Appleton Oaksmith 1825-1887

Elizabeth Oakes Smith (1806-1893) was a poet, fiction writer, editor, lecturer, and women’s rights activist whose career spanned six decades, from the 1830s to the 1880s. She was married at the age of sixteen to a thirty year-old magazine editor and later humorist, Seba Smith, best known for his “Jack Downing” series. They had six sons. When two of the Smith brothers joined in a publishing business in New York City, they named it Oaksmith Publishing Company, joining their father’s last name and their mother’s middle name. The name stuck and became their surname.

Appleton Oaksmith, born February 12, 1825, in Portland, Maine, became one of the most colorful characters of mainland Carteret County. Before the Civil War, Appleton ventured into the shipping business, eventually purchasing several ships of his own.

At the beginning of the Civil War he was indicted for equipping a slave ship. He was jailed, only to escape. Oaksmith was hidden for nine months by his grandmother, Sophia Prince. It was while he was with his grandmother in Portland that he met his second wife Augusta Mason (portrait to right). Oaksmith’s mother spent years trying to procure her son’s innocence finally resulting in a Presidential pardon. Oaksmith then brought his family to Carteret County and was a blockade runner during the Civil War.

In the 1870’s, the dreamer, schemer and entrepreneur proposed dredging Neuse River and Beaufort Harbor, building dry docks in Morehead City and developing the nearby beaches into a resort. He bought hundreds of acres on Bogue Banks—an area now comprised by Atlantic Beach and part of east Pine Knoll Shores. Below is an old map that represents some of his holdings.
Oaksmith acquired title to all of his property in the names of his wife, Augusta, and her sister, Ellen Mason. At that time the area was generally referred to as Beaufort, visited by Appleton Oaksmith’s widowed mother, often spending months at a time. Oaksmith was a representative in the NC Legislature in 1874.

On July 4, 1879 Oaksmith decided to take his children on a small sailboat to visit friends. Half way between Beaufort and Fort Macon, the boat accidentally capsized. He lost four of his daughters and also the will to fulfill his dream. It is said that he sat brooding for hours with his lost children's belongings. He died on October 29, 1887 in a New York hospital - his mental condition complicated by paralysis.

From several sources including Heritage of Carteret County.