October 2020 Newsletter


 The History Center is OPEN

 Hours: Friday and Saturday

10:00 am to 4:00 pm

 

Monthly Programs Still on Hold

Since Governor Cooper has allowed museums in the state to open, we have decided to re-open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm. For the time being we will not be opening on Tuesdays.

We are currently looking at a significant budget shortfall this coming year, due to being closed for six months, which cost us a good deal in donations and gift shop sales. We also did not receive as much from the Town of Carolina Beach as we have in the past, which affected our staffing budget. The Board will be looking at ways to make up the shortfall, including possible fund raisers and we hope to restore our staffing level at some point in the future.

Unfortunately, monthly programs are still on hold. The space is just too small for gatherings of the kind we have had in the past.

We are looking into using Zoom at some point. If there is anyone with experience in producing video programs, and making them available on Zoom or YouTube, please let us know!

President’s Message – October, 2020

by Elaine Henson

Mr. A.W. Pate and the Greystone Inn, Part I

Alexander W. Pate was born in Cumberland County in September of 1875.  He would grow up to become one of the principal developers of Carolina Beach.  In 1912, he and partners bought the holdings of the New Hanover Transit Company from Captain John W. Harper, who developed Carolina Beach as a resort in 1887.

Mr. Pate was the president of Southern Realty Company along with D. N. Chadwick as Vice President and J. J. Loughlin, Secretary-Treasurer.  The purchase included a steam train, dock on the Cape Fear River, a railroad to the beach, two pavilions, bath houses and 200 acres of land along the beach for two miles all for $30,000.  Later they bought an additional 772 acres from Robert Bruce Freeman to own controlling interest in Carolina Beach.  They had a long list of plans and improvements to make it one of the finest resorts on the east coast along with selling lots from their extensive acreage.

By 1914, Mr. Pate and partners had completed an electric light plant to provide lights to all the businesses, cottages and future cottages.  They installed a pumping station for two new artesian wells.  To encourage people to come on the weekends and look at lots, Captain Harper lowered the price for a trip down on the Steamer Wilmington as did the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads during the summer months.

A.W. Pate was a tireless supporter of Carolina Beach and had no end of ideas to promote the beach as evidenced by an article in the Sunday Star News of June 18, 1939, by none other than native son, David Brinkley, a writer for the newspaper at that time.  Among other projects Mr. Pate describes is one to reroute Highway 17 from going through Wilmington to going by Carolina Beach which never materialized.  Here are some excerpts from that article including his comments on dredging Myrtle Grove Sound to make the yacht basin:

Another ambitious project was to provide a trolley line from Wilmington to Carolina Beach.  He planned for it to begin at Greenfield Lake near Sunset Park and run parallel with the new hard surface road from the Masonboro Loop Road to Carolina Beach.  The Wilmington City Commissioners required a vote of the people in order to issue the franchise for the trolley.  On October 11, 1914, the Wilmington & Carolina Beach Railway Company franchise passed by a margin of 473 votes despite opposition from some factions.  One caveat was that three miles of the railway must be completed by August 1, 1916.

Mr.  Pate had a tentative agreement with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company to build the railway and scheduled an in-person meeting with them in Norfolk, Virginia, soon after the franchise was granted.  On the morning he was to leave for Norfolk by train, he received a call from them asking to postpone the meeting until the impact of the recent outbreak of WWI could be assessed. As it turned out, the meeting was never held and he failed to build the required three miles by the deadline in 1916, so the project failed.

Not to be completely outdone, in 1939, he did buy a beach car from the Tidewater Power Company who was discontinuing their trolley line to Wrightsville Beach. He placed it next to his Greystone Inn on Cape Fear Boulevard to use as a diner selling hot dogs.  That diner was soon taken over by Mrs. Lille Mae High and became Mrs. High’s Diner.

Next month:  Mr. A.W. Pate and the Greystone Inn, Part II

President’s Message – September, 2020

By Elaine Henson

Mrs. High’s Dining Room

Many old timers will remember Mrs. High’s Dining Room on Cape Fear Boulevard. It featured home cooking, great seafood of all kinds, steaks, chops, lots of fresh vegetables, and homemade pies.  It was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Mrs. Adrienne Cole, who taught at Carolina Beach School, would often play the piano during meals.

