Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cape Fear Captains, Pilots and Owners

The Captains, Pilots & Owners

The Fayetteville 

The Wilmington 

Posted by bgibson135.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Coming to Visit Historic Wilmington, North Carolina this summer? 

Tour Group Discounts. 5 Star Story Tellers!

Always a good Day for a Haunted Cotton Exchange or a History Walking Tour!

Group Discounts with 10 or more, age 12 and under FREE with adult.  Great for bus tours groups, clubs,schools, family reunions, company outings, fund raisers..

Fun for the whole family!
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher
Until its capture by the Union army in 1865, Fort Fisher was the largest earthwork fortification in the world. The “Gibraltar of the South” protected the port of Wilmington and ensured that the Confederacy had at least one “lifeline” until the last few months of the Civil War.  

Confederate blockade runners had little difficulty eluding the U.S. blockade, and Colonel William Lamb, the fort’s commander from 1862 to 1864, organized their efforts. The runners delivered goods in Wilmington, and The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad transported these goods to supply Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Fort Fisher was a formidable post.  Several times Lamb and his men withstood Union attacks.  In December 1864, for instance, the Union had loaded a warship with 185 tons of gunpowder and floated it approximately 200 feet from the “L” shaped fort.   The fort withstood the explosion and the ensuing barrage that has been described as “the most awful bombardment that was ever know for the time.”

Confederate fortune ran out in January 1865.  On January 12, Union ships bombarded the fort.  Some have estimated the Union firepower to be approximately 100 shells per minute.  The incessant Union fire continued until mid-day on January 15, when Union troops stormed the fort from all sides.  Hand-to-hand combat ensued.  A few hours later, Union troops captured the fort.  With the fort’s capture, the Confederacy lost only remaining supply line to its infantry protecting the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia.     

John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1963); John S. Carbone, The Civil War in Coastal North Carolina (Raleigh, 2001); William S. Powell ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2006); William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989).

See Also:
Related Categories: Civil War
Related Encyclopedia Entries: John W. Ellis (1820-1862), Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, Secession, Salem Brass Band, Confederate States Navy (in North Carolina), United States Navy (Civil War activity), James Iredell Waddell (1824-1886), CSS Neuse, USS Underwriter, Warren Winslow (1810-1862), Prelude to the Battle of Averasboro, The Battle of Averasboro-Day One, Louis Froelich and Company, Louis Froelich (1817-1873), North Carolina Button Factory, CSA Arms Factory, Ratification Debates, Peace Party (American Civil War), Braxton Bragg (1817-1876), Daniel Harvey Hill (1821-1889), Battle of Bentonville, Bryan Grimes (1828-1880), Fort Hatteras, Fort Clark, Fort Macon, Daniel Russell (1845-1908), The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It, Union League, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Levi Coffin (1798 – 1877), Raleigh E. Colston (1825 - 1896) , Thomas Fentriss Toon (1840-1902), Robert Fredrick Hoke (1837-1912), Battle of Forks Road, Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863-1923), Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) , Fort Anderson (Confederate), Battle of Deep Gully and Fort Anderson (Federal), James T. Leach (1805-1883), Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock (1839-1903), Thomas Bragg (1810-1872), Curtis Hooks Brogden (1816-1901), John Motley Morehead (1796-1866), David Lowry Swain (1801-1868), Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894), Alamance County (1849), Gates County (1779), Clay County (1861), Lenoir County (1791), Union County (1842), Teague Band (Civil War), Fort Hamby Gang (Civil War), Shelton Laurel Massacre , Parker David Robbins (1834-1917), Henry Eppes (1831-1917), Washington County (1799), Hertford County (1759), Rutherford County (1770), Granville County (1746), Salisbury Prison (Civil War), Stoneman's Raid, James City, Fort York, Asa Biggs (1811 - 1878), Thomas Clingman (1812 - 1897), Matt W. Ransom (1826 - 1904), St. Augustine's College, Peace College
Related Commentary: Toward an Inclusive History of the Civil War: Society and the Home Front, Edward Bonekemper on the Cowardice of General McClellan
Related Lesson Plans: Discussion of the Lunsford Lane Narrative
Timeline: 1836-1865
Region: Coastal Plain

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

18th - 19th Century Canals in North Carolina

   With limited ocean ports and poor river navigation, North Carolina faced difficult transportation obstacles in its early years. Most trade went through Virginia or South Carolina. In order to improve transportation, numerous attempts were inaugurated during the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Collins (Somerset) Canal
   A canal completed in 1788 connecting Lake Phelps with the Scuppernong River. Dug by slave labor, the canal was used for navigation of lumber, rice and other materials, as well as to drain surrounding land. Length: 6 miles. (near Cresswell, NC)

Dismal Swamp Canal   A canal was first suggested in 1728. In December 1786, Virginia and North Carolina leaders reached an agreement to build the Dismal Swamp Canal to connect the Pasquotank River and Albemarle Sounds to Deep Creek, VA, and the Norfolk tidewater area. A private company, the Dismal Swamp Canal Company began construction in 1793 at both ends of the route. By 1796, costs were far exceeding projections, so digging was temporarily halted, while work began on building a road to connect the two canal segments. The road was completed in 1802 making a freight route possible.
 Work resumed on the canal digging and the completed canal was open in 1805 to flatboat and barge traffic. The canal would always be affected by dry seasons and droughts. In 1814, a 20-ton, decked vessel passed through the canal, marking the first large boat to make the transit.
 In 1827 - 1829, improvements were made in the canal to allow larger vessels with deeper drafts. In 1892, the Lake Drummond Canal & Water Company takes over the ownership and operation of the canal. The federal government purchased the canal in 1929.

