Excursion to Smithville – 1877
A small group of Fayettevillians boarded the Governor Worth for a round trip to the beaches and forts near the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
FOR THE GAZETTE.
EXCURSION TO SMITHVILLE.
MESSRS. EDITORS:– It is to be regretted that more of the citizens of Fayetteville and surrounding country did not avail themselves of the opportunity offered them last Thursday of taking a trip to Smithville and the Forts on the Cape Fear river. These little excursions cost but a small amount of money, and are extremely pleasant this hot August weather. As I hear there will probably be another such excursion shortly, I have concluded to write a short account of the Odd Fellows’ excursion, in hopes that others may be induced to take advantage of the next opportunity offered them. A short notice only having been given, some 25 or 30 of our citizens embarked on the fine steamer Gov. Worth, commanded by that genial gentleman and clever host, Capt. A. H. Worth, on last Thursday morning, for a trip to the Forts. Shortly after 8 o’clock the whistle blew, the gang planks were taken in, the wheels began to turn and we thought we were off, but alas for our expectations; we had not gone more than 100 yards when bump, and our boat was on the ground. Here we pulled first one way and then another for some time, and finally we “got off” fairly on our way. The water being very low, we went along very slowly, for the first thirty miles the rain pouring in torrents, preventing us from gaining any accessions to our crowd. We expected at Elizabethtown to get quite a number, but as before remarked it was raining, raining, and no one put in an appearance. A trip down the river, as you know, Messrs. Editors, is monotonous, but with pleasant companions you can always make the time pass rapidly. Your time, too, can be occupied watching the various turns of this beautiful river, with its willow and ash, elms and tall sycamores casting long, varying shadows into the water as the mighty stream glides on to meet the waving billow. It is curious, too, to watch with what dexterity the jolly boat hands handle the barrels down the long slide, or roll them up the steep banks. There are no persons who seem to enjoy live more or take more pleasure in their work than these hands on the Cape Fear. With frequent stoppage to put out the mails, we proceed very slowly, and night caught us a long way from Wilmington. What took place then your correspondent knows not. He heard next morning that the boat ran into the bank during the night and broke her rudder chain, but this is only hearsay, as he was too much engaged to know what was going on then, and knew nothing more till the “music from the entire band” aroused him as we reached the “city by the sea.”
Here we found quite a number of persons, including many ladies, waiting for our arrival. After some delay the boat steamed to the foot of Market street, took on our passengers and started on the most pleasant part of our journey. As we pushed out into the river the band gave us some of its finest music, which was echoed back by the shout from the shore. And then commenced our pleasure. The lower deck was cleaned and swept, and you heard above the noise and splash of the water the cry “partners for the first set!” The younger portion of the crowd commenced in earnest to “trip the light fantastic toe.” Ahead of us was spread the majestic river, now widened and deepened by the action of the tide, and sparkling like a sea of glass. The wheels of our gallant bark were beating time to the music of the waves, and gay young men and beautiful women were whirling in the mazes of the dance. But your correspondent desired to look upon some of the scenes enjoyed (?) by him in other years, and repaired to the hurricane deck to get a better view. On the right as you passed along frowned Battery Anderson, its mound once covered with bristling bayonets and sullen looking guns, now overgrown with bush and brier. On the left, high above the other shore was Sugar Loaf hill whereon he stood, and intently watched long ago the desperate attack on “Anderson” opposite, when the iron-clad monitor ran up to the walls of the fort and poured her deadly missiles into it, and the shot from the fort had no effect on her, but struck and rebounded as if they had been made of rubber. On the left, a little farther on, was the famous “Fisher,” now dismantled and overgrown. After we passed the “mound,” we ran along to the opening of New Inlet, where the government boats are at work filling up the inlet with rock. Here our boat rolled and tossed about, and your correspondent thought it the better part of prudence to get down to where the boat was steadier, so he left that deck; when he reached the lower deck he found that the dancers, too, had stopped, probably concluding that they could not worship Terpsichore and bow to old Neptune at the same time. There you could see more than one of our party looking pale and haggard, and I was particularly struck with one who had taken the wood-pile, he said, to rest. After we passed the inlet and the water became smooth, dancing was commenced and continued till Smithville was sighted on our right.
Here the Revenue Cutter Colfax lying in the stream gave us a salute, which we returned, and as our boys “wanted to get to the surf” we stopped only a short time, and then started for Caswell, which we reached in a short space. The tide was running out and the boat could not get near the shore, but our gallant captain was equal to the emergency. He placed benches in the shallow water with boards on them from the boat to the bank, and soon we were getting off in single file – one or two falling in – not being too steady.
Here the party divided, some walking on the beach and others in the fort – some gathering shells and sea-weed, while others were bathing in the surf. In the latter could be found most of the “up countrys.” Caswell was a strong fort, but is now dismantled and mouldering away. The guns used by us are still there and regularly pointed, but the carriages are falling to decay; and herds of goats now roam where not long since the tread of soldiery was heard and the warlike men were waiting for the fray. What a sad looking thing a dismantled fort is! Years of work and toil and thousands of dollars thrown away!
After enjoying the beach for an hour or so the whistle sounded for our return. On our way back we stopped at Smithville for a short time and walked about that old town. It must be a pleasant place to spend a summer in, with its grassy streets and beautiful oaks. It is a great mistake to suppose (as some do) that is a hot, sandy place. Such is not the fact; it looks cool and shady and quiet. While here an oar boat from the Colfax came over and took the band, our Mayor and some others to it, the band playing that sweet tune “Annie Laurie” as it was rapidly borne towards the cutter. Over there they were feasted by the officers, and found our Congressman, Hon. A. M. Waddell, rusticating for a few days.
But pleasure cannot last always, and the shrill whistle of the Worth called them back. “All aboard!” was sounded, and we started back for Wilmington. Up the river now we are steaming; dancing again commences, and gaiety is kept up as we pass back by Fisher, by Sugar Loaf, by Battery Anderson, to the city. Here we leave the largest part of our crowd, and at half-past ten start for home again. The party were tired – most of us desired to sleep – but the young ones would not permit it; what with singing, playing, dancing and noise-making generally, little sleep was had that night. But next day we took things quietly, and in good time reached home, all having enjoyed the trip and wishing to go again. The only regret was that the excursion was not patronized as it ought to have been, it having been gotten up for the benefit of a benevolent order in our midst.
[North Carolina Gazette – August 9, 1877]
The Cape Fear River Steamers