COLONIAL DAYS IN CHURCH AND SCHOOL ON LITTLE RIVER, PASQUOTANK COUNTYAMONG 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 cme 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 shipbuilding. 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 civilization. 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 Herb ford 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 Symom 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 of worship. 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.
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