Captain Ireland

John Earls Ireland House circa 1887
Born in 1837 on Portsmouth Island, North Carolina, John Earls Ireland came from a family of mariners and eventually became a seafaring man himself. His parents were Earls and Matilda Roberts Ireland. In October 1858, he married Nancy J. Simmons, also of Portsmouth Island. Her parents were James Simmons and Lucinda Goodwin Simmons. The fathers of both John and Nancy were sailors.

Records show John E. Ireland, age thirty-two, living on Portsmouth in 1870 with his wife and five children. In 1880 the whole family, including Nancy’s father, was living in Beaufort.

In 1887, Captain Ireland purchased a portion of land, including the lot on which the house now stands, from William B. and Emily Francis Duncan. It is believed he built the two story house in 1887 on a section of the lot on the corner of Broad Street and Orange Street and facing Broad Street.

Fortune did not always smile on the Ireland family while they occupied the house. Their daughter Matilda died in the house in February 1887 at age twenty-one. Newspaper accounts tell of Captain Ireland’s schooner, The Charles, running aground at Oregon Inlet in September of 1887.

In July of 1893, The New Bern Weekly Journal reported that Captain Ireland was feared lost with his ship, in a tremendous gale. He left Swansboro in June bound for Philadelphia, but had not been heard from since the departure. Two weeks after the report, another article declared Ireland to have been “an old time Coaster and fully understood his profession.” The Charles was said to have weathered many storms and been beached twice, but that it appeared “the gallant ship was sunk at last in a hungry sea.”

The New Bern Weekly Journal of August 10, 1893 reported that the top of The Charles’ cabin drifted ashore at Hatteras and the body of a man wrapped in a small standing jib drifted ashore at Kennekeet. The body could not be identified but was presumed to be that of Captain Ireland.

John Ireland left behind his wife, who was an invalid and blind. Also surviving him were five children, three of whom were married. One son, James, became a mariner and resided in Beaufort the rest of his life. He is buried in the Episcopal cemetery.

After the tragedy it appears that Ireland’s wife and children sold the house and lot to J.B. Jones and Jno Forlaw in 1893.

Sometime between 1893 and 1908, it appears the house was turned and moved a short distance south on the lot to its present location on Orange Street. It was also enlarged during this period.

The blue hydrangea was once treasured by Mary Murphy who occupied the home for thirty-five years.

The house was completed renovated in 1999 by Billy and Susan Martin; work was done by restoration specialist Gerry Sadler.

House history from Porchscapes - The Colors of Beaufort