This small quaint seaport has roots back to April 7, 1730 when Isaac and Jonathan Green Sr. purchased from Ebenezer Harker "a certain plantation and track of land containing by estimation 441 acres situate lying and being in ye Carterett in ye county of province of aforsaid being ye west side of ye mouth off White Oak River." By 1771 Theophilus Weeks started a town on his plantation, laying out a plat and selling lots. Formerly known as Bogue, Week's Point, The Wharf and New Town, the town was officially designated by the North Carolina General Assembly on May 6, 1783. Above photo courtesy Jack Dudley . Swansboro - A Pictorial Tribute . North Carolina State Archives.
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PETER RINGWARE HOUSE circa 1778 - 209 Main

1962 Photo
NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES (Daniel Pezzoni 1989): Peter Ringware House circa 1778 - 209 Main Street. Possibly the oldest house in Onslow County, the Ringware House is a Georgian/Federal style five-bay house with engaged two-tier front and back porches, a large first floor room on one side of a center hall and a pair of rooms sharing a chimney on the other side. Most original interior and exterior hardware and woodwork survive. Early 19th century one-story rear kitchen and dining room, formerly semi-detached. Ringware was a captain. His house was owned by many prominent Swansboro citizens throughout the 19th century. Archaeological explorations undertaken in the 1960s suggested a late 18th century date of construction. (NR)

1962 image courtesy Ora Smith and NC Archives
A portion of the history, in documents provided by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, states:

"By 1770, Theophilus Weeks was selling lots in the town. The survey crew completed the plat of New Town in 1772, and the document was duly filed in the county courthouse.

"Archelaus Weeks [the second son of Theophilus Weeks], inherited lot 23, New Town, in 1774. By then, the community showed signs of becoming the center of trade for the White Oak River plantations. Consequently, Archelaus was able to dispose of Lot 23 to William Wrenn for the tidy sum of £20. Wrenn resold the lot to Benjamin Reaves, the bricklayer, in January, 1778.

"Reaves apparently had financial troubles, for Archelaus Weeks was able to buy the lot back in the summer of 1778. Prior to this no record mentions any improvements on lot 23. However, when Archelaus sold the lot again in September, 1778, he exacted £60 “current money” from the purchaser. Considering the relative effects of inflation and the general value of a home in the 1770s, it is entirely reasonable to assume that Archelaus Weeks completed the ample two story home on Lot 23, Swansboro, the structure generally known as Capt. Peter Ringware’s house. Certainly Archelaus Weeks* had both the money and the audacity to build a house in the third year of the Revolutionary War.

“Captain Peter Ringware (Rainguenoire), a ship's master, married Sarah Greenbarge of Newport, Rhode Island, in Onslow County, 28 August 1778. On 15 September, Ringware received the deed of sale for Lot 23, New Town…Bogue Inlet was eminently suitable for a base for shallow draft privateers, who were able to evade British warships by darting into shoal waters whenever any frigate or sloop threatened to fire a shot across their bow. Privateering was the single profitable business venture in North Carolina during the Revolution. Peter Ringware had £60 to spend on a home at the time when his contemporaries were without income. Unless Ringware held a letter of marque, his sudden wealth would be inexplicable. [In 1782 a New Bern privateer, the Governor Burke, was named for Thomas Burke; Peter Rainguenoire was her captain with William Savage owner.]**

Contemporary Photo of Ringware House
“America’s first years of independence were trying. Hard money was scarce, and currency had been inflated beyond any actual value. The Articles of Confederation were no guarantee against foreclosure. North Carolina’s policy for settling claims against debtors was to seize the debtor’s lands and chattel and sell them at auction. Peter Ringware discovered this when Mary Pitts, the widow, seized his house and sold it at a Sheriff’s sale in 1784. The house and lot brought £72 ten shillings at auction on 27 August 1784. The high bidder was Basil Grant, the Sheriff’s cousin. Three days later, Sheriff Reuben Grant purchased Ringware’s house from his cousin for £72 ten shillings. Such a slight and profitable irregularity was not uncommon in those days.
“The Grants held the property until 1810. Solomon Grant, Reuben’s son, sold the house to Isaac Lipsey in the autumn of 1810. In a series of transactions during the War of 1812, Brice Bender became the owner of Ringware’s house. His will, probated in 1816, specified that Lot 23, Swansboro, was to be sold. The next transaction on the property occurs in 1834 when Elijah Wade sold the home to James W. Newbold. Newbold overextended himself, for during the Panic of 1837, he sold his interest in Lots 23 and 24 to James E.S. Duffy. Duffy disposed of the then sixty-year-old home and lot in 1838 on a deed of gift to Daniel Sanders.

