Colonial Records of Saponi Indians in Granville County

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

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr05-0072

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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.

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr22-0109

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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.

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr05-0089 

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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

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr22-0635

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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

Source: http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr06-0167

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.

Col. William Eaton's home shown in a historical map of Granville County. To view a full version of the map: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/3569
Col. William Eaton’s home shown in a historical map of Granville County.
To view a full version of the map: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/3569
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13 thoughts on “Colonial Records of Saponi Indians in Granville County

  1. I have connections Granville County in that my paternal lines are from there (Mitchell, Fuller, Britt, Oakley). Also my maternal family come from an area in Virginia called Saponi in Dinwiddie County. Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA shows connections to Chavis, Eton of North Carolina.

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  2. Hello to all….My name is AJ. I grew up in the areas of Bertie, Northampton, Edgecombe, Chowan, & Hertford Counties NC. My home was 1.5 miles from the Bertie County Line. I just wanted to emphasis that Bertie County NC was formally the home site of the infamous ‘Indian Woods” Reservation. It is right down the road from my originally homestead. Anyway, my aim is to put Bertie County, NC into a clearer context to the readers/researchers/genealogists. Bertie County, NC once encompassed these following counties; Tyrrell County, Edgecombe, County, Northampton County, Hertford County & part of Chowan County NC. Thus, Bertie County, NC was huge in land mass. It was established originally in 1660. Beginning in 1722 the NC legislature begin to cut away the aforementioned counties from Bertie. In 1759 parts of were cut away to form Hertford. In 1741, Northampton County was formed/established out of Bertie. In 1722 Chowan County & Bertie County Separated to form Chowan County. One reason these NE& SE NC lands were so sought after, is the bountiful game & the very rich, fertile uplands/lowlands for agriculture. Also, timber land grows aggressive due to plenty of rain. Timber/wood was a vital commodity to build the New World. Anyway, Even, now after all the aforementioned counties were formed out of Bertie County, NC she still is the largest county in NC. So, in many cases my ancestors did not move or relocate…. the counties realigned & moved over them due to NC politics as power, money, hunting and land grabs took precedent over the Indigenous Tribes(Tuskerora, Meherrin, Chowanoke & Others).

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  3. My 4th great grandmother married the son of Thomas Goss, colonial resident of Granville, NC. Her name on census records was is as “Di is sampi Rampas”. Family oral history claims her to have been Saponi and her actual name was “Rampas” but when census was collected she was recorded in this strange way to reflect she was neither white nor black. Family oral history also claims that she was sent back to her native family for burial and was not buried beside her husband, my 4th great grandfather Matthew Goss in Habersham, GA. I had hoped for some clarity with my ancestral DNA test, but no native American or Saponi was discovered. Although this could be due to not having enough Saponi samples to pull positive results from. I believe the oral history passed down that my 4th great grandmother was indeed Saponi is somewhat correct and which would confirm your theory that Saponi’s we’re still living in the area when Granville County was established. It would be interesting to know where burials for tribal remnants would have taken place in Granville, NC in the early 1800’s, if such place indeed exist.

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