From King’s Road to US 421 — Roads to Federal Point, NC

by: Rebecca Taylor     – Part 1

As we all know the development of Carolina Beach was largely dependent on Captain Harper’s Steamship line. From the mid-1700’s to the 1920s, the Cape Fear River served as the primary route from Wilmington to Southport.

Beginning in the 1880’s, during summer months, he began dropping passengers off at Sugarloaf Dune (and later Doctor’s Point), where the three car Shoo-Fly train carried passengers from the riverbank to the oceanfront for fishing, surf bathing, and just enjoying  fresh breezes as a break from the downtown heat.

But did you know that long before there was a Carolina Beach there was an inter-state highway that ran through Federal Point?



The King’s Highway

The King’s Highway, named after King Charles II, who asked the governors of his colonies to establish a line of communication between the colonies in 1660, very soon after being crowned.

The entire length of The King’s Highway did not become a continuous wagon road until about 1735. Incorporating the Boston Post Road (opened in 1673), the route traveled over 1,300 miles, from Boston, Massachusetts to Charles Town, South Carolina.

Along the route, there are numerous communities today with a King Street, King’s Road, or King Avenue, all remaining from the days when it was called the King’s Highway.

From the Quaker communities around Edenton, the old highway followed what is now US Highway 17 to New Bern, North Carolina, an important seaport and the early colonial capital of North Carolina. From New Bern, the highway bypassed White Oak and Angola Swamps in a fairly direct line to Wilmington, North Carolina, at the Cape Fear River. As US Highway 17 does today, the old road continued on to Georgetown, and finally to Charles Town, the colonial capital of South Carolina, and the southern terminus of the King’s Highway.

Big Sugar Loaf Ferry

With a road running from Wilmington to Charlestown South Carolina, there needed to be a way to cross the Cape Fear River. In 1727 (Wilmington didn’t exist yet), the first authorized ferry in North Carolina was established from Brunswick Town on the western bank of the Cape Fear River and the “haulover” on the eastern bank. It was also known as the “Ferry at Big Sugar Loaf” and appears to have docked within what is now the Carolina Beach State Park.

The colonial general court authorized Cornelius Harnett Sr.*, to keep a ferry “from a place on the West side of the River to a place called Haulover, and that he received a sum of five shillings for a man and a horse and half a Crown for each person.”

The 1733,  Mosley map shows the ferry directly opposite Brunswick Town, on land owned by Col. Moore, at the foot of what was later named Telfair Creek, which runs into what is now Snow’s Cut.

The ferry continued to run under a series of owners until at least 1775. However, by March of 1776, British warships had entered the Cape Fear and well armed troops were placed ashore. Those troops carried out sporadic raids on Brunswick Town and the surrounding countryside.

The town was undefendable and abandoned for the more secure and prosperous Wilmington, where a ferry from Wilmington, across Eagles Island had been established in 1766.

*Cornelius Harnett, Jr., a major force in the Patriot cause during the American Revolution, was just three years old when his family moved to Brunswick Town.  A member of the Sons of Liberty and the chairman of the North Carolina Committee of Safety, he was elected to the Continental Congress in May of 1777, and served three years before returning to Wilmington. Near the close of the War he was captured by the British in Onslow County and brought  to Wilmington. There he was imprisoned in an open blockhouse where his health declined rapidly. Although paroled from prison, he died soon afterwards. Harnett is interned in St. James Churchyard.


Another Anniversary – Fall of Wilmington

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY — The Fall of Wilmington

February 22, 1865

[Editor: I’ve always wondered what Wilmington was like as it fell to the Union troops.  The following excerpt is the new book; Wilmington’s Lie by David Zucchino, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2020.]

“As the Union forces approached Wilmington that February, General Bragg destroyed several railroad lines leading out of the city and set fire to bridges, wharves, and shipyards. Positions of the main rail line – the Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherford Railroad – remained intact, though some of the rails on the line would later be ripped up for use as scrap iron by Union troops. Before the Confederate soldiers retreated, some looted shops. When Union soldiers arrived, they looted, too. Food shortages broke out. Whole hams were briefly offered for sale at the preposterous price of $525. Corn sold for $40 a bushel and salt pork  for $5 a pound. People begged for food in the streets.

