by Susan Taylor Block

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(Photo by Louis T. Moore. Click for more detail.)

 

Wilmington photographer Louis T. Moore took this photo of the pillars that mark the land of many names. When Royal Governor Gabriel Johnston owned the property it was known as Gabriel’s Landing. In 1800, Susan Bradley and Judge Joshua Grainger Wright named the southern end, Mount Lebanon.

By the 1880′s the southern land was divided between the Latimer family, that usually shortened the name to Lebanon, and Mrs. Pembroke Jones, who called it, famously, Airlie, after her husband’s ancestral home in Scotland. The property on the north side of Airlie Road is still called Gabriel’s Landing by owner Agnes Rankin Beane. A family tradition, passed down through several generations, indicates two columns, each capped with a significant sculpture, once adorned Gabriel’s Landing.

This rare photo, taken about 1923, shows the sort of planking that would have marked the original “Plank Road,” that once covered miles of approach to the sound on a path known today as Wrightsville Avenue.

The land on which the columns stand is the “Wright Exception” – a two-acre tract saved sentimentally by businessman Thomas H. Wright (1876-1956) to be passed down to Wright family members as a keepsake of the original 300 acres that were owned by Judge Joshua Grainger Wright. Today, the exception is owned by Agnes Beane.

The age of these columns has still not been determined.

Text and transcription by Susan Taylor Block

Photos by John Murchison, unless noted otherwise

Grainger McKoy, holding the first bird he ever carved. (Photo by John Murchison)

Grainger McKoy, holding the first bird he ever carved.

 

“But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.”- Matthew 10:29

On March 28, 3014, I traveled from Wilmington, North Carolina to Sumter, South Carolina to see bird sculptures and meet the sculptor, but I returned home with impressions of art that seemed a bit overwhelming. Grainger McKoy’s work and reminiscences offered fresh reminders of bigger things like divine creativity, the power of human encouragement, and the mystery of kindred souls seeking truth.

Friend John Murchison accompanied me to Sumter to renew his friendship with Grainger and to take photographs. The three of us sat down to chat in the sculptor’s airy workshop. It was so full of beautiful “birds” that it made me feel like I was perched inside a pleasant cage. They were in various stages of completion and, though stationary, seemed almost animate.

Studying the various manmade birds close-up leaves one with a new sense of awe for living birds. The seemingly infinite diversity of feathers, eyes, forms, patterns, and textures is humbling. To think that they can fly and that they have their own GPS is arresting. Grainger studies both the flying and the still. And he keeps both the living and the dead; he has birds in spacious cages, and keeps a frozen bird morgue in his workshop.

Grainger's Aviary. (Photo by John Murchison)

Grainger’s Aviary

Grainger knows how to integrate intricate details and ingenious civil engineering in his work. He stares and carves and sands and burns and stains and paints the wood into submission. Divine creative energy seems to channel through him to replicate and to interpret. But though he might be the greatest human birdsmith who ever lived, Grainger has learned to pay loving obeisance to The Birdsmith.

Victor Grainger McKoy was born in Wilmington on April 21, 1947, but soon moved to Fayetteville where he lived until the age of three.  In 1950, his father, Adair Morey McKoy, took a job at Sumter Supply in Sumter, South Carolina. The new plumbing products business served as a branch of Longley Supply in Wilmington.

For generations, Grainger’s father’s family members were stalwarts in the Wilmington community. The young McKoy family could have had a comfortable, sociable life in the port city and nearby Wrightsville Beach. Grainger’s family tree includes noted silversmith T. W. Brown, authors, historians, legislators, poets, bankers, and attorneys. Victor Grainger, the grandfather for whom Grainger was named, served as senior warden of veritable St. James Episcopal Church for 42 solid years.

However, rock hard stability and predictability did not hold the attention of young Grainger’s parents. Sumter suited them better. They were, as Grainger worded it, thinking “outside the box” years before the phrase would be coined.

“My parents, not purposefully, but partly because they moved away, were free,” said Grainger. His mother, Priscilla Claggett Grainger, was a Sweet Briar College alumnus who had dreams of living in a log cabin. In 1954, they started building one in Sumter. “People were still moving out of log cabins in 1954,” said Grainger, “and here we were, just moving into one.

“Neither the Wilmington nor Sumter lifestyles were wrong, just different,” he continued. “We had goats and cows and chickens. Our neighborhood was multiracial; we all joined the 4-H Club; and we drove school buses as soon as we got a driver’s license. When it came time to drive to Wilmington to visit my maternal grandmother, ‘Miss Katie’ Reston Grainger McKoy, we had to find our shoes. Then, we had to wear them.”

Grainger’s name came originally from Isaac Bates Grainger (1840-1878), a Belfast native who immigrated to Wilmington as a teenager. He became a bank president, city alderman, and a co-owner of Orton Plantation. Gifted in financial savvy, he has been credited with getting the City of Wilmington back in the black after the Civil War. http://susantaylorblock.com/2010/10/26/the-dawsons-and-graingers-county-antrim-to-new-hanover-county/

Isaac Bates Grainger  (Photo courtesy of the late Jean McKoy Graham)

Isaac Bates Grainger (Photo courtesy of the late Jean McKoy Graham)

Miss Katie Grainger and her husband, John Victor Grainger, about 1950. (Photo courtesy of the late Walker Taylor III)

Grainger’s maternal grandparents: Miss Katie Grainger and her husband, John Victor Grainger, about 1940. (Photo courtesy of the late Walker Taylor III)

When Miss Katie paid her first visit to the log cabin, she was horrified to discover that the house had no real windows. Shutters were all that separated the McKoys from rain, freezes, farm smells, and mosquitoes. She wrote a check for $500 and earmarked it for glass windows. “Just so outside the box,” Grainger restated.

