HISTORY OVERVIEW - Part 11 -19th Century

Scene in Beaufort during the bombardment of Fort Macon
April 25, 1862 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
The beginning of the nineteenth century found a 100-year-old town—still very isolated and struggling. Records from 1812 show there were 600 residents and some 75 houses.

The Civil War had a huge impact on mid-19th century Beaufort. Amy Muse, in The History of the Methodist Church, gives an interesting account of day-to-day life in Beaufort in the 1800s.

“There were no paved streets, no shell roads, only a wilderness of scrubby bushes and deep sand with marshy places here and there where at high tide or during storms the water came in and stood. The most frequent outlays of town funds were for 'causewaying' or laying 'trunks' over the low places, repairing the foot bridges on Ann Street, deepening the ditches, or 'grubbing' Ann Street and making it 'passable.' Sandy paths radiated out from the church, through trees and undergrowth and back lots, to the homes—all without benefit of street lights.

"Pigs and cows and horses and geese roamed at large and when encountered on the way from church on a dark night were a common source of fright. An ordinance said, ‘All hogs running at large shall be liable to be destroyed by any person or persons feeling themselves aggrieved,' but those who unexpectedly stumbled on one and heard the movement of other life in the darkness just hurried home. In spite of all this, by early candlelight whole families finished their chores and ploughed through drifted sand to meeting. Mothers brought babies in their arms who learned to sleep through hours of preaching and singing and shouting. Others went home at intervals to nurse theirs returning again to slip into service. The colored listened from the gallery and, under the influence of the same terror-arousing pleas, cried out in conviction of sin or rejoiced aloud over forgiveness. The more emotional ran in an out among the graves of the old cemetery shouting aloud.

"Mail began [1855] to come to Beaufort by stage and three times a week! One of the old folks in writing of it said: ‘The coming of the mail was the chief event of the day, and notice was given of its arrival by a horn blown by the stage driver as he came through town.’ By the time he arrived at the old Post Office on the southwest corner of Ann and Turner Streets, the town was assembled to meet him.

"Beaufort was then a struggling town, stretching along for the space of a mile upon the edge of the water. The Methodist was the only denomination that had a house of worship in the town.

"Half dozen schooners—more or less—were laying at anchor at irregular distances from the shore—wharves there were none, or next to none. The fact is, Beaufort in those days, was as nearly out of the world as a town could well be. Communication with New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore was more direct and frequent than with New Bern.
But, no better people lived than the good people of Beaufort. It was a seaport town without any of the vices that generally prevail in seaports.

"The coasting vessels that came into port were generally owned by residents of the town, and the sailors were young men, for the most part, whose parents lived in Beaufort. It was an exceedingly rare thing for a foreign vessel ever to anchor in Beaufort harbor.
It was a quiet, moral, and religious community. Everybody went to church on Sunday. Church members were orderly and pious. Hospitality prevailed under every roof. Nobody was rich, none so poor as to be dependent upon charity. The means of subsistence was in the reach of all that could get to the water.

"…The year of 1854…A railroad was being talked. In fact, there was a possibility of its coming to Beaufort. There were those who wanted it, but some were uninterested. Things were pretty good as they were. A railroad would smoke up the town, kill the cows and chickens, run over the children, fill the town with tramps. Nevertheless, it was built to Sheppard’s Point which in 1858 was incorporated as Morehead City. When it was completed, Steve Turner and Palmer Davis sailed over early week-day mornings with mail and passengers, and at night met the train and brought the incoming mail and passengers to the expectant group gathered at the dock, around dark, to meet them.

"…1850 - barque Louisa Bliss - With A. M. Fales as master and Brian Rumley, S. S. Duffy, William Penn Hellen, LeRoy M. Piver, James Gillikin, David William Noe, William F. Hatsel, J. L. Manney, Charles Whitehurst, and James Busk as crew, she sailed around Cape Horn for San Francisco with a cargo of lumber from William C. Bell and Company.

"...The Atlantic House and The Ocean House carried advertisements in The Journal: Rooms at '$2.00 per diem' with 'bathing in ocean or surf, in the sound, or in bathing houses immediately contiguous to the hotel…Probably no hotel short of our large cities can make such a display of splendid silverware for dinner service…splendid magic wine stands, magic casters, cups lined with gold, egg spoons, pickle stands, fruit baskets...’ T. Duncan and Sons advertised stores 'one in the extreme west end of town the other on the corner of Front and Craven Streets'…'Dr. J. L. Manney respectfully tenders his professional services to the citizens of Beaufort'… Beaufort Female Seminary with Stephen D. Pool as Principal and Beaufort Male Academy with R. W. Chadwick as Principal were soliciting pupils…Windmills stood on Front Street.

"…A notice of A. C. Davis, City Clerk, reflects some of the municipal problems of the day: Warning irrelative to horses and dogs running at large; running or draying horses at such a rate as to endanger the safety of pedestrians; removing sand from the streets; obstructing the streets and sidewalks, washing clothes near the pump, remain in full force and will be strictly enforced.

"…the 1880s were peaceful happy days of autograph albums, dominoes, croquet, cisterns, feather beds, mosquito nets and ice cream festivals. They were the days when courting couples gathered down on Whitford’s wharf and when at dusk everyone went to meet the mailboat…when funeral notices were neatly written on letter paper, a piece of dull black ribbon inserted between the sheets and sent from door to door; and, without the ribbon, party notices were sent in the same manner with the names of all invited guests on the sheet.”

19th Century ShipsOtway Burns' Snap Dragon (1812)
Confederate Steamer Nashville (1860)
and the Schooner Crissie Wright (1888)
Models by Jim Goodwin