THE HISTORY OF SNEADS FERRY
STORY BY VIRGINIA MIDGETT
Sneads Ferry is located in Onslow County, North Carolina, between Jacksonville and Wilmington and near the inlet where the New River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Sneads Ferry, first known as the lower ferry, was renamed for Robert Snead, an attorney who settled here in 1791. Robert Snead shot and killed Colonel George W. Mitchell, Revolutionary War Hero, during a political quarrel. He was tried and convicted by a superior court in Wilmington, but when he entered the court for sentencing, he carried a full pardon signed by the Governor.
The mystery surrounding this matter is now obscure, as is most of the early history of Sneads Ferry. However, we do know that the first license to operate a ferry here was granted to Edmund Ennett and that the first post road from Suffolk to Charleston crossed here. The post rider, passing through, brought the news of the battle of Lexington in 1775.
Visitors to Sneads Ferry will find that it has much to offer, whether their stay is but a few hours or for many days. Besides the blue skies, plenty of sunshine, sparkling waters, soft breezes and friendly people. There are fishing skiffs for rent for fishing and boating in the river and sounds and charter boats with licensed captains for fishing in the ocean. Here, too, are cabins and trailer space and several first class restaurants where one is served the best seafood in the world and most any other foods you might want.
For those who would like to prepare their own picnic lunches, there are up-to-date grocery stores with courteous proprietors to serve you and there are places where one may obtain fuel, bait, ice, tackle and other boating and fishing needs.
Sneads Ferry is a many faceted place, a composite of old and new, the old-fashioned and the modern, the slow easy ways of the old south and the fast moving pace of the new.
Here are old-fashioned frame church houses and modern brick ones, but the aims and dedication of the people who enter are all the same. Here are houses many more years than a hundred old, while near by are new homes being built, along with a bank, the first one in the history of Sneads Ferry.
A few years ago, a modern fire station was built with up-to-date firefighting and rescue equipment. It is operated by volunteers who give unselfishly of their time when their services are needed by anyone. This unselfishness and care for others is a trait, deep-rooted in the hearts of the people of Sneads Ferry. They are always ready to give of themselves, their time and their worldly goods, without question to anyone in need.
They make few, if any newspaper headlines, but their headlines are written deep in the hearts of the ones who have known their kindness and generosity.
In Sneads Ferry are gray, weathered fish houses, lashed by many a salty gale, the wood floors trampled by many a salty fisherman. Near by are sleek new trucks for taking away the bounty form the boats moored at the barnacled docks. Here are solid trustworthy fishing skiffs, sharing the waters with swift as birds motor boats and people from near and far travel the expanse of the river and out the inlet where it is said that Blackbeard slipped silently in to hide his ill-gotten gains from other pirates in a time of long ago.
Because it was first settled along the shores, Sneads Ferry has always been known mainly for its commercial fishing. Many of the fisherman today, with their motorized boats and underwater floundering lights, are the sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of fishermen who in their day, used flaming lightwood knots on a wire basket for floundering and depended on strong arms and stout oars to take them and their homemade boats to their favorite fishing grounds.
Many evening they rowed long, hard miles to reach the schools of big mullet, or in search of the elusive trout. Many times they came home with an empty boat, but although they were discouraged, they were never defeated. There was always tomorrow. Too, there were nets to mend and time to gather in the shade of the live oaks and reminisce of big catches made in the past.
Many times the fish were scarce and the price was low, which meant the fisherman and his family hardly had enough to live on and no luxuries at all, but they had hope, pride and a strong faith that the good Lord would provide. He always did. There was always plenty to eat in the river.
One could always catch enough for a meal and there were oysters, washed clean by the flowing tides, to be roasted slowly over an outdoor fire.
What a mouth watering feast they were, especially when eaten with crispy crackling cornbread and washed down with cold fresh water from an old hand pump.
Today there are few small commercial fishing boats. Most of the fishermen have boats large enough to brave the sometimes contrary Atlantic and, instead of depending entirely on the river mullet, flounder and trout, they search the outside waters for shrimp and blackfish. The opening of the shrimp season means the difference between doing without things the fishermen and his family need and having money for a few extras.
In many ways things have changed in Sneads Ferry, but in some ways the past is still a part of the people. Many of the old ways and customs still live and there is a special dignity and peace of mind in being your own boss. This is the inheritance of the fisherman, handed down through the centuries from the fisherman of old Galilee.
Yes, Sneads Ferry has many sides. Here too, are fertile farms and gardens from where in summer we enjoy the honest to goodness freshness of corn, beans, red ripe tomatoes and other good things furnished by Mother Nature, with a lot of help from the hard working people who still love the earth and growing things.
In Sneads Ferry, there are hard paved roads leading to Highway 17 and then on to anyplace. Here also are dusty lanes that, too, lead to anyplace or no place, where one can wander and dream in the shade of the singing pines and giant oaks. In the spring, one can thrill to the beauty of snow white dogwoods and breathe in the sweetness of the golden yellow wild jasmine that grows in profusion everywhere.
What is Sneads Ferry? Some would call it a lazy little fishing village, and a very small dot on the map. Some might say it is the fastest growing little town in North Carolina. To us, the people who love it, it is the best place in all the world. It is Home.