Sterling Price Hancock

Sterling Price Hancock 
7 Nov 1861 - 7 Nov 1926

Below is the entire text of a very interesting article written by Laura Duncan Davis Piner for the 1982 Heritage of Carteret County, Vol. I. - From The Coaster Morehead City, Nov. 23, 1904, Editor: R.T. Wade. (Laura Duncan Davis was the daughter of Mattie King Hancock Davis and Ernest J. Davis, thus making her the granddaughter of Sterling Price Hancock and Sallie Gertrude Davis.)

“It being rumored last night that S.P. Hancock would, without force of arms and malice aforethought feloniously take and carry away from her home Miss Sallie Gertrude Davis, contrary to the wishes of her many admirers, and against the peace and dignity of love-lorn gallants, this editor went over to Beaufort to be an accomplice of the gallant sheriff.

Long before the appointed hour friends of both parties came laden with presents and by 9 o’clock, standing room in the large hallway and porch at 301 Ann St. was taken up.

One corner of the parlor was made into a bower of chrysanthemums and under and under a floral horseshoe stood Sterling P. Hancock and Sallie Gertrude Davis while the Rev. T.P. Noe made them man and wife.

Sterling by name has proven his sterling qualities that our people admire, as is attested by his continuance in office as sheriff of Carteret County.

On one side of the floor was piled up and displayed on tables about 200 presents. It looked like opening day in a jewelry store, and these tributes from friends made glad the hearts of Sterling and his bonnie bride.

The bride is the daughter of Mrs. James Chadwick Davis of Beaufort. She was daintily attired in white silk and allover lace. Her pretty cheeks aglow from new sensations awakened with seductive smiles, animated with the newborn joy, she was a picture worthy the winning of any man, and well may he feel proud of his prize.

That we wish them all the joy attainable goes without saying, and long may they live to demonstrate to the world that marriage is not a failure.”

Sterling Price Hancock was born on Nov. 7, 1861, just outside of Beaufort in the Ward-Hancock house, which was then located in Simpson Field, where Hancock Park is. The house built about 1760, was one of the few types of Dutch-Colonial structures built in this county. His parents, Martha G. Ward and Robert Hancock, lived there, and it was last occupied by Sterling’s older brother James. The house was moved in the 1940’s and is the property of Jack Ricks, Highland Park.

The office of Sheriff of Carteret County was held by S.P. Hancock for about 20 years until the Republican landslide of 1916, which removed the Democrats from office. During this period the duties of the sheriff included the responsibilities of being county tax collector. Sheriff Hancock also was a successful merchant and farmer all through these years. In 1893 he opened a grocery business at 421 Front St. which is now occupied by the Sea Bag and Omar Sail Loft. The letter head is repeated below.

Staple and Fancy Groceries
Fresh and Salt Meats a Specialty
Fruits...Grain and Hay...Wire Fencing

After numerous other owners, the building now belongs to his granddaughter Laura Davis Piner. Sheriff Hancock also ran a wholesale and feed business in Davis Hall, on the south side of Front St. where the Gulf Station is now. The location on Taylor’s Creek made his varied merchandise easily accessable to the boat trade. Later after World War I when George W. Huntley stayed on in Beaufort and married Mrs. Hancock’s sister, Miss Minnie Davis, the businesses merged into the Hancock-Huntley Co. with offices and store on the corner block of Live Oak St. and the Lennoxville Road.

Behind the original store was a livery stable where horses, wagons and mules were tended for personal use as well as rental and sale. A small white mule named “Little Jenny” is still remembered by Garfield “Blue” Suggs and Lucian Johnson, who worked for Mr. Hancock for years. He had a great love of horses, and bred and sold Banker ponies, wit sometimes as many as 75 to 100 on his lands Down East. He owned also a special black stallion named “King Mont” who won many races throughout the county and state. It is told that “King Mont” broke his previous speed record when returning to town transporting a large black bear that Sheriff Hancock had killed at Back Creek. During this period the popular style of horse racing was with the two wheel surry or cart. One of the special events in Beaufort on the 4th of July and other holidays was the trotting race down Ann St. from the oyster factory on the west to the cemetery at the east end. Although horses were his first love, Sterling Hancock was a man of progress, and he and Dr. C.S. Maxwell owned cars in this county long before others. The Sheriff bought two blue Mitchells – one to drive and the other to provide ready parts as any repairs were needed.

It is reliably reported that Sheriff Hancock had a deed for Bogue Banks property (now Atlantic Beach and environs) written as “nine miles from sea to sound.” The land was sold to the Royal and Hoffman-Roosevelt families, but he continued to be involved and interested in the area. He often hunted on the Hoffman estate and stayed at the “tea house” on the ocean side. This site was renowned for the lovely rose gardens amidst the sand. Alice Hoffman often consulted Sterling Hancock concerning the development of her livestock and property on the banks.

It was through Mrs. Hoffman also that he obtained the Perkins Place on North River near the present Oak Acres development. The house was built by Caroline Perkins – both she and Alice Hoffman had come to this area from Rochester, N.Y. – and was locally known as “The Mansion” because of its size and spaciousness and the fact that it was the first in the county with Delco electric light and central heating, all designed and furnished by a New York architect. Mr. Hancock acquired the property from the Perkins estate following her death and lived there for several years. The house burned in the early 1930’s.

Sterling Hancock died Nov. 7, 1926, on his 65th birthday. Though there is little record of any formal education, he was an insatiable reader and widely respected for his intellect and literary knowledge. Poetry was a great favorite and he liked to recite Sir Walter Scott’s “The Lady of the Lake.” He also excelled in county boxing matches, without gloves, until the years and younger men took over. A gentleman of many talents, interests and abilities, he was loved and respected by people in all facets of county and state life. There are still some among us who can recall him as a very special person of his time.

Sources: recollections and records of family and friends, old newspaper articles and mainly based on his own business and personal correspondence. - Laura Duncan Davis Piner 

LAURA DUNCAN DAVIS PINER, 1931-2002, was a valued artist and teacher. She was instrumental in converting an early Beaufort house into a gallery named after her mother Mattie King Hancock Davis – now on the Beaufort Restoration Grounds and managed by the Beaufort Historical Association.