[This blog post comes from the Outer Banks History Center. It was written by researcher Ron Kemp.]
Captain Henry Clark Bridgers, Jr. retired from the U.S. Navy due to a heart attack following an illustrious career and returned to Tarboro, N.C., his home town. He wrote about banking, railroads (his father was a railroad man) and steamboats. His manuscript, Steamboats on the Tar, was completed but not published at the time of his death in 1981. At Bridgers’ request, his family gave the manuscript and research materials to author and historian David Stick who intended to publish the work. Stick donated the collection to the Outer Banks History Center in Manteo, N.C. for safekeeping. Author and historian Lindley Butler took on the project for a time but became diverted by other projects.
I was working as a researcher and unit production manager for a UNC-TV documentary, Birth of a Colony, the first episode of a proposed series on the history of North Carolina. While in the History Center, I came across six boxes of materials, Henry Clark Bridgers’ work. I started reviewing it and was fascinated with the depth and thoroughness of his work and distressed that it was never published. When my duties on Birth of a Colony ended, I began to look into getting the story published. I found his daughters, Meade and Penny, and obtained their support.
With the assistance of the staff at the OBHC, I was able to obtain a copy of Captain Bridgers’ finished manuscript and photocopies of the photographs, newspaper microfilms and flyers that he had collected over a number of years. The Center’s assistance was invaluable in returning the materials to press-ready condition. Having a resource like the OBHC truly makes success stories like this possible—had these materials not been preserved, catalogued and made available for researchers, this book would have never been published.
Since there was only a typescript photocopy and hard copies of photos he had obtained, I needed to get a digital file created and obtain clearances on the selected photographs. There was far more material than I felt could be placed in a published book, so I limited the photos to steamboats actually mentioned in the manuscript.
I opted for self-publishing with Amazon’s CreateSpace, convinced a friend, painter Robert Pittman, whose grandfather captained a steamboat, to create an original cover and, with the help of another friend, designer Mike Quinlan, had the elements to make it all happen. Once the permissions came back from the Steamboat Historical Society of America, the Mariner’s Museum and North Carolina Archives and History, I placed the selected photographs and sent the work off for publication in December of 2013.
Any funds realized from the sale of Steamboats on the Tar will benefit the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center.