Monday, December 26, 2011

Genealogical Records are Abused by Historians!

1780 George Clark Survey 342.75 acres Hatteras Island
Genealogical records take such abuse!  Amateur genealogists misquote and repeat them without checking sources; professional historians simply ignore them.  On the island of Hatteras, even history itself has been ignored.  Allegedly, a lack of available records exists.

Traditionally, this is true.  Records that are often explored by historians are diaries and documents that contain rich data concerning people, places, and events of significance.  


That word, "significance," carries a plethora of meanings.  What makes a subject significant?  For us at the Lost Colony Research Group, people are significant and their equally rich lives are detailed in genealogical sources like this George Clark survey from 1780.  This survey details a 342.75 acre plot of land on the tiny island of Hatteras on North Carolina's Outer Banks.  It not only shows a drawing of the land and lists landmarks by which to find boundaries, it also tells about Stephen Brooks, a mariner who lost a ship during the revolution and shipped goods for John Gray Blount of Washington, North Carolina.  Blount was a famous entrepreneur and statesman in the burgeoning mercantile state of North Carolina in the early United States.  He had partnerships such as the Shell Castle lightering operation at Ocracoke Inlet, owned land in western North Carolina and even Tennessee, served on the state legislature, and "shopped" in Philadelphia, Bermuda, and the West Indies.  He also held land on Hatteras in partnerships with men like "Governor" John Wallace who ran a porpoise oil processing refinery on Indian land on Hatteras Island in 1803. The oil was used to power the light station at Shell Castle, built by Henry Dearborn who built the Cape Hatteras lighthouse that same year. 

John Gray Blount
 Other names on this survey include Thomas Robb, a Jacobite rebel who was one of "104 Rebel prisoners shipped on board the 'Susannah' Capt. Thomas Bromhall Commander, in order to be transported to South Carolina"  according to British Treasury Warrants of March 1717.  Robb moved to North Carolina's Currituck County where he met the young daughter of Henry Davis, a European settler on Hatteras in 1716 who died in a land dispute in 1720 with Patrick Callahan.  Callahan lost his Hatteras property in that balmy August scuffle in which he killed Davis and "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."  This comes from a standard historical source, "Minutes of the General Court of North Carolina," North Carolina Colonial Records, Vol. 2, pages 463-473.  

 Henry Davis is well known to LCRG researchers for the fact that his property on Hatteras rested next to the "Indian Town" that was probably found by John Lawson when he visited c1701 and described Indians with "gray eyes" who had ancestors who could "talk in a book," which started quite a legend on Hatteras as the final abode for many of Sir Walter Raleigh's "Lost" or "Abandoned Colony of Roanoke."  John Lawson wrote of his visit with these Hatteras Indians in his book, A New Voyage to Carolina, published in London, in 1709.  

William Quidley Will 1807
Who else was mentioned in this record?  The next name we find is that of William Quidley, "Pilot of Cape Hatteras," whose only daughter, Elizabeth married another pilot on Hatteras by the name of William Rolinson.  Quidley died in 1807.  This information came from two wills in Currituck County, genealogical records of enormous significance.  

Are we through with this survey yet?  Not exactly.  Place names like "Great ridge," details such as "old patten line" and a "switch hazel in Robb's corner" to a "forked murtle in a swamp" before running onto the boundary line of William Elks all help to identify particular places.  

William Elks is a special man.  In 1756, the colonial government responded to a dispute between Thomas Robb Jr. and Thomas Elks, a son-in-law of William Elks.  They have the same last name because that's the way Indians took surnames, from their wives' families.  So, when the Indian, Thomas married William Elks' daughter, he got the name Elks.  The dispute was over land.  The Indian Town was "incroaching" upon Robb's land and he filed suit. 

The government's decision in this dispute was to grant "William Elks and the Rest of the Hatteras Indians" a grant of 200 acres, later bordered by Robb, Clark, Quidley, and the former lands of Stephen Brooks.   Robb's grant was readjusted to accommodate William Elks, the Indian, and his family.  The land they gained contained land that they had formerly held under King Tom Elks.  This information comes partly from a land grant, “File No. 264, William Elks and the Rest of the Hatteras Indians” (March 7, 1759) in the Secretary of State's records in the North Carolina Archives.  It also comes from Job Carr's “Letter to Arthur Dobbs” (August 10, 1756).  

Portion of Job Carr letter to Gov. Arthur Dobbs in 1756
 So, what did we learn from genealogical records?  Quite a bit.  We mixed them with conventional records and certainly enriched the written history.  A public historian, Wilcomb Washburn, once stated that we could learn so much more by mixing artifacts with manuscripts in what he called "Manufacts."  Genealogical records are not exactly artifacts.  Still, that's the way that they are treated by many historians today.  If we take just one "manufact" survey such as George Clark's piece of property bordering on the Elks Indian grant on Hatteras Island and analyze it in detail, there's no wonder what we might find.  For instance, I did not know that I would find the Hatteras Indians visited by John Lawson, but there they were!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Challenges of Hatteras Research

When digging in the dirt, you sometimes benefit by knowing whose dirt you are on.  But, what if they lived almost 300 years ago?  While archaeologists working for the Lost Colony Research Group were excavating an early-mid 18th century home on Hatteras Island, they couldn't just ask the man's neighbors or family.  No one really remembers them.  But, there are still some records of where these people lived in the genealogical sources available in the archives. 

That's where historical research benefits the archaeologist.  I know because that's what I do.  :)

As LCRG's historian since May 2010, I study deeds, wills, court documents, estates, etc for their historical content.   Before I began, there existed no map of Hatteras Island that showed details of the waterways, features, etc.  Besides, even topographical maps would give only the current names for any features and we were studying the 18th century.  We needed to create a map from these sources.  I created this map of 18th century place names on Hatteras Island by spending countless hours, days, and weeks pouring over these types of records:

 One Hatteras Island early resident owned a large piece of the island including present-day Buxton, north of the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  This man, named James Wahab, happened to be the previous 18th-century owner of the land within which we were digging.  The house probably belonged to him.  Still, we needed to know later owners for purposes of the later period context of the house.  It had been destroyed and rebuilt by a subsequent owner.  Therefore, we needed to study the divisions of James Wahab's estate in order to determine who inherited and/or sold this particular piece of property.  

On 15 October 1772, James Wahab left a will in Currituck County, North Carolina (where Hatteras lay before 1823.  That will and subsequent deed analysis reveals the divisions of his estate:


This takes a lot of work, time, and  something that most historians despise - math.  Surveys are very mathematical and require some knowledge of angles and surveying practices in order to lay them out properly.  This is daunting, but there's another factor about studying Hatteras Island that makes this kind of work a challenge.  

Deed boundaries often state "N 45 W 120 poles" or something like this.  Well, for early 18th-century Hatteras, these details were somewhat plentiful.  The problem was that some surveyors understood the bulk of Hatteras Island to run west-east.  A common misconception (still observed in island prejudice today) was that the island runs north-south.  Other surveyors probably did not use a good compass and made a faulty assumption.  Even more confounding is that after about 1770, surveys were rarely done and the deeds only mention the names of neighbors... no exact boundaries with numbers.  "Pick up the LCRG historian, he feinted again..."

Reuben Burris to Absolum Scarborough, 1809, partial.
The deed above from Reuben Burris to Absolum Scarborough details a 50-acre piece of property bounded by the NE corner of Peter Brady's land and runs south with his line "into the woods."  Then, it veers east and runs to Reuben Burris' other plot.  No exact numbers.  Moreover, what did this deed mean by "NE" and which way is "south"?  

That's what I deal with in every deed.  By comparing these deeds to other deeds... say, Peter Brady's deed for his land, we can get a better idea of the land's orientation.  Maybe the mistakes or laziness is not repeated in all the connecting deeds and can provide a plot size related less to a wild ass guess and more of a reasoned hypothesis.  WAG's are not my favorite. 

Another thing that interferes with this type of research is that, on Hatteras Island, many former island "historians" published unsourced and uncited work and some of that work has been found to be in error.  This takes painstaking study to figure out.  For instance, a 1710 letter from Rev. John Urmstone to his superiors in London was misquoted by Ben Dixon MacNeill in his book, the Hatterasman.  That same quote was further elaborated by another author, adding specific details that simply were not true.  James Wahab was one of the details in that particular elaboration.  Perhaps the author wanted it to be true, but it simply was not.

 Accuracy in historical research is essential.  Citing our work is the most important thing that we historians do.  It makes the work of future historians so much easier and provides evidence for any proposals that you might make so they can be verified.  


So, there you have it.  Digging in the dirt sometimes gets dirty.  Persistence and patience will prove triumphant, as the study of James Wahab's estate divisions shows.  These were real results from previously unconventional historical resources.  

James Wahab, according to the deed records had a neighbor who was probably living there well before him, a Mr. Valentine Wallace.  That house survived longer that the first one, changing hands at least twice, well into the late 18th century.  I'm anxious to find that place, too.  



More dirt digging to come!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wrecked on Hatteras Island: A Long Tradition

The author, Baylus C. Brooks is a graduate maritime historian studying at East Carolina University’s Maritime Studies Program.  He is also a member of the Lost Colony Research Group (LCRG), conducting investigations into North Carolina’s maritime history, including genetic research, genealogy, and archaeology.  Brooks is their official historian. 

Solomon Lumberd was a mariner from Maine who once sailed the Dove to England, claiming to be of the “North Carolina trade” and left his name upon “Lumberd’s Marsh” on one of Hatteras’ earliest deeds near Cape Point; Erasmus Harfleet was a mariner who wrecked on Cape Hatteras in spring 1708; William Reed was a Justice of the Peace and wealthy speculator in North Carolina property, later the "president of North Carolina" and obtained the first deed on Hatteras in Jan 1712 “between the Indian towns”; John Neale was a virtual unknown of some pecuniary significance who lived near or with Hatteras Indians; Patrick and John Mackuen lived nearby to the southwest; Thomas Bilton was a shipwrecked mariner on his way from Lisbon to Virginia… what do all of these people have in common?  They visited and probably worked on Hatteras Island long before the first recorded deeds in 1712-16.  They also left a pile of glorious garbage near Buxton and probably elsewhere for later archaeologists to find.  They probably also married into the Indian population on that island - a population that may or may not have already possessed English DNA.

That’s why the Lost Colony Research Group is looking!  LCRG, headed by genetics specialist Roberta J. Estes, represents a professional group of scholars in history, genetic studies, British and American genealogy, and archaeology whose primary goal is the study of Hatteras Island and its heritage… both native and European.  Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society works in conjunction with LCRG.  
LCRG recently attained an entry in wikipedia!  This article concerns the history of the island’s English inhabitants and the current working theory of the author. 





Hatteras is a rather small island, only about six miles long at this thicker part between Frisco and Buxton; the official length of the island starts at Oregon Inlet and runs to Hatteras Inlet and is about 18 miles.  At the thickest, it is only three miles wide, but it supported many island families, both native and European, for centuries and packed a sometimes violent maritime history on its Atlantic coast, but a mild and gentle history on its western, or sound side.  The Janus-faced Hatteras thus welcomed and repelled many.  Its waters tore thousands of ships to pieces.

 Washington Times 1906 – Full-page article on the dangers of Cape Hatteras issued after a dangerous hurricane in September 1906.  The inserted map shows numerous shipwrecks associated with Cape Hatteras.  Source: Washington Times (Tacoma), November 1, 1906.
 
On October 30, 1707, a ship sailed from Lisbon, Portugal to arrive upon the “Virginia” sand banks.  It encountered “hard Gales of Wind” and anchored off Cape Hatteras, where the crew “spoke to the Virginians on shore.”  They beat the coast for several months, finally wrecking in the latitude of Bermuda.  From there, nine persons, including Thomas Bilton, made their way in a ship’s boat to Anguilla in the West Indies.  After the wreck, they were thirty-one days at sea and “constrained to drink their own urine.”  This comes from the account of Thomas Bilton in “A Voyage from Lisbon to Virginia,” published in London in 1715.  It is one of the few accounts of contact with the Englishmen living on Hatteras Island prior to recorded settlement.

Another record of a shipwreck only two months or so later, following similar routes from London to Lisbon to America, tells the names of some of these Englishmen upon Hatteras’ shores.  The ship America sailed from London to Lisbon, Portugal, and then ran aground on Cape Hatteras before March 1708.  Erasmus Harfleet survived the wreck and attempted to salvage what he could while on Hatteras Banks, but was stopped by Justice of the Peace William Reed who just happened to be in the vicinity.  A petition was filed by Harfleet on March 11, 1708.  Harfleet “was allowed to work upon the sand banks to save what he could from the wreck.”  But, he encountered William Reed, who “came and threatened him if he took anything belonging to the wreck.”  Since Harfleet said that “Salvage from the wreck was the only wage that the petitioner would receive for his wages from London to the City of Lisbon in Portugal,” he asked for resolution to this argument.  The back of the petition reads, “Patrick MACKANNE, John NACKOUNE, John NEALE, Laruence MARTINSON, witnesses. 11 Mar 1707/8.”  [CCR-192].

It should probably be noted that some years later, Erasmus Harfleet was accused of purposely wrecking a ship in the sound off of Roanoke Island while en route to the area then called “Croatan” (known formerly as “Dasamonquepeuk” and today, as “Mann’s Harbor”) in 1714.  Harfleet was hired by Joseph Parker to pilot the ship, but when the ship ran aground, Harfleet began salvaging the wreck and refused to “get the sloop off” the shoals, who “cursed and said he would never go on board.” Harfleet had already unloaded a boatload of goods onto the mainland before refusing to go back, so he did not seem to mind going aboard the sloop while there were valuables on her.  [CCR-192, 26 Apr 1714]

    Erasmus Harfleet may have been a ner’do’well and justifiably stopped in his “salvage” activities by William Reed that early spring day in 1708.  Still, that encounter with Reed and other “Virginians” on Hatteras Banks tells us something valuable about the activity on that island before its recorded habitation by Englishmen.  Most Hatteras deed records occurred in 1716, although the earliest record we have is a deed for Col. William Reed in 1712 and several others in the following years, so he probably spent a good deal of time there.  At least, he was around to justifiably harass our Mr. Harfleet a few years earlier. 

Dr. David Sutton Phelps (archaeologist from ECU) found a “workshop” locale on Hatteras near the present town of Buxton during his excavations in 1998 that he dated from 1650-1720.  Coins that he found indicated its use by 17th-century Englishmen.  I have postulated before that settlement of Hatteras might have begun as early as the first Virginians arriving south of the Dismal Swamp in the mid-1600s, maybe earlier.  You see, with no roads and numerous creeks inland, travel by water was far easier in those days and Hatteras made a perfect “first stop,” yet, not always a chosen one. 

    Nothing can be certain without written proof, however, but the constant English shipping that began with Jamestown, Virginia since 1607 and that ran past Cape Hatteras on their way from the West Indies and on to London most likely deposited frequent and hapless visitors to Hatteras Island.  Many of them probably remained.  This was the normal trade route, a clockwise voyage from London, to the Canaries, Portugal (long allied with England), across the Atlantic on the trade winds to the West Indies, along the American coast, again picking up the trade winds in the North Atlantic, and then back to England.  This was fed by a desire to deprive the Spanish of their gold and silver, then later, for the sweet white gold of sugar from the Caribbean. No product was ever more valuable than sugar.

    The money is what prompted men like Bilton and Harfleet to brave the obvious dangers of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and caused over 2,000 known shipwrecks (actual numbers vary around 5,000).  Ships have found the bottom of these waters since early in the sixteenth century.  Hatteras was not simply an island in North Carolina.  It was a maritime hazard, entrepôt, whaling and porpoise center, and supply station for shipping all along the eastern seaboard.  It must have frequently encountered visitors like Bilton and Harfleet.



Ship Wreckage on Hatteras Island - Photo by Collier Cobb, circa 1900.
Other names mentioned in Harfleet’s petition in 1708 were John and Patrick Mackanne/Nackoune [Mackuen], and John Neale [O’Neale].  These are names also found later in the official deed records of Hatteras Banks.  Both are found in the “Trent Woods” area (today’s Frisco) where we also find the Elks band of Hatteras Indians.

Anna MacKuen was granted 155 acres “between William Rowlason and Patrick Callahan” in 1716 [Pat. book 8, p. 132].  She is probably the wife of John or Patrick MacKuen, seen in the earlier “Harfleet” petition.  Her husband must have died before 1716 when she was officially granted the land – land that the family had lived on for years.  Her neighbors were important men.  Patrick Callahan’s name will appear again.  For now, I’d like to should focus on “John Neale.”  He is an important name when it comes to the Hatteras Indians.  It was in 1720, after the Tuscarora War, that John O’Neale was entrusted with the delivery of gunpowder, lead shot, and flints to the Hatteras Indians.  O’Neale was perhaps chosen because his land may have included the “Indian Town” once visited by explorer John Lawson:



John Oneall 1716 patent for 440 acres on Tom King’s Creek - “File No. 1192,  John O’Neal” (October 9, 1716), Land Office: Land Warrants, Plats of Survey, and Related Records, Secretary of State Record Group, State Records, Old Book 8:113-14,  Microfilm S.108.451 (Raleigh, N.C.: State of North Carolina)
John Lawson visited this town circa 1701 and left his record of the Anglicized Hatteras Indians for all to read in his book:  A New Voyage to Carolina; Containing the Exact Description and Natural History of That Country: Together with the Present State Thereof. And A Journal of a Thousand Miles, Travel'd Thro' Several Nations of Indians. Giving a Particular Account of Their Customs, Manners, &c., published in London in 1709.

The mouth of Tom King’s Creek, also known as “Peter’s Creek” (allegedly named for Peter Gordon) in the recent past, begins the boundaries of the later Elks grant of 1759 that was patented for “William Elks and the Rest of the Hatteras Indians.”  O’Neale probably held this property well before 1716 and his relationship with the neighboring Indians seems to have been a good one.  It’s not so easy to call them “Indians” because, as Lawson found, they probably behaved more like Englishmen, shared DNA, dressed, and worshipped like them, too.  Still, living on a remote island far away from prying eyes in the “country,” or mainland as Hatteras islanders once called it, made living openly as something other than “white” far simpler.  [Reference Cecelski’s Waterman’s Song]

John “O’Neill” appears on a Currituck County tax list for 1718, having paid his taxes, unlike Henry Davis and Patrick “Kallahan” who later fought over land boundaries.  This dispute resulted in Henry Davis being killed by Patrick Callahan with a sword.  Callahan then lost his Hatteras property, which just so happened to border both the Mackuen land and John O’Neale.  See map below:



Readjusted 1716 patents in the area of Trent Woods – Base map: 1883 Hatteras map (annotated by Baylus C. Brooks).  A red line represents the mistaken course of Tom King’s Creek and the unforeseen extension of Patrick Callahan’s property in the initial erroneous patents of 1716.  The last frame shows the readjusted property lines as determined from deed and other records.  Mary Davis was too young in 1720 to inherit, but after she came of age and married Thomas Robb, the Jacobite “rebel” who was shipped to Carolina in 1716, they settled in upper Currituck from where they came in 1751 to claim their land.  For about thirty-five years, the Hatteras Indians did not suffer any serious problems with European settlers.  When the Robbs arrived in 1751, they determined that the town was on their land.  The Trent Woods town was readjusted again and granted with 200 acres to “William Elks and the Rest of the Hatteras Indians” in 1759.  Source: “File No. 1190, Henry Davis” (September 12, 1716), “File No. 1196, Patrick Callihan” (October 9, 1716), “File No. 1192,  John O’Neal” (October 9, 1716), Land Office: Land Warrants, Plats of Survey, and Related Records, Secretary of State Record Group, State Records, Old Book 8:113-14,  Microfilm S.108.451 (Raleigh, N.C.: State of North Carolina); United States Coast Survey, “General chart of the coast no. V from Cape Henry to Cape Lookout” (1883), MC.168.1883ub, North Carolina State Archives (Raleigh, N.C.: State of North Carolina).
The “Ungranted” property located in the 1720 frame of this illustration is probably close to the area that Anna MacKuen obtained in her 1716 grant.  Still, it is definitely the known location of Joseph “Maskue/McCun” in 1755-7. 

    John O’Neale, whose eventual fate is not well known, is more than likely the father of Christopher O’Neale (born about 1700).  Christopher O’Neale lived in this same King’s Point area of Hatteras until his death.  He would have grown up around the Indian Town there.  Their families probably all shared a common heritage.  In fact, the O’Neales have owned land (off and on) at King’s Point up until the sale of that property for the development of the high-end subdivision, Brigand’s Bay sometime after the new paved highway developed in 1953.  Urias O’Neale sold the bulk of the property that was terra-formed into the lucrative commercial site found there today. 

    The point is that Hatteras Island has been continuously occupied by European descendants since the mid-1600s.  Indeed, many are the ancestors of the same families who walk the island sands now.  They are the ones who left behind the artifacts that Dr. Phelps was digging up along the Buxton or eastern end of the island.  Phelps also found Indian artifacts mixed with European in the same date range.  Englishmen and Indians lived together for decades before John Lawson’s arrival, at least as early as 1670 and possibly earlier.  They could have lived together since 1587 when John White’s “Lost Colony” arrived.  Still, no two heritages more aptly belonged to any single group of people as those of Hatteras Island.  The Indian Town was simply the last holdouts of traditional Indians hoping to hold on to their ways.  This resulted in William Reed’s “between the Indian towns” reference in 1712.  There was little reason to worry, however.  The Englishmen were family already.  Time eventually brought them all together.

    There have been Rollinsons, Wallaces, Whidbees, Quidleys, Basnetts, Fosters, Fulchers, Farrows, Scarboroughs, Midgetts, Davises, Clarks, and many others on Hatteras Island for a long, long time… perhaps since before Nathaniel Batts and George Durant came through the Dismal Swamp in the 1650s and 60s.  Hatteras and the rest of the Outer Banks may have been the only part of what we now know as North Carolina that was inhabited by European people before then.  The mainland suffered from a lack of roads and numerous creeks, no roads, and dangerous unknowns.  The shores along the sounds and rivers is where you would have found the Europeans in the early eighteenth century.  The Indians, of course, were everywhere else... on Hatteras Island at least since 1,000 A.D. 

    When discussing the earliest history of North Carolina, we must begin with the first point of contact… with the Outer Banks, and Hatteras Island, for the sharp sandy snag known as “Cape Hatteras” or its “Diamond Shoals” brought many a drenched mariner to live there long before Batts or Durant dreamed of trading with the Yeopim or the Chowanoc in the Albemarle.  Whereas the Spanish did not remain on the banks, Englishmen did… maybe since 1587.  Certainly, more accounts of shipwrecks upon these shores will turn up, with more tantalizing tidbits of knowledge about the “Virginians” living there.  They continue to live there today.  And artifacts will continue to emerge from its sands to reveal this nascent North Carolina history.  This is Hatteras’ and, indeed, our country’s earliest European heritage.  Still, the native heritage persists there as well… you can ask them yourself.

Monday, December 12, 2011

History Can Help


Everything seems to come in cycles.  Well, in this case, it's a cycle with one enormous perturbation.  Today's Tea Party Republicans may seem to be revanching the traditional American values of hard work, technology and advancement, the ideals of freedom, free-trade, etc.  However, these ideals have always proven illusory or loosely idealistic.  They can be used to support almost anything.  They seldom take everything into account, allowing conservatives to focus upon specific aspects of life that are conducive to the production of profit while they leave behind essential aspects of life that build a future for the entire culture as a whole.  Yes, this sounds socialist, but hasn't it always been so?  Socialist ideas are not filthy.  You have them all around you… the postal service, Medicare, Social Security, veteran's health care… we've found it better to construct social programs to provide for when we can no longer fight the battles that American life demands of us.  We do not wish to be gunned down by the younger, faster, more agile gunfighter or its cousin, the corporation.  We want security as we grow older and have learned to depend on social programs to help us in these twilight years.  We desire comfort after our travails.  

Furthermore, we need social services everyday... the post office is not run for profit and it runs pretty smoothly.   Education and Health care could also run smoothly without profit.  Conservatives would have us believe that only private enterprise can do this for us, but history proves them wrong.  More regulation/laws/legislation, not less, protects us from them.  And, we need it because we do not have the money to stop them from taking advantage of us otherwise.  The corporate world WILL do this and we all know it... even though we claim in public that God won't let them.  We're afraid of being wrong and the illusion of our defense has never worked.  It only made us feel better in the short term.  History tells us that this has happened before the Great Depression... but, were we alive then?  How could we know that it happened?  That's right... history books.  They might have told us, but they usually didn't.  They were dumbed down.  Corporate publishers didn't want it widely known.  Scholars have always fought with publishers about what they were able to print... what was truth and what was... sort of the truth... revised and edited. But, you know, we've always suspected the truth... and we ignored history in school because it just didn't fit the corporate "version" that claimed capitalism to be the Almighty.  We were afraid to find out otherwise.  James Loewen tells how his was dumbed down by the corporate world and how socialist ideas have always been with us in his book, Lies My Teacher Told Me.  This is very interesting reading!

Businessmen of the past often began their lives in a supercapitalist fashion of fast cars, fast women, fast money, paying low wages, trimming employee benefits, and undercutting competition -- similar to Newt Gingrich.  lol  Rich guys horde their cash... they don't put it back into the economy where it actually would stimulate it.  They keep it in bank accounts and pay 15% taxes on capital gains, which also doesn't help our economy.  Rich people today are our economy's worst nightmare!  You've heard much about the Koch brothers' takeover of the political process.  They would have us return to the days of Calvin Coolidge, the roaring 20s, when children worked in factories and many died as a result of neglect and disdain.  That generation learned a lesson... but they died.  History could have told us that corporate policies were like this, but we weren't listening... 

History was considered useless, although studying real history could have informed these capitalists of the moral pitfalls that they were approaching in their gold-plated world of greed.  Mike Wallace, in Mickey Mouse History, believed that there were two versions of history that confused the average American's understanding.  There was the stale, boring history that was taught in school and the version that invigorated daily experience, enhanced our every activity, and, most importantly, warned us of the dangers ahead (corporate incentives versus our own).  Most people thought of the stale stuff as "History" and the exciting or more useful part was just incidental information that you picked up on the fly, "common sense" we call it… actually, that was history, too.  It just isn't taught to us that way in school because of publishers favoring the capitalist view... the one that downplays reason and constructive criticism in favor of willing, malleable puppets.  I know this seems harsh toward the corporate world, but really?  What do we have in common?  I don't fly in private jets or cruise on my own yacht... neither do you.  You and I struggle every day.  That's not the corporate life and believe me... they live in an alien world and they see us as alien creatures as well.  We have absolutely nothing in common with corporate "people," so please don't tell me that they're patriotic or have our best interests at heart... at the first sign of an organized popular revolution like Occupy Wall Street winning, they'd hop their private jets and head for their private compounds in South America and eat at their private restaurants.  To them, education, especially history education is dangerous to corporate needs because it feeds popular reaction.  Educated people prefer democracies over oligarchies.  Shame on us, huh?


Wasn't it ONLY the sciences that Tea Party (Koch puppets) Gov. Rick Scott of Florida desires?  The corporate needs only... forget the Liberal Arts... like Anthropology, Literature,... HISTORY! 

Henry Ford himself, the great inventor of the assembly line, once said "History is Bunk!" and rejected any notion that the past was useful.  Ford was a good man, a pacifist who believed that war never helped anyone, either for their lives or profit.  The inveterate capitalist could have been nicer to his workers, however.  It's human to want to take advantage.  Nobody's perfect.  But, World War I changed Ford's perspective and he began to understand the usefulness of history, his own idea of American heritage… he then saw history as a living thing worth preserving.  He founded Greenfield Village in the 1920s to preserve every facet of man's inventiveness and culture.  Slave cabins and churches were dragged to Greenfield Village, amassing acres of the common man's world.  There were tractors and cars and buildings of all kinds.  He even invited his friend Thomas Edison to move his workshop to GV and work there… to be a living exhibit.

You see?  Ford recognized that his stringent commercial ways destroyed man's cultural process and legacy.  Ford tried to save it for us... perhaps out of guilt.  History's lessons can only be learned when listened to and you only listen to them if you haven't been trained to think that they suck!  However, the lessons of history tell a dark tale in regards to stringent capitalism… capitalism with no restraints.  "Free-trade" they call it, as though it must necessarily be allowed to flow unimpeded ("regulation" is a dirty word to these guys).  I, for one, am justifiably worried about them having no rules to go by.  After all, it's human to take advantage... to capitalize.  Regulation is absolutely necessary if we want to avoid the horrors of the 1920s.  Here's my bow to Occupy Wall Street... "Free-trade" has historically done a great deal of damage... yes, it makes profit for a few... on the backs of the many... us.  

Is it any wonder that no one pays attention to those history lessons?  Is it surprising that these lessons have been shunned and treated as "bunk" by those who still believe in the failed system?  If your idea of economics fails, threatens your national pride, your bank account… why would you want to believe the failure is true?  "History must lie," you offer!  It cannot be telling the truth when that truth means the failure of everything you know. Well, we made that lie a reality... we gave it life, like a Frankenstein monster.

History textbooks no longer tell tales that we want to hear.  As far as we're concerned, they must be lying to us.  But, they're not always... they've gotten better.  Some of the fault is our own.  No matter how much you might deny the evidence before you, things like global warming, the oil running out, black men winning the office of president... it seems too unreal to be true.  You fight the truth!  Unless something changes, it will only get worse...

Understand this:  there are those in power who make a lot of money from our ignorance.  The more we believe that the truth is a lie, the more they can manufacture money from this machine.  The more they grow richer and you, poorer.  You don't have to take my word for it.  Just open your eyes to the conservative machine falling apart today, the popular revolution of OWS and how the corporate media tries desperately to ignore it.  This is yet another clue.  The lies and corruption have eaten the political system alive.  Still, corporate players remain alive and well.  They live apart from the political world because they know it will fail and have cushioned themselves from the disaster (remember the private world in another country?)... they can handle recession or depression.  Can you?  This is the moment to take advantage of, to capitalize on... they see this as the golden opportunity to fleece the flock before the bomb goes off... no matter that it makes the bomb tick a little faster.  And, so what if it does?  They'll be safe. 

This has happened before... many times.  But, it gets worse and worse... until, finally, it becomes irreparable for us.  It is here now.  Still, the fear need not cripple us.  This can stop, but it means that we have to actually see reality... see who benefits and who does not.  Look upon our failed system with open eyes and ready minds to begin the process of finding the solution.  Don't just follow every FOX huckster that claims to have a solution: Tea Party, GOP candidate, ANY candidate that smiles too much and offers just enough to get elected.  This is unfettered capitalism.  It takes advantage of our democracy to profit on us.  We've seen this cycle go round a few times now and the result is always the same:  Short-term prosperity and then the economy dives and we have a depression while only the rich get richer.  The cycle benefits the few, it generates corporate revenues.  We are little better than serfs or slaves in this high class economic system.  It does not work... for us anyway.  It tanks every time.  We need another way.  I don't claim to have the solution and I don't want the job of president.  No, I'm not running for office... I'm not crazy!  I just want a decent life.  So, let's be a real part of the solution... to make sure it's real and tangible.  Analyze it, criticize it, question it... use the brains that you have.  I'm sure that you're capable if you try.  History can really help.  FOX NEWS most certainly, cannot!  So, let's study with open eyes how this has happened before... look beyond the average textbooks for a solution.  Educate yourself, take charge!  We can find it.

One thing I do know... politics as usual will never find the solution... just more hucksters looking for money and power. It's got to be up to us.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pasquotank Settlers on Hatteras Island

Pasquotank Settlers 
on Hatteras Island

Pasquotank County deed records (Book A: 40) tell of an “authentick Bill of Sale” by a member of the North Carolina governor’s council and Deputy of the Lords Proprietors, Thomas Boyd and his wife, Winifred, written on January 20, 1713, for acreage with plantation house “escheated” or lapsed from Thomas Jones and lying between the lands of John Ferme/Hume and Anthony Markham for the price of one “Negro boy” valued at £30.  Boyd issued this bill of sale to Ashby Evans through his attorney, “Eliz. Evans.”  Blank spaces left for the amount of acreage to be filled in were left unmarked, yet the deed was registered as it was.  That’s because Thomas Boyd, by the time of registration for the deed, was presumed dead.  Anglican minister Giles Rainsford wrote to John Chamberlaine from “Chowan in North Carolina” July 25th 1712:

I presume you are no stranger to the Indian War which has some time since begun and continues in the barbarous Massacres of so Many English Inhabitants Most families of Pamlico hourly feeling the effects of their Cruelty nor truly can the Govr promise himself one hours safety being continually alarmed by the Tuskarora Spies in his own Quarters Col1 Boyde was the other day sent out with a party against the Indians but was unfortunately shot through the head and few of his men came home but what shared in his fate and fell sacrifices to the same common misfortune— (NCCR, 1: 860)

    Boyd had reputedly been killed by the enemy Indians (most of them Tuscarora), while many of his men were captured.  Some of those men were probably Hatteras Indians.  At least, that’s what Rainsford reported.  Rainsford’s report was premature for Thomas Boyd was alive and well to meet the Hatteras upon their escape and return.

Whereas report has been made to this board that ye Hatteress Indyans have lately made their Escape from ye Enemy Indyans and are now at Coll Boyds house…
It is ordered By this Board that the afsd Coll Boyd Doe supply the Said Indyans wth Corne for their Subsistance untill they can returne to their owne habitations againe and lay his Accot thereof before ye next Assbly fforasmuch as there is like to be a great Want of Corne in this Governmt for ye Supply of our fforces agt ye Indyan Enemy… (NCCR, 2: 129-30)

    Subsequent colonial records confirm Boyd’s “resurrection” and continued presence at council meetings.  Reports to officials in London from a wilderness province like early North Carolina were often plagued with mistakes or misreports.  Obviously a skirmish occurred that resulted in the Hatteras’ capture.  Somehow, Boyd made it safely home and the Hatteras Indians found him there.  After collecting their corn, the Hatteras could make their way back to their home of Hatteras Island.

    Settlers in Pasquotank County had long been familiar with the Hatteras Indians.  While no direct references are extant, men of names like Scarboro, Quidley, Whidby, Davis, and about a dozen others who once lived in Pasquotank became permanent residents of Hatteras Island.  Others, like Valentine Wallis and his brother William stayed on Hatteras long enough to make a little money before they headed for Carteret County, not far away.

    Hatteras Island had been used by the earliest North Carolinians, as well as mariners from much of maritime America, since first arriving in the future state.  Many mariners crash-landed upon Hatteras and early Virginians probably knew about the Indians who lived there.  They may even have spoken with them.  No records remain of such an encounter before Capt. Thomas Bilton’s accidental visit in 1707, when he spoke to “Virginians,” not Indians, on shore.  Still, we learned of their European-Indian cooperative business enterprise in 1997-8 when Dr. David S. Phelps, along with student archaeologists from East Carolina University, excavated a “workshop” upon the Buxton end of the island.  Phelps dated his find to a range of 1650-1720.  This date may be a bit early, but not by much.

The first known Virginian to settle in North Carolina was Indian trader Nathaniel Batts in 1654.  We only know about that event because of a later court hearing in Virginia in which Batts told of his purchase from local Indians.  Batts remains in North Carolina to this day, although his grave has probably submerged beneath Albemarle Sound.  The island known as “Batt’s Grave” sank quite near to Durant’s Neck in Perquimans County, where another trader, George Durant made his purchase from Yeopim chief Kilcacenen in 1662 (NCCR, 1: 19).

Another quick peninsula east, we find Pasquotank County and the home of the New Begun Creek community and Little River Meeting House, the place of worship of many of North Carolina’s first Quakers.  This is the area above the Albemarle Sound and known collectively, with Currituck and Chowan Counties as “Albemarle.”  Pasquotank was the home of our hero and possibly another Quaker, Col. Thomas Boyd.

Studying Hatteras Island at this time involves the records of Currituck County, but also those of Hyde County and many deed records appear in Hyde before 1739.  The surprising part is that Hyde County is not the only place we find Hatteras deeds before 1739.  Why?  Much like the separate colonies before the Revolution, early North Carolina “counties” held something of an autonomous nature as well… apparently they often claimed remote Hatteras Island as “ungoverned territory.”  This may also have had something to do with Quakers trying to remain anonymous with regard to England’s official Anglican Church who often discriminated against peaceful Quakers that refused to fight battles.  As Boyd shows us, however, not all Quakers were pacifistic.  However, we only speculated that Boyd was a Quaker.  The only clue to the difference in religion is the unusual way that Pasquotank Precinct began its deeds, with “To all Xtian people to whom these presents shall come…” and the particular Christian wording that usually follows.

Why is this important to the study of Hatteras Island?  Well, that “workshop” that Phelps uncovered was run by heretofore unknown Europeans, but presumably by newly-arrived North Carolinians.  Quakers, also slave traders at this time and not yet the guardians of Indian virtue that they will later become, were quite well-disposed to them nonetheless.  If anyone would share an island in peace with natives, it would be the Quakers.  If anyone were to keep such a business venture secret, it would be Quakers.

Of the Pasquotank men that had later dealings with Hatteras Island, we find Valentine Wallis who constructed a home near the “workshop” location before 1740 that was later occupied by Job Carr and then, Hezekiah Farrow.  Wallis was born and christened in Middlesex County, Virginia in 1699, son of William Wallace (not the guy from Braveheart) and Ann (possibly) Blount.  He had a brother William, sisters Sarah, Jane, Mary, and, interestingly “Anne Kinnecum,”  a name rather similar to the chief of the Yeopim that sold George Durant his land, “Kilcacenen.”  Valentine’s mother remarried after William died to a Richard Grey of Perquimans and had another son, Richard Grey Jr.  Grey/Gray is yet another Hatteras surname (See below and also: Pasquotank Co., NC Record of Deeds 1700-1751, Deed A: 242).


North Carolina Historical & Genealogical Register, Vol. 1 by Hathaway, p. 46 – Note the name “Kinnecum,” similar to “Chief Kilcacenen” that sold the land to George Durant in 1662.  Note also that Grey/Gray is another Hatteras surname.

Other records showing the Wallis connection to Hatteras come through Pasquotank deeds before 1739 when Currituck County began the process.  One is for 1734 and gives us the details of the long-misunderstood Valentine Wallis presence on the island.  It also involved his younger brother William Jr.:

..



Pasquotank County Deed Records, Book C: 345 (transcription taken from published source) – Note the land on Flatty Creek adjacent to John Boyd and the land (570 acres) on Hatteras Banks, that he formerly lived on.
Apparently, Valentine and his brother planned to move away from both Pasquotank County and Hatteras Island at this time, going to Carteret County where we find many Pasquotank County names as well, including the second-most populous Quaker community in North Carolina.

There seems to have been a great deal of Boyd contacts with Hatteras, although there has been none alluded to aside from the “capture” incident involving the Indians in 1712.  Might there be a closer connection to Boyd, producing the militia structure that included the Hatteras Indians?  Yes, there is… and it is a surprising one indeed.

John Whitby is a name that is often seen on Hatteras, especially in mid-eighteenth-century deed records.  The blending of the English settlers and the Indians makes itself known in studies of the “persons of color” on the island and how they suddenly change to “white” in the 1800 census.  Names like Whitby, Basnett, and Quidley appear in genealogical records that detail their mixed relationships.  Going back to Pasquotank County once again, we find the Whitbys, or Whedbees have their origins there as well.


North Carolina Historical & Genealogical Register, Vol. 1 by Hathaway, p. 508-9 – Note the names Whedbee, Reed, Davis, and Foster.  These are all Hatteras settlers and probably used the island earlier, prior to the issuance of official deeds c1716.  William Reed received the first recorded deed in 1712.  Christian and Joseph are his sons.  Note also the first will mentioned for Ann Whebee… her “sons” William and Thomas Boyd and daughter, Winnifred Boyd.  Thomas Boyd’s wife, Winnifred, is a Whedbee, making his relationship with the Hatteras Indians all that more significant.  They likely knew these Indians well, indeed, may have been related to them through decades of living side by side them.

