New Bern-Craven County
Public Library

a member of the Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library System

Historical Reminiscences

[From: New Bern Weekly Journal, December 13, 1904]

Historical Reminiscence.
Colonel John D. Whitford’s Second Article on Early New Bern and Vicinity.

At the Bellair plantation on the lands of John Fonvielle and Jas. Macilwean adjoined. The spelling thus of their respective names as written by themselves on the Craven county court records and here followed, letter for letter.

The Duffys of New Bern on the maternal side descended from him so also did the Biddles and Governor Richard Caswell’s first wife, Mary McIlwean was his daughter. John Fonvielle was the grandfather of Eliza Frank. She married our distinguished citizen, John Stanly, the son of Wright Stanly and was the mother of all the children, including the Hon. Edward Stanly at one time so famous in Congress and particularly known to our Northern citizens, as Governor Stanly, having acted for a while in Eastern North Carolina as such under the appointment of President Lincoln, during the Civil War. Our Southern people generally condemned him for accepting the place, but undoubtedly it was done for what he sincerely believed would redound to their good. He was a citizen of California at the time and there died not long after the close of the war.

The land owners here mentioned must have been near to DeGraffenried. It is known Mr. Harvey Nelson is now living below New Bern on Adams Creek, Craven county, on land the grant to one of his ancestors, bearing date 1706, the title passing down from father to son, without a break to this day. This tract was surveyed by John Lawson mentioned above as having located immigrants on the lands known as Pembroke. He was then the surveyor general of North Carolina. De Graffenried complained of Lawson fixing immigrants on his own land before his (DeGraffenried’s) arrived. There were some other grants of land nearer New Bern, bearing the same date 1706.

In the old Episcopal church Madam Moore had a stall, twice the size of the other pews in it, in which Washington sat when president, while visiting New Bern in April 1791. Also did President Monroe occupy it when accompanied by his great war secretary, John Calhoun, in his visit to New Bern in 1818.

Andrew Johnson and General Grant have been in New Bern but before either reaching the presidency. The former came to New Bern when leaving Raleigh and on a vessel went to Mobile, Ala., the latter passing North on a steamer from New Bern via Norfolk.

Madam Moore was related to the family of Bryans, from which Honorables Henry R. and James A. Bryan descended.

BELLAIR.

In time this Fonvielle place will be seen after awhile became the home of Wilson Blount. He was a society man deep down in it and in the olden day entertained fashionable company without let or stint, was a citizen of Madam Moore’s class, brim full of aristocratic notions and actions. But in passing, it is well to state here, Madam Moore was active in church matters, the established church and was particularly so in the erection of the first Episcopal church at New Bern which was before the construction of Tryon’s palace. The foundation of this church can be plainly seen on the part of the church grounds near the cannon, at the corner of Pollock and Middle streets.

This cannon has a history of interest. It was one of a number captured during the Revolutionary war, by a fleet of John Wright Stanly’s, armed merchant vessels travelling in the West India Islands. The British privateer armed with guns had been presented to the English Government by Lady Blessington, an English woman both wealthy and liberal.

On the return of Stanly’s fleet to New Bern, this cannon was landed on his wharf, now the Blades, on Neuse river, near the bridge and there it remained until in 1810 when Johnathan Price made by order of the town government a new survey of the town, as we know now the streets and squares. There were two other surveys before Price one in 1728 and the other in 1779. In1875 W.H. Marshal made a new map but no survey. The cannon was carried and then set up, where it now is, as a starting point for Price in his survey. Commodore Vanderbilt was but following in the footsteps of Lady Blessington when he presented the United States with a ship that, if I mistake not, captured North Carolina’s blockade runner, Advance.

The capture too of the Lady Blessington ship had as much to do with turning the English’s attention towards New Bern and in causing a squad from Tarlington’s command pitching into New Bern and the killing of Alexander Gaston. They were after John Wright Stanly who happened to be at the time in Philadelphia with the great financier of the Revolution, Morris, aiding him in raising money for Washington’s army then in great distress, thus the escape of Stanly with his life, though his store houses were burned on the wharf before referred to and also his vessels then in the dock, three or four in number.

When Dr. Gaston was killed his residence was on the lot a part of which is now occupied by the Journal office building on Craven street. The house was afterwards accidentally burned while William Gaston was a student at Princeton.

Return to The Writings of John D. Whitford