Sunday, March 3, 2019

Beaufort & The Old Burying Ground

I first visited Beaufort (pronounced BOE-furt) in 1990 on a family vacation and instantly fell in love with the coastal town.  When I moved to Eastern North Carolina in February 2000, it was the first spot that I returned to along the coast.  It is a historic and utterly charming town - combining the lure of pirates and the history of Colonial America.  It is a friendly inlet town where boats and boaters of all types and all locations stop to enjoy the boardwalk, shop, and grab a bite to eat.  Simply put, it's a great place to be.

Front Street - Downtown Beaufort
Beaufort's history dates to the late 1600s, a town would be established in 1709 and was originally named as Fishtowne as it was known as a fishing village.  The plan for Beaufort Towne was laid out in 1713.  This 12 block area still survives today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The town was incorporated as Beaufort in 1723 as Beaufort as is named after Henry Somerset the Second Duke of Beaufort.  Somerset died in 1714.  Beaufort is North Carolina's third oldest town.

Beaufort's history with pirates is well known and very colorful.  The legendary Edward Teach or Thatch, better known as Blackbeard, once quartered here.  The 1718 shipwreck of his infamous Queen Anne's Revenge was found within the nearby Beaufort Inlet in 1996.  The North Carolina Maritime Museum, located in town, has an exhibit with numerous artifacts found within the wreckage.

Blackbeard wasn't the only pirate to find their way to Beaufort.  In the Summer of 1747, Spanish Pirates raided and captured numerous ships within the harbor.  In August of that year, the pirates would land and briefly hold the town.  Local militiamen soon organized and pushed the privateers out to sea.

Beaufort was not out of the woods yet.  In April 1782, a few months after Cornwallis' surrender of British troops at Yorktown, Beaufort was again attacked by a foreign nation.  This time the British Navy sailed up from Charleston to raid the town.  They held the town briefly before heading back to sea.

During the Civil War, Beaufort and the surrounding areas were quickly captured by Union forces.  The result was much of the town was spared during the war.  During World War II, nearby Fort Macon served as a garrison to monitor German U-Boat activity.

Today, Beaufort is still a small town with just over 4,000 residents.  Though fishing is not as strong of an industry as it once was,  Beaufort thrives as a popular tourist location for visitor's to North Carolina's Crystal Coast.  Along with shopping and restaurants, there are numerous inns and Bed & Breakfasts within the town.

Only minutes from Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle, Beaufort is also a popular daytrip destination for visitor's of those beaches.  The activities and small town charm can allow for a full day away from the beach. 

The Boardwalk in Beaufort
There are numerous day cruises - including themed Pirate cruises - numerous walking tours, ghost tours, or simply relax with a meal along the boardwalk with Carrot Island across the channel. 

One of the more popular attractions in Beaufort is a cemetery.  The Old Burying Grounds dates to the town's founding and like many old cemetery's has a cast of unique characters and historical figures buried here.

The cemetery was deeded over to the town in 1731.  There are approximately 200 plots here and those that are interned hold unique stories to the town's colonial and coastal roots.

Grave site of Captain Otway Burns
There's the grave site of Captain Otway Burns.  Burns was a hero of the War of 1812.  Over three different cruises throughout the Atlantic.  Burns captured 300 British sailors and 42 vessels.  HE would later serve in the North Carolina State House and Senate.  His grave includes one of the cannon from a British vessel he captured.

There's also the grave site of a British officer.  He is buried stranding straight up.   The common grave of the crew of the "Crissie Wright," a schooner that ran aground nearby during the winter of 1886 is here.  Six members of the crew froze to death or drowned.  The common grave is the final resting point for three members of the crew.

The Little Girl in the Rum Keg grave site
The most unique grave site within the grounds is marked with a Number 24.  Next to it reads in a grave marker carved in wood, "Little Girl Buried in Rum Keg."  The grave site is typically adorned with seashells or children's dolls or toys.  The tragic story behind this grave dates back to 18th century with a colonist family by the last name of Sloo (rhymes with snow).

