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What is the history of the old house at the end of Porters Lane in Rocky Point?

The Dr. Elisha Porter Plantation House was built around 1840. Photo courtesy of the Pender County Public Library.

Q. I lived in the Rocky Point area a good portion of my life. There is a tract of land and an old home located at the end of Porters Lane, off U.S. 117. The road is private access and is long, lined with majestic magnolia trees. What is the history of this property? I have always heard it was a large plantation. Who now owns the property?

A. The property at 1048 Porters Lane Road in Rocky Point, which you are referring to, is the Dr. Elisha Porter Plantation House, also known as Porter’s Plantation.

According to researcher Elizabeth MacChainnigh’s extensive research, dated 2006 and held by the Pender County Library in Burgaw, the Dr. Elisha Porter Plantation House reflects the Greek Revival and Italianate styles of architecture common in the antebellum South. It’s a significant property because of the surviving structures and its association with the founding of Pender County in 1875.

The circa 1840 two-story plantation home sits on a 13.5-acre tract of land and was purchased at a public auction in New Hanover County in August 1868 by prominent physician and entrepreneur Dr. Elisha Porter, who was born in 1832 and died in 1906.

The Porter home and property consists of one of the few intact plantation houses with historic kitchen and slave quarters, post-and-beam barn and Porter’s doctor’s office, MacChainnigh’s research indicated. A smokehouse and weaving/infirmary house are among other surviving structures on the property. Dr. Porter’s medical office building dates from the 1870’s.

According to information about the Porter plantation from Pender County library’s Heritage Collection, Dr. Elisha Porter, who served under Confederate Major General William Dorsey Pender during the Civil War, was instrumental in the establishment of Pender County as a separate entity from New Hanover County and recommended the name of the new county to the state legislature.

Porter was also involved in innovative and enterprising agricultural production in the post-Civil War economy.

Pender Library Director Mike Taylor said Dr. Porter’s son, E. Pender Porter, who was born in 1875 and died in 1943, also became a physician and retained the plantation. Pender Porter was very interested in the Rocky Point community and donated generously to the Pender County Training School, a Rosenwald-funded school for African-American students.

Today, the home is privately owned and not open to the public, but current owner, Kathleen Kowal, an attorney who bought the property about seven years ago, says the old historical structures remain intact.

Kowal says she uses the property as a horse farm for rescued horses that others do not want and currently shares the property with six aging rescued horses. Kowal said she was attracted to the property, more than to the historic house itself. “I was looking for a place to keep the horses, and it was the land (that attracted me). The drive is lined with magnolia trees and there’s a forest that’s just full of magnolia trees and crepe myrtles everywhere,” Kowal said. “The property is so beautiful. It’s so timeless, when people come here they feel like it’s kind of enchanted because of the timelessness of it.”

Photographs of the house and grounds may be viewed online in the Pender County Public Library Digital Archive.


User-contributed question by:
M. Mclamb II

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3 Responses to “ What is the history of the old house at the end of Porters Lane in Rocky Point?”

  1. On July 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm Betsy Casey wrote:

    I believe this beautiful place was known as Magnolia Plantation….I had the opportunity to go in there as I called and told her my Great Grandfather had gotten married in the front room…It was a beautiful home upstairs and down and I do thank her for letting us visit
    Betsy and Charles Casey

  2. On July 30, 2013 at 11:51 am Taylor Barbour wrote:

    My mother grew up in that house, and lived on the neighboring property as she got older. I remember visiting my grandparents who lived next door for many years after they sold it. We would visit with the family living there and enjoyed long walks under the magnolias. It is a wonderful and beautiful property, and thankful that it has been loved by so many.

  3. On July 6, 2017 at 9:26 am Virginia Oertel Bussey wrote:

    My family ( the Oertels ) lived in the Porter house in the mid 1950’s. I attended Burgaw High school. When we lived there there was a circular hedge in front of the house and a carriage barn to the left of the house. Besides the beautiful magnolia lane there were huge azalea bushes close by. Before you crossed the railroad tracks, which are no longer there, the road was lined with cabins which black families lived in, which are no longer there. I guess that at one time those cabins were lived in by slaves. I recently drove up there but could not get near the house or even see it for that matter.

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