George Nowitzky, [Text on Elizabeth City], Norfolk; the Marine Metropolis of Virginia, and the Sound and River Cities of North Carolina, 1888
In 1900, Wilbur Wright for the first time boarded the Norfolk-Southern Railroad en route to Elizabeth City. Upon arrival, Wilbur immediately sought out passage down the Pasquotank River and across the Albemarle Sound to Kitty Hawk. Even though Kitty Hawk, only sat forty miles away, surprisingly the men along the city's waterfront had never heard of the place. After spending a couple of nights in the Arlington Hotel, Wilbur got a ride on a worn skiff, but the adventure had just begun. In subsequent journeys to the region, the Wright Brothers became increasingly familiar with and to the citizens of Elizabeth City. The following excerpt details an interesting, anecdotal history of the city.
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C.,
THE BELLE OF THE PASQUOTANK.
England's virgin queen, the petted, petulant and piquant Elizabeth, never,
in the very zenith of her remarkably prosperous reign, looked prouder upon
her throne than does the active little city so well situated upon the
Pasquotank river which bears her name; and the subjects of the stern queen
never, even in the dark hours when the white sails of the Spanish armada
were found hovering near the sunken rocks of Edystone, were more ready to
defend her possessions than the sons and daughters of "Sweet Bessie," as
the citizens fondly call their favored city, are to defend the good name
of the queen of the Pasquotank.
It is alleged that about the time Tom Moore threw his slurs at Norfolk
concluded to seek rest for his body, and probably from his creditors, and
selected this little city for his haven. The people, thinking him a
gentleman of culture and
refinement, extended him many courtesies and he was a welcome guest
everywhere, but he abused their hospitality and the citizens soon found it
out; for a magazine published in London found its way to Elizabeth City
containing an article from the pen of this gentleman upon American
Civilization, and claiming that that of the white American was not much,
if any, in advance of the red. This changed their attitude towards him;
their former generous hospitality gave way to a stiff reserve; in fact,
Elizabeth City can actually lay claim to a "boycott" years before Mr.
Boycott of Ireland furnished name for this process of getting rid of an
objectionable person. They had so little to do with him that they
literally froze him out, and so thoroughly convinced him that he was not
wanted that when a brigantine dropped down the Pasquotank and upon her
departure took with her (to the great delight of all the citizens) this
unfortunate man from "perfidious Albion" the following oft-quoted lines,
which proclaim to the world the marvelous jumping power of Pasquotank
bull-frogs, were, it is said, first brought forth to reinforce the
epigrammatic literature of the world:
"He came to the banks
Of the Pasquotank,
Where the bull-frogs jump
From bank to bank."
Full of conceit
And pernicious ire,
A scoundrel at heart,
An unmitigated liar.
When he left, the frogs
On both the banks
Croaked themselves hoarse
In chanting their thanks.
For fear that some of my readers may think that I am manufacturing history,
I wish to state that I have heard several versions as to the origin of the
first verse appertaining to the frogs, which has become literally a
household rhyme throughout the North State.
My authority for the others, as well as the distinguished and extinguished
visitor from England, is based upon the following, which I consider
While in conversation with a number of planters in Elizabeth City one of
them, the oldest in the party, quoted this well-known rhyme, and upon my
asking him if he could possibly tell when he first heard it he answered in
the negative, at the same time inviting me to take a seat in his buggy,
and, as an inducement to take a ride, assured me that he would bring me to
the house of a lady who knew all about its history. I could scarcely
repress a smile at the idea of making a trip in quest of such information,
and told him that I hardly thought its history of sufficient consequence
to make such a special effort to find. But the old gentleman insisted and
held out more inducements. He informed me that the old lady was a relative
of his; that she was the possessor of a number of old relics, pictures and
so on, some of them belonging to the Colonial period, and that she wanted
some expert to judge their value, as she wished to dispose of them.
All philosophers agree, at least those who have agreed to give the subject
any thought, that we are all more or less vain, and I presume I am no
exception to this
philosophic ruling. To be called an expert was very agreeable, and I
evidently thought that the compliment should be rewarded for I took a seat
in the buggy and in a short time after was introduced to a lady whose head
was whitened by the frosts of seventy winters; from her I gleamed
sufficient information to justify what I have said about the Englishman's
visit to the Pasquotank; and as to the rhyme she informed me that when a
child she had heard it often, and although she retained the first two
lines she could only recall that one of the others in the next couplet
wound up with the rather uncomplimentary but, expressive word-liar, while
the concluding lines insisted that even the bullfrogs held a jubilee at
the unfortunate's departure. With this to guide me, I wrote the lines as
printed above, and after repeating them to her she said that they were
nearly the same as the original. I then bade her good-bye, first, however,
informing her where I thought she could sell her relics, and faithfully
promising her that should I get into a controversy appertaining to jumping
frogs and sarcastic Englishmen I would not mention her name, as she said
she was too old to engage in a newspaper war.
This shows that the citizens of Elizabeth City have inherited this love of
town and home, and whenever occasion demands it this innate love comes to
the front. The last time that they felt as if they had sufficient
grievance for general resentment was during the stirring days known by the
citizens as the
The facts, as near as I can recall them, were as follows: When the Norfolk
Southern Railroad was constructed only as far as Elizabeth City it bore
the following modest title: The Norfolk and Elizabeth City Railroad; but
after leaving the metropolis of the east side as a terminus, by continuing
to Edenton, and thus finding herself increased in mileage and the two
appendages which naturally follow-greater power and more usefulness-they
concluded that they should be known by a stronger sounding name, the one
selected being the present, which makes no mention of Elizabeth City. This
provoked her citizens, and among them (far in the lead) was that stalwart
champion of the sounds, or, as his friends fondly term him, "the great
Democratic War-horse of Eastern Carolina"-Colonel Creecy, the editor of
the Economist. So gallantly did he fight them in his excellent journal,
and so thoroughly did the people appreciate his efforts, that they not
only presented him with gold-headed cane, but also gave his name to the
prettiest park in the great North State.
The war is now happily over, for the railroad company, by furnishing a most
excellent service and improving its magnificent water-front, has redeemed
itself and once again has come into favor with the Colonel mid the other
The city is divided into two parts which appear as distinct and unlike as
if' there was a hundred miles of space between them. This difference may
not be as perceptible to the citizen, but is so marked that it is
noticed by nearly every traveler. The lower is known as
for the reason that it borders upon the river. Its leading streets are
Water, Fearing and the lower end of Main. Water street is the shortest of
the three, but it contains the heaviest mercantile establishments and most
durable business buildings in the city.
begins at the river front, and any one viewing the Pasquotank from its
wharf, I care not how much he has traveled, unless he has well studied and
mapped in his mind the geographical features of the city and its spacious
water approach, is apt to think that he is overlooking some bay having
immediate connection with an ocean instead of standing on the banks of a
river. The street is a pretty blending of business houses and residences;
it is broad and well shaded by lofty elms. From the river front for two
blocks it is lined with solid, well constructed brick business houses,
then the elms begin and the street loses its city-like appearance, looking
more like the main thoroughfare of the staid seat of a wealthy
agricultural county. The effect is very pleasing as the visitor walks
under the shade of the monster trees past the stately court-house,
magnificent residences surrounded with green lawns, and the hospitable
looking hotel. This handsome avenue, as I have before noted, has many
changes in its great length, but there are two things it does not lose:
its generous width and gracious shade.
The older or upper part of the city gives every evidence of having once
been the most important, and
its main thoroughfare, in spite of a number of dilapidated buildings, still
looks substantial, and is also a pleasant street to walk through and
reflect upon the "ups and downs" in the history of a city's streets, for
this thoroughfare, judging by the appearance of its buildings, must have
been the centre of trade before Water street, with its many handsome
store-houses, was thought of. The greatest relic left to show its former
AN OLD BANK,
built in the ante-bellum days, its somber Tuscan colonade supporting two
platforms, one serving as a veranda for the second and the other for the
attic story, which is faced by a huge fire-wall evidently made to take the
place of the missing pediment. The building has a very peculiar, lonesome
appearance, and if situated in California would readily be taken for a
Jesuit Mission church.
A ramble through the streets of the city convinced me that the Pasquotank
beauty will compare favorably, in the appearance and substantial nature of
her buildings, with any city in North Carolina. The business houses are
nearly all of brick, with well-designed fronts. The residences, it is
true, are mainly of more perishable material, but there are two of brick
which deserve spe-
cial mention. One of them is on Main street, nearly opposite the
court-house, and is owned by the
EDITOR OF A NEWSPAPER.
I am satisfied a smile expressing incredibility will play on the visage of
any journalist that may read this, and I do not know that it will entirely
disappear when I say that this gentleman is also a successful practicing
attorney; but I am quite sure that it will vanish like feathers before a
cyclone when I say that he owns a valuable ferry franchise, which enables
outside Pasquotankers to come to Elizabeth City without following the
example set by the frogs and jumping across the river.
The other is a more modern study and is owned by a prominent member of the
North Carolina Bar, who is also one of the gentlemen who comprise the
shell-fish commission of the bivalve-margined coast of the great North
The churches are all neat and well-cared-for, but I am sorry to say that
there are only two that are built of enduring material: one belongs to the
Episcopal and the other to the Methodist denomination. A neat tower,
finished with battlements, is the special feature of the former and a
Doric porch of the latter.
By far the handsomest structure in the city is
It stands in the centre of a beautiful lawn which occupies a large square
and is well inclosed with a neat iron railing. The building is the leading
ture of both town and judicial district. In fact, in exterior effect and
surroundings it can well be classed as the finest judicial building in the
Commonwealth, and in interior embellishments it is only surpassed by one
(New Bern). It is built of brick, heavily trimmed with granite. Four
rustic, stone-faced piers stand out in full relief from the first story of
the building and hold a substantial granite platform, from which spring
four columns, which, unfortunately, are the great defect of the building,
on account of being severely plain when they should be fluted to
correspond with the capitals, which are Corinthian, thus giving the
impression that the building committee had exhausted their funds before
the edifice was completed. These columns support the pediment, which
contains a large granite slab with the date of construction (1882), and
from the roof' rises a well-designed and substantial cupalo, which
contains a fine clock and bell, towering above all surroundings.
The Albemarle Hotel ranks among the largest hotel buildings in the State.
Its imposing brick fronts, pierced by many windows, add much to the
appearance of both Main and Broad streets.
Among the many attractions that Elizabeth City affords I found
THE FAIR GROUNDS,
which are well situated as well as very accessible, the main or grand
entrance being a few feet from an improvised depot of the Norfolk Southern
road. It has good buildings for exhibition purposes and ample stabling
but its chief feature is its speeding track, which is rolled to such a
nicety and kept in such perfect condition that it is criticised as being
one of the "fastest" on the South Atlantic seaboard.
During a late visit to the city I concluded to take a drive to far famed
which I found contains about thirty acres of land and water, which nature
has done a great deal for, and its primary attractions are being
continually added to by well planned scenic, landscape and floral
additions. It is well situated upon the banks of the majestic Pasquotank,
which forms a most attractive and well sheltered harbor, and being a tidal
stream it naturally affords every advantage for the location of
bath-houses. A good depth of water a few feet out, reached by a well
constructed wharf, gives superb facilities for the transportation of
passengers brought by steam-boats and other craft.
Its present attractions are a great diversity in physical features with
which nature first adorned it, and which consist of valley, glade and hill
covered with an abundance of luxuriant grasses and shaded by thirty-two
species of trees, and a remarkably well stocked fish-pond dotted with
picturesque islands and bounded by cosy nooks and neat projecting
headlands, while water-lilies dance on its mirrored surface, and rush and
reed waft lazily with the breeze. Many birds, as if aware of the safety
extended them by the land being posted, make the
undergrowth their home and their cheery chirping, combined with the sighing
of the trees and murmur of the waters, form a blending of pleasing sounds
which it would be hard to duplicate.
Elizabeth City, in spite of the fact that the shores of the river do not
abound in bluffs and other elevations, affords some beautiful scenery, and
there is no better place to get a view of
THE BROAD PASQUOTANK
as it sweeps past its water-front than the doorway of the Falcon office.
Being on the second floor, it has the proper elevation and the door acts
as a frame, making it look like a magnificent painting by Raphael; that
is, if Raphael had made the specialty of his life marine painting, and
could imitate nature in her endless variety of color, the perpetual motion
of the water and the glistening diamonds caused by the sun's reflection or
the dimmer sparks for which the moon is responsible.
The deep basin of the ample harbor I could entirely overlook. To the left
as well as the immediate front the shipping, although limited to
steam-boats, schooners and sloops, was interesting, while to the right I
could see busy factories and residences embowered in trees. A powerful
marine glass, kindly lent me by a gentleman connected with the Falcon,
reduced the ten miles of water to the fraction of one and showed me
plainly the lonesome looking banks of the opposite shore, and revealed, to
my surprise, a number of mills with large sweeping arms, taking advantage
of the same wind that
was propelling the many sail-boats through the intervening waters and
forcing the smoke of an incoming revenue cutter to make a desperate
endeavor to reach the sky.
THE MERCANTILE AND MANUFACTURING INTERESTS OF ELIZABETH CITY.
Present population, nearly 4,000; railroad, Norfolk Southern; steamboat
lines, Norfolk Southern and Old Dominion; manufacturing, lumber, cotton
seed oil, twine, carriages, brick, etc. Other interests, cotton and fish.
The following is a list of the majority of the leading and reliable
business houses of Elizabeth City on January 1st, 1888:
Commission, Cotton, Produce &c.
K. R. Newbold.
Drugs, Seeds, Cigars, &c.
Dr. W. W. Griggs.
Dry Goods, Clothing, &c.
Furniture (Wholesale and Retail).
C. W. Overman.
Groceries (Wholesale and Retail).
D. B. Bradford & Co.
J. B. Flora.
Harrison & Nash, cor. Water and Fearing streets.
J. P. Hughes, 29 and 80 Main street.
Groceries and Confectioneries.
C. W. Stevens, Main street, near Water.
C. A. Jackson, cor. Road and Fearing street.
Hardware, Furniture, Windows and Doors.
John L. Sawyer.
George M. Scott.
Louis Selig, water street.
F. M. Cook.
W. C. Glover, Fearing street.
Liquor (Wholesale and Retail).
J. B. Brocket.
Livery and Sale Stables.
A. L. Jones. (See advertisement).
C. C. Allen, Press, Re-press and Fancy Cornice Bricks.
Fowler's Net and Twine Factory.
J. F. Sanders, Carriage, Buggies, Road Carts. (See advertisement).
Joseph Salomonsky Ginger Ale, Soda and Mineral Waters. (See
G. W. Bell, Gun and Locksmith, Dealer in Sporting Goods.
Currier, Burroughs & Co., Sails, Awnings an(] Flags.
1I. O. Hill, Tinware, Roofing and Guttering Fear- street.
R. Madrin, Cabinet Maker and Undertaker.
J. W. T. Smith. Rubber Stamps and Painter.
Edward G. Schirmon, Fearing street.
Maurice Wescott, Main street.
Milk and Dairy Products.
C. B. Brothers, Road street.
H.. Murphy, Road street.
C. M. Alderson, Fearing street.
John H. Ziegler. (See advertisement).
|Citation:|| Nowitzky, Geo. I. Norfolk; the Marine Metropolis of Virginia, and the Sound and River Cities of North Carolina. Norfolk: Geo. I. Nowitzky, 1888.|
|Location:|| North Carolina Collection, Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858 USA|
|Call Number:||NoCar F234.N8 N9 1888a Display Catalog Record|