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In Ancient Albemarle, by Albertson Catherine
Title: In Ancient Albemarle
Author: Catherine Albertson
Illustrator: Pugh Mabel
Release Date: June 16, 2008
OLD FLOAT BRIDGE ACROSS THE PERQUIMANS RIVER
IN ANCIENT ALBEMARLE
By Catherine Albertson
PUBLISHED BY THE
NORTH CAROLINA SOCIETY DAUGHTERS OF THE REVOLUTION
ILLUSTRATED FROM DRAWINGS BY
COMMERCIAL PRINTING COMPANY
Mary Hilliard Hinton
State Regent Daughters of the Revolution
without whose aid and encouragement
these chapters would never
have been written
THE PERQUIMANS RIVER
From the Great Swamp's mysterious depths,
Where wild beasts lurk and strange winds sough;
From ancient forests dense and dark,
Where gray moss wreathes the cypress bough;
'Mid marshes green with flowers starred,
Through fens where reeds and rushes sway,
Past fertile fields of waving grain,
Down to the sea I take my way.
The wild swan floats upon my breast;
The sea-gulls to my waters sink;
And stealing to my low green shores,
The timid deer oft stoops to drink.
The yellow jessamine's golden bells
Ring on my banks their fairy chime;
And tall flag lilies bow and bend,
To the low music keeping time.
Between my narrow, winding banks,
For many a mile I dream along
'Mid silence deep, unbroken save
By rustling reed, or wild bird's song;
Or murmuring of my shadowed waves
Beneath the feathery cypress trees,
Or pines, responsive to the breath
Of winds that breathe sea memories.
So far removed seem shore and stream,
From sound and sight of mart or mill,
That Kilcokonen's painted braves
Might roam my woods and marshes still.
And still, as in the days of yore,
Ere yet the white man's sail I knew,
Upon my amber waves might skim
The Indian maiden's light canoe.
Thus, half asleep, I dream along,
Till low at first, and far away,
Then louder, more insistent, calls
A voice my heart would fain obey.
And by a force resistless drawn,
The narrow banks that fetter me
I thrust apart, and onward sweep
In quiet strength toward the sea.
I leave my marshes and my fens;
I dream no more upon my way;
But forward press, a river grown,
In the great world my part to play.
Upon my wide and ample breast,
The white-winged boats go hurrying by;
And on my banks the whirring wheels
Of busy mills hum ceaselessly.
And sharing man's incessant toil,
I journey ever onward down,
With many a lovely sister stream,
With all the waters of the Sound,
To join the sea, whose billows break,
In silver spray, in wild uproar,
Upon the golden bars that guard
The lonely Carolina shore.
Old Float Bridge Across the Perquimans
"The Old Brick House," on Pasquotank River
Fairfax, the Home of General Isaac Gregory
The Eagle Tavern, Hertford
The Cupola House, Edenton
IN ANCIENT ALBEMARLE
WIKACOME IN WEAPOMEIOK, THE HOME OF GEORGE DURANT
In Perquimans County, North Carolina, there lies between the beautiful
Perquimans River on the west, and her fair and placid sister, the
Katoline or Little River, on the east, a lovely strip of land to which
the red man in days long gone, gave the name of Wikacome. The broad
sound whose tawny waters wash the southern shores of this peninsula, as
well as all that tract of land lying between the Chowan River and the
Atlantic Ocean, were known to the primitive dwellers in that region as
Not until George Durant came into Carolina, and following him a thin
stream of settlers that finally overflowed the surrounding country, did
the beautiful Indian names give place to those by which they are now
known. Then Wikacome became the familiar Durant's Neck, and the waters
of Weapomeiok and the territory known to the aborigines by the same
name, changed to the historic cognomen of Albemarle.
George Durant and Samuel Pricklove were the first of the Anglo-Saxon
race to establish a permanent settlement in Wikacome, though they were
not the first Englishmen whose eyes had rested upon its virgin forests
and fair green meadows, for in the early spring of 1586 Ralph Lane, who
had been sent with Sir Richard Grenville by Sir Walter Raleigh to
colonize Roanoke Island, set out with fourteen comrades from that place
on an exploring expedition, hoping to find the golden "Will-o'-the-Wisp,"
which led so many English adventurers of the day to seek their fortunes
in the New World.
As far as the Roanoke River sailed the bold explorer and his comrades,
among whom were Philip Amadas and the historian Hakluyt. To the south as
far as Craven County they pushed their little boat, and northward to the
shores of Chesapeake Bay. In the course of their journey they touched at
Chepanock, an Indian village lying at the extremity of Durant's Neck.
And Lane relates that on his return trip he stopped again at that point
to secure a supply of provisions, and to fish in the sound.
It was Easter morning, 1586, when Lane and his hardy sailors, worn out
from their rough voyage down the Chowan and up the tawny waters of the
sound, sailed into the quiet harbor of the Katoline River. Half starved,
for the hostile tribes of the Mangoaks on the Chowan River, after being
repulsed in an attack upon the strangers, had refused to sell them
food, Lane and his men, for two days without means of staying their
hunger, hoped to buy from the Indians of Weapomeiok the provisions so
But when the little band of explorers rowed their small craft to the
shore, and set out in search of corn and meat, they found the wigwams of
Chepanock deserted, and no sign of the red men. The Indians doubtless
had been alarmed at the sight of the strangers when they first stopped
at the village, and had fled from their homes to the interior of the
No corn nor meal could Lane procure, but the weirs were full of fish,
and the men were able to satisfy their hunger, and having rested at
Chepanock that night they returned to Roanoke Island next morning. When
the plash of their oars died away in the distance, the waters of the
Katoline and the northern shores of Weapomeiok knew the white man's
sails no more until over half a century had passed away.
Lane and his colony, discouraged in their hopes of finding gold, and
disheartened by the many misfortunes that had befallen them, sailed back
to England with Sir Francis Drake. Raleigh's second attempt a year later
to establish a colony on Roanoke Island ended in the pathetic story of
little Virginia Dare and the "Lost Colony." Queen Elizabeth died, and
the tyrannical reign of James I came to an end. Charles I and Cromwell
waged their bitter war; the Commonwealth and Protectorate ran their
brief course, and the Restoration of 1660 brought back the third of the
Stuarts to the throne of England.
During all these changes in the ownership of Carolina and her sister
colonies, the red man roamed unmolested through the forests of Wikacome
and fished the weirs in the silver streams flowing into the broad waters
of Weapomeiok, unafraid of the great, white-winged boats of the pale
face. These brief visits to his shores were now remembered only when the
tribes gathered around the great camp fires at night, and listened to
the tales told by ancient braves and squaws, to whom the appearance of
the swift ships of the strangers now seemed only a dim, half-remembered
But as the years rolled by, venturesome hunters and trappers from
Virginia began to thread their way through the tangled woods of the
region lying to the south of the Chesapeake. Returning to their homes
they carried with them glowing accounts of the mild climate, the placid
streams teeming with fish, the wild game and rich furs to be found in
the country through which they had wandered.
In 1630 Sir Robert Heath, to whom Charles I granted a large portion of
Carolina, attempted to establish a settlement in the territory. Later
Roger Green, an English clergyman, made a similar attempt near the
present town of Edenton, but both these efforts failed. However, the
spirit of discovery and adventure was now fully aroused, and by 1656 a
number of settlements had been established along the shores of the
streams that flow into Albemarle Sound. Of none of these, however, can
any accurate account be given, their date and location having long been
forgotten; and not until 1661 is there any authenticated record of a
permanent settlement in North Carolina.
A year or two previous to that date, George Durant, a planter from
Virginia, attracted by the enthusiastic accounts he had heard of the
desirable lands to be found lying to the south, started out on an
exploring expedition to see for himself if all he had heard of the
Indian land of Weapomeiok were true, intending, if the country came up
to his expectations, there to establish his home.
For nearly two years Durant journeyed through the country, and finally
satisfied that the glowing accounts he had heard were not exaggerated,
he determined to bring his wife and family, his goods and chattels, into
this new "Land of Promise," and there build for himself a house to
dwell in, and to clear away the forest for a plantation. The first spot
selected by him for his future home was very near the ancient Indian
village of Chepanock, on the peninsula of Wikacome, which juts out into
the wide waters of Weapomeiok, and whose shores are watered by the
Katoline and the Perquimans rivers.
With the coming of George Durant to Carolina, the old Indian name
Wikacome vanishes from history, and "Durant's Neck" becomes the name by
which that section is henceforth known. The sound and the region north
of it, first known as Weapomeiok, change to Albemarle; and the Katoline
River soon loses its Indian designation, and is known to the settlers
who made their homes on its banks as the "Little River."
With the establishment of George Durant on the peninsula now called by
his name, the connected history of North Carolina begins. And it is a
matter of pride to the citizens of the Old North State that our first
settler, with a sturdy honesty and a sense of justice shown but seldom
to the red man by the pioneers in the colonies, bought from the Indian
chief, Kilcokonen "for a valuable consideration" the land on which he
established his home. The deed for this tract of land is now in the old
court-house in Hertford, North Carolina, and is the earliest recorded
in the history of our State. The following is an exact copy of this
"George Durant's Deed
"Know all men these Presents that I, Kilcokonen King of the Yeopems
have for a valuable consideration of satisfaction received with ye
consent of my People sold and made over and delivered to George
Durant, a Parcel of land lying and being on a river called by ye name
of Perquimans, which issueth out of the North side of the aforesaid
Sound, and which land at present bears ye name of Wecameke. Beginning
at a marked oak tree which divideth this land from ye land I formerly
sold Samuel Precklove and extending easterly up ye said Sound at a
point or turning of ye aforesaid Perquimans River and so up ye east
side of ye said river to a creek called Awoseake to wit, all ye land
between ye aforesaid bounds of Samuel Precklove and the said creek
whence to ye head thereof. And thence through ye woods to ye first
bounds. To have and to hold ye quiet possession of ye same to him,
his heirs forever, with all rights and privileges thereto forever
from me or any person or persons whatsoever, as witness my hand this
first day of March 1661.
"Test: Thos Weamouth, Caleb Callaway."
Having thus fairly and justly bought his lands, as this and other deeds
from Kilcokonen testify, Durant proceeded to establish his belongings on
his estate, and to take up the strenuous life of a pioneer in a new
And a fairer region never gladdened the eyes of men making a new home in
a strange land. In the virgin forests surrounding the settlers' homes,
the crimson berried holly tree against the dark background of lofty
pines brightened the winter landscape. The opulent Southern spring flung
wide the white banners of dogwood, enriched the forest aisles with
fretted gold of jessamine and scarlet of coral honeysuckle, and spread
the ground with carpet of velvet moss, of rosy azaleas and blue-eyed
innocents. The wide rivers that flow in placid beauty by the wooded
banks of ancient Wikacome, formed a highway for the commerce of the
settlers and a connecting link with the outer sea. And however fierce
and bold the wild creatures of those dark forests might be, the teeming
fish and game of the surrounding woods and waters kept far from the
settlers' doors the wolf of want and hunger.
The fame of this fertile spot spread, and ere long George Durant was
greeting many newcomers into the country. Samuel Pricklove had preceded
him into Wikacome, and later came George Catchmaid, Captain John
Hecklefield and Richard Sanderson, while later still the Blounts, the
Whedbees, the Newbys, Harveys and Skinners, names still prominent in
Albemarle, came into the neighborhood and settled throughout Perquimans
At the homes of the planters on Durant's Neck the public business of the
Albemarle Colony was for many years transacted. Courts were held,
councils convened, and assemblies called, while from the wharves of the
planters on Little River and the Perquimans, white-sailed vessels
carried the produce of the rich fields and dense forests to New England,
to the West Indies and to the mother country.
Many of the most interesting events in the early history of Albemarle
occurred on Durant's Neck. The Culpeper Rebellion, of which George
Durant and John Culpeper were among the leaders, began in Pasquotank,
but reached its culmination in Durant's home on Little River. There,
also, Thomas Miller was imprisoned for a time, and there the leaders of
the rebellion organized a new people's government, the first in the New
World absolutely independent of Proprietors, Parliament and King. At
Hecklefield's home on Little River, the plantation adjoining Durant's,
the Assembly of 1708 met to investigate the Cary-Glover question and to
decide which of those two claimants to the gubernatorial chair had
rightful authority to occupy that exalted seat. There also George Eden
was sworn in as ruler of North Carolina under the Proprietors; and there
the death of Queen Anne was announced to the Governor's Council, and
George I was formally proclaimed true and lawful sovereign of Carolina.
A prominent meeting place for the courts, councils and assemblies in
Colonial Albemarle was the home of Captain Richard Sanderson in the
Little River settlement on Durant's Neck. Of the many notable events
that occurred at the home of this wealthy and influential planter,
probably the Assembly of 1715 leads in interest and importance. The acts
passed by this Assembly were directed to be printed, but the order was
evidently never carried out, as none but manuscript copies are now
Among the most important measures taken by this Assembly was one making
the Church of England the established Church of the Colony; though
freedom of worship was granted to all, and the Quakers were allowed to
substitute a solemn affirmation in lieu of an oath. Other acts,
necessary to the welfare of the Colony, were passed, and a revision of
all former acts was made. Edward Moseley, Speaker of the House, was of
course present on this occasion, as were Governor Eden, Thomas Byrd, of
Pasquotank, Tobias Knight, of Currituck, Christopher Gale, of Chowan,
and Maurice Moore, of Perquimans.
Of all these old homes on Durant's Neck where so much of the early
history of our State was made, none are now standing; though the sites
of several of these historic places are well known to the dwellers on
the peninsula. When the tide is low on Little River, the bricks of what
was once the home of Governor Drummond can be seen. And an old tombstone
found in the sound, which is now used as the lower step of the side
porch in a beautiful old home, on Durant's Neck, once the property of
Mr. Edward Leigh, but now owned by Mr. C.W. Grandy, of Norfolk, is said
to have once marked the grave of Seth Sothel. The inscription on the
stone is now obliterated, but the original owners of the home declared
that the old inhabitants of Durant's Neck claimed that the slab at one
time bore the name of this, the most infamous of all the unworthy
Governors whom the Proprietors placed over the people of Albemarle.
The site of Durant's home is well known, and until a few years ago a
tombstone bearing his name, it is said, was standing under an old
sweet-gum tree on the bank of a great ditch near the sound. But the
field hands in clearing the ditch undermined the stone and covered it
with earth, so it now lies hidden from view.
But though no monument now marks the resting place of our first settler,
George Durant, there is no need of "storied urn or animated bust" to
keep alive in the hearts of his countrymen the memory of his name, and
of the brave, fearless spirit which made him a tower of strength to the
Old North State in the struggles of her early days.
THE FIRST ALBEMARLE ASSEMBLY—HALL'S CREEK NEAR NIXONTON
In 1653 King Charles II granted to eight noblemen of his court a tract
of land reaching from the northern shores of Albemarle Sound to St.
John's River in Florida, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific
Ocean. A small strip extending from the north shore of the Albemarle
Sound to the southern boundary of Virginia was not included in this
grant, but nevertheless the Lords Proprietors, of whom Governor
Berkeley, of Virginia, was one, assumed control over this section; and
in 1663 these noblemen authorized Berkeley to appoint a governor to rule
over this territory, whose ownership was a disputed question for several
In 1665 the Albemarle region, as it came to be called, comprising the
four ancient counties of Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Chowan,
had become very valuable on account of the rich plantations established
therein by such men as George Durant, of Perquimans, and Valentine Byrd,
of Pasquotank; and the Lords Proprietors, as the owners of the Carolinas
were called, begged the king to include the above-named strip of land
in their grant. This the king did, ignorant of the vast extent of the
territory which he had already bestowed upon the Lords.
William Drummond, whom Berkeley, of Virginia, had appointed to govern
this Albemarle country, came into Carolina in 1664, and assumed the
reins of government. To assist him in his arduous duties, the Lords
authorized Berkeley to appoint six of the most prominent men in the
settlement to form what came to be known as the Governor's Council. This
body of men, with the Governor, acted for many years as the judicial
department of the State, and also corresponded to what is now the Senate
Chamber in our legislative department.
That the liberty-loving pioneers in Carolina might feel that they were a
self-governing people, every free man in the settlement was to have
right of membership in the General Assembly, which was to meet yearly to
enact the laws. After the Governor, Councilors, and the freemen or their
deputies had passed the laws, a copy of them was to be sent to the Lords
for their consideration. Should they meet with the approval of the
Proprietors, they went into effect; if not, they were null and void.
In the fall of 1664, Governor Drummond began organizing the government
of his new province; and on February 6, 1665, the "Grand Assembly of
Albemarle," as these early law-makers styled themselves, met to frame a
set of laws for this Albemarle Colony. The place chosen for the meeting
of this first legislative body ever assembled in our State, was a little
knoll overlooking Hall's Creek in Pasquotank County, about a mile from
Nixonton, a small town which was chartered nearly a hundred years later.
No record of the names of these hardy settlers who were present at this
Grand Assembly has been handed down to us; but on such an important
occasion we may be sure that all the prominent men in the Albemarle
region who could attend would make it a point to do so.
George Drummond and his secretary, Thomas Woodward, were surely there;
George Durant, Samuel Pricklove, John Harvey, all owners of great
plantations in Perquimans, doubtless were on hand. Thomas Raulfe,
Timothy Biggs, Valentine Byrd, Solomon Poole, all large landowners in
Pasquotank, must have been there; Thomas Jarvis, of Currituck, and
Thomas Pollock, of Chowan, may have represented their counties. And
all—the dignified, reserved Scotch Governor, his haughty secretary, the
wealthy, influential planters and the humble farmers and hunters—must
have felt the solemnity of the occasion and recognized its importance.
We may imagine the scene: Under the spreading boughs of a lordly oak,
this group of men were gathered. Around them the dark forest stretched,
the wind murmuring in the pines and fragrant with the aromatic odor of
the spicy needles. At a distance a group of red men, silent and
immovable, some with bow and arrow in hand, leaning against the trees,
others sitting on the ground, gazed with wondering eyes upon the
palefaces assembled for their first great pow-wow.
Down at the foot of the knoll the silver waves of the creek rippled
softly against the shore; on its waters the sloops of the planters from
the settlements nearby; here and there on its bosom, an Indian canoe
moored close to its shores.
As to the work accomplished by this first Albemarle Assembly, only one
fact is certain, and that is the drawing up by the members of a petition
to the Lords Proprietors, begging that these settlers in Carolina should
be allowed to hold their lands on the same conditions and terms as the
people of Virginia. The Lords graciously consented to this petition, and
on the 1st of May, 1668, they issued a paper known to this day as the
Deed of Grant, by which land in Albemarle was directed to be granted on
the same terms as in Virginia. The deed was duly recorded in Albemarle,
and was preserved with scrupulous care.
There is a tradition in the county that the Assembly also took steps for
preparing for an Indian war then threatening, which broke out the
following year, but was soon suppressed.
Doubtless other laws were enacted, such as were necessary for the
settlement, though no record of them is extant. And then, the business
that called them together having been transacted, and the wheels of
government set in motion, these early law-makers returned home, to manor
house and log cabin, to the care of the great plantations, to the plow,
and the wild, free life of the hunter and trapper; and a new government
had been born.
There seems to be no doubt in the minds of such historians as Colonel
Saunders, Captain Ashe, and President D.H. Hill, that the first
Albemarle Assembly did convene in the early spring of 1665. As for the
day and month, tradition alone is our authority. An old almanac of H.D.
Turner's gives the date as February 6th, and in default of any more
certain date, this was inscribed upon the tablet which the Sir Walter
Raleigh Chapter Daughters of the Revolution have erected at Hall's Creek
As to the statement that the place marked by the tablet was the scene of
the meeting of our first assemblymen, tradition again is responsible.
But such authorities as Captain Ashe, and various members of the State
Historical Commission, accept the tradition as a fact. And all old
residents of Nixonton assert that their fathers and grandfathers handed
the story down to them.
An extract from a letter from Captain Ashe, author of Ashe's History of
North Carolina, to the Regent of the local Chapter Daughters of the
Revolution may be of interest here:
"Yesterday I came across in the library at Washington, this entry, made
by the late Mrs. Frances Hill, widow of Secretary of the State William
Hill: 'I was born in Nixonton March 14, 1789. Nixonton is a small town
one mile from Hall's Creek, and on a little rise of ground from the
bridge stood the big oak, where the first settlers of our county held
Other documents in possession of the Regent of our local Chapter
Daughters of the Revolution go to show that the place and date as named
on the tablet at Hall's Creek are authentic, and that Pasquotank County
may claim with truth the honor of having been the scene of the first
meeting of the Grand Assembly of Albemarle.
ENFIELD FARM—WHERE THE CULPEPER REBELLION BEGAN
Some two or three miles south of Elizabeth City on the banks of the
Pasquotank River, just where that lovely stream suddenly broadens out
into a wide and beautiful expanse, lies the old plantation known in our
county from earliest days as Enfield Farm, sometimes Winfield.
It is hard to trace the original owners of the plantation, but the farm
is probably part of the original patent granted in 1663 by Sir William
Berkeley, one of the Lords Proprietors, to Mr. Thomas Relfe, "on account
of his bringing into the colony fifteen persons and paying on St.
Michael's Day, the 29th of September, one shilling for every acre of
On this plantation, close to the river shore, was erected about 1670,
according to our local tradition, the home of the planter, two rooms of
which are still standing and in good preservation. Possibly "Thomas
Relfe, Gentleman," as he is styled in the Colonial Records, was the
builder of this relic of bygone days, whose massive brick walls and
stout timbers have for so long defied the onslaughts of time.
Many are the stories, legendary and historical, that have gathered
around this ancient building. Among the most interesting of the latter
is that connected with the Culpeper Rebellion, an event as important in
North Carolina history as Bacon's Rebellion is in the history of
The cause of Culpeper's Rebellion dates back to the passing of the
navigation act by Cromwell's Parliament, when that vigorous ruler held
sway in England and over the American colonies. This act, later
broadened and amended, finally prohibited the colonists not only from
importing goods from Europe unless they were shipped from England, but
forbade the use of any but English vessels in the carrying trade; and
finally declared that inter-colonial trade should cease, and that
England alone should be the market for the buying and selling of goods
on the part of the Americans. Naturally the colonies objected to such a
selfish restriction of their trade, and naturally there was much
smuggling carried on, wherever and whenever this avoidance of the
navigation acts could be made in safety.
To none of these thirteen colonies were these laws more injurious than
to the infant settlement on the northern shores of Albemarle Sound in
Carolina. The sand bars along the coast prevented the establishment of a
seaport from whence trade could be carried on with the mother country.
The large, English-built vessels could not pass through the shallow
inlets that connect the Atlantic with the Carolina inland waterways. To
have strictly obeyed the laws passed by the British Parliament would
have been the death blow to the commerce and to the prosperity of the
Albemarle settlement. So, for about fifteen years after George Durant
bought his tract of land on Durant's Neck from Kilcokonen, the great
chief of the Yeopims, the planters in Albemarle had paid but little
attention to the trade laws. The Proprietors appointed no customs
collectors in the little colony, and had not considered it worth while
to interfere with the trade which the shrewd New Englanders had built up
Enterprising Yankee shipbuilders, realizing their opportunity,
constructed staunch little vessels which could weather the seas, sail
over to Europe, load up with goods necessary to the planter, return and
glide down the coast till they found an opening between the dreaded
bars, then, slipping from sound to sound, carry to the planters in the
Albemarle region the cargoes for which they were waiting.
Another law requiring payment of an export tax on tobacco, then the
principal crop of the Albemarle sections, as it was of Virginia, was
evaded for many years by the settlers in this region. Governors
Drummond and Stevens, and John Judkins, president of the council, must
have known of this disregard of the laws, both on the part of the Yankee
shippers and the Albemarle planters. But realizing that too strict an
adherence to England's trade laws would mean ruin to the colonists,
these officers were conveniently blind to the illegal proceedings of
But after the organization of the board of trade in London, of which
four of the Proprietors were members, the rulers of Carolina determined
to enforce the laws more strictly among their subjects in far-away
Carolina. So Timothy Biggs, of the Little River Settlement, was
appointed surveyor of customs, and Valentine Byrd, of Pasquotank,
collector of customs, with orders to enforce the navigation acts and
other trade laws, so long disregarded.
There was violent opposition to this decision of the Lords, as was to
have been expected; but finally the settlers were persuaded to allow the
officers to perform their duty. Valentine Byrd, himself, one of the
wealthiest and most influential men in Albemarle, was by no means rigid
or exacting in collecting the tobacco tax; and for several years longer,
though the laws were ostensibly observed, numerous ways were found to
evade them. The colonists, however, were by no means satisfied; for
though they were successful in avoiding a strict adherence to the laws,
and in continuing their trade with New England, still the fact that the
hated acts were in force at all, was to them a thorn in the flesh.
Matters soon reached a crisis, and the smouldering feeling of resentment
against the Proprietors broke out into open rebellion. In 1676 the Lords
appointed Thomas Eastchurch Governor of Albemarle and Thomas Miller
collector of customs for that settlement. Both of these men, who were
then in London, had previously lived in Albemarle and had incurred the
enmity of some of the leading men in the settlement, Eastchurch
especially being in bad repute among the planters.
In 1677, Eastchurch and Miller departed from London to take up their
duties in Carolina. Stopping at the Island of Nevis on their way over,
Eastchurch became enamored of the charms (and the fortune) of a fair
Creole who there abode, and dallied on the island until he succeeded in
winning the lady's hand. Miller, whom Eastchurch appointed his deputy in
Carolina, continued on his way alone. When he reached Albemarle, the
people received him kindly and allowed him to fill Eastchurch's place.
But no sooner had he assumed the reins of government than he began a
rigid enforcement of the trade and navigation laws. Of course the
planters resented his activity in this direction, and most bitterly did
they resent his compelling a strict payment of the tobacco tax.
Possibly, however, no open rebellion would have occurred, had not Miller
proceeded to high-handed and arbitrary deeds, making himself so
obnoxious to the people that finally they were wrought up to such an
inflammable state of mind that only a spark was needed to light the
flames of revolution.
And that spark was kindled in December, 1677, when Captain Zachary
Gilliam, a shrewd New England shipmaster, came into the colony in his
trig little vessel, "The Carolina," bringing with him, besides the
supplies needed by the planters for the winter days at hand, ammunition
and firearms which a threatened Indian uprising made necessary for the
safety of the settlers' homes.
On board the "Carolina" was George Durant, the first settler in the
colony, and the acknowledged leader in public affairs in Albemarle. He
had been over to England to consult the Lords Proprietors concerning
matters relating to the colony, and was returning to his home on
Through the inlet at Ocracoke the "Carolina" slipped, over the broad
waters of Pamlico Sound, past Roanoke Island, home of Virginia Dare,
and into Albemarle Sound. Then up the blue waters of the Pasquotank she
sailed, with "Jack ancient flag and pennant flying," as Miller
indignantly relates, till she came to anchor at Captain Crawford's
landing, just off the shore from Enfield Farm.
Gladly did the bluff captain and the jovial planter row ashore from
their sea-tossed berths. Many were the friendly greetings extended them,
both prime favorites among the settlers, who came hurrying down to
Enfield when the news of the "Carolina's" arrival spread through the
community. Eager questions assailed them on every side concerning news
of loved ones in the mother country; and a busy day did Captain Gilliam
put in, chaffering and bargaining with the planters who anxiously
surrounded him in quest of long needed supplies.
Durant, though doubtless impatient to proceed as quickly as possible to
his home and family in Perquimans, nevertheless spent the day pleasantly
enough talking to his brother planters, Valentine Byrd, Samuel
Pricklove, and others. All was going merrily as a marriage bell when
suddenly Deputy Governor Miller appeared on the scene, accused Gilliam
of having contraband goods on board, and of having evaded the export tax
on tobacco when he sailed out of port with his cargo a year before. A
violent altercation arose, in which the planters, with few exceptions,
sided with Gilliam, who indignantly (if not quite truthfully) denied the
charges brought against him.
Miller at last withdrew, muttering imprecations and threats against
Gilliam; but about 10 o'clock that night he returned with several
government officials, boarded the "Carolina" and attempted to arrest
both Gilliam and Durant. The planters, among whom were Valentine Byrd,
Captain Crawford, Captain Jenkins and John Culpeper, hearing of the
disturbance, anxious for the safety of their friends, and fearing lest
Gilliam should sail away before they had concluded their purchases, came
hurrying in hot haste to the rescue. Rowing swiftly out to the little
vessel, they quickly turned the tables on the Governor and his
officials; and to their indignant surprise, Miller and his men found
themselves prisoners in the hands of the rebels. Then the insurgents,
with John Culpeper, now the acknowledged leader of the revolt, at their
head, rowed ashore to the landing with their captives; and in the old
house at Enfield, on a bluff near the bank of the river—so goes our
local tradition—the angry and astonished Governor was imprisoned.
Then the revolutionists proceeded to "Little River Poynte," probably
the settlement which afterwards grew into the town of Nixonton, and
seized Timothy Biggs, the surveyor and deputy collector of customs, who
had been wringing the tobacco tax from the farmers. Then breaking open
the chests and the locks, they found and took possession of Miller's
commission as collector of customs and returned to Enfield, where they
locked Biggs up with Miller in Captain Crawford's house.
For two weeks the deputy governor and the deputy collector were kept
close prisoners at Enfield. The revolutionists in the meanwhile drew up
a document known as "The Remonstrance of the Inhabitants of Pasquotank,"
in which they stated the grievances that had led them to take this
high-handed manner of circumventing Miller and Biggs in their tyrannical
proceedings. This "remonstrance" was sent to the precincts of Currituck,
Perquimans and Chowan; and the planters, following the example of their
neighbors in Pasquotank, rose in insurrection against the other
collectors of the hated customs and export tax, and arrested and deposed
At the end of a fortnight, the insurgents decided to take Miller and
Biggs to George Durant's home in Durant's Neck. So the prisoners were
taken on board one of the planter's vessels; and down the Pasquotank,
into the sound, and a short distance up Little River, the rebels sailed,
accompanied by several vessels filled with armed men. As they passed the
"Carolina," that saucy little ship, which as Miller afterwards
indignantly reported to the Lords Proprietors, "had in all these
confusions rid with Jack Ensign Flag and Pennon flying," just off the
shore from Enfield, saluted Culpeper, Durant and their companions by
firing three of her guns.
Arrived at Durant's home, where some seventy prominent men of the colony
had assembled, the revolutionists proceeded to establish a government of
their own. John Jenkins was appointed governor, an assembly of eighteen
men was elected, and a court convened before which Miller and Biggs were
brought for trial on a charge of treason. But before the trial was
ended, Governor Eastchurch, who had arrived in Virginia while these
affairs were taking place, sent a proclamation to the insurgents
commanding them to disperse and return to their homes. This the bold
planters refused to do, and in further defiance of Eastchurch, the new
officials sent an armed force to prevent his coming into the colony.
Eastchurch appealed to Virginia to help him establish his authority in
Carolina; but while he was collecting forces for this purpose he fell
ill and died. Durant, Culpeper, Byrd and their comrades were now
masters in Albemarle.
The interrupted trials were never completed. Biggs managed to escape and
made his way to England. Miller was kept a prisoner for two years in a
little log cabin built for the purpose at the upper end of Pasquotank,
near where the old brick house now stands. In two years' time Miller
also contrived to escape, and found his way back to the mother country.
For ten years the Albemarle colony prospered under the wise and prudent
management of the officers, whom the people had put in charge of affairs
without leave or license from lord or king. But finally Culpeper and
Durant decided of their own accord to give up their authority and
restore the management of affairs to the Proprietors. An amicable
settlement was arranged with these owners of Albemarle, who, realizing
the wrongs the settlers had suffered at the hands of Miller and his
associates, made no attempt to punish the leaders of the rebellion. John
Harvey was quietly installed as temporary governor until Seth Sothel,
one of the Proprietors, should come to take up the reins of government
So at Enfield Farm, now the property of one of Pasquotank's most
successful farmers and business men, Mr. Jeptha Winslow, began a
disturbance which culminated a hundred years later in the Revolutionary
War; and here, in embryo form, in 1677, was the beginning of our
republic—"a government of the people, for the people, by the people."
THE HECKLEFIELD FARM
Of the old Hecklefield house on Little River in Perquimans County,
mentioned so often in the Colonial Records as the place of meeting for
the Governor's Council, the General Court, and on one notable occasion,
as the legislative hall of the Grand Assembly of Albemarle, not one
stick or stone is left standing to-day. Only a few bricks where the
great chimney once stood now remain, to suggest to the imagination the
hospitable hearth around whose blazing logs the Governor and his
colleagues, the Chief Justice and his associates, and the Speaker of the
Assembly and his fellow representatives used to gather, when the old
home was the scene of the public meetings of the Albemarle Colony.
The Hecklefield home was located on Durant's Neck on the plantation
adjoining the tract of land purchased by George Durant from Kilcokonen,
the great chief of the Yeopims. Though no one now living remembers the
ancient building, yet the residents of Durant's Neck to-day, many of
whom are the descendants of the early settlers in that region,
confidently point out the site of Captain Hecklefield's house, and with
one accord agree to its location, "about three hundred yards to the
north of the main Durant's Neck road, at the foot of the late Calvin
An old sycamore tree, whose great girth gives evidence of the centuries
it has seen, stands by the side of the road at the entrance to the lane.
Its mottled trunk and wide spreading branches are one of the landmarks
of the region. And beneath its sheltering boughs, Durant and Catchmaid,
Pricklove and Governor Drummond himself, who, tradition claims, was one
of the residents of Durant's Neck, may often have met to talk over the
affairs of the infant settlement. Governor Hyde and Chief Justice Gale
have doubtless often hailed with relief the glistening white branches
and broad green leaves of the old tree, whose outlines had grown
familiar through many a journey to Hecklefield's home on business of
No description of the house is now extant. But that the building must
have been, for those days, large and commodious, is evident from the
fact that so often beneath its roof the leading men of the colony
gathered to transact affairs of public interest. On no less than twenty
occasions did executive, judicial and legislative officers assemble at
Captain Hecklefield's to perform their various duties. That a private
home was chosen as the scene of these gatherings arose from the fact
that for over forty years after the first recorded settlement in North
Carolina, no town had been founded within her borders. Therefore no
public building of any kind, court-house or capitol, had been erected,
and the Council, the Assembly and the Court were held at the homes of
those planters, whose houses were large enough to accommodate such
Local tradition tells us that the first court ever held in our State was
convened under a great beech still standing on Flatty Creek, an arm of
the broad Pasquotank, in Pasquotank County. But no records of this court
can be found, nor does tradition tell whether the judge and advocates,
plaintiffs and defendants, witnesses and jury assembled beneath the
branches of that ancient tree, still strong and sturdy, came in answer
to the call for the Palatine Court, the General Court, or the more
frequently assembled Precinct Court.
The first Albemarle Assembly in 1665, was also held out in the open, the
verdant foliage of another historic tree for roof, the soft moss for
carpet. But by 1670 the homes of the planters were being built of
sufficient size to accommodate these public meetings; and from that time
until Edenton was founded and became the seat of government, we find
these private homes being used for public gatherings.
Of Captain John Hecklefield himself, though his name appears very
frequently in the Colonial Records from 1702 until 1717, but little is
known. Of his ancestry nothing can be ascertained, nor do we know how or
when he came into Albemarle. It is not even certain that he owned the
home assigned as his, for no record of lands bought by him can be found
in the records of Perquimans County. But that he must have been a man of
high social standing and of great weight in the community is evident
from the fact that he was a deputy of the Lords Proprietors, and thus
became ex officio one of the seven Associate Justices of the General
Court. The fact also that his home was so often selected for the meeting
of the General Court, a body which in colonial days corresponded very
closely to our modern Supreme Court; that the Governor's Council of
which he, as a deputy for one of the Lords, was a member, and, that on
one occasion, the Albemarle Assembly was called to meet at his home,
fixes his standing in the community.
The first mention made of Captain Hecklefield is found in Vol. I of the
Colonial Records, where the following notice is inscribed: "At a General
Court held at ye house of Captain John Hecklefield in Little River, Oct.
27, 1702. Being present the Hon. Samuel Swann, Esq., the Hon. William
Glover, Esq., Jno. Hawkins, Esq."
From that day until 1717, we find many instances of these public
gatherings at Captain Hecklefield's home. The most prominent men in the
Albemarle Colony were often there assembled. To the sessions of the
General Court came Edward Moseley, the Justice of the Court, leader of
the Cary faction in the Glover-Cary disturbance of 1708, Chief
Commissioner for North Carolina when the boundary line between Virginia
and Carolina was established, Speaker of the Assembly for four years,
master of plantations and many slaves, and withal a very courteous
gentleman and learned scholar. Christopher Gale, first judicial officer
in Carolina to receive the commission as Chief Justice, in wig and
silken gown, upheld the majesty of the law at the sessions of the
General Court, assisted by his confréres, John Porter, Thomas Symonds,
and John Blount.
At the first Council held at Captain Hecklefield's, July 4, 1712, we
find among the dignitaries assembled on that occasion, Edward Hyde,
first Governor of North Carolina, as separate and distinct from South
Carolina, and first cousin of Queen Anne. This lordly gentleman
commanded "most awful respect," and doubtless received it from planter
and farmer. With him came Thomas Pollock, leader of the Glover faction,
owner of 55,000 acres of land, numerous flocks of sheep and herds of
cattle and of many vessels trading with the New England and West Indian
ports, a merchant prince of colonial days, and destined to become twice
acting Governor of North Carolina.
Some years later, at a meeting of the Council in April, 1714, Charles
Eden, lately appointed by the Proprietors to succeed Hyde, who had died
of yellow fever during the trouble with the Tuscaroras, took the oath of
office at Captain Hecklefield's home, and became Governor of North
Carolina. Among the members of the Council present on this occasion were
Colonel Thomas Byrd, Nathan Chevin, and William Reed, all prominent men
in Pasquotank, and the two former, leading churchmen of that county, and
active members of the vestry of St. John's Parish. Tobias Knight was
also there, a wealthy resident of Bath then, though he too had formerly
lived in Pasquotank. Knight was later to win notoriety as a friend and
colleague of Teach, the pirate. And Governor Eden himself was later
accused of collusion with Blackbeard, though no sufficient proof could
be found to bring him to trial.
By what means of locomotion these high dignitaries of the colony found
their way to Durant's Neck, we can only conjecture. Possibly a coach
and four may have borne Governor Eden and Governor Hyde the long journey
from Chowan and Bath to Hecklefield's door. Possibly Judge and advocate,
members of the Assembly and councilors, preferred to make the trip on
horseback, breaking the journey by frequent stops at the homes of the
planters in the districts through which they traveled, meeting along the
road friends and acquaintances bound on the same errand to the same
destination. And as the cavalcade increased in numbers as it drew nearer
the end of the journey, doubtless the hilarity of the travelers
increased; and by the time the old sycamore was sighted, it was a gay,
though weary, procession that turned into the lane and passed beneath
its branches, down to where the old house stood near the banks of the
More probably, however, the members of Council, Court or Assembly, met
at some wharf in their various precincts, and embarking on the swift
sloops of the great planter, made the trip to Durant's Neck by water.
Down the Pamlico, Chowan, Perquimans and Pasquotank the white-sailed
vessels bore their passengers into Albemarle Sound and a short distance
up Little River; then disembarking at the Hecklefield Landing, where the
hospitable host of the occasion was doubtless waiting to receive the
travelers, they made their way with many a friendly interchange of
gossip and jest to the great house, standing back from the river beneath
the arching branches of the sheltering sycamores.
One of the most interesting and important of all the public gatherings
convened at the Hecklefield home was the meeting of the Assembly on
October 11, 1708, to decide which of the two claimants of the office of
President of the Council, or Deputy Governor of North Carolina, should
have just right to that office. The two rival claimants were Thomas
Cary, of the precinct of Pamlico, and William Glover, of Pasquotank. To
understand the situation which necessitated the calling of a special
session of the Assembly to settle the dispute between the two men, it
may be well to review the events leading up to this meeting.
In 1704, when Queen Anne came to the throne of England, Parliament
passed an act requiring all public officers to take an oath of
allegiance to the new sovereign. The Quakers in Carolina, who in the
early days of the colony were more numerous than any other religious
body in Albemarle, had hitherto been exempt from taking an oath when
they qualified for office. Holding religiously by the New Testament
mandate, "Swear not at all," they claimed, and were allowed the
privilege, of making a declaration of like tenor as the oath,
substituting for the words, "I swear" the expression, to them equally
binding, "I affirm."
But when Governor Henderson Walker died, Sir Nathaniel Johnson, then
Governor of North and South Carolina, sent Major Robert Daniel from
South Carolina to take Walker's place as Deputy Governor of the Northern
Daniel was an ardent member of the Church of England, and was strongly
desirous of establishing this church in Carolina by law. But he knew
that so long as the Quakers were members of the Assembly, and held high
office in Albemarle, this law could never be passed. Therefore he
determined to demand a strict oath of office from all who were elected
to fill public positions. This determination was carried out. The
Quakers were driven from the Assembly, which body, subservient to the
new Governor, passed the law establishing the Church of England in
But the Quakers did not submit tamely to this deprivation of their
ancient rights and privileges. Many of the most influential men in the
colony, especially in Pasquotank and Perquimans, were Friends; and they
determined to appeal to the Proprietors to uphold them in their claim to
a share in the government. The Dissenters in the colony joined with them
in their plea, and the result was that Governor Daniel was removed from
office, and Governor Johnson ordered by the Lords to appoint another
deputy for the Northern Colony. Thomas Cary, of South Carolina, received
the appointment and came into Albemarle to take up the reins of
government. But lo, and behold! no sooner was he installed in office
than he, too, like Daniel, made it known that he would allow no one to
hold office who refused to be sworn in, in the manner prescribed by
Quakers and Dissenters again banded together, this time to have Cary
deposed; and John Porter hastened to England to state their grievances
to the Lords. Porter also petitioned in behalf of the Quakers and their
supporters, that the law requiring the oaths should be set aside; and
also that the colony should be allowed to choose its own Governor from
its own Council.
The Lords again listened favorably to the petitioners, and Porter
returned to Carolina, bringing with him a written agreement to the
petition. Cary, during Porter's absence, had left the colony, and
William Glover, of Pasquotank, was administering the government. On
Porter's return, Glover was allowed to retain the office; but later, to
the surprise and disappointment of Friend and Dissenter, he, too,
decided to refuse to admit to office any who refused to take the hated
Cary returned at this juncture and demanded to be reinstated as Deputy
Governor; and Porter and other former supporters of Glover now went to
his side. A new Council was chosen, and Cary made its president, on
condition, as we infer, that he carry out the will of the Proprietors as
expressed in the commission given to Porter.
But Glover was by no means disposed to surrender his office tamely to
Cary, and still claimed the authority with which he had been invested.
Many prominent citizens supported him in his claim, Thomas Pollock, one
of the most influential of the planters, being his warmest adherent. So
now there were two governments in the colony, each claiming to be the
only right and lawful one. Disputes over the matter grew so numerous and
violent that finally the two factions agreed to leave the decision of
the matter to a new Assembly which was elected at this juncture. And
this was the Assembly that convened at Captain Hecklefield's in 1708.
Edward Moseley was elected Speaker; the rival claims of the two
governors duly and hotly debated; and the result was, that Cary's
friends being in the majority, that worthy was declared to be the true
and lawful ruler of the colony. Glover, Pollock and Christopher Gale,
disgusted with the turn affairs had taken, left Carolina and went to
Virginia, where they remained for two years, at the end of which time
Edward Hyde, the Queen's first cousin, was appointed Governor of North
Carolina, and these malcontents returned to their homes in Albemarle.
And how did Madam Hecklefield manage to provide for the numerous guests
who so often met around her fireside? The housewife to-day would rebel
at such frequent invasions of the privacy of her home; and the high
price of living would indeed prohibit such wholesale entertainment of
the public; but in those good old days living was easy. The waters of
Little River and Albemarle Sound teemed with fish; the woods were full
of deer and other wild game; the fields were musical with the clear call
of the quail; slaves were ready to do the bidding of the lady of the
manor; wood was plentiful for the big fire-places, and candles easily
moulded for the lighting of the rooms. No one in those days was used to
the modern luxury of a private room and bath; and the guests doubtless
shared in twos and threes and fours the rooms placed at their disposal.
So, Madam Hecklefield, with a mind at ease from domestic cares, was able
to greet her guests with unruffled brow.
The neighboring planters doubtless came to the rescue, and helped to
provide bed and board for the gentry whom Captain Hecklefield could not
accommodate; and the lesser fry found the humbler settlers on the "Neck"
no less hospitable in opening their doors to them, though very probably
good coin of the realm often settled the debt between guest and host.
After the meeting of the Assembly of 1708, various other public
gatherings took place at the Hecklefield home, until November 22, 1717.
On this occasion the colony was formally notified of the death of Queen
Anne, and George I was proclaimed the "Liege Lord of Carolina."
At this meeting Governor Charles Eden was present, and serving with him
were the Honorable Thomas Byrd, and Nathaniel Chevin, of Pasquotank, and
Christopher Gale and Francis Foster, all deputies of the Proprietors.
This being the first recorded occasion in North Carolina of a
proclamation announcing the death of one sovereign and ascension to the
throne of another, the quaint phraseology of the original document may
be of more interest than a modern version of its contents:
"Whereas we have received Certain Information from Virginia of the
death of our late Sovereign Lady, Queen Anne, of Blessed Memory by
whose death the Imperial Crownes of Greate Brittaine ffrance and
Ireland are Solely and Rightfully Come to the High and Mighty Prince
George Elector of Brunswick Luenburg—
"Wee therefore doe by this our proclamation with one full voice and
Consent of Heart and Tongue Publish and proclaim that the High and
Mighty Prince George Elector of Brunswick Luenburg is now by the
death of our late Sovereigne of happy memory become our Lawful and
rightful Leighe Lord George by the grace of God King of Greate
Brittaine ffrance and Ireland, Defender of the Faith etc., To whom
wee doe all hearty and humble affection. Beseeching Obedience with
long and happy Years to raigne over us. Given etc., the 16th Day of
This proclamation having been duly read, the Governor and his Council
proceeded to subscribe to the oath of allegiance to the new sovereign,
as did Tobias Knight, collector of customs, from Currituck, and other
public officers present.
This meeting, with one exception, a Council held in 1717, is the last
recorded as occurring at the Hecklefield home. Edenton, founded in 1715,
became the seat of government for a number of years, and meetings
affecting the affairs of the colony were for the most part held there in
the court-house built soon after.
Captain John Hecklefield's house on Little River now disappears from
history; but though no longer the scene of the public activities of
Albemarle, it doubtless kept up for many years its reputation as the
center of all that was best in the social life of the colony.
COLONIAL DAYS IN CHURCH AND SCHOOL ON LITTLE RIVER, PASQUOTANK COUNTY
Among the many wide and beautiful rivers that drain the fertile lands of
ancient Albemarle, none is more full of historic interest than the
lovely stream known as Little River, the boundary set by nature to
divide Pasquotank County on the east from her sister county, Perquimans,
on the west.
On the shores of this stream, "little," as compared with the other
rivers of Albemarle, but of noble proportions when contrasted with some
of the so-called rivers of our western counties, the history of North
Carolina as an organized government had its beginning.
As early as 1659 settlers began moving down into the Albemarle region
from Virginia, among them being George Durant, who spent two years
searching for a suitable spot to locate a plantation, finally deciding
upon a fertile, pleasant land lying between Perquimans River on the
west, and Little River on the east. Following Durant came George
Catchmaid, John Harvey, John Battle, Dr. Thomas Relfe and other
gentlemen, who settled on Pasquotank, Perquimans and Little rivers,
buying their lands from the Indians; and later, when Charles II
included the Albemarle region in the grant to the Lords Proprietors,
taking out patents for their estates from these new owners of the soil,
paying the usual quit-rents for the same.
John Jenkins, Valentine Byrd, and other wealthy men came later into this
newly settled region, and by 1663 the Albemarle region was a settlement
of importance, and Governor Berkeley, of Virginia, one of the Lords
Proprietors, had, with the concurrence of his partners in this new land,
sent William Drummond to govern the colony; and the Grand Assembly of
Albemarle had held its first session at Hall's Creek, an arm of Little
River, in Pasquotank County.
In 1664, when the Clarendon colony was broken up, many of the settlers
from the Cape Fear region came into Albemarle; and in 1666 this section
received a fresh influx of immigrants from the West Indies, many of whom
settled upon Little River and embarked upon the then lucrative trade of
ship-building. The usual natural advantages of the section made it in
many respects a desirable land for the new comers. Still there were many
drawbacks to the well being of the settlers, among the most serious of
which was the lack of the two factors which make for the true progress
of a country, educational and religious facilities and privileges.
Carolina was settled in a very different manner from most of her sisters
among the thirteen colonies. To those regions settlers came in groups,
often a whole community migrating to the new land, taking with them
ministers, priests and teachers; and wherever they settled, however wild
and desolate the land, they had with them those two mainstays of
But into the Albemarle colony the settlers came a family at a time; and
instead of towns and town governments being organized, the well-to-do
settlers with their families and servants established themselves upon
large plantations, building their homes far apart, and devoting their
time to agricultural pursuits.
So it is not surprising that for many years the only religious exercises
in which the Carolina settler could take part were such as he held in
his own home, the members of the Church of England reading the prayers
and service of the Book of Common Prayer, the Dissenter using such
service as appealed most to him.
As for the education of the children, the wealthy planter would often
engage in his service some indentured servant, often a man of learning,
who would gladly give his services for a number of years for the
opportunity of coming to this new Land of Promise. And in later years as
the boys of the family outgrew the home tutor, they were sent to the
mother country to finish their education at Oxford or Cambridge.
But the poor colonist had none of these means of giving his children an
education; and for many years, indeed, not until 1705, we can find no
mention of any attempt on the part of the settlers to provide a school
for the children of the poor.
But about twelve years after George Durant settled on Little River, the
religious condition of Albemarle began to improve. In the spring of that
year, William Edmundson, a faithful friend and follower of George Fox,
the founder of the Quaker Church, came into Albemarle and held the first
public religious service ever heard in the colony at the house of Henry
Phelps, who lived in Perquimans County, near where the old town of
Hertford now stands. From there he went into Pasquotank, where he was
gladly received and gratefully heard. The following fall George Fox came
into the two counties himself, preached to the people and made a number
of converts to the Quaker doctrine.
This religious body grew in numbers and influence, and according to the
Colonial Records, "At a monthly meeting held at Caleb Bundy's house in
1703, it is agreed by Friends that a meeting-house be built at
Pasquotank with as much speed as may be." And later, between 1703 and
1706, this plan was carried out, and on the banks of Symons Creek, an
arm of Little River, between the two ancient settlements of Nixonton and
Newbegun Creek, the first Quaker meeting-house (and with the exception
of the old church in Chowan built by members of the Church of England),
the first house of worship in the State, was built.
Rough and crude was this house of God, simple and plain the large
majority of the men and women who gathered there to worship in their
quiet, undemonstrative way the Power who had led them to this land of
freedom. But the Word preached to these silent listeners in that rude
building inspired within them those principles upon which the foundation
of the best citizenship of our State was laid.
The Church of England, though long neglectful of her children in this
distant colony, had by this time begun to waken to her duty towards the
sheep of her fold in Carolina. Somewhere about 1700 a missionary society
sent a clergyman to the settlement, and in 1708 the Rev. Mr. Ackers
writes to Her Majesty's Secretary in London that "The Citizens of
Pasquotank have agreed to build a church and two chapels." As to the
location of these edifices, history remains silent; but that the church
had been sowing good seed in this new and fertile soil is shown by the
account given by the Rev. Mr. Adams of the people of Pasquotank, to whom
he had been sent as rector of the parish in that county.
According to the letter written by Mr. Adams to Her Majesty's Secretary,
there had come into the county with the settlers from the West Indies a
learned, public-spirited layman named Charles Griffin, who, seeing the
crying need of the people, had established by 1705 a school on Symons
Creek, for the children of the settlers near by.
Being a loyal son of the Church of England, he insisted upon reading the
morning and evening service of that church daily in his school, and he
required his young charges to join in the prayers and make the proper
responses. So faithful and efficient a teacher did he prove that even
the Quakers who had suffered many things from the Church of England, as
well as from their dissenting brethren, were glad to send their children
to his school.
The Colonial Records contain many references to the wide and beneficent
influence exerted by Mr. Griffin while acting in his two-fold capacity
of teacher and lay-reader in Pasquotank.
Governor Glover in a letter to the Bishop of London in 1708 writes: "In
Pasquotank an orderly congregation has been kept together by the
industry of a young gentleman whom the parish has employed to read the
services of the Church of England. This gentleman being a man of
unblemished life, by his decent behavior in that office, and by apt
discourses from house to house, not only kept those he found, but gained
many to the church."
Again and again in the pages of the Colonial Records, Vol. I, are the
praises of Charles Griffin sung; though, sad to say, in the latter days
of his life he seems to have fallen from grace, and to have become
involved in some scandal, the particulars of which are not given. This
scandal must have been proved unfounded, or he lived it down; for we
hear of him in after years as a professor in William and Mary College.
History contains no record of the location of Charles Griffin's school,
but according to tradition, and to the old inhabitants of that section,
it was located on Symons Creek, not far from the ancient Quaker
meeting-house. This latter building, erected somewhere between 1703 and
1706, was standing, within the memory of many among the older citizens
of our county, some of whom retain vivid recollections of attending,
when they were children, the services held by the Friends in this house
It may be of interest here to mention that the heirs of the late Elihu
White, of Belvidere, to whom the property belonged, have lately donated
the site of the meeting-house on Symons Creek to the Quakers of that
section, of whom there are still quite a number. And once again, after a
lapse of many years, will the ancient worship be resumed on the shores
of that quiet stream.
To the pioneer settlers on Little River, then, belongs the honor of
starting the wheels of government at Hall's Creek, of erecting on Symons
Creek the second house of worship in the State, and of establishing on
that same tributary of Little River the first school in North Carolina.
THE HAUNTS OF BLACKBEARD
The name of the famous pirate, Teach, or Blackbeard, as he was
familiarly known, plays a conspicuous part in the early history of North
Carolina, and survives in many local traditions on our coast.
Many spots along our sounds and rivers have been honey-combed by diggers
after the pirate's buried hoard. Tradition says that it was the gruesome
custom of those fierce sea robbers to bury the murdered body of one of
their own band beside the stolen gold, that his restless spirit might
"walk" as the guardian of the spot. And weird tales are still told of
treasure seekers who, searching the hidden riches of Teach and his band,
on lonely islands and in tangled swamps along our eastern waterways,
have been startled at their midnight task by strange sights and sounds,
weird shapes and balls of fire, which sent the rash intruder fleeing in
terror from the haunted spot.
Hardly a river that flows into our eastern sounds but claims to have
once borne on its bosom the dreaded "Adventure," Blackbeard's pirate
craft; hardly a settlement along those streams but retains traditions of
the days when the black flag of that dreaded ship could be seen
streaming in the breeze as the swift sails sped the pirates by, on
murder and on plunder bent. Up Little River that flows by George
Durant's home down to the broad waters of Albemarle Sound, Teach and his
drunken crew would come, seeking refuge after some bold marauding
expedition, in the hidden arms of that lovely stream. Up the beautiful
Pasquotank, into the quiet waters of Symons Creek and Newbegun Creek,
the dreaded bark would speed, and the settlers along those ancient
streams would quake and tremble at the sound of the loud carousing, the
curses and shouts that made hideous the night.
On all these waters "Teach's Light" is still said to shed a ghostly
gleam on dark, winter nights; and where its rays are seen to rest,
there, so the credulous believe, his red gold still hides, deep down in
the waters or buried along the shore.
A few miles down the Pasquotank from Elizabeth City, North Carolina,
there stands near the river shore a quaint old building known as "The
Old Brick House," which is said to have been one of the many widely
scattered haunts of Blackbeard. A small slab of granite, circular in
shape, possibly an old mill wheel, is sunken in the ground at the foot
of the steps and bears the date of 1709, and the initials "E.T."
The ends of the house are of mingled brick and stone, the main body of
wood. The wide entrance hall, paneled to the ceiling, opens into a large
room, also paneled, in which is a wide fire-place with a richly carved
mantel reaching to the ceiling. On each side of this mantel there is a
closet let into the wall, one of which communicates by a secret door
with the large basement room below. Tradition says that from this room a
secret passage led to the river; that here the pirate confined his
captives, and that certain ineffaceable stains upon the floor in the
room above, hint of dark deeds, whose secret was known only to the
underground tunnel and the unrevealing waters below.
Standing on a low cliff overlooking the Pasquotank, whose amber waters
come winding down from the great Dismal Swamp some ten miles away, the
old house commands a good view of the river, which makes a wide bend
just where the ancient edifice stands. And a better spot the pirate
could not have found to keep a lookout for the avenging ship that should
track him to his hiding place. And should a strange sail heave in sight,
or one which he might have cause to fear was bringing an enemy to his
door, quickly to the secret closet near the great mantel in the banquet
hall would Blackbeard slip, drop quietly down to the basement room
beneath, bending low, rush swiftly through the underground tunnel, slip
into the waiting sloop and be off and away up the river or down,
whichever was safest, out of reach of the enemy.
But though many of the streams and towns in the Albemarle region retain
these traditions of Blackbeard, in little Bath, the oldest town in North
Carolina, can the greatest number of these tales be heard; and with good
reason, for here in this historic village, the freebooter made his home
for a month or so after he had availed himself of the king's offer of
pardon to the pirates who would surrender themselves and promise to give
over their evil mode of life.
This ancient village, founded in 1705, is situated on Bath Creek, by
which modest name the broad, beautiful body of water, beside which those
early settlers built their homes, is called. The banks of the creek are
high and thickly wooded, rising boldly from the water, in striking
contrast with the low, marshy shores of most of our eastern rivers.
Near the shores of the creek, just outside the town, there is still to
be seen a round brick structure resembling a huge oven, called Teach's
Kettle, in which the pirate is said to have boiled the tar with which to
calk his vessels. Across the creek from the town are the ruins of "the
Governor's Mansion," where, it is claimed, Governor Eden died. In an
old field a short distance from the mansion is a deep depression filled
with broken bricks, which was the governor's wine cellar. Nearly on a
line with this, at the water's edge, is shown the opening of a brick
tunnel, through which the Pirate Teach is said to have conveyed his
stolen goods into the governor's wine cellar for safe keeping. That
Governor Eden, for reasons best known to himself, winked at the pirate's
freebooting expeditions, and that there was undoubtedly some collusion
between Blackbeard and the chief magistrate of the State, was generally
believed; though Eden vehemently denied all partnership with the
To the latter class of narrative the following thrilling tale, which
combines very ingeniously the various points of historic interest in
Bath, must, it is to be feared, belong. The story goes that Blackbeard,
with the consent of her father, was suing for the hand of Governor
Eden's daughter. The young lady, for the excellent reason that she
preferred another and better man, declined absolutely to become the
Finally, in a desperate attempt to elude his pursuit, Miss Eden bribed
two of her father's slaves to row her across the creek in the dead of
the night to Bath. Here she took refuge in the "Old Marsh House" with
her friend, Mrs. Palmer, whose memorial tablet is now in St. Thomas
Church at Bath, the oldest house of worship in the State.
Teach, infuriated at the lady's continued rejection of his suit, put out
to sea on one of his piratical excursions. The prize he captured on this
occasion was Miss Eden's lover, his hated rival. The story goes that
Blackbeard cut off one of the hands of the unfortunate captive, threw
his body into the sea, and enclosing the gruesome relic in a silver
casket, as if it were some costly gift, sent it with many compliments to
his lady love. When the unfortunate maiden opened the casket and saw the
ghastly object she uttered a terrible shriek and swooned from horror;
then, as was the fashion in the old romances, pined slowly away and died
of a broken heart.
Now, at first blush, it seems that this interesting tale has enough
corroborating evidences of its veracity to pass down to the coming ages
as true history. A visitor to Bath can see for himself every one of the
places mentioned in the story. The tablet in old St. Thomas Church
testifies in many a high-sounding phrase the many virtues of Miss Eden's
friend, Mrs. Margaret Palmer; and the "Old Marsh House" is still
standing, a well preserved and fascinating relic of the past, where the
above lady is said to have sheltered her friend. We speak of facts as
hard and stubborn things, but dates are as the nether millstone for
hardness. And here are the rocks on which our lovely story shatters:
Teach was captured and beheaded in 1718; Mrs. Palmer's tablet reports
her to have been born in 1721, and the Marsh House was not built until
1744. The story is a beautiful instance of the way in which legends are
After so much that is traditional, a brief sketch of the pirate's life
may not be amiss. According to Francis Xavier Martin's History of North
Carolina, Edward Teach was born in Bristol, England. While quite young
he took service on a privateer and fought many years for king and
country with great boldness. In 1796 he joined one Horngold, one of a
band of pirates who had their rendezvous in the Bahamas, taking refuge
when pursued, in the sounds and rivers of North Carolina.
On his first cruise with the pirate, Teach captured a sloop, of which
Horngold gave him the command. He put forty guns on board, named the
vessel "Queen Anne's Revenge," and started on a voyage to South America.
Here Teach received news of the king's proclamation of pardon for all
pirates who would surrender themselves. So, having collected much
plunder, and wishing to secure it, he came to North Carolina. With
twenty of his men he proceeded to Governor Eden's house, surrendered
himself and received the king's pardon.
Soon after, Blackbeard married a young girl, his thirteenth wife, and
settled down near Bath with the intention, apparently, of becoming a
peaceable citizen; but his good resolutions were soon broken; "being
good" did not appeal to the bold sea rover, and soon he was back again
on the high seas, pursuing unchecked his career of plunder.
Finally, the people in desperation, finding Governor Eden either unable
or unwilling to put an end to the pirate's depredations, appealed to
Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, for aid, and the pirate was finally
captured and beheaded by Lieutenant Maynard, whom Spotswood put in
command of the ship that went out to search for this terror of the seas.
Seen through the softening haze of two centuries, the figure of the
redoubtable sea robber acquires a romantic interest, and it is not
surprising that many good and highly respected citizens of eastern North
Carolina number themselves quite complacently among the descendants of
the bold buccaneer.
THE OLD BRICK HOUSE—A TRUE HISTORY OF THE HISTORIC DWELLING REPUTED TO
BE THE HOME OF THE FAMOUS PIRATE
Local tradition claims that the old brick house described in the
foregoing chapter, was once a haunt of the famous pirate, Edward Teach,
or Blackbeard, as he was commonly called.
Wild legends of lawless revel and secret crime have grown up about the
old building, until its time-stained walls seem steeped in the
atmosphere of gloom and terror which the poet Hood has so graphically
caught in his "Haunted House":
"But over all there hung a cloud of fear—
A sense of mystery, the spirit daunted,
And said as plain as whisper in the ear,
'The house is haunted.'"
It is said that the basement room of the Brick House served as a dungeon
for prisoners taken in Teach's private raids and held for ransom.
There are darker stories, too, of deeds whose secret was known only to
the hidden tunnel and unrevealing waters below.
But tradition has been busy with other occupants of the old house. It is
said to have been in colonial days the home of a branch of an ancient
and noble English family.
"THE OLD BRICK HOUSE," ON PASQUOTANK RIVER
To the care of these gentlefolk their kinsmen of old England were said
to have entrusted a young and lovely girl in order to separate her from
a lover, whose fortunes failed to satisfy the ambition of her proud and
The lover followed his fair one across the seas, and entered in disguise
among the guests assembled at the great ball which was given at the
Brick House in honor of their recently arrived and charming guest. The
young lady's brother, who had accompanied her to this country,
penetrated the disguise of her lover.
"Words of high disdain and insult" passed between the young men, a duel
followed, and the lover fell, leaving on the floor dark stains which are
said to remain to this day, in silent witness to the tragedy of long
Many years after, in a closet of the old house, a faded pink satin
slipper was found which tradition naturally assigns to the fair but
unhappy heroine of the old tale of love and death.
