Point Pleasant
 

James Innes is registered as having received a grant of 320 acres in what became Bladen county in January, 1732, and another of 640 acres there sixteen months later. These were about 100 miles upriver on the main branch of the Cape Fear.

The Moseley map of 1733 does not give any name at what was to become the site of Point Pleasant, on the northeast branch of the Cape Fear, although other landowners are named further upriver.

The document granting to James Innes what became Point Pleasant on the Northeast branch of the Cape Fear has apparently not survived. It must predate his becoming a JP for New Hanover precinct in November, 1734.

The Wimble map of 1738 shows the name Innys at the site of Point Pleasant.

The Collet map of 1770, largely the work of William Churton who had died in December 1767, has the name Corbin in the wrong place, slightly to the west and on the opposite bank of the river, as does the Mouzon map of 1775.


James Innes was appointed by Robert Dinwiddie, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, to command all the troops sent to Ohio in 1754 at the beginning of the French and Indian War. On arriving to take up his appointment, James Innes made his will at Winchester, VA, on July 5, 1754.

"I also give & bequeath, att the Death of my Loving Wife, Jean lnnes, my Plantation Called Point Pleasant, & the Opposite mash [marsh] Land over the River, for which there is a Separate Patent, Two Negro young Women, One Negro young Man, and there Increase; all the Stock of Cattle and Hogs, halfe the Stock of Horses belonging att the time to that Plantation With all my Books, and one hundred Pounds Sterling, or the Equivalent thereunto in the currency of the Country, For the Use of a Free School for the Benefite of the Youth of North Carolina. And to see that this part of my Will be dewly Executed att the time, I appoint the Colonell of the New Hanover Regiment, the Parson of Willmington Church & the Vestrey for the time being, or the Majority, of them as they Shall from time to time be Choised or Appointed."

Although James Innes died in 1759, and his widow Jean in 1775, Innes Academy in Wilmington did not start functioning until after 1800. In 1803 the Trustees advertised for bids for "a house in the town of Wilmington suitable for an Academy and Theatre ... 70 feet long by 40 feet wide and 30 feet high including the foundation." They put up a new building on the three lots next north of Princess Street between Third and Fourth Streets. The Thalian Association had a perpetual lease of the lower part of the building. Thalian Hall, which opened on October 12, 1858, is now on part of this site.


Janet Schaw travelled with her brother Alexander from Scotland to North Carolina in 1774-1775, to visit friends and relatives. Sailing on the same ship with her were the three children of John Rutherfurd, a member of the Governor's Council of North Carolina and a friend of Francis Corbin's widow Jean who, in her will, appointed him as one of her three executors. The children were returning home after having been sent to Scotland in 1767 for their education.

These three children, whose mother was the young widow of Gabriel Johnston (Governor of North Carolina 1734-1752), were the main beneficiaries in Jean Corbin's will of 10th February 1775.

Following their arrival back in Carolina the eldest of the children, Fanny Rutherfurd (aged 18 or 19), stayed at Point Pleasant as a companion to the ailing Jean Corbin. Fanny sent a letter to Janet Schaw, asking her to come to Point Pleasant.

"I just then got a letter from Fanny begging me to come to her as the old Lady was so ill, she could not survive another day, and she had no female friend with her. On my arrival next morning, I found the old Lady had taken her departure, and my friend very much shocked and affected at witnessing a scene at once so new and solemn, and which had the addition of one of the Negroes shooting another almost in the same moment his late proprietor expired. For my own part I could find no regret that a tedious and disagreeable attendance had not been necessary, and that there was no fear of her revoking what she had done in their favours.
"Mr Rutherfurd had my two brothers and some other Gentlemen with him, and every thing prepared to lay her in the grave in a manner suitable to her fortune, and the obligations he had to her friendship. Every body of fashion both from the town and round the country were invited, but the Solemnity was greatly hurt by a set of Volunteers, who, I thought, must have fallen from the moon; above a hundred of whom (of both sexes) arrived in canoes, just as the clergyman was going to begin the service, and made such a noise, it was hardly to be heard. A hogshead of rum and broth and vast quantities of pork, beef and corn-bread were set forth for the entertainment of these gentry. But as they observed the tables already covered for the guests, after the funeral, they took care to be first back from it, and before any one got to the hall, were placed at the tables, and those that had not room to sit carried off the dishes to another room, so that an elegant entertainment that had been provided went for nothing. At last they got into their canoes, and I saw them row thro' the creeks, and suppose they have little spots of ground up the woods, which afford them corn and pork, and that on such occasions they flock down like crows to a carrion.
"They were no sooner gone than the Negroes assembled to perform their part of the funeral rites, which they did by running, jumping, crying and various exercises. They are a noble troop, the best in all the country; and the legacy, in every part, turns out more considerable than was even at first thought. God rest her soul, and for this one good deed, let all her evil ones be forgiven. She sleeps between her two husbands at the bottom of the Lawn, in a very decent snug quarter. Mr Rutherfurd will be obliged to go up the country soon; so I will remain sometime here with my sweet friend whose good fortune affects me more than it does herself, on whom it has wrought no change. All the country has been to visit her, and they all pretend to be pleased; but as many had form'd hopes, you may easily believe they are not all sincere. She is busy inventoring her new effects, which in furniture, plate, linen, jewels and cloths, are very considerable. The house is very handsome and quite on a British plan. The place is a peninsula that runs into the river and is justly called Point Pleasant. It stands on a fine lawn, with the noblest scattered trees in the world thro' it. But here is more company, and I must lay down my pen. Adieu, Adieu."

