Two Captains From Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt

Two Captains From Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War by Bland Simpson. University of NC Press, 2012

No two men could have come from different circumstances. Moses Grandy was born a slave in Camden County, NC about 1791. He captained freight boats on the Dismal Swamp and bought his freedom three times before he finally gained it.

He became involved in abolitionism in Boston and ultimately appeared before the General Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1843.

John Newland Maffitt was born on February 22, 1819 aboard a three-masted sailing ship in the North Atlantic. His mother, Ann Carnic was on her way to join her husband, Reverend John Newland Maffit in Connecticut. At age five, with his parents separated, Maffit was adoped by his Uncle, Doctor William Maffitt who farmed and practiced medicine in Cumberland County, NC. 

At thirteen he became a midshipman in the US Navy. He served aboard the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) and by early 1850’s he was commander of the US Coast Survey schooner Gallitan mapping the waters of eastern North Carolina including the approaches to Wilmington, NC.

Bland Simpson, UNC professor of creative writing and author of numerous books including The Coasts of Carolina: Seaside to Sound Country, presents the lives of these two water-men in a fascinating narrative that sheds light on the social and economic forces that would build throughout the first half of the nineteenth century until war seemed the only way to reconcile these opposing forces.


2013: 148th anniversary of the end of the Civil War

Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher

The year 2013 marks the 148th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. To commemorate the anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Fisher—the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War—Fort Fisher State Historic Site will host a living history program on January 19, 2013.

Thanks to the recently released Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln” and its multiple references to Wilmington, North Carolina and the Battle of Fort Fisher, millions of movie-goers are now more familiar with the Fort’s important historical role as the last fort to fall to Union troops during the Civil War. Fort Fisher embraces this new spotlight and welcomes history buffs and fans of the movie year-round to explore its Civil War battlefield, monuments, museum, and special events.

As part of the State’s observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources’ Fort Fisher State Historic Site will host “Sheppard’s Battery: Confederates Defending the Left Flank,” a special living history program on January 19, 2013. This year’s anniversary commemoration will focus on the Confederate defenders at Sheppard’s Battery and around the “Bloody Gate” on the left flank of Fort Fisher. read more

Oral History – Earl Page – Part 4: ‘Fishing for Mullett’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler


Fishermen bought popeye mullet in a fish market as fresh bait. The beautiful beach was right where the Rocks are now, across from the Museum at Ft. Fisher – bigger than Carolina Beach, but inaccessible. You couldn’t get a parking place and you had cliffs.

They are working a haul seine to catch popeye mullet. The boat went out around the mullet with the net and came in up here. Everybody pulled the net in by physical strength. Some had mules or tractors.

A haul seine takes a crew from 20 to 23 men.

You have to do it at night so the fishermen would see one, jump out of the boat and hold this staff. They caught like 6,000 pounds for commercial use. You sold Popeye mullet to the wholesale houses and they sold to the retail stores.



Gill net – There’s a difference between a haul seine and a gill net. One man can work a gill net. Here’s a gill hanging out to dry – 150 yards long – longer than a football field. Fish get hung up in it in their gills. And they can’t back out. Earl did this after he came out of the Navy in World War II.

It takes two gill netters with two boats that come together back at the stern, stern to stern, and both netters go like this with one man in each boat.


President’s Message – January, 2013

John Golden

Well, the Christmas Party was a huge success and though Virginia Frances our tireless Social Committee, couldn’t be there due to illness, Sondra Nelder, Peg Fisher and Darlene and Leslie Bright pitched in to pull off another enjoyable event A special thanks to all who brought food to add to the Church’s holiday food drive.

John Golden was, as always, wonderful at leading the singing, and the games Demetria and Rebecca devised kept everyone laughing.

An update: at this point Virginia is still at Autumn Care, but will hopefully be home by the time of our next meeting. Anyone wanting to volunteer to bring refreshments to the Jan. 21 meeting – please call Rebecca 458- 0502.

A work crew that included Darlene and Leslie Bright, Don and Sylvia Snook, along with Jim Dugan and John Gordon managed to get the new shelving assembled, almost. We are missing a few small parts and they should come by mid January and, hopefully, all will be in place by early February.


 Last month’s Christmas party was a stellar success with over 60 members and guests in attendance. The food was great, the games were fun, and John Golden topped off the evening by leading us in singing familiar carols.

Plaqued Buildings in Federal Point

(as of December, 2012)

Currently Plaqued in Federal Point:

  1. Kure Cottage
  2. Burnett Cottage
  3. Ocean Plaza
  4. McCabe-Lancaster House
  5. Lylerly Residence
  6. Newton Cemetery
  7. Carolina Beach Drug Company
  8. Colonel Burnett House
  9. Loughlin House
  10. Sly-Walton House
  11. Joy Lee Apartments
  12. Carolina Beach School
  13. Immaculate Conception Chapel
  14. Carolina Beach Community Church

Oral History – Earl Page – Part 3: ‘Blue Top Cottages’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Blue Top was the first home that was built. There was a string of cottages next to Blue Top before 1940. The Army hadn’t come in yet.