“By the time General Alfred Howe Terry led a column of Union soldiers on bay chargers to city hall to take command of Wilmington on February 22, the city had become a vast refugee camp. Many Union soldiers released from Confederate prisoner of war camps were afflicted with “jail fever” – typhus – a contagion characterized by rash, chills, and fever that killed two doctors who treated them. Carpenters struggled to build enough caskets for the estimated forty to fifty people who died daily. – from jail fever but also from battle wounds, sepsis, and other maladies. Every available house or outbuilding was crammed with people seeking shelter. One visitor claimed that rents in Wilmington were higher than in New York City. Thousands of people lived in camps, tents, and shanties, watched over warily by an occupying force of nearly fifteen thousand Union soldiers, among them blue-suited colored troops.

“The Wilmington Herald reported that despite “a large force of darkies .. cleaning the streets,” the city was an open sewer. “There is not a private residence, kitchen, or business house of any kind that does not have filth enough about and around its doors to make every person in city sick…no person can pass without holding their breaths…cows, pigs, dogs and low negroes are together in this pen.”



HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino.  Atlantic Monthly Press, 2020.

The author is a multiple Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and of all the books written on the 1898 Race Riot, this is by far the most broad reaching and readable. His research is impressive; including time at the New Hanover Public Library and the Cape Fear Museum, and even walking the streets of Wilmington with Beverly Tetterton.

He clearly traces the story of race relations in the Lower Cape Fear back to slavery and in the years after the Civil War and how that led to the violence in 1898. Most precisely, he manages to draw the lives of Abraham Galloway, Alfred Moore Waddell, Hugh MacRae, James Sprunt and  into a narrative that clearly presents the tensions and stresses that existed in the town of Wilmington in the Fall of 1898.  – Rebecca Taylor


Wilmington, NC,  Orton Hotel Fire, January, 1949


 [from The Robesonian, Lumberton, North Carolina]

Wilmington, Jan. 21. — (AP) — Fire roared through a 100-room hotel and destroyed six adjacent stores here early today. Loss was estimated at more than $1,000,000.

MRS. HORACE T. KING of Wilmington, reported that her uncle, J. R. MALLARD of Charlotte, had occupied a room in the hotel and that he was unaccounted for. She said her uncle, about 70 years old, was in Wilmington visiting her father, E. F. MALLARD, 67, who is in a hospital here. Whether the aged man had reached safety and failed to notify his relatives, could not be immediately determined.

Forty guests of the 75-year-old five-story Orton hotel were routed from their beds but nobody was hurt. The four-hour general alarm fire was checked shortly before dawn, but firemen continued pouring streams of water on the smoking remains.

Other destroyed buildings housed the Royal Theater, the GLEN MORE clothing store, PAYNE’S Men’s shop, the SALLY ANN dress shop, the Fashion Center and the Cinderella Bootery.

Patrolmen discovered the fire shortly after midnight in the Cinderella Bootery. The flames spread rapidly. All firefighting apparatus and off-duty firemen and policemen were called in.

Sparks from the wind-fanned conflagration set afire a tug boat in the Cape Fear River and woods across the river from the city. Those fires burned only briefly until extinguished.

Firemen described the fire as one of the worst in the history of this river port.

The 40 guests registered in the hotel had ample time to reach safety, said A. Abrams, owner of the building. Police said no one was injured in the fire, which was brought under control about 4:30 a.m. (EST), but two firemen were overcome by smoke and required hospital treatment.

Abrams said the hotel, of brick construction, was a complete loss. He valued the building at $200,000. The loss was only partly covered by insurance, he said.

Firemen gave no estimate of the damage to the adjacent buildings. Unofficial estimates, however, said the damage to these structures probably would range up to between $700,000 and $800,000.

The hotel, on North Front Street immediately opposite the post office in the heart of the downtown business district, recently had undergone an extensive refurnishing.

Two Marines, who assisted in combating the conflagration, suffered minor burns. They were treated at a Wilmington hospital and discharged.

The Red Cross set up an emergency station with a nurse on duty. Coffee was given to weary firemen and hotel guests.


The Ghost of the Orton Hotel

To view a great video that explains all about the ghost of the Orton Hotel done by WWAY go to:

Or just google “Orton Hotel Fire”


Statement by Chris Fonvielle on Confederate Monuments

From Wilmington Star News (August 29, 2018)

 “Our past has been good more often than not, but sometimes it has been bad and ugly. We must not forget any of it.”