Though the McKoys operated on a budget, their encouragement had no ceiling. It was the greatest gift they could give. “They took the time to observe us as children,” said Grainger. “Whatever their children were involved in, absorbed in, interested in — they fanned that. They didn’t try to place in their children what they expected or hoped for. They just observed their children and when they started on a path of interest, they would say, ‘Son, that will be a wonderful adventure.’”

Priscilla McKoy - her Park Avenue looks framed by her prairie house. Mother's Day, 1953. (Courtesy of Grainger McKoy)

Priscilla McKoy – her Park Avenue looks framed by her prairie house. Mother’s Day, 1953. (Courtesy of Grainger McKoy)

The McKoys observed their oldest child, Adair, loving the land. They let him have his own garden as an early adventure. “Before my father died,” said Grainger, “he bought a little small tractor, just because he saw that in his son. Adair now lives in Edisto. A couple of years ago, he was the largest tomato producer in South Carolina. It was just a case of parents observing a child and putting what interested Adair in front of him.”

The McKoy’s happy life in their cypress log house was changed forever on November 22, 1956, when Grainger’s father died of a heart attack. It was Thanksgiving morning and Adair was only forty years old. Grief abounded. Priscilla lost a soul mate of rare similarity. Adair’s three sons lost half their hearty support team. Nevertheless, they hit the ground sauntering.

“We all got jobs,” said Grainger. “We never knew we couldn’t do anything.” Priscilla McKoy’s job was as secretary of their church, Holy Comforter Episcopal. She earned $25 a week. On that, a monthly social security check for $250, and odd jobs her sons picked up, she and they supported themselves.

Grainger’s father had gone to Woodberry Forest and the University of North Carolina. In Chapel Hill, he roomed with future governor Terry Sanford. Sanford was living in Fayetteville when Adair McKoy died, and was especially attentive to young Adair, Peter, and Grainger. He would call to see how they were doing, and sometimes ask them for a visit. After he became governor, he invited the McKoy boys went to spend a night in the Governor’s Mansion.

Young Grainger found extra support on many sides. His mother was always there for Grainger and his brothers. Being older, they were especially sensitive to his feelings. “I have two hero brothers, Adair and Peter,” he said, just days before Peter would die of cancer. “They raised me up.”

“Peter is a veterinarian,” said Grainger. “From early childhood, he always loved animals, goats and chickens. My father and mother would always give him a goat or pigeon for Christmas or his birthday.” Not long after Grainger’s father died, Priscilla drove all three of her sons to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where her stepfather, William Tilden Brice, and mother, Helen Kenly Grainger, lived. During the road trip, Peter’s career may have been launched.

“Of course, there was no air conditioning,” said Grainger. “There was no I-95. We went through Richmond and Highway 301 was just hell. We were kids that had been sweltering and on the road for something like ten hours. My brother Peter, the middle child, was always the instigator. I remember her pulling in to make a stop at a pet store in downtown Richmond. She came out with a gift for Peter: a little white mouse that cost a quarter.” Of course, Priscilla saw it as a great adventure.

“Now, this is how out of the box she was,” continued Grainger. She handed that mouse to Peter and he put it in his top pocket. Not only did it keep him occupied for the rest of our journey, but also all summer long he was attentive to that little creature. It lived in his top pocket. Urine stains streamed down his shirt, but he didn’t care. My mother didn’t care either.

“But you see, Peter became a veterinarian. That’s all it takes is a quarter. I tell my friends, you don’t have to give your kids a car when they turn 16. Just give them a white mouse. People over-give and under-encourage. Mother was a cheerleader for his interest and now Peter has two vet practices and 42 employees.”

Son Grainger liked to draw and work with his hands from an early age. He took great note of the birds that seemed to always be around. Priscilla McKoy seized the opportunity for her son by enrolling him in art school. Every Saturday, she drove him to Columbia, South Carolina where he took lessons.  He began his studies at age ten and quit after age 12, when his voice began to change, and pursuing art did not seem so “cool.”

Thankfully, art soon won out over peer pressure after Grainger received a decoy as a gift from his grandmother, Helen, in Maryland. He was thirteen at the time and still wonders why she sent it to him, but maybe it was just a case of like mother, like daughter. Whatever the reason, grandmother Helen’s gift activated his God-given talent.

“There I was, living in a log cabin with wood all around me. I told my mother that I wanted to carve a bird, but that I needed some dry wood. Right away, she said, ‘I know where some dry wood is.’  We went outside and she put a saw in my hand and lifted me up and let me cut off a piece of cypress from the side of the house. It was an extended piece of log.

“That’s the encourager she was. ‘OK, I know where some dry wood is,’ she said. Then, the next thing you know, the rough sound of sawing filled the air.

That’s the kind of encouragement I got. When somebody lets you saw up the house to fan your interest, you never know what will happen. I still have that bird.”

When time for college came, Grainger went to Clemson. It took him five years. He planned to major in architecture, but switched to zoology. Because he lost some credits, it took him five years to graduate. When he was a senior, he married his wife, Floride. They were well acquainted: she sat in front of him in the third grade, and he had kept up with her ever since. Floride, an only child, finished Converse in three years. Her parents had high hopes for her, but those bright dreams dimmed a bit when Grainger divulged he was moving them to Beaufort where he planned to carve for a living.

Of course, Grainger’s mother responded to the news by saying, “Grainger, that’s a wonderful adventure!”

In 1970, the McKoys moved to Beaufort for Grainger to partner with carver Gilbert Maggioni, a Beaufort resident who first recognized the young man’s profound talent. In 1967, during a hunting trip in Maryland, they attended an exhibition of bird carvings. What they saw gave them a vision of success.

Grainger's Mourning Dove. (graingermckoy.com)

Grainger’s Mourning Dove. (graingermckoy.com)

“I had come to know Gilbert over a period of years. He encouraged me a lot. He never sold his own work. He ran an oyster cannery, of all things, down in Lady’s Island. I would go down there in late high school. During college I’d go visit him when I could. Like my mother, he was a great encourager.

“When he asked me to move and partner with him, he said, ‘Give it 6 months, Grainger. Give it a year. Just try it.’ When you’re 21 you think you can do anything. So, that sounded good to me, and Floride, bless her heart, went along with it.

“This story is really about my mother hearing my plan, grabbing my hand, and saying, again, ‘Grainger, that’s a wonderful adventure.’ If it was legal, it was a wonderful adventure. So, that has kind of been our motto with our children and our grandchildren. ‘It’s an adventure. Let’s go. Life is an adventure.’

Then Grainger added, “And when you fold Christ into that picture, it is really an adventure. “

I would have been startled with Grainger’s abrupt switch of focus if it had not been for hearing of his spiritual side from mutual friends, and seeing a Bible reference on one of his current projects. Discussing his faith brought even more animation to his face.

 

IN HIS OWN WORDS

“I always went to church. With mother being the secretary we were always the first ones to get there. We laughed because she unlocked it because she also locked it. We were there for virtually every function at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church.

“She even brought work home. We spent Tuesday nights folding bulletins and that old addressograph machine was so noisy. You had to pull something down, place the bulletin paper in it, and it went ‘Clomp, clomp.’ All this was done on the dining room table and all three of us helped her.  So, I thought I had had enough of church.

“When I went off to college, I was out-of-church. Things stayed that way for years. Some of it was the result of success. When I turned 26, I had my first big show in New York City. I remember walking out of Hammer Galleries. Everything I brought had some in just two days, and I a check in my top pocket. The 57th Street sun was just going down and there was a nice chill in the air. I would fly home the next day, but things had changed.

Customarily, Grainger prepares a miniature for his prospective clients to view a sculpture in its future setting. (Photo by John Murchison)

Customarily, Grainger prepares a miniature like this so that his clients can view a sculpture in its future setting.

“Commercial success in a place like New York changes the paradigm. Continued success became my whole focus. I figured I would work very hard for the next two and a half years, and then settle in. I told my family I was doing it for them, but I was doing it for myself. I was self centered and egotistical. Floride took the children to church and I would wave to them as they drove away.

“As I was working towards the next exhibit, I heard from a friend of mine named Dick, who I had lost track of. He had been a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam and now had gotten a terrible kidney disease. He was in line for a transplant. At some point in the conversation, he said, ‘But Grainger I’m a Christian now.’ That ‘s all he said.

“What came to my mind was, ‘If all else fails, try God,’ but I would not be able to get Dick’s words out of my head. He asked me, ‘Grainger, would you mind it I write you a letter?’

“I went on to have my next exhibit in New York and Dick was about to have his kidney transplant, within the same season. What dawned on me during that time was that working two and a half more years more, just as hard as I had been working, would only get me back to that same point. And I said to myself,  ‘so what?

“I wasn’t excited about that like I had been. I didn’t look forward to doing that all over again.  So, I came home and drove a tractor for my brother. I could afford to then.

“My friend Dick had his kidney transplant and it failed. They just had to take it out. His wife called me.  It was either March or April. She said Dick had taken himself off the dialysis machine and he had only ten days to live.

“At that point, he was at the V.A. hospital and would have to wait many years before he could get another kidney. He sent word that he wanted to see me, and I knew I just had ten days to get there.

“What do you say to a dying man? I told Floride I was going to the hospital to see Dick. That was maybe a Wednesday morning. On the way there, I met with minister Rick Belzer. ‘I’m going to see a dying man. What do I say?’

“Rick answered, ‘Grainger, do you mind if I say a prayer for you?’ At the time, I would have said I was a Christian, but I was just a churchgoer. I’ve never had a man do this but Rick touched me.  He put his hand right on my shoulder and said a 3 or 4 sentence prayer.

“Finally, I walked into the hospital room and Dick was he was just a 6’ 4” bump in the sheet. He was reading the Bible. He looked up and saw me.

“’Grainger, Grainger,’ he said, ‘Come in. I’m so glad you came to see me.’

“Dick wouldn’t let me sit in a chair. He patted the bed beside him. ‘Sit right here,’ he said. I wasn’t there longer than fifteen minutes. He told me about his decision and he told me about the personal relationship he had with Jesus.

“Then he said, switching the conversation from him to me, ‘Grainger this is the hope I have for you. I’m so excited for what the Lord’s going to do.’

“I’d been hearing that sort of encouragement my whole life, but not from that direction. That just kept rolling through. ‘Grainger, I’m so excited for you.’

“I felt like I was in the post office and people were sorting the mail, but I couldn’t find a cubbyhole to put that in. I didn’t have any place to categorize it, so I just had to hold it. It was like Dick’s words were suspended in air.

“I was real uneasy, and said something silly and dumb like ‘good luck’ or ‘I think it’s time for me to go.’ It was just whatever you would blubber out. I was backing out of the room and Dick said, ‘Wait a minute. Lean down here, Grainger. You’re going to be alright.’

“All my hopes were centered on my work and myself, and here was a dying man who had something I didn’t have. I drove right by 261, a mile out of Charleston, and then I started crying. I still didn’t know what to do with it. Two days later, Dick died.

“A few days after that, I was home eating lunch all alone. Floride was at work, teaching French. I made a sandwich and put some strawberries on the table, but I was so restless that I had to do something besides just eat.

“I looked around for a Bible, but even if I had found one, I wouldn ‘t have known what to do with it. I hardly knew the Old Testament from the New Testament. Here I was, having gone to church most of my life and I still didn’t know anything.

“I kept looking for a Bible, but never found one. What I did find was a prayer book. Floride had started going to the Episcopal church and she had brought home The Book of Common Prayer. I happened to open it up to the Nicene Creed.

“I began to read, and something began to penetrate my spirit. When I finished reading it, I was a believer.  It didn’t happen at a Billy Graham rally, but just there in my house with me all alone at the table. A peace came over me for the next few days and I’ve never quite gotten back to being that peaceful again. It was so real.

“A year later, Rick Belzer asked me to go to Cursillo. It is a religious retreat associated with the Diocese of Eastern North Carolina. That is where I met John. We studied and prayed and visited people in prison.

“Ever since that special lunch, my life has been a wonderful walk. It’s my true vocation and avocation.

Carving is not the center of my life anymore. It is not the product. It is just a vehicle. My work happens to put me into the lives of some very successful people and I love their applause, but I am not swept away with that or myself anymore.

“It keeps things in perspective to remember that when I work, I am just making something look like something it is not. If you scratch it, you change the surface. If I detach one of the feathers I made from a bird, there will be a void. If you detach one of the feathers God made, He will grow  it a whole new feather.  None of my birds ever grows a new feather. If that doesn’t bring you to your knees, then I don’t know what would.

“The greatest art in the world is not David’s Pieta or Michelangelo’s David. It is a changed heart.  It’s when somebody’s walking this way and then they turn around and go the other way. It’s something internal, not external, but the external changes to point to the eternal.

“For me to have a relationship with a piece of wood is easy. If it doesn’t behave, I can throw it in the fireplace. The toughest relationships are with people. I work in solitude and it gives me time to think. Not long ago I was thinking about the end of life.

“When I’m on my deathbed, I won’t be asking Floride to go get my pocket knife so I can carve just one more bird. What I’ll be asking for is her hand. I won’t be asking for a relationship with a piece of wood. Well, if that’s gonna mean so much then, how about now? Hello. And that’s true with God, too. If I’m going to spend eternity with him, I need to be practicing now.”

 

Susan Block, Grainger and Florine McKoy, at Swan Lake in Sumter. Sculpture "Recovery" by Grainger McKoy. (Photo by John Murchison)

Susan Block, Grainger and Floride McKoy, at Swan Lake in Sumter. Sculpture “Recovery” by Grainger McKoy.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spirit

he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,

and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Grainger's Falcon Goblet (graingermckoy.com)

Grainger’s Falcon Goblet (graingermckoy.com)

Gilbert Potter Kidder, Florence Hill Kidder (Moore), Edward Hartwell Kidder, and Annette Arden Lewis, about 1916, at Kendal Plantation.

Gilbert Potter Kidder, Florence Hill Kidder (Moore), Edward Hartwell Kidder, and Annette Arden Lewis, about 1916, at Kendal Plantation. Two uncles and two nieces are pictured. Gilbert (on left) and Edward are sons of Edward and Ann Potter Kidder of Wilmington, NC. Florence is the child of Gilbert and Edward’s brother, George Wilson Kidder, by his wife Florence Hill Kidder. Annette is the child of their sister, Susan Kidder Lewis and her husband, Ivers Lewis. Kendal Plantation was the Brunswick County home of Frederic Kidder, another Kidder brother. (Photo courtesy of Margaret Moore Perdew. All rights reserved.)

Peggy Moore (Perdew), pictured in Beulah Meier's clothing store. (Photo by Calhoun for the Star News)

In the 1940s, Beulah Meier was Wilmington’s leading ladies’ clothier. If she couldn’t find what her customers wanted in New York, Los Angeles, or Hawaii, she would design and create a one-of-a-kind. So, when Wilmington became part of the North Carolina Garden Pilgrimage group in 1945, Mrs. Meier came up with the idea of dressing beautiful young ladies in their 20s in long dresses to add luster to garden tours. After the Azalea Festival incorporated in 1948, Cape Fear Garden Club leaders like Mrs. Harley Vance and Mrs. W. A. Fonvielle would promote the idea, but it was club member and Wilmington historian Leora Hiatt McEachern who suggested belles wear antebellum-style hooped skirts. Belles would not be an official, annual part of the Azalea Festival until 1969, and some of them went hoop-less until at least 1972. Today, all belles are of high school age.

Beulah Meier purchased the dress seen above while on a buying trip in Hawaii. Mrs. Meier was close friends with Wilmingtonians Florence Kidder Moore and her husband, author and historian Louis Toomer Moore. According to Beulah’s daughter, Katherine Meier Cameron, the clothier chose Florence and Louis’s beautiful daughter, Margaret Yeamans Moore, best known today as Peggy Moore Perdew, to model the gown for publicity’s sake and to wear it at functions like the Ministering Circle’s fashion show. The Star News published the photo above, taken in Mrs. Meier’s clothing store. Peggy Moore is wearing a fine red and white cotton dress, and Beulah Meier can be seen in the background of her shop that once was located on the first floor of the Orton Hotel, at 117 North Front Street.

In 1939, Beulah Meier designed dresses for Peggy Moore Perdew’s two sisters, Florence Hill Moore Dunn and Ann Kidder Moore Bacon.  Those dresses can be viewed at:   http://susantaylorblock.com/2012/04/04/azalea-belles/   Surely, the Moore sisters were among the first, if not the first of Wilmington’s 20th-century young ladies to dress as Southern Belles.

 

 

Crucusphoto

Seeking sun,

I leaned so far

That soon I’ll need

A safety bar.

- Susan Taylor Block

 

St. Andrew's on-the-Sound, about 1925. (Photo by Louis T. Moore, courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library)

St. Andrew’s on-the-Sound, about 1925. (Photo by Louis T. Moore, courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library)

by Susan Taylor Block

“The present church of St. Andrew’s is the direct successor to old Lebanon Chapel….” – Star News, 9-29-1933.

When you look at old photographs of the Italianate lodge that once stood on what is now Great Oaks Drive or the sprawling mansion at Airlie, you see the handiwork of the core congregation of St. Andrew’s on-the-Sound. When you walk through the garden at Airlie, you see a wonderland that was, in part, designed and planted by St. Andrew’s parishioners. They were artists, but they were not artsy. Their personalities had a New England flavor, but they were almost entirely from Baltimore, Snead’s Ferry, NC, and Germany. Though they worshipped in a small, one-story church, some of their preferences were high-church. Pity the poor visitor who did not keep pace with the litany, made an altar guild mistake, or sat when he should have knelt, but as soon as they corrected them, the St. Andrew’s faithful core would welcome them and put them to work.  Their faith was strong and church meant a great deal to most of them.

St. Andrew's on-the-Sound, about 2006. (Photo by the author)

St. Andrew’s on-the-Sound, about 1975. (Lossie Gardell)

In its beginning, St. Andrew’s-on-the-Sound was built to be a modest Spanish-Mission style Episcopal church that would meet the needs of residents living near Shell Road Crossing, a sleepy intersection that is now the busy spot at which Oleander Drive and Wrightsville Avenue meet. The corner stone was laid on October 14, 1923, with Bishop Thomas C. Darst officiating. Leslie N. Boney, Sr. served as architect, and U. A. Underwood, as contractor, for the building that was estimated to cost $15,000. According to the late Leslie N. Boney, Jr., in May of 1923, his father was paid 3.5% of the estimated cost – or $525.  Leslie N. Boney, Sr., also earned $100 for his plans for the Parish House – a fee paid personally by the Rev. Dr. Frank Dean, rector for the church.

In 1923, the working class neighborhood consisted mostly of a large group of interrelated families. The men made their living as “sounders” — seafood harvesters. They also worked as laborers for Pembroke and Sarah Jones, wealthy neighbors, who with their best friend Henry Walters, maintained almost 3,000 acres of land that included Airlie Gardens and Pembroke Park – the area known today as Landfall. Work assignments for the Joneses ranged from building an amphitheater and free-standing ballroom at Airlie, to preparing Pembroke Park for a formal dinner party in which guests were seated upon platforms wedged into gnarled live oaks. After the death of Pembroke Jones in 1919, Mrs. Jones began to spend more time at Airlie.

Though the 1835 building known as Lebanon Chapel sits of land that appears to be part of Airlie, it was and is owned by St. James Episcopal Church in Wilmington. From 1884 until 1919, the Joneses maintained Lebanon Chapel as a private house of worship. Pembroke underwrote all costs during that period, and altered the building in 1912 for the wedding of his daughter, Sadie, and architect John Russell Pope. St. James leaders began a church mission there after the wedding to reach out to unchurched neighbors. It was led by members of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, with Anson Alligood and Thomas Morton acting as supervisors.

One night, a small fire broke out one day near the Airlie mansion. Mrs. Jones already had experienced two fires in her lifetime and was greatly frightened by the blaze and the fact that stray teenagers were sometimes touring the garden without permission, and peering into the downstairs windows of her 39-room house. Adolescent pedestrians of the neighborhood knew the area well, for their after-dark “Lovers’ Lane” was the “Jones Road” that led from the gates of Airlie, to the Pembroke Park gate that sits in the Lion’s Gate neighborhood today, and continues north of Wrightsville Avenue.

(Photo courtesy of Cape Fear Museum)

(Photo courtesy of Cape Fear Museum)

Unaware that she did not own Lebanon Chapel, Sarah Jones decided to close it in hopes that that would help limit trespassing of all sorts at Airlie. Thinking it best to build a new church to accommodate the ousted worshippers, she indicated she would contribute some money for the building project. Mrs. Jones chose Mr. Boney as architect; and had, years before, created the model for the church’s name, by calling her home, “Airlie-on-the-Sound.” A member of the Dizor family, charter members of St. Andrew’s, actually named the church using the name of the St. James group that, in turn, was based on the disciple who became patron saint of fishermen, and the wording template from Airlie. However, it was the work of another person that made the project a true success.

The Rev. Dr. Frank Dean, M.D., Ph.D., and D.D., moved to Wilmington in 1917 as a World War I war camp community worker. He began his career as a physician, but being a very sensitive man, he left the profession after a baby under his care died. He then attended seminary and was ordained into the Episcopal priesthood. About 1918, he was appointed city chaplain. Church assignments followed. He served as rector of Wilmington’s Church of the Good Shepherd, and as assistant rector at St. James, before taking up the cause of building a church in the little village called, since 1815, simply “Wrightsville.”

Dean himself had a house on the south side of Bradley Creek, just west of the present Bradley Creek Bridge. Leslie N. Boney, Sr. also served as architect of Dean’s residence. The minister combed his neighborhood to recruit families that might be interested in joining a new church. Many responded and their hearts were warmed by the pastor’s benevolence. Dr. Dean saw and felt their financial need and responded by buying shoes for shoeless children and recruiting others to give clothes and food to the sounders. Henry Walters, the ultra-reticent, camera-shy art collector and President of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, contributed quietly to the Mount Lebanon mission cause, even to the point of posing for a picture seated among the neighborhood children.

Dr. Dean visited Mrs. Jones at Airlie. Following his usual routine with those he knew could afford it, he did not leave her house until he was assured of a donation. He spoke in a loud voice and could not be ignored. In addition to a monetary gift, she agreed to allow a few tours of her 151-acre garden, with the proceeds going to the new building project. Pembroke Jones cousin, Mary Norwood Giles Davis, donated 2.5 acres of land for the cause. Much of the construction work for St. Andrew’s on-the-Sound was done by men who helped build Pembroke Jones’s elaborate Italianate hunting lodge at Pembroke Park.

The church building was made of beautiful brick that was covered in stucco a year after its dedication. The parish hall, built one year after the church, was made of cinder blocks, contributed by Luther Rogers. The blocks also were coated with stucco. Charter member Frank McGowan built the cross and, with the help of other men, used a pulley to hoist it to the roof. This same group of constructive craftsmen contributed a stained glass window depicting Jesus, and installed it in the church, near the altar.

Newlyweds Henry Walters and Sarah Jones Walters.

Newlyweds Henry Walters (on left) and Sarah Jones Walters.

