ENFIELD FARM-WHERE THE CULPEPER REBELLION BEGANSOME 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 land." 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 Virginia. 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 in Carolina. 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 their people. 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 bad 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 Durant's Neck. 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 the collectors. 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 himself. 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."
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