According to his 1773 journal, itinerant minister Joseph Pilmoor (who had preached the first Methodist sermon in North Carolina in 1772), stopped to eat at the “Boundary House” and indicated that this structure stood exactly on the line between the two Carolinas.
He stated that the Boundary House had been built by twentyfour gentlemen – twelve from each province—as a meeting place. He further noted that the accommodations were extremely good.
The site chosen was a good one; it sits on a rise only a few hundred feet from the Calabash River near Little River Inlet.
It would have been the most convenient place to meet in the 1700s, when most travel was by boat. The site also enjoys a magnificent view.
When the province of Carolina was divided into North and South Carolina in 1712, the boundary between the two provinces was the Cape Fear River. All the land which became Brunswick County was in South Carolina.
In November 1729, the North Carolina General Assembly created New Hanover County and they moved the boundary southeast to Little River Inlet. In 1735 the present boundary was officially established, and the Boundary House was probably built a short time afterward.
Over the years the Boundary House served as a meeting place, a place to hold religious services, a “public house” or tavern, and a place of residence.
On May 9, 1775, a courier from Brunswick Town arrived there, bearing the news of the Battle of Lexington. Justice of the Peace Isaac Marion, an older brother of “Swamp Fox” Francis Marion, was living at the Boundary House. He rushed the message to the Committee of Safety at Little River and other committees southward to Charles- ton and Savannah.
In 1776 The Boundary House briefly paid host to General Nash and his army of nine thousand Continental soldiers who encamped around the building while on the march from Wilmington to Charleston.
It is also sometimes rumored that George Washington slept at the Boundary House on his southern tour in 1791. Though it is not known for certain, since the Boundary House was on his route it’s likely he at least stopped there.
The Boundary House was considered an ideal place to fight duels. North Carolina law forbade dueling, so it was an easy matter to just step over the line if North Carolina officers arrived to break up an illegal fight.
On June 28, 1805, Gen. Benjamin Smith and Capt. Maurice Moore held a duel at the boundary house. Both men fired and missed.
They both took one pace forward and fired again. General Smith fell to the ground with a bullet in his chest. He recovered—going on to fight more duels and to become governor of North Carolina.
An old North Carolina law would not allow the body of a debtor to be released for burial until the debt was paid, and according to a story, when Gen. Smith later died in debt, his family secretly buried the body.
Years later, when family members attempted to locate the body, they were unable to positively identify it. But a local woman told them that that the bullet taken at the Boundary House had never been removed. Using a sifter to sort through the remains, she found the bullet that identified the general.
By the time of the Civil War, the Boundary House was in ruin (a mapping error refers to “Old Boundary House Chimney”). The line was surveyed again in 1928, and the surveyors located the brick used in the house’s chimney and piers.
Today only a small, slender stone monument stands in the tall grass to mark the site of this house that witnessed so much history.
The excerpt you are reading is from the book “Tales of the Silver Coast” by author and illustrator Miller Pope and author Jacqueline DeGroot.