Price’s Creek Lighthouse

by Lisa Arnold

The brick beacon is all that remains of the unique pre-Civil War lighthouse called Price’s Creek lighthouse, which is located along the banks of the Cape Fear River. The lighthouse is located in Southport, NC, and it is one of Southport’s treasured landmarks. Almost every local has a story to share about the only remaining of eight authorized lighthouses by Congress in 1848. For years, merchants and mariners lobbied for lights to mark the passageway along the Cape Fear River. Congress approved the building of eight lighthouses to illuminate the 25-mile stretch of the Cape Fear River between Oak Island and Wilmington. Price's Creek Lighthouse was contracted to be 20 feet high with three feet thick walls.

It was the last lighthouse to be built and it was completed in 1849. It was constructed entirely out of bricks brought over from England. It originally had eight lamps and eight fourteen inch reflectors. There were two beacons standing next to each other at this site: a 20-foot circular brick structure and a wooden structure on top of a keeper's brick house. The first assigned keeper was Samuel C. Mason, but he never took the position. John Bell became the first actual keeper.

During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers used Price’s Creek lighthouse as a signal station. The beacons were a means of communication between Fort Fisher and Fort Caswell. In the hands of the Confederate States Signal Corps, the beacons served military and civilian blockade-runners. They used the beacons as a means of navigating the river and for identifying shore batteries. The wooden tower located on top of the keeper’s brick house suffered heavy damage during the war and eventually disintegrated over time. Years later after destruction of the keeper’s house, the bricks were used to build a home in Southport.

Price's Creek Lighthouse Postcard
Rare 1939 Postcard
(Click To View)

Confederates completely destroyed seven of the eight lighthouses when they lost control of the Cape Fear River. Price’s Creek lighthouse is the only one which survived complete destruction, but it was heavily damaged and was never operable again. Confederates hoped the destruction of the lighthouses would impede the advance of the Union soldiers and prevent them from safely navigating the river.

Today Price’s Creek lighthouse sits on private property which is not accessible to the public. The best way to view it is on the top level of the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry as it approaches the Southport landing.

The land housing the Price’s Creek lighthouse is owned by Archer Daniels Midland Corporation. The grounds are sealed off and the small structure cannot be seen from most vantage points. There have been several efforts to get Archer Daniels Midland Corporation to restore Price’s Creek lighthouse. So far they have refused to do so. This is a dishonor because it is an important and intriguing part of history.

Despite there not being any foreseeable efforts to restore Price’s Creek lighthouse, it remains as a steady reminder of days long ago. It is also the last remaining evidence of the once bustling trade route along the Cape Fear River to Wilmington.

Whether Price’s Creek lighthouse is restored or not, there is one fact which cannot be disputed, it is a historic memento, which will forever have a place in history and in Southport, NC.

Copyright © 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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