Carl White’s Life in the Carolinas

Bath Historic District

Bath Historic District is a historic district in Bath, Beaufort County, North Carolina. The district is now a North Carolina Historic Site belonging to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and known as Historic Bath, and includes a visitor center offering guided tours of the Bonner House and Palmer-Marsh House, which is also a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can also tour the Van der Veer House and St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

Bath is North Carolina’s oldest town, celebrating its 300th anniversary in 2005. Located in the coastal plain region, it is near Pamlico Sound, a destination for sport fishing and commercial harvest of fish, shrimp, and crab.

European settlement near the Pamlico River in the 1690s led to the founding of Bath. The first settlers were French Huguenots, Protestants who went as refugees to Virginia; among those inhabitants was John Lawson, naturalist, explorer, and town father.

In 1708, Bath consisted of 12 houses and about 50 people. Early Bath was disturbed by political rivalries, epidemics, Indian wars (the Tuscarora War), and piracy. Residents suffered yellow fever, along with a severe drought in 1711. A war between the early settlers and the powerful Tuscarora Indians arose following the fever and drought, as the American Indians tried to push out the peoples encroaching on their territory. They attacked Bath, as well as plantations along the rivers, but by 1715 were defeated by a coalition of colonial settlers from the Carolinas and a much larger group of American Indians allied against them.

From 1705 until 1722, Bath was the first nominal capital of North Carolina; Edenton was designated next. The colony had no permanent institutions of government until their establishment of the new capital New Bern in 1743.

Bath has changed little since the colonial and early federal period. People interested in heritage tourism have made it a destination for both locals of eastern North Carolina and visitors from other regions. Tourists swell the population during the summer. Favorite water-based recreation includes wakeboarding, water skiing, and boat rides or jet ski rides through the creek down to the river.

Other attractions include the Historic Bath State Historic Site, which gives tours of the old town of Bath; St. Thomas Church, the oldest standing Episcopal Church in North Carolina; historical houses; and a visitors center. A ferry route provides service from the northern shore of the Pamlico River to the southern shore of the river. Visitors to Goose Creek State Park can see and learn about the beautiful marshes and swamps along the Pamlico River and Goose Creek; they can rent canoes as well as fish from the shores of the river.[12]

In addition to the Bath Historic District and St. Thomas Church, the Bath School, Bonner House, and Palmer-Marsh House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.