Rambles about Town: East Front Street to King and Queen Streets
[From: The Daily Journal, October 8, 1882]
We stopped last week at the old flower garden of John Wright Stanly, Mr. Stimson’s, to tell the story of escorting the Honorable Edward Everett to Goldsboro. Now let us continue our rambles. However, before we start, allow me to say some words that may not be uninteresting to you and your readers.
It will be recollected I stated on the authority of an old historian, and the inscriptions on the tombs in Christ’s churchyard here, that in the days of our fathers we frequently had grandmothers not over twenty-seven years old. When this statement was read there were head shakings and exclamations, “Too young, too young.” Here is the proof in this our day and time. I can assert authoritatively there is at present living on the plantation of Judge Green, on Bachelor, a colored woman that was a grandmother just before she had reached her twenty-fourth year of age, and her daughter and grandchild are also living, all well and thriving. They are the grandchildren of Sylvester Pemberton, long since dead, though he will be remembered in Newbern as the “old Drummer.” He was in the war of 1812, and notwithstanding his color, and his wife being a slave—first belonging to Mr. John James, then to Mr. John M. Roberts, was subsequently made drum-major of Craven county. After Pemberton’s death, Judge Green obtained a land warrant for his wife from the U.S. Government. He was also one of the only two colored men ever honored by St. John’s Lodge, Newbern, with membership; William Hancock, colored, the other, who went North to reside previous to the late war. We shall allude to this again, whenever we reach the Lodge building in our ramble, and then attempt to give its history. It is sufficient here to say that for one hundred and ten years many of the most influential public spirited and talented citizens of Newbern have been its members.
To recur once more to John Caruthers Stanly, the colored barber, a slave early in life himself as well as his wife, and afterwards the owner of sixty or more Negroes and several plantations. A.G. Hubbard, Esq., has now in his possession some pieces of very fine and costly china, formerly the property of Stanly, which were sold after the death of his daughters, who resided here, by order of their heir and brother, living in Ohio. Around the bowls in Mr. Hubbard’s collection have undoubtedly stood some of our wealthiest and most distinguished citizens, and pledged in “amber drops” good will, friendship and esteem for Stanly, their host. He lived extravagantly in the time of his prosperity, but was always properly dignified and temperate. Following his old owner, Mrs. Stewart, himself and family were Presbyterians, and, be it to their honor said, if at one period, and during the life of that Christian lady, they were lifted to independence and some influence, we have the evidence before us that she was not forgotten. Tenderly, respectfully and affectionately was she remembered, and at her grave none grieved more sincerely and deeply. In a note, written sixty years ago by one of Stanly’s daughters, she says: “Mrs. Stewart, our best and dearest friend on earth, is gone.” Gratitude, gratitude, whether exhibited under a white or colored skin, cannot be too highly commended.
The brick dwelling of the Hon. C.R. Thomas, is right of us, Eli Smallwood had erected and occupied it for more than a generation. In one respect the life of this citizen was remarkable. He never was confined a single day by illness of any kind from his birth to within three weeks of his death, and he died just before the war, having lived eight and seventy years. He never had a particle of hesitancy in indulging his appetite in any way he desired, and otherwise he used only ordinary care respecting his health. Mr. Smallwood was of medium height, rather stout, had a head which was a brimful of excellent sense and most valuable information. He was self-willed, had plenty of courage to defend himself in any way when assailed, and his judgment was unerring. Having been successful he retired early in life from the mercantile business with a competency, and his fortune he soon thereafter doubled by speculating in United States bank stock. Some of our citizens may not have forgotten his last two vessels, the Gold Hunter and Apprentice Boy, though it will require the oldest now living to remember them. Those who knew Mr. Smallwood in his last years, would not be ready to believe that at one time he was very fond of the glare and glitter of this world, and his carriage and fast trotting horses are still recollected in Raleigh and Warren county by a few that have been overlooked by time. Mr. Smallwood and Gov. Turner were intimate friends, and would together visit the Springs in our State and Virginia. Mrs. Mosby, sister of the late Col. George Little of Raleigh, still living in Warren county, has more than once spoken to the writer of this of one of the visits of Mr. Smallwood to her father’s house near where is now Littleton, when she was a young lady. We have also heard in recent years Gov. Manly speak of Mr. Smallwood’s elegant and costly equipage, and of a ride on one occasion with that gentleman and Gov. Turner in Raleigh. Mr. Smallwood held the reins with his driver in livery by him, Turner and himself were in the carriage behind them, and id did not require many turns of the wheels to so well satisfy him with the speed of the “Baltimore trotters,” as the horses were called, that no earnest persuasion could induce him to try them again. No pair of horses of such high speed had before been in Raleigh, if in this fast day with the trained ones they would be comparatively slow. Towards the close of the life of Mr. Smallwood he would not unfrequently caution our lamented townsman and friend, his son, the late Dr. E.F. Smallwood, relative to the unnecessary extravagance, when his father would be pleasantly reminded of silver dog collars, silver bridle bits, expensive guns and riding whips, and particularly of the carriage referred to above, which had the initials of Mr. Smallwood on the panels of the door in silver, so large as to be of considerable value. No man could have been more kind to his slaves than he was, and the weak of whatever color always had his sympathy. We must not here omit an anecdote of him, which will prove his quick perception in business transactions, and his ability, like a skillful general in battle, to turn the strategy of his opponents against them when necessary for his own success. Stepping in the State Bank on a particular occasion, with a large roll of its notes, and demanding specie for the same (having had a falling out with its officers and much annoying them), they set before him a keg containing thousands of 12-1/2 cent pieces, then in circulation as are our dimes at present. Without a moment’s delay he clutched a handful, and dropping them in his pocket, bawled out, “Give me credit for the balance.” The officers were thus caught in their own trap. They expected to give him the trouble of counting them, and the labor was turned upon themselves, as they did not know how many pieces he had taken out.
A few steps carry us to the corner of East Front and King streets. Turning towards the river there is a pump directly in front of us, bored thirty years ago, and arranged as follows for drinking water: After a sufficient supply of water was obtained at the depth of 47 feet, an iron pipe was inserted in the hole in the bottom of the old well made by a drill, then a wooden tank was sunk with a hole in the bottom of it, through which the end of the pipe projected. Now the space between the wooden tank and the brick walls in the old well was filled in with concrete, and from the top of the tank to the surface of the ground, brick and cement were so used as to keep out all surface water. The space around the pipe in the bottom of the tank was packed and made water tight; thus no water could come in the well or tank except through the pipe. To test it a pole was run in the pipe and the tank pumped dry, whenever so desired. With the pipe clear of obstruction, three hundred and fifty gallons of water would rush through it in a minute. Before this the water had, for drinking, been abandoned; afterwards it was the coldest and analysis proved it equal to the purest in Newbern. Strange to say, the water in the spring at Potter’s ferry, on the opposite side of the Neuse, though supposed at one time to be mineral, was found by the chemist on examination to be the purest water in this section of the country. Unless you have to put it to the test you would be surprised to see the deposit in our pump water in an airtight bottle, after being kept comparatively a short time. However, we have to admit, in Newbern, sanitary regulations as well as precaution respecting drinking water does not seem necessary for the health of our people. During the last few months of continuous rain the filth from the streets and lots must have run in many of our pumps through the earth, as it would through a sieve, and yet no town in the State can boast of being more exempt, at this time, from disease than can our own. Near this pump, where is at present the new house of Capt. James Gordon, was long the home of Thomas Turner, the partner of John Wright Stanly. William Hancock before mentioned, the lineal descendant of William Hancock, the agent of Thomas Pollock, also lived there, as well as did afterwards James C. Stevenson. His grand father, Stevenson, was killed by the same tories, on Fort Barnwell, where he resided, the day after they shot Dr. Alexander Gaston in Newbern. The old Turner mansion was burned on the day of the battle of Newbern with all the houses on either side of East Front street from Union to King street, by the Confederates setting fire to some combustible material in the neighborhood, of comparatively little value to the enemy. But such are the chances in war, and if it were not destructive and bloody it would never end. The people of the most civilized and christianized countries upon earth have made and continue to make the greatest preparations to cut each others throats. A weak brother is knocked down and trampled upon without ceremony while the one of power is respected only from the fear of life for life and treasure for treasure. No love in it. The only improvement in this respect in this enlightened age is that we can kill each other at greater distance and with heavier missiles.
