THE NAMES OF THE EARLIEST PLANTATIONS, THEIR LOCATION AND THEIR OWNERS, WITH ITEMS OF BIOGRAPHY AND INCIDENTS.
As already stated, settlements were made on the Cape Fear River, and in its vicinity as early as 1723. A grant for 48,000 acres was made to Landgrave Thomas Smith* as early as 1713, but no attempt to settle on that grant (which included Bald Head at the mouth of the river and extended above Wilmington) was made for some years [*A recital in a deed (N. H. Records, C. 77) says this grant is in the Secretary's office of South Carolina.]
These settlements were chiefly on the west side of the river below Wilmington, and in the locality known then and ever since as Rocky Point on the northeast branch above Wilmington, but some were on the sound and on the upper Northwest river. There were a few grants for land as far south and west of the river as Lockwood's Folly, but these were isolated places to which no historic interest attaches.
We will begin our account of these oldest plantations and their owners by first taking those farthest down the river and proceeding up it as high as Wilmington, and then take those above on both branches in the same order, and finally those on the sound.
And, as preliminary to the subject, it will be "news" to the present generation of Cape Fear people to learn that in the early days fine crops of wheat were raised in the Rocky Point neighborhood on the northeast branch of the river. In those days rice, indigo, corn, and tobacco were the principal crops, but there is contemporary evidence of the culture of wheat also in the region referred to, and probably in many other places. In a letter written by a lady from her residence near Castle Haynes to Mr. John Burgwin in London, in the year 1775 (August 25th), is this language: "We have prodigious crops of wheat this year-better never known in the memory of men. The corn will also be very fine if these deluges of rain do not spoil it."
In speaking of the British troops grinding grain at Rutherford's mills, above Rocky Point in 1781, McRee [*Life and Correspondence of James Iredell, Vol. I, 526, note.] says: "With the exception of a small experiment by Dr. J. F. McRee on Rocky Point, wheat has not been cultivated in that region since the Revolution." The reason, or one of the reasons, probably was that after that time it was found to be cheaper to buy flour brought from the back country to Fayetteville, and thence by boat to Wilmington, than to raise the wheat and send it miles away to be ground on toll at the few mills that were equipped with proper stones for grinding that grain. It certainly was not because the land was not capable of producing fine wheat crops.
The southernmost estate on the river was called Governor's Point because Governor Burrington bought it from the first grantee, John Porter. John Porter came from the Albemarle region, where he had been for many years a leader of the people. He moved to the Cape Fear country in 1723 and died at Rocky Point in 1734. Members of his family intermarried with the Moores, Ashes, Lillingtons, and Moseleys.
In a lecture delivered before the Historical and Scientific Society of Wilmington, on the 26th of November, 1879, entitled "A Study in Colonial History," the Hon. George Davis overwhelmingly vindicated the memory of Porter from the grossly unjust attacks upon it by Dr. Hawks and other writers of our colonial history. Under his claim, clear and masterful analysis of the facts concerning the Cary rebellion and the characters, connected with it-an analysis illuminated by flashes of satire and genial humor-the true character and valuable services of John Porter were portrayed, and his claim to the admiration and respect of posterity was triumphantly established. Like too many others who have lived in troublous times, and have taken an active part in public affairs, Porter was the victim of party rancor and the personal hostility of those in authority who used their power to defame him and destroy his influence and reputation, but it was almost worth undergoing the wrong and injustice to have received after many years such a splendid vindication as the lecturer pronounced.
Job Howe, father of Gen. Robert Howe of Revolutionary fame, was the son of a prominent man of the same name in South Carolina, and was the grandson of Governor James Moore (the first) of that State. His residence at Howe's Point, the next place above Governor's Point, was in rear of an old colonial fort, built, according to tradition, for defense against pirates, who infested the harbor and river, and the ruins of both his residence and the fort were visible until a comparatively recent period.
In his interesting little book, entitled "Tales and Traditions of the Lower Cape Fear," Mr. James Sprunt says: "Mr. Reynolds, the present intelligent owner and occupant of the Howe place behind the colonial fort, who took part in building Fort Anderson, says that his father and his grandfather informed him forty years ago that this fort was erected long before the War of the Revolution as a protection against buccaneers and pirates; that his great-grandfather lived with General Howe on this place during the war (Revolution) and took part in a defense of this fort against the British who drove the Americans out of it; that the latter retreated to Liberty Pond, about a half mile in the rear, pursued by the British; that a stand was made at this pond, the Americans on the west and the enemy on the east side, and that the blood which flowed stained the margin of the beautiful sheet of water which still bears the name of Liberty Pond, and that the Americans again retreated as far as McKenzie's mill dam behind Kendall, where the British abandoned the pursuit and returned to their ships of war."
And Mr. Sprunt adds: "Since the foregoing was written Mr. Reynolds's statement with reference to General Howe's residence has been fully corroborated by the well-known Cape Fear skipper, Captain Sam Price, now eighty-six years old.
He remembers distinctly and has often visited the house known as General Howe's residence, which he says was a large three-story frame building, on a stone or brick foundation, on the spot already described just below Old Brunswick, and still known as Howe's Point." General Howe was one of the really brilliant officers of the Revolution, having been promoted to the rank of Major General in October, 1777, although his advancement had been most ungenerously obstructed by persons in South Carolina and Georgia. He was a man of much more than usual culture and ability, and who, by his intelligent activity in supporting the rights of the people against the unconstitutional aggression of King and Parliament before the Revolution broke out, had become so obnoxious to the Government that when pardon was offered to all who would abandon the American cause during the war, he and Harnett, who was his close friend and coadjutor, were specifically excepted from clemency, and his plantation was plundered by a British expedition. It would require a volume to adequately present his most valuable services to his country from early manhood to the day of his death, which occurred in December, 1786, at the residence of his friend and brother hero, Gen. Thomas Clark, at Point Repose, while on his way to attend the session of the Legislature, of which he was a member, then assembled at Fayetteville. We shall have occasion to refer again to this brave and gifted soldier and patriot, and therefore postpone further comment now.
The place next above Howe's Point, and just below the town of Old Brunswick, belonged to Nathaniel Moore,* a brother of Col. Maurice Moore and "King" Roger Moore, but he owned several other plantations up the river and does not seem to have lived at York. [*Nathaniel Moore married Sarah Grange April 13, 1720, in South Carolina, as we learn from the Annals and Register of St. Thomas's and St. Denis's Parish, S. C, and after her death married a Miss Webb.] There is, or recently was, a steamboat landing and post-office about forty miles farther up the river that has for more than a hundred years borne the name of "Nat Moore," but generally spelled Natmore.
Immediately north of the town of Brunswick was the historic place called Russellboro, a residence with 55 acres of land attached, which was bought from Roger Moore's estate by Captain Russell of the British navy, [*Captain Russell owned the land on which the town of Campbellton (adjoining Cross Creek, now Fayetteville] was built, which land descended to his sons John and William, who are named as the owners in the Act of 1762 establishing the town, and who were pensioned by the British government, and were Tories in the Revolution. Their father died prior to 1762, and Andrew J. Howell, Esq., of Wilmington, tells me he is one of his descendants. Captain Russell commanded the sloop of war Scorpion.] and afterwards was sold to Governor Dobbs, whose son, Captain Edward Brice Dobbs, sold it to Governor Tryon in 1767.* [*Book B, 308, N.H.]
It was at this residence that the Stamp Act patriots interviewed Tryon to his great indignation and humiliation. As in nearly every other instance of the places, there is nothing left of Russellboro but a few broken bricks.* [*The North Carolina Society of Colonial Dames have erected, with the foundation stones of the building, a memorial structure, and have placed on it a large marble tablet reciting the history of the place] It was a part of the Orton estate.
The first plantation above Brunswick, which from its first settlement to this day has been one of the largest and most beautiful estates on the Cape Fear River, is Orton. It was settled by "King" Roger Moore in 1725, and remained in his family for three generations, and then was bought by Richard Quince, a wealthy merchant, in whose family it remained for about thirty years, when Gen. (afterwards Governor) Benjamin Smith owned it. It was the southernmost rice plantation on the river.
Adjoining Orton on the north is Kendall, where Governor Smith's brother James lived. He was the father of R. Barnwell Smith, who, with his brother, took the name of Rhett and moved to South Carolina. Kendall was first granted to Col. Maurice Moore in 1725, conveyed by him to his brother Roger Moore in 1726, and sold by the latter's son George to John Davis, Jr., in 1765* [*Book E, 242] It was later owned by the McRee family. The first of this family in North Carolina was Samuel McRee, who settled in Bladen County about the year 1740, having come from Ireland. His son, Griffith John McRee, born in Bladen February 1, 1758, was an enthusiastic patriot at the beginning of the Revolution, and was commissioned on the 16th of April, 1776, captain in the 6th Regiment, Continental Line of North Carolina. He was at the battle of Fort Moultrie, and afterwards at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. Being transferred in March, 1779, to the 1st Regiment, Continental Line, he marched in the next fall to South Carolina, and was at the long siege of Charleston, where he was made prisoner. After his exchange he joined Greene's army and fought at Guilford Court House, Hobkirk's Hill, and Eutaw Springs. In the last named fight his conduct secured his promotion to the rank of Major and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel. After the Revolution, in 1785, he married Miss Fergus, of Wilmington, and lived at Lilliput, next adjoining to Kendall. General Washington appointed him Captain of Engineers and Artillery in 1794, and while in command at Fort Johnston he was appointed, in 1798, collector of the port of Wilmington. He was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati and was distinguished for his exceptional Christian character. Only five of his children reached maturity, but of these, three were men of marked ability, viz: Col. Wm. McRee, who graduated at West Point in 1805 with the first honors, distinguished himself in the War of 1812, was made Chief of Engineers U. S. Army in 1814, Lieutenant Colonel of Engineers in 1818, resigned 1819, and died in 1833. Also Col. Sam McRee, who graduated at West Point, reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Mexican War as General Taylor's Chief Quartermaster, and died in 1849; and Dr. James Fergus McRee, perhaps the most learned, scholarly and accomplished physician and scientist ever reared on the Cape Fear. He was distinguished for his attainments in natural science as well as in the different branches of his profession and in general literature, and was a correspondent of the Royal Society and a friend of the celebrated Lyell, who with his wife once visited Dr. McRee at his Rocky Point plantation. He was an upright gentleman and devoted Christian, who, after a life of nearly seventy-five years crowned with honors, died in 1869 at his home in Wilmington. He had two sons who sustained the intellectual reputation of the family, viz: Dr. James F. McRee, Jr., a prominent physician and surgeon in the Confederate army, and Griffith J. McRee, author of the "Life and Correspondence of James Iredell," Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
The plantation next north of Kendall was Lilliput, which was granted in 1725 to Eleazer Allen, an educated gentleman and native of Massachusetts, who had previously been a member of the Assembly in South Carolina, and a member of the Council there, and who came with the early settlers from there in 1734. He lived at Lilliput until his death in 1749, and, with his wife, [*A lady of culture, who had traveled in Europe, a daughter of Col. William Rhett, of South Carolina.] is buried on that place under two of the best preserved tombstones on the Cape Fear. The stone over his remains is inscribed "Chief Justice of North Carolina." He had also been a member of Council, Receiver-General, Judge of Oyer and Terminer, and Treasurer of New Hanover precinct. Lilliput was afterwards owned by the McRee family, as above stated.
Next above Lilliput was the plantation called Pleasant Oaks, granted to the widow of John Moore, (another brother of Maurice and Roger) in 1728, and from whom it is believed that the "Widow Moore's Creek," where the first victory of the Revolution (February 27, 1776) was won, took its name* [*She was, before marriage, Justina Smith, daughter of Landgrave Thomas Smith the second, and died in Philadelphia after a brief illness while on a visit to relatives in 1742. Her will is recorded in Philadelphia.]
OLD TOWN CREEK.
This list of the plantations brings us up to the mouth of Old Town Creek, on the western bank of the river, about eight miles below Wilmington, where the colony of Sir John Yeamans settled the first Charlestown in this country, in 1664-65.
Now, leaving the river and following up Old Town Creek, one of the plantations on the south side, was that of Nathaniel Rice, the remains of the fine residence there having been visible as late as the early youth of the late Hon. Geo. Davis, who said he had seen them.* [*"An Episode in Cape Fear History," in South Atlantic Magazine, January, 1879.] Nathaniel Rice was the son-in-law of Col. Martin Bladen, one of the Lords of Trade and Plantations, and was a prominent man in the Province, having been first the Secretary of the Province and later a member of the Council and acting Governor for a short period, just before Matthew Rowan, the next senior member of the Council, who succeeded him until the arrival of Governor Dobbs in 1754. The order in which the plantations up Old Town Creek came is not known, and we can only give the names of a few of them.
In a deed from Maurice Moore to John Baptista Ashe, dated December 5, 1727, in which Moore is described as "of Bath County," he conveys 640 acres on the north side of Old Town Creek, "about five miles above ye Old Town, commonly known by the name of Spring Garden," granted to said Moore, June 20, 1725. The name of this place was afterwards changed by some of Mr. Ashe's successors to Grovely, by which name it has been known for more than a hundred years past. It was given, by the will of Ann R. Quince, to her cousin, A. D. Moore, son of Maj. A. D. Moore, and for sixty years or more last past has belonged to the estate of the late Dr. John D. Bellamy.
Another plantation, on Old Town Creek, containing 2,500 acres, was owned by Chief Justice Hasell and was conveyed to James Murray, Trustee, in a marriage settlement between Hasell's son, James Hasell, Jr., and Sarah Wright, February 20, 1750, [Book D, 188, N. H.] and this place was called Belgrange.
Next to Belgrange was Hullfields, owned by Schencking Moore, son of Nathaniel Moore, and sold by him to John McKenzie.
Another place at the head of Old Town Creek, containing 750 acres, was sold by Eleazer Allen to John Davis, June 9, 1744.
Another place "on the north side of Old Town Creek, adjoining the land of the late John Baptista Ashe at Spring Garden," containing 550 acres, was sold by the executors of Joseph Watters to "John Dalrymple, Gent.,* [*Afterwards (in 1755) commander of Fort Johnston. His brother (?) Sir Wm. Dalrymple, married Miss Martha Watters, sister of Joseph Watters. Captain Dalrymple had trouble with Governor Dobbs, was removed from command of the fort, and was succeeded (1758) by Captain (afterwards general) James Moore.] - September 12, 1744 [*Book C, 32, N.H.]
Governor Dobbs owned a plantation on Old Town Creek, where he is supposed to have been buried, but its name and locality are unknown, and the same may be said of most of the plantations located there, of which there were a dozen or more. The best known of these proprietors, except Dobbs, was John Baptista Ashe, who was the father of Col. John Ashe of Stamp Act fame, and of Governor Samuel Ashe. He went from South Carolina to the Albemarle country, where in 1719 he married the daughter of Samuel Swann, and afterwards removed with his relatives, Porter, Moseley, Moore, and Islington, to the Cape Fear and took up his residence at Spring Garden in 1727, where he died in 1734.
Returning now to the mouth of Old Town Creek and proceeding north on the river, the first place is the site of the Old Town, which still retains its name of the Old Town plantation. In 1761 Judge Maurice Moore, son of Col. Maurice Moore, bought this plantation from his brother Gen. James Moore, and in 1768 sold it to John Ancrum, one of the early settlers and a prominent man, who was a leading merchant, chairman (after Harnett) of the Safety Committee, and one of its most active members from the start.
The place next north of Old Town was called Clarendon, and still retains the name. Who gave it the name we do not know, but it was owned by Mr. Campbell at an early period, and afterwards by Mr. Joseph Watters.
Next above Clarendon was the estate called the Forks, which was owned by Richard Eagles in 1736, and was afterwards bought by John Davis, Esq., and later by Mr. Joseph Eagles. Richard and Joseph Eagles were among the first settlers on the Cape Fear. Their descendants were prominent, but the family is now extinct. They came from Bristol, and it is a remarkable fact that this writer some years ago, being introduced to a Mr. Eagles living about 25 miles from Wilmington, upon inquiry discovered that he had come with the Northern army which captured Fort Fisher in 1865, had never heard of the Old Cape Fear family, was an Englishman, was from Bristol, and was named Richard!
The next place was Buchoi, owned by Judge Alfred Moore. The origin of this name puzzled the present writer because he knew that while there was a number of French names, then fashionable for estates, Judge Moore would not have written the name Buchoi (intending Beauchoix) but his puzzle was solved when he discovered several years ago, that one of the old Moore estates on Goose Creek, S. C, bore an Indian name which was spelled in the records there Boo-Chawee, the spelling in both cases being according to the sound, or, in modern phrase, phonetic.
Adjoining Buchoi was Belville, owned by Mr. John Waddell,* son of Gen. Hugh Waddell, who also owned three other plantations farther up the river. [*Mr. Waddell used to tell of an incident that happened not far from this plantation during Craig's occupation of Wilmington. He was a little boy eleven years old at the time, and was being carried by his guardian, Mr. John Burgwin, to Charleston to be sent to school in England, where his two elder brothers were. A sentinel halted the vehicle and demanded Mr. Burgwin's pass, which he received and solemnly inspected and returned, saying it was all right. After passing, Mr. Burgwin began to laugh heartily, and the little boy asked the reason, to which he replied that the sentinel held the pass upside down while pretending to read it. Mr. Waddell also related that when the ship that carried him to England was entering the Thames a great ship, called the Royal George, hailed, and asked, "what news from America," to which the answer was shouted : "A great victory for His Majesty's troops at Guilford Court House." Mr. Waddell married Sarah, daughter of Gen. Francis Nash. ']
Then came Belvidere, owned by Col. Wm. Dry, and later by Governor Ben Smith. This place is nearly opposite the City of Wilmington, but intervening is Eagles' Island, formed by the cut-off now called Brunswick River, but in the earliest period called the Northwest or main branch, which latter was then called the Thoroughfare.
This completes the list of places on the west side of the river from below Brunswick to the forks of the river at Wilmington, all of which except those on upper Old Town Creek, were rice plantations with large tracts of timber land adjoining them to the westward.
NEGRO HEAD POINT.
Between the forks of the river opposite Wilmington was the Negro Head Point plantation which at an early period belonged to Col. Peter Mallett, and from his time to the present has been called Point Peter. The name of this place has long been erroneously supposed to have been given to it from the fact that a negro's head was said to have been stuck up there at the time of the Nat Turner insurrection in 1831, but this is a mistake, for the point was called Negro Head Point in court records as early as the year 1764. How it originated is not known.
There is a similar error as to the name of the stream called Jumping Run, just below Wilmington, which has long been attributed to an alleged incident of the American Revolution, but that name also appears in court records more than ten years before the Revolution.
Now, beginning at Wilmington and going up the Northeast River, the first place was Hilton, owned by Cornelius Harnett, "the pride of the Cape Fear."
There has been much misinformation about this place. As early as June 3d, 1730, in a deed from John Gardner Squier* to John Maultsby for land on Smith's Creek, he described it as "adjoining Harnett's," showing that Cornelius Harnett, Senior, owned it at that time, for then the younger Harnett was only seven years old. [*A, B, 161. Squier got a grant for the Hilton tract November 5, 1728. It was conveyed by Wm. Moore to C. Harnett, Jr., (150 acres) May 3,1753 ; so that the elder Harnett must have sold or mortgaged it before his son bought it from Wm. Moore.] About that time the elder Harnett had a ferry at Maultsby's Point. The land was called Maynard by Harnett, and the name Hilton was not given to it until the widow of C. Harnett, Jr., conveyed it to John Hill and he sold it to his brother, Wm. H. Hill, who says in his will that he named it Hilton after his family, although in doing so he left out one L, and thus gave color to the tradition that it was named after the first explorer in 1663, Captain Hilton.
Adjoining the Hilton estate on the east and fronting on Smith's Creek (which was named for Chief Justice Smith, who owned land at the head of it) was Halton Lodge, owned by Col. Robert Halton, one of the founders of Wilmington. This place was between where the county road and the present track of the A.C.L. R.R. cross the creek, and contained 640 acres. It subsequently bore several names. [*D 488. It seems most probable that this was the " Poplar Grove " from which Harnett dated all his published letters. Poplar Grove was certainly not the same as Hilton (called Maynard by Harnett), for Harnett applied for permission for his "negro man Jack to carry a gun on his two plantations, Maynard and Poplar Grove."]
It was sold under execution by Arthur Benning, Sheriff, on the 14th October, 1765, to satisfy a debt to Caleb Grainger, administrator of Joshua Grainger, and was bought by Cornelius Harnett, Jr., for nine pounds proclamation money. It was stated in the Sheriff's deed that the property was in possession of "John Rutherford, surviving administrator of Robert Halton."
Of the history of Colonel Halton prior to the year 1730 we have no knowledge. In that year Burrington recommended him for a seat in the council, and he served both under him and under Governor Johnston. He was also Provost Marshal (changed by the Act of 1738, Ch. 3, to Sheriff) of Bath County. Probably on the suggestion of Burrington, who had located patents there, he removed to the Cape Fear about 1734, and was one of the original settlers at Wilmington, * [*Colonel Halton owned Eagles' Island, opposite Wilmington, and sold half of it to Roger Moore December 13, 1737.] He was an officer of the troops that left the Cape Fear on the expedition to Carthagena in 1740.
The plantation next north of Hilton has for a hundred years borne the name Sans Souci, which was probably given it by one of the Hill family, but the original owner was Caleb Grainger, Sr.