The house was not actually on the peninsula, which was the site of low lying rice fields, but on a bluff opposite Turkey Creek just beyond the peninsula. Approaching the house by water, then the most frequently used means of transport between Wilmington and Point Pleasant, it would have been visible over the fields as the boat rounded the peninsula. The entire area is now thickly wooded.

Janet Schaw also described the land approach to Point Pleasant:
"Off from this road lie many plantations, which however are hid amongst the trees from the view of the road, and not easy of access from it. Point Pleasant lies about four miles off from it - part of the way is thro' the woods, where the path is devious and uncertain to those that are unacquainted with it. About a mile or little more from Point Pleasant, begins a most dismal swamp thro' the middle of which there is a road made with infinite labour, raised on piles covered with branches, and over all sods; and it is by no means comfortable to drive a carriage over it, as the swamps on each hand appear unfathomable, and I would really believe them so, did not the noble Magnolias, the bays and a thousand Myrtles convince me it had a bottom from which they spring."


North Carolina
  The General Assembly of this State having by joint ballot elected his Excellency Richard Caswell, Esq., Governor, ... met at the State House on the 11th day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven ...
  Resolved, That the Commissary of Stores be directed to remove the military stores from Wilmington to Point Pleasant, there to be safely kept.
  Resolved, That it be recommended to his Excellency the Governor to direct the commanding officer at Cape Fear to furnish from the invalids of the Continental troops a sergeant's guard for the purpose of constantly guarding the said stores.


Laws of North Carolina - 1783   Chapter XXIV
An Act for the promotion of learning in the district of Wilmington
... the said house and other buildings on the plantation aforesaid [Point Pleasant] have lately been destroyed by fire ...
                (This was enacted on May 17, 1783, and amended five years later.)


The buildings may have been burnt either by the British, because of Wilmington's military supplies being stored there, or by the Americans, because of Jean Corbin's executor John Rutherfurd being a strong loyalist who fled from Wilmington with the British troops when they evacuated the town in November 1781 and whose waiting man, Sandy, was murdered for having guided Corwallis's troops. Had the fire been accidental, it is unlikely to have destroyed both the main house and other buildings.


A gentleman who visited the ruins of this house [Point Pleasant] more than fifty years ago [before 1859], in a private letter to the writer of these pages [Alfred Waddell], says: "It must have been one of the finest residences in America. *** The stairs were mahogany. *** The elegance one could trace in the ruins amazed me." There is nothing left of this mansion now except the broken fragments of its brick foundation. During the Revolution intrenchments for defense against the British were erected near it, and again in 1865 on the same ground, the Confederates, retreating from Wilmington, erected breastworks and delayed the enemy.


Through most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the former plantation Point Pleasant was owned by commercial timber companies. It is now a private hunting preserve. In 1979 the Underwater Archaeology Branch of North Carolina's Office of State Archaeology conducted a visual (or more accurately tactile) diving survey in the river adjacent to the Point Pleasant landing. The survey turned up a few mid-nineteenth century bottle and ceramic fragments as well as a number of prehistoric ceramic fragments, but nothing relating to the eighteenth century plantation was found. This suggests that, if the graves had stone markers, these have not ended up in the river.
There is now no sign remaining of the grand plantation house on the bluff beside the Cape Fear, or of the three graves.


Sources:
Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776 by Janet Schaw. Yale University Press. 1921.
History of Theatre in Wilmington by Tony Rivenbark published in Time, Talent, and Tradition: Five Essays on the Cultural History of the Lower Cape Fear Region, North Carolina. Cape Fear Museum, 1995.
The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina: Minutes of the North Carolina Council of State Volume 22, Pages 920-921.
The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina: Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1783 Volume 24, Page 512.
The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina: Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1788 Volume 24, Page 984.
A History of New Hanover County and the Lower Cape Fear region, 1723-1800, Volume I by Alfred Moore Waddell. 1909.
Email of June 10, 2009, from Richard W. Lawrence (Branch Head, Underwater Archaeology Branch) to this writer.
Visit by this writer to the site of Point Pleasant on May 25, 2009.

 

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