Former Carter Countian works as archaeologist at Camp Lejeune, NC

By Rozella Hardin

STAR STAFF
rhardin@starhq.com

   A former Carter County resident, Rick Richardson, has been busy solving a mystery in recent months.
   An archaeologist at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Richardson has been trying to piece together a very complicated puzzle, which includes the mystery of what happened to a resort planned at Camp Lejeune prior to the stock market crash of 1929. The resort, known as Paradise Point, contained housing as well as a golf course and club.
   Richardson's quest began when base commander Major General David Mize wanted to learn more about the origins of a large wheel that served as the base of his bird bath. Richardson soon learned the wheel came from a mill owned by David Ward Simmons, who owned a 1,600-acre plantation in the Camp Lejeune area from 1837 until his death in 1868.
   Richardson in his hunt discovered artifacts such as shards of dishes and glass near homes on Seth Williams Blvd., in Jacksonville, N.C., where he has been working for little over a year now. Prior to that he worked as archaeologist at Fort Knox, Ky.
   In researching the Simmons estate, Richardson got his hands on the 1926 architect's drawing of the planned country club and records indicate a number of lots were sold. But a 1938 aerial photograph obtained by Richardson shows no evidence of a golf course or tennis courts.
   Richardson speculated the resort might have folded after the stock market crash of 1929.
   Having exhausted his archival resources, Richardson turned to The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.'s newspaper, requesting help from its readers.
   Richardson said learning more about the base's past is valuable for the Camp Lejeune community. "History belongs to all of us," he was quoted as saying in a recent article in "The Daily News." "I think everyone has an interest on some level."
   That attitude is important in Richardson's job as the base archeologist. He is responsible for surveying the base to make sure homes and other areas of historic value are preserved.
   Richardson since arriving at Camp Lejeune has surveyed 35 percent of the base and found about 750 archaeological sites.
   Though he called the Simmons assignment a "pleasant distraction" from those duties, he thinks Major General Mize's interest in the plantation and resort are indicative of the Marine Corps' commitment to remembering and preserving the past.
   Richardson now is looking for an older resident with Mize's penchant for history to help solve the mystery of Paradise Point.
   Richardson is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Woodrow Richardson of 2185 Highway 91. He attended Unaka High School and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a master's degree in archaeology.