first landing by French Huguenots in 1709, Beaufort, North Carolina has
been visited by patriots, privateers and pirates alike! It is North
Carolina's third oldest town right after Bath and New Bern and was
surveyed in 1713 - nearly 20 years before the birth of George
Originally a fishing village and port of safety, the town is the county
seat of Carteret County. It was built on the site of the Indian
Village, "Wariock" which means "fish town" or
"fishing village" and until it was incorporated in 1722, it
was known as "Fishtowne"
In 1708 the Lord Proprietors realized this was a logical spot for a
seaport town and made a Land Grant for that purpose. In 1713,
Robert Turner, a promoter, had 200 acres surveyed and lots and streets
laid out. The present street names reflect the early development
of the town - Ann Street for Queen Anne, Craven Street for the Earl of
Craven; Moore Street for Colonel Maurice Moore of South Carolina who
gave help in the Indian Wars; Queen Street is a second tribute to Queen
Anne; Pollock Street is for the governor at the time of the 1713 survey;
Orange Street for William, Prince of Orange, who became William III of
England and finally Turner Street for the man who had the vision,
Beaufort does not
have the palatial homes of other old North Carolina towns.
Although in its early days it was an important seaport, the plantation
owners, who had large mansions in the interior of the state, only had
their town homes here so they could transact business of shipping, boat
building, whaling and other sea-related endeavors. Planters built
their summer homes in Beaufort for their families to escape the heat and
enjoy the cooler, healthier climate.
History of the Cape Lookout Area
Uniqueness of Beaufort
Isolation – At a
mainland point northwest of Cape Lookout, facing southwest, Beaufort’s
orientation has always been outward to the sea. Neither of the two short rivers on which she is located, the
Newport and North, gives access to the interior of the state.
The town had no rail link to the rest of the world until 1907,
and her main highway access inland, Route 70, was not connected to
Beaufort by bridge until 1926. Communication
with New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore was more direct and
frequent than with New Bern, only 45-50 miles distant.
Wooden Construction – Beaufort is built almost
exclusively of wood. There
are only two brick buildings in town which predate the Civil War, and
there are no stone buildings. The
Odd Fellows Lodge and the Jail.
Beaufort has not undergone a renovation period where the
old was uprooted and the new inserted.
White paint – since it’s inception, through the 19th
and 20th centuries, almost everything in Beaufort was
Lack of Wealth – Few citizen’s wealth could be
measured against the wealth elite of New Bern, Edenton, or Raleigh.
- In both the Revolutionary and
Civil war, Beaufort was eventually taken over and occupied by the
British and Union respectively, and used as a headquarters.
As a result, there was virtually no war damage to the town.
Exploration of the
Core Sound area
Giovanni da Verrazano, who was from Florence, but was
sailing for Francis I of France in 1524, was reputedly the first
explorer to take interest in the Cape Lookout area. Verrazano
charted the area and was quite impressed by the abundance of natural
resources that existed here.
Beaufort Inlet was originally called Topsail Inlet
Topsail Inlet (Beaufort Inlet) was, and still is,
considered the best deep water navigable inlet along the NC coast.
The harbor at Cape Lookout was descried by Gov. Arthur
Dobbs in 1756 as "the best and safest harbor from Boston to the
Capes of Florida
The Coree Indians, which are part of the Iroquoian Nation
were the natives of the area around Cape Lookout.
They had many problems with the white man right away.
Indian Massacre of 1711 killed over 130 people. The
retaliation by the British army and local militia was a death sentence
for the Coree. The entire
tribe was wiped out within a matter of a few years.
The Coree Indians namesake still exists:
Core Creek, Core Sound and Core Banks.
Early Days of Beaufort
Farnifold Green was the first to obtain the patent for the
land now known as Beaufort
Beaufort was named after Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort
, a French Huguenot.
Street names have been the same since 1713.
Turner St. - Robert Turner, an earlier proprietor of Beaufort
Moore St. - Col. James Moore who was responsible for
bringing an end to the Tuscarora War.
Pollock St. - Thomas Pollock, acting governor of the
colony of NC from 1712-1714
Queen and Ann St. - Named after Queen Ann the reigning
monarch of England at the time.
Orange St. - William III of Orange who had reigned in
England before Ann.
Craven St. - William Lord Craven, another English Lord
Early names for Beaufort were “Hungry Town”, “Fish
Town” and the Coree Indian name of “Cwariok”
The economy started slowly,
with very little growth until the mid/late 18th Century
The first jail in town was built by Daniel Reese on lot 7
in “Old Town”, which is where Queen St. is today. Jail can be seen at the Beaufort Historic Grounds.
In 1722, Beaufort became both the port of entry and the
courthouse town for Carteret precinct.
Richard Rustull, John Shackleford, John Nelson, Joseph
Bell, Christopher Gale were a group of town fathers who were the first
Commissioners and among the first vestrymen of St. John’s Parish in
Shackleford Banks named after the Shackleford Family, John
and Francis who were actively obtaining land patents in the early 1700's
in the area.
