Captain John W. Harper – Obituary

Birth:     Nov. 28, 1856Capt John Harper
New Hanover County
North Carolina, USA

Death:     Sep. 18, 1917
New Hanover County
North Carolina, USA

Captain John W. Harper, of the steamer Wilmington, as thousands knew him, passed away yesterday morning at the James Walker Memorial Hospital, where he had gone for treatment. It is hard to realize that the big-hearted, generous, jovial and popular Captain John Harper is dead and that death has closed a warm personal friendship that has never been varied for nearly thirty years. Yet it is even longer than that since he has been the friend of people in Wilmington from his boyhood days up to now. He counted his warm friends by the thousands, and they are to be found all over North Carolina and far beyond the confines of his own State.

Sorrow, therefore, will be widespread because Captain Harper has passed from this world and has closed a life of great usefulness to Wilmington and to the people of this city and Southport There were sad faces in Wilmington yesterday morning when it became known that the end had come. Many a generous deed is credited up to Captain Harper, for he was a friend upon whom the humblest and highest could depend for sympathy and help. His heart went out to poor people and there was none that could not have an outing on the several excursion steamers that he has operated on the Cape Fear. His name is blessed among thousands, and we cannot recall the death of a man who will be more universally mourned.

Captain Harper was rugged and brave and tender. Invariable courtesy was one of his characteristics, and everybody felt safe when he was at the helm. He practically made Carolina Beach and it was he who made the Cape Fear and Brunswick Bay excursion and outing waters for thousands.

The steamers which he specially popularized were the Sylvan Grove, the Passport, and the Wilmington. His greetings and smiles made him thousands of friends among the children as well as grown people of all classes. He was specially solicitous for the safety and pleasure of women and children, and white and colored can bear testimony to his courtesy, deference and kindness. He was affable and accommodating always, and his memory will be ever cherished by all who knew him.

The death of Captain Harper brings a distinct loss to Wilmington and Southport, but it is his family that has been most sorely bereaved. He loved those who were near to him, and in the sorrow that has befallen them they will have the deep condolence and sincere sympathy of a host of those who admired and loved the genial captain of the outing steamers which he commanded for so many years.

(Wilmington Star, Sept. 19, 1917)

Steamboat Owner and developer of Carolina Beach also ran a train, “Shoo Fly” to Carolina Beach
Family links: Capt John Harper - Gravestone
  William Riley Harper (1816 – 1877)
  Henrietta Lloyd Harper (1820 – 1899)
  Esther Julia Foley Harper (1864 – 1897)
  Ella Chitty Strupe Harper (1877 – 1945)
  Louise Foley Harper Fox (1886 – 1970)*
  John William Harper (1897 – 1918)*
  Catherine Ruede Harper Sewell (1904 – 1985)*
  Ella Chitty Harper (1905 – 1917)*
  James Sprunt Harper (1910 – 1929)*
*Calculated relationship
Burial:Capt John Harper - Gravestone
Oakdale Cemetery
New Hanover County
North Carolina, USA
Plot: Sec R Lot 14
Created by: John Evans
Find A Grave Memorial# 34184608


Federal Point Fishing Piers

 Kure Pier 1923-present

Kure Pier 1923 – present

By Rebecca Taylor

We’ve had quite a few questions about fishing piers lately.

With the help of Elaine Henson, and her Carolina Beach: A Postcard History and Al Baird and his new book: North Carolina’s Ocean Fishing Piers here’s a list.

1915 – ? – Carolina Beach Pier Company.
Built by W.E. Yopp, J.C. Herring, A.W. Pate and J.J. Loughlin.

Evening Dispatch June 8, 1915:
“The preliminary work for which is now under way, a 600 foot fishing pier extending out from a 30 room club house to and beyond the famous old blockade runner Beauregard wreck 500 yards south of Carolina Beach pavilion, will be built, the work to be completed before August 1.”

1923-present. Kure Pier
Built by L. C. Kure. The first pier was 22 feet wide and 120 feet long. Rebuilt in 1924 at 32 feet wide and 240 feet long. Daily: 35 cents, Season: $10.00. Current length: 711 feet. Oldest continually operating pier in NC.

