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Last Updated 05/24/00

The Natural History of North-Carolina.
With an Account of the Trade, Manners, and Customs of the
Christian and Indian Inhabitants,
Illustrated with Copper-Plates, whereon are Curiously Engraved the Map of the
Country, several strange Beasts, Birds, Fishes, Snakes, Insects, Trees, and Plants, &c.

John Brickell (Dublin, 1737).


                                        The Natural History of N.C.

THE Province of North Carolina is separated from Virginia by a due West Line from Currituck Inlet, in 36 Degrees and 30 Minutes of Northern Latitude, extending Indefinitely Westward, and from thence to the Southward, including South Carolina, as far as 29 Degrees North.

The Eastern Parts of this Country are hemmed in with a great number of Islands and Sand Banks, which defend it from the violence of the Atlantick Ocean; by which Barrier, a vast Sound is formed, and inclosed, which fronts the Mouths of the most pleasant and navigable Rivers, in this spacious and delightful Country. There are vast numbers of Creeks on the sides of these Rivers, and most of them Navigable for small Crofts, and abundance for Vessels of larger Burthen.

Between these Islands and Sand Banks, are Inlets of several depths of Water, some admitting only of Sloops, Scooners, Brigantines, and Vessels of small Burthen, and such are Currituck Inlet, New Inlet, Roanoke, Gun Inlet, Hatteras, New Inlet, Huntington-quarter Inlet, Drum Inlet, Bogue Inlet, Bear Inlet, Brown’s Inlet, Little Inlet, New River Inlet, Stumpy Inlet, Sandy Inlet, Rich Inlet, Barren Inlet, Broad Inlet, Shole Inlet, Cabbage Inlet, Wachestau Inlet, Wahacau Inlet, and North Inlet: many of these being only Navigable for Periaugers and small Crofts, by reason of their many Shoals which are continually shifting by the violence of Storms, and particularly, North East Winds, to which they are mostly exposed. Others are large and deep, and receive Ships of Burthen, such are Ocacok, Beaufort, or Topsail Inlet, and Cape Fear.

I will here give an Account of the most considerable Inlets and Havens of this Country. And first, Currituck Inlet, it being the Northermost of this Province, it lyes in the Latitude of 36 Degrees and 30 Minutes, and the Course over it is S. W. by W. having not above seven or eight Foot Water on the Barr, though a good Harbour when you are over, where you may ride safe and deep enough. But this part of the Sound is so full of Shoals, continually shifting, and Oyster Banks, as not to suffer any thing except Periaugers to Trade through it to Vessels that ride near the Inlet, it not being Navigable or safe for any Croft that draws above four or five Foot at most, to pass through it, which renders it very incommodious for Trade.

Roanoke Inlet, lyes in the Latitude of 35 Degrees and 50 Minutes, and has about ten Foot and a half Water upon the Barr; the Course over it is almost West, which brings you through the best of the Channel. This Barr, as well Currituck, often shifts by the violence of the N. E. Storms; both these Inlets lying exposed to the said Winds. Notwithstanding a considerable Trade is carried on by the Assistance of Pilots, this part of the Country being very Fertile, and the Planters Rich.

Hatteras Inlet lyes in the Latitude of 35 Degrees and 20 Minutes, it lyes to the Westward of the Cape, round which is an excellent Harbour, when the Wind blows hard a N. or N. E. If you keep a small League from the Cape Point, you will have three, four, or five Fathom Water, the outermost Shoals lying about seven or eight Leagues from the Shoar. As you come into the Inlet, keep close to the South Breakers, till you are over, whereon you may have two Fathom at low Water. You may come to an Anchor at two Fathom and a half; when you are over, then steer close aboard the North Shoar, where is four Fathom close to a Point of Marsh; then steer up the Sound a long League, till you bring the North Cape of the Inlet to S. S. E. half E. then steer W. N. W. the last Point of the Bluff Land at Hutteras, bearing E. N. E. the Southermost large Hamock, towards Ocacock, bearing S. S. W. half S. then you are in the Sound, over the Barr of Sand, whereon is but six Foot Water, then your Course to Pamticoe is almost West.

