Beaufort's African-American History

Excerpts from  
Beaufort's African-American History and Architecture 
by Peter B. Sandbeck

Woodcutter "Lorse" Anderson 
 Duke Univ. Archives 
Beaufort: An Album of Memories 
by Jack Dudley 

The project was done in 1995 for The Beaufort Historic Preservation Commission and was funded by the Town of Beaufort with a matching grant from the National Park Service, through the NC Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History. Images included below were not part of the study; sources are included with each image.

INTRODUCTION: From 1800 to 1990, Beaufort’s black residents have numbered at least twenty-five percent of the total population, with that number rising to as much as fifty percent during and immediately after the Civil War. Despite such large numbers, the African-American society of this historic coastal port town has remained largely unknown and undocumented. Few of the thousands of tourists who visit the town’s historic waterfront every year are aware that blacks have been a vital part of Beaufort’s maritime culture since the eighteenth century. In its traditional location north of busy highway US 70 or Cedar Street, the black neighborhood remains separated from Beaufort’s older historic district and is very much a town within a town, a community with an important history.

Painting circa 1790 
Colonial Willamsburg Foundation
AN OVERVIEW: The history of African-Americans in Beaufort goes back to the eighteenth century, yet remarkably little research or study has ever been carried out on the subject. Prior to 1800, when the town’s black population consisted entirely of slaves, the records are virtually silent on their lives and the crucial roles that they must have played in the development and very construction of the town and its society. The labor performed by these slaves, from clearing land to building houses to working as domestics and servants in white households, made possible the very existence of the town during the difficult settlement period of the eighteenth century. Beaufort’s slaves, like most, left no written history and as a result are anonymous and will likely remain so.

With the growth of the free black population during the early decades of the nineteenth century, the fascinating story of African-Americans and their contribution begins to unfold. Beaufort’s black population, which stood at 122—all slaves—in 1800 when the entire town numbered only 559, grew to include 59 free blacks and 579 slaves in 1860, in a town of 1,610. The federal census records for 1850 and 1860 list the occupations of free blacks for the first time, revealing a wide range of skills and trades including house-carpenter, shoemaker, fisherman, farmer, and even four musicians. Five free blacks in Beaufort had achieved the status of property owner by 1860. The great majority were still enslaved, all working daily to build and develop the town which was then in the midst of an antebellum heyday as a fashionable summer resort.

Contrabands Going to Camp - Harpers Weekly 1863
The Union occupation of Beaufort gave the area the status of a safe haven for freedmen or refugee slaves who quickly fled to safety from the surrounding rural areas, resulting in the establishment of a refugee camp at the north side of town in 1863. By 1865 there were 3,245 freedmen living in camps and shanties in and around Beaufort, comprising what was then the Union’s second largest refugee camp in North Carolina. The area north of Cedar Street was developed as a camp or “tent city” much like the more famous James City encampment at New Bern, earning that area the nickname of “Union Town.”

Civil War diaries have revealed the moving story of how the town’s newly-freed blacks attended night school during the Union occupation to satisfy their longing to learn to read—often paying cash or bartering scarce goods for the privilege. Few readers today can begin to imagine what life was like in the town during the war, when Beaufort’s refugee camps were filled to overflowing with freed slaves in desperate need of housing, food, jobs and education. Between 1860 and 1870, the black population of Beaufort doubled, due largely to the influx of freedmen during the war.

Within the confines of their “Union Town” neighborhood blacks built an entire community during the late nineteenth century, consisting of homes, churches, stores, fraternal lodges and their own schools. Black carpenters and builders constructed numerous residences, creating a neighborhood of simple but functional small frame houses, many of them in the “story-and-a-jump” form which was so popular for working-class housing throughout Beaufort. The size and approximate boundaries of the black neighborhood have changed little from the time of the Civil War until today: bounded by Broad Street and Cedar Street on the south, Turner at the west, Town Creek or Mulberry Street at the north, and Live Oak Street at the east. The late nineteenth century brought job opportunities for blacks, first in the mullet fishery, then in the menhaden factories which grew to employ hundreds of fishermen and workers in the fish processing operations. The period of Reconstruction brought with it an era of active black participation in town government that was to last until 1896.  

Seining - Harper's Weekly
As blacks made gains economically and socially in the twentieth century, they were able to rebuild and improve their Reconstruction-era neighborhood, using hard-earned wages from the menhaden fishing industry, domestic work and a variety of other labor-intensive trades. Economic opportunities continued to grow in the early decades of the twentieth century in the menhaden industry, the oyster and produce canneries and at the two lumber mills. Steady wages made it possible for many blacks to build comfortable Bungalow-style houses throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, giving the neighborhood a more prosperous, modern appearance that it still has today in some blocks. The large late- nineteenth century schoolhouse at the Washburn Seminary was replaced in 1926 with the beloved Queen Street School which served as the principal public school for blacks until integration during the 1960s.

The late twentieth century brought yet more change to Beaufort’s African-Americans in many aspects of their society. Blacks again achieved representation in local government with the election of Abe Thurman as town commissioner in 1991, and the appointment of Charles MacDonald as Chief of Police in 1992. The decline of the menhaden industry resulted in the elimination of many well-paying jobs. Black population began a decline that still continues, falling from a high of 1,129 in 1960 to a 1990 total of 908. While the town’s blacks have succeeded in their efforts to attain higher education and opportunity, the local job market has become a limiting factor, providing mainly service-oriented employment. In the final twist of irony, some of Beaufort’s best-educated African-Americans are today finding it necessary to leave their home town in order to obtain the professional-level jobs that are available only in larger cities.

Heading Herring - Harper's Weekly
1800-1861: During the early decades of the nineteenth century, Beaufort was nothing more than a small village that initially had no free black population at all. What little is known about the way the town’s blacks lived is largely derived from sources like the federal census records, newspaper notices and the diaries of those few who recognized the significance of the African- American presence in Beaufort society. Blacks, both slave and free, contributed their labor and skills to the wide range of tasks that made Beaufort grow and prosper, from mullet fisherman to blacksmith, from house-builder to cook and servant.

The first record of a free black in Beaufort occurs in 1803, when Jacob Henry took “Reuben,” a free black artisan, as an apprentice to the joiner’s trade. Henry had moved to Charleston, South Carolina by 1813 where he worked as a cabinetmaker. There is no further record of Rueben, to tell us whether he stayed in Beaufort or accompanied Henry to Charleston. “Reuben” did not remain the pioneering free black for very long; by 1820, the town’s free black population had grown considerably, to 34, in addition to 237 slaves.

