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Chapter 1

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of North Carolina

The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York, 1919
Volume I by
R. D. W. Connor

The text is in the public domain.

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Chapter 3

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Vol. I
Chapter 2
Explorations and Settlement

Raleigh's efforts to plant a colony on Roanoke Island had failed, but they were not in vain. His work had stimulated the interest of the people of England in America, while his idea of another England beyond the Atlantic aroused in them that spirit of conquest and colonization to which the English race in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in Australia, in the islands of the sea, and in America owes the world-wide predominance which it today enjoys among the races of mankind. In spite of their losses and disappointments, neither Raleigh nor those associated with him thought for a moment of abandoning their great purpose. They were quick, however, to take advantage of the lessons which their experience had taught them. Their failure had made it clear that the work of colonization was too costly to be successfully borne by any private individual; only the purse of the sovereign, or the combined purses of private persons associated in joint-stock companies were long enough to bear the enormous expenses incident to the settlement of the American wilderness. Out of Raleigh's bitter experience at Roanoke, therefore, came the organization of the great joint-stock company, known as the London Company, which at Jamestown in Virginia planted the first permanent English settlement in America. There is a vital connection between Roanoke and Jamestown. Among the subscribers to the stock of the London Company were ten of the men who had been associated with Raleigh in his efforts to plant a colony at Roanoke; while from the colony into which Jamestown subsequently developed came the first permanent settlers in the region which had been the scene of Raleigh's work.

A glance at the map will show why North Carolina received its first permanent settlers from Virginia. The dangerous character of the Carolina coast and the absence of good harborage made the approach too difficult and uncertain to admit of colonization directly from Europe. This became p22apparent from the experience of Raleigh's first colony, and Raleigh himself, as we have seen, directed John White, in 1587, to seek a site on Chesapeake Bay. His commands, through no fault of White, were not obeyed and the result, as White later found to his sorrow, was disastrous. Twenty-two years later, the London Company, guided by Raleigh's experience, directed the Jamestown colony toward the Chesapeake. The first settlers, for obvious reasons, sought lands lying along navigable streams; consequently the water courses, to a large extent, determined the direction of the colony's growth. Many of the streams of southeastern Virginia flow toward Currituck and Albemarle sounds in North Carolina, and the sources of the Roanoke, the Chowan, and other important rivers of northeastern North Carolina are in Virginia. Moreover, the soil, the climate, the vegetation, and the animal life of southeastern Virginia are similar to those of the Albemarle region. It should be remembered, too, that until 1663 this region was an organic part of Virginia. Nothing, therefore, was more natural than that the planters of Virginia, searching for good bottom lands, should gradually extend their plantations southward along the shores of Albemarle Since and the rivers that flow into it.

The Virginians early manifested a lively interest in the country along the Albemarle Sound. Nansemond County in Virginia, which adjoins the Albemarle region on the north, was settled as early as 1609, and during the next few years many an adventurous explorer, hunter, and trader made himself familiar with the streams that pour into Albemarle and Currituck sounds. No records remain — perhaps no records were ever made — of the earliest of these expeditions. The first report on record of a journey into that region was made by John Pory, secretary of Virginia, who in 1622 explored the lands along Chowan River. It is probable that he was only one of several such explorers, for seven years later enough was known about that region to induce Sir Robert Heath, the king's attorney-general, to seek a patent to it which Charles I readily gave him. Later Heath assigned his patent to Henry, Lord Maltravers who, about the year 1639, seems to have made an unsuccessful attempt to plant a settlement within his grant. During the following decade, Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia, sent several expeditions against the Indians along the Albemarle Sound, and these expeditions resulted in further explorations. One of these explorers entered Currituck Sound and explored the country along Albemarle Sound and for some distance up p23Chowan River. Four years later, 1650, Edward Bland, a Virginia merchant, led an exploring and trading expedition among the Nottaway, Meherrin, and Tuscarora Indians who dwelt along the Chowan, Meherrin, and Roanoke rivers. During the next two or three years, Roger Green, a clergyman of Nansemond County, also took an active part in exploring and exploiting the region south of Chowan River. In 1654, Francis Yeardley, a son of Governor Yeardley of Virginia, sent an expedition to Roanoke Island which led to other important explorations in what is now Eastern North Carolina; and two years later the Virginia Assembly commissioned Thomas Dew and Thomas Francis to explore the coast between Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear.

