky side. At this writing, it is referred as “Old Baldy.” On some trips when the grapes were ripe, everyone got their fill of grapes, and, of course, purple hands.
I was 15 years old when Hurricane Hazel hit the Carolina coast. Our house exterior was covered in what’s called 105 siding. Dad had decided to cover it with asbestos shingles, which was a very popular siding. The project was not completed. So the morning the storm hit, we were outside trying to secure the unfinished siding by nailing strips of wood at the top of the last course of shingles.
I recall my mother coming to the window and saying “Curtis, waves are coming over the sand dunes up toward Kure Beach.” Dad quickly gathered up the Hewett-Lewis clan with some provisions and headed through the back roads of Kure Beach to the Ethyl Dow Office complex which was a strong concrete/brick structure and relatively high off the river.
Dad was Ethyl Dow’s supervisor for the facility at that time. Most of the employees who lived on the Atlantic brought their families to the plant along with those who had no place to go. I do not recall how many folks were there, but families were assigned offices as their personal areas. Dad’s office was a nice-sized one with a desk and a drafting table. The drafting table became my bed. The plant lunchroom became gathering place for coffee and a place to visit.
The main concern was to stay away from exterior windows. I remember a couple of things during the height of the storm. While standing in a protected doorway, I saw a heavy piece of corrugated siding come off one of the buildings and fly through the air. It hit a telephone pole and snapped in two. Later in the day, I saw the export dock float off its pilings.
During a lull in the storm, I was allowed to ride with my Dad and others to the building referred as to the seawater intake. Dad wanted to check for flooding in the pump building. Waves were extremely high and were actively breaking in the intake basin and crashing against the outer wall of the building. Needless to say, we did not stay long. By the time we returned to the office building, the wind had started to pick back up.
I do not recall how long we sheltered at the plant, but it was less than 48 hours. When the storm passed, we returned home and observed devastation all around us. Our home was intact, but houses up and down the beach were gone. Our beloved sand dunes, in front of our house, no longer existed. There was about 5-6 inches of sand covering the yard and debris from houses everywhere. Recovery and getting back to some normalcy took many weeks.
My dad, Howard Curtis Hewett, Sr., and I have had many discussions over the years about what saved our house. It could have been we were just lucky that the debris in the wave action never reached the house.
The other mitigating factor that may have contributed to the house’s longevity is the geologic formation in front of the house that dad called “hardpan.”
The material appeared to be a mixture of compacted very black sand-clay substance that had a lot of wood in the composition. Rubbing it would turn your hands black. I do not know how thick the formation was but during some of the Nor’easters or Northeasters, I was aware of as much as four foot of the formation exposed. This formation was three to four foot under the sand.
After Hurricane Hazel, as the Corp of Engineer were pushing sand around on the beach, Dad had several confrontations with them about damaging the hardpan. There should not be any argument about Dad’s position in that the house has been sitting on the Atlantic Ocean for 77 years as of 2015.
Memorable Fishing Trip After Hurricane Hazel
There was a lot of beach damage during Hurricane Hazel. Our beloved beach hill was completely gone. In the weeks that followed, there were many hours of clean-up and repairs. One weekend, as a reprieve from all the work, Dad suggested we launch the boat in front of the house and travel down to the blockade wrenches out from Fort Fisher.
This particular day the surf was pounding the bar about 35 yards from the beach with 8 to 10 foot breakers. The waves were running across the bar and emptying in a slough that was approximately 15 yards wide. There was very little wave action on the beach side of the slough. Because of the distance from the house to the blockade-runner wrecks, we attached our 9.9-horse Johnson motor to the boat.
This was a motor that was purchased from surplus, but was in fairly good running condition. It had a large exposed fly-wheel and required a starter rope to start. After all the preparations were completed, we slipped the boat into the water. I was in the stern seated on a 5-gallon bucket operating the motor and Dad was sitting on the middle bench. We ran down the slough under minimum power as Dad watched for a lull in the breakers.
When the opportunity came, Dad said, “Let’s take her to sea.” Having a history with seafaring people, Dad used this term quite often. He used it to make a lot of things active around the water. Another term for putting on the brakes was “throw out the anchor.”
Anyway, we were on plane before we got out of the slough and we were racing across the bar. As we approached the breakers our motor sputtered and quit. Even with a herculean effort the motor would not restart.
We survived the first wave, but the second broke directly into the boat. The force of the wave pushed us back toward the beach, but we did not turn over. Our boat was full of water up to the gunnels. Dad and I jumped out onto the bar and found we were still in four feet of water. The force of the wave was so powerful that it washed Dad’s wallet out of his back pocket. Dad spotted it floating away, but was able to retrieve it by quick action on his part. The slough was somewhat deeper and it was a struggle to get the boat back to the beach. We later repaired the motor, but we never used it in that application again.
Federal Point Mosquitoes
The mosquitoes that inhabited Federal Point were as vicious as mosquitoes anywhere. The best example that I can relate took place in 1959 while I was a sophomore at Texas Lutheran College. I went back to North Carolina to spend the summer with my grandmother.
During this summer, I worked for the Bame family. My best friend Howard Knox’s father was married to a daughter of the owner of Bame’s holdings. The holdings consisted of a hotel, three full-service gas stations (one station also served as a grocery store), a building supply store and Barbara Boat Sales.
That summer I worked at two of the stations and helped transport building supplies from Wilmington’s rail-head to Carolina Beach when needed. Because Howard Knox and I grew up together starting in first grade and continuing at Sun Set Park and New Hanover High School, we were paired on the same work shift so we could have our free time together.
To promote the boat sales, we were allowed to take the demonstration boat out water-skiing on our days off. You could ski almost all day on a 5-gallon tank of gas and we did not have to buy the gas. But, thinking back, you could buy a gallon of gas for about the same price as a loaf of bread. Both were less than 20 cents.
We were allowed to use the station’s Jeep after hours so we would often check out all the lovers’ parking spots for people who were stuck in sand, which was not unusual and it was a good way to pick up some extra cash.
Over the years of reading and listening to early narratives of Federal Point, most stories contained stories of mosquitoes. One quote that has always stood out to me is the appraisal by Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Litwin, 445th AAA Battalion, Camp Davis at Fort Fisher. He stated, “Hell hole! The biggest joke we had going were ‘combat mosquitoes’ that were at the airport. They pumped 50 gallons of gas in them before they found out it was a mosquito.”
My story just adds to the mosquito lore.
One particular night when the mosquitoes were extremely viscous, Howard Knox and I were checking all the lovers’ parking spots south of the gates at Fort Fisher. We came across a couple’s car that was buried to the axle and the mosquitoes were eating the occupants alive. They did not want to wait for us to pull them out; instead, they wanted us to take them back to Carolina Beach as quickly as possible. We put them in the back of Jeep delivered them to their beach cottage.
Upon arrival, the guy gave us his keys and handed us each a $50 dollar bill to retrieve the car. When a guy pays $100 in 1959 to get away from Federal Point’s mosquitoes, it put some perspective on the comments of the soldiers in the early days of Fort Fisher.
Read Part 1: Remembrances of Fort Fisher
[All photos provided by Howard Hewett – Click any image for more detail]
Definition of Hardpan:
A hard, usually clay-rich layer of soil lying at or just below the ground surface, in which soil particles are cemented together by silica, iron oxide, calcium carbonate, or organic matter that has precipitated from water percolating through the soil.
Hardpan does not soften when exposed to water. Also called caliche.
by: Howard Hewett, Jones Creek, TX – October, 2015 – (Part 1 of 2)
[In this article, I combined several short stories that were originally intended for my grandchildren in my ‘Howard’s Ramblings’ series.]
Fort Fisher during World War II
The Fort Fisher area was used as a military training base during World War II.
The main highway in the area was U.S. 421. The Hewett house was located on the Atlantic side of the road, one block north of the Fort Fisher Gates. (see photos)
The highway ran maybe 75 yards parallel to sand dunes on the ocean side until it reached the historic ruins of Fort Fisher. At this point (currently The Riggins), the road curved out closer to the Atlantic and was located east of the old civil war main battery and then crossed in front of the Civil War Memorial. From there the road ran south to Federal Point ending at the Buchanan Battery.
In early 1941, the Army started anti-aircraft training along the beach and down on the sandy flats by the bay. The arriving trainees were faced with the some harsh conditions on Federal Point, as were those who were in Fort Fisher’s original Civil War garrison. A member of the 558th AAA Battalion stated the area was “a forlorn spit of sand and scrub growth pinched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River; a quagmire of sand, sand, and more sand. It was strictly a no-nonsense place designed to put grit and fire in the bowels and brains of its trainees. They had to learn to coexist with the ubiquitous sand and mosquitoes to survive on Federal Point.” I will share a story later about our Federal Point mosquitoes.
There were barracks, mess halls, recreational facilities, warehouses, radio and meteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, outdoor theater, guardhouse, an administration building and infirmary. Passageways made of cinder block and concrete connected some of these buildings while boardwalks connected others. By the time training operations ceased in 1944, the base covered an area of several hundred acres and had grown to include an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and a dental clinic.
My early remembrances are just snapshots of what I actually saw during 1941-1944 because I was only two to five years old; what I recall are just flashes of events. Of course, there was evidence of the army being there long after they left the area.
Gun Emplacements Along the Beach
Starting just in front of our house and running south along the beach almost to the historical grounds of Old Fort Fisher were gun emplacements.
I later read that most were 40-millimeter automatic cannons and 50-caliber machine guns. I recall that some of the gun bunkers were quite large. There were at least three large guns between our house and the two large houses just south of the gates. (Reference: Federation Point Historical Preservation Society, Oral History, Earl Page-Part 3, “Blue Top Cottages”)
Actually, there was a 50-caliber machine gun nest just outside of our yard and a 40-millimeter anti-aircraft battery with a searchlight within 30 yards of the edge of our yard on the south side. Thinking back on it now, it seem strange to me why the gun emplacements were located outside of the gates and they were located so close to our residence.
I do not remember how long the 50-caliber gun emplacement was located in the edge of the yard. I do have some recollection of the noise and the searchlights at night. The searchlights were used to help locate the targets. There were also blackouts from time to time. I never asked Dad about how he was able to sleep in the early days of shift work at Ethyl Dow.
Target sleeves on long cables were towed up and down the beach by airplanes for the gunners to develop their gunnery skills. South of Old Historical Fort Fisher was a target range for gunnery practice on stationery and well as moving ground targets. This mechanized target range enabled gunners to receive versatility training and learn to be effective against tanks and other armored vehicles.
After the Army left, there was evidence that the target sleds were pulled across the target range by a cable hooked to pulleys so a bulldozer could pull the target from a safe distance. The targets were rigged so it could be pulled both ways. The mechanized target range was located slightly north of the training facilities’ ammunition bunkers and the “Rocks” were located a little farther south of the bunkers.
Being Staked Out on the Beach
When I was very young, no more the two or three, my mother was a “Fisher Woman” extraordinaire. Mother and Clara Danner loved to surf fish on the beach in front of the house for blues, trout and Virginia mullets.
The problem that arose was what to do with the new kid on the block. Mother’s solution was to tie a rope around my ankle and connect it to a stake so I could play at the water’s edge; occasionally, I was washed back and forth by wave action. I know this story is true because I heard it from several relatives later in life. Today, they’d probably arrest a mother for child endangerment; although the treatment had no ill effect on me. Mother’s solution resulted in creating a water bug. Being around water was part of my developmental process and fostered my appreciation and love for the Atlantic Ocean. I became an excellent swimmer and could work magic with my belly board.
Pig for a Pet
After my father Curtis’ death in 1995, a photo surfaced of my dad and his pet pig. A description on the back confirmed that he not only had a pet pig, but he had named it. That Dad had a pig does shed light on the fact that in later years we were also allowed to have a pet pig. This occurred sometime before the Army closed the base.
Now this was not an ordinary pig; our pig thought he was a dog. He was put in a pen at night, but during the day he would follow us around. Being a city girl, mother was a little embarrassed when the pig would follow us down road when she went visiting the neighbors. She would tell us to make the pig go home.
The service guys from Fort Fisher would pass by in their Army jeeps and would honk their horns, hoot and holler and bang on the doors. To mother’s chagrin, some would “oink, oink” at us as they drove by.
This story did not have a happy ending for the pig. Mother survived all the embarrassment, but unfortunately the pig got too large to handle and, of course, he eventually ended up on the dinner table. Those experiences were all part of growing up.
Remembrances after the Army departed
After the war some of the barracks and buildings were sold as surplus. Some of these became beach homes at Kure and Wilmington beaches and some were used in place.
I recall that one of the warehouses was taken over by a seafood processing plant. My grandmother worked there while it was open. Their specialty was devil crabs. I remember the boiling vats along with the distinctive odor of crabs and spices. The picking and processing room was a screened-in porch. Since there was no air conditioning, the product was moved to refrigeration as quickly as possible.
The Baptist Assembly
The Baptist Seaside Assembly took up residence in some of the buildings left by the Army, which became the summer headquarters for the North Carolina State Baptist Convention in 1948. They used some of the buildings and barracks for an administration building, assembly hall and dormitories. I was quite familiar with the facilities.
My step-grandfather, J. N. Todd, was the caretaker of the buildings for a short time while the Baptist Assembly was active at Fort Fisher. I stayed a number of nights with him and my grandmother. It was one spooky place at night for a 10-year-old. An opportunity to see the hospital morgue at one time did not help control my young imagination.
The Joys of Growing Up
One of the pleasures I recall in the late forties was when Uncle Crawford Lewis gave my cousin Joe Hewett a set of soap derby wheels.
We made a two-seat cart that required one to steer with his feet and one to act a brake-man. Our first project was to add a mast and a sail to the cart. The best condition for this adventure was when the wind was blowing out of the northeast. Highway 421 ran south and was a two lane narrow road, which did not allow for any tacking. With a strong wind, it was a wild ride down south. On some occasions, our cart would start coming apart due to the stress and we would have to abort the run. There were several designs changes before we could make a complete run.
With all the terrain being relatively flat on Federal Point, it was hard to find a good incline. My step-grandfather saved the day by allowing us to use the cinder block corridor that ran from the old Army hospital to the Baptist Assembly’s Administration building and assembly hall, which was approximately 100 yards away. The corridor was approximately eight feet wide and ten feet in height. It was basically a concrete cinder block structure with the windows missing. The original windows were spaced about every twenty feet.
As best as I can recall, the slope of the corridor was approximately two feet in 100 yards. This was a perfect place to use our cart especially for a couple of flatlanders. Traveling down this corridor while gaining speed with the sunlight filtering through the window gave a couple of 10-year-olds the illusion of traveling at a high rate of speed. We would spend hours riding our cart down the corridor. But, all good things must come to an end. As I described earlier, the administration building was at the end of our run so it was imperative that our brakes worked properly. When, as one might have predicted, our braking mechanism failed, we ended up going through a set of double doors into the Assembly Hall. The impact of the door did cause us to stop before hitting the exterior wall on the other side of the room. We were fortunate that the double doors did not have a center post. But, nevertheless, we had several cuts and bruises. This ended our favorite escapade down the corridor. We were admonished by my step-grandfather and were required to help with the repairs.
Money in the Sand at Fort Fisher
I am sure this event took place before 1952. The military was using some parts of Fort Fisher acreage for training again. The timing suggests that the activity may have been in preparation for or in response to the Korean War. Most of the World War II barracks had been sold to private citizens for homes and commercial offices so the Army set up temporary structures for barracks that had three-foot walls with canvas tent structures mounted on top. The floors were compact red dirt that was hauled in from somewhere in North Carolina.
I recall seeing these tent barracks many times over a period of a couple of years. Dad had a contract with the Army that gave him the rights to mess hall garbage. We would pick up the garbage every second day after the evening mess and would haul several 55-gallon drums to the pigpens on the River Farm. I have no remembrance of the number of pigs raised and or the numbers sold commercially, but I think Dad did well during this period. I do remember going to the stockyard in Wilmington on more than one occasion.
When the Army left and things returned to normal, Dad, Grandmother and I were out one day looking for blackberries or wild peaches. We came across the location of the tent barracks and to our surprise, there was money setting on a little red dirty pedestal. Every time it rained more coins were washed to the surface. The denominations were varied in quantity but there were quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Our take may have been as much as dollar to dollar and a half at first. What developed over the next several months was a routine that became a family outing.
This speaks well of how easy it was to entertain a family in early 1950’s. After a good rain, we would load up the old beach buggy (a stripped-down 1938 Ford frame with exposed engine, radiator and firewall/windshield with wood deck designed to carry nets and a small boat) and head out to search for money left behind. Our take varied on each outing, but we found enough money to make the event like a big treasure hunt.
We finally stopped going when our reward and excitement of the search dwindled. I recall Dad would say, “Well, we found enough money to purchase a loaf of bread.” In retrospect, I think you could buy loaf of bread for 12 cents in those days, so on average our take was not very much, but the outing was what is was all about.
Providing for the Family
As noted in earlier writings, the family fished, farmed and raised livestock. Dad always had pigs that the family would slaughter and butcher on cold fall days.
This yearly event was a family affair with all hands on deck. Uncle Crawford Lewis and my Dad were the primary orchestrators of the slaughter and did all of the heavy lifting.
After the pigs were shot in the head and their throats slit, the pigs were hung in a nearby large oak to allow proper bleeding. From there they were placed in scalding water in a vat until the hair could be scraped off. The pig was removed to a workbench to complete the cleaning process. Sometimes more than one trip to the vat of scalding hot water was necessary.
Once the pigskin was almost pure white, it was hung again to remove the internal organs. The pigs were allowed to cool to the daily ambient temperature. If the weather was cold enough, the butchering process could take several days. The meat was either salted down and placed in box to cure or smoked in a smokehouse. A portion was made into sausage.
One of the by-products was “crackling,” a fried fat that was added to corn beard which gave the bread a bacon taste. Lye was added to the oil from the fat. This became grandmother’s laundry soap.
Read … Part 2
The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, September 21, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.
Though most locals have a general idea of just how important Fort Fisher was to the Confederacy, few know how vital the site was in training men for anti-aircraft artillery.
Original specifications called for a host of features that would make the remote firing range a self-contained post.
These included 48 frame buildings, 316 tent frames, showers and latrines, mess halls, warehouses, radio and meteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, recreation hall, outdoor theater, guardhouse, infirmary, and an administration building.
In addition to these facilities, the site featured a 10,000-gallon water storage tank, a motor pool, a large parade ground, and three steel observation towers along the beach.
The main highway in the area, U.S. 421, bisected the sandy ruins of the land in front of historic Fort Fisher. New firing installations were erected along the beach between the highway and the Atlantic Ocean — not unlike Fort Fisher’s ocean-side batteries during the Civil War. These included, among others, batteries of 40-millimeter automatic cannons and 50-caliber machine guns.
In addition, the site’s utilities, living quarters, and other features sprang up west of the shore installations between the highway and the Cape Fear River.
The area surrounding the old Civil War fort was soon dotted with the trappings of a modern military facility and expansion would continue throughout its tenure as a firing range.
Fort Fisher lacked the elaborate recreational facilities found at Camp Davis, but by the Spring of 1943 it boasted a full schedule of activities.
In August, 1943 the new post theater opened with a screening of Stormy Weather starring Lena Horne. There were also plays and musical variety shows, most of which were performed by the soldiers themselves.
Professional performances sponsored by the United Services Organization (USO) were an added treat, and were often joined by “home grown” talent — including the Fort Fisher Swing Band and other groups.
Many of the post’s trainees were from interior regions of the United States and had never before seen a beach — let alone tried to live near one.
The adjustment was difficult and more than a few soldiers balked at the notion of dining on fried clams and oysters.
To acclimate the men to their new environment, the post offered swimming lessons, advice on how to avoid sunburn, and beach safety instructions.
From: Elaine Henson
This month I am asking your help in identifying a post card and a photograph.This post card shows Gray’s Grill, Cottages and Service Station.
Ed Turberg identified the cars in this manner, “The car in the foreground is a Ford, c. 1937-38. The cars with the sloped backs are GM (Pontiac, Olds, Buick) which were popular from 1940 to 1948.”
He estimates the date of this card to be c. 1946. Does anyone remember where Gray’s was?
The building in this photograph is an inn or rooming house and appears to be on the corner of Lake Park Boulevard and what was then Myrtle Avenue, now Carl Winner Drive. You can see the yacht basin in the background.
I asked my friend and FPHPS member Charlie Green and he agrees on the location as that corner. Does anyone know what it says on the sign out front?
On the back of the photo is written:
Carolina Beach. May 1944
by: Howard Hewett, Jones Creek, TX – July, 2015 – Part 7.5
[Mark your calendar now! Howard will be visiting from Texas and will present a program on his memories of Federal Point On Monday November 2, here at the History Center at 7:30 pm.]
