St. Paul’s Parish was organized on September 1, 1855, under the guidance of the Rev. David D. Van Antwerp, a U.S. Army chaplain stationed at nearby Fort Macon. Construction of the present church began in early 1857 on a lot that had been purchased by the Vestry of St. Paul’s a year earlier from Abigail Hill. The purchase price was ten dollars.
Today’s visitor will note that the simple box-like pews have been well-used. In fact, they are the original “temporary” hand-hewn pews that, for one reason or another, became permanent.
Consecration of the new building in May, 1861, came during the height of the Civil War. Yet on May 21, political alliances were set aside. Joining the Right Reverend Thomas Atkinson, bishop of North Carolina, were the Rev. Von Antwerp, who was a Union officer, and the Rev. Alfred Augustin Watson, Rector of Christ Church in New Bern, who was an officer of the Confederate Second North Carolina Regiment. That kind of cordial cooperation made for a strong foundation for the new church in Beaufort.
The first St. Paul’s School opened in 1858 with 30 pupils, under the direction of Elizabeth Robinson and Sallie Pasteur. The school closed in 1867, the same year Van Antwerp left St. Paul’s, but reopened in 1899 under the direction of Rector Thomas P. Noe and Mrs. Nannie Geffroy, headmistress. The school operated continuously until 1939.
Today’s parish house, to the west of the church building, occupies the site of the school’s old dormitory and dining hall. In 1951, the rectory was built on the site of the main school building. And in 2017, the rectory was replaced with a modern multi-purpose building, which architecturally replicates the handsome original school building.
The history of St. Paul’s is extensively documented in publications available for viewing through the church office. Our resident church historians, Mamre Wilson and William Moore Davis, have compiled and chronicled this rich history for all time.