Running basically north and south, this is the oldest man-made canal in continuous operation in the United States.
Benjamin Jones of Camden Co. (NC) was the only North Carolinian on the first board of directors of the Dismal Swamp Canal Company, since most of the financial support for the effort came from Virginia.
Length: 22 miles; Width (after 1829): 40 feet; Depth: originally 4 feet, later increased to 6.5 feet.

Cross Canal
This canal was opened in 1822. Ford B. Sawyer and Samuel Proctor were the  initial proprietors of the
Cross Canal in 1816 acquiring land to connect the  Dismal Swamp Canal to Gates County (NC). The canal ran parallel to the state border.
Length: 11 miles.

Roanoke Navigation Company & the Weldon (Roanoke) Canal

 The Roanoke Navigation Company was chartered in 1812 and began construction in 1817 to build the Roanoke (sometimes referred to as the Weldon) canal around a nine-mile, 85-foot drop at Great Falls on the Roanoke River. The work was completed in 1823.  This canal opened boat traffic from the valleys of the Dan and Staunton to the North Carolina coast.
Tolls collected from boats traveling the canal were $1,825.00 in 1830 and $12,190.22 in 1840. Railroad connections at and near Weldon, NC,  in 1840 began a shift in freight transportation. The canal was abandoned around 1850.
Length: 12 miles in length.

Clubfoot & Harlowe (Harlow's) Creek Canal
 Discussed prior to the Revolution, the canal never got underway in the 18th Century. Construction and planning got underway in 1795. In 1815, the North Carolina legislature authorized the formation of the Clubfoot and Harlow's Creek Canal Company. A turf lock was completed in 1821, but failed. A more structurally sound lock was finished toward the end of the 1820s. The canal was in full operation by 1827. This canal linked Beaufort, NC and Pamlico Sound & New Bern(e). When the lock at Harlowe fell into disrepair in 1856, the canal was abandoned.
In 1880 it was re-opened as the New Berne and Beaufort Canal. The government acquired the canal in 1891.
Note: In 1911, a new canal was created two miles east of this waterway — Adams Creek-Cross Creek Canal.
Length: 5-6 miles. Depth: 4 feet.

Bean Shoals Canal
   Designed to bypass some falls in the upper Yadkin River, this never-completed, three-mile canal was worked on from 1820 to 1825 by the Yadkin Navigation Company. There were to be three wooden locks. Construction required an extensive retaining wall be built between the canal and river. The project was so expensive that only 2 miles of the canal were built and the effort was abandoned without the canal ever being operational. A retaining wall remains.

Albemarle & Chesapeake Canal
   The first canal company for this route was initially authorized in 1772. In 1809, another legislative bill created the Great Coastwise Canal & River Navigation Company to build the waterway. More private companies would be authorized and supercede this company over the decades.
Canal construction finally began in 1855. Opened in 1859, this canal provided access to larger ships than the Dismal Swamp Canal. The Albemarle & Chesapeake Canal linked Norfolk area (through the south branch of the Elizabeth River) to New Bern and Washington, NC through the canal (North Landing River & Currituck/Albemarle Sounds). The federal government bought the canal in 1913.
Length: 10 miles. Depth: originally 6 feet, later increased to 8-foot draft.

   In addition to canals, there were numerous companies incorporated to deal in other ways with making North Carolina's rivers more navigable. Their actions included building locks, constructing short canals around rapids, dredging channels and clearing obstacles. Among these companies was the Cape Fear Navigation Company (attempted to build short canals and locks in the 1820s but suspended effort until the 1840s — only one steamer known to use these short canals (one is the
Lockville Canal). The Cape Fear Navigation Company was chartered in 1796).
 Other efforts to either build canals or improve rivers were the Neuse Navigation Company (1818 - 1825), Yadkin Navigation Company (see Bean Shoals Canal, above), the Tar River Navigation Company, the Catawba Navigation Company (1827 - ; president Isaac Thomas Avery) and the New River Navigation Company. Very little came out of these efforts as state financial support was minimal ($185,000 in stock for all of these companies) compared to the amount that might actually be required.  

 Used with permission from: NC Business History  Source:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Confederate States Navy (in North Carolina)

Students of the Civil War often overlook the contributions of the naval services in the conflict.  The Confederate Navy and Marine Corps, however, played significant roles in North Carolina.  They not only hampered the ability of the Union Navy to do its job, but took part in some of the state’s largest battles.

Genesis of the Confederate Navy
At Montgomery, Alabama, the Confederate Congress created a Navy Department in February 1861.  Stephen R. Mallory of Florida was selected by President Jefferson Davis to lead the department and was confirmed by Congress on May 5.  Mallory appeared capable of leading the new navy due to his service on the U.S. Senate Naval Affairs Committee prior to secession.  The newly created navy absorbed the state navies of South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Virginia, and North Carolina.  These state navies, however, only consisted of about a dozen small ships, mounting few guns.  By war’s end the Confederate Navy managed to put 130 ships into service--a far cry from the 670-vessel US Navy.  The disparate numbers should not be considered a failure on Mallory’s part, however, for he performed as well as could be expected considering the circumstances; a lack of government interest and funding throughout the war hampered Mallory’s efforts.
The Confederate Navy’s mission was three-fold.  First, it was to provide coastal defense and protection for inland waterways.  Second, its ironclad construction program was designed to break the Union blockade of the southern coast.  Third, it was seen as a function of the navy to raid enemy commerce.  Today, students of the Civil War remember the Confederate Navy primarily because of the exploits of the CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah.  Two North Carolinians commanded Confederate cruisers: James I. Waddell (CSS Shenandoah) and John N. Maffitt (CSS Florida).  While the Confederate Navy was moderately successful at commerce raiding, it never provided an adequate coastal defense or broke the Union blockade.

The Confederate Navy and Marine Corps played a significant role in North Carolina because much of the war in the state involved coastal operations.  Early in the war, North Carolina contributed what was nicknamed the “Mosquito Fleet,” a small force of lightly armed vessels, to the Confederate cause.  During the 1862 Burnside Expedition in coastal North Carolina, these ships participated in the Battle of Roanoke Island, and all but the CSS Beaufort were subsequently destroyed during the Battle of Elizabeth City. These battles ended what little threat the fleet posed to the Union forces.

North Carolina Ironclads
The Confederate government attempted building ironclads in the state, and was successful in completing four ships: the CSS North Carolina and the CSS Raleigh on the Cape Fear River, the CSS Albemarle on the Roanoke River, and the CSS Neuse on the Neuse River.  There were also naval yards and stations located across the state, including a large operation at Charlotte for manufacturing marine machinery and other facilities in Wilmington, Halifax, Kinston, and for a brief time in Tarboro.

Aside from the Burnside Expedition, the Confederate Navy and Marine Corps conducted numerous operations throughout coastal North Carolina.  In early February 1864, Commander John Taylor Wood led a detachment of thirty-three officers and 220 enlisted sailors and Marines downriver from Kinston to New Bern, where they boarded, captured, and destroyed the USS Underwriter in one of the most daring missions of the Civil War.

The Kinston-built ironclad, CSS Neuse, was completed shortly after Wood’s expedition to New Bern.  Confederates hoped that the ironclad might help recapture the old colonial capital.  On its voyage downriver, the Neuse ran aground in a shallow portion of the river and was not freed until a month later.  By then, all operations in eastern North Carolina had ceased because army units had been recalled to Virginia to assist in the defense of Richmond.  The Neuse waited ten months to be called into service--this time to cover the evacuation of Kinston following the Battle of Wyse Fork in March 1865.  The ironclad was taken downriver.   Its cannons bombarded the Union Army while Confederate troops abandoned the town.  Once the evacuation was complete, the Neuse was scuttled to prevent capture.

In mid-April 1864, the ironclad CSS Albemarle, captained by Commander James W. Cooke, helped Confederate forces recapture the town of Plymouth.  The Albemarle rammed and sank the USS Southfield and successfully battled the USS Miami which lost its captain, Lieutenant Commander Charles Flusser in the fight.   In early May 1864, the Albemarle steamed for New Bern to help retake the city from Union occupation forces.   Not very long after departing Plymouth, the Albemarle and two smaller ships, the CSS Bombshell and CSS Cotton Plant engaged seven Union warships as they entered the waters of the Albemarle Sound.  The ensuing battle was fierce, with the Union vessels firing over 600 shots.  A riddled smokestack was the Albemarle’s most significant damage.  The loss of the ship’s smokestack and the use of inferior coal caused a loss of draft, making the ship nearly inoperable.  Without significant draft, the engines did not have enough steam to operate properly, so Cooke was forced to return to Plymouth.  In the end, the most successful North Carolina ironclad, the Albemarle, was sunk on October 27, 1864, by a spar torpedo at her moorings by a Union Navy commando raid.

Approximately at the same time the CSS Albemarle battled the Union fleet in the Albemarle Sound, the CSS Raleigh undertook the only offensive action of the war by the Confederate Navy at Wilmington.  At nightfall on May 6, 1864 the Raleigh escorted a number of blockade runners across the New Inlet bar near Fort Fisher and attacked Union ships on blockade.  These targeted attacks continued throughout the night, and nearing daybreak on May 7, the ironclad came back into New Inlet and under the protection of the fort.  On its return trip upriver to Wilmington, the Raleigh grounded on a sandbar. Before the gunboat could be freed, its keel broke and the Raleigh sank.  The other Wilmington ironclad, the CSS North Carolina, never equipped with adequate engines, sank at its moorings in September 1864; marine worms had infested the hull.
Fort Fisher

The Confederate Navy and Marine Corps had significant involvement in the two battles at Fort Fisher and the Wilmington Campaign.  The Submarine Battery Service was instrumental in placing electrically detonated torpedoes in the waters of the Cape Fear to deter Union blockaders from attempting to enter the river.  The battery was also stationed at Fort Anderson to operate torpedoes in the river after the fall of Fort Fisher.

Battery Buchanan, detached from Fort Fisher, was built as a response to the ineffectiveness and loss of the CSS North Carolina and CSS Raleigh.  It was commanded and manned entirely by naval personnel and armed with two seven-inch Brooke rifles and two eleven-inch Brooke smoothbore guns, all considered to be “naval” ordnance.  The battery was commanded by Lieutenant Robert F. Chapman.  A twenty-nine-man detachment from the raider CSS Chickamauga, under the command of Lieutenant Francis M. Roby, manned another battery of seven-inch Brooke rifles in another part of the fort.  During the First Battle of Fort Fisher on December 24-25, 1864, both Brooke rifles, manned by Lt. Roby’s men, burst and injured nearly half the detachment and put the battery out of service.

Following the First Battle of Fort Fisher, fifty-one officers and men of the defunct Savannah Squadron (including nine African American sailors) arrived at Wilmington to reinforce the naval battery at Fort Fisher.  The Second Battle of Fort Fisher was fought from January 13-15, 1865.  Late in the battle, knowing that the fort was lost, Lt. Chapman abandoned his position, and his men escaped across the river.  Sailors then temporarily manned Batteries Meares and Campbell on the west bank of the river but soon resumed retreating toward Wilmington as the Union forces pushed toward the town.  All vessels, records, drawings, and buildings at the shipyards were destroyed while the navy evacuated Wilmington ahead of the Union army.

Throughout the war, the Confederate Navy and Marine Corps did their best to help protect the coast and rivers of eastern North Carolina.  Though not always successful, the naval forces were almost always a factor in any action.  The inadequate naval yards of the state managed to produce four ironclad gunboats as well as marine machinery and desperately needed parts.  Native North Carolinians served in many capacities, from common sailors and blockade-runner pilots to cruiser captains, and contributed greatly to the war effort.  The problems in North Carolina, however, revealed a much larger problem:  the Confederate Navy never had enough resources, manpower, or time to accomplish strategic goals.

Leslie S. Bright, William H. Rowland, and James C. Bardon, CSS Neuse: A Question of Iron and Time (Raleigh, 1981); R. Thomas Campbell, Storm Over Carolina: The Confederate Navy’s Struggle for Eastern North Carolina (Nashville, 2005); Richard G. Elliott, Ironclad of the Roanoke: Gilbert Elliott’s Albemarle (Shippensburg, 2005); Chris E. Fonvielle, Jr., Last Rays of Departing Hope: The Wilmington Campaign (Campbell, CA, 1997); Rod Gragg, Confederate Goliath: The Battle of Fort Fisher (New York, 1991); Richard A. Sauers, The Burnside Expedition in North Carolina: A Succession of Honorable Victories (Dayton, 1996); William N. Still, Jr., The Confederate Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization, 1861-65 (Annapolis, 1998); and William N. Still, Jr., Iron Afloat: The Story of the Confederate Armorclads (Columbia, 1971).
By Andrew Duppstadt, North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites

Group Discounts!

Coming to Visit Historic Wilmington, North Carolina this summer? Tour Group Discounts. 5 Star Story Tellers!

Always a good Day for a Haunted Cotton Exchange or a History Walking Tour!
Group Discounts with 10 or more, age 12 and under FREE with adult.  Great for bus tours groups, clubs,schools, family reunions, company outings, fund raisers..
Fun for the whole family!
Call for Tour Times
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Navel Stores

In the Coastal Plain region of North Carolina, Long Leaf Pines were plentiful, and the resin extracted from the trees provided the raw material for the naval stores industry.  Tar kept ropes and sail rigging from decaying, and pitch on a boat’s sides and bottom prevented leaking.  Tar Heels manufactured turpentine for a variety of uses.

The naval stores industry in North Carolina started during the early 1700s.  In 1720, the English Parliament enacted a bounty to encourage colonists to engage in the industry, because Great Britain’s dependence on its naval trade necessitated many boats.  In the 1720s and 1730s, the industry in the Northeast Cape Fear region of present-day Duplin County attracted Welsh migrants from Pennsylvania and Delaware.  By the 1770s, the production of naval stores was widespread in Eastern North Carolina, as noted by Janet Schaw, a well-educated Scot who toured the Cape Fear region a couple years prior to the American Revolution.  Small farmers and their slaves (typically one to four on each farm) provided the infrastructure of the naval stores industry while growing grains and raising cattle.

During the colonial period, turpentine was used mainly as a laxative or as a water repellent for cloth and leather, but demand for it increased exponentially during the nineteenth century.  Although soap manufacturers started using leftover resin from the stills in which turpentine had been extracted, turpentine was used primarily from 1800 to 1860 as an illuminant; the substance when combined with alcohol provided a cheap form of lighting that was used in homes, public buildings, and streets.  This mixture was known as camphene, Teveline, or palmetto oil.  By 1860, a less costly illuminant replaced the turpentine-based one: kerosene.

During the 1840s-1860s, the production of North Carolina naval stores increased dramatically.  For one reason, Great Britain in 1840 repealed her non-importation duties on naval stores with the United States.  Even before then, North Carolina produced 95.9 percent of the naval stores in the country.  Also, inland transportation improvements, such as the Wilmington and Manchester, S.C. Rail Road, encouraged the industry’s expansion.   The Wilmington and Weldon Rail Road, in particular, persuaded many in Craven, Pitt and Beaufort counties to participate, the Charlotte and Rutherford Rail Road cut through the abundant, pine forests of Bladen, Robeson, and Richmond counties, and (by the 1850s) the Fayetteville to Bethany Plank Road had been completed.  By 1860, the Wilmington and Cape Fear Navigation Company temporarily succeeded in making the Cape Fear navigable for small, steam-powered vessels from Fayetteville to Chatham County.  That year, however, freshets destroyed the locks.

