Captain R. H. Tomlinson

03 May

“Hysted.”—Two charming young ladies recently fixed the matrimonial noose about the necks of Commadant McKethan and Private R. H. Tomlinson, of the Independent Light Infantry; and while the command was on parade the other day, their comrades finished the business by “hysting” them.

[Carolina Observer – Thursday, March 1, 1883]

NOTES:  William Hardie Tomlinson ( b.17 Aug, 1823  –  d. 17 Apr, 1885 ) and Sarah Jane Wooten ( b. 09 Mar, 1818 –  d. 31 May, 1888 ) were the parents of the following children:  Sarah, William Hardie, James Wooten and Robert Henry ( b. 14 Nov, 1858 ).

The Burning of the Bladen.

The loss of the steamer Bladen, briefly mentioned in the account of the fire at Wilmington on Sunday morning last, was caused by fire which occurred when the steamer was within 150 yards of her wharf. The most strenuous efforts immediately became necessary to save the lives of the passengers and crew, as the flames increased with fearful rapidity, and the Bladen was run in at the shed of the New York steamers, where the passengers were with difficulty landed in safety from small boats, but with the loss of all their baggage.

The Bladen was a stern-wheel steamer of wooden hull, remodeled in the spring of 1885, was fitted up for both passengers and freight, and had a capacity of about 800 barrels of rosin.  She was owned by the “Bladen Steamboat Company,” and Messrs. A. E. Rankin & Co. were the agents at Fayetteville.  She was built at a cost of $9,000, and was insured for $5,500, with $2,500 on cargo.  A lot of 112 bales of cotton shipped by Mr. R. M. Nimocks to Messrs. Sprunt & Son, Wilmington, was protected by a floating policy.  Capt. R. H. Tomlinson had recently been made commander of the Bladen, and at the time of its burning both he and Capt. Jeff. D. Robinson were on board.

The passengers on board the Bladen, were Messrs. Robt. Lee, of Wilmington, A. J. Harmon, of Bladen county, Dodson, a commercial traveler, Mrs. Thos. Hundley and child, of Fayetteville, Miss Erambert, of Richmond, Va., and one or two others whose names were not learned.

We learn that Miss Erambert was for a few moments in great danger, her hair being singed and clothing scorched before she could be rescued from the boat.”

[Fayetteville Observer and Gazette – February 25, 1886]


— The steamer Trent, Capt. Dickson, from Newbern, N. C., arrived in this port yesterday. The Trent is owned by the Neuse & Trent River Steamboat Company of Newbern, and has been chartered to run between Wilmington and Fayetteville in place of the burned steamer Bladen. She will make her first trip up the river to-day under command of Capt. R. H. Tomlinson. The Trent draws about three feet of water, is a propeller, and has a carrying capacity of about 650 barrels of rosin. She has limited accommodations for passengers which it is proposed to enlarge.

[Wilmington Morning Star –  Thursday, March 18, 1886]

—  The new steamboat Cape Fear, at the marine railway, is nearly finished.  She will be commanded by Capt. Tomlinson, of Fayetteville.

[Wilmington Weekly Star – June 25, 1886]

BLADEN STEAM BOAT CO. – We regret to learn that Capt. T. J. Green so long connected with the boating business on the Cape Fear River has been compelled on account of ill health to tender his resignation as Capt of the Str. Cape Fear.  Capt. Green was a model captain, always attentive, polite and cheerful, and his retirement is a severe loss to the Company and traveling community.  Complimentary resolutions were passed by the Stockholders,  expressing regret at his resignation and the necessity causing it.  Mr. R. H. Tomlinson, who has been connected with this company for the past two years under Capt. Green, was elected to fill the vacancy, he is in every way competent to discharge the duties.  He is a clever, genial gentleman  The same Agts. at Fayetteville and Wilmington are retained.

[Fayetteville Observer – February 10, 1887]

Body Found.

