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

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

1st Cape Lookout Lighthouse  
Artistic Rendering
The Fulford family, some of the first to settle in "Core Sound," played a prominent role in the early days of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. An entry in the records at the Carteret County Courthouse shows the 1804 gift of land by Joseph Fulford and Elijah Pigott for the erection of a lighthouse on Cape Lookout. 

"We, Joseph Fulford and Elijah Pigott of the County of Carteret and State of North Carolina, in consideration of the sum of $1 paid to us by the United States of America, the receipt whereof we do hereby acknowledge, do hereby, give, grant, bargain, sell . . . to the said United States of America four acres of land on Cape Lookout so-called in the State aforesaid for the accommodation of a lighthouse to be erected in pursuance of the Act of Congress passed on the 20th day of March 1804." (Deed Book O, page 427) Fulford also specified that he retain the fishing rights around Cape Lookout in perpetuity for his descendants.

1812 Keeper's Quarters
National Park Service image
(Structure no longer remains.)
Built on a sand dune, at a cost of $20,678.54, the 96-foot brick tower was encircled by a hexagonal wooden tower covered in cedar shingles and painted with wide, horizontal red and white stripes. It began service in 1812.

The first known keeper of the light was James M. Fulford (1755-1839), who was appointed by President James Madison on June 2, 1812, with a yearly salary of $300. James, married to Rebecca Harker, served as keeper for 16 years. In 1828, James’ son, William Fulford (1786-1864) became keeper and served until 1854. [In 1848, William's daughter, Julia Ann Fulford, married Dr. James Lente Manney of Beaufort.]

In 1850, keeper William Fulford described the lighthouse as having 13 oil lamps. Oil was stored in a small oil shed. At that time, William had to continually remove sand from the front side of the keeper’s house. “The sand banks are now higher than the tops of the windows, and only a few feet from them, at high water mark. On the sea side, it has washed away about 100 feet last year by abrasion and sea flows.” In serious disrepair, the need for a new lighthouse was apparent not only due to erosion, but also due to the fact that the tower was too low. In 1856 a fresnel lens was installed, but it wasn’t until 1857 that Congress appropriated $45,000 for a new lighthouse.

First lit on November 1, 1859, the second Cape Lookout Lighthouse proved to be a model for the other lighthouses that would be built along the Outer Banks. It was made of red brick, displayed the Fresnel lens from the old tower and could be seen for 19 miles.

Josiah Fisher Bell, Beaufort Collector of Customs, served as an agent in the Confederate Secret Service during the Civil War. Appointed Superintendent of Lights for the Beaufort District of the Confederate Lighthouse Bureau, Bell had the lenses removed, from Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Bogue Banks Lighthouse, and placed in storage in a warehouse in Beaufort. In the spring of 1862, Bell was responsible for blowing up the lighthouses on Cape Lookout; the old lighthouse destroyed, the new one only damaged. (Josiah Fisher Bell (1820‒1890), son of Josiah Bell and Mary Fisher, married Susan Benjamin Leecraft in 1841; Susan was daughter of Benjamin Leecraft who lived across Turner Street from the Josiah Bell House on the Restoration Grounds.) 

After the Civil War, Congress appropriated $20,000 for repairs and updating. Wooden stairs were replaced with cast iron and a new lens was installed. In 1871, an additional $5000 was appropriated for a new keeper’s dwelling, complete with summer kitchen and woodshed.  

2nd Keeper's Cottage built in 1873
In 1873, the 2nd keeper's cottage - large enough to house two keepers and families - was completed, and the tower painted. Because the four lights on the Outer Banks were so similar, the Lighthouse Board designed striking patterns for each to make them easily distinguishable. Cape Lookout Lighthouse was painted with large checkers that appear as alternating black and white diamonds. Following the traditional day-mark aids to navigation, the black checkers are oriented north and south toward the shallow waters of the shoals and around the headlands, while the white checkers are oriented east and west facing the deeper waters.  
This 1893 National Park Service photo shows the 1873 Keeper's Quarters  near the lighthouse. The 1812 Keeper's Cottage is on the far right.
With need for more housing, the 3rd Keeper's Quarters was built.
3rd Keeper's Quarters built in 1907
The 3rd Keeper's Quarters housed the primary keeper and his family from the fall of 1907 until the tower was automated in 1950. Although brown today, it was washed in historic photos. Alfred B. Hooper and family were the first to occupy the building. (In 1914 Hooper built a home at 117 Marsh Street in Beaufort, North Carolina; he died that year of typhoid fever.) 
In 1957, the 3rd Keeper's Quarters was sold to Dr. Graham Barden Jr., who moved the house 1.1 miles southwest of the lighthouse. The "Barden House" exists today but is closed to the public.

