Yesterday’s World, Today’s Culture

What: Second Saturday Event, ‘We Fished for a Living’
When: Saturday, June 8th
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: NC Maritime Museum
204 E. Moore St., Southport
Cost: Free!
Info: (910) 457-0003

What: Third Tuesday Evening Adult Program, ‘Behind the Gates: Orton Plantation’
When: Tuesday, June 18th
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Southport Community Building
223 E. Bay St., Southport
Cost: Free, but must register by calling
Info: (910) 457-0003

The maritime history and culture of Southport tends to thrive as the weather warms, and the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport has cultivated several opportunities to learn and experience both in its Second Saturday and Third Tuesday events.

Lori Sanderlin is the curator of education at the museum and says these educational events originated at the Maritime offices in Raleigh and offer an opportunity of free education for the community, as well as a free space for local vendors.

“It’s a way to educate the public of our cultural resources and bring artisans and creators in from the community to benefit from it,” Sanderlin remarks. “It’s worked in such a way that ours has grown exponentially in the last three years, and we now have 25 to 30 vendors.”

Themes vary from “Pirates and the Age of Sail” to this summer’s kick-off event, “We Fished for a Living,” which will be held on Saturday, June 8th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Second Saturday program is in honor of those who devoted their lives to piloting work boats, pulling nets and processing shrimp, crabs, and menhaden.

From the Maritime Museum’s ‘We Fished for a Living’ exhibit: a life-size image of Southport’s ‘Gentle Giant,’ Elias Gore, who worked on a menhaden boat. Courtesy photo

From the Maritime Museum’s ‘We Fished for a Living’ exhibit: a life-size image of Southport’s ‘Gentle Giant,’ Elias Gore, who worked on a menhaden boat. Courtesy photo

Artisans across the grounds outside will include potters, photographers or other crafters; they are people from the community coming together to educate the public on their art. Sanderlin says there will be an opportunity to buy fresh, local seafood from the folks who have been catching it in our area for countless years.

“Inside we have our history and cultural theme, with net makers, local fisherman who have passed the trade down for generations,” she explains.

“The Potters have one of the only operating shrimp boats in the area, and they are going to come and talk about sustainable seafood, the lifecycle of shrimp, and about work boats in general.”

Potter’s Seafood is made of fifth-generation fishermen in Southport, specializing in natural, chemical-free shrimp since 1899. They will present a special treat for nautical enthusiasts: their traditional wooden work boat.

“You don’t see these boats any longer,” Sanderlin tells. “They are rare now and to have them is a treasure.”

As families learn about the fishing industry in the area, kids’ activities include “fish printing,” where they will get to paint rubber copies of flounder, bass and other local fish, and then press the molds on cloth or paper to take home as a keepsake.

While the Second Saturday events are geared more toward children, Sanderlin says the Third Tuesday Evening programs are for adults, such as this month’s event, “Behind the Gates: Orton Plantation.” It will take place on June 18th from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Southport Community Building (223 E. Bay St.).

“Our Third Tuesdays are adult topics, not ‘bad’ adult topics,” Sanderlin laughs. “But it’s geared toward that age group … and it’s a maritime topic. Whether the Confederate Navy or hauntings in the Lower Cape Fear, it’s more like an education session for adults.”

Orton Plantation’s Dillon Epp and Nick Dawson will present “Behind the Gates” and discuss what was once home to Roger Moore, Benjamin Smith and James Sprunt—names of legacy in our area—as well as a major source of longleaf pines, which were almost harvested to extinction.

“Dillon is the Orton Property Manager responsible for daily management. As a forestry major, Dillon is also responsible for the creation and restoration of 7,000 acres of Longleaf Pine woodland and habitat,” Ken Eudy, publicist for the plantation, shares. “Nick heads up the landscape management team, which includes the rehabilitation of the historic gardens and rice fields, together with the new National Register nomination and Cultural Landscape Report.”

According to Eudy, the presentation will focus on the three parts of preservation taking place at Orton Plantation: rice fields, forestry, and gardens. “The environmental benefits of restoring forests of longleaf pines can’t be overestimated,” he asserts. “We recently entered into an agreement with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to manage our longleaf pine forests to enhance certain wildlife species, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker. We believe that our restoration efforts will have tremendous long-term benefits for the environment in southeastern North Carolina.”

A dirt road engulfed by mighty oak trees within Orton Plantation. Photo courtesy of the Moore Charitable Foundation.

A dirt road engulfed by mighty oak trees within Orton Plantation. Photo courtesy of the Moore Charitable Foundation.

In 1973, the Plantation House and 12 acres of gardens were nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. “This week [of May 20th], a new application has been submitted to the NC State Historic Preservation Office that includes the house, gardens, rice fields and land, totaling 954 acres of what is known as Orton Plantation’s historic core.”

The curator explains that since the plantation was closed to the public in 2010 and acquired by conservationist Louis Moore Bacon, renovations and improvements have been continuous, especially in replanting the nearly lost pines. Bacon also works to conserve areas in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and Robins Island in New York through the Moore Charitable Foundation. Six months ago, Bacon received the prestigious Audobon Medal from the National Audubon Society—an award that has only been garned 51 times in the organization’s 107 years of existence. He is a descendent of Roger Moore, the co-founder of Brunswick Town who built Orton Plantation in 1735.

“Mr. Bacon has just impressed all of us with what he’s doing over at Orton,” she says. “I cannot wait to hear what they’re doing with the longleaf pines, which are essential to our maritime economy.”

Eudy adds that keeping the plantation private at this time is essential to its well-being. “The restoration and rehabilitation work is a massive undertaking, and we are systematically working with many state agencies to achieve the highest standard in this work,” Eudy asserts. “Right now, the property is not suitable for public access while the restoration work is ongoing. However, as part of ongoing historical research, we will continue periodically to host local academic institutions and pertinent conservation organizations to brief them on our progress.”

Sanderlin expresses that while the doors of the plantation may be closed to the public for now, this event is a chance to understand why, as well as to learn the details of Epp and Dawson’s work.

“This is a way for the community to feel involved and learn about our history and our culture on a different level,” she continues. “It’s not hands-on history that children are accustomed to, but this is where we as adults can get together and learn about what’s happening historically and culturally today.”

All Second Saturday and Third Tuesday Maritime Museum events are free to the public, though registration is required for the “Behind the Gates: Orton Plantation” presentation. Those interested may register by calling the museum at (910) 457-0003. Learn more about the Maritime Museum and its ongoing educational events for families, children and adults at

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Southport Area's Culture & Events Magazine