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A Brief History of Bath, North Carolina

Updated: Jun 19

Bath, North Carolina, is a historic town located in Beaufort County. It was the first town established in the state of North Carolina, founded in 1705 by John Lawson, who was a surveyor, explorer, and writer.

Historic Bath, N.C

The town was named after Bath, England, and was settled by Englishmen who came from Virginia. It was strategically located on the Pamlico River, which created a prime location for trade, commerce, and shipping.

During the early years of the town's history, Bath was the capital of the colony of North Carolina. The town also had a thriving shipbuilding industry, which produced many ships that sailed to England, the West Indies, and other parts of the world.

The Tuscarora Tribe: Bath’s First Residents

Long before Europeans arrived, the Tuscarora Tribe called this area home. Part of the Iroquoian language group, the Tuscarora were known for their skilled craftsmanship and rich culture. They lived in fortified villages, grew crops like corn and beans, and had a complex social structure.

The Tuscarora were key players in the early history of Bath, especially during the Tuscarora War (1711-1715). This conflict started because European settlers were moving onto Tuscarora lands. Despite putting up a strong fight, the Tuscarora eventually lost, and many had to move north to join the Iroquois Confederacy.

European Settlers and the Founding of Bath

In the late 1600s, European settlers began moving into the area, drawn by the fertile land and waterways. Bath was officially incorporated in 1705, making it North Carolina’s first town. It quickly became a bustling port, attracting more settlers and boosting trade. One notable early figure was the mentioned, John Lawson, an explorer, and naturalist. His detailed accounts of the region’s plants, animals, and indigenous peoples provide valuable insights into early colonial life in Bath.

Blackbeard bath North Carolina

Bath as a Colonial Hub

By the early 1700s, Bath was thriving. Its location on the Pamlico River made it a key center for trade and commerce. The town’s economy flourished with the export of naval stores, tobacco, and other agricultural products. Many historic buildings from this era still stand, offering a peek into Bath’s colonial past.

Blackbeard and Bath’s Pirate Connection

You can’t talk about Bath’s history without mentioning the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Born Edward Teach, Blackbeard terrorized the Atlantic coast in the early 1700s. He made Bath his unofficial home, using the town’s secluded coves and waterways to hide his ship and treasure.

Rumor has it that Governor Charles Eden had a friendly relationship with Blackbeard, even granting him a pardon. This controversial friendship has become part of local legend, adding an exciting twist to Bath’s history.

Must-See Historic Sites in Bath, NC

Today, visitors can explore many historic sites in Bath that bring the town’s past to life. The Historic Bath State Historic Site is a must-visit, featuring several preserved buildings from the 1700s and 1800s. Highlights include:

  • The Bonner House: Built in the early 1800s, this home showcases period furnishings and gives a glimpse into the lives of Bath’s early settlers.

  • St. Thomas Episcopal Church: Constructed in 1734, it’s the oldest church building in North Carolina still in use. Its simple yet elegant design reflects the colonial era’s architectural style.

  • The Palmer-Marsh House: Dating back to 1751, this residence is one of Bath’s oldest surviving structures, offering a fascinating look at colonial domestic life.

Bath Bridge and Bath Harbor Marina in Bath Creek

Visiting Bath, North Carolina

With its tranquil setting and historical charm, Bath is a perfect destination for history buffs and casual visitors alike. Whether you’re strolling through its historic district, exploring the Pamlico River shores, or diving into tales of the Tuscarora Tribe and Blackbeard, Bath will transport you back in time. Looking for a convenient place to stay? Check out Bath Harbor Marina and Hotel. We offer boat slips and comfortable hotelrooms directly on the water.

In conclusion, Bath, North Carolina, is more than just a quaint coastal town. Its deep historical roots, from the indigenous Tuscarora Tribe to the colonial settlers and notorious pirates, make it a treasure trove of American history. So, pack your bags and head to Bath, where history and adventure await around every corner.


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