With the increasing demand for naval stores during the antebellum era, the demand for slave labor to work in the labor-intensive industry increased.  Many slaves on the plantation, working sunup to sundown, shouldered a lighter burden than did those producing naval stores.  Percival Perry, one of the first authorities of the naval stores industry, writes that slaves preferred to work in the naval stores industry, because it relied on task labor, whereas plantation slaves usually worked in gang labor.  Historian Robert. B. Outland, however, more recently argues that slaves in the naval stores industry were often bored and lonely while for consecutive months cutting boxes, or holes approximately six to eight inches, to collect resin in barrels placed at the base of trees.  A boxer worked typically from November to March and cut anywhere from 80 to 500 boxes per week.  Overworked slaves in the pine forests were often subjected to cruel punishment and labored in conditions similar to slaves on sugar cane plantations.  Temporary housing was another difficulty.  Unlike plantation slaves, bondsmen in the naval stores industry primarily lived in crude lean-tos, no more than four feet high, and were therefore constantly exposed to the elements.  Many were also poorly clothed and fed, and more than a few suffered illnesses caused by breathing the fumes of the portable copper turpentine stills.

Statistics from the mid-1800s reveals the importance of the industry in Tar Heel history. In 1850, North Carolina listed 444 tar and turpentine makers in the US Census, and 1, 114 distillers were listed in state records.  Wilmington led the state with the largest number of turpentine distillers, and New Bern and Washington closely followed. By 1860, the total value of crude in North Carolina was $5, 311, 420 dollars.

As a result of the Civil War (1861-1865), technological innovation, and exhausted raw materials, the prosperity of the naval stores industry in North Carolina came to a dramatic end.  Once the Confederacy ended trade with the Union, Northern shippers looked elsewhere for naval stores.  Meanwhile, the widespread use of kerosene replaced camphene as a popular illuminant.  Also, the Long Leaf Pines had been over harvested. It now took 3,000 Long Leaf Pines to obtain barely 75 barrels of raw turpentine.  After the Civil War, farmers turned the decimated pine forests into meadows and grew cotton and tobacco.  

William J. Cooper and Thomas E. Terrill, eds., The American South, Vol.1 (New York, 1996); Lloyd Johnson, “The Welsh in the Carolinas in the Eighteenth Century,” North American Journal of Welsh Studies (2004) 4: 12-19; Robert B. Outland, III, “Slavery, Work, and the Geography of the North Carolina Naval Stores Industry, 1835-1860," Journal of Southern History (1996) 62: 27-56, Taping the Pines, the Naval Stores Industry in North Carolina (Baton Rouge, 2004); Percival Perry, “The Naval Stores Industry in the Old South, 1780-1860, The Journal of Southern History (1968) 34: 509-526); Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being a Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina and Portugal in the Years 1774 to 1776 (Spartanburg, 1971); Bradford J. Wood, This Remote Part of the World: Regional Formation in Lower Cape Fear, North Carolina, 1725-1775 (Columbia, 2004).
By Lloyd Johnson, Campbell University

See Also:
Related Categories: Transportation, Business and Industry
Related Encyclopedia Entries: North Carolina Railroad, Thomas H. Hall (1773-1853), William J. Gaston (1778-1844), John W. Ellis (1820-1862), Morehead City, Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863-1923), Charles Manly (1795-1871), David Settle Reid (1813-1891), James Iredell, Jr. (1788-1853), Tyrrell County (1729), Cross Creek, Averasboro (Town of), Highland Scots, Welsh, Fayetteville, City of, Cross Creek Canal Company, Cape Fear Navigation Company, Prelude to the Battle of Averasboro, The Battle of Averasboro-Day One, The Battle of Averasboro- Day Two, Tories, Lillington (Town of), Robert Fredrick Hoke (1837-1912), Battle of Forks Road, Archibald Maclaine (1728-1790), State Fruit: Scuppernong Grape, Fort Anderson (Confederate), Venus Flytrap, Canova Statue (George Washington), Cumberland County (1754), Richard M. Weaver, Jr. (1910-1962), Pearsall Plan, Pitt County (1760), The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Western Carolina University, Wake Forest University, Duke University, James Iredell Waddell (1824-1886), Washington County (1799), Columbus County (1808), Lunsford Lane (1803-?), Omar Ibn Said (1770-1864), State v. Mann, The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It, Levi Coffin (1798 – 1877), Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897)
Related Commentary: When Wilmington Threw A Tea Party: Women and Political Awareness in Revolution-Era North Carolina, The Story of Lunsford Lane: How Entrepreneurial Spirit Overcame Slavery
Related Lesson Plans: Discussion of the Lunsford Lane Narrative
Timeline: 1664-1775 , 1776-1835 , 1836-1865
Region: Coastal Plain An Online Encyclopedia, “Lunsford Lane” (by Troy Kickler), (accessed August 15, 2005).
- or -

Saturday, March 17, 2012

James Mebane Cape Fear River Report for 1829

Of James Mebane, Esq., concerning the Works on the Cape Fear River, for the year 1829.
To the President and Directors of the Board
For Internal Improvements in North
     As Superintendent of the public works on the Cape Fear River during this year, it has become my duty to give you some account of the progress made in that work.  I would in the first place remark that the difficulties we have had to contend with, have been greater than we had anticipated.  The first and not the least of these, I would mention, was that of obtaining and keeping in the service good hands.  Having learned by the experience of last year, that it was very difficult to have employed, at all times, a sufficient force of good able hands, by hiring them monthly, and that it was very difficult to keep white hands under proper discipline, I made an effort to hire negro men by the year; and for that purpose got agents to attend the negro hirings in most of the counties near the works; but had the mortification to learn, that guardians and owners would not hire their hands to work in the water, and was then compelled to hire such hands, and for such periods of time, as I could, but in no instance for less than one month.  Hence it happened that we had many very indifferent hands, and their time would often expire and they leave us by the time they would become much skilled in their work; and if they could learn that we considered them as good hands, and the work was pressing, they would demand an increase of pay, or leave us.  Another serious obstacle to the progress of our work, was high freshets in the river, which prevented the hands from working for many whole days, and some weeks, during the spring and summer months.  This was accompanied by sickness, which prevailed among the hands at one time, to an alarming degree; so much so, that several of them forsook the works.  We lost two by sickness, and had the misfortune to have one drowned.
     But notwithstanding these difficulties, I trust it is not going too far to say, that very important improvements have been made during this year on the Cape Fear river between Fayetteville and Haywood.  Indeed we have a tolerable good navigation the whole distance between these two places, which is probably by water near sixty miles.  For although much remains to be done before the navigation is as good as it can and ought to be made for boating, but especially for rafting; yet all those places in the river, which have formerly been viewed as the worst, or so bad that they could not be rendered navigable, are completed, and can now be safely passed in boats either down or up stream.  And what remains to be improved, are very many places, which although not near as bad or difficult to improve as those which have been completed, will yet require a great deal of work.  It is doubtless very well known to your honorable Board, that the lands on and near the Cape Fear river and its branches, are covered with an immense quantity of the most valuable timber, and that for many years great quantities, both in plank and scantling, as well as in tun {??} timber, from near and below Averasborough, have been rafted to Wilmington.  Very few have ever attempted to descend the whole of Smylie’s Falls on rafts; and of the few that have made the attempt, all have done so at the risqué of their lives, and frequently with the loss of their rafts.  I have not heard that any have ever attempted to descend Buckhorn Falls on rafts.  Hence it has so happened, that those people who live below these Falls, have enjoyed the advantage of sending their lumber to Wilmington by water, such as reside above them, have been entirely cut off from this market.  There is no obstruction to the passage of rafts down any part of the Cape Fear in time of high water, but what is called Smylie’s and Buckhorn Falls.  These obstructions are numerous large points of rocks, which project above the water at its common height, in some instances six or eight feet, but gradually less.  They appear in different places for some two or three miles in Smylie’s Falls, and probably for  one fourth or one half a mile in Buckhorn Falls.  Rafting in Cape Fear is never attempted above Fayetteville but in time of high waters and all that is necessary to give the rafts a safe passage over these Falls will be to blast off the tops of these rocks level with common winter water, in a proper direction, so as to form a clear passage of something more than one hundred feet in width.  Some of the raftsmen say that the sluice should be so wide that a raft, when the foremost end happens to strike a rock, should have sufficient space to wheel quite round, for they cannot be stopped in these rapids; and if in wheeling the other end should also strike a rock, the raft must be destroyed or broken, and the lives of the hands endangered.--  It has been found on examination, that these projecting rocks are generally surrounded by deep water, so that after they are shattered by a proper use of gunpowder, they can, by means of iron crowbars, be easily thrown into the water, where they will be entirely out of the way.  This work can be done when the weather is too cold and the water too deep to work in the boat sluices, and when the hands could not be otherwise well employed.—On this account many of the projecting rocks in Smylie’s Falls have  been blasted off during the past season.  And it would seem, that for this reason, as well as for the great importance of the work, a raft as well as a boat navigation should be made on this river.  But it is believed, that although the balance of the funds now on hand may be sufficient to complete the boat navigation to Haywood, it will not be equal to the expense of making a raft navigation also.  Whilst speaking of what remains to be done on this river, I hope it will not be considered as going beyond my province, if I solicit the attention of the Board to the branches of the Cape Fear above Haywood.
     It seems to be admitted generally, that the Cape Fear is one of the most important rivers of our State, and has justly, heretofore, obtained the first attention of our Legislature; and that although much money hath been wasted by unskillful and badly directed measures yet that, at this time, it is in a progressive state of improvement, which promises, at no distant day, to realize the hopes of the friends of Internal Improvement in our State; and to make it what it seems by nature to have been intended for, the great thoroughfare, through which all the produce of the middle, and many of the western counties of this State will be conveyed to the Atlantic.  From Wilmington to Fayetteville, we have an excellent navigation for vessels properly constructed, and from Fayetteville to Haywood, enough has been done to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt to those who will take the trouble to inform themselves properly, that, as good a descending, and not very inferior ascending navigation will soon be had for the kind of boats suited to such rivers.—Above Haywood we have the Deep and Haw rivers, and New Hope creek; all of which are capable of being made navigable for many miles.  The Deep river, in its course, approaches the Yadkin and affords, probably, the most convenient route through which to turn the products of the country bordering on that stream to a market within the State.  The Haw river is a rocky stream, but will, at no great expense, afford a pretty good sluice navigation for many miles.  The New Hope creek is a deep flat stream, with very little fall, with no obstructions to the passage of boats for a great part of the year, but logs which have either fallen or been thrown into it, and a few mill dams, and can easily be made navigable to a spot within nine miles of Hillsborough.
