For centuries, the Pamlico River has served the area currently known as Washington, NC and others along its banks very well, indeed. The nearby town of Bath is the oldest incorporated town in North Carolina indicating that settlements along this waterway were some of the earliest in what became our fledgling nation. What became the settlement known as “Forks of the Tar,” and would later become Washington was an early Revolutionary period outpost. This port was particularly important to the supply lines of the Continental Army due to other east coast ports in Wilmington, Savannah and Charles Town (sic) being under British control.
It was just natural that the area would be of vital importance due to the Pamlico being navigable so far inland. The very early attempts to settle the region were not successful while areas of eastern Virginia were able to “catch a toe hold.” It was late in the 1600s before these settlers began to expand southward and established what would become the town of Bath.
In 1705, Bath became the first incorporated town in the state of North Carolina. As was the case for many of the settlers of the new world, the residents of Bath suffered through illness, unrest with the already-established Native American Indian tribes, the weather, clearing fields to be able to provide sustenance for themselves and livestock and a myriad of other challenges. Bath was a center for state government during this period. It even served as home for Edward Teach, the notorious pirate known as Blackbeard, for a few years.
Later in the 18th century, the pendulum began to swing toward the settlement just a few miles to the west of Bath, as this growing area blossomed into a major area of trade. This town, “Forks of the Tar,” became the first town in the new nation to honor General George Washington by naming their town after him in 1776. With the swing in trade from the Bath area also came a swing in local area government. Washington established itself as the center of county government, a position it continues to hold today.
In at least one respect, the above mentioned center of attention was both a blessing……and a curse! This likely was a major factor in the Union Army’s decision to occupy Washington during the Civil War. While located just a few miles away, Bath avoided this catastrophic domination. The resulting fires alone cost the town a significant amount of its Revolutionary Period homes. Washington suffered mightily during these oppressive times.
Fast forwarding to present times, the Pamlico River now serves many of the residents of central and eastern North Carolina in far different ways. We continue to be blessed with 4 distinctive seasons and residents and visitors enjoy the Pamlico during every month of the year. Our commercial fishing industry continues to work to harvest the bounty from the Pamlico River and Pamlico Sound. Many would be surprised at the number of blue crabs that are taken here. Equally surprising would be the “world class” tarpon fishing that takes place here.
The small town of Washington, which was counted to less than 10,000 residents at the last census, continues to boast of small town values. We continue to work on our beautiful facilities on Stewart Parkway, a project that has been a work in progress for 40+ years. The boat slips built along this waterfront are a wonderful addition. Many of the shops and stores along Main Street are beginning to “invert” and put their best foot forward toward the waterfront.
The downtown merchants and other organizations are working hard to make Washington’s downtown a place to enjoy. Music in the Streets, the Washington Summer Festival, Smoke on the Water and other events too numerous to name here are a testimonial to these efforts. We are fiercely proud of our town and hope you will visit sometime and experience why.
Come to see us!