North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
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Historical Publications Section
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Last Updated 05/21/01

Cartography and Exploration

Carolana and the Incomparable Roanoke: Explorations and Attempted Settlements, 1620-1663


[Vol. 51 (1974), 1-21]

Having successfully invalidated Sir Walter Raleigh’s claim to Virginia’s boundless territory following the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, King James on April 10, 1606, issued a new charter to a private corporation. The region included in the grant to this corporation, the Virginia Company, extended from 34 degrees to 45 degrees North latitude—from near Cape Fear in the south to what is now Bangor, Maine, in the north. One group of the company known as the Virginia Company of London, was assigned the territory which lay between Cape Fear and 38 degrees, about thirty miles north of modern Richmond. In no case, however, should settlements be made more than 100 miles from the sea.

The Virginia Company of London, numbering among its members Raleigh Gilbert, nephew of Sir Walter Raleigh, and others who had backed Raleigh’s earlier efforts to explore and settle this area, succeeded in establishing Jamestown in 1607 as England’s first permanent colony in the New World. It was on Chesapeake Bay, the site originally recommended by Raleigh for his 1587 colony. In 1609 the company’s charter was amended and its territory extended south to about the present North Carolina-South Carolina state line at the Atlantic Ocean and north to about Philadelphia. In width it extended from sea to sea. All of North Carolina and much of South Carolina was included in this new territory of the Virginia Company of London. The company existed to make a profit for its investors, and products of the land—tobacco and fur trade with the Indians, for the most part—were worthwhile sources of income. The discovery of new lands and new sources of wealth was of interest to the investors in this enterprise.

In March, 1620, a committee of the company adopted the recommendation of Sir George Yeardley, governor of Virginia, that Marmaduke Rayner be employed to explore the surrounding region in a logical manner “which would produce good benefit to the Plantation.” The company would pay all expenses, and in the summer Rayner made the voyage for which he had been employed, exploring “to the Southward to Roanoke.” In July, 1621, an account of this and two other voyages to the north by others were read to the officers of the company in London. It is unfortunate that no copy survives of Rayner’s report.1

News of these discoveries apparently reached England in the autumn of 1620, soon after Rayner returned. In November the Somers Island [Bermuda] Company informed the officers of the Virginia Company that they had discovered that their land in Bermuda was less extensive than they had thought when they received their grant. In order to “maintain a mutual dependence and traffic hereafter,” they sought from the Virginia Company “a good portion of land in Virginia, on that side of the coast as lies nearest unto them, either at Ronoque southerly, or else whereat shall be most convenient for them, not being yet inhabitated.” The Virginia Company, perhaps seeing an opportunity to populate their country, offered 100 acres to each shareholder in the Somers Island Company as well as fifty more acres for each person they sent to Virginia. The company did not grant them a specific tract at “Ronoque southerly,” but instead offered land wherever they chose adjacent to but not “prejudicial to any other plantation there already.”2

In order to distinguish between the new colony of Virginia centered in Jamestown and Raleigh’s Virginia, the name Roanoke was frequently used for the older area. John Smith’s map of 1624 called the region “Ould Virginia,” while at a later time the terms South Virginia and the Southern Plantation were applied.3

Less than two years after the visit to Roanoke by his friend Marmaduke Rayner, the secretary of the Virginia government, John Pory, led an expedition to the south. His is the first such trek from Jamestown of which more than a bare mention survives. News of Pory’s discoveries was relayed quickly to London. He went to the Chowan River region in February, and in London on April 18, 1622, obviously before news of the horrible massacre of March 22 had been received, the Rev. Patrick Copland preached a sermon of thanksgiving “for the happie sucess of the affayres in Virginia this last yeare.” In pointing to the many good things which had taken place in the colony recently, he said:

Maister Pory deserves good incouragement for his paineful Discoveries to the Southward, as far as the Choanoack, who although he hath trod on a little good ground, hath past through great forests of Pynes 15. or 16. myle broad and above 60. mile long, which will serve well for Masts for Shipping, and for pitch and tarre, when we shall come to extend our plantations to those borders. On the other side of the River there is a fruitfull Countrie blessed with aboundance of Corne, reaped twise a yeere: above which is the Copper Mines, by all of all places generally affirmed. Hee hath also met with a great deale of silke grasse which growes there....4

There, in the spring of 1622, mention was made of the prospect of pushing the James River settlements southward into the Chowan River region. Pory’s report suggested that settlements there would succeed. He found the Indians to be friendly and their king “desirous to make a league” with the English colonists in Virginia. He took back with him a bit of copper which the natives gave him and which was reported to have been mined not far away. Tests at Jamestown showed that it was good metal, and it was sent home for further tests. If tall pines and their promise to release England from her dependence upon Sweden for naval stores and two harvests of grain in one year were not enough, a productive copper mine would certainly inspire further efforts to settle Englishmen there.5

An important legal decision two years after Pory’s report had far-reaching influence, not only in relation to Virginia and to the future development of the North Carolina area, but to the whole scheme of English colonization in America as well. The affairs of the Virginia Company had become hopelessly entangled as several factions within the management struggled to gain control. King James became concerned that his whims were not regarded by these officials as commands. The case was taken to court under a writ of quo warranto and in a decision rendered on May 24, 1624, the company’s charter was declared vacated. After eighteen years under the direction of a joint stock company, the colony of Virginia came under the control of the crown as the first royal colony in English history. When James died the following year, his successor, Charles, lost little time in proclaiming the territory formerly held by the Virginia Company to be a part of the royal demesne. The king was then free to dispose of the ungranted land in that region as he pleased. Except for the settlement along the James River and the infant colony at Plymouth on Cape Cod Bay, the Atlantic seaboard from somewhere north of Spain’s St. Augustine might now be enjoyed by King Charles.

