[Editor’s Notes: Since most of us are recovering this month from the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, we thought it might be interesting to read about one of the most disastrous storms on record on this coast.]
It was the Caribbean Storm of November 1, 1899, which reached Wilmington in full force Monday night at 10 o’clock. Telephone connections had been cut off and no details could be secured from Carolina Beach, but the ocean made almost a clean wreck of the cottages. Mr. Tom McGee, who is in charge of the beach, wrote to Captain John. W. Harper, general manager of the New Hanover Transit Company, that nearly every cottage was washed away.
It is said that in all eighteen cottages were either washed clean away or totally wrecked. The hotel, Sedgeley Hall Club House, Hanover Seaside Club House, Mr. D. McEachern’s cottage, and Mr. Hans A. Kure’s cottages were about the only houses left standing on the beach. The railroad track was also washed away in places. The damage at Carolina Beach is estimated at about $12,000. Carolina Beach pier sustained very little damage.
New Hanover Transit Co.’s pump house turned over and water tank undermined and tilted. New Hanover Transit Co.’s pump house turned over and water works destroyed.
The bridges and gangways on the beach are all gone. The New Hanover Transit Co.’s railroad track from the Kure Cottage No 2, up the beach to Sedgeley Hall Club, totally destroyed and washed over into the sound. The track from the Curve near Mr. Kure’s club house to the beach is ruined.
Telephone connection had been cut off and as the beach could not be reached, nothing definite could be secured for publication yesterday morning.
The most intense anxiety was felt by the cottage owners, and many of them went to the beach yesterday, expecting, however, to find little to give them hope. A party went down in a wagonette, others went in buggies, and some went on the steamer Wilmington and reached the beach from the pier by means of a hand-car. Among those who went down were Major D. O’Connor, and Messrs. J. A. Springer, H. C. McQueen, J. C. Stevenson, D. McEachern; Major Croom, G. W. Linder, J. J. Fowler, A. D. Brown, R. C. Stolter, J. G. L. Gieschen, Dr. Webster, and others. They returned to the city in the afternoon.
Capt. J. W. Brock, who with his party of fishermen consisting of three other men, were thought to have been lost during the recent storm on Zeke’s Island, arrived in the city yesterday afternoon from Federal Point all safe and sound.
It will be remembered that on Tuesday his trunk was found floating with the tide up the river by J. W. Howard, janitor at the Custom House, and this gave rise to apprehensions for his safety. The trunk was restored to him upon his arrival yesterday and this with a small boat in which he and party escaped to Federal Point, constituted all his earthly possessions, the waves having demolished his houses on the island and swept all his household goods, fishing tackle and other property up the river, on the occasion of last Tuesday morning’s storm.
On the island were two cottages in which he and companions lived. The tide began rising at 8 o’clock Monday night, he said, and reached a climax at 4 o’clock Tuesday morning, when the entire island was covered and the breakers were rolling high over their heads.
He and companions managed to hold a boat between them by steadying themselves with a few bushes, which were above water. They were then standing in water waist deep and remained so until Tuesday afternoon, when they managed to bail the water from the canoe, clear it of sand and by desperate effort reach the land at Federal Point.
Besides houses and household belongings, Capt. Brock lost two fishing shacks, five nets, and a large interest in between twenty and twenty-five barrels salt mullets. He said it was the roughest experience of his life and he had given up hope at one time of escaping alive.
Capt. Brock says that the jetties built from the island to Federal Point to throw the current in Cape Fear channel are cut in twain in nearly a dozen places. Zeke’s Island is now a sand bar, not enough soil being left, as a member of the crew expressed it “to raise a row on.” Formerly vegetation grew upon the land and gardens were cultivated by fishermen.
The other fishermen on the island are reported safe and there is known to have been no loss of life at this point.
The above excerpts were taken from an article published in the Wilmington Star News, November 1899.