Josiah Bell House: Carteret County: Beaufort, NC
The Josiah Bell House was constructed in 1825 and is located at 138 Turner Street in historic Beaufort, NC. The home represents the typical architecture of Beaufort, a two-story frame building featuring a two-tiered engaged piazza. The house lies on the grounds of the Beaufort Historic Site and is nestled among nine other buildings on a two-acre plot in the heart of the downtown area. Today, visitors can experience life in a by-gone era as they enter her front door.
The welcoming interior hosts a Victorian restoration which takes the visitor back over one hundred years into the past. However, the past may not be as distant as one thinks. As you walk through each of the finely appointed rooms, pay close attention to your surroundings, because just around the corner a member of the original Bell Family may step out of the shadows to greet you!
The Josiah Bell Family
Josiah Bell (1767-1843) oldest son of Malachi & Elisabeth Bell married Mary (Polly) Fisher August 15, 1793. Josiah and Mary had three children: William, Mary and Josiah Fisher Bell. Together they raised their family in this house on Turner Street. Like his grandfather, Joseph Bell, he was a civic & church leader. Josiah was also a gentleman farmer; a tax lister; county justice and would have presided over the 1796 county courthouse just a few doors down.
Josiah Fisher Bell (1820-1890) youngest son of Josiah and Mary was born in 1820 and married Susan Benjamin Leecraft on November 25, 1841.
Josiah Fisher Bell inherited the house upon his father’s death in 1843 and subsequently raised his children in the family home. Josiah F. Bell is listed in the 1860 census of Carteret County as a farmer, but he is more widely known as a revolutionary who served as an agent in the Confederate Secret Service during the Civil War. When Josiah learned that the Union forces were going to take over the lighthouses at Cape Lookout he plotted a way for troops to blow up the federals, and in the end, the new lighthouse only suffered damage to its lens and lantern. During this time, Cape Lookout was a place where North Carolinians could prove their power and freedom against the union forces. Soon after the battle, Congress gave 20,000 dollars, so that the lighthouse would be repaired.
The name Beaufort came from Henry Duke of Beaufort, one of the Lords Proprietors, who was Palatine of Carolina, the chief position among the Proprietors. It was during Henry’s appointment in 1713 that Beaufort was formally established with the building of the first 12 houses. Known as "Fish Town" in the early 1700's when Blackbeard frequented the coast, "Beaufort Town" was established as a seaport with the right to collect customs in 1722. However, it was not until a full ten years after establishment that the town became officially incorporated on November 23, 1723.
Turner Street, where the Manson House is located, is also the location of some of the first homes built in Beaufort. The street obtained its name from Robert Turner, the father of the town. Queen Anne was the reigning monarch during this time and she donated trees to line Ann Street, named in her honor, as well as Queen Street.
During the American Revolution, Beaufort was the third largest port in the state. As in most of eastern North Carolina, early trade centered on lumber products. These were shipped from the rich Newport River area plantations to the West Indies in exchange for glassware, cloth, furniture, coffee and rum. Beaufort continued to prosper into the nineteenth century as a port and as an agricultural, commercial and governmental center. Nearby Fort Macon, a large brick fortress guarded the eastern end of Carteret County. Over time, Beaufort became a favorite summer retreat for the well-to-do. Records from 1812 show there were 600 residents and some 75 houses.
Beaufort was relatively unscarred by the Civil War, due to an early and prolonged occupation by Union forces. Following the war's conclusion, Beaufort again resumed its importance as a summer retreat. Trade was strong for a time; lumber, barrel staves, rum, and molasses were some of Beaufort's exports. However, the port declined as a trade center and commercial fishing became the primary business in the area. Beaufort served as home port for a large fishing fleet and as the site of the processing plants for the menhaden trade.