Surveyor named Richard Graves laid out the town in 1713.
Robert Turner ordered the survey.
He had bought the land from Farnifold Green.
Beaufort could be reached by boat only for hundreds of
years, until the very early 20th century.
Mail from Raleigh took 2-3 weeks to arrive, while mail to
NYC or Boston would take no more than 3 days, making communication with
major trade ports much better than with the capitol of the state.
Roads in early Beaufort were made of oyster shells
- In 1770, a cedar post was
erected at the corner of Front St. and Pollock St. to discern
between “Old Town” and “New Tow
The Pirate attack of
Spanish pirates attacked and pillaged the town twice
during the summer in 1747, until driven off by local farmers and the
militia. A list of the men
who served at this time can be seen on display at Fort Macon.
For many years, “The Pirate Invasion” was re-enacted
every year on the last Saturday in June on the Beaufort Waterfront.
One Spanish pirate, during the invasion of 1747, was
cornered and caught in the attic of The Hammock House, where he was
killed on the spot.
The Revolutionary War
The attacks by the Spanish in 1747 prompted the
construction of Fort Dobbs in 1755 (Named after NC Governor Arthur
Dobbs) on Bogue Island, followed by Fort Hampton, two miles southwest of
Beaufort reacted to the American Revolution by providing
men, leadership and supplies, and paid dearly for having done so.
Royal Governor Thomas Burke sent a force of 250 men and four
vessels from Charleston to Beaufort to “plunder and destroy the Town
The British entered the town near the end of the war
around the year 1782, after the defeat of Cornwallis. Their soldiers, under Major Stuart of the L’Dragoons,
landed and engaged the townsmen while others from the ships plundered
the town. The town was
later fired upon and the schoolhouse burned after a fight between the
enemy and the town force. Prisoners
were taken and negotiations were carried on for their exchange.
The War of 1812 in
During the War of 1812, with the ports of Charleston and
Baltimore blockaded by the British, Beaufort assumed importance as a
port for privateer operations. Carteret’s
Captain Otway Burns, on his ship Snap Dragon, was one of the major
In July, 1814, British forces landed at Cape Lookout and
partially destroyed the lighthouse there.
When the British attempted another landing on July 16, they were
repulsed by troops from Fort Hampton and Beaufort. The first Cape Lookout lighthouse continued to serve until
Nov. 1, 1859, when the present lighthouse was first lit.
In 1812, Burns of Beaufort was the Capt.. Of a merchant
ship sailing between New Bern and Maine.
With the sense of patriotism
following recent British threats, he arranged to purchase a
larger and faster vessel that he eventually renamed to Snap Dragon, with
which he intended to prey on the British.
He applied for “letters of marque”, which would allow him to
prey on English ships without being considered a pirate.
On his first voyage of six months, Burns took eight
English vessels, heavily laden with valuable cargo.
On his second voyage as a privateer, Burns sailed from
Newfoundland to South America, capturing numbers of British ships and
their cargo with a total value of over $1 million.
The nearby Town of Otway is named in his honor.
He is buried in The Old Burying Ground. His grave can be
prominently seen on the Craven St. side of the Old Burying Ground, with
a cannon from the Snapdragon mounted on top.
Beaufort during the 1800's
Some of the most popular vacation places in town were The
Atlantic Hotel, The Ocean House and The Sea Breeze.
The Davis House and The Manson House, still standing on Front St.
were also popular boarding houses for vacationing in the late 1800’s.
Beaufort was a very popular “summering” place for many
early wealthy Americans.
Visitors had to take the train to Morehead City, then
board boats to be ferried over to the Beaufort waterfront.
Sharpies – square rigged sailboat that was a very popular
design during that period in Beaufort and Morehead City.
The Atlantic Hotel
Capt. Josiah Pender built The Atlantic Hotel in 1859 for a
total construction cost of $4,000.
The Atlantic was 3 stories high with triple porches and numerous
boardwalks and docks on which to get out to the boats, or just to take a
Col. Charles Jones was the editor and owner of The
Charlotte Observer, and raved about Beaufort and The Atlantic Hotel to
his readership as a vacation place that no other place on the East Coast
Governors, Judges, Colonels and Capt.’s were among the
elite guests. Only the
guests of the highest quality were admitted, and anyone who’s
character was remotely questioned was refused service.
Famous for their entertainment.
Balls, galas, theatre, music, acrobats, dances, sailboat races,
croquet, fishing, and bowling. They
claimed that “there was never a bored guest”, and that “jollification”
was enjoyed by everyone.
During the Civil War, was used temporarily as a hospital.
Run by the Sisters of Mercy, a group of nuns from St. Catherine’s
convent in New York.
Called The Hammond Hospital.
Turned from ruin into a workable hospital by the sisters and
At the corner of Pine and Marsh streets was a small
cemetery used to bury soldiers who had died at the Hammond Hospital.
Any signs of this cemetery are nearly disappeared.
A room was $2.50 a day in 1877.
Round trip railroad tickets from Charlotte, good for the whole
season were $19.05, a ten day ticket was $9.95
In the spring of 1877, the Atlantic Hotel was damaged by a
A Hurricane wiped out The Atlantic Hotel in 1879.
The governor of NC was actually there when the hurricane hit.
The owners of the Atlantic assured people that all was ok, while
the rest of the town, wise to the weather patterns, prepared for the
storm. The governor of NC,
Thomas Jarvis, along with many others, lost all of his belongings and
clothes when they had to immediately evacuate the Atlantic.
All of the Beaufort water front was demolished and there
was 8 feet of water on Front St. Winds
were estimated to be 125 mph. The
good citizens of Beaufort took good care of those who were left without
clothes, belongings or a place to sleep. The railroad in Morehead City was damaged and the survivors
from the Atlantic couldn’t leave until the track was fixed. Every
boat in the harbor was either capsized or had been left high and dry in
the town's streets and yards. One
two-masted sloop came to rest 200 yards inland.
Morehead City was also devastated by the storm.
Ball gowns from the Atlantic Hotel were found with price
tags still attached for $75 or more.
This was at the same time that a normal shirt could be bought for
$1 and $150 would by an entire year of education at the local College.
In 1852, a bill was passed to run a railroad from
Goldsboro to Beaufort. When
the bill was passed, they’d not decided where the terminus would be.
A surveyor came to Beaufort and identified four possible
locations for the end of the line, but none suited the citizens of the
misunderstandings and delays, Beaufort lost it’s chance for a railroad
and did not get one for over 50 years.
As a result, Wilmington outpaced Beaufort in commercial traffic
and growth during the late 19th century.
No railroad ran into the town of Beaufort until 1907.
Round trip railroad tickets from Charlotte to Morehead
City, good for the whole season were $19.05, a ten day ticket was $9.95
- The Beaufort Hotel went into
bankruptcy because of the lack of transportation. Wilmington’s
railroad was completed in 1840 and business there was booming in the
Industry of Beaufort
Fishing, Whaling, Shipbuilding and Timber were major
industries. Whale oil and
bone were large exports from Beaufort in the early 1700’s.
Local sawmills produced shingles, lumber from the huge
stands of pine. Also made
turpentine, tar from burning the wood of the trees, pitch made from
boiling the tar, and rosin.
Shipbuilding in the mid-1700’s was a major industry.
Built ships from pines, live oaks and cedars.
Pines in this area were excellent for masts.
The industry was booming during the mid 1700’s, but by the 1820’s
the lumber supply began to run out and business declined.
Agriculture during the early 1700’s, grew rice, peas,
Indian corn and potatoes. Also
kept livestock, grazing them in the swampy marshes, and even on
Shackleford Banks and Core Banks. Cattle
and sheep were considered prevalent in the mid-late 1700’s.
The locals stopped grazing their livestock on Core and
Shackleford Banks about the time of the Revolutionary war because they
didn’t want the livestock to become provisions for invading British
forces or pirates.
- Menhaden fishing – Menhaden,
locally known as shad, is a small, bony and inedible fish.
It does make good fertilizer and fish meal food for pigs and
chickens. The oil of
the fish is used in the manufacture of paint and linoleum
Beaufort architecture was mainly influenced by that of the
The Hammock House, it is said, was built by Blackbeard
along the architecture of the Bahamas, from where he had just been
driven by the British.
Beaufort seems to be the line at which architectural
influence from the North and South meet.
In Northern NC and Va, architectural influence came from the
northern, British influenced colonies.
In Beaufort, Wilmington and SC, GA, etc…, the architecture
seems to follow much more Caribbean lines.
Two storied houses often used “ventilation systems”
that funneled wind through vents at the attic level above the upper
porch and to the rest of the house.
This concept was also brought from Bahamian architecture.
Historians now refer to this feature as "18th century air
The Beaufort gable “hip” roof is the architecture’s
distinguishing characteristic. This
style of roof seems to have arrived only with the Greek Revival Period.
The roof maintains a steep pitch at the ridge but then breaks to
cover porches in front and bays in the rear at lesser pitches.
Typical roofs of this style have at least three planes, but many
houses have four, while the Easton House (219 Front) has five.
Beaufort picket fence – an early Beaufort ordinance
required that the fences be “paled in”.
This accounts for the quirky “up and down” picket fences
often seen along Front St. and Anne St.
Houses were often built by shipwrights, who were skilled
carpenters and joiners. The
result was extremely high craftsmanship and carpentry and a house that
would stand up to time and weather with solid resistance.
- Foundations of early houses
were often made with ballast stones from the holds of ships.
Some examples of these foundations can still be seen in the
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