The White House and The Hammock House

The White House - Early 18th Century

1733 Moseley notes I.Taylor
White House owned by Taylor from 1725-1733
A structure in this area, just east of the town of Beaufort, was noted on early maps as the “White House.” With its position on the waterfront and clear view of the inlet, it would have served as a landmark to help guide early mariners. 

The "White House" may have been built by Farnifold Green as an outpost. Green, who lived on a 1700-acre plantation north of Neuse River (Clear Springs Plantation or Green's Thoroughfare), had the first land patent, 780 acres on "the south end of the peninsula that extends between North River and Newport River;" patent granted December 20, 1707.

Becoming fearful of the events of the Tuscarora War, Green, still on his plantation north of Neuse, assigned his patent to Robert Turner in 1711. In 1713, Turner received a formal patent and permission from the Lords Proprietors to lay out the town. (Green was massacred by Indians in 1714.)

Although there is no record showing when the "White House" was built, the earliest owners or proprietors of the Town of Beaufort are said to have owned and lived in the "White House." Robert Turner (1713-1720), Richard Rustull Sr. (1720-1725) and Nathaniel Taylor (1725-1733). 

The earliest recorded occupant was Thomas Austin Sr. In 1725, when Richard Rustull Sr. sold the estimated 200 acres comprising the land known by the name of Beaufort; the eastern boundary was “100 yards to the eastward of the hammock that Thomas Austin formerly lived on.”

1738 Chart showing "White House"
The "White House" was mentioned in James Winwright's 1744 will. Winwright had acquired the house and land when he purchased the proprietorship of the town from John Pender in 1742.
In 1754, the 100 acres adjoining the eastern boundary of Beaufort, described as "Taylors Old Field" and containing the "White House" property, was sold at public auction from the estate of James Winwright for the sum of £15-10 shillings proclamation money. In 1765 Robert Williams purchased the 25 acres "known by the name White House..." for £15. (Charles Paul) At that time, Williams built a Salt Works on that end of town.
NOTE: If Blackbeard actually came ashore before 1718, he may have visited the "White House," not the "Hammock House," built by Samuel Leffers in 1800 (see below).
1775 Mouzon Map showing "White House"
The Hammock House - 1800

In 1795, Samuel Leffers purchased the 25-acre property White House property, including house, windmill and other improvements, from Elias Albertson Jr. for 350 Spanish dollars. That same year Samuel advertised the windmill for sale. Over the next few years he added to the property by purchasing adjoining acreage.   

In an October 19, 1800 letter to his brother John in Long Island, New York, Samuel Leffers wrote, “My situation at present is agreeable, my new house is calculated to my fancy and pleasantly situated, we have a fine prospect of the Sea, in front have a good garden and spring of water and are about 200 yards from the eastern most boundary of Beaufort town.” (It appears the 1800 Hammock House was built about 300 yards east of the White House which was 100 yards west of the town boundary.)

In 1811 Leffers sold a larger 45-acre property, including the house, to Henry Marchant Cooke for $1300. In an April 16, 1811, Samuel again wrote, “…as Mr. Cooke is an intimate acquaintance of mine and has an agreeable wife and but one child and I am particularly attached to the pleasant situation which I have enjoyed for 10 years past I have agreed to continue as a boarder with Mr. Cooke during pleasure.”

Henry Marchant Cooke owned the Hammock House from 1811 until 1831.

The oldest-known photograph of the house, shows a dilapidated house but one with an engaged porch, the same form as many Beaufort houses built close to the turn of the century and the first quarter of the 19th century—the 2-story Beaufort-style house. (1815 Duncan House and 1800 Jacob Henry are good examples)

The photograph below was scanned from Beaufort-by-The-Sea Journey Back in Time, The Illustrated Heritage Guide to Beaufort, NC by Rick and Marcie Carroll, published by Fish Towne Press, Beaufort, NC.
Earliest known photo of the Hammock House 
circa early 1900s
In 1980, the Carteret News-Times published the photograph with the following caption:

"This is the Hammock House in Beaufort as it looked early in this century. The photograph belongs to George Huntley Jr., Beaufort. According to Elizabeth Springle, Beaufort, the small house in the background was the home of Augusta 'Gus' Mason and his wife Elvira. Their two sons, Allen and Whitford Mason, were captains in the Coast Guard. They also had a daughter, Ida. The small house, believed to be located on Spring Cut leading into Taylor's Creek, burned many years ago. The spring was a source of drinking water for many residents in the area."

According to Maurice Davis' history of the house, James Mason owned the house from 1875-1891, followed by B.L. Jones from 1891-1907.

Side-by-side comparisons: Early 1900s and 1965
Contemporary Painting by Mary Warshaw