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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Curse of Bath

Posted May 6, 2010 10:04 a.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2010 4:13 a.m. EDT

For the next 10 week days I’d like to take a historic tour of North Carolina. We’ll visit the 10 oldest towns in the state. I’d like all of you to share your thoughts and ideas about these places. Please feel free to post your recommendations for lodging, dining and historic sites in these early communities along the Carolina coast.  I'll give a musical prize for the best comment offered each day.

We’ll begin with North Carolina's oldest town – Bath. How many of you have visited Bath? What did you like about it? Did you stay overnight there and if so where?  Did you dine there?

Bath was born in 1705 by explorer John Lawson who laid out the town along the Pamlico River. The town was named to honor John Granville, Earl of Bath and one the Lords Proprietors. But Bath never thrived. Today the population is only 268. Why didn’t Bath become as large as New Bern or Wilmington? Why did Washington, N.C., just up the road become a more important destination? Some point to the curse of George Whitefield. In the mid 18th century the traveling evangelist cursed the town of Bath for its sinful nature. State historians say Bath suffered a steady decline following Whitefield’s public condemnation. Wealthy merchants moved away and ships sailed to other ports.

I've visited Bath three or four times. I actually wrote a song about the town. The tune is called "Bells of Bath" and features the church bell of St. Thomas Parish, the oldest church in the state.  Though Blackbeard was killed before the founding of the church some of his money may have helped pay for the church bell, which is older than the Liberty Bell. Parishioners allowed me to ring and record the bell for my Peaceful Journey album in 2004.

What do you find interesting about North Carolina’s oldest town? Please share your thoughts.