Photos and Information about Piver's Island, the Rachel Carson Reserve, Shackelford Banks and Fort Macon

History of Piver's Island

U.S. Bureau of Fisheries Laboratory 1902‒1953
In 1764, Peter Piver and William Robertson acquired acreage on the west end of Beaufort, then known as "Town Point;" this property likely included the small island that would take the Piver name. In 1795, court minutes noted Peter Piver and wife Lydia selling half the island to Elijah Bell.   

In an 1853 court, Commissioner of Beaufort vs. Thomas Duncan, witness James Davis' recollections of 1817 were recorded, "…he had been informed by old citizens of Beaufort that the channel between Piver's Island, and the land in controversy, used to be dry at low tides, and that a log was put across the same, for persons to walk over, and that the dogs used to cross the same in going to hunt on the island." 

Noted on maps as Piver's Island by 1854, it was also referred  as "Still Island," due to a turpentine distillery operated there in the mid-to-late 1800s. In a post Civil War visit with Chief Justice Chase, Whitelaw Reid wrote, "Near the water's edge was a small turpentine distillery, the only manufacturing establishment of the place."

At the beginning of the 20th century, the island became site of the fisheries laboratory. On May 12, 1900, President Theodore Roosevelt signed an act authorizing the establishment a U.S. Fish Commission Laboratory at Beaufort. Funds were appropriated, but no provision was made for the purchase of land. Through the efforts of Joseph Austin Holmes and Henry Van Peters Wilson, five universities and private donors raised $400, the amount needed to purchase 3-acre Piver's Island. Private donors were Samuel Thomas, Alonzo and Nancy Thomas, Thomas Murray and Laura Thomas, and Benjamin J. and Isabella Thomas Midyette. 

The U.S. Bureau of Fisheries Laboratory on Piver's Island was officially opened on May 26, 1902, with Professor Wilson as the first director. Until 1933, when a 1-lane wooden bridge was built, the island was only accessible by boat. 

During the 1940s and early 1950s, the grounds and beach were visited by locals and tourists, often picnicking, swimming and viewing the exhibits, including the turtle hatchery. Terrapin culturist and lab foreman Charlie Hatsell supervised the propagation of thousands of young diamondback terrapins (see 119 Orange Street).

Scientists, including marine biologist Rachel Carson, worked and studied at the original 1902 Beaufort laboratory, which served them until 1953; having been condemned, due to major foundation issues, it was replaced with a 1-story building.  

Above history from Mary Warshaw's new Beaufort book