Steeped in rich maritime history, Wilmington, Brunswick County and the treacherous offshore shoals (dubbed the “Cape of Fear” by early mariners) have been vital to the fortunes of both businessmen and buccaneers alike…and lead us to the creation of The Bluffs on the Cape Fear logo. Over 200 miles in length, the Cape Fear River served as a key transportation route for native peoples, colonial pioneers and those traveling into the interior backwoods of North Carolina. Today, we celebrate that history as we travel up and down the river of which our community sits and back in time as we remember the stories embedded in the those muddy Cape Fear River banks.
While Beaufort and the Outer Banks have claim to the most famous pirate of all – Blackbeard – the Cape Fear area is where one of the most eccentric pirates to sail the high seas was captured. Stede Bonnet, known as The Gentleman Pirate, was a wealthy estate owner from Barbados that later turned to a life of piracy. After some early success, Bonnet made Blackbeard’s acquaintance and the two sailed together. After parting ways with Blackbeard, Bonnet was eventually caught at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, his two-year adventure had come to an end. He was executed a month after Blackbeard met his own death and soon after the golden age of piracy was over.
However, the Port City prospered because of its proximity to the Cape Fear River. Manufactured goods were imported and inland settlers transported produce down the river. Planters exported rice and naval stores sold turpentine, rosin, tar and pitch needed for sailing ships. These activities led the region to become a political powerhouse. Wilmington was the largest city in the state preceding the Civil War and became a coveted prize for both Confederate and Union forces. The history of our area and stories that shape our present day come to life on the Cape Fear River, right in our own backyard.
So next time you look at our community logo and see the sails, or walk along the community Riverwalk boardwalk, or take your own cruise down the river, take a moment to think about the maritime history of our area. Soak in the beauty and you’ll understand what we mean when we say ‘Living on the water means more at The Bluffs!’