Friday, October 31, 2014

Fort Fisher and the Hermit’s Bunker

Posted by Stu On May - 3 - 2012

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Fort Fisher photos from May 2010
Hermit Bunker & Grave photos from May 2011

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This wound up being a 2 part trip.  My wife and I have been vacationing in southern North Carolina for a few years.  While looking up things to do, both traditional and nontraditional (you can only go to Myrtle Beach so many times), I found something about Fort Fisher, which saw some combat during the Civil War.  This was somewhat intriguing, but what was even more interesting was something being mentioned about a hermit living in a World War II-era bunker near the fort.  So off we went.

The fort has a small but informative museum regarding Fort Fisher’s history and involvement with the Civil War and World War II.  We walked around the fort grounds for a bit.  There wasn’t all that much – a few cannons and some mounds.  No signs indicated anything about a WWII bunker or a hermit.  After going to the nearby state aquarium (that had an albino alligator), we resumed our search for the elusive bunker but came up empty.  Running out of daylight, we decided to do some more research and try again next year.

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The following year, we were much better prepared.  With coordinates and geocaching hints, we had a much better idea of where we were going.  We parked near the beach access and walked down the beach.  Eventually, a boardwalk led the way.

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As we progressed, the flies became more unbearable.  Finally, we reached the bunker, which was much smaller than I expected, and not necessarily what I think of when I hear the word “bunker.”  By this point, the flies had left, but immediately upon arriving at the bunker site, we were attacked by the largest, most persistent swarm of mosquitoes I have ever encountered.  Seriously.  Just in the area in front of the bunker.  How does that work?

I quickly snapped pictures of the outside of the bunker, the inside, a plaque on it, and a sign to the sign which I’m guessing highlighted the life of Robert E. Harrill, the Fort Fisher Hermit.  I’m not really sure, to be honest, because I didn’t get to read it.  I took my 4 pics and hauled out of there.  We must have killed a hundred mosquitoes each.  Our arms were literally covered in them.  Interestingly, just a few yards away from the hermit’s homestead, the mosquitoes stopped following us.

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Robert Harrill lived in this tiny building for nearly 15 years; all it took for me was about 30 seconds to decide to vacate.  Considered somewhat of a philosopher, he received many visitors during his time as a hermit.

We learned Harrill’s grave was found a few miles from Fort Fisher (he was found dead in his bunker in 1972).

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I found it interesting that Fort Fisher’s official website mentions nothing of its hermit.  Little indication is given as to where exactly the bunker is, and it seems a private group provided the signage and plaques in his honor.  Robert’s story, and his final dwelling, are fairly elusive to the casual tourist.

Perhaps that’s the way he would want it to be.

Popularity: 16% [?]

Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr Duel Site

Posted by Stu On March - 21 - 2011

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Hamilton/Burr Got Milk? commercial from sometime in the 90’s

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In the early days of this country, if you didn’t get along with a political rival, you didn’t just do the childish mudslinging modern day politicians do.  Oh no, you popped a cap.  And that’s exactly what happened in Weehawken, NJ, in 1804.  Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, and – get this – vice president Aaron Burr decided to put an end to their long-lasting rivalry.  Although considered honorable and a “gentleman’s” way of settling disputes, duels by this time were outlawed, so we had two very prominent political figures breaking the law.

As we all know (or at least the guy in the milk commercial up there), Burr killed Hamilton, was charged with murder, and acquitted.  Why does this have any relevance?  Historically, it has quite a bit.  Hamilton was one of the last significant members of the Federalist Party, which long story short was for stronger government and fewer rights to the people.  Hamilton was even quoted during a debate with Thomas Jefferson as saying something along the lines of “Your people, sir, is a great beast.”  He didn’t want the common person voting people into office; he felt a rich aristocracy should consist of the country’s voters.  This guy can somewhat be blamed for that ever popular entity that rears its ugly head in every presidential election – The Electoral College.  Had the Federalist Party remained a formidable party, who knows how much different our government would be today?

And, of course, since Hamilton was the one who lost his life, he gets all the honor and everything named after him.  He even got the last laugh in a way; the duel was so negatively viewed by the public that Burr crept away and left the political world for good.

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The monument is on the appropriately Hamilton Avenue and has quite a nice view of Manhattan behind it.  A small park, also named after Hamilton, is nearby.  They were filming something in it when I visited – not sure what.

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Popularity: 24% [?]

Tri-States Monument

Posted by Stu On November - 27 - 2008

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Although technically in 3 states, I’m gonna file this one under New York for 2 reasons. Nearly half the marker is in NY, so percentage-wise, NY wins. Also, you pretty much have to go through NY to get to the marker.
So there.

Underneath the bridge on Route 84 between PA & NY, it’s possible to stand in those states, along with New Jersey, at once. This is one of several tri-state points in the country. To get to this one, you have to drive through a cemetery in New York (unless you have a boat or feel like swimming in the Delaware).

Right next to the road is a marker for the NJ/NY border. The tri-state marker is past it a bit, down closer to the river. For whatever reason, this marker had a bunch of melted candles at its base and is pretty badly trashed, while the tri-state one is relatively untouched.

The tri-state monument is much smaller and has the 3 states’ borders on its top. Stand on it and you’re in all 3! Amaze your friends!


You’re the man now, dog!

Popularity: 22% [?]

High Point

Posted by Stu On November - 27 - 2008

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Not really a whole lot to say about this one. This is the highest point in New Jersey, and to celebrate this fact, they built a large phallus on it. High Point is 1,803 feet above sea level, and the tower is an additional 220 feet. Unfortunately, the tower was closed the day we visited.

I actually attempted to visit this place quite a number of years ago. As we pulled up, the rangers closed the park right in front of us because a thunderstorm was rolling in.

Quite possibly one of the most strangely worded gift shop signs I’ve ever seen:

Popularity: 29% [?]

Mason-Dixon Line in South Jersey?

Posted by Stu On October - 27 - 2008

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This is more of a writeup than an actual place. Mostly because it doesn’t exist.

For years I’ve been hearing there are, or at least were, markers indicating where the Mason-Dixon Line runs through South Jersey. And like most of my good hunts, people have heard about them but nobody has actually ever seen one. This idea seems to be an older one; most younger people have not heard of it. A bar on Long Beach Island used to advertise being “south of the Mason-Dixon” back in the 60’s, and that’s about the time period where this whole “Mason-Dixon Line in Jersey” seemed to have some life.

My best lead took me to Long Beach Island. I was told there was a marker out in front of the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences. Along the roadway is a marker, but it’s nothing more than a survey disk. There is nothing anywhere on the sign or benchmark indicating it’s marking The Line. I even went inside the building and inquired about it. The woman working there said she had lived on the island her whole life and never heard of such a thing. She then telephoned LBI’s Chamber of Commerce to ask about it. The woman who answered said when she was growing up, she heard a M-D marker was in Beach Haven Terrace but didn’t know exactly where.
The problem with that is that Beach Haven Terrace and Loveladies are over 10 miles apart. So already we have conflicting ideas of just where this line is. I’ve been told that markers were also found in Tuckerton and Barnegat, again more conflict. Barnegat somewhat lines up with Loveladies, and Tuckerton is closer to Terrace.
Another “lead” I got said there was a marker near Exit 4 on the NJ Turnpike. This would put the line up around Toms River, meaning I grew up in the South. A call to the Turnpike Commission squashed this idea when they said there isn’t and never was a Mason-Dixon marker. They said some of the old East/West Jersey boundary stones are in the area, so maybe that’s what the marker in question was.

So we have false leads. Nobody actually ever seeing a marker. Officials saying such things don’t and never did exist. And let’s not forget the biggest story-killer – The Mason-Dixon never touched NJ. It’s the border between Maryland & Pennsylvania. It then turns south, forming the border between MD & Delaware. So right there, it’s impossible to have markers in South Jersey. But what if you extended the line straight across?
I think that’s what happened here. Some people back whenever decided that if the line continued eastward, a good section of New Jersey would be south of it. Well by that logic, most of Europe was in the Union and India was Confederate.

Popularity: 19% [?]

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