History of Bogue Banks
OverviewThe communities of Carteret County have some of the richest history along the entire N.C. seaboard. Names like Robert E. Lee, Otway Burns, and the most infamous Pirate of them all, Edward Teach (aka. – Blackbeard) are all entrenched in county lore. The island of Bogue Banks is no exception, and names such as Henry Fort, Alice Hoffman, and Nathaniel Macon add a unique aura to the island. Below is a brief history of Bogue Banks that has translated and evolved into a blueprint for the island, including current day parking and access trends.
FoundingThe history of Bogue Banks started as series of small fishing villages with little regard to land ownership and distinct communities. Lieutenant Eliason first began surveying the easternmost end of Bogue Banks in 1826 for the construction of Fort Macon that was named after North Carolina statesman Nathaniel Macon. Approximately 15 million bricks were utilized from 1826-1834 to construct the Fort at a cost of almost $464,000. Inlet and hurricane induced erosion claimed earlier fortifications and by the time the Fort was completed, it was determined that shore armoring was required as well. During the 1840s, Robert E. Lee, a recent graduate of West Point designed and supervised the construction of the first jetty, groynes, and other shore armoring structures (even the history of shore protection has a record in Bogue Banks lore).
Fort Macon was surrendered to Union forces during the Civil War on April 25, 1862 and served as a prison following its capture. Fort Macon became North Carolina’s second State park in 1924 when the U.S. Congress permitted the State to claim officially abandoned Federal facilities for one dollar. The Fort remained in disrepair until the Civilian Conservation Corps restored the Fort in the mid 1930s. The Fort Macon State Park was opened for public use in 1936, and presently holds two large parking areas that can accommodate 594 automobiles and also houses the U.S. Coast Guard – Group Fort Macon. According to the N.C. Division or Parks and Recreation newsletter, The Steward, Fort Macon is consistently the most visited State Park in the coastal plain with well over a 1.25 million visitors reported in 2003 alone.
GrowthThe decline in the whaling industry in the mid to late 1800s and good fishing on Bogue Banks caused many settlers, mostly near Cape Lookout (Diamond City), to move toward the middle and western reaches of Bogue Banks. The community of Salter Path is believed to be named after Owen Salter or possibly Riley Salter although Riley Salter’s true whereabouts during the 1880s has been questioned by historians and native Bogue Bankers. Schools of mullet fish that ran close to the ocean shorelines were the prime catch for many of the natives. These fishermen would quickly mobilize from the sound to the ocean, wearing a path in front of a Salter household, hence the name Salter Path. Many of the families who moved to Salter Path in the late 1800s / early 1900s established their residences without deeds before Bostonian John A. Royal purchased Salter Path. The area of Salter Path subsequently became known as a squatter’s community.
Salter Path was passed from John A. Royal to Alice Green Hoffman, a distant member of the Roosevelt (Theodore) family and daughter of Alfred Green, a former governor of New Jersey. Alice Hoffman developed an estate in present day Pine Knoll Shores (PKS) and sued the residents of Salter Path in 1923 because their cows were wandering onto her estate. A subsequent court decision permitted the residents of Salter Path to remain, but the cows were not allowed to graze on the Hoffman Estate. The village was restricted to 81 acres that the squatters occupied, and direct ownership of the beachfront was granted to the village to use collectively. This ruling further stated that only current residents and descendents could occupy the property, but it did not give any individuals title to the land. This ruling remained intact until 1979 when a legal settlement permitted Salter Path residents to hold a title to their property and for Carteret County to levy taxes on the former squatter’s village.
Turn of the CenturyIn the early 1900s, with the exception of the Salter Path community, development was generally restricted to Atlantic Beach (AB). The remainder of the island predominantly belonged to Ms. Hoffman who owned two miles of present day west AB, all of PKS, Salter Path, and Indian Beach (IB), and Henry Fort who owned all of present day Emerald Isle (EI). Mr. Fort was a Philadelphian that planned for a giant resort on his property that would have been analogous to Atlantic City, New Jersey. A permit to build a bridge from the mainland to his property was denied by the State and the Great Depression punctuated the demise of any resort planning on the property owned by Mr. Fort.
Two events related to these individuals probably represent the modern era of development on Bogue Banks. In 1953 Alice Hoffman passed away, and in 1954, Henry Fort’s daughter sold the western portion of the island. Ms. Hoffman’s real estate was passed to the Roosevelt family in the 1930s, and these properties along with those previously owned by Mr. Fort were subsequently developed to its modern level of today as the two main heirs began selling their vast estates. EI was incorporated in 1957 and PKS was charted in 1973. EI has seen significant growth since the Cameron Langston Bridge was erected in 1971, connecting the mainland to the western region of Bogue Banks. PKS’s development on the other hand has been intimately tied to the Roosevelt heirs. For one, the Roosevelts constructed few roads running shore normal that could be used for access and parking. A more serious matter however, is that the Roosevelts also employed two different levels of restrictions that have made public access difficult to accomplish in PKS. The first level is restrictive covenants that apply to most oceanfront properties and include prohibitions regarding public use of any properties. The second level is “reversion” clauses whereby if deed conditions are violated concerning public use, then the ownership of the property reverts back to the Roosevelt family. Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great grandson of the former president, five first cousins and two Roosevelt testamentary trusts, must release the restrictive covenants and reverts if public access and parking are to be obtained.