Seabreeze Part 4 — Growth of Seabreeze

by Rebecca Taylor

In February, 1930, the Wilmington Star reported that, “Electric poles are now being set from Wilmington to Seabreeze, a colored resort, by the Tide Water Power Company for the extension of electrical current.” Then in July of 1931, the Wilmington News reported that the North Carolina Negro Insurance Association held its annual convention at Seabreeze with speakers from Durham, Winston, Charlotte as well as smaller towns.seabreeze #1

By the Labor Day holiday of 1933, the Wilmington Star reported that “Ten thousand Negroes visited Seabreeze yesterday. They came by trucks, motor cars, buses, and, in fact, every mode of vehicle. Some trucks were loaded with as many as 75 to 100 men, women, and children all packed in these vehicles like sardines. Four large buses were employed in conveying the crowds to and from the resort. Trucks came from Fuquay Springs, Lumberton, Pembroke, Charity Cross Roads, and from numerous other towns in eastern and Piedmont North Carolina.”

By July of 1934, Dr. Foster F. Burnett, a local Negro physician who was a Harvard University graduate, constructed a convalescent home and recreation center at Seabreeze that would  accommodate up to 10 persons at a time. A pier was also constructed from the home to the sound. Dr. Burnett had plans to also build tennis courts, a golf course and other recreational facilities. That same month Dr. Burnett was promoting a request to the State Highway and Public Works Commission to improve the road connecting State Highway 40 with Seabreeze.

By the summer of 1935, the resort was so developed that the North Carolina Utilities Commission voted to grant a franchise to a Wilmington bus company to operate a bus line from Wilmington to Seabreeze.

In July 1938, the Wilmington Star reported the “purchase of a site at Seabreeze in connection with a development for colored tourists, to cost about $7,600 was announced yesterday by Ben McGhee. The pavilion is to be located off the Carolina Beach road near the entrance to Seabreeze.”

By the summer of 1938, C.C. Spaulding, President of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company of Durham, announced plans to purchase a lot and build a vacation home at Seabreeze. “Spaulding announced his plan following a weekend visit to the resort in which he was favorably impressed with the quietness of the resort on the southern side of Seabreeze as most conductive to rest and relaxation.”

Seabreeze #2By the mid-1930s, Seabreeze was in full swing. They had so many visitors that parking became a problem.  On summer weekends cars lined Carolina Beach Road for up to a mile. On holiday weekends the New Hanover County Sheriff assigned deputies to supervise traffic flow to and from the resort. At least 10 restaurants, including Barbecue Sam’s, served summer visitors. The area’s cooks quickly became famous for their clam fritters, often with finely chopped bell peppers and onions.

At some point in the 1930s, there seems to have been talk of incorporating Seabreeze as a municipality.  An editorial appeared in the Wilmington Star that advised them that it would be “Wise to go Slow” concluding with; “It is, therefore, our advice to our Negro citizens to proceed with caution. They should do everything possible to develop their resort, and for this they are to be commended, but corporate responsibilities may invite worries that are not compensated by such benefits as might accrue.”

Seabreeze Part 3 – With the Turn of the Century

Freeman Family at Mt. Pilgrim Church

Freeman Family at Mt. Pilgrim Church

by Rebecca Taylor

The Freeman Heirs

In July 1902, Robert Bruce Freeman Jr., appeared in the New Hanover County Clerk of Court’s Office bearing his father’s will for probate.

The surviving children (all sons) from Robert Bruce’s first marriage inherited most of the Old Homestead. Robert Bruce, Jr., Archie, Rowland, Nathan, and Ellis received fifty-seven acres each.

Dulcia, the widow of Robert and Catherine’s son, Daniel Freeman, were granted lifetime rights in fifty-seven acres of the Old Homestead. Thereafter, the property was to be divided equally between Daniel and Dulcia’s children, Ida and Hattie. Lena was also given fifty-seven acres of the Old Homestead.

Lena’s children were to “share and share alike” with Catherine’s children in all the lands outside of the Old Homestead while Lena’s children were not included in the Old Homestead division.”

Unfortunately, the vagueness of the bequest to Lena’s children would haunt the family into the 21st Century.  As early as 1914 “the court appointed a Board of Commissioners to determine the boundaries for each tract. They decided that the tracts would run west to east, from the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean. This gave each heir access to the river, sound, ocean, and soil suitable for cultivation.”

After Robert Bruce, Jr.’s death, Ellis Freeman, youngest son by his first marriage, took over management of the family lands. “He obtained a $50,000 government permit to sell yellow granite, and created a profitable business carrying people out on the ocean fishing.”

The Beginning of Carolina Beach

In the 1880’s Freeman gave Captain John Harper, owner of the steamer Wilmington and a partner in the New Hanover Transit Company, the right of way to build a railroad through his property at Carolina Beach in exchange for free train passes for the black people of the area.

