Beaufort County, North Carolina

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Henry Somerset,
2nd Duke of Beaufort


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A History of Beaufort County

Beaufort County was first named Pamtecough Precinct in 1705. The name was changed in 1712 to Beaufort Precinct. The town of Bath was the first county seat, having been established since 1705. 
The land that is now Beaufort County was occupied by two Indian tribes or nations. The Secotan Confederation occupied the extreme eastern portion of the present county, and some land south of the Pamlico. The Pomouik Nation occupied the western portion of the county, from near North Dividing Creek to Tranter's Creek. The Pomouik (Pamlico) Indians who occupied the western portion of the county, were enemies of the Secotans, and allies of the powerful Tuscarora Nation adjoining them to the west. The Pomouiks were also allies of the Neusiok Nation which occupied the Neuse River area. As the Tuscarora and Neusiok Indians were of Iroquoian linguistic stock, and close kinsmen of the warlike Five Nations of New York, it is reasonable to assume the Pomouik Indians were of the same stock.

The first white men to live along the Pamlico River in what is now Beaufort County were probably hunters or Indian traders. These men lived among the Indians for a year or more at a time; took Indian wives; and learned the language of the Indians, the better to conduct their business. Children of these squaw-man marriages were considered Indians by both the whites and Indians.

The name of the first white settler on the Pamlico is unknown. It is recorded to whom the first land grant in Beaufort County was issued - to Governor and new Lords Proprietor, Seth Sothel, also a Landgrave. The first grant, for the tract on the north bank, began at the mouth of a creek just east of present-day Bayview, and extended west along the north bank of the Pamlico River for 1,300 “perches,” to Duck Creek. From there it extended north to about Harvey Creek, thence east to about the source of Rowland Creek, and south to the beginning. This grant included about a four-mile square area, with Bath Creek in the center.

Sothel's second 12,000 acre siegnory lay almost directly across the Pamlico River from the first. Beginning at Core Point, it extended west to Maule's Point, then followed the east bank of Blounts Bay and Creek for a depth of 1,360 perches.

Neither Seth Sothel nor his heirs ever attempted to claim either of these tracts. Sothel's will, probated February 3, 1694, makes no mention of either of them. The early settlers along the Pamlico River were either ignorant of these grants or ignored them. They apparently found the land they wanted, and took possession of it.

With the exception of the unclaimed Sothel grants, which are recorded in the Office of the Secretary of State in Raleigh, most of the early records of land grants, bills of sale, deeds, and other transactions of early Bath County, which are now available, can be found in the Deed Books of the Register of Deeds for Beaufort County, which is the custodian for the old Bath County records. The first ten books of Bath County, covering the period 1701 (with a few earlier entries) to 1729, have been carefully transcribed into Deed Book No. 1 of Beaufort County.

Though Bath County was not established until 1696, and the first grant recorded in Deed Book 1 is dated 1696, there is no doubt the Pamlico area, from the Pungo River to above Bath Creek, was at least thinly settled before that date. On April 1, 1701, Thomas Arnold, “Planter in Pamteco River,” sold a “house and Plantation with cherry trees and apple trees” to William Butcher. Prior to that time, writs had been issued referring to the region as the Precinct of Pamptecough.

The earliest land grant on record in the Beaufort County Deed Books is dated February 10, 1696. This grant for 550 acres was issued by Governor Thomas Harvey to William Glover, a planter of Chowan Precinct. Like the Sothel grants, it apparently was never “planted.” Under the provisions that the land granted be cleared and settled within two years, this land probably reverted to the Lords Proprietors.

The first recorded land grant in Beaufort County, upon which entry was made, was issued by Governor Thomas Harvey on March 5, 1697, to Captain Thomas Blount. This grant was for 266 acres on the north bank of the Pamlico River and west of Mallard Creek, on what is now known as Ragged Point. Blount made entry upon this land on May 21, 1701.

