The Plantation Years (1721 to 1774) at Ocean Isle Beach
In 1720, both pirates and Indians were virtually eliminated from the Ocean Isle Beach area. Most of the pirates were hanged in 1720 in Charleston and most of the Cape Fear Indians had left the area during the Tuscarora Indian War. Therefore in 1720, Ocean Isle Beach area was ripe and vacant for pioneers to begin settlements and try to make a living. Families such as the Gause family and the Frink family and the Brooks family and the Moore family settled here and started large plantations. Unlike most settlers in the 13 Colonies in the 1700’s who were poor and trying to survive on a small plot of land, the people who settled here in Brunswick County in the 1700’s were from nobility and wealthy families. They brought with them slaves and capital.
Mr. William Gause was a famous plantation owner in the Ocean Isle Beach area during the 1700’s. He had a plantation home on Gause Landing Road. Mr. Gause’s tomb is on Hale Swamp Road. The Gause Plantation reached from Gause Landing Road to the ocean and inland for thousands of acres. William Gause owned more than 200 slaves who worked mainly in the turpentine industry. Brunswick County is full of pine trees from which tar, pitch and turpentine were derived. The end of both Gause Landing Road and Seaside Landing Road were once thriving ports in an otherwise very desolate area. Sailing vessels on high tide would come in through Tubbs Inlet and sail to these landings to unload their cargo. These vessels would then be loaded with tar, pitch, and turpentine and depart for England.
Another large plantation in the Ocean Isle Beach area was the Frink Plantation. The Frink family, throughout the time of slavery in the South, treated slaves better than any plantation anywhere. Slaves actually wanted to be traded or sold to the Frink Plantation. Today in the Ocean Isle Beach area, local descendents of slaves still greet the Frink family with respect and gratitude for their kind care of their distant relatives more than 150 years ago. Many blacks in this area today have the last name Frink, as their ancestors worked on the Frink Plantation.
From 1712 to 1729, Ocean Isle Beach was part of South Carolina. However in 1729, North Carolina created New Hanover County and established the southern border of North Carolina to be Little River Inlet rather than the Cape Fear River. This meant that Calabash was on the state line. North Carolina separated off Brunswick County from New Hanover County in 1764 with Brunswick County consisting of all lands west of the Cape Fear River. So Brunswick County was founded in 1764.
The Pirate Years (1690 to 1720) at Ocean Isle Beach
Between 1690 and 1720, pirates operated freely off Ocean Isle Beach – especially three pirates – Sam Bellamy, Stede Bonnet, and Edward Teach. One pirate who looted more than 50 ships from his vessel Whydah was Sam Bellamy who was often called “Black Bellamy.” Bellamy’s pirate career came to an end on April 26, 1717 when a bad storm sunk his ship and nearly all onboard died including Bellamy.
Another notorious pirate who attacked ships off Ocean Isle was Stede Bonnet who was often called “The Gentleman Pirate.” Stede Bonnet however made a big mistake on August 12, 1718. After capturing two large ships, he sailed into the Cape Fear River to divide up his booty with his men and repair his ship. But Colonel Rhett in Charleston heard about this and dispatched two warships – the Henry and the Sea Nympth. A furious battle soon occurred near Southport with twelve of Rhett’s men being killed and eighteen wounded by the pirates. However, nine of the pirates were killed and all of the others were captured and taken to Charleston and hanged for piracy on December 10, 1718.
Another famous pirate named Edward Teach, or Blackbeard, ambushed ships off Shallotte and Tubbs Inlets and all along the Atlantic coast. Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, was one of the largest pirate ships to ever sail. Blackbeard used the Queen Anne’s Revenge to blockade the entire port of Charleston for a whole week in May 1718. However, while onboard another ship the Adventure, Blackbeard was killed and beheaded in a battle off Ocracoke, NC on October 22, 1718, the same year that Stede Bonnet was hanged. Two years later, in 1720, three more pirates who operated in the Ocean Isle Beach area were caught. They were Calico Jack Rackham and two female pirates – Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
The era of pirates off Ocean Isle was at its height between 1690 and 1720. This period of time coincided with the War of the Spanish Succession in Europe which began in 1701 and ended in 1714. That was a war where England fought both France and Spain and all three countries hired privateers to attack other ships. The War of the Spanish Succession spread to North America and many of these privateers turned into pirates and attacked and looted any ship they could overpower. Ironically, the year 1720 was the year that both pirates and Indians were virtually eliminated from the Ocean Isle Beach area.
