Welcome to Havelock (First history article, 1983)
by Eddie Ellis
HAVELOCK HAS ALWAYS WELCOMED VISITORS. The lovely woods, creeks and Neuse River welcomed some of the earliest settlers in America. Our area boasted permanent plantation sites as early as 1707 and was home to many woodsmen, fishermen and farmers before the American Revolution.
This area welcomed the coming of the railroad in 1858 at a time that a British general was gaining worldwide fame for his heroic rescues of hostage citizens during a bloody uprising in India. When the Atlantic and North Carolina tracks came to a crossroads and established a depot, it needed a name. The local folks embraced the name of General Henry Havelock for their budding community. Sir Henry was a devout Christian and a military genius. The story of his courage gives inspiration to this day.
This city is one of eight in the world named for Sir Henry Havelock. Two are in Canada; three are in the United States. There is one Havelock in Swaziland of Southern Africa and two in New Zealand. There is also an island named for him in the Indian Ocean.
The settlement around Havelock Station saw action during the Civil War when elements of the Rhode Island Heavy Artillery under the command of General Ambrose Burnside stormed ashore on the beach of what is now the Officer’s Club at Cherry Point and Carolina Pines Golf & Country Club. The Union forces quickly took control of the hamlet and its railroad whistlestop, using Havelock as a starting point for the capture of New Bern and Fort Macon. The operation in March 1862 provided the first major foothold in the South for the Yankees.
The Union troops had few kind comments about the area, calling it desolate, snake-infested and muddy. One correspondent said the only comfort for the soldiers was the “chain-lightning whiskey” available from local stores and farm houses.
Wills and other records indicate that production of “naval store” such as tar and turpentine had more economic impact here than did farming. While most people farmed, the greater income was produced through the operation of turpentine distilleries and tar kilns.
With the advent of the steam engine during and following the Civil War, wooden ships became obsolete and the market for tar, pitch and turpentine collapsed. To make ends meet, more than a few local families switched from turpentine distillation to the distillation of something with a little more kick to it. Local legend has it that Havelock and nearby Harlowe became renowned for the quality of their “moonshine” and that a few local fortunes were based on the copper coil.
From the late 1800’s until the 1930’s, the Havelock area was a haven for hunters and fishermen. Sportsmen came from all over the east coast to enjoy the river and forests. Several old-timers’ albums boast photos of baseball stars Babe Ruth and Christy Mathewson and then-famous cartoonist Bud Fisher decked out in hunting gear in the local woods.
Havelock welcomed the United States Marine Corps in 1941. Today, visitors are often seen craning their necks as a Cherry Point Harrier or Intruder streaks by overhead. Local residents are used to the roar acknowledged by a sign near the base’s main gate which reads, “Pardon our noise. It’s the sound of freedom.”
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(Eddie Ellis wrote the original history article above for the Carolina Telephone & Telegraph annual phone directory in 1983-84. It’s been reprinted many times in many places since then.)