"To advance through research, education and symposia, an increased public awareness of the Cape Fear region's unique history."
The Bellamy Mansion
Dr. John D. Bellamy and His Mansion
Cape Fear Historical Institute Papers
The Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington
The Bellamy Mansion at Fifth and Market Streets:
Octogenarian” that “According to family accounts, the
idea for the design of the imposing main house came
from Bellamy’s daughter Mary and was given to
James F. Post, who had become a prominent local
architect as well as contractor.” Post was born in
Caldwell, New Jersey who was drawn to Wilmington
by the building boom which followed the completion
of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad.
of the mansion weaves architectural elements of the
Classical, Greek and Italian Revivals with “an extravagant
eclecticism unmatched elsewhere in Wilmington. The
two-story porch features Corinthian columns similar to
those at Thalian Hall, and the entry is heavily carved and
set in an arched surround. The pedimented gabled roof is
crowned by an ornately decorated cupola, in imitation
of an Italian campanile, or bell tower.”
Dr. John D. Bellamy
preceding the Civil War. Its construction began in 1857 and was completed the latter part of 1859, or early in 1860. This building
has on three sides, most beautifully proportioned Corinthian
columns, with exquisitely carved capitals.”
(Memoirs of an Octogenarian)
free-black carpenters and their slaves (Slave craftsmen
assisted master artisans who built and embellished
the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens).
It was common at that time for free-black carpenters and
their slave artisans to bid and win construction projects
against white artisans and contractors. Post himself was
not known to own any slaves though he employed many
who were either owned by black or white carpenters.
Local free-black carpenters Post employed were Frederick
Howe and Elvin Artis, and they likely owned
trained slave artisans.
in October 1859, and he entrusted the project supervision to
Connecticut-born architect Rufus Bunnell, whom Post had
employed to help in his office; and free-black carpenter
Artis and his slaves.
and Bunnell to not only order cost-effective materials from
the north, but also to employ less expensive free-black
carpenters who held slave artisans to do their work at a lesser
rate than white artisans. To underscore this, Bunnell recalled
that the " rich doctor was a free-trader” who “notwithstanding
all the feeling that had sprung up against the northern people,
still put the principle in practice and ordered from the North and
every thing that could be cheaper than in Wilmington.”
Early in 1860, Bunnell sent drawings for window sashes,
inside trim, and the 25-foot Corinthian columns for the
“colonnade” to the factory of Jenkins and Porter, on
Canal Street in New York.”
(North Carolina Architecture, pp. 279-282)
According to daughter Ellen Bellamy, the family moved
their belongings into the new home at 503 Market Street
in February 1861.
Bellamy Family History:
on Wynah Bay (next to Francis Marion’s plantation) at
All Saints’ Parish, South Carolina on 18 September 1817,
son of John and Elizabeth Bellamy.
According to son John D. Bellamy, Jr., “the name “Bellamy”
is of French derivation and was originally spelled “Bellamie”
-- meaning “wonderful friend.”
South Carolina, John Bellamy, the first of the name in Carolina,
was an original Grantee of St. John’s Parish, Charles Town –
his grant being between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers.
In 1665, he had sailed from Holland to the Barbadoes,
and from there to the Carolina coast, with Sir John Yeamans.
A short while later he had settled at Goose Creek, a few miles
above the city, where he spent the remainder of his life. His
son John, had reached maturity and was managing his own
on of the next generation, removed to Buck’s Creek, and it
was his son, John, who owned the plantation on Wynah Bay,
where my father [Dr. John D. Bellamy] was born.”
“the celebrated Rice Creek [Academy] institution.
medicine in the office of the noted physician, Dr. William
James Harris, as was customary in those days for students
who intended to go to medical colleges for their degrees.
In 1839, he was graduated, with honors, from Jefferson
Medical College of the University of Pennsylvania, and
returned to Wilmington to begin the practice of his profession.
