north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Halfway between Southport and Wilmington, along the west banks of the Cape Fear River, sits Orton Plantation. The area that is now Winnabow was first settled in the early 1700s. Colonel Maurice Moore first owned the land on which Orton Plantation sits before selling it to his brother Roger Moore. It was the latter who developed the enterprise into one of the leading rice plantations on the lower Cape Fear. Local Indians destroyed the first house that Moore built there, but in 1735 he rebuilt and settled his family there. It was likely named Orton after a small settlement in Westmoreland County, England, ancestral home to the Moores.

     During the first half of the nineteenth century the plantation passed through a series of hands including those of Governor Benjamin Smith, Dr. Frederick Jones Hill, and Thomas Calezance Miller. During the Civil War, Confederate troops armed the southern boundary of the plantation with breastworks and built Fort Anderson in the nearby old town of Brunswick. The plantation thrived until the end of the war when federal troops marched through and occupied southeastern North Carolina. After the fall of Fort Fisher, the plantation house was used as a hospital by federal troops for their smallpox cases. The house was abandoned for nearly twenty years before being renovated in the early 1880s by Colonel K. M. Murchison. After the death of Murchison in 1904, his son-in-law, James Sprunt purchased Orton. Sprunt built “Sunnyside,” a playhouse for his daughter, Marion, in the 1890s. In 1916 Sprunt constructed Orton Chapel in memory of his wife Luola.

     Sprunt died in 1924 leaving the plantation to his son James Laurence Sprunt. He was responsible for opening a road to the plantation, which had previously only been accessible by water. Today Orton is owned by a descendant of Roger Moore.

James Laurence Sprunt, The Story of Orton Plantation (1958)
Orton Plantation website:
William S. Powell, North Carolina Gazetteer (1968)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources