THE NORTH CAROLINA SOCIETY OF COLONIAL DAMES
DELIVERED AT THE
... RUINS OF SAINT ...
.. PHILIP'S CHURCH ..
AUSPICES OFThe North CarolinaSociety of Colonial Dames1901
“O God, the Almighty Builder and Ruler of the nations, whose name is excellent in all the earth and Thy glory above the Heavens, we praise and adore Thee for all the great things which Thou hast done for us.
“We thank Thee for the fearless pioneer and hardy settler, who crossed the pathless ocean, who faced the savage foe, who felled the forest and cleared the land, who builded this noble Commonwealth of States to be the pride and glory of our own people, the wonder and admiration of the world.
“We thank Thee for the civil and religious liberty which they brought to this new land; for the wisdom which held that the foundation of men and nation's success is Christian character, for the faith and generosity which made them build in the centre of their rude settlements a stately church for the worship of Almighty God, we render to Thee our praise for the work which these good women have done and are doing here; that Thou hast put it into their hearts to rescue from time's decaying touch these walls, which once resounded to the chant and hymn of Thy sweet worship; that under their reverent and tactful care time himself will make them more beautiful, that, as the years roll on, the shaven turf, the flowing moss, the clinging vine, will change this ruin into a monument, which will tell the lingering stranger how true our ancestors of old were to their God and their fellows, and how truly our own fair mothers, wives and daughters appreciated their good works.
“And, now, O Lord, as we stand before Thee this day, we beseech Thee to keep Thy church and household continually in Thy true religion, that they who do lean only upon the hope of Thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by Thy mighty power; grant us perfectly to know Thy son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life, that following the steps of Thy holy apostles, Saint Philip and St. James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; finally, we pray Thee, Our Father, to direct us in these and all other doings with Thy most gracious favor, and further us with Thy continual help, that in all our works begun, continued and ended in Thee, we may glorify Thy holy name and finally by Thy mercy obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore.”
By Rev. Robert Strange, D. D.
RUINS OF OLD ST. PHILIP'S CHURCH, AT BRUNSWICK.
EARLY EXPLORERS OF THE CAPE FEAR.
Photo of Hon. Alfred Moore Waddell]
I regard the establishment of societies for the study of colonial and revolutionary history in the Southern States, and especially in our own State, with an interest which no organization for merely social purposes, much less for the gratification of family pride, could possibly excite. They have proved to be the most important agencies in stimulating historical investigation among all classes of our people that have ever existed among us, because they invest such study with a personal interest which it could not otherwise have provoked.
Previous to the organization of these societies it was only the historical student that informed himself about our early annals and men, and he was rather a rare person. But through the instrumentality of these societies a remarkable development has taken place in the study of State, local, and general history, and it is safe to say that fifty persons are now interested in them where only one was before; and the habit, being thus formed, will extend itself into an ever
widening circle, and thus serve to remove the reproach under which our people have so long supinely rested; of being ignorant of, and indifferent to their own history. I say this is a reproach under which we have long rested, and in saying so I speak with absolute regard for accuracy of statement. Until the last few years many of the most honorable events in the colonial and revolutionary history of North Carolina were entirely unheard of by the people of the country generally, and the consequence has been that, as a rule, they have for that reason been questioned if not squarely denied. A few books and essays were written, but, coming from persons with only a local reputation, and from obscure publishing houses, they either attracted no attention, or, if read, were discredited.
The heroic act done on this spot (I mean, of course, the refusal to allow the landing of the stamps in 1765) has been persistently ignored by every one of the Northern historians of the United States from the beginning of the writing of American history, altho’ it was the first armed resistance by British subjects to the authority of Great Britain on this Continent. And so with the Mecklenburg Declaration, the credit of which was sought to be destroyed by the ingenious process of denying the date alleged without denying the fact. And so with regard to the conduct of North Carolina troops in the revolution, and other well established facts of our history. We are largely to blame for all of this, for if our people, instead of carelessly letting things go as they might, had taken the trouble to preserve the evidences of their just claims to consideration, as was done in other States, those claims would have been recognized as indisputable. Why, my friends, even today in some of the school histories of the country “tar, pitch and turpentine” are put down as the chief products of North Carolina—a
statement that was never true except in the early colonial days, and then only true as to a small part of the State, but which has, nevertheless, clung to the whole State for more than a century. It is very ridiculous, of course, but a majority of the children of the United States have been taught to believe it true.
Now, one thing can not be denied, and that is that, whatever else may be said about North Carolina products, she has in every era of her history produced men—men in the highest signification of the word—men who have invariably been ready and willing to sacrifice their lives if necessary to maintain liberty and resist oppression. Even the great New England historian paid that tribute to them in the first edition of his work, and unintentionally corroborated it by omitting the tribute in a later edition, published during the war for Southern independence. The early colonial governors bore testimony to it by denouncing the rebellious spirit of the people, and the next to the last one of them within a stone's throw of this spot, denounced them to the Crown for their triumphant exhibition of the same spirit. Their descendants have never failed to exhibit it, and, until they become hopelessly degenerate, they never will.
I am here today upon the invitation of the Colonial Dames of North Carolina to say something about the first explorers and settlers on the Cape Fear River. It is not my purpose to attempt an account of their experiences in this unknown land, for but little is known of them. The known facts are recorded in all the histories of the State with more or less fullness, but are more minutely set forth in the history of Dr. Hawks, perhaps, than in any other, although new light was thrown upon the subject by the publication of the Colonial Records, and many errors of detail in former accounts were thereby corrected. Most per-
The record of this exploring party was carefully kept by the leader of it, a man named Robert Sanford, whose account is very interesting. They left the Cape Fear River, or the Charles River as it was then called, on the 16th of June 1666; went as far South as Port Royal, and re-entered the Cape Fear on the 12th of July. During the voyage one of the party Surgeon Henry Woodward, agreed to remain with the ruler, or cacique, of the Port Royal Indians, until the return of a nephew of the cacique who had joined the expedition, and Woodward was presented with a large field of corn by the cacique, which is believed to be the first ownership of land by a white man in South Carolina. A lineal descendant of Dr. Woodward is present here to-day.
The colony, settled on Town Creek by Yeamans, existed only about two years when it was broken up, its members going in the Fall of 1667 mostly to the more northern settlements, and thus for the second time, the attempt at a permanent colonization of the Cape Fear failed.
Of the three commissioners who were first sent from Barbadoes to explore the coast country of Carolina nothing is known except a few facts in regard to William Hilton. He was evidently a bold and skilful navigator, and explorer, and possessed of sufficient skill to make maps of the regions visited by him. Before arriving at Cape Fear in October 1663 he had visited, and remained for some days in and near, what he called the river Jordan (afterwards called Broad River) in South Carolina, for the purpose of rescuing some English prisoners who were reported to be held by the Spaniards there, but failing in this he sailed for Cape Fear. Hilton Head in that State, and the historic residence of Cornelius Harnett, on the east bank of the river just above Wilmington called Hilton, were both named in his honor, as was also that branch of the river itself originally. He published a Relation of his voyage and discoveries in London in 1664.
