Monday, February 16, 2015

Vanished New Bern, No. 17

The Daniel Stimson House

By John B. Green III

Daniel Stimson House, 600 block East Front Street, west side, photo by T. Vaughn, 1971.
The Stimson House was a large Second Empire residence notable for its mansard roof, typical of the style, and its elaborately detailed porches.  It was constructed about 1877 when it was described as "the residence of Daniel Stimson, Esq., perhaps the prettiest wooden mansion in this section of the State.  The interior of it is finished exquisitely with our native woods, polished."  The house stood on the west side of the 600 block of East Front Street where the Gabriel Manigault Rains House is now located.

Billhead from Daniel Stimson's lumber business, 1881.
Daniel Stimson was born in Limmerick, Maine in 1822 and engaged in the lumber business as a young man.  He served as first lieutenant of Company H, 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War before resigning due to ill health.  In February 1864 Stimson relocated to Beaufort, North Carolina where he operated a saw mill.  Moving to New Bern in 1870, he constructed a series of sawmills and mill works that were at the forefront of New Bern's timber business boom of the late 19th century. 

Stimson Monument, Cedar Grove Cemetery.
Daniel Stimson died on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1890 at the age of sixty-eight.  He was buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery the next day.  Stimson's wife Sarah continued to occupy the house on East Front Street until her own death in 1905.  Daniel Stimson's fine residence was later divided into apartments and, after a number of years of decline, was demolished in 1975.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tom Swift and his Air Ship - in New Bern?

Or, the Boy Inventor lands in Berneau, North Carolina!

By John B. Green III

Front cover
Long before Harry Potter and even before the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, there was Tom Swift, boy inventor and adventurer.  In the world of children's adventure and mystery stories, Tom Swift and his early 20th century technological wonders reigned supreme.  In stories like Tom Swift and his Motor-Cycle, Tom Swift and his Motor-Boat, Tom Swift and his Submarine Boat, Tom Swift and his Electric Runabout, or Tom Swift and his Airship,  the intrepid youth introduced and, in some cases, foreshadowed the inventions that were changing or might change the world of his young readers.

Tom Swift was the literary invention of Edward L. Stratemeyer (1862-1930), the most prolific author and publisher of children's literature in the 20th century.  Creator of such popular series as The Rover Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew, Edward Stratemeyer oversaw a syndicate of editors and free-lance writers who produced the books under a variety of pseudonyms.  The Tom Swift series, written under the pen-name Victor Appleton, would eventually total 103 titles published between 1910 and 2007.

Title page and frontispiece
What's Tom Swift's connection to New Bern?  There may not be one except in this blogger's overactive imagination, but here is the evidence.  Tom and his airship are flying down the east coast of the United States.  After leaving Virginia, he passes over North Carolina and accidentally flies into the smoke and heat of a massive forest fire.  After narrowly escaping the fire, Tom and his crew set down outside a small city called Berneau, North Carolina.  Berneau?  Flip the syllables, add an extra "n" and you get New Bern.  That's it.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

And there's literary precedent for New Bern appearing in fiction.  From works that take place in New Bern (Mark Twain's A True Story, 1874, Jules Verne's Facing the Flag, 1896, and Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook, 1996) to dozens of short stories and novels which mention New Bern or have New Bern as a setting for part of their action, the old town has gotten plenty of notice.  Why couldn't Victor Appleton (aka Edward Stratemeyer) have had Tom Swift land in New Bern?

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Vanished New Bern, No.16

By John B. Green III

Street's Ferry

Street's Ferry, from the south shore of the Neuse, photo ca. 1950.
Today's Vanished New Bern is a place and a mode of transportation rather than a building.  For much of New Bern's history the Neuse River was considered to be too wide to be easily bridged.  As a result a number of ferries operated throughout the 18th and 19th centuries to convey people and goods across the river.

Street's Ferry underway and heading toward the north shore landing and the ferry keeper's house, photo ca. 1950.
These ferries were privately operated and were usually known by the names of those who owned or originated the service.  Starting at New Bern and going upstream, the prominent Neuse River ferries of the late 19th century were Fowler's Ferry, Pettiford's Ferry, Nelson's Ferry, and Street's Ferry.  All except Street's were made obsolete by the building of the first Neuse River bridge at New Bern between 1898 and 1899.

Street's Ferry, photo ca. 1920.
Street's Ferry was located approximately eight and half miles up-stream from New Bern where the Weyerhauser plant is now located.  A ferry had existed at that location since the 18th century and had gone by a number of names culminating in Street's for the Street family which operated the ferry in the mid-19th century.  The ferry passed into county ownership and operation in the early 20th century before becoming a state-operated service.  Street's Ferry ended its many years of service in 1962 when it was finally replaced by a bridge.

Ferry keeper James Wiggins at Street's Ferry, 1941. From the 20 December 1941 issue of The State.