The Prohibition and Great Depression Years (1920 to 1939) at Ocean Isle Beach
The National Prohibition Act passed over Woodrow Wilson’s veto on October 28, 1918 and provided enforcement for the 18th Amendment outlawing liquor. The Act took effect on the Federal level on January 29, 1920 and was not repealed until December 5, 1933. During these Prohibition years in America, it was illegal to produce, transport, or possess liquor. However, sailing vessels routinely used Tubbs Inlet to smuggle rum, whisky, and other liquor into Brunswick County from the Bahamas, Jamaica and Canada. You will find liquor bottles scattered in the woods all around the Ocean Isle Beach area even today as locals back in the 1920’s transferred smuggled liquor into other containers, because if caught with the glass containers they would have been arrested. Residents would quickly unload the contraband cargo at Seaside Landing and discard the glass liquor bottles in the woods all around this landing area. Isolation of this area in the 1900’s made Brunswick County ideal for smuggling liquor during the Prohibition era. Illegally smuggling liquor was big business in the Ocean Isle Beach area throughout the 1920’s.
The hill on Ocean Isle Beach where the brick Odell Williamson house is located is called Gause’s Hill. That hill was originally part of the William Gause Plantation that stretched from the ocean to several miles inland. Gause’s Hill has always been the highest point on Ocean Isle Beach. In the late 1920’s, E.J. Smith built a dance hall on Gause’s Hill. The dance hall on Gause’s Hill in the 1920’s was just a Honky Tonk and that people as far away as Whiteville would come to there to party. They would drive to Gause’s Hill in their Model A and Model T automobiles on clay and gravel roads. Ford produced the first Model T and Model A automobiles in 1907 and 1927 respectively. This dance hall operated at the height of the Prohibition era so any liquor in possession of anyone would have been illegal.
Prior to 1934 when the Inland Waterway was dug through this area, you could easily walk or drive from the mainland to the ocean. So Ocean Isle Beach was not even an island until 1934.
The Great Depression in the United States began with the stock market crash on October 29, 1929 and ended with the onset of World War II in 1939. During the Great Depression, farm prices fell 60 percent, construction halted everywhere, unemployment rates skyrocketed, and people suffered. Cities were especially hard hit. However in the Ocean Isle Beach area, people were already unemployed and almost poverty stricken
The Explorer Years (1524 to 1699) at Ocean Isle Beach
In March 1524, the Cape Fear Indians watched Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano anchor his ship near Ocean Isle Beach and come ashore. Verrazano spent a few weeks exploring. He found the local Indians to be friendly. He wrote in his diary that “the natives go nude except at the private parts where they wear skins of animals; some natives wear garlands of bird feathers.” Verrazano described the Indians as “russet colored and somewhat larger than Europeans, with well-proportioned bodies clothed in animal skins and feathers.”
In 1526, several Spanish ships captained by Lucas Vasdquez de Alyllon arrived near Ocean Isle Beach. Alyllon had orders from the king of Spain to establish a Spanish Colony in the New World. His ships anchored up and all 600 of his settlers came ashore and began building a permanent home. Alyllon’s Spanish colony near Ocean Isle however lasted only a few months and the exact location has not yet been identified.
In 1661, the first English settlers arrived in ships to the Ocean Isle Beach area. When these settlers came ashore, they found about 1,000 Cape Fear Indians residing in the Ocean Isle Beach area. The Indian village here was named Necoes and the Indian chief was named Wat-Coosa. These English settlers were mostly devoutly religious Puritans seeking religious freedom from the British government. Unfortunately however, these English settlers began seizing Indian children under the pretense of teaching them about Christianity.
Early white settlers in the Ocean Isle Beach area (and all along the US East Coast) became hungry and were almost starving within weeks or months of arriving here, so, they began to steal food from the Indians. They stole the Indian’s livestock and vegetables in addition to seizing their children. The Cape Fear Indians resisted and resented the white man almost from day one because the new settlers were 1) enslaving their children, 2) stealing their food, and 3) bringing in new diseases.
Explorer William Hilton in 1662 arrived in the Ocean Isle Beach area. He found many Indians on Smith Island (Baldhead Island) and in Necoes. The Indian Chief offered two young Indian women to Hilton as a peace offering gift. Hilton did not want to offend the Indians, but he also did not want the gift. So, Hilton pacified the natives with presents of beads and other trinkets and a promise to return, while the Indian ladies were left behind to find happiness among their own people.
On May 29, 1664, John Vassal arrived in the OIB area and established what some historians consider to be the first European settlement in Brunswick County. John Vassal gave this area the name Clarendon in November 1664. In spite of Vassal’s efforts to moderate colonist/Indian clashes, the fighting grew so intense that all settlers abandoned Clarendon County (and the name) in 1667.
We’re pleased to offer all our fans and readers this new special report about a little known landmark in Brunswick County history: The Gause Plantation and the Gause Tomb./
The report is fully illustrated and thoroughly researched, and is a teriffic digital companion to our book, “The History of Ocean Isle Beach”.
It’s too long for a post here on the site, so we’re offering it as a FREE download! Just click the image below:
We’ll be adding more reports and items of interest soon, so be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to get all the latest!
Fred and Vern