Pasquotank Deed Book A: p. 302 -  John Whitby appointment of attorneys, 1723.  Note the name of John Clark, another Hatteras surname that came there through the Thomas Robb /Henry Davis connection as grandchildren.  This name prevails all over eastern NC today, especially in Hyde County and on Hatteras Island in Trent Woods.

    Even more surprising, we see that Thomas Boyd married Winnifred Whedbee and was a brother-n-law not only of the Reeds (first official settlers of Hatteras), but also of John, Richard, and George Whedbee.  Just to throw in some other names, the O’Neals, who at one time, own the Indian Town at Trent Woods on Hatteras, also hail from Pasquotank as do the Fosters, John and Macrora Scarboro/Scarbro, Davis (specifically Thomas & Elizabeth close to Currituck) and Robb (vague hints and closer to Currituck... only after 1716 when he came over as prisoner), Matthew Midgett (in present day Camden on "Alligator Creek" that flows into North River, along with neighbor George Whedbee), Jno. Jennet, Oliver, Miller, William Rawlinson/Rolinson, and more.


 The evidence is overwhelming!  There was much more to the Thomas Boyd story than previously assumed (the previous reports of his demise have been exaggerated!) and much more to the Hatteras Indians also.  That the colonial government sent extra gunpowder, shot, and flints to John O’Neal to distribute them to the Hatteras Indians then living on his island property in 1720 (property which included the Indian Town later owned by the Elks family of Indians in 1759), it just continued the relationship that they had long enjoyed.  This was a community of relatives, much like it is today.  That they could assimilate into white culture as easily as they did is not much of a surprise.  The outside world grew more hateful to people of color by 1800, yet on remote Hatteras Island, it was just a fact of life… though light enough to fool the rest. 

One question that we have to ask... why did the Hatteras Indians become the native group who showed the most affinity towards Europeans and live with them peacefully for so long?  Maybe because they already had English ancestry!  Come see us at the Lost Colony Research Group website.

Friday, November 18, 2011

North Carolina's Early Difficulties

Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon - A Lord Proprietor of Carolina
Historian Noeleen McIlvenna regarded the development of North Carolina as an emerging utopian community, yet “very mutinous,” in the “shadows of the British empire” (McIlvenna, 1).   McIlvenna’s reasons center primarily upon geography and its affects upon the human psyche.  Early North Carolinians lived a subsistence-level existence amidst the swamps and shoals, remarkably less aristocratic than their plantationist neighbors of Virginia and the later South Carolina.  McIlvenna posited “a remote, swampy, hurricane-prone region where communication with the outside world meant a struggle through boggy terrain, where every household had to fend for itself… where life did not lend itself to dreams of great prosperity” (McIlvenna, 1).  Other factors associated with North Carolina’s rebellious nature include absentee proprietary rule and the strain posed by conflict with a strange, aboriginal, and alien culture while obtaining little support from their own.  

Another North Carolina historian, Lindsey S. Butler could not agree with McIlvenna more, although he regards his home state’s geography with less ambivalence.  In his essay on the Culpepper Rebellion, Butler sees the outright neglect of Carolina’s owners, the Lords Proprietors as a greater influence on its inhabitants’ rebellious nature.  Early Carolinians “tested” the proprietors’ absentee rule.  The proprietors in England rarely visited America and left the government of their faraway lands to local officials with appointed governors.  These English governors presided over the local Assembly, who often disagreed with, and objected to his authority.  They annoyed their governors, however, no less than they did each other.


Only two proprietors ever lived in America, one as the governor of Virginia who never ventured south of the Dismal Swamp on the Carolina border.  The other, Seth Sothel, became known as the worst governor that Carolina ever had.  The rest remained in England or Europe, relying heavily upon the Assembly and the Fundamental Constitutions to function in their absence.  Arguably not one of John Locke’s best ideas, the Fundamental Constitutions of 1669 opaquely provided for liberal characteristics of representative government (the Assembly) and religious freedom.  Its older feudalistic aspects, however, attempted to recreate English ideals of a titled, landed gentry, a class order that could not have worked well in a wilderness environment verging on social liberalities.  Thus, the Constitutions failed before it began and added to the political uncertainties that fueled the rowdy discontent of McIlvenna’s “mutinous people.” 
The development of proprietary and anti-proprietary parties became a pattern for North Carolina particularly that revolved around the nature of power, or the ability to influence others.  John Culpeper came from Charles Town to influence the distressed people of the Albemarle to revolt and dispense with proprietary rule, much like Thomas Cary and John Gibbs not long after.  Drunk sheriffs, prohibitive Virginia tobacco statutes, and the occasional refusal of a governor to return to the colony contributed to rebellion.    This unrest hinted at the cultural divergence building between England, the proprietors, and their colony.  


This divergence later grew to separate eastern and western North Carolina in the War of Regulation, just prior to the American Revolution.  “Arising from the demographic changes, social and economic tensions, and political turmoil” found in the colony, the Regulation arose as an internal civil dispute affecting thousands of North Carolinians (Butler and Watson, 102).  That dispute centered primarily upon excessive government corruption, made painfully obvious to Mecklenburg residents by Governor Tryon’s extravagant palace in New Bern.  


North Carolinians rebelled against authority for many reasons, not least of which included religion.  Religious freedom, a seed planted by Locke’s Fundamental Constitutions, matured behind the virtual wall of isolation provided by the Dismal Swamp and the Outer Banks and their dangerous, shifting shoals.   Since the founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony, America had become a refuge for many types of religious dissidents.  Quakerism brought to these shores by George Fox and others established itself early in the Albemarle.  A Quaker became the first known minister to preach in the area in 1672.  Other sects felt welcome as well, such as Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians.  


England’s official, or Anglican Church, never found a place in North Carolina.  Nevertheless, the Vestry Acts of 1701 and 1703 attempted to enforce Anglican worship over dissenting religions in the colony.  Anglican ministers sent to North Carolina, often destitute and inebriated once they realized their situation, reflected England’s opinion of the colony.  Furthermore, their many letters to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) told of their opinion as well.  Rev. C. E. Taylor found North Carolinians “very ignorant” and complained that they “busy themselves with the most Mysterious Parts of Scripture” (Butler and Watson, 98).  The earlier Rev. John Urmstone often felt worse of his flock, especially in Pasquotank.  He found “a very factious[,] mutinous[,] and rebellious people… ready to oppose either Church or state” (McIlvenna, 139).  The fundamental and personal efforts to gain immortality through God could not be legislated, as England discovered.  These arbitrary acts fueled even more unrest.   


Perhaps the greatest distress upon a driver of the human condition, having a strong influence upon the security of early North Carolinians, became the presence of the Native American.  Since the arrival of the earliest English, Sir Walter Raleigh’s colonists in 1584, conflicts have occurred with Native Americans.  The English anticipated conflict even before landing on Roanoke, evidenced by Thomas Hariot’s ethnographic/logistic report to Raleigh.  Hariot referred to the Indians’ tendency to “turn up their heeles” and run away (Butler and Watson, 14).  These conflicts built steadily, through cultural misunderstandings and ideological differences until English domination triumphed in the colony with the end of the Tuscarora War.  Today, only two million Native Americans exist out of over three hundred million Americans, or less than one percent.  While historian Herbert Paschal attributes this result to assimilation, his essay on the “Tragedy of the North Carolina Indians” indicates virtual elimination of the comparatively inferior native culture (Butler and Watson, 3).  


Still, fear of the unfamiliar and the physical nearness of the Native American to early North Carolinians resulted in conflicts that created a uniquely American experience.  This further differentiated Americans from the English, as well as North Carolinians from Native Americans.  For North Carolina, the Tuscarora War best represented a turning point in local Indian relations.  Christopher Gale called the Indian attack of Chief Hancock’s Tuscarora faction a “nefarious villainy,” in which he found English settlers “butchered after the most barbarous manner” (Butler and Watson, 17).  These words once described an old enemy of the English most feared in the Elizabethan era – the Spanish.  Conflict with both the Spanish and Algonquians from 1584-1590 had been a learning experience for the English, yet not quite like the Tuscarora War.  The enemy in this case lived next door, not six hundred miles away in La Florida.  


