Friday, July 09, 2010

Murder on Hatteras!

Beautiful, isn't it?  The North Carolina Outer Banks so calm and serene...  children playing in the surf and sand pipers running along the shores.  But, underneath this deceptive display of serenity are the gargantuan forces of mother nature, two powerful currents, the warm Gulf Stream from the south and the cool Labrador from the north... they meet in a whirlwind of tremendous power like an underwater hurricane, thrusting the loose bottom sands into piles called shoals that changed from day to day and threatened shipping close to shore.

Diamond shoals would become famous for its unpredictability and the number of shipwrecks that it contributed to the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," coined by a young Alexander Hamilton, who remembered how it almost took his life one day.  Diamond shoals was the meeting point of the currents and it also forms the tip of the island that we call Hatteras, home to the ironically peaceful Croatoan Indians that once sheltered the first English visitors to these shores.

The early days of North Carolina were filled with rough and tumble types, many of them coming to Carolina because they couldn't make it elsewhere in America.  Cape Hatteras, also was the last place in the rowdy southern colony that anyone in their right mind would settle.  So, for a murder to occur there was by no means a surprise.

Newspapers carried notices like this 1719 Boston newspaper ad... Cape Hatteras as a dangerous endpoint of a dangerous range on the eastern seaboard:


Almost every reference I have ever found was to Cape Hatteras as a place you should NOT go.  What's more is that Blackbeard (the most famous pirate of the Carolina shores) was killed just southwest of Hatteras in 1718.  He hung out in North Carolina for the weather... right!  No, it was because anyone else would be foolish to try to brave the dangerous shoals and come after him there.  Ask Kevin Duffus who just wrote a great new book on the man.

One thing that Duffus was convinced of... and that was that Capt. Edward Teach, Thatch... maybe "Beard"... was not that unusual... not compared with other North Carolina residents of the time, especially residents of the Outer Banks.  Many of his former crew members may have come back to Bath after being released by Gov. Alexander Spotswood, subsequently let off the hook by North Carolina's governor, Charles Eden (Blackbeard's buddy), and even became influential Carolina citizens (the very wealthy "cooper," Edward Salter, for one).  James Robbins came back to bath, but still liked carousing and drinking and loving the ladies too much... he even got in the court records for loving more than one lady at the same time! 

I think you get the impression that pirating was a fairly common profession for our ancestors.  Undoubtedly so on Hatteras.

Of the early colonial grants on Hatteras Island, we find three men specifically that obtained grants in the same area of the island.  Henry Davis obtained 320 Acres "joining on ye Indian town" (probably the one that John Lawson visited in 1701... of the three towns, that is) on Sept 19th, 1716.  Three weeks later, Patrick Callihan & John ONeal were granted land adjoining each other on Tom King's Creek in present Frisco.  These grants were not surveyed very well (probably from the sound in a boat) and the direction of the creek was misjudged.  Consequently, Callihan & ONeal's grants were quite a bit different than they originally assumed, with the creek suddenly turning east a few hundred feet from its mouth on the sound's edge. ONeal very likely lost a lot of land.  Callihan, on the other hand stood to gain much more than his original 200 Acres.

But, there was a problem... that Davis grant three weeks earlier had been made on both Callihan and ONeal's later patents.  That's right, there was a portion of that land owned by two men at once.  Callihan and Davis shared the greater portion.

Now, most men gathered as much land as they could in the colony and may not have even visited their grants right away with so much more to look after.  So, there was no reason to worry... for awhile.

It seems that John ONeal was doing well for himself, paying his quitrents mostly on time (he slipped one year but made up for it the next).  But, Patrick Callihan and Henry Davis were not so lucky.  Tax lists for 1718 & 1719 show both men in arrears.  A "Denis Callahan"of Currituck County (where Hatteras was at this time) lost land in 1719, perhaps a relative of Patrick Callihan.  So, the Callihan family was perhaps not financially secure.  Henry Davis was still in arrears by 1000 Acres, but not yet in dire straits.



Then, something happened.  The North Carolina Colonial Records ( http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr02-0226 ) had this to say in 1722:

Minutes of the General Court of North Carolina
North Carolina. General CourtMarch 27, 1722 - April 07, 1722 Volume 02, Pages 463-473
A bill of Indictment agst Patrick Callihan for the murder of Henry Davis.
A Bill of Indictment agst Chas Williamson and Willm Maccoy for the Murder of Salmon Burges
A Bill of Indictment agst Wm Maccoy for ye murder of John Palmer.
A Bill of Indictment agst Patrick Callihan for an Escape

There was more than one murder on the daily docket for this wild colony (William Maccoy charged with two!  And, him being my own ancestor is not just a little uncomfortable...)... still, notice the names in bold print.  Callihan and Davis obviously had their own argument about something... I'll give you three guesses.


