Duncan House, William B. Blades and Babe Ruth

Postcard from Carteret County Postcards 
by Linda Sadler and Kevin Jenkins
Sometime between 1911 and 1920, it is believed that all, or a portion, of the Duncan House was rented by William Blades Sr (1854-1920), owner and president of Beaufort Fish Scrap and Oil Company, which he purchased in 1911. Blades was a founding member of Camp Bryan hunting and fishing club in Craven County. Baseball legend Babe Ruth (1895-1948) often traveled from New York to go duck hunting with William "Will" Blades Jr. (1894-1939). "Will" Blades evidently lived in the Duncan House until the late 1920s, when he moved back to New Bern. Beaufort Fish Scrap and Oil was sold to Howard Smith in 1931. His son Harvey Smith started the Fish Meal Company. William B. Blades Sr. died in 1920; William B. Blades Jr. died in 1939 as a result of an automobile collision in Durham, NC.  CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE

◄L to R: William Blades, Fred I. Sutton, Carl Goerch, Babe Ruth and John Kieran sitting in front of deer and waterfowl carcasses during a hunting trip at Camp Bryan. (Digital Collections ECU - date approx. 1920-1939) 
 
Since William Benjamin Blades Sr. died in 1920, the man identified as William Blades is his son William B. Blades Jr. (1894-1939)

Babe Ruth, Fred I. Sutton Jr., and two unidentified men, on Decoy of New Bern, N.C. Photograph was likely taken during a hunting trip at Camp Bryan, Craven County, N.C. William Benjamin Blades, real estate developer and founding member of Camp Bryan, owned Decoy and used the boat for hunting trips. (Digital Collections ECU) 

Decoy
Babe Ruth with
Wm. B. Blades III
Decoy
In Craven County, Lynn Salsi and Frances Eubanks recorded, "Decoy was owned by Mr. William Benjamin Blades, a real estate developer in New Bern and Morehead City. The son of timberman William Blades, he lived in the beautiful family home built by his father. He was known for building the first neighborhood of "spec" houses in the state, and was a founding member of Camp Bryan. Blades used the Decoy for pleasure and to take out hunting parties." (Courtesy North Carolina Department of Archives and History.)

Lou Register, the last Duncan descendant to live in the Duncan House at 105 Front Street, remembered (phone interview) Mr. Blades, her father (Ernest Waters) and Babe Ruth going hunting together. Lou, a youngster at the time, also remembered the yacht Decoy and that Babe Ruth slept on the yacht, docked near the house, and would often shine his flashlight toward the house. Another memory was that of many ducks "in the kitchen with their necks hanging down off the counter." (NOTE: Lou’s father, Ernest Waters (1907-1944), came to Beaufort in the early 1920s to curb and gutter Beaufort’s first streets. It was then that he met his bride, Emily Frances Duncan (1901-1972), daughter of David Jones Duncan and Frances Estelle Dudley. The 1930 census recorded the Waters family in the 1815 Duncan House.)

More about William Benjamin Blades

In History of North Carolina, Volume VI, published in 1919, R.D.W. Conner wrote: "For many years one of North Carolina's most prominent lumber men and still a controlling factor in various corporations and industries, William Benjamin Blades came to this state from Virginia and Maryland, where his earlier business successes had been won. His home has been at Newbern for the past thirty years.

"Mr. Blades was born August 12, 1854, at Bishopville, Maryland, a son of Peter Clowes and Nancy (West) Blades. His father was a former sea captain, but subsequently retired to the land and followed merchandising and farming the rest of his active life. William B. Blades was well educated in Bishopville College in Maryland. Early in his career he became associated with his brother J. B. Blades in merchandising in Virginia and in oyster planting along the coast of that state. In 1876 he set up a mercantile establishment at Bishopville, Maryland, but in 1882 came to Bath, North Carolina, and from that time forward his interests were particularly identified with the lumbering industry. In 1886 he removed to Newbern, and was one of the responsible factors for making that city an important center of lumber milling. When he sold his principal interests in the lumber field in 1906 he disposed of 200,000 acres of timber lands.

"Since then Mr. Blades has given his attention to various corporations and is vice president of the Newbern Banking & Trust Company, president of the Newbern Brick Company, president of the Beaufort Scrap & Oil Company [purchased in 1911], president of the Norfolk Realty Development Company, vice president of the Dixie Fire Insurance Companv, and was one of the principal contributors to the building of the handsome six story brick office structure at Newbern known as the Elks Building. Mr. Blades is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and is also an Odd Fellow.

"In November, 1888, he married Amanda Carolina Collins, of Bishopville, Maryland. They have two children: Ivy, Mrs. C. O. Robinson, and William Benjamin, Jr. (1894-1939)."


William B. Blades House 1903 New Bern, NC
New Bern’s historic William B. Blades House, was built for William B. Blades Sr. by architect Herbert Woodley Simpson. The Blades family, of the regional lumbering business, was among Simpson's early clients. Simpson was the architect for the 1907 Carteret County Courthouse.

According to Salsi and Eubanks, the construction of the William Blades House was funded with great timber wealth. William and his brother James moved to New Bern and became the area's wealthiest timber dealers and mill owners. His ostentatious was constructed in 1903 and was known for the unbelievable beautiful and intricate woodwork, featuring many different types of wood in the first floor rooms.