Captain John Harper – from the Bill Reaves Files

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”.  (Wilm Star, 8-13-1880)


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.   (Wilm Star, 8-14-1883)


June 5, 1887  – Fifteen miles from Wilmington on the banks of the ocean is situated Carolina Beach which is daily, rapidly, and deservedly growing in popular favor. How is it reached? One hour is hardly spent on the steamer PASSPORT when the boat moves slowly to Harper’s Pier, where the pleasure seekers disembark to find in readiness a train of cars awaiting to carry them to their destination. These cars are made after the manner of cars used at Coney Island and are convenient and commodious. A ride of five or six minutes through a level and interesting country, filled with flowers and green shrubbery, brings you in full view of the ocean.
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Oral History – Earl Page – Part 6 : ‘Fort Fisher Pier’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

The 5 piers going from south to north were Fort Fisher Pier, Kure Pier, Center Pier, the Steel Pier in the heart of Carolina Beach with the sky ride/lift, and the Northern Extension Pier. Now we have two – The Northern Extension and Mike’s at Kure Beach.

The Ft. Fisher pier, first built in 1938 was at the end of the highway. Only one bus between Wilmington and Carolina Beach would come down here and turn around further south than the cement gateways to Ft Fisher; but not beyond where the Ft. Fisher State Park/Aquarium is now. 500 ft. north of the museum was the end of the highway. The highway used to be over alongside the cliff with a huge, beautiful beach that was inaccessible. You could see part of it on low tide. A piling stood there for years after Hazel.

The pier with the bait shop was here with the cottages which had a restaurant. When you drove in to the pier or the restaurant, eight cottages were on the right hand side. There was nothing near the pier before they built the Blue Top. It was all forest.

Notice the difference in the two pictures of Fort Fisher Pier. The second picture has a platform on to load a boat. The boat would put out its anchor when it reached this platform and then put two guidelines to keep the boat from rocking so people could come aboard. They didn’t have to go through the breakers then.

This pier was 26 ft. wide and the nicest pier on the beach. All the other boats had to go through the surf. You could go up to Masonboro Inlet.  Corncake Inlet was not deep enough for boats this size. It’s filled in now. Just this side of Bald Head was a nice inlet for outboards. If you got on the other side of Corncake, you were on Bald Head.


There were no inlets around here then. Masonboro was a man-made inlet, the one with the rocks on each side. Mother-nature made Corncake and also cut another inlet between Ft. Fisher Pier and Corncake. But it was only accessible by small Motorboats a few years. You went out to a place called High Rock, just a hop and a skip out in the ocean which was excellent fishing. Spanish mackerel were jumping everywhere. They’d jump in the boat it was so thick out there.

They did not have head boats and party boats like they do now to take people out. Carl Winner was one of the first ones to go out through the surf. And you helped him with the boat, bringing it up on the hill and putting it in the water. Not so much the women, but the men. You’ve already paid him his money and now you’re going to help put the boat in the water. That was common. Nobody gave it a second thought.


Monthly Meeting Report – Februrary, 2013

Last Month’s Meeting –

Our February meeting was a success as Frances Massey told us about the history of the Island of Lights Committee.

Originally founded in 1989-1990 as a project of the short lived Carolina Beach Jaycees, by early 1991 a formal Island of Lights Committee had a membership of 20 volunteers. Today they have an active membership of almost 50.

Their ongoing fundraising projects include the April fashion show, a booth at the October Jazz Festival, and, of course, the annual Christmas ornament and Christmas card. Events currently include the Lights on the Lake, the Christmas Parade, the Holiday flotilla, a tour of homes, and the New Years Eve countdown.

Frances Massey has strong ties to the local community. Her family moved to Carolina Beach when she was in 5th grade and she attended Carolina Beach School, Sunset Junior High, and was a member of the first full class at Hoggard High School. She is now retired from a life long career teaching K-5 special education in the New Hanover County Schools.

Also in February, 2013

Ribbon Cut for the opening of renovated

FPHPS Library and Archive









The library re-model is finally done and it looks so professional! Our library and archives will be far more functional with room to expand the collection as time goes by. Best of all we will be able to put our hands on specific information much more quickly. It will also provide a more effective and useful space for writers and researchers.