On March 11, 1887, W. L. Smith, Jr. bought a strip of land comprised of 24 acres for the amount of $66.50. These acres were between the head of Myrtle Grove Sound and the ocean beach. Today this land is located in the heart of the business district of the Town of Carolina Beach.

The following year, 1888, the New Hanover Transit Company sponsored a free excursion to Carolina Beach for indigent and infirmed colored people in Wilmington. About five hundred people took the trip including church members from St. Stephen, St. Luke, St. Mark, Mount Olive, Central Baptist and Chestnut Street Presbyterian churches.

In 1913, the Freeman heirs financed Alexander W. Pate and Joseph Laughlin a large tract with boundaries running from the end of the “old road bed of the New Hanover Transit Company’s railroad” to about 5,000 feet south of Sugar Loaf and then over to the beach.

Seabreeze Established

In the early 1920’s, Ellis Freeman, one of Robert, Sr.’s heirs, sold the first lots on the Seabreeze tract with full right of ingress and egress to and over any and all portion of the sea beach east of and across Myrtle Grove Sound.

Seabreeze managed to promote black ownership of recreational property and businesses – something other black beaches in the country had been unsuccessful in doing in spite of well-organized attempts.”

Seabreeze Beach ResortThe first beach structure called “Seabreeze” was built in 1922. It was about the time of the great boom in beachfront development. It was also a time of resurgent black pride and enterprise, the era of the Harlem Renaissance.

Victoria Loftin

Victoria Lofton

Tom and Victoria Lofton, a prominent black couple from Wilmington, completed construction on the Russell Hotel, a twenty-five room, three-story hotel, restaurant and dance hall. Peter Simpson and his wife opened Simpson’s Hotel and development began to spring up all around.

The Harlem-based, syndicated black columnist Geraldyne Dismond reported, to her surprise, cottages that resembled a “transplanted Seventh Avenue tea room, swank…bungalows and a sporting crowd dressed in linen suits and driving roadsters.”

Seabreeze

Daley Breezy Pavilion

In the spring of 1929, the Wilmington Star reported that at Seabreeze, the Negro resort, a new hotel is under construction.

According to residents of that section it will greatly facilitate the housing problem there during the season and an increase of the number of Negroes visiting this section is expected to result from the construction program.

Then by February 1930 the Tide Water Power Company was extending poles from Wilmington to Seabreeze. And, by July of 1931 the Wilmington News was reporting that the North Carolina Negro Insurance Association held its annual convention at Seabreeze with speakers from Durham, Winston-Salem, Charlotte as well as smaller towns.

 

The Fort Fisher Hermit

[Originally published in the May, 1995 – FPHPS Monthly Newsletter]

Mr. Harry Warren, guest speaker at the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society April, [1995] meeting, received the undivided attention of those attending the meeting on Monday, April 17th.

The topic by Mr. Warren, who is assistant director of the Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington, was one of interest to everyone in attendance. He supported his presentation by displaying slides on a screen as he told history of the Fort Fisher Hermit.

Ft Fisher Hermit

Fort Fisher Hermit

At the beginning of his presentation he concentrated on the flowering foods, and seafood available in the Fort Fisher area, displaying them on the screen. “Needless to say, Robert E. Harrill, the Fort Fisher Hermit, knew about these flowering food plants and seafood before he moved in at the World War II bunker near Fort Fisher,” Mr. Warren said.

Robert E. Harrill was born in Shelby, North Carolina on Ground Hog Day, February 2, 1893.

His mother and two brothers died in the early 1900’s with typhoid fever. “His father remarried and his step-mother was-very dominating and strict. His childhood was cut short and he grew up in an atmosphere of family violence. He often sought solitude into the woods or into nearby streams, rivers, and lakes for solitude and refuge,” Mr. Warren stated.

He presented two slides, one showing the Hermit before he came to Fort Fisher and another picture of him, a young man standing with members of his literary club. “Some people say he was a well-educated man, however, there is no evidence of his attending college. He did receive a good basic education. He attended Boiling Springs High School and later returned to the school, when it became Gardner-Webb Jr. College, to study ministry,” Warren said.

In 1913, Robert Harrill married Katie Hamrick. The couple had five children, four sons and a daughter who died shortly after birth.

His family and other people thought Robert was disturbed. They felt his problem was caused by the abuse he suffered as a child. The problems caused the family to break up in the 1930’s. Katie took her four sons to Pennsylvania to live and Robert made a living peddling trinkets and making jewelry such as ID bracelets.

“It is said that on one occasion he was involuntarily committed to a state hospital for observation. It was there that he found a brochure about Dr. William Marcus Taylor and the Taylor School of Bio-Psychology. He read the material and felt that he had found the answers to many of his problems.” He met Dr. Taylor when he got out of the hospital and began studying in his correspondence school for a degree in Bio-Psychology.

Fort Fisher Hermit - boatWhen he became 62, he came to Fort Fisher and settled into the World War II bunker which was to become his home for 17 years. He became one of the biggest tourists attractions on the island as his fame grew.

“He made like he didn’t like the popularity and made the statement how was he going to be a hermit when all those people kept coming to see him. However, he painted ‘The Fort Fisher Hermit” on a pillar to the entrance of the road to the bunker,” Warren told the group.

The Fort Fisher Hermit passed away, some say by natural causes, others suspect foul play, in June 1972. He was buried in a cemetery in Shelby and later moved to the Federal Point Cemetery on Dow Road, Carolina Beach. “He came home,” Warren said, in closing his presentation.

[Editor’s Note: Information was provided by Sheila S. Davis, Features Editor for the Island Gazette.]


[Additional resources]

The Fort Fisher Hermit – FPHPS web page with links and YouTube video

 

Book: The Reluctant Hermit of Fort Fisher
by:   Fred Pickler and Daniel Ray Norris
“Our desire is that this book will shed light on his “unsolved” murder case and provide insight into what drove Robert E. Harrill to endure life as a hermit. Most importantly, we want to keep the memory of the Fort Fisher Hermit alive for future generations to ponder and respect.”

May, 1995 (pdf) – FPHPS Newsletter

 

History of the Federal Point Lighthouses

By Sandy Jackson

[Originally published in the March, 1995 FPHPS Newsletter]

In 1814 the US. Congress authorized the construction of a beacon at Federal Point. Two years later, on September 15, Robert Cochran, collector of customs at Wilmington and superintendent of the lighthouse on Bald Head, reached an agreement with Benjamin Jacobs of the town of Wilmington, for the construction of the new beacon. Jacobs agreed that he would build a beacon on Federal Point above New Inlet before the end of the year. The beacon, defined simply as a small lighthouse, stood on a stone or brick foundation laid approximately three feet under the ground.

Federal Point Light

Federal Point Light

The conical brick beacon rose forty feet in height to the base of the lantern. At its base it measured six feet across with walls three feet thick. Wooden shingles covered the top of the three-floored beacon. Ladders connected each of the floors.

Little is known of the type lantern used except that it was a fixed 1 light. A door entered the beacon, while only a single window was placed near the top of the structure.

The entire exterior of the brick beacon was plastered and painted white. By the spring of 1817 Robert Cochran certified that Benjamin Jacobs had successfully completed the task of building the lighthouse and it was ready for service. For his task Jacobs received the sum of thirteen hundred dollars.

The beacon warned mariners of the hazards at New Inlet until the night of April 13, 1836, when flames engulfed and totally destroyed it.

In 1837, Henry Stowell of Hingham, Massachusetts reconstructed the Federal Point lighthouse. It operated until Confederate forces put it out of use in 1861.

This new tower was constructed of hard brick in a rounded form 30 feet above the surface of the ground. The diameter of the base measured 18 feet, while the top was 9 feet. An arched deck of soap stone 11 feet in diameter, four inches thick, and the joints filled with lead, topped the brick I tower. Entrance to the lantern was made through a scuttle sealed by an iron and copper scuttle door.

The wrought iron lantern was built in an octagonal form and contained eleven patent lamps and reflectors. The brick tower contained a door six feet by three feet, and three windows. The tower and woodwork were painted white, except for the dome that was painted black. Adjacent to the lighthouse a one-story dwelling house 34 feet by 20 feet was built of hard brick and contained a chimney at either end. The following year a cistern was added to the complex.

The Third Federal Poin Lighthouse

The Third Federal Point Lighthouse

A third lighthouse was put into service after the war and used until the closing of New Inlet in 1880.

On August 23, 1881, although no longer in use, fire destroyed this lighthouse. At that time a Mr. Taylor, the former keeper, and his family still occupied the lighthouse located less than a mile from Fort Fisher.

 

Bibliography

Stick, David. “North Carolina Lighthouses“. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1980.

US. Lighthouse Service Records, United States Coast Guard, Washington DC.

Wilmington (North Carolina) Advertiser, April 22, 1836

Wilmington (North Carolina) Star, August 24, 1881.


 [Additional resources]

Lighthouses of the Lower Cape Fear River

Federal Point Lighthouse Foundation Uncovered! (2009)

March, 1995 Newsletter (pdf) – FPHPS 

 

Diary of Mary J. White (Age 15) – Part 2

Part 2 of 2
[Editor note: In Part 1, Mary J. described her family preparing to accompany her father, John White, on a buying trip for the Confederacy in England. Attempts to get out of the country by blockade runner had failed for two weeks. The remaining portion of Mary White ’s diary describes their continued efforts.]

