north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Located on Northeast Cape Fear River, Benjamin Heron’s ca. 1768 drawbridge served as a trade and travel link between Wilmington and points north. The colonial assembly authorized the construction of the bridge in 1766, specifying that the bridge was to have “one wide arch of thirty feet for rafts and pettiaugurs to pass through and six feet high above high water mark, and be made to draw up occasionally for the navigation of vessels of larger burthern.”
     The drawbridge was made of cypress timber and used a pulley system equipped with chains that opened the middle of the bridge. The bridge was part of the “Duplin Road,” which served as an important trade route north. It was the only drawbridge of its day in North Carolina and one of very few in the colonies.

     Heron’s bridge was a landmark in the region and served as a guard point during the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge. Janet Schaw marveled at the bridge, calling it a “noble structure.” British forces led by James Craig destroyed the bridge late in the Revolutionary War, on January 30, 1781, after a skirmish with Whigs led by Alexander Lillington.

     Benjamin Heron, a minor colonial official who had served in the British Navy, built the drawbridge. Heron, considered a master of sailing, was responsible for bringing a fire engine from London to Wilmington to protect the city. Heron eventually was appointed lieutenant general of the governor’s forces during the Regulator movement in North Carolina, but left North Carolina before the Revolution. The popularity and the convenience of the drawbridge eventually heralded a need for drawbridges along other Carolina coast routes.

Lawrence Lee, The Lower Cape Fear in the Colonial Days (1965)
Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality (1782)
William L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, X, 465-467
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 119—sketch of Benjamin Heron by Donald R. Lennon
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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