Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bath Festival May 16th 2009

Today was a big day in Bath and a total surprise for me and my friend as we drove up Hwy 264 to see the sights. We visited Bath, Lake Mattamuskeet, Gul Rock (home of the deer and bears), and a host of other little places scattered amongst the miles of highway... really good highway I might add. The best part was the lack of traffic. When you're used to young students with a few short years of driving experience, it's a real pleasure to find a lonely stretch of road.

As Julie and I came into Bath, we found that the Bath Festival had just begun and we spent the next few hours walking along Main and Craven. There's quite a few historical markers in that block, including one for Mr John Lawson, the quite famous Surveyor General who traveled the Carolina's, recording his travels for all of us to glimpse the past.

He just had to go and get himself tortured and killed by the Tuscarora. Well, he left a legend. Just like his neighbor there... Edward Teach. Speaking of Teach... he may have found it ironic that a Christian singer performed on the front porch of the man who claimed to "come straight from hell."

Bath is a really small, quaint community that seemed to come alive with the festival that included arts and crafts vendors and some good smellin' eats. The excellent view off the point gives you the impression of a great harbor for a pirate periauger or two.

After the festival, we were chased off by the rain. Continuing east on 264, we came across the road north to Lake Mattamuskeet... a very large inland wildlife refuge. It's also a really big lake!

From there, we were directed to a seven mile long road that ended at the Pamlico sound. I could've sworn it was the ocean if I didn't know better. This very remote location was the Gul Rock Wildlife Preserve. According to the genealogical information I have on the Mattamuskeet Indian Brooks, Stephen and Mary Farrow Brooks are buried here... somewhere! lol Maybe I'll find them next trip...

Still, it was a very pleasant day and we almost avoided the rain completely. Almost...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A page from my website on the Brooks of Coastal NC

Joseph Brooks I

b. ?

d. 22 November 1718


Joseph Brooks II

Stephen Brooks

Joseph Brooks I or “Sr.” is known primarily due to his notoriety as a member of Blackbeard’s pirate crew. There’s no way to know where or when Joseph joined the infamous Edward Drummond, Teach or Thatch… whatever was his real name was… we call him “Blackbeard”. But, we know that his son, Joseph was a part of the crew as well.

There is a tradition amongst the descendants of Thomas Brooks, b.1738 Hyde Co, NC that now live in Tennessee, that Thomas’ father was Stephen Brooks b. c1703 and that his father was this Joseph Brooks, the man of notoriety here mentioned.

It is a wild thought, but not without some merit. It is not popularly known that “Outer Bankers” were a surly sort, prone to living by beachcombing after shipwrecks and even creating disaster in order to assist the shipwrecks’ occurrence. There’s no direct evidence, of course. For example, I don’t write down everything I don’t want known. I’m sure they didn’t either… maybe even tended toward extreme privacy. The evidence lay in the effects their activities will have on peripheral events. Studying those will take lots of evidence to make the point and time to sift through it. I’m sure that, given the heavy amount of research (see ) into the Brooks and other related families of Mattamuskeet Indians and their relationship to the Croatan (possible descendants of the Roanoke Colony left on the Carolina Shores in 1587, that more information will come to light.

One of the purposes of that “Lost Colony” was to provide an English presence in the New World to put pressure on the expansion of Spanish colonization, at that time, primarily south of Carolina. They were essentially a force of mostly fighting men that had a number of encounters with the Spanish before settling on Roanoke, where they built elaborate fortifications that had future plans for cannon. In many views, this colony’s underlying purpose was to raid Spanish shipping. I suppose the English would have preferred the term “disrupt”. One author of a recent book called it “Ralegh’s Pirate Colony”.

If the members of that colony had survived after 1587 by living and breeding with the native Croatan, there would have been signs in their descendants such as oddly European-like eye color, hair color and the ability to “write in the book,” or use writing. On one occasion, later Europeans witnessed all of these things among the Croatan (or Hatteras) Indians when they began to re-colonize Carolina in the mid 1650’s. Only 75 or 80 years had passed since the colony was left by Ralph Lane and John White as they left to obtain supplies from England. Unfortunately, the famed “Spanish Armada” of ships attacked England at that time and delayed their departure by three years. What they found upon their return was the now well-known story of “CROATOAN” carved on a post to indicate where they had gone. The pre-arranged alert signal of a cross carved above the name was not there, so they apparently went in peace. Obviously, their supplies dwindled and they could not survive on their own, later to be taken into the local tribe of friendly Croatan Indians. That’s the supposition, anyway. Any number of unknown factors may have come into play.

Descendants of these “pirates” and the native peoples of Carolina would have lived an existence barely above what most Europeans of the time would have thought of as primitive. Yet, many of them took Christian names and had taken up the Christian religion, in which the first contact with them had revealed a strong interest. It’s purely hypothetical, but it wouldn’t be difficult for those colonist/Indians to re-infiltrate English society as the Indians themselves proved possible. Lake Mattamuskeet in now Hyde Co, NC is populated by such descendants even today. As well as Cape Hatteras, around the town of Buxton… site of the original Croatan village as seen by the colonists in 1587. As well as the residents of Chocowinity and Free Union that sparked the interest of the folks at

Would it be such a far cry from “Pirate Colonist” in 1587 to “Pirate-Indian, now Colonist again” in 1650? It seems perfectly natural to me, especially in light of the increased presence of the English in a land that used to belong to the Indian… or, rather in their view… the “domain” of their god. To them, it must have seemed like an invasion and I’m sure that any colonist’s children born as an Indian and raised as an Indian, whether or not he could “write in the book” would have seen it the same way. To the sea-faring folk of these times, piracy would have been a natural result of the distaste, if not outright hatred for the English. Kind of echoes the American Revolution, huh? As was the case with Blackbeard’s crew and many crews like it, I’m sure that their noble original intentions fell to lesser, more base affairs. The sight of “booty” was probably enough. Invasion led to revolution led to piracy. History is replete with this theme.

Would it be so hard to believe that Indian descendants like the Brooks of Currituck & Hyde Co’s, NC became members of this short-lived and little understood profession? It was a way to make your living in a time when there was little authority to tell you otherwise. Besides, England condoned it… so long as the intended victims weren’t English. In this case, unfortunately, they were. England had to send Lt. Maynard of the Royal Navy to “remind” the locals of the need for civilization. Even Gov. Eden of North Carolina had Blackbeard as his guest there in New Bern. Indeed, was somewhat “partnered” with him according to most historians.

We have to remember that North Carolina was wild at this time. There was little “civilized” behavior in even the Governor. Imagine what the average colonist must have been like and especially the “lower-classed” Indians, for which most English had great distrust. A lawless life probably looked perfectly natural to them. But, the Colony of North Carolina was growing fast and Indian ways and Piracy could no longer be tolerated, as Joseph Brooks and his son found out in 1718.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blackbeard's Home Away From Home

Bath, NC is the state's oldest incorporated town, founded in 1705. Bath is not a big place, although several people have chosen the quiet little getaway town as their home during their retirement on Catnip Point, on the left after crossing Bath Town Creek on Highway 92. If you turn right on main, you will find the historic district with older homes and businesses on the waterfront. There must be a half dozen historic markers within a block of Craven and Main streets.

The most popular attraction of this little community is parked right beside one of those historical markers on Main street just before a curve to the left that opens up a magnificent vista of the mouth of Bath Town Creek where it opens into Pamlico Sound. This is a great spot to view all water traffic in and out of the creek, including a fairly deep harbor facing a small cliff where you will find the town itself as well as a small, reddish plank cabin next to a marker that says "Edward Teach."

Mr. Teach was obviously a well-respected resident of Bath at one time. Governor Charles Eden himself even married the middle-aged Teach to a young slip of a girl, thought to be Mary Ormond. Mr. Teach had a reputation in the small, remote North Carolina community. However, his reputation outside of Bath was somewhat notorious, Teach having the habit of plying coastal waters in search of misadventure as the cutthroat blaggard "Blackbeard" the pirate!

Fascinating is his home in such a prominent place within Bath and his intimate relationship with the governor of the colony as well as the governor's custom's agent, Tobias Knight. After all, upon Teach's death in 1718, a letter was found on his body from Tobias Knight, indicating friendship and the possible friendship of Governor Eden... a somewhat embarassing turn of events when the pirate was captured by an agent of Governor Alexander Spotswood's of Virginia. Lt. Robert Maynard had Knight's property searched after Blackbeard's capture only to discover a great cache of pirate booty in Knight's barn, under some fodder and hay. I seriously doubt if Knight could claim that he wasn't trying to keep it hidden... perhaps guiltily aware of its origins. A trial ensued in Virginia where two of Blackbeard's crew were hung, the rest later finding their way back to Bath. Governor Eden, of course, was strongly recommended to try Knight for his involvement in a North Carolina court only to be released after testimony of a questionable character witness. Spotswood was, of course, furious... and helpless to counter the affairs of a fellow colony.

Eden eventually lives a productive and well-respected life in North Carolina, later buried in Edenton, with a tombstone indicating the gratitude of his constituents and friends. Knight, however, dies only a year after the "pirate" affair, supposedly by natural means. However, the timing seems a bit convenient.

Bath residents, like many of those near the infamous Outer Banks, seem no better than pirates themselves... perhaps why they viewed Blackbeard as only the Bath resident, "Edward Teach." In 1696, Edward Randolph, Surveyor General of British Customs in the American colonies, complained to Parliament that “Pyrats & runaway Servants resort to this place (NC) from Virginia” (pg. 23, David Stick, 1958). The years 1699 and 1700 found Randolph filing articles of “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the governors themselves, specifically acting Governor Henderson Walker in “a case of suspected piracy on Currituck Banks.”

The Outer Banks’ reputation for shipwrecks created the infamy of “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” a phrase Alexander Hamilton coined in 1790, remembering a nearly fatal encounter there as a child. Bankers occupied a most dangerous place where pilfering the “Graveyard” became a necessity.

When the needs of Bankers could not be met by this passive practice alone, residents would resort to active, deceptive tactics. For example, they might tie a lantern under the neck of a lame horse and lead him along the shore at night. The light, as seen from a passing ship, would appear to the crew of that ship as the bobbing lantern of another ship at safe anchorage. The ship would be drawn closer in the deception that it was far enough from shore to avoid the sandbars. Inevitably, it would strike one of these sandbars and wreck. This practice gave Bankers salvaged goods to pick from as they plundered the hapless vessel, doubtless killing off any of the crew that did not drown.

So, it is reasonable to assume that residents of a colony inhabited by pirates, working side by side with pirates, profiting off of piracy, and welcoming the activities of someone as notorious as Edward Teach, might very well BE pirates... albeit without a ship.

James Robbins and Edward Salter are two of Blackbeard's crew whose lives after the Virginia trial can be followed with relative certainty. They, of course, lived in Bath or nearby. Robbins character is as questionable as Edward Teach's reputation, commented on by Daniel Defoe in 1724:

"Before he sailed upon his Adventures, he marry'd a young Creature of about sixteen Years of Age, the Governor performing the Ceremony. As it is a Custom to marry here by a Priest, so it is there by a Magistrate; and this, I have been informed, made Teach's fourteenth Wife, whereof, about a dozen might be still living. His Behaviour in this State, was something extraordinary; for while his Sloop lay in Okerecock Inlet, and he ashore at a Plantation, where his Wife lived, with whom after he had lain all Night, it was his Custom to invite five or six of his brutal Companions… force her to prostitute herself to them all."

Observe this notation from the Beaufort County Deeds:

"Deposition of Thomas Unday, Beaufort Precinct, being of full age, swore that sometime in Jan. 1718, at the plantation that is now James Robbins, one Elizabeth Goodin, with Sarah Montague did go to bed in the same house one night, and that presently after one James Robbins did go into bed between them, with his shirt and breeches only on, then said the same Elizabeth Goodin, Mr. Robbins why do you come to bed with your breeches on? Whereon the said Robbins pulled off his breeches and went into bed between them again, and there did lay that night with them, and in the morning following, the aforesaid Sarah Montague arose and left the said James Robbins and Elizabeth Goodin in bed together, and this deponent further saith that at the same time he gave the said James Robbins and Elizabeth Goodin each a dram of liquor called rum as they lay in bed together . . ."

Edward Salter, on the other hand, seems to have diverged from his life of piracy to enjoy his ill-begotten riches as something of a gentleman. His plantation seems to have been further inland from Bath and his will (Beaufort County, NC) tells something of his success:

Will of Edward Salter, Bath County 06 Jan 1734 : Probated 05 Feb 1734
Son: Edward. Daughters: Sarah, Mary and Susannah. Sons-in-law:
Miles Harvey and John Harvey. Wife: Elizabeth. Following lands devised:
306 acres on south side of Pamlico River called Mount Colvert; land
purchased of John Swann; lands on Bear Creek, Pamlico River and the
Beaver Dam of Grays Creek, "whereon John Arrington now dwells.“
About 25 negroes, one periauger, one brigantine named The Happy Luke,
one pair silver spurs, Richard Bloom's History of the Bible and other books
"of Divinity, Law and History," large China Punch bowl bequeathed. Brigantine
ordered laden with tar and sent to Boston, there to be sold and proceeds
invested in young negroes; provision is made for insurance of said vessel with
Jacob Windall & Co., in the sum of 1,200 pounds. Daughter, Sarah, is left in
care of Mrs. Sarah Porter of Cape Fear. Provision is made for education of son
"to make him a compleat merchant." Executors: Edward Moseley, John Odeon,
John Caldam, Thomas Bonner, William Willis, William Adams. Proven before
Gab. Johnston. Coat of arms on seal. Witnesses: Walley Chauncey, Benjamin
Rigney, Walter Dixson, Roger Jones.

