edenton 1712

First Map for Lords Proprietors - 1671 [i1]
“We cannot say for sure just when the first English came into the Albemarle to stay. A Virginian named Nathaniel Batts had a house built for himself in 1654 on the neck of land between Roanoke River and the mouth of Salmon Creek. Perhaps he was our first real settler. Certainly, however, there were a number of families living around the mouth of Chowan River by 1663. In that year King Charles II granted to eight proprietors authority over an immense region south of Virginia. Within a year the proprietors ordered the governor of Virginia to appoint a governor and six-man advisory council ‘for Albemarle river.’ The province of Carolina was born.

“The Albemarle sound country held attractions in those days only for the most adventurous or discontented of the colonists to the north. Good land was plentiful and cheap. But one would not want to try to live there unless he had a special knack for getting along with the Indians. He must know how to make or procure with his own hands practically all the necessities of life…

“Quaker missionary George Fox dared to go down Bennett’s creek into this forbidding region in 1672. Borrowing a rotten canoe ‘from a Captain’ who lived on Edenton Bay he spent several days paddling about the neighborhood. He went away gratified that many seemed anxious to hear him preach but appalled by the ignorance of the rude settlers.

“The first thirty years of the new colony was a period not very different from the Wild West of the movie screen. Where no law could be enforced, every man was a law unto himself. One by one the governors appointed to bring order to the Albemarle went away in defeat and confusion…

Archdale as Governor of South Carolina [i2]
“A welcome change came to the slowly-growing Carolina colony after 1694 when John Archdale became governor. Under his able leadership armed troops and justices of the peace managed to impose a semblance of order, the settlers grew less turbulent, and the trickle of colonists from the north soon mounted to a steady stream. A large group of Frenchmen, Protestant refugees from a Catholic country, were induced to leave their settlement on the James River and move to Carolina. By the beginning of the 18th Century there were several large plantations along a road that ran from Edenton Bay to Sandy Point and a planter named Thomas Hoskins had a farm at what would soon become ‘ye towne on Queen Anne’s creek.’

“After 1700 the Albemarle was no longer a frontier environment, though not many miles to the west the country was wild and unknown. An Englishman named John Lawson, who travelled over much of the colony in the first years of the new century, has left us a delightful account of the land and people in a book entitled The History of Carolina.

Lawson's Book [i3]
Illustration in John Lawson Book [i3]
“Travel in Lawson’s time was still mostly by canoe or a type of small craft called a periauger. Both were made by hollowing out cypress logs…Supplies that the Albemarle settlers needed were brought in on small coasting sloops, from the colonies to the north. If a farmer wanted a knife or some shot, a saddle or some nails, he must wait until a ship put in at a nearby wharf and then hurry down to it with a load of staves, a few barrels of pitch and tar, or perhaps some pork and tobacco. The ship-master would usually accept such articles in return for his wares, and rarely did any money enter into the transaction. Ships from the West Indies sometimes brought in a welcome load of salt, almost the only preservative available, or, equally treasured, a few hogsheads of run, a product not only valued by the planters for their own use but one that was indispensable in trading with the Indians. For rum or various tools and trinkets, the Indians would part with their deer skins or the precious hides of mink, fox, muskrat, raccoon, panther or bear, all of which were still plentiful in the big woods.

“Even in this early period Albemarle farmers paid more for imported goods, and received less for exports, than any on the eastern seaboard. No large ship could come across the sandbars at Ocracoke or the other inlets without the delay and expense of unloading on one side and reloading on the other. The fifty-mile flight of the crow to the ocean was a 185-mile voyage by boat. Real ocean-ships, those that came from England and Europe, skirted wide around the “Atlantic graveyard” and traded almost exclusively with the larger ports, Norfolk, Charleston, Boston and Philadelphia.

“The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel effort bore fruit in 1701 in the first attempt to establish a church for the Carolina faithful. In December of that year the Anglican vestry, of what later came to be known as St. Paul’s parish, met at the house of Thomas Gilliam, just east of where the town of Edenton now stands, to decide on a location for a church. Planter Edward Smithwick offered an acre of his Cherry’s Point estate and soon afterward the work was commenced. A building was erected and evidently rebuilt not long afterward but somehow the vestry could not seem to get it finished. Ten years later the building still had no floor nor any key, so that ‘Hoggs and Cattle flee thither for shelter in the summer and warmth in the winter;….and make it a loathsome place….’

