Porters Neck History

Porter Neck Plantation from 1720 to 2000
1720s

Wilmington Settled

Despite a few failed attempts to settle the area a century earlier, English settlers successfully established themselves in the Cape Fear region in the 1720s.

The town of Wilmington was officially incorporated in 1739. The port city was a key player during the Civil War, serving as the busiest Confederate base for supplies shipped from England. Because much of the fighting took place outside of the city, many historic Antebellum homes remain intact near Wilmington’s riverfront. Truly a sight to see!

Wilmington also played an important role during World War II, as home to three prisoner-of-war (POW) camps. A few of the German prisoners even worked at Bluethenthal Army Air Base, which is now Wilmington International Airport.

And this was once a Peanut Farm? Now Porters Neck Plantation and Golf club
1732

``Porters Neck`` Purchased

Located in the northeastern tip of New Hanover County, Porters Neck Plantation runs parallel to the Intracoastal Waterway. It is bounded on the north by Futch Creek and on the south by Little Creek, the property was undeveloped until the 1940s.

The plantation was originally part of a royal land grant from King George, II. In 1732 John Porter bought 960 acres of the property. After more than two and one half centuries the area is still known as “Porters Neck”.

A subsequent owner and third generation Nixon to own the property, Nicholas N. Nixon was one of the first peanut growers to produce crops of commercial value: in 1861 he netted $20,000 from the sale of peanuts. Nixon also built a wharf so that English schooners, entering through Rich Inlet, could tie up while they loaded their vessels with crops the farmers of this and several surrounding counties hauled to the dock. They loaded not only peanuts but sweet potatoes, soy beans and peas. The remnants of the dock still existed in the 1950s at about 8422 Bald Eagle Lane.

 

Robert Bums Davis, grandson of N. Nixon, originally developed Porters Neck waterfront properties. Selling scenic tracts 100 feet wide. It has been rumored that Mr. Davis offered the surveyor a couple of lots in lieu of cash payment for his services, but the surveyor turned down the offer, saying that cash was a lot more reliable. Mr.  Davis also hired J.C. Pennington, who was a local airplane pilot, to fly a couple of potential developers over the area. Mr. Pennington said that R. B. Davis offered to sell him a waterfront lot for $400, but Mr. Pennington declined. R. B. and Champion McDowell Davis offered parcels of land for sale after WWII. Some of the early parcels sold for $1250.

 

During WWII many residents of the surrounding area patrolled and anchored in the inlets to watch for German Submarines. Although several subs were sunk off the coast, no one remembers having seen one.

 

After R. B. Davis died, his brother Champion, who had retired as President of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, took control of the remaining property. He established The Champion McDowell Davis Foundation, which made possible the Cornelia Nixon Davis Health Care Center, a nursing facility bearing his mother’s name. This facility, off Porters Neck Road, has been expanded to include an assisted care facility called “Champion’s at Porters Neck”.

 

In the 50s, 60s and 70s the few residents of the area enjoyed an attractive rural atmosphere in proximity to the Intracoastal Waterway, barrier islands and the ocean. Swimming, boating and fishing activities heightened their lifestyle. The majority of the acreage was being farmed or was supporting livestock. There was substantial wildlife, foxes, deer, rabbits, osprey, eagles and yes some snakes. In Futch Creek and in the waterway, dolphin were often seen and even touched. With only a little effort a meal of shrimp, oysters and clams could be claimed from the surrounding waters. One of the early potential developers of the area is rumored to have said “Look what you folks have here! Did you think you could keep it to yourselves forever”.

 

In the early 80s the Davis Foundation sold property for the development of Plantation Village ( a retirement living facility) and 80 acres for $1,200,000 to a developer for what is now Creekside. In the mid 80s the Foundation sold the center section (737 acres) to the Porters Neck Company for $5,500,000 for development of Porters Neck Plantation and Country Club (18 hole golf course and as many as 1352 residential homes). In the late 80s and early 90s the remaining property along Futch Creek Road was purchased and developed as “Bishop’s Park”. In the late 90s a parcel off Bald Eagle Lane and on the west side of Little Creek was sold and is being developed into an exclusive golf course facility named Eagle Point Golf Club.

 

The area has certainly grown, from a peanut farm, to include homes all along Bald Eagle Lane and Futch Creek Road, the Porters Neck Plantation and Country Club and its residents, the Cornelia Nixon Davis and Champions at Porters Neck nursing and assisted care facilities, Plantation Village and now the Eagle Point Golf Club.

We wonder what Nicholas Davis or Champion Davis would think if they could walk across what was once their peanut fields and see the beautiful homes and lush fairways that are here now? We have gone from Goobers to golf balls.

PN Plantation view today from over the Intracoastal Waterway and near dock built for the Peanut farm around 1860