Acquiring seafood on Federal Point was a family affair. On a falling tide or low tide we would head for the bays located just south of where we lived at 833 S. Fort Fisher Blvd.
Our family believed that what we called the upper bay was a clamming paradise. The upper bay was east of the Fort Fisher munition bunkers.
When the tide was out, the large sand flats would yield clams about the size of a small to medium fist. Our tools of the trade were four-prong rakes. You did not have to rake very deep – usually less than an inch. A bubble hole would sometimes indicate the presence of a clam.
The resulting designs in the sand from the raking process were quite similar to
“Karesansui” as in Japanese Zen garden art. I assure you that at the time, I did not have any idea what a Zen garden was.
The only way our family prepared clams was by making clam chowder. You could go to the bays and get a “mess” of clams and have clam chowder for dinner. Chicken soup was a well-known combatant for the common cold, but in our family clam chowder was used exclusively.
Oysters for Dinner
There were two methods of oystering that we used. The favorite and most productive was chipping oysters off the rocks with a homemade chipping hammer. With approximately three miles of rocks, there were ample surfaces for oysters to grow. Most of the oysters grew on the bay side of The Rocks. The accessibility to The Rocks was made available by a concrete cap that was installed in the 1930’s by the Corps of Engineers (Jackson, 1995). The farther you walked out on the rocks, the availability and quality of oysters increased.
Prior to moving to Texas in 1956, we went oystering on The Rocks for the last time. On this trip, we came off the rock with four bushels of oysters. Dad and I each carried the inside handles of two bushels while Grandmother and my brother, Tom Hewett carried the outside handles. We had to stop from time to time to rest, but we were able to make it to the trailer.
The reason I share this particular event is that Grandmother had been claiming her hip had been hurting for a couple of weeks. A couple weeks after the oystering trip we found out she was suffering from a broken hip. My Grandmother, Addie Lewis Hewett Todd, was around 70 years old at that time; it could be said that she was cut from some very good cloth – one tough pioneer Grandmother. Grandmother lived to be 96 years old.
The other oystering method required a boat and a clam basket device that had long handles. Mechanically the mechanism was similar to a post-hole digger. However, instead of two shovel devices there were two baskets that opened and closed with the movement of the handles. I would refer to them as long-handle tongs. This method required positioning the boat over an oyster bed that was maybe two to three feet under the water. You could locate these beds at low tide so at high tide we could position the boat over the top of the bed. This method was more of a hit and miss operation because you could not see exactly what you were doing and you brought up a lot of mud and shells.
North Carolina Oyster Roast
We had a fire pit made of brick that had a metal plate over the pit. Oysters were placed on the plate with the oyster’s mouth pointing down; joints were in an upward position. Wet burlap bags were placed over the oysters. A fire was started in the pit and when the metal plate became hot a little water was poured over the burlap to get the process started. As steam was created, the oysters would open up their mouths resulting in the liquid inside draining down on the plate which converted to more steam. Dad would monitor the oysters and would enhance the steam process by adding more water as needed. He always liked to see a lot of steam. Within a short time all of the oysters would be opened and very tender.
The oysters were then brought to the table. If you wanted to eat, each individual had to shuck his or her own oysters. When we had guests that were not familiar with the methods of shucking oysters, someone in the family would get them started; most folks were able to quickly get a feel for the process and could be left alone.
The shucked oysters went into a cup containing each individual’s favorite sauce mixture. Our family was partial to a melted butter, heated ketchup and vinegar mixture with a little hot sauce. Crackling cornbread was the family’s favorite accompaniment to be eaten along with the oysters.
September 20, 1761
New Inlet was formed by a great storm, which visited the coast and lasted four days. This inlet grew in width and depth until large sailing vessels could pass through, and later steamships. VOL. I.
Charles B. Gause deeded an acre of land on Federal Point to the United State government for the erection of a light house. The deed was recorded in New Hanover County Deed Book P, page 396
Captain Otway Burns brought the first steamboat to ply the Cape Fear River to Wilmington, passing through the New Inlet, coming from Beaufort, N.C. (The Scene Magazine, Wilmington, N.C.)
Cape Fear (Bald Head) Lighthouse was extinguished because a new lighthouse had been erected on Federal Point.
A study was begun to close the “New Inlet.” An open space of two miles between Federal Point and Smith Island beach where the beach was wearing away and where navigation was almost destroyed was given a great deal of attention. (Star 8-25-1877)
January 20, 1870
A report was made of the soundings on New Inlet Bar:
South slue on Bar – 9 1⁄2 feet.
North slue on Bar – 8 feet
On Rip – 9 1⁄2 feet (Star, 1-23-1870)
October 3, 1870
The fish oil works began operations at Fort Fisher as a sufficient number of little fatbacks had been obtained. The plant is operated by the Navassa Guano Company. About eighty barrels of the little fish were caught at one haul, and this was enough to yield six barrels of oil. Another haul was expected soon. (Star 10-5-1870)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~June 9, 1871
Henry Nutt reported the completion of the work across Deep Inlet, the northern end of the finished super-structure resting firmly upon the highest part of the old stone work at a point designated upon the plan of the government works, near Zeke‘s Island , as the cross, thus effectually sealing up this inlet in a substantial and permanent manner.
When we take into consideration the formidable character of this work, an opening of about or over 500 feet, requiring a superstructure over 600 feet lineal by 20 feet wide and over 40 feet high, to shut out or stop a current of water passing in and out at a rate of 8 or 10 miles an hour, and all of this to be accomplished within the short space of about 8 months, and at a cost of within the sum of $100,000, the skill and industry of the officers in charge who designed the executed this great work, should receive the high appreciation of all. (Star, 6-11-1871)
June 11, 1871
Henry Nutt reported that the experiments for collecting drift sand and thereby elevating the beach in low parts of it, has not been made in consequence of financial deficiency. The first imperfect experiment has acted well, and accomplished all that was expected of it, elevating the beach above storm tide, thus proving the feasibility of building up the beach to any desired height by judicious treatment at small cost. (Star, 6-11-1871)
Between August 12th and Sept. 2nd, 1871
A most violent northeast gale visited the coast, producing some apprehension, according to Henry Nutt, for the safety of the government works in progress, and later during the month, much rainy weather prevailed, retarding operations somewhat. From the violence of the storm some of the unfinished cribs and preparatory timber was displaced, which involved some loss of time and labor to replace them in position again. This was successfully and speedily accomplished through the energy and skill of the local superintendent, and all is now going on well again. (Star, 9-6-1871)
September 2, 1871
A report issued on this date mentioned that the beach south of the government works was growing. The catch-sand fences had proven successful. Not a rail had been removed by the recent storm, and the brush had been completely covered with sand to the top of the fence, presenting an embankment 3 to 5 feet high, and far above the reach of any tide. This, and the weak parts of the beach where the wind had blown out trenches between the hills, was now being strengthened by a system of cultivating the “beach grass.”.
This grass bore transplanting well; none of that which was set out in July and August had died; but all growing and doing well, and it was suggested that transplanting could be done at any season of the year. Where the “beach grass” was planted, it had not only successfully resisted the blowing away of sand, but has already collected, it at many places, a foot or over in height. (Star, 9-8-1871)
September 6, 1871
A report by Henry Nutt noted that the shoals in the vicinity of the government works had somewhat changed their position. Zeke‘s Island is somewhat changed, indicating an increased low-water area, while its high water area appears diminished. There is some appearance of an increased depth of water in the small inlet south of Zeke‘s Island. (Star, 9-6-1871)
September 30, 1871
It is perceptible that the water is shoaling in the vicinity of the government works on both sides of it and the outer shoals were evidently moving up in a body. The point of beach is extending northward and in front of the works. The inlet south of Zeke‘s Island seems not to be effected, as its depth of water is still maintained, while Zeke‘s Island itself is gradually wearing away, and is almost covered with high tides. (Star, 10-3-1871)
June – July 1873
The breakwater closing New Inlet between Zeke‘s Island and Smith‘s Island was practically completed, the distance being 4,400 feet. A Major Griswold was the officer in charge of the work. Completed in July. VOL. 1
In July, the 1873, the Federal Point jetty was begun, and by winter it was extended to 500 feet in length. The object of the works was primarily to serve as a deflector to the New Inlet currents. VOL. 1
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. (Star, 7-11-1873)
July 8, 1873
The first crib of the new breakwater at Federal Point was placed in position near the old fish house wharf. The second crib was placed in position of July 10th.
January 10, 1874
Since November 7th, 1873 four additional foundation cribs had been placed in position and filled with stone, extending the line of breakwater about 100 feet from the starting point. As fast as the work is leveled up to the line of high water, the beach makes up and now follows the breakwater about 100 feet from the starting point, and the whole of Federal Point is widening and elevating itself. It is generally concede that the breakwater should be extended 1,500 feet before stopping it. (Star, 1-14-1874)
October 7, 1874
Henry Koch, the young watchman at the government works on Zeke‘s Island about 26 years of age was accidentally drowned when he fell from a boat. His funeral was held in Wilmington from a house at the corner of 4th and Church Streets. Interment was in Oakdale Cemetery. (Star, 10-10-1874)
June 23, 1875
Colonel Craighill, U.S. Army Engineers, opened proposals for the extension of the Federal Point jetty at the New Inlet. This is an important work, being to close New Inlet by artificial means, and thus increase the depth of the river to the harbor of Wilmington, so as to admit the passage of large vessels. New Inlet was defended by the Confederate Fort Fisher during the late war.
Old records show that this inlet has been in existence for somewhat over a century, and that its origin was due as much (if not more) to the action of the wind upon the dry sand of the beach as to the tendency of the river currents to seek that outlet to the sea. Up to the summer of 1873 no steeps were ever taken to contract the area of outflow at New Inlet, although several breaks which had from time to time occurred below New Inlet had been successfully closed.
