Most of us simply call it Hampstead. But it's also known as the seafood capital of the Carolinas. J.H Lea & Sons opened its doors in 1918 and ever since it's been an important part of Hampstead's identity. It's now run by Bert Lea, a descendent of the company's founder. Lea said, "Really it was something I grew up in, it never seemed like work, it was just fun, it was something I had to do just born and raised in it but it never really seemed like work." Lea is the grandson of Joseph Hampton Lea, the elder Lea could not read or write. The only way he could sign his name was J.H. Lea, and so the company got its name. "He was a timber man, he loved timber, loved land and when he wasn't farming, he was fishing. I remember him real well. He was quite a man." Every September for 44 years, J. H. Lea & Sons has donated about 5,000 pounds of fish to the spot festival, the event of the year in the town. The festival is a long standing tradition in Hampstead, much like J.H. Lea & Sons. "It takes a lot of people to put it together, that's why the hometown spirit is still here." Legend has it that Hampstead got its name from George Washington in the late 1780s. Washington was visiting the area one night, and wanted to eat the mullet known for being caught in the topsail sound. But while he was here, the mullet weren't running so Washington had to eat ham, instead -- thus the name "Hampstead."
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