The father was a prosperous merchant captain and included his daughter on a voyage to England. On the return trip to the colonies, the daughter became extremely ill and died.  The father, who had promised to his wife to return with their daughter, decided not to have her buried at sea.  With a long journey still ahead, he purchased a keg of rum - the only items on board that could somewhat preserve the body - and buried her inside.  Upon return to Beaufort, instead of exposing his heartbroken wife to viewing the body, Sloo had his daughter buried within the barrel of rum as her casket.

Beaufort is a charming small town.  A town full of history, quirkiness, and mystery.  It is a hidden gem of North Carolina's coast and one that I wish I could visit more often.

All photos taken by post author - July 2008.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Mount Holly Walkabout

The City of Mount Holly, located in Northeastern Gaston County, is one of Charlotte's fast-growing bedroom communities.  From its humble beginnings as a 19th and early 20th cotton and textile mill town, Mount Holly is now a community of over 15,000 residents.  Mount Holly's history can be traced to colonial times when land grants were first issued by King George II.  It is here where the history of the town's name becomes slightly confusing.

Within the North Carolina Gazetteer, Mount Holly was first named Huntersville after Reverend Humphrey Hunter in 1800.  The town would then change its name to Woodlawn in 1846.  The city's official page gives no reference to Huntersville and dates the Woodlawn post office being established in 1838.  Regardless of how it got there and when, Woodlawn would be the name of Mount Holly when the North Carolina Central Railroad rolled into town in 1860.

Many cotton mills began to flourish at this time and two brothers, A.P and D.E. Rhyne, along with Ambrose Costner formed the Mount Holly Cotton Mill.  The mill opened in 1874 and the town would change its name and be incorporated as Mount Holly in 1879.  Again, the origin of Mount Holly has some inconsistency.  While it is agreed that the Mount Holly mill is the reason for the town's name.  It is considered that the Mount Holly name came from Mount Holly, New Jersey after the northern town's textile mills.  Legend has it that the Rhyne's picked the name in the hope that orders for the New Jersey mill would accidentally be sent south to North Carolina.  Either way, the town name stuck and an important manufacturing center in Gaston County moved forward.

During the early and mid 20th century, Mount Holly was a small manufacturing town of no more than 5,000 people.  Like many small towns in the Piedmont, the closing of textile mills in the 70s and 80s had a negative impact on the town.  However with the growth of Charlotte and also by attracting other industries within the city limits, Mount Holly quickly turned itself around and has seen significant population growth since 1980s.

Today, Downtown Mount Holly is full of local shops, restaurants, and other businesses.  The old NC Central Railway, now CSX, still runs through the center of town.  However, Mount Holly has grown beyond its downtown.  One of the city's biggest attractions is the nearby United States National Whitewater Center.  The center opened to the public in 2006 and has attracted thousands of visitors annually to the area ever since.

Mount Holly hosts its annual Springfest every May.  The one day festival includes a car show, a 5k, music, food, and entertainment.  The festival attracts close to 8,000 visitors every year.

Where's Mt. Holly?

All photos taken by post author - June 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Olive Branch

OLIVE BRANCH - Located in Union County along NC 218, Olive Branch is a small community located east of  Gourdvine Creek.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Cape Lookout National Seashore

What may be the prettiest area of North Carolina is also one of the more difficult parts of the state to get to.   With the exception of the Visitors Center on Harkers Island, Cape Lookout National Seashore is only accessible via boat.  At least five different ferry points allow access to different locations along the barrier islands from the mainland.  Cape Lookout National Seashore is popular for camping, fishing, surfing, exploring, or just getting away for the day.

One of the more popular spots to visit within the National Seashore is the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.  There are a number of passenger boat operations from Harkers Island that will take you on the three mile ride to the lighthouse.

The 163 foot tall lighthouse was built in 1859 and is the second lighthouse to guide ships around the dangerous waters off the coast of the Southern Outer Banks.  The first lighthouse was constructed in 1812 and stood only 93' tall.  The current lighthouse, authorized for construction in 1857 at a cost of $45,000, is accompanied by a two story keeper's home.  The home, which was built in 1873, now serves as a museum.

Also in 1873, the lighthouse gained its distinctive diamond checkered daymark.  What is unique about the black and white diamonds is that they are navigation oriented.  The center of black diamonds point north-south while the center of the white diamonds point east-west.

