By Dr. Stratton C. Murrell
Louise Murrell revisits Montford Point in 1991. She is pointing at the property owned by the Murrell family in the 1920s. Mother loved Montford Point. She and her husband, Z.E. Murrell, owned and operated a recreational area there long before Camp Lejeune was built and named in 1942. There was boating, swimming, and fishing there plus Sunday School picnics. The old timers refer to Montford Point as ONSLOW COUNTY’S FRENCH RIVIERA. The first combat troops troop command (White military personnel) was at Montford Point in 1941. The Black recruits were stationed there at a later date.
Our family was preparing to move out as the marines moved in. On Sept. 15, 1941 the commanding officer (Col. David L.S. Brewster) of the Marine Barracks at New River decided to set up his headquarters at Uncle John Burton’s House at Montford Point (Uncle John owned the Bank of Onslow in Jacksonville). Montford Point was his family's summer home. After the Marine Base was established the Holden brothers of Smithfield purchased his bank and made him president of the First Citizens Bank of Jacksonville which was another one of their satellite institutions). It was just “up the hill” from our place. As the men were making certain alterations there, Col. Brewster used our building as his temporary headquarters.
The significance of the picture is that my mother (age 90) is pointing out across the way as she said, “at one time. this was our land.” This should be the logo for our Reunion. (see the story, The Reunion).
10-2-2014: She did not know it at the time, but my mother changed the course of history when she paid a visit to the commanding officer of Camp Lejeune in the late 1940s. It's part of a story about about how Jacksonville and Camp Lejeune created a community. The sign that activated the story is on page 94 of our book, Images Of America: Jacksonville And Camp Lejeune. 11-29-2014 and 12-3-2014
By Dr. Stratton C. Murrell
Billie Jean Murrell painted the picture of Montford Point as it appeared in the 1920s. At that time my mother and father owned this recreational area. Everette Barbee (at one time he was the Clerk of Court of Onslow County) told me about the good times at Montford Point at the Sunday School picnics there along with boating, swimming, and fishing. Mr. Barbee said that it was like Onslow County’s French Riviera. J. Garland Metts wrote an article in the Sept. 19, 1974 issue of the Onslow Herald about Montford Point as follows: "....... (This Couple ------- Mr. and Mrs. Z.E. Murrell-------became two of Onslow County's most important citizens"-----
11-2-2006 Billie Jean Murrell checks over her oil painting of Montford Point which was on display during the Grand Opening Of The Cooperative Bank On New Bridge Street (next to the City Hall.). Billie Jean is Dr. Stratton Murrell’s wife.
The building in the picture is unique in that the architecture is different from any other structure on the coast of North Carolina at that time in the 1920s. To the left is the main building with the living quarters on the top floor and an indoor dance hall and game room on the bottom floor. To the right was a snack bar and supplies. To the extreme right was an outdoor dance pavilion.
This picture is now(8-26-2010) on display at the Onslow County Arts Council on 826 New Bridge st. in Jacksonville as a part of the recognition of the formation of Onslow County 275 years ago.
Additional notes: 1-11-2010- Billie Jean's oil painting has been used as a display for various lectures and art showings. On 11-2-2006 the picture was on display at the grand opening of the Cooperative Bank (now it is THE NEW BANK) which is of historical architecture which matches that of City Hall.This is the only Bank that operates in the down town area (New Bridge St. which extends east from Court St. and past the entrance to Camp Johnson and then becomes Highway #24 East.This part of Highway #24 is known as FREEDOM WAY because it extends past the main gate of Camp Lejeune to Morehead City. This is the major route taken by our troops to the port at Morehead City ) area of Jacksonville.
1-21-2010: Connie Wenner, Executive Director of the Onslow County Arts Council, announced that Onslow County was organized 275 years ago. She said that the Arts Council would commemorate this event by displaying pictures painted by local artists. 8-26-2010: I put Billie Jean's picture (of Montford Point) on display at the Art's Council during the commemoration. Everyone liked the picture because it was a basic picture of Onslow County history at the time Camp Lejeune was established.
9-23-2013: Montford Point is more than just a basic picture. It is the only oil painting of any of the houses built before Camp Lejeune whereby the artist is a member of one of the displaced families. In addition to this the Montford Point house was the temporary headquarters for Col. Brewster, who was the first commander of the combat troops at the Marine Corps Barracks of New River. He was at Montford Point for a short time and then moved his headquarters to building no.1 and in 1942 the Base was named Camp Lejeune. 3-1-2014:
When the Murrell family had to evacuate their property it was more than just leaving home. It was changing our way of life. Our family took this transition in stride because my parents knew that there was a war going on and there was going to be some sort of change and they were in the process of preparing for it. One of the first steps in this change would be that my brother and I were approaching the age when we would be going to school. My father was a farmer and a part time car salesman. As the result of this experience he decided that he would start his own business in selling auto parts. So by the time we started to school ,in 1934, we also moved into our new home on Court St. which was a short distance from the Courthouse and we were close to the Jacksonville High School which housed grades 1- 11. So, essentially, we lived in the center of town. Since the courthouse was in Jacksonville we lived at the county seat and we were in the political hub of Onslow County.
Since we no longer lived at Montford Point other adventures were available. One of the first was journalism. It all began with Billy Arthur and his Aunt Carrie.
Billy was a graduate of the School Of Journalism at Chapel Hill. My first meeting with Billy started off with a bang. We lived close to the Jacksonville High School. This one brick building with class rooms from the first to eleven grades. It was so close to our home that we walked to school.
It was a cold winter night in 1940 and we could hear the siren of the fire truck of the volunteer fire department. My brother Vann and I ran to the back porch and we could see a red glow in the sky. Our school was on fire! We started running towards the school. Maybe we could help put out the fire like we did for Miz Lucy Warn's house on Easter of last year. (It was years later that I added more information about Miz Lucy.)As we ran across the field in front of the school, I nearly ran over a strange looking little man. He was only four feet tall and he wore the usual fedora, and an overcoat and carried a camera. I ran on to the back of the school and helped carry out some type writers and other school supplies. After a while we went back home and wondered what it would be like tomorrow without a school. I never thought I would see that little man again---but I did. There is more to 12-the story. 12-10-2014: It was just a few years ago that I started thinking more about Lucy Warn.
By Dr. Stratton C. Murrell
Lt. Col. William P.T. Hill was the first commanding officer of the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks at New River in Onslow county on May 1, 1941 as the liaison officer in charge of purchase of land for the construction of a Marine Base. As this project proceeded, land owners were forced to leave (by eminent domain. (notes made 7-11-2013: and their land was used to establish what is now Camp Lejeune.
Dr. Stratton C. Murrell and his mother,Mrs. Louise C. Murrell at the Beirut Memorial which is at the entrance to Montford Point.
Years later I took my mother,Louise C. Murrell, back for a visit to Montford Point on July 4, 1991. Mother loved Montford Point. She and her husband, Z.E. Murrell owned a recreational area there long before Camp Lejeune was built and named in 1941. There was boating, swimming, and fishing there plus Sunday School picnics. The old timers refer to Montford Point as ONSLOW COUNTY'S FRENCH RIVIERA. The first combat troop command at Camp Lejeune (White military personnel) was at Montford Point. The Black recruits were stationed there at a later date.
Our family was preparing to move out as the marines moved in. On Sept. 15, 1941 the commanding officer (Col. David L.S. Brewster) Of the Marine Barracks at New River decided to set up his headquarters at Uncle John Burton's House (Uncle John owned the Bank of Onslow in Jacksonville). It was just "up the hill" from our place. As the men were making certain alterations there, Col. Brewster used our building (The Bath House) as his temporary headquarters.
The significance of the picture of my mother is that she is pointing out across the way as she said, "at one time. this was our land." Many people probably said the same thing as they left their property in the 1940s and the good old days faded away ---GONE WITH THE WIND.
Information submitted by Dr. Stratton C. Murrell
1-5-2013---additional notes: I would suggest that this picture would be used as a logo signifying a most important part of our history where the land was taken from our people (by eminent domain) and it became our Paradise Lost. A Marine Base was established on this land and it helped to protect our freedom and that of the rest of the world. At a later date it was occupied by the (now famous,as of 2013) Montford Point Marines who were the black troops who helped to bring a new kind of of freedom to our country----a freedom that was embellished with equality. Jacksonville annexed Camp Lejeune in 1990. And this was Paradise Regained.In the 2006 issue of Money Magazine an article stated that the median age of the residents in Jacksonville, N.C. is 23. We have the youngest population in the nation.8-27-2010: U.S. Commandant, Gen. James T. Conway visited Camp Lejeune to attend MONTFORD POINT MARINES DAY.
11-4-2011: More news about the Montford Point Marines in the Sunday edition Montford Point Marines-The Sunday edition of the Jacksonville Daily News 10-30-2011-Front Page Headlines: SPOTLIGHT ON MONTFORD- U.S. House votes to award Montford Point Marines the Congressional Gold Medal. Comments from Dr. Stratton C. Murrell, a displaced person whose home was Montford Point before it was taken by the U.S. Government by utilizing the legal force of eminent domain. 11-18-2011: My friend and fellow author, Georgie Stone interviewed me at the Onslow County Public Library on Friday, 11-18-2011 concerning a story about the Murrell Family. This story will be in her forthcoming book about New River. I confirmed he story as it was written. In addition to this I gave Georgie some extra information which I thought might be of some value to her in the future.I took the manuscript home with me to review it and possibly add some extra info to it later. 2-24-2012; I had another interview with Georgie on 2-7-2012.I believe that some introduction to my stories would be something like this: Dr.Murrell's stories about New River and the people that lived here is of significant value to this book about New River.Dr.Murrell was born on the banks of New River and lived in a house that was built out over the river until he and his family (and others) had to evacuate this area when the government took over this area and built a Marine Base there. Before moving the Murrell family owned and operated a family amusement center.Among other things, there were the church picnics. There were even occasional baptismal services there. The Murrell family attended the Baptist Church of Jacksonville. The Baptists organized the Church in 1890 and built the church in 1891. The Baptists was the first denomination to construct it's own building in JACKSONVILLE. Previously all denominations had taken turns at having their services at a Chapel. The Jacksonville Baptist Church was the first and only one built on the banks of New River. The Murrell family organized the First Boy Scout troop in Jacksonville. The Boy Scouts were involved in Various water activities. On certain occasions Stratton even took his troop to a local T-V station where the boys demonstrated various scouting skills on LIVE T-V.
An episode like the one at Montford Point never really ends and it is of great significance to follow it through as time goes by. It meant a lot to me when I lived there and there was a time of trauma when my family had to leave our home when the government seized our land by eminent domain in 1940. It was like the classic poem,Paradise Lost, By John Milton. It was a sad time,but it wasn't until years later that I realized that this situation had been gradually transformed into PARADISE REGAINED of epic proportions. There was the Beirut Memorial which had been built at the entrance of Montford Point and there were the cemeteries which had been built across the way. One was the national cemetery which was for the veterans o the marine corps. Next to it was the cemetery for those who had lived on the property which became Camp Lejeune. Actually this was at the time of segregation and all of the black people were buried in the Verona area. This segregated cemetery will be covered in another story.
And then there were the Montford Point Marines. The first combat troops at Camp Lejeune were white troops under the command of Col. Brewster. At that time, I was twelve years old and our family had already received our letter of evacuation and had moved our personal things to Jacksonville. Some of our friends had bargained with the authorities to remove a small building and farm equipment from their property but we were not that lucky.apparently they had decided to use all of our buildings for Base personnel. Our main building was the temporary headquarters for the commanding officer.My great uncle John Burton owned the Bank Of Onslow (It merged with First Citizens Bank in 1940 and Uncle John was the president. His summer home was "on top of the hill" from us. Col. Brewster decided to use Uncle John's place for his office and while certain modifications were being done, our main building was being used for his headquarters. And so, our building was the first headquarters for combat troops at our Marine Base. The first commanding officer (Col. David Brewster) at that time became the first commanding officer of Camp Lejeune with his headquarters at Building number 1. A few years ago I helped Rick Richardson (the Base archaeologist) update the historical markers on Base and he told me about the historical marker at building 1.