By Cecil Cheery
Bath is town in my home County of Beaufort and is located approximately 17 miles from my hometown Washington, North Carolina. Bath was founded in 1705 and was the first capitol in North Carolina. Bath is steeped in history, going back to its early days in the original thirteen colonies. The most famous personality in Bath’s long history was of course Edward “Blackbeard the Pirate” Teach or Thatch.
One such marker of Bath’s history can still be seen today in the Devil’s Hoofprints. Legend has it in 1813 Jesse Elliot liked the gaming life and gambling which included racing horses, particularly on the Sabbath. One Sunday, a stranger dressed all in black rode into town on a black steed. The man in black heard Elliot bragging of his daring do and skill on horses. The man in black challenged Elliot to a race and that he could beat Elliot. Against Elliot’s friends’ better judgment, Elliot accepted the challenge.
As the legend goes, Elliot spurred his horse and said,” Take me to a winner or take me to Hell!” Elliot’s horse reared on its hind legs, dug its hooves into the ground and threw Elliot into a pine tree. Elliot struck the back of his head against the pine tree and died instantly. The man in black and his black mount disappeared. Bath townsfolk claimed the smell of sulfur could be smelled for sometime after Elliot’s death. Ever since 1813, legend has it the hoof prints can still be seen and if a person leaves debris and covers the hoofprints, within 24 hours the hoof prints are cleaned out and pristine again. I have high school buddies that are in the family that own the property the hoof prints are on and claim the legend and stories are true. Even now if the hoof prints are covered, they mysteriously are cleaned out later in the day or overnight.
Which brings me to my favorite place in Bath, North Carolina, St. Thomas Episcopal Church. The oldest church in North Carolina, a local legend says the bricks used to build the church were actually used as ballasts on sailing and cargo ships bringing supplies from England to Bath.
St. Thomas was built in 1734. Books were mailed from England to the parish thus founding the first library in North Carolina. The tiny church has withstood two wars and countless storms over the last two hundred plus years. The doors are always open and everyone is welcome.
In December 2022 on a rainy day too wet for hunting I drove to Bath and took time to wander around the small historical district and took photos. I looked across Bath Creek and imagined Blackbeard getting ready for Christmas all those centuries ago before he and Robert Maynard of the British Navy locked horns in Blackbeard’s last fight. I drove around and took photos of the Palmer House in between bursts of rain. I drove around the small area and stopped at St. Thomas’s.
I soaked up the history, the peace, and the Christmas Spirit. Friends, if you ever find yourself in Eastern North Carolina, I highly recommend a trip to Bath. Please take in the history and enjoy a visit to the oldest church in North Carolina. There are plenty of seafood and barbecue restaurants along the way to and in Bath. In the warmer months you can visit Bath via the Pamlico River as Bath sits right on the Pamlico.
Travel safe and have a good time when you get there.