Dr. Henry Woodward, who went on the exploring expedition with Sanford along the coast southward, was a man of very decided character and ability. This expedition is the first in which he appears, but he afterwards attained some celebrity. He had been left with the Indians in 1665, as already stated, and nothing more was heard of him until November 1669, when Sir John Yeamans with another expedition from Barbadoes to Port Royal, found him at Nevis, a British island in the West Indies. He reported that the Indians had treated him very kindly, but that he had been surprised aud captured by the Spaniards at St. Helena, and had been taken by them as a prisoner to St. Augustine, Fla., that he was afterwards rescued from them, and taken to the Leeward Islands, and had there shipped as surgeon on a privateer, which was wrecked and cast away on the island where they found him. In spite of all this ill luck he immediately volunteered to join Sir John's expedition and the proposition was gladly accepted. Although there is no farther account of his services on the voyage to the mainland, or after the arrival of the fleet, we again find that in September (1670) he wrote a letter to Sir John, who was at Barbadoes telling him about a country he had discovered and which he describes as so “delicious, pleasant and fruitful that, were it cultivated, it would be a second paradise.” This country, he said, was fourteen days travel (according to the Indian manner of marching) west by north from Albemarle Point on the Ashley river, the seat of the colony, and is therefore supposed to be the region where the States of North and South Carolina, and Georgia, join each other a glorious country indeed. Woodward displayed his skillful management by negotiating a league with the chief whom he designates as the Emperor of that country, and with all the intermediate Indian chiefs, or caciques, between him and
the English settlement. In 1671 again he was sent by Sir John Yeamans to Virginia on an exploring expedition, and he seemed to have regarded this as so very dangerous an enterprise that he made his will, by which he gave his property to Sir John. This will is on record in the probate office in Charleston, and is one of the earliest records of the colony. Again in 1674 he was commissioned by the Proprietors to purchase Edisto Island from the Indians. In 1675 again, the Earl of Shaftesbury employed Dr. Woodward to explore the country of the Westoes, and the Cussatoes, the result of which was that he formed a treaty of peace and friendship between those Indian tribes and the English, which served as a great protection to the latter, who were weak in numbers. He had learned the languages of the Indians and in all the negotiations with them was employed by the Governor and Council as an interpreter. And, finally, in 1682 he was commissioned to make further explorations. This is the last public mention of him. He married Mary, the daughter of Colonel John Godfrey, one of the most prominent and distinguished of the early colonists, who owned an estate on Ashley river, and he himself owned a plantation on Abapoola Creek, where he probably lived during his last days.
The only other person among the first explorers and settlers of the Cape Fear of whom we have knowledge, was Sir John Yeamans, and I shall conclude this paper with a brief notice of him, chiefly for the purpose of vindicating his memory.
Sir John Yeamans was the eldest son of Robert Yeamans, of Bristol, who, as Clarendon says in his celebrated history, “had been High Sheriff of the city, and of great reputation in it.” The occupancy of that office in those days was the surest index of high social and political standing, as the
High Sheriff was then actually, as he is now theoretically, “the first man in the county, and superior in rank to any nobleman therein during his office.” Robert Yeamans was a cavalier and one of the main-stays of the royalist party, and when Prince Rupert in 1643 was endeavoring to capture Bristol, which was then occupied by the parliamentary forces, Yeamans and another prominent royalist named Bouchier, were discovered to be in correspondence with the Prince, and were arrested by order of Fairfax, tried by council of war, and hanged—Yeamans being hanged in front of his residence on Wine street—and their estates confiscated. In the year 1814, one hundred and seventy one years after their execution, according to a report in the Edinborough Annual Register of that year, in opening a vault in St. Maryport Church, Bristol, the body of Yeamans, in a coffin of great antiquity, deeply concealed, was discovered, and was “in the highest state of preservation, handsomely accoutred in the costume of that day, with gloves similar to those which sheriffs at present wear.”
Excepting his very short stay on the Cape Fear, the career of Sir John Yeamans was in Barbadoes, and in South Carolina. He was knighted by Charles II in 1661, more than three years before coming to Cape Fear. He lived at a period marked by most bitter controversies, both in England and in the Colonies, and, as is too often the case under such circumstances, only one side of those in which he was engaged has gone into history. I have diligently investigated for years the facts of his life, and am fully persuaded that he has been most unfairly dealt with. The rule with many historical writers, before the study of history became a science, was to accept the statements of earlier writers with unquestioning faith, and perpetuate them without investigating their accuracy. Now I can say with absolute truth
that while his enemies criticised various acts of his administration while Governor, and had controversies with him, as was invariably the case with every governor, good or bad—an examination of the records will show that the gravest charge they could bring against him was that, being the owner of a vessel he bought crops and supplies from the people and, shipping them to the West Indies, made a considerable profit on them. Everything that is said about him of a disparaging character is confessedly said by his opponents.
His dispatches to the home government, denying accusations, or otherwise defending his conduct, if there were such, are not given. He is described by one historian as “the son of a cavalier, a needy baronet who, to mend his fortune, had become a Barbadoes planter.” Yes, his father had sacrificed his life and his fortune for his King, Charles I, and his son was left a “needy baronet,” and he did go to Barbadoes to mend his fortune. Was there anything dishonorable in these facts? He did mend his fortune in Barbadoes by becoming a successful planter and trader, and thereby excited the hostility of certain persons who were not equally successful, and particularly of those who hated the royalist party and the church of England, of which he was a staunch supporter. When appointed Governor of Carolina in 1671 by the Lords Proprietors the same element of the population, combining with displaced officials and other discontented persons, immediately sent complaints to England that he was “unpopular,” and that they “feared he would mismanage the government,” and so forth. The fairest of all the historians who have written upon the subject, speaking of the exports of provisions from Carolina to Barbadoes, says “that Governor Yeamans engaged too extensively in these exports, was perhaps the chief cause of the clamors, and discontents of the people,” but the same writer says, on the other hand, that
he did so much to place the colony in a state of security against invasion by Spaniards, that the Lords Proprietors who, he says, “were, stingily, quarrelling with every expenditure in the colony,” complained of it, and finally made this an excuse for removing him. There was one grave charge made against him by his enemies in Barbadoes before he was appointed governor of Carolina but it was never proven, and the letter in which the charge is made is so plainly malicious on its face as to discredit it. His son, Lieutenant Colonel Wm. Yeamans, is said to have fought a duel with the accuser. This prompt vindication and the fact that he was afterwards appointed Landgrave and Governor of Carolina and was affectionately treated by such men as John Locke, and some of the most distinguished noblemen and gentlemen in England, afforded ample evidence in support of his character. Doubtless he was far from being a saint, but he was by birth and training a gentleman, and was a man of force and recognized ability. The complaints against him are such as are made in every age and country against public officials by their political opponents, except that they were generally much less serious than are common at the present day against the occupants of distinguished positions; and yet these complaints, some of which are on their face of the most trivial nature, have served in the hands of successive historians as a basis for vague and general insinuations against his character. This, too, in face of the fact that not one word of what was said on the other side of the controversy is pretended to be given. If this treatment should be accorded to the public men of the present day by the historians of the future there would hardly be one respectable character among them. I believe that the real truth about Sir John Yeamans was—that being the son of a gentleman whose life had been taken and whose fortune had
been confiscated by the Roundheads in England, and being himself thereby impoverished, he, like a brave and sensible man, determined to retrieve his fortunes in a new country—that he went to Barbadoes, and, by his ability, established a reputation and accumulated wealth, and was knighted by Charles II on account of his father's services and his own merit—that he was made a Landgrave and Governor of Carolina for the same reasons, and that he administered the government faithfully and ably, though much to the dissatisfaction of a certain element of the colonists; and that, finally, the Proprietors from selfish motives arising out of trade competition sacrificed him, in the hope of appeasing that element and saving money for themselves, whereupon he returned to Barbadoes and soon died there. I can find nothing whatever in all the records of that time to show the contrary, and, therefore, his case furnishes a striking example of how persistently injustice and falsehood, once launched in print, will live on through the centuries, and how party spirit and the unholy love of gain can project their evil influence beyond the grave.
The final and permanent settlement of the Cape Fear was made on this spot in 1725 by a grandson of Sir John Yeamans, Col. Maurice Moore, who, with other members of his family came here and laid out the town of Brunswick after having seated themselves on plantations along the river above here, and on the North East River above the present city of Wilmington. The history of their settlement and of the events which followed it, up to the time of the American Revolution, constitute a very interesting chapter in our early annals, which would be a fit subject for discussion at our next annual gathering, but which cannot be considered in this paper.
By Hon. Alfred Moore Waddell.
Photo of Mr. James Sprunt]
UPON this consecrated ground there assembled on a beautiful morning of Whit-Tuesday, 132 years ago, a congregation of worshippers to dedicate to the glory and service of God, this building, begun more than twenty years before, and completed after many trials and difficulties, during which time some of its promoters had passed from earth to the Temple not made with hands.
The records are meagre. Imagination must adorn the tale. Picture to your minds the sacred joyful scene. A little town of about four hundred white inhabitants who, unlike the needy and depraved adventurers from the crowded cities of the old world, indentured to the colonial plantations, were gentle folk: bred in refinement, of educated tastes and cultivated manners; the descendants of Yeamans and Colleton, and of others who were remembered by a grateful sovereign when he came to his own again.