On July 1, 1873, the work for closing the space between Smith‘s Island and Zeke‘s Island had just been completed, and New Inlet remained the only passage to the sea except the mouth of the river. In July, 1873, the present Federal Point jetty was extended to 500 feet in length. The object of this work was primarily to serve as a deflector to the inlet currents, and not necessarily to form an integral part of any closing work which might afterwards be undertaken, the direction given it served to diminish the distance across the Inlet by only about 400 feet—thus leaving the distance across, from end of jetty to Zeke‘s Island , about 3,800 Feet. One of the results of this work has been the growth of Federal Point. (Star, 6-24-1875)
August 6, 1875
Col. Craighill, of the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, in his Baltimore office, opened the proposals for certain work at New Inlet, the ultimate purpose was the entire closing of the same. (Star, 8-10-1875)
August 24, 1875
It was reported that the contract for closing New Inlet Bar, below Wilmington, had been awarded by the government to Messrs. Bangs & Dolby, of Manlius, N.Y. at the following figures: For an apron, $20,00; for closing New Inlet to the low water mark, $188,000. The object was that of stopping the outflow to the ocean at New Inlet of the water of the Cape Fear River, and thus turn the entire volume out of the main bar or original mouth of the river, thus assisting in deepening it. (Star, 8-24-1875)
September 24, 1875
It was learned that Messrs. Bangs & Dolby were not going to close New Inlet but were to form the base for the accomplishment of that undertaking. Their contract was for the construction of a carpet or apron, which was to be built to stone four feet deep and from forty to seventy feet wide in the center of the current. The final closing of the inlet will require a further appropriation by the government. (Star, 9-24-1875)
September 25, 1875
Several large government flatboats were being constructed in Wilmington for use at the bar and river works at New Inlet in conveying stone to the scene of operations. (Star, 9-25-1875)
October 3, 1875
A large lighter or scow was being built at Messrs. Cassidey & Ross‘ shipyard for Messrs. Bangs & Dolby, who had the contract for constructing the stone “carpet” or “apron” at New Inlet. It was to be 100 feet long, 6 feet deep and 20 feet width of beam. (Star, 10-3-1875)
The land now Carolina Beach came into the hands of Bruce Freeman and remained in his family for many years. His family still owns land on Federal Point. (Star, 6-15-1941)
January 3-4, 1876
Justice Cassidey spent two days in Federal Point Township, where he went in the capacity of Special Commissioner of the Court of Claims, for the purpose of taking depositions in the cases of parties whose property was destroyed by the Federal troops during the military operations in that section towards the close of the late war. This testimony was to be forwarded to Washington, D.C. to be used by the Court of Claims in connection with the cases alluded to. (Star, 1-6-1876)
January 12, 1876
The steam-tug ROYAL ARCH, Capt. Davis, arrived from Georgetown, S.C., and was designed to be employed at the government works now in progress at New Inlet. (Star, 1-13-1876)
Capt. Charles B. Phillips, engineer in charge of the work on the New Inlet Dam (Rocks) was succeeded by Capt. Henry Bacon, of the U.S. Engineer Corps. Capt. Phillips died in Norfolk, VA, about five years later, in June, 1881. VOL. I.
January 12, 1876
A man landed at Zeke‘s Island, near the government works (Rocks) in a boat in which he had come all the way from Buffalo, New York. The boat was about 18 feet in length. (Star 1-18-1876)
January 30, 1876
A corn vessel went ashore on the beach between Zeke‘s Island and Bay Beach, near the government works (Rocks). She was full of water and the surf was breaking over her. It was thought that she was the schooner SNOW STORM, Capt. Rhodes, of Elizabeth City, N.C. (Star, 2-1-1876)
January 31, 1876
The tugboat J.MURRAY, of the fleet employed by the contractors on the government works at New Inlet, ran on a log and carried away her stern-post and rudder, and was then towed up to Wilmington for repairs. (Star, 2-1-1876)
January 23, 1876
Capt. C.B. Phillips, who recently resigned the position of engineer of the government works (Rocks), as succeeded by Capt. Henry Bacon, of the U.S. Engineer Corps. (Star, 1-23-1876)
November 17, 1876
Messrs. Bangs & Dolby were awarded the contract by the government for supplying 45,000 cubic yards of stone necessary to the further prosecution of the work for the contraction of New Inlet. It was their plan to quarry the rock from the quarry near the river. (Star, 11-17-1876)
December 27, 1876
(Advertisement) – LABORERS WANTED. 300 laborers wanted at the U.S. government works, Magnolia Tree Quarry, Cape Fear River. The laborers must provide themselves with blankets; cooking utensils and good quarters will be furnished. BANGS & DOLBY, Contractors. (Star, 12-27-1876)
A terrible gale broke over and washed the beach between New Inlet and Bald Head Island for a distance of 3,000 feet, leaving the entire area covered with water about one foot below ebb tide, and there was made a narrow passage of greater depth, which became known ―Philips‘s Inlet,‖ through which at high tide some very light draft vessels could pass. By November, 1879, the passage was closed at low tide. (Star, 7-11-1879)
April 4, 1877
Mr. Armstrong Hall, engineer of the steam tug ROYAL ARCH, presented a petrified lobster and a petrified oyster for inspection by the MORNING STAR newspaper. They were unearthed recently on the Cape Fear River at the ‘Magnolia Tree’ quarry, where rock was being quarried for the government works at New Inlet. The lobster and oyster were found at a depth of 18 feel below the surface of the earth, and they were almost perfect in shape. (Star, 4-4-1877)
January 7, 1878
The steam-tug ORLANDO arrived from Baltimore, which had been purchased by George Z. French, Esq., who had the contract for the present year for closing up New Inlet, and it was designed to take the place of the tug ROYAL ARCH in towing flats to and from the government works at New Inlet and the rock quarry near Rocky Point. Mr. French had four or five new flats constructed for this purpose. Capt. James Williams of Wilmington was in command of the ORLANDO. (Star, 1-8-1878)
It was reported that from October 20, 1877, 11,129 cubic yards of stone had been placed in position at New Inlet by the contractors, Bangs & Dolby. The stone was purchased at Rocky Point, N.E. Cape Fear River. VOL. I.
Col. Craighill suspended work on the closing of New Inlet due to the need of funds from Washington, D.C. VOL. I
An appropriation of $160,000 was made by Congress for the government work at New Inlet.
Three hundred men were wanted for work at the Excelsior Quarries near Rocky Point to work quarrying stone for the New Inlet work. Steady work for a year was promised. VOL. I
[Editor note 2015: re: French Brothers, Excelsior Plantation and Quarries, Rocky Point:
“When the channel of the Cape Fear River was deepened, the rock that filled the new inlet below Wilmington came from the Rocky Point section on the North East Cape Fear River. When completed in 1875, it was called “The Rocks.””
August 5, 1878
Messrs. French & Dolby of Wilmington were awarded the contract for supplying about 50,000 cubic yards of stone for continuing the work for the closure of the New Inlet, on the eastern side of the river below Wilmington. Their bid was $1.75 per cubic yard. (Star, 8-8-1878; 8-13-1878)
August 11, 1878
(Advertisement) – 300 Men Wanted at Excelsior Quarries at Rocky Point to work quarrying stone for the U.S. Government Works (New Inlet). Steady work for a year. Thomas Williams was the superintendent. (Star, 8-11-1878)
September 10, l878
A large number of blacks left New Bern, N.C. for Rocky Point, N.C. where they were to be employed by the U.S. government in getting out stone from the quarries to be put in New Inlet. John C. Thomas of Wilmington was to be one of the overseers. (Star, 9-10-1878)
The recent storm carried away about 50 feet of the breakwater at New Inlet on the Zeke‘s Island side. (Star 12-11-1878)
March 21, 1879
Mr. Thomas Williams of Pender County was the sub-contractor for supplying the stone for the use of the government in filling up New Inlet. The rock was shipped from Rocky Point quarry, where 400 men were employed removing the rocks. (Star, 3-21-1879)
June 14, 1879
Mr. Henry Nutt, chairman of the Committee on River and Bar Improvement, informed the Wilmington Newspaper, THE MORNING STAR, that New Inlet was closed. It was his honor to be the first to walk across this day, at 12 noon, dry-footed, from Federal Point to Zeke‘s Island, a distance of nearly a mile, in the company of his grandson, Wm., M. Parsley. When he was about half way across, he was saluted with three cheers from about 60 laborers engaged in throwing in stone. (Star 6-20-1879)
June 26, 1879
Notice was given to all mariners that the gap in the dam at New Inlet, mouth of Cape Fear River, North Carolina, had been filled, thus closing the whole distance between Zeke‘s Island and Federal Point. The buoys marking the channel of New Inlet were to be removed. (Star, 7-11-1879)
June 26, 1879
The Office of the Lighthouse Board, Washington, D.C., announced that the buoys marking the channel of New Inlet would be removed, now that the gap in the dam at New Inlet had been filled, this closing the whole distance from Zeke‘s Island and Federal Point. (Star, 7-11-1879)
September 6, 1979
Proposals for continuing operations on the work for closure of New Inlet were received and opened by Col. Craighill, Engineer, U.S. Army, Baltimore, MD. The contract was awarded to Messrs. Ross & Pennypacker, of Wilmington, at $2.24 per ton.
In order to finish the dam at New Inlet to high water mark and protect it against the force of the waves, it was proposed to cover the top and the sea slope to low water mark with heavy flat stones, so as to make the top surface and slopes smooth and even. The covering needed will be about 3,500 feet in length, and the average thickness of the stone will be about 18 inches. It is estimated that about 10,000 tons of granite will be required. (Star, 9-19-1879)
September 15, 1879
The Light House Board gave notice that in consequence of the closing of the New Inlet, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, North Carolina, the light on Federal Point would be discontinued on and after January 1st, 1880. (Star, 9-23-1879)
November 11, 1879
George Z. French, Esq., completed his contract with the U.S. Engineer Department in furnishing stone for the closing of New Inlet. He furnished 20,000 tons in three months. (Star, 11-11-1879)
November 24, 1879
The first loads of heavy granite rock for the sea-face and capping of the dam (Rocks) at New Inlet reached Wilmington on the Wilmington, Columbia and Augusta Railroad. A derrick-scow is being repaired for the placing of the granite in position.
The granite was from the old Grandy quarries, in the vicinity of Columbia, S.C. (Star, 11-28-1879, 10-3-1879)
The Bald Head Lighthouse was re-lighted, because the New Inlet was now closed. The Federal Point Lighthouse was found to be useless. VOL. I
Capt. John W. Harper, master of the river steamer PASSPORT was the first to refer to the New Inlet Dam as the “Rocks.” He was also the first to take excursion passengers to the point of interest.