Blockade Runner Advance

Blockade Runner Advance

Aug. 15, 1864 – Smithville, NC. I have just written a long letter to Bettie Hunter. The Cape Fear came up just a minute ago and Dr. Boykin, Hugh and Tom have gone to see if there are any provisions on board for us. They just returned and say there are none. We are nearly out of bread and don’t know where to get any.

This morning the pilot of one of the ships lying in the river died of yellow fever. Ships that came in the last few days, say that yellow fever is raging in Bermuda, so the Ad-Vance will not touch there but proceed to Halifax.

Aug. 16, 1864 – Smithville, NC. The boat came down today and brought abundant supplies of bread, bacon, pickles, corn meal, lobsters, tomatoes, watermelons, etc…. We went on the margin of the river and counted ten vessels lying in quarantine near here, besides an old ironclad which they say is worthless from the number of barnacles fastened to the bottom.

Aug. 19: 1864 – Smithville, N.C. Last night we had a most delightful serenade. The serenaders were a Mr. Everett and his violin, and two Mr. Laniers, from Georgia, one with a flute and the other a guitar. They played “Ben Bolt”, “Bonny Jean” and two very spirited waltzes besides two tunes which I do not recollect.

Aug. 20, 1864 – This morning between ten and eleven o’clock, we saw the Ad-Vance coming down beautifully from Wilmington, but she stuck on the bar and had to remain there till the next high tide, which was a little after seven, when she got afloat and came opposite this place and anchored. Father and Mr. Morris came ashore from the Ad-Vance while she was aground.

Aug. 22, 1864 – on board the Ad-Vance – Another attempt will be made tonight to run the blockade. About 13 steamers are in now. Eight large Yankee ships are so near that we can distinctly see them with the naked eye, but we will not encounter them as we go in the opposite direction, but there are five where we will have to go.

Aug. 23, 1864 – Last night at about 8:30 we started off to make the attempt. We went very well until we got to the inner bar and there, as usual, we got aground and while we were vainly attempting to get off, the moon rose and shone very brightly and then of course we were effectively prevented from trying any more. After awhile, we got off and got back to Smithville, where we are lying now.

Aug. 24, 1864 – The Lillian started out last night and it was thought she got through safely, but is not certainly known. We stayed on the cotton bales to see it go out, saw the Yankees throw several rockets, then saw the flashes and heard the reports of 15 guns.

Aug. 26, 1864 – Last night we heard a quantity of guns firing and the occasion was not known until this morning, when it was found that the Hope was aground at Fort Fisher and a couple of sails were raised on board to get her off. The Yankees saw her then for the first time and began firing into her rapidly. The crew thought all was over and deserted the ship. One shot only struck the ship and that knocked a hole in the deck about the size of a man’s fist. The blockaders were fired on from Fort Fisher and that kept them in a measure… They got her off and came down here to quarantine ground to lay. It is a tremendous vessel, carrying 2000 bales of cotton, double the cargo the Ad-Vance carries, and does not draw as much water as the Ad-Vance, but this is thought to be the most trustworthy vessel at sea. The privateer, Tallahassee, is reported to have come in last night.

Aug. 28 1864 – This is Sunday and promises to be more dull than any other day. This morning we saw a little torpedo boat coming down the river…. It is a regular little steam propeller, has an iron rod projecting from the bow to which a torpedo is attached. When they get it near enough to the Yankee ships, the torpedo is made to explode by pulling a string – I think – and the vessel is blown to pieces.

Aug. 30: 1864 – An attack on Wilmington is daily expected. There are nineteen blockaders in sight of here and a turreted monitor.

SS AD Vance

SS Advance

Sept-2, 1864 – Ad-Vance – Last night we got up steam about twilight and started out. We went splendidly, got over the rip as nicely as possible without touching and thought we would certainly go through, When the 1st Officer discovered something on the bar, and when the glasses were turned on, a large blockader was distinctly seen lying directly in our path. She saw us and flashed her light, so of course we had to put back to Smithville. It was supposed to be a monitor, as no masts were seen, and if it was, we would have passed so near that we would have been blown to atoms. On our way back to Smithville we passed the Coquette just going out, but she soon came back also.

Sept 3, 1864 – Last evening we got up steam, heaved the anchor and were just on the point of starting, when Capt. Wylie had a telegram sent him by a physician on shore, saying that he might not be well enough to navigate today if we got out to sea and consequently just had all the steam turned off and the vessel anchored again… It is reported that the Lillian was taken in the Gulf Stream, and the Mary Barnes ran into some obstacle going into Charleston.