Above the sacred edifice the gentle south wind murmurs in the stately pines like the distant roaring of a seashell to the listening ear. Upon the placid sparkling waters of the bay are anchored ships in holiday attire around which sea gulls sweep on graceful curving wing, and seek their food from Him who cares for all. Above the Governor's palace floats the meteor flag of England. It is a British Colony and the people are the loyal subjects of His Majesty, King George.
A mile away, with glistening canvas spread, is speeding into port an English packet with her tardy mail, and, as she rounds the lower point and furls her royals in the breeze, her creaking blocks give out a cheerful sound; and when she swings to moorings in the cove a line of ripples comes apace which seems to whisper, as it breaks upon the beach, a message from the sea. The woods are fragrant with the perfume of wild flowers and brightened by the gay plumage of many throated songsters above whose sweeter notes resounds the ever changing melody of that wonderful creation, the Southern mocking bird. High up in air, with craning necks and rapid flight, are wild ducks heading North. Aloft, on eagles’ wings, against the dome of blue, is soaring toward the sun the emblem of a coming freedom, while far away across the narrow isthmus is faintly heard the booming of the sea. It is a gala day for Brunswick and for Wilmington, which shared alike the honors in their common cause.
Along the quiet street of Brunswick town the worshippers wend their way while from neighboring plantations of Orton, Kendal, Lilliput, and higher up from Wilmington appear the honoured households with their retinue of slaves. Then from Russelborough Mansion nearby is seen approaching through an avenue of noble oaks, the Royal Governor, William Tryon, with his official staff. This distinguished layman,
says Doctor Battle, “had qualities more brilliant than any of our Provincial Governors. He was in the prime of his life and vigour; ambitious and energetic; accustomed to the best society, stylish in his tastes, courteous in his demeanor, a good soldier and statesmanlike in his aspirations.” His venerable predecessor, Governor Dobbs, had with the generous assistance of Richard Quince, worked for years for the completion of St. Philip's Church, the dedication of which he was not permitted to see; enfeebled by great age and its attendant infirmities, he had prepared three years before for a journey to the Mother Country, but it proved to be a longer voyage to a Better Land.
Within these sacred walls is now enclosed a notable assembly. Beneath the spacious triple windows in the east, inside the chancel rail in churchly robes, the officiating minister, the Rev. John Barnett, and his fellow laborer, the Rev. Mr. Wills, rector of the twin parish of St. James in Wilmington. We may believe that many lovely women pure in heart who honoured God were present here, their trained angelic voices blending with lower tones in songs of praise to Him who made memorials of womens love in olden time. Conspicuous in the official pew is the first war Governor, attended by his Councillors of State, the Honourable James Hasell, John Rutherford, Lewis Henry de Rosset, William Dry, Robert Palmer, Benjamin Heron and Samuel Strudwick. Among the worshippers were probably to be seen many distinguished colonists whose names were made famous in later years as leaders in the cause of liberty; Richard Quince, a prominent merchant and benefactor; Judge Maurice Moore and his brother James, sons of Colonel Maurice Moore the elder and grandsons of Governor Yeamans; John Davis, Jr., who succeeded Admiral Sir Thomas Frankland, at Lilliput, a strong supporter of the Church and whose
father, John Davis, and uncle, Jehu Davis, were two of the wealthiest planters of the Cape Fear. Richard Eagles a prominent gentleman of large means; Robert Snow, William Lord and John London, law officers of the Crown; Thomas Cobham, Thomas Davis, William Hill, a noble and accomplished gentleman; Richard Quince, Jr.; Colonel Robert Howe, who became famous as General Howe, one of Washington's most distinguished lieutenants; Robert Ellis, John Wilkinson, John Ashe who has been called the most chivalrous hero of the Revolution; Colonel John Sampson, General Lillington and General Hugh Waddell; Thomas McGuire, Attorney General McLaine; young Benjamin Smith, who afterwards became Governor; William Moore, of Orton and George Moore, of Kendal, sons of “King” Roger Moore; these with Harnett, Burgwin, and other notable men of that time may have composed the congregation in this the largest and most costly church in the Province.
A solemn silence reigns throughout the building while thankful hearts make incense of their prayers; the stillness now is broken by the sonorous voice of the preacher, “The Lord is in His Holy Temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Then, after the intervening service in the matchless ritual of the Church, the joyful exultant anthem by the congregation, “O, come let us sing unto the Lord, let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation”, followed by the te deum laudamus in voices which have long since joined the choir invisible.
About the year 1751, during the building of St. Philips’, which progressed very slowly through indifference and consequent lack of means, the river plantations were invaded by several Spanish piratical craft from St. Augustine which sent boats ashore loaded with armed men who killed some of the inhabitants, burned several trading vessels, carried off
a number of negro slaves and slaughtered many cattle and hogs, thereby enraging the people to the highest degree, who attacked the pirates with such weapons as they could command and destroyed one of their vessels. Some of the seized property of the Spaniards was sold and the proceeds were by the Council appropriated, upon motion of the Honourable Lewis Henry de Rosset, to the building fund of St. Philips’ and St. James’ Churches.
The long deferred hopes of this little congregation were now fulfilled. For twenty-three years the building of their church had slowly progressed. Once it had been unroofed by a fearful hurricane and again it was struck by lightning followed “by a prodigious and immoderate quantity of rain” which caused it to fall in. It is believed that the church was used at intervals during Governor Dobbs’ administration before its formal consecration. A small chapel stood nearby which was unsafe at times and it is probable that after the first roofing of the church it was used instead of the smaller building as was the case of St. James’ Church before its full completion. The site upon which the church stands is part of a tract of 320 acres of land given in 1725 by Colonel Maurice Moore for a town to be called Brunswick, designating certain portions for a church, graveyard, courthouse, and other public buildings.
It is said that the brick used in its construction was brought from England, but in the lack of any official record of this tradition it is fair to presume that most of the material used was found near the spot. Brick of the same kind and quality may be seen in the ruins of Tryon's Palace nearby, which was originally built by Captain Russell of the Royal Navy. One Richard Price, a brickmaker lived on a lot in the southern part of the town of Brunswick.
The communion plate, surplice and furniture for the communion table and pulpit, including a bible and common prayer books, were the gifts of King George II, “in order that the services may be performed with decency”. In the frequent absence of the incumbent, services were regularly conducted by the Honourable William Hill, the licensed lay-reader, whose tomb under yonder tree is one of the few remaining of all those who were laid to rest in these consecrated grounds.
Beneath the chancel pavement there was interred, tradition says, in 1763, the mortal remains of St. Philips’ faithful minister the Reverend John McDowell, who served the Parish from 1754, and who with his co-laborer, Governor Dobbs, rested from his labours while the work went on to completion.
In the year 1761, George III was proclaimed King near the spot upon which we now stand, in the presence of Governor Dobbs, the members of the provincial Council and many of the principal inhabitants and neighboring planters. The Governor reported officially to his Majesty's Government February 9th, 1761, as follows:
“I sent for such of the Council as were in this neighborhood and next day, Friday, had his Majesty proclaimed here by all the gentlemen near this place, the militia drawn out and a triple discharge from Fort Johnson of twenty-one guns, and from all the ships in the river; and at the same time sent out an express for the other Councillors in this neighborhood to meet me at Wilmington next day, Saturday the 7th, where his Majesty was again proclaimed by the corporation and gentlemen of the neighborhood, under a triple salute of twenty-one guns, where we had an entertainment prepared; the militia were drawn out, and the evening concluded by
bonfires, illuminations, and a ball and supper with all unanimity and demonstrations of joy.”
Of the town of Brunswick at this time, Col. Waddell says: “It never contained more than four hundred white inhabitants, but there were among these many of the wealthiest, most refined and cultivated people in the Province; the equals in every respect of the best people on the continent; and the reputation of the town for intelligence, public spirit, and unbounded hospitality, soon became widespread. The fact that, for reasons which will presently be given, the population of Brunswick was eventually absorbed by the younger town of Wilmington, (both towns being in New Hanover County, until 1764, when Brunswick County was established,) will explain the confusion that has appeared sometimes in North Carolina histories, in the assignment of a residence to certain distinguished men in both towns, or only in Wilmington.