Fort Fisher Fishing Pier 1936-1954.

Fort Fisher Fishing Pier

1936-1954. Fort Fisher Fishing Pier (right)
Land owned by Orrell brothers Louis and Thomas. Constructed by Walter Winner. Destroyed by Hurricane Hazel in 1954.


1947-present. Carolina Beach Fishing Pier.
(aka North Pier) Owners; the Phelps Family.




1954-1996. Center Fishing Pier.
Walter Winner built for J.C. Bame. Owned by Herring Family from the 1960’s on. Destroyed by Hurricanes Bertha and Fran 1996.  Today, the pier remnants are the Golden Sands’ Tiki Bar.



Fisherman’s Steel Pier 1956-1977

Fisherman’s Steel Pier 1956-1977

1956-1977. Fisherman’s Steel Pier (left)
ocated at Carolina Beach Boardwalk. Built by JR. Bame and J.C. Bame, later joined by R. C. Fergus. Run by McGirt Family from 1960’s to 1970’s.

The pier with the famous “Skyliner” chair lift.



Kure Beach Progressive Association – Notes from 1940s

Reported by Ann Hertzler

These notes were extracted from a notebook from the 1940s stored at the KB town hall with minutes of the Kure Beach Progressive Association kept by Ma Fry (Brenda Coffey’s grandmother).


Dec 31, 1945
Fed Point History Assoc
– A meeting of the citizens of Kure Beach was held in the Kure Memorial Chapel Monday night, Dec 31, 1945 with 16 present. Mr. Weinburg, acting chairman, explained that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways and means of securing fire protection, as the only security now is the insurance carried.… Mr. L.C.Kure would furnish the water and fittings; decided that we purchase 500’ of hose. Property owners were contacted and informed of actions. ($200 pledged, $115 paid)

Jan 8, 1946 “Kure Beach Progressive Association”

  • Chairman Mr. L. E. Wienburg
  • Secretary Mrs. C B Fry
  • Treasurer Mr. L. C. Kure
  • Advisory Committee – Bob Ford, L. C. Kure, F. M. Steinfurth
  • Other Committees elected: By-Laws, Auditing, Financial, Maintenance
  • Mr. Kure reported the hose is expected next week. Cost $284.50

Jan 15, 1946
Mr. Kure made a trip to Fayetteville to look at a fire truck; not successful. Mr. Manning reported a ford truck has been sent to Camp Davis for sale.

Jan 22, 1946
A motion was made to photograph the ponds of water and take before the County Commissioners in regards to sanitary conditions in and around Kure Beach ….

Jan 29, 1946
5th meeting photographs of the ponds, ditches and other places of stagnation have been made by Mrs. Weinburg, to be taken to County Commissioners, … along with as many members as possible, especially the ladies, and ….a signed petition. read more

Jones “Neil” Pharr

Nov. 2011

We recently lost a loved and respected member of our community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of J. Neil Pharr, who died on October 19, 2011.

Neil owned the Carolina Beach Drug Store and was the pharmacist there for many years until it closed in the late 80’s.

He was also a two term mayor of Carolina Beach and the thing most remembered about him is that he always tried to help everyone who came to him for help and advice.

Neil grew up in Concord and graduated from the Pharmacy School at UNC-Chapel Hill and worked as a pharmacist at Pike‟s Pharmacy in Concord and then came to Carolina Beach where he became the town pharmacist and friend to all.

Coastal North Carolina Civil War Quiz

Civil War Quiz  – by Rebecca Taylor

These questions are based on a great book called The Civil War in Coastal North Carolina by John S. Carbone.

I had no idea just how vital a part the eastern sounds, rivers and barrier islands played throughout the war. So here’s a quiz on the other coastal war. See how much you know!v18NO9 September, 2011 FINAL PDF-005

  1. What was the name of the US ironclad that sank off Hatteras in December 1862?
  2. Before the war what was North Carolina’s most important export?
  3. At the beginning of the War, what were the two largest towns in North Carolina?
  4. What percent of blockade running trips were successful?
  5. North Carolina’s four ship navy was called what?
  6. In the summer of 1861 what forts did the Confederacy build along North Carolina’s Outer Banks?
  7. Which Union General first proposed the attack on the Forts on the Outer Banks?
  8. What Union General commanded the Union expedition to take Roanoke Island? Who was the Confederate Commander charged with the defense of the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds?
  9. The fall of what North Carolina town in March of 1862 “alarmed and outraged” Confederate leaders in North Carolina and Richmond?
  10. On what island did the Union Army establish a “freedman’s colony?”
  11. In what NC city was there a major outbreak of Yellow Fever in August 1894?
  12. What ship enabled the Confederate troops to recapture the town of Plymouth?