Caleb Grainger, Sr., was the son of Joshua Grainger, one of the founders (1733) of Wilmington, then called Newtown. He early took an active and prominent part in public affairs, being a member of the Assembly in 1746, and Sheriff of the county in 1749. In the numerous deeds recorded in the county from him he signs himself as planter, inn-holder, and esquire. He was Lieutenant Colonel of Innes's regiment on the expedition to Virginia in 1754, the other officers being Robt. Rowan, Major, and Thos. Arbuthnot, Edward Vail, Alex. Woodrow, Hugh Waddell, Thos. McManus, and Moses John DeRosset, Captains. Upon the reorganization of the regiment after Braddock's defeat (1755) he went on the expedition to New York (1756) as a Captain under Major Dobbs, son of the Governor, and for some years afterwards was prominent in civil life. He was a large landholder and was described by Governor Dobbs as a "gentleman of good fortune in the province." He was a prominent Mason, and having bought from George Moore the land on which Masonboro was settled, is believed to have given it that name, as the first deed in which the name is mentioned was made by his widow and executrix. He died in 1769 or 1770.
Then came Rock Hill, the residence of John Davis, Esq., who also owned the Mulberry plantation on the Northwest River, or main branch.
Then came Rose Hill, the residence of Mr. Quince, a member of one of the oldest families on the Cape Fear. They came from Ramsgate, England.
Next to Rose Hill was Rocky Run, the home of Maurice Jones, Esq., and later of his son-in-law, Dr. Nat. Hill, a distinguished physician and graduate of Edinburgh.
Near Rocky Run was Cedar Grove, owned by the DeRosset family, of the earlier generations of which we give the following biographical notes. The "Annals" of this family have been recently published in a beautiful volume. About 1735 there arrived in Wilmington from England a gentleman with his wife and two sons, whose name from that time to the present has been an honored one on the Cape Fear, Dr. Armand DeRosset. He was descended from three noble families of France and was a distinguished graduate of the University of Basle, Switzerland, from which he received his medical diploma in 1720; but being a Huguenot and son of an exile he neither assumed nor claimed any right to consideration on that account. He practiced his profession with modesty and diligence, and because of his charity and benevolence was beloved by the people among whom he had cast his fortune. He was recognized from the start as a leading and public-spirited man, and was assigned to positions of trust and honor in the community. He was a devoted member of the Church of England, and he and his sons exerted themselves to establish the parish and church of St. James, so much so as to be called the founders thereof.
His two sons, Louis Henry and Moses John DeRosset, inherited his virtues, and each attained distinction in the Colony. The elder one, Louis Henry, in 1751 represented Wilmington in the Assembly at New Bern, was Justice of the Peace, appointed by the Council, was a member of the Council under Governor Johnston in 1752, and continued in that position until the Revolution; was Commissioner to issue bills of credit, and Receiver General of quit rents in the Province, was Adjutant General on the staff of General Waddell in the Regulators War, and Lieutenant General under Tryon. He was a merchant and planter and accumulated what was in those days regarded as a large fortune. Being an intense loyalist, he did not, like his brother and nearly all his family connections and friends, take the American side when the Revolution began, but adhered to his convictions and followed Governor Josiah Martin, the last of the Royal Governors of the Province, when the latter was driven out of North Carolina.
In 1779 he "was banished by the Province on pain of death if he returned." "There is," says one of a later generation [Annals of the DeRosset Family," by Mrs. C. DeR. Meares.] of his family, "an element of tender pathos in the story of this good man's life. Exiled in early childhood from his native Province (in France) with loss of all worldly possessions, his later years saddened by war and strife and banishment, losing again home and kindred and fortune, his life was ever tempest-tossed. * * * Through all his life, so full of trial, trouble and temptation, his integrity was always his preeminent characteristic."
After the Revolution the French Government offered to restore to him the family titles and estates on condition that he would return to France, and to the Roman Catholic church, but the offer was refused, and he died in London February 22, 1786.
His younger brother, Moses John DeRosset, who succeeded his father as a doctor of medicine, soon became prominent, not only in his profession, but in military and civil life. When Col. James Innes, in 1754, took his regiment to Virginia to fight the French and Indians, DeRosset was commissioned as one of the captains of that regiment. Afterwards he held prominent offices, and in the troublous time of the Stamp Act was Mayor of Wilmington, and wrote a letter to Governor Tryon, containing the celebrated sentence "Moderation ceases to be a virtue when the liberty of the British subject is in danger." He wholly differed with his elder brother on the rights of the colonies, and if he had lived until the Revolution would have been prominent in it, but he died in 1767.
The next place was the Hermitage, owned by Mr. John Burgwin, a noted seat of generous hospitality: Mr. Burgwin was a leading merchant of Wilmington and for some time the Treasurer of the southern half of the Province before the Revolution. The Hermitage is still owned by one of his descendants, a resident of Pennsylvania.
Adjoining the Hermitage on the north was Castle Haynes, named for the owner, Capt. Roger Haynes, who married the daughter of Rev. Richard Marsden, who owned both these places. Captain Haynes's two daughters married Mr. Burgwin and Gen. Hugh Waddell, and General Waddell's wife's brother gave her Castle Haynes, where both she and the General were buried. [*Will of Mrs. Waddell, registered in Bladen County] He died before the Revolution in April 1773, and was the ranking officer of the Province, having been almost continuously in service in the French and Indian Wars for nearly twenty years, and dying in his 39th year. His biography was written by one of his descendants and was published in 1891.* [*"A Colonial Officer," etc., by A. M. Waddell.]
At a sharp bend of the Northeast River to the west of Castle Haynes was Point Pleasant, the residence of Col. James Innes, a distinguished colonial officer, who came to the Province of North Carolina prior to 1735, was captain in the expedition to Carthagena in 1740, Colonel in the expedition to Virginia in 1754, a member of the Council from 1750 to 1759, agent for Lord Carteret and Colonel of the New Hanover Militia. He died in 1759, "a good and true man, who died a childless benefactor of the children of his poorer fellow-citizens" [*"A Colonial Officer," etc., by A. M. Waddell.] by leaving the bulk of his estate for their education, the first known instance of this kind in the history of the State.
We have now reached the point where the Northeast River makes a bend to the eastward and where the lower end of the Rocky Point neighborhood near the mouth of Turkey Creek began on the opposite side; and the first place to mention was The Oak, the residence of Speaker Samuel Swann, a distinguished lawyer who, in conjunction with Edward Moseley, compiled the first Revisal of the Laws of the Province of North Carolina, (called the Yellow Jacket from the color of the binding) which was the first book printed in the Province. His residence was the finest on the Cape Fear. [*A gentleman who visited the ruins of this house more than fifty years ago, in a private letter to the writer of these pages, says : "It must have been one of the finest residences in America. * * * The stairs were mahogany. * * * The elegance one could trace in the ruins amazed me." There is nothing left of this mansion now except the broken fragments of its brick foundation. During the Revolution intrenchments for defense against the British were erected near it, and again in 1865 on the same ground, the Confederates, retreating from Wilmington, erected breastworks and delayed the enemy.]
He began life as a surveyor, and was one of the party appointed to run the dividing line between North Carolina and Virginia in 1729, being then 25 years old, and was the first white man that ever crossed the Dismal Swamp, a terrible undertaking from which he emerged to the great relief of his associates, who passed around it and were ready to give him up after waiting for him several days. He was a member of the Assembly for many years and became Speaker in 1742, and was most influential in shaping public affairs throughout his career. He had one son, Maj. Sam Swann, an officer in the Revolution, who was killed in a duel with Mr. Bradley at Wilmington some years after the close of that war (July 11, 1787).
Not far west of The Oak was Swann Point, the home of John Swann, called "Lawyer" John, which was also one of the finest residences on Rocky Point.
