New Bern-Craven County
Public Library

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Historical Reminiscence

[From: New Bern Weekly Journal, December 6, 1904]

Historical Reminiscence
Colonel John D. Whitford Visits and Tells of Colonial Bellair.

A gentleman at the door wishes to speak to you. Who, me? Yes. Please tell him I’ll be there in a moment. Good morning, sir, come in. Thank you, no not now. You do not know me? Why not? It is Graham Richardson, yes, and now hear me you will take dinner with us Thanksgiving. I’ll tell them you are coming, yes, you will. But I don’t know that I can have the pleasure. Do you hear that! Yes you must. A thousand thanks for your kind remembrance, Mr. Richardson, and if I do go look for me at Bellair at 12 o’clock sharp, or not at all. Good day.”

The above explains itself and carried me out to Bellair.

“There is given unto Bellair the things of earth, which time hath bent
A spirit’s feeling; and where he hath lent
His hand, but broke his scythe, there is a power
And magic in that ruined battlement
For which the palace of the present hour must yield its pomp
And wait till ages be its dower.”

Both truth and beauty is in the above sentiment. Time hallows whatever he touches and where we see the traces of his finger we are ever ready to pause and linger with feelings of deep veneration while contemplating the deeds of departed long, long ago over the unknown river.

If associations of a humbler character, than those the poet designed whose lines are quoted above, yet not less interesting to us, are those excited while viewing colonial mansion at Bellair, now the home of Mr. Graham Tull Richardson, one of Craven county’s most energetic, hospitable and valued farmers. The building is brick two stories above a basement, perhaps 8 feet in height. It has a front of 60 feet and depth of 20 feet.The original portico in front has been enlarged by Mr. Richardson’s father, who purchased Bellair in about 1834. Some years ago he enlarged the accommodations for his family by erecting a convenient frame building adjoining the tenement on its north side, otherwise than the changed mentioned here, the house stands as erected previous to the Revolutionary War, and is now in excellent condition. It can be plainly seen most, if not all, the material used in the construction of the mansion came from England, even down to the brick in the hearths.

This house recalls the past to the present, and in imagination brings before us those once so prominent in North Carolina, as well as in this section of the State, now fast passing out of memory. It is well known that Bellair with its six hundred acres of land is on the Washington road about six miles west of New Bern.

It was once the home of John Fonville a very prominent citizen of Craven when the county extended from the Carteret County line below New Bern to the Wake county eastern line not far from where the city of Raleigh was located.

The mansion at Bellair in the time of John Fonville was one of the three brick dwellings then within the limits of the large county of Craven, one was in the town of New Bern erected in 1761 by a Mr. Carthy whose daughter was the step-mother of Miss Custis, at this time residing in her house on the ground, where once stood the brick building which was destroyed by fire. The small brick house now standing on the same lot which was the kitchen was also erected in 1761.

Miss Custis boasts of having passed through the war of 1812-15 with England, and though disabled from walking by an accident a few years ago, has still a mind well stored with information. Her father was Dr. Peter Custis, a near relative of the Custis whose widow Gen. Washington married. Her grandfather on the maternal side was Dr. Edward Pasteur, the second of Spaight in the duel with John Stanly of which we may say something more hereafter.

The third brick building in the days we alluded to, was Madam Moore’s who gloried in being an aristocrat of the deepest kind. This place was better known afterwards as the Spaight Mansion. The elder Gov. Spaight following as the proprietor of it, his son the younger Governor following him and died there soon after 18??. It was burned in the Civil War.

[illegible lines too dark to read] of New Bern on Brices Creek near Trent River.

That country over there and at Gov. Nash’s place and about Pembroke, was settled by immigrants through the efforts of Lawson before New Bern was by De Graffenreid himself. The country on both sides of Trent River then as far down as New Bern was known as Pembroke.

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