Such are the tales still told in our county of the olden days at Elmwood—tales handed down from father to son, and preserved in the memories of the old inhabitants of Pasquotank. And all such memories should be preserved and recorded ere those who hold them dear have passed away, and with them, the traditions that picture to a generation all too heedless of the past, the life of these, our pioneer forefathers.
From this old home more distinguished men have gone forth than probably from any other home in North Carolina.
The Hon. J. Bryan Grimes in an address made before the State Historical Society at Raleigh in 1909, gives a long list of eminent Carolinians who have called Elmwood their home. Among them were Colonel Thomas Swann and Colonel William Swann, both in colonial days Speakers of the Assembly; three members of the family by the name of Samuel Swann, and John Swann, members of Congress. Here lived Fred Blount, son of Colonel John Blount, an intimate friend of Governor Tryon. William Shephard, a prominent Federalist, for some years made Elmwood his home. The Rev. Solomon Pool, President of the University of North Carolina, and his brother, John Pool, United States Senator from North Carolina, both spent their boyhood days in this ancient mansion. And, as Colonel Grimes' researches into the history of this old home have made known, and as he relates in his speech on "The Importance of Memorials," "At Elmwood lived, and with it were identified, ten Speakers of the Assembly, five Congressmen, one United States Senator, one President of the State University, and one candidate for Governor."
One of the Samuel Swanns who resided at Elmwood was the brave young surveyor, who, with his comrades, Irvine and Mayo, was the first to plunge into the tangled depths of the Dismal Swamp, when the boundary line between North Carolina and Virginia was established.
Before the War between the States had been declared, the old house was burned to the ground; and since then the estate has been cut into smaller farms, and the family burying-ground has been desecrated by treasure-seekers, who in their mad greed for gold have not hesitated to disturb the bones of the sacred dead.
Just when or how the old home was burned, no one is able to tell. Whatever the circumstances of the destruction of this fine old building, the loss sustained by the county, and by the State, is irreparable.
PASQUOTANK IN COLONIAL WARS
The earliest wars in which the pioneers of North Carolina took part were those fought between the first comers into the State and the Indians. As Pasquotank was one of the earliest of the counties to be settled, we might naturally expect that county to have taken an active part in those encounters. The fact, however, that the great majority of her early settlers were Friends, or Quakers, as they are more commonly called, prevented Pasquotank from sharing as extensively as she otherwise might have done in the fight for existence that the pioneers in Carolina were compelled to maintain; for one of the most rigid rules of the Quaker Church is that its members must not take up arms against their fellow men, no matter what the provocation may be.
However, a search through the Colonial Records reveals the fact that our county has given a fair quota of men and money whenever the domestic or foreign troubles of colony, state or nation, needed her aid.
The first encounter between our sturdy Anglo-Saxon forefathers and the red man of the forest occurred in 1666, two years after William Drummond took up the reins of government in Albemarle. After this trouble little is recorded, nor is Pasquotank nor any of her precincts mentioned in reference to the Indian War. But as the majority of the settlers in North Carolina then lived along the shores of Little River and the Pasquotank, we may feel sure that the men of this county were prominent in subduing their savage foes, who, as Captain Ashe records, "were so speedily conquered that the war left no mark upon the infant settlement."
From then until the terrible days of the Tuscarora Massacre of 1711, the county, and Albemarle as a whole, rested from serious warfare; but these years can hardly be termed peaceful ones for the settlers in this region. The Culpeper Rebellion, the dissatisfaction caused by the tyrannical and illicit deeds of Seth Sothel, the disturbance caused by Captain Bibbs, who claimed the office of governor in defiance of Ludwell, whom the Lords had appointed to rule over Carolina, and the Cary troubles, all combined to keep the whole Albemarle district in a state of confusion and disorder for many years.
But all of these quarrelings and brawlings were hushed and forgotten when in September, 1711, the awful tragedy of the Tuscarora Massacre occurred. Though the settlers south of Albemarle Sound, in the vicinity of Bath and New Bern, and on Roanoke Island, suffered most during those days of horror, yet from the letters of the Rev. Rainsford and of Colonel Pollock, written during these anxious days, we learn that the planters north of the sound came in for their share of the horrors of an Indian uprising that swept away a large proportion of the inhabitants of the colony, and left the southern counties almost depopulated.
Though nearly paralyzed by the blow that had fallen upon the colony, which, in spite of difficulties, had been steadily growing and prospering, the officers of the government as soon as possible began to take steps to punish the Tuscaroras and their allies for the unspeakable atrocities committed by them during the awful days of the massacre, and also to devise means for conquering the savage foes who were still pursuing their bloody work. All the able-bodied men in the State were called upon to take part in the warfare against the Indians. But so few were left alive to carry on the struggle, that Governor Hyde was compelled to call upon the Governor of South Carolina and of Virginia to come to his aid in saving the colony from utter extinction. South Carolina responded nobly and generously. Virginia, for various reasons, sent but little aid to her afflicted sister colony. For two long years the war continued, until at last the Indians were conquered, the surviving hostile Tuscaroras left the State, and peace was restored to the impoverished and sorely tried colony.
During the bloody struggle, Pasquotank, which, with the other northern counties suffered but little in comparison with the counties south of the Albemarle, had sent what help she could to those upon whom the horrors of the war had fallen most heavily. In the Colonial Records this entry of services rendered by Pasquotank is found in a letter sent by Lieutenant Woodhouse and Thomas Johnson to certain "Gentlemen, Friends, and Neighbors," dated October 3, 1712. "Captain Norton, as I was informed by Mrs. Knight, sailed last week from Pasquotank in Major Reed's sloop, with 30 or 40 men, provisions, and two barrels of gunpowder and ten barrels, I think, of shot." The destination of ship, men and cargo was Bath, the scene of the most disastrous of the Indian outbreaks.
In an extract from a "Book of the Orders and Judgments and Decrees of the Hon. Edward Hyde, Esq., President of the Council," mentioned in Dr. Hawk's History of North Carolina, we find the following entry: "Ordered that Capt. Edward Allard shall depart with his sloop "Core Sound Merchant" to Pasquotank River, and there take from on board the "Return," Mr. Charles Worth Glover, so much corn as will load his sloop, give to Mr. Glover a receipt for the same, and that he embrace the first fair wind and weather to go to Bath County and there apply himself to the Hon. John Barnewell, Esq., and follow such instructions as he shall receive from him."
Again, in a letter from the Rev. Giles Rainsforth to "Jno. Chamberlain, Esq.," written from "Chowan in North Carolina July 25, 1712," further mention is made of Pasquotank's part in the Tuscarora War: "Col. Boyde was the other day sent out with a party against the Indians, but was unfortunately shot through the head and few of his men came home, but shared his fate and fell sacrifices to the same common misfortune."
It has been charged against Pasquotank that her citizens did not respond to the call for volunteers to take part in the Tuscarora War; and it is true that the Quakers in the county did enjoin upon their brethren that they should not bear arms in this or any other disturbance. It is also true that a number of the citizens in the county did obey this injunction; and when the war was over we find that certain members of the Friends' meeting were brought to trial by the courts "for not going out in ye Indian Wars." But enough instances have been recorded to show that our county did take an active part in breaking the power of the Tuscaroras and in driving them from the State.
In 1715, when South Carolina in her turn underwent the horrors of an Indian war, and appealed to North Carolina for aid, we find that men from Pasquotank joined with other forces from the colony in response to this appeal. Captain John Pailin and Captain John Norton, both of Pasquotank, are ordered "to draw out their companies and go to the assistance of South Carolina in the Yamassie War." And furthermore the command reads: "If men refuse, each captain is ordered to draft ten men who have small families or none, and to put them under Captain Hastins." That drafting was not resorted to, and that the men went willingly to the aid of their brethren in South Carolina, who rendered the northern colony such generous assistance in the Tuscarora War, is proved by the fact that fifty men were raised by the two captains, and cheerfully marched to the front along with the bands of militia from the neighboring counties.
So in these earliest trials of the military courage of her citizens, the county proved that she could and would take a worthy part.
PASQUOTANK IN COLONIAL WARS—"THE WAR OF JENKINS' EAR"
After the war with the Tuscaroras was over, and most of that powerful tribe had left the State, going to New York and becoming the sixth of the tribes there called "The Six Nations," for many years there were no pitched battles between the red men and the settlers in North Carolina.