It has been my honor and privilege to serve the people of the great State of North Carolina for more than half of my life, first as a professor of American history at East Carolina University in Greenville and then at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, my undergraduate alma mater in my hometown. I recently retired after a 22 year career in UNCW’s Department of History. Go Seahawks! I continue to serve as a member of the North Carolina Historical Commission, to which I was appointed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory in 2014.

In the aftermath of the horrific violence that occurred as a result of the controversy over the equestrian statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, Gov. Roy Cooper petitioned the N.C. Historical Commission to give him the authority to relocate three Confederate statues — an obelisk to the Confederate dead of North Carolina; a statue to Private Henry Lawson Wyatt, the first Tar Heel killed in action during the war; and a memorial to North Carolina women of the Confederacy — from the grounds of the old State Capitol in historic downtown Raleigh to the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site in Johnston County. I was subsequently asked by the Deputy Secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to serve with four other members of the Historical Commission on the newly formed Confederate Monuments Study Committee to seek clarification of the 2015 General Assembly’s Statute 100-2.1, Protection of Monuments, Memorials, and Works of Art, and to make recommendations to the commission concerning the governor’s request.

Ably led by David Ruffin of Raleigh, who chairs both the Historical Commission and the Confederate Monuments Study Committee, the group worked diligently for 11 months, seeking public input, legal advice, and historical precedence from academic historians.

In the end we proposed three resolutions to the commission for consideration. First, that there is a glaring over representation of monuments to the Confederacy on Capitol Square. Second, that the Historical Commission did not possess the authority, in its interpretation of state law, to nullify General Statute 100-2.1. Beyond the somewhat ambiguous legal issue involved, the committee recommended that the Confederate monuments not be relocated or removed. Third, in order to provide greater understanding of North Carolina’s role in the Civil War and Reconstruction, the committee resolved that the state should put up signage in the form of markers or plaques adjacent to the statues and memorials. For example, when were they erected and by whom? Did the politics of race and identity influence the people and organizations that funded the construction of the monuments? What are the debates concerning their representation in the twenty-first century?

To address the egregious imbalance of monuments to only North Carolina Confederates, the committee also advised the General Assembly to act “without delay” to appropriate funding for statues to ethnic minorities in the state during the Civil War era, beginning with one to African Americans. Eventually that effort might become a public/private venture and work to erect memorials to Native Americans and Unionists. The idea is to recognize the contributions of a greater cross section of North Carolinians during the Civil War.

Given the divisive political climate in our state and country today, the resolutions proposed by the Confederate Monuments Study Committee were controversial. Casting an ominous shadow over the proceedings of the Historical Commission in Raleigh on Aug. 22 was the toppling of “Silent Sam,” the statue to students from the University of North Carolina who fought for the Confederacy, by “protesters” less than two days before. Undeterred and unintimidated, the Historical Commission voted 9-1 in support of the committee’s resolutions.

I favored the commission’s decision and was satisfied that the Confederate Monuments Study Committee had offered a fair and reasonable compromise on the highly charged political, racial, and cultural issues. Along with my committee and commission colleagues, I gave long and deliberate thought to the governor’s petition and, admittedly, it has taken a personal toll.


Read More About It — Blackbeard

The January program on the Queen Anne’s Revenge recovery was one of our best attended ever.  Clearly there is much interest in Blackbeard and other North Carolina pirates.  If you would like to read more about them, here are a few recommended books.

Blackbeard the Pirate: A Reappraisal of His Life and Times by Robert E Lee. (Blair, 1974) Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, was one of the most notorious pirates ever to plague the Atlantic coast. He was also one of the most colorful pirates of all time, becoming the model for countless blood-and-thunder tales of sea rovers.


Blackbeard: America’s Most Notorious Pirate by Angus Konstam. (Wiley, 2007) Interesting and exciting . .  a thoroughly enjoyable chronicle of an interesting life and interesting era.



Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. By Colin Woodward (Mariner Books, 2008)


Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin (Liveright, 2018) An entertaining romp across the oceans that shows how piracy is an inseparable element of our past… Mr. Dolin has a keen eye for detail and the exiciting episode. Readers will learn fascinating tidbits of language, habits and cultural assimilation.


