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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monthly Meeting Report – April, 2014

Chris Fonvielle

Our April speaker, Dr. Chris Fonvielle, talked about his new book and showed a variety of photos from his new book, Faces of Fort Fisher, highlighting many people who were assigned to the Fort or lived nearby.

He explained how more supplies came in through the two entries into the Cape Fear River than into all the other southern ports combined. The success rate for these valuable trips reached about 80%.

Chris showed paintings of many of the blockade runner ships and their masters.

Fonvielle hopes to follow this volume with at least two additional ones as he expands his collection of original photos.

 

Faces of Fort Fisher

Sugar Loaf Civil War Earthworks

by: Chris E. Fonvielle Jr.

CB Earthworks Clearing

Click for larger image

Historical Significance of Sugar Loaf Civil War Earthworks

The Sugar Loaf Earthworks Preservation Group is committed to preserving and interpreting a section of the Confederate defensive line at Carolina Beach. The long-range plan is to make the historic site, to be called the Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Civil War Park, accessible to the public for educational purposes and to increase heritage tourism on Pleasure Island.

The Sugar Loaf earthworks served as an auxiliary line of defenses to Fort Fisher, approximately four miles to the south. They helped guard Wilmington, North Carolina, the South’s main seaport for trade with the outside world during the Civil War. To impede the business, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a naval blockade of the South’s coastline and major ports in April 1861.

Confederate commerce vessels, called blockade-runners, attempted to run through the gauntlet of Union ships that appeared at the entryways to Southern seaports, including Wilmington. Many of the smuggling vessels were built, leased, or purchased in Great Britain, which soon became the Confederacy’s main trading partner.

More than 100 different steamships operated as blockade-runners at Wilmington alone, to say nothing of the undetermined number of sailing ships that were also employed as smuggling vessels. To protect the vital trade, Confederate engineers designed and built a vast network of forts and batteries on the beaches of New Hanover and Brunswick counties, and along the banks of the Cape Fear River.

With the exception of Charleston, South Carolina, Wilmington became the most heavily fortified city along the southern Atlantic seaboard. Wilmington became so important to supplying Confederate troops on the battlefront and civilians on the home front that it became known as the “Lifeline of the Confederacy,” In late 1864 General Robert E. Lee warned: “If Wilmington falls, I cannot maintain my army.”

Fort Fisher guarded New Inlet, the northern passageway into the Cape Fear River. By 1864, Fort Fisher was the Confederacy’s largest and strongest seacoast fortification and was referred to as the Gibraltar of the South. Engineers erected auxiliary batteries nearby, including Battery Anderson (then located on the north end of modern Kure Beach) and Battery Gatlin (located on the sea beach across from Forest By the Sea development on Carolina Beach).

As Union forces prepared to attack Wilmington by way of Fort Fisher in the autumn of 1864, Major General W.H.C. Whiting, commander of the District of the Cape Fear, expanded existing defenses to meet the threat. He selected in part a “strong position” stretching from the sound (modern Carolina Beach canal) to Sugar Loaf hill on the Cape Fear River, for an extensive line of earthworks. Sugar Loaf itself was a natural sand dune that stood 50 feet in height on the riverbank. Whiting planned to place a battery of artillery on the summit of the hill.

Acting on General Whiting’s orders, Colonel William Lamb, commandant at Fort Fisher, began constructing an “entrenched camp” at Sugar Loaf “so as to keep up communication after the arrival of the enemy, between the fort” and Sugar Loaf. The work probably commenced in early October 1864. On October 28, 1864, Whiting turned over the project to Captain Francis T. Hawks of Company A, 2nd Confederate States Engineers.2

By December 1864, the earthen fieldworks of the Sugar Loaf lines ran for more than one mile from the sound to the river. Confederate forces continually strengthened them in the winter of 1864-1865. During the first Union attack on Fort Fisher at Christmas 1864, approximately 3,400 Confederate troops defended Sugar Loaf, including 600 Senior Reserves commanded by Colonel John K. Connally.3

After Union forces failed to capture Fort Fisher in December, they returned for a second attempt less than three weeks later, mid-January 1865. The campaign turned out to be the largest amphibious operation in American military history until D-Day, World War II. More than 6,400 Confederate troops of Major General Robert F. Hoke’s Division now defended Sugar Loaf. General Lee had sent them from Virginia to help keep Wilmington in Confederate hands. Improperly used by General Braxton Bragg, the new commander of the Department of North Carolina, Hoke’s Division was unable to prevent the fall of Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865.

General Alfred H. Terry’s forces that captured Fort Fisher quickly turned upriver to strike Wilmington. They reconnoitered and probed the Sugar Loaf lines for a weak spot. On January 19, 1865, the Federals attacked with two brigades of troops, including Colonel John W. Ames’ regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. Unable to break through, they launched an even bigger assault on February 11. U.S. Colored Troops played a major role in what became known as the battle of Sugar Loaf, although the Confederate defenses again proved to be too strong to overrun.

CB Earthworks Clearing

Click for larger image

Unable to breach the Sugar Loaf defenses, the Federals transferred their operations to the west side of the Cape Fear River. They attacked and forced the abandonment of Fort Anderson, directly across the waterway from Sugar Loaf, on February 19, 1865. The Confederate evacuation of Fort Anderson enabled the Union navy to advance further upriver and threaten Sugar Loaf from the rear. Consequently, General Hoke abandoned the Sugar Loaf defenses on February 19 and withdrew toward Wilmington. Union forces temporarily occupied Sugar Loaf before beginning their pursuit of the rapidly retreating Confederates. They captured Wilmington on February 22, 1865.4

With Wilmington now closed to blockade running, General Lee was forced to abandon his position at Petersburg, Virginia. He attempted to escape westward but was caught by General U.S. Grant’s forces. On April 9, 1865, only forty-six days after Wilmington fell, General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, ending the four years long and bloody Civil War.

Much of the earthworks that comprised the Sugar Loaf defenses are in a remarkable state of preservation, despite the fact that they were made almost entirely of sand. However, they are also difficult to access because of their remote location inside Carolina Beach State Park or because they are on private property. The Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Civil War Park will both remedy public inaccessibility to a section of the Sugar Loaf defenses and promote heritage tourism on Pleasure Island.

Chris E. Fonvielle Jr.
Department of History
University of North Carolina Wilmington

More  …  Fonvielle: Map of Earthworks in Carolina Beach

 1 Whiting to Gilmer, September 16, 1864, U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies 128 volumes (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), series I, vol. 42, pt. 2, 1253 (hereafter cited as ORA).

2 William Lamb, Colonel Lamb’s Story of Fort Fisher (Carolina Beach, N.C.: Blockade Runner Museum, 1966), 11; Hill to Hawks, October 28, 1864, Francis T. Hawks Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

3 Headquarters, Sugar Loaf, December 26, 1864, ORA, vol. 42, pt. 3, 1314.

4 Chris E. Fonvielle Jr., The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope (Campbell, California: Savas Publishing, 1997).

The Wilmington Campaign – excerpts