“A majority of the great men of the lower Cape Fear, during the Revolution, lived at Wilmington, as at that time it was the only town in that section of the state; but most of them had previously lived in Brunswick, or its vicinity. Hooper, the signer of the Declaration of Independence, had not, as he did not come to North Carolina from Massachusetts until 1764; but MacLaine and McGuire, each of whom became Attorney General, and a number of other distinguished men, moved to Wilmington after Brunswick began to decay. McGuire was a loyalist when the Revolution broke out, and went to England, but the others were all patriots, and some of them became leaders in that struggle. Gen. Robt. Howe, one of the most illustrious of these leaders, always lived in or near Brunswick; and so did General James Moore, who commanded the whole Southern Department, and his brother Judge Maurice Moore and the latters
son, Judge Alfred Moore, afterwards a Judge of the United States Supreme Court, and some of the distinguished members of the Ashe family, and Gov. Benj. Smith and Colonel Wm. Dry, and many others of note.”
“When the character and fame of these men are considered, and the size of the town is remembered, it may be confidently asserted that no community so small, on the continent, ever contained at the same time so many men who afterwards became so distinguished, as soldiers and jurists and statesmen. And yet, alas! except in the faintest and most confused way, not only the deeds, but the very names of these heroes and patriots have well nigh ceased to be remembered, and the place of their abode, once the busy mart, the seat of refined culture and generous hospitality, has long been the home of the fox and the owl.”
In an old volume published in Dublin, Ireland, in 1737, we find the following reference by Doctor John Brickell, a traveller, to the people and customs of the Cape Fear region in North Carolina in his day.
“The planters by the richness of the soil, live after the most easier and pleasant manner of any people I have ever met with, for you shall seldom hear them repine at any misfortunes in life, except the loss of friends, there being plenty of all necessaries convenient for life; poverty being an entire stranger here, and the planters the most hospitable people that are to be met with not only to strangers but likewise to those who by any misfortune have lost the use of their limbs or are incapable to work and have no visible way to support themselves; to such objects as these, the country allows fifty pounds per annum for their support. So there are no beggars or vagabonds to be met with strowling from place to place as is common amongst us. The country in general is adorned with large and beautiful rivers and creeks, and the
woods with lofty timber, which afford most delightful and pleasant seats to the planters, and the lands very convenient and easy to be fenced in, to secure their stocks of cattle to more strict bounderies whereby with small trouble with fencing, almost every man may enjoy to himself an entire plantation. These with many other advantages, such as cheapness and fertility of the lands, plenty of fish, wild fowl, and venison and other necessaries that this country naturally produces had induced a great many families to leave the more northerly plantation, and come and settle in one of the mildest governments in the world, in a country that with moderate industry may be acquired all necessaries convenient for life, so that yearly we have abundance of strangers that come among us from Europe, New England, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and from many of the islands, such as Antigua, Barbadoes, and many others, to settle here; many of whom with small beginnings are become very rich in a few years. The Europians or christians of North Carolina are a staight, tall, well limbed active people, their children being seldom or never troubled with rickets, and many other distempers that the Europians are afflicted with, and you shall seldom see any of them deformed in body. The men who frequent the woods and labour out of doors, or use the waters, the vicinity of the sun makes impressions on them; but as for the women who do not expose themselves to weather, they are often very fair, and well featured as you will meet with anywhere, and have very brisk and charming eyes; and as well and finely shaped as any women in the world. The girls are most commonly handsome and well featured, but have pale or swarthy complexions, and are generally more forward than the boys, notwithstanding the women are very shy in their discourses, till they are acquainted. The girls are not only bred to the needle and spinning,
but to the dairy and domestic affairs, which many of them manage with a great deal of prudence and conduct, though they are very young. Both sexes are very dexterous in paddling and managing their canoes, both men and women, boys and girls, being bred to it from their infancy. The women are the most industrious in these parts, and many of them by their good housewifery make a good deal of cloath of their own cotton, wool and flax, and some of them weave their own cloath with which they decently apparel their whole family though large. Others are so ingenious that they make all the wearing apparel for husband, sons, and daughters. Others are very ready to help and assist their husbands in any servile work as planting. Pride seldom banishing housewifery. Both sexes are most commonly spare of body and not cholerick, nor easily cast down at disappointments and losses, and seldom immoderately grieving of any misfortunes in life, excepting the loss of their nearest relations.”
This region abounds in scenes made famous in colonial history; within gunshot are the ruins of the residence of General Robert Howe, one of the most distinguished of Washington's lieutenants near which are the remains of a colonial fort erected long before the Revolutionary period. The destruction of General Howe's residence was wrought by a landing party under Lord Cornwallis in May, 1776, by order of Sir Henry Clinton, who had previously in his proclamation of amnesty excepted Howe by name from its benefits.
On the opposite side of the river is the most conspicuous land mark of the Cape Fear River, Big Sugar Loaf, once the camp and play ground of the Coree Indians who made forays upon the plantations of Orton and Kendal and who were destroyed by the strategy of “King” Roger Moore. A few
hundred yards to the south near the river landing was the inn and ferry house kept by Cornelius Harnett, the elder. On the north within sight are the remains of Tryon's palace behind which is a field still known on Orton Plantation as the old palace field, upon which occurred the first armed resistance to the stamp act. Beyond this belt of timber is Liberty Pond, an ever changing lake of white spring water which mingled on its margin the blood of friend and foe, in 1776.
“Memorable”, says Colonel Waddell, “for some of the most dramatic scenes in the early history of North Carolina as the region around Brunswick was—being the theatre of the first open armed resistance to the Stamp Act on the 28th November, 1765, and not far from the spot where the first victory of the Revolution crowned the American arms at Moore's Creek bridge on the 27th February, 1776.—its historic interest was perpetuated when, nearly a century afterwards, its tall pines trembled and its sand hills shook to the thunder of the most terriffic artillery fire that has ever occurred since the invention of gunpowder, when Fort Fisher was captured in 1865. Since then it has again relapsed into its former state, and the bastions and traverses and parapets of the whilom Fort Anderson are now clad in the same exuberant robe of green with which generous nature in that clime covers every neglected spot. And so the old and the new ruin stand side by side in mute attestation of the utter emptiness of all human ambition, while the Atlantic breeze sings gently amid the sighing pines, and the vines cling more closely to the old church wall, and the lizard basks himself where the sunlight falls on a forgotten grave.”
By Mr. James Sprunt.
DEFENCE OF FORT ANDERSON,
REMARKS OF CAPTAIN E. S. MARTIN AT FORT ANDERSON,
OLD BRUNSWICK, MAY 1ST, 1900, BY INVITATION OF THE NORTH CAROLINA SOCIETY OF THE COLONIAL DAMES OF AMERICA.
Photo of Captain E.S. Martin]
OUR pilgrimage of patriotism is accomplished, and we stand on hallowed ground. Hallowed by the many memories that cluster around this historic spot. By the memory of those “men of might—those grand in soul,” the founders of this town, once the capital of the colony, who controlled its destinies; of those who reared that sacred edifice and “after life's fitful fever” sleep their last sleep in yonder churchyard; of those, who, with lofty patriotism and fierce courage were ever ready to defend their rights, their homes and altars and were the very first to defy the power of imperial England and to lead in the grand drama of the Revolutionary War. Truly a glorious story but one I shall not enter upon to-day.
After years had rolled away and engulfed them all, by the memory of those, who in later times, were marshalled
around that old church to do battle “with hands and hearts like their fathers before” in the Lost Cause—the gallant dead of the Confederate Army. Of those brave men and the storm of war that raged around this old town I am here to speak to-day.
