Celebrating the golden anniversary of the Carteret County Historical Society is a special treat for all of us in 2021. Everyone should take advantage of viewing the new and exciting exhibits at the History Museum of Carteret County in downtown Morehead City.
The catchy theme of the society’s 50-year observance is “Anchoring Our Past to the Present.” Cheryl Burke’s article in the July 23 edition of the Carteret County News-Times effectively pinpointed the significance of the museum as a genuine community asset.
The museum’s mission includes preserving the county’s heritage and culture and educating future generations.
One who teaches best is the “star” of the historical society’s new film entitled “Ramblin’ With Rodney Through Carteret.” Rodney, of course, is legendary storyteller Rodney Kemp of Morehead City.
This is a “must-see” documentary, about 35 minutes long, that offers something for everyone – locals, dingbatters and dit-dots.
Loads of vintage photographs combine with live shots to “show and tell” Carteret County’s history.
One of the old communities that Kemp talks about on-camera is Lukens, once a settlement on the east side of the South River, a tributary of the Neuse River.
Nobody has lived in Lukens since the 1940s. It’s a ghost town minus a town. About all that’s left of the place is Lukens Cemetery, the community graveyard that was established in 1810. There are 163 known graves. The large arched sign spells it “Lukens Cemetary.”
Family members who want to pay respects must travel across the river from the small community known as South River on the west bank. (There are no public roads to access the cemetery.)
In 1901, William Ellis Lukens of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., built a sawmill here, creating jobs. The settlement that grew up around the logging camp was called Lukens. A post office was established at Lukens in 1902, and Arthur Thatcher, Lukens’ brother-in-law, was listed as the first postmaster.
The sawmill operated until 1912 when most of the timber in the Lukens area – from South River east to Brown Creek and Turnagain Bay – had been harvested.
At one point, about 300 people lived in Lukens. Most made their living fishing and hunting. The village’s demise started with the hurricane in 1933 that “took out half of the homes,” wrote Melinda Penkava, a freelance journalist living in Oriental. Eleven years later, the storm of 1944 came to Lukens and “slammed it again.”
The post office was “discontinued” on May 8, 1944, and the village school closed in 1945 when the Carteret County school board said the lone teacher in Lukens was being reassigned as a result of consolidation.
Historian Dollie C. Carraway, who recently passed away at age 93, reported that only two families remained in Lukens in 1946. Sisters Nannie Jane Pittman and Geneva Mason had separate houses. Their mother, Lizzie Tosto, lived with Nannie Jane, and their father, James Tosto, lived with Geneva.
Every day, the sisters would hoist a white flag, so people across the river in South River knew that all was well in Lukens.
The last to leave Lukens in 1948 was widower David Edwards and his 10 children.
Now, into the 21st century, Lukens is still on the map, as a location offering safe anchorage for Intracoastal Waterway cruisers.
The Cruiser Net website gives Lukens and South River good marks, stating: “This entire body of water is well-sheltered, and good possibilities for anchorage abound. South River is one of those delightful sidewaters that combines good depths, attractive and isolated scenery and an excellent series of navigational aids.”