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How did Scotts Hill get its name?

Ben Steelman

According to local historian Nola Nadeau, the region was named for a family named Scott who (surprise!) lived on a knoll or hill in the vicinity of what is now the Old Scotts Hill AME Church, 10720 U.S. 17, Wilmington [Map this]. Apparently, the roads in the vicinity were quite rough, and after floods, people would try to contact the Scotts to see if a way was passable.

Today, the name Scotts Hill is applied to a community straddling the Pender/New Hanover County line along U.S. 17, between Porters Neck to the south and Browntown (named for the local Brown family) to the north. Maurice Moore, of Orton Plantation fame, had held a colonial land grant in the vicinity, and Cornelius Harnett, the Patriot leader, bought 170 acres there in 1767. The center of the area, however, was Poplar Grove Plantation, founded by James Foy Jr. in 1795 and famed as a center for peanut cultivation. Since 1980, the plantation has been operated by a non-profit corporation as an educational facility and is open to the public. A number of Foys and Foy descendants still live in the area.

President George Washington passed through Scotts Hill in 1791, on his way from New Bern to Wilmington, as part of his famous “Southern Tour.” By local tradition, he and his party paused for lunch under a large oak tree. In 1925, the DAR placed a marker at a likely candidate for the famous oak; an expansion of U.S. 17 was re-routed in 1997 to save it. “The Washington Oak” now stands on the west side of U.S. 17 between the Washington Acres and Deerfield subdivisions.

In 1819, President James Monroe passed through Scotts Hill, where he was met by local dignitaries and escorted to Wilmington.

The area was an early center of Methodism. The circuit-riding Bishop Francis Asbury passed through Scotts Hill in 1796 and reported in his journal that he found a “warm welcome.” A Methodist meeting house was built near the present site of Old Scotts Hill AME in 1819. Wesleyan Chapel United Methodist Church was founded in 1874. The present church, at 10255 U.S. 17, Wilmington [Map this], dates from 1931, replacing an earlier building that was destroyed by fire.

Scotts Hill Baptist Church, 185 Scotts Hill Road, Wilmington [Map this], was founded in 1979 and now numbers more than 2,500 members.

By the early 1900s, Scotts Hill had a railroad station, telegraph station, saw mill and grist mill. During the 1930s, cattle from the Midwest — left without feed or grazing land by the “Dust Bowl” storms — were shipped to the Scotts Hill area and penned there for several years. Scotts Hill Marina, 2570 Scotts Hill Loop Road, Wilmington [Map this], was founded in the 1940s by original owner Woody Sandlin. It has been used as a location in several films.

Poplar Grove Plantation plays host to a farmers’ market each Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from mid-April thorugh mid-December. The Edens family operates a popular produce market at 10171 U.S. 17, Wilmington [Map this], near the Sidbury Road intersection.

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One Response to “ How did Scotts Hill get its name?”

  1. On September 10, 2009 at 8:02 am Mike Sandlin wrote:

    Thank you for giving my dad credit for founding Scotts Hill Marina. I very often do not hear my dads name mention when talking about the history of the marina. I have many memories growing up during my elementary years on the property in the house that overlooks the basin. Of course when he started the marina, the use of marina in the name was not popular. The original name was Woody’s Boat Basin. Once again thank you.

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