Sunday, January 15th, 1865, was a day of storm in this section. The forces of the United States had gathered by land and sea around Fort Fisher on the opposite side of the river, and, after the most terrific bombardment in all history had silenced every gun on the land face of the fort. Attack after attack by the fleet had been made upon the fort and on that Sunday afternoon the grand assault was made by the army, which, after gallant resistance on our side was repulsed. But later in the evening of that day the attack was renewed with greater success, our men reduced in numbers being driven from travers to travers, from gun chamber to gun chamber, parapet to parapet, desperately fighting against overwhelming odds. Those of us at Fort Caswell could see by the flash of the guns the lines of enemy gradually advancing and our men retiring, their firing growing less and less. Between nine and ten o'clock that night there was for a time, silence and darkness. Then from the midst of the darkness a single rocket shot high into the heavens and bursting fell in myriads of stars. We knew then that Fort Fisher had fallen. Not surrendered. Instantly on the sea, as far as the eye could reach, there burst forth from the fleet the most superb display of fireworks it has ever been my fortune to see. Battle lanterns, calcium lights, magnificent rockets, blue lights and every description of fireworks flashed forth in one grand and imposing picture that meant, to us a tale of sorrow, but to them one of rejoicing. Fort Fisher had fallen!
On Monday following Fort Holmes, erected on Smith's Island, commanded by Col. John J. Hedrick and garrisoned by the Fortieth N. C. Regiment was evacuated, the works destroyed, and these troops carried by steamers to Smithville. The defenses of Oak Island composed of Fort Caswell under the immediate command of Major Alexander MacRae, Fort Campbell, commanded by Lt. Col. John D. Taylor, Thirty-six N. C. Regiment, and other inner works all under the command of Col. Charles H. Simonton, were evacuated. Fort Pender, at Smithville was also evacuated and the troops from all of these forts were gathered here at Fort Anderson where they were allowed to remain unmolested from the 19th of January to the 17th of February of the same year. In the mean time the Federal fleet had entered the river in force, and lay at anchor below the fort. On the 16th of February Schofield's corps arrived at Fort Fisher, was transported by steamer to Smithville that night and marched from there on the 17th to attack this fort. Our lines were here and constituted a part of the exterior lines of the defenses of the city of Wilmington.
The fort proper was commanded by Col. Hedrick with the Fortieth N. C. Regiment; on his right was Moseley's Battery of Whitworth guns, then came the light artillery around this church, then Maj. MacRae's command and on our extreme right Colonel Simonton's Regiment and other South Carolina troops, the whole under the command of General Johnson Hagood, afterwards Governor of South Carolina. His head quarters were on the road towards Orton.
On the morning of February 17th, 1865, the monitors and gunboats of the Federals moved up near the fort and opened fire while the army under Gen. Schofield advanced upon our lines. Shells from the monitors and gunboats were bursting
incessantly over this place some of which destroyed many of the tombs around the church. Standing upon that parapet I saw an eleven inch Dahlgren shell strike that church and glance, then burst, a large piece passing between Colonel Hedrick and myself cutting his sword from his side. All day Friday and Saturday the bombardment continued and Saturday night some time after midnight, the evacuation of the fort took place. I being (Chief of Artillery and Ordinance) on the Staff of the Commanding General at that time, was sent down into the fort late at night to execute certain orders after the troops had departed, and thus was the last man to leave the fort. Some of the dead were still in the gun chambers and along the lines while some had been carried into that sacred edifice and lay there with their pale faces turned towards the silent stars above them. While here I heard the enemy mustering their forces for storming the works on Sunday morning. By putting your ear to the ground, as we all know, you are enabled to detect the movement of masses of men. After the execution of my orders I hastened on and soon joined our troops. On Sunday the battle of Town Creek took place, and a portion of our command under Colonel Simonton was there captured.
It is well that you have this commemorative service. It is well to recall the character of our forefathers, to brush from their tombs the dust that has gathered upon them in the years that are gone. It is honorable, that those who bear the names keep the graves and boast the blood of these patriotic men should tenderly revere their memories and dwell with pride upon their exalted virtues. Thus gazing long and intently upon them we may pass into the likeness of the departed, may emulate their virtues and partake of their immortality.”
By Captain E. S. Martin.
EARL OF WILMINGTON.
Photo of Mr. James Sprunt]
THE noble house of Northampton is of ancient and distinguished lineage. Its present head is the Fifth Marquess of Northampton, Sir William-George-Spencer-Scott Compton, County Warwick, and Baron Wilmington of Wilmington, County Sussex. Its record dates back to the twelfth century and to the reign of the first Plantagenet, King Henry the Second.
Sir William Compton, son of Edmund de Compton, was a favorite of King Henry the Eighth, whom he accompanied in tournament and in battle. He also took part in that magnificent display upon the scene of the meeting between Henry VIII, and Francis I, of France in 1520, on the plain near Ardres, “The Field of the Cloth of Gold.” He was a great Soldier and when the Earl of Surrey was made Commander of the English Army which invaded Scotland in 1513, he accompanied that distinguished General across the Tweed and took a conspicuous part in the bloody battle of Flodden, September 9th, defeating, after great slaughter on both sides, the Scottish army under James the Fourth, who
was, with many of his nobles, put to death. In 1522, Sir William was sent on a special embassy to Charles the Fifth, “Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire,” an equestrian picture of whom, by Titian, in the Royal Museum of Madrid, is said to he the finest portrait ever painted by man. Sir Edmund Burke says that Sir William Compton was regarded as one of the greatest men of his time and that he owned estates in twenty counties in England. It is also interesting to note before the narration of later events connected with this distinguished family, that his wife was sister and heir of Sir William Berkeley, a scion of whose house of the same name became conspicuous in our colonial history, as one of the Lords Proprietors and Governor of Virginia. Compton died 31st day of May 1528 and was succeeded by an only son, Peter, who, dying in his minority, was also succeeded by an only son, Sir Henry Compton, who was summoned to Parliament, 8th May, 1572, as Baron Compton of Compton. He married twice and was succeeded by his eldest son, William, Second Lord, who was created Earl of Northampton, 2nd August, 1618. From all accounts William was inordinately fond of display. On the occasion of his installation as Knight of the Garter, he rode through the Strand to Windsor Castle at the head of a hundred gorgeously apparelled attendants, with such splendor that a vote of thanks was decreed to him by the Chapter of that Order.
Baron Compton married the only daughter and heiress of Sir John Spencer, Lord Mayor of London, a Knight of enormous wealth. She is referred to by Burke as “Elizabeth,” and by Pym as “Eliza Spencer.” Compton was so dazzled by the large fortune brought to him by his wife that he lost his head and plunged into the most reckless extravagance. John Pym, the celebrated Parliamentary leader,
said that my Lord Compton, at the first coming to his great estate after the death of his rich father-in-law, did within eight weeks spend 72,000 pounds sterling in fast horses, rich saddles and gambling. After a while he went mad altogether and was confined in the Tower of London until he recovered. The Earl of Suffolk begged the keeping of him in order that he might seize upon his money and jewels, but he was thwarted in his disgraceful purpose by the stepmother of Compton, the Countess of Dorset, a “valant virago,” who boldly withstood and defeated him.
In luxurious living and almost unlimited extravagance, his rich spouse, Eliza, was not a whit behind him. If it was possible, the Baroness was even more lavish in her expenditure for personal adornment and appointments, excelling that of any other lady of the Court of Queen Elizabeth. Estimating the buying power of money as ten times greater then than now, it is fair to presume that the most lavish display of the fashionable lady of modern times, is not to be compared in its extravagance, to the trousseau of My Lady of Compton. I am indebted to an old number of Chamber's Journal for the following antique and curious article in the quaint spelling and abbreviation of the sixteenth century, which is entitled, “A Lady of Quality in the Olden Time,” and which is a most interesting and characteristic letter from Eliza Compton to her husband, then Baron Compton, already referred to.
“My sweete Life,—Now I have declared to you my mind for the settling of your estate, I suppose that it were best for me to bethink or consider with myself what allowance were meetest for me. For, considering what care I have had of your estate, and how respectfully I dealt with those, which both by the laws of God, nature, and of civil polity, wit religion, government, and honesty, you, my dear, are bound to, pray and beseech you to grant me £1,600 per annum
quarterly to be paid. Also I would (besides that allowance for apparell) have £600 added yearly (quarterly to be paid) for the performance of charitable works; and those things I would not, neither will be accountable for.
