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Saturday, July 23, 2011

From Roanoke to Hatteras: A Two-day Hunt for Clues to the Lost Colony

Baylus C. Brooks & Dawn F. Taylor in Roger & Celia Meekin’s Roanoke Island backyard on the Croatan Sound north of Manteo. 

The latter part of this week in July was a scorcher!  But, the archives at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in Manteo, North Carolina is very cool, indeed.  Lost Colony Research Group (LCRG) members, Dawn Taylor and Baylus Brooks visited with National Park Service’s Cultural Resources Specialist Doug Stover on Thursday, July 21, 2011.  They were accompanied by Celia Meekins, wife of Roger Meekins, owners of one of the island’s more prominent original homes (originally given by Edward Mann to his daughter and her husband, Daniel Meekins as a wedding gift in the early 19th century).  Celia is another cousin of Dawn’s through Bateman Williams from Hatteras Island.  Did you know that Dawn is related to everyone in the Outer Banks?

Dawn Taylor (LRCG & HIGPS), Doug Stover (Fort Raleigh NPS), and Celia Meekins in the cool (important for July) artifact room at Fort Raleigh Archives. Photo: Baylus Brooks

Doug was a terrific host, proudly guiding a tour through the temperature-controlled and oh-so-cool artifact storage area.  Yes, the “cool” reference was literal!  He showed his small audience the many artifacts found during the various excavations on Roanoke Island in the search for Sir Walter Raleigh’s elusive first colony in what is today, North Carolina. 

Doug allowed LCRG researchers access to the maps and photos collections available in their archives collection.  After the tour of the artifacts and a brief overview of the collections room, the researchers studied aerial photos from 1945-1958 revealing Hatteras island’s layout prior to the man-made structuring of Brigand’s Bay, purposeful terraforming of lakes and ponds on a significant scale, and even prior to the replacement of the island’s dirt roads with a comfortably-paved Highway 12, which opened the island to large scale development for the first time in 1952. 

Circa 1950 Aerial Photo of Hatteras Island’s King’s Point 
Photo: NPS Archives, Fort Raleigh, Manteo, North Carolina

Baylus Brooks holding one of the aerial photos and Doug Stover showing a Lifesaving Badge.

Doug demonstrates to Celia how the wooden artifact was used as a well by Roanoke’s 16th-century Elizabethan visitors. Photos: Dawn Taylor

Many people contribute to LCRG.  The primary focus of research for the group is to study Hatteras Island through standard genealogical analysis, including deed records (paired with Dare County GIS data), logs, diaries, wills, court records, and archaeology in an effort to understand the families who lived on the island and how they arrived there.  Nancy Frey contributes her expertise on UK genealogy, a much more difficult task from 3,000 miles away.  Ultimately, the group employs DNA analysis and genealogical data correlation (LCRG president, Roberta Estes’ expertise) of Hatteras Islanders to be compared to members of John White’s final “abandoned” (not exactly “lost”) colony of 1587 in order to determine whether or not native Hatteras Islanders today are the result of “blending” between White’s colonists and Algonquian inhabitants of then-called “Croatoan” Island, today’s Hatteras Island.   Finally, LCRG employs archaeology (organized by Anne Poole and George Ray) to verify the physical existence of Croatoan villages and hopefully, to find actual evidence of the “Lost” Colony.  All of this study is backed up by historical records and analysis provided by ECU Maritime Studies graduate student, Baylus C. Brooks and Andrew Thomas Powell, former mayor of Bideford, England and author of the recently-published Grenville and the Lost Colony of RoanokeOther members of LCRG include our web-mistress Nelda Percival, blog administrator and librarian Janet Crain, blog and DNA project administrator Penny Ferguson, early English records researcher Joe Chandler, NC genealogist Jennifer Shepherd, Spanish researcher Dr. Ana Oquendo Pabon, specialty genealogist Robert Noles, with the contributions of myriad others.  Hopefully, the preponderance of data from these varied disciplines and analysis of LCRG’s many more devoted scholars will finally prove that White’s colony is still among our state’s citizenry today and that the colony was, after all, successful and not “lost” as previously supposed.

Dare County Geographic Information Systems Database (GIS) provides valuable information in the search.  For instance, the “Elks Indian” Grant of 1759 is still visible and fairly intact on similar graphic representations.  Photo: Dare County GIS. 

Dawn Taylor and Clara Scarborough at the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” Museum.  Photo: Baylus Brooks

Another goal for the two intrepid adventurers this steamy July involved the study of local Hatteras Islanders themselves and their families.  That is where Dawn Taylor steps into her role as the president of Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society (HIGPS).  One of the more significant finds was the John W. Rolinson “Wreck Log,” which holds a great deal more than information on simply wrecks which were quite common on Hatteras.  There are details about many local people, illnesses, marriages, deaths, and details of their maritime businesses in the Trent/Frisco area of the island.  Fishing for porpoise and trade with exotic Caribbean locales for sugar and molasses seem commonplace features of the book Rolinson kept. 

The pair of researchers stopped at Hatteras’ public library and also at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras Village for a visit with Clara Scarborough who guided them through the facility’s conservation and archives area in search of log books and local history.  The conservation lab contained many artifacts from old wrecks, including the Corolla wreck, the oldest known to our coast and originally surveyed by ECU’s Maritime Studies Program before its transportation to the museum by cooperating agencies where it is to be conserved and displayed.  The “Graveyard” Museum in Hatteras Village is one of three North Carolina Maritime Museums that also include Southport and Beaufort. 

Two excellent days of research and study ended with the perfect dinner cooked by Dawn Taylor’s culinary couplet, her father Kenneth Dickerson and her cousin Edith Jennette Bradley.  Perhaps the heat and humidity were made more bearable by the constant island breezes and the tropical atmosphere.  Then again, maybe it was the food!  Either way, a lot of work got done pleasantly despite the heat of this July’s summer swelter. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Land Quarrels Between Indians and Colonists in NC... the Dudley/Blount Affair

North Carolina State Archives

Altercation between Christopher Dudley and a Tuscarora Indian
CCR 192 – 13 March 1728

North Carolina.  The Deposition of John Gardiner being of full age & sworn on ye holy Evangelist before us  Gyles Shute & Joshua porter Esqs  Two of his Majesties justices of ye peace of ye precincts of Beafort & hyde, Saith; that Wm Sighaea Blount came up; Mr Dudley askt where he was a goeing and he said to catch Beavers and Mr Dudley said he should not hunt here for it was his land  for; his dogs would seaze his chatle & hogs & ye said Blount made answer that his Doggs followed only Beaver Racoons & Deer and said that he would hunt  and Mr Dudley made answer will you[?] and so catcht up a board & struck ye said Blount and ye said Blount took up a stick to defend ye Blow, & then he advanced up to Mr Dudley & they had a struggle & Mr Dudley pushed him againt a barril  then I hauled ye Indian away, and I told Mr Dudley to let him alone, and Dudley Bid me then to keep of[f] from him; and then ye Indian catcht up ye end of a hoop poll and mad[e] towards him  So I desired ye Indian to stand of[f]  Soe went & left them and further saith not.      John Gardiner.        Jurat Corum Nobis  Gyles Shute  Joshua Porter

North Carolina.  The Deposition of Richard Nixson being of full age & Sworn on ye Holy Evangelist before us – Gyles Shute & Joshua Porter Esqs of his Majtes Justices of ye peace of ye precincts of Beufort & Hyde.  Saith that four or five Indians came up to his house & that Mr Dudley was at his house when they came so that when they came up he asked them where are you a goeing[?] & ye Indians satt down without giving him any answer; then one old Indian named Sighaeha Blount came up after ye rest & when he came up he asked what is ye matter[?] & replyd, English men here allwayes Scold, then Mr Dudley said you shall not hunt here, for this land is all mine, then old Sighacha said, that he would goe hunt & catch Beaver, with that Mr Dudley catcht up a board, and said will you goe[?] & struck him upon ye head, and caused ye Blood to run and then ye aford [aforesaid] Sighacha held up his arm to Defend ye Blow: and recd ye Blow upon his arm and Mr John Gardiner stept in between them and parted them and ye Indian satt down on a block, and said that Mr Dudley had broake his arm and wth that I went to ye Indian and took hold of his arm & felt on it and to ye best of my understanding that there was one broak between ye elbow and wrist.  Two days after I soe ye Indian again and his hand & arm was very much swelld & ye Indian sd to me that ye Bone was broake & nine or ten days after I see ye Indian goeing home and his arm was splintered; and he said he would goe, and tell King Blount; for King Blount he said would go to Capt West; & peace make it and further saith not.    Richd (R) Nixson    Jurat corum Nobis    Gules Shute  Joshua Porter.

