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First Steamboat at New Bern

[The Daily Journal, May 28, 1882]

Messrs. Editors: It has not been convenient for me before this date to furnish, as per your request, the bits of the history of Newbern promised. I shall, without any regular order of dates, give in the future such extracts from my memorandums and papers as I imagine would most interest our people, and a least benefit and instruct the younger portion of them.

To begin, I will first give--as our merchants at this time are particularly interested in the subject--the story of the editor, in the Carolina Centinel of April 11th, 1818, in relation to the purchase and arrival of the first steamboat at New Berne.

The Carolina Centinel was a weekly paper published in this town for a number of years by John I. Pasteur. He is still better remembered by those of middle age as a military man--as General Pasteur. He was a natural military man, and his fondness for it had no bounds. He, in the war of 1812, or the last war with England, commanded for a time the marines on the celebrated privateer Snap Dragon, and was with her commander, Otway Burns, in one or more of his hardest fought battles. But for his sudden death, of apoplexy, soon after the war was declared against Mexico, he would have had command of the North Carolina regiment. He had only a day or two previous to his death been notified by Governor Graham that he should give him command of it as Colonel, and it is thought the excitement incident to the information caused apoplexy, as he received the news with great joy, and his heart and soul were at once filled with it. We expect, in the future, to say more of General Pasteur in connection with the Snap Dragon and our newspapers. His widow still lives in our midst as exalted in character as she is venerable in years, and though prevented from walking by a fall some time ago, she can occasionally be seen riding in a chair on our streets.

We have followed Pasteur in spelling Centinel with a C, and have also followed him in thus spelling Newbern--one word, with a small “b,” which is correct. It is immaterial what was intended by our fathers; they had the town incorporated “Newbern,” and no alteration has ever been made in any subsequent amendments to the town or city charter, and to this day it stands “Newbern.” I will allude to this again in connection with our city streets. Now for the story.

The editor of the Carolina Centinel says:

The steamboat Norfolk (lately purchased by a company of gentlemen in this town for $53,000), arrived here yesterday afternoon from Norfolk, Va. This beautiful boat, intended to ply between Newbern and Elizabeth City, for the conveyance of passengers, has accommodations not inferior to any other in the United States, and is propelled by machinery constructed on the safest and most improved plan. She will, we understand, make two trips a week to Elizabeth City, commencing on Monday next.

Persons traveling to the North or South, who consult ease, expedition, or economy, cannot but duly appreciate the advantages which this route affords when they understand that the whole distance from Baltimore to Fayetteville (including only 160 miles of land carriage), may be passed over in FIVE days. The necessary expenses on this route will be nearly equal to those on the old established stage line; but there will at least be a saving of ONE day in point of time--and “Time,” says Dr. Franklin, “is money.” Besides the frequent shiftings of baggage from stage to stage, with the trouble and anxiety attending it--the deprivation of rest--the being squeezed on a narrow seat, with scarcely room to breathe--frequently roused from the dinner or breakfast table before the last mouthful is fairly swallowed, or, in other words, left to the choice of starving or staying behind--all these inconveniences, with many others, will be in a great measure avoided by traveling on this route. Conveyance from this to Wilmington may be readily obtained by those desirous of going to that place.

When we consider that in three days a person may go from Newbern to Baltimore, that in four days he may reach Philadelphia, and in less than five after leaving Newbern be landed in New York (with less than sixty miles land carriage), it appears almost incredible--but a few years since would have been deemed utterly impracticable.

Much credit is due to the gentlemen who have engaged in this useful undertaking, and we sincerely hope that the public spirit and enterprise they have so eminently manifested may meet not only with a just but munificent reward.

Again, we find in the same number of the Carolina Centinel as follows:


The steamboat Norfolk, intended to ply between Newbern and Elizabeth City, on Pasquotank river, is now in operation. The size and equipment of the Norfolk, the power of her engine--on the plan of Messrs. Botton & Watt--and the elegant style of her cabins and furniture, in an eminent degree combine safety and convenience, and will ensure to her passengers all the advantages of the most speedy and pleasant mode of traveling.

Stages, to correspond with the departure of the Norfolk, will run from Fayetteville to Newbern, and from Elizabeth City to Norfolk, twice a week; and the arrival of the passengers at Norfolk will be so regulated as to admit their early departure in the steamboat Virginia, for Baltimore. The fare of passengers will be fifteen dollars from Newbern to Elizabeth City. Carriages and horses will be carried on deck at moderate charges.

The Norfolk will leave Newbern Wednesday morning and arrive at Elizabeth the same evening; leave Elizabeth Thursday morning, arrive at Newbern same evening; leave Newbern Saturday morning, arrive at Elizabeth same evening; leave Elizabeth Monday morning, and arrive at Newbern same evening till further notice.

The distance from Fayetteville to Newbern is one hundred and twenty miles, making land traveling from Fayetteville to Norfolk one hundred and sixty miles; and the route from Fayetteville to Norfolk may be performed in four days.


April 11th, 1818.

And again, May 2d, 1818:

The steamboat Norfolk arrived here on Tuesday last from Elizabeth, having performed the run in 23 hours. She left this place on Thursday morning with seven passengers and three horses. In consequence of severe gales, which have been more frequent and of larger continuance than are common at this season of the year, the steamboat, for the last two weeks, has not been able to perform her regular trip, but in consequence of the present arrangement, having but one trip to perform a week it is confidently expected that the proprietors will be enabled to fulfill their engagements to the public.

May 2d, 1818, the following notice appeared in the same paper:


The anxiety which the owners of the Norfolk felt to afford every facility and convenience to travelers, induced them to attempt to run the boat four times a week between Newbern and Elizabeth City, but on trial, they find that although the thing is possible, it would be attended with uncertainty and occasion disappointment, they have concluded therefore to alter the run of the Norfolk as follows:

Leave Newbern every Thursday morning and arrive at Elizabeth City on Friday; leave Elizabeth City every Saturday evening, and arrive at Newbern on Monday morning. Stages at each end of the line will run to correspond with the arrival of the boat.

This regulation it is expected, will prevent any delay or disappointment in future, and travelers are requested to make their arrangements accordingly.

The fare of passengers will be fifteen dollars ($15). Children and servants half price.

There are good accommodations for horses, which will be carried at the moderate charge of $7.50 each.

The public may be assured that every attention will be paid to their comfort and accommodation.


Newbern, May 9th, 1818.

The printers of the Evening Post in New York, the Carolina Observer in Fayetteville, the Courier and Times in Charleston, the Herald in Augusta, and the Museum in Savannah are requested to give the above one insertion each in their respective papers, and transmit their accounts to this office for settlement.

You will observer here, Mr. Editor, that our fathers were much more liberal in advertising than their sons--otherwise, too, they were fully up to the times in which they lived in public spirit and enterprise.

Fulton’s first steamer Clermont, made, it will be recollected, the voyage from New York to Albany in 1807. His ship of war Fulton was launched in 1814, only four years before the citizens of this town could boast of a steamer that could run as rapidly and as safely as the steamers now on the Elizabeth City route.

The Norfolk could not be sustained, however, in her day, with all the effort and energy of her owners, and I will tell what became of her, or let Stephen Chester do so, in verse in our next communication. Chester was by many believed to be Newbern’s best poet. He was not a native, but was the intimate and associate of such citizens as Hawks and Badger and Donnell, the Gastons, the Bryans, the Stanlys, the Grahams, the Shepards, the Blackledges, the Spaights, and many others of nearly equal ability and standing in our town and State--men that would have given reputation and honor to any country for learning, talent and genius. D.

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