July Meeting — “Sunny Point” and the Buffer Zone

Monday, July 15, 2019   7:30 PM

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

What exactly is “Sunny Point?”  Why do we have a “Buffer Zone?”

A member of the US Army Command Staff at the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU) will join us to talk about the major international port that lies quietly across the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County.

Questions will also be answered about what the Buffer Zone does on this side of the river.

The 16,000 acre (25 sq. mile) facility is bordered on both the east and south by the Cape Fear River and on the west by South East River Road. The northern border of Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point is marked by Orton Pond and the Brunswick Town State Historic Site, a major pre Revolutionary War era colonial port. The topography of the installation is heavily wooded and removed from populous urban areas. The base has several bodies of water within its borders including Governors Creek, Fishing Creek, the Cape Fear River and several small ponds. The coastal area of North Carolina where MOTSU is located, is classified as humid subtropical and generally experiences year round warm weather. The coast is prone to flooding with storm surges and is occasionally battered by Atlantic storms and hurricanes.

The area around Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point has been used as a strategic shipping and military hub since 1725 when then colonial governor, George Burrington, operated a plantation and small dock on the Cape Fear River.

In the pre-Revolutionary War era, the coastal area was used as a strategic point for British troops and merchants and then by Colonial forces. During the Civil War, the area served as a Confederate artillery battery protecting the Cape Fear River from Union naval forces. During this time its potential as an ammunition transportation point was realized due to its remote location, deep water, ocean access and predictable tides.

The Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point as it exists today, was established in 1955 by the Department of The Army. In every armed conflict since its creation MOTSU has played a role in supporting deployed units. During the Gulf War operations of Desert Shield, Desert Sortie and Desert Storm the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point was tasked with handling over 90% of the resupply munitions for US forces. This task included everything from small arms ammunition up to 750 pound M 117 bombs.

The primary mission of the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point to be the key ammunition shipping point on the Atlantic coast for United States forces worldwide.

Under command of the 1303rd Major Port Command and 596th Transportation Brigade, the Sunny Point Terminal is tasked with storing and shipping Department of Defense ammunition, dangerous cargo and explosives including but not limited to, small arms ammunition, artillery shells fuses and propellants, ammunition for vehicle systems and aircraft bombs and ammunition. The Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point is the only facility in the Department of Defense network that is equipped for and authorized to handle containerized ammunition.

The Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point is the largest military terminal anywhere in the world and can handle up to six ships simultaneously in its docks. The facility incorporates a network of railroad tracks covering 62 miles to move munitions across the area. The transportation infrastructure of Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point allows it to seamlessly transfer munitions between trucks, rails and ships.

In addition to serving as a munitions transfer point the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point supports the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg North Carolina. In the event of rapid deployment, which the 82nd Airborne is designed for, Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point handles transportation of all its equipment and supplies. The command of Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point is also responsible for supervising the deployment of joint forces through the North Carolina State civilian ports of Morehead City and Wilmington.

 

Upcoming Event

Cape Fear History Symposium: Focus on Forts

Learn the story behind the brick and stone.

Are you a history fan that likes to learn about the past by getting up close and personal with it?

Perhaps you are someone who has visited us before, noticed the brick, stone, and concrete fortifications on campus and wanted to know more about them. If so, you aren’t alone, and we want you as our guest!

The Cape Fear History Symposium’s 2018 event is a 2-day trip (Aug 24-25) to the past where guests will not only meet, eat, and sleep at Fort Caswell, but will enjoy a program topic that we’ve never offered before.

Hear from the nation’s leading experts on U.S. Coast defense history through a series of lectures and seminars, witness a live artillery demonstration, and tour the campus with the experts, getting up close with the relics and ruins as you learn about them.

Speakers include John Weaver, Lt. Col. Quentin W. Schillare, Glen Williford, Dale Floyd, as well as Vincent Melomo and Tom Beaman on the archaeology of Fort Caswell. Go to http://fortcaswell.com/project/cfhs/  for the registration form, a schedule of the symposium and details on the speakers and their topics.