So much for tradition.
The story of Teach's occupation of the Old Brick House has not been
received without question, but in default of more accurate knowledge, it
has been accepted.
Recently, certain facts have come to light concerning the ancient
building which are briefly given below.
The information referred to was given by Mr. Joseph Sitterson, a
prominent resident of Williamston, North Carolina.
According to Mr. Sitterson, the Old Brick House was the property of his
great grandmother, Nancy Murden. This lady was a descendant of Lord
Murden, who in 1735 sent out an expedition in charge of his eldest son
to make a settlement in the New World.
The party obtained, whether by grant or purchase is not known, the land
on which the Old Brick House now stands. A sandy ridge extends into
Camden County, and is known to this day as Murden's Ridge.
Young Murden had brought with him from England the brick and stone, the
carved mantel and paneling, which entered into the construction of the
new home he now proceeded to build.
It is thought that the house was intended to be entirely of brick; but
the end walls of the massive chimneys having exhausted the supply, the
building was finished with wood. The house was planned with the greatest
care for defense against the Indian raids; hence the sliding panels, and
the roomy and secret spaces in which the family plate and jewels
brought from the old country could be quickly concealed, in case of
With the same end in view, there were built in the basement, from the
rich timber of the adjoining woods, stalls of cedar, the narrow windows
of which can still be seen. In these stalls the ponies were kept for
fear of Indian raids.
It is believed that in the troubled times preceding the American
Revolution, Lord Murden's son succeeded to his father's large estates
and returned to England to claim his inheritance.
After the Revolution, his American lands were confiscated and became the
property of the State.
Shortly after the war two brothers of the Murden family came to North
Carolina, entered the old property and took charge of it.
These brothers married sisters, the Misses Sawyer. In time the Old Brick
House came into the possession of Nancy Murden, a descendant of one of
the brothers Murden.
At her death she left the property as follows: One-third to Isaac
Murden, one-third to Jerry Murden, one-third to Nancy Murden, her
This will is recorded in the court-house at Elizabeth City, North
"ELMWOOD," THE OLD SWANN HOMESTEAD IN PASQUOTANK COUNTY
On a low bluff, overlooking the waters of the beautiful Pasquotank
River, some five or six miles from Elizabeth City, there stood until a
few years before the outbreak of the Civil War, an old colonial mansion
known as "Elmwood," the home for many years of the historic Swann
family, who were among the earliest settlers in our State, and played a
prominent part in the colonial history of North Carolina.
Mrs. J.P. Overman, of Elizabeth City, whose father, the late Dr. William
Pool, of Pasquotank County, spent his boyhood days at Elmwood, then the
home of his father, has given the writer a description of this historic
house, as learned from her father: "The house was situated on the
right-hand bank of the river, and was set some distance back from the
road. It was built of brick brought from England, and was a large,
handsome building for those days. As I recall my father's description of
it, the house was two stories high; a spacious hall ran the full length
of the house, both up-stairs and down; and in both the upper and lower
story there were two large rooms on each side of the hall. A broad,
massive stairway led from the lower hall to the one above. The house
stood high from the ground, the porch was small for the size of the
building, and the windows were high and narrow. The ceilings of the
rooms on the first floor had heavy, carved beams of cedar that ran the
length of the house. On the left of the house as you approached from the
river road, stretched a dense woods, abounding in deer, and in those
days these animals would venture near the homes of men, and feed in the
The great planters in those early days in North Carolina, spent their
working hours looking after the affairs of their estates, settling the
disputes of their tenants, and attending with their fellow-landed
neighbors the sessions of the General Assembly, and of the courts. Their
pleasures were much the same as those of their kinsmen across the sea in
merry England—fox-hunting, feasting and dancing; though to these
amusements of the old country were added the more exciting deer chase,
and the far more dangerous pastime of a bear hunt, when bruin's presence
near the homestead became too evident for comfort. Often the wild
screams of the fierce American panther would call the planters forth
into the dark forests at their doors, and then it must be a hunt to the
death, for until that cry was stilled, every house within the shadow of
the forest was endangered. Among the homes of the planters in the
ancient counties of Pasquotank, Currituck, Perquimans and Chowan,
Elmwood was noted for the hospitality of its earliest owners, the
Swanns; and the long list of prominent families who afterwards lived
within its walls, kept alive the old traditions of hospitality.
On many a clear, crisp autumn day, the lawn in front of the mansion
would be filled with gentry on horseback, dressed after the fashion of
their "neighbors" across the sea in hunting coats of pink, ready for a
hunt after the wily fox. The master of the hounds, William Swann
himself, would give the signal for the eager creatures to be unloosed,
the bugle would sound, and the cry "off and away" echo over the fields,
and the chase would be on. A pretty run would reynard give his pursuers,
and often the shades of evening would be falling ere the hunters would
return to Elmwood, a tired, bedraggled and hungry group. Then at the
hospitable board the day's adventures would be related, and after the
dinner a merry dance would close the day.
At Christmas, invitations would be issued to the families of the gentry
in the nearest counties, to attend a great ball at Elmwood. The old
house would be filled from garret to cellar, and the hospitable homes
of nearby friends would open to take in the overflow of guests. Dames
and maidens coy, clad in the quaint and picturesque colonial costume,
with powdered hair and patches, in richly brocaded gowns and satin
slippers, made stately courtesy to gay dandies and jovial squires
arrayed in coats of many colors, broidered vests, knee breeches and
silken hose, brilliant buckles at knee and on slippers, their long hair
worn ringleted and curled, or tied in queues. In stately measure the
graceful minuet would open the ball. Then the gayer strains of the old
Virginia reel would cause even the dignified dame or sober squire to
relax; and in laughter and merry-making the hours would speed, till the
gradual paling of the stars and a flush in the east would warn the merry
dancers that "the night was far spent, and the day was at hand."
Such are the tales still told in our county of the olden days at
Elmwood—tales handed down from father to son, and preserved in the
memories of the old inhabitants of Pasquotank. And all such memories
should be preserved and recorded ere those who hold them dear have
passed away, and with them, the traditions that picture to a generation
all too heedless of the past, the life of these, our pioneer
From this old home more distinguished men have gone forth than probably
from any other home in North Carolina.
The Hon. J. Bryan Grimes in an address made before the State Historical
Society at Raleigh in 1909, gives a long list of eminent Carolinians who
have called Elmwood their home. Among them were Colonel Thomas Swann and
Colonel William Swann, both in colonial days Speakers of the Assembly;
three members of the family by the name of Samuel Swann, and John Swann,
members of Congress. Here lived Fred Blount, son of Colonel John Blount,
an intimate friend of Governor Tryon. William Shephard, a prominent
Federalist, for some years made Elmwood his home. The Rev. Solomon Pool,
President of the University of North Carolina, and his brother, John
Pool, United States Senator from North Carolina, both spent their
boyhood days in this ancient mansion. And, as Colonel Grimes' researches
into the history of this old home have made known, and as he relates in
his speech on "The Importance of Memorials," "At Elmwood lived, and with
it were identified, ten Speakers of the Assembly, five Congressmen, one
United States Senator, one President of the State University, and one
candidate for Governor."
One of the Samuel Swanns who resided at Elmwood was the brave young
surveyor, who, with his comrades, Irvine and Mayo, was the first to
plunge into the tangled depths of the Dismal Swamp, when the boundary
line between North Carolina and Virginia was established.
Before the War between the States had been declared, the old house was
burned to the ground; and since then the estate has been cut into
smaller farms, and the family burying-ground has been desecrated by
treasure-seekers, who in their mad greed for gold have not hesitated to
disturb the bones of the sacred dead.
Just when or how the old home was burned, no one is able to tell.
Whatever the circumstances of the destruction of this fine old building,
the loss sustained by the county, and by the State, is irreparable.
PASQUOTANK IN COLONIAL WARS
The earliest wars in which the pioneers of North Carolina took part were
those fought between the first comers into the State and the Indians. As
Pasquotank was one of the earliest of the counties to be settled, we
might naturally expect that county to have taken an active part in those
encounters. The fact, however, that the great majority of her early
settlers were Friends, or Quakers, as they are more commonly called,
prevented Pasquotank from sharing as extensively as she otherwise might
have done in the fight for existence that the pioneers in Carolina were
compelled to maintain; for one of the most rigid rules of the Quaker
Church is that its members must not take up arms against their fellow
men, no matter what the provocation may be.
However, a search through the Colonial Records reveals the fact that our
county has given a fair quota of men and money whenever the domestic or
foreign troubles of colony, state or nation, needed her aid.
The first encounter between our sturdy Anglo-Saxon forefathers and the
red man of the forest occurred in 1666, two years after William
Drummond took up the reins of government in Albemarle. After this
trouble little is recorded, nor is Pasquotank nor any of her precincts
mentioned in reference to the Indian War. But as the majority of the
settlers in North Carolina then lived along the shores of Little River
and the Pasquotank, we may feel sure that the men of this county were
prominent in subduing their savage foes, who, as Captain Ashe records,
"were so speedily conquered that the war left no mark upon the infant
From then until the terrible days of the Tuscarora Massacre of 1711, the
county, and Albemarle as a whole, rested from serious warfare; but these
years can hardly be termed peaceful ones for the settlers in this
region. The Culpeper Rebellion, the dissatisfaction caused by the
tyrannical and illicit deeds of Seth Sothel, the disturbance caused by
Captain Bibbs, who claimed the office of governor in defiance of
Ludwell, whom the Lords had appointed to rule over Carolina, and the
Cary troubles, all combined to keep the whole Albemarle district in a
state of confusion and disorder for many years.
But all of these quarrelings and brawlings were hushed and forgotten
when in September, 1711, the awful tragedy of the Tuscarora Massacre
occurred. Though the settlers south of Albemarle Sound, in the vicinity
of Bath and New Bern, and on Roanoke Island, suffered most during those
days of horror, yet from the letters of the Rev. Rainsford and of
Colonel Pollock, written during these anxious days, we learn that the
planters north of the sound came in for their share of the horrors of an
Indian uprising that swept away a large proportion of the inhabitants of
the colony, and left the southern counties almost depopulated.
Though nearly paralyzed by the blow that had fallen upon the colony,
which, in spite of difficulties, had been steadily growing and
prospering, the officers of the government as soon as possible began to
take steps to punish the Tuscaroras and their allies for the unspeakable
atrocities committed by them during the awful days of the massacre, and
also to devise means for conquering the savage foes who were still
pursuing their bloody work. All the able-bodied men in the State were
called upon to take part in the warfare against the Indians. But so few
were left alive to carry on the struggle, that Governor Hyde was
compelled to call upon the Governor of South Carolina and of Virginia to
come to his aid in saving the colony from utter extinction. South
Carolina responded nobly and generously. Virginia, for various reasons,
sent but little aid to her afflicted sister colony. For two long years
the war continued, until at last the Indians were conquered, the
surviving hostile Tuscaroras left the State, and peace was restored to
the impoverished and sorely tried colony.
During the bloody struggle, Pasquotank, which, with the other northern
counties suffered but little in comparison with the counties south of
the Albemarle, had sent what help she could to those upon whom the
horrors of the war had fallen most heavily. In the Colonial Records this
entry of services rendered by Pasquotank is found in a letter sent by
Lieutenant Woodhouse and Thomas Johnson to certain "Gentlemen, Friends,
and Neighbors," dated October 3, 1712. "Captain Norton, as I was
informed by Mrs. Knight, sailed last week from Pasquotank in Major
Reed's sloop, with 30 or 40 men, provisions, and two barrels of
gunpowder and ten barrels, I think, of shot." The destination of ship,
men and cargo was Bath, the scene of the most disastrous of the Indian
In an extract from a "Book of the Orders and Judgments and Decrees of
the Hon. Edward Hyde, Esq., President of the Council," mentioned in Dr.
Hawk's History of North Carolina, we find the following entry: "Ordered
that Capt. Edward Allard shall depart with his sloop "Core Sound
Merchant" to Pasquotank River, and there take from on board the
"Return," Mr. Charles Worth Glover, so much corn as will load his sloop,
give to Mr. Glover a receipt for the same, and that he embrace the first
fair wind and weather to go to Bath County and there apply himself to
the Hon. John Barnewell, Esq., and follow such instructions as he shall
receive from him."
Again, in a letter from the Rev. Giles Rainsforth to "Jno. Chamberlain,
Esq.," written from "Chowan in North Carolina July 25, 1712," further
mention is made of Pasquotank's part in the Tuscarora War: "Col. 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
shared his fate and fell sacrifices to the same common misfortune."
It has been charged against Pasquotank that her citizens did not respond
to the call for volunteers to take part in the Tuscarora War; and it is
true that the Quakers in the county did enjoin upon their brethren that
they should not bear arms in this or any other disturbance. It is also
true that a number of the citizens in the county did obey this
injunction; and when the war was over we find that certain members of
the Friends' meeting were brought to trial by the courts "for not going
out in ye Indian Wars." But enough instances have been recorded to show
that our county did take an active part in breaking the power of the
Tuscaroras and in driving them from the State.
In 1715, when South Carolina in her turn underwent the horrors of an
Indian war, and appealed to North Carolina for aid, we find that men
from Pasquotank joined with other forces from the colony in response to
this appeal. Captain John Pailin and Captain John Norton, both of
Pasquotank, are ordered "to draw out their companies and go to the
assistance of South Carolina in the Yamassie War." And furthermore the
command reads: "If men refuse, each captain is ordered to draft ten men
who have small families or none, and to put them under Captain Hastins."
That drafting was not resorted to, and that the men went willingly to
the aid of their brethren in South Carolina, who rendered the northern
colony such generous assistance in the Tuscarora War, is proved by the
fact that fifty men were raised by the two captains, and cheerfully
marched to the front along with the bands of militia from the
So in these earliest trials of the military courage of her citizens, the
county proved that she could and would take a worthy part.
PASQUOTANK IN COLONIAL WARS—"THE WAR OF JENKINS' EAR"
After the war with the Tuscaroras was over, and most of that powerful
tribe had left the State, going to New York and becoming the sixth of
the tribes there called "The Six Nations," for many years there were no
pitched battles between the red men and the settlers in North Carolina.
But the troubles with the Indians did not end with the Tuscarora War;
for though a treaty was made in 1713 with Tom Blount, king of the
Tuscaroras, who remained in the State, whereby the Indians bound
themselves to keep the peace, yet, as late as 1718 the colonists were
still putting troops in the field to "catch or kill the enemy Indians."
Indeed the settlers in Albemarle suffered as much from the Indians after
the Tuscaroras left the State as they did during the days of the Indian
massacre of 1711, and of the open warfare that followed.
In 1714 another Indian outbreak occurred, and the alarm was so great
that many of the settlers in the Albemarle region determined to flee to
Virginia, where the government seemed better able to protect its
citizens than were the officials of North Carolina.
To prevent such an immigration from the colony, Governor Eden, who had
succeeded Edward Hyde, issued a proclamation forbidding the people to
leave the colony; and Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, gave orders to
arrest any Carolinians who should flee into his colony without a
passport from duly authorized officials in Carolina.
But as the years passed on, the Indian troubles gradually ceased, and
the red men mostly disappeared from the eastern portion of the State,
though as late as 1731 Dr. Brickwell speaks of finding there "a nation
called the Pasquotanks, who kept cattle and made butter, but at present
have not cattle."
With the dangers from the Indians over, and with the transfer of
Carolina from the hands of the neglectful Lords Proprietors into the
possession of King George II, brighter and more prosperous days began to
dawn for North Carolina. The population rapidly increased; and, whereas,
in 1717 there were only 2,000 persons in the colony, by 1735 this number
had increased to 4,000. Lively wranglings there were often between the
Royal Governors and the sturdy and independent members of the Grand
Assembly, who resolutely carried out their purpose to preserve the
constitutional rights of the people of the province. But no war cloud
darkened the skies for many years after the Indian troubles were over.
Not until 1740 was there again a call to arms heard in North Carolina;
then trouble arose between Spain and England, and the colonists in
America were called upon to aid their Sovereign, King George II, in his
war against the haughty Don.
The real cause of this war was the constant violation on the part of the
English of the commercial laws which Spain had made to exclude foreign
nations from the trade of her American colonies. But the event which
precipitated matters and gave to the conflict which followed the name of
"The War of Jenkins' Ear," was as follows:
The Spanish captured an English merchant vessel, whose master they
accused of violating the trade laws of Spain. In order to wring a
confession from the master, Captain Jenkins, his captors hung him up to
the yard arms of his ship until he was nearly dead, and then let him
down, thinking he would confess. But on his stoutly denying that he had
been engaged in any nefarious dealings, and since no proof could be
found against him, the captain of the Spanish ship cut off one of the
English captain's ears, and insolently told him to show it to his
countrymen as a warning of what Englishmen might expect who were caught
trading with Spain's colonies in America.
Captain Jenkins put the ear in his pocket, sailed home as fast as wind
and wave would carry him, and was taken straight to the House of
Parliament with his story. Such was the indignation of both Lords and
Commons at this insult to one of their nation, and so loud was the
clamor for vengeance, that even Walpole, who for years had managed to
hold the English dogs of war in leash, was now compelled to yield to the
will of the people, and Parliament declared war with Spain.
Immediately upon this declaration, King George called upon his "trusty
and well beloved subjects in Carolina" and the other twelve colonies, to
raise troops to help the mother country in her struggle with arrogant
Spain. Carolina responded nobly to the call for troops, as the following
extract from a letter from Governor Gabriel Johnston to the Duke of
Newcastle will testify: "I can now assure your grace that we have raised
400 men in this province who are just going to put to sea. In those
Northern Parts of the Colony adjoining to Virginia, we have got 100 men
each, though some few deserted since they began to send them on board
the transports at Cape Fear. I have good reason to believe we could have
raised 200 more if it had been possible to negotiate the Bills of
Exchange in this part of the Continent; but as that was impossible we
were obliged to rest satisfied with four companies. I must in justice to
the assembly of the Province inform Your Grace that they were very
zealous and unanimous in promoting this service. They have raised a
subsidy of 1200 pounds as it is reckoned hereby on which the men have
subsisted ever since August, and all the Transports are victualed."
While no mention is made of Pasquotank in this war, nor of men from any
other county save New Hanover, we may reasonably infer that among the
three hundred troops from the northern counties adjoining Virginia, men
from our own county were included. No record has been kept of the names
of the privates who enlisted from Carolina in this war. Nor do we know
how many of those who at the king's call left home and country to fight
a foreign land ever returned to their native shores; but we do know that
these Carolina troops took part in the disastrous engagements of
Cartagena and Boca-Chica; and that King George's troops saw fulfilled
Walpole's prophecy made at the time of the rejoicing over the news that
Parliament had declared war with Spain: "You are ringing the joy bells
now," said the great Prime Minister, "but before this war is over you
will all be wringing your hands!"
After the two crushing defeats of Cartagena and Boca-Chica, the troops
from the colonies who still survived embarked upon their ships to return
home; but while homeward bound a malignant fever broke out among the
soldiers which destroyed nine out of every ten men on the ships. But few
of those from Carolina lived to see their native home again. That they
bore themselves bravely on the field of battle, none who know the war
record of North Carolina will dare deny; though as regards her private
soldiers in this war, history is silent.
One of the officers from Carolina, Captain Innes, of Wilmington, made
such a record for gallantry during the two engagements mentioned, that
in the French and Indian War, in which fourteen years later, not only
the Thirteen Colonies, but most of the countries of Europe as well, were
embroiled, he was made commander-in-chief of all the American forces,
George Washington himself gladly serving under this distinguished
A SOLDIER OF THE REVOLUTION—THE STORY OF A PASQUOTANK BOY WHO FOLLOWED
It is a well known fact that the records of the services of the North
Carolina soldiers who took part in the Revolutionary War are very
meagre. Of the private, and other officers of leaser rank, this is
especially true. Therefore, it is not surprising that a search through
the Colonial Records for a statement of the services rendered his
country by John Koen, a brave soldier of the Revolution from Pasquotank
County, reveals only this fact: that he enlisted in Moore's Company,
Tenth Regiment, on May 30, 1777, and served for three years.
But in addition to the above information, the following incidents in the
life of John Koen have been furnished the writer of this history by Mrs.
Margaret Temple, formerly of Rosedale, now a resident of Elizabeth City.
Mrs. Temple is a granddaughter of Colonel Koen, the widow of William S.
Temple, a brave Confederate soldier from Pasquotank, and the mother of
two of our former townsmen, Hon. Oscar Temple, of Denver, Colorado, and
Robert Temple, of New Orleans.
Mrs. Temple was about twelve years old at the time of Colonel Koen's
death, and retains a very vivid recollection of the stirring stories of
the Revolution told by her grandfather during the long winter evenings,
when the family gathered around the big fire-place in the old Koen
homestead near Rosedale.
A record copied from the Koen family Bible states that John Koen, son of
Daniel Koen and Grace Koen, his wife, was born on the 27th day of
January, 1759; and years later this record was entered: "John Koen,
departed this life September 5th, 1840, aged 83 yrs."
At the age of eighteen he entered his country's service as a volunteer,
and served through the Revolution, participating in many of the greatest
victories won by the Americans, sharing the worst hardships of the war
with his fellow patriots, and laying down his arms only after Cornwallis
had surrendered his sword at Yorktown.
At the beginning of the winter of 1775-1776, North Carolina was
confronting the most perilous conditions which she had ever been called
to face. From the north, east and west, the foe was pressing, while
within her own borders the Tories were rising, and planning to join the
British in the subjection of this rebellious state.
