Swansboro is another North Carolina coastal community that has preserved the atmosphere of an earlier time.
The Swansboro region has long been inhabited. Archaeological evidence indicates that Algonquin Indians occupied the surrounding countryside from about 500 a.d. to colonial times. Settlement of the surrounding lands by English colonists began around 1730, when Jonathan Green built a house at the mouth of the White Oak River. Green soon died, and his widow married Theophilus Weeks, who is credited with being the founder of Swansboro. Weeks was appointed inspector of Bogue Inlet and later operated a boardinghouse in the area. About 1770, he began to sell portions of his large property holdings, at which time the town's development began.
Swansboro was incorporated in 1783 and named in honor of Samuel Swann, former Speaker of the North Carolina legislature. Thanks to its proximity to Bogue Inlet and the White Oak River, which were quite navigable in those days, the town soon became an important port. During the Revolutionary War, a number of patriot privateers operated from the harbor, and several saltworks were built nearby. By 1786, Swansboro had assumed such importance that it was declared a separate customs district.
Captain Otway Burns, naval hero of the War of 1812, was born and grew up in Swansboro. In 1818, Burns brought national attention to the port town by constructing the first steamship to float in North Carolina waters. Today, a small park overlooking the water just northeast of Captain Charlie's commemorates this historical figure. The park's star attraction is a bronze statue of Burns.
Swansboro continued to prosper until the Civil War. Shipbuilding and the export of naval stores were the mainstays of the local economy. The Civil War brought an end to the port's boom days. Swansboro was twice occupied by Union forces, in 1862 and 1864. After the war, the naval-stores trade fell off. Eventually, the town's sole industry was commercial fishing.