Salter laid to rest — temporarily

Published 12:54 am Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Staff Writer

The burial ceremony was conducted with all the usual solemnity due an occasion that marks the passing of a loved one.
The key difference was this loved one didn’t die a few days ago — he passed away in January 1735.
Remains believed to be those of colonial-era cooper, merchant, assemblyman — and, perhaps, Blackbeard the pirate’s crewman — Edward Salter were reinterred Sunday afternoon in Beaufort County.
Gathered before the reburial at Washington’s Paul Funeral Home, with a dozen or so known Salter heirs and others, Father Eric Zubler of Bath’s St. Thomas Episcopal Church said a prayer.
“May angels surround him and saints welcome him in peace,” Zubler said of Salter.
Shortly after the prayer, the remains were transported by hearse to the burial site.
At the graveside, Zubler and the heirs tossed handfuls of dirt on top of the coffin, which was made of Beaufort County pine and donated by Impressions Marketing Group of Washington.
The funeral was donated by Paul Funeral Home.
As the heirs sat under a funeral tent at the graveside, Zubler approached them to say that, in looking at them, he saw family members who might not have come together but for the rediscovery of Salter’s remains.
“For you all are related to a great person, a colonial personage, Edward Salter,” he said, “and that is something to celebrate.”
Bible verses were read by Tom Thompson, Beaufort County’s chief economic developer, and one of the heirs, the Rev. John Stephen Park of Fort Wayne, Ind.
Kevin Duffus, a Raleigh researcher and historian who speaks for the heirs, gave a eulogy, the coffin before him draped in a British flag of the colonies.
“Our nation was founded on a foundation of ideals built upon the dreams, and bones, of our ancestors,” Duffus said. “Our freedom, our security and the comforts of life we enjoy today, are due in large measure to the forgotten grandfathers of our nation, men such as Edward Salter of Bath. Their final resting places must always be honored, protected and preserved as hallowed ground. Their mortal remains are sacred.”
The remains were disinterred from a brick-lined tomb roughly a quarter-century ago as part of archaeological investigation into the Beasley Point area in Bath. The investigation was initiated after Texasgulf Chemical Co. hatched plans to build a bulkhead on the property. Begun in 1985, the investigation was ended in 1986, according to county officials.
Salter’s remains were tucked away in a state storage facility for years, until a group of heirs and history buffs successfully petitioned the court to have the bones returned to Beaufort County.
Now that the bones have gone back to ground, at least for a while, the heirs and county officials are urging PotashCorp, Texasgulf’s successor corporation, to allow Salter to be permanently reinterred on the Beasley Point land, which the company owns.
Toward that end, one of the descendants will meet with PotashCorp officials Thursday, Duffus related after Sunday’s ceremony.
Before the ceremony, several of Salter’s heirs were overheard expressing their collective wish that the remains be reburied at Beasley Point, exactly where they were unearthed, and that the family and the public be permitted to visit the grave.
In his eulogy, Duffus referred to the Pamlico River, which has sustained life here for centuries, and to Salter, whose life’s journey ended on Bath Creek.
“What debt might we owe this man who established his home near the banks of the ancient Pamlico three centuries ago?” he asked. “How can we possibly begin to comprehend and appreciate the significance of Edward Salter’s life, and his contribution to the community we live in today? Oh, how things have changed since this man walked these shores.”