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Interview with Mary Dixon Bellamy, May 24, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Mary Dixon Bellamy, May 24, 2005
May 24, 2005
In this interview with Wilmington Notable Mary Bellamy, she discusses her family history and the city of Wilmington during her childhood and young adulthood. Born in 1925, she recounts Wilmington's economic situation post-WW1 and during the depression era as well as provides information about her historic home.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Bellamy, Mary Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Gerald Date of Interview: 5/24/2005 Series: SENC Notables Length 61:40

Mims: Today is May the 24th, 2005. I'm LuAnn Mims with Jerry Parnell and we are working with Mrs. Mary Bellamy today. She was an instructor at Wilmington College in it's early years and later on taught at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Our focus today is on her family history and her knowledge of Wilmington history as well. And we're going to start by finding out a little bit about your family's background.

Mary Bellamy: Um hum. My father's family was...originated in...near Morehead City, north of Morehead City on Harkers Island...on Harkers Island. And Harkers Island was...his name was Clifton Nash Dixon Jr. And Dixon, D-I-X-O-N. And he...his family was from Harkers Island. And Harkers Island is separated from the mainland across from Beau...Beaufort. And you get have to leave the island and come to...come to the mainland. And in the Outer Banks pronunciation, it's Harkers Islant. So, his family came to Wilmington sometime in the Civil War period. And they lived here and he lived here all of his life. Yes.

Mims: Harkers Island I know is very well known for a type of boat that is built there. Was his family involved with the boat builders or the water at all?

Mary Bellamy: Probably. I don't know a great deal about his family farther than...I know they were from the Outer Banks area.

Mims: Okay. What brought them into Wilmington, do you know?

Mary Bellamy: The need for work.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: And so my father's family, you know, Wilmington has been more prosperous than most the area, you know, ever since revolutionary times. And so here is where you came to try to get work. And so they settled here and when I was born, they were living in and around the Sixth and Ann area in Wilmington and my grandmother, who married Richard Leffers Dixon, she married Richard Leffers Dixon.

And her name was Frances Ellen Robbins, and she was from Brunswick County. And they married, so Richard Leffers, L-E-F-E-R-S is the way they spelled it. It is probably a name from the French LeFevre, so the name was, in America became Leffers.

Mims: Do you have French heritage as well as Dr. Bellamy with his French...

Mary Bellamy: Yes, um hum. Well, actually they...he was...he said that it was Swiss. So Swiss would be French, German, a combination. Alright, so Richard Leffers Dixon and Fannie Ella, I got the middle name wrong...Fannie Ella Robbins were married here in Wilmington. And I have the background on...

Mims: What kind of work was he doing?

Mary Bellamy: Um, I guess fishing and boat and boat, and Miss...Miss Fannie, as we used to call Grandmother, or I always called her Grandmother, she was a seamstress, and she took in sewing. And they lived in my remembrance, at six O seven (607) Ann Street.

Mims: Now that was kind of like on the edge of Wilmington at the time, wasn't it?

Mary Bellamy: didn't go much farther than the seven streets.

Mims: So do you have any memories of that, I mean, where it kind of just was nothing after a certain...

Mary Bellamy: Well, I lived around the corner from my grandmother, and I'll tell you the circumstances of that later.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: I lived at 215 South Sixth Street when I...I'm gon' fill in some information.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: When I was seven years old, I moved...we moved in the neighborhood of my grandmother. And so I was at that...okay, I'll have to back up a little bit.

Mims: Okay, all right.

Mary Bellamy: But anyway, my father was a plumber and...steamfitter, and he did...he was a very excellent plumber and he made...he...and his name was Clifton Nash Dixon as I've already said. And so he had work usually ...out of Wilmington. You get a lot of work in Wilmington, but if you're gonna make a living in plumbing; you have to go away and get jobs.

Mims: Um hum.

Mary Bellamy: And so mother...alright my father's line...alright with grandmother, living in the neighborhood on Sixth Street, and we can talk about that even now or later, but living on Sixth Street, I was around the corner...the reason for moving there was that in the summer that I was six years old, I was born...I was born July 31, 1925, and my mother...and my mother was Mary Cameron Dixon, I mean, Mary Esther Cameron and married Cliff Dixon.

They were married in 1924 at home up on Church Street between Fourth and Fifth at the Brady home.'s still there at Fourth...between...on this side of the street...would be about four...four O two Church Street. And they were married in the living room of the...of the Brady' mother's family was part of the Brady family and the Jewel family and several others...Meier, Jewel, M-E-I-E-R...and the Jewel family and the Brady family. And those three families lived right in that block on Fourth Street...Fourth and Church.

