The Cape Fear River
Yours faithfully James Sprunt
THE CAPE FEAR RIVER
JAMES SPRUNTSECOND EDITIONRALEIGHEDWARDS & BROUGHTON PRINTING CO.1916
COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY JAMES SPRUNT
COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY JAMES SPRUNT
SAMUEL A'COURT ASHE
A LOYAL AND DEVOTED
SON OF THE CAPE FEAR
IN RECOGNITION OF HIS EMINENT SERVICE TO OUR COMMONWEALTH AND TO LITERATURE IN HIS ADMIRABLE HISTORY OF NORTH CAROLINA A WORK OF SUCH PARTICULAR MERIT AS TO BRING CREDIT TO HIS BIRTHPLACE AND TO ADD TO THE HIGH FAME OF THE CAPE FEAR PEOPLE
The reception of the Cape Fear Chronicles, not only by friends of the author but by the general reader, and in particular by historical scholars, has been most unusual. The general expression of gratification at its publication and the generous recognition of its value are emphatic assurances that Mr. Sprunt's endeavor to preserve the memories of the Cape Fear has been appreciated beyond his expectations. Numerous and insistent have been the requests for a second edition, to which he has finally yielded, and in doing so he has embodied much additional matter of interest and importance equal to that contained in the first edition. The incorporation of this new matter has necessitated some changes in the old, most of which have been merely verbal, but in a few instances more important changes have been made to secure greater uniformity and conform to more recent information concerning certain local traditions and memories. No trouble has been spared in either edition to secure the greatest exactitude in details, and especially has this been true of the edition now presented.
Mr. Sprunt has long been interested in historical literature, and through his liberality many publications of interest and value have in recent years been made. The fund he placed at the disposal of the University of North Carolina has enabled that institution to publish a series of historical monographs of peculiar interest, the one published in 1903 being of particular importance to Wilmington and the Cape Fear people. And in addition to being a liberal promotor of the writings of others, his personal output in the field of historical literature has been a distinctive and valuable contribution. His research has been extensive and remarkably successful; especially has he been indefatigable in rescuing from oblivion the history of the Cape Fear and clothing in his own inimitable style the romantic tales and stirring deeds that belong to the development of that section of North Carolina.
In recognition of his service to the State in constructive citizenship and in his writings and in appreciation of his personal excellence and merit, the University of North Carolina last year conferred upon Mr. Sprunt the degree of doctor of laws. And more recently the old historic College of William and
Mary, in Virginia, chartered in 1693, unanimously elected him a member, causa honoris, of the Alpha Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of that college. This is the honor literary society of America, organized at William and Mary in 1776, and in the selection of those invited to become members the greatest care is exercised, membership being equivalent to an honorary degree conferred by any of our colleges and giving the recipient special distinction.
S. A. ASHE.
November 10, 1916.
|EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT: Origin of the Name Cape Fear—The Cape Fear River and Its Tributaries—The Cape Fear Indians—Notes on the Archæology of New Hanover County—Indian Mounds on the Cape Fear—Indians of the Lower Cape Fear—Report of the Commissioners sent in 1663 to Explore the Coast—Charlestown, the First Attempted Settlement on the Cape Fear—Sandford's Account of Conditions on Charles River—End of the Settlement on Charles River, the First Charlestown—Cape Fear Pirates of 1719||1|
|PERMANENT SETTLEMENT: The Town of Brunswick—A Visit to the Cape Fear in 1734—Erection of Wilmington, Decay of Brunswick—The Spanish Invasion, 1747—The War of Jenkins’ Ear—The Site of Fort Johnston—Colonial Plantations on the Cape Fear—Colonial Orton—Crane Neck Heron Colony on Orton Plantation—Plantations on the Northeast—Social Conditions—Libraries on the Cape Fear—Colonial Governors of North Carolina—Colonial Members of the General Assembly||38|
|RESISTANCE BEFORE THE REVOLUTION: The Stamp Act on the Cape Fear—William Houston, the Stamp Master: Another Viewpoint—Russellborough, Scene of the First Armed Resistance—The Sons of Liberty in North Carolina||91|
|THE REVOLUTION: Institution of Revolutionary Government—Proceedings of the Committee of Safety—Whigs and Tories—The Battle of Elizabethtown—Old-Time Cape Fear Heroes—Cornelius Harnett's Will—Flora Macdonald||110|
|EARLY YEARS: Alyre Raffeneau Delile—Beginning of Federal Fortifications on the Cape Fear—The First Steamboat on the Cape Fear River—The Disastrous Year of 1819—Other Early Fires—First Cape Fear Improvements—Railroads, the First Project—The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad—The Commerce of Wilmington—Wilmington in the Forties—The Public Spirit of Wilmington—Activities on the River, 1850-1860—Forgotten Aids to the Navigation of the Cape Fear—Cape Fear Coal—Fayetteville on the Cape Fear||130|
|NOTABLE INCIDENTS: Visits of Presidents of the United States to Wilmington before the War—The Visit of Henry Clay—The Visit of Daniel Webster—The Visit of Edward Everett—Reception of the Remains of John C. Calhoun—The Death of General James Ivor McKay—Governor Edward B. Dudley—The Wilkings-Flanner Duel||208|
|INTERESTING MEMORIES: Old School Days in Wilmington—Colonel James G. Burr—The Thalian Association—A Fragmentary Memory of Johnson Hooper—Joseph Jefferson—Immortality—The Jenny Lind Incident||238|
|WAR BETWEEN THE STATES: On the Eve of Secession—A Capture Before the War—Early War Times—Changes during the War—Mrs Armand J. DeRosset—Confederate Heroes—The Roster of Cape Fear Camp, U. C. V.—Fort Caswell—Fort Fisher||268|
|BLOCKADE RUNNING: Financial Estimates of Blockade Running—The Port of Wilmington during the War—Cape Fear Pilots—Narratives of Distinguished Blockade Runners—Rescue of Madame DeRosset—Improved Ships and Notable Commanders—North Carolina Blockade Runner Advance—Other Vessels Famous in Blockade Running—The Last Days of Blockade Running—The Confederate Navy—Wilmington during the Blockade—The First and Second Attacks upon Fort Fisher—The Capture of Wilmington—The Use of Torpedoes in the Cape Fear during the War||387|
|PEACE RESTORED: Resumption of Cape Fear Commerce—Trade of Wilmington, 1815, 1843, 1872—Cuban Man-of-War Incident—Board of Commissioners of Navigation and Pilotage—Cape Fear Aids to Navigation—General Character of the Coast—United States Revenue-Cutter Service—Cape Fear Life-Saving Service—Use of Oil to Prevent Breaking Seas—Visits of the Cruiser Raleigh—Federal Government Improvements of the Upper Cape Fear—Disastrous Fires—The Earthquake of 1886—The Visit of President Taft—Woodrow Wilson's Youth in Wilmington—Southport on the Cape Fear—Fort Caswell at the Present Time—The Proposed Coastal Canal—Municipal Government in Wilmington—The Revolution of 1898—Cape Fear Newspapers—The Wilmington Bar—Honorable George Davis, Attorney General of the Confederacy—George Davis: An Appreciation—The George Davis Monument—Alfred Moore Waddell: Author—Bishop Robert Strange—North Carolina Society of Colonial Dames of America—Places of Historic Interest in North Carolina Relating to the Colonial Period Yet Unmarked—Luola Murchison Sprunt: An Appreciation—The Boys’ Brigade—Public Buildings in Wilmington—Wilmington Churches—Wilmington Schools—Loyalty of the Cape Fear People to the State University—The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad—The Seaboard Air Line Railroad—Hugh MacRae's Activities—The River Counties—The Growth of Wilmington—Looking Forward||501|
From early youth I have loved the Cape Fear River, the ships and the sailors which it bears upon its bosom. As a boy I delighted to wander along the wharves where the sailing ships were moored with their graceful spars and rigging in relief against the sky-line, with men aloft whose uncouth cries and unknown tongues inspired me with a longing for the sea, which I afterwards followed, and for the far-away countries whence they had come.
In later years, I heard the stories of the old-time Cape Fear gentlemen, whose memories I revere, and I treasured those annals of our brave and generous people; I knew all the pilots of the Cape Fear, whose record of brave deeds and unswerving loyalty to the Confederacy, under great trial and temptation, and whose steadfast industry in their dangerous calling are worthy of all praise; and now, actuated by an earnest desire to render a public service after many years’ contact with its men and affairs, I have essayed to write in the following pages a concise narrative of the sources and tributary streams of the Cape Fear River, the origin of its name, the development of its commerce, and the artificial aids to its navigation, with a few historic incidents of its tidewater region.
The limited scope of this undertaking does not reach beyond the mere outlines of its romantic, dramatic history, of which much has been ably written by George Davis, Alfred Moore Waddell, Samuel A'Court Ashe, and other historians of the Cape Fear.
I have often looked from my window upon the historic river and seen the white sails glistening in the morning light, and when the evening shadows deepened I have gazed upon the wide expanse resplendent with the glory of the stars and have heard the sailors in the bay singing “Larboard watch, ahoy!” while the anchor lights of half a hundred ships were twinkling at their moorings, and it was something to remember in after years.
Memory lingers with a certain endearment upon the daily activities in the harbor in that far-gone day, when the course of life was more attuned to the placid flow of the river than in this rushing, jarring time. No more is heard the long-drawn cry of
the stevedore, “Go ahead, horse” and “Back down lively.” No more do we hear the song of the chanty man rise shrill and clear to the accompaniment of chuckling blocks and creaking yards, nor the hearty, deep tones of the chorus as the old-time sailor men tramped round the windlass from wharf to wharf, singing:
- “Oh, blow, ye winds, I long to hear you,
- Blow, bullies, blow!
- Oh, blow today and blow tomorrow,
- Blow, my bully boys, blow!
- “Oh, blow today and blow tomorrow,
- Blow, bullies, blow!
- Oh, blow away all care and sorrow,
- Blow, my bully boys, blow!”
“A tremulous echo is all that is left of these old-time refrains,” but some of our older citizens will recall these plaintive though senseless ditties, also the John Kooner songs, which have enlivened many a dull hour in the old seaport of the Cape Fear.
Many years ago, when the arched courthouse stood at the foot of Market Street, a party of prominent citizens were discussing under its roof the events of the day in the soft light of a beautiful full moon, and while they talked they heard the tramp of twenty sailor men from a near-by French ship moored at Market Dock; and then in clear and exquisite tones the sailors sang with all the enthusiasm it inspired the Marseillaise battle hymn. Colonel Burr, who heard them, told me many years after that it was one of the most delightful memories of a lifetime.
But now the distracting hammering against rusting steel plates, the clanking of chains against the steamship's sides, and the raucous racket of the steam donkey betoken a new era in the harbor of Wilmington; yet the silent river flows on with the silent years as when Vassall sent the first settlers, or as when Flora Macdonald sailed past the town to the restful haven of Cross Creek; and the Dram Tree still stands to warn the outgoing mariner that his voyage has begun and to welcome the incoming storm-tossed sailor to the quiet harbor beyond.
I have obtained the data of the commercial development of the river largely from official sources or reliable records, and I have copied verbatim, in some technical detail, the generous responses to my inquiries by Maj. H. W. Stickle, Corps of Engineers, U. S. A.; Capt. C. S. Ridley, assistant engineer, U.
S. A.; Mr. R. C. Merritt, assistant engineer; Mr. Joseph Hyde Pratt, State geologist; Dr. Joseph A. Holmes, director Bureau of Mines; Capt. G. L. Carden, commanding U. S. revenue cutter Seminole; Mr. H. D. King, inspector lights and lighthouses, Sixth District, and Hon. S. I. Kimball, general superintendent of the Life Saving Service, now embraced in the Coast Guard, to each of whom I make this grateful acknowledgment.
This book is intimately associated with two good friends, Capt. Samuel A'Court Ashe and Miss Rosa Pendleton Chiles, to whom I am especially indebted for their invaluable aid, and sympathy, and advice; for without their generous assistance this work might not have been accomplished.
Exploration and Settlement
ORIGIN OF THE NAME CAPE FEAR.
BY GEORGE DAVIS.
The origin of the name Cape Fear and its confusion in some of our early maps with Cape Fair led, many years ago, to a discussion by the Historical and Scientific Society of Wilmington, of which this writer was the secretary. A prominent Wilmingtonian of his day, Mr. Henry Nutt, to whose indefatigable, intelligent efforts and public spirit the closure of New Inlet was largely due, stoutly maintained in a forceful address before that body that the name was originally Fair and not Fear.
Mr. George Davis subsequently took the opposite view in his valuable contribution entitled An Episode in Cape Fear History, published in the South Atlantic Magazine, January, 1879, which I here reprint under the above title.
Is it Cape Fair? Or Cape Fear? Adjective or noun? “Under which king, Bezonian?” This old familiar name under which our noble river rolls its waters to the sea, is it the true prince of the ancient line, or a base pretender, usurping the seat of the rightful heir, and, after the fashion of usurpers, giving us terror for beauty, storm for sunshine?
There are some among our most intelligent citizens who maintain that the true name was, and ought to be now, Cape Fair; and that it was originally so given because the first adventurers, seeing with the eye of enthusiasm, found everything here to be fair, attractive, and charming. And it has even been said very lately that it was never called by its present name until after 1750, and never officially until 1780. (Address of H. Nutt before H. and S. Society.) Unfortunately, in the mists which envelop some portions of our early history, it is sometimes very difficult to guard against being betrayed into erroneous conjectures by what appear to be very plausible reasons; and the materials for accurate investigation are not of easy access. It is not surprising, therefore, that this opinion should have existed for some time, not generally, but to a limited extent. Beyond all doubt it is erroneous, and the proofs are conclusive that our people have been right in finally rejecting the Beautiful theory, and accepting the Fearful. I know of no authority for this opinion except the occasional spelling of the word. The strength of the argument seems to be this: Captain
Hilton was sent in 1663 for the purpose of examining the country; he did examine it, reported in glowing terms as to its beauty and attractiveness, and throughout his report spelled the name Fair. I answer, Very true. But three years later, in 1666, Robert Horne published his Brief Description of Carolina, under the eye, and no doubt by the procurement, of the Proprietors; he describes the country in much more glowing terms of praise than Hilton did, but spells the name, throughout, Fear. And where are we then? And later still, in 1711, a high authority, Christopher Gale, chief justice of North Carolina, like a prudent politician who has not made up his mind which party to join, spells it neither Fair nor Fear, but Fare. (2 Hawks, 391.) That the name in early times was not infrequently spelt Fair is unquestionable. Besides Hilton's report, it is so given in the Letter of the English Adventurers to the Proprietors, 1663; in the Instructions of the Proprietors to Governor Yeamans, 1665; in Lawson's history and map, 1709; and on Wimble's map, 1738. And perhaps other instances may be found.
But all these, if they stood alone and unopposed, could hardly form the basis of any solid argument. For all who are accustomed to examine historical documents will know too well how widely independent of all law, if there was any law, our ancestors were in their spelling, especially of proper names. Pen in hand, they were accustomed to dare every vagary, and no amount of heroic spelling ever appalled them.
Some examples will be instructive in our present investigation. Take the great name of him who was “wholly gentleman, wholly soldier,” who, falling under the displeasure of a scoundrel King and languishing for twelve long years under sentence of ignominious death, sent forth through his prison bars such melodious notes that the very King's son cried out, “No monarch in Christendom but my father would keep such a bird in a cage”; who, inexhaustible in ideas as in exploits, after having brought a new world to light, wrote the history of the old in a prison, and then died, because God had made him too great for his fellows—that name which to North Carolina ears rings down through the ages like a glorious chime of bells—the name of our great Sir Walter. We know that it was spelt three different ways, Raleigh, Ralegh, and Rawlegh.
And Sir Walter's heroic kinsman, that grand old sea-king who fought his single ship for fifteen straight hours against
fifteen Spaniards, one after another, muzzle to muzzle, and then yielded up his soul to God in that cheerful temper wherewith men go to a banquet: “Here die I, Richard Greenville, and with a joyful and quiet mind, having ended my life like a true soldier that has fought for his country, Queen, religion, and honor.” He was indifferently Greenville, Grenville, and Granville.
And take another of these sea-kings of old who sailed to America in the early days—that brilliant, restless, daring spirit who crowded into a few brief years enough of wild adventure and excitement to season a long life, and then died little more than a boy—he was indifferently Cavendish and Candish.
Who, without assistance, could recognize Bermuda in the “still vexed Bermoothes” of Shakespeare? And Horne's pamphlets, of which I have spoken, could only improve it into Barmoodoes.
Coming down to the very time of which we are speaking, one of the first acts of the Lords Proprietors after receiving their magnificent grant was to publish the important document to which I have alluded, the Declaration and Proposals to all who will plant in Carolina. It is signed by some of the most famous names in English history—George, Duke of Albemarle, the prime mover in bringing about the restoration of the King; Edward, Earl of Clarendon, Lord High Chancellor, and grandfather of two English queens, but far more famous as the author of that wonderful book, the History of the Great Rebellion; Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury, Lord High Chancellor and one of the greatest parliamentary leaders that England ever produced, but far greater as the author of that second charter of Anglo-Saxon liberties, the Habeas Corpus Act. This very gifted and very famous Earl of Shaftesbury, who, I am sorry to say, was more distinguished for brilliant talents than for virtuous principles, besides being one of the Proprietors had an additional claim to our remembrance which has not been generally known. At a meeting of the Proprietors held at the Cockpit the 21st of October, 1669 (Rivers, 346), he was elected the first chief justice of Carolina. As he never visited America I presume his office was in a great degree purely honorary. But he certainly executed its functions to the extent at least of its official patronage. For the record has been preserved which shows that on the 10th of June, 1675, by virtue of that office, he appointed Andrew Percival to be register of Berkeley Precinct.
He had not then been raised to the peerage, but was only Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. He gave his two family names to the rivers at Charleston, and then took himself the title of Shaftesbury.
Such were some of the signers of this pamphlet. Surely these men knew. Surely they would give us some unimpeachable English. Well, we have an exact copy of the pamphlet and I give you my word that, according to our notions, the spelling of it is enough to put the whole school of lexicographers in a madhouse. Instance the following: “Clarending,” “Northine,” “plantacon,” “proposealls,” “grannte,” “ingaige,” “groathe,” etc., etc. These examples, which might be indefinitely multiplied, are sufficient to show that he is a bold speculator who will venture to build an opinion on the spelling of a name.
But the opposing proofs are quite conclusive, and I do not scruple to promise that for every authentic map or document, prior to the year 1700, in which the name is written Fair, I will point out at least two in which it is written as at present. An examination of some of the most important of them will remove all doubt from the subject.
In DeBry's map of Lane's expedition, 1585, no name is given to the cape, but we find it distinctly laid down, and indicated by two Latin words which are very significant, promontorium tremendum. And in the narrative of Sir Richard Greenville's first expedition, in the same year, we find the very first recorded mention of the name, which ought to be sufficient of itself to fix its certainty for all time. For we read there, for the month of June, 1585, this entry: “The 23d we were in great danger of a wreck on a breach called the Cape of Fear.”
And two years later, in the narrative of the first voyage under White, we are told in July, 1587, that “had not Captain Stafford been more careful in looking out than our Simon Fernando, we had been all cast away upon the breach called the Cape of Fear.”
And here we have another orthographic problem to solve. Both of these old worthies speak of the Cape of Fear as being not a beach, but a breach; and, on the strength of that, possibly some severe precisian may hereafter start the theory, and prove it too, that the cape was no cape at all, but only a breach or channel through the Frying Pan Shoals.
Coming down near a hundred years to the time of the first settlements, we find the original spelling preserved in the Letter
of the Proprietors to Sir William Berkeley, 1663; in the Proposals of the Proprietors already mentioned, 1663; in Horne's Brief Description of Carolina and on the accompanying map, 1666; in the map styled A New Description of Carolina, 1671; in the Instructions of the Proprietors to the Governor and Council of Carolina, 1683, and in a great many others.
These proofs would seem to leave nothing wanting to a clear demonstration of the real name. But there is something yet to be added. They show that during the same period of time the name was spelt both ways indifferently, not only by different persons, but the same persons, who had peculiar means of knowing the truth. It is clear, therefore, that the two modes were not expressive of two different ideas, but only different forms of expressing the same idea. What then was the true idea of the name—its raison d’être?
In pursuing that inquiry our attention must be directed to the cape alone, and not to the river. For, as we have seen, the cape bore its name for near a hundred years during which the river was nameless, if not unknown. And, when brought into notice afterwards, the river bore at first a different name, and only after some time glided into the name of the cape. Thus, in the Letter of the Proprietors to Sir William Berkeley, 8th of September, 1663, after directing him to procure a small vessel to explore the sounds, they say, “And whilst they are aboard they may look into Charles River a very little to the Southward of Cape Fear.” And so in the Proposals of the Proprietors, 15th of August, 1663, “If the first colony will settle on Charles River, near Cape Fear,” etc., etc., and in Horne's map, 1666, the name is Charles River.
Looking then to the cape for the idea and reason of its name, we find that it is the southernmost point of Smith's Island—a naked, bleak elbow of sand, jutting far out into the ocean. Immediately in its front are the Frying Pan Shoals, pushing out still farther, twenty miles, to sea. Together they stand for warning and for woe; and together they catch the long majestic roll of the Atlantic as it sweeps through a thousand miles of grandeur and power from the Arctic towards the Gulf. It is the playground of billows and tempests, the kingdom of silence and awe, disturbed by no sound save the sea gull's shriek and the breakers’ roar. Its whole aspect is suggestive, not of repose and beauty, but of desolation and terror. Imagination can not adorn it. Romance can not hallow it. Local pride can not soften it.
There it stands today, bleak, and threatening, and pitiless, as it stood three hundred years ago, when Greenville and White came nigh unto death upon its sands. And there it will stand, bleak, and threatening, and pitiless, until the earth and the sea shall give up their dead. And, as its nature, so its name, is now, always has been, and always will be, the Cape of Fear.THE CAPE FEAR RIVER AND ITS TRIBUTARIES.
The Cape Fear River, said to have been known to the Indian aborigines as “Sapona,” later to the explorers and to the promoters in England as the Charles River, and the Clarendon River, is formed by the junction of the Haw and the Deep Rivers, in Chatham County, North Carolina. From their confluence, which is about 173 miles by river above Wilmington, it flows in a southeasterly direction through Harnett, Cumberland, and Bladen Counties, and between Brunswick and New Hanover to the sea. The Haw River rises in Rockingham and Guilford Counties and flows in a southeasterly direction through Alamance, Orange, and Chatham Counties to its junction with the Deep River, a distance of about 80 miles, measured along its general course. The Deep River is of about the same length as the Haw. It rises in Guilford County and flows through Randolph and Moore Counties, and joins the Haw in Chatham.
The Deep River drains about 1,400 square miles. Its tributaries are only small creeks, the most important being Rocky River. The Haw River drains about 1,800 square miles, and its tributaries are also small, but are larger than those of the Deep River. The principal ones, descending from the headwaters, are Reedy Fork, Alamance Creek, Cane Creek, and New Hope River.
Between the junction of the Deep and the Haw Rivers and Fayetteville, a distance of about 58 miles, the most important tributaries which join the Cape Fear are Upper Little River, from the west, 32 miles long; and Lower Little River, from the west, 45 miles long. There are other small creeks, the most important being Carver's Creek and Blount's Creek.
Between Wilmington and Fayetteville the most important tributary is Black River, which enters from the east about 15 miles above Wilmington and has a drainage basin of about 1,430 square miles. There are several creeks which enter
below Fayetteville, the principal one being Rockfish Creek, which enters 10 miles below Fayetteville.
The entire drainage basin above Fayetteville covers an area of 4,493 square miles, and the total drainage area of the Cape Fear and all its tributaries is about 8,400 square miles.
At Wilmington the Cape Fear River proper is joined by the Northeast Cape Fear River. Their combined average discharge at Wilmington for the year is about 14,000 feet a second. Floods in their tributaries have but little effect on the water level at Wilmington. The lower river is tidal, and the effects of tidal variations are felt about 40 miles above the city on both branches.
The city of Wilmington is on the east side of the river, opposite the junction of the two branches, and nearly all wharves, mills, and terminals are situated on the same side. The width of the river at Wilmington is 500 to 1,000 feet. Four miles below, it becomes 1½ miles wide, and is of the nature of a tidal estuary, varying in width as it flows to the sea from 1 to 3 miles. The distance from Wilmington to the ocean is 30 miles.IMPROVEMENTS BELOW WILMINGTON.
The improvement of the river was begun by the State of North Carolina between Wilmington and Big Island by embankments, jetties, and dredging in 1822, and continued until 1829, when the Federal Government undertook the work of improvement and continued it to 1839. Work was resumed in 1847 and continued up to the War between the States. It was again resumed in 1870 and has been carried on continuously since that date.
A report of the Committee on Bar and River Improvements to the Chamber of Commerce, January 15, 1872, contains the following interesting information:
“The earliest reliable information we have of the Cape Fear River, its entrance and harbor, is to be found in a map by Edward Moseley, in 1733, and another by James Wimble, in 1738. Both of these maps, although apparently imperfect, nevertheless represent the harbor as capacious, of good anchorage, well landlocked, easy of access, and with four fathoms water upon the bar (supposed at mean low tide). About this draught of water was carried by a bold and direct channel on the west side of Big Island[note] to the town of Wilmington.[note]
“The next we hear of the Cape Fear River is through Wheeler's History of North Carolina (extracted from the London Magazine), giving an account of the most violent equinoctial storm which had ever occurred along the coast, forcing open an entrance into the river at a point known as the ‘Haul-over,’ now known as the New Inlet. This storm commenced on the 20th of September, 1761, and lasted four days.
“This inlet, from long neglect, has become formidable, detracting a large portion of the river water from its legitimate outlet, to the great detriment of the river and lower harbor.
“In 1775, a map of the Cape Fear River, more accurate in its details than the two first alluded to, was published in London, which laid down the New Inlet, but did not materially vary the harbor, outlet, or draught of water upon the bar, or the channel of the river up to the town of Wilmington.
“At a meeting of the Safety Committee of Wilmington, held on the 20th of November, 1775, John Anerum presiding, the following preamble and resolutions were passed:
“ ‘The committee, taking into consideration the damage with which the inhabitants of the Cape Fear River are threatened by the King's ships now in the harbor, and the open and avowed contempt and violation of justice in the conduct of Governor Martin, who, with the assistance of said ships, is endeavoring to carry off the artillery, the property of this province, and the gift of his late Majesty of blessed memory, for our protection from foreign invasion, have
“ ‘Resolved, That Messrs. John Forster, William Wilkinson, and John Slingsby, or any one of them, be empowered to procure necessary vessels, boats, and chains, to sink in such part of the channel as they or any of them may think proper, to agree for the purchase of such boats and other materials as may be wanted, and to have them valued, that the owners may be reimbursed by the public. And it is further ordered, that the said John Forster & Co. do consult the committee of Brunswick on this measure and request their concurrence.’
“A knowledge of the men of that period, with the boisterous circumstances which surrounded them, is sufficient evidence that this order was implicitly obeyed and effectually executed, no report of their action being required or expected.
“Tradition assures us that these obstacles were placed across the channel at Big Island. We therefore feel justified in saying that the channel, as laid down by all previous maps, was, at that time and place, obstructed agreeably to the order, as subsequent events would seem to imply. From time to time, logs, stumps, and other drift matter brought down by freshets
lodged against the obstructions, backing up nearly to the narrows and forming what is known as the flats or shoal of logs, which, as it increased, gradually forced the water through an opening on the west side of Big Island, and in course of time scoured out a channel sufficient to accommodate the commerce of the port, and so remained until the year 1826.
“In the year 1797-8, a survey and map of the Cape Fear River, its harbors and outlets, was made by Joshua Potts. At this time, thirty-seven years after the breaking out of New Inlet, we find very little alteration in the harbor or outlet—the bar representing 20 feet of water (supposed at mean low tide), while the channels of the river up to Wilmington had undergone material change, and very much depreciated.”
A report of the same committee, made four years earlier than the one just quoted, refers to the Potts survey, and says:
“Older charts than this exhibit a greater draught of water, particulars of which, however, are not accurately remembered by your committee. Many old citizens now living remember to have seen at our wharves vessels drawing 15 to 18 feet of water. But about the year 1820, as the depth of water increased on New Inlet, in like proportion it diminished on the Main Bar, maintaining upon both the aggregate of about 25 feet. The late Capt. Thomas N. Gautier, who was a merchant of this place during the period of time included between the years 1790 and 1810, told one of your committee that during that period, among many others, he had loaded one ship to 30 feet draught, which proceeded down the river to sea, on her voyage to London, without difficulty or interruption. These facts in the history of the past are conclusive evidence, in the minds of your committee, that the true and real cause of the present alarming condition of the navigation of our bars and river is to be found in the existence of the New Inlet, and that alone.”
A report of Alexander Strauss to the mayor and aldermen of Wilmington, under date of March 6, 1870, says:
“The bar in the Old Ship Channel has shoaled 2½ feet in the last five years, and therefore any procrastination in the work will be injurious to our commerce, as I believe it can be shown that year by year since 1840 the obstruction has increased, and unless speedy action is taken it will result in the total destruction of our harbor. I base my opinion on data gained from different surveys made from the year 1733 to
1869. On the survey of 1733, a depth of 21 feet is shown in the Old Ship Channel at mean low water, and in 1869 only 5½ can be found in the same channel.”
The condition of the river prior to the opening of New Inlet (which occurred during an equinoctial storm in 1761) is rather uncertain, but old maps indicate that there was a low-water depth of 14 feet across the bar at the mouth, the least depth between Wilmington and the mouth being 7½ feet. There is also some uncertainty as to the conditions in 1829, when the improvement was undertaken by the United States, but the most reliable information is that there was then about 7 to 7½ feet at low water in the river, about 9 feet in Bald Head Channel, 9 feet in Rip Channel, and 10 feet at New Inlet. Work on the bar was begun in 1853, at which time the bar depths at low water were 7½ feet in Bald Head Channel, 7 feet in Rip Channel, and 8 feet at New Inlet, the governing low-water depth in the river having been increased to 9 feet.
The original project of 1827 was to deepen by jetties the channel through the shoals in the 8 miles next below Wilmington. This project resulted in a gain of 2 feet available depth. The project of 1853 was to straighten and deepen the bar channel by dredging, jettying, diverting the flow from the New Inlet, and closing breaches in Zeke's Island. This project was incomplete when the War between the States began. Up to that time, $363,228.92 had been spent on the improvement. The work done during this period was measurably successful. The report of the commission of 1858 referring to it says:
“The works recommended by the board of 1853 were, in the opinion of the commission, entirely efficient, so far as they were carried out, having, as is shown by the Coast-Survey maps, caused an increase in the depth of Oak Island Channel of between one and two feet.”
After the war the first project was that of 1870, to deepen the bar channel by closing breaches between Smith's and Zeke's Islands, with the ultimate closure of New Inlet in view. The project of 1873 included that of 1870 and in addition the dredging of the bar channel and the closing of New Inlet. This work was in charge of Gen. J. H. Simpson, U. S. A., who was succeeded in the management of it by Col. William P. Craighill. The main construction was under Maj. Walter Griswold, assistant engineer, whose services were able and highly acceptable. Mention should be made also of Henry Nutt, Esq., chairman
of the Committee on Bar and River Improvements of the Chamber of Commerce, whose activities greatly advanced the work. The Wilmington Journal of March 20, 1872, contains the following acknowledgment of his services:
“We are unwilling to give expression to the bright hopes of the future we anticipate for our goodly old town. But whether that success be attained in full or scant measure, the name of Henry Nutt will, and ought to be, held in grateful remembrance by all our people to the last generation, as the earnest, persistent, and enthusiastic friend of this great work.”
The project of 1874 was to obtain by dredging a channel 100 feet wide and 12 feet deep at low water up to Wilmington. The project of 1881 was to obtain by dredging a channel 270 feet wide and 16 feet deep at low water up to Wilmington. These projects had been practically completed in 1889. At that time the expenditure since the war amounted to $2,102,271.93.
The project adopted September 19, 1890, was to obtain a mean low-water depth of 20 feet and a width of 270 feet from Wilmington to the ocean. This project has been modified several times.
For the five years ending June 30, 1915, there was expended for river improvements $1,440,844.02, and the commerce on the Cape Fear River at and below Wilmington averaged 929,336 tons, with an average valuation of $50,978,671.06 for the five calendar years. At the close of the year ending June 30, 1915, there had been a total expenditure of $5,974,868.48. The project below Wilmington under execution was adopted in the River and Harbor Act approved July 25, 1912, and provides for a channel depth of 26 feet at mean low water, with a width of 300 feet, increasing at the entrance and curves in the river and widening to 400 feet across the bar. The project is eighty per cent completed, the depth having been secured throughout the entire distance, additional work being required only to widen the channel where the width is deficient. On June 30, 1915, a mean low-water channel 26 feet deep and from 280 to 400 feet wide existed on the ocean bar and 26 feet deep and 300 feet wide in the river channels, excepting at Snow's Marsh Channel, where the 26-foot channel was from 150 to 270 feet wide.
The various projects adopted by the Federal Government involved the closing of New Inlet and the construction of a defensive dike from Zeke's Island, on the south side of New
Inlet, to Smith's Island. The dam closing New Inlet was constructed between 1875 and 1881 and is 5,300 feet long. It is built of stone, its first cost being $540,237.11. It was badly damaged by a storm in 1906, and the cost of its restoration and of other minor repairs made since its completion was $103,044.75, making its total cost to date $643,281.86. Swash Defense Dam, south of New Inlet, was constructed between 1883 and 1889 and is 12,800 feet long. It is also built of stone, the first cost being $225,965. The cost of restoring this dam after the storm of 1906, including other repairs made since its completion, was $170,109.53, making the total cost to date $396,074.53. With the exception of the construction of these two dams, the results have been accomplished almost wholly by dredging.
It is interesting to note in this connection that the total expenditures of the Federal Government upon Charleston Harbor to June 30, 1915, amounted to $5,084,771.90, and the total expenditures on Cape Fear River at and below Wilmington to the same date was $5,985,990.01.NORTHEAST CAPE FEAR RIVER.
Northeast Cape Fear River has a total length of 130 miles (70 miles in a straight line) and has been under improvement since 1890, the project including the clearing of the natural channel for small steamers to Hallsville, 88 miles above its mouth, and for pole boats to Kornegay's Bridge, 103 miles above its mouth.
The work has consisted in removing snags and other incidental obstructions from the channel and leaning trees from the banks. For several years past, work has been for the purpose of maintenance only. To June 30, 1913, there had been spent on this stream for improvement and maintenance $33,738.86. At present 8 feet can be carried to Rocky Point Landing, 35 miles from the mouth, 5 feet to Smith's Bridge, 52 miles up, and 3 feet to Croom's Bridge, 8 miles further, at all stages. Above that point it is only navigable during freshets.BLACK RIVER.
This stream has been under improvement since 1887. The original project of 1885 included clearing the natural channel and banks to Lisbon and cutting off a few points at bends,
modified in 1893, and omitting the part above Clear Run, 66 miles above the mouth. This was completed in 1895. Since that time it has been under maintenance. The total amount expended to June 30, 1913, for improvement and maintenance was $32,877.26. The work has consisted in removing obstructions from the channel and leaning trees from the banks, and in a small amount of dredging.
At present a depth of 5 feet can be carried to Point Caswell at low stages, above which point there is but little navigation excepting during freshet stages.TOWN CREEK.
Town Creek is a tributary to Cape Fear River, entering it from the west about 7½ miles below Wilmington. It is not now under improvement, but was placed under improvement in 1881, the project being to obtain 4-foot navigation at low water by removing obstructions from the mouth to Saw-Pit Landing, 20 miles above. After spending $1,000, this project was abandoned. An appropriation of $8,500 was made in 1899 to be expended in obtaining a mean low-water channel 5 feet deep and 40 feet wide to Russell's Landing, 19¾ miles above the mouth, and to clear the creek to Rock's Landing, about 4 miles farther up. The 5-foot channel was obtained to Russell's Landing by dredging, and snags were removed from the channel for the next mile above, when the funds were exhausted, and no further appropriation has been made.BRUNSWICK RIVER.
About four miles above Wilmington, the Cape Fear River divides, the western branch forming Brunswick River. It flows in a southerly direction and again enters the Cape Fear River about four miles below Wilmington.
This river has never been under improvement, but the River and Harbor Act of June 13, 1902, provides for an expenditure not exceeding $1,000 of the money appropriated for the improvement of Cape Fear River, at and below Wilmington, in removing obstructions at the lower mouth of Brunswick River. Obstructions were removed from a width of 100 feet during 1903 at a cost of $519, securing a channel at its mouth 100 feet wide and 7 feet deep.[note][note]
According to the recitals in the oldest deeds for lands on Eagles’ Island and in its vicinity on either side, the Northeast and the Northwest branches of the Cape Fear River come together at the southern point of that island. What is now called Brunswick River, on the west side of the island, was then the main River; and Wilmington was on the Northeast branch, and not on the main stream of the Cape Fear. That portion of the river which runs from the Northeast branch by Point Peter, or Negrohead Point, as it is called, to the Northwest branch at the head of Eagles’ Island, is called in the old deeds and statutes of the State the “Thoroughfare,” and sometimes the “Cutthrough” from one branch to the other; and the land granted to John Maultsby, on which a part of Wilmington is situated, is described as lying opposite to the mouth of the “Thoroughfare.” At another time, what is now known as Brunswick River was called Clarendon River.THE CAPE FEAR INDIANS.
The tribal identity of the Cape Fear Indians has never been clearly established. We find Indian mounds, or tumuli, along the river and coast and in the midland counties, and we are told that the head waters of the Cape Fear River were known to our aborigines as “Sapona,” a tribal name also known farther north, and that “King” Roger Moore exterminated these Indians at Big Sugar Loaf after they had raided Orton; but there is nothing in the mounds, where hundreds of skeletons are found, nor in the pottery and rude implements discovered therein, to identify the tribe or prove the comparatively unsupported statements which we have hitherto accepted as facts. Capt. S. A. Ashe says: “The Cape Fear Indians along the coast were Southern. The Saponas who resided higher up were probably Northern. They were not exterminated by ‘King’ Roger; in fact, in 1790 there were still some in Granville, and a considerable number joined the Tuscaroras on the Tuscarora Reservation on the Roanoke. They were both Northern, probably, otherwise the Saponas would not have been welcome.”
There is reason to believe the tradition, generally known to our older inhabitants, that the Indians from the back country came regularly in the early springtime to the coast of the Cape Fear for the seawater fish and oysters which were abundant, and that their preparation for these feasts included the copious
drinking of a strong decoction of yopon leaves, which produced free vomiting and purgation, before they gorged themselves to repletion with the fish and oysters.
The beautiful evergreen leaf and brilliant red berries of the yopon still abound along the river banks near the remains of the Indian camps. The leaves were extensively used as a substitute for tea, which was unobtainable during our four years’ war, and the tea made from them was refreshing and tonic in its effects.
Dr. Francis P. Venable says: “It belongs to the Ilex, or holly genus. My first analysis was on a small sample from New Bern and showed 0.32 per cent caffeine. Securing a larger sample from near Wilmington, I found 0.27 per cent. The maté, or Paraguay tea, is also gotten from an Ilex and contains 0.63 per cent. The percentage of tannin in the yopon is rather high and I suppose has something to do with the medicinal effect.”
Dr. Curtis, an eminent botanist of North Carolina, says: “Yopon I. Cassine, Linn. An elegant shrub ten to fifteen feet high, but sometimes rising to twenty or twenty-five feet. Its native place is near the water (salt) from Virginia southward, but never far in the interior. Its dark green leaves and bright red berries make it very ornamental in yards and shrubberies. The leaves are small, one-half to one inch long, very smooth and evenly scalloped on the edges, with small rounded teeth. In some sections of the lower district, especially in the region of the Dismal Swamp, these are annually dried and used for tea, which is, however, oppressively soporific—at least for one not accustomed to it.”
Our yopon (the above) is the article from which the famous Black Drink of the Southern Indians was made. At a certain time of the year they came down in droves from a distance of several hundred miles to the coast for the leaves of this tree. They made a fire on the ground, and putting a great kettle of water on it, they threw in a large quantity of these leaves, and sitting around the fire, from a bowl holding about a pint, they began drinking large draughts, which in a short time caused them to vomit easily and freely. Thus they continued drinking and vomiting for a space of two or three days, until they had sufficiently cleansed themselves, and then, every one taking a bundle of the leaves, they all retired to their habitations.
NOTES ON THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF NEW HANOVER COUNTY.
BY DAVID I. BUSHNELL, JR.
It is with no small satisfaction that I have obtained by the courtesy of such eminent authority as that of Mr. David I. Bushnell, jr., of the Bureau of American Ethnology, who is now in Wilmington for investigations on the vanishing race, the following paper; and Mr. Bushnell has quoted from Mr. W. B. McKoy's valuable contributions on the same subject. I also include Dr. Joseph A. Holmes's report upon his personal investigations of the mounds in Duplin County, and a paper by Capt. S. A. Ashe on the Indians of the Lower Cape Fear.
In reference to the Woccon, Saxapahaw, Cape Fear, and Warrennuncock Indians, we find it stated: “Of the North Carolina tribes bearing the foregoing names almost nothing is known, and of the last two even the proper names have not been recorded. The Woccon were Siouan; the Saxapahaw and Cape Fear Indians presumably were Siouan, as indicated from their associations and alliance with known Siouan tribes; while the Warrennuncock were probably some people better known under another name, although they cannot be identified.”[note] Unfortunately the identity of the Cape Fear Indians has not been revealed, and it may ever remain a mystery. The name was first bestowed, by the early colonists, upon the Indians whom they found occupying the lands about the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and more especially the peninsula now forming the southern part of New Hanover County. It is also possible the term “Cape Fear Indians” was applied to any Indians found in the vicinity, regardless of their tribal connections, and, as will be shown later, the area was frequented by numbers of different tribes. Although the native people were often mentioned in early writings, it is doubtful whether the Indian population of the peninsula ever exceeded a few hundred.
Evidently Indians continued to occupy the lower part of the peninsula until about the year 1725, at which time, according to a well-substantiated tradition, they were driven from the section. “Roger Moore, because of his wealth and large number of slaves, was called ‘King’ Roger. There is a tradition on the Cape Fear that he and his slaves had a battle with the Indians at Sugar Loaf, nearly opposite the town of Brunswick. Governor Tryon, forty years later, mentions that the last battle with[note]
the Indians was when driving them from the Cape Fear in 1725. The tradition would seem to be well founded.”[note]
At the present time, nearly two centuries after the expulsion of the last Indian inhabitants from the peninsula, we find many traces of their early occupancy of the area. Oysters and other mollusks served as important articles of food, and vast quantities of shells, intermingled with numerous fragments of pottery of Indian make, are encountered along the mainland, facing the sounds. These masses of shells do not necessarily indicate the sites of villages, or of permanent settlements, but rather of places visited at different times by various families or persons for the purpose of gathering oysters, clams, etc. The majority of these were probably consumed on the spot, while others, following the custom of the more northern tribes, may have been dried in the smoke of the wigwam and thus preserved for future use.
The many small pieces of pottery found, mingled with the shells, are pieces of vessels, probably cooking utensils, of the Indians. Many pieces bear on their outer or convex surfaces the imprint of twisted cords; other fragments show the impressions of basketry. In a paper read before the Historical and Scientific Society, June 3, 1878, Mr. W. B. McKoy described this stage of pottery-making, after the clay had been properly prepared: “The mortar is then pressed by the hand on the inside of a hastily constructed basket of wickerwork and allowed to dry for a while; the basket is then inverted over a large fire of pitch pine and the pot is gradually hardened and blackened by the smoke, having the appearance of a thick iron pot. By constant use afterwards the particles of carbon that have entered the pores of the clay are burnt out and then the pot has a red appearance.”[note] Fragments occur upon which the designs are characteristic of pottery from the interior and farther south; other pieces are undoubtedly the work of the southern Algonquin tribes. Within a radius of about one hundred miles were tribes of the Algonquin, Siouan, and Iroquoian stocks. Small parties of the different tribes were ever moving from place to place, and it is within reason to suppose that members of the various tribes, from time to time, visited the Cape Fear peninsula; thus explaining the presence of the variety of pottery discovered among the shell-heaps on the shore of the sound.[note][note]
The most interesting village site yet examined is located about one and one-half miles south of Myrtle Sound, three miles north of the ruins of Fort Fisher, and less than one hundred yards from the sea beach. Three small shell-mounds are standing near the center of the area. The largest is about thirty inches in height and twenty feet in diameter. Quantities of pottery are scattered about on the surface, and a few pieces of stone are to be found. Sugar Loaf is less than one mile from this site in a northwesterly direction. Here, in the vicinity of the three shell-mounds, was probably the last Indian settlement on the peninsula.
A level area of several acres at the end of Myrtle Sound was likewise occupied by a settlement, and fragments of pottery are very plentiful, these being intermingled with quantities of oyster and clamshells scattered over the surface. Many pieces of the earthenware from this site are unusually heavy and are probably parts of large cooking vessels.
Northward along the sound are other places of equal interest, some having the appearance of having been occupied during comparatively recent years. This may be judged from the condition of the shells and the weathering of the pottery. Other remains may date from a much earlier period; but all represent the work of the one people, the Indians, who had occupied the country for centuries before the coming of the Europeans.
On both sides of Hewlet's Creek, near its mouth, are numerous signs of Indian occupancy. On the north side, in the rear of the old McKoy house, are traces of an extensive camp, and many objects of Indian origin are said to have been found here during past years. On the opposite side of the creek is a large shell-heap in which fragments of pottery occur. Several miles northward, on the left bank of Barren Inlet Creek, about one-half mile from the sound, are signs of a large settlement. Here an area of four or five acres is strewn with pottery. This was probably the site of a permanent village as distinguished from the more temporary camps met with on the shore of the sound.
A careful examination of various sites existing on the peninsula would be of the greatest interest. The burial places of the ancient inhabitants of the country would undoubtedly be discovered, and this would assist in the identification of the people who bore the name “Cape Fear Indians,” all traces of whom are so rapidly disappearing.
INDIAN MOUNDS OF THE CAPE FEAR.
BY PROF. J. A. HOLMES.
(Wilmington, N. C., Weekly Star, October 26, 1883. Reprinted Journal Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 1883-4, pages 73 to 79.)
So far as is known to me, no account of the Indian burial mounds which are to be found in portions of eastern North Carolina, has, as yet, been published. This fact is considered a sufficient reason for the publication of the following notes concerning a few of these mounds which have been examined in Duplin and some other counties in the region under consideration.
It is expected that the examination of other mounds will be carried on during the present year, and it is considered advisable to postpone generalized statements concerning them until these additional examinations have been completed. It may be stated, however, of the mounds that have been examined already, that they are quite different from those of Caldwell and other counties of the western section of the State, and of much less interest so far as contents are concerned. As will be seen from the following notes, they are usually low, rarely rising to more than three feet above the surrounding surface, with circular bases, varying in diameter from 15 to 40 feet; and they contain little more than the bones of human (presumably Indian) skeletons, arranged in no special order. They have been generally built on somewhat elevated, dry, sandy places, out of a soil similar to that by which they are surrounded. No evidence of an excavation below the general surface has as yet been observed. In the process of burial, the bones or bodies seem to have been laid on the surface, or above, and covered up with soil taken from the vicinity of the mound. In every case that has come under my own observation charcoal has been found at the bottom of the mound.
Mound No. 1.—Duplin County, located at Kenansville, about one-half mile southwest from the courthouse, on a somewhat elevated, dry, sandy ridge. In form, its base is nearly circular, 35 feet in diameter; height 3 feet. The soil of the mound is like that which surrounds it, with no evidence of stratification. The excavation was made by beginning on one side of the mound and cutting a trench 35 feet long, and to a depth nearly 2 feet below the general surface of the soil (5 feet below top of mound), and removing all the soil of the mound by cutting new trenches
and filling up the old ones. In this way all the soil of the mound, and for two feet below its base, was carefully examined. The soil below the base of the mound did not appear to have been disturbed at the time the mound was built. The contents of the mound included fragments of charcoal, a few small fragments of pottery, a handful of small shells, and parts of sixty human skeletons. No implements of any kind were found. Small pieces of charcoal were scattered about in different portions of the mound, but the larger portion of the charcoal was found at one place, 3 or 4 feet square, near one side of the mound. At this place the soil was colored dark and seemed to be mixed with ashes. There were here, with the charcoal, fragments of bones, some of which were dark colored, and may have been burned; but they were so nearly decomposed that I was unable to satisfy myself as to this point. I could detect no evidence of burning, in case of the bones, in other portions of the mound. Fragments of pottery were few in number, small in size, and scattered about in different parts of the mound. They were generally scratched and cross-scratched on one side, but no definite figures could be made out. The shell “beads” were small in size—10 to 12 mm. in length. They are the Marginella roscida of Redfield, a small gasteropod, which is said to be now living along the coasts of this State. The specimens, about 75 in number, were all found together, lying in a bunch near the skull and breastbones of a skeleton. The apex of each one had been ground off obliquely so as to leave an opening passing through the shell from the apex to the anterior canal—probably for the purpose of stringing them.
The skeletons of this mound were generally much softened from decay—many of the harder bones falling to pieces on being handled, while many of the smaller and softer bones were beyond recognition. They were distributed through nearly every portion of the mound, from side to side, and from the base to the top surface, without, so far as was discovered, any definite order as to their arrangement. None were found below the level of the surface of the soil outside the mound. In a few cases the skeletons occurred singly, with no others within several feet; while in other cases, several were found in actual contact with one another; and in one portion of the mound, near the outer edge, as many as twenty-one skeletons were found placed within the space of six feet square. Here, in the case last mentioned, several of the skeletons lay side by side, others on top of these,
parallel to them, while still others lay on top of and across the first. When one skeleton was located above another, in some cases, the two were in actual contact; in other cases, they were separated by a foot or more of soil.
As to the position of the parts of the individual skeletons, this could not be fully settled in the present case on account of the decayed condition of many of the bones. The following arrangement of the parts, however, was found to be true of nearly every skeleton exhumed. The bones lay in a horizontal position, or nearly so. Those of the lower limbs were bent upon themselves at the knee, so that the thigh bone (femur) and the bones of the leg (tibia and fibula) lay parallel to one another, the bones of the foot and ankle being found with or near the hip bones. The knee cap, or patella, generally lying at its proper place, indicated that there must have been very little disturbance of the majority of the skeletons after their burial. The bones of the upper limbs also were seemingly bent upon themselves at the elbow; those of the forearm (humerus) generally lying quite or nearly side by side with the bones of the thigh and leg; the elbow joint pointing toward the hip bones, while the bones of the two arms below the elbow joint (radius and ulna) were in many cases crossed, as it were, in front of the body. The ribs and vertebræ lay along by the side of, on top of, and between the bones of the upper and lower limbs, generally too far decayed to indicate their proper order or position. The skulls generally lay directly above or near the hip bones, in a variety of positions; in some cases the side, right or left, while in other cases the top of the skull, the base, or the front, was downward.
But two of the crania (A and B of the following table) obtained from this mound were sufficiently well preserved for measurement; and both of these, as shown by the teeth, are skulls of adults. C of this table is the skull of an adult taken from Mound No. 2, below.
|Cranin.||Length.||Breadth.||Height.||Index of Breadth.||Index of Height.||Facial Angle.|
|A||193 mm.||151 mm.||144 mm.||.746||.746||74°|
|B||172 mm.||133 mm.||136 mm.||.772||.790||66°|
|C||180 mm.||137 mm.||147 mm.||.761||.816||63°|
The skeletons were too much decomposed to permit the distinguishing of the sexes of the individuals to whom they belonged; but the size of the crania (adults) and other bones seem to indicate that a portion of the skeletons were those of women. One small cranium found was evidently that of a child—the second and third pairs of incisor teeth appearing beyond the gums.
Mound No. 2.—Located 1¾ miles east of Hallsville, Duplin County, on a somewhat elevated, dry, sandy region. Base of mound nearly circular, 22 feet in diameter; height, 3 feet, surface rounded over the top. Soil similar to that which surrounds the mound—light sandy. Excavations of one-half of the mound exposed portions of eight skeletons, fragments of charcoal and pottery, arranged in much the same way as described above in case of Mound No. 1. The bones being badly decomposed, and the mound being thoroughly penetrated by the roots of trees growing over it, the excavation was stopped. No implements or weapons of any kind were found. There was no evidence of any excavation having been made below the general surface, in the building of the mound, but rather evidence to the contrary. The third cranium (C) of the above table was taken from this mound.
Mound No. 3.—Located in a dry, sandy, and rather elevated place about one-third of a mile east of Hallsville, Duplin County. In size and shape this mound resembles those already mentioned: Base circular, 31 feet in diameter; height 2½ feet. No excavation was made other than what was sufficient to ascertain that the mound contained bones of human skeletons.
Mound No. 4.—Duplin County, located in a rather level sandy region, about one mile from Sarecta post office, on the property of Branch Williams. Base of mound circular, 35 feet in diameter; height 2½ feet. Soil sandy, like that which surrounds it. Around the mound, extending out for a distance varying from 5 to 10 yerds, there was a depression, which, in addition to the similarity of soils mentioned above, affords ground for the conjecture that here, as in a number of other cases, it is probable the mound was built by the throwing on of soil from its immediate vicinity. Only a partial excavation was made, with the result of finding human bones, and a few small fragments of charcoal and pottery.
Since the above mounds were visited, I have obtained information as to the localities of mounds, similar to those described
in the eastern, southern, and western portions of Duplin County; and I can hardly doubt but that a closer examination of this region will prove them to be more numerous than they are now generally supposed to be.
In Sampson County, the localities of several mounds have been noted; only one of these, however, so far as I am informed, has been examined with care. This one (Mound No. 5), examined by Messrs. Phillips and Murphy of the Clinton School, is located about 2½ miles west of Clinton (Sampson County), on the eastern exposure of a small hill. In general character it resembles the mounds already described. Base circular, 40 feet in diameter; height 3½ feet; soil sandy loam, resembling that surrounding the mound. Contents consisted of small fragments of charcoal, two bunches of small shell “beads,” and parts of 16 human skeletons. These skeletons were not distributed uniformly throughout the portion of the mound examined. At one place there were 9, at another 6, and at a third 5 skeletons, lying close to, and in some cases on top of, one another. In this point as in the position of the parts of the skeletons (“doubled-up”) this mound resembles those described above. The bones were generally soft from decay. The small shells were found in bunches under two skulls; they are of the same kind (Marginella roscida, Redfield) as those from Mound No. 1, and their ends were ground off in the same way. No bones were found below the surface level, and there was no evidence of excavations having been made below this point. No stone implements of any kind were found in the mound. One-half of this mound was examined.
In Robeson and Cumberland Counties several mounds have been examined; and for information concerning these, I am indebted to Mr. Hamilton McMillan.
Five mounds are reported as having been examined in Robeson County, averaging 60 feet in circumference, and 2 feet high, all located on elevated, dry ridges, near swamps or water-courses; and all contained bones of human skeletons. One of these mounds, located about two miles east of Red Springs, examined by Mr. McMillan in 1882, contained about 50 skeletons. Many of these bones near the surface of the mound, in Mr. McMillan's opinion, had been partly burned—those nearer the bottom were in a better state of preservation. There was an “entire absence of skulls and teeth” from this mound—a somewhat remarkable fact. A broken stone “celt” was found among
the remains; but with this one unimportant exception, no mention has been made of implements having been found.
In addition to the above, Mr. D. Sinclair, of Plain View, Robeson County, has informed me that he has seen four mounds in the southern portion of this county—two near Brooklyn post office, and two between Leesville and Fair Bluff, about five miles from the latter place.
In Cumberland County, two mounds are reported by Mr. McMillan as having been examined. One of these, located about ten miles south of Fayetteville, was found to contain the crumbled bones of a single person, lying in an east and west direction. There was also found in this mound a fragment of rock rich in silver ore. The other mound, located ten miles southwest from Fayetteville, near Rockfish Creek, was examined by Mr. McMillan in 1860, and found to contain a large number of skeletons, * * * bones were well preserved and, without exception, those of adults. The mound was located on a high, sandy ridge, its base about 20 feet in diameter; height 2½ feet.
In Wake County one mound has been reported as being located on the northeast and several on the southwest side of the Neuse River, about seven miles east from Raleigh; and from the former it is stated that a large number of stone implements have been removed. But I have been unable to examine these or to obtain any definite information concerning them. One mound in this county, examined in 1882 by Mr. W. S. Primrose, of Raleigh, is worthy of mention in this connection, as it resembles in general character the mounds of Duplin County. This mound is located about ten miles south of Raleigh, on a small plateau covered with an original growth of pines. Base of mound circular, about 14 feet in diameter; height 2 feet. The contents of the mound consisted of small fragments of charcoal, and the bones of 10 or 12 human skeletons, much decayed, and arranged, so far as could be determined, without any reference to order or regularity. No weapons or implements of any kind were found.INDIANS OF THE LOWER CAPE FEAR.
BY S. A. ASHE.
The Indians along the Pamlico and Albemarle were of Northern origin; those on the Cape Fear were of Southern origin. The Yamassees, who originally lived along the coast east of Savannah, were driven back into Georgia soon after the settlement.
The Indians dwelling on the Santee, the Pee Dee, and their branches, seem to have been different from the Yamassees, and offshoots from one tribe or nation—the Old Cheraws. There was an Indian tradition that before the coming of the Englishmen the principal body of that tribe, called Cheraw- (or Chero-) kees, after a long fight with the Catawbas, removed to the mountains; but the minor offshoots, along the rivers of South Carolina, were not disturbed.
When the Cape Fear Indians were at war with the settlers at Old Town, the Indians along the southern Carolina coast knew of it, but did not take up arms against the English, and were very friendly with those who, along with Sandford, visited them in 1665. The Indians on the lower Cape Fear are said to have been Congarees, a branch of the Old Cheraws. Soon after the settlement, they were driven away. In 1731, Dr. Brickell, who made an extended journey to the western part of North Carolina in an embassy to the Indians in the mountains, in his Natural History of North Carolina, said: “The Saponas live on the west branch of the Cape Fear River; the Toteras are neighbors to them; the Keyawees live on a branch that lies to the northwest.”
Two or three years later, Governor Burrington mentioned that the small tribes that had resided near the settlements had entirely disappeared; and in 1733, he also mentioned the fact that “some South Carolina grants had been located on the north side of the Waccamaw River, on lands formerly occupied by the Congarees.”
The ending “ee” signifies, perhaps, “river.” It is surmised that the true name of Lumber River was Lumbee. Another termination was “aw”—Waxhaw, Saxapahaw, Cheraw, Burghaw. The Burghaw Indians occupied what we call Burgaw.
REPORT OF COMMISSIONERS SENT FROM BARBADOES
IN 1663 TO EXPLORE THE COAST.
(Lawson's History of North Carolina, page 113.)
From Tuesday, the 29th of September, to Friday, the 2d of October, we ranged along the shore from lat. 32 deg. 20 min. to lat. 33 deg. 11 min., but could discern no entrance for our ship after we had passed to the northward of 32 deg. 40 min. On Saturday, October 3, a violent storm overtook us, the wind being north and east; which easterly winds and foul weather continued till Monday, the 12th; by reason of which storms and foul weather we were forced to get off to sea, to secure ourselves and ship, and were driven by the rapidity of a strong current to Cape Hatteras, in lat. 35 deg. 30 min. On Monday, the 12th, aforesaid, we came to an anchor in seven fathoms at Cape Fair Road, and took the meridian altitude of the sun, and were in lat. 33 deg. 43 min., the wind still continuing easterly, and foul weather till Thursday, the 15th; and on Friday, the 16th, the wind being N.W., we weighed and sailed up Cape Fair River some four or five leagues, and came to an anchor in six or seven fathom, at which time several Indians came on board and brought us great store of fresh fish, large mullets, young bass, shads, and several other sorts of very good, well-tasted fish. On Saturday, the 17th, we went down to the Cape to see the English cattle, but could not find them, though we rounded the Cape, and having an Indian guide with us. Here we rode till October 24th. The wind being against us, we could not go up the river with our ship; but went on shore and viewed the land of those quarters.
On Saturday we weighed and sailed up the river some four leagues or thereabouts.
Sunday, the 25th, we weighed again and rowed up the river, it being calm, and got up some fourteen leagues from the harbor's mouth, where we moored our ship.
On Monday, October 26th, we went down with the yawl to Necoes, an Indian plantation, and viewed the land there.
On Tuesday, the 27th, we rowed up the main river with our longboat and twelve men, some ten leagues or thereabouts.
On Wednesday, the 28th, we rowed up about eight or ten leagues more.
Thursday, the 29th, was foul weather, with much rain and wind, which forced us to make huts and lie still.
Friday, the 30th, we proceeded up the main river seven or eight leagues.
Saturday, the 31st, we got up three or four leagues more, and came to a tree that lay across the river; but because our provisions were almost spent, we proceeded no further, but returned downward before night; and on Monday, the 2d of November, we came aboard our ship.
Tuesday, the 3d, we lay still to refresh ourselves.
On Wednesday, the 4th, we went five or six leagues up the river to search a branch that run out of the main river toward the northwest. In which we went up five or six leagues; but not liking the land, returned on board that night about mid-night, and called that place Swampy Branch.
Thursday, November 5th, we stayed aboard.
On Friday, the 6th, we went up Green's River, the mouth of it being against the place at which rode our ship.
On Saturday, the 7th, we proceeded up the said river, some fourteen or fifteen leagues in all, and found it ended in several small branches. The land, for the most part, being marshy and swamps, we returned towards our ship, and got aboard it in the night.
Sunday, November the 8th, we lay still; and on Monday the 9th, went again up the main river, being well stocked with provisions and all things necessary, and proceeded upward till Thursday noon, the 12th, at which time we came to a place where were two islands in the middle of the river; and by reason of the crookedness of the river at that place, several trees lay across both branches, which stopped the passage of each branch, so that we could proceed no further with our boat; but went up the river by land some three or four miles, and found the river wider and wider. So we returned, leaving it as far as we could see up, a long reach running N.E., we judging ourselves near fifty leagues north from the river's mouth.
* * * * * * *
We saw mulberry trees, multitudes of grapevines, and some grapes, which we eat of. We found a very large and good tract of land on the N.W. side of the river, thin of timber, except here and there a very great oak, and full of grass, commonly as high as a man's middle and in many places to his shoulders, where we saw many deer and turkeys; one deer having very large horns and great body, therefore called it Stag Park.
It being a very pleasant and delightful place, we traveled in
it several miles, but saw no end thereof. So we returned to our boat and proceeded down the river and came to another place, some twenty-five leagues from the river's mouth on the same side, where we found a place no less delightful than the former; and, as far as we could judge, both tracts came into one. This lower place we called Rocky Point, because we found many rocks and stones of several sizes upon the land, which is not common. We sent our boat down the river before us, ourselves traveling by land many miles. Indeed we were so much taken with the pleasantness of the country, that we traveled into the woods too far to recover our boat and company that night.
The next day, being Sunday, we got to our boat; and on Monday, the 16th of November, proceeded down to a place on the east side of the river, some twenty-three leagues from the harbour's mouth, which we called Turkey Quarters, because we killed several turkeys thereabouts. We viewed the land there and found some tracts of good ground, and high, facing upon the river about one mile inward; but backward, some two miles, all pine land, but good pasture ground.
We returned to our boat and proceeded down some two or three leagues, where we had formerly viewed, and found it a tract of as good land as any we have seen, and had as good timber on it. The banks of the river being high, therefore we called it High Land Point.
Having viewed that, we proceeded down the river, going on shore in several places on both sides, it being generally large marshes, and many of them dry, that they may more fitly be called meadows. The woodland against them is, for the most part, pine, and in some places as barren as ever we saw land, but in other places good pasture ground.
On Tuesday, November the 17th, we got aboard our ship, riding against the mouth of Green's River, where our men were providing wood, and fitting the ship for sea. In the interim we took a view of the country on both sides of the river there, finding some good land, but more bad, and the best not comparable to that above.
Friday, the 20th, was foul weather; yet in the afternoon we weighed, went down the river about two leagues, and came to an anchor against the mouth of Hilton's River, and took a view of the land there on both sides, which appeared to us much like that at Green's River.
Monday, the 23d, we went with our longboat, well victualed
and manned, up Hilton's River; and when we came three leagues or thereabouts up the same, we found this and Green's River to come into one, and so continued for four or five leagues, which makes a great island betwixt them. We proceeded still up the river till they parted again; keeping up Hilton's River, on the larboard side, and followed the said river five or six leagues further, where we found another large branch of Green's River to come into Hilton's, which makes another great island. On the starboard side going up, we proceeded still up the river, some four leagues, and returned, taking a view of the land on both sides, and then judged ourselves to be from our ship some eighteen leagues W. by N.
* * * * * * *
Proceeding down the river two or three leagues further, we came to a place where there were nine or ten canoes all together. We went ashore there and found several Indians, but most of them were the same which had made peace with us before. We stayed very little at that place but went directly down the river, and came to our ship before day.
Thursday, the 26th of November, the wind being at south, we could not go down to the river's mouth; but on Friday the 27th we weighed at the mouth of Hilton's River, and got down a league towards the harbor's mouth.
On Sunday, the 29th, we got down to Crane Island, which is four leagues, or thereabouts, above the entrance of the harbor's mouth. On Tuesday, the 1st of December, we made a purchase of the river and land of Cape Fair of Wat Coosa, and such other Indians as appeared to us to be the chief of those parts. They brought us store of fresh fish aboard, as mullets, shads, and other sorts, very good.
There was a writing left in a post, at the point of Cape Fair River, by those New England men that left cattle with the Indians there, the contents whereof tended not only to the disparagement of the land about the said river, but also to the great discouragement of all such as should hereafter come into those parts to settle. In answer to that scandalous writing, we, whose names are underwritten, do affirm, that we have seen, facing both sides of the river and branches of Cape Fair aforesaid, as good land and as well timbered as any we have seen in any other part of the world, sufficient to accommodate thousands of our English nation, and lying commodiously by the said river's side. On Friday, the 4th of December, the wind being fair, we put to
sea, bound for Barbadoes; and on the 6th of February, 1663-4, came to an anchor in Carlisle Bay—it having pleased God, after several apparent dangers both by sea and land, to bring us all in safety to our long-wished-for and much-desired port, to render an account of our discovery, the verity of which we do assert.
PETER FABIAN.CHARLESTOWN—THE FIRST ATTEMPTED SETTLEMENT
ON THE CAPE FEAR.
The first trading on the Cape Fear River of which we have any record was by a party of adventurers from Massachusetts in the year 1660.
The historian Bryant says: “There were probably few bays or rivers along the coast, from the Bay of Fundy to Florida, unexplored by the New Englanders, where there was any promise of profitable trade with the Indians. The colonist followed the trader wherever unclaimed lands were open to occupation. These energetic pioneers explored the sounds and rivers south of Virginia in pursuit of Indian traffic, and contrasted the salubrity of the climate and the fertility of the soil with that region of rocks where they made their homes, and where winter reigns for more than half the year. In 1660 or 1661, a company of these men purchased of the natives and settled upon a tract of land at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Their first purpose was apparently the raising of stock, as the country seemed peculiarly fitted to grazing, and they brought a number of neat cattle and swine to be allowed to feed at large under the care of herdsmen. But they aimed at something more than this nomadic occupation, and a company was formed in which a number of adventurers in London were enlisted, to found a permanent colony.”
The most authentic account of the first settlement on the river states that about the time the New Englanders explored that region, John Vassall and others at Barbadoes, purposing to make a settlement on the coast of Virginia, sent out Capt. William Hilton in his ship, the Adventurer, to explore the coast; and he made a favorable report of the Cape Fear. Soon afterwards, the New England colonists arrived, but, learning of Hilton's visit,
thought it best not to make a settlement at that time; so they turned loose their cattle on the island and left a paper in a box stating that it was a bad place for a settlement. Vassall now again sent Hilton and with him Anthony Long and Peter Fabian to make a more thorough examination.
On Monday, October 12, 1663, the Adventurer came to anchor a second time in what they called “The Cape Fair Roads,” and then the explorers proceeded to examine the lands along the river. Their “main river” was our Northeast. They called the Northwest branch, the Hilton, and the “Cut-off,” the Green. They ascended both branches about seventy-five miles and were much pleased. Along the main river, they named Turkey Quarter, Rocky Point, and Stag Park, names that have been perpetuated to this day.
While these explorations were being made, the King granted the whole country south of Virginia to the Lords Proprietors, and the promoters of the proposed colony, both in New England and in Barbadoes, applied to the Lords Proprietors for terms of settlement. These gentlemen sought to foster the enterprise, and in compliment to the King named the river, the Charles, and the town to be built, Charlestown, and the region they called Clarendon County. Eventually, the New England Association, John Vassall and his friends at Barbadoes, and Henry Vassall and the other London merchants who were to supply the colony, were all brought into a common enterprise; and on May 24, 1664, the first settlers disembarked at the junction of the river and Town Creek, about twenty miles from the bar. These were followed by accessions from New England and Barbadoes until the number of colonists reached six hundred. John Vassall was appointed the surveyor and was the chief man in the colony, being the leading promoter of the enterprise, while Henry Vassall managed affairs at London. The Proprietors, however, selected as governor the man they thought of greatest influence at Barbadoes, Col. John Yeamans; and the King, to show his favor to the colony, conferred on Yeamans the honor of knighthood. He also made a gift to the colony of cannon and munitions for defense. In November, 1665, Sir John reached the colony, and shortly thereafter the first assembly on the Cape Fear was held. There was already a war with the Indians, arising, according to some accounts, from the bad faith of the Massachusetts men who had sold into slavery some Indian children, as well as the adult Indians they were able to take prisoners. There was also dissatisfaction
with the regulations of the Proprietors, and especially because the colonists were not allowed to elect their own governor, as the people of Massachusetts did. Sir John soon left the colony and returned to Barbadoes; and as some of the Proprietors had died, and, England being at war with Holland, the others were too busy to attend to the affairs of the infant colony, for more than a year Vassall's appeals to the Proprietors received no answer. The settlers becoming disheartened, Vassall did all he could to satisfy them, but they felt cut off and abandoned. After they had found a way to reach Albemarle and Virginia by land, he could no longer hold them. On October 6, 1667, Vassall wrote from Nansemond, Virginia, a touching account of the failure of the colony.
After the departure of the colonists from Charlestown in 1667, Clarendon County again became a solitude. A few years later a new Charlestown was begun farther south, and in the management of this new settlement Sir John Yeamans proved himself a wise and efficient governor and a meritorious and beneficent administrator. After his death the settlement was removed to the junction of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, where it flourished and endured.SANDFORD'S ACCOUNT OF CONDITIONS ON
(Colonial Records, Vol. I, page 119.)
The Right Honoble the Lords Proprietors of the Province of Carolina in prosecucion of his sacred Matles pious intencons of planting and civillizing there his domins and people of Northerne America, weh Neighbour Southward on Virginia (by some called Florida (found out and discovered by Sr Sebastian Cabott in the year 1497 at the charges of H: 7: King of England co) Constituted Sr. John Yeamans Baronet their Lt Generall with ample powers for placing a Colony in some of the Rivers to the Southward and Westward of Cape St Romania who departing from the Island Barbadoes in Octob: 1665 in a Fly boate of about 150 Tonns accopanyed by a small Friggatt of his owne and a Sloope purchased by a Comon purse for the service of the Colonyes after they had been separated by a great storme att Sea (wherein the Friggatt lost all her Mast and himselfe had like to have foundred and were all brought together againe in
the beginning of November to an Anchor before the mouth of Charles River neere Cape Feare in the County of Clarendon, part of the same Province newly begunn to be peopled and within the Lt Genlls Commission. They were after blowne from their Anchors by a suddaine violent Gust, the Fly boate Sr John was in narrowly escapeing the dangerous shoales of the Cape. But this proved but a short difference in their Fate, for returning with a favorable winde to a second viewe of the entrance into Charles River but destituted of all pilates (save their owne eyes (which the flattering Gale that conducted them did alsoe delude by covering the rough visage of their objected dangers with a thicke vaile of smoth waters) they stranded their vessell on the middle ground of the harbours mouth to the Westward of the Channell where the Ebbe presently left her and the wind with its owne multeplyed forces and the auxiliaryes of the tide of flood beate her to peeces. The persons were all saved by the neighborhood of the shore but the greatest part of their provision of victualls clothes, &c: and of the Magazine of Armes powder and other Military furniture shipped by the Lords Proprietors for the defence of the designed settlement perished in the waters the Lt Genll purposed at first imediately to repaire his Friggatt (which together with the Sloop gate safely into the River when the Fly boate was driven off) and to send her back to Barbados for recruity whilst himself in person attended the issue of that discovery which I and some other Gentlemen offered to make Southwards in the Sloope, But when the great and growing necessityes of the English Colony in Charles River (heightened by this disaster) begann clamorously to crave the use of the Sloope in a voyage to Virginia for their speedy reliefe, Sr John altered that his first resolution and permitting the sloope to goe to Virginia returned himself to Barbadoes in his Friggatt. Yett that the designe of the Southern Settlement might not wholy fall, Hee considered with the freighters of the sloope that in case she miscarryed in her Virginia voyage they should hire Captain Edward Stanyons vessell (then in there harbour but bound for Barbados) to performe the Discovery and left a commission with mee for the effecting it upon the returne of the Sloope or Stanion which should first happen.
The sloope in her comeing home from Virginia loaded with victualls being ready by reason of her extreme rottenness in her timbers to Sinke was driven on shoare by a storme in the night on Cape looke out (the next head land to the north and Eastward
of Cape Feare and about 20 Le: distant her men all saved except two and with many difficulties brought by their boate through the great Sound into Albemarle River neare the Island Roanoke (within this same province of Carolina, to the English Plantation there—
Captain Stanyon in returning from Barbados weakly maned and without any second to himselfe driven to and agen on the seas for many weekes by contrary winds and conquered with care, vexation and watching lost his reason, and after many wild extravagances leapt over board in a frenzye, leaveing his small Company and vessell to the much more quiet and constant though but little knowing and prudent conduct of a child, who yett assisted by a miraculous providence after many wanderings brought her safe to Charles River in Clarendon her desired port and haven. * * *
[Then Sandford gives an account of his voyage along the coast of southern Carolina, the following extract being of interest.]
Indeed all along I observed a kind of emulation amongst the three principall Indians of the Country (vizt:) those of Keywaha Eddistowe and Port Royall concerning us and our Friendshipp each contending to assure it to themselves and jealous of the other though all be allyed and this notwithstanding that they knew wee were in actuall warre with the natives att Clarendon and had killed and sent away many of them For they frequently discoursed with us concerning the warre, told us that the Natives were noughts, the land sandy and barren, their Country sickly, but if wee would come amongst them wee should finde the contrary to all their evills, and never any occasion of dischargeing our gunns but in merryment and for pastime.
* * * * * * *
ROBT: SANDFORD.MASSACHUSETTS SENDS SOME RELIEF.
(Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts, page 238.)
In 1667, the people at Cape Fear being under distressing circumstances, a general contribution by order of court was made throughout the colony for their relief. Although this was a colony subject to the Proprietary Government of Lord Clarendon and others, yet the foundation was laid about the time of the Restoration by adventurers from New England, who supposed
they had a right to the soil as first occupants and purchasers from the natives, and, issuing from Massachusetts, to the same civil privileges; but they were disappointed as to both.THE END OF THE SETTLEMENT ON CHARLES
RIVER—THE FIRST CHARLESTOWN.JOHN VASSALL TO SIR JOHN COLLETON.
(B. P. R. O., Shaftesbury Papers, Bdle. 48, No. 8.)
NANCYMOND IN VIRGINNY 6th October 1667.
I presume you have heard of the unhapy Loss of our Plantation on Charles River the reason of which I could never soe well have understood had I not com hither to heare; how that all that came from us made it their business soe to exclaime against the Country as they had rendered it unfitt for a Christian habitation; which hindered the coming of the people & supplys to us soe as the rude Rable of our Inhabitants ware dayly redy to mutany against mee for keeping them there soe long; insomuch that after they had found a way to com hither by land all the arguments and authority I could use wold noe longer prevail which inforced mee to stop the first ship that came till I could send for more shipping to carry us all away together espetially such weak persons as ware not able to goe by land the charge and trouble whereof and the loss of my Estate there having soe ruened mee as I am not well able to settle myself heare or in any other place to live comfortably. But had it pleased God to bring my Cauzen Vassall safe hither wee had bin yett in a flourishing condition. I sent one Whiticar last November on purpose at my owne charge to give the Lords an account of our condition but hee was taken by the way soe as I have not heard a word from any of you since I receaved my Commissions by Mr. Sandford and indeed we ware as a poore Company of deserted people little regarded by any others and noe way able to supply ourselves with clothing and necessaries nor any number considerable to defend ourselves from the Indians all which was occationed by the hard termes of your Consetions which made our friends that sett us out from Barbadoes to forsake us, soe as they would neither suply us with necessaries nor find shipping to fetch us away, yet had wee had but 200£ sent us in
Clothing wee had made a comfortable shift for annother yeare, and I offered to stay there if but twenty men would stay with mee till wee had heard from your Lordships, for wee had corne enough for two yeares for a farr greater number and tho’ the Indians had killed our Cattle yett wee might have defended ourselves but I could not find 6, men that wold be true to me to stay: soe was constrained to leave it to my greate loss & ruin, and I fear you will not have a much better account of your plantation at Roanoke unless a better course be taken to incorage their stay for they are not without greate cause of complaints.
This with my very humble servis presented is all at present From
Your honnors humble servant
To the Honorable Sir John Coliton
Knight and Barronett at Nerehald
In Essex.SAMUEL MAVERICKE TO SEC. Ld ARLINGTON.
(B. P. R. O., Shaftesbury Papers, Vol. XXI, 134.)
The plantations at Cape Feare are deserted, the inhabitants have since come hither, some to Virginia.
Yor most obliged
Oct. 16, 1667.CAPE FEAR PIRATES OF 1719.
There was a wide breadth of wilderness between the settlements in North and South Carolina, and before 1725 it was not determined to which province the Cape Fear River belonged. About 1692 Landgrave Smith located a grant of 48,000 acres on that river, and other South Carolina grants were located near the confluence of its two branches; but there was no permanent settlement made. One Lockwood, from Barbadoes, however, made a settlement farther to the south, which the Indians destroyed, and hence the name to this day of “Lockwood's Folly.”
The solitude remained unbroken until in 1719, when Steed Bonnet, an infamous pirate, established himself within the harbor
and made such depredations on the commerce of Charleston that Colonel Rhett organized an expedition against him. A notable battle took place near where Southport now stands, ending in the destruction of Bonnet's vessel and the capture of many of the pirates. Two days later other pirate vessels were taken at sea, and more than a hundred pirates were hanged at one time on the wharves of Charleston. It is supposed that some of Bonnet's men escaped and made their way up the river, eventually amalgamating with a small tribe of Indians on the Lumber River, where, soon after the permanent settlement of the Cape Fear, in 1725, a considerable number of English-speaking people were found.
THE TOWN OF BRUNSWICK.
On the 24th of January, 1712, was commissioned the first governor of the province of North Carolina, separate and distinct from the province of South Carolina.
In the year 1711 a horrible massacre of the colonists in Albemarle occurred, which was characterized by such fiendish cruelty on the part of the Indians, led principally by Tuscaroras, that the colony on the Neuse and Pamlico was blighted for years and well-nigh destroyed. One hundred and thirty persons were butchered in two hours under the most appalling circumstances. Women were laid upon the house floors and great stakes driven through their bodies; other atrocities were committed too frightful to think of, and more than eighty unbaptized infants were dashed to pieces against trees. Although it appears that there were occasional difficulties with the Indians during the early settlements, this seems to have been the first general uprising in the province. It led to the Tuscarora War, which would probably have exterminated the white people in North Carolina but for the timely and generous assistance of South Carolina, which voted £4,000 sterling, and dispatched troops immediately to Albemarle without so much as asking for security or promise to pay. It is this war which leads us to the introduction of Col. James Moore, son of Gov. James Moore, of South Carolina, who came from South Carolina with a second force of troops to the help of our colonists, and by his active and efficient campaign made short work of the Tuscaroras and restored peace to our sorely troubled people.
Meanwhile, a third army had come from South Carolina under Maj. Maurice Moore, a younger brother of Col. James Moore, who after peace remained in Albemarle. The next year the people of South Carolina were themselves in danger of extermination because of a most terrible Indian war, and Maj. Maurice Moore was dispatched with a force to their relief. He marched along the coast, crossing the Cape Fear near Sugar Loaf, and was so well pleased with the river lands that he conceived the idea of settling them. The Lords Proprietors, however, had prohibited the making of any settlement within twenty
miles of that river, and it was some time before he could carry out his plan. Finally, in 1725, he and his kindred and friends in Albemarle and South Carolina joined in settling the Cape Fear country. His brother, Roger Moore, came with his hundreds of slaves and built Orton, while Maurice Moore selected a most admirable site on a bluff near Orton, fifteen miles below the present city of Wilmington, and laid out a town which he called Brunswick, in honor of the reigning family. Brunswick quickly prospered, for a steady stream of population flowed in, and the trade of the river grew rapidly. In 1731 Dr. Brickell wrote in his Natural History of North Carolina, “Brunswick has a great trade, a number of merchants and rich planters.” At that early period forty-two vessels, carrying valuable cargoes, sailed from the port in one year.
I have before me the original book of entries and clearances of His Britannic Majesty's custom house at the port of Brunswick, in the province of North Carolina, beginning with A. D. 1773, in the reign of George III., and running for three years. It is strongly bound in leather, somewhat injured by abuse for other purposes during Revolutionary times, but it contains in fine, legible handwriting, wonderfully well preserved, a record of over three hundred vessels, with the particulars of their cargoes and crews. Among the names of the trading vessels, some of which are remarkable, are the brig Orton, the brig Wilmington, and the schooner Rake's Delight.
Some of the cargoes are significant; 20 negroes, 50 hogsheads of rum, 1,000 bags of salt, etc. The outward cargoes to ports in the provinces, to the West Indies, and to London, Bristol, and other distant destinations, were mostly lumber, staves, tar, indigo, rice, corn, wheat, and tobacco.
The full-rigged ship Ulysses, Captain Wilson, brought from Glasgow, Scotland, October 18, 1773, to Brunswick, furniture, leather, saddles, earthenware, shoes, linen, hats, gunpowder, silks, glass, iron, lead, and “shott,” also port wine, rugs, toys, and household articles.
Other Scotch brigs, notably the Baliol, brought many settlers to the Cape Fear, most of whom went farther up to Cross Creek, now Fayetteville. Among these was the distinguished lady, Flora Macdonald.
There are no available records of trade and commerce pertaining to Brunswick or to the new settlement at Wilmington. It appears, however, that many of the plantations established
sawmills, from which lumber, along with the products of the farms, was shipped in plantation brigs and schooners to distant ports. At Orton a large sawmill was run by water power, and vessels were loaded in the river opposite the mill with lumber, rice, and indigo.
In its early years Brunswick was in Carteret Precinct, for when Carteret Precinct, as the counties were formerly called, was established in 1722, it ran down the coast to the unknown confines of North Carolina, and back into the wilderness without limitation.
So the settlement at Brunswick, in 1725, was in Carteret, until New Hanover Precinct was established; and then it was in New Hanover, which at first embraced the territory now in Duplin, Sampson, Bladen, and Brunswick Counties. It was not until shortly before the Revolution that Brunswick was cut off from New Hanover.
As the Cape Fear region was originally in Carteret Precinct, some of the early grants and deeds for lands in New Hanover and Brunswick were registered at Beaufort, the county seat of Carteret.A VISIT TO THE CAPE FEAR IN 1734.
(Georgia Historical Papers, Vol. II, page 54.)
I intend after my return to Charleston to take a journey, by land, to Cape Fear in North Carolina, which I have heard so much talk of. * * *
I set out from Charleston on the 10th of June, on my travels to Cape Fear, in North Carolina, in company with thirteen more, and the first night reached Mr. More's, in Goose Creek. * * *
The next morning, just as we were setting out from thence, our tired horses came in, when we ordered them to be left there till further orders; we left the boys behind to come after us as well as they could. We reached Little Charlotta by dinner time, which is about fifteen miles from Ash's, or Little River; we dined there, and in the afternoon crossed the ferry, where we intended to sleep that night. We reached there about eight the same night, after having crossed the ferry.
It [Lockwood's Folly] is so named after one Lockwood, a Barbadian, who attempted to settle it some time ago; but, by his cruel behavior to the Indians, they drove him from thence, and
it has not been settled above ten years. We left Lockwood's Folly about eight the next morning, and by two reached the town of Brunswick, which is the chief town in Cape Fear; but with no more than two of the same horses which came with us out of South Carolina. We dined there that afternoon. Mr. Roger More hearing we were come, was so kind as to send fresh horses for us to come up to his house, which we did, and were kindly received by him; he being the chief gentleman in all Cape Fear. His house is built of brick, and exceedingly pleasantly situated about two miles from the town, and about half a mile from the river; though there is a creek comes close up to the door, between two beautiful meadows, about three miles length. He has a prospect of the town of Brunswick, and of another beautiful brick house, a building about half a mile from him, belonging to Eleazar Allen, Esq., late speaker to the Commons House of Assembly, in the province of South Carolina. There were several vessels lying about the town of Brunswick, but I shall forbear giving a description of that place; yet on the 20th of June we left Mr. Roger More's, accompanied by his brother, Nathaniel More, Esq., to a plantation of his, up the Northwest branch of Cape Fear River. The river is wonderfully pleasant, being, next to the Savannah, the finest on all the continent.
We reached The Forks, as they call it, that same night, where the river divides into two very beautiful branches, called the Northeast and the Northwest, passing by several pretty plantations on both sides. We lodged that night at one Mr. Jehu Davis’, and the next morning, proceeded up the Northwest branch; when we got about two miles from thence, we came to a beautiful plantation, belonging to Captain Gabriel, who is a great merchant there, where were two ships, two sloops, and a brigantine, loaded with lumber for the West Indies: it is about twenty-two miles from the bar; when we came about four miles higher up, we saw an opening on the northeast side of us, which is called Black River, on which there is a great deal of good meadow land, but there is not any one settled on it.
The next night we came to another plantation belonging to Mr. Roger More, called the Blue Banks, where he is a-going to build another very large brick house. This bluff is at least a hundred feet high, and has a beautiful prospect over a fine large meadow, on the opposite side of the river; the houses are all built on the southwest side of the river, it being for the most
part high champaign land: the other side is very much subject to overflow, but I cannot learn they have lost but one crop. I am credibly informed they have very commonly fourscore bushels of corn on an acre of their overflowed land. It very rarely overflows but in the wintertime, when their crop is off. I must confess I saw the finest corn growing there that I ever saw in my life, as likewise wheat and hemp. We lodged there that night at one Captain Gibbs’, adjoining to Mr. More's plantation, where we met with very good entertainment. The next morning we left his house, and proceeded up the said river to a plantation belonging to Mr. John Davis, where we dined. The plantations on this river are very much alike as to the situation; but there are many more improvements on some than on others; this house is built after the Dutch fashion, and made to front both ways—on the river, and on the land. He has a beautiful avenue cut through the woods for above two miles, which is a great addition to the house. We left his house about two in the afternoon, and the same evening reached Mr. Nathaniel More's plantation, which is reckoned forty miles from Brunswick. It is likewise a very pleasant place on a bluff upwards of sixty feet high. I forbore mentioning any thing either as to the goodness or the badness of the land in my passage from South Carolina, it being, in short, nothing but a sandy bank from Winneaw ferry to Brunswick; and, indeed, the town itself is not much better at present: it is that which has given this place such a bad name on account of the land, it being the only road to South Carolina from the northern part of the continent, and as there are a great many travellers from New York, New England, &c., who go to Charleston, having been asked what sort of land they have in Cape Fear, have not stuck out to say that it is all a mere sand bank; but let those gentlemen take a view of the rivers, and they will soon be convinced to the contrary, as well as myself, who, must confess, till then was of their opinion, but now am convinced by ocular demonstration, for I have not so much as seen one foot of bad land since my leaving Brunswick. About three days after my arrival at Mr. More's, there came a sloop of one hundred tons, and upwards, from South Carolina, to be laden with corn, which is sixty miles at least from the bar. I never yet heard of any man who was ever at the head of that river, but they tell me the higher you go up the better the land, and the river grows wider and wider. There are people settled at least forty miles higher up, but indeed the tide does not flow, at the
most, above twenty miles higher. Two days after, I was taken very ill of an ague and fever, which continued on me for near a month, in which time my companions left me, and returned to South Carolina. When I began to recover my health a little, I mentioned to Mr. More the great desire I had to see Waccamaw Lake, as I had heard so much talk of it, and been myself a great way up the river; that I was sure by the course of the country I could not be above twenty miles from thence. He told me he had a negro fellow, who he thought could carry me to it, and that he would accompany me himself, with some others of his acquaintance. On the 18th of July we set out from his house on horseback, with every one his gun, and took the negro with us. We rode about four miles on a direct course through an open pine barren, when we came to a large cane swamp, about half a mile through, which we crossed in about an hour's time, but I was astonished to see the innumerable sight of musquetoes, and the largest that I ever saw in my life, for they made nothing to fetch blood of us through our buckskin gloves, coats, and jackets. As soon as we got through that swamp, we came to another open pine barren, where we saw a great herd of deer, the largest and fattest that ever I saw in those parts: we made shift to kill a brace of them, which we made a hearty dinner on. We rode about two miles farther, when we came to another cane swamp, where we shot a large she-bear and two cubs. It was so large that it was with great difficulty we got through it. When we got on the other side, it began to rain very hard, or otherwise, as far as I know, we might have shot ten brace of deer, for they were almost as thick as in the parks in England, and did not seem to be in the least afraid of us, for I question much whether they had ever seen a man in their lives before, for they seemed to look on us as amazed. We made shift as well as we could to reach the lake the same night, but had but little pleasure; it continued to rain very hard, we made a large fire of lightwood, and slept as well as we could that night. The next morning we took a particular view of it, and I think it is the pleasantest place that ever I saw in my life. It is at least eighteen miles round, surrounded with exceedingly good land, as oak of all sorts, hickory, and fine cypress swamps. There is an old Indian field to be seen, which shows it was formerly inhabited by them, but I believe not within these fifty years, for there is scarce one of the Cape Fear Indians, or the Waccamaws, that can give any account of it. There is plenty of
deer, wild turkeys, geese, and ducks, and fish in abundance; we shot sufficient to serve forty men, though there were but six of us. We went almost round it, but there is on the northeast side a small cypress swamp, so deep that we could not go through it; we returned back again on a direct line, being resolved to find how far it was on a straight course from the Northwest branch of Cape Fear River, which we found did not exceed ten miles.
We returned back to Mr. More's that same night, having satisfied our curiosity, and the next morning set out with an intent to take a view of the Northeast branch, on which there is a great deal of good land, but not in my opinion, for the generality, so good as on the Northwest, but I think the river is much more beautiful. We lay that first night at Newton, in a small hut, and the next day reached Rocky Point, which is the finest place in all Cape Fear. There are several very worthy gentlemen settled there, particularly Col. Maurice More, Captain Herne, John Swan, Esq., and several others. We stayed there one night, and the next morning set out on horseback to take a view of the land backward, imagining that there might be only a skirt of good land on the river, but I am sure I rode for about twenty miles back, through nothing but black walnut, oak, and hickory; we returned the same night to Rocky Point, and the next morning set out for a plantation belonging to Mr. John Davis, within six miles of Brunswick, where I was a second time taken ill, so that I thought I should have died; but by the providence of God, and the care of good Mrs. Davis, I recovered in a fortnight's time, so that I was able to set out on my journey to South Carolina. I took leave of that worthy family on the 10th of August, when she was so kind as to force me to take a bottle of shrub, and several other things with me. I reached Mr. Roger More's the same night, where I was again handsomely received, but being resolved to set out on my journey the next morning, he generously offered me a horse to carry me to the house where I was obliged to leave mine on the road, as likewise a servant to attend me, which I refused. I left his house the next morning, being the 11th of August, at half an hour after seven, and reached Brunswick by eight. I set out from thence about nine, and about four miles from thence met my landlord of Lockwood's Folly, who was in hopes I would stay at his house all night.
* * * * * * *
When I was about halfway over the bay, I intended to stop
at the next spring and take a tiff of punch; but by some unfortunate accident, I know not how, when I came within sight of the spring, my bottle unluckily broke, and I lost every drop of my shrub; but examining my bags, I accidentally found a bottle of cherry brandy, with some ginger-bread and cheese, which I believe good Mrs. More ordered to be put up unknown to me. I drank two drams of that, not being willing it should all be lost in case it should break, and mounting my horse, took some ginger-bread and cheese in my hand and pursued my journey.
* * * * * * *
I reached Witton's by noon, and had my possum dressed for dinner. * * * I arrived at Charleston on the 7th [17th] day of August, where I remained till the 23d of November, when I set sail for England and arrived safe in London on the 3d of January, 1734-5.ERECTION OF WILMINGTON—DECAY OF
In the cove near Governor Tryon's residence, still known as Governor's Cove, were anchored in colonial times His Majesty's sloops of war Viper, Diligence, Scorpion, and Cruizer; and the frigate Rose, a prison ship, was anchored in the stream. This roadstead proved to be unsafe in stormy weather, and because of that fact and of the growth of a village fifteen miles farther up the river called New Liverpool, afterwards Newton, and lastly Wilmington, which absorbed the trade of the two branches of the river near that point and prospered, a gradual exodus from Brunswick began and continued; so that while Wilmington flourished and became the capital of the province, Brunswick dwindled and during the Revolutionary War was wholly abandoned.
In 1731 John Maultsby took out a warrant for 640 acres of land opposite the “Thoroughfare,” and John Watson located a similar warrant adjoining and below that. In 1732 a few enterprising men settled on Maultsby's grant for trade, and called the place New Liverpool. The next spring Michael Higgins, Joshua Grainger, James Wimble, and John Watson joined in laying off a town on Watson's entry, which they called Newton.
Gov. Gabriel Johnston arrived in November, 1734, and he at once espoused the cause of Newton as against Brunswick, the older town. He bought land near Newton and led his
friends to do so. Determined to give it importance, he ordered that the Council should meet there, and also that the courts should be held there instead of at Brunswick; and, indeed, as a sort of advertisement, he made May 13, 1735, a gala day for the village. On that day he had the land office opened there, also the Court of Exchequer to meet there, as well as the New Hanover Court, and, likewise, the Council. Then he sought to have the village incorporated under the name of Wilmington. For a brief time the influence of Brunswick prevailed against him, but he finally succeeded.
The Act of Incorporation,[note] passed in 1739 by the Assembly, is as follows:
An Act, for erecting the village called Newton, in New Hanover County, into a town and township, by the name of Wilmington; and regulating and ascertaining the bounds thereof.
SECTION 1. Whereas, several merchants, tradesmen, artificers, and other persons of good substance, have settled themselves at a village called Newton lying on the east branch of Cape Fear; and whereas, the said village by reason of its convenient situation at the meeting of the two great branches of Cape Fear River, and likewise, by reason of the depth of water, capable of receiving vessels of considerable burthen, safety of its roads beyond any other part of the river, and the secure and easy access from all parts of the different branches of the said river, is, upon all those and many other accounts, more proper for being erected into a town or township, than any other part of the said river.
SEC. 2. Be it therefore enacted by His Excellency Gabriel Johnston, Esq., Governor, by and with the advice and consent of His Majesty's Council and General Assembly of this province, and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same, that the village heretofore called Newton, lying on the east side of the northeast branch of Cape Fear River, in New Hanover County, shall, from and after the passage of this Act, be a town and township, and the said village is hereby established a town and township by the name of Wilmington, the bounds whereof shall be and are circumscribed in manner following: That is to say, to the northeast, by the lands of His Excellency Gabriel Johnston, Esq.; upwards and below, by the lands of Michael Dyer; to the westward by the northeast branch of Cape Fear River; and to the eastward, by a line drawn between the[note]
PLAN of the Town of WILMINGTON in New Hanover County NORTH CAROLINA
PLAN of the Town of WILMINGTON in New Hanover County NORTH CAROLINA
said lands of His Excellency Gabriel Johnston, Esq., and Michael Dyer, one hundred and twenty poles distant from the river.
SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that forever, after passing of this Act, the inhabitants of and near the said town, qualified as hereinafter mentioned, shall have the privilege of choosing one Representative for the said town, to sit and vote in General Assembly.
SEC. 4. And for ascertaining the method of choosing the said Representative, be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that every tenant of any brick, stone, or framed inhabitable house, of the length of twenty feet, and sixteen feet wide, within the bounds of the said town, who, at the day of election, and for three months next before, inhabited such house, shall be entitled to vote in the election for the Representative of the said town, to be sent to the General Assembly; and in case there shall be no tenant of such house in the said town on the day of election, qualified to vote as aforesaid, that then, and in such case, the person seized of such house, either in fee-simple, or fee-tail, or for term of life, shall be entitled to vote for the Representative aforesaid.
SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that every person who, on the day of election, and for three months next before, shall be in actual possession or an inhabitant of a brick house, of the length of thirty feet, and sixteen feet wide, between the bounds of the said town upwards, and Smith's Creek, and within one hundred and twenty poles of the Northeast branch of Cape Fear River, shall be entitled to, and have a vote in the election of a Representative for the said town (unless such person be a servant), and shall, as long as he continues an inhabitant of such house, within the said bounds, enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities, to which any inhabitant within the said town shall be entitled, by virtue of said Act.
SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that no person shall be deemed qualified to be a Representative for the said town, to sit in the General Assembly, unless, on the day of election, he be, and for three months next before, was seized, in fee-simple, or for the term of life, of a brick, stone, or framed house of the dimensions aforesaid, with one or more brick chimney or chimnies.
SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that forever, after the passing of this Act, the Court of
the County of New Hanover, and the election of the Representatives to be sent to the General Assembly, and the election of Vestrymen, and all other public elections, of what kind or nature soever, for the said county and town, shall be held and made in the town of Wilmington, and at no other place whatsoever, any law, statute, usage, or custom, to the contrary, notwithstanding.
SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the passing of this Act, the Collector and Naval Officers of the port of Brunswick (of which port the said town of Wilmington is the most central and convenient place, both for exportation and importation, by reason of its navigation and situation), shall constantly reside in the said town, and there keep their respective offices, until His Majesty shall be pleased to give his directions to the contrary. And likewise, the Clerk of the Court of the County of New Hanover, and the Register of the said county, shall constantly hold and execute their respective offices in the said town of Wilmington; and that if either of the said officers neglect or refuse so to do, he so neglecting or refusing, shall, for every month he shall be a delinquent, forfeit and pay the sum of five pounds proclamation money; to be sued for and recovered, by him who shall sue for the same, in the general court of this province, or in the County Court of New Hanover, by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information, wherein no essoin, protection, injunction, or wager of law shall be allowed, and one-half of such forfeiture shall be for the use of the person who sues for the same, and the other half shall be paid to the commissioners, for the time being, appointed for regulating the said town.
SEC. 9. And for the due regulating the said town, be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that Robert Halton, James Murray, Samuel Woodard, William Farris, Richard Eagles, John Porter and Robert Walker, Esquires, are hereby established and appointed commissioners for the said town; and the said commissioners, or a majority of them, and their successors shall have, and be invested with all powers and authorities within the bounds of the said town of Wilmington, in as full and ample manner as the commissioners for the town of Edenton have or possess, by virtue of any law heretofore passed.
SEC. 10. And whereas the justices of the County Court of New Hanover, at the court held at Brunswick, on Tuesday the eleventh day of December last, have imposed a tax of five shillings
per poll, to be levied on the tithable inhabitants of the said county, between the first day of January and the first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and thirty-nine; and afterwards, one other tax of five shillings per poll, to be levied on the said inhabitants, between the first day of January and the first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and forty, towards building a courthouse and gaol in the town of Brunswick, for the said county.
SEC. 11. Be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that the justices of the said County Court shall, and are hereby directed to apply the said levy or tax towards finishing and completing the courthouse already erected in the said town of Wilmington, and towards building a gaol in the said town.
SEC. 12. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that if any one or more of the said commissioners shall die, or remove out of the county, that then and in such case, the surviving or remaining commissioners shall, within six months after the death or removal of such commissioner, present to His Excellency the Governor, or Commander-in-Chief for the time being, three persons, one of which the said Governor or Commander-in-Chief is hereby empowered to nominate and appoint; and the commissioners so appointed shall be invested with the same powers and authorities as any commissioner nominated by this Act.
GABRIEL JOHNSTON, ESQ., Governor.
WILLIAM SMITH, President.
JOHN HODGSON, Speaker.THE SPANISH INVASION, 1747.
On November 20, 1740, a considerable force, enlisted on the Cape Fear, left Wilmington under the command of Capt. James Innes to fight the Spaniards at Cartagena; they were carried off by disease and but few returned. The next year the Spaniards in retaliation seized Ocracoke Inlet and committed tremendous depredations. And again, in 1744, they scoured the coast. Three years later, they made another foray. In July, 1747, they entered the Cape Fear, but the militia were prompt in meeting them, and held them in check, taking some prisoners. From there they went north, entered Beaufort Harbor, and, on August 26, after several days’ fighting, gained possession of the town. Emboldened by this victory, they returned to the Cape
Fear, and, on September 4, 1747, began to ascend the river. New Hanover County then included what has since become Brunswick, and the people from Duplin to Lockwood's Folly sprang to their horses and hurried to Brunswick. Eleazar Allen, Roger Moore, Edward Moseley, and William Forbes were appointed commissioners to take measures for defense; while Maj. John Swann was invested with the immediate command of the troops. The companies of Capt. William Dry, Capt. John Ashe, and Capt. John Sampson, from the upper part of the county, alone numbered 300 men; so the defenders doubtless were about a thousand. On the 6th, the Spaniards possessed themselves of Brunswick, and for four days the battle raged. At length, on September 10, one of the Spanish vessels was blown up and the others were driven off. All that day Colonel Dry was burying dead Spaniards, for a considerable number of them perished, and twenty-nine were taken alive. It was from the destroyed vessel that the painting in the vestry room of St. James's Church in Wilmington, “Ecce Homo,” was taken. The spoils from the wreck were appropriated for the use of the churches in Brunswick and Wilmington.
Because of these incursions, a fort was built the next year to guard the river—Fort Johnston. It was garrisoned by companies raised in the vicinity, and some of the young officers trained to arms there afterwards became distinguished in the French and Indian War and in the Revolution, among them Gen. James Moore and Gen. Robert Howe.THE WAR OF JENKINS’ EAR.
Catherine Albertson, in her very interesting book entitled In Ancient Albemarle, says, with reference to this interesting episode:
The real cause of this war in 1740 was the constant violation on the part of the English of the commercial laws which Spain had made to exclude foreign nations from the trade of her American colonies. But the event which precipitated matters and gave to the conflict which followed the name of “The War of Jenkins’ Ear” was as follows:
The Spaniards captured an English merchant vessel, whose master they accused of violating the trade laws of Spain. In order to wring a confession from the master, Captain Jenkins, his captors hung him up to a yardarm of his ship until he was nearly dead, and then let him down, thinking he would confess.
But on his stoutly denying that he had been engaged in any nefarious dealings, and since no proof could be found against him, the captain of the Spanish ship cut off one of the English captain's ears, and insolently told him to show it to his countrymen as a warning of what Englishmen might expect who were caught trading with Spain's colonies in America.
Captain Jenkins put the ear in his pocket, sailed home as fast as wind and wave would carry him, and was taken straight to the Houses of Parliament with his story. Such was the indignation of both Lords and Commons at this insult to one of their nation, and so loud was the clamor for vengeance, that even Walpole, who for years had managed to hold the English dogs of war in leash, was now compelled to yield to the will of the people, and Parliament declared war on Spain.
Immediately upon this declaration, King George called upon his “trusty and well-beloved subjects in Carolina” and the other twelve colonies, to raise troops to help the mother country in her struggle with arrogant Spain. Carolina responded nobly to the call for troops, as the following extract from a letter from Gov. Gabriel Johnston to the Duke of Newcastle will testify: “I can now assure Your Grace that we have raised 400 men in this province who are just going to put to sea. In those northern parts of the colony adjoining to Virginia, we have got 100 men each, though some few deserted since they began to send them on board the transports at Cape Fear. I have good reason to believe we could have raised 200 more if it had been possible to negotiate the bills of exchange in this part of the continent; but as that was impossible we were obliged to rest satisfied with four companies. I must, in justice to the Assembly of the province, inform Your Grace that they were very zealous and unanimous in promoting this service. They have raised a subsidy of 1,200 pounds, as it is reckoned hereby, on which the men have subsisted ever since August, and all the transports are victualed.”
No record has been kept of the names of the privates who enlisted from Carolina in this war. Nor do we know how many of those who at the King's call left home and country to fight in a foreign land ever returned to their native shores; but we do know that these Carolina troops took part in the disastrous engagements of Cartagena and Boca-Chica; and that King George's troops saw fulfilled Walpole's prophecy, made at the time of the rejoicing over the news that Parliament had declared
war on Spain: “You are ringing the joy bells now,” said the great prime minister, “but before this war is over you will all be wringing your hands.”
After the two crushing defeats of Cartagena and Boca-Chica, the troops from the colonies who still survived embarked upon their ships to return home; but while homeward bound a malignant fever broke out among the soldiers, which destroyed nine out of every ten men on the ships. But few of those from Carolina lived to see their native home again. That they bore themselves bravely on the field of battle, none who know the war record of North Carolina will dare deny, though, as regards her private soldiers in this war, history is silent.
One of the officers from Carolina, Captain Innes, of Wilmington, made such a record for gallantry during the two engagements mentioned, that in the French and Indian War, in which fourteen years later not only the Thirteen Colonies, but most of the countries of Europe as well, were embroiled, he was made commander-in-chief of all the American forces [in Virginia], George Washington himself gladly serving under this distinguished Carolinian.THE SITE OF FORT JOHNSTON.
(Extracts from an address delivered by Dr. J. G. DeRoulhac Hamilton, alumnus professor of history, University of North Carolina, before the North Carolina Society of Colonial Dames at Southport, N. C.)
Fort Johnston dates from the War of the Austrian Succession, or, as it was known in the colonies, King George's War. In this contest, in which the mother country was engaged with both France and Spain, many of the colonies took an active part. The Southern colonies were all in an exposed condition and seemed in imminent danger of attack, particularly from Spain. Then it was, in 1745, that the Assembly of North Carolina, after reciting that
“Whereas, from the present War with France and Spain, There is great Reason to fear that such Parts of this Province which are situated most commodious for Shipping to enter may be invaded by the Enemy; and whereas, The Entrance of Cape Fear River, from its known depth of water and other Conveniences for Navigation, may tempt them to such an enterprise, while it remains in so naked and defenceless a Condition as it now is, * * * for the better securing of the Inhabitants
of the River from Insult and Invasion,” appointed a board of commissioners, consisting of Gov. Gabriel Johnston, for whom the fort was to be named, Nathaniel Rice, Robert Halton, Eleazar Allen, Matthew Rowan, Edward Moseley, Roger Moore, William Forbes, James Innes, William Farris, John Swann and George Moore, who were charged with the duty of erecting a fort large enough to contain twenty cannon, and provided for the payment of the expenses of construction by appropriating therefor the powder money exacted from vessels entering the port. In 1748 two thousand pounds were appropriated for the work, and at various times later the amount was increased. The fort was completed in 1764, by William Dry, and very poorly built it was, too, for the tapia, or “tabby work,” as it was called, contained such a large proportion of sand that every time a gun was fired part of the parapet fell down. Governor Tryon said that it was a disgrace to the ordnance in it, but he described its situation as admirable in every respect, and Josiah Quincy, who visited it in 1773, said it was delightful.
The first commander of the fort was Capt. John Dalrymple. Of this officer, the least said, the better. General Braddock, in order to get rid of him, gave him the appointment and sent him to Governor Dobbs. This is not an unfair example of the English method of making colonial appointments at that time. Dalrymple went to England, and upon his return was arrested by Governor Dobbs and thrown into prison, but upon appeal to the Board of Trade, he was restored to command and held it until his death at the fort in 1766. Governor Tryon at once recommended Robert Howe for the vacancy and placed him in command, but Abraham Collett received the commission and under Governor Martin took command of the fort. The position was retained by him until the downfall of the royal government.
Twice before 1776 was the wisdom of the colonial leaders in not strengthening the fort justified. When those patriots of the Cape Fear, under the lead of Harnett, Ashe, and Waddell, defied the Governor and the armed power of England and thereby prevented the execution of the Stamp Act, placing themselves high in our roll of honor, Governor Tryon had the mortification of seeing the guns of the fort spiked by Captain Dalrymple, lest they be turned by Waddell and his force against the English war vessels that lay in the harbor. The garrison of the fort, consisting of Captain Dalrymple and two men, then took refuge elsewhere.
In July, 1775, Governor Martin, considering that only about a dozen men composed the garrison, decided that the best policy was to dismount the cannon and place them under the protection of the guns of the Cruizer, then lying at anchor in the harbor. He wrote Halifax:
“Fort Johnston, my lord, is a most contemptible thing, fit neither for a place of arms nor an asylum for the friends of the government. On account of the weakness and smallness of it, it is of little consequence, and the King's artillery, which is all that is good about it, will be as well secured under cover of the Cruizer's guns, at less charge, as upon the walls of that little wretched place.”
The general correctness of this statement is one of the most fortunate circumstances of North Carolina Revolutionary history.
The Wilmington Committee of Safety, already influenced by the deep anger of the people against Captain Collett, whose conduct even Governor Martin considered indefensible, had, in the meantime, decided upon the capture of the fort, and on July 18, the Governor received from John Ashe a notice, signed “The People,” which announced the intention of the committee to take possession. That night he took refuge on the Cruizer, and the patriots, occupying the fort, set fire to the buildings, and the next day what remained of them was destroyed. With this departure of Martin, royal government in North Carolina ceased. One of the purest and most gifted sons of the Cape Fear has said of this:
“Thus nobly upon the Cape Fear closed the first act of the drama. And when the curtain rose again George by the grace of God, King, was King no longer; but the Constitution reigned, and the free people of North Carolina governed themselves.”
After the capture of the fort, it was occupied by patriot troops under Robert Howe. Later in the war, five British regiments encamped on the site, but it played no important part during the Revolution, and the remainder of its history can be briefly told. At the close of the Revolution, the only people living near the fort were a few pilots. The healthfulness of the situation, however, interested a number of residents of Wilmington, and steps were taken for laying off a town. One, situated on the lands of Maj. John Walker, was incorporated, but disappeared simultaneously with its incorporation. But in 1792, an act of the Assembly set up the town of Smithville, naming it in honor
of that patriot and philanthropist, Benjamin Smith, who afterwards became governor of North Carolina. And Smithville it remained, a good North Carolina name, preserving in our nomenclature the memory of that public benefactor, until a few years since, when this monument of the past was destroyed and the name of Southport substituted. I trust that I may live to see the day when Smithville shall be restored to North Carolina.
The site of the fort remained the property of North Carolina until 1794, when it was ceded to the United States on condition that a fort should be erected there. The condition was not fulfilled until 1809. Then the Legislature receded the site to the United States.
In 1825 the construction of Fort Caswell was begun, and after its completion Fort Johnston was of less importance. In 1836 the garrison was withdrawn.
Its importance during the War between the States was obscured by the glory of its neighbor, Fort Fisher, and since the war Fort Johnston has been entirely abandoned for Fort Caswell.
It remains, then, a relic of the past. It was the scene of a calm and brave defiance, flung in the teeth of England's power, and it is well to mark the spot and at the same time to dedicate here a monument which shall forever commemorate the valor and patriotism of the men of the Cape Fear.COLONIAL PLANTATIONS ON THE CAPE FEAR.
In his admirable History of New Hanover County, a labor of love for which the accomplished author never received the smallest compensation, the late Col. Alfred Moore Waddell describes sixty-six prominent plantations and their proprietors on the Lower Cape Fear in colonial times. Of the manner of life of these planters, he says in A Colonial Officer and His Times:
“In the southern end of the province, at Brunswick and Wilmington, and along the Cape Fear, there were an equally refined and cultivated society and some very remarkable men. No better society existed in America, and it is but simple truth to say that for classical learning, wit, oratory, and varied accomplishments, no generation of their successors has equaled them.
“Their hospitality was boundless and proverbial, and of the manner in which it was enjoyed there can be no counterpart in
the present age. Some of them had town residences, but most of them lived on their plantations, and they were not the thriftless characters that by some means it became fashionable to assume all Southern planters were. There was much gaiety and festivity among them, and some of them rode hard to hounds, but as a general rule they looked after their estates, and kept themselves as well informed in regard to what was going on in the world as the limited means of communication allowed. There was little display, but in almost every house could be found valuable plate, and, in some, excellent libraries. The usual mode of travel was on horseback, and in ‘gigs,’ or ‘chairs,’ which were vehicles without springs but hung on heavy straps, and to which one horse, and sometimes by young beaux, two horses, tandem, were driven; a mounted servant rode behind, or, if the gig was occupied by ladies, beside the horse. The family coach was mounted by three steps, and had great carved leather springs, with baggage rack behind, and a high, narrow driver's seat and box in front. The gentlemen wore clubbed and powdered queues and knee-breeches, with buckled low-quartered shoes, and many carried gold or silver snuffboxes which, being first tapped, were handed with grave courtesy to their acquaintances when passing the compliments of the day. There are persons still living who remember seeing these things in their early youth. The writer of these lines himself remembers seeing in his childhood the decaying remains of old ‘chairs,’ and family coaches, and knew at that time several old negroes who had been body servants in their youth to the proprietors of these ancient vehicles. It is no wonder they sometimes drove the coaches four-in-hand. It was not only grand style, but the weight of the vehicle and the character of the roads made it necessary.
“During the period embraced in these pages, four-wheeled pleasure vehicles were rare, and even two-wheeled ones were not common, except among the town nabobs and well-to-do planters. The coaches, or chariots, as a certain class of vehicles was called, were all imported from England, and the possession of such a means of locomotion was evidence of high social position. It was less than twenty years before the period named, that the first stage wagon in the colonies, in 1738, was run from Trenton to New Brunswick, in New Jersey, twice a week, and the advertisement of it assured the public that it would be fitted up with benches and covered over ‘so that passengers may sit easy and dry.’ ”
Some of the prominent Lower Cape Fear men of colonial and Revolutionary days were, Governor Burrington, of Governor's Point; Gen. Robert Howe, of Howe's Point; Nathaniel Moore, of York; Gov. Arthur Dobbs, of Russellboro—all below Orton. “King” Roger Moore, of Orton; James Smith, of Kendal; Eleazar Allen, of Lilliput; John Moore, of Pleasant Oaks; Nathaniel Rice, of Old Town Creek; John Baptista Ashe, of Spring Garden, afterwards called Grovely; Chief Justice Hasell, of Belgrange; Schencking Moore, of Hullfields; John Davis, of Davis Plantation; John Dalrymple (who commanded Fort Johnston), of Dalrymple Place; John Anerum, of Old Town; Marsden Campbell, of Clarendon; Richard Eagles, of The Forks; Judge Alfred Moore, of Buchoi; John Waddell, of Belville; Gov. Benjamin Smith, of Belvidere. These were all below Wilmington. Many others equally important resided on their plantations above Wilmington. All are recorded in Colonel Waddell's History of New Hanover County, but these are mentioned here in support of the statement that the Cape Fear planters of olden time were men of mark.COLONIAL ORTON.
Many of the old homesteads described by Colonel Waddell have fallen into decay and some of the residences have entirely disappeared, but Orton, on the lower Cape Fear River, still stands as it did in colonial days, when it was the home of “King” Roger Moore, of Gov. Benjamin Smith, of Richard Quince, and in later years of Dr. Fred J. Hill and Col. Kenneth McKenzie Murchison.
It is a majestic domain of more than ten thousand acres, and the house is still regarded by competent critics as one of the finest examples of pure colonial architecture in America.
The lordly residence of Chief Justice Eleazar Allen, upon the adjacent plantation of Lilliput, which was distinguished in his day for a large and liberal hospitality, has long since disappeared, but the grand old oaks which lifted their majestic branches to the soft south breezes in colonial times still sing their murmured requiem above a “boundless contiguity of shade.”
Here, upon the banks of our historic river, which stretches two miles to the eastern shore, is heard the booming of the broad Atlantic as it sweeps in its might and majesty from Greenland
to the Gulf. Along the shining beach, from Fort Fisher to Fort Caswell, its foaming breakers run and roar, the racing steeds of Neptune, with their white-crested manes, charging and reforming for the never-ending fray.
The adjacent plantation of Kendal, originally owned by “King” Roger Moore, from whom it passed to his descendants, was later the property of James Smith, a brother of Gov. Benjamin Smith, and it was here, near the banks of Orton Creek, which divides this estate from the splendid domain of Orton, that the quarrel between the Smith brothers ended by the departure of James to South Carolina (where, in 1834, his six sons assumed their grandmother's name, Rhett, and became the founders of the famous Rhett family), leaving his intolerant and choleric brother, Benjamin, to a succession of misfortunes, disappointments, and distresses, which brought him at last to a pauper's grave.
Behind Kendal is McKenzie's milldam, the scene of a battle between the British troops and the minute men from Brunswick and Wilmington, when, in 1775, the British fleet lay in the river.
We linger at Orton, the most attractive of all the old colonial estates on the Cape Fear. For a hundred and eighty-nine years it has survived the vicissitudes of war, pestilence, and famine, and it still maintains its reputation of colonial days for a refined and generous hospitality. Here, in the exhilaration of the hunter, the restful seclusion of the angler, the quiet quest of the naturalist, the peaceful contemplation of the student, is found surcease from the vanities and vexations of urban life. For nearly two centuries it has been a haven of rest and recreation to its favored guests.
- “Here, like the hush of evening calm on hearts opprest,
- In silence falls the healing balm of quiet rest,
- And softly from the shadows deep
- The grand oaks sing the soul to sleep
- On Nature's breast.”
The house, or Hall, built by “King” Roger Moore in 1725, with its stately white pillars gleaming in the sunshine through the surrounding forest, is a most pleasing vista to the passing mariner. The river view, stretching for ten miles southward and eastward, includes “Big Sugar Loaf,” Fort Anderson, Fort Buchanan, and Fort Fisher.
We love its traditions and its memories, for no sorrow came
Plantations on the Lower Cape Fear 1725 to 1760
to us there. The primeval forest with its dense undergrowth of dogwood blossoms, which shine with the brightness of the falling snow; the thickets of Cherokee roses, which surpass the most beautiful of other regions; the brilliant carpet of wild azaleas, the golden splendor of the yellow jessamine, the modest Drosera, the marvelous Dionæa muscipula, and the trumpet Sarracenia; the river drive to the white beach, from which are seen the distant breakers; the secluded spot in the wilderness commanding a wide view of an exquisite landscape, where, safe from intrusion, we sat upon a sheltered seat beneath the giant pines and heard the faint “Yo ho” of the sailor, outward bound; a place apart for holy contemplation when the day is far spent, where the overhanging branches cast the shadow of a cross, and where, later, through the interlacing foliage, the star of hope is shining; the joyful reception at the big house, the spacious hall with its ample hearth and blazing oak logs; around it, after the bountiful evening meal, the old songs sung and the old tales told, and fun and frolic to keep dull care beyond the threshold.
Through the quiet lanes of Orton to the ruins of Governor Tryon's palace is half a mile. Here is the cradle of American independence; for upon this spot, until recently hidden by a dense undergrowth of timber, occurred, between six and seven o'clock on the evening of the 19th of February, 1766, the first open resistance to the British Stamp Act in the American colonies, by 450 armed men, who surrounded the palace and demanded the surrender of the custodian of the obnoxious symbols of the King's authority.
Ten minutes’ walk farther down brings us to the ruins of the colonial church of St. Philip, the scene of many notable incidents and the resting place of early pioneers. It was built by the citizens of Brunswick, and, principally, by the landed gentry, about 1740. In 1751, Mr. Lewis Henry DeRosset, a member of Gov. Gabriel Johnston's council, and subsequently an expatriated Royalist, introduced a bill appropriating to St. Philip's Church at Brunswick and to St. James's Church at Wilmington, equally, a fund that was realized by the capture and destruction of a pirate vessel, which, in a squadron of Spanish buccaneers, had entered the river and plundered the plantations.
The walls of St. Philip's Church are nearly three feet thick, and are solid and almost intact still, while the roof and floor have disappeared. It must have possessed much architectural
beauty and massive grandeur, with its high-pitched roof, its lofty doors, and its beautiful chancel windows.
A little to the west, surrounded by a forest of pines, lies Liberty Pond, a beautiful lake of clear spring water, once stained with the blood of friend and foe in a deadly conflict—hence its traditional name. It is now a most restful, tranquil spot, with its profound stillness, the beach of snow white sand, the unbroken surface of the lake reflecting the foliage and the changing sky-line.
Turning to the southeast, we leave the woodland and reach a bluff upon the river bank, still known as Howe's Point, where the Revolutionary patriot and soldier, Gen. Robert Howe, was born and reared. His residence, long since a ruin, was a large frame building on a stone or brick foundation, still remembered as such by several aged citizens of Brunswick.
A short distance from the Howe place, the writer found some years ago, in the woods and upon a commanding site near the river, under many layers of pine straw, the clearly defined ruins of an ancient fort, which was undoubtedly of colonial origin. Mr. Reynolds, who lived at his place near by, said that his great grandfather informed him forty years ago that long before the War of the Revolution this fort was erected by the colonial government for the protection of the colonists against buccaneers.
Hence to the staid old county seat is a journey of an hour; it was originally known as Fort Johnston. The adjacent hamlet was subsequently called Smithville. In the old courthouse, which is its principal building, may be seen the evidence that on the death, January 17, 1749, of Mr. Allen, aged 57 years, the plantation Lilliput, where he was buried, became the property (and, it is said, the residence for a brief period) of the great grandson of Oliver Cromwell, Sir Thomas Frankland, commanding the frigate Rose, who was subsequently Admiral of the White in the British Navy.
In connection with the inscription on Chief Justice Allen's tomb—that he died in January, 1749—it is to be noted that in December, 1749, he was acting as chief justice. At that period the calendar year began and ended in March, so that January, 1749, followed December of that year. The alteration in the calendar was made by act of Parliament in 1751.
- A stately mansion girt by God's great woods,
- Each clod of earth a friend to me and mine.
- Each room a home within the one vast home,
- Where naught of all its perfect pomp
- Can mar the sweet simplicity and ease of entertainment.
- There dwells the warmth of generous hospitality
- That counts no act a favor and no gift a sacrifice.
- There sordid things and anxious cares come not.
- No strangers’ words or presence there intrude.
- There love of life—clean, wholesome, healthful life—prevails.
- And there the peace of God pervades
- Each hour of perfect day and night.
- One day within its woods,
- One night beneath its roof,
- To tired body gives a newborn vigor,
- To wearied mind a keen creative power,
- To the soul a sense of clean, sweet peace,
- And to the hour of regretful leaving
- A loving and lasting benediction.
Rev. Richard W. Hogue.CRANE NECK HERON COLONY ON ORTON
BY ROSA PENDLETON CHILES.
Stretching for miles through the vast domain of Orton Plantation is a great pond, and in an elected spot above its still waters nests the only colony of egrets remaining in North Carolina today.
For centuries the heron has made its home in the primeval solitude of saltmarsh, untrodden swamp, or silent waters of some hidden pond, where the cypress springs like a sentinel from the deep and spreads its limbs for nesting ground. Bold must be the hunter, though tempted by the glimmer of gold, who, braving mosquitoes and reptiles, threads his way over the trackless morass, paddles his boat along the tortuous meanderings of the smaller water courses, or plunges through the dense growth fringing their banks, following the heron to its nest in pine or cypress. Yet we know only too well some who are fearless enough to make the effort, and the story of their success is written in the tragedy of millions of bird lives and the deeper tragedy of some human lives. Notwithstanding the caution of this noble bird in seeking a home in the well-nigh impenetrable
waste of marsh or cypress-grown water, it has escaped extermination only through the aid of its human friends.
There are twenty heron colonies along the Atlantic coast, but only three are protected by individuals; the rest are cared for by the National Association of Audubon Societies. One of these is the Crane Neck colony, belonging to Mr. James Sprunt, the present owner of Orton Plantation, and wholly preserved by him. He who notes the sparrow's fall put into the heart of Mr. Sprunt a great love for wild creatures, and it is a joy and satisfaction to him to afford the heron wise enough to seek refuge at Crane Neck complete protection from the mercenary and merciless plume-hunter. Here the snowy egret, American egret, great blue, little blue, black-crowned night, Louisiana, and green herons nest and chatter of the brooding time in as great security as others of their kind, peopling, perchance, the same pond, and mingling their familiar “quock, quock” with the rippling waters as the first ship sailed up the Cape Fear, enjoyed more than two hundred and fifty years ago. No doubt the adventurous explorers, Hilton, Fabian, and Long, witnessed, as those fortunate enough today may witness, the heron flight high in the rare air of the purpling dawn, woven into its ravishing cloud-films and vanishing with them.
- “They near, they pass, set sharp against the sky;
- Grotesques some Orient artist might have drawn
- Blue on a golden dawn;
- They pass, are gone like leaves blown cloud-high,—
- And oh, my heart is mad to follow where they fly!”
Such may have been the sentiment of the early adventurous spirit, dreaming of conquest; such seems now the sentiment of certain heirs of that conquest, dreaming of greed. But the heron of Crane Neck flies in peace.
This colony was brought to the attention of the ornithological world in 1898 by Mr. T. Gilbert Pearson, secretary of the National Association of Audubon Societies, himself a North Carolinian, and the association, of which Mr. Sprunt is a member, feels unusual satisfaction in the preservation by its owner of this single egret colony in the State. According to the report of Mr. Pearson at this time, “the colony contains probably 800 pairs of little blue herons, about the same number of Louisiana herons, 125 pairs of great blue herons, 40 pairs of American egrets, 25 pairs of snowy egrets, and probably 20 pairs of blackcrowned
night herons, also a few green herons, and now and then a few anhingas.”
The curator of the State Museum, Mr. H. H. Brimley, visited the colony in 1913, and reported a somewhat smaller number than Mr. Pearson now estimates, but both have stated that the colony holds its own. Mr. Brimley makes the encouraging statement that “the American egrets have increased in number during the past few years, and that the snowy egrets have at least held their own,” and adds, “No evidence of any kind was noted of the plume herons having been ‘shot up.’ ” Concluding, Mr. Brimley says: “The pride taken in this interesting heron colony by its owner, Mr. James Sprunt, of Wilmington, and his interest in the conservation of all wild life, is responsible for its immunity from being ‘shot up.’ It is widely known, locally, and the means of reaching it are known even to some of the oldtime plume-hunters, and to the efforts of Mr. Sprunt in preserving these birds all praise is due.” The feeling expressed by Mr. Brimley is the feeling entertained by all bird-lovers, who rejoice that the heron has this safe retreat.PLANTATIONS ON THE NORTHEAST RIVER.
BY DR. JOHN HAMPDEN HILL.
About forty-one years ago Dr. John Hampden Hill,[note] a prominent Cape Fear planter of Lilliput, a gentleman of culture and refinement, generally respected and admired, wrote some interesting reminiscences of the Lower Cape Fear, and for personal reasons instructed his friend, Mr. DuBrutz Cutlar, to reserve them from publication until after the author's death. Upon my earnest solicitation, however, he permitted me to copy these papers in the year 1892 and to use them in a series of newspaper articles entitled A Colonial Plantation. I reproduce them here as worthy of more permanent record.
After this section began to be visited, and settlements made by emigrants from Europe and from the other provinces, amongst the earliest places that attracted attention was Stag Park. It was first located and patented by George Burrington, then governor of the province of North Carolina. This Governor Burrington was a very worthless and profligate character, so much so, that on one occasion being at Edenton, he was presented[note]
by the grand jury of Chowan County for riotous and disorderly conduct on the streets, with a party of rowdy companions. Of such material as this did our English rulers make governors for the guardianship of the lives and fortunes of their loyal subjects in these provinces.
Burrington returned to England, and there contracted a debt to a Mr. Strudwick, for which he mortgaged the Stag Park estate of ten thousand acres, and a large body of land which he owned in what was known as The Hawfields, in Orange County. Mr. Strudwick sent his son, Edmund, to look after his property, thus acquired in this country.
The tradition was that this gentleman had fallen into disfavor with his friends on account of having married an actress in the city of London, which was the cause of his coming to settle in America. His residence was divided between Stag Park and The Hawfields. He left a son whom the writer has only heard mentioned as Major Strudwick and as quite an influential citizen of Orange County, where he chiefly resided. He married a Miss Shepperd, of Orange, by which marriage there were several sons and daughters, of whom the late Mr. Samuel Strudwick, of Alabama, was the eldest. This gentleman was a successful planter and acquired a large estate. He was of high intelligence, and remarkable for his fine conversational talent.
Dr. Edmund Strudwick, of Hillsboro, is well known as one of the ablest physicians of the State, and is especially eminent as a surgeon. Betsy, the eldest daughter, married Mr. Paoli Ashe, and was the mother of the Hon. Thomas S. Ashe, one of the associate justices of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and a gentleman distinguished alike for professional ability and great worth and purity of character.
Stag Park was sold about the year 1817 for division among the heirs, and was purchased by Ezekiel Lane, Esq., for $10,000. This gentleman we will have occasion to mention further on.
The next place, descending the Northeast, is The Neck, the residence of Gov. Samuel Ashe, who, together with his brother, Gen. John Ashe, was amongst the most prominent and influential characters in the Cape Fear region, both before and after the Revolutionary War. Governor Ashe held with distinction the office of judge up to the time he was elected governor. His eldest son, John Baptista Ashe, was also elected governor, but died before he could be inducted into office. There were two other sons of Governor Ashe, Samuel and Thomas. The latter
was the grandfather of the present Judge Ashe, already spoken of, and the former will be mentioned further on. There was still another son named Cincinnatus, who, with some other youths of the Cape Fear gentry, volunteered as midshipman on board a privateer, fitted out at Wilmington, and commanded by a Captain Allen, an Englishman. The vessel went to sea, and was supposed to have been sunk by a British ship, or foundered in some other way, as she was never more heard of. The writer remembers when he was a child an old lady, a Mrs. Allen, entirely blind, the widow of the English captain, who lived with the families of the Northeast, first one and then another, with whom she was always a welcome guest, and treated with much respect and consideration.
Below The Neck, and within the precinct known as Rocky Point, was Green Hill, the residence of Gen. John Ashe. This gentleman did more, probably, than any other man in the province towards arousing the spirit of resistance against what was called British oppression. He was the prime mover and leader of the party which resisted the Governor in his attempt to enforce the Stamp Act. And when the War of the Revolution did break out, he raised a regiment at his own expense, so ardently were his feelings enlisted in the cause.
The history of General Ashe's services is, or ought to be, known to the people of the Cape Fear. But it may not be known that he died in obscurity, and the place of his interment can not be pointed out. The story is that on a visit to his family at Green Hill when in feeble health, he was betrayed by a faithless servant to a party of soldiers, sent out from the garrison at Wilmington for his capture. Taken to Wilmington, he was confined in Craig's “bull-pen,” as it was called. Here his health became so feeble that he was released on parole, and attempted to get to his family at Hillsboro. But he reached no farther than Sampson Hall, the residence of Col. John Sampson, in the county of that name. Here he died and was buried, and there is neither stone nor mound to mark the spot.
General Ashe left a son who also served in the War of the Revolution—Maj. Samuel Ashe. He was an active politician of the Democrat-Republican party, and represented for many years the county of New Hanover in the Legislature. Of the three daughters of General Ashe, one married Colonel Alston, of South Carolina. Gov. Joseph Alston of South Carolina was her son. Another married Mr. Davis; and the third, Mr. William
H. Hill. The last was the mother of Mr. Joseph Alston Hill, the most talented man of the family, with the most brilliant promise of distinction when he died at the age of thirty-six. This Green Hill property is now owned by the estate of the late Maj. John Walker.
The Ashe family in early times after the Revolution differed in politics with the generality of the Cape Fear gentry. The Governor and his sons, with the exception of Col. Samuel Ashe, were leaders of the Republican or Jeffersonian faction, whereas the large majority of the gentry and educated class were Federalists of the Hamilton school. After the adoption of the Federal Constitution and a republican form of government was established, there is no doubt but that a good deal of feeling and prejudice existed against what was called too much liberty and equality, and the practice of some of the old Republicans was not always consistent with their professed principles.
The next place of note, and adjoining Green Hill to the north, was Moseley Hall, the residence of the Moseley family, one of prominence in colonial times. One of them, Sampson Moseley, Esq., was a member of the King's council and surveyor-general of the province, but the writer does not know that any of the male members of the family survived the Revolution, or that any of their descendants whatever are left. They were nearly allied by blood to the Lillingtons. One of the daughters of the family married a Mr. Carlton Walker, and left one son, John Moseley Walker, who died soon after coming of age, and the estate passed to his half-brothers and sisters. This was a large and quite valuable place and was said to have been handsomely improved, but all that the writer remembers seeing were the remains of what were said to have been fine old avenues.
Crossing Clayton Creek, we come to the next place below, known in olden times as Clayton Hall, the residence of a Mr. Clayton, a Scotch gentleman, who died leaving no descendants, though I believe the Restons of Wilmington were his nearest kin. This property, which was at one time regarded as the best plantation in New Hanover County, was purchased by Col. Samuel Ashe. Colonel Ashe, when I knew him, was about the only survivor of the olden times on the Northeast River. He had been a soldier in the War of the Revolution, had entered the army when he was but seventeen years old and served through the last three years of the war, was at the siege of Charleston, and was there made prisoner. Colonel Ashe was a gentleman
of commanding appearance, tall and erect, with prominent features, deep-sunken, but piercing eyes, of fine manners and bearing, of remarkable colloquial powers, and manner and style of narration most engaging. Especially was his fund of anecdotes and incidents relating to the olden times most interesting, and seemed almost inexhaustible. Of him Mr. George Davis, in his address at Chapel Hill in 1855, spoke as follows: “In my early youth I remember an old man, bowed by age and infirmities, but of noble front and most commanding presence. Old and young gathered around him in love and veneration to listen to his stories of the olden times. And as he spoke of his country's trials, and of the deeds and sufferings of her sons, his eyes flashed with the ardor of youth, and his voice rang like the battle charge of a bugle. He was the soul of truth and honor, with the ripe wisdom of a man and the guileless simplicity of a child. He won strangers to him with a look, and those who knew him loved him with a most filial affection. None ever lived more honored and revered. None ever died leaving a purer or more cherished memory. This was Col. Samuel Ashe, ‘the last of all the Romans.’ ”
The old Clayton Hall mansion, left for a long time untenanted, went to decay, and there was nothing left of it when the writer can remember but the foundation. He can remember an old vault, which stood to the north of the creek, in which it is said the remains of Mr. Clayton rested. After Colonel Ashe came in possession of the place, he built immediately on the bank of the creek, so that you could stand on one end of his piazza and fish. The spring out of which they got their drinking water flowed from the base of a rock, which formed the bank of the creek, and when the tide was up, the spring was overflowed.
It was a great treat to visit the old colonel and hear him talk of olden times. His memory was remarkable and his style of narration uncommonly good.
He seemed familiar with the genealogy of every family that had ever lived on the Cape Fear, and their traditions. It is much to be regretted that some one who had the capacity could not have chronicled his narratives as they were related by himself.
Colonel Ashe removed from Rocky Point when he was well advanced in years to a place which he owned on the Cape Fear, in the neighborhood of Fayetteville, where he lived several years. His only male descendant of the name in the State, I believe, is Capt. Samuel A. Ashe, of Raleigh.
Colonel Ashe, on his removal, sold the Clayton Hall estate to Dr. James F. McRee, who retired from the practice of medicine in Wilmington and made his residence here, where he carried on planting operations with fair success. He abandoned the old settlement, and built on what was known as the Sand Ridge, and renamed the place, calling it Ashe-Moore, in compliment to the two families so long known and distinguished in the Cape Fear region. Dr. McRee had acquired a higher reputation than any other physician of his day in the Lower Cape Fear, or even in the whole State. The writer enjoyed the privilege of being his pupil, and of his long friendship, and to speak of him in such terms as he esteemed him, as a noble gentleman and physician, might seem like extravagant eulogy.
The next place on the river is The Vats. Here the river changes its course, making a sharp, sudden bend, and a prominent point of rocks jutting into the stream gives the name of Rocky Point to all that portion of country lying west, as far as the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad. This place was first located by Maj. Maurice Moore, one of the earliest pioneers of the Cape Fear section. It is related that Major Moore and Governor Burrington, both of them exploring in search of rich lands, happened to reach this point about the same time. As they stepped on shore from their boats, both claimed possession by right of prior location and occupation. But the colonel stoutly resisted His Excellency's pretensions, and by dint of strong will held the property. The arbitrary disposition exhibited on this occasion rather strikingly illustrates what is said to have been characteristic of the Moore family, especially that branch of it. The lands of this place were very rich, and it continued in the Moore family for several generations. It was finally sold by Judge Alfred Moore to Mr. Ezekiel Lane, a most worthy gentleman, who here laid the foundation of quite a large estate, acquired by farming alone. Commencing with small means, he became the largest landowner in the county of New Hanover, his estate being mostly composed of those Rocky Point lands.
The next two places, adjoining and to the south of The Vats, were Spring Field and Strawberry, owned by Mr. Levin Lane, a son of Mr. E. Lane, a planter like his father, and a most worthy and highly respectable gentleman. Mr. Lane resided at Strawberry.
Let us return to The Vats and cross the river by the ferry
there. Traveling eastward by the New Bern Road about four miles, we come to Lillington Hall, the residence of Gen. Alexander Lillington.[note] It would seem like a singular selection for a gentleman to make for a residence, just on the border of the Great Holly Shelter pocosin or dismal, and quite remote from the other gentry settlements. But in those days stock raising was much attended to, and here immense tracts of unoccupied lands furnished rich pasturage and fine range.
General Lillington was nearly allied to the Moseleys, of Moseley Hall, and came to reside on the Cape Fear about the same time with them. He was an ardent Whig and patriot, and taking up arms early in the Revolution, he soon distinguished himself as a bold and sagacious leader. On the attempt of the Scotch settlers about Cross Creek to move on Wilmington for the purpose of coöperating with the British force intended to invade and subjugate North Carolina, General Lillington speedily organized the militia of New Hanover and Duplin Counties and marched rapidly in the direction from which the enemy approached. Selecting a position at Moore's Creek where it was crossed by a ridge, he threw up intrenchments and awaited the approach of the Scots. On the arrival of General Caswell, the superior in command, he approved of Lillington's plans and arrangements for meeting the enemy. The result of the battle which ensued is well known to history, and its success was, by his contemporaries, mainly attributed to Lillington's prompt movement and skillful arrangements.
The Lillington Hall mansion was a quaint old structure of ante-Revolutionary date, and standing alone; there was no house that approached it in size or appearance in that wild region. When the writer visited there while a youth there was quite a library of rare old English books which would be highly prized at this day. At that time it was owned and occupied by Mr. Samuel Black, a highly respectable and worthy gentleman, who had married the widow of Mr. George Lillington, the youngest son of the colonel. This place, like all the residences of the early gentry, has gone out of the family and into stranger hands.
As there is no other place of note on the east side of the river, we will recross the ferry at The Vats, and following the road[note]
leading west to where it crosses the main county road, come to Moore Fields. This was the residence of George Moore, Esq., one of the most prominent gentlemen of his day, both before and after the Revolution. I remember the old mansion as it stood, but much dilapidated. Not a vestige of it is left now. There had been raised near the house two mounds for rabbit-warrens, and near by was a fishpond. Mr. Moore was the father of a numerous progeny. He was twice married. His first wife was a Miss Mary Ashe, a sister, I believe, of Governor Ashe; the second was a Miss Jones. There is extant an old copy of the Church of England Prayer-book in the possession of one of his descendants (Dr. William H. Moore) in which are recorded the births and names of his children by these marriages, and there were twenty-seven. From these or the survivors, for many of them must have died during infancy, have sprung many of the families of the Cape Fear region, some of whose descendants are still living there, among whom can be mentioned the Hon. George Davis, who has no superior, if any equal, here or in any other part of the State. Also, the Hon. Thomas S. Ashe is one of the lineal descendants of this old stock. There was one of the granddaughters, Miss Sallie Moore, who was reputed to be the greatest beauty of her day. Her father, William Moore, removed to the State of Tennessee, where she was heard of still living a few years since.
George Moore of Moore Fields, as he was familiarly called, was remarkable for his great energy and good management; a man of considerable wealth, owning many slaves. He had a summer residence on the sound, to reach which he crossed the Northeast River at The Vats ferry; and from a mile or two to the east of it, he had made a perfectly straight road, ditched on each side, twenty miles in length. This road, though no longer used, can still be traced. It is related that when corn was wanted at the summer place, one hundred negro fellows would be started, each with a bushel bag on his head. There is quite a deep ditch leading from some large bay swamps lying to the west of the county road. It used to be called the Devil's Ditch, and there was some mystery and idle tradition as to why and how the ditch was cut there. It was doubtless made to drain the water from those bays, to flood some lands cultivated in rice which were too low to be drained for corn.
We will now pass down the old Swann Point Avenue to the county road, and, traveling west, soon reach and cross Turkey
LOWER CAPE FEAR SECTION AND ADJACENT COUNTRY
LOWER CAPE FEAR SECTION AND ADJACENT COUNTRY
Creek, and come to that famous old plantation, Spring Garden, the residence of Frederick Jones, Esq., noted in his day as being the most industrious and successful farmer in all the country round. Mr. Jones was a Virginian, induced to settle on the Cape Fear by Mr. Swann, whose niece he had married. Besides the son, who assumed the name of Swann, there were five daughters, one of whom married Mr. John Hill, of Fair Fields. She was the mother of the late Dr. Frederick J. and John Hill. Another married Michael Sampson, Esq., of Sampson Hall. The remaining three daughters married three brothers, Scotch gentlemen, by the name of Cutlar. Only one of these left children, Dr. Roger Cutlar, who was the father of the late Dr. Frederick J. Cutlar, of Wilmington, eminent in his profession and beloved for his purity of character. From this good old Spring Garden stock, comes also the writer's best esteemed and most worthy friend, DuBrutz Cutlar, Esq.[note]
We will now retrace our steps across Turkey Creek. Passing over the river at The Oaks and going through what was called Legare's Neck, we come to Castle Haynes. Legare's, a deep neck formed by the river on one side and Prince George's Creek on the other, was widely known as a favorite resort for deer and a famous hunting ground. Castle Haynes was the residence of a Mr. Haynes, of whose history the writer has heard but little, except that he was the ancestor of the Waddell family, among whom I have heard related the tradition of his sad death by drowning. It is said that he was ill of a fever and, while in delirium, he rose from his bed and rushed to the creek, which was near by, plunged in, and was drowned before assistance could reach him.
This Mr. Haynes married a daughter of Rev. Richard Marsden, who prior to 1736 served long as a minister on the Cape Fear, and left two daughters: Margaret, who married Mr.[note]
George Burgwyn, and Mary, who became the wife of Col. Hugh Waddell, from which union sprang the Waddell family, so long and honorably known on the Cape Fear.
Turning east from Castle Haynes and crossing the county road, we come to The Hermitage, the residence of the Burgwyn family. The founder of this family was Mr. John Burgwyn, an English gentleman, in olden times an opulent merchant, who carried on an extensive commerce between Wilmington and Bristol in England. He must have had fine taste, as displayed by the manner in which the grounds around The Hermitage were laid off and improved. Its fine avenues and handsomely arranged pleasure-grounds surpassed everything in the whole country round. Mr. George Burgwyn, who occupied The Hermitage after his father's death, was also a gentleman of good taste, and devoted much attention to the decoration of the place, keeping it in handsome condition.
Mr. George Burgwyn reared a numerous and highly respectable family. His oldest son, Capt. John Burgwyn, of the United States Army, was killed in battle in the Mexican War, and his grandson, Gen. George B. Anderson, died of a wound received at the Battle of Antietam.
We will turn now westward and, crossing the county road at a short distance, come to Rocky Run, where lived Dr. Nathaniel Hill. In earlier times this place was the residence of Mr. Maurice Jones, whose daughter Dr. Hill married. Of the history of this gentleman, Mr. Jones, the writer never heard much. But a tradition worth relating will illustrate his firmness and remarkable self-possession and presence of mind. He was a great woodsman, and in the habit of still-hunting. On one occasion he was creeping to shoot a deer, which was feeding at a dogwood tree. When, feeling that something was dragging at one of his legs, he turned his head and saw that it was a large rattlesnake, which had struck and fastened its fangs in the buckskin leggings that all huntsmen wore at that day, he deliberately crawled on, dragging the snake as he went. Getting within proper range, he fired and killed the deer, then, turning, killed the snake.
Dr. Nathaniel Hill was sent to Scotland when he was quite young, where he was placed with an apothecary. Having completed a full term at this business, he entered the medical college at Edinburgh, where he remained until he had completed his medical course. Returning home before he was quite of age,
he entered actively upon the practice of his profession at Wilmington. Full of energy and earnestness, with remarkable sagacity and decision, he very soon acquired the confidence of the community. His reputation was established and not surpassed in the whole Cape Fear region.
After a laborious and lucrative practice of twenty-five years, Dr. Hill retired with an independent estate to Rocky Run, where he had built a comfortable and commodious house. Here, before the prime of his life was over and in the full vigor of manhood, he took up his abode and for many years dispensed a liberal hospitality to a large circle of friends and relatives.
On the first day of January of each year, that being Dr. Hill's birthday, a numerous party of friends and relatives always assembled at Rocky Run to celebrate the event with feasting and good cheer. Then it was that those fine deer hunts came off, which were so skillfully conducted that they were invariably successful. The standers were judiciously placed, and the bringing down of the game depended on their skill as marksmen. In the management of these hunts, the guests, whether old or young, were invariably placed at the best stands, the doctor taking the chances as they might arrive for himself. He always carried a long flint-and-steel single-barrel silver-mounted gun, and it was not often that he failed to bring down the deer coming fairly by him within one hundred yards. Many a day of sport has the writer enjoyed with this noble old gentleman at his fine old seat. Most systematic and punctual in his habits, invariably as we rose from the breakfast table (8 o'clock in winter) the driver was waiting with horses and dogs, eager for the drive, and as punctually we returned by 2 o'clock, the dinner hour, as the family were never kept waiting.
The old Rocky Run mansion was destroyed by fire many years since, and the place has shared the fate of all others on the Northeast and fallen into stranger hands.
The next two places below on the river were Rose Hill, the residence of the Quince family, and Rock Hill, of the Davises, two rather inconsiderable and inferior rice plantations. The Quinces were among the earliest of the gentry settlers on the Cape Fear. I have heard an old story related about a Mr. Parker Quince, somewhat characteristic, I presume, of himself and his times. It seems that he was a merchant and quite a trafficker. In sending an order for goods on one occasion to London (from whence most all importations were made) a
dozen cheeses were included and several gross of black tacks. Instead of the cheeses, they sent a dozen English chaises, and for the tacks there was sent an immense number of black jacks, as they were called, a kind of japanned-tin drinking mug; his correspondent apologizing for not completing the order as to the cups, as he had bought up all that could be found in the shops of London. Mr. Quince either spelled badly or wrote illegibly, probably a little of both.
There was one of the Quinces, who, for some family reason or other, adopted the name of Hasell—William Soranzo Hasell.[note] He was much esteemed and the intimate friend of many of the gentlemen of his day. When party politics ran high between the old Federalists and Republicans he edited a paper called The Minerva, advocating the principles of the Federal party, and was well sustained and caressed by his friends. He must have been a man of fine literary taste, judging from the number of old volumes of the best English literature with his name and coat of arms inscribed on them, which I have come across in the old libraries.
Rock Hill was handsomely located on a bluff commanding a fine view of the river. It was in olden times the residence of Mr. Jehu Davis, and more lately of Mr. Thomas J. Davis, his son. The name of Davis, both in early and later times on the Cape Fear, has always been associated with all that was highly respectable and honorable, and it has been most eminently sustained in the person of Hon. George Davis, of Wilmington, and the late Bishop Davis, of South Carolina.
Proceeding farther down, but not immediately on the river, was once a place known as Nesces Creek, on a creek of that name, which before the Revolution was the residence of Arthur Mabson, Esq., a gentleman noted for his great energy and industry, by which he had accumulated a considerable estate, but he died the first year of the war, at the early age of forty. This place was long ago abandoned, and I do not suppose there is a vestige of its improvements left.
Crossing Nesces Creek and going a mile or so farther on, we come to where once stood Fair Fields, also gone totally to ruin. Here lived Mr. John Hill, a gentleman of note in his day, frequently representing the county in the Legislature. He had been a soldier in the Revolution, entered the army while quite[note]
young, and served with General Greene in his southern campaigns.
Passing on, we come to Sans Souci. Of the early history of this place the writer knows nothing. For many years past it has been the residence of the late Mr. Arthur J. Hill.
Crossing Smith's Creek, we come to Hilton. This was the residence of Cornelius Harnett, Esq., and the old mansion was erected by him. It is not surprising that this point should have attracted the admiration of those who first selected it and built upon it. A fine bluff, near the junction of Smith's Creek with the river, it has a commanding and extensive view up and down the stream. Although much out of repair and the grounds mutilated by the deep cut of a railroad passing through them, it is still the most attractive spot near the city of Wilmington.
Cornelius Harnett was about the most noted and conspicuous personage of his day in the whole Cape Fear region. No man more entirely commanded the confidence and admiration of the community in which he lived.
Either on account of feeble health or advanced life, Mr. Harnett was not an active participant as a soldier in the War of the Revolution; both heart and means were nevertheless enlisted in the cause, and after Wilmington was occupied by the British, he was wrested from a sick bed and confined in their prison, where he died in consequence of their harsh and brutal treatment.
Mr. Harnett, I believe, left no descendants, and in after times Hilton became the property and the residence of William H. Hill, Esq. This gentleman was said to have possessed fine qualities of both head and heart. Genial of temper and fond of conviviality, he attracted many friends around him, and was always the life of his company. He was a leading spirit among the gentlemen of the Federal party, when politics ran high, and represented the Wilmington district in Congress during the administration of the elder Adams.
In McRee's valuable Life and Correspondence of James Iredell, that gifted Wilmingtonian says:
“Mr. Hooper was nine year Mr. Iredell's senior, and already a man of mark at the bar and in the Assembly. To estimate at its full value his deference to Iredell, these facts must be borne in mind. Mr. Hooper was a native of Boston, and a graduate of Cambridge, Mass. After studying law with James Otis, he removed to North Carolina, in 1764. He became a citizen of Wilmington. That town and its vicinity was noted for its unbounded hospitality and the elegance of its society. Men of rare talents, fortune, and attainment, united to render it the home of politeness, and ease, and enjoyment. Though the foot-print of the Indian had, as yet, scarcely been effaced, the higher civilization of the Old World had been transplanted there, and had taken vigorous root. There were Col. John Ashe (subsequently General Ashe), the great popular leader, whose address was consummate, and whose quickness of apprehension seemed intuition, the very Rupert of debate; Samuel Ashe, of stalwart frame, endowed with practical good sense, a profound knowledge of human nature, and an energy that eventually raised him to the bench and the post of governor; Harnett, afterwards president of the Provincial Council, ‘who could boast a genius for music and a taste for letters,’ the representative man of the Cape Fear; Dr. John Eustace, the correspondent of Sterne, ‘who united wit, and genius, and learning, and science’; Col. Thomas Boyd ‘gifted with talents, and adorned with classical literature’; Howe (afterwards General Howe), ‘whose imagination fascinated, whose repartee overpowered, and whose conversation was enlivened by strains of exquisite raillery’; Dr. John Fergus, of stately presence, with velvet coat, cocked hat, and gold-headed cane, a graduate of Edinburgh, and an excellent Latin and Greek scholar; William Pennington, comptroller of the customs and afterwards master of the ceremonies at Bath, ‘an elegant writer, admired for his wit, and his highly polished urbanity’; Judge Maurice Moore, of ‘versatile talents, and possessed of extensive information, as a wit, always prompt in reply; as an orator, always daring the mercy of chance’; Maclaine, irascible, but intellectual, who trod the path of honor early pari passu with Iredell, Hooper, and Johnston, and ‘whose criticisms on
Shakespeare would, if they were published, give him fame and rank in the republic of letters’; William Hill, ‘a most sensible, polite gentleman, and though a Crown officer, replete with sentiments of general liberty, and warmly attached to the cause of American freedom’; Lillington, destined soon at Moore's Creek to render his name historic; James Moore, subsequently appointed a brigadier general, whose promises of a brilliant career were soon to be terminated by a premature death; Lewis Henry DeRosset, member of the Council, a cultivated and elegant gentleman; Adam Boyd, editor of the Cape Fear Mercury (subsequently chaplain to the Continental Line), ‘who, without pretensions to wit or humor, possessed the rare art of telling a story with spirit and grace, and whose elegiac numbers afforded a striking contrast to the vivid brilliancy of the scenes in which he figured’; Alfred Moore, subsequently an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; Timothy Bloodworth, stigmatized by his enemies as an impracticable radical, ‘everything by turns,’ but withal a true exponent of the instincts and prejudices, the finest feelings and the noblest impulses of the masses. These were no ordinary men. They were of the remarkable class that seem ever to be the product of crises in human affairs. Though inferior to many of them in the influence that attends years, opulence, and extensive connections, yet in scholarship and genius, Mr. Hooper was preëminent. I use the word genius in contradistinction to talent. He had much nervous irritability, was imaginative and susceptible. With a well-disciplined mind, and of studious habits, he shone with lustre whenever he pleased to exert himself.”
To the above we add the name of Lieut. Thomas Godfrey, who, having served in the war against the French at the North in the Pennsylvania forces, moved from Philadelphia and settled in Wilmington. He possessed the creative faculty in an eminent degree and many of his poems have remarkable beauty. The writer has been fortunate enough to secure a copy of his poetical works, prefaced by some account of the author and his writings. This volume was published in Philadelphia in 1765 and contains about two hundred and fifty pages. Its publication could only be made by subscription, and of the two hundred and sixty subscribers it is gratifying to observe that twenty-four were North Carolinians. Their names are given as follows: William Bartram, jr., James Bailey, William Campbell, Alexander Chapman, Robert Cochran, William
Davis, Col. Caleb Grainger, Benjamin Heron, Alexander Duncan, Walter DuBois, Cornelius Harnett, Obediah Holt, Robert Johnson, Col. James Moore, Archibald Maclaine, Archibald McDuffie, Alexander Martin, Mrs. Anne Nissfield, William Purviance, John Robeson, Robert Schaw, Patrick Stewart, James Stewart, and William Watkins. Nearly all of these names are familiar to us, and it is apparent that the poet was appreciated during his life in Wilmington and numbered among his friends men of the first consequence in our community, doubtless having congenial associations with Harnett, Maclaine, Moore, and others of like distinction.
The rare old volume, yellowed by age and procured only after years of search, says: “Mr. Thomas Godfrey, the Author of the following Poems, was born in Philadelphia, in the year 1736. His Father, who was of the same name, was a Glazier by trade, and likewise a Citizen of Philadelphia—a person whose great natural capacity for Mathematics has occasioned his name to be known in the learned world, being (as has been heretofore shown by undeniable evidences) the original and real inventor of the very useful and famous Sea-Quadrant, which has been called Hadley's. He died when his son was very young and left him to the care of his Relations, by whom he was placed to an English school, and there received ‘a common education in his mother tongue’; and without any other advantage than that, a natural genius, and an attentive perusal of the works of our English Poets, he soon exhibited to the world the strongest proofs of poetical capacity.”
Besides his talent for poetry, he is said to have possessed a fine ear for music and a strong inclination towards painting, desiring to have lessons in the latter; but his relatives had other plans, and his biographer, continuing, says: “He was put to a watch-maker in this city, but still the muses and graces, poetry and painting stole his attention. He devoted therefore all his private hours to the cultivation of his parts, and towards the expiration of his time he composed those performances that were published with so much favorable notice.”
At length he quitted the business of watch-making and got himself recommended for a lieutenant's commission in the Pennsylvania forces, raised in the year 1758, for the expedition against Fort DuQuesne, in which station he continued until the campaign was over and the provincial troops disbanded.
The succeeding spring he had an offer made him of settling as a factor in North Carolina, and, being unemployed, he accepted the proposal and presently embarked for Wilmington, where he lived more than three years. In Wilmington he completed the dramatic poem the Prince of Parthia, as appears by a letter dated November 17, 1759. “By the last vessel from this place,” says Godfrey in this letter, “I sent you the copy of a Tragedy I finished here, and desired your interest in bringing it on the stage. I have not yet heard of the vessel's arrival, and believe, if she is safe, it will be too late for the Company now at Philadelphia.” He was but twenty-two years of age when this drama was completed.
On the death of his employer, Godfrey left North Carolina and returned to Philadelphia; but finding no advantageous opening there he determined to make another voyage abroad, and procuring some small commissions went as a supercargo to the island of New Providence, where he was for some months. From New Providence, led as it were by some sad fatality, he sailed once more to Wilmington, North Carolina, “where, a few weeks after his arrival,” says his biographer, “he was unexpectedly summoned to pay the debt of nature, and death put a stop to his earthly wanderings by hurrying him off this shadowy state into boundless eternity. He happened one very hot day to take a ride into the country, and not being accustomed to this exercise and of a corpulent habit of body, it is imagined that the heat overcame him, for the night following he was seized with a violent vomiting and malignant fever, which continued seven or eight days, and at 10 o'clock a. m., on the third of August, 1763, put a period to his life in the twenty-seventh year of his age.
“Thus hastily was snatched off in the prime of manhood this promising genius, beloved and lamented by all who knew him. His sweet, amiable disposition, his integrity of heart, his engaging modesty and diffidence of manners, his fervent and disinterested love for his friends endeared him to all those who shared his acquaintance and have stamped the image of him in indelible characters on the hearts of his more intimate friends.” He was interred in the burial ground attached to St. James's Church in Wilmington and a tombstone marks the spot.
McRee, referring to him in his Imperfect Sketch of the History of the Town of Wilmington, published in the Wilmington Chronicle of September 16, 1846, says: “He wrote several
pieces descriptive of the vicinity where he dwelt. One was on Masonboro Sound, and possessed great beauty, being remarkable for its felicity of diction and thought and its graphic excellence. “The verses of this poet,” he adds, “were once greatly in vogue in the neighborhood in which he selected a home and found friends warm and steady; and there were but few gentlemen who could not repeat from memory some passages from his pen.”
His works were first published by the American Magazine, and later some were copied in the English magazines. His American publishers gave the highest praise to his efforts and were also much interested in proclaiming his father's genius. “Nature,” say they, “seems not to have designed the father for a greater mathematician than the son for a poet.” In publishing his Court of Fancy in 1762, they say: “What shall place him high in the lists of poets is a poem of considerable length called the Court of Fancy, in managing which he shines in all the spirit of true creative poetry.”
His last publication, The Victory, which is designated as a “nervous and noble song of triumph,” appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1763. The Prince of Parthia is regarded as the first attempt in America at dramatic composition, and is spoken of as “no inconsiderable effort towards one of the sublimest species of poetry, and no mean instance of the author's strong inherited genius.” Of his published writings his biographer says: “Upon the whole, I persuade myself that the severest critic, looking over smaller matters, will allow these writings of Mr. Godfrey to be aptly characterized in the following lines from the Court of Fancy:
LIBRARIES ON THE CAPE FEAR.
- ‘Bold Fancy's hand th’ amazing pile uprears,
- In every part stupendous skill appears;
- In beautiful disorder, yet complete,
- The structure shines irregularly great.’ ”
It is to be much regretted that so few memorials of the social and intellectual life of the old Cape Fear people have been preserved. They enjoyed the elegance that attends wealth and they possessed libraries that bespeak culture.
When Edward Moseley was passing through Charleston in 1703, he was employed to make a catalogue of the library books there; and, on locating in Albemarle, he at once began the collection
of a library. Later, he presented a library to the town of Edenton. When, about 1735, he removed to Rocky Point and built Moseley Hall, he brought his library with him.
But perhaps superior to Moseley's was the library of Eleazar Allen, at Lilliput. The inventory of this collection of books has been preserved. Made at his death, about 1749, it shows over three hundred volumes in English and Latin, including the standard works of that era—the classics, poetry, history, works of fiction, as well as works of a religious nature; and, besides, some fifty in French, not only histories, travels, poetry, and fiction, but also French translations of the most celebrated Latin authors. One finds in that atmosphere a culture unsurpassed elsewhere in America.
The Hasells likewise had a good library; also Judge Maurice Moore; and Gen. John Ashe had one he prized so highly that he made special efforts to preserve it, but unfortunately it was destroyed during the last year of the Revolutionary War.
While there were libraries at the homes of the gentlemen in the country, at Wilmington there was the Cape Fear Library, one volume of which, at least, has been preserved—a volume of Shakespeare, with notes made by Archibald Maclaine, of Wilmington, a nephew of the historian Mosher, which are of unusual merit. Many of the Rocky Point books appear to have been collected at Lillington Hall, and others have been preserved in the Hasell collection. A part of the Hasell collection, embracing books of Moseley printed before 1700, of Alexander Lillington, and of others, has been placed in the State Library at Raleigh.COLONIAL GOVERNORS OF NORTH CAROLINA.
(Extracts from an address delivered by Mr. John Jay Blair before the North Carolina Society of Colonial Dames at Brunswick, N. C.)
I have selected for my subject the governors who resided here on the Cape Fear, with a view to the formulating of a connected story of their respective administrations, together with a reference to events in the province which are of sufficient importance to have any bearing upon its life.
On the 25th of February, 1731, Burrington, who had just arrived in the colony, took the oath of office before the Council, assembled at Edenton.
Probably the fairest estimate of Burrington is that given by
William Saunders in his prefatory notes to the third volume of the Colonial Records: “Historians have fallen into grave errors in regard to Governor Burrington. They go on to state, but upon what evidence is not known, that he ended his life after rioting in his usual manner all night in the Bird Cage Walk in the corner of St. James's Park in London; and the impression is created that his disgraceful death occurred soon after his return to London. The statement is certainly untrue in several material points. Precisely when he returned to England does not appear, but from an entry in the journal of the Board of Trade it is shown that he was there on the 10th of June, 1735. Other entries and communications show that he was in frequent communication from that time until December, 1736, after which no reference is made to him.”
That he was a man of violent temper, of a contentious disposition, overbearing and domineering towards his subordinates is sustained without question by the historical records of the times. It is known that he was ordered to appear before the court and that three distinct warrants for his arrest were issued. The papers, however, were never served, an entry having been made on the court record that the indictment was quashed. It is said that he escaped from the colony on a pretext of visiting South Carolina, but sailed for England immediately upon reaching Charleston.
What, then, in view of all the conflicting statements, is the real character of Burrington?
1. Previously he had been governor of the province under the Lords Proprietors, his reappointment serving as undoubted evidence of his ability.
2. His official papers are well written and show an intimate knowledge of the country and of measures best adapted to promote its development.
3. He is known to have been a scientist of considerable ability, having made a study of the animal and vegetable life of the Cape Fear.
4. Considerable attention was given by him to making soundings and surveying rivers and harbors in the interest of navigation.
At this point an extract from some of his letters can be introduced with propriety: “North Carolina was little known or mentioned before I was governor for the Proprietors (1725). When I first came I found the inhabitants few and poor. I
took all methods I thought would induce people from other countries to settle themselves in this. Perfecting a settlement on the Cape Fear River cost me a great sum of money and infinite trouble. I endured, the first winter I spent there, all the hardships that could happen to a man destitute of a house to live in; that was above a hundred miles from a neighbor in a pathless country and was obliged to have all provisions brought by sea at a great expense to support the number of men I carried there, paid, and maintained at my sole expense.
“It can hardly be imagined what pains I took sounding the inlets, bars, and rivers of this province, which I performed no less than four times. I discovered and made known the channels of the Cape Fear River and Port Beaufort and Topsail Inlet, before unused and unknown. In attempting these and other discoveries by land and water, I often ran the hazard of drowning and starving; and never retained any other reward or gratification but the thanks of two assemblies in this country for all the pains I took and the money I expended in carrying on and completing these enterprises.”
In the light of history, Burrington, then, must stand out as a man of ability, but possessing grievous faults of such a nature as to disqualify him for the position which he occupied. One writer says he was a wiser ruler than his predecessor, Everard, and possessing no more faults; he was, too, to say the least, as wise as his successor, Gabriel Johnston, and no more arbitrary.
Events of Burrington's administration:
1. Marking the boundary line between North Carolina and Virginia.
2. Laying out roads, building bridges, and establishing ferries. From Edenton to Wilmington a road was run nearly two hundred miles, with three long ferries to cross.
The next administration, that of Gabriel Johnston, beginning in 1734 and extending over a period of nearly twenty years, was marked by many incidents and events which had important and vital bearing upon the future destiny of the colony.
The fact that Gabriel Johnston had resided upon the Cape Fear is not generally recognized. His immediate place of residence and incidents connected with his life have both been obscured and subordained by matters of graver importance.
He has come down to us with the reputation of having done more to promote the prosperity of the colony than all the other
colonial governors put together. One historian says he deserves the gratitude of every citizen of the State; another lauds him as a benefactor, a paragon of learning and of education; another states that he was the ablest of all the colonial governors. As a mark of honor a noted fort and a county in the State have borne his name.
An incident in his administration which can properly be introduced here, is a record of events which led to the removal of the county seat from Brunswick to Wilmington. The legislative records show that the discussion extended over a long period of time, but was finally accomplished during his administration, the name Wilmington being given to the new seat of government in honor of his patron, Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington and Viscount Pevensey. The records show his course in this matter to have been harsh and arbitrary.
In one of his letters to the Board of Trade, he discloses some interest in the country's industrial progress. He condemns the method of manufacturing tar, encourages the raising of hemp, refers to the colonists planting mulberries for the raising of raw silks and cultivating the vine for the production of wines. He refers to the making of oil from the olive and from nuts and seeds which grow spontaneously here, and says the collector's books show that forty-two ships were loaded from the Cape Fear within twelve months. A letter from the Board of Trade in reply to this says: “When you mentioned forty-two ships that went from the Cape Fear River, you ought to have sent us a more particular account thereof, as likewise what the said ships were loaded with. It is with pleasure we read the account you have given us of the people settled on the Cape Fear River.”
Events of Johnston's administration:
1. A fort built as a protection against the Spaniards on the south bank of the Cape Fear, and called in honor of the Governor, Fort Johnston.
2. A printing press was imported into the province from Virginia by James Davis.
3. In 1749 emigrants from Scotland flocked to the Cape Fear.
4. In 1752, September 2 was reckoned the 14th, omitting eleven days.
5. In 1738, the division of the province into three counties, Albemarle, Bath, and Clarendon, was abolished, the precincts now being called counties, with a sheriff appointed for each.
6. In 1740, England having declared war against Spain, 400 men were raised in the colony.
7. The population of North Carolina at the beginning of Johnston's administration was nearly 50,000 in all, and at the close about 90,000.
8. Records show that emigrants followed the streams in forming their settlements, searching for “bottom lands.”
The next governor appointed by the Crown was Arthur Dobbs, who arrived in New Bern in the fall of 1754 and assumed control of the government.
His term of office is known to have been marked by considerable contention and discord, frequently on matters which were frivolous and unimportant.
For the greater part of his life he resided at Brunswick and in the Old Town Creek settlement. Numerous allusions were made in his letters to the building of churches in Brunswick and Wilmington.
Without some extended reference to St. Philip's Church and the related ecclesiastical status of the colony during Burrington's and Dobbs's administrations this record would be incomplete.
In a letter to the bishop of London, April 23, 1734, John LaPierre writes from “New Hanover, alias Cape Fear,” “I was the first minister of the Church of England that came to these places to preach, which I did during three years and a half.”
In a letter of July 7, 1735, Richard Marsden wrote to the bishop of London: “I have been at Cape Fear near seven years, and can truly say that I have from my heart and soul done my utmost to promote the glory of God.”
On April 7, 1760, during Dobbs's term of office, the church wardens and vestry “begged to recommend Rev. John McDowell as a good minister of the Church of England, who has been in this province since 1754, and officiated in our neighboring parish of St. James until May, 1757, and the next year in Brunswick and Wilmington, and from that time our minister in this parish.
“We are building a very large brick church, which is near done, and hope soon to have a glebe, but at present we are a poor parish, very heavily taxed on occasion of the present war with the French and Indians, therefore can't afford to give a competency so as to maintain him and his young family in a decent manner.”
An extract from a letter of the Rev. John McDowell in 1760, to the bishop of London, gives the following information: “Nothing can give me greater pleasure than to hear that my conduct is approved. I have been south as far as the borders of South Carolina assembling a great number of people from both provinces, and we were obliged to assemble under the shady trees. I baptized one day on that visit thirty-two children and adults, among them five free mulattoes.
“It is impossible for me to live here where my salary is so small and everything so dear. I could not have continued so long had I not had some fortune with my wife, which, if I continue here much longer, must go. I was obliged to sell a slave last year to help us to subsist, though no persons ever lived in a more frugal manner.”
April 15, 1760, Governor Dobbs recommended McDowell fixed in this parish: “I therefore join with them in these applications, as it is the parish I reside in, and propose when the church is finished, which is now roofing, to be His Majesty's chapel in this government, to which he has been pleased to give the communion plate, surplice, and furniture for the communion table and pulpit, Bible and Common Prayer-books, to have the service performed with decency. This church will be the largest and most complete in this province, and may be an exemplar for building other churches.”
April 17, 1760, McDowell writes: “It is with great pleasure that I can acquaint society that my parishioners of Brunswick have a fine large church, by far the largest in the province, in great forwardness—the brickwork is done and a great part of the roof up. We hope to have the church covered and fit for the purpose of divine service this ensuing summer, and a parsonage house to be actually built and a glebe purchased for me.
“His Excellency, Governor Dobbs, will put up a pew for himself, a chancel-rail, a pulpit, and a reading desk; and will give a carpet for the communion table, plate and linen for the communion service, and a surplice for the minister.” This was his seventh year of service.
April 16, 1761, McDowell writes: “The roof of the new church at Brunswick is all fallen down again. It was struck with lightning last July, and afterwards a prodigious and immoderate amount of rain falling on it made it all tumble down; and there it lies just as it fell; the chapel is a most miserable old house, only 24 by 12, and every shower or blast of wind blows through it.”
The principal event of Dobbs's administration was the accession, in 1761, of George III. to the throne.
Mr. Haywood, in the preface of his book on Governor Tryon, makes the following suggestive observation: “Ever since I have learned to rely more upon documentary evidence than upon the individual opinions of writers, I have been convinced that history has dealt too harshly with the memory of Governor Tryon.”
Governor Tryon was born in the handsome family residence in Surrey in the year 1729. He arrived in the province at Cape Fear on Wednesday, October 10, 1764, and next day waited on Governor Dobbs, who had already been apprised of his coming. Dobbs refused to relinquish the office at once, which was a bitter disappointment to Tryon, who wanted to put into immediate effect the policies which he had outlined.
The Governor's mansion being still in possession of the incumbent in office, Tryon experienced great inconvenience in securing accommodations for himself and his family, who accompanied him.
The venerable Governor Dobbs was destined never to leave North Carolina, for, on the 28th of March following, death brought relief to the aged ruler, and when his remains were laid to rest on the Town Creek Plantation, there being not a clergyman within a hundred miles of Brunswick, the burial service had to be conducted by a justice of the peace.
One of the first official acts of Governor Tryon was to arrange for the establishment of a seat of government at New Bern, with the result that the town began to prosper.
The third session of the Legislature having met on the 3d of May, after a short encomium on his predecessor's administration, he advised the houses to improve the hour of tranquillity in promoting the internal polity of the province, making the following recommendations: “The establishment of a clergyman in each parish, whose salary should be paid out of the public treasury. That they reflect upon the present state of the Church that it might no longer suffer from so great neglect; that provision be made to enable the postmaster general to establish a line of post roads through the province of North Carolina, also a committee appointed to contract for conveying the mail from Suffolk, Va., to South Carolina.
The most noteworthy event of this decade was the passage by Parliament of the notorious Stamp Act. An attempt on the
part of the Governor was made to pacify the people of Wilmington, but their opposition to the Stamp Act was persistent, and on the 26th of June, the mayor, recorder, and aldermen of Wilmington presented an address to Governor Tryon congratulating him on its repeal and on the happy prospect of the union and harmony thereby established between the colony and the mother country.
“In 1767, on the rise of the Legislature,” says Martin, “Governor Tryon lost no time in carrying into effect his darling scheme of building a palace, having exerted all his influence to obtain the passage of the bill for its erection. This measure was thought by many to have laid the foundation of the series of disorders and commotions which terminated in the Battle of Alamance. However, it afforded him an opportunity of leaving behind an elegant monument of his taste in building and giving the ministry an instance of his great influence. For the plan of a governor's house was substituted that of a palace worthy of the residence of a prince of the blood. The purchase of the ground and the erection of the foundation absorbed the sum which the Legislature had been pleased to bestow, which was an ample appropriation for the completion of the building.”
The last years of colonial rule, under Gov. Josiah Martin, were filled with incidents of thrilling and dramatic interest. A dark cloud of uncertainty and doubt seemed to hang over the destinies of our country. This period can not be passed over without reference to an event of such momentous import and immortal significance as to deserve forever a place upon the banner of our Commonwealth. I refer to the date, April 12, 1776, and the accompanying resolution:
“Resolved, That the delegates of this colony in the Continental Congress be empowered to concur with the delegates of the other colonies in declaring independence.”
After a period of nearly two hundred years the flag which had been planted on the coast of North Carolina began to wane, the unfitness of England to govern her colonies had become more and more obvious, and amid the commotions and excitement of an indignant nation an American independence was at last asserted by the people of Mecklenburg. So this dramatic chapter can be closed with a sentence from Jones's Memorials of North Carolina: “It is curious to observe that the annals of a
single State should contribute the two great events in the history of the present age—the alpha and omega of the dominion of England over her old North American colonies.”COLONIAL MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL
(Compiled by the North Carolina Historical Commission.)BOROUGH MEMBERS FROM WILMINGTON.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY MEMBERS.
|1739 (40)-1740||William Farris|
|1746 (47)-1754||Lewis DeRosset|
|1762 (April)||Cornelius Harnett|
|1762 (November)||Cornelius Harnett|
|1773 (January)||Cornelius Harnett|
PROVINCIAL CONGRESSES.BOROUGH MEMBERS FROM WILMINGTON.
|1762 (April)||George Moore|
|1762 (November)||John Ashe|
|1773 (January)||John Ashe|
NEW HANOVER COUNTY MEMBERS.
|Aug. 1774||Francis Clayton|
|April 1775||Cornelius Harnett|
|Aug. 1775||Cornelius Harnett|
|April 1776||Cornelius Harnett|
|Nov. 1776||William Hooper|
|Aug. 1774||John Hooper|
|April 1775||William Hooper|
|Aug. 1775||George Moore|
|April 1776||John Ashe|
|Nov. 1776||John Ashe|
Resistance Before the Revolution
THE STAMP ACT ON THE CAPE FEAR.
(Extracts from an address delivered by Capt. S. A. Ashe before the North Carolina Society of Colonial Dames at Old Brunswick, N. C.)
When the next year  a bill was introduced to carry the resolution into effect, it met with considerable opposition in the House of Commons, for the protests of the colonists were not unheeded. Still, the ministry, under Lord Bute, persisted, and the measure was carried. All America was at once stirred. Bold and courageous action was taken in every colony, but in none was a more resolute spirit manifested than here upon the Cape Fear. The governor was Tryon, who had but lately succeeded to that office. He was an officer of the army, a gentleman by birth and education, a man calculated by his accomplishments and social qualities to shine in any community. He sought the speaker of the House, and asked him what would be the action of the people. “Resistance to the death,” was the prompt reply. That was a warning that was full of meaning. It pledged the speaker to revolution and war in defense of the people's rights.
The Assembly was to meet in May, 1765. But Tryon astutely postponed the meeting until November, and then dissolved the Assembly. He did not wish the members to meet, confer, consult, and arrange a plan of opposition. He hoped by dealing with gentlemen, not in an official capacity, to disarm their antagonism and persuade them to a milder course. Vain delusion! The people had been too long trained to rely with confidence on their leaders to abandon them now, even though Parliament demanded their obedience.
The first movement was not long delayed. Within two months after the news had come that the odious act had been passed, the people of North Carolina discarded from their use all clothes of British manufacture and set up looms for weaving their own clothes. Since Great Britain was to oppress them, they would give the world an assurance of the spirit of independence that would sustain them in the struggle. In October information was received that Dr. Houston, of Duplin County, had been selected in England as stamp master. At
once proceedings were taken to nullify the appointment. At that time Wilmington had less than 500 white inhabitants, but her citizens were very patriotic and very resolute.
Rocky Point, fifteen miles to the northward, had been the residence of Maurice Moore, Speaker Moseley, Speaker Swann, Speaker Ashe, Alexander Lillington, John Swann, George Moore, John Porter, Colonel Jones, Colonel Merrick, and other gentlemen of influence. It was the center from which had radiated the influences that directed popular movements. Nearer to Onslow, Duplin, and Bladen than Wilmington was, and the residence of the speaker and other active leaders, it was doubtless there that plans were considered, and proceedings agreed upon that involved the united action of all the neighboring counties. At Wilmington and in its vicinity were Harnett, DeRosset, Toomer, Walker, Clayton, Gregg, Purviance, Eustace, Maclaine, and DuBois, while near by were Howe, Smith, Davis, Grange, Ancrum, and a score of others of the loftiest patriotism. All were in full accord with the speaker of the Assembly; all were nerved by the same spirit; all resolved to carry resistance, if need be, to the point of blood and death.
We fortunately have a contemporaneous record of some of their proceedings. The North Carolina Gazette, published at Wilmington, in its issue of November 20, 1765, says:
On Saturday, the 19th of last month, about 7 o'clock in the evening, near five hundred people assembled together in this town and exhibited the effigy of a certain honorable gentleman; and after letting it hang by the neck for some time, near the courthouse they made a large bonfire with a number of tar barrels, etc., and committed it to the flames. The reason assigned for the people's dislike to that gentleman was from being informed of his having several times expressed himself much in favor of the stamp duty. After the effigy was consumed, they went to every house in town and brought all the gentlemen to the bonfire, and insisted on their drinking “Liberty, Property, and No Stamp Duty,” and “Confusion to Lord Bute and All His Adherents,” giving three huzzahs at the conclusion of each toast. They continued together until 12 of the clock, and then dispersed without doing any mischief.
Doubtless it was a very orderly crowd, since the editor says so. A very orderly, harmless, inoffensive gathering; patriotic, and given to hurrahing; but we are assured that they dispersed without any mischief.
And continues the same paper:
On Thursday, the 31st of the same month, in the evening, a great number of people assembled again, and produced an effigy of Liberty,
which they put in a coffin and marched in solemn procession with it to the churchyard, a drum in mourning beating before them, and the town bell, muffled, ringing a doleful knell at the same time; but before they committed the body to the ground, they thought it advisable to feel its pulse, and, finding some remains of life, they returned back to a bonfire ready prepared, placed the effigy before it in a large two-armed chair, and concluded the evening with great rejoicings on finding that Liberty had still an existence in the colonies.
Not the least injury was offered to any person.
The editor of that paper, Mr. Stewart, was apparently anxious to let his readers know that the people engaged in these proceedings were the very soul of order and the essence of moderation. So far they had done no mischief and offered no injury to any one. But still they had teeth, and they could show them. The next item reads:
Saturday, the 16th of this instant, that is November: William Houston, Esq., distributor of stamps for this province, came to this town; upon which three or four hundred people immediately gathered together, with drums beating and colors flying, and repaired to the house the said stamp master put up at, and insisted upon knowing “Whether he intended to execute his said office or not.” He told them, “He should be very sorry to execute any office disagreeable to the people of this province.” [note]But they, not content with such declaration, carried him into the courthouse, where he signed a resignation satisfactory to the whole. They then placed the stamp master in an armchair, carried him around the courthouse, giving at every corner three loud huzzahs, and finally set him down at the door of his lodging, formed a circle around him, and gave three cheers. They then escorted him into the house, where were prepared the best liquors, and treated him very genteelly. In the evening a large bonfire was made and no person appeared on the streets without having “Liberty” in large letters on his hat. They had a table near the bonfire well furnished with several sorts of liquors, where they drank, in great form, all the favorite American toasts, giving three cheers at the conclusion of each.
“The whole was conducted,” says the editor, “with great decorum, and not the least insult offered to any person.”
This enforced resignation of the stamp master was done under[note]
the direction of Alderman DeRosset, who received from Houston his commission and other papers, and necessarily it was a very orderly performance. The ringing huzzas, the patriotic toasts, the loud acclaim, echoing from the courthouse square, reverberated through the streets of the town, but Mr. Stewart is quite sure that no mischief was done, and not the least insult was offered to any person. These and other similar proceedings led the Governor to send out a circular letter to the principal inhabitants of the Cape Fear region, requesting their presence at a dinner at his residence at Brunswick on Tuesday, the 19th of November, three days after Dr. Houston resigned; and after the dinner, he conferred with these gentlemen about the Stamp Act. He found them fully determined to annul the act and prevent its going into effect. He sought to persuade them, and begged them to let it be observed at least in part. He pleaded that if they would let the act go into partial operation in the respects he mentioned, he himself would pay for all the stamps necessary. It seems that he liked the people, and they liked and admired him, and difficult indeed was his position. He was charged with the execution of a law which he knew could not be executed, for there was not enough specie in the province to buy the necessary stamps, even if the law could be enforced; but, then, the people were resolved against recognizing it in any degree. The authority of the King and of the Parliament was defied, and he, the representative of the British Government, was powerless in the face of this resolute defiance. While still maintaining dignity in his intercourse with the people, the Governor wrote to his superiors in London strongly urging the repeal of the law. A week later the stamps arrived in the sloop of war Diligence. They remained on the sloop and were not landed at that time.
Now was there a lull; but the quietude was not to remain unbroken. In January two merchant vessels arrived in the harbor, the Patience and the Dobbs. Their clearance papers were not stamped as the act required. The vessels were seized and detained while the lawfulness of their detention was referred to Attorney General Robert Jones, then absent at his home on the Roanoke. But the leaders of the people were determined not to submit to an adverse decision. They held meetings and agreed on a plan of action.
In view of the crisis, on January 20, the mayor of the town retired to give place to Moses John DeRosset, who had been the foremost leader in the action previously taken by the town.
One whose spirit never quailed was now to stand forth as the head of the Corporation.
On the 5th of February, Captain Lobb, in command of the Viper, had made a requisition for an additional supply of provisions, and Mr. Dry, the contractor, sent his boat to Wilmington to obtain them. The inhabitants, led by the mayor, at once seized the boat, threw the crew into the jail, and, in a wild tumult of excitement, placed the boat on a wagon and hauled it through the streets with great demonstration of fervid patriotism. The British forces on the river were to receive no supplies from Wilmington; their provisions were cut off, and they were treated as enemies—not friends—so long as they supported the odious law of Parliament. Ten days later came the opinion of Attorney General Jones to the effect that the detained merchantmen were properly seized and were liable to be confiscated under the law. This was the signal for action. The news was spread throughout the counties, and the whole country was astir. Every patriot “was on his legs.” There was no halt in carrying into effect the plan agreed upon. Immediately the people began to assemble, and detachments, under chosen leaders, took up their march from Onslow, Bladen, and Duplin. On the 18th of February, the inhabitants of the Cape Fear counties, being then assembled at Wilmington, entered into an association, which they signed, declaring they preferred death to slavery; and mutually and solemnly they plighted their faith and honor that they would at any risk whatever, and whenever called upon, unite, and truly and faithfully assist each other, to the best of their power, in preventing entirely the operation of the Stamp Act.
The crisis had now arrived. The hand of destiny had struck with a bold stroke the resounding bell. The people, nobly responding, had seized their arms. At all times, when some patriot is to throw himself to the front and bid defiance to the established authority of government, there is a Rubicon to be crossed, and he who unsheathes his sword to resist the law must win success or meet a traitor's doom. But the leaders on the Cape Fear did not hesitate at the thought of personal peril. At their call, the people, being armed and assembled at Wilmington, chose the men who were to guide, govern, and direct them. They called to the helm John Ashe, the trusted speaker of the Assembly, and associated with him Alexander Lillington and Col. Thomas Lloyd, as a Directory to manage their affairs
at this momentous crisis. Their movement was not that of an irresponsible mob. It was an orderly proceeding, pursuant to a determined plan of action, under the direction of the highest officer of the province, who was charged with maintaining the liberties of the people. In effect, it was the institution and ordaining of a temporary government.
It was resolved to organize an armed force and march to Brunswick, and Col. Hugh Waddell was invested with the command of the military. Let us pause a moment and take a view of the situation at that critical juncture. Close to Brunswick, in his mansion, was Governor Tryon, the representative of the King; no coward he, but resolute, a military man of experience and courage. In the town itself were the residences and offices of Colonel Dry, the collector of the port, and of other officers of the Crown. Off in the river lay the detained merchant vessels and the two sloops of war, the Viper, commanded by Captian Lobb, and the Diligence, commanded by Captain Phipps, whose bristling guns, 26 in number, securely kept them; while Fort Johnston, some miles away, well armed with artillery, was held by a small garrison. At every point flew the meteor flag of Great Britain. Every point was protected by the ægis of His Sacred Majesty. For a subject to lift his hand in a hostile manner against any of these was treason and rebellion. Yes, treason and rebellion, with the fearful punishment of attainder and death—of being hanged and quartered.
Well might the eloquent Davis exclaim, “Beware, John Ashe! Hugh Waddell, take heed!”
Their lives, their fortunes were at hazard and the dishonored grave was open to receive their dismembered bodies! But patriots as they were, they did take care—not for themselves, but for the liberties of their country. At high noon, on the 19th day of February, the three directors, the mayor and other officers of Wilmington, the embodied soldiery, and the prominent citizens, moved forward, crossed the river, passed like Cæsar the fateful Rubicon, and courageously marched to the scene of possible conflict. It was not only the Governor with whom they had to deal, but the ships of war with their formidable batteries that held possession of the detained vessels. It was not merely the penalties of the law that threatened them, but they courted death at the cannon's mouth, in conflict with the heavily armed sloops of war, from whose power they had come to wrest the merchantmen. But there was neither halt nor hesitation.
As they crossed the river, a chasm yawned deep and wide, separating them from their loyal past. Behind them they left their allegiance as loyal British subjects; before them was rebellion—open, flagrant war, leading to revolution. Who could tell what the ending might be of the anticipated conflict!
There all the gentlemen of the Cape Fear were gathered, in their cocked hats, their long queues, their knee-breeches, and shining shoe buckles. Mounted on their well-groomed horses, they made a famous cavalcade as they wound their way through the somber pine forests that hedged in the highway to old Brunswick. Among them was DeRosset, the mayor, in the prime of manhood, of French descent, with keen eye, fine culture, and high intelligence, who had been a soldier with Innes at the North; bold and resolved was he as he rode, surrounded by Cornelius Harnett, Frederick Gregg, John Sampson, and the other aldermen and officers of the town.
At the head of a thousand armed men, arranged in companies and marching in order, was the experienced soldier, Hugh Waddell, not yet thirty-three years of age, but already renowned for his capacity and courage. He had won more distinction and honors in the late wars at the North and West than any other Southern soldier, save only George Washington; and now in command of his companies, officered by men who had been trained in discipline in the war, he was confident of the issue. Of Irish descent, and coming of a fighting stock, his blood was up, and his heroic soul was aflame for the fray.
Surrounded by a bevy of his kinsmen, the venerable Sam and John Swann; his brothers-in-law, James, George, and Maurice Moore; his brother, Sam Ashe, and Alexander Lillington, whose burly forms towered high above the others; by Howe, Davis, Colonel Lloyd, and other gallant spirits, was the speaker, John Ashe, now just forty-five years of age, on whom the responsibility of giving directions chiefly lay. Of medium stature, well knit, with olive complexion and a lustrous hazel eye, he was full of nervous energy—an orator of surpassing power, of elegant carriage and commanding presence. Of him Mr. Strudwick has said: “That there were not four men in London his intellectual superior,” and that at a time when Pitt, Fox, Burke, and others of that splendid galaxy of British orators and statesmen gave lustre to British annals.
How, on this momentous occasion, the spirits of these men and of their kinsmen and friends who gathered around, must
have soared as they pressed on, resolved to maintain the chartered rights of their country! Animated by the noble impulses of a lofty patriotism, with their souls elevated by the inspiring emotions of a perilous struggle for their liberties, they moved forward with a resolute purpose to sacrifice their lives rather than tamely submit to the oppressive and odious enactments of the British Parliament.
It was nightfall before they reached the vicinity of Brunswick, and George Moore and Cornelius Harnett, riding in advance, presented to Governor Tryon a letter from the governing Directory, notifying him of their purpose. In a few minutes the Governor's residence was surrounded, and Captain Lobb was inquired for, but he was not there. A party was then dispatched towards Fort Johnston, and thereupon Tryon notified the British naval commanders and requested them to protect the fort, repelling force with force. In the meantime, a party of gentlemen called on the collector, Mr. Dry, who had the papers of the ship Patience; and in his presence broke open his desk and took them away. This gave an earnest of the resolute purpose of the people. They purposed to use all violence that was necessary to carry out their designs. Realizing the full import of the situation, the following noon a conference of the King's officers was held on the Viper, and Captain Lobb, confident of his strength, declared to the Governor that he would hold the ship Patience and insist on the return of her papers. If the people were resolved, so were the officers of the government. The sovereignty of Great Britain was to be enforced. There was to be no temporizing with the rebels. The honor of the government demanded that the British flag should not droop in the face of this hostile array. But two short hours later a party of the insurgents came aboard and requested to see Captain Lobb. They entered the cabin, and there, under the royal flag, surrounded by the King's forces, they demanded that all efforts to enforce the Stamp Act cease. They would allow no opposition. In the presence of Ashe, Waddell, DeRosset, Harnett, Moore, Howe, and Lillington, the spirit of Captain Lobb quailed. The people won. In the evening the British commander, much to the Governor's disgust, reported to that functionary that “all was settled.” Yes. All had been settled. The vessels were released; the grievances were redressed. The restrictions on the commerce of the Cape Fear were removed. The attempt to enforce the Stamp Act had failed before the
prompt, vigorous, and courageous action of the inhabitants. After that, vessels could come and go as if there had been no act of Parliament. The people had been victorious over the King's ships; with arms in their hands, they had won the victory.
But the work was not all finished. There, on the Diligence, were obnoxious stamps, and by chance some loyal officer of the government might use them. To guard against that, the officers were to be forced to swear not to obey the act of Parliament, but to observe the will of the people. Mr. Pennington was His Majesty's controller, and, understanding that the people sought him, he took refuge in the Governor's mansion and was given a bed and made easy, but early the next morning Col. James Moore called to get him. The Governor interfered to prevent; and immediately the mansion was surrounded by the insurgent troops, and the Directory notified the Governor, in writing, that they requested His Excellency to let Mr. Pennington appear, otherwise it would not be “in the power of the directors appointed to prevent the ill consequences that would attend a refusal.” In plain language, said John Ashe, “Persist in your refusal, and we will come and take him.” The Governor declined to comply. In a few moments he observed a body of nearly five hundred men move towards his house. A detachment of sixty entered his avenue. Cornelius Harnett accompanied them and sent word that he wished to speak with Mr. Pennington. The Governor replied that Mr. Pennington was protected by his house. Harnett thereupon notified the Governor that the people would come in and take him out of the house, if longer detained. Now the point was reached. The people were ready; the Governor was firm. But Pennington wisely suggested that he would resign, and immediately wrote his resignation and delivered it to the Governor—and then he went out with Harnett and was brought here to Brunswick, and required to take an oath never to issue any stamped paper in North Carolina; so was Mr. Dry, the collector; and so all the clerks of the County Courts, and other public officers. Every officer in all that region, except alone the Governor, was forced to obey the will of the people and swear not to obey the act of Parliament.
On the third day after the first assemblage at Wilmington, on the 18th, the directors, having completed their work at Brunswick, took up the line of march to return. With what rejoicing they turned their backs on the scene of their bloodless
triumph. It had been a time of intense excitement. It had been no easy task to hold more than a thousand hot and zealous patriots well in hand, and to accomplish their purposes without bloodshed. Wisdom and courage by the directors, and prudence, foresight, and sagacity on the part of the military officers were alike essential to the consummation of their design. They now returned in triumph, their purposes accomplished. The odious law was annulled in North Carolina. After that, merchant vessels passed freely in and out of port, without interference. The stamps remained boxed on shipboard, and no further effort was made to enforce a law which the people had rejected.
Two months after these events on the Cape Fear, Parliament repealed the law, and the news was hurried across the Atlantic in the fleetest vessels. The victory of the people was complete. They had annulled an act of Parliament, crushed their enemies, and preserved their liberties. Thus once more were the courageous leaders of the Cape Fear, in their measures of opposition to encroachments on the rights of the people, sustained by the result. On former occasions they had triumphed over their governors: now, in coöperation with other provinces, they had triumphed over the British Ministry and the Parliament of Great Britain.
While in every other province the people resolutely opposed the Stamp Act, nowhere else in America was there a proceeding similar to that which was taken at Wilmington. Nowhere else was the standard of Liberty committed to the care of a governing board, even though its creation was for a temporary purpose; nowhere else was there an army organized, under officers appointed, and led to a field where a battle might have ensued. Had not His Majesty's forces yielded to the will of the insurgents, the American Revolution would probably have begun then—and here—on the soil of Old Brunswick.WILLIAM HOUSTON, THE STAMP AGENT—
(Extracts from an address delivered by Mr. J. O. Carr before the North Carolina Society of Colonial Dames of America, at Old Brunswick, May 5, 1915.)
One hundred and fifty years have elapsed since the Houston episode, and it is not too early to begin to do justice to the victim; nor will it detract from the heroism of the patriots of 1765, who were inspired by a righteous indignation against every form of oppression.
By a careful, discriminating reading of all the subject-matter at our command, it will be easily seen that the indignation of the people of 1765 was not directed against Houston, nor against any conduct of his, but against the principle of the British stamp tax.
In order to get a comprehensive view of Houston as a man it is necessary to consider him before 1765 and after 1765.HOUSTON BEFORE 1765.
William Houston did not live in Wilmington nor in Brunswick, but resided in Duplin County on the Northeast River, about sixty miles north of Wilmington, in a direct line. He was an associate of Henry McCulloch in his attempt to colonize North Carolina, and was one of the original settlers who came to this community some time between 1737 and 1748. This locality was then a part of the county of New Hanover.
Houston was a man of unusual ability and was known as an “honorable gentleman.” By profession he was a surgeon and apothecary. A tradition, too well founded in the community in which he lived to be seriously disputed, at least forms the basis for a well-established belief that royal blood flowed in his veins. The General Assembly of 1749 and 1750 established the county of Duplin and St. Gabriel's parish, and William Houston was named as a member of the vestry of that parish. From 1751 to 1761, inclusive, he was a member of the General Assembly from Duplin County, and following that date was a justice of the peace, along with other leading citizens of his county; and in those days the office of justice of the peace was a position of considerable importance.
When he was appointed stamp agent for the port of Brunswick, he was residing on his farm in Duplin County, on a high elevation on the Northeast River, at a place known as “Soracte”—so called, no doubt, from the mountain by that name in Italy on which was built the ancient Temple of Apollo.
On the 19th of October, 1765, after he had been appointed stamp agent and notice of such appointment had reached Brunswick direct from England, Houston was hanged in effigy in the town of Wilmington, the only reason given for such action being that the several hundred citizens who participated were “informed of his having several times expressed himself much in favor of the stamp duty”—and it is possible that he honestly
favored such a tax, but there is no evidence that he favored it without the people's consent.
Again, on the 31st of October, 1765, a large number of people met in Wilmington and placed an effigy in a coffin and moved under the beat of drums to the churchyard—no doubt St. James's Church—where the interment was to take place; but after feeling its pulse, decided that Liberty still survived, and no burial took place. Also, Dr. Houston was hanged in effigy at New Bern and at Fayetteville about the same time.
During all of these exhibitions of patriotism, Dr. Houston was pursuing his duties as surgeon and apothecary at “Soracte,” now known as “Sarecta,” and he afterwards protested that he had not solicited and did not even know of his appointment as stamp agent at the time of such demonstrations. It was not until Saturday, the 16th day of November, nearly a month after his first hanging and demise, that Dr. Houston came to town, where three hundred people, with drums beating and flags flying, proceeded to his lodging-place and inquired whether he intended to execute the office of stamp agent. Without hesitation he informed them that he “should be sorry to execute any office disagreeable to the people of the province”; and as an exhibition of good faith voluntarily signed the famous promise, which was done of his own free will and accord; and he was not even required to take an oath, as has been generally believed. If this promise had been signed under force or duress, he would hardly have been given an ovation; but after he had indicated his sentiments on this matter there was a love feast and he was put in an armchair and carried around the courthouse and around one of the chief squares of the city of Wilmington and finally put down at his lodging-place.
A careful and discriminating reading of the entire story must convince the thinking man that instead of a riot and a lynching in the city when Dr. Houston came to town, there was something in the nature of a banquet in his honor, on the discovery by the people that the sentiments of the man selected by the Crown to sell stamps were in harmony with theirs; and no doubt Dr. Houston enjoyed the eats and drinks as much as any one, though the drought in those days around “Soracte” was doubtless not as marked as it is today.
HOUSTON AFTER 1765.
The episode in Wilmington did not in any way affect the standing of Dr. Houston in his own county, where he was highly honored and respected by his fellow-citizens. In 1768 he was appointed a justice of the peace in Duplin County, and likewise again in 1771. In 1777 he was chairman of the “Court Martial” in Duplin County, whose duties were to hunt down Tories and deserters and to bring to justice Americans who were not faithful to our cause; and together with James Kenan and Joseph Dickson, whose names were synonymous with patriotism in that community, he acted in this capacity, and as chairman of the commission. He continued to serve his county in public positions, and as late as 1784 was appointed a justice of the peace by Alexander Martin, in which capacity he served for some time thereafter. The time of his death or the place of his burial can not be stated with certainty, but it is thought that he was buried in the community in which he lived.[note] His descendants to this day have exhibited the same elements of brilliancy and patriotism seen in Dr. Houston.RUSSELLBOROUGH—SCENE OF FIRST ARMED
About half a mile to the south of Orton House, and within the boundary of the plantation, are the ruins of Governor Tryon's residence, memorable in the history of the United States as the spot upon which the first overt act of violence occurred in the War of American Independence, nearly eight years before the Boston Tea Party, of which so much has been made in Northern history, while this colonial ruin, the veritable cradle of American liberty, is probably unknown to nine-tenths of the people of the Cape Fear at the present day.
This place, which has been eloquently referred to by two of the most distinguished sons of the Cape Fear, both direct descendants[note]
of Sir John Yeamans, the late Hon. George Davis and the late Hon. A. M. Waddell, and which was known as Russellborough, was bought from William Moore, son and successor of “King” Roger, by Capt. John Russell, commander of His Britannic Majesty's sloop of war Scorpion, who gave the tract of about fifty-five acres his own name. It subsequently passed into the possession of his widow, who made a deed of trust, and the property ultimately again became a part of Orton Plantation. It was sold March 31, 1758, by the executors of the estate of William Moore to the British governor and commander-in-chief, Arthur Dobbs, who occupied it and who sold it or gave it to his son, Edward Bryce Dobbs, captain of His Majesty's Seventh Regiment of Foot or Royal Fusileers, who conveyed it by deed, dated February 12, 1767, to His Excellency, William Tryon, governor, etc. It appears, however, that Governor Tryon occupied this residence prior to the date of this deed, as is shown by the following official correspondence in 1766 with reference to the uprising of the Cape Fear people in opposition to the Stamp Act:
BRUNSWICK, 19 February, 1766, Eleven at Night.
SIR:—Between the hours of six and seven o'clock this evening, Mr. Geo. Moore and Mr. Cornelius Harnett waited on me at my house, and delivered me a letter signed by three gentlemen. The inclosed is a copy of the original. I told Mr. Moore and Mr. Harnett that I had no fears or apprehensions for my person or property, I wanted no guard, therefore desired the gentlemen might not come to give their protection where it was not necessary or required, and that I would send the gentlemen an answer in writing tomorrow morning. Mr. Moore and Mr. Harnett might stay about five or six minutes in my house. Instantly after their leaving me, I found my house surrounded with armed men to the number, I estimate, at one hundred and fifty. I had some altercation with some of the gentlemen, who informed me their business was to see Captain Lobb, whom they were informed was at my house; Captain Paine then desired me to give my word and honor whether Captain Lobb was in my house or not. I positively refused to make any such declaration, but as they had force in their hands I said they might break open my locks and force my doors. This, they declared, they had no intention of doing; just after this and other discourse, they got intelligence that Captain Lobb was not in my house. The majority of the men in arms then went to the town of Brunswick, and left a number of men to watch the avenues of my house, therefore think it doubtful if I can get this letter safely conveyed. I esteem it my duty, sir, to inform you, as Fort Johnston has but one officer and five men in garrison, the fort will stand in need of all the assistance the Viper and Diligence
sloops can give the commanding officer there, should any insult be offered to His Majesty's fort or stores, in which case it is my duty to request of you to repel force with force, and take on board His Majesty's sloops so much of His Majesty's ordnance stores and ammunition out of the said fort as you shall think necessary for the benefit of the service.
I am, your most humble servant,
To the Commanding Officer, either of the Viper or Diligence sloops of war.
The writer, who has made his home at Orton, had often inquired for the precise location of the ruins of Governor Tryon's Russellborough residence without success; but about fifteen years ago, acting upon Colonel Waddell's reference to its site on the north of Old Brunswick, the service of an aged negro who had lived continuously on the plantation for over seventy years was engaged. He, being questioned, could not remember ever having heard the name Russellborough, nor of Governor Dobbs, nor of Governor Tryon, nor of an avenue of trees in the locality described. He said he remembered, however, hearing when he was a boy about a man named “Governor Palace,” who lived in a great house between Orton and Old Brunswick.
We proceeded at once to the spot, which is approached through an old field, still known as “Old Palace Field,” on the other side of which, on a bluff facing the east and affording a fine view of the river, we found hidden in a dense undergrowth of timber the foundation walls of Tryon's residence. The aged guide showed us the well-worn carriage road of the Governor, and also his private path through the old garden to the river landing, a short distance below, on the south of which is a beautiful cove of white and shining sand, known, he said, in olden times, as the Governor's Cove. The stone foundation walls of the house are about two feet above the surface of the ground. Some sixty years ago the walls stood from twelve to fifteen feet high, but the material was unfortunately used by one of the proprietors for building purposes.
The old servant pointed out a large pine tree near by, upon which he said had been carved in colonial times the names of two distinguished persons buried beneath it, and which in his youthful days was regarded with much curiosity by visitors. The rude inscription has unhappily become almost obliterated by several growths of bark, and the strange mysterious record is forever hidden by the hand of time.
A careful excavation of this ruin would doubtless reveal some interesting and possibly valuable relics of Governor Tryon's household. Near the surface was found, while these lines were being written, some fragments of blue Dutch tiling, doubtless a part of the interior decorations; also a number of peculiarly shaped bottles for the favorite sack of those days, which Falstaff called sherris sack, of Xeres vintage, now known as dry sherry.
In recent years the site of Governor Tryon's palace upon this spot has been marked by a substantial monument built of bricks and stones taken from the foundation of the building and suitably inscribed by the North Carolina Society of Colonial Dames of America.SONS OF LIBERTY IN NORTH CAROLINA.[note]
South Carolina Gazette, July 5, 1770.
We hear that in consequence of a letter lately addressed to the Sons of Liberty in North Carolina, under cover to Col. James Moore, a meeting had been appointed, and held on the 2d of last month, where a number of gentlemen from the several southern counties in that province were chosen as a committee to meet at Wilmington on this day, to consult upon such measures as may appear most eligible for evincing their patriotism and loyalty in the present critical situation of affairs; which committee are, Col. James Lloyd, Cornelius Harnett, Frederick Gregg, William Campbell, Esq., Messrs. John Robeson and William Wilkinson, for the town of Wilmington; George Moore, Frederick Jones, Esq., Col. James Moore, Messrs. Samuel Ashe and James Moran, for New Hanover County; Richard Quince, sr., Richard Quince, jr., Esqrs., and Mr. John Wilkinson, for the town of Brunswick; John and William Davis, Esqrs., Messrs Samuel Watters, Thomas Davis, and Samuel Neale, for Brunswick County; Messrs. John and George Gibbs, and John Grange, jr., for Bladen County; Col. James Sampson and Felix Kenan, Esq., for Duplin County; William Cray, Henry Roads, and Richard Ward, Esqrs., for Onslow County; and Walter Gibson, Farquhar Campbell, and Robert Rowan, Esqrs., for Cumberland County.[note]
South Carolina Gazette, July 26, 1770.
We are informed that on the 22d of last month the Virginians extended their Economical Plan and Non-Importation Agreement, agreeable to those of this province, and that some General Resolutions were to be framed last week by the inhabitants of North Carolina, to manifest their unanimity with the rest of the colonies.
South Carolina Gazette, August 9, 1770.
(WILMINGTON, CAPE FEAR), July 11.
At a meeting of the General Committee of the Sons of Liberty upon Cape Fear, in Wilmington, the 5th day of July, Cornelius Harnett, Esq., was chosen chairman, and the following resolution unanimously agreed on, viz.:
I. Resolved, That the following answer to the letter received from the Sons of Liberty in South Carolina, of the 25th of April last, be signed by the chairman and sent by the first conveyance.
To the Sons of Liberty in South Carolina:—
Your favour of the 25th of April last was laid before the Sons of Liberty upon the Cape Fear, at a general meeting in this town, on the second of last month, and received with the highest satisfaction.
We have the pleasure to inform you that many of the principal inhabitants of six large and populous counties attended, when it was unanimously agreed to keep strictly to the Non-Importation Agreement entered into last fall, and to coöperate with our sister colonies in every legal measure for obtaining ample redress of the grievance so justly complained of.
Happy should we have thought ourselves if our merchants in general would have followed the disinterested and patriotic example of their brethren in the other colonies; we hope, however, their own interest will convince them of the necessity of importing such articles, and such only, as the planters will purchase.
We should have done ourselves the pleasure of answering your letter much sooner, but the gentlemen of the committee living at such a distance from each other prevented it.
We beg to assure you that the inhabitants of those six counties, and we doubt not of every county in this colony, are convinced of the necessity of adhering strictly to their former resolution, and you may depend they are as tenacious of their just rights as any of their brethren on the continent and firmly resolved to stand or fall with them in support of the common cause of American liberty.
Worthless men, as you very justly observe, are the production of every country, and we are also so unhappy as to have a few among us “who have not virtue enough to resist the allurement of present gain.”
Yet we can venture to assert, that the people in general of this colony will be spirited and steady in their support of their rights as English subjects, and will not tamely submit to the yoke of oppression—“But, if by the iron hand of power,” they are at last crushed, it is their fixed resolution either to fall with the same dignity and spirit you so justly mention or transmit to their posterity, entire, the inestimable blessing of our free constitution.
The disinterested and public-spirited behaviour of the merchants and other inhabitants of your colony justly merits the applause of every lover of liberty on the continent. The people of any colony who have not virtue enough to follow so glorious examples must be lost to every sense of freedom and consequently deserve to be slaves. We are,
With great truth, gentlemen,
Your affectionate countrymen,
CORNELIUS HARNETT, Chairman.
Signed by order of the General Committee.
WILMINGTON, CAPE FEAR, July 5, 1770.
II. Resolved, That we will strictly and inviolably adhere to the Non-Importation Agreement entered into on the 30th day of September last until the grievances therein mentioned are redressed.
III. Resolved, That we will not on any pretense whatever, have any dealings or connexion with the inhabitants of the colony of Rhode Island, who contrary to their solemn and voluntary contract have violated their faith pledged to the other colonies and thereby shamefully deserted the common cause of American liberty; and if any of their vessels or merchants shall arrive in Cape Fear River with intention to trade, we will to the utmost of our power, by all legal ways and means, prevent any person buying from, or selling to them, any goods or commodities whatever, unless they give full satisfaction to the colonies for their base and unworthy conduct.
IV. Resolved, That the merchants of Newport, Rhode Island, and all others on the continent of North America, who will not comply with the Non-Importation Agreement, are declared enemies to their country, and ought to be treated in the most contemptuous manner.
V. Resolved, That we will not purchase any kind of goods or merchandise whatever, from any merchants or other person who shall import or purchase goods for sale contrary to the spirit and intention of the said Agreement, unless such goods be immediately re-shipped to the place they were imported from or stored under the inspection and direction of the committee.
VI. Resolved, That the members of the committee for the several counties in the Wilmington district, and particularly those for the towns of Wilmington and Brunswick, do carefully inspect all importations of goods, and if any shall be imported contrary to the true intent and meaning of the said Non-Importation Agreement, that they give public notice thereof in the Cape Fear Mercury, with the names of such importers or purchasers.
VII. Resolved, That copies of these resolutions be immediately transmitted to all the trading towns in this colony. The Committee of the
Sons of Liberty upon Cape Fear, appointed for the town of Wilmington to inspect into all goods imported, take this opportunity to inform the public that Mr. Arthur Benning, of Duplin County, hath imported in the sloop Lancashire Witch from Virginia a small assortment of goods, several articles of which are not allowed by the Non-Importation Agreement. But it appears at the same time to the committee those goods were expected to arrive before the 1st. of January last, having been ordered by Mr. Benning some time in July last. His correspondent sent them to Virginia, where they have lain a considerable time since.
We have the pleasure to inform the public, that Richard Quince, Esq., a member of the General Committee and who may with great propriety be deemed a principal merchant, hath joined heartily in the Non-Importation Agreement. It will, no doubt, be looked upon as a very great misfortune to this country that some merchants and others seem resolved not to follow so disinterested an example, but, on the contrary, are daily purchasing wines and many other articles contrary to the said Agreement. Should those gentlemen still persist in a practice so destructive in its tendencies to the liberties of the people of this colony, they must not be surprised if hereafter the names of the importers and purchasers should be published in the Cape Fear Mercury. This is intended to serve as a friendly admonition, and, it is hoped, will be received as such and have its due effect.
THE INSTITUTION OF THE REVOLUTIONARY
On July 21, 1774, there was an important meeting of the inhabitants of the Wilmington district held at Wilmington.
It being understood that the Governor had determined that the Legislature should not meet, this meeting was called to take steps for the election of delegates to a Revolutionary Convention.
William Hooper presided; and Col. James Moore, John Ancrum, Fred Jones, Samuel Ashe, Robert Howe, Robert Hogg, Francis Clayton, and Archibald Maclaine were appointed a committee to prepare a circular letter to the several counties of the province, requesting them to elect delegates to represent them in the convention.
This was the first movement to provide for a Revolutionary Government, and the delegates elected were the first elected by the people in any province in right of the sovereignty of the people. It was at this same meeting that the cry, “The Cause of Boston is the Cause of All,” arose. Money and a shipload of provisions were at once subscribed for the suffering people of Boston, and Parker Quince offered his vessel to carry the provisions and himself went to deliver them.
In response to the letter sent out by the committee, delegates were chosen in every county except five. The convention met at New Bern on August 25, 1774, and a Revolutionary Government was instituted.PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE OF SAFETY.
(Extracts from the Proceedings of the Committee of Safety of New Hanover County.)
WILMINGTON, November 23, 1774.
At a meeting of the Freeholders in the courthouse at Wilmington for the purpose of choosing a Committee of said town to carry more effectually into execution the resolves of the late Congress held at Philadelphia, the following names were proposed and universally assented:
Cornelius Harnett, John Quince, Francis Clayton, William Hooper, Robert Hogg, Archibald Maclaine, John Robinson, James Walker.
Wednesday, January 4, 1775.
The Committee met at the courthouse. Present, Cornelius Harnett, Archibald Maclaine, John Ancrum, William Hooper, and John Robinson.
At the same time the Freeholders of New Hanover County assembled to choose a committee for the county to join and cooperate with the committee of the town, which the members present agreed to. Then the Freeholders present, having Cornelius Harnett in the chair, unanimously chose George Moore, John Ashe, Samuel Ashe, James Moore, Frederick Jones, Alexander Lillington, Sampson Moseley, Samuel Swann, George Merrick, Esquires, and Messrs. John Hollingsworth, Samuel Collier, Samuel Marshall, William Jones, Thomas Bloodworth, James Wright, John Larkins, Joel Parrish, John Devane, Timothy Bloodworth, Thomas Devane, John Marshall, John Calvin, Bishop Dudley, and William Robeson, Esquires, a committee to join the committee of Wilmington.
Monday, March 6, 1775.
The Committee met according to adjournment.
The following Association was agreed on by the Committee and annexed to the resolves of the General Congress, to be handed to every person in this county and recommended to the Committees of the adjacent counties, that those who acceded to the said resolves, may subscribe their names thereto.
We, the subscribers, in testimony of our sincere approbation of the proceedings of the late Continental Congress, to the annexed have hereto set our hands, and we do most solemnly engage by the most sacred ties of honor, virtue, and love of our country, that we will ourselves strictly observe every part of the Association recommended by the Continental Congress.
Mr. James Kenan, chairman of the Duplin Committee, pursuant to a letter from this committee at its last meeting attended.
Resolved, That all the members of the committee now present go in a body and wait on all housekeepers in town with the Association before mentioned and request their signing it, or declare their reasons for refusing, that such enemies to their country may be set forth to public view and treated with the contempt they merit.
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that all dances, private as well as public, are contrary to the spirit of the eighth article in the Association of the Continental Congress, and as such they ought to be discouraged, and that all persons concerned in any dances for the future should be properly stigmatized.
Mr. Harnett desired the opinion of the Committee respecting a negro fellow he bought in Rhode Island (a native of that place) in the month of October last, whom he designed to have brought with him to this province, but the said negro ran away at the time of his sailing from Rhode Island. The question was put whether Mr. Harnett may import said negro from Rhode Island.
Resolved unanimously, That Mr. Harnett may import the said negro from Rhode Island.
Tuesday, March 7, 1775.
Resolved, That three members of this committee attend the meeting of the Committee at Duplin on the 18th instant. Mr. Samuel Ashe, Mr. Sampson Moseley, and Mr. Timothy Bloodworth were accordingly nominated to attend the said Committee.WHIGS AND TORIES.
On the last day of May, 1775, Josiah Martin, the royal governor of North Carolina, locked his palace at New Bern and fled to Fort Johnston, arriving there on June 2. Two weeks later he issued his proclamation warning the people to desist from their revolutionary proceedings. As if in answer, on June 19, the inhabitants of New Hanover, having assembled, united in an association “to sacrifice our lives and fortunes to secure the freedom and safety of our country.” The next day, June 20, the committeemen of Duplin, Bladen, Onslow, Brunswick, and New Hanover met at Wilmington and adopted the New Hanover Association, which was also signed, later, in Cumberland. Three weeks elapsed, and then the people of the Lower Cape Fear, having determined to dislodge the garrison of the fort, on the 18th of July seized and burnt the fort, the Governor and his soldiers taking refuge on the vessels.
Knowing that there was a large number of loyal adherents in the interior, Governor Martin devised a plan by which a strong
British force was to be sent from England to the Cape Fear, where they would be joined by the Loyalists from the upper counties and the province would be subjugated. Accordingly, when the time approached for the British fleet to arrive, the Loyalists began to embody, the first movement being on February 5, with instructions to concentrate at Campbellton. As quickly as this action was known, the news was hurried to Wilmington and other points throughout the province. The messengers reached Wilmington on the 9th with the startling intelligence, and the greatest excitement prevailed.
For eighty hours, night and day, there was severe, unremitting service, making preparation for defense. Companies of troops rushed in from Onslow, Duplin, and Brunswick, the whole country being aroused. Colonel Moore with his Continentals, Colonel Lillington with his corps of minute men, Colonel Ashe with his Independents, hurried to the vicinity of Campbellton to arrest the progress of the Loyalists, while Colonel Purviance, in command of the New Hanover Militia, remained at Wilmington, throwing up breastworks, mounting swivels, and constructing fire-rafts to drive off the British vessels should they attempt to seize the town. The sloop of war Cruizer did ascend the river, but, avoiding Wilmington, tried to pass up the Clarendon, or Brunswick, River. She was, however, driven back by riflemen who lined the banks.
The Battle of Moore's Creek[note] followed on February 27, and the plan of the Governor was defeated. All during March and April British vessels came into the harbor, but the grand fleet bearing the troops from England, being detained by storms, did not arrive until the end of April, when there were more than a hundred ships in the river. The plan of the Governor having failed, towards the end of May the fleet sailed, expecting to take possession of Charleston, leaving only a few ships in the river. Later, these likewise were withdrawn, and for nearly five years the people of Wilmington were left undisturbed.[note]
At length, South Carolina being subjugated, Lord Cornwallis proposed to enter North Carolina, and as a part of his operations, on the 28th of January, 1781, Maj. James H. Craig took possession of Wilmington. His force consisted of eighteen vessels, carrying a full supply of provisions and munitions, and 400 regular troops, artillery, and dragoons. At that time Brunswick was entirely deserted, and Wilmington contained but 200 houses and only 1,000 inhabitants. The entire Cape Fear region was defenseless. The losses of the Cape Fear counties at Camden and in other battles at the South had been heavy, while many of the militia and the whole Continental Line had been surrendered by Lincoln at Charleston. Thus the Whig strength had been greatly weakened, while there were in the country but few guns and no powder and lead. On the other hand, the Loyalists had been strengthened by accessions from those who wearied of the war.
Major Craig at once dispatched detachments to scour the country, seize prominent Whigs, collect forage, and arouse the Loyalists, who in some counties largely outnumbered the Whigs. After the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Cornwallis retreated to Wilmington, his army arriving there on the 7th of April. In the closing days of April, when he had repaired his damage as well as he could, he marched through the eastern counties to Virginia, leaving the subjugation of North Carolina to Major Craig.
Large bodies of Loyalists, well supplied by the British with arms and ammunition and too strong to be successfully resisted, now marched at will throughout the Upper Cape Fear, suppressing the Whigs and taking many prisoners, confining them in prison ships or in Craig's “bull-pen” on shore.
After Cornwallis had passed on to Virginia, General Lillington returned to his former position at Heron Bridge, over the Northeast; but in June he was forced to retire into Onslow County, and Craig established an outpost at Rutherford Mills, on Ashe's Creek, seven miles east of Burgaw, where he constructed a bastion fort. In the meantime Craig had been active in organizing the Loyalists, and issued a proclamation notifying the inhabitants that they were all British subjects and must enroll themselves as Loyalist Militia, and those who did not do so by the first day of August were to be harried, their property seized and sold, and themselves destroyed. On the last day of grace Craig began a march through the eastern counties, his
loyal lieutenants being very vigorous in the counties on the Northwest and the Haw and the Deep Rivers. When he reached Rock Creek, two miles east of Wallace, he found Colonel Kenan with some 500 militia ready to contest his passage, but Kenan's ammunition was soon exhausted and the British successfully crossed and dispersed the militia. For ten days Craig remained in Duplin and harried the Whigs, and then, after being joined by 300 Loyalists, he moved towards New Bern. Lillington was at Limestone Bridge, but hurried on the road to the Trent to keep in Craig's front. He had about 600 men, but only three rounds of ammunition, and had been directed not to hazard a battle. On the 17th of August General Caswell reported to the Governor: “General Lillington is between New Bern and the enemy, and I am fearful will risk an action. I have done everything I can to prevent it, and have let him have a sight of Your Excellency's letter, wherein you mention that no general action must take place.” Craig entered New Bern, and then marched towards Kinston, but turned south and went to Richlands, and, after obtaining a supply of forage, returned to Wilmington. At the east, the Whigs now rallied everywhere, those in Duplin, having suffered greatly, being thoroughly exasperated. They surprised a body of Tories, “cut many of them to pieces, took several and put them to instant death.” The retaliation on each side was fierce and ferocious, until at length the Tories subsided. But in Bladen and higher up the Tory detachments, each numbering several hundred, held the country and drove the Whigs out. However, on August 28, Colonel Brown, with about 150 Bladen men, won a complete victory at Elizabethtown and broke the Tory power in Bladen. But a fortnight later, Fanning, whose force numbered 1,000 men, took Hillsboro, captured the Governor, and fought the Battle of Cane Creek.
It was not until October that General Rutherford was able to collect enough men to march to the relief of Wilmington. Early in November he reached the Northeast, ten miles above the town, and established himself there, hemming Craig in. But now momentous events happening at Yorktown had their effect on the Cape Fear. On the 17th of November, Light-Horse Harry Lee (the father of Gen. Robert E. Lee) arrived at Rutherford's camp, bringing the glad news of the surrender of Cornwallis. Immediately the whole camp united in a feu de joie, and then Rutherford crossed the river and took post at Schaw's, four miles from the town. On the following morning, November
18, Major Craig and his troops boarded his ships and took their departure, and although the Tory bands continued to wage a relentless and murderous warfare on the Haw and the Deep, Wilmington thereafter enjoyed quiet and repose.THE BATTLE OF ELIZABETHTOWN.
(The Wilmington Weekly Chronicle, February, 1844.)
One of the most daring and successful onsets upon Tories by the Whigs during the Revolutionary War was at Elizabethtown, in the county of Bladen, of this State. No notice of the battle was found in any history of that period. We understood that there was an imperfect relation of it published in a Federal paper twenty-five or thirty years ago. That a memorial to so gallant an act might be revived and placed within reach of some future historian, we addressed a letter to a distinguished gentleman of Bladen, desiring such information in regard to the affair as he should possess or be able to collect. The annexed letter from him furnishes a very satisfactory account of the information sought for, and will doubtless be perused by every North Carolinian with much interest. Our respected correspondent, probably through inadvertence, omitted to put down the date of the battle. It was 1781, and, as near as we can ascertain, in the month of July.
BLADEN COUNTY, Feb. 21st, 1844.
A. A. BROWN, ESQ.,
Editor of the Wilmington Weekly Chronicle.
DEAR SIR:—Yours of the 3d inst. was received, soliciting such information as I possess or may be able to collect respecting the battle fought at Elizabethtown during our Revolutionary struggle between the Whigs and Tories. I have often regretted that the actions and skirmishes which occurred in this and New Hanover County should have been overlooked by historians. The Battle of Elizabethtown deserves a place in history and ought to be recollected by every true-hearted North Carolinian with pride and pleasure. Here sixty men, driven from their homes, their estates ravaged and houses plundered, who had taken refuge with the Whigs of Duplin, without funds and bare of clothing, resolved to return, fight, conquer, or die. After collecting all the ammunition they could, they embodied and selected Col. Thomas Brown in command. They marched fifty
miles through almost a wilderness country before they reached the river, subsisting on jerked beef and a scanty supply of bread. The Tories had assembled, 300 or more, at Elizabethtown, and were commanded by Slingsby and Godden. The former was a talented man and well fitted for his station; the latter, bold, daring, and reckless, ready to risk everything to put down the Whigs. Every precautionary measure was adopted to prevent surprise and to render this the stronghold of Toryism. Nobody was suffered to remain on the east side of the river. Guards and sentries were regularly detached and posted. When the little band of Whig heroes after nightfall reached the river not a boat was to be found. But it must be crossed, and that speedily. Its depth was ascertained by some who were tall and expert swimmers. They, to a man, cried out, “It is fordable; we can, we will cross it.” Not a murmur was heard, and without a moment's delay they all undressed, tied their clothing and ammunition on their heads (baggage they had none), each man, grasping the barrel of his gun, raised the bridge so as to keep the lock above water, descended the banks, and entered the river. The taller men found less difficulty; those of lower stature were scarcely able to keep their mouths and noses above water; but all safely reached the opposite shore, resumed their dresses, fixed their arms for action, made their way through the low ground then thickly settled with men, ascended the hills, which were high and precipitous, crossed King's Road leading through the town, and took a position in its rear. Here they formed, and, in about two hours after crossing a mile below, commenced a furious attack, driving in the Tory sentries and guards. They continued rapidly to advance, keeping up a brisk and well-directed fire, and were soon in the midst of the foe, mostly Highland Scotchmen, as brave, as high-minded as any of His Majesty's subjects. So sudden and violent an onset for the moment produced disorder; but they were rallied by their gallant leader and made for a while the most determined resistance. Slingsby fell mortally wounded and Godden was killed, with most of the officers of inferior grade. They retreated, some taking refuge in houses, the others, the larger portion, leaping pell-mell into a deep ravine, since called the Tory Hole. As the Tories had unlimited sway from the river to the Little Pee Dee, the Whigs recrossed, taking with them their wounded. Such was the general panic produced by this action that the Tories became dispirited and never after were so troublesome. The
Whigs returned to their homes in safety. In the death of Slingsby the Tories were deprived of an officer whose place it was difficult to fill; but few were equal to Godden in partisan warfare. This battle was mostly fought by river planters, men who had sacrificed much for their country. To judge it correctly it should not be forgotten that the country from Little Pee Dee to the Caharas was overrun by the Tories. Wilmington was in possession of the British and Cross Creek of the Tories. Thus situated, the attack made on them at Elizabethtown assumed much of the character of a forlorn hope. Had the Whigs not succeeded they must have been cut off to a man. If they had fled southward the Tories would have risen to destroy them. If eastward, the Tories in that case, flushed with victory, would have pursued them, and they would have sought in vain their former asylum. This action produced in this part of North Carolina as sudden and happy results as the Battles of Trenton and Princeton in New Jersey. The contest was unequal, but valor supplied the place of numbers.
It is due to Colonel Brown, who, when a youth, marched with General Waddell from Bladen and fought under Governor Tryon at the Battle of Alamance and was afterwards wounded at the Big Bridge, to say he fully realized the expectations of his friends and the wishes of those who selected him to command; and when the history of our State shall be written this action alone, apart from his chivalric conduct at the Big Bridge, will place him by the side of his compatriots Horry, Marion, and Sumter of the South. It must, it will, form an interesting page in our history on which the young men of North Carolina will delight to dwell. It is an achievement which bespeaks not only the most determined bravery, but great military skill. Most of these men, like the Ten Thousand Greeks, were fitted to command. Owen had fought at Camden, Morehead commanded the nine months’ men sent to the South, Robeson and Ervine were the Percys of the Whigs and might justly be called the Hotspurs of the Cape Fear.
The foregoing narrative was detailed to me by two of the respective combatants, who now sleep with their fathers; the substance of which I have endeavored to preserve with all the accuracy a memory not very retentive will permit. A respectable resident of Elizabethtown has recently informed me that he was a small boy at the time of the battle and lived with his mother in one of the houses to which the Tories repaired for safety;
that he has a distinct recollection of the fire of the Whigs, which appeared like one continuous stream. Documentary evidence I have none.
With great respect,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Battle of Elizabethtown took place August 29, 1781. The consequences of that victory were far-reaching. Colonel Slingsby had at Elizabethtown a great number of Whigs held as prisoners, who were restored to liberty and augmented the Whig strength in Bladen. The guns, ammunition, provisions, and other spoils taken supplied the Whigs, who were in the extremest need. Not only were the Loyalists broken up and dispersed, but the Whigs were so strengthened that afterwards the Tories, who had been masters of Bladen, made no opposition to them. Still the condition of the Whigs in Bladen, as in all the other Cape Fear country, remained deplorable.OLD-TIME CAPE FEAR HEROES.
Col. James Innes, who appears to have had some military training before he came to the Cape Fear, about 1735, so distinguished himself in the war against the Spaniards, in 1740, that when the French and Indian War came on Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia appointed him to the command of all the forces in Virginia.
Col. Hugh Waddell, a young Irishman who came to Wilmington, won a great reputation during the French and Indian War; but Innes and Waddell both died before the Revolution, as also did Moses John DeRosset, likewise an officer in the former war.
Among others who served in the French and Indian War were Col. Caleb Grainger, Capt. Thomas McManus, James Moore, Robert Howe, and John Ashe. Howe had been in command of Fort Johnston, and Ashe, colonel of militia, was for a time on Innes’ staff.
When the Provincial Congress began to raise troops, in 1775, James Moore was elected colonel of the First Continentals, and at the outset he remained to defend the Cape Fear. He was soon appointed brigadier general in the Continental Army, and for a while in 1776 was in command of the forces in South Carolina. He died on the Cape Fear, while leading his brigade to the North. He was an officer of great ability.
Robert Howe was colonel of the Second Continentals, which he shortly led to Norfolk, where for a time he was in command. Like Moore, he was appointed brigadier general in the Continental Army, and he succeeded Moore in command of the forces in South Carolina, but later joined Washington and had a distinguished career. After the war he died in Bladen and was buried on his plantation, The Grange.
Alexander Lillington was colonel of the minute men of the Cape Fear district. He became colonel of the Sixth Continentals and later general of militia. He led his command to the aid of Lincoln at Charleston, but on the expiration of the term of duty he and his men retired from the city before it was too late. The next year he was in command resisting the British on the Cape Fear. He survived the war, but died a few years later.
Gen. John Ashe was the first brigadier general of the militia of the Cape Fear district. As major general, in 1779 he led a detachment to Georgia, but was defeated by British regulars. In 1781 he was taken prisoner, and he died the same year at Colonel Sampson's, Sampson Hall.
After the surrender of the North Carolina Continentals at Charleston, two new battalions were organized, Col. John Baptista Ashe, who had served at the North, being lieutenant colonel of one and winning fame at Eutaw Springs.
Lieut. Sam Ashe (the younger) was captured at Charleston, and after exchange served with Greene till the end of the war.
For three years Maj. Sam Ashe, a son of Gen. John Ashe, had a cavalry company at the North.
Col. Thomas Clark, a native of the Cape Fear, was colonel of the Continentals, and served so well that the General Assembly urged Congress to appoint him brigadier general. With nearly all the North Carolina Continentals he was made prisoner when General Lincoln surrendered at Charleston.
Samuel Purviance was colonel of the New Hanover Militia.
In the First Regiment were Captains William Davis, Alfred Moore, John Walker, and Caleb Grainger; Lieutenants John Lillington, William Hill, Thomas Callender, and Samuel Watters, and Ensign Maurice Moore, jr. On the staff were Richard Bradley, William Lord, and Adam Boyd, while James Tate was chaplain.
In the Fourth Regiment were Captains Roger Moore, John Ashe, jr., and John Maclaine.
Dr. James Fergus was surgeon of the Sixth Regiment.
Capt. John Hill won laurels at the bloody Battle of Eutaw Springs.
Griffith John McRee was the commanding officer of the North Carolina Continentals with Greene at the end of the war and was a most efficient and distinguished officer.
Major McRee left three sons, one, Capt. William McRee, of the United States Engineers, planned the Lundy Lane campaign; another, Gen. Sam McRee, distinguished himself in the Mexican War; and the other, Dr. James Fergus McRee, was perhaps the most learned North Carolinian of his time.
One of the most picturesque characters of this period was Maj. Jack Walker. He was born near Alnwick Castle, under the shadow of the Grampian Hills, and in 1761, while yet a youth of twenty, he landed at Old Brunswick. In stature he stood six feet four, and he possessed enormous strength. There were no lions for him to conquer, but once when a mad bull raged through the streets of Wilmington, Samson-like, he seized the infuriated animal by the horns, threw him to the ground and held him. As major of the North Carolina Continentals, he fought valiantly at the North. Ever a warm patriot, he was violent against those who sympathized with the Tories. The people loved him, affectionately calling him “Major Jack,” and he wielded great power among them. Although he amassed a considerable fortune, he never married, his large estate descending to a favorite nephew, Maj. John Walker, who was the father of Hon. Thomas D. Walker, Alvis Walker, John Walker, Capt. George Walker, Dr. Joshua C. Walker, Henry Walker, Calhoun Walker, and of the wives of Gen. W. H. C. Whiting, Maj. James H. Hill, Capt. C. P. Bolles, Capt. John Cowan, and Mr. Frederick Fosgate.
The above record is by no means complete, as during the troublous time of the Revolution every patriot family on the Cape Fear contributed its utmost to the cause of independence.CORNELIUS HARNETT'S WILL.
In the sacred name of God, Amen.
The twenty-eighth day of April, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-one, I, Cornelius Harnett of New Hanover County, in North Carolina, Esquire, tho weak in body, but of perfect mind and memory, do make & ordain this to be my last will and testament in manner & form following, viz:
Imprimus. I give, devise, and bequeath to my beloved wife, Mary, all my estate, real, personal, & mixed, of what nature or kind soever, to her, her heirs & assigns forever.
Item. I do hereby nominate and appoint my said wife, Mary, Executrix, and Samuel Ashe & William Hill, Executors, to this my last will and testament, hereby revoking and disannulling all former wills by me heretofore made. Ratifying and confirming this & no other to be my last will & testament.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written.
CORNL. HARNETT (Seal)
Signed, sealed, published, pronounced, and declared by the said Cornelius Harnett as & for his last Will & Testament in presence of
I, Cornelius Harnett having executed the within written will, think it not improper to add that as I have ever considered expensive funerals as ostentatious folly, it is my earnest request (and from my present circumstances now doubly necessary) that I may be buried with the utmost frugality.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY.
JANUARY TERM, 1782.
The within last will & Testament of Cornelius Harnett, Esquire, was exhibited in Court and proved by the oath of Thomas Maclaine, a subscribing witness thereto, who swore that he saw the testator sign, seal, publish, and declare the same to be and contain his last will and testament. Also, that he was of sound and disposing mind and memory. Ordered, that letters testamentary do issue to Mary Harnett, Executrix to the said will. At same time Mrs. Harnett qualified agreeable to law.
THO. MACLAINE, Clk.
This will was filed in my office by H. H. Robinson, clerk of Bladen County, this 20th January, 1846.
L. H. MARSTELLER,
Clk N. Hanover Cty Ct.
BY DAVID MACRAE.
Shortly after the four years’ war, a distinguished Scottish traveler and lecturer, David Macrae, visited Wilmington, and was entertained for several weeks by my father, the late Alexander Sprunt, who sent him with credentials to the “Scotch Country,” where he was cordially received and honored. Mr. Macrae delivered in Wilmington several lectures, which were largely attended, and he generously devoted the proceeds to the benefit of local charities.
He subsequently wrote the following account of Highlanders in North Carolina, with particular reference to Flora Macdonald, whose romantic life on the Cape Fear is worthy of a more enduring memorial.VISIT TO THE HIGHLAND SETTLEMENT.
In the month of February, one clear, sharp morning, I left Wilmington on my way up the Cape Fear River to follow the old track of the Highland emigrants, and see their settlement.
The steamers on that river, as indeed on most of the long rivers in America, are stern-wheelers—large, slim, white, and deck-cabined, with only one paddle, but that of stupendous size, standing out like a mill-wheel from the stern and making one think, on seeing the steamer in motion, of a gigantic wheel-barrow drawn swiftly backwards. The advantage of the stern wheel for shallow and winding rivers is that it allows of a narrower beam than two paddles, and takes sufficient hold to propel a steamer in water too shallow for the screw. Our steamer that morning (flat-bottomed, of course, as all American river steamers are) drew only eighteen inches of water, and went at great speed.
We had not been steaming long up the broad pale earthy-brown river, through the flat expanse, with its rice plantations, its forest land, and its clearings, with the black stumps still standing like chessmen on a board, when I was struck with the extraordinary appearance of the leafless woods, which looked as if a deluge had just subsided, leaving the trees covered with masses of sea-weed.
I gazed on this phenomenon with much wonder, till it suddenly occurred to me that this must be the famous Carolina moss (Tillandsia) of which I had often heard, but which I had not yet seen in any quantity. I satisfied myself by asking a
tall, shaggy man, in leather leggings and a tattered cloak of Confederate gray, who was standing near me.
“Don't it grow whar you come from?” asked the man, with the usual inquisitiveness of thinly peopled regions. On learning that I was a stranger from the old country, he became exceedingly courteous, and told me that the moss I had inquired about was very common in that State, and was much used by the people for stuffing seats and cushions and bedding, being first boiled to kill it. He said it seemed to feed upon the air. You could take a handful and fling it over the branch of another tree, and it would grow all the same.
After a sail of some hours we reached a point from which a railway runs in a southwesterly direction, traversing part of the “Scotch Country.” Here we got into “cars,” and were soon bowling through the lonely forest on the narrow iron bed, sometimes over tracks that were irregularly covered for miles with still water, in which the trees and bushes that rose from it stood reflected as on the bosom of a lake. Now and then, at long intervals, we stopped at some little wayside station in the forest, with its cheerful signs of human life, its casks of turpentine and its piles of corded wood, around which the pines were being hewn down and cut, some of them into bars, others into cheese-like sections, for splitting into the shingles that are used for roofing instead of slates or tiles. Occasionally the train stopped in places where there was no station at all, to let some one out at the part of the forest nearest to his home. The conductor, who was continually passing up and down through the cars, stopped the train, whenever necessary, by pulling the cord that is slung along the roof of all American trains and communicates with the engine.
We now began to get up into the higher country, amongst forests of giant pines, where the ground was rough, and where the sandy soil, looking in some places like patches of snow, seemed, for the most part, untouched by the hand of man. It was into these vast solitudes, of which we had as yet but touched the skirt, that the Highlanders, driven from their native land during the religious and political troubles of the last century, had come to find a home.
North Carolina was long a favorite field for Highland emigration. More than a hundred and forty years ago, when Alexander Clark, of Jura, went out to North Carolina and made his way up the Cape Fear River to Cross Creek, he found
already there one Hector McNeill, (known as “Bluff” Hector, from his occupying the bluffs over the river,) who told him of many others settled farther back, most of them exiles from Scotland, consequent on the troubles that followed the downfall of the Stuarts, some of them Macdonalds who had been fugitives from the massacre of Glencoe. The numbers were largely increased by the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745. The persecution to which the Highlanders were subjected after the scattering of the clans at Culloden made many of them eager to escape from the country; and when the government, after the execution of many captured rebels, granted pardon to the rest on condition of their taking the oath of allegiance and emigrating to the plantations of America, great numbers availed themselves of the opportunity. They were followed gradually by many of their kith and kin, till the vast plains and forest lands in the heart of North Carolina were sprinkled with a Gaelic-speaking population.
In 1775, the Scotch colony received a memorable accession in the person of Flora Macdonald, who, with her husband and children, had left Scotland in poverty to seek a home with their friends in the American forests. The heroine was received at Wilmington[note] and at various points along her route with Highland honors; and the martial airs of her native land greeted her as she approached Cross Creek, the little capital of the Highland settlement. She arrived, however, at an unhappy time. The troubles between Great Britain and the colonies were coming to a head, and in a few months hostilities began.
It is somewhat singular that many of these Highland colonists, the very men who had fought against the Hanoverian dynasty at home, were now forward to array themselves on its side. But they had been Jacobites and Conservatives in Scotland, and conservatism in America meant loyalty to the King. Many of them, however, espoused the cause of independence, and the declaration prepared in the county of Cumberland, immediately after the famous declaration of the neighboring county of Mecklenburg, has many Highland names attached. The crafty Governor, fearing the spread of anti-British sentiment, and knowing the influence of Flora Macdonald amongst the Scottish settlers, commissioned one of her kinsfolk, Donald Macdonald, who had been an officer in the Prince's army in[note]
1745, to raise a Highland regiment for the King, and gave the rank of captain to Flora's husband. This identified the heroine with the Royalist party, and had the effect of securing the adhesion of hundreds of gallant men who would otherwise have held back or joined the other side. When the royal standard was raised at Cross Creek, 1,500 Highlanders assembled in arms. Flora, it is said, accompanied her husband, and inspired the men with her own enthusiasm. She slept the first night in the camp, and did not return to her home till she saw the troops begin their march. The fate that awaited this gallant little force is known to all readers of history. It had got down the river as far as Moore's Creek, on its way to join Governor Martin, when, finding further advance checked by a force of Revolutionists under Lillington and Caswell, while another under Colonel Moore was hurrying up in pursuit, it was driven to attack the enemy in front on ground of his own choosing. In the first onslaught its officers fell, confusion ensued, and after a severe struggle the Highlanders were routed.[note] Flora's husband was taken prisoner and thrown into Halifax jail.
Many of those who escaped are said to have joined another Highland regiment which was raised for the King under the title of the North Carolina Highlanders and fought the Revolutionists till the close of the war. So deeply had they identified themselves with the royal cause that when the war was ended most of them, including Flora Macdonald and her husband, left America and returned to Scotland. Those who remained in the settlement, divided by the war, were soon reunited by peace, became, as in duty bound, good citizens, and resumed the task of taming the savage wilderness in which they had cast their lot.
When the troubles between North and South were gathering to a head in 1860, the Highlanders, with their conservative instincts, were almost to a man opposed to secession. But, taught to believe that their allegiance was due primarily, not to[note]
the Federal Government but to the State, no sooner did North Carolina go out, than they, with Highland loyalty, followed; and no men crowded to the front more eagerly, or fought more valiantly or more desperately to the bitter end.
Almost every man of those I met had served in the Confederate Army, and had left dead brothers or sons on the battlefield. Others, following the example of those who had left Scotland after the downfall of the Stuarts, and America after the triumph of the Revolution, had left the States altogether, and gone off to Mexico.
Amongst those I found at Wilmington was one who was a fine specimen of the material that the Highlands have given to Carolina, a spare, dark-visaged, soldierly fellow—Gen. William MacRae—whose personal valour and splendid handling of his troops in battle had caused him to be repeatedly complimented by Lee in general orders.
He seemed to belong to a fighting family. His eight brothers had all been either in the army or the navy. Their father, Gen. Alexander MacRae, had fought in the war with England in 1812, and, on the outbreak of the War between the States, though then a man of seventy years of age, again took the field, and commanded what was known as MacRae's battalion. He died not many weeks after I parted from him at Wilmington. He was the grandson of the Rev. Alexander MacRae, minister of Kintail, two of whose sons fell fighting for the Pretender at Culloden. The others emigrated to North Carolina, and one of them, Philip, who had also served in the Prince's army, cherished so deadly a hate of the English in consequence of the atrocities of Cumberland, that he would never learn the English language, but spoke Gaelic to the day of his death. The family settled in Moore County, which is part of what is still called the “Scotch Country.”