A History of Fort Fisher “The Battles for the Fort” (Part 2 of 3)

By Sandy Jackson

[Originally published in the July, 1995 – FPHPS Newsletter]

Federal forces began plans for a joint army-navy attack on Fort Fisher during the fall of 1864.

Shortly after the southern forces learned on October 24, 1864, of the impending attack, Confederate general Braxton Bragg assumed command of the defenses of Wilmington. He superseded Gen. W.H.C. Whiting, who remained his second-in-command.

The Confederates assembled 1,430 men at Fort Fisher in preparation for the assault. An additional force of 6,000 veterans from Lee’s army under the command of Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke were located 5 miles up the river at Sugar Loaf.

The expected Federal fleet finally arrived off Fort Fisher on the morning of December 20 under the command of Admiral David Porter.  Aboard the fifty-six warships that gathered New Inlet was an army unit of 6,500 infantrymen under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler.

Click for details

Click for details

The first attempt the Federals made to take the fort began on the night of December 23, when the powder ship Louisiana, with more than 215 tons of powder, was exploded within 200 yards of the fort. It was hoped that the blast from the vessel would create a gap in the earthen defense. After a lengthy delay, however, the ship finally exploded at 1:52 AM. doing no damage.

For two days, December 24 and 25, Fort Fisher came under a heavy bombardment that did little destruction.

During the afternoon on Christmas day, 2,000 troops under General Butler made an unopposed landing at Battery Anderson, 3 miles up the coast. Unable to advance upon the fort because of artillery fire, General Butler withdrew his troops.

On December 27 the Federal vessels sailed north along the coast to Beaufort, North Carolina, having been unsuccessful in their initial effort to capture Fort Fisher.

The Confederates were jubilant at having withstood the land attack of General Butler and the naval bombardment from Admiral Porter’s ships. General Bragg, not expecting a renewed attack from the Union forces, ordered Hoke’s 6,000 troops into Wilmington in preparation for a move against occupied New Bern.

Disappointed with the failure of General Butler to take Fort Fisher, General U. S. Grant replaced Butler with Maj. Gen. Alfred H. Terry and ordered an additional 1,500 troops to ready themselves for a second attack on the fortification within the following weeks.

The Federal fleet, then numbering warships mounting 627 guns, reassembled at Beaufort, and proceeded back to Fort Fisher. On the night of January, 12, 1865, the Federal fleet reappeared off Confederate Point. The following morning, the second attack on Fort Fisher commenced when the five ironclads began bombarding the land defenses. The rest of the fleet, which joined in the bombardment of the fort that continued day and night from the thirteenth to the fifteenth. More than 50,000 shells and roundshot were directed at Fort Fisher during this period-the heaviest shelling of any fort during the war.

Map - Fort Fisher 1865

Click for detail

On January 14 Federal troops again landed above Fort Fisher, in the vicinity of Battery Anderson. There the infantry entrenched from the sea to the river and were supported by light artillery brought ashore. To prevent Gen. Braxton Bragg from arriving from Wilmington to enforce the fort, 4,700 men were placed along the entrenchment.

The remaining 3,300 men under the command of General Terry moved against Fort Fisher. At the pre-arranged hour of 3:00 PM. on January 15, the assault began under a covering fire from the Federal vessels.

In an effort to draw the fire away from General Terry’s troops, 400 marines and 1,600 sailors, landed near the fort the evening before and, armed with pistols and cutlasses, attacked the northeast bastion on the beach side.

The main attack by General Terry and his men came along the river at the end battery. During the ensuing battle, General Whiting was mortally wounded and Colonel Lamb severely wounded. The Confederate survivors of the battle fled to Battery Buchanan in hopes of finding boats as a means of escape.

The assault finally ended at 10 o’clock on the evening of January 15 when the last of the Confederate defenders, finding boats no longer there, could do nothing but surrender. Federal casualties had been costly, with nearly 1,300 men lost, but the expedition had finally been successful.

The “last major stronghold of the confederacy” had fallen. Blockade-runners could no longer enter the safety of the Cape Fear River to unload at Wilmington, and in the following month even the city would be occupied by Union forces.



