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What’s the real story behind the “hanging” in the old meat packing plant at Navassa?

Ben Steelman

Local legend has it that the plant closed in the 1920s after the owner was found hanging in the plant.

Mayor Eulis Willis of Navassa, who wrote a book about the Brunswick County town’s history, did a little research and found there was at least a little truth to the story. However, it doesn’t look as if anybody was hanged there.

Here are the facts: On May 15, 1921, the Wilmington Morning Star ran a front page story on the shocking death of G. Herbert Smith, president of the Cape Fear Packing Co., who had been found dead the previous day of “asphyxiation” — in the bathroom of his house at Fifth and Dock streets in Wilmington. The story went on to praise Smith at lengthl but provided tantalizingly few details. That reticience suggests to Willis that Smith might have committed suicide, possibly by hanging.

According to Wilmington city directories, the Cape Fear Packing Co. had offices in the Murchison Building at 201 Front St. in Wilmington as well as cold storage facilities on the 500 block of North Second Street. In a letter to the editor that ran May 16, 1921, in the Morning Star, E.W. Clawson praised Smith for having “builded” Wilmington’s most modern packing plant — pretty obviously referring to the Navassa plant.

According to city directories, J.A. Taylor succeeded Smith as president of Cape Fear Packing Co. Entries for the business vanish after the 1922 edition.

At least one person did die at the packing plant, though. On June 5, 1982, a 16-year-old fell to his death from the decaying four-story structure while hanging out with friends on an upper story. A Morning Star story at the time indicated this wasn’t the first time someone had been hurt there.

Meanwhile, a story in the Oct. 29, 2008, edition of the State Port Pilot of Southport reported that a psychic research group had detected paranormal activity at the Cape Fear Packing site.

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One Response to “ What’s the real story behind the “hanging” in the old meat packing plant at Navassa?”

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