Town History

Established in 1709, Beaufort, N.C., is a quaint coastal town located on Beaufort Inlet, a channel leading south to the Atlantic Ocean. The third oldest town in the state and seat of Carteret County, Beaufort has a residential population of about 4,000 with a high influx of visitor traffic during the warmer months. 

Beaufort was first known as Fishtown because the fishing industry was and has been an important part of the county’s history. Beaufort was later named for Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort.

Originally a fishing village and port of safety dating from the late 1600s, Beaufort has been visited by patriots, privateers, merchants, and skilled craftsmen who built Bahamian and West Indian-style homes and public buildings. Approximately 150 of the restored historic homes bear plaques noting names of the Town’s earliest known owners and dates of original construction.

The early economy of Beaufort was on the use of natural resources in the area. Hence, fishing, whaling, the production of lumber and naval stores, shipbuilding, and farming were the chief economic activities. Though Beaufort had the safest and most navigable harbor of any of the ports of North Carolina, extensive commercial activities failed to develop, owing to the fact that the town was almost completely isolated from the interior. Now, Beaufort’s economy depends heavily on tourism, supplemented by a regional boat-building industry. Marine science research also figures prominently.

The Plan of Beaufort Towne, laid out in 1713, survives in a 12-block area, which today is on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more history, please read "Colonial Beaufort: The History of a North Carolina Town" by Charles L. Paul. The document is listed below.

The Rev. Curtis Oden presented Feb. 8, 2016, during a regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners information about African American History in Beaufort as part of the Inspirational Moment. The recording may be found here.