Season 2: Cape Fear Legends & Lore

This season will use “Stories Old and New of the Cape Fear Region,” Louis T. Moore’s famous tome of local legends as a guide to myth-bust some Colonial-era lore that is still shared throughout the Cape Fear. Tales this season include the “tunnels” underneath Wilmington, the origin of the Burgwin-Wright’s longtime nickname as the Cornwallis House andthe iconic history of the Dram Tree.

Prologue Episode

For the new season of "Burgwin-Wright Presents...," we are cracking open the chapters of Louis T. Moore's "Stories Old and New of the Cape Fear Region" for a season titled "Cape Fear Legends & Lore." First published in 1956, the seminal local history book is a collection of legends and traditions that have defined the Cape Fear region since the Colonial period. Each episode this season, we will revisit a chapter in Moore's book to examine what's fact and what's fiction.

Before you start the new season, we wanted to introduce our listeners to Louis and why his dogged work to preserve local history inspired this season in this special Prologue episode.

Episode 1 - Wilmington in the Time of Cornwallis

The new season, "Burgwin-Wright Presents... Cape Fear Legends & Lore," begins with a story right in our backyard – the myth of Cornwallis Headquarters in Wilmington.

During the American Revolution, did Lord Cornwallis, commander of the British army, stay at the Burgwin-Wright House will he was in Wilmington in 1781? The house has been known for centuries as "Cornwallis Headquarters," but is it true? We explore the fact and fiction of the legend with guest Bert Dunkerly, historian and author of such books as "Redcoats on the Cape Fear."

Episode 2 - A John Canoe Christmas

What did Christmas look like for the enslaved people of Colonial Wilmington? While no holiday celebration was guaranteed, the port city's streets were often a stage granted to enslaved communities for a display of their culture known as John Kuners or John Canoe.

With the help of special guest Dr. Tara White, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, this episode looks at why slave owners allowed these traditions to take place and how the enslaved used them to assert their individuality and power within an institution that didn’t give them much of either. In the episode, we explore why the holidays were a time of negotiation between slave and enslaver, and how the John Canoe celebrations became so associated with Wilmington.

Episode 3 - What Lies Beneath Wilmington

Have you heard of the tunnels underneath Wilmington, where pirates supposedly smuggled their treasure and slaves escaped on the Underground Railroad?

Perhaps the most enduring legend in Wilmington's history is ripe with salacious and fictitious stories, the passages under the city have a far more practical and not-so-flashy origin. On this week's episode, we dispel some of the legends that wind through the tunnels and ponder why they are so popular (and potentially dangerous) centuries later. Joining the episode is Jon Schleier, executive director of the Public Archaeology Corps, which excavated one of the passages named Rock Spring in 2017.

 

Episode 4 - The Old Dram Tree

When it comes to icons of the Cape Fear, few stand as sturdy as the Old Dram Tree. Although it has long since been lost to progress, the story of the Dram Tree is one that charts the entire developed history of the Wilmington area.

The bald cypress tree served as a "a grim sentinel," as it has been called, for mariners traveling the Cape Fear River all the way back to the pre-Colonial period. But how did it get its name and what happened to it? This episode, we are joined by Jack Fryar, a local historian and publisher of Dram Tree Books, to talk about the facts and fate of the Old Dram Tree.


Episode 5 - A Duel of Passion

In Colonial America, a duel at ten paces could defend something the law couldn't – a man's honor. But history doesn't look fondly on those who chose to serve justice with a bullet.

Especially in the case of two young men in the British Navy in 1765, who fought a vicious and bloody duel at Brunswick Town over a woman – during a moment of growing unrest for the Cape Fear. Joining the episode to talk about the Simpson/Whitehurst duel is Jim McKee, the manager of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site in Winnabow.