Bath honors explorer Lawson|Display focuses on book, ‘A New Voyage to Carolina’

Published 9:44 am Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lifestyles & Features Editor

BATH — One of this town’s earliest visitors is the subject of a new exhibit open to the public at the Historic Bath State Historic Site visitors center.
The work of John Lawson is showcased in the exhibit, which was designed by Bea Latham, assistant site manager and historic interpreter.
Lawson’s descriptions of what he found while visiting the area in 1701 are included in the exhibit, Latham said.
“This emphasizes what John Lawson contributed to us through his vivid descriptions of the plants, animals and Indians that were in what is now Bath,” Latham said. “I find it fascinating how he talks about the mannerisms of the animals.”
The exhibit is part of Bath’s celebration of the 300th anniversary of the publication of Lawson’s book, “A New Voyage to Carolina.” The book chronicles his journeys through this largely uncharted territory.
“Herbert Paschal, a 20th-century historian, refers to Lawson’s published work as ‘the one significant contribution of a North Carolinian to the literature of Colonial America,’” Latham said. “The reader of his book can truly visualize the wildlife, plants and Indians found along the footpaths of Colonial North Carolina through Lawson’s detailed descriptions of their appearance, habits and ways of survival. Historian Hugh T. Lefler called Lawson’s observations ‘keen and thorough, his style direct and vivid.’”
The preserved animals in the Bath display are on loan from various sources, Latham said. A small wildcat belongs to Lynda Oden with the Hunter’s Bridge community in Beaufort County, and J.W. Spencer of Swan Quarter provided a raccoon. Other items were offered by James Latham, Jacob Latham and Washington taxidermist Kevin Rutledge.
Accompanying the specimens are excerpts from Lawson’s journal describing the animals and their behaviors. The exhibit is slated to run through December.
“A New Voyage to Carolina” and Lawson will be topics of a two-day symposium in Raleigh Oct. 9-10, Latham said. Speakers from the United States and Canada will focus on natural history and Lawson and his times.
“The North Carolina Museum of History will also feature an exhibit on John Lawson with the opening being the same weekend as the symposium,” Latham added.
The Historic Bath State Historic Site is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The visitor center is located at 207 Carteret St. in Bath.
Historic Bath is a North Carolina Historic Site operated by the Department of Cultural Resources and a member of the Historic Albemarle Tour. For more information, call 252-923-3971 or send an e-mail to