My son has a fascination with pirates and I told him that I knew of a place where pirates once lived. On the Pamlico River, lies the small town of Bath which once used to be home to North Carolina’s most famous pirate, Blackbeard. Founded in 1705, Bath is NC’s oldest town and its first port of entry. Once a bustling town, it is now a small town of just around 250 people. The days of pirates roaming the town, Indians fighting over tracts of land, and political infighting has since died, but the history of the town still remains.
The town itself is actually very small, only one square mile and most of that is water. At the corner of Carteret Street and Main Street is the Bath Historical Visitor Center. It is here that we got a walking map of the area and set out to learn a little history of NC’s oldest town. Our first stop was the Van Der Veer House, which is located next to the Visitor’s Center on Main Street. This house was built in 1790 and is now open to the public. Visitors can take a self-guided tour through the house whose rooms are covered with exhibits that tell the history of Bath.
We walked down Main Street where it meets Craven Street. Near the intersection stands the St. Thomas Episcopal Church. The church which was built in 1734 is the oldest church building in North Carolina. A modest brick building containing about twenty pews and some more seating on the upper level, the church still serves an active congregation. The church is open to the public and visitors are free to come and tour the church at their leisure. The church owns a few artifacts that date back to the time of King George II. A silver candelabra given by the king in 1740 and a silver chalice given by the Bishop of London in 1738 are just a couple of items that have been part of the church since the 1700’s. The church also purchased a bell through a fund set up by Queen Anne to support poorer parishes. The bell, now known as Queen Anne’s Bell, was cast in 1750, making it eighteen years older than the Liberty Bell.
We walked down Main Street towards the waterfront. Front Street contains many historical homes, two of which are opened to the public for guided tours for a small fee. The Bonner House and the Palmer-Marsh House both date back to the 1800’s. A little section of woods in front of the Bonner House near the water is known as Bonner’s Point. My son and I spent some time here along the water. It was a great place to goof off, laugh, and just enjoy the beauty of the water.
My son wanted to know where the pirates lived. As we stood on Bonner’s Point, I told him to look out across the water and the small tract of land to the left of the bay is where the infamous Blackbeard, also known as Edward Teach, once lived. The tract of land is known as Plum Point and there are foundation ruins of an ancient house once belonging to Blackbeard. The area has become famous among treasure hunters hoping to uncover some of the pirate’s booty.
Bath is steeped in history ranging from pirates to Indians. Stories of Blackbeard abound in this small town on the Pamlico River. While the wild parties and hard drinking have long since died, Bath is now a tourist destination and weekend getaway for many NC natives.