Oral History: Remembrances of Life on Federal Point, 1940 -1959 (Part 2 of 2)

by:  Howard Hewett,  Jones Creek, TX – October, 2015   (Part 2 of 2)     (Read Part 1)

Cape Fear Lighthouse 1903-1958 Bald Head Island

Cape Fear Lighthouse 1903-1958 Bald Head Island

Winter Time Camping

In 1951, my scout troop, along with our scout master, Chevis Faircloth, liked to use the abandoned ammunition bunkers in the winter as one of our camping locations. I remember it well because on one occasion a yellow jacket bit my ring finger just in front of my new scout ring. Before I could get the ring off, my finger swelled to the point that I could not remove it. It was good the Chevis had a pair of side cutters.  It is reported that someone known as the Fort Fisher Hermit lived in one of the bunkers for 17 years from 1955 to 1972.

Another one of our favorite camping spots in the winter was Silver Lake.  My friend Jimmy Collier’s dad was in real estate. At the time, he had purchased the lake and the land around it. You could get to it by a dirt road. Jimmy’s dad had poured a concrete slab and had built a fireplace a hundred or so yards off from the lake. This made a good camping spot.

I recall Jimmy and I frying chicken on an open fire in the fireplace. We decided to it would be great if we made some milk gravy. I think we had too much oil so we continue to add flour and milk resulting in a semi-brown mixture. It was definitely a learning experience. Our final product was more like glue than gravy, but the chicken was good.

Summertime Camping on Bald Head Island

From time to time, there were camping trips on Bald Head Island. Our scout leader Chevis Faircloth would organize the trip and someone with a large boat would take us to the south side of Corncake Inlet and put us ashore.

Cape Fear Lighthouse - 1914

Cape Fear Lighthouse – 1914

With our camping gear of fishing poles, some staples, very little clothing and jungle hammocks, we hiked about five miles to the general location of the wrought iron and steel frame lighthouse. We set up camp in dense grove of live oaks within 100 yards or so of the lighthouse because, as I can best recall, there was a source of water there. The grove of oaks was thick enough to enable all of us to hang our hammocks. All of our hammocks were surplus purchased at the Army surplus store at Carolina Beach. They were referred to a “jungle hammocks.” I assume most of them were surplus from the Pacific theater.

The hammock could be used with a spreader – two 30” sticks cut from the brush to hold the hammock open – or without the sticks, which allowed the canvas bottom to come up around you. This was all right when it the weather was cool, but on hot summer nights, I preferred the stick spreaders. Attached to the bottom canvas was a four-wall mosquito net.

Once in the hammock, you would zip yourself in, which was needed because of the abundance of mosquitoes on Bald Head Island. Attached to the top of the netting was a tarp like material, which acted as a tent.  It had eight lines that connected to the corners and sides of the tarp. The lines on the ends could be attached above the rope that was holding up the hammock and the other six could be attached to low hanging branches to form a tent over your hammock. This provided good shelter when it rained.

Because of the heavy population of hogs that roamed the island, it was not unusual to have hogs visit the camp at night; it was good to be sleeping above ground. Some nights when it got too hot in the oak grove, we would slip out to the beach and lay at the edge of the water on our back and watch the stars between the flashes of light from the lighthouse. There always seem to be a sea breeze on the point in the direction of Frying-Pan shoals.

We basically had the island to ourselves, other than the wildlife and occasional Coastguard men, the island had no human inhabitants. Our days were spent fishing and exploring.

There was an old lighthouse that stood on the riverside of the island, which as the time was just called “Old Bald Head Lighthouse.” It was covered in a jungle of grape vines and was a little on the spooky side. At this writing, it is referred as “Old Baldy.” On some trips when the grapes were ripe, everyone got their fill of grapes, and, of course, purple hands.

Hurricane Hazel

Hewett North Carolina HomeI was 15 years old when Hurricane Hazel hit the Carolina coast.  Our house exterior was covered in what’s called 105 siding.  Dad had decided to cover it with asbestos shingles, which was a very popular siding. The project was not completed. So the morning the storm hit, we were outside trying to secure the unfinished siding by nailing strips of wood at the top of the last course of shingles.

I recall my mother coming to the window and saying “Curtis, waves are coming over the sand dunes up toward Kure Beach.” Dad quickly gathered up the Hewett-Lewis clan with some provisions and headed through the back roads of Kure Beach to the Ethyl Dow Office complex which was a strong concrete/brick structure and relatively high off the river.

Dad was Ethyl Dow’s supervisor for the facility at that time. Most of the employees who lived on the Atlantic brought their families to the plant along with those who had no place to go. I do not recall how many folks were there, but families were assigned offices as their personal areas. Dad’s office was a nice-sized one with a desk and a drafting table. The drafting table became my bed. The plant lunchroom became gathering place for coffee and a place to visit.

The main concern was to stay away from exterior windows. I remember a couple of things during the height of the storm. While standing in a protected doorway, I saw a heavy piece of corrugated siding come off one of the buildings and fly through the air. It hit a telephone pole and snapped in two. Later in the day, I saw the export dock float off its pilings.

During a lull in the storm, I was allowed to ride with my Dad and others to the building referred as to the seawater intake. Dad wanted to check for flooding in the pump building. Waves were extremely high and were actively breaking in the intake basin and crashing against the outer wall of the building. Needless to say, we did not stay long. By the time we returned to the office building, the wind had started to pick back up.

I do not recall how long we sheltered at the plant, but it was less than 48 hours. When the storm passed, we returned home and observed devastation all around us. Our home was intact, but houses up and down the beach were gone.  Our beloved sand dunes, in front of our house, no longer existed. There was about 5-6 inches of sand covering the yard and debris from houses everywhere. Recovery and getting back to some normalcy took many weeks.

My dad, Howard Curtis Hewett, Sr., and I have had many discussions over the years about what saved our house. It could have been we were just lucky that the debris in the wave action never reached the house.

Hardpan showing after Hurricane Hazel, 1954.

Hardpan showing after Hurricane Hazel, 1954.

The other mitigating factor that may have contributed to the house’s longevity is the geologic formation in front of the house that dad called “hardpan.”

The material appeared to be a mixture of compacted very black sand-clay substance that had a lot of wood in the composition. Rubbing it would turn your hands black.  I do not know how thick the formation was but during some of the Nor’easters or Northeasters, I was aware of as much as four foot of the formation exposed. This formation was three to four foot under the sand.

After Hurricane Hazel, as the Corp of Engineer were pushing sand around on the beach, Dad had several confrontations with them about damaging the hardpan. There should not be any argument about Dad’s position in that the house has been sitting on the Atlantic Ocean for 77 years as of 2015.

Memorable Fishing Trip After Hurricane Hazel

There was a lot of beach damage during Hurricane Hazel. Our beloved beach hill was completely gone. In the weeks that followed, there were many hours of clean-up and repairs.  One weekend, as a reprieve from all the work, Dad suggested we launch the boat in front of the house and travel down to the blockade wrenches out from Fort Fisher.

This particular day the surf was pounding the bar about 35 yards from the beach with 8 to 10 foot breakers. The waves were running across the bar and emptying in a slough that was approximately 15 yards wide. There was very little wave action on the beach side of the slough.  Because of the distance from the house to the blockade-runner wrecks, we attached our 9.9-horse Johnson motor to the boat.

This was a motor that was purchased from surplus, but was in fairly good running condition. It had a large exposed fly-wheel and required a starter rope to start. After all the preparations were completed, we slipped the boat into the water. I was in the stern seated on a 5-gallon bucket operating the motor and Dad was sitting on the middle bench. We ran down the slough under minimum power as Dad watched for a lull in the breakers.

When the opportunity came, Dad said, “Let’s take her to sea.” Having a history with seafaring people, Dad used this term quite often. He used it to make a lot of things active around the water. Another term for putting on the brakes was “throw out the anchor.”

Anyway, we were on plane before we got out of the slough and we were racing across the bar. As we approached the breakers our motor sputtered and quit. Even with a herculean effort the motor would not restart.

We survived the first wave, but the second broke directly into the boat. The force of the wave pushed us back toward the beach, but we did not turn over. Our boat was full of water up to the gunnels. Dad and I jumped out onto the bar and found we were still in four feet of water. The force of the wave was so powerful that it washed Dad’s wallet out of his back pocket. Dad spotted it floating away, but was able to retrieve it by quick action on his part. The slough was somewhat deeper and it was a struggle to get the boat back to the beach.  We later repaired the motor, but we never used it in that application again.

Federal Point Mosquitoes

The mosquitoes that inhabited Federal Point were as vicious as mosquitoes anywhere. The best example that I can relate took place in 1959 while I was a sophomore at Texas Lutheran College. I went back to North Carolina to spend the summer with my grandmother.

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

During this summer, I worked for the Bame family. My best friend Howard Knox’s father was married to a daughter of the owner of Bame’s holdings. The holdings consisted of a hotel, three full-service gas stations (one station also served as a grocery store), a building supply store and Barbara Boat Sales.

That summer I worked at two of the stations and helped transport building supplies from Wilmington’s rail-head to Carolina Beach when needed. Because Howard Knox and I grew up together starting in first grade and continuing at Sun Set Park and New Hanover High School, we were paired on the same work shift so we could have our free time together.

To promote the boat sales, we were allowed to take the demonstration boat out water-skiing on our days off. You could ski almost all day on a 5-gallon tank of gas and we did not have to buy the gas. But, thinking back, you could buy a gallon of gas for about the same price as a loaf of bread. Both were less than 20 cents.

We were allowed to use the station’s Jeep after hours so we would often check out all the lovers’ parking spots for people who were stuck in sand, which was not unusual and it was a good way to pick up some extra cash.

Over the years of reading and listening to early narratives of Federal Point, most stories contained stories of mosquitoes.  One quote that has always stood out to me is the appraisal by Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Litwin, 445th AAA Battalion, Camp Davis at Fort Fisher. He stated, “Hell hole! The biggest joke we had going were ‘combat mosquitoes’ that were at the airport.  They pumped 50 gallons of gas in them before they found out it was a mosquito.”

My story just adds to the mosquito lore.

One particular night when the mosquitoes were extremely viscous, Howard Knox and I were checking all the lovers’ parking spots south of the gates at Fort Fisher. We came across a couple’s car that was buried to the axle and the mosquitoes were eating the occupants alive. They did not want to wait for us to pull them out; instead, they wanted us to take them back to Carolina Beach as quickly as possible. We put them in the back of Jeep delivered them to their beach cottage.

Upon arrival, the guy gave us his keys and handed us each a $50 dollar bill to retrieve the car. When a guy pays $100 in 1959 to get away from Federal Point’s mosquitoes, it put some perspective on the comments of the soldiers in the early days of Fort Fisher.

Read Part 1:  Remembrances of Fort Fisher

[Additional resources]
John Moseley – Presents: Fort Fisher in World War II
The Hewett Homes in Fort Fisher, NC – FPHPS -Slide show

Read all Howard Hewett’s Oral History postings on FPHPS


[All photos provided by Howard Hewett – Click any image for more detail]

Backyard Beach Hill before Hazel 1952-53

The Beach Hill in front of Hewett home prior to Hurricane Hazel 1952-53

 

Hardpan sitill showing after Hazel

General location of our front yard beach hill after Hurricane Hazel 1954.  Showing hardpan & some tree stumps.

Definition of Hardpan:
(härd’pān’)

A hard, usually clay-rich layer of soil lying at or just below the ground surface, in which soil particles are cemented together by silica, iron oxide, calcium carbonate, or organic matter that has precipitated from water percolating through the soil.

Hardpan does not soften when exposed to water. Also called caliche.

 

 

Bulldozers pushing sand to form a beach hill. The power pole was behind beach hill prior to Hazel.

Bulldozers pushing sand to form a beach hill. The power pole was behind beach hill prior to Hazel.

Looking north toward the Danner Home (at David Rd); south of the Kure Beach City Limits.

Looking north toward the Danner Home (at Davis Rd); south of the Kure Beach city limits.

Hazel - Looking towards Kure Beach

Hazel -Toward Kure Beach City Limits

Hazel - South Kure City Limits

Hazel – South of Kure Beach city limits

Oral History: Remembrances of Life on Federal Point, 1940 -1959

by:  Howard Hewett,  Jones Creek, TX – October, 2015 – (Part 1 of 2)

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

[In this article, I combined several short stories that were originally intended for my grandchildren in my ‘Howard’s Ramblings’ series.]

Fort Fisher during World War II

The Fort Fisher area was used as a military training base during World War II.

The main highway in the area was U.S. 421. The Hewett house was located on the Atlantic side of the road, one block north of the Fort Fisher Gates. (see photos)

The highway ran maybe 75 yards parallel to sand dunes on the ocean side until it reached the historic ruins of Fort Fisher. At this point (currently The Riggins), the road curved out closer to the Atlantic and was located east of the old civil war main battery and then crossed in front of the Civil War Memorial. From there the road ran south to Federal Point ending at the Buchanan Battery.

In early 1941, the Army started anti-aircraft training along the beach and down on the sandy flats by the bay. The arriving trainees were faced with the some harsh conditions on Federal Point, as were those who were in Fort Fisher’s original Civil War garrison. A member of the 558th AAA Battalion stated the area was “a forlorn spit of sand and scrub growth pinched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River; a quagmire of sand, sand, and more sand. It was strictly a no-nonsense place designed to put grit and fire in the bowels and brains of its trainees. They had to learn to coexist with the ubiquitous sand and mosquitoes to survive on Federal Point.” I will share a story later about our Federal Point mosquitoes.

There were barracks, mess halls, recreational facilities, warehouses, radio and meteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, outdoor theater, guardhouse, an administration building and infirmary. Passageways made of cinder block and concrete connected some of these buildings while boardwalks connected others. By the time training operations ceased in 1944, the base covered an area of several hundred acres and had grown to include an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and a dental clinic.

My early remembrances are just snapshots of what I actually saw during 1941-1944 because I was only two to five years old; what I recall are just flashes of events. Of course, there was evidence of the army being there long after they left the area.

Gun Emplacements Along the Beach
Starting just in front of our house and running south along the beach almost to the historical grounds of Old Fort Fisher were gun emplacements.

I later read that most were 40-millimeter automatic cannons and 50-caliber machine guns. I recall that some of the gun bunkers were quite large. There were at least three large guns between our house and the two large houses just south of the gates. (Reference: Federation Point Historical Preservation Society, Oral History, Earl Page-Part 3, “Blue Top Cottages”)

Actually, there was a 50-caliber machine gun nest just outside of our yard and a 40-millimeter anti-aircraft battery with a searchlight within 30 yards of the edge of our yard on the south side. Thinking back on it now, it seem strange to me why the gun emplacements were located outside of the gates and they were located so close to our residence.

I do not remember how long the 50-caliber gun emplacement was located in the edge of the yard. I do have some recollection of the noise and the searchlights at night.  The searchlights were used to help locate the targets. There were also blackouts from time to time.  I never asked Dad about how he was able to sleep in the early days of shift work at Ethyl Dow.

Target sleeves on long cables were towed up and down the beach by airplanes for the gunners to develop their gunnery skills.   South of Old Historical Fort Fisher was a target range for gunnery practice on stationery and well as moving ground targets.  This mechanized target range enabled gunners to receive versatility training and learn to be effective against tanks and other armored vehicles.

After the Army left, there was evidence that the target sleds were pulled across the target range by a cable hooked to pulleys so a bulldozer could pull the target from a safe distance. The targets were rigged so it could be pulled both ways. The mechanized target range was located slightly north of the training facilities’ ammunition bunkers and the “Rocks” were located a little farther south of the bunkers.

Being Staked Out on the Beach  

When I was very young, no more the two or three, my mother was a “Fisher Woman” extraordinaire. Mother and Clara Danner loved to surf fish on the beach in front of the house for blues, trout and Virginia mullets.

The problem that arose was what to do with the new kid on the block. Mother’s solution was to tie a rope around my ankle and connect it to a stake so I could play at the water’s edge; occasionally, I was washed back and forth by wave action. I know this story is true because I heard it from several relatives later in life. Today, they’d probably arrest a mother for child endangerment; although the treatment had no ill effect on me.  Mother’s solution resulted in creating a water bug. Being around water was part of my developmental process and fostered my appreciation and love for the Atlantic Ocean. I became an excellent swimmer and could work magic with my belly board.

Pig for a Pet

Dad and his pet pig “Poli” Dec. 26, 1932

Dad and his pet pig “Poli”
Dec. 26, 1932

After my father Curtis’ death in 1995, a photo surfaced of my dad and his pet pig. A description on the back confirmed that he not only had a pet pig, but he had named it. That Dad had a pig does shed light on the fact that in later years we were also allowed to have a pet pig.  This occurred sometime before the Army closed the base.

Now this was not an ordinary pig; our pig thought he was a dog. He was put in a pen at night, but during the day he would follow us around. Being a city girl, mother was a little embarrassed when the pig would follow us down road when she went visiting the neighbors. She would tell us to make the pig go home.

The service guys from Fort Fisher would pass by in their Army jeeps and would honk their horns, hoot and holler and bang on the doors. To mother’s chagrin, some would “oink, oink” at us as they drove by.

This story did not have a happy ending for the pig. Mother survived all the embarrassment, but unfortunately the pig got too large to handle and, of course, he eventually ended up on the dinner table. Those experiences were all part of growing up.

Remembrances after the Army departed
After the war some of the barracks and buildings were sold as surplus. Some of these became beach homes at Kure and Wilmington beaches and some were used in place.

I recall that one of the warehouses was taken over by a seafood processing plant. My grandmother worked there while it was open. Their specialty was devil crabs. I remember the boiling vats along with the distinctive odor of crabs and spices. The picking and processing room was a screened-in porch. Since there was no air conditioning, the product was moved to refrigeration as quickly as possible.

The Baptist Assembly
The Baptist Seaside Assembly took up residence in some of the buildings left by the Army, which became the summer headquarters for the North Carolina State Baptist Convention in 1948. They used some of the buildings and barracks for an administration building, assembly hall and dormitories. I was quite familiar with the facilities.

My step-grandfather, J. N. Todd, was the caretaker of the buildings for a short time while the Baptist Assembly was active at Fort Fisher. I stayed a number of nights with him and my grandmother. It was one spooky place at night for a 10-year-old. An opportunity to see the hospital morgue at one time did not help control my young imagination.

The Joys of Growing Up
Farmall.Tom-Punk-Jackie-Codo BoysOne of the pleasures I recall in the late forties was when Uncle Crawford Lewis gave my cousin Joe Hewett a set of soap derby wheels.

We made a two-seat cart that required one to steer with his feet and one to act a brake-man. Our first project was to add a mast and a sail to the cart. The best condition for this adventure was when the wind was blowing out of the northeast.  Highway 421 ran south and was a two lane narrow road, which did not allow for any tacking. With a strong wind, it was a wild ride down south. On some occasions, our cart would start coming apart due to the stress and we would have to abort the run. There were several designs changes before we could make a complete run.

With all the terrain being relatively flat on Federal Point, it was hard to find a good incline. My step-grandfather saved the day by allowing us to use the cinder block corridor that ran from the old Army hospital to the Baptist Assembly’s Administration building and assembly hall, which was approximately 100 yards away. The corridor was approximately eight feet wide and ten feet in height. It was basically a concrete cinder block structure with the windows missing. The original windows were spaced about every twenty feet.

As best as I can recall, the slope of the corridor was approximately two feet in 100 yards. This was a perfect place to use our cart especially for a couple of flatlanders. Traveling down this corridor while gaining speed with the sunlight filtering through the window gave a couple of 10-year-olds the illusion of traveling at a high rate of speed. We would spend hours riding our cart down the corridor. But, all good things must come to an end. As I described earlier, the administration building was at the end of our run so it was imperative that our brakes worked properly. When, as one might have predicted, our braking mechanism failed, we ended up going through a set of double doors into the Assembly Hall. The impact of the door did cause us to stop before hitting the exterior wall on the other side of the room. We were fortunate that the double doors did not have a center post. But, nevertheless, we had several cuts and bruises. This ended our favorite escapade down the corridor. We were admonished by my step-grandfather and were required to help with the repairs.

Money in the Sand at Fort Fisher

I am sure this event took place before 1952. The military was using some parts of Fort Fisher acreage for training again. The timing suggests that the activity may have been in preparation for or in response to the Korean War. Most of the World War II barracks had been sold to private citizens for homes and commercial offices so the Army set up temporary structures for barracks that had three-foot walls with canvas tent structures mounted on top. The floors were compact red dirt that was hauled in from somewhere in North Carolina.

I recall seeing these tent barracks many times over a period of a couple of years. Dad had a contract with the Army that gave him the rights to mess hall garbage. We would pick up the garbage every second day after the evening mess and would haul several 55-gallon drums to the pigpens on the River Farm. I have no remembrance of the number of pigs raised and or the numbers sold commercially, but I think Dad did well during this period.  I do remember going to the stockyard in Wilmington on more than one occasion.

When the Army left and things returned to normal, Dad, Grandmother and I were out one day looking for blackberries or wild peaches. We came across the location of the tent barracks and to our surprise, there was money setting on a little red dirty pedestal. Every time it rained more coins were washed to the surface. The denominations were varied in quantity but there were quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Our take may have been as much as dollar to dollar and a half at first. What developed over the next several months was a routine that became a family outing.

This speaks well of how easy it was to entertain a family in early 1950’s. After a good rain, we would load up the old beach buggy (a stripped-down 1938 Ford frame with exposed engine, radiator and firewall/windshield with wood deck designed to carry nets and a small boat) and head out to search for money left behind. Our take varied on each outing, but we found enough money to make the event like a big treasure hunt.

We finally stopped going when our reward and excitement of the search dwindled. I recall Dad would say, “Well, we found enough money to purchase a loaf of bread.”  In retrospect, I think you could buy loaf of bread for 12 cents in those days, so on average our take was not very much, but the outing was what is was all about.

Providing for the Family

Sugar Cane Boiling Pot

Sugar cane vat comparable to one used during the Hewett’s fall hog killing.

As noted in earlier writings, the family fished, farmed and raised livestock. Dad always had pigs that the family would slaughter and butcher on cold fall days.

This yearly event was a family affair with all hands on deck. Uncle Crawford Lewis and my Dad were the primary orchestrators of the slaughter and did all of the heavy lifting.

After the pigs were shot in the head and their throats slit, the pigs were hung in a nearby large oak to allow proper bleeding.  From there they were placed in scalding water in a vat until the hair could be scraped off. The pig was removed to a workbench to complete the cleaning process. Sometimes more than one trip to the vat of scalding hot water was necessary.

Once the pigskin was almost pure white, it was hung again to remove the internal organs. The pigs were allowed to cool to the daily ambient temperature. If the weather was cold enough, the butchering process could take several days. The meat was either salted down and placed in box to cure or smoked in a smokehouse. A portion was made into sausage.

One of the by-products was “crackling,” a fried fat that was added to corn beard which gave the bread a bacon taste. Lye was added to the oil from the fat. This became grandmother’s laundry soap.

Read … Part 2

 

Oral History: Abundant Seafood on Federal Point – 1948-1956

 by:  Howard HewettJones Creek, TX – July, 2015 – Part 7

Background
Some of the following background information is from my recollection of the events as I grew up on Federal Point between 1939 and 1956, and what my father, Howard Curtis Hewett Sr, and my grandmother, Addie Jane Lewis Hewett, related to me. Other background information is from research and is so noted.

A major portion of our seafood came out of the bays south of where we lived in Fort Fisher.  But first, it is important to understand how those bays were formed.

A major Atlantic storm in 1761 opened an inlet that crossed the peninsula south of the current Fort Fisher monument. The New Inlet had a major impact on the main channel or ‘Bald Head’ channel of the Cape Fear River resulting in the significant decrease in depth.

By 1839, sand, silt and forming shoals from the New Inlet threatened the southerly approach to the river from the Bald Head channel. There were concerns that the Bald Head channel would not be available to shipping coming into the river from the southerly approach. The alternate route would force shipping to go out around ‘Frying Pan Shoals’ and enter the river through the New Inlet. This added to their passage time into Wilmington.

Northerly shipping traffic could enter the New Inlet, which avoided the treacherous Frying Pan Shoals, located 29 southeast of Smith Island.

New Inlet as recorded in Civil War mapping records, 1864 (Cowles, Davis, Perry, & In 1871, Kirkley, 1895)

New Inlet as recorded in Civil War mapping records, 1864
(Cowles, Davis, Perry, & Kirkley, 1895)

In 1870 funds were appropriated to close the New Inlet and other breaches that occurred as a result of storms and gales. The land mass was a narrow strip of sandy beach with very low swampland on the river side. The map above is an excellent representation of the topography of Federal Point in 1864. By observing the map, one can see what a formidable task the closing of the New Inlet and breaches were.

In 1871, another storm further deepened the New Inlet. Actual construction work to close the New Inlet took place from 1870 to 1891. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were the overseers of the rock dam project.

They sank wooden cribbing and then added stones to bring the dam to sea level. Asst. Engineer Henry Bacon suggested that they add heavy granite capstones to bring the structure to two feet above sea level.

In 1877, a storm opened a breach between Smith Island, commonly called ‘Bald Head’ and Zeke’s Island which Civil War Military Maps recorded as ‘Zeeks Island’ (see the map above).

From 1881-1891, a dam similar in construction to the one built between Buchanan Battery to Zeke’s Island dam was built from Zeke’s Island to Smith Island.

When all the construction was completed, the upper section from the Buchanan Battery to Zeke’s Island was approximately 5,300 feet. The Swash Defense Dam from Zeke’s Island to Smith’s Island was 12,800 feet. The total distance of the project was over three miles (Reaves, 2011).

In 1891, the New Inlet was declared officially closed (Jackson, 1995). This rock dam is known by the locals as “The Rocks.” With the closing, tidal basins formed between The Rocks and the Atlantic. For our family, these bays became a plentiful source of shellfish.

During the time that I was growing up on Federal Point, there was the existence of another inlet south of the original New Inlet. We called it “Corncake Inlet.” I do not know exactly when Corncake Inlet opened, but it was a much smaller inlet. I do recall that Corncake Inlet would be wider and deeper depending on storm activity. Corncake Inlet was the source for fresh seawater for the bays.

My best recollection from stories told by my dad is that a schooner carrying corn went aground on a shoal while entering the inlet and remained there for a several days. These schooners were called corn-crackers because of their cargoes. I always wondered if that is how the inlet received its name. I assume it was opened before The Rocks were completed, but these breaches opened and closed depending on storm activity.

Dad liked to take our boat up toward the Corncake Inlet to fish for sheepshead at a place that he referred to as the “cribbing.” As I can best remember, it was east of the rock dam, basically located in the direction of Corncake Inlet. I believe that the cribbing was the remains of a temporary cofferdam that controlled some of the water flowing through the inlet into the river during the rock dam construction. I based this on the heavy flow of water traveling through this cut when we were fishing at this location.

However, after completing some research, I discovered another possibility. The cribbing may have been the remains of a stone dike cribbing built in 1853 by Captain Daniel P. Woodbury (Rayburn, 1984). What I recall seeing was mainly a wooden structure at water level. There could have been stones under the water.

Seafood on Federal Point
Acquiring seafood on Federal Point was a family affair. On a falling tide or low tide, we would head for the bays located just south of where we lived at 833 S. Fort Fisher Blvd (images).

Clamming
Our family believed that what we called the upper bay was a clamming paradise. The upper bay was east of the Fort Fisher munition bunkers.

Clamming Rake

Clamming Rake

When the tide was out, the large sand flats would yield clams about the size of a small to medium fist. Our tools of the trade were four-prong rakes. You did not have to rake very deep – usually less than an inch. A bubble hole would sometimes indicate the presence of a clam.

The resulting designs in the sand from the raking process were quiet similar to “Karesansui” as in Japanese Zen garden art.  I assure you that at the time, I did not have any idea what a Zen garden was.

The only way our family prepared clams was by making clam chowder. You could go to the bays and get a “mess” of clams and have clam chowder for dinner. Chicken soup was a well-known combatant for the common cold, but in our family clam chowder was used exclusively.

Oysters for Dinner
There were two methods of oystering that we used. The favorite and most productive was chipping oysters off the rocks with a homemade chipping hammer. With approximately three miles of rocks, there were ample surfaces for oysters to grow. Most of the oysters grew on the bay side of the “Rocks.” The accessibility to the rocks was made available by a concrete cap that was installed in the 1930’s by the Corps of Engineers (Jackson, 1995). The farther you walked out on the rocks, the availability and quality of oysters increased.

Prior to moving to Texas in 1956, we went oystering on the Rocks for the last time. On this trip, we came off the rock with four bushels of oysters. Dad and I each carried the inside handles of two bushels while Grandmother and my brother Tom Hewett carried the outside handles. We had to stop from time to time to rest, but we were able to make it to the trailer.

The reason I share this particular event is that Grandmother had been claiming her hip had been hurting for a couple of weeks. A couple weeks after the oystering trip we found out she was suffering from a broken hip. My grandmother, Addie Lewis Hewett Todd, was around 70 years old at that time; it could be said that she was cut from some very good cloth – one tough pioneer grandmother. Grandmother lived to be 96 years old.

The other oystering method required a boat and a clam basket device that had long handles. Mechanically the mechanism was similar to a post-hole digger. However, instead of two shovel devices there were two baskets that opened and closed with the movement of the handles. I would refer to them as long-handle tongs. This method required positioning the boat over an oyster bed that was maybe two to three feet under the water. You could locate these beds at low tide so at high tide we could position the boat over the top of the bed. This method was more of a hit and miss operation because you could not see exactly what you were doing and you brought up a lot of mud and shells.

North Carolina Oyster Roast
We had a fire pit made of brick that had a metal plate over the pit. Oysters were placed on the plate with the oyster’s mouth pointing down; joints were in an upward position. Wet burlap bags were placed over the oysters. A fire was started in the pit and when the metal plate became hot a little water was poured over the burlap to get the process started. As steam was created, the oysters would open up their mouths resulting in the liquid inside draining down on the plate, which converted to more steam. Dad would monitor the oysters and would enhance the steam process by adding more water as needed. He always liked to see a lot of steam. Within a short time all of the oysters would be opened and very tender.

Oystering Knives

Oystering Knives

The oysters were then brought to the table. If wanted you wanted to eat, each individual had to shuck his or her own oysters. When we had guests that were not familiar with the methods of shucking oysters, someone in the family would get them started; most folks were able to quickly get a feel for the process and could be left alone.

The shucked oysters went into a cup containing each individual’s favorite sauce mixture. Our family was partial to a melted butter, heated ketchup and vinegar mixture with a little hot sauce. Crackling cornbread was the family’s favorite accompaniment to be eaten along with the oysters.

Shrimping on the Cape Fear River
Some of my fondest memories are of late afternoon trips to the river. Dad had purchased some fairly good shrimp nets on one of our trips to Holden Beach in Brunswick County. With the panels from the net he made a seine net with lead on the bottom rope and corks on the top and two staffs on each end. It is hard to say how long it was, but my guess it was approximately four feet high and 150 feet long. We would load the whole family, along with those who happened to be visiting on the flat-bed trailer pulled by our Cub Cadet Tractor and head over to the river using Davis Road.

The Davis’ river front property was adjacent to the Hewett’s river front property. Living on a beach with the Atlantic at our door, we had a lot of summer visitors. Visitors who wanted to help would split up into two groups with Dad (Howard Curtis Hewett Sr.) manning the staff closest to the shore. Dad was the director of operations and I was in charge of the other end. We would pull the net out into the river until it was approximately 3-1/2 feet deep. Then we would pull the net parallel to the shore for 50 yards or so; finally, we headed for the shore.

The key was to have both staffs arrive at the same time. This process would yield (depending on the conditions) anywhere from a 2-1/2 to a 5-gallon bucket of shrimp. On lean days more pulls were required. Sometimes the Cape Fear River had such an abundance of shrimp that only a short-haul was necessary to fill a 5-gallon bucket.

On one occasion, I remember a small wave from a ship going down the channel causing shrimp to jump up on the shore, but I only recall seeing that once. By suppertime, we had shrimp peeled and ready for the frying pan.

An eight-foot long sink that was purchased from the surplus sold at the closing of the Army base after the war enhanced processing the shrimp. I recall it being a four-person process consisting of a couple of peelers, a person to devein, and a quality control inspector. The inspector was usually my grandmother because she was noted for her food preparation quality control. When it came to seafood, Grandmother’s seafood preparation techniques put her in a league of her own.

I have a special memory about Grandmother Roebuck (Meme) on one of the trips to the river. It was one of those times that we did not have a big group so Meme wanted to help on my end. Actually, I think she just wanted to get out in the water to cool off. On our second pull, we had moved farther down the beach than normal. This area of the beach had more of a muddy bottom than the usual sandy bottom.

As we started to shore, Meme got bogged down to her knees in the shallow water. To help her, I had to drop the staff. After getting her legs back on the surface of the bottom, she still could not stand up so I rolled her out of the area until she could stand up. Of course, she was laughing all the way. Now leaving the staff did not make my “no-nonsense” dad happy and I can’t write what he said to me but Meme sat down on the beach and roared with laughter. The more dad fussed with me, the more her laughter increased. To this day I have a hard time not smiling when I think about that afternoon at the river.

Fishing
There was an abundance of fish, but the variety depended on the time of year. The fall mullet run provided the family fish for a good part of the year. It was the only seafood that we salted down for short-term storage. When needed, the mullet was removed and soaked in fresh water until most of the brine was removed. Regardless of the soaking, the fish was always on the salty side.

The surf provided trout, blue fish, some flounder, croakers and Virginia mullet. Offshore there was an abundance of black bass around the wrecks of the blockade runners.

Hewett Family - Clam Diggers: Mr Todd, Danny Orr, Addie Jane, Mrs Orr

Clam Diggers: Mr Todd, Danny Orr, Addie Jane, Mrs Orr

The most prolific flounder fisherman of the family was my Uncle Crawford Lewis. Dad may have been a close second. Their method was to pull a small skiff with a rope tied to their waist along the shallow waters of the bays.

Their gigging tools consisted of a three-prong pitchfork and a gas lantern. With one hand holding the lantern and the pitch fork in the other, they would gig a flounder, set the lantern down on the bow of the skiff and in one fluid motion flip the flounder in the boat without actually reaching down into the water. The quantity was not what floundering was all about. Quality and size were more important. They would be looking for large flounders around 4-5 pounds.

Just enough for three families to have baked flounder and sometimes maybe a little fried fish. If the moon and the tide were right, it seemed like they would go every night. This might seem strange, but there was no television back in those days so when it got dark, it was time to go floundering. Providing food for a growing family was paramount. The favorite way to prepare the flounder was to bake the whole flounder in a roasting pot with onions and potatoes.

I think it is important to say that regardless of the abundance of seafood, we only took what we needed.

 

References
Davis G. B., Perry, L. J., & Kirkley, J. W. Compiled by Cowles, C. D. (1983). The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War. New York, NY: Fairfax Press.

Hewett, H.C. (2014). Fishing off Fort Fisher in a Small Boat in 1940s and 50s. Oral History, Federal Point Historical Preservation Society.

Jackson, S. (1995). The Closing of New Inlet (The Rocks) 1870-1881 … and the Swash Defense Dam 1881-1891.

Rayburn, R. H. (1984). One of the Finest Rivers in the South: Corps of Engineers Improvements on the Cape Fear River below Wilmington, 1870-1881. Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Inc., Volume 27, Number 2, May, 1984.

Rayburn, R.H. (1985). One of the Finest Rivers in the South: Corps of Engineers Improvements on the Cape Fear River below Wilmington, 1881-1891. Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Inc., Volume 28, Number 2, February, 1985.

Reaves, Bill. (2011). Federal Point Chronology 1725-1994. New Hanover Public Library & Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Wilmington, NC. (Compiled by Bill Reaves from Wilmington newspapers articles.)

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

Oral History: Our River Farm Watermelon Patch – Federal Point – 1946 – 1956: Part 1

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett (2014)

by:  Howard HewettSubmitted September 13, 2014

Our daughter Georgianne called today on the way home for our 4th of July celebration to ask what method is the best to determine watermelon ripeness.  She was stopping in Hempstead, TX (Texas Watermelon Capital) to pick up a melon for our 2009 celebration.  Her dilemma was which ripeness checking method should be employed.  She asked if she should use the Thump Method or the Broom Straw Method.  Now, I am not quite sure what the Broom Straw method is, so I directed her to use the “Thump It Method”.

This discussion brought back a flood of memories of Dad’s watermelon patch over on our river farm at Federal Point.  In North Carolina, cool spring weather delays the planting of watermelons so it was usually the first of July before our watermelons were ready for the harvest.  Dad called his watermelons Georgia Rattlesnakes.

1951 Howard Hewett - 12 yrs - Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon grown on Hewett farm on Federal Point

1951 Howard Hewett – 12 yrs – Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon grown on Hewett patch in Federal Point

Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelons

Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelons

In doing a little research, I found that there was a type of watermelon grown in Eastern United States starting around 1870 that was named Georgia Rattlesnake.  I would not be surprised if some of Dad’s seeds were passed along through the hands of the Hewett- Lewis family using the same method that Dad used.

At the time of planting, a mound (hill) was created to plant the seeds.  A typical planting was three seeds per hill along with a little fertilizer.  As the plants grew, only the healthy plants were allowed to remain in the hill.  Planting was spread out over several weeks so all the watermelons would not ripen at the same time.

As the watermelons developed, Dad started taking notes on the growth of some of the melons in the patch.  The largest and best shaped melons were singled out by Dad placing an “X” on the topside with his fingernail.  As these melons continue to develop, he would place a second “X” and so on.  A three “X” watermelon was a very special watermelon.  By selection, the seeds from the three “X” watermelons were used for the next season’s planting.

Normally, XXX melons were not sold, but served to family and friends.  The rule when eating a XXX melon was no seeds went on the ground.  Dad collected all the mature seeds.  They would be washed and dried on a screen.  The seeds would end up in a Mason jar and stored for the next year’s planting.

It is interesting that not all one X melons made it to two Xs or two Xs to three Xs.  Dad’s marks were based on potential.  During the growing season some would not meet his expectations and would be sold for a lesser valve.

1951 (l-r) Thomas Hewett(8) - Wayne Hewett Bell - Jackie Hewett (8) - Alex Hewett Bell - Photo by: Howard Hewett Brownie Camera

1951 (l-r) Thomas Hewett (7) – Wayne Hewett Bell (5) – Jackie Hewett (3) – Alex Hewett Bell (8) – Photo by: Howard Hewett using a Brownie Camera

The size of the patch was around four to five acres.  It is probably evident to the reader that the size of our watermelon patch produced a lot of melons and there were always enough melons for the family, along with some to be sold commercially.

We sold some in front of our home in a stand.  My brother Thomas and I would alternate watching the stand while one of us would put one watermelon in a wagon and haul it up to the beach and sell door-to-door.  We worked the beach from the Fort Fisher gates to the light at Kure Beach.

We actually had regular customers who would purchase one melon a week but sometimes more while they were available.  Dad’s watermelons had dark and light green alternating stripes.  Maybe that is how they got their name.  Most of the larger melons weighed 35-45 pounds. The large two “X” ones sold for $5.00.

We would make a sale and go back a get another one. My brother and I would make five to six trips a day until we had cleared all the melons out. When our inventory became low, we would pick again.  A lull between picking allowed a little break for us to swim and fish.

Now anyone who has operated a watermelon patch or had first hand knowledge what an enticement a watermelon patch can have on a bunch of young boys with a lot of time on their hands.  On occasion, we had visitors at night.  In most cases, their little foray into the night failed.  All roads leading in or out of the river farm were inhabited by our relatives, the Lewises and the Davises. So the whole family was a large security force for the patch.  During watermelon season, the Kure Beach police would come to the rescue when called.  Once the intruders were sent on their way, Dad would reward the police with a large watermelon the next day.

My sister Jackie is holding a custom watermelon knife in the photograph above. It is still a family heirloom and will be passed on to future generations for the traditional watermelon cutting on the 4th of July.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[Editor: After Howard submitted the above article, we followed up with a series of clarifying questions.  Howard’s detailed responses provided an additional story about the Hewett family in Federal Point during the 30’s – 50’s. Continue reading … Part 2 ]

 

Oral History: Howard Hewett – Federal Point Methodist Episcopal Church

by Howard Hewett,  Submitted: November 2014

 Dow Rd., Carolina Beach, NC

Dow Road, Carolina Beach, NC

The Hewett-Lewis-Davis-Henniker families with the help of others started Federal Point Methodist Episcopal Church.

The certification of the Federal Point Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was established by Bishop R. G. Waterhouse on November 23, 1914. The church was dedicated on June 17, 1917 by Rev. J. H. Shore.  He was the presiding elder of the Wilmington District of the North Carolina Conference. On this occasion, he delivered the sermon.

My father, Howard Curtis Hewett Sr. and his sister Ethel Virginia Hewett were baptized in 1920 at the ages of six years and eight years, respectively, as found in the Register of Infant Baptisms.  The original Register of Membership and Register of Infant Baptisms for Federal Point Church was given to the Carolina Beach United Methodist Church, Carolina Beach, N.C., following the death of Howard Curtis Hewett Sr. in 1995.   Links to copies of the original Register are displayed at the end of this document.

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

Although very young, I do have memories of very hot summer Sundays with all the church windows open, no screens, everyone dressed to the nines, Aunt Beatrice Davis playing a bellows-type organ and the congregation singing “He Lives, He Lives.”

I remember my mother singing in the choir and Dad, Grandmother and I sitting on the right side of the sanctuary usually by a window.  When it was hot Dad allowed me to sit on the window sill. The benches were handcrafted without any cushions.

On these occasions, as the preacher delivered his sermon, everyone would be fanning away and I assure you there was not a breath of air moving.  If you listened closely, you could hear the insects droning outside.  There was no such thing as casual dress which made everyone that much hotter.  I never saw my father in church on Sunday without a tie.

I have fond memories of church dinners on the grounds under the oak trees and Uncle Otis Davis and Uncle Wilbur Davis making fresh squeezed lemonade in a big crock-pot with lots of sugar. My mother Helen Roebuck Hewett would not drink the lemonade because she claimed they stirred the lemonade with their hands, but in their defense, I seem to recall there was a paddle; whether it was used may be up for debate.  There was always fried chicken, deviled eggs, collard greens, biscuits and potato salad.  My favorites were deviled eggs and homemade pickles.

There was water available from a hand pump located next to the road that led to Uncle George Henniker’s and Aunt Sarah Ellen’s home on the river.  I do not remember the quality of the water only that it was there.  Kids were drawn to the pump like it was a magnet, cupping their hands under the spout while another kid pumped. Usually more water ran down their elbows onto the ground than they were able to capture.  In the current environment, folks would marvel that kids could be entertained with a hand water pump.  This type of pump was common to everyone’s back porch.

Another memory I have related to the church was my first Christmas pageant.  I had one line to deliver.  I think the reason I remember the pageant was because I had stage fright to the point that when it came time to deliver my line, “Hark!  I bring you good tidings,” I could not utter a single word. As I recall the Sunday school teacher had to deliver my line from the door of the classroom.  I was a little embarrassed, even mortified, but relieved that those words were finally spoken even though it was not by me.

Albert Walker Hewett - Addie Lewis Hewett Curtis Hewett - Virginia Hewett about 1926

Albert Walker Hewett – Addie Lewis Hewett
Curtis Hewett – Virginia Hewett
about 1926

There is one story about my grandfather, Albert Walker Hewett, and my grandmother, Addie Jane Hewett, that occurred when my father Howard Curtis Hewett was around 12 years old and my Aunt Ethel Virginia Hewett Bell would have been 14 years old.

They had all gone to church on a Wednesday night.  When the kerosene lamps were turned off at the end of the service, it became quiet and dark in those Federal Point woods.

The story goes that Grandfather and Dad went out to the Model T, set the magneto, turned the crank, and when it fired, they jumped in and headed for home, which was about 2.8 miles away.

The road home from the church ran down what is currently called the Dow Road (built in 1916), but instead of making the 90-degree turn at K Ave., the road continued straight and ran almost parallel to the river passing Uncle John and Aunt Rebecca Davis’ home.  It then continued past the Lewis homestead on down to the home that Grandfather and Grandmother moved into when they married in 1911. Their original house was located in what is currently the Air Force recreational facility.

Since the Hewetts are known for not having the gift of gab, Grandfather and Dad headed home without comment.  Upon arriving at home, it was determined that Addie and Virginia were not in the back of the Model T.

In rural North Carolina, there were not that many paved roads so you may have thought it impossible for them to drive 2.8 miles on a sandy rut-filled road without Grandmother saying “Albert, please slow down.”  I think the Hewett women must have picked up a more “talkative gene” along the way.

In telling this story my dad once said, that “Wash Foot Methodists were not very talkative.” Dad never related what Grandmother said when they got back to the church that night, but when telling this story, he would always grin.

Federal Point Methodist Church 1935 Foreground - A Hewlett Grave

Federal Point Methodist Church 1935
Foreground – Albert W. Hewett Grave

On the right is a photo of my grandfather’s grave site in 1935 with the church in the background.

It is the only photo I have of the church. The church in this photo appears to be a rectangular shape.  In studying this photo, the orientation of the church and the grave-site is not exactly as I remember it.  The current fence runs perpendicular to the head of my grandfather’s grave and my remembrance is that the church was basically parallel to the fence.  I also recall that the entrance to the church was facing the road; the elevation required four or five steps to reach a landing at the door.

I remember the church having a ‘T’ shaped floor plan with the sanctuary being the longer section with two rooms on each side.  There were windows on the back wall on each side of the pulpit.  In the room on the right side there was a bellows-type organ. This room was completely open to the sanctuary. It most likely served as a classroom.  On the left side toward the cemetery there was another classroom.

My remembrance indicates that there was a relocation of the original church sanctuary with an addition to the original building transforming it into a ‘T’ floor plan.  The time period of these changes had to be between 1935 and early 1940. By 1945, the church was as I remember it.

As reported on April 3, 1938 by the Wilmington Star, the family of A. W. Hewett (Albert Walker Hewett) gave the Federal Point Methodist Church a silver communion service in his memory.  (Wilmington Star, 4-7-1938, 4-8-1938) I did not learn of this until I read the “Federal Point Chronology 1728-1994” compiled by Bill Reaves.  It was published by the New Hanover Library and the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society in 2011.

During the writing of this document, I learned from my brother Thomas Walker Hewett that the communion service consisted of a serving tray with glass communion cups and a plate for the bread with each having a cover.  At the closing of the Federal Point Methodist Church, our grandmother obtained possession.  Following Grandmother’s death, my Aunt Virginia Hewett Bell took possession until her death in 1992.  Several years after Aunt Virginia’s death, the serving pieces were given to the St. Paul Methodist Church at Carolina Beach, N.C. by Alex and Wayne Bell.  The communion set now resides in their historical display case.

It is interesting for me to think about receiving communion using these serving pieces since this is a special part of the Christian tradition, my own connection with family history and our family’s special connection with the traditions of the Methodist Church.  But as I think about it, I mostly likely did not receive communion until joining St. Paul Methodist Church in Carolina Beach, N.C. in 1951 at the age of twelve.

1920 – Federal Point Methodist Church – Some Members

Federal Point Methodist Members - 1920

Federal Point Methodist Members – 1920

I believe the date of this photo of some members of the church is around 1920.  This photo is interesting not only from the period aspect but from the relationships of members of the early Federal Point Methodist Church.  I arrived at this date by applying the birthdays of some of the younger children, then extrapolating by their appearances.

Curtis Hewett (Dad) was born on July 23, 1914. Gladys Davis was born in 1917 and Leotha Davis was born on August 28, 1919.   Leotha appears to be around four months old.  My best assumption is the photo was taken around early 1920.

At this time Georgianna Lewis would have been the matriarch of the Lewis family. Edward Lewis would be Isabell Lewis Foushee’s father (Oral History – FPHPS). We do not know which one of the Samuel Lewises is actually Sam Lewis.  Samuel A. Lewis would be the grandfather of Ryder Lewis  (Oral History – FPHPS).

Rebecca Hewett Davis is holding Leotha Davis with sons Otis and Wilbur standing on the front row. Gladys is a daughter who was born in 1917 and died in 1922 at the age of four years old. John Webster Davis and daughter Beatrice Davis are not shown.

George Henniker (Henniker Ditch) is top center and his wife, Sarah Ellen Hewett Henniker, on the right were the parents and grandparents of the Henniker and Peterson clan. George Henniker was originally from England where he was a merchant sailor.

Grandfather Albert Walker Hewett and Grandmother Addie Jane Lewis Hewett are shown with Aunt Virginia and my dad, Howard Curtis Hewett Sr.  Georgiana Andrews Lewis is the mother of Addie Jane Lewis Hewett.

View images of the Federal Point Methodist Church Cemetery – and the adjacent Newton Cemetery – taken on November 12, 2014
 

Federal Point Methodist Episcopal Church (FPMEC) Register

FPMEC Register Cover    (pdf)
FPMEC Register of Pastors    (pdf)
FPMEC Register of Infant Baptisms   (pdf)

FPMEC Register of Members page 1      (pdf)
FPMEC Register of Members page 2     (pdf)
FPMEC Register of Members page 3      (pdf)
FPMEC Register of Members page 4      (pdf)

Oral History – Ethyl-Dow Plant – Part 3

by Howard Hewett  

Ethyl-Dow Plant in Kure Beach, NC
Lem’s recent Ethyl Dow recent post is one that I can add some additional history because the Ethyl Dow Chemical Co. had a direct impact on my family. My Dad went to work for Ethyl Dow in 1933 as a laborer helping clear the land for the Kure Beach Plant.

The intake jetties extended about 150 feet into the surf.
« 2 of 13 »

As construction progressed, Dad continued to work at the plant site. When the plant started operations, he became a plant operator, then shift foreman, plant foreman and later Supervisor. After the war when the demand lessened for ethylene dibromide, the plant was mothballed but it was kept in semi-running condition. Dad maintained his role as supervisor of the remaining crew.

When the decision was made to demolish the plant, Dad & his crew were responsible for clearing all the equipment. Then most mechanical equipment was sold to potential buyers.

In 1953, our family moved to Freeport, Texas for a 1 year project at the Ethyl Dow plant there. Dad was somewhat an expert in the packing of the blowing out towers which had a special lath packing made of cypress. The project included purchasing the cypress, manufacturing the lath packing and installing it in the towers.

We returned to Federal Point in 1954 just in time for hurricane Hazel. By 1956, the plant was cleared and all equipment sold. Dad turned the key to the Office building over to a demolition contractor.

If you viewed the YouTube video – History of the Ethyl Dow Plant (Island Ecology for Educators-Final Project), produced by Johnny Reinhold in 2012 and recently posted on Facebook by Lem Woods, some of the concrete & brick rubble material from the plant demolition was later used at Fort Fisher to combat beach erosion. The article is a fairly accurate history of the Kure Beach plant.

In 1956, the Hewett family moved back to Freeport, Texas where Dad continued to work for Ethyl Dow until the shutting down of the Texas Operation plant in early 1970’s.  Again, Dad was given the responsibility for clearing the Freeport plant, selling the equipment and turning the plant over to a demolition contractor.

During Dad’s 47 year Dow career he worked in two Ethyl Dow plants, 1400 miles apart and had the distinction of walk out the front door and turning the front door key to demolition contractors which ended the existence of the Ethyl Dow Chemical Co.

As to the Ethyl Dow plant at Kure Beach, Dad was able to save some photo history of the plant. I have post some of the photos here with a comment attached to each picture.


Sources:

Originally posted by Howard Hewett to: Carolina Beach Locals on Facebook – Tuesday, August, 19 2014

History of the Ethyl Dow Plant
   (YouTube video)
Produced by Johnny Reinhold


Related:

Gold From the Sea?   (great visuals of the Kure Beach Ethyl-Dow plant)
Popular Mechanics,  Jun, 1934

 

 

What is the Ethyl-Dow plant?
by: Ben Steelman – Wilmington StarNews – April, 2009

Chemical plant’s remnants removed to make room for homes in Kure Beach
by: Shannan Bowen –  Wilmington StarNews – Nov. 23, 2010

Ethyl-Dow plant to be commemorated (60 year anniversary)
by:  Jerry McElreath – StarNews – May 21, 1993

Dow Chemical Company – Early History – Wikipedia

Ethyl-Dow Operators–  Initial Meeting (Wilmington Star, 5-11-39)

Images of Ethyl Dow Plant – Google Images

 

 

 

Oral History: Farm Life on Federal Point – 1930-1956 – Part 2

[Editor: Part 2: After Howard Hewett submitted the Watermelon Patch article (Part 1), we followed up with a series of clarifying questions (blue italics).  Howard’s detailed responses provide an interesting history about the Hewett family in Federal Point during the 30’s – 50’s.]

 

What was your family relationship to the others in pictures?

Wayne Hewett Bell and Alex Hewett Bell are my first cousins.  The Hewett Bells are my dad’s sister’s boys.  I was the photographer with my Brownie Hawkeye camera.

Was the Watermelon patch a Hewett enterprise or a Lewis / Hewett / Davis enterprise?

The watermelon patch was a Hewett enterprise.

Was the 4-5 acre patch located on the Hewett property?

Yes, we owned land from the Atlantic to the Cape Fear River.

What was the acreage of Hewett property? (Google Maps)

Davis Road to Fort Fisher Gates - Marker is Howard Hewett Home.

Davis Road to Fort Fisher Gates
Flag is Howard Curtis Hewett Family Home
.

That’s something about which I have not given a lot of thought….it was about 100-125 yards wide and about one mile from the Atlantic to the Cape Fear River.

Let’s see:  125 yards x 3 = 375 ft.  (1 mile in ft.= 5280 ft.) 5280 x 375 = 1,980,000 sq. ft. (43,560 sq.ft. in an acre)  so 1,980,000 divide by 43,560 = 45.45 acres.

The property was purchased by my Grandfather Albert Walker Hewett. (1879-1935)

The Lewis property ran from the Fort Fisher gate to the side of ours and was basically the same size as the Hewett property.  It was purchased by my Great-Grandfather William Lewis (1861-1903).

John Davis’ property was on the Kure Beach side of us but he purchased more land.  He had land on both sides of Davis Road.  Growing up we did not call it Davis Road; it was just the road to Uncle John & Aunt Becky’s house.  Aunt Becky Hewett Davis was my Grandfather’s sister.  John and his son Lee Otha Davis farmed also.

Foot note:   William Edward Lewis (1863-1903) drowned during a sudden storm as he was bringing the family’s livestock to Federal Point onboard a Sharpie schooner from Shallotte inlet through southern outer shoals of the Cape Fear River.  He is buried in an unmarked grave in Southport, NC.

Did you have older brothers or sisters to help with the work?

No.  I was the oldest.  Tom & Jackie were too young to work the farm during period of story.

Did your dad (besides working at Ethyl Dow) do all or most of the tending to the patch?

Grandmother and Albert Walker Hewett Home - directly across 421- outside Fort Fisher ,NC

Grandmother and Albert Walker Hewett Home – located directly across Hwy 421 from the author’s family home, just outside the Fort Fisher Gates,

My grandfather Albert Walker Hewett operated the farm until his death in 1935.  My dad, Howard Curtis Hewett, worked the farm growing up.  Dad was 21 when his father died so he continued to take care of the farm.

The Hewetts & Lewises moved from Lockwood Folly Township (Boones Neck, near the Shallotte Inlet) Brunswick County, NC to Federal Point between the years of 1900-1903.

The Hewetts moved to North Carolina in 1752 from Cape May, NJ.   The family made their living as whalers. In North Carolina they continued fishing but warmer weather was more conducive to farming. The Hewett family owned a sizable amount of land in Brunswick County.  One of the Hewett daughters married a man whose last name was Holden.  Land changed hands… thus, Holden Beach … I do not know if this change of hands was due to dollars or a wedding dowry.

The patriarch of our family in North Carolina was Joseph Hewett (1700-1795). He had eleven children and five brothers so the number of Hewetts in Brunswick Co. grew exponentially over the years.  I am a direct descendant of Joseph. When I say we owned land, I am speaking collectively as a part of the Hewett clan.

The time period of the story is mostly Dad’s operation.  We grew corn, strawberries, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and pole beans.  When Grandfather Albert Walker was living, he provided vegetables for Grandfather Roebuck’s Grocery Store in Wilmington.  Albert’s spring pole beans were the first to market because of the location of the farm on the river.  The Castle Hayne farms north of Wilmington were several weeks later because of their northern location.

The family garden was at my grandmother’s.   One of my remembrance stories that I have in draft form is our life and how we provided a living on Federal Point.   I certainly was working on the river farm at a young age, disking land & tilling after school and always working on Saturday. The “Do Gooders” would be up in arms today if they saw an eight-year-old on an open-wheeled tractor pulling a disc.

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[Editor:  Continue reading … Part 3 Where Howard describes farming life experiences for the Lewis, Hewett and Davis families in Federal Point during the 30’s – 50’s.]

 

Oral History: Farm Life on Federal Point – 1930-1956 – Part 3

[Editor: In Part 3, Howard Hewett writes about the Hewett family history, and the building of the their family homes that still exist in Kure Beach, 76 – 78 years later.   After Howard Hewett submitted the Watermelon Patch article (Part 1), we followed up with these clarifying questions (blue italics).]   Read Part 2 – for the earlier questions.

 

Do you have any knowledge of the commercial market for watermelons in Wilmington / Federal Point at that time period?

I am not sure if there were others but dad’s patch was the only one south of Kure Beach.   Now, the Ryder Lewis Jr. (FPHPS Oral History) family may have done some farming along Snow Cut.

As you know, during and after the depression making ends meet was tough.  Wages were depressed all the way up to the mid 60’s.  Most folks had some type of garden.

Ryder Lewis Jr.’s father was Ryder Lewis Sr.  Senior’s father was Samuel Lewis; his father was George Washington Lewis.  George Washington Lewis was my grandmother’s Grandfather (Addie Jane Lewis Hewett)

Another Footnote:  The Hewetts (Grandfather Albert and Grandmother Addie Jane) settled on the east bank of the Cape Fear River in 1911.  The general location is on the river just to the right of the main entrance to the Air Force Radar Station. This area is now used as a military recreational facility.  Dad (Howard Curtis Hewett Sr.) and Aunt Virginia (Virginia Hewett Bell) were both born in this location.   Long after the house was torn down, as late as the 1970; grandmother’s flowers still could be seen in the spring.

Lewis’ home on the river.  Standing on the steps is Addie Jane Hewett with son Howard Curtis Hewett Sr. (my Dad). Photo taken after 1935.

Lewis’ home on the river. Standing on the steps is Addie Jane Hewett with son Howard Curtis Hewett Sr. (my Dad). Photo taken after 1935.

After a fire at the original river home; located where the military recreational facility is now, Grandmother Addie Jane & Grandfather Albert lived in the Lewis Cape Fear River home (FPHPS Oral History) for a period of time while the new house was being built.  The new house was about 150 yards from the Atlantic.

Grandfather Albert died (1935) before the house on the Atlantic side was completed so dad and Uncle Crawford Lewis completed grandmother’s house.

One other side note while I am thinking about the old home place on the river:
A Quote from Col. William Lamb, Commander of Fort Fisher: Concerning the Powder Vessel

“I watched the burning vessel for half an hour … Returning to my quarters, I felt a gentle rocking of the small brick house … which I would have attributed to imagination or vertigo, but it was instantly followed by an explosion, sounding very little louder than the report of a ten-inch Columbiad … The vessel was doubtless afloat when the explosion occurred (as opposed to grounded), or the result might have been very serious.”

The interesting side note about this quote is Dad showed me the remains of a brick building that he referred to as the Lamb House, which was maybe 50 yards north of Grandfather and Grandmother Hewett’s home on the river.  At the time, I was possibly eight to ten years old.

Hewett home on the beach. Photo taken from Grandmother Addie Jane’s house.

Howard Curtis Hewett family home on the beach.
Photo taken from Grandmother Addie Jane’s house.

Dad started construction on his house on the beach front in 1932 and it was completed before Mother and Dad were married in 1938.

The house was located directly across the highway (421) from Grandmother Addie Jane’s house. Dad was working at Ethyl Dow so there was little time for house construction and money was very tight.

The Lewis family home was on the river and was still being lived in by Uncle Edward when I was just old enough to remember.  They later moved to Kure Beach and opened a grocery-service station.  Isabel Lewis Foushee is Edward Lewis daughter, (FPHPS Oral History).  Tom Foushee is Isabel’s son.

Howard Curtis Hewett Home at Fort Fisher - 1955

Curtis Hewett Family Home at Fort Fisher – 1955

Uncle Crawford had built a home next to Grandfather Albert and Grandmother Addie Jane’s house about a hundred fifty yards off the beach.

The family continued to do what they could to provide for the family by farming, raising cattle, pigs, chicken for eggs & food and fishing.  Actually Albert Walker provided vegetables for Grandfather Roebuck Grocery Store in Wilmington.  Albert spring pole beans were the first to market because of the location of the farm on the river.  The Castle Hayne farms were several weeks later because of northern location.

My remembrance of my grandmother Addie Jane was she was a hard-working Christian woman not unlike most women cut from the same pioneer cloth.

Her days consisted of gardening, preparing chickens for dinner (this was not running down to Kroger or HEB to grab chicken from the meat case.)  Preparing chicken started by selecting the right bird from the chicken yard and placing it’s head on the pine stub. You know the story of someone running around like a “Chicken with its head cut off”.

Grandmother's house after it was moved to Kure Beach. (Photo 1991)

Grandmother’s house after it was moved to Kure Beach. (Photo 1991)

Albert Walker also did carpenter work to provide for the family and he and Dad built the Hewett family home. (above, right, across Hwy 421 from Grandmother and Albert Walker Hewett Home).

Our complete farming acreage was lost when the government annexed land on both sides of the river for the buffer zone for the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point near Southport.

The Government buffer zone came just behind Grandmother’s house.  It actually encompassed the family garden.

When Grandmother died in 1986 at age of 95, the remaining property was split between my Aunt Virginia Hewett Bell and my Dad.  At that time, I think there was only about 3-4 acres left.  Dad had sold the ocean front property shortly after we left for Texas in 1956.

After the property was sold, Grandmother’s house was moved to Kure Beach.

 

[Editor: Grandmother’s house (Part 2) was moved to 326 S 4th Ave, Kure Beach – (Google Maps) – where it still stands, after 78 years.]

[Editor:  The author’s family home described in this article, still stands today (after 76 years) in Kure Beach.  It’s located at 833 S. Ft. Fisher Blvd, Kure Beach, NC – (Google Maps)]

 

833 S Fort Fisher Blvd (green house). </br> Viewed toward Fort Fisher Gates from Marquesa Way

833 S Fort Fisher Blvd (green house)  View toward Fort Fisher Gates from Marquesa Way, (Sept, 2014)

The author in front of Hewett Family Home. 833 S Ft. Fisher Blvd  Fort Fisher, NC (around 1994)

The author in front of Hewett Family Home. 833 S Ft. Fisher Blvd Fort Fisher, NC (around 1994)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oral History: Monroe Shigley – Plant Manager at Ethyl Dow Plant, Kure Beach (1936-1941)

Monroe Shigley Interview Was Submitted by Howard Hewett – September 5, 2014

[Editor Note:
Howard Hewett was born in 1939 in Wilmington.  His family’s home was located just outside of the Fort Fisher gates until his family moved to Freeport Texas in 1956.

His father Curtis, worked on clearing the land and building the Ethyl Dow plant in Kure Beach starting in 1933.   When the plant started operations, he became a plant operator, then shift foreman, plant foreman and later Supervisor. After the war when the demand lessened for ethylene dibromide, the plant was mothballed but it was kept in semi-running condition.  Curtis Hewett maintained his role as supervisor of the remaining crew, eventually supervising the closing down of the Ethyl Dow plant in Kure Beach.

Howard Hewett has been living in Freeport since his family moved there in 1956.  Recently, he began submitting articles to the Federal Point History Center, detailing his youth experiences in Fort Fisher.  See here, here, and here.

Recommended background information on Ethyl Dow in Kure:

What is the Ethyl-Dow Plant? – Ben Steelman,  Wilmington StarNews
History of the Ethyl Dow Plant    (YouTube video 6:58) – Produced by Johnny Reinhold

Note: All of the photos in this post were taken about 80 years ago. ]

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On Sept. 5, 2014, Howard Hewett wrote:

This oral history is an interview with Monroe Shigley. He’s one of the first technical people at the Ethyl Dow plant at Kure Beach.

In two of the digital photos that I submitted, showing Ethyl Dow labs, Monroe Shigley is the center person.  You may wonder how I knew that fact.  As you read the document, Shigley makes mention on a one year old daughter. She was born in James Walker Hospital in 1940 and was named Mary Monroe Shigley.

I was also born in James Walker in late 1939.  Our paths did not cross until 1956 when we were attending the same high school and were in the same graduation class.  We have been friends for years.  We communicate regularly, so I sent her this document & photos that I am sending you for her review.   She identified her dad.   [Editor:  We thank Mary Monroe Shigley Carhart for providing these photos of her parents.]

This oral history of the Ethyl Dow Company at Kure Beach, NC is an excerpt from an interview of Monroe Shigley after he retired from the Dow Chemical Co.

He was one of the key people from the beginning at Federal Point Ethyl Dow Kure Beach plant.  He arrived at the Kure Beach plant in 1933 from Midland, MI and became Plant Manager from 1936 to 1941. This is not just a technical history but shows his great insights, personal reflections and stories, of a point in time on the Federal Point peninsula.

Read more ..

Oral History – Howard Hewett – Part 1

The October-November “Pop-eyed” Mullet Run

Submitted by:  Howard Hewett,  Jones Creek, TX – August 20, 2014

Fishing Boat Breakers - CB

Click – for larger image

In late October early November, the fall Atlantic mullet run was a major food supply for the Hewett-Lewis family as far back as the establishment of the clan on Boones Neck (Shallotte River) in Brunswick County in the late 1700’s.  After moving to Federal Point, Uncle Crawford Lewis, my grandfather and my Dad maintained the family tradition of fishing.

Striped mullet are active schooling fish frequently seen jumping and clearing the water by more than three times their body length.  Some fish may be 24 inches in length.  Their jumping habits have earned them the nickname “jumping mullet.”  Because of their thick, fleshy eyelids, they are also called “pop-eyed” mullet.  This was the most common name used when referring to them by our family.

Striped “pop-eyed” mullet

Striped “pop-eyed” mullet

Striped “pop-eyed” mullet are native to North Carolina.  In October-November when it’s time to spawn, they move out of the bays and inlets, traveling along the shore on their way to off shore waters.  The spawning process normally occurs at night.  The female mullet can release from two to four million eggs per season.  A mature mullet can average one to three pounds.  The roe mullets in North Carolina may weigh as much as seven pounds.   And, of course, the roe is a fall delicacy.   Roe and grits are to die for!

During the mullet run, a family who could get a gill net around a school of mullet would be able to feed the family salted down mullet through the winter.   This fact made it imperative that when the opportunity arrived, the family needed to avail itself of a school of fish.

The story I want to relate took place before my tenth birthday (I think) just shortly after World War II.   I had often referred to the story as Dad’s “Can a Sunday mullet run be considered an “Ox in the Ditch”?  On the way home from church this November Sunday afternoon, Dad spotted a large school of mullet just outside the surf.  By the time we got home you could actually see this school up the beach from our front porch.  For a family to claim rights to a school fish, it was imperative that a spotter be placed along the shore opposite the fish.  So Dad sent me to claim ownership and to follow the school of mullet down the beach toward the house.

As I left the house, Mother and Dad were discussing the religious aspects of violating another family tradition by following what we practiced. The observance of the Sabbath as stated in Isaiah 58: 13-14.  “If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; it you honor it, not going your own way, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord.  And I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

As Dad and Mother continued the discussion about this strong Christian principle and maybe grandmother, Addie Jane, was consulted as well, Dad made preparations with Uncle Crawford to get the boat in position on the beach.  Now this did not take long because at this time of year, the boat and net was always ready.  As the story goes, Dad and Crawford decided that in this particular situation, there was a need to provide winter food for the family, so they decided that the New Testament passage in Luke 14:5 would be the guiding principle for that day.   As Jesus said, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on the Sabbath.”  The school of fish that I was following was massive and the water was black with fish.  When the wave would break, all you could see was large roe mullet.   It was one of those magnificent schools of mullet.

Other fishermen only approached me one time, but I was recognized as Curtis’ boy.  The only thing they said was “tell your Dad to holler if he and Crawford needed any help.”  I’ve often thought about how easy it was to project possession of a school of fish by having an 8 to 9 year-old represent ownership in the late 40’s.  There was respect for the rights of possession and there were no questions or challenges.  I wonder in today’s world if people in the same situation would allow someone so young to represent family ownership and show respect for an unwritten entitlement.

When I was within 100 yards, Dad waved to me to come and get in the boat.  The family boat was approximately 16-18 feet lapstreak with a high bow, high gunnels and a deck in the stern where the net was located.  The stern sloped from the gunnels to the rail with a more rounded shape.  It was a modified wine glass shape that was common to surf boats in the mid 1940-1950’s.  There were two seats for two oarsmen.

Seine Netting

Seine Netting

My job was to be sure the net fed out as we went around the school of mullet.  These nets were called gill nets or seine nets.  The net had a cork line on the top and a lead line on the bottom. It was approximately 8-10 feet in height.  Dad and Crawford’s net were approximately 100 yards long.  On this particular day, we had a 25-yard slue running along the beach with a bar that was about 50 yards across with the breakers pounding on the edge of the bar.

To get a boat across the slue, transverse the bar and cross the breaker required a great deal of skill and timing not only to get the boat outside the wave action but to arrive just in time along with the fish.   The action was never for the faint of heart.  When Uncle Crawford said “Let’s take her to sea, Curtis,” there was an adrenaline rush.   I can tell you that Dad and Crawford were bulls when it came to their oaring skills.   When the oars hit the water and they made their first pull your head would pop back and for every pull thereafter.

Fishing Nets on the Beach - Winner

Pulling Fishing Nets on the Beach Near the Winner Store & Bath House (click)

The staff on the beach end of the net was normally manned by another member of the family and beach goers who would work for a mess of fish.    As we crossed the bar, I would continue to maintain the net as it feed out over the stern and would be sure it did not get hung up on anything in the boat.  Once across the bar and seaward to the breaker creating a slight hook shape in the positioning of the net, we would pause to allow the fish to come to us.

Popeyed Mullet on Incoming Tide

Popeyed Mullet on Incoming Tide

On this occasion, Dad and Crawford discussed their concerns about the size of this school of mullet and the danger of damaging the net with all the pressure of thousands of pounds of fish.   The decision was made to cut through the middle of the school allowing some to escape seaward.   So we came back across the breakers with mullet jumping in the boat as well as across the boat.   This process also created an adrenaline rush.  Once ashore, we started pulling the staff back through the slue to the beach.   By this time, we may have had 25-30 volunteers, which enhanced our ability to get the net ashore.  The catch that day was several thousand pounds.  Volunteers got all the fish they wanted.   A large portion of the catch was sold to a fish house outside of Wilmington.

Grandmother was in charge of the family portion and preparing the mullet for salting.  Our saltbox was in one of the bedrooms at grandmother’s house.  It was two feet deep by three feet wide and about 6 feet long.   After that day’s catch, all the family had their saltboxes filled to the top with filleted mullet and roe.

Lesson learned that November day:  Only take what you need and do not waste resources.

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Editor’s Note:

Relatives mentioned by the author:
Uncle Crawford Lewis, his Grandfather, and his Dad, Curtis Hewett

Granddaddy, Crawford, and Ed Lewis – ‘Early Fort Fisher’

Howard Hewett – Oral Histories

Mullet mania: Diners who once shunned the lowly ‘bait fish’ are rediscovering its rich flavor and heart-healthy benefits
By Liz Biro – Star-News Correspondent, 2007

… and check the ‘Related Posts’ below