The plan formulated by the enemy was this: Sir Henry Clinton, with
troops of British regulars, was to come down the coast to the mouth of
the Cape Fear River, where Lord Cornwallis, who with seven regiments
from England was hastening across the Atlantic, was to join him. Lord
Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, was to incite the slaves and
indentured servants in the Albemarle district to unite with the Tories
in the State; and the Indians in the western counties were to be induced
to take up arms against the whites.
If these plans had matured, North Carolina would have been overpowered,
but one by one they were frustrated. The battle of Great Bridge defeated
Dunmore in his purpose. The Snow Campaign quieted the Indian uprising.
The battle of Moore's Creek Bridge crashed the Tories, and the heavy
winter storms delayed Cornwallis and prevented him from joining Clinton
at the mouth of the Cape Fear.
When Lord Dunmore issued his proclamation offering freedom to the slaves
and indentured servants who should join his majesty's forces, and then
followed up this notice by burning and ravaging the plantations around
Norfolk, Virginia, called upon her sister State for help, and Long and
Sumner, from Halifax, and Warren, Skinner and Daugé from Perquimans and
Pasquotank counties, hastened with their minute men and volunteers to
Great Bridge, where Colonel Woodford in command of the Virginia troops,
had thrown up fortifications.
Among the volunteers who were hastening to the scene of action was John
Koen, of Pasquotank, a boy in years, but a man in purpose and
On December 9, 1775, the British attacked the fortifications, and the
sound of heavy firing at Great Bridge, the first battle in which the men
of the Albemarle section had been called to participate, was heard by
the dwellers in the counties nearest Norfolk.
The story is still told by old residents of Rosedale, that John Koen's
mother, who was washing the breakfast dishes when the firing began,
hearing the first heavy reverberations from the cannon some thirty miles
away, dropped the dish she was wiping, and in her motherly anxiety for
the safety of her boy, cried out, "Dodge, John, dodge!"
Whether John dodged or not we do not know, but we do know that he bore
his part manfully in this, his first battle, and shared in the victory
which drove Dunmore from Virginia, and saved North Carolina from
invasion from that direction, and a threatened uprising of the slaves.
On February 26, 1776, the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge was fought,
which defeated the Tories in Carolina, and convinced the British that
further attempts at this time to conquer the State were useless. So,
toward the end of May, Clinton's fleet sailed from the mouth of Cape
Fear River to Charleston, South Carolina, where his intention was to
reduce that city.
Generals Charles Lee and Robert Howe, of the Continental army, hastened
immediately to the defense of that city, and among the soldiers who
followed them was John Koen. Here again the British were defeated,
Colonel Moultrie's Palmetto fortifications proving an effective defense
to the city by the sea, and Thompson's South Carolinians and North
Carolinians bravely repelling the British land troops. Here Koen fought
by the side of the soldiers of North Carolina, and here, possibly, he
was an eye witness of the brave deed by which Sergeant Jasper won
The British fleet, repulsed in the attempt to capture Charleston, sailed
northward, the danger of invasion that for six months threatened the
South was over, and we find many of the soldiers in North Carolina
released from duty and returning to their homes.
But John Koen's heart was filled with boyish love and admiration for the
commander-in-chief of the American army, and his one desire now was to
follow Washington; so, shouldering his musket, the hardy young soldier
marched away to offer his services to the great general.
We do not know whether or not John Koen was with Washington in the
battle at Long Island and at White Plains, but from his own account as
related by him to his family, he did have the glorious honor of sharing
in the victory at Trenton on December 26, 1776.
Most of us are familiar with the picture of "Washington Crossing the
Delaware," wherein he is represented standing erect in a small boat that
seems about to be dashed to pieces by the heavy waves and the cakes of
ice, but according to Colonel Koen, who was with Washington on that
momentous night, no boats were used. The river was frozen over, and the
soldiers, in order to keep their footing on the slippery ice, laid their
muskets down on the frozen river and walked across on them to the Jersey
shore. At times the ice bent so beneath the tread of the men that they
momentarily expected to be submerged in the dark waters, but the
dangerous crossing was safely made, the British and Hessian troops,
spending the holiday hours in feasting and carousing at Trenton, were
captured, and a great victory won for the American army.
Some time in the spring of 1777, John Koen must have returned to his
home in Pasquotank County, for we find in the Colonial Records that in
the month of May, 1777, he enlisted in Moore's Company, Tenth Regiment,
from North Carolina, and that in June he was promoted to the rank of
According to the fireside tales told by Colonel Koen to the household in
the old Koen homestead, this young soldier, then only twenty years old,
was with Gates' army, that, under the valiant leadership of Morgan and
Arnold, won for the newly born nation the great victory of Saratoga; and
the winter of that same year—'77—we find him sharing with Washington's
army the trials and privations of the days of suffering at Valley Forge.
"I have seen the tears trickling down my grandfather's face when he told
of the sufferings of that awful winter," said his granddaughter, Mrs.
Temple to the writer, "and I used to wonder at seeing a grown man cry,
and often I said in my childish way that war should never bring a tear
in my eyes. Little did I know then that the bitterest tears I should
ever shed would be caused by war, and for eighteen months during the
terrible struggle between the North and the South I should mourn as dead
my soldier husband, whom God in His mercy restored to me after all hope
of seeing him alive again was over."
Although the Colonial Records state that Koen enlisted for only three
years in May, 1777, he must have re-enlisted in 1780, for he has left
with his family a graphic description of General Lincoln's surrender of
Charleston in that year, and of the horrible treatment to which the
Continental troops were subjected, who found themselves prisoners of the
victorious British army.
The hot climate, the wretched condition of the prison ships, the
unwholesome and insufficient food, made these days of imprisonment at
Charleston equal in horror to the worst days at Valley Forge. Of the
1,800 prisoners who were taken captive on May 12, 1780, only 700
survived when they were paroled, and of these our hero was one.
In what other battles or experiences Colonel Koen shared we have no
record, historical or traditional, but according to his granddaughter's
account, learned from his own lips, he served his country until the
victory of Yorktown was won and peace was declared. And it is easy to
believe that this gallant soldier who was one of the first to volunteer
at Great Bridge, and who fought so bravely in many of the sharpest
struggles of the great conflict, would not have been willing to lay
down his arms until his country was freed from the power that had so
long held it in thrall.
So we can imagine him following Greene in his retreat across the State,
taking part in the battle of Guilford Courthouse, and possibly present
when the proud Cornwallis was forced to surrender at Yorktown.
When the struggle at last had ended, John Koen returned to his home.
During the years of his absence his plantation was managed by William
Temple, whose pretty young daughter, Susannah, soon won the heart of the
brave soldier, and consented to become his bride. After some years of
happy married life, the young wife died, and a few years later we find
John Koen making a second marriage, his bride being Christian Hollowell,
of Perquimans County.
Owing to his gallant conduct in the Revolutionary War, John Koen, a few
years after the war was over, was appointed Colonel of the militia in
Pasquotank County, and the government awarded him a pension, which was
paid until his death in 1840.
GENERAL ISAAC GREGORY, A REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER OF PASQUOTANK-CAMDEN
During the War of the Revolution, the Albemarle Region, though
threatened with invasion time and again by the British, seldom heard the
tread of the enemy's army, or felt the shock of battle. For this
immunity from the destruction of life and property, such as the citizens
whose homes lay in the path of Cornwallis and Tarleton suffered, this
section of North Carolina is largely indebted to General Isaac Gregory,
one of the bravest officers who ever drew sword in defense of his native
home and country.
Both Pasquotank and Camden claim this gallant officer for their son, and
both have a right to that claim; for the two counties were one until
1777. In that year a petition was presented to the General Assembly by
Joseph Jones, of Pasquotank, from citizens living in what is now Camden
County, that the portion of Pasquotank lying on the northeast bank of
the river should be formed into a separate county, and have a
court-house of its own, in order to do away with the inconvenience the
people of that section suffered in having to cross the river to attend
court, military drills and other public gatherings. The General
Assembly passed an act providing for the erection of a new county, and
this county was named for Charles Pratt, Earl of Camden, a member of
Parliament and Chancellor, who in the stormy days of 1765 worked for the
repeal of the hated Stamp Act, and justice to the Colonies.
Before the long and bloody days of the Revolution proved his worth as a
soldier, Isaac Gregory had won a prominent place in the public affairs
of his county. His name first occurs in the Colonial Records in 1773,
when he was elected sheriff of Pasquotank. In the same year he was
appointed one of the trustees of St. Martin's Chapel in Indian Town,
Currituck County, a settlement whose citizens were many of them to
become honored in the civil and military history of our State.
Ever since the passing of the Stamp Act in 1765, low mutterings of the
storm that was soon to sweep over the country some ten years later had
disturbed the peace of the Thirteen Colonies; and events in North
Carolina showed that this colony was standing shoulder to shoulder with
her American sisters in their endeavor to obtain justice from England.
In 1774, John Harvey's trumpet call to the people of North Carolina to
circumvent Governor Martin's attempt to deprive them of representation
in the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, had resulted in the
convention at New Bern, the first meeting in America at which the
representatives of a colony as a whole had ever gathered in direct
defiance of orders from a Royal Governor.
The next year, in April, Harvey again called a convention of the people
to meet in New Bern. Again Governor Martin was defied; again, the North
Carolinians, taking matters into their own hands, elected delegates to
Philadelphia, and before adjourning, added Carolina's name to the
association of Colonies.
Pasquotank was represented in this convention by Edward Jones, Joseph
Redding, Edward Everigen, John Hearing, and Isaac Gregory. The last
named, being by now an acknowledged leader in his county, was appointed
by this body a member of the Committee of Safety in the Edenton
The path toward separation from the mother country was now being rapidly
trod by the American colonies, though few, as yet, realized whither
their steps were tending. In the vanguard of this march toward liberty
and independence, North Carolina kept a conspicuous place. The Edenton
Tea Party in October, 1774, had proved the mettle of her women. The
farmers of Mecklenburg had struck the first chord in the song of
independence, hardly a note of which had been sounded by the other
colonies. Governor Martin had fled from New Bern, and in August, 1775,
the Hillsboro Convention had organized a temporary form of government,
and had placed at the head of public affairs Cornelius Harnett, who, as
President of the Provincial Council, had more power in the State than is
generally delegated to a governor.
In December, 1775, Lord Dunmore's attempted invasion of the State had
been thwarted, largely by the aid of the Minute Men from Albemarle. Then
came the famous Snow Campaign, in which the militia of the western
counties joined the patriots of South Carolina in defeating the Tories
of that State. And in February, 1776, the important victory at Moore's
Creek Bridge had completely for a time broken the power of the Loyalists
in North Carolina. There was no longer any hope of obtaining justice
from England, nor, after such open and steady rebellion against the
king's officers, civil and military, could there be any hope of
conciliation with the mother country, save on terms too humiliating to
North Carolina, recognizing these facts, called another convention to
meet at Halifax in April, 1776, and there sounded her defiance as a
State to King and Parliament, and boldly authorized her delegates to
the next Continental Congress at Philadelphia to vote for independence.
The convention then proceeded to make further preparations for the war
which all now felt was inevitable. Pasquotank, in response to the call
immediately issued for more troops, raised two regiments of militia.
Isaac Gregory, who had been appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the
Pasquotank Militia by the Convention of 1775, was promoted and made
Colonel of the Second Regiment of Pasquotank Militia, the other officers
being Dempsey Burgess, Lieutenant-Colonel, Joshua Campbell, Major, and
Peter Daugé, Second Major.
Independence having been declared by the Continental Congress of 1776,
the thirteen Colonies, now independent States, proceeded to organize a
permanent government within their several borders.
In North Carolina a State convention was called to meet at Halifax in
November, 1776, to frame a constitution for the government of that
State. To this convention Isaac Gregory, Henry Abbott, Devotion Davis,
Dempsey Burgess and Lemuel Burgess were elected to represent Pasquotank,
and Abbott was appointed on the committee to frame the constitution. By
the 18th of December the work was completed and the constitution
adopted, which, with amendments, is still the organic law of the State.
After Clinton's unsuccessful attempt to invade North Carolina in May,
1776, no further effort to place the State under British control was
made until 1780. But during the intervening years the Carolina troops
had not been idle. Their valor had been proved at Brandywine, Germantown
and Stony Point, and during the winter at Valley Forge 1,450 of her
soldiers shared with their comrades from the other States the hunger,
cold and suffering that was the portion of Washington's army throughout
those dreary months. The North Carolina troops had aided in the brave
but unsuccessful attempt to drive the British from Savannah, and 5,000
of her soldiers had been sent to prevent the capture of Charleston; but
the patriot forces had been unable to repulse the invaders. Savannah
fell, then Charleston, and by the last of May, 1780, both Georgia and
South Carolina were in the hands of the enemy, and Cornwallis was
threatening North Carolina.
So great was the blow to the American cause from the loss of these
Southern States, and so great the danger confronting North Carolina,
that Congress ordered DeKalb, of the Continental line with the regulars
from Maryland and Delaware to march to the rescue of the patriots in the
South. General Gates, the reputed victor at Saratoga, was also ordered
South, and put in command of the Southern forces.
For awhile the enemy remained quiet, Cornwallis delaying the devastation
of South Carolina until the maturing crops should be safe. This respite
gave the Carolinians time to collect their forces on the South Carolina
border, in order to drive back the enemy.
Isaac Gregory, who in May, 1779, had been promoted to the office of
Brigadier-General of the Edenton District, on the resignation of John
Pugh Williams, was ordered to join General Caswell in South Carolina. As
soon as he could collect his men, Gregory marched towards the Piedmont
section, on his way to Caswell's army; and by June he was with
Rutherford's Brigade at Yadkin's Ford in Rowan. Near this place the
Tories had collected, some 800 strong; and Rutherford hoped, with
Gregory's aid, to crush them. But to his disappointment, no opportunity
was given, for General Bryan, the Tory leader, hearing of the defeat of
the Loyalists at Ramseur's Mill a few days before, crossed the Yadkin
and united with General MacArthur, whom Cornwallis had sent to Anson
By July 31 Gregory's men, with Rutherford and his brigade, were with
General Caswell at The Cheraws, just across the South Carolina border.
For several weeks there was much suffering among the men on account of
the lack of food, for though corn was plentiful, the rivers were so high
that the mills could not grind the meal.
Lord Rawdon's army was stationed near Camden, South Carolina, and Gates,
who had joined Caswell on August 17, having learned that the British
general was daily expecting a supply of food and stores for his men,
determined to intercept the convoy and capture the supplies for his own
army. In the meantime Cornwallis, unknown to Gates, had joined Lord
Rawdon. Gates, ignorant of this reinforcement of Cornwallis' troops,
marched leisurely towards Camden to capture the coveted stores.
The result of the battle that followed is known only too well. The
American militia, panic-stricken at the furious onslaught of the enemy,
threw down their arms and fled. General Gates, after a vain attempt to
rally his troops, lost courage, and abandoning his forces and his
stores, brought everlasting disgrace upon his name by fleeing in hot
haste from the field.
But the cowardly conduct of Gates and several of the other officers of
the American army, as well as many of the militia, in this disastrous
battle, was offset by the heroism and courage of others; and among
those who won undying fame on that fatal field, none is more worthy of
praise than General Gregory.
Roger Lamb, a British officer, writing an account of the battle, and
speaking of the disgraceful conduct of those officers and men whose
flight from the field brought shame upon the American army, gives this
account of Isaac Gregory's heroic struggle to withstand the enemy at
this bloody field: "In justice to North Carolina, it should be remarked
that General Gregory's brigade acquitted themselves well. They formed on
the left of the Continentals, and kept the field while they had a
cartridge left. Gregory himself was twice wounded by bayonets in
bringing off his men, and many in his brigade had only bayonet wounds."
As to fight hand to hand with bayonets requires far more courage than to
stand at a distance and fire a musket, this account of Gregory and his
troops proves the bravery with which they fought during those terrible
hours. General Gregory's horse was shot from under him while the battle
was raging; and seeing him fall, so sure was the enemy of his death that
Cornwallis in his official report of the battle, gave in his name in the
list of the American officers killed on the field.
Two days after the battle of Camden, the patriots, Shelby, Clarke and
Williams, defeated a band of Tories at Musgrove's Mill in South
Carolina; but hearing of the disaster at Camden, these officers now
withdrew from the State. Sumter's corps, near Rocky Mount, had been put
to flight by Tarleton, Gates had fled the State, and only Davie's men
were left between the army of Cornwallis and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Had the British General pressed on into the State, North Carolina must
have inevitably fallen into the hands of the enemy. But Cornwallis
delayed the invasion for nearly a month, thus giving the Carolinians
time to collect their forces to repel his attempt.
The General Assembly which met in September, 1780, acting upon Governor
Nash's advice, created a Board of War to assist him in conducting the
military affairs of the State. This board now proceeded to put General
Smallwood, of Maryland, in command of all the forces in the State,
giving him authority over all the officers in the Southern army, the
honor being conferred upon him on account of his gallant conduct at
Camden. General Gregory was consequently ordered to hold himself in
readiness to obey General Smallwood's orders, with the other officers in
The Board of War then proceeded to raise money, arms and men for the
army that would soon be called upon to drive Cornwallis from the State.
Gregory's brigade received $25,000 of the funds raised, and 150 flints
and 15 guns were distributed among his soldiers.
The British now confidently expected that Cornwallis would quickly
subdue North Carolina, then sweep over the State into Virginia. In order
to prevent the Americans from hurrying into that State to join forces
against Cornwallis, General Leslie was ordered from New York to the
Chesapeake, and in October his army was stationed near South Quays in
Virginia, not far from Norfolk.
The presence of Leslie's army so close to the Carolina border caused
much alarm for the safety of the Albemarle section, which for the second
time was in danger of invasion. General Gregory, who after the battle of
Camden had joined Exum and Jarvis in front of Cornwallis, had recently
returned to Albemarle. He was now ordered to take the field against
Leslie, and to prevent him from entering the State. From his camp at
Great Swamp, near North River, he wrote to Governor Nash in November,
1780, reporting the repulse of the enemy. He also warned the Governor
that the British were planning to attack Edenton; and he set forth in
his letter the blow that the capture of this town would be to the
commerce of the State.
General Gregory's post at Great Swamp was no sinecure. He had only about
100 men to withstand Leslie, whose forces at Portsmouth amounted to
nearly 1,000 men. His troops were poorly equipped, half naked, and
ill-fed; and his situation seemed almost desperate. To add to his
troubles, an attempt was made at this time by Colonel Blount, of the
Edenton District, to deprive him of his command. But a Council of State,
held at Camp Norfleet Mills to inquire into the matter, declared that as
Colonel Blount had resigned of his own free will and accord—in favor of
Gregory—he should not now take the command from him.
In spite of the troubles and perplexities that beset Gregory in the fall
of 1780, he bravely held his ground; and by the end of November he wrote
Governor Nash from his camp at North West that the British had abandoned
Portsmouth, and had departed for parts unknown.
While these events were taking place in the East, Cornwallis, whose left
wing under Ferguson had suffered a crushing defeat at King's Mountain,
disappointed at the humbling of the Tories at that battle, had left
North Carolina on October 12th, and returned to South Carolina. The
heavy rains encountered by his army on his retreat caused much sickness
among his men; and himself falling ill, he was obliged to give up his
command temporarily to Lord Rawdon.
General Leslie's destination soon became known. On November 23 he had
abandoned the vicinity of Norfolk, and had sailed to Wilmington, N.C.,
hoping to rouse the Tories in that section; but Lord Rawdon's army being
now in great danger, Leslie was ordered to his assistance, and he
accordingly set out for the British army near Camden. But Southern
Virginia and the Albemarle region were not long to be free from the fear
of invasion, for soon another British army under the command of the
traitor, Benedict Arnold, sailed into Chesapeake Bay, and Gregory was
again sent to keep the enemy in check.
During this campaign a serious charge was brought against Gregory,
which, though soon proved to be wholly unfounded, caused the gallant
officer life-long mortification and distress. The circumstances of this
unfortunate occurrence were as follows:
Captain Stevens, a British officer in Arnold's corps, while sitting idly
by his fire one night, "just for a joke," as he afterwards explained,
wrote two notes to General Gregory, which he intended to destroy, as
they were simply the product of his own imagination, and were never
intended to go out of his hands.
In some unknown way these papers came into the hands of an American
officer, who, deeming from their contents that Gregory was a traitor,
carried them to headquarters. Their purport being made public, even
Gregory's most loyal friends began to look upon him with suspicion and
The first of these two notes was as follows:
"Your well-formed plans of delivering into the hands of the British
these people now in your command, gives me much pleasure. Your next, I
hope, will mention place of ambuscade, and manner you wish to fall into
The second note was equally incriminating:
"A Mr. Ventriss was last night made prisoner by three or four of your
people. I only wish to inform you that Ventriss could not help doing
what he did in helping to destroy the logs. I myself delivered him the
order from Colonel Simcox."
Great was the excitement and consternation in Gregory's brigade, and
indeed throughout the American army when these notes were read. Arnold's
treason early in 1780 was still fresh in the minds of all; and it was
natural that the accusation now brought against General Gregory should
find ready and widespread credence. Gregory was arrested and
court-martialed by his own men; but his innocence was soon established,
for as soon as Colonel Stevens heard of the disgrace he had
unintentionally brought upon an innocent man, he hastened to make amends
for his thoughtless act by a full explanation of his part in the affair.
