NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH — A newly constructed site formally recognizes the heritage of the historic Ocean City beach community.
The site is marked by a plaque with the history of the area and contains space for specially engraved bricks to be purchased by families with long-standing history at Ocean City.
After World War II, Wilmington attorney and former mayor Edgar Yow purchased 6 miles of beachfront property on Topsail Island. Yow identified there was a need for opportunities at the beach for the black community, so he approached Dr. Samuel Gray with his idea. Gray soon called on his friends, Wade Chestnut and his siblings, who purchased several tracts from Yow and formed Ocean City Developers. Ocean City Beach became a popular choice for members of the black community seeking to own beachfront property.
Opening the ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday was Kenneth Chestnut, son of one the Ocean City founders. He used his time at the microphone to candidly relate stories of days past.
“It’s interesting when you look back at 1949 and the environment and history,” Chestnut said. “These were the days of segregation. It was not easy to establish Ocean City, but the people had the necessary vision and tenacity to do what they need to do. The people were committed. We are able to take a pause today and reflect on the historical significance of what occurred then. More importantly, this place today has become somewhere where young people can come and learn about Ocean City, commitment and their heritage.”
Ocean City Beach is the 18th site in the Jacksonville-Onslow African-American Heritage Trail. The trail was officially revealed in Feb. 2011 through efforts of the Minority Business Services Committee under the leadership of Million Heir-Williams and in partnership with Onslow County Tourism and the Onslow County Museum.
Thirteen of the trail’s sites were identified within the first year, including the Linda Richardson Memorial on 1099 Gum Branch Road, the Montford Point Marines Building M101 at Camp Johnson and the Georgetown High School at 228 Georgetown Road in Jacksonville.
The list has expanded since 2011 and now includes sites in Maysville, Verona, Richlands, Swansboro, Sneads Ferry and most recently in North Topsail Beach.
Also present at the ceremony was Mayor of North Topsail Beach Dan Tuman and North Carolina Senator Floyd McKissick Jr., who addressed the audience with a message emphasizing remembrance.
“Ocean City is not just a place where African Americans own beachfront property, it’s a place I’ve been coming to for basically all my life,” McKissick said. “I have so many fond memories of the beautiful countryside and camaraderie in Ocean City. We need to remember and cherish that history.
“We need to pass it on to our children and grandchildren as a reminder of what took tremendous courage and leadership to accomplish.”
The Ocean City Community would like to thank everyone who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony
for the installation of Ocean City to the Jacksonville-Onslow African American Heritage Trail. In addition, we extend our sincere appreciation to the Greater Topsail Area Chamber of Commerce,
the town of North Topsail Beach, Onslow County Tourism, the Onslow County Museum, and the Minority Business Services Division of the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce. The marker
is located at 2649 Island Drive, North Topsail Beach. For more information about the trail visit onlyinonslow.com/things-to-do/culture-history/african-american.