Monthly Meeting Report – January, 2013

January Meeting Monday, January 21, 2013 7:30 pm

Captain John Newland Maffitt

Captain John Newland Maffitt

Our speaker this month was Robert “Bob” Maffitt, great grandson of Captain John Newland Maffitt. He will talk about Maffitt’s career as a Confederate Naval officer, blockade runner, and privateer. Born in New York of Irish parents Maffit was raised by his Uncle, Dr. William Maffit in Fayetteville, North Carolina. In 1832, at the age 13, he entered the United States Navy as a midshipman.

By 1843 he was a Lieutenant assigned to the hydrographic survey. Among his assignments was the survey of the waters around Wilmington, NC.

In 1857, Maffitt was placed in command of the brig USS Dolphin and ordered to capture pirates and slavers in the West Indies. On August 21, 1858, Dolphin captured the slaver Echo with 318 Africans on board and sent her into Charleston; the liberated slaves were later sent back to Africa.

With the coming of the Civil War he resigned his position in the United States Navy to become General Robert E. Lee’s naval aide. By August 1862 he was in command of the CSS Florida. After a career that involved blockade running into and out of heavily guarded Mobile Bay. In 1864 he was given command of the CSS Albemarle in defense of the Roanoke River and town of Plymouth, NC.

By the fall of 1864 he was back in Wilmington, commanding the CSS Owl and running the blockade. During his service to the Confederacy, Maffitt repeatedly ran the blockade to carry needed supplies and captured and destroyed more than seventy prizes worth $10 to $15 million.

After the war, Captain John Newland Maffitt, with his wife and children, retired to Wilmington where he became a noted member of the local community.

Today, grandson Robert “Bob” Maffitt lives in Wilmington, N.C. where he is known as “The Ambassador” because of his work in greeting tourist and welcoming them to Wilmington, N.C. as well as relating its colorful history. His education was in mechanical engineering and Mechanical Design, Electro-Mechanical Drafting and Architectural-Structural Drafting.

 

Society Notes – January, 2013

Darlene Bright, History Center Director

  • This month we recorded 65 members and guests at our Christmas Party at Kure Memorial Lutheran Church. We had 54 visitors to the History Center throughout the month. The gift shop took in a whopping $361.37 which is an all-time high for the month of December!
  • Thanks to our History Center Volunteers! Cheri McNeill for her always thorough proofing of the newsletter and Lois Taylor for her help getting the Newsletter in the mail.
  • We had a great volunteer crew for the big library shelving installation, including Darlene and Leslie Bright, Don and Sylvia Snook along with Jim Dugan and John Gordon. This project is almost done and we’ve had some really great “strong backs” make it possible.
  • Darlene Bright also spent a good deal of time at the History Center this month getting our historic and current files re-organized and accessible. Next up is getting all the artifacts inventoried and stored properly.
  • Thanks to Carl Filipiak who has begun cataloging all our subject files on Friday mornings! It’s going to be great to have those files indexed in our regular catalog.

 

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.