Dissention in British North Carolina had a long history that began with the first Englishman to step onto its soil.  Land disputes with natives, quitrent disputes with governors, religious disputes with the Anglicans, and land tenure problems with the Granville agents created an internal problem unique to the future state.  The "War of the Regulation" that appeared in 1766 and lasted until 1771 represented a vague reflection of the larger rebellion to come.  It prepared all North Carolinians to meet this challenge.  


Still, the battle between eastern and western North Carolina stemmed from many factors not found in other British colonies, factors that affected the colony since Nathaniel Batts first arrived in 1655.  Geography played a large role.  The lack of economic potential that drew so little attention from the Lords Proprietors further separated the colony from its plantationist neighbors.  Furthermore, events in North Carolina helped to set the tone in America’s relations with the Native American, a relationship which ultimately spelled their doom.  All of these divergent factors created a unique North Carolina identity that joined with twelve others in the War for Independence. 





References:


McIlvenna, Noeleen.  A Very Mutinous People: The Struggle for North Carolina, 1660-1713.  Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Butler Lindley S. and Watson, Alan D., ed.  The North Carolina Experience:  An Interpretive and Documentary History.  Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1984. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

On North Carolina Politics: Then and Now!

Alfred Moore Waddell
Re:  “Cracking the Solid South:
Populism and the Fusionist Interlude”
by Dr. Jeffrey J. Crow

For historian Dr. Jeffrey Crow, there exists a myth that a “solid South” developed from the dark years of Reconstruction.  This myth of a unified South does not seem so reliable in view of North Carolina politics leading up to the twentieth century.  Crow sees a different reality.  He introduces this reality with this definition:  the “solid South came to stand for the Democratic party, white supremacy, and a benign upper-class hegemony over millhands, tenant farmers, and sharecroppers, black and white alike.”   Republican rule ended after only a decade to be replaced with a planter-dominated upper class, even once at gunpoint.  In Crow’s belief, if historian Donald Higginbotham’s “reconstruction that took” really took hold in North Carolina, then the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 would not have happened.   Reconstruction in North Carolina, as in the rest of the South, fell beside the peace table during negotiations following the Southern Rebellion and the Herrenvolk, or “master race” remained in power.  If anything, Democratic one-party rule grew more entrenched “promoted by industrialization, and the social order firmly fixed by rigid class and caste definitions.”   Thus goes the myth.

Crow agrees partly that a hierarchy existed.  He places the few elite planters at the head of the hierarchy in North Carolina in this period.  Secondly, he introduces merchants, lawyers, and factory managers as necessary elements for an industrialized economy.  Thirdly, the farmers represent the most numerous group that lay steadfastly upon the freedmen at the bottom of the social scale.  The story that unfolded involved the independent farmer class that, after the decades-long agricultural depression of the late 1800s, began to erode.  They fought to maintain their position in the social scale, for security’s sake (both social and economic) and literally for sustenance.  Also important to them, ex-confederates and their sons, they did not stand for being classed with the Negro.  Still, no matter how low the farmers had become, they felt assured that their skin color would always keep them above the lowly freedmen.  Moreover, the closer the comparison, the more uncomfortable they became.

The Democrats’ armor, however, had a dent in it.  In North Carolina, Republicans, including the newly liberated freedmen, sided with western subsistence farmers or Whigs from before the war.  Therefore, the Republican Party still remained as a political force, if culled by Redeemer or Bourbon Democrats.  Crow disagrees with a “solid South” and argues that North Carolina had “the most competitive two-party system in the South before 1900.”   A new political force evolved in response to the great class distinction, the poor farmers’ plight against the rich Bourbon Democrats.  In the early stages, it functioned within the existing power structure.  The Southern Farmer’s Alliance, a democratic reform movement that included the South and West developed in the 1880s and 1890s from independent farmers seeking relief from high tariffs and low prices on their goods.  The Alliance also opposed corrupt tactics of the business-oriented, ex-slaveholding eastern Bourbons of the reigning Democratic Party. 

The political spectrum encountered another variable, a liberal and reforming one led by an aristocratic leader in touch with the people’s plight, Leonidas L. Polk from Anson County and later a president of the national Alliance.  Polk held all the qualities of the intelligentsia: charisma, wealthy, and educated.  Historian William Link regards Polk as widely popular for his leadership, but “was clearly not from the bottom rung of the social order.”   The Alliance created a statewide cooperative, including tobacco warehouses in an attempt to alleviate elite planters’ control of prices.  The Alliance also helped to reduce tariffs that made foreign necessaries so expensive for the independent farmer.  Crow states that “the furnishing merchant and landlord could be bypassed,” but not without repercussions.   The Alliance had outgrown the Democratic Party which had grown corrupt in their eyes, especially after Redeemer Zebulon Vance’s political betrayal.  In all political arenas, there exist such historical and inevitable patterns.

Thus, a third party formed as a response to Democratic corruption in North Carolina politics.  The Populists or People’s Party mobilized Alliancemen and made an clean break with the planter-industrialist faction of the Democratic Party.  They wanted Polk as their leader, but upon his sudden death, found another in Sampson County-born Marion Butler.  Butler shared intelligentsia qualities with Polk, but elevated Populist pragmatic politics to the state level.  He attempted to side with reform-minded Democrats against the entrenched Bourbons, but found Republicans a more willing partner. 

Daniel Lindsay Russell, Jr., a Whig from the Lower Cape Fear, leaned far to the left on the political spectrum, despite his elitist eastern planter beginnings.  As a Radical Republican, Russell had grown weary of the Democrats’ use of race to hold the entire state hostage.  He also did not like black efforts to gain full control of the Republican Party.  In 1892, Russell predicted that, by combining forces, the Republicans and the Populists could defeat Democratic hegemony.  The next year, Democrats attempted to curtail the Populists’ power even further.  This caused them to seek out Republicans to increase their effectiveness against the Democrats.  Russell attempted to dispense with the race issue and the combined Fusion Party easily threatened the old Democratic Party in the vote.

Crow argues that the Populist and Republican Parties made a matching pair in that they both wanted electoral reforms.  This, they did to defeat Democratic partisan election laws designed to disfranchise blacks and illiterate whites, arguably tactics in today’s Southern politics.  Democrats understood the nature of power and ruled from the veritable throne of the state’s legislature to negate local influence across the state.  Still, the combined power of the Fusionists gained control of that legislature in 1894 and began enacting reforms, including sending Marion Butler to the United States Senate and filling the late Zebulon Vance’s empty seat with Jeter C. Pritchard.  Furthermore, Daniel Russell won the governorship thanks to last-minute Fusion cooperation that combined against Democrats. 

Democrats, facing a perceived “black rule,” with an alienated business community, used blistering propaganda to sway popular opinion and win back control.  The uneasy alliance of Populists and Republicans became an easy target for these powerful Democrats.  When Gov. Russell attacked the J. P. Morgan Southern Railway lease of the state-owned North Carolina Railroad, with their higher rates, he lost Republican support.  Fusion quickly died and Russell alienated his own party just in time for the 1898 election. 

The Democrats saw their chance and went for the Populist jugular.  Although economics sat at the core, Democrats waged this election on race.  Furnifold Simmons, Charles B. Aycock, Josephus Daniels of the Raleigh News and Observer, terrorist groups Red Shirts and Rough Riders, waged virtual war against all of their foes, particularly blacks.  “Armed men broke up fusionist political rallies, disrupted black church meetings, whipped outspoken blacks, and drove black voters from the polls,” as Crow outlines.   Former Confederate officer, Alfred Moore Waddell initiated a coup d’etat two days after the 1898 election in Russell’s hometown of Wilmington.  The Herrenvolk mentality in North Carolina violently forced the political spectrum back to the conservative side.  In Wilmington specifically, it resulted in burned buildings and death.  As Crow details “eleven to thirty blacks were killed” in the takeover of Wilmington’s government.   The numbers probably go higher and he gives no figures for how many suffered exile from the city and county.  Democrats dismantled the Fusionist reforms and ensured that “a coalition of blacks and… low born quondam slaves [poor whites]… would never triumph again.”   The violence of this anti-governmental coup never again saw its equal in the United States.  No author can effectively express it in mere words.

Crow implies that Democrats removed poor whites and blacks from the political equation and assumed the role of reformers to alleviate further disruption of their power.  With virtually all of the dissenting voices silenced, they still understood that the largest majority in the state, the farmers, could effectively offer resistance and did, before 1898.  Thus, they pandered to them as little as possible to sway their numbers to their side of the ballot.  For the most part, however, North Carolina returned to the Democratic status quo for the so-called “Progressive” movement which gave Aycock the semi-sweet moniker of the “education governor.” 


Crow’s article reveals many complicated truths about North Carolina and simplifies a complex issue.  His original point of “cracking” a “solid South” myth appears to have focused upon a short-lived episode in North Carolina’s political history.  Still, the “solid South” did, in fact, remain solid, especially after 1898 in the Tar Heel state.  The same Democrats ruled after Reconstruction as after the government takeover that year and, as Crow admits, into the twentieth century.  No problem existed with the historiography, only with its representation. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rebellious North Carolina

Historian Noeleen McIlvenna regarded the development of North Carolina as an emerging utopian community, yet “very mutinous,” in the “shadows of the British empire” (McIlvenna, 1).   McIlvenna’s reasons center primarily upon geography and its affects upon the human psyche.  Early North Carolinians lived a subsistence-level existence amidst the swamps and shoals, remarkably less aristocratic than their plantationist neighbors of Virginia and the later South Carolina.  McIlvenna posited “a remote, swampy, hurricane-prone region where communication with the outside world meant a struggle through boggy terrain, where every household had to fend for itself… where life did not lend itself to dreams of great prosperity” (McIlvenna, 1).  Other factors associated with North Carolina’s rebellious nature include absentee proprietary rule and the strain posed by conflict with a strange, aboriginal, and alien culture while obtaining little support from their own. 

Another North Carolina historian, Lindsey S. Butler could not agree with McIlvenna more, although he regards his home state’s geography with less ambivalence.  In his essay on the Culpepper Rebellion, Butler sees the outright neglect of Carolina’s owners, the Lords Proprietors as a greater influence on its inhabitants’ rebellious nature.  Early Carolinians “tested” the proprietors’ absentee rule.  The proprietors in England rarely visited America and left the government of their faraway lands to local officials with appointed governors.  These English governors presided over the local Assembly, who often disagreed with, and objected to his authority.  They annoyed their governors, however, no less than they did each other.


Only two proprietors ever lived in America, one as the governor of Virginia who never ventured south of the Dismal Swamp on the Carolina border.  The other, Seth Sothel, became known as the worst governor that Carolina ever had.  The rest remained in England or Europe, relying heavily upon the Assembly and the Fundamental Constitutions to function in their absence.  Arguably not one of John Locke’s best ideas, the Fundamental Constitutions of 1669 opaquely provided for liberal characteristics of representative government (the Assembly) and religious freedom.  Its older feudalistic aspects, however, attempted to recreate English ideals of a titled, landed gentry, a class order that could not have worked well in a wilderness environment verging on social liberalities.  Thus, the Constitutions failed before it began and added to the political uncertainties that fueled the rowdy discontent of McIlvenna’s “mutinous people.” 


The development of proprietary and anti-proprietary parties became a pattern for North Carolina particularly that revolved around the nature of power, or the ability to influence others.  John Culpeper came from Charles Town to influence the distressed people of the Albemarle to revolt and dispense with proprietary rule, much like Thomas Cary and John Gibbs not long after.  Drunk sheriffs, prohibitive Virginia tobacco statutes, and the occasional refusal of a governor to return to the colony contributed to rebellion.    This unrest hinted at the cultural divergence building between England, the proprietors, and their colony. 


This divergence later grew to separate eastern and western North Carolina in the War of Regulation, just prior to the American Revolution.  “Arising from the demographic changes, social and economic tensions, and political turmoil” found in the colony, the Regulation arose as an internal civil dispute affecting thousands of North Carolinians (Butler and Watson, 102).  That dispute centered primarily upon excessive government corruption, made painfully obvious to Mecklenburg residents by Governor Tryon’s extravagant palace in New Bern. 


North Carolinians rebelled against authority for many reasons, not least of which included religion.  Religious freedom, a seed planted by Locke’s Fundamental Constitutions, matured behind the virtual wall of isolation provided by the Dismal Swamp and the Outer Banks and their dangerous, shifting shoals.   Since the founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony, America had become a refuge for many types of religious dissidents.  Quakerism brought to these shores by George Fox and others established itself early in the Albemarle.  A Quaker became the first known minister to preach in the area in 1672.  Other sects felt welcome as well, such as Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. 
England’s official, or Anglican Church, never found a place in North Carolina.  Nevertheless, the Vestry Acts of 1701 and 1703 attempted to enforce Anglican worship over dissenting religions in the colony.  Anglican ministers sent to North Carolina, often destitute and inebriated once they realized their situation, reflected England’s opinion of the colony.  Furthermore, their many letters to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) told of their opinion as well.  Rev. C. E. Taylor found North Carolinians “very ignorant” and complained that they “busy themselves with the most Mysterious Parts of Scripture” (Butler and Watson, 98).  The earlier Rev. John Urmstone often felt worse of his flock, especially in Pasquotank.  He found “a very factious[,] mutinous[,] and rebellious people… ready to oppose either Church or state” (McIlvenna, 139).  The fundamental and personal efforts to gain immortality through God could not be legislated, as England discovered.  These arbitrary acts fueled even more unrest.  


Perhaps the greatest distress upon a driver of the human condition, having a strong influence upon the security of early North Carolinians, became the presence of the Native American.  Since the arrival of the earliest English, Sir Walter Raleigh’s colonists in 1584, conflicts have occurred with Native Americans.  The English anticipated conflict even before landing on Roanoke, evidenced by Thomas Hariot’s ethnographic/logistic report to Raleigh.  Hariot referred to the Indians’ tendency to “turn up their heeles” and run away (Butler and Watson, 14).  These conflicts built steadily, through cultural misunderstandings and ideological differences until English domination triumphed in the colony with the end of the Tuscarora War.  Today, only two million Native Americans exist out of over three hundred million Americans, or less than one percent.  While historian Herbert Paschal attributes this result to assimilation, his essay on the “Tragedy of the North Carolina Indians” indicates virtual elimination of the comparatively inferior native culture (Butler and Watson, 3). 


Still, fear of the unfamiliar and the physical nearness of the Native American to early North Carolinians resulted in conflicts that created a uniquely American experience.  This further differentiated Americans from the English, as well as North Carolinians from Native Americans.  For North Carolina, the Tuscarora War best represented a turning point in local Indian relations.  Christopher Gale called the Indian attack of Chief Hancock’s Tuscarora faction a “nefarious villainy,” in which he found English settlers “butchered after the most barbarous manner” (Butler and Watson, 17).  These words once described an old enemy of the English most feared in the Elizabethan era – the Spanish.  Conflict with both the Spanish and Algonquians from 1584-1590 had been a learning experience for the English, yet not quite like the Tuscarora War.  The enemy in this case lived next door, not six hundred miles away in La Florida. 


Dissention in British North Carolina had a long history that began with the first Englishman to step onto its soil.  Land disputes with natives, quitrent disputes with governors, religious disputes with the Anglicans, and land tenure problems with the Granville agents created an internal problem unique to the future state.  The War of the Regulation that appeared in 1766 and lasted until 1771 represented a vague reflection of the larger rebellion to come.  It prepared all North Carolinians to meet this challenge. 


Still, the battle between eastern and western North Carolina stemmed from many factors not found in other British colonies, factors that affected the colony since Nathaniel Batts first arrived in 1655.  Geography played a large role.  The lack of economic potential that drew so little attention from the Lords Proprietors further separated the colony from its plantationist neighbors.  Furthermore, events in North Carolina helped to set the tone in America’s relations with the Native American, a relationship which ultimately spelled their doom.  All of these divergent factors created a unique North Carolina identity that joined with twelve others in the War for Independence. 





References:


McIlvenna, Noeleen.  A Very Mutinous People: The Struggle for North Carolina, 1660-1713.  Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Butler Lindley S. and Watson, Alan D., ed.  The North Carolina Experience:  An Interpretive and Documentary History.  Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.