Captain John Harper – from the Bill Reaves Files

August 17, 1880 – The steamer PASSPORT was to make her last trip of the season to the “Rocks” at New Inlet. Capt. John W. Harper, master of the steamer, stated that “the tide will exactly suit for a good day’s fishing at this point, being low water about 12 noon”.  (Wilm Star, 8-13-1880)


August 14, 1883 – A moonlight excursion was offered on the steamboat PASSPORT to Federal Point. Music and dancing, Sheepshead Supper at Mayo’s Place. Fare for round trip 50 cents. One hour at Federal Point. John W. Harper and George N. Harriss, Managers.   (Wilm Star, 8-14-1883)


June 5, 1887  – Fifteen miles from Wilmington on the banks of the ocean is situated Carolina Beach which is daily, rapidly, and deservedly growing in popular favor. How is it reached? One hour is hardly spent on the steamer PASSPORT when the boat moves slowly to Harper’s Pier, where the pleasure seekers disembark to find in readiness a train of cars awaiting to carry them to their destination. These cars are made after the manner of cars used at Coney Island and are convenient and commodious. A ride of five or six minutes through a level and interesting country, filled with flowers and green shrubbery, brings you in full view of the ocean.

Out of the sand many houses have arisen, and a spacious pavilion, with smooth floors which invite the dancer, stands ready for the reception of guests. Bathing houses, conveniently situated, are erected. The shore is hard and as level as a ballroom floor, and so gentle and sloping is the incline that the swimmer can easily and without danger penetrate beyond the breakers. Opposite the beach are wrecks of blockaders, and he who is fortunate enough to find a day so calm as to allow him to reach them, will find the merriest sport with hook and line and sheepshead that the Atlantic coast produce; and just beyond the wrecks are the far famed blackfish grounds, whose reputation for numberless fish has enticed many landsmen to visit them.


September 12, 1898  – Capt. John W. Harper, of the steamer WILMINGTON, gave a free excursion to the old and sick colored people of the city. He carried about 600 of them to Carolina Beach and brought them back by 5 p.m. They enjoyed the outing to the fullest extent. They enjoyed the refreshing ocean breezes and many took surf baths. Many of the people were so old and feeble that their friends took them to and from the boat in carriages.  (Wilm. Messenger, 9-16-1898)


March 10, 1900 – Oceanic Hotel, on Carolina Beach, was being thoroughly repaired and was to be in readiness for the entertainment of guests just as soon as the season opens. Capt. J. W. Harper told a reporter that extensive preparations were to be made to afford guests the very best accommodations. Four new cottages had just been completed and about eight more were to be finished before the season opened. Cottage owners were doing extensive repairs and adding improvements to their property, and it was not to be long before the beach would be in first class order. (Wilm. Messenger, 3-11-1900)


September 1, 1902 – Capt. John W. Harper began work on the handsome pavilion at Carolina Beach. Capt. Tom McGee was to superintend the work. (Wilm. Messenger, 8-21-1902)


September 28, 1905 –  At a meeting of the stockholders of the New Hanover Transit Company held on board the steamer WILMINGTON, a deal was consummated by which Captain J. W. Harper became the principal owner of the property on Carolina Beach where is located the pavilion and other buildings; also the railroad from the river pier to the beach including all rolling stock. The consideration was $12,000. The New Hanover Transit Company was organized some years ago with Mr. H. C. McQueen as president. It was Captain Harper’s intention to make Carolina Beach one of the best known resorts along the Atlantic Coast.   (Wilm. Messenger, 9-29-1905)


May 23, 1911 – Although there had not been any confirmation of the report, it was practically confirmed that Captain Harper had sold his holdings at Carolina Beach to a company of stockholders who were to develop the beach. The New Hanover Transit Company, of which Captain Harper was the principal owner, controlled about 200 acres of land at the beach, the railway from that resort to the Cape Fear River pier two miles across the peninsula, and the river connection of the steamer WILMINGTON.

It was rumored that the consideration was between $20,000 and $25,000. The gentlemen interested in the development of Carolina Beach had been patrons and owners of property at Southern Pines and Pinehurst. One of the first improvements to be considered by the developers was the establishment of an electric line between Wilmington and the beach, possibly all the way to the site of Fort Fisher.   (Wilm Dispatch, 5-24-1911)

September 18, 1917
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.  (Wilmington Star, Sept. 19, 1917)   [Added to extracted Bill Reaves Files content by FPHPS Editor]