Salter’s remains returned to Beaufort County

Published 8:06 pm Sunday, October 3, 2010

Staff Write

One day after a historic deluge hit Beaufort County, history of another kind was made in a quiet ceremony with the arrival of the remains in Washington of a man believed to have been a member of Blackbeard’s pirate crew.
At about 8 p.m. Friday, a pine coffin carrying the remains of pirate-turned-wealthy-Bath-merchant Edward Salter was carried into Paul Funeral Home by five members of the Beaufort County Committee of 100 and the historian who fought for more than a year for their return.
“This could be a very important day for Beaufort County,” said Tom Richter, mayor of Washington Park and chairman of the Committee of 100. “In 10 years. we could look back on this day as a part of the history of the county.”
“Edward Salter was a terrifically important person to Beaufort County when he was alive, and his kin were very important to North Carolina,” Richter said. “He was part of an extraordinary family.”
Others there agreed with Richter.
“This is a piece of history for sure,” said Dick Barber, a local businessman who helped carry Salter’s coffin.
The brief ceremony marked the return of Salter’s remains to Beaufort County for the first time in nearly 25 years.
His remains will be kept at Paul Funeral Home until later this month when they will be temporarily interred in an undisclosed location while their final resting spot is determined, according to Raleigh researcher and author Kevin Duffus, whose longtime interest in the history of eastern North Carolina has helped determine their fate.
Duffus’ cause was supported by the Committee of 100, whose members have said they not only value Salter’s contribution to Beaufort County but believe that promoting the county’s history will spur economic development.
Duffus believes that this same Edward Salter, a barrel-maker who died in 1735, may have been a member of Blackbeard’s pirate crew who returned to settle in Bath. Salter went on to become a warden of St. Thomas Parish and an assemblyman representing Beaufort County in 1731.
Salter once owned a plantation along Beasley Point, where the remains were unearthed in 1986 as part of a state-led archaeological investigation that preceded the bulkheading of the property.
The bones ended up in Raleigh after what was then TexasGulf asked for permission to install the bulkhead on the west bank of Bath Creek.
They were sent to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History for evaluation after a ruling earlier this year by Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons. The Smithsonian is expected to announce its complete findings later this year, Duffus said Friday.
Salter’s remains were brought back to eastern North Carolina from Washington, D.C., by Duffus and were met near the Old Ford community with a hearse from Paul Funeral Home.
They were transferred to a pine coffin built by Impressions Marketing Group to resemble an 18th-century coffin similar to the one originally used to bury Salter. The remains were accompanied the final 22 miles to Washington by Duffus and Paul Funeral Home employees Derik Davis and Lawrence Mallard.
“When we crossed the Beaufort County line, I said, ‘Mr. Salter, you are home,’” Duffus said Friday night. “This is an important step in fulfilling Mr. Salter’s dying wish of being decently interred.”
Beaufort County native Davis said he was honored to participate in Salter’s return.
“I grew up hearing about Blackbeard, and I could never have imagined that at some point I would be bringing into town the bones of a man who was a member of his crew,” said Davis. “It feels wonderful to think that I can be a part of something that took place hundreds of years ago on the soil where I live.”
Bobby Hodges, president of Paul Funeral Home, also said he was proud to play a part in the historic moment. The company has donated its time with the internment of Salter’s remains.
“Any time you can help promote the heritage of your community, you are proud to do so,” he said.
Salter’s court-recognized heirs have said they want the remains to be returned to the spot where they were unearthed — Bath’s Beasley Point, a site owned by PotashCorp, which has a phosphate-mining operation near Aurora.
In addition to its widely recognized colonial-era components, some historians and archaeologists contend Beasley Point is the most likely candidate for the Secotan Indian village painted by English watercolorist John White on a 1585 expedition.
Salter’s heirs are expected to meet with PotashCorp officials later this month when they will be in Beaufort County for the temporary burial of their ancestor.
Staff Writer Jonathan Clayborne contributed to this report.