AFTER 18 MONTHS WE’RE GOING TO TRY TO GET BACK TO MONTHLY PROGRAM MEETINGS!
Due to Governor Cooper’s order, we do ask that everyone who attends wear a mask.
The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, September 20, at 7:30 pm, at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.
The Women Air Service Pilots (WASP) was a civilian women pilots’ organization, whose members were United States federal civil service employees. Members of WASP became trained pilots who tested aircraft, ferried aircraft and trained other pilots. Their purpose was to free male pilots for combat roles during World War II. Despite various members of the armed forces being involved in the creation of the program, the WASP and its members had no military standing.
John’s talk will focus on the women who were stationed at Camp Davis, near Holly Ridge today, and their involvement in training men stationed at Fort Fisher who were being trained to serve as anti-artillery.
John Moseley is the Assistant Site Manager at Fort Fisher State Historic Site. He received his undergraduate degree in History from The Citadel in Charleston, SC, in 1989. He then spent the next decade and a half working in the for-profit and non-profit business worlds. During the 1990s, he spent large amounts of time researching North Carolina’s role in the American Revolution and 18th century medical and dental history.
He began working at Fort Fisher in 2011, and is currently in charge of the educational programming for the State Historic Site. Currently, he continues working on the role of Fort Fisher during World War II.
Carolina Beach’s first mayor was born in Plummerville, Robeson County, North Carolina, on July 17, 1874. John Wilkinson Plummer, Jr. was a first generation American, as his father came to the U.S. at age 15 with his family from Lincolnshire, England. The Plummer family settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where a few years later, the senior John Wilkinson Plummer enlisted in the Union Army. He was assigned to Company G of the 24th Regiment of Wisconsin. For four years he fought bravely in the Civil War until it ended earning the rank of Captain.
After the war, he found his way to North Carolina and Robeson County where in 1867, he married Miss Susan Gilbert. He worked for the Manchester Railroad, an early branch of the Coastline, and then Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherfordton Railroad. In 1888, Captain Plummer moved his family to Wilmington. The year before, Captain John Harper had launched the resort of Carolina Beach where the Plummers later owned some cottages and spent summers.
In town, he went into the confectionery business selling sweets of all kinds including homemade candy along with fruit, nuts, tobacco and fireworks. The business started out on Front Street moved to North 2nd Street, Princess Street and back to Front at 219 North Front between Grace and Chestnut Streets. Captain Plummer’s son, John W. Plummer Jr. followed his father in the confectionery business in the early 1990s. Soon after they began making ice cream in the back of their store.
On September 7, 1906, our future mayor, John W. Plummer Jr., married Caroline Rowell King in the small town of Cronly in Columbus County. The young couple made their home in Wilmington and soon had the first two of their three children, son Robert Cronly Plummer (1908-1960) followed by daughter, Doris Grey Plummer (1910-1992). In 1912, to fit the needs
312 North 5th Avenue, 2020
of their growing family, the Plummers built a bigger home at 312 North 5th Avenue that remains to this day. Five years later, Helen King Plummer (1917-1972) completed their family.
Due to his father’s declining health, Mr. Plummer, Jr. had taken over the family business. Captain Plummer died August 15, 1911, with the funeral being conducted at his residence, 119 South 6th Street and his burial at Oakdale Cemetery.
The demand for Plummer’s ice cream was growing. By 1918, Mr. Plummer had installed modern pasteurizing, mixing and freezing equipment that completely manufactured the ice cream without ever being touched by human hands. It was capable of making 1,000 gallons of ice cream daily. With this new equipment, he was able to expand selling ice cream at Carolina Beach where his family spent summers at their cottage. He opened Plummer’s Store on the boardwalk and became very involved in the summer community to the point that he became the lessee of Carolina Beach for the 1923 summer season. In that capacity, he was in charge of all the entertainment at the pavilion, orchestras for dancing, holiday celebrations, the bath house, etc.
The following newspaper clipping details The Sunset Six, the orchestra John W. Plummer, Jr. hired to play at the Pavilion for the summer of 1923. On May 31, 1923, they gave a performance at the Plummer’s Carolina Beach home. [Courtesy of Bill Reaves Files NHCPLL]
May 31, 1923 CAROLINA BEACH
“The Sunset Six,” a splendid orchestra which was to play at Carolina Beach during the coming summer season, arrived in Wilmington. Their first engagement was a public concert at the Orton Hotel. On May 30th, the players under the direction of Wayne Hinkle, gave a performance at the home of John W. Plummer, lessee of Carolina Beach, and it delighted all those present.
WILM.STAR, 5-31-1923. WILM.STAR, 5-30-1923
In May of 1923, property owners at Carolina Beach organized a movement to incorporate the town. John W. Plummer, Jr. was surely a member of this group as he was one of the 3 commissioners named in the incorporation papers that passed in the NC Legislature in March, 1925. [Courtesy of Bill Reaves Files NHCPLL]
May 10, 1923 CAROLINA BEACH
Some of the property owners at Carolina Beach inaugurated a movement to have the popular seaside resort incorporated at the next session of the North Carolina general assembly.
