September 10, 2015
Restoration Of 1740 NC House
Reveals Amazing Stories
By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk
Elizabeth City, NC (AP) A vacant, aging house barely visible behind trees and brush holds rich tales of its history.
Inside the three-story home, overlapping ``Vs’’ are scratched into door frames and studs as a symbol to ward off evil spirits. Handmade nails fasten upstairs floorboards.
A wooden beam bows from where support posts at each end settled over two centuries. A brick chimney holds up the center. Overhead beams reveal saw and ax marks.
The home, known as Woodleys Manor, dates to the 1740s.
Woodleys Manor prior to restoration
But Harvey Harrison, a restoration carpenter who bought the house for $18,000 three years ago, thinks its age could rival the oldest homes in the state.
``Probably about that much possible,’’ said Harrison, holding his index finger and thumb slightly apart. His hands were smudged from the hot, dirty renovation work.
Harrison and fellow restoration carpenter Russell Steele have labored here between jobs for three years.
They plan to restore the house, on Nixonton Road south of Elizabeth City, so historic architecture experts and elementary school students can learn about its origins.
Wood samples from beams are being tested to further clarify the house’s origins.
Harrison documented changes from the original one-and-a-half-story dwelling with two rooms. There was an expansion in 1766, and additional floors were added at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. The house was also expanded during Thomas Jefferson’s administration. A brick foundation in the backyard signals a missing room.
``The structure was bigger than we originally thought,’’ Harrison said.
At its peak in the 1860s, the home was part of a plantation that encompassed nearly 2,500 acres with 96 slaves, Harrison said. The farm grew corn and wheat, and had an apple orchard with 100 trees. Artisans worked in outbuildings weaving and doing carpentry.
It served for a time as an ``ordinary,’’ where people stopped for food and rest. Court proceedings were held in its large hallway.
Many of its older parts were used in later additions. Original molding was used on the roof. The original boards from the first floor cover the third story. Stairwells were moved over the years. One has the craftsmanship and style of highly regarded Edenton carpenter Gilbert Leigh.
``The house underwent so many alterations,’’ said state restoration specialist Reid Thomas. ``It’s one of the most complex houses we’ve ever tried to figure out.’’
Records associated with the home also tell an incredible story, Harrison said.
Thomas Woodley built the house around 1740 on property he inherited from his father-in-law years earlier, according to Harrison’s research. Enoch Relfe bought the home in 1778.
Interior of Woodleys Manor, prior to work
Relfe served as a delegate in 1788 to the North Carolina Constitutional Convention in Hillsborough, Harrison said. The delegation submitted a declaration of rights that helped establish the national Bill of Rights.
A slave, Emanuel Davis, worked at Woodleys Manor from the 1840s until he was freed in the 1860s. Davis was an expert brickmaker and plasterer, Harrison said. He became the second black county commissioner in Pasquotank County. In 1891, he helped found a school that later became Elizabeth City State University.
In 1894, Pasquotank County deputy James Wilcox took two former slaves to register to vote at Woodleys Manor, Harrison said.
Registrar John Brothers refused to register Republicans. In those days, most blacks were with the party of Abraham Lincoln, the Republicans, and Pasquotank was a Democratic stronghold, Harrison said.
When Wilcox insisted on registering the slaves, Brothers brandished a large stick or cudgel and waved it threateningly at Wilcox, who pulled his revolver and backed out into the yard.
Brothers struck Wilcox, cutting his hand and bruising his head. The deputy shot Brothers in the shoulder before falling to the ground. Wilcox shot him twice more in the abdomen when Brothers kept advancing. He died the next day in Woodleys Manor.
The local courts convicted Wilcox, but two years later, the North Carolina Supreme Court acquitted him, calling the shooting self defense.
``This house is like a book,’’ Steele said. ``It will tell you what has happened to it. You just have to put it together.’’
Giant Loggerhead Sea Turtles Rebound With
Large Number Of Nests In Georgia & Florida
By Russ Bynum
Savannah, GA (AP) Wildlife biologist Doug Hoffman and his two interns kept busy this summer finding, cataloging and protecting a whopping 570 nests that giant loggerhead sea turtles had filled with eggs along the unspoiled beaches of Cumberland Island.
``It’s a lot of physical effort,’’ said Hoffman, a biologist for the National Park Service on federally managed Cumberland Island off the Georgia coast. ``You’re talking about being in the sun, hauling equipment and digging holes, pounding stakes.’’
All the hard work seems to be paying off. Researchers say sea turtles rebounded from a slump last year to deliver one of the strongest summer nesting seasons on record on beaches from the Carolinas to Florida.
Preliminary numbers from Georgia show scientists and volunteers counted a record 2,292 loggerhead nests during the season that runs from May through August. It’s the fifth season in six years that Georgia has surpassed its previous record.
Sea turtle experts in Georgia say the new nesting numbers reinforce their belief that loggerhead sea turtles are making a comeback after 37 years of protection as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Florida baby Loggerheads headed for water, a few days ago
``Every big year we get, the more confident we are in that conclusion that we’re in a recovery period,’’ said Mark Dodd, the biologist who heads the sea turtle recovery program for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. ``So we feel really good about it.’’
In Florida, where the nesting season doesn’t end until October, turtles are also breaking records. More than 12,000 endangered green sea turtles have dug nests along the beach at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, said Kate Mansfield, head of the Marine Turtle Research Group at the University of Central Florida. It’s a new record for the refuge.
The high numbers bode well for conservation efforts put in place to aid a species that was nearly extinct in the 1980s. Mansfield said these same Florida beaches had fewer than 50 green sea turtle nests annually in the 1980s.
Still, Mansfield says turtles need to live 25 or more years before they start to reproduce, so it will be decades before researchers know for certain if current nesting trends are signs of long-lasting recovery.
``It’s promising and exciting, but the long term perspective is needed and helps put what we see now in a broader perspective,’’ she said. ``For the past five years we’ve had good years, but we have to look at this over 25-plus years.’’
Loggerhead sea turtles, which grow to weigh up to 300 pounds, dig their nests on beaches from the Carolinas to Florida. Preliminary nesting numbers show a strong nesting comeback in both North Carolina and South Carolina this summer after numbers dropped by nearly half in 2014. Georgia suffered a similar slump last year, with nest numbers dipping to 1,201.
Dodd and other experts weren’t alarmed, noting that female loggerheads don’t lay eggs every year and sometimes take two or even three years off from nesting.
Georgia has just 100 miles of coastline, far less than neighboring states. But the number of turtle nests in Georgia has exploded in recent years.
The state averaged 1,036 nests per year from the year counting started in 1989 through 2009. Then Georgia saw a four-year streak of record highs from 2010 to 2013, when loggerhead nests shot from 1,760 to 2,289.
Researchers have credited two specific conservation efforts with helping the species rebound. Turtle nests discovered by government experts and volunteers on state beaches get covered with a mesh that protects the eggs inside from hogs, raccoons and other predators.
Also, shrimp boats trawling in U.S. waters have been required since 1987 to use fishing nets equipped with special trapdoors that allow sea turtles to escape.
Now scientists say Georgia’s loggerhead sea turtle population is within reach of a 50-year recovery goal set when the species was first listed as threatened in 1978. The goal: 2,800 nests by the year 2028.
``We’re not that far away,’’ Dodd said. ``Even 10 years ago if you’d asked me I would have said I can’t see us getting there anytime in the future.’’