Throughout history, Granville County was occupied by both Saponi and Tuscarora peoples at various times. However, the last time the government officially identified the Native Americans of Granville County by a tribe, they identified the people as “Saponi”. This is not to imply that the only Saponi people left in North Carolina lived only in Granville Co nor do I mean to imply that all the Native peoples in Granville Co were Saponi. But rather, the last time the colonial or federal government officially acknowledged a relationship with Saponi people, was in Granville County in the mid 1700s.
These records are important because they document that Saponi people still existed as a distinct tribe after the closing of Fort Christanna in 1718 and the removal of some Saponi/Tutelo to upstate NY. It also demonstrates that the Saponi were still considered a distinct tribe after the formation of the Indian Woods reservation in 1717 in nearby Bertie Co for the neutral Northern Town Tuscarora.
These records are also significant because they demonstrate a very close relationship between the Saponi people in Granville County and an Indian trader named Col. William Eaton (1690-1759). These details are key and will be discussed at length in future blog posts about William Chavis and the other Saponi Indians who lived next to Eaton.
In 1754, in a “Report concerning the militia in each county of North Carolina”, we see:
Granville—Willm Eaton Esqr Coll: of Granville county His Regimt consists of 8 companys 734 besides officers 2 Captns Simms & Jones are moved away the others Resigned He thinks the fines on delinquents should be fixed by a Court Martial. No arms or ammunition in the Stores.
There are about 12 or 14 Sapona men and as many women & children in the county
Also in 1754, in “Muster roll for William Hurst’s company for the Granville County Militia”, we see that Hurst writes:
A small number of Saq. Indians living on the lands of Colonel Wm. Eaton in Granville.
In 1755, in a “Report concerning the number of Native Americans in North Carolina”, we see:
Granville County: The Saponas about 14 Men & 14 Women Children. Total = 28.
Also in 1755, we have another report of Saponi Indians. It does not specify the location but it again demonstrates the Saponi are a separate people who have a trade relationship with the colony.
In a “Report by the Committee of both Houses of the North Carolina General Assembly concerning public claims”, we see:
Mr. Spaight produced a further claim of £39.11.6, expended in presents to the Catawba and Sapona Indians in March last. As to this last claim, the Committee proposes the House should come to a resolution thereon. Allowed by the house
And finally in 1761 in a “Report by Arthur Dobbs concerning general conditions in North Carolina”, we see:
The only Tribes or remains of Tribes of Indians residing in this Province are the Tuskerora Sapona Meherin and Maramuskito Indians. The Tuskerora have about 100 fighting men the Saponas and Meherrin Indians about 20 each and the Maramuskitos about 7 or 8. the first 3 are situated in the Middle of the Colony upon and near Roanoak and have by Law 10,000 acres of Land allotted to them in Lord Granvilles District they live chiefly by hunting and are in perfect friendship with the Inhabitants
From this last passage we learn that the neutral Tuscarora, along with the Meherrin and Saponi are still living in the Northeastern part of the state. And despite living with or near one another, they are still separate tribes.
This is the last primary source reference I can find for Saponi people in North Carolina until the modern era.