The Lords Proprietors selected Beaufort, NC as the seat of local government for newly established Carteret County in 1722. Beaufort, settled in 1709, was coincidentally chosen as an official customs port and colonial port of entry. These roles mandated creation of a court to oversee lawsuits and pleas, and to rule on criminal proceedings. The magistrates and clerk would gather four times each year to hear new cases. Small residences and buildings served as the courthouse until an official structure was erected in 1796. Measuring only 25 feet by 30 feet, the courthouse functioned until 1843 when it became a private residence. In 1976, the Beaufort Historical Association bought the courthouse and eventually began its restoration. Today, the courthouse is part of the Beaufort Historic Site and is interpreted for its 19th century role.