The historic Town of Clarkton recently had their IT Support Company, Hooks Systems of Wilmington, NC, upgrade their server and network infrastructure. Hooks systems provides Remote Monitoring and Management of Clarkton’s computer network through their IT RemoteCare Service. A new 64-bit Windows Server has boosted their speed of data access and processing forms and payments in addition to providing an increased level of security for the town’s public records which date back to the 1700’s.
Some of these early property records tell a fascinating story including the home of a lady who would become famous for all time-Whistler’s mother.
According to The Bladen Journal:
Anna McNeill Whistler was born in Wilmington to Dr. Daniel and Martha Kingsley McNeill on September 27, 1804. Her father was a member of a prominent family who owned Oak Forest Plantation in what was then the Brown Marsh community and later became Clarkton.
A chimney and some other bricks from the old McNeill house, which burned to the ground in 1933, still lie on the property, located in the east of end of Clarkton off Burney Ford Road.
According to one account on the history of the land, the plantation house of Oak Forest Plantation was constructed in 1737. Anna lived at Oak Forest at various times up until the Civil War.
According to family accounts, she spent her childhood between North Carolina and New York and when she was about 20, she fell in love with a classmate of her brother, who was a cadet at West Point.
The classmate, George Washington Whistler, married another woman, when he graduated from West Point. However, his wife died seven years later and he renewed his relationship with Anna McNeill and later married her.
G. W. Whistler was a well-known engineer during the period and helped design and build the first railroad in the United States. He later moved to Russia to take charge of a project to build a railroad from St. Petersburg to Moscow. He took his family with him to St. Petersburg, where they lived among the elite of that society until tragedy struck the family.
G.W. Whistler and three of his sons died in a cholera epidemic, leaving Anna without a means of support and the responsibility to raise her remaining children.
According to her letters from the period, she relied on friends and relatives for support during the ensuing years and eventually moved back to the family plantation in Clarkton with her children.
Her son, James, had changed his professional name to James McNeill Whistler by that time, the name that led to the logo-type signature that most of his works bear.
He painted the famous portrait of his mother in late 1871, a little more than five years before her death.
Though he was one of the most noted painters and etchers of his time, his most well-known work is the portrait of his mother, Anna, which has secured his-and her-places in history.