Walter Winner ran the Blue Top Cottages in ’37. Granddad ran it 38, 39 and 40. Granddad and grandmother moved in to an end cottage—the very first one on this end became an office and a home. Earl’s father came into the picture in ’46. His Mother didn’t care for this kind of life.

She’d stay maybe a month, two months. She was a city woman. Earl got discharged. His Dad asked him to help keep the pier going. Well, Earl and ten million other guys didn’t have a job. read more

From the President – December, 2012

Barry Nelder

Barry Nelder

Christmas Party:
Again this year Virginia Francis, our hospitality committee in-one-person, has arranged for us to have our Christmas potluck at Kure Memorial Lutheran Church. The date for the dinner is Monday, December 17, which is our regular meeting night. Please plan to be there by 6:30 and please bring a dish to share.

We will also be making donations to their Christmas food drive so bring a few cans or boxes of food to be donated through them to the Help Center. Remember, bring your favorite holiday dish, and a friend or two who might be prospective members.

We’ve just heard that Virginia fell and broke her collar-bone! Not sure how out-of-commission she’ll be for the party but Sonda Nelder, Peg Fisher, and Demetria Sapienza will be pitching in to do all that Virginia usually does.

Last month a work crew got our new archival storage shelving installed. On November 27 the new library shelving arrived. Thanks to Darlene and Leslie Bright, Demetria and Phil Sapienza, and Jim Dugan who unloaded the 600 pounds of wood and metal from the transfer truck. Stay tuned for pictures of our new ”professional” library and archives.


Monthly Meeting Report – November, 2012

Jack Fryar: ‘The Yellow Death’

Our November, 2012 speaker was Jack Fryar, writer and publisher of NC history books for young people. His illustrated lecture was about the yellow fever epidemic in Wilmington in 1862.

In 1862, yellow fever cut a swath through Civil War Wilmington that killed off a third of North Carolina’s largest city. Join Jack Fryar, author of “The Yellow Death: Wilmington & The Epidemic of 1862” to hear the story of a time when tragedy was the rule along the banks of the Cape Fear River, and wagons carried the dead to Oakdale Cemetery on a daily basis.

Folk lore is that the disease was brought by the blockade runner The Kate arriving from the Bahamas after passing the eleven forts and installations along the Cape Fear River, but Jack feels there were people infected in the city before the ship arrived.

Louis Swartzman was the first fatality, after which doctors warned people to flee and many did. The disease damages kidneys and liver and often causes rapid death. The Confederate army withdrew its soldiers to Fort Fisher. Sanitation workers refused to pick up trash, and food was in short supply because no one would bring it in.

Jack E. Fryar Jr.

Jack E. Fryar Jr.

The city seemed deserted since nearly everyone who could not leave had died. A head count was impossible because Caucasian bodies were dumped in a huge pit at Oakdale Cemetery and records of slave deaths were never kept. By late November the epidemic subsided due to frost killing off the mosquitoes that spread it. Estimates are 1/6 of the city had perished.

Jack E. Fryar, Jr. is the author or editor of twenty-two books about the history of the Cape Fear and North Carolina. Jack is the publisher of Dram Tree Books, the local press specializing in books about the four centuries of history of the Tar Heel State, particularly the coastal regions. He lives in Wilmington with his wife, Cherie, and is currently working towards a Masters in History at UNC-Wilmington.


Epidemic! Quarantine!

After two years of legal paperwork, a single, solar-powered flashing light will be installed this weekend (July 31, 2014) on the hulking remains of a quarantine station in the Cape Fear River.

Ed Pierce was piloting his motorboat on the night of Aug. 4, 2012, when he gave wide berth to an approaching tugboat. He inadvertently slipped out of the shipping channel and crashed into a 16-by-16-foot unlit concrete platform from the long-abandoned structure near Southport.

His wife and partner of four decades Barbara, 55, was killed. Pierce and two other passengers were injured.











By Rebecca Taylor

At last November’s Monthly Meeting , Jack Fryar talked about the yellow fever epidemic in Wilmington in the Summer and Fall of 1862.

But did you know that you can still see a concrete platform from the old quarantine station that was built in the very middle of the Cape Fear River?

Can you imagine what it must have been like to face a host of deadly diseases like small pox, typhoid, yellow fever, cholera and even malaria without having any idea of what caused them or how to treat the people who caught them. The ONLY thing that could be done was try to prevent the scourge from somehow coming to your town.

In 1348 the first formal maritime quarantine was established in the Mediterranean, when Venice created a system whereby an appointed council of three had the authority to inspect ships, cargoes and individuals for up to forty days. In 1403 Venice established the first known maritime quarantine station or lazaretto on Santa Maria di Nazareth an island in the Venetian lagoon. By the 1700’s all major towns and cities along the eastern seaboard of the US had passed quarantine laws though they were generally not enforced unless an epidemic appeared imminent.

As early as 1751 the North Carolina colonial assembly passed a Pilotage Act that required inspection of all ships coming into harbor. However, again it appears to have been “selectively” enforced for Wilmington suffered yellow fever outbreaks in 1819 and 1821.

Then came the Civil War blockade runners and the worst epidemic Wilmington would ever see. Thousands fled the city and over 600 people died. Until the end of the war the blockade running ships were stopped at Smithville (Southport today) or Fort Anderson for inspection and fumigation.

Soon after the war North Carolina law provided for a port physician to draw up quarantine regulations and by 1879 the president of the State Health Board could appoint two additional physicians to a local quarantine committee.

Dr. W. G. Curtis served as port physician from the mid 1870’s to the 1890’s during which time the quarantine station stood on the waterfront of Smithville. But the locals blamed the station for several epidemics in the area and when the waterfront station burned in 1883 locals lobbied to have it moved further from town.

Then, in 1893, Congress established the U.S. Marine Hospital Service and construction of a station in the middle of the Cape Fear River opposite Price’s Creek was begun. It opened in 1897. By 1901 quarters had been added for sailors waiting for their ships to be inspected and by 1904 there was a hospital for sick seamen.

By the 1930’s developments in public health found the facility in the middle of the river obsolete and in 1937 it was no longer being used though a custodian was still looking after the buildings. In 1953 the buildings burned to the ground. However one small concrete pad remains and can be seen from the Bald Head Island Ferry soon after it leaves Southport.

For more detailed information on the Cape Fear River quarantine station, read Ben Steelman’s Wilmington StarNews article (June 8, 2012.) about the quarantine station.

Today's Remains of the Quarantine Station

Today: The Quarantine Station Concrete Platform Remains in Cape Fear River


Sept 4, 2013
StarNews Online – Wilmington

History buffs seek to save deadly platform near Southport
– The remnant was the scene of a fatal boating accident

Much of the station was destroyed by fire in 1952. Hurricane Hazel in 1954 finished off what was left, except for the water tower platform.

Basil Watts, a pilot in the Cape Fear River for 28 years, said the platform “acts as its own marker” for a debris field of concrete and steel from the collapsed station. Submerged pilings remain as well. “You’d have to remove all the debris to make the area safe,” he maintains.  … full story ..


July 31, 2014
StarNews Online – Wilmington

After two years of legal paperwork, a single, solar-powered flashing light will be installed this weekend on the hulking remains of a quarantine station in the Cape Fear River.

Ed Pierce was piloting his motorboat on the night of Aug. 4, 2012, when he gave wide berth to an approaching tugboat. He inadvertently slipped out of the shipping channel and crashed into a 16-by-16-foot unlit concrete platform from the long-abandoned structure near Southport.

His wife and partner of four decades Barbara, 55, was killed. Pierce and two other passengers were injured.

Since that day, Pierce, with the assistance of Wilmington attorney Geoff Losee, has been working to have the structure illuminated in an effort to prevent a similar tragedy.  .. full story ..

Oral History – Earl Page – Part 2: ‘Army Truck’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Earl bought an Army truck when he got out of the service. He used it to pull vehicles out of the sand and help in fishing. The dirt road goes down to the Rocks. The picture shows just two ruts in the dirt road. The highway ended this side of the Museum. Then it became a cow path.

Earl was on his way to help a guy raise a sail boat. He had to get there across a ditch. He pulled lots of vehicles out of the sand. They’d get stuck at the beach. It looked like a car was sitting right in the water. Earl’s truck had front wheel drive.

No one had 4- wheel drive back then. There were only two 4-wheel drive vehicles on this beach – Earl’s and a garage at Carolina Beach. Earl drove in water going out in the Bay to get a jeep. A guy walked in front looking for holes.

He pulled a taxi cab out of the ocean. He took pictures and it’s a good thing because the insurance company didn’t believe it.


Earl pulled a tank out of the ocean. A ship barge lost it. When Earl contacted the owners, they said we could keep it because it would cost more for them to come get it. Three men rowed out in the ocean in a row boat and brought the tank in close enough that Earl could get a wench on it.

Earl sold it.

Many had to have vehicles pulled off the beach because they didn’t know how to drive on the beach. It was like Daytona Beach at low tide – someone went down to Corncake Inlet driving on the beach. To turn around, he drove down toward the ocean and then tried to back up in the soft sand; the wheels sunk and the tide came in. Thank goodness for that Army truck.

The beach was very wide. If you stand with your back to the Fort Fisher monument, look out into the ocean, and hold your hand at a 10 o’clock angle you can see how wide the beach was. But right there, at 60 degrees, it’s nothing but rocks. It looked like Coney Island. It was beautiful. But you couldn’t park and you had cliffs. You couldn’t get down right there unless you had an Army truck.