SPRING GARDEN, MT. GALLANT, PLEASANT HALL.
A short distance to the northwest of Swann Point was Spring Garden, the home of Frederic Jones, Esq., a prominent planter. Near it was Mt. Gallant, owned by Col. John Pugh Williams, who was Colonel of the 9th Regiment, Continental Line; and at a short distance from this place was Pleasant Hall, the residence of Wm. Davis, Esq., who also owned a place on Turkey Creek called Bloom Hill in 1809. [*A, 189].
Above the last two places and farthest west from the river was Hyrneham, owned by Capt. Edward Hyrne, which was convey to him by Col. Maurice Moore, October 10th, 1736 [*E, 230] as a gift (as Hyrne declared in his will)* [*D, 142]. and which Hyrne devised to his son, Henry Hyrne, who in turn by his will gave it to his nephew, Harry Hyrne Watters, a minor, who afterwards married the daughter of Wm. Hooper, the signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Col. Le Hansyus De Keyser, a Virginian by birth, but of French and Swiss ancestry, [*Letter from Robert Belden, his grandson, to Louis S. Belden, of Wilmington, kindly loaned to the writer.] who had been adjutant of the 1st Regiment, Continental Line of North Carolina, occupied Hyrneham as an inn after the Revolution, and tradition says that he there trained the fastest horse then in America, which belonged to a club of young men, sons of the neighboring planters. Colonel De Keyser left descendants who were among the most respectable people of the upper Cape Fear, one of whom was the mother of Hon. Warren Winslow, and others of the Belden and Gilliam families. Hyrneham was burned, like the Oaks and other places, but much later.
SPRINGFIELD, STRAWBERRY, AND THE VATS.
And now we reach the center of the Rocky Point settlement, the first three plantations on the south end of which-Springfield, Strawberry* [* Near Strawberry (or possibly the same tract] was The Mulberry, the residence of Thomas Hooper, younger brother of the signer, who was a merchant in Wilmington and Charleston, and a loyalist. There was also a plantation called Mulberry on the Northwest river, owned first by the Watters family.] and The Vats-having been embraced in the original grant to Col. Maurice Moore in 1725*. [* D, 278, called Rocky Point, from a point of rocks at the sharp bend of the river there.] This was the place, where Governor Burrington and Col. Maurice Moore met each other with their respective surveying parties, and came near engaging in personal combat over their respective claims to the land. Moore kept possession, and, according to tradition, told Burrington he would find as good land higher up at Stag Park, which he did. At the Vats is the ruined vault in which the body of Colonel Moore and those of his two sons, Judge Maurice and Gen. James Moore, and others of his family were entombed. The plantation was bought by Mr. Ezekiel Lane, whose son, Levin Lane, inherited it.
Next above the Vats came Clayton Hall, the residence of Francis Clayton, a prominent citizen, who, after being a Whig leader, became a loyalist. This place was bought from the executors of Clayton by Col. Sam Ashe, son of Governor Sam Ashe, and was one of the most interesting localities on Rocky Point. Colonel Ashe was universally beloved and revered as the last noble specimen of the ancient Cape Fear gentleman and soldier, having lived until 1836. He was the grandfather of Capt. S. A. Ashe, author of the latest (and best) history of North Carolina, issued in 1908. [*The advertisement of this estate for sale was published in the North Carolina Chronicle or Fayetteville Gazette of October 25, 1790, and it was described by the executors, Archibald Maclaine, Henry Urquhart, and Henry Toomer, as follows : " That well-known valuable plantation and parcel of land, called Rocky Point on the Northeast river, in New-Hanover county, containing, by original grants, 1920 acres, with a large brick house and other buildings-one hundred and ninety acres of this has been under crop this year, and is enclosed with new fence ; and there are several hundred acres clear, and fit for immediate cultivation. These lands are some of the best in the State, both for tillage and pasture."] Clayton also owned the plantation on the Sound previously owned by Cornelius Harnett, containing 800 acres.
Next above Clayton Hall was Green Hill, the home of General John Ashe, of Stamp Act and Revolutionary fame. His family graveyard is there, although he himself was buried under an oak on Col. Jno. Sampson's farm near the town of Clinton in Sampson County.
Next above Green Hill was Moseley Hall, owned by Col. Sampson Moseley, son of the distinguished Edward Moseley, whose career in the early history of North Carolina marks him as perhaps the most accomplished man of his era, as well as the ablest.
A short distance above these last named places was The Neck, the residence of Governor Sam Ashe, who with his family is buried there. His son, John Baptista Ashe, was also elected Governor, but died before taking his seat.
At some distance west of the last three places was Moorefields, the home of George Moore, a rich planter, who seems to have made a brave effort to rival old King Priam in the number of his offspring, having been the father of 28 children by his two wives. He left two other evidences of his industry in the form of an immense long ditch and embankment called to this day the Devil's Ditch, because, tradition says, the rapidity of the work was so astonishing-one story being that it was done in a night-that the Devil must have had a hand in it. The other was the construction of a perfectly straight road from Moorefields to his summer place on Masonboro Sound, a distance of about 15 miles, which he did with his own slaves. The road is still known as the "George Moore Road," and according to tradition his method of changing his residence from the one place to the other was to call up fifty or more negroes and, distributing his household effects for summer use among them, chairs, tables, bedsteads, etc., to start the procession afoot along this road, and thus make the change in one day, his family accompanying them on horseback.
The last and uppermost estate on the west side of Northeast River was Stag Park, a name given by the first explorers under Hilton and preserved to the present. This place was granted to Governor Burrington, or rather he located there an old "Blank Patent" issued in 1711, and which (it was alleged) he altered from 640 acres to 5,000 acres. He afterwards conveyed it to Mr. Strudwick, together with the Hawfields in Orange County.
In this neighborhood, but exactly where is not known, was Bowlands, a plantation owned by John Rutherford, for many years a prominent man in the Province. He also owned two other plantations, Stoney Creek and Bear Garden, [*County Court records, 1772.] in New Hanover, and lands in Bladen and Duplin Counties. John Rutherford was brought out to North Carolina by his cousin, James Murray, in 1741, when a very young man, and began life under his care. Murray provided a home for him in his own house in Wilmington, and put him to work in his store; where he learned to keep accounts and sell goods. He does not seem to have enjoyed any educational advantages prior to coming to America, but he was taught by his cousin, who was a fairly educated man, and it was not very long before he began to get the benefit of Murray's influence with Governor Johnston and others in authority, and to be advanced to official position. He was appointed Recorder of Quit Rents in 1750 and in 1756 was a member of the Council, but having displeased Governor Dobbs by not agreeing with that disputatious and obstinate old gentleman, was removed from the latter position in 1757, and again restored to it by the Crown in 1763. He owned lands in Bladen as well as in New Hanover, and in the latter county he established mills at his plantation, Stoney Creek, which were known first as Rutherford's mills and after-wards as Ashe's mills. At these mills, during Craig's occupation of Wilmington in 1781, the British erected a field work, the remains of which were plainly visible fifty years ago, and used the mills to grind the grain robbed from the neighboring fields. Rutherford married Governor Johnston's widow, Frances, and their ante-nuptial settlement, dated May 6, 1764, is on record.* [*Book F, p. 1.]