     One powerful inducement to improve this stream, is the immense quantity of excellent timber which grows on and near its banks, especially of white and red oak of the best quality for staves.  The people living on and near this stream, encouraged by the certain prospect of good navigation from Haywood to Fayetteville, have lately held several public meetings, with a view, in some way, to effect its improvement; but it is doubtful whether they will be able to complete so large and important a public work without the aid of the Legislature and the Board of Internal Improvements.  It is well known to your Board that these streams are all included within the charger of the Cape Fear Navigation Company; and it is equally well known that that company has not the improvement of the river under its control, and that its funds are by no means equal to its completion.  Would it not, then, be best that it should be called upon to surrender these branches of the river either to the State, or such other companies as the General Assembly may incorporate for their improvement? Or that instead of dividing the tolls collected on the river among the Stockholders, they apply them to the improvement of the several branches thereof, under the direction of your Board?  But before this can be cone, the General Assembly must consent that the dividends accruing to the State from stocks held in this company, and now appropriated to the Literary Fund, may be applied to his subject also.
--But I must leave this subject to those who have entrusted to them the power of providing the ways and means of promoting the internal improvement of the State, and proceed to give you a more particular account of the work done on the river this year.
     On the 17th day of January, Mr. Keen, the overseer of this work, arrived at Buckhorn Falls, with his family, and about the 21st commenced building cabins for the hands, and a smoke house to preserve his provisions.  By the last of January, we had about twenty-five hands, and the number fluctuated from twenty to near forty; but we usually had about thirty.  As soon as the necessary houses were built, they began to get timber for the locks, and to excavate the lock pits and basins.  The following is an account of the work of different kinds:  Excavated 3 lock pits, 98 feet long and twenty-five feet wide; the upper one 4 feet deep; the middle one 8 feet deep; and the lower one 8 feet deep likewise.  Nearly all this excavating, as well as that of the basins, was done in a very close, compact white flint gravel, which nothing but a sharp pointed pick would penetrate.  Some part of the middle lock, and 4 feet of the lower one, for the whole length, had to be blasted through very hard rock.  From the lower lock to the river on Buckhorn creek, blasted 3 feet deep, 13 feet wide, and twenty-five feet long.  Excavated 2 basins; the one extending from the upper end of the lower lock to the lower end of the middle one, is 32 by 28 yards.  The upper basin, at the entrance of the upper lock, is 34 by 25 yards.  Thirty-six feet on one side of this basin, and cross the old canal, is secured by a stone wall of solid masonry thirty-six feet long, well puddle in front.  Likewise made an embankment on the upper side of the locks, level with the bank of the canal, which extends towards the river 60 yards, and up the canal forty yards, protecting the locks from any freshet that may overflow the low grounds between the canal and the river.  The canal was nearly full of drift wood, which with the great quantity of mud and gavel that had washed into it for the fifteen years that have passed since it was dug, was cleared out for 700 yards, and several hard rocks, that had been left when this canal was first made, were blasted, and with many loose rocks, taken out.  Built three locks 98 feet long, ten feet wide and ten feet high, having about four feet left each, so as to overcome a fall of 15 feet, all the posts, plates and gate frames of the locks are of good lightwood, and all the plank of the best heart pine, without sap, well kiln dried, and nailed on with twenty penny nails.  Besides this, there has been a considerable quantity of work done at [at – repeated]  Buckhorn Falls, in repairing the dams across the Buckhorn creek, the many sluices that make into the river, and the dam that extends across the river, to one end of which was added 30 feet.  Since the locks were completed covered boats have passed through them both up and down, and they promise to answer the purpose for which they were intended very well.
     After the locks were completed, the hands were removed to Smylie’s Falls, near Averasboro, where they had in the first place, to erect a house for Mr. Keen’s family, a smoke house and kitchen; and then, whenever the water was low enough, they were engaged in blasting rocks, and making sluice dams, &c.
     The following is an account of the work done on that part of the falls called Stewart’s Stand, or Hodge’s Falls:
     Built one towing wall of stone, 252 feet long, 4 feet high, 6 feet wide at the bottom and 4 at top, laid in rough masonry.
     One wing dam on the left hand, 36 feet long; one on the right hand, 52 feet long; two left hand do, one 194 fee long, and the other 50 feet do.  Blasted and cut out a channel 200 yards, 50 of which was done last year.  Blasted down, at the same place, three large ledges, and some points of rocks for raft navigation.  One of these ledges was eight feet high, 50 feet long and 20 feet wide.
     At the place called Harralson’s Landing—Built one towing wall of stone, 342 feet long, six feet wide at bottom and four at top, laid on rough masonry; one side wall, averaging three feet wide and three feet high, 605 feet long, built of the same materials, and in the same manner; blasted a channel through hard stone, 300 feet long and 12 feet wide, averaging two feet deep; cut and quarried through a soft rock and gravel, 300 feet long, averaging two feet deep and 12 feet wide; blasted down one ledge, 60 feet long 30 feet wide and 3 feet high, for rafts.  One day’s work with 27 hands, blasting and removing large stones and pulling up fish stands and dams.
     At Shaw’s Falls—Built one towing wall, 204 feet long, 6 feet wide at bottom and 4 as top, and five feet high; one side wall, 50 feet long; cut out a channel in soft rock, 15 feet wide, 204 feet long, averaging two feet deep; blasted down 3 large ledges and some points of rocks for raft navigation.  Having now completed the last very bad place in Smylie’s Falls, the hands were removed to a fall near Norrington’s mill, where they made 1 set wing dams, 6 set hand dams, 100 feet long; eight hand dams, 40 feet long; one side dam, 42 feet long; one do. 164 feet long; one check dam, 155 feet long; one ledge about 3 feet long and 10 feet wide.   Blasted through the Harmon rock ledge, 12 feet wide, 12 inches deep and 15 feet long; and removed some gravel, logs and promiscuous rocks, by blasting, for one half mile.
     Soon after the work at Norrington’s mill was completed, it became necessary to dismiss the hands, for this year, on account of the sicknessof Mr. Keen, the overseer.
     I have now, gentlemen, given you a general description of the work done on the Cape Fear this year, although many small pieces of work are omitted.  The amount of expenditure, including about five hundred dollars expended the last year, and for which vouchers had not been obtained previous to my settlement with the Board in November, 1828, is $4,759.45, exclusive of one or two small sums for which I have not had it in my power to procure vouchers, and which, when obtained, will be very inconsiderable.  I flatter myself that the work done has been both well planned and executed, and that it is in a great degree proportionate to the expense.  For whatever success may have attended the labors of this year, we are much indebted to the practical knowledge, persevering industry and integrity of Mr. Keen, the overseer.  All the boats and canoes belonging to the Company, are secured in the basin, at the entrance of the locks; and the tools, tents, iron, steel, gun-powder and provisions, on hand when the hands were dismissed, are carefully put away in a secure house at Buckhorn Falls, and will be ready for use whenever the works may be resumed.
     I remain, gentlemen, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
                   JAMES MEBANE, Superintendent.

[North Carolina Journal – Fayetteville, NC – January 6, 1830]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Captain William Ellerbrook

Captain William Ellerbrook and his faithful dog, Boss

This monument in Oakdale Cemetery commemorates the deaths of Captain William Ellerbrook and his faithful dog Boss, who gave up his life in an effort to drag his master from a burning building at the corner of Front and Dock Streets.  Captain Ellerbrook was master of a Heide Company tugboat and a volunteer fire fighter. 

One fateful night in 1880, Captain Ellerbrook answered a call to save the burning store. Running into the burning building, Ellerbrook was caught by failing timbers, hearing his owners screams for help, his dog, Boss dashed into the burning building, only to be found the next day beside Ellerbrook’s body with a piece of cloth torn from his master’s coast sill in his mouth.  The dog was buried in the casket with Captain Ellerbrook.  Much loved and respected, their funeral was attended by hundreds of Wilmington Citizens. 

Source: A Pictorial History of Wilmington by Anne Russell

Thursday, February 2, 2012

History of Wilmington NC

Tour Old Wilmington 
According to the Julian calendar, Wilmington, North Carolina, was incorporated in 1739.  Located on the east bank of the Cape Fear River, the original town is 28 nautical miles from the Atlantic Ocean.  Built on several rises, more like sand dunes than hills, the town ascends 50 feet from the river shoreline.  Despite navigational difficulties along the river, the town grew to become the largest city in the state before the Civil War.  It remained so until the second decade of the 20th century, when the state’s Piedmont tobacco and textile towns rose to prominence. 

Wilmington’s historical significance is reflected in the variety of architectural styles, streetscapes and in other aspects of its material culture.  The Colonial town is most visible in the original grid pattern of the streets, the numbered streets running from north to south and the named streets running from east to west.  Several periods of rapid growth have altered the city’s passage through time.  Very few buildings remain from the early town because of the large fires and antebellum growth stimulated by the 1840 opening of the railroad. 

Three other periods of sustained growth are also noteworthy.  Recovery from the Civil War with increased port and rail expansion precipitated substantial commercial activity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Increased business and industry, particularly of cotton and fertilizer, provide a building boom both commercially and residentially, including moves to the first suburbs.  This economic activity spread across the region, evident most notably in the development of the nearby beaches.  After a period of decline during the Great Depression, Wilmington experienced another burst of growth during World War II Military facilities and the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company brought an unprecedented number of new residents who needed housing as well as a myriad of businesses to support their daily lives.  The most recent growth can in the 1990s, after Wilmington was connected to the rest of the country by Interstate Highway 40. 

Source: Wilmington Lost But Not Forgotten by Beverly Tetterron

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Chronology of the Cape Fear

A Chronology of the Cape Fear…

Navigation Company.
     THE Directors of the Cape Fear Navigation Company, having in discharge of the duties of their appointment, provided Boats, Flats and all necessary fixtures to enable them to carry into effect the provisions of their Charter, and having nearly expended in the purchase of young prime negroes, the balance of the first Instalment on the Stock, are compelled to call on the Stockholders for an additional payment on their respective Shares.  They trust, that with the aid of the present requisition, they will be enabled to make not only a profitable advance, towards the clearing of the North West Branch of Cape Fear, from Fayetteville to Wilmington, but such an one as will insure the patronage and interest of the Public at large.
     The little, that the shortness of the time since they prepared for work, has permitted to be done, justifiey ### ###  to the Stockholders that the result of their exertions will be beneficial.
     They therefore give NOTICE, That an instalment of Ten Dollars on each and every share held in the Cape Fear Navigation Company, will be payable to the Treasurer in Fayetteville, on the first Monday in November next, who will on the receipt thereof issue the necessary Scrip.
     The STOCKHOLDERS will observe that a forfeiture of Shares is provided for by Charter in case of non payment agreeably to Notice.
By Order of the Board of Directors,
J. W. Wright, Treasurer.
Fayetteville, Sept. 28.                                     34  5


Stock for Sale.
Cape-Fear Navigation
Stock, offered.
Enquire of the Printer.
October 10, 1816                                        35tf

[The American – Fayetteville, N. C. – Thursday October 17, 1816]

The Haunted Courthouse

The Haunted Courthouse
On the stairs of the old Courthouse

Cape Fear River

Cape Fear River
Looking west toward the Hilton

Ship coming into Port of Wilmington

Ship coming into Port of Wilmington

Ship News

Ship News