Captain Richard Smith was one of Bath County's first settlers, and one of the county's first two representatives to the 1697 House of Burgesses. It was at Smith's plantation that John Lawson was “well received” when he arrived on the Pamlico in February of 1701. Yet the first recorded grant for the 2,000 acre plantation on which Smith lived was not issued until 1705, by Governor Thomas Cary. According to the wording of the grant, the plantation was known as “Smith's Neck.”

On August 10, 1700, John Buntin and his wife Ellis, sold the plantation on which they lived to Captain Nicholas Thomas Jones, Mariner. This land lay “on the west side of a creek called ye ould town creek ye s'd Land lying at ye mouth of ye said creek.” This was the plantation now known as Archbell Point. Being desirably located with regard to Bath Town and water transportation, this plantation changed hands a number of times during the early eighteenth century. The Landgrave Robert Daniell, first Deputy Governor to live on the Pamlico River, bought this plantation and lived there, as did Tobias Knight, Secretary and member of the Executive Council under Governor Charles Eden. There is no record of how long Buntin had been living on this plantation before he sold it in 1700. There is definite evidence he was not its first owner, or the original grantee. In his deed to Jones, Buntin refers to “an entry of Captain Richard Smith as appears upon Record.”

Richard Durham (Derham-Dearham) for whom Durham Creek was named, had been living on his plantation on the east bank of Durham Creek for a number of years before his grant was issued in 1706. The original grant was for 640 acres, extending from Durham Creek eastward. Richard Durham bequeathed this plantation, later known as the “Garrison,” to his brother John. John sold it to William Hancock, who eight years later sold it to Benjamin Peyton.

From 1700 to the incorporation of Bath Town in 1705, the population of Bath County increased rapidly. The vast area of land along the Pamlico River, acquired by ship captains for transporting new settlers to the area, is ample proof of this. For each freeman or member of his family transported to the area, the ship captain received a “Rite” for fifty acres of land. For each indentured servant or slave, he received from twenty to fifty acres.

Captain Thomas Blount received his grant to land on Ragged Point for transporting six persons to the Pamlico. Apparently two of them were either indentured servants or slaves. On March 28, 1702, Captain Richard Smith “did lay these six Rites upon an entry of Land by him made on Broad Creek.” After this entry on the records was listed the names of William Willson, his wife Ann, and their four children, Ann Jr., Mary, James, and Richard. Captain William Barrow received a single grant for 900 acres for transporting 18 freemen to the Pamlico on May 1, 1701, and Captain John White received a grant of 1,200 acres for transporting 24 freemen (or women).

Other ship captains who received grants or acquired “Rites” for transporting new settlers to the Pamlico included Captain Nicholas Daw, Captain James Neville, and Captain Jeremiah Goodridge, master of the Pink Adventure. These grants were issued by the Governor or Deputy Governor in the name of “His Excce ye Palatine and Lords Proprietors.”

The names that appear frequently among the early records of Beaufort Precinct in Bath County, many of whose descendants now live in the county, include: John Archbell, Thomas Arnold, Simon Alderson, John Bernard, William Barrow, Abraham Batson, Thomas Blount, William Brice, William Butcher, John Buntin, Jacob Carrow, William Collins, Richard, John, and Thomas Durham, Thomas Deadham, David Dupree, Francis Garganus, Farnefould Green, John Grimes, Nathaniel Hall, William Hancock, Thomas Harding, James Hogg, Nicholas Thomas Jones, Josiah Jones, Fred Jones, John Lawson, Abraham Leeds, Thomas Lepper, John Lillington, Patrick Maule, Robert Mellyne, Roger Montagne, Thomas Neuman, James Neville, Richard Oden, David Perkins, John Porter, William Powell, Lionel Reading, Giles Shute, Levi Truewhite, Collingswood Ward (sometimes Collings Woodward), William Winn, Nathaniel Wyersdale, and George and John White.

