The Vanished House – 1914

May 2, 1914

The Vanished HouseTHE VANISHED HOUSE – A two-room frame dwelling recently erected by Messrs. G. H. and M. A. Currie, of Clarkton, in Federal Point Township, to replace one that was burned by an incendiary three months earlier, was torn down and removed to some point not yet revealed to the owners and the tenant, Taylor Clifton, an aged white man, who was missing and there was a suspicion that he had met with foul play. Mr. Clifton had lived in the house for two weeks earlier, having moved there from Clarkton, and he had relatives living in Wilmington.

The house was completely dismantled with every vestige of lumber removed, and with it all the furniture and effects in the dwelling. The site of the house was between the river and the ocean about 1 1⁄2 miles south of the Carolina Beach pier. It had been completed only two weeks before its disappearance on the site of the burned dwelling. (Wilmington Dispatch, 5-11-1914)

May 12, 1914
The vanished house on the Cape Fear River, near Carolina Beach pier, was found.

May 12, 1914
THE VANISHED HOUSE – The vanished house on the Cape Fear River, near Carolina Beach pier, was found. Deputy Sheriff W. H. Kermon reported that he found the lumber of the dwelling that disappeared in the yard of Mr. T. H. Nelson. Five men, Messrs. A. W. Pate, W. M. Pate, and T. H. Nelson, white, and Frank Murphy and Henry Farrow, colored, were arrested under a warrant charging that they had removed the house. Warrants were out for two other colored persons.

The old man who mysteriously disappeared about the time the house was torn to the ground was reported as having left Wilmington on a north-bound train. Why he left the house immediately preceding its demolition was still a question.

One of the owners admitted that there had been a controversy about the land upon which the dwelling was located between G. H. and M. A. Currie, of Clarkton and the Hanover Transit Company, of which Mr. A. W. Pate was president. (Wilmington Dispatch, 5-12-1914)

May 13, 1914
THE VANISHED HOUSE – Complaint in the case of Alexander W. Pate and Joseph J. Loughlin against Geroge H. Currie and his wife, Nell A. Currie. W. H. Kermon and H. Mack Godwin, was instituted in Superior Court. It was an action for $10,000 alleged damages to land in federal Point Township which the plaintiffs claim have been in their absolute possession for over 30 years.

The land in controversy, Mr. Currie claimed was inherited by him. It was now a part of a large tract which Messrs. Pate & Loughlin, under the name of New Hanover Transit Company, were developing in Federal Point Township.

The bringing of the suit by Messrs. Pate & Loughlin follows closely the indictment of Mr. Pate and six others on a charge of demolishing and removing a small two-room frame dwelling which was located on the land in dispute and occupied the site of another small building which had been burned about three months earlier. The building had been erected by the defendant Currie.

The plaintiffs allege that the defendant in the action did, with force and arms, on December 22nd, 1913, enter upon a portion of this tract at the southwestern part and trespassed upon land which had been in the possession on the plaintiffs for a long time and was at that time posted. It is further averred that a shack was built without the knowledge of the plaintiffs and that the defendants did wrongfully place some person in charge of the building for the purpose of wrongfully taking possession of the land in question. A few days later the shack was burned and the plaintiffs aver that they are informed and believe that the fire occurred through the negligence of the agent of the defendant. The defendants repeatedly trespassed and entered upon the land after having been warned not to do so.

The complaint further sets out that the defendants had greatly damaged the property and had cut down trees. On or about April 29th, the defendants with a large force of men did build a barbed-wire fence along a portion of the lands in spite of a protest entered by Thomas E. Nelson, an agent of the plaintiffs.

A small house was built on the lands and this act had brought a cloud on the title to the land which had caused the plaintiffs great damage. The plaintiffs contended that the defendants had wrongfully, maliciously and willfully, with force and arms, attempted to wrest the possession of a portion of the said lands from the plaintiffs.

It was also set forth in the complaint that G. H. Currie and two servants or employees, W. H. Kermon and H. Mack Godwin, both of whom were armed with pistols and one with a black-jack, trespassed upon the land and that the latter two did, over protest of the agent of the plaintiffs, spend the night of May 10th upon the lands. The plaintiffs alleged that H. Mack Godwin did use threatening language to some of the plaintiffs or their agents. (Wilmington Dispatch, 5-15-1914)

June 2, 1914
THE VANISHED HOUSE – Two hundred dollars was Taylor Clifton’s price for decamping, according to evidence before the Recorder Judge in the case of J. J. Loughlin, Esq., and T. H. Nelson who were being tried for destroying a house near Carolina Beach. Clifton was now appearing against Nelson and Loughlin and his story served to clear some foggy points in the case.

He said that he was taken to the house by Mr. Currie, and instructed to stay there. On the following day, Mr. Loughlin came to him and asked him who he was and what he was doing there. Clifton said he told him that he was there for Mr. Currie and had instructions to keep trespassers off the property. Mr. Loughlin then told him that the property did not belong to Mr. Currie, and that he had best get off. Clifton then said that he did not see Mr. Loughlin again until several days later at Carolina Beach, when he informed Loughlin that he would not get off the land until he had heard from Mr. Currie. Nothing then occurred for several days.

Clifton said he could not sleep at night, because of unusual noises around the house – men talking in low tones of voice, etc. He said he was frightened. Ten days after he had arrived at the house he was approached by a man named Bryan, whom he said was employed by the Hanover Transit Company, of which Mr. Loughlin was an officer. Bryan asked him how much he wanted to get out. Clifton said that he replied that he would not leave for less than $200.

Bryan then replied that he would see what he could do, and left. He returned the next night and said that Clifton had a chance to get the $200 if he wanted it, whereupon the old man told him to bring it along.

Bryan arrived about daylight next morning, brought the $200, delivered it to Clifton, and received from Clifton $25 for his services. Clifton then left in an automobile that had been provided, came to Wilmington and then went to Virginia, where he spent a week and then returned to North Carolina, where he was arrested. The case was continued. (Wilmington Dispatch, 6-2-1914)

‘Federal Point Files’ – From the Bill Reaves Files