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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. 


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.