The Bass family in Granville is one of the larger Native American families in the county. Just about all “core” surnames of the Native community in Granville have intermarried with the Basses. Thankfully, the Bass family has a very well documented tribal origin with the Nansemond tribe in Virginia. Additionally, there are Bass descendants found in several state recognized tribes in North Carolina including: Haliwa-Saponi, Meherrin, Occaneechi-Saponi, and Lumbee.
Nansemond Tribal Origin
Much of the source material for this blog entry comes from Lars Adams’ research on the Basses. Not only is he a researcher, but he is also a descendant of the Bass family and has invested a lot of time in correcting past genealogical mistakes. Nikki Bass is another Bass descendant and researcher who publishes her Bass related research in a blog here. I also drew from Paul Heinegg’s research on the Bass family.
The Native American branch of the British Bass family begins with the marriage in 1638 of John Bass(e) an English colonist to Elizabeth, baptized daughter of the chief of the Nansemond tribe. They are my 10th great-grandparents. Their marriage was recorded in the Bass family bible that has survived to the present. There have been incorrect transcriptions of this marriage record that falsely state that Elizabeth’s name was “Keziah Elizabeth Tucker” and that her father was “Robin the elder”. However as you can clearly read from the actual original marriage record, her name is simply “Elizabeth” and her father’s name is not mentioned at all. So if you are a Bass descendant or researcher, please check your family tree to make sure you have the correct information. Below is an image of the marriage:
The Nansemond tribe is an Algonquian speaking tribe of the Powhatan Confederacy from the tidewater Virginia area that is today the modern city of Suffolk. As coastal people they were impacted very early on by European colonization. Here is a map of sub-tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy:
John Bass and Elizabeth had several children including a son named William Bass (1654-1741) who appears to have the most well documented descendants. William Bass was married to a woman named Catherine Lanier and they continued living in the area that was then Norfolk County, VA and is today Chesapeake, VA. William Bass Sr and Catherine Lanier had the following children:
- Edward Bass b. 19 Oct 1672
- John Bass b. 4 Dec 1673
- Keziah Bass b. 30 Oct 1675
- William Bass b. 28 Oct 1676
- Joseph Bass b. 21 Dec 1678
- Mary Bass b. 15 Jun 1681
- Thomas Bass b. 13 Nov 1687
Four of his sons: Edward, John, William, and Thomas are known to have had children and living descendants today. Sons William Bass Jr (1676 – 1761) and Thomas Bass (1687-?) and their descendants primarily remained in the Norfolk Co, VA area with some descendants moving a very short distance across the state line into Camden Co, NC and neighboring counties. Descendants of the Basses who remained in the Norfolk area make up the core membership of the state recognized Nansemond Tribe. These Basses commonly intermarried with other FPOC families such as: Hall, Perkins, Price, Archer, Newton, and Nickens.
On the other hand, sons Edward Bass (1672 – 1750) and John Bass (1673- 1732) relocated to North Carolina and their descendants I will document in the following sections. The descendants of both men can be found in many Native American communities throughout North Carolina, including Granville.
William Bass Sr in 1726/1727 received a certificate from the Norfolk Co, VA court stating that:
William Bass, Senr. & … his sons Wm. Bass, Thomas Bass and Joseph Bass, & spinster daughter Mary Bass are persons of English and Nansemun Indian descent with no Admixture of negor, Ethipopic blood
William’s sons Edward and John Bass are not included in this certificate because they had already relocated to North Carolina several years prior.
Later William’s son William Bass Jr (1676-1761) received a similar certificate in 1742 that read:
William Bass, the Bearer, tall, swarthy, dark eyes, weight abt. 13 stone, scar on back of left hand, is of English & Indian descent with no admixture of negro blood, numbered as a Nansemun by his own Choosing. The sd. Bass dwells in this County and hath a good name for his industry and honesty.
Clearly the Bass family early on was attempting to document and establish their Nansemond Indian identity and in the eyes of the colony, this meant also not having any “negro admixture”.
William Bass Sr, wrote a will on 1 Oct 1740 which was proved on 17 Sep 1742 in Norfolk Co. In the will, William gives to his sons William, Edward and Thomas only one shilling each. He gave to his son Joseph Bass, his “waring cloaths” and left his land and anything else to his daughter Mary in the hopes that she salvage what is left. Clearly, William was not in good financial standing at the time of his death. Son John Bass (1673-1732) is not named in the will because he predeceased his father. This is also true for William’s daughter Keziah Bass who died in 1704.
Edward Bass and John Bass Move to North Carolina
From here our discussion focuses on the two brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) who moved to North Carolina. Let’s first start with Edward Bass. Edward Bass was named in his father William Bass’ 1740 will in which he only inherited one shilling. Edward’s wife was Lovewell but her maiden name has not been confirmed and so more research is needed to properly identify exactly who she is. Edward is well documented as a land owner in Norfolk County, VA (modern Chesapeake, VA) and purchased land from John Fulcher in 1699. Fulcher’s will in 1712, freed the Anderson family that would both intermarry and move with the Basses into North Carolina. You can read more about John Fulcher and the Anderson family here. Edward Bass makes numerous appearances in the Norfolk Co court records up through 1715.
By 1720, Edward Bass owned land around the Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (modern Gates County), North Carolina. In that land transaction, he is called “Edward Bass of Norfolk County, Virginia, Parish of Elizabeth”, so we know it is our same Edward Bass. A couple of years later in 1723 he started purchasing tracts of land along Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County and what is today Northampton County, NC. Fortunately, Edward left a 1750 Northampton County will which named his children.
All of Edward Bass’ children moved to Granville County by the 1750s and so his descendants are well represented in the Granville community. And it is important to note that Edward Bass’ children and descendants intermarried quite frequently with the freed Anderson family, so much so, that it’s nearly impossible to separate the two families. Though all of Edward Bass’ children inherited a parcel of his Northampton Co. land, they all eventually sold off their shares when they moved to Granville Co. Edward’s son Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) still owned a parcel of his father’s Northampton Co land in 1784, when he and his wife Mary eventually sold it off. Once Edward Bass’ children arrived in Granville, they became neighbors and intermarried with the already established Chavis, Harris, Pettiford, Hawley, Goins, and Mitchell families and became apart of the community.
The descendants of Edward Bass’ brother John Bass (1673-1732) are also among the Granville Native Americans, but they are not as numerous as Edward’s. John Bass was first married to Love Harris. A record of their marriage still exists:
As researcher Lars Adams point out, despite John Bass and Love Harris both being residents of Nansemond County, VA they married in North Carolina. John Bass was Indian and Love Harris was white and during this time, VA passed strict laws forbidding interracial marriages. So they likely married in North Carolina where the laws were more lenient.
John Bass purchased land that adjoined his brother Edward Bass’ land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan Co (now Gates Co), NC in 1720/1721. This shows the two brothers moved together and remained close in North Carolina. And just like his brother Edward, John Bass accumulated a lot of land that adjoined his brother’s along Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County, and now Northampton County starting in the early 1720s. John Bass died young in 1732. Fortunately he left a Northampton County will which divided his Urahaw Swamp land among his children.
It should be noted that John Bass’ will makes mention of his widow Mary, and in it, John leaves his plantation to her as gift for “bringing up my small children”. Since we have an earlier marriage record for John Bass to Love Harris, this would mean that Love died sometime earlier, and John Bass remarried Mary. The will seems to indicate that Mary helped raise the children that John Bass had with his previous wife. The will also confirms that Edward Bass and John Bass were siblings because in it, John Bass refers to his own land as being adjacent to his brother Edward Bass.
Some of John Bass’ children remained in Northampton County and neighboring/nearby counties including Bertie, Edgecombe, Nash and Halifax. Other children moved to other parts of the state. For example, John Bass’ grandson Frederick Bass (b. 1750) moved to Anson Co and some his descendants can be found among the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson Co.
Several of John Bass’ children did join Edward Bass’ children in their relocation to Granville Co. They were Sarah Bass b. 1704, William Bass b. 1712, Lovey Bass b. 1720 and Mary Bass b. 1722. Sarah Bass b. 1704 was the wife of Lewis Anderson (1713-1785), of the freed Anderson family of Norfolk Co, so that explains why she moved to Granville. Lovey Bass b. 1712 was not married but had a partner named George Anderson (1696-1771) who was also of the Anderson family. The wife of William Bass b. 1712 is unknown but I wonder if she was also an Anderson. Mary Bass b. 1722 married her first cousin Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) who was the son of Edward Bass (1672-1750). In 1784, she sold the 100 acres of land along the Urahaw Swamp that she inherited from her father in 1732. Just like Edward Bass’ children, John Bass’ children who moved to Granville married into and became a part of the Native American community.
****Mary Bass (1757-1844) and her husband Benjamin Richardson (1750-1809) are my 5th great-grandparents and are the main progenitors of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Before Benjamin Richardson, Mary Bass was previously married to her cousin Elijah Bass (1743-1781). It had been assumed that Mary Bass (1757-1844) was the same Mary Bass who was the daughter of Thomas Bass and Thomasine Bunch of Bertie Co. Thomas Bass was a grandson of John Bass (1673-1732) and Love Harris. However I have extensively reviewed the records for Thomas Bass/Thomasine Bunch and their children and it is very clear that Mary Bass (1757-1844) was not their daughter. A closer examination of the records as well as DNA cousin matches, shows that Mary Bass (1757-1844) was the daughter of Benjamin Bass (1722-1802) and his wife Mary Bass (b. 1722). This means that Mary Bass (1757-1844) descends from both Edward Bass (1672-1750) and his brother John Bass (1673-1732). ****
A Closer Look at Urahaw Swamp and Neighboring Tribes
The fact that brothers Edward Bass and John Bass moved to North Carolina at the same time and bought adjoining land deserves further examination. The Urahaw Swamp land that was first purchased in 1722/1723 is of particular interest because Bartholomew Chavis (1685-1750) also owned land along Urahaw Swamp. Bartholomew was the father of original Granville County land owner William Chavis (1706-1778) whose large land tract provided the land base for the Native American community in Granville. The earliest records for Bartholomew are found in Henrico and Surry County, VA. By 1719/1720 he was living in North Carolina and started purchasing land along Urahaw Swamp just 2-3 years before the Bass brothers purchased land there.
The Gibson family is another Native American family who are relevant to this discussion. William Chavis (1706-1778)’ wife was Frances Gibson. Her brother John Gibson who lived nearby, was a witness to a 1728 land purchase along Urahaw Swamp by Edward Bass (1672-1750). Two of John Gibson’s sons – George Gibson and Charles Gibson moved to Granville in 1750. This was the far southwestern part of the county that just two years later became Orange County. George and Charles Gibson did not stay in Orange County for along and moved around quite a bit with their descendants eventually leaving the state. William Chavis (1706-1778) also owned some land in Orange County and perhaps that is connected to George and Charles Gibson’s temporary residence there. Despite inheriting his father’s Northampton County land along the Roanake River in 1750, William Chavis (1706-1778) continued to live in Granville County. William even continued to have additional land transactions in Northampton County but Granville was his primary residence as indicated in tax records. So with William Chavis being the first from Urahaw Swamp to relocate to Granville, it appears the Bass/Anderson family followed him.
I find it interesting that a Nottoway Indian named George Skipper b. 1685 was documented through land transactions, living along Urahaw Swamp in the 1720s (See Heinegg here). This is the exact same time that the Chavis, Gibson, Bass, and Anderson families lived along Urahaw Swamp. And when we take a look at the Moseley map of 1733, we see both the Meherrin and the Nansemond Indians living in close proximity to Urahaw Swamp in Northampton Co. The Nottoway and Meherrin are part of the same Iroquoian speaking confederacy. And some of the Nansemond lived with the Nottoway on the Nottoway reservation in Southampton Co, VA (across the state line from Northampton Co, NC). This was an area where a number of tribes took refuge with one another, and this historical context is important for understanding Urahaw Swamp and the cluster of mixed race Native American families who resided there.
So why did some Nansemond Indians leave the Virginia homeland and head into other tribal territory and ultimately have living descendants in a variety of tribal communities? According to scholar Helen Rountree, the Basses belonged to the so-called “Christianized-Nansemond”, and were never granted a reservation like other Virginia tribes (Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Gingaskin, etc). The “traditional” Nansemond did live on a reservation in Southampton County with the Nottoway Tribe. By 1792 they sold off their remaining reservation land. A closer genealogical examination of the Nansemond/Nottoway families on the Nottoway reservation shows that some individuals (such as George Skipper mentioned above) did leave the reservation for nearby Native American communities. In other words, in the 1700’s there were both Christianized and Traditional Nansemond who were not tied down to the traditional Nansemond homeland in Deep Creek.
Without a bordered, recognized land base, it seems the Basses were pushed out of VA as a result of encroachment by European colonists. North Carolina at that time was still the “frontier” and that is where the Basses decided to make their home. The Basses were not the only family from a Powhatan tribe that made this journey. I suspect a number of Native American families from North Carolina that have tidewater Virginia roots were Powhatan tribal people who were pushed out and ended up marrying into other tribal communities.
The Basses from Granville County
So to summarize: all of the children of Edward Bass (1672-1750) and four of the children of John Bass (1673-1732) relocated to Granville County. Edward Bass and John Bass were brothers, and the grandsons of John Bass(e) an English colonist and his Nansemond Indian wife Elizabeth.
The Bass family continued living and thriving in Granville County as can be seen from census records. In 1800, there were 14 Bass heads of households, in 1810: 10 heads of household, in 1820: 7 heads of household, in 1830: 6 heads of household, and in 1840: 6 heads of household. In the 1850 census where every household member is named for the first time, there were approximately 24 Basses in Granville, and in 1860 there were approximately 25 Basses in Granville. By the 1940 census which is the last publicly available census, there were approximately 100 Basses in Granville. These numbers of course do not reflect female Basses whose names changed due to marriage, nor their descendants.
Two of Edward Bass’ sons: Benjamin Bass (b. 1722) and Edward Bass Jr (b. 1728) are primarily responsible for the large number of Basses in Granville Co as well as those who continued to head further west into Person, Orange, Caswell, Alamance, Chatham, and Guilford Counties, so you will find a high number of their living descendants today.
The Bass lineage of the three brothers pictured above:
William Bass; Cullen Bass; Prudence Bass; Edward Bass Jr; Edward Bass Sr; William Bass Sr; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief.
Not only do the three Bass brothers descend from the Bass family, they are descendants of the Granville County Evans, Anderson, Day, and Mayo families. This particular branch of the Bass family moved around neighboring Granville, Person, and Orange counties.
Alonzo Bass’ grandson Joel Bass (1929-2012) