North Carolina Railroads - New Holland, Higginsport & Mount Vernon Railroad

Acronym

Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Original Starting Point

Original Ending Point

--

1916

1923

1932

Wenona, NC

New Holland, NC
+ 1920 - Company formally organized on October 14, 1920 under the laws of North Carolina.

Once there were more miles of railroad tracks than miles of state roads in Hyde County, North Carolina. The New Holland, Higginsport & Mt. Vernon Railroad track ran from a Norfolk Southern connection at Wenona, in Washington County, thirty-five (35) miles eastward to New Holland through this area. Parts of the railway bed are visible from Highway 264 as are the pilings where it crossed Mill Creek.

For many years, residents of Hyde County, North Carolina mulled the idea of draining Lake Mattamuskeet and farming the rich soil of the lakebed. In 1909, the North Carolina General Assembly authorized the Board of Education, which owned the lake, to establish a drainage district. Experts rated the soil as some of the richest in the world, so the state planned to sell the land at a high profit and use the money for education.

Before the drainage plan was in place, a private group offered to buy the land and drain it. In 1911, the Board deeded the land to Southern Land Reclamation Company for $2 per acre.

By 1915, the company changed its name to New Holland Farms. It also contracted with Morris Machine Works, which built a pumping station to drain the lake. The former pumping station is now historic Mattamuskeet Lodge. The station housed pumps powered by four German-made steam engines. The pumps drained 1,200,000 gallons of water per minute. However, problems with the pumps’ design and a coal shortage caused the operation to close in 1917, and the lake refilled. These same owners laid out a town adjacent to the pumping plant site and called it New Holland. From that time forward, the drainage project was called the "New Holland Project.”

In 1918, North Carolina Farms Company bought the land for $200,000 and restarted the pumps in another attempt to drain the large, shallow lake. The company laid railroad tracks near the lake to have a means to transport coal. Several houses and the New Holland Inn were built on the lake bed. By 1923, the company had run out of money.

Two years later, a wealthy industrialist bought the land and the assets. August Heckscher drained the lake a third time. He wanted to create a large commercial farm, the New Holland Corporation. The venture was reasonably successful, and the operation farmed more than 12,000 acres of soybeans, corn, wheat, and flax. Presumably because he was tired of the drainage and mosquitoes, Heckscher closed his operation in 1932.

In 1934, the federal government bought the lake land for $311,942.67 and reclaimed it to become the major part of the refuge.

For a free tidbit also pertaining to this same area, there are several small references available about a Mattamuskeet Railroad in the 1908-1910 timeframe, with even a mention that a Mr. S.S. Mann was the president of the company, and that convict labor was used to build it. However, nothing more can be found on this mysterious short-lived short line, if it truly existed.

Towns on Route:

Wenona (1913)

New Holland (1916)

The Twenty-Second Report of the North Carolina Corporation Commission for the Biennial Period, 1923-1924, with a Compilation of Railroad Returns for the Years Ending December 31, 1922 and 1923 provides the following information:

President ................................................... Dwight Harrison .................................. Columbus, OH
General Counsel ........................................ Van B. Martin ..................................... Plymouth, NC
Assistant Secretary .................................... W.J. Talley .......................................... New Holland, NC
Traffic Manager ......................................... W.J. Talley .......................................... New Holland, NC

Road Operated - Wenona, NC to New Holland, NC .............................................. 35 miles

Cost of Road .......................................................................................................... $858,303.27
Cost of Equipment ..................................................................................................... $76,136.89

Employees ................................................................................................................ 25



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