To return to our story, directly in front of us was called at one time the “baptism shore,” from the frequency of the immersions there by the ministers Baptist church. The mention of this place must awaken in many bosoms recollections of the past and bring up sacred scenes that can never be forgotten. The changes have been so thorough that the shore could never be recognized by those who were accustomed to hear on it the eloquent and anxious words of ministers now dead. Yet in their teaching and example they still live and the church must ever continue to feel their influence. The pretty row of elms from the street to the Neuse and the stately cypress tress once along the line of white sand between the water and green sward are all gone. Dreary and desolate indeed is the shore where in the by gone was life, animation and beauty. But we must hurry on—the distance of the side of a square walked and we are at Queen, ‘long the border street. It is now sixty feet in width—it was originally one hundred. The dwelling of Isaac Patterson, Esq., when erected, was on or very near the line. The forty feet taken from the street is his front and flower yard, which Mrs. Patterson has had laid out with care while, perhaps, ignorant of the fact, that , it had previously been part of the street and yet, before that, part of the south side of the Newbern race course; over it too ran some of the most celebrated horses in the South. The curve of the track to the north, was just below where her flowers are and near Gen. Ransom’s residence. If she could call back scenes in the olden times, before her would appear, at this season, a thronging crowd, delighted children, gaudily attired ladies, and neighing and foaming horses; each person present anxious that his or her favorite should be the victor.
“Full sixteen hands denote his measured height.
These lines describe well a racer from Arabian breed and one or more would cross her vision. Then would the struggling animals tearing by and the loud huzzas for the successful horse and rider would fall upon her ears. One of those riders, too, it may surprise some of your readers to learn, might be Elijah Clark; but his race riding was brought to an end by an accident. In a c loosely contested race his leg was so badly injured by a horse that he had to make it known at home, and having more fear of his father’s rod than respect for the example of Washington, he misrepresented the cause of the injury and when found out was punished for it. He would, however, exultingly say that he was compensated by winning the race and he thinks his father enjoyed it about as well as he did when he learned the fact. Not unlike the old minister, “Son, you should not race your horse, it is wrong and sinful, but if you will, beat them if you can.” Of such flesh too are all men made. Dr. Edward Pasteur, the father of our venerable Mrs. John I. Pasteur of our town and of Thomas J. Pasteur, Esq., now of Florida, though previous to his residence there, one of our most influential and popular citizens, owned Arabian and other fine horses and among them Snap Dragon, a brown race horse very distinguished on the turf about the beginning of this century. The name of this swift and handsome racer suggested the name, we believe, of the famous privateer, Snap Dragon, which Capt. Burns, in the war of 1812, caused to be so well known in Europe as well as in the United States, by his daring and successful attacks on British vessels. Dr. Pasteur was a larger stockholder in the vessel which was built by a company and cruised while commanded by Burns with success. We expect to say something more of the Pasteurs and the Snap Dragon, also of Queen street when time and space will allow.