August 17, 1880
The steamer PASSPORT was to make her last trip of the season to the “Rocks” at New Inlet. Capt. John W. Harper, master of the steamer, stated that “the tide will exactly suit for a good day’s fishing at this point, being low water about 12 noon”. (Star, 8-13-1880)
February 5, 1881
The government works (The Rocks) at New Inlet were reported to be covered with a solid sheet of ice, from Federal Point to Zeke’s Island. The jetties were similarly coated. (Star, 2-5-1881)
May 13, 1881
The steam-tug WM.NYCE is towing the government barges to and from New Inlet while the ORLANDO was being raised and put in order. (Star, 5-13-1881)
August 23, 1881
The lighthouse at Federal Point was destroyed by fire late this afternoon. This lighthouse had not been in use since the closing of New Inlet, but it was occupied as a dwelling by Mr. Taylor, the former keeper. It was a wooden structure, situated about one mile from the site of Fort Fisher. (Star, 8-24-1881)
January 18, 1882
The headquarters of Mr. Henry Bacon, Assistant Engineer in charge of the government works, was changed from Smithville to Wilmington. (Star, 1-18-1882)
May 10, 1883
A party of gentlemen visited the large fishery of Messrs. W.E. Davis and Sons, on Zeke‘s Island. There were four or five families residing on the island, and there were six houses.
A pen was visited in which 600 terrapins of all sorts and sizes were confined. There was also a fine stock of poultry, including some 150 chickens, to say nothing of ducks, geese, etc. The fish traps were visited, and the Messrs. Davis explained their workings. They were fished at 5 a.m. and again at 5 p.m. Next the fertilizer establishment was inspected. Here all the refuse fish, such as cannot be sold, are cut up into fragments, put in a sort of press constructed for the purpose and all the oil extracted , after which the fragments were gathered up, spread out on a large platform to dry and are then bagged and sold for fertilizing purposes.
A railroad had been constructed from the ocean on one side of the island to the river on the other, and on and on his fish, after being taken from the traps, are hoisted from the sharpies by a derrick and placed in a car, are transported to the other side of the island and dumped into boats in the river. (Star, 5-12-1883)
May 13, 1883
The steamboat MINEHAHA was to make a trip to Federal Point on Sunday morning and would leave the Wilmington Wharf at 9 a.m. sharp The master of the vessel was Joseph Bisbee. (Star, 5-12-1883)
May 17, 1883
Two members of the Federal Point Fishing Club, organized last season, went down the “The Rocks” at New Inlet and succeeded in landing 84 sheepshead. This was considered a fine day‘s sport. (Star, 5-19-1883)
July 21, 1883
The storehouse of Messrs. W.E. Davis & Son, who had extensive fisheries in the vicinity, was burned to the ground. The fire destroyed all their nets, seines and other material. The building adjoining the storehouse was pulled down to save it. The fire created a big excitement among the fishermen and others on the Point, who with a whole ocean of water before them, could not stop the devouring element in its course. (Star, 7-24-1883)
July 21, 1883
The storehouse of Messrs. W.E. David & Son was destroyed by fire at Federal Point. The Davis Company owned large fisheries in the vicinity. Destroyed in the fire were all their nets, seines and other materials, which was to prove detrimental during the upcoming fish season. The fire could be seen from Smithville across the river. Another building adjacent to the storehouse had to be pulled down. An employee, Mr. Williamson, asleep in a room, escaped unhurt. The fire created a big excitement among the local fishermen and others on the Point. The Davis family estimated their losses at about $4,500 with about half covered by insurance. (Star, 7-27-1883)
August 9, 1883
The contracts for furnishing the necessary material on the improvements to the Cape Fear River were opened. The following were the lowest bidders: For rattling and spun yarn, John C. Springer and N. Jacobi; for brush and cane, Ross & Lara; for stone, G.Z. French; for the building of five scows, Geo. R. Sumerell. (Star, 8-10-1883)
August 15, 1883
The steamer MINNEHAHA offered a moonlight excursion to Federal Point on Wednesday night, August 15th. There was to be a sheepshead supper at Mayo‘s Place, also music and dancing. The round trip fare was 50 cents. She would leave the Wilmington wharf at the 8 o‘clock sharp. (Star, 8-14-1883)
Proposals for furnishing the necessary material for carrying on the improvements to the Cape Fear River, especially New Inlet Dam, were opened at the office of Major Henry Bacon, engineer in charge. The lowers bidders were: for brush and cane and stone – Messrs. Ross & Lara; for the building of five scows, George R. Sumerell. VOL. I.
August 14, 1883
A moonlight excursion was offered on the steamboat PASSPORT to Federal Point. Music and dancing, Sheepshead Supper at Mayo‘s Place. Fare for round trip 50 cents. One hour at Federal Point. John W. Harper and George N. Harriss, Managers. (Star, 8-14-1883)
A terrible hurricane struck the lower Cape Fear area. The destruction of Messrs. W.E. Davis & Sons fishery on Zeke‘s Island was fearful. Their loss was heavy, among which were 2200 terrapins waiting for shipment to the North, 13 gill-nets, 3 fish sheds, 25 barrels of salt mullets, 30 sacks of salt, one new boat, a lot of fish stands. etc. VOL. I.
September 27, 1883
Messrs. W.E. Davis & Son, at their Federal Point fishery, caught over 400 large drum at one haul, averaging 40 pounds each; being pronounced the largest haul of drum on record. (Star, 9-28-1883)
October 4, 1883
Messrs. Ross & Lara, to whom the contract was awarded for supplying stone, brush and other necessary material for filling up or closing what is known as “Corncake Inlet,” near what was formerly New Inlet, were busy making preparation to begin the work.
Their base of operation was at the Keystone Quarry, at Gander Hall, opposite Orton. A short railroad track was under construction from the quarry to the river, about 1 1⁄2 miles long. A steamer named HAROLD was due soon to do the towing of the rock to the work site. Mr. Henry Bacon, Sr., a civilian employee of the U.S. Engineers, was building a large wharf at Gander Hall to facilitate the work. (Star, 10-4-1883)
October 15, 1883
The steam tug, HAROLD, Capt. Crawford, from Jacksonville, FL, arrived in the Cape Fear River. She was to be used by Messrs. Ross & Lara, the contractors at work at filling up “Corncake Inlet” with stone and brush. (Star, 10-16-1883)
October 21, 1883
Messrs. Ross & Lara, contractors, were receiving shipments of lumber at Gander hall for the erection of “shanties” for the men working in the Keystone quarry at that place. Work on the short line of railroad was also underway. (Star, 10-21-1883; 11-15-1883; 10-9-1882)
The Federal Point Club prospected on Zeke‘s Island, examining the dam, fish weir, etc., and they traveled down as far as Corn-Cake Inlet. (Star, 10-12-1882)
(advertisement) 100 Good Quarry Hands for Government Work at Keystone Quarries on Cape Fear River, 14 miles below Wilmington. Ross & Lara, Contractors (Star, 2-3-1884)
[Editor note, 2015: Keystone Quarry was located within Gander Hall [300 acres]. The quarry rail-line and loading pier on east shore of Cape Fear River, ran along what was later used by Capt Harper for the Carolina Beach Landing Pier and the Shoo-Fly Line.]
May 14, 1884
(advertisement) – FOR RENT – Until November 1, 1884, or longer, two very nice Cottages, at the Rocks, (Federal Point), Kitchen, Water, etc. to each. All in No. 1 order and ready for immediate use. (Star, 5-14-1884)
May 28, 1884
Mr. A. S. Lara, of the firm of Ross & Lara, contractors for the work of closing Corncake Inlet, at the mouth of the river, who had been visiting at his home in Stuanton, VA.for about two months had returned. (Star, 5-30-1884)
June 21, 1884
The locomotive used by Messrs. Ross & Lara on their railroad from the rock quarry to the river, in supplying rock to close up Corncake Inlet, was returned to the quarry after it was enlarged to suit the work by Messrs. Hart, Bailey & Co.’s foundry in Wilmington. (Star, 6-24-1884)
July 11, 1884
R.G. Ross, contractor, killed a rattlesnake at the rock quarry near Gander Hall, below Wilmington, which is said to have had 16 rattles. It is described as being as large as a large man‘s leg. (Star, 7-11-1884)
July 27, 1884
“The “Rocks,” at what was formerly known as New Inlet, was now a favorite resort for fishermen. (Star, 7-27-1840)
It was reported that the “rocks” was a favorite resort for fishermen. VOL. I
A little girl from Wilmington was hurt at the “Rocks” when she jumped into some broken glass with her bare feet. She was given first aid by some nearby fishermen and then carried to the Mayo House, a resort hotel operated at the “Rocks.” During the same month two young ladies from Wilmington were rescued from drowning while swimming at the “Rocks.” VOL. I
August 16, 1884
During a severe storm at the “Rocks,” lightning struck the flag pole at the government wharf at Corncake Inlet. A fisherman nearby was severely shocked and one of his hands badly bruised when he fell down. He was holding a metal-ribbed umbrella at the time which acted as a conductor. VOL. I
Two new contracts were awarded for supplying stone for the further closing of what was known as Corncake Inlet. A total of 30,000 tons of stone was still required. VOL. I
September 26, 1884
The new work at Federal Point was progressing rapidly. The dam was now two miles long, reaching from Zeke‘s Island to the Big Marsh, 25,000 tons of stone had already been used, and the dam, on an average, was about one foot above low water. The appropriation made by the last Congress would not quite complete the work. Mr. Henry Bacon believed that when the present dam was completed, a sandbar would form between it and the ocean, the same as at New Inlet, and the result would be the washing out of the bar at the mouth of the river to 18 or 10 feet. (Star, 10-14-1884)
A correspondent in Washington, D.C. wrote: “The new work is progressing rapidly. The dam is two miles long, reaching from Zeke‘s Island to the Big Marsh, 25,000 tons of stone had already been used, and the dam, on the average, is about one foot above low water. The appropriations made by the last Congress will not quite complete the work.” VOL. I
October 15, 1884
The New Inlet Dam was in perfect condition. The sand beach which since the completion of the dam had been extending on the site of Carolina Shoals from near Fort Fisher towards the head of Smith‘s Island had widened and it extended nearly to the island, a distance of nearly two miles, leaving a gap of less than half a mile over shoal water between the new bank and Smith‘s Island. (Star, 10-17-1884)
January 19, 1885
The steamer WOODBURY, belonging to the government works, which went ashore at Federal Point during the late gale got off on the next high tide and went up to Wilmington. (Star, 1-20-1885)
May 18, 1886
(advertisement) “THE ROCKS,” FORT FISHER. This delightful 1 family resort, unsurpassed on the entire Atlantic Coast for River, Bay, Sound and Ocean Sailing. Fishing and Boating, is now open for the accommodation of boarders by the day, week or month. Steamers PASSPORT and LOUISE ply daily between Wilmington and “The Rocks.” Address all communications, N. F.Parker, “The Rocks,” Care of Capt. John W. Harper, Wilmington, N.C. (Star, 5-18-1886)
July 7, 1886
A license was issued to N. F. Parker to retail spirituous liquors at “The Rocks.” (Star, 7-7-1886)
January 12, 1888
Capt. James Wells, who has charge of Messrs. W.F. Davis & Sons fishery on Zeke‘s Island, was seriously wounded while hunting. His gun fell and both barrels were discharged and he was wounded in the left thigh with the flesh torn from the bone. While hunting he was accompanied by Mr. Willie Mayo of the “Rocks”. Capt. Wells was taken to Wilmington on the steamer LOUISE and then taken to his home where he received the necessary surgical attention. (Star 1-13-1888)
May 8, 1888
A license was granted to A.B. Peterson to retail spirituous liquors in the Mayo House at the ‘Rocks’ for six months. (Messenger, 5-8-1888)
May 17, 1888
A large party of gentlemen got off the steamer PASSPORT at “The Rocks” at 6:45 A.M., and they had fine sport catching sheepshead, pig fish and blackfish. Mr. W.E. Mayo had opened the hotel at “The Rocks” and was supplying the guests with all kinds of seafood, soft crabs, fish, clams, etc. “She certainly knows how to make it pleasant for all who pay her a visit.” (Messenger, 5-18-1888)
August 21, 1888
The old tram road at the Ross rock quarry on the Cape Fear River had been purchased by a Mr. Williams, of Red Springs, N.C. The iron was to be used in building a road from Red Springs to McNeill‘s. All of the wheelbarrows, spades, shovels, drills, etc., were to be sold in a few days at auction. (Messenger, 8-21-1888)
August 28, 1888
All the implements from the old Ross rock quarry railroad, viz: 75 wheelbarrows, 20 steel drills, 7 iron bars, 50 drill hammers, 40 pickaxes, 75 shovels, 20 sets of harness, grindstones, and a large quantity of other goods pertaining to railroad building, were to be auctioned at Davis‘ fish house today. (Messenger, 8-26-1888)
April 26, 1889
Capt. B.L. Perry, the former proprietor of the Purcell House in Wilmington, and the Atlantic Hotel at Beaufort, NC, was to take charge of the hotel at Carolina Beach. Twenty rooms were to be added to the hotel, which in addition to the eight cottages being built, would accommodate a large number of visitors. A line of hacks will be established between Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher, a distance of 5 miles, giving ample opportunity to everyone who desired to fish at the “Rocks.” (Star, 4-26-1889)
August 31, 1889
A party of fishermen reported great luck at the Corn Cake Rocks and in the vicinity of Federal Point. They camped on the shell banks and caught shrimp in the vicinity to bait with. They caught about two barrels of tine sheepshead and the finest pig fish ever seen on this coast. Many of the sheepshead were so heavy they broke off the hook before they could be gotten to the top. One of the pig fish caught was 12 inches long, and another fisherman landed a rock fish that measured 2 1/2 feet in length. Pig fish and sheepshead also bit well at New Inlet Rocks.
