Sailing speeds were slow: North Carolina to New York took four to five days, Carolina to the West Indies two
weeks and from Virginia or Carolina to England the voyage might take three to eight weeks, worst case twelve.
Bath Town, Beaufort, and three others were proclaimed customs collection points and upon arrival ship’s
papers including registration and cargo bill of lading were inspected. Royal seaport status included duties of
maritime law enforcement, both English and colonial law (Lefler 1973).
From the earliest days of the colonial ports free men, white or of color, and slaves worked as pilots, lighterers,
and stevedores. Before there were towns, there were trading posts and settlements. New farmers and wealthier
new colonists would purchase or lease land near a river or creek landing. Wealthier planter-owners and public
officials often had plantations and purchased lots in town where the river breezes made living more pleasant in
summer. Merchants, port tradesman, and successful plantation owners established wharves and warehouses,
lumber mills and grain mills. A colonial port town like Bath would have a ship’s chandlery for provisioning and
quartermasters would provision directly from local farmers and tradesmen as well. By the time Bath town was
officially ten years old, Water Street and King Street had numerous merchants, taverns, inns or ordinaries, even
a bawdyhouse as well as permanent dwellings for owners, absentee owners, their families, servants, and slaves.
Skilled tradesman were vital to a port town: rope and sail makers, carpenters and coopers to build and repair
wooden items for vessel use, for transporting goods or for use by local inhabitants, blacksmiths to make fittings
and make repairs for both ships and overland travel by horse and cart, as well as other commercial enterprises
such as ship building, salvage operations, and storage services.
Silver coins and paper money were scarce but Colonists still traded with colonial currency or IOU’s based on
the British pound sterling. Most merchants accepted currency and paper money from other colonies, as well as
letters of credit. Often they traded for ship and plantation provisions and finished goods with proclamation
based quantities of commodities. Raw goods and commodities were equivalency-priced based on proclamation
and sold or bartered by weight. Commodity goods other than lumber, staves and naval stores were shipped and
were priced usually by the barrel, for example 250 or larger pound hogsheads or barrels of pork or corn.
Smaller barrels, casks and kegs of sugar, spices and molasses were often exchanged as well as the large quantity
naval stores by the ton. Commodities from upstream Tar and Pamlico pine plantations like pitch, tar and
turpentine were all loaded and offloaded (laded) on rafts or merchant flats for floating down the river to
transfer to sloops at landing and wharves like those at Port Bath. Ultimately the sloop cargo would either be
carried direct to a commercial port consolidator agent or sail to the Ocracoke bar to be lightered to larger sea
going vessels.
Provisions and fancy goods were ordered from larger city merchants as well as ordered from abroad, luxury
items such as silks, lace and wines from France, tea from India and China, nutmeg, sugar, and spices from the
West Indies, not to mention farm slaves from Africa and English and Irish indentured house servants and maids.
British bound correspondence was sent in duplicate in care of slaves, house servants, and ship captains and
eventually delivered from vessels crossing the Atlantic from larger seaports such as Boston, New York,
Philadelphia, Hampton, and Charleston.
In 1715 there was a rough road of sorts from the Bath town gate to Edenton, called the Pamlico Road (Bath
County Deed Book Vol I town plan 1709-1710 and 1715-29) Moseley’s 1733 map and a later 1807 town plan
redrawing of a 1766 map (Paschal p.26-27) shows King Street ending at Bonner Point where the Core Point
Ferry would carry passengers and goods over to the south bank of the Pamlico river. Sauthier’s 1768 shows a
Town Creek ferry where a Bath town bridge exisis today ( over Town Creek, now Bath Creek). The Town
Creek Ferry connected to a road leading Forks of the Tar, now Washington and leading westward to other Tar
Landings and the Piedmont’s Occoneechi Trail and its trading posts.
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