My mother's family lived around on Fourth Street in an old house they called the 'brick-end house'. And that's all...all that was brick. And so she lived right around the corner, and so she lived in a neighborhood of all cousins, really. So she and my father evidently met at Tileston School. Cause, you see, Tileston...Tileston School is a very...well, that could have been it.

Mims: Was that a high school at the time, Tileston?

Mary Bellamy: Yes, uh huh, it was a high school and it was the neighborhood school for the Ann Street area. And my father was living in that area. She was living in and around that area, so it was logical. Grandmother went to Fifth Avenue Methodist Church and my mother's family with to Good Shepard Episcopal Church. So you're all in the same...we were all in the Dry Pond vicinity.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: And so, that's...that's the situation there. So when I was...when mama and dad married, he went to...they went...we went to Florida for work. My mother had a brother who lived in Miami and he was a plumber and steamfitter as my father was. So right after...pretty soon after I was born we went to Florida. And I...I...alright, 1926 there was a terrible hurricane in Florida and mom and dad were living in a rented house and near my Uncle Wallace. My mama's brother was named Wallace Cameron...William Wallace Cameron. I've got a picture in that other room of William Wallace who is an of the William Wallaces. There so many of the William Wallaces.

Mims: Sure.

Mary Bellamy: And so we have a picture of William Wallace, a Confederate officer.

Mims: Um hum.

Mary Bellamy: He was killed just before Appomattox in northern Virginia. And what you have in essence is, after the Civil War, if you had anything you were impover...impoverish. So that's the situation, I guess, with most people in North Carolina, following the post-Civil War period.

Mims: So the hurricane kind of drove them out of Florida?

Mary Bellamy: Uh huh. They came back to Wilming...well always the...the journey was back to Wilmington...and...and cause my mother's mother was living here, and her father, and I'll tell you more about them later. But they were both living here, so both families were here and so they would always come back home, get things together, and...and try again. And the next place they tried was...was when mama was...was Farmville, North Carolina. And my father set up his plumbing business there. The...the...the situation in Miami after the hurricane was devastating.

Everything was flooded and there was not work. So we had...the family had to come back to Wilmington. And the next change from Wilmington was to go to Farmville, North Carolina, which is near Greenville. And daddy opened a plumbing business there. And along with...well, he hired some of his ...some of the cousins.

Mims: Keep in the family, huh?

Mary Bellamy: No, it' doesn't work out that way. The per...I'm not gone mention the person's name. Anyway, it didn't work out, and dad, again, came back to Wilmington. So there was series there, coming back to Wil...Wilmington. In the meantime I had a brother born in 1927 and a sister born in 1929. Alright, my brother's name was Clifton Nash Dixon, like his dad, junior, and my sister's name was Betty Frances Dixon. And she' brother lives here and is...has married several times, his first wife died and so he's got a fourth wife at this stage.

So, he's...he became...he wanted to become a plumber and steamfitter, and he did work with my dad at the...he worked at Maffit village. He and my dad did the plumbing and heating with another firm out of Charlotte at Maffit village during World War II. So he was a...he was apprentice plumber at age seventeen.

Mims: Wow.

Mary Bellamy: And uh...and dad and he worked together at Maffit village with a big group. So everything was booming during World War II here. And so...where are we now...

Mims: Is your sister still living?

Mary Bellamy: Yes, she lives in Reva, Maryland and my brother does not have children, but he has stepchildren. And...and he married...the last time he married Rhett...Susan Rhett, and they've been married about five years maybe. And they...and she has two grown children.

Mims: So when you guys came back to Wilmington after all these excursions, he still was a plumber, right, trying to find during war time Wilmington so much stuff was going...

Mary Bellamy: Right. So he was here essentially through all of World War II.

Mims: Well, so, but what you're talking about all this moving back and forth is depression era?

Mary Bellamy: Yea.

Mims: Is that what I'm getting?

Mary Bellamy: Well, it was the depression era first.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: And we came...coming back from Farmville...we came back from Farmville in nineteen thirty-one.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: And...because...and then daddy did lose his business and he went into a state of depression and he was a veteran of World War I and had served in France on the front through the whole time, which...and he was at Chateau-Thierry, Chateau C-H-A-T-E-A-U and then hypen T-H-I-E double R-Y. Chateau-Thierry...and all along the front. He was hos...he was pulled off the battlefield...he was among the trench among some bodies and he moved. (phone ringing) So...

Mims: Have you got to get the phone?

Mary Bellamy: No...Heyward?

Mims: We can turn it off.

Mary Bellamy: a stage when my father came home...