But the troubles with the Indians did not end with the Tuscarora War; for though a treaty was made in 1713 with Tom Blount, king of the Tuscaroras, who remained in the State, whereby the Indians bound themselves to keep the peace, yet, as late as 1718 the colonists were still putting troops in the field to "catch or kill the enemy Indians." Indeed the settlers in Albemarle suffered as much from the Indians after the Tuscaroras left the State as they did during the days of the Indian massacre of 1711, and of the open warfare that followed.
In 1714 another Indian outbreak occurred, and the alarm was so great that many of the settlers in the Albemarle region determined to flee to Virginia, where the government seemed better able to protect its citizens than were the officials of North Carolina.
To prevent such an immigration from the colony, Governor Eden, who had succeeded Edward Hyde, issued a proclamation forbidding the people to leave the colony; and Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, gave orders to arrest any Carolinians who should flee into his colony without a passport from duly authorized officials in Carolina.
But as the years passed on, the Indian troubles gradually ceased, and the red men mostly disappeared from the eastern portion of the State, though as late as 1731 Dr. Brickwell speaks of finding there "a nation called the Pasquotanks, who kept cattle and made butter, but at present have not cattle."
With the dangers from the Indians over, and with the transfer of Carolina from the hands of the neglectful Lords Proprietors into the possession of King George II, brighter and more prosperous days began to dawn for North Carolina. The population rapidly increased; and, whereas, in 1717 there were only 2,000 persons in the colony, by 1735 this number had increased to 4,000. Lively wranglings there were often between the Royal Governors and the sturdy and independent members of the Grand Assembly, who resolutely carried out their purpose to preserve the constitutional rights of the people of the province. But no war cloud darkened the skies for many years after the Indian troubles were over.
Not until 1740 was there again a call to arms heard in North Carolina; then trouble arose between Spain and England, and the colonists in America were called upon to aid their Sovereign, King George II, in his war against the haughty Don.
The real cause of this war was the constant violation on the part of the English of the commercial laws which Spain had made to exclude foreign nations from the trade of her American colonies. But the event which precipitated matters and gave to the conflict which followed the name of "The War of Jenkins' Ear," was as follows:
The Spanish captured an English merchant vessel, whose master they accused of violating the trade laws of Spain. In order to wring a confession from the master, Captain Jenkins, his captors hung him up to the yard arms of his ship until he was nearly dead, and then let him down, thinking he would confess. But on his stoutly denying that he had been engaged in any nefarious dealings, and since no proof could be found against him, the captain of the Spanish ship cut off one of the English captain's ears, and insolently told him to show it to his countrymen as a warning of what Englishmen might expect who were caught trading with Spain's colonies in America.
Captain Jenkins put the ear in his pocket, sailed home as fast as wind and wave would carry him, and was taken straight to the House of Parliament with his story. Such was the indignation of both Lords and Commons at this insult to one of their nation, and so loud was the clamor for vengeance, that even Walpole, who for years had managed to hold the English dogs of war in leash, was now compelled to yield to the will of the people, and Parliament declared war with Spain.
Immediately upon this declaration, King George called upon his "trusty and well beloved subjects in Carolina" and the other twelve colonies, to raise troops to help the mother country in her struggle with arrogant Spain. Carolina responded nobly to the call for troops, as the following extract from a letter from Governor Gabriel Johnston to the Duke of Newcastle will testify: "I can now assure your grace that we have raised 400 men in this province who are just going to put to sea. In those Northern Parts of the Colony adjoining to Virginia, we have got 100 men each, though some few deserted since they began to send them on board the transports at Cape Fear. I have good reason to believe we could have raised 200 more if it had been possible to negotiate the Bills of Exchange in this part of the Continent; but as that was impossible we were obliged to rest satisfied with four companies. I must in justice to the assembly of the Province inform Your Grace that they were very zealous and unanimous in promoting this service. They have raised a subsidy of 1200 pounds as it is reckoned hereby on which the men have subsisted ever since August, and all the Transports are victualed."
While no mention is made of Pasquotank in this war, nor of men from any other county save New Hanover, we may reasonably infer that among the three hundred troops from the northern counties adjoining Virginia, men from our own county were included. No record has been kept of the names of the privates who enlisted from Carolina in this war. Nor do we know how many of those who at the king's call left home and country to fight a foreign land ever returned to their native shores; but we do know that these Carolina troops took part in the disastrous engagements of Cartagena and Boca-Chica; and that King George's troops saw fulfilled Walpole's prophecy made at the time of the rejoicing over the news that Parliament had declared war with Spain: "You are ringing the joy bells now," said the great Prime Minister, "but before this war is over you will all be wringing your hands!"
After the two crushing defeats of Cartagena and Boca-Chica, the troops from the colonies who still survived embarked upon their ships to return home; but while homeward bound a malignant fever broke out among the soldiers which destroyed nine out of every ten men on the ships. But few of those from Carolina lived to see their native home again. That they bore themselves bravely on the field of battle, none who know the war record of North Carolina will dare deny; though as regards her private soldiers in this war, history is silent.
One of the officers from Carolina, Captain Innes, of Wilmington, made such a record for gallantry during the two engagements mentioned, that in the French and Indian War, in which fourteen years later, not only the Thirteen Colonies, but most of the countries of Europe as well, were embroiled, he was made commander-in-chief of all the American forces, George Washington himself gladly serving under this distinguished Carolinian.
A SOLDIER OF THE REVOLUTION—THE STORY OF A PASQUOTANK BOY WHO FOLLOWED WASHINGTON
It is a well known fact that the records of the services of the North Carolina soldiers who took part in the Revolutionary War are very meagre. Of the private, and other officers of leaser rank, this is especially true. Therefore, it is not surprising that a search through the Colonial Records for a statement of the services rendered his country by John Koen, a brave soldier of the Revolution from Pasquotank County, reveals only this fact: that he enlisted in Moore's Company, Tenth Regiment, on May 30, 1777, and served for three years.
But in addition to the above information, the following incidents in the life of John Koen have been furnished the writer of this history by Mrs. Margaret Temple, formerly of Rosedale, now a resident of Elizabeth City.
Mrs. Temple is a granddaughter of Colonel Koen, the widow of William S. Temple, a brave Confederate soldier from Pasquotank, and the mother of two of our former townsmen, Hon. Oscar Temple, of Denver, Colorado, and Robert Temple, of New Orleans.
Mrs. Temple was about twelve years old at the time of Colonel Koen's death, and retains a very vivid recollection of the stirring stories of the Revolution told by her grandfather during the long winter evenings, when the family gathered around the big fire-place in the old Koen homestead near Rosedale.
A record copied from the Koen family Bible states that John Koen, son of Daniel Koen and Grace Koen, his wife, was born on the 27th day of January, 1759; and years later this record was entered: "John Koen, departed this life September 5th, 1840, aged 83 yrs."
At the age of eighteen he entered his country's service as a volunteer, and served through the Revolution, participating in many of the greatest victories won by the Americans, sharing the worst hardships of the war with his fellow patriots, and laying down his arms only after Cornwallis had surrendered his sword at Yorktown.
At the beginning of the winter of 1775-1776, North Carolina was confronting the most perilous conditions which she had ever been called to face. From the north, east and west, the foe was pressing, while within her own borders the Tories were rising, and planning to join the British in the subjection of this rebellious state.
The plan formulated by the enemy was this: Sir Henry Clinton, with troops of British regulars, was to come down the coast to the mouth of the Cape Fear River, where Lord Cornwallis, who with seven regiments from England was hastening across the Atlantic, was to join him. Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, was to incite the slaves and indentured servants in the Albemarle district to unite with the Tories in the State; and the Indians in the western counties were to be induced to take up arms against the whites.
If these plans had matured, North Carolina would have been overpowered, but one by one they were frustrated. The battle of Great Bridge defeated Dunmore in his purpose. The Snow Campaign quieted the Indian uprising. The battle of Moore's Creek Bridge crashed the Tories, and the heavy winter storms delayed Cornwallis and prevented him from joining Clinton at the mouth of the Cape Fear.
When Lord Dunmore issued his proclamation offering freedom to the slaves and indentured servants who should join his majesty's forces, and then followed up this notice by burning and ravaging the plantations around Norfolk, Virginia, called upon her sister State for help, and Long and Sumner, from Halifax, and Warren, Skinner and Dauge from Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, hastened with their minute men and volunteers to Great Bridge, where Colonel Woodford in command of the Virginia troops, had thrown up fortifications.
Among the volunteers who were hastening to the scene of action was John Koen, of Pasquotank, a boy in years, but a man in purpose and resolution.
On December 9, 1775, the British attacked the fortifications, and the sound of heavy firing at Great Bridge, the first battle in which the men of the Albemarle section had been called to participate, was heard by the dwellers in the counties nearest Norfolk.
The story is still told by old residents of Rosedale, that John Koen's mother, who was washing the breakfast dishes when the firing began, hearing the first heavy reverberations from the cannon some thirty miles away, dropped the dish she was wiping, and in her motherly anxiety for the safety of her boy, cried out, "Dodge, John, dodge!"
Whether John dodged or not we do not know, but we do know that he bore his part manfully in this, his first battle, and shared in the victory which drove Dunmore from Virginia, and saved North Carolina from invasion from that direction, and a threatened uprising of the slaves.
On February 26, 1776, the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge was fought, which defeated the Tories in Carolina, and convinced the British that further attempts at this time to conquer the State were useless. So, toward the end of May, Clinton's fleet sailed from the mouth of Cape Fear River to Charleston, South Carolina, where his intention was to reduce that city.
Generals Charles Lee and Robert Howe, of the Continental army, hastened immediately to the defense of that city, and among the soldiers who followed them was John Koen. Here again the British were defeated, Colonel Moultrie's Palmetto fortifications proving an effective defense to the city by the sea, and Thompson's South Carolinians and North Carolinians bravely repelling the British land troops. Here Koen fought by the side of the soldiers of North Carolina, and here, possibly, he was an eye witness of the brave deed by which Sergeant Jasper won undying fame.
The British fleet, repulsed in the attempt to capture Charleston, sailed northward, the danger of invasion that for six months threatened the South was over, and we find many of the soldiers in North Carolina released from duty and returning to their homes.
But John Koen's heart was filled with boyish love and admiration for the commander-in-chief of the American army, and his one desire now was to follow Washington; so, shouldering his musket, the hardy young soldier marched away to offer his services to the great general.
We do not know whether or not John Koen was with Washington in the battle at Long Island and at White Plains, but from his own account as related by him to his family, he did have the glorious honor of sharing in the victory at Trenton on December 26, 1776.
Most of us are familiar with the picture of "Washington Crossing the Delaware," wherein he is represented standing erect in a small boat that seems about to be dashed to pieces by the heavy waves and the cakes of ice, but according to Colonel Koen, who was with Washington on that momentous night, no boats were used. The river was frozen over, and the soldiers, in order to keep their footing on the slippery ice, laid their muskets down on the frozen river and walked across on them to the Jersey shore. At times the ice bent so beneath the tread of the men that they momentarily expected to be submerged in the dark waters, but the dangerous crossing was safely made, the British and Hessian troops, spending the holiday hours in feasting and carousing at Trenton, were captured, and a great victory won for the American army.
Some time in the spring of 1777, John Koen must have returned to his home in Pasquotank County, for we find in the Colonial Records that in the month of May, 1777, he enlisted in Moore's Company, Tenth Regiment, from North Carolina, and that in June he was promoted to the rank of corporal.
According to the fireside tales told by Colonel Koen to the household in the old Koen homestead, this young soldier, then only twenty years old, was with Gates' army, that, under the valiant leadership of Morgan and Arnold, won for the newly born nation the great victory of Saratoga; and the winter of that same year—'77—we find him sharing with Washington's army the trials and privations of the days of suffering at Valley Forge.
"I have seen the tears trickling down my grandfather's face when he told of the sufferings of that awful winter," said his granddaughter, Mrs. Temple to the writer, "and I used to wonder at seeing a grown man cry, and often I said in my childish way that war should never bring a tear in my eyes. Little did I know then that the bitterest tears I should ever shed would be caused by war, and for eighteen months during the terrible struggle between the North and the South I should mourn as dead my soldier husband, whom God in His mercy restored to me after all hope of seeing him alive again was over."
Although the Colonial Records state that Koen enlisted for only three years in May, 1777, he must have re-enlisted in 1780, for he has left with his family a graphic description of General Lincoln's surrender of Charleston in that year, and of the horrible treatment to which the Continental troops were subjected, who found themselves prisoners of the victorious British army.
The hot climate, the wretched condition of the prison ships, the unwholesome and insufficient food, made these days of imprisonment at Charleston equal in horror to the worst days at Valley Forge. Of the 1,800 prisoners who were taken captive on May 12, 1780, only 700 survived when they were paroled, and of these our hero was one.
In what other battles or experiences Colonel Koen shared we have no record, historical or traditional, but according to his granddaughter's account, learned from his own lips, he served his country until the victory of Yorktown was won and peace was declared. And it is easy to believe that this gallant soldier who was one of the first to volunteer at Great Bridge, and who fought so bravely in many of the sharpest struggles of the great conflict, would not have been willing to lay down his arms until his country was freed from the power that had so long held it in thrall.
So we can imagine him following Greene in his retreat across the State, taking part in the battle of Guilford Courthouse, and possibly present when the proud Cornwallis was forced to surrender at Yorktown.
When the struggle at last had ended, John Koen returned to his home. During the years of his absence his plantation was managed by William Temple, whose pretty young daughter, Susannah, soon won the heart of the brave soldier, and consented to become his bride. After some years of happy married life, the young wife died, and a few years later we find John Koen making a second marriage, his bride being Christian Hollowell, of Perquimans County.
Owing to his gallant conduct in the Revolutionary War, John Koen, a few years after the war was over, was appointed Colonel of the militia in Pasquotank County, and the government awarded him a pension, which was paid until his death in 1840.
GENERAL ISAAC GREGORY, A REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER OF PASQUOTANK-CAMDEN
During the War of the Revolution, the Albemarle Region, though threatened with invasion time and again by the British, seldom heard the tread of the enemy's army, or felt the shock of battle. For this immunity from the destruction of life and property, such as the citizens whose homes lay in the path of Cornwallis and Tarleton suffered, this section of North Carolina is largely indebted to General Isaac Gregory, one of the bravest officers who ever drew sword in defense of his native home and country.
Both Pasquotank and Camden claim this gallant officer for their son, and both have a right to that claim; for the two counties were one until 1777. In that year a petition was presented to the General Assembly by Joseph Jones, of Pasquotank, from citizens living in what is now Camden County, that the portion of Pasquotank lying on the northeast bank of the river should be formed into a separate county, and have a court-house of its own, in order to do away with the inconvenience the people of that section suffered in having to cross the river to attend court, military drills and other public gatherings. The General Assembly passed an act providing for the erection of a new county, and this county was named for Charles Pratt, Earl of Camden, a member of Parliament and Chancellor, who in the stormy days of 1765 worked for the repeal of the hated Stamp Act, and justice to the Colonies.
Before the long and bloody days of the Revolution proved his worth as a soldier, Isaac Gregory had won a prominent place in the public affairs of his county. His name first occurs in the Colonial Records in 1773, when he was elected sheriff of Pasquotank. In the same year he was appointed one of the trustees of St. Martin's Chapel in Indian Town, Currituck County, a settlement whose citizens were many of them to become honored in the civil and military history of our State.
Ever since the passing of the Stamp Act in 1765, low mutterings of the storm that was soon to sweep over the country some ten years later had disturbed the peace of the Thirteen Colonies; and events in North Carolina showed that this colony was standing shoulder to shoulder with her American sisters in their endeavor to obtain justice from England.
In 1774, John Harvey's trumpet call to the people of North Carolina to circumvent Governor Martin's attempt to deprive them of representation in the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, had resulted in the convention at New Bern, the first meeting in America at which the representatives of a colony as a whole had ever gathered in direct defiance of orders from a Royal Governor.
The next year, in April, Harvey again called a convention of the people to meet in New Bern. Again Governor Martin was defied; again, the North Carolinians, taking matters into their own hands, elected delegates to Philadelphia, and before adjourning, added Carolina's name to the association of Colonies.
