Norcom Family Roots & The 1851 House

Edmund Halsey Norcom built this now-waterfront house in Beaufort on Craven Street in 1851. His North Carolina roots go back to his 5th Great-Grandfather Thomas Norcom born 1650 in Perquimans, North Carolina - Perquimans was formed by 1668 as a precinct of Albemarle.

Edmund's ancestor John Norcom's name was included in the rare 1715 document below. In 1712, to raise provisions for the Tuscarora war, the government of North Carolina imposed a levy of corn on every tithable in the colony. Tallies of the bushels supplied by the colonists in Perquimans and elsewhere survive as "corn lists”. The top of the document reads:

A Lest of Corne brought in for the youse of the Contry upon the Sowswest 
Side of Pequimens as followeth this 16th of the 12 mo: 1715 and sence When Edmund Halsey Norcom was born to Joseph and Nancy Halsey Norcom in 1824, the Norcom family made their home on Queen Anne’s Creek - below Edenton in Chowan County, North Carolina. At that time Joseph Norcom's plantation was valued at $7,500 and personal property was valued at $29,215.
Edmund Halsey Norcom attended the University of North Carolina where he was a member of the UNC Dialectic Society in 1844. He received an A.B. degree in 1847. The Dialectic Society Hall contained many old portraits.

Edmund evidently met Laura Ann Dusenbery while he was a student in Chapel Hill and she was studying in Greensboro. They were married on October 20, 1847—the same year that Edmund graduated.

Laura Ann Dusenbery (1826-1880?) was the daughter of Lydia Davis (1797-1857) and Henry Rounsaville Dusenbery (1794-1852). She was educated in Greensboro, NC, probably at the Greensboro Female Academy.

Laura Ann and Edmund made their way to Beaufort, North Carolina, where they built the main two-story home in 1851. It was built about midway on the first block of Craven Street and was constructed using many structural timbers salvaged from pre-Civil War ships. Edmund became a merchant and ship's chandler.

Edmund and Laura Ann were parents of three sons and three daughters: Alice L. (1849-1864), Henry Dusenbery (1855-1928), Annie Laura (b.1858), Joseph Dusenbery (b.1861), Laura (1864-1865), and Edmund Halsey (1866-1954).

In 1860, Edmund’s real estate value was listed as $8,600 with $18,000 in personal property. 

After Norcom's death, Laura continued to manage the family business with her sons and ran a boarding house. By 1880 she had married Hezekiah Willis (1836-1911), a Beaufort, NC, dry goods merchant. She is buried next to Edmund Norcom under an unmarked slab in the Norcom family plot in the Old Burying Ground, Beaufort, NC.

In 2004 it was discovered that part of one of the largest collections of surviving correspondences from Unionists inside the confederacy was actually written from the Norcom House.
These letters were compiled and edited by Michael Smith and Judkin Browning in 2001 in Letters from a North Carolina Unionist. Most of the 1861-1865 Beaufort letters are to Benjamin S. Hedrick from his brother John A. Hedrick, a Unionist and abolitionist who was a United States Treasury Department customs collector in Beaufort, N.C., during the Civil War. John wrote about life in occupied Beaufort, North Carolina politics, war news, and actions of northern soldiers, black recruits, and southern Unionists. He also chronicled day-to-day life including births, deaths, epidemics, celebrations, and fascinating details about life in the Norcom household.

Edmund Halsey Norcom died in 1867. The grave sites of the first generation of Norcom family members in Beaufort can be found in the Old Burying Ground on Ann Street, less than one block from the original site of the family home. The Norcom family owned the home an astonishingly long time, from 1851 until 1984 - 133 years.

The Norcom House on Craven Street was purchased in 1984 to save the house from demolition. The house, divided into four large sections, was moved four blocks to its current site on Gallants Channel, just off Beaufort Inlet. The move was a major event in the small town of Beaufort.

*Much of the above information was originally researched by Dr. Erika Lindemann, Professor of English at UNC, Chapel Hill.