Francis Yeardley

In 1654, Francis Yeardley, a son of Governor Yeardley of Virginia, was sent on an expedition to explore the region which now includes the North Carolina counties of Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Bertie, Washington, Tyrrell, Dare, Hyde, Beaufort, Pamlico, Craven, Carteret, and Onslow.

Francis Yeardley’s Narrative of Excursions into Carolina, 1654

Virginia, Linne-Haven, this 8th May, 1654


My brother Argol Yardley hath received many letters from you, with animadversions and instructions to encourage him in the prosecution of better designs than that of tobacco, but myself never any: yet the honour I bear you, for your fervent affections to this my native country, commands me in some measure to give you an account of what the Lord hath in short time brought to light, by the means of so weak a minister as myself; namely, an ample discovery of South Virginia or Carolina, the which we find a most fertile, gallant, rich soil, flourishing in all the abundance of nature, especially in the rich mulberry and vine, a serene air, and temperate clime, and experimentally rich in precious minerals; and lastly, I may say, parallel with any place for rich land, and stately timber of all sorts; a place indeed unacquainted with our Virginia’s nipping frosts, no winter, or very little cold to be found there. Thus much for the country; the manner and means in discovery follows: In September last, a young man, a trader for beavers, being bound out to the adjacent parts to trade, by accident his sloop left him; and he, supposing she had been gone to Rhoanoke, hired a small boat, and with one of his company left with him came to crave my licence to go to look after his sloop, and sought some relief of provisions of me; the which granting, he set forth with three more in company, one being of my family, the others were my neighbours. They entered in at Caratoke, ten leagues to the southward of Cape Henry, and so went to Rhoanoke island; where, or near thereabouts, they found the great commander of those parts with his Indians a hunting, who received them civilly, and shewed them the ruins of Sir Walter Ralegh’s fort, from whence I received a sure token of their being there. After some days spent to and fro in the country, the young man the interpreter prevailed with the great man, and his war-captains, and a great man of another province, and some other Indians, to come in and make their peace with the English, which they willingly condescended unto; and for the favour and relief I extended to the interpreter in his necessity, in gratitude he brought them to me at my house, where they abode a week, and shewed much civility of behaviour. In the interim of which time, hearing and seeing the children read and write, of his own free voluntary motion he asked me, (after a most solid pause, we two being alone), whether I would take his only son, having but one, and teach him to do as our children, namely is his terms, to speak out of the book, and to make a writing; which motion I most heartily embraced; and with expressions of love, and many presents, crediting with cloaths, dismissed him. At his departure he expressed himself desirous to serve that God the Englishmen served, and that his child might be so brought up; promising to bring him in to me in four moons, in which space my occasions calling me to Maryland, he came once himself, and sent twice to know, if I was returned, that he might bring his child; but in my absence, some people, supposing I had great gains by commerce with him, murmured, and carried themselves uncivilly towards them, forbidding their coming in any more; and by some over-busy justices of the place, (my wife having brought him to church in the congregation), after sermon, threatened to whip him, and send him away. The great man was very much afraid, and much appalled; but my wife kept him in her hand by her side, and confidently and constantly on my behalf resisted their threatenings, till they publickly protested against me for bringing them in; but she worthily engaged my whole fortunes for any damage should arise by or from them, till my return; which falling out presently after, I having by the way taken my brother in with me for the better prosecution of so noble a design, immediately I dispatched away a boat with six hands, one being a carpenter, to build the king an English house, my promise at his coming first, being to comply in that matter. I sent 200 l. sterling in trust, to purchase and pay for what land they should like, the which in little time they effected, and purchased, and paid for three great rivers, and also all such others as they should like of southerly; and in solemn manner took possession of the country, in the name, and on the behalf, of the commonwealth of England; and actual possession was solemnly given them by the great commander, and all the great men of the rest of the provinces, in delivering them a turf of the earth with an arrow shot into it; and so the Indians totally left the lands and rivers to us, retiring to a new habitation, where our people built the great commander a fair house, the which I am to furnish with English utensils and chattels. In the interim, whilst the house was building for the great emperor of Rhoanoke, he undertook with some of his Indians, to bring some of our men to the emperor of the Tuskarorawes, and to that purpose sent embassadors before, and with two of our company set forth and travelled within two days journey of the place, where at a hunting quarter the Tuskarorawes emperor, with 250 of his men, met our company, and received them courteously; and after some days spent, desired them to go to his chief town, where he told them was one Spaniard residing, who had been seven years with them, a man very rich, having about thirty in family, seven whereof are negroes; and he had one more negro, leiger with a great nation called the Newxes. He is sometimes, they say, gone from thence a pretty while. Our people had gone, but that the interpreter with overtravelling himself fell sick; yet the Tuskarorawe proffered him, if he would go, he would in three days journey bring him to a great salt sea, and to places where they had copper out of the ground, the art of refining which they have perfectly; for our people saw much amongst them, and some plates of a foot square. There was one Indian had two beads of gold in his ears, big as rounceval peas; and they said, there was much of that not far off. These allurements had drawn them thither, but for the interpreter’s weakness, and the war, that was between a great nation called the Cacores, a very little people in stature, not exceeding youths of thirteen or fourteen years, but extremely valiant and fierce in fight, and above belief swift in retirement and flight, whereby they resist the puissance of this potent, rich, and numerous people. There is another great nation by these, called the Haynokes, who valiantly resist the Spaniards further northern attempts. The Tuskarorawe told them, the way to the sea was a plain road, much travelled for salt and copper; the salt is made by the sea itself, and some of it brought in to me. After the Tuskarorawe could not prevail, but our people would return, he sent his only son with a great man his tutor, and another great man, and some other attendance with them; and when they came to the rest of our company, the house being done and finished, the Rowanoke with the Tuskororawe [sic] prince, and sundry other kings of the provinces, in all some forty-five in company, together with our six men, on May-day last arrived at my house. The Rowanoke brought his wife with him, and his son, to be baptized. It fell out happily, that my brother and many other friends were met at my house. The only present brought us was the turf of earth with the arrow shot into it, which was again solemnly delivered unto me, and received by me, in the name, and on the behalf, of the commonwealth of England, to whom we really tender the sure possession of this rich and flourishing place; hoping only, that our own properties and our pains will not be forgotten. There is no man hath been at a penny charge but myself, and it hath already cost me 300 l. and upwards; and were my estate able, I should hope to give a better account of my well-wishes to a general good. My hopes are, I shall not want assistance from good patriots, either by their good words or purses. Tuesday the third of May, the Rowanoke presented his child to the minister before the congregation to be baptized, which was solemnly performed in presence of all the Indians, and the child left with me to be bred up a Christian, which God grant him to become! At their departure, we appointed a further discovery by sea and land, to begin the first of July next. God guide us to his glory, and England’s and Virginia’s honour! .

Sir, if you think good to acquaint the states with what is done by two Virginians born, you will honour our country. I have at this instant no present worthy your acceptance, but an arrow that came from the Indians inhabiting on the South-sea, the which we purpose, God willing, to see this summer, non obstante periculo. I am lastly, Sir, a suitor to you, for some silk-worms eggs, and materials for the making of silk, and what other good fruits, or roots, or plants, may be proper for such a country. Above all, my desire is to the olive, some trees of which could we procure, would rejoice me; for wine we cannot want with industry. Thus desiring to kiss your hands, with the fair hands of my virtuous country-woman, the worthily be honoured Mrs. Virginia Farrar, I humbly take leave, and ever remain, Sir, .

Your true honourer , and affectionate Servant to be commanded,

Francis Yardley

For the worshipfull John Farrar, Esq; at his mannor of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire.


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