WINNABOW, NC (WECT) – Jim McKee, historical interpreter at Brunswick Town, is making lots of discoveries these days at the state historic site near Winnabow.
He found a shoe, textiles, and a water jug from the 1700s, among other things – historic treasures that were buried in the banks of the Cape Fear River.
But the river that made the site a major colonial port is threatening its history more than 200 years later.
"Being a river, we're dealing with a constant current," said McKee. "We're dealing with constant waves."
And those waves are wearing away at the shoreline. They've exposed those treasures that McKee found - and something else.
"These wooden logs, these long pieces of wood that you see, they were not put there by us," said site manager Brenda Bryant, wearing mud boots and standing along the banks of the river. "That is the crib wharf from the eighteenth century,"
The timbers, which McKee compares to Lincoln logs, were revealed in 2010 due to erosion along the shoreline.
According to Bryant, finding a colonial-era wharf in its original location is extremely rare.
"Once it was exposed, we knew, this is a whole different project that we have to take on," she said, referring to efforts to stabilize the shoreline.
Funding for the project, placed at $850,000, was included in the N.C. Office of State Budget and Management's list of recommended statewide repair and renovation projects released recently.
The list includes 191 construction projects totaling $90 million.
The stabilization project at Fort Anderson would not only protect the wharf, but the entire waterfront, including unfound artifacts, Bryant stresses.
"There is a ruin just up here in the grass that we theorize might have been the old customs house," McKee said pointing inland while standing near the wharf.
Bryant hopes the funding is approved. After all, once the history is gone, it's lost forever.
"You have to have the foresight in order to look in the future 50, 100 years. Certainly I will not be here, but we are looking that far ahead," she said.
The General Assembly's Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations is expected to meet later this month to review the list of recommended repair and renovation projects.
Brunswick Town officials warn would-be treasure seekers that the historic site is monitored by surveillance cameras.