On June 12, of the same year, he was married to
Eliza McIlhenny Harris, daughter of his first medical instructor,
and his wife, Mary Priscilla Jennings.”
the sudden death of Dr. Harriss changed everything. His new
wife unwilling to leave her bereaved mother, young Dr. Bellamy
assumed Dr. Harriss’s medical practice in Wilmington and for
many years lived in the Harriss home. [It is noteworthy that
Dr. Harriss was mayor of Wilmington at the time of his death].
and retired from medicine about 1850 due to ill-health and to
focus more time on his large planting and business interests.
In August 1850, he was elected to succeed Col. James T. Miller
on the Board of Directors of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.
By 1860, Dr. Bellamy would hold the distinction of being
the largest stockholder in the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.
He also served on the Board of Directors of the Cape Fear Bank.
The Bellamy Children:
who married William J. Duffie of Columbia; Mardsen, who
became a prominent attorney and married Harriet Harleee of
Mars Bluff, SC; William James Harriss, who became a
noted local physician and married Mary W. Russell; and
Eliza and Ellen who remained single and lived in the old
home at Market and Fifth Streets;
John Dillard, who became a prominent attorney and US
Congressman married Emma M. Hargrove of Granville County;
George, known as the “Duke of Brunswick” because of his
political connections, married Kate Thees; Chesley Calhoun
was never married and died in early manhood;
Robert Rankin, the youngest, was a very prominent druggist
and married Lilly Dale Hargrove.”
Dr. Bellamy’s son William James Harriss Bellamy, later
a prominent Wilmington medical doctor, was born at
Wilmington in 1844. He ended his studies at Chapel Hill
in the summer of 1861 to enlist as a private in Company I
of the 18th North Carolina Regiment, seeing action in Virginia
at Hanover Court house, Williamsburg and the Seven Days’
-- being wounded in the shoulder and knee at Gaines’ Mill.
At the end of his enlistment in 1862, he returned to studies at
Chapel Hill for half a session, then raised a company of cavalry in Brunswick county for home defense. He held the rank of
captain assigned to coastal duty with his men, and fought
in the 1865 campaign from Wilmington to Bentonville.
Early Residence in Wilmington:
residence originally built in 1805 while at the zenith of his political
career. It was Smith’s town residence while governor – his
permanent home being “Belvedere,” his plantation in
Brunswick County. Dr. Bellamy lived here until their new
home was built at Fifth and Market Streets.
secessionist proclivities, son John D. Bellamy, Jr. recalled:
“[When Dr. Bellamy] found that most prominent people in
Wilmington were chiefly Whigs – the Moore’s, the Hill’s,
deRossett’s, Waddell’s and Davis’ – and, being union men,
would not take part in the celebration of South Carolina’s
withdrawal from the Union, he bought all the empty tar barrels
in Wilmington and had them strewn along Front Street, from
Campbell to Queen, and on Market Street from the river to
Ninth Street, and had a great bonfire and procession at night,
three days before Christmas of 1860. He procured a band
of music, and headed the marching column himself, at Front
and Market Streets, with his little son and namesake, the
author, by his side, bearing a torch upon his shoulder!
It was a night to live always in his memory, and of which
he was ever afterwards proud!
“History of New Hanover County” notes that Bellamy's
Grovely Plantation was originally named “Spring Garden.”
In a deed from Maurice Moore to John Baptiste Ashe,
dated December 5, 1727, in which Moore is described as
“of Bath County,: he conveys 640 acres on the north side
of Town Creek,” about five miles above ye Old Town,
commonly known by the name of Spring Garden,’ granted
to said Moore, June 20, 1725. The name of this place
was afterwards changed by some of Mr. Ashe’s successors
to Grovely, by which name it has been known for more
than a hundred years. It was given, by the will of
Ann R. Quince, to her cousin, A.D. Moore, son of
Maj. A.D. Moore, and for sixty years or more last past has
belonged to the estate of the late Dr. John D. Bellamy.”
