North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
Historical Publications Section The Colonial Records Project
Jan-Michael Poff, Editor
Historical Publications Section
4622 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4622
Phone: (919) 733-7442
Fax: (919) 733-1439


Last Updated 05/21/01




[Vol. 46 (1969), 280-299]

In recent decades new documents have come to light which have focused attention on the seventeenth century, the most enigmatic period in North Carolina history. The Thurmond Chatham collection of documents, available since 1956,1 and the recent initiation of a survey and inventorying of North Carolina’s colonial records,2 reveal a number of inaccuracies in the list of the governors of Albemarle County which is found in published accounts of the proprietary period of the state’s found in published accounts of the proprietary period of the state’s history. The permanent settlement of North Carolina originated in Albemarle County;3 therefore, it is important that the official list be as accurate as possible. The governors of Albemarle County have been in the past named and listed with the dates of their tenure in the following order:

William Drummond October, 1663-October, 1667
Samuel Stephens October, 1667-December, 1669
Peter Carteret October, 1670-May, 1673
John Jenkins May, 1673-November, 1676
Thomas Eastchurch November, 1676-1678
Thomas Miller 1677-
John Culpepper [sic] 1677-1678
Seth Sothel 1678-
John Harvey February, 1679-August, 1679
John Jenkins November, 1679-1681
Seth Sothel 1682-16894

On March 24, 1663, Charles II of England granted to eight of his friends and councillors the province of Carolina which included all of the land between 31 degrees and 36 degrees north latitude. Through one of the Proprietors, Sir William Berkeley, who was also governor of Virginia, grants were issued in April, 1663, for land situated in the Albemarle Sound region.5 In June, however, the Carolina Proprietors were temporarily stalled in their colonial venture by the Duke of Norfolk’s claim to Carolina, which was based on the grant of 1629 to Sir Robert Heath.6 By August 12, 1663, the King and council declared the Heath title null and void because no settlement had been founded by Heath in Carolina.7

Upon hearing that their Carolina charter was clear of legal entanglements, the Proprietors sent a letter to Governor Berkeley, authorizing him to appoint a governor and six councillors for Carolina. The governor would serve a term of at least three years and would be paid by a three-year monopoly of the Indian fur trade. Berkeley was instructed to grant ten-acre tracts to Carolina settlers, to set aside 20,000 acres for the Proprietors, to charge a quitrent of one-half penny an acre, payment of which could be delayed for three to five years, and to recognize land titles purchased from the Indians.8 On September 25, 1663, Lord Berkeley signed a group of grants conveying land in the Albemarle River area based on a fifty-acre headright, following the practice adhered to in Virginia rather than that prescribed by the Proprietors. Among the grantees were Mary Fortsen, John Jenkins, John Harvey, William Jennings, Dr. Thomas Relfe, and Thomas Woodward, all of whom were known to be pre-charter settlers.9 These Albemarle pioneers were particularly concerned that their “squatters” titles or Indian grants should be confirmed.

Late in 1664 William D[r]ummond of Virginia10 was named governor of Albemarle County. The accepted date for Drummond’s appointment is October, 1664, more than a year after Berkeley was authorized to name a governor.11 The Virginia council’s appointment of Samuel Stephens as “commander of the southern plantation” in October, 1662, may suggest a reason for the long delay.12 Drummond’s commission did not reach Albemarle County until February 23, 1665, when Peter Carteret, the colony’s newly commissioned secretary and chief registrar, councillor, and assistant governor arrived from England.13 Although Drummond may have been in the colony earlier, the government would not have begun to function officially until he received the commission and instructions conveyed by Carteret.

Documentary evidence that Drummond received his commission after February 23, 1665, makes it clear that the traditional date of February 6, 1665, for the first meeting of the Albemarle assembly cannot possibly be correct. The assembly would not have met before the governor received his instructions, for the governor was therein directed to call an assembly, and there would have been no legal base for an earlier convening. Apparently, the first session of the General Assembly was called in the early spring of 1665. This assembly sent a petition to the Proprietors urging a more liberal land policy, and following the assembly’s action, Thomas Woodward, the surveyor of Albemarle County, wrote to the Proprietors, advising at least a one-hundred-acre headright and a reduction of the quitrent to one farthing per acre.14

The first constitution for the County of Albemarle, the Concessions and Agreements of January 7, 1665,15 arrived in the spring of the same year, shortly after the formation of the government. Under the stipulations of that document the county would have a governor, six to twelve councillors, a secretary, and a surveyor. The freeholders were allowed to choose twelve deputies or representatives to join with the governor and council for legislation. After January 1 each year, as soon as the county was divided into subdistricts or precincts, the freeholders would elect deputies (from each precinct). The assembly was empowered to appoint a president in the absence of the governor, make laws agreeable to the Lords Proprietors and the laws of England, create courts, levy taxes, erect manors, defend the colony, determine citizenship, and determine the time and place of meeting. The governor was authorized to execute the laws, appoint officials and judges, and execute land grants.16

One of the earliest problems of the new government was the location of the boundary with Virginia. After discovering that the Albemarle County settlement was north of 36 degrees north latitude, the Lords Proprietors requested and received a second charter on June 30, 1665.17 The boundary of Carolina was extended to 36 degrees 30 minutes north latitude, which is approximately the present boundary. Virginia continued to claim the settlement at the head of Currituck Sound, so George Durant, an important Albemarle planter, was sent to Currituck in 1665 to survey the boundary. Later Durant and John Willoughby journeyed to England as agents of the colony to have the boundary clarified. 18