The fishermen while near Buzzard’s Bay obtained some very fine oysters and a royal roast was consequently enjoyed. The oysters of Buzzard’s Bay are large and fat. It was a sure bet that the fishermen would return at an early date. (Messenger, 8-31-1889)
April 18, 1890
Mrs. W.E. Mayo, who kept the hotel at the “Rocks” for many years, was to have charge of the hotel at Carolina Beach this season. (Star, 4-18-1890)
April 12, 1891
Mr. Henry Bacon, Sr. died at his residence in Wilmington. He was born in Natick, Mass, in 1822. His engineering career commenced in New England, and later on he was appointed to the charge of harbor work on the Great Lakes. From there Mr. Bacon came to the Cape Fear River at the request of Col. Craighill in January, l876, just at the commencement of the lower river improvements. For a few years he lived at Smithville, coming to Wilmington about 1889.
For over 15 years he had charge of the Cape Fear River improvements to which he devoted the best years of his life. The work under his charge had been very successful the depth of the river having been increased gradually from 7 1/2 to 12 feet, then to 16 feet, and work had already begun on a depth of 20 feet. He was survived by his widow, two daughters and four sons. Funeral will be held from the First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington. (Star, 4-17-1891)
May 28, 1892
The contract for furnishing stone for the jetties and other government work on the Cape Fear River, was awarded to the Carolina Brown Stone Company, of Sanford, N.C. (Messenger, 5-29-1892)
January 12, 1893
The New Hanover Transit Company had leased the well known “Rocks” and proposed to make it both accessible and a pleasant place to visit for all who indulge in the sport of fishing. The “Rocks” had always been a good fishing spot, but hard to reach, and an uncomfortable and dreary place to remain overnight.
Capt. J.W. Harper and his company planned to build a new wharf and open a small but clean and neat house, where good meals would always be served and comfortable quarters found at night. The new house was to be called “Hotel Fisher,” and was to be opened after May 1st. (Messenger, 1-13-1893)
January 21, 1893
Capt. John W. Harper, of the steamer WILMINGTON, reported that at Fort Fisher where the river is two miles wide, ice extended from shore to shore. This was the first time since 1857, according to the oldest inhabitants, that the Cape Fear River had frozen over in that vicinity. VOL 11.
February 4, 1893
The New Hanover Transit Company was building their dock at the “Rocks,” preparatory for the summer season. Mr. Wesley Corbett had the contract. (Messenger, 2-4-1893)
The steamer WILMINGTON ran ashore at “The Rocks.” The tugboat ALEXANDER JONES took her passengers off and carried them on to Southport. The WILMINGTON got off without assistance on the high tide. VOL 11.
April 9, 1893
The New Hanover Transit Company completed their new wharf at The Rocks, and everything was now “safe and sound” for all who visited that resort when they pursued their piscatorial pursuits. It was to be remembered that at this resort “the fish were as hungry as wolves, as is shown by their savage manner in which they attack the shrimps and sand-fiddlers.”
The steamer WILMINGTON, with Capt. “Baseball” Harper in command, left Wilmington daily at 9:30 a.m., returning in the afternoon, stopping at The Rocks both ways, and this gave the anglers about five hours for indulging in their great sport.
About May 1st, the overnight accommodations were to be ready for those who wished to spend a night or two at The Rocks. (Wilm Star, 4-9-1893)
May 15, 1893
The Hotel Oceanic, at Carolina Beach, opened for the entertainment of the public. The building had been thoroughly repaired, and supplied with new furniture, bedding and other necessary equipment. The hotel was under the general supervision of Mrs. W.E. Mayo.
A band of music had been engaged, the bath houses had been refitted and new bathing suits provided. Three trips to the Beach daily was to be made by the steamers WILMINGTON and CLARENCE.
The steamer CLARENCE was also to make daily trips to the Hotel Fisher at “The Rocks,” which was soon to open under the management of Mr. Oscar Sorensen. At this fisherman’s paradise a person could spend five hours and return in the afternoon, or one could spend one or more nights with host Sorensen and have time to haul out trout, sheepshead and flounders. (Star, 4-21-1893)
May 26, 1893
Wilmingtonians who have stopped with Mr. Sorrensen, the manager of the Hotel Fisher, at The Rocks, speak in high praise of the “good cheer” he provides for his guests. (Star, 5-26-1893)
October 13, 1893
During the terrible hurricane very minor damage was done to the buildings, bath houses or residences on Carolina Beach, with the exception of fences, which were generally blown down or washed away. A few of the residences had their doors forced open and some panes of glass were blown in. The only damage of consequence was to the railroad track which had been badly washed at several points between the beach and the river. The pier leading out into the river was, however, all gone, except the pilings; the entire superstructure with ties and rails, having been washed away.
The storm raged with great fury at “The Rocks.” Six small cottages were demolished and swept away, the wharf being destroyed, and much damage was done to the fishing boats and nets. Mr. Hans A. Kure lost seines, nets, boats, and other articles belonging to his fishery. (Star, 10-15-1893)
October 14, 1893
During the recent terrible storm, fears were entertained for the safety of two men in charge of the Government Wharf at Corncake Inlet. When last seen they were on the wharf and the waves were washing over it. They were surrounded on all sides by water. The men are the watchman, Mr. George W. Hewett, and Nelson McCoy, the colored cook. (Messenger, 10-14-1893)
October 15, 1893
Hans A. Kure was advertising that he had lost the following: LOST, during the storm Friday, at “The Rocks,” two large seines, sixteen gill nets forty meshes deep, eight boats and a number of gears belonging to my fishery. Also one “pike” net. (Star, 10-15-1893)
May 31, 1895
A wharf was to be erected at the “Rocks” in place of the old one which was carried away in a recent storm. (Star, 5-31-1895)
May 31, 1895
It was announced that a new wharf was to be erected at the “Rocks” in place of the old one that was carried away. The wharf was needed by the steamer WILMINGTON to land fishing parties and to facilitate the government work on that part of the river. (Star, 5-31-1895)
Capt. D.S. Bender, in charge of the government work, reported that it would require ten to fifteen days more to finish the repairing of the New Inlet Dam (“Rocks”). The break occasioned by a recent storm was not only being made good, but the dam was being further strengthened, and extended at the east end so as to extend well over on the sand reaches. About 25 men were on this work. (Star, 3-5-1897)
May 12, 1898
A number of men from Fort Macon, N.C. went down the river on the steamer WILMINGTON on their way to Corn Cake Inlet. They were to erect a battery to defend the inlet which makes in at the upper end of Smith’s Island. The inlet was large enough now to admit small steamers such as torpedo boats and torpedo boat destroyers. (Messenger, 5-13-1898; Dispatch, 5-12-1898)
September 21, 1899
The stone dam (Rocks) between Zeke’s Island and the Big Marsh was damaged by the recent hurricane. The force of the waves knocked the coping to the dam down in several places. Allen Clemmons with a small force of eight men had been at work the past week, putting the rocks back in place. (Messenger, 9-22-1899)
January 10, 1900
The government was to use the rock which was dug up in dredging the Wilmington shoal in making repairs to the “rock dam” (The Rocks) at the mouth of the river. (Dispatch, 1-10-1900)
May 17, 1902
A sturgeon, 7 feet long and weighing over 300 pounds, was caught at “The Rocks” and taken to Wilmington on the steamer WILMINGTON. The fish was a monster. (Dispatch, 5-17-1902)
March 1, 1902
Capt. John W. Harper was contemplating the erection of a pier head at “The Rocks” near Fort Fisher. He gave the contract to Mr. A.J. Robbins, of Southport, and the work was to be completed by April 15th. (Dispatch, 3-8-1902)
August 12, 1905
R.H. Pickett and Roger Moore laid claim to 20 acres of vacant and unappropriated land in Federal Point Township, known as Zekes Island, which land was bounded by the water of the Cape Fear River and New Inlet. Entered in the office of the Register of Deeds of New Hanover County, Entry No. 1901. (Messenger, 8-13-1905)
August 28, 1905
Through his attorneys, Messrs. Davis & Davis, Capt. J. Alvin Walker made a formal protest against Messrs. Pickett and Moore who were claiming Zeke‘s Island property. The property was claimed by the Walker heirs and they resisted the occupation of the island by Messrs. Pickett & Moore. (Star, 8-29-1905)
March 28, 1906
The entry of Zeke‘s Island by Messrs. Roger Moore and R. H. Pickett, of Wilmington, was upset at a hearing in Brunswick County Superior Court in behalf of the Walker heirs, the original claimants.
