John Hirchak Presentation – Tales of Old Wilmington

John Hirchak 10-19-15John Hirchak, owner and lead guide of the Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington, spoke on Tales of Old Wilmington at the regular monthly meeting of the History Center on Monday, October 19, 2015.

John began with his own personal story, starting in 1996 when he and his wife Kim visited a ghost walk in Savannah. This planted the seed in his wife’s mind to begin a similar venture in Wilmington. That seed sprouted in 1999 when the Hirchaks started the Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington. John was to work behind the scenes, doing the historical research, and Kim was to be the tour leader. When Kim broke her leg the first week of the Ghost Walk, John took over as tour guide and the rest, as they say, is history.

Legends of Old Wilmington - John HirchakThe Ghost Walk branched out to include a Haunted Pub Crawl, also known as “bar hopping with a purpose.” John wrote short stories for the tours, which led to his first book, Ghosts of Old Wilmington, and, in 2014, his second book, Legends of Old Wilmington and Cape Fear.

John demonstrated that he was a consummate storyteller, turning his own personal history from a series of discrete dates and events into a compelling narrative. As he put it, learning about yourself can be either tragic or amazing, and his story was a little of both.

He then turned to the stories in his most recent book. The common thread running through Legends of Old Wilmington and Cape Fear is that all its characters were legendary in one way or another. John introduced us to two of these characters: Topsy the Elephant and police officer Leon George.

In 1922, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus came to Wilmington for a sold-out run. As the circus was preparing to head out of town, Topsy the Elephant decided she wanted to explore Wilmington, and she escaped from the circus grounds.

Topsy The ElephantTopsy made quite a stir in her dash through the city, inspiring this frantic call to the police: “There’s a large varmint in my backyard—ripping my collards with its tail and stuffing them in its rear end!” Topsy destroyed a chicken coop and, unfortunately, its resident chickens, fences, porches, and the interior of the Eureka Pressing Company before getting stuck chest-deep in the swamp near Greenfield Lake.

She would have died there had it not been for the second legendary character: Officer Leon George. Officer George stayed with Topsy for many hours, calling her “Mumsey” and coaxing her out of the muck with apples and peanuts. An exhausted Topsy was finally led back to the circus grounds. There she caught her second wind, escaped again, and dove into the Cape Fear River. This time it took two days for Officer George and his apples, peanuts, and calm demeanor to capture Topsy and help her safely back to the circus train.

As Topsy was led into the train she bowed to the cheering crowd, singling out Officer George with her gaze. Officer Leon “Tiger Hunter” George, as he was now called, was openly weeping.

“We’re all heroes if you catch us at the right moment,” John told us.

But the reverse is also true. A character caught at the wrong moment is just as often the stuff of legend, and many of these characters can be found lurking in other tales from Hirchak’s old Wilmington.

John Moseley – Presents Fort Fisher in World War II

John Moseley - Sept-21-2015John Moseley, Assistant Site Manager at the Fort Fisher Historic Site and History Center Board member, spoke on World War II and Fort Fisher at the regular monthly meeting of the History Center on Monday, September 21, 2015.

He started by explaining how Fort Fisher came to be a World War II base. President Roosevelt wanted military installations built where artillery shells could be fired and no one would hear them or be injured by a bad aim. Eastern North Carolina was determined to be the promised land, or at least sufficiently in the middle of nowhere, for such installations.

World War II - Fort FisherSo in 1940, Holly Ridge, with 7 houses and a population of 28, was transformed from a fuel stop for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad into Camp Davis, an anti-aircraft artillery training center that would house 110,000 people by 1943, at the cost of $40 million.

Fort Fisher, 50 miles to the south, became the primary firing range for Camp Davis. Because of the distance between the two, Fort Fisher had to be a self-sufficient base. Although Fort Fisher was critical historically because of its role in the Civil War, in 1940 national defense took precedence over historic preservation.

Building the 'New' Fort FisherFort Fisher was transformed into a tent city, with over 300 tent frames, 48 buildings, mess halls, showers, infirmary, photo lab, radio and meteorological stations, as well as an airstrip running through the middle of the Fort.

Many of the soldiers arriving at Fort Fisher for their weapons training rotations came from the Midwest, and they had to adjust to a new and challenging environment: the barracks were very small, and the mosquitoes were very large.

One soldier described Fort Fisher as “a quagmire of sand, sand, and more sand.” Some complained about the unfamiliar food: clams, fried shrimp, oyster stew.

Fort Fisher Morale BoostersStill, many men enjoyed the beach and ocean, with reports of sunburn and even surfing attempts using government-issued mattresses. There were sports teams, and Fort Fisher had a canine camp mascot named Queenie.

Eventually an indoor movie theater was built for the troops, to the dismay of the local mosquitoes which had enjoyed the original outdoor theater far more than the soldiers had.

Artillery training took place along and above the beaches, much as it had during the Civil War.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) became a critical part of the weapons training as they piloted planes towing aerial target sleeves for the artillery trainees to shoot at. WASPs had to fly every type of aircraft in this role, and also conduct radar deception and tracking missions.

At least 43 anti-aircraft battalions trained at Fort Fisher before heading to battle in Europe and the Pacific.

Before they left, many of those men sent home sweetheart pillows like the beet red satin pillow John shared with the audience near the end of his presentation.

These pillows were popular during World War II, sent to loved ones by young men as a remembrance, along with the fervent hope they would eventually return home safe and reasonably sound.

Fort Fisher Sweetheart Pillow

Fort Fisher Sweetheart Pillow

Sweetheart:
That someone’s thoughts go where you go
That someone never can forget
The hours we spent since first we met
That life is richer sweeter far
For such a sweetheart as you are
And now my constant prayer will be
That God may keep you safe for me.

~ United States Army, Fort Fisher, North Carolina

 

 

Dennis Barbour spoke on Coastal Inlet Issues and Challenges

FPHPS Monthly Meeting: Monday, August 17, 2015

Front row: Margaret and Earl Page - Aug. 17, 2015

Front row: Margaret and Earl Page – Aug. 17, 2015

President Elaine Henson called the regular monthly meeting of the FPHPS to order at 7:30 p.m. Since Treasurer Demetria Sapienza was on vacation, Elaine summarized the History Center’s Fiscal Year 2015 Treasurer’s report as follows: ‘We’re in good shape.’

Secretary Nancy Gadzuk read the minutes from the July 16 open meeting, which were approved as read.

Board Chairman John Gordon announced a new History Center building maintenance initiative. He is looking for volunteers, especially those with electrical and carpentry skills, and he will provide more details at the September open meeting.

Rick Both provided an update on the proposed Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Civil War Park. A wetlands survey is underway to determine where walkways can be placed to preserve both the wetlands and the Civil War earthworks.

The Young Skippy Winner

The Young Skippy Winner

Elaine then introduced the main speaker of the evening, Captain Dennis Barbour. Dennis spoke on Coastal Inlet Issues and Challenges.

Jay Winner & Frankie Jones

Jay Winner & Frankie Jones

Dennis started by reeling in members of the audience, including Skippy and Jay “Cowboy” Winner and sharing some of their boating adventures when the Carolina Beach Inlet was first formed in 1952.

His presentation then focused on the economics, politics, and thinking outside the box involved in keeping the Carolina Beach Inlet open and navigable.

Dennis moved ahead more than 50 years to the elimination of all Federal funding for maintenance dredging for Carolina Beach Inlet, due to a ban on Federal earmarks.

An economic study for Pleasure Island showed closure of the CB Inlet would have a $75 million negative impact over a five-year period. This would be devastating locally.

Coastal Inlet Issues - BarbourThe Carolina Beach Inlet Association was formed to address the issue. Dennis talked about the need to meet face to face with legislators in Raleigh to build awareness, and the value of offering them scrambled eggs and breakfast coffee. In return, members of the Association had the opportunity to share their concerns and suggestions for keeping the inlets open with the legislators.

By 2013, the State Senate had passed Senate Bill 52, which provides dedicated 50/50 matching funds to maintain the state’s five shallow draft inlets, including Carolina Beach Inlet.

Inlet Maintenance - Barbour

Inlet Maintenance – Barbour

That still means coming up with $450,000 each year to cover the local share of the dredging fee. Currently, the county/local matching funds are coming from the un-incorporated county room occupancy tax, which will last only until 2019.

Then what? A Federal Permit application has been filed to allow New Hanover County to contract with private dredging company, which could eventually provide some funding. But other sources of funding will be needed.