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: ...we came home from Farmville. Then my mother was a school mother had become...had gone to Chapel Hill, UNC Chapel Hill. She went when she dad was born in 1892. My mother was born in 1896, and they had met here in Wilmington in their childhood. And so mama was a teacher...she had went...she had gone to Chapel Hill and it was difficult.

Mims: ...'cause women didn't pursue any type of career in this time period.

Mary Bellamy: But she...her father was a...a union labor printer in Wilmington. George Wallace Cameron. And her father was a printer and he spent his life in the printing business and he worked on newspapers in Washington DC, Baltimore, wherever. So my mother was used to this know, Wilmington's home, but anyway, my grandfather Cameron ran the newspaper that I remember and have association with is the Union Labor Record. And he had a small wooden office at the corner of Fourth and...Fourth and Wright...excuse me, yea, Fourth and Wright.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: And he had previously had the Carolina Farmer.

Mims: Really?

Mary Bellamy: Um hum.

Mims: I'm actually familiar with...

Mary Bellamy: ...with that one? Yea, he had previously had the Carolina Farmer and he had worked on many papers in many states and he always, but at my remembrance, he owned his own business and it was the Union Labor Record.

Mims: Um hum.

Mary Bellamy: And that was a weekly. And he was very pro-union. He had met Samuel Gompers.

Mims: Really?

Mary Bellamy: And he had gotten interested in the early days. So, again he was born back in 1850s. And my grandmother...grandfather Cameron and my grandmother Cameron...she...grandmother Cameron was a Burnett. So you've got a lot of Wilmington names here.

Mims: Seriously!

Mary Bellamy: Right. So she was Betsy Burnett. So...

Mims: So your mother was a school teacher.

Mary Bellamy: Uh huh. My grandmother was...

Mims: Seamstress on one side.

Mary Bellamy: No, no that's the other grandmother.

Mims: Right, okay.

Mary Bellamy: That's my grandmother Dixon.

Mims: But Betsy Burnett, what was she?

Mary Bellamy: She was...she just stay...she just followed papa where he went. Papa was my grandfather and she had a number of children, and they followed papa wherever he went.

Mims: It's interesting that your mother had a career. Did she...she teach school when you were little? Where did she teach?

Mary Bellamy: Uh huh. She taught when daddy...she taught at William Hooper School.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: William Hooper School. And she went there when she was about...let's see, she was born in 1896 and she was going to school and she was hired 1916 on, she was hired at William Hooper School until she married daddy in 1924.

Mims: Um hum.

Mary Bellamy: Then she traveled with him until 1931, and it became necessary for her to go back to work. And so she...she went to the superintendent here and wanted a job back at William Hooper School. And she had...and he...I don't remember his name, but he said to her "I am firing people," see it was 1931, there weren't so many jobs... he said "Mary Esther, I'm firing 'em, I'm not hiring teachers." But she persisted and before she left there she had a job. And she taught first grade at good...William Hooper School till she retired in 1953. So...

Mims: So she just missed all that segregation.

Mary Bellamy: Yea, that's right. That was saved for us, you remember.

Mims: So it was imperative that you were in a neighborhood situation with your mother working...

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Mims: be with all this family because daycare as we know it was not in place.

Mary Bellamy: Was nonexistent.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: Well the reason for...alright, at the stage...I'm talking about dad...we...when we came back to Wilmington from Farmville, we moved over on Queen Street between Sixth and Seventh, and...well we went to my grandmother Grotgen...well, she's...grandmother Dixon's husband died when daddy was about three years old, so grandmother married in 1906, she married a man named George Grotgen. G-R-O-T-G-E-N. And his family ran a saloon around on Front...Front and Castle. And grandmother was a very dedicated Methodist who's family did not drink and so she told Mr. George...Mr. George was a widower, she was a widow, so Mr....she told Mr. George she would marry him if he would give up his saloon.

Mims: There was a Grotgen nursing home at one time.

Mary Bellamy: Oh yea...

Mims: Is that part of that...?

Mary Bellamy: ...same family.

Mims: ...okay, from saloons to a nursing home.

Mary Bellamy: Right, grandmother...grandmother was an excellent seamstress, alright, so she made her living doing that. Granddaddy Grotgen was a...he was the janitor and keeper of the Odd Fellows Building. There used to be a building Third and Princess and...where one of the banks is now...on the corner where the bank was...and granddaddy Grotgen was the full time janitor.

Mims: Um hum.

Mary Bellamy: Did everything in...there.

Mims: Like maintenance too.

Mary Bellamy: Um hum, right...maintenance, he could could do woodwork, plumbing, maintenance. I've got a sideboard in there he made. And so grandmother sewed and they say, "she took in sewing". So...

Mims: But war...wartime Wilmington must have been pretty good.

Mary Bellamy: Right...wartime...

Mims: 'Cause everybody seems like they're in place to make some money...

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Mims: ...the economic boom here.

Mary Bellamy: And that helped very much. Now back to daddy in 1931. He got into...he was a veteran of World War I.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: And he was...the term they used, he was shell-shocked. And he could not come out of the depression of losing the Farmville business and all that, and he just...he never...and we were living at that time on Queen Street between Sixth and Seventh...the house is still there. And mother realized she had to go to work, and so she got the job and William Hooper School and he was...she would keep in touch with the...well she...things got so desperate that grandmother Grotgen...Dixon Grotgen...was...lived next door to a lady on Ann Street.

She lived between Fifth and Sixth on Ann Street, and she lived next door to a lady named Mrs. Allies. A-L-L-I-E-S. And Mrs. Allies was a member of...of St. Mary's...St. Mary's Catholic Church, and she said...the...the Father Manly at St. Mary Church is the advisor to the veterans group in Wilmington, and he has contact with a hospital Perry Point Maryland, it's a veterans hospital. And she said...she advised my mother to go talk to Father Manly and tell him the situation.

Daddy was not hurt...harming anybody but he was just...his head in his hands, not talking, not communicating, and so were little children, except I was the only one going to school at this stage. And Manly, within 24 hours had a team of men down to our house on...on Queen Street and they took him to the hospital at Perry Point Maryland. He...he could communicate, but he...he wasn't doing it, and he couldn't...couldn't get any business back and he, you know, so mama had to do something.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: So what she did was go back to work and get him some help. And he was in the hospital there from July...this was maybe June, cause she knew she had to go back to work...had to go to work in the fall, and so in June they came and took him to Perry Point Maryland, and at that stage...we...we had to move in with an aunt of...of my mother's, who's name was Freeman, Mae Freeman.

And...and she lived at...on what is now Wilshire Road. It was then a dirt road and you got into it by...from Wrightsville, and down another dirt road, and it became what's now Wilshire. But cousin Mae was what I called her...Mae Freeman...worked at MacMillan and Cameron.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: So, she had to...she...she lived alone in a huge house, a wooden house...there's a development there about...can't name the street, and I lived in the neighborhood. And so at that year...the first year I went to school, I went to Tileston.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: My mother and I walked to the corner of Fifth Street, I went to Tileston, and she went to William Hooper. My mother deliberately chose William Hooper because at the stage I was in the first grade, she...there was a...if your mother taught in the same school you attended, and you made good grades, then always there was gossip. So mama...mama figured it out.

Mims: Yea.

Mary Bellamy: I'd go to Tileston, that would be close to grandmother...the other grandmother who lived at Fifth and Ann about a block away, and I could go to grandmother's in case I got sick. And grandmother was perfectly willing.

Mims: Wasn't that worth it?

Mary Bellamy: Yea, it really was and my other grandmother would...was close to my mother...cause Ma...we called her Mamaw. And my other grandmother Burnett lived at home because she had to fix Mr. George's...Mr. George is my grandfather Cameron...she had to fix his dinner every day, cause he came home from work. He...he came home from Third and Wright and it wasn't but three blocks, he'd walk home for lunch and one of my remembrances...we called him Papa, and we called her Mamaw.

So my...every time I remember staying with Mamaw, I could see Papa coming up the hill from Third Street, up in front of William Hooper School, and then up to Mamaw's to where I was living, and he always had a...I looked to see if his pocket was weighted down...his right hand pocket, and it was, cause he stopped by the grocery store and got me a whole bag of candy. that was my remembrance of Papa. But, at any rate...

Mims: How long was your father hospitalized?

Mary Bellamy: For a year. He...he...he went in, I think June...late June or July of nine...of let me see...

Mims: '31 or thirty...

Mary Bellamy: '31 one...uh huh, and January, Mama had a call from Perry Point. She would call, write letters, he'd write letters, and I have a whole stash of them...I apologize, I haven't even read them all. Anyway, so he wrote letters, she wrote letters. But he...they called her in January of '32 and said that he had escaped and he...but without about five days they had, you know, he knew the way home, you Perry Point is in Maryland, so you have to get across great many rivers and so he had...he was taken back to...cause he...he escaped with you know, was a winter and he had only a bathrobe and pajamas.

So it was not difficult to catch him. Alright, so the next time he...he bided his time, and he came home in July of 1932. And by that time my mother had rented a house at 215 South Sixth Street around the corner from grandmother. So that's my daddy's mother. So it was...and then that way, you know, by the time my brother went to school and my sister went to school, they...we all went to Tileston school and I always went to Tileston and then on to New Hanover High. But it was...

Mims: When your dad came out, was he...was he better?

Mary Bellamy: Much better. They sent...she called immediately, we didn't have a phone...grandmother had the phone, so she...I stayed with daddy...I remember I'm the one greeted daddy at the door. And daddy had fiery red hair and a very blond complexion and blue eyes. And I remember looking and I didn't know if that was really daddy, so I went and got my mother, and so we had a happy homecoming, but Mama had to go around to grandmother's...and so we all sat there, cause she had to call the hospital, because they didn't know where he was.

Mims: Oh.

Mary Bellamy: He managed to get back home that time on his own.

Mims: Uh huh.

Mary Bellamy: So he had...had gone, you know, he would catch...catch a ride, and he managed to get to North Carolina...having escaped. And you know, people would give him money, people would feed him, and so he managed to get to North Carolina. But then he was afraid to go down what was high...what is Highway 17 because he was afraid somebody would find him and turn him back in. So he skirted over toward...more toward Raleigh and came back in that way. So he showed up at the front door.

Mims: So was this a commitment type where, I mean, cause you keep talking about his escaping, I mean he was...

Mary Bellamy: Yea, he was admitted to the hospital, the veterans hospital.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: So the veterans hospital, you know...

Mims: They didn't release him...

Mary Bellamy: They didn't release him. Um um. But they...mama called Perry Point and told him...told them where he was and he...they sent a team within 24-hours to come check him out. So they decided that he could stay at home...that he had managed to get home...

Mims: ...he'd be okay...

Mary Bellamy: ...that he would be okay.

Mims: Did he...was he able to find work then, or...?

Mary Bellamy: Yes, eventually. It took a while, you know, because if you tell somebody you...where have you been the last few years...the last year, and you tell 'em the mental hospital at Perry Point Maryland. So mama had to work. And so I got...I've got the pattern of I've got to work, so...

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: there was no doubt in my mind that I had to work.

Mims: And you saw that she fell back on her education.

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: 'Cause she al...she...and she was an excellent first grade teacher, and taught all those years, she...that was the pattern and I knew I had to work, so that's the direction I took. And I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship from the Diocese of East Carolina to go to East Carolina.

Mims: Which was a teacher's college...

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Mims: ...when you attended there.

Mary Bellamy: Um hum. Now, Bishop Garst was the bishop of the Diocese...Thomas C. Garst. G A-R-S-T. He was the bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina...Episcopal. And I'd always gone to Good Shepard church, and...and still do. And he...he had given a scholarship to a cousin of mine, and my mother knew about it, so she knew that the cousin of mine was going to graduate from East Carolina, so she suggested I go...

I lived right around the corner from Bishop Garst, he had a great big nice mansion around on Orange between Fifth and Sixth. It's on the south...on the south side of the street, and it's, you know, four columned house, very impressive, in the middle of the block. So I already knew Dr...Mr. Garst...let me say...I know I didn't call him mister...anyway...Reverend.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: Reverend Garst. And he knew me in the neighborhood cause we'd come right out his back yard and get to Sixth Street and Sixth Street was...this is back to happy times...Sixth Street was paved from Orange to Castle with asphalt during the depression and you we had...every Saturday night and Friday night, we had a skating party on...on Fifth...on Sixth Street...Sixth Street between Castle and Orange, and you know, you had hills and...and it...that hill down from Castle to Church...

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: formidable, so it was the greatest fun. Everybody got roller skates and...and you skated in the street. And Heyward tells me there was one on the north side of town too. And so that was one of the happy times, you know, living on Sixth Street and being able to skate in the street. Okay...

Mims: How did they come about purchasing this house?

Mary Bellamy: Oh, okay.

Mims: How did we get to...

Mary Bellamy: This is my mother's persistence. My mother had her father...she and her father, George Cameron would walk the neighborhoods and he would show her, now we owned this house and we lost it, or we owned that house and we lost the family, that is in the course of the years from 1850s on. And so everybody on both sides of the...daddy came from, as I told you, from Harkers Ferry...Harkers...

Mims: Island.

Mary Bellamy: ...Island. And, but mama's family had always been here. So, we had...her dad would show her houses that he...almost kind of maybe fantasy...wanting to be able to get things back, so he said, "If you want to buy one house that's been in the family, and it ever comes on the market, this is the best house." So, Papa, my grandfather Cameron...they were living in this house where the two old maid sisters, Miss Mary Darby and Miss Mae Darby...and...excuse me, they were both named Mary and Mae, but Miss Mary Darby was a business woman who never married and there's a plaque in the post office, she also was a Post Mistress...

