bath 1705

Detail from 1737 - "A New and Correct Map 
of the Province of North Carolina" [i1]
“Since 1705, the town of Bath has nestled on the point of land between Bath Creek and Back Creek facing out on the beautiful little bay which opens into the Pamlico River. 

"For hundreds of years before 1705, however, a town had stood on the same spot facing the bay, for the red men, who once roamed the shores of the Pamlico River and its tributaries, favored Bath as the site of one of their villages.

"Indian Village of Secoton" 
John White [i2]
Engraving by De Bry 1590 [i3]
“Not until 1585 does the story of these Indian inhabitants of Bath and the Pamlico areas first find its way into recorded history. In that year the first of the Raleigh colonies was planted on Roanoke Island. Led by Captain Ralph Lane, a soldier of fortune, and Sir George Grenville, one of the foremost of the Elizabethan mariners, the colonists carried out extensive explorations of the Carolina sound region. They found the region about Pamlico Sound occupied by an Indian tribe or confederation to which they gave the name, Secotan. Behind the Secotan, roughly within the area of present day Beaufort County, lay another tribe which the Raleigh colonists called the Pomouik (or Pamlico). Whether the site of Bath in the late sixteenth century lay within the bounds of Secotan or Pomouik territory is today a matter of dispute among ethnologists. Maurice A. Mook, one of the leading authorities on the Indians of the Carolina sound region, believes the site of the Secotan town of Cotan which appeared on the map of this area engraved by Theodore De Bry ‘was situated at or near the historic town of Bath.’

John Lawson captured by Indians 1711
Artist rendering [i4]
“The first persons to take an interest in this area were a few adventurous explorers and fur traders, but land speculators were not far behind. In 1681, Seth Sothel, a Proprietor and governor of Albemarle, issued to himself a patent for 12,000 acres of land on the Pamlico. Included in this area was the land along Old Town Creek (now Bath Creek) which included the future site of the town of Bath.
“Not until the 1690's did the first settlers push their way into this virgin wilderness and begin the job of clearing fields and erecting homes. The removal of an immediate Indian menace, as a result of the plague which decimated the ranks of the Pamtico tribe, aided and encouraged this settlement.

“As Bath County became more populous, it was divided in 1705 into the three precincts of Pamptecough, Wickham, and Archdale. Sometime prior to 1712 the names of these precincts were changed in honor of three Proprietors to Beaufort, Hyde and Craven precincts respectively. From 1705, these precincts were each given the right to elect two representatives to the General Assembly.

“From its first settlement, the possibilities of developing Bath County as a center of trade had been recognized. Roanoke and Currituck inlets, through which most of the seaborne trade entered the Albemarle area during the seventeenth century, had by the late 1690's become nearly choked with drifting sand. For this reason Ocracoke Inlet became ever more important as an entry into the Carolina sounds. As this inlet lay closer to Bath County than the Albemarle it was assumed that this region would become within a short while the commercial center of the colony. If a region hoped to develop commercially however it needed a city or town where shipping could concentrate and where business could be transacted with the minimum amount of trouble and inconvenience. Such a possible center of commercial activity was lacking in Bath County in the first years of the eighteenth century, and despite the close proximity of Ocracoke Inlet, the Albemarle region continued to dominate the commercial life of the colony.

“To end this domination, plans were laid about 1704 by several of the planters and leaders about Old Town Creek (now Bath Creek) to establish a town which might be expected to develop in a short while into the commercial and political center of the colony.
Drawing from Lawson's 1705 Original [i5]  
“Despite the Sothel grant of 1681, the land about Old Town Creek, which includes the site of Bath, had been treated as unpatented land and patents had been issued for this land by the North Carolina government either through ignorance of the Sothel patent or else in contempt of the same. The area which became a part of Bath was taken up and settled by David Perkins. On March 2, 1705/6, David Perkins received a patent from Governor Thomas Cary for one hundred and sixty acres of land on Old Town Creek adjoining the land of William Barrow. Six days later, on March 8, 1705/6, a portion of this grant was incorporated as the township of Bath by the General Assembly. 

"The closeness of these two events makes it probable that the Perkins patent was a re-grant of an old patent, perhaps lost, to make certain that Perkins’ sale of a portion of this area for a town site was valid and legal in all possible respects. When Perkins sold the site of Bath is not known, but sometime, probably in 1704 or 1705, he transferred about sixty acres of his property to John Lawson, Joel Martin, Sr., and Simon Alderson, Sr. These men then proceeded to lay out a town and probably began to sell or give options on the town lots. The records are far from clear on this last point but what evidence is available indicates that lots had been sold or at least assigned before the incorporation of the town on March 8, 1705/6. Only a few of the names of these original lot holders in Bath can be ascertained today. About 1705, French Huguenots, evidently discontented members of the French Huguenot community of Manakin Town on James River in Virginia, migrated into the Pamlico settlements. It appears that a number of these recent arrivals in Bath County planned to make Bath Town their home. These included Dr. Maurice Luellyn, a Mon. Perdree and a Mons. Jardrian. That the town not to be entirely French in complexion is proven by the inclusion as early lot holders of Giles Shute, Nathaniel Wyersdale, John Lawson, Simon Alderson, David Perkins, Joel Martin, Jacob Carrow.

“The only actual record of the transfer of a lot in Bath Town prior to the incorporation of the town was the sale by Simon Alderson, Jr., on February 11, 1705/6 of ‘a certain Lott in Bath Town formerly called Jacob Conrow's Lott lying about the middle of Town, a front lott and all the back ground.’ This sale was made to Nathaniel Wyersdale, a North Carolina merchant. What claim Jacob Conrow at one time possessed over this lot is not clear from the records. It is interesting however in showing that the name Bath Town had been chosen prior to its incorporation and was not arbitrarily chosen by the General Assembly at the time of the Act's Passage.

Old Bryan House circa 1720 [i6]
“It became evident to the promoters of the new town that to function effectively their town must be incorporated. And, as has been noted, on March 8, 1705/6 the General Assembly meeting at the home of Captain John Hecklefield in the Albemarle passed an act incorporating this proposed town and creating a township to be known as Bath-Town ‘with divers privileges and immunities therein and thereby invested in . . . John Lawson, Joel Martin, and Nicholas Daw.’ The latter being the first commissioners of the Town of Bath. With the passage of this act Bath came into official being and began an uninterrupted existence which has continued down to this day.”1 

An Act for Appointing a Town in the County of Bath and for Securing the Publick Library belonging to St. Thomas's Parish in Pamptecough.

I. Whereas at the request of Mr. John Lardson [Lawson], Mr. Joel Martin and others a certain Tract of Land purchased by themselves lying in the Old Town Creek in Pampticoe & containing by estimation Sixty Acres be the same more or less being part of a larger Tract then belonging to one David Perkins but now in the tenure & Possession and of right belonging to Col. Thomas Cary & divided from thence by a Headline of Marked Trees from the Old Town Creek to Mr. Barrow's line, now also the right & Possession of the said Cary, was Incorporated & made a Township by an Act of the General Assembly made and Ratified at the House of Capt. John Hecklefield the 8th day of March, 1705, With divers privileges & immunities therein granted which said land was therein & thereby Invested in the same John Dawson [Lawson], Joel Martin & Nicholas Daw to and for the uses afors'd…2 

“When the idea for establishing Bath was first conceived and who was its originator is not known. The possibility is great however that the plan for a town on Old Town Creek and the impetus which carried it through was the work of one of its first commissioners, John Lawson.

“Although specific evidence is not at hand there can be little doubt that John Lawson laid out the town of Bath. The original plan which has been lost appears to have called for seventy-one lots, each of which contained one acre and four poles.”3  
Old Boat near Bonner's Point, Bath [i7]
They have divided the whole into three precincts or parishes, though the inhabitants of all are but equal in number to any one of the other, most of which are seated on Pamlico River and its branches. Here is no church, though they have begun to build a town called Bath. It consists of about twelve houses, being the only town in the whole province. They have a small collection of books for a library, which were carried over by the Reverend Doctor Bray, and some land is laid out for a glebe; but no minister would ever stay long in the place, though several have come hither from the West Indies and other plantations in America; and yet I must own, it is not the unpleasantest part of the country,--nay, in all probability it will be the centre of trade, as having the advantage of a better inlet for shipping, and surrounded with most pleasant savannas, very useful for stocks of cattle.4 
Palmer-Marsh House circa 1744 [i8]
Letter to the Governor of North Carolina
To Charles Eden Esqre August 1st 1716
…We have consented that Bath Town according to the Petition sent by you shall be made a Sea Port Town, and we have given our Secretary Orders accordingly. But how or after what manner it shall be made a Corporation we have taken time to consider of. We wish you all happiness and success in your Government and are,
        Your very loving Friends, CARTERET Palatin, JA: BERTIE for BEAUFORT, FULWAR SKIPWITH for CRAVEN, M. ASHLEY, J. COLLETON, J. DANSON 5

“Bath’s early history was disturbed by political rivalries, fever epidemics, Indian wars, and piracy. Cary’s Rebellion (1711) was a struggle between former Governor Thomas Cary and Governor Edward Hyde (1711-12) over the role of the Quaker Party in the politics of the colony. It was settled when troops from Virginia arrived in the Bath area in July, 1711. Hyde remained in power, Cary being sent to England for trial.

“In the summer of 1711 occurred a severe epidemic of yellow fever from which many inhabitants died. Immediately began the Tuscarora War, 1711-15, fought between the settlers and the powerful Tuscarora Indian nation occupying the region between the Neuse River and Virginia. On September 22, 1711, the Indians attacked without warning the plantations around Bath, and many persons fled to the town for refuge. Troops under Colonel James Moore were sent from South Carolina to assist the North Carolinians. On March 23, 1713, Moore took Fort Nooherooka, principal Tuscarora stronghold, freeing the Bath area from the threat of further Indian attack.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church 
Louis Orr Etching [i9]
“Bath was also a haunt of the pirate Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard.” Teach, a friend of Governor Charles Eden and Tobias Knight, his secretary, was privately encouraged by them in his piratical activities. He was killed by Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the British Navy in the fall of 1718.

“After this period of turbulence ended, Bath became a center of more peaceful, settled life. St. Thomas Church (Episcopal), the oldest standing church building in North Carolina, dates from 1734. Reverend George Whitefield, pioneer evangelist, visited Bath on several occasions between 1739 and 1765. The Palmer-Marsh House, Bath’s oldest and in the colonial period its largest residence, was erected about 1744. The General Assembly met in Bath in 1744 and 1752. In 1746 the town was considered for capital of the colony. Governors Thomas Cary and Charles Eden (1714-22) made Bath their home for a time, as did Edward Moseley, long-time Speaker of the General Assembly.

“With the removal of the Beaufort County seat of government to Washington in 1785, Bath lost much of its trade and importance. It has since remained the small country town it is today.”6 
Detail from A New and Correct Map of the Province of North Carolina. 
Edward Moseley 1733 [i10] - Click to enlarge.

1 Herbert R. Paschal Jr., Ph.D., A History of Colonial Bath, The Committee on the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary, Edwards & Broughton Company, Raleigh, North Carolina 1955.
2 Clark, Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1715-1716, Volume 23, Chapter LII, page 73.
3 Pascal
4 William Gordon, 1709, Saunders, Colonial Records, Vol. I, page 715.
5 Saunders, Colonial Records, Volume II, page 239.
6 North Carolina Historical Marker, Colonial Bath, Cultural Resources, Raleigh, North Carolina.

i1 John Cowley, A New and Correct Map of the Province of North Carolina, London. 1737, drawn from the original 1733 map by Edward Moseley. North Carolina Maps, North Carolina State Archives, North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC, USA
i2 John White, Indian Village of Secoton 1585-86 Licensed by the Trustees of the British Museum. ©Copyright the British Museum.
i3 De Bry engraving based on watercolor by John White, Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
i4 Lawson being captured by Indians, Artist rendering, Archives and History
i5 1807 Plan of Bath Town, North Carolina State Archives, Below title: "Copied from Draft dated Feby 28, 1766 of Richar. John Forbes Dy. Surv. by James R. Hoyle Aug. 23 1807." Lower right corner in pencil: "This copy made by Mr. Robert Bonner Surveyor, 1905." Below notes: "By Jo. Lawson D. Surveyor for Edward Moseley Sur. Genl." 
i6 Old Bryan House circa 1720, Old Teach and Governor Eden's Reservation on the Archbell Farm near the Old Town of Bath, Edward Harding Collection,
i7 Old Boat near Bonner's Point, Bath, Harding Collection 
i8 Palmer-Marsh House circa 1744, Edward Harding Collection
i9 St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Engraving by Louis Orr, Hill-Taylor Collection,
i10 Detail from Moseley's 1733 map. North Carolina Office of Archives and History.