Capt. Evans and the steamer LITTLE SAM

19 Oct



I visited the Wilson Library on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill on Saturday, October 17th, 2009 to look at a couple of collections including the James Evans Papers (#248) within the SOUTHERN HISTORICAL COLLECTION.

James Evans had two sons that were involved in Cape Fear river transportation, Captain James S. Evans, who was master of the steamer Little Sam (built & owned by Capt. S. W. Skinner), and Oliver Evans, President of the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Steamboat Company.

A folder of loose receipts and notes provided a wealth of insight into the daily life of the young (30 years old in 1870) steamboat captain, Evans. He was asked, via scrawled notes, by various persons to purchase assorted items, from slab bacon, to saddles, and to sell bushels of peaches, for “an Old Lady” or to pick up barrels of turpentine, if the current asking price was a certain amount. Also included was a Court Summons for Capt. Samuel W. Skinner regarding a matter of non-payment of $3.00 for labor to Joseph Chance (probably a boathand), several receipts for a cording-up of wood, at a $1.60 per cord, and a request for employment aboard the steamer Little Sam.

— Mr. James S. Evans, the energetic, enterprising and indomitable second officer of the steamer A. P. Hurt, is authorized to receive subscriptions for the Carolina Farmer. Amongst the “wimmen” Jeemes is absolutely invincible, and we confidently rely on him to secure the name of every good-looking widow who cultivates an acre of sorghum anywhere in the Cape Fear region. Jeemes is an indispensable appendage of the Hurt. Skinner could no more get along without Evans than he could cross the bar at Elizabeth on the millionth part of an inch of water. “Lord ! Jane, hain’t he got purty eyes ?”


[Wilmington Star – August 16th, 1868]

NOTE:  The Carolina Farmer & Weekly Star was a publication dedicated to agricultural topics.  This was not the Wilmington Morning Star Weekly.  It appeared that most of the articles were gleaned from non-local sources, but still pertinent to our farmers.  I looked through many issues of this paper and there was only one recurring advertisement for a steamboat, that being the “Little Sam.”

*Although this newspaper was published in 1871, there was no mention of the boiler explosion of the R. E. Lee, which occurred in August of that year.


Boats and Navigation on the

Cape Fear River.


Our river transportation is becoming more active and extensive. This, with the continued large production of Naval Stores, and the very large increase in cotton farming, shows plainly that the substantial business of this section is improving. The Cape Fear Navigation Company now reorganized is to open out the river, and keep it in better navigable order.

There are now two new boats building, another in contemplation, three lines of steamers, and three other separate boats, as follows: The Cape Fear Steamboat Company have two boats, the Hurt, run by Capt. Sam. W. Skinner, and the Gov. Worth, run by Capt. A. P. Hurt. The Hurt makes two trips to Wilmington a week and the Gov Worth about three trips in two weeks—both excellent boats for passengers and freight. This company embraces the Messrs. Worth, Lilly, Hurt and others.

The Express Steam boat Company have two boats, each making two trips a week, the R. E. Lee, run by Capt. Wm. Skinner, and the D. Murchison run by Capt. A. Garrison. Both are new and fast going steamers and do a large business. This company embraces Messrs. Williams, Murchison, Lutterloh, &c., we believe. The Peoples’ Line is a new company recently organized embracing F. W. Kerchner, Adrian & Vollers, Smith & Strauss, W. A. Whitehead & Co. Capt. T. J. Green and others, as we learn. This company has the Marion run by Capt. Phillips, and which was formerly owned by the Messrs Mallet, Capt. T. J. Green, formerly of the R. E. Lee, is superintending the business of the company, and they are building a new boat at Fayetteville, which is expected to be in use by May next. The capacity of this new steamer will be about 700 bbls. and 36 passengers, and will be some larger than the Hurt.

The People’s Line Company (capital of $25,000) expect to build another boat during the year perhaps, and with the three, they may accept mail contract and also connect with the Rail Road, both ways, three times a week.

The Juniper also a light new boat is run by Capt. A. Worth, but not on regular schedule. This boat is owned and used by the Messrs. Bullard, Willard Bros. & c., and some week or two ago went up to Averasboro during a freshet, and received there a heavy load of naval stores, and could not return until the freshet yesterday. The Halcyon has been repaired and is again on her regular trips, run by Capt R M Orrell. There has been some proposition by the People’s Line to purchase this steamer. The Orrell, a light boat is in damaged condition, and we hear is to be repaired and used for freight transportation—perhaps above Fayetteville.

Capt. Samuel W. Skinner is also building a small light steamer, the Little Sam, for use as we hear, on Waccamaw river to Georgetown in S. C. It will be finished in a few weeks.

Thus we see there are seven steamers actively and profitably engaged in our business now—half of them new and all in good condition, besides three more to be in use on the river during the year. With such facilities for cheap water transportation, Fayetteville can certainly receive the products of central North Carolina and furnish supplies in return, on better terms, than any other town in the state. We think arrangements might be made soon for travelers from Raleigh to Wilmington to come this way and spend the night on the boats—all within 24 hours either way, and for eight or ten dollars.


[The Eagle – Thursday, January 20, 1870]

NOTE: The infant son of Capt. Sam Skinner, and his wife Emily, had died about two years before he built the steamer “Little Sam”.

[Image of Receipt.]
Receipt for purchase of several items for the steamer Little Sam, including a monkey wrench & hawser.

[Image of note to Capt. Evans.]

Capt. Evans
If turpentine is selling for $2.25 or more you will please come to my landing in the morning to get 19 barrels. W. Sherman


Steamer LITTLE SAM Advertisement

Carolina Farmer & Weekly Star - January 6, 1871


[sidewheeler steamboat image]


IS now running regularly between Wilmington and Point Caswell, leaving Wilmington Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, at 7 ½ o’clock A. M., and Point Caswell Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 ½ o’clock, A. M., touching at all intermediate landings of passengers or freight. Fare, $1—meals extra.

Freight charges very moderate.

For freight or passage, apply to Captain on board.


[Wilmington Morning Star – Friday, July 14, 1871]




— The Little Sam, Capt. Paddison, returned to Point Caswell yesterday with the excursionists who paid a visit to our city on Wednesday. They appeared to be well pleased with their trip.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Friday, August 25, 1871]





[sidewheel steamboat image]

WILL be ready to resume her regular trips on Black River on the 10th of October.


On the same day the Steamer LITTLE SAM will be put on North East River between Wilmington and Hallsville.


Sept 16-S&F1m        R. P. PADDISON.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Friday, September 29, 1871 ]







Trip on the River – Pleasant
Company – Commodore Tatnal
– The Bladen Springs – A Beautiful
Country – A Dance –
Homeward Journey, &c.




In accordance with a courteous invitation from the committee of arrangements, we attended a picnic held at Bladen Springs, near Whitehall, Bladen county, last Friday, 17th inst. Everything seemed to combine to render this little jaunt of ours an occasion of unalloyed pleasure. Taking the steamer Worth on Thursday, and having under one escort three young ladies of Fayetteville, we had the good fortune to find assembled on board a very pleasant party, composed of ladies going to Wilmington and others whose destination, like our own, was Whitehall. The river was low, and the Worth seemed to crawl rather than run, while her whistle was constantly engaged in the effort to clear away its hoarseness by screaming at a hundred different landings, all of which wanted a little room for a few rosin barrels. But we were content: what mattered it {is} that the stream was sluggish and the pulling steamer lazy? our mood was in unison with the lazy sunshine, and the bending willows, and the sleepy cranes which seemed to mock us with their drawling, drowsy flight along the banks. Never have we spent a more delightful day on the Cape Fear – a congenial coterie which seemed to extract a pleasing incident from everything; the skill of the boatmen in shifting freight from landing to gangway; the charms of conversation, the pleasures of a game of whist, a little mixture of frolicking – and when Whitehall was sighted our hearts were torn between the anticipation of the enjoyment in store for us there and regret at bidding good bye to our Wilmington friends.