On the opposite side of the river, (the east side) and about four miles above the Vats, was Lillington Hall, the residence of Gen. Alexander Lillington, hero of the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, who with his command first arrived on the field, held the first line of battle, fought splendidly, and saw Caswell receive the chief honors. Lillington was a noble old patriot and soldier, who, after this first victory of the Revolution, February 27, 1776, rendered other valuable service, military and civil, to his country, and after the war dispensed a most generous hospitality at Lillington Hall. There were no valuable farm lands on that side of the river, at least in comparison with those on the west side, or Rocky Point proper, but below Lillington Hall Colonel Merrick owned a place, and there was another called Porter's Bluff, which was described in a deed made in 1751 as "the property of the late John Porter."
We have now given a complete list of all the old places on the Northeast River, and will now take up those on the Northwest or main branch, above Wilmington, and in all cases we confine ourselves, both as to names of the estates and of their owners, to the Colonial and Revolutionary periods. In a few instances these places remained for one or two generations in the hands of the descendants of the first owners, but there is not one now so owned, except the Hermitage. The houses on all were burned.
The first place above Wilmington on the Northwest River, situate about four miles distant, was originally called Gabourel's Bluff, being named for its owner, Captain Gabourel, where the English traveler from South Carolina in 1734 found the flourishing shipping point mentioned in the first chapter.
There was in the early days a ferry from there to Newton, as Wilmington was then called. This ferry was operated by James Campbell in 1736, and by Cornelius Harnett, Sr., in 1739, who qualified as Sheriff in that year, and the records of the County Court show that there was much rivalry in securing the ferry privileges and some annoyance to the Court over it. After Gabourel's time the place was called Maclaine's Bluff, it then being the property of Archibald Maclaine, the great lawyer. It is now the site of the Navassa Guano Company's works, and if the enemies of Maclaine, who so often felt the fierceness of his invective, were now alive they would probably regard it as appropriate that his body should lie, as it does, under the acid chamber of that factory. [*"He was of sanguine temperament and irritable passions. The slightest spark sufficed to kindle into flame his combustible nature. The explosions of his wrath were sudden and terrific, and his fiery denunciations and heated satire seethed and scorched as burning lava."-McRee's "Iredell," Vol. I, 370. Maclaine married Elizabeth Rowan, daughter of Jerome Rowan by his wife Elizabeth, who afterwards married Matthew Rowan.]
There were several plantations in close proximity above the Bluff, the first of which was Cobham, owned by Dr. Thos. Cobham, a leading physician at an early period. He and Dr. Haslin (who married Governor Nash's daughter) were the surgeons of Tryon's army at Alamance in 1771.
The next place was Prospect, the original owner of which is not known, but was probably one of the Moore family. In the early part of the last century it was owned by Maj. John Walker, nephew of Maj. "Jack" Walker, of the Revolution.
Next to Prospect was Schawfields, owned by Robert Schaw, partner in the leading mercantile firm of Ancrum, Brice, and Schaw, which firm was established some years before the Revolution, and did a very large business until about 1780. In Tryon's expedition in 1771 Schaw was Colonel of Artillery under General Waddell.
The next place was Mulberry, which, in his will, [*C, 323-Wills] made in 1751 Wm. Watters said was left to him by his father. In 1788 it was the property of John Davis, as appears by his will of that date*, [*C, 80-Wills.] and later it belonged to the Hall family.
There was another Mulberry on the Northeast River in the Rocky Point settlement, owned by Thos. Hooper, brother of Wm. Hooper.
Next came Dallison, which, as we learn from a recital in a deed from Maurice Moore, was "the property of Col. John Dallison, deceased." Of Colonel Dallison we know nothing.
AUBURN AND MAGNOLIA.
The next two places were Auburn and Magnolia, which belonged to the Watters and Hall families.
Then came a place located between Hood's Creek and the river, that has an interesting history and still bears the name given to it by its first purchaser-Point Repose. It was bought in 1735 and settled in 1739 by James Murray, a young Scotchman of an excellent family, who came as a merchant and trader first to Charleston, S. C, and then to Brunswick. Very soon after his arrival here he bought Point Repose and a lot in Wilmington, situated about where the present Orton Hotel stands. He was in a little while afterwards made clerk of the Crown and Secretary of the Council, and was for many years afterwards a member of the Council and an especial favorite of Governor Johnston. He was a man of high character, apparently, but was, as the editors of his letters say, [*Letters of James Murray, Loyalist, 65.] "although public spirited, never a true American," having been, from his arrival in the Province until he left it and removed to Boston in 1765, an unwavering Loyalist. His property was all confiscated and sold by commissioners appointed for the purpose in 1783*, [*Petition of Thomas Clark, John Innis Clark, and Anne Hooper, wife of Wm. Hooper, asking appointment of commissioners (Martin's Priv. Stat., 103 ). Report of com. (same, 113). The commissioners were Sam. Ashe, Alfred Moore, Thomas Craike, John Lillington, Caleb Grainger, John Moore, and James Gillespie.] and the deed is recorded in New Hanover County. It was all bought by his nephew, Gen. Thomas Clark, a gallant Revolutionary officer, who was his largest creditor, and General Clark took up his residence at Point Repose.
There is something pathetic in Murray's case, as in all others of like kind. His adherence to King and Parliament was not dictated by the sordid and vindictive spirit that animated those who sought to make it the means of self-advancement and the gratification of personal revenge, but was inspired by a sincere conviction of the righteousness of such a course and of an honest belief that rebellion would be equally as disastrous to the colonies as to the Crown, and therefore although he erred in judgment to his own financial ruin, his motives were honorable and worthy of respect. He took no part in the Revolution, but merely got out of the trouble and sought a peaceful home elsewhere. No intelligent and fair-minded person now denounces indiscriminately those who were Tories in the Revolution. Some of them, like David Fanning and his followers in North Carolina, and "bloody Cunningham" and his crew in South Carolina, were lawless murderers and robbers, who wreaked their vengeance on their Whig neighbors and their families, and were inspired by no reverence or affection for royalty or the British Constitution; but there were others who were gentlemen of high character who venerated both, and were honestly afraid of popular government, and they acted according to their conscientious convictions of duty.
Gen. Thomas Clark's father, Thos. Clark, Sr., married James Murray's sister Barbara in 1737, and in 1741 was made Sheriff of New Hanover County for two years, and was also appointed Collector of the Port of Wilmington, in place of Samuel Woodward, deceased, by Dinwiddie, Surveyor General of the colonies. He died in 1748 or 1749.
His son, Gen. Thos. Clark, was born about the middle of August, 1741, in Wilmington. He was sent to England and there learned the watchmaker's trade, which, on his return, he practiced for a time in Boston, but abandoned it in 1767 and came back to the Cape Fear to take charge of his uncle James Murray's estate, of which his elder brother James had previously been manager. He seems to have been a favorite of his uncle because of his unusual intellectual capacity.
When the Revolution began Clark was appointed Major of the 1st Regiment, Continental Line, and afterwards was promoted Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel, succeeding Gen. Francis Nash in the last two positions, and was later, by resolution of the Continental Congress, September, 1783, brevetted Brigadier General. He was a gallant officer throughout the war, particularly distinguishing himself in the repulse of the attack on Sullivan's Island by the British in 1776; and yet, perhaps, no other officer of equal rank and valuable services has occupied so small a space in the pages of our history. There does not seem to have been any design in this neglect to do him honor, but he has been strangely overlooked. General Nash, having been killed at the battle of Germantown, Pa., October 4, 1777, Clark, his associate and successor in rank, married his widow in 1782, and they lived at Point Repose, where both died and were buried. [*Tradition says Mrs. Clark's body was afterwards removed, although the stone over the grave remained on the ground, They left no issue.]