In 1950, the light was completely automated and keepers no longer needed. 

The grounds are owned by the National Park Service. Ferries operate from Beaufort and Harker's Island. 

HEAD KEEPERS (National Park Service)

▪ James Fulford - June 2, 1812  
▪ William Fulford - January 28, 1828  
▪ John Ross Royal - January 17, 1854  

SECOND LIGHTHOUSE - Completed on November 1, 1859
 ▪ Gayer Chadwick - February 24, 1863 until May 1864  
▪ John R. Royal - May 25, 1864 until May 21, 1869
▪ Manoen Washington Mason - May 21, 1869 until August 19, 1876  
▪ Melvin Jennings Davis, Jr. - March 13, 1877 until July 11, 1878 
▪ William F. Hatsel - July 12, 1878 until November 24, 1880  
▪ Denard Rumley - February 28, 1881 until February 21, 1893)
▪ Thomas Clifford Davis, Jr. - February 22, 1895 until April 10, 1900)  
▪ James Wilson Gillikin - June 1, 1900 until March 11, 1903

▪ Alfred B. Hooper November 1, 1903 until February 10, 1909  
▪ Charles W. Clifton - October 2, 1909 until approximately 1930  
▪ Benjamin Lloyd Harris - July 1, 1933 until approximately 1936  
▪ James Archie Newton - 1939 until approximately 1945 (it is unclear if Newton was a Keeper or a U.S. Coast Guard Officer in charge of the light)

Fort Macon

During the 18th and 19th centuries the area around Beaufort and Beaufort Inlet was highly vulnerable to attack. The construction of Fort Dobbs was begun in 1756 during the French and Indian War, but when the war ended the fort was never completed. Early in the 1800s a small masonry fort was built that guarded the inlet during the War of 1812. Shoreline erosion and a hurricane had swept Fort Hampton into Beaufort Inlet by 1825.  

The War of 1812 demonstrated the weakness of existing coastal defenses. The United States government began construction on an improved chain of coastal fortifications. This undertaking involved the construction of thirty-eight new, permanent coastal forts known as the Third System. As part of this system, pentagon-shaped 26-casemate Fort Macon, with a ditch separating its covertway and inner citadel, was designed by Brigadier General Simon Bernard and built by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The fort was named for native North Carolinian Nathaniel Macon (1758–1837), who served in the Revolutionary War and as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, until he returned to his home state and served in the state senate. Construction began in 1826. Using brick made in the area and masons from Beaufort and other parts of the country, the US Army Corps of Engineers completed the fort in December, 1834. Total cost of the fort was $463,790. 
Fort Macon ALBUM of 1862 Drawings and Etchings 

Rachel Carson Reserve

Did you know “Town Marsh,” “Bird Shoal” and that portion of Taylor’s Creek are included on the National Register of Historic Places as part of Beaufort’s Historic District? “The inclusion of this large area of water is needed to protect the waterfront and harbor view of the town.”

As an estuary, the Rachel Carson Reserve is a highly productive and important natural habitat. The Reserve is home to wild horses, marine, animal and plant wildlife, as well as serving as a nesting area for large variety of shore birds, and stop for migratory birds.

The Rachel Carson Reserve is open to the public for fishing, boating, sailing and kayaking—Town Marsh, Carrot Island and Bird Shoal receiving the most use because of their easy access by boat. 
Town Marsh 
Town Marsh, the dredge-spoil island directly across from 
downtown Beaufort, has a marked self-guided trail.

