seem very much at the small end of the sloop and schooner range, varying from 7 tons to 30 tons. Tonnage was an
important feature to capture because customs duties were paid based on 3 shillings and 4 pence per ton for example, called
“powder duties” because the taxes were collected in powder and ammunition to protect the ports.
1768-1794 PORT BATH RECORDS Vessel Size
# Tons Burden
% min avg max
1080 0.44 10 33 95
1006 0.41 6 41 126
335 0.14 40 80 178
22 0.01 90 136 250
Early Port Bath creek frontage accommodated up to five wharves and numerous cellar type warehouses (shown as Water
Street on the Lawson 1709 map now known as Main Street). Small craft would have been launched directly from the
river sandy shoreline and a few wharves were built close to the 1723 customs house (location noted on 1769 Sauthier map
of BathTowne). Port Bath would have been full of rafts, skiffs, periaugers and scallops, Bermuda-rigged sloops,
Chesapeake-rigged schooners, and brigs. Bath’s colonial merchants and port tradesmen contributed uniquely to the
success of new settlers, fur traders, farmers and planter-merchants. and ultimately played a pivotal role in the new
colony’s maritime commerce as it expanded from the Albemarle region southward.
Today two North Carolina state’s Department of Cultural Resource historical mile markers (BB-1 and BB-62)
acknowledge the role of Bath town’s colonial history in the state’s growth, highlighting the town’s establishment by
French Huguenots from Virginia and the role Bath state leaders and Port Bath played in early Carolina’s maritime
commerce. Historical markers cannot tell us in their limited drive-by space about the lives of French Huguenots in Bath or
Port Bath merchants and trade folk of 300 years ago… but fortunately serving old Beaufort County deed books, state
colonial archives and old correspondence from distant ports and foreign archives can give us three century old clues about
Port Bath’s men, women, apprentices and even children.
The old now “expired” Bath County was originally part of Albemarle County, the larger Virginia-bordering “extinct”
county to the north, incorporated 1664. In the late 1600’s the region between the Albemarle Sound and Pamlico Sound
was Virginia’s “southern frontier”, a frontier no-man’s land between Virginia and Charleston, populated by several tribes
of Carolina Algonquian Indians and a few traders and farmers. The region below the Dismal Swamp and Cape Fear’s
colony of Brunswicktown was governed and ignored alternately by Virginia governors and London appointed deputies of
the Lords Proprietors. By 1655 Nathaniel Batts, considered one of the first- known permanent settlers and Indian traders
in the north eastern Carolina region, built a house along Salmon Creek at the western end of Albemarle Sound. Other
settlers soon followed, and by 1663 historians estimate 500 or more settlers might have lived between Albemarle Sound
and Virginia. Proprietor/Governor Seth Sothel’s two land grants of approximately 4000 acres included land along both
sides of the Pamlico River as well as other northeast rivers and what was to become eventually the 1996 large Bath
County .
By the late 1600’s fur trappers, explorers and new settlers were encouraged by London sales pamphlets printed by the
Lords Proprietors to come to Pamlico River and creek banks to build homes, farms, and plantations. The newcomers used
local waterways to trade with the Indians and to transport furs and pelts as well as transport naval stores, farm grown
goods and provisions. One hundred and sixty acres from the Sothel grant was eventually included in a land grant reissued
to one David Perkins by the Lords Proprietors allowing John Lawson, surveyor and Bath founding father to carve out
sixty acres for the new town. Lawson with his comrades gained clear title and drew up a Bath town plan to sell 71 lots
between 1705 and 1709.
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