Fort Fisher

“All is calm, all is bright.”  Photo by Susan Taylor Block, December 8, 2015.

Fort Fisher.

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Fish Stalkers

by Susan Taylor Block

Courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Befriend not an angler,

An idiot you’d be,

He’d rather be fishing

Than hang out with thee.


He studies the weather,

He buys a new lure,

He makes sure his lines are

Untangled, for sure.


He hears that “they’re biting,”

And races to wait,

Through stoplights and bridge tolls

And lines to buy bait.


When out on the ocean,

Or just on the shore,

He’s still, but he’s thinking

Of how to catch more.


I don’t comprehend it:

He throws back the fish.

I don’t even get me a

Meal that’s de-lish.


But there’s something amusing

I can’t overlook:

It’s anglers, not fishes,

Who’re stuck on a hook.

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Happy Thanksgiving, dear Friends

Photo by Susan Taylor BlockThanksgiving SusanBlock

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Meatless to Say

So happy the turkey

When Ed wed Miss Marian,

For like a young filly,

She ate vegetarian.

—-   photo and verse by Susan Taylor Block

Thanksgiving SusanBlock

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Roger Moore and Charlie Soong

Roger Moore and Charlie Soong
By Susan Taylor Block
Unknown-1 Photo courtesy of Duke University Archives
Roger Moore (1838-1900), a 3rd-great grandson of King Roger Moore of Orton Plantation, North Carolina, spent most of his days at 103 North Water Street, where he operated the Roger Moore Brick Company. It was a bustling part of town during that era, with town business to the east, and heavy maritime activity to the west. He came in contact with all sorts of people, from those in fine business dress to seamen in tatters.
       In 1880, Roger Moore met a 14 year-old youth from Hainan Island, China named Soong Chiao-chun. Charlie, as he would come to be called, signed up with the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service, through the U. S. Coast Guard. He arrived in Wilmington aboard the cutter Colfax. One of the ship’s officers, a Methodist, introduced Col. Moore to the young man, and Moore was immediately impressed by his intelligence. When Col. Moore learned that Charlie wanted to better himself by being released from his job as a “mess boy,” the Colonel instituted steps which brought about this desired change.
Charlie then became a resident of Wilmington and attended the “Fifth Street Methodist Church” for the first time, with Roger Moore. He introduced the boy to the Reverend T. Page Ricaud, who baptized him.
         Charlie told Col. Moore he wished he could be set free from Coast Guard duty, and Col. Moore soon arranged his release. Soong found a place to live and, apparently, work. Col. Moore suggested the two of them attend church services at Fifth Avenue Methodist. The young man absorbed the words of minister T. Page Ricaud, just as he had a gentle evangelistic message the officer had shared with him aboard the Colfax. Charlie converted to Christianity, and was baptized July 7, 1880.[1]
         Moore, worried that Charlie’s brilliance would be dulled without challenging studies, contacted friend Julian Shakespeare Carr, in Durham. Carr was another strong Methodist. Both were members of the Third N.C. Cavalry during the Civil War. They became fast friends immediately, and stayed close throughout life. Carr, an industrialist and philanthropist, was go-getter. In almost no time, Charlie Soong was living with the Carr family and attending Trinity College, now Duke University. Carr underwrote all costs, and would later send him to the theological seminary at Vanderbilt.
         Historian Archibald Henderson was fascinated with the idea of Soong’s smoldering potential being fanned into flames by fine schooling. “After mature reflection, I am convinced that Julian S. Carr’s greatest gift to the world was not the site for Trinity College, or the Carr Building to the University of North Carolina, but the education of Soong Chiao-chun,” wrote Henderson.[2]
         Soong later returned to China where he established a publishing firm and allied himself with Dr. Sun Yat-sen. He continued the pattern of church stewardship he learned in America by giving a portion of his income to evangelical causes annually. He was founder of the Soong Dynasty, yet he always made time to correspond with those who helped him in the United States. Louis T. Moore noted that Soong continued to write to his father, Col. Moore, and Julian Carr.[3]

(A special thank-you to Ben Steelman of the Star News for notifying readers that Michael Feng, Charlie Soong’s great-grandson will be baptized today, August 30, 2015, at Fifth Avenue Methodist Church, in Wilmington. I am honored to take Margaret “Peggy” Moore Perdew to the service. She is one of Roger Moore’s granddaughters, and is a daughter of Wilmington historian Louis Toomer Moore, who supplied some of the information above.)

During his World War II-era tenure as Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Thomas Henry Wright, a native of Wilmington, performed an average of eight to ten weddings a day, primarily hastily planned generic services for sailors. However, one wedding he performed was anything but routine. Charlie Soong, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek’s brother, decided he wanted to be married in Grace Cathedral.

“There was such planning,” recounted Bishop Wright. “There were big committees and little committees and all the proceedings were very polite and took many hours. I performed the religious part of the wedding first and then the state wedding proceeded outside the rail. The church documents were signed at the altar and the state documents, outside the rail. LIFE magazine photographers were all over the place. The crowd took up the whole cathedral: 5,000 seats. Afterwards, there was a big reception and I was placed in the seat of honor. I delivered a blessing in English and they clapped. We were served twelve courses of food.”

[1] Moore Family Papers. Louis T. Moore correspondence, June 17, 1960, with Coronet Magazine.  [2] Archibald Henderson. “General Julian S. Carr: Greathearted Citizen.” Addresses and Addenda of Centennial Observance of His Birth.”[3] Louis T. Moore to Lewis W. Gillenson, Coronet Magazine. June 17, 1960.

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James Hathaway Kidder, Part 2

by Susan Taylor Block

A present-day Kidder family dog rests in the protection of Jim Kidder's table, most likely where a succession of Jim's "best friends" did. (Photo by Susan Block)

A present-day Kidder family dog rests in the protection of Jim Kidder’s table, most likely where a succession of Jim’s “best friends” also sat. (Photo by Susan Block)

Dogs were dear to Jim Kidder, but one of his Alaskan dogs tugged at his heart until the day he died. In 1894, he adopted a dog that was half malamute and half wolf. Though considered previously to be too vicious to associate with humans, the dog succumbed to Jim’s “dog-whispering” techniques, and began rolling playfully on his back, soon after Jim first approached him. The dog became a wonderful bear hunting companion, and even when not hunting, Jim and “Stereek” were virtually inseparable.

When it was time for Jim to return to New York, he chose to leave him with an Eskimo he knew would love and appreciate Stereek. Jim often left his coat on the dock when he went out on the water alone, and Stereek would guard his master’s coat until his return. As Kidder left the dock and Strereek for the very last time, he watched sadly as his faithful friend guarded his coat until the scene vanished in the distance.

The story of Jim Kidder and his wolf-dog’s tender friendship spread across the area in which Kidder had stayed. Before he left Alaska, author Jack London interviewed him. Jim related everything he knew about his devoted pet. Though he gave them fictitious names, London based the primary story line of his best selling novel, Call of the Wild, on Jim Kidder and Stereek. Another author, Zane Grey, was Jim’s closest human hunting buddy in Alaska from 1892 until 1897. In a 2011 interview, Jim’s daughter, Louise Kidder Gadsden recalled him shedding tears, for many years, when remembering his last moments with Stereek.

From Jack London’s Call of the Wild: “Other men saw to the welfare of their dogs from a sense of duty and business expediency; he saw to the welfare of his as if they were his own children, because he could not help it. And he saw further. He never forgot a kindly greeting or a cheering word, and to sit down for a long talk with them (“gas” he called it) was as much his delight as theirs. He had a way of taking Buck’s head roughly between his hands, and resting his own head upon Buck’s, of shaking him back and forth, the while calling him ill names that to Buck were love names. Buck knew no great joy that that rough embrace and the sound of murmured oaths, and at each jerk back and forth it seemed that his heart would be shaken out of his body so great was its ecstasy. And when released, he sprang to his feet, his mouth laughing, his eyes eloquent, his throat vibrant with unuttered sound, and in that fashion remained without movement, “John Thornton” would reverently exclaim, “You can all but speak!” 

The ever-present Kidder dogs at Green Point Plantation. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)

Kidder dogs and horses at Green Point Plantation, about 1925. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)

Green Point, Jim Kidder's chosen office.

Green Point, Jim Kidder’s chosen office. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)

Jim Kidder decided to sell his 909-acre plantation. The buyer was Percy K, Hudson, who owned Clay Plantation, nearby. After leaving Green Point, Jim Kidder settled in on Lady’s Island for several years, then moved to Beaufort, S. C. According to Northern Money, Southern Land: The Lowcountry Plantation Sketches of Chlotilde R. Martin (Robert B. Cuthbert and Stephen G. Huffs, editors), in 1962, Eugene du Pont III purchased 5,651 acres of land – of which Green Point and Clay Hall are a part. Having owned both Brookgreen Gardens and Green Point, Jim remained a member in especially good standing of the Carolina Plantation Society. He continued to advise the National Parks Service in matters of conservation, and he continued hunting through most of his senior years. At times, he shamed younger hunters. Though in his eighties, and stricken with “palsy,” he missed not one shot throughout an entire day of duck hunting with Donald Dodge at Seabrook Plantation.

Jim survived wife Helen, who died of breast cancer at an early age. When he died on July 7, 1965, at the age of 85, he was buried in the St. Helena Protestant Episcopal Church at Beaufort, S.C. His parents and many other relatives were buried in the Kidder-Hathaway Mausoleum in Brooklyn, New York.

(Photo by Susan Block)

(Photo by Susan Block)

(The author wishes to give special thanks, for information and enlightenment, to Ann Kidder Gadsden and James Christopher Gadsden, Jim Kidder’s grandchildren.)

Jim Kidder's Green Point railway. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)

Jim Kidder’s Green Point railway. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)

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James Hathaway Kidder, Part I

by Susan Taylor Block


A view at Nemours Wildlife Foundation, 2015. (Photo by Susan Block)

James Hathaway Kidder, former owner of a portion of Nemours Wildlife Foundation, was the son of Edward Hartwell Kidder and Mary Leona Hathaway Kidder. He was born September 12, 1869, in Brooklyn, but had ties to Wilmington, North Carolina. His paternal grandparents, Edward and Ann Potter Kidder, lived there, at 101 South Third Street (now razed). His maternal grandparents’ residence was close by, at 120 South Fifth Street. Historically, it is known as  the Hathaway-Boney House.

“Jim” Kidder attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., near the Kidder’s ancestral home of New Ipswich, N.H., from 1885 until 1888. A spirited sportsman, he was on the school’s first Halcyon team. In 1892, he graduated from Harvard where he was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club. Then he attended classes at the University of Heidelburg, in Germany. Jim worked in Boston for several years before moving to New York where he was employed by the investment firm of Frankie, Thompson, and Robb. He married Mary Clark Avery, a widow who, at that time, lived in New York, Chicago, and London. As a couple, things did not go well for them.

St. Paul's School's first Halcyon Team. Jim Kidder sits on the front row, far left. (Courtesy of St. Paul's School)

St. Paul’s School’s first Halcyon Team. Jim Kidder sits on the front row, far left. (Courtesy of St. Paul’s School)

Conventional work did not suit Jim Kidder. He left his framed credentials hanging on an office wall while he made his way around the world, hunting and fishing. A born collector, he purchased the finest of equipment money could buy. He had a penchant for medieval armor and weapons, too, and they adorned his residence. In time, Jim turned his love of hunting into a passion to preserve wildlife – particularly in Alaska. He had hunted with many famous people, including Theodore Roosevelt, and the Prince of Wales, who would be crowned Edward VIII in 1936, but it was creatures that he adored.

(Below: James Hathaway Kidder, as depicted by an artist for the Rockland County Times, August 10, 1902.)



The James Hathaway Kidder Collection.

A portion of the James Hathaway Kidder Collection.


In 1902, Jim presented his extensive collection of bear skins and skulls to the United States Biological Survey, in Washington, DC. Dr. C. Hart Merriam termed it “the most splendid contribution to the study of Alaska bears ever made by one person.” Mr. Kidder used his platform to discourage skins merchants and hat makers; the cruel and the thoughtless from further eradication of Alaska’s animal population. He continued to work for hunting limits that would increase numbers of species that were dwindling rapidly. Yet he was quick to defend the hungry and serious providers of food: He excused “those who hunt to supply communities with meat.”

James Hathaway Kidder (right) with his guide and a very big bear. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)

James Hathaway Kidder (right) with his guide and a very big bear – and his beloved Stereek. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)


Jim was a member of the famous Boone and Crockett Club, and served on the club’s executive, finance, and big game measurements committees.While hunting in the Kadiak Islands, Jim Kidder shot a new species of bear, soon to be known as a Ursus Kidderi Tundrensis, or the Kidder Bear. Kidder bears are ferocious, live only in Alaska, and are quite small. At least one replica of a Kidder bear still exists in Wilmington. On a much larger scale, Mr. Kidder also killed the largest Kadiak bear ever shot in Alaska. A Wilmington cousin, Margaret “Peggy” Moore Perdew, traveled to Washington to view the bear which was exhibited temporarily.

Jim and Helen Kidder at Green Point, 1937. (Gadsden-Kidder Collection)

Jim and Helen Kidder at Green Point, 1937. (Gadsden-Kidder Collection)

By 1922, Jim Kidder was living at Green Point Plantation in Yemassee, SC. He owned Brookgreen Gardens briefly, but settled in at Green Point where he razed a dilapidated older residence and built a new one that was void of ostentation and heavy with comfort. His views of grass and water were filtered through light that made the greens and blues appear as if they are flecked with a bit of gold dust.

He met Helen, the love of his life, at a party  in Yemasee. She had not wanted to attend the event, but changed her mind at the last minute. Friends introduced them, and they proceeded to get along famously. After they married, Jim and Helen adopted a young girl, Louise, whose parents could not raise her. Little Mary Louise Kidder grew up with the wonders of Green Point all about her.