Sept. 4, 1864 – Last night we started out, as Capt. Wylie is still unwell, with another navigator to steer in case our Capt. should have a relapse. We got beyond the bar and the range lights were set, so we had to turn back, intending to try again, but the ship was so hard to turn that she had to be anchored and let the tide swing her around. We started out again, but by the time she got to the rips the tide had gone down so much that we could not cross them, so are back again for the night. The City of Petersburg missed the channel and got so far aground that she had to stay there until morning and was slightly injured.

Sept. 5: 1864 – Wilmington – Last night for the 7th time an attempt was made to run out. We got to the rip, got aground and had just started off and were going at half speed, when the Old Dominion, which had started a little after us, actually ran into us. Mother and the small children were down between the cotton bales, while Mrs. Boykin and I were on top of them. One of the stewards, who was on the cotton bales with us, seeing the Old Dominion coming along at speed, said, “Look at the Old Dominion, she’s coming into us. Get a hold, get a hold.” And with that he tumbled off. Mrs. Boykin and I were much nearer the shock, and we thought he was in fun and stayed up there. We saw the boat booming but thought, of course, that they would take care and not run into us, but the first thing we knew there was a most fearful crash…. The bow of the Old Dominion was very sharp and strong, but our ship was so strong that it did not run in until it had scraped the length of three feet and a half… They say if this vessel had not been remarkably strong, it would certainly have gone down.

Sept. 7, 1864 – Ad-Vance – This morning we came down to Smithville and anchored at our same old place. The Will-o-the-Wisp, the Helen, the Owl and the Lynz and other vessels are lying here in quarantine, having just come in.

Sept. 8, 1864 – Last night as our pilot, Mr. Morse, had been ordered on another shift, another pilot was detailed to carry us out. He got on a spree and was not notified he was to go out on the Ad-Vance until about an hour before time for him to come on board. When he did come, the guard had to wake him up and bring him on board as drunk as a fish. Of course, we could not risk ourselves with him and have to wait until tonight.

Sept 15, 1864 – Warrenton, N.C. – On the 8th we made our 9th attempt and failed. We got to sea that night and the pilot had just given the ship over to the Capt, when it was discovered that we were about to be surrounded… She was anchored in sight of the Yankees all day, and everybody thought it would be so perfectly desperate that Father and Dr. Boykin took their families off.

The Ad-Vance got out that night, on the 10th. 35 shots were fired at her were heard at Smithville…. We went to Mr. Parsley’s where we got dinner and started home on a freight train at 4:00 pm … and got home a little after 8:00. Father went to Raleigh yesterday and came back today, He expects to go out on some other vessel on the next moon, but is very doubtful about taking his family.

Father has decided not to take us with him as blockade running is so dangerous now….

Dec. 1864 – A few days after I last wrote in my diary, we were shocked to hear of the capture of the Ad-Vance. She was captured on Saturday, Sept. 11th, off Cape Hatteras.

Father left home on Oct. 22nd, and we remained. He wrote us on Oct. 26th from Smithville, on board the Virginia, that he expected to go out that night and have heard nothing from him since he sailed, which has been about a fortnight, so we suppose he is safe…

He arrived in Bermuda on the 28th, and did not go ashore but stayed on board the Virginia that night and started for Halifax the next day.


[Additional resources:]

Culpepper, Marilyn Mayer. Women of the Civil War South: Personal Accounts from Diaries, Letters and Postwar Reminiscences Jefferson, NC:  McFarland, 2004.  p. 7-10 ….. an excellent narrative.

Ad-Vance
Advance

Mary White’s diary was originally published in the FPHPS Newsletters of Feb 1998 and March 1998

 

Wreck of the Blockade Runner, Emma, near Ocean View Beach

[Editor’s note:   Originally known as Ocean View Beach, the town was incorporated in 1899 as Wrightsville Beach.

The following articles appeared in the ‘Wilmington Messenger’ in 1893.

It is interesting to note the attitude of the period and the quest by reporters for a sensational story. The shipwreck in question was probably the ‘Emily’ of London and not the ‘Emma’. These amusing article segments are from the files of Bill Reaves via the Underwater Archaeology Unit at Fort Fisher].

The Wilmington Messenger, 8-3-1893
1893 BeachTO BLOW UP THE OCEAN – Capt. John H. Daniel, general manager of the Wilmington Seacoast Railroad, never is to be left out.  He is bound to have some attraction for the people, and on Saturday afternoon at 6 o’clock he will afford them a spectacle worth beholding.

The spectacle will be the blowing up of the wreck of the old blockade runner, Emma, which lies in the ocean 900 feet in front of the beach at Atlantic station, on Ocean View Beach. The wreck of the Emma will be blown up with dynamite torpedoes, and it will take place in view of everybody. The blow up will be under the supervision of Capt. L. Sorcho, the water wonder, and it will be done by electricity communicated from the shore by a wire that is to be run out to the wreck.

