The Adventures of a Cub Reporter


Dr. Stratton Murrell tells some of his stories at the 2010 Banks Party by the Onslow County Historical Society

My Comments on New River, By Dr.Stratton C.Murrell

       Most of my comments about New River will be add-ons andor corrections to Georgie Stone Wilson's new book, NEW RIVER, THE JEWEL OF ONSLOW, A SEQUEL, which was released on 6-13-2012. It's a very good book. It tells of the early history and the trials and tribulations of the river and its people as time went by and the population in this area increased rapidly with the construction o Camp Lejeune and so did its problems. Progress is painful, but it also presents a challenge to some people improve the situation. spelling js Wharf). The front pg of the 10-27-2013 issue of the Jacksonville Daily News has the story that this building will be demolished in the near future in order ro enlarge the median of highway 17 in that area. The building is owned by George Venters Just a few years ago (2000) the Jacksonville Lions club met in this building. It was eventually demo;ished and the water in this area was condemned. No swimming or water skiing was allowed. To most adults this was just one of those things, but to my generation this would have been a catastrophe. It was our favorite  SWIMMING HOLE. It was a very large area where we could play our favorite game of water tag.  

2-When you write anything about New River, lt is important to define the word " river" and technically New River is not exactly a river. It's more like an estuary or where a body of water empties into the ocean. A river is where a body of water has a flow creating a flush as it empties into the ocean.  I discussed this info with Tom Mattison at one of one of our meetings of the Lions Club .

3- The population of Onslow County in 1776 was estimated to be 1400 people. I was born at Montford Point on 1-11-1928  and the population at that time was approximately 15,000. By the year 2000 the population was approximately 150,000. (This quote was from Dr. Stratton C. Murrell).

4- Most of the information about  Onslow County before Camp Lejeune describe it as a rural area whereby the major industries were farming, fishing, and timber. Tourism was a minor industry that was developing before the Federal Government confiscated the river and ocean property in order to build Camp Lejeune.Hurst Beach had already been surveyed and lots were for sale. Some people built summer homes there. Dr. James Sharp, a neurosurgen from New York found that Onslow County was a sportsman's Paradise and was so impressed with this area         thathe purchased the Hammocks Beach area, near Swnsboro  iin order to live there during his hunting and fishing trips. In this way  thins began developing towards tourism. There aremore details about HammocksBeach in other parts of the work book.

       At first the tourist attractions were hunting and fishing. And then my father, Z.E. Murrell,and his wife, Louise, did something different. Instead of just the hunting lodges, they thought there should be a place of family fun. They built a big house in the 1920s and their living quarters was on the top floor.It was built on the banks of New River. Just enough of this building was on land to give it stability and the rest was built out over the river and from this was a pier which extended out into the river for a hundred yards. And then there was an area of one hundred yards of open water where there was Second Dock with diving towers. There was a charge or using this pier for swimming and boating. On the bottom floor was the shop where they sold Lance crackers and cokes plus a lot of other good things like renting swim suits  and selling fishing gear. On one side of the building was an outdoor dance pavilion and on the other side was an indoor pavilion to be used at times bad  weather  There was swimming, fishing, and boating, and those wonderful church picnics.The Murrell's amusement area was known as MONTFORD POINT. (see the oil painting, by Billie Jean Murrell in the story about Montford Point). 

5-  There a lot of snakes and alligators in Onslow County. In the July 6, 2014 issue of the Jacksonville Daily News there is the story of a man who was bitten by a copperhead snake. The Carolinas Poison Center reports that they received 500 calls concerning copperhead bites in 2013. Much to my surprise the cost for anti venom  is $30,000 or more. The Base Hospital treats about one case per year. There have been many stories told about the cottonmouth water moccasin. Some time in the 1930s when I was just a kid I was bitten on the heel of my left foot by a moccasin. Our housekeeper grabbed a white dish pan and put my foot in some vinegar. My mother gripped her hand around my ankle to cut off the blood circulation and we jumped in our pick up truck and went to the office of  Dr. E.L.Cox in Jacksonville which was 2 1/2 miles from Montford Point. By the time we got to his office Mama could not let go of my ankle and they had to actually pry her fingers off. And then came the anti-venom. I think it cost $ 100 which was a large amount of money at that time. I do not remember how long it took me to recover from this experience. It was years later, like in 2014, that I learned that there is no record of anyone in North Carolina who has died from a snake bite. That may be true, but I remember that a friend of mine had a dog that was bitten by a snake. In spite of the treatment of a veterinarian, the dog died.

6- History books say very little about children and it's the same way concerning the children of Onslow County and those who lived on the river. One interesting, and long forgotten story would be about how some children became a part of the folklore of this area. I found this story when our housekeeper was cleaning up our garage. My mother told it to me  many  years  ago and after reading my first book about Harry Potter, By J. K. Rowling, I decided to update mother's story with the title,

            THE INNOCENT WIZARDS      

       IT was in the 1930s,  long before there was a Camp Lejeune that was built in 1940. My brother Vann and I were  three or four years old at that time. Our parents were visiting some of their friends on the Old Montford Point Road. Vann and I were riding Tobacco Sticks (These sticks were about about four feet long and bundles of tobacco were tied to these sticks which were suspended from the rafters of a Smoke House. The leaves were then cured in smoke until they were brown and crisp. They were made into cigarettes.) which were our  imaginary horses.