Detail of 1737 Copy of Moseley's 1733 Map [i4]
“The westernmost part of Albemarle County was at first known as Shaftesbury precinct, its boundaries much the same as those of the old Chowanoke Indian nation. After 1685, however, it became known as Chowan precinct. It had a court composed of the justices of the peace, which met at regular intervals at farmers’ plantation houses. Every year it was more of an annoyance to have no settled community for the sessions of court, the collection of customs duties, and the other details of an expanding administration. In 1712 the General Assembly voted to create a town. Town lots were ordered to be laid off on Queen Anne’s Creek on the lands of Nathaniel Chevin."1  

In his research in the Edenton courthouse, Charles L. Paul found a deed for two lots dated August 12, 1714. "According to that deed dated August 12, 1714, for two lots in what later became Edenton, the procedure that led to the establishment of that town started in November, 1712, when the Assembly passed an act entitled 'an Act to Promote ye building a Court House & house to house to hold [sic.] ye Assembly in, at ye fork of Queen Ann's Creek...in Chowan Precinct...' Among other things, this act empowered Nathaniel Chevin and Thomas Peterson to lay out and sell one-half acre lots to such person 'as shall be willing to build at the afsd [aforesaid] fork of Queen Ann's Creek...'"2 
“By 1718* the town had a frame court house and a public landing but scarcely any other evidences of civilization. The Indians had moved up to the backcountry out of the way of the encroaching whites. Shortly after the death of Governor Charles Eden in 1722 ‘ye towne on Queen Anne’s creek’ was named in his honor.”3 
Cupola House circa 1758 - Louis Orr [i5]
An Act for Enlarging and Encouragement of the Town called Edenton, in Chowan precinct.
I.    Be it Enacted by his Excellency, the Palatine, and the rest of the true and absolute Lords Proprietors of the Province of Carolina, by and with the Advice and Consent of the rest of the Members of the General Assembly, now met at Edenton, at Queen Anne's Creek, in Chowan Precinct, for the North-East Part of the said Province, and it is hereby Enacted, that the Lands already laid out for the Said Town called Edenton, together with the aforesaid Tract of Land, two hundred and Seventy Acres lately belonging to the Said Tho's Peterson adjoining to the said Town, be henceforward invested in Christopher Gale, Jn'o. Lovick and Edward Mosely, Esq'rs., and Nicholas Crisp, to and for the Uses aforesaid, And declared confirmed and incorporated into a Township by the name of Edenton, with all privileges hereafter expressed for ever, pursuant to which
II.    It is hereby Enacted, That the places already laid out for a Church and a Court House, a burying place and a Market place to be reserved for their Uses, and that the Rest of the Land formerly invested in Daniel Richardson, Esq’r, and already laid out into Lotts of half an Acre each or there abouts be disposed of by the Commiss’r afore mentioned as hereafter in this Act is directed.
III.    And be it further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that the two hundred and Seventy Acres of Land afore mentioned and now by this Act incorporated into the Town of Edenton be forthwith laid out into proper allotments and appropriated to and for the Uses expressed, Viz’t: One hundred and forty Acres most convenient to the Creek and nearest on a Square into Lotts of half an Acre, with Convenient Streets and Passages, which Lotts so laid out shall be Sold at publick Vendue or Outcry to the highest Bidder and the Money arising thereof accounted for and paid by the Treasurer hereafter mentioned to the publick Treasurer of this Governm’t, in order to reimburse the Publick for the first Purchase after necessary Charges are deducted; and that the Land wherever the Houses now stand, together with eight Acres next adjacent thereunto, shall be appropriated to and for the Uses and Benefit of the Gov’r, president or Commander in Chief of this province his Residence for the time being for Ever, and the Rest and Residue of the said Land shall continue and remain as a Common for the Use of the Inhabitants of the Town for Ever.

Brickle Title Page [i6]
Brickel Illustration [i6]
"About the year 1730, Edenton was for a time the residence of an inquisitive Irish doctor named John Brickell. His Natural History of North Carolina, published at Dublin in 1737, draws heavily upon the earlier work by Lawson but contains many interesting and original observations of his own. By this time Edenton had increased to about sixty houses. Its inhabitants found time for a variety of amusements including gambling, cock-fighting, hunting, fishing, wrestling, dancing ('especially when they could get a Fiddle or a Bag-pipe...[but] if they can not procure Musick they will sing for themselves') leaping ('yet I never observed any Foot-Races'), and horse-racing ('for which they have Race-Paths near every Town, and in many parts of the Country'.)

