Lots of legends and rumors have surrounded these tunnels such as pirates stashing their booty, escaped prisoners, and the Underground Railroad. Most historians agree that none of these legends can be verified, but most likely the tunnels were used for sewage and drainage.
|Burgwin-Wright House (Flickr, NCBrian)|
1781. According to one of the legends, Patriot soldiers escaped while being held as prisoners in the Burgwin-Wright House. Since the foundation of the house was built over an old jail, the brick basement was a perfect place for the British to hold Patriot prisoners. Therefore, this house plays a significant role as a setting for several scenes in my novel. To aide me in my research, I found transcribed descriptions written by the family that lived there when Cornwallis took over the house.
Of all the tunnels, Jacob's Run is the most famous named for Joseph Jacobs, a prominent merchant tanner. In 1775 he and his brother Benjamin built St. John's Masonic Lodge, now the Children's Museum of Wilmington. According to an April 28, 1967 newspaper article that appeared in the Wilmington Morning Star, contractors once again discovered the tunnel while digging the foundation of a new restaurant they were building in the former Theater Manor building. Fittingly, they named the restaurant, Jacob's Run. The tunnel ran beneath the building and all around it following the flow of natural spring water. City engineers state that there are no authentic records documenting when the tunnel was built or for what purpose--yet they obviously exist and can be dated back to the colonial period.
|Mitchell Anderson House|
Historic homes like this and real existing tunnels with lots of legendary stories surrounding them are great fodder for an author's imagination. Therefore, I used what real historic information that we have about them and took creative license with the rest to fit it into the storyline of my novel, For Love or Country set in 1781, Wilmington, NC.