The body of Mr. John Brennon, of Bladen county, who fell overboard from the steamer Cape Fear and was drowned near the “Devil’s Elbow,” while the boat was on her trip up the river, last Thursday, was discovered by officers of the same steamer on the return of the boat last Sunday.  It was floating in the water, fastened by a rope to a tree on the river bank, about thirteen miles above this city.  It is supposed that the body had been found and secured, by persons who had gone to notify the coroner of the county.  Capt. Tomlinson, of the Cape Fear, had the remains of the unfortunate man covered with a  tarpaulin, as protection from the birds, and upon the arrival of the boat here notified the friends of the deceased.  An uudertaker {misspelled} with a coffin went up on the Cape Fear yesterday afternoon, to remove the body to Dawson, Bladen county, the home of the deceased, for interment.  Mr. Brennon was a native of Canada, but had married in Bladen county, where he leaves a wife and one child.  His friends say that he had about sixty dollars in money on his person when he left this city for home last Thursday.

[Wilmington Star – June 21, 1887]

DROWNED IN THE CAPE FEAR.—We learn that a Mr. Brennon, a Canadian, who lives at Dawson’s Landing, when returning on the Steamer Cape Fear, fell from the lower deck of the steamer and was drowned.  The accident happened about eighteen miles above Wilmington, where the water is very deep.

Capt. Tomlinson, of the Steamer Cape Fear, found the body last Sunday on his return trip, about thirteen miles above Wilmington.  He covered the body with tarpaulin and notified his friends in Wilmington.


The river is very low.  It was a hard pull for the Murchison to reach her wharf on Sunday.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, June 23, 1887]

There have been several excursions to Carolina Beach from this place recently.  One left yesterday morning, via steamer Cape Fear, Capt. Tomlinson.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, August 18, 1887]

The steamer Cape Fear, which left here last week for Carolina Beach, gathered in a goodly number before she arrived in Wilmington.  Willis’ Creek, Tar Heel, White Oak, Elizabeth, Sugar Loaf and White Hall, all contributed their quota, and the number when she reached Wilmington was about one hundred and twenty-five.  Dancing and all sorts of fun kept the party in good spirits, and they had a good time.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, August 25, 1887]

The steamer Cape Fear, Capt. Tomlinson, keeps up her weekly excursions to Carolina Beach with good success, not neglecting, either, to take on large freights.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, September 15, 1887]

—  The steamer Cape Fear arrived from Fayetteville yesterday afternoon with several passengers and a large freight, including 256 bales of cotton.

[Wilmington Star – October 5, 1887]

STEAMER CAPE FEAR.—The above named steamer, which has for some time past been running regularly between this place and Wilmington, under command of Capt. R. H. Tomlinson, has been put upon the ways at Wilmington for thorough repairs.  It is the intention of the company to repaint and refit her, and make her in all respects first class, so that they may be ready for the large patronage expected in excursions to Wilmington this summer.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, May 3, 1888]

Steamer Cape Fear.

The steamer Cape Fear came out from the dock at Skinner’s shipyard yesterday, looking as bright and neat as a new pin.  The boat has been thoroughly overhauled and repainted from stem to stern and will this week take her place on the river fully equipped for the excursion season, which it is confidently expected will be a leading feature in the traffic of the up-river boats this summer.  Capt. Tomlinson, the commander of the Cape Fear, is one of the most popular men on the river, and under his control the boat will get her full share of the business.

[Wilmington Star – May 13, 1888]

The Steamer Cape Fear Overhauled.

[Wilmington Star.]

The steamer Cape Fear, which for two weeks has been on the railway at Skinner’s shipyard for repairs, has been overhauled and will resume her regular trips to Fayetteville to morrow.  She has been caulked all over and painted inside and out, and presents quite a neat appearance.  Captain R. H. Tomlinson, her clever master, says he is now ready for the excursion season, and expects to bring crowds of people to Wilmington this summer.  The public will now find the Cape Fear’s accommodations first rate

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, May 17, 1888]


TOMLINSON. — On Thursday morning last, at six o’clock, after years of patient suffering, MRS. SARAH JANE TOMLINSON, relict of the late Wm. H. Tomlinson, Sr , in the 71st year of her age.

This good woman, this “mother in Israel,” deserves more than a passing notice of her departure.  While to her “to die was gain,” yet the vacant chair at home will always remind those of her immediate and most devoted family of the loss they have sustained in her death, for she was a living Christian in the broadest sense of the phrase.  Humble, meek and patient; an example to those around her of a non-complaining sufferer, as well as a good Samaritan in the vineyard of the Lord.  The poor will miss her.  She had nothing too good for them.  Blessed herself with all the comforts of a happy home, “She knew no joy, but friendship might divide, Nor gave her family grief, save when she died.”

From youth up a faithful member of the Baptist Church, she honored the same by meekness, piety and true faith.  She is gone—ripe for the kingdom, we would not call her back to toil and care, to worry and pain.  She has gone, we may humbly trust, to repose in that eternity where her soul lived in advance.  Her children have risen up and called her blessed, and they grieve but do not murmur; they are sad, but “sorrow not even as those who have no hope.”

A bright link has dropped from that endless chain of faith and virtue.  Her life had been (save bodily suffering), like the spring with its beautiful flowers, watered by the gentle dews of Heaven, shedding their sweet perfumes on all around.  She quietly passed away on the last day of Spring—31st of May, when the birds had chanted their last mating song of the year.  Beyond the grave for her there is a new life, and a happy welcome of “well done good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of they Lord.”

Fayetteville, N. C., June 2nd, 1888.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, June 7, 1888.]


—  The steamer Cape Fear, Capt. Tomlinson, is detained at this port while her machinery is being overhauled.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Sunday, July 22, 1888]

— Fayetteville Observer:

—–  Capt. J. C. Smith, a well-known and very efficient steamboat man, has recently relinquished his command of the Murchison, being succeeded by Capt. R. H. Tomlinson, and will have charge of the new ferry boat to ply between Point Peter and the city wharves of the Cape Fear & Yadkin Valley railroad at Wilmington.  The boat [Compton] is in construction at Wilmington, Del., whither Capt. Smith goes to remain until it is completed, and bring it around to Wilmington.

[Wilmington Star – September 24, 1889]

The Cape Fear and Its Pleasant Travel.

The steamer Murchison has recently been overhauled , painted inside and out, its state-rooms renovated, and the craft put in thorough order from the water line to the smokestack-tip – and she will soon be “walking the waters like a thing of life” under the efficient command of Capt. R. H. Tomlinson.  The same “heroic treatment” is in store for the Cape Fear, she having already modestly gone into retirement in view of the new “rigging” about to be donned.

You may gird us all about with the iron rail, intersect us and network us; but the fondness is still within us for the good old-time river riding – the dolce far niento of travel – with its charming glimpses of still life gracing every curve of the picturesque stream.

[Fayetteville Observer – June 11, 1891.]

Capt. R. H. Tomlinson, of the Murchison, came in Tuesday morning, and reports a fearful downpour of rain at Hawley’s Ferry Monday night.  He says the rain came down in sheets resembling very much his idea of a water-spout.  So great was the rain that he found it necessary to tie up the boat for a couple of hours

[Fayetteville Observer – July 2, 1891.]

Wrecked and Abandoned.

A recent issue of the Wilmington Review has the following paragraph:

The bones of the Henrietta, the first steamboat that ever plied on the Cape Fear river, lie rotting a few miles below the city.  They ought to be preserved, if possible, as a historical relic.

We are heartily in accord with our contemporary’s ideas.  They are rich in memories and associations of the past—every decaying spar and yawing rib—and, if no more, we can shelter them from the assaults of time and the rack of wind and wave, and with a white stone show posterity where they moulder.

The changes of fortune have scattered to the winds of heaven the rich argosies that her keel has carried, and the travelers that walked her boards have long since passed down the current of time; the iron tongue of the old cannon is voiceless that caught her distant call amid the plash of waves and the echoes of the winding stream, and the grim old warehouses  have crumbled into ruins, or shriveled into ashes under the fierce breath of conflagration, which took in keeping the freights of the staunch old steamer.  Yes, her and hers the earth hides beneath its shifting sands , and cherishes under its heaped-up, grass grown mounds; but the yellow waters from the eternal hills flow on in majesty forever, murmuring the stories of all these things into the boundless, secret bosom of the everlasting sea.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, July 9, 1891]

A Little More of a Very Good Thing.

