Folktales, Legends, and Mysteries from North Carolina: Mermaids

Aug 2, 2023 | Area Info

North Carolina has a rich tradition of folklore, and it encompasses a variety of magical legends and unexplained natural phenomena – today we’ll explore a legend that is just a couple hours west of us in the Raleigh area.

Chatham County in the heart of the piedmont, is where our legend takes place. Mermaid Point is the name of the location where the Deep River and Haw River meet to form the Cape Fear River.

The Cape Fear River was one of the early economic drivers of North Carolina and became a draw for settlers on its banks. In the 1700’s the town of Lockville was a budding settlement and a man named Ambrose Ramsey saw an opportunity. And so, he opened a tavern.

Ramsey’s Tavern sat right by the banks of the Deep River, a short distance upstream of where it joined with the Haw River. When Revolutionary War soldiers left the tavern at the end of the night, this confluence was on their path home, and in the middle of this broad channel was a long, white, sandbar. And it was on this channel that people claimed they saw the mermaids.

Mermaids were spotted multiple times throughout the war – but it’s notable that they were always seen after a long night of drinking, and during a particularly stressful time in America’s history.

Legend claims that the mermaids would sit on the sandbar at night, combing their long hair in the moonlight. Soldiers walking home from the tavern would see them laughing, singing, playing, and splashing in the water. If anyone called out to them or tried to approach, they would dive below the surface.

Why would mermaids swim so far up the river? The explanation was as follows: everyone knew mermaids were vain creatures. They swam up from the coast to wash the salt from their hair, so it would be shinier and more beautiful.

Ramsey’s Tavern stood until the late 19th century when it was destroyed in a flood. This was about the same time that the sightings of the mermaids stopped. It’s noted that the disappearance of the mermaids seemed to coincide with the building of the first of a series of dams and locks along the course of the Cape Fear, perhaps cutting off the path of the mermaids up from the sea.

As for that mermaid-drawing sandbar, sadly, it’s no longer visible. The construction of a dam raised the water levels in the area and the sandbar sank beneath the surface and with it the legendary mermaids of the Cape Fear River.

If you are ready to come discover our beautiful area and experience this exciting phenomenon for yourself, we invite you to enjoy special pricing and book your visit today! And click here to view current listings in Albemarle Plantation, where you can enjoy distinct coastal living, award-winning golf, resort amenities, elegant homes, and a private marina.

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