Our April speaker, Dr. Chris Fonvielle, talked about his new book and showed a variety of photos from his new book, Faces of Fort Fisher, highlighting many people who were assigned to the Fort or lived nearby.
He explained how more supplies came in through the two entries into the Cape Fear River than into all the other southern ports combined. The success rate for these valuable trips reached about 80%.
Chris showed paintings of many of the blockade runner ships and their masters.
Fonvielle hopes to follow this volume with at least two additional ones as he expands his collection of original photos.
Frying Pan Tower and Lightship
Our March speaker was Michael Vickery, a Board member of Richard Neal’s Frying Pan Tower.
Frying Pan is a shoal area that reaches thirty miles south of Bald Head. In 1854 the U.S. government installed a light ship to warn shipping using the Gulf Stream of the shallows. By 1964 the last light ship was decommissioned and a permanent light tower built to replace it. This included work space and bedrooms to house coast guard personnel.
By 2004 GPS had made the light tower obsolete and in 2009 the Coast Guard put it up for auction. The first bids began at $10,000 and Richard Neal bid $11,137.15, his total assets.
Then the government stepped in and declared every lighthouse to be worth at least $85,000. Mr. Neal borrowed from a friend and there were no other bidders. Since that time he and friends have spent every possible moment scraping away years of accumulated rust and restoring bedrooms, a modern kitchen, and work spaces . It currently can sleep eight and they hope to increase this to 14.
The living platform is 65 feet above the water and the only access is by helicopter or boat with a breaches buoy needed to transport visitors and cargo up to the platform. Primary activities for visitors are fishing and scuba diving with a pool table and sundeck outdoors for rougher days. Weekend rentals are available with food being served,mostly fish, plus whatever is brought from the mainland.
Wilmington StarNews review: Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower – a new breed of bed and breakfast
Lori Sanderlin, Curator of Education at the Southport Maritime Museum, spoke on how the American culture dealt with death during and as a result of the Civil War era. She talked about the severe rules of conduct and dress for the affluent widows .
Often the hair of the deceased was turned into decorative or useful items. In the big cities there were even large stores that sold only grieving items.
Funeral customs began to change as many soldiers died far from home in battle and of disease in crowded prisoner camps. Lori presented representative costumes of the ladies in mourning.
We had quite a crowd at our January meeting for the program presented by Jasmine McKee who has worked for the Island Gazette for 10 years. Many people said they learned a lot about the history of the Island Gazette Newspaper and the family who owns it.
Founded in 1978 the paper has chronicled the biggest stories of the past 40 years that the paper has covered, from Hurricanes in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, to fights about development and the struggles of the business owners on the Boardwalk to attract tourists back to their establishments.
It’s amazing how much history has happened in the last 40 years in this little corner of the County.
What a wonderful Christmas Party. The food and fellowship made it a special night for all the members and guests who attended. Thanks to John Golden for leading a rousing sing along.
Thanks too, to Sondra Nelder and Peg Fisher and the Kure Memorial Lutheran Church women for the decorations and setting up and cleaning up after the meal. Thanks, also to Darlene Bright and Demetria Sapienza for all they did to get ready in the days before the party.
At our November meeting Mr. Vernon Meshaw, a scrap metal dealer, presented the bronze plaque he salvaged from the Snow’s Cut Swing Bridge to the Society. Until Mr. Meshaw contacted the Society no one knew where the bridge had gone when it was decommissioned upon the opening of the current high-rise bridge in 1962.
It turns out that Mr. Mannon Gore, the developer of Sunset Beach, had purchased it from the NC Highway Department. However, after ten years of trying to get approval for use from the mainland to the new development at Sunset Beach, he realized the state would never let him install it, and contacted Mr. Meshaw about selling it as scrap.
Luckily, Mr Meshaw had the presence of forethought to keep the memorial plaque that recognized the North Carolina section of the Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway. The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society is deeply grateful that he offered to donate it to the Society for display at the History Center.
E. Henson & V. Meshaw
Also on the program was Frankie Jones, whose father was the last bridge tender of the swing bridge. She talked about her childhood and how it revolved around the blast of the horn, that signaled the bridge’s opening.
Also present was Billy Holt, whose father was the relief tender (they worked 12 hour shifts), who told us about how they turned the bridge if the power went out. Oh, and how they tied it down when hurricanes threatened.
To round out the evening Elaine Henson presented the history of the ICW, Snow’s Cut and the Swing Bridge. She showed many great pictures, including the iconic Hugh Morton photo of a speed boat passing through the open bridge.
by Frankie Jones
As most of you are aware, my father was one of the bridge tenders of the Snow’s Cut Swing Bridge. My parents moved here from Brunswick County in the early forties to take the job.
At the end of what is now Bridge Barrier Road, where the bridge was located, the state had two three-room houses which were rented to the bridge tenders.
Our family lived in one house and Mr. Holt, the other bridge tender and his family, lived in the other. Our house was the closest to the waterway and the Holt house was about 40 feet south of ours. The bank has now eroded so much that our house would be gone had my father not purchased the house and moved it to Spencer Farlow Dr.
The tenders in the bridge house would keep watch along the waterway for approaching boats. Usually, as a boat approached the bridge it would blow a loud horn to alert the bridge tender. Before the bridge opened bells would ring and a gate would drop across the road on both sides of the bridge to alert cars that the bridge was closed to traffic. Read more …
October, 2013 Meeting Report
Last month our speaker was Ron Griffin, an engineering graduate from MIT, who worked in the aerospace field until his retirement. Now his hobby is geneology by computer. Ron offered to help any member explore their family history. Just sign your request with Rebecca in the History Center office. He listed the range of websites available and showed what they could produce for you.
The US census collects much information and it is not revealed to the public for 72 years, which means the 1940 details were just released in 2012. He then explained about the new genetic testing that can be done to find out your general ancestry and talked about what you can find out, and what you can’t.
September, 2013 Monthly Meeting
At our September meeting John Moseley, assistant site manager at Fort Fisher, talked about scurvey and the importance of vitamin C in controlling that disease. Many soldiers and sailors of the 16th to 18th centuries were afflicted and many strange theories were suggested as the cause and ways to prevent it.
Sir Gilbert Blane (1749- 1834) was the British naval doctor who first recommend lime or lemon juice, thus the term “limeys” for British sailors. Soldiers posted at Forts Fisher and Anderson were very poorly fed so the men started vegetable gardens to supplement their diets.
Monthly Meeting Report – August, 2013
Our speaker in August was Phillip Garwood, the award-winning Cape Fear Community College instructor who recently published a book about the little known tribe of native people known as the Cape Fear River Indians.
It was fascinating to hear about his collection and the adventures he’s had aquiring it. Who knew that the Paleo Indians lived as much at 100 miles from the current shoreline.
The best take-away was that if you see a rock on the ground in the Lower Cape Fear it just might be an Indian tool because there are NO NATIVE rocks around here.
We have high hopes of working with his students to rework our exhibit on local Native Americans.