A battery will be attached to the shore end of the wire and the button is to be touched by Mrs. Sorcho. We are told that at the instant the button is touched there will be a mighty noise and a column of water two inches in diameter will be thrown up from the sea to a height of 200 feet in the air.

The Wilmington Messenger, 8-3-1893
Capt. L. Sorcho, the renowned swimmer, has received a new rubber lifesaving suit which he ordered several days ago. He tried it yesterday and found it all right.

The Wilmington Messenger, 8-5-1893
THE BLOW UP THIS EVENING – This evening at 6 o’clock is the time set for Capt. L. Sorcho, the water wonder, to stick dynamite torpedoes to and blow up the wreck of the old blockade runner Emma, on Ocean View Beach.

The wreck lies 900 feet out to sea, and it will be blown up by means of an electric battery on shore, with wires running out to the wreck. The button is to be pressed by Mrs. Sorcho and at that instant the old ocean will be made to tremble under the terrific explosion that will take place.

Capt. Sorcho estimates that when the explosion occurs it will throw up a column of water three feet in diameter to a height of 200 feet into the air. It will be interesting to watch what the explosion will have on the fish in the vicinity of the wreck.

The Wilmington Messenger, 8-5-1893
Capt. L. Sorcho, the human boat, stirred up the town last night. Without any warning, he donned his a new rubber lifesaving suit, and taking to the river at Hilton he floated past the city and gave thundering salutes by firing dynamite torpedoes as he went. The foundations of the city were shaken, and the people wondered.

Capt. Sorcho was hauled ashore at the S. W. Skinner Company’s ship yard. The Captain will no doubt draw a large crowd when he blows up the wreck of the blockade runner at Ocean View this evening at 6 o’clock.

The Wilmington Messenger, 8-7-1893
Owing to the breaking of the wires by the high tide at Ocean View yesterday, Capt. Sorcho failed to blow up the wreck of the old blockade runner Emma. He is determined to blow her up, however, and will fix another day for the event.

The Wilmington Messenger, 8-8-1893 (editorial letter)
I see in Sunday’s MESSENGER that Capt. Sorcho failed to blow up the wreck of the blockade runner, Emma, on Saturday but will fix another day for the event. Will you kindly explain for what reason and by what authority Capt. Sorcho will thus destroy a nice fishing ground that often is a good day’s sport to many of our citizens?

 

Diary of Mary J. White (age 15)

John White, Warrenton NC

John White, Warrenton NC

[Editor’s note:  In 1864 John White, a merchant of Warrenton, NC, was sent abroad by authority of the NC Legislature and Governor Zubulon B. Vance to buy supplies for the NC State Troops during the American Civil War.

He planned to take his family with him through the Federal Blockade at Wilmington on board the state-owned blockade runner, Advance, in August, 1864.

The following was extracted from a diary by John White’s daughter, Mary J. (age 15, born July 21, 1849).  It portrays the difficulties they and others encountered in attempting to run in and out of the federal blockade of Wilmington.

It’s highly recommended that you read the following book excerpt (link) written about Mary White’s diary. It’s a well written narrative inspired by Mary J. White’s diary. It describes well the cultural and social anxieties of 1864 in Wilmington and Smithville.

Culpepper, Marilyn Mayer. Women of the Civil War South: Personal Accounts from Diaries, Letters and Postwar Reminiscences, Jefferson, NC:  McFarland, 2004.]


Mary J White’s diary:
Part 1 of 2:    August 2, 1864 – August 14, 1864

Tuesday, Aug. 2, 1864 – I left our home in Warrenton, NC for England with Father, Mother, Bro. Andrew, Hugh, Kate and Sue.  Father had to go to buy supplies for the NC Soldiers, and things were so awful here and Mother and he suffered so much being separated and our baby sister Lizzie died while he was away, so he promised Mother he would never leave her again. . . . It all seems very strange, but we are going with Father and I hope everything will be all right.

Aug. 8, 1864 – We left Raleigh, Friday the 5th, for Wilmington, where we arrived safely the same night about 10:00 o’clock. . . . We left there Saturday morning for the S.S. Ad-Vance, which was lying in the Cape Fear River, near Wilmington. We expected to run the blockade that night, but there was some mistake in the ship’s papers and before they could be corrected, we were too late for the tide and had to cast anchor and lie there all night. Our family and Dr. Boykin’s went ashore and spent the night. Mr. Parsley said we shouldn’t try the poor hotel accommodations, so we went to his house and spent the night there and started again the next morning about 8:00 for our ship. . . .

