WILMINGTON – Assorted 001

03 Dec



“Wilmington” Will be Brilliantly Lighted

During Coming Excursion Season.

The Southern Electric Company, of this city, yesterday closed a contract with Capt. John W. Harper for installing upon the steamer “Wilmington” a complete electric lighting equipment, which will be in readiness by the opening of the excursion season. The machinery, consisting of a marine type of engine and direct connecting dynamo. Has already been shipped and two experts will be put to work Tuesday wiring the boat from stem to stern. All the wires will be invisible and the number of lights will be from 75 to 100 with a larger capacity, if at any time it shall be desirable to add more. Provision will also be made for the installation of a number of electric fans in case at any time the breeze should not be sufficient for comfort during the Summer, a possibility which, however, is very remote. An electric search light will probably be added to the equipment a little later.

[Wilmington Star – February 26, 1905]

Wade Harris in the Charlotte Chronicle of Wednesday says:

“The person who goes to Wilmington and fails to take in the river trip, misses the best feature of the visit. The widely known and ever-popular Captain John W. Harper, still does business in the wheel house. He now owns two fine passenger steamers – the Wilmington and the Madeline, and the schedules to Carolina Beach, Southport, Fort Caswell and to sea, are as convenient as two swift boats can make them. Captain Harper stays by the Wilmington and has a bright and capable mate in Mister Fred Harper. They are a fine pair. The feeling to “get on Harper’s’ boat” is just as strong now on the Wilmington visitors as it ever was.

[Wilmington Star – July 21, 1907]



Twenty Per Cent Increase of Business,

Despite Other Conditions.

Labor Day closes a very successful season at Carolina Beach and it will be gratifying to the hosts of friends of the genial master of the steamer Wilmington, Capt. John W. Harper, to know that in spite of the daily operation of jitney lines to the resort and the fact that each day of the season saw from 10 to 15 automobiles in operation by private parties, the steamer increased its business 20 per cent, according to the records, in fact, the past August was the best month ever scored by the steamer Wilmington since it has been running on the majestic Cape Fear.

Next season promises to show an even greater traffic on the steamer Wilmington from the fact that a number of prominent people are already preparing to build there and as always in spite of jitneys, trolleys, bicycles and every other form of transportation, there is nothing that can quite take the place of a trip on the beautiful steamer Wilmington with the jolly Captain Harper in the wheel house.

Elsewhere in today’s paper will be found the winter schedule of the steamer Wilmington, which will make its trips as usual from Wilmington to Southport, touching at the various points along the river as of yore.

It is good to know that the steamer Wilmington has lost none of its old-time popularity and that the season just ended was one or the best it has ever had.

[Wilmington Star – September 3, 1916]




Brought Twenty-six Thous-

and and Five Hundred – New

Yorker Bought Her


The river steamer Wilmington that has been operated between this city and Southport for the past several years and on which almost every man, woman and child in the city has been a passenger at some time or other, was bid in at public auction Monday morning for $26,500 by Mr. Leta D. Potter, of New York. In event the sale is confirmed by the courts the Wilmington will probably be moved elsewhere and will not grace the placid bosom of the Cape Fear in the future. Several other interests were bidding on the vessel, but the bid of Mr. Potter was the last.

The removal of the Wilmington from this port will not be without a pang of regret on the part of all, for the history of the vessel fits in well with the historic Cape Fear and the fact that she will not continue to nose her way up a down the river, transporting passengers and freight from the city to Southport and back will cause a pang of sorrow – a heartache so to speak. Owned and operated by the late Capt. John W. Harper, the Wilmington has perhaps made more children happy in her cruises up and down the river and occasionally out to sea than any vessel that ever made this port.

[Wilmington Dispatch – February 12, 1918]




Steamer Wilmington Will

touch at Tropical Island



Wilmingtonians will be given an opportunity to visit Palmetto island, at the mouth of Cape Fear river, tomorrow, when the steamer Wilmington makes its last excursion on Cape Fear river, preparatory to taking up a regular run from Charleston to Sullivan island.

Doubtless a large number of persons will avail themselves of this opportunity to visit and inspect this semi-tropical island, upon which a hotel and pavilion already have been erected with the view of establishing a tourist resort there.

The Wilmington will leave its mooring at the foot of Princess street at 10 o’clock. She will proceed to Southport, thence to Fort Caswell and to Bald Head island. The steamer will afterwards go to sea, returning to Bald Head and leaving there about 2:50 o’clock for Southport, leaving Southport for Wilmington at 3:30 o’clock.

Captain L. D. Potter announces that an “elegant” dinner may be procured in Southport for 75 cents.

[ND – March 7, 1925]




Steamer Excursion to Bald

Head Sunday; Goes to

Charleston Next Week


The steamer Wilmington will make its last trip of the season Monday morning, leaving its moorings at the foot of Princess street at 10 o’clock for Southport, Fort Caswell and Bald Head island.

On the first good day after Sunday the Wilmington will go to Charleston, to take up a regular run to a resort near that city, said Capt. L. D. Potter, of the Wilmington Southport Steamboat company.

It is expected that an unusually large number of people will take advantage of the last opportunity this summer to make an excursion trip down the river aboard the Wilmington.

[ND – April 24, 1925]




The steamer Wilmington is scheduled to sail for Charleston tonight to begin running between that city and Sullivans island.

Captain L. D. Potter, of the Wilmington-Southport Steamboat company, will be in charge of the steamer Wilmington on the trip to Charleston.

The Wilmington will be operated this summer by the Marine Construction and Towing company, of Charleston which concern recently chartered the vessel for the Charleston-Sullivans island run.

Captain Potter expressed regret over the fact that it is necessary to move the Wilmington, but he explained that the revenue from the steamer on the Wilmington-Southport run did not justify its operation on Cape Fear river.

The “steamer” Evelyn for some time has been plying between this city and Southport.

[ND – April 27, 1925]



Future Base Will Be at St.

Petersburg, Fla., To Be

Moved Soon.


One of the oldest “citizens” of Wilmington’s waterfront, the steamer Wilmington, will soon be completely remodeled into an automobile ferry and moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., where she will enter into the service of the Bee Line Ferry company as a ferry across Tampa Bay, connecting Pinellas Points on the west with Piney Point on the east, a distance of seven miles, which by land is 47 miles. President Charles R. Carter, of the Florida company, is at present in the city completing the negotiations for transfer of the ship and its renovation.

A contract with the Broadfoot Iron Works has been signed for the rebuilding. This work will take five or six weeks and the steamer is expected to leave for St. Petersburg about November 15. The ship when remodeled will have decks two feet wider on each side. The house will be changed and the third deck done away with. The lower deck will be lowered so as to give a nine-foot head way for automobiles to enter. The entire bow and stern will be left open as a storage place for automobiles. Mr. Carter said that he expected to carry about 25 automobiles on the ferry at every passage of the bay. The ship will be used exclusively for an automobile ferry.

The project to establish a ferry across the bay at this point is the first ever attempted, the president asserted. The largest concrete bridge in the world is across from St. Petersburg to Tampa, this offering a saving to motorists of many miles. It is with the same plan in view that the company has been formed to establish a ferry across the bay at Pinellas Point, Mr. Carter declared.

One of the main arteries of tourist traffic each winter is by this route and the president is looking forward to immense traffic by way of his ferry when the service is begun. He stated that this year Florida will be visited by tourists and not speculators and that preparations were underway to care for a larger tourist traffic this year than ever before in the history of the winter resorts in the state.

Asked about the effect of the storm, he declared that this would prove one drawing card. St. Petersburg was not hard hit by the hurricane which swept over the lover part of the state. Only a few shingles from the houses were blown off, he asserted.

[Wilmington Star – October 16, 1926]

NOTE: An excerpt from an online article regarding the St. Petersburg area with the following historical note:  “… Little activity occurred in the area until 1926, when a ferry began operating between Pinellas and Manatee Counties at what is now Bay Vista Park. The need for the ferry ceased with the mid-1950s opening of the Sunshine Skyway…”

Steamer Wilmington Is Now Being

Reconstructed In Tampa, Florida


Work of complete reconstruction of the Steamer Wilmington, which was used on the Wilmington to Southport line about two decades ago, is now underway in the Hillsborough terminal in Tampa, Fla., it was learned here today.

The craft, which was converted into a ferry boat shortly after its sale to Florida interests in 1927 for approximately $13,000, will be enlarged, new engines will be installed and will be made more attractive in a number of ways. It has been plying between Pinellas and Piney points across Tampa bay for the past few years and is expected to be put back into service about October 15.

Approximately $40,000 will be spent in renovating the boat, which belongs to the Bee-Line Ferry company of Tampa.

The steamer was built in 1881, at the Cramp shipyards at Philadelphia. It was then put into service on the Delaware river and was brought to this city about 1890.

The ferry, when completed, will be renamed the Pinellas.

With the exception of most of the frame and a part of the hull plates, it will be a new boat when again placed in service.

Will Reduce Operating Costs

With its steam plant replaced by a 350-horsepower Atlas Imperial Diesel engine, Bee-Line ferry operators anticipate reducing operating cost 50 to 60 per cent and the ship’s speed will be increased 12 to 15 miles an hour. In addition to these advantages, removal of the steam plant will leave almost the entire deck available for automobiles, increasing the capacity from 20 to 26 cars.

The only loss foreseen in modernizing the ancient ferry and excursion boat will be the quaint appearance of the boat. Many winter tourists have recalled outings a half century ago when they made pleasure jaunts down the Delaware river on the same ship between Philadelphia, Chester and Wilmington on Wilson line excursions. Others have recalled courting days aboard the craft they had long ago forgotten.

When the name Penellas appears on the bow, the ferry, duplicating the old one below the water line, will appear entirely different. There will be a 12-foot clearance for cars and the upper deck will have a canvas awning for passenger use as an observation deck. There will be a small cabin space, rest rooms and an engine room 8 by 20 feet in the center of the lower deck.

Twenty-five laborers are at work on the ship, and the contractor expects to have the hull ready for launching within three weeks. E. Ray McNeely, marine superintendent for the ferry line, is supervising the construction work. The engine installation and erection of super-structure will be done immediately after launching and it is expected the craft will be ready for service October 15. It will be placed in charge of Capt. A. R. Ridgley with R. A. Sansbury as chief engineer.

The ferry line has begun construction of a new dock that will extend out to deep water on the Piney Point terminal, 3,400 feet from shore. An extension will be run 6,000 feet from shore on the Pinellas Point side, cutting the run from seven to five miles. About half the extensions will be by sand fill, and the remainder bridge construction.

[N – August 12, 1930]

Steamer Wilmington’s

Whistle Put On Tug


The mellifluous tones of the whistle of the steamer “Wilmington” were audible for Wilmingtonians yesterday afternoon after it had remained silent for many years.

Captain W. C. Manson has placed the whistle from the old steamer on his new tug, the “Battler.” It was heard several times yesterday as he adjusted its tone.

The “Wilmington” was operated on the Cape Fear for many years by Captain John W. Harper transporting passengers from here to Southport.

[N – June 29, 1939]

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