The property owners are convinced that the incorporation of the resort would be the taking of a big step towards developing the beach.
In December, 1927, the Federal Point Road, commonly called Carolina Beach Road, by then, was officially transferred to the State of North Carolina. It seems a little strange that it was the Wilmington City Commissioners who signed the official document, but in those days the City Council was far more powerful than the County government. “Wilmington City Commissioners, by a two to one vote, agreed to sign the “waiver” contract whereby the State Highway Commission was to take over and maintain the Carolina Beach Road, relieving the County authorities of the annual maintenance cost of $10,000 or more. Motion to this effect was offered by Commissioner J.E.L. Wade and seconded by Commissioner J.E. Thompson. Mayor Blair had voted “No” but signed the contract under protest. WILM.STAR, 12-29-1927.
By August of 1928, the State Highway Commission had awarded a contract to West Construction Company for building the new highway to Carolina Beach. The estimated cost was $199,244 and construction was set to start around October 1. It was promised that the beach road would be completed by early Spring of 1929, and would be available for the summer season of 1929 at the beaches. Can you imagine road construction moving so fast today?
By December of 1928, construction was underway and the Wilmington Star reported that the hard surfaced road was now completed as far as Keyes’ Store. “The highway was to be maintained by the State Highway Commission and will be known as a continuation of N.C. Route 40, which extends from the Virginia line to Wilmington. The new road was of sand asphalt construction with a width of 16 feet. The old highway to Carolina Beach was worn down considerably by heavy traffic. The new highway was to be opened well in advance of the 1929 season at the beaches. WILM.STAR, 12-2-1928.
It didn’t remain NC Route 40 for long. By the late 1920s, the Federal government was designating “inter-state” highways and by 1931, the designation US Highway 421, appears on maps running from Winston-Salem to Boone on highway maps. In 1936, US 421 was officially extended south from Wilmington to Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Fort Fisher, replacing NC 40. However, through most of the 30s and 40s, the section south of Wilmington was called “The Coast Highway.”
By the late 1950s, the road from Wilmington to “The Beaches” had become notorious for traffic congestion, serious accidents and the Snow’s Cut swing bridge was becoming a bottleneck during tourist season. The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and local tourism leaders began to campaign for the bridge to be replaced and the highway straightened and widened. In 1963, today’s “high rise” bridge over Snow’s Cut was opened and plans proceeded to widen the highway all the way from Wilmington to Carolina Beach.
Today, US 421, runs from the boat launch at the Rocks, below Fort Fisher to Michigan City, Indiana.
From Boone, NC it runs through a significant amount of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
Welcome to new members: Gene and Arlene Rumley of Sanford, Florida, Deb and George “Butch” LeCompte of Carolina Beach and Jim and Gail Hinte of Raleigh, NC.
John Edward Gregory, III
Rare picture of John in front of the camera in 2016, just a few doors from his family cottage on Atlantic Avenue. He was holding an umbrella to shade longtime member Punky Kure who John greatly admired.
It saddens us to announce the unexpected death of longtime member and FPHPS photographer, John Gregory. John lived in Kure Beach on Atlantic Avenue in his family’s cottage for the past several years. He was owner of Beach Portrait Photography in Carolina and Kure Beaches and formerly worked for Olan Mills and the News and Observer newspaper in Raleigh.
We knew and loved John as a longtime member of our historical society and our always faithful photographer who was on the scene for our functions without ever being asked. You could depend on John to be there with his camera to record our activities with his beautiful professional photographs. He worked quietly behind the scenes, snapping away and would email them to us the same day, pro bono. He will be sorely missed by FPHPS. We extend our sincere condolences to his sister, Susan Gregory McLaurin of Windsor, NC and his many friends.
Eulogy for John Edwards Nelms
by Leslie Bright
We were saddened to learn that our good friend and longtime member of the Society, John Edward Nelms, Sr., passed away on June 21, 2020. I first met John and his wife, Judy, in the mid-sixties at the Fort Fisher Underwater Archaeology Lab. They wanted to see the artifacts recently recovered from the Civil War shipwreck, “Modern Greece”, before his leaving for a tour in Vietnam.
John was born August 15, 1941, in Charlotte, NC, and became a soldier at the early age of 14 when he joined the Civil Air Patrol. Eventually, he served in Vietnam, and received many medals for outstanding service. John retired after 20 years as Master Sergeant. He took a job as Building and Grounds Superintendent for the Town of Carolina Beach. He is best known locally for his landscape designs and development. After the hurricanes in the 90s, he developed a nationally recognized Sea Oats project. One little known project that he and his brother, James, volunteered for was to hang the sheetrock in the entire Federal Point History Center. They say old soldiers never die, they just fade away. For all those who knew John, his memory will continually live on.
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