The earliest reference to a court in Albemarle County is November 15, 1665, when the will of Mary Fortsen (Fortson) was proved before the clerk of court Thomas Harris.19 This court was probably the county court which was composed of the governor and council. The “General Court” carried out legislative actions in the summer of 1665 by passing the tobacco planting cessation law.20 Authorized by the “General Court,” Governor Drummond and Thomas Woodward met on July 12, 1666, in James City, Virginia, with representatives of Virginia and Maryland.21 The purpose of the meeting was to sign an agreement among the three colonies to cease planting tobacco for one year, from February 1, 1667, to February 1, 1668. In the expectation that this would reduce production and cause the price of tobacco to rise, the three colonies reached agreement. Albemarle County delayed passing the act because of a war with the Tuscarora Indians, but the law was finally enacted prior to October 17, 1666, under the leadership of speaker George Catchmaid.22

William Drummond ranks as one of Carolina’s best colonial governors. Not only were the myriad problems of the birth of a new government solved by the close of his administration in 1667, but with his direction the fledgling government negotiated a boundary dispute with Virginia, participated in negotiations for a tobacco planting cessation, and waged an Indian war. By laying a strong governmental foundation for a permanent colony, Drummond earned a place of honor in history.

The Lords Proprietors commissioned Samuel Stephens governor of Albemarle County on October 8, 1667.23 The instructions for Stephens followed basically the outline of the Concessions and Agreements.24 The most significant event of his administration was the approval by the Proprietors of a petition from the “Grand Assembly of the County of Albemarle” which came to be called the “Great Deed of Grant,” because it allowed the Albemarle settlers to receive their land on the same terms as Virginians—a fifty-acre headright and one farthing per acre quitrent.25 Historians have previously agreed that the precincts were established by the authority of the Fundamental Constitutions of 1669, but in Peter Carteret’s commission as lieutenant colonel of the county militia dated October 28, 1668, Pasquotank precinct was designated as the site for the quarterly militia muster.26 Since the Concessions and Agreements of 1665 authorized the assembly “to lay equal taxes and Assessments, equally to raise monies or goods, Upon all Lands (excepting the Lands of Us, the Lords Proprietors, before Settling) or persons within the Several precincts, Hundreds, Parishes, Manors, or whatsoever other divisions shall hereafter be made and Established in the said Counties...,”27 it is reasonable to assume that precincts had been organized as early as four years prior to the date which has been heretofore generally accepted.

The Fundamental Constitutions of July 21, 1669, which had arrived in Albemarle by January, 1670, proposed to change drastically the existing political system by imposing on the colonists an elaborate governmental structure, a feudal nobility, and an unwieldy system of courts.28 To implement the constitution and perhaps to soften its impact, the Proprietors sent instructions to the governor to issue writs in the four precincts of the County of Albemarle authorizing the election of five freeholders each. The twenty representatives so elected would meet with the five deputies of the Proprietors to form the General Assembly, and the assembly in turn would elect five of its members to meet with the deputies to form a council and a palatinate court.29

Samuel Stephens must have died prior to March 7, 1670, when Governor William Berkeley of Virginia wrote to the council to express his sympathy. Berkeley mentioned that “great factions had fomented against him [Stephens]...some were soe Insolent as to draw their Swords against him a crime wch deserved Capitall punishment.”30 The council, composed of John Jenkins, John Harvey, Richard Foster, Francis Godfrey, and John Willoughby, met on March 10, 1670, and chose Peter Carteret to assume the governorship.31

What were the “great factions” that had “fomented” against Governor Stephens and were inherited by Governor Carteret? After the Proprietors received the Carolina grant in 1663, two distinct political actions emerged to struggle for control of the colony throughout the proprietary period. The anti-proprietary or popular faction was composed of the pre-charter settlers, and their acknowledged leaders were George Durant, John Jenkins, John Harvey, Richard Foster, John Willoughby, and Valentine Bird. These men felt no obligation to the Proprietors; indeed, they considered the Proprietors to be newcomers and meddlers. The proprietary or prerogative faction consisted of post-charter settlers and men who were indebted to the Proprietors for their positions. The leaders of the proprietary faction were Thomas Eastchurch, Thomas Miller, Timothy Biggs, and John Nixon.

The factional disturbance, which originated under Governor Stephens, became more intense during the administration of Governor Carteret. On September 27, 1670, the General Court, composed of the governor, John Jenkins, John Harudy, Major Richard Foster, Francis Godfrey, John Willoughby, and Captain Thomas Cullen, met at the house of Samuel Davis.32 At this session of court Thomas Cullen was ordered by the governor to take possession of goods owned by Thomas Eastchurch; presumably this action was the result of an unpaid debt. In a letter of December 11, 1671, to Governor Carteret, however, Eastchurch requested protection for his property from persons who “pr: tending that I am indebted to them have Attacked and otherwise made spoyle of my estate.”33

Unfavorable weather magnified the political discontent by augmenting the economic problems of the colonists. Governor Carteret, who lost his crop in a 1670 hurricane, wrote that

it hath pleased God ... to Inflict Such a Generall calamitie upon the inhabitans ... that for Severall yeares they have Nott Injoyed the fruitts of their Labours which causes them Generally to growne under the burtyn of poverty.34

Conditions reached such a state in 1672 that the council considered it necessary for the governor and an assistant, John Harvey, to journey to England and appeal to the Proprietors for relief. Accordingly, on April 27, 1672, the council signed a petition requesting that (1) quitrents be made the same as in Virginia; (2) defense be provided; (3) children receive headrights when of age; (4) the 666-acre tract law be repealed; (5) the act opposing “ingrocers” be repealed; (6) the act requiring no suits for debt for five years be repealed; and (7) pressure be applied on Virginia to persuade its assembly to reduce its discriminatory entry and clearing fees.35