(History of New Hanover County, page 45)
and consists of nearly a thousand acres, my father having
bought many adjoining tracts to keep settlers from coming too
near – to interfere with his Negro slaves. This old estate was
entered by Maurice Moore, in 1750, and was called by him
“Spring Garden.” He afterwards sold it to John Baptiste
Ashe, who changed its name to Grovely Plantation, a name
it still bears. The plantation had, beside the manor house,
many other buildings – overseer’s houses,
barns, stables and the like.
summers, must have been built in Colonial times and was
a very substantial and comfortable structure. Near the
home was a dairy and the turkey, peafowl, and chicken
yards, also large orchards and vineyards. My father generally
ran over fifty mules and plows; he raised from six hundred
to eight hundred heads of cattle, and a like number of sheep,
and never killed less than fifteen hundred heads of hogs
per annum, with which he used to feed his slaves in
Brunswick county, Columbus county (turpentine farm
at Grist’s, now Chadbourne) and the slaves of
his plantation in South Carolina.
fifty acres of wheat, which seemed to thrive in that soil equally
as well as in the wheat growing section of the State. Having
no rice fields on Grovely, I have known him to get, at one
times, three thousand bushels of rough rice, which e bought
from Colonel Thomas C. Miller, at Orton Plantation; this was
hulled by his slaves in wooden mortars, with wooden
pestles, and winnowed on elevated platforms.
twenty-four hundred acres of arable land, worked by his
Negroes, who lived in cabins on “The Line.” He raised wheat,
oats, corn, peanuts, and other grains, and his barns were
always filled to overflowing and groaning under their weight.
by my father) held his services on each alternate Sundays,
baptizing infants and marrying the slaves. On Sundays’ when
I was a boy about eight or ten years of age, contemporary
Negro boys, at least fifty in number, would come down from
“The Line” to the dwelling where we lived. They were always
neatly dressed in the woolen and cotton clothes produced by
the spinners and weavers on the hand looms of the plantation.
My parents permitted me to go with these boys into the woods
and on the streams until church time, when I would accompany
them to “The Line” and attend their church services.
(Memoirs of an Octogenarian, pp,1-17)
War and Refugeeing at Floral College:
relocated its capital to Richmond; Bellamy’s son John wrote that
“Honorable George Davis, who was regarded as the idol
of the people of the Cape Fear by the old families, was
made Confederate Senator, in Richmond, and afterwards
Attorney General in the Cabinet of President Jefferson Davis.
I recollect well when the seat of the Confederate government
was removed from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond,
Virginia. When President Davis and members of his
Cabinet arrived in Wilmington, on the way to Richmond,
people welcomed them, en masse! We had quite a large
reception at the depot of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad,
then on Nutt Street.
My father, being a warm and enthusiastic supporter of
President Davis, and a Secession-Democrat, was very
prominent at the reception; he escorted me across the mall,
and introduced me to the President, who put his hand on
my head and said to me, “Young man, you will live to be
a good man and make a valiant soldier, I know.” The train
departed shortly thereafter, carrying the visitors to
Richmond, where they established the new capital
for the Confederate States.”
characters during the war, and the most daring were the
blockade runners who brought goods in and out of
Wilmington. In Memoirs of an Octogenarian, Bellamy’s
son writes that “During the Civil War, one Roberts lived
here, across the street from our home; he was quite friendly
to our gang of boys; afterwards, he became Hobart Pasha
There also lived here prominent English, French and
German merchants, all engaged in blockade-running,
shipping cotton to various European ports, and
especially to Constantinople. The town was full also of
Confederate soldiers, who encamped at Camp Lamb
in the northern part of the city, at the present site of
Delgado Cotton Mills, now Spofford Mills (today’s
area of Wrightsville Avenue and Dawson Street), and
in South Wilmington, drilling to aid in the defense
of the city and the fortifications of the river”
Grovely Plantation, when Fort Fisher fell, and Fort Anderson
was evacuated, and the Confederate troops retreated to
Wilmington. He had sent a flat-load of provisions and wood
to Wilmington, and when it reached Lower Town Creek
Bridge (on current Highway 133), the Federal troops
seized it and drove the confederates back towards
Wilmington. In the battle that took place, Colonel
[Charles H.] Simonton, afterwards Judge of the United
er’s flat, with other captives, and carried to Wilmington
with the provisions and turned over to the Federal authorities.
to see the condition of the flat and the progress it had made,
when the Confederate troops…passed by and told my father
he had better go back, as the Federals were advancing and
our troops were retreating; just about that time, Minnie balls
came whistling through the air and falling like rain all around us!
We rode rapidly back to our home at Grovely and left
immediately for Floral College, where our family were
refugees until the close of the war.”
upon a place of refuge for his family due to the reports
of “depredations committed on the women and children”
by Northern troops as they overran Southern territory.
Being so close to Fort Fisher and possible invasion,
Mr. Bellamy rented Floral College in Robeson county
(twenty miles from Lumberton) along with friend
Oscar G. Parsley. Closed due to the war, the college
was composed of two connected buildings, Parsley
moved his family there in 1861 and occupied the
front house. The Bellamy’s did not move there until
the Yellow Fever epidemic broke out
in September 1862.
in Lumberton and moved there, perhaps anticipating the
Trustees of the college and their president, Rev. Daniel
Johnson, who planned to reopen the school. The Bellamy’s
then moved into Steward’s Hall on campus which was
their primary residence though they traveled back and
forth to Wilmington. In December 1865, they were in
Wilmington to hear the first bombardment of Fort Fisher
while staying at Grovely, and then back to Floral College
at the surrender of Wilmington.
“When Fort Fisher fell…the Federal troops marched to
Wilmington and took possession of the city, and immediately
seized my father’s residence, at Fifth and Market Streets, and
used it for headquarters; first, for Admiral Porter and General
Alfred Terry, the General Schuyler Colfax, and later General
Joseph Hawley, a Brigadier-General in the Federal Army,
though a native of Stewartsville, Richmond county.
My father had to pay severely for this aid and participation
in the so-called Rebellion. Besides his own activity, he sent
two sons to Virginia – one in the army and the other in the navy,
and was preparing to send me, another son, in the event the
war lasted long enough.”
on Wednesday, February 22, 1865: “My troops are put in camp
around the town, and I assume command of the place…and
fix my headquarters temporarily at the house of a Dr. Bellamy,
a fugitive rebel.” (Sprunt, page 499)
Bellamy’s son recalled the visit to Wilmington of a
high-ranking Radical Republican who spoke to a crowd
from the porch of his home: “On day I was with my school
mates, in their home next to the present City Hall, when a
band struck up music and started down Third Street to
Market, and up Market to Fifth, to the Headquarters of
General Hawley, our home.
There were in the procession about three thousand people,
chiefly Negroes. The band stopped at my father’s residence…
and played several national airs; immediately General Hawley
came out on the piazza and introduced to the audience the
Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,
the Honorable Salmon P. Chase.
Even then Chief Justice Chase had the presidential bug in
his bonnet. He claimed to have been, in politics, a former
Democrat, and was a candidate for the nomination for
president against General U.S. Grant. He took the
position that the Southern States were never out of the Union,
their efforts at secession being unsuccessful, and being
restored to the former status as States of the Union, they
were entitled to representatives not only in Congress
but in the Electoral College.”
Daughter Ellen Douglas Bellamy captured the Bellamy’s wartime
refugee and postwar experience in her book,
“Back With the Tides,” pp. 10-13:
jackets are coming!" There they were, like a swarm of bees
through the woods---and did we run! Like a pack of
blood-hounds they rode up---and such awful looking men!
Long hair down to their shoulders, not cut since before the war.
They were mostly from Indiana and Illinois. One of them really
escorted the McLauchlin's home safely, they having asked
for protection. Then they rushed in demanding food and drink.
the summer before at Grovely; when they tasted it and found it
too new and sweet, they pulled out the bung and let every bit
run on the ground. My mother was made to taste all food
before they would, for fear she had poisoned it. There was
a jar of young vegetables, in brine for pickling; one Yankee
tasted these and not finding them to his liking, spit
several times into the contents.
they appropriated anything they fancied, only missing a
few valuables---jewelry, etc., hidden in a hollow space
each side of the drawers...another big square tin cake-box
full of silver was buried on the lot...surprisingly it escaped
their bayonet thrusts which were made every few feet, feeling
for buried treasure. The silver forks used at every meal, my
mother wore down her stocking legs for several days, the
prongs of one inflicting a painful little
wound on the calf of her leg!
treated mother and sister with respect, but was a thief
with it all; he showed us a pocket full of jewelry and s
aid that he had "captured" those handsome rugs in
Cheraw (South Carolina). Our servants...were
completely demoralized...Guy, the coachman, came to
Mother and said he did not want to leave but the Yankees
made him, after taking his good shoes for themselves
and making him go bare-footed.
They had also taken my brother John's new homemade
shoes, and left him bare-footed on a cold, rainy, sleety day.
Just before the (Yankee) army moved away my brother
Robbie, a four-year old baby, cried for food. I never knew
'till then how it felt to be hungry. We had nothing to eat,
no wood (they had burned up every fence, no fire)! After
much effort we got a pan of fire coal from a neighbor
and made a little fire in our bedroom, cooked a pone of
corn bread and gave some to each of our
crowd (including the servants).
already had two children (never been married), rode down
in the ambulance with (Yankee Captain A.) Hickenlooper
(of Ohio)---an adjutant, I believe! Nine months from
that night she gave birth to twins, both mulattos, who
died while small children."
(Back With the Tide, pp. 10-13)
Free-Black and Slave Artisans in North Carolina:
came from slaves who had been taught a trade by their owners,
such as that of carpentry, masonry or cabinetry -- and often these
owners did not have enough work on the plantation to keep
them employed year round. Neighbors might hire the slave-
craftsmen and the practice arose of permitting such slaves to
go about the country looking for work.
The slave would carry a written statement to that effect, sort of
a license to work at large. Slaves would often bargain with
their owners and agree to pay him a certain sum each year in
return for the privilege of working whenever they chose, called
“hiring his time.” This could ultimately lead to the skilled and
often-employed slave to earn sufficient funds to purchase his
own freedom, and to purchase his own slaves.
(Antebellum North Carolina, page 531)
trades and “only the most likely were taught a trade. The
ordinary procedure in teaching a slave a profession was to
bring him up under the tutelage of a slave craftsman or
apprentice him to a free tradesman. [Those slaves thought
ingenious were bound] to some carpenter or bricklayer.”
(ANC, Page 541)
tailors, tanners, brick makers, carpenters, brick and stone masons,
cabinet makers, caterers, blacksmiths and shoemakers,” and they
often purchased their own black slaves to help in their businesses
(ANC, page 607).
The census of 1830 listed 192 free-blacks in North Carolina
who owned from one to 41 slaves, while almost half of that
number, 92, owned only one
(ANC, page 607).
trade in North Carolina. Very few of the skilled occupations were
without some free Negroes, and many came to be looked upon as
efficient and dependable. Free-black Joseph Dennis of Fayetteville,
was described by a white citizen as “a mechanic of considerable
skill and has frequently been in my employ.” His relative
Phillis Dennis owned 4 slaves herself in 1830.
John Caruthers Stanly, a free-black in New Bern, was one
of the leading barbers of the community and he “used the
profits which he earned at this occupation as his initial
investment in plantations and town property, making him
one of the wealthiest men and slaveowners in Craven
County,” owning 14 slaves in 1830.
Known as “Barber Jack,” Stanly was said at one time to be
worth more than $40,000. His son, John Stewart Stanly, born
a slave, was emancipated in 1802 and by 1830 owned eighteen
slaves himself. Donom Mumford, a free-black brick mason of
New Bern, owned ten slaves whom he employed in his business.
(The Free Negro in NC, Page 608
Free blacks experienced little difficulty in securing employment in
North Carolina in the building trades. Masons, brick makers, and
stone dressers were in demand in North Carolina’s growing towns,
and the protestations of white workers were not strong enough
to cause a ban to be placed on the use of free Negro
workers in these trades.
