About Bath, NC
Incorporated in 1705, Bath is North Carolina’s oldest town. After being settled in the 1690s by colonists from Virginia, Bath struggled through unsettled times associated with sickness, political unrest, Indian uprisings and even a bout with piracy. The short sail down the Pamlico River to the Atlantic Ocean that had attracted the initial settlers also proved to be an easy path for many others…….good and bad!
Bath was destined to become a town of “firsts.” In addition to being the first incorporated town in North Carolina, it became the first port-of-entry in the state. During this time, the by-products of the area, such as pitch, tar, rosin, turpentine, furs and tobacco were prime exports for the shipbuilding industry. Imported goods needed for everyday colonial life were as important to the settlers of the area.
In the early 1700s, the first public library was established along with a public school. Shortly after Bath was incorporated, the first grist mill and shipyard of the new colony were built. Bath continued to thrive, despite the above mentioned struggles. Eastern North Carolina was home to the well-established Tuscarora Indians. A somewhat tenuous relationship between the Indians and settlers degraded after the colony experienced an epidemic of Yellow Fever and a severe drought around 1710-1711. The Tuscarora War erupted and Bath became a safe haven for the duration of the conflict. Bath’s proximity to Ocracoke and the Atlantic Ocean also attracted Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, the notorious Pirate. Teach made his home in Bath for some time prior to being killed near Ocracoke in 1718.
In the 1720s, Bath’s struggle eased and the first courthouse was built in the colony. A decade later, the St. Thomas Episcopal Church (featured in the photos above) was built and became the first church in North Carolina. It has been restored and proudly stands today. The first ferry service was established across the Pamlico River with a connecting road to New Bern. The general assembly met in Bath several times in the 1740s and 1750s. Several Governors made their homes in Bath, which was considered the capital of the colony after 1746.
In 1776, a town was established a few miles up the Pamlico River which was named after General George Washington. Within the next decade, Bath saw both the power of county government and its importance as a trading center slowly move to Washington. Unlike many other eastern North Carolina towns, Bath was not occupied by Union Forces during the Civil War.
Bath continues to be a beautiful, small community today, which is framed by Bath Creek on its western side and Back Creek on its eastern side. It boasts one of the most sought after school districts in eastern North Carolina. Several historic structures have been lovingly restored, with some being listed as National Historic Landmarks. Rightfully so, the residents of Bath are fiercely proud of its heritage.
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