At Whitehall the shore was crowded with persons in waiting; to receive us, while upon the bank was a great illuminated banner, bearing the kind greeting, “WELCOME!.” Here we found that the committee had made their arrangements perfect: our crowd, consisting of eighteen or twenty from Fayetteville and Cumberland county to other, was divided up into small parties, and sent off to different residences in the neighborhood, amid much mirth, merriment and laughter. That night we stayed at Whitehall, the guest of Mr. James Evans, where we were nicely entertained and enjoyed a good night’s rest. Here we made the acquaintance of Commodore Tatnal, to give him his official title, though he is known to the masses as “Jim Ferryman.” As we sat in the piazza overlooking the Cape Fear, listening to the fast receding paddles of the North State, sounding like the beats of some great heart in mortal struggle (has some other great brain evolved this idea from its inner consciousness?), there came a call from the other bank, so clear, so shrill, that it seemed to cleave the sheeny moonlight as a sharp dinner knife would make its way through fresh cream cheese – “Hallo! ho!! hallo!!!” “Dat’s Bill Simpson. I jess know!” exclaimed a great ragged creature who had been lying at my feet, rising and stretching his remarkable length before me. Then he strode off, and soon I heard the plash of the waves, the reverberating sound of the pole thrown on the flat, and the ferry-boat was ploughing its way across to the other shore.


“Old massa give me holiday.

I wish he’d give me more;

I thanked him very kindly

As I rowed my boat from shore,

And down de riber floated,

Wid a heart so light and free,

To de cottage of my dearest May

I longed so much to see” –


Sang the Commodore, as he bent his tall, gaunt form to the guiding pole, while the moonlight fell on his broad slouch hat, and trickled down over his matted beard like molten silver.

“Ah! yes, you nigger! if I was behind you I’d teach you ‘dearest May!” Come ‘long back heah wid dat boat, you old fool, and go to bed!” – screamed a strident female voice from the door of a cabin on the bank to the right of me.

“Such is life!” mused I; “even the Commodore must come down off his ‘high horse’ when the domestic broomstick is brandished aloft, and the romance of the ferryman’s life wilts before the blighting influence of his practical fireside.”

“Jim Ferryman” is as honest, and faithful as the day is long, and there is not a man on the river who would not trust him with any amount of money. All honor to the old fellow, rough thought his exterior and untutored be his mind!

A fearful thing happened the night we reached Whitehall; we shudder every time the recollection of it comes across our troubled soul. A trunk, which was intended to be taken off there, was accidentally carried on by the Worth; in that trunk was a vest, a pair of pantaloons (if we may be pardoned the expression), a shirt (still asking for pardon), and a cravat; these articles of apparel were intended to adorn the rather lofty person of the chairman of the committee of arrangements, Mr. Jas. Evans, and the world is left to conjecture what would have been the effect on the fair sex at that picnic if the Worth hadn’t carried that trunk to Wilmington. He raised old Cain round Whitehall when he found out what had happened, and rejected with scorn a proposition of ours to lend him a suit. However, he took the matter philosophically at last, lay down saying something about “spilt milk,” and we think he snored that night just as loud as if he had been arrayed like Solomon in all his glory.

Friday, the picnic day, was bright, balmy and cloudless, and with a large party of ladies and gentlemen we set out for the springs. Along the main road and from every cross-road poured streams of wagons, carriages, buggies, horsemen and pedestrians, preparing us to believe what had been told us – that this would be the biggest picnic we had ever seen. Bladen Spring is situated about two hundred yards from the main Wilmington and Fayetteville road, near the splendid residence of the late lamented Mr. Russ. It is a great basin of about 100 gallons capacity, the water of which is as clear as crystal, as cold as ice, and possessed of fine medicinal virtues. We thought we could detect both iron and sulphur, but we were not under favorable circumstances for exercising our chemical knowledge while we drank – for eyes deeper and clearer than this great bubbling fount of nature were looking into ours, and on the pellucid surface of this noble spring was mirrored a form as full of grace as that of any naiad that ever tripped from wold or dell to lave in rippling stream in days of yore, and crowned with that chiefest glory of woman – a wealth of golden hair which caught every shifting ray as it danced on the woodland leaves and the ripples of the limpid stream.

