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Submitted by James E. Buxton Jr.; Researched & written by Leisa Greathouse; edited by Cheri Todd Molter

Research to this point has uncovered a few primary documents about Daniel “Dan” Buxton. Census records for the years 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1910 lists inconsistent dates for his birth year. His gravestone gives his birthdate as February 3, 1828.

Dan Buxton became well known for his skills as a pilot on the Cape Fear River onboard the steamer A. P. Hurt. The A. P. Hurt was owned by the Cape Fear Steamboat Company. United States troops occupying Fayetteville in March 1865, seized the steamboats A. P. Hurt and the North Carolina and used them for the purpose of hauling freight and passengers between Fayetteville and Wilmington. In 1890, claims were made against the U.S. Government for compensation. Daniel Buxton gave sworn testimony to a local notary public to what he knew about the seizures of the steamboats:

NORTH CAROLINA, Cumberland County: DANIEL BUXTON, being duly sworn, says that in the year 1865 he was the pilot on the steamer A. P. Hurt, a steamboat belonging to the Cape Fear Steamboat Company, plying between Fayetteville and Wilmington, N. C., and had been so engaged for sometime before that said year; that in the month of March, 1865, the said steamer was up the Cape Fear River, about 12 miles above the town of Fayetteville, N. C., where the said boat had been carried by her owners to keep her out of the way of the Confederate forces, and to prevent her seizure by them; that while at this place this affiant was in charge of said boat for the purpose of caring for her, and was so placed in charge by the owners of said boat; that at this time, which was about the 11th or 12th of March, 1865, the boat was taken in charge by the officers of the U. S. Army, and was used by them for sometime thereafter, that is, for about eight months, as she was turned back to the owners sometime during the latter part of November of the same year. Affiant was pilot on the said steamer all the time during the year 1865, and has personal knowledge of the foregoing, and that the said boat was run continuously after her seizure for the U. S. Government, and by her officers of the same and under their immediate direction. Affiant is of the opinion, from the amount of freights the said boat carried each trip, and from the prices he knows were charged and the large amount of business done during the time said boat was in charge of the U. S. Government, that the freights and passenger lists would have amounted at least to eight thousand dollars each and every month. Affiant further says that the running expenses of the boat was not more than $1,200.00 or $1,500.00 dollars per month; that the carrying capacity of said boat is 140 tons, and she can carry thirty passengers in the cabin, which was the number allowed for her to carry, and thirty on deck; but the boat during the time affiant is speaking of carried largely more than that number. Affiant has often seen as many as fifty or more cabin passengers on the boat and as many more of deck passengers during the time she was under the U. S. Government control and in its use. Affiant has no hesitation in saying that the boat at the time the Government had her would have been worth to the owners at least $7,000.00 for each and every month that she was in the Government use and control. Affiant is a citizen of Fayetteville, N. C., and is now 55 years of age and in his 56th year, and has been a pilot on the Cape Fear River for 36 years, in which business he is now engaged, and has no interest in the claim now preferred by the owners for compensation.


Sworn to and subscribed before me this 9th day of April, 1890.

[SEAL.]                                                                                     GEO. G. MYROVER,                                                                                                                             Notary Public.

The above testimony was published in the records of the House of Representatives from the first session of the 52nd Congress.[1]

In addition to being a riverboat pilot on the A. P. Hurt, Buxton was nominated for town commissioner. The Wilmington Morning Star published an article on December 28, 1869, declaring that “[t]he good people of Fayetteville, thoroughly disgusted with the party in power, and satisfied that a Liberal movement could alone result in its defeat, have held a meeting and nominated a ticket ‘without regard to race, color or previous condition. …We give the ticket in full: For Mayor—T. S. Lutterloh. For Commissions—James R. Lee, J. W. Welsh, A. A. McKethan, Robert Burton (col.), Dan’l Buxton (col.), David Jones and John Shaw.” [2] By 1869, Dan Buxton had gone from an enslaved man to being nominated for a position as town commissioner. Perhaps just as notable is the circumstance that Buxton was on the same nomination ticket with T. S. Lutterloh, the nominee for mayor, who was the brother-in-law of Judge Ralph Buxton, Dan Buxton’s former enslaver. (Lutterloh was married to Mary Frances Buxton, Ralph Buxton’s sister.)

In addition to being a riverboat pilot and political nominee, Dan Buxton enjoyed what we might call celebrity status in our modern-day culture. In one short notice, for example, The Wilmington Morning Star printed that “Dan Buxton, the well-known colored pilot of the Upper Cape Fear brings good news from the river counties. Dan says the farmers have begun plowing, and that there will be much less cotton and more corn, peas and potatoes planted this year.”[3] Also, on October 12, 1899, The Wilmington Morning Star , under the heading “River News,” reported that “Dan Buxton, the veteran Cape Fear pilot on the Hurt,” was working on the E. A. Hawes “until his ‘first love’ comes off the ways at Skinner’s ship yard.” (Meaning that the A. P. Hurt was likely undergoing routine maintenance.)

Furthermore, in one newspaper, Buxton was celebrated for his 51 years of service on the Cape Fear River. Another newspaper announcement paid special attention to his 76th birthday in 1905. The birthday notice referred to him as “Uncle Dan.” Three years later, the Fayetteville Weekly Observer reported on June 11, 1908, that Dan Buxton was “very ill at his home on Moore street.”

In 1902, a reporter with the Charlotte Observer wrote about an excursion he took down the Cape Fear River from Fayetteville to Wilmington. He stated: “Our every desire was gratified. In the persons of Abram Dunn and Dan Buxton, two polite negroes, the A. P. Hurt has two very attractive characters. Abe is the steward and Dan the pilot. Old Dan is nearly 75 years old and has been on the Cape Fear 52 years. He knows every crook and turn in the river and can tell some delightful stories of long-ago. He was born at Spring Hill, Rowan County, on the old Chambers place. His owner was Mrs. Mack Chambers, who afterwards married Mr. Thomas Jennings, of Anson county, after his death, Rev. Jarvis Buxton, of Newbern. At the death of Mr. Buxton Dan fell to his son, Ralph, who became Judge Buxton. It was after the death of his old master that Dan was hired out to the captain of the ‘Governor Graham,’ the property of the Cape Fear Steamboat Company. Since that time he has served on the ‘Chatham,’ the ‘Flora McDonald,’ the ‘Governor Worth,’ and the ‘A. P. Hurt.’ Dan is a very capable pilot. He says that he knows that he has made more trips than any other man on the top side of the earth. … In Abe and Dan Capt. Robeson has two reliable helpers.”

Primary documents verify what the reporter wrote. In the last will and testament of the Rev. Jarvis Buxton, a man he enslaved named Dan was hired out to a W. Smith in Anson County. Jarvis Buxton died in 1851, at which time, his son Ralph became Dan Buxton’s enslaver until emancipated at the end of the war.

In the 1870 census, Dan Buxton was listed along with an “inferred spouse;” a woman named Sophia who is 30 years old. Sophia’s race was listed as mulatto. Unfortunately, there is little known about Sophia. She appeared in the 1880 census as Buxton’s wife with a daughter named Mattie, aged three, and an adopted daughter, Ada Moore, aged 15. Sophia likely died in the early 1880s since records verify the Dan remarried in 1885. A marriage license for Daniel Buxton and Mary Payne (though spelled both Pain and Payne on the same document), was found: It was dated December 26, 1885, and signed by the minister, Henry McDuffie, on January 6, 1886.

Due to his role in serving Union troops in March 1865, a pension index record for Buxton, filed on April 6, 1892, notes his service on the A. P. Hurt in the transportation service of the quartermaster department, U.S. volunteers.

Dan Buxton died on August 30, 1910. On his death certificate his occupation was listed as “50 yrs. pilot on the Cape Fear River.” His obituary was published in both the Fayetteville Observer and The Wilmington Morning Star. His funeral took place at St. Joseph’s church where he was a member and a vestryman since the church was organized.[4]

In piecing together the life of Daniel Buxton using primary and secondary resources, there are inconsistencies with his birthyear, his age, and how many years he piloted the A. P. Hurt and other boats between Fayetteville and Wilmington on the Cape Fear River—the only river in North Carolina that flows directly into the Atlantic Ocean. There is one consistency in both the primary and secondary resources—Buxton was well respected for his abilities as a pilot and his upstanding character as a citizen in the community.

[1] House documents (googleusercontent.com), pages 15 & 16.

[2] The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, North Carolina) · 28 Dec 1869, Tue · Page 2

[3] The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, North Carolina) · 21 Feb 1892, Sun · Page 1

[4] The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, North Carolina) · 1 Sep 1910, Thu · Page 5


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