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Southport in Brunswick County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Railroad & Religion on Rhett Street

 
 
Railroad & Religion on Rhett Street Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, January 15, 2008
1. Railroad & Religion on Rhett Street Marker
Inscription. Between the Civil War and the construction of the Panama Canal in 1904, local residents and investors desperately sought to surpass Wilmington by building a rail link to the Appalachian coal fields. Smithville would become the first refueling stop between the canal and northern ports. In 1890, a huge coal dock was built at the foot of Rhett Street as a part of that dream. Anticipating becoming the main port, Smithville had its name changed to Southport, the “Port of the South.”

Roughly 15 rail companies failed before the Wilmington, Brunswick & Southern (WB&S) succeeded in 1911. By then, technology had changed and ships had begun to burn oil and not coal, causing some investors to lose fortunes. But Southport finally had its railroad, running down Rhett Street to the river.

“Willing, But Slow.” On November 23, 1911, a huge celebration marked the train’s arrival, with bands, speeches, boat races and picnics. The trip from Wilmington took 2 hours and 36 minutes. The first depot was at Nash and Rhett but it was moved one block south to Moore
W&S Photos Reproduced on Marker image. Click for full size.
2. W&S Photos Reproduced on Marker
Street, on the west side of Rhett Street. Although the WB&S was nicknamed “Willing, But Slow” by locals, passenger service continued until 1931 and freight service until 1938. The passenger station burned in 1940, never to be rebuilt.

A Pioneering Church. Two blocks north of the railroad station is the site confirmed to be that of the oldest church serving Southport’s African American community. St. James A.M.E.Z.’s congregation bought land for its first house of worship in 1866, on the northeast corner of Rhett and East West Street, with Rev. Abram Smith as pastor.

No description of that building exists, but it was temporary, because in 1871, church member Lem Freeman obtained the wooden structure that had been the foundation of the old federal Quarantine Station. That wood foundation served as the church building until 1958, when it was destroyed by Hurricane Helene. By May 1961 the cornerstone for the present church was laid.

Approximately one mile northeast of here, on Jabbertown Road, is Brown’s Chapel A.M.E.Z. Church, which was established more than a century ago.

“The
Brown’s Chapel; Swimming at the coal dock image. Click for full size.
3. Brown’s Chapel; Swimming at the coal dock
Photos reproduced on the marker.
Railroad’s Come to Town”


On old Rhett Street each one you meet
Just shakes hands all around,
For don’t you see, they say with glee,
The railroad’s come to town.

From far Supply to Calabash,
See how they cover ground.
They’ve come to help us celebrate,
The railroad’s come to town.

Good farmer Pyke, just from the “pole,”
Who often used to frown,
Now wears a vast substantial smile,
The railroad’s come to town.

Bring out your flags, let’s all hurrah!
And do the thing up brown,
It’s been coming forty years,
By jinks, it’s got to town!

—By Miss Kate Stuart, as published in the Southport Herald, and Wilmington Dispatch on the opening of passenger rail service to Southport.
 
Location. 33° 55.249′ N, 78° 0.951′ W. Marker is in Southport, North Carolina, in Brunswick County. Marker is at the intersection of Rhett Street and Nash Street, on the right when traveling north on Rhett Street. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Southport NC 28461, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers.
St. James A.M.E.Z. Choir, Circa 1940 image. Click for full size.
4. St. James A.M.E.Z. Choir, Circa 1940
Reproduction of photo on marker.
At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Old Jail (within shouting distance of this marker); Smithville Burying Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); Franklin Square (approx. 0.2 miles away); Southport’s First Fire Alarm (approx. 0.2 miles away); Fort Johnston (approx. ¼ mile away); a different marker also named Fort Johnston (approx. ¼ mile away); a different marker also named Fort Johnston (approx. ¼ mile away); Josiah Martin (approx. ¼ mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Southport.
 
Also see . . .
1. W.B.&S.R.R. Station, Southport, N.C. Postcard photograph of the train depot, Wilmington, Brunswick and Southport Railroad Co., Southport, NC. Early part of this century. (Submitted on March 15, 2008.) 

2. Wilmington, Brunswick & Southern Railroad, Train Leaving Station. Another view of the station. Cape Fear River in the background. (Submitted on March 15, 2008.) 

3. Postcard View: Train Leaving Station, Southport, N.C. (WB&S Railroad) c.1910s. (Submitted on July 29, 2011, by The Southport Times of Southport, North Carolina.)
 
Categories. Churches, Etc.Railroads & Streetcars
 
Railroad & Religion on Rhett Street Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, January 15, 2008
5. Railroad & Religion on Rhett Street Marker
Postcard View: Train Leaving Station, Southport, N.C. (WB&S Railroad) image. Click for full size.
By The Southport Times, circa 1910s
6. Postcard View: Train Leaving Station, Southport, N.C. (WB&S Railroad)
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,836 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia.   6. submitted on , by The Southport Times of Southport, North Carolina. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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