A Spanish Visitor - 1783

Francisco de Miranda
Self Portrait
On 13 July 1783 Beaufort was host to a most unusual visitor from Spain. Francisco de Miranda, then thirty-three years old and a fugitive from Spanish justice, had set sail from Havana, Cuba on the first day of June bound for Charleston, South Carolina. Throughout the year Miranda was to record his travels and observations of this new country.

Instead of putting in at Charleston the Captain of his vessel sailed to North Carolina waters and passed through Ocracoke Inlet on the eighth of June. Proceeding through the sound and up the Neuse River, Miranda arrived in New Bern. His description of that city is a contrast to what he has to say later about Beaufort. “The population of this city is composed of five hundred families of all classes. The houses are middling and small as a rule, but comfortable and clean; almost all are made of wood. The church and the assembly house are of brick and are suitable to the town. The finest building of all and one which really deserves the attention of an educated traveler is the so-called ‘Palace.'"

Remaining in New Bern until the twelfth, Miranda then departs, crossing the Trent River on a ferry and takes the road to Beaufort. He arrives at the Allways Inn at two o'clock in the afternoon. The diary states that this inn was twenty-five miles from New Bern. He describes his stay at the Allways as being refreshing in the following manner,". . . a moderate and clean meal and the company of Comfort and Constance, daughters of the innkeeper, fifteen and eighteen years old and very good looking, soon made me forget the excursion. That evening there was a good supper and better conversation with the girls; after all had retired for the night, one had no embarrassment in coming at my request to continue the conversation in my bed."


The next morning Miranda continued his journey and . . . “having gone twenty-one miles on roads similar to the one of the day before and crossed a swamp which must be more than a mile wide and had millions of mosquitoes. I arrived four hours later at Beaufort. I took lodging at the home of Mrs. Cheney, who treated me and took care of me grandly. Her gracious company mitigated to some extent the aridity and unsociableness of the town.”

In this section of the diary, Miranda describes his meeting with some French businessmen who had been shipwrecked on the shores of Cape Lookout, and goes on to tell of natives having, “. . .picked up whatever objects were floating about. (They even salvaged the copper sheathing and brought it to Beaufort.)”


As to Beaufort, the diary reports: “Beaufort is located on a sandy beach that, except for some sandbanks, which act as a barrier against the sea and form the sound, is quite unsheltered. It has about eighty inhabitants, and the houses are very miserable. Despite the fact that its location is much more advantageous than that of New Bern (even frigates can enter the sound), there is no commerce and, as a result, the inhabitants are poor. Mr. Parret and Mr. Dennis are the educated persons of the town and favored me with their company while I was here, waiting for a ship to take me to Charleston. The first is a surveyor general and gave me a good map of the state.”


The Miranda diary ends its tale of the Beaufort visit with this bit about the author’s excursion into the country-side: “I made an excursion for a distance of twelve miles into the region, going up the little Newport River to the homes of two Quakers: one was rich and ignorant and the other, Mr. Williams, poor, educated and generous . . . Never before have I suffered similar discomfort from heat, bedbugs and mosquitoes to that which I went through in these two days of Quaker study. The agriculture one sees around here amounts to very little (mostly corn and potatoes), the earth being sandy and very poor. On the shores there are many windmills of very good construction and design. They are of wood and nevertheless last between twelve and twenty years. There are others on the creeks which fall into the rivers; by means of a causeway and locks they collect water and generally form two mills; one to saw wood and the other to grind grain. Of this type there are an infinity in this region, as lumber is one of the principal branches of commerce.”


On the twenty-second of June, Miranda took a ship for Charleston. So ends the tale of the Spanish visitor to Carteret County and Beaufort! - Charles O. Pitts, Jr., as transcribed from Heritage of Carteret of Carteret County,1984.


HISTORY NOTE: Sebastián Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez (1750 - 1816) commonly known as Francisco de Miranda, was a Venezuelan revolutionary. Although his own plans for the independence of the Spanish American colonies failed, he is regarded as a forerunner of Simón Bolívar, who during the Hispanic American wars of independence successfully liberated a vast portion of South America. Miranda led a romantic and adventurous life. An idealist, he developed a visionary plan to liberate and unify all of Spanish America but his own military initiatives on behalf of an independent Spanish America failed in 1812. He was handed over to his enemies and four years later, in 1816, died in a Spanish prison. (Above image is a painting showing Miranda in prison.) Within fourteen years of his death most of Spanish America was independent.