In a letter written from Point Repose under date of 31st December, 1787, by Wm. Hooper (Clark's brother-in-law) to Judge Iredell, he says* [*McRee's " Iredell," II, 184.]: "Immediately upon my arrival at Wilmington it was announced to me that my son William at midnight had left his uncle George Hooper's house to visit General Clark, who had been attacked with a violent disorder in his head, which had utterly deprived him of his senses and left him (stone blind) to the care or inattention of nearly 40 slaves, without a white person on his plantation to attend to his distresses. *** I found the General ill indeed. He consented that I should send for his sister, proof positive that he thought himself near his dissolution. Mr. Clark is in a recovering state of health, his sight is, however, very bad, and I suppose will never be better. Mrs. Hooper and I are here, she waiting his consent to return, I preparing to leave this, tomorrow or next day."
And again on March 1st, Mr. Hooper, [*The same, 158.] writing from Hillsborough to Judge Iredell, says: "I have just now returned from the most painful visit that I ever paid in my life. Your old friend General Clark is struck with blindness. He went to bed in perfect good health; rose after the accustomed hour; opened his window shutters; the yard of the house appeared to be in an undulating motion, black and yellow spots floating upon the surface of the earth; the floor of his chamber covered with dry brush, which he atempted to kick away; complained to his servants that the day was dark and cloudy, who informed him that the sun shone with remarkable brightness; bound up his eyes, and the next morning awakened stone blind. My hand was in his without his knowing me, my voice helped him to the discovery. His firmness is beyond all description. Thus he tells me, he reasoned when he was first attacked: 'Shall I blow my brains out? It will be pusillanimity. I can do it. But to dare to be blind for life will be an effort that will discover real resolution.' Not a single complaint or repining. He is now on his plantation without a single white person. It is a school to which I would recommend youth to learn philosophy and to bear misfortune. I always loved the man, I reverence him blind, he is something more than man."
Hooper's estimate of Clark was corroborated by Judge Iredell, who, in a letter to his wife August 29, 1781, speaking of him, says: "His conduct, perseverance and losses as an officer must highly endear him to every friend of American liberty and virtue"; and again says: "His worth is so great everybody ought to be eager to testify their sense of it."
Such tributes from such sources are not only remarkable but establish for General Clark a high claim to the veneration of his countrymen for all time.
It was at Point Repose, as already stated, that Gen. Robert Howe died while on his way to attend the session of the Legislature at Fayetteville in November, 1786. Both of these heroes and patriots sleep in unknown and unmarked graves- Howe being buried a few miles from Point Repose on Grange farm, named for his wife's family, without a stone to mark the spot, and Clark's grave hidden by a tangled mass of vines and shrubbery-and the name of the historic home where both died has been corrupted by the river men and others who never heard of either of them, from Point Repose into Piney Poles!
And just here the sad reflection forces itself upon us that within a radius of twenty miles from Wilmington lie the remains of at least a dozen men, who were worthy of perpetual remembrance for their splendid services to the cause of patriotism, liberty and humanity, and yet their deeds, their homes, and their last resting places are unknown to more than perhaps one per cent of the present population. It is the same old, sad story. Although a part of a comedy, one of the most pathetic utterances that ever fell from human lips was the sentence as rendered by Joseph Jefferson in the play of Rip Van Winkle: "How soon we are forgotten when we are gone." It was the exclamation of a common vagabond returning twenty years after his supposed death to his native village, and finding there no remembrance of himself. Even he felt the force of the thought and was humiliated by it.
Farther up the river in Bladen County was Oakland, owned by Gen. Thos. Brown, a Colonial and Revolutionary officer of distinction, and commander of a division of North Carolina troops at Norfolk in the War of 1812. He married first, Sarah Bartram, niece of the distinguished botanist, Wm. Bartram, and second, Miss Bradley, of Wilmington. General Brown also owned a place called Ashwood, where he lived.
Belfont the* residence of Gen. Hugh Waddell, which he made his home, although he owned several, and is buried at Castle Haynes on the Northeast River, in New Hanover County. , [*On this plantation the body of Lieutenant-Colonel Webster, Cornwallis's favorite officer who was mortally wounded at Guilford Court House, was buried.]
Owen Hill, the home of Col. Thomas Owen, a hero of the battle of Camden and father of Governor John Owen, (who succeeded him as the owner) and of Gen. James Owen. Colonel Owen married Eleanor Porterfield, sister of Major Porterfield, killed at Camden. Governor John Owen married Gen. Thos. Brown's daughter Elizabeth.
Col. James Morehead, another hero of the Revolution and a leader in the assault and capture of Elizabethtown, owned a place called Laurens near that town. He was "a tall, thin man," married the widow of John Owen, brother of Col. Thos. Owen, and left two daughters, one of whom married Hinton James, the first student at the University of North Carolina, and the other, Isaac Wright. Colonel Morehead died November 11th, 1807, and was buried at Owen Hill.
Brompton was owned by Governor Gabriel Johnston, whose brother, Gilbert Johnston, lived there, and to whose two sons the Governor devised it. It was at Brompton that Gen. Francis Marion, Huger, the Horrys and others met to reorganize Marion's men, a large proportion of whom were North Carolinians from Bladen and Brunswick counties. It would seem, from a letter written by James Murray, that Governor Johnston intended to make Brompton his home, but, if so, he changed his intention.
This list of places in Bladen does not include all that were owned by prominent men there, but only some of those nearest the river. Col. Thos. Robeson, a gallant soldier for whom Robeson County was named, owned large estates there, his residence being called Walnut Grove, and was always a leader of the people. He married Mary Bartram, sister of General Brown's wife. [*For further items about Colonel Robeson, see note Chapter V.]
On the east side of the river, below Wilmington, and between the river and the sound, there were only a few estates, as the land, except on one or two small creeks, was not suitable for profitable cultivation. Rev. Christopher Bevis, referred to in the first chapter as one of the early ministers of St. Philip's church at Brunswick, owned a place two or three miles below Wilmington on the east side of the river, which by his will, made in 1750, he devised to the church wardens for the benefit of that church; and Dr. Samuel Green owned Greenfields, about a mile below Wilmington, which still retains its name. There were also one or two places on Barnum's Creek, lower down, the early names of which, if they had any, are unknown.
Now, beginning on the east, or sound side of the lower river, there was a place nearly opposite Brunswick called Sedgely Abbey, of some pretensions to unusual elegance of structure and equipment, according to tradition, but there is no record by which the tradition may be corroborated. That there was a place so named is certain, and that its owner's name was John Guerard is equally so. He is buried at Brunswick, and the inscription on his tomb says he died April 25, 1789, and had been "for many years an inhabitant of Cape Fear." His widow married Peter Maxwell, who came from Glasgow, and died at Wilmington, September 23, 1812, she having died two years previously.
Thus the tradition that the place belonged to "an Englishman named Maxwell" who lived in great state, had a private race track on it, and so forth, is accounted for. It was not a plantation, as the land there is all a sandy plain, thinly covered by pines and scrub oaks, but was doubtless a summer residence, where the sea breeze made life comfortable. A large number of the planters on the west side of the river made their summer homes on the sound, and among them James Hasell, Chief Justice, who owned Belgrange on Town Creek.