Toward the end of February of 1701, John Lawson, a young Englishman of good family, and apparently ample means, arrived on the Pamlico. He was accompanied by three other Englishmen whose names he never mentioned, but who are probably included in the names listed above. They completed a hazardous overland trip from Charles Town, in South Carolina, which carried them across the territory of several Indian Nations. In ending the account of their adventure, Lawson wrote: “we came safe to Mr. Richard Smith's of Pamptecough River, in North Carolina; where, being well received by the Inhabitants and pleased with the Goodness of the Country, we all resolved to continue.” For the next decade Lawson was destined to play an important role in the development of Bath County and Bath Town.

The first white settlers along the Pamlico River were of English stock. Most of them came south from Albemarle County, either by land or water. A few came from South Carolina, among whom was John Lawson. In his writings, Lawson refers only to “the English settlements” on the Pamlico. His first mention of the French settlers from Mannakin Town, on the James River, is that the French “removed themselves to Carolina, to live there before I came away (returned to London in 1708, in connection with the publishing of his book), and the rest were following, as their minister (M. Philip de Rixbourg) told me, who was at Bath Town, when I was taking my leave of my Friends.”

The legend of an early French Huguenot colony on the Pamlico may be attributed to Dr. Daniel Coxe of England, a claimant under the original Sir Richard Heath grant of 1629. Coxe planned such a colony, but like so many of Dr. Coxe's plans, it was never executed. Had there been a French colony on the Pamlico at the turn of the eighteenth century, Lawson, who covered each point of interest with minute detail, would have mentioned it. The Rev. William Gordon, who visited Bath Town in 1708, confirms this opinion. In a letter to the Secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.) he mentioned the Neuse River, “which being but lately peopled with a few French who left Virginia.”

The early settlers of the Pamlico River area came from all classes of society and from all walks of life. Some few were men of considerable wealth. Others had enough to establish themselves comfortably. By far the greater number had little more than the bare necessities of life. Early records, land grants, and records of sales, wills, and other legal documents show conclusively these settlers brought with them the inherited English idea of class distinction; nobility, gentry, yeomanry, and peasantry.

In the early records, the Governor of Carolina is referred to as the “Right Honorable.” The Deputy Governor for North Carolina was the “Honorable.” Sir Richard Everard, the last Proprietary Governor, was the only Baronet to hold the office of Governor of North Carolina, though several Governors of Carolina, seated in Charles Town, held the title. Two of North Carolina's Governors, Robert Daniell and Charles Eden, held the Proprietary “dignity” of Landgrave.

At the top of the social and economic ladder were the gentry, the large planters, and the wealthy merchants. After their signature, they affixed the title “Gent.,” “Esq.,” or “Planter.” With indentured servants or slaves to perform the menial tasks of the plantation, they lived in relative ease. Members of the Executive Council, the judiciary, other government officials, and professional men were in this group.

Members of the Executive Council affixed both “Gent.” and “Esq.” after their signatures. Those who had family crests or coats-of-arms proudly displayed them as a badge of social rank. Though this group was in the minority, they controlled the government and had great influence upon the political, social, and economic life of the province.

Next below the gentry on the social and economic ladder, and providing the great bulk of the population, were the small farmers, skilled artisans, and small merchants. These men came to the Pamlico seeking the always desired “good bottom land.” This had become increasingly scarce in the more populous region to the north.

The small farmers cleared their own land. With the help of their neighbors, they erected their home, such as it was. Few if any of them owned even one slave, though some had indentured servants. With the help of their wives and children, they wrested a meager living from their stump-filled acres.

Next below the small farmer and artisan were the volunteer indenture servants, known as “redemptioners.” They were the poorer people of England who could not finance their passage across the Atlantic. They voluntarily bound themselves to a planter for three or four years of servitude in return for their passage, their “keep” for the period of servitude, and their “freedom dues” when that period had been served.

Four years of servitude, bending always to the will of a master, may seem to us a high price to pay for less than steerage passage across the Atlantic. Passengers of this class were crowded into the dark, smelly hold of a small ship. There was no privacy. Men, women, and children slept huddled together on the sand ballast floor of the hold. There were no toilet facilities. One stove, with a pipe running up through the deck, provided the only facilities for them to prepare their meals. But to these people, after the grinding poverty of seventeenth and early eighteenth century England, it must have seemed the fulfilment of a dream. After three or four years, probably spent more pleasantly than they would have been back in England, they would be free men and women, with a hundred acres of land of their own.

At the end of their period of servitude, they were given their “freedom dues.” This included fifty acres of land per person, warm clothing, a gun, and probably a cow or a sow, with which to start their own herd or drove. Many indenture contracts provided that the servant, particularly if under age, should be taught a trade, and perhaps to read and write. On November 4, 1700, Stephen Swetman, of Baffin, in Hertfordshire, indentured himself to Thomas Durham, “Carolina Planter,” for four years; guaranteeing himself to be over twenty-one years of age, of good health, and single. Durham was to pay Swetman's passage, provide him with food, clothing, and lodging during the period of indenture, and at the end, provide the “freedom dues.”

Below the “redemptioners” on the social ladder were the involuntary indentured servants. Under the drastic laws of England of that period, a man could be sentenced to death for stealing a shilling, a pig, or a lamb; for poaching, or many other trifling offenses. Lenient judges, and apparently there were some, even then, were reluctant to impose the death penalty for such offenses. Prisoners found guilty were given a choice of going to the New World as bound servants, or going to the gibbet. Their period of servitude ran from five to seven years. When that period was served, they became free men. With such a choice, it seems unlikely any chose the gibbet.

Some of the first settlers to move into North Carolina from Virginia, prior to the Proprietary grant, brought their slaves with them. Old wills and inventories of the early planters on the Pamlico show they owned a relatively large number of slaves. Slaves were mostly brought into the province by New England ship masters, who did a thriving business in this traffic. North Carolina planters claimed that because of their poor ports, the best slaves were sold in Virginia or Charles Town, while they got only the culls. Slaves born in the province, who spoke English, and did not have to be broken to slavery, brought the best prices.

It was also common practice among the white planters to buy Indian women and children who had been captured by warring tribes, or kidnapped from their village. As Indian men made poor slaves, and were hard to hold in bondage, they were usually shipped to the West Indies.

Captain Nicholas Thomas Jones, a mariner who lived on Archbell Point when not at sea, had two indentured servants, John Mattson and Thomas Blangoe. He also owned two slaves, an Indian named Pete, and a black woman named Dido. When he left the Pamlico for a cruise, he left his servants and slaves with his friend, Captain William Barrow. Barrow contracted with William Gormson, a bricklayer, to rent the services of the four for a season, while Jones was away. In return for their labor, Gormson was to provide their food, clothes, and lodging.

John Lawson left an interesting description of the lives of the early settlers of Beaufort Precinct. He wrote: “Some of the men are very laborious, and make great Improvement in their Way; but I dare hardly give them that Character in general. The easy way of living in this plentyful Country makes a great many Planters very negligent. The women are the most industrious Sex in that Place, and by their good Housewifery, make a Cloth of their own, They are as well featured as any you will see anywhere, and have very brisk, charming Eyes, which set them off to Advantage. They marry very young; some at Thirteen or Fourteen; and she that stays ’till Twenty, is reckoned a stale Maid. The women are very fruitful, most houses being full of Little Ones. The Girls are not bred up to the Wheel and Sewing only, but the Dairy and affairs of the House.”

By the year 1704, planters along the Pamlico River realized that if their community was to achieve commercial and political importance within the province, it should have a town as the center of its activities. There is no record of who first initiated the action to incorporate the town of Bath. The new Deputy Governor, the Landgrave Robert Daniell, fresh from Charles Town, and conscious of the fact the vast area he governed was without an incorporated town, and had no permanent seat of government, was undoubtedly among those who initiated it. John Lawson, Joel Martin, and Simon Alderson, who became the first commissioners of the town, were also undoubtedly involved. Major Christopher Gale, Captain William Barrow, Captain Nathaniel Daw, and David Perkins, all land owners in the neighborhood, were probably also involved.

A site was selected on the eastern bank of Old Town (Bath) Creek, on the point formed by the confluence of Old Town and Adams (Back) Creek. This had been the site of the Indian town referred to as Pamtico's Town in the 1684 Sothel grant. It was also the site of the old Pomouik town of Cotan, from which the creek derived the name “Old Town.”

This site was part of a plantation settled earlier by David Perkins. It adjoined the plantation of Captain William Barrow, to the east. At some time during the year 1704, John Lawson, Joel Martin, and Simon Alderson bought about sixty acres of the Perkins plantation, and laid out streets and lots for a town. There is no direct record of this sale in the present Beaufort County records. However there is a record which confirms this sale. Two years later, when Perkins sold the remainder of his plantation to Governor Thomas Cary, for the use of the Governor's son John, the record of transfer states: “the within mentioned Tract (160 acres and 11 poles) except that Part which we formerly sold to Joel Martin Gent., Simon Alderson Gent., and John Lawson and now laid out for a town.”

On March 2, 1705, the new Deputy Governor Thomas Cary issued a patent to David Perkins, confirming his title to the plantation. At about the same time, Cary issued a patent to Barrow for his plantation, which Cary also later bought.

On March 8, 1705, the tract of land purchased by Lawson, Martin, and Alderson, was incorporated into the town of Bath, by the General Assembly meeting at the home of Captain John Hecklefield, in Albemarle County. It now seems obvious by the timing of Cary's grant to Perkins that this action was to give validity to the title to lots to be sold in the new town.

The 1715 General Assembly made provisions for a court house to be built in Bath Town to serve Beaufort, Hyde, and Craven precincts. It authorized justices of the peace of the precincts to lay a levy against the inhabitants of the precincts to pay for it. However, it provided this levy could not be laid until the precincts had recovered from the effects of the Tuscarora War. Later action of the 1722 General Assembly indicates this levy was never laid, nor was a court house built. This General Assembly also provided that a collector's office, clerk's office, and an impost office be established and maintained at Bath Town.

Beaufort Precinct was named after Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort, one of the eight (8) Lords Proprietors (fifth generation) in 1712.

The 1722 and 1723 General Assemblies, which met during President and Acting Governor William Reed's administration, contributed much to the welfare of Bath Town and Beaufort Precinct. The 1722 General Assembly directed the immediate construction of a court house in Bath Town for the use of Beaufort and Hyde precincts. In the meantime, Craven had been authorized its own court house at New Bern. This action by the General Assembly indicates beyond a reasonable doubt that a court house had not been built under the 1715 authority. This court house was probably built in the spring or summer of 1723. The 1723 General Assembly authorized a further levy for the building of a jail at Bath Town.

The exact location of this first Beaufort County court house is not known. All evidence points to lot 62, designated on the plan for a court house. Through surveying errors, the court house could have encroached upon lot 61, designated for a church, and thus account for the fact that St. Thomas Church, which was started a dozen years later, was built in the center of Craven Street, instead of on lot 61.

The Sauthier Map of Bath Town, made in 1769, shows the court house and jail at the end of Craven Street, between Water (Bay) Street and the Creek. As a new court house and jail was authorized in 1766, when the court was ordered to return to Bath Town from Bonner's Field, it seems more likely the Sauthier Map shows the second court house rather than the first, as the new court house was finished prior to 1769.

Transition from Proprietary rule to that of the Crown brought little change in either the organization or administration of the government. Sir Richard Everard remained as governor for the first two years under the Crown. The duties, powers, and privileges of the Governor, his Executive Council, the House of Burgesses, and the Courts remained essentially the same, though every later Royal governor tried to increase his power.

Governor Everard's last General Assembly met in November of 1729. It enacted a number of laws that directly affected Beaufort Precinct. One was the Act changing Beaufort from a precinct to a county (realized in 1735). Another separated the governments of Beaufort and Hyde counties, and gave Hyde authority to erect its own court house and hold its own courts. A third Act confirmed the grant of land for Bath Town Commons. This land lay to the northeast of Bath Town, and north of the land formerly owned by Captain William Barrow, and sold by him to Governor Thomas Cary.

In 1738, a new town was laid out and started on land that is now in Beaufort County, but was then a part of Hyde. Hyde County had been authorized a separate government and court house since 1729, but had no town in which the court house could be built. William Harris, Samuel Sinclair, and John Smith were appointed commissioners to lay out a town in “half acre lots and streets not less than 60 feet wide.” Lots were to be sold for forty shillings. Provision was made that if the buyer had not built a house of minimum standard upon his lot within a period of two years, the lot reverted to the town for resale.

This was the colonial town of Woodstock. It was located on the west bank of the Pungo River, on the plantation of William Webster. This is in the vicinity of the present community of Winsteadville. A court house, jail, and pillory were built in Woodstock, which became the first county seat of Hyde County. During the American Revolution, Woodstock served as a port for shipping naval stores and other produce of the area. In the late 1780s, the court house and jail were burned. At a later date the public lots were sold, as the seat of government for Hyde County was being moved. Woodstock has now vanished. Part of the ruins are now covered by the Pungo River, and the remainder of this early town has become a dairy farm. The name Woodstock is preserved in the name of the rural electric cooperative that serves the area.

As the population of Beaufort County increased, spreading away from the Pamlico River and its larger tributaries, the necessity for passable roads increased. Road commissioners were appointed from among the leading citizens of each locality to supervise the construction and maintenance of these roads. In April of 1745, while Pitt County was still a part of Beaufort, the General Assembly divided Beaufort County into seven road districts, and appointed commissioners for each:

1) Roads from Broad (Lower) Creek, below Bay River, to the Main Road, including each side of said (Bay) river, on the south side of the Pamlico River. Commissioners; Mr. James Thomas, Mr. William Phipps, and Mr. Josiah Jones.

2) Roads from Goose Creek to Durham's Creek to the Boundary Line of Craven County. Commissioners; Mr. Abraham Prichard, Mr. John Tripp, and Mr. John Bond.

3) Roads from Durham's Creek to Chocowinity and the Boundary Line of Craven County. Commissioners; Benjamin Peyton, Thomas Williams, Reading Blount, William Peyton, and William Dunbar.

4) Road from Chocowinity to the Line of the County. Commissioners; Edward Salter, Thomas Tyson, and John Hardy.

5) Roads from Hyde County, bounding on Price's Creek, to Bath Town. Commissioners; James Adams, Daniel Blenn, George Nixon, and James Brown.

6) From Bath Town to Flat Swamp, bounding on Tyrrell County; also from Bath Town to Tranter's Bridge. Commissioners; John Barrow, Wm. Martin, Robert Boyd, Samuel Boatwell, and Simon Jones.

7) Tranter's Creek to Edgecombe County. Commissioners; Seth Pilkington, George Moy, Sr., Wm. Mace, John Burney, and James Barrow.

By the middle of the Eighteenth Century, half the population of Beaufort County lived west of Tranter's Creek. As had the people of the Neuse and Trent rivers, they complained of the long, hard trip to Bath Town for court week, musters, and other official business. Unlike the people of the Neuse and Trent, who had New Bern, they had no nearer town that could be designated as the county seat.