North Carolina.  Whereas Complanint is made unto me Christopher Gale Esq Chief Justice of this province that Christopher Dudley of Beaufort precinct in Bath county hath lately violently assaulted and beaten & broke the arm of an Indian man belonging to the Tuscarora Nation whereby many ill conveniencys are to be feared to the tranquility & pace of this Government.  These are Therefore in his majesties name to require & strictly charge you immediately upon receipt hereof to arrest the body of sd Christopher Dudley & him bring before me to answer the said complaint here in fule  not at yr perill as you will answer the contrary  and for so doeing this shall be sufficient warrant  Given under my hand & seale this 13th day of March ano 1728   Gale CJ   To the Provost Marshall of Bath County or to his Deputy or to Mr Edwd Travise   Summon Mr Richard Nickson and John Gardiner  Evidences[i]

The land specified above may have been the 640 acres that Christopher Dudley received April 5, 1720 upon the north side of Pamlico River and bordering White Church Creek.[ii]

This set of documents holds many clues as to the social setting of colonists as they relate to Indians in 1728.  Both depositions are nearly identical, indicating that the events almost certainly transpired in the order as indicated.  John Gardiner’s deposition abruptly ends without mention of the broken arm whereas Richard Nixson’s continues the tale beyond that point.  Gardiner probably did not want any further association in this affair.  Just as likely, he may have been a friend of Dudley’s and did not want to cause him any trouble.  Either way, he remained silent upon this detail.  Nixson’s account, however, reveals the most significant social detail.  Nixson states that he saw Sighacha Blount not once, “Two days after…,” but twice, “nine or ten days after [the last time]…,” indicating that Nixson had the opportunity to see Blount on a regular basis.  This may have been in town [Bath] or on a path to or from town, but it clearly indicates strong familiarity with each other.  This date is fifteen years after the Tuscarora War and the level of familiarity between colonists and Indians may have been rather open by this time, although with perhaps some lingering trepidation. 
            Chief Justice Christopher Gale did not want to upset the friendly relations that existed with the Tuscarora for the past fifteen years.  Therefore, he blamed Dudley for the violent act against Blount.  Clearly, he desired to maintain good relations and still treated the Tuscarora in a neighborly fashion, requiring that they have justice when so called for.
            Still, what does this say about dispossession?  First, Sighacha Blount, nor any of his companions, appeared to want to fight anyone.  For all intents and purposes, the Indians simply wanted to hunt beaver.  Clearly, they did not understand Dudley’s refusal of their right to hunt.  As they saw it, they had not sold him the hunting rights associated with the property (assuming that the property formerly belonged to the Tuscarora Indians).  Regardless of who claimed to own the land, the Creator allowed all men to use it.  Even an Indian might try to prevent another Indian from hunting in a specific area, but that act would have been tantamount to war.  The colonists and Indians, living in such close quarters, clearly had a “pact” or agreement of friendship.  To an Indian, that entitled them to hunt on the properties that all “friends” or family held in common.  Contrary to this belief, Christopher Dudley believed he had purchased full rights to the land and the Indians became trespassers if they came upon it.  Dudley probably knew that since the Tuscaroras were so depleted and weakened by the recent war that they would not retaliate for this minor indiscretion.  If there was an aggressor in this scenario, Dudley qualified.  Whereas, this misunderstanding was mostly unintentional, it may have had serious inter-cultural consequences, both immediate and later.  The Colonial Assembly would debate this Indian presumption of the right to hunt later in 1740.

[i] “Altercation between Christopher Dudley and a Tuscarora Indian” (NC State Archives, CCR 192), John Henry Oden, III, Collection (#1150), Special Collections Department, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
[ii] “File No. 7, Christopher Dudley,” North Carolina State Archives,  Land Office: Land Warrants, Plats of Survey, and Related Records, Secretary of State Record Group, State Records [Microfilm S.108.452, Record: (Folder)], (Raleigh, N.C.: State of North Carolina).

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Azariah Dring of Rhode Island and the Drings of Hatteras Island, NC

Thomas Dring was born in 1666, presumably in Little Compton, Rhode Island.  This part of Rhode Island was most certainly a maritime province as can be seen in the picture to left. 

Thomas married on May 21, 1696 to Mary Butler, born about 1670.  Together they had eleven children.  In order of appearance, they were John, Mary, Mercy, Thomas, Elizabeth, Priscilla, Asariah, Ruth, Bathsheba, Freelove, and Nathaniel.  The naming pattern is common and may indicate that Thomas’ father was John. 

Another Thomas became a gunner on the sloop “Success,” and was captured by the British during the Revolutionary War (See” Recollections of the Jersey Prison Ship” by Albert G. Greene).  He was born in 1758, stayed in Little Compton, and died there in 1787. 

His uncle, Asariah was born March 28, 1710 and was destined to become a merchant mariner, working between New England and the West Indies for most of his career.    On February 28, 1732, Asariah (spelled Azariah later) left Boston harbor for Barbados, according to the New-England Weekly Journal.  By June 2nd, the Boston Gazette records him returning to Rhode Island from Antigua.  In four days, he was again headed for Barbados, from Boston harbor (New-England Weekly Journal).

By that November, the Rhode-Island Gazette records this news:  “ Capt. Dring from Barbados, who sail’d on the 30th of September last, the next Day met with a violent hurricane, which he supposed did considerable Damage in Barbados and the adjacent islands.”  The dangers of a Caribbean career revealed themselves in less than a year.  The same paper’s December 21st issue showed Dring leaving that port for Jamaica, however, showing quick recovery. 

There seems to be a break in Dring’s record until July 4, 1734 when the New-England Weekly Journal records him returning from Jamaica to Rhode Island.  It is difficult to say if anything happened to him or his ship during that time.  A lack of reporting may be responsible.  Still, just prior to Azariah’s departure for Jamaica, trouble began with slaves on Jamaica, to which Major General Hunter, Governor of Jamaica, in mid-1732 passed the “Negro Act,” which tightened restrictions on slaves and passed duties on them, making owners even more protective of their property.

July 11, 1733:

“South Sea Company complains of the Act laying impost on negroes.

Two Orders of the Lords of the Committee of Council, of 22nd March, 1733–4, referring to the Board the petitions of the South Sea Company, and of several merchants trading to Jamaica, praying the repeal of An Act, passed there in 1733, laying a duty of 10s. per head on negroes imported that island, were read, as also Mr. Fane's report upon the said Act, and their Lordships resolved to consider thereof to-morrow morning.” [Journals of the Board of Trade and Plantations, Volume 6: January 1729 - December 1734, 399-403.] 

Was Azariah Dring one of these merchants?  Did he temporarily halt his merchant activities to protect his investment?  Should we call him a trader in African slaves?

Jamaica has long had a unique history regarding African slaves.  Escaped slaves known as “Maroons” established independent communities in the mountainous interior, away from the coast.  British authorities were unable to suppress them, despite major attempts in the 1730s and 1790s.  African slaves imported during the Spanish period may have provided the first runaways.  These Aricans apparently mixed with the Native American Taino or Arawak people that remained in the country.  Some may have gained liberty when the English attacked Jamaica and took it in 1655.  But, many continued to rebel, causing more trouble for the British than on any other Caribbean isle of which there were other Maroon communities.  Maroons stubbornly resisted conquest for about 52 years, until the 1737 peace treaty with the British rulers of the island - which is still in force. 

Several rebellions had broken out since September 1728, when more troops arrived to upset the balance against the escaped Maroons.  A slave rebellion broke out again in 1733, and in June of that year, several attempts were made to enslave the “rebellious negroes” which resulted in Maroons having “driven away the party sent against them.”

1728 Jamaica by Herman Moll

A further attempt was made under General Hunter that August for three raids, all without effect.  In November, Jamaica was divided into two districts to facilitate the forces.  By December, the Council of Trade and Plantations sent to the Duke of Newcastle a letter stating the following, "which all relate to the ill state of Jamaica with regard to the negroes in rebellion, weak condition of the inhabitants and the apprehensions they are under of a general insurrection of their slaves.”  Governor Hunter sent to them on December 24th, “I can not without breach of duty conceal my opinion that this island is in a very defenceless condition in case of a war. The slaves in rebellion, who give us work enough, in that event are not the most dangerous ; here are men of desperate fortunes and more desperate principles who have too much influence on the majority, are gaping after change, and if I may judge from their pass'd conduct would readily joyn with any such.”  He was concerned for more than just a Negro rebellion, but for a general rebellion as well. 

A pamphlet titled, “The State of the Island of Jamaica, addressed to a Member of Parliament” was published in which the writer urges the "necessitty there is, that not only a revenue be settled equal to the annual expence of the Government, but also a provision be made by some new laws for the better recovery of just debts, and the better peopling and settling of the island, at the same time that the body of laws are re-enacted or confirmed by the Crown."  The problem became a fiscal one for the British which resulted in a treaty with the Maroons that lasts until this day. 

Two British regiments arrived by 1734.  Thus, Dring may well have returned to Rhode Island and his merchant activities by that time, but with Jamaica firmly on his mind.  Did Azariah Dring get caught up in this state of legislative affairs?  Did he fight against the taxes on slave imports?  Quite possibly, he did. 

New England had a tremendous role in the slave trade – especially Rhode Island.  Quoting from Brown University’s Steering Report, “In all, about sixty percent of slave trading voyages launched from North America – in some years more than ninety percent – issued from tiny Rhode Island.”  Furthermore, his son would later demonstrate zero tolerance against escaped slaves in the colony of South Carolina.  Dring very possibly was a slave trader.  This occupation would have peaked his interest in the 10s duty on importation/exportation of slaves passed in 1732 and so hotly debated through 1734 when the latest rebellion began.  He may have paused in his business to fight this legislation.  It seems he stalled in his activity for more than a year. 

The Caribbean sugar isles concentrated so heavily on production, that they had to transport everything else.  From the Steering Report:  “Rhode Island dominated this trade, operating, in essence, as the commissary of the Atlantic plantation complex.  Rhode Island ships cleared for the Caribbean on an almost daily basis, their holds laden with a cornucopia of local products – beef and butter, hay and horses (Narragansett pacers were much prized by Caribbean planters), candles, shoes, iron, barrel hoops and staves, timber, tar, tobacco, and vast quantities of salt cod, the staple protein source of West Indian slaves. (Rhode Islanders sometimes referred to cod as “Jamaica fish,” reflecting a clear understanding of the commodity’s destination.) Between the transatlantic slave trade and the West Indian provisioning trade, it is hard to imagine any eighteenth century Rhode Islander whose livelihood was not entangled, directly or indirectly, with slavery.”

The New England Weekly in Boston published in May 1732 an address from Joseph Maxwell, clerk of the Jamaican Council, asking for more troops to help them defend against rebellious Negroes.  He stated that, “We are, of late Years, deprived of the most Beneficial branch of our Trade, the carrying of Negroes and Dry Goods to the Spanish coast [Assiento Trade].” 

