The Burning of the C. W. Lyon

10 Apr

The Boat Line From Elizabethtown
to Wilmington.

A correspondent in Elizabethtown to the Lumberton Robesonian of Monday says:
“Our people are much pleased at the schedule boat run on our river. The C. W. Lyon leaves at 6 o’clock p. m. promptly, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. She leaves Wilmington promptly at 3 p. m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. It is a pleasant trip. No more obliging set of officials, from Capt. Sam King through the roster, including ‘Perry’, the steward, could be found. Your comfort and pleasure is their concern. Strangers should always include a run down our historic Cape Fear, in mapping out a trip.”

[Fayetteville Observer – Wednesday, March 22, 1911]


Zach. Roberts, a colored pilot on the Cape Fear river for years, died at his home in Campbellton, this city, Saturday morning at 5 o’clock.
Roberts had worked on the boats plying between this city and Wilmington practically all of his life. He was with Capt. Albert Worth, Capt. Sandy Robeson and Captains Green, Smith, Cole and others as pilot. He was on the boat with Capt. Skinner when the Robert E. Lee blew up, killing Alex. Jackson, Sam MacKay and Bill Gilmore, (all colored), and was badly scalded in the explosion.
Roberts was one of the few pilots who never had a serious accident on his boat. He was respected by both white and colored for his faithful services. He was buried from the First Congregational Church Sunday at 3 p. m.

[The Fayetteville Observer – February 19, 1913.]

The City of Fayetteville Sinks With
Cargo of Cotton at Champion Compress
Dock—Crew’s Narrow Escape.

At 3 o’clock yesterday morning the steamer City of Fayetteville sank in the slip at the foot of Red Cross street, at the Champion Compress, where she docked at 5 o’clock Sunday afternoon, and from the looks of the wreck, it would seem that the steel hull has broken in two.
The boat was loaded with 236 bales of cotton for Alexander Sprunt & Son, 135 of which were gotten out yesterday, very little damaged, but Agent S. M. King, of the Merchants & Farmers Steamboat Company, which owns the vessel, was of the opinion last night that the remainder, which is entirely submerged, will prove almost a total loss. Messrs. Sprunt carried insurance on the cotton, but the steamboat company has no marine insurance, being unable to get it on the river. They carry fire insurance.
Their loss will approximate $15,000 if it proves that the hull has broken in two, that being the figure at which “the City” was valued. She was built in 1904, is 125 feet in length and has a draft of 26 inches. The manager of the company is Mr. S. P. McNair, and a number of local business men hold stock in the concern.
Engineer J. F. Creel and four of the crew were asleep on the boat when they were awakened by her settling, and they had to hurry to get out of her. The engineer had his small son with him and he said he got the lad out by catching hold of his leg and throwing him bodily to the wharf. They had gone over the boat sometime before and found nothing wrong.
It may be that a hole was punched in the bottom by a pile or that there is a shoal at the mouth of the slip, and that when the tide went out—it was extremely low yesterday morning—the weight of the machinery caused the stern to settle, breaking the boat amidships.
The work of raising the boat will go right along and the officials of the company hope that the damage may not be so serious that she cannot be repaired. She has made only two trips during the Summer, bringing cotton this month. Many visited the wreck yesterday and watched the salvage of the cotton going on.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Tuesday, September 30, 1913]

Raising the City of Fayetteville

Work of Raising Stern Wheeler Proceeding Slowly – History.

The wrecking crew working on the City of Fayetteville made little progress yesterday in their efforts to float her. However, they will continue on the job until they find out whether or not she is wrecked beyond repair. The Fayetteville Observer yesterday gave a sketch of the boat, which has plied the river between Wilmington and Fayetteville for the last 10 years. A part of it follows:

“The steamer City of Fayetteville was built in 1904 by Merrell & Stevens, of Jacksonville, Fla., for a stock company composed of Lismon, Lorge & Co., of New York City, and others. For a year after the steamer was floated the original owners ran her between Fayetteville and Wilmington. They then sold out to the Cape Fear Steamboat Company, and the steamer has been in regular service since that time.

“The tonnage of the City of Fayetteville is 135, and she was guaranteed to draw not more than 18 inches with a full cargo aboard. She has a steel hull and was first equipped with tubular boilers, steam heat and electric lights. The passenger accommodations are good, better than any other steamer that ever ran on Cape Fear river. She was licensed to carry 125 passengers with a full cargo of freight.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Thursday, October 2, 1913]

Cotton from Up River.

The steamer C. W. Lyon, Capt. W. F. Register, arrived yesterday noon from Fayetteville bringing cargo of 388 bales of cotton on her decks and on a lighter which she towed.  The Lyon returns on Monday.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Sunday, October 12, 1913]


—  The steamer C. W. Lyon, Capt. Register, arrived yesterday from Fayetteville, with cargo of 425 bales of cotton for the Champion Compress.  She cleared for the return trip yesterday  evening.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Sunday, October 19, 1913]

Steamer Lyon in Port.

The Fayetteville steamer C. W. Lyon, Capt. Register, reached port at 6 o’clock yesterday evening bringing a cargo of 387 bales of cotton from the upper Cape Fear.  Among the passengers was Mr. A. B. Skelding, of this city, returning from a Northern trip by automobile, having shipped his machine from Fayetteville by steamer.  The steamer will clear this afternoon for the return trip to Fayetteville.

[Wilmington Morning Star  —  October 25, 1913]

NOTES: In the early 1900’s, A. B. Skelding was manager of the Lumina, a well-known Wilmington (Wrightsville Beach) dance  & entertainment venue.


End Came Last Night at Residence
of His Daughter, Mrs. Salling.

Friends in Wilmington and throughout this section of the State will hear with sorrow of the death of Capt. W. W. Skinner, which occurred at 11 o’clock last night at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. J. H. Salling, No. 708 North Fourth street. His death came almost a year to a day after the death of his wife which occurred last November. Capt. Skinner for many years was a well known figure in Wilmington. He was loved by all with whom he came in contact, on account of his many good traits of character and kindly disposition. He was born in Richmond, Va., April 1st, 1830, and was in his 84th year. He is survived by three daughters, Mrs. J. H. Salling and Mrs. W. J. Mathis, of this city, and Mrs. Larry Bowman, of Mt. Airy, N. C., and by one brother, Capt. Henry Skinner, of Norfolk, Va. On account of sickness at the home, the funeral services will be held at the lodge in Oakdale cemetery this afternoon at 3:30 P. M.

[The Morning Star – Tuesday, November 18, 1913]


Capt. Henry W. Edge, the Mate,
Drowned in Effort to Swim
to Shore – Others,
Have Narrow Escape.

The steamer C. W. Lyon, plying between Fayetteville and Wilmington, was burned at Hood’s Creek, 20 miles above Wilmington, yesterday morning at 11 o’clock. The property loss, including the cargo, is estimated at $30,000, but that is nothing compared with the death by drowning of Capt. Henry W. Edge. The Wilmington Star of Saturday has the following interesting account of the awful tragedy”
The Lyon was proceeding from Fayetteville to Wilmington at about 12 miles an hour when one of the passengers discovered a blaze among the cotton amidships. Fire drills have been held on the steamer regularly and when the fire bell and whistle sounded members of the crew almost instantly were at their places and had streams of water on the blaze. Fire pump and hose were brought into play. The seven passengers also responded to the alarm.
The pilot, Barney Baldwin, colored, who has been on the river about 40 years, backed the boat into the east side of the river as quickly as possible.
Some of the crew and seven male passengers were in the bow of the boat on the first deck. The fire burned so rapidly that it was impossible for them to get to the rear, and they had to jump into the middle of the river, when the vessel swung around to back ashore, in order to make their escape.
Capt. Edge was one of the last to leave the vessel. He had done yeoman service in fighting the flames, but when it came to jumping overboard, realizing his inability to swim, he was noticed to hesitate. He then jerked off his coat and hat and plunged into the water. It is said that several of those that had already made ashore called to him to get a life preserver or one of several planks on deck, but he did not hear them or if he did he did not heed. They also threw clumps into the river for him, but he did not notice any of them. In some unaccountable manner he managed to get half way to shore before he went down. He never rose again. The body has not been recovered, though the river was dragged for it late in the afternoon.
Capt. W. F. Register, who was in command of the vessel, was in the cabin when the fire broke out, counting the money which he had on hand and balancing his books. When the alarm was sounded he rushed out and was able with the assistance of Capt. W. H. Ward, assistant engineer, to rescue Miss Brisson, the only lady passenger, who occupied a cabin in the stern of the boat. Capt. Register passed over the top of the boat to the lady before the heat became so intense. She was passed over the stern wheel to the shore. He could not return to the bow of the boat on account of the flames and then he went ashore and directed the work of rescuing the passengers who were in the front of the boat.
A number of colored men, members of the crew, who were in the stern of the vessel went ashore. They tossed several barrels of turpentine overboard and got logs, clumps and anything that they could lay their hands on to throw out to the others who were in the river.
There were life preservers and a [fire post] on the vessel, but these were quickly burned by the flames, it is said, and could not be reached by the crew. Many of the passengers and several members of the crew had narrow escapes.
Mr. H. J. Lyon, of Elizabethtown, a passenger, probably had the narrowest escape. He cannot swim. Luckily he caught a log which was drifting down the stream and was able to stay above water until rescued by some colored fishermen in a boat half a mile down the river. Once he faltered and those who had followed him down stream shouting words of encouragement from the shore noticed that he was almost ready to give up the fight. This was before he caught the log and when he had only a small timber to rely upon. After he got hold of the larger timber he drifted along with the current with comparative ease until he was rescued.
Abe Dunn, a member of the crew, had a narrow escape also. He could not swim, but one of those who could jumped in after him.
As soon as the passengers were gotten ashore Captain Register sent a messenger to a phone nearby and notified Mr. S. M. King, local agent for the company here. He and Mr. T. D. Love, secretary of the Company left Wilmington about 1 o’clock in the launch George Lyon to bring the passengers and crew to Wilmington. They reached the scene of the disaster about 4:40 o’clock, and after making a futile effort to find the body of Captain Edge returned to this city, reaching here about 8 o’clock last night.
They left two men to continue the search. The news of the tragic event rapidly spread through the surrounding country, and a large number of people came to render what assistance they could to the distressed passengers and crew.
Captain Edge was 42 years of age, and had been on the river since he was 18 years of age. He lived in Fayetteville, where he has a wife and two children. He was a man greatly liked by all who knew him and the members of the crew were profoundly saddened by his death. He was captain of the City of Fayetteville before she was sunk.
The steamer C. W. Lyon was a stern-wheeler, and was built in 1904 in Wilmington. Her cost was $21,000. She was a combined freight and passenger steamer and has been making several trips a week between Wilmington and Fayetteville. Several weeks ago the City of Fayetteville, another steamer owned by the Merchants and Farmers’ Steamboat Company, was sunk at the wharves of the Champion Compress here, and the loss of the second boat comes as a heavy loss to the company. The company carried fire insurance to the amount of $8,000 on her.
Her cargo yesterday consisted of 97 bales of cotton, consigned to Alexander Sprunt & Son; 100 barrels of turpentine, several bales of dog tongue, several thousand pounds of pork and a variety of other freight, valued at about $10,000.
There were seven passengers on the boat, most of these coming to Wilmington last night on the George Lyon. Included in the passenger list were Messrs. N. L. and D. M. Tatum, H. J. Lyon, Dixon Smith, D. R. Blizzard, Miss Brison, Ed Jessup.
Capt. W. M. Ward and three of the negro members of the crew walked from the point where the vessel was burned, reaching Wilmington about 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon. Captain Ward went to Phoenix expecting to catch the train there, but arrived too late. He then set out on foot and when he got to Nevassa was picked up by a shifting engine and brought to the city. With the exciting experience of the day and the long walk of 13 miles he was almost completely exhausted.
Captain Ward was assistant engineer and Captain Edge was the mate. They worked on the same watch, and had gotten off duty at 8 o’clock yesterday morning. As the vessel was expected to reach Wilmington at noon they did not go to sleep but decided to wait until they arrived here. During the morning they were on deck and joking with each other, little dreaming the sad event that was to take Captain Edge off so suddenly. Captain Ward was almost overcome with grief because of the loss of his friend and comrade.
Captain Register stated last night that he would never forget the look on Captain Edge’s face as he struggled in the water to keep afloat. He threw pieces of wood to him, but he was so overcome with fright that he failed to grasp any of them. In spite of the fact that he could not swim he managed to keep his head above the water for several minutes before he sank, and, it is said, covered half the distance to shore.
Captain Register stated that the cotton was still burning on the boat when he left late yesterday afternoon. All of the wooden work was burned down to iron hull. She was still afloat and was left anchored at the point where she was run aground.
Barney Baldwin, colored, was at the wheel when the fire broke out and did heroic work in backing the vessel to shore. He did not leave his post of duty until he had done all in his power to save the boat and those on board.
Captain Bryant Jones, engineer, was in charge of the engine at the time of the fire, and after the vessel had been run ashore he left the engine and aided in the work of rescue. With the exception of Captain Register, in command of the boat, Captain Edge, mate; Captain Jones, engineer, and Captain Ward, assistant engineer, all of the other members of the crew were negroes. They worked heroically with the hose and pump, but the cotton burned so rapidly that they were unable to stop the progress of the flames and soon had to give up the effort.
The Lyon had an iron hull, but Mr. King was of the opinion that it would never be of any further service.
Miss Brisson, who was the only lady passenger on the boat, is a daughter of Mr. N. G. Brisson, a large planter of Brisson’s Landing. She appeared to be very much composed and at no time did she appear frightened, it is said.

