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How did St. James get its name?

Ben Steelman

Here’s a mystery. The town of St. James, incorporated in 1999, obviously takes its name from St. James Plantation, the planned community that makes up most of its population. First projected in the early 1980s, work began on the site in 1985, and the first homes and the first golf course, The Gauntlet, were completed in 1991.

But how did St. James Plantation get its name? Hard to tell. A blog post at the community’s website, www.stjamesplantation.com, has a lot of material about founder Homer Wright and his vision. (He spent decades trying to find his parents a nice place to retire.) Nothing’s mentioned, however, about why Mr. Wright chose to name it St. James. Inquiries at the St. James Plantation office yielded no answer.

Neither Alfred Moore Waddell nor Lawrence Lee, the historians who wrote the most about early Brunswick County, mention a plantation named St. James anywhere in the vicinity. In colonial North Carolina, St. James was the name of the Church of England parish on the east bank of the Cape Fear River (the ancestor of Wilmington’s St. James Episcopal Church). The parish on the west bank, the Brunswick side, was St. Philip’s. (The ruins of St. Philip’s church can still be seen at the Brunswick Town State Historic Site.)

Perhaps Wright and the other founders wanted a subliminal suggestion of St. Andrews, the legendary home of golf in Scotland. (Golfers have been teeing off at the Old Course at St. Andrews since the 1400s.) St. James Plantation, after all, offers 81 holes of golf on 4 1/2 courses, designed by the likes of P.B. Dye, Hale Irwin and Nicklaus Design.

In 2000, the population of St. James was 804; 10 years later, the U.S. census counted 3,104 residents. The town’s website currently estimates population at more than 3,200. Most of these (again, according to the town’s website) are “vibrantly active retirees.” More than 75 percent of the town’s population is aged 60 or older.

Efforts by the town to annex additional land along N.C. 211 and Midway Road sparked protests from neighbors in 2009. The controversy seemed largely settled in early 2010 when St. James and nearby Oak Island approved a cooperation pact on any future expansion.


What is Brunswick County’s biggest town?

Why are there no signs on U.S. 17 directing motorists to Oak Island?

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