Mims: Oh.

Mary Bellamy: Yea, Miss Mary Darby was the only woman Post Mistress we've ever had in Wilmington, and that was in the 1890s.

Mims: Wow.

Mary Bellamy: And so Miss Mary Darby and Miss (knocking)...hi, come on in!

Mims: So they owned the house, they were living here in the house.

Mary Bellamy: Oh yea.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: Um hum. And Miss Mary Darby...

Parnell: Who built the house originally, do you know?

Mary Bellamy: Oh, grandfather...alright my association with the house...Papa, my grandfather's lineage was Eastwood and Cameron. And the...this property...there's a plaque...see we've answer to that is gonna be, we haven't got it all straight yet because my father said, "This is the house the Eastwood's lived in." Alright, the Eastwoods were my mother's...and...and were his ancestry. And so that's what they've got on the plaque out there.

Mims: Okay.

Parnell: Is the same Eastwood of Eastwood Road?

Mary Bellamy: Right, was named for. It's the same road that Eastwood...yep, that's the same family. Alright, so there was the Eastwood, on this lot...see this tract of land has been narrowed, you see, for...when this...this was in this house dates back to about 1770. The date on the plaque is 1770, and that was arrived at with a lot of research by the...I can't...

Mims: Historic Wilmington?

Mary Bellamy: Historic Wilmington group...the...actually out of...I can't call his name, but...

Mims: Local or statewide?

Mary Bellamy: Local. Let's's one of the first ones researched...

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: When we decided to become historic district. So, it's one of the original among the research.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: And...the fellows name...

Mims: I don't think Ed Turburg was here at that time.

Mary Bellamy: Uh, uh, no Ed Turburg...

Mims: It was before Ed.

Mary Bellamy: It was before that, right, so it was researched in the...see my mother...the research started right after my mother moved in and we moved here. We moved here in 1939. It...Miss...the last Darby died, and mama...this house came up for rent. Mama wanted to buy it, but it came up for rent and they didn't offer it for sale for two years...the family that owned it at that time lived in Wilson and they didn't have any plans to live here.

So we moved here in 1939. And we moved here in the fall of 1939 when mama rented it. mother...and so my dad was, at that time the...the reunion was a happy reunion and he could stay home. And it was difficult in those early years for him to get work, but mama had her job.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: And...and she had the security also of grandmother and mamaw, so it was a help. The families help each other.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: So it...we got through that. And all of us went to Tileston school and, now what were we talking about?

Mims: Well, about the house.

Mary Bellamy: The house, okay.

Mims: You moved in, in 1939. You said that the tract was narrowed. What's behind us here...

Mary Bellamy: Okay.

Mims: ...before Solomon Towers was built...?

Mary Bellamy: The...the...that was a later addition and...but this, right this minute...

Mims: We just...keep going.

Mary Bellamy: ...right this minute...this...the lots...I was trying to tell you about the lots. The situation of the lots is, this plot was drawn in colonial times and so the lots went from Front Street all the way to the river.

Parnell: Right.

Mary Bellamy: All the way to the river. So this was on ground and the plot here...see, all of it, up to Solomon Towers seems to have belonged with this same plot.

Mims: Yea.

Mary Bellamy: Alright, and then it was sold off...alright this...these lots then ran that way to the river, straight to the river. And the ancestor in my mother's family who was a ship builder was George Cameron and he built ships down at the...right down at the river, on this land. And the house that is across the...alright, now lets go back to...two lots...the lots...this house is stated on there as being owned by the Hoopers and...

Mims: The William Hoopers. Is it part of that...?

Mary Bellamy: Uh huh. So...

Mims: He owned a lot...

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Mims: A lot of things can be traced back to William Hooper.

Mary Bellamy: Right. And so evidently that was part of...this was part of that property. But papa and mama...see the Eastwoods were kin to us so they must have rented this. George Cameron the sea captain was building ships here in seven...on this plot on this area in 1790. Um hum.

Mims: Interesting.

Mary Bellamy: So he was...he was a ship builder...

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: ...and right down at the river...

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: 1790. So his In-laws were the Eastwoods. Now, George Cameron married Esther Eastwood but they lived in Carlisle England and they came from...and there were two sisters in that family, and they came from Carlisle and brought their parents. And the story about the stair is that this had a boxed in stair, you can see as...the shadow of it...

Mims: Yea.

Mary Bellamy: It was a boxed in stair like you'd see at Williamsburg...

Mims: Yea.

Mary Bellamy: Closed in stair...

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: ...but Mrs. Eastwood insisted that she wouldn't come...that...that is the mother...see George Cameron married Esther Eastwood, and he...she insisted that her she had to bring her mother and father with her from Carlisle England, and they were Scottish decent, but they were living in Carlisle. And so she insisted that they bring the stair from her house in England.

Mims: Wow!

Mary Bellamy: So, it was brought from England. She, Esther or the daughter couldn't marry George. So...

Mims: Interesting criteria.

Mary Bellamy: So it's a very interesting hanging staircase, and that's what makes this room so big.

Mims: It does, it adds a lot, because if you had to take it down there's now way to put furniture in here.

Mary Bellamy: Um um. So that's...that's part of the charm of this house the way it's put in.

Mims: Right. Interesting.

Mary Bellamy: Yea.

Mims: So, when your parents came here, how much changing did they do...does...?

Mary Bellamy: As little as possible.

Mims: Okay. It already had electricity in it?

Mary Bellamy: Yes. It...the...oh, by the way, the Darbys ran the gasworks.

Mims: Okay. Oh really?

Mary Bellamy: So it was...yea, the Darbys ran the gasworks. And the gas...oh you wanted to ask me what was back here...

Mims: Yea.

Mary Bellamy: Solomon Towers...where Solomon Towers is, there were two huge gas tanks that would be filled with gas, and one would float up and then one would float down. They kept two gas tanks. The gasworks were at the foot of Castle Street.

Mims: Oh, I didn't know that.

Mary Bellamy: Yea, the gasworks were at the foot of Castle Street and...and we...we...this was chock full of houses, the whole block was chock full of houses and was a beautiful neighborhood and we're sorry that so much of it had to come down, but...but was the...the people, the Housing Authority bought everything on...on Front Street, tore everything down, and...and so, this is the only house standing. And that is an 1840s house over there.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: So that's the only reason it's standing. Alright, the...there were two huge gas tanks and the gas plant occupied the block across Castle Street, all the way to Queen, and that was the gasworks.

Mims: Hum.

Mary Bellamy: So that's where the gasworks were. And also that was followed, you see, by Carolina Power and Light.

Mims: Sure.

Mary Bellamy: And so the gasworks was not just that section, but just across the street from Surry to the river.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: So that section there was the gasworks. And so that's...okay.

Parnell: Except for a few years, you have lived within about an eight-block area.

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Parnell: The whole family.

Mary Bellamy: Yea, the whole...the whole way. That's true, that's true.

Mims: Well, so, because of that you're able add more to this area, because...

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Mims: can say what was here before and what...what wasn't. Um, I'm just still trying to figure out, you know, to modernize the the Darbys probably put in electricity?

Mary Bellamy: They put in the electricity, but they did...did not discontinue the gas fixtures. And we do have one...Heywood and mother left the gas fixtures but they were already wired for electricity.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: But Heywood and I removed some of them. The only gas fixture we have left intact is in that room. And again, it was rewired for electricity. But the Darbys had the rewiring done.

Mims: When did the interior water come? Was that...?

Mary Bellamy: Water came in nineteen eleven and you had to move your bathrooms indoors.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: So, that's why my bathroom's in such strange place. It''s right by the front door. And those days...(thanks Keith...thank you)...

Mims: We know public health had a lot to do with the...

Mary Bellamy: Right. You had to...

Mims: ...comply to these new, you know, sanitary issues.

Mary Bellamy: Right. Well, this had...the privy...there are two privy...there's privy...underground...we found the underground privy...

Mims: Has it ever been tapped into...has somebody gone...?

Mary Bellamy: Yea, there was a...a doctor who was an animal doctor...what's the name of...

Mims: Like a veterinarian?

Mary Bellamy: Yea, a veterinarian who was found of digging for old bottles...

Mims: Yea.

Mary Bellamy: And he came and he dug the whole thing and he still said "I haven't got the oldest one yet", he found bottles from the eighteen fifties. Alright there's a well back there...

Mims: Yea.

Mary Bellamy: And there was...there's an underground brick sidewalk that went to the next house...

Mims: Really?

Mary Bellamy: And the reason for that was that they were using the joint well.

Mims: Sure.

Mary Bellamy: Now, the next...the two lots which the Cameron...I have real information on the Cameron's only, were that the huge chunks from Front Street to the river where the...and...and that house...there was a house you...and the house that is across the street, across Surry, was moved from that spot there. But it was a...a 1790s house. And so that was...they're saying now that that was the Cameron house.