Answers: Coastal North Carolina Civil War Quiz
1) Monitor; 2)“naval stores” ie. tar pitch and turpentine; 3) Wilmington and New Berne; 4) 75%; 5) The Mosquito Fleet; 6) Fort Oregon, Fort Hatteras, Fort Clark, and Fort Ocracoke; 7) Benjamin Butler; 8) USA General Ambrose Burnside; CSA General A. P. Hill; 9) New Bern; 10) Roanoke; 11) New Bern; 12) Ironclad CSN Albemarle

1946 Flood ?


At the History Center we received the following e- mail: “I am trying to find out about a water surge/wave that hit Carolina Beach sometime between 1950 & 1961. It supposedly hit the Bame Hotel and Ms. Webb’s. Webb’s Motel across the Street had to be evacuated by rowboat.”

Judy Moore has brought us some pictures from a 1946 “flood” but we’re not sure if that’s from a hurricane or not – as there is no hurricanes listed in the historical records for Southeast NC in September of 1946.

Can anyone give us clues to the event he is asking about? –




Patrolling the Coast – Civil Air Patrol

From: John Foard of the Blockade Runner Museum

The following is from a collection of articles first published in the Beach-O-Gram, and collected and reprinted in 2000 by Sandy Jackson.

U-boats along the NC CoastRecognition Past Due
Those who lived on the beach during World War II will well remember the noise and vibration from exploding torpedoes, the sky at sea lit by burning tankers that were unfortunate enough to be spotted by a German submarine, also oil-covered and burned seamen who were fortunate enough to make land.

Tankers and cargo vessels operated closer to the coastline than normal to avoid U-boats, but the U-boats also moved closer in to sit on the bottom and wait for a victim to come along. Forty-eight or more ships were torpedoed and sunk along our coastline. Many of the wrecks have been accounted for and their location inside the Gulf Stream marked. Many more probably lie beyond.
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Hurricanes and Other Terrible Storms – from the Bill Reaves Files

1761 Federal Point
In 1761, the pilot road across the beach at the “Hawl-over” was blown out by a terrific hurricane and was converted into what was to be known as “New Inlet.” (Wilm.Star, 8-25-1877)

Between August 12th and Sept. 2nd, 1871
A most violent northeast gale visited the coast, producing some apprehension, according to Henry Nutt, for the safety of the government works in progress, and later during the month, much rainy weather prevailed, retarding operations somewhat. From the violence of the storm some of the unfinished cribs and preparatory timber was displaced, which involved some loss of time and labor to replace them in position again. This was successfully and speedily accomplished through the energy and skill of the local superintendent, and all is now going on well again. (Wilm.Star, 9-6-1871)

September 2, 1871
A report issued on this date mentioned that the beach south of the government works was growing. The catch-sand fences had proven successful. Not a rail had been removed by the recent storm, and the brush had been completely covered with sand to the top of the fence, presenting an embankment 3 to 5 feet high, and far above the reach of any tide. This, and the weak parts of the beach where the wind had blown out trenches between the hills, was now being strengthened by a system of cultivating the “beach grass”. This grass bore transplanting well; none of that which was set out in July and August had died; but all growing and doing well, and it was suggested that transplanting could be done at any season of the year. Where the “beach grass” was planted, it had not only successfully resisted the blowing away of sand, but has already collected, it at many places, a foot or over in height. (Wilm.Star, 9-8-1871)