Judge Hasell's place was next north of Sedgely Abbey. These places were just above the present summer resort called Carolina Beach, the head of the sound, and opposite the inlet then called Cabbage Inlet. James Hasell was a very prominent man for forty years, having been first a Justice of the inferior court and afterwards Chief Justice of the Colony, member of the Council, President of the Council and acting Governor of the Province. When the Revolution broke out he remained a loyalist, but kept quiet, and continued to live at his home until his death in 1786. His estate was confiscated, but afterwards restored to his family by an Act of 1802.
Next above Hasell's was Prospect Hall, owned by Maj. "Jack" Walker, who was one of the remarkable characters of the Cape Fear, but in a different way from others. He was an Englishman, born December 10, 1741, at Wooler, county of Northumberland, of a family of land-holding farmers, one of whom was steward of the estates of the Duke of Northumberland, and came to North Carolina in early manhood (1761). He was a man of powerful frame and tireless energy, and in a comparatively short time accumulated a large fortune. He early took an active part in the troubles preceding the Revolution and was a Captain in Tryon's expedition against the Regulators in 1771. At the beginning of the Revolution he was appointed Captain in the 1st Regiment, Continental Line, September 1, 1775,* [*He raised and equipped his company from his own private means.] brevetted Major at the battle of Brandywine, April 25, 1777, and was an aide with rank of Lieutenant-Colonel on Washington's staff. He was afterwards Colonel of New Hanover County, where he reorganized the militia at Washington's request, and so continued to the end of the war.
He cherished an intense hostility to the Tories after the war, which caused much feeling between him and those who, like Hooper and Maclaine, favored a more forgiving spirit toward them. In the gift of vituperation he excelled, and if he and Maclaine ever "locked horns" in that way the atmosphere must have been very blue while the contest continued. He was uncultured and unrefined, and a great fighter, but good natured and a great practical joker, who never seriously injured an antagonist, although a tradition (preserved in McRee's "Iredell") says that when greatly angered the revenge in which he took the greatest delight was to pull one of the teeth of his prostrate antagonist, forceps for which purpose he generally carried in his pocket, and regarded it as a good joke. And McRee also gives the following anecdote about him, viz: that a mad bull on one occasion rushed through the streets to the great terror of the people, and as he tore by, Maj. Walker seized him by the horns, threw himself on his back, and to the great horror and astonishment of the people rode him around several squares.
Major Walker, being a bachelor, brought over from England two of his nephews, Carlton Walker in 1797, and John Walker, his namesake, in 1803. Both of these gentlemen served with the rank of major in the war of 1812, the former on the staff of General Gaines, and both had plantations on Rocky Point. Upon his death at Wilmington in 1813, Major Walker left his large estate to his namesake, Maj. John Walker, and it is an interesting fact in this connection that the latter, who went several times to Europe, was within less than fifty miles of Waterloo when that famous battle occurred.
Maj. John Walker, Jr., married the daughter of Col. Thos. Davis, of Fayetteville, and died in 1862, leaving a large family. Maj. Carlton Walker married three times, but had children only by his third wife, who was the daughter of Col. Peter Mallett. He died at Hillsborough in 1839.
Above Hasell's place on the creek then called Purviance's Creek, and in recent times by the intoxicating name of Whiskey Creek, lived Col. William Purviance, an active patriot and member of the Safety Committee, and a useful officer of the militia, who rendered valuable service during the Revolution, as appears by his letter, hereinafter published.
Then came the settlement called Masonboro, which still bears that name, in which, among others, the following distinguished characters had summer residences, viz: Hooper, Harnett, Lillington, and Maclaine.
Mr. Hooper named his place Finian, and there he dispensed a delightful hospitality. Judge Iredell described in a letter* [*McRee's Life and Correspondence of James Iredell, I, 393] the reception he met with at that place from Mrs. Hooper during the absence of her husband, whom he expected to meet there, which is a charming picture of the hospitality characteristic of the people of that day, and a fine tribute to the remarkable gifts of that lady, who was the sister of Gen. Thos. Clark. [*In regard to the social life and hospitality of the people of the Cape Fear in the early days, the following quotation from a work published some years ago presents a truthful picture: *
"It was a life given to hospitality, and, though marked by some features which appear rude and unattractive to modern eyes, was characterized by others which might be imitated with profit by the present generation. The respect for authority, the deference paid to age, to parents, and to women, and the sense of personal honor among men which prevailed, would be regarded as quite fantastic in this age of superior enlightenment; but they are, after all, the truest signs of real civilization, and the safest guarantees of good government."
And again, speaking of the social life of the people, is this passage:
"Some of them had town residences, but most of them lived on their plantations, and they were not the thriftless characters that by some means it became fashionable to assume that all southern planters were. There was much gayety and festivity among them, and some of them rode hard to hounds, but as a general rule they looked after their estates and kept themselves as well informed in regard to what was going on in the world as the limited means of communication allowed. There was little display, but in almost every house could be found valuable plate, and in some excellent libraries." [A Colonial Officer and His Times, 188.]
It is unnecessary at this late day to pay a tribute to Wm. Hooper, and we will not attempt it.
It is equally needless to discuss Cornelius Harnett, with whose name and fame every school child in North Carolina is familiar.
Of Archibald Maclaine, Attorney-General, member of the Safety Committee in 1776, of the Congress at Hillsboro in 1775, and of the Convention there in 1778, we have spoken elsewhere, and the services of General Lillington have also been briefly referred to.
To the northward of Masonboro and across Deep Inlet Creek, as it was called, there were fewer residents but larger tracts. The creek took its name from the inlet opposite to its mouth, but when that inlet was closed by the restless sea the creek was called McKenzie's, and for many years past, Hewlett's Creek. On the north side of it, on a tract patented in 1737, lived Wm. Nichols, whose descendants lived there for nearly a century, and near the mouth of that creek was the summer residence of George Moore, of Moorefields, heretofore spoken of as both the Priam and the road-builder of his age.
Next north of this place and extending to Lee's Creek, now called Bradley's Creek, the land was owned by Martin Holt, the maternal grandfather of Harnett and father of Obadiah Holt, Sheriff of the County. After Martin Holt's death both Harnett and Obadiah Holt moved from Brunswick to Wilmington and the sound.
North and east of Lee's Creek and embracing the front of what is now Wrightsville, the land was owned by Governor Gabriel Johnston, to whom it was conveyed by Thos. Clark, the father of General Clark, in 1738, as part of the Ogden patent; and beyond Wrightsville to the northward Job Howe owned a place which he called Howe's Point, after the old Howe place below Brunswick. Beyond this was the residence of Mr. Bridgen, whose sister was the second wife of the first Dr. Armand DeRosset (1751), and this place bore four different names at different times, according to a deed recorded, being called Royal Oak Point, Bridgen's Pastime, Bridgen's Hall, and Ludlow Hall. [*D, p. 490.]
Beyond the Bridgen place, up the coast, the next place of which we have any knowledge was Porter's Neck, the property of John Porter, the third of that name. It was afterwards owned by Dr. Corbin, Governor Sam Ashe, and others, the original tract having been divided into two or three.* [* The last owner, prior to 1861, of Porter's Neck was N. N. Nixon, Esq., whose peanut crop for 1860 netted him over twenty thousand dollars.]
There were other places beyond that up to Sloop Point, of which we have no early history, except that the latter was owned by Mr. Whitfield about the time of the Revolution, and has been owned by his descendants, the McMillans, ever since.
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