The dining room was owned by Mrs. Lillie Mae High and her partner, Jesse Croom and his wife, Rose Croom.  Judy Cumber Moore worked the summers of 1957 and 1958 at Mrs. High’s.  She remembers the kitchen help shelling peas and butterbeans also cutting corn off the cob for creamed corn. There was no air conditioning back then, just very large fans on stands placed all around the pine paneled dining room.  She also recalls that Mrs. Croom, who was in a wheelchair, sat at a table up front with Mrs. High or Mr. Croom at the cash register.

Ann and Tommy Greene remember that the Crooms and Mrs. High shared a house next door to his parents on Myrtle Avenue, two blocks from the dining room.  Ann Greene also worked there one summer. After Mrs. Croom’s death in 1965, Mr. Croom and Mrs. High married and lived on the beach until his death in 1978 and hers in 1983.  Mr. Croom and both Mrs. Crooms are buried in the same plot in Oakdale Cemetery.

I also worked at High’s during the summer of 1966 while in college.  By then, Mrs. High and the Crooms had retired and the restaurant was owned by Charles and Martha Haas and renamed High’s Dining Room.  The kitchen was very small and bustling with activity with fans blowing there and in the dining room.  On the way to work, I remember riding over the new high-rise Snow’s Cut bridge that had opened in August of 1962.  It seemed so big and modern compared to the old swing bridge.

Mrs. High’s had started out as a diner next to the Greystone Hotel.  Mr. A. W. Pate built the Greystone Hotel in 1916, on Cape Fear Boulevard.

In the linen, hand colored post card, you can see the Greystone with its roof top dancing porch, just down from the Bame Gas Station and Grocery and Hotel Bame.

In 1939, the Tidewater Power Company was discontinuing the trolley line to Wrightsville Beach and put some of the beach cars up for sale.  Mr. Pate bought one and put it next to the Greystone as a hot dog stand. You can see the white roof of the beach car diner; it is on the far-right edge of the card just above the half blue car.

We don’t know how long the hot dog stand lasted, but we do know that sometime in the 1940s it became Mrs. High’s Diner. Punky Kure recalls eating at the diner next to the Greystone.  Mrs. High and Jesse Croom were partners early on as you can see in the restaurants list from a Sunny Carolina Beach brochure distributed in 1945 to 1949.  It was put out by the Chamber of Commerce.

As business for the diner grew, the restaurant moved into the new cinder block building next door painted green in the card at the top.  Its entrance was under the striped awing and round sign with an arrow pointing to the door.

The Greystone Hotel is above the Mack’s Dime Store with Mrs. High’s to the left of that extending into the flat roof addition.

Soon the cinder block building that housed Mrs. High’s will be torn down to make way for new retail on the bottom and condos on the top.  What’s old is new again.

Next month:  Mr. A.W. Pate and the Greystone Hotel

 

Then and Now – Part 1

For those of you who are new in town, and those who enjoy a trip down memory lane now and then, here are some local sights that are lost, but not forgotten.

The Shoo-Fly Train

In 1887, when Captain Harper began bringing beach goers to the new resort of Carolina Beach, the road to Federal Point was a sandy wagon track. Instead, people took the steamer, Passport, and later the Wilmington, down the Cape Fear River from Wilmington.

But, it was a long, hot, buggy walk from the dock on the river to the beach, so he bought a small, three car train and constructed tracks across the peninsula from Sugar Loaf (and, later, Doctor’s Point) to the first ocean side building.

 

January 14, 1887: The Carolina Beach Company, recently formed, had begun work on a railroad which was to run from near Sugar Loaf, about 13 miles below Wilmington on the Cape Fear River, across the peninsula to the Atlantic coast, near the head of Myrtle Grove Sound, and just below old Camp Wyatt.  The iron rails have already been purchased and the rolling stock provided.  The railroad work was to be completed in about two months, and the line was not to be more than two miles in length. At the terminus of the railroad on the ocean side there will be a “playground” for the excursionists where they can go and enjoy themselves.  WILM.STAR   1-14-1887

 

May 1, 1887: Capt. Beach was to have charge of the hotel which was to be erected at the new summer resort being developed south of Wilmington.  The building was to be put up as soon as the railroad from the river to the beach was completed and made available for the transportation of building materials received from Wilmington. WILM.STAR   5-1-1887

 

May 4, 1887: A locomotive for the railroad extending from the Cape Fear River to old Camp Wyatt and then to the ocean beach was sent down from Wilmington.  WILM.STAR   5-5-l887

May 5, 1887: Three railroad cars, intended for use on the railway from the river to the beach at Carolina Beach, were taken from the shops of the builders, Messrs. Burr & Bailey, to the wharf at the foot of Dock Street, for shipment. WILM.STAR   5-6-1887

Harper Avenue

Did you know?

You can still see where the old tracks ran in places in the Carolina Beach State Park.

You can also see them very plainly, right down the middle of Harper Avenue, which is why it curves as it approaches Dow Rd., instead of running exactly perpendicular from the ocean to the river.

 

 


 

Fort Fisher Radar Base

Fort Fisher Air Force Station was opened in 1955, on part of the Fort Fisher AFS installation as USAF Permanent System Radar Station “M-115” during a $1 billion increase for US continental defense after the Air Force approved the Mobile Radar program in mid-1954. It was assigned to Air Defense Command as part of a planned deployment of forty-four Mobile Radar Stations. Fort Fisher AFS was designed as site M-115 and the 701st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was assigned on August 1, 1955.

Initially, the Air Force Station functioned as a Ground control intercept and warning station to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the squadron’s radar scopes.

During 1962, Fort Fisher AFS joined the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, initially feeding data to Fort Lee AFS, Virginia. After joining, the squadron was re-designated as the 701st Radar Squadron on July 1, 1962. The radar squadron provided information 24/7 to the SAGE Direction Center where it was analyzed to determine range, direction, altitude, speed, and whether or not aircraft were friendly or hostile.

The 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) was inactivated and replaced by the 701st Air Defense Group in March 1970. Just before inactivation, the squadron earned an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service for the period from December 1, 1968, through February 28, 1970. The upgrade to group status was done because of Fort Fisher AFS’s status as a Backup Interceptor Control (BUIC) site. BUIC sites were alternate control sites in the event that the SAGE Direction Centers became disabled and unable to control interceptor aircraft. The group was inactivated and replaced by 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) in January 1974, as a reduction to defenses against manned bombers. The group and squadron shared a second Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period January 1, 1973, through December 31, 1974.

Fort Fisher AFS came under Tactical Air Command jurisdiction in 1979, with the inactivation of Aerospace Defense Command.

The base closed on June 30, 1988, and the USAF retained the housing complex and converted it into the Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area. Supervision of the Recreation Area was transferred to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base when Myrtle Beach AFB closed in 1993.

Ground Equipment Facility J-02 continued use of the USAF radar in the Joint Surveillance System and “in 1995, an AN/FPS-91A performed search duties.” A portion of the base was returned to the State of North Carolina, which turned much of it into the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and historic site.

The Fort Fisher site is used by the National Guard as a training area and also hosts the Annual Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival.

 

President’s Message – August, 2020

Federal-Point-History.org

By Elaine Henson

This month’s newsletter and my president’s letter are devoted to our amazing website, federal-point-history.org. As you Google search online for our history at Federal Point, Fort Fisher, Seabreeze, Carolina, Hanby, Wilmington, and Kure Beaches, notice that our FPHPS website is always there in the list and often at the top or near the top of the links.

That is due primarily to the dutiful labor of our web site manager, Andre Blouin. He has spent countless hours uploading our archives on the site for everyone to read, use to answer questions, and to do research. Our archives collection is not of much value if it can’t be accessed. Not everyone can come to the History Center and go through our files, but most can search online or get someone to do it for them. We hope this focus on our site will inspire you to use it in the coming months.

This is the 73rd letter I have written for our newsletter since I became president in July, 2014.  Looking back, there are some that stand out because they tell very interesting stories of our history and were such fun to research and write. Hopefully you will go to our website, find them, and click and read.

2017:  January, February, March and April President’s Letters: The Carolina Beach Hotel.  This is a fascinating story of a 1920s beautiful new hotel situated on the property where Carolina Beach School is now.  Its opening was attended by Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil and her husband from the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Its bright future was cut short involving multiple sales, arson, arrests, a trial, and eventually a school on its site.  A must read.

2018: January, February, March and April President’s Letters: The Breakers Hotel.  This is another promising 1920s hotel story; it doesn’t have visitors from a world-famous family, but it does include a relationship with Ethel-Dow, a fire, and even worse, a hurricane named Hazel.  The Breakers was located in Wilmington Beach which was annexed by Carolina Beach in 2000. It was on the site occupied by the Sea Colony Condominiums on South Lake Park Boulevard between North Carolina Avenue and Ocean Boulevard.

2018: May, June, July, August, September, October, November President’s Letters: The Boardwalk

These seven letters tell a condensed story of the boardwalk from its beginning in 1887 to the present. The boardwalk has lasted in some form for over a century and has gone through glory days, being the center of activity, world wars, numerous hurricanes, fires, and some dark days.  But it has survived them all and is enjoying revitalization and renewed popularity.  We hope it will survive this pandemic in the same way, and that next summer it will be better than ever.

Next month:  Mrs. High’s Dining Room on Cape Fear Boulevard

 

 

 

The Historic Joy Lee Apartments

Joy Lee front[Editor’s Note, 1997: In every developing community, certain structures epitomize detail and design during periods of that development.

Staff of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, as well as many of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society members, felt that Joy Lee Apartments on Carolina Beach Avenue, North at Carolina Beach represented a period of growth in the 1940s that has lasted throughout the last 50 years and is still flesh and useful.

For this reason, Beth Keane graciously volunteered her time and in nominating the beautiful resort attraction to the National Register of Historic Places. As of this writing (early April, 1996), the nomination has passed the local and State level of significance and is being reviewed for national significance. Many thanks to Beth for her contribution to the Federal Point community].

By Beth Keane

Grover Lewis, a masonry construction worker, together with his family, moved to Carolina Beach from High Point, North Carolina, in March, 1941. Mr. Lewis went to work for the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company and moved his family into the Marianette Cottage on Carolina Avenue, North.

When the lot next door was filled in by a storm in the fall of 1944, the Lewis’s decided to purchase it. Mr. Lewis immediately began designing the Joy Lee Apartment Building. Long shipyard hours made it necessary for Mr. Lewis to hire William Bordeaux to build the basic concrete block structure.

After purchasing a hand-operated cement block press, the Lewis family turned out two blocks at a time, approximately fifty per evening.

Named the Joy Lee Apartments after Mr. Lewis’s daughter, the completed duplex was rented to vacationers. Each apartment consisted of a living room, a dining room, a kitchen with an ice box, two bedrooms, each with a closet, and a central hall. Considered luxury units at the time, they came equipped with private porches and private baths with hot and cold running water.

After the war, Mr. Lewis returned to masonry construction work. For the next ten years, Mrs. Lewis ran a large rooming-house, as well as the Joy Lee Apartment Complex. The growth of Carolina Beach doubled during this time period; by 1950, there was a year-round population of 1,080.

Joy Lee poolDue to the popularity of the Joy Lee Apartment Building as a vacation destination, the Annex was constructed in 1948. While similar in form and structure to the original building, stylistically it exhibits design elements reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style.

Carolina Beach experienced widespread devastation several times during the past 50 years. Hurricane Hazel roared ashore with 150 miles per hour winds on October 15, 1954. Hurricane Diana struck in 1984 and last but not least, Hurricanes Bertha and Fran in 1996.

Suffering only minor water damage and some roof damage, the solid masonry construction allowed the Joy Lee Apartment Building to weather these storms intact.

The Joy Lee Apartment Building and Annex are a unique combination of several popular architectural styles, including Mission Style, Art Deco, Art Moderne, as well as the Prairie Style.

After the 1940 fire which destroyed many of the frame structures at Carolina Beach, cinder-block construction became a popular substitute. Not only was it deemed more durable, but because of the war effort, more traditional building materials were in short supply.

Over the years, the Lewis family has modified the Joy Lee Apartment Building several times to remain competitive with more modern buildings being constructed around it, including replacing bathroom showers with bathtubs in 1954, adding a lanai and portico in 1957, and an office and fireplaces in 1960. Major improvements in 1976 included enlarging the dining area with a bay addition, adding spiral cement stairs to the upper level sundeck, and installing an in-ground swimming pool.

