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What’s the history of the El Paso community in Brunswick County?

Ben Steelman
StarNews

We stumped a lot of locals asking about “El Paso,” and no wonder. The name hasn’t been used, apparently, since the early 1900s.

According to the “Unincorporated Communities” page at www.brunswickcountync.gov, El Paso was the name of a post office in what is now the Lanvale community. Post office records show it was established on Aug. 13, 1877, discontinued on Nov. 4, 1878, re-established on June 12, 1884, then closed for good on Dec. 31, 1909.

William W. Drew was the first El Paso postmaster, followed by Carrie C. Drew on June 12, 1884, and John J. Knox, who took over on June 24, 1902. The John J. Knox House still stands at 7941 Ocean Highway East.

According to Lawrence Lee’s “History of Brunwick County,” El Paso had a sawmill and possibly a turpentine distillery.

Although the post office closed in 1909, the old El Paso post office was a stop on the Wilmington, Brunswick and Southern Railroad, a 30-mile line that ran from Navassa to Southport between 1911 and 1942. Called the “Willing But Slow” by locals, the struggling line was shut down early in World War II, and the U.S. War Department recycled its steel tracks for the war effort. (For more on this railroad, click here.)

The Lanvale post office opened in 1912, and the name seems to have been accepted for the whole community soon afterward. SR 1438 in northeastern Brunswick County is known as Lanvale Road.

The questioner noted that a number of Gores lived in the El Paso area. Among these was Jesse Dewitt Gore Sr. (1831-1907), who is buried in the Chadwick Cemetery in Leland. Gore was apparently a member of Bethel Primitive Baptist Church near Hickman’s Crossroads and was chosen as a messenger to the Mill Branch Association in 1887.

RELATED LINKS:

Why do they call it Leland?

Where was the old Leland High School, and when did it close?

User-contributed question by:
Rita Gore Scheckler

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One Response to “ What’s the history of the El Paso community in Brunswick County?”

  1. On November 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm Steve Clemmons wrote:

    I know the area very well, having spent most of my early childhood there. An interesting note, it was located on the old Cornwallis Road, which snaked through the woods from the forks at the Brunswick River to join the old King George Road, commonly known as the Gerogetown highway that began in the town of old Brunswick and the two roads joined up where hiway 87 and hiway 17 meet. then continued southward towards Georgetown, South Carolina.
    At one time in the early beginnings, it was part of the ocean hiway from New England southward.
    When Cornwallis invaded the southeaster part of NC and made Wilmington his headquarters, he had to cut roads through the heavy brush and forrests to move his troops and heavy artillary to where it was needed. This is one of his roads. Parts of it is still there, but overgrown with trees and brush.
    As children, we used to play on the concrete foundations for the steam engine and boiler for the saw mill. We knew most of Mr. Joe Knox’s children’s (3rd generation) younger family and often spent time around his house since his daughter lived next door. He was probably one of the original merchants in Brunswick County that had his hand in about everything, used to get his store goods shipped to the old docks on Town Creek at the Bellamy Plantation. (Now Brunswick Forrest) They carted everything overland about four miles to his place of business. He also had a grist mill, bee hives and saw mill that was located near his home as well as home canned food that his family prepared on the farms.
    He worked hard to make sure that each one of his children had a college education. As a county commissioner, he was responsible for getting a large ferry to carry goods and people between Brunswick County and Wilmington. The John Knox ferry boat is now burried in the mud along the the Cape Fear River accross from Wilmington.
    Thanks SN Staff for bringing back many good memories.



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