July 1, 1880
A large water spout was witnessed between Fort Fisher and Sow’s Marsh, near the mouth of the river. The wind at the time was blowing nearly a hurricane. The water spout covered a space of about 50 yards in circumference, and moved a distance of about 1 1/4 miles. The water from the spout ascended to an altitude of about 100 to 150 feet, and looked like a white funnel-shaped cloud. The phenomenon was witnessed by about 75 persons, including the employees at the government works and a large number of fishermen. (Wilm.Star, 7-4-1880)

August 17, 1887
The wind blew a perfect gale at Carolina Beach, and at Zeke’s Island, it was reported the houses were in danger of blowing over. (Wilm.Messenger, 8-20-1887)

August 28, 1893
During the hurricane there was a high tide at Carolina Beach. It broke over the beach into the sound and washed up the boardwalk in front of the cottages. Some of the fences were blown down, but no other damage was done. Capt. Harper brought his steamer WILMINGTON to the beach to be in readiness to take the people off. They found everything quiet and no one alarmed. Residents in the cottages situated for a mile along the beach preferred to stay in their cottages. Many of the beach visitors wanted the opportunity to see the ocean in all its grandeur, with the wild waves lashing the beach, throwing the surf high in the air. The river was remarkably smooth at the pier, on account of the land-locked situation of the wharf, and no rough water was experienced until later when it returned to Wilmington. (Wilm.Star, 08-29- 1893)

August 6, 1902Hurricane
News reached Wilmington at 4:30 in the morning of August 7th that a storm had played havoc at Carolina Beach on the night of August 6th. The hotel was blown down and several people were injured, though no lives were lost. Mrs. Alice Phillips suffered a broken ankle and contused back. She was in the ruins for 1 1⁄2 hours before help could reach her. Capt. John Barry suffered sprains and other injuries to both ankles. Mrs. John Barry had a severe injury to her left lower limb, fracture of the femur and ankle, which caused suffering on account of her advanced age from the nervous shock.

Tobe Howard, bar-keeper at the hotel, suffered a laceration of the scalp, with contusion of both arms, jaw and shoulders. Mrs. Tobe Howard suffered a laceration of the forehead. Mrs. Howard, after her rescue, went bravely into the rescue work and in the absence of a physician she assisted nobly Miss Furpless, even going as far as to tear her own clothing to make bandages for the injured. J.E. Haywood and 5-year-old daughter, of McColl, S.C. were in the hotel. Mr. Haywood suffered a severe sprain of the right ankle, left leg broken just above the ankle and a dislocation of the same ankle: a severe contusion of the spine.

The little girl was on the second floor of the building and escaped without injury. Accompanied by Mr. J.S. Thompson, of Hasty, she will return home today.

Mr. Haywood and Mr. Thompson came down the day before and expected to stay some time, but the storm changed their minds. J.M. Rumley, of Beaufort, N. C. suffered injury to the back, left hip and knee.

The old Oceanic Hotel had not been used strictly for hotel purposes in several years and during the past two seasons, Capt. Harper had refused to rent it as a hotel but merely as a pavilion for the entertainment of excursionists, with a restaurant attached. It was fortunate that it was not used as a hotel, else the consequences of the storm might have been more terrible. Capt. Harper and every person connected with his boat or interests on the beach did all in their power for the suffering ones.

The first knowledge in Wilmington of the catastrophe at the beach was through Robert Freeman, colored, who was sent for Dr. Andrew H. Harriss by Capt. Furpless. Though alone at the beach, Dr. Harriss accomplished wonders in administering to the wants of the wounded and improvised cots and stretchers were made and all placed on a flat car, which reached the pier safely. The wounded ones were placed on the steamer and by 8 o’clock all the sufferers were taken to the hospital in Wilmington and later to their homes. At the hospital Dr. Harriss was assisted in his work by Dr. Pride J. Thomas, and Dr. W.D. McMillan.

Mr. W. H. Biddle, of Masonboro, reported that the tornado, or cyclone, lasted for about five minutes, carrying destruction in its path. There was much damage to corn, trees were uprooted, fences blown down among other damages. The cyclone moved in a path nearly two miles. The most serious loss and injury by the storm was in the wreck of the old Hotel Oceanic, the large two-story wooden structure, owned by the New Hanover “Transit Company, and operated by Mrs. Rebecca Eilers, of Wilmington.

The storm came in from the south-west and it blew the middle part of the hotel toward the ocean. Eight of the occupants of the hotel were engaged in dancing at the time in the dining room of the old hotel and were taken completely unawares.

The only one to escape was Mr. Sebastian Winner, who was picking a guitar for the dancers. He was near the door and got on the outside before the crash came, but his guitar was smashed to smithereens. He received only a slight injury on the leg.

Mr. Marion Winner, father of Sebastian Winner, was the first to reach the scene, but very soon afterwards he was joined by Capt. Thomas McGee, Mr. Robert S. Collins, who was spending some time with his family at the beach; Mrs. Hans A. Kure, Captain Furpless, Capt. J.C. Smith, Mr. Henry Stolter, Mr. J.S. Thompson, of Hasty, who was stopping at the Kure House across the sound; Miss Furpless, daughter of Capt. Furpless, and Mose and John Evans, two colored men employed by Capt. J. W. Harper.

All the injured ones except Mr. Hampton Smith, who was most seriously injured were taken from the hotel ruins by 10 o’clock. Young Smith, the son of Capt. J. C. Smith, the well-known steamboat man, was not rescued until two hours later and it was then by the heroic effort on part of Capt. Tom McGee. He is said to have lifted almost the entire roof.

August 29, 1935
Torrential rains washed out a number of roads in New Hanover County, sent the fresh water lake at Carolina Beach out of its bounds to flood nearby houses. The rain storm was the greatest in the 64-year history of the local weather station, with 5.97 inches of rain recorded during the 28 hour period between 4 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. last night.

The waters of the fresh water lake, just 100 yards from the Atlantic Ocean at Carolina Beach were receding slowly and water was still standing in a number of cottages. In addition a half mile section of state highway No.40 beside the lake was under water and traffic to Wilmington was diverted over the old route via the Ethyl-Dow Chemical Company plant and Kure’s Beach.

Early Schools at Federal Point – from the Bill Reaves Files

“Back to School”
From the Bill Reaves Files: Notes on Early Schools at Federal Point

1870 – Anthony A. Hawes offered his resignation as a member of the School Committee for Federal Point Township, which was accepted, and R. B. Freeman was appointed in his place. WILM.STAR. 12-7-1870.

September 4, 1875 – The Board of Trustees of Federal Point Township met and organized by electing T.M. Gardner, Esq., as chairman. The school committee for the township were (sic) duly qualified as was also the Constable, Balaam Wade, who gave a bond of $500 as a renewal of his former bond, he having been re- elected. The Clerk was granted further time in which to prepare his bond. WILM.WEEKLY STAR, 9-10- 1875

March 9, 1877 – The school house for white pupils was destroyed during a terrible storm. An application made by Stephen Keyes of Federal Point township for $50 from the general school fund to rebuild the schoolhouse in Federal Point Township was granted by the County Commissioners. WILM.STAR, 6-6-1877

April 21, 1877  – Charles M. Epps was the teacher in the public school for colored children in Federal Point Township. His records showed that he had 34 “scholars of African race,” 24 boys and 10 girls. The average attendance was 24. There was only one teacher.

January, 1878 – The Board of Education of New Hanover County ordered that an apportionment of two dollars be made from the school fund per capita to the public schools of the various districts. The apportionment for Federal Point-District No. 3 – 82 white children; amount $164; 84 colored children; amount, $168. WILM.STAR 1-16-1878.
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The Kure Beach Town Seal

by Ann Hertzer

Ed Neidens, Mayor of Kure Beach, 1990-1991

Ed Neidens, Mayor of Kure Beach, 1990-1991

Ed Neidens, mayor of Kure Beach in 1990-1991, said the town stationery had been a fish jumping out of the water. Suzanne Jones probably did the art work around 1988. Before that, there wasn’t anything marking Kure Beach.

The Town Seal went through various test changes. The image from a postage stamp was redesigned by Ed Niedens and his 30 year old son. The first concept added a couple in silhouette walking on the beach. The final picture was a beach scene with an umbrella and some grass on the sand and the Kure Beach pier.

The seal was officially adopted by the town council in 1991 when Jack Foster was mayor.

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