WILMINGTON, N. C. — Do You Remember When?ByHenry B. McKoy
Wilmington, N. C. — Do You Remember When?
St. Phillips Church, at Old Brunswick, N. C. Col. Waddell delivering an address to the Colonial Dames
BY HENRY B. MCKOY
KEYS PRINTING COMPANY
GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA
KATHERINE BACON McKOY
With whom every remembrance of Wilmington is associated.
I was born and raised in Wilmington. I went to school there. I ran through the streets, climbed trees, threw firecrackers, walked fences, played shinny, prisoners’ base, hookey, roamed the water front, hunted in the rice fields, swam in the raw at Spring Branch, Jump and Run, the Rock Quarry, chewed rosin, saw the first streets paved with brick, left my name in the first concrete sidewalks, removed gates at Halloween, chased “Dry Ponders,” got chased, had fights, tramped the woods, rode on a dray over the cobblestones, and did the thousand and one other things that a young boy does, or did, back in those days in a small town.
As with most Wilmington boys, my first job was with the Atlantic Coast Line Railway, in the Freight Traffic Department. I received $25.00 per month. I was transferred to the Engineering Department and was sent out of town at the age of 18 years. I have never returned to live, but my feet have often returned to tread again the places I loved, and my thoughts have turned even more often to renew my love and affection for my town and for those that still live there.
Whenever I had an opportunity to talk to my brothers and sister, and to friends of my boyhood, this question was asked many times between us, “DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN?” We did remember, and in remembering we brought pleasure to ourselves and to those with whom we were remembering.
The thought occurred to me that a few stories of these remembrances might be of interest and afford pleasure to others, who had lived in that day, and had experienced like events. And too, the younger generation might like to know how we acted and lived a mere sixty years ago. I make no apology for that which is omitted. I have written only of what I know and remember.
These are not complete stories nor a history. Nor are they meant to be complete, but rather meant, to cause reflection, contemplation, and extention of thought by the reader. I have much pleasure in remembering, “Do You Remember When?”
HENRY B. MCKOY
March 10, 1957
|Acme Saloon, Front and Dock Street||211|
|Ancrum, John, Residence||210, 211|
|Bank of Cape Fear||210|
|Big Union School||48|
|Bijou Theatre||114, 238|
|Cannon on Street Corners||10|
|Cape Fear River Waterfront||180|
|Cape Fear River Waterfront||181|
|Cape Fear River Waterfront||182|
|Cape Fear River Scene||184|
|Cape Fear River Scene||186, 188, 191|
|Catlett, Washington, Professor||168|
|Carolina Beach Train||42|
|Circus Band Wagon||50|
|Confederate Reunion, Mounted Officers||6|
|Confederate Reunion, Parade on Market Street||203|
|Confederate Drum Corps||202|
|Custom House, Old U. S.||134|
|Daggett, W. T., Paint and Glass||215|
|Ecce Homo, Painting at St. James Church||206|
|Fire Department: Market Street Fire||195|
|Fire Department: Hook and Ladder No. 1, Dock Street||54|
|Fire Department: Chemical Fire Co. No. 1, Fourth Street||226|
|Fire Department: Engine Co. No. 1, Fourth and Princess||227|
|Fire Department: Engine Co. No. 2, Sixth and Castle||228|
|Fire Department: Engine Co. No. 3, Fourth and Bridge||229|
|Fire: Wilmington's Largest||134|
|First National Bank||210|
|First Presbyterian Church, Front Street||236|
|First Presbyterian Church, Third Street||92|
|Fort Fisher: Assault and Capture||199|
|Fort Fisher: Blockade Fleet||200|
|Fort Fisher: Scene Blockade Fleet||202|
|Fort Fisher: Bird's Eye View||201|
|Fourth Street Bridge of Railroad, Brooklyn||234|
|Front Street, Looking North from Market||208, 218|
|Front Street, Looking North from Orange||218|
|Front Street, Looking North from Chestnut||220|
|Front Street, Between Market and Princess||218|
|Horse Watering Troughs||172, 225, 230|
|Horse Milliner, H. L. Fennell||209|
|Hotel Orton||231, 232|
|Hotel Purcell House||232|
|House on the Corner||102|
|Huggins, George W., Jeweler||219|
|Livery Stables, R. C. Orrell||118|
|Livery Stables, Orrell & Alexander||239|
|Livery Stables, T. J. Southerland||209|
|Lumina, The Original Building||98, 190|
|Lumina, Ball Room Dancing||193|
|Market Street Ferry||34, 188|
|Market, on Front Between Orange and Dock||223|
|Market, in the Center of Market Street||224|
|Market, of J. F. Garrell Co. “Meats”||237|
|Market Street, Looking West from Third Street||212, 213|
|Market Street, Looking West from Second Street||222|
|Market Street, Looking East from Front Street||221|
|Market Street, Looking East from Sixth Street||198|
|Market Street, Between Front and Second Streets||217|
|Methodist Church, Front Street Fire||194|
|Methodist Church, Front Street 1880||242|
|Paddle Wheel Steamer||185|
|Parade on Market Street||217|
|Post Office, Front Street View||196|
|Post Office, from Second Street Showing Park||197|
|Princess Street, Looking West from Third Street||205|
|Princess Street, Looking West from Front Street||204|
|Quinlivan, Thomas, Horse Shoer and Farrier||207|
|Rocks, The Closing of the Inlet||225|
|Rocks, The Constructing Mattress for||233|
|Rosin, Cape Fear River||186, 188|
|St. James Episcopal Church, 1950||241|
|St. James Episcopal Church, 1890||138|
|St. John's Episcopal Church, 1855||230|
|St. John's Lodge No. 1 Building||158|
|St. John's Tavern||242|
|St. Phillip's Church, Old Brunswick||Frontispiece|
|Schooners, Loading Cotton||183|
|Schooners, Loading Lumber||189|
|Shell Road to Sound||66|
|Third Street, Looking North from Dock||235|
|Tileston High School||60|
|Turpentine and Rosin, on Dock||186, 188|
|Venus Fly Trap||110|
|Weighing Cotton for Ships||182|
|Werner, John, ‘The Barber’||214|
|Wilmington Light Infantry||74|
|Wilmington Sea-Coast Railway Train||40, 190|
|Wilmington Sea-Coast Railway Depot||190|
|Wilmington Scale Model, 1769||176|
|Wrightsville Beach, Canoe and Swimming Races||190|
|Wrightsville Beach, Steam Train||40, 190|
|Wrightsville Beach, Yacht Races||182|
|Wrightsville Beach, Tarrymore Hotel||192|
|Woolvin, James F., Undertaker||214|
|Yates, C. W., Book Store||216|
|Aches and Pains||128|
|Baseball, Hit and Run||46|
|Black Stockings and High Button Shoes||24|
|The Green Barn||120|
|Buck Saws and Saw Bucks||63|
|Cannon on the Corners||11|
|Carnivals in the Street||29|
|Carolina Beach Train||41|
|Concrete Sidewalks, The First||9|
|Custom House, The Old||135|
|Depot Hacks and Buses||65|
|Dog and Pony Shows||86|
|Ferry, The Old River||35|
|First Presbyterian Church||92|
|Goats and Goat Carts||62|
|Miss Annie Hart's School||161|
|Hoops, and the Rolling of||63|
|The House on the Corner||103|
|Ice Cream Cones||26|
|Kerosene Lamps and Coal Oil||15|
|Kite Sailing on the Sand Hill||44|
|Little Union School||73|
|Log Rafts for Lumber||90|
|Magic Lantern and Shadow Shows||21|
|Number Nine—Cut Behind||45|
|Organ Grinder and Monkey||127|
|Penny a Penny a Poppy Show||28|
|Prairie Schooners. Covered Wagon||89|
|St. James Episcopal Church||137|
|St. John's Lodge on Orange Street||159|
|Shadow and Magic Lantern Shows||21|
|Snow Sleds on Dock Street Hill||81|
|Steam Train to Wrightsville Beach||39|
|Street Lamps of Oil and Gas||15|
|Streets of Shell||71|
|Sunday Walks Out Market Street||79|
|Swimming Holes and Spring Branch||16|
|President Taft's Visit to Wilmington||125|
|Tar, Pitch and Turpentine||33|
|Tileston High School||59|
|Toll Road, Shell Road or Turnpike||67|
|Wagonettes and Picknics||37|
|Wilmington Light Infantry||75|
|Wilmington in 1769, Scale Model||177|
|The Wilmington, Captain Harper's Steamboat||145|
|Venus Fly Trap||111|
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN they held Confederate reunions? Every year the Confederate soldiers of each Southern state used to meet at some appointed place, and often they met in Wilmington, N. C. Those times stand out well to the front in my boyhood memory. By the year 1900, the Confederate war had been over for thirty-five years and the veterans left had reached an age ranging from fifty-five to eighty-five and over. Even those of fifty-five looked like old men to a boy, but to see them parade, and parade they did, and on foot, you would have thought them young bucks.
During a reunion the town was literally turned over to them. All homes were opened and filled with friends and relatives. They also camped in tents which were erected on Market Street between Water and Second Streets. The veterans also slept on cots in vacant stores downtown.
The Confederate grey uniform, or at least a part of it, was worn by all who attended, and the historic Confederate cap was always in evidence. The town was decorated with Confederate flags from the business district to the residential section, and few were the houses that did not at least have a piece of bunting. A big grand stand was erected, and there were speeches of welcome, with stirring addresses in response.
Always there was a remnant of a Confederate band, and they really enlivened things and kept the young and old in step. There were drum and bugle corps consisting of four of five men, who were dressed in uniform, and reminded me of the old picture of a Revolutionary drum and fife corps. Among my pictures is one I took of a drum and bugle corps taken at Front and Chesnut Streets, when they stopped at my request to pose for me.
I have been told by some, that they have never felt “a thrill” and do not know what I mean. The first thrill that I ever experienced was when a boy of fourteen as I stood on Market Street below Front and watched and listened one night to a group of these old Confederates sing. There were about twenty of them, who were staying in a vacant building near Devine's paint store. They were gathered in the center of Market Street and had built a fire on the cobblestones, and they sang song after song.
The one that most impressed me was “Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground,” and I tried to picture their life as they camped
during the war. I will never forget it. The thrill started in my feet and gradually crept up to my head, in an indescribable way, that rather frightened and surprised me.
The adoration, the love, the respect that man, woman and child held for these soldiers was something that was marvelous, fine and wonderful. I have never seen it shown since, to any group of veterans, from the Spanish American to the Second World War veterans. The real patriotism that existed at that time, in my belief and experience, has vanished from the American scene.WOODEN SIDEWALKS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN they had wooden sidewalks in Wilmington? When I was a young boy, in many of the outlying districts they had and used wooden sidewalks. In those days the place where one walked beside the road was mostly of sand and quite deep and very soft to walk in, one's feet sinking almost to shoe top at each step.
So in an effort to help, the city fathers furnished wooden sidewalks, which consisted of six by eight inch sills laid in the sand perpendicular to long, two inch planks which were nailed on top, raising the walk from six to eight inches above the sand. These planks were placed length ways and not perpendicular to the street as was the boardwalk at the beach.
As a child I remember these wooden sidewalks out South Third Street past Castle, and up Nun Street beyond Fifth. They were at many other places, but these two being near my home stick in my mind. I have been told that the first sidewalk of any kind, of which there is any official record, was built of wood and laid on Red Cross Street between Fourth and Ninth.
In the summer when I removed high buttoned shoes and black stockings and went barefooted, I found that there was not much choice between the hot burning sand and the hot burning planks of the sidewalk. Many were the splinters that I pulled from the bottom of my feet or from under a stumped toenail.
There were brick sidewalks, and walks of large slabs of slate, but none of concrete at that date. The ones that stick in my mind and the ones that stuck in my feet were of wood.FIRST CONCRETE SIDEWALK
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN there were no concrete sidewalks in Wilmington? The sidewalks were of brick or wood or, more often, deep white sand. There were some slate and stone slabs in the business district, but none of concrete.
The most usual was brick, and they were laid directly on sand and generally in various and interesting patterns. They did a job and served a real purpose and I hated to see many of them removed and replaced with the drab and uninteresting, although serviceable, concrete.
I did enjoy the first concrete sidewalk that was ever laid in town. I watched them remove the brick, place the forms and mix the concrete, by hand on a board, and then spread and trowel it smooth. It was across the street from my home on the corner of Third and Nun and continued down in front of the Whiteheads, the Kenlys and the Roundtrees.
Almost immediately after its completion, this sidewalk became the meeting and the skating place of all the children in the neighborhood. One could ride a bicycle or a velocipede on brick with some pleasure, but skating on brick was little fun although we did it up to that time. Scores of children would congregate here, to skate, shout and play. But unfortunately it disturbed the very ones who had provided the place for it. And at one time we were threatened with it being plowed up if we did not become more considerate. Soon other sidewalks were paved and the crowd divided, but this sidewalk remains to this day to be walked and skated upon. But better yet it remains as a concrete example of progress in the memory of many a now older boy and girl.
As evidence of the good work and material of that time, that sidewalk is still in existence, in use and in an excellent state of repair. Stamped into it is the statement, “Made by J. W. Davis.”
Lutheran Church, corner of Sixth and Market Streets, Wilmington, N. C. about 1910. Note cannon partly
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN there used to be iron cannons on many of the corners of the streets of Wilmington? These cannons were relics of the then late Confederate War. Most of them came from Fort Fisher near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, but some were those used to protect Wilmington itself, and had been in action on the water front and in the breastworks of earth thrown up around the city, but principally south of the town near McIlhenny's Mill Pond (Greenfield Lake).
These cannons were, when I was a boy, placed at the corners of several streets. They were buried at the heavy end with the muzzle sticking out about two thirds of its length and were sloped away from the street toward the sidewalk.
The purpose was to mark the corner of the street, and to separate it from the sidewalk and to prevent the drays, wagons, carriages, and gay young blades in surreys, from cutting corners. They also protected the pedestrian on the sidewalk.
One of these cannons was on the northwest corner Third and Red Cross and can be seen in an old picture I have of St. John's Episcopal Church. This shows a small negro sitting on the cannon. There used to be another at Second and Dock Street.
On an old colored postcard, showing a scene of Market Street beyond Fifth, can be seen a cannon on the southwest corner of Sixth and Market. The best picture of a cannon, however, is in the foreground of a photograph of the Lutheran Church and diagonally across the street at the southwest corner of Sixth and Market. This plainly shows the cannon, half buried and sloped, as I remember them at that time.
During the First World War, someone with misapplied patriotism had all these cannons removed and sold for junk with the idea that in some way this metal would reach the Kaiser and his horde of German soldiers.
I am sorry they are gone. I regret the passing of any monument. But it is nice to think that cannons, once used to protect Wilmington and against the United States of America, could serve a small part in defending it and in defeating the German Army.
A GEE JOGGLE
Photo of people sitting on a Gee Joggle
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN almost every family had a Gee Joggle? And today when I speak of one I have to describe what it is. It was a familiar piece of furniture for Wilmington piazzas and other coastal sections a half century ago. And many are the families and homes where they still exist, but I have seen no new ones, they are mostly hand-me-downs.
A Gee Joggle consisted of a heavy plank about 20 inches wide and 1 ¾ inches thick, and from twelve to fifteen feet long. It was supported on each end by horses and was just the right height for an adult to sit comfortably upon and yet touch his feet to the floor. Some were on rockers.
From two to eight children could and would sit on it and, with a slight movement of the feet or body, joggle it up and down. With a proper motion a group of children soon reacted to shouts of happiness and expressions of pleasure.
These joggles were generally kept on the wide porches that surrounded three sides of many of the houses of that time, but often they were also placed in the yards.
Besides being a joggle board it had other uses. It could be quickly converted into a see-saw, and many is the ride that I have had upon one and many the bump when the other fellow dismounted his side too quickly for me. Sometimes one child was on each end and by adjusting the length it would be made to balance, but more often there were three or more to ride at once.
It often became a sliding board that took the place of the storebought sliding contraption of today. One end was placed on the porch banister and the other on the ground or horse. And we took turns sliding down one after another and sometimes three or more together.
There are many boards still in existence, but they are few in comparison to the old days. The one we used as children is still on our porch and in good condition after seventy years of hard use. It is seldom used now, but when I go home I like to sit upon it a moment and joggle and try to remember when I thought it was fun.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN most of the homes in Wilmington were lighted with kerosene lamps? Do you remember the five gallon oil can that was kept on the back porch and the one gallon can that the children used to carry between them to the shop on the corner to get it replenished? How the small cap on a chain supposed to cover the spout would always be missing, and to prevent it from sloshing one's legs as it was carried home, the storekeeper would place a small irish potato on it?
Once a day all the lamps of the house were gathered on the back porch to be refilled. There was the necessary funnel. The cleaning and polishing of smokey chimneys with rag and paper and then the redistribution over the house. The trimming of wicks. The making of lamp-lighter papers.
The big lamp in the front hall that went up and down on a chain, the utility lamp for the kitchen, the red glass one for the dining room with ivory colored shades, the handsome brass lamp for the parlor on a tall brass standard shaped like a stork, the double student lamp to study your lessons under, the little night light in the hall and the one to carry to the basement to get wood or the attic to get an extra blanket?
They were pleasant companionable things, but hot affairs on a summer night as one tried to study or read. The insects they attracted and the moths chasing themselves round and round the shades always were disconcerting.
Do you remember how the men of the house could light a cigaret from them by holding it an inch above the chimney where the heat would cause an almost instantaneous combustion?
And how a lamp could be and was blown out by placing a cupped hand just over the chimney top and blowing into the hand? And how sister put her curling irons in it supported on the chimney and got them hot enough to put a curl in her hair, before she rolled it up in paper to prepare for her beau coming over after supper?
There were varied wire racks that were invented many years ago which fitted on top of a lamp chimney on which milk, water, a baby's bottle or porridge could be heated to a palatable temperature. I have also heard of girls off at boarding schools cooking candy
over these lamps, which was strictly against the rules and risked suspension.
There were brass lamps, tin lamps, nickel lamps, lamps made of glass, china, porcelain and every other material that would contain oil. They were of every size and shape and of every color and many were highly and beautifully decorated.
For thousands of years they served a real purpose and are far from being gone. Their shapes, colors and designs are copied and redesigned for the electric light of today.KEROSENE STREET LIGHTS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN kerosene lamps were used to light many of the outlying districts of the city of Wilmington? There was a man called a lamplighter who went his rounds as dusk approached each night and lighted each lamp separately. It was his job to trim the wicks, clean the chimneys, fill with oil and light the lamp. He carried in his hand a short ladder and a taper, which, if all was in order, he could light by touching a flame to the wick. Otherwise he placed his ladder against the two short arms projecting from the post and mounted to the lamp itself.
Many copies of these lamps are now in existence. When gas lights were installed they copied this lamp almost entirely. The gas lamplighter had a rod with which he could reach up under a lamp and turn it on or off at will, but even then each light had to be visited each night and again each morning.
When I demolished the old Purcell house to erect the Bailey Theatre, I found the frame work of one of those old oil lamps on the wall in the alley that runs from Front to Second Street between Market and Princess. I salvaged it and it now hangs on the porch of Old St. John's Lodge on Orange Street.
I was familiar with these oil lamps on Church and beyond Castle Street as a boy and often followed the man with his ladder at evening for a few blocks on his rounds.
The first electric lights came to Wilmington in 1886. It was a private company and operated in the machine shops of Burr and Bailey, now the Wilmington Iron Works, which was then located in the block surrounded by Market, Dock, Front and Second Streets. The electric arc light is a story in itself, as is the event of the White
Way, as it was called when electric lights were strung in an arch across Front Street.
The first electric light was placed at Third and Orange and the night it was turned on a big dance was held under it. A local Italian band was engaged to play.THE OLD SWIMMING HOLES
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we used to swim in the old swimming holes around Wilmington? It was usually in the latter part of April when the sun began to warm our block a bit and make us boys believe and hope that summer had come and that the water was warm enough to go swimming.
The swimming holes that we knew were all quite a way from home, but that made them all the more attractive and all the more welcome after a long hot sandy walk to them. There were no other ways for us to travel in those days but to walk.
The ones that I remember best were Spring Branch, Rock Quarry, Smith's Creek, and one near the road east of the cemetery on Burnt Mill Creek. The Rock Quarry was a big hole that was left when the city stopped digging for material to build its streets, which filled up with water. This was a very dangerous place with precipitous banks and both the city and our parents forbade our swimming there. In spite of that several boys were drowned at the “Quarry” in my memory.
The swimming hole near the cemetery was in a branch that ran into Smith's Creek. It was a beautiful little stream, that deepened out near an abrupt bend. There were oaks and cypress trees for shade and cover, and it was sufficiently shielded from the road by bushes. The water was black and cool and just deep enough to swim in with no place too far from the shore. There was one deep hole where it was over a boy's head, and at this point we rigged up a diving board.
Spring Branch was my favorite and still is, in my thoughts. It was located on the north east arm of McIlhenney's Mill Pond (Greenfield Lake to you newcomers). It was about two miles from home over a sand hill and through the woods. There was no house nearer than a mile, only a seldom used road and a ford, where a few wagons and carriages passed about one hundred feet to the east. We
always had an outlook and plenty of warning if a woman happened along.
Few if any of us had ever owned a bath suit, and a suit it was if you owned one at that time. One was rented when we went swimming at Wrightsville Beach, where it was required. For a man or boy it was a two piece affair with long sleeves and reaching well to the knees. For a woman it was a complete outfit, with sailor collar, undergarment, blouse, bloomers, stockings and even hat and shoes. Thank goodness I never was a woman.
We bathed luxuriously in our birthday suits. The water at McIlhenney's Mill Pond was clean and pure, but contained a dark substance that is common to cypress swamps, that would cling to one's body and fasten to the hair so that one almost looked like an Indian after swimming awhile. It was easily removed by rubbing or by dashing on fresh water.
Here we learned to swim, to float, to duck each other, to race and to execute all the water sports that a boy can create. I have had to hold my breath until I thought my lungs would pop, while some bigger or stronger boy sat on my head. Or worse yet have him stand in water with his head clear and hold me where I could not touch bottom. At intervals he would let my head come up just long enough to grab a breath and then shove me under again.
But we all lived through it and we loved it, and I still do. Finally all tired out and ready to go home, we made our way to the mossy banks where, without the aid of any towel we dried after a fashion and put on our clothes. That is, those that were lucky did. Have you ever sat on a bare-skin rug in the woods and contemplated a shirt and underclothes that had all sleeves tied tightly in a hard knot and wet to make it all the more impossible to untie? We thought it fun to do and to watch it done, but no one liked to be a victim, as I so often was.
After the last knot was untied and the last shirt donned, we trudged barefooted through the sand back home. Besides learning to swim we learned other things that helped keep us afloat in after life—to give and take, sportsmanship, comradeship and watchfulness, so that one's garments were not tied in knots.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we used to go to Hilton Park? On a Sunday afternoon, a hot summer evening, a holiday or any other occasion, it was a great treat for the older folk, to gather the children together, pack a lunch and take the trolley for Hilton. After buying six tickets for a quarter, and climbing aboard an open, summer street car from the side, we went out Front Street to Red Cross, down to Fourth Street, across the bridge and thence through Brooklyn to Hilton.
The cars stopped at a small pavilion, and the conductor got out, walked along the step that ran the length of the car, and slammed the backs of the seats over, to face them in the return direction. He also raised a bar on the right hand side that was supposed to prevent anyone falling out and lowered one on the other side so that one could enter.
The floor of the pavilion was level with the floor of the car. There were benches along the walls and some other seats, as well as tables for picnickers during inclement weather. One could wait here for the return cars or gain cover during a sudden rain squall. But it was little used when weather permitted otherwise, as both child and adult preferred the beauty of the outdoors.
The park was near a handsome, stately old grove of live oak trees. Huge trunks of grey wood extended from ten to twelve feet, then the great spreading branches of huge limbs ran out fifty to seventy feet in all directions and gradually in a graceful arch almost touched the ground, all hung and festooned with fairy strings of moss.
Adjoining was the first baseball park that I ever saw, and with a fence around it. Wilmington had a professional team at that time. But it was the games between the local boys that I remember best. Hilton Park was their headquarters and many were the fast and exciting games that were played between the Market Street Giants, the Seventh Street Ratlers and the Third Street Monarchs, as well as the Y. M. C. A., the W. L. I., the Boys Brigade, and the A. C. L.
There was an old graveyard at Hilton, but even in my day, it was entirely neglected with many of the tombs broken and the stones overturned, and badly damaged. Some of our earliest settlers were buried there.
It was Sir John Yeamans, the Governor of Barbados who sent a small vessel under the command of a Captain William Hilton on a voyage of discovery in 1663. Hilton came up the Cape Fear to the junction of the two main rivers and explored around and above this section. It is claimed by some that this place was named for Capt. Hilton, but others state that this name was given to it, by the family of “Hills” that owned it and lived there. Its inhabitants, its plantations, its history is another story, told and yet to be retold many times.
Today Hilton means the site of the world's largest Christmas tree. But then it was the pavilion, the ball park, the end of the line.DRY PONDERS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the word “Dry-ponder” was a fighting word? The actual location of the Dry Pond has been a subject of contention for many years. Some have claimed it was in the neighborhood of Sixth and Castle; my father told me it was near Second and Ann Streets. There actually were ponds in the old town but as people moved in, these ponds were drained or filled up.
But when I was a boy, Dry Pond was somewhere beyond Castle Street, and any boy who lived beyond that point was a Dry-ponder, and to me as a child, and later as a young boy they were a group to be feared and shunned. An individual Dry-ponder was not particularly dangerous, but two, four, six or more was a thing to be careful of and avoided if possible. And when we ventured in their territory singly, it was with an eye looking for an attack and with a planned place of retreat. Several of our crowd still remember black eyes and bruises gathered in that neighborhood.
During my boyhood our section of town had no particular name; you were either a Dry-ponder or you were not. But my father, William B. McKoy told me that when he was a boy the town was divided into Dry-ponders and Gallows-hillers. He says that in the early eighteen hundreds there was a small hill in the vicinity of Market and Fifth Street just behind his home, which locates the site on the south side of Market, between Fifth and Sixth. This probably accounts for the legend of the ghost at the Gause house at 514 Market Street. Here a gallows had been erected and used. And all boys who lived in that section were called Gallows-hillers as an epithet.
He remembered many fights in his day between the two groups, and that each had piles of rock in readiness, located at strategic points, and used to set upon another gang or defend themselves. He told me that in the 1860's a Dry-ponder was anyone who lived south of Ann Street, and west of Third. Where is Dry Pond today?ICE WAGON
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the ice wagon was such a joy and pleasure to all young fry? This is one remembrance that even the recent comer can participate in, somewhat. There were no electric refrigerators at that time, and the daily delivery of ice was an important event, which extended since my childhood up to almost the present day.
I can hear the call “ICE MAN!” echo even now in my ears of memory. Then ten pounds of ice could be bought for five cents. And we as children on hot summer days would follow behind the horse-drawn wagon, waiting for the ice man to stop and make a delivery, and then would mount the step in the rear and help ourselves to small bits of ice. Most ice men did not object except when we became a nuisance and crowded his elbow as he worked, sawing and chopping the blocks into smaller pieces.
The prize of all was to be present when he would saw a block in two, using a long steel saw with big teeth, which left a little pile of fine white ice at each end. To grab this and to slowly eat it, was a thing to be desired and remembered.
I still miss and want shaved ice. We had a small ice shaver at home and still have in Wilmington which fitted into one's hand, and by sliding it up and down a block of ice, would fill with a fine shaved coldness. This, put in a glass or, better yet, in a pitcher and flavored with lemon and sugar, was the most cooling drink that anyone could wish for.
Excuse me while I order a block of ice, and you are invited to join me as I shave some and drink this most pleasant concoction.MAGIC LANTERN AND
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we used to put on Magic Lantern and Shadow Shows? Several times a year my brothers and I used to have shadow shows. There were great preparations and all the neighborhood children were advised to come and to bring a penny. We opened the big double sliding doors that ran from floor to ceiling and separated the living room, where we really lived and the parlor in which we were only allowed on special occasions. In the parlor we placed chairs and arranged the sofa so that it afforded a good view.
Then we hung a double sheet from the curtain rod over the door opening. We gathered all the property and paraphernalia from over the house and practiced all the afternoon preceding the show. They were held on Friday or Saturday nights, for no such revelry was ever allowed on a school night.
A lamp was placed in the rear of the living room opposite the curtain, and the parlor was made excitingly dark. We then paraded our acts before the assembled crowd.
Some of the acts were of a dunce in cap sitting on a stool. There was a lion to display, which on our side was only a dog with his enlarged shadow that looked quite fierce. A wild tiger was made of the cat, sometimes very realistic, its shadow in terrifying proportion. The fat man followed with his stomach stuffed with pillows. Then we made with our hands shadows of rabbits that wriggled their ears and blinked their eyes. Elephants, ostriches and the whole menagerie followed. This was developed into quite an art.
The act that pleased me most and always called forth approval was one showing a man with a toothache. My brother was the victim and after much moaning sat on a stool, where his mouth was opened, and I, the dentist, looked in. I then produced some long fire tongs and reaching into his mouth, withdrew the tongs holding a cardboard tooth with roots, whose shadow was most awful.
Then came the Magic Lantern. The children of today would see little magic in it now, but it held magic for us, although I always did wonder about the selection of its name.
It was rather a small machine, that held a small oil lamp that sent its light out horizontally through what we called a bull's eye,
but was magnifying glass. This light went through a colored glass slide and was projected on a white screen, just as the new-fangled colored slides do electrically.
There were pictures of Niagara Falls, the Flat Iron Building, Statue of Liberty and other noted and famous places. They were used at most of our church socials, and later even used in motion picture houses to illustrate songs.
It would be fun to see one of these machines again, and to view some of the old slides. Does anyone in Wilmington still have one of these lanterns with slides? There is one of these slides still at my old home.HORSE DRAWN AND STREET CARS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN there were horse cars in Wilmington? If you do, you have a better memory than mine or a more ancient one. I have been told about the horse cars and remember talking to those who had ridden on them. Once while in New York City I hunted up an old horse drawn car that operated on an old franchise, and did ride on it.
My memory of street cars stems from the ride around the belt, which was a thing of joy and pleasure to my young heart. Besides being the only way that one could stir up a breeze on a hot summer night, it was also a wonderful way to entertain a child of any age or even an adult.
All visitors were taken for a “ride around the belt.” The belt, as it was called, ran from Front and Princess out to Castle, turning there and again at Sixth to Orange where it ran to Ninth and thence to Princess where it returned to the starting point. One could get a transfer there to return to your starting point or take another line.
I my mind, I am a child, and I ride the belt again. I board at Front and Nun, give the man my ticket and sit on the front seat of those funny open cars. I sit where I can watch the motorman wind and wind up on his brake, and put his foot out to slip the cog in place. I watch the man set the switch to take us off Front Street into Castle, and often there is a sputtering of sparks outside as, the trolley jumps the wire. The conductor jumps out to yank on the rope and to put it back in the groove. How the wire used to sing when the trolley slipped off and bounced. How purple, blue and orange fire would sparkle from the wire when it was covered
with ice and the trolley came in contact. On up to Castle and Sixth and passed the fire house with its open doors and standing horses, around the corner and flying toward Orange to make the turn, and find that you were first, and went into the siding to let the on-coming car pass in the opposite direction. This was between Sixth and Seventh on Orange.
You passed the old car barn and could see the beach cars lined up there on sidings, and perhaps Tuck Savage parading about. Then the fast swinging turn at Ninth and Orange, that would almost throw you off the seat, away across Market to Princess where you met the double tracks, and watched switches move again to let you go right. You saw beach cars there and you wished you were on one of them and not riding back downtown and to home, where you went, via a transfer back up Front to Nun.
There were two kinds of cars then, summer and winter, the open and the closed cars. The summer ones were all that a young child could desire, the seats ran entirely from side to side with no aisle. There was a platform or step on each side running the length of the car. Here you entered, picking out the seat you wanted and here the conductor walked clutching a rail as he took your ticket and made change. There was an arm that could be lowered or raised depending on which direction you were headed. It was fun to go to the end of the line and help the conductor turn the seats over. There was a rolled up canvas cover on each side that could be lowered in case of bad weather, but the motorman in front had no protection and just had to take it. At each end of the car there was a cow catcher, it consisted of an iron frame as wide as the car and projecting in front about three feet. Some were laced with heavy rope. It was lowered to about 4 inches above the street and, should a cow or more often a man or child be run down, it would trip them up and deposit them unceremoniously into its hammock, beaten up and bruised but still with arms and legs. I think it might be well to put cow catches on our automobiles now.
I have been told that horse cars were originally established in Wilmington in 1869 by a company known as the Seaside Street Railway Co. The cars ran from Ninth down Market Street to Front and from there to the Wilmington and Weldon Railway. Its operation was soon discontinued. In 1888 a new company was organized and called the Wilmington Street Railway Company which John D. Bellamy promoted and he became its first president. It met with
considerable success and continued until about 1892, when an electric system took over and was put in operation.
Besides the belt line, there were other lines that one could transfer to, the Carolina line, the Beach line, the Sunset Park, the Brooklyn, the Red Cross and the Castle Street lines.
Wilmington was the last city in North Carolina to relinguish its street railway, which was done in 1939. However the electric line to the Beach still ran until the next year. The fare when I was a child was six tickets for a quarter, and thirty-five cents to the beach. There was a big celebration when the last street car rode in Wilmington. City and Power Company officials took the last ride, and W. B. (Tuck) Savage was the motorman as it was he who also took the first electric Street car out on a trip.
“Clang! Clang! Clang! went the trolley.”BLACK STOCKINGS AND
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we wore black stockings and high button shoes? All children sixty years ago wore long black ribbed stockings in the wintertime. That included boys as well as girls. Most stockings were held up by double clasp garters that were fastened to the undergarments or drawers. Some boys and girls used elastic bands of various and sundry shapes, sizes and colors. They were very similar to the gaily colored and decorated sleeve bands of that period.
Many were the pairs of stockings that a boy wore out, between summer and summer, when they were discarded to go barefooted, except on Sunday when we dressed up for church and Sunday School. Holes were worn in the heels and the toes as with the present day socks, but much more often. Then the knees were the places that usually needed attention. You do not know how often a boy kneels until you watch out for his stockings. He knelt to play marbles, mumble-peg, and the score of other games that attract a young boy. Climbing a fence or a tree really gave them a beating.
My mother kept a big basket, as did all mothers of that time, and in it were stockings in need of repair. There was a big white darning egg, a large spool or skein of darning material, as well as several large-eyed needles. It was quite an art to reweave the knee
of a stocking so that it was socially presentable, to say nothing of making a darned heel or toe comfortable. Sometimes we boys, having a small hole in a stocking and the white meat showing through would take ink and black the skin so that it did not show.
Do you remember how terrible it felt, after running, to trip and fall and skate on the knees, rubbing dirt, gravel, stocking and skin together, and how during the healing process it was no small matter to keep the stocking from sticking to a sore knee?
There was a stocking manufactured by Fay Co., which had a flap on one side of the top and this buttoned directly to the undergarment. These were something special and were worn chiefly by girls. Some girls had tan stockings, but not many boys used them.
The best thing that I knew and remember about stockings was how wonderful they were to hang up on the mantelpiece for Santa Claus at Christmas. Each child brought his own stocking. I used to envy the big one of my older sister. No more beautiful sight could be imagined than a row of long black stockings, overflowing with dolls, horns and stick candy on Christmas morning. There were no special red and white stockings such as children use at Christmas now.
And those high button shoes. I wonder why they were ever used. True they did support the ankles. Most shoes were black then, too. A few sissies had tan ones for Sunday. We not only wore the soles out and turned the heels over, but we scuffed up the toes. A shoe button hook was a necessary thing in every child's room. Only with this tool could you fasten them each time they were put on. The tops of the shoes were tight around all ankles. I wonder how many people have a shoe button hook now. Not only children but the older folk also had to use them.
Sometimes in summer we were allowed to buy and wear what we called low quarter shoes. But along with dancing pumps they were not the usual wear. Low quarters are the shoes that we commonly wear now.
Never mind, thank goodness my children did not have to wear high button shoes, and I did not have to button them.
When little boys were in a hurry they sometimes neglected to button their shoes till they came down for breakfast. In our dining room a button hook was beside the fire place for such an occasion. It hangs there until this day.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN you ate your first ice cream cone? I do, and it was first at a carnival and next at the circus grounds. Ice cream was a very special event in my childhood and associated mostly with birthday parties.
Ice cream was generally made in the homes, and at mine there was first a trip to the ice house with wagon and tongs, then chopping the ice up in a wooden box. The special custard that mama cooked was carefully poured into the churn. Then the ice was added in alternate layers with rock salt, and the churning began. We children would take turns and the special noise that a churn made would attract the neighborhood children like flies.
How very special it was to lick the dasher. No ice cream has ever tasted so good from a saucer. But this ice cream took spoons and saucers, and at a carnival or circus these were out of the question. So out of necessity the ice cream cone was invented.
Each ice cream dealer had a two-or three-burner oil stove with a large flat griddle. He mixed a batter in a bowl and poured an exact amount out of a pitcher and made round cakes about five inches in diameter. And just as they became done he would pick them up and fold them into a cone, big at the top and with only a small hole at the bottom. He would spoon up the ice cream and fill the cone with the flavor of our selection.
These cones were crisp and delicious and the ice cream was good, but oh! that little hole in the bottom. And woe to one's clothes, if we delayed eating the cream to prolong the enjoyment. The melting cream would drip out all over everything, including pants, stockings, shoes or bare feet.
It was then the cone-shaped iron was invented. These too were dipped in batter and cooked before our eyes. They plugged the hole, stopped the leak and were a great improvement. It was still years after this that an ice cream cone became the common thing that we know today, and so universal that it is hardly considered a treat to a child any more.MUMBLE PEG
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we as boys played mumble peg? We sometimes called it “mumbly-peg,” or “mumblety-peg.” The name and the description of the game is found in a Century Cyclopedia, but I was unable to locate it in the Encyclopedia Britannica, or in several other dictionaries that I looked into. It was not in a recent copy of Hoyle or in an old copy of Hoyle's Games dated 1868, that I have.
We boys played it often and regularly. It was an easy game to get started, and could be played almost anywhere, with any number of participants from two or more. I do not know what the exact rules were, as there were many ways and methods, and each group had its own ground rules. I understand from my sister that girls enjoyed the game also, but without the penalty that the names implies.
We played it with a medium size pocket knife or a “Barlow” as it was called them. One blade was opened its full length and one hand was held about eight inches above the ground with the palm up and the fingers extended. The point of the open blade was then placed carefully on the end of the upturned little finger, the pointer finger of the other hand was held on the blunt end of the knife. The object being to flip the knife off the finger, have it turn over and stick up in the ground. If successful, and it was not particularly difficult, we then proceded with flipping the knife from each of the other fingers. It was then done in the same manner from the other hand, and following that the knuckles were used. There were other and more difficult operations. One was called “milking the cow,” where the knife was dropped though a circle made with the thumb and forefinger. Another where the knife was balanced on the back of one hand with blade extended and struck with the other, and called “spanking the baby.” One was called “cutting butter.” Each had a name, but I have forgotten most of them.
It was played by sitting flat on the ground in a cross-legged position. When your opponent made his first miss and the knife failed to stand upright in the soil, it would then become your turn and was passed to the next in line when you had completed the task or failed. A score was kept and the difference between was the penalty. And a penalty it was. We always chose a not too sandy soil to play in and firm enough to allow the blade to penetrate. The winner would take a full length wooden match and carefully sharpen one end, and
then hammer it into the ground, using the handle of the knife, with as many strokes as he was ahead.
It was then up to the loser to extract this match from the ground, using only his mouth and his teeth, with no help from the hands or the nose. He was given three blows to get away the loose dirt and to give him a kind of a toe hold, or rather a “tooth hold,” to help get it from the ground.
It was generally gotten out with the encouragement and shouts of the crowd, while the loser ran away to wipe and wash a dirty face, to say nothing of a gritty, sandy mouth.
The game “mumble-peg” was named for its penalty. The definition of the word mumble is to speak with the vocal organs partly closed, and that is what the boy does when he draws out the peg with his teeth.
The game was also played on a porch floor or upon a soft pine board. Then two blades of the knife was opened with one only half way perpendicular to the other. The knife was struck with a quick motion and made to stick up in the plank. It was lots of fun. How did you play “mumble-peg?”PENNY A PENNY A POPPY SHOW
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we used to make a Penny a Penny a Poppy Show? We used to select a small, out of the way place in the shade of the house or a tree. We would smooth ground out with a stick or our hands, and then surround it with a three inch high earth mound or border. Sometimes wood or sticks were used as a border or to frame it. The space was of different sizes, depending on the size of the cover, the material or the individual ingenuity. Generally they were about twelve by twelve inches or maybe several were made adjoining so as to have a large one. Into this space we would arrange stones, or shell, or leaves or acorns, flowers, sticks, bits of colored glass, any or everything that might attract the eye of a child. Some were simple and others were quite intricate and really excellent, with designs and definite planning.
Some were gardens with walks and tiny shrubs and plants and mosses. Always they were covered with a piece of clear glass that kept off winds and animals and the careless movement of another child.
It was fun to make one all by yourself, and hours could be
whiled away preparing it, but better yet when two or more combined their efforts or entered into competition with each other to make a better show.
When finished we would approach our friends and elders and say, “Penny a penny a poppy show, give me a penny and I'll let you go.” I do not remember anyone ever giving me a penny to see it, but I am sure that I was always well repaid in fun and amusement for my efforts.
My mother was from New England and in her frugality would try to get me to say, “A pinny a pinny a poppy show, give me a pin and I'll let you go.” But I never got used to it. What did you call it? Where did the “poppy” come from?STREET CARNIVALS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN carnivals were all held in the downtown section of the streets? They were called Street Carnivals. The first one that I remember was held on Market Street and extended up from Water Street to Second, and some tents were also placed between Second and Third. They were placed in what seemed to me a helter-skelter fashion, taking up the entire street from sidewalk to sidewalk. They ran for the usual week, with Fridays and Saturdays being the big days, especially for school children and country folk, and “by the way,” they really used to have country folk in those days with all that the name used to imply.
The carnivals had practically everything that the present day carnival has, with many things in addition as I remember it. It was at a carnival that I saw my first moving picture show. They showed the “Great Train Robbery,” also the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and a comic called the Whole Dam Family, and the Little Dam Dog.
They made things crowded on purpose to appear busy, and crowded they were. It was then fun for me to jostle and be jostled by the crowd, to stop and gape at the advertisements and displays for the “Hoochee Koochee Shows,” and listen to that unforgettable music. We saw glimpses of the fat man and the thin woman. There were horse shows and ponies and dogs to walk tight ropes.
The thrilling high dive into a small tank of water, where we all held our breaths until the man climbed dripping over the side, to the applause of the crowd. The loop the loop, the jump the gap, the Wild West shows, the Indians and the sword swallowers were all there.
And confetti. I have not seen any real confetti in a long time. It was many weeks before it was entirely cleared off the streets and gutters of the town. It was in our hair, our clothes, our shoes. A large bag of the small round disks of multi-colored paper could be bought for a nickel, and many were the bags sold.
There were rings to toss, knives and canes for targets, paddles for sale with numbers to fit the numbers on a wheel, balls to throw, prizes to win that excited and delighted any little boy old enough to come.
What havoc it played with the merchants of the town for a week. It stopped all traffic in that section. But it was tolerated and evidently wanted for it was held year after year in this manner, during my youth.HOME REMEDIES
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN home remedies were used much more than the store bought kind? Wilmington was, when I was a boy, the turpentine capital of the world, and turpentine was an ubiquitous product and readily available in every home, white or black. Turpentine was used as a general antiseptic, and it was and still is an excellent one. It was poured on any and all fresh cuts, bruises or scratches. But you had to hold on to a small boy forceably to make him stand still so you could apply it, and you had to hold him afterwards to prevent him from running around in circles, or taking off for parts unknown. For it would sting terribly.
It was also used for colds, by taking a spoonful of sugar and adding a few drops of turpentine to moisten it. This was not an unpleasant dose. Kerosene by the spoonful was given to the negroes for colds, but I have never tried that one.
If a child or adult had a splinter in his foot or hand, all that was possible was dug out with a knife or needle, and then it was bound up securely with a bit of fat back or bacon around it. This was supposed to draw the splinter out, and somehow it did.
Many were the sufferers from splinters in that day. Most floors were of pine and almost all of them were splintering. Besides tables were of pine. But the main cause of splinters was from handling kindling and light-wood. Most homes were heated with wood, stoves and open fires being used, to say nothing of the cook stove, and they consumed a “sight” of wood.
This wood had to be sawed, split and piled, and then carried to the wood box and put piece by piece into the fire. Every member of the family of all ages entered into the process and every member somehow, sometime, got a splinter. A splinter under a toe or finger nail was a thing to remember and avoid in the future.
If you had a foreign object in your eye, a flaxseed was inserted under the lid and the eye closed perhaps until the next morning when the seed and the trouble would be found in the corner of the eye. For burns it was soda. For bruises it was brown paper and vinegar.
For what ailed any small boy, it was castor oil. The mere mention of it sometimes made him well enough to go to school. Castor oil was given sometimes with lemon juice, and we were told if we held our noses we could not taste it. But I could always taste it before the stopple was taken from the bottle. Yes, we called it a stopple and not a stopper, and it was correct, too.
For a cold and cough, an onion was sliced and put in a cup and generously sprinkled with sugar. In several hours a clear onion juice resulted which was given by the spoonful and was not unpalatable.
Hot lemonade was good for cold and sought by a sick child. It was as delighful then as is cold lemonade now for a fever. Salts was always on hand and was freely used. A blue-mass pill was a regular dose without the aid of a physician. To my mother, a child's tongue could tell her just what was needed. And as soon as we claimed any ailment we were told, “Stick out your tongue.” And she then knew the remedy.
There was a great deal of malarial fever at that time and almost everybody suffered in some measure from it. Quinine was bought in a big mouthed glass bottle about six inches high. A box of one thousand capsules came with it, holding five grains each. We children not only had to take these capsules regularly to cure and prevent malaria, but we also had to prepare the dose by filling these capsules by the hundreds.
There was always a bottle of Sloan's Liniment for rheumatism. A cold steel knife could be pressed on a bump to reduce swelling. For the earache warm olive oil was inserted, and the ear kept warm with a flat iron wrapped in flannel. The doctor was seldom called, and a person only went to a hospital to die. Both against his will. And probably without one.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN Wilmington was the naval stores capital of the world? Tar, pitch and turpentine were the principal products shipped from Wilmington sixty years ago. We used to say as a riddle “Tar, pitch and turpentine all begins with A.” The wharves on both sides of the river were loaded down with the product of the pine tree. Barrels of rosin were piled on end three high, and just as close as they could be placed, awaiting shipment by rail or boat to the far corners of the world.
We used to like to run over the top of these barrels, at the foot of Nun Street where there was a convenient wharf to play on. Turpentine and rosin were packed in heavy wooden barrels with extra thick staves and bound with wooden hoops until later heavy steel hoops were used. Ships came to Wilmington from all over the world to get this material. There were hundreds of two, three and four masted schooners that loaded from the docks, the barrels being rolled on board and then lowered into the holds with wenches which were operated by hand.
These ships were a delight to a group of boys, we would go there in two's or three's and climb aboard, and examine the masts, the sails, the rigging, the ladders, the belaying pins, and the hundred of other interesting things associated with the sea and a sailing vessel. The sailors were in the main a friendly lot and did not object to a small boy's curiosity or interrogation. Most of the ships sailed the British flag, a few were German but practically none were American, except the coast-wise schooners.
Everybody in Wilmington knows turpentine, its products and its method of manufacture. But when I was young it was predominant. There were stills on every road and workmen to be seen going through every wood preparing and gathering the product.
Besides wounding the trees to get the product, holes or boxes were dug into the bottom to collect the sap. These boxes have now been replaced with clay and metal cups, which are a great improvement. For the deep cut boxes made a weak point in the tree and caused many to fall and topple during a storm or after a fire.
Besides turpentine, there were many by-products, such as wood preservatives, medicines, paint, besides barrel factories, still manufactures, axes and tools of the trade. These were to be seen on
The Market Street Ferry to Brunswick County, 1900.
every hand, but must be looked for at the present time. Then, over a million barrels a year were exported.
A story was told me, when a boy, of a company of Yankee soldiers who camped in a cleared space near Wilmington, that happened to be the site of several old abandoned stills of turpentine. There was the waste of years covering the ground. It was a cold winter night and many camp fires were built. The waste of rosin on the ground caught fire instantly and the soldiers fled with their lives, leaving tents and equipment to the flames.
There are many stories regarding the reason for a North Carolinian being called a “Tar-heel,” and any one that you choose is a good one. For myself, I early got tar on my heel, without going far from my house, and although I have lived in another state for many years, it has stuck, and I have always been proud to claim to be a “Tar-heel.”THE RIVER FERRY
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the ferry used to operate over the Cape Fear River at the foot of Market Street? I am thinking about the hand-operated one. When I was a boy the ferry was a large flat-bottom boat that was rowed across the river. This boat was about forty feet long and twelve feet wide. There were standards and rails on each side to prevent a vehicle from rolling or a horse from stepping off. At each end heavy wooden bars were slipped into place when all passengers were aboard. This gave a slight sense of security to those who required it.
The ferry was generally manned by two stout negroes, and it was propelled by two oars twelve feet long, that were too heavy for a small boy to even lift. The oars were placed in an oar-lock on each side of the ferry and about six feet from the front, with most of the wide long blade extending into the water. The oarsman would drop his blade and walk the deck pushing the opposite end, then lift and walk back. Sometimes a ferry was sculled across with a single oar used from the rear.
The ferry could carry several wagons and teams at one crossing in addition to passengers and this was usually sufficient. The Cape Fear River has a strong tide and a current, and it was no small feat to row this boat safely across and dock it in position on the other side.
When there was no vehicle to carry across, and only passengers, the ferryman used a heavy skiff with several rows of seats that could carry about ten people. This boat was rowed across, much more easily and quickly than the flat bottomed ferry. It was much fun for a small boy and something of an experience for a landlubber. The passenger fare was a nickel. The original ferry was started in 1764. “The Causeway,” as the road from the Cape Fear to the Brunswick River was called, was built practically of ballast rock brought from abroad in ships during colonial times.THE BLACK MARIA
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN there was a Black Maria in Wilmington? How many of the present generation even know what the words mean? Frankly I do not know where it got its name, but I and many others well know what the words meant.
The Black Maria (and it was spelled with capital letters, too) was a wagon drawn by one or two horses and used by the police to pick up drunken men and women and other unruly people and escort them to the lockup. It was a short, narrow, covered wagon usually drawn by one horse and had seats on each side facing each other. There was a driver's seat in the front separated from the interior so that the driver could not be involved in any melee of the prisoners. The only entrance was from the rear, gained by two steps hanging down from a narrow door. I assure you however that I have only viewed it from the exterior.
There was a bright brass rail or a rod, on either side of the door so that a policeman could stand on the step and see and guard his quarry. It had a gong in the floor of the front operated by the feet of the driver.
At the sound of this gong everyone ran out to see it pass by and remained out to see it come back and try and get a look at the hapless victims it carried.
Wilmington was then a real seaport and the sailors frequented the numerous bars that lined the water front, which had plenty of patronage from a local element also. It was not unusual for the Black Maria to make several trips a day to cart someone to cool off and sober up at the jail.
Saturday night then always found both white and negroes lying
in the streets and gutters and they gave a real workout to the police and the Black Maria.
Do you remember the cry, “Run, nigger, run or the patter-roll git-cha?” It was very prevalent then. And many a nigger did run, and many a nigger the “patter-roll” or Black Maria got.
The need and necessity for the Black Maria was very real and self-evident at that time. No lady would think of being on the streets alone at night, and no gentleman would allow her to leave his home even to walk next door unless he accompanied her. There definitely has been an improvement of conditions since the time that I write of. No more do we often see drunken men reeling home or lying in the streets. Maybe it is because efficient police cars whisk them away quietly without ringing the gong, or maybe the former reeling man just drives his own car reeling home.WAGONETTES
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN wagonettes were used as conveyances? When I was a boy no one had an automobile. A few of the city dwellers had carriages, and a few more had horse and buggies that were made to carry only two. These were ideal to take one's girl to ride, but of little use for a crowd.
Each summer the Sunday Schools, the private school, and classes and groups and also certain monied individuals put on picnics. And the favorite place to go on a picnic was the Sound. Either Greenville or Wrightsville or Masonboro Sound. The crowd would gather at one place and great was the excitement as the wagonettes drove up, and the boys and girls grouped themselves and decided who and how many were to ride in each vehicle.
What was a wagonette? It was a joy and a pleasure, a thing of wonder and delight, a chariot of happiness, a thing to be anticipated for weeks and remembered ever afterwards. It was fun on wheels. It was transportation deluxe. It was an accessory to youthful love.
Actually it was all these, and, in addition, a covered wagon about twelve or fourteen feet long. It was drawn by two sturdy horses with a single tongue between them. The driver was on the outside in the front, on a raised seat, with room for two comfortably. The seats in a wagonette ran from front to rear continuously on each side. They held ten or more boys and girls according to the length
and the crowding. We were always jambed pleasantly close together looking in each other's faces.
There were continuous windows along each side, that had curtains to pull down in case of inclement weather. Entrance and egress was to be obtained only at the rear, where two steps helped one mount from the ground. There was a metal bar on each side of the rear door to assist in entering and also allowed a person to travel safely on the step, by holding on to the bar. They could be obtained from all livery stables, but I remember them coming from Orrell's most often. Sometimes in a pinch they actually used the Black Maria as a waggonette.
As each wagonette filled up they started off, and away we went amid much shouting, laughing and giggling to the Sound. This was a distance of eight miles down the old turnpike or toll road. What did we do on such a long trip Did we get tired? I think not, but I know we were glad to drive up under the large grove of live oak trees and unload in the shade, and each hunt up his own fun and pleasure.
One by one the wagonettes drove up and each unloaded its laughing, giggling, teasing and happy cargo. The drivers unhitched their teams, staked or tethered the horses out, put on a nose bag of feed, and gathered themselves apart to continue their livery stable conversation, or maybe just to rest or sleep in the shade until time to go home.
There was some organized play, but, as I remember it, we generally made our own fun, with races, tree climbing, swings, walking, crabbing, throwing shells at a target, or catching sand fiddlers.
And then dinner (although at midday it was not called lunch). Dinner we called it and dinner it was. The shoe boxes were brought out and all the food was placed on a long table. You could eat your own or you could share, as we generally did, from the common table. Shoe boxes were treasured and were always associated with a picnic. It was frowned upon to carry one's lunch in a bag and to wrap it in a newspaper; well, it just was not done.
Again the games and the fun, and all too soon it was time to climb again into the wagonette and start the long and entirely too short trip back home. We were a little bit sobered, tired, and more quiet at first but this soon wore off.
Now was the time for competition among the boys, for who was to sit and ride with the driver on the front seat. This was for the boy without a special girl, or maybe if she was sitting with a rival. But greater yet was the competition as to which two boys were to ride the back step outside the door all the way home.
Then it was that we began to sing the many, many songs that we all knew by heart. We sang quietly at first but getting more lusty as we reached the edge of town and realized the day was nearly over. Everyone in the neighborhood knew that another wagonette of picnickers was coming home.
The wagonette took each boy and girl to or very near home, and this was the time when the boys on the rear step claimed and took their toll. Each boy was entitled to and got a kiss from each girl as she alighted in front of her home. Oh! she fought and screamed and apparently objected but under cover always gave the sought for payment.
A wagonette. Does anyone know what one is now? Unless you have actually ridden in a wagonette, you do not. If you already know, then perhaps these words have brought back to you, some one, or, perhaps many, pleasant memories.STEAM TRAIN FROM
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN steam trains ran from Wimington to Wrightsville Beach? I have in my files a letter, dated March 18th, 1874, written to Dr. William A. Berry requesting him to get up a subscription list for special stock in the Sea Side Rail Road. And also a receipt, dated August 6th, 1874, for $50.00, being the third instalment of twenty percent for shares of stock in the Wilmington Sea Coast Railway. There is also a letter dated Feb. 19th, 1874, written by Dr. William A. Berry to his grandson William B. McKoy while at Princeton College, telling him that of the $30,000 required to build, the sum of $25,000 has been subscribed, and that the road should be finished in July.
The first depot was at Tenth and Princess Street; this was moved to Ninth and Orange, where I first remember it and where it remained until the Electric Railway took over and later moved it to Front and Princess. The Wilmington Sea Coast Railway was later merged with the Wilmington Gas Light Co. and the Wilmington
Wilmington & Sea Coast Railway Train on the Trestle at the Hamocks.
Street Railway Co. and became known as the Consolidated Light and Power Co. in 1899. This was later to become the Tidewater Power Co. in 1907.
The first steam train reached Wrightsville Sound on April 10th, 1888, and on June 12th, the trestle was completed to the Hammocks. A large excursion was run to the Hammocks, now known as Harbor Island, so that the crowd could witness the driving of the last and and a silver spike by Mr. William Latimer, the president of the Company. Mr. Latimer named the engine “The Bessie” in honor of his daughter, and it was known by that name, which was painted on the side of the tender.
I can remember being carried to this station as a child and being in the waiting room which was lined on the sides with seats, and with the usual ticket window. The cars were wooden and rather short as were all railway cars of that period. Some of the stops or stations were at Masonboro Road crossing, Greenville Sound Road, Wrightsville Sound and the Hammocks, besides others. There was not a very strict schedule, and there being only one train there was no worry about a collision. I remember one time that the conductor stopped the train and he with a special passenger picked some trumpet plants to show to a friend. This train was a big thing for Wilmington and for the section through which it ran and was the start of the almost continuous development from the town to the Beach.
It was a trip to look forward to for a boy, and trip long to be remembered years after the train and even the tracks have been discarded and melted down into scrap.CAROLINA BEACH TRAIN
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the train used to meet the boat at Cape Fear River pier and carry passengers to Carolina Beach? I can close my eyes and see this train clearly. As Captain Harper's steamship “Wilmington” neared the wharf, there was this train with engine and cars standing almost entirely out on the pier, steaming and smoking in all its glory against a background of clear blue sky.
The engine with its oversized smokestack shaped like two truncated cones placed with the large ends together standing upright. From this was billowing against the sky a mixture of black and
Carolina Beach train that ran between the trestle landing at the Cape Fear River to the Ocean.
white smoke, that only heavily turpentined wood can give off. Prominent in the front was the big cow-catcher, that really was used to push the cows from the track, as they ran before it down the right-of-way, being the only nicely cleared path in that section.
The engineer and the fireman were in an open cab, behind which was a tender loaded with cords of pine wood piled high, from four to six feet long, and which the fireman threw into the firebox piece by piece, while sparks and flame and smoke belched out of both the open door and the chimney.
There were generally two open passenger cars, similar to the then used summer street cars, with steps or platforms running the length on each side and long wooden seats from side to side. There was a flat car for freight and baggage and sometimes there was a box car. The train ran forward in one direction and backed up on the return trip, although there was a Y turn around at one end. Smoke and ashes in your face was part of the expected journey.
With all the excitement generated by young people on a holiday we piled off the boat and piled onto the train. Mothers and fathers holding tight to the young ones, while the older children took care of the lunch and the baggage.
The train ran a distance of about three miles and drew up in front of a pavilion and the station at Carolina Beach. I do not know what the fare to ride this train was, because it was always included in the fare paid on the boat and anyone going to or from the boat rode free. Alongside the railroad track there were great piles of cord pine wood that was cut by the natives and piled up convenient to the train. Sometimes the train would stop on the way and pick up the necessary fuel for next trip.
I recently found a story in the Wilmington star of May 25, 1887, which states “The Steamer Passport made two trips to Carolina Beach yesterday. The visitors reported they were delighted with the new Beach resort.” So it was new in 1887 or seventy years ago.
The one thing about this train that remains most clearly in my mind's eye, or rather my mind's ear, is the unearthly “screech” that accompanied this train. It was one continuous grumble, growl and screech all the way from beginning to the end. It went s-creeeech and then changed to Screech, especially when it rounded a curve. It was made by the wheel sliding on the rails. But why this particular train made such a noise I do not know.
I have heard the screech on other of the earlier trains but nothing like the one made by the Carolina Beach outfit. It was unpleasant to some who put their fingers in their ears, but it was pleasant to me then, and I would love to hear the sound of that screech at least once again.KITES AND SAND HILLS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we sailed our kites on the sand hills? Out beyond what was the end of Third Street on the way to McIlheney's Mill Pond was a cleared section of land which we called the Sand Hill. It was about where Meares Street now is. There were no trees and no telephone wires to interfere with the launching and sailing of a kite.
The hill in my memory was somewhat higher than it is today at this location. It was a real sand dune, such as we used to see along the beach, blown there by an unobstructed force of wind, which aided in sending the kites aloft.
It was a hard long pull on foot, from the macadam pavement which ended at Castle Street. There was a short wooden sidewalk for about a block and then only fine deep white sand to walk in with the feet almost sinking out of sight at each step. Wagons drawn by mules could make it, but it was hard work for even a horse dragging a buggy in the deep sand ruts.
Most of our kites were made by ourselves and were more fun than the storebought kind. We cut our own sticks from the white pine grocery boxes, tied our own frames and glued our paper on with homemade flour paste. Then there were cotton rags to collect and tear and sew or tie together for a six to twelve foot tail, depending on the size of the kite. At that time a penny would buy a small ball of cotton cord, which was available at any corner shop. Two balls of cord would be sufficient to send a kite as high as any young boy could wish. With the help of an assistant we would run against the wind as an aeroplane does today, to start it up, and, if successful in the take off, the rest was easy as the kite rose steadily into the sky to take its place with at least a dozen others at the same sand hill.
There were big kites and little ones, some made from plain newspaper and others of fancy colors. Storebought and homemade. Flat ones and even a few round ones, and also box kites.
The town's trees and the telephone wires evidenced the popularity
of kites, as they were hanging calmly or still jerking strenuously like a thing alive and tortured in the breeze. The trees being the gallows or execution places of many a small boy's hope, labor and pleasure. The kites could be flown in town, but the Sand Hill was much more fun and safer.NUMBER NINE
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN number nine in Wilmington had a very particular meaning? Many numbers have other meanings beside numerical. Number one means first, top, best. Number two means next best. Number three means go, strike out and the fire is out. Three, seven and twelve are holy numbers. When I was a boy twenty three meant Skiddoo, or make yourself scarce. But number nine meant only one thing.
All of the horse drawn delivery wagons, as do some of the trucks now, had a tail gate, an eighteen-inch high, bottom-hinged gate, that was let down to more easily slide boxes and bags in, and was fastened up to keep them from sliding out as the wagons bounced along over the cobblestone pavement.
All children thought it fun to run after a horse and wagon, to grab hold of this tail gate, and, by putting their feet against the rear axle, ride for a block or two, unbeknownst to the driver up front. Sometimes we would hop up and sit on the edge of the gate, prepared at a instant's notice to hop off.
If we were observed by another boy in the neighborhood, even one we had considered our friend, he would yell out “Number-Nine,” or sometimes “Number-Nine on behind.” The driver well knew what that meant. It was then up to us to jump off quickly, or the end and tastle of a long coach whip would cut behind the wagon, and woe to the boy it touched, for it cut and burned like a fire. If he missed we would hollo, “Ye never teched me!”
I did not know whether this number and custom was in use elsewhere until recently I was reading “Rumbling of the Chariot Wheels” which tells of I. Jenkins Miless's experience as a child in the year 1861 at Charleston S. C. He says, “My brother Philip and myself took to riding behind carriages at night. As a carriage would pass going up the street we would swing on behind, and when the next carriage would pass going down, would return that way, and if any envious boy would cry ‘Cut—behind’ and a long
lash would come swishing at us, sometimes hitting us, we would drop off and make for the ‘tell-tale’ and if caught there would be a mix up.”HIT AND RUN
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we used to play “Hit and Run”? Hit and Run was our baseball and was played without the benefit of two teams, with every one playing against the batters. From nine to fifteen boys could play. Our crowd played in the park on Third Street. The park was wider than it is today and we used the streets as well, as only an occasional wagon or carriage passed by to stop the game momentarily.
A crowd of boys would gather as boys do, and when a sufficient number had assembled one would yell, “Let's play Hit and Run, first batter.” That meant that he was to be first man up and at the bat. Then the shouts continued, “second batter,” “third batter,” “catcher,” “pitcher,’ “first base” and so on down the list.
We would then collect our equipment, having to favor the one that owned it, as he might, if antagonized, take his bat and ball and go home. Every one played against the batter, and when one was put out, the whole crowd moved up one notch, the catcher becoming a batter, the pitcher to the catcher place and so on.
Home was just in front of a telephone post in the center of the park, first base was at the sidewalk edge and second base another telephone post in the park with third across from first. We made a lot of noise and I am sure there were the usual arguments that come into any competitive sport, and we did no one any real harm. The ball would sometimes be batted or thrown into a yard, but I do not remember ever breaking a window there.
But it was against the law, and there was always the crochety old woman somewhere who would complain to the police, probably on account of the noise. Against their will the police would come walking up, and the cry of “cops” or “skiddoo” would go out, and each grabbed his own equipment and it was every man for himself as we scampered for back yards, fences, barns, trees and any place to hide. There were no public parks to play in at that time.
The game was played in other streets among other groups, and under different names and rules, but generally along these lines. It was our start in the Great American Game, and taught us a lot about it, and about sportmanship in general.THE UNION SCHOOL
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the Union School had a high picket fence in front and a high board fence around it? It was called the Big Union then to differentiate (the first chance I've had to use that word since I learned it there) it from the Little Union. The Big Union stood at the corner of Sixth and Ann Streets, on the northwest side.
I do not know why they called it Union School, or what it was in union with. I remember that at that time “Union” was a naughty word as was “Yankee.” Here were taught the grades from third to eighth. Some of the teachers that I now recall were Miss Alderman, third grade; Miss Susie Parsley, fourth, Miss Sarah Crosswell, fourth, Miss Struthers, eighth, and one every child remembered, Miss Addie Meares, who always got and could handle the bad boys of the fifth grade.
We had two recesses then, and they were called the Big recess and the Little recess. There was a high board fence around the school yard and woe to the boy who was caught over it even to retrieve a ball. And there was a high board fence between the boys’ and the girls’ play yard, and we were not supposed even to talk to each other over it.
You could walk to and from school with a girl, but only a few sissies did it, except when you were particularly stuck on one and you carried her book bag. Do you remember the book bag? It was generally a homemade affair of blue denim about thirty inches long and fourteen inches wide with a slit in the middle to put the books in. There were two curtain rings in the center that slid to one side or the other to let the books be placed or removed but it kept them from falling out. Some were made of a heavy fish net material. Books were placed in each end and the bag thrown over the shoulder with half in the front and half in the back.
The boys all carried their books with a long strap, and it was much fun as you walked to school to swing the books ahead and lay them on the ground, walk past, then swing them ahead again.
In the yard was a big pump that got its water from a brick cistern directly under it, that drained into it from the roof of the school. There was a round pavilion-type building over the pump, with green latticed sides for shade and protection. There were buckets and several tin dippers hung near by. In the room there was a
The Big Union School, corner Sixth and Ann Street.
wooden cedar bucket of water with a cover and a dipper and at certain times a boy who had been particularly favored was allowed to pass up and down the aisles and give his classmates a drink. And then later we held up two fingers for permission to go out.