Continuing in court, 1722:



The Jurors for our Sovereign Lord the King Presents that Patrick Callihan late of Curratuck Precinct in ye County of Albemarle Planter not having the fear of God before his Eyes but being moved and Seduced by the Instigation of the Devill on the one and twentieth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twenty one at Curratuck aforesd in & upon one Henry Davis in the Peace of God and our Lord the King then and there being by force & Armes an assault did make and the sd Henry Davis did beat cutt & bruise by giving and striking him two Mortall blows and cutts on the head with a certain weapon called a Cymeter or Cuttlash (a sword) of the value of one shilling and so voluntarily feloniously & of malice forethought the sd Henry Davis at Curratuck aforesaid beat cutt and wounded particularly on or about his head in such violent that of the said Mortall blows Cutts & wounds he pined & languished untill the five and Twentieth day of the same Month and on the five and twentieth day of the same Month of August at Curratuck of the aforesaid beating cutting and wounding did die and so the said Jurors on their Oaths do say that the aforesaid Patrick Callihan on the aforesd five & twentieth day of August at Curratuck aforesd in manner & form as aforesd & of malice forethought did feloniously & willfully kill & murder contrary to the Peace of our Sovereign Lord the King that now is his Royall Crown & dignity &c.
DANll RICHARDSON pro Duo Rge.
Upon which Indictment the said Patrick Callihan was arraigned and upon his arraignment pleaded Not Guilty and for tryall thereof putt himself putt himself upon God and the Country.

 a little further down, on page 465, we find: 


Wee of the Jury find Patrick Callihan is guilty of Manslaughter. [Is anybody else questioning the judge's sanity, here... TWO mortal wounds (didn't mention how many others) ON THE HEAD and he only gets ... MANSLAUGHTER!!!]
then the sd Callihan being asked if he had any thing to say why sentence should not pass agst him as the Law in that case had provided and he offering nothing in avoydance thereof
Whereupon it is considerd and adjudgd that the sd Callihan be burnt in the hand with the letter (M) [oh... painful!] that he forfeit all his goods & Chattells for ever and the profits of his Lands for a year and a day [that hurts worse] also that he become bound by Recognizance in the sum of two hundred pounds wth two sureties in an hundred pounds each for his good behaviour for a year and a day and that he remain in the Marshalls custody till he has given such security and paid the accruing Costs. Memorandm yt that part of the Sentence of burning in the hand was Executed upon ye sd Callihan in open Court, And then it was further Ordered That the Provost Marshall doe seize and take into his Custody all the personall estate of the said Callihan wherever to be found in this Governmt and that he out of the said estate doe pay all the accruing costs occasiond by his prosecution and apprehension as farr as his goods will amount. And that he pay the remainder (if any) to the Receiver Genl to the use of the Lords Proprietors as Grantees from the Crowne.  [There’s how he lost his Hatteras patent on Tom King’s Creek…]

This was not the end of the story... remember that Patrick Callihan was also accused of an escape....


North Carolina—ss.
To the Honble Christopher Gale Esqr Cheif Justice of this Province & to ye rest of the Justices for holdn ye Genl Court there
The jurors for our Sovereign Lord the King upon their oaths present that Patrick Callihan late of Curratuck prcinct in the County of Albemarle Planter was arrested for the murder of Henry Davis late of the same precinct and afterwards vizl the sixth day of August Anno Dom. one thousand seven hundred & twenty one at pasquotank precinct in the same County by John ffurry Esqr Justice of our said Lord the King for keeping the Peace in the precinct of Pasquotank & County aforesaid was com̄itted into the Custody of Majr Thos Harvey then Provost Marshl for the said County of Albemarle & having in his Custody the aforesaid Patrick Callihan for the Murder aforesd within a very short time after his said Com̄ittment by force & Armes out of the Custody of the said Majr Thomas Harvey & agst the will & knowledge of the sd Thomas Harvey feloniously did gett & goe & from him did escape and fly out of the view & sight of the said Thomas Harvey agst the Peace of our Sovereign Lord the King that now is his Royall Crown & Dignity &c.
DANl RICHARDSON P Duo Rege.
Upon which Indictment the said Patrick Callihan was Arraigned & upon his Arraignment pleaded not Guilty but being a second time called to the Barr in order to his Tryall he prayed leave to withdraw his plea which being Granted him he then Pleaded Guilty as to the escape & humbly moved the Court that he might be heard by his Councill as to the ffelony And the same being argued by his Councill & likwise by the Attorney Genl on behalf of the King. The Court here is of Opinion that he is Guilty of Misdemeanour only.
Whereupon it was Considerd, and Sentence was Pronounced that he should be publickly whip't and receive nineteen lashes on his bare back well laid on  [ouch! ... still, his land profits!  Damn!]

Callihan was branded on the thumb, then whipped for attempted escape.  Up till the escape, he was only charged with manslaughter (not exactly justice, I'll warrant).  But, keep reading in the colonial records... 

John Man [probably of Mann's Harbor township & Roanoke Island] being bound by Bond to appear at this Court on Suspition of having harbourd & Concealed one Patrick Callihan who had made his Escape from the Provost Marshall to whose Custody he was Com̄itted for ye Murder of one Henry Davis made his appearance but noe person
-------------------- page 470 --------------------
appearing to prosecute or give Evidence to make good the Charge against him he is dismist without day paying Costs. 

Well, at least Mann got off for harboring a fugitive (wonder if the township was named for that reputation).  That was probably a common charge, too.  North Carolina has undoubtedly matured since those days.  Still, I think we've still got a bit of the rogue in our personalities... I know I do.  :)  Maybe that's why I play a pirate almost every Halloween.... sometimes at Christmas.   Well, don't play around with the swords... you might mortally wound somebody... twice!  I'll be off to tend me wounds from the last fight, ya lubbers!  Keep the wind at yer backs!

1 comment:

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