[Fayetteville Observer – November 19, 1913]

No Boats between Fayetteville
and Wilmington.

The burning of the steamer C. W. Lyon Friday, while on a trip from Fayetteville to Wilmington, makes nil river traffic between the two cities, as there is not a boat left to do the work.
In this connection, we take the following from the Wilmington Star of Saturday:
“The burning of the steamer Lyon leaves the Cape Fear without a boat at present, but it is likely that arrangements will be made for the steamer Duplin to make one trip a week, leaving Monday, going clear through to Fayetteville, instead of to Tar Heel as at present. This arrangement will be continued, it is thought, until the new steamer which Mr. J. W. Brooks is having built for the Cape Fear, is completed within the next eight or ten days. The new boat will be christened ‘the Thelma,’ in honor of the youngest daughter of the owner. The ‘Thelma’ is a good-sized boat and will be able to handle good cargoes.”

[Fayetteville Observer – Wednesday, November 19, 1913]



Capt. Singletary Picked Up Remains

16 Miles Above Wilmington.

The body of Capt. Henry Edge, who was drowned November 14th when the steamer C. W. Lyon was burned on the Cape Fear river, 20 miles above Wilmington, was found yesterday morning at 10 o’clock by Capt. Stirling Singletary, of the tug Grayling.  It was in a good state of preservation and had evidently been afloat for only a short time.  There was a falling tide which is supposed to have caused the body to rise to the surface.

The point where it was discovered was near the Raccoon Bluff, between the 16th and 17th mile post, about three miles below where the ship was burned.  Captain Singletary had been up the river to get a cargo of logs and was returning to Wilmington.  Leaving the body with someone on shore he came to Wilmington and notified Mr. Walter E. Yopp, the undertaker.

Mr. Yopp will leave this morning at 6 o’clock in Capt. H. H. Hall’s gasolene {misspelled} launch Lilly with a casket.  The remains will be taken to White Oak, in Bladen county, where they will be met by relatives of the family.  Captain Edge lived in Fayetteville and is survived by a wife and two children.  It is not known what funeral arrangements have been made.

When the C. W. Lyon burned on the morning of November 14th, Captain Edge jumped from the vessel.  He was unable to swim and drowned before his companions could rescue him.  A thorough search was made for the body but without success.  Several men watched the river for days with the hope that it might come to the surface.  Finally all hope was given up and it was not thought that it would ever be recovered.  However, the boats plying the lower Cape Fear have been keeping a close watch in order that they might pick it up if it came to the surface.

[Wilmington Morning Star Daily —  Friday, December 5, 1913]

Found Floating in Cape Fear River
Three Miles from where He Sank
On November 14—To Be Taken to
White Oak for Burial.

The body of Capt. Henry Edge, who jumped from the C. W. Lyon and was drowned when that steamer was burned on Cape Fear River, 20 miles above Wilmington, November 14, was found Thursday morning by Capt. Stirling Singleton, of the tug Grayling. The body was floating on the river about three miles below where the unfortunate man went down.
The remains were Friday taken to White Oak, Bladen County, and the burial was in the Edge burying ground there.

[Fayetteville Observer – Wednesday, December 10, 1913]


We take the following account of a marriage from the Wilmington Star of Thursday. The groom, Capt. W. F. Register, is a popular citizen of Fayetteville. He was captain of the ill-fated steamer Lyon, which was burned on Cape Fear River a few weeks ago. He was aboard and in command, the day it was burned. The Star says:
“A pretty and quiet home wedding was solemnized yesterday afternoon at 5:30 o’clock at the residence of the bride’s mother, Mrs. H. C. Brock, No. 620 Chestnut street, when Miss Elsie Brock became the bride of Mr. William F. Register, the officiating minister being Rev. Dr. Wm. H. Milton, rector of St. James’ Episcopal church.
“The home was beautifully decorated with ferns, palms, bamboo and Southern smilax tastefully arranged in celebration of the happy event. Soft, sweet strains of music also added its charm to the occasion.
“The bride was attired in a blue traveling suit with hat to match and carried a beautiful shower bouquet of bride’s roses. The maid of honor, Miss Bessie Toon, was dressed in a Copenhagen blue gown with hat to match and carried a bouquet of pink carnations.
“The bride entered the room on the arm of her brother-in-law, Mr. J. Luther Toon, who gave her away. They were met at the marriage altar by the groom and his best man, Mr. S. M. King.
“No invitations were issued and members of the family were the only attendants. After the ceremony the happy young couple went to the union station and left on the 6:30 train for Fayetteville, where they will make their home. Many beautiful presents attested the popularity of the young people.”

[Fayetteville Observer – Wednesday, January 7, 1914]

The Cape Fear River Steamers

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