The lighthouse is now available for visitors to climb.  It is 207 steps to the top and the view of the open Atlantic, mainland, and the Core and Shackleford Banks is said to be amazing.  Unfortunately, when I visited the lighthouse in July 2008 - climbing to the top of the lighthouse was not available.

In addition to the lighthouse, Cape Lookout National Seashore has many other points of interest.  At the north end of park is the site of former Portsmouth Village.  This coastal village was a small but important port during colonial times.  The village was chartered in 1753 but officially abandoned in 1971.  Today, there are 21 buildings of the coastal community preserved as part of the park.

Along the southern boundary of the park sits the Shackleford Banks.  This barrier island is well known for the wild horses that inhabit the island.  It is also a popular location for fishing, hiking, and camping.

Cape Lookout National Seashore preserves nearly 56 miles of coastline along the Southern Outer Banks.  The seashore was authorized into the National Park System on March 10, 1966.

All photos taken by post author - July 2008

Further Reading:
Getting There:

Saturday, September 15, 2018


Stanley has always reminded me of a downtown you would find out west.  Businesses along Main Street are fronted with covered sidewalks.  This is very similar to some of the towns I have seen in Texas.  Two of the main businesses along South Main Street, The WoodShed and Bill Wither's Specialized Services, have a western appeal to it.

Stanley is located in Northeast Gaston County off of NC Highway 27.  Settlements near the town date to the 1700s.  The town was originally incorporated in 1879 as Brevard Station.  In the early 1860's, Robert Alexander Brevard allowed a railroad station to be built on their family land.  The area was also known as Stanley Creek.  Stanley Creek was named after a gold prospector that resided in the area in the 1700s. (1)

During the late 1800's, Brevard Station was renamed Stanley Creek.  Stanley Creek was already the name of a nearby post office.  That post office was originally named Brevard Station but concerns over confusion with the Western mountains town of Brevard prompted that name change. (1)  The town name was shortened to Stanley in 1911.

Stanley is known as "A Friendly Place" and hosts their annual "Country Fest" the first Friday and Saturday in October.  The Brevard Station Museum, founded in 1991, is an excellent resource to learn more about the history of this Gaston County town.

Further Reading:
Getting There:

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Sparta Walkabout

Located in North Carolina's High Country, the Alleghany County Seat of Sparta is one of many small towns nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains.  At just under 3,000 feet in elevation, the town of just over 1,700 residents is a popular spot for vacationers wishing for a break in the heat during the Summer or to enjoy the colors of Autumn. 

Sparta is actually the third name for the town.  It was originally named Bower's Store when founded in 1825.  Twenty-one years later - the town was renamed Gap Civil.  Finally, when the town was incorporated in 1879, the name Sparta - after the city in ancient Greece - stuck.  But there's another twist to the town's name.  Sparta is the SECOND North Carolina community to be named Sparta.  In Edgecombe County, there is a community called Old Sparta that sits along the Tar River.  Old Sparta was originally named Sparta.  The community which was established in 1829 changed its name to Old Sparta in 1903 so it would not be confused with the town over 200 miles to the west.

Sparta is located along US Highway 21.  At one point, US 21 ran from Cleveland to the Atlantic Coast in South Carolina.  US 21 now begins 40 miles to the north in Wytheville, Virginia.  A group of local businesses are trying to promote travel along US 21 from Wytheville to Harmony, NC.  Many of the businesses in Sparta have special US 21 signs to promote the organization.  One of the larger events the organization sponsors is the 21 Road Market.  This over 100 mile event runs annually during the last weekend of July.

Sparta also hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year.  From weekly farmer's markets in the Summer, regular performances by the Crouse House Pickers, or the annual Mountain Heritage Festival held every September, there are many reasons to visit. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018


Scottville - Community located on US 221 at the Alleghany/Ashe County line.  It was originally known as Flint Hill when settled in 1830.  A post office was established here in 1855 and the area was renamed Scottville.  Believed to be named after a nearby resident Elizabeth Scott.  The post office closed in 1954.

Interestingly, there are six communities within North Carolina that are or were once named Flint Hill.

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