Upon their return to Virginia these explorers and traders spread exaggerated accounts of the glories and riches of the regions they had visited. John Pory reported that he found the Albemarle region "a very fruitful and pleasant country, yielding two harvests in a year." Edward Bland declared that it was "a place so easie to be settled in that all inconvenience could be avoyded which commonly attend New Plantations. * * * Tobacco will grow larger and more in quantity than in Virginia. Sugar Canes are supposed naturally to be there, or at least if implanted will undoubtedly flourish: For we brought with us thence extraordinary Canes of twenty-five foot long and six inches round; there is also great store of fish, and the Inhabitants relate that there is a plenty of Salt made to the sunne without art; Tobacco Pipes have beene seene among these Indians tipt with Silver, and they weare Copper Plates about their necks: They have two Crops of Indian Corne yearely, whereas Virginia hath but one." He concludes his description of "that happy Country of New Brittaine" with the positive assurance, that "What I write, is what I have proved." Francis Yeardley, too, who boasted of the "ample discovery of South Virginia or Carolina" by "two Virginians born" did not scruple to magnify their achievement by magnifying the virtues of the country they had explored. It possessed, he declared, "a most fertile, gallant, rich soil, flourishing in all abundance of nature, especially in rich mulberry and vine, a serene air, and temperate clime, and experimentally rich in precious minerals; and lastly, I may say, parallel with any place for rich land, and stately timber of all sorts; a place indeed unacquainted with our Virginia's nipping frost, no winter, or very little cold to be found there."

These explorations and favorable reports were naturally p24followed by a southward movement of settlers. Just when this movement began cannot be stated with certainty because, as Ashe has well said, "it was a movement so natural that the particulars are not recorded in the local annals of the time."1 Enough, however, is known to show that, beginning with Pory's expedition in 1622, the efforts of interested persons to plant settlements within that region, though at times spasmodic, were never entirely abandoned. In 1629 came Heath's grant and his design for establishing a proprietary colony. Ten years later, after Heath had assigned his patent, the king commanded the Virginia authorities to assist Lord Maltravers "in seating Carolina"; and about that time William Hawley appeared in Virginia as "governor of Carolina" and obtained permission from the Virginia Assembly to take into his province a colony of one hundred "freemen, being single and disengaged of debt." His efforts, however, ended in failure. In 1648, Henry Plumpton of Nansemond County, Thomas Tuke of Isle of Wight County, and others who had accompanied the expeditions sent by Governor Berkeley against the Carolina Indians, purchased from the Indians large tracts of land along Chowan River. Two years later, upon his return from "New Brittaine," Edward Bland, for himself and his associates, petitioned the Virginia Assembly for permission to plant a settlement there, and the petition was granted on condition that the promoters "secure themselves in effecting the sayd Designe with a hundred able men sufficiently furnished with Armes and Munition." It is probable that this scheme exhausted itself in the preparation and publication of a pamphlet exploiting the advantages of the country. In 1653, Roger Green, on behalf of himself and other inhabitants of Nansemond County, obtained from the Virginia Assembly a grant of ten thousand acres of land for the first one hundred persons who should settle on Roanoke River south of Chowan and one thousand acres for himself. "In reward of his charge, hazard and trouble of first discoverie, and encouragement of others for seating those southern parts of Virginia," he was permitted as a special favor to lay off his tract "next to those persons who have had a former grant." It is not probable that any settlement resulted from this grant, but the grant itself is historically important because its language leads irresistibly to the conclusion that when it was issued there were already settlers along the waters of Chowan River.

