For almost 200 years, sailing ships entering Beaufort Inlet and Bulkhead Channel into Taylor's Creek have viewed the Duncan House anchoring the west of the Beaufort waterfront. Built by James Davis in 1815, Davis sold the original east side in 1820 to Captain Benjamin Tucker Howland; the selling price was $1000. Twelve years later, Captain Howland, father of Elicia Howland Duncan, sold the house and his part of their business to his son-in-law Thomas Duncan IV—all for only $600. Sometime after 1832, Thomas Duncan IV added the western half of the house. The lower level was built using several ships’ masts as supporting pillars. This level was used as a ship chandlery and store, patronized by visiting ships as well as local residents; it became known as “Duncan’s Store.”

Duncan House & Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Fort Macon

With the current focus on saving the 1815 Duncan House and the Sesquicentennial of 1862 Fort Macon, it is important to remember that the Duncan family had a birds-eye view of the shelling at the fort on April 25, 1862. 
At that time, the Duncan House was only 47-years old, located just west of the Custom House. The Duncan House was, thus, one of the first sights viewed by ships entering Beaufort Harbor.

Fort historian Paul Branch wrote, "the deep rumble of cannon fire shook and rattled the houses in Beaufort and Morehead City as just across the harbor Union and Confederate soldiers fought for possession of the fort. The story of that long-ago time is one of the most dramatic episodes in Carteret County history and is one part of the most tragic period in America history."

Watching the Siege of Fort Macon from Beaufort waterfront - April 25, 1862 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
1854 Sketch of Beaufort Harbor
After the inauguration of President Andrew Johnson, Chief Justice Salmon Portland Chase (1808-1873), appointed by President Lincoln, was determined to visit the southern cities, to learn as much as possible, from actual observation, the true condition of the country. Aboard revenue cutter Wayanda, Chief Justice Chase, with orders issued by President Johnson, twenty-eight-year-old Whitelaw Reid, after an invitation and pass from the president, accompanied the party. Beaufort was the first stop on this southern journey.

In those first days of May 1865, Whitelaw Reid wrote, "we rounded to at a crazy old wharf, climbed up a pair of rickety steps...and stood in the town of Beaufort, North Carolina. In front of us was the Custom House—a square, one-story frame building, perched upon six or eight posts—occupied now by a Deputy Treasury Agent. A narrow strip of sand, plowed up by a few cart wheels, and flanked by shabby-looking old frame houses, extended along the water front, and constituted the main business street of a place that, however dilapidated and insignificant, must live in the history of the struggle just ended. Near the water's edge was a small turpentine distillery, the only manufacturing establishment of the place."