While the Town of Carolina Beach has replaced many of its earlier structures with contemporary hotels, motels, and cottages, the Joy Lee Apartments is an original, built from the imagination and ingenuity of a World War II shipyard worker. The solid construction of the Joy Lee should ensure its survival, while continuing to provide Carolina Beach visitors with a glimpse into the past.

[This article was originally published in the April 1997 – FPHPS Newsletter]

The Joy Lee Apartments were entered into the National Register of Historic Places on April 3, 1997 (see plaque)

A History of Quarantine Stations on the Cape Fear River (Part 2 of 2)

By Sandy Jackson

[Originally published in the February, 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter]

In 1889 the state legislature failed to appropriate funds to improve the quarantine facilities. Plans for the selection and construction of a new quarantine hospital at the mouth of the Cape Fear River were again considered by the state in 1893-94.

The state proposed $20,000 for construction of a quarantine station, provided that Wilmington would contribute $5,000 for the purpose. Wilmington could not raise its appropriate share, and the state funds were never provided.

A suggestion was made by the board to petition the federal government to maintain a quarantine hospital on the Cape Fear River.

With the appropriation of $35,000 by Gen. Robert Ransom under the 1894 River and Harbor Act, the US. government would maintain the hospital site chosen to be located near Southport. The most promising site for a new quarantine station was at White Rock, southeast of Price’s Creek lighthouse. “It possessed the advantage of being fairly well protected wind and water, did not endanger Southport, was well isolated, and it was out of the way of regular river traffic”.

Bids were opened for the construction of a wharf and buildings at the new US. Quarantine Station. Frank Baldwin of Washington, DC, was the lowest bidder, at $18,500; however, Baldwin was unable to complete the service in 1895 and the project was then awarded to William Peake (one of the bondsmen for Mr. Baldwin) in the amount of $8,176.66. The State Quarantine Station near Southport was transferred to the US. government on July 18, 1895. There was no charge for inspection or disinfection.

For the prevention of the spread of cholera, yellow fever, smallpox, typhus fever, plague, or other such infectious diseases, the following vessels were subject to the quarantine regulations:

1) All vessels, American or foreign, that had any sicknes’s on board.
2) All vessels from foreign ports, except vessels from the Atlantic or Pacific coasts of British America, not having on board passengers or the effects of passengers not resident in America for sixty days; and except foreign vessels arriving by way of non-infected domestic ports.
3) All vessels from infected domestic ports.

Constructed on pilings located within the Cape Fear River, the new quarantine station consisted of four houses: the disinfecting house, the hospital, the attendants quarters, and the medical officers’ quarters. The quarantine complex was described as follows:

The station has been carefully laid out on the east side of the channel of the river half way between the upper end of Battery Island and No. 4 beacon light (Price’s Creek). The location is entirely in the water and the nearest point to the shore is fully a half mile. The station is one mile east of Southport. As before stated the station will be out in the water and will be constructed on a pier, the caps of which will stand ten feet above mean low water. The pier will be in the shape of a cross .

The quarantine station pier was 600 feet in length and ran north by northwest. It was constructed on a shoal in the river with water from 18 to 20 inches in depth. The disinfecting house was constructed at the west end of the pier and included tanks for disinfectants, sulfur furnaces, a steam boiler and engine, and hose and pumps for applying the disinfectants under pressure. Vessels that required fumigation laid alongside with their hatches closed. A hose was run down into the vessel and the fumes and disinfectants forced in by steam until the ship was entirely covered.

The hospital, built on the south wing of the cross pier, contained wards for the sick, a dispensary, and a kitchen. The third building, the barracks or attendants’ quarters, occupied the center of the cross pier.

The remaining medical officers’ quarters was a two-story house on the north wing that contained an office, living apartments, kitchen, and dining room. At the east end of the pier a ballast was built for the deposit of ballast from quarantine vessels.

Before ballast from contaminated vessels could be dumped into the crib, it had to be disinfected. From 1898 to 1928, about $75,000 was appropriated by the federal government for construction of various additions at the quarantine station. The additions included: men’s quarters, 1898; quarters for detained crews, 1901; wharf, 1914; water tank, 1920; launch shelter, 1921; remodeling 1926; and extension of gangway, 1928. An artesian well, 400 feet deep, was also added to the station in 1897.