The black population in Beaufort increased at a much faster rate than whites during the early decades of the nineteenth century, perhaps partially in response to the need for a large workforce to construct the huge Fort Macon on Beaufort Inlet between 1826 and 1834. According to the 1830 census there were 37 free blacks and 404 slaves. The town’s white population grew very slowly between 1800 and 1830, from 432 to 533, an increase of only 101 in thirty years. Beaufort’s overall population jumped dramatically between 1840 and 1850, from an estimated 1,100 to 1,661. By 1850 there were 75 free blacks and 547 slaves living in town, accounting for approximately one-third of the total population.

By the early nineteenth century Beaufort had established a solid reputation as a shipbuilding center, capitalizing on a tradition of good craftsmanship that was well established by the Revolutionary period. While a source of local pride, it was fishing that was the mainstay of Beaufort’s economy. Net fishing activities, particularly mullet fishing, traditionally required extensive labor, both black and white, to haul large nets or seines to bring in the catch, and for the on-shore jobs of cutting, processing, salting and packing. 

Fort Macon - NC Collection
 The construction of Fort Macon brought to Beaufort the numerous fringe benefits that accompany any massive federal construction project, among them a great number of skilled craftsmen, including slaves, in trades such as brickmakers, bricklayers, masons, ironmongers and carpenters. The millions of bricks used in the fort required that a sizable brick industry be established locally. Some of the craftsmen who worked on the fort left their mark with the construction in the 1830s of the town’s only brick buildings built prior to the Civil War: Carteret County Courthouse (demolished after 1907), the county jail, now on the grounds of the Beaufort Historical Association, and the brick townhouse which now houses the Odd Fellows Lodge.

Fort Macon about 1912 - Barbour Collection - UNC
The new bricklaying industry created by the construction of Fort Macon appears to have necessitated bringing slaves in from other areas to supplement the local workforce. Large brickyards were established in the vicinity of Beaufort to produce the millions of bricks needed in the fort’s construction. The amount of labor needed to build such a large brick edifice is almost beyond comprehension, involving a multitude of tasks usually performed by slaves: digging clay, making bricks, building kilns, cutting wood, firing the kilns, moving and carting the bricks, loading and unloading the bricks from flatboats, burning oyster shells to make mortar, and finally laying the bricks. 

Slaves, and probably some free blacks from Beaufort and elsewhere worked on the fort, as revealed when the Town Commissioners sought to keep the non-resident slaves out of the town boundaries by enacting the following order on June 28, 1830: Ordered that all slaves that work at the Fort or Brick Yards are prohibited from coming into town either in the day or night, except slaves as are owned in the town or those who may have a written pass from their owners, under penalty of law.

Almost nothing is known about the lives of slaves in Beaufort prior to the time of the Union invasion of the area in 1862. Some of the only knowledge of slave life in the town comes from advertisements for runaway slaves from the area which were published infrequently in regional newspapers during the nineteenth century. Among those notices published in the New Bern newspapers of the period were several which cast just a bit of light on a subject that we otherwise know little about:
  • Runaway: Sam – formerly owned by George Morse of Beaufort, approximately 35 years of age, five feet seven or eight inches, stout made, and is a good fiddler. He sometimes calls himself Giles Miner and commonly sailed in the packet between Newbern and Beaufort, with Hasty— Libbeus Hunter, White-Oak, Carteret County, Nov. 8 1818
  • Runaway from the Subscriber’s Salt Works at Cape Look Out, a Negro man named Gloster, about five feet seven or eight inches high— John D. Hawkins Nov.8, 1823
  • $50 Reward - Ran Away…a Negro man named Alford, a likely looking boy, about 21 years old…He had on when he left home, a blue cloth coat and a slick hat, and carried with him a bombazet frock coat and many other things, and will probably appear quite respectably clad.—Elijah Canaday Nov. 24, 1837
Ann Wade-Fenderson House circa 1831
Contemporary Painting by Mary Warshaw
The 1830 census reveals that out of the town’s 37 free blacks, two lived in white households, probably as servants. The remaining 35 lived in one of the town’s eight free black household which appear to have been clustered together in one neighborhood, most likely the area extending from Broad Street to the north and from Turner Street to the east. The names of the heads of families included Ann Wade, Sophia Boyd, Nancy Winsor, Joseph Newby and Isaac Norwood, all of whom had households consisting of at least four members. The names of many of the same free blacks appear again in the 1840 census.

The earliest known deed record for property ownership by a free black in Beaufort dates to 1820, when Sophia Boyd purchased lot 126 in the “Old Town” from James Gibble. This property was located at the northeast corner of Broad and Craven streets, where the present-day Beaufort Ice and Coal Company building stands. It is significant that a woman was the first free black to own property in Beaufort. Her sons, Henry and Alfred Boyd, were prominent in the black community during and after the Civil War, and bought property at the southwest corner of Pine and Turner streets in 1868.

The story of free blacks begins to unfold rapidly from 1850 and onward when the federal census began to include information about the occupation of working members of families. Many of the names of the 75 free blacks listed in 1850 are familiar from earlier years: Windsor, Ellison, Wade, Burr, Hazel, Norwood and Fenderson. In 1850 only one of the eight inhabitants of the county “Poor House” was black: John Dismal, a 40 year-old shoemaker. The limited number of occupations listed for Beaufort’s free blacks in 1850 seems to reflect changes in census-taking methodology and terminology that are evident when comparing the 1850 and 1860 enumerations. For example, Isaac Norwood was listed as a free black “house carpenter,” age 47, in the 1850 census; in 1860 he was listed as a “mechanic,” a term widely used in the trades to denote a skilled craftsman in a generic sense. 
Ocean House Leslie's Illustrated  
Beaufort Waterfront During Siege of Fort Macon
By the 1850s, the town was home to two large hotels that catered exclusively to the summer trade. Hotels and boarding houses such as the Front Street House and the Ocean House provided jobs for Beaufort’s free blacks and slaves as domestics and kitchen help. The 1860 census includes a listing for a Mr. W.C. King, “Hotel Keeper,” who had a household, or staff, of seventeen, including seven free blacks. Among these were four free blacks listed as musicians: Joseph Myson, Haywood Rowe, and “Fernando” and “Harris.” Susan and Sarah Whitfield, and “Jenny” were listed as servants, along with a number of white servants.

Freed Negroes - Harpers Weekly - NC Collection
1861-1900: The tumultuous period of the Civil War and the years immediately following provide us with the first clear view of the lives and roles of blacks in Beaufort’s society. When Fort Macon and the town were taken and Beaufort became headquarters for Union troops, the town attracted escaped slaves or “contrabands” seeking the tenuous freedom offered by Union occupation. Beaufort’s importance as a center for former slaves grew and by 1865 the town was home to 3,245 refugees, making it North Carolina’s second largest center behind New Bern. The refugee camp seems to have been known as “Union Town,” a name which continued to be used to describe the town’s black section until at least the late nineteenth century. Several elderly residents still relate the tradition that there is a Union burying ground located in the heart of the “Union Town” neighborhood, at the southeast corner of Pine and Marsh streets, used as a cemetery for the soldiers who died at Hammond Hospital located in the old Front Street House hotel on Front Street.

Reverend Horace James, a chaplain from Massachusetts was given the title of superintendent of Negro affairs. James quickly established a model refugee camp at Roanoke Island, along with smaller camps in Beaufort, nearby Carolina City, Washington and Plymouth. His largest was the one at New Bern, named James City in his honor. At these camps, freed slaves attended school and were given instruction in useful trades such as shoemaking, shingle splitting and fishing. Under his direction, many of the refugees worked for the Union forces at numerous essential tasks, ranging from cooks to laborers who built forts, bridges and other essential construction projects.

The early schools operated by various northern missionary groups had a tremendous long-term impact on the lives of blacks in Beaufort and throughout the coastal region. As late as December 1866, the Freedman’s Bureau reported that seventeen black instructors were teaching in bureau-sponsored schools in Beaufort and ten in other cities across the state.

Union soldier Edmund J. Cleveland, teacher in one of the night schools, found the Beaufort black students of all ages eager to learn and willing to attend school at night despite working all day.

The decades following the war brought significant changes to the sleepy port town. Blacks established several lasting religious institutions, a school within the first few years and served as town commissioners.

The era of Reconstruction also brought blacks the right to vote and with it, representation with Beaufort’s town government for the first time. Beginning with the former slave David Sparrow, who held office from 1871-72, there was usually at least one black serving as one of the town commissioners for much of the period from 1871 until 1896. While this new-found outlet for political expression was a significant advance, it certainly did not provide for equal representation, given the fact that the black population in 1870 exceeded that of the whites. The black town commissioners elected during that period included a wide cross-section: minister and teacher Michael P. Jerkins (1872); blacksmith Jeremiah Fisher (1872-73 and 1886-87); laborer James Sparrow (1873); carpenter John Pender (1874 and 1877); “huckster” John E. Henry (1881-82), 1886-88 and 1895-96); and Francis E. Ellison, a waterman from a long line of free blacks, who served in 1888 and 1890. The only recorded black town official is Silas A. Blount, a barber, who served as Town Clerk in 1882 and also as a commissioner in 1895-96. (Charles O. Pitts Jr., “The Black Town Fathers of Beaufort: 1865-1900).

In 1881 C.P. Dey opened a large successful menhaden plant at Lennoxville Point. Soon others were capitalizing on the area’s menhaden, as well as mullet and oysters, providing employment for many of the now-free blacks who had earlier been involved only in small-scale fishing activities. By 1898, Beaufort boasted three large menhaden and fish-oil plants, an oyster packing house, a ship-building yard and a steam sawmill.

Old Purvis Chapel circa 1820 - Amy Muse
Baptism - New Bern, NC
Beaufort’s African-Americans established at least five new congregations representing most protestant denominations during the period 1865-1900. All of these built their own houses of worship in the traditionally black neighborhood. The town’s oldest black congregation, Purvis Chapel, actually dates to the mid 1850s, when the white Ann Street Methodist Church built a new church and gave their old frame building, dating from the 1820s, to the black members of the congregation. In 1864, during the Union occupation, the young black congregation at Purvis became one of the first in the state to join the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
A black Baptist congregation had been organized by late 1864. A permanent place of worship was built before 1882 on the site of the modern day Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Surrounded by so much water, it is not surprising that Beaufort’s black Baptists acquired a reputation for their memorable open-air baptisms held at landings along the town’s public waters. One of these was described by Edmund Cleveland in 1864:

Nov. 16: While I was writing this afternoon I heard singing in the street. I looked out as a baptismal procession of colored people approached. I laid aside what I was doing and followed them to the shore of the harbor. There were seven candidates, three women and four men, all with their heads bound with kerchiefs. There was a large crowd present. The exercises were opened with a touching address by the minister, followed by a hymn and a prayer. Then the candidates hand in hand waded out until they were waist deep in the water. A deacon, after pronouncing “I baptize thee, etc.” let each one down backwards into the water. I never saw a happier set of people than they seemed to be after the immersions. There was much shaking of hands, etc.

Thomas Carrow (Memories of Beaufort in the Nineties) recalls that baptisms were held in the 1890s at Spring Landing, on the Newport River between Cedar and Pine streets:

…it was known as Spring Landing because in times past there was a spring under a big oak tree nearby. The Baptist people, both white and colored, used this landing for baptism immersion. I have a distinct recollection of the participants walking down in the water at high tide and the minister letting them down backward into the water. It was impressive to watch the converts, led by the minister, marching into the deep water to the strain of hymns sung on the shore by the church members.

Between 1887 and 1888, the black Episcopal St. Clement’s Mission congregation built a church which stood at the northeast corner of Craven and Cedar streets, opposite St. Stephen’s, until demolished after 1950. The congregation of Grace Presbyterian Church was organized in 1891, initially under the Wilmington Presbytery; a building was constructed that same year, reportedly on the north side of Broad Street between Queen and Pollock streets.

circa 1867  - Southeast Corner Craven and Cedar
For Beaufort’s African-Americans, singing was seldom reserved only for church services. Edmund Cleveland and Thomas Carrow, both good observers of black folklore during the Civil War period and later, noted the singing ability of local blacks. Carrow, who wrote more extensively on the subject and claimed he was influenced by Beaufort’s black spirituals and chanteys all his life, observed:

There were a number of negro men, I judge in their early 20s, who used to get together in the evening and sing. “Bud” Washington had a fine bass, and some of the Davis boys had melodious voices. Their opportunities for instrumental music were limited, but one fellow, “Bill” Kelly, was a marvel with a banjo. In the evening on a summer night he would come downtown, stand on a corner, and pick his banjo endlessly to the great delight of the young men and some of the older ones too.

I think it is no exaggeration to say that Negroes, especially women, sang while at work in the fields, in the home, and elsewhere more generally than white people did. …the songs always had feeling.
circa 1895 - Southwest Corner Pollock and Cedar
The founding of Beaufort’s first permanent school for African-Americans was undertaken between 1866 and 1867 by the American Missionary Association and the northern Congregational Church, probably as a result of the work of Rev. Horace James in his efforts to provide for the black refugees in the town and vicinity. St. Stephen’s Congregational Church and its free school, the Washburn Seminary, were Beaufort’s most highly regarded black institutions of the Reconstruction period, located at Craven and Cedar streets in the heart of the town’s traditionally black neighborhood. The story of their founding remains one of the pivotal events for the town’s African-Americans. The great importance of the Washburn Seminary is still recognized today, more than seventy-five years after local government assumed responsibility for black education in 1917. 

Both Washburn Seminary and St. Steven’s were in existence by 1870, when census records list the preacher, Edward Ball, along with several women teachers from Wisconsin and Vermont. In 1872 it was noted that the “Colored Episcopal Congregation worships at Washborn Seminary,” suggesting that there was by then a building. One of the seminary’s founding black trustees, Michael P. Jerkins, left Beaufort to attend Howard University’s School of Religion. He was ordained in the Congregational Church in 1879 and returned to Beaufort by 1880, when he was listed as a teacher; by 1882 he was pastor of Beaufort’s young Congregational Church. It was Jenkins who established the reputation of the seminary and St. Stephen’s, providing the vision and background needed to give Beaufort’s blacks their first school. The Gray’s map of 1880 shows two buildings had been erected on the original lot purchased in 1867, than labeled as the “Washburn Seminary” and the “Colored Congregational Church.” These first structures were subsequently expanded by the ambitious construction of a large two-story school building with a three-story bell tower. As late as 1896 and 1897, the only school in Beaufort for blacks, listed in directories, is the Washburn Seminary with a total of five black women then teaching all of the town’s black students: the misses Mamie Fisher, Maggie Fisher, Maud Hazel, Nannie Matthewson and Mary Parker.

Population in Beaufort actually decreased by 17% between 1870 and 1890, a significant decline that severely limited economic growth and job opportunities for both blacks and whites. In 1870 the total population was 2,430—1,242 blacks and 1,188 whites.  By 1900, total 2,195—859 blacks and 1,336 whites.

Census records for 1900 show that the large majority of the town’s blacks worked in traditional occupations that had changed little since before the Civil War. Of the ten black “Boatmen” listed in the 1900 census, half were older, seasoned men like Palmer Davis, Frank Ellison, Obed Gaskill, Stephen Turner and Benjamin Pigott. These were distinguished in the census from the four listed as “sailors.” According to federal fisheries studies of local waters conducted between 1884 and 1887, “a good many negroes” were employed in the mullet industry at that time. Black watermen were likewise involved in Carteret County’s other principal fisheries, particularly the menhaden and oyster fisheries. During the post-Civil War era the menhaden fishery grew slowly at first, then developed on a large scale after 1881. The craft used by the menhaden or “fatback” fishermen in the 1890s were customarily manned with black crews, and even captains, as recalled by Carrow:

My impression is that the original fatback boats were small two masted vessels of the schooner type, 70 or 80 feet in length. They were sturdy craft and could weather a storm almost as well as the big vessels. I remember two very distinctly. They were named Convoy and Alert. A negro man, Charles Nelson, a very fine character, was captain of one of the fatback boats.

1900 census
The names of several of the leading black craftsmen of the late nineteenth century appear repeatedly in the census records, business directories and in the memories of the elderly: blacksmiths Jeremiah Fisher and James Johnson; carpenters Henry Clay Matthewson, George Jerkins, Levi Williams, and John and William Norwood. There were four barbers in 1900: David Parker, Shepard Potter, Francis Gibble and Robert Goudy. The one black shoemaker, Collins Oden, practiced his craft throughout the Reconstruction era and was succeeded by his son, Curtis A. Oden, a shoemaker in the early twentieth century. In the small black society of 1870-1900, the preachers held positions of high esteem and rank: Michael P. Jerkins, one of the founders of the Washburn Seminary who in the 1890s started a Presbyterian congregation; J.P. Simms, pastor of the Congregational Church; Francis Gibble of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church; H.P. Walker of Purvis Chapel; and N.C. Balentine of the Baptist Church.

Describing the black businesses prior to 1900, Carrow reiterated the names of the men found in the directories and censuses. Of particular interest is the fact that many of their establishments were located at that time “downtown” on Turner and Front streets:

Up until then, there were very few colored people in the mercantile business. One named Silas Blunt [Blount] and one named Pierre Davis did have grocery businesses on Turner above Front. There were two colored shoemakers, Collins Oden and Adam Wright. They each had a place on Turner Street. Dave Parker, a rather heavy-set, very dark man, ran a barber shop and also sold tobacco and cigars on Turner—shave 5 cents, haircut 10 cents. Jerry Fisher, a pure-blooded negro, had a blacksmith shop on Front Street. He was a very fine character and an excellent craftsman. Alex and Bill Norwood and Henry Matthewson, all colored, were excellent carpenters. There was a very tall, fine specimen of a colored man named Lawrence Hazel, who was an excellent plasterer.

The census and directories from the Reconstruction period until 1900 likewise list few blacks engaged in commerce or mercantile trade—a telling commentary on the state of the local economy in a town where blacks population had fallen for decades following the post-war high of the 1860s. By the 1880s, Mary Harris operated a bakery, confectionery and saloon; Frank Gibble had become a barber; W.H. Walton was then operating a confectionery and fruit store. 

Blacks also performed a multitude of less obvious tasks essential to the operation of the town and its households, both white and black. Fortunately, the character of some of these unsung heroes of the trades was captured by Thomas Carrow in his description of the town in the 1890s:

Sawing wood was a sort of trade, and all the wood sawyers were colored men. There were three regular ones: Old Bennett, Ed Williams and Tom Pridgen.

There was one job around town that was unique. A colored man whose last name was Henry used to peddle cooked hominy in a water bucket for breakfast. He would “call around” before breakfast and deliver a pint for five cents. It was, I thought, delicious.

Another colored fellow named Jim Ellison furnished a good many families with fish for breakfast. My father used to pay him 12 cents for a bunch of fish cleaned and delivered. The fine thing about this was that Jim would meet the fishing boats early in the morning as soon as they landed and while the fish were still kicking and have them delivered within an hour or so. We thought the sooner a fish was put on the fire after being caught, the better it tasted.

Carrow also praised the contributions made by the town’s black “casual workers” who performed countless odd jobs from tending horses to huckstering to catching soft crabs. The households of Beaufort’s prominent white families could not have functioned without black domestic help such as cooks, housekeepers, nurses and handymen. He attributed his own love for chanteys and spirituals to the influence of his family’s own black cook, Laura Kelly, who took over his raising after his mother died when he was four.

The significant political gains made by Beaufort’s African-Americans during the 1860s were largely erased within an equally short period of the time between 1896 and 1900. The adoption of the “white supremacy” campaign by the state’s democrats in late 1897 led to widespread intimidation of blacks during the election of 1898; many simply stayed away from the polls on election day. The landslide democratic victory forced most republicans and populists, black and white, from office and inaugurated the era of “Jim Crow” and segregation. The democratic state legislature proposed a constitutional amendment that would disfranchise most blacks and revoke most voting privileges granted by the Fifteenth Amendment by requiring that all voters must have paid their poll tax and must be able to read and write any section of the constitution. To protect illiterate whites, it included a grandfather clause that stipulated that no person who had been eligible to vote prior to Jan. 1, 1867, or his lineal descendant, could be denied the right to vote even if he did not meet the literacy requirement. By 1900, the major thrust of the “Jim Crow” movement had been formally implemented; requiring segregated public facilities, neighborhoods, streetcars and railroad cars.

The full impact of this movement was quickly felt by blacks in Beaufort. Merchants Silas S. Blount and John Henry, the last two blacks to serve as town commissioners in Beaufort in the 19th century, ended their final terms in 1896. Another 95 years passed until an African-American, Abe Thurman, was again elected in November 1991, to serve as a Beaufort Town Commissioner.

1900-1950: The era of segregation may have resulted in a more divided Beaufort, but it did not slow down the steady rise in the standard of living enjoyed by Beaufort’s blacks. Most of the surviving houses in the traditional black neighborhood north of Cedar Street date from between 1900 and 1950, marking with their presence the period when blacks were finally able to find steady work that enabled them to replace their Reconstruction-era housing. As of 1940, approximately 47% of the black households owned their own houses, a source of great pride when the median income for the same households ranged from $600 to $800 per year. Each block of the neighborhood contains examples of well-maintained gable-front bungalows, all of wood frame construction and dating from the 1920s until the 1950s. Beaufort’s black working class began the climb to middle class status, providing college educations for their children where possible and supporting in large measure the religious and fraternal institutions of their community.

Employment for the black workers was provided by several large natural resource industries dependent on the rich fisheries, or at one of the two small lumber mills that operated from the 1920s onwards.
Raising the Story of Menhaden Fishermen
The menhaden business provided work for blacks in two areas: fishermen who worked the purse seine boats and did the backbreaking hauling of the huge nets filled with the foot-long oily fish; and processing workers who unloaded the catch and moved it through the various often odiferous, steps of making oil and fertilizer. By the mid 1920s, the major plants included two on the Newport River, just northwest of the black neighborhood across Back Creek: the largest was the Beaufort Fish Scrap and Oil Company, established in 1911 and by 1926 operating five large steamers producing an output valued at $150,000 per year, and the smaller Carolina Fish Scrap and Oil Company. Two more plants were located just over two miles east of town at Lennoxville: Chadwick’s Fishery Co., on Taylor’s Creek, and C.P. Dey’s pioneering plant on the North River, established in 1881 and by far the oldest. The fishing fleet that supported the plants often numbered in excess of 100 boats during this heyday of the industry.

Many of the black menhaden fishermen and processing workers often worked for twenty or thirty years for the same employers. There were men like Pearl Glenn and Lawrence Taylor Hazel who were employed for twenty years or more by the J. Harvey Smith Fish Meal Company, either at the Beaufort plant, or at plants in New Jersey and Louisiana. In rare instances, blacks rose to the position of captain of one of t he menhaden fishing boats. The Davis family produced many noted black watermen, among them Dave Davis, captain of the ill-fated Parkins, a one-hundred-twenty foot menhaden boat which sank in Beaufort Inlet during a storm in December 1942. His brother, Herbert Davis, captain of the Harvey Smith’s Brigantine, was noted as one of the great singers of the chanteys or traditional work songs devised by the black menhaden fishermen to help with the hauling of the heavy nets.

Other blacks, especially women, found work in the oyster canning operation of the Southgate Packing Company, established in 1912 in a frame building at the foot of Ann Street, on a channel of the Newport River. Operating from October to June each year, the Southgate specialized in oysters but also packed shrimp as well as beans, tomatoes, and potatoes produced by the local truck farming industry which provided seasonal jobs. As one elderly woman recalled, “When the oyster factory opened the women went there to work instead of the fields.” Some blacks found work at the Beaufort Ice and Coal Company, established in 1913, which upgraded its capacity periodically to manufacture ever-increasing volumes of ice to accommodate the growing seafood catches. 

"Clammers on Town Creek"
Mary Warshaw Painting - Early 1900s
Near Back Land and Gallants Channel
The rituals of fishing and gathering shellfish are still remembered by many older black residents. The women and children would congregate along the shore of “Back Landing” or “Spring Landing,” both near the foot of Pine Street, to wait for the fishermen to bring the catch in at the numerous fish houses. Men would pile fresh fish into wheelbarrows and roll them through the streets of Beaufort to both black and white neighborhoods, uttering the familiar cry of “fresh fish!” These were the same landings used for baptisms by both blacks and whites.

Standing at the landing in the 1920s one could see a huge “oyster rock” that extended from West Beaufort or Gallant’s Point all the way to the present bridge for highway 70. The gathering process was a way of life of many women: “You could see them [the black women] out there, when the tide went out, getting oysters. My children never went hungry—I got them oysters before school.” Carrow recalled the importance of this oyster rock as a source of subsistence in the 1890s:

About the distance of a short city block west of the shoreline there was a celebrated oyster rock known as Jones Rock. On low water you could walk to the rock which we children always did. I may be mistaken, but my impression is that before the oyster factories came Jones Rock provided all the oysters that were required by the people in that vicinity and some for sale. I do know for sure that at any time at low water anyone could, and many did, go out on Jones Rock and pick up a mess of very fine oysters.

The combination of overharvesting, dredging and channel improvements in what is now called Gallant’s Channel have gradually eliminated the famous “oyster rock.”

1913 Sanborn Map
The Washburn Seminary continued to play the leading role in black education in Beaufort into the twentieth century, as it had done since its founding in 1867. The institution constructed two new buildings around 1900 to expand its mission. A new trades training workshop was built at the southeast corner of Cedar and Queen streets. A new classroom building was also erected at about the same time on the south side of Cedar Street, between the workshop and St. Stephen’s Church. The Sanborn maps show it to have been an imposing two-story frame building with a three-story bell tower. This building housed the principal school for blacks in Beaufort until 1926. It remained in the ownership of the American Missionary Association until 1917, when the association deeded the so-called “Blacktown School” to the trustees of the Beaufort Graded School, who assumed its operation as the town’s only public school for blacks. The building burned in the early 1920s under suspicious circumstances. Instead of rebuilding on the Cedar Street site, a new location was chosen on Queen Street for the new black Beaufort High School, as it was then known, which was completed in 1926 and opened under the supervision of principal L.R. Best. Despite its name, children from grades one through twelve attended class there.

The new one-story brick school on Queen Street quickly became the chief landmark and source of civic pride for the black community. It grew in stature under the leadership of Louis Randolph Johnson Jr., who assumed the post of principal in 1947. Johnson, born in a house just down the street from the school, attended N.C. A&T College and returned to Beaufort to begin teaching at Queen Street in 1945. Two years later he was promoted to principal, a position he held until 1968. During his tenure Johnson presided with great diplomacy over an unexpected strike held in 1952 by black high school students protesting the lack of maintenance and poor condition of their school building and the lack of any gymnasium. The two-day protest included a parade by students in the Queen Street band carrying placards reading “We want better facilities for our school” and brought assistance from “one of the union men her to organize the menhaden fishermen.” An investigation of the condition of the building revealed evidence of deferred maintenance, including roof leaks, a faulty boiler and heating system, leaking plumbing, termites in the floors, and a severe space shortage that forced the seventh grade class to meet on the auditorium stage. Following integration, the school’s name was changed to Beaufort Central School and served grades 6 through 8 of both races. The Queen Street School burned in the late 1960s, bringing an end to the institution that, more than any other, had the greatest impact on blacks in the twentieth century. One resident lamented “I have never been so hurt in all my life as I was the day the school burned.”

With little growth, and often decline in the black population during the twentieth century, it is not surprising that Beaufort developed only a small black commercial district. Cedar and Pine streets remained the favored location for black merchants, as had been the case in the late nineteenth century, with gradual movement north to Pine. By 1924 it was clear that the black business district was centered along Pine Street, between Queen and Pollock streets. The number of commercial establishments grew from six in 1924 to eleven by 1950. Many older residents can still recall with pleasure some of the most popular businesses and their owners: Hoyt Oden’s pool hall; Joshua Johnson’s grocery store; Henry Williams’ shoe shop; Burney Burr’s grocery store; Sherman Potter’s barber shop; Paul Fenderson’s store; and Curtis A. Oden’s popular luncheonette called the “Quick Lunch.” None of these are still standing. A movie theater for blacks was built by 1924 on Broad Street, across from the depot on the site now occupied by a modern apartment unit; it operated into the 1950s. New films in town were shown first at The Strand Theater on Front Street, then brought to the black theater “in a metal box by bicycle, one reel at a time, after being shown at the ‘downtown’ movie house.”

While the “Jim Crow” laws may have restricted any black businesses from locating in the white commercial district after 1900, black consumers continued to do business with certain favored white merchants. Many of the grocers downtown depended on the brisk business provided by the black menhaden fishermen when the boats were in town. With as many as 100 boats on the waterfront at one time in the 1940s and 1950s, the purchases made by the black cooks, as they stocked up for the next run, were a substantial part of their sales.

There were at least three black fraternal organizations by 1924: the Hero Lodge No. 248 built before 1913 on the south side of Cedar Street, the Odd Fellows Lodge located on the second floor of the two-story commercial building which formerly stood at the southwest corner of Queen and Pine street, and a one-story building labeled “colored hall,” also on Queen Street behind the Odd Fellow meeting rooms. The Hero Lodge, the only one of these that is still active, now occupies its third building on Cedar Street, dating from the 1950s. The Elks Lodge established after 1950 occupies a more modern concrete block building on the east side of Queen Street, between Cedar and Pine.
Purvis Chapel Parishioners 
Carteret County High School Collection 
from Beaufort Album of Memories by Jack Dudley
St. Clement's Episcopal School - Early 1900s 
Carteret County High School Collection
from Beaufort Album of Memories by Jack Dudley
Of the half-dozen churches begun by or for African-Americans in the late 19th century, three endured to become leading forces during the 1900 to 1950 period. Purvis Chapel AME Zion Church, St. Stephen’s Congregational Church, and the Mt. Zion Baptist Church all continue to minister to the spiritual needs of the community. Two of these, Purvis Chapel and St. Stephen’s, still occupy their historic church structures. The early mission chapels, St. Clement’s Episcopal and Grace Presbyterian, eventually closed down and are today no longer standing. The twentieth century brought two new black congregations, the Queen Street Baptist Church and the so-called “Sanctified Church” that occupied the small frame chapel at 707 Pine Street; both had built houses of worship by 1924. Residents can still recall the time when the “sanctified folks” first arrived in Beaufort on a barge or scow which they used as their meeting place. The men were suspicious of the new arrivals and gathered in force to greet them at Back Landing at the foot of Pine Street.

Many of Beaufort’s African-Americans achieved recognition for their leadership and contributions during the 1900 to 1950 period—achievements still remembered today. With political avenues largely close off, leaders were forced to seek other ways to make a difference. The most widely regarded of the educators was Louis Randolph Johnson Jr., teacher and principal of the Queen Street School form 1947 to 1968. It was an historic event when the Town of Beaufort hired John “Tommy” Davis to serve as the first black police officer during the 1930s. Curtis A. Oden, the first black undertaker in town, established a small funeral home on Pine Street adjacent to his residence. His wife, Mary “Lizzie” Oden, was the oft-remembered principal and teacher at the first “Free School” that was the forerunner of the Graded School, located in the 700 block of Pine Street. Dave and Adrian Davis, the first black boatmen to rise to the status of fishing boat captain, held positions of great esteem and rank in this maritime society. Frank Ellison, likewise highly regarded as a skilled boatman, provided an essential service operating a passenger ferry that ran across the Newport River between Beaufort and Morehead City.

1950-1990s: The gradual decline of the menhaden industry left the once-bustling waterfront area nothing short of a ghost town, withering away as the plants themselves closed up one after another. The resulting loss of jobs left many of the town’s black and white men without work for the first time in two decades or more.

The decades following World War II saw Beaufort undergo a remarkable metamorphosis, transforming herself from a sleepy fishing village with a declining population in the 1950s to a popular historic resort community that now attracts wealthy sailors, retirees and beach-going tourists.

Change came in a different form for African-Americans in Beaufort during the last half of the twentieth century. The ordeal of integration was accomplished relatively peacefully during the mid 1960s. Good jobs for blacks, a commodity never in great supply, became more scarce with the fall of the fishing industry and the processing factories. Black population levels reached a high of 1,129 in 1960 and began a slow decline to 908 in 1990. Older black residents lament that there are very few professional level jobs available for the children who were able to go away to college, leaving the younger generation no choice but to move to larger cities in search of more opportunity. Most new jobs generated by the growing tourist-based industry tend to be limited to restaurant help and housekeepers in the new hotels. Today the black neighborhood contains several houses which are essentially abandoned, still owned by heirs who have moved to New York and elsewhere. As this trend continues, a new phenomenon had emerged: houses in the neighborhood have become popular with whites seeking reasonably-priced housing for primary and secondary homes. Blacks today are witnesses to something that could not have been imagined in 1910—whites are moving into the old “Union Town” and buying houses that are no longer in demand among the younger black middle class.

Beaufort’s African-American Neighborhood 

Contemporary Map of Beaufort
Beaufort’s African-American residents have traditionally lived in an area consisting of about 18 square blocks, bound on the west by Turner Street, on the south by Broad Street and on the east by Live Oak Street. Most of the early and mid-nineteenth century development appears to have extended northward from the north side of Broad Street to Cedar Street, now US 70), between Turner and Pollock streets.

As the Union’s second largest refugee center in 1865, temporary and permanent housing was built north of Cedar along Craven, Queen and Mulberry streets, giving rise to the name “Union Town,” the traditional name for the camp and later for the black neighborhood. By 1900, new residences were being built in increasing numbers to the north of Pine Street and to the east, along Queen and Marsh streets, giving the neighborhood much of the appearance it has today.

Very few houses dating before about 1900 remain standing. Long-term residents identify several of what they termed to be “old houses” that could be confirmed by architectural evidence to date from the 1840 to 1860 period.

In appearance, Beaufort’s black neighborhood follows a simple grid, based on the plan established for the so-called “New Town” section that was added in 1728 to supplement the original 1713 Beaufort plan. Lots are universally small, with narrow street frontages dictating the size and orientation of the house. The streets, which remained unpaved until after World War II, now have few shade trees, giving the area an open unlandscaped feeling in contrast to the beautiful shade canopy seen on the streets from Broad Street to the waterfront. Cedar Street, once a quiet two-lane back street, is now a four-lane thoroughfare which serves to create a dividing line between the waterfront area and the black neighborhood.

A few of the lots within the survey area retain fine live oaks and cedars, giving a glimpse of what the maritime forest might have looked like before the land was built on to accommodate the refugee slaves and freedmen during the Civil War.
Old Burying Ground, Beaufort, NC
A few blocks away, on Ann Street, is Ocean View Cemetery, established in 1898 to serve both blacks and whites once the traditional “Old Burying Ground” became full. Up until 1898, blacks had been buried in the northeast corner of the Burying Ground around Purvis Chapel. The varied grave markers in Ocean View provide an excellent source of genealogical information on Beaufort’s African-American families.

Architectural Description

707 Broad Street circa 1840s-1860s
The neighborhood’s housing stock consists primarily of modest, vernacular houses of frame construction with traditional side-gable, single-pile forms, ranging from one story to the popular story-and-a-jump to full two-story or “I” houses, built from the 1840-1860 period into the 1920s. Nearly all of these exhibit little, if any, ornament other than the occasional boxed cornice with gable end returns. The subsequent building boom of the 1920 to 1950 period brought with it the widely popular gable-front bungalow, ranging in elaboration from plain, utilitarian cottages to examples featuring nationally-popular craftsman form and detailing executed in a local idiom that favored the clipped gable roofline. This form, sometimes referred to as the massed-plan bungalow, was ideally suited to the area’s narrow lot widths.

601 Broad Street circa 1850-1875
The earliest surviving houses found in the survey area all follow a side-gable, three-bays wide, with a hall-and-parlor plan. Most examples exhibit a form known locally as a “story-and-a-jump” form which provides a slightly higher attic living space than is found in story-and-a-half cottages, usually made possible by extending the front and rear walls several feet above the level of the ceiling joists. The resulting houses often have low second-story windows on the façades, in the short space under the eaves created by the extra height. The earliest version of the form is seen at 707 Broad Street, probably dating from the 1840s to the 1860s, which retains its modest late Greek Revival interior trim; it was moved from its original Cedar Street site. Other examples of nineteenth century story-and-a-jump houses, identified by their plain early cornice treatment and flush gable ends that lack any overhangs, boxing or returns, include the Eliza Faison House at 511 Pine Street, and similar houses at 417 Turner Street and 601 Broad Street, both probably dating from the second quarter of the nineteenth century.

601 Pine Street circa 1900
303 Pollock Street -1890-1920
During the period from the 1890s until about 1920, black builders continued to favor the story-and-a-jump form in enlarged versions that were embellished with boxed cornices and gable-end returns as well as ornamental corbelled brickwork atop the interior-end chimney stacks. Examples like the Anson Stanley House (421 Pollock - no longer standing), the Zach Henry House (411 Marsh) and the Burney Burr House (608 Pine) reflect the continued popularity of the form and show how the upper story height varied from very low to almost a full two stories. These and the vast majority of house built during the 1890-1920 period display predominantly traditional detailing, lacking any Victorian ornament, and defy a stylistic label. The front gable or “triple-A” roofline is found on only one house in the survey area, the story-and-jump Eli Davis House (303 Pollock). There are three houses that are a true full two stories in height, all simply ornamented but imposing in their unusual stature. The largest of these, the circa 1900 William H. Turner House (601 Pine), stands as a striking example of the two-story form; it originally had a two-story porch across the façade. 

603 Broad Street circa 1890-1900
507 Mulberry Street circa 1900-1920
Within the black neighborhood there is a noticeable lack of elaborate late Victorian sawn ornament like that seen on the houses built in the white section during the same period, reflecting the limited wealth of the owners. Several black have been identified to have been active during the late 19th and early 20th century period and are said to have built houses in both black and white sections of town. However, only two survivors of the houses they built exhibit the Italianate-influenced bracketed cornices and sawnwork ornament that one usually associates with this era. This is perhaps best illustrated by the front porch of the house built circa 1880-90 by Henry Clay Matthewson as his own residence, located at 414 Craven Street. Matthewson’s exceptional porch is complemented by distinctive diamond-shaped panels and hoods above each window. A fine Italianate-bracketed cornice and embellished porch can be seen at 603 Broad Street, built circa 1890-1900. The symmetrical three-bay, center-hall form seen here is repeated at the Louis Henry House (507 Mulberry), built circa 1900 to 1920.
717 Mulberry Street- Early 1900s

The neighborhood includes examples of turn-of-the-century L-plan, all one story, illustrating a form then very popular throughout Beaufort. Several of these are embellished with three-sided front bays and sawn ornamentation that has since been removed. While simple, these approached a level of detail which suggests the influence of the Queen Anne style, adapted to the modest means of the clients. This more articulated picturesque approach is illustrated by the circa 1900  Redmon Oden House (506 Queen - no longer standing) with its front bay enlivened with vertical beaded board panels beneath the windows, accented by turned porch posts, now mostly replaced. The nearly intact house at 717 Mulberry Street has a similar three-sided front bay with a paneled treatment. Another identified black builder, Frederic L. Williams, built a similar L-plan house as his residence at 503 Craven, dating from about 1905-1910.

