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"Naval stores and lumber were primary cargo on vessels navigating Black River, ca. 1875-1914. Remains of the steamer A.J. Johnson 60 yds. S." During the era of steamboat trade, the Clear Run community in southern Sampson County was the head of navigation on the Black River. The use of flats or pole boats, begun by settlers in the 1700s, was quite common by the mid-1800s. Only after the Civil War did advances in technology permit the use of shallow-draft steamboats. The principal exports that made their way to the port at Wilmington by way of the Cape Fear River (of which the Black River is a tributary) were naval stores, lumber and wood products, cotton, rice, and livestock.
In the mid-1870s the Black River Navigation Company was formed to encourage area trade. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assisted with dredging and improvements to the river. With the route made accessible, scores of steamboats and vessels of other types plied its waters. The A. J. Johnson, a fifty-seven-ton stern-wheel steamer constructed at Clear Run in 1899 and fitted out in Wilmington, was perhaps the largest of its type. Operated until 1914, the ship in that year was tied up at Clear Run and sank during a storm. The boiler and engine subsequently were salvaged. In the early 1900s gasoline-powered tugs began to replace steamboats, the use of which declined rapidly after World War I.
In recent years the Black River has returned almost entirely to its natural condition, and is now used primarily by sportsmen, hunters, and fishermen. The presence of the hulk of the A. J. Johnson is a reminder of a bygone era.
Wilson Angley, “An Historical Overview of the Black River in Southeastern North Carolina” (unpublished report prepared for the Research Branch, Division of Archives and History, 1983)
F. Roy Johnson, Riverboating in Lower Carolina (1977)
Lawrence E. Earley, “Exploring the Black River,” Wildlife in North Carolina (September 1986), pp. 4-11
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.