It flows on these three Barrs S. E. by E. ¾ E. about Eight of the Clock, unless there is a very hard Gale of Wind at N. E. which will make it flow two Hours longer, but as soon as the Winds are down, the Tides will have their natural Course. A hard Gale at N. N. W. will make the Waters Ebb sometimes 24 Hours, but still the Tides will Ebb and Flow, though not seen by the turning thereof, but may be observ’d by the rising of the Waters, and falling of the same at the Shoars.

Ocacock Inlet lyes in the Latitude of 35 Degrees 8 Minutes. It is one of the best Inlets in this Country, having thirteen Foot at low Water upon the Barr. There are two Channels, One is but narrow, and lyes close aboard the South Cape; the Other in the middle, viz. Between the middle Ground and the South Shoar, and is above half a Mile wide. The Barr itself is but half a Cables length over; then you are in 7 or 8 Fathom Water, and an excellent good Harbour. The Course into the Sound is N. N. W. at High Water, and Neip Tides here is 18 Foot Water. It lies S. W. from Hatteras Inlet.

Port Beaufort, or Topsail Inlet, lyes in the latitude 34 Degrees and 44 Minutes, and is above two Leagues to the Westward of Cape Look-out, where you have a fair Channel over the Barr, and two Fathom Water thereon, and a good Harbour, in five or six Fathom, to come to an Anchor. Your Course over this Barr is almost N. W.

Cape Fear Inlet lyes in the Latitude of 33 Degrees 53 Minutes; it is the best in all North Carolina, where you have 7 Fathom Water at the Barr. You have likewise a fine Harbour, and can come with safety to an Anchor 5 or 6 Leagues up the River.

And notwithstanding it is so commodious for Navigation, yet few or no Planters settled here till within these few Years, but now in all Appearance, it seems to be the most rising Part of all this Province; there being now many Substantial Planters settled there, and are become very Rich within the space of Nine or Ten Years, it being little frequented or inhabited before that Time, viz. in the Year 1723.

Most of the other Inlets that I have already mentioned, are so very incommodious for Trade, that there are little frequented or resorted to, except it be by small Crofts and Periaugers. I shall therefore omit giving any further Account of them.

North Carolina has some considerable Promontories or Capes in it: That Cape called Hatteras, is the most Northern of this Province, it lyes in the Latitude of 35 Degrees and 20 Minutes, Longitude 75. Cape Look-out, is the largest in this Province, extending a great way into the Main Ocean, and is about two Leagues to the Northward or Mouth of Topsail Inlet, in the Latitude of 34 Degrees and 46 Minutes, Longitude 75, 50. Cape Fear lyes at the Mouth of the Inlet in the Latitude of 33 Degrees and 53 Minutes, Longitude 77, 20. Cape Carterett is part of South Carolina, and is the Northermost Promontorie in that Province, lying to the Southward of Santee River in Latitude 32 of Degrees, and 50 Minutes, Longitude 77, 55. Within these Capes is a very large Sound, with abundance of Islands of several Sizes, abounding with various kinds of Timber Trees, many whereof are fine Cedar, with variety of Wild Beasts, especially Deer, and great Quantities of Birds, according to the Seasons of the Year, but there are scarce any of them inhabited by Christian Planters at present.

I shall in the next Place proceed to give an Account of the Rivers that are to be met with in this Province; many whereof are very considerable and large, running for several hundred Miles, and taking their Rise for the most part in or near the Mountains, others are but small in comparison with the former, as may be seen by the Map.

I shall therefore begin with the most Northerly, and so proceed to the most Southerly. And first, Black-Water, or North River, which falls into Currituck Sound, North River, Pasquotanck River, Little River, Pequimans River, and Yaupin River, all these Water and Adorn the Southern Parts of Virginia, and Northern Parts of this Province, which are very Fertile. Most of these Rivers being Navigable for Sloops, Brigantines, and other Vessels of Burthen.

Chowan River likewise Waters the North Parts of this Province, and part of Virginia, and is very considerable in these Parts; the Inhabitants on its Banks are very Rich by its Fertility, and being so commodious for Trade, it is the fifth large and considerable River in this Province; it falls into Albemarle Sound.

Keja River is likewise to the Northward of this Province, but is not very Considerable.

Roanoke River is the largest in this Province, taking its noble Rise from the Charokee or Appelapean Mountains, and Watering several Parts of Virginia, as it crosses the due West Line that separates it from Virginia, it is very commodious for Trade, being Navigable for a vast way up the Country, most of the former Rivers empty themselves into this Albemarle or Currituck Sound.

Maca Punga River, is a North Branch of Pamticoe River, and admits of Sloops, Brigantines, and other Vessels of Burthen.

Pamticoe River is the fourth considerable River in these Parts, taking its Rise near or from the Mountains, and falls into Pamticoe Sound, with a very large Mouth, several Miles in Breadth, and is not inferior to any of the other large Rivers, for the goodness of its Navigation, as is manifest by the many Rich Inhabitants dwelling upon its delightful and fertile Banks.

Bay River is not very considerable, being small, yet its Trade is not despisable.

Neus River is the Third large River in this Province, but is not so good as Pamticoe, for Navigation, notwithstanding its Rise is near the Mountains.

Trent River is a South Branch of Neus River, which falls into Pamticoe Sound.

North River lyes to the Southward of Neus, and empties itself into Cour Sound; as do likewise Newport River, Weetock River, and New River; but are not very considerable, being only Navigable for Sloops and small Crofts.

Black, or Swampy River, is but small, and lyes to the Northward of Cape Fear River.

Cape Fear River is the Second considerable and large River, and is one of the best for Navigation in these Parts: There is a large River which is the Northeast Branch of Cape Fear River, but is distinguished or called by no proper Name that I know of at present.

Waggomau River is a Northeast Branch of Pedee River, and is large, taking its Rise from a great Lake to the Northward of the said River.

Little Pedee River is a North Branch of the following, and is not large.

Pedee River is the Third large and considerable River in North Carolina.

Black River, and Santee River are the two Southermost in those Parts, being part of South Carolina.

One thing worthy of Observation is, That the Current of all the Rivers in this large Country, are scarce to be perceived, ’till you travel several Hundred Miles, or near their Heads, which is chiefly owing to their being so large, and the Country so very level.

In many of these noble and spacious Rivers, are abundance of Creeks, several whereof are very commodious for Trade, being Navigable for several Miles; there are likewise many considerable Islands in these Rivers, abounding with several sorts of Trees, Wild Beasts, especially Deer, and various kinds of Fowl; they are Inhabited by few or no Christians at present. In several parts of these Rivers are likewise to be seen great number of decayed Cypress and other large Trees, standing at a great distance in the Water, the Earth being entirely washed away from them in the series of many Ages.

The next thing to be considered, is the Towns and their beautiful Situation. And first, Edentown is the largest, consisting of about Sixty Houses, and has been the Seat of the Governors for many Years, and is pleasantly seated on a Creek on the North-side of Roanocke River; where you have a delightful Prospect of the said River.

Bath Town, is the Second considerable Town in this Province, and is most delightfully seated on a Creek on the Northside of Pamticoe River, with the same beautiful Advantages of the former: It’s Navigation is much better, being the most considerable and commodious for Trade in this Province, except Cape Fear.

Newbern is situated on the South-side of Neus River, with a pleasant Prospect of that River: This Town has but a few Houses or Inhabitants in it at present.

Handcock Town is seated on a North West Branch of Neus River, being above two Hundred Miles from the Mouth of that River, and is scarce worth taking Notice of, only for its being formerly an Indian Town, and where they had a Fort in time of War.

Beaufort Town stands on the North-side of Newport River, it’s prospect being as pleasant as any of the former: It is small, and thinly inhabited.

Brunswick Town is most delightfully seated, on the Southside of that Noble River Cape Fear; and no doubt but it will be very considerable in a short time, by it’s great Trade, the Number of Merchants, and rich Planters, that are settled upon it’s Banks, within these few Years.

The Streets in these Towns are as level as a Bowling-Green, there being no manner of Pavement to be met with over all this Province.

The first Settlement of this Country was made in Queen Elizabeth’s time, by Sir Walter Raleigh and others, at Roanoke, in Albemarle County; but continued not long, either by Sickness or other Misfortunes, or by the Barbarity of the Indians, who were very numerous and powerful in those Days, but are now very few, being for the most part destroyed by their continual Wars with each other, and European Distempers, brought in amongst them, and especially the Small-Pox, which prov’d fatal to most of the Indians that were seized with it. This Distemper, and many others unknown to these Savages, before the arrival of the Christians amongst them in those Parts. I hope it will not be unpleasing to the Reader to insert here a pleasant Story which still prevails amongst them; and is attested by the most substantial and credible Planters of this Place, which is, "That the Ship that brought "the first Colonies, does often appear to them (in Albemarle "Sound near Roanoke) under Sail, in a most gallant posture." Which they call Sir Walter Raleigh’s Ship.

The second Settlement was made in King Charles the Seconds Time, chiefly in Chowan and Barty Precincts, in Albemarl County, by several Persons from Virginia, and other Northern Colonies, who finding the Soil so very good and fertile, settled here, and are become very Numerous and Rich; for the Lands here produce every thing Planted in them in great abundance; Horses, Cows, Sheep, and Swine, breeding in vast Numbers, the winter, being very short, and that so mild, the Planters are at little or no Labour or Expence in providing Fodder for their Stocks, to what other Northerly Countries are. For in the Winter they only fell large Trees, whereon grow long Moss, which the Horses and Cows feed upon, and makes them both fat and strong; the Cows will produce Milk, with this kind of Fodder, all the Winter Season, in great plenty. As for Hay, I never observed any made in the Country, tho’ they have such plenty of Grass; that they are obliged to burn it off the Ground every 10th of March, by vertue of a Law made in the Country for that purpose.

These Inducements encouraged them to Settle here, though but a handful of People, seated at great distance one from another, amidst such vast Numbers of Savage Indians, of different Nations, who were then in Carolina to be met withal.

The Fame of this Province soon spread itself to the Neighbouring Colonies, and in a few Years drew considerable numbers of Families, not only from them, but likewise from several Parts of Europe, who all found Land enough to settle themselves in, had they been many Thousands more, both for Pleasure and Profit; which makes the Planters in a great measure live after a most luxurious manner, and void of Care, to what other more Northerly Climates are obliged to, by providing Necessaries for the Winter. So that it may properly be said, that Nature produces every thing here for the Pleasure and Profit of the Inhabitants.

Most of the Plantations naturally have a very noble and beautiful Prospect of large and spacious Rivers or Creeks, abounding with variety of Fish and Wildfowl; as also, pleasant and delightful Savannas or Meddows, with their Green Liveries, interwoven with various kinds of beautiful and most glorious Colours, and fragrant Odours, which the several Seasons afford, and fenced in with pleasant Groves of the fine Tulip Tree, Laurel and Bays, equalizing the Oak in bigness and growth, likewise the Myrtle, Jessamine, Wood-bines, Honeysuckles, and several other odoriferous Plants, the most beautiful Vines and Ever-greens, shadow and interwave themselves with the most lofty Timber, yielding a very pleasant and delightful Prospect, to those that travel through the Woods of Carolina; that, turn your Eyes, which way you will, you have nothing but pleasing and diverting Objects, and the more to be admired, being the Work of Nature, and not of Art.

The Lands being thus richly adorn’d, and the Planters enjoying all these Blessings, are as hospitable People as any in the World, to all that come to visit them, there being few House-keepers, but what live decently, and give away more Provisions to Coasters and Guests, that come to see them, than they expend amongst their own Families.

The Lands in Carolina lie indifferently low and level, no Rocks, or even small Stones are to be found, till you come near the Mountains, and the Heads of the great Rivers, where the best Lands are generally to be met with, abounding with all sorts of Clover, in great Plenty, but is at present only inhabited by Savage Indians, of different Nations, or the Habitation of Wild Beasts; and is more healthful to live in, than where the Plantations are already established.

Here are in several Places large Savannas, beautiful to behold, which at certain Seasons, appear at a distance like so many Pleasure Gardens, being intermixt with variety of Spontaneous Flowers of various Colours, such as the Tulip, Trumpet-flower, Princess-feather, and several others, with great quantities of Grass on them, but of a coarser and stronger Nature than up the Rivers, where there is mostly Clover to be met with, notwithstanding Horses, and other Cattle feed very well on the former, and are fat, strong, and fit for Labour, most Seasons of the Year.

There are likewise Perkosons and Swamps, which are good Pasturage for Cattle; so that by the richness of the Soil, and the many other Advantages and Blessings that attend the Planters, they live after a lazy and indolent Manner, to what those in New England do, and other Northerly Countries are, by providing Necessaries for Winter.

Lands are so very Cheap, that (after you have taken out your Patten for Six Hundred and forty Acres, which will cost three or four Pounds Sterl. or the Value in Carolina Money) you pay at the dearest, for the said Number of Acres, Six Shillings and Six pence Sterl. Yearly, and at the lowest three Shillings and three Pence, free from all Taxes at present: So that with moderate Industry may be acquired all manner of Necessarys for the Support of a Family, though never so Numerous, nothing being wanting there but a sufficient Number of Hands, and Industry, to make it as fine a Country as any in the World.

They Plant or Sow all their Corn by one Plough, or the Hoe, and several Plantations have produced Indian Corn, or some other Grain every Year, since the Settlement of the Christians in those Parts, without any Manure, and yet seems not to be the least Impoverished, producing continually a good Crop, unless a bad Season prevents, which seldome happens in Carolina.

And, I am satisfied, that there cannot be one greater Argument in the World, to prove the goodness and fertiltie of the Lands than this, which is one of the greatest Blessings that can attend a Country where there are so few Hands to Manufacture the Lands after that laborious Manner, which is customary with us, which every Farmer in Ireland is well acquainted with, who is at continual Expence for Servants, Horses, and many other Necessaries to improve his Lands to the best Advantage.

The Lands of Carolina consist of different Sorts of compost, in several Places, some Stiff, others Light, some Marle, others a rich Black Mold, some Sandy, one Part Pieny, another large Timber Trees, others Savannas, with variety of beautiful Flowers and long Grass, a rich black Earth, where scarce any Tree will grow, yet produces the best Wheat and Rice of any Land in these Parts, as has been experienced by the Planters.

I have seen several of these Savannas some Miles in length and breadth, but are little regarded or made use of by the Planters, by reason that they are at some distance from their Plantations, some being two, three, or four Miles from the Water side, and are only Pasturage for Cattle. The Reader must understand, that all the Inland in this Province lyes waste at present.

Other Lands in this Province are Perkosons, where large Cypress Trees grow, others Swamps, where hollow Canes, Myrtle Trees and several sorts of Vines grow, and produce good Pasturage for Cattle, but are generally the Habitation of wild Beasts; both these being very wet and low Lands, and so full of Canes and Underwood, that there is no passing through them, many of which are several Miles in length. The Indians in their Hunting Matches set these Places on Fire at certain Seasons of the Year, by which Means they drive out the Game, and kill vast Numbers of them.

The Planters for the most part live by the Water side, few or none living in the In-land parts of the Country at present, though Lands are as good and fertile as any that are yet inhabited; but not so commodious for Carriage as by the Water, for most part of the Plantations run but a Mile backward into the Woods, so that betwixt every River you shall see vast Tracts of Land lying waste, or inhabited only by wild Beasts: What is worthy of Observation is, That almost every Planter may have a convenient Dock upon his Plantation, and a sufficient Quantity of good Timber to build Ships and Boats withal.

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