Published Saturday September 13, 1897 in The Observer, Fayetteville, NC
E. J. Hale Editor and Proprietor - E. J. Hale, Jr., Business Manager

Mr. Deming Writes of the Past

Shared by Christine Meinert Spencer    Posted September 12, 2008 by Myrtle Bridges


In writing of her I neglected to mention some facts that might possibly interest some of your readers. 
She sat on the water like a thing of life, with high, sharp bow, breasting out like a duck; in fact, 
the prettiest model ever on the river. When loaded to her full capacity, drew about four feet of water. 
The "pole" boats, of the early days, were very different from ours of the present day. They were high 
bowed like a canal boat, and deep in the hold; would carry some 300 bales of cotton. 

Most, or nearly all of the cotton went to Wilmington for shipment, there being but one factory here, 
Donaldson's, which was on Cross Creek, about where the Roller Mill is, but nearer the Creek. The chief 
product, I think, was yarns. Robert Donaldson, Sr., was the owner, as, also, of the operatives, who were 
negroes mostly. I believe the machinery was taken out when Mr. Donaldson left here, about 1834 or 1835. 
[Was not this Mr. Donaldson the father of Mrs. James Huske, Mrs. Gen. John Winslow, and Mr. Henry Donaldson? 
These were of no kin to Robert Donaldson.-Editor.]

Benbow, Kyle & Co., put machinery in it about 1852, for making yarn, and it was then known as the Benbow 
Factory, which was destroyed by Sherman's army, as were others.

I have skipped a little, as I intended to say something in regard to the Cape Fear Navigation Company. 
All receipts for freight, above deep water, were subject to a toll of 1/8 (12 1/2c.) of receipts on the 
dollar, which practically kept competition out, and as the stockholders of both companies were the same, 
they had it all their own way. The Navigation Company were required to do a certain amount of work each 
season in keeping the river navigable, by getting longs, stumps, etc., in the channel, out, and had a 
flat fitted for the purpose. The work was done in low water, say from June to October. A captain, mate, 
cook, etc., with some dozen hands, constituted the crew. There was some hard work, but ordinarily it 
was a regular "picnic" to get a berth on the Navigation Flat, as it was amply supplied with provisions. 
In high water they laid up, played cards, matched cents, caught fish, shot game, stole pumpkins, corn, 
and now and then killed a sheep or pig, stole chickens, &c. When coming up the river on the steamers we 
could see squirrel skins floating down, we knew then the Navigation Flat was close at hand, and to make 
a show of doing something they would have an old stump or log in tow, which perhaps they had in waiting 
for half a day. 

I do not recollect what year the charter was annulled and appropriations made by Congress to clean out the 
river-which I doubt being more navigable than it ever has been; but let the good work go on, somebody is 
getting benefitted, and Uncle Sam has "money to burn," and let's get our share while its going. But of all 
the improvements in steamers on the river the old Henrietta stands "queen" in point of speed and 
probably in regard to money earned during her days of usefulness. She was a good deal like the boy's knife, 
as it never had new back-springs, so with the old Henrietta which was overhauled and repaired many times, new 
timbers put in, &c., &c., but she was still the same in model and name. Originally she had a walking beam, 
a timber some 12 inches square and ten feet long, on the end of which was a head with the tongue hanging out, 
painted red, as also were the cheeks, with full head of curly black hair and whiskers, in imitation of "Captain 
Kidd," the pirate. When the boat was in motion the beam worked up and down at ever revolution. The beam 
was finally done away with. The last I knew of the head it was placed over the entrance to the old wagon yard, 
perhaps was there when it burned. I do not recollect the year, but think it was about 1870.

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