April 20, 1906
The recent storm resulted in more damage to the government breakwater known as ‘the Rocks.’ A member of the Corps of Engineers, following an inspection, stated that the damage done was almost beyond comprehension. There was scarcely 100 feet of the New Inlet dam which was not damaged.
In the two dams, the New Inlet Dam, and the Swash Deference Dam, there were a number of breaks from 50 feet to about 500 feet. The entire stone coping of the New Inlet dam was completely destroyed by the terrific force of the wind and waves. The stone coping was composed of tremendous stone blocks weighing from 2 to 6 tons each. Some of these were thrown by the wind from 25 to 50 feet from their original position. The only thing that saved the Swash Defense Dam from being completely obliterated was the fact that the stone coping was cemented and it resisted the attacking power of wind and wave.
Prior to the storm, $60,000 worth of improvements had recently been added to the work on the dams, and all of this will prove a total loss as it will all have to be fixed again. The stone coping alone on the New Inlet Dam would cost $50,000 to replace. (Dispatch, 9-20-1906)
A launch CLIFTON was making regular runs from Wilmington to ‘The Rocks’ for fishermen.
July 25, 1906.
The launch CLIFFORD was to be used for fishing expeditions from Wilmington to ‘The Rocks’. Anglers would be taken down in the morning and returned in the afternoon. (Dispatch, 7-25-1906)
The government secured five lighter loads of cobblestones from the streets of Wilmington to be used in the repair work on ‘The Rocks.’ The streets were being repaired with ‘Belgian Blocks.’
July 30, 1908
The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER wrote about “The Rocks” and in the article they mentioned that “The length of the dam from Federal Point to Zeke‘s Island is one mile, but the extension of Zeke‘s Island jetties to Smith‘s Island made the line much longer.
The rock foundation of this wall was from 90 feet to 120 feet wide at the base, and for three-fourths of the line the average depth of the stone wall is 30 feet from the top of the dam. In some places it is 36 feet deep. A better idea of the vastness of the undertaking may be gained from the fact that the rock used in this great structure would build a solid wall eight feet high, four feet thick, extending from Charlotte to Greensboro and one mile beyond. (Star, 7-30-1908)
June 12, 1922
Edmund Alexander, of Wilmington, was promoting the idea of a ferry from Fort Fisher to Southport. He suggested the improvement of the road from Fort Fisher to the end of Federal Point, a distance of two miles, and at a point where the government dam known as ‘The Rocks’ begins. He suggested of the building of a small wharf and shelter at Federal Point for safely handling passengers. He reported that the distance from the wharf to Southport by ferry would be five miles. (Star, 6-12-1922)
July 3, 1922
Mr. Edmund Alexander received the endorsement of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club for repairing the two miles of road between Fort Fisher and Federal Point. As soon as the road was repaired and a river landing arranged, the managers of the Carolina Bus Line indicated their willingness to aid in the undertaking by making connection with the passenger yacht plying between Federal Point and Southport.
Captain W.E. Fountain, of Southport, had recently purchased a handsomely equipped passenger yacht of Mr. McClammy, of Wilmington, and was willing to run in connection with the bus line. The yacht had every convenience and a trip from the “Rocks” to Southport, over the broadest part of the Cape Fear River and within sight and sound of the ocean, would indeed be a delightful recreation.
It was now up to the citizens of Brunswick and New Hanover counties to establish a connecting link between the southern portions of the two counties. (Dispatch, 7-10-1922)
May 2, 1923
Capt. Edgar D. Williams, one of the leaders in the movement for conversion of the battleground at Fort Fisher into a national park, reported that certain parties were claiming considerable property within the boundaries of the old fort.
One of the parties claimed that his title to the property was based upon a land grant which was granted on payment of 12 1⁄2 cents an acre for the property. (News 6-2-1923)
April 18, 1933
Plans for repair of the Swash Defense and New Inlet dams were started as Wilmington District army engineers opened bids on a contract to supply 400 tons of stone that will be used in the work. The Raleigh Granite Company, of Raleigh, submitted the lowest bid. It was $2.35 a ton, delivered. Work was to begin early in May. (News, 4-19-1933)
July 25, 1933
Repairs to be Swash Defense and New Inlet dams were expected to be completed in two weeks. Several carloads of cement and rock had been used in the work. (News, 7-25-1933)
April 26, 1937
A petition for a semi-improved road extending from Fort Fisher Beach to “The Rocks”, signed by 70 citizens, was presented to the Board of County commissioners to be forwarded to the State Highway and Public Works
The petitioners were not asking for a standardized highway, but were seeking a semi-improved roadway, so that “The Rocks” could be made more accessible for the many anglers from Wilmington and New Hanover County. (News, 4-27-1937)
The U.S. Corps of Engineers applied a coat of cement to the top of “The Rocks” for added protection. (Star, 3-18-1971)
‘The Rocks’ Arial View: Fort Fisher to Zeke’s Island to Bald Head
Google Maps: ‘The Rocks‘
Images: Zeke’s Island
The Rocks – by Susan Taylor Block
Zeke’s Island – NC Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve
StarNews – Sunday, August 30, 2015
Editorial – Rocks solid
Coastal Review Online – Beach and Inlet Management: 8/28/15
Senate Plan for ‘The Rocks’ Still Unknown
Remove ‘The Rocks’?
The Closing of New Inlet (The Rocks) 1870-1881
by Sandy Jackson: Federal Point Historical Society
Lumina News 7/14/15:
Rock wall removal could cause shoaling in shipping channel, some say
StarNews – April 28, 2016
By Cammie Bellamy
Army Corps – ‘Why remove The Rocks?’
FORT FISHER — When legislators take up removal of the New Inlet Dam this year, they’ll have some explaining to do.
This month the state released its report on the 140-year-old structure south of Zeke’s Island, known locally as “The Rocks.” A provision in the state budget, passed last summer, asked the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to study the feasibility of digging out parts of the dam to restore “the natural hydrodynamic flow between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean.” But federal agencies say before they sign off on the project, they need a better explanation.
“A clear purpose”
The Army Corps of Engineers built the dam in the late 1800s to keep the lower Cape Fear navigable — silt flowing from the ocean had made it as shallow as 12 feet in some spots. The removal language made it into the budget last year after a bill on the issue, co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, stalled in the N.C. General Assembly.
Before the Rocks are removed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would have to shift the boundary of the Zeke’s Island Preserve. In a letter to DEQ included in the study, NOAA program manager Erica Seiden said the administration needs “the rationale for expansion” and information on how the area will be used. The corps would also have to approve any alteration to the dam. Justin McCorcle, an attorney for the corps’ Wilmington district, wrote in another letter that legislators must give “a clear purpose and need for the project.”
The future of “The Rocks”
Built between 1875 and 1891, the New Inlet Dam is known to locals as “The Rocks.” The dam includes two sections — one to the north or Zeke’s Island and one extending south. The 4.25-mile long structure separates the Cape Fear River from the Atlantic Ocean. The state’s budget bill calls for a study into removing the Rocks south of Zeke’s Island and reopening New Inlet. … more >>>
State Port Pilot, April 13, 2016
US Army Corps says state’s between ‘The Rocks’ and a hard place in proposal to remove dam
While it does not draw firm conclusions, the state’s report on the idea of removing a century-old dam on the lower Cape Fear River called “The Rocks” has more questions than answers and makes it clear that the plan would require extensive study if it moves forward. …
A paper by contract engineer Erik Olsen stated the project could seriously harm Bald Head Island’s beaches and subject Southport to a greater risk of flooding during storms.
Bald Head Island, Southport, Oak Island, Caswell Beach, Boiling Spring Lakes, Carolina Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach, the N.C. Beach, Inlet and Waterway Association and Bald Head Association all passed resolutions against the proposal.
The corps’ response to the state included in the study is more than 130 pages, and raises a host of questions and issues.
The state has a “lack of a clear proposal,” the corps stated, “with no identifiable navigational benefits.” Removal of the dam is likely to “reduce access to recreational beaches … with uncertain environmental benefits.” … more >>>
Island Gazette, July 29, 2015 (Updated: Sep. 3, 2015)
Kure Beach Council Discusses Safety Of Rock Wall Near Fort Fisher
According to the Federal Point Historic Society, from an article written in their November 1995 newsletter by Sandy Jackson, “In 1870 the Corps of Engineers made a postwar survey of the Cape Fear River under Gen. J. H. Simpson. The results of Simpson’s survey supported closing New Inlet, south of Fort Fisher, prior to any dredging in the river, since sand washed in the inlet would quickly refill the channel”.
StarNews – Sunday, August 30, 2015
Editorial – Rocks solid
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers once listed “The Rocks” near Fort Fisher as one of its proudest achievements, at least in the Southeast.
So why does state Sen. Mike Lee want to tear it down?
Lee, a New Hanover County Republican, introduced a bill to remove all or part of the rock wall between Zeke’s Island and Smith Island/Bald Head Island. A similar notion was slipped into the state House appropriations bill. It’s still unclear whether the plan will survive budget negotiations between the two fractious houses in North Carolina’s legislature.
Lee and others talk a lot about restoring the natural flow of the Cape Fear River and restoring the local environment. There’s a lot of that going around these days; lots of old dams are being demolished around the country, as experts and others decide we can do better without them.
But the Rocks? This is serious business.
