The memorable cemetery in Beaufort

A Day Away By Mike Steely

Beaufort, North Carolina, is a small, coastal town next to Morehead City with lots of history and some oddities as well.

I was stationed nearby for a couple of years and my wife and I have traveled back a few times over the years. Each time I’d visit Fort Macon Coast Guard Base and the large historic fort next to it. We’d also visit places we lived and often made a side trip to Beaufort, just across the bridge.

The town, pronounced “Bofort” in North Carolina, should not be confused with Beaufort in South Carolina, which locals call “Bufort.” Our Beaufort has a long history of pirates, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. From Knoxville, it’s about an 8-hour drive along I-70 to Highway 70 and east to Newbern and then to the Beaufort inlet.

Founded in the 1600s, Beaufort was named after the English Duke of Beaufort and originally was known as “Fishtowne” for the fishing industry that began there. It’s the third oldest town in North Carolina and a famous and historic port city. Famous pirates, such as Blackbeard, frequented the place and Blackbeard scuttled his Queen Ann’s Revenge in the waters off of the town. Many of the artifacts left by pirates and subsequent wars are located in the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

The British held the town briefly during the Revolutionary War and Fort Macon, just across the bay, served as an anti-submarine base during the Second World War.

The most fascinating place in town to my wife and me is the Old Burying Ground with many unique graves and legends. Founded in 1731, the cemetery holds about 200 plots there including the grave and cannon of Captain Otway Burns, hero of the War of 1812, and the mass grave of crew members of the Crissie Wright, a schooner that wrecked in a bad winter where the crew drowned or froze to death.

The grave of a little girl buried in a rum keg is also there. A captain’s daughter had died while at sea and the father encased his infant daughter in a keg, promising to bury her ashore.

Our attention was drawn to the grave of an English officer who died there and was buried standing up facing his homeland.

One visit to the historic old graveyard was cut short when, in the midst of looking at the tombstones, a squirrel suddenly appeared and angrily rushed at us. We were startled and left quickly. We joked about the animal being a guardian of one of the graves.

While in the area you might want to take the ferry over to Ocracoke Island, where Blackbeard was finally killed, and on up to Cape Hatteras. Or take a boat ride out to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. When in the Hatteras area there’s Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers’ first powered airplane flight was reported.

Within the region also is Bath, NC, where Blackbeard had a home, and Newbern where a local pharmacist invented Pepsi Cola.

There’s so much to do along that portion of the North Carolina coast. You can find out more about Beaufort and that region online at or call the town at (252) 728-2141. If you thought Myrtle Beach had lots to do you might think of Beaufort as a less crowded historical adventure.