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Henry Bacon’s Rule, about 1840-1850

CFM 1998.032.0004
Gift of Anne McKoy Parks and Katherine McKoy Ehling

Description: This rule is long, flat, rectangular, and made of dark-stained oak. There are no markings or carvings on the rule. It is approximately 13.2 x 1.18 inches. The rule, or straight-edge, was most likely used to draw straight lines for engineering projects.

History: In 1998, Anne McKoy Parks (1926-) and her sister, Katherine McKoy Ehling (1928-1999), donated a collection of objects to the Cape Fear Museum. Some of the articles were owned by Henry Bacon, Sr. (1822-1891), the sisters’ great-grandfather. A number of the objects, including a rule and pantograph, were used by Henry Bacon Sr. during his engineering career.

Henry Bacon Sr. (1822-1891) and his wife, Elizabeth Kelton (1831-1912), were born and raised in Massachusetts. After their marriage in 1855, the Bacons moved to Illinois. They then moved to Maine before finally settling in North Carolina in 1876. In January of that year the Army Corps of Engineers appointed Henry Bacon Sr. as the head engineer of the improvements for the Cape Fear River and its port in Wilmington. The family first lived in Smithville (now Southport), then later moved to Wilmington.

Henry Bacon supervised the building of an apron dam (known locally as the Rocks) at New Inlet in the 1870s and 1880s. New Inlet, which formed in the 18th century, caused the mouth of the river to silt up, decreasing the navigable channel, and restricting traffic size. The Rocks dam closed New Inlet.

In 1882, Henry Bacon Sr. moved his family from Southport to Wilmington. Bacon’s son, Henry Bacon Jr. (1866-1924), became a well-known architect. Another son, Francis Bacon, was a prominent archaeologist and later a very famous furniture designer. In 1886, their daughter Katherine Bacon (1858-1949) married Wilmington lawyer William Berry McKoy (1852-1928); the couple lived in Wilmington until their deaths.

William and Katherine had five children. Their son, Henry Bacon McKoy (1893-1991), wrote extensively on the history of the Cape Fear region and authored a book about the McKoy family history. Their daughter, Elizabeth McKoy (1887-1984) also studied the colonial history of Wilmington. She constructed a model of the city that can be found in the Cape Fear Museum’s collection. William and Katherine’s youngest son, James (1901-1964) worked in theater. After retiring from the stage he moved back to Wilmington and opened St. John’s Tavern Restaurant. Later, with his brother Henry, James converted the restaurant into St. John’s Art Gallery. The building now houses the Wilmington Children’s Museum.

Anne McKoy Parks and Katherine McKoy Ehling, the family members who donated materials to the Museum, were Henry Bacon McKoy’s daughters.

814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382