What Really Happened Between 1629 and 1663?

Essentially - a whole lot of nothing! But, things did move forward, albeit at a snail's pace. Read on.

In 1629, Sir Robert Heath was granted a patent to settle the area between 31 and 36 degrees North under the name of Carolana. The following year Heath conveyed this land to Samuel Vassall and others who explored it and made an ineffectual attempt to settle the area.

By 1632, Henry Lord Maltravers claimed the area as the Province of Carolana under an alleged grant from Heath and by the Harvey Patent issued by the Governor John Harvey of Virginia. The Harvey Patent established Maltravers' claim to the area south of the James River known as Norfolk County. No effective settlement was established. The Albemarle settlement was the first permanent caucasian habitat and was created about 1653 by Virginians moving through the Nansemond Valley and Dismal Swamp into the area of Albemarle Sound and Chowan River. These early settlements were not considered to be legal.

In 1663, King Charles II granted a new charter to eight Lords Proprietors. Soon thereafter, Maltravers' heirs, the Duke of Norfolk and Samuel Vassall, filed counter-claims, and the Cape Fear Company added its name to those contesting title by the new eight Lords Proprietors.

On 22 August 1665, the Privy Council confirmed King Charles II's more recent grant and declared all previous grants to be null and void.

On October 30, 1629, in the fifth year of his reign, King Charles I exercised one of his right by granting to his Attorney General, Sir Robert Heath, the territory between 31 degrees and 36 degrees North latitude. This is the region lying from about thirty miles north of the Florida state line to the southern side of Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. Except for Roanoke Island it did not include the territory already explored by Virginians since 1607.

Before Heath had had his charter half a year Antoine de Ridouet, Baron de Sancé, was negotiating with him concerning a colony to be planted in Carolana somewhere between Cape Fear and Albemarle Sound. When he and his son George were naturalized in June of 1629, he mentioned plans for a colony in Virginia to produce grapes, olives, silk, and salt. By March of 1630, the proposed site had been changed to Carolana.

Tentative plans called for fees to be paid to Heath as "Lord paramount or predominant." Hugh L'Amy, one of the leaders of the French, obviously intended to move to the colony, and he was to be Receiver General of rents. Plans were discussed for the transportation of families and the erection of fortresses. There would also be English colonists, but the majority would be French Protestant refugees, "men, robust, and courageous … who have served in Holland."

Before long a plantation near 35 degrees was being mentioned, and this would have placed them in the neighborhood of the future town of New Bern. Colonists proposed to live in peace with the Indians, but a fort with four towers was projected, and someone even drew two sketches to show what it would look like. Certificates from pastors in France would be required to ensure that no Roman Catholics settled in Carolana; records would be kept and names and vocations recorded in a book.

Such fine plans were perfected that by mid-May of 1630, George Lord Berkeley in association with William Boswell, Samuel Vassall, Hugh L'Amy, and Peter de Licques drew up an agreement with Heath for planting their colony. Baron de Sancé soon joined the group. Lord Berkeley seems only to have lent his name to the group during its period of initial negotiation and then seems to have withdrawn. Boswell was secretary to the English ambassador in Paris, and Vassall, while of French descent, was a London merchant and charter member of the Massachusetts Bay Company -- both of potential service to the group.

Baron de Sancé became ill and asked Boswell to assist him in gathering arms and other supplies. This may well have delayed plans, for in late September one Monsieur Belavene reported to Boswell that there was some difficulty in recruiting salt workers. A month or so later several ships' captains were mentioned who might transport the colonists to America, but only fifty or sixty men were then available.

The records for the remainder of Heath's period of ownership of Carolana are incomplete, and it is impossible to determine just what happened. Perhaps the French in England were unwilling to move farther from home and not enough colonists could be recruited. The possibility also exists that King Charles I may have hinted that he did not care to have Frenchmen occupying his New World territory; his Privy Council, at any rate, directed in April of 1630, that only those who acknowledged the Church of England might settle there.

Baron de Sancé and Hugh L'Amy were no longer mentioned in references to the projected settlement of Carolana after the spring of 1631, and the activities of Peter de Licques were then being directed in part toward the West Indies.

A new plan to colonize Carolana apparently took shape in the summer of 1633 after the French interest had dissolved. Edward Kingswell of London and his brother-in-law, Roger Wingate, arranged with Samuel Vassall, who had been associated with the proposed French colony, to take them, their families, and more than forty colonists to Carolana. Vassall also was supposed to supply a shallop and a pinnace for the use of the colony there.

