History of the Belcher Fuller House circa 1851

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The Belcher Fuller House is located on Old Town Lot 24. The lot was first mentioned in 1768 when William Borden Jr. purchased corner Lot 24 and stated therein "next to Lot 23 where my house now stands." In the later part of the century, Borden sold his property to Nathan Fuller.  
From 1816 Resurvey of 
Beaufort by Jonathan Price 
Nathan Fuller's November 1800 will, "To wife Mary the dwelling house where I now live to include the lot 23 in Beaufort being 55 feet wide and twenty poles in length reserving the right of my son Belcher, if he shall think fit to build a house, between my house and Elijah Bells house." (Elijah Bell's house was on Lot 22, now the site of the circa 1857 Sabiston house. Of note, in 1795 court minutes noted that Elijah Bell purchased of half of an island from Peter and Lydia Piver - known today as Piver's Island.)

Mary and Nathan's son, Belcher Fuller Sr. (1776-1828), inherited Lots 23 and 24, including the 1768 William Borden House.
 

In 1828, Belcher Fuller Sr. willed his properties to wife Zilphia Guthrie Fuller (1785-1846) "to dispose of as she sees fit," but also left to sons Belcher Jr. and William "my Lot 23 in common..."    

Zilphia to William 1841
Belcher Fuller to 
Wm. Fisher Bell 1852
<On January 8, 1841, Zilphia deeded properties to son William, including Lots 23 and 24 with all improvements (Deed Book Z, Page 123, written 8 Jan 1841, registered 8 Mar 1847 at Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions). According to handwritten notes by historian Jean Kell, William Fuller relinquished ownership to his brother Belcher.
 
In June 1852, Belcher Fuller Jr. (1817-1870) sold the western portion of Lot 24, corner of Front and Orange Streets, to William Fisher Bell, "a certain half of lot of land...number twenty four Old Town, being the westernmost half of said lot bordering on Orange & Front Street...To have & to hold the said premises..."

1989 Photo
The Belcher Fuller House circa 1851 is plaqued due to the 1852 sale of Lot 24, from Belcher Fuller Jr. (1817-1870) to William Fisher Bell. However, since Belcher Fuller Sr.'s widow Zilphia Guthrie Fuller (1785-1846) gave properties to her son William in 1841, including lots 23 and 24 with all improvements, the house at 301 Front may have been built before that time, perhaps by Zilphia Fuller. After all, Jean Kell noted the house includes adaptations from Asher Benjamin's The Architect or Practical House Carpenter, first published in 1830. (NOTE: Benjamin's books were written to meet the special needs of the country carpenter who had to work without the assistance of an architect.) 

 
In 1858, William F. Bell sold the property to 42-year-old sea captain Thomas Thomas.

Capt.Thomas Thomas 
(1816-1898)
Martha Dudley Murray 
(1819-1893)
Born in Beaufort in February 1816 to Samuel and Mary Thomas, Thomas married Martha Dudley Murray on August 3, 1841. It is believed they had sixteen children; only five survived—Isabella, Charles, Samuel, Thomas Murray and William Alonzo Thomas. 

The 1860 Beaufort Census recorded the following in the house: Thomas 44, Martha 41, Isabella 18, Charles 17, Samuel 13, Murray 10 and 8-year-old Alonzo. At the time, Capt. Thomas’ real estate was valued at $5,600 and his personal estate $23,600. 
 
On April 25, 1862, the Thomas family had a birds-eye view of the shelling during the Union siege of Fort Macon. From then until August 1865, they experienced the Union occupation of Beaufort.
Watching the Siege of Fort Macon 
from Beaufort waterfront April 25,1862   
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

Capt. Thomas home and wharf-front building
Gray's 1880 Map of Beaufort
Captain Thomas was a successful merchant with his own sailing vessels. His wharf-front building on Taylor’s Creek was near the corner of Turner Street. In 1888, ten years before his death, a huge fire destroyed his wharf and numerous other stores and warehouses on the waterfront.
When Capt. Thomas died in 1898, his property was divided among his surviving children and grandchildren; this included many property transactions, re-allotting quarter shares or giving lifetime use or reverting back to siblings.  
1898 Sanborn Map
 
On the 1930 census, 84-year-old daughter Isabella Thomas Midgett (1842-1932), widow of Benjamin Midgette, was noted as owning the home and was living alone; value of home $6000. Members of the Thomas Murray Thomas family were in the home by the 1940 census; they had moved from 215 Front (Morse House). Daughter Laura Esther Thomas (1890-1986) was listed as head of household with her parents, 91-year-old Thomas Murray Thomas (1848-1940) and 86-year-old Laura Pelletier Thomas (1853-1944); value of home $4000.   

During WWII, the house was divided into apartments. During that time, there were two other families in the house.

Thus, Capt. Thomas' granddaughter, Laura Esther Thomas, was the last Thomas to own the home, sold in 1965 to Jean and Copeland Kell. Laura, who never married, died in 1986, at 96, in a nursing home in Morehead City. Laura lived at 301 Front Street for at least 25 years, from 1940 until she went into the nursing home. 
Belcher Fuller House - 1980
Old Port Town, Beaufort NC - Jean Kell
Sign posted for Antique Shop
Beaufort historian, Jean Bruyere Kell, owned the home from 1965 until 1985, where she had an antique shop. Jean described the circa 1850 structure in her book, The Old Port Town, Beaufort, North Carolina. “Built in the Greek Revival style, the house features adaptations from the works of Asher Benjamin, whose books, The Architect or Practical House Carpenter of 1847 [first published 1830] and his Practice of Architecture, seemed to have been used frequently by builders in Beaufort shortly after their publication in New England. The plain base boards, aprons under the windows and the mantles are all from plates in his books. During World War II, with the advent of Cherry Point and the need for housing, this and many other houses in Beaufort were made into apartments. But all the changes did not destroy the high ceilings, wide heart pine floors and other features that indicate the age of the house.”  

NOTE: In 1900, Thomas descendants, Alonzo and Nancy Davis Thomas, Samuel Thomas, Thomas M. and Laura Pelletier Thomas, Benjamin J. and Isabella Thomas Midyette, helped fund the purchase of Piver’s Island and transferred the deed to the government, so that the island could be used to establish a U.S. Fish Commission marine laboratory, one of the first in the country. The island was once known as "Still Island," due to a distillery operated there.  

The 1997 Ruth Little Survey described the house: 2-story, Greek Revival house with low hipped roof, high foundation, and pedimented 2-story entrance porch with boxed Doric posts, turned balustrade and replacement front door. House has plain siding, 9/6 and 6/6 sash. The center-hall plan interior retains simple vernacular Greek Revival finish, including a mantel taken from Asher Benjamin pattern books.

1936 Photo by Francis Benjamin Johnston
Belcher Fuller & Wm. Borden Houses
In his introduction to Porchscapes by Mary Warshaw, architectural historian Tony P. Wrenn wrote, “After the Beaufort survey was completed I returned to Beaufort twice to “house sit” Jean and Copeland Kell’s home. There was very little difference looking out over the Atlantic from views owners had in earlier years. Sitting on the second-level porch, reading, dreaming, having a meal, listening to the pianist who lived downstairs, made almost every day dream time. One could look almost directly south, across Town Marsh and Bird Island Shoals to Fort Macon and the open beach beyond…” Wrenn was most likely referring to the Wm. Borden House next door, but the view was the same.