In response to complaints and petitions from the people of the upper Pamlico and the Tar, the 1755 General Assembly found that “the place where the Court of said County (Beaufort) is held is very inconvenient to the Inhabitants... and the Court House of the said County is becoming very ruinous.” To remedy this situation, the General Assembly appointed a commission to build “a suitable court house, pillory, and stocks... on the land of Thomas Bonner Junior, on the North side of the Pamlico River.” Thus, nearly a score of years before the founding of the town of Washington, Bonner's farm became the seat of government for Beaufort County.

This arrangement was never satisfactory to either the eastern or western portion of the county. There were no taverns, and few houses, where the citizens of the county could find lodging and food during court week. Despite these conditions, the court continued to be held in the court house on Bonner's farm for the next four years.

In 1765, Goverrnor William Tryon's first General Assembly decided the court house and prison at Bath Town were in “great Decay and so ruinous Condition that the Courts cannot be held there nor Prisoners detained; and the Lot whereon same stands is very low, sunken, and inconvenient.” A commission, consisting of “the Hon. Robert Palmer, Esq., John Barrow, Thomas Respess, Wyriot Ormond, & Thomas Bonner, Esqrs.,” was appointed to “contract within six months for a new Court House, Prison, Pillory, and Stock in Bath Town, for use of said County.” They were authorized to sell the old court house and lot, and apply the money received to the new buildings.

The new court house was erected at the end of Craven Street, between Water (Bay) Street and Bath Creek. As it is the court house shown on the Sauthier Map, made in 1769, and was “to be contracted for within six months,” it was probably built in the summer of 1767. Despite its “low, sunken, and inconvenient” location, the old court house and lot were sold. On June 6, 1780, Thomas Bonner conveyed this lot to William Fullerton.

The Regulator movement came to a head in 1770, when the Regulators refused to pay the tax imposed for building and maintaining the governor's mansion; declared Edmund Fanning an outlaw, to be killed on sight; and forbade any sessions of court, under penalty of death to the judges and lawyers.

Beaufort County was called upon to provide one company of fifty men for Tryon's expedition against the Regulators. This company was commanded by Captain John Patten, who rose to the rank of colonel during the American Revolution, and commanded the 2nd North Carolina Regiment on the Continental Line. The company consisted of the captain, one lieutenant, one ensign, one adjutant, two sergeants, a drummer, and thirty-four privates. This was a composite company, assembled from men from the various companies of the Beaufort County militia. Tryon's “Order of Battle” for the Battle of Alamance, shows the Beaufort Company was in the front line, and on the right flank of Tryon's forces. In April of 1771, Governor Tryon wrote Colonel Palmer to have the Beaufort Company march to a place near the present site of Smithfield, and there join the force of Lt. Col. William Bryan.

On May 16, 1771, Governor William Tryon assembled his force of 1,452 officers and men on Great Alamance Creek, a few miles from the town of Hillsborough. He was opposed by a force of about 2,000 Regulators. When the Regulators requested an audience with the governor, he refused to meet with them “as long as they were in arms against the government.” Governor Tryon issued an ultimatum, giving the Regulators one hour to lay down their arms and disperse.
At the end of the hour, when the Regulators had not complied, Tryon gave the order to fire. After two hours of fighting, the Regulators were defeated and scattered. Governor Tryon lost nine men killed and sixty-one wounded. The Regulators also had nine men killed. As their wounded were either carried away, or escaped under their own power, there are no figures on the number of their wounded. Records do not disclose whether men from Beaufort were among the dead or wounded. As they were in the front line, it seems reasonable to assume they suffered their proportionate share of the casualties. Governor Tryon reported the battle as “a signal and glorious victory.”

Twelve leaders of the Regulators were tried for treason and convicted. Six were promptly hanged. The other six were pardoned by the governor. Tryon offered clemency to all Regulators who would lay down their arms, take a new oath of allegiance to the Crown, and submit to authority, which included paying the tax for the maintenance of the governor's mansion. More than six thousand Regulators submitted. Many, “despairing of seeing better times,” collected their meager belongings and left the province.

Satisfied with his victory, Governor Tryon departed for New York at the end of June. On July 1st, James Hassell, President of the Executive Council, assumed control of the government. His tenure of office lasted a little over one month. On August 12, Josiah Martin, who was to be North Carolina's last Royal Governor, took the oath of office at Edenton.

Richard Caswell, who had distinguished himself at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, was elected the first Governor of the new State, and served three one-year terms. John Gray Blount, Thomas Bonner, and Thomas Respess of Beaufort County served as members of Caswell's Council of State.

In 1783, Governor Alexander Martin notified the Legislature that Great Britain had recognized the independence of the United States, and the war was over. To this announcement, Martin added: “Nothing now remains but to enjoy the fruits of uninterrupted Constitutional Freedom.” Martin, the Legislature, and the people of the new State were soon to learn this was a masterpiece of overstatement.

In April of 1783, the Assembly initiated a bill to “encourage John and James Bonner, Jr., of Beaufort County, to make a road through the great swamp and marsh” on the south side of the Pamlico River. This road extended from a point opposite the town of Washington to Chocowinity. The road the Bonners constructed was typical of the corduroy roads used by early roadbuilders of the province to pass through swamps or marshy areas. Logs were laid transversely across the road to form a firm base. Sand was packed into the space between the logs to give a smooth surface. The road was reasonably good during dry weather. When it rained, the sand washed out from between the logs, giving the effect of driving over a huge washboard.

The following year the Washington Toll Bridge Company built a privately-owned toll bridge across the Pamlico River, connecting Bridge Street with the Bonner Road. The records do not show the owners of the stock of this company, but it seems reasonable to assume the Bonner brothers were among them. The toll on this bridge was $1.00 for a vehicle and driver.

Beaufort County was predominantly Federalist. Her representatives in the 1787 State Legislature, John Bonner in the Senate, and John Gray Blount and Henry Smaw in the House of Commons, favored drastic changes in the Articles of Confederation. Blount took a leading role in the effort to have North Carolina participate in a national convention to provide a new Federal Constitution. When this action was finally approved, Blount, for some unaccountable reason, was not appointed as a member of the North Carolina delegation.

In 1815, land in Beaufort County was listed on the tax books as valued in excess of $800,000. With values deflated for tax purposes, this meant a real evaluation of more than $3 million. There were nearly 3,000 slaves in the county at that time, with an estimated average value of $200 each. The 1820 census listed the population of the town of Washington as 1,034. Her forests and the availability of water transportation were Beaufort County's greatest assets. Next to the products of her forests, corn, beef and pork were the principal exports of the county.

By 1860, with war clouds gathering over the Nation, the population of Beaufort County had reached 14,766, of whom 728 were “Free Colored,” and 5,878, or approximately forty (40) per cent, slaves. The population of the town of Washington was 1,599.

The Jamesville and Washington Railroad, facetiously known as the “Jolt and Wiggle,” was the first railroad to enter Washington. This company began buying rights-of-way in 1877, and completed their line about 1885. The following year it built its depot on the “fronts” of lots 61 and 56 of Van Norden Town. This was on the southeast corner of Washington and Main streets. These lots were purchased from James L. and Caroline Fowle for $850. The line ran between Washington, on the Pamlico, and Jamesville, on the Roanoke, a distance of about twenty miles. The “Jolt and Wiggle” made one round trip each day.

In 1892 the Atlantic Coast Line ran a spur from its main line at Parmele to Washington. This line operated two trains daily. The Norfolk and Southern Railway and Washington and Vandemere Railroad came to Washington after the turn of the Twentieth Century.

BEAUFORT COUNTY Two Centuries of Its History by
C. Wingate Reed, Col. USA Retd. 1962 [with minor edits]


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