Colonel Parker, a British officer and a friend of Stevens, had been
informed of the writing of the notes, and he now joined Stevens in
furnishing testimony at the trial that fully exonerated the brave
general from the hateful charge. But though friends and brother officers
now crowded around him with sincere and cordial congratulations upon the
happy termination of the affair, and with heartfelt expressions of
regret at the unfortunate occurrence, the brave and gallant officer,
crushed and almost heart-broken at the readiness with which his men and
many of his fellow officers had accepted what seemed proofs of his
guilt, never recovered from the hurt caused by the cruel charge. For
though he nobly put aside his just resentment, and remained at his post
of duty, guarding the Albemarle counties from danger of invasion until
the withdrawal of the British troops from southeastern Virginia removed
the danger, his life was ever afterwards shadowed by the mortification
he had been called upon to undergo.
In February, 1781, the enemy's army in Virginia became such a source of
terror to the people of that section that General Allen Jones was
ordered to reinforce Gregory with troops from the Halifax District. But
later that same month a greater danger confronted the patriot army in
the South, and this order was countermanded. Most of the forces in the
States were now hurried to the aid of General Greene, who had superseded
Gates after the battle of Camden, and was leading Cornwallis an eventful
chase across the Piedmont section of North Carolina. Cornwallis, after
having been reinforced by General Leslie, had planned to invade North
Carolina, conquer that State, march through Virginia and join Clinton in
a fierce onslaught against Washington's army in the North. To foil the
plans of the British officers Greene was concentrating the patriot
troops in the South in the Catawba Valley, and Gregory was left with
only a handful of men to hold the enemy at Norfolk in check.
In June, General Gregory's situation was so desperate that the Assembly
again ordered General Allan Jones to send 400 men from Halifax District
to North West Bridge to reinforce Gregory; and the latter officer was
authorized to draft as many men as possible from the Edenton District.
General Jones informed the Assembly that he would send the troops as
soon as possible, but that Gregory would have to provide arms, as he had
no means of furnishing equipments for them.
Several engagements took place in June between the British and Americans
in the Dismal Swamp region, and in one of them Gregory was repulsed and
driven from his position. But in July he wrote to Colonel Blount
reporting that his losses were trifling, and that he had regained his
old post from the enemy. In August, 1781, a letter from General Gregory
conveyed the joyful tidings that the enemy had evacuated Portsmouth. As
his troops were no longer needed to guard against the danger of invasion
from that direction, and as smallpox had broken out in his camp, General
Gregory now released his men from duty, and they returned to their
The British army that had just left Portsmouth, was now on its way to
Yorktown, whither Cornwallis, after his fruitless chase of Greene, his
disastrous victory at Guilford Courthouse, and his retreat to
Wilmington, was now directing his army. There on the 19th of October the
famous Battle of Yorktown was fought and Cornwallis and his entire army
forced to surrender.
This battle virtually ended the war; but peace did not come to Carolina
immediately upon the surrender. The Tories in the State kept up a
constant warfare upon their Whig neighbors, and in March, 1782, General
Greene, who not long after the battle of Guilford Courthouse had won a
decisive victory at Eutaw Springs, and was still in South Carolina, sent
the alarming intelligence to the towns on the coast that the British had
sent four vessels from Charleston harbor to plunder and burn New Bern
and Edenton. To meet this unexpected emergency, General Rutherford was
ordered to quell the Tories in the Cape Fear section, who were
terrorizing the people in that region. And in April, 1782, General
Gregory received orders from General Burke to take 500 men to Edenton
for the defense of that town, and to notify Count de Rochambeau as soon
as the enemy should appear in Albemarle Sound. In August no sign of the
British ships had as yet been seen, though the coast towns were still in
daily dread of their arrival. Governor Martin, who had succeeded Burke,
wrote Gregory to purchase whatever number of vessels the Edenton
merchants considered necessary for the protection of the town, to buy
cannon and to draft men to man the boats.
But Edenton was spared the horror of a second raid such as she had
suffered in 1781. In December, 1782, the British army in South
Carolina, which since the battle of Eutaw Springs had been hemmed in at
Charleston by General Greene, finally embarked for England. The ships
that had been keeping the towns near the coast in North Carolina in
terror, departed with them, and the States that had for so many long and
bitter years been engaged in the terrific struggle with England, were
left to enjoy the fruits of their splendid victory without further
molestation from the enemy.
In September, 1783, the Treaty of Peace was signed by Great Britain, and
the United States, separately and individually, were declared to be
"free, sovereign and independent States."
General Gregory's services to his State did not end with the war. Eight
times from 1778 to 1789, we find him representing Camden County in the
State Senate, serving on important committees, and lending the weight of
his influence to every movement tending toward the prosperity and
welfare of the State. In the local affairs of his neighborhood he also
took a prominent part. In 1789 the Currituck Seminary was established at
Indian Town, and Isaac Gregory and his friend and brother officer,
Colonel Peter Daugé, were appointed on the board of trustees of this
school, which for many years was one of the leading educational
institutions of the Albemarle section.
General Gregory lived at the Ferebee place in Camden County in a large
brick house, known then, as now, as Fairfax Hall. The old building is
still standing, a well known landmark in the county.
A letter from James Iredell to his wife, written while this famous North
Carolina judge was a guest at Fairfax, gives a pleasant account of an
evening spent in General Gregory's home with Parson Pettigrew and Gideon
Lamb, and also of the kindness and hospitality of the Camden people.
In volume 2 of the Iredell letters this description of General Gregory's
personal appearance is given:
"A lady, who remembers General Gregory well, says that he was a large,
fine looking man. He was exceedingly polite, had a very grand air, and
in dress was something of a fop." In the same volume the following
interesting account of an incident in the life of the famous General is
found: "General Gregory lived in his latter years so secluded a life and
knew so little of events beyond his own family circle, that he addressed
to a lady, the widow of Governor Stone, a letter making a formal
proposal of marriage, full six months after her death."
General Isaac Gregory was the son of General William Gregory, an officer
who took a prominent part in the French and Indian Wars. He married
Miss Elizabeth Whedbee, and had two children, Sarah and Matilda. Sarah
married Dempsey Burgess, of Camden, and Matilda married a young German,
John Christopher Ehringhaus. Many of the descendants of this brave
Revolutionary officer are living in the Albemarle region to-day, and
claim with pride this ancestor, who, as Captain Ashe in his History of
North Carolina says, "was one of the few who won honor at Camden, and
whose good fame was never tarnished by a single unworthy action."
FAIRFAX, CAMDEN COUNTY, THE HOME OF GENERAL GREGORY
The Sir Walter Raleigh Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution have
within the past year obtained from the United States government a simple
stone which they have had placed to mark the grave of this gallant
officer, who lies buried in the family graveyard at Fairfax.
PERQUIMANS COUNTY—"LAND OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN," AND THE COLONIAL TOWN OF
From its hidden source in the southern fringe of the far-famed Dismal
Swamp, the Perquimans River, lovely as its Indian name, which, being
interpreted, signifies "the land of beautiful women," comes winding
down. Past marshes green with flags and rushes and starred with flowers
of every hue, through forests dense with pine and cypress, with gum and
juniper, the amber waters of the ancient stream pursue their tranquil
way. Lazily, but steadily and untiringly, the river journeys on in
obedience to the eternal, insistent call of the sea, till its waves,
meeting and mingling with those of the great sound and its numerous
tributaries, finally find their way through the sand bars that bound our
coast, to the stormy Atlantic.
Save for the fields of corn and cotton that lie along its banks, and an
occasional sawmill whose whirring wheels break at long intervals the
silence of its wooded shores, the peaceful river through the greater
part of its way is undisturbed by signs of man's presence. Only twice in
its course do its banks resound to the hum of town and village life,
once when shortly emerging from the Great Swamp, the river in its
winding flows by the sleepy little Quaker village of Belvidere; and
again when its tranquility is suddenly broken by the stir and bustle of
mill and factory, upon whose existence depends the prosperity of the old
colonial town of Hertford. There, the river, suddenly as wide awake as
the beautiful town by which it flows, changes its narrow, tortuous,
leisurely course, and broadening out from a slender stream, sweeps on to
the sea, a river grown, whose shores from this point on lie apart from
each other a distance of more than a mile.
Of all the streams that flow down to the sea from Albemarle, none
exceeds in beauty or historic interest the lovely Perquimans River. On
its eastern banks lies Durant's Neck, the home of George Durant, the
first settler in our State, who in 1661 left his Virginia home and came
into Albemarle; and being well pleased with the beauty and fertility of
fair Wikacome, was content to abide thenceforth in that favored spot.
On the banks of the streams flowing on either side of Wikacome, roamed
an Indian tribe, the Yeopims, whose great chief Kilcokonen gave to
George Durant the first deed for land ever recorded in our State.
Durant, his friend and comrade, Samuel Pricklove, and their families
and servants, proved to be the vanguard of a long procession of
settlers, who, following the footsteps of these first pioneers, made
their homes upon the shores of the Albemarle streams. Soon the dense
forests that stretched down to the river brinks fell beneath the axe of
these home-seekers, and small farms and great plantations fringed the
borders of the streams.
At the narrows of the Perquimans, where the waters widen into a broad,
majestic river, a sturdy pioneer, Henry Phillips (or Phelps) had built
his home. Thither in the spring of 1672, came a missionary, William
Edmundson, a friend and follower of George Fox, who some years before
had over in England founded the Society of Friends. Henry Phelps was a
member of this Society also, and the meeting between the two godly men
was a joyful one.
During the ten years that had passed since the Indian Chief had signed
his first grant of land to the white man, the settlers of Albemarle had
had no opportunity of assembling together for public worship. Phelps,
knowing how gladly the call would be answered, at the bidding of
Edmundson, summoned such of his friends and neighbors as he could reach,
to his home, to hear the Word preached by this zealous man of God.
Not since the days of little Virginia Dare had a body of Christian men
and women met together in Carolina to offer in public worship their
prayer and praises to the loving Father, who had led them safely over
storm-tossed waters, through tangled wilderness, into this Land of
Promise. Rough and uncultured as most of the congregation were, they
listened quietly and reverently to the good missionary, and received the
Word with gladness. There were present at the meeting "one Tems and his
wife," who earnestly entreated Edmundson to hold another service at
their home three miles away. So the next day he journeyed to the home of
Tems, and there another "blessed meeting" was held; and there was
founded a Society whose members were to be for many years the most
prominent religious body in the State.
In the fall of 1672, the hearts of the members of this infant church
were gladdened by the tidings that George Fox himself was on his way to
visit the little band of brethren in the wilds of Carolina. One cool,
crisp October morning, the great preacher arrived. Again was the home of
Phelps chosen for the meeting; but so great was the crowd that gathered
to hear him that the house would not hold the congregation. Standing a
little distance from Phelps' simple dwelling were two great cypress
trees. Close down by the water's edge they grew, their feathery
branches shading the rippling waves, and shielding the listeners from
the glare of a sun whose rays had not yet lost their summer's heat.
Under one of these trees the preacher stood, and spoke to the assembled
crowd as the Spirit gave him utterance. It was a "tender meeting," as
Fox reports in his letters describing his stay in Perquimans. Many who
were present became converts to the faith of Fox and Edmundson; and
Perquimans County and her sister, Pasquotank, became for many years the
stronghold of the Society of Friends in Carolina.
For a number of years after George Fox's visit to Perquimans, the
Quakers were the only religious body in the colony that regularly
assembled its members together for divine service. Their ministers were
for the most part from the congregation itself; no salary was demanded
by them; and the home of some Friends was the scene of their religious
meetings. In a new country where ready money is a scarce commodity, a
church that could be conducted without any expenditure of cash could
more easily take root, than one whose existence depended upon a certain
amount, however small, of filthy lucre.
The Lords Proprietors, members for the most part of the Church of
England, were too intent upon extracting wealth from their colony in
Carolina to be willing to expend any of their gains for the good of the
colonists. Disregarding the petitions of their officers in Albemarle,
who saw the great need for missionaries in the struggling settlements,
they refused to become responsible for the salary of a minister.
But after a while the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in
foreign parts took hold of the matter, and in 1702 a church was built in
Chowan, near where Edenton now stands. By 1709 Rev. Mr. Gordon, who was
one of the two ministers sent out by the S.P.G., writes to the secretary
of the Society from Perquimans:
"In Perquimans there is a compact little church, built with care and
express, and better than that in Chowan. It continues yet unfinished, by
reason of the death of Major Swann, 1707, who fostered the building of
Among the vestrymen of this new parish may be found the following names:
Francis Forbes, Colonel Maurice Moore, Captain Hecklefield, Thomas
Hardy, Captain Richard Saunderson, Henry Clayton, Joseph Jessups, Samuel
Phelps and Richard Whedbee. Most of these gentlemen were men of note in
the colony, and many of their descendants are now living in Perquimans
That the wealthy planters in Albemarle felt a certain responsibility
for the spiritual welfare of their slaves, was shown by the fact that
master and slave alike gathered together to join in the services held by
the early missionaries of the Church of England; and that the master
willingly allowed his servant to share in the blessings of the
sacraments of the church. A letter from Rev. Mr. Taylor, written from
Perquimans in 1719, records that he had just "baptized a young woman,
slave of Mr. Duckinfield, to whom I have taught the whole of the church
But the letter further reveals that our early colonists cherished their
worldly possessions fully as fondly as their descendants, who pursue
with avidity the chase after the dollar. And when it came to the
question of the slave's spiritual welfare, or the master's temporal
prosperity, the master did not hesitate to show which he considered of
the most importance. For, as Mr. Taylor writes, when it was rumored in
1719 that the General Assembly of that year had decreed that all
baptized slaves should be set free; and when, immediately, and by a
strange coincidence, the reverend gentleman was suddenly besieged by
bands of men and women, all loudly clamoring to receive the rite of holy
baptism, Duckinfield and others of the planters prudently restrained the
poor darkies from entering the church's folds until that law could be
In secular as well as religious affairs, Perquimans precinct in those
early days took an active part. Men of political and social prominence
resided within her borders, and at their homes, for lack of other
shelter for public gatherings, much of the business of the colony,
legislative and judicial, was transacted.
As early as 1677 the population of Albemarle had grown so numerous that
the settlers found themselves strong enough to successfully resist the
oppressive rule of the unworthy governors set over them by the Lords
Proprietors. And in that year, led by John Culpeper and George Durant, a
revolt against the tyrannical Miller, which began in Pasquotank, spread
through the surrounding precincts.
Among the men from Perquimans who took part in this disturbance, known
in history as Culpeper's Rebellion, were George Durant, Alexander
Lillington, Samuel Pricklove, Jenkins, Sherrell and Greene. So
successfully did they and their comrades strive against Miller's
tyranny, that that worthy was driven out of Carolina, and the reins of
government fell into the hands of Culpeper and Durant. And at the home
of the latter on Durant's Neck, a fair and equitable people's government
was organized, the first of the kind framed in America.
Alexander Lillington, who lent the weight of his wealth and influence to
the people in their struggle against Miller, was a rich planter who in
1698 bought a tract of land from Stephen Pane and John Foster, on Yeopim
Creek, and soon became one of the leading men in the colony. His
descendants moved to New Hanover, and a namesake of his in later years
won for himself undying fame at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge.
At the homes of Captain John Hecklefield and Captain Richard Saunderson,
the General Assembly and the Governor's Council often convened. The
famous Glover-Cary controversy was temporarily settled at the home of
the former, by the Assembly of 1708, while Captain Saunderson's dwelling
sheltered the Assembly of 1715, whose important acts were for the first
time formally recorded and published. The courts were frequently held at
the home of Dinah Maclenden, and James Thickpenny. James Oates, Captain
James Cole and Captain Anthony Dawson also bore their share in
entertaining the judicial assemblies.
As the population of the colony increased, facilities for carrying on
commerce and for traveling through the country became one of the crying
needs of the day. The numerous rivers of Albemarle made provision for
ferries imperative, and as early as 1700, we find record made of "Ye
ferre over ye mane road" in Perquimans. In 1706 it is recorded that
Samuel Phelps was appointed "Keeper of ye Toll Boke at ye Head of
A council held at the home of Captain Saunderson in 1715 ordered: "That
for the better convenience of people passing through the country, a good
and sufficient ferry be duly kept and attended over Perquimans River,
from Mrs. Anne Wilson's to James Thickpenny, and that Mrs. Wilson do
keep the same, and that no other persons presume to ferry over horse or
man within five miles above or below that place."
As time went on, the crowds attending the courts and Assemblies became
too large to be accommodated in private dwellings. As early as 1722, the
General Assembly ordered a court-house to be built at Phelps Point, now
the town of Hertford, and tradition states that the old building was
erected on the point near the bridge, where the home of Mr. Thomas
McMullan now stands.
One of the most interesting spots in Perquimans County is the strip of
land lying between the Perquimans and the Yeopim rivers, known as
Harvey's Neck. This was the home of the Harveys, men who for over a
century bore an important part in the history of our State. It was in
older days, as now, a fair and fertile land. Herds of deer wandered
through its forests; and great flocks of swan and wild geese floated
upon its silver streams, feeding upon the sweet grass which then grew in
those rivers. The waters were then salt, but with the choking up of the
inlets that let in the saline waves of the Atlantic, the grass
disappeared, and with it the wild fowl who wintered there.
Of all the members of the famous Harvey family whose homes were builded
on this spot, none proved more worthy of the fame he won than John
Harvey, son of Thomas Harvey and Elizabeth Coles.
Elected when just of age to the Assembly of 1746, he continued to serve
his State in a public capacity until his death in 1775.
Resisting the tyrannical endeavor of Governor Dobbs to tax the people
against their rights, he nevertheless stood by the same governor in his
efforts to raise men and money for the French and Indian War. Serving as
Speaker of the House in 1766, he took an active part in opposing the
Stamp Act, and boldly declared in the Assembly that North Carolina would
not pay those taxes. In the Assembly of 1769 he proposed that Carolina
should form a Non-Importation Association; and when Governor Tryon
thereupon angrily dismissed the Assembly and ordered its members home,
Harvey called a convention independent of the Governor, and the
association was formed.
When Governor Martin refused to call the Assembly of 1774, for fear that
it would elect delegates to the Continental Congress, John Harvey
declared: "Then the people will call an Assembly themselves"; and
following their intrepid leader, the people did call the convention of
1774, elected their delegates to Philadelphia, and openly and boldly
joined and led their sister colonies in the gigantic struggle with the
mother country that now began.
In the time of Boston's need, when her ports were closed by England's
orders, and her people were threatened with starvation, John Harvey and
Joseph Hewes together caused the ship "Penelope" to be loaded with corn
and meal, flour and pork, which they solicited from the generous people
of Albemarle, and sent it with words of cheer and sympathy to their
brethren in the New England town. In 1775 Harvey again braved the anger
of the Royal Governor and called another people's convention, whose
purpose and work was to watch and circumvent the tyrant in his endeavor
to crush the patriots in the State.
"The Father of the Revolution" in Carolina, he was to his native State
what Patrick Henry was to Virginia, in the early days of the Revolution,
and what Hancock and Adams were to Massachusetts. His untimely death,
in 1775, caused by a fall from a horse, was deeply mourned by patriots
throughout the land.
Among other eminent sons of Perquimans during the Revolutionary period
the names of Miles Harvey, Colonel of the regiment from that county;
William Skinner, Lieutenant-Colonel of the same regiment; Thomas Harvey,
Major, and Major Richard Clayton, are recorded in history. Among the
delegates to the People's Convention called by Harvey and Johnston we
find the Harveys, Whedbees, Blounts, Skinners and Moores, men whose
names were prominent then as now in the social and political life of the
As time went on, Phelps Point at the Narrows of the Perquimans River
became so thickly populated that by June, 1746, a petition was presented
to the General Assembly, praying for an act to be passed to lay out 100
acres of land in Perquimans, including Phelps Point, for a town and a
But a disturbance arose in the State about that time concerning the
right of the northern counties to send five delegates each to the
Assembly, while the southern counties were allowed to send only two.
Governor Gabriel Johnson sided with the southern section, and ordered
the Assembly to meet at Wilmington in November, 1746, on which occasion
he and the southern delegates proposed to make a strong fight to reduce
the representation from the Albemarle counties.
The northern counties, tenaciously clinging to their rights, established
in the early days of the colony when the counties south of Albemarle
Sound had not been organized, refused to send delegates to this
Assembly; whereupon that body, though a majority of its members were
absent, passed an act reducing the representation from the Albemarle
region to two members from each county. Indignant at this act, which
they considered illegal, the citizens in the northern counties refused
to subscribe to it, and for eight years declined to send any delegates
at all to the Assembly; and the bill for establishing a town in
Perquimans was heard from no more until the trouble between the two
sections was settled.
Finally the people of Albemarle sent a petition to George III, praying
him to restore their rights in the General Assembly, and the King
graciously granted their request. In 1758 an Assembly met at New Bern,
at which delegates from all sections of the colony were present; and in
answer to a petition presented by John Harvey, it passed an act for the
erection of a town at Phelps Point in Perquimans County.
The little village was called Hertford, a word of Saxon origin,
signifying Red Ford. It was named for the Marquis of Hertford, an
English noble who moved for the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, and who
was ambassador at Paris in the reign of George III, and Lord Lieutenant
The settlement at Phelps Point was already an important rendezvous for
the dwellers in the county. The cypress trees under which Fox had stood
and preached to the little band of brethren still stood, as they stand
to-day, bending lovingly over the stream, close to the end of the point.
A little Church of England chapel farther down had since 1709 been the
center of the religious life of its members in the county, and the
court-house on the point since 1722 had been the scene of the political
and judicial gatherings in Perquimans.
The Assembly of 1762, realizing the importance of the little town to the
community, decreed that a public ferry should be established "from
Newby's Point to Phelp's Point where the court-house now stands," and in
1766 Seth Sumner, William Skinner, Francis Nixon, John Harvey and Henry
Clayton were appointed trustees of the ferry; a three-penny tax was laid
on all taxable persons to defray the expenses of the ferry, and "All
persons crossing to attend vestry meetings, elections, military
musters, court martials and sessions of the court" were to be carried
over free of charge.
The site of the town, described in Colonial Records as "healthy,
pleasantly situated, well watered and commodious for commerce," was the
property of John Phelps, who gave his consent to the laying off of 100
acres for the town on condition that he should retain his own house and
lot, and four lots adjoining him. The public ferry having fallen into
his hands, the further condition was made that the town should allow no
ferry other than his to be run so long as he complied with the ferry
laws. The subscribers for the lots were ordered to build within three
years, one well-framed or brick house at least 16 feet square; and in
one month from purchase, were to pay the trustees the sum of 45
shillings for each lot.
As early as 1754, before the little settlement began to assume the airs
of a town, the old Eagle Tavern still standing on Church street, was a
registered hotel; and there when court week appeared on the calendar,
the representative men of the county and the surrounding precincts would
Quiet Quaker folk from Piney Woods, eight miles down from Newby's Point,
Whites and Nicholsons, Albertsons, Newbys and Symmes, jogged along the
country roads behind their sleek, well-fed nags, to answer with serene
yea or nay the questions asked on witness stand or in jury room.
Powdered and bewigged judge and lawyer, high and mighty King's officers
from Edenton or New Bern, or Bath, brilliant in gay uniform, rolled
ponderously thither in cumbersome coaches. Leaving their great
plantations on the adjoining necks in the hands of their overseers,
Harveys and Skinners, Blounts and Whedbees, Winslows and Gordons, Nixons
and Woods and Leighs, dashed up to the doors of the tavern on spirited
steeds. Hospitable townsfolk hurried to and fro, greeting the travelers,
and causing mine host of the inn much inward concern, lest their cordial
invitation lure from his door the guest whose bill he could see, in his
mind's eye, pleasantly lengthen, as the crowded court docket slowly
Very sure were the guests at the tavern that horse and man would be well
cared for by the genial landlord; for the law required that the host of
Eagle Tavern should give ample compensation for the gold he pocketed.
When business was ended, the strangers within his gates wended their way
homeward. No skimping of the bill of fare, no inattention to the comfort
of the wayfarer did the landlord dare allow, lest his license be taken
from him for violation of the tavern laws.
Many an illustrious guest the ancient inn has known, and a story
cherished by the Hertford people ascribes to the quaint old structure
the honor of having on one occasion sheltered beneath its roof the
illustrious "Father of his Country," George Washington.
EAGLE TAVERN, HERTFORD, NORTH CAROLINA
Whether our first President came to Hertford on business connected with
lands in the Dismal Swamp in which he was interested, or whether he
tarried at the old tavern while on his triumphal journey through the
South in 1791, no one now knows, but the room is still shown, and the
tale still told of the great man's stay therein.
Diagonally across the street from the Eagle Tavern, at the end of the
yard enclosing the old Harvey home, may be seen two great stones which
are said to mark the grave of a mighty Indian chief. Possibly
Kilcokonen, friend of George Durant, lies buried there. The Hertford
children in olden days, when tales of ghost and goblin were more readily
believed than they are to-day, used to thrill with delicious fear
whenever in the dusk of the evening they passed the spot, and warily
they would step over the stones, half-dreading, half-hoping to see, as
legend said was possible, the spirit of the old warrior rise from the
grave, swinging his gory tomahawk and uttering his blood-chilling war
During the long years that have passed since the white man came into
Albemarle, old Perquimans has borne an enviable part in making the
history of our State.
Hertford itself felt little of the fury of the storm of the War of
Secession, though during the awful cataclysm the peaceful Perquimans was
often disturbed by the gunboats of the Northern Army. One brief battle
was fought in the town, in which one man was killed on each side. And
the old residents still love to boast of the heroism shown by the
courageous Hertford women, who, while the skirmish was going on, came
out on their piazzas, and, heedless of the shot and shell flying thick
and fast around them, cheered on the soldiers battling to defend their
A ball from one of the gunboats on the river, while this skirmish was
taking place, went through one of the houses down near the shore and
tore the covering from the bed on which the mistress of the house had
just been lying.
The cruel war at last was over, the darker days of Reconstruction passed
heavily and stressfully by; the South began to recover from the ruin
wrought by the awful struggle and its aftermath; and in the quiet years
that followed, the Spirit of God brooded over her rivers, hills and
plains, and brought peace and prosperity to the troubled land. Her farms
were tilled again, the wheels of mills and factories were set whirling,
and new business enterprises offered to the laboring man opportunities
to earn a fair living.
And the old colonial town of Hertford, sharing with her sister towns and
cities in the Southland the prosperity for which her children for many
weary, painful years had so bravely and manfully striven, sees the dawn
of a new day, bright with the promise of a happy future for her sons and
CURRITUCK, THE HAUNT OF THE WILD FOWL
Currituck County is known the country over as the sportsman's paradise.
Thither when the first sharp frost gives warning that the clear autumn
skies will soon be banked with gray snow clouds, the wild fowl from the
far North come flocking. And as the swift-winged procession skims
through the starry skies, and the hoarse cry of the aerial voyagers
resounds over head, then do the dwellers in eastern Albemarle know for a
surety that the year is far spent, and the winter days close at hand.
Guided by unerring instinct, the feathered tribes of the North pursue
"through the boundless sky their certain flight" till the shallow waters
of Currituck Sound and its reedy shores greet their eager sight. There
they find the wild celery and other aquatic plants upon which they love
to feed, growing in abundance; and there they make their winter home
"and rest and scream among their fellows," preferring the risk of death
at the hands of the sportsman to the certain starvation that would
confront them in their native Arctic clime.
Vast as are to-day the clouds of wild fowl that every year descend upon
the shores and waters of Currituck, their numbers were far greater in
years long gone, before the white man with shot and gun came roving
among the reedy marshes. Long before George Durant's advent into the
State, the Indians with that aptness for nomenclature for which they are
noted, had given to this haunt of the wild fowl the name of "Coretonk,"
or Currituck, as now called, in imitation of the cry of the feathered
But not alone as the winter home of the winged creatures of the Northern
wilds was Currituck noted in the early days of our State. This county,
formerly much larger than it is to-day, for many years embraced the
region known as Dare County, and to Currituck belongs the distinction of
having once included within its borders the spot upon which Raleigh's
colonies tried to establish their homes.
The history of that event is too well known to bear repetition. The
story of Amadas' and Barlowe's expedition, of Ralph Lane's bold
adventures in exploration of Albemarle Sound, Chowan River and
Chesapeake Bay, of the return of his disappointed colony to England in
Drake's vessels, and the tragic fate of little Virginia Dare and of John
White's colony, have all been told in fiction, song and verse.
The failure of Raleigh's colonies to establish a permanent settlement
in the New World discouraged the English for many years from making any
further attempts to settle America. From 1590, the date of Governor
White's return to Roanoke, and of his unsuccessful search for the "lost
colony," that lovely island for many years disappears from the white
man's gaze; and save for a few scattered, unrecorded settlements in
northern Albemarle, Carolina itself was almost unknown to the world.
But in September, 1654, according to the Colonial Records, a young fur
trader from Virginia had the misfortune to lose his sloop in which he
was about to embark for the purpose of trading with the Indians in the
Albemarle country. For reasons not stated he supposed she had gone to
Roanoke, so he hired a small boat, and with three companions set out in
search of the runaway vessel. "They entered at Coratoke Inlet, ten miles
to the north of Cape Henry," so reads the ancient chronicle, "and so
went to Roanoke Island, where, or near thereabouts, they found the Great
Commander of those parts with his Indians a-hunting, who received them
civilly and showed them the ruins of Sir Walter Raleigh's fort, from
which I received a sure token of their being there."
A few months before this journey of the young fur trader, Charles II had
bestowed upon eight of his favorites all the territory in America lying
between the thirty-first and thirty-sixth parallels of latitude, a
princely gift indeed, and worthy of the loyal friends who had devoted
their lives and fortunes to the Stuart cause during the dark days when
that cause seemed hopelessly lost. This grant embraced the land adjacent
to the north shore of Albemarle Sound, and extending to Florida; but it
failed to include a strip of territory about thirty miles broad, lying
between the thirty-sixth degree and the Virginia line. In this fertile
region George Durant and other settlers had as early as 1661 established
their homes, buying from Kilcokonen, the great Chief of the Yeopims,
their right to the lands; and there these hardy pioneers were swiftly
converting the primeval wilderness into fertile and productive fields.
Governor Berkeley, of Virginia, looked with covetous eye upon this fair
strip of land, and with a view to planting settlements there in order to
establish Virginia's claim to the territory, he had offered in the name
of King Charles extensive grants in this region to planters who would
bring a certain number of people into Albemarle. In 1663 Berkeley
granted to John Harvey 600 acres of land "lying in a small creek called
Curratuck (probably Indian Creek to-day), falling into the River
Kecoughtancke (now North River), which falls in the Carolina River
(known to-day as Albemarle Sound). The land was given Mr. Harvey for
bringing into the colony twelve new settlers."
Many other settlers in this region had acquired their lands by patents
from Virginia; but after the King's gift to his friends, Berkeley,
himself one of the Lords Proprietors, was no longer desirous to consider
the Albemarle region a part of the Virginia Colony; and henceforth the
grants of land were all issued in the name of the Lords Proprietors. For
several years, however, the Albemarle counties were really separate, and
to all practical purposes, independent territory. The proprietors had no
legal claim to the region, and there was nothing in Virginia's charter
to show that she could rightfully lay claim to it. Nevertheless the
proprietors did claim it, and authorized Berkeley to appoint a governor
for that region. Berkeley therefore journeyed into the settlement,
organized a government, and appointed Drummond Governor of Albemarle.
In 1665 the Lords, realizing the confusion that would arise unless their
claim to the land was made good, induced the King to include Albemarle
in their grant.
But Virginia was by no means ready to relinquish her claim to this
promising settlement, and after Berkeley's day a long struggle began
between the Royal Governors of that colony over the question as to who
should collect the rents and taxes from the inhabitants of this disputed
tract. As late as 1689 the quarrel was still going on, and the Governor
and Council of Virginia appealed to William and Mary to restrain the
Governor of North Carolina from collecting taxes in Currituck County;
and the question of the boundary line between Virginia and Carolina
still being uncertain, the sovereigns were asked to have the bounds
surveyed and settled.
Not for many years was this request regarded, though in 1711
commissioners from Virginia went to Currituck to meet those from
Carolina for the purpose of surveying the land and establishing the
boundary between the two colonies. For some reason the Carolina
commissioners failed to appear, and not till 1728 did the work of
settling the disputed boundaries really begin. In March of that year
commissioners from the two colonies met on the north shore of Currituck
Inlet, and a cedar post on the seashore was fixed as the beginning of
the line. The result of the survey was that many thousand acres and
several hundred people whom Virginia had claimed were found to be in the
This was naturally a great disappointment to Virginia, and equally a
matter of rejoicing to Carolina, not only on account of the extra
territory and inhabitants she now could lawfully claim, but because
Currituck Inlet, the only entrance from the sea north of Roanoke Island,
was thereafter indisputably thrown within her borders. This inlet, now
closed by the shifting sands that form the long sand bars on the
Carolina coast, was of great importance in the early days of the colony,
forming an entrance from the sea to the sound through which the trading
vessels could slip. So necessary was this inlet to the commerce of the
colony that in 1726 the General Assembly ordered that the powder money
accruing to the government by vessels coming into Currituck Inlet should
be appropriated for beaconing and staking out the channel at that
entrance. But by 1731, the steady beating of the waves on the coast had
deposited a bank of sand at the inlet. Governor Burrington wrote to the
Board of Trade that it was no longer possible for large vessels to enter
there, nor at Roanoke Inlet, which had also become so dangerous that no
one cared to use it, but that the vessels now were obliged to go around
by Ocracoke Inlet to make their exit and entrance from and into
Albemarle Sound. The closing of the inlet was such a serious misfortune
to the State that time and again efforts were made to reopen it, and the
Assembly of 1761 appropriated money for that purpose. But "man's
control stops with the sea"; the waves continued to drop their burden of
sand at the entrance to the inlet, and finally the attempt was
abandoned. The great Atlantic had made the entrance, and the same force
had closed it, seemingly, forever, though small sloops still slipped in
and out over the bar until 1821, when it was entirely closed. So
necessary was an outlet to the sea to the people of the Albemarle
region, that the Assembly of 1786 passed an act providing for the
digging of a canal from Currituck Sound to the head of North River; from
thence vessels could go up North River and into Elizabeth River, and on
to Norfolk, and so to the sea. This proposed plan was not carried out
until many years later; for it was not until almost 1858 that the
Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, following closely the route proposed in
1786, was dug, though long before that date the Dismal Swamp Canal had
been opened, and a flourishing traffic was carried on between Virginia
and Carolina waters.
A traveler in eastern Carolina, writing for Harper's Magazine in 1858,
an account of his journeyings in the Albemarle region, gives a most
interesting description of his trip on the Albemarle and Chesapeake
Canal. The Calypso was the first steamer to go through the canal, and on
her maiden journey from Norfolk to Currituck County in 1858, she was
the observed of all observers. Furthermore, continues Mr. Bruce, the
writer of the article, who stopped at Currituck Courthouse for several
days, "We must say that for average culture, intelligence and physical
vigor, the people of this 'kingdom by the sea' will hold their own with
most other communities, North or South."
Currituck being the sea frontier of Albemarle, her waterways were
naturally of prime importance to the State; but other matters of as
great importance are found in reading the annals of this wind-blown,
wave-washed county. In religious affairs we find that she early begins
to make history. In 1708 Governor Glover wrote to the Bishop of London:
"Pasquotank and Currituck are now under the care of Rev. James Adams, to
their general satisfaction, to whom they have presented the small
provision of 30 pounds a year." In 1710 Rev. James Adams informed the
S.P. G.A. that he had been living for over a year in the home of a Mr.
Richard Saunderson, a former member of the Governor's Council, who had
made a will in which, after his own and his wife's death, he had left
considerable legacy for the encouragement of a minister in Currituck
Parish, where he lived, namely: "A good plantation with all the houses
and furniture, slaves, and their increase, and stock of cows, sheep and
horses and hogs, with their increase forever." This was later declared
void by the courts on account of Sanderson's incapacity.
So acceptable did Mr. Adams prove to the parish, that in 1710 the vestry
wrote a letter of thanks to Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, thanking
him for sending this godly clergyman of the Church of England to the
parish. In 1712, on the death of Mr. Adams, the Rev. Mr. Rainsford was
sent to take his place. He wrote back to England that on reaching
Currituck he found a small chapel at Indian Town, and there in June of
that year he "preached to vast crowds" that came to hear him.
In 1715 a legally appointed vestry was organized for the parish of
Currituck, among the most prominent of whose members were Richard
Saunderson, Colonel William Reed, Foster Jarvis, William Swann, and
William Williams. The services of the Church of England were conducted
in the county during those early days with as much regularity as the
scattered congregations and the lack of facilities for traveling in that
water-bound region permitted. In 1774 the General Assembly passed an act
to establish St. Martin's chapel at Belleville, and Isaac Gregory, Peter
Daugé and a Mr. Ferebee were appointed to take this matter in charge. In
educational matters Currituck was wonderfully alert in colonial days
for a county so inaccessible from the rest of the State. Probably the
most noted of her schools was the Indian Town Academy built in 1761 by
William Ferebee, one of the most prominent men in North Carolina, on his
plantation, called by the Indians "Culong," and by the whites, "Indian
Town." Many of the students at this academy were in later days to be
counted among the State's most famous and useful men. William Ferebee's
family alone furnished six members of the Legislature, three
Revolutionary officers, and one Colonel in the Confederacy in the War of
Secession. For a hundred years this famous old school kept up its career
of usefulness, but in the so-called "negro raid" of 1863 it met the fate
that befell so many of the South's cherished institutions during the
dark days of 1861-1865, and was reduced to ashes by the incendiary's
Another well known school in Indian Town, the most prominent settlement
in Currituck in colonial days, was the Currituck Seminary of Learning,
which was built in 1789, and which numbered among its trustees Isaac
Gregory, Peter Daugé, and William Ferebee. This building served the
triple purpose of school, church and Masons' Hall, the upper story being
used for holding church service, and by the Masons for their meetings,
and the lower for the school. The principal of this school was called
the provost, a high-sounding title which must have made even the most
insignificant of pedagogues feel proud and important. Among the teachers
employed at this institution during the later years of its existence was
Ezekiel Gilman, of Massachusetts, a graduate of Harvard, who came to
Currituck in 1840 and who taught in Currituck and Camden fifty
consecutive years. Mr. Gilman is still well and affectionately
remembered by citizens of these counties, who as lads were fortunate
enough to be his pupils. Though somewhat eccentric in manner and dress,
he was a man of deep learning, whose kindness of heart was proverbial
throughout the counties which were the scene of his labors.
When the storm of the Revolutionary War broke over the American
Colonies, the men of Currituck came gallantly to the front, and with
comrade soldiers from the other colonies doggedly and persistently
fought the foe till the last British trooper was driven from the land,
and independence was not only declared, but won. Few counties in the
State gave more freely of her sons than did this county by the sea. Few
can show a longer list of brave and gallant officers. Among the most
noted of these were the three sons of William Ferebee, of Culong
Plantation, Joseph, William and Samuel. Joseph was a Lieutenant in
Colonel Jarvis' Tenth North Carolina Militia, and was at Valley Forge
during the terrible winter of 1777-'78. There is a family tradition that
he killed General Fordyce, of the British Army, at the Battle of Great
Bridge, near Norfolk. William was appointed Captain in the Seventh
Regiment of Continentals from North Carolina, and was later a member of
the Convention of 1789, which ratified the Federal Constitution. Samuel
Ferebee served as sergeant and ensign in the companies of Captain
William Russell and Colonel Samuel Jarvis. He volunteered in Captain
Joseph Ferebee's company, was ensign under Captain James Phillips, and
was commissioned lieutenant, and collected troops by order of General
Gregory for Baron Von Steuben. Samuel Ferebee was also the last
surviving member of the Fayetteville Convention, which ratified the
Federal Constitution. He was married three times, and as the family
chronicle quaintly puts it, "was always married on Sunday and on the
fourteenth day of the month."
Among the prominent families of Currituck during the colonial and
Revolutionary days, as well as in our own times, was the Jarvis family,
whose members have been men of note in the State since her history
At the two conventions, called at New Bern by John Harvey, in 1774-'75,
Samuel Jarvis represented his county, and he also figured prominently in
the Halifax Convention that framed our State Constitution. In 1775 he
was appointed Colonel of the Minute Men from Currituck, in 1777 he was
the recruiting officer from his county, and in 1779 he received his
commission as Colonel of the militia, by the advice of the Governor's
Council, in place of Colonel Perkins, who had recently died. During this
year Jarvis wrote to Governor Ashe, asking that he would grant the
petition of the men living on the "Banks," who had asked to be excused
from enlisting. The dwellers on the coast were exposed to attacks from
the enemy, and should the husbands and fathers of that section of the
county be forced to the field, their homes would be defenceless. How
great the danger was had been realized a few days before Jarvis wrote
this letter, for a British ship had entered the inlet, burned two
vessels belonging to the patriots, and killed the cattle in the nearby
marshes. The Governor granted the petition, and seeing the peril to
which the dwellers on the "Banks" were exposed, he ordered ammunition
and food to be sent to Jarvis for their use and protection.
The names of Thomas Jarvis, Judge of the Admiralty Court of Currituck,
and later Lieutenant Colonel in Samuel Jarvis' regiment, and of John
Jarvis, First Lieutenant in an independent company stationed between
Currituck and Roanoke inlets for the safeguard of the coast section, are
also familiar to students of the Revolutionary history of our State;
while in recent times ex-Governor Thomas Jarvis, in his services to the
South during the War between the States, his educational campaign while
Governor of North Carolina, his distinguished career as Minister to
Brazil and as one of the most prominent members of the State Bar, has
added further distinction to the honored name he bears.
Throughout the Revolution, from the Battle of Great Bridge, where her
men fought gallantly in repelling Lord Dunmore's invasion, through the
siege of Charleston, in the long and dreary winter at Valley Forge, on
the fatal field of Camden, and in many other important crises of the
war, the soldiers of Currituck were found in the front ranks of the
American army, lustily shouting the "battle-cry of freedom." And not
until the last British trooper had left our shores did they lay down
their arms and return to their long neglected and deserted fields and
But though the county gave freely of her sons to the American ranks,
there were some within her borders who deserted the cause, and either
openly or secretly sympathized with the enemy. The most noted of these
Tories was Thomas McKnight, who showed his colors early in the struggle.
McKnight was a prominent citizen of Indian Town. This colonial
settlement was built on land reserved by the Lords Proprietors in 1704
to Yeopim Indians, whose chief town was called by them "Culong." In 1774
these Indians, with permission of the General Assembly, sold their
lands, and with their king, John Durant, left the State. The lands were
bought by Thomas McKnight, Gideon Lamb, Peter Daugé, Major Taylor Jones,
John Humphries, William Ferebee, and Thomas Pool Williams, all
Revolutionary soldiers or members of the legislative bodies before or
after the war.