Bird Shoal
Photo courtesy Rachel Carson Reserve
Carrot Island Boardwalk 
Photo courtesy Rachel Carson Reserve
Photo courtesy Sam Bland
The Carrot Island Boardwalk (directly across Taylor's Creek from the boat ramp on Lennoxville Road—east end of Front Street) is a great way to learn about the estuarine environment and what plants and animals are found at the reserve. Interpretive signs provide a self-guided tour. The platform at the end of the boardwalk is a great place for birding and a view of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. 

Horse Island and Middle Marshes
Great egrets at Middle Marsh rookery
Middle Marshes - Photo courtesy William Martin
Horse Island and Middle Marshes are quite vulnerable to effects of use.
·    Visitors should consider accessing nature trails and sandy beach area to minimize impact on marsh and other vegetative communities.
·    Small groups may use selected areas on a limited basic for interpretive purposes if permission is received from the NCNERR.
·    Research projects must also receive permission.

Areas of the Reserve are heavily utilized as a destination by individuals with private boats. These activities lead to a substantial litter problem—when visiting the reserve, please take your litter with you when you leave.

If necessary to include your dog on a visit to the Reserve, please keep it on a leash at all times. Unleashed dogs tend to chase colonial nesting birds, disrupting feeding, breeding and nesting. Some unleashed dogs also chase horses and disturb other visitors; a few dogs have been kicked by horses (one dog died as a result).

Areas off limits to visitors:
·    Horses' watering holes
·    Shorebirds nesting sites
·    Marked Research sites

The North Carolina Coastal Reserve (NCCR) and National Estuarine Research Reserve System--NCNERR--is a network of ten protected sites established for long-term research, education and stewardship. The NCNERR office in Beaufort is located on Piver's Island. Necessary research and monitoring by the NCNERR provides the knowledge needed to maintain the Rachel Carson Reserve not only to preserve the habitats as a whole but to have the reserve there for future generations to enjoy the vistas and waters surrounding Beaufort’s "front yard." 

·    Please keep your dog on a leash at all times.
·    When visiting the Reserve, please take your litter with you.
·    For your own safety, please keep your distance from the wild horses; use telephoto lens. 
Photo courtesy William Martin
Rachel Carson Reserve—An Overview

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.

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 book


Shackelford Banks

Image courtesy

John Shackelford (1688–1734) and brother Francis Zeheriah Shackelford (16751722) patented a "plantation" on the west side of North River in 1708. [John and Francis were born in Virginia, sons of Roger Shackelford, born about 1629 in Old Alresford, Hampshire, South East England, and migrated to the Virginia Colony in 1658.]

In 1713, John Shackelford and Enoch Ward purchased 7000 acres referred to as the “Sea Banks.” The two men divided the property in 1723. Shackelford referred to his land lying on the banks as "Eastward of Old Topsail Inlet." Shackelford’s western part later became known as Shackleford Banks. John Shackelford served in the local Core Sound militia from 1712 to 1743.

Part of John Shackelford's 1734 Will stated: "After the death of my beloved wife Ann I give to my son John all the remainder of goods and Chattle both resale and personal provided my son John does not die without issue, in such case I bequest my estate to my son James and his heirs forever also Island called Carrot."

Wild Horses of Shackelford Banks

Mullet fishermen at fishing camp on Shackelford Banks circa 1880. George B. Goode, ed., The Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States, 5 secs. (Washington, D.C.: Commission of Fish and Fisheries, 1884-87), sec. 5, vol. 2.

 Mullet Fisherman Camp on Shackelford Banks - 1907

According to census records and a few death certificates, the ancestors of many Beaufort and "Core Sound" residents were born and lived on "Cape Banks," Diamond City and Shackelford Banks - members of families, including Lewis, Guthrie, Willis, Moore, Fulcher, Hancock and more - a few born during the 18th century, and a few hundred throughout the 19th century.

"Shortly after his April 1, 1841 marriage to Susan Leecraft Manson, David Hall Rumley (1813‒1848) dismantled this early 19th-century cottage and moved it by barge from Diamond City, then a settlement on the eastern end of Shackelford Banks..." (see 122 Queen Street in Mary Warshaw's book.)

