IN ANCIENT ALBEMARLE
By Catherine Albertson
PUBLISHED BY THE
NORTH CAROLINA SOCIETY DAUGHTERS OF THE REVOLUTION
ILLUSTRATED FROM DRAWINGS BY
RALEIGH COMMERCIAL PRINTING COMPANY 1914
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.
I. Wikacome in Weapomeiok, the Home of George Durant 1
II. The First Albemarle Assembly—Hall's Creek, near Nixonton 13
III. Enfield Farm—Where the Culpeper Rebellion Began 19
IV. The Hecklefield Farm 31
V. Colonial Days in Church and School on Little River, Pasquotank County 46
VI. The Haunts of Blackbeard 54
VII. The Old Brick House—a True History of the Historic Dwelling Reputed to be the Home of the Famous Pirate 62
VIII. "Elmwood," the Old Swann Homestead In Pasquotank County 66
IX. Pasquotank in Colonial Wars 72
X. Pasquotank in Colonial Wars—"The War of Jenkins' Ear" 78
XI. A Soldier of the Revolution—The Story of a Pasquotank Boy Who Followed Washington 84
XII. General Isaac Gregory, a Revolutionary Officer of Pasquotank-Camden 93
XIII. Perquimans County—"Land of Beautiful Women," and the Colonial Town of Hertford 114
XIV. Currituck, the Haunt of the Wild Fowl 134
XV. Edenton in the Revolution 153
Old Float Bridge Across the Perquimans River Frontispiece
"The Old Brick House," on Pasquotank River 62
Fairfax, the Home of General Isaac Gregory 112
The Eagle Tavern, Hertford 130
The Cupola House, Edenton 154
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 Weapomeiok.
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 sorely needed.
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 country.
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 dream.
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 ancient document:
"George Durant's Deed from Kilcokonen:
"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 country.
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 County.
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 extant.
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 years.
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 Church.
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 their assembly.'"
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 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 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 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."
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 Humphries' Lane."
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 state.
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 assemblies.
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 confreres, 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 river.
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 Colony.
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 Albemarle.
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 Parliament.
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 oaths.
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 November, 1714."
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 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 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 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.
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 freebooter.
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 pirate's bride.
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 made.
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.
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 wealthy parents.
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 ago.
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 sudden attack.
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 grandchildren.
This will is recorded in the court-house at Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
"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 fields."
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."