Rains cover rare boat in Tar River
Posted April 24, 2008
Updated May 1, 2008
Tarboro, N.C. — Rising waters in the Tar River have once again obscured a 150-year-old boat that had been visible from land for the first time in decades.
The rare, sunken pole boat from the 1800s appeared in October as the drought lowered the river. Historians believe it was used for transport on the Tar River before steam boats, when Tarboro and Old Sparta were booming port cities.
The boat was first spotted during the 2002 drought, and this time, locals and state archaeologists rushed to study it.
"It's very important to our history," local historian Eugenia Wade said.
The boat's new visibility also brought a new threat to its existence: sightseers. "They were on the bridge; they were standing next to the river. They were in the river; they were everywhere," Wade remembered.
That craze has ended with the water once more obscuring the boat, and "it's a blessing in disguise," Wade said.
Wade and other residents formed the Old Sparta Historical Society, with the intention of preserving the boat.
The river revealed one more historical artifact: a 100-year-old dugout canoe, not far from the pole boat.
"You almost feel like you are in a time machine," said Stephen Herring, a history instructor at Edgecombe Community College.
Herring got his students actively involved in studying the canoe and moving it to a preservation pond on campus.
"For teaching history, it just makes it so much easier; it really brings it alive," Herring said.
State archaeologists – primarily employed on the wreck of Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge – are studying the 80-foot pole boat and determining if it can be moved.
Wade envisions the pole boat serving as an educational exhibit on local history.
"(It can) hopefully be preserved and hopefully one day, brought back to a museum here in Old Sparta," Wade said.