October 1863 Fire in 300-block of Front

Beaufort Waterfront during the siege of Fort Macon
April 25, 1862 - Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
John A. Hedrick arrived in Beaufort about three months after Union troops captured the town [March 25, 1862], where he was assigned as the U.S. Treasury Department collector for the port of Beaufort. Hedrick stayed at the "Ocean House" hotel until October 24th, 1863, when he wrote the following letter to his brother Benjamin:

October 25th, 1863
    "I have just been burned out of house and home. Last night about two o’clock I was aroused by the cry of ''fire.' Upon getting up and looking out of my windows, I found the smoke from the fire was in the adjoining building. I made all haste I could & got my trunk, clothing &c out into the street and as it was raining a little, I carried them to Mr. Norcom's [128 Craven] at which place I expect to stay to-night. [He remained at the Norcom's house until the spring of 1865].
    "It was only about fifteen minutes before the fire reached the hotel in which I stayed. It originated in B.S. Ensley's kitchen and spread to Dr. King's house, which stands against Mr. Taylor's [Ocean House] hotel. The hotel has been kept for the last four months by Messrs Davis & Wright.

    "Capt. Fulford's house was blown up to prevent the fire from spreading. For the benefit of Mr. Pigott, I will give you the names of the houses burnt; Jane Ward's, B.A. Ensley's; Dr. King's; Dr. Martin's Apothecary shop, the Ocean House* and Capt. Fulford's house. Mr. Hall's house and Mr. Norcom's store were saved with great difficulty, also, some other houses across the way. My office was not more than thirty yards from Dr. Martin's Drug Store.

    "As soon as I got my clothing in a place of safety, I went to my office and got my money and more valuable papers and put them in a safe place. I then got all my other books and documents in readiness to move should there be occasion to do so. The wind happened to be favorable and saved me the trouble. I lost in the fire only two pair old shoes, which I left under my bed and did not think of them until the house was in a blaze.

    "It seems that Mr. Ensley's cook had been in the habit of filling the stove full of wood and piling other wood around it so as to have it dry for kindling in the morning, and that the fire originated from this dry wood. It is said that it has caught three times before this."
From Gray's 1880 Map
Showing Ocean View hotel

     *As noted on Gray's 1880 Map of Beaufort, the Ocean House hotel was rebuilt and became the Ocean View Hotel.

The above letter was transcribed from Letters from a North Carolina Unionist: John A. Hedrick to Benjamin Hedrick – 1862‒1865 – Edited by Judkin Browning and Michael Thomas Smith.