The’ United States marine hospital service tug John M Woodworth arrived in November 1895 and was immediately placed under the supervision of Dr. J.M. Eager, quarantine officer, who had assumed charge of the quarantine station in June. The Woodworth was “an iron hull boat of 88 tons, 80 feet in length, 17 feet beam, and draws 7 feet 6 inches.” The tug was designated to be used as a “boarding steamer” but was tied to the end of the quarantine pier and used as attendants’ quarters until the station was completed.

Until the new station was completed, the Cape Fear quarantine vessel served only as a boarding service, and all vessels needing fumigation or treatment were sent to another port.

The quarantine station apparently continued operation until 1937, when it outlived its usefulness and was placed in a surplus status under a caretaker.

It appears on several maps until that period. The station is indicated as late as 1937 on a US. Army Corps of Engineers map. Health services for seamen were transferred to a shore facility, located next to the Stuart house in Southport.

By 1939 maps described the station as “Decommissioned.” With improvements in the control of contagious diseases, a need for quarantine stations no longer existed. In 1946 the Southport station’s status was changed to first class relief station. The status of the shore station again changed about 1953, when it became an outpatient office of the US. Public Health Service and operated as such until 1970.

The abandoned quarantine station within the river was left to deteriorate. The caretaker, Charles E. Dosher, retired in 1946 and five years later – on August 19, 1951 – a large part of the old quarantine station was destroyed by fire. Presently only the concrete platform for the steel tower and water tank remain

[Editor:  Claude V. (Sandy) Jackson III included this article in his book: ‘The Big Book of the Cape Fear River‘,  available at the Federal Point History Center]

Bibliography

Brown, Landis G.
1973 “Quarantine on the Cape Fear River. ” The State 41, no. 6 (November).

Reeves, William M.
1990 Southport (Smithville): A Chronology (1887-1920). Vol. 2. Southport, NC: The Southport Historical Society.

United States Army Corps of Engineers.
1937 Cape Fear River Below Wilmington, N.C. in Front of Southport. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office Map, Wilmington, NC.

1939 Cape Fear River Below Wilmington, N.C. Southport to Fort Caswell. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office Map, Wilmington, N.C.

Wilmington Messenger (Wilmington, NC.) 1895

Wilmington Star, (Wilmington, NC.) 1894, 1895

 

[Additional resources]

February, 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter (pdf)

Epidemic! Quarantine! – a July, 2014 FPHPS Article describing issues related to the ‘deteriorating’ quarantine station.

 

A History of Quarantine Stations on the Cape Fear River (Part 1 of 2)

By Sandy Jackson

[Originally published in the January, 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter]

In the decade preceding the Civil War the sanitary regulations of the port of Wilmington were under the control of the Commissioners of Navigation and Pilotage who established quarantine stations on the river.

When the Civil War began, however, the quarantine laws that applied to the port of Wilmington were waived because supplies and food were desperately needed by soldiers and civilians. As a result of the waiving of quarantine regulations, an epidemic of yellow fever began with the arrival of the steamer Kate, a blockade-runner from Nassau.

On August 6, 1862, after slipping by the Federal blockade, the steamer Kate entered the Cape Fear River loaded with bacon and other food supplies and anchored at the foot of Market Street.

In the absence of a sufficient quarantine practice the infectious disease spread to the inhabitants of the town, resulting in a great loss of life before it was finally brought under control several weeks later.

As a result of an outbreak of yellow fever in Wilmington, health authorities implemented improvements in quarantine regulations. By 1864 all vessels bound for Wilmington were required to stop at Fort Anderson, on the site of old Brunswick Town, for inspection.

Following the war, quarantine regulations for the civilian trade briefly came under the jurisdiction of the quarantine medical officer, while the military continued to enforce its own policies.

Under provisions stated in “An act for the preservation of the public health, by establishing suitable Quarantine regulations for the Port of Wilmington, NC.” (1868), notice concerning inspection and or quarantine of vessels possibly carrying infectious diseases was given to pilots, masters, and owners of vessels.

The act called for the establishment of a quarantine station “opposite Deep Water Point, near the mouth of the Cape Fear River . . .” and the appointment of a physician by the governor. At the nearest convenient station upon the shore, a hospital was to be built for the sick removed from restricted vessels.