We passed Forts Fisher and Caswell and all went well for a time but finally went aground. . . . Not far behind us is the Mary Celestia from Bermuda, in quarantine. It is reported that the yellow fever is in Bermuda and a man died on the Mary Celestia this morning, it is thought from yellow fever. There is also an ironclad to our right.

We passed a good many obstructions in the river, that were put there for the purpose of entangling the Yankees, if they should try to go to Wilmington. The Little Hattie went out the first night that we intended to go. . . . The Helen, which had been lying near us all day, went out, and as no guns were heard and no news from the ship, it is supposed that she escaped uninjured. Today, three more cases of yellow fever were reported on the Mary Celestia.

Aug. 9, 1864 – It is thought, as we did not get out last night, we will try once more tonight, but this will certainly be the last time. Last night the Annie came safely from Bermuda and is now in sight of us. We saw a small boat carrying a coffin to the yellow fever boat, so another of the poor fellows must have perished. . . .

Blockade Runner Advance

Blockade Runner Advance

The Ad-Vance is a very fine steamer, 235 ft. in length, 22 ft. in width, a very fast ship and successful blockade runner. It was fitted up splendidly, for passengers, before it was put to its present use and was named the Lord Clyde. The saloon was removed and cotton bales put in instead and the accommodations for ladies are very poor.

Aug. 10, 1864 – on board the Ad-Vance. Last night, we made a last effort to run the blockade and were over the rip, and it was thought that we would get out without much difficulty, but they did not steer properly and we missed the channel and fastened in the sand.

Aug. 12, 1864 – Wilmington, NC.  Yesterday morning about twelve o’clock, we got off the sand bar and came back to Wilmington. All the passengers came ashore, our family to Mr. Parsley’s again. This morning at 9:00 we expect to go to Smithville with Dr. Boykin’s family, to stay until the Ad-Vance sails. Smithville is a small village on the Cape Fear River, about 30 miles below Wilmington. . . . The house we are staying in belongs to a family named Cowan. . . . It is a very comfortable house with six rather small rooms and three piazzas. . . . The City of Petersburg came in today.

Aug. 14, 1864 Smithville, NC.  Father and Capt. Wylie have just left for Wilmington. Father expects to go home to Warrenton before he returns. He expects to be back the last of next week.

…. Continued in Part 2 ›››

Carolina Beach Bus Station

Bus Station Carolina Beach - opened July 30, 1948

Bus Station Carolina Beach – opened July 30, 1948

[Written by Bill Reaves and published in ‘The Coastal Carolinian’ on September 9, 1982. This new bus station was located at Lake Park Avenue North and Raleigh Avenue in what is now the BB&T Bank building.

The original bus station operated during the early 1940s in Hall’s Drug store, currently the Laney Real Estate building].

Carolina Beach - Nyal Drugs and Bus Station 1930-1948

Carolina Beach – Nyal Drugs and Bus Station 1930-1948

“Carolina Beach’s new ultra-modem bus terminal opened to the public for the first time at 6 pm. on Friday, July 30, 1948. The formal opening included a large number of state, city and county officials, plus many bus line representatives. The Queen City Coach Company free soft drinks, nabs and ice cream.

The radio station WGNI covered the festivities by a “remote broadcast” for minutes.

Construction of the station took more than a year, after the announcement on May 14, 1947, that “Carolina Beach’s dream was to come true” after the resort’s long fight for a bus station there. Hal J. Love, local manager of the Queen City Coach Company at Wilmington, made the announcement. The long delay was caused by the Civilian Product Administration holding up the construction permit. Material shortages were still a problem following World War II.

The building was 60 by 44 feet in size and was surrounded by a spacious loading and unloading platform. The waiting room was 32 by 22 feet and was equipped with three sets of comfortable benches in the latest style. In the waiting room was the ticket office, baggage checking room, telephone booths and rest rooms.

Another waiting room, 22 by 20 feet in size, with rest rooms, was provided for the “colored.” The soda shop, with a modern fountain, a sandwich bar, and a “Hot Point” kitchen, plus a gift and magazine counter, was well lighted with large plate glass windows and the very latest designed fluorescent electrical light fixtures. The terminal was to be well heated during the winter months by a Bryant heating system.

Hals Drug Store  1940

Hals Drug Store 1940

W.C. Wise, of Wilmington, was to be the first manager of the bus terminal and the grill. Manager Love declared that “We have implicit confidence in the outlook for the future of Carolina Beach. If we didn’t we never would have built this $40,000 bus terminal here.”

Guests for the formal opening included Carolina Beach Mayor A.P. Peay and the following members of the local board of aldermen: Thomas A. Croom, William L. Farmer, W.H. Shinn and Glenn Tucker; also Mrs. Alice Strickland, town clerk; Mrs. Julia M. Helms, assistant town clerk; Police Chief Bruce Valentine; Fire Chief Jim Bame; R.G. Barr, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce; Emmett H. Bellamy, attorney for the town; and local Queen City Bus Agent Adams, Carolina Beach druggist. Other guests included Kure Beach Mayor Lawrence C. Kure, Wilmington Mayor E.L. White, New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman, Addison Hewlett, and many, many more.

