From the 1770 "Plan of the Town & Port of Beaufort" by French surveyor and cartographer Claude Joseph Sauthier

Purpose of this site

   Although the facts of history don't change, our knowledge and understanding of the facts do change over time. History doesn't become certain until documented by primary sources, such as deeds or documents created at the time of study, or from secondary sources written by experts. 
     Researchers and historians build on the work of others before them, working to confirm or refute commonly held beliefs. When more accurate information is found and documented, it is the responsibility of the historian to make the information known, and to endeavor to correct previous errors in interpretation.    
     As with many places, the history of Beaufort is full of intriguing and beguiling stories about its past, many of which are true, but some of which are a matter of supposition, misinterpretation, folklore, and even fabrication. The purpose of this site is to shed light on some of the inaccuracies surrounding the town's history.

Beaufort, NC not built on an Indian village

INACCURATE: In her 2002 book, Beaufort, North Carolina, Mamr√© Marsh Wilson wrote, "It was around 1709 when the town located on the site of the former Coree Indian village, Cwarioc, meaning 'fish town,' was established." This narrative has since been repeated in many articles, magazines, and online accounts of Beaufort history. 

ACCURATE: There is no documentation that "fish town" is a translation of "Cwarioc," nor did a Coree village exist on the acreage that would become Beaufort. Thus, any later reference to Beaufort as having the early name "Fish Town" is inaccurate. However, many years after Beaufort was laid out/established in 1713, the small village could have easily been referred to as "Fish Town" by those unaware of the actual name of the town. 

Cwareuuock, the reference to the Coree tribe on earliest maps (1590 De Bry and others), included the Algonquian ending ‒euuock, roughly translated "people of" or "land of"—thus, the name referred to "Cwar," Core, or Coree territory. (Blair A. Rudes, UNC Charlotte, The First Description of an Iroquoian People)

Detail from Virginiae Item et Floridae ▪ Hondius and Mercator ▪ 1606
     In his book, John Lawson referred to two villages, Coranine and Raruta.
    In Colonial Beaufort, historian Charles L. Paul wrote, "Before white settlers entered the area, the Coree had two villages. One of these was located on the north side of the Straits of Core Sound which separates Harker's Island from the mainland, a location not more than seven miles east of the present site of Beaufort or more than eight miles north of Cape Lookout."
     "The other village was located on the west side of Newport River, but the exact spot cannot be given…A deed, dated 1725, describes the tract as follows: 'a certain piece of land called ye Indian Town lying on ye west side of Newport River…'" (Book C, pp. 112‒113, dated 1 Feb 1724/5, Charles Cogdell of Carteret Precinct, Bath County, to Thomas Austen of the same place…containing 36 acres beginning at a lightwood stump on the river side, north 73 west 58 poles to a red oak, north 17 east 92 poles to the River side, down river to 1st station.) 

In view of these references, it is incorrect and misleading to perpetuate the misconception that the Town was built on the site of an earlier Indian village.

Beaufort NC, established 1713, is state's 4th Oldest Town

INACCURATE: Beaufort established 1709
ACCURATE: Beaufort established 1713

In the early 1960s, 1709 was chosen as what has become Beaufort's "traditional" date. After much research (according to Mamre Wilson), the choice was based on one passage found in Samuel A'Court Ashe's 1908 book, History of North Carolina, "...Many planters now occupied the lands on the Pamlico; the French colony had been increased by accessions from Virginia; lands along the shore, even between the North River and Core River (near the present town of Beaufort), were taken up in 1709..." 

1713 plan of Beaufort ▪ NC Archives and History
Click to enlarge.
However, until 1713, there is no record of settlers on land that belonged to Farnifold Green, who lived north of Neuse River but likely held hopes of creating a port. (On December 20, 1707 Green was the first to obtain a patent for land in the "Core Sound" area—780 acres which included the future site of 100-acre Beaufort.)  

At the time (early 1700s) settlers along the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers faced political discord, yellow fever, drought, and conflict with Indians. Aware of the dangers, Farnifold Green remained on his plantation north of Neuse River, made out his will in October 26, 1711, and assigned his 1707 "Core Sound" patent to Robert Turner on July 18, 1713. Later, Governor Eden officially signed over Green's 780-acre patent to Turner. Confirmed by payment of £4.15 sterling, Turner was given "all privileges of hunting, hawking, fishing and fowling, with all profits, commodities and hereditaments to the same belonging, except one-half of all gold and silver mined."

      As far as settlers in the area in the early 1700s, in Colonial Beaufort, Charles L. Paul noted: "By December 1708, John Nelson was granted a patent for 260 acres 'in Core Sound on the north side of North River.' In 1708, brothers Francis and John Shackelford settled on the west side of North River.     
     "Other names connected with 'Core Sound' prior to 1713 were John Fulford, Robert Turner, James Keith, William Bartram, Peter Worden, Thomas Blanton, Thomas Lepper, Thomas Sparrow, Lewis Johnson, Richard Graves, Christopher Dawson, Enoch Ward, Thomas Cary, and Thomas Kailoe. Some of these, notably Cary and Lepper, lived elsewhere and were only speculating in land. John Fulford, Enoch Ward, and Robert Turner were definitely 'Core Sound' residents.  

In the early Province of Carolina, a town was "born" when approved by the Lords Proprietors—thereby granting permission for it to be established, laid out and named. For Beaufort, this approval came in the fall of 1713. On October 2, 1713, Robert Turner, then land patent owner, hired deputy surveyor Richard Graves to lay out the town. 

Thus, on October 2, 1713, Beaufort officially came into existence—North Carolina's 4th oldest town, behind 1705 Bath, 1710 New Bern, and 1712 Edenton.

Deed from Robert Turner of said Province...
lot number 4....plat made by Richard Graves lying being in Core Sound laid out by 
said surveyor...2nd day of October 1713 and
by ye permission of ye lords proprietors
intended for a township by ye name 
of Beaufort.Carteret Deed Book D - Page 91
"The dates, men and circumstances connected with the 'Beaufort plan' were mentioned in all deeds issued for the years before Carteret became a precinct in 1722. These deeds stated that the town was laid out '2nd day of October 1713 and by ye permission of ye Lords Proprietors intended for a township by the name of Beaufort.' (Before 1722, Beaufort was a part of Craven Precinct, Bath County; therefore, Beaufort deeds were recorded at the New Bern Courthouse.)   

"Numerous lots were sold in Beaufort immediately after it was laid out, but few of the purchasers made their homes in the town...As late as 1765 it was described as a town of not more than twelve houses." (Paul) 

Beaufort NC Incorporated 1723

INACCURATE: Incorporated 1722
ACCURATE: Incorporated 1723

Incorporations had to be approved by the Royal Council (Lords Proprietors), which was done only seven times during the colonial period.

1710 New Bern and 1713 Beaufort were both incorporated on November 23, 1723, during the same session of the General Assembly.


      An Act, for Incorporating the Seaport of Beaufort, In Carteret Precinct, Into a Township, by the Name of Beaufort.
    Whereas, a certain Plot of Ground, being Part of a Tract of Land, in Core Sound, late belonging to Robert Turner, Esq. but now the property of Richard Rustel Esq. was formerly laid  out into a Township, by the name of Beaufort Town, with proper Allotments for a Church, a Town-house, and a Market place, as by a Draught thereof, upon Record in the Secretary’s Office, doth,, and may, more fully and at large appear: And whereas the true and absolute Lords Proprietors of Carolina, upon the Petition of the Inhabitants of Core Sound, now called Carteret Precinct, have erected the same, into a Seaport [1722], by the Name of Port-Beaufort, and have invested the same with all Privileges and Immunities belonging to a Seaport: Therefore, for the Encouragement of the said Town, and the due Encouragement of the Trade and Commerce thereof, and the Parts adjacent.....

Old Burying Ground, Beaufort NC - Time to remove this sign

     Both this sign in the Old Burying Ground, as well as the following statement on the Beaufort Historical Association's website and self-guided tour brochure are false:  
     "A record from September 1711 notes the area had 'been depopulated by the late Indian War and Massacre.' It is probable some of the unmarked graves were victims of the Indian wars whose skulls were cleft with tomahawks of hostile Coree and Neusiok Indians."

Photograph courtesy Sara Whitford
The Tuscarora War, begun in September 1711, was fought in the area west of Bath and Edenton, 
along the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers, no where near the future site of Beaufort.

Area where the Tuscarora War was fought, beginning September 1711
 Moseley's 1733 Map noted "This part of the Country was formerly inhabited by Tuscarora Indians" 
(Click to enlarge.)
"About 1706, five years before the beginning of the Tuscarora War, the Coree had already begun to roam the coast from the New River of Onslow to Core Point and into their old homeland on the Pamlico south shore of 'Coree Tuck.'" (Al Pate)

According to historian William Powell, in September 1711, King Hancock's warriors, joined by other tribes, including the Coree, "launched an all-out attack on white settlements along the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers, including the town of Bath," and killed more than 140 men, women and children, and took many captive.

At the time, there were a few scattered settlers in the "Core Sound" area, along the rivers and banks, but there was no town on the unsettled acreage that would become Beaufort, then owned by Farnifiold Green, who lived north of the Neuse River

     "It’s unclear why the Beaufort Historical Association has opted to keep this sign posted in their graveyard, as they have been contacted regarding its inaccuracy. When asked for a clear resource or reference for why the sign is there, they simply referred to a local historian who had at one time said it was so.
     "Individuals involved in the archaeology programs both with East Carolina University and the State of North Carolina have been contacted in regards to this sign, but they have said they are unaware of any archaeological studies done in the Old Burying Ground that suggest any Tuscarora Indian attack in Beaufort during 1711." (Sara Whitford, Coastal Carolina Indian Center)

Beaufort, NC's Hammock House is not town's oldest

INACCURATE: Hammock House built c.1709
ACCURATE: Hammock House built in 1800

For many decades, the "White House" and the Hammock House were believed to be one and the same.

However, the “White House,” which once stood between Fulford and Gordon streets, was first noted on Edward Moseley's 1733 map, "A New and Correct Map of the Province of North Carolina." There is no documentation as to when or by whom the “White House” was built. But, since Farnifold Green first owned the land (1707 to 1713), he could have possibly built it as an outpost - a place to stay when visiting his yet-settled wilderness by the sea. The "White House" did not appear on maps after 1780.

Hammock House (photo circa 1900)
The Hammock House was built in 1800 by Samuel Leffers. 

In an October 19, 1800 letter to his brother John in Long Island, New York, Samuel Leffers wrote:

     "My situation at present is agreeable, my new house is calculated to my fancy and pleasantly situated, we have a fine prospect of the Sea, in front have a good garden and spring of water and are about 200 yards from the eastern most boundary of Beaufort town." 

Leffer's new house was built about 300 yards east of the White House, which was 100 yards west of the town boundary, the boundary described earlier as "100 yards to the eastward of the hammock that Thomas Austin formerly lived on." (Research and documentation is included in Historic Beaufort, A Unique Coastal Village Preserved.

Beaufort NC's "Leffers Cottage"

INACCURATE: Leffers Cottage circa 1778
Unfortunately, Samuel Leffers did not build this particular cottage on property he once owned. However, since it has been on the Restoration Grounds and known as the "Leffers Cottage" for so long, it would be appropriate to keep the name in Leffers honor. 

Samuel Leffers came to Beaufort from Hempstead, New York in 1764 and spent 58 Years as schoolmaster, surveyor, clerk of court, merchant and planter.

On September 13, 1775, Leffers purchased lot 12 New Town (southwest corner of Front and Live Oak streets) from town commissioner for 30 shillings proclamation money; a provision in the deed required Leffers build a house within two years or the deed would become null. (deed bk 1, pg 159) One year later, on September 12, 1776, Leffers sold this lot including a "singular premises" to Daniel Guthrie for £3 proclamation money. (deed bk I, pg 251)

What has been designated as the "Samuel Leffers Cottage circa 1778" was donated and moved to the Beaufort Restoration Grounds in 1983.

However, an analysis of the fabric of the house, by Carl Lounsbury and the Architectural Research Department of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2012 Field Study in Beaufort, revealed a building date of 1840-1850, some two or three decades after the 1822 death of Samuel Leffers:
     The Leffers House is a one-and-a-half story small frame house with a later shed addition. Originally located on the corner of Live Oak and Front Streets, the house was moved to this site on Turner Street in the 1980s and restored and open to the public by the Beaufort Historical Society. The dwelling is said to have been built about 1778 by Samuel Leffers who was a school master in late colonial Beaufort and later became a surveyor, clerk of court, merchant, and planter. He died in 1822 at the age of 86. Unfortunately, this is not the house that Leffers built and lived in. Rather it was built perhaps two to three decades after his death in the late antebellum period.

Beaufort NC's "Sloo House" is actually Shepard House

1997 Survey: House has lost all of its
 exterior 18th-century characteristics.
Several "stories" tied to the house at 209 Front Street are inaccurate.

1) Inaccurate:"Sloo House circa 1768"
     Accurate: Shepard House circa 1770
     In September 1768, Nathaniel Sloo owned the lot less than a month. He sold the lot to Solomon Shepard's bride-to-be Jane Miles. (Sloo's purchase of the lot is the only record connecting him to Beaufort.) In the 1777 sale of the property to William Fisher, the deed noted the fact that Jane and Solomon Shepard had "improved the lot with a house." Before 1773, Solomon's brother Jacob Shepard and wife Sarah Lewis moved into the house. More on the house...

2) Inaccurate: The Old Burying Ground tour guide brochure reads: Sarah Gibbs (d.1792) & Jacob Shepard (d.1773) – Sarah was married to Jacob Shepard, a seaman. Jacob’s ship went to sea, but never returned. He was presumed to be dead. Later, Sarah married Nathaniel Gibbs and had a child with him. After an absence of several years, the shipwrecked Jacob Shepard unexpectedly returned to Beaufort to find his wife married to another man. The two men agreed that Sarah would remain with Gibbs as long as she lived, but must spend eternity at the side of Jacob Shepard.
   Accurate: Before 1753, Sarah Lewis (c.1740‒1792) married Jacob Shepard (1733‒1773). After Jacob Shepard's death from smallpox in 1773, widow Sarah married Nathaniel Gibbs (who first married Mary Whitehurst). After Sarah's death, Gibbs married Alice Easton in 1795. Gibbs died in 1806 and was buried in Washington, Beaufort County. Of Jacob and Sarah’s children, their daughter Hannah met and married Capt. Charles Biddle when he sailed into Beaufort during the Revolution and helped build a small fort. 

3) Inaccurate: Although little is known of Nathaniel Sloo, his name is referenced in a number of online stories as the father of the little girl buried in a barrel of rum in the Old Burying Ground. 

The Beaufort Historical Association's Old Burying Ground self-guide tour pamphlet reads: "Girl in Barrel of Rum – Here is the grave of a girl buried in a barrel of rum. As the story goes, an English family, with a young daughter, came to Beaufort in the late 1700s. Wanting to see her homeland, the girl finally persuaded her mother to allow her to make the voyage. Her father promised his wife he would return her safely, but she died on the voyage home. Instead of burying her at sea, and not wanting to break a promise to his wife, the father placed her body in a barrel of rum and brought it to Beaufort for burial."

Since there is no documentation for the "girl in a barrel of rum" or a connection between either Nathaniel Sloo or the Sloo/Shepard house, any narrative (written or oral) regarding this matter may want to refer to the story as "legend" or "oral history." 

Mattie King Davis Gallery, Beaufort NC - When was it built?

The Mattie King Davis Gallery on the Restoration Grounds (originally on Lot 13 Old Town at the corner of Front and Craven streets) is plaqued "Rustell House c.1732." However, in-depth research on the structure does not support the name or date.

INACCURATE: Rustull House circa 1732. The following, written by Maurice Davis, is also incorrect: "In the settlement of the estate of Richard Rustull Jr., his widow was given the small house and outbuildings on Old Town Lot 13, Old Town, was enlarged and became the town house of the Dennis family and also used as an ordinary." 

Richard Rustull Sr. or Jr. did not own Lot 13 in 1732. Rustull Jr.'s 1739 Will, proven 1747, he did not bequeath any property in Old Town Beaufort. There was also no mention of his wife and widow inheriting anything. (Richard Rustull Jr., born about 1700, died before September 1746. His widow Sarah Cogdell married William Dennis in 1747.) 

Early chain of custody
  • Sept 1731, Richard Rustull Sr. sold Lot 13 Old Town to Mary Galland for £3. 
  • June 1748, Arthur Mabson willed Lot 13 to nephew William Coale.  
  • March 1756, was the first record indicating some sort of structure on the lot when William Coale sold the lot for £40. 
  • In 1770 a license was granted to William Fisher to keep an ordinary in the house of William Dennis in Beaufort. (Dennis, however, owned TWO houses/lots in Beaufort - Lot 8 and Lot 13.)
 Who built this house and when  
     It appears that either Mary Galland, Arthur Mabeson or William Coale built a small structure on Old Town Lot 13 before 1756, when Coale sold to Moseley for £40.
     William Dennis could have built the two-story house, with no porches, sometime before 1770. In his 1800 will, he left both lots, #8 and #13 to family "to be rented out."
     Since this could be one of the oldest houses in Beaufort, a dendrochronology study would settle the question as to when the house was built.

MORE ...

Beaufort NC - Island across from the downtown waterfront

INACCURATE: "Carrot Island"
ACCURATE: "Town Marsh"
     Even though many refer to "Town Marsh" and "Carrot Island" as one island, calling it "Carrot Island," these are two separtate islands. "Carrot Island" begins at Carrot Island Lane.     
    "Town Marsh" and "Carrot Island" are two of the several islands in the Rachel Carson Reserve.
     Before dredging along the waterfront during the first quarter of the 20th century, "Town Marsh" was only 3/4 of a mile long and Carrot Island was essentially tidal marsh with some elevated hammock land.
1888 Coast Survey of Beaufort Harbor
     By the 1930s and 1940s, these dredge-spoil islands became protective barrier islands. Acquired by the state in the late 1980s, the Rachel Carson Reserve, 2,315-acre site, more than three miles long and less than a mile wide, consists of Carrot Island, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, Horse Island, Middle Marshes and extensive salt marshes and intertidial/subtital flats.
     The reserve named in her honor, Rachel Carson (1907‒1964) was a marine biologist and conservationist whose work is credited with advancing the global environmental movement; in the 1940s, she did research in Beaufort.

In 1947, Beaufort resident Dr. Luther Fulcher placed horses on the islands. After his death, the horses remained and became feral, reverting back to the wild. Despite harsh conditions the horses have thrived on the reserve; their main food supply is Smooth Cordgrass. While treating as a wild herd, the reserve's staff oversees the horse management; identified and photographed, each horse is tracked for birth, health, social habits and death. In the spring of 2014, 33 horses were recorded on the reserve—14 males and 19 females.

The estuarine waters and subtital habitats surrounding the reserve are important nursery grounds for many fish species and habitat for mollusks and invertebrates. Animal presence is high due to the diversity, which offers foraging habitats for birds, mammals and marine life. The reserve also serves as a protective haven for several rare plant species. Preservation of the reserve allows this coastal ecosystem to be available as an outdoor laboratory where scientists, students and the public can learn about coastal processes and the influences that shape and sustain the area. Traditional recreational uses are allowed as long as they do not disturb the environment or organisms or interfere with research and educational activities.

Beaufort NC - Carrot Island, not "Cart Island"

1) Folklore: Carrot Island was originally "Cart Island," due to pushing carts over to the island marsh, or leaving carts on the "island."
2) Wikipedia article on Shackelford Banks: "When John Shackleford first acquired his tract at Shackleford Banks, the island was known as "Cart Island," most likely after Carteret County." 

1733 Moseley Map
ACCURATE: Carrot Island was first noted as "Carrot I." on Moseley's 1733 map. 

Carrot Island was included in the 1734 will of John Shackelford: "I bequest my estate to my son James and his heirs forever also Island called Carrot." (By the way, the family name was spelled Shackelford, not Shackleford.)

In March 1790, Benjamin Stanton purchased Carrot Island from Nehemiah Harris; Stanton had a "fishery" on an elevated portion of the island.

Carrot Island was noted on many early maps, including 1844, 1850, 1857, and 1888. The 1854 map labeled the channel that flowed from the downtown waterfront to south of Carrot Island as "Carrot Island Channel." Before dredging in the early 20th century, Carrot Island was essentially tidal marsh with some elevated hammock land.
1854 noted Carrot Island Channel

Beaufort NC - Owens-Bedford plaque not accurate

Though plaqued "Owens-Bedford circa 1730," this cottage was built much later.  

"If the house dates from the 18th century, then only some of its framing members are of that age. It is just as likely the building started out as a single story dwelling with an integral shed constructed sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century."