Crystal Coast History

Fort Macon. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina History Project.

Fort Macon. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina History Project.

Local lore: Carteret County became a Coast Guard community on July 7, 2015. It was the second in the nation to achieve this designation.

Originally called "Swannsborough," settlers founded a community on the site of an Algonkian Indian village that sat on the mouth of the White Oak River. The town was named to honor Samuel Swann, who was a speaker of the North Carolina House of Commons.

Early on, shipbuilding was the main industry for the community. If you visit Swansboro, you will see a statue of Otway Burns, the town's most famous shipbuilder.

Emerald Isle
Emerald Isle was purchased in 1954 by seven investors.  It was then divided into 54 blocks. Each block was from ocean to sound. The owners wanted the island to be mainly residential homes and green natural forest. Each investor only allowed five blocks of their share to be commercial and mobile homes. There was only one problem! What should the western part of the island be called? Numerous ideas were tossed around. It wasn't until the investors hired a development consultant that a name was decided upon. The consultant flew over the area and remarked how the island was a solid emerald green forest in the middle of the sparkling sea. This is how our precious island gained the name Emerald Isle!

Atlantic Beach
Atlantic Beach is the oldest commercial town on Bogue Banks and was first visualized as a seaside resort in the 1870s. In 1887, John Royal and Winfield Chadwick built the first bathing pavilion for patrons, who had to travel to the island by boat to enjoy the beach from Morehead City. This began a fast ferry trade on the eastern end of the island. By 1928 a new beach resort and the first modern bridge were built. 

Atlantic Beach is also home to Fort Macon. At the start of the Civil War, North Carolina seized the fort from the Union; however, the Confederate force was later attacked in 1862, and the fort fell into Union hands once again. For the duration of the war, the harbor served as a coaling station for Union Navy ships. Fort Macon was a federal prison from 1867 until 1876, garrisoned during the Spanish-American War and closed in 1903. It has since been restored and is the second most visited state park in North Carolina.

Morehead City
The downtown streets running north and south are numbered; those running east to west are named for the developers and first leaders of Morehead City, including William Fisher, Bridges Arendell, Peter G. Evans, David Shepard, and John Shackelford.

Morehead City was named after John Motley Morehead, the 29th governor of North Carolina, who envisioned the community as an important port city. Governor Morehead’s ultimate goal was to create a major commercial port city, and he began visiting the site in 1853 to study the area and see if a large port community could indeed be accomplished. Impressed by the area, he moved forward with purchasing land and working alongside local developers to bring growth to the city. 

Beaufort, the third oldest town in North Carolina, was established in 1709. Beaufort was originally a fishing village; it became a hot spot for merchants, skilled craftsmen and privateers. 

One of the most famous pirates to spend time in our beloved Beaufort was Blackbeard himself! In 2011 his shipwreck was located just offshore from our small beach town.

Newport was chartered in 1866 and was home to one of the earliest churches in eastern North Carolina, the Newport River Primitive Baptist Church. Though the original building burned near the end of the war, a new church was built and stills remains today with active members.

The Railroad came through Newport while continuing its track to Morehead City in 1858. This allowed troops to travel and send supplies between Havelock and Fort Macon. Because of the railroad, Newport was the location of the Newport Barracks, a Union camp for the later part of the Civil War.  

The town of Havelock was named after a British officer named Sir Henry Havelock. He became famous after the 1857 battle known as the Indian Mutiny. In the 1850s the main part of Havelock was a railroad depot, but the town grew because of the Civil War. Soldiers anchored at Slocum Creek and often disembarked infantry attacks along the south bank. Federals took the area and held their ground until the end of the war at what is now the Officer's Club on Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station. 

In 1940 Havelock became the official home of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and in 1959 the town was officially established. Many of the residents in Havelock and nearby Newport are employees or military personnel at Cherry Point. 

Cape Lookout Lighthouse
The current lighthouse was built in the late 1850s and is the second lighthouse to stand at this isolated spot along the National Seashore. In 1864, Confederate soldiers tried to destroy the structure by sneaking on to the isolated beaches, however this attempt to turn the lighthouse into ruins was unsuccessful.The lighthouse served the coastline admirably for nearly a century until it was automated in 1950, and eventually converted into a popular attraction within the Cape Lookout National Seashore.