On the second floor was the auditorium where we assembled each morning. There was a reading of the Scriptures, a prayer, and announcements. And here we learned to sing “Old Black Joe,” “Suwannee River,” “Dixie,” “Carolina,” “Ho! For the Stormy Cold March Days,” and others that we have never forgotten. Miss Nellie Cook was the principal of the school.
Slates were still in use then in the lower grades. Most of us had small sponges tied to our slates for erasers, and as it was not considered proper to use spittle, water was available in the room to wet the sponges. If you were in school at that time you have heard faulty slate pencils screech on a slate; you have not forgotten the sound it made that caused you to cringe and the teacher to give a demerit.
Each child was required to furnish his own slate and pencils, and he had to buy and bring his own books, which must be kept clean and neat to pass on to the next child in the family. Ink was not allowed until the third grade.
Every grade had a writing book. Copy book we called it. And each day every child copied a sentence, ten or more times from the sample in the book. Some did beautiful work. Prizes were offered and given. Everyone's writing was improved by the use of this, although some including mine, not very much.
Mr. John J. Blair was the superintendent and Miss Nellie Cook was the principal. I remember when we graduated in 1907 that Gladys Taylor gave a declamation, “Going Back to Grandma.” Clarence Sternberger gave the “Railroad Crossing” and Annie Mercer an “Essay on Cooking.” It fell my lot to present from the class a “Frieze of the Parthenon” with a speech. This frieze is still in one of the schools. Some of the class of 1907 were Willie Borneman, Albert Fales, Bayne Price, Willard Cantwell, Herman Gerdes, Henry McKoy, Willie Pender, Mary Alexander, Caroline Ashe, Katherine Bailey, Julia Biddle, Marguerite Dulls, Florence Everett, Eugenia Harris, Ruth Hopkins, Eloise Jackson, Sarah Maffit, Charlotte O'neal, Theresa Parsley, Nellie Petterson, Lucile Skinner, Almeria Stevenson, Abagail Yates.
This was a good school, and only a truly dumb and disobedient child could fail to learn something good, which would be of benefit in his later life.
Circus Band Wagon, of Barnum & Bailey Circus.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the circus parade came to town? The circus always came to Wilmington late in the season, generally in October while on its way to winter quarters in the South.
When I was a boy all circuses were big events and something to look forward to for weeks, to be enjoyed, and then to be remembered. The town was well plastered with posters on every wall and every building. The pictures of wild animals, ferocious lions, huge elephants, gaudy side-shows whetted the appetite of the young and placed all in a proper mood to enjoy the event.
The parade was often all that I got a chance to see, as money was scarce in my childhood, but I found infinite satisfaction in the parade and felt little or no disappointment in not seeing the show.
The parade was such an event that even the public schools were often dismissed for the day, and, if not, the child was allowed to stay away by the parent. Hours ahead of time men, women and children lined the parade route, which was usually down Market Street or Third depending on the location of the circus grounds. On Market Street there were convenient walls and fences to sit on and wait, and also to climb upon the better to view the affair.
The parade was proceeded by the owner or the ring-master in a high hat and a swallow-tailed coat, sitting in a smart, open buggy drawn by two coal black prancing horses. He made the announcements of the time and place of the show. Then came enormous wagons drawn by teams ranging in numbers from two to eight horses. Here came the band, with its quick, loud and inspiring music, making even those who had remained away run to the corner or rush to the front doors, to get a glimpse at least of the makers of such martial and enchanting music.
There were shouts from the drivers, a slapping of harness and a cracking of whips as the wagons moved on. In the gaily painted and highly ornamented wagons were tigers walking back and forth, lions roaring, bears sleeping, monkeys chattering, and many others of the strange animals of the world. On top of these wagons were men and women in exotic costume, small bands, and clowns galore. Clowns walked among the groups, or rode trick donkeys and generally kept the crowd in an uproar. And who can forget the balloon
salesman and the sqeedunk peddler, the whistling birds, snakes and racket makers?
One of the most famous of all circus wagons belonged to P. T. Barnum and was a huge affair, drawn by forty large horses. The wheels were over four feet in diameter, with spokes as large as a man's leg. It was wonderfully carved and frescoed, painted in bright red and gold. The seats ran crosswise and rose one after another from the front and the rear to a high point in the center. On the sides of this wagon were painted the names of England, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, China, Japan and others. And seated on top in costume and representing these countries were men and women. This wagon traveled all over the world and is now preserved for posterity in a circus museum at Sarasota, Florida, and can be plainly seen from the main highway as one passes by or, better yet, stops to examine this conveyance of a by-gone day.
A troupe of elephants always came near the end and followed each other holding on by trunk and tail. And bringing up the rear was the gaily colored steam piano, or calliope. With smoke pouring from its boiler and live steam escaping with a hiss, it shrieked its tunes above the hubbub and was heard from one end of the town to the other. Women stopped their ears, children opened their mouths in wonder and men jumped down and grabbed their horses by the bits to prevent them from running away.
Some of the many shows that I remember seeing in Wilmington were Hagenbeck and Wallace, Forepaw and Sells-Floto, Barnum and Bailey, John Robinson, Pawnee Bill, Buffalo Bill, 101 Ranch, Sparks, Cole Bros. and others I have forgotten.
The horses, the flags, the animals, the bands, the noise, the color, the tent, have all left an indelible impression upon my mind that is pleasant and easy to remember.FIREMEN'S TOURNAMENTS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN they used to have Firemen's Tournaments? They were great affairs in Wilmington, and were planned for far in advance, fully participated in and long remembered.
A fireman was what any small boy would like to be, and the town turned out en masse to see them go to a fire. Men stopped all work, the nurses grabbed up the little babies, and with the men and children lined the streets to see them go by or to follow after them.
The present fire trucks are attractive things, but nothing to compare to the old time fire engine, chemical wagons, hose reel, and hook and ladder. They were then all drawn by a special breed of horses that were trained to do, and also love, their work. These horses were kept in the fire engine houses beside the vehicle they carried, and when the alarm sounded, the barricades dropped and the horses automatically ran forward under the harness which was all suspended on ropes above them. This was dropped on their backs and with only a couple of buckles to fasten, they were ready to travel in minutes. They literally raced to the fire without the use of whip or spur, and only helped by the steady clang-clang of the gong under the seat behind them.
The hook and ladder was the longest piece of equipment then as now, and had a man who operated an upright wheel, which controlled the rear axles and wheels and allowed them to get around sharp corners. Otherwise they would have run on the sidewalk or have hit a post. There were ladders of course and hooks on long poles that assisted in tearing a wall down or making a hole in the roof or ceiling of a burning building.
The hose reel was a large size, garden type hose reel. It carried the fire hose folded flat and wound around it. The firemen would drive up to a hydrant or a cistern and one man would take the end while the hose was unreeled down the street. They were gaily decorated affairs, painted red and white and gold, with large four foot wheels, with narrow spokes painted in designs.
But the fire engine was the thing to see and watch for. On each was a tall upright brass or nickel boiler, having round smoke stack on top. Steam supplied the energy to work the pumps, and they also gleamed with brass and nickel and were always kept immaculately clean and brightly polished.
A lightwood fire was kept laid in the firebox with just the right amount of coal on top to produce a quick and hot fire. The fire was lighted when the alarm was first sounded, and it was already billowing forth smoke and fire as it passed, and there was steam up ready to pump water by the time the fire had been reached.
For the Firemen's Tournament the town was liberally decorated with flags and bunting, and firemen came from all over the state bringing at least one piece of equipment with each group. There were prizes for the best kept piece of equipment, the finest horses,
Hook and Ladder Truck Company, No. 1, Dock Street between Third and Fourth Streets, Year 1905.
etc. There were competitive races held to see which engine company could start at a point with a cold boiler and race to a bonfire of boxes in the middle of the street and have steam up to pump water from a cistern, to put out the fire. It was an exciting race to watch. There were also hook and ladder races with a man to be rescued from a third floor window.
Many of the small towns in North Carolina then had no paid fire department, and with some, the reels were hauled to the fire by men in place of horses. There were volunteer firemen and private organizations which only the social elect could join by invitation. These volunteer companies had dress uniforms of red and white with gold braid and trappings, as well as the coats and hats they worked in. They also reveled in a race, and, with from eight to ten men pulling a beautifully ornamented hose reel, they hitched the hose to a hydrant and would see who first could get a stream of water across the street.
As a boy I used to hang my clothes over a chair with my underclothes in my short pants, and fastened to the shirt, and shoes and stockings in position so that I could step into it quickly, as I imagined a fireman would do. Once I was looking with admiration at the hook and ladder and talking to Fire Chief Monroe when a fire alarm rang. He took me up in his arms and placed me on the seat and let me ride to the fire. I was the envy of all my gang for a month and it was an experience that I have never forgotten. Even now, though it is frowned upon, I do like to go to a fire, and my heart jumps and my pulse quickens as the reels go by.
The water pressure in Wilmington used to be very low and when a fire occurred the pressure was stepped up to help the firemen; then it was in our home when we turned on the faucet red rusty water would come forth. Pine wood was the usual fuel and this heavily turpentined material would place a great amount of soot in each chimney. Most fires in Wilmington then were chimney fires. And a hot roaring fire it made that was quite dangerous. The roar could be heard all over the neighborhood while smoke belched and sparks fell on the wood shingles.
Recently I was looking over some old papers in my collection and found in the “Cape Fear” this public notice: “Notice is hereby given that application will be made to the general assembly to incorporate a Laborer Union, of the First Ward Bucket Company and the Hook and Ladder Company #2, of the City of Wilmington,
N. C. Dec. 26th., 1876.” There is a record of a meeting of the Wilmington City Commissioners of January 1st, 1750, whereby a tax of 6 Pence per head was placed on each inhabitant to buy water buckets, ladders and everything necessary for extinguishing a fire. Also a record where the following was purchased: four ladders for two pounds; sixteen leather buckets for 7 lbs 9s., and rope for 5s 8p.
The Wilmington records of March 17th, 1752, place a fine of twenty shillings against the inhabitant of any home whose chimney caught fire, and no excuse was to be accepted. And a law was passed that every one had to clean out his chimney every fourteen days. Also any person caught using a public ladder, except in case of fire, was to pay ten shillings in proclamation money.
Looking back into old records of 1867, there was found to be listed the following; Fire Engine Company No. 1, at Third Street, opposite the City Hall; Fire King Engine Company No. 2, Southeast corner of Front and Nun; Vigilant Fire Company No. 3, Second Street, between Market and Dock; and No. 4 Fire Engine Company, Brooklyn, Fourth Street, between Bladen and Brunswick.
The Produce Exchange (which served then as our present Chamber of Commerce), in April, 1883 listed; Charles D. Meyers as Chief Engineer; The Howard Relief Fire Engine Company, No. 1; The Little Giant Fire Engine Company, No. 1; The Cape Fear Engine Company, No. 3, colored; Hook and Ladder Company, No. 1; also three steam fire engines, one hand engine in good order, one hook and ladder, one hose company and 3,500 ft. of good hose, with 500 ft. of old hose, and two bucket companies, all of which are voluntary.
In 1877 an old directory tells of the Hall of the Hook and Ladder Company, at Dock between Third and Fourth; Hall of Independent Bucket Company; Hall of the Steam Fire Engine “A. Adrian,” Fourth between Market and Dock; Hall of Steam Fire Engine “Little Giant,” at corner of Princess and Fourth Street; Hall of Steam Fire Engine “Cape Fear” on Ann between Second and Third Street and the Hall of the Brooklyn Fire Engine, a hand machine.
Around 1910 Charlie Schnibben was Chief of the Fire Department, and he always rode behind a beautiful black horse hitched to a black buggy trimmed with red that ran smartly down the street, whether to and from a fire or on a simple jaunt during the dinner hour.
In the year 1905 Capt. P. N. Fick was in charge of Chemical Fire Company No. 1, at Fourth Street near Dock, and Capt. John Mohr had a nickel-plated engine and hose wagon at Fourth and Princess. Capt. Wm. P. Monroe's headquarters was on Dock Street between Third and Fourth, and had under him the Main Hook and Ladder Truck Company No. 1, this was the station nearest my home and the one that I frequented most often. I loved to watch the heavy, solidly built, white horses as they stamped in their stalls, and to look at the harness hanging on triggers, ready to drop on their backs when the bell rang and those horses automatically sprang into position in front of the fire wagon.
Sometimes they let me slide down the brass pole from the sleeping quarters above, and once Capt. Monroe took me to a fire when I happened to be there with his son Bill.
The public market of Wilmington used to stand in the center of Market Street, just west of Front Street and ran toward the river. Near Front Street, there was a low tower in which was the city bell, which, according to an ancient custom, was rung in the morning, at noon, at sundown and at nine o’ clock each night. This market building was demolished in January 1881, by order of the Board of Aldermen in spite of a protest of many of the citizens. The bell from it was saved and was erected in a tower at the Fourth Street Engine House, and served as a fire alarm bell for many years.
This bell was however replaced in 1886 by a much larger bell, which was erected on a tower behind the Fourth and Dock Street Engine House. All but the very newcomers will remember the tolling out of the box numbers for the fire alarm, and the three quick strokes that signaled the fire was out. Each family had a card which had the fire alarm box numbers on it, with their location. When a number was tolled, then every one looked at the chart, and then started out in the direction given, to see the fire.
On June 11th, 1957 I visited the Wilmington Fire Department Headquarters, and was pleasantly received by Chief J. A. West, who is writing a history of the local fire department. In answer to my inquiry about the old bell, he said it was now in the abandoned Fifth and Castle Street Fire Station. Capt. Glisson was kind enough to take my brother James and me to this station and we climbed to the tower and examined the bell. The huge cylindrical cast iron weight was about halfway down. The mechanism that caused the
bell to be struck a certain number was on the second floor of the tower.
The bell itself was about four feet in diameter and about four feet high. There were raised letters in the casting stating: “Memeely and Co., West Troy, N. Y. 1886. Wilmington, N. C., Ed. D. Hall, Mayor, C. D. Meyers, Chief of Fire Department. Board of Aldermen, S. R. Bear, D. G. Worth, B. Howe, Committee of Fire Department. Also F. A. Darby, J. L. Dudley, C. Giles, G. T. Boney, G. Rourk, A. Doescher.”
We found the hammer of the bell badly rusted and immovable. There was a decided dent in the outer edge of the bell where the hammer had struck it often. Capt. Glisson then struck the bell with a heavy piece of wood, and it rang out lustily and could be heard well over the town. The tone of the bell was pleasing even when close at hand. After one of the strokes I put my hand on the rim of the bell and it tingled for several minutes. He then gave it there short strokes signalling the fire was out, and we descended the tower.
The terribleness of fire is still with us, but much of the glamour of going to a fire has passed with the going of the horses. The old chief, the nickel plated fire engine with smoke billowing, the beautiful horses are all gone, and gone, we hope, to a place that has no fire. But I am still here, and ready to go to a fire at any time, except the everlasting one.HILL CARTS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we used to make and ride hill carts? In recent years they tried with some success to revive the sport, and they have local Soap Box Clubs and Soap Box Derbies. What a misnomer! Who would try to make a cart out of a soap box now? Then the boxes were of wood in place of cardboard as now.
The carts, or “hill carts” as we called them, were lucky to have four wheels of the same design or size. We made then literally out of wooden soap boxes and of such cast off wheels as we might have, trade for, or purchase from another boy. Some were guided with a steering wheel and some by a single shaft. But most of them were guided by a boy sitting in front and placing his feet on either side of the axle, or holding on to a rope tied to it.
In our neighborhood the best hill for carts and with the lightest horse traffic was Second Street just below Nun, and if you had a good cart that was properly loaded it would coast past Ann and up the gentle incline to Orange and then on down to Dock Street. I can remember as many as ten carts and a score of boys out on this hill at one time. We raced each other or just rode and hollered for the fun of it.
Old wheels of various sizes were used; some were wooden and some were steel, and some even made from old lawn mower wheels, but these would not travel fast. You could drag the baby around in the cart. A great deal of time was spent building a cart, which was a good bit of the fun. Some boys with little material but much ingenuity made real works of art.
We also built slides or roller-coasters in our yards. These would start from the top of a wood shed or high fence or barn. There would be two wooden rails and specially designed wheels with a flange like on the railroad car. We cut the round wheel out of blocks of wood, nailing on a larger piece to make the flange. It took weeks to build and gave us weeks more of pleasure.
The best coaster that I remember was built in the Dulls’ yard at Second and Nun Streets. The highest was off the R. W. Hicks’ barn in the rear of 412 S. Third Street. We had fine ones in our yard also but not in the class of these two.TILESTON HIGH SCHOOL
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN Tileston was the high school of Wilmington? It was then a very dignified, square, two story building, partially covered with the traditional ivy, that gave it an almost collegiate appearance, or so I thought then. It sat well back on the lot with a high brick wall around three sides and a high wooden picket fence across the entire front with only one entrance gate directly in front of the doorway.
Inside the fence at the corner of Fifth and Ann Streets was a one story residence that had been the home of Miss Amy M. Bradley, a former principal and noted teacher while it was a private school. The grounds were well shaded with elm trees and some very large live oaks.
There were four big classrooms on the first floor, one for each of the grades, and on the second floor was the auditorium, which,
Tileston High School, 1900.
according to the pamphlet of the graduation exercises of 1884, was called the “Upper Room.” Later there were two freshman classes, with one each for the sophomores and juniors on the first floor, the seniors using a small room to one side of the stair hall upstairs. There was a small laboratory upstairs also.
All new and freshman boys, when they reported for classes on the first Monday in October (which was the opening day of all schools of my youth), had to appear at the entrance gate early that day and were forced to run a gauntlet. All the upperclassmen were on hand to greet them and were lined up solid from the gate to the front porch of the school. They were armed with paddles that had been especially prepared days in advance for this very occasion.
As each boy entered the gate he was met by a blow on his rear and that started him on a dead run, and other blows speeded him on his way. I never remember it injuring anybody, but it certainly did hurt, and the sting, and the bruise would remain for several days, while the “memory lingered on” until this day. This was done only upon the first day, but the line remained in place until the last boy had gone through and old “Uncle Moses” had rung by hand the brass bell he carried.
Uncle Moses was as much a part of the school as the principal, and maybe his name is remembered longer by those who attended. He was a dignified old negro man whom every one liked and respected, a real patriarch of the Tileston School. He attended to the duties of a janitor that called for and demanded respect.
In the year 1907 some of the boys who lined up with me before the gate were Richard Willard Cantwell, Hiram King, Lewis Stein, W. Leonard Merriman, Avon Blue, and others. The faculty at that time included J. J. Blair, superintendent; Heman Shaw, principal; Miss Isabelle Gulley, Miss Fredericks Jenkins, Miss Agnes Carr, Miss Sarah Bowls, Miss Fitts, and Miss Emma Boney.
In this year also the first football team for the school was formed. It consisted of John Wells, Charlie Burnett, Earl Penny, Charlie Taylor, Leighton Boone, Hart McKoy, Leonard Merriman, Kenneth Parsley, Glasgow Hicks, Robert Burnett, Avon Blue and Will Monroe.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN there were many goat carts among the younger generation in Wilmington? Many of the young boys had a goat in the backyard and a cart in the barn. We never said “goat-wagon”; it was always “goat-cart”. A goat was a friendly animal and it was lots of fun to feed, to curry, to wash, to drive and to play with a goat.
Some very fortunate boys had a double team of goats and a cart with a center shaft. Glasgow Hicks, a near neighbor of mine, was one of the lucky ones and we had lots of good times chasting them around the lot, straddling them bareback, hitching them up and driving them around and taking other boys and girls for a ride around the block.
There was always something to be done with a goat, a cart, and the harness. The latter was quite an elaborate affair, with buckles, bright pieces of metal and much leather, and when this became too much for us boys to put in order, a trip to Orell's Stable was required. At such times Glasgow would let me go along and would drive the team down to Third and Princess Streets and wait and watch while the harness maker and the wheelwright made the necessary repairs.
Those goats were slow, deliberate and sometimes contrary things, but were always much fun for a boy, and the boy who owned one was much sought after as a friend.
In addition to these there were literally hundreds of goats owned by negroes, both men and boys. They were not expensive to buy and inexpensive to keep and they needed no real cover and did not eat a great amount and they were not particular what that was.
Only dry trash was collected by the city, and that had to be put at the curb. All food scraps were saved and put in a special pail and were collected two or three times a week by Negro boys or men with a goat cart. They owned a large can and would drive in each yard and haul garbage away for free, as it was in great demand, to feed the hogs which many Negroes kept in their backyards in the city limits. These carts were mostly homemade affairs with every kind of wheel imaginable. They screeched and groaned down the streets and the wheels wobbled from side to side. The harness was cast off leather or, more often yet, made from old rope. They did the work and filled the need of the time.HOOPS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN all small girls played with hoops? These hoops came in various sizes and ranged anywhere from twelve inches to thirty-six inches in diameter. They were usually made of wood, being a single band about one-half inch in width, and they came in every color with the bright ones predominating.
The girls rolled them on the sidewalks, streets and porches and were quite adept in making them perform. They could round a corner neatly with only the guiding touch of a short stick held in the hand. The length of these sticks depended on the size of the hoop and generally came along with them. They could even be made to mount a short pair of steps and could easily roll down them. They could be thrown out and made to roll directly back to the thrower. There were fancy hoops for little girls with red and white cord wound around the circle to which a bell was fastened.
Some boys also had hoops but these were usually about ten or twelve inches in diameter and were made to perform with a longer stick having a nail hooked in the end.
The negro boys were the most expert in the art of making a hoop or wheel do any thing they wished it to do. They used any kind of wheel that could roll and they made it do everything but talk. I have seen a small negro boy roll a hoop without touching it, except with the stick, for blocks, bouncing it in the air to get over curbs or other obstructions, and never letting it once die or lie down. Wooden and metal hoops from the barrels of that day made excellent playthings.
What ever became of this art? I never see hoops being rolled by the children around me and I do not believe that my two girls even ever had one.BUCK SAWS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN every home had a “buck saw”? A buck, which was sometimes called a sawbuck, was a rack or frame to hold a stick of wood while it was being cut up in stove or fire place lengths. First two pieces of wood about the size of a two by four were fastened together in an X frame. Then two of these frames were fastened by an eighteen inch long bar at their crossings and bolted together.
All the old ten dollar bills used to have a big roman numeral X on them, and consequently all ten dollar bills were then known as “saw-bucks” because of the similarity of their X. In some sections they are still called by this name although the X has been removed on the modern bill.
There were ten fireplaces in my old home, and it took a heap of sawing to keep them properly supplied with wood. In practically every home in Wilmington, some part of it was heated with wood. Wood was bought and delivered to the home each summer in cord lots, and piled up in the back yard against the fence. There was pine wood, oak wood, black jack, and “lightning” wood.
It was all very wonderful wood and could make you hot four times. Once when you sawed it, once when you split it, once when you carried it in by the armful and finally when it was burned. To say nothing of the job of carrying out the ashes.
Do you remember when in every arithmetic there were at least a half dozen problems relating to a cord of wood? If your pile of wood was eight feet long and five feet high and the wood was in five feet lengths, how many cords would there be? A cord of wood contained 128 cu. ft. How we did struggle with those.
With each saw buck was a buck saw. A buck saw was an instrument of torture that was used by parents in those days to condition and keep in line young boys. It was a narrow steel blade about three feet long with large teeth, that was set in an adjustable bow frame that was worked with both hands. There was no better exercise ever invented for the entire body than sawing, splitting and carrying a load of wood.
To keep the saw from sticking in green or heavily turpentined wood, it was necessary to have something to remove the friction, and there was kept on hand and regularly applied a skin of fatback to grease the saw and to give one a minute's rest while so doing.
Later some rich families, or those without boys to do the work, employed a man with a gasoline saw and wood splitter to do this hard work. Even this process would take several days to cut up enough wood for the winter. It was a one lung gas engine, and I can hear it now, as I did then, plugging and popping away in the neighborhood, and missing several beats, as it often appeared to
stop to catch its breath. How I envied those families! It never came to our house.
This brings to mind many things. The wood kitchen stove, the wood boxes, the fire screens, the fenders, the tongs and shovel, the kindling wood, and ashes.HOTEL BUSSES AND HACKS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN all trains were met at the depot, by hotel busses and hacks? After coming out of the gate at the depot train shed and entering upon the street, the erstwhile traveler had to run a veritable gauntlet of hotel porters and hack drivers.
The authorities had drawn a line that no driver was to step over unless called, and there, lined up, were Negroes, shouting, “Hack! here! any part of the city! Hack! Hack!” And at your signal pointing out a selected porter, he would leap forward, run and grab your bags, and hustle you to the waiting line of hacks farther down the street, headed out and ready to go. You generally had a choice of from eight to ten energteic drivers to choose from. But once at the hack, all energy and hustle ceased. You were politely helped into your seat, and your bags stowed beside you.
These conveyances or hacks were what is popularly known best now by the song “Surrey with a Fringe on Top”. It was a two-seated, open vehicle that could accommodate two in the rear and one up front with the driver. A child or a small person could be squeezed in. Each driver was an “individual” and most of them owned their own outfits. Even then the hacks all seemed to be old, and probably were second-hand affairs, handed down from some landed gentry. The horses too were not young and in my mind I see them all now standing with their heads hanging down in front like their tails in the rear. Properly encouraged with the whip they got into a trot but soon dropped back to an accustomed walk. It was a pleasant drive though, and the driver was loquacious and probably knew you and your family and told you something about your grandpa. The horse looked as if he did not get much feed from the quarter you paid to the driver for the trip.
But the hotel busses were another matter. Here, too, there was great competition among the hotel porters to gain your baggage and install you in a particular bus to carry you to the “best” hotel.
Shell Road or Turnpike . . . at the Second Toll House, between Wilmington and Wrightsville Sound about
“Orton Hotel.” they called, “Bonitz Hotel!”, “Purcell House!” they shouted. These busses were four wheeled, covered affairs, with an entrance at the rear and seats on each side with a center aisle. The seats were cushioned and the passengers sat facing each other. You could look at the pretty young lady on the other side and wonder if she was a wife or a daughter. You looked at the men and wondered where they came from and where they were going, and at their handbags to see if they were competitors. The bus was generally drawn by two horses and the porter stood on the rear step, until your hotel was reached, then he escorted you bag and baggage to the desk. The ride was free, but the porter appreciated a nickel tip, and a pleasant wide smile and a bow made it worthwhile.TOLL ROAD TO THE SOUND
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the only road to the Sound was a toll road? The only toll road that I remember in New Hanover County was the one to Masonboro, Greenville and Wrightsville Sound. The old toll road curved out of Seventeenth and Dock Streets and ran to Wrightsville Sound. There were three toll houses, the first at Seventeenth and Dock, the second at what is known now as Winter Park, just before one road turned off toward Masonboro, and the third was near the beginning of Wrightsville Sound, just after the road crossed Bradley's Creek.
The original name of this road was the Wilmington & Coast Turnpike. It came into being soon after Wilmington was founded and was already in the process of being paved with oyster shells in 1860, just before the Confederate War. Mrs. Wright McGowan kept the toll house gate for twenty years at Dock Street, and she sold and punched the tickets. She stated that the paving of the road was started by the Brothers Haar, Henry Haar being president and his brother George Haar, treasurer. It was a private company, and set the price of buggy 25¢, horseback 20¢, cart 15¢, bicycles 10¢, horse and carriage was 50¢ and four horses and carriage was $1.00.
The road was made by the digging of ditches on each side and throwing the material to the center. This was done for a three-fold purpose. It raised the level of the road above swampy ground, and the ditches drained it, and also prevented access of cart or carriage except at the toll houses.
The road in the main is still in its original position. Many of the ditches have been filled but many are still there doing service. Even in the old days this was a good road and almost always dry. It was paved from one end to the other with oyster shells which made an excellent surface for the horse and carriage trade. The shells broke and pulverized under traffic, and the lime in them acted as a cement to bind the whole together. For carriages and horses it was ideal, but it was later found inadequate, and the modern rubber-tired automobile wheels caused a suction that pulled the small particles out and distributed them in a white powder on trees, houses and travelers.
At the first toll house, the fare was paid for the entire journey, and tickets being taken at the other houses if you went that far. A long counterbalanced wooden arm extended across the road and prevented horse or vehicle from pasing until the arm was raised from the porch. All very similar to the present day railroad crossing arms. The old toll house still stands just behind the fire-house, and is now used as a residence.
There is an old red silk purse still in the bureau as she left it, that belonged to my mother, which contains a number of the tickets to this toll road, some of which have been used and punched. She used to tell of the low house and the long wooden arm reaching over the road, and of the woman and the children who came out on the porch as you drove up and bought your ticket. This I well remember also. Some of the tickets in the purse are stamped Wilmington Sea-Coast R. R. and others are the Wilmington & Coast Turnpike, which was the company's official name.
On several occasions highway engineers have planned and suggested that this road be widened and the trees cleared away from the sides, but successive generations have objected, and the road remains reasonably intact. Only recently that part crossing Bradley's Creek has been widened and the ancient wind-blown cedar trees that formerly arched the road have been removed, destroying an ancient landmark that had given many an old-timer pleasure.
Known successively as the “Toll Road”, the “Shell Road”, and the “Turnpike”, may this old road remain under any name to attract and please those who have leisure to linger and loiter and who don't just ride to get (where?).THE CORNER SHOP
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we went up to the “shop”, instead of to the Supermarket? There were the larger grocery stores in and around the business section, but few people had carriages or conveyances, and all over town at convenient places were “shops” or corner stores. These shops dealt in “Staple & Fancy Groceries”.
It was the custom in most households to have a man from the store of your choice to call each morning at the back door to get an order for groceries for the day. This he would deliver if possible before dinner. For at that time “dinner” was the big meal of the day and was held at 2:00 P.M. or shortly after to allow the children time to get home from school. They served no school lunches then. The grocery man kept each order separate in a white pine box, which sometimes he could be persuaded to leave to be used by a boy.
But my memories of the “shop” were when in an emergency I was commissioned to go and buy a pound of butter, a yeast cake, a dozen eggs or a few lemons. There were generally one or two curved, front glass cases, that stood on top of counters, and these held the sweets to attract the eye of children. And then enough candy could be bought for one or two cents to satisfy a boy's craving. Money bottles, candy bananas, licorice whips, peppermint sticks or the ubiquitous all day suckers, come to my mind.
Here were also barrels of sweet and dill pickles. You were allowed to lift by a handle the round wooden barrel top, and with the aid of a long, pronged stick to fish in the pleasant spicy smelling vinegar for the pickle of your choice. Candy went fast, but a pickle could be prolonged and enjoyed under the envious glances of those not so fortunate as to have a penny.
All shops then gave credit. And it was the shopkeeper's happy custom to treat the children free when an account was settled, and then we always liked to go along.
There were few package goods then. Coffee was weighed out in the whole bean and then roasted, with the pleasant aroma filling the store. Part of the ceremony of preparing breakfast consisted of putting coffee beans in the iron cone of the coffee grinder, placing the machine between your knees to hold and turning the crank, and finally taking the ground coffee out of the little wooden drawer, that smelled almost good enough to eat then.
Butter and lard came in hogsheads and half tubs; it was dug out with a wooden spade and patted into a thin wooded oval tray, covered with a sheet of oil paper, and given to you to hurry home with before it melted and ran out. Hominy and rice were in an open barrel and were bailed and sacked out to order of five, ten or twenty pounds. Crackers came in crates and boxes, and the National Biscuit Co. had just started furnishing their crackers and cakes in metal glass front boxes, about sixteen inches in each dimension. When empty they were collected and refilled, as soft drink bottles are now.
Most shelf goods were old and dingy. Dirt and cobwebs were the custom and were expected and accepted. Many of these shops had swinging doors in the rear, or at one end, above and below which men could be seen in a cloud of smoke and heard in a hum of voices. Here whiskey was sold, and drunk over the counter. There was usually a sign over an outside door labeled “Family Entrance”. As a boy I used to wonder what it looked like, but the laws provided a swinging door to keep me from seeing.
All “shops” had a big round wood burning stove, which in winter was pleasant to back up against and warm one's rear and hands stretched backwards. There was also the big wooden box filled with sawdust in which patrons were encouraged to expectorate their tobacco juice, instead of on the floor or worse upon the hot stove. Several oil lamps hung around, both the ceiling type and the wall hanging kind, as these shops opened early and kept open until seven on week days and nine or ten on Saturday. The owner generally lived in some rooms adjoining with his family, and in emergency would get you a pound of coffee, even after his shop was closed. One could and did get kerosene or “coal oil” as it was called then, and it was funneled into the small can that a child could carry, while a potato was pushed over the spout to prevent it from sloshing out on his bare legs.
There was the big heavy wooden wrapping counter, with a roll of paper at the end and a round metal basket on the ceiling that contained a ball of cord, from which one end conveniently dangled. There were only one or two glass cases, the rest having solid wood fronts. Slabs of bacon and fat-back were kept in large wooden boxes, heavily coated with salt which attempted to do what our refrigerators do now. There was no sliced bacon then, one did that
with a big knife in his own kitchen. Here I remember Pears Soap, the Gold Dust Twins, and the cabinet of Clark's Thread.
The only packaged breakfast food that I remember then was “Force”, advertized by “Sunny Jim”. I believe that it was the first corn flake made. Cream-of-Wheat dated back into those times also.
These “Shops” filled a need and answered the purpose of the day. There were no parking problems as no one had an automobile. One brought the baby carriage inside and put alongside the baby the wrapped package. It was from this custom that some bright Supermarket employee saw the need for a carriage for each customer, baby or no.
They were agreeable smelling, though unsanitary, convenient, though uneconomical, an acceptable thing to have near one's home, and another most pleasant memory of my most pleasant childhood.STREETS OF SHELL
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the Wilmington streets were made of shells? When I was a boy our sidewalks were principally of brick, some of wood, and a few on Market and Front Streets of large slate slabs. The downtown streets were of cobblestones, or Belgian Block as they were known. All others were of shell or macadam. Even the macadam roads were of fossilized shell.
Front Street, Water Street, and all others that had any pavement were of cobblestone. This was of small pieces of granite of various sizes, about a six inch cube. The word “cobble” comes from the word cob, and literally means a “lump.” The streets were paved with “lumps,” and every one who drove over them in cart or carriage knew they were so paved. It was a real experience for a boy to stand on the common two wheel dray and hold on to the iron stanchion, stuck up near the rear, and ride behind a trotting mule over these stones. The stones were also known as Belgian Block, as having at first principally come from that country, often being shipped over as ballast. I have in my files a letter addressed to Dr. William A. Berry (my great-grandfather) dated December 4th, 1874, appointing Dr. Berry, Wm. C. Fowler and Henry Nutt, as a “committee of owners of Front St. property” between Orange and Chesnut Street, to assess the property in the vicinity by reason of paving of Front Street with Belgian Block. Brick paving in Wilmington came much later, being started around the year 1900.
Macadam paving was named in honor of a Scotchman “McAdam” who invented the method. Locally it was principally a mixture of various sizes of crushed rock. This material was obtained in Wilmington just outside the northeast limits of the town in a place known as the “Rock Quarry.” Large areas were excavated and holes were left in the ground which quickly filled with water as soon as the pumping was stopped. The material removed and used was a prehistoric shell formation, and there were many interesting objects in it. I remember following after the carts as they dumped this material on the streets and seeking for and finding petrified sharks’ teeth in sizes from one-fourth inch to two inches long, and also crosses formed from a crystal. This material was rolled and compressed by the “steam roller,” and it was a young boy's delight to follow after and throw rocks into the inside of the wheels to hear them rattle and bounce along.
Even at that time oyster shells were still hauled from the sound in carts, from the oyster roast houses, and many shells were dug from the sound direct with the live oyster still in them and dumped on the streets making a rather unpleasant smell for a short while. All of the old streets of Wilmington had, and still have, foundations of oyster shells. This can even today be seen when an excavation is made or a paving repaired. Most of the streets I knew were paved with them, and they made a most satisfactory road for the vehicle of that day, and before the rubber-tired automobile sucked the fine particles out and spread them over the landscape.
Pearls come from these oysters, and it is reasonable to think that in the many cart loads of shells there have also been many pearls dumped on our streets. So Wilmington can truthfully claim that its streets have been paved with “pearls.” A reverse from the “pearly gates and golden streets!
Oyster shells are principally lime and have a natural cementious material of their own. Most of the early masonry of Wilmington was cemented with a lime made from burning the oyster shells.
I have often wondered where all those shells came from and who ate all those oysters.LITTLE UNION SCHOOL
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN there was “Little Union School” This school stood on the southwest corner of Fifth and Nun Streets and took care of the first and second grades on the south side of town. It contained four rooms, two being up stairs and two down. The two first grades had the first floor and the second grades were upstairs.
It was a simple wooden building, two stories with an entrance on Fifth Street and a hall running the entire length of it with one stair. It was painted a light grey or slate. There was no inside plumbing, but there was an out-house in the rear of the lot. A pump and a cistern furnished the drinking water, with buckets and basins and roller towels for washing and cleaning on the small rear porch.
Each room had a bucket and a dipper in it for drinking, and it kept the children from asking to go out to quench a thirst. Even with the small children the yard was divided so that the boys and the girls could not play together. The last morning bell was rung at nine, and we stayed at school in those grades until one o'clock.
There was a little recess and a big recess, the latter giving us a full thirty minutes. Every child came to school armed with a slate, all of the same size, each bound with wood and stitched with a heavy red cotton cord around the edges, which helped deaden the sound when laid or banged on a desk. To each slate was tied a small sponge, used to erase the former day's work, the teacher coming around and inspecting the work and only seldom having the slates collected. We bought ten slate pencils in a red, white and blue box with a picture of Uncle Sam in full regalia for five cents.
We were not allowed ink or pens. But we did have pencils and pads. We used to go to the Wilmington Printing Co., and get long colored strips of waste paper of various colors, which fastened together with a string to our desk, and on which we would figure and scribble. One of the teachers that I remember there was a Miss Payne. This school was abandoned and the building torn down in about 1905 or 1906 and these grades were incorporated into the Big Union School.
The Wilmington Light Infantry Building, now used as a Public Library.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN it was an honor and a distinction to be a member of the Wilmington Light Infantry? When the Wilmington Light Infantry was not only a famous military organization, but was also one of Wilminton's select social clubs? To become a member one had to rate high in his profession; he had to be and to act like a gentleman, and be acceptable into the best society of the town. He had to apply himself in writing and was voted upon at the next meeting and five black balls would reject him.
The Wilmington Light Infantry applied for and received a charter from the State of North Carolina on February 22nd, 1849, but it was four years later before it finally was organized on May 20th, 1853. The date was chosen because “so long as civil liberty shall endure, this day will be a sacred and a holy day in North Carolina.” It was the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775 and the date the State seceded from the union in 1861.
The first meeting and the organization of the Wilmington Light Infantry was held in the County Court House, and the following were elected as officers; Edward Cantwell, Captain; Wm. C. Fergus, 1st. Lt; R. R. Bowden, 2nd Lt.; W. A. M. Van Bokkelin, 3rd Lt., and George E. Pritchett, Ensign. The original founders were; Theodore Ambrose, Edward N. Atkins, J. Frank Bishop, James A. Burch, Dickson Brown, Robert N. Bowden, Thomas N. Bishop, Joseph L. Barlow, Archibald N. Burch, Samuel H. Bingham, Wm. N. Bowden, Christopher Burns, Edward Cantwell, John L. Cantwell, Edward Cason, Will Corbin, Jessey W. Dixey, Robert H. Drysdale, Louis B. Brambert, Washington H. Fergus, Joseph M. Foy, W. H. Hardee, Cambyses Hunter, Joseph S. Ives, Thomas H. Johnson, Oliver Kelly, Wm. H. King, John R. London, John D. Love, W. N. Lewis, Frederick I. Moore, Alexander E. Mott, Charles W. Morris, Charles D. Myers, Wm. H. Murrill, J. R. Murray, Andrew J. Marshburne, Wm. H. Northrop, Samuel G. Northrop, Joseph H. Neff, John J. Poisson, James T. Petteway, Geo. G. Pritchett, Oscar G. Parsley, Jr., Wm. H. Petteway, Samuel W. Roberts, Edward Ryan, Wm. L. Robertson, Henry Savage, Samuel A. Swann, William H. Shaw, William N. Swann, Richard H. Selby, Robert C. Strong, Christopher W. Styron, Hiram B. Sholar, Wm. H. Turlington, Washington Taylor,
J. C. Thomas, Wm. R. Utley, John R. Utley, Wm. A. N. Van Bokkelin, Geo. O. Van Amringe, Jr., Wm. A. Wilson, Louis H. Wilson, Wm. A. Walker, William L. White, Wm. E. Wright, John S. Wilson, Walter S. Williamson, David G. White, and Hardy B. Willis.
The first uniform that was worn by this military company was of green, trimmed with orange and gold. Both the officers and the men wore white plumes trimmed with green. The first drills were held in what was called Well's Old Carriage Shop at Seventh and Market Streets.
The history of this company has truly been the history of Wilmington. In all of Wilmington's celebrations, this company has participated. In its activities, it has joined; in its sorrow it has mourned, and in its emergencies it has taken charge. In its real purpose, that of a trained and ready force to serve its city, its state and its country the Wilmington Light Infantry has always stepped into the breach and given of its very life's blood, when called upon.
At the time of its organization all militia in this country carried old flint and steel muskets. There was not a company in the state that had a modern percussion gun. Someone found that the Federal government had some of these modern guns at Fayetteville, N C., and a scheme was projected to get enough to equip the W.L.I. Mr. Jefferson Davis was at that time the Secretary of War, and this stratagem was resolved upon. At a called meeting, Mr. Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War, was offered for admission as a member of the company, he was unanimously elected. By a resolution he was given a formal leave of absence and relieved of all duties while Secretary of War. A committee was then appointed to solicit the honor of his acceptance and to request his influence at Washington in obtaining seventy guns and equipment in time for the Fourth of July celebration in 1853. Mr. Davis accepted the membership and thanked the company for the honor. He informed them that he had persuaded the “Secretary of War” to forward the equipment, which was received several days before the Fourth to the delight of the Company and the wonderment of the local citizens.
Ten years after, the first captain was in conversation with the then President of the Confederate States, Mr. Davis, and he was asked by him, about “his” company. It was with pride that Col. Cantwell informed him that the company was in his service and
that some sixty-five of them were commissioned officers in the Confederate Army.
After Edward Cantwell, Edward Sagage was made Captain in 1854 then Washington C. Fergus, then William L. DeRosset was succeeded by Ed. B. Hall in 1857. Capt. Hall resigned in 1860 and Capt. DeRosset was again elected and served until he was appointed major and Robt. B. McRae took the office.
Under Col. John L. Cantwell, Capt. DeRossett took the Wilmington Light Infantry, along with the German Volunteers, the Wilmington Rifle Guards, and captured the Forts Caswell and Johnson, meeting with slight resistance.
On the 16th, of June, 1860 the company along with nine others formed the 18th Regiment of North Carolina Troops, and ceased to be known by its former name while under the Confederate flag.
On the 17th of March, 1875 this company was formally reorganized, by its survivors, and the following officers were elected: Mathew P. Taylor, Capt.; A. L. DeRossett, 1st Lt.; John C. James, 2nd Lt.; H. C. McQueen, 3rd Lt.; J. M. Cazaux, Ensign, Dr. G. G. Thomas, Surgeon, and Geo. Patterson, Chaplain. In 1877 Walter Coney was elected captain.
On May 20th, 1877 on the Twenty-fourth Anniversary of the Wilmington Light Infantry a celebration was held. There was a big parade, which was led by the Cape Fear Light Infantry, commanded by Captain Flanner, and was proceeded by the drum corps of the Wilmington Light Infantry. Next came the Veterans Corps of the Wilmington Light Infantry, numbering about twenty men under the command of Col. Wm. L. DeRossett, who was their last captain prior to the War. Because of their military appearance, their soldierly bearing, their gray caps, many complimentary remarks were made. At Front Street the Produce Exchange filed into the procession, and at Front and Princess the old Mexican Veterans joined in carrying the flag that was planted at the heights of National Bridge, Mexico, on Aug. 12th, 1847. At the northeast corner of Princess and Front the Chamber of Commerce fell into step, and farther up Princess, the Historical and Scientific Society took its place. The whole column under the command of Major M. P. Turner and Lieutenant N. H. Sprunt of the W. L. I. then moved up Princess to the Opera House and passed into the building.
The orator of the day was the Hon. Edward Cantwell; the Chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Patterson; the choir consisted of Messrs.
Hargrave, Metts, Robinson and Northrop. Capt. Armand L. DeRosset, the Master of Ceremonies, then introduced the Rev. Dr. Patterson, Chaplain of the Wilmington Light Infantry, who opened the ceremonies with prayer; the “Old North State” was then sung by the choir with Prof. VanLaer at the piano. At the close of the last verse the audience rose to its feet and joined in the chorus. Mr. Joseph Cronly then read the “Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence” in a clear, distinct and pleasant manner, and then Capt. DeRossett introduced Judge Cantwell, who gave one of the most beautiful and stirring orations that has ever been delivered in Wilmington.
Judge Edward Cantwell explained in detail the formation of the Wilmington Light Infantry, and carried it step by step through the years up to the present day. (Large parts of this oration have been copied in full herewith and are presented as facts coming from him.) He ends his talk as follows:” I make no appeal in behalf of this company. Its sun will never set; its natural force will not abate, until freedom itself shall expire. We shall not see it die until that living public spirit, which has characterized this community in every emergency of its existence, shall also disappear and forever.”
I have before me a pamphlet of the Wilmington Light Infantry which was published March 9th, 1904, and contains the constitution and by-laws, along with other factual data. There is a list of the Honorary members including Jefferson Davis. The names of the Veterans Corps, who served the Confederacy. The Roll of 1861. A list of fifty-seven former members of the W. L. I., who had been given commissions as officers in the Confederate Army. Then follows the list of the Reserve Corps. Pick out any of the prominent old families of the town of Wilmington and ten to one you will find its name in this list.
During the great fire of 1886 in Wilmington, martial law was declared and the W. L. I. was placed in charge. In 1898 during the Spanish American War the company was commanded by Capt. Donald MacRae, and officially known as Company K, second Regiment of North Carolina Volunteers; it was called to colors and encamped at Brunswick, Ga. But the war ended before they saw active service. During the First World War most of the men from this company, which was broken up, served in Battery C, Second Battalion, Trench Artillery. During the Second World War the
company under the command of C. D. Cunningham, was with Battery A, 252 Coast Artillery and was stationed at Aruba, Dutch West Indies. The W. L. I. also were called out and served during the negro riot of 1896.
I joined the Wilmington Light Infantry November 14th, 1911, and was given gun number 289.860, and locker Number 16. We drilled up and down Market Street and had little or no interference from either wagons or carriages. It was a proud and earnest group of young men. William F. Robertson was Captain of the Company and John Lucas Cantwell was Lieutenant.
On August 27th, 1951 the Wilmington Light Infantry voted to sell its armory located at 49 Market Street to the City of Wilmington for the sum of $500.00, the building to be used for municipal purposes, and preferably for a public library.
The Wilmington Light Infantry has a historical room on the ground floor of what is now the Wilmington Public Library, officially named the Wilmington Light Infantry Library. The military organization is no more, but as Col. Cantwell said in his address: “Its sun will never set, its natural force will not abate, until Freedom itself shall expire.”SUNDAY WALKS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN every young man made an effort to walk with his girl on Sunday afternoons? Shortly after the turn of the century there were few automobiles, and those that were in existence were not in the hands of young people. Some favored few did have horse and buggy, but the use of such on Sunday was frowned upon, except to go to church or Sunday School, especially frowned upon by those who did not have the horse and buggy.
Most churches in that day held Sunday School in the afternoon, and young people were to be found in attendance at one of them. But during the intervening time between Sunday School and dark, it was a privilege to be able to escort the lady of your choice for a walk.
The dates for the favored ones were made well in advance, and those who were left out felt neglected at having to remain at home alone on Sunday afternoons, perhaps to sit on the porch themselves and watch the others pass by.
The walk usually led to Market Street and thence up and down that noted thoroughfare from Third to Seventeenth, as time, strength and inclination allowed. The ages most present were from seventeen to twenty-seven. The younger boys were then “kids” in knee pants, and the unmarried women older were considered “old maids.”
It was wonderful then to see and to be seen, to watch the other men and women, to see who they were with, and note who was going steady with who, and what so-and-so had on, and to watch who was looking jealously at you. Some of the older fathers and mothers also liked to “stretch a leg” and to see in what manner some young buck was escorting their Mary; they also entered the parade. Most of these oldsters carried a cane, more to swagger with than for support, and it added much dignity to their carriage. And it was not unusual to see the high, black top hat, still out after being worn to church that morning. It was a pleasure to watch with what grace and ease it was swept in a curve from the top of the head almost to the sidewalk, as a gentleman greeted a lady.
It was a ceremony then for a gentleman to greet a lady, be he of the age of eight or eighty. There was no casual wave or touching of the hand to the hat. The hat came off well in advance of speaking and with a definite bow. No man would greet his wife with his hat on. When gentlemen and ladies met on the street the men removed their hats and kept them in their hands as long as they stood together, unless during inclement weather the ladies requested that they put them on. All young boys of that period wore caps with a stiff, long visor. Mine were usually blue and could be bought for twenty-five cents at “Hamme The Hatter.” All young boys in their teens took their hats off to “old gentlemen” forty or more in age. They did this just as smartly as if a lady had passed by.
My father wore a derby or “plug” hat. For a few months in the summer he changed to a stiff straw. To watch him lift his hat and bow to a lady was a real treat. He made an occasion of it. He would sit with his hat on even during hot weather, when on his front porch. In answer to the question, “why he wore his hat on the porch,” he replied, “How else can a gentleman speak to a lady that might pass by.”
One of the principal vantage places to watch the Sunday parade on Market Street was the front porch of the Wilmington Light Infantry. Here benedicts, bachelors, the jealous and the ones left out
gathered and sat at ease as they watched, noted and criticized those that passed by. Many remarks were made, gossip, and rumors started there.
The Sunday walks were an intimate, attractive, happy and harmless pleasure, enjoyed by all, both those who participated and those who watched. And it is a distinct feeling of regret that it has now been replaced by the gas—oil—horns and speed of today.SNOW AND SLEDS ON
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we used to go sled riding on Dock Street? Back sixty years ago there definitely was a great deal more snow that fell each winter. There were few winters when I was a boy that did not have at least one and sometimes four or more good snows, deep enough to use a sled on.
There was not enough snow however to make it good business for stores to keep sleds in stock to sell at such times. And those that had sleds were very popular and in great demand. Most of the sleds were one passenger, although two generally crowded on and made it more fun. But my brother William in partnership with Bernard O'Neal owned a three passenger Flexible Flyer. And when he went off to school and then to work, this sled fell to my charge and was put to real use every time a half inch of snow fell.
After a six-inch snow the crowd gathered at Third and Dock Streets and made the welkin ring with shouts of glee and happiness. There were single sleds and big sleds. There were store bought and homemade affairs, and there were passengers from just after school until well into the night, just as long as any snow remained on the ground. This block was too steep for a horse during icy weather anyway, so it was set aside for the boys and girls to slide on. Often a policeman was stationed at Second and Dock to warn traffic when a sled was about to descend upon them. And often the firemen upon request would come down from the station on the next block and sprinkle water from a hose to make the slide better after too much use and before another freezing night.
I remember seeing a boy on a sled go between a horse's legs at Second Street, scaring everybody including the horse. With a good sled, starting at Third, and on a good snow, a sled would go
past Front Street halfway to Water. We also used the “Sprunt Hill” on Nun from Front to the River, over the railroad tracks.
I remember those fortunate ones who had sleighs and would hitch up old Dobbin and drive to the real jingle of bells and laughter and the glee of children. Sometimes we would hitch a string of four or five sleds behind these and it was a pleasure I still tingle over. This sled is still in the attic of the old home in Wilmington. I would like to ride down that hill once more with my grandsons.SHINNY
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the boys all played shinny? The boys in our neighborhood played on Third Street. There was not too much traffic at that time, only an occasional buggy or perhaps a wagon. The goal lines were Ann and Church Streets.
There were usually from ten to twelve boys on each side. The game was played with a golf ball and “shinny sticks,” which were homemade golf clubs. Unless the excitement was too high to notice the approach, the game was delayed long enough to allow the passing of any vehicle.
The ball was put in play midway between the goals, and the object was to knock that ball across the goal line of the other side. There were no captains or guards. There were few if any rules, it was every man for himself, and he must protect himself if possible. You were wise if you stood so as to hit the ball with a right hand swing. For if you came between the ball and your opponents’ blow, you were liable to get a stinging whack on the leg. It was called “Shinny” because the shin was the place that many a lick fell; and your shin was where you wanted to be hit “any other place but.” If you came in the way of your enemy he would discourteously shout, “Shinny on your own side,” as he aimed a blow at the ball whether you stood in the way or not.
It was a rough and tumble affair and dangerous to all parts of the body. I have seen many a bruised leg or back-side and several very black eyes where we were struck with the ball sailing through the air with a well directed blow. My brother William suffered two broken front teeth, which pained as well as disfigured him for many years.
Shinny was “Ice hockey” without the ice, but with all its excitement
and fury. I have not seen it played since I was a boy and as a parent I was glad to see it discontinued.
Our balls were discarded golf balls and our clubs were usually obtained from out behind the old Marine Hospital at the head of Nun Street. We would seek out a wet or swampy place where a certain type of tree grew. Then selecting one of the right dimension, to hold in one's hand, we would pull it from the ground. This tree had a root or a club on the bottom, which was very hard and would take a lot of punishment. Then with the pocket knife we would carve it into a thing of real beauty, depending upon the skill of the carver. It could be shaped into as many types as there were in a set of golf clubs. But here we generally selected them for strength. These were kept and dried, and initials and designs cut upon the handles. Each boy had his favorite club and it was not to be loaned or used by another. I can still hear the old cry, “Shinny on your own side,” which was used then, and still is used even now to get one to move over or to get into place.THE PARLOR
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the parlor was a necessary and important room in every home? No substantial house of my day was built without one, and today none are included even in the most expensive homes. A parlor was a quiet, cold and gloomy room, and it was only opened on special occasions and for special company. The children of the home were forbidden to play in it, or even to enter without permission.
What was considered the best (and often the most uncomfortable) furniture of the home was placed in the parlor. Most of them held a large dark mahogany square piano, with large and ungainly legs. This was equipped with a round stool covered with dark velvet, which screeched wickedly when screwed up or down to a desired height. Why they never oiled a piano stool I will never know.
There were rugs placed at strategic points, they call them throw-rugs now; they threw you then, too. If the family owned a bear skin rug complete with head, this was the room it was placed in. There was always a big fireplace with heavy brass andirons and fender. Wood was carefully laid in place with kindling underneath, so that it might be instantly started, to take the chill off in winter and make it a more cheery place when company did come.
Here also were the best and the antique chairs, handed down in the family, and the ubiquitous sofa covered with black woven horsehair, that was the bane of a child with short clothes and bare legs. Those horse hairs stuck into a boy's bottom and scratched his legs, and reminded him that he had better be a good boy in that room, or else. Every self-respecting parlor had a stereopticon with which one looked at a card containing two pictures side by side, and it appeared as one, and in three dimensions. There were pictures of Niagara Falls, Statue of Liberty, and sometimes local scenes of interest. It was a wonderful help in entertaining a less talkative suitor.
On the table here was always found the velvet-covered family photograph album with heavy brass hinges and fastened with a wide brass catch. This album was an asset to young love, and forced the boy and girl to sit close together to hold it and examine it. There was grandpa and grandma and sometimes one of a baby with no clothes on, spread bottom up upon a rug, the latter being quickly passed over.
Many parlors had an easel made of cane with two legs in front and one behind. It supported a family painting or a tinted photograph of pa sitting and mother standing dutifully behind with one hand on his chair. There was generally a bunch of flowers made of china, glass and beads, covered with a dome-shaped glass or inverted bowl, called a bell jar.
The long windows were heavily draped and there were lace curtains hung on a round wooden rod with rings and with brass knobs at the ends.
The lamp was large and ornamented and seldom gave out enough light for any one to read by except the one directly under it. Although parlors were mostly cold and gloomy, on occasions were converted into mirth and happiness by a group of young people around the piano, singing the joy they felt, or at Christmas when the tree was erected and ornamented in this room. Colored paper chains were made and little lanterns added and were festooned over pictures and mantel and doors, along with the bamboo (smilax) and holly.
Few of the homes today are built with parlors. And few of the present generation know the real meaning of the word. But, as many other things of a by-gone-time, it served its time and place and is loved and remembered for what it was and for what it was intended to be, by those who know, “even if not regretted.”LONG PANTS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN it was a great occasion when a young lad put on long pants?
My little grandson, when three years old, had a suit of long pants. Not so when I was a boy. Boys up to sixteen and seventeen years old wore knee pants. Most of these were tight-fitting garments that buttoned to the shirt, as they had no belt, and it ended just above the knees. From there on down were those long black stockings. The very young boys had pants that flapped down in front and back and were fastened together at each side. Some of my pants had elastic in the waist band which saved a lot of buttoning. There were side pockets, a necessary thing for any boy, but there were no hip pockets on mine.
My mother made most of my pants, the coats and shirts, too, for that matter. They were made over from nice suits that my uncles had become tired of. When papa got through with a suit it was not even good for a rag. Most boy's pants wore out first in the seat. We must have done a lot of sliding for I do not remember sitting down much. And mother used to make a very respectable patch in them, although it was my shame and sorrow to have to wear these.
When I was seventeen years old and going to Professor Catlett's School, mother decided that I was old enough and big enough to have a pair of long pants. Most of the other boys my age had already made the change, which was a real event in a young man's life. It was his first evident sign of manhood.
It was also an occasion for hazing, and few were the boys who got by without it. It was my first all store bought suit and I was allowed to buy it myself without parental help. I was given sixteen dollars and I picked out a nice saltgrey worsted suit at Solky's and carried it home with pride. I managed to get to school late, too late for any hazing before school, but I could see mischief being planned for recess, and I was not disappointed.
The first thing was for each one to jerk my trousers up to see if I had on socks or still wore the long black stockings. Satisfied that I had properly furnished myself with a pair of socks, they continued to point their fingers and yell “long pants.” Everybody joined in, both those who had made the change and the younger ones who had not and were jealous. They then took me down to the old
streetcar barn on Orange Street between Front and Water, and proceeded to divest me of my new acquisition. They were careful not to hurt or soil them, however, and I was presently allowed to don them again and hide my embarrassment. The yells and the finger-pointing continued for about a week and I was greeted with “long-pants” at each new place that I appeared. I can not say that I enjoyed the transition but I can say that I have not forgotten it.DOG AND PONY SHOWS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN they used to have dog and pony shows? The ones that I remember best and the ones that I got a chance to go to were held in a vacant lot on the east side of Front Street between Church and Castle.
This was during the years from 1900 to 1906. They seemed like huge affairs to me then, but when I look at the lots today, they must have been comparatively small shows. The ponies were all small, of the Shetland or Indian type ponies. They were well trained and could race in singles or in groups hitched to small chariots. They were made to jump and dance and perform in every way except talk, and perhaps a little of that.
The dogs were many and varied. They were very intelligent and also well trained. Each would come out when called by name and would go back to his little stool when his act was finished. They would jump over hurdles, through hoops onto a pony, or on each other's backs. They would walk a ladder, a tight rope, a pole at the command of the trainer. The act that always caused the most excitement was to see a little fox terrier climb a ladder into the top of the tent and jump off into a net only a few feet above the ground. The oh's and ah's as it was climbing, the stillness when it got ready to jump, and the sighs of relief when it safely landed in the net are real today!
In addition, to add the necessary spice to the show there were always a few monkeys. They were dressed in clothes, some as old men and women and some as babies. They pushed wheelbarrows, baby carriages, jumped on and off dogs and ponies, and did the many things that always amuse grown folks, as well as the children. The climax of the monkey show was when a paper house was placed in middle of the arena and set afire. Bells rang, horns tooted, and firemen came out, who were monkeys pulling a little red fire engine.
There was a hand pump of the old-fashion fire engine variety and they pumped water and actually put the fire out.
The show was held in a tent and there was another smaller tent behind for the animals. They usually stayed there for a week. The charge was only twenty-five cents. It could easily be walked to, from our part of town.
I have wondered since how the neighbors liked having that show in their back yards. It must have been a nuisance with all that noise and fuss, to say nothing of a smell. It was fun for me though and I think it was fun for thousands of other boys and girls, that have now grown into adulthood and beyond.CRYSTAL PALACE
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the Crystal Palace operated in Wilmington? On the west side of Second Street between Princess and Market was a two story, red brick building, which accommodated, for many years, Wilmington's only continuously operating vaudeville show. As far as I have been able to learn it was the first of its kind in the city.
The building, which is still standing in 1957, is small and rather shallow in depth, and at the best could seat only 200 people. The ceiling was low, and the several columns supporting the story above did nothing to help the view of the audience. The stage was small also. But in spite of this it did furnish the county with its only touch of vaudeville for many years around the turn of the century, and I think it was a definite asset to those times.
As a young boy in my teens I had nothing to compare it with. I did go and I did enjoy it, although it was not always easy to get together the fifteen cents that was the price of admission for a child. The name was probably copied from the famous Crystal Palace house in London. Looking back I do not remember any crystals or even mirrors and certainly the theatre was everything but a palace.
It was here that I saw my first juggling acts, and gazed in wonder as a man and a woman tossed numerous balls, hats, pans and hoops in the air and kept them up, and deftly caught them one by one at the finish. After much practice I learned to juggle three balls, and three only to the admiration of myself.
There were songs and dances, and many would-be clowns. Every type of musical instrument was employed in some fashion and many instruments that were not even musical. In costume, there were the Irishman who had just come to America with his jokes about it, the simple faced and expressionless Dutchman, also always the butt of jokes, and, generally with a big horn, the inevitable negro minstrel.
A few of the other acts that I remember were the sword swallower, sawing a woman in two, the acrobats, the rope walkers the magicians, the producing of a rabbit from a hat, the card expert, and the hypnotist.
Many of the acts were shoddy and poor and cheap, and to gain applause they would shake out and wave an American flag or play Dixie. Many were, however, good and some were excellent entertainment and called for real artists to perform, besides much labor and practice. There was one name that seemed funny to the traveling entertainers, and was often used, and was considered good for a laugh when everything else had failed. It was to mention “Burgaw.” To Wilmingtonians, the mention of “Judge Borneman” was always good for a laugh.
Along with the vaudeville show always went one moving picture. There was also a song by some local talent with the aid of a tinny piano and illuminated colored slides shown on the screen, and the audience was often asked to participate. The program changed each week, and sometimes twice a week the costumes, songs and pictures were changed while the same actors remained.
Later I have seen and enjoyed vaudeville at its best at the Palace Theatre in New York, and many times in the Keith's Theatre at Washington, D. C. I have mourned and regretted the passing of vaudeville. Recently I have seen its partial rebirth in television. But still personally, when I think of the word vaudeville I can see that tight, snug, little theatre on Second Street in Wilmington that was known as the Crystal Palace.COVERED WAGON
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the covered wagon, or prairie schooner, used to be a common sight in and around Wilmington? They used to come down from the central and the upper part of the state, as well as the not far away counties of Brunswick, Pender and Columbus. They brought with them whatever produce there was for sale on their own or their neighbors’ farms. Principally, they came to replenish stocks from the wholesale markets and the establishments of Wilmington.
They were to be found on Water and Market Streets or parked on the outskirts of the town. I remember that they usually brought the whole family, man, wife and children. They all lived, traveled, slept in the big spacious wagon, called a “Prairie Schooner,” so called because of its boat-like shape and the fact that it was used to cross our prairies of a hundred or more years ago.
These wagons were big and heavy, but very practical affairs. The wheel being large could span a small depression, or bump over a stone, and yet heavy and strong enough to stand the abuse of traveling over rough ground without any thought of a road. These wagons could be hauled by horses, mules or oxen, using a team of two or four, as the road or the load might require. Oxen were the most common, and most dependable, and the strongest; although it was a slow way to travel, one could count on finally getting there. Oxen were the most economical also and could be fed off of whatever was found on the road, or near the place of encampment. They also required little harness and had small upkeep, the latter not being true with either horses or mules.
These wagons were from fourteen feet to twenty-four feet long and about six feet wide. The bottom was almost flat, but generally built in a long sweeping arch, slightly higher at the front and rear, giving them a graceful pleasing appearance. Curved standards or stanchions ran up the sides and arched over the top, allowing head room of at least six feet. These were placed about two feet on center. Over these were placed a heavy canvas cover, with draw strings at the front and the rear, making a fairly watertight compartment. The wheels were of wood with heavy solid spokes and a wide steel rim. The wheels ranged in size from three to six feet. Often the rear wheels were the larger, and it was on these that the wooden brake was applied by a lever operated by the
driver after the fashion of floor automobile brakes. These wagons seldom had any springs and every bump on the road was transmitted to the occupants.
With such a conveyance a man could take a family of six, carry his own food from home, travel a distance of one hundred or more miles with no more of expenditure than would have been demanded at home. After completing his purchases, his trip was without expense, and without hitch-hiking or begging alms either.TIMBER RAFTS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN huge rafts of timber mere floated via both branches down the Cape Fear River, from the upper part of the state? Lumber at that time was one of the principal products of North Carolina and a big money crop for the large and the small operator.
During the winter the small farmer and the large lumber companies would fell the trees, trim off the branches, and snake the logs down to the river with teams of oxen. Early in the spring the rafts began to be floated down the current and continued throughout the summer months. The logs were first floated, then assembled in approximate size and lengths. They were then lashed together with hickory withes. A log was placed on top of these near the edge and at right angle and this too was lashed, fastened or dogged to each log. These rafts were of different sizes depending on the lengths of the logs, some rafts were thirty feet wide and fifty feet long. Several of these rafts were then tied or roped together, with only enough space between to allow for turning a curve or bend in the river. Tied together, they sometimes were several hundred feet long.
The rafts were manned by two or more people. There was a long oar, perhaps twenty feet long, that was used as a rudder or guide. And there were two oars near the front end, one being on each side. With these the direction could be controlled and the rafts prevented from running against the river banks and out of shallow water.
Sometimes a man would bring his whole family with him, wife, children and the dog. A place was selected near the center of the raft, and smaller logs four inches or five inches in diameter were placed close together, this covered with earth about six inches
deep. And over this a tent or lean-to was built, and here the crew lived. An open fire was built on dirt, and served for the necessary cooking on the trip.
Log rafts would travel all day and at night if the moon and weather were favorable. Otherwise they tied up at night.
Depending on the distance to be traveled, the trip was long or short, but a two weeks’ trip was not unusual. Sometimes the lumber was traded for before it arrived at Wilmington. But generally the price was set per board foot and dickered for upon its delivery. There were a number of huge lumber mills all along the Cape Fear River, and a ready market was always available. The rafts were floated into an enclosure or basin, the logs were measured and the board feet figured. Then the raft was broken up, and the logs individually guided into a chain slide and carried up a runway to meet the saws and to be turned into lumber for the market. A great deal of this lumber was carried out of Wilmington by ships, much went out by rail, besides there being a good local market for it.
The loggers, having completed their journey and their trading and making such purchases in Wilmington that could not be bought in the upper country, generally made their return trip in one of the several paddle wheel steamers, that ran from Wilmington up the river to Fayetteville and beyond.
