Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Soulful Destination: Bath

Posted May 9, 2006

Once bustling. Now sleepy. Once beautiful. Still that way. Let us bathe in the beauty of Bath. I can close my eyes right now and hear the waters of the Pamlico River lapping gently a couple of blocks away from St. Thomas parish. Bath is North Carolina's oldest town. It was incorporated in 1705. St. Thomas Episcopal Church still uses a bell that is older than the Liberty Bell. Church leaders allowed me to ring it and record it several years ago when I was working on my Peaceful Journey CD. I still hope to perform a concert at St. Thomas with my group Lorica. I'm told that Bath was a thriving coastal village frequented by Royal Governors, colonial assemblymen and yes, Blackbeard. Bath was the haunt of Edward Teach whose pirate ships were legendary. He even married a local girl here. Bath's population is only 652. It is much smaller than NC's second oldest town of New Bern which has a population of 23,368. Why did Bath decline? State history officials say the blame could rest in a preacher. Legend has it that the Reverend George Whitefield was deeply disappointed with his evangelical efforts in Bath. The story goes that he "rode away saying that the Bible told that if somewhere the people won’t listen to the word of God, a preacher is to shake the dust of the town off his feet and the town will be cursed." Now 301 years old Bath is experiencing a bit of a rebirth. Strong efforts have been made to save historical structures from ruin.

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