Seafood on Federal Point – 1948-1956 (part 3)

Oral History
by:  Howard Hewett,  Jones Creek, TX – July, 2015 – Part 7.3

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

Shrimping on the Cape Fear River
Some of my fondest memories are of late afternoon trips to the river. Dad had purchased some fairly good shrimp nets on one of our trips to Holden Beach in Brunswick County. With the panels from the net he made a seine net with lead on the bottom rope and corks on the top and two staffs on each end. It is hard to say how long it was, but my guess it was approximately four feet high and 150 feet long.

We would load the whole family, along with those who happened to be visiting on the flat-bed trailer pulled by our Cub Cadet Tractor and head over to the river using Davis Road.

The Davis’ river front property (current Davis Road) was adjacent to the Hewett’s river front property. Living on a beach with the Atlantic at our door, we had a lot of summer visitors. Visitors who wanted to help would split up into two groups with Dad (Howard Curtis Hewett Sr.) manning the staff closest to the shore.

Dad was the director of operations and I was in charge of the other end. We would pull the net out into the river until it was approximately 3-1/2 feet deep. Then we would pull the net parallel to the shore for 50 yards or so; finally, we headed for the shore.

The key was to have both staffs arrive at the same time. This process would yield (depending on the conditions) anywhere from a 2-1/2 to a 5-gallon bucket of shrimp. On lean days more pulls were required. Sometimes the Cape Fear River had such an abundance of shrimp that only a short-haul was necessary to fill a 5-gallon bucket.

On one occasion, I remember a small wave from a ship going down the channel caused shrimp to jump up on the shore, but I only recall seeing that once. By suppertime, we had shrimp peeled and ready for the frying pan.

An eight-foot long sink that was purchased from the surplus sold at the closing of the Ft Fisher Army base after the war enhanced processing the shrimp. I recall it being a four-person process consisting of a couple of peelers, a person to devein, and a quality control inspector.

The inspector was usually my grandmother because she was noted for her food preparation quality control. When it came to seafood, Grandmother’s seafood preparation techniques put her in a league of her own.

I have a special memory about Grandmother Roebuck (Meme) on one of the trips to the river. It was one of those times that we did not have a big group so Meme wanted to help on my end.

Actually, I think she just wanted to get out in the water to cool off. On our second pull, we had moved farther down the beach than normal. This area of the beach had more of a muddy bottom than the usual sandy bottom.

As we started to shore, Meme got bogged down to her knees in the shallow water. To help her, I had to drop the staff. After getting her legs back on the surface of the bottom, she still could not stand up so I rolled her out of the area until she could stand up. Of course, she was laughing all the way.

Now leaving the staff did not make my “no-nonsense” dad happy and I can’t write what he said to me but Meme sat down on the beach and roared with laughter. The more dad fussed with me, the more her laughter increased. To this day I have a hard time not smiling when I think about that afternoon at the river.

Fishing
There was an abundance of fish, but the variety depended on the time of year. The fall mullet run provided the family fish for a good part of the year. It was the only seafood that we salted down for short-term storage. When needed, the mullet was removed and soaked in fresh water until most of the brine was removed. Regardless of the soaking, the fish was always on the salty side.

The surf provided trout, blue fish, some flounder, croakers and Virginia mullet. Offshore there was an abundance of black bass around the wrecks of the blockade runners.

Clam Diggers: Mr Todd, Danny Orr, Addie Jane, Mrs Orr

Clam Diggers: Mr Todd, Danny Orr, Addie Jane, Mrs Orr

The most prolific flounder fisherman of the family was my Uncle Crawford Lewis. Dad may have been a close second. Their method was to pull a small skiff with a rope tied to their waist along the shallow waters of the bays.

Their gigging tools consisted of a three-prong pitchfork and a gas lantern. With one hand holding the lantern and the pitch fork in the other, they would gig a flounder, set the lantern down on the bow of the skiff and in one fluid motion flip the flounder in the boat without actually reaching down into the water. The quantity was not what floundering was all about. Quality and size were more important. They would be looking for large flounders around 4-5 pounds.

Just enough for three families to have baked flounder and sometimes maybe a little fried fish. If the moon and the tide were right, it seemed like they would go every night. This might seem strange, but there was no television back in those days so when it got dark, it was time to go floundering. Providing food for a growing family was paramount. The favorite way to prepare the flounder was to bake the whole flounder in a roasting pot with onions and potatoes.

