Ocean City Beach, NC - Ocean City Beach Citizens Council


Conversations with Ocean City's Caronell Chestnut (Wife of Wade H Chestnut)
February 3, 1995

Interveiws by Dianne Adjan Logan, Creativideo, Inc.

Ocean City's Written  History

The inception of a beach community on the Atlantic Ocean where Blacks could have home ownership was created by a white Wilmington attorney, Attorney Edgar L Yow, amid adverse attitudes in the forties. Having bought areas of land on Topsail Island, Attorney Yow shared his idea with Dr. Samuel J Gray, a Black physician in Wilmington, who was one of his clients. Topsail Island had been used during World War II as a firing range over the ocean for the soldiers who were stationed at Camp Davis located in Holly Ridge. The only access then to the island was a floating pontoon bridge across the Island Waterway on what in now NC Highway 50 and NC Highway 210.

   Dr. Gray, feeling that he could not devote time from his practice to help with the project, approached his friends, the Chestnuts [Bertram, Wade, Robert and Louise (Johnnie Thompson)]. Dr. Gray and each of the Chestnuts bought a tract of land on the island. Wade Chestnut conceived the idea of naming this section of the island, Ocean City, as it is presently called.

    In 1949, stock was sold and an inter-racial corporation (Ocean City Developers, Inc.) was formed for ownership of the land in the area. With Attorneys Edgar Yow and his brother, Cicero, holding controlling shares of the remaining land.  The corporation divided the beach into business and residential areas. The first homes were built by William M Eaton, a contractor from Fayetteville, NC.  
The first homeowners were Mr and Mrs Wade H Chestnut of Wilmington in 1949, followed by Mr and Mrs Stephen Rogers of Fayetteville and Mr and Mrs Henry Mallette, Sr of Wilmington in 1950.  Mr. Eaton also built about thirty additional homes at Ocean City, a motel, the chapel, and camp dormitory and dining hall.  The motel and restaurant were built in 1953.

Following the destruction of summer camps in South Carolina due to Hurricane Hazel, Father Kirton, Rector of Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, Wilmington, NC spoke  with Wade Chestnut, Sr, a member of the Vestry, about camping at Ocean City.  In 1955, on the invitation of Mr Chestnut and associates, the motel and a cottage were rented for the summer camp.  St Mark's Episcopal Chapel, as it was called before it was named the Wade H Chestnut Memorial Chapel was built in June 1957, where Father Kirton served as Priest until his retirement in 1975. The vestry was a place in which every beach resident was considered a member regardless of home denomination.

With the building of the Ocean City Fishing Pier in 1959, and the continuous need for the use of the motel, land was granted to the Church for annual summer camps.  This land was adjacent to the Chapel. A dormitory was built in 1959 to house 60 children and their counselors, as well as a dining hall.