Vassall failed on both counts, and Kingswell, who was to be governor of the colony, was obliged to sail aboard another ship, the Mayflower, which Peter Andrews commanded. Instead of taking his passengers to Carolana, however Andrews landed them in Virginia in October of 1633, where Kingswell remained at least until May or June of the following year. "The plantation has been thus hindered and the voyage frustrated," Kingswell, back in London, related in a petition to the privy council in September of 1634.

Governor Kingswell "suffered much in reputation" and had been injured to the amount of £3,000 which he sought to recover from Vassall and Andrews. Vassall failed to attend a hearing and was placed in confinement. An investigation revealed that Kingswell had lost £2,710 13s., of which Vassall and Andrews were ordered to pay £611 1s. 4d.

Kingswell, it was pointed out, received certain sums for the servants which he left in Virginia; the failure of Vassall to provide the two ships to be used in Carolana was declared to be no loss inasmuch as Kingswell did not get to Carolana anyway. In testimony taken in January of 1636, it was revealed that Kingswell refused a different ship in which Vassall offered to transport the colony to Carolana. The large ship which Kingswell wanted, Vassall pointed out, could not enter the waters of Carolana.

In July of 1634, Vassall sent a ship to Virginia to deliver twenty-eight more colonists and to take the whole colony on to Florida if Kingswell desired. The governor, Vassall learned, had sailed for England in June. The outcome of the case in the courts is not known. It was still pending in 1636, but none of Kingswell's colonists reached Carolana under his leadership.

Persons who transported settlers to Virginia were entitled to fifty acres for each person whose passage they paid. Edward Kingswell's heir in Virginia held 2,300 acres, and the forty-six persons for whose transportation the land had been originally granted are named in the land records. These surely are the colonists intended for Carolana, most of whom chose to remain in Virginia, but some of them or their descendants may eventually have found their way to North Carolina.

On December 2, 1638, Sir Robert Heath, busy with legal matters in London, completed the documents necessary to convey his Carolana interests to Henry Frederick Howard, Lord Maltravers. This was merely the formal conclusion of an understanding already made. Maltravers was the grandson of the fourth Duke of Norfolk, and heir to the title, but his grandfather outlived him; two sons of Lord Maltravers succeeded to the title, however. As a member of the New England Company and as one of those who had sought royal support for the West India Company in 1637, Maltravers had a wide interest in the American colonies.

King Charles I in January of 1637, privy to the negotiations between Heath and Maltravers, wrote Sir John Harvey, governor of Virginia, as if Maltravers already held title to Carolana. The prospective owner was anxious to settle his land, and King Charles I required Governor Harvey "forthwith to assign to Lord Maltravers such a competent tract of land in the southern part of Virginia, as may bear the name of a county, and be called the county of Norfolk, upon conditions found requisite for the general good of the colony, and powers fitted for a person of his quality, with reservation to the King of a yearly rent of 20 shillings."

A few years later Maltravers received another favor which must have been granted with royal approval. In 1639 a royal warrant was issued to him "for stamping farthing tokens for the plantations." Gold draining out of England was "very hurtful," and coins were not permitted to be minted in the colonies. Maltravers, however, was authorized to "stamp farthing tokens of copper with a distinction of brass" which should be supplied to all of the colonies and plantations except Maryland, "whereby they might not be driven only to truck, barter or exchange one commodity for another." Money from his plantation would be useful, while produce for barter might not.

As expected, the king's letter to Governor Harvey had the desired effect. The governor and his council, in view of the intent of Maltravers "to transport at his own costs and charges and to settle and plant divers inhabitants in the Colony for the advancement and generall good of the Plantation," in January of 1637, laid off for him the County of Norfolk. It extended from about the present North Carolina-Virginia line to 35 degrees North latitude, almost ten miles south of modern New Bern, and it was about 113 miles wide -- from the coast to about as far west as the current town of Goldsboro.

By the terms of his grant, Maltravers had considerable independence in governing his county, but it was expected that he would abide by the authority of Virginia in matters of defense. For the first seven years Maltravers was required to report to Virginia officials certain information about people passing through that colony en route to his plantation.

Captain William Hawley, who had been an active Protestant in Roman Catholic Maryland and whose brother was governor of Barbados, was commissioned as Maltravers's Lieutenant General of Carolana on August 2, 1638, although in Virginia he was spoken of as Deputy Governor. In April of 1640, Hawley was in Virginia and secured the approval of the council there to take into Carolana any residents of the colony who were interested. He also held a personal grant for 10,000 acres of land.