The scene of the picnic was a large grove, garlanded and festooned in moss with a beauty that no art could rival, imparting a picturesque, ancient look which was charming. Every tree seemed to us to have its history, and we could almost imagine that as their majestic forms towered over us, and their gnarled and knotted limbs swayed to and fro above our heads, they were whispering of other days, when tired invalids knelt at their feet and drank the sweet waters which God has given his creatures; when the silence of their peaceful realm was startled by merry laughter; when lovers lingered where the stillness and the shades were deepest; when the fathers and the mothers of the young men and women gathered there that day were as gay and fair as they – but the sturdy oaks and the gray old moss have outlived the soft cheeks, bright eyes and graceful forms which have fallen away into the dust!

At one end of the grove is a vacant house, where we soon heard the familiar sounds of tuning fiddles and scraping bows. In a few minutes a set was formed, after which we became forgetful of the programme until a messenger came to tell us that the crowd was ready for the speech; it required some little force on the part of the committee to drag as out, as we were dancing with a very pretty girl, but we made our appearance at the stand, around which the people were thronged on benches, on the ground and in carriages, and did the best we could for them in the way of an address for 58 minutes by the watch, after which Mr. Allen, of Duplin, and Dr. Devane, of Bladen, responded to repeated calls which had been made upon them by brief but pleasing remarks.

We cannot describe the dinner to which we were invited at 1 o’clock. It was an avalanche of beef, fat mutton, old ham, chickens, ducks, &c.; it was a deluge of cake, pies, tarts, puddings, &c.; it was a flood of pickles, fruits, jellies and sweet meats; it was a glut of all sorts of good things; it was a feast tendered to bounteous hospitality, overflowing in good will and generosity – the offering of a liberal, whole souled people. The remainder of the day was devoted to dancing, promenading and conversation, and sunset closed the Bladen Spring picnic, the road being alive for an hour after with homeward bound parties. There were hundreds present from every direction, and the counties of Bladen, Duplin, Pender, New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus, Sampson, Robeson and Cumberland were represented on the grounds. The hospitality of that section and people were lavishly offered to us, but we wish for ourselves and the ladies in our charge, to thank the families of Mrs. Wooten, Dr. Graham and Mr. Gilliam, and Mr. Evans, for many kindnesses. It required some care on our part to keep the Fayetteville girls from being purposely left by the up boat, as they wanted to stay still another day, and were strenuously urged to do so by their Bladen friends. We boarded the Worth about 9 ½ o’clock on Friday night, and reached home Saturday at noon. Not the least pleasant part of our trip were the rides down and up on the Worth; it is an admirably managed steamer – good fare, clean berths and nice state rooms – and its captain is not only a good officer, but a pleasant companion, ever attentive to the wants and pleasure of his guests.

Crops are generally good in Bladen, though cotton has rather a bad stand in some parts of the county. The people speak cheerfully, and hopefully, and look forward to the future, cherishing a bright anticipation of the restoration of their former thrift and prosperity.

Mr. Allen, in his speech the other day, spoke of Bladen county as a “land flowing with milk and honey.” This is ought to be, literally as well as figuratively; much of its soil is almost inexhaustible in fertility, while it possesses upon the banks of the river, at the doors of many of its farmers, vast beds of marl which is invaluable for the restoration of impoverished land. It is also admirably adapted to sheep husbandry, and we found the people down there almost unanimous in the determination to join us in our struggle for the protection of this important agricultural interest.


