Beaufort’s Old Burying Ground

Yesterday we visited the historic burying ground in Beaufort. There are no Howards here – not that I could tell with all the weather worn stones. There are many other stories of a different way of life, enough that this will be one the longest posts I’ve written. Some of the stories are told in a trifold brochure available at the historic sites visitors center. Two of my favorites are:

Sarah Gibbs & Jacob Shepard: Sarah married Jacob Shepard and waited for him to return from sea. When years passed, she married Mr. Gibbs. At some time after the Gibbs had a child, Jacob Shepard surprised everyone by turning up alive. An agreement was reached that Sarah would stay with Gibbs, but spend eternity by the side of her first husband, Jacob Shepard.

The Girl in a Rum Barrel: The girl and her family settled in Beaufort in the early 1700s, and the girl dreamed of visiting her homeland and British relatives. Finally, her father agreed to take her on a visit, promising to return her safely to her mother. On the trip home, the girl became ill and 034died. Custom would have had the girl buried at sea, but the father did not want to totally break the promise made to his wife. He purchased a barrel of rum from the captain, and placed his daughter’s body in the rum to preserve it until they reached home. The barrel was buried intact with the girl inside. This story has caught many people’s sympathies, and the girl’s grave is decorated with toys, necklaces and other bits and pieces of finery.030

Many groups of headstones told of the the loss of many children in a family. The stones on this group were hard to read, but they told of the deaths of three children ranging from infancy to about six years old. Two died within a month of each other, the infant died within the following year. One group of three headstones contained four children, with an unnamed baby buried along with another child. These family plots reminded us that these 18th and 19th century residents faced constant loss and uncertainty. 026

This cemetery had a peculiar difference from New England and midwestern cemeteries. There is very little natural stone in the area so wood and brick were commonly used in the cemeteries. Many of the graves had bricks or other material paving the entire tops of the graves. There’s a very high water table in this area, and the stones keep the graves intact during heavy rains and periods of flooding from hurricanes.

When we walked the Neusiok Trail and the land along the Neuse River earlier in the week, we saw swamps and small ponds that indicate an even higher water table there. I’ve read that these early Quakers didn’t mark their graves with headstones, but they certainly took precautions to prevent the dead from floating out of their graves. If I learn anything about this, I’ll write another post about it.

Waterways for Shipping

Yesterday’s time in the New Bern Registry of Deeds office informed us that Horton Howard and his brother inherited land along the Neuse River, with parcels also bounded by the Cahooque Creek, Clubfoot’s Creek and Mitchell Creek. They may have owned all of the land between the Cahooque and Clubfoot’s Creeks, which would have included at least 7 miles of river frontage.


Neusiok Trail

Yesterday we walked a 2 1/2 mile section of the Neusiok Trail, then turned around and walked it in the other direction to return to our car. This land was a few miles south of the Neuse. I don’t know if this was part of the Howard lands or not – it was at least near to their land. We then drove to any areas of public land where we could walk on land bordered by the Neuse, and visited a Marina on land that is at the confluence of the Clubfoot’s Creek and Mitchell’s Creek. Some of these areas were definitely Howard land, others probably were. The virgin forests of long leaf pine are long gone, but the sense of dense woods that run right up to the river still remains in spots. This would have been an ideal spot for the turpentine production and shipping barrels of finished product.


Pine Forest

Although the land no longer contains the virgin pine forests, many of the trees are impressive in height. The forests have been replanted in long leaf pine to replace the pines harvested years ago for ship building and production of pitch and turpentine. The picture below was taken from land probably owned by the Howards. The water seen through the pines is the Neuse River. This river was very wide, and deep enough for large ships, making this land ideal for anyone who needed to ship merchandise. Clubfoot Creek was as wide and deep as many rivers, making it another waterway suitable for moving merchandise.


Pine Cliff Recreation area along the Neuse River.


View of Clubfoot Creek from land owned by the Howards

Pirates, Distillers, & Owners of Land

Yesterday we travelled the entire length of the Outer Banks. We ferried to Ocracoke, and had enough time to walk around and discover Howard Road. Many houses had historic plaques naming the Howards who had formerly lived here. We’ve heard and read that Howards played an important part in early maritime security on Ocracoke, though one Howard had joined Blackbeard’s crew, becoming his quartermaster. He was the only one of Blackbeard’s crew not to be executed after the notorious pirate was captured. Is it possible that this family, separated from my Howard family by the Pamlico Sound and a short distance into the Neuse River are unrelated? Could such a relationship explain why I’ve not been able to find much information on the early life of Horton’s father, or of his grandfather’s origins? I don’t know if I’ll ever find the answer to this, but I di think this would be more interesting than the farfetched stories of relationship to the Duke of Norfolk and two of King. Henry’s wives.

Today we were in search of stories that could be substantiated. We spent 2 hours this morning at the New Bern County Registry of Deeds. I have copies of deeds for many sales and purchases of land by Horton Howard and his father, Bartholomew. One joint purchase by Bartholomew, his brother John, and their step-father (father-in-law, in the vernacular of the time) described them as business partners – distillers and merchants. I wondered if they were distilling spiritous liquors, but think it more likely they were distilling turpentine, an important commodity of the time. We also found deeds with more detail for the land that Howard and his brother inherited from their father, and took an exploratory drive through some of that land. Tomorrow or Thursday we’ll walk some of that land and get some photos of the area.


18th Century NC Plantation Life

North Carolina plantations, at least in the mid to late 1700’s did not approach the grandeur of Tara. They had some fine things – Chinese porcelain, Delft china, Pewter, silver and finely crafted furniture. They and their slaves also had to work hard to create the necessities of life, and the tools at hand did not have the sophistication that we take for granted today.


Meat Salting box – carved from a single tree.


Salting barrel, another tool for preserving meat





A floor mop made of corn husks


Corn husk mop and straw broom

Research Adventure Begins

Yesterday we left home, and we’re spending 2 nights visiting family in Reston, VA. Tomorrow morning we leave for North Carolina for 10 days. We have a few things planned that are purely fun, but most of this trip is dedicated to researching the early life of Horton Howard. Our first stop will be the 1763 King-Bazemore House which was moved 4 miles from its original site onto the Hope Plantation. The house is one of North Carolina’s only two remaining gambrel-roofed, brick ended houses The original owner, William King took an inventory of the furnishings in 1778. When the house was restored as part of the Hope Plantation it was furnished based on that inventory. This visit will provide great background information on how Horton probably lived from his birth in 1770 until he left North Carolina for the Northwest Territory around 1800.