509 Marsh Street circa 1900-1920
New forms of houses began to be adopted during the first two decades of the twentieth century. The symmetrical hip-roofed cottage emerged as a popular house type, some with distinctive engaged  porches sheltered under the main roof slope in the tradition of this coastal town, exemplified by the Andrew Stewart House (509 Marsh). Others had hipped porches attached to the façade, as seen at the Phillip A. Parker House (305 Pollock) and later at the Paul Fenderson House (514 Marsh), built about 1920, which reflects the early advent of the influence of the Bungalow style and Craftsman detailing. Another type, the plain one-story gable-front house without ornament, began to appear in the 1910-1920 period. Examples of this form lack any overt stylistic detailing, as seen at the Joel Joyner House (516 Marsh) of about 1910, or in the smaller versions at 510 Marsh and at 504 Pollock. The larger of these gable-front houses are two rooms wide and at least two rooms deep, similar in arrangement to nearby identical houses that were built for blacks in large numbers in Wilmington, N.C. during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

307 Pollock Street circa 1920
The appearance of this gable-front form, sometimes called the “massed plan house” certainly provided precedent for the remarkable popularity of the gable-front Bungalow in Beaufort’s black section during the period from the 1920s until well into the 1950s. Based largely on Craftsman and Bungalow models illustrated in the popular books and trade magazines of the period, Beaufort’s version of the Bungalow favored a distinctive clipped gable roofline seen in some of the national examples. Examples of the clipped-gable form include the 1930s Clifton Windley House (709 Pine) and the Allison Jordon House (307 Pollock), the later built in the early 1920s and having a stylish “kick” or flare in the eaves. The somewhat more traditional plain gable roofline can be seen at the John B. Davis House (518 Marsh) and the Samuel O. Chadwick House (514 Pollock) both dating from about 1925-1930. Without exception, the Bungalows built for blacks follow a gable-front orientation to the streets, consistent with the narrow but deep lots available in the neighborhood. The larger versions almost always display prominent front porches having tapered wood posts supported on heavy brick pillars, exposed rafter ends and paired windows with upper sashes having three or four vertical lights. Smaller, less costly versions of the same form, such as 708 Pine, were popular as rental housing throughout the period.

Collins Oden House 607 Pine circa 1900
Craftsman and Bungalow details were widely employed in the remodeling and modernizing of older story-and-a-jump and two-story houses. Porches of older periods were frequently replaced or updated with stylish modern elements throughout the period from the 1920s until the 1950s. The Anson Stanley House (421 Pollock - no longer standing), built about 1900, underwent a substantial transformation during the 1920s when a handsome Craftsman-style wrap-around porch was added, supported by paired and triple tapered posts resting on piers of pressed brick textured to look like rock-faced stone. Similar porch facelifts can be seen at the Henry Green House (412 Marsh) and the Collins Oden House (607 Pine), both story-and-a-jump dwellings of traditional form dating from about 1900. Many other examples were remodeled in less obvious ways during the prosperous years of the 1940s and 1950s, largely through the use of replacement Bungalow-style windows featuring characteristic three-light or four-light upper sashes over a single-paned lower sash; often, the new windows on the façades were larger paired units, such as those used to modernize the house at 603 Broad.

The town’s two surviving historic African-American churches, St. Stephen’s Congregational Church (322 Craven) and Purvis Chapel AME Zion Church (217 Craven), reflect very different architectural schools but have congregations which date to the Civil War and the early days of the Union occupation of Beaufort.
Purvis Chapel circa 1820 - Remodeled 1904
Purvis Chapel, the earliest of these, was previously surveyed during the National Register survey of 1970, but is included here because of its symbolic and architectural importance. Built circa 1820 as a plain meeting house for the town’s white Methodist congregation, Purvis Chapel was given to the black Methodist in 1854, when the whites completed a new church. In 1864, during the Union occupation, Purvis joined the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which it remains today. Between 1898 and 1904 the old 1820s meeting house was remodeled in the Gothic Revival style through the addition of Gothic windows with colored glass panes and a pair of front towers and a projecting pedimented portico enriched with Queen Ann style decorative shingle siding. 

St. Stephens' circa 1912
The present St. Stephen’s Congregational Church, built circa 1912, is the congregation’s second building, replacing the first 1870s structure. It is a most unusual picturesque design, incorporating a prominent high hip roof with flared eaves, topped by a short gable. There is a central front bell tower topped by a high hipped roof with bellcast eaves. The arched tower entrance suggests Romanesque influence. The exterior is clad with a lively combination of vertical board and batten siding below the window sills, with horizontal German siding above. Other details include paired front window and prominent shaped exposed rafter ends.

Little is known of the appearance of the other early black churches in Beaufort. Two late nineteenth century churches, St. Clement’s Episcopal Church and Grace Presbyterian Church, both now demolished, are shown on the Sanborn Insurance maps as simple frame structures of traditional meeting house form. Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Queen Street Baptist Church, both established in the nineteenth century, now occupy modern structures. The diminutive frame Christ Sanctified Holiness Church (707 Pine), built circa 1910 and now much altered, retains its charm Carpenter Gothic window detailing, consisting of triangular hoods and pediments above plain rectangular window sashes; it originally had a bell tower and a more steeply-pitched Gothic roofline.

Washburn Seminary Building circa 1900
All but one of the early African-American school buildings have likewise fallen victim to fire or demolition due to disuse. The surviving circa 1900 Washburn Seminary building is an example of the somewhat timeless schoolhouse or meetinghouse form, here in a T plan, with a steeply pitched gable roof and a pair of central chimneys. Its finish is largely utilitarian and lacks any specific stylistic derivation, with German siding and plain fenestration reflecting its use as a trades training school. The first black public school building, known initially as the Beaufort High School, and later as the Queen Street School, was a one-story brick structure built in 1926-1927 and burned in the late 1960s. Still surviving in the survey area is the imposing Beaufort Graded School, built in 1946 for whites to replace the 1927 school on the same site that burned in 1945. It presents a restrained late Art Deco façade highlighted by its stylized central pavilion accented with limestone pilasters and a Deco pediment. Behind this is a fine circa 1935 WPA gymnasium executed in a brick rendition of the Neo-Classical Revival that reflects a certain Roman influence. Blacks first used the Graded School facility following the integration movement of the mid-1960s.

Portion of Ocean View Cemetery 
East end of Ann Street
One of Beaufort’s most important but little-known landmarks of the black community is the eastern section of Ocean View Cemetery, which has served as the resting place for her black residents since 1898. The graves are laid out in an informal, unplanned way, presenting the visitor with a virtual “who’s who” of Beaufort’s African-Americans in an evocative and comprehensive way that no other single institution or shrine can. Many of the gravestones, both early and recent, are home-made of concrete, with inscriptions made by loved ones and family members. There are several vernacular wood markers with tin nameplates now rusted beyond legibility; along with a whimsical low fence made of whitewashed arched-top wood markers lined up around one plot. The earliest inscriptions date from the first decade of the twentieth century.

Above house photos were taken by Chuck and Katherine Bland.