[North Carolina Gazette – First Edition – Thursday, August 23, 1877]

NOTE:   Twenty-two years later, 1899, “Jim Ferryman” is listed quite often, at Whitehall (Capt. T. J. Green), in the records of the steamer A. P. Hurt.  In the records, there is never a signature by Jim Ferryman, and it may be that the name became synonymous with “a black man”.  However, in this case, Jim Ferryman may be an actual person.







The Programme Arranged for To-day

Boats to form at 3 p. m. on the west side of the river, the line commencing at Point Peter and extending up the river alongside of the timer pen. Boats to come into line as hereinafter named;

1st Vertner, Capt. Morton.

2d.    Ida Louise, Capt. Evans.

3d.    Oklahoma, Capt. Stewart.

4th.    Navassa, Capt. Thornton.

5th.    Boss, Capt. Manning.

6th.    Louise, Capt. Sellers.

7th.    Bessie, Capt. Crapon.

8th.    Pet, Capt. Taft.

9th.    Craighill, Capt. J. H. Williams.

10th.    Enterprise, Capt. Ward.

11th.    Acme, Capt. Taylor.

12th.    Lisbon, Capt. Black.

13th.    Delta, Capt. Sherman.

14th.    Easton, Capt. Kinyon.

15th.    Italian, Capt. J. T. Harper.

16th.    Blanche, Capt. Jacobs.

17th.    Passport, Capt. Snell.

18th.    Murchison, Capt. Smith.

19th.    Hurt, Capt. Robeson.

21th.    Sylvan Grove, Capt. J. W. Harper.

22nd.Queen of St. John, Capt. Paddison.

23rd.    U. S. steamer Colfax, respectfully invited to join the parade.

Steamer Marie, Capt. E D. Williams, will act as the starting boat and see that the line is kept in order.


Starting from Point Peter, proceeding in mid-stream down the river. When the leading boat is opposite Market Dock, at a signal from the Marie, each boat will give one long blast of the steam whistle when opposite the Creosote Works. Proceeding down the river to Black Buoy, opposite the Dram Tree, rounding the buoy, turning from the eastward to westward, following the west side of the river up opposite to the Champion Compress. As each boat arrives opposite the Compress it will give three blasts of the steam whistle, turn and proceed to its dock.

Boats are requested to display all their bunting. It is especially requested that all boats will use extraordinary caution while in the line, and when breaking line, give the proper signals at the proper time, in order to avoid any accident.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Tuesday, July 24, 1888]


Meeting of Steamboat Company.

The Farmers’ and Merchants’ Steamboat Company, which operates the Steamer Driver, met Wednesday afternoon at the office of the president, Mr. Oliver Evans. There were present Mr. Evans, president, T. D. Love of Wilmington, secretary and treasurer, and directors Jas. Evans of this city, and Messrs. Melvin and Thompson of Bladen.

The old officers were re-elected. The president reported a very prosperous year. It was decided to put the new boat, the Climax, on the river within two months. It was not decided what disposition would be made of the Driver.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, January 10, 1901]

Mr. Love Purchases the City of Fayetteville.

Mr. T. D. Love, the well known and popular steamboat man of Wilmington, has purchased the “City of Fayetteville” from Lisman, Lorge & Co. of New York, and will put her in commission as soon as some repairs are made. “The City of Fayetteville” has been tied up at her wharf in Campbellton since the company went into the hands of a receiver, and her purchase by Mr. Love, for the purpose of running her between Fayetteville and Wilmington, will be hailed with delight by everyone.

The work of making the necessary repairs on the boat was begun to-day.

The purchase was made through Dr. H. W. Lilly, trustee, and S. H. MacRae, Esq., attorney, representing the northern owners, and Mr. James Evans, representing Mr. Love and the Merchants’ and Farmers’ Steamboat Company. The purchase price was $8,950. This, of course, does not include the valuable wharf and property of the Fayetteville and Wilmington Steamboat Company.

[Fayetteville Observer – Thursday, October 19, 1905]

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