Also invited were: H.E. Livingston, of the Wilmington, Brunswick and Southport bus line; R S. Pullen, of the Pullen bus lines, of Burgaw; Charles Hall, president of the Seashore Transportation Company; R.C. Hofiinan, president of the Carolina Coach Company, of Raleigh; D.D. McAfee, district superintendent of the Atlantic Greyhound Bus Lines, of Raleigh; and George Pullen, Fayetteville attorney.

At the opening, a promise was made to all in attendance, “We will make every possible to have the very best bus service possible, and we also intend to try and give the very best transportation advice to all travelers using this facility.”

Thus opened one of the most modern and up-to-date bus terminals on the southern coast of the United States.” [End]

This article was originally published in the October 1996 Newsletter (pdf) – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society

 

Carolina Beach Town Hall

[Text was originally published in the September 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter (pdf)]

[Sept, 1996 Editor’s Note:
The following article was written by Bill Reaves and published in ‘The Coastal Carolinian’ on November 18, 1982

As a result of the recent destruction of Carolina Beach’s police and fire complex by Hurricane Fran on Sept 5, 1996, we thought it would be of interest to our readers to reprint this article about the building.]

By Bill Reaves – November 18, 1982

Carolina Beach’s new $44,000 town hall and auditorium project was approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 8, 1939. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was to supply $20,000, and local amounting to $24,000 was to be made available through a special bond issue.

Shortly thereafter, Mayor R. C. Fergus announced that funds were also available for a new sanitary sewerage system which was to replace the septic tank system then in use and had proved to be inadequate, inefficient and unsanitary. The new system was to cost $188,000, of which the WPA would pay $125,000.

In March, 1940, the WPA ofiice in Raleigh put their stamp of approval on the construction of the town hall, municipal auditorium, to seat approximately 800 people, jail and fire department building for Carolina Beach. The final cost figure arrived at was $39,938.

The site for the new structure was located on reclaimed marshland [now the Town parking lot across from the Winner boats] acquired by the town sometime earlier for $27.

Carolina Beach Town Hall

Carolina Beach Town Hall and Auditorium ~ 1942

The project was to give work to 30 laborers and was to be completed in five to six months. Mayor Fergus began negotiating a loan through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) for additional to pay the costs of materials. Bids for construction were opened in August, 1940, and construction was to begin on September 1st, to be completed by the opening of the 1941 beach season.

Problems intervened so that work did not begin until December, 1940, and another delay halted work until September, 1941.

In April, 1941, the local Chamber of Commerce was getting into gear and exerting every effort to make Carolina Beach, with its new auditorium under construction, the convention headquarters for Eastern North Carolina. The auditorium was to provide an ample stage for shows, cooking schools, community gatherings and other convention headquarter needs. Space was to be provided also as a meeting place for local civic clubs, bridge parties and other social functions.

The new auditorium of Carolina Beach’s municipal building was used for the first time on January 30, 1942, despite the fact that the building was not yet completed. The event was the celebration of President Roosevelt’s birthday with a ball to raise funds for the fight against infantile paralysis (polio).

The committee of arrangements for this initial event in the new auditorium was Capt. Leo S. Iobe, head of the US. Army‘s Carolina Beach recreation area, as director, and other members included Mayor Fergus, Lewis, B. Shepherd, C.M. Kelly, Dudley Humphrey, W.G. Fowler, Lt. Warren Burkholder, Frank Rossetta, Mrs. Lewis, Mrs. Warren Burkholder, Mrs. C.M. Murrin, Mrs. H.C. Fields, Mrs. Albert Harris, Mrs. Brewer, Mrs. C.G. Vanlandingham and Mrs. D.M. Greer.

The new building was 114 feet wide and 132 feet long, and the auditorium was 44 by 91 feet. There were four offices, fire department section, jail for whites, jail for blacks, 12 restrooms, a kitchen, two dressing rooms and a recreation room for volunteer firemen. It was plastered on the interior and stuccoed on the outside, and painted white throughout the interior, with green woodwork.

Carolina Beach officials moved into their handsome new Town Hall in April, 1942, except the fire department who were to take up their space in the near future. It was said at this time that Carolina Beach’s new Town Hall was “one of the finest city buildings at a resort along the Atlantic seaboard.”

[Text was originally published in the September 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter (pdf)]

Hurricane Fran in Carolina Beach – September 5-6, 1996  (YouTube video, 7 min.)

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]