history Before Fort Bragg embodied much of the identity of Fayetteville, the city grew and established itself for another purpose.

Fayetteville was a vital inland city involved in trade because it had a direct route on the Cape Fear River to Wilmington.

The Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum details the history of Fayetteville during this time through their Cape Fear River gallery.

The exhibit has long been displayed on the museum's first floor, but it has gained a new addition. In celebration of Black History Month, the museum has put up new placards detailing the histories of African Americans on the Cape Fear River.

"Finally, we have one of our Black History exhibits that remain up for over a year become part of a semi-permanent space," said Heidi Bleazey, historic properties supervisor. "The river is why Fayetteville is here, and having the acknowledgment of the back-breaking, life-ending, life-sustaining things that African Americans did to help build Fayetteville as a travel and trade community (is important)."

Bleazey, Catherine Linton, museum specialist, and Emma Freeman, marketing and social media coordinator, worked on the exhibit, perusing census records and old newspapers. Their efforts were fruitful in the form of a new artifact.

Included in the exhibit is an illustration from a June 17, 1865 edition of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.

The drawing shows an enslaved family escaping down the Cape Fear River. Behind them is another boat. The illustration was drawn by a Union war correspondent.

"This is an amazing artifact because it represents so much of what we don't know. There's a second boat behind the first. Are they pursuing them? Is that another family? It's just subject to a lot of feeling," said Bleazey.

"We always look to the primary sources," said Linton. "That's an article from 1865; that story came right from the source that is physically on display."

In addition to the newspaper, the placards detail the lives of African American river pilots such as Daniel Buxton. Through some research, Buxton's life and person have taken clearer form. Buxton piloted the riverboat

A.P. Hunt for over 60 years. He was a leader in the Fayetteville community, a founding member of St. Joseph's Episcopal Church. His reputation as a riverboat pilot was excellent, never having an accident on the river throughout his career, an almost unheard-of feat.

Buxton is said to be buried at what was once called Miles Branch Cemetery, a Black cemetery, now known as Elmwood Cemetery. His legend lives on in the hearts of the researchers at the museum. The women have searched for his headstone but have yet to find it.

"There's a piece of Daniel that is a little elusive to us," said Bleazey. "He's the nostalgic poster child of a river pilot."

As research has continued, more stories and names of the river workers have begun to pop out. Several of their names appear on the placards, a tribute to who they were and where they worked and lived.

"We know so few, that to be able to put a name to these people is important … And I felt like if all I know is that what the census said, then by gosh I'm excited about that and that should be there because there are so many we don't know," said Bleazey.

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