In May, 1672, the two emissaries, bearing the petition of grievances, embarked for England. Prior to his departure Carteret commissioned John Jenkins as deputy governor to serve until Carteret returned or until the Proprietors appointed a new governor.36 Carteret and Harvey sailed first to New York, but on July 11, 1672, Harvey had to return to Albemarle for business reasons, leaving Governor Carteret to go on to England alone.37

In an effort to exculpate themselves of blame for the uprising known as Culpeper’s Rebellion, the Proprietors in 1680, in a statement to the Committee of Trade and Plantations, declared that Carteret

left ye Governmt there in ill order & worse hands ... having very much failed them [the Proprietors] especially in 2 poynts—The first was the incouraging of the New England Trade there—The 2d was their discouraging the planting on the south side of the river Albemarle. The latter was . . . the interest of the Proprietors but . . . some of ye cheife of ye Country who had ingrosit ye Indian trade to themselves & feared it would be intercepted ....38

The Proprietors attempted to use Carteret as a scapegoat for their own inadequacies in administering the colony,39 but it is clear that the leaders of the popular faction, who dominated the council, approved highly of the governor. In a letter to the Proprietors the council wrote that “by ye goodness of our Governor by whose prudence and Integrity God hath blessed us since his receiveing yt charge wth more unity & tranquility than ever before.”40 Despite being hampered by the inattention of the Proprietors, who were then concentrating their efforts on the more profitable settlement of Charles Town on the Ashley River, there is every reason to believe that Carteret’s term of office was satisfactory.

Under Governor Jenkins, unrest that had been brewing since the commencement of the Albemarle settlement began to surface into active rebellion. Many factors contributed to the general spirit of disquiet in the county. The government was not only weak but was also divided by the internal struggle for power between the proprietary and anti-proprietary factions. There was considerable uncertainty concerning property ownership since the Proprietors had not promulgated a specific land policy. Isolated because of the lack of adequate trade routes by land or sea, the Albemarle planters had to be self-sufficient and therefore inclined toward self-government.

The chief cause of unrest in the decade of the 1670’s was the attempt of the Parliament to regulate the tobacco trade and to curb smuggling by passage of a series of navigation acts. The Act of 1660 stated that certain enumerated articles, including tobacco, could be traded only to England.41 The New Englanders, engaged in the intercolonial coastal trade, tried to circumvent the requirements of the law by landing tobacco in another colony before selling it abroad. To curb such illegal trade, Parliament passed the Plantation Duty Act of 1673, which required a tobacco duty of one penny per pound to be paid at the port of purchase.42 Because they were dependent on the New England mariners for the marketing of their tobacco, the Albemarle planters were threatened economically by the new regulations and duty.

Although the commissions to establish the offices of collectors of customs in the colony arrived in 1675, Governor Jenkins, a local planter, tried to avoid enforcing the law. Since the appointees named by the Crown were not in residence in the colony, the governor delayed filling the positions. Related to the customs issue was the fact that the deputy commissions issued by the Proprietors under the Fundamental Constitutions had expired in October, 1674, and there was considerable doubt about the legality of the government.43 Governor Jenkins had been deputized in his commission of 1672 to serve until a new governor was appointed by the Proprietors; consequently, Jenkins could continue to claim the governorship with this commission.

The rival political factions clashed bitterly in 1675 and 1676. In the summer of 1675 the popular faction, meeting at the home of Governor Jenkins, conspired to weaken the opposition by eliminating Thomas Miller. The conspirators discreetly gathered evidence and testimonies to bring charges of treasonable and blasphemous words against Miller.44 Meanwhile Thomas Eastchurch, the leader of the proprietary faction, was elected speaker of the assembly and moved against Jenkins. Using the failure to collect customs as an excuse, Eastchurch had Governor Jenkins deposed and arrested. The influential New England traders opposed Eastchurch, but further disorder was averted by the appointment of Valentine Bird, a member of the popular faction, as collector of customs.45

The seizure of power by Thomas Eastchurch was clearly without authority, and early in 1676 the popular faction was able to release Jenkins and reinstate him as the governor.46 The popular party then arrested Miller, and the charges against him were presented in the General Assembly, March, 1676.47 Governor Jenkins, realizing that the proprietary faction dominated the palatinate court, had Miller sent to Jamestown to be tried before Governor Berkeley. In June the Virginia council acquitted Miller of the charges of treasonable and blasphemous words, and Miller joined Eastchurch in England to seek redress of his grievances from the Proprietors.48

In the fall of 1676 Eastchurch and Miller met with the Proprietors, who found Eastchurch a “discreet and worthy man and very much concerned for [their] prosperity.” The Proprietors had been out of touch with the colonists so long that Eastchurch, with little difficulty, secured a commission as governor on November 21, 1676,49 and Miller was appointed secretary and collector of customs on the same day. Shortly thereafter George Durant, representing the popular party, arrived in London and presented his case to the Proprietors. Upon being told that Eastchurch had been appointed governor, Durant declared that if Eastchurch attempted to serve in that office there would be a revolt.50

In the spring of 1677 Eastchurch and Miller took passage for Carolina via the West Indies. During a stop at Nevis, Eastchurch met and married a wealthy woman and decided to remain in the islands for an extended visit.51 Although he had no authority to do so, Eastchurch commissioned Miller president of the council and commander in chief, thereby conferring upon him the power to serve as acting governor.52 Miller arrived in Albemarle County on July 15, 1677, and soon thereafter he was physically threatened by Patrick White, a member of the popular faction. Following this incident, Miller summoned the assembly, and despite his personal unpopularity his commissions and authority to govern were accepted.53

Miller set out to solve some of the problems that had beset the colony for several years. He established a civil court, which handled suits that had been pending for three or four years; however, he reopened old animosities by bringing members of the popular faction to trial and fining them. Elections were held that fall for a new assembly, but unfortunately the procedure was disorderly because Miller attempted to disfranchise the opposition.54 The collection of customs was the most controversial problem. Miller demanded the records from Collector Bird and appointed two of his own followers, Henry Hudson and Timothy Biggs, as deputy collectors.55 With an increased militia, which was ostensibly raised for protection against attacks by the Chowan Indians, Miller’s government effectively began to collect the tobacco customs duty.56 Within six months Miller’s arbitrary actions forced the popular faction into armed revolt. The combination of political and legal persecution of the opposition, the manipulation of elections, and the collection of the tobacco duty was more than enough justification for “Culpeper’s Rebellion,” the major political upheaval in Carolina in this period.

On December 1, 1677, the brig Carolina, commanded by Zachariah Gillam, dropped anchor in the Pasquotank River with a cargo of trade goods, rum, and arms.57 Boarding the vessel soon after its arrival, Miller arrested Gillam and George Durant for violation of the customs act.58 When word of the arrest of Durant, a leader of the popular faction, spread throughout the precinct, an armed band led by Valentine Bird and John Culpeper gathered. Durant was forcibly released, and Miller and his followers were in turn imprisoned. Within a week the popular faction was in firm control of the colony with most of Miller’s officials under arrest.59

The leaders of the rebellion—Culpeper, Bird, Durant, Gillam, and William Crawford—arranged for a general meeting of their supporters at Durant’s house by the end of the month. At this meeting on December 24/25, Miller was about to go on trial, which could have resulted in a verdict of his execution, when a timely proclamation arrived from Governor Eastchurch, who recently had landed in Virginia. Miller was incarcerated, and a militia unit was dispatched to guard the Virginia border to prevent Eastchurch from entering Albemarle County.

In recent years historians agree that, contrary to traditional belief, there is no existing evidence that John Culpeper served as governor of Albemarle County. In December, 1677, he was elected collector of customs, but there is no mention of his being made governor.60 Because of the paucity of surviving documents for the period it may never be known whether the executive position in the colony was filled in 1678; based on the presently available evidence it seems apparent that no one assumed this office. Considering the fact that John Jenkins had been the last de jure executive of the colony, however, it is logical to surmise that if anyone acted as de facto governor it would have been Jenkins. Jenkins was a respected leader of the popular faction and was certainly acceptable to those men holding power after the revolt.

There is evidence of a “rebel” council meeting that was held in early 1678 at the home of Jenkins. Attending this meeting were Jenkins, Gillam, Culpeper, Durant, Crawford, Richard Foster, John Willoughby, and James Bl[o]unt. A log prison was authorized for Miller because Timothy Biggs had escaped and sailed for England. The council appointed Gillam and Durant as agents to represent the “rebel” actions to the Proprietors, especially to counteract the effect of the testimony of Biggs. Governor Eastchurch, who died of a fever soon after arriving in Virginia, had ceased to be a threat.61

In the fall of 1678 the Proprietors heard the report of Biggs, and they minimized the revolt because the Crown was seeking an opportunity to revoke the Carolina charter. To settle the affair they appointed to the governorship a Proprietor, Seth Sothel, who had bought the share of the Earl of Clarendon. En route to the colony, Governor Sothel was captured by Turkish pirates, enslaved, and held for ransom in Algiers.62 As soon as the Proprietors received the news of Sothel’s capture, on February 5, 1679, they appointed John Harvey to be president of the council (acting governor).63 Respected by all and supported by the popular faction, Harvey probably could have controlled the settlement; unfortunately, he died late in 1679.64

The Proprietors were soon engaged in greater controversy with their troublesome colony. In the fall of 1679 Thomas Miller finally escaped from prison, and upon his arrival in England, he petitioned the Crown about his grievances.65 Believing that the “rebels” had deposed royal authority and had confiscated royal revenue, the Crown arrested John Culpeper in London in December, 1679.66 At the same time a full investigation of the rebellion was ordered by the Lords of Trade and Plantations and the Commissioners of Customs. As a result of hearings in February, Culpeper was tried for high treason on November 20, 1680, before the Court of King’s Bench.67 Fearing the loss of their charter if Culpeper was convicted, the Proprietor Lord Shaftesbury ably directed Culpeper’s defense, maintaining that there had been no legal government in Albemarle when the “rebellion” occurred. Shaftesbury stressed the fact that the customs duties were being collected and the political situation was quiet, and he secured an acquittal for Culpeper.68

At the trial the Proprietors announced that they were appointing Captain Henry Wilkinson as the new governor, but because of legal squabbles Wilkinson was never able to leave England.69 Meanwhile, following the death of Harvey late in 1679, John Jenkins had resumed the governorship of Albemarle County with the authorization of the council.70 Jenkins was accepted by the Proprietors and served until his death December 17, 1681.71 Few documents exist from this period, but apparently the colony’s government was stable. John Jenkins served as the de jure and/or the de facto governor longer than any other man in the history of the colony. The role of Jenkins in the affairs of Albemarle County has never been properly recognized by historians. Although his enemies labeled him a tool of George Durant, it is quite evident that Jenkins as colonel of the militia and governor exerted his personal influence in times of crisis.

Surprisingly, the release of Governor Sothel in 1681 and his subsequent arrival in Albemarle would eventually lead to further unrest. Following the seizure of Sothel in 1678, the Crown had taken steps to have him released from slavery by offering to exchange two pirate captives, “Hadgamore [the] late commander of the Tiger of Argier” or “Buffillo Ball.”72 In July, 1679, the captives were brought to the Mediterranean and left with Vice Admiral Herbert, but the exchange was delayed when the pirates demanded in addition 6,000 pieces of eight. Sothel was fortunate to survive because in captivity he was forced to “carry Morter, Brick and stone for the Masons with a heavy Chaine of Nine links each linke two inches and halfe thick upon his legg besides Bolt and Shackle.”73 The pirate captives were delivered on July 28, 1681, and the ransom money was bonded and paid by Englishmen in Algiers.74

Sothel was in England by September, 1681, when the Proprietors issued his authorization to be governor of Albemarle, and some time in 1682 he arrived in Albemarle County.75 His severe treatment as a slave in Algiers had evidently affected his character. No longer the “discreet sober gentleman,” Sothel sailed to Carolina without honoring or paying a sum of 3,000 pieces-of-eight that had been paid to the pirates and bonded by Robert Cole.76 It is known, however, that Proprietor John Archdale, a Quaker and an individual of the best character, thought well of Sothel.77 Archdale was in the colony by December, 1683, to collect quitrents and remained in Albemarle until 1686. While Governor Sothel was absent from the county, Archdale served on several occasions as acting governor.78

By May 3, 1684, Governor Sothel had received a grant for 4,000 acres on Salmon Creek, west of the Chowan River.79 He had other holdings on the Pasquotank and Little rivers, but he lived on the Salmon Creek property.80 Little is known about his administration until he was removed from office in 1689. With the exception of the incidents leading to the governor’s removal, the only known problem was piracy. On November 23, 1685, the assembly passed a law that declared piracy a felony punishable by death without benefit of clergy. The governor would later be accused of rewarding and protecting pirates.81

The record is too fragmentary to ascertain all of the causes of the rebellion in 1689 which resulted in the removal and imprisonment of Governor Sothel. He allegedly seized two shipmasters from the West Indies, charging them with piracy, although they produced their entry and clearing papers. These men were imprisoned “in hard durance” without trial, and one of them, Richard Humphrey, died in prison. Humphrey named Thomas Pollock as his executor, but Sothel, refusing probate, claimed Humphrey’s estate. Because he threatened to go to England and seek redress from the Proprietors, Pollock was arrested by Sothel.82

The governor was alleged to have taken bribes for the reduction of criminal charges. He supposedly seized estates, a Negro slave, pewter dishes, and a herd of cattle. His major alleged crime was the imprisonment of George Durant, who was accused of saying “reflecting words.” While in prison Durant was required to give bond, and claiming that Durant had forfeited bond, Sothel confiscated his estate.83

The imprisonment of George Durant, as in 1677, was the signal for an uprising against the governor. Late in 1689, Sothel was imprisoned, and preparations were made to send him to England to answer the allegations against him. After granting his plea to be tried in Albemarle, the General Assembly found the governor guilty as charged and banished him from the county for twelve months. He was required to leave the government forever—never to hold a public office in Albemarle again.84

Sothel left the county and went to Charles Town, in southern Carolina, where he became embroiled in another factional struggle for power.85 On December 5, 1689, the Proprietors, having heard about the charges against Sothel, formally ordered his suspension as governor. The suspension was carried to Albemarle County by the new governor, Colonel Phillip Ludwell, who had been appointed by the Proprietors to be “Governor of that part of Carolina that lyes North and East of Cape feare.”86 Thus, Albemarle County ceased to exist as a separate colony.

The political history of Albemarle County was dominated by unrest, riots, and rebellion. There were several good reasons for this, the most important being that the Proprietors seldom provided strong counsel, government, or governors. Bound by their English environment, the Proprietors could not know the conditions in Albemarle and rarely attempted to learn. On at least two occasions George Durant, the chief political leader of the colony, journeyed to England to inform the Proprietors of affairs in their colony, but his advice was ignored.

Government in Albemarle was orderly only when the governor was a member of or acceptable to the anti-proprietary faction. This faction was dominated by pre-charter settlers, George Durant, John Jenkins, and John Harvey. These men had established homes in the Albemarle wilderness several years before the Carolina charter, and the Proprietors would have chosen a far wiser course if they had drawn these powerful planters into their confidence at the beginning. The only alternative for stable government would have been to subjugate completely these planters. The Proprietors followed neither course. As a result, a strong tradition of self-government was established early in North Carolina, and later in the colonial period the province was to be among the most contentious of the empire.

The revised list of the governors of Albemarle County includes not only the de jure governors but the de facto governors as well. Two of the governors commissioned by the Lords Proprietors, Thomas Eastchurch and Henry Wilkinson, never assumed office in the colony. Thomas Eastchurch, however, did wield executive power as speaker of the assembly in 1675. At the present time it cannot be conclusively proven that John Jenkins resumed the governorship in the “rebel” government of 1678, but the existing evidence indicates that he may have. Although John Archdale has never been listed as a governor of Carolina prior to 1694, it is evident that he was the acting governor when Seth Sothel was not in residence. John Gibbs claimed the governorship after Sothel was deposed and apparently served in that office until the arrival of Phillip Ludwell with a commission and instructions from the Lords Proprietors.87

The revised list of governors of Albemarle County:

William Drummond1 1664-1667
Samuel Stephens1 + October 8, 1667-1670
Peter Carteret1 March 10, 1670-May, 1672 (Assistant Gov.)
John Jenkins May, 1672-1677 (Deputy Governor)
Thomas Eastchurch 1675-1676 (Speaker of the Assembly)
Thomas Eastchurch1 * + November 21, 1676-1678
Thomas Miller2 July, 1677-December 1, 1677
John Jenkins (?) 1678-
Seth Sothel1 1678-
John Harvey2 + February 5, 1679-1679
John Jenkins2 + 1680-December 17, 1681
Henry Wilkinson1 * 1680-1681
Seth Sothel 1682-1689
John Archdale 1683-1686 (Acting Governor)
John Gibbs 1689-

1 Commissioned governor by the Proprietors.
2 President of the council.
+ Died in office.
* Did not serve.


* Mr. Butler is chairman of the Department of Social Studies, Rockingham Community College, Wentworth.