“Also I will have three horses for my own saddle, that none shall dare to lend or borrow; none lend but I, none borrow but you. Also I would have two gentlewomen, lest one should be sick or have some other lett, also believe that it is an undecent thing for a gentlewoman to stand mumping alone, when God hath blessed their Lord and Lady with a good estate. Also when I ride a hunting or hawking, or travel from one house to another, I will have them attending, so for either of these said women I must and will have for either of them a horse.
“Also I will have six or eight gentlemen; and I will have my two coaches, one lined with velvet, to myself, with four very fair horses; and a coach for my women, lined with sweet cloth, one laced with gold, the other with scarlet, and laced with matched lace and silver, with four good horses. Also I will have two coachmen, one for my own coach, the other for my women. Also at any time when I travel, I will be allowed not only carroches and spare horses for me and my women, but I will have such carriages as shall be fitting for all, orderly; not pestering my things with my women's nor theirs with chamber-maids, nor theirs with wash-maids. Also for laundresses, when I travel, I will have them sent away before, with the carriages to see all safe; and the chamber-maids I will have go before, with the greens (rushes for the floor) that the chambers may be ready, sweet and clean.
“Also, for that it is indecent to crowd up myself with my gentleman usher in my coach, I will have him to have a convenient horse to attend me, either in city or country. And I must have two footmen. And my desire is that you defray all charges for me. And for myself, besides my yearly allowance, I would have twenty gowns of apparell; six of them excellent good ones, eight of them for the country, and six others of them very excellent good ones. Also I would have to put in my purse, £2,000 and £200; and so for you to pay my debts. Also I would have £6,000 to buy me jewels, and £4,000 to buy me pearl chain.
“Now, seeing I am so reasonable unto you, I pray you to find my children apparell and their, schooling; and also my servants (men and women) their wages. Also I will have my house furnished, and all my lodging chambers to be suited with all such furniture as is fit; as beds, stools, chairs, suitable cushions, carpets, silver warming pans, cupboards of plate, fair hangings, and such like; so for my drawing chambers in all houses I will have them delicately furnished, both with hangings, couch, canopy, glass, carpet, chairs, cushions, and all things thereunto belonging.
“Also my desire is that you would pay all my debts, build Ashby House, and purchase lands; and lend no money (as you love God) to the Lord Chamberlain, who would have all; perhaps your life from you. Remember his son, Lord Walden, what entertainment he gave when you were at the tilt-yard. If you were dead, he said he would be a husband, a father, a brother and he said he would marry me. I protest, I grieve to see the poor man have so little wit and honesty, to use his friend so vilely. Also he fed me with untruths concerning the Charter House; but that is the least, he wished me much harm; you know him. God keep you and me from such as he is.
“So now I have declared to you what I would have, and what that is that I would not have, I pray that when you be an Earl, to allow me £1,000 more than I now desire, and double attendance. Your loving wife,
The only son of this lady of quality, Spencer, who became Second Earl, was born 1601 and during his father's lifetime entered Parliament as Baron Compton. He was one of the most heroic of the Cavalier commanders, who, says Macaulay, fought bravely for King Charles the First, and who, surrounded by the parliamentary soldiers at the Battle of Hopton Heath, fell sword in hand, refusing to give or take quarter, and died March 19th, 1642. His wife was the daughter of Sir Francis Beaumont, and six sons and two daughters survived him. The second son, Sir Charles Compton, became also a great military leader. He had fought by
his father's side at Edgehill, and at Hopton Heath, where the elder met his death; but his most celebrated exploit recorded by Burke was the surprise of Beeston Castle in Cheshire “which he effected in disguise, attended by only six followers, and he so far succeeded as to possess himself of the outworks, to cut down the draw-bridge, to seize the Governor's troop horse, and to make prisoners of thirty soldiers in their beds; but, for want of being succoured he was forced to retreat.” He died November, 1661.
His brother, the third son, Sir William, was also a distinguished cavalier. The fourth son, Sir Spencer Compton, accompanied King Charles the Second into exile and died in Flanders. Sir Francis, the fifth son, was made a lieutenant general in the army after the Restoration. The six and youngest son Henry, became Bishop of Oxford in 1674, and Bishop of London in 1675. During the period of his episcopate, from that date to 1712, the celebrated cathedral of St. Paul's was erected. He officiated, says Burke, at the Coronation of William and Mary in the place of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Doctor Sancroft, who refused to subscribe to the oath of allegiance. I find in Macaulay, extended reference to this distinguished prelate under the following heads: “Tutor to the Princesses Mary and Anne;” “Disgraced by James II.” “Declines to suspend Sharp”; “Proceedings against him”; “Suspended from his spiritual functions,” “His education of the Princess Mary;” “His communications with Dykvelt;” “Joins in the consultation of the Bishops;” “Joins the Revolutionary conspiracy;” “Signs the invitation to the Prince of Orange;” “His suspension removed;” “Questioned by King James;” “His equivocation;” “Takes part in the conference of the Bishops with James;”
“Assists in the flight of the Princess Anne;” “Waits on William at St. James’;” “Supports the Comprehension Bill;”
“Assists at the Coronation of William and Mary;” “His claims for the Primacy;” “His discontent at being passed over;” “Accompanies William to Holland;” “His jealousy of Tillotson;” “Preaches at St. Paul's on the Thanksgiving Day.” With further reference to this last great occasion, Macaulay says: “At a council which was held a few hours after the King's public entry, the second of December was appointed to be the day of Thanksgiving for the peace. The Chapter of St. Paul's resolved that on that day their noble cathedral, which had been long slowly rising on the ruins of a succession of pagan and christian temples, should be opened for public worship. William announced his intention of being one of the congregation but it was represented to him that if he persisted in that intention, three hundred thousand people would assemble to see him pass, and all the parish churches of London would be left empty. He therefore attended the service in his own Chapel at Whitehall and heard Burnet preach a sermon, somewhat too eulogistic for the place. At Saint Paul's the magistrates of the city appeared in all their State; Compton ascended for the first time, a throne rich with sculpture of Gibbons, and thence exhorted a numerous and splendid assembly. His discourse has not been preserved but its purport may be easily guessed, for he preached on that noble Psalm, “I was glad when they said unto me ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ ” He doubtless reminded his hearers that in addition to the debt which was common with all Englishmen, they owed as Londoners, a peculiar debt of gratitude to the Divine Goodness which permitted them to efface the last trace of the ravages of the great fire, and to assemble once more for prayer and praise, after so many years, on that spot consecrated by the devotion of thirty generations. Throughout London and in every part of the realm, even to the remotest parishes of
Cumberland and Cornwall, the churches were filled on the morning of that day, and the evening was an evening of festivity.”
The eldest son, James, brother of the Bishop, became third Earl, and, having as a member of Parliament voted against the Bill for Attainting the Earl of Strafford, was publicly posted and subsequently expelled from the House. He fought, says Burke, with his father under the royal banner, and on the Grand Entry of King Charles II. into London, 29th May, 1660, headed a band of two hundred gentlemen attired in grey and blue. He was twice married and died 15th December, 1661, leaving three sons and two daughters. His eldest son, George, became the fourth Earl of Northhampton; the second son, James, died young; the third son was the Right Honourable Sir Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, whose honoured name your home and city bears. Burke says he was esteemed a personage of great worth, abilities and integrity; other authorities represent his life and character as worthy of admiration. The official records show that he was elected speaker of the House of Commons 1714 and in 1722, and that twenty years after, he was appointed first Lord of the Treasury. He held the office of Paymaster General of His Majesty's land forces aud he was elevated to the peerage 11th January, 1728, as Baron Wilmington.
In December, 1730, says Burke, he was declared Lord President of the Council, and installed on the 22nd August, 1733, a Knight of the Order of the Garter. Burke says, that his Lordship was constituted Lord Privy Seal in 1730 and that he was advanced on the 14th May in that year to the diguities of Viscount Pevensey and Earl of Wilmington. He was also one of the Lord Justices during the King's absence in Hanover, and he was one of the Governors of the Charter
House. It was while he was Lord President of the Council that a talented Scotsman, belonging to an old and titled family of Annandale, named Gabriel Johnstone, who was educated at the University of St. Andrew's, became prominent in London Society as a political writer of extraordinary ability. His scholarship in oriental languages and his extensive knowledge of men and affairs, together with his refined and gentle breeding, obtained for him the friendship and patronage of the Earl of Wilmington, through whom he was appointed on the 2nd of November, 1734, Governor in Chief of His Majesty's Province and Territories of North Carolina. The administration of Governor Johnstone, which was extended from that time to the day of his death, 16th July, 1752, was regarded by nearly all of our historians as the most acceptable and prosperous of Colonial times.
About the year 1730, some five years after the town of Brunswick was founded fourteen miles lower down the river where Governor Johnstone resided, a few settlers built their humble habitations on a bluff in the midst of the primeval forest, now known as Dickinson Hill, nearly opposite the junction of the Northeast and Northwest branches of the Cape Fear River, which was then known as the Clarendon River. Their purpose was to find a safer harbour than the exposed roadstead of Brunswick, and to secure a larger share of the river traffic from the up country which was then very profitable. In a few months this hamlet increased to the proportions of a small village, without order or regularity, which was named New Liverpool. In 1733 it was surveyed into town lots, although the inhabitants had no legal right to the land. In the same year, John Watson obtained a Royal grant of 640 acres of land on the East side of the Northeast branch of the River called Cape Fear, in which was included the site of the village or town called New Liverpool, but latterly
known as Newton, derived from the name of the ferryman, a prominent settler. In 1739, through the influence of the Governor, the name was again changed to Wilmington in honor of Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington. In 1760 King George II. made the town a borough with the right of sending a member to the assembly.
On the fourth of July, 1743, the Earl of Wilmington died unmarried at the age of about seventy years, and all of his honours which he had borne so well became extinct. His estate was passed by his bequest to his brother George, the Fourth Earl of Northampton, and all England mourned the loss of a gifted and good man. Who can measure the influence of his life in the destiny of North Carolina?
The thoughtful student of our early history is deeply impressed with the strong characters and cultivated minds of the Cape Fear pioneers. The refined courtesy, the intellectual gifts, the proverbial hospitality of Brunswick society could not have been the results of accidental blending of ordinary immigrants to a new country. These traits came from the Earl of Wilmington, himself a scholar and gentleman. They appear in the Executive of his wise appointment, a student of extraordinary attainments, and keen political insight, and in the characters of those high minded and educated men whom he chose as his councillors and whose descendants became conspicuous in the later struggle for independence.
Doctor Hillis says: “Had we tests fine enough we would doubtless see in each man's personality the center of outreaching influence. He himself may be utterly unconscious of this exhalation of moral forces, as he is of the contagion of disease from his body, but if light is in him he shines; if darkness rules, he shades; if his heart glows with love, he warms; if frozen with selfishness, he chills; if corrupt, he
poisons; if pure-hearted, he cleanses. We watch with wonder the apparent flight of the sun through space, glowing upon dead planets, shortening winter and bringing summer with birds, leaves and fruit. But that is not half so wonderful as the passage of a human heart, glowing and sparkling with ten thousand effects as it moves through life. The soul, like the sun, has its atmosphere and is over against its fellows for light and warmth and transformation.”
Carlyle says that in 1848, during the riot in Paris, the mob swept down a street blazing with cannon, killed the soldiers, spiked the guns, only to be stopped a few blocks beyond by an old white-haired man who uncovered and signalled for silence; then the leader of the mob said, “Citizens, it is De La Eure; sixty years of pure life is about to address you!” A true man's presence transformed a mob that cannon could not conquer.
Madame President, and Ladies: It is well that you assemble together upon this historic ground to honour the laurels that overshadow the graves of your fathers, and to perpetuate the memories of those, who, forsaking all that was attractive to a civilized mind, established amid the dangers of the wilderness and under the stress of war, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people which became your inheritance.
The preamble of your constitution declares that “History shows that the remembrance of a nation's glory in the past stimulates to national greatness in the future, and that successive generations are awakened to truer patriotism and aroused to nobler endeavor by the contemplation of the heroic deeds of their forefathers: therefore the Society of Colonial Dames of America has been formed, that the descendants of those men who in the Colonial period, by their rectitude, courage, and self denial, prepared the way for success in that struggle which gained for the country its liberty and constitution,
may associate themselves together to do honour to the virtues of their forefathers and to encourage in all who come under their influence, true patriotism, built on a knowledge of self sacrifice and heroism of those men of the colonies who laid the foundation of this great nation.”
With retrospective vision we see the savage warfare of the wild aborigines of this region, who have been described as the most cruel and blood-thirsty of their race; we see the landing of the avaricious and treacherous New Englanders in 1660 and their subsequent dispersion and departure, and, five years later, we see a tiny speck upon the distant sky line and then in nearer view, the staunch though clumsy craft of Captain Hilton and his Barbadian friends. Close aboard the Cape of Fear these hardy toilers of the sea behold for the first time, this stately river and the wide wilderness upon which their descendants were to find a home. Along the shining shore behind them the foaming breakers rise and fall in the sheen of the morning sun: deep calling unto deep in the multitudinous voices of the sea. The gentle south winds murmur in the sighing pines whose rustling needles yield their aromatic balm. The air is fragrant with the perfume of wild flowers and resonant with the song of birds. All nature seems to woo and welcome them to the promised land; and as they draw nearer to this wooded bluff, we see these strangers from a distant land lean silent on the vessel's side and shading their eyes with their sunburnt hands, while with mild surprise they listen to the song of that wonderful creation, the Southern mocking bird, as he flits from the shadow of the woods and perched upon a sunlit bough begins his repertoire of matchless mimicry. How wierd it sounds! the scream of the eagle, the chattering of the jay, the mellow warble of the robin, the twitter of the sparrow, the plaintive cry of the whippoorwill, the soft and silvery song of the blue bird,
the clear cut whistle of the cardinal, the cry of the turkey, the flute like call of the partridge. Now he wails the voice of human pain and agony and then he bursts into triumphant songs of melody. At last he sings in soft and sweeter cadence a low and tender lullaby, and then he droops his wings and sinks into the silence of the dead.
We see the voyagers now ascend with careful speed the turbid stream, and later, their return to yonder island where Chief Watcoosa, with his Indian braves, unmindful of the Royal claimant, surrenders for a bauble, the new and pleasing country of thirty-two square miles, to these first heralds of the coming civilization.
One year and a half later we see a colony from the distant island of the sea, established five miles above us by Sir John Yeamans, with a goodly company of brave hearts and willing hands, which alas, was doomed to early disappointment and decay.
Again we see the red man in sole possession for two generations and then the coming to this spot upon which we stand, of the Brunswick settlers from Goose Creek, who were destined to lead a revolution and make famous in history their deeds of valour and renown. “Unlike their New England predecessors,” said a distinguished statesman, “they were no needy adventurers driven by necessity; no unlettered boors, ill at ease in the haunts of civilization and seeking their proper sphere amidst the barbarism of the savages; they were gentlemen of birth and education, bred in the refinement of polished society, bringing with them ample fortunes and cultivated minds. Most of them united by the ties of blood, and all by those of friendship, they came as an household, sufficient unto themselves, and reared their family altars in love and peace.”
Then was heard for the first time since the foundation of the world, this forest ringing with the stroke and the shout of the axeman, and quickened into new life, as under trowel and hammer and saw, the little town of Brunswick rose in its neat and orderly proportions, the chief sea-port and seat of government of the Province of North Carolina.
We see in this remarkable settlement a refined and cultivated society of boundless hospitality, equal, if not superior, to that of the present day in physical and mental development. “The wild and restless demon of progress, “said Wiley,” had not yet breathed its scorching breath on the green foliage of nature: filial reverence, parental tenderness, conjugal fidelity, neighborly kindness and patriotic integrity; there was some veneration for antiquity and some attention paid to the merry sports and customs of the good old times that are gone; some tender sentiments and some lofty principles that borrow their hue from another clime. The men loved their country with a silent affection; the women loved their husbands with a chaste and modest devotion; the young men were gallant, though speaking only their mother tongue; the young maids were interesting and charming without the aid of foreign manners, and no man's allegiance was questioned because he was not a brawling demagogue.”