The unmarred success and unalloyed enjoyment of the Cape Fear river excursion given last month by the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Cornet Band very naturally emboldens the corps to repeat that very excellent thing.  The second excursion of the season will take place next Thursday evening, 23rd inst., on the handsome steamer Murchison, Capt. R. H. Tomlinson commanding, with the concomitants of nice refreshments and delightful music.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, July 16, 1891]


Of Capt. R. H. Tomlinson of the Steamer Cape Fear.

Maj. T. D. Love received a telegram from Fayetteville yesterday morning announcing the death in that city very suddenly on Monday night, of Capt. R. H. Tomlinson, well known in this city as the master of the steamer Cape Fear.  His death is said to have resulted from congestion of the lungs.  Capt. Tomlinson’s wife and three children who were spending the summer at Carolina Beach, were at once informed of the distressing event, and came up to this city and left for Fayetteville by train on the C. F. & Y. V. railroad yesterday afternoon.

Capt. Tomlinson had been suffering from some months past with rheumatism, and had not been running regularly on the steamer Cape Fear recently.  He was about 33 years of ago, [age] a native of Fayetteville, and enjoyed the respect and esteem of a large circle of acquaintances, and the warm friendship of many who deeply sympathise with his family in their sad bereavement.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Wednesday, August 12, 1891]


Capt. R. H. Tomlinson died at his residence on Ramsey street in this city on Monday night, 10th inst., after an illness of only a few days.  We are not justified in the statement by any expression of medical or surgical opinion, but some of his friends think that his death was probably somewhat accelerated by internal injuries received from a fall which he had during his travel on the railroad between this city and Charleston.

The deceased was for some time actively engaged in mercantile business in Fayetteville, but was subsequently connected with the boating service on the Cape Fear river, and at the time of his death was commander of the steamer Murchison, and in his official relations with the public added to the circle of friends in his native place.  He married Miss Jane Monaghan, daughter of the late lamented B. Monaghan, of this place, who, with three children, survives him.

The funeral services took place from the residence yesterday morning at 10 o’clock, Rev. Dr. J. C. Huske, of St. John’s Episcopal Church, conducting the ceremonies, and the remains were escorted to the grave by the Knights of Pythias, of which order Capt. Tomlinson was a member.

[Fayetteville Observer – August 13, 1891.]

Capt. Robert Henry Tomlinson

Capt. Robert Henry Tomlinson

NOTES:  “… his friends think that his death was probably somewhat accelerated by internal injuries received from a fall which he had during his travel on the railroad between this city and Charleston.”  About a month prior to Capt. Tomlinson’s death, an excursion had been arranged for Fayettevillians to ride the recently completed railroad spur between Fayetteville and Bennettsville on a trip to Charleston, SC.  I have posted details of this “First Excursion” but have not found mention of a train incident which might have caused an injury to Capt. Tomlinson.  That is supposing that he was a part of this excursion, or if his injury was on a personal trip.

Capt. Irwin Robeson, an experienced navigator on the Cape Fear river, has been elected Captain of the Steamer D. Murchison, to succeed the late Capt. R. H. Tomlinson, with Mr. John Cook, of Fayetteville, as first mate.  Both are excellent appointments.

[Fayetteville Observer – August 20, 1891.]

River News.

There was 7 feet of water in the Cape Fear this morning.  The Hurt left for Wilmington this morning carrying as passengers, Miss Alice Monaghan, Master Rozier Thomson and Masters James and Bernard Tomlinson on their way to Carolina Beach.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday Evening, July 14, 1898]

NOTES:  R. H. Tomlinson ( b. 14 Nov, 1858 – d. 11 Aug, 1891 ) married Janie A. Monaghan ( b. 17 Feb, 1865 – d. 19 Jan, 1946 ), who was the daughter of Benjamin & Ann Monaghan.  Their children included:  Robert Bernard, James Patrick and William Archie.

The widow, Janie Tomlinson, married John P. Thompson of Fayetteville, on the 15th Apr, 1896.  Thompson’s children, from a previous marriage (widowed) included: Crozier, Robert, Frederick, Alexander and Ella.  John and Janie Thompson had a daughter, Annie, born Jul, 1899.

Widowed again, Janie remarried a Mr. Worsley, and died in Santa Clara, California in 1946.

The Cape Fear River Steamers

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