1 In 1956 Thurmond Chatham made a gift to the State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, of twenty-eight rare and valuable documents, dating from 1664 to 1674 and relating to Albemarle County. Although generally referred to as the “Thurmond Chatham Collection,” these documents are cataloged in the State Archives under the heading “North Carolina Under the Lords Proprietors, 1664-1674” to distinguish them from another collection of papers given to the department by Chatham which concern the donor’s personal and business affairs. The twenty-eight colonial documents have been published in William S. Powell (ed.), Ye Countie of Albemarle in Carolina: A Collection of Documents, 1664-1675 (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History,1958), hereinafter cited as Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle.

2 The North Carolina Colonial Records Project was initiated in March, 1961, by the Carolina Charter Tercentenary Commission for the three-fold purpose of locating and inventorying all extant records relating to colonial North Carolina wherever they might be, the acquisition of photocopies of all documents located outside the state, and the publication of the important documents so located and inventoried. On January 1, 1964, the State Department of Archives and History became responsible for administration of the North Carolina Colonial Records Project. Report of the Carolina Charter Tercentenary Commission, Honorable Francis E. Winslow Chairman, December 31, 1963 (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1964), 8-12; Twenty-Ninth Biennial Report of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, July 1, 1960, to June 30, 1962 (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1962), 97-103; Thirtieth Biennial Report of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, July 1, 1962, to June 30, 1964 (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1964), 103-107; Thirty-first Biennial Report of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, July 1, 1964, to June 30, 1966 (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1966), 93-96; Thirty-second Biennial Report of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, July 1, 1966, to June 30, 1968 ([Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1968]) 88.

3 In addition to the County of Albemarle, the Lords Proprietors also attempted to establish two other counties, Clarendon on the Cape Fear and Craven, which later became South Carolina. For a description of the geographical boundaries of Albemarle County and comments about some of its earliest settlers, reconstructed on the basis of the fragmentary available records for the period, see Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, xxviii-xxix.

4 See the North Carolina Manual, 1967 (Raleigh: State of North Carolina [issued biennially 1903 to present], 28; Hugh Talmage Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome, North Carolina: The History of a Southern State (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, Revised Edition, 1963), [665]; Beth G. Crabtree, North Carolina Governors, 1585-1968 (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, Second Printing Revised, 1968), 3-17.

5 William Perry Johnson and Russell E. Bidlack (eds.), “North Carolina Land Grants (1663-1700),” The North Carolinian: A Quarterly Journal of Genealogy and History, I (June, 1955), 43, hereinafter cited as Johnson and Bidlack, “North Carolina Land Grants.” The only surviving April grant was to George Catchmaid.

6 William L. Saunders (ed.), The Colonial Records of North Carolina (Raleigh: State of North Carolina, 10 volumes, 1886-1890), I, 35-36, hereinafter cited as Saunders, Colonial Records.

7 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 42.

8 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 48-52.

9 Johnson and Bidlack, “North Carolina Land Grants,” 43-47; Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 59-67.

10 Drummond settled in James City County, Virginia, as early as 1648. Nell Marion Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623-1800 (Richmond: Dietz Printing Company, 5 volumes, 1934), I, 177, hereinafter cited as Nugent, Abstracts. After serving as governor of Albemarle County, Drummond returned to Virginia, and in the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion (in which he was a leader), he was executed on January 20, 1677, by Governor Berkeley. See Stephen B. Weeks, “William Drummond: The First Governor of North Carolina, 1664-1667,” National Magazine, XV (April, 1892), 616-628, hereinafter cited as Weeks, “Drummond.”

11 The governors were to serve for three-year terms and Samuel Stephens was appointed on October 8, 1667. Commission of Samuel Stephens as governor of Albemarle County, October 8, 1667, in Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 13-16; Weeks, “Drummond,” 616.

12 Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, xxviii.

13 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 93; Peter Carteret’s Account of Albemarle County, 1663-1675, Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 62. Carteret’s commissions are in Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 3-5. Herbert Richard Paschal, Jr., in “Proprietary North Carolina: A Study in Colonial Government” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1961), 51, hereinafter cited as Paschal, “Proprietary North Carolina,” suggests that Drummond was commissioned on December 3, 1664, on the same day as Carteret. It is possible that the commission was dated in October, and Carteret was the earliest available courier. More important is the fact that Drummond did not receive his commission until February. Because of travel time there was always at least two months’ delay between the date of issuance of a commission and the receipt of the same. It was not uncommon for a year or more to lapse.

14 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 100-101. The assembly was officially called the General Assembly but it was commonly referred to as the House of Burgesses by former Virginia settlers. J. R. B. Hathaway (ed.), North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, III (January, 1903), 40.

15 Mattie Erma Edwards Parker (ed.), North Carolina Charters and Constitutions, 1578-1698 (Raleigh: Carolina Charter Tercentenary Commission, 1963), 107-127, hereinafter cited as Parker, Charters and Constitutions.

