Search Our Site

Nestled on the west bank at the junction of the Brunswick and Northeast Cape Fear rives lies the Town of Navassa. Located in Brunswick County, the Town of Navassa is approximately 5 miles west of the metropolitan City of Wilmington. Named after one of the area’s fertilizer factories the Town of Navassa was incorporated in 1977. Navassa’s formation was influenced by the town’s location and the economics of the 19th century

Prior to the emergence of automobiles, the major modes of transportation were boats and trains. The fast-growing seaport in Wilmington in the pre-Civil War era were isolated from the inland farmers in western North Carolina. Trains were limited to travel only as far as Belville where the tracks stopped; therefore, the freight had to be manually transported across the Brunswick and Cape Fear rivers.

Due to the “high bluffs” that came right to the edge of the Cape Fear River from the west and a land mass between Navassa and Wilmington allowed the construction of railroad tracks across Eagle’s Island. In 1867, two years after the Civil War, the Railroad Company decided to build a bridge across the Cape Fear River from Navassa. Constructing the bridge allowed two railroad companies (Atlantic Coast Line and The Seaboard Airline) to connect Wilmington with Charlotte and the interior counties of South Carolina.

Led by Donald McRae some prudent businessmen realized the distinct advantages of locating a fertilizer factory at this location. The turpentine industry had been exporting their products to the West Indies for years, but no product was imported from the region. In 1856, large guano (the accumulated excrement of seabirds and bats) deposits were discovered on Navassa Island, a small barren island about 15 miles off the coast of Jamaica. McRae and his business partners decided to have the returning ships loaded with the guano to produce fertilizer. This would lead to construction of the Navassa Guano Factory in 1869, which was named after Navassa Island. With this effort fertilizer was able to be shipped to the interior of the state via railroad transport. Three additional fertilizer plants would be constructed within the town’s municipal boundaries: Armour Fertilizer (1919), Royster Fertilizer (1927), and Smith-Douglas Fertilizer (1946). Those four now defunct fertilizer plants employed over 4,000 employees.

Since the Town of Navassa’s incorporation on March 18,1977, the town has been under the leadership of two mayors and an elected five-member town council. Louis A. Brown, Navassa’s first mayor, served from 1977-1999. Eulis A. Willis, Brown’s mayoral successor, has served since 1999. Prior to his mayoral tenure, Mayor Willis served on Navassa’s Town Council for 21 years. Mayor Willis is the author of “Navassa the Town and its People” which provides additional in-depth history about the Town of Navassa.

Navassa’s growth continues to prosper while trying to maintain its heritage, culture, and integrity. The town is seeing many residential and commercial under takings. With the completion of the I-140 interchange, a large waste treatment plant, access to city water, installed sewer collection lines, and other amenities the Town of Navassa has begun to see an influx of development.

Please click here to view the video "Gullah Geechee History and Rice Growing in Brunswick County".

 Navassa Story Map

View the embedded image gallery online at: