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Whitehall Road

Page history last edited by Shamella Cromartie 10 years, 6 months ago

Whitehall Road

by Mary Mintz

 

The objective of this article, according to the Roadwork Proposal, is to tell a story about a road, waterway, or trail that leads from a personal story to the community and ultimately to significant state and national history.  This project focuses on the Cape Fear River in Bladen County, a primary “thoroughfare” used to transport people and all kinds of goods up and down the river.  But how did they get to the river bank to embark on some type of boat?  It is imperative to explain how they traveled overland to reach the river.  That is the reason why this route known as the Whitehall Road is of historical significance.  It was used by many individuals to convey themselves and their products from inland locations to the Cape Fear River.

 

Kin’lin’ Interviews

 

Interviews were conducted by students of Hallsboro High School in the 1970’s for their local heritage magazine entitled Kin’lin”.  As a result, information about this road was recorded.  The Whitehall Road went from inland Columbus County, east of the present-day town of Whiteville to a landing on the Cape Fear River about midway between Fayetteville and Wilmington.  Two students, Gary Simmons and Kevin Weaver, interviewed Jane Sanderlin Morgan, a native of that area of Bladen County.  She talked about a settlement beside the river where people lived and serviced those who were involved with river travel.

 

Among the busiest of these river “towns” was Whitehall Landing.  At this location there was a plantation that belonged to the Gilliam family.  A stage coach stopped at this place, and steamboats going from Fayetteville to Wilmington also always made a stop.  In fact, one famous steamboat named the Magnolia blew up there.  Everyone on board was killed and buried on a nearby hill.  Another boat famous in the area was named Old Fayetteville.  In addition a ferry moored at this landing enabled travelers to cross the river.  And of course, the fishing was good.  People set lines off the flats at the Landing.  It had a post office, too.

 

The Whitehall Road ran from Whitehall Landing to Whiteville.  Parts of the road are still in use.  It was remarkably straight and travelable for a road in its day.  It was on this road that farmers took whatever they had to sell to the Whitehall Landing where it was shipped by boat to Wilmington.  Turpentine and cotton were probably the major items shipped from that place.  Upon returning, these people would load up with goods that had been shipped to Whitehall from Wilmington or some more distant place.

 

The Whitehall Road was actually the most direct and convenient route for the inland dwellers around Whiteville and environs to the sea.  Its route avoided the extensive swamps and marshy sections that a road farther to the east would encounter.  Much of the terrain that the road crossed was fine white sand which was easily drained and did not hold water like heavier soils.

 

When the advent of trains made it possible for produce and other goods to be shipped by rail, the farmers no longer needed to travel to Whitehall Landing to ship their goods by boat.  Thus, railroads superseded the popularity of water transportation for inland dwellers.

 

At first it was all called Bladen County since Columbus County was not formed until 1808.  The Whitehall Landing probably dates back to colonial days and was a vital link to the outside “world” until the middle of the nineteenth century when a railroad was built leading from Wilmington to Florence running through Whiteville and other small communities like Bolton, Hallsboro, and Lake Waccamaw.

 

Another student, Henry Mintz, interviewed Ella Clark Allen, who actually went with her father to the Whitehall Landing on one or more occasions.  She remembered well the activity there.  (Mrs. Allen was born in 1883 on the north side of the Whitehall Road.)  She said that a turpentine still, a saw mill, a post office and several stores were located at the Landing.  She recalled the flats that were used to transport cargo down the river.  The flats were large flat-bottomed boats that had two stories.  The bottom story would be loaded with bales of cotton, barrels of turpentine, crates of chickens, pigs, and cows – all to go to Wilmington.  Sometimes sheep would be loaded too.  Once she was with her father when he sent thirty-five bales of cotton by flat to Wilmington.  The passengers occupied the top story of the flat.

 

Mrs. Allen also described what was called a “rolling road”.  It was a road over which they rolled the large hogsheads of turpentine or tar.  Pegs would be driven into the barrels and oxen would be harnessed directly to the barrel.  The hogsheads were thus rolled to the Landing.  This saved wagon space as well as the heavy labor of lifting the weighty barrels on and off the wagons.

 

Additional facts about the Whitehall Road were supplied by John A. McNeill of Whiteville.  He said that General Hugh Waddell, a colonial officer, had a plantation east of Whiteville about where the hospital is now.  Through his influence some roads were developed.  The Whitehall Road ran from his plantation to Whitehall Landing a distance of some twenty-three miles.  The rich forests of the area made naval stores one of the first industries.