Mims: Is this a lane that ran right behind...?

Mary Bellamy: Oh yea, there was a...a little street called Hanover Street.

Mims: Hanover Street.

Mary Bellamy: And there is also a Hanover Street now over in Brooklyn. Yea, but that was called Hanover Street.

Mims: Okay.

Mary Bellamy: And there used to be an alley there.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: That went all the way from Front Street to Surry. Surry wasn't named in those years.

Mims: Probably when they shifted the lots from this orientation to...

Mary Bellamy: Yea.

Mims: ...this, they had to integrate the...alleys or lanes...

Mary Bellamy: Um hum.

Mims: between each one.

Mary Bellamy: Right, that's right.

Parnell: Has this house always sit at this place?

Mary Bellamy: Yea, uh huh.

Mims: Yea....stay the same but they...

Parnell: ...either the lots moved, or...

Mims: Shifted...yea.

Mary Bellamy: Uh huh, the house always faced this way and...and...but this was considered to be the front porch.

Mims: That side.

Mary Bellamy: And this was considered...this was...this probably had a...a narrow porch because this porch was built probably was probably built about...gosh, I can't get my dates right...about...

Mims: ...Federal period, like 1810s or so, or...?

Mary Bellamy: Right. That would have been about right.

Mims: Cause the style of it looks like comparable some of those.

Mary Bellamy: Right, uh huh. So this was...this probably had a smaller stoop, but these doors...all these doors are original...

Mims: Right. Were they...

Mary Bellamy: Huh?

Mims: These actually look...

Parnell: Same doors...

Mims: Like they're sisters...

Mary Bellamy: It's the same door, uh huh.

Mims: Yea.

Mary Bellamy: And so the...the street was there, you see. This was Church Street but this faced Hanover Street.

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: See...or eventually Castle...

Mims: Well we are getting near the end of the tape and I just feel like we have covered a lot of ground, but we haven't covered everything.

Mary Bellamy: Um hum.

Mims: Is there anything you can think of that really overlooked that we could wrap up here real fast? covered a lot on both sides of your family...

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Mims: You've given us a lot of...more in depth view into Wilmington history. What was it like growing up here, I mean...?

Mary Bellamy: It was fun.

Mims:'re still a young girl.

Mary Bellamy: It was absolute fun. I would...during those years we walked to school. So I walked to New Hanover High and there was a neighborhood with a lot of children and people my age. Now you could catch the city bus to Princess and change the bus to go to New Hanover High, but most...but I preferred to walk except on rainy days, so I didn't...

Mims: That's a hike to New Hanover from here!

Mary Bellamy: Right. But think it probably made it possible for me to still walk, cause I walked everywhere.

Mims: You were also...vibrant downtown, it's not how it is today, that's where all the shopping was...

Mary Bellamy: Right. And stores...

Mims: Right.

Mary Bellamy: was just a wonderful place to live.

Mims: Did you ever have like a job as a teen, or...?

Mary Bellamy: Oh yes, I Maffit village, I...when my dad was working there as a plumber, and my brother was working there as a plumber, and I worked Maffit village as a...a, well a post mistress really.

Mims: Really?

Mary Bellamy: They hired me to type but I was a slow typer, so...I didn't type but thirty five words a minute and so the lady that hired me, Mrs. Cole happened to live around the corner, and she was a business lady, and she decided that she had faster typists, so she assigned me the post office...

Mims: Uh huh.

Mary Bellamy: Which was the...all those people had no post office, so I ran the post office, and I stayed there that summer was 1943. And then I went to East Carolina in the fall of 1943.

Mims: This is interesting that you got like a rich heritage of females that had career jobs...

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Mims: ...and I figured you did something as a young girl...

Mary Bellamy: Right.

Mims: ...that...that started this.

Mary Bellamy: And so that...that was my...that was my summer job, nineteen forty three.

Mims: Before you started...

Mary Bellamy: And I made $25 dollars a week!

Mims: Wow, that's actually pretty...!

Mary Bellamy: Yea, I...I thought I was...well, that really helped me go to college.

Mims: Sure.

Mary Bellamy: Cause I bought, you know, a coat...I bought my clothes, and...and it helped me over that hump. And then I had a scholarship waiting for me at East Carolina. It was just a hundred dollars a year, but...

Mims: It was enough...

Mary Bellamy: It...anyway, and also was 300 dollars. It covered food...that's what it was, three hundred dollars and it...and the bishop gave me the scholarship, and he said "now if you'll make good grades, I'll renew it every year for four years", so I had that promise.

Mims: Well I think they got their money's worth!

Mary Bellamy: Thank you.

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