Inlet Roadblocks - Barbour

Inlet Roadblocks – Barbour

The Carolina Beach Inlet Association would welcome hearing other ideas. As Dennis put it, it’s all about money.

The presentation ended with a short Q&A session and the meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m. for refreshments.

The next meeting of the FPHPS will be Monday, September 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the History Center.

 

 

New Officers and Board Members for 2015-2016

Monthly Meeting: Monday, July 20, 2015

The regular monthly meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society was called to order at 7:30 p.m. by President Elaine Henson at the History Center building.

Secretary Juanita Winner read the minutes from the June 16 meeting, which were approved as read.

Treasurer Demetria Sapienza reported that the FPHPS ended the 2015 Fiscal Year on June 30 in the black. With 507 cookbooks sold to date, 80% of the financial outlay for production and printing of the cookbooks has been recouped by the Center. Copies of both the final FY 2015 budget report and the proposed FY 2016 budget report are available from Demetria.

Darlene Bright shared information about the recent visit by Time-Warner Cable to Carolina Beach to produce a video about Carolina Beach and its newly revitalized Boardwalk. Both Darlene and Elaine Henson were interviewed by the crew and emphasized the importance of the History Center in keeping the stories of Pleasure Island alive. We are all looking forward to seeing the video!

Darlene also presented the following slate of officers and board members for the coming year:

President:            Elaine Henson
Vice President:   Tony Phillips
Secretary:           Nancy Gadzuk
Treasurer:           Demetria Sapienza

New Board of Directors:  Jim Dugan, Chris Fonvielle, John Moseley, Skippy Winner

Juanita Winner moved to accept the above slate and Cheri McNeill seconded the motion. The new slate was approved as presented.

Elaine mentioned the important role Tony Phillips has played in selling cases of cookbooks and helping the History Center end the Fiscal Year on a positive financial note.

Both Elaine and Rebecca Taylor recommended TheatreNOW’s current production of Summers at Seabreeze: Songs and Remembrances from Freeman Beach NC, highlighting some of the history of Federal Point.

Rebecca then introduced the main speakers of the evening, Peter and Cathy Meyer with Coastwalk North Carolina

Peter and Cathy Meyer – Coastwalk North Carolina

Peter Karl Meyer MD died on April 12, 2016, at the age of 63. He was a loving husband, exceptional father, dedicated physician, talented writer, inquisitive coastal naturalist, and an exemplary role model to many.  StarNewsOnline April 17, 2016


Background: Peter and Cathy Meyer – ‘Coastwalk North Carolina’

Rebecca Taylor introduced the main speakers of the July 20, 2015 FPHPS Open Meeting , Peter and Cathy Meyer with ‘Coastwalk North Carolina‘.

Rebecca first met Peter when she was a New Hanover County librarian and Peter’s best-selling Nature Guide to the Carolina Coast was regularly stolen from the library by discerning patrons and regularly replaced by library staff as a must-have reference volume. Peter and Cathy have extensive knowledge of the North Carolina coast, and the Nature Guide is filled with photographs, drawings, and information on the flora and fauna of the region.

Cathy and Peter Meyer

Cathy and Peter Meyer

Several years ago, Cathy proposed that the couple walk the entire length of the North Carolina shoreline. So, over the course of 18 months, the Meyers walked every bit of the North Carolina coastline (with the exception of off-limits Browns Island at Camp Lejeune), from South Carolina to the Virginia border: 425 miles of coastline along 21 barrier islands.

Tonight they presented an informative and inspiring talk—complete with numerous photographs, short videos, and shells and other artifacts they collected on their walks—to chronicle their forays along the barrier islands, which Peter referred to as “the necklace gracing the neckline of the mainland.”

The Meyers divided their presentation of their Coastwalk into four sections, based on the titles of their four e-books ‘Coastwalk North Carolina’:

* SOHO—Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island (the shortest section, at 4.5 miles)
* Between Capes—Cape Fear to Cape Lookout
* The Wild Banks—Cape Lookout to Hatteras Inlet (5 islands, very much undeveloped)
* Out There—Hatteras Inlet and Bodie Island to the Virginia border (the longest section, with 56 miles)

Coastwalk North Carolina - Outer Banks

Coastwalk North Carolina – Outer Banks

The Meyers’ knowledge and appreciation of the Carolina coast was evident in their Coastwalk experience and presentation.