In the peaceful years which followed we see under the distinguished administration of Governor Gabriel Johnstone and his accomplished Council, the steady development of agriculture and commerce, backed by industry and thrift, and above all by a liberal education which prepared the rising generation for the stirring events of later years in the patriotic service of soldier and statesman, which placed the Brunswick citizen in the forefront of a new era.
We see these scourges of the ocean, the Spanish buccaneers, as they descend upon the peaceful plantations, and
their ultimate destruction by the sturdy inhabitants; we see the coming of that sweet and gracious lady, Flora MacDonald, with her retinue of scotsman, and, later, the arrival of the “Baliol” with McNeil's five hundred wild and uncouth highlanders who founded their homes in the upper counties and whose descendants are now a part of the bone and sinew of our commonwealth. We hear these ancient walls echo and re-echo the royal salute from the British ships of war at the crowning of a new sovereign.
We might tell of the social entertainments which were frequent and unsparing in their appointments at Brunswick, at Orton, at Kendal, and at Lilliput, where large parties united for weeks and together enjoyed from house to house the boundless hospitality of the lordly hosts when George III. was King.
We might tell of Colonel Maurice Moore, “King” Roger Moore, McLean, McGuire, General Robert Howe, General James Moore, Judge Alfred Moore, Governor Benjamin Smith, Colonel William Dry, Samuel and John Swann, Edward Mosely, Alexander Lillington, John Baptista Ashe, the elder Cornelius Harnett, William Hill, William Hooper, General Thomas Clark, Chief Justice Allen, Archibald MacLaine, the Eagles’, the Quince's, James Hasell, Robert Halton, Armand DeRosset, William Lord, Benjamin Heron, Rev. Richard Marsden, Captain Edward Hyrne, Col. James Innes, Col. Thomas Merrick, the Claytons, the Rutherfords, the Rices, the Rowans, the Watters’, the Strudwicks, and their associates of New Hanover county, of which the Brunswick and Wilmington settlements were a part, whose character and fame, as scholars and soldiers and statesmen, were not equalled by the citizens of any other settlement in the country at that period. And we might recall, how, in the memorable days of excitement caused by the attempted enforcement of the
odious stamp act, a sturdy band of patriots with Ashe and Waddell at their head, marched up the avenue of stately trees to Tryon's palace, over yonder, and in clear and emphatic terms, with arms in their hands, resisted for the first time on this continent, the established authority of their Sovereign Lord, the King.
We now see the shadow of the approaching revolution and the changes and chances of the war of independence which ended in the birth of this great republic. We might tell the story of the twin settlement higher up the river which eventually absorbed the population of Brunswick and became the centre of later historical events. We might dwell upon the long interval of peace and the prodigious development of the new country, and upon a mightier conflict and a bloodier war, and upon the consecrated ground upon which we stand, where hung the cloud and along which raged the iron storm of battle; we might tell again of the fair white banner and its starry cross which waved for a time so gloriously and drooped and died with its nation's hopes; of the fiercest bombardment in the history of gun-powder when Fort Fisher fell; of indomitable courage and heroic fortitude; of privation and suffering and of all the hopes and horrors of the four years’ struggle which made this place historic and which is still a memory of the living,
Madame President and Ladies, “the memory of the past is the inspiration of the future.”
I look into your faces enlightened and refined through generations who practiced those virtues which are the bulwark of society, and I know that from your hearts and homes there emanates an influence for good which will perpetuate that love of wisdom, truth and virtue which exalts a nation. In addressing you as society women, I do not mean in the language of a writer in the Century, “the type that first
presents itself, the brilliant compound of style, daring and Paris gowns, whose life begins and ends with entertaining and being entertained, who puts the fashion of a handshake, the porcelain and cut-glass of the dinner table, and the cost of an equipage, above the simple graces and fine breeding which betray the choice life of generations, or the inborn taste and nobility that ask nothing from inheritance.” I mean something that compares with it as the rare old lace compares with the machine made imitation, as the rich and mellow tones of the cathedral window which the light of centuries has tempered and softened, compare with the rude and garish coloring of its modern copy.
There are society women upon whom the mantle of the old-time lady has fallen, through nature or heritage, whose social gifts are the sum of many gifts, the crown of many womanly virtues. One finds them everywhere; women who cherish the fine amenities, who are gracious, intelligent, tactful, kind and active in all good works; who understand the art of elegant living as well as the intrinsic value of things, and hospitable homes for the pleasure of their friends. It is such as they who represent the finest flower of our womanhood, and help to preserve the traditions of gentle manners which are in the way of being trampled out in the mad march of something we call progress. It is for these to ostracise vulgarity, to put up the delicate barriers which have been permitted to be let down between the pleasant comradeship of men and women, and the loud note of familiarity, to temper the sordid spirit of commercialism with the refinements of that higher class of intellect which sees things not only as they are, but as they ought to be.”
You should impress upon the minds of those for whose moral and intellectual training you are responsible, the importance and usefulness of knowledge, and be prepared
to make some sacrifice for its acquisition, or this great object may not be obtained. It is more to be desired than riches. Daniel Webster told the students of Amherst that the great business of life was education. He also said: “If we work on marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples they will crumble into dust; if we work on immortal minds, and imbue them with good principles, with the fear of God and love of their fellowmen, we engrave on these tables something that will brighten for all eternity.” I think it was Lord Brougham who said that ignorance is the mother of vice and it was the great philosopher, Edmund Burke who remarked that “education is the cheap defense of nations.” “And what, says Taylor, is our defense? not standing armies, not the daily sight of military tramping the earth with sabre and bayonet, but the children of the people, going from their homes to their schools, and from their schools to their homes, carrying in their hands the testament, and the spelling book. This is our strength, and in this we have put our trust.”
Our own George Davis, whose memory we revere, has said that “a rich and well stored mind is the only true philosopher's stone, extracting pure gold from all the base material around. It can create its own beauty, wealth, power and happiness. It has no dreary solitudes; the past ages are its possession and the long line of illustrious dead are all its friends. Whatever the world has seen of the brave and noble, beautiful and good, it can command. It mingles in all the grand and solemn scenes of history, and is an actor in every great and stirring event. It is by the side of Bayard, as he stands alone upon the bridge and saves the army; it weeps over true heart of chivalry, the gallant Sydney, as, with dying hand, he puts away the cup from his parched and fevered lips. It leaps into the yawning gulf with Curtius; follows
the white plume of Navarre at Ivry; rides to Chalgrove Field with Hampden; mounts the scaffold with Russell and catches the dying prayer of the noble Sir Henry Vane. It fights for glory at the Granicus, for fame at Agincourt, for empire at Waterloo, for power on the Ganges, for religion in Palestine, for country at Thermopylæ and for freedom at Bunker Hill. It marches with Alexander, reigns with Augustus, sings with Homer, teaches with Plato, pleads with Demosthenes, loves with Petrarch, is imprisoned with Paul, suffers with Stephen, and dies with Christ. It feels no tyrany and knows no subjection. Misfortunes cannot subdue it, power cannot crush it, unjust laws cannot oppress it. Ever steady, faithful and true, shining by night as by day, it abides with you always and everywhere.”
Madame President, and Ladies: In all ages the temples of man's hand have crumbled and decayed. Babylon and Nineveh are buried in the sands of the desert, desolate and forgotten Majestic Rome lies broken and dismantled amid the ruins of her childrens’ bones. “At midnight,—said Parker,—the owl hoots in the Colosseum, and the Forum gives the same weird voice to her desolation. At midday may be seen the fox in the palace where Augustus gathered the wealth, the wit, the beauty and the wisdom of a conquered world.” But, from eternity, the lamp of truth still shines to guide your way through all the tedious night of life, till you behold the clearer sight of an eternal day, and to enlighten your minds in the knowledge of wisdom, and justice, and goodness, which cannot die—they are the attributes of God.
By Mr. James Sprunt,
THE DE ROSSET PRESS, WILMINGTON, N. C.