 

Eight Days Down The Cape Fear River

from Our State Magazine

…   After 170 miles of paddling, downtown Wilmington appears at the confluence of the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear rivers.

We ducked underneath a railroad bridge at Navassa as a large sightseeing boat was bearing down on us. “We love you, Kemp!” screamed a dozen women and girls onboard. Kemp shook his head and smiled. The captain was a friend of his, Kemp said. He wasn’t really that popular.

At 11:30, we paddled underneath another highway bridge at the mouth of the Northeast Cape Fear River, and suddenly we were downtown, passing a Coast Guard cutter and the Battleship North Carolina, waterfront parks, buildings, fountains, and cars. Men and women eating lunch at riverside restaurants watched us take stroke after stroke. Joggers glanced at us. Dogs sniffed in our direction. We sat up straight, and stuck out our chests. We paddled toward Dram Tree Park like runners entering a stadium at the end of a grueling marathon.

We turned left, just above the noisy Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, and pulled onto a ramp, where Cape Fear River Watch volunteers, friends, and onlookers greeted us. We walked up the street to Elijah’s for a big lunch and Endless River beer. It felt like our journey was over, even though we weren’t done just yet. “The worst part of the trip ending?” Chris said. “You don’t get to paddle the next day.”

As we walked, one of the onlookers stopped me. “How was the trip?” she asked.

It was like having a new job, I said. A good job. I got up in the morning, and got to work paddling. At the end of the day, I had dinner, relaxed, and went to bed. The next morning, I got up and did it again. It was simple. As simple as I dreamed it could be.

And with that, on the seventh day, we rested.

The last day of paddling was an afterthought. We had 26 miles to go, and the wind was at our backs, with a falling tide to push us. We’d reach the river’s end by lunchtime. We left Dram Tree Park at 5:30 a.m. with light boats, carrying just some water and snacks. We paddled into the blackness of the 42-foot-deep shipping channel and quickly encountered a container ship, the Maersk Wakayama, being guided by a tugboat to the mile-long State Port just south of downtown. We gave it a wide berth. The ship was almost the size of two football fields and its captain likely couldn’t see us.

The Cape Fear River was now an estuary, and as its water dried on our coats, it left behind a salty residue. The channel was a mile wide. We passed Island 13, a splinter of land bulked up by sand and dirt dredged from the riverbed. Ahead, the water disappeared into the horizon, under a blue sky flecked with high, pink clouds. Pelicans, ibis, and seagulls circled above us.

View images and read the full story of paddling 200 miles down the Cape Fear River at Our State Magazine.

 

February Meeting – Cape Fear Riverwatch

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, February 20, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper and Executive Director of Cape Fear River Watch, where he works to protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River.

Kemp’s academic background is in geology and history, graduating from UNCW magna cum laude with honors, and he holds a master of public administration (MPA), also from UNCW. He holds a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University, as well.

Kemp spends most of his free time with his two daughters, Olivia and Caroline, working in his garden, or tinkering in his workshop, or exploring the waterways and swamps of the Lower Cape Fear Region. He has been the Executive Director and Riverkeeper for Cape Fear River Watch since 2010.

Cape Fear Riverwatch organizes monthly environmental seminars that cover topics and issues affecting the Lower Cape Fear River Basin. They encourage working internships for students. At Greenfield Lake, they offer Environmental Education classes and provide Eco-Tours and Bird Watching Tours.

CFRW offers water-quality education programs to groups including schools, civic groups, developers, homeowner associations and others. They provide storm water management training for local government staff.

 

The Archaeology of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

by Nancy Gadzuk

Jim McGee- Brunswick Town/Fort AndersonJim McKee, Site Manager of the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site, spoke at the September 19, 2016 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Jim spoke on The Archaeology of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson.

The Brunswick Town archaeological collection is the largest in the state of North Carolina.

Several conditions contributed to the large number of artifacts. First, Brunswick Town was prosperous and a world-class port. The density of people and cargo passing through the area was conducive to numerous artifacts (defined as anything man-made) being left in the area.

The people of Brunswick Town, and many colonial areas, disposed of their refuse in the streets. The streets were literally paved with refuse. Back in the day, this was called refuse or garbage. Now, this refuse is called historical artifacts.

Brunswick Town had three wharves, and the area immediately surrounding the wharves has been a treasure trove of colonial artifacts. Much of what shipped out of Brunswick was naval stores, products made from pine tar and sap.

Pine tar, river muck, and salt water all combined to make an excellent preservative for anything that fell into that marine environment. Most of the artifacts Jim shared with us were found near Captain William Dry’s wharf.

Archaeologists use the artifacts they find to form a theory of what happened at the time – from the mundane to the outrageous, with reality generally found somewhere between the extremes.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson - shoeAt Captain Dry’s wharf, for example, they found six leather shoes in the muck, a step or two from the edge of the wharf. Each shoe was pointed toe first, suggesting some kind of panic on the wharf, so that sailors jumped, fell, or were pushed into the water.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson - coinAlso found were a Spanish silver coin stamped by the mint master of Seville and fabric with buttonholes in the style of the Havana garrison uniform. These artifacts supported the belief that Dry was largely responsible for repelling a Spanish invasion in 1748.

Many Brunswick Town inhabitants were wealthy landowners who also had property elsewhere.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson - water jugOther artifacts gave us a glimpse of a well-traveled, prosperous population: water jugs from Germany, a Dutch copper mouth harp, an intricate pocket watch key, an Irish half penny.

One person’s careless discards can, over time, become an important historical record.

 

 

September Meeting – Jim McKee on Archaeology at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, September 19, 7:30 p.m. at the JIM MCKEEFederal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Jim McKee will present a program called “Archaeology of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson.” According to McKee, archaeology has been the primary source of information about the history of Brunswick.

After a nearly forty-year hiatus, archaeology is once again being regularly conducted at the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson site. McKee will talk about what has been done in the past and what is planned for the future. Artifacts give us an idea of what life was like during Colonial times.

McKee plans to bring along a number of BrunsTown artifactoriginal items discovered during recent archaeological digs at the site – items that are not yet on public display.

Jim McKee is the site manager at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site. He is a graduate of Greensboro College and a passionate life-long student of American history.

He serves on numerous historic battlefield boards and participates in living history programs throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Previously, he worked for the National Park Service and the NC Maritime Museum at Southport.

 

What are the Seneca Guns?

Steve Plaffby Nancy Gadzuk

Steve Pfaff, Warning Coordinator Meteorologist at the Wilmington office of the National Weather Service, provided some insight and information to help answer this question at the History Center’s April 18, 2016 open meeting.

He first showed some short video clips on the Seneca Guns from a segment of The Unexplained Files, a TV series produced by the Science Channel. The clips included an audio recording of the “boom” most of the audience recognized as the sound of the Seneca Guns, as well as interviews with locals who described their experiences hearing the Guns.

Steve was featured on the video as the down-to-earth scientist who explained some possible causes of the Seneca Guns and served as an antidote to the show’s sensationalist presentation of the Seneca Guns as both terrifying and earth-shattering. (Two representative episodes of The Unexplained Files are “Voodoo Zombies” and “UFO Meets Missiles at Malstrom Air Force Base,” so the Seneca Guns were up against some stiff competition for high drama.)

Seneca Guns OriginsThe Seneca Guns got their name from James Fenimore Cooper’s short story, “The Lake Gun,” that featured similar sounds heard near New York’s Seneca Lake. Most occurrences are near water, as sound travels better through water than through air. They seem to be more common during temperature inversions, when cool, dense air near the ground creates a sound channel that sounds can reverberate against, creating the booms we hear at ground level.

Steve described some of the possible causes for the Seneca Guns, such as the collapse of underwater caves, distant thunderstorms, shallow offshore earthquakes, sub-marine landslides, undersea methane release, and offshore military operations—and then gave us scientific evidence and data that seemed to disprove most of these theories.

Seneca Guns - LandlidesCaptain Skippy Winner spoke from the audience about his own experiences in the past as a boat captain sending his observations and readings of sub-marine landslides and turbulence to the Weather Service to add to their data compilation.

Steve acknowledged the importance of input such as Skippy’s in documenting and understanding the realities of weather activity.

Did Steve ever give us the definitive answer as to what causes the Seneca Guns? Not really, but offshore military operations seemed the most plausible to me.

James Fenimore Cooper had his own explanation for the phenomenon:

“Tis a chief of the Senecas, thrown into the lake by the Great Spirit, for his bad conduct. Whenever he tries to get upon the land, the Spirit speaks to him from the caves below, and he obeys.”  

“THAT must mean the ‘Lake Gun?’ ”  

“So the pale-faces call it.”

Scott Len: Overview of CCC’s and Camp Sapona

Camp Sapona - Southport's Ownby Nancy Gadzuk

Scott Len spoke to a large crowd at the January 18, 2016 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society on the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, with a special emphasis on the CCC’s Camp Sapona, located in Southport.

Scott grew up listening to his granddad talk about his days in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Utah, and these conversations piqued his interest in knowing more. When Scott retired to Southport, he began researching the history of the CCC’s Camp Sapona, which had been built on and around Leonard Street, a stone’s throw from his new home.

Camp Sapona 1934The nation was reeling from the weight of the Great Depression when Franklin Roosevelt was elected President. One of his first acts as president was to introduce a bill for Emergency Conservation Work on March 27, 1933. The bill cleared both houses of Congress in four days and FDR signed it into law on March 31. The first enrollees signed up on April 7, and the first Civilian Conservation Corps camp opened on April 17.

Seventeen days after Roosevelt signed the legislation, the first camp opened. Imagine government moving that quickly now! Within three months, the CCC had 275,000 enrollees in 1300 camps.

Young single men between the ages of 18 and 26, who had dependents—parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents—were eligible to join the CCC. They could enroll for six month periods, and could re-enroll for up to a total of eighteen months. The men were given a place to live, a job, clothing, and $30 a month, $25 of which was sent home to family. And food. Food was a big deal for enrollees. Young men gained on average twelve pounds while they were part of the CCC. It was the first time many of them had had three meals a day in a very long time.

Camp Sapona - Work Project MapCamp Sapona, or Camp P-62, Company 427, operated from October 1934 to December 1937. The first enrollees lived in tents while clearing the surrounding pine woods to build camp buildings. Work then concentrated on building access to forest areas, and the enrollees built roads, bridges, fire breaks, as well as fire towers in Shallotte, Maco, and Bolivia. Wild fires were a big problem in the area and the Sapona enrollees spent 6,102 man-days fighting fires. (CCC kept very good records!)

Enrollees worked eight-hour days, five days a week. In off hours, there were plenty of opportunities for education, training, and recreation. The camp offered classes in literacy, math, carpentry and other vocational skills. Their large motor pool encouraged mechanic skills training. Camp Sapona had a wood shop and a blacksmith shop. Their big rec hall would hold dances open to Southport residents. The local Amuzu Theater provided entertainment for the enrollees.

The camp had organized sports teams and its own newspaper, the Sapona Sandspur. They had a series of canine mascots, including Soapy, considered by the newspaper to be the King Arthur of the Sapona Canine Round Table—“though he is not of royal blood and, so far as can be determined, is of the cur and hound breed.”

It’s not surprising that many enrollees would sign up for a second or even a third six month period, fulfilling the goal of training and rehabilitating young men.