Early North Carolina history takes on a rather different perspective after reading the deed and court records of Beaufort County. Apparently, piracy is in our blood. It's simply natural for a North Carolinian. Perhaps that fact explains why I chose to return to school at East Carolina University. After all, their mascot is "PeeDee the Pirate!"

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Learning Dates in History

I remember, like most high school students in the '70's, complaining that we students had to learn certain things that we considered useless at the time. At the top of that list has to be the infamous bank of ancient Greek and Arabic knowledge we distastefully called "ALGEBRA." Rene Descartes gave us the "cartesian coordinate system" that we are all painfully familiar with, even though most of us still can't get the abstract notion of geometry to blend with real life problems like a speeding car over a stretch of highway on an incline. What!!?? Just ask the eighth grade fellow I tutor in math. He won't give you a good reference on Descartes.

But, did you know that Descartes was an eye witness to the Siege of La Rochelle in 1628? The last stronghold of French Protestants in a predominantly Catholic country? Did you know that these Protestants left France before 1700 and went to many other parts of the world, especially to very protestant America? If you remember, our ancestors left Europe because of Martin Luther demanding that the Bible be translated into German. Our ancestors tended to agree with Luther and... here we are! Most of us has a French name or two in our genealogies. For me, we have the well-told story of Jean de Fonvielle of Craven County, NC. Most North Carolinians call him John Fonville. And descendants of his include noted Wilmington historian, Chris Fonville, and... of course, me! There's also Mr. Thomas "Tommy" Fonville of Fonville-Morisey Realty Company so well known in this part of the state.

Another big issue with high school students and college students concerns the importance of dates in history. My history professors today don't stress dates so much as they do the issues. This is an important consideration so long as you remain aware of the time period you are concerned with. You know, George Washington wasn't a statesman who had to concern himself with Civil Rights because slaves had not yet been freed in the 18th century. Washington was our first President, right? I hope you said "yes." That was in the 18th century, seventeen hundreds, somewhere around 1776. We hit the general aspects of the date without demanding that you know July 4, 1776 precisely, for the Declaration of Independence. Although the big summer holiday with the fireworks will help you remember that date, I'm sure.

Still, the concepts are stressed more. But, dates are important, too. For instance, I just recently received an email about my genealogy from a man who descends from a neighbor of my ancestor. The 1843 dispute over land commonly held between the two families at different times became an issue that went to the state supreme court. The date of 1843 stirred in my head when I read the email. Why? Well, I looked up the genealogical information for my ancestor and found that he died in 1842. It was certainly significant that he died before this supreme court case.

Another point of research that I was doing for colonial NC concerned some microfilm that I wanted to look at. The lending library informed me that they couldn't send 185 rolls of film on an inter-library loan. So, I looked up the dates associated with each individual roll, knowing that Wilmington's significant date of formation was April, 1733. James Wimble and John Watson had just purchased the land that later became Wilmington in that period... although official records will show 1735. Edward Moseley's map of 1733 was finished and presented to Governor Johnston in April of 1733 and James Wimble's version of the same area was started in... April 1733. The dates of three rolls of the microfilm were 1724-1732, April 1733- January 1734, and January 1734-November 1734. Notice anything? The second roll starts with April 1733 while the first roll wasn't specific at all. These documents are official British correspondence for the Duke of Newcastle who was concerned more with European foreign affairs and his numerous expensive soirees than he was with those "provincials" in America, all the way across the Atlantic. Supposedly, he's not concerned with a little, remote place like North Carolina. Supposedly...

So, why does the second roll, probably the start of another volume of Newcastle's journals, begin with "April 1733?" Did Newcastle himself consider this month important for some reason? Guess I'll find out when I get the microfilm. But, it sure is intriguing and it all depends on a date.

Dates make a difference. They do. Simple notions of "April 1733" could very well change our understanding of the development of one of our most important North Carolina cities. I'm sure that a publication titled "April 1733" is in my near future. I'll know for sure after I spend the countless hours, possibly days in front of a microfilm reader in the basement of the library. My point is... you sometimes have to pay attention to those dates.