Around Masonboro Sound, 120 years ago, Baron Stowe Montford (1849-1909) was a prominent citizen — a sometime justice of the piece, school committee member, two-term New Hanover County Commissioner and a prominent member of Masonboro Baptist Church.
Born April 14, 1849, Montford moved from Murphreysboro (now Murfeesboro), N.C., in northeastern Hertford County, as a small boy and settled with his family in the Myrtle Grove Sound area. His father, George Montford (1815-1852), died in Hertford County. His mother, Sarah D. Jenkins Montford, died May 28, 1904, at the age of 83, and was buried in Masonboro Baptist Church Cemetery.
Baron Montford married Sarah Montgomery in 1873; the couple had seven children. In 1882, he completed a new house for his growing family on the old John J. Beasley property “in the forks of Hewlett’s Creek.” (That’s according to “Between the Creeks, Revised” by Crockette W. Hewlett and Mona Smalley, published in 1985 — a prime source of information on the Montfords.)
A farmer, Montford quickly became prominent in local affairs. In 1882, he became a member of the school committee for “District 4,” which covered the Masonboro area, and he continued serving for a number of years. As school committee chairman, he oversaw the construction of a new school for white students in 1890 and a new school for “colored” students in 1894. He was a pollholder for the Masonboro precinct in the 1882 elections. In 1886, he was a delegate to New Hanover County’s Democratic convention. He was elected a county commissoner in 1894 and was re-elected in 1898. At Masonboro Baptist Church, he was a deacon, church clerk and superintendent of the Sunday school.
According to Hewlett and Smalley, Montford was the victim of a bizarre accident. One day, he was raking pine straw in the woods near the present-day location of Hugh MacRae Park. Returning home in his wagon, he was struck in the head by a stray bullet, apparently fired randomly by a neighbor who thought he was alone. The doctor treating Montford installed a steel plate in his head. Apparently, it caused few if any ill effects — Montford lived for several more years, until June 13, 1909, when he was found dead in a field after setting out to plow on what was described as an unseasonably hot day. He was buried beside his mother in the Masonboro Baptist churchyard.
Date posted: June 17, 2009
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