Motor Pool - Camp SaponaNorth Carolina had a total of 163 CCC camps, with an average of forty-five operating in any one year, giving employment to more than 75,000 men and channeling more than $82,000,000 into the state.

Over 3,000,000 men served in the CCC throughout the country during its eleven years of operation.

President Roosevelt declared “a government worthy of its name must make a fitting response” to the unemployment of its citizens, and the Civilian Conservation Corps was part of that response. It was the most popular of the New Deal programs.

A government worthy of its name. We would do well today to follow FDR’s lead.


Interested in learning more about family members’ CCC service? The CCC kept excellent personnel records on enrollees. Start here for instructions on requesting these records:

CCC Legacy includes resources to continue CCC research and includes a complete state by state listing of all CCC camps.

Suzanne Dorsey, Bald Head Island Conservancy – February Meeting

Suzanne DorseyThe Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, February 15, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Suzanne Dorsey, PhD, Executive Director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy.

She will talk about the Conservancy at Bald Head Island and her work as its director.  She will also discuss barrier islands and the implications of the possible removal of The Rocks at Fort Fisher.

Dr. Suzanne E. Dorsey earned her doctorate in coastal oceanography and has been BHI Conservancy logoworking in research and education for over 15 years. Communicating the importance of our coastal ecosystems, particularly Barrier Islands, is a primary focus for Dr. Dorsey.

She feels that the first step to promoting conservation and preservation of these critical coastal habitat is forging a connection between the people who live and visit our beaches and the sensitive habitats found here.

The Smith Island Complex encompasses so many examples of rare and sensitive habitats and the Bald Head Island Conservancy provides a perfect opportunity to not only educate people but to promote effective stewardship of these environments. Suzanne enjoys working with people and sharing her passion for nature. Her spare time is devoted to her husband and two children.

 

Pilots of the Cape Fear River – Brooks Newton Preik

brooks Newton Preik #2

Brooks Newton Preik

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, November 16, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Author and historian Brooks Newton Preik is our November speaker. Her topic will be the River Pilots of the Cape Fear River.

From the plight of the European explorers of the 1600’s whose ships foundered on Frying Pan Shoals, to the Union naval officers outsmarted by the elusiveness of the Confederate Blockade Runners, to present-day seamen with their sophisticated, electronic, navigational equipment, one truth has remained the same: no ship’s captain with any sense at all would risk taking his ship through the treacherous waters of Cape Fear without the aid of an experienced local pilot to guide it.

Southport Pilot Station

Southport Pilot Station

The history of this always small group of talented, intrepid men who braved the shifting shoals and shallows of Cape Fear to guide ships safely through its waters is the stuff of legends.

Descended from a host of these courageous pilots, Brooks Preik will share with us some of the tales of their exploits, the dangers they faced and their unique legacy which has shaped the history of this region. Stories of shipwrecks, pirates, adventurers and even a few ghosts are among the stories Brooks will tell.

Born and raised in Southport, Brooks Preik has been a resident of Wilmington for more than 40 years. Some of her earliest ancestors are buried in the Newton Cemetery at Federal Point. She is a graduate of St. Mary’s Junior College in Raleigh and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. For 10 years she was an elementary school teacher and following that, for the next 35 years, she was a real estate broker.

Brooks began her writing career in 1993 when she co-authored a guidebook to the area entitled What Locals Know about Wilmington and Its Beaches. Her collection of “true” ghost stories, Haunted Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast, published in 1995 by Banks Channel Books, is now in its sixth printing and she has published more than 80 freelance articles in regional magazines since that time.

She has shared her love of local history and her stories with countless numbers of area school groups, civic clubs, UNCW sponsored events, and various community organizations.

Back in March 1998, Brooks did a presentation about John W. Harper at a monthly meeting at the Federal Point History Center.

Copies of Haunted Wilmington will be available for purchase and signing by the author.