My friend Betty Motes recently told me a story about a flotilla of boatmen and their families that used to come from the shipyards of Camden, New Jersey, and spend their winters on Clubfoot Creek.
The first fisherman from Carteret County, N.C., that I found in Punta Gorda, Florida, was a man named John C. Lewis. He was born in Beaufort in 1847 and he was the son of Anson and Irene Lewis, outfitters of sailing ships.
In the 1880s fishermen began to leave Carteret County, N.C., and go to the mullet fishing grounds of Southwest Florida, where they made new homes in places such as Cortez and Punta Gorda.
This is a photograph of Charles P. Dey and his brother John Wesley Dey’s menhaden oil and scrap mill at Lennoxville, a mile and half east of Beaufort, in Carteret County, N.C., circa 1890.
Whether they were in New York City, Boston or Hartford, the Sons and Daughters of North Carolina kept a close eye on what was happening back home in the Tar Heel State.
On January 12, 1934, the New York City chapter of the Sons and Daughters of North Carolina held an Emancipation Day celebration at Mother AME Zion Church in Harlem, one of the most historic churches in America.
In the spring of 1940, the Sons and Daughters of North Carolina held its annual dance at the Renaissance Casino, one of Harlem's most famous ballrooms.
The first time that the Sons and Daughters of North Carolina attracted national attention was a winter night in Brooklyn, New York, in 1897. Composed of African American migrants who had left North Carolina, the group was holding a memorial service in honor of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
A little more than a century ago, a group of seagoing people from the “Down East” part of Carteret County, N.C., settled on the shores of Lake Erie and began commercial fishing.
In the autumn of 1938, the photographer Charles Farrell visited a gang of mullet fishermen from Varnamtown while they hauled their nets on Bald Head Island, down in the far southeast corner of the North Carolina coast.
Today I want to look at the story of Puerto Rican construction workers that helped to build Fort Bragg at the end of WW1. Theirs is a little-known tale of war, colonialism and migration, and it is one set against the background of the country's last deadly pandemic, the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918-19.
Now preserved at the National Archives, a slave manifest indicates that 66 of Augustin Pugh's slaves from Bertie County, N.C., sailed on the brig Calypso out of Norfolk, Va., on April 3, 1819. They were bound for New Orleans, and more than half of them were ten years old or younger.
This essay originated in discussions with Dr. Makini Chisolm-Straker and Katherine Chon on the history of human trafficking in the American South-- and especially in eastern North Carolina.
A project called Last Seen—Finding Family after Slavery has been documenting the efforts of African Americans to find their families and other loved ones after the American Civil War. Most of the documents that the project has collected and put on-line are newspaper notices like this one about a family in Perquimans County, in northeastern … Continue reading “I Desire to find my Children”
In the 1870s and ‘80s, a group of ex-slaves called the Wilmington Jubilee Singers traveled throughout Great Britain, giving concerts in which they sang hymns and spirituals in a close harmony style, either a cappella or accompanied only by a pianist.
A 92-year-old gentleman in Chesapeake City, Maryland, recently sent me a wonderful message about his childhood memories of living on the North Carolina coast in the 1930s. His name is Mr. Harold Lee and when he was four years old he lived in a coastal village in Onslow County, N.C., that is no more.
In those days many a shrimper led an itinerant life. When the season ended in Southport, they headed south to shrimp out of Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine, Key West, Everglades City, Punta Gorda and half a dozen other Florida fishing communities, often coming home on Christmas Eve with their arms full of gifts for their wives and sweethearts and children.
In its thoughtful and deeply troubling new exhibit “Americans and the Holocaust,” the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum highlights Sen. Robert Reynolds of North Carolina because in 1939 he led a senate fight that prevented the U.S. from rescuing 20,000 Jewish children from the Nazis. At the time, Reynolds said that he did not want the Jewish children to come to America and take our jobs.
In this photograph (above), we see the blackfish boat Margaret at an unidentified port probably in southern New Jersey in 1934. Standing in the bow is Capt. Einar Neilsen, a Norwegian immigrant. Capt. Neilsen was part of a largely forgotten enclave of Norwegian, Swedish and Dutch blackfish fishermen and their families that left New Jersey and made their homes in Beaufort, N.C., beginning in the 1910s.
On the other side of Union River Bay, just west of where I am staying on Mount Desert Island, in a village called Blue Hill, the menhaden oil and scrap industry was born, if one can say it was born anywhere.
On our drive to Down East Maine a few days ago, we stopped and took a hike at the Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve in Boothbay Harbor. After walking a little ways down the trail through the lovely fall colors, we soon arrived at Appalachee Pond. To my surprise, there we got a glimpse at another historical connection between the Maine coast and the North Carolina coast: the ice trade.
This week I’m in Down East Maine. It’s a beautiful part of the world and I’m not really here to do historical research. All the same, I am visiting some local maritime museums and historical societies and I am curious to learn if this far corner of the New England coastline has historic ties to the coastal world where I grew up in North Carolina.
North Carolina’s dominance of the nation’s naval stores industry began to change drastically in the decades after the Civil War. By that time, the industry was destroying the region’s longleaf pine forest. In a frenzied half century of exploitation, the state’s longleaf pine forest fell from an estimated 4-5 million acres to less than 60,000 acres. Travelers began to describe train trips through eastern North Carolina’s pine forests in which they did not see a single tree that did not have the V-shaped scars that were characteristic of tapping.
“This used to be an island where the men went to sea.” That’s what 95-year-old Blanche Howard Jolliff told me a few years ago, when I visited her on Ocracoke Island, one of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I was the guest of her cousin Philip and his family next door, and Philip took me by to see her.
I never grow tired of looking at them: the faces in these old photographs. They are immigrants that settled in eastern North Carolina in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They came from Russia, Syria, Lebanon, Norway, Greece, Poland and many other far-off lands.