Whatever his reasons, Dring’s activities demonstrated a change in his routine away from other locales toward Jamaica, perhaps supplying fresh slaves or to support the continual military effort against the Maroons.  The rebellion made keeping slaves on Jamaica a hazard, fearing that new slaves would simply run off and join the Maroons.  This strongly affected slave traders and their business.  Maxwell told the Board of Trade that they “gave Employment to a considerable Number of Shipping & People to cut and carry Logwood from thence,” which was stolen by the Spanish routinely and that the French were undercutting the price of slaves. 

By October of 1734, Dring left Newport bound again for Jamaica (Weekly Rehearsal of Boston, Mass.).  The Boston Post-Boy of October 27, 1735 told of his departure from Rhode Island three days earlier bound again for Jamaica.  New-England Weekly Journal of May 18, 1736 shows him arriving in Boston from Jamaica and leaving again on May 24th, bound for Rhode Island (Boston Evening-Post).  Any evidence of what he carried in his hold would be extraordinarily helpful. 

On the 3rd of May, 1737, Azariah Dring was made a freeman for the province of Rhode Island by the Proceedings of the General Assembly for Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations.  He was again outbound for Jamaica in July 1737, according to the Boston Post-Boy and there, undoubtedly discovered a truce had been arranged with the rebels.  In all, there were seven references for Dring going to or coming from exclusively Jamaica for over four years.  He did nothing else.

The first deviation in Dring’s Jamaica pattern occurred in February 1738, when the American Weekly Mercury recorded him as inbound from Honduras, just after the 1737 treaty was signed with Jamaican Maroon rebels and the military actions ceased, necessitating their withdrawal.  By this time, presumably, the British on Jamaica needed no further supplies from Capt. Dring.  Just as well, Dring’s possible hopes of capturing cheap Maroon slaves to be sold also disappeared. 

The next year, in March 1738, Dring cleared out of Boston harbor again for Rhode Island and then left there for the Leeward Islands in April (Boston Gazette).  Very few reports reveal his activity after this, for no Dring is recorded as mariner until May 1746, leaving from New Providence, the Bahamas.  Only one other notation further, the New-York Mercury records on December 10, 1753, “Novem. 12. (Charlestown, South Carolina) Monday last put into this port a Schooner bound from Winyah for Boston, Dring Master, that had been out three Weeks, and had met with very bad Weather.” 

Azariah Dring must have been worn out by his hapless arrival in Charlestown, for there he stayed, dying three years later in Craven Precinct, in 1756 (SC Colonial Probate 464).  The year before this, his legal dispute with James Baber occurred. 

South Carolina marriage records show a (Mrs.) Margaret “Dringat,” possibly Azariah’s widow marrying on October 30, 1757 to a John Andrews Dehay.  Those records also show a Percival Dring (bachelor of Prince George Parish, born about 1741-1744) marrying on March 18, 1761 to Elizabeth Crook(s) (spinster of Prince George Parish) and an Elizabeth Dring marrying May 19, 1764 to Charles Coulbourn. 

Percival Dring became a constable in charge of hunting down escaped slaves in South Carolina.  In 1765, he earned the most of ten such constables, £56 17 06 for four separate accounts.  No one else had more than a single account.  Two years later, the number of constables increased and Percival Dring only made £14 15.  By January 2, 1771, Percival Dring, a carpenter by trade, had passed away and his personal effects given to his next of kin, Margaret Dring.  This note is fascinating since his wife of ten years should have been Elizabeth.  Margaret should have been his mother.  Indeed, it may have happened this way.

Elizabeth could have passed away between 1761 and 1771, when her husband died.  This could easily be accounted for by childbirth, deadly for females in the eighteenth century.  It is quite likely that there were two children born to Percival and Elizabeth, Percival Dring Jr. and Azariah.  Both of these men appear in the records of Currituck County, North Carolina and on deed records associated with Hatteras Island, remarkably as “free persons of color.”  This enigma must be explained somehow.  For the children and grandchildren of men who fought fervently against slaves to appear as “colored” individuals in the census records, one or both must have married a black, mulatto, or as the case may be best defined on Hatteras, an Indian… or, Elizabeth was already an Indian.  In that case, she may have found herself unable to inherit her husband’s estate.  She turns up again.