Two of the many lumber companies on the river were Hilton Lumber Co; operated by the W. L. Parsley family who cut 15,000,000 feet per year, and the Cantwell Lumber Co. foot of Castle Street.FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the old brick Presbyterian Church stood on the corner of Third and Orange Street? The first sermon by a Presbyterian minister in Wilmington, of which there is any record, was preached in the Court House, on February 15th, 1756, by the Rev. Hugh McAden, whose descendants in the fifth generation were still on the rolls of this church in 1892. In May, 1818, a group of Presbyterians met in the Episcopal Church, and, after hearing a sermon by Rev. James O. Andrews, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, they marched in a body to a lot on the east side of Front Street between Orange and Dock, which was
First Presbyterian Church, Third and Orange Streets. Destroyed
by fire December 31, 1925.
the site of the First Presbyterian Church building to be erected in Wilmington. There the cornerstone was laid by St. John's Lodge of Masons and the Concord Chapter, their lodge being around the corner at what is still know as St. John's Lodge.
Hardly had the building been completed and the new minister installed when it was destroyed by fire on November, 3rd, 1819. Some said at that time that they hoped this fire had wiped out a reproach upon the church because some of the money to build it had been acquired by lottery.
The cornerstone of a new and larger church was laid in 1820, and the building was completed in 1821. In 1840 a sessions room of brick was erected in the rear of this building and on the alley. This building was also used as a Sunday School; it was still standing when I was a boy but was demolished around 1947. This second church building was quite substantial, being of brick, with columns and portico in front and the customary steeple with bell tower. Along the outside walls of the main auditorium were the old-fashion box pews, with seats along three sides and a door into which a man could take his whole family and not be seen by anyone except the minister, who preached in an elevated pulpit upon Ionic pillars, which was reached by a winding stair. This was torn out in 1847, and more modern pews installed. A new bell was added in 1850 at a cost of $448.00 plus the exchange of the old bell. There was a balcony on the west end, in which the colored members sat, as at that time both races were members and worshipped at the same church.
On April 13th, 1859, this second church was completely destroyed by fire. There was no insurance, but before the flames had died down, subscription was begun on the site, and in a short time the sum of $14,000 was reported. It was decided to find a more suitable location, and the present lot on the corner of Third and Orange Street, was selected. The old site was sold and the new one purchased in 1859. Plans for the new building were drawn by Samuel Sloan, Architect of Philadelphia, and James Walker was chosen as the contractor to erect the new church at a cost of $20,000. The bell was the gift of Mr. George Harris, and the organ was given chiefly by Mr. Eli Murray. The new building was dedicated on April 28th, 1861, the pastor preaching the sermon.
In April, 1867, the Chesnutt St. Presbyterian Church was organized and connected with the Northern General Assembly, and most
of the thirty-four charter members joined this church of negro people by letter from the First Presbyterian Church.
Among the many noted ministers of this Third and Orange Street church was Dr. Joseph R. Wilson, D. D., who served from March, 1874 to 1885. His son, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, was a member, and was later to become President of the United States.
This church was of brick with a high gable roof and long, high, arched, stained glass windows. The roof was of slate of different colors and a pleasing geometrical design. There were two spires on Third Street. The main one quite tall and imposing and could be seen well over the town. It was in the center of the front gable, was square and of brick about half way up, and from there a slender six-sided, slate-surfaced tower ran up to a point. At the northwest corner was another tower almost the duplicate of the main one except that it was only half as high. There was an ample balcony across the west end, reached by a wide stair just north of the main tower. I remember that here the deacons took collections by the means of a carpet-covered box poked at you with a long stick.
In the tower was a clock with faces in all four directions, and it struck the hours. This clock was furnished and kept in order by the City of Wilmington, and was known as the “town clock”. There was also a large bell with a very mellow tone, which was tolled fifteen minutes before church time as well as five minutes before. On certain occasions the sexton would allow us boys to ring it, with him standing by, and on certain other occasions it was heard to ring by somebody who had no permission or right to ring it. It was also tolled for funerals and rang out joyfully for weddings and other great events.
There was a stucco brick wall with a rounded top about three feet high on both the Third and Orange Street sides. Here we liked to sit and talk. From the old photograph can be seen a high brick wall that was at one time on top of this. But this had been removed or had fallen long before I knew it.
There was a small place dug out under the pulpit, which answered for a basement. It had a dirt floor and sloping earth sides. Access was gained from an areaway and a cellar door on the Orange Street side. Here in this basement I used to like to go during some service, that I did not have to attend, and to talk with the sexton. He had been a former slave and went with his master in the field during the war. He loved to tell about it, as much as we liked to
listen. At times he would also let us help pump the big bellows wind for the organ in the church above.
I have happy memories of this church. Here I learned the Catechism, here I went to Sunday School, and here although unworthy, I became a member, and made my confession of Faith which I have never regretted.
This church also was to suffer the fate of the two former Presbyterian Churches of Wilmington and was destroyed by fire on December 31st, 1925. This time, however, the building was insured and, with added gifts of generous members, necessary funds were secured and the present structure erected. The cornerstone of this building was laid on March 13th, 1927 and the building was dedicated on November 18th, 1928. It is hoped that any stigma connected with this church on account of lottery, has been thoroughly burned and purified by fire.MOSQUITO NETS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we always slept under mosquito nets in the summer time? There was a ritual performed each year at my home as we ascended the stairs to the garret, collected and hauled down a varied assortment of mosquito nets and frames and installed them on all the beds.
Wilmington in the summer, in those years, was alive with mosquitoes. They bred prolifically in the old rice fields across the river, in the swampy grounds surrounding the town, in the back water of Smith's Creek, in McIlhenney's Mill Pond, as well as in every tin can in every back yard.
In the early part of the evening we would delay lighting the lamps and would gather on the piazza, and, by rocking vigorously or continually moving around, we could avoid them so as not to be eaten alive. No one that I knew at that time had any screens in their windows or doors. Flies entered by day and mosquitoes entered at will, and they generally willed it.
From the earliest colonial times the wealthy betook themselves out of Wilmington in the summer, heading for the seashore, where at least sometimes there was a breeze, or to the mountains where there were few mosquitoes. As we were not wealthy and as I did not know any who were, we stayed at home and protected ourselves as best we could.
Sometimes we did try to read at night and we gathered as close as possible under the big kerosene lamp with the green or opal shade, which cast a pleasant glow on the book, although it was as hot as pepper. The summer bugs, the moths and mosquitoes quickly found us out, and buzzed like an electric motor, as they circled and flew in and out and around the chimney, the shade, the book, our heads and our legs.
No one lit a light in a bed room unless necessary, because of the tremendous accumulation of insects that it would attract through the open windows.
Each bed had its own and individual mosquito net. The four poster beds all had a hole bored in the top of each post in which a headless nail was inserted. And from the top of each post was formed a wooden frame consisting of four pieces of one inch by one and one-half inch strips of wood. Over this frame was hung a one-piece, box-shaped mosquito net that draped to the floor, and effectually kept the mosquitoes out or kept them in, as the case might be.
Some beds that did not have posts had special upright pieces that were screwed to the back and foot of the bed to make posts, on which the frame was placed and the net hung as before. There were also beds that had a single pulley fastened to the ceiling and a special mosquito net on a metal frame could be drawn up in position.
These nets were fragile affairs and had to be continually repaired and darned as the slightest hole was large enough to admit enough mosquitoes to spoil a night's rest. That was another job that the women folk attended to.
Besides keeping the mosquitoes out, these nets on a hot night also kept out any pretence of a breeze that might have come in the windows. They were equal to sleeping under one thickness of a good wool blanket. In other words they were hot.
Each night one would slip upstairs to bed, using only a light from a lamp in the hall, and, after undressing and donning a long night gown which was worn by the men as well as the women, he would lift the net from the floor quickly and climb under, hoping that no mosquito saw him. Then he would carefuly examine the inside for enemies, and would go around clapping his hands at everything in sight as if applauding at a concert. He would try and exterminate all creatures that had matured overnight, or which had
grown fat on your blood the night before. You would then kick the sheet back, and stretch flat on your back straddle legged and expose yourself to the heat, to the mosquitoes or to Morpheus, whichever came first.LUMINA
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN Lumina was the Mecca of all the youth and many of the adults of Wilmington? Lumina was erected in 1904 by the old Tidewater Power Company, which ran the electric cars from Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach. This was Mr. Hugh MacRea's idea, and like many of his other projects, was immediately successful. It was built at the extreme southern end of the inhabited beach and there were only a few small houses or shacks beyond it. From the start it was a free pavilion and was maintained and offered by the company as an added inducement to attract visitors to the Beach. And attract them it did, and the only means by which they could get there was over their electric line and by paying thirty-five cents for a round trip.
The first building was square and considerably smaller than it is now, but because of its popularity was enlarged within a year or two to its present size. As its name implies, Lumina began in a blaze of lights and continued so during my youth and young manhood. Literally thousands of incandescent lights outlined its shape and ran up the ridges of the roof, capped with the brightest lights around the cupola which was on the first building. By night it could be seen by ships far out to sea, as well as from all the nearby Sounds.
Every night during the summer season, the Tidewater Power Co. furnished an excellent orchestra that played from eight to eleven o'clock. The pavilion as well as the dancing was free to all comers. The ballroom contained about 6,000 square feet with additional space for seats, used by the onlookers. The large and spacious porches afforded pleasure both day and night and were a delightful place to enjoy the sea breeze after a dance, or to watch the old silent movies shown on a screen over the waves.
There was always good order at Lumina, and the best and most select society felt free and safe to use it, knowing that public opinion and custom only governed and controlled its decorum. The waltz and the two-step were the accepted dances, although the one-step was beginning to be in evidence. There was nothing but the best of
Original Lumina Building.
manners and good comradeship, both during and between the dances. Of course, there was no dancing with a girl unless you had been properly introduced and accepted.
Always there was a stag line at each door, and the ladies were shared by their escorts, the stags generally breaking in during a dance, and he had the girl to enjoy until he himself was relieved by a tap on the arm or shoulder. The more popular girls often had several partners during one swing around the ballroom, and woe to the boy who was stuck with one nobody wanted.
Many of the girls lived at the beach and were dated well ahead for each night, the young man calling at the home after supper and walking the half mile or more down the board walk to the pavilion; had the pleasure of walking back again when Home Sweet Home was played and the last waltz was danced. This walk was as much treasured and enjoyed as the dance itself. Strict mothers had no hesitation in letting their daughters go up to Lumina, knowing full well that they would be delivered safely home again, shortly after eleven o'clock or the closing hour of the pavilion.
Besides the regular nights there were always special events, such as the Fourth of July and Labor Day and the Saturday night dance. The ballroom was appropriately and specially decorated for each occasion. Colored paper festooned the sides and ceiling of the ballroom. Columns and posts were wrapped, and the whole place had a festive air that added pleasurably to the occasion.
I know of no place where a young man with fifty cents could leave Wilmington, purchase a thirty-five cent ticket to the beach, meet his girl at her home, walk up to Lumina, dance until eleven, perhaps buying a Coca-Cola or a lemonade, and, without spending or having any need of spending more, return to his home with five cents still in his pocket.
The building is still there, and it is still called Lumina. Most of the lights are gone, as also is the electric railway. It is largely unpainted and badly in need of repair. The entrances are wired off like cages, and none can enter without payment. All very proper and right. But the glamour, the open and free comradeship and fellowship is also gone. Again I have used the word “gone.” And yet, as long as I live and those that knew it of old live, Lumina will remain in our hearts and our memory as a bright and shining place; a “Lumina.”
Iron Balcony. The last of the Iron Balconies left on a building in downtown Wilmington, west side of Sec-
ond Street between Market and Princess, June 1957.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN iron balconies adorned many of the buildings on the main streets of Wilmington? No self-respecting old building would be found without one. At the time of erection these balconies were a thing of necessity. Most of these buildings were former residences, and sometimes even then the lower floor was used for a place of business. There was a front door directly on the street with a stair leading to the living room above, and usually this living room opened onto the balcony. Here one could enjoy the coolness of a summer evening and get whatever breeze was coming up from the Cape Fear River.
The old pictures of Front Street, of Market and Princess Streets, all show a row of balconies. These became very important and useful also when a parade was held, and they were packed with men, women and children and allowed them to get a view impossible from the street. They were also ideal places to hang and drape the flag and bunting for a celebration.
Many of these old balconies were highly ornamental and very beautiful in their construction. Some were constructed of cast iron, but most of them were of wrought iron. They were supported by brackets fastened below to the brick walls of the building and these brackets were gracefully curved and added to the decorative effect.
I have an account book, which lists the expense of constructing a residence for Wm. A. Berry, my great-grandfather, on Market Street and there is a record of $75.00 for an iron balcony with $3.72 for freight on same from Baltimore. This was dated September 16th, 1848. This balcony was removed within the past twenty years.
The old Orton Hotel had balconies, as well as a covered second floor porch, and these were used by the patrons, who wished a little more seclusion than the lower floor afforded. But these balconies were made of wood, and the others I refer to were made of metal except for the floor.
As I remember it, most of the buildings on both sides of Front Street from Orange to the Depot had balconies. All the pictures that I have been able to find taken around 1900 show them. They were on the Peoples Bank at Front and Princess and the Atlantic Bank next door to the Orton Hotel. Also on the old Purcell House, which occupied the site of the present Bailey Theatre, and all buildings
402 South Third Street, Residence of Wm. B. McKoy.
north of it to Princess. Photographs of buildings on both sides of Market Street from Front to Second show them. The old Anderson residence on the corner of Front and Orange had a balcony on three sides, Orange and Front Streets and the east. This building still stands, minus the balcony.
In the year 1957 I searched the town for balconies and found only one still in existence of the old-fashion type and this one was of the wire type instead of cast iron. It is located on the west side of Second Street between Market and Princess, just north of the alley, and graces the front of a rather ordinary two-story brick building. There is a balcony on a frame residence on Dock Street between Second and Third, and a few on more recent buildings such as the Salvation Army Building on South Front Street. The old balconies are all gone now, with the age, save one.HOUSE ON THE CORNER
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN it was a warm evening in September, 1886? The new buggy behind a roan mare ambled down Third Street, stirring a fine white dust from the oyster shell covering that topped the double road. It was a pleasant road separated into two parts by a broad grass park. The buggy was new, a bright red whip sticking up from the dash like a thin mast on a river sailboat. A young man was driving or rather was holding the reins as his attention was fixed upon a pretty girl beside him and he was listening to her chatter.
As the buggy neared a street called Nun, the horse slowed up and almost stopped. The girl, noticing a corner lot and having unconsciously in her mind the fact that someday she might live in a house beside that road, remarked, “Will, that is a pretty lot.”
It was a pretty lot, and made at once beautiful in the eyes of William. It was on a corner—level as a pond. An old, one-story house stood, or rather sat, upon it. The next day a deed was notarized and placed among the records of New Hanover County giving title to William Berry McKoy a lot, etc. And a note was sent to Kate, advising her that someday a house would arise on that site and that Kate and Will would live therein.
I am the house. That is how I was conceived. I was born some months later. In huge rafts floating down the Cape Fear River came my skeleton, my backbone and my ribs. Hard, tight, long-leaf, yellow
pine with grain close and tenuous. It was cut into beams, joists, studs, girths and rafters, and placed in the warm Carolina sun to dry and age.
My style and design, although hopelessly out of date in the present age, had reason and had use. How silly, flippant, and worthless the present five room bungalow would have seemed, would have been, when I was born. I am not Grecian or Colonial. I am not and never was a thing of beauty. I was built in the gingerbread age, but had not too much of that in my outer garments. I was built for a period, that is past and gone forever. But everything about me had reason and use.
I came in the age of large families, several cooks, servants, yard-men and wash-women, the age when the family not only had a house but lived in a house instead of an automobile. They left the house for work, for church, for school, for circuses, but generally they lived in it, and returned to it after each event, happy to be and to stay there.
I was planned with care and built from exact plans and details that are still in existence. My timbers are long-leaf pine, resinous, and once a nail is driven into my wood it is impossible to remove it. The selection of each joist, stud, rafter and board was done with care and with much to select from.
Real mechanics, real carpenters formed my various parts into an exact and satisfying whole. All of the carpenters were negroes—fine black men true to their trade. A negro was foreman and reported only to the owner. They were former slaves who had lost neither their love for their master or their work. Old Uncle David did the painting, and Howe was chief carpenter.
My pride and joy and a source of much interest is in my front hall. Double front doors open into a spacious Front Hall. In the hall is a fireplace and mantel, a long window, doors to the parlor and a portiere, cutting it off from the rear hall. A heavy wood rail leads a beautiful flight of stairs from it to the second floor, hesitating comfortably half way up with a landing.
The walls from floor to ceiling are of wide, curly pine, paneled boards, arched at the top. The curly grain of the plank creates various patterns in the wood that take the eye and carry it from place to place, giving apparent movement to a lifeless thing. The ceiling is beaded pine also, and there is a wide black walnut base that borders the room.
The curly pine was selected by a lumber mill over a period of several years and laid aside for me.
Note the workmanship, the hundreds of corners, mitres, and joints. Each one is perfect, plumb level, straight, making it hard to find where one piece stopped and another commenced.
This hall has seen most of the many “farewells” from this house, family and friends leaving for the corners of the world. Here also the glad, “Welcome Home” has sounded as front doors were flung wide open to receive those returning to my care. I have seen kisses, embracing and tears.BLINDS
Every window is shaded with an inside blind; these fold back from the center and each half is in two parts. They can almost completely cut out the light and are carefully closed each night. They have tiny slats that operate in sections and can be opened to catch a breeze and closed to keep it out. They have pinched many a finger in operation and will merrily beat a tattoo in a slight breeze, and add sound to an otherwise still night.MANTELS
Where do people put things now in houses with no mantels? Where are clocks placed, match boxes, china ornaments, pictures, and the innumerable other lay-me-downs, that have no other suitable place to go, except a mantel?
My front hall mantel is heavily ornamented. It is of pine with flutes and filigrees. There are two miniature balconies, one on each side, wonderful places to put something in, but I never saw anything appropriate to put in them.
The living room mantel is part and parcel of the bookcases that fill one entire side of the room. It has some ornament but is more simple with bars of different kinds of woods to set it off.
The dining room mantel is plain indeed, but large and spacious. It can hold a clock, pictures, food, flowers or even kindling wood if placed upon it. There was no mantel over the stove in the kitchen, no place for one above this engine of fire and water that cooked the meals and heated the baths for the inhabitants.
Attics, cellar, big halls, communicating rooms, front and rear staircases, piazzas, front and rear, porches upstairs and down, high
ceilings, the joy of living, freedom of movement. One could dance in one part of the house while someone else slept in another part. Closets big enough to be rooms in the present houses, shelves, cabinets, drawers, bookcases, mantels—each in detail and each designed to fit a definite need.CHIMNEYS
There are three big chimneys that act as three separate back bones to my body, that have added much comfort, much pleasure and much work to my family. Nine large open fireplaces placed strategically about, when properly fed, create a warmth, a glow, an attractive place of interest, a hominess that no present day radiator can possibly approach. Andirons, fenders, logs, dancing flames and shadows are some of the many things I remember, to say nothing of steaming socks and mittens placed to dry. Tart apples hung by a cord from the stem before the fire swung from the mantel, slowly revolving and roasting. Marshmallows also on forks or sticks always taste better than when roasted over a stove.
An open fire seems to release a certain oil of friendliness in both men and women, that flows between them easing trouble and misunderstanding and making true friendship the better forever, because of it. Talk becomes quieter, words fewer, thoughts easier and happiness more perfect before the embers of a dying fire.
Oh, yes, there were stoves, too. A big coal one with glowing isinglass panes, nickel top and foot rests, a coal shute at top, ashes at bottom in a drawer, dampers and a shaker that could rattle my very bones when the fire was shaken down each morning and night. There was a quick heating wood stove in the dining room and three in the bed rooms. They served their purpose but had no glamour about them. I remember they were forever hungry and needed constant attention. Several times a year all stoves were blacked and polished like a shoe, and oh! the odor when first they were refired!
To say that I am old-fashioned would not tell a true story, say rather that I am out-of-date. I was never, even in my youth, “the fashion,” but I was up-to-date and in some regards ahead of it. What home of my era could boast so many extras or niceties! I had a basement; we called them “cellars” then. There was an out-door grade line coal chute. When a wagon would deliver coal it would
run by gravity to the cellar. There was a cistern to collect and store rain water from the roof. There was a lever that would dump this water on the ground if it wasn't wanted. There was a settling basin filled with charcoal to purify the water.
I had a butler's pantry as well as the locked pantry with an arched-top hole between them to serve and pass the food. The house was piped for gas and, although it never was used, it was not my fault. Pipes ran to each room in the house and, wonder of wonders, two small wires that I was told would and could light the gas electrically.
There was a burglar alarm system. Each outside door and each window downstairs had an arrangement that would make an electrical connection if opened and ring a bell in the second floor hall. This could be turned off and on for day time use. There were servants to answer the bells also. Where would you find that now? There was an electric front door bell that worked from wet batteries high on a shelf over the pantry door. Most houses then had only bells pulled by wire or turned at the door only.
There was an arrangement of cords that ran up from the master bedroom to the attic and down again to the back porch door, so it could be opened at the knock of a servant without the master's leaving his bed. This was known as a “lazy cord.” There was a laundry chute and closet with a hole to throw the clothes in, a lightning rod system, a separate office on the back porch, brass ornamented hardware and a secret panel with a secret closet, shelves to keep Grandpa's money in. Oh! the excitement and interest encountered when this was found!PIAZZAS
All across the front and part way down each side of my first floor is the “Front Piazza.” It is wide enough for a group to sit and leave passage both front and back without movement of chairs. There is a railing supported by round turned balusters, just the right height for my men folk to pull up chairs to and rest their weary feet. A piazza without a railing is almost like a buggy without a horse, or a horse and buggy without a girl.
A breeze is always to be found somewhere on it, even on the hottest night. It is the summer gathering place of family and friends, near enough to the sidewalk to greet a neighbor passing and far enough away to be private.
Besides chairs, my furniture consists of a gee-joggle—a long heavy board supported on two horses. This is an excellent seat for a crowd of boys and girls and the constant movement made them feel they were going somewhere. It could be balanced on one horse and made into a see-saw and often was. Or the board could be removed and placed from the banister railing to the ground where it became a shoot-the-shoot. A utility piece indeed. It is too bad there are few piazzas big enough in present day houses to enjoy or even contain a gee-joggle.
There was always one and often there were two hammocks. The joy of swinging in these beats any “merry-go-round.” To lazily lie stretched out looking at trees and sky is still an attitude adored by many of the old school. I am sure somewhere on the posteriors of many are marks from bumps made when they fell or were jostled out of a hammock.
There were generally enough straight and rocking chairs on the porch, but when extra company came it was easy to drag additional ones through the long windows that reached to the floor in the living room and parlor.
Games were played here, those too rough and noisy for the house.
There was a back piazza also, small by comparison but bigger than many front porches now. Here was kept wood between cellar and fireplace. Here the oil can was kept and lamps brought daily from throughout the house, filled with kerosene, cleaned, wicks trimmed, chimneys washed and polished and made ready for another night. Here also the wash-woman did her work on the clothes, using two big wooden tubs with extending staves for handles, filled with hot water from a steaming pot on the big stove in the kitchen.
The rear piazza was latticed so that the neighbors could not see in and to keep the glare of the sun out. It was easy for a boy to climb like a monkey up the lattice to the second floor. There was also a second floor rear porch, used for a thousand purposes, such as drying out clothes, for wood, for flower boxes, but principally it was here that the “water closet” was placed. It was not considered proper to have a water closet in the house, and, having only recently been advanced from the back yard, as a concession in the better homes, it was placed in its own small closet on the back porch.
One had to go outdoors to visit it. That prevented too long an occupation on winter days and nights. But it had an unpleasant way of freezing up several times each winter. A high wooden box hung high up near the ceiling and was controlled by a chain which was pulled to loose the deluge. It was truly a “water closet” as it was known before the new-fangled name of Toilet was taken from the French.
There was also a small porch on the second floor up front opening on the corner. It was the joy and pride of the boys. From here one could see what was happening up and down both streets. One could jump over the railing on to the flat tin roof and shinny down a drain pipe, or climb in another bedroom window. It was a wonderful place to watch a parade, a funeral, the fire reels (and I mean a real reel), and the fire engines. One could stand in the dry and enjoy a summer rain storm, feel it, smell it and see it.FAMILY
Within my four walls have been born, raised, sent out and returned a family. There must have been sadness, but my memory is of happy days and nights.
Each event was a long story in itself, too long for telling, events that leave an everlasting impression on the house and those that had part in them, births, christenings, doctor's visits, Christmas trees, weddings, Thanksgiving feasts, visits for aunts, uncles, grandmothers, cousins, friends, birthdays, anniversaries, parties, magic lantern and shadow shows, plays, measles, and chicken pox, ice-cream freezer on the back porch, licking dasher, broken arms, leaving home for the war, service flag in the window, happy return, yes, the many happy returns, for this house housed a family that traveled well over and across the world and always returned to me when possible and called me “Home.”
My roof needs attention, my lightning rod is askew, my sides need painting, but in foundation and at heart I am as sound and as true as ever. I have had my day; I have played my part, I hope well. I am not adapted to the present mode of living. I may be abandoned or even demolished, but what care I, my job of housing a family has been accomplished and that will live on.
Venus Fly Trap.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the Venus Fly Trap was a common plant, to be found in great abundance in and around Wilmington? This is not now so, and one desiring to see and examine this wonderful plant must know where to look, and then search diligently. The Venus Fly Trap is the one thing in the world that is strickly native to the vicinity and environs of Wilmington.
The Venus Fly Trap is of the Sun Dew family, its botanical name being “Dionaea muscipula.” It was first described by the American botanist Ellis. The plant was later investigated and described by Charles Darwin in his book on “Insectiverus Plants.” He wrote that he considered the Venus Fly Trap the most wonderful plant in the world, and anyone who studies its behavior will, without doubt, agree with his opinion. It is only to be found on the coast of Carolina in very limited areas. I have only seen it in and around Wilmington. It selects a damp, swampy place, that is never covered with water, and yet never completely dries out. It was formerly to be found around the borders of Greenfield Lake and south toward Carolina Beach. It was also in great abundance in the swampy areas of Brunswick County, south of Wilmington along the river.
The ends of the leaves are each equipped with a trap. This trap is formed of two wide, hand like sections, that are hinged at the bottom, with many fingers along the outer edge, that when closed interlace with each other. The trap itself ranges in size from that of a little fingernail to a large thumbnail. When open the leaves are somewhat concave.
On the inside surface of each leaf there are three tiny hairs or tapering bristles. These bristles are actually triggers and if touched will set the trap instantly in motion. If one of these triggers is touched only once, as if by the accidental touch of a straw, there is no movement. But if one of these triggers is touched twice or if two of them are touched once, then it instantly springs into action. The outside curved bristles first lock into each other, and then the two sides of the leaf press together. The more an insect struggles, the closer the plant presses its victim, until it actually squeezes the juices out of it.
There is a substance that the plant secretes and baits its leaves to attract the insects to the trap. At first the victim is held lightly, and if it is found too small for a good meal, or if it is only a leaf or some non-nutritious substance, then the trap will open and the
prisoner will be released or if it is a leaf it will blow away. However if desireable, it will press its sides so closely that the form of the insect can be seen by its impression on the leaf.
The leaf also secretes a chemical substance that causes the insect to ferment, which breaks up its tissues. When it has been completely absorbed and non-nutritious matter only remains then the leaves will open and the trap is again set for another victim. These leaves are seldom able to make a meal more than two or three times during their life.
There are two different kinds of action that causes this plant to close its leaves. The first is mechanical, when the triggers are touched and is very rapid when excited by this action. It will also close when it is excited chemically, but this is done very slowly, as there is then no cause for speed.
This is indeed a wonderful plant. It never fails to excite interest when shown or described to a visitor. However it is rapidly disappearing from the scene, and it is quite possible that it will disappear completely, as drainage and civilization slowly destroy its native habitat.
Miss Elizabeth F. McKoy, a student of botany, and with a lifetime of association with and study of the Venus Fly Trap, states: “There are certain areas in and around Wilmington, particularly near Greenfield Lake, where the moisture in the soil is constant. At such a place one year, some one spaded up ond removed the top layer of black earth, fly traps, vegetation and all. Returning to the spot some months later, I found hundreds of diminutive fly trap plants, over the whole space. I have also noticed when a ditch is dug, or the land newly turned over, Venus Fly Trap plants will spring up in abundance. After blooming, many seeds are formed and scattered about liberally. Vegetation will crowd it out, but a suitable cleared space is a veritable seed bed for it. The flower of this plant is especially beautiful although small, and beauty is always a reason for preservation.”
It would indeed be a worthy project for the United States government, the State of North Carolina or the city of Wilmington to take steps to preserve this most interesting species of plant life. Wilmington could perhaps purchase a number of acres of land in the vicinity of Greenfield Lake and by presenting a suitable situation, this plant would of its own accord thrive and reproduce. It would not cost a great amount of money and would perhaps pass this plant on to posterity.BIJOU
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the first permanent picture show came to Wilmington? The first picture shows were brought to Wilmington by the street carnivals, which stayed only one week. Later these shows were brought to the Opera House and played for a week at ten, twenty and thirty cents. But the first permanent picture show was the Bijou, which opened its tent show in the year 1906 and remained for over fifty years the center of the amusement field in the city.
I remember the large vacant lot that adjoined the yard of the Cape Fear Club, which then was on the corner of Front and Chestnut, where the Murchison Building now stands. This lot was leased to James F. Howard and Percy Wells, who had been traveling about showing moving pictures in a tent, and they decided to try their luck in Wilmington for a while. The tent was placed on the above lot, set back about twenty feet from Front Street and a small box office set up.
Later a wooden front was erected, leaving the tent in place behind. An elevated platform was built to one side and enclosed for the projection room, and here Mr. Wells sat and operated the machine by hand. There was little printing on the films of that time, and some of the early actors were not expert in conveying their thoughts without words. So the man operating the crank of the machine told the story that was being portrayed as it went along, using a script that was written out to go with each film.
The films were mostly old and second hand, and many were the pauses as the film would break, and had to be mended before the show could proceed. The films themselves were supposed to be silent, but the grind of the machine was plainly audible and at the end of a reel the flip-flip-flip of the finish announced without words a slight delay. The reel on the machine was not interchangeable and had to be rewound on the original reel, before another one could be started.
The tent was approximately fifty feet by one hundred and twenty-five, with a small screen in the back. It held about three hundred people. The floor was dirt, covered with sawdust and peanut shells. The seats were wooden folding chairs fastened together in groups with an aisle in the center and on each side. After every show, which lasted around an hour, the machine operator
Bijou. The first Permanent Moving Picture House in North Carolina.
Showing entrance in front of a tent. Note owners J. F. Howard
with his dog, and Percy Wells, next. About 1906.
would leave his platform, and with ropes raise the two sides of the tent letting in fresh air and light between each performance. Then it was we talked of the picture and bought and ate more popcorn and peanuts. Down again the sides would come during a scramble of the children for seats that were hard to find in the dark, the machine would start again its grind and the narrator would again tell his story.
In the early years Mr. Howard sold admissions. He sat on a round top stool with a pocket full of nickels, and collected as the customer entered. Later a man was employed to do this, while Mr. Howard walked up and down in front of the theatre, calling in a loud voice that could be heard for blocks, and still rings in my memory, “Never Out and Never Over. Right this way! New picture showing! For five cents, the twentieth part of a dollar,” etc. “Never out and never over” was his theme, and very true it was for over half a century.
Some of the early film showings were the Black Diamond Express, Burglar on the Roof, Happy Hooligan, with his tin can hat, The Great Train Robbery, The Servant Girl Problem, The Whole Damn Family and the little Damn Dog. Some of the early stars were Florence Turner, Mary Pickford, John Bunny, Maurice Costello, Flora Finch, Alice Joyce, Dustin Farnum, Mack Sennets Keystone Cops, and others.
It was called the By-Joe from the very start and it remained to be known best by that title until its very end. The Bijou was not only the first moving picture house in Wilmington but also in the state and it was the first permanent movie theatre in the South. It was also the oldest continuously operated moving picture house in the country.
A piano was near the sheet, and just before or just after the picture Mrs. Wells would sing the words of illustrated songs which would be projected upon the screen, and after a while the audience would join in. This would make the show appear to be longer and would fill in the space between reels, and also give the operator a chance to rest.
Mrs. Percy Wells entered the show business at an early age, and, as Alice Fisher, was a well known personality in the late nineties and early century. She was featured in a singing and dancing act. She appeared in a number of Broadway shows and was a member of the famed Floradore Sextet for several years. She met
Mr. Wells on a tour and married him; he was then a head-line trapeze artist, the “Great Percino,” having appeared with Barnun and Bailey Circus.
Mr. J. F. Howard came to Wilmington in 1906 and found Mr. Wells, whom he had formerly met in Chicago while engaged in a trapeze act. Mr. Wells had a moving picture projector and Mr. Howard owned a tent. A partnership was formed and the first moving picture show for Wilmington was started, and it was immediately successful.
Sometimes a whole family would come in from the country and spend the afternoon there. Mr. Howard would try to discourage that by walking up the aisles between the shows and suggest to those that had seen the show, that others were waiting to get in. Just before the picture started a sign would be flashed on the screen, “Ladies will please remove their hats.” This was generally effective, and because of the size of some ladies’ hats it was necessary so that those in rear could see. And there were slides that read: “One moment please while we change reels.” “Those coming in late kindly remain, show starts right over again.”
Mr. Howard was (to say the least) portly. He was a splendid looking man with bushy, snow white hair, and because of the latter, as well as his name, he was known as Foxy Howard, after Foxy Grandpa, a famous cartoon character of the time. Anyone knowing the By-Joe knew Foxy. He owned a large Great Dane dog called Caesar, which slept near the entrance or wandered in and out of the tent at will, never going far away from either the Bijou or his master. The left hand section of that tent was roped off for negroes who did not like to pass near Caesar.
During the year 1911 there was a heavy snow storm which destroyed the tent. A completely new and modern theatre, was erected on the old site, with a highly ornamented front, containing plaster frescoes and figures. It was the latest in theatre buildings in North Carolina.
The last reel has been cranked. The last picture has been shown. The last ticket has been collected. Those that raised and lowered the tent sides along with the operators are dead and gone. During the year 1956 the old Bijou closed its doors. A victim of what had once been its success, progress. “Never Out and Never Over,” he shouted. It sounded, it was true then. But now it is “Ever Out and Ever Over.”LIVERY STABLES
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the Livery Stable was a place of wonder for the young, an asset to the courting couple, and a necessity to the life of the older generation? How as children we used to walk by and stop to look at its many attractions? The horses advertised themselves by sticking their heads through the little round windows, that seemed always to be found part of the architecture of a stable. The row of stalls, the slatted container for hay, head high, which the animal pulled through almost straw by straw as it ate. The hole above it where the racks were filled by tossing down from the loft. The wooden feeding trough, that was always itself almost eaten up, along with the grain.
As we stood in the door we heard the whinnying and neighing of the horses. We smelled the flavor of horse and manure, and we liked it. We saw the beautiful new green wagon with red wheels and a spring seat, and we wished that we could go for a ride. There was the harness hanging on pegs around the walls, the collars, the hame, the whipple tree, the belly band, the backstrap, the crupper of shiny black and tan leather with bright brass and nickel fittings. There were blinders for the scary horses and special bits for those with a tendency to cut up. The round rack for the horse whips, an accessory for every vehicle. The heavy handle, the limber end and the bright red cord at the end that snapped when you shook it and had as much effect in making the horse go as touching it with the whip itself.
Here was where the young man came to select the best buggy on the lot take his girl to ride. Here also he came to engage the closed carriage to ride his partner to the l'Ariosa or the annual Sigma Nu affair. These were fashionable dances held every winter. There were carriages to take the family for a ride down the turnpike to the Sound, and most essential of all, to ride in to a funeral. Conveyances were on hand to carry any who wished to the cemetery and a conveyance for some who might have wished not. And even after automobiles these were fairly common, no one would think of “hurrying the body to the grave” in a machine.
The livery stable was where you phoned to engage a hack to come to the house to carry you to the depot, and to send a wagon to get the trunk or trunks that always accompanied a person on a train trip. Oh, the agony of waiting and wondering if the carriage and
R. C. Orrell, Livery Stable, Third and Princess Street.
wagon would come. Would there be time to buy the ticket and check the trunk if it got there? Then there was wrestling that it took to get the trunks, with the aid of two men, from the room on the second floor, down the winding stairs and into the wagon, assisted by two negro men.
If one wished a wagon to haul a box of apples from the Clyde Line boat warehouse, or to go to the woods for a Christmas tree and bamboo, it was to the livery stable you went. That is, unless you had decided to pick up one of those two wheeled flats, called a dray, that hung around Water Street, and that bumped loudly over the cobblestones, drawn by a mule and encouraged vocally by a negro.
An old directory of New Hanover County dated 1877-1878 tells of livery stables and carriage factories, at Fourth and Campbell (James A. Loury); on Third between Market and Princess (P. H. Hayden); Third and Princess and Front and Mulberry, (McDougal and Son). They also list numerous wheelwrights at various places.
The most prominent livery stable in my memory, was at the center of the town, on the corner of Third and Princess Streets, diagonally across from the City Hall. It was a sheet metal building with a loft in the gable. There was a wide wooden ramp at the side on Third Street, that ran down to a lower level, where the harness shop was located. There were trees that lined the sidewalk, under which carriages and wagons were parked, both at rest and for sale. Nailed to the tree were benches, and a group was always around, either occupying the seats or leaning against the big slatted and arched swinging doors.
A newspaper story in the Wilmington Morning Star, dated September 21st, 1886, tells of Mr. R. C. Orrell making preparations to put up a building on the northwest corner of Third and Princess to be used as a livery stable. This building was still there in the year 1914. There was another story of November 21st, 1886 in the Star that noted Mr. Orrell had moved his large stock of horses into his new, large and roomy building.
Some of the other old stables of Wilmington were Schloss—Bear and Davis, No. 15 South Second Street. The Kentucky Horse and Mule Co., 116 North Second Street; City Livery Co., 108-112 North Second Street; S. P. Cowan Livery & Sales Stables, Second between Princess and Chesnutt.
Livery stables played a large part in the business and social life of the city. Horses, mules, wagons, buggies, carriages, blacksmiths, leather goods, harness and all the scores of other items that it took to furnish these then could be bought or rented from a livery stable. They were the source of many a news item and the seat of much unsavory gossip. I would not bring them back, even if I could. But I can look into the past and enjoy again the pleasure and the interest that they always afforded.THE LITTLE GREEN BARN
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the “barn” was an important part of the home and the neighborhood? A letter has just been received from Bessie, which states that “the Hicks’ little green barn has been torn down.” The Little Green Barn. Somehow this news tripped a lever in a forgotten storehouse of my memories; and dumped down upon me such a flood of thoughts that I must swim to the shore, not to be drowned in them. I stand upon the bank now, still dripping, and look around at a few of them.
The barn was a two-story affair with a gable roof, running parallel to the street, set well back beyond the main house, but in clear view. Through the iron swing gates of the front fence, flanked by oleander bushes, an oval driveway ran from the street to the barn and back again under the porte-cochere, dodging the magnolia tree.
On the first floor was a carriage house, a stable with two stalls, a harness room, and a room where the feed was kept in bins for the horses, goats and chickens. In the front were the large doors to the carriage house, up a small ramp, and a door to the stairs which lead to the second floor. Just outside the barn on the left side were a pump and a cistern, and a paved brick court between it and the house and the wood shed. A big, tall pear tree stood against it, just beyond the barn. The pears were picked green each year and carefully wrapped in newspaper, just before the annual pilgrimage of the Hicks to Fincastle, Va. This was done so that they would not be stolen while the family was gone, and because they ripened nicely in their separate wrappings, and wre ready to eat when the family returned in the fall, to Wilmington, the barn, and to school.
One afternoon Glasgow and I were playing in the lot behind the barn, while Rufus and Earl Crosswell were trying to knock a
pear from the tree with a rock. Earl heaved a big one missing the pear and the tree, it went over the barn to come down on my head. I still have a big scar there to prove it. We stuck my head under the pump and washed it with cold water, and stopped the blood, so that my mother would not be too scared when I went home.
I remember lying at full length on top of the wood shed with my head just over the ridge, talking about and trying to look into the future of our lives. We looked at this pear tree which we had sampled, eating and enjoying the green fruit, which still tastes better in my mouth now than any pear I have ever eaten since. How nice it was to help Glasgow hitch up old “Plug Ugly” or “Doc,” and take turns riding in the saddle or bare back around the park of Third Street. The high wall, that protected a maple tree and narrowed the street, just in front of the Hicks’ house, was just the right height to mount to the horse's back easily.
Then again the long cool rides down the “Turnpike” or Toll Road in the buggy, Glasgow used to take turns and would ride Ed Ashe one afternoon, and me the next. I still thank him for these rides which meant much to me in pleasure and companionship. He used to fuss at me though when I would suck my teeth, which would make the horse jump and move faster.
The cow was taken out of this barn on each week day and delivered to a man who took a drove of them to the pasture every morning. They walked lazily down the middle of the Third Street park, and, upon returning in the afternoon, each cow knew her home and turned in the proper gate, where the keeper fastened her in. Glasgow was a pretty good milker, but I never did learn how to do it successfully, and I am glad that I didn't.
There was also the goat and the goat cart to be played with, fed and ridden. The harness shop was across from the Court House on Third Street on the west side and down below the level of the street. We used to love to spend hours there, watching the harness maker prepare a set of harness for the goat and the cart.
I can smell today the hay in the barn, the bran, the oats, the cracked feed, the horse, the cow, the chicken and the goat. It smells good.
On the second floor of the barn were two rooms, one on each side. The stairway ran up between them. These rooms were sometimes used as servants quarters, but I remember them as play rooms
for the children. Rufus and William and their gang had one room, and later Glasgow and his friends had another. There I joined my first club. We organized the B. A. C. or Boys Athletic Club. We had regular meetings. We ordered and proudly wore little enameled gilt pins, with B. A. C. on them. I was treasurer once. There we had shadow shows, magic lantern shows and circuses. And we had fights. The door to our club room was kept locked with a wooden bar, which could be manipulated with a finger through a hole in the door, if you knew the combination.
There was a window in the northern room that looked out directly to the rear porch of my house over two other yards. Glasgow and I used to install a telephone each year, from the barn to the upstairs back porch of my home. This telephone consisted of a long cotton string stretched tight and touching nothing from one end to the other. At each end was a Rumford Baking Powder can, with the bottom removed. Stretched across the bottom was a thin piece of leather, generally taken from the tongue of an old pair of shoes. In the center of this was punched a hole and the string run through it and tied with a button. By talking real loud we believed that we could hear over it, by alternately using it for an ear and a mouth piece. It was lots of fun anyway.
It used to be sport to start on the fence at my house and continue on top of the fence without touching the ground until I came to the barn. I seldom walked around by the sidewalk to go to the Hicks’ house. If I did not walk the fence, then I would climb over it, and through the Green's and the Worth's back yards, much to their displeasure. It was possible to climb out of the window of the barn and land on the fence that separated the Hicks from the Worth's. It was dangerous enough to make it appear interesting. You could climb out of the other barn window and shinny down the pear tree to the ground.
Near this barn Glasgow and I built a boat, which also opens up a flood of memories. Silver Lake, McIlhenney's Mill Pond, a boy stealing the boat and how we got it back. Beside this barn, Spears Hicks, fresh from the Davidson College team, instructed our crowd in our first football formation. We used it in our “Rough and Tumble” game as we called it.
The wood shed and sliding down the roof, the roller coaster, the greased runners, the jump-the-gap, down this shed and off the flying jenny, the swing where one could sit astride a stick on a
single rope, jump from the limb of the big mulberry tree, land on the gate or the fence, swing from there to the top of the wood shed, and back to the limb of the tree again. The barn was a wonderful place to hide when we played “out-laws and detectives,” or “wild men and Indians.”
The little green barn is torn down. That is what they say. But they are wrong. The barn is there, it still stands. It is indestructible. And will ever stand as a mile post in my memory of a happy and an eventful childhood.ROCK SPRING
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN Old Rock Spring was a place to drink? Near the foot of the hill on Chestnutt Street between Front and Water was an old spring during my boyhood. It was in the street just off the sidewalk on the north side. There was a twelve inch brick wall that enclosed it on three sides, and there was a brick arch that covered it. The entrance end was open toward the river, and a pair of steps about five feet wide made of slate led one down about eight feet below the level of the street. And there a bold stream of clear, cool water bubbled up through the sand. The overflow was carried off to the river through terra-cotta pipe.
The slate steps were well worn by years of use. There was a gourd with a long handle, that hung on a spike nearby ready for use, and was used by any and everyone with no thought of contamination. There was room on the bottom step for a boy to lie down and dip his mouth into the water and drink his fill.
To me water has never tasted sweeter than when sprawled at full length, with head over a spring or a stream of water, and to drink as one was intended to drink. It is more refreshing than from a glass, a dipper or even a gourd. I think this, in spite of the story of “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” Judges 7:5 “So he brought down the people unto the water. And the Lord said unto Gideon, every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself. Like wise everyone that boweth down upon his knees to drink.”
I have often wondered why it was called the Old Rock Spring. In my day it was enclosed in brick, and the only rock about it was the slate steps. I suppose that originally it was built out of the rock, which naturally was available on the water front, where it was
The Old Rock Spring, on Chestnut Street, between Front and
unloaded from the ships, having been used as ballast on the voyage over. What a raw deal the first colonists on the Cape Fear received. Without almost everything and with only the barest essentials for living, England, the mother country, saw fit to send only a load of stones over as ballast to prevent the ship from rolling too greatly with the waves, and saw fit to carry away, lumber, turpentine products, cotton and tobacco. An unnatural mother, we asked for bread and they gave us a stone.
This spring was still pure and in general use in the year 1905. And being pure was more than could be said of the city water that was delivered to the homes in pipes. Water came then, as it does now, from the river, but then, in spite of attempts to improve it, it still was muddy and had a stale unpleasant taste. Most homes of that period had cisterns in the yard and used the water from the roofs, or had drilled wells or went to one of the several city drilled wells and carried their drinking water home by the bucketful.
I do not know how old the Rock Spring was, but it was old and called old in 1900, and I was told that it was there long before 1850. This water was sought out and used by the many ship captains who frequented the port of Wilmington, and there they filled their casks and literally carried this spring water to the ends of the earth.
Glasgow Hicks and I often went down the steps of this spring to refresh ourselves with its coolness, having walked from our homes on the way to his father's warehouse, where he wholesaled among other things molasses and vinegar. There was a Rock Spring Hotel which took its name from the spring. That there were other springs in Wilmington I am sure, but none in my day that were enclosed in brick or in rock.VISIT OF PRESIDENT TAFT
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN President Taft visited Wilmington? Forty-eight years ago, back in the early part of November, 1909, there was great activity in the town of Wilmington, as she prepared to receive a visit from the President of the United States of America. Four other Presidents had visited Wilmington, but none in the previous fifty years. George Washington came on April 24th, 1791; James Monroe on April 12th, 1819, James Polk on March 7th, 1849, and Millard Fillmore in March, 1854. As we look back it is almost fifty years again since a President has visited us.
The city was as thoroughly bedecked with flags and bunting as I had ever seen it before or since. In the downtown section, every building and every pole had a group of the stars and stripes flying, and almost every home in town had a flag out. I remember however seeing several Confederate flags displayed in private homes also.
A huge wooden Welcome Arch was erected just south of the old Post Office building on North Front Street. This arch had square wooden pillars about six feet square placed at the edge of each sidewalk. It was painted white, and under the large word of Welcome was the greeting from the “Land of the Long Leaf Pine.” The arch was covered and outlined with the native pine branches and American flags and with shields and pictures of President Taft. There was also an avenue of long-leaf pines on both sides of the street from the depot to the arch.
President Taft was met at the Atlantic Coast Line Depot and escorted with a large procession. He was entertained at the home of Mr. James Sprunt, located on the corner of Front and Nun Streets. He was accompanied by Capt. Arthur W. Butts, U. S. A. Army; the Governor of the State, W. W. Kitchen, and Senator Lee S. Overman.
November 9th, 1909 was a day long to be remembered by the school children as lessons were omitted, and, after much preparation and drilling, each school was marched to Market Street between Third and Fourth, and then formed into a huge American flag. All the boys were dressed in blue or had on dark clothing. All the girls were dressed entirely in white, including stockings and hats if they had them. The boys, of course, all still wore black stockings. There were seven rows of boys and six rows of girls representing the stripes, and the blue field and the stars were formed by high school students. The girls wore blue middy blouses or white for the stars. It was really a wonderful show, and, laid out on the gentle slope of Market Street, could be seen and appreciated by President Taft, as well as those who lined the streets and climbed the walls to view it.
The Wilmington Light Infantry was the special bodyguard for the President and in company of other North Carolina Militia delivered the presidential party to the center of Third and Market Streets, to receive the school children assembled in his honor. From there he proceeded to the large platform erected in front of the City Hall, where he made an address to the gathered thousands that crowded close to hear, as there were no loud speakers in that era.
I remember him riding in Mr. Charles W. Worth's two-seated, open-topped automobile, with his liveried chauffeur and the brass hood ornaments and uprights shining. Mr. James Sprunt's car was behind this. There was entertainment and a trip down the river on the Seminole for the President, and there was a vacation from school for me.
Wilmington's first “white way” was installed for President Taft's visit. Arches of electric light bulbs were strung across the street, from each trolley pole from the depot to Orange Street. There were round metal reflectors over each light. This “white way” remained in use for many years, and was not taken down until big street lights were placed on the poles.ORGAN GRINDERS AND MONKEYS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the organ grinders with their monkeys came to town two or three times a year? The ones that I remember were Italians; they were always dressed differently and in what I presumed to be a native dress. They spoke a broken English, and none of them ever settled here or even remained for a long period.
Each carried a small hand organ in a dark walnut or mahogany finish, being about eighteen inches in each dimension. From the bottom of this protruded a stick or leg, so that when placed on the ground it stood three feet six inches high. This the man carried slung over his shoulder with a wide leathern strap.
When a likely territory was reached, the organ grinder unslung his load, rested it upon its single support and, holding it by the top, began to turn a crank, which stuck out from one side and would literally grind out a tune, from whence came the name by which he was known.
A peculiar group of sounds began to come forth, and everybody in the neighborhood knew at once that an organ grinder was on hand. The sounds, or music, were far from being unpleasant and attracted all the children within sight and sound immediately. Passers-by stopped, windows were opened, and heads popped out.
To add to and complete the show a monkey rode on the grinder's shoulder. He was fastened to a light cord and chain, the end of which was held by the operator. The monkey was small being perhaps about twelve to sixteen inches high when he sat up. He was
dressed in red, green and blue. Often he wore red pants, a green waistcoast and a blue coat, and there was always a fancy varicolored hat with a feather on it, which he kept putting on assiduously.
As the organ played, the monkey would dance about, and at his master's bidding would go to a certain individual and beg for money, which was generally handed to him in pennies or nickels. Upon receipt of a coin the monkey would doff his hat and bow a polite “thank-you.” The money he would put into a fairly large pocket in his coat accompanied by the laughs and plaudits of the crowd.
When commanded to do so, and allowed by the customer, he would climb or jump to a shoulder or arm and would seek in pockets for a peanut or a coin. They were intelligent little animals and kept the crowd active with coins as well as entertained. These monkeys were real “second story artists.” They would climb up a post or a tree and would present themselves at a window on the second floor to receive a gift. Encouraged they would enter the room.
The organ grinder would stay as long as the coins kept coming, and he would grind out his tune and the monkey would dance and caper about. But the tune quickly changed when the money stopped falling. In the middle of a piece the music stopped, the organ was slung on the shoulder and the monkey mounted his steed and they were off to greener pastures.
I wonder why there are no organ grinders now. I suppose that all of them retired in luxury in Italy. I do wish, however, that I could hear one come up the street this morning and I could let my grandchildren see and hear him and his monkey at least once.ACHES AND PAINS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN you had aches and pains? For some reason today (December 1945) I have been thinking of those childhood aches and pains. It has been just a month now since my experience with the hospital in Atlanta, where they renewed my backbone, and I renewed my lease on life.
And today my childhood aches seem very recent and very real; a little more so perhaps than Atlanta does. My first recollections of pain are those sudden bomb-like explosions that come to a bare-foot boy when he “dashes his foot against a stone.” The big toe generally took the brunt of the attack. There was a flash of light that
went with it, then a dull ache, and later an alternately clean and dirty rag that bound it while I was learning the art of walking on my heel.
Our floor at home, especially the back halls, where we ran and slid, had beautiful tiny splinters that could either get well in the ball of the foot or better yet in some mysterious manner jump up and climb under the nail, where it broke off. And again it was the great toe that generally took the punishment.
Every now and then I did not want to go to play, or go to school, and in fact I enjoyed nothing when I had “Sticks in my stomach.” It was not bad enough to order the doctor, but very real and uncomfortable, although when I complained and explained my “Sticks” all I got was smiles or pretended sympathy. This day one would probably talk of appendicitis, but such a thing was not common then.
I had my share of earache and had hot olive oil and laudenum dropped in it and was awake all night with Mama heating flat irons and wrapping them in flannel to hold at my ear.
The most unpleasant thing was to be “sick at my stomach” or to “throw up” as we called it, and nothing felt so good as Mama's cool hand on my forehead and her gentle encouragement at my side. The food I remember a sick boy first got was “poor man's toast,” which was bread toasted and soaked with hot milk, then a baked Irish potato.
I remember with a shudder the red and bloody knees I got when I fell sprawling on the gravel and ground dirt into the skin and a big hole in my long black stockings. The remedy for this and for splinters was turpentine applied generously, and the sting still tingles my mind.
For colds we had onion syrup made by cutting an onion in rings and soaking with sugar. A surprisingly pleasant and palatable syrup resulted. For croup we rubbed with mutton suet and had our chests draped with flannel heated before the open fire.
Bumps on the head were rubbed and pressed gently with a steel knife to prevent swelling.
Fever generally brought Dr. Burbank who came finally driving up with his horse and buggy. The weight and leather thong were taken out and fastened to the horse's head to keep him from running off. Dr. Burbank had thermometers, tongue depressors, and small white candy pills and bread pills.
Mother always said she could tell when I was sick for then I was “as good a little boy as she ever saw.” When I began to get well my wish was for rock candy, a wonderful confection in red and white crystals on a long white string. It makes my mouth water to talk about it. This was Papa's get-well gift and he seldom had a chance to forget to bring it.
“Stick out your tongue, Henry,” this was Mama's thermometer, chart, and signal. I never knew just how mine looked, but she did and could tell better how I felt than I could. Castor oil, a dose of salts, or a lapactic pill followed if the condition of the tongue warranted. Mama was a pretty good doctor. For some reason none of us ever had a real serious illness, or ever went to a hospital, and there were five of us to be cared for.
When certain fevers or continued spells brought the doctor, it usually resulted in a blue mass pill or a dose of calomel, and if we didn't think we were really sick before taking those, well we knew we were sick afterwards all right.
For cold and coughs there was given us a spoonful of melted vasolene and sugar. A big oversized jar of yellow vasolene was kept on a shelf in the cabinet in the second floor hall, known as the “lamp stand.” Vasolene was used as a cure-all as advertised. Mother had a medicine closet to the right of her room fireplace. It was filled to overflowing with bottles and salves, that were good for “what ailed you.”
Papa had his own medicine closet in the bathroom, which he kept locked. He was not sick much though, and left all such matters to Mother. I remember his favorite cure for toothache well; it was “to put water in the cavity of the tooth, to sit on the stove until it boiled.”
The negro cooks used to prescribe vinegar and brown paper for sprains and bruises, kerosene and sugar for colds, cobwebs to stop a bleeding.
Mama's personal medicine for not feeling well was a cup of hot water and salt before breakfast.
My accidents seem very minor now and really were considering the many really dangerous things I did, but then they were very real and very serious. That knife cut on my finger where you see the scar. It cut to the bone and taught me never to cut a string or whittle a stick except with the movement away from any part of the body. The large scar on my leg above the knee, which looks today like a
bug or scorpion, was made when I fell off the Worth's fence and tore my leg rather deep on a nail. Old Dr. Bellamy sewed it up with a big bent needle and cat gut while I looked on. I remember the ordeal when the stitches were removed.
My first lesson in “avoid temper” was learned real early in life, before I even remember, but I've been told about it often enough and there is a white scar diagonally across my forehead to prove what was told me. In a fit of temper I took a pillow and threw myself down on it but hit the door jamb instead and split my head open. The doctor was called but he scoffed at sewing it up and merely tied it together with tape saying, “Boys are proud of scars.”
At the Hicks’ there was a wonderful single rope swing with a stick tied to the bottom on which we sat astride. We would swing from the limb of a big mulberry tree, land first on a lattice fence, then on the roof of the barn, then swing back to the limb of the tree. I fell off this swing and broke a bone in my wrist. It was put in a metal splint, and I wore it in a sling for four weeks with some pride.
Also at the Hicks’ one day Earl Crosswell was throwing at a pear in a tree and the rock went over the barn and landed on my head. If I ever get bald my head will look like a plowed field. It bled copiously. I put my head under the pump in the yard and we tried to wash out the dirt and blood but I was an awful sight and afraid to go home and scare my mother.
I shot myself while at the Sound in the leg and foot with a 22 rifle and had to go home. But I stood on the other side of the living room door as I announced the fact, and stated “the bullet was out and I could walk on it.” I let the surprise die down before I opened the door and walked in. I did not walk again for some weeks.
I mashed my finger in a slammed door, gone was my finger-nail. I cut my foot. I sprained my ankle. I had the usual number of bloody noses from fights.
I did not fall off the roof of our house, I did not get run over by a horse. I did not get drowned. I did not get smothered in hay. But it's only because of my good luck that I did live to mellow middle age where I could break my back by simply rolling a stone over in a creek in my own back yard.
Well here's thanking Mama and God who looked out after me and promising everybody concerned that I will be a good boy in the future.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN smells were more a thing of the present than a memory of the past? One of the most pleasant that I can think of now is the smell of marsh grass that one used to receive when the trolley rounded the curve and crossed the trestle at Bradley's Creek, a teaser to be refreshed when the car reached Wrightsville Sound on the way over to the beach.
Do you remember the smell of the old time drug stores? Medicines and soap and perfumes? No lunch room odor then. Hicks-Bunting, Hardin's Pharmacy, and Hall's Drug Store come to mind.
What a wonderful smell one received as he entered the door of Baxter's Cigar Store. I can see the big Indian head with all his war feathers now, puffing out a flame of gas to light the cigar or cigaret of patrons. You could smell real cigar smoke, before it was “toasted,” “cooled,” filtered” or medicated.
How about remembering the smell of a livery stable, maybe Orrell's at Third and Princess? Good clean straw, horsey horses, new leather, new wagons, old carriages, and even manure that was in no way objectionable, in its place, and the smell of a horse on a cold day as he stood steaming after a run.
A real thing to remember was the smell of the engine room on Captain Harper's boat, the Wilmington, as it hummed and throbbed its way to Southport. A clean hot, steamy, oily smell, that one got as he looked down at the wheels and the smooth running pistons of nickel, of brass, of steel, all so well polished. The smell of an old time barber shop. I do not know what it was, it was not unpleasant, but it is gone now with the present sanitation. The smell of train smoke that one got while waiting for the Shoo Fly to come in, and stood watching from the steel bridge the cars being shifted on the tracks below.
The pleasant smell of dead quail, in one's hunting coat pocket. I have often wondered how a dog could smell a live quail and point it out to me, but I could understand how he could find it after it was dead, for being dead I too could distinguish the odor.
Pine needles in the woods on a hot summer day with the wind still. The steam laundry, the cotton mill at Delgado, Solomon's retail shoe store, all had their individual smells. The pleasant odor that arose from the black polish, as the negro boy shined your
shoes for five cents, with your foot on his box on the sidewalk. The memory of the smell of the cedar Christmas tree, when it dried out and we had to take it down. The pungent smell of the burned Chinese firecrackers and the punk to light them with. The smell of an old time parlor. The first fall day, frost and all.
The wonderful smell of an old boxwood garden. The delicious earth after a quick summer rain. And what can bring more pleasant memories to flood one's being than the smell of scuppernong grapes while under an arbor? Also the distinctive smell of wild muscadines?
There comes to my mind also the smell of the saw mill and fresh pine lumber, the saw dust that was used to pack away ice, the pleasant odor of juniper wood as one whittled or worked with it, a cedar closet, a crepe myrtle tree in bloom, coffee being roasted and ground and newly cut grass.
Another of the smells that have long since disappeared is that of the dill pickle barrel in the corner store. It is put up in glass jars now, minus the smell. Yes! and that old bar room smell. You could get it as you passed by on the streets through the knee high swinging doors, even if you chose not to enter. There was no resemblance to the smell of the present cocktail party.
Have we forgotten the old time kitchen and the smells that came from it? Baked beans in the earthen pot on the old wood burning stove. Fresh hot cake. Bread in the pans rising, and afterwards as the loaves were removed from the oven. Few now know the odor of fresh, hot loaf bread cut raggedly open for yellow butter, country ham frying, chocolate fudge, coffee ground by hand just enough for a meal at a time? Have you ever taken the lid off an old spice box?
The Cape Fear River smells, with pitch and turpentine predominating. Do you remember the boats, the smell of canvas and tarred rope, the candy smells of Warren's wnere it was manufactured, Kraunches’ fruit and candy store on Front near Orange Street, the smell of a barrel of apples and the pantry where they were kept, the spice closet?
We list the smell of the long closed attic, the cedar closet. The musty smell of the basement, the circus tent, the wet dog. The intriguing smell of old books, a new magazine, new shoes, leather goods, lightning before thunder.
U. S. Custom House—erected 1843; demolished 1915.
Smell definitely affects the taste, and the breathing of a pleasant odor quickly increases the respiratory movement. The list could go on indefinitely and each, even in memory, brings a pungent sensation to the mind as well as to the nostrils.THE OLD CUSTOM HOUSE
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the old Custom House stood on Water Street where the present Custom House now stands? This old building was erected in 1843 and 1844, and remained a place of interest for many years, until it was replaced in the year 1915. It was a three-story, brick building faced with stone to the second floor, with plinths and half columns rising to the stone gable above. An imposing structure, that stood above the surrounding buildings, and stood out in any picture taken of the water front for nearly seventy years.
The sidewalk in front was paved with slate flag stones, as were many of the sidewalks in Wilmington of that period. There were heavy wooden shutters that could be used to close each opening. At the second floor level was a narrow balcony with a beautiful and artistic cast iron railing, the main design of which was the American spread eagle.
The original site of this property was bought on April 16th, 1819, with a building on it at that time, and the price of $14,000 was paid for it. This original building was destroyed by fire on Jan 17th, 1840, which has been the fate of most of the old private and public buildings of the town, unless demolished by foolish men and officials.
In 1844 and 1845 additional property was purchased adjoining the original site. Smith Alley formerly was on the south side of the old building and ran back from Water Street. Additional purchases of both land and buildings were made in 1885. From the time of its erection in 1844 until August 1874, it was also used as the Post Office of the town.
In the early part of 1915 the demolition of the old custom house was started under contract by the Clark-Lynch Lumber Co., assisted by Mr. Sol Sternberger. During the week of August 18th, 1915, a metal box was discovered that had been placed in the cornerstone of the building. The box was four inches by eleven inches by fourteen inches and was lead covered. It was found under
the southwest corner, which led many to believe that it was not laid by the Masonic Order as they generally place a cornerstore on the northeast corner. This was substantiated when opened, as there was no Masonic evidence therein.
Col. Walker Taylor, the then Collector of Customs, took the box in charge. Mr. John E. Stanley, representing the office of the U. S. Supervising Architect, stated that it was the custom of the U. S. government to place the cornerstones at some important place in the front of the building, disregarding any points of the compass. On Sept, 20th, 1915, this box was opened by Col. Walker Taylor at the Chamber of Commerce in the presence of Orient Lodge A. F. A. M. members and anyone else who desired to witness it.
The list of the articles that the box contained was read out by J. O. Carr, as they were removed. It included a large parchment on which were the names of the President and the Chief Officers of the United States government and the names of the town commissioners of Wilmington, in the year 1843. Also custom house employees, architect and supervising superintendent of the building, John C. Norris of New York and those that assisted him in the erection of the building. Murphy G. Jones was Collector of the Port at that time. On the parchment it stated that the former building had been destroyed by fire in 1840. There was also the message of the President and reports of all members of the Cabinet for the year 1843. Also a brass plate with inscription stating it was placed by John C. Norris, of New York, by order of John C. Spencer, Secretary of Treasury, dated Wilmington 1843. There were letters from President of the Wilmington & Raleigh Ry., and from the Bank of Cape Fear, also a sheet of notes containing three, four, five and ten dollar bills. Also a booklet by Rev. R. B. Drane titled “Historical Notes of St. James Parish.” There were also copies of Wilmington Messenger December 15, Wilmington Chronicle, December 27th, Bicknell's Reporter of Philadelphia, December 5th, all of 1843; and the Wilmington Chronicle of January 10th, 1844, New York Journal of Commerce of January 11th, 1844; supplement to the Commercial Advertiser on “Currency The Evil and the Remedy,” The National Intelligencer, of Washington, D. C. for January 16th, 1844, The New York Sun for January 3rd, 1844 and the Wilmington Messenger for January 5th, 1844.
Some had thought that possibly Robert Mills was the architect of this old building as he was in charge of that department in
Washington at that time, and he did design many custom houses of the country. Miss Helen M. P. Gallacher, who published a book concerning the life and work of Robert Mills, investigated the possibility, but could find nothing to substantiate the fact.
The present custom house was erected in 1916, further purchases by the government having been made that took in all property between Market and Princess Street on Water.ST. JAMES EPISCOPAL CHURCH
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the Rev. Robert Strange, D.D. was rector of the St. James Episcopal Church? No story, no history and no reminiscence of Wilmington would be complete without a picture and the acknowledgement of the influence of St. James Church on the city and the county from its very inception.
For facts, one can not go astray by repeating those collected and presented to posterity by Col. James Green Burr. I have one of his pamphlets that was given to Mrs. Drane, the former minister's wife, by Bishop Thomas Atkinson and was later given by her to my grandmother, Francenia Eliza McKoy. This pamphlet and history is recommended to all those who would seek to know more of this venerable church.
The St. James Parish was originated by a foreign missionary, sent over to this country by a Missionary Society, known as the “Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.” Mr. Richard Marsden was the first missionary. The St. James Church is the oldest church in the Cape Fear district, and the present building is the oldest church building now in use. The Parish was created by an act of the Colonial Legislature in 1728.
Michael Higgins gave a lot on the corner of Fourth and Market Street for the erection of a church and a graveyard. But this was found to be too small for both the building and the cemetery, so upon solicitation, the Colonial Legislature passed an act, giving thirty feet of the southside of Market Street between Third and Fourth Streets to the St. James Parish, and the original and first church building was erected thereon. This building was started in 1751 but was not completed until 1770. We do not know the architect or the builder, but it lacked much in architectural beauty and proportion. It compared most unfavorably with old St. Phillip's Church at Brunswick. It was built of brick and was about square,
St. James Episcopal Church, Third and Market Street. Note the
the iron fence on top of wall.
with neither steeple nor belfry. It had three entrances, one opening toward the river, one on Market Street, and a third toward the grave yard. The aisles were paved with large square brick of that period. The pews were of the old English style, with seats on three sides big enough to seat the family.