 

The last operation that existed at Whitehall Landing was a blacksmith’s shop.  Now all that remains of that busy place are a few brick and traces of tar that spilled from the hogsheads.

 

Parts of the Whitehall Road are still used though sections of it are privately owned.  In the 1970’s Mintz and one of his teachers traced the old route going from a now abandoned gas station (Baldwin’s Esso) which is located east of the White Marsh on Old 74-76.  The road turned directly in front of the station and made a right turn toward the White Marsh Baptist Church.  They followed this road out to the State Road 1001.  After crossing State Road 1001, they continued onto an improved hard-surfaced road.  When the pavement ended, they crossed the county line from what is now Columbus County into Bladen.  This part of the road is not passable by vehicle, but the next recognizable point is Highway 211 at Rosindale.  After crossing this highway, they found a fork in the road where they took the little fork that looked somewhat like a home driveway.  It continues to Juniper Bay.  This is a straight road currently surrounded by land owned by paper-mill companies.  Finally they reached Highway 87.  On the right in front of a small white house set away back from the road is the continuation of the White Hall Road.  From there, it is necessary to walk to the river to see the spot where the White Hall Landing was.

Note the green dot denotes existing remnants of Whitehall Road. The red dot is Whitehall Landing. Blue line denotes the Cape Fear River.

Origins of the Name – Whitehall

 

Why the name Whitehall designated both the road and the landing is thus far, speculation.  Since the landing dates back to colonial days, this place may have been named for Whitehall in London, England.  Whitehall is a name given to a palace in London as well as to a street on which some of the English government buildings are located.  Also sometimes the British government is referred to as “Whitehall”.  So, this road and landing could have meant “government” property.  No doubt, the landing was named first, and the road leading to Whitehall Landing became the Whitehall Road.

 

Another suggestion from John A. McNeill about the origin of the name stemmed from the ancestors of James B. White, one of the prominent citizens of the area, for whom Whiteville was named.

 

Plantation Homes

 

In addition to the Gilliam plantation at Whitehall Landing, according to Mrs. Morgan, there were several other large farms nearby.  One referred to as Westbrook belonged to Major Robert DeVane, who was a French Huguenot.  The house was built before the Civil War and has been the residence of three or four generations.  Major DeVane’s daughter, Mary Stuart DeVane, married Thomas Neill Maultsby, who was a descendant of the Duke of Maultsby and a Quaker.

 

Miss Lil Gilliam married B.J. Sanderlin and lived at Whitehall Plantation.  Then later Miss Helen Maultsby married Hobson Sanderlin.  As a result, members of the same family now occupy two historic homes.

 

Another interesting item of history in Bladen County concerns a place called Carver’s Creek, which is a tributary of the Cape Fear River near the Whitehall Landing.  At one time a Quaker Meeting House existed near the present-day Methodist Church.  Two families who were Quakers were the Maultsbys and the Nicholsons.  Since the Quakers in general did not believe in war or slavery, most of them moved away.  After that, the Quaker services were discontinued because their leadership was gone.

 

 

 

 

Naval Stores Industry

 

The naval stores and other forest-related activities constituted the largest industry in North Carolina and probably in all the coastal colonies.  People cut trees and rolled the logs to the river on poles.  Later they would catch the tide and float the logs down the river.  The other naval stores – tar, pitch, turpentine and rosin – would be transported in barrels.  Many other products would also be shipped in barrels, making cooperage (barrel making) one of the area’s largest occupations.  (Mrs. Allen stated that her grandfather was a cooper.)  All these activities began as household industries, but with the rolling roads and the river, they assumed huge commercial proportions.  History shows that these “macrocosms” – small communities – reflected what was going on throughout the colony and/or state of North Carolina and all along the eastern seaboard before the impact of railroads and much later, the automobile.  (Reference: Lefler, Hugh T. and Albert R. Newsome.  North Carolina. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1934)

 

The Whitehall Road: Summary

 

The Whitehall Road was definitely significant to those who lived along its route, considering that it provided a way for them to have contact and trade with the “outside world” as well as providing a way for them to sell their products and to return home with the few luxuries - like coffee – that they could afford to buy.

 

Certainly there were other similar routes along the Cape Fear, but the Whitehall Road definitely is one of the most fascinating and deserves a place in the history of North Carolina.

 

 

Mary Mintz is a resident of Hallsboro.

 

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