Fort Fisher State Historic Site
1974 “Fort Fisher State Historic Site Master Development Plan”. North Carolina Department of Natural and Economic Resources and North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Lamb, William Colonel
1896 “Defense of Fort Fisher, North Carolina” In Operation on The Atlantic Coast 1861-1865, Virginia 1862-1864.
Vicksburg: Papers of The Military Historical Society of Massachusetts“, Vol. IX, 1912 Boston: The Military Historical Society of Massachusetts.

Powell, William S.
1968 “The North Carolina Gazetteer“. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Sprunt, James
1992 “Chronicles of The Cape Fear River 1660-1916“. Second edition. Wilmington: Broadfoot Publishing Co. Originally published, Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Printing Co., 1916.

[Additional resources]

The Wilmington Campaign  (Dr. Chris Fonvielle)
Fort Fisher I: Folly
North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial – Maps

July, 1995 (pdf) – FPHPS Newsletter

Cap’n John Recalls The Past

Picture from Winner Collection, NHCPL.
Carolina Beach Jacyees lobbied hard for the Fort Fisher/Southport Ferry

By:  Jack Loftus
From: Wilmington Star-News


When the new Fort Fisher-Southport ferry made its debut recently, one of the passengers was John H. Bowen, 93, one of the last of the old Cape Fear River boat captains.

While making the 45 minute journey from Fort Fisher to Southport, John Bowen vividly recalled his own experiences as a ferry boat captain on the Cape Fear.

Like most good river captains, Bowen was born and raised along the river, and soon it became a way of life.  Bowen was born July 15, 1872, son of a Cape Fear River pilot.  Long before the Wilmington – Brunswick ferry service began, Bowen was a river captain, navigating tugs up and down the Cape Fear and from Wilmington to Baltimore.

When in 1910 New Hanover and Brunswick counties decided to jointly finance and operate a ferry service to connect the two counties across the Cape Fear, John Bowen was named as the first captain of the new ferry called the John Knox.

Bowen vividly remembers ferrying the first passengers across the river aboard the John Knox, as well as some of the men who worked with him on the ferry.  Bill Register and John Brinkley were the engineers, while George Dickie was the other captain.

Talking with Captain Ira Spencer of the new Fort Fisher-Southport ferry, Bowen said that the speed of the new ferry was much faster than that of the old John Knox, but that the John Knox was just as sturdy.  He also mentioned the difficulty he had navigating the John Knox in the strong current of the Cape Fear.  “The current was bad enough,” he recalled, “but the short distance between Wilmington and Brunswick made it even tougher.”

After several years the two counties bought a new ferry, the Menantic – a side wheeler, and steam powered.  Bowen was also the first to navigate this ferry, because he was the only captain in New Hanover County with a steamboat license.

Both ferries docked at the foot of Market Street and soon 20 minute round trip service was established.  “This made things a little hectic,” said Bowen.  “On slack water the ferry could head right for the opposite slip, but on flood tide the ferry had to travel in an arc.  There was not enough water pressure on the rudder of the Menantic to make her come around fast enough, and this was always a problem getting the ferry into the slip on each side.”

Bowen served as captain of the ferry service until the construction of the Cape Fear River bridge and the subsequent ending of the ferry service.

It has been years since the ferries shuttled between Wilmington and Brunswick, but many people from this area still recall them vividly from their childhood.  And if, in comparison to the new Fort Fisher-Southport ferry, the John Knox and the Menantic seem to be things of the past.  Bowen recalled that in their day “these ferries were just as new and convenient as the new one of today.”  Indeed the only ferry service connecting Wilmington and Brunswick before the John Knox and the Menantic was the old hand operated ferries which had been in use off-and-on since 1764.

After the ferry service was discontinued Bowen remained a river captain navigating tugs along the Cape Fear and between Wilmington and Baltimore until after World War I.

“One of the most interesting experiences I can recall after the ferries, was in 1916 when I was bringing a barge down the Chesapeake to Wilmington when I almost ran into a German U boat.  I saw him coming and I just couldn’t believe it,” Bowen mused.

Recalling his days as a river captain, Bowen said that the only drawback was the time he had to spend away from home.  Yet he feels that in a way he would like to be piloting a boat again.  “If my eyes were better, I could be a captain of the new ferry,” Bowen laughed.

John Bowen now lies with his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Summerlin at 6037 Wrightsville Avenue.


History of Surfing in North Carolina

By Nancy Gadzuk

Ben Wunderly, museum curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort and co-collaborator with John Hairr on the Surfing NC Project, spoke at the October 15, 2018 meeting of the Federal Point Historical Preservation Society. Ben spoke on the History of Surfing in North Carolina.

While the title slide of Ben’s talk featured a 1966 photographic image, surfing in the state far predated the 1960’s. Ben moved outside North Carolina and traced the earliest recorded awareness of the sport to the late 1700’s. Captain James Cook’s expeditions to the Pacific reported Tahitians riding the waves on a board they described as “the stern of an old canoe.”

By the late 1800’s, awareness of surfing in the Pacific had spread to the East Coast. A “surfing party” was held at the Atlantic Hotel in Morehead City in 1885. A Watauga County man wrote about an excursion he took to Wrightsville Beach in 1894, where “All sorts and sizes were riding the waves during the entire day.”

After the turn of the century, reports of surfing in North Carolina became more widespread. A 1907 postcard from Wrightsville Beach appeared to show surfers in the water, though an ancient precursor to Photoshop may have been used to doctor the photo.

The earliest well-documented surfing activity in North Carolina was Virginia Dare Day in 1928, which featured surfing demonstrations by NC surfing pioneer Willie Kaiama.

By the 1950’s and 1960’s, surfing in North Carolina had spread – even inland to the original Bert’s Surf Shop in Kinston. Given the lack of beaches in Kinston, Bert had to sell clothes and shoes along with surfboards before opening a series of surf shops along the coast.

In 1964, Harold Petty and Lank Lancaster founded East Coast Surfboards in Carolina Beach, shaping their own brand of surfboards. In 1965, the Atlantic Surf Shop opened in Kure Beach, despite the town leaders banning surfing that summer due to complaints from fishermen who blamed the surfers for their bad luck. The Spring Surf Festival was held at Lumina in Wrightsville Beach in 1966.

By 1974, the North Carolina coast was recognized for having the best surfing on the East Coast, and the United States Surfing Championship was held in Buxton, the first time since the competition started that it was held on the East Coast. In 1997, the East Coast Wahine Championship of Surfing was established at Wrightsville Beach.

Due to time constraints, Ben was not able to talk in much detail about more recent history in this presentation. However, the Surfing NC Project included the development of Surfing NC: A Timeline of the History of the Sport of Surfing in North Carolina, a book Ben co-authored with John Hairr.

PDF copies of the book are available for free download from the Maritime Museum website:    [PDF]

What struck me most was the amount of work involved to ferret out the history presented during the evening, and in much greater detail in the book. When our focus is on war or politics or other more institutionalized subjects, there are often good written records to follow.

Surfing, however is more informal, with its proponents generally more interested in finding the next good wave than chronicling their activities in writing. Fortunately, Wunderly and Hairr have done much of that hard work and provided a fascinating history of the sport in North Carolina.


Storm of 1899

[Editor’s Notes:  Since most of us are recovering this month from the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, we thought it might be interesting to read about one of the most disastrous storms on record on this coast.]

It was the Caribbean Storm of November 1, 1899, which reached Wilmington in full force Monday night at 10 o’clock.  Telephone connections had been cut off and no details could be secured from Carolina Beach, but the ocean made almost a clean wreck of the cottages.  Mr. Tom McGee, who is in charge of the beach, wrote to Captain John. W. Harper, general manager of the New Hanover Transit Company, that nearly every cottage was washed away.

It is said that in all eighteen cottages were either washed clean away or totally wrecked.  The hotel, Sedgeley Hall Club House, Hanover Seaside Club House, Mr. D. McEachern’s cottage, and Mr. Hans A. Kure’s cottages were about the only houses left standing on the beach.  The railroad track was also washed away in places.  The damage at Carolina Beach is estimated at about $12,000.  Carolina Beach pier sustained very little damage.

New Hanover Transit Co.’s pump house turned over and water tank undermined and tilted.  New Hanover Transit Co.’s pump house turned over and water works destroyed.

The bridges and gangways on the beach are all gone.  The New Hanover Transit Co.’s railroad track from the Kure Cottage No 2, up the beach to Sedgeley Hall Club, totally destroyed and washed over into the sound.  The track from the Curve near Mr. Kure’s club house to the beach is ruined.

Telephone connection had been cut off and as the beach could not be reached, nothing definite could be secured for publication yesterday morning.

The most intense anxiety was felt by the cottage owners, and many of them went to the beach yesterday, expecting, however, to find little to give them hope.  A party went down in a wagonette, others went in buggies, and some went on the steamer Wilmington and reached the beach from the pier by means of a hand-car.  Among those who went down were Major D. O’Connor, and Messrs. J. A. Springer, H. C. McQueen, J. C. Stevenson, D. McEachern; Major Croom, G. W. Linder, J. J. Fowler, A. D. Brown, R. C. Stolter, J. G. L. Gieschen, Dr. Webster, and others.  They returned to the city in the afternoon.

Capt. J. W. Brock, who with his party of fishermen consisting of three other men, were thought to have been lost during the recent storm on Zeke’s Island, arrived in the city yesterday afternoon from Federal Point all safe and sound.

It will be remembered that on Tuesday his trunk was found floating with the tide up the river by J. W. Howard, janitor at the Custom House, and this gave rise to apprehensions for his safety.  The trunk was restored to him upon his arrival yesterday and this with a small boat in which he and party escaped to Federal Point, constituted all his earthly possessions, the waves having demolished his houses on the island and swept all his household goods, fishing tackle and other property up the river, on the occasion of last Tuesday morning’s storm.

On the island were two cottages in which he and companions lived.  The tide began rising at 8 o’clock Monday night, he said, and reached a climax at 4 o’clock Tuesday morning, when the entire island was covered and the breakers were rolling high over their heads.

He and companions managed to hold a boat between them by steadying themselves with a few bushes, which were above water.  They were then standing in water waist deep and remained so until Tuesday afternoon, when they managed to bail the water from the canoe, clear it of sand and by desperate effort reach the land at Federal Point.

Besides houses and household belongings, Capt. Brock lost two fishing shacks, five nets, and a large interest in between twenty and twenty-five barrels salt mullets.  He said it was the roughest experience of his life and he had given up hope at one time of escaping alive.

Capt. Brock says that the jetties built from the island to Federal Point to throw the current in Cape Fear channel are cut in twain in nearly a dozen places.  Zeke’s Island is now a sand bar, not enough soil being left, as a member of the crew expressed it “to raise a row on.”  Formerly vegetation grew upon the land and gardens were cultivated by fishermen.

The other fishermen on the island are reported safe and there is known to have been no loss of life at this point.


The above excerpts were taken from an article published in the Wilmington Star News, November 1899.


October Meeting – Ben Wunderly, Surfing History in North Carolina

Monday, October 15, 2018   7:30 pm

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, October 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Benjamin Wunderly from the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Beaufort. He will be speaking on the history of surfing in North Carolina.

When one thinks about the words history and surfing together, the mind may conjure up images of surfers challenging the big waves off Hawaii, or perhaps even of Samoans or Australians riding a lonely beach in the remote Pacific. Then, when one considers the famous surfing locations along the East Coast of the United States, one might dream up images of Cocoa Beach, Florida or Atlantic City, New Jersey.

One might not be inclined to include North Carolina among such hallowed surfing locales, but that would be a mistake. Although it is impossible to determine who rode the first wave or made the first surfboard at any of these places, we do know that surfing has been taking place in the Old North State for more than a century.

Benjamin Wunderly is originally from southern Virginia. He had his introduction to North Carolina on the Outer Banks. His fascination with the ocean has led him to spend the past 30 years exploring the beaches, sand bars, tidal creeks and waterways of coastal North Carolina from Currituck to Brunswick County.

He takes pride in researching and sharing all things maritime from Tar Heel country. Having spent 20 years working under the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources at educational centers in Dare, Onslow and Carteret Counties, he has learned extensively about the rich history, culture and environment of eastern North Carolina.

Currently, a Museum Curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, Wunderly’s latest project has been a collaboration with fellow curator, John Hairr, to uncover the history of the sport of surfing in North Carolina. They have received help from numerous folks along the way, including the Cape Fear region’s own surfing history experts Joseph Funderburg and Peter Fritzler.

Surfing NC – A Timeline of the History of the Sport of Surfing in North Carolina (pdf)
by John Hairr and Ben Wunderly
North Carolina Maritime Museum – Beaufort