Andy & Nan Marie Down the Cape Fear

10 Apr

In early 1879, two young Georgians, Andy and Nan Marie, were visiting relatives in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  After a visit of several months, the two traveled upon the steamer Governor Worth on a visit to Wilmington, a precursor to their final departure and return to Georgia about a month later.  The inquisitive Andy writes of their first journey down the river and Nan Marie waxes philosophical about their trip upon the D. Murchison.  I do not know who these young people were, only their first names.

Advertisement for Steamers Wave and D. Murchison - Wilmington Morning Star July 4, 1878

Advertisement for Steamers Wave and D. Murchison – Wilmington Morning Star July 4, 1878


Down the Cape Fear – Early Rising – A
Morning Ride – A Merry Party on
the River, &c.


MR. EDITOR: — When I think how often ye poor defenceless {misspelled} editors are overwhelmed by countless dozens of just such scrawl as the one I am about to inflict upon you, I must confess that I feel some compunction in regard to the matter.

Charles Lamb says: “Epistolary matter usually comprises three topics: news, sentiment, and puns.“ Don’t, I pray you, look for either here.

No, I only wish to tell you of our trip down the river to Wilmington a few mornings ago. Monday, Feb. 24th, found us up, not exactly at “six o’clock in the morning,“ but just at two-quarters past. After an early breakfast we set off on our ride of three miles to the river. The fresh, crisp morning air blew into our faces, putting more roses into the cheeks of the fairer portion of our party than they had known in many weeks before. We were a merry crowd, I assure you! How we laughed and chatted! How the jokes went round! How we all enjoyed them – all except one of our cousins, who would – very naughty of him, I’m quite sure – persist in keeping up the reputation he had somehow acquired of late of being “immensely sober and dignified.“ We bowled along at a rapid pace. “Those dreadful (?) girls“ had been so long getting ready we hadn’t more than time to catch the boat. Just at the foot of the hill, within half a mile of the market-house, one of the traces snapped. Such a time as we had fixing that trace, only to go a dozen yards and then break down again! Such was the pressure upon the good nature of our sober cousin that I’m very much afraid he regretted his inability to say a naught word then. The last time that trace broke was just opposite harness store. A new one was soon secured – no a new harness store, but a new trace – and in ten minutes more we were bowling along all right. We caught the boat – not just in the “nick of time“ – but fully an hour and a half before she left the wharf! Now don’t think all the clocks in the house had run down, and all our watches had gone on a John Gilpin gallop. No, the boat had been under repair, and could not get off at the usual hour. We went on board, and for the first time I had an introduction to that clever, genial gentleman, Capt. Albert Worth. He is a prince of steamboat captains, and deservedly one of the most popular, if not the most popular on the river. He manages his boat with the skill and dexterity a finished young lady displays in the management of the ample folds of her voluminous train. There! is not that a comparison for you?

At nine o’clock and twenty ### minutes there was the warning whistle, and those of our party who had only come to say “good-bye“ hurried ashore. Two minutes later the steamer Governor Worth, with “pennons gaily flying“ – there, what am I saying? – the colors were not up. I forgot – well, the Governor Worth steamed away from the wharf. We stood on deck, gaily waving our handkerchiefs to friends on shore, just as long as the white cloth (there’s another mistake! Mine had a blue border) was visible; then turned to watch the retreating roofs and spires of Fayetteville till a bend in the river shut them from view. Then Mr. McR. Our gallant and gentlemanly escort, brought chairs, and, seated on the upper deck, in full view of the “sounding waves“ – no, the murmuring waves; which is right, anyhow? – O, I have it now, the “ripple of the translucent water“ – bad again, the Cape Fear is too muddy! I’ll begin again: Seated on the upper deck in plain view not of the “banks and braes“ of “
Bonnie Doon,“ but of “bonnie Cumberland,“ as they flitted by, we prepared to discuss “Mrs. Battle on Whist.“ She was a sensible old lady, don’t you think? But the book did not occupy us long. We preferred to use our eyes in another direction just then. It was the loveliest of days, not a cloud in the sky, and the blue of the most beautiful and vivid coloring. The Cape Fear is truly a winding stream. The trip down the river must be delightful in summer. Even at this season it is quite enjoyable. There seems to be such dense foliage along the banks, such a mingling, like Joseph’s coat, of “many colors.“ Even now the trees are beginning to bud, while the cane and smaller undergrowth are displaying a generous leafing of vivid green. Five or six miles down the river the boat stopped at its first landing to take on some barrels of tar and ###n, ###rawsen,“ as Mr. Mc R. cautioned me I must pronounce it here in Wilmington. Now I must confess, as I had never seen the modus operandi before. I was all agog with curiosity to take in every detail. The steamer “rounded“ in handsome style, and lay alongside. Where in the world was the landing? Nothing but a steep bank full thirty-five or forty feet, all on a “down grade,“ and on the summit those “rawsen“ barrels, all in “grim array,“ waiting to be taken on board. Now how was it going to be done? I couldn’t understand it. A brilliant idea struck me; I would appeal to the Captain. “Now, Captain Worth,“ I said, “if you please to explain how you are going to get those rawsen barrels aboard, I shall be much obliged. You certainly are not going to tumble them down that steep bank. Why, they will either burst open or tumble into the river. And certainly the men are not going to tote ( that is a very expressive word of ours out in Georgia ) them down on their shoulders. Why, it will take them a month of Sundays, and we won’t get into Wilmington in time to attend the next 4th of July celebration!“ [These last are what our dear old sober-sided cousin would call “exaggerations of speech.“]

A "rawsin" barrell, perhaps.

A “rawsin” barrell, perhaps.

The Captain didn’t reply to these eager questions; he only pointed to the bank, and said, “Look yonder!“ What did we see? Why, those self-same barrels, all in one nice, precise, exact row, one behind the other, like soldiers in a rank, like ducks in a file, coming gently yet swiftly “down grade,“ closely packed together, yet never encroaching one upon the other. No smashing, no bouncing, no getting out of order, yet coming with an exact precision to the hands outstretched to lift them on board. Yes, that was it exactly. But how did they get that first barrel in place, and start the whole raft of them rolling? We determined to find out next time. We wouldn’t turn our back again, and waste so much time talking. “And now,“ said the Captain, “we will stop a few hundred yards below here and take on water.“ “Take on water?“ we echoed. “You surely don’t mean to swamp us. O, I dare say you mean water to drink. Now where are you to get it? Not out of the river, I hope. If you do, I shall decline with thanks.“ The Captain smiled again, and drew our attention to a clear, sparkling rill of water, coming with a rapid, graceful flow from out the mouth of a wooden spout some dozen yards ahead of us. I tackled the Captain with very nearly the same question I had in regard to the “rawsin“ barrels, “How are we to get it? “ “Lean over the railing and drink from the spout,“ he said, with a sly twinkle in his eye, “or catch it in your hand ## ### .“ “A very brilliant idea,“ we answered him, “but will you please be so kind as to get out a life insurance policy for us before we do the leaning.“ The boat moved in close to the bank and stopped; a plank was thrown across, a little negro boy leaped upon it and dexterously fitted a long pipe-like piece of canvas and rubber hose to the mouth of the water-spout, an, lo! The water flowed gracefully and freely into the vessels placed on deck to receive it.

Now, I dare say, after all this, you are beginning to think your correspondent very much of a “land lubber.“ Well, although I have been many times out on the “broad Atlantic“ and had more than one “salt water bath,“ yet this was my first trip on board a river boat, and the experience was quite novel, I assure you.

Many pleasing incidents occurred during the trip, but I have not time to tell you of them now. We had the pleasure of meeting on board Gen. M. P. Taylor, who is representing the Sun and the South Atlantic, of this city. We found him quite social, and decidedly entertaining in conversation.

We expected to reach Wilmington that evening, but, owing to several delays along the river, the boat did not get in till seven o’clock the next morning. Therefore we had to spend the night on board, but did not regret it, as we had most comfortable quarters and the best of attention.

Our first impressions of Wilmington are most favorable. We will write you more anon.

Yours truly, ANDY.

[North Carolina Gazette – March 6, 1879]

NOTE: I have not seen anything written on how they got the first barrel in place to allow all the other barrels to roll down the steep riverbank behind it.  However, one day it came to me, and I might one day find that the following was the trick that was used.


The illustration is meant as looking from above with the left most barrel being higher up the riverbank and the right most barrel being down the river bank nearest the boat.  If done this way, the front edge of the lead barrel could be dug into the dirt to slow or stop it and the rest of the barrels.

Image of Market Street in Wilmington, NC just about a month before Andy & Nan Marie’s first visit in March, 1879.

Silver Spoon from the Steamer Gov. Worth

Silver Spoon from the Steamer Gov. Worth

The above silver spoon has the name “Str. Gov. Worth” engraved upon its handle.  This item is in the Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville, NC.




Another Trip Down the Cape Fear – Parting with Friends – Good-bye, Fayetteville – “ Homeward-Bound “ – Retrospective – Incidents of the Journey, &c.


EDITOR GAZETTE: — In the fair sweet light of the early morning the steamer “Murchison“ lies alongside of her wharf; the gang plank is thrown out, we step on board; the gallant captain hastens to meet us; we make our way to the ladies‘ cabin, thence to the after deck, and stand there for a few moments to chat with friends. Then comes the parting we have dreaded for so many days. Once before we wafted a gay “good bye“ from the deck of the steamer “Worth“ for a jaunt down the river – a gay good bye, then, for we were coming back in a little while; but now this is a good-bye, it may be, like Enoch Arden‘s – “for years or forever,“ for though during the past few months our barque has many times drifted from its moorings, yet now it is “homeward bound.“

The ropes part; they are quickly drawn in; our steamer floats slowly and gracefully out to mid-river, then swings round under full steam, and with her monster wheel beating the waters into milk-white foam she heads away down the river.

Good bye, Fayetteville, good bye: Noble old town! Though thy former glory has departed; though “the axe has been laid at the root of thy throne,“ though the old glad days of thy brightness are gone, and the pomp of they pageantry shorn; “yet thy people can still“ laugh from clear throats, “for their faith is ever-present with them – the faith of a near and bright future – when the phoenix, proud bird, shall spring from its ashes; when the shriveled beans, as in the beautiful legend, shall burst into life within the hollow of the empty gourd; when thine shall be not a mere sounding name, not a dead and buried past, but an every vivifying present. Farewell! To us, gazing with eager, ardent eyes, our own future lies bright and alluring before us. We are “homeward-bound.“ Away out among the bright green valleys and “red old hills of Georgia“ – in one noon where the sun seems never to forget to shine; where the cherry trees are now one mass of snowy bloom, and the song of the robins is heard all day long, nestles the dear home to which our heart has turned many times since we left it. Joyous will be the home coming. Eyes will grow brighter, hearts beat faster, the alabaster boxes of love spring wide open at our touch. Even now our lips quiver in eager anticipation. Yet there comes one sad, tender thought – a thought of the present. We are standing now one the deck of a steamer, each revolution of its wheels bearing us further and further from the place which, for three months past, has been to us a second home – from hearts that beat for us, too – whose tender words make tender re-echoes within our own hearts, with whom we have lived, and mingled, and held communion for so long. Is it a wonder, then, that we bow our head with deep emotion as we murmur our last farewell; that up from our heart leaps into one deep, long sob of regret as our boat rounds the curve, and the last glimmer of the banks, the trees, the tops of the houses – the arches of the old bridge fade from our view?

“Sweet Innisfallen, fare thee well!

May calm and sunshine long {be thine;}

How dear thou art let others tell,

While but to feel how dear be mine. ”

Once more “good bye.“ If in the coming years our feet should never press thy soil again; if our eyes should never more rest upon they “banks and braes,“ yet memory will ever keep fresh and green within our heart a tender thought of they and of thy clever, whole souled people. Out on the great sea of life their barques and ours have drifted far apart – perhaps never to meet here again, yet we pray God each and every one of them

May find the same welcoming haven at last,

And touch on the banks of the “Beautiful Shore.“

Our steamer glides along. We hastily brush the tears from our eyes, and turning our back – not our heart – upon the past, prepare to enjoy the present, to anticipate the future.

Capt. Garrason, ever thoughtful, ever kind, brings chairs, and seated on the forward deck, with the soft warm sunshine falling in a happy flood around us, we give ourself up to dreaming. The air is so soft – so delicious – it is simply bliss to breathe it; all manner of “sweet smells“ are wafted to us from the banks on either side.

“For the spring has come secure,

Raining blossoms over all;

And the woods, with blessings green,

On the earth-born children call.“

The cane looks brighter, the trees are more vivid in their coloring than they were three weeks ago. The water ripples as the light breeze stirs across it, then breaks into graceful curves, which emit tiny jets and sparkles as the sunlight plays upon it. The birds flit form tree to tree, or cleaving the air with long graceful downward dippings of their wings fly high above our heads, the joyous twitter, the merry trill, bursting forth from their tiny throats, and waking an echoing chord of sweetest music in our own heart.

The morning wears on; the trees fling their long shadows across the stream – how cool and inviting the banks look! How the white sand glistens and stretches away on either side in great waves of gleaming light. Down among the trees, in the shadow of the o’er hanging cane-brakes, so near the river’s edge their long tails idly brush the water, a group of mild-eyed cows are lying, blinking contentedly in the sunshine.

A sharp quick whistle arouses us from our reverie; the bell taps; the steamer “rounds to;” the plank is thrown across, and a lady her escort, and her trunk come aboard. How lightly she trips across! We can see nothing but a plump figure in a water proof cloak, with a palmetto hat trimmed with black velveteen perched jauntily to one side; but the manner in which she turns to speak to her escort, the laugh, the sudden pull she gives her hat, the way in which she holds her dress, all betray the rustic belle. She throws her head back to look up at the deck where we are standing. Our eyes meet. She bows and smiles – quite a rustic bow, it is true, but charming in its naïve simplicity. We bow and smile in return. That is sufficient. When she comes aboard she is not at all backward about cultivating our acquaintance. One cannot be stiff or formal on a steamer or in a railroad car. Directly we go back to our old nook on the forward deck and enjoy the sunning with all a turtle’s relish. Very soon our attention is attracted by the cry: “Heigh ho! There!” We turn quickly. On the bank are a half dozen darkies in all the glory of holiday attire, three women and three men; and two more making their way across the river just in front of us, in a light canoe. If they do not mind they will be caught by the swell, or by the boat itself. The women on the bank seem to think so, too, for their loud cries of “Look out!” “Look out!” “Better get out of de way, dar!” come to us quite distinctly. But evidently the men have no fear, all too well assured of their skill as expert oarsmen to expect a collision or a swamping. As the boat runs near the bank one fat, good-natured old “mamma“ decked out in a flaming new print, and big white apron, her round ebony face fairly shining with delight, drops us a “courtesy.” “How d’ye do, Missus?” “How d’ye do, mamma.” Nodding and smiling, and just then thinking of our baby days – was it so long ago! When we used to cuddle down in the great, kind arms of our own dear old black “mamma,“ and with our head upon her bosom be lulled to sleep with the songs she used to crone. “What’s up, Auntie?” we questioned, with another nod and smile. “Gwine to a weddin at Rob’sons landing,”[* | **] stooping down to brush off a bit of mud from her white apron. “O, is that it? Now, don’t forget to send us a bit of the cake, Auntie.” At this “Auntie“ stares, and as the steamer glides by we can just catch the tones of her voice shouting after us; “Whar? whar? whar send it to?”

A half hour later comes the clear sound of the dinner bell, as it swings to and fro in the ###{paper damaged} be,” the polite and smiling {} We obey the call with alacrity, and at {}t of the well spread table, on which Aunt Chloe’s hands have arranged everything so temptingly, our mouth begins to water. Capt. Garrason takes seat {at} the foot of the table and pre {}es with all the {} uity and grace of an accomplished host. Su### Mrs. G. has had him in ### Among other things we have for {} twelve pounds. It is served up in “Uncle### s” best style, and we do it full justice.

As we get up from the table the whistle blows for Elizabeth Town, and Capt. Garrason, ever polite, ever attentive, and solicitous for our enjoyment, proposes our going ashore and taking a walk through the small but quite famous little town. There are many points of historical interest, which want of time only keeps us from visiting. Among other places we visit the celebrated Tory’s Hole – a deep and rather picturesque ravine – where it is said many Tories had concealed themselves for days, and even weeks at a time. One building in the neighborhood pointed out to us is over a hundred years old, and yet in a state of preservation. At the store of Mr. Mulford we are shown quite a curiosity in the shape of a huge bone, dug from an old marl pit, within a short distance of Elizabeth Town. It appears to be a part of the hip joint of some monstrous animal, and measures 12 inches across the widest point. On our way back to the boat Capt. Garrason finds and measures a huge grape vine, declared by the good people of Elizabeth to be the largest ever yet discovered. This monster vine measures 46 ½ inches in circumference. Just think of that!

Three o’clock and fifteen minutes, P. M. when we come ### and steam away from Elizabeth Town ##### arm chair, on the forward deck, allure us once more. With a little sigh of restful content we thrown ourselves within it, our elbows on the railing, our hands supporting our chin, and go to dreaming again. The evening wears on In all the beauty of its picturesque windings stretches the Cape Fear before us; away out yonder the water breaks into little ripples, tiny waves, gentle undulations, which toy and sport like coy, sweet nymphs in their frolics; the boat breaks in upon their play## them with stormy breath into tossing surges, which dash away on either side, and climb high up the banks. “The charm’d sunset lingers low adown in the red west;” a golden, glow, delicious in its warmth and tint, lingers over land and sky, casting wavering lights and shadows on the gleaming sheet of foam below – glinting upon the stretches of white sand, while the maple, and elm, and pine tops are sunset flushed. From out the cane-brake comes the low, soft piping of birds, the delicious fragrance of the yellow jessamines, and the amorous odor of the wild grape blooms are wafted to us from the depth of the green crown’d woods. One of the bow hands lies half across the capstan fast asleep, another is coiled up at his feet, his head serenely reposing against a pile of wood; from the stern of the boat comes a low, faint whistle, never getting an octave higher, but low, and to us almost as musical as the bird tri’l on the banks. Our eyes close, our head falls upon our folded arms;

“How sweet it were hearing the flowing stream

With half-shut eyes ever to seem

Falling asleep in a half dream.”

Where are we? How far away are the “Happy Isles?” Are we drifting away to that land in which it seems already afternoon, where round the coast the languid air doth swoon; the land of the lotus blooms?

An hour later when we come on deck again,

“The night already darkles;

Holy star succeeds to star;

Dazzling lights and fainter sparkles

Glimmer near and gleam afar.”

To-morrow morning when we open our eyes we will be one hundred and twelve miles on our journey and in Carolina’s “Queen City near the Sea,”

Au revoir! “NAN MARIE”

[North Carolina Gazette – April 3, 1879]

NOTE:  It would be wonderful if someday, someone would find who Andy and Nan Marie actually were.  It might have been a well known family living in Fayetteville that were their relatives.  I guess one route of research would involve  going over the 1880 US Census for Fayetteville to list the names of the families in Fayetteville at the time.  Then perhaps go back ten or twenty years and see if you could match brothers names, one brother eventually migrating to Georgia.  I know it’s a long shot, but I can’t think of another possible avenue for determining who these kids were.

The image of the D. MURCHISON from the Hagley Museum shows a sidewheel steamer at her bow.  From the date of the building of the D. MURCHSION, and a little bit of the writing on the side of the sidewheel vessel, and the listing of vessels built by Pusey, Jones & Company, I think the sidewheeler has to be the FLORENCE.  Shown here at the company where she was built, and shown here later, in Florida.  *Also, because the Steamer GOVERNOR WORTH was built by the same company only a year or so before, I am guessing that the size & shape of the GOVERNOR WORTH and the FLORENCE was approximately the same.  Both sidewheel steamboats.  **You can see the “cut down” version of the GOVERNOR WORTH having become the ROCKLEDGE here.

The Cape Fear River Steamers

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Posted by on April 10, 2009 in Uncategorized


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