"The family table familiar to Dr. Brickell was spread with venison, mutton, pork, beef, fish, or wild and domestic fowl, with rice, fruit, salads, cheese, milk, 'good Bread', and Indian corn, from which hasty pudding was made. In the absence of good liquor the Carolinians concocted their own beer from persimmons, corn stalks, cedar berries, or a brew made from molasses that the doctor pronounced 'the pleasantest Drink I ever tasted.' Yaupon and Indian tea were widely served and the wealthy few enjoyed chocolate, brandy and rum.

"The Albemarle region had for some time been gaining in the estimation of the New England merchants. With the treat of piracy all but eliminated, it was highly profitable to pick up a load of the products of Carolina fields and forests and sell it in the West Indies for the salt, rum and molasses so much desired in America. In the last half of 1729 more than sixty vessels cleared Edenton,though there had been no English ships touching here for a full seven years.

"The region west of Chowan river had in 1722 been given a separate administration and was called Bertie precinct. Several ferries linked Chowan and Bertie at intervals along the river. A map drawn by Edward Moseley in 1733 shows three main roads leading into Edenton from the west, north and east. The village itself he represents as comprising a six-block area abutting on Broad Street.

Detail from Moseley's 1733 map note "E. Moseley" on Albemarle Sound just south of Edenton [i7]
"One gathers from these sources an impression of a people just beginning to emerge into prosperity. Although the province contained few educated men, it had many of talent and initiative. Edenton and Chowan were in an intermediate state between a frontier society and a cultivated one. Already there was a splendid library here, largely compiled by Governor Eden. Yet it would have been difficult as yet to see the seeds that would make Edenton, within fifty years, a proper home for some of the most illustrious and renowned figures on the continent.

Governor Samuel Johnston [i8]
"In the latter half of the Eighteenth Century this area was the home of some of the most vital and significant leaders in the political currents that were shaping the life of both the young state and the nation. Chowan's leaders in these years included Samuel Johnston, James Iredell, Joseph Hewes, Stephen Cabarrus, Dr. Hugh Williamson and many other outstanding patriots."5  

1 Dr. Thomas C. Parramore, Cradle of the Colony, The History of Chowan County and Edenton, North Carolina, Edenton Chamber of Commerce, 1967. (Dr. Parramore received his doctoral degree in English history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was author of many books and recipient of numerous awards for his work. 

2 Charles L. Paul, Colonial Beaufort, Chapter II footnote, page 23. Chowan Deed Books, Office of the Register of Deeds, Chowan County Courthouse, Edenton, North Carolina, Deed Book B, No. 1, 38-39. 

3 Parramore [1718* Saunders, Colonial Records, Vol. II, page 314: "Att a Council holden at the Court House in Chown November the 11 1718..."] 

4 Walter Clark, State Records of North Carolina, Vol. XXV, Volume 25, p. 175 Laws 1789—1790 and Supplement of Omitted Laws 1669—1783 (lost acts, since found in the British Archives) 1906 

5 Parramore
1774 Edenton Tea Party [i9]
i1 First Lords Proprietors' Map; New description of Carolina by the order of the Lords Proprietors. John Ogilby, circa 1671. William Patterson Cumming Map Collection; North Carolina Maps, North Carolina State Archives, North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC, USA. 

i2 John Archdale's address soon after becoming governor, Charleston, S.C., August 1695, Engraving circa 1876, Preservation Society of Charleston, Alfred O. Halsey Map Preservation Research Project, 1949, halseymap.com.  

i3 John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina, London, 1709. and DETAIL. 

i4 Detail:  John Cowley, "A New and Correct Map of the Province of North Carolina," London. 1737, drawn from the original 1733 map by Edward Moseley. North Carolina Maps, North Carolina State Archives, North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC, USA. 

i5 The Cupola House circa 1758 was built by Francis Corbin, land agent for Lord Proprietor John Carteret, Earl of Granville. Louis Orr etching. 

i6 John Brickel, The Natural History of North-Carolina with an Account of the Trade, Manners, and Customs of the Christian and Indian Inhabitants. Dublin, Ireland: Printed by James Carson, 1737, page 134. and DETAIL. 

i7 Moseley's 1733 Map, North Carolina Office of Archives and History. 

i8 Governor Samuel Johnston, North Carolina Office of Archives and History. 

i9 1774 Edenton Tea Party, A satirical drawing published in a London Newspaper in March 1775. Image courtesy the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.