Helen and Mary Louise Kidder. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)

Helen holding Mary Louise Kidder. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)


To be continued….


New York Times, April 8, 1909.  Julie T. Houk, Director of Publications, Boone and Crockett Club. Kidder Family Collection. St. Paul’s School Alumni Records. Harvard Alumni Records. Adolphus Washington Greely, Handbook of Alaska: Its Resources, Products, and Attractions; New York, 1909. Rockland County Times, August 16, 1902.  Author’s interviews with Kay E. Merrill (Nieuport Project, Nemours Wildlife Foundation), Margaret Moore Perdew, Charles Stockell, author of “The Restless Ones,” (Beaufort Magazine, February 1975),the late Mary Louise Kidder Gadsden, Ann Kidder Gadsden Shimer, and James Christopher Gadsden.


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The Grave of Col. William Rhett

Photo and text by Susan Taylor Block


William Rhett lived from 1666 to 1722. He was a rice planter, South Carolina Assemblyman, Receiver General of the Lords’ Proprietors of Carolina –  and a pirate hunter. From the standpoint of Wilmington, NC, his greatest act was to capture Stede Bonnet who was known as “the Gentleman Pirate” because of his fine education and inherited wealth.  Col. Rhett defeated Bonnet after a fierce battle on the waters of the Cape Fear River. The noisy set-to took place in August of 1718. On December 10th, the courtly thief was hanged in Charleston.

The words handsomely displayed at William Rhett’s grave draw a more complete picture of the man. His burial space is located directly across from the double doors of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Charleston.

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Goose Creek Church

Goose Creek Church and text by Susan Taylor Block)

Two weeks ago, a friend and I had the privilege of visiting St. James Episcopal Church in Goose Creek, South Carolina. The church took years to complete, but opened for services in 1708 – two years after Gov. James Moore I, born 1640, died. The Moore family played a vital part in the life of Goose Creek in its early days. By 1725, several Moore family members had relocated to southeastern North Carolina.

The molded pelican pictured is feeding her young. The image was the symbol of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The SPG was a missionary effort funded somewhat by English government. The image of the pelicans is symbolic of the nurturing Christ provided through the giving of himself.

The five cherubs represent the five continents that were known to be such in Colonial days.  Today, the five angels serve as humbling reminders that there’s always much to be learned.

Goose Creek pulpitlrAbove the elevated pulpit at St. James Church is a heavy wooden disk that was designed to help channel the rector’s voice out towards the audience rather than up towards the ceiling. It would seem that climbing the pulpit stairs to deliver one’s sermon while standing under that heavy load would have been an exercise for the rector’s faith muscle.


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George Evans, a Champion in his Own Right

by Susan Taylor Block

George Evan, 1999. Photo by the author)

George Evan, 1999. (photo by the author)

George Evans, son of artist Minnie Evans and cherished employee to some of Cape Fear’s most illustrious citizens, has died. He lived to be 99, and that virtual century gave him a vantage point most rare. His life spanned segregation to integration; and the change from the wary view of his famous mother’s artwork to the national, even international acclaim for her complex and spiritually sophisticated creations.

One of Mr. Evans earliest memories was of going with his father, Julius Evans, to the African-American resort that was built at Shell Island. He remembered the fun he had there and he recalled the time when it was burned. He remembered when the expansive development we know as Landfall was the property of one man: Pembroke Jones.

In our interviews, he described the gregarious nature of Mr. Jones and the very private nature of the Joneses’ constant companion – Henry Walters. Pembroke Jones sang at the top of his lungs when on carriage rides from Landfall to Airlie – his wife’s property. Mr. Walters carried on soft-spoken conversations with those he entrusted with running the mighty Atlantic Coast Line Railroad after he officially retired.

George Evans could recite the surnames of the Joneses’ most frequent guests: Lincoln Memorial architect Henry Bacon and his family, the Kenans, Sprunts, Rountrees, Bolles, and others. Mr. Evans knew not only their faces. He knew their hearts – from tender to unmalleably tough (though none of the names listed fits this category.) Everything he ever shared with me has been borne out in subsequent research.

George Evans was a deeply spiritual man. His mother’s vision and subsequent decades of work that witnessed to the reality of that vision fell right in line with the teachings he heard at both of the MacCumber Terrace African-American churches: St. Matthews A.M.E. Zion and Pilgrims’ Rest Baptist.I had the privilege of sitting across from him at a service at St. Matthew’s. His face became beatific during prayer.

George Evans learned from his Mother that playing for a human audience alone is not worthwhile. He learned from the Lord’s Prayer that forgiveness is expected. And he lived to reap the benefits promised in the commandment to honor your parents:”That your days may be long in the land….”

The death of George Evans is a benchmark in local history. He will be sorely missed.

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