The nearly 2-mile-long dam was built up by the Corps between 1874 and 1882 to close New Inlet, from the ocean into the Cape Fear River. (That inlet had been opened by a hurricane in 1761, which shows you what constitutes “New” around here.) … more ›››
Coastal Review Online – Beach and Inlet Management: 8/28/15
Senate Plan for ‘The Rocks’ Still Unknown
RALEIGH — As House and Senate budget conferees tick through the list of unresolved issues hanging up a final deal, one provision yet to be cleared is what to do with the 140-year-old New Inlet Dam at Zeke’s Island on the Cape Fear River.
The provision spells out a plan to remove the nearly two-mile breakwater, built in 1871 to close the shallow and meandering New Inlet.
The plan generated little discussion when it was first introduced but has drawn the scrutiny of local governments in the area worried that opening another inlet and changing the river’s hydrology would increase beach erosion. Eight towns, including Southport and the Village of Bald Head Island, have come out against the plan saying they have yet to hear evidence that removing the rocks will do what supporters claim.
Opponents have not only questioned the concept, but its origins, including whether it has anything to do with a revival of plans for a mega-port project near Southport. … more ›››
StarNews 7/29/15: Remove ‘The Rocks’?
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.
StarNews 7/29/15: Plan to remove ‘The Rocks’ opposed
Background & History:
The Closing of New Inlet (The Rocks) 1870-1881
by Sandy Jackson: Federal Point Historical Society
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. … more ›››
For more than a century “the Rocks,” a breakwater built by the Army Corps of Engineers, has separated the 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.
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 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).
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).
Despite bill, ‘The Rocks’ going nowhere anytime soon
‘The Rocks’ aren’t going anywhere anytime soon
A bill passed last year, and sponsored by N.C. Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, asked the state Department of Environmental Quality to study the feasibility of moving parts of the dam south of Zeke’s Island to restore flow between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean.
That study didn’t go forward after federal agencies asked the state to refine why it wanted to study moving the structure. Susan Weston, district counsel for the Army Corps, said nothing had changed regarding the agency’s stance since it sent the state its letter in January 2016.
“Our comments at that time were intended to identify the authorizations from the Corps that would be required to open an inlet in that location, as well as to raise important issues that would need to be considered in any study that the State may undertake,” she said in an email. “We have not received a written reply to that letter.”
The N.C. State Ports Authority paid $30 million for 600 acres north of Southport and south of the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point in 2006 to be used for a new “International Terminal” to accommodate huge, deep-draft container ships. That project never happened, but the ports authority still owns the land.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Rabon said of renewing efforts to build the terminal. “The port’s never coming.”
by: Howard Hewett, Jones Creek, TX – July, 2015 – Part 7
Some of the following background information is from my recollection of the events as I grew up on Federal Point between 1939 and 1956, and what my father, Howard Curtis Hewett Sr, and my grandmother, Addie Jane Lewis Hewett, related to me. Other background information is from research and is so noted.
A major portion of our seafood came out of the bays south of where we lived in Fort Fisher. But first, it is important to understand how those bays were formed.
A major Atlantic storm in 1761 opened an inlet that crossed the peninsula south of the current Fort Fisher monument. The New Inlet had a major impact on the main channel or ‘Bald Head’ channel of the Cape Fear River resulting in the significant decrease in depth.
By 1839, sand, silt and forming shoals from the New Inlet threatened the southerly approach to the river from the Bald Head channel. There were concerns that the Bald Head channel would not be available to shipping coming into the river from the southerly approach. The alternate route would force shipping to go out around ‘Frying Pan Shoals’ and enter the river through the New Inlet. This added to their passage time into Wilmington.
Northerly shipping traffic could enter the New Inlet, which avoided the treacherous Frying Pan Shoals located 29 southeast of Smith Island.In 1870 funds were appropriated to close the New Inlet and other breaches that occurred as a result of storms and gales. The land mass was a narrow strip of sandy beach with very low swampland on the river side. The map above is an excellent representation of the topography of Federal Point in 1864. By observing the map, one can see what a formidable task the closing of the New Inlet and breaches were.
In 1871, another storm further deepened the New Inlet. Actual construction work to close the New Inlet took place from 1870 to 1891. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were the overseers of the rock dam project.
They sank wooden cribbing and then added stones to bring the dam to sea level. Asst. Engineer Henry Bacon suggested that they add heavy granite capstones to bring the structure to two feet above sea level.
From 1881-1891, a dam similar in construction to the one built between Buchanan Battery to Zeke’s Island dam was built from Zeke’s Island to Smith Island.
When all the construction was completed, the upper section from the Buchanan Battery to Zeke’s Island was approximately 5,300 feet. The Swash Defense Dam from Zeke’s Island to Smith’s Island was 12,800 feet. The total distance of the project was over three miles (Reaves, 2011).
In 1891, the New Inlet was declared officially closed (Jackson, 1995). This rock dam is known by the locals as “The Rocks.” With the closing, tidal basins formed between The Rocks and the Atlantic. For our family, these bays became a plentiful source of shellfish.
During the time that I was growing up on Federal Point, there was the existence of another inlet south of the original New Inlet. We called it “Corncake Inlet.” I do not know exactly when Corncake Inlet opened, but it was a much smaller inlet. I do recall that Corncake Inlet would be wider and deeper depending on storm activity. Corncake Inlet was the source for fresh seawater for the bays.
My best recollection from stories told by my dad is that a schooner carrying corn went aground on a shoal while entering the inlet and remained there for a several days. These schooners were called corn-crackers because of their cargoes. I always wondered if that is how the inlet received its name. I assume it was opened before The Rocks were completed, but these breaches opened and closed depending on storm activity.
Dad liked to take our boat up toward the Corncake Inlet to fish for sheepshead at a place that he referred to as the “cribbing.” As I can best remember, it was east of the rock dam, basically located in the direction of Corncake Inlet. I believe that the cribbing was the remains of a temporary cofferdam that controlled some of the water flowing through the inlet into the river during the rock dam construction. I based this on the heavy flow of water traveling through this cut when we were fishing at this location.
However, after completing some research, I discovered another possibility. The cribbing may have been the remains of a stone dike cribbing built in 1853 by Captain Daniel P. Woodbury (Rayburn, 1984). What I recall seeing was mainly a wooden structure at water level. There could have been stones under the water.
[More next month about shrimping, clamming and oyster roasts. And mark your calendar now! Howard will be visiting from Texas and will present a program on his memories of Federal Point On Monday November 2, here at the History Center at 7:30 pm.]
[Originally published in the March, 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter]
At last month’s [Feb, 1996] meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, Mr. Bill Dennis, a civil engineer with the US. Army Corps of Engineers – Wilmington District, presented a thorough site history and review of the Fort Fisher revetment project to a well-attended audience. Mr. Dennis, a native of New Jersey, began his slide presentation and discussion with a quick overview of the Federal Point area and how changes in its shape led to a need for a protective seawall to save the fort.
In 1761 a hurricane drastically reshaped Federal Point when it opened a passage known as New Inlet between the ocean and the Cape Fear River.
New Inlet, however, later played an important role during the Civil War as an entrance for sleek, fast blockade runners to slip past the Union fleet and enter the river under the protective guns of Fort Fisher. These ships were able to successfully deliver their valuable cargoes to Wilmington and on to the rest of the Confederacy until early 1865.
Following the war, Federal Point again underwent a major transition in appearance when the US. Army Corps of Engineers closed New Inlet to improve river navigation. During the 1870s and 1880s the Corps built a stone structure known as “The Rocks” in two sections across the inlet and swash that still exists today.
The upper section of the dam extended from Battery Buchanan on Federal Point to Zeke‘s Island, a distance of 5,300 feet. The continuation of the lower section known as the Swash Defense Dam from Zeke’s Island to Smith’s Island [Bald Head Island], a distance of 12,800 feet, made the entire closure just over 3 miles in length.
In addition to the natural deterioration of Federal Point, serious erosion problems occurred near Fort Fisher alter the state intentionally removed coquina rock from the shore just north of the earthworks during the 1920s for use as road construction fill. Since that time approximately 200 yards of sea front has been lost to wave action.
This loss forced the state in the early 1950s to realign the very same highway that had been built with the use of the coquina rock. The North Carolina Highway Department, and later aided by local communities, then began dumping concrete and other large construction debris along the sea front near Battle Acre. As a further means of slowing erosion at Fort Fisher, the state placed a line of rocks along the shoreline in 1970. Storms since that time showed the revetment to be too short. Shoreline erosion continued at a rate of nearly 10 feet per year.
Since the end of the Civil War the ocean has claimed nearly half of the fort.
A more substantial solution to the site erosion problem came in 1995 when matching federal and state funds for a larger revetment project became available. The state and Corps of Engineers approved a plan for a permanent seawall based upon a design of Mr. Dennis.
After two years of planning, an acceptable design called for the construction of a 3,040-foot seawall to extend from south of Battle Acre to north of the Fort Fisher mounds.
Bids went out for the construction of the seawall. Selected for the construction project was Misener Marine Construction, Inc. of Tampa, Florida, at a bid of 4.6 million dollars.
Beginning on the south end, the construction company dug a trench to 3.5 feet below mean sea level in which to lay the revetment ends. Within the trench at both ends, and along the shoreline, a fabric liner was first applied topped by a layer of gravel. Slightly larger bedding stone was then applied and finally a layer of armor stone.
The armor stone, weighing approximately two tons apiece, came from a quarry near Raleigh, while the smaller bedding stone was mined near Castle Hayne.
Approximately 68,000 tons of rock form the seawall. Along Battle Acre the revetment overlaid most of the preexisting rubble. To prevent the new stone from washing into the sea from the sloping shoreline, Misener Marine placed a line of concrete sta-pods at the toe of the protective stone. Nearly four hundred of the pods, weighing 5 tons each and shaped like a tri-pod, were interlocked in a parallel row to the shoreline.
The revetment rises slightly above the natural ground elevation at about 12-15 feet above sea level. Behind the revetment, sand was placed to form a gentle slope from the crest of the revetment to the existing ground. Currently landscaping with trees and scrubs is occurring near the revetment.
A security fence, walkway with stairs leading down to the beach on either end, and two observation gazebos are being constructed. The landscaping and construction projects are expected to be completed by April.
The new revetment should halt the ocean-side erosion of Federal Point for the next fifty years.
Mr. Dennis summarized his work on the design and construction of the seawall project when he jokingly indicated, “It took a Yankee to finally save Fort Fisher.”
March 1996 Newsletter (pdf) – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society
Changes to the Federal Point Landscape – webpage – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society
US. Army. Corps of Engineers:
Revetment stability study, Fort Fisher State Historic Site