The Life of Flora Macdonald was published by her grand-daughter in the form of an autobiography, said to be based on family records. The following is the passage in which the Scottish heroine is made to describe the episode in her life connected with America:
“In 1775 my husband put in practice a plan he and I often talked over—that of joining the emigrants who were leaving their native hills to better their fortunes on the other side of the Atlantic. We were induced to favour this scheme more particularly as a succession of failures of the crops and unforeseen
family expenses rather cramped our small income. So, after making various domestic arrangements, one of which was to settle our dear boy Johnnie under the care of a kind friend, Sir Alexander McKenzie, of Devlin, near Dunkeld, until he was of age for an India appointment, we took ship for North America. The others went with us, my youngest girl excepted, whom I left with friends; she was only nine years old. Ann was a fine young woman, and my sons as promising fellows as ever a mother could desire. Believe me, dear Maggie, in packing the things, the Prince's sheet was put up in lavender, so determined was I to be laid in it whenever it might please my Heavenly Father to command the end of my days. On reaching North Carolina, Allan soon purchased and settled upon an estate; but our tranquillity was ere long broken up by the disturbed state of the country, and my husband took an active part in that dreadful War of Independence. The Highlanders were now as forward in evincing attachment to the British Government as they had furiously opposed it in former years. My poor husband, being loyally disposed, was treated harshly by the opposite party, and was confined for some time in jail at Halifax. After being liberated, he was officered in a royal corps—the North Carolina Highlanders; and although America suited me and the young people, yet my husband thought it advisable to quit a country that had involved us in anxiety and trouble almost from the first month of our landing on its shores. So, at a favorable season for departure, we sailed for our native country, all of us, excepting our sons, Charles and Ronald, who were in New York expecting appointments, which they soon after obtained; Alexander was already, dear boy, at sea. Thus our family was reduced in number. On the voyage home all went well until the vessel encountered a French ship of war, and we were alarmed on finding that an action was likely to take place. The captain gave orders for the ladies to remain below, safe from the skirmish; but I could not rest quiet, knowing my husband's spirit and energy would carry him into the thick of the fighting; therefore I rushed up the companion-ladder—I think it was so called—and I insisted on remaining on deck to share my husband's fate, whatever that might be. Well, dear Maggie, thinking the sailors were not as active as they ought to have been—and they appeared crest-fallen, as if they expected a defeat—I took courage and urged them on by asserting their rights and the certainty of the victory. Alas! for my weak
endeavors to be of service; I was badly rewarded, being thrown down in the noise and confusion on deck. I was fain to go below, suffering excrutiating agony in my arm, which the doctor, who was fortunately on board, pronounced to be broken. It was well set, yet from that time to this it has been considerably weaker than the other. So you see I have periled my life for both the houses of Stuart and Brunswick, and gained nothing from either side!”
ALYRE RAFFENEAU DELILE.
Vice-consul dans la Caroline du Nord, professeur de botanique á la Faculté de Médecine de Montpellier, membre de l'Institut d'Egypte, correspondant de l'Institut de France, chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, etc.
In 1802, when First Consul of France, Napoleon honored the town of Wilmington by sending to this port as vice-consul the gifted young scientist Raffeneau Delile, whose scientific work, although he was at that time but twenty-four years old, had won for him the grateful recognition of France.
“Quoi qu'il arrive il faut que je sois regretté, si j'ai eu quelque valeur; c'est á l'oeuvre que l'on connaît l'ouvrier: ‘A fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos,’ a dit l'Evangile.” (Whatever happens, I must be regretted if I have had worth; it is by the work that we know the workman: ‘By their fruits you shall know them,’ saith the Gospel.) Thus wrote Delile in affectionate confidence to his son five years before his death, and his distinguished contemporary, M. Joly, in an historic eulogy, quotes the scientist's own words in his estimate of the man whose work won for him an imperishable name.
Alyre Raffeneau Delile was born in Versailles in 1778. His ancestors had held positions at court from the time of Francis I., and he inherited the post held by his father, but his larger heritage was the principles of honor and strict integrity. His early boyhood was passed under the shadow of the impending Revolution, but though his father was attached to the court during that critical period, he encouraged Delile in forming independent opinions, leaving him free to espouse actively either the cause of the King or of the people. With no predilection for public affairs, however, he gave himself to the study of botany and anatomy, and when an interne in the Hospital of Versailles, learned Greek and some Latin from one of the Prussian soldiers who then filled its wards. Later, he entered a medical school in Paris which Bonaparte, then professing interest in chemistry, sometimes visited; but for Bonaparte abstract study could not shut out the call to the great arena of military activity and conquest. At that time the mysteries of Egypt beckoned with even greater persuasiveness than had the
laurels of Italy, and the African expedition was made ready. To the credit of Napoleon be it ever remembered that he desired to conquer more than lands and peoples, and to accompany him on that memorable journey to Egypt to solve its mysteries and add distinction to French culture he chose fifteen of the greatest savants of France, among them René Louiche Desfontaine, the noted botanist, who had already visited Egypt, bringing back probably the largest single collection of foreign plants then in existence. But Desfontaine declined the honor of going and requested it for Raffeneau Delile, then but twenty years old. Realizing that his youth and inexperience might embarrass him in such a company, Delile refused to go unless there should be conferred upon him the title of a superior officer. His request was granted, and he went forth with “those soldiers of letters, the new Argonauts.” In Egypt his knowledge of Greek was of great value to him in deciphering inscriptions on obelisks and temples and in tombs. It was Boussard, an officer of this expedition, who found the Rosetta stone, and it is possible that Delile was one of the first to read some of the Greek inscription[note] upon that. These scientists formed themselves into the Institute of Egypt, planned after the Institut National, and Delile was made director of the Botanical Gardens of Cairo, which he enriched by specimens gathered in the valley of the Nile, on the borders of the Red Sea, and in the desert. He thoroughly explored the world of plants, wrote extensively, and read before the Institute of Egypt memorials that carried his name across the Mediterranean. But misfortune came, and on August 31, 1801, Alexandria capitulated to the English, leaving to the mercy of the conquerors the marvelous collections of Bonaparte's scientific expedition. It was when these were claimed that the illustrious naturalist Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, in the names of his colleagues, Delile and Savigny, made to the haughty English general the heroic response: “We will not yield. Your army will enter this place in two days. Ah, well, between now and then the sacrifice will be consummated. We will ourselves burn our treasures; you will afterwards dispose of our persons as seems good to you.” It is needless to say that the collection was saved to the French.
Scarcely had Delile returned to France, when Bonaparte sent him to Wilmington as under-commissioner of commercial relations,[note]
with the title of vice-consul. The position was not in harmony with his tastes, but he applied himself to his tasks with intelligence and zeal, and his rectitude and pleasing personality won for him the esteem and affection of all. While here he became the friend of Thomas Jefferson, then President of the United States, and other distinguished Americans.
The rich vegetation of North Carolina, with its variety and abundance of new and interesting specimens, furnished relief from the more uncongenial task of observing the current price of commodities at the port and counting the revenues that passed through his hands. Dr. M. A. Curtis, the noted botanist of North Carolina, in the Boston Journal of Natural History, 1834, said: “It is confidently believed that no section of the Union of equal extent contains such a rich and extensive variety of plants as is to be found about Wilmington,” and he mentioned the fact that in little more than two seasons, at intervals from other engagements, he had found more than a thousand specimens, with much ground still unexamined. It is easy to imagine how a man like Delile reveled in these new-found gardens, and all the more because his august patroness, soon to be the Empress Josephine, particularly requested him to collect in America all the plants which might be of interest in France; and the director of the establishment of Malmaison, M. de Mirbel, engaged him to respond as soon as possible to the commission of the future empress. Bonaparte, also, took the liveliest interest in the plan of Josephine to naturalize foreign flora in France, and, becoming emperor, it was his desire to bring under one sceptre plants grown in every corner of the globe, and to acclimatize them in the greenhouses of Malmaison. “Here,” M. Joly tells us, “flourished the violet of Parma, the rose of Damascus, the lily of the Nile,” and—shall we say the marvelous Dionæa muscipula, Drosera, and Sarracenia of Carolina? Delile is said to have established in Wilmington an herbarium in connection with his collection for Josephine, and his specimens of American grains he sent to the distinguished botanist Palisot de Beauvois, who published a classification of them in general with other specimens in his Agrostographie. The writer of this sketch had the good fortune to come upon a copy of the Agrostographie corrected by Palisot himself, in which he makes acknowledgment to those who aided in his work, and among them Delile. It is regretted that no book of Delile's giving an account of the plants of Carolina is at hand. He wrote Memoire
sur quelques espèces de graminees propres á la Caroline du Nord, also, Centurie des plantes de l'Amerique du Nord, but these are not available to the writer. At the time of his death he was writing on the Flora d'Amerique, which he expected to publish soon.
Leaving Wilmington abruptly in 1806, Delile went to New York and obtained a degree in medicine, after which he first thought of practicing that profession in New Orleans, and then of becoming an American planter. His mother combatted the latter intention, however, and, reminding him of the friendship of the Empress Josephine, emphasized the fact that it was not necessary to be exiled from a country in which he had such good and powerful friends. Shortly after this he was recalled to France by a decree of the consuls to join a commission charged with erecting a monument to science.
In 1819 he came to the chair of botany and materia medica in the faculty of Montpellier, already made illustrious by half a dozen of the most distinguished men of France. As director of le jardin des plantes de Montpellier, he added lustre to his name and to that of the establishment. The botanical gardens of Montpellier, created in 1596 by Henry IV., were the first established in France, and to an already bountiful collection Delile added treasures of the vegetable world found in Egypt and in North Carolina and other parts of the eastern section of the United States. His gardens seem in a measure to have been converted by him into a department of agriculture, in which he studied vegetation with practical intent, both for domestic economy and for industrial development.
In the reign of Louis XVIII., he held at court the position his father and grandfather had held—that of porte-malle—but he soon renounced it, writing Voltaire: “It is from the court that one ought to flee; it is in the country that one ought to live.”
In 1806 he sent from New York to a friend in France a catalogue of the botanical gardens established in 1801 at Elgin, New York, by the celebrated Dr. Hosack, and in doing so discussed briefly American trees, remarking that it would be very easy to naturalize them in France, especially the cypress of North Carolina, the white oak, the swamp oak, the green oak of Virginia, and the yellow oak, the last valuable to art on account of the beautiful color extracted from its bark, and the rest for decorating parks. He called attention in particular to the fact that our trees are able to stand more cold in winter and heat in summer than those of France.
Delile was a man of wonderful sweetness of character. When he came to live in Wilmington, it was as if France had sent a part of her better self—not a money-changer at the port, but a bit of fragrance wafted across the seas to unite us by bonds closer than those made by the exchange of merchandise.
He numbered among his friends the most illustrious men of France, England, Germany, and India. He wrote more than sixty treatises, chiefly upon botanical subjects, but a number upon medical subjects. Among his best known works are his Flore d'Egypte, Memoires sur l'Egypte, Flore du Mont Sinai, Voyage horticole et botanique en Belgique et en Hollande, These sur la phthisie pulmonaire, and Avis sur les dangers de l'usage des champignons sauvages dans la cuisine.
ROSA PENDLETON CHILES.
NOTE.—On account of Raffeneau Delile's four years’ sojourn in Wilmington and the interesting fact of his introducing North Carolina plants into France, the author has felt justified in requesting the preparation of the foregoing sketch from French sources, there being, as far as can be ascertained, no adequate account in English, although Delile's work is recognized by American botanists at the present day. The source from which Miss Chiles has drawn chiefly is M. Joly's Élogue historique d'Alyre Raffeneau Delile, of which her sketch is in part a translation.BEGINNING OF FEDERAL FORTIFICATIONS ON
THE CAPE FEAR.
(Extracts from the Memoirs of Gen. Joseph Gardner Swift, U. S. A., first graduate and afterwards commandant of the Military Academy of West Point.)
Proceeding by the right bank of the Cape Fear River to Negro Head Point ferry, opposite Wilmington, I arrived at Mrs. Meeks’ boarding-house in that town on June 17, 1805, the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, and on that day reported myself by letter to my chief, Major Wadsworth, at West Point, using the day and 1775 as the figurative date of my letter by way of friendly memento. After presenting my letter of introduction, I took the packet for Fort Johnston and there paid my respects to the commandant of the post, Lieut. John Fergus, an uncle of Cadet McRee, and commenced a happy acquaintance with the surgeon of the post, John Lightfoot Griffin, with whom I established quarters at Mrs. Ann McDonald's. Here I also met Gen. Benjamin Smith, and to the last
of the month had conferences with him as to the best mode of executing his contract with the War Department in the construction of a battery on the site of old Fort Johnston, Smithville.
Early in July I employed Mr. Wilson Davis, one of the most intelligent of the pilots, and with his aid I sounded the entrance over Main Bar, which is shifting sand, into the harbor of Cape Fear, and also the entrance at New Inlet, and then viewed the capacity of the anchorage within, together with the relative position of the several points of land near the entrances, of which I made a plot, and upon which I based my report of the 26th of July to the Secretary of War. The substance of this report was that the main objects to be secured were those that had been set forth by my late chief, Colonel Williams, to wit: to cover an anchorage in the harbor and to command its entrance by a small enclosed work on Oak Island, and an enclosed battery at Federal Point, at New Inlet, and also to complete the battery of tapia at the site of old Fort Johnston, the last being contracted for by Gen. Benjamin Smith. Pending the decision of the War Department upon this report, much of the summer was a leisure among agreeable families from Wilmington, that passed the warm season in slight frame houses at “The Fort,” as the village of Smithville is called. Among these was the family of Capt. James Walker, to whose daughter Louisa and her cousin Eliza Younger I was introduced at a dinner given to Dr. Griffin and myself by Captain Walker. There were the families of Mr. John Lord and of the founder of the place, Mr. Joshua Potts, and of Gen. Benjamin Smith, who was to construct the public work under contract, and of Captain Callender, the surveyor of the port, who had been an officer of the army in the War of the Revolution, etc. General Smith became the governor of the State. He owned a large extent of property on Cape Fear River, and was of the family of Landgrave Thomas Smith, the colonial governor of South Carolina in the preceding century. He had become security for the collector of the port of Wilmington, who was a defaulter to the government, and it was to discharge this liability that General Smith had contracted to build the tapia work at the fort. His lady, Mrs. Sarah Dry Smith, was highly accomplished and was an hospitable friend to Dr. Griffin and myself, and one of the finest characters in the country. She was the daughter and heiress of Col. William Dry, the former collector in the colonial time, and also of the King's council. This lady was also a direct descendant from Cromwell's
admiral, Robert Blake. There was also residing at the fort the family of Benjamin Blaney. A native he was of Roxbury, near Boston. He had migrated to Carolina as a carpenter, and had by industry acquired a competence to enable him to dispense aid to the sick and needy and other charities, in the performance of which he was an example of usefulness, charity, and unostentation. Most of the families at the fort were Federalists, and, though all deplored the event, they were the more sensibly impressed with the news of the death of Alexander Hamilton, who in this month of July had been slain in a duel with Colonel Burr, the account of which had been written to me by Colonel Williams. The whole Union was in a measure moved to grief by this sad event. Colonel Hamilton occupied a large space in the public mind. He had been the able leader of Federalism—of a class of men who may in truth be said to have been actuated by far higher motives than those of mere party.
My advices from West Point were that Major Wadsworth, Capt. W. A. Barron and Mr. DeMasson formed the academic corps; that Lieutenant Wilson was on duty at Fort Mifflin, Lieutenant Macomb in South Carolina, and Lieutenant Armistead in New York.
In my excursions on the water of Cape Fear I was aided by Captain Walker, Dr. Griffin, and Mr. Blaney, who as sportsmen were familiar with the numerous shoals and channels and anchorages thereof, so that the returns were not only in game but also in giving me knowledge of the capacity of this harbor, situate as it is on one of the most shallow and troublesome coasts to navigators. The anchorage, covered from the ocean by Bald Head, or Smith's Island, extending from the Main Bar to the New Inlet, and upon which island there is a growth of live oak and palmetto, and abounding with fallow deer.
Intimacy with Mr. Walker furnished me with many items of the war in Carolina, with which he was familiar, although not taking part in the battles, for he had been a moderate Tory, averse to taking arms against the mother country, in which his friend and brother-in-law, Louis DeRosset, had influenced him. Mr. DeRosset was of the King's council. Mr. Walker had been the executor of Gen. James Moore, the planner and director of the American force at the Battle of Moore's Creek, fought by Lillington and Caswell. From the papers of that officer he had gathered many an anecdote of the march of Cornwallis. Mr. Walker had been in the Regulators’ War of 1770
and then commanded a company in the Battle of Alamance, in the western part of the State. He was cured of much of his Toryism by the tyrannical conduct of Maj. J. H. Craig, the British governor at Wilmington, afterwards governor-general of Canada. The conduct of this man had been oppressive and needlessly cruel to the people of Wilmington, and Captain Walker had been able to influence some relief for those who were in arrest, etc. He and his brother-in-law, John DuBois, had been appointed commissioners to arrange the cartel of prisoners, and to negotiate for the families who were to leave Wilmington when Cornwallis marched to Virginia, thus showing the confidence that both Whig and Tory had reposed in those gentlemen. Mr. Walker's family were of the settlers called “Retainers,” coming from Ireland under the auspices of Colonel Sampson and of his father, Robert Walker. Among the families of “Retainers” were those of the Holmeses, Owens, Kenans, etc., now become independent planters and distinguished citizens. The father of Captain Walker, the above Robert, was of the same family with that of the Protestant hero, the Rev. George Walker, of Londonderry. The mother of Captain Walker was Ann, of the family of Montgomery, of Mount Alexander in Ireland, who had made a runaway match with Robert Walker. Capt. James Walker married Magdalen M. DuBois, the daughter of John DuBois and Gabriella DeRosset, his wife.
In the month of September, in reply to my report of the 26th of July, I received orders from the War Department to proceed with as much of the work therein contemplated as was embraced in General Smith's contract upon the tapia work at the site of old Fort Johnston, that had been there constructed in 1748 by His Excellency Gabriel Johnston, then colonial governor. In clearing away the sand I found much of the old tapia walls far superior to our contemplated plan for the battery of tapia.
Soon after this the slaves of General Smith commenced the burning of lime in pens, called kilns, made of sapling pines formed in squares containing from one thousand to one thousand two hundred bushels of oyster shells (alive) collected in scows from the shoals in the harbor—there abundant. These pens were filled with alternate layers of shells and “lightwood” from pitch pine, and thus were burned in about one day—very much to the annoyance of the neighborhood by the smoke and vapor of burning shellfish, when the wind was strong enough to
spread the fumes of the kilns. In the succeeding month of November I commenced the battery by constructing boxes of the dimensions of the parapet, six feet high by seven in thickness, into which boxes were poured the tapia composition, consisting of equal parts of lime, raw shells, and sand and water sufficient to form a species of paste, or batter, as the negroes term it.
At the close of this month of November a large Spanish ship called the Bilboa was cast away on Cape Fear in a storm. It was alleged by the crew, who were brought by Pilot Davis to my quarters, that the ship was laden with sugar, and that there was much specie in the run; that the captain and mate had died at sea, and that having no navigator on board they had put the ship before the wind and run her on shore near the cape. There were twenty-one in this crew, a villainous looking set of rascals, that I had no doubt they were. Lieutenant Fergus detained them in the block-house at the fort until the collector sent inspectors to conduct the crew to Charleston, where the ship was known to some merchant. These men all had more or less of dollars in their red woolen sashes tied around their waists. On their arrival in Charleston they were detained some time, but no proof could be found against them and they went free. The pilots and others were for some time after this exploring the remains of the wreck, but nothing was found among the drift save spars and rigging.FIRST STEAMBOAT ON CAPE FEAR RIVER.
Let us contrast the swift steamer Wilmington with the primitive example of former days—let us turn back for three-quarters of a century, when the town of Wilmington contained only a tenth of its present population, and recall an incident, related to the writer by the late Col. J. G. Burr, which created the greatest excitement at the time, and which was the occasion of the wildest exuberance of feeling among the usually staid inhabitants of the town—the arrival of the first steamboat in the Cape Fear River. A joint stock company had been formed for the purpose of having a steamer built to ply between Wilmington and Smithville or Wilmington and Fayetteville. Capt. Otway Burns, of privateer Snap-Dragon fame during the War of 1812, was the contractor. The boat was built at Beaufort, where he resided. When the company was informed that the steamer was
finished and ready for delivery, they dispatched an experienced sea captain to take command and bring her to her destined port. Expectations were on tiptoe after the departure of the captain; a feverish excitement existed in the community, which daily increased, as nothing was heard from him for a time, owing to the irregularity of the mails; but early one morning this anxiety broke into the wildest enthusiasm when it was announced that the Prometheus was in the river and had turned the Dram Tree. Bells were rung, cannon fired, and the entire population, without regard to age, sex, or color, thronged the wharves to welcome her arrival. The tide was at the ebb, and the struggle between the advancing steamer and the fierce current was a desperate one; for she panted fearfully, as though wind-blown and exhausted. She could be seen in the distance, enveloped in smoke, and the scream of her high-pressure engine reverberated through the woods, while she slowly but surely crept along. As she neared Market Dock, where the steamer Wilmington is at present moored, the captain called through his speaking-trumpet to the engineer below: “Give it to her, Snyder”; and while Snyder gave her all the steam she could bear, the laboring Prometheus snorted by, amid the cheers of the excited multitude. In those days the river traffic was sustained by sailing sloops and small schooners, with limited passenger accommodations and less comfort. The schedule time to Smithville, was four hours, wind and weather permitting, and the fare was one dollar each way.
NOTE.—Steamboats were used on the Cape Fear very soon after their introduction. On October 16, 1818, the Henrietta began to run regularly between Wilmington and Fayetteville, and in April, 1819, President Monroe was carried on the Prometheus from Wilmington to Smithville. The Prometheus was probably on the river long before 1819.THE DISASTROUS YEAR OF 1819.
The growth of Wilmington was naturally slow, notwithstanding the energy of the inhabitants. Indeed, because of the constant exodus of North Carolinians to the new country at the West and South, the population of the State hardly increased at all during the early years of the last century. The population of New Hanover County in 1810 was 11,465, and in 1820 it had fallen off to 10,866. In 1820 the population of Wilmington was, whites, 1,098, slaves, 1,433, free negroes, 102—a total of 2,633.
Especially, because of the absence of good roads and facilities for transportation—save by the river to Fayetteville—there was but little opportunity for extending the trade of the town.
Further, the trouble with England, the embargo, the interruption of commerce by the War of 1812, with the attendant financial embarrassments, brought loss and ruin in their train.
Superadded was the scourge of yellow fever during the summer of 1819, the disease in that season being more prevalent throughout the Southern and Middle Atlantic States than had at any other time been known. Baltimore, as well as the more southern ports, was entirely paralyzed. As in 1862, many families fled from Wilmington into the interior.
Hardly had the desolation subsided and commerce revived, when Wilmington was visited by the most disastrous conflagration recorded in its history. The total loss, as stated by some standard authorities, was about one million dollars, but the Cape Fear Recorder estimated it at between six and seven hundred thousand dollars—an almost total obliteration of the wealth of the town.
We quote from the Raleigh Register and North Carolina State Gazette of Friday, November 12, 1819:
It is our painful duty to register a very extensive and calamitous fire which took place at Wilmington in our State; and we do it with those strong feelings of sympathy and regret which such events naturally inspire. We cannot portray the circumstances in which the town was placed more feelingly than it is depicted by the Editor of the Cape Fear Recorder; “who feels them most can paint them best.”
FIRE! Wilmington (says the Recorder) has experienced more awful calamities by fire than any other place in the Union. Thrice, within twenty years, has the devouring element laid in ashes the abodes of her inhabitants. Enterprise, industry, and the assistance of her neighbors, gave her, measurably, resuscitation, until the recent pressure of the times bended her down almost to the sinking point. Embarrassments in pecuniary matters had reached that state which appeared to baffle relief. Sickness and death followed in the melancholy train. Despair had almost concluded that she could not sink beyond this. Hope, the bright luminary by which man's path in this world of care is heightened and cheered, brought consolation, and pointed to better days. Disease had ceased—the periodical work of death completed—the late deserted abodes of her inhabitants filling—vessels arriving daily in her port—the appearance of business reviving. On Thursday morning, the 4th inst., about three o'clock, the cry of fire was given, and the delusion vanished. Her bright hopes were destroyed.
The frightful picture is before us and it is our duty to present it to our distant readers. The fire originated back of a small building
occupied by Mr. Samuel Adkins as a grocery store, situated on the wharf, near Dock Street, and adjoining the large brick warehouse lately occupied as the ’76 Coffee-house, in part of which was the office and counting house of Gabriel Holmes, Esq.
From the best calculation we can make, the whole number of houses destroyed was about three hundred, of every description, including the Presbyterian Church, lately erected; and the total loss of property between six and seven hundred thousand dollars.
The following persons are those who have lost by the destruction of buildings:
Col. Archibald F. McNeill, John London, Col. Thomas Cowan, John Swann, jr., William McKay, Estate of Thomas Jennings, Seth Hoard, Joseph Kellogg, Estate of J. London, Mrs. McRee, Jacob Levy, Richard Bradley, Edward B. Dudley, William J. Love, S. Springs, James Dickson, Hanson Kelly, David Smith, Henry Urquhart, John Walker, George Jennings, Robert Rankin, State Bank, Estate of Nehemiah Harris, Estate of James Allen, M. Blake, Estate of M. Murphy, James Usher, Mrs. Hoskins, Mrs. Toomer, William Harris, James Marshall, Estate of P. Harris, Louis Paggett, Estate of Hilliary Moore, Reuben Loring, William C. Lord, Gilbert Geer. This list is no doubt incomplete.
Among those who suffered by the destruction of other property the principal in amount are, Isaac Arnold, Edmund Bridge, jr., Eleazar Tilden, Dudley and Van Cleff, Dudley and Dickinson, Miles Blake, Seth Hoard, Richard Lloyd, J. Angomar, George Lloyd, H. Wooster, Patrick Murphy, B. C. Gillett, W. C. Radcliffe, Stewart Robson.
It is almost impossible to ascertain the amount of individual losses. Every person within the bounds of the fire, and all those without it who removed their property, lost more or less. But the extent of a loss, as it regards merely its amount, is not the criterion of its injury—it is he that has lost his all, the unprotected, the friendless, and the helpless, that ought to excite our pity and compassion, and calls for our assistance.
Only one life was lost—Capt. Farquhar McRae, after the fire had almost subsided, who ventured within a building for the purpose of saving property not his own. The walls fell, he was crushed to atoms. He was a useful citizen in his sphere of life and would have been regretted even had he died on the couch of disease.
To the sufferings of others Wilmington has never remained indifferent—limited as were her means, to know them was all that was necessary for her to contribute her mite. She is now in distress—hundreds of her inhabitants are suffering. The knowledge of her situation will, we are certain, confer relief.
And all this is the work of an incendiary. Suspicion has been afloat, but we suspect it has not been directed toward the right person. Higher views than those of plunder must have been the object, for we have heard of not much success and of very few attempts.
(Raleigh Register and North Carolina State Gazette, Friday, December 3, 1819.)
WILMINGTON FIRE—We have pleasure in stating that a subscription has been opened for the relief of the sufferers by this disastrous event,
not only among the citizens of Raleigh, but among the members of both houses of the Legislature. The precise amount is not at present ascertained; but we trust it will be such as will show the liberality of the subscribers, considering the hardness of the times.OTHER EARLY FIRES.
In the preface to his History of New Hanover County, published in 1909, Col. Alfred Moore Waddell said:
“What is called the Lower Cape Fear region of North Carolina has long been recognized by the writers of our history as the most interesting and, as one of them designated it, ‘the most romantic’ section of our State. Yet, up to this time, although partial sketches, historical and biographical, have appeared, no attempt at a regular history of it has been published, and now such a history cannot be written because of the destruction, by fire and other agencies, of a large part of the material requisite for the purpose. There was, perhaps, no part of the country where so many planters’ residences with all their contents were lost by fire as on the Cape Fear and its tributaries, and it is well known among the descendants of those planters, some of whom were members of the learned professions, that by these fires many manuscripts, family records, and documents of various kinds that would have been invaluable as material for the preparation of a local history, were lost. Besides these fires on the plantations, the town of Wilmington was, at an early period, as well as several times afterwards, nearly destroyed in the same way, with the same results.
“None of the ancient official records of the town of Brunswick were preserved, and a considerable part of the county records was destroyed by Northern soldiers when the town of Smithville was captured by them in 1865. Some of the town records of Wilmington of an early period have also disappeared.”
Many years ago, I searched in vain the ruins of the first settlement of Charlestown, at Town Creek, for records of that date, but my search was rewarded later by the discovery in the ruins of a house, said to have been the residence of Nathaniel Rice, of the book of entries and clearances of the port of Brunswick in a partly mutilated condition. I also searched at Lilliput among the ruins of Eleazar Allen's residence, without result; also, the ruins of Governor Tryon's Castle Tryon, or palace, at Orton, which revealed a piece of pottery stamped “W. Dry,
Cape Fear, 1765,” and a large bunch of housekeeper's keys upon an iron ring and hook which fitted into a leather belt with a spring by which a key could be withdrawn and replaced. Other relics of less importance were discovered, but no papers. All of these ruins, as well as the ruins of St. Philip's Church, showed the devastation of fire in charred woodwork and melted colored glass.
As early as 1771, Wilmington suffered from a terrible conflagration, and an act of Assembly was passed to regulate the affairs of the town, in view of possible fires. In the account just given of the destruction wrought in 1819, it is mentioned that, in the previous twenty years, there had been several destructive conflagrations.
Mr. J. T. James says: “Wilmington, in common with many other of her sister towns and cities, has suffered often and seriously from the terrible scourge of fire; so much so, indeed, that these visitations have, from time to time, seriously retarded its growth. Scarcely would the citizens recover from the effects of one blow, ere they would be called upon to suffer again. The old chronicles tell us that in November, 1798, a most destructive fire occurred. On July 22, 1810, three stores and five houses, situated near what is now the corner of Market and Second Streets, but then known as Mud Market, were consumed by fire caused by lightning. In 1819, there was a most terrible conflagration, and the four squares bounded by Water, Princess, Second, and Dock Streets were destroyed. In 1827, the square south of the site of the present market house was again burned. In 1840 the square north of the market was consumed for the second time, together with the courthouse, which then stood at the intersection of Front and Market Streets. In 1843 occurred one of the most serious conflagrations of any ever experienced. On April 30 of that year a fire originated in the alley just north of the Cape Fear Bank building and swept with rapid strides to the north. All exertions to check it were in vain, and it was not until everything west of Front Street and north of the bank alley and portions of every square east of the same street and bordering upon it and north of Chestnut were consumed, that its fiery course could be stopped. This fire also destroyed the workshops and buildings of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Company, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, then situated, as now, upon the corner of Front and Walnut Streets. Three years afterwards, in 1846, the square next south of the
market house was again and for the third time destroyed by fire.”
Reference was made to two of these fires by Sir Charles Lyell, the famous geologist, who was in Wilmington in December, 1841, and again in January, 1842, and still again in December, 1845. In a letter written by him from Wilmington in December, 1845, he said: “The streets which had just been laid in ashes when we were here four years ago are now rebuilt; but there has been another fire this year, imputed very generally to incendiarism, because it broke out in many places at once. There has been a deficiency of firemen, owing to the State having discontinued the immunity from militia duty, formerly conceded to those who served the fire engines.” Some mention of the fire of 1843 is also made in the article on Governor Dudley.FIRST CAPE FEAR IMPROVEMENTS.
I find in the annual report of William P. Craighill, then major of Engineers, and brevet lieutenant colonel, United States Army, for the year 1873, a brief history of old surveys and maps and charts made of the Cape Fear River between its mouth and the port of Wilmington, which is a record of some value to us. I have also found in the records of the War Department of 1828, a lengthy report by Capt. Hartman Bache, of the Engineer Corps, transmitted by Maj. Gen. Alexander MacComb, chief engineer, to Hon. James Barbour, Secretary of War, who in turn transmitted it to Congress, which had called for it by resolution dated the 20th of December, 1827. This report is not only interesting but valuable, as it indicates the initial measures recommended and subsequently carried out by the Federal Government for the removal of obstructions to navigation between the bar and the port of Wilmington, the navigation of the river being greatly hampered by shoal water, which afforded, under the most favorable conditions, a channel of less than nine feet.
It also appears from this report and from other data, that the State work under Mr. Hamilton Fulton, State engineer in 1823, was unsuccessful and was condemned in its most important features by Captain Bache and by those who were directly interested in the commerce of the Cape Fear River.
About the year 1819 the State authorized Mr. Peter Brown, an eminent lawyer residing at Raleigh, then intending to visit
Great Britain, to employ an engineer for the purpose of improving our rivers and water transportation; and Mr. Brown engaged Hamilton Fulton, at a salary of $5,000.
The work of putting in the jetties below Wilmington seems to have been under Mr. Fulton's direction; but it is said that the engineer in charge was Mr. Hinton James,[note] who had been the first student to enter the State University. Afterwards, Mr. James, it is said, was mayor of Wilmington; and he lived in the town to a ripe old age. Mr. Fulton's work may have been founded on correct principles, but his plans, not only for the Cape Fear River, but for other improvements, were beyond the financial resources of the State, and after some years they were abandoned.STEAMBOAT LINE TO CHARLESTON.
The progress of river improvement by the Federal Government during a period of ten years, from 1829 to 1839, was very slow, and it resulted in a gain of only two feet depth below Wilmington; but, after an hiatus of eight years, in 1847 it began to be pushed forward with great diligence and success from Wilmington to the sea, resulting in a safer channel of thirteen feet at high water and nine feet at low water. It is notable that in 1853 some of the citizens of Wilmington, enterprising men that they were, impatient at the slowness with which river and harbor bills were passed by Congress and anxious to continue the work without interruption, subscribed $60,000 (a large sum in those days for a small community) in furtherance of the improvement of the river and bar under the direction of an officer of the United States Engineer Corps. This was officially approved June 9, 1853, by Hon. Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War. The officer in charge of the work was General Woodbury, who married a daughter of General Childs. Meanwhile, there was much enterprise shown by the merchants of Wilmington in shipbuilding, in a large and increasing turpentine and lumber trade, in the establishment of packet lines to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and in a daily mail steamboat line to Charleston, consisting of the steamers Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Gladiator, and Dudley.[note]
The following remarkable official statement was made by the United States engineers in 1853:
“The Cape Fear River is the natural and actual outlet of the products of 28 or more counties in North Carolina and of several counties in South Carolina. In one item of future exports other Southern States are interested and the whole country must be so in time of war: Coal in large quantities and of an excellent quality has been found upon the waters of the Cape Fear, about 120 miles from its mouth, and at no distant day, it is supposed, will become a regular article of export. We may, therefore, have—what must be regarded as a national benefit at all times, and in time of war as of very great importance—a depot of coal upon the Cape Fear, independent of supply from the North, and beyond the reach of the enemy. But this depot will, in great measure, be lost to the country unless the Cape Fear shall be improved so as to admit our ships of war.”
Unfortunately, the mining of this coal a few years later did not prove a success.CONGRESSIONAL AID TO RIVER IMPROVEMENT.
It was not until 1826 that Congress began to make appropriations for river and harbor improvements, and three years later the Cape Fear River was included in the list. For ten years an annual appropriation of $20,000 was regularly made, and then because of a change in public policy such appropriations ceased. The Democratic party was opposed to internal improvements at the expense of the government. From 1838 to 1866 only a few river and harbor bills were passed. Mr. William S. Ashe, the representative from the Cape Fear district in 1854, differed with his party on the subject of internal improvements and succeeded in getting through a bill carrying $140,000 for the Cape Fear River, the particular object being to close New Inlet, forcing all the water of the stream over the Main Bar. In order to accomplish his purpose he had to persuade many of his Democratic associates to withdraw from the chamber, and so many withdrew that, although his bill received a large affirmative vote, there was no quorum, and he had to call in others to make a quorum. On the final vote the bill passed, but there were still more than eighty Democrats absent. That was the beginning of the effort to close New Inlet, which was nearly accomplished when the war stopped operations, but when blockade running began, every one rejoiced that the inlet was still open.
In after years Senator Ransom exerted himself with success for the improvement of the river, but the greatest improvement has been accomplished under the influence of Senator Simmons, at the time acting chairman of the Committee on Commerce, having such matters in charge. He has secured a 26-foot channel, increasing immensely the commercial facilities of Wilmington, which her business men have quickly developed. Senator Simmons has likewise secured the adoption of a project to canalize the river from Wilmington to Fayetteville, and has been a strenuous advocate of the Coastal Canal, now about to be constructed. He has long appreciated the value of inland waterways and was a member of the Commission on Waterways sent to Europe by Congress a few years ago. In 1909 he was a prime factor in securing the adoption of the proposition to have a survey made for an intercoastal waterway from Boston to the Rio Grande. In 1912 he secured the adoption of the Norfolk and Beaufort section of that great undertaking and the purchase by the government of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. He also secured the deepening of that waterway to twelve feet.
The River and Harbor Bill now pending carries a provision for a survey to increase the depth of water from Wilmington to thirty-five feet.RAILROADS—THE FIRST PROJECT.
In March, 1833, the commissioners of the city of Fayetteville were instructed to negotiate a loan of $200,000 to be invested in the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad, which, with individual subscriptions, would be more than enough for the organization of the company, and work could be begun in the spring of 1834.
On May 1, 1833, the People's Press advertised that the subscribers to the stock of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad, by applying to Dr. William P. Hort, would be refunded the amount of money paid by them on their shares, after deducting 12 per cent for disbursements. It was further stated that the project was abandoned because of lack of support by the inhabitants of the western section, who would not contribute one cent to the enterprise of establishing a railroad from the sea-board to the mountains.
THE FIRST DECLARATION OF STATE POLICY.
On July 4, 1833, the Internal Improvement Convention assembled in Raleigh with one hundred and twenty delegates, representing twenty-one counties in the eastern and northern sections. It seems to have been the first concerted effort towards organized action looking to the establishment of a railroad. Governor Swain presided and Gen. Samuel F. Patterson and Mr. Charles Manly were appointed secretaries. The personnel of the convention must have been remarkable, as the record says “So many distinguished and talented men are said never before to have assembled in the State.”
In this convention Governor Graham, then in the prime of his rare powers, urged as the internal-improvement policy of the State, three north-and-south lines of railroad. He was antagonized by Joseph Alston Hill, of Wilmington, one of the most gifted orators of that period, who advocated east-and-west lines, marketing the products of the State through North Carolina ports. It was a battle of giants, and Hill won the victory.
The convention adopted resolutions to the effect that the General Assembly ought to raise by loan such sums as will “afford substantial assistance in the prosecution of the public works; that no work should be encouraged for conveying produce to a primary market out of the State; that the Legislature be asked to take two-fifths of the stock of companies; that a Corresponding Committee of twenty be appointed in each county, and that a second convention be held on the fourth Monday in November.”
The delegates from Wake, Johnston, Lenoir, Wayne, Sampson, Craven, and New Hanover resolved that “means be devised for carrying into effect the scheme of a railroad from Raleigh to Waynesboro (Goldsboro), and thence to Wilmington.”
The committee for the town of Wilmington was composed of Edward B. Dudley, William B. Meares, William P. Hort, Joseph A. Hill, and Alexander MacRae. Circulars were issued to the citizens of Wake, Johnston, Wayne, Sampson, Duplin, New Hanover, and Brunswick to ascertain what amount of aid they would contribute, and stating that $113,000 had been subscribed by the citizens of Wilmington, and that a total of $150,000 would be raised.
In July, 1833, the citizens of Wilmington formulated a proposition to make application to the Legislature to incorporate the
town of Wilmington, the object being to raise funds on which immediate action could be taken in the construction of railroads; but in January, 1834, the bill “to incorporate the city of Wilmington and extend the limits thereof” was rejected.THE ORIGIN OF THE RAILROAD PROJECT.
Communication from Wilmington to the North was by means of an occasional packet ship and two lines of stages, one by way of New Bern and the other through Fayetteville and Raleigh.
The commerce of the town had but slowly increased and the future prospect was gloomy. A railroad or two, very short lines, had been constructed elsewhere, and this new method of travel was being talked about; but as yet it had not been proven a success.[note] Such was the situation when Mr. P. K. Dickinson, a young Northern man who had located in the town, went one summer to New England and saw there a little railroad in operation. It had only wooden stringers, with narrow, thin, flat iron on top, and the carriages were of light construction. Mr. Dickinson was greatly impressed with its capabilities. Convinced of its success, he became enthusiastic, and hurried back to Wilmington with the news that he had found what was needed to assure the future welfare of the town—a railroad. He was so enthusiastic, so insistent and persistent, that his idea took shape, and the people determined to have a railroad. With Wilmington to resolve is to act, and the Wilmington and Raleigh Road was chartered; but Raleigh would not subscribe, while the Edgecombe people would, so, although the line from Wilmington to Goshen pointed to Raleigh, the construction was northward to Weldon. Mr. Dickinson was one of the chief promoters and remained through life the leading director. He was one of the most useful, most esteemed and valued citizens of the town, and his large lumber plant, located north of the railroad terminal, was one of the great industries of Wilmington.[note]
THE WILMINGTON AND WELDON RAILROAD.
In January, 1834, the bill to incorporate the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad became a law; but the terms of the charter were so restricted that an amended charter was obtained in December, 1835, conferring larger privileges and changing the course of the proposed road. At the time of granting the first charter it was the intention to construct a railroad merely to connect the principal seaport with the seat of the government; but, as the project was more thoroughly considered, the advantages of building to some point on the Roanoke to connect with the Virginia lines, thereby completing one of the important links in the line of iron rail that was to extend from Maine to Florida, was realized, and in the amended charter the new corporation was given the privilege of changing its destination.
The first meeting of the stockholders was held on March 14, 1836, in the Wilmington Courthouse, and organized by electing Edward B. Dudley president (at a salary of $2,000), and the following directors: Andrew Joyner, W. D. Moseley, James S. Battle, Aaron Lazarus, Alexander Anderson, William B. Meares, James Owen, P. K. Dickinson, R. H. Cowan, and Thomas H. Wright. Gen. Alexander MacRae was elected superintendent, and James S. Green, secretary and treasurer. After passing several resolutions and agreeing to start the building of the road at both Halifax and Wilmington at the same time, the meeting adjourned to meet again on the first Monday in November and thereafter annually on the first Monday in May. After Mr. Dudley was elected governor, he was succeeded in the presidency by Gen. James Owen.
The building of the road was commenced in October, 1836, although little was done until January, 1837, and on March 7, 1840, the last spike was driven. Its actual length was 161½ miles, and at the time of its completion it had the following equipment: Twelve locomotives, which were named, Nash, Wayne (built by R. Stephenson & Co., Newcastle-on-Tyne, England), New Hanover, Edgecombe, Brunswick, Duplin, and Bladen (built by William Norris, Philadelphia, Pa.), Greene, Halifax, and Sampson (built by Burr & Sampson, Richmond, Va.), etc. There were also in use eight 8-wheel passenger coaches, 4 post-office cars, 50 freight cars, and 4 steamers, viz.:
the North Carolina, Wilmington, Governor Dudley, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
The entire road was constructed under the following supervision: Walter Gwyn, chief engineer; Alexander MacRae, superintendent; Matthew T. Goldsborough, principal assistant engineer of the Southern Division, and Francis N. Barbarin, principal assistant engineer of the Northern Division. The road was first laid with plate iron 2 inches by ⅝ inch on wooden stringers.
On April 5, 1840, the celebration of the completion of the railroad was held in Wilmington. The report says:
“A large number of gentlemen assembled in the town from various parts of the State and from Virginia and South Carolina at an early hour in the morning. The bells gave out sonorous peals and the shipping in the harbor came up, their flags waving. Cannon were fired every fifteen minutes throughout the day, with a national salute at meridian. At 2 p. m. a procession, composed of invited guests and citizens, including the president, directors, and officers of other roads, the Board of Internal Improvement, the Literary Board, the president, directors, engineers, agents and others in the employ of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad, was formed on Front Street, under the direction of Gen. Alexander MacRae, marshal of the day, assisted by Maj. R. F. Brown, and marched thence to the dinner table, escorted by the Wilmington Volunteers with their fine band of music.
“The dinner was set out at the depot under sheds temporarily prepared for the purpose. About five hundred and fifty were at the tables, which were amply prepared for hungry men.
“Gen. James Owen, the president of the company, presided, assisted by the directors, acting as vice presidents. Good feeling ruled the hour and good cheer gave quick wings to the nurslings of wit.
“Then followed a number of toasts—fifty-seven toasts and eleven letters with toasts.”
Other reports are as follows:
Nov. 8, 1841.—“Annual meeting of the stockholders of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Co. Gen. James Owen declined further service as president. Edward B. Dudley was elected in his stead and the following gentlemen were elected directors: P. K. Dickinson, Alexander Anderson, Thomas H. Wright, Robert H. Cowan, of Wilmington, Samuel Potter, of Smithville, and B. F. Moore, of Halifax.”
Nov. 1842.—“Annual meeting of the stockholders of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Co. Edward B. Dudley was reëlected president. Directors: Alexander Anderson, P. K. Dickinson, Samuel Potter, James S. Battle, A. J. DeRosset, and James T. Miller.”
Nov. 12, 1847.—“The annual meeting of the stockholders of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad was held here. Gen. Alexander MacRae was elected president and E. B. Dudley, P. K. Dickinson, Gilbert Potter, James T. Miller, O. G. Parsley, and William A. Wright, directors. (The same as last year except William A. Wright in the place of Dr. John Hill, deceased.)”
At this last meeting it was resolved, “That the stockholders of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Co., in general meeting assembled, do hereby pledge to the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad Co. a subscription of $100,000, to be paid on the completion of the said Manchester Railroad from the proceeds of the sale of steamboat and other property, which will at that time become unnecessary for the purpose of this company: Provided that our Legislature take such action as may authorize said subscription.”
Nov. 10, 1848.—“Annual meeting of the stockholders of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Co. No change made in the president or Board of Directors, except four directors on the part of the State were to be appointed by the Internal Improvement Board.”
In December, 1848, a bill was introduced in the Legislature authorizing the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Company to mortgage the road and its appurtenances for about $600,000 for the purpose of purchasing iron to relay its tracks, and in January, 1849, $620,000 was authorized and an extension of ten years granted for the repayment to the State of $300,000 for money borrowed. Dr. A. J. DeRosset was sent to England, where he purchased 8,000 tons of iron, to be paid for by the bonds of the company secured by mortgage on the road.
The rail commenced to arrive in October, 1849, and in January, 1850, Congress passed an act for the relief of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad, providing for the paying of import duties on the rail by deducting annually the amounts due from the Post Office Department for carrying the mails. It was then the T-rail was introduced, which superseded the flat iron.
In August, 1850, Dr. John D. Bellamy, of Wilmington, was
elected to succeed Col. James T. Miller as a director, and in November of the same year, at the regular meeting of the Board of Directors, Gen. Alexander MacRae and the entire Board of Directors were reëlected. A surplus of $45,000 was directed to be applied to the extinguishment of the debts of the company.
It was about this time that the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad was completed, giving a through rail connection to the South, and thus making still more important the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, as the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad came to be called, its name being changed by the Legislature in 1855.
It is interesting to note, with reference to the far-seeing qualities of the men of 1835 and 1836, that a few years ago the chairman of the board discovered a letter written in the fine Spencerian hand of Governor Dudley, the first president, outlining the policy for the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad, in view of his resignation in order to enter Congress. The extraordinary character of this proposed policy revealed the fact that the policy of the Coast Line under its new administration has been following precisely the line of action indicated by Governor Dudley at the beginning of its existence.THE LONGEST RAILROAD IN THE WORLD.
Probably the most momentous, the most dramatic incident in the commercial history of Wilmington occurred in the fall of 1835 in the south wing of Gov. Edward B. Dudley's residence at the southwest corner of Front and Nun Streets, where a number of prominent Wilmington citizens had assembled to subscribe their names to the stock of an extraordinary adventure—the building of a railroad from Wilmington to Raleigh, to be called the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad.
The town contained at that time a population of about three thousand souls, a majority of whom were negro slaves, and here an assembly of about twenty courageous men of the little corporation actually subscribed a larger sum than the entire taxables of Wilmington amounted to in that year to build the longest railroad in the world. It is well to remember, in our boasted age of progress, the splendid example of the fathers of 1835, whose foresight and self-sacrifice laid the foundations of our success. Perhaps the largest subscription was that of Governor Dudley—$25,000.
During the years that followed, the most important topic of local concern was the railroad, which so overtaxed the means of its promoters that even with the added endorsement of the directors its official order for a hundred dozen shovels was rejected.
The late Robert B. Wood, one of the railroad contractors of 1836 and later, informed me many years ago, that this incident led to a proposal by the railroad directors and contractors that Mr. John Dawson, then a prosperous dry-goods merchant on Market Street and a stockholder in the railroad, should add to his business a hardware department, comprising tools and implements needed for railroad work, assuring him of their undivided patronage. This was agreed to, and the well-known extensive hardware establishment of John Dawson, which led that business until Mr. Dawson died, had its origin and advancement in that way.
Mr. Wood also informed me that the method of advertising the meetings of stockholders and directors, which were often held, was unique. He owned a docile gray mare which was frequently borrowed by the officials on urgent business, and also used to make known the meetings by a large placard hung on either side of the saddle, in which a negro slave rode constantly ringing a large brass hand-bell, and parading the principal streets, proclaiming “Railroad meeting tonight.”
Some of the newspaper illustrations of the “cars,” as the train was termed in its early days, show a vehicle closely resembling the old stagecoach, with a greater number of passengers on top than are shown inside.
Timid apprehensions of danger were allayed by the official assurance upon the time-table that under no circumstances will the cars be run after dark.
The time of the departure of the northern train depended upon the arrival of the Charleston mail and passenger boats, which ran daily to connect with the cars at Wilmington. This elastic schedule, affected by the tides and wind and weather, sometimes varied as much as an hour from day to day, and the Wilmington passengers for the North usually pursued their regular avocations until the warning bell of the approaching steamer was heard all along the wharf, when a hurried departure was made for the train at the foot of Red Cross Street.