“Sometime between 1838 and 1847, the house was sold to William Pugh Ferrand, the dealer in naval stores. Ferrand was the wealthiest man in Swansboro. He died in the house in 1847. His son, William Jr., sold the property to Daniel A. Hargett in 1850. The Hargett clan held the home for 66 years, considerably longer than any other occupant. Etta Mattocks, the last Hargett girl, sold the home to J.M. [James Mack] Jones and his wife [Mary Mattocks “Minnie” Ward, daughter of Hester Gibson and George Washington Ward] in 1916. [So, Etta was selling it to her cousin’s husband.] The Jones family donated Captain Ringware’s house to the Swansboro  Historical Association in 1961."

First Floor Plan - Stanley South 1962
ARCHITECTURAL STUDY OF RINGWARE’S HOUSE

“The Ringware house is one of the three or four surviving North Carolina “Quaker” [floor plan] houses. In the early 18th century a number of Quakers immigrated to North Carolina. These people settled in the Albemarle region before 1710. The earliest two story homes in the Colony follow the floor plan laid out by William Penn for the first town houses in Philadelphia. Each house was to possess two parlors, a central passage, and a great room on the main floor, and three comparable rooms separated by a central passage on the second floor.

“Ringware’s house rests upon a full English basement of ballast stone. A large soap kitchen type fireplace exists in the north wall, joined to the outside free-standing chimney of the north elevation. The south chimney, which is enclosed, and which serves the corner fireplace in the parlors and bedrooms, is supported by an arched ash pit in the basement. Originally, the basement had a wooden floor supported by pine sills. Mr. Stanley South, staff archeologist for Colonial Brunswick Town, discovered this flooring underneath an early 19th century lime mortar floor in January 1962.

“ The main floor of the house possesses much of its original heart pine trim. The Great Room mantelpiece is intact, although the top two panels of the three panel overmantel are missing. The entablature, or ornamental molding around the junction of the ceiling and wall is of modified Tuscan Order. The chair rail throughout the house is of the ballustrade type, common before 1760 and rather unusual in a home built in the fourth quarter of the 18th century.

“The stair hall on the main floor encloses a closed stringer stairway, ascending in one long run and two short runs to the second floor. The stairs possess unique turnings, the balusters and newel being turned in a crude double vase pattern, without rings. The general vertical emphasis of the first floor, most apparent in the stair hall, stems from the great ceiling height of the first floor, 10’ 7 1-2” on a floor  plan of 36’x20’.

“The second floor is a duplicate of the first. However, the emphasis on the second floor is horizontal, rather than vertical. The first floor windows are nine panes high, while the second floor windows are 10 inches shorter at nine panes over six panes. Secondly, the second floor ceiling height is merely eight feet.

“The exterior of the house is of six window openings, on the front and rear elevations. Ringware’s house seems to have had a two-story porch of undetermined dimensions across the front elevation, and a single story shed porch across the rear elevation. The present double gallery porches in front and rear are 19th century additions. The present rear porch was partially enclosed prior to 1900, adding four small rooms to the floor plan.   

AN EXAMINATION OF THE RINGWARE HOUSE on Lot 23 in Swansboro, N.C.
by Stanley South, January 9-10, 1962
Survey Drawing by Ed Turberg
Two Windows in Garret

In January of 1962, at the request of Tucker Littleton on behalf of the Swansboro Historical Association, Stanley South examined the basement and other features of the Ringware House. A portion of his report:

“The central section of the house measures 20 by 35 feet and has a full basement beneath. The weatherboarding on this part of the house has the bead molding characteristic of 18th century weatherboarding. The weatherboarding on the two porches does not have this feature, indicating that they were added at a later time.

“When the porches were added, alternating boards on the original ends of the house were removed, and a new non-beaded board added in order to avoid a seam at the junction of the porches with the main body of the house. The beaded weatherboards are fastened to the house with hand-made nails, but the porch additions are fastened with cut nails…since cut nails came into use after 1800, it is evident these porches were added after that time.

“On the end of the original house there are two windows in the garret that have the characteristic molding around the frames, but the windows on the floors below have no molding of the type characteristic of the 18th century.  It appears that the original house had no windows except the garret windows in the ends of the house, depending on the windows on each side for light. However, when the porches were added, light was cut off, and windows had to be added in the ends to furnish light for the rooms. However, when the shutters were fastened onto the newly installed windows, hand-made pintles were driven into the wall to support them. This fact, plus the fact that the laths were hand split on the addition, plus the fact that the cut nails were of the type with a hand-shaped head, combine to indicate that the porch additions were made in the early decades of the 19th century.

“From the foregoing observations it appears that the house was built during the last quarter of the 18th century. At this time it must have had a small porch at both the front and rear, which was removed with the addition of the large porches in the 19th century. 

EXCAVATION OF THE BASEMENT

“The basement when acquired by the Historical Association was filled with boxes of junk of various kinds, and this was carried out by Mr. Littleton and associates and some objects such as bottles, medicine boxes with pills, etc., that may prove useful later in a display of 19th century objects, were saved.

“…This basement, with its ballast stone foundation wall one foot thick had evidently been used as a room at some time, and may have served as a kitchen.

“…At one point a trap opening can be seen into the overhead room, that evidently was once the position of a stairs to the basement kitchen…this stairs was perhaps an original feature of the house during the use of the basement as an integral part of the activities of the house.

“When excavation was begun to remove the accumulated soil in the basement, a white lime floor was found an inch below the surface, so the soil was troweled to remove the deposit to the floor level. It was discovered that this floor extended under the supporting timber structure in the center of the room, indicating that the floor was poured before the supporting structure as installed. This plaster type floor was soft, and care had to be used not to cut through it with the trowel. At one section near the fireplace the plaster layer was removed, and rotten wooden floorboards were discovered running parallel with the existing house. It became evident, therefore, that the original floor in the basement had been of wood…this contact with the soil probably resulted in rotting of the floor, resulting in the necessity of pouring a lime-mortar floor.

Stanley South's Note
Stanley South's Note
“…All objects recovered from the floor level of the basement would date no earlier than the early part of the 19th century. The earliest china was a fragment of a mocha cream pitcher dating in the first quarter of the 19th century. The earliest glass was two small mold-blown bottles, one with the words ‘Dr. Beery’s Dead Shot Vermifuge,’ a worm medicine, and the other with the words, ‘Dr. McMunn’s Elixir of Opium,’ another early 19th century medicine…Also found in the basement were two or three pipestems of the 18th century type, but these were also used into the 19th century, so probably date from the early 1800s.” Included in Stanley South's January 1962 report were two sheets of scribbled note.

March 2012 Painting by Beaufort artist Mary Warshaw

Elsie and Harold Fonville while "courting" at the backside corner of the Ringware House--January 1947. Elsie Rhodes lived in the house at the time and took care of Minnie Jones. The Jones were parents of Kathleen Jones Bell, who taught piano lessons both at school and in her Swansboro home. Her husband John Bell was the only policeman in Swansboro at the time.

Information and photo were contributed by Sadie Fonville McCausley.

*Archelaus Weeks Will Abstract: Weeks, Archelaus. June 4, 1778--Abagail Weeks qualified, lived in Craven Co., N.C. Willed to wife Abagail, one third part of estate (if she pregnant the estate divided into four equal parts), both real and personal, and my negro woman Hannah is to go to daughter Elizabeth as part of her third (or fourth as it might be); to son-in-law Gorden Ricketson, one three year old heifer; a lot in Newbern sold and pay my debts with money therefrom. Exrs: wife Abagail, friend Emanuel Simmons, esq., and Isaac Burnet. Wts: Lemuel Hatch, Edmond Howard, Edward Twiddy. Source: Records of Jones County, North Carolina, 1779-1868 Vol. I, page 387.

**Documentation of sea captain Peter Rainguenoire: 
  • Casuel: French sloop, Capt Rainguenoire, entered the Bay of Biscay from Newbern, NC, 6 Oct 1777. Source: American Maritime Units and Vessels and Their Supporters during the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783 (including French and Spanish) by Granville W.  Hough.
  • “In the Summer and Fall of the year 1778 there were marked activities in North Carolina in constructing vessels of a variety of types—some being well-armed ships built by the State, some others being privateers sailing under commissions known as “letters of marquee and reprisal,” a third class being fast-sailing small boats used for slipping through the British blockade and importing articles needed by the colonists (their cargoes ranging from cannon and gunpowder to French finery and West Indian rum), and still another type of craft being “row-galleys,” used for river fights and for unloading American ships which were too large to come into the inland waterways. Among the North Carolina ships of that period were the King Tammany, commanded by Captain Sylvanus Pendleton (who later commanded the eighteen-gun ship Bellona); the Pennsylvania Farmer, commanded by Captain James Ducaine; the General Washington, commanded by Captain John Forster; the Joseph, commanded by Captain Emperor Moseley; and the Polly, commanded by Captain John Chase. Then there were the Lilly, whose name was later changed to the Caswell (Captain Willis Wilson) and the Johnston (Captain Edward Tinker)—these ships became namesakes of the Revolutionary leaders Richard Caswell and Samuel Johnston. A similar compliment was paid Thomas Burke in 1782 by naming a New Bern privateer the Governor Burke, Peter Rainguenoire being her captain and William Savage owner. In thanking Mr. Savage for this token of friendship, Governor Burke wrote: “I am sorry you have determined to give your vessel a name so unfortunate as that you mentioned, and should be much concerned if her fate should in any way resemble his after whom you intend to call her—which is to have laboured much for the public, to his own irretrievable disadvantage.”
The North Carolina Booklet, Great Events in North Carolina History
Published Quarterly by The North Carolina Society, Daughters of the Revolution, Raleigh, NC
July 1916 Volumes 16-17, Page 49-50
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  •  William Savage to Gov. Thos. Burke, Edenton, 24 February 1782, Colonial Records of North Carolina, Vol. 16




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