Pasquotank was represented in this convention by Edward Jones, Joseph Redding, Edward Everigen, John Hearing, and Isaac Gregory. The last named, being by now an acknowledged leader in his county, was appointed by this body a member of the Committee of Safety in the Edenton District.
The path toward separation from the mother country was now being rapidly trod by the American colonies, though few, as yet, realized whither their steps were tending. In the vanguard of this march toward liberty and independence, North Carolina kept a conspicuous place. The Edenton Tea Party in October, 1774, had proved the mettle of her women. The farmers of Mecklenburg had struck the first chord in the song of independence, hardly a note of which had been sounded by the other colonies. Governor Martin had fled from New Bern, and in August, 1775, the Hillsboro Convention had organized a temporary form of government, and had placed at the head of public affairs Cornelius Harnett, who, as President of the Provincial Council, had more power in the State than is generally delegated to a governor.
In December, 1775, Lord Dunmore's attempted invasion of the State had been thwarted, largely by the aid of the Minute Men from Albemarle. Then came the famous Snow Campaign, in which the militia of the western counties joined the patriots of South Carolina in defeating the Tories of that State. And in February, 1776, the important victory at Moore's Creek Bridge had completely for a time broken the power of the Loyalists in North Carolina. There was no longer any hope of obtaining justice from England, nor, after such open and steady rebellion against the king's officers, civil and military, could there be any hope of conciliation with the mother country, save on terms too humiliating to even contemplate.
North Carolina, recognizing these facts, called another convention to meet at Halifax in April, 1776, and there sounded her defiance as a State to King and Parliament, and boldly authorized her delegates to the next Continental Congress at Philadelphia to vote for independence.
The convention then proceeded to make further preparations for the war which all now felt was inevitable. Pasquotank, in response to the call immediately issued for more troops, raised two regiments of militia. Isaac Gregory, who had been appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Pasquotank Militia by the Convention of 1775, was promoted and made Colonel of the Second Regiment of Pasquotank Militia, the other officers being Dempsey Burgess, Lieutenant-Colonel, Joshua Campbell, Major, and Peter Dauge, Second Major.
Independence having been declared by the Continental Congress of 1776, the thirteen Colonies, now independent States, proceeded to organize a permanent government within their several borders.
In North Carolina a State convention was called to meet at Halifax in November, 1776, to frame a constitution for the government of that State. To this convention Isaac Gregory, Henry Abbott, Devotion Davis, Dempsey Burgess and Lemuel Burgess were elected to represent Pasquotank, and Abbott was appointed on the committee to frame the constitution. By the 18th of December the work was completed and the constitution adopted, which, with amendments, is still the organic law of the State.
After Clinton's unsuccessful attempt to invade North Carolina in May, 1776, no further effort to place the State under British control was made until 1780. But during the intervening years the Carolina troops had not been idle. Their valor had been proved at Brandywine, Germantown and Stony Point, and during the winter at Valley Forge 1,450 of her soldiers shared with their comrades from the other States the hunger, cold and suffering that was the portion of Washington's army throughout those dreary months. The North Carolina troops had aided in the brave but unsuccessful attempt to drive the British from Savannah, and 5,000 of her soldiers had been sent to prevent the capture of Charleston; but the patriot forces had been unable to repulse the invaders. Savannah fell, then Charleston, and by the last of May, 1780, both Georgia and South Carolina were in the hands of the enemy, and Cornwallis was threatening North Carolina.
So great was the blow to the American cause from the loss of these Southern States, and so great the danger confronting North Carolina, that Congress ordered DeKalb, of the Continental line with the regulars from Maryland and Delaware to march to the rescue of the patriots in the South. General Gates, the reputed victor at Saratoga, was also ordered South, and put in command of the Southern forces.
For awhile the enemy remained quiet, Cornwallis delaying the devastation of South Carolina until the maturing crops should be safe. This respite gave the Carolinians time to collect their forces on the South Carolina border, in order to drive back the enemy.
Isaac Gregory, who in May, 1779, had been promoted to the office of Brigadier-General of the Edenton District, on the resignation of John Pugh Williams, was ordered to join General Caswell in South Carolina. As soon as he could collect his men, Gregory marched towards the Piedmont section, on his way to Caswell's army; and by June he was with Rutherford's Brigade at Yadkin's Ford in Rowan. Near this place the Tories had collected, some 800 strong; and Rutherford hoped, with Gregory's aid, to crush them. But to his disappointment, no opportunity was given, for General Bryan, the Tory leader, hearing of the defeat of the Loyalists at Ramseur's Mill a few days before, crossed the Yadkin and united with General MacArthur, whom Cornwallis had sent to Anson County.
By July 31 Gregory's men, with Rutherford and his brigade, were with General Caswell at The Cheraws, just across the South Carolina border. For several weeks there was much suffering among the men on account of the lack of food, for though corn was plentiful, the rivers were so high that the mills could not grind the meal.
Lord Rawdon's army was stationed near Camden, South Carolina, and Gates, who had joined Caswell on August 17, having learned that the British general was daily expecting a supply of food and stores for his men, determined to intercept the convoy and capture the supplies for his own army. In the meantime Cornwallis, unknown to Gates, had joined Lord Rawdon. Gates, ignorant of this reinforcement of Cornwallis' troops, marched leisurely towards Camden to capture the coveted stores.
The result of the battle that followed is known only too well. The American militia, panic-stricken at the furious onslaught of the enemy, threw down their arms and fled. General Gates, after a vain attempt to rally his troops, lost courage, and abandoning his forces and his stores, brought everlasting disgrace upon his name by fleeing in hot haste from the field.
But the cowardly conduct of Gates and several of the other officers of the American army, as well as many of the militia, in this disastrous battle, was offset by the heroism and courage of others; and among those who won undying fame on that fatal field, none is more worthy of praise than General Gregory.
Roger Lamb, a British officer, writing an account of the battle, and speaking of the disgraceful conduct of those officers and men whose flight from the field brought shame upon the American army, gives this account of Isaac Gregory's heroic struggle to withstand the enemy at this bloody field: "In justice to North Carolina, it should be remarked that General Gregory's brigade acquitted themselves well. They formed on the left of the Continentals, and kept the field while they had a cartridge left. Gregory himself was twice wounded by bayonets in bringing off his men, and many in his brigade had only bayonet wounds."
As to fight hand to hand with bayonets requires far more courage than to stand at a distance and fire a musket, this account of Gregory and his troops proves the bravery with which they fought during those terrible hours. General Gregory's horse was shot from under him while the battle was raging; and seeing him fall, so sure was the enemy of his death that Cornwallis in his official report of the battle, gave in his name in the list of the American officers killed on the field.
Two days after the battle of Camden, the patriots, Shelby, Clarke and Williams, defeated a band of Tories at Musgrove's Mill in South Carolina; but hearing of the disaster at Camden, these officers now withdrew from the State. Sumter's corps, near Rocky Mount, had been put to flight by Tarleton, Gates had fled the State, and only Davie's men were left between the army of Cornwallis and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Had the British General pressed on into the State, North Carolina must have inevitably fallen into the hands of the enemy. But Cornwallis delayed the invasion for nearly a month, thus giving the Carolinians time to collect their forces to repel his attempt.
The General Assembly which met in September, 1780, acting upon Governor Nash's advice, created a Board of War to assist him in conducting the military affairs of the State. This board now proceeded to put General Smallwood, of Maryland, in command of all the forces in the State, giving him authority over all the officers in the Southern army, the honor being conferred upon him on account of his gallant conduct at Camden. General Gregory was consequently ordered to hold himself in readiness to obey General Smallwood's orders, with the other officers in North Carolina.
The Board of War then proceeded to raise money, arms and men for the army that would soon be called upon to drive Cornwallis from the State. Gregory's brigade received $25,000 of the funds raised, and 150 flints and 15 guns were distributed among his soldiers.
The British now confidently expected that Cornwallis would quickly subdue North Carolina, then sweep over the State into Virginia. In order to prevent the Americans from hurrying into that State to join forces against Cornwallis, General Leslie was ordered from New York to the Chesapeake, and in October his army was stationed near South Quays in Virginia, not far from Norfolk.
The presence of Leslie's army so close to the Carolina border caused much alarm for the safety of the Albemarle section, which for the second time was in danger of invasion. General Gregory, who after the battle of Camden had joined Exum and Jarvis in front of Cornwallis, had recently returned to Albemarle. He was now ordered to take the field against Leslie, and to prevent him from entering the State. From his camp at Great Swamp, near North River, he wrote to Governor Nash in November, 1780, reporting the repulse of the enemy. He also warned the Governor that the British were planning to attack Edenton; and he set forth in his letter the blow that the capture of this town would be to the commerce of the State.
General Gregory's post at Great Swamp was no sinecure. He had only about 100 men to withstand Leslie, whose forces at Portsmouth amounted to nearly 1,000 men. His troops were poorly equipped, half naked, and ill-fed; and his situation seemed almost desperate. To add to his troubles, an attempt was made at this time by Colonel Blount, of the Edenton District, to deprive him of his command. But a Council of State, held at Camp Norfleet Mills to inquire into the matter, declared that as Colonel Blount had resigned of his own free will and accord—in favor of Gregory—he should not now take the command from him.
In spite of the troubles and perplexities that beset Gregory in the fall of 1780, he bravely held his ground; and by the end of November he wrote Governor Nash from his camp at North West that the British had abandoned Portsmouth, and had departed for parts unknown.
While these events were taking place in the East, Cornwallis, whose left wing under Ferguson had suffered a crushing defeat at King's Mountain, disappointed at the humbling of the Tories at that battle, had left North Carolina on October 12th, and returned to South Carolina. The heavy rains encountered by his army on his retreat caused much sickness among his men; and himself falling ill, he was obliged to give up his command temporarily to Lord Rawdon.
General Leslie's destination soon became known. On November 23 he had abandoned the vicinity of Norfolk, and had sailed to Wilmington, N.C., hoping to rouse the Tories in that section; but Lord Rawdon's army being now in great danger, Leslie was ordered to his assistance, and he accordingly set out for the British army near Camden. But Southern Virginia and the Albemarle region were not long to be free from the fear of invasion, for soon another British army under the command of the traitor, Benedict Arnold, sailed into Chesapeake Bay, and Gregory was again sent to keep the enemy in check.
During this campaign a serious charge was brought against Gregory, which, though soon proved to be wholly unfounded, caused the gallant officer life-long mortification and distress. The circumstances of this unfortunate occurrence were as follows:
Captain Stevens, a British officer in Arnold's corps, while sitting idly by his fire one night, "just for a joke," as he afterwards explained, wrote two notes to General Gregory, which he intended to destroy, as they were simply the product of his own imagination, and were never intended to go out of his hands.
In some unknown way these papers came into the hands of an American officer, who, deeming from their contents that Gregory was a traitor, carried them to headquarters. Their purport being made public, even Gregory's most loyal friends began to look upon him with suspicion and distrust.
The first of these two notes was as follows:
"Your well-formed plans of delivering into the hands of the British these people now in your command, gives me much pleasure. Your next, I hope, will mention place of ambuscade, and manner you wish to fall into my hands."
The second note was equally incriminating:
"A Mr. Ventriss was last night made prisoner by three or four of your people. I only wish to inform you that Ventriss could not help doing what he did in helping to destroy the logs. I myself delivered him the order from Colonel Simcox."
Great was the excitement and consternation in Gregory's brigade, and indeed throughout the American army when these notes were read. Arnold's treason early in 1780 was still fresh in the minds of all; and it was natural that the accusation now brought against General Gregory should find ready and widespread credence. Gregory was arrested and court-martialed by his own men; but his innocence was soon established, for as soon as Colonel Stevens heard of the disgrace he had unintentionally brought upon an innocent man, he hastened to make amends for his thoughtless act by a full explanation of his part in the affair. Colonel Parker, a British officer and a friend of Stevens, had been informed of the writing of the notes, and he now joined Stevens in furnishing testimony at the trial that fully exonerated the brave general from the hateful charge. But though friends and brother officers now crowded around him with sincere and cordial congratulations upon the happy termination of the affair, and with heartfelt expressions of regret at the unfortunate occurrence, the brave and gallant officer, crushed and almost heart-broken at the readiness with which his men and many of his fellow officers had accepted what seemed proofs of his guilt, never recovered from the hurt caused by the cruel charge. For though he nobly put aside his just resentment, and remained at his post of duty, guarding the Albemarle counties from danger of invasion until the withdrawal of the British troops from southeastern Virginia removed the danger, his life was ever afterwards shadowed by the mortification he had been called upon to undergo.
In February, 1781, the enemy's army in Virginia became such a source of terror to the people of that section that General Allen Jones was ordered to reinforce Gregory with troops from the Halifax District. But later that same month a greater danger confronted the patriot army in the South, and this order was countermanded. Most of the forces in the States were now hurried to the aid of General Greene, who had superseded Gates after the battle of Camden, and was leading Cornwallis an eventful chase across the Piedmont section of North Carolina. Cornwallis, after having been reinforced by General Leslie, had planned to invade North Carolina, conquer that State, march through Virginia and join Clinton in a fierce onslaught against Washington's army in the North. To foil the plans of the British officers Greene was concentrating the patriot troops in the South in the Catawba Valley, and Gregory was left with only a handful of men to hold the enemy at Norfolk in check.
In June, General Gregory's situation was so desperate that the Assembly again ordered General Allan Jones to send 400 men from Halifax District to North West Bridge to reinforce Gregory; and the latter officer was authorized to draft as many men as possible from the Edenton District.
General Jones informed the Assembly that he would send the troops as soon as possible, but that Gregory would have to provide arms, as he had no means of furnishing equipments for them.
Several engagements took place in June between the British and Americans in the Dismal Swamp region, and in one of them Gregory was repulsed and driven from his position. But in July he wrote to Colonel Blount reporting that his losses were trifling, and that he had regained his old post from the enemy. In August, 1781, a letter from General Gregory conveyed the joyful tidings that the enemy had evacuated Portsmouth. As his troops were no longer needed to guard against the danger of invasion from that direction, and as smallpox had broken out in his camp, General Gregory now released his men from duty, and they returned to their homes.
The British army that had just left Portsmouth, was now on its way to Yorktown, whither Cornwallis, after his fruitless chase of Greene, his disastrous victory at Guilford Courthouse, and his retreat to Wilmington, was now directing his army. There on the 19th of October the famous Battle of Yorktown was fought and Cornwallis and his entire army forced to surrender.
This battle virtually ended the war; but peace did not come to Carolina immediately upon the surrender. The Tories in the State kept up a constant warfare upon their Whig neighbors, and in March, 1782, General Greene, who not long after the battle of Guilford Courthouse had won a decisive victory at Eutaw Springs, and was still in South Carolina, sent the alarming intelligence to the towns on the coast that the British had sent four vessels from Charleston harbor to plunder and burn New Bern and Edenton. To meet this unexpected emergency, General Rutherford was ordered to quell the Tories in the Cape Fear section, who were terrorizing the people in that region. And in April, 1782, General Gregory received orders from General Burke to take 500 men to Edenton for the defense of that town, and to notify Count de Rochambeau as soon as the enemy should appear in Albemarle Sound. In August no sign of the British ships had as yet been seen, though the coast towns were still in daily dread of their arrival. Governor Martin, who had succeeded Burke, wrote Gregory to purchase whatever number of vessels the Edenton merchants considered necessary for the protection of the town, to buy cannon and to draft men to man the boats.
But Edenton was spared the horror of a second raid such as she had suffered in 1781. In December, 1782, the British army in South Carolina, which since the battle of Eutaw Springs had been hemmed in at Charleston by General Greene, finally embarked for England. The ships that had been keeping the towns near the coast in North Carolina in terror, departed with them, and the States that had for so many long and bitter years been engaged in the terrific struggle with England, were left to enjoy the fruits of their splendid victory without further molestation from the enemy.
In September, 1783, the Treaty of Peace was signed by Great Britain, and the United States, separately and individually, were declared to be "free, sovereign and independent States."
General Gregory's services to his State did not end with the war. Eight times from 1778 to 1789, we find him representing Camden County in the State Senate, serving on important committees, and lending the weight of his influence to every movement tending toward the prosperity and welfare of the State. In the local affairs of his neighborhood he also took a prominent part. In 1789 the Currituck Seminary was established at Indian Town, and Isaac Gregory and his friend and brother officer, Colonel Peter Dauge, were appointed on the board of trustees of this school, which for many years was one of the leading educational institutions of the Albemarle section.
General Gregory lived at the Ferebee place in Camden County in a large brick house, known then, as now, as Fairfax Hall. The old building is still standing, a well known landmark in the county.
A letter from James Iredell to his wife, written while this famous North Carolina judge was a guest at Fairfax, gives a pleasant account of an evening spent in General Gregory's home with Parson Pettigrew and Gideon Lamb, and also of the kindness and hospitality of the Camden people.
In volume 2 of the Iredell letters this description of General Gregory's personal appearance is given:
"A lady, who remembers General Gregory well, says that he was a large, fine looking man. He was exceedingly polite, had a very grand air, and in dress was something of a fop." In the same volume the following interesting account of an incident in the life of the famous General is found: "General Gregory lived in his latter years so secluded a life and knew so little of events beyond his own family circle, that he addressed to a lady, the widow of Governor Stone, a letter making a formal proposal of marriage, full six months after her death."
General Isaac Gregory was the son of General William Gregory, an officer who took a prominent part in the French and Indian Wars. He married Miss Elizabeth Whedbee, and had two children, Sarah and Matilda. Sarah married Dempsey Burgess, of Camden, and Matilda married a young German, John Christopher Ehringhaus. Many of the descendants of this brave Revolutionary officer are living in the Albemarle region to-day, and claim with pride this ancestor, who, as Captain Ashe in his History of North Carolina says, "was one of the few who won honor at Camden, and whose good fame was never tarnished by a single unworthy action."
The Sir Walter Raleigh Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution have within the past year obtained from the United States government a simple stone which they have had placed to mark the grave of this gallant officer, who lies buried in the family graveyard at Fairfax.
PERQUIMANS COUNTY—"LAND OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN," AND THE COLONIAL TOWN OF HERTFORD
From its hidden source in the southern fringe of the far-famed Dismal Swamp, the Perquimans River, lovely as its Indian name, which, being interpreted, signifies "the land of beautiful women," comes winding down. Past marshes green with flags and rushes and starred with flowers of every hue, through forests dense with pine and cypress, with gum and juniper, the amber waters of the ancient stream pursue their tranquil way. Lazily, but steadily and untiringly, the river journeys on in obedience to the eternal, insistent call of the sea, till its waves, meeting and mingling with those of the great sound and its numerous tributaries, finally find their way through the sand bars that bound our coast, to the stormy Atlantic.
Save for the fields of corn and cotton that lie along its banks, and an occasional sawmill whose whirring wheels break at long intervals the silence of its wooded shores, the peaceful river through the greater part of its way is undisturbed by signs of man's presence. Only twice in its course do its banks resound to the hum of town and village life, once when shortly emerging from the Great Swamp, the river in its winding flows by the sleepy little Quaker village of Belvidere; and again when its tranquility is suddenly broken by the stir and bustle of mill and factory, upon whose existence depends the prosperity of the old colonial town of Hertford. There, the river, suddenly as wide awake as the beautiful town by which it flows, changes its narrow, tortuous, leisurely course, and broadening out from a slender stream, sweeps on to the sea, a river grown, whose shores from this point on lie apart from each other a distance of more than a mile.
Of all the streams that flow down to the sea from Albemarle, none exceeds in beauty or historic interest the lovely Perquimans River. On its eastern banks lies Durant's Neck, the home of George Durant, the first settler in our State, who in 1661 left his Virginia home and came into Albemarle; and being well pleased with the beauty and fertility of fair Wikacome, was content to abide thenceforth in that favored spot.
On the banks of the streams flowing on either side of Wikacome, roamed an Indian tribe, the Yeopims, whose great chief Kilcokonen gave to George Durant the first deed for land ever recorded in our State. Durant, his friend and comrade, Samuel Pricklove, and their families and servants, proved to be the vanguard of a long procession of settlers, who, following the footsteps of these first pioneers, made their homes upon the shores of the Albemarle streams. Soon the dense forests that stretched down to the river brinks fell beneath the axe of these home-seekers, and small farms and great plantations fringed the borders of the streams.
At the narrows of the Perquimans, where the waters widen into a broad, majestic river, a sturdy pioneer, Henry Phillips (or Phelps) had built his home. Thither in the spring of 1672, came a missionary, William Edmundson, a friend and follower of George Fox, who some years before had over in England founded the Society of Friends. Henry Phelps was a member of this Society also, and the meeting between the two godly men was a joyful one.
During the ten years that had passed since the Indian Chief had signed his first grant of land to the white man, the settlers of Albemarle had had no opportunity of assembling together for public worship. Phelps, knowing how gladly the call would be answered, at the bidding of Edmundson, summoned such of his friends and neighbors as he could reach, to his home, to hear the Word preached by this zealous man of God.
Not since the days of little Virginia Dare had a body of Christian men and women met together in Carolina to offer in public worship their prayer and praises to the loving Father, who had led them safely over storm-tossed waters, through tangled wilderness, into this Land of Promise. Rough and uncultured as most of the congregation were, they listened quietly and reverently to the good missionary, and received the Word with gladness. There were present at the meeting "one Tems and his wife," who earnestly entreated Edmundson to hold another service at their home three miles away. So the next day he journeyed to the home of Tems, and there another "blessed meeting" was held; and there was founded a Society whose members were to be for many years the most prominent religious body in the State.
In the fall of 1672, the hearts of the members of this infant church were gladdened by the tidings that George Fox himself was on his way to visit the little band of brethren in the wilds of Carolina. One cool, crisp October morning, the great preacher arrived. Again was the home of Phelps chosen for the meeting; but so great was the crowd that gathered to hear him that the house would not hold the congregation. Standing a little distance from Phelps' simple dwelling were two great cypress trees. Close down by the water's edge they grew, their feathery branches shading the rippling waves, and shielding the listeners from the glare of a sun whose rays had not yet lost their summer's heat. Under one of these trees the preacher stood, and spoke to the assembled crowd as the Spirit gave him utterance. It was a "tender meeting," as Fox reports in his letters describing his stay in Perquimans. Many who were present became converts to the faith of Fox and Edmundson; and Perquimans County and her sister, Pasquotank, became for many years the stronghold of the Society of Friends in Carolina.
For a number of years after George Fox's visit to Perquimans, the Quakers were the only religious body in the colony that regularly assembled its members together for divine service. Their ministers were for the most part from the congregation itself; no salary was demanded by them; and the home of some Friends was the scene of their religious meetings. In a new country where ready money is a scarce commodity, a church that could be conducted without any expenditure of cash could more easily take root, than one whose existence depended upon a certain amount, however small, of filthy lucre.
The Lords Proprietors, members for the most part of the Church of England, were too intent upon extracting wealth from their colony in Carolina to be willing to expend any of their gains for the good of the colonists. Disregarding the petitions of their officers in Albemarle, who saw the great need for missionaries in the struggling settlements, they refused to become responsible for the salary of a minister.
But after a while the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts took hold of the matter, and in 1702 a church was built in Chowan, near where Edenton now stands. By 1709 Rev. Mr. Gordon, who was one of the two ministers sent out by the S.P.G., writes to the secretary of the Society from Perquimans:
"In Perquimans there is a compact little church, built with care and express, and better than that in Chowan. It continues yet unfinished, by reason of the death of Major Swann, 1707, who fostered the building of this church."
Among the vestrymen of this new parish may be found the following names: Francis Forbes, Colonel Maurice Moore, Captain Hecklefield, Thomas Hardy, Captain Richard Saunderson, Henry Clayton, Joseph Jessups, Samuel Phelps and Richard Whedbee. Most of these gentlemen were men of note in the colony, and many of their descendants are now living in Perquimans County.
That the wealthy planters in Albemarle felt a certain responsibility for the spiritual welfare of their slaves, was shown by the fact that master and slave alike gathered together to join in the services held by the early missionaries of the Church of England; and that the master willingly allowed his servant to share in the blessings of the sacraments of the church. A letter from Rev. Mr. Taylor, written from Perquimans in 1719, records that he had just "baptized a young woman, slave of Mr. Duckinfield, to whom I have taught the whole of the church catechism."
But the letter further reveals that our early colonists cherished their worldly possessions fully as fondly as their descendants, who pursue with avidity the chase after the dollar. And when it came to the question of the slave's spiritual welfare, or the master's temporal prosperity, the master did not hesitate to show which he considered of the most importance. For, as Mr. Taylor writes, when it was rumored in 1719 that the General Assembly of that year had decreed that all baptized slaves should be set free; and when, immediately, and by a strange coincidence, the reverend gentleman was suddenly besieged by bands of men and women, all loudly clamoring to receive the rite of holy baptism, Duckinfield and others of the planters prudently restrained the poor darkies from entering the church's folds until that law could be repealed.
In secular as well as religious affairs, Perquimans precinct in those early days took an active part. Men of political and social prominence resided within her borders, and at their homes, for lack of other shelter for public gatherings, much of the business of the colony, legislative and judicial, was transacted.
As early as 1677 the population of Albemarle had grown so numerous that the settlers found themselves strong enough to successfully resist the oppressive rule of the unworthy governors set over them by the Lords Proprietors. And in that year, led by John Culpeper and George Durant, a revolt against the tyrannical Miller, which began in Pasquotank, spread through the surrounding precincts.
Among the men from Perquimans who took part in this disturbance, known in history as Culpeper's Rebellion, were George Durant, Alexander Lillington, Samuel Pricklove, Jenkins, Sherrell and Greene. So successfully did they and their comrades strive against Miller's tyranny, that that worthy was driven out of Carolina, and the reins of government fell into the hands of Culpeper and Durant. And at the home of the latter on Durant's Neck, a fair and equitable people's government was organized, the first of the kind framed in America.
Alexander Lillington, who lent the weight of his wealth and influence to the people in their struggle against Miller, was a rich planter who in 1698 bought a tract of land from Stephen Pane and John Foster, on Yeopim Creek, and soon became one of the leading men in the colony. His descendants moved to New Hanover, and a namesake of his in later years won for himself undying fame at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge.
At the homes of Captain John Hecklefield and Captain Richard Saunderson, the General Assembly and the Governor's Council often convened. The famous Glover-Cary controversy was temporarily settled at the home of the former, by the Assembly of 1708, while Captain Saunderson's dwelling sheltered the Assembly of 1715, whose important acts were for the first time formally recorded and published. The courts were frequently held at the home of Dinah Maclenden, and James Thickpenny. James Oates, Captain James Cole and Captain Anthony Dawson also bore their share in entertaining the judicial assemblies.
As the population of the colony increased, facilities for carrying on commerce and for traveling through the country became one of the crying needs of the day. The numerous rivers of Albemarle made provision for ferries imperative, and as early as 1700, we find record made of "Ye ferre over ye mane road" in Perquimans. In 1706 it is recorded that Samuel Phelps was appointed "Keeper of ye Toll Boke at ye Head of Perquimans River."
A council held at the home of Captain Saunderson in 1715 ordered: "That for the better convenience of people passing through the country, a good and sufficient ferry be duly kept and attended over Perquimans River, from Mrs. Anne Wilson's to James Thickpenny, and that Mrs. Wilson do keep the same, and that no other persons presume to ferry over horse or man within five miles above or below that place."
As time went on, the crowds attending the courts and Assemblies became too large to be accommodated in private dwellings. As early as 1722, the General Assembly ordered a court-house to be built at Phelps Point, now the town of Hertford, and tradition states that the old building was erected on the point near the bridge, where the home of Mr. Thomas McMullan now stands.
One of the most interesting spots in Perquimans County is the strip of land lying between the Perquimans and the Yeopim rivers, known as Harvey's Neck. This was the home of the Harveys, men who for over a century bore an important part in the history of our State. It was in older days, as now, a fair and fertile land. Herds of deer wandered through its forests; and great flocks of swan and wild geese floated upon its silver streams, feeding upon the sweet grass which then grew in those rivers. The waters were then salt, but with the choking up of the inlets that let in the saline waves of the Atlantic, the grass disappeared, and with it the wild fowl who wintered there.
Of all the members of the famous Harvey family whose homes were builded on this spot, none proved more worthy of the fame he won than John Harvey, son of Thomas Harvey and Elizabeth Coles.
Elected when just of age to the Assembly of 1746, he continued to serve his State in a public capacity until his death in 1775.
Resisting the tyrannical endeavor of Governor Dobbs to tax the people against their rights, he nevertheless stood by the same governor in his efforts to raise men and money for the French and Indian War. Serving as Speaker of the House in 1766, he took an active part in opposing the Stamp Act, and boldly declared in the Assembly that North Carolina would not pay those taxes. In the Assembly of 1769 he proposed that Carolina should form a Non-Importation Association; and when Governor Tryon thereupon angrily dismissed the Assembly and ordered its members home, Harvey called a convention independent of the Governor, and the association was formed.
When Governor Martin refused to call the Assembly of 1774, for fear that it would elect delegates to the Continental Congress, John Harvey declared: "Then the people will call an Assembly themselves"; and following their intrepid leader, the people did call the convention of 1774, elected their delegates to Philadelphia, and openly and boldly joined and led their sister colonies in the gigantic struggle with the mother country that now began.
In the time of Boston's need, when her ports were closed by England's orders, and her people were threatened with starvation, John Harvey and Joseph Hewes together caused the ship "Penelope" to be loaded with corn and meal, flour and pork, which they solicited from the generous people of Albemarle, and sent it with words of cheer and sympathy to their brethren in the New England town. In 1775 Harvey again braved the anger of the Royal Governor and called another people's convention, whose purpose and work was to watch and circumvent the tyrant in his endeavor to crush the patriots in the State.
"The Father of the Revolution" in Carolina, he was to his native State what Patrick Henry was to Virginia, in the early days of the Revolution, and what Hancock and Adams were to Massachusetts. His untimely death, in 1775, caused by a fall from a horse, was deeply mourned by patriots throughout the land.
Among other eminent sons of Perquimans during the Revolutionary period the names of Miles Harvey, Colonel of the regiment from that county; William Skinner, Lieutenant-Colonel of the same regiment; Thomas Harvey, Major, and Major Richard Clayton, are recorded in history. Among the delegates to the People's Convention called by Harvey and Johnston we find the Harveys, Whedbees, Blounts, Skinners and Moores, men whose names were prominent then as now in the social and political life of the State.
As time went on, Phelps Point at the Narrows of the Perquimans River became so thickly populated that by June, 1746, a petition was presented to the General Assembly, praying for an act to be passed to lay out 100 acres of land in Perquimans, including Phelps Point, for a town and a town commons.
But a disturbance arose in the State about that time concerning the right of the northern counties to send five delegates each to the Assembly, while the southern counties were allowed to send only two. Governor Gabriel Johnson sided with the southern section, and ordered the Assembly to meet at Wilmington in November, 1746, on which occasion he and the southern delegates proposed to make a strong fight to reduce the representation from the Albemarle counties.
The northern counties, tenaciously clinging to their rights, established in the early days of the colony when the counties south of Albemarle Sound had not been organized, refused to send delegates to this Assembly; whereupon that body, though a majority of its members were absent, passed an act reducing the representation from the Albemarle region to two members from each county. Indignant at this act, which they considered illegal, the citizens in the northern counties refused to subscribe to it, and for eight years declined to send any delegates at all to the Assembly; and the bill for establishing a town in Perquimans was heard from no more until the trouble between the two sections was settled.
Finally the people of Albemarle sent a petition to George III, praying him to restore their rights in the General Assembly, and the King graciously granted their request. In 1758 an Assembly met at New Bern, at which delegates from all sections of the colony were present; and in answer to a petition presented by John Harvey, it passed an act for the erection of a town at Phelps Point in Perquimans County.
The little village was called Hertford, a word of Saxon origin, signifying Red Ford. It was named for the Marquis of Hertford, an English noble who moved for the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, and who was ambassador at Paris in the reign of George III, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
The settlement at Phelps Point was already an important rendezvous for the dwellers in the county. The cypress trees under which Fox had stood and preached to the little band of brethren still stood, as they stand to-day, bending lovingly over the stream, close to the end of the point. A little Church of England chapel farther down had since 1709 been the center of the religious life of its members in the county, and the court-house on the point since 1722 had been the scene of the political and judicial gatherings in Perquimans.