Their talk, incorporating both photographs and videos of the shoreline wildlife they encountered, as well as maps and diagrams detailing the logistics of how they completed sections of their walk, was varied, informative, and made several important points.

Some of their presentation highlights:

First, the North Carolina coastline belongs to all of us. According to the North Carolina Public Trust, all beach lands up to the vegetation line are public lands and we all have the right to access these beaches. That means there are no private beaches in North Carolina (unlike some other states) and we are all able to take advantage of the entire coast (with the exception of Browns Island.)

Second, Coastwalk North Carolina can be done in any way that works—as much or as little as anyone wants to do, or is able to do. The Meyers showed us various ways they put together pieces of their coastline walk: sometimes they approached a segment by car, sometimes by boat, sometimes with the assistance of a bicycle to keep from having to double back by foot to their starting point for the day. As Peter put it, “It is like the Appalachian Trail but shorter, flatter, kinder, great for beachcombers and the public can access every beach with the exception of Browns Island.”

Third, beaches should not become piles of rocks. They should be allowed to be the wide expanse of sand they are naturally, serving as barrier islands.

Finally, the Meyers reminded us to appreciate our coast for all that it is, and preserve it. As they quoted Thoreau, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

The presentation ended with a lively Q&A session. One of the young people in the audience asked if they considered doing a coastline walk from Florida to Maine and Peter answered that it was up to the questioner’s generation to make that walk.  Passing it forward!

Marybeth Ray – March Meeting

Marybeth Ray croppedThe Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, March 16, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker will be Marybeth Ray, Captain of the MV Southport ferry.  Marybeth Ray is one of just three women among the 60 Captains of the North Carolina ferry fleet.

Working seven 12 hour days on followed by 7 days off, she pilots the MV Southport across the Cape Fear River in all kinds of weather and conditions.

Ferry signMarybeth grew up as a “military brat,” her family moving all over the Southeast. When she was twelve her family settled on Andros Island in the Bahamas and her love of boats, sailing and all things involving salt water was born. Her early work experience involved working for the U.S. Navy at their Undersea Test and Evaluation Center as a civilian contractor.

MV Southport

MV Southport

Of her 1995 move to Wilmington, Ray says, “We fell in love with this area. Obviously, its very water oriented and Wilmington had a lot to offer as far as downtown.”   Soon after resettling she got a job working as a “deck hand” with the North Carolina ferry system. By 2003 she had worked herself up to full time Captain.

Now a resident of Southport, on her weeks off she and her husband run Southport Paddle and Sail offering paddle board activities ranging from lessons and guided excursions to SPS-Logoyoga “on the water.”

They also offer sailing lessons and tours of the area from their schooner Kitty Hawk and their catboat Catnip.

 

Chris Fonvielle – February Meeting

Chris-Fonvielle-portrait-1The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, February 16, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Dr. Chris Fonvielle. He will be talking about his newest book, To Forge a Thunderbolt; Fort Anderson and the Battle for Wilmington.

Fort Anderson played an important role in the history of North Carolina during the Civil War. It was the Confederacy’s largest interior fortification in the Lower Cape Fear, and guarded the Cape Fear River and western land approaches to Wilmington. Beginning in late March 1862, Confederate engineers built massive earthen defenses at Brunswick Point, the site of the colonial port town of Brunswick, located halfway between Wilmington and the mouth of the river. The works were comprised of elevated artillery emplacements mounting heavy seacoast cannons and an adjoining line of imposing fieldworks that extended westward for more than a mile, from the Cape Fear River to Orton Pond.

By early 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant was so determined to capture Wilmington, the Confederacy’s principal seaport and To Forge covermost important city, that he traveled from Virginia to the Cape Fear to finalize plans for an attack by way of Fort Anderson. His forces had recently captured Fort Fisher and sealed the harbor to blockade running. Grant now wanted to take Wilmington as a means of assisting General William T. Sherman’s legion on its march through the Carolinas toward Virginia to help defeat General Robert E. Lee’s beleaguered, but strongly entrenched, army at Petersburg.

Dr. Chris E. Fonvielle, Jr. is a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, with a lifelong interest in American Civil War, North Carolina, Lower Cape Fear and Southern history. His in-depth research focuses on Civil War coastal operations and defenses, blockade running, and the navies.

Fort AndersonAfter receiving his B.A. in Anthropology at UNC-Wilmington, Fonvielle served as the last curator of the Blockade Runners of the Confederacy Museum. He subsequently received his M.A. in American history at East Carolina University and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Fonvielle returned to his undergraduate alma mater at UNC-Wilmington in 1996, where he now teaches courses on the Civil War, Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear, the Old South and Antebellum America. He also teaches extended education courses on the history of the Lower Cape Fear through the university.


Beverly Tetterton and Dan Camacho – January Meeting

Beverly Tetterton and Dan Comacho

Beverly Tetterton and Dan Camacho

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, January 19, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

This month’s speakers are business partners Beverly Tetterton and Dan Camacho who are publishers of a series of “apps” for smart phones and tablets focusing on the history of Wilmington. The wihi app uses your device’s GPS map to lead you down beautiful tree-lined streets to our  many rich historic sites. At each stop you listen to a 3-5 minute history and scroll through fascinating historic pics. Begin when you want. Walk at your own pace. Take a break with a cool drink. Even continue tomorrow if you want. It’s easy!

wihi cover photo

Civil War Wilmington Tour

A longtime friend of the Society, Beverly Tetterton was a research librarian in the North Carolina Room at the New Hanover County Public Library for 31 years. She was a pioneer in digital archives, creating the first in North Carolina. She went on to create numerous digital archive collections which include thousands of historic photographs of the Cape Fear Region. In 2001, the Raleigh News & Observer named her Tar Heel of the Week. She and her husband Glenn live in a 100 + year old house in Wilmington’s historic district.

Dan Camacho has an MBA from Northwestern, an MFA in Creative Writing from UNC Wilmington, and has worked at Hewlett Packard, amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.de, and amazon.fr.  He has not received nearly as many awards as Beverly, but he does live in an older house (160+ years) with his wife Lori and two children.

Watch Beverly & Dan talk about starting Wilmington History Tours: http://youtu.be/QKjVL0-U8tg

 

If yogoogle logoApp store logogu have a smartphone or tablet, you are welcome to bring it along as Beverly & Dan will be available to help people download and install the apps.

For more information about their products visit: http://www.wihi.info/

Civil War goes digital in Port City walking tour app

Mike Giles – North Carolina Coastal Federation

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, August 18, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Mike GilesOur speaker this month is Mike Giles, from the North Carolina Coastal Federation. He will speak on the Federation’s mission of sustaining a healthy and vibrant coastal ecology. Founded in 1982, with offices in Manteo, Newport and Wrightsville Beach, the organization has a staff of almost 20 who focus on helping to preserve and protect the natural, cultural, and economic resources of the North Carolina coast.

Mike joined the staff in May 2006. Mike is a North Carolina native, and before joining the federation, he served as the open-space land manager for Durham County for five years. Mike has extensive stewardship, enforcement and advocacy experience, gathered from positions with the National Park Service and the Army Corps of Engineers and as chief park ranger for Mecklenburg County. He studied wildlife management at N.C. State University, which included additional research and course work in coastal ecology. Mike monitors the Southeast Region from the Wrightsville Beach regional office.

Sam Leake – Life and Times of Robert E. Lee

Sam Leake

Sam Leake

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, July 21, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Sam Leake of Wilmington. He will present a pictorial program on the life and times of Robert E. Lee.

Sam became interested in General Lee as a member of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity at Oklahoma State University. He has served as a volunteer for the fraternity both at the local and national level and is currently on the National Board of Directors.

Sam received his B.S. Business Management from Oklahoma State University, 1964 and an MBA, from Oklahoma City University, 1967.

Robert E. Lee at Washington College

Robert E. Lee at Washington College

He worked in the corporate world for 20 years before relocating to Wilmington and starting his business, Beachwalk Design, Inc. (Luxe Home Interiors) in 2006 with his wife Lynn and their daughter Elizabeth

Why Robert E. Lee?

“The goal of Kappa Alpha is to build the character and prestige of gentlemanly conduct as inspired by Robert E. Lee who they consider their spiritual founder.” The first chapter was formed in 1865 when four young men at Washington College in Lexington Virginia, decided to pledge their friendship as a “mutual pledge of faith and loyalty.”

At that time Lee was President of the college and they considered Lee a model worth emulating.

Learn more about: Robert E. Lee (Wikipedia)