The Steamer WILMINGTON
“A Colonial Apparation” by James Sprunt (PDF)
A biting storm of sleet and snow is seldom seen in Wilmington. For many years the winter season passed with scarcely frost enough to chill the poor, and then a Christmas season came that will long be remembered for the rigor of its cold…
… The Southport mail boat, Wilmington, made her daily runs without a break, although at times the gale would seize and bend her in its grasp, until her upper rail was partly hidden in the foam; but Captain Harper knew his craft and kept her well in hand. With steady stare ahead and vice-like grip upon the wheel, he safely steered her up and down, without an accident.
The twenty-fourth brought weather indications of a change; but such a storm dies slowly, and often comes again in gusts, as if unwilling to depart. The boat was timed to sail at five o’clock, and long before the warning whistle blew, a Southport party came well laden with big parcels for the holidays. With plank hauled in, the rail secured and hawser neatly coiled, the stately steamer shaped her course. But ere the double bells were rung, a little rivet broke away from thousands of its kind, and soon caused trouble with the furnace fires…”
[Excerpt from “A Colonial Apparition” by James Sprunt]
Photograph of the Captain John Harper House on South Front Street. In the yard are Catherine Harper and her sister Ella.
An audio reading in three parts:
Captain John W. Harper
“A real thing to remember was the smell of the engine room on Captain Harper’s boat, the Wilmington, as it hummed and throbbed its way to Southport. A clean hot, steamy, oily smell, that one got as he looked down at the wheels and the smooth running pistons of nickel, of brass, of steel, all so well polished.”
[Excerpt from James Sprunt’s, Tales and Traditions of the Lower Cape Fear, 1661- 1896.]
- Captain John Harper c1909
- On the upper deck of the Steamer WILMINGTON (Wilmington waterfront.)
- Approaching the WILMINGTON from her stern.
- A large number of passengers aboard the WILMINGTON.
- The WILMINGTON on her run to Carolina Beach and Southport
- The WILMINGTON in full sail. (This image is flipped. Zoom and note boat’s name is reversed on bow and wheelhouse of boat.)
- The Steamer Wilmingtonby James H. McKoy (via ECU Digital Archives Online)
- Links to James H. McKoy’s recollections of “The Steamer Wilmington” and “Miss Hart’s and Miss Brown’s School.”
- The Wilmington at her dock at the foot of Chestnut Street (not Market St.)
- Postcard c1900 with WILMINGTON near foot of Market St.
- After 1891 (Old Stone Post Office depicted), but before Atlantic Trust Bank was built in 1913?5).
- The Cumming Family aboard the WILMINGTON.
- The Cumming Family in their “Sunday Best” aboard the Steamer WILMINGTON.
- Man and woman on the deck of the WILMINGTON.
- The Happiest Event of the Year
- The title is a reference to the annual class trip & picnic of “Miss Hart’s and Miss Brown’s School,” to the ruins of St. Philips Church and Old Brunswick Town aboard the steamer WILMINGTON.
The fate of the Steamer WILMINGTON was to become the PINELLAS, a Tampa Bay fishing excursion boat. *I believe that I have read that the boat later made it’s way across the sea and ran on some Oriental river, but don’t quote me on that.
— I found a blog posting this morning for a St. Petersburg area blog. A man named David said that he remembered the ferry and that after the Skyway Bridge was opened this ferry became a fishing excursion boat that he and his dad went out on several times. *I hope that he will see my reply to his comment and perhaps be willing to send a story or photo of him & his dad on the Pinellas. 12/7/2010 bg2
— I also found a postcard on eBay for sale (and have purchased it) of the Pinellas Ferry as it was in 1936.
Fishing is Poorer After Winter’s Loss (The Evening Independent – Feb. 2, 1970)
Photo below, provided by Don C. Auble with the notation:
‘ …photo of me aboard the Tampa Bay ferry. Based on my age in the photo, this would probably be about 1950.
We used to spend our winters in Sarasota and it was always a treat to cross the bay by ferry — an hour “at sea” for a young lad. (The alternative “long way” drive to Tampa was so BORING.) … ‘
- Entertain With Moonlight Cruise (May 1958)
- Cruising Along (June 1965)
- Miss Pinellas to Sail Home (November 1965)