Mermaids are said to be the fairly tale creatures of the sea, they swam up from the coast to wash the salt from their hair, so it would be more shiny and beautiful. The sailors said that the mermaids would sit on the sandbar at night, combing their long hair in the moonlight. They would dive below the surface if they were spotted by anyone, or if anyone called out to them or try to approach.
Mermaid Point is the name of the spot in southeastern Chatham County where the Deep and Haw rivers meet to form the Cape Fear River. From Mermaid Point, the Cape Fear flows through eastern North Carolina down to around Wilmington, where it broadens and finally joins the sea near Bald Head Island.
The name Cape Fear is said to come from the 16th century explorers Sir Richard Grenville and John White, both of whom nearly wrecked their ships when navigating the cape.
The Cape Fear River was one of the early economic drivers of North Carolina. It provided transportation from Piedmont down to the port of Wilmington, although going all the way down the river required passing through a series of dangerous falls and rapids.
The river was once teeming with Atlantic Sturgeon, a strange-looking, species of fish that spends most of its life in the oceans but, like the salmon, travels up into fresh water to spawn. The sturgeon’s eggs are highly prized as caviar, and because of this it was hunted to near extinction in the 19th Century. With all of this potential for money to be made, the banks of the Cape Fear became a draw for settlers.
In 1740, four Scotsmen from Argyllshire, Duncan Campbell, James McLaughlin, and the brothers Hector and Neill McNeil purchased several large tracts of land in the area where the Haw and Deep rivers merged into the Cape Fear to form a town named Lockville.
And it was on this channel that people said they saw the mermaids.It’s from this gathering that the area came to be known as Mermaid Point. The town of Lockville failed to thrive, when it was destroyed in a flood.
This was about the same time that the sightings of the mermaids stopped. It’s noted that the disappearance of the mermaids seemed to coincide with the building of the first of a series of dams and locks along the course of the Cape Fear, perhaps cutting off the path of the mermaids up from the sea.
As for that mermaid-drawing sandbar, sadly, it’s no longer visible. The construction of Buck-horn Dam raised the water levels in the area and the sandbar sank beneath the surface.