A white settlement grew up on the site of ancient "Culong," and the name
of the red man's village was changed to Indian Town, in memory of its
McKnight represented Currituck at the New Bern Convention of 1775, and
there refusing to sign the document approving the Continental Congress
at Philadelphia, and withdrawing from the Convention, he was accused of
being a Tory by the House and denounced as a traitor to his country.
Though in an open letter to Joseph Jones, of Pasquotank, McKnight
indignantly denied the charges against his loyalty to America, the
Halifax Convention of 1770 ordered his estate to be confiscated and
rented out for benefit of the State, by Isaac Gregory, William Ferebee,
and Abram Harrison. An amusing story is told of how McKnight acquired
one of his plantations in Currituck. John Durant, the Chief of the
Yeopims, had very astutely made it known to his own braves, as well as
to his white neighbors, that the visions that visited him in his
somnolent hours must somehow, somewhere, if within the range of
possibility, materialize into visible, tangible realities, and that
those who could, and did not help in their materialization, would incur
the anger of the great chief. Now it was the habit of the wily red man,
whenever he greatly desired to acquire a new possession, to dream that
the owner of the coveted article had presented it to him. Having dwelt
near the paleface for a number of years, the old chief adopted the white
man's mode of dress to a certain extent. Needing, or coveting, a new
coat, he very conveniently dreamed that McKnight, who had kept a trading
store on Indian Ridge, gave him a bolt of bright cloth which appealed
strongly to his innate love of bright colors. Presenting himself at the
trader's store, he related his dream to the owner of the cloth; and
McKnight not daring to incur the enmity of the Indian by refusing to let
him have the coveted article, presented it to him forthwith; but
McKnight, equally as shrewd as the chief, soon did some dreaming on his
own account, and in his vision he saw himself the owner of some four
hundred acres of land in Indian Ridge, the property of John Durant. So
with due ceremony he approached the chief and solemnly related his
dream; and the old Indian, realizing that in the Anglo-Saxon he had met
his match—nay, his superior in cunning—made over to McKnight the land.
This plantation was afterwards bought by Doctor Marchant, a prominent
citizen of Currituck, the friend and patron of Colonel Henry Shaw, whose
gallant, though unsuccessful defense of Roanoke Island during the War
between the States, brought honor and distinction to his native county.
Currituck in the past has played well her part in making the history of
the Old North State, and that a bright and prosperous future awaits her
may easily be seen by all who can read the signs of the times. Though
nature on the one hand has placed many obstacles in the way of her
progress by barring her coast to incoming vessels, and by surrounding
her with barren shores and impenetrable marshes, on the other hand she
has been abundantly generous to the ancient district. Where her marshes
are drained, as in the region around Moyock, the richest corn land in
the world is found. Her vast forests supply the great lumber mills of
the Albemarle region; her sound and reedy shores provide her children
with an abundance of fish and game, and with the completion of the
Inland Waterway, which in Carolina follows the course of the old
Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, Currituck will be placed in closer touch
with the great world from which she has so long been in a measure
isolated. Material prosperity, far in excess of the homely comforts
which her people have always enjoyed, will inevitably be the heritage of
EDENTON IN THE REVOLUTION
From the day when the war cloud of the Revolution first began to gather
upon the American horizon, until the storm was spent and peace descended
upon the land, the little coast town of Edenton played a conspicuous and
heroic part in the struggle which for seven weary years wrought ruin and
desolation throughout the thirteen Colonies.
As early as 1765, when the oppressive rule of England reached its
culmination in the iniquitous Stamp Act, Edenton joined with the other
Carolina towns in adopting resolutions expressing the strong indignation
of her citizens at this act of tyranny on the part of George III and his
Parliament. In 1773 three of her prominent citizens, Joseph Hewes,
Samuel Johnston and Edward Vail, were appointed on the Carolina
Committee of Correspondence which wrote to the other colonies that North
Carolina was ready to join them against the King and Parliament. When
England put into operation the famous Boston Port Bill and that sturdy
little New England City was on the verge of starvation, Joseph Hewes, a
merchant of Edenton, who was later to play a prominent part in
Revolutionary events in North Carolina, joined with John Harvey, of
Perquimans, in collecting supplies and provisions from the patriotic
people of Albemarle, which they sent in the sloop Penelope to their
distressed compatriots in far away Boston. Gratefully was the donation
received by the inhabitants of that city, and a letter of thanks from
the Boston committee amply repaid the donors for their generosity.
One of the earliest, and certainly one of the most interesting events in
the Revolutionary annals of Edenton, was the far-famed Edenton Tea
Party, held at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King, on October 25, 1774.
This famous gathering of the Edenton women was convened for the purpose
of protesting against the tax on tea, which England had lately begun to
extort from the colonies, and also for heartily endorsing the work of
the first people's Convention, which, at the call of John Harvey, had
met at New Bern in August, 1774.
Before the meeting adjourned these brave and patriotic women had drawn
up resolutions firmly declaring their intention to drink no more of the
taxed tea, and to uphold and encourage in every possible way the men of
the colony in their struggle to gain all the rights due them as British
THE CUPOLA HOUSE, EDENTON, NORTH CAROLINA
The news of this bold stand of the Edenton women spread far and wide,
and was commented upon by the newspapers of the day, both in America and
England. Arthur Iredell, of London, brother of James Iredell, of
Edenton, who married the sister of Samuel Johnston, on hearing of the
event which seemed to have caused considerable stir in London, as well
as throughout the thirteen Colonies, wrote to his brother from his home
in London the following letter anent the affair:
"I see by the papers the Edenton ladies have signalized themselves by
their protest against tea-drinking. The name of Johnston I see among
them. Are any of my sister's relatives patriotic? I hope not, for we
English are afraid of the male Congress; but if the ladies should
attack us, the most fatal consequences are to be dreaded. So dextrous
in the handling of a dart, each wound they give is mortal, while we,
so unhappily formed by nature, the more we strive to conquer them,
the more we are conquered.
"The Edenton ladies, conscious of this superiority on their side by
former experiences, are willing to crush us into atoms by their
omnipotency. The only security on our side, to prevent impending ruin
is the probability that there are few places in America which possess
so much female artillery as Edenton. Pray let me know all the
particulars when you favor us with a letter."
The old house under whose roof this historic Tea Party was held has only
of recent years been destroyed. Age and decay undermined its walls, and
it was found necessary to tear it down, but a handsome bronze tea-pot on
an iron pedestal now marks the site of the ancient building; and within
the halls of the State Capitol the Daughters of the Revolution have
placed a bronze tablet in commemoration of this spirited act of the
women of Edenton.
When John Harvey, of Perquimans, "The Father of the Revolution" in North
Carolina died, his mantle fell upon Samuel Johnston, of Edenton, whose
residence at "Hayes" now became the headquarters of the Whig party in
North Carolina, and his office the rendezvous of the leaders of the
patriots in the State, among whom Hewes, Iredell and Johnston, all of
Edenton, stood foremost. So active were these three men in arousing and
spreading the spirit of patriotism among their fellow-countrymen that
McCree, in his "Iredell Letters," declares that "Much of the triumph at
Moore's Creek must be ascribed to those three men, who at one time held
frequent consultations in Johnston's office."
By the close of 1774, and the beginning of 1775, the flames of the
Revolution, which had been slowly kindling, now burst into open
conflagration, and Edenton began to experience something of the
consequences of war.
Her militia had for some time been drilling, in preparation for the
inevitable struggle; and Mrs. Iredell, in a letter to her husband,
written in the spring of 1775, thus expresses the general anxiety and
the apprehensive state of mind of the Edenton people: "The drum which is
now beating while our soldiers exercise, drives every cheerful thought
from my mind, and leaves it oppressed with melancholy reflections on the
horrors of war."
In November of that year emissaries sent by Lord Dunmore, the Governor
of Virginia, were discovered near the town, endeavoring to incite the
slaves of that section to rise against their masters, murder them, and
join the Tory army. But General Robert Howe, at the head of a detachment
from his regiment, quickly drove these agents away, and thwarted the
dastardly attempt; then marching on with six hundred North Carolina
militia, into Virginia, the gallant General reached Norfolk two days
after the victory of the patriots at Great Bridge, helped to expel
Dunmore from Norfolk, and to take possession of the city for the
In April, 1776, the Halifax Convention authorized the delegates from
North Carolina to the Continental Congress of that year, "to concur with
the delegates of the other Colonies in declaring independence," and upon
Joseph Hewes, of Edenton, fell the honor of presenting the Halifax
Resolution of 1776 to the Congress at Philadelphia. To the instructions
of the State he represented, Hewes added his own urgent plea for
immediate action, and cast his State's vote squarely against postponing
the declaration of independence. When the Continental Congress finally
agreed to secede from the English Government, Hewes, with John Penn and
William Hooper, of North Carolina, affixed his name to that famous
document in which the thirteen Colonies foreswore their allegiance to
Some two months after the Halifax Convention, and two weeks before the
Continental Congress had formally declared independence, the vestry of
Old St. Paul's Church in Edenton met in solemn conclave, and impelled by
the wave of intense patriotism now sweeping over the land, drew up the
so-called "Declaration of Independence of St. Paul's Parish," the
context of which is as follows:
"We, the Subscribers, professing our Allegiance to the King, and
acknowledging the Constitutional executive power of Government, do
solemnly profess, testify and declare, that we do absolutely believe
that neither the Parliament of Great Britain nor any member nor any
Constituent Branch thereof, have a right to impose taxes upon these
Colonies or to regulate the internal policy thereof; and that all
attempts by fraud or force to establish and exercise such claims and
powers are violation of the peace and security of the people, and
ought to be resisted to the utmost, and the people of this Province
singly and collectively are bound by the acts and resolutions of the
Continental and Provincial Congresses, because in both they are
freely represented by persons chosen by themselves, and we do
solemnly and sincerely promise and engage under the sanction of
virtue, honor, and the Sacred love of liberty and our country to
maintain and support all and every acts, resolutions and regulations
of the said Continental and Provincial Congresses to the utmost of
our power and ability. In testimony whereof we have set our hands
this 19th day of June, 1776."
During the winter of 1777 and 1778 nine battalions of soldiers from
North Carolina were sharing with their comrades from the other colonies
the hardships of those terrible months at Valley Forge. Half naked and
starving, the soldiers would doubtless have given up the struggle to
live through the awful winter, had not Governor Caswell, of North
Carolina, energetically set about securing the needed supplies for the
army. Joseph Hewes, responding generously to the call for help, sent his
own ships to the West Indies to obtain necessaries for the army, had
them brought to Edenton, and from there sent by wagon to Valley Forge.
After the American victory at Saratoga, France, who had been until then
hesitating as to what course she should pursue in regard to helping the
Americans against the ancient foe of the French, now yielded at last to
Franklin's persuasions, and promised to send a large fleet and four
thousand troops to aid the Colonies.
A party of French gentlemen, sympathizing with the Americans, and
anxious to aid in the cause, came over to the States in advance of the
army sent by the government, and landing in Edenton, were so agreeably
impressed with the social life of the hospitable town, that they spent
several weeks in the little metropolis. Three of these foreigners,
Messieurs Pinchieu, Noirmont de la Neuville, and La Tours, seem to have
made many friends in the town, and to have been the recipients of much
hospitality on the part of the gentlefolk of Edenton.
Judge Iredell, who spoke French fluently, made a strong impression upon
the strangers; and M. Pinchieu became one of his warm friends. The visit
of the French officers to Edenton was made the occasion of many social
functions, and before the foreigners departed from the town, they gave a
grand ball to the Edenton ladies, who had made their stay so pleasant.
The modest colonial maidens of old Edenton, though dazzled and charmed
by the airs and graces of the gay and debonair strangers, at times found
the manners of their foreign guests a little too free for their comfort.
Miss Nellie Blair, in a letter to her uncle, Judge Iredell, declares
most emphatically her displeasure at the decidedly French behavior of
one of her too attentive foreign admirers.
On leaving Edenton, the Frenchmen proceeded to New Bern, where they
tendered their swords to the General Assembly, and offered their
services in the American cause; but for reasons not stated their offer
The many acts of open rebellion on the part of prominent citizens of
Edenton had by this time made the town a marked spot in the eyes of the
enemy; and the fact that she was the most important port in the
Albemarle region, and that her destruction would be a heavy blow to the
entire State, also singled her out as an important point of attack.
So in 1779, when Sir George Collier entered Hampton Roads, gutted
Norfolk, took possession of Portsmouth, and burned Suffolk, the citizens
of Edenton were thoroughly alarmed. The Dismal Swamp was on fire, and
the crackling of the burning reed resembling the reports of musket shot,
caused many to think that a battle was going on near the town. Many of
the inhabitants began to pack up their household goods, ready to leave
when the British should enter the town.
But for some unknown reason the enemy, though so near, failed to descend
upon the town; and as days and weeks passed by, the cloud of
apprehension began to disperse, and life in the village to resume its
Events, however, were to prove that the danger of invasion was averted
for a time only. In the fall of 1780, just after the disastrous defeat
of the Americans at Camden, and prior to Cornwallis' march into North
Carolina, General Leslie, of the British army, was sent from New York to
Virginia to keep the Americans in southeastern Virginia and Albemarle
from joining Greene's army in the effort to repel the invasion of
Edenton was again in danger. The enemy, two thousand strong, were camped
at Portsmouth, and one thousand were reported to have set out from
Virginia on their way to attack the town. To add to the terror of the
inhabitants, two British galleys, with sixty men each, had slipped
through Roanoke Inlet, and were making for the little port. A letter
from Mrs. Blair to James Iredell, written during those anxious days,
gives a graphic description of conditions in Edenton at this juncture.
"Vessels cannot get in," she writes; "two row galleys are between us and
the bar, and are daily expected in Edenton. If they come, I do not know
what we shall do. We are unable to run away, and I have hardly a negro
well enough to dress us a little of anything to eat. We hear that there
is an English fleet in Virginia, landing men at Kempe's."
Governor Nash, realizing that the town was in imminent danger, now
ordered General Benbury, of Edenton, to join General Isaac Gregory at
Great Swamp, near the Virginia border, and aid him in preventing General
Leslie from entering Albemarle. At this post a battle was fought between
Leslie's men and the militia under Benbury and Gregory, in which the
latter were victorious. A little later Gregory wrote Governor Nash that
Leslie's army had withdrawn from Virginia, but that he had not been able
to ascertain the destination of the enemy. However, it soon became known
that Leslie was hurrying to Camden, South Carolina, to join Cornwallis
in his attempt to sweep through North Carolina and conquer that State,
as he had conquered her sister State on the south.
With Leslie's army removed from the vicinity, Edenton remained for a few
months free from the fear of invasion; but not for long did her citizens
enjoy a respite from anxiety, for in January, 1781, the traitor,
Benedict Arnold, was sent by the British to occupy the posts in Virginia
lately deserted by Leslie. From Portsmouth Arnold wrote to General Sir
Henry Clinton, K.C.B., that he was planning to send boats carrying five
hundred men through Currituck Inlet, sweep the sound as high as Edenton,
destroy that town and its shipping, and then proceed to New Bern, which
he hoped to serve in like manner. Then he expected to post armed vessels
outside Currituck Inlet, distress the people of the coast country, and
thus keep the people of eastern Carolina so busy defending their own
homes that they would not be able to send men to interfere with the
plans of Cornwallis.
Arnold asked Clinton for 100 ship carpenters to build the vessels
necessary for the execution of his plans, but the traitor was not able
to carry out his designs against the eastern towns, for on arriving in
Virginia he found himself so hated and shunned by the British officers
over whom he was placed that he soon resigned his command of the
Virginia posts to General Phillips, of the British army, and instead of
proceeding against Edenton, he undertook another expedition up the James
General Phillips, who now assumed command of the British in southeastern
Virginia, immediately began to plan to join Cornwallis, who in the
meantime had won the doubtful victory of Guilford Courthouse and had
retreated to Wilmington.
The situation in Edenton was now alarming in the extreme. Leslie had
3,500 men in Virginia, 2,500 of whom, General Gregory wrote Iredell, had
embarked at Kempe's Landing, supposedly for Edenton. Rumor had it that
there were seven British boats at North Landing, and some at Knott's
Island. Cornwallis' Army was marching northward from Wilmington, and
reports from nearby counties that lay in his path, told of the atrocious
crimes committed by his men against women and children, of devastated
fields and homes burned and ruined. Hundreds of negroes were foraging
for the British army, and the Tories everywhere were wreaking vengeance
upon their Whig neighbors.
The long dreaded day at last arrived. Edenton was raided, and the
vessels in her harbor burned and carried off. Eden House, some ten miles
from the town, the home of Robert Smith, a prominent merchant of
Edenton, was plundered, and valuable papers destroyed. Many of the
beautiful homes of the planters in the neighborhood were destroyed, and
a schooner belonging to Robert Smith, and one, the property of a Mr.
Littlejohn, were captured by the enemy and carried off down the sound.
The danger was so real that many families fled from the town and sought
refuge in Windsor, and the homes of that hospitable little village were
crowded with women and children. But in spite of the discomfort that
host and guest alike must have suffered from the overflow of visitors,
the letters of the refugees to their husbands and fathers in Edenton
speak in warm praise of the cheerfulness and good humor that prevailed
in the little town during those trying and anxious days, and of the
merry social gatherings held in honor of the guests.
Though panic-stricken at first when confronted by the long apprehended
danger, the citizens soon rallied and bravely resisted the foe. Charles
Johnson, writing to James Iredell, says: "The inhabitants in general and
the sailors, have and do turn out unanimously. I never saw nor could I
hope to see so much public spirit, personal courage and intrepid
resolution." Robert Smith's schooner was retaken from the enemy, and
later the Row Galley that had invaded Edenton and captured the schooners
was taken, and her commander, Captain Quinn, lodged in Edenton jail.
In the meantime the refugees at Windsor were beginning to doubt their
wisdom in leaving their homes for the Bertie town. Many of them were
afraid that they had only jumped from the frying-pan into the fire.
Cornwallis was only thirty miles away, in Halifax, and the Windsor
people were in daily terror that foraging parties from his army would
descend upon their homes. To add to the danger of their situation, the
hated and dreaded Arnold, whose expedition up the James had been
attended by the perpetration of many dastardly cruelties, was marching
south to join Cornwallis in Carolina. Six hundred negroes, sent by
Cornwallis, were near Edenton, and other bands of foragers, two thousand
in all, were pillaging and plundering in the wake of the British army.
Fortunately for Edenton and the adjacent towns, Anthony Wayne was
stationed at Roanoke with his troops. Hearing of the ravages committed
by Cornwallis' men, he marched in pursuit of the enemy, who now left
North Carolina, entered Virginia, burned South Quays, and then
proceeded on their way to Yorktown.
In June, 1781, Samuel Johnston, of Edenton, was elected delegate to the
Continental Congress, the first that had assembled since the adoption of
the Articles of Confederation. His high ability and acknowledged
statesmanship won for him in that body the distinguished honor of being
elected to the office of President of Congress. But the critical
situation in Edenton, and his anxiety concerning his family, decided him
to decline the office and return home to share the fortunes of his
townsmen and to render what aid he could to his own people.
In August, 1781, Charles Johnson wrote Governor Burke that a French
fleet had appeared off the Virginia Capes, and had driven back General
Leslie; and General Gregory, who had been stationed at Edmund's Hill in
Nansemond County, Virginia, to hold Leslie in check, reported at the
same time that the enemy had evacuated Portsmouth, and that it was
useless to keep his soldiers there any longer.
The British army had by this time reached Yorktown, where, on the 19th
of October the famous surrender took place, and the long, weary struggle
for independence was over; but it was nearly a month later before the
joyful news of Washington's victory over Cornwallis reached Carolina.
On November 18th the British troops in the State embarked from
Wilmington, and North Carolina was troubled by the red-coats no more.
But though the surrender at Yorktown had convinced the British that she
had lost her hold upon the American Colonies, it was not until
September, 1782, that the King acknowledged the independence of his
former American subjects; and still another year passed before the
Treaty of Paris was signed, formally acknowledging the United States a
separate and independent power.
During these two years North Carolina was torn and harrassed by bands of
Tories; and in South Carolina the armies of Greene and Leslie were still
engaged in fierce skirmishes. Leslie was at last hemmed in at Charleston
by Greene's troops, and both his men and Greene's soldiers were in great
distress for want of food and clothing.
In the summer of 1782 Greene warned the people of North Carolina that
the British in Charleston were preparing to send four vessels to raid
Edenton, New Bern and Wilmington; and once more the inhabitants of these
towns were plunged into a state of alarm.
Governor Burke immediately ordered General Gregory to have 500 men
ready to march at a moment's notice to Edenton to repel the expected
invasion, and also ordered him to ask the merchants of Edenton how many
vessels they thought necessary to protect the town. The Governor
furthermore gave Gregory instructions to purchase cannon and to draft
men to man the boats, guaranteeing, himself, full pay for men and
But the fleet of which Greene had written did not arrive, though during
the summer of 1782, Tory galleys appeared in the bay and kept the town
in constant terror of another raid. The fall passed without bringing the
expected invasion, and finally the joyful news came that on December
14th the British had evacuated Charleston, and that their fleet had
sailed for the North.
With the departure of the British fleet and army from the South, all
fear of further invasion was over, and the little town of Edenton
settled down to long years of peace and happiness.
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