The Indians Were Here First

During the period of first white contacts, the Indian tribes inhabiting the area of the present state of North Carolina were a of three linguistic stocks — the Iroquoian, Siouan, and Algonkian.  

In 1588 Thomas Heriot (1560-1621) authored the Brief and True Report on the New Found Land of Virginia. Reviews of his writings have included,the towns he saw were all small, and always close to the water. Except on foot, through forest and swamp, the Indian's only method of transportation was by canoe. This necessitated their towns being close to the water. Most of these towns contained ten or twelve houses constructed of small, upright poles, fastened together with strips of bark or rawhide."  

In Beaufort County: Two Centuries of Its History, C. Wingate Reed wrote, 
"When the first settlers began to filter south into the Pamlico River area, they did not find the Indians as populous as the Raleigh explorers had found them…approximately 13,800. A little more than a century later, at about the time of the founding of Bath Town, John Lawson estimated the Indian population of eastern Carolina as approximately 5,000.

"This reduction of the Indian population is not all attributable to the white man, though he is responsible for most of it. John Archdale, Governor of Carolina in 1694, attributes the reduction in strength to 'a great mortality' of a few years previous. This was probably an epidemic of smallpox, a disease to which the Indians were very susceptible…a disease unknown to the Indians before the white man came.”

John Lawson wrote, in his Letter to the Lord Proprietors, “The Indians of North-Carolina are a well-shap'd clean-made People, of different Statures, as the Europeans are, yet chiefly inclin'd to be tall. They are a very streight People, and never bend forwards, or stoop in the Shoulders, unless much overpower'd by old Age…Their Bodies are a little flat, which is occasion'd, by being laced hard down to a Board, in their Infancy.

"Their Colour is of a tawny, which would not be so dark, did they not dawb themselves with Bears Oil, and a Colour like burnt Cork. This is begun in their Infancy, and continued for a long time, which fills the Pores, and enables them better to endure the Extremity of the Weather…Their Teeth are yellow with Smoaking Tobacco, which both Men and Women are much addicted to. They tell us, that they had Tobacco amongst them, before the Europeans made any Discovery of that Continent...Although they are great Smokers, yet they never are seen to take it in Snuff, or chew it.” 

Lawson also wrote that the Indians made “Tobacco-pouches of his [the pelican’s] Maw” and used conk shells as their wampum. See more detail on the Coree Indian post.

White House and Hammock House

The White House

1733 Moseley notes "I.Taylor" (Nathaniel Taylor)
who owned the White House from 1725-1733
A structure in the area 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. 

Since Farnifold Green owned the land and had the means, he may have built the "White House" as an outpost - a place to stay when visiting the yet-settled wilderness. 

Green, who lived on a 1700-acre plantation north of Neuse River, (on Green's Creek, near present-day Oriental) had the first land patent for land that would later become Beaufort - 780 acres on "the south end of the peninsula that extends between North River and Newport River" - the patent granted December 20, 1707.

Becoming fearful of the events of the Tuscarora War, Green, still on his plantation north of Neuse (Clear Springs Plantation or Green's Thoroughfare), 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.

The earliest recorded occupant of the  "White House" 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.” (deed)

Although there is no record showing when the "White House" was built, or by whom, 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). 

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 "Taylor's 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. 
1775 Mouzon Map showing "White House" 
The house did not appear on maps after 1780.

The Hammock House 

The Hammock House, built in 1800 by Samuel Leffers, is not the same house as the "White House," built some 100 years earlier. The "White House" once existed several hundred yards west of the Hammock House. (Research and documentation is included in Mary Warshaw's new book, Historic Beaufort)

The oldest-known photograph of the "Hammock House" shows a dilapidated house 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 Hammock House 
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."

Early 1900s
About 1965
According to Maurice Davis' history of the house, James Mason owned the house from 1875-1891, followed by B.L. Jones from 1891-1907.

Contemporary Painting by Mary Warshaw

Excerpts from John Lawson's letter to Lords-Proprietors - 1709

...This Part of Carolina is faced with a Chain of Sand-Banks, which defends it from the Violence and Insults of the Atlantick Ocean; by which Barrier, a vast Sound is hemm'd in, which fronts the Mouths of the Navigable and Pleasant Rivers of this Fertile Country.

...Topsail Inlet is above two Leagues to the Westward of Cape Look-out. You have a fair Channel over the Bar, and two Fathom thereon, and a good Harbour in five or six Fathom to come to an Anchor. Your Course over this Bar is almost N. W. Lat. 34o 44.

...The Fishing-Trade in Carolina might be carried on to great Advantage, considering how many Sorts of excellent Fish our Sound and Rivers afford, which cure very well with Salt, as has been experienced by some small Quantities, which have been sent abroad, and yielded a good Price. As for the Whale-fishing, it is no otherwise regarded than by a few People who live on the Sand-Banks; and those only work on dead Fish cast on shoar, none being struck on our Coast, as they are to the Northward; altho' we have Plenty of Whales there.

...Live-Oak chiefly grows on dry sandy Knolls. This is an Ever-green and the most durable Oak all America affords. The shortness of this Wood's Bowl, or Trunk, makes it unfit for Plank to build Ships withal.

... The Pellican of the Wilderness cannot be the same as ours; this being a Water-Fowl, with a great natural Wen or Pouch under his Throat, in which he keeps his Prey of Fish, which is what he lives on. He is Web-footed, like a Goose, and shap'd like a Duck, but is a very large Fowl, bigger than a Goose. He is never eaten as Food; They make Tobacco-pouches of his Maw.

... We have a great pied Gull, black and white, which seems to have a black Hood on his Head; these lay very fair Eggs which are good; as are the young ones in the Season.

... Porpoises are frequent, all over the Ocean and Rivers that are salt; nay, we have a Fresh-Water Lake in the great Sound of North Carolina that has Porpoises in it. As to the Porpoises, they make good Oil; they prey upon other Fish as Drums, yet never are known to take a Bait, so as to be catch'd with a Hook.

... Oysters, great and small, are found almost in every Creek and Gut of Salt-Water, and are very good and well-relish'd. The large Oysters are excellent, pickled.

... The large Crabs, which we call Stone-Crabs, are the same sort as in England, having black Tips at the end of their Claws. These are plentifully met withal, down in Core Sound, and the South Parts of North-Carolina.

... Shrimps are very plentiful and good, and are to be taken with a Small-Bow-Net, in great Quantities.

... All these things duly weighed, any rational Man that has a mind to purchase Land in the Plantations for a Settlement of himself and Family, will soon discover the Advantages that attend the Settlers and Purchasers of Land in Carolina, above all other Colonies in the English Dominions in America.
John Lawson - 1709

Past, Present and Future

"I'm Home--Beaufort Waterfront and the Meka II"

To those of you who aren’t familiar with Beaufort, North Carolina, it is a small, quaint community by the sea - officially laid out and named by permission of the Lords Proprietors on October 2, 1713.

For hundreds of years, residents struggled and gained their subsequent strength and determination by taking the risk of being isolated – most surviving by living directly or indirectly off the sea.

Growth was slow, but residents protected the land and built sturdy homes – homes that have survived wars and hundreds of hurricanes.

Some larger homes were built by plantation owners who used their town homes to conduct their businesses. The sailing ships of the day were their connection to the rest of the world - for shipping, trading and communicating.

Fishermen built small utilitarian fishing cottages. Homes and businesses were handed down from generation to generation. Perhaps this is the main reason that Beaufort boasts so many historic homes.

Today Beaufort is still somewhat of a hidden jewel - a place where visitors can step back in time, while enjoying the slow pace, the surrounding vistas - the peacefulness of it all.

This ambiance--sense of place--is what visitors come to experience and what Beaufortites want to preserve.

It is also the reason how and why I, as an artist, found my niche. I have painted many of Beaufort’s homes and porches. I also believe my painting and resulting prints of the waterfront--
the view that sea captains saw centuries ago, and ships today see when they come into port - represents Beaufort’s past, present and future.

                                                                                                Mary Warshaw

This site was created in 2006.