Free-black slaveowner John Y. Green, who owned
4 slaves in 1830, was a well-to-do carpenter and contractor
in New Bern who amassed a considerable fortune by securing
large jobs in connection with the building programs of his
hometown. It was largely through his own industry that
James D. Sampson was able to become a respected and
wealthy citizen in Wilmington. Almost 500 free-blacks
[in North Carolina] made their living
in the building trades in 1860.”
Certainly there were free-blacks who possessed slaves for the
purpose of advancing their own economic well-being and
free-black slaveholders were more interested in making their
farms or carpenter-shops “pay” than they were in treating their
slaves humanely. The capitalistic-minded free Negro owners of
slaves can usually be identified because of their extensive holdings
of realty and because of their inactivity in the manumission
movement. For thirty years, Thomas Day (of Milton,
North Carolina) used slaves to help him in his cabinetmaking
business. In 1830, he had two slaves; by 1860 he had three.
not unusual: eleven slaves were held in bondage by
Samuel Johnston of Bertie County in 1790; the 44 slaves
each owned by Gooden Bowen of Bladen County
and John Walker of New Hanover County in 1830;
and the 24 slaves owned by John Crichlon of Martin
County in 1830. “Free Negroes usually held one, two, or
three slaves…"These free-blacks in New Hanover County
owned more than one slave in 1830: Mary Cruise, 3;
Leuris Pajay, 4; John Walker, 44; Roger Hazell, 5;
James Campbell, 2; and Henry Sampson who
owned 5 black slaves.
Opposition to Northern and Black Tradesmen:
to their economic status. In 1850 white mechanics held rallies
across the State to object to competition from northern workmen
and underpricing from local free blacks. They petitioned the
legislature to bind all free blacks to white masters for life…or to
encourage them to leave the State.
law passed that forbade blacks to hire, apprentice, or own
slaves; this measure, while not retroactive, aimed a potentially
fatal blow at the leading free black builders, who depended
on [slave labor].
the [white and black] slaveholding classes. In Wilmington...
On a hot summer midnight in 1857, a group of men vandalized
a building under construction and left notice that “a similar course
would be pursued, in all cases against buildings to be erected
by Negro contractors or carpenters.” The action was attributed
to an “organized association” of 250 or more workmen.
were “cared for by their master’s, were at trifling expense for
living, and were thereby enabled to underbid them in contracts.”
They insisted this system “cheapened labor to such a degree that
they the white mechanics could not live, and would be compelled
to abandon their occupations or to leave the place.”
supported a proposal to tax slaves on an ad valorem basis –
as property taxed “at value” rather than as polls or individuals
[and] this proposal would have increased the tax paid on slaves
and thus hurt slave owners and help those who competed against
slave workers. This was a hot issue in the gubernatorial election
of 1860, and the workingman’s association urged fellow
mechanics and workingmen to “look to their own rights and
interests, and to insist on that political equality and that
participation in public affairs to which they
as free men are entitled.”
The extensive use of free-black carpenters on the Bellamy Mansion
can probably be attributed to Dr. Bellamy's frugal nature and
directing those engaged to save money; and New Jersey-born
architect James Post's regular hiring of less expensive labor
from skilled free-blacks and slaves for his construction projects.
Sources and further reading on this topic:
About the Author:
Bernhard Thuersam is the Director of the Cape Fear Historical Institute
in Wilmington. He is a native of Niagara Falls, New York and a
devoted student of world history since 1958. He is a former
Chairman of the Cape Fear Museum Board of Trustees.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bibliography and Sources:
Back With The Tide, Ellen D. Bellamy, Bellamy Museum, 1937/2002
Cyclopedia of Men of the Carolinas, 19th Century, Brant & Fuller, 1892
History of New Hanover County, A.M. Waddell, 1909
Architects and Builders in North Carolina, Bishir, UNC Press 1990
©2006 Cape Fear Historical Institute