The Assembly of 1762, realizing the importance of the little town to the community, decreed that a public ferry should be established "from Newby's Point to Phelp's Point where the court-house now stands," and in 1766 Seth Sumner, William Skinner, Francis Nixon, John Harvey and Henry Clayton were appointed trustees of the ferry; a three-penny tax was laid on all taxable persons to defray the expenses of the ferry, and "All persons crossing to attend vestry meetings, elections, military musters, court martials and sessions of the court" were to be carried over free of charge.
The site of the town, described in Colonial Records as "healthy, pleasantly situated, well watered and commodious for commerce," was the property of John Phelps, who gave his consent to the laying off of 100 acres for the town on condition that he should retain his own house and lot, and four lots adjoining him. The public ferry having fallen into his hands, the further condition was made that the town should allow no ferry other than his to be run so long as he complied with the ferry laws. The subscribers for the lots were ordered to build within three years, one well-framed or brick house at least 16 feet square; and in one month from purchase, were to pay the trustees the sum of 45 shillings for each lot.
As early as 1754, before the little settlement began to assume the airs of a town, the old Eagle Tavern still standing on Church street, was a registered hotel; and there when court week appeared on the calendar, the representative men of the county and the surrounding precincts would gather.
Quiet Quaker folk from Piney Woods, eight miles down from Newby's Point, Whites and Nicholsons, Albertsons, Newbys and Symmes, jogged along the country roads behind their sleek, well-fed nags, to answer with serene yea or nay the questions asked on witness stand or in jury room. Powdered and bewigged judge and lawyer, high and mighty King's officers from Edenton or New Bern, or Bath, brilliant in gay uniform, rolled ponderously thither in cumbersome coaches. Leaving their great plantations on the adjoining necks in the hands of their overseers, Harveys and Skinners, Blounts and Whedbees, Winslows and Gordons, Nixons and Woods and Leighs, dashed up to the doors of the tavern on spirited steeds. Hospitable townsfolk hurried to and fro, greeting the travelers, and causing mine host of the inn much inward concern, lest their cordial invitation lure from his door the guest whose bill he could see, in his mind's eye, pleasantly lengthen, as the crowded court docket slowly cleared.
Very sure were the guests at the tavern that horse and man would be well cared for by the genial landlord; for the law required that the host of Eagle Tavern should give ample compensation for the gold he pocketed. When business was ended, the strangers within his gates wended their way homeward. No skimping of the bill of fare, no inattention to the comfort of the wayfarer did the landlord dare allow, lest his license be taken from him for violation of the tavern laws.
Many an illustrious guest the ancient inn has known, and a story cherished by the Hertford people ascribes to the quaint old structure the honor of having on one occasion sheltered beneath its roof the illustrious "Father of his Country," George Washington.
Whether our first President came to Hertford on business connected with lands in the Dismal Swamp in which he was interested, or whether he tarried at the old tavern while on his triumphal journey through the South in 1791, no one now knows, but the room is still shown, and the tale still told of the great man's stay therein.
Diagonally across the street from the Eagle Tavern, at the end of the yard enclosing the old Harvey home, may be seen two great stones which are said to mark the grave of a mighty Indian chief. Possibly Kilcokonen, friend of George Durant, lies buried there. The Hertford children in olden days, when tales of ghost and goblin were more readily believed than they are to-day, used to thrill with delicious fear whenever in the dusk of the evening they passed the spot, and warily they would step over the stones, half-dreading, half-hoping to see, as legend said was possible, the spirit of the old warrior rise from the grave, swinging his gory tomahawk and uttering his blood-chilling war cry.
During the long years that have passed since the white man came into Albemarle, old Perquimans has borne an enviable part in making the history of our State.
Hertford itself felt little of the fury of the storm of the War of Secession, though during the awful cataclysm the peaceful Perquimans was often disturbed by the gunboats of the Northern Army. One brief battle was fought in the town, in which one man was killed on each side. And the old residents still love to boast of the heroism shown by the courageous Hertford women, who, while the skirmish was going on, came out on their piazzas, and, heedless of the shot and shell flying thick and fast around them, cheered on the soldiers battling to defend their homes.
A ball from one of the gunboats on the river, while this skirmish was taking place, went through one of the houses down near the shore and tore the covering from the bed on which the mistress of the house had just been lying.
The cruel war at last was over, the darker days of Reconstruction passed heavily and stressfully by; the South began to recover from the ruin wrought by the awful struggle and its aftermath; and in the quiet years that followed, the Spirit of God brooded over her rivers, hills and plains, and brought peace and prosperity to the troubled land. Her farms were tilled again, the wheels of mills and factories were set whirling, and new business enterprises offered to the laboring man opportunities to earn a fair living.
And the old colonial town of Hertford, sharing with her sister towns and cities in the Southland the prosperity for which her children for many weary, painful years had so bravely and manfully striven, sees the dawn of a new day, bright with the promise of a happy future for her sons and daughters.
CURRITUCK, THE HAUNT OF THE WILD FOWL
Currituck County is known the country over as the sportsman's paradise. Thither when the first sharp frost gives warning that the clear autumn skies will soon be banked with gray snow clouds, the wild fowl from the far North come flocking. And as the swift-winged procession skims through the starry skies, and the hoarse cry of the aerial voyagers resounds over head, then do the dwellers in eastern Albemarle know for a surety that the year is far spent, and the winter days close at hand.
Guided by unerring instinct, the feathered tribes of the North pursue "through the boundless sky their certain flight" till the shallow waters of Currituck Sound and its reedy shores greet their eager sight. There they find the wild celery and other aquatic plants upon which they love to feed, growing in abundance; and there they make their winter home "and rest and scream among their fellows," preferring the risk of death at the hands of the sportsman to the certain starvation that would confront them in their native Arctic clime.
Vast as are to-day the clouds of wild fowl that every year descend upon the shores and waters of Currituck, their numbers were far greater in years long gone, before the white man with shot and gun came roving among the reedy marshes. Long before George Durant's advent into the State, the Indians with that aptness for nomenclature for which they are noted, had given to this haunt of the wild fowl the name of "Coretonk," or Currituck, as now called, in imitation of the cry of the feathered visitors.
But not alone as the winter home of the winged creatures of the Northern wilds was Currituck noted in the early days of our State. This county, formerly much larger than it is to-day, for many years embraced the region known as Dare County, and to Currituck belongs the distinction of having once included within its borders the spot upon which Raleigh's colonies tried to establish their homes.
The history of that event is too well known to bear repetition. The story of Amadas' and Barlowe's expedition, of Ralph Lane's bold adventures in exploration of Albemarle Sound, Chowan River and Chesapeake Bay, of the return of his disappointed colony to England in Drake's vessels, and the tragic fate of little Virginia Dare and of John White's colony, have all been told in fiction, song and verse.
The failure of Raleigh's colonies to establish a permanent settlement in the New World discouraged the English for many years from making any further attempts to settle America. From 1590, the date of Governor White's return to Roanoke, and of his unsuccessful search for the "lost colony," that lovely island for many years disappears from the white man's gaze; and save for a few scattered, unrecorded settlements in northern Albemarle, Carolina itself was almost unknown to the world.
But in September, 1654, according to the Colonial Records, a young fur trader from Virginia had the misfortune to lose his sloop in which he was about to embark for the purpose of trading with the Indians in the Albemarle country. For reasons not stated he supposed she had gone to Roanoke, so he hired a small boat, and with three companions set out in search of the runaway vessel. "They entered at Coratoke Inlet, ten miles to the north of Cape Henry," so reads the ancient chronicle, "and so went to Roanoke Island, where, or near thereabouts, they found the Great Commander of those parts with his Indians a-hunting, who received them civilly and showed them the ruins of Sir Walter Raleigh's fort, from which I received a sure token of their being there."
A few months before this journey of the young fur trader, Charles II had bestowed upon eight of his favorites all the territory in America lying between the thirty-first and thirty-sixth parallels of latitude, a princely gift indeed, and worthy of the loyal friends who had devoted their lives and fortunes to the Stuart cause during the dark days when that cause seemed hopelessly lost. This grant embraced the land adjacent to the north shore of Albemarle Sound, and extending to Florida; but it failed to include a strip of territory about thirty miles broad, lying between the thirty-sixth degree and the Virginia line. In this fertile region George Durant and other settlers had as early as 1661 established their homes, buying from Kilcokonen, the great Chief of the Yeopims, their right to the lands; and there these hardy pioneers were swiftly converting the primeval wilderness into fertile and productive fields.