Captain Henry Hartwell was expected to head a settlement in the northern part of Maltravers's county of Norfolk. What success these men had or what contributed to their failure cannot now be determined. Documents which might have answered these questions were burned in Richmond by Federal troops in April, 1865, near the end of the American Civil War.

One early eighteenth century history of the area, which was conceivably based on sources no longer in existence, reported that Maltravers "at great expense planted several parts of the said country, and had effected much more had he not been prevented by the war with Scotland, in which he was general for King Charles I; and afterwards by the Civil War in England and the lunacy of his eldest son." Sir John Colleton, one of the Lords Proprietors of the same area later in the seventeenth century, believed that colonists had been settled there. A plantation, he said, had been "started by one Mr. Mariat, steward to the Duke of Norfolk."

Affairs at home - the Civil War, the revolution, the execution of King Charles I - may well have been reflected in the failure to colonize Carolana. After 1649, the establishment of the Commonwealth, the supremacy of Parliament, and the suffering of many royalists may have been responsible for renewed interest in the vast unsettled region south of Virginia.

Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia, was loyal to the Crown, and it is natural to suppose that others of the same mind might have expected to find a welcome from him. Perhaps in anticipation of the arrival of refugees, Governor Berkeley in 1646 sent a military expedition against the Indians living to the south. Marching overland, Major General Richard Bennett led a portion of the force, while Colonel Thomas Dew, going by water, approached through Currituck Inlet and the sound. In moving up the Chowan River they engaged some Indians in battle and lost one of their own men.

About 1648, "peace being concluded with the Indians," he said, Henry Plumpton, a veteran of the expedition, and Thomas Tuke of Isle of Wight County, purchased from the Indians land from the mouth of Roanoke River to a point up the Chowan River where Weyanook Creek entered. They apparently did not settle there, but they earned for themselves the distinction of being the first known Virginians to purchase land in Carolana after having visited it.

Following the trial and execution of King Charles I in January of 1649, interest in the Carolana province suddenly grew once again. A little newspaper in London, the Moderate Intelligencer, on May 2, reported: "There is A Gentleman going over Governor into Carolana in America, and many Gentlemen of quality and their families with him."

After describing the country in glowing terms, listing the animals, plants, and other natural features, the writer continued, "besides all this is said, we shall shake hands with Virginia, a flourishing Plantation, which is not only able to strengthen and assist us, but furnish us with all English Provisions ... which they abound in now, which they and other Plantations were enforced to bring out of other Countries with great difficulty and charge, these are ready to our hands." Virginia plantations lined the James River, it was noted, which was entered by a superb channel. From the south side of the James River, two other rivers, the Elizabeth and the Nansemond, "convey you into Carolana, so that this River is a Haven to both Colonies."

From Fort Henry at the head of Appomattox River in the late summer of 1650, a small group of men traveled about 120 miles south in the "Discovery of New Brittaine," as they called the land they saw. A merchant, Edward Bland, was leader, and accompanying him were Captain Abraham Wood, Sackford Brewster, and Elias Pennant; servants to Bland and Wood were Robert Farmer and Henry Newcombe; and there was an Appomattox Indian guide. All rode horseback except the guide, who walked. They explored down into the Roanoke and Chowan River valleys and probably along Fishing Creek, a tributary of Tar River. The Indians received them kindly and in one village served the explorers "roasting eares, and Sturgeon."

Bland was so pleased with what he found that upon his return he petitioned the Virginia Assembly to permit him to engage in further discoveries and to settle 100 well-equipped men in the region. He went to England seeking support for his plan and while there in 1651 published an account of his discovery of New Britain.

Others also soon became interested in this region. In July of 1653, the Reverend Roger Green petitioned the assembly for some land for himself and his neighbors residing along the Nansemond River. It so happened that Col. Thomas Dew, who had explored the Chowan River in 1646, and Col. Francis Yeardley, who was on the verge of sending an expedition there himself, were members of this assembly. The Virginia Assembly ordered that:

"... tenn thousand acres of land be granted unto one hundred such persons who shall first seate on Moratuck or Roanoake river and the land lying upon the south side of Choan river and the branches thereof, Provided that such seaters settle advantageously for security, and be sufficiently furnished with amunition and strength, And it is further ordered by the authority aforesaid, That there be granted to the said Roger Green, the rights of one thousand acres of land, and choice to take the same where it shall seem most convenient to him, next to those persons who have had a former grant in reward of his charge, hazard and trouble of first discoverie, and encouragement of others for seating those southern parts of Virginia."

The statement "next to those persons who have had a former grant" has often been cited as evidence that settlers were in the area by that time. This may well have been the case. On the other hand, grants might have been made but not settled. There is ample precedent for this, as well. There also is good evidence that the Reverend Mr. Green never established himself on his grant.

Rev. Green was active in Virginia as an advocate of a system of towns in contrast to the scattered, haphazard farms and plantations in the colony. It is apparent that he was present in Virginia in 1656, as he reported that on March 27 of that year "in my hearing" some members of the assembly expressed regret at the repeal of an act to establish central marketplaces in each county. On April 20 of the same year he witnessed the marriage contract of Nathaniell Batts.

Five years later he was in London to deliver to the bishop of London a statement "to shew the unhappy State of the Church in Virginia" and to enter a plea for towns as the solution to many evils which he saw in the colony. His report was printed in 1662 as a pamphlet entitled Virginia's Cure. It is interesting that he described the colony of Virginia as being bound "on the North by the great River Patomak, on the South by the River Chawan ... and [it] contains about half as much Land as England."

From Virginia in the spring of 1654, Francis Yeardley, son of the late Governor Sir George Yeardley, relative of John Pory, and recently a member of the House of Burgesses, wrote in detail to John Ferrar of a visit the previous fall to "South Virginia or Carolana." It is not clear, in his modestly phrased account, whether Yeardley himself accompanied the party of about four men who set out in September of 1653.

It was Nathaniell Batts, whom Yeardley described as "a young man, a trader for beavers," who sought permission to go to "Rhoanoke" where he thought some other men had gone. This young man and his companions went through Currituck Inlet to the sound but failed to find their friends. They did visit Ralph Lane's old fort on Roanoke Island, however, and later engaged the chief of the Roanoke Indians in lengthy and interesting conversation.

Friendships were established, and the Indians from the region visited Yeardley at his home at "Linne-haven" in modern Norfolk. Eventually the chief's son was left with Yeardley so that he might learn "to speak out of the book, and to make a writing." A short while later, as Yeardley promised, a carpenter and five workmen were sent "to build the king an English house" which was soon afterward furnished "with English utensils and chattels." Through this chief the English were introduced to the "Tuskarorawes emperor" from whom they learned a number of interesting things about the country of northern Carolana.

It was because of the friendship between Yeardley and the Roanoke chief that Yeardley was able to purchase for £200 sterling all the land lying along three great rivers and even more to the south. It was reported that "the Indians totally left the lands and rivers to us, retiring to a new habitation."

Yeardley's representatives on the spot "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." Later the chief delivered another turf with an arrow to Yeardley at his home where it was "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."

On May 3, 1654, the Roanoke chief presented his son for baptism at the parish church which Yeardley attended, and before they parted Yeardley told the chief that he intended to send "a further discovery by sea and land, to begin the first of July."

The young fur trader who had appealed to Yeardley in the fall of 1653 for permission to see his friends around Roanoke was Nathaniell Batts, for whom a small house was later built at Yeardley's expense near the mouth of the Chowan River. A carpenter, Robert Bodnam, sometime before the middle of July of 1655, was sent "twice to the Southward" where he remained for a total of five months "ffor building a house ... for Batts to live in and trade with the Indians wch I did doe by Coll. Yeardley's Appointment and he did promise to see me paid for it." Yeardley died in 1655 before the carpenter was paid, and he was obliged to go to court for his pay. Surviving records of the case in Norfolk County show that the house was twenty feet square with two rooms and a chimney, for which Bodnam was awarded "One Thousand weight of Tobb and Caske" by the court.

The old explorer, Col. Thomas Dew, applied to the Virginia assembly in December of 1656, for authority "to make a discoverie of the navigable rivers to the southward between Cape Hatterras and Cape Fear with such gentlemen and planters as would voluntarily and att their owne charge accompanie him." His request was granted with the stipulation that "it be done at the proper charge of the undertakers and not at the cost of the publique, and in the absence or in case of the mortality of Coll. Thomas Dew, Capt. Thomas Francis is hereby invested with the like power."

It is quite likely that Nathaniell Batts was one of those who participated in this expedition. The Quarter Court of Virginia in June of 1657, "taking into Consideration ye great pains & trouble, wch Mr Nathaniell Batts hath taken in the discovery of an Inlett to the Southward, which is likely to be mutch advantagious to the Inhabitants of this Collony," extended protection to Batts from his creditor for a year and a day.

A manuscript map of "The South Part of Virginia" drawn in 1657 by a London cartographer, Nicholas Comberford, shows a considerable amount of new information. Obviously based on careful reconnaissance, it includes a new inlet south of the old Currituck Inlet. It also shows "Batts House," indicated by a house-like symbol, at the mouth of what is now Salmon Creek in Bertie County at the head of Albemarle Sound. All of the evidence suggests that by the middle of 1655, at the latest, Nathaniell Batts was operating an established trading post at this excellent site under the sponsorship of Francis Yeardley. Since Batts also maintained a home in Lynnhaven Parish, he probably was only in the Chowan area for a part of each year.

Further evidence of Batts's activity in the vicinity is seen in the oldest surviving North Carolina land record. Dated September 24, 1660, and signed with the mark of Kiscutanewh, "King of Yausapin," it grants to Batts "all ye Land on ye southwest side of Pascotanck River, from ye mouth of ye sd, River to ye head of new Begin Creeke." This was land which the chief had previously sold to two men named Mason and Willoughby, but for which he had not been paid, according to Batts's deed.

The Quaker missionary, George Fox, visited Batts in November and December of 1672, and slept on a mat before the fireplace of his small house. The kindly Quaker described Batts as "formerly Governour of roanoke, who goeth by ye name of Captaine Batts, who hath beene a Rude desperate man." The title of governor of Roanoke was quite likely bestowed upon Batts when he was the sole white inhabitant of this vast region.

The adjectives "rude" and "desperate" may have been deserved; Fox was acquainted with Batts, but his journal does not explain why these epithets should have been chosen for him. That they were not undeserved, however, is suggested by the fact that soon after Batts married a widow with children, he demanded payment for the board of the children. Fox's use of "hath beene" instead of "is" suggests that Batts might have reformed in later life. At least he attended Quaker meetings when Fox preached in the neighborhood, and he once accepted a "Papper" [a sermon] to be read to the Emperor of the Tuscarroras and his thirty kings.

In 1676, Batts was living on land in Chowan Precinct to which he had no title and apparently alone. He was dead by early November of 1679, survived by his widow, who soon afterward married for the third time.

John Harvey may not have been the very first permanent resident of North Carolina, but at the present time he is the earliest of whom there is a reliable record. In a will dated February 1, 1660, James Took, or Tuke, of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, left furniture, linen, silver, pewter, and livestock to his daughter, Dorothy, and her husband, John Harvey. Twice in his will Took spoke of these goods and livestock as already being "at the Southward in the Custody of the aforesd Harvey." Only an established homestead, and it must have been such before the end of 1659, would have had such things as a feather bed, rug, a smoothing iron, pewter chamber pot, cows and a calf, and other signs of a settled life.

Many years later, Richard Sanderson, prominent citizen of Currituck County, swore that he had lived in North Carolina "ever since the year next after King Charles the Second was Restored" and that he "well remembers the first settlement thereof." This places him in the region in 1660 or 1661.

On another occasion testimony was presented in court showing that Samuel Davis had moved to Pasquotank Precinct from Isle of Wight County in 1660.

Robert Lawrence in 1708 testified that he had settled on the west bank of Chowan River in 1661.

George Durant's deed in March, 1662, from King Kilcocanen, refers to adjoining land already held by Samuel Pricklove.

Other early settlers whose names occur frequently in the region, and some of whom may have been there by 1659 with Harvey, included George Catchmaid, Thomas Jarvis, John Jenkins, and Dr. Thomas Relfe.

The population of this outpost of Virginia had grown so large that it must have been a cause of some concern to Governor William Berkeley. A "Commission issued to Captain Samuel Stephens to be commander of the southern plantation, authorizing him to appoint a sheriff," was issued on October 9, 1662. This document was among those burned in Richmond in April, 1865, but a Virginia historian saw it and recorded this much about it several years earlier.

Under Stephens's commission the lands of the inhabitants in the "southern plantation" were secured to them. The settlement's first official was a native of Virginia, having been born there in about 1629. His father was Richard Stephens of London who had settled in Jamestown in 1623, and his mother was Elizabeth Peirsey, daughter of the cape-merchant, Abraham Peirsey. Captain Stephens married Frances Culpeper in 1652, and they lived at Bolthrope Plantation on the Warwick River.

The absence of any information to the contrary leads to the assumption that Stephens continued to head the colony until he was succeeded in 1664 by William Drummond, governor of Albemarle County under the eight Lords Proprietors to whom Carolina was granted by King Charles II in 1663.


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