I think it is important to say that regardless of the abundance of seafood, we only took what we needed.

 

Special Event “Memories of Old Fort Fisher”

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

– with Howard Hewett and Friends

Monday,  November 2, 7:30 pm

Mark your calendar now! Howard Hewett 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.

We’ve been featuring his stories in past Newsletters and all his writings can be read on our website  – Click here

Now you get to ask him questions, or to elaborate about things he’s written.

This is going to be a very special program which is, of course, free and open to the general public so bring the whole family.


 

John Moseley – Presents Fort Fisher in World War II

John Moseley - Sept-21-2015John Moseley, Assistant Site Manager at the Fort Fisher Historic Site and History Center Board member, spoke on World War II and Fort Fisher at the regular monthly meeting of the History Center on Monday, September 21, 2015.

He started by explaining how Fort Fisher came to be a World War II base. President Roosevelt wanted military installations built where artillery shells could be fired and no one would hear them or be injured by a bad aim. Eastern North Carolina was determined to be the promised land, or at least sufficiently in the middle of nowhere, for such installations.

World War II - Fort FisherSo in 1940, Holly Ridge, with 7 houses and a population of 28, was transformed from a fuel stop for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad into Camp Davis, an anti-aircraft artillery training center that would house 110,000 people by 1943, at the cost of $40 million.

Fort Fisher, 50 miles to the south, became the primary firing range for Camp Davis. Because of the distance between the two, Fort Fisher had to be a self-sufficient base. Although Fort Fisher was critical historically because of its role in the Civil War, in 1940 national defense took precedence over historic preservation.

Building the 'New' Fort FisherFort Fisher was transformed into a tent city, with over 300 tent frames, 48 buildings, mess halls, showers, infirmary, photo lab, radio and meteorological stations, as well as an airstrip running through the middle of the Fort.

Many of the soldiers arriving at Fort Fisher for their weapons training rotations came from the Midwest, and they had to adjust to a new and challenging environment: the barracks were very small, and the mosquitoes were very large.

One soldier described Fort Fisher as “a quagmire of sand, sand, and more sand.” Some complained about the unfamiliar food: clams, fried shrimp, oyster stew.

Fort Fisher Morale BoostersStill, many men enjoyed the beach and ocean, with reports of sunburn and even surfing attempts using government-issued mattresses. There were sports teams, and Fort Fisher had a canine camp mascot named Queenie.

Eventually an indoor movie theater was built for the troops, to the dismay of the local mosquitoes which had enjoyed the original outdoor theater far more than the soldiers had.

Artillery training took place along and above the beaches, much as it had during the Civil War.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) became a critical part of the weapons training as they piloted planes towing aerial target sleeves for the artillery trainees to shoot at. WASPs had to fly every type of aircraft in this role, and also conduct radar deception and tracking missions.

At least 43 anti-aircraft battalions trained at Fort Fisher before heading to battle in Europe and the Pacific.

Before they left, many of those men sent home sweetheart pillows like the beet red satin pillow John shared with the audience near the end of his presentation.

These pillows were popular during World War II, sent to loved ones by young men as a remembrance, along with the fervent hope they would eventually return home safe and reasonably sound.

Fort Fisher Sweetheart Pillow

Fort Fisher Sweetheart Pillow

Sweetheart:
That someone’s thoughts go where you go
That someone never can forget
The hours we spent since first we met
That life is richer sweeter far
For such a sweetheart as you are
And now my constant prayer will be
That God may keep you safe for me.

~ United States Army, Fort Fisher, North Carolina

 

 

Ryder Lewis, Jr. Civil War Park – Sugar Loaf Trail – Sept 15, 2017

Images by Rick Both

 

November 14, 2016 Plans Prepared by SEPI for Town of Carolina Beach


Images of Earlier FPHPS Work on the Earthworks in Ryder Lewis Park.


More pics taken on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017by Andre

 

No Reward for Finding Gold

By Bill Reaves

(Wilmington Morning Star, June 17, 1927)

Erosion at Ft. Fisher

Click

D. R. Connor, 97 years old, and a native of Robeson County, NC died on June 16, 1927, at the home of his daughter, Mrs, A. M. Roberts, 309 Dawson Street, in Wilmington, NC. He served in the War Between the States with North Carolina troops. He was among the defenders of Fort Fisher when that stronghold fell and was made a prisoner at the time of its capture.

