Beaufort Woman's Club

The Beaufort Woman’s Club, established 1921, was originally called the Beaufort Community Club.

In Beaufort Scrapbook, Russell wrote, “The Beaufort Woman’s Club has always had challenging plans to serve the community whether in education, preservation, public affairs, conservation, the arts or other areas. Little did I realize all that generations of Woman’s Club members had accomplished until I was given the opportunity to look through years of Woman’s Club scrapbooks.

“In 1932, Woman’s Club members began the first school cafeteria in Carteret County to serve students at Beaufort Graded School. This was beneficial in providing hot, nourishing, balanced meals for students during the Depression.”

When rail passenger service was terminated in 1938, owners of the passenger-train depot were persuaded to sell the vacant building to the Town of Beaufort to use as its library. The 2,570 square foot building required considerable refurbishing. Active in the library since 1921, the Beaufort Woman’s Club once again came to the rescue raising funds for the work. When the library was ready for a new building, the Woman’s Club also raised $4000.

According to Nancy Russell, “Beaufort’s first Old Homes Tour, sponsored by the Woman’s Club, was on May 22, 1957. Newspaper articles stated that five early homes were opened to the public for an afternoon tour that lasted from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. for the cost of $1.00 ticket. Only 125 tickets were to be sold. During the afternoon, Mr. Van Potter gave tours of the Old Burying Ground, and art and relic exhibits were offered as part of the tour.

“According to newspaper clippings, it was 1969 that the Woman’s Club and Beaufort Historical Association jointly sponsored the Homes Tour, and in 1972, the proceeds of the tour went to the Historical Association.”

Ruth Barbour wrote in the History of the BHA, "The Woman’s Club sponsored the first Old Homes tour in May 1957. It was so successful, the club planned another for 1958. There was no tour in 1959, but the club sponsored it again for the town’s 251st anniversary in 1960, continuing it as an annual event until 1980, when the historical association assumed sponsorship as part of the Old Homes Weekend the last weekend in June.

"When the Woman’s Club first proposed an Old Homes Tour, a club scrapbook of 1958 says, 'People did not oppose our plans in the beginning – they just laughed at us.' 'Pay money to go inside my neighbor’s house? It’s nothing to see. Why it’s at least 150 years old. Who want to see that?'

"Mrs. Myrtle Duncan Sutton, Marion, N.C., recalls, in a letter dated March 27, 1989, how the Woman’s Club developed the idea: 'The club decided to have a special event to which all clubs of the New Bern District would be invited. The event was a tour of five historic Beaufort homes. It was an idea whose time had come! We had visitors galore. At the time of the tour, Ruth Davis (Mrs. Charles Davis) was president. Mabel (Mrs. W. M.) Gilchrist was project chairman. Every club member participated.'

"The five homes opened on that 1957 tour were Mrs. Julius (Sarah) Duncan’s home at the west end of Front Street, the home of Mrs. Joseph (Elizabeth) House, 201 Front St., the Buckman house, 114 Ann, Mrs. W. N. (Mabel) Gilchrist’s home (Piner house), at Howland Rock, and Mrs. Graham (Myrtle) Duncan’s home, 124 Queen Street. (The Buckman house was owned at that time by George and Eileen Taylor.)

"The 1958 tour on Wednesday, June 18, featured the Buckman house; Morse house, 215 Front St., Mace house, 619 Ann, Taylor house, 305 Ann, and the Hatsell house, 117 Orange St. The Beaufort Woman's Club won recognition from the State Federation of Woman’s Clubs for this tour. The club’s major project in 1959 was town beautification.

"Mrs. Sutton says: 'Everyone wanted to know when we would have another tour, so two years later (1960) we planned another as part of Beaufort’s birthday party. Mabel Gilchrist sold us on the idea of a bus trip. ‘Get Grayden Paul to run it,” said Ruth Ivey Davis (Mrs. M. Leslie Davis).'

"Mr. Paul agreed, but he said the club would have to write his script. He took the club on a trial trip, which approximated what the bus tours are today. 'Twenty women telling him what to say,” Mrs. Sutton writes. 'He survived and has developed his own story.'"

Original Painting of Seal
In the 1960s, under then president and preservationist Miss Emily Loftin, the Beaufort Woman’s Club initiated the development of the Beaufort town seal. The seal was designed by Will Hon; artwork was done by Richard Thomas. The background color was later changed to gold, now shown on the town seal and flag, designed in 1972.

Russell also wrote, “A fact, perhaps unknown by many and forgotten by others, is that the Beaufort Woman’s Club raised funds to help furnish the physical therapy department at Carteret General Hospital.”

In 1993 the Woman’s Club decided to restore the Beaufort Train Depot and proceeded to raise funds to do so. On October 27, 1996 the beautifully restored building was dedicated.

“The Beaufort Woman’s Club scrapbooks,” wrote Russell, “are reminders that members of this organization were not only strong in their determination to accomplish their goals, but they were also fine examples of grace and style.

“Photographs throughout the scrapbooks show club members dressed in their Sunday finest as they carry out activities and responsibilities of the club—Miss Emily Loftin presenting Mayor “Piggie” Potter with the town seal, club members with then Mayor Roger Hunt receiving the town flag, or Mrs. M.C. (Grayden) Paul, Sr. pouring tea at an afternoon party honoring faculty members of Beaufort High School.

“Woman’s Club members through the years—past and present—have had strong qualities of leadership and were a vital force in helping to make a better life for the citizens of Beaufort and Carteret County. Awarding scholarships to deserving students, assisting with restoration projects of the Beaufort Historical Association and the preservation of the Train Depot, are fine examples of accomplishments.”