Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jesse A. Jackson's Dream
The Southern Star

Jesse A. Jackson was a man of vision. He went to Hertford County, North Carolina in the mid-1800s. For a while, he kept a store in the community of Pine Tree and later moved to Murfreesboro. Jackson was involved in several enterprises. He contracted to provide bricks for the construction of two women's colleges—Chowan, which opened in 1848, and Wesleyan, which opened in 1853. Both projects were profitable for Jackson. He also operated a sawmill at a location which later belonged to E. C. Worrell.

Jackson was an energetic and ambitious man and was not satisfied with storekeeping, brick making, or operating a sawmill. "He conceived the idea in 1856 of building a large steamship to make regular trips from Murfreesboro to New York, carrying both freight and passengers." He secured financing from Glines & Graham, a New York firm and from wealthy Hertford Co. men.

The ship, first named the Chowan, was expensive. Including her engines which were built at Wilmington, Delaware, the construction cost over thirty thousand dollars. It was a beautiful ship—a three masted bark with a wooden hull, 545 tons, 169' x 28'. However, Jackson's luck had run out. The firm of Glines & Graham went broke and the local investors were afraid to continue to fund the project.

"Poor Jesse Jackson got into a sea of troubles. Suits and demands thickened upon him." John K. Kirman, draughtsman and builder of the ship, took possession of her in 1857 for payment of a debt of $4,996.18 owed to him by Glines & Graham and the NC Steamship Co.

Jackson's "great floating palace" was later sold to John W. Southall and Capt. Thomas Badger. Southall was a prominent Hertford County man, an active and ardent Methodist, who lived in Murfreesboro all his life and was active in support of the Wesleyan Female College there. He also took great pride in his fine horses.

Thomas Badger had recently escaped from the U.S. mail steamship Central American which had foundered off Cape Hatteras as it carried mail, two million in gold and 575 passengers and crew on its run from California to New York. When help arrived, her captain, William Lewis Herndon, ordered that women and children be saved first and they all made it to safety. However, about 475 of the crew and passengers went down with the ship.

The Southern Star

Arrival of the Steamship Joseph Whitney and Tender, with Troops, Ordnance and Military Stores, at Fort Jefferson, Tortugas, under Commission from the Government of the United States, convoyed by the U.S. Steamer Crusader, on the 23rd of January, 1861. [The SS Joseph Whitney is in the center with USS Crusader at right. Published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1861.

Southall and Badger christened the new ship the Southern Star and towed her to Wilmington, Delaware where she was outfitted for the sea. In October 1858, they sold her to the U. S. government and she was rechristened Crusader.

The Crusader was one of the fastest steamships in the water at that time. For two years, she chased down slave traders in the West Indies. As the Civil War approached, she was ordered to help reinforce Federal positions along the Gulf coast.

Later, the Crusader was moved to the eastern coastline where she served along the South Carolina Coast and later became part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, operating in the Chesapeake Bay.

After the war, the Crusader was decommissioned and sold. Renamed the Kalorama, the ship remained in commercial service until she was wrecked south of San Buenaventura in 1876.

"Jesse Jackson never recovered from the blow received in his great disappointment. Fresh disasters came upon him, and, after years of unavailing struggle, at the end of the late war, he left our country to seek his bread in other quarters. He had not taken fortune at its flood, and in disaster, alas! found too few to do him reverence."

Sources: Colonial and state political history of Hertford County, N. C. byBenjamin B. Winborne, 1906
History of North Carolina: from the earliest discoveries to the ..., Volume 2 By John Wheeler Moore 1880
Images of America: Hertford County by Frank Stephenson

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