Bath County, North Carolina


A History of Bath County

In 1689, Albemarle County as a unit of government ceased to exist, although the name continued intermittently in use for at least a further ten years. Government of Carolina "North and East of Cape feare" was established, with Philip Ludwell as Governor (1689-94). In 1691, the Lords Proprietors appointed him governor of all Carolina, headquartered at Charles Town, with a deputy governor for the northern part of the colony - the beginning of the division of the province into North and South Carolina, though not so called at this time. Thomas Jarvis was the first deputy governor situated in the Albemarle region.

Bath County was formed in 1696 and, four years later, the Rev. Thomas Bray shipped books from England to St Thomas Parish with the Reverend Daniel Brett for the first public library in the colony. The parish also established a free school for Indians and blacks. In 1705 Beaufort, Craven, and Hyde precincts were established in Bath County. In 1705, Bath became the first town created in the colony. Construction of St. Thomas Church, oldest existing church in the state, began in 1734.

As colonists from Virginia first moved overland into the Albemarle region, other Englishmen and their African slaves began arriving by sea to establish settlements farther south along the Ashley Riverr. For the remainder of the seventeenth century, and for the first quarter of the eighteenth, the European settlement of North Carolina would take place as it had started-from the north. As land ran short in the Albemarle, colonists moved into the region around Pamlico Sound, and population centers developed in both regions. Before long, towns - Edenton, Bath, New Bern, and Beaufort - would dot the Carolina coastline. 

The earliest of the Pamlico centers was Bath Town. Incorporated in 1706, Bath is situated in present-day Beaufort County on the north bank of the Pamlico River. One of the first residents and commissioners of Bath was explorer-naturalist John Lawson. In February 1701, when Lawson completed his "thousand miles travel" through the Carolinas, he emerged from the backwoods within twenty miles of the town's future location. Lawson may have chosen the site for Bath Town; it is certain that he helped lay out the town before its incorporation.

The county and the town of Bath was named in honor of the Lords Proprietor, John, Earl of Bath.

After 1704, however, North Carolina was again in turmoil, the causes being bad governors and continued attempts to establish the Church of England at the expense of the Dissenters, more than half of whom were Quakers. During this first decade of the eighteenth century, settlers came in increased numbers.

Huguenots came from France and settled at Bath near Pamlico Sound; Germans from the Rhine founded New Berne at the junction of the Trent and Neuse rivers. The white population was now about five thousand; Albemarle settlement had extended many miles into the forest; this involved encroachment on the soil of the native red man - and it brought its troubles.

In the autumn of 1711, a terrible Indian massacre took place in North Carolina. Hundreds of settlers fell victims of the merciless tomahawk. Various tribes, led by the Tuscaroras, engaged in the massacre. But the people rallied, and, receiving aid from South Carolina, they, led by Colonels John Barnwell and James Moore, hunted the red men from place to place and in a great battle near the Neuse destroyed four hundred of their warriors. At length the Tuscaroras, whose ancestors had come from New York, resolved to abandon their southern home and return to the land of their fathers. They removed in 1714 and joined the Iroquois or Five Nations of New York, and that confederation was afterward known as the Six Nations.

Bath County, N.C. was formed in 1696, taking in the settlements on the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers, some of the settlements south of Albemarle Sound, and later, including those down the coast to the South Carolina line. Bath had been under the jurisdiction of Albemarle County prior to 1696. In 1705, Bath County was divided into 3 precincts: (1) Wickham (became Hyde County in 1712); (2) Pamtecough (became Beaufort County in 1712); and (3) Archdale (became Craven County in 1712). When Bath County was abolished in 1739, its seven precincts, Hyde, Beaufort, Craven, Carteret, New Hanover, Bladen, and Onslow, became counties.
What few records exist for Bath County are scattered in the courthouses of some of its early precincts, and in the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh. Bath County's earliest recorded deeds, for example, date from 1700 and are included in Beaufort County Deed Book One (1701-1729). However, several early Bath County deeds and other documents, some dated before 1700, may be found in the records of Albemerle County and its precincts. Most of the earliest records of Craven and Hyde Counties have not been preserved. From extant records one may conclude that Bath County's principal seat of government was at the town of Bath (founded 1705) in Beaufort Precinct. Beaufort and Hyde Precincts are known to have held joint sessions of court, apparently in Beaufort.

Eighteen Bath County wills (1702-1718), mostly for Beaufort and Hyde Precincts, were recorded in Beaufort Precinct and may be found in Beaufort County Deed Book One and are not on record in the will books in the Beaufort County Clerk's Office. Also, ten of the eighteen do not appear in Grimes' "Abstracts of North Carolina Wills 1663-1760" probably because the originals of the ten were never sent to the Secretary of State as required by law. In fact, over sixty more Beaufort County wills, dated 1720 to 1760, were retained in the courthouse and later copied into the Old Will Book and thus do not appear in Grimes' volume.

Click Here to see the approximate boundaries of Bath County during its existence.
Click Here for an independent website dedicated to preserving the history of Bath County. Link is current as of August 2005.


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