See: Historic Beaufort, North Carolina - A Unique Coastal Village Preserved

RCR Horses & An Interview about the Source

A Beaufort resident placed horses on Carrot Island during the 1940s; livestock was also taken over to graze. With the resident's passing, the horses remained and became feral, reverting from domestication back to the wild. The horses became the property of the state when the land was purchased in the 1980s. 

There are currently 33 horses on the reserve.

Despite the harsh conditions the horses have thrived on the reserve. During the late 1980s and early 1990s the population exceeded capacity. This led to massive malnutrition and several deaths. The horses are considered a cultural resource; management action was required using a birth control program. This coupled with natural mortality helped the population get near the target number of 40 horses. 

The reserve's staff from the Beaufort office oversees the horse management. Individual horses are identified, photographed and maintained. Each horse is tracked for births, general health, social habits and eventually death. Beyond the birth control program, the horse population is treated as a wild herd.

 Beaufort Horses
An interview about the source of the horses

“Cap’n Claude, I want you to tell me what you know about the horses at Beaufort?”

“It was either June or July 1947, Dr. Luther Fulcher came to see me, he set right where you are now, in that same chair. He told me that he had got permission from Harvey Smith to put some horses on Bird Shoals and he wanted to move some of his horses there because they were soon going to make us move everything off Core Banks, which they did a few years later. I agreed to take my boat and barge and move them. We penned them up at the Middle Pen. Dr. Fulcher took 2 mares with colts and I took 1 mare and her colt. We loaded them on a barge and I took them to Lennoxville. When I got there Will Dudley already had a small pen built, right across from the shad factory, where he worked. I don’t remember who owned the factory then, but Will agreed to look after the horses. He put an old bath tub there on the shore and run a water hose across to it to make sure they had plenty of water. We kept them in the pen for a day or two until they got used to the area then tore the pen down. The next year during the May penning at the Diamond Pen, we put one of Dr. Fulcher studs in my boat and I took him to the same place and jumped him out.”

“Along about 1950 Dr. Fulcher decided to try and build up the breed so he went to the horse market outside Jacksonville and bought a part quarter horse, a larger horse, but he only lasted one summer. He couldn’t make it on his own so they took him off before winter came. Several years later Will started penning them every year and would move 5 or 6 horses. I got one horse from there. Several years before he died, Dr. Fulcher come to me and said he was going to give his horses to Will and I agreed that he should have my share also. With that I went out of the Bird Shoal horse business. So far as I know, when Will died the ownership of the horses passed on to his heirs.”

“In 1947, when you put those six horses on Carrot Island, were there any horses already there?”

“Not to my knowledge and had there have been somebody would have sure mentioned it. This don’t mean that there hadn’t been horses there before. These bank ponies are swimmers or they could have washed there in a hurricane. If anyone says that they saw horses there years ago, I wouldn’t doubt them.”

Town Marsh across from Downtown Beaufort

Click images to open viewer
On his 1733 "New and Correct Map of the Province of North Carolina," Edward Moseley noted Carrot Island as "Carrot I." John Shackelford's 1734 Last Will & Testament included, "I bequest my estate to my son James and his heirs forever also Island called Carrot." The island may have been named for the shape of the marsh land at the time. 

The 1854 map below recorded "Carrot Island Channel" fronting the downtown waterfront; the channel flowed by the southern portion of Carrot Island Marshes and Horse Island to the North River Channel. 

Before the channel and Taylor's Creek were dredged, Taylor's Creek was a stream between the eastern half of Beaufort and the Carrot Island Marshes. 


Wild Horses of Rachel Carson Reserve

Photo contributed by Reserve volunteer, Robin Newton. Horses are from the same social group or "harem." Left to right: Sugargoot (lead stallion), Trilobite (subordinate stallion), and Beth (female) in the background.