16 Parker, Charters and Constitutions, 112-119.

17 Parker, Charters and Constitutions, 90-104.

18 “The Indians of Southern Virginia, 1650-1711, Depositions in the Virginia and North Carolina Boundary Case,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, VII (April, 1900), 346-347, hereinafter cited as “The Indians of Southern Virginia, 1650-1711.” George Durant (1632-1694) married Ann Marwood in Virginia on January 4, 1659. Hathaway, Register, III, 203n. He patented land in Northumberland and Nansemond counties, Virginia, but on March 1, 1662, he received an Indian deed to land in Albemarle County. Nugent, Abstracts, I, 543; Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 19. Durant apparently settled in Albemarle prior to 1660, because he witnessed a deed of Nathaniell Batts, the earliest known settler in the region (1655), for land on the Pasquotank River on September 24, 1660. Elizabeth Gregory McPherson (ed.), “Nathaniell Batts, Landholder on the Pasquotank River, 1660, North Carolina Historical Review, XLIII (January, 1966), 80.

19 John Bryan Grimes (comp.), Abstracts of North Carolina Wills Compiled From Original and Recorded Wills in the Office of the Secretary of State (Raleigh: E. M. Uzzell and Company, 1910), 125, hereinafter cited as Grimes, Abstracts of Wills. Harris served as clerk of court prior to November 15, 1665, to at least October 1, 1673. Grimes, Abstracts of Wills, 146, 251.

20 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 141.

21 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 141.

22 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 152. The complete proceedings of the tobacco cessation are found in Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 117-118, 139-140, 141-143. Another reference to the Tuscarora war is “The Indians of Southern Virginia, 1650-1711,” 345-346, 348.

23 Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 13-16. On September 20, 1636, Samuel Stephens, son of Captain Richard Stephens, bought land in Elizabeth City County, Virginia, and by 1639, Stephens had patented nearly 4,000 acres in Virginia. Nugent, Abstracts, I, 48, 113. On October 9, 1662, Stephens was commissioned by the Virginia Council to be “commander of the Southern plantation.” Henry Read McIlwaine (ed.), Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1924), 507. Conway Robinson (comp.), “Notes from the Council and General Court Records, 1641-1664,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, VII (October, 1900), 168.

24 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 165-175.

25 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 175-176.

26 Commission of Peter Carteret as lieutenant colonel of Albemarle County, October 28, 1668, Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 32-33.

27 Parker, Charters and Constitutions, 116.

28 Parker, Charters and Constitutions, 132-152.

29 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 180-181. The five deputies at this time were Samuel Stephens, John Jenkins, John Willoughby. Peter Carteret, and Francis Godfrey.

30 Sir William Berkeley to the Government of Albemarle County, March 7, 1670, Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 37-38. The widow of Stephens, Frances Culpeper married Berkeley in 1670, and at his death she married Phillip Ludwell; thereby, she became the wife of three colonial governors. Hathaway, Register, I, 306n.

31 Appointment of Peter Carteret as governor of Albemarle County, March 7, 1670. Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 39-41. Peter Carteret was a relative of Sir George Carteret, one of the Proprietors. Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 3n.

32 J. R. B. Hathaway (ed.), North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, II (January, 1901), 136. These court minutes dating from July 15, 1670, are the earliest known for Albemarle County. The minutes are also published in Mattie Erma Edwards Parker (ed.), North Carolina Higher-Court Records, 1670-1696 (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1968), 3-6, hereinafter cited as Parker, Higher-Court Records.

33 Thomas Eastchurch to Governor Peter Carteret of Albemarle County, December 11, 1671, Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 43-44.

34 Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 64.

35 Instructions of the Council of Albemarle County to Governor Peter Carteret and John Harvey, April 27, 1672, Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 47-48. An ingrocer was one who monopolized land or commerce and charged excessive rates.

36 Governor Peter Carteret’s warrant to John Jenkins as deputy governor of Albemarle County, 1672, Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 54. Jenkins, a licensed shipmaster, by 1653 had patented land in Northumberland County, Virginia. Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 39n. A pre-charter settler in Albemarle, Jenkins received a 700-acre grant on the Perquimans River on September 25, 1663. Johnson and Bidlack. “North Carolina Land Grants,” 46.

37 John Harvey to the Lords Proprietors, July 11, 1672, Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 48.

38 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 286-287. Governor Drummond had been granted a fur trade monopoly for three years as pay, and the later governors may have retained this privilege. Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 52.

39 Hugh F. Rankin, Upheaval in Albemarle: The Story of Culpeper’s Rebellion, 1675-1689 (Raleigh: Carolina Charter Tercentenary Commission, 1962), 22, hereinafter cited as Rankin, Upheaval in Albemarle.

40 Council to the Lord’s Proprietors, April 27, 1672, Powell, Ye Countie of Albemarle, 50. The approval of the popular faction could have resulted from the governor’s honoring special interests, but Carteret was an able administrator and always placed the best interests of the colony first.

41 William MacDonald (ed.), Select Charters and Other Documents Illustrative of American History, 1606-1775 (New York: Macmillan Company, 1910), 114, hereinafter cited as MacDonald, Charters and Documents.

42 MacDonald, Charters and Documents, 170.

43 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 291; Parker, Higher-Court Records, xli.

44 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 289-290.

45 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 292. Mattie Erma Edwards Parker, “Legal Aspects of ‘Culpeper’s Rebellion,’” North Carolina Historical Review, XLV (April, 1968), 117, hereinafter cited as Parker, “Legal Aspects.”

