The New Bern Historical Society is dedicated to sharing the rich history of New Bern, NC and has been doing so since 1923. The Historical Society offices are located in the Attmore-Oliver House, c. 1790, in New Bern’s historic district. In addition to offices there is a Civil War display and room installations reflecting life in the mid-19th century. Beautiful historic gardens are located behind the house. The New Bern Historical Society also owns and stewards 30+ acres of the Battle of New Bern’s Civil War battlefield. The New Bern Battlefield Park is located near James City just off of Highway 70 East.
We love it when people contact us re photos, artifacts and items and want to know how they are connected with New Bern History. We had one of those things happen today. A gentleman from Pamlico County, Danny Lupton, discovered 2 photos on his cell phone that he sent to us. They are of the "Old Sunken Hull" in Charleston, SC. What does that have to do with New Bern? The hull is from the River Steamer, Col. J.E. Sawyer which was the first concrete passenger vessel made in America. This was one of 9 ships that were built between 1919-1920 by the Newport Shipbuilding Corp. of New Bern. There was a desperate shortage of steel for shipping during the WWI years, and these concrete ships were an innovation at the time. The U.S. Shipping Corporation had recommended to President Woodrow Wilson the building of 24 concrete ships. Of the 24, only 12 were actually built and at a cost of $50 million.
The Col. J.E. Sawyer was a 700 ton ship, able to carry 500 passengers. It was launched on 10/18/1919 in front of a crowd of 1,000 people. Unknown to most people at the time, the steamer gave way from its cradle while 24 workers knowkced the support blocks out and six men were swept into the water. Miraculously they were all saved. (Charlote Observer, 10/19/1919). The pricetag for this ship-$235,384.
Whatever usefulness this ship may have had to the Army, it did not last long. By November of 1921 the ship had been abandoned at Fort Caswell, NC. The fate of most of these ships is unknown. The sister ship to the Col. J.E. Sawyer was the "Maj. Archibald Butt". It should be noted that these ships were all named after prominent deceased quartermasters. The Maj. Archibald Butt was also in Charleston at one time, but was sold in 1925 and relocated to Miami, Florida. The Sawyer arrived in Charleston probably in 1923, but it sank sometime during the mid 1920's. On June 22, 1929 the boat was raised and towed to Mt. Pleasant where it has remained.
(Included here is a photo of the concrete boats fom the John B. Green Collection #380.2.b in the Manuscripts and Rare Books Department at ECU, J.Y. Joyner Library, Greenville, NC 27858)
Where was the Newport Shipbuilding Corp. located exactly? That is a story for another day. ... See MoreSee Less
1 week ago ·
It is Wednesday, so "What is in the Attic with Jim"?
Many thanks to Phyllis Gaskins Carpenter for donating this photo. Some of you may remember this swimming area. It was Dr. Hand's dock off of East Front Street. It was a real favorite with the youth of New Bern. #newbernhistorical ... See MoreSee Less
1 week ago ·
Morgan’s Tavern & Grill
Robert M. Chiles, PE
Ward & Smith, PA