All vessels from ports south of Cape Fear had to stop at the station near Deep Water Point for inspection by the quarantine physician and be “quarantined for fifteen days, and thoroughly fumigated.” A fee of five dollars was required of each ship inspected; for every sick person taken to the hospital a quarantined vessel, a fee not exceeding three dollars a day” was charged.

Any vessel that knew it had a sickness on board was required to stop at the station regardless of the port from which it sailed. Any ships to which the above regulations did not apply could proceed directly to Wilmington without detention.

Under military General Orders issued for the district, quarantine regulations stated that “All vessels coming directly, or indirectly, from a port where any infection exists, are required to remain in quarantine as long as the quarantine officer shall think necessary.”

The military assumed the control of all quarantine regulations and established quarantine stations at Fort Caswell and Fort Fisher. It was required that the quarantine ground be as near Smith’s Island and Bald Head as the depth of water would allow for arriving ships. A quarantine hospital, storehouse, and trading post were established on the beach about 2 miles Fort Caswell.

In 1869 a quarantine station was built at Pine Creek (probably Price’s Creek) upon a tract of two acres at a cost of two thousand dollars.

The following year an amendment to the quarantine health act was ratified; the amendment created a Board of Quarantine for the Port of Wilmington. The board consisted of “the Board of Navigation and Pilotage, the Quarantine Medical Officer and the Quarantine Commissioners, whose duty it shall be to make such rules and regulations as may be necessary to protect the inhabitants from infectious diseases, and for the government of the Hospital at Deep Water Point . . .”.

An editorial by Dr. Walter G. Curtis, the quarantine physician, that appeared in the Wilmington Star in 1878 praised the success of the quarantine station. The physician stated: “I believe it can be confidently asserted that Wilmington is one of the healthiest cities on the Atlantic Coast. Yellow fever has visited that city but once in thirty years. The quarantine establishment opposite Deep Water Point has intercepted it invariably since its establishment there, and kept it out of your city”.

In a March 1879 letter, Dr. Curtis reported to Gov. Thomas Jarvis that “nothing occurred of importance at this Quarantine Station.” Dr. Curtis did, however, express his concerns over the continued control of vessels arriving from South American ports, where yellow fever and smallpox were prevalent. Although an occasional vessel arrived from South American ports with sickness on board, Dr. Curtis had found no shipboard cases of a contagious nature.

Within three months Dr. Curtis was again in contact with Jarvis, stating that the health of the Port of Wilmington continued to be excellent and unaffected by ships arriving foreign ports. The number of vessels that arrived at the port for inspection did, however, exceed the doctor‘s initial expectations. The policy of inspecting for infectious diseases vessels arriving from ports in South America and the West Indies continued with the approval of the Wilmington inhabitants.

On March 31, 1882, the Quarantine Hospital at “Pine Creek” burnt. It was determined that a fire that started in the roof and was fanned by the strong winds along the river caused the destruction. The keeper and his family managed to save most of the furniture and bedding.

Dr. Curtis suggested to Gov. Thomas Jarvis that a temporary quarantine station might be established at the old lighthouse at Pine Creek. With the support of Jarvis and Senator Zebulon B. Vance, their recommendation was made to the Chief of the Lighthouse Bureau. The Bureau approved use of the old lighthouse, provided that “the property be in as good order as when received, and that it be restored to the custody of the Light House Establishment on due notice.”

The quarantine hospital may have remained located in the lighthouse for several years.

[Editor:  Claude V. (Sandy) Jackson III included this article in his book: ‘The Big Book of the Cape Fear River‘, available at the Federal Point History Center]

Bibliography

Brown, Landis G.
1973 “Quarantine on the Cape Fear River.” The State 41, no. 6 (November).

South, Stanley.
1960 “Colonial Brunswick 1726-1776“. State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.

Wilmington Star, (Wilmington, NC.) 1868, 1870, 1878

Yearns, W. Buck. (editor)
1969 “The Papers of Thomas Jordan Jarvis“. Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History.

 

[Additional resources]

January, 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter (pdf)

Epidemic! Quarantine! – a July, 2014 FPHPS Article describing issues related to the ‘deteriorating’ quarantine station.