46 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 259; Timothy Biggs, “A Narrative of The Transactions past In ye Conty of Albemarle In Carolina Sence Mr. Tho. Miller his Arrivall there Being sent in Depty per ye Rt [Honor] able Earle of Shaftsbery & president under Thos. Estchurch [torn]Comition Governor under the Lords proprietors of ye Sd province For the aforesd County,” in Arents Collection of the New York Public Library, New York, hereinafter cited as Biggs, “Narrative.”

47 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 289-290, 313-317.

48 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 235.

49 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 229, 232.

50 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 287-288.

51 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 287.

52 Parker, “Legal Aspects,” 120.

53 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 296-297; Biggs, “Narrative.”

54 Biggs, “Narrative”; Parker, “Legal Aspects,” 122.

55 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 279.

56 Saunders, Colonial Records, 1 249 278.

57 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 279. Zachariah Gillam commanded an exploration party in the Hudson Bay region in 1668, and thereafter he engaged in the Indian fur trade. After 1675 he resumed the intercolonial trade. On a voyage to Hudson’s Bay (1682-1683), Gillam was drowned when his ship was crushed in the ice. Charles MacLean Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 4 volumes, 1936), III, 226-227n.

58 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 249, 294, 301.

59 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 248-249, 279-280; Biggs, “Narrative.”

60 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 242. As late as February 25, 1679, Culpeper signed a proclamation as revenue collector. Cursory examination of contemporary sources reveals that Culpeper’s role in the rebellion was no greater than the other leaders; hence, the term Culpeper’s Rebellion is a misnomer. Concurring opinions on Culpeper’s governorship are found in Paschal, “Proprietary North Carolina,” 178n, Rankin, Upheaval in Albemarle, 41, and Parker, “Legal Aspects,” 112n. Culpeper’s earlier career is as interesting as his involvement in affairs in Albemarle. He arrived in Charles Town (Charleston) from Barbadoes on February 16, 1671. He was the colony’s surveyor 1671-1672 and member of the assembly in 1672. As in Albemarle, he was in an internal struggle for power and fled the colony in the summer of 1673. Collections of the South Carolina Historical Society (Charleston: South Carolina Historical Society, 5 volumes, 1857-1897), V, 272, 274, 285, 285n: Alexander Samuel Salley, Jr. (ed.), Journal of the Grand Council of South Carolina, 1671-1680 (Columbia: State Company, 1907), 34, 41, 67; Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 211, 452.

61 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 282.

62 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 276, 283, 339.

63 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 235-239. At the present time John Harvey is the earliest known permanent settler in Albemarle County after Nathaniell Batts. See Lindley Smith Butler, “Life in Albemarle County, Carolina, 1663-1689,” (unpublished master’s thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1964), 12. The will of James Took, Harvey’s father-in-law, reveals that Harvey was in Albemarle in 1659. Will of James Took, February 1, 1659 [1660], Isle of Wight County Records, Isle of Wight, Virginia, Book I, 590.

64 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 316, 327; Francis Lister Hawks, History of North Carolina (Fayetteville: E. J. Hale and Son, 2 volumes, 1857-1858), II, 136, hereinafter cited as Hawks, History.

65 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 313.

66 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 255.

67 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 275, 284-285, 294.

68 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 326-329.

69 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 328, 333-338. See Charles MacLean Andrews, “Captain Henry Wilkinson,” South Atlantic Quarterly, XV (July, 1916), 216-222.

70 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 271, 327; Hawks, History, II, 136.

71 J. R. B. Hathaway (ed.), North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, Ill (April, 1903), 220.

72 WiIliam Lawson Grant and James Munro (eds.), Acts of the Privy Council Colonial Series, 1613-1783 (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 6 volumes, 1900-1912), I, 838, hereinafter cited as Grant, Acts of the Privy Council; Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 276, 283, 288, 339.

73 Grant, Acts of the Privy Council, II, 3. See William Renwick Riddell, “A Half Told Story of Real White Slavery in the Seventeenth Century,” Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, XXXI (August, 1930), 247-253.

74 Grant, Acts of the Privy Council, II, 4.

75 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 339; Grimes, Abstracts of Wills, 155.

76 Grant, Acts of the Privy Council, II, 5; Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 283, 288, 339.

77 Hawks, History, II, 378-379.

78 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 346, 350-351; Grimes, Abstracts of Wills, 411; Branson Marley (ed.), “Minutes of the General Court of Albemarle, 1684,” North Carolina Historical Review, XIX (January, 1942), 50; Parker, Higher-Court Records, 349.

79 Johnson and Bidlack, “North Carolina Land Grants,” 78. This grant was formerly owned by Governor Stephens.

80 John Bryan Grimes (comp.), North Carolina Wills and Inventories, Copied From the Original and Recorded Wills in the Office of the Secretary of State (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton Company, 1912), 422, 560, hereinafter cited as Grimes, Wills and Inventories.

81 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 383; Walter Clark (ed.), State Records of North Carolina (Goldsboro and Winston: State of North Carolina, 16 volumes, numbered XI-XXVI, 1895-1914), XXV, 139.

82 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 368-369.

83 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 369.

84 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 369.

85 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 371. Sothel later returned to Albemarle County and died there in 1694. Grimes, Wills and Inventories, 421-422.

86 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 362-363.

87 A discussion of John Gibbs’s claim for the governorship and his armed revolt against Governor Ludwell in 1690 can be found in Parker, Higher-Court Records, lix-lxi, and in the same work, on pages 452-453, a transcript is printed of a deed dated January 7, 1689, from Thomas Price by which he sold “...Unto John Gibbs Governor of the Said North Carolina all My Plantation, I now live on in Pascotank River....” See also Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 363-365, for a transcription of Gibbs’s claim dated June 2, 1690, and Ludwell’s response dated July 19, 1690.

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