During the Revolutionary War no religious services were held, as the ministers were of the Church of England, and their authority came from England and there they continued their loyalty. During the occupation of Wilmington by the British, this church was stripped of its pews, and was first used as a hospital, and later as a stable and to house the mounts of Tarleton's Dragoons.
Most of the church records prior to 1811 were destroyed or lost, but since that time full and complete records have been kept and preserved. In the year 1795, twenty years after the last clergyman under the authority of the Church of England left, the vestry reorganized and repaired the church and called Dr. Solomon Halling, who had for some time been officiating in New Berne, N. C., to the rectorship of St. James Parish. Dr. Halling had come to America from Denmark prior to the Revolution and had served in the American Revolutionary Army as a surgeon. Dr. Halling's daughter married James Usher, a merchant of Wilmington whose tomb is in the St. James graveyard. Some of his descendants are still members of this church. Dr. Halling was also the first principal of the Innes Academy. He continued as minister of this church until May, 1809, when he resigned to accept a like position at the Prince George Church in Georgetown, S. C. There he died and was buried in 1813.
In 1839 the first church building was torn down and the present structure was erected. There was a formal laying of the cornerstone. The plan of the building was designed by T. U. Walter of Philadelphia and executed under the direction of John S. Norris of New York, by J. G. Wood as principal mason, and C. H. Dall as principal carpenter. The new church was built on the corner of Third and Market Street, and the former site was returned to the city and the street. The interior has been changed several times since, the transept added and the chancel rebuilt.
In 1865 and during the Confederate War, the United States Army took over this church building and used it as a Federal hospital, as had been done during the Revolution. After the war the building was repaired and a small addition was made in the rear to be used as a Parish House. A new Parish House was built in 1892, as a
memorial to Col. R. R. Bridgers. In 1912 the Cloister was built, connecting the Church and the Parish House, as a memorial to Mrs. M. E. Bridgers. In 1923 a new Parish House was erected and connected to the older building. Recently additional property adjoining has been obtained and further construction added.
In the St. James graveyard rest the remains of many noted men and women. Cornelius Harnett, a native of Wilmington and a patriot of the Revolutionary War, is buried there, and his grave is marked by a stone whose inscription time is rapidly obliterating. Thomas Godfrey is also buried there. He was the author of the first drama written by a native American and produced on the professional stage.
This church has had many illustrious rectors, as well as members, many rectors afterwards becoming bishops of the church. Among the rectors were the Rev. Adam Empie, 1811 to 1814 and 1814 to 1827; he later became President of William and Mary College. The Rev. Thomas F. Davis, 1833-1836, became Bishop of South Carolina. Rev. Richard H. Wilmer, 1843-1844, became Bishop of Alabama. Dr. R. B. Drane, who was rector, 1836-1843, gave noted and courageous service during the yellow fever epidemic of 1862. Alfred A. Watson, D. D., became the first Bishop of Eastern Carolina. Rev. Robert Strange, D. D., later a Bishop, served the church from 1887 to 1900 The Rev. William H. Milton, D.D., was rector from 1909 to 1938. The Rev. Mr. Hogue was minister then for six years. In 1936 Mortimer W. Glover came to this church as rector and in twenty years of labor has added much to the spiritual and social life of St. James Church, as well as to the well-being of the community.
Among the interesting relics of this church is a painting of Christ, “Ecce Homo,” which was taken from one of the pirate vessels that was captured when they attacked the colony in 1748. It was presented to St. James Church by the Governor, Council, and the Assembly of the Colony. In the Parish House is a museum which preserves and displays many old records and documents. There, dates of the marriages and the baptism of many of the older families of Wilmington are recorded back well over a hundred years. There is also there a replica of the original church building, built to scale, with all known details faithfully portrayed, showing the interior seats and altar as well as the exterior. This work was done after careful analysis and exhaustive study by Miss Elizabeth Francenia
McKoy, and should be seen and examined by all interested in Wilmington's history as well as members of St. James Church.
I have among my records the deed of ownership to pew number three on the north aisle of St. James Church. This pew was sold at public auction by the Vestry of the Church on the fifth day of November, 1855. It was sold to Dr. William A. Berry for the sum of $150. I also have several pew tax receipts from the church for this pew. This pew later descended to his grandson William Berry McKoy, who was my father.
I have heard William B. McKoy, my father, tell of being at this church with his mother during the battle of Fort Fisher, and when the bombardment was at its height. He stated that while the “Litany” was being read, an unexpected response was experienced. “From battle, murder, and sudden death,” read the minister; “Good Lord deliver us,” prayed the congregation. And Boom-Boom-Boom went the guns at Fisher. It was an experience that none present ever forgot.
St. James Church is a landmark in Wilmington. It can be seen clearly from across the river up Market Street. It stands out as one travels Third or Market Streets in either direction. It is a monument to the early inhabitants who worshipped their God and saw fit to hand down to their descendants a belief in God as well as a place to worship. It is one building that both oldtimers and newcomers note and remember.COONERING
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN we went “Coonering”? Each year after the exciting festivities of Christmas Day had gone by, and, in an effort perhaps to overcome the let down feeling, the boys of my neighborhood, around the turn of the century, began to think of “Coonering”. “Coonering” was engaged in at no other time except between Christmas Day and the New Year.
A group of from five to ten boys ranging in age from nine to sixteen would with great preparation gather together after supper, when the dark had fallen, and each would don whatever costume or garment he had been able to get. There were sashes, and shawls, overcoats, and long pants (most of us being in knee pants at that time). There were red bandannas and shirts and dresses. Everything had to be old and ill fitting. And then there was always the “Cooner
“Coonering”—Christmas Week 1905. Henry B. McKoy, Hart McKoy, Edward Ashe, and Glasgow Hicks.
Face” or mask to completely cover the features, so that none could tell who we were. We were always a motley crew.
The procedure was to call on selected homes in the neighborhood. We only called upon those we knew and those we liked. We would ring the front door bell. I do not remember ever having been refused admittance, and it was always done with an apparent pleasure coupled with considerable amusement. We did not call on the children, but upon the older folk. Our own particular homes were omitted, and left for others to call upon, which they always did.
When admitted we were ushered into the living room or the parlor and comfortably seated. Then began a conversation mostly led by those we had come to visit. We did not sing and we had no particular program to follow. We did not try to say or do something funny, but just fitted ourselves into the mood of the home we were in. There was plenty of giggling however.
It being the Christmas season there was always plenty of fruit and candy around, and we were generously plied with these, which we put into our pockets, as to eat would mean the removal of “Cooner-faces”, and that was just not done. We were glad to get and accepted the candy, but that was not our purpose, as most of us at this season had plenty of that at home. We never stayed long at any house, and seldom overstayed our welcome, and in that manner were able to make several calls in one night, and before time to be in bed around ten as our mothers had demanded.
What was the real purpose? Purpose!? There wasn't any purpose. It was just fun, and we had fun, getting ready, doing, and laughing about it afterward. Why did we do it? Well, I did it because my older brother had done it. My father had gone “Coonering” before me, and they appeared to have been pleased with it and had fun.
I never knew that there was any other name for a funny face, or mask, as we call them now, but a “Cooner-face”. I was astonished to find in my later years that only in Wilmington were they so called. At any time of the year a mask was a “Cooner-face”, no matter what it looked like or when. But we never went “Coonering” except at the Christmas season.
During the Christmas of 1905, Edward Ash, Glasgow Hicks, Hart McKoy and I went “Coonering” and called on the Kenlys.
The Steamer Wilmington.
They had a visitor from the North who was so intrigued by our local custom (which I then thought universal) that she had us dress up again the next day, and she took our picture, which I still have.
I left Wilmington to go to work at the age of eighteen, so missed out on knowing and learning many of the town's traditions, and, only this year after reading Louis T. Moore's excellent Stories of the Cape Fear Region, have I learned that “Coonering” was a custom handed down to us by the Negroes. And that it was supposed to be “Koonering” as a ceremony of John Kuner. We did not know how to spell it. We just did it. And it was fun “Coonering”.THE STEAMER WILMINGTON
BY JAMES H. MCKOY
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the Steamer Wilmington ran to Carolina Beach and Southport? The main contact between Wilmington and Southport as well as Fort Caswell and intermediary settlements used to be chiefly by water route. A daily schedule was maintained for passengers, freight and mail. The names of some of these river steamers come to mind, that operated about a quarter of a century ago. The Southport, the Ella, The Wilmington, all of these belonged to Captain John W. Harper of this city. The Southport was used primarily for freight and for emergency runs when the Wilmington or the Ella were out of service. There was little space for comfort of the passengers aboard the Southport, and she was far from being capable of handling the crowds that came for excursions.
The Ella, which I believe was named for Mrs. Harper, was a much smaller edition of the Wilmington, and was built more for passenger service, and was used when additional space was needed, for small excursions, for the short run to Carolina Beach pier, or when the Wilmington was in drydock.
The pride of the fleet was the Wilmington and was always gleaming white with fresh paint, and with flags flying fore and aft, and a third high on the mast just back of her pilot house. With a great column of black smoke belching from her funnel, her three deck rails lined with excursionists, she was a lovely sight to watch as she pulled away from her wharf just north of the old ferry slip at the foot of Market Street, or when folks would dash to
Sunset Hill at the familiar sound of her great whistle, as she passed the foot of Church Street and the old Harper home. Down Nun to Sunset Hill would rush the boys of the neighborhood, to stand on forbidden promontories of the Honnett's, McQueen's or Pearsall's, even daring to creep behind the battlements and turrets of the Sprunt's to wave to passengers and crew of the boat as she made for her mooring on her daily return trip home at 5:00 P.M.
On either side of the forward part of her first deck, there were sections of removable rail, where passengers and freight would board, or they embarked over the big gang plank that darkies would heave to the wharf, an ever fascinating sight for young eyes to behold. Covering the forward deck was a tarpaulin. There were passageways to the port and starboard of this lower deck, where young boys would run to the stern and stand there just above the water, and watch it being churned up white with foam, and see and almost feel the great swell made by the ship's propeller. They watched that swell on its way to both the banks, playing havoc with small boats and even making the bigger ones bob up and down. What a delight it was to watch. In the forward end all the freight was stacked under the canvas. Just back of the gang plank openings steep steps rose in the center mounting to the second deck.
The Wilmington's second deck was open all around the rail with seats along its side, forward and aft. But in the large center space at either end there were rocking chairs and folding camp stools galore for the excursion crowds. On this deck there were two salons, divided by a space for the great funnel to rise from the boilers far below the water line. On a chilly day it was wonderful to back up close to the partitions and feel the warmth always there, but a place to stay clear of on a hot summer day. The cabins were glassed in, with windows that dropped into a slot, not “rising” as sensible windows do when opening. Over the top of each window was a permanently installed width of beautifully etched, ruby red glass, through which the sun would make fantastic designs on the walls and faces inside. Both the salons were equipped with rocking chairs, but what could be their need as the Wilmington could roll and rock a plenty of a windy day?
It was the “hurricane deck” topside, where it was most thrilling to spend at least a part of the day's ride. That is if you could stand the belching smoke, ever flowing aft from her stack, and with soot always falling. The life boats were lined on either
side of this deck, which were wonderful places to hide when the game was “hide-and-seek”. It was particular fun on this deck on the Moonlight Excursions to dance to the music of the band engaged for the trip, or the piano hoisted there on special occasions.
One small place on board was forbidden to the passengers, and that was, of course, the best place to be. It's a little deck just in front of the wheel house, which was restricted so as to get a clear view ahead by the Captain or the Mate. But Captain Harper would sometimes wink an eye and allow us to put up camp stools and sit there, with our heads crouched low, and imagine ourselves to be Columbus, discovering the lands of the lower Cape Fear River, even if the wind did blow in our faces hard, the bothersome soot fell far behind us in the water.
Still another thrill was allowed a youngster at very special times. Then Captain Harper would let us come into the pilot house, which was way forward on the top deck, and let us grip the prongs of the great wheel that guided the good ship in her channel. How big we felt thinking that we were actually steering her. It was also fun to run along the upper deck, following the ever-moving cables, that ran from the wheel, and then along the sides, making a creaking sound on their way aft as they passed down through the decks to the rudder below. It was a wonderful voyage of discovery on every trip for young and inquiring boys.
With a great toot from her whistle, with steam billowing into the wind, the Wilmington would pull away from her dock, as the great hawsers would be swung aboard from the mooring piling. Down the river she would proudly go toward an early stop at Orton Plantation. There she would tie up for a few minutes with the gang plank bumping and clanging to the pier, mail passed into the hands of the waiting darkies, freight handed to men who would place it on a railroad hand car, which by track would be pushed up near the plantation mansion.
But another thrill was yet to come, for the faithful steamer was to tie up at the long pier jutting out into deeper water of the river, where the funny little puff-puff of an engine had backed flat cars within a few feet of where the Wilmington would dock. What a funny noise that engine used to make, when her shrill whistle would sound for starting or warning, or the creaking gritty noise made by the iron wheel of the flatcars as they slowly backed
around the curve leading to the pier. These cars had steps all along both sides, to mount to seats than ran across its width, and were covered with canvas to keep off the sun and the rain.
Quickly the beach visitors and the freight for the beach were unloaded, and again the whistles would blow, and away the Wilmington would glide into the channel on her scheduled path to stop next at the Fisheries. How every one would dread that stop. There was such a smell. Noses were tightly pinched by grimey little hands, while others smothered them into handkerchiefs, until the boat was far away from that pier and those great wooden sheds alongside.
A stop was always made at the Quarantine Station, that island only of piling and wooden buildings, near the center of the channel. The kids always had an idea that they had better get inside when they were tied up there, for fear they would catch the mumps or the measles, and ruin the rest of their trip.
Soon on the right, Southport hove into view, with great bustling and excitement aboard. For here was the end of the voyage for many, who were gathering up their baskets, bundles and bags. Lucky, we thought those who were stopping there to stay at “Miss Kate's” or the old Brunswick, and who would have time to explore the Garrison, climb the pilot's tower, sit on the “Indian Tree”, climb into the branches of the great live oaks in the grove, or jump from section to section of the remnants of Old Fort Johnston at the water's edge.
The tie-up at Southport was always a long one for there was much mail and much freight to land, with more to come aboard to go back with us to Wilmington. But there was another meaning to us for the Southport stop, for as soon as we pulled away from the pier, there would be the call for the picnic lunch, brought by our elders, and sometimes spread on make-shift table of camp stools, hidden underneath a table cloth. We ate on the hurricane deck, or we commandeered the cabins for our spread. Oh! the taste of those sandwiches, salads and pickles, all washed down with a bottle of soda-pop and topped with a healthy slice of cake.
Hardly were our hands full of sandwiches, when the Wilmington's whistle would blow for her Fort Caswell landing. Here was another exciting moment, and from the upper decks, with sticky fingers and hands to mess up the guard rails, the small fry would
gape in wonder and admiration at the soldiers, who were stationed there to man the big guns that could shoot “forty miles to sea”.
Often on Sundays and at other special times there would be an extra trip for excursionists, for then Captain Harper would steer the bow of “The River Queen” into the mouth of the river. This had to be on a clear calm day, for a ride out to sea. What a thrill to see the shore of Caswell and Baldhead Island slip to the stern as the wide Atlantic stretched its water ahead.
The “old folks” always quieted down on the return trip, and they wanted the kids to do so as well, but there was still too much to see, too much to investigate, to do, for a nap or just to sit “quietly please” and watch the shore pass on parade. Then it was time to hunt up bits of boxes, sticks, bags and such and carry them astern and to the lower deck, and excitedly watch them, churned up by the propeller, as you dropped them over. A trip also had to be made to the engine room door, to look into the yawning hole below and see the fireman open the boiler doors, and to see him feed more coal to the giant's flaming mouth. Whew! But it was hot down there, even from where we would stand at the door just above the iron ladder that descended into the deep black depths. It was fun to see the Chief Engineer climb up that ladder, and he'd talk to us while he stood on the top rung. But it was far more exciting to hear the bell ring below, and see the Engineer grab his levers and obey the orders of that bell rung so far away up in the pilot house by Captain Harper. “Slow”, “Full speed ahead”, “Reverse” would be the orders of the bell.
Sometimes there would be a stop at the pier of the old town of Brunswick. And picnic parties would be put off, to spend the day and to be picked up again on the return trip. How wonderful it was to be in “Fesser” Catlett's gang of the Cape Fear Academy boys on their annual school picnic, there to play around and to climb into the windows of old St. Phillip's Church ruins. To write one's initials on the brick, to gather around the long wooden tables placed there, and eat the lunch prepared by Mrs. Catlett, Miss Sue and Miss Sarah.
But the Wilmington had always to meet her appointed time, and she was seldom late. In Wilmington when one would hear her whistles salute as she passed the old Harper home at Surry and Church, Wilmington people could reliably set their clocks at five
minutes to five. For in five minutes the Wilmington would be back in her berth at the foot of Market. In the latter years she had to move to a dock on Princess Street when the new Custom House was built. Her big hawsers tied fast, her gang planks securely fastened to the wharf, then tired and dirty little boys would disembark to soon dream of the wonderful excursion down the river on the Wilmington, but not leaving without waving a fond good-bye to Captain Harper, as he stood at his post just outside the port door of the wheel house.
When we were older, and old enough to have a date, then we would love to go on one of the “Moonlight Excursions” on the Wilmington. She would be chartered by a church, a school or a society, and would leave her berth at seven o'clock for about a three hour trip. Sometimes down the river as far as the Carolina Beach pier, which seemed so lonesome looking with no little engine to meet us. Coming back one always noted the passing of the “Dram Tree” of colonial fame, which stood like a sentinel, outlined in the moonlight against a background of the old river. At other times the trip would be up the Northeast River, or we would steam up and around the curves of the main Cape Fear to Navassa, never going quite there, for here was another fishy smelling place to avoid if possible.
The Steamer Wilmington was a glorious sight at night. Lined around each deck were rows of brilliant electric lights, that made her beautiful from the shore, and from aboard you could watch the fantastic lights and shadows cast upon the water of the black and muddy river.
It has been years since the Wilmington made her last Southport trip. With the building of the Wilmington, Brunswick and Southern Railroad, she soon lost her mail franchise, and then her freight which went by the rail. Roads to Southport and Carolina Beach were soon completed, and an automobile or truck could make the trip in much shorter time and at less cost. Also Fort Caswell was decommissioned, and with that there was little left for the stately proud old ship to do, and finally she stopped her run. Carolina Beach had a paved highway and no longer was the Wilmington her only means of conecting with the town. With the passing of the Wilmington also came the end to the three mile railroad that ran from the river pier to the beach. There were no
more rides to be made on the funny little train that creaked so as it rounded the curves and backed to the pavilion.
Many stories have been told of the faithful old boat's fate, a boat that brought much happiness to Wilmington people and was the only connection with the outside world to the several stops and plantations along the river. Some say that she is now hanging her proud bow in disgrace, being converted into a lowly freighter in Tampa Bay. I do not know what became of the Southport, but I believe that if you stroll along Water Street in the year 1955, you will find between Dock and Orange a dilapidated old boat's cabin, rotting away with both the piling and the wharf and a big “Keep Out” sign. There I think you will find the last remains of the once proud Ella.LAWN PARTIES
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN a Lawn Party was an affair to look forward to and to remember? Every summer one or more families in each neighborhood would have a “Lawn Party” which was everything that a group of young people could desire.
Many homes of that period had large lawns with some shrubbery up around the house, but the rest was in grass from fence to fence. There was usually a big lawn swing, where either two or four could sit and with only a slight movement of the body produce a gentle motion to and fro. If old or young were in the yard, the swing was where they were to be found, and on the occasion of a Lawn Party it was in great demand.
The grass was neatly mowed and the yard raked clean. String or wire was placed between the trees and hung from the house to the fence and festooned with Japanese lanterns. These were of red, blue, or green, and of every shape possible. A ball, a cylinder, small at the top, or small at the middle and enlarged at each end. They were from twelve to twenty-four inches long and from six to twelve inches in diameter. They were packed collapsed and it was fun to lift by the wire handle and extend them and tie to the suspended string or wire. A candle was inserted in a special holder in the bottom of each one.
They were very decorative and gave at once a festive air to the community. At night when all the candles were lit, they were most attractive swinging in the evening breeze and making
flickering light and shadows on the ground as well as the assembled crowd. What ever became of the Japanese lanterns and the custom of hanging them out?
Depending upon the age of the group, there were many things there to entertain; starting with the youngest and the ubiquitous “Little Sallie Walker”, up to the older crowd with the “gypsy” telling fortunes. There was fish pond, which was enclosed by sheets hanging on wires. Nearby were cane poles with lines and a hook on the end. One would fish over the sheet into the supposed pond, and there a fish or a present was hooked on from the other side. And always a “grab-bag”, which consisted of a laundry sack or bag, with a small end opening. One would reach in his arm up to the elbow and feel around among its contents until he found one that suited his imagination. They were all tied up in boxes and colored paper, and one never knew what he had “grabbed” until he opened it to the tune of oh's and ah's among the onlookers.
On a summer afternoon or night there was always the big tin tub of ice cold lemonade, with several dippers with handles hanging from the edge. These dipper handles had hooks to prevent them from sliding in. There was no hesitation on any one's part in drinking from a dipper directly after another. Of course they were washed again by the very act of dipping. No drink ever tasted so delicious to me as a cold lemonade on a hot night from a dipper.
Sometimes we played games, sometimes there was ice cream in the homemade churn, sometimes we just stood or walked around. The evening parties started before dark in the summer, and by ten o'clock, no matter what the age, the group had broken up and were on their way home, as mother had demanded.BOYS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN you were a boy? And when you began counting the days before school would be over at the first sign of spring? Most boys had some work around the home that was their particular responsibility. But generally such work did not take long, when we had to bring in the wood, or rake up the trash we had made in the yard, at the very moment that the other boys were about to leave for something special.
There was no planned entertainment for boys then. There were no Boy Scouts, no Teen-age Canteens, no organized school entertainment. We planned our own amusements, and we never lacked for something to do. Of course, there were many times that we just “did nothing” and liked it, and that was fun, too.
At a certain time each year mysteriously marbles used to appear in every boy's pocket at the very same moment. And they were not new marbles either. Where they had been all the rest of the year I do not know. Nor did the boy know, until that seasonal instinctive urge caused him to resurrect them for use. Glasseyes, agates, commons, tars, each with a worth and a trading value. Four commons one tar; four tars one glassy, depending on the condition, the size and the location you lived in. A ring drawn in the dirt and marbles placed in the center instantly drew a large crowd either to play or to watch. A challenge was given. No fudging and knucks on the ground was the rule.
The sun, the warm weather, and the breeze bred kites, just as surely as it brought out the jonquils. Fun with paper, glue, sticks, rags, tails, cord. While it was still too cool to enjoy, we began to go swimming in the raw at several places of our own choosing, and continued until “dogdays”, and even then, although tradition told us not to.
Almost every back yard had a swing in it. Some times with two ropes and a seat between, but often a single rope with a bar at the end which we straddled. With it we could swing from the limb of a tree, to the roof of the barn or off of the house, and from there to the fence and back again to the tree. Flying out through the air with the greatest of ease, with only an occasional fall and perhaps a broken arm.
Many of my friends had “acting bars” in their yard as we did. They consisted of two upright posts about fourteen feet high with a beam across the top. There was a round bar that could be placed at different heights between these posts, and here every one learned to skin-the-cat, to hang by his knees, to sit on the bar and swing almost around. To pull up, to chin the bar, and to try and do the other things that we saw the acrobats do in the circus.
In the nursery, the attic or the basement, there were exercising machines. Two handles with ropes, fastened to springs or weights,
and by drawing first with one hand and then another it was supposed to increase the muscle, a thing greatly to be desired. How we admired and liked to show off our muscle. To pull up a sleeve and bend the arm with fist tight and flex the muscle was a trick that all boys learned and did, to show their strength. We had Indian clubs and dumb bells which we made and fashioned ourselves.
Planned entertainments? Shucks! We set our own courses and in a moment raced for a fence or the barn, and the last man had a “head like a dog”. We had fights also. If two boys got to arguing briskly enough to work up a temper, some other boy would place a chip on one of the arguing boys’ shoulders and would dare the other to knock it off. Or to encourage actual combat where both seemed to want to avoid it, one boy would pick up a handful of sand and hold it between the boys. If one boy tried to knock the sand away, or push it, the boy holding it would see that in landed in the face of one of them. And that was always enough to start any fight, which somehow all boys liked to watch. They were fair fights though, and never more than two fought at the same time. A bloody nose or the cry of “enough” always stopped it.
We played “Wild Indians”, doing anything that we thought an Indian might do or we wished he had done, roaming the back yards, the barns and fences. We played Indians and Cowboys with opposing sides.
We made our own boats, without plans and without guided help from our parents, who wisely left us alone, unless we made too much noise or too big a mess in the yard. Somehow without cars or even wagons we got our boats to the ponds around the town. We built extensive caves in the yards, digging trenches, putting in barrels with the ends out and boxes, and covering them again with dirt. We had to remove ours when the horse delivering wood nearly broke his leg by caving one in. We erected club houses and had members and meetings. We built tree houses and lived like real monkeys which certainly proved that Darwin was right. We built slides, see-saws and flying jennies.
We made our own tents, and there we did enlist help with the sewing from mama, but we helped her too, sitting behind the sewing machine, working the stick attached to the pedal, to relieve the parental foot. We took our tents to the woods and the beaches,
slept in them rain or shine and prepared our own meals without parental help and with only an occasional visit from a grown person, to see that we were still in the land of the living.
We climbed trees and knew every branch and bough in the neighborhood. We collected bird eggs and bird nests. We sat on roofs and looked up at the sky and down on the world below. We sailed chip boats with paper sails in the gutters of the house and also gutters of the streets. We smoked rabbit tobacco and chewed it also. We made cigars, by rolling up soft brown petals of the magnolia blossom, and letting them dry, until they could be smoked with some discomfort to both eye and throat.
We made telephones by taking the bottom out of baking soda cans, and covering one end with soft leather, from the tongue of an old shoe, and tieing a button to a string and putting through the center of the leather. With two of these phones we could carry on a conversation, from one house to another, if we were not too far away to hear each other shout.
We had rabbits, white mice and ducks at different times. We killed snakes and tied strings to them, and at night dragged them across the sidewalk in front of those that passed, while concealing ourselves behind a fence. I have never failed yet to see a person who would not jump at such a sight.
We played baseball, football, shinny, mumbley-peg, walked fences, swung on gates. We watched the fire horses, the firemen polishing the brass and nickel on the big engine. We watched the boats in the river, the trains shifting, the blacksmith, the cobbler, the teams going by, the house being built, the street cleaner, the water sprinkler, the rock crusher.
We read good books, and books were plentiful in every boy's library, but only good books. They say that Alger and Henty are not worth reading now, but I claim otherwise. I think they inspired a boy to do and to be. We collected and swapped funny papers. We knew and loved Foxy Grandpa, Nemo, Buster Brown and his dog Tige.
Sometimes we just sat on the ground and talked or walked in the woods. We saw and had time to look at trees, leaves, flowers, ants, bugs, birds, animals, things. We had a dog. We did a lot of devilment. But without being organized, we did not turn out too bad, and we lived and we learned, and I hope we have helped.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN a fence enclosed every yard in town? Fences were the rule instead of the exception. Every yard was enclosed with some kind of a fence and there were many kinds.
The most common front yard fence was the wood picket fence, consisting of five inch square posts, two, two inch by four inch runners and one inch square pickets with a pyramid point on top, to discourage sitting upon. Sometimes the pickets were round and pierced the runners instead of being nailed to them. Other fences were of three inch slats placed three inches apart, also pointd or decorated on top. Some were quite elaborate with designs cut in and around the slats. Front yard fences ranged in height from three to five feet.
There were also brick fences in many and various styles. Some were of solid brick, but more often they were laid with an open work pattern. Lace fences we called them or peek-hole fences. In Wilmington the lattice brick fences are called “Calder Walls.”
Some fences or walls were covered with stucco and rounded on top to discourage the nurse maids sitting on them, and the small boy from walking on them, which the latter did anyway. There were a few fences or high walls in town that had broken glass imbedded in cement to prevent them from being climbed over.
The back yard fences were mostly of wood and all were made solid and were about six feet high and entirely enclosed the yard. There the horse, the cow, the dogs, the chickens or the rabbits were kept. In addition to these there was the lattice fence of slats placed diagonally across each other, leaving only squares of light to come through. These were used to keep out the prying eyes of a neighbor, or to screen an unsightly back yard. These lattice screens were also universally used on all back porches. There was generally a lattice fence between the front and the rear yard, with gates for both personal and vehicular traffic.
There were also in town several “spite” fences, which were erected when neighbors disagreed. Or perhaps when a neighbor had built too close to the line, a “spite” fence was built on the property line as high as necessary to completely block off the light and the air of the adjoining house.
There were many iron fences. Some had a brick wall about two feet high on which was placed the iron fence. Others were built entirely of iron. A number had large brick columns and were filled in between with ornamental iron. A few of the older fences were of cast iron and were very handsome, but most of them were of the steel or hammered iron. I do not remember seeing any wire fences in my neighborhood, and there were no barb wire fences. Of course in the country there was always the attractive wooden rail fence, which has now almost entirely disappeared.
It was always much fun for us boys to walk the top of walls and fences. And when I wished to visit any boy in my block, I always did it the hard way. I would mount the fence in my back yard and would pride myself not to get down until I had reached my point of destination. And I could do it too, as all fences were somehow connected.
There were gates. Every yard had gates, which are a story in themselves. Each gate had a different hinge and latch. There were special concerns that manufactured only gate hardware. The team gates might be strap-hinged and have a plain catch, but the front yard gates always had ornamental hardware. Some hinges were self-closing, some were not, but all of them needed oil and squeaked. You were always forewarned of the advent of a visitor.
Most gate latches would snap locked when closed but some had to be hooked. And one must be careful to close a gate or he would let the dog or the child out, or trouble in. There were front gates, team gates, and garden gates. All were much fun to swing upon, and many was the first trip to New York that a child took, swinging-riding on a gate.
And what a joy a gate was on Halloween to the young boys, and what a pain a gate was to a householder. What a beautiful sight a gate made in the eyes of the youthful the morning after, swinging from the top of a telephone pole, or astride the barn roof! What a problem it became for the owner to get it down! I have seen gates on top of houses, walls, on front porches or trees. Some gates had special hardware and fastenings that made it hard to remove, but most of them could be easily lifted off the hinge. Many owners carefully took their own gates off that day and carefully kept them inside the house until the night's activity was over. And what fun it was to walk or run along beside a picket
Old St. John's Lodge, on Orange Street, when used as a residence, about 1880.
fence, and scrape a stick across it, making a noise that would rattle the window panes, and cause the women of the houses to fairly burst with indignation.
Most wooden fences were made of cypress and others of the long leaf heart pine, which was almost as permanent a material to use. There was always work to be done on a fence. If all slats and pickets were in place and all gates worked, there were still acres of paint to be applied. A fine job for a boy's Saturday off from school or a summer afternoon.
The psalmist who wrote and sang of the Pearly Gates lived in a former time from this, for the modern psalmist would hardly know what a gate was for.ST. JOHN'S LODGE
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN the old St. John's building was used as a residence? Wilmington has always considered itself as one of the older cities of the nation. In many respects this is true, but unfortunately in the preservation of older buildings and landmarks, it is sadly lacking. This has been due in part to numerous destructive city-wide conflagrations and to the equally destructive shortsightedness of its inhabitants, who tore down many of the old landmarks to erect “more modern” structures.
There is an old map of Wilmington drawn and surveyed by J. T. Belanger, a Frenchman, in the year 1810. This plan shows the layout of the streets of that date and portrays an elevation of nine of its principal buildings. The only building of that list still standing is old St. John's Lodge.
This building was erected in the year 1801. It was the first hall erected in North Carolina for strictly Masonic purposes. Joseph Jacobs came to Wilmington to build St. John's Lodge. He liked the town and remained in Wilmington to live and he left many descendants. He came from Hingham, Mass., he was a Mason there, and joined the local Lodge later. Concord Chapter No. 1 and St. John's Lodge No. 1 owned the building jointly. The angle stone of this building was laid on June 12th, 1801, with an assembly of eighty Masons. The stone was laid by the Rev. Dr. Solomon Halling, the rector of St. James Episcopal Church.
Upon the completion of the building Dr. Halling delivered an oration at the church, but unfortunately no copy of it is now
in existence, although the Masonic Lodge thought enough of it to have three hundred copies printed for distribution. Henry B. McKoy, great-great-grandson of Dr. Halling, has however, among his papers the invoice and receipt by the printer Almand Hall for the printing of these three hundred copies. This receipt is dated July 7th, 1804, and was issued to Jacob Hartman, Master of St. John's Lodge No. 1.
At the time the building was erected, Orange Street ended at Second, and at Third Street there was a wooded bluff some thirty feet above it. When the street was cut through in the early part of the nineteenth century, the level of the street in front of this building was raised several feet, forcing the closing of the main entrance door which was then in the center of the building on the ground floor. At that time a new door was cut to the room on the second floor and a portico and stair to the street was added.
The Chapter and the Lodge soon outgrew these small quarters and erected a new building at another site, and sold the property to Mr. Thomas W. Brown, a jeweler and silversmith of Wilmington, who used it as his private residence. It remained in the family of his descendants until it was purchased by Henry B. McKoy in 1943. The building was renovated at that time and a small addition was made to the rear porch, enclosing it and making it into a dining room. James H. McKoy, seeing the great need of caring for the thousands of soldiers who crowded the city determined to open a restaurant. He was associated later with Garvin D. Faulkner.
During the renovation of the old Lodge room which was in the second floor, beautiful mural decorations were discovered over the mantel of the west wall fireplace. They had been concealed and preserved by the wallpaper which covered them, and only came to light when it was removed. There were Masonic signs and symbols of the time, and included Blue Lodge and Chapter emblems. In the mural are two Coats of Arms of Masonry. The ancient Coat of Arms on the right and the modern Coat of Arms on the left. This mural was faithufully restored from existing outlines following the original colors that had been hidden by the wallpaper for well over a hundred years. This restoration was done by Mr. Claude Howel, an artist of the city, at the request of James McKoy. Mr. McKoy gave much time and thought to the restoration leaving everything possible as it originally was. Even the garden in the rear was designed with that in view.