On October 30, 1629, in the fifth year of his reign, King Charles exercised his right by granting to his attorney general, Sir Robert Heath, the territory between 31 degrees and 36 degrees North latitude. This is the region lying from about thirty miles north of the Florida state line to the southern side of Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. Except for Roanoke Island it did not include the territory already explored by Virginians. Heath held this vast domain from the Atlantic to the Pacific as sole proprietor. He was described in his charter as being “kindled with a certain laudable and pious desire as well of enlarging the Christian religion as our Empire, and increasing the Trade and Commerce of this our Kingdom.” The charter also noted that Heath was “about to lead thither a Colony of men, large and plentiful, professing the true religion, sedulously and industriously applying themselves to the culture of the said lands and to merchandizing; to be performed and at his own charges, and others by his example.”

Heath’s charter contained the provision known as the “Bishop of Durham clause” which gave him broad feudal powers equal to any ever held by the bishop of the County of Durham in England on the Scottish frontier. The bishop there was expected to protect the country from Scottish invaders, and he had power to raise and maintain an army, to collect taxes, and to do many other things which gave him almost royal power within his county.

In his American province Heath could also “confer favours, graces, and honours” upon deserving citizens, but any titles of nobility bestowed must be different from those in use in England. Laws for the province were to be made “according to the wholesome directions of and with the counsel, assent, and approbation of the Freeholders ... or the Major part of them.”

King Charles declared the region granted to Heath to be a province and he named it Carolana for himself. At one point in the charter it is also referred to as New Carolana. Heath was directed to have ready in his province for the use of the king or his successors, in case they should enter Carolana, a 20-ounce “Circle of Gold, formed in the fashion of a crown ... with this inscription engraved upon it, deus coronet opus suum.”6

Sir Robert Heath may not have acted entirely on his own initiative. The charter, however, says that he “humbly supplicated that all that Region . . . may be given ... to Him ... by our Royal Highness.” He certainly knew something of the country, for he was a member of the council of the Virginia Company and owned land in the colony to which he sent tenants. For several years he also had been closely associated with officials in Virginia concerned with the production, inspection, and sale of tobacco. As a high legal officer he had been active in the dissolution of the company’s charter. In the summer of 1624, a few months after Virginia became a royal colony, Heath aided King James in his efforts to make the tobacco trade a royal monopoly. He drew up a contract with the “planters and adventurers of these colonies for their tobacco to be delivered for the king’s use.” This scheme was not adopted, but Heath kept his hands in the tobacco trade, nevertheless. At Jamestown in 1627 instructions from Heath concerning the shipping of tobacco were read before the General Court. Incidentally, Heath was also involved in New England affairs.7

Sir Robert Heath, then, was a man of considerable importance. He may have been aware of a plan being made by some French Protestant refugees in England to establish an American colony within the territory claimed by England. This fact may very well have influenced Heath’s “supplication” to King Charles.

Before Heath had had his charter half a year Antoine de Ridouet, Baron de Sancé, was negotiating with him concerning a colony to be planted in Carolana somewhere between Cape Fear and Albemarle Sound. When he and his son George were naturalized in June, 1629, he mentioned plans for a colony in Virginia to produce grapes, olives, silk, and salt. By March, 1630, the proposed site had been changed to Carolana. Tentative plans called for fees to be paid to Heath as “Lord paramount or predominant.” Hugh L’Amy, one of the leaders of the French, obviously intended to remove to the colony, and he was to be receiver general of rents. Plans were discussed for the transportation of families and the erection of fortresses. There would also be English colonists, but the majority would be French Protestant refugees, “men, robust, and courageous … who have served in Holland.” Before long a plantation near 35 degrees was being mentioned, and this would have placed them in the neighborhood of the future town of New Bern. Colonists proposed to live in peace with the Indians, but a fort with four towers was projected, and someone even drew two sketches to show what it would look like. Certificates from pastors in France would be required to insure that no Roman Catholics settled in Carolana; records would be kept and names and vocations recorded in a book. Such fine plans were perfected that by mid-May, 1630, George Lord Berkeley in association with William Boswell, Samuel Vassall, Hugh L’Amy, and Peter de Licques drew up an agreement with Heath for planting their colony. Baron de Sancé soon joined the group. Lord Berkeley seems only to have lent his name to the group during its period of initial negotiation and then to have withdrawn. Boswell was secretary to the English ambassador in Paris, and Vassall, while of French descent, was a London merchant and charter member of the Massachusetts Bay Company—both of potential service to the group.

Baron de Sancé became ill and asked Boswell to assist him in gathering arms and other supplies. This may well have delayed plans, for in late September one Mons. Belavene reported to Boswell that there was some difficulty in recruiting salt workers. A month or so later several ships’ captains were mentioned who might transport the colonists to America, but only fifty or sixty men were then available. The records for the remainder of Heath’s period of ownership of Carolana are incomplete, and it is impossible to determine just what happened. Perhaps the French in England were unwilling to move farther from home and not enough colonists could be recruited. The possibility also exists that King Charles may have hinted that he did not care to have Frenchmen occupying his New World territory; the privy council, at any rate, directed in April, 1630, that only those who acknowledged the Church of England might settle there.8 Baron de Sancé and Hugh L’Amy were no longer mentioned in references to the projected settlement of Carolana after the spring of 1631, and the activities of Peter de Licques were then being directed in part toward the West Indies.

A new plan to colonize Carolana apparently took shape in the summer of 1633 after the French interest had dissolved. Edward Kingswell of London and his brother-in-law, Roger Wingate, arranged with Samuel Vassall, who had been associated with the proposed French colony, to take them, their families, and more than forty colonists to Carolana. Vassall also was supposed to supply a shallop and a pinnace for the use of the colony there. Vassall failed on both counts, and Kingswell, who was to be governor of the colony, was obliged to sail aboard another ship, the Mayflower, which Peter Andrews commanded. Instead of taking his passengers to Carolana, however Andrews landed them in Virginia in October, 1633, where Kingswell remained at least until May or June of the following year. “The plantation has been thus hindered and the voyage frustrated,” Kingswell, back in London, related in a petition to the privy council in September, 1634. Governor Kingswell “suffered much in reputation” and had been injured to the amount of £3,000 which he sought to recover from Vassall and Andrews. Vassall failed to attend a hearing and was placed in confinement. An investigation revealed that Kingswell had lost £2,710 13s., of which Vassall and Andrews were ordered to pay £611 1s. 4d. Kingswell, it was pointed out, received certain sums for the servants which he left in Virginia; the failure of Vassall to provide the two ships to be used in Carolana was declared to be no loss inasmuch as Kingswell did not get to Carolana anyway. In testimony taken in January, 1636, it was revealed that Kingswell refused a different ship in which Vassall offered to transport the colony to Carolana. The large ship which Kingswell wanted, Vassall pointed out, could not enter the waters of Carolana. In July, 1634, Vassall sent a ship to Virginia to deliver twenty-eight more colonists and to take the whole colony on to Florida if Kingswell desired. The governor, Vassall learned, had sailed for England in June. The outcome of the case in the courts is not known. It was still pending in 1636, but none of Kingswell’s colonists reached Carolana under his leadership.9

Persons who transported settlers to Virginia were entitled to fifty acres for each person whose passage they paid. Edward Kingswell’s heir in Virginia held 2,300 acres, and the forty-six persons for whose transportation the land had been originally granted are named in the land records. These surely are the colonists intended for Carolana, most of whom chose to remain in Virginia, but some of them or their descendants may eventually have found their way to North Carolina.10

On December 2, 1638, Sir Robert Heath, busy with legal matters in London, completed the documents necessary to convey his Carolana interests to Henry Frederick Howard, Lord Maltravers.11 This was merely the formal conclusion of an understanding already made. Maltravers was the grandson of the fourth Duke of Norfolk, and heir to the title, but his grandfather outlived him; two sons of Lord Maltravers succeeded to the title, however. As a member of the New England Company and as one of those who had sought royal support for the West India Company in 1637, Maltravers had a wide interest in the American colonies.12

King Charles in January, 1637, privy to the negotiations between Heath and Maltravers, wrote Sir John Harvey, governor of Virginia, as if Maltravers already held title to Carolana. The prospective owner was anxious to settle his land, and King Charles required Governor Harvey “forthwith to assign to Lord Maltravers such a competent tract of land in the southern part of Virginia, as may bear the name of a county, and be called the county of Norfolk, upon conditions found requisite for the general good of the colony, and powers fitted for a person of his quality, with reservation to the King of a yearly rent of 20 shillings.”13 A few years later Maltravers received another favor which must have been granted with royal approval. In 1639 a royal warrant was issued to him “for stamping farthing tokens for the plantations.” Gold draining out of England was “very hurtful,” and coins were not permitted to be minted in the colonies. Maltravers, however, was authorized to “stamp farthing tokens of copper with a distinction of brass” which should be supplied to all of the colonies and plantations except Maryland, “whereby they might not be driven only to truck, barter or exchange one commodity for another.”14 Money from his plantation would be useful, while produce for barter might not.

As expected, the king’s letter to Governor Harvey had the desired effect. The governor and council, in view of the intent of Maltravers “to transport at his own costs and charges and to settle and plant divers inhabitants in the Colony for the advancement and generall good of the Plantation,” in January, 1637, laid off for him the County of Norfolk. It extended from about the present North Carolina-Virginia line to 35 degrees North latitude, almost ten miles south of modern New Bern, and it was about 113 miles wide—from the coast to about as far west as the site of Goldsboro. By the terms of his grant Maltravers had considerable independence in governing his county, but it was expected that he would abide by the authority of Virginia in matters of defense. For the first seven years Maltravers was required to report to Virginia officials certain information about people passing through that colony en route to his plantation.15

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

Captain Henry Hartwell was expected to head a settlement in the northern part of Maltravers’s county of Norfolk. What success these men had or what contributed to their failure cannot now be determined. Documents which might have answered these questions were burned in Richmond by Federal troops in April, 1865, near the end of the Civil War. One early eighteenth century history of the area, which was conceivably based on sources no longer in existence, reported that Maltravers “at great expense planted several parts of the said country, and had effected much more had he not been prevented by the war with Scotland, in which he was general for King Charles; and afterwards by the civil war in England and the lunacy of his eldest son.” Sir John Colleton, a proprietor of the same area later in the seventeenth century, believed that colonists had been settled there. A plantation, he said, had been “started by one Mr Mariat, steward to the Duke of Norfolk.16

Affairs at home—the Civil War, revolution, the execution of King Charles—may well have been reflected in the failure to colonize Carolana. After 1649 the establishment of the Commonwealth, the supremacy of Parliament, and the suffering of many royalists may have been responsible for renewed interest in the vast unsettled region south of Virginia. Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia, was loyal to the crown, and it is natural to suppose that others of the same mind might have expected to find a welcome from him. Perhaps in anticipation of the arrival of refugees, Governor Berkeley in 1646 sent a military expedition against the Indians living to the south. Marching overland, Major General Richard Bennett led a portion of the force, while Colonel Thomas Dew, going by water, approached through Currituck Inlet and the sound. In moving up the Chowan River they engaged some Indians in battle and lost one of their own men. About 1648, “peace being concluded with the Indians,” he said, Henry Plumpton, a veteran of the expedition, and Thomas Tuke of Isle of Wight County, purchased from the Indians land from the mouth of Roanoke River to a point up the Chowan River where Weyanook Creek entered. They apparently did not settle there, but they earned for themselves the distinction of being the first known Virginians to purchase land in North Carolina after having visited it.17

Following the trial and execution of King Charles in January, 1649, interest in the North Carolina region suddenly grew. A little newspaper in London, the Moderate Intelligencer, for May 2, reported: “There is A Gentleman going over Governor into Carolana in America, and many Gentlemen of quality and their families with him.” After describing the country in glowing terms, listing the animals, plants, and other natural features, the writer continued, “besides all this is said, we shall shake hands with Virginia, a flourishing Plantation, which is not onely able to strengthen and assist us, but furnish us with all English Provisions ... which they abound in now, which they and other Plantations were enforced to bring out of other Countries with great difficulty and charge, these are ready to our hands.” Virginia plantations lined the James River, it was noted, which was entered by a superb channel. From the south side of the James two rivers, the Elizabeth and the Nansemond, “convey you into Carolana, so that this River is a Haven to both Colonies.”

Getting to the point, the “well-willer” of the proposal, at whose “intreaty” it was published, added:

If this that hath been said give incouragement to any, let them repaire to Mr. Edmond Thorowgood, a Virginia Merchant, living in White Crosse-street, at the house that was Justice [Sir Robert] Fosters. He will informe you of the Governour, from whom you will understand when and how to prepare themselves (not exceed August) and what Conditions shall be given to Adventurers, Planters, and Servants: which shall be as good, if not better, then have been given to other Plantations.

Giving his plea a setting in the contemporary scene, the writer pointed out that in the time of King James I American colonies were established for these reasons: first, “the bringing the Gospel to the Indian”; second, “inriching men that went and adventured”; and third, “extending Dominion.” The fruits of these efforts were seen in the reign of King Charles I when “the persecution of men diffring in opinion revived this undertaking, and thousands went to New England whose condition is also known.” History was repeating itself and “now their [sic] seems to be great designes of this nature which arise out of the discõtents at the present state of affairs, alterations, & the wants which the late War hath brought many unto....” By implication Carolana could offer the same refuge to these people that New England had offered others earlier.18

Several other publications designed to encourage the movement to the same region also appeared about this time. One of them, A Perfect Description of Virginia, which also included “A Narration of the Countrey, within a few dayes journey of Virginia, West and by South, where people come to trade,” was sent from Virginia “at the request of a Gentleman of worthy note, who desired to know the true State of Virginia as it now stands.” Written anonymously, this pamphlet also reported that Governor Berkeley intended to explore this southern region still further, taking fifty mounted men “and other things needful for his enterprize.” This is an enthusiastic report on the area, listing natural resources and praising the planters for their hard work and valuable produce. Considering the date of its publication, it is also interesting for another reason. The title page relates that it contains an account of an Indian emperor who “came to Sir William Berckley, attended with five petty Kings, to doe Homage, and bring Tribute to King Charles. With his solemn Protestation, that the Sun and Moon should lose their Lights, before he (or his people in that Country) should prove disloyall, but ever to keepe, Faith and Allegiance to King Charles.” But there is no reference to King Charles in the text. It may have been removed by the printer in view of changed circumstances in January, 1649. Another change may also have been made. Near the end of the little pamphlet, Captain Samuel Matthews, one of the earliest settlers in Virginia, is described as “a most deserving Common-wealth-man.” The promoters quickly adapted themselves to new situations in England, it appears.19

A second tract, Virginia Impartially examined, written by William Bullock, concerned the region between 34 degrees and 39 degrees—Cape Fear to Philadelphia—and as specifically mentioned on the title page, “the rich and healthfull Countries of Roanock, the now Plantations of Virginia and Mary-land.” It was passed for publication under the Commonwealth on April 19, 1649, by Henry Whaley. Dedicated to Lord Maltravers under his new title, the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, and to Lord Baltimore, it was based on research in the author’s own library as well as on information furnished by several knowledgeable men, including Samuel Vassall and Peter Andrews, both of whom had been associated with Edward Kingswell’s attempts to reach Carolana in 1633, and by his father who had lived in Virginia for more than a dozen years. Bullock’s little book was written, he said, at the urgent request of some “Knights and Gentlemen,” but in proper tones of submission to the new regime in England he was determined not to detract from other places. Instead, his book was designed to “kindly take the stranger by the hand, and lead him ... to such places as are already Planted, where all difficulties are now overcome.” Prospective settlers were told what clothes and equipment to take and what they might expect to produce, including cotton in the “Southernmost part of Virginia.” Bullock included a lengthy tirade against primogeniture and gave some specific features which he thought would produce a good government, including the secret ballot. All of this useful advice ended with the suggestion that prospective colonists, from gentlemen through honest but struggling laborers, and those who just wanted to invest in a colonial plantation, should call on Bullock at his chambers in the Middle-Temple. One Collinson, an ironmonger in Cornhill, Pollington the haberdasher in Lombard Street, or the stationer Beadle in Fleet Street were also prepared to give directions.20

The identity of the unnamed knights and gentlemen who engaged Bullock has not been discovered. It is possible that they also were responsible for the unidentified governor mentioned in the Moderate Intelligencer of May 2.

In 1650 another book on the same popular subject appeared. Edward Williams was responsible for Virgo Triumphans: or, virginia richly and truly valued; more especially the South part thereof: viz. The fertile carolana, and no less excellent Isle of roanoak, but his preface relates that John Ferrar supplied “the whole substance of it.” The brief book was dedicated to Parliament “as the Auspice of a beginning Yeare.” Numerous benefits to England from the settling of the region south of Virginia were cited, “but my aymes are more publicke,” Williams wrote.

He which reads this shall discover the beauties of a long neglected Virgin the incomparable Roanoke, and the adjacent excellencies of Carolana, a Country whom God and Nature has indulged with blessings incommunicable to any other Region. Heere you may take view of an Island and Maine, fertile to admiration, and (which is more admirable in workes of this nature) nothing but incorrupted truth in her discovery.

Parliament was informed that “the South of Virginia having a contiguous Ledge of at the least one hundred Ilands, and in the middest of those the incomparable Roanoak, the most of them at the same distance from the Continent that the Ile of Wight is from Hampshire, all of hazardous accesse to Forrainers, and affording a secure convenience from surprizall by the Natives” would be an “inoffensive Nursery to receive an infant Colony.” At this secure site the colony would be nourished until “we may poure our selves from thence upon the Mayneland, as our Ancestors the Saxons from the Isle of Tarnet into Brittaine.” Nature’s silkworm “shall spinne for Carolana, her cloth of Gold be weaved for Roanoak,” Williams wrote, and “The English name shall keepe company with the Sunne,” he concluded in what well may be the first expression of the noted nineteenth century phrase—“The sun never sets on the British Empire.” Williams’s book, in brief, was an earnest plea for support in the settlement of “Carolana, which comprehends Roanoak, and the Southern parts of Virginia,” but nowhere is the specific form of support mentioned. Perhaps this was just a general statement to stall opposition to a project already under way.

The English merchant John Ferrar, from whose knowledge Williams’s book was written, had been an important officer in the old Virginia Company of London. He was, nevertheless, a modest man, interested in the public good, and “he hoped God had still a hand in the protection of Virginia.” In addition to the 67-page book, Ferrar was also responsible for the publishing of a very attractive map in 1651 showing quite clearly and in considerable detail the whole region from south of Cape Fear to the Hudson River. On that map two different symbols, apparently representing forts, are shown without names on the south side of Chowan River (between the mouths of two streams which might be the Meherrin and Roanoke rivers) and on the southern shore of Albemarle Sound (the side of which might lie somewhere between modern Creswell and Roper in Washington County). There is no authority for interpreting these as English settlements, but the symbols are not at all like the one used to indicate the Indian town of Secotan farther south.21

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

Bland was so pleased with what he found that upon his return he petitioned the Virginia Assembly to permit him to engage in further discoveries and to settle 100 well-equipped men in the region. He went to England seeking support for his plan and while there in 1651 published an account of his discovery of New Britain. As in the case of Williams’s book in 1649, this one was printed by Thomas Harper (who had been printing since 1614) for John Stephenson on Ludgate Hill. The role of Stephenson in these ventures is unknown. Bland died in 1653 before he had succeeded in raising the force necessary for a settlement under the directive of the assembly.22

Others also soon became interested in this region. In July, 1653, the Reverend Roger Green petitioned the assembly for some land for himself and his neighbors residing along the Nansemond River. It so happened that Col. Thomas Dew, who had been along the Chowan River in 1646, and Col. Francis Yeardley, who was on the verge of sending an expedition there himself, were members of this assembly.23 The assembly ordered that

tenn thousand acres of land be granted unto one hundred such persons who shall first seate on Moratuck or Roanoake river and the land lying upon the south side of Choan river and the branches thereof, Provided that such seaters settle advantageously for security, and be sufficiently furnished with amunition and strength, And it is further ordered by the authority aforesaid, That there be granted to the said Roger Green, the rights of one thousand acres of land, and choice to take the same where it shall seem most convenient to him, next to those persons who have had a former grant in reward of his charge, hazard and trouble of first discoverie, and encouragement of others for seating those southern parts of Virginia.24

The statement “next to those persons who have had a former grant” has often been cited as evidence that settlers were in the area by that time. This may well have been the case. On the other hand, grants might have been made but not settled. There is ample precedent for this. There also is good evidence that the Reverend Mr. Green never established himself on his grant. He was active in Virginia as an advocate of a system of towns in contrast to the scattered, haphazard farms and plantations in the colony. It is apparent that he was present in Virginia in 1656, as he reported that on March 27 of that year “in my hearing” some members of the assembly expressed regret at the repeal of an act to establish central marketplaces in each county. On April 20 of the same year he witnessed the marriage contract of Nathaniell Batts. Five years later he was in London to deliver to the bishop of London a statement “to shew the unhappy State of the Church in Virginia” and to enter a plea for towns as the solution to many evils which he saw in the colony. His report was printed in 1662 as a pamphlet entitled Virginia’s Cure. It is interesting that he described the colony of Virginia as being bound “on the North by the great River Patomak, on the South by the River Chawan ... and [it] contains about half as much Land as England.”25

From Virginia in the spring of 1654 Francis Yeardley, son of the late Governor Sir George Yeardley, relative of John Pory, and recently a member of the House of Burgesses, wrote in detail to John Ferrar of a visit the previous fall to “South Virginia or Carolana.” It is not clear, in his modestly phrased account, whether Yeardley himself accompanied the party of about four men who set out in September, 1653. It was Nathaniell Batts, whom Yeardley described as “a young man, a trader for beavers,” who sought permission to go to “Rhoanoke” where he thought some other men had gone. This young man and his companions went through Currituck Inlet to the sound but failed to find their friends. They did visit Ralph Lane’s old fort on Roanoke Island, however, and later engaged the chief of the Roanoke Indians in lengthy and interesting conversation. Friendships were established, and the Indians from the region visited Yeardley at his home at “Linne-haven” in modern Norfolk. Eventually the chief’s son was left with Yeardley so that he might learn “to speak out of the book, and to make a writing.” A short while later, as Yeardley promised, a carpenter and five workmen were sent “to build the king an English house” which was soon afterward furnished “with English utensils and chattels.” Through this chief the English were introduced to the “Tuskarorawes emperor” from whom they learned a number of interesting things about the country.

It was because of the friendship between Yeardley and the Roanoke chief that Yeardley was able to purchase for £200 sterling all the land lying along three great rivers and even more to the south. It was reported that “the Indians totally left the lands and rivers to us, retiring to a new habitation.” Yeardley’s representatives on the spot “in solemn manner took possession of the country, in the name, and on the behalf, of the commonwealth of England; and actual possession was solemnly given them by the great commander, and all the great men of the rest of the provinces, in delivering them a turf of the earth with an arrow shot into it.” Later the chief delivered another turf with an arrow to Yeardley at his home where it was “received by me, in the name, and on the behalf, of the commonwealth of England, to whom we really tender the sure possession of this rich and flourishing place.”

His letter to Ferrar described “South Virginia or Carolana” as “a most fertile, gallant, rich soil, flourishing in all the abundance of nature,” and the £300 which he had invested, Yeardley hoped, might prove to have been a wise move. From Ferrar he requested whatever “good fruits, or roots, or plants, may be proper for such a country,” and “some silk-worms eggs, and materials for the making of silk,” a project of great hope at the moment in Virginia. Yeardley obviously had serious intentions of settling the country which lay only thirty or forty miles southwest of his home at the mouth of the James River on Chesapeake Bay, but there is no certain evidence that he succeeded. He did, however, hope for “assistance from good patriots, either by their good words or purses.” On May 3, 1654, the Roanoke chief presented his son for baptism at the parish church which Yeardley attended, and before they parted Yeardley told the chief that he intended to send “a further discovery by sea and land, to begin the first of July.”26

The young fur trader who had appealed to Yeardley in the fall of 1653 for permission to see his friends around Roanoke was Nathaniell Batts, for whom a small house was later built at Yeardley’s expense near the mouth of Chowan River. A carpenter, Robert Bodnam, sometime before the middle of July, 1655, was sent “twice to the Southward” where he remained for a total of five months “ffor building a house ... for Batts to live in and trade with the Indians wch I did doe by Coll. Yeardley’s Appointment and he did promise to see me paid for it.” Yeardley died in 1655 before the carpenter was paid, and he was obliged to go to court for his pay. Surviving records of the case in Norfolk County show that the house was twenty feet square with two rooms and a chimney, for which Bodnam was awarded “One Thousand weight of Tobb and Caske” by the court.27

The old explorer, Col. Thomas Dew, applied to the Virginia assembly in December, 1656, for authority “to make a discoverie of the navigable rivers to the southward between Cape Hatterras and Cape Fear with such gentlemen and planters as would voluntarily and att their owne charge accompanie him.” His request was granted with the stipulation that “it be done at the proper charge of the undertakers and not at the cost of the publique, and in the absence or in case of the mortality of Coll. Thomas Dew, Capt. Thomas Francis is hereby invested with the like power.” It is quite likely that Nathaniell Batts was one of those who participated in this expedition. The Quarter Court of Virginia in June, 1657, “taking into Consideration ye great pains & trouble, wch Mr Nathaniell Batts hath taken in the discovery of an Inlett to the Southward, which is likely to be mutch advantagious to the Inhabitants of this Collony,” extended protection to Batts from his creditor for a year and a day.28

A manuscript map of “The South Part of Virginia” drawn in 1657 by a London cartographer, Nicholas Comberford, shows a considerable amount of new information. Obviously based on careful reconnaissance, it includes a new inlet south of the old Currituck Inlet. It also shows “Batts House,” indicated by a house-like symbol, at the mouth of what is now Salmon Creek in Bertie County at the head of Albemarle Sound. All of the evidence suggests that by the middle of 1655, at the latest, Nathaniell Batts was operating an established trading post at this excellent site under the sponsorship of Francis Yeardley. Since Batts also maintained a home in Lynnhaven Parish, he probably was only in the Chowan area for a part of each year.29

Further evidence of Batts’s activity in the vicinity is seen in the oldest surviving North Carolina land record. Dated September 24, 1660, and signed with the mark of Kiscutanewh, “King of Yausapin,” it grants to Batts “all ye Land on ye southwest side of Pascotanck River, from ye mouth of ye sd, River to ye head of new Begin Creeke.” This was land which the chief had previously sold to two men named Mason and Willoughby, but for which he had not been paid, according to Batts’s deed.30

The Quaker missionary, George Fox, visited Batts in November and December, 1672, and slept on a mat before the fireplace of his small house. The kindly Quaker described Batts as “formerly Governour of roanoke, who goeth by ye name of Captaine Batts, who hath beene a Rude desperate man.” The title of governor of Roanoke was quite likely bestowed upon Batts when he was the sole white inhabitant of this vast region. The adjectives “rude” and “desperate” may have been deserved; Fox was acquainted with Batts, but his journal does not explain why these epithets should have been chosen for him. That they were not undeserved, however, is suggested by the fact that soon after Batts married a widow with children, he demanded payment for the board of the children. Fox’s use of “hath beene” instead of “is” suggests that Batts might have reformed in later life. At least he attended Quaker meetings when Fox preached in the neighborhood, and he once accepted a “Papper” [a sermon?] to be read to the Emperor of the Tuscarroras and his thirty kings.31

In 1676 Batts was living on land in Chowan Precinct to which he had no title and apparently alone. He was dead by early November, 1679, survived by his widow who soon afterward married for the third time.32

Hunters and trappers, merchants, Indian traders, gentlemen curious to explore, soldiers, and farmers in search of better land began to appear in the “southward” of Virginia more and more frequently in the late 1640s and in the 1650s. Their reasons generally were economic, but sometimes it may have been little more than idle curiosity which brought them. Nothing remains in the few records they left to suggest that they were unhappy with political affairs in Virginia or to show that religious conditions there were oppressive enough to drive them away. These first permanent settlers saw nothing unusual about what they were doing. The North Carolina region was simply the frontier of Virginia, and it was only natural to move out from the center of population in search of new land and better opportunities.

John Harvey may not have been the very first permanent resident of North Carolina, but at the present time he is the earliest of whom there is a reliable record. In a will dated February 1, 1660, James Took, or Tuke, of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, left furniture, linen, silver, pewter, and livestock to his daughter, Dorothy, and her husband, John Harvey. Twice in his will Took spoke of these goods and livestock as already being “at the Southward in the Custody of the aforesd Harvey.” Only an established homestead, and it must have been such before the end of 1659, would have had such things as a feather bed, rug, a smoothing iron, pewter chamber pot, cows and a calf, and other signs of a settled life.33

Many years later Richard Sanderson, prominent citizen of Currituck County, swore that he had lived in North Carolina “ever since the year next after King Charles the Second was Restored” and that he “well remembers the first settlement thereof.” This places him in the region in 1660 or 1661.34 On another occasion testimony was presented in court showing that Samuel Davis had moved to Pasquotank Precinct from Isle of Wight County in 1660.35 Robert Lawrence in 1708 testified that he had settled on the west bank of Chowan River in 1661.36 George Durant’s deed in March, 1662, from King Kilcocanen refers to adjoining land already held by Samuel Pricklove.37 Other early settlers whose names occur frequently in the region, and some of whom may have been there by 1659 with Harvey, included George Catchmaid, Thomas Jarvis, John Jenkins, and Dr. Thomas Relfe.

The population of this outpost of Virginia had grown so large that it must have been a cause of some concern to Governor Berkeley. A “Commission issued to Captain Samuel Stephens to be commander of the southern plantation, authorizing him to appoint a sheriff,” was issued on October 9, 1662. This document was among those burned in Richmond in April, 1865, but a Virginia historian saw it and recorded this much about it several years earlier. Under Stephens’s commission the lands of the inhabitants in the “southern plantation” were secured to them.38 The settlement’s first official was a native of Virginia, having been born there in about 1629. His father was Richard Stephens of London who had settled in Jamestown in 1623, and his mother was Elizabeth Peirsey, daughter of the cape-merchant, Abraham Peirsey. Captain Stephens married Frances Culpeper in 1652, and they lived at Bolthrope plantation on Warwick River. The absence of any information to the contrary leads to the assumption that Stephens continued to head the colony until he was succeeded in 1664 by William Drummond, governor of Albemarle County under the eight Lords Proprietors to whom Carolina was granted by King Charles II in 1663.


* Mr. Powell is professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

1 Susan M. Kingsbury, The Records of the Virginia Company (Washington: Government Printing Office, 4 volumes, 1906-1935), I, 330, 504, hereinafter cited as Kingsbury, Records of the Virginia Company; Edward D. Neill, History of the Virginia Company of London (Albany, N.Y.: Joel Munsell, 1869), 402.

2 Edward D. Neill, Virginia Company of London: Extracts from Their Manuscript Transactions (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1868), 16, hereinafter cited as Neill, Virginia Company of London.

3 William Strachey, The History of Travaile into Virginia Britannia (London: Hakluyt Society, 1849), 28; William P. Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962), plates 23, 29, 32, hereinafter cited as Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps; William Bullock, Virginia Impartially examined... (London: John Hammond, 1649), where the County of Roanock appears as a part of the title, hereinafter cited as Bullock, Virginia Impartially examined.

4 Patrick Copland, Virginia’s God be Thanked (London: Printed by I. D. for William Sheffard and John Bellamie, 1622), 13.

5 Kingsbury, Records of the Virginia Company, III, 547, 587, 641-642.

6 Mattie Erma Edwards Parker (ed.), North Carolina Charters and Constitutions, 1578-1698 (Raleigh: Carolina Charter Tercentenary Commission, 1963), 62-73, hereinafter cited as Parker, North Carolina Charters and Constitutions.

7 Parker, North Carolina Charters and Constitutions, 64; Kingsbury, Records of the Virginia Company, I, 302, 562, 296; III, 118; Neill, Virginia Company of London, 168; Alfred Rive, “A Brief History of the Regulation and Taxation of Tobacco in England,” William and Mary Quarterly, IX (January, 1929), 11-12; H. R. McIlwaine (ed.), Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia, 1622-1632, 1670-1676 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1924), 168, hereinafter cited as McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court; Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, XI, 172-173; XX, 339-341.

8 Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, 1574-1660 (London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1860), 98, 107-110, 112-115, 120, 140, hereinafter cited as Calendar of State Papers, 1574-1660; Leslie Stephen, Sidney Lee, and others (eds.), Dictionary of National Biography (London: Smith, Elder & Company, 63 volumes and updating supplements, 1885—), II, 902; XX, 156-158; Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (ed.), Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (Boston: William White, 5 volumes, 1853-1854), I, 34, 41, 47, 51, 56: Edward D. Neill, Virginia Carolorum: The Colony under the Rule of Charles the First and Second, A.D. 1625-A.D. 1685 (Albany, N.Y.: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1886), 75, hereinafter cited as Neill, Virginia Carolorum; Edward D. Neill, The English Colonization of America (London: Strahan & Company, 1871), 214.

9 Calendar of State Papers, 1574-1660, 190-191, 194, 197-199, 207.

10 The list of names, with several discrepancies, probably due to faulty transcription from the original source, are in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, XV (January, 1908), 299; and in Nell Marion Nugent (ed.), Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623-1800 (Richmond: Dietz Press, 1934), 171-172. An interesting deposition, the original of which cannot now be located, has been printed and otherwise duplicated by the Southold (New York) Free Library. Dated 18 March 1658, it was made by Thomas Osman who “with his now father-in-law, William Purrier, and his brother in ye law, James Reeve did go adventuringe in ye Chowan country for sperrits resin in ye yeare 1636 and there did meet William Salmon, Thomas Reeve, Thomas Terrill, Thomas Benedict, Henery Whiteney and others who had come hither from ye Summer Islaes and ye said adventure failinge through ye overplus of adventurers, who had come thither prior to their co[m]eing ....” From Chowan, Osman and others went to Long Island, where they settled.

11 Propriety of Carolana als florida, 1699, manuscript in the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hereinafter cited as Propriety of Carolana als Florida.

12 Calendar of State Papers, 1574-1660, 153, 257.

13 McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 481, 492; Calendar of State Papers, 1574-1660, 282. The original letter was burned by Federal troops in Virginia during the Civil War, but a draft survives in the Public Record Office, London. McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, v.

14 Calendar of State Papers, 1574-1660, 285, 290; Virginia 350th Anniversary Celebration Corporation, Colonial Records Project, Survey Report No. X, 60; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, X (January, 1902), 272.

15 William L. Saunders (ed.), The Colonial Records of North Carolina (Raleigh: State of North Carolina, 10 volumes, 1886-1890), I, 14-16, hereinafter cited as Saunders, Colonial Records.

16 McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 482, 492; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, IX (October, 1901), 171; Neill, Virginia Carolorum, 306; Charles M. Andrews, The Colonial Period in American History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 4 volumes, 1934-1938), III, 186; Propriety of Carolana als Florida; The History of North America....With the Present State of the Different Colonies (London: Millar, Thomson, Jones, Davidson, Wilson, and Gardiner, 1776), 264-265. An article signed “Americanus” in Gentlemen’s Magazine, XXIV (December, 1754), 569, also reported that Maltravers “planted several parts of the country.” It is not properly a part of the history of North Carolina, but at the death of Maltravers in 1652 Carolana was inherited by his son; when that son died without heirs it passed to his brother. The property was sold, and it was eventually claimed by Daniel Coxe, who, in order to quiet his claim, was granted 100,000 acres of land in New York by King George III in 1770.

17 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 676; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, VIII (July, 1900), 1-2.

18 Hugh T. Lefler (ed.), “A Description of ‘Carolana’ by a ‘Well-Willer,’ 1649,” North Carolina Historical Review, XXXII (January, 1955), 102-105. The writer has also consulted a photocopy of the original paper for certain minor differences which exist between it and the transcript as presented in the Review.

19 A Perfect Description of Virginia (London: Printed for Richard Wodenoth, 1649), passim.

20 Bullock, Virginia Impartially examined, passim.

21 Edward Williams, Virgo Triumphans (London: Printed by Thomas Harper, for John Stephenson, 1650), passim; Wesley F. Craven, Dissolution of the Virginia Company (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932), 9, 28, 185; Alexander Brown, Genesis of the United States (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 2 volumes, 1890), II, 890; Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps, plate 29, and 20-21, 71, 141-142.

22 The Discovery of New Britain, with an introduction by Howard H. Peckham ([Ann Arbor, Michigan]: William L. Clements Library, 1954), passim; Alexander S. Salley, Jr. (ed.), Narratives of Early Carolina, 1650-1708 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911), 1-19; Richard L. Morton, Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2 volumes, 1960), I, 161-162; Paul G. Morrison, Index of Printers, Publishers, and Booksellers (Charlottesville: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1950), 34.

23 Neill, Virginia Carolorum, 232-233.

24 William W. Hening (ed.), The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia (New York: Printed for the editor, 13 volumes, 1819-1823), I, 380-381, hereinafter cited as Hening, Statutes.

25 Elizabeth G. McPherson, “Nathaniell Batts, Landholder on Pasquotank River, 1660,” North Carolina Historical Review, XLIII (January, 1966), 76, hereinafter cited as McPherson, “Nathaniel Batts”; R[oger] G[reen], Virginia’s Cure: or An Advisive Narrative Concerning Virginia (London: Printed by W. Godbid for Henry Brome, 1662), passim.

26 Thomas Birch (ed.), A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe (London: Printed for the Executor of the late Mr. Fletcher Gyles, 7 volumes, 1742), II, 273-274.

27 Herbert R. Paschal, “A State in Search of a Birthday,” Rebel [East Carolina College, III (Spring, 1960), 11-14; McPherson, “Nathaniell Batts,” 73.

28 Hening, Statutes, I, 422; McPherson, “Nathaniell Batts,” 78-79.

29 Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps, 21-24, 72-73, 282, plate 32; McPherson, “Nathaniell Batts,” 73-74. An entry in the Transcript of the Registers of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, from 1640-1708 (London: Privately printed, 3 volumes, 1913-1914), II, 376, suggests a possible relationship, or at least an acquaintance, between other members of the Yeardley and Batts families. In London one Richard Yardley assigned to Ann Batts his rights in a book entitled The Countesse of Kents Manuall. The role of printers and booksellers in the colonization of America and their interest in the subject might prove to be an interesting topic worth investigating.

30 McPherson, “Nathaniell Batts,” 74-76.

31 Norman Penney (ed.), The Journal of George Fox (Cambridge: At the University Press, 2 volumes, 1911), II, 234-235, 442-443; McPherson, “Nathaniell Batts,” 74.

32 Mattie Erma Edwards Parker (ed.), North Carolina Higher-Court Records, 1670-1696 (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1968), 71; McPherson, “Nathaniell Batts,” 75.

33 Will of James Took, February 1, 1659/60, Office of the Clerk of Court, Isle of Wight County, Isle of Wight, Virginia. The writer is indebted to Lindley S. Butler for calling his attention to this document.

34 Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, VII (April, 1900), 347-348.

35 North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, III (January, 1903), 146.

36 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 677.

37 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 19, 20.

38 McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 507.

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