English settlers established a village at Bath, the first port of entry to North Carolina. In 1705, a small community developed there at the confluence of Bath and Back creeks, tributaries to the Pamlico River.
Bath is about 50 miles north of Beaufort as the crow flies, but the two communities are connected via eastern North Carolinas creeks, rivers and sounds. So, adventuresome watermen from Bath eventually meandered and found their way to the land named for Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort.
Five individuals who figured prominently in Beaufort’s beginnings were Capt. Farnifold Green, Robert Turner, Richard Graves, Hannah Kent Smithwick (who was married first to Green and then to Graves) and Capt. John Nelson.
In 1707, Britain’s Lords Proprietors granted 1,700 acres of land to Farnifold Green on the north side of the Neuse River (near present-day Oriental). He obtained additional land where the Newport River flows toward the Atlantic Ocean (part of which would become Beaufort).
Beaufort considers 1709 to be the year the community was settled.
Ownership of much of Green’s property transferred in 1713 to Robert Turner, a local merchant. Turner employed Richard Graves, a surveyor, to draw up a “plan for the town of Beaufort” on a 100-acre site, containing 106 lots.
Tragically, Green was killed in 1714 during an uprising by Tuscarora tribesmen.
Graves then married the widow Hannah Green in 1715. Together, the couple operated the ferry that crossed a tributary of the Neuse River not far from Turkey Quarter in the Craven district. After Richard Graves died, Hannah ran the ferry.
In the early 1700s, the Lords Proprietors advertised in England an offer of 50 acres of land to “the provider of passage for each colonist brought to North Carolina.”
A chap named Capt. John Nelson signed up and qualified to receive 600 acres in 1708. He and his wife, Ann A. Bell Nelson, settled in the “Core Sound” area of Hunting Quarters (Atlantic and Sea Level) that “offered an abundance of game, fish and oysters.”
His land also included Nelson Neck, adjacent to Nelson Bay, which juts out into Core Sound.
The Nelson family began to acquire large tracts of land on the south and north sides of the Neuse River. Their south-side holdings were in the vicinity of Garbacon Creek, between Adams Creek and South River.
By 1720, Robert Turner apparently had grown tired of trying to peddle lots in Beaufort. He sold out to Richard Rustull Sr., who came from Bath. Rustull doubled the size of the community to 200 acres by the time Beaufort was incorporated in 1723.
Beaufort historian Mamré Marsh Wilson said the new town’s covenants required “all nuisances were to be gotten rid of. Fines were to be laid on anyone caught for quarreling or fighting in town, or they would spend 24 hours in the jail, or sit in the stocks for two hours!”
Beaufort was known as “Fish Town” for a time, as the waters around Beaufort were the prime fishing grounds of the Coree tribe of Native Americans. They would fish for menhaden, also know as pogey, bunker, bugfish and shad.
The Europeans who settled in Beaufort refined the processing of menhaden by building factories to convert the menhaden into an array of products, ranging from fertilizer and cat food. Menhaden were also cooked and squeezed to extract their oil for use in paint, linoleum, soap and Omega-3 dietary supplements.