“She’s My Sister, She’s My Daughter”

16 Apr

The steamer A. P. Hurt plied the waters of the Cape Fear river for 63 years, from about mid-May, 1860 until the 7th of March, 1923, when she sank at her wharf in Wilmington, NC.  For a few years her name was changed to that of the C. W. Lyon (1906-1913), but she was re-built as the A. P. Hurt after the C. W. Lyon burned.

The following articles include some fond reminiscences of travel upon the steamer, and her obituary:

A Trip on the Cape Fear.

Mr. H. E. C. Bryant, the correspondent of the Charlotte Observer, writes entertainingly of his trip on the river from Fayetteville to Wilmington of which we made mention last week.

The following, condensed from his column and a quarter account, will be of interest:

The Cape Fear river is one of the most historic streams in the South.  It is navigable
from Wilmington to Fayetteville, a distance of about 120 miles.  Before railroads were so numerous in North Carolina the Cape Fear river was a great factor in the commerce of a great section of the State.  People from Morganton, Salisbury, Concord, Statesville, Charlotte, Monroe, Wadesboro, Rockingham, Laurinburg, Maxton, Lumberton and other points hauled their farm and factory products to Fayetteville and exchanged them for supplies brought up ht Cape Fear in boats.  Those were the days of Fayetteville’s greatest glory.

Through the kindness of Col. W. S. Cook and Capt. W. A. Robeson, of the A. P. Hurt, I
was permitted to take a trip from Fayetteville to Wilmington last Friday.  We had quite a pleasant party on board.  Among others were:  Col. J. B. Starr, the interesting old veteran of Fayetteville; Col. Malcolm McIntyre Matthews, of the Hotel LaFayette; Mr. John F. Harrison and Mr. R. G. Freeman.

Capt. Robeson is a very agreeable man.  He is thoughtful, affable and kind.  He did everything within his power to make us comfortable.  Our journey was made pleasant by his kindness.  Our every desire was gratified.  In the persons of Abram Dunn and Dan Buxton, two polite negroes, the A. P. Hurt has two very attractive characters.  Abe is the steward and Dan the pilot.  Old Dan is nearly 75 years old and has been on the Cape Fear 52 years.  He knows every crook and turn in the river and can tell some delightful stories of long-ago.

It was after the death of his old master that Dan was hired out to the captain of the Governor Graham,” the property of the Cape Fear Steamboat Company.  Since that time he has served on the “Chatham,” the “Flora McDonald,” the “Governor Worth,” and the “A. P. Hurt.”

Abe Dunn does the catering and cooking for the passengers and the crew.  He is capable, industrious and humble.  As a servant he has few superiors.

The table fare on the A. P. Hurt, is first-class.  It is superior to that of the average city hotel.  Old Abe is a tasteful caterer and a fine cook.  He knows what to buy and how to prepare it.  I do not recall any meals that I have enjoyed more than I did supper and breakfast on Capt. Robeson’s boat.  We had tender ham and beef, good fried hominy, strong coffee and a few dainties.  The linen and tableware were clean and attractive looking.

The trip from Fayetteville to Wilmington by Capt. Robeson’s boat afforded us much pleasure.  The scenery along the river is beautiful; the fare on the boat is good, and the effect of the ride, under the conditions, invigorating to mind and body.  I enjoyed every moment of the time spent on the A. P. Hurt.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, December 2, 1902]

Sale of Steamer Hurt.

The steamer A. P. Hurt, of the Cape Fear and People’s Steamboat Co. with her tackle, apparel and all other appurtenances, was sold yesterday at auction under receiver’s sale at the wharf of the company, in Wilmington.  Mr. W. J. Meredith having become the purchaser at $2,475 says the Wilmington Star, of Sunday:

The sale was conducted by Hon Jno. D. Bellamy, attorney for Receiver D. McEachern, and the bidders, besides Mr. Meredith, were Col. W. S. Cook and Mr. A. E. Martin, of Fayetteville, and Mr. C. H. Dock, of Wilmington.  The sale is subject to confirmation of the court, under a decree of which, in the case of H. L. Vollers and others against the company, the property was ordered sold.  It is understood that the bid of Mr. Meredith will be raised ten per cent before confirmation, in which event, the steamer will probably be re-sold.

Mr. Meredith said last night that in the purchase of the steamer he was representing a new and entirely independent company, which proposes, if the sale is confirmed, to operate the steamer on the Cape Fear under the same name which she now bears.  It is understood that Mr. A. J. Johnson, of Clear Run, is associated with Mr. Meredith and others in the new company.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, February 16, 1905]

To Rebuild the Steamer Hurt.

The Wilmington Star of Saturday says:

Mr. W. J. Meredith, who purchased the steamer A. P. Hurt at receiver’s sale recently, announces that he has conveyed his interest in the same to the Tar Heel Steamboat Company, of this city, and that the new owners will take her in charge immediately.  The Hurt will be placed on the marine railway and will undergo a thorough overhauling after which she will resume her run on the Cape Fear river as an additional freight and passenger boat with the steamer “Tar Heel” now operated by the above company.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, March 16, 1905]

The Old Steamer Hurt.

There is an impression prevalent among the people that the steamer Hurt, of the Tar Heel Steamboat Company, was simply to be overhauled, whereas the fact is that the Government Inspector condemned it.  Hence, the company decided to build a new boat, steel hull and modern in every respect, and the name will be changed.  Probably the name will be the Cape Fear, and they hope to have it ready by September 1st.

Mr. Martin, the general manager, informs the OBSERVER that he hopes to have the new boat second to none that has ever been on the river.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, May 25, 1905]

Note: The steamer A. P. Hurt rebuilt as the steamer C. W. Lyon.


The Dublin correspondent of the Clarkton Express writes that paper as follows:

It appears that steamboating is to regain its former prestige on the upper Cape Fear.

The Tar Heel Steamboat Company are at present running the steamer Tar Heel, and will soon place the fine new steamer C. W. Lyon in commission on the river.  The company has been very successful since its organization, the Tar Heel having paid handsomely and the growing business of the company necessitated the building of another boat.  The C. W. Lyon is said to be the first iron hull boat ever built in North Carolina.  It is an up to date boat, and will be equipped with all modern conveniences, including electric lights.  A few months ago Mr. T. D. Love, of Wilmington, purchased the magnificent steamer City of Fayetteville, and organized a stock company to operate it, and the steamer is now making regular trips between Wilmington and Fayetteville.  With the C. W. Lyon and the City of Fayetteville, both plying the waters of this important stream, the passenger and freight accommodations will be superb.  During the past several years farmers have been greatly annoyed during the spring months on account of freight congestion on the river, but now the boats will be able to handle the freight all right, which will be a great advantage to those getting their freight by water along the river.  They will also carry much through freight, because they furnish much cheaper rates than the railroads do.

[Fayetteville Observer – February 8, 1906]

Note: The steamer C. W. Lyon burned in November, 1913.

A. P. Hurt Steamboat Whistle

A. P. Hurt Steamboat Whistle

This steam whistle is in the Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville, NC.  The story I was told, by the daughter, of the man who donated the whistle, is as follows:  Her father was a teacher at a school in Virginia for many years.  At the end of one term, a “red haired” boy gave her father the above item, as he was afraid to take it home and be found to have the “confiscated” property in his possession.  *Whether the story is true, or not, it does ring true.

The “whistle” codes are the following:

1 toot = Signals that the boat is coming.

2 toots = There is freight on board.

3 toots = There is a lady on board.

4 toots = There is a dead body on board.

Will Be Put on Line from Wilmington
To Fayetteville in a Few Weeks.
Wilmington Star.

The steamer A. P. Hurt, that had been undergoing repairs at Elizabethtown for the past several weeks, was towed down to this city last night where its machinery will be overhauled by the Wilmington Iron Works, preparatory to its being put on the line between this city and Fayetteville to succeed the steamer City of Fayetteville, which was sunk about a year ago at a dock at the Champion Compress.

The steamer belongs to the Merchants and Farmers’ Steamboat Company, and is much larger than other boats now running between Wilmington and Elizabethtown.  It will be fitted with all modern conveniences for river boats of the present day, having a rather large passenger accommodation and considerable freight capacity.  The hull is of steel and the superstructure of wood.  She will be completed and ready for the run possibly within 20 or 30 days.

[Fayetteville Observer – Wednesday, December 1, 1915]



Steamboat Travel on the Old Cape Fear–Scenes
and Incidents of a Round Trip from Fayetteville.


(By J. T. Slatter, General Secretary-Traffic Manager).

A Boat trip down the Cape Fear River from Fayetteville to Wilmington at this season of the year when the wonderful life-giving North Carolina atmosphere is electrified with ozone, and the pungent tang of Fall, beneath an opalescent sky unflecked of cloud; between long vistas of forest bordered banks, lined with a wilderness of elm and gum and towering oak trees arrayed in the gorgeous robings of autum, nodding a silent welcome out of the warm glow of an October sun that  tempers the crisp air to the languid softness of a June day, is a pleasure which must be actually experienced–a condition that may be realized, and afterward mulled over and dreamed of, but never, by any flights of fanciful imagination described in mere words; for words at most, are but the vehicles of our thoughts and impressions, and not our feelings and sensations.

Therefore if you would know the joy and pleasure of such a trip, take it yourself when you will agree that the half has never been told.

We have contemplated taking this trip for some time, but not until last week did a favorable opportunity present itself for the execution of our plans.  the good boat A. P. Hurt, Captain S. B. King, Jr., afforded our means of transit; it is owned by the Planters Steamboat Co., and is in the Fayetteville-Wilmington service as a pioneer of what should eventually prove to be a restoration of river traffic that once made Fayetteville the most important shipping point in all this country.  The boat was due to leave at nine o’clock in the morning, and we were on time; but, on account of a heavy upstream load the day before,  which had not been unloaded, part of the deck hand crew deserted, which delayed our leaving until the middle of the afternoon.  It was a perfect day with light breezes sweeping over the water and the warm sunshine chasing the shadows on the sombre surface of the stream, as the overhanging branches swayed and swung in rythmic motion with the current.

As we stood on the upper deck viewing the scene and enjoying the surroundings, the bell sounded from somewhere near the pilot house above, the gang plank was withdrawn, there was a sudden blowing off of steam, a wheezing, hissing sound of escaping vapor, and the revolutions of the stern wheel began slowly to thrash the still waters into a whirling, dancing vortex of tumbling waves and white foam; like a thing of life the vessel yanked her nose out of the mud bank, by courtesy called a wharf, and, in a circling glide to midstream started on her journey to the port of Wilmington.  “Uncle Abe” the old grizzled haired steward who has spent a lifetime on the river, showed us to our stateroom, and as he deposited our baggage on a table we were delightfully impressed with the comforts and conveniences of such quarters.  The boat has first class accommodations for about thirty passengers; each state room is furnished with two berths, upper and lower that are clean and comfortable; a lavatory with hot and cold water, towels and other necessary adjuncts to the toilet; it is well ventilated by a window draped with a neat curtain, and altogether one can be as comfortable as desired in it.  The entire boat is illuminated by electricity, and according to government regulations, there are plenty of Life-Preservers in every room.  The dining room forward is bright with snowy napery and shiny table ware, the prideful care of “Uncle Abe” who serves one at table with that old time ease and attentiveness that makes one forget Hooverism and food conservation.  The forward deck is plentifully supplied with easy chairs where one may sit and view the ever changing and interesting scene  stretching out before the eyes like a broad silver band between emerald-hued borders of soft velvet; the boat is a credit to the enterprise and faith of the owners in future river traffic on the Cape Fear; the service is far better than the meagre patronage warrants; however, the owners base their hopes on future developments, when the shippers will come to realize that water transportation must be utilized to supplement the rail lines in carrying on the commerce of the country.  Because of its economy of operation, steamboat transportation is cheaper than rail; and a, as we develop and extend our trade, commerce must, more and more, turn to the use of boats as a means of greatest transportation economy.  The owners of this line state it to be their purpose to establish an auto-truck transfer service at Fayetteville, so soon as an adequate warf if constructed, and a passable roadway built to it.  The purpose of this service will be to make prompt and regular deliveries to shippers at their store doors without additional charge, for drayage.  The boat rate being, of itself lower than the railroads charge, one can readily understand the saving to shippers by such an arrangement.  Our shippers should patronize this boat not only as a good business proposition, but because it is important to keep it going as a means of providing against a complete breakdown of the railroads  which are, even now, so hard pressed for cars and engines that a coal famine is threatened.

Fayetteville as a river port is most advantageously situated; it projects further into the interior than any other like stream on the coast; and because of this it is rightfully and logically the natural distributing point for all the country west of here.  When the Inland-water-way Canal is completed, and it is very near that now, it will be perfectly practicable to load a boat at our warf {misspelled} and unload it at any of the north Atlantic port cities, such as Norfolk, Baltimore, New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

The depth of the canal at Fayetteville contemplated by the government project is 8 feet as a minimum; the appropriation provided by the original bill, calls for that, and when the dredging is completed this depth must be available or there will be some unpleasant investigations made.  The two locks are completed and work with the smoothness of well oiled machinery; there are no serious obstructions to navigation at present, but a snag boat is badly needed at this end; while in Wilmington we called attention of the government engineer to this fact and received prompt assurance that a snag boat would be put to work on it without delay.  The ability of a light draft coastwise vessel coming up to the warf of Fayetteville, discharging its New York freight, and loading for return trip, freight to that and other eastern port cities, should fill our shippers with all sorts of encouragement for it means the dawn of commercial greatness, the restoration of a condition that once made this a might mart of trade for the entire country west of here.

Aside from the business end of the trip we found many things of interest and amusement out of the ordinary run of travel.  We stopped to take on wood at what is called court house landing.

A white headed weazen-faced old negro came aboard remarking as he shambled across the gang plan, {I’m g’wine down ter Wilmin’tn ter see m’ gran’childern.”  We asked him how long he had lived near this landing, and he replied, “Bout er hunderd ‘en fo year ter th’ best uv my ricurlection.”  Do you happen to know, we asked why the name Court House Landing was given to this place, there is no evidence of such a building on the hill?  “Yas sir,” he replied, “Ah knows all bout dat, ‘an I niver is bin recomciled ter dat name es a fit’n wun for d’ place, ‘caus dat want whut hit wus, no-how; hit doant fit, needer; but I rec’n dem es nam’d it didn’t hav no better sence, an dun de bestest da cud” “My ric’lection is, dat way bac befo de war cums on, rite up yander jist da call, in dem dase er Mishum Station, whar er preacher lived at; in de bac eend uv it wus er room dat er Justice uv de peace occipied; so dar wus de law an de gospel bef tergether same es de Good Book tells bout.  Wa’al fokes fum fur en ne’er cum dar fur ter git mar’ied; sum da come in boats, sum da cum in wagins, sum on hoss bac, and den ergin sum dun took da foot in han’ en cum by de hoof; but na matter how da git dar, da always cum ter git mar’ied; en I rec’n da’s doin dat wa yit in al yuther pa’rts uv de country, ‘caus jess es long es children grose up da’s gwine ter marry.  Dis Jestice of de Peace, he calls hiself er jege; but the onliest jegement he ever is made is how much yer hafter pay fer er mar’iage lis’ums whut de preacher tole em da bleege ter hav’ fo he wud low em ter jine hans en kiss wun-neer:  When de Jestice dun gone erway sumers, an aint dar, da jes hafter set round and cote, and cote, caus da aint nut’n else fur em ter do.  Sum uv um git so tirde er wait’n da said, wun da, “dish ain’t no Mishum Station, hit is jes a Cote House,” an ever since den da all calls hit dat; but hit aint no fitten name fur de place caus’ hit want nut’n but er Union Station, nohow yer fix hit.”

[Fayetteville Observer – Wednesday, November 7, 1917]


March 7.

During the heavy southwest gale, which swept the Cape Fear river and this vicinity last night, the freight and passenger steamer A. P. Hurt operated between this port and Fayetteville by the New York – Wilmington – Fayetteville Steamboat company, sank at her terminal at the foot of Orange street.  No lives were lost, but the steamer is seriously damaged and the large cargo aboard is a practical loss.

Heavily laden with general merchandise and fertilizer loaded at the Clyde Line terminals and local fertilizer plants, the Hurt arrived at her dock last night about 7:30 o’clock.  Because of the vessel’s low free board and being laden deep with freight the big swells then running in the river soon began to break over the stern of the boat into the engine room, causing her to fill faster than her steam pumps could remove the water.

In Twenty-five Feet

After more than a half hour of valiant effort on the part of the [team] members of the Hurt’s crew which were aboard at the time to keep her afloat with the pumps.  The hull filled and the craft went down in 25 feet of water.  The bottom of the steamer now lies on the river bottom, but owing to the action of the waves last night much of the boat’s upper works including her second deck, began to break away.

At the time of the sinking but four men were aboard the Hurt.  Captain Blizzard and the pilot having gone ashore.  Those aboard, however, did everything to save the craft but their efforts proved fruitless.

When the Hurt went down she had aboard approximately 80 tons of freight destined  to Fayetteville and intermediate river landings.  Twelve tons of the cargo was general merchandise loaded at the Clyde terminals and the remainder was fertilizer in sacks.  All will be a practical loss, it is understood.  The steamer, however, can be raised and repaired.

Built 60 Years Ago

The Hurt is a stern wheel steamer of 90 gross tons, is 115 feet in length, 12 feet in breadth, and has a hold depth of four feet.  She is equipped to accommodate quite a few passengers.  Capt. W. C. Manson is president and general manager of the company operating the vessel, and M. M. Riley is local agent.

Originally, the Hurt was built more than 60 years ago.  However, in 1915 she was completely rebuilt.  She is valued at several thousand dollars, but it is not known just how much insurance was carried.  There was insurance on some part of the cargo.

The steamer is the oldest on the Cape Fear river, and has been operated practically since her original construction between Wilmington and Fayetteville as a freight and passenger steamer.  Her hull is of steel.

Causes Regret Here

For sentimental reasons, announcement of the sinking of the steamer A. P. Hurt has brought regret to the older citizens of Fayetteville, for they feel that one of the last links has been broken in the chain that binds them to the days of their fathers.  In the times before and during the Civil War, the “Hurt” was looked upon by the “simple folk” as a palatial steamer, and the sight  of her steaming up to the wharf with big bluff, dependable Captain Hurt standing on deck, was a very welcome one.

The “Hurt” transported to and from Fayetteville thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of freight, and in the “off” times, on moonlight nights, gay parties of the beauty and chivalry of the town, went on excursions down the river.

[Fayetteville Observer – March 7, 1923]

The Cape Fear River Steamers

1 Comment

Posted by on April 16, 2009 in Uncategorized


One response to ““She’s My Sister, She’s My Daughter”

  1. Elaine Kantor

    May 10, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    In 1899, my Thagard family lost a 28 yr old family member. His body was transported from Wilmington to the Fayetteville area via the A. P. Hurt. The story has come down in the family of the family members hearing the boat whistle hours ahead as it came down the Cape Fear and knowing that it bore the body of their loved one.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: