interesting to compare and contrast who was smuggling and who was declaring. I apologize in advance for any errors or
omissions, and have made every effort to credit sources of extracts and images where possible.
Port Bath surviving customs records and surviving vessel shipping records located in Raleigh North Carolina state
archives seem to no longer exist collectively for the 1700-1730 period. Perhaps one day soon when all port histories in
archives around the world are digitized all the missing pieces in the puzzle will quickly fall into place by googling
addicts. Meanwhile, at least North Carolina has the majority of the official colonial port activity for the second half of the
18th century. Those latter colonial years about Port Bath are not referred to very much herein.Shedding light and giving
voice to the first Port Bath men, women and children, their vessels and cargo of early early Port Bath is the purpose of
Although I had to look elsewhere for extracts precisely because there was not too much to work with in my time frame, I
want to spread the word that anyone can find the 1761-1794 records in 38 volumes and 15 manuscript boxes filed in
Raleigh state archives. Here is the heading:
MARS ID# 3.43 Office of State Treasurer, Ports
Even better, the colonial port surviving shipping data including Port Bath has recently been digitized in spreadsheets I
understand soon to be shared on the Underwater Archeology division’s state website, uploaded by the Fort Fisher office.
In fact they were nice enough to send me the Port Bath spreadsheet although I already had seen the data. In addition to
Port Bath surviving records of 1761-1794, the archived shipping records include the following British port districts with
respective years: Beaufort 1760-1790, Brunswick 1787-1790, Currituck 1783-1790, Edenton 1792-1807, Elizabeth City
1826-1827, Roanoke 1682-1794, Swansborough 1788-1790 , and Washington 1793, 1868-1887. Of interest to me was
the seeming anomaly in date range of Port Bath 1777-1794; after 1776/1777 Port Bath collection office and its officer
Nathan Keias moved upriver to the new town of Washington, yet there is one year’s account surviving for Port
Washington for the year 1793. Oh well, something fun for another researcher to explore I suppose just like why did the
admiralty court records say Port Pamtico not Port Bath? (in the breaking bulk case presented by deputy customs collector
Capt Wm. Barrow in 1704).
Alpha to Omega? The two authors I recommend (Angley and Watson) for some reason in their work didn’t mention that
James Leigh Esq. was first appointed from London in 1703 to be Port Bath’s first customs collector. He arrived and was
sworn into oath by none other than Christopher Gale of Bath in 1704 over a decade before the official customs district was
decreed (1715). Gale was NC’s first chief Justice and this signal event occurred two years before the Town of Bath was
incorporated (1705). The naval officer and deputy naval officers names assigned to Port Bath in 1715 are unknown, or at
least unknown to me at this time. I am sure their names are exist somewhere in archives, just like the geneology of
Blackbeard, but hey, why ruin a good legend. Sometimes less is more. Finding the Lost Colony in an eastern Carolina
swamp burial ground would be disappointing. Anyway, in the port records circumstance every vessel excluding shipwreck
has two chance of its papertrail clearances inbound and outbound surviving, one at port entry and one at port exit. And
each port has one in four chances of its quarterly reports surviving in America and in London, since duplicate copies of
audited reports were sent to each colony’s governor and to the London Customs House due to mail irregularity due to
shipwrecks and storms.
In Saunder’s Colonial Records IV the editor comments that there is an important distinction to be made between two
key officers of colonial ports, one ultimately reporting to the provincial governor and one reporting to the London customs
house. This distinction is also pointed out in Crittenden’s The Commerce of North Carolina, p.39-41.
The deputy naval officer’s responsibilities were to keep records of imports and exports, make lists of vessels entering and
clearing, and examine certificates of bond and registration. This officer was responsible to the naval officer of the colony,
who was in turn responsible to the governor. The other official, the collector of customs, was responsible to the British
commissioners of customs. His primary responsibility was to collect duties on imports and exports. (Source Colonial
Records, IV, p. 169-171).
Although there is a theoretical distinction to be made between customs collectors and naval officers inspecting and
recording vessels and cargo, and yes this is just my opinion, in application the surviving Port Bath collection records seem
to show the customs collector was doing much of both roles. Since there are no 1715 copies of official shipping records
or 1715 naval officer’s reports to peruse, we don’t have the alpha only the omega, I will close my disclaimer remarks here