A prominent chemist of Wilmington told me that upon one occasion when he was delayed the train had reached Boney Bridge before the accommodating conductor saw his frantic
signal to stop, but, true to the spirit of the times, the engineer immediately reversed the train and ran back two blocks in order to take him on board.
Upon the arrival at Wilmington of the train from the North, it was the custom of the general staff, on occasions, to meet the passengers with welcome speeches and with a gracious bow to present to every lady a bouquet of choice flowers. Conspicuous in this fine courtesy was the secretary and treasurer, Mr. James S. Green, who was sometimes so laden with floral offerings that his arms embraced quite a respectable flower garden. His affability was proverbial, and I well remember as a youth the sweet and gentle salutations of his later years. Well might Jenny Lind, the distinguished recipient of his gracious courtesies, have said to him upon her arrival in Wilmington, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said to some one else, “If your garden is as full of roses as your heart is of kindliness, there is no room for the sidewalks.” Such delicate attentions were a part of the hospitality of the Cape Fear people of the olden times. The cultivated citizens of Wilmington unconsciously exhibited towards all respectable strangers in the streets and in the hotels such marked deference in their salutations and welcome that the impressions of intelligent travelers on business or pleasure were most favorable. Our esteemed octogenarian, Mr. Walker Meares, tells me that it was the custom of prominent citizens to make formal calls upon the strangers who came here in the forties, and to welcome them with stately dignity and courtly expressions to the thriving town of Wilmington.DEVELOPMENT OF THE RAILROAD.
When President Dudley retired from the presidency in 1847, he was succeeded by Gen. Alexander MacRae.
In those early days there were numerous difficulties in operation, but General MacRae proved himself to be a most capable and efficient manager. The Board of Directors was composed of some of the most competent business men of Wilmington—men unsurpassed for capability, energy, and integrity. They placed the bonds of the road in London on advantageous terms, and the construction was cheap and without unnecessary expenditure.
In 1854 William S. Ashe became president. General conditions were now changing. The South was emerging from infantile
weakness, and industries were developing and multiplying.
On the completion of the North Carolina Railroad, Colonel Fisher and Mr. Ashe arranged for western products to come to Wilmington through Goldsboro, and a line of steamers was put on from Wilmington to New York, carrying North Carolina's products to the markets of the world from a North Carolina port—the consummation of Mr. Ashe's purpose when he drew the charter of the North Carolina Railroad.
But passenger traffic was of equal importance to the road, and Mr. Ashe sought to build up a great through passenger business. He sought to eliminate as far as practicable all breaks at terminals, and to relieve travel of its inconvenience and tedium, and in conjunction with Senator David L. Yulee, the president of the Florida Railroad, he developed Florida travel until it reached large proportions and became a highly remunerative business.
Recognized throughout the South as a dominant influence in railroad matters and a most successful manager, in 1861, at the request of President Davis, Mr. Ashe took supervision of all Confederate transportation east of the Mississippi River, but he still remained president of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad until his death, in September, 1862.THE COMMERCE OF WILMINGTON.
From the beginning among the merchants of Wilmington were some men of enterprise, who owned their own ships, which were engaged in trade with Great Britain as well as with our Northern ports and the islands of the Caribbean Sea.
Forest products at first furnished a considerable part of the exports, while the imports were such as a newly settled country needed. But as the population of the interior thickened and products became diversified, Wilmington became the center of a varied and extensive commerce and its importance as a commercial entrepôt increased, while many of its merchants became men of importance who deserved to rank as eminent in the world of trade. The following quotations indicate the commercial importance of Wilmington between 1830 and 1840.
The Boston Courier of July 23, 1830, says: “One hundred and fifty-one more vessels have entered the port of Wilmington
this year than last, including in the number 1 ship, 2 barks, 181 brigs, the rest (410) schooners. These tar-and-shingle skippers, which carry large topsails, everywhere besprinkle our coast. Now Wilmington is the grand railroad and steamboat thoroughfare. She is taking the position that belongs to her and recalling the proud days of her prosperity before the American Revolution.”
The Richmond Compiler says: “One hundred and fifty-one more vessels have entered the port of Wilmington this year than last. This shows great advance in trade. We have been surprised to hear that the tonnage of Wilmington exceeds that of Richmond, although the town has not one-fourth of our population. It must be a place of great enterprise, if we judge from what has been done within the last few years. We feel admiration for such a people and take pleasure in expressing it.”
A memorial of the Internal Improvement Convention to the General Assembly of North Carolina at the session of 1838, embodying the following tables, shows what the foreign trade was at that time:
“The tables annexed show the tonnage employed in the foreign trade, entered and cleared at Wilmington from October, 1836, to October, 1837; also the tonnage employed in the foreign trade of the ports of Norfolk, Petersburg, and Richmond for the same time, as taken from the report of the Secretary of the Treasury.
“From these tables it appears that in the year 1837 the tonnage entered and cleared in the foreign trade from Wilmington exceeded that of Norfolk 6,384 tons, and exceeded both the ports of Richmond and Petersburg together 17,694 tons. We are informed on high authority that the coast trade of Wilmington employs a greater tonnage than her foreign trade. We have not the means of ascertaining its actual amount, as it is not reported. If this be true, and we believe it to be so, not only on the high authority from which we received it, but because we know the maritime trade of North Carolina is principally a coasting-trade, it would follow that the tonnage employed in the trade of the port of Wilmington is greater than the three great ports of Virginia—Norfolk, Richmond, and Petersburg.”
COMPARISON OF FOREIGN TRADE OF WILMINGTON WITH THAT
OF NORFOLK, PETERSBURG, AND RICHMOND IN 1838.
WILMINGTON TONNAGE ENTERED AND CLEARED.
VIRGINIA TONNAGE ENTERED.
VIRGINIA TONNAGE CLEARED.
WILMINGTON IN THE FORTIES.
JOHN MACLAURIN, a prominent merchant and a Presbyterian elder, who died in the year 1907, was one of the most remarkable men of our community in his day and generation. Proud of his Scottish lineage, he possessed those sterling traits of heart and mind which likewise adorned the lives of many of his fellow-countrymen in the Cape Fear region—“absolute dependableness in all thinking and in all dealing, a lively sense of justice, a cultivated taste, critical judgment, with a splendid capacity for moral indignation.” He was an honor to his city and Commonwealth.
He was a friend and admirer of Colonel Burr, who was some twelve years his senior, and he wrote for the local newspapers some charming reminiscences of Wilmington in the forties over the pen name “Senex, Jr.,” parts of which I have selected for more permanent record.I.
After little observation, one will note in the topography of Wilmington that Fifth Street, running parallel to the Cape Fear River, is the backbone of a ridge upon which the city is built. The plateau which lies upon the summit of this ridge is variable in width, including oftentimes Fourth and even Third Streets on the one side and Sixth and Seventh Streets on the other, in somes cases with the level ground almost overhanging the river, as between Ann and Church Streets. We speak of the natural lay of the land as the topography—before the many changes that within the past fifty years have been made by granding and filling the streets. The average height of the ridge is fifty feet above tidewater, and the highest point, supposed to be at or near the intersection of Seventh and Red Cross Streets, perhaps ten feet higher. The descent towards the river is seamed by several branches, or runs, taking their rise sometimes as far back as Third Street and emptying into the river a few hundred yards apart. Within the limits of “Wilmington of the Olden Time” these were the streams rising between Third and Fourth Streets and emptying at the foot of Mulberry: Jacob's Run, rising at Fourth Street near Princess and pursuing a southwest course until the river receives its waters at Dock Street; and Tanyard Branch, rising at Third Street between Orange and Ann Streets and running nearly due west, emptying into the Cape Fear River at a point between the same streets. Boiling Springs
Branch does not come strictly within our limits, but so near by that it is given its place here. Rising about Fifth Street and Wooster, it runs west with an inclination slightly south and empties near the foot of Dawson Street.
The river front as we see it now gives little idea of the water line even fifty years ago. The business of that time was done between Orange and Mulberry Streets, most largely perhaps north of Dock. After the building of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, the trend of business was constantly toward the depot. The wharves south of Orange Street were used for the storage of staves, river lumber, and tar. The distillation of turpentine was then in its infancy and a slight factor in business operations. Above Mulberry Street the water of the river came up to Nutt Street in all places where the land had been made, as it was called, by filling in the water lots with ballast or sand. When steamers were first placed in line between Wilmington and Charleston, a bridgeway was constructed to reach the boats and transfer passengers and baggage from the railroad landing place. Above Campbell Street on the river front, fifty years ago, were woods, or rather swamp. Above Bladen, a sheer bluff rose from the foot of the swamp, and just beyond Harnett Street on the summit of the bluff stood “Paradise,” then owned by Mr. Robert H. Cowan. The locality in general was less euphoniously styled “Hogg's Folly”—precisely why no one seems to know, but certainly because some one of the name had begun an enterprise of some kind or other which proved an impracticability on his hands.
Before entering upon any report of people and places it may be well to note how the natural features have been changed within the past half century. We will follow the courses of some of the streams we have referred to, confining ourselves to the limits embraced in the original plan of the town; viz.: Between the Cape Fear River and Fifth Street, long known as “Old Boundary,” and between Campbell Street and what was afterwards known as Wooster. Sometime, doubtless near the completion of the Wilmington and Raleigh (now Wilmington and Weldon) Railroad, it became desirable to level Front Street across Mulberry. This seems to have been done without the precaution of making a drain to carry off the water, which was thus backed up Mulberry Street and formed a pond extending as far as Second Street, and which must have been several feet deep. This body of water was known as the “Horse Pond,” and
remained a source of discomfort and a menace to health until sometime in the forties. It was quite deep and fish were sometimes caught from its waters.
Nowhere have changes been more or greater than on the line of Jacob's Run. Fifty years ago the lots between Third and Fourth Streets, now occupied by the courthouse and the jail of the county, were a quagmire. Princess Street, between the streets named, was a slope from the point now occupied by the City Hall (the top of the hill was then several feet higher than now) down to the stream below. Third Street, at and near Princess, is several feet higher than it was in 1840, and the same is to be said of Second Street at the intersection of Market. At this point the mud in times long since past was so prevalent that the locality, being then occupied by a market house and town hall, was known as “Mud Market.” Improvement of a like character was made, at an earlier date probably, at or near the intersection of Dock and Front Streets. There is a tradition that small canoes or batteaux came up Jacob's Run from the river at high tide to Mud Market. This occurred before the memory of any one now living, but it is founded on the testimony of perfectly truthful gentlemen. As late as 1840 the sidewalk on the south side of Market, near Second, was some feet higher than the street itself, and several steps were the means of ascent or descent. Willow Spring Branch was overlooked in what has gone before. It took its rise above Second Street, near the line of Third, and thence to the river. The lots on the west side of Second Street, between Dock and Orange Streets, show how much the land just here was raised on the line of Second Street. Where the dwelling on the east side of Second Street, Judge Russell's residence, and the dwelling on McLean's Alley now stand was a depression, and the street has been raised some eight or ten feet at least. Apparently to protect the Willow Spring from the caving-in of earth, a wall of cypress logs was run on the line of the street and on the alley. From near the middle of Third Street between Orange and Ann, at a point some fifteen or twenty feet from the eastern line, the hill sloped abruptly until about the western line it was arrested by a brick wall. This depression made Third Street impassable in this immediate locality except on the margin indicated. The wall referred to protected a spring at its foot, and thence the stream flowed on to form a tanyard near Second Street, established in 1826 by Isaac Northrop and John M. VanCleff and afterwards owned
by Mr. Northrop and John T. Hewitt. Second Street was then much lower than now. But nowhere within the city limits have there been such changes as on the line of Front Street, between Orange and Ann. Third Street at this point was then as low as the coal yard of W. G. Fowler, at its eastern limit, now is. From this point rose a steep hill, upon the summit of which stood the Baptist Church. The dwelling into which the church was transformed marks the elevation. In those days, of course, Front Street could only be traveled in wheeled conveyances with difficulty, and to reach Front Street from the river by the line of Ann or Nun Streets was impracticable.
Before entering upon the main subject, however, it may be well to discuss in a general way the prevalent customs or habits of the people of a half century or more ago, and their modes of business, and to note any other matters concerning the times that may be interesting or instructive. There were very few residences east of Fifth Street (at that time in the eastern boundary). The present residence of the bishop of East Carolina was then owned and occupied by Mr. James S. Green, and was the only house on the entire block on which it was situated. A few houses were on the eastern side of Fifth Street, but none farther out, so that in this part of town all east of Sixth Street may be said to have been in the woods. On Market Street there was little, if any, extension of habitation. In fact, between Seventh and Eighth, near Market, was the public hanging ground, and chinquapin hill, where that fruit could be gathered in season, then comprehending in general the ground anywhere on or about Market and Eighth Streets. Around the northern and especially the southern boundary, settlement was sparser still. Dry Pond, bounteously full of water in the wet season and guiltless of a semblance of moisture in the dry, then sat placidly on the snowwhite sand amid the scrubby oaks and prickly pears and wire grass without a habitation about it.
In 1840 the population of Wilmington was 4,268, and the limits were circumscribed as we have heretofore stated them.
At the time of which we are now writing not even gas lighting had been dreamed of. Kerosene was then, and even for twenty years after, totally unknown. Camphine, a refined preparation of spirits turpentine, was a recent and most decided improvement on the lamp oil or tallow-dipped candles. This article, camphine, came into almost universal use, having very high illuminative power, though exceedingly inflammable, and so extremely
dangerous. Its cheapness was a great recommendation, and its only rival, if it was a rival, for illuminating purposes, was sperm candles, which were beyond the reach of those in moderate circumstances. Somewhat later on adamantine candles, because of good lighting power with little accompanying hazard, in a great measure displaced camphine. The candle then became the most universal house and office illuminator, and the candlesticks and snuffers were indispensable household articles. The streets were lighted with big lamps filled with whale oil and placed at the intersection of the streets. The lighting, as may be readily conceived, served to do little more than make the darkness visible.
Matches were not known a hundred years ago. In fact, the first properly called friction matches were invented in England in 1827, and greatly improved in 1838, but still they were neither quick nor sure, easily lighted nor safe; not safe because of being tipped with phosphorus, a substance fatally poisonous to many of those engaged in the manufacture, and even to some who used the matches. In 1855 were invented the safety matches, which have since been evolved into those in use at present. Before the days of matches, flint and steel had to be resorted to for the making of fire, and because of the cost of matches these primitive and uncertain means were the only resources of the poor for many years after matches were introduced. For the reason just given it was of the utmost importance to keep up fire day in and day out, and in many families it was true that for years upon years fire in the house was never suffered to go out. A common thing it was in summertime to place a paper bearing the merest glimmer of light afloat in a cup of oil at bedtime and so keep up the fire until morning.
Fuel comes naturally to be considered now. It was generally simply the forest growth, or the refuse of sawmill operations. Coal was not unknown, of course, in 1840, or its value as fuel underrated, but until the days of railroad communication the cost of the carriage of coal, even to get it to navigable water, made it generally unavailable as fuel.
Allusion has been made to the street lighting. Hardly had “Old Matt” set his feeble lamps alight, when the sound of night watchmen, very few and wide apart, were to be heard crying the hours of night. “Ten o'clock and all's well!” was a cry that will be recalled by some who may read these lines. But this served too well to announce the whereabouts of the watch to nightly
depredators and was discontinued on that account. Besides these watchmen, occasionally, when diabolism was specially prevalent, and always on Saturday night, perhaps, citizen patrolmen walked the streets until a late hour, sometimes during the entire night. The town bell rang at nine o'clock p. m. as a signal when the negroes were to be out of the street, unless by special and definite permission of their owners. The same bell regulated the hours for breakfast and dinner, and one hour after the call to these in each case, the “turn out bell” gave the call from refreshment to labor.
Every doctor compounded his own prescriptions in those days, and physicians’ offices were simply drug stores, minus the patent medicines and perfumery and fancy articles which druggists keep in stock. The doctor usually charged for his service to a family a round sum by the year, and made his visits on horseback, with his saddlebags containing medicine and invariable accompaniments; and his lancet, let us not forget, for phlebotomy was the universal practice.
An esteemed friend, fully and accurately informed, suggests correction of the writer's surmise that the “Horse Pond,” corner of Front and Mulberry Streets, was artificially formed, as was suggested in the former article, and says that it existed previous to 1812; and further that boys of seventy or eighty years ago were wont to swim in its waters.
A buggy was hardly known a few decades ago. The rich traveled in closed carriages, very much lighter, but in appearance very similar to stages. They were costly, and those in moderate circumstances contented themselves with horseback riding. This was the mode of travel generally for both sexes on journeys or in church attendance, but two-wheeled vehicles, drawn by one horse, were sometimes called into requisition; the gig for two persons and the sulky for one.
How changed school discipline and training of the schools within the past sixty years or so! Even good old “Miss” (Mrs.) “Coxetter” used the birchen rod, and Miss Maggie McLeod, who lingered with us almost until now, and Miss Laura Rankin knew well its virtue and spared not to apply. In the Old Academy days, before our time, the older citizens hesitated not to tell,
almost with clenched teeth, how “Old Mitchell” wielded the rod in a way that would not have disgraced a Comanche. But Jesse Mulock was bad enough. “Old Mulock”—for to schoolboys teachers are all old—was a man of powerful grip, and when he kept over the Hewlett bar, on Front Street, where Craft's furniture store now stands, or later in the room over French's shoe store, where Sol. Bear's store is now located—in either place he had a room above that in which the idea was taught to shoot, a room to which unruly youth were transported to undergo the horrors of the hickory. We hear little now of chinquapin or birch or hickory. “The fair, delightful plans of peace” prevail in the schoolrooms of today and do perhaps as well. But this must be allowed: if the youths of olden time learned less they learned it thoroughly. They lost in extent and variety, but did they not gain in solidity? In 1840 one went to school eleven months of the year, barring Saturday and Fourth of July and Christmas, perhaps, and with Mr. Mulock even Saturday was liable to be appropriated to map-inspection, or a lecture on astronomy—a sort of dessert to the intellectual feasts of the other five days.
Daguerre discovered the art of retaining impressions upon chemically prepared plates in 1839, and of course daguerreo-typing was not practically known in Wilmington in 1840. On the mantelpieces of almost every home were silhouettes; that is, profiles cut out of paper or cardboard with more or less neatness and laid on a black surface. These silhouettes were usually very accurate likenesses, so far as a side view could be such. The portraits painted for those who could afford them were sometimes far otherwise. In the early days of the forties traveling on land was mostly by private conveyance. The four-horse stage-coach carried mails and passengers on special routes where not superseded by the few railroads then in existence. The stage carried one from place to place at a cost of, say 10 cents a mile, at the rate of six miles an hour, without extra charge for the bumpings and thumpings experienced. In 1845 one might go from Wilmington to New York in seventy hours, stopping at each railroad terminus to change cars and recheck (or remark) baggage. Postages previous to 1845 were 12½ cents for a single sheet of paper and 25 cents for a double sheet. All papers were folded and sealed with wafers or sealing wax. Postpaid envelopes were in use in Paris in the seventeenth century and the Sardinian States used them in 1818. Stamps were introduced
into the United States in 1840; the government did not adopt their use, however, until 1847, although tentatively they were used in New York in 1845, and an adhesive stamp was used in St. Louis in the same year. It will readily be understood that few letters were written when 25 cents was the rate of postage, and that, as payment was required on receipt of the letter, the published list of uncalled-for letters was of extraordinary length. What were known as ship letters sometimes came by vessels into the port of Wilmington. They were required to be deposited in the post office, the conveyancer receiving part of the postage.
The mails early in this century were conveyed from place to place in express transmission, or on more important routes by post boys, with relays of horses at short distances. The stage-coach, perhaps at the same time, certainly a little later and until the advent of railroads, was used as the mail conveyancer. The route south from Wilmington was across the ferry at foot of Market Street and the causeway, via Georgetown, S. C., and Charleston. East, the route then and now—but not so well now—was and is known as the New Bern Road. North, the way seems to have been over Little Bridge, via Waynesboro (now Goldsboro), and so on. The blowing of the horn announcing the coming stage was a source of infinite delight to the small boys of the period, black and white alike.
The change in the character of business transactions in Wilmington between 1830 and 1850, though not nearly so great as that between 1870 and 1890, is nevertheless worthy of note. The exports in the early thirties were mainly, almost exclusively, lumber, shingles, and staves to the West Indies, and rice, naval stores, and cotton to the North; the importations, principally sugar, molasses, and rum, especially rum. One looking over the advertisements of those days can hardly fail to be struck with the amount of Jamaica rum and New England rum offered for sale. The Washingtonian temperance movement in the late twenties and throughout the thirties had undoubtedly a great effect in changing the habits of the people and so in diminishing the demand for liquors. In course of time the channel of West Indian trade became in a great measure diverted from Wilmington. The trade in the forties was not what it had been in the decade previous.
The means and manner of conducting business in 1840 were essentially different from what they became a decade or two later. In every countinghouse of any pretensions there was a
tall desk with slopes on all four sides and a plane surface on top to hold the necessary implements or articles for the transaction of business. Every desk had one or more boxes of wafers and a stamp for ordinary letter sealing, and sealing wax with the candle hard by for extraordinary cases. The pen used was usually the quill, for though the steel pen had been invented some time before, it had not come into general use; in fact, in 1840 was quite a rarity. Joseph Gillette patented his improvement in 1831, but it was slow work to supersede the goosequills which every school-teacher had to mend for his pupils, generally, and every boy had in time to learn to make and mend for himself. The box of sand to dry the manuscript—a most annoying device it was—took the place of blotting paper, which then had not come into use. Safes there were, of course, pretentiously dubbed “patent asbestos” and “salazuander,” but they were infinitely inferior to the chilled-iron fireproof safes now in use.
A word or two now as to the way traffic, that is the ordinary buying and selling of merchandise, was conducted previous to 1840, and indeed through the forties and perhaps later. It must be recollected that most men of means owned slaves; especially did farmers and planters own many of them. Then, as now, planters had regular accounts with the dealers—dealers rather than factors—and these dealers furnished the planters with every article, large or small, that they needed. On the first of January of each year the account of the planter was made up and presented. He paid it if he chose or such part as he chose, and a note bearing interest at 6 per cent was given for the balance. The next year the same process was gone through. At intervals the entire debt was liquidated, if the debtor chose, or if the creditor compelled. In general, however, dealers of means kept their notes as an investment. Occasionally a note was transferred in the purchase of property, or the notes were “shaved” to enable a holder to raise cash under stress, but in many cases new notes with interest added (and thus compounded) were taken from time to time, usually every year, and no settlement was made. The death of the maker of the obligation, however, made a settlement imperative. When he who owed was found to be getting “shaky,” the note was put in suit in order to collect, and some property had to be sold, a negro or two, not improbably, to satisfy the judgment.
The planter upon whose estate debt was thus accumulating was providing against the evil day by using his money to buy
negroes or add a few acres here or there to his landed possessions, the natural increase of negroes being of itself a very considerable means of acquiring wealth. The course that was pursued between merchant and planter was based on property, very much the same as that between the merchant and all persons of fair credit, who preferred to give their notes to paying their debts in cash. Annual arrangements were the rule. The banks discounted good paper to run ninety days; at the end of the time they required interest paid and then renewed the paper, and so on indefinitely. They were happy in thus running credits to planters for years and compounding the interest every ninety days. Of course they paid out their own notes (promises to pay), and, as in fact a very large part of these notes never came back for redemption, they made a prosperous business.
Why may we not before getting into matters of more consequence refer to the “morus multicaulis craze”? The multicaulis is a variety of the white mulberry, and its leaves were, in days that are gone, presumably are now, especially esteemed as food for the silkworm. The enthusiasm of its culture did not raise the hopes nor its collapse produce the dire consequences of the “tulip craze,” the “South Sea Bubble,” and others that have come down to us through the corridors of time, and in the early days of 1840 it had nearly run its rather brief course. At that time the numerous advertisements offering and belauding it had about ceased to appear, and those who were to realize fortunes from the manufacture of silk had well-nigh ceased to mourn over their departed hopes. Still, the morus multicaulis was to be found, probably, in some of the lots around town, and it had hardly disappeared from the upland field connected with the rice farm of Mr. James S. Green, near Kidder's mill, in which a few acres had been devoted to its cultivation.
One of the most important of our industries is truck farming. Many persons engage in it of course solely with a view to disposing of their product in this city, but others raise vegetables and small fruits almost exclusively, if not entirely, for early shipment to Northern markets. Among the latter are Chinese truckmen, who raise vegetables hardly considered edible with us, and ship them directly to factors of their own race, doubtless in
Philadelphia or New York. But in or about 1840 it was not so. Very many persons had around their residences sufficient ground for patches of vegetables, green peas, cucumbers, roasting-ears, and the like, and so many a town lot was really a half-acre farm. In the nature of things, as the town grew, or rather as the town had grown, fresh vegetables became a felt want. When the time and the necessity came into conjunction Mr. John Barnes appeared on the scene. At the old London corner, where Solomon now has his store, in market hours Mr. Barnes could always be found with vegetables in their season, always the best, too, of their kind. His farm was located quite beyond the limits, even beyond “Dry Pond,” though it would be reckoned in that precinct. It comprised what now is the square bounded by Queen and Seventh and Wooster and Eighth Streets, about five acres. On this little plot of bald sand-hill land, by indefatigable industry and practical skill, Mr. Barnes managed to support himself and family, not forgetting to give them at least a good solid English education. Here were raised the first cabbages ever produced on soil hereabout. In fact, until Mr. Barnes introduced them it was not supposed that they could be headed around here. And watermelons—there is no adjective available to describe them. They were always to be expected on the Fourth of July, and Barnes's watermelons and the Gladiator or the Wilmington or whatever line boat went on the annual excursion were part and parcel of the celebration of the day. At the time of which we write Mr. Martindale raised watermelons also and furnished buttermilk, and it was a time of delight to the average boy on a hot summer day when the old white-covered cart, drawn by the clay-bank mare, the whole directed by old Aunt Sally Martindale, would be seen coming around old Jack Green's corner townward. Mr. Barnes died of yellow fever on November 14, 1862, aged sixty. To meet increasing demand, the truck gardening in and around Wilmington was developed, of course. Dr. James F. McRee, having retired from practice, found at Hilton both pleasure and profit in this kind of farming. F. B. Agnostini afterwards went into it on the Little Bridge Road near San Souci Plantation. Mr. Christopher A. Dudley engaged in it at Summerville, below Greenfield, and John Gafford a mile or two beyond Jump-and-Run Branch. And we must not forget old Dr. J. Tognio, who leased a part of Love Grove Plantation, on Smith's Creek, a Frenchman of some attainments, we believe, in a literary way,
but hardly a success in truck farming. When or whither he retired is not known to us.
“Say something about schools,” says a friend, and we are disposed to comply. What follows must be largely reminiscent. We would like to speak of some schools, Miss Maggie McLeod's, for instance, but could say nothing of personal knowledge. This much is known, however, that this good old lady, who, well on in the eighties of her life, left us only a year or two since for her heavenly home, laid the educational foundation deep and strong for many of the best citizens of today. The same ought to be said of the teaching of Miss Laura Rankin, now Mrs. Rothwell, whose temperance societies and strict moral training otherwise implanted principles which will tell throughout eternity. Rev. A. P. Repiton, Rev. Mr. Shepherd, and Rev. W. W. Eells taught schools that were well patronized, but for the reason given above we can do no more than note them.
The forties were the birchen time in schooling. Methods were drastic—if that is the word. They had moderated from the days of Mitchell in the Old Academy, for then the methods might, without a strain upon language, be called sanguinary. But there were exceptions. Good old Mrs. Easter Coxetter—did she whip? Well, we do not recall it, but the goggles made out of the “Jack of hearts”—was it? (we are not up on that nomenclature), we do remember, and a friend whose recollection is vivid says the three-legged stool and the dunce's cap were used. That was not all, however. The dear old lady had us on Friday evening to recite the Apostles’ Creed, and maybe the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. And here we took our first lessons in the Episcopal catechism—and our last. Yes, she was a dear old lady, a dear old saint, now over half a century in heaven. In a former article Mr. Jesse Mulock was referred to, and we only note here that Wilmington has had few, if any, better teachers than he.
Cape Fear Lodge, No. 2, I. O. O. F., was organized on the 13th of January, 1842—the place, a room over the grain store of B. F. Mitchell & Son. The charter members were Gen. Alexander MacRae, W. S. G. Andrews, Willie A. Walker, and Valentine Hodgson from Weldon Lodge, No. 1. Thomas H. Howey and Levi A. Hart were initiated the same night. The lodge soon moved its quarters to an upper room of a building on the corner of the alley next south of the Purcell House. This is only preliminary to saying that in 1842 a committee consisting
of Col. John MacRae, Rev. B. L. Hoskins, and Owen Fennell, Esq., was appointed to report on the propriety of establishing a school. On June 10, 1843, we quote from the Wilmington Chronicle, “Trustees of Wilmington Academy resolved to lease the eastern end of their property to Cape Fear Lodge, No. 2, I. O. O. F., for twenty-five years for the erection of a schoolhouse, at an annual rental of a peppercorn.”
The Odd Fellows’ School was established, and a benevolent work was thus done for Wilmington which ought to be remembered with profoundest gratitude by all who were recipients of the benefits conferred by the institution. With all books and stationery furnished, the tuition fee was only $3 a quarter—and it was a quarter, or well-nigh so—for a scholastic year was then eleven months. The school was opened in October, 1843, with Mr. Robert McLauchlin, of Baltimore, principal. Mrs. McLauchlin had charge of the female department. Mr. McLauchlin was tall, strongly built, and well proportioned, without a pound of superfluous flesh. His hair, which was exceeding scant, was of a reddish color, and his beard the same. The boys regarded him as a veritable Samson. He did not use, too well we remember—he did not use the ruler as the instrument of correction. You know there was a firm belief prevalent that a ruler could be broken by crossing eyelashes in your hand and moistening them with spittle. Somehow or other the process always failed, but that was because the lashes did not lie right, of course. But Mr. McLauchlin would jerk a boy up on tiptoe with his left hand and thrash him with his right. By way of variation he sometimes threw out his cork leg, drew a boy over it, and then—but it is not necessary to be precise on what is really very much a matter of feeling. Some readers know just how it was. The writer does.
But there came a day, Monday, the 21st of April, 1845, when we had gathered at school and were dismissed because our teacher was too indisposed to be present. We made the welkin ring with shouts of delight that we were to have a holiday. A few of us went with Henry and Robert and Billy, the MacRae boys, into the woods to enjoy our Indian play, or whatever it might be, and in a few hours returned to learn that Mr. McLauchlin was dead. We mourned for him, because we loved him. He was strict and maybe severe, but never unjust and never cruel, and we loved him with a love both strong and true. He was buried on the lot, northwest corner of Fourth and Dock
Streets, and the Odd Fellows erected a marble shaft to his memory. His remains and the stone that marked their resting place were afterwards removed to Oakdale Cemetery.
Mr. Levin Meginney[note] succeeded Mr. McLauchlin in charge of the school, with Mrs. Richardson at the head of the girls’ department. Mr. Meginney continued in charge until the school was given up by the Odd Fellows, long after 1850, and then, buying the property he converted the school building in part into a dwelling, which he occupied with his family. The schoolhouse still stands, and the school is continued under the charge of Prof. Washington Catlett.
In 1846 a classical department was added to the school, in charge of Mr. Robert Lindsay, a Scotchman and graduate of St. Andrew's University, Scotland. He was a thorough classical scholar, and if proficiency of his pupils is a test—and who will deny it?—a good teacher, but as a disciplinarian he was a sad failure. He had not found his place in school teaching, and about 1850, having tried it here and elsewhere until that time, he removed farther South. There he studied law and went into politics and became governor of Alabama. While in the Alabama Legislature, in connection with the Internal Improvement Board, of which he was chairman, we think, he was largely instrumental in building the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and as governor he raised the bonds of Alabama above those of any other Southern State at the time.
We now close with naming the first class of the Odd Fellows’ School, about the time of Mr. McLauchlin's death: Henry MacRae, Robert B. MacRae, Robert C. Green, Irving C. Ballard, John D. Taylor, Owen Fennell, Sidney G. Law, Joseph H. Flanner, William H. Hall, John J. Poisson, Washington C. Fergus, and John McLaurin. Irving Ballard and Henry MacRae afterwards taught in the school.
In the classical department under Mr. Lindsay were Sidney G. Law, Robert B. MacRae, Owen Fennell, Nicholas W. Schenck, Hardy L. Fennell, Washington Fergus, Alvis Walker, William H. Bettencourt, John L. Hill, Robert C. Green, Henry M. Drane, James A. Wright, Daniel Newton, John William Kelly, Arthur J. Hill, and John McLaurin.
The good work done by the school has been referred to. It was in its aim and purpose and in its results very like to that[note]
done by Mrs. Hemenway, under the management, direction, and control of Miss Amy M. Bradley, something like a quarter of a century afterwards. Wilmington ought never to cease to hold both the one and the other everlastingly in grateful remembrance.
Before proceeding to weightier matters let us gather up the loose-lying threads of memorial thought. Our friend aforesaid reminds us, on the subject of trucking, that the vegetables brought into table supply in 1840 were very limited. Lettuce was brought from Charleston, cabbages, as has been said, were not raised around here, and tomatoes were “love apples,” pretty to look upon but not regarded as edible. Strawberries, now to be had in the height of the season at five cents per quart, were then 25 cents a saucer, and there were few in a saucer—cream, however, was thrown in. Hopkins, a little more than two miles east of the city and a stone's throw north of the New Bern Road, was the resort of courting couples for strawberries and cream, which suggests that courting was expensive in those days, at least to the financial partner of the concern.
And on the subject of the militia: how wondrously they were equipped—with long guns and short guns and rifles and shotguns and muskets—all flint and steel, for though percussion caps were invented as far back as 1818, and had become pretty well known by 1830—Colt using them on his repeating pistols invented in 1836—yet the United States Government did not use them before about 1842, and although the army might easily have been furnished with percussion muskets in the Mexican War, 1846, General Scott preferred the flint-lock gun, “considering it dangerous to campaign in an enemy's country with an untried weapon.”
Oh, how those flint and steel locks did try the temper and the patience of the average youth of the days of 1840. See the lark, well away to be sure, but mounted on a hillock, and his bright yellow breast exposed invitingly! Snap goes the flint upon the steel; he winks his eye and whisks his tail and soars away. That chance is gone, for the day perhaps. And how tantalizing it must have been in war, in the very heat of the battle, to have the flint fail to strike fire or the powder to flash in the pan.
This accounts for the constant use of bayonets and throws the needed light upon pictures of the olden time where the musket is so often seen used as a club.
What became of the court when the courthouse was burned in 1840? Well, for a while the sessions of court were held in Society Hall, as it was called, a building in the rear of St. James's Church, but quite promptly the county magistrates had the courthouse building erected on Princess Street, the same building which only about a year or so ago was vacated that the present elegant and commodious quarters might be occupied. The jail of 1840 was the building still standing on the northeast corner of Second and Princess Streets, and now used as a wagon-making shop.
Judges were elected by the Legislature in 1840 and for over twenty years thereafter. The office was held for life or during good behavior unless sooner voluntarily vacated by the occupant. Commissioners of navigation were appointed by the commissioners of the town of Wilmington. Later in the forties they were elected by the citizens of Wilmington and so continued to be for a score or so of years.
The commissioners of the town in 1840 had been elected in 1839. They were named in a previous article. They held office for two years. So did those elected in 1841, viz.: James F. McRee, magistrate of police; Armand J. DeRosset, jr., Thomas W. Brown, Charles D. Ellis, and John MacRae. In the Legislature of 1842-1843 a bill was passed “For the better regulation of the town of Wilmington,” which provided for annual elections of commissioners and increased the number to be elected to seven. Why this should be decidedly objectionable does not appear, but it was. The publication of intention for thirty days, required in such cases, was made in a Raleigh paper, and it was announced when the bill became a law that not more than a dozen citizens of Wilmington knew what was doing, which, compared with some things since, confirms Solomon's statement that “there is no new thing under the sun.” A digression may be pardoned here. The same Legislature passed an act establishing common schools in North Carolina and apportioning two districts (of 35 in the county) to Wilmington. The commissioners selected in January, 1843, under the new law, were John MacRae, C. D. Ellis, T. W. Brown, Alexander Anderson, Thomas J. Armstrong, William A. Wright, and Oscar G. Parsley.
State elections in 1840 were held on different days in the various counties. The first was held on July 23 and the last on August 13 (Wilmington Chronicle, May 13, 1840). Hyde, Pitt, Washington, Wayne, and others had voted July 30, 1840—this was noted in the Chronicle of August 5, 1840. On August 12 the paper contained the election news from these counties, or some of them. New Hanover voted on August 13 and the result was given in the Chronicle of August 19, 1840. Elections for State officers and members of Congress from that time to the present have been held on the same day throughout the State, formerly on the first Thursday in August, latterly contemporaneously with the presidential election when occurring in the same year.
John M. Morehead was elected governor in 1840 over Romulus M. Saunders by some 5,000 votes, perhaps more, but the Legislature was Democratic in both branches.
But 1840 was a grand presidential year. The Whig party, from a mere coterie having its origin in a New York City charter election in 1834, had in six years grown to immense proportions. It had all the enthusiasm of phenomenal growth. The Democratic party—the party of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren—had dominated for twelve years past, and had all the power and prestige pertaining to that fact. Not a great while before this at a Tammany meeting in New York City two factions, whom it will suit to call “Regulars” and “Reformers,” were in high dispute. The “Reformers,” finding themselves losing ground, turned off the gas, but the “Regulars,” prepared for the occasion, instantly whipped out a hundred candles from as many pockets and with the scratch of as many “Loco Foco” matches the hall was again alight and the business proceeded. There were no matches other than “Loco Foco” in those days, and this incident, with little good reason seemingly, gave a name of derision to the Jacksonian or regular Democratic party.
William Henry Harrison and John Tyler were the Whig nominees for the Presidency. Martin Van Buren, then occupying the presidential chair, and Richard M. Johnson were the nominees of the Democratic party. Van Buren was a man of wealth; Harrison, if not poor was at least not wealthy, and had lived in his early days—his friends did not let the people forget it—in a log cabin. It is said that a Democratic editor, if not building better than he knew, at least building otherwise than he intended, said: “Give Harrison a log cabin and a barrel of
hard cider and he will not leave Ohio.” The Whig party caught it up and used it for all it was worth, and it was worth hundreds of thousands of votes. Log cabins sprang up everywhere as the meeting places for Tippecanoe and Tyler clubs, with the hard cider always on tap. The first name referred, of course, to the war record of General Harrison, and “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too”—“Tip and Ty,” for short—was the slogan of the party. It was all very taking. The boys even enjoyed it hugely and the ladies wore the brass medal with the log cabin and the cider barrel represented upon it. The writer was a future voter at the time, and on the off-road prospectively. He became possessed of a Harrison medal, and it must be confessed was quite proud of it. A horror-stricken relative soon bought him out, however, and he never afterwards deflected from his ancestral principles. But this is too personal, perhaps.
One incident arises very vividly to mind and calls for notice. A ship full-rigged and beautiful to look upon was built at the shipyard (now that of Capt. S. W. Skinner), to be taken to Raleigh to the grand Whig convention rally of the party in North Carolina on October 5. Constitution was the name of the ship. James Cassiday was on deck as captain, and the crew were Don MacRae, John Hedrick, John Marshall, Eli Hall, John Walker, and Mike Cronly—then youths of fifteen to eighteen years. The last named is the only survivor.
A large delegation of citizens went up from Wilmington to the convention. Dr. John Hill, from the residence of General James Owen, then standing where now stands the Carolina Central Railroad office, addressed the crew of the ship and the enthusiastic throng assembled there, and the boat then proceeded on her trip. By rail she was taken to Goldsboro and thence by wagon, for lack of rail, to Raleigh. The ship was left in Raleigh to be given to the county represented in the convention which in the presidential election should give the largest increase in the Whig vote over the Governor's poll, in proportion to population. Surry County got the ship.
Another incident: The Log Cabin in Wilmington stood just where George Honnet's jewelry store now is. The fire of January previous had destroyed the buildings then standing there and they had not been rebuilt. Many an enthusiastic meeting had been held in the cabin and many thrilling speeches delivered; many rousing songs had been sung, or shouted, and many a barrel of cider doubtless had been drunk before the eventful
night of November 5, 1840. On that night, or rather early next morning, the town was aroused by an explosion. The Log Cabin had been blown up. There was indignation, righteous indignation, of course, and plenty of it, and Alexander Anderson, magistrate of police, offered a reward of $400 for proof sufficient to convict the perpetrator of the deed.
The perpetrator was not caught. Indeed, as the election came off a very few days thereafter and Harrison and Tyler went in with a hurrah, receiving 234 electoral votes to Van Buren's 60, the matter was, as usual in such cases, suffered to pass into oblivion, to be resurrected at the hands of an exploring semi-antiquarian, who may be allowed to subscribe himself,
About 1810 or 1811 the Wilmington Gazette[note] was published by a Mr. Hasell. The Cape Fear Recorder was established in the spring of 1818. Later, for several years, it was edited by Archibald McLean Hooper. Contemporaneously with the Recorder for a short time the Wilmington Herald, a Universalist paper, was published by Rev. Jacob Frieze, assisted, perhaps, by others. In the Recorder of February 6, 1828, appears a very suggestive advertisement announcing that the Herald was necessarily discontinued. On January 9, 1833, appeared the first number of the People's Press, edited by P. W. Fanning and Thomas Loring. The Wilmington Advertiser, edited by H. S. Ellenwood, was published at this time; how long before this is not known. On April 2 of this year Mr. Ellenwood died. His reputation as that of a gentleman of scholarly tastes and aptitudes survives until the present. Mr. Fanning soon learned, as so many who essay newspaper publication do, that the editorial chair is far from being a post of luxurious ease, and on May 1, 1833, he laid down the pen after an article in which with the honesty and frankness characteristic of him he explained his disgust with the profession, or rather with his experience of the journalistic life. The People's Press then combined with the Advertiser, having as sole editor, Mr. Thomas Loring. On[note]
January 8, 1836, the name People's Press was dropped and the paper appeared as number one, volume one, of the Wilmington Advertiser. The Press and the Press and Advertiser had been known as ultra-Jacksonian papers. The Advertiser as successor had become exceedingly moderate, if not independent in its tone, and on the 27th of May Mr. Loring retired. Here is a gap in our history; Mr. Loring sold out and presumably the Advertiser was continued. Trace of it is found in 1839 and 1840, and the valedictory of Mr. Frederick C. Hill, under whose editorial management it was published during these last years, appeared in the issue of May 27, 1841. The paper ceased to exist from that date. Mr. Hill was highly educated, a gentleman of refined manners and scholarly tastes and reputed to have wielded the pen in a telling way. It is to be regretted that the files of the Advertiser are lost; not even a single number of the paper is within reach. This paper was intensely, not necessarily violently, Whig in politics.
The Wilmington Chronicle was established by Asa A. Brown March 12, 1839. Mr. Brown had for many years been a merchant in Wilmington and presumably was a novice in journalism, but from the first the Chronicle was ably edited, and during the dozen or more years of its existence it did yeoman service in advocating and defending the principles of the Whig party. Of the Wilmington Messenger, edited by Dr. William J. Price in advocacy of Democratic principles, nothing accurate can be learned. That it was published in May, 1843, is known, and reference to it in the Chronicle of April 3, 1844, shows that it was in existence at that time. In the same way it is known that the Wilmington Journal, its successor, was published in November of the same year. The Messenger, material and good will, it is understood, between the dates last named and probably after the presidential election of 1840, passed into the hands of Messrs. David Fulton and Alfred L. Price. These gentlemen published the Journal until the death of the former, when his brother, James Fulton, took editorial charge. The Journal (weekly) has continued to this day, and is now owned and edited by Joshua T. James, Esq. The Daily Journal under Messrs. Fulton and Price did not appear until sometime in the early fifties and does not come within our scope. Of Dr. Price's management and success we can not speak knowingly, but doubt not the paper was altogether satisfactory to the Democratic party, whose principles it championed. The Fultous were exceptionally
able in their profession, Irishmen, native born, if we mistake not, and their paper wielded great influence throughout the Cape Fear section and beyond.
Mr. Loring, formerly editor of the Advertiser, published the Independent in Raleigh for a while from early in July, 1843; but in February, 1846, he returned to Wilmington and with Mr. William Stringer published the Tri-Weekly Commercial Review. They claimed that their paper was Whig in politics, but independently so. It was published well into the fifties, whither we do not follow it.
Other papers may have been published, but if such is the case no information concerning them is now available. Perhaps these articles may bring to light something essential to a complete history of these matters. It will be gladly welcomed. Whether or not the Wilmington Christian Herald, to be published by Samuel Chandler, ever materialized does not appear. The prospectus was published in 1839.
It is usual to decry the avidity with which the papers of the nineties gather up the most trivial matters of local happening, but one who gleans from the papers of “auld lang syne” can not but wish they had possessed the disposition complained of. Very many matters that would go far to throw light upon the people or the times of those days apparently were too well known to need be chronicled, and so many an important link to history is wanting. The local editor and the ubiquitous reporter were not known in those days.
And now let us get more definitely and distinctly into the forties, leaving any digressions to come in incidentally. Time, Wednesday, January 1, 1840. Place, intersection of Front and Market Streets. Occasion, annual hiring of negroes. Various colors were there, black perhaps predominating. It was a time of times, a busy time, for in a few hours all the domestic arrangements depending on servitude were to be unsettled and for twelve months rearranged. Many a housewife had been looking to the first of the year in the hope of a change that would give her more of ease and less perhaps of labor than she had enjoyed or suffered during the year just past, and many a servant had been bearing with more or less of patience, longingly looking to a change of master or of mistress. Some were to be bettered, some to be worsted, but the star of hope was over all, and though there would be rain—was there ever a first without rain?—and though it had passed into a proverb that the heavens wept on
hiring day for the deeds of darkness done, still it was hardly to be reckoned a day of sadness or of gloom. Uncertainty there was, and with uncertainty a doubt akin to fear, yet over all and above all the star of hope arose. There were some tears, but there were many smiles. There was some gloom as one went to a master always reckoned hard, and there was also gladness as another went to his or her chosen place of servitude. Owners in general heard the complaints of their slaves, and in tenderness and sympathy as well as from self-interest provided for them; they saw that they were fed and clothed or they would know the reason why.
But, whether bright or dark, those days are gone, and who would bring them back? And yet it is easier to call them wrong than to prove them so.
In 1840, as has been said, Wilmington contained 4,268 souls. Of these 1,004 were white males and 916 white females. Of free colored people there were 356, of slaves 1,992. Mr. Alexander Anderson was magistrate of police. At that date every little town or village did not aspire to be governed by a mayor, and despite the title of the chief officer, guardsmen were simply town guards and not policemen or police. Mr. Anderson had resided in Wilmington just forty years; he arrived here from the North January 1, 1800. He was at the time president of the Branch Bank of the State, and was occupying or had occupied every office of honor or trust the citizens could confer upon him. He rises before our memory as very like his son, Dr. Edwin A. Anderson, who was taken from us but a year or two ago. Quite as venerable he was in appearance; indeed, for years before his death he was known as “Old Mr. Sandy Anderson.” He died November 15, 1844, at the age of sixty.
James F. McRee, Armand J. DeRosset, sr., E. P. Hall, and W. J. Harriss had been elected town commissioners in 1839 and, save Dr. Harriss, who died in the spring of 1839, were still in office.
It might properly have been mentioned in connection with the history of newspapers published in Wilmington, that the Chronicle in the opening days of 1840 was printed in a building standing where the shoe store of Peterson & Rulfs now stands, on the west side of Front Street, a very few yards above Market. The
building was destroyed by fire in January of that year, and discontinuance of the paper was enforced for eight or ten weeks. When revived the printing and publishing quarters were in a warehouse in the alley north of the Cape Fear Bank building until June, 1840, when the office was reëstablished in a building which had been erected on the old site. Here it continued through the forties, and until it ceased to appear.
The Wilmington Journal, in the fall of 1844, was published in the Bettencourt Building, corner Front and Princess Streets, now occupied by I. H. Weil. The Journal Building, on Princess Street, was built for it when it launched out into publication of the daily edition, and there it remained for probably a quarter of a century or more.
The Tri-Weekly Commercial was published by Stringer & Whitaker—not Loring & Stringer as we stated—on the southwest corner of Front and Market in what was long afterwards known as the Commercial Building, and which is now occupied by the confectionery establishment of Mrs. E. Warren & Son. The offices and pressroom were in an upper story, the lower being occupied as a dry-goods store by Kahnweiler Brothers. For the convenience of the public, the arrivals of the mails then being exceedingly irregular, there stood upon the roof of the Commercial Building a flagstaff from which a flag floated at the proper times, with the word “Steamboat” in white letters upon a blue ground, or “Cars” in white upon a red ground, thus announcing that the mails had arrived and soon would be at the disposal of the public.
Some information has come to hand relative to Mr. William Soranzo Hasell, who edited the Wilmington Gazette: He was born in Wilmington and here lived and died. Graduated from Yale College in 1799, being then only eighteen years of age, he studied for the profession of law, but soon abandoned it and for a time kept a bookstore and circulating library, afterwards along with this occupation editing the Gazette until 1815, when he died, aged thirty-four. In 1840 there stood on the southwest corner of Third and Ann Streets—set well back from either street and fronting on Ann—a house showing decided marks of the ravages of time, but still a building of massive proportions, pink-stuccoed, and bearing indications otherwise, especially taken along with the surroundings, of having been the residence of people of wealth. It was known at the period of which we write as the “Williams Castle,” but was understood to have been
formerly the property of a Mr. Hasell, almost certainly of the gentleman of whom we have been writing or his parents.
Of the physicians of Wilmington in 1840 Dr. John D. Bellamy alone survives. Mentally his bow still abides in strength, and the chances and changes of well-nigh fourscore years have not otherwise in the main dealt unkindly with him. He came to Wilmington late in the thirties, studied with Dr. William J. Harriss, and at the death of Dr. Harriss, in 1839, succeeded to his extensive and laborious practice. In May, 1846, Dr. William W. Harriss was taken into copartnership, and in the course of three or four years Dr. Bellamy retired and devoted himself to other business, principally farming. He owned large estates, the work of superintending and managing which was quite as lucrative as medical practice, and far less toilsome.
The loss of a physician in large practice for obvious reasons causes deeper sorrow, and sorrow more extensive in its reach, than that of any other member of a community, not even faithful pastors being excepted, and this affection, which entwines around the hearts of those who receive the doctor's services, doubtless is the great compensation for the privations and trials and strains upon the sympathetic nature which inevitably attend medical practice. Especially must this be so in villages and smaller towns, where physicians come into closer social relations than in the larger cities. These observations apply with special force to the loss sustained in the death of Dr. Harriss, who has been referred to, and of others who are yet to be mentioned.
Dr. Armand J. DeRosset, sr., in 1840 was seventy-three years of age, and still in vigorous practice. He had been for a quarter of a century in charge of the Seamen's Hospital and continued in service until late in the fifties, practicing on horseback when ninety years of age. He died in 1859, aged ninety-two.
Dr. James F. McRee, sr., was, like Dr. DeRosset, not only a skillful and beloved physician, but one of the most influential citizens of his day. It has been noted that both these gentlemen were commissioners of the town in 1840. In 1840, and possibly for years thereafter, Dr. McRee was magistrate of police, the chief officer of the place. On April 26, 1843, he took into copartnership his son, Dr. J. F. McRee, jr., and not a great while after retired to enjoy abundant and well-earned rest,
while engaging in the scientific studies to which he was naturally disposed and in which he greatly delighted.
Before settling in Wilmington Dr. William A. Berry had been in the medical service of the United States. He retired from practice in the later fifties with ample means. He succeeded Dr. DeRosset as hospital physician in 1845, and died in 1875.
The profession did not hold Dr. Edwin A. Anderson continuously in its practice. In 1840 and for a year or two thereafter he followed it, and then went into sawmilling and afterwards into merchandizing and turpentine distilling. Subsequently he resumed practice and was engaged in it up to, or nearly up to, his death, about a year ago.
The recollections of the writer as concerns the doctors of fifty-five years ago are more vivid regarding Dr. Louis J. Poisson, perhaps, than any other. He comes before the mind, not very distinctly, it is true, as of medium height, spare in figure, with an intellectual cast of countenance and features rather sharp, though not unpleasantly so. A gentleman of affable manners without the least suspicion of lack of frankness, one whose gentleness would win a boy of eight or ten, even in spite of the dread which must needs accompany his ministrations. For a while before the death of Dr. Poisson he was quite infirm in health. In 1842 or 1843 he took into copartnership Dr. James H. Dickson, who had returned from New York City, and October 26, 1843, he died at the early age of thirty-four.
It has been said that fifty or sixty years ago physicians compounded their own prescriptions and practiced on horseback. The diseases they had to meet were not those which are now encountered, nor the medicines they used the same as now. The old-fashioned bilious fever was a terror in those days. We now never hear it mentioned. Those were the days of bloodletting and of cataplasms. Salts and senna and calomel and jalap were household articles, and the children in the spring were regularly called up to receive the matutinal dose of aloes. Quinine was hardly known and Peruvian bark had to do its work, along with dogwood bitters and other things which now will hardly be found in the pharmacopœia.
No profit was to be had certainly in taking medical care of the poor of the county and furnishing the medicines for them at $50 a year, yet that was all allowed for the service. The slaves,
however, who were over half the population, were provided for by their masters.
What has been written has referred only to the regular allopathic practice. Homeopathy, though Hahnemann had done and suffered in behalf of his principle of similia for thirty years or more, was not known here. The Thompsonian Botanic practice, in which number six figured conspicuously, was represented by Dr. W. H. Buffaloe, who held forth on Second Street, near what is now called Meginney's corner, as the successor of one Dr. Foy who had engaged in similar practice about this time.
The county poorhouse throughout the forties stood on the square bounded by Fourth, Walnut, Fifth, and Red Cross Streets. It was located near the center of the square and was the only house within the area. But the “Poorhouse Square,” as it was called, was not the only one upon which a single building stood on guard, as it were, to all the space around. The “Thunder-and-Lightning House” occupied in 1840 a similar position on the square bounded by Fourth, Orange, Fifth, and Dock Streets. The peculiar name attached to the building, it has always been supposed, was because of its having several times received the bolts of the elements. On the square upon which the First Presbyterian Church now stands there was in 1840 but one house occupied by white people. That was the building, pulled down a few years ago, which stood immediately in the rear of the church and which was purchased, with the land upon which the house of worship stands, from the late A. H. VanBokkelen. The house now owned and occupied by Capt. John F. Divine, was owned by Mr. Aaron Lazarus in 1840 and was the only dwelling on that square. The greater part of the square, all owned by Mr. Lazarus and known as the Lazarus lot, was a delightful grove, where, by the kind permission of the owners, Queen of May celebrations were held. Possibly other localities might be cited like to these, but it is unnecessary. The town was not compactly built and some not yet in their seventies remember picking chinquapins where the synagogue now stands, gathering persimmons in the “Old ’76” lot on Ann between Front and Second, or picking low-bush huckleberries on Church near Fourth. Here and there all over the present city are dwelling-houses that were built many years before 1840. On Market the present residence of Dr. A. J. DeRosset is one of them—in 1840 and long before occupied by Dr. A. J. DeRosset, sr. Opposite, on the southwest corner of Market and Third,
still stands the house which was the headquarters of Lord Cornwallis in 1781. The building on the northeast corner also dates back a hundred years or so—so the building adjoining on the east and others in the same locality. The present residence of Mr. M. Cronly and some others on that square go back many decades; indeed, one might count a full half score between Orange and Ann, Fifth Street and the river. So on the west side of Second Street between Market and Dock are houses that carry us back to the days of yore. In 1840 Mr. Murdock McKay lived in one, a Mrs. Bishop in another. Around the corner on Dock going towards the river are two residences of the kind we are speaking of. It is not necessary to mention others; they can, when built of wood, easily be distinguished. Whenever the sides are built of common three-inch cypress or juniper shingles they go back almost certainly well on to a century in age—sometimes over. The brick store on the southwest corner of Front and Princess, occupied by I. H. Weil, and the wooden buildings on the southwest corner of Market and Second Streets along the southern line of Market, known as the Bettencourt property, might be termed fire repellers. The flames have surged around them time and again but have never left even the smell of fire upon them.
The buildings mentioned, and others, have been more or less modernized from time to time, sometimes to the extent of entire transformation. But the dwelling-house on the southwest corner of Fifth and Orange Streets, now owned and occupied by Rev. Daniel Morrelle, in 1840 the residence of Gen. Alexander MacRae, and years before that of Mr. Davis, the father of Hon. George Davis, is very likely more nearly now what it was one hundred years ago than any other residence in the city.
Before we leave this subject let us call attention to the fact that on the organization of St. John's Lodge of Masons, say one hundred years ago, they occupied the old Brown building on the south side of Orange between Front and Second Streets. The lodge was afterwards removed to the corner of Front and Chestnut Streets—southwest corner—and again to Front near Red Cross, where early in 1841 the building was sold and converted into a hotel kept by David Jones—not the proprietor of that dread place so well known to seamen as “Davy Jones's locker.” In the same year, 1841, the lodge found rest from its wanderings in its present location on Market Street.
One of the most noted buildings of “auld lang syne,” which
was razed to the ground only a few years since to give place to the dwellings on the east side of Front Street, between Orange and Ann, was the “Old ’76.” It was a large two-story brick building, stuccoed white, with wide piazzas above and below running all the way around. It sat right upon the run of Tan Yard Branch, and its first floor was several feet lower than the present level of Front Street. It was a sailor boarding house, but was utilized by the politicians of the early days as a rallying place for their forces on the eve of exciting elections.
Attention has been called to the fact that in enumerating buildings of great age or of peculiar construction the residence of the late John Walker, Esq., is worthy of being considered. This building stood near the center of the square bounded by Front, Princess, Second, and Chestnut Streets, fronting on Princess. Set back well from the street, it had a very spacious yard in front. The house was built of brick, had a double piazza—such is the recollection of the writer—and was covered with Dutch tiles in corrugated form. There is reason to believe it was built in 1781. It had been tenantless for a long time previous to its destruction, which was several years ago.
It may as well be confessed here that the list of boys in the classical school of Mr. Robert Lindsay—which list was given recently—was sadly defective in omitting the names of Oscar G. Parsley and David S. Cowan, those truly good boys.
In the early forties the judges of the Superior Courts were Dick, Manly, Settle, Battle, Bailey, Nash, and Pearson. Some of these afterwards attained eminence in the Supreme Court. The Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, commonly known as the County Court, had a session each spring, summer, fall, and winter. Attorneys were licensed first to practice here, and later, very soon after ordinarily, received license to practice in the Superior Courts. The last County Court held in New Hanover in the name of the King was held on January 2, 1776, and the next court was on January 7, 1777. The justices present were George Moore, William Purviance, John Robinson, Timothy Bloodworth, Sampson Moseley, John Lillington, Samuel Swann, John Ancrum, William Wilkinson, William Jones, and John DuBois. They were commissioned by the Governor, and after
duly organizing they elected two inspectors for Wilmington and a sheriff for the county. Jonathan Dunbibin was elected register in place of Adam Boyd, who held the position under the old regime. We digress here to say that this Adam Boyd formerly edited the Cape Fear Mercury, which appeared in Wilmington October 13, 1769, and was discontinued in 1775.
The county justices seem to have undergone little or no change throughout their entire existence of nearly a century. In ordinary trial sessions, one magistrate presided, having on the bench with him two or three other magistrates. The position of chairman, or chief magistrate, required considerable legal knowledge and invested one with a good deal of power. Col. James T. Miller and Mr. William A. Wright held the post and performed the duties admirably for years.
Not one of the resident lawyers of 1840 is now living. Mr. M. London, who died quite recently, had been engaged in merchandizing for several years before he entered upon the practice of law. He was licensed to practice about January 1, 1840, and was one of the ablest lawyers who ever practiced at the bar in New Hanover County. Owen Holmes died suddenly in June, 1840. Messrs. William A. Wright, Joshua G. Wright, T. C. Miller and Daniel B. Baker lived and practiced throughout the forties. Mr. George Davis was admitted to practice very early in 1841; afterwards John London, who died soon after licensure; and Griffith J. McRee still later; Thomas D. Meares, James A. Peden, John A. Lillington, T. Burr, jr., Hill Burgwyn, Thomas D. Walker, David Fulton, William Hill, John L. Holmes, and others whose names are not at hand. Mr. William B. Meares, one of the strongest members of the bar, had retired before 1840 to give attention to other interests. He died October 11, 1842. Messrs. David Reid and Hardy Lucian Holmes came to Wilmington from other counties. They stood high on the roll of attorneys.
In those days the whipping post was an instrument or an institution or a means for punishment of offenders—a most efficient one, too. It savored of barbarity undoubtedly and was terribly degrading, still there are crimes for which the whipping post is and ever will be the only befitting punishment. As to barbarity, it does not approach in that respect the public strangling to death of human beings. This was universal in those days, and even now is tolerated in North Carolina where the county commissioners find a public demand for it. Happily the
day is past when any such heathenism can be exhibited in New Hanover County.
Many now living will remember that Charles, a slave of P. K. Dickinson, was publicly hanged between Seventh and Eighth Streets about midway and a few yards back of the southern line of the street. A few years later Thomas Broughton was hanged on the square to the north and just opposite for the murder of a Portuguese named De Silva. A curious incident is connected with the trial and execution of Broughton. For quite a while no clue could be found leading to the detection of the assassin of De Silva. But Broughton, why so impelled is not known, went before the grand jury and attempted to criminate another man. His examination brought suspicion upon himself and led to further investigation. Articles that had belonged to De Silva were found in his possession and other criminating circumstances were brought to light. He was tried and on purely circumstantial evidence was convicted. An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court on the ground of inadmissibility of the testimony of the foreman of the grand jury above referred to, which testimony was given on the trial. This was the grand jury before the one that indicted Broughton. The higher court overruled the objection and Broughton was hanged. He protested his innocence on the gallows. Nevertheless, the impression was well-nigh universal that he was guilty of the crime for which he suffered.
The courthouse on the first of January, 1840, stood at the intersection of Front and Market Streets, say about 50 feet across Front and about 75 or 80 feet across Market. The brick pavement, answering to the lower floor of a residence, was about one foot, possibly a little more, above the level of the street. A broad arch gave entrance at either end on Front Street. On the sides running across Market a small arch in the center served as entrance, and on each side of this arch and on both sides of the building were similar arches across which were benches, rather shelves, serving as seats. The boys of that day found delight in playing in and around this part of the courthouse, and the older ones met there in the hot summer afternoons to discuss politics and save the country.
The court room proper and such other rooms as were necessary were in the upper story and were reached by a stairway located in the southwest corner. The building was constructed of brick and was painted bright yellow on the outside, trimmed with
white and painted white on the inside. By an act of the Legislature of 1756, the courthouses of the State were to be used for all public purposes. Somewhere about 1843 or 1844 the County Court, overlooking this or in ignorance of it, prohibited political meetings in the courthouse, but they were very soon set back on the matter.
The town hall in 1840 stood at the intersection of Market and Second Streets, and was in structure very much like the courthouse, though not provided with seats, we think, for the comfort of loungers. It was open below and paved, and may at one time have been used as a market house in the lower part. The locality went by the name of “Mud Market.” The market house of the writer's day was a most unsightly structure which stood on Market Street between Front Street and the river, about 150 feet from Front Street and running back some fifty or sixty feet. It was built of brick. The pavement serving for the floor was reached by mounting a large piece of ton timber which served for a step. The entrance was a wide arch, and the entire roof was supported by pillars forming the upright sides of arches. At the farther end, because of elevation in consequence of slope of the streets, were a platform and stairs as means of entrance and exit. Under this end of the market house was a room which at one time served as a guardhouse. This building gave place in the spring of 1848 to a market house on the same site; a very great improvement in appearance and in suitableness for its purpose. It was 25 feet wide and about 100 to 125 feet long, with a roof of galvanized iron resting on light iron pillars. In turn this gave place some twenty years later to the present one on Front Street.
William Henry Harrison was nominated on December 4, 1839, as the Whig candidate for President. A meeting to ratify the nomination was held in the courthouse on the night of January 16, 1840, and was addressed by delegates who had returned from the nominating convention. On the morning of the 18th the courthouse was in ashes. About midnight, or a little before, of the 17th a fire broke out in the store of John Dawson on the northeast corner of Front and Market Streets and rapidly swept into ruin all the houses on the entire square except the building (which is still there) on the southeast corner of Front and Princess and the dwelling-house of Mr. J. P. Calhorda immediately in the rear. The flames crossed Front Street and were arrested at the Bank of Cape Fear building in their progress north. But
they swept off everything between the corner of Front Street and the river and destroyed every building on the river front. On the square where the fire originated the Clarendon Hotel stood on the present site of the Purcell House, and the post office was a room on the alley. Wilkings’ stables, as they were called, though Winslow S. Wilkings had died in October, 1837, stood where Fennell's stables are now. The northern side of Market Street was then as now occupied by grocery and dry-goods and other stores; and on the alleys were dwellings, as well as on Front, Market, and Princess Streets. In many cases those dwellings were rooms above the stores.
On the other square, at the corner just across from Dawson's, stood the shop (office it would now be called) of Dr. Armand J. DeRosset, sr. This was consumed with the Chronicle office just north of it and the dry-goods and general sales stores of Wright and Savage, John Wooster, Samuel Shuter, C. B. Miller, Daniel Dickson, Kelly & McCaleb, and others on the line of Market Street, the custom house, then standing on the same site as now, the store and warehouses of Aaron Lazarus, and the business houses of many others on Water Street, north of Market.
The shop of Dr. DeRosset was entered by a row of steps cornering on Market and Front Streets, and running up some six or eight feet from the street. The custom house is not remembered by the present writer, to whom the river front at that time was forbidden ground. The customs were collected and the business appertaining thereto transacted for a while after the fire in a room just where is now the office of A. S. Heide, Esq., Danish vice consul. At this time Gen. Louis H. Marsteller was collector of customs. Afterwards the custom house was on North Water Street between Princess and Chestnut Streets. Mr. W. C. Lord was collector here under appointment of President Tyler, but in a few months, the President having changed his political status, Mr. Lord was superseded by Mr. Murphy V. Jones. The present custom house became ready for occupancy during Mr. Jones's incumbency of the collectorship, or possibly a very little while before he entered upon its duties, say in the latter part of 1842 or early in 1843.
One incident connected with this fire every one then in his teens or older very vividly remembers—the blowing up of Philip Bassadier. In those days when water had to be pumped into and thrown from fire engines by the hardest kind of physical labor, it might seem unnecessary to say that other means than
throwing water had to be resorted to to stay the progress of the flames. The most efficient means then known was the blowing up of buildings by gunpowder—no dynamite then. This work was, if not in 1840, certainly afterwards, confided to persons of discretion who received their authority direct from the town commissioners. It became necessary to resort to the means referred to in the Dawson fire, and in blowing up some buildings about the center of the square, where the fire originated, Philip Bassadier went up. He was taken off terribly bloody and very seriously wounded, it was supposed at the time mortally wounded. But Philip, who, by the way, was one of the politest of men, albeit not of the Caucasian race, lived to be the admiration of the small boys of the period, and to furnish music for pleasure-loving youths for many years. But of this we may come to speak at another time.
(Since writing the above a letter has been received from one unusually informed and accurate on local matters of the olden time, and who, but for the disrespect seemingly attached, and the utter incongruity of association, might be called “Old Nick.” It will receive due attention hereafter.)VIII.
The friend referred to in the last article furnishes some corrections or additions from very accurate remembrance, and place is gladly given them. He was a pupil of Miss Laura Rankin (since Mrs. Rothwell) when she taught in what was and is known as Northrop's Alley, running through from Front to Second Street between Dock and Orange. Other boys were George Harriss, Mike Cronly, Eli Hall, Henry Law, and of a younger set, Nehemiah Harriss, John Morris, Dick Savage, Nick Schenck, and so on. Girls in the same school were Sarah Peck, Augusta Law, Emily Howard, Fanny Lippitt, Caroline VanViel, Caroline and Clarissa Northrop, Mag and Kate McLaurin, Aletta Jane Schenck, Sarah and May Savage, Harriet and Caroline Brown, and others. Mr. Walsh, later a Presbyterian minister, afterwards taught in the same place.
We are reminded, too, that Mr. Jesse Mulock, who came from Orange, N. Y., first taught in a house on the site now occupied by Burr and Bailey, and afterwards where mentioned in a former article. His school became very prosperous and he
brought out his brother Charles (was it not John?), but was driven from the field by the Odd Fellows’ School. He then went into the shipping commission business, having for his clerk Anthony D. Cazaux. Afterwards, he engaged in turpentine distilling, and finally returned North, where he died in a good old age.
Mr. Mulock's principle in teaching was thoroughness. There were no heads nor tails to his classes. Boys came up to the front bench to recite and standing erect were questioned, or went to the blackboard to do the “sums,” as the problems in mathematics were called. Smith's grammar was used and Walker's dictionary. A part of speech was named and parsed, with the reason why for everything. A word was spelled and defined, and a sentence constructed with the word properly used therein. There was no precise verbal memorizing required, and there could be no dodging nor evasion. The chinquapin was always ready for use and was in frequent demand. Boys were detained sometimes until long after nightfall, as “Nick” puts it, “staying in until perfect, even to the bringing of your candle for night study.” Being a very small boy, the writer was excused from night service. Day's algebra, we thought, was the hardest algebra to be sure. It most certainly tried one's intellectual calibre more than Davies’, which was used in the Odd Fellows’ School. But we are reminded that Mr. Mulock was patient with all boys and helpful to all, even while he required good conduct and exacted perfect lessons.
As to Madame Clement's and Miss Verina Moore's schools, about which we are asked, they came on after the forties—that is our recollection. Miss Verina afterwards married Dr. R. H. Chapman, a Presbyterian minister, taught school in Goldsboro, perhaps also in Asheville, and died at the latter place a few years since.
Our last article closed with the blowing up of Philip Bassadier. He was, as has been said, of mixed blood and appears to have come to Wilmington from one of the West Indian Islands long before the days of the forties. At that time he was recognized as a character. He was exceedingly Frenchy in his politeness and doubtless the only tonsorial artist in the town. At least the following advertisement, which appeared in the Chronicle of November 1, 1843, would indicate that then for the first time Walsh Revells or some one else was making his opposition felt. Here is Philip's ad., after an announcement of his readiness to serve the public: “He has carried on this business in Wilmington
for upwards of forty years, which he thinks some evidence of merit in the use of razors and scissors, and as giving him some claim to public patronage.” There seems to be force in the claim. Philip, with his grey-white kinky hair, brown complexion, and knee breeches—well, maybe not—looms up before us now. His shop stood at the corner of the alley next north of Boatwright's store, on the precise site of that store in fact, a small one-story wooden building with the inevitable striped pole in front, and there he was to be found presumably for forty years before 1843. The shop was destroyed by fire on the early morning of November 26, 1846. Perhaps too much time and space are given to Philip Bassadier, but he can not be dismissed without reference to his musical ability, displayed as violinist on festive occasions of all kinds, at the theatres, etc., and especially of his services as bugle man to the Clarendon Horse Guards about 1845 and later. The Horse Guards, under command of Dr. James F. McRee, jr., and later of Capt. William C. Howard, to the small boys of the period stood as representative of military pomp and prowess, but the company itself did not call forth more admiration than Philip Bassadier as, early in the morning on the day of the “turn out,” he blew his bugle at one street corner, then in a gallop rushed to another, reined up, and again awakened the echoes with his blast. We see him now in his cocked hat and red flannel coat and note the beaming pride on his countenance, and we almost hear the shouts of delight of the urchins enjoying it all.
The Wilmington Volunteers on April 30, 1840, celebrated their ninth anniversary. They were then in command of Junius D. Gardner. Afterwards Capt. O. G. Parsley was chief in command, and previously, probably, Capt. John MacRae. This company was the pride of our town in those days, and on the anniversaries it always had target practice at Hogg's Folly, and thereafter marched through the streets, the well-torn target in the rear and the best marksman, usually Billy Burch, or Mr. Jimmy, his brother, conspicuous in the ranks by reason of the yellow plume which decorated his cap and proclaimed his skill. The New Hanover Rifle Corps paraded the first time November 3, 1841, with R. F. Brown as captain, R. G. Rankin, first lieutenant, J. B. Cumming, second lieutenant, and Louis H. Pierce, third. In 1846, about June, the Wilmington Guards were formed, with James Anderson, captain, Alexander MacRae, jr., first lieutenant, Henry Nutt, second lieutenant, and
James Burch, orderly sergeant. These companies might come and they might go, but it was the militia ununiformed—not necessarily uninformed—that rolled on forever. The Thirtieth Regiment of North Carolina Militia, under command of Col. John MacRae, and afterwards of others, was a great institution. The upper division paraded at Long Creek and the lower division assembled annually at Wilmington in the fall of the year. On this review Brigadier General Marstellar came out with his staff and sometimes Maj. Gen. Alexander MacRae with his. Colonel Andrews, Col. James T. Miller, Col. John MacRae, Maj. W. N. Peden, and maybe others graced these occasions. It was a time of times for the boys. The Wilmington Militia, with Dr. Billy Ware as orderly sergeant in front, stretching his abbreviated limbs to keep the regulation step, was a conspicuous part. The parade took place in what was then called “Oregon.” It was about the time that the Oregon boundary question was up, and the politicians shouted for “phifty-four phorty or phight,” and afterwards fell back to “phorty-nine.” In “Oregon”—that is about where the Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church now stands, or a little north of it.
The Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Company was chartered by the Legislature early in 1834. On January 1, 1836, announcement was made that $200,000 had been subscribed to the capital stock, and when $300,000 should be subscribed the company would be organized and work commenced. Work was commenced in October of the same year, and after struggling against difficulties such as are not known in these latter days, and at an immense sacrifice to those who put their financial means into the work and to those who gave their business time and energies to it, the last spike was driven March 7, 1840. The road was chartered in the expectation of running from Wilmington to the State capital, but it was soon found that the funds for completion could not be obtained in that direction and the present route was located. The name was not changed to Wilmington and Weldon until comparatively recently. None of the equipment was what we are accustomed to now. The engines could not pull even a light train up a slight incline, and so the passengers and baggage had to be run up the hill as at present, and while the passengers descended a long flight of steps and walked to the boat landing, one or two hundred yards away, the baggage was shot down an incline to a hand-car and rolled away to the steamers in waiting. Happily, baggage smashers
had not arrived at the perfection to which they have since attained and Saratoga trunks were then unknown. It was the day of bandboxes and bundles to try the patience of husbands or other male attendants. Checks for baggage were unknown. They soon came into vogue, but for special railroad lines only. Engines in those days were doll babies or sandfiddlers to the giants in size and weight and power of the present time. A train of eight or ten cars each with carrying capacity not one-fourth probably of the present was a sight to see, and the coaches were not coaches as we know them at all, but cars made somewhat like unto the stagecoaches they superseded. Think of the time advertised between New York and Philadelphia, 100 miles, being eight hours.
Capt. James Owen was president of the road at its completion, Gen. Alexander MacRae, superintendent, and Walter Gwyn, who had been in charge throughout the building, was still chief engineer of construction. The four steamers owned by the company and forming a line to Charleston—the Vanderbilt, Governor Dudley, North Carolina, and Wilmington—were not comparable in size or in convenience to the palaces of the present day in similar service elsewhere, but they were nevertheless very comfortable, very staunch and strong, and commanded by experienced, careful, and fearless seamen—such men as Captains Davis, Marshall, Ivy, Smith, Bates, Sterrett, Wade, and others. One or two accidents occurred, however, but without loss of life. On or about January 7, 1839, the North Carolina and the Vanderbilt collided off Georgetown Light, and both had to go into Charleston for repairs. On Sunday, July 26, 1840, at 1 a. m., thirty miles northeast of Georgetown, the Governor Dudley and the North Carolina came into collision, and in a very few minutes the latter vessel went down beneath the waves. All the passengers were saved, but some, all probably, without befitting clothes. Some members of Congress were aboard, among them Hon. Dixon H. Lewis, the 500-pounder of Alabama. In his disrobed state he was a curiosity as well as an object of sympathy when he arrived in Wilmington. The Governor Dudley was not hurt by the collision and came on to port. She was seriously delayed, of course. The North Carolina had not been long in the service since her former accident. The steamer Huntress was put on the line temporarily in place of the sunken steamer, and the Gladiator afterwards came in permanently. When the
boats were first put on the line between Wilmington and Charleston, say in 1839, possibly a little before, the Cape Fear River had to be lighted at the expense of the railroad company, as navigation at night was a necessity, but Congress in 1840 appropriated $5,000 a year for this service and lighting the river has since been a charge of the General Government.
Perhaps nothing more strongly marks the difference in railroads between 1842 and 1895 than the fact that between Monday noon, July 11, 1842, and Thursday night, July 14, 1842, three heavy trains were lost between Wilmington and Weldon. No one could tell what had become of them. A deluging rain had submerged the country between the Roanoke and the Tar Rivers, causing three breaches in the road-bed. One or more trains got between the rivers and lost all communication with the outer world, and one or two others had been thrown from the track, in a like situation, by fallen trees.
Nothing has been said about perils of travel in those days of snakeheads and slow brakes, but time and space are up.
SENEX, JR.THE PUBLIC SPIRIT OF WILMINGTON.
(The Fayetteville Observer of January, 1850.)
The public spirit of the citizens of our sister town is really amazing; it seems to have no limit when any scheme is presented which is regarded as essential to the prosperity or honor of the place. And the resources of the community seem to be as abundant as the spirit with which they are employed is liberal.
Some twelve or fourteen years ago, when the population was but three or four thousand, she undertook to make a railroad 161 miles long (the longest in the world), and a steamboat line of equal length. For this purpose she subscribed more than half a million dollars, we believe.
This accomplished with almost the total loss of the half million, so far as the stock was concerned, however profitable in other respects, one might have expected a pause at least if not a total cessation in the march of improvements, and so it would have been with almost any other people. But soon the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad was projected, and Wilmington subscribed to it $180,000. Then came the Deep River and Navigation Company, and she gave $30,000 to $40,000, we believe, to that. Next the Central Railroad, and she subscribed
about $50,000, and finally, it being found necessary to raise an additional sum for the Manchester Road, she held a meeting on the 5th inst., at which $50,000 more, making $230,000 in all, was subscribed to that work. (This was increased to $100,000 by the 10th, making $280,000.)
Thus this community, even now not containing more than eight or nine thousand inhabitants, of whom probably not more than two-thirds are white, has contributed to public works eight or nine hundred thousand dollars—nearly as much as is required from the State to secure the Central Railroad.
With all this prodigious expenditure, who hears of any pressure of bankruptey—any interruption of her onward course of prosperity? Truly, “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth.”
It is not for the purpose of honoring Wilmington merely that we make this statement, but it is to encourage the friends of internal improvement throughout the State, and, if possible, to remove the objections of those who doubt the policy or profitableness of the system.ACTIVITIES ON THE RIVER, 1850-1860.
In the fifties there were frequently as many as ninety vessels in the port of Wilmington loading or unloading, or waiting for berths at anchor in the stream. The wharves were lined two vessels deep, and those waiting for orders were moored nearly as far down the river as the Dram Tree. It was a season of great activity.
Also, a large coastwise business in corn in bulk was carried on with Hyde County, and for this trade a fleet of small schooners called “Corn Crackers” was employed. It was most exhilarating on a fine day to see this tiny fleet, twenty to thirty white wings, rounding the Dram Tree, led by the We're Here, I'm Coming, and So Am I, with every stitch of canvas spread to the favoring breeze on the last stretch to the Custom-house Wharf.
Direct importations of coffee from Rio de Janeiro, of sugar and molasses from Cuba, Jamaica, and Demerara, of hoopiron and cotton ties from England, of salt from Turks Island and Liverpool employed many square-rigged foreign vessels; and three times as many beautifully lined American schooners
added miscellaneous cargoes from the North to the overladen wharves of Wilmington.
The following table illustrates the business of Wilmington from December 1, 1851, to December 1, 1852:
|COASTWISE EXPORTS FROM WILMINGTON FROM DECEMBER 1, 1851, TO DECEMBER 1, 1852.|
|Sawed timber, 17,135,889 feet||$272,585.77|
|Pitch-pine timber, 1,025,202 feet||12,815.01|
|Spirits turpentine, 96,277 barrels||1,707,999.75|
|Rosin, 320,219 barrels||560,383.26|
|Tar, 17,522 barrels||35,044.00|
|Pitch, 6,660 barrels||9,157.00|
|Turpentine, raw, 63,071 barrels||220,748.50|
|Cotton, 12,988 bales||454,580.00|
|Rice, clean, 2,300 casks||37,375.00|
|Rice, rough, 64,842 bushels||58,357.80|
|Peanuts, 93,255 bushels||93,255.00|
|Corn, Indian, 5,663 bushels||3,009.64|
|Cotton yarn, 2,434 bales||97,360.00|
|Sheetings, 1,702 bales||102,120.00|
|Flax seed, 165 casks||6,052.25|
|Flax seed, 1,253 bags|
|Total coastwise and foreign||$4,540,669.58|
|A FEW OF THE PRINCIPAL FOREIGN EXPORTS ARE SUBJOINED.|
The class of merchants and professional men of those days was highly respectable and respected; nearly all were men of education and refinement, and they were always keenly interested in public affairs. I note from memory some of the more important business men and firms of importers, commission merchants, and shipbrokers, physicians, bankers, and lawyers who were established between Orange Street and Red Cross Street on the river front, along Water Street and Nutt Street, and uptown:
|T. C. & B. G. Worth||James H. Chadbourn & Co.|
|N. G. Daniel||Kidder & Martin|
|Pierce & Dudley||Joseph H. Neff|
|C. W. Styron||Rankin & Martin|
|James D. Cumming||Anderson & Savage|
|W. H. McKoy & Co.||O. P. Meares|
|Houston & West||W. B. Meares|
|J. R. Blossom & Co.||George Davis|
|A. H. VanBokkelen||W. A. Wright|
|J. E. Lippitt||Robert Strange|
|H. B. Eilers||Duncan K. MacRae|
|J. L. Hathaway & Utley||Samuel J. Person|
|A. W. Coville||DuBrutz Cutlar|
|DeRosset & Brown||Griffith J. McRee|
|Murray & Murchison||Alexander Anderson|
|James T. Petteway & Co.||Dr. E. A. Anderson|
|Ellis & Mitchell||Stephen Jewett|
|Hall & Armstrong||Timothy Savage|
|W. H. McRary & Co.||H. R. Savage|
|M. McInnis||L. A. Hart|
|Avon E. Hall||George Myers|
|Harriss & Howell||Charles D. Myers|
|J. & D. MacRae & Co.||J. S. Robinson|
|B. G. & W. J. Monroe||Hedrick & Ryan|
|Clark & Turlington||J. S. Williams|
|Henry Nutt||James Dawson|
|C. H. Robinson & Co.||Richard J. Jones|
|A. D. Cazaux||Dr. J. Fergus McRee|
|Alexander Oldham||Dr. J. F. McRee, jr.|
|Smith & McLaurin||Dr. James H. Dickson|
|O. G. Parsley & Co.||Dr. F. J. Cutlar|
|Joseph H. Flanner||Dr. William J. Harriss|
|W. B. Flanner||Dr. John D. Bellamy|
|James I. Metts, sr.||Dr. William George Thomas|
|G. O. VanAmringe||Dr. F. J. Hill|
|H. P. Russell & Co.||Dr. John Hill|
|P. K. Dickinson||Dr. W. A. Berry|
|Thomas D. Walker, president Wilmington & Manchester Railroad.||Dr. J. C. Walker|
|Dr. F. W. Potter|
|William S. Ashe, president Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.||Dr. John Hampden Hill|
|John Dawson||Col. James G. Burr|
|P. W. Fanning||Alfred Alderman|
|John S. James||James S. Alderman|
|W. C. Bettencourt||Edward B. Dudley|
|Zebulon Latimer||James Owen|
|Adam Empie||Alexander MacRae|
|Thomas C. Miller||Asa A. Brown|
|Thomas H. Wright, banker||E. P. Hall|
|Joshua G. Wright||Joseph H. Watters|
|Gilbert Potter||Rev. Father Murphy|
|James S. Green||Rev. John L. Pritchard|
|William A. Williams||S. D. Wallace|
|John Cowan||A. L. Price|
|John Wooster||John L. Holmes|
|A. M. Waddell||M. London|
|William C. Lord||John C. Heyer|
|R. W. Brown||E. A. Keith|
|George W. Davis||F. J. Lord|
|J. W. K. Dix||T. D. Love|
|John C. Latta||Rev. M. B. Grier|
|Isaac Northrop||Rev. Charles F. Deems, D.D.|
|Zeno H. Green||Joseph Price|
|Jacob Lyon||G. H. Kelly|
|James Wilson||Henry Flanner|
|S. P. Watters||W. P. Elliott|
|Walker Meares||M. M. Kattz|
|Talcott Burr, jr.||L. B. Huggins|
|James T. Miller||William G. Fowler|
|Alexander Sprunt||L. Vollers|
|Rt. Rev. Bishop Atkinson||Edward Savage|
|Cyrus S. Van Amringe||A. H. Cutts|
|H. R. Savage||G. A. Peck|
|Daniel B. Baker||Hugh Waddell|
|N. N. Nixon||James A. Willard|
|Daniel L. Russell||W. H. Lippitt|
|R. H. Cowan||Junius D. Gardner|
|John A. Taylor||John Judge|
|Rev. Dr. R. B. Drane||James Fulton|
|Dougald McMillan||Thomas Loring|
|Samuel Davis||William B. Giles|
|W. S. Anderson||Richard A. Bradley|
|Eli W. Hall||William N. Peden|
|William MacRae||Gaston Meares|
|W. L. Smith||Joseph S. Murphy|
|Thomas L. Colville||William Reston|
|John C. Bailey||John Reston|
|James M. Stevenson||John Colville|
|James Dawson||William Watters|
|Robert B. Wood||A. A. Willard|
|George R. French|
And last, but not least, mine host, Jack Bishop, who kept the Pilot House on the wharf and furnished the best table fare in Wilmington to a large number of merchants, master mariners, and pilots at very moderate prices—he whose breadth of beam and suggestive sign combined to make him known as “Paunchous Pilot”—and his genial neighbor at the foot of Dock Street, Jimmie Baxter, who always wore a battered beaver hat, regardless of corresponding conventionalities of dress, and with his brother Barney supplied the ships with pantry stores.
Some of us still remember Jimmie Baxter's kindly salutation with its warning for the day: “And if ye meet the Divil in the way, don't shtop to shake hands wid him.”FORGOTTEN AIDS TO THE NAVIGATION OF THE
In June, 1851, the topsail schooner Gallatin, of the United States Coast Survey, appeared off the Main Bar and sailed into the quiet harbor of Smithville, the base of operations.
She was commanded by Lieutenant Commanding John Newland Maffitt, United States Navy, and the six lieutenants under him included several who rose to the rank of commander, and one to the distinction of admiral in the United States Navy. Three of them were subsequently distinguished in the annals of the Cape Fear: Maffitt, the daring commander of the Confederate States Corvette Florida; J. Pembroke Jones, commander of the Confederate States Ram Raleigh, and subsequently commander of other vessels of war, and, finally, a prominent officer in the naval service of the Argentine Republic; and Lieut. Charles P. Bolles, a master in the art of triangulation and topography, whose name with that of Maffitt appears upon all the old charts of the Cape Fear.
Professor Bache, the eminent superintendent of the Coast Survey at Washington, in his official reports to Secretary Corwin, makes frequent reference to the valuable services of Lieutenant Commanding Maffitt, who had charge of the hydrography in this section of the Atlantic coast. In one report he says: “Lieutenant Commanding J. N. Maffitt, United States Navy, assistant in the Coast Survey, in command of the schooner Gallatin, has executed the soundings of the bar of the Cape Fear River, commencing at the most southern point of Cape Fear, extending at a distance of from two and a half to three and a half miles from shore to the northward and westward, including the Main Bar, middle ground, and Western Bar, the river up to New Inlet, that bar, and Sheep's Head Ledge.”
In the execution of this work 25,688 soundings were made, 18,010 angles measured, and 389 miles of soundings run; thirty-five specimens of bottoms were preserved, and fifteen observations of currents made. After this work was completed, Lieutenant Maffitt proceeded to make a hydrographic reconnaissance
of the New River bars and of the river above the obstructions. In making this reconnaissance, 5,870 soundings were made, 481 angles measured, and fifty miles of soundings run.
With reference to the social life of these gentlemen, Mrs. Maffitt says: “When Lieutenant Maffitt visited Smithville its citizens were composed of the best people in the Cape Fear region. Its residences, generally deserted in the winter months, were filled during the summer and early fall with the élite of Wilmington society, then in its zenith of culture, refinement, and that open and profuse hospitality for which it has from early colonial times been distinguished. The officers of the Coast Survey and their families were domiciled at the barracks in the garrison grounds. The residents opened their hearts and homes to them and vied with each other in rendering their stay a pleasant one.
“Like most small communities having few interests outside of themselves, there was at times a tendency to indulge in unpleasant gossip, and in order to quell this by giving a new source of interest, Lieutenant Maffitt proposed organizing a dramatic company; and, to insure the actors against unkind criticism of amateurs, he made it a condition of entrance to the plays that all who desired to witness the performance should sign their names as members of the company before receiving their tickets. And this proved a perfect success.”
Dr. W. G. Curtis says: “The old residents of Smithville, before the season was over, gave this troupe the credit of driving out the gossips or closing their lips. In a word, the whole society became a mutual admiration society. Harmony prevailed everywhere. Sermons were preached every Sunday at the chapel and the services were well attended; but the members of the church often said that the good feeling of all the attendants, brought about by our troupe, put them in a better frame of mind to listen to the teachings from the pulpit.”
Of Captain Maffitt of the Confederacy much has been written. Of this intrepid commander, it was said by a distinguished visitor in 1868: “Amongst the many interesting men I met at Wilmington was the well known Captain Maffitt, whose adventurous career upon the high seas, as commander of the Florida, excited so much attention at the time.
“I found the captain a cultivated and gentlemanly man, small-sized and spare in figure, but with a finely-cast head, a dark, keen eye, a strong tuft of black whiskers on his chin, and
a firm little mouth that seemed to express the energy and determination of his character. I remember very well his dignified appearance as he stepped about in his short military cloak, with his keen and somewhat stern look. He was in reduced circumstances, having staked his whole fortune and position upon the Lost Cause; but, like so many of his old military and naval associates, he was trying his hand at business and striving to reconcile himself to the new order of things.”
In The Life and Services of this remarkable man of the Cape Fear, his gifted widow, Mrs. Emma Martin Maffitt, has contributed to our history a volume of intensely interesting and instructive literature.
Well may we say of him, as was said of the gallant Ney, “He was the bravest of the brave.”CAPE FEAR COAL.
I am informed by Mr. Joseph Hyde Pratt, State geologist, that coal was found in two sections of our State, one in Chatham and Moore Counties, the other in Stokes County.
Mining was done on the deposits of Chatham and Moore Counties, and for many years a small amount of coal was gotten out; but the industry was not profitable because the coal basin is not extensive. The seams are thin; and the few wider ones are cut up with slate, and so mixed with sulphur that the quality has always been bad.
The use of this North Carolina coal during the War between the States led to the capture of several fine blockade-running steamers, whose supply of Welsh coal had been seized by the Confederate officials and “Egypt” coal substituted. This was so worthless that it was impossible to raise and keep steam, and consequently these unfortunate and valuable ships fell an easy prey to the Federal cruisers.
With reference to my further inquiries on this subject, Dr. Joseph Austin Holmes, late director of the Bureau of Mines at Washington, says: “Coal was opened up between 1855 and 1858 in Chatham County at a place called Egypt, under the advice of Dr. Ebenezer Emmons, then State geologist. The coal was at that time regarded as of considerable promise.
“During the year 1858 an examination was made of the Deep River region, one of the principal tributaries of the Cape Fear,
by Captain Wilkes and other officers of the United States Navy, in compliance with a Senate resolution adopted on April 13, 1858. As a result of this investigation, and in a report published as an executive document early in 1859, Captain Wilkes and his associates reported favorably on the proposition that the Deep River region was a suitable one for the establishment of foundries and other plants for the production of naval ordnance and supplies.”
Captain Wilkes made the following statement in regard to the coal:
“It is a shining and clean coal, resembling the best specimens of Cumberland (Md.). It ignites easily, and burns with a bright, clear combustion, and leaves a very little purplish-grey ash. It is a desirable coal for blacksmiths’ use, for the parlor, and superior to most coals for the production of gas, for which it is likely to be in great demand. Its freedom from sulphur is another of its recommendations.”
These favorable preliminary reports by Captain Wilkes of the Navy Department, and Dr. Emmons, the State geologist of North Carolina, awakened considerable interest in the development of this coal. But it was found in subsequent operations that the coal, as mined, generally contained a considerable quantity of slate and other black earthy material, that its ash formed a slag on the grate bars, and that it contained no little sulphur. This composition made it a rather difficult coal to use in ordinary furnaces. But during the war, it was extensively used to make coke for the iron works established in the Deep River region. It was also used as a steam coal; but its use on board blockade runners and other ships was found highly objectionable, both on account of the poor quality of the coal and the smoke which resulted from its use.
At intervals between 1870 and 1900 the shaft at the Egypt coal mine (about 465 feet deep) was again opened and the mine worked on a small scale, the coal being shipped to Raleigh, Fayetteville, and other local markets; but it never became a good merchantable coal, and its use remained limited and local.
Besides, the coal itself gave off in the mine considerable quantities of explosive gas, and there were several bad explosions, one of which, in December, 1895, killed thirty-nine men, and another, in May, 1900, killed twenty-three men. The operating company was much discouraged by these disasters, and the mine was closed.
There is probably a considerable quantity of coal still to be obtained in the vicinity of the old Egypt mine, and if the mine were worked with modern safety precautions, to prevent disastrous explosions, and the coal were washed so as to remove the dirt, it would be found to be a fairly satisfactory fuel. If briquetted (as is frequently done in European countries), it would be both suitable and available for domestic use in the adjacent markets.
The formation in which this coal occurs extends from the South Carolina line northward to near Oxford in Granville County, its greatest width being from twelve to fifteen miles. At different points in this formation there are beds of sandstone available for building purposes; but the workable coal seems to be limited to a few thousand acres in that part of Chatham County near the old hamlet of Egypt, formerly known as the “Gulf,” but which during the past few years has been called “Cumnock.”FAYETTEVILLE ON THE CAPE FEAR.
Known as Cross Creek and Campbellton up to 1784, the name of this interesting old town was then changed to Fayetteville, in tribute to the services of the Marquis de Lafayette, who visited Fayetteville in 1824.
The people of Fayetteville, between whom and the people of Wilmington there have been for a hundred years the most cordial social and business relations, were ever as thrifty and enterprising as hospitable and cultured. They were among the first in the State to establish cotton factories; and, being at the head of water transportation and having an extensive system of plank roads into the interior, Fayetteville was the great mart of trade in North Carolina, especially for the extensive country lying west to the Blue Ridge, and even for the transmontane country comprising parts of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. This trade was carried on by canvas-topped wagons as vehicles of transportation, drawn by two, four, and even six horses, for mules in those days were seldom employed. Said Mr. J. H. Myrover, the historian of Fayetteville:
“The starting point of all this vast back-country carrying trade was the wharves and Water Street in Wilmington, though in the early part of the last century wagoning was done by
stages, or relays, between Fayetteville and Philadelphia, before the first steamer was put on the Cape Fear. Among the pioneers of steamboat building and operating on the Cape Fear River, though perhaps not the first, was Mr. Seawell. One of the first boats to ply the stream bore the same name as one of the last—the City of Fayetteville. It was launched not far from the Clarendon Bridge, and it has been related that some one having prophesied that it would ‘turn turtle’ when it reached the water, the architect boldly rode its bow as it slipped off the ways, and the event justified his faith in his work.
“It is impossible, with the lapse of time, to enumerate all the craft that formed the Cape Fear merchant marine. The Henrietta, Fanny Lutterloh, Cotton Plant, Zephyr, Magnolia, Halcyon, Governor Worth, North State, A. P. Hurt, D. Murchison, and R. E. Lee are recalled as leading among the passenger and freight steamers from the thirties up to and for some time after the War between the States. Equally impossible would it be to give the names and record of the services of the faithful captains.
“Notable commanders in the history of Cape Fear navigation were Captains John P. Stedman, who lost his life by the explosion of the boiler of the Fanny Lutterloh, Rush, A. P. Hurt, after whom a steamer was named, Phillips, Skinner, Green, Worth, Smith, Garrason. The captain's rule on board was autocratic but patriarchal. He sat at the head of the table and served the passengers as the father of a family would his children. The fare was plain but wholesome and abundant, and, with good weather and a fair depth of water, the trip between Fayetteville and Wilmington was very pleasant. The river goes on its way to the sea with many a wind and bend, its banks steep and heavily wooded, the wild grape climbing the tall trees, and the wild jasmine and flowering honeysuckle giving forth their fragrance. Those veteran captains knew the river well and most of the people on either bank clear to Wilmington; the pilots, many of whom were negroes, knew every crook and eddy of the stream. Dan Buxton, an esteemed colored man of this city, has a record of fifty years faithful service as a pilot on the Cape Fear. The late Col. Thomas S. Lutterloh, always a large boat owner, is said to have been the first Cumberland man to become sole owner of a steamer on the river. Many of the business men of Fayetteville and Wilmington were stockholders in these boat lines.