In the rear of this building was another wooden structure which was used for many years as a private school for young ladies and young gentlemen of the city, and it was conducted by a descendant of the early owner. Miss Mary Brown and Miss Annie Hart gave instruction to hundreds of the residents of this city for over a score of years.
As St. John's Tavern, it immediately became popular with both the elite of the town and the military personnel. It literally fed thousands of patrons and rapidly attained a reputation as the place to go for good food and good fellowship. Besides the local people, hundreds of boys and girls in the service of “our country” celebrated their first wedding meal in one of the private dining rooms. As a special attraction on the ground floor a “Finca Room” was located, which was furnished and decorated in South American style. This was a place that became a club, a home, and a place of refuge for hundreds of homesick soldiers, who gathered there by invitation during the troublesome war years. On the walls of the Finca Room, several hundred service men drew their hand outlines and left names and a greeting as they left for overseas.
Many stars of radio, stage, opera, concert, and screen have been guests of St. John's Tavern. The boys in uniform have in large measure returned to their homes, but many carry with them memories of a place where they found happiness, contentment and a welcome, during their first absence away from home.
St. John's Tavern is closed. St. John's Lodge long ago moved away. But the old building is still there, to remind one of the stories and tales of yesterday as well as long ago, and perhaps it will yet have a part in writing another chapter in the history of tomorrow.MISS HART'S AND
BY JAMES H. MCKOY
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN Miss Annie Hart and Miss Brown ran a school? Before the existence of the present public school system most of the children in Wilmington attended one of the many private schools in the city. One of the most popular and happily remembered by so many in Wilmington today was the school at 114 Orange Street, “Miss Hart and Miss Brown's School
for Young Ladies,” with co-principals, Miss Annie Hart and Miss Mary Brown.
Miss Brown was a Wilmington resident from birth, always residing in her parents’ home on Orange Street. Miss Annie Hart came to Wilmington as an orphan from Columbia, S. C., with her aunt Miss Katherine Kennedy. Together they founded a school in 1865 on the west side of Third Street between Market and Princess in a small one story building. This was known as “The Misses Kennedy and Hart's Female School.” This Miss Katherine Kennedy lived at the corner of Third and Market, with Mrs. Catherine G. Kennedy, whose name is well known in Wilmington today, as it was for her the home for old ladies was named, The Catherine Kennedy Home. When Miss Kennedy married Dr. Armand J. deRosset in 1877, Miss Mary Brown took her place as co-principal, and the school moved across the street to a one-story wooden structure on the site now occupied by the B. F. Goodrich Company. Long before the turn of the century the school was again moved to a building in the rear of the Brown residence at 114 Orange Street. This old school building was demolished in the late thirties.
Here, Miss Hart and Miss Brown, with the assistance of Miss Nell Hobday, Mrs. Alfred Moore Waddell and Mrs. Deveroux Lippitt, the young ladies of Wilmington and a few selected young gentlemen were prepared for their future stations in life. Miss Annie, as she was lovingly called by all children, taught main academics, but also took a most active part in the teaching of music, songs and dances. Miss Brown taught geography and sewing, as well as some of the prime requisites of the day, the three “R's.” In Miss Annie Hart's care was entrusted the teaching of the Bible.
Miss Hobday, who came from Virginia, taught “occupations,” which included many things a young lady dared not be without in her future home, making paper flowers, baskets and “home-making.” Musical Instruction was under the guidance of Mrs. Waddell, who was one of Wilmington's most talented pianists and musicians. Mrs. Lippitt instructed in drawing and painting. Only recently when the old Brown reseidence was being restored as St. John's Tavern, up in the attic was found a folio of drawings. They are charcoal and pencil sketches in still life and figures, drawn by Mrs. Lippitt and her students.
The school building was some twenty feet to the rear of the Brown residence that had first been built as St. John's Lodge by the Masons in 1801. The school was on the west side of the large rear lot, with its far side using as a foundation the ancient ballast rock wall, that still extends the length of the alley today. Students entered from the alley through a gate and up a brick and stone stairway. The building was a rather non-descript, oblong, two story, wood construction. It was painted a dull grey with brown trim. Some tell that it had many rooms, others say there was one large room on the second floor for dancing and assembly, and four or six rooms on the ground floor. Simple gables faced the north and south. The outside was of conventional weatherboard, with many shutterless windows and a small lower porch on the northern end, with steps to connect with the brick paving that joined the residence and the alley gate. This was the play area at recess. On the east side of the school was a very beautiful garden where no child dared to trespass. Miss Annie and Miss Mary each had small rooms of their own on the first floor that served for an office and classroom. Many will remember geography lessons in Miss Mary's room, and a “few” will in all probability recall that room for another reason—for it was here, students were “kept in!”
All the seats were the double desks of the day, with several grades gathered in the same room. When a class recited, they would be called up front where long wooden benches were arranged before the teacher. Classes not reciting remained at their desks to prepare for their next recitation. Blackboards were in constant use as well as the old “copy books”, and the simple yet effective books on “readin’, writin’ and ’rithmetic!” A greatly loved period was the time devoted to songs and dances, in which the entire school participated—songs in French—perhaps to fix a lesson in pronunciation. Young voices used to ring through the old building as they sang, “Sur la pont d'Avignon l'on y danse . . . ”, with Miss Annie directing them as she played on her little reed organ. Wind for this instrument was pumped by one of the boys, one each day would be selected for the honor. This organ was once the cause of a half holiday. Miss Annie had announced the song and the boy asigned to pumping the bellows started his work. Instead of the usual sweet music that followed Miss Annie's touch, this day a nerve tingling screech came from the little instrument. They tried again—but the screech was even more blood curdling!!
School was dismissed for the day and the boys under Miss Annie's and Miss Mary's direction began to dismantle the organ to find what had happened. They hardly got the front floor board off, when out jumped a thoroughly frightened alley cat! No one knows how that cat ever got inside that organ—but there was considerable whispering in corners and smiles back of hands that hid little faces over how they got that half-holiday!
Music was always an important subject because of Miss Annie's great love and knowledge of this art. She was endowed with varied natural talents through which she developed her pupils in appreciation of real culture. She possessed a full, rich alto voice and for many years she was a faithful member of the choir of St. James’ Episcopal Church of which she was a devoted communicant. She was a composer of merit and in her possession was a thick manuscript containing her musical compositions, among which were several musical plays and operettas.
Her best known composition is an Easter Carol, written for the children's choir of St. James’ Church. Through all the years since it was written, the old manuscript has been tenderly placed on the organ rack each Easter Sunday afternoon, as generations of bright and happy little voices of that church school have loudly sung. “Waken, Children, Children of the King”. All in the hearing distance of St. James’ look forward to that moment early Easter morn, when the children's choir sing this song, belonging only to St. James, from the old church tower. How envious the boys of another faith used to be of the selected few who sang from the tower. It is told that this beautiful Easter Carol was composed by Miss Annie in the old school building as she sat before her sweet-toned, little reed organ
Outside the school building on the east side, was a beautiful rose, that is still blooming there today. Then it climbed over an arbor and up onto the school building way to the second floor. This is a climbing Devoniensis rose that is a mass of blooms each spring. Neighbors tell that Mr. Lippitt brought it as a cutting from Devon in England and grafted it on a yellow banksha. This sweet smelling rose with its lovely creamy, pinkish-white bloom sent its fragrance over the entire neighborhood, and it still does today. During April-May season when it blooms, Miss Mary Brown each day would elect one or two pupils and give them a
bunch of roses “to take home to mother.” It was an exciting moment when one's turn came to receive this prized gift!
In all ages teachers have had to cope with the pranks and antics of mischievious boys, but it is to be expected that then any pranks of the “little young ladies” were not discussed except behind closed doors—no matter what happened! One story seems to live in memory—“Harry Watters and the water cooler!” Remember the old-time cooler—big and white and round—with the domed top and the black knob—the spigot at the bottom front? About five gallons of water and a cake of ice each day? Oh! what a miserable day it was when Harry Watters put quinine in the cooler! Pandemonium broke loose!! For three days no one confessed to the dastardly crime. Pleadings, even threats were made—in hopes that the culprit would come forward for his (or her?) punishment—all to no avail. And then, when it seemed that punishment for this cruel act might be meted to all, Harry demurely confessed! Things like that just did not happen in this school, and this prank made a lasting impression on the entire student body—not to mention the impression made on little Harry's “body?”
The happiest event of the year was the annual school picnic, when students, teachers and friends went down the river on the Steamer Wilmington to spend the day at the ruins of St. Phillip's Church at old Brunswick. “Remember that gang-plank—only two boards wide—remember how scared we were to walk across that ‘deep’ water and over the marshes to shore? Oh! how exciting!” Every child came laden with a basket of food from home, which at lunchtime was spread on white cloths over long wooden benches under the great pines. How the tables used to groan with the good things to eat from homes with additions prepared by our teachers and friends! What a cry of joy rang through the forest that had taken over the old town, when young throats burst with a yell when lunch was called! The day was filled with proper games and entertainment, all so conservative, for after all, “we were being taught decorum and to be the future young ladies and young gentlemen of the community!” The climax of the day came with the crowning of the “May Queen” who had been selected by vote along with her “Court”, a Scepter Bearer, Garland Bearer and of course a “King” to crown. Miss Annie composed a little verse to be said by each member of the royal group—but alas, only one person seems to recall one of these verses. “I remember one, for I
was so excited over being the Garland Bearer that year,” says Alice Davis Peck;“Of roses and daisies,and lilies so whiteWe've woven a garlandto deck our delight.The flowers may languishand wither Sweet Maid,But the true loveentwining them,Never will fade.”
It was with sad hearts we would hear in the distance the warning blow of the Wilmington announcing her approach to the wharf. Then a hasty rush to gather up our things and make the short trek to meet our boat at the river. “Although most of us were pretty well worn out from the long day's frolic, we hated to think that the long anticipated day was drawing to a close, and it would be another year before it could happen again.” There was not much playing aboard the old river steamer as she ploughed the water of the Cape Fear towards town and the dock at the foot of Market Street where our parents waited to take us home.
Copies of old commencement programs reveal how diligently Miss Brown and Miss Hart endeavored to prepare their pupils for their future. Many features of the curriculum were far in advance of their day. We read, there was a course in physical education through calisthentics, that games and play were planned for competitive effort, just as sports are included today. Along with the ever necessary three “R's”, we find that as early as 1869, literature, music, art, physical education and dramatic training were important subjects in this select school.
Old Wilmington newspapers give accounts of the presence of their editors as school patrons at the annual “School Examination” in geography, arithmetic, logic, algebra and foreign languages. One editor was much impressed by a “young lady going through the most intricate problems in algebra with the facility of a venerable professor, and another, reading and speaking French like a native. Original compositions in music and rhetoric revealed real poetry and rhythm in thought . . . good sense and humor in verse.”
At commencement many prizes were given for superior work—one
for each subject. But the award most coveted was the Marion Sprunt Medal, given each year by Mrs. James Sprunt in memory of her daughter who had died as a young child. It was a beautiful gold medal in the shape of a heart, about one and one-half inches in height. In its center shone a brilliant ruby and on the back it was engraved, “For Conscientiousness and Courtesy.”
Miss Annie started her school in Wilmington soon after Sherman's march through her home city, but it was not until some years before the turn of the century that the school was located on Orange Street. There it thrived until June 1920, when Miss Annie and Miss Mary expressed through the pages of The Morning Star, “. . . their regret at this severance of many ties, as well as sincere thanks for the long continued unsolicited patronage.”
Miss Annie was handicapped by a deformity that some say came at birth, while others tell of an accident when she was but a tiny girl of three. She stood but four feet high, hardly taller than her youngest pupils. She was always neatly dressed in dark clothes with a full skirt that brushed the ground and nearly hid her high buttoned shoes. Her dresses were neatly buttoned from the waist line to the neck, with the waist fashioned in a loose fitting drape style. Her hair was black and thick, even as she grew older, it was cut short like a man's—a style quite odd then—but today a common sight! One was hardly conscious of her hunchback for she was endowed with a brilliant mind, coupled with a keen sense of humor, and, because she spent her life in service to others.
After the close of the school Miss Brown and Miss Hart continued to live in the old family residence, until Miss Annie was eighty-four, when she passed on to another life of even greater service. Miss Brown lived but a few years after Miss Hart's death. They left behind them a community that had been enriched spiritually and culturally by their teaching.
Professor Catlett's School, 1910. Taken on Orange Street at Hibernia Hall. Aquilla Marshall, Bob deRossett,
Harry Waters, H. B. McKoy, Jake Loenstine, on top row. Bill Roseman and W. Sanders, second row. Dwight
Wiley, Hargrove Bellamy, James Devine, Roderick Houston, F. Sidbury on bottom row.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN Professor Catlett taught school in Wilmington? If you lived during the years between 1877 and 1916 in or around that city, you do remember him. Perhaps you or your father or even your grandfather received instruction under his tutorage. And if you attended school under Professor Catlett you “received instruction”, and if you did not retain or absorb it, it was because of no fault of his.
I first remember Professor Catlett, when I was a very young child, and he taught the Cape Fear Academy, which was then located in the rear rooms of the old Meginney home on the corner of Fourth and Princess Streets. The home was then occupied by a daughter, Mrs. Sue Meginney Gregg. I often visited in this home and, after school was out, was allowed to peek into the room and look at the long rows of double desks, where two could sit side by side and study, and (play).
The school itself fronted on Fourth Street and the school yard was in a fenced area to the rear. This property is now owned by the City of Wilmington and is directly in the rear of the City Hall. Later I remember when the school was moved to Third Street and occupied a building just south of and adjoining the New Hanover County Court House. In the year 1900 he moved the school to his residence at 117 Orange Street and continued there until 1916, at which time he gave up active teaching to assume full duties of public school work. His home on Orange Street was a large wooden building in a lot that was well below the street, Orange Street having been filled and raised some six or eight feet between Front and Second Streets sometime before 1860. His school occupied a large room on the ground floor, which opened directly into the yard. There was a high brick wall around the sides and the front. It was there that I attended the Cape Fear Academy and learned to know and admire Professod Catlett. The school playground was the streets and the neighborhood yards. There was no “off-limits” and our only requirement was to come back when the bell rang.
Professor Catlett was a splendid example of what is known as a “Southern Gentleman”. He was kind and courteous, friendly yet reserved, an excellent and a thorough scholar, with the ability to impart knowledge and to make those that he instructed wish to
learn and to be, also. I attended his school during the terms of 1909 and 1910. He had about thirty students, most of whom had left the public school for various reasons. Some were dull and some had failed, and others needed the special individual attention of a private teacher. Some were considered too bad to be wanted elsewhere, and others had come for private and personal reasons. To me, then, it was a fine group of friendly boys. Looking back on them now, I am proud to have been a member of them, as they, as well as “Fessor”, taught me much that has been good and useful in my later life.
In former years, before there were any first class public schools in Wilmington, the Cape Fear Academy had been a select group from the best and finest families in the city. The most prominent business men of the state had attended. Professor Catlett's former students filled high positions in the railroad, the legal and professional life of the community.
I had been enrolled in the Cape Fear Academy only two days, when Professor was called out of the room to the phone. Someone then suggested that the clock on the mantel be turned forward fifteen minutes so that we could get out early. And I, being quick on the trigger to respond to such a chance, jumped from my seat, opened the face of the clock, and turned the hand back. The glass face of the clock was loose. It slipped from my hand and dropped to the floor where it broke into smithereens. I was caught with no excuse.
As soon as Professor returned to the room, and, without letting myself even think or let another tell on me, I arose and announced that I had turned the clock back and that I had broken the glass. I can see his face now, and his eyes particularly. But I had disarmed him. He said simply, “Oh! Henry, I had hoped you were different.”
The boys all called him “Fessor”. He was a reasonable man and could be approached by any of his students, most of whom understood and admired him. He brooked no foolishness. One of his remarks I remember when some childish thing had been done was “Pleased with a feather and tickled with a straw.” The large wooden double desks were still in use, and each boy had a seat mate, generally of his own choosing.
Each year during the late spring, there was an annual picnic
to Old Brunswick, via the steamer Wilmington with Captain Harper. We unloaded at the wharf which extended well out into the river We rushed as fast as we could with baskets of lunch to the site of Old St. Phillip's Church. The space between the church and the river was then fairly open with only some old and venerable trees in and around the church itself. There were long tables and benches there on which we later spread our lunch. There were games and competitive sports, and long tramps in the woods and over the old Civil War trenches. And always there was an interesting lecture by Professor on the history of this Cape Fear section.
Professor Washington Catlett was born on October 9th, 1852, at Port Royal, Virginia. He came to Wilmington in the year 1877 and took a position at Assistant Teacher iln the Cape Fear Academy, which was then a military school located on Chestnut Street between Third and Fourth Streets. The Cape Fear Academy was founded by a famous instructor and educator of that period, Col. Raleigh Colston. His students were known as the “Colston Cadets”. Professor Catlett became its principal and proprietor in 1879 and continued to conduct it for thirty-nine years. He was elected County Superintendent of Schools in 1900. Sixteen years later he gave up his work in the Academy to devote his entire time to public school work. He remained active in it until his death in 1934.
Hundreds of students that passed through his hands and were molded to thought and action by him, have attained high places in the state and the nation, as well as in business and professional life. He left a real mark of “sterling” upon the lives of those he touched.
He married Margaret McIlhenny of Wilmington, on December 23rd, 1879. He had four children; they were Margaret McIlhenny who married C. L. Rowe; Charlotte Catlett; George Fitzhugh Catlett; and Sarah C. Catlett who married Paul Cantwell. Professor Catlett was the type of instructor that has long since passed out of existence. A type that was necessary and in great demand a hundred years ago. Such men were able to bring to a small community intellectual education, that could not have been acquired in any other manner, only a few being able to travel or attend a college. He taught all of his classes, language, mathematics, history. All students were grouped together in one classroom. He was a born teacher, and he died one.
One of the old Horse Watering Troughs moved to Third Street.
I have several of his report cards, or sheets, one dated December, 1910. He lists as teaching personally at that time: spelling, reading, geography, declamation, penmanship, arithmetic, algebra, grammar, composition, history, geometry, philosophy, Latin, Greek, French, German, bookkeeping, and rhetoric. Who today, in this city, would be qualified to teach so many subjects?
Professor Washington Catlett was a landmark of Wilmington, and his efforts toward education and good will live for generations yet to come.HORSE TROUGHS
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN a horse trough was a common sight along the streets of Wilmington? Fifty years ago there were scores of the watering troughs both on the principal streets, scattered throughout the city, near the public buildings, the markets and along the principal thoroughfares.
Most of these troughs were of cast iron and were large enough for two or more horses to drink from at the same time. All were equipped with running water that kept them full and fresh at all times. Some of these troughs were plain but many were quite ornamental. Most of them had floats to control the water level and drains that overflowed into the storm sewer instead of wasting into the gutter. I remember troughs at Water and Market, at Front and Dock, at Fourth and Campbell, at Market Street near Third and at Ninth and Nixon.
There were watering troughs, of course, at each livery stable, where the horse was allowed to drink just before leaving and immediately upon his return. The horses of the town knew just where these troughs were located, and if they were on the street near one and desired a drink, they never failed to let the driver know of their thirst by heading directly to it and stopping. Sometimes the driver would think that perhaps his horse was thirsty and drive up to the trough only to have the animal refuse it. “You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink” is an expression often used then, but seldom now, or even understood today.
Most horses in harness were equipped with a check rein that held the head high and prevented the head from being lowered below a certain level. For the horse to drink this had to be unfastened.
All work horses and others that were not to be stabled at noon time were given for dinner a nose bag, which consisted of a canvas sack to be fastened well over his mouth with a strap. This sack held several quarts of grain for his meal. From the rear of all farmer's buggies and wagons could be seen a generous supply of hay, corn or fodder, protruding, which was for the animal's dinner. Often the horse was unhitched and allowed to eat at will from the back of the wagon or buggy.
In the hot summer time many horses were given straw hats to keep the sun off. These hats were similar to those worn by their masters, except there were holes for the ears, which helped keep them in place. Flies were everywhere and particularly around horses. Flies would sometimes almost cover a horse and would cause it great torment. They would stamp their feet, throw their heads around and swish the tail in an effort to get some relief. I have often seen a horse apparently standing still, and yet move the skin of his entire flank or side up and down several inches to shoo the flies away for a moment. I have often wondered how he did it.
In an effort to help, many horses were given a net which was draped over and fastened around his entire body, so that a single shake would make all flies at least change to a new location. For the winter, there was the horse blanket, and all who kept animals waiting in the cold would first tie these blankets around them.
There were whips and whip-sockets in every buggy, carriage or wagon. These whips were mostly gay affairs at first, being long, slim and tapered with a bit of red or green ribbon tied as a tastle on the end, both as a decoration and to sound a sharp pop when the whip was cracked. For most animals the mere removal of the whip from the socket was enough to start it into a trot, and if it was snapped, the horse would begin to run. The handle of the whip was heavy and sometimes filled with lead and became a real weapon in case of necessity.
Horses and dogs have been traditional friends of man, and most men loved their horses and were loved in return by them. They were treated kindly. At the end of the trip or at the end of the day, the horse was first taken care of, before the master himself sought rest or comfort.
Some horses were easily frightened, and all of them might be classed as scary. A bell, a fire cracker, a train whistle or any sudden noise would startle them and, sometimes cause what all men
feared, “a runaway”. Many were the wagons demolished, buggies upset, shafts broken because of the antics of a runaway horse. When such a runaway came down the street there was great excitement, and rightly so. Children scurried, women and men hid behind trees, as the wild animal galloped uncontrolled on street and sidewalk. It took a brave and a strong man to stop a runaway horse. But when a woman was in the buggy or a child was in the road, brave men appeared, and, often during such circumstances by leaping for the bridle, were able to stop a horse and save a life. Medals for bravery were often given at that time.
What a train (or rather perhaps a wagon load) of thoughts have come to mind because of thinking of “horse watering troughs”. But these thoughts would not be complete without mentioning the weights, the ropes and anchors, carried to fasten to the bridle, when the horse was to be left unattended for awhile. The hobble, consisting of a chain or rope that could be fastened to the front leg, prevented a long step or the animal from going too far afield. Hitching posts were in front of all homes that owned horses, and many that did not. The stepping stones were at the curb's edge to aid the ladies in entering or leaving a carriage. As far as I know there are no public watering troughs now in use in Wilmington.
They were removed many years ago and cast upon the dump heap. But thanks to the efforts of Louis T. Moore, a lover of the past and a protector of the future, with the assistance of City officials, several of these horse troughs were rescued and two of them now adorn the narrow park on Third Street between Dock and Nun.COFFEE GRINDER
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN you used the old coffee grinder? Where only enough coffee was ground before each meal to serve those who were then present? To grind enough coffee ahead for week or even for the day was unheard of. For who would think of using or drinking stale coffee?
The coffee grinder consisted of a square wooden box with a little coffee mill on top, that was operated with an iron handle which was turned around and around. The wooden knob on the handle as well as the box were generally stained a coffee color.
Scale model of Wilmington, N. C. as it appeared in 1769, made by Elizabeth F. McKoy.
The box was supported between the legs and held firmly in place with the free hand, and I remember that somehow at least once during a grinding the box would slip and pinch the meat of my leg between the box and the wooden kitchen chair in which I was sitting.
There was a small metal cover that fitted over the mill to prevent the coffee beans from jumping out or spilling as it was ground. By the aid of a thumb screw on top, the fineness of the grind could be controlled. It took much more effort to grind it smaller and generally was not desired, as it made the old fashioned boiled coffee rather muddy.
There was a little wooden drawer into which the ground coffee fell. This drawer had a small button handle. From this drawer the coffee was measured and ladled out as desired. Many homes bought their coffee in the green bean, which retained its freshness and would keep indefinitely. It was then roasted in small quantities in open pans in the oven, and the delicious aroma filled the house and the neghborhood. But a more pleasant odor could not be desired than from coffee being ground by hand in a mill just below one's nose.
Did you ever grind coffee in the coffee grinder placed between your knees? Then you, too, have lived in the “good old days!”MODEL OF EARLY
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN C. J. Sauthier surveyed and made an early map of Wilmington? If you do, you are over two hundred years old. Miss Elizabeth Francenia McKoy, a native of Wilmington and a seeker after historical knowledge and information, did not remember either. But she made and produced a model of the Town of Wilmington as it looked in 1769, so that she and others might visualize the scene, and then really could remember how the old town looked.
Miss McKoy's work was founded on Sauthier's map, but was limited to the town itself and did not attempt to portray the roads leading north, south, and east. She spent months of patient and exhaustive research. She studied all available maps and read many articles about the section and histories of the early town. Court House records were gone over carefully. She found the widths of
the streets, the heights of buildings as well as size and shape, and incorporated each fact into the model, only using imagination when all other sources were blank. And then only was the exacting and tedious job of actual reconstruction begun.
To this old plan on her model she added the “Mud Market” at Second and Market Street and the Cornwallis-Burgwin House at Third and Market, the latter not having been built until two years later in 1771. It was thought that the whole would be more interesting if a building now standing was shown which would better locate and orient the other structures.
The old map shows roads leading to New Berne, to the Sound, to Brunswick Ferry and to the northeast, “the Great Road”, on which it was said fifty men could walk abreast, and on which the post traveled down once a month. Several streams then ran through the town. The model displays twenty or more gardens, with some ancient flower plots as well as vegetables. Then, as now, warehouses lined the water front, facing the Cape Fear River, which was then the very life blood of the town, nearly two hundred years ago. Shown in the river were the schooners that frequented the Cape Fear.
The population of Wilmington in 1765 was less than one thousand. No streets were paved. The main structures of the town were noted on Sauthier's map, as the Church, The Court House, The Gaol, the Tan Yard, and the Still House. All of these are clearly shown in the model. The names of some of the property owners of old Wilmington were Dr. Cobham, Mrs. Heron, John Rutherford, William Dry, James Murray, Benjamin Smith, Dr. Green, William Hooper, John Burgwin, John Wilkinson, James Duboise, H. Toomer, and Richard Eagles. Some of the known merchants were Duncan and Dry, Ancrum and Schaw, Hogg and Campbell, John Quince, James Walker and Cornelius Harnett.
There are displayed on the model some seventy-five or more buildings, including governmental and public structures. The quaint old homes are each modeled in detail, complete with doors, windows, piazzas and chimneys.
Starting from the west end of the street and the Cape Fear River, as one goes eastward, he observes the Town Market House, next the Court House is located in the street at Front and Market. At the intersection of Second and Market Streets is the old Town Hall and Fish Market. One block to the east is the Cornwallis House.
On the south side of Market Street itself, just off of center and west of Fourth Street, is located the original St. James Episcopal Church. This church was later torn down and rebuilt on the corner of Third and Market where it now stands. The jail or goal, as it was misspelt on an old map, was at the northeast corner of Second and Princess Street and was built there to replace an older one which was located at Third and Market, the foundations of which can still be seen intact as two basements of the present Cornwallis House. The Cape Fear Library was on the north side of Market, between Front and Second Streets, in the years 1760 to 1770. The Wilmington Chronicle was published at Second and Market Streets from 1793 to 1800.
This town was in former times known as New Liverpool, New Carthage, and New Town or Newton. The name of Wilmington was given it by Governor Gabriel Johnston in honor of his friend and patron, Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington.
The model is now on display in the lobby of the City Hall and is well worth examination and study by any one interested in Wilmington history or early colonial days.
View of River Front, Wilmington, N. C., 1899.
View of Cape Fear River Front at Wilmington, N. C. Note: Two
story waiting pavilion on wharf at foot of Market Street for the
Steamer Wilmington, 1900.
Yacht Races off Wrightsville Beach, 1910.
Weighing and Loading Cotton, Cape Fear River.
Wooden schooners loading cotton and later the tramp steamers at
the same dock. Cape Fear River.
Cape Fear River. Note Steamer Wilmington, the U. S. Cutter and
the Custom House.
A Paddle Wheel River Steamer loading Rosin, Water Street, Cape
Rosin on the Cape Fear River.
The famous Dram Tree, on Cape Fear River 2 miles below
Water front, Cape Fear River, North of Market Street. Note Govern-
ment Cutter, Old Custom House, and the Ferry. Rosin barrels in
Loading lumber at Cape Fear River. Three and four masted
Canoe and swimming races 4th of July, 1907, Lumina, Wrightsville
Beach, N. C.
Wilmington Sea Coast R. R. Depot and Yard, corner Ninth and
Orange Streets. Note open cars
View of River Front, Wilmington, N. C., 1899.
Tarrymore Hotel, Wrightsville Beach, N. C., 1910.
Dancing at Lumina, Wrightsville Beach, N. C., 1907.
Scene at the largest fire in the history of Wilmington, N. C., Sunday,
February 21st, 1886.
Old Methodist Church on Front Street, destroyed by fire Sunday,
February 21st, 1886.
Fire on Market Street below Front Street.
Post Office from Front Street, 1910.
Park and Post Office, Wilmington, N. C., 1910.
Market Street looking east from Sixth Street. Note buried cannon in
right hand corner.
Assault and Capture of Fort Fisher, January 15th, 1865.
Fort Fisher and Blockade Fleet, January 1865, off Wilmington, N. C.
at mouth of the Cape Fear River.
Bird's Eye View Fort Fisher, N. C., Fort Buchanan and part of
blocking fleet, 1865.
Fort Fisher and Blockade Fleet off Wilmington, N. C., January, 1865.
The last Confederate Drum Corps. Taken at a Confederate Reunion
in 1911 on Walnut Street, just west of Front Street, Wiley T. John-
son, W. B. Royster, James J. Lewis, F. Smith.
Confederate Reunion Parade. Market Street, looking west from
Third Street, August 3, 1911.
The Cornwallis-Burgwyn House, Third and Market Street.
Princess Street, looking east from Front Street.
Princess Street looking west from Third. Note Orrell's Stable and the single line of car track.
Ecce Homo painting captured from pirates who attacked Wilmington in 1748.
Now in the St. James Episcopal Church.
Thos. Quinlivan, Horse Shoer and Farrier, southeast corner of Third and Princess Streets.
Front Street North from Market Street.
T. J. Southerland, Horse Exchange, 108 N. Second Street. Note the
Orton Hotel Bus.
H. L. Fennell Horse Milliner, 14 and 16 South Front Street. Note
the stuffed horse.
The Bank of Cape Fear, later the First National Bank Building,
Front Street where Masonic Temple now stands. Formerly the resi-
dence of John Ancrum.
Residence of John Ancrum, on Front Street, where the Masonic
Temple now stands. This building was later used as the Bank of
Cape Fear and later as the First National Bank of Wilmington.
Note ramps over the gutter, to keep the ladies’ dresses out of
Acme Saloon, N. E. corner Front and Dock Streets.
North side of Market Street looking west from Third Street.
Market Street looking west from Third Street.
John Werner, Barber, 29 Market Street. Note Soda Water sign in
James F. Woolvin, 105 N. Market Street.
W. T. Daggett, 23 Market Street.
South side of Market between Front and Second.
C. W. Yates, 119 Market St.
Parade. Market Street, between Front and Second Street. Note
balconies, C. W. Yates Store, of arched windows of Masonic Temple,
Wilmington's Front Street, in 1865, looking north from Orange
Street. This is an inaccurate drawing.
Front Street between Market and Princess. Note Cobblestone
Famous Bonitz Hotel, corner Market and Second Street.
Geo. W. Huggins, Jeweler, 105 Market Street.
Front Street looking north from Chestnut.
Market Street looking east from Front Street. Note Street car.
Market Street looking west from Second Street.
The Front Street Market. Note vegetable wagons.
The Old Market Place in center of Market Street, between Front
and Water Street. This was torn down in 1881.
One of the old Horse Watering Troughs moved to Third Street.
Closing the New Inlet, Cape Fear River, 1885, now called the
Chemical Fire Company No. 1, Fourth Street near Dock, Year 1905.
Fire Engine Company No. 1, Fourth and Princess Street, Year 1905.
Fire Engine Company No. 2, Sixth and Castle Street, Year 1905.
Fire Engine Company No. 3, Fourth and Brooklyn Bridge,
St. John's Episcopal Church, N. E. corner Third and Red Cross,
May 1855. Cornerstone was laid 1853. Note negro boy sitting on
partly buried cannon.
A Horse Watering Trough, Third Street.
The Orton Hotel and the Atlantic Bank.
The hotels Orton and Purcell House. Note two wheel dray in right
corner, also hotel Buses.
Form designed by Henry Bacon, Sr., Engineer, for building a
mattress, on which rocks were placed and sunk in the mud of the
Cape Fear River, in building the “Rocks” to close the channel of
New Inlet, 1885. Just off Fort Fisher, N. C.
Fourth Street Bridge over Railroad. Built in 1887 jointly by the railroad and the city at a cost of $13,000.00.
Third Street looking north from Dock Street.
First Presbyterian Church on Front Street between Orange and
Dock. Destroyed by fire, 1825.
J. F. Garrell & Co. Meat Market, Stall 1 and 2 in Front Street Market.
Bijou Theatre. Showing the new front and building after tent had
been destroyed by a heavy snow. Year 1912.
Orrell & Alexander's Livery Stable, corner Third and Princess Street.
Naval Stores: Water and Nun Street, 1890.
St. James Episcopal Church, corner Third and Market Street,
Old St. John's Lodge, Orange Street, built in 1801. Called St. John's
Tavern, and used as a restaurant in 1945.
Old Front Street Methodist Church which was destroyed by fire
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Wow, someone took a lot of time to scan all the pages of my grandfather's book! I have a few additional copies. It's fun to read the memories and then see the places associated with them. I hope people have discovered this book!
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