Mr. Patterson’s residence was the old home of Jacob Gooding. Two years before his death I called there to see him. He was in the sitting room shaving himself with quite a steady hand and apparent ease. Two ladies were with him, one his son’s wife, Mrs. Jacob Gooding, and the other then his neighbor Mrs. Henry P. Whitehurst, now of Kinston. I insisted he should not be interrupted by my visit, as while he was thus engaged I could exchange news and secrets with the ladies, the reply was, “very well, but if I am the oldest white man in Newbern you see I am yet fond of ladies’ society.” Mr. Gooding was then 87 years old and had outlived all those born in the year with him and for some years afterwards in our town. He was a small, firmly built man, very neat in dress and apparently not so old by fifteen or twenty years. He died in the eighty-ninth year of his age, and his death was unquestionably hastened by being knocked down about a year before by a horse and cart on our streets. Finishing shaving, he carefully drew his razor across the strap for a moment or two, then wrapping all up together as if he expected to use them again, in order to put them where when wanted they could be found. He had a place for everything and everything about him in its place. He now turned to me and asked, “what can I do for you?” I replied, “give me some information no one else living can. Tell me how many vessels John Wright Stanly captured during the Revolution in a neutral port in the West Indies, and the exact spot where Spaight and John Stanly fought the duel in 1802.” He replied, “fourteen vessels, again and again have I heard Mr. Turner so say when I was a clerk for him at some other time I will put you on the ground where Spaight fell after the fourth discharge of Stanly’s pistol, he firing at the same time.” “I was present a lad,” he continued, “with quite a crowd of men and boys. It was Sunday afternoon. I was connected with the Stanlys, as you know, by marriage, when a young man and afterwards an unfaltering friend of John Stanly’s until his death in 1833. I have heard him frequently in the harshest terms condemn the officers who came on the ground for the purpose, for not arresting the principals and all engaged in the affair. But I have promised to visit the place with you and will postpone further remarks on the subject for the future.” He now rising quickly from the chair, observed, “excuse me a moment, I wish to show you something.” Tripping up stairs without delay he returned, unrolling a paper. It contained the proceedings of the town meeting relative to the death of John Stanly, printed very artistically on white satin and looked as if the work of yesterday, it had been so carefully kept for a half century. Rising and extending my hand to Mr. Gooding, he said if you are going I will walk with you as far as your residence, on my way down town. Reaching his hat and stick we were soon together on the street and passing the residence of Mrs. Caroline Nelson on the corner of Craven and Union streets, he turned and pointing back with his cane, remarked, “In a storm in 1811 the water came from the Neuse through the old creek and low lots and drowned a horse in a stable over there,” meaning the back part of Mrs. Nelson’s garden. This was the creek on which was the old Bryan tavern before referred to. We separated and Mr. Gooding stepped quickly on.
We wish here to give some facts in our relation to our oldest white men in our generation. Elijah Clark died in his 88th year of age; Stephen B. Forbes in his 80th; Jacob Gooding in his 89th; Robert Hay was 96, and Isaac Taylor 84 years old. Five persons whose aggregate ages amount to 435 years and their average ages, throwing out the fractions, 87 years. These were all low men and three of them, Clark, Gooding and Forbes, notably so; they were much under ordinary size. Now if we select the tall men and those of usual height and size, born about the same time, for instance, Samuel Oliver, William Gaston, Martin Stevenson, John R. Donnell, John Snead, Thomas Jerkins, William Hancock, Thomas Gooding, Moses Jarvis, Joshua Mitchell, Edward E. Graham, Oliver Dewey, Thomas Sparrow, Samuel Simpson, John P. Daves, John Jones, Thomas McLin, Robert Primrose and others, it will be found none lived eighty years. If we come to those born in this century, we find the men above the ordinary height or what we call tall men outliving the low or short men. Beginning with Judge Manly, he died in his 81st year. Next to him in age and now living are fully up to or above the ordinary height of men. The tobacco chewers and smokers seem to have the longest lease on life. The five oldest of our white male citizens we had (now all resting in Cedar Grove Cemetery) were addicted to it and four out of five of the oldest now living in our midst, are following their example. Of this hereafter we may say something. The fact, however, can be stated, the habits of those of the greatest longevity were good. Too much already said, we will resume our journey and story when we can. D.