p25 From that time forward there was no cessation in the slow but steady flow of settlers into the Albemarle region. The early historians of North Carolina saw in these settlers religious refugees fleeing from ecclesiastical oppression in Virginia and New England. We now know that they were inspired by no such lofty motives, but that the inducements for their migration were purely economic. North Carolina was founded by men in search of good bottom land. The explorers, hunters, and traders who first penetrated the Albemarle wilderness carried back to Virginia, as we have seen, glowing reports of the mildness of its climate, the fertility of its soil, and the great variety of its products, while they pointed out that its broad streams and wide sounds offered easy means of communication and transportation. The opportunities for selecting at will large tracts of fertile lands were already becoming limited in Virginia, and many a small planter, recent immigrant, and ambitious servant who had completed the term of his indenture, heard with keen interest of the virgin wilderness to the southward where such land could be had almost for the asking. That they might acquire land on easier terms than could be had in Virginia, attain to the dignity of planters, raise and export tobacco, and find larger and better ranges for their stock, were the inducements which led them to abandon Virginia for Albemarle. All this was well understood by the promoters of the settlement. Thomas Woodward, surveyor-general of Albemarle, writing in 1665 to Sir John Colleton, one of the Lords Proprietors, warned him that the terms offered by the Lords Proprietors were not well received by the people, and advised that they be made more liberal for, he declared, it was land only that settlers came for. The Lords Proprietors, in recognition of the soundness of this advice, made their terms more liberal. It was not, then, religious enthusiasm but the Anglo-Saxon's keen insatiable passion for land that inspired the founders of North Carolina.

An occasional record preserves for us the names of some of those early pioneers. Thus Robert Lawrence in a deposition about another matter, made in 1707, declared that in 1661, he "seated a plantation on the southwest side of Chowan River about three or four miles above the mouth of Marattock where he lived about seven years." Others whose names are similarly preserved are Thomas Relfe, Samuel Pricklove, Caleb Calloway, George Catchmaid, John Jenkins, John Harvey, Thomas Jarvis, and George Durant. Unfortunately we know but little about these founders of the Commonwealth. p26Lawson tells us that they were "substantial planters" and the meager records of the time attest the accuracy of his statement. Many of them brought into the new settlement retinues of servants and other dependents that would not then have been thought inconsiderable even in the older colonies. As each planter was entitled to fifty acres of land for each person whom he brought into the colony, the number of such persons in his retinue becomes an indication of the planter's wealth and standing in the community. Thus, Robert Peele, who brought seven persons, received a grant for 350 acres of land; John Jenkins, who brought fourteen persons, received 700 acres; John Harvey, who brought seventeen persons, received 850 acres; while Thomas Relfe and Thomas Catchmaid, each of whom was accompanied by thirty persons, received grants of 1,500 acres each.

Their subsequent careers show that they were men of ability and force of character. They quickly became the leaders in the affairs of the colony. Thomas Relfe became provost marshal of the General Court and one of the first vestrymen of the parish of Pasquotank. Samuel Pricklove became a member of the General Assembly. Caleb Calloway served as a representative in the General Assembly, as speaker, and as a justice of the General Court. George Catchmaid was speaker of the General Assembly and exercised great influence over the early legislation of the colony. John Jenkins became the deputy of Lord Craven, one of the Lords Proprietors, and like John Harvey and Thomas Jarvis, subsequently rose to the dignity of chief executive of the province.

Of all the men who assisted in laying the foundations of North Carolina, none was so worthy to stand in the forefront of a people's history as George Durant. In the contracted sphere in which he moved and played his part he displayed qualities of mind and character which would have won for him on a larger and more conspicuous stage a high place among the early patriot leaders of America. He had a faith in democracy far in advance of the age in which he lived, and in many critical events in our early history he showed that he had the courage of his convictions. Enlightened in his views, he was bold in asserting them, resolute in carrying them into execution, and fearless of consequences. Believing the navigation acts unwise, oppressive, and detrimental to the interests of the colony, he led a determined and temporarily successful opposition to their enforcement in Albemarle. In the very presence of the assembled Lords Proprietors, he p27denounced the man whom they had selected for governor as unfit for the position and threatened resistance to his authority. When an acting governor, exercising authority without legal warrant, sought to secure an Assembly amenable to his will by imposing new and illegal restrictions upon the election of representatives, Durant organized opposition, removed him from office, and set up a government based on popular support. Hating misgovernment and tyranny, he led a popular revolt even against one of the Lords Proprietors who had used his position to plunder and oppress the people, arrested, tried, and condemned him, and drove him out of the province. If in these various crises George Durant seemed to show a greater love for liberty than for order, he at least could plead in justification that it was liberty rather than order that was threatened with destruction; and this plea must be accepted in vindication of his conduct just as a similar plea is accepted in vindication of a subsequent generation of Americans who a century later made a similar choice of alternatives.

The oldest grant for land in North Carolina now extant is the grant to George Durant by Kilcocanen, chief of the Yeopim Indians, dated March 1, 1661 [1662] for a tract lying along Perquimans River and Albemarle Sound which still bears the name of Durant's Neck. There were, however, grants prior to Durant's, for his grant recites a previous one by Kilcocanen to Samuel Pricklove. Indeed, by 1662 such Indian grants had become so common that the Crown ordered them to be disregarded and required the holders to take out new patents under the laws of Virginia. Three years later the surveyor of Albemarle declared that a county "forty miles square will not comprehend the inhabitants there already seated." These settlers, for the most part, came from Virginia, but others came also, and by the close of the first decade of its history the Albemarle colony extended from Chowan River to Currituck Sound.

By 1663, the settlements on the Albemarle had become of sufficient importance to attract attention in England. In them a powerful group of English courtiers saw an opportunity to undertake on a vast scale a colonizing enterprise which promised large returns of wealth and power. Accordingly they sought from the king a grant of all the territory claimed by England south of Virginia, including the Albemarle settlements. In compliance with their request, Charles II issued his famous charter of 1663, by which he erected into a separate and distinct province all the region lying between the p28thirty-first and thirty-sixth degrees, north latitude, and extending westward from the Atlantic Ocean to the "South Seas." Afterwards it was ascertained that these boundaries did not include the settlements already planted on the Albemarle; a second charter was therefore issued, June 30, 1665, which extended the grant thirty minutes northward and two degrees southward. Since Charles I, in his grant to Sir Robert Heath in 1629, had called this region "Carolana" or "Carolina," Charles II determined to retain the name. He accordingly erected it into the "Province of Carolina" and granted it to eight of his loyal friends and supporters whom he constituted "the true and absolute Lords Proprietors."

The grant to the Lords Proprietors attracted considerable attention and its publication was speedily followed by inquiries for the terms on which settlements within the new province could be made. One of these inquiries purported to come from a group of New England men who were interested in the Cape Fear region. Another proceeded from certain English adventurers who expressed a willingness to embark upon a colonizing enterprise. A third came from "several gentlemen and persons of good quality" in the island of Barbados. Eager to take advantage of all this interest, the Lords Proprietors were preparing replies to these inquiries when an unexpected obstacle arose which threatened to bring all their plans to naught. Claimants under the old Heath charter of 1629 appeared who protested the validity of the title of the new Lords Proprietors to the territory embraced within the province of Carolina; and the Lords Proprietors learned much to their annoyance that many persons who were eager to settle within their grant were deterred from doing so by these conflicting claims. In this dilemma they fell back upon their influence at court and induced the Privy Council, of which two of their number, Clarendon and Albemarle, were members, to declare the Heath patent forfeited on the ground that no settlement had been made within his grant. With the way thus cleared, the Lords Proprietors on August 25, 1663, issued a general "declaration and proposals to all who will plant in Carolina," setting forth a plan of government and stating the terms on which land would be granted. These proposals, however, were for Cape Fear only; for Albemarle, the Lords Proprietors had other plans.

Warned by the fate of the Heath grant, the Lords Proprietors hastened to institute a government in Albemarle in order, as they said, "that the Kinge may see that wee sleepe p29not with his grant." The jurisdiction of the first government, established in 1663, was confined to Albemarle County which embraced a region forty miles square in extent lying to the northeast of Chowan River. Over this region, in 1664, William Drummond was commissioned governor. Historians, unwilling it seems to find any failings in one who afterwards became the victim of the wrath of the detested Berkeley, have agreed in assigning to Drummond a good character and fair abilities. Their guess at least has the merit that it cannot be disproved for, in fact, we know nothing about the man and but little about his administration in Albemarle. His appointment put into operation the executive branch of the government; a little later, probably in the early part of 1665, the legislative branch was organized with the freemen attending in person rather than through their representatives.

Immediately upon its organization, the General Assembly turned its attention to the consideration of the terms of land-holding offered by the Lords Proprietors. These terms were fifty acres to each settler for himself and a like amount for every person whom he imported into the colony, for which he was to pay in specie an annual quit rent of a half-penny per acre. They were less favorable than the terms which prevailed in Virginia where settlers received larger grants and were charged an annual quit rent of only a farthing per acre payable in produce. Accordingly, the first recorded act of the Albemarle Assembly was a petition to the Lords Proprietors "praying that the inhabitants of the said County may hold their lands upon the same terms and conditions that the inhabitants of Virginia hold theirs." This petition was supported by the Proprietors' surveyor-general, Thomas Woodward, who pointed out to them that in this matter their interests were the same as those of the settlers. "The Proportione of Land you have allotted with the Rent, and conditions are by most People not well resented [received]," he wrote, "and the very Rumor of them discourages many who had intentions to have removed from Virginia hether. * * * To thenke that any man will remove from Virginia upon harder Conditione than they can live there will prove (I feare) a vaine Imagination, It bein Land only they come for." Convinced by this reasoning, the Lords Proprietors, on May 1, 1668, signed and dispatched to Samuel Stephens, who had recently (1667) succeeded Drummond as governor, the document which has become famous in our history as the p30Great Deed of Grant, in which they granted the Assembly's prayer.2

This obstacle to the growth of Albemarle having been thus removed, the Assembly in 1669 adopted a well considered program for the encouragement of immigration. Three acts were passed to prevent speculation in land to the detriment of bona fide settlers. The first forbade any person to sell his land rights unless he had resided in the colony for at least two full years; the second threw open to re-entry any partially improved tract that had been abandoned by its owner for as much as six months; and the third forbade any person, except by special permission from the Lords Proprietors, to take up more than 660 acres in any one tract. Another statute passed at the same session protected new settlers for a period of five years after their arrival from suit on any debt contracted, or other cause of action that had arisen outside of the colony. New settlers were also to be exempt from taxation for a period of one year. "Strangers from other parts" were shut out from the lucrative Indian trade under heavy penalties unless they became residents of Albemarle. Finally, as there were no clergymen in the province, it was enacted that a declaration of mutual consent, before the governor or any member of his Council, and in the presence of witnesses, should be deemed a lawful marriage as if the parties "had binn marryed by a minister according to the rites and Customs of England"; that is to say, marriage was recognized as a civil contract.

Some of these measures, especially the stay law and the marriage act, aroused bitter criticism of Albemarle among her neighbors. The Virginians, who doubtless suffered much from the stay law, calmly ignoring the fact that the Albemarle p31act was an exact copy of an act that had been on the statute books of Virginia since 1642, vented their indignation by bestowing upon Albemarle the epithet of "Rogues Harbour." How far this epithet was deserved will be the subject of future inquiry. In the meantime, in spite of her liberal laws, Albemarle grew but slowly, and at the close of the first decade of her history could count a population of scarcely fifteen hundred souls.

The Author's Notes:

1 History of North Carolina, Vol. I, p59.

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2 The Great Deed of Grant afterwards became the subject of sharp controversies between the colonial authorities and the representatives of the people. The former regretting the generosity of the Lords Proprietors, sought to break the force of the Great Deed by holding that it was a revokable grant, and that in fact it had been revoked and annulled at various times. The people, who regarded the Great Deed as second in importance only to the charter, vigorously controverted this view. Although it had been officially recorded in Albemarle, the original was preserved with scrupulous care and, sixty-three years after its date, during a contrive about it with Governor Gabriel Johnston, the Assembly ordered that its text be spread upon its journal and the original placed in the personal currency of the speaker. As late as 1856, the Supreme Court of North Carolina in Archibald v. Davis (4 Jones, 133) invoked the Grant Deed to sustain the validity of a grant issued in accordance with its provisions by the governor and Council in September, 1716.

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