St. Andrew’s was dedicated April 27, 1924, by the Rt. Rev. Mr. Thomas C. Darst. Mrs. Jones continued to lend financial support. After she married Henry Walters in 1924, Sarah opened Airlie to visitors for one beautiful weekend every spring. One year, Annie Gray Nash Sprunt of Orton Plantation partnered with Mrs. Walters to present an unusually successful two-garden tour, still with all proceeds going to St. Andrew’s on-the-Sound. Admission was charged, usually fifty cents, and as many as a thousand visitors went through Airlie each day. Much later, the Wilmington Star News finally reported, “It is recalled with feelings of awe how the gardens were opened year after year sometime ago, for the benefit of the little church. It is a much loved story of those who know it to believe that these flowers really built this church. The church is a real beauty spot and the circumstances of its existence make it more interesting.”

During the springtime tours, the ladies of St. Andrew’s  sold small azaleas near the intersection and served lunch in the Parish Hall. The azaleas came from Tinga Nursery, and were sold for fifty cents a piece. Lunch cost $1.50 and was a group production. Paul Hines, the church’s first male oblationer, caught fish that the ladies cooked for lunch. Parishioner Mildred Cornelia always prepared ham for the event. Lossie Dizor Gardell, who was a mere girl at the time, remembered “standing on a wooden crate and washing dishes,” on garden tour days. “We did not dare use disposable plates,” she said in a 1995 interview.

Rudolph Topel, who executed Sarah Jones Walters’s  landscape wishes, was hired away from the German Kaiser by Mrs. Jones. With a twinkle in her eye, she bragged about this until her twilight years. Topel, a St. Andrew’s parishioner, lived a block from the church, so his home, work, and church life were all conveniently located. He transplanted superfluous plants and seedlings from Airlie to St. Andrew’s, frequently. In 1927, Mrs. Walters contributed whole “forest trees” from Airlie to beautify the bare land surrounding the church. “Maples and other fine specimens of native trees about being removed to the church property,” stated on Morning Star reporter. Others followed suit, and soon  St. Andrew’s began to look established.

Indeed, St. Andrew’s was an active church community. Weekend square dances for participants of all ages were routine. A Mr. Garner took the youth group on hayrides frequently, going as far as Carolina Beach. The ladies of the church bought Christmas gifts for every child at St. Andrew’s – with each gift being chosen specifically for that child. When stock car races became popular, rector R. L. Sturgis began ferrying the young people to Holly Ridge to see the action.

“Champ” Davis, who became president of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, and built and endowed the Davis Health Care complex at Porter’s Neck, always threw a big Christmas party for St. Andrew’s, even though he attended St. John’s Episcopal Church in Wilmington. His St. Andrew’s parties are remembered as ones of lavish hospitality. “I’ve never seen so much liquor,” recalled one old-timer. “It was in every corner.”

There was a natural form of racial integration in Wrightsville. Lossie Dizor Gardell said that Minnie Evans and her mother, Ella, were good friends of the Dizor family. Minnie and Ella visited them many times. The two African-American churches associated with old Wrightsville are St. Matthew’s AME Zion and Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, both on Wrightsville Avenue, near Lumina Station. One night the Dizors were taking a walk that took them by the churches and were enticed to the open church doors of one of them by the beautiful singing of a children’s choir.  Ushers invited inside, but there was no room. Lossie’s young brother climbed up onto a window sill from which he watched them sing. “When the choir struck a triumphant ‘Hallelujah!’ he was so overcome by the drama of it all that he fell backwards onto the ground. Pretty soon, he gathered himself together and poked his head back in, saying, “I’m O.K.”

The Henry Wright family (no relation to the Joshua Grainger Wright family) who came to Wilmington from Baltimore’s Eastern Shore, and settled in Wrightsville, raised thirteen children who all remained in the neighborhood. The Frank McGowan and Francis Marion Taylor families came from Snead’s Ferry, NC to Wrightsville. These family trees stood at the heart of the church forest. Later “Friends” included Dick Wetherill and Dr. Bill Phillips who financed many needs for St. Andrew’s. John C. Drewry, who has now become an Episcopal Deacon, has, along with wife, Gail, served St. Andrew’s in many ways through the years.

In addition to Sadie Jones Walters, for nearly thirty years, Eleanor Wright Beane was another woman who was a great friend to St. Andrews-on-the-Sound. She was a great-great-granddaughter of Judge Joshua Grainger Wright (1768-1811); a great-grandchild of Mount Lebanon Chapel builder, Dr. Thomas Henry Wright;  and a goddaughter of Pembroke Jones. Long before the Civil War, the Wrights owned waterfront property, Gabriel’s  Landing, that north of Airlie. Mrs. Beane grew up attending St. James Church, but after her marriage to William S. R. Beane, she joined St. Andrew’s. Although she has contributed generously and quietly to the church in many conventional ways, she has had one unusual advantage: the ear of her first cousin, Bishop Thomas Henry Wright. Bishop Wright, headquartered in Wilmington, reigned benevolently over the Diocese of East Carolina from 1945-1972. Because of Mrs. Beane’s requests, St. Andrew’s benefited in many ways that are certain, if not fully documented.

SOURCES: Author’s interviews with Maxine Dizor, Lossie Dizor Gardell, Frank McGowan, Paul Hines, Joe Bennett, Inez McGowan, Dorothy McGowan Paul, Allan Strange, Eleanor Wright Beane, Jane Pope Akers Ridgway, Elaine Blackmon Henson, Catherine Laing (secretary, St. Andrew’s on-the-Sound), Mrs. H. L. Aman, George Evans, John C. Drewry, Gail Drewry, and J. Fred Newber. Family files, Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear; Louis T. Moore Collection, New Hanover County Public Library; Giles Collection, North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

GIFTS TO ST. ANDREW’S ON-THE-SOUND

Altar, Mrs. William Divine, IMO her mother Susan Hardin MacPherson.

Altar Rail: Mrs. William Divine, IMO her father James Herrin MacPherson.

Altar Desk: IMO John and Mildred Brown by their children.

Altar Prayer Book: Gift of Lebanon Sunday School.

Altar Cross: IMO Thomas L. Morton, by wife and children.

Altar vases (bronze): Given by Miss Della and Mr. Theodore Taylor.

Altar Window (image of Jesus): Given by employees of Airlie and Pembroke Park in Memory of their friend, Pembroke Jones.

Altar Hangings: Given by St. Mary’s Guild of St. James Church.

Bible: Given by William G. Dizor of St. Andrew’s, to glory of God.

Ciborium: IMO William Litchfield Dickinson, by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Earle Dickinson.

Chalice: IMO Mrs. Elizabeth Savage Latimer, by Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Waddell.

Paten: In memory of Mr. Zebulon Latimer, by Mrs. William Latimer and Messrs. Herbert and Empie Latimer.

Choir Chimes: Given by St. Andrew’s Choir.

Doors: IMO William B. Giles and his sons, Clayton and Norwood, by Mrs. John D. Bellamy, Jr.

Font and Ewer: Given by St. Agnes Guild, St. James Church.

Litany Desk: IMO Anne Eloise Burkheimer, by her mother and sisters.

Lectern and silver tray: IMO Col. John Wilder Atkinson, by his grandchildren.

Processional Cross: St. Agnes Guild, a Thanksgiving offering.

Window Panel: IMO Rt. Rev. Alfred Augustin Watson, D.D., first Bishop of East Carolina, by James C. and Eliza Munds.

Stage curtain in Parish House: IMO Mr. Anson Alligood, by his wife.

Oak Litany Table in Parish House: IMO Mr. Anson Alligood, by his wife.

Drawing of St. Andrew (life size): IMO William Latimer, by his wife.

Boy Scout Loving Cup: IMO T. B. Beall, by Troop 24, July 1942.

Bell: IMO Platt K. Dickinson, by Mrs. Culkins Davis, Miss Nina Walker, and Mrs. Mary B. Davis.

Organ: Gift of the Wright family.

Credence Tables: Gift of Bishop Wright Auxiliary.

Carpet: Gift of Bishop Wright Auxiliary.

Chancel Gate: Gift of Young People’s Service League

Pulpit and Lectern Stands – Gifts of Young People’s Service League

Pulpit and Lectern Lamp – Gift of Eleanor Wright Beane

Lectern Bible: IMO W. A. Davis, by his wife, Amoret N. Davis.

Top of Baptismal Font: IMO W. A. Davis, by his wife, Amoret N. Davis

Altar Hangings: Violet and Green – Gift of Junior Service League

Ditto: White – Gift of the Dizor family IMO parents.

Ditto: Red – Gift of Sam S. Earle IMO his Mother.

Alms Basins: Gift of Altar Guild and Katharine Alexander.

Altar Vases (brass): Gift of Annie M. Herbst and Mary Urich, IMO Aunt.

Receiving Basin: gift of Bishop Wright Auxiliary IMO Annie M. Herbst.

Eucharistic Candlesticks: Gift of family IMO Annie M. Herbst.

Communion Cruets: Gift of Mrs. Lucile M. Marvin, IMO Mary Giles Davis.

Candle Lighter: Gift of Young People’s Service League.

Carpeting: Gift of Champion McDowell Davis (1966) : wool carpets by Bigelow.

St. Andrew and St. Paul Windows – Mr. and Mrs. John C. Drewry, III, IMO Nello L. Teer, Sr.

St. Phillip and St. Matthew Windows, given by Bernard Merrick, IMO Elizabeth S. Merrick.

St. Thomas and St. Peter windows by Harriet B. Grant, IMO her husband Horace Venton Grant, Jr.

Christ and James and John Windows: IMO Martin Whitfield Pearsall and mother, Anne Dickson Pearsall, by Eugene Randolph Tyler.

St. Bartholomew Window, IMO Pearl Banks Watkins, by Mr. and Mrs. A. S. Watkins.

St. James, Minor Window 0 IMO Nettie Batts Bowden, by Mr. and Mrs. A. S. Watkins.

St. Simon and Thaddeus. A gift from the Hon. James Fox and wife, Katherine Rhett Fox.

Two wooden alms basins given by Sadie Webb and Mazine Dizor IMO their brother William Dizor, for Church School.

Two one pint Sterling Silver Cruets: given by Ann Transou Nicholson, in Thanksgiving for blessings.

Sterling silver Lavabo Bowl – given by Winifred I. Elwell, IMO her mother and father.

Lectern Base, given by the Bishop Wright Chapter.

3 Church School rooms, added to the Parish Hall, given by the Bishop Wright Chapter.

Concrete Bulletin Board on grounds, given by the Bishop Wright Chapter

Iron rails at front entrance of church, given by the Bishop Wright Chapter.

Iron rails at kitchen door and annex porch, given by the Bishop Wright Chapter

Iron rails at chancel steps, given by Annie Herbst Chapter

Iron Rails at Cloister, given by Annie Herbst Chapter.

Windows and doors enclosing cloister, given by the Lebanon Chapter.

New Stage Curtain, given by Lebanon Chapter.

Naugahide pew cushions, given by Champion McDowell Davis.

New electrical fixtures throughout church, given by Champion McDowell Davis.

Naugahide pads for kneelers, given by Champion McDowell Davis.

Needlepoint cushion for Litany Desk, given by Eleanor Wright Beane.

Green upholstered altar rail cushions, given by Eleanor Wright Beane.

Green upholstery on Priest’s and Bishop’s chairs, given by Eleanor Wright Beane.

Needlepoint center cushion for Altar Rail, given by Eleanor Wright Beane.

Four acolyte chairs, given by Eleanor Wright Beane.

Needlepoint covering for Bishop’s chair given by Laura Rowe.

Needlepoint covering for Priest’s chair, given by Alice Knouse.

Window shades for parish hall given by Bishop Wright Chapter.

New Set of violet Altar hangings given by Mimi Thomas, IMO her husband, Jack Thomas.

Set of Altar Linens, given IMO Sadie Webb, by her family.