A Beaufort resident, Dr. Luther Fulcher, placed horses on the islands in 1947. Livestock was also taken over to the islands to graze. With the resident's passing, the horses remained and became feral, reverting from domestication back to the wild. The horses became the property of the state when the land was purchased in the 1980s. There are currently 33 horses on the reserve - 14 males and 19 females. (3/19/2014) 

The main food supply of the feral horse is Smooth Cordgrass--Spartina alternaflora

Despite the harsh conditions the horses have thrived on the reserve. During the late 1980s and early 1990s the population exceeded capacity. This led to massive malnutrition and several deaths. The horses are considered a cultural resource; management action was required using a birth control program. This coupled with natural mortality helped the population get near the target number of 30 horses. 

The reserve's staff from the Beaufort office oversees the horse management. Individual horses are identified, photographed and maintained. Each horse is tracked for births, general health, social habits and eventually death. Beyond the birth control program, the horse population is treated as a wild herd.

The wild horses living on the Rachel Carson Reserve are beautiful and powerful animals. To many, they represent freedom and wildness for all to enjoy. Let's all participate in protecting them (and visitor safety) by giving these majestic wild animals their space. Watching them from at least a school bus length away (preferably more) will help the horses retain their wild nature and keep visitors out of the way of fighting stallions (pictured above) or a mare protecting her foal.

Rachel Carson Reserve - An Overview

A synopsis of Rachel Carson Reserve information, transcribed/compiled/updated by Mary Warshaw from The North Carolina Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve


The Rachel Carson component of the NCNERR is located in the central part of North Carolina's coast. It is located near the mouth of the Newport River in southern Carteret County, directly across Taylor's Creek from the historic town of Beaufort. Rachel Carson is bounded on the north by Taylor's Creek and Beaufort, to the east by Back Sound, to the south by the Cape Lookout National Seashore, and the west by Piver's and Radio Islands. The reserve is located in the White Oak River Basin and on a broader scale in the Carolinian biogeographical province. Acquisition of the area was completed in 1985, with the addition of Middle Marshes in 1989. The site is accessible only by boat. The 2625-acre site consists of several small islands--Carrot, Town Marsh, Bird Shoal, Horse Island and Middle Marshes--and extensive salt marshes and intertidial/subtital flats.


COREE: Prior to colonization of North Carolina, the Carrot Island-Middle Marshes area may have seen intermittent use by the Coree tribe of Native Americans. The Coree are thought to have spent considerable time on the nearby Outer Banks especially in the vicinity of Cape Lookout.

EARLY SETTLERS not only fished but used the waters in and near the Rachel Carson site for shipping lumber, naval stores and farm commodities.

WAR: In 1782 a Revolutionary War skirmish near the mouth of Taylor's Creek involved townsmen and a small British-landing party. Following an initial exchange of fire, the British moved about one-half mile eastward and landed on Carrot Island, spending the night there. At sunrise the British crossed Taylor's Creek to the mainland, overcame the troops and swept into Beaufort to begin a short-lived occupation.
With Fort Macon so close by, during the Civil War there was significant activity in the area before, during and after the siege of the fort when Union forces took control of the fort and Beaufort inlet.

Yaupon Tea

YAUPON HOLLY Ilex vomitoria
Yaupon holly is an evergreen shrub that grows wild in coastal areas in well-drained sandy soils, and can be found on the upper edges of brackish and salt marshes, sandy hammocks, coastal sand dunes, inner-dune depressions, sandhills, maritime forests, nontidal forested wetlands, well-drained forests and pine flatwoods. The fruit are an important food for many birds

This Plant is the Indian Tea, us’d and approv’d by all the Savages on the Coast of Carolina, and from them sent to the Westward Indians, and sold at a considerable Price. All which they cure after the same way, as they do for themselves; which is thus: They take this Plant (not only the Leaves, but the smaller Twigs along with them) and bruise it in a Mortar, till it becomes blackish, the Leaf being wholly defaced: Then they take it out, put it into one of their earthen Pots which is over the Fire, till it smoaks; stirring it all the time, till it is cur’d. Others take it, after it is bruis’d, and put it into a Bowl, to which they put live Coals, and cover them with the Yaupon, till they have done smoaking, often turning them over. After all, theyspread it upon their Mats, and dry it in the Sun to keep it for Use.