Society Notes – Feb., 2013

Darlene Bright, History Center Director

  • Please keep Virginia Frances in your thoughts and prayers as she continues to battle a number of health issues. We hope she will be back with us soon.
  • This month we recorded 23 members and guests at our January meeting. The History Center recorded 36 visitors. The gift shop took in $48.95.
  • Please welcome new members Bob Maffitt of Wilmington, and Michael McMahon of Cary. We also added Ned Barnes, Attorney of Carolina Beach to our list of business members.
  • Thanks to our History Center Volunteers Darlene Bright and Juanita Winner for coming in on short notice so Rebecca could meet a writing deadline.
  • Thanks to Cheri McNeill for her always thorough proofing of the newsletter and Lois Taylor for her help getting the Newsletter in the mail.
  • Thanks to the crew who worked the sometimes frantic Fort Fisher Reenactment event; Darlene and Leslie Bright, Demetria and Phil Sapienza, Cheri McNeill, Paul Slebodnik, Barry Nelder, Byron Moore, and Jim Dugan. Thanks also to Cheri McNeill, Sylvia Snook, Demetria Sapienza, Rebecca Taylor, Jean Stewart and Jane Dugan our “bakers” who donated homemade cookies for the cause.
  • 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.


Now available in the Gift Shop!

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

Back by popular demand, we have new Society t-shirts on order. They come in “heathered” denim blue and cardinal red and cost $14.00 each. We have  all sizes between medium and XXL.


Upcoming Events – Feb-March, 2013

February 19, 7- 9 p.m. Scurvy: Scourge of the Mariner and Soldier with John Moseley
Join the NC Maritime Museum at Southport and The Friends of the Museum in welcoming John Moseley, Assistant Site Manager, Fort Fisher State Historic Site. He will discuss one of the most deadly diseases to haunt seafarers and armies for centuries – scurvy. Scurvy is a condition caused by a lack of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, in the diet. The knowledge of vitamin C and its effects on the human body has only been known since 1932. What was life like for those people deprived of fresh fruits and vegetables for long periods of time? Discover the effects of this disease in world, US and local history. The program will be held at the Southport Community Building, 223 East Bay St., Southport. Program is free, call the Museum at (910)457-0003 to register

February 21, 7:30pm. Cape Fear Civil War Round Table
Professor Philip Gerard, author and historian, will speak on “the best and the worst of the human spirit” as it relates to the Civil War. Professor Gerard is currently writing a column on the Civil War in OUR STATE magazine and will talk about his research methodology -. The meeting will be held at St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound (101Airlie Road). Social Hour begins at 7:00 p.m.

February 23 Cape Fear Museum of History and Science.
For kids and grand kids! Conduct fun and creative building experiments to explore Lower Cape Fear architecture. What is a structural foundation and why is it so important? How are historic buildings preserved for future generations to enjoy?
Create a marshmellow geodesic dome to test out shape strength and make your own newspaper tower. Parental participation is required. Free for members or with general admission.

March 16 & 17: Bentonville Battlefield
will celebrate the 148th anniversary of the battle with a bang. “One Continuous Fire of Destruction,” will be held March 16 & 17. The program will focus on artillery involvement during the fiery battle. Artillery and infantry demonstrations will occur throughout the day both Saturday and Sunday. A Union Monument will be dedicated Saturday, March 16. Civilian living history demonstrations will be set up near the Harper House. The Harper House, used as a Union Field Hospital, will be open for guided tours. All activities are free. 10:00am— 4:00pm.

Oral History – Earl Page – Part 5: ‘Salting Fish’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Earl could carry 3300 pounds of fish on his truck and go all the way into Wilmington to deliver to Lee’s Fish House. They’d say “Sorry Page, I can’t take no more.” Now what do you do with all the fish? The thing in their favor was cold weather in late December.

Earl wasn’t worried about the fish. He came back to the pier which is closed as far as fishing, but they used the shed there. They had to corn them—salt them. They unloaded the fish and drove back to Wilmington to get salt and 100-pound wooden barrels. They had to make 3 trips with Earl’s truck.

You had an assembly line. You keep putting water and salt in it until you get one mullet that you filleted to float. If it doesn’t float, you haven’t got enough salt! We’re talking about a thousand or more pounds of salt.

You don’t scale ‘em. All you do is cut their heads off, rake out the guts and dump the heads and guts off the pier to feed the marine life. The crabs, snails and sea life have a ball.

The last man takes that real sharp knife and just gives a split—but leaves the tail intact so it lays open. Put them in hundred pound barrels and put the lid on so the fish don’t get contaminated or spoiled.

When the salted fish go out into the country stores, the owner will take a hammer and bust that top. And the people come in and buy it.

When you get ready to cook it, you’ve got to par boil it. Soak it overnight in fresh water to get the salt off. The next morning, it’s delicious. It took about 3 months to sell these fish. But they made $25 a keg, when before, they couldn’t get 2 cents a pound.



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