Large silver chalice given IMO Sadie Webb, by her family.

Silver intinction cup, given by Bishop Wright Chapter.

Silver Baptismal Bowl, Given by Sam S. Earle IMO his mother.

Church and American flags, given by Episcopal Young Churchmen.

Inside front doors replaced by Champion McDowell Davis.

Sterling silver Ciborium, given by Harriet B. Grant.

Alles for acolytes by Frances Head IMO husband William Head.

A strip of abutting land that lies east of the church.

 

TO LEARN ABOUT ST. ANDREW’S PART IN THE SAVING OF MOUNT LEBANON CHAPEL, SEE:

http://susantaylorblock.com/2010/03/06/mount-lebanon-chapel-in-airlie-gardens-part-three/

 

tuningfork

Verse and photo by Susan Taylor Block

 

Neatly past the sound metallic

Comes the note that settles in,

Sending out its beam of measure,

Outing all that needs amend.

 

It cannot be but its own self;

The answer always stays the same.

Pitching truth that never wanders

Off the spot from which it came.

 

In its dimming there’s no changing

Of the message it does send,

Fainter, fainter, no denials;

Pardon me, but did it end?

Betty.Hill.TaylorBetty Jane Hill Taylor died December 29, 2013, at Davis Health Care.  The daughter of Flossie Mae Stone and Grover William Hill, she was born in Wilmington at Bullock Hospital, January 25, 1928. Betty graduated from New Hanover High School in 1946, and then attended Woman’s College in Greensboro. Betty worked as a stenographer in the Freight Traffic Department of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in Wilmington from the summer of 1947 until March 1951. In the mid-fifties, she was employed by the U. S. Corps of Engineers.

Betty served as office manager for Jay Taylor Exterminating Company from 1960 until 1985 and was a real estate broker in the 1960s, working chiefly with Noffsinger, Inc. She was a gifted cook, enthusiastic gardener, and a talented dressmaker. She also enjoyed sketching, needlework, reading the Bible, learning Ikebana, and writing verse. For fifty years, her hobby was studying alternative methods of analyzing human behavior. She published several articles based on her research.

In the community, Betty served as a director of the YWCA, and of the International Seamen’s Center at the NC State Ports Authority, of which she was a founder. She was a member of the N. C. Sorosis and the Stamp Defiance Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Through the years, Betty was Baptist church finance chairperson for many general campaigns and building projects. She was a good friend to the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.

On November 15, 2008, Betty was predeceased by her beloved husband of 58 years; Joseph Wright Taylor, Jr. Survivors include a daughter, Elizabeth Susan Taylor Block, and a son, Joseph (Jay) Wright Taylor III (Robin). She also had four grandchildren: Taylor Elizabeth Cromartie, Catherine Marie Gerdes of New York City, Joseph Wright Taylor IV (Kady), and Stephen George Taylor (Savanna). Her great-grandchildren are Joseph Wright Taylor V, Hailey Kristen Taylor, and Isaac Gage Taylor.

A graveside service, officiated by Rev. Ronald Abrams, is scheduled for 2:00 on Thursday, January 2 at Oakdale Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Betty Taylor may be made to the Brigade Boys’ and Girls’ Club, 2759 Vance Street, Wilmington, NC  28412; the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, P.O. Box 338, Thomasville, NC, 27360; or to a charity of one’s choice.

 

 

by Susan Taylor Block

images-2

 

Jay joined a health club

To get hearty and buff,

But tore a leg tendon

And rotator cuff.

 

Now he’s in rehab,

Much like the old gym,

But nurses are there

To protect him from him.

 

 

Photo and text by Susan Taylor Block

 

A reproduction of Canova's statue of George Washington.

A reproduction of Canova’s statue of George Washington.

 

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and fearful master.” – George Washington

As late historian R. D. W. Connor noted, after the War of 1812, North Carolina legislators voted to commission a commanding statue of President George Washington. Armed with advisors like Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Hopkinson plus a liberal budget of $10,000, the state chose as artist the celebrated Italian sculptor Antonio Canova of Venice. In keeping with the President’s “Father of his Country” status, Canova fashioned the sculpture as if Washington were a leader from ancient Rome, but managed to convey Washington’s more sensitive side as well. Soon after the work was completed in 1821, Commodore William Bainbridge supervised the statue’s passage to America aboard the United States ship, Columbus.

Antonio Canova

Antonio Canova

The Columbus arrived in Boston on July 22, but it would take roughly five months before the statue would reach Raleigh. From Boston, it was transferred to a smaller vessel for shipment to Wilmington, North Carolina. It is interesting that Washington himself visited Wilmington just thirty years earlier, in 1791.  http://susantaylorblock.com/2010/03/18/the-wrights-of-wilmington-high-sheriff-thomas-wright/  

From Wilmington’s port, the Canova statue traveled up the Cape Fear River to Fayetteville, then was moved by land to Raleigh where it arrived on Christmas Eve, 1821 as a gift indeed.  A hero’s welcome awaited, complete with a 24-gun salute and a parade of marching bands, state legislators, Governor Gabriel Holmes, and  future President James Knox Polk, of North Carolina. Revolutionary War veterans were special honorees.

Once installed in the North Carolina State House rotunda, Washington’s likeness drew art and history lovers from afar; proud citizens of North Carolina; and genuine celebrities like General Lafayette. Farmers, housewives, and little children learned the name of Antonio Canova, and the story of the Republic’s first president and that cherry tree was the buzz all over again.

Sadly, on June 21, 1831, less than ten years after its installation, Canova’s vision of George Washington was, in effect, fatally damaged by a fire that destroyed the existing wooden State House. The building was replaced by the rock solid 1840 State House that stands today. Fortunately, Canova, who died in 1822, saved the molds from which the statue was created, and a reproduction was cast.

In Raleigh, General George Washington still commands attention.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

- For much more information, see Dr. Connor’s article:    http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newnation/4999

- For more quotes by George Washington:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/4356.George_Washington