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Bath, incorporated in 1705, is North Carolina’s oldest town. In the eighteenth century, Bath was a thriving town of vital importance to the fledgling colony. It became the colony’s first port in 1716 when it was deemed “the most proper place within the said Province for ships to take in masts, pitch, Tar, Turpentine, and other Naval Stores for the use of his Majesty’s Fleet.” Port Bath remained an important center of export throughout the proprietary period, but was later overshadowed by three of the colony’s four other ports, all of which were geographically more suitable. The major decline in Port Bath’s exports came after 1730 when the Neuse River became a part of the Port Beaufort system.
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Among the earliest residents of Bath were John Lawson, Christopher Gale, Maurice Luellyn, Capt. James Beard, and Nathaniel Wyarsdale. The first town lots, recorded and acknowledged in court on October 1, 1706, were those belonging to Christopher Gale, the first Chief Justice of the colony. The following year Bath added a gristmill and the colony’s first shipyard. Other North Carolina firsts in Bath include the public library, St. Thomas Church, and the post road. The General Assembly met in Bath in 1743, 1744, and 1752. In 1746 the town was considered for capital of the colony. Bath was home to colonial governors Robert Daniel, Thomas Cary, Charles Eden, and Matthew Rowan. When the Beaufort County seat was moved to Washington, twelve miles away, Bath lost much of its trade and status, becoming the quiet, rural town that it is today.
Alan Watson, Colonial Bath (2005)
Herbert Paschal, A History of Colonial Bath (1955)
Wingate Reed, Beaufort County: Two Centuries of Its History (1962)
Allen Hart Norris, comp., Beaufort County, North Carolina, Deed Book I, 1696-1729: Records of Bath County, North Carolina (2003)
Wilson Angley, “Port Bath, North Carolina, in the Eighteenth Century: A Compilation of Records” (unpublished historical research report, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1981)
State Historic Site website: http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/sections/hs/bath/bath.htm