Following the death of Connor, the Wilmington historian, Andrew J. Howell, recalled a story that he had been told by the deceased when they had a visit together earlier. Connor told Howell about finding a satchel of geld coins in the surf at Fort Fisher while he was a soldier there.

It was on the beach below the “Mound Battery” at the southeastern corner of the Fort, which has since been washed away. One morning he went to a secluded spot, where he often went for secret prayer, when he noticed an object in the shallow water close to the shore. He went for it, and found it to be a satchel containing some heavy material. When he opened it, his eyes fell upon a quantity of gold coins!

This was too big a discovery for a mere private to keep so he carried the bag to the headquarters of his company and was given the information that the officers would make the proper disposition of the money. He naturally expected to be rewarded with some of the prize, but he said he never received any of it. He felt pretty sure, however, that he afterwards could trace the whereabouts of at least some of the money.

Rose O'Neil Greenhow

Rose O’Neil Greenhow

The satchel was supposed to have been the property of Mrs. Rose Greenhow, the Confederate secret agent, who lost her life in the breakers while attempting to land from the blockade runner, Condor, on September 30, 1864.

Mr. Connor was an honored citizen of the Fair Bluff area of Columbus County, NC, and was much beloved by his fellow Confederate veterans, at whose reunions he was often seen.

(Wilmington Morning Star, June 17, 1927; June 19, 1927)

[This article was originally published in the January 1998 – FPHPS Newsletter]

Fort Fisher Revetment Project Nears Completion (March 1996)

[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.

The Rocks2

‘The Rocks’ from Battery Buchanan to Zeke’s Island

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.

Ft Fisher vs Erosion

Erosion at Ft. Fisher

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.

Fort Fisher Rocks and BeachWork on the project began in June 1995, and included a multi-layered rubble revetment with circular tie-ins to natural ground on both ends of the site.

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.

Reventment - Ft FisherSticking slightly above the water, marine algae soon covered the sta-pods.  On December 15 , 1995, Misener Marine placed the last rock in the revetment—nearly three months ahead of schedule.

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.

3,200-foot seawall completedat Fort Fisher Museum and Earthworks.

3,200-foot seawall completed (April, 1996)
at Fort Fisher Museum and Earthworks.

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

Local Shows Feature Federal Point History

‘The Hermit of Fort Fisher’
by David Wright, Directed by Steve Vernon

Big Dawg Productions brings the story of Robert Harrell back for another run. If you missed it the first time, here’s your chance. The play will run at 8 pm for 5 nights, July 29-August 2nd,,2015 at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. Tickets ($20.00) can be ordered at the web site: http://www.bigdawghermit.com/ or purchased at the door.

Big Dawg will be keeping the same cast as the original Wilmington and Southport productions and the same director so the show is only bound to grow stronger as the cast and director are well versed in this history and truly immersed in the roles of their characters.

 

summers seabreeze #2‘Summers at Seabreeze’
Songs and Remembrances from Freeman Beach

TheatreNOW’s summer dinner theater show features a look at an often overlooked aspect of Federal Point’s history.

Shows run at 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays through July 25, 2015. Tickets are $34.00 ($26.00 for children and seniors) include dinner that includes a menu drawn from Seabreeze’s original cuisine – including the famous “clam fritters.” Or tickets for the show alone are $20.00.

To book tickets, and see the full dinner menu visit their website: http://www.theatrewilmington.com/

Wilmington Star-News Review:  “‘Summers at Seabreeze’ feels particularly timely, even as its focus is on the past. It’s a reminder that, no matter what those filled with hate may think, the history of the African-American community has a value, and a beauty, that can’t be taken away and won’t ever be forgotten.”~ John Staton.

 

Walter’s Place at Fort Fisher

[This article appeared in the Wilmington Dispatch on September 1, 1923, and comes from the William M. Reaves Collection]

Walter's Place

Walter’s Place

There is a little wooden shack, almost at the point of the peninsular in the southern end of New Hanover County and situated between “The Mound” at Fort Fisher and the sea. The shack serves to designate the establishment known as Walter’s Place.

Fort Fisher and its history have come down to us from the Civil War, and its flag-topped mound, its monument and its strategic location and inspirational surroundings are not new, but Walter’s Place is a creation of the year 1923.

Situated on the final loop of the Fort Fisher highway, Walter’s Place offers many attractions to visitors and fishermen alike. The establishment is run as a cool drink stand and bath house. But it is becoming famous for its fish suppers and lunch service for fishing parties. Cold drinks, hot sandwiches and lunches are readily available and will be specially prepared upon-notice.

Walter’s Place – on right
Click

From Walter’s Place you can go fishing in the river, bay at the “Rocks” or out to sea. Boats, tackle and bait are kept on hand for deep sea fishing and the old banks and wreck of Modern Greece offer the best place for this sport.

Fort Fisher Fishing Pier 1936-1954.

1936-1954
Confederate Memorial at Battle Acre in background

“The Cribben,” Buzzard’s Bay, “The Rocks” and the river are also within easy distance. A Ford car and a motorcycle are kept on the beach to take fishing parties quickly along the beach sands to the inlet or any of the other places nearby.

The owners of this popular shore establishment are Walter Winner and his pretty sister, Iona Winner. The latter keeps shop while the former is away with fishing parties and in quest of supplies.

[Originally published in the August 1996– FPHPS Newsletter]

Oral History – Ed Neidens – Fort Fisher Radar Station

Ed NiedensInterviewed by Ann Hertzler and Jeannie Gordon – March, 2007

I first came to Fort Fisher in the spring of 1956.  The Air Force took me off of a radar site on a mountain in northern Japan and said ‘we want you to go to Kure Beach.’  And at that time, Kure Beach was not on the map.  … Fort Fisher was on the map. This is actually the Fort Fisher radar site.

I was in the Air Force here at Kure Beach in ‘56 and ‘57.  I was discharged in Oct of 57, and went to work for what is now the federal aviation agency as an air traffic controller: Montgomery Alabama, Charleston, Miami, Pensacola, Wilmington. I was a control intercept technician – a radar operator.

Ed Niedens #2Actually the radar site was part of the old fort – the Fort Fisher Army Airfield WW II hospital area because that was the best part.  The rest of the area was done away with.

They actually opened the Air Force base in ’55 I believe. Hurricane Hazel hit in ’54. And then it must have been doing some construction. I don’t know anything about the Army base prior to ’56.

You have to understand the Cold War was here.

In ‘56 and ‘57 we had some 250 people down at the base. We had 4 crews, 24 hour operations, and maintenance for a base with a mess hall and everything else that goes on, not only radar maintenance but everything like vehicle maintenance.

And we had a high fence around the compound where the gate was guarded 24 hours a day. We had dogs that roamed the fence. At that time it was top secret.

The road from US 421 into the base was nothing but a little 2 lane road with bushes on either side of it. The Air Force Radar Station base was to the right back of the chain link fence. The museum wasn’t in there. That was an old run way – an empty grass runway. They put the museum right in the middle of the runway.

We were keeping track of all the aircraft going up and down within 300 miles of Kure Beach. They had fighter jets at Seymour Fort Fisher Radar StationJohnson AFB, Langley, Virginia, Goldsboro, NC and then down to South Carolina.

We could scramble fighter jets from any of those facilities to intercept air craft to determine what kind of air craft it is and identification. The only time we didn’t was when we knew what the aircraft was.  And if it was out of Carolina they gave us identification on that. So we knew the airliners and other people. But if it was coming in from the ocean, or somewhere, they definitely got scrambled. We were part of the early warning system.

Unless you knew the kind of aircraft from the identification of some means, you wouldn’t know, ’cause it was just a radar blip. Now-a’days [2007] everything on the computer has a tag on it that tells them what the aircraft is, the height and everything else. It’s got a transponder. Back then transponders had 3 modes. Now they have like 88.

In the b&w picture the towers behind me are both height radar. They determine the height of the air craft – how high up in the sky. It went like this and the beam went up and down and it showed up on a screen, a blip on the screen, and of course, it was calibrated as to what height. The one in the middle looks like it was under construction and a new radar. There is no antenna on top of it.

We had a great time. We had tours of duty. We were on 8 hours and then the rest of the day was ours. We wore civilian clothes off base. We’d come up to Kure and Carolina Beach. All the locals knew us. We had just a great rapport with all the people.

 

[Additional resources]
History of Fort Fisher Air Force Station – Wikipedia
Radar Station Location: Google MapsBing Maps

Carolina Beach Today – Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area