This interesting will appeared in Abstracts of Currituck Co., NC Wills 1760-1800:

Josiah Basnet, Oct 9 1782, oct 10 1785, will bk 1, planter, son Alexander Scarborough, Jr, Letisby Scarborough.  Wit Azariah Dring, William Whidbee.

Azariah Dring… of witness age in 1782?  He must have been at least sixteen, which puts his birth at no later than 1762.  Following common naming practices of the time, the first male child is usually named for the male’s father… in Percival of SC’s case, Azariah.  He very well could have been the first child born to Percival and Elizabeth Dring.  Josiah Basnett’s will is interesting enough because it seems to reflect matrilineal naming patterns with Basnett’s children all possessing the mother’s name of Scarborough, a possible indication of Indian heritage.  Still, they could be step-children, but Alexander appears to later take the name of Basnett.

The second Dring Hatteras occurrence is 1783, in which Shibboleth Dring (by his father) sues Joseph Stow for “with force and arms he made an assault upon the said Shibboleth Dring and did beat wound and evilly treat so that his life was despaired of.”  Who was the father?  Percival or Azariah?  Unfortunately, none of the court records, lasting until November 1784 tell his name.  The only Dring later recorded with children was Percival, but since the 1810 and 1820 census recorded no Drings, the appearance of Azariah and his wife in 1830 at age 50-60 (births 1770-1780) indicate no children.  Drings do not seem to last on Hattera.

The first census for the United States in 1790 recorded a “Price” Dring in Currituck County, on Hatteras Banks.  There were four people in his household, all “free persons of color” or FPC.  In 1797, Cornelius Howard sells to Percival Dring, two pieces of land that fell to his wife, Elizabeth (Smith?) from the will of John Smith Senr.  One parcel is very close to the land the Elizabeth Dring sells to John Clark in 1798, land on the sound bordering Isaac Brooks.  This land is east of Brooks point and west of Wahab’s new grant.  Percival sells 62.5 acres of this same land to Francis Farrow in 1799 while he buys land from Willoughby Basnett (son of another FPC who became “white” in 1800, Robert Basnett) who also obtained property through the John Smith estate the same way as Reuben Burrus.  (Currituck County Deed Records).

Then, in 1800, a “Prissilor Dring” is enumerated as a white man with a white family of three male children, born between 1774-1784, four female children born between 1784-1790, a wife the same age as “Prissilor” and an older woman, born before 1755.  He himself is born between 1755-1776. 

Elizabeth Crook(s) Dring is still alive in 1800 and living with her son and his family on Hatteras Banks in an area known for its peculiar “free persons of color” who suddenly become white by 1800.  She is probably the “Elizabeth” who sold John Clark the land in 1798. 

Then, in 1809, William Clark sells land bordering Francis Farrow to Percival Dring in about the same area on the sound side of Hatteras Island.  Percival had already made his will by 1807, however, naming his brother Azariah and his executors, wife, Amy and friend Willoughby Basnett.  Witnesses are Daniel Stow and Sarah Brooks.

As indicated previously, 1810-1820 show no Drings enumerated, but 1830 shows only one, Azariah and his wife, both listed as “white” as expected by 1830.  The discrimination against anything other than “white” became unusually strong in North Carolina, finally culminating in the 1835 North Carolina Constitution that made everyone but whites a second-class citizen.  It was much more favorable to be white than Indian or black.  No other clues exist for what became of the Drings of Hatteras except another Azariah Dring appears in Caswell County, North Carolina, born between 1800-1810, a young lad starting a new family with a wife, a young son and two little girls.  At least the name lived on. 

The story of Azariah Dring from Rhode Island made a startling turnaround from a mariner who made a name for himself fighting black/Indian Jamaican Maroons in the Caribbean, then crash landed in Charlestown, South Carolina, and died there three years later.  Then his son, Percival obviously marries an Indian or black woman in 1761 and has two sons who later come to Hatteras.  But, if Elizabeth Crook(s) Dring had been born black or mulatto, her chances of being recognized as “white” in 1798 enough to sell land and in 1800 to be enumerated as “white” are not good.  She must have been Indian.  Combined with the family’s association with other families known to follow the same change from 1790 when they were found as FPCs until their miraculous transformation in 1800 to “white,” these Hatteras Islanders may very well have collected on Hatteras for the sole purpose of enjoying the anonymity.  Hatteras must have become a home for Native Americans that asked no questions.  For many, Hatteras remained a place inured by outside influence, possessing their own unique colloquialisms/language, and preferring a high level of independence.  It still is like that today.

Hatteras Island Archaeology Myths

Dr. David Sutton Phelps

There has been a lot of talk about former archaeology on Hatteras Island dealing with Dr. David Sutton Phelps' 1997-98 digs at 31DR1, or Cape Creek.  Many people are being told that he removed artifacts from the island and never intended to return them.  This simply is not true. 

When Phelps conducted that dig at Cape Creek, he found an amazing "workshop" facility that proved that Englishmen had worked on Hatteras Island since the 1650s.  This was an amazing find!  And it was quite helpful in discovering what took place there between the time of John White's eventual arrival about 1588/9 and 60 years later.  There are no written records to fill this gap. 

Phelps was retired from East Carolina University at the time he conducted this dig.  But, his knowledge and expertise was essential in bringing these facts to light.  He retired to Florida and did take artifacts there with him to study.  But, can we blame him for dying?  Seriously.  He died... certainly an unexpected event.  That is the reason that it took so long to recover the artifacts that he took with him.

Those artifacts are at ECU at this very moment, awaiting claimants who wish to recover their property.  There are those out there who can financially benefit from keeping Hatteras residents fully cognizant of the removal of those artifacts, however temporary, rather than the recovery and restoration of those artifacts to their rightful owners, at the strenuous recovery efforts of ECU.  These people would have islanders believe that they are there to protect their interests from other archaeological "thieves." They warn the islanders about outsiders who might steal their heirlooms.  This is ridiculous!  ECU and any other archaeological institute is only interested in knowledge... they certainly don't want display items.  I have personally seen one of their storage facilities and believe me, they don't WANT to keep it.  If these individuals are truly working for the islanders' benefit, then they would immediately make contact with ECU and retrieve these items rather than continue to blame ECU for taking them and isolating the island for their personal benefit.

There are some out there who use metal detectors in their skewed version of "archaeology" and have damaged the archaeological context.  These people are most certainly to be avoided like the plague.  But, Dr. Phelps was highly respected in his field and he has been put literally on the "chopping block" for having died in Florida. I won't have any more of this endeavor to smear his good name for personal profit and fame.  Dr. Phelps contributed greatly to our knowledge and understanding of Algonquian Indians and should be honored for that. 

This does not make sense.  I personally charge everyone who might have an interest in Hatteras Island residents who believe that they have "lost" heirlooms, etc. to contact the Phelps Archaeological Laboratory at ECU immediately to arrange to claim and pick up whatever items they want back.  Dr. Charles Ewen is the head of the department and can be reached at:

Dr. Charles R. Ewen, Director
267 Flanagan Building
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858

Please, once and for all, let's stop using the fear of outsiders to promote our personal benefit!  Educational institutions are there for all of our needs and endeavors.  They have no interest in stealing your heirlooms and personal items.  Contact them today and get your artifacts back... I'm sure they will be happy not to have to store them for you any longer.  


Dr. David S. Phelps, Jr.
LAKE WORTH, FL -- Just before dawn on February 21, 2009, Dr. David S. Phelps Jr., 79, passed away peacefully in the arms of his loving wife Dorothy Block Phelps.
Dr. Phelps was a Professor of Anthropology Emeritus at East Carolina University.
A public celebration of his life will held at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site Visitor Center in Manteo, NC at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 15, 2009. All who knew him are invited to attend.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the David S. Phelps Jr. Anthropology Scholarship Endowment. Please make checks payable to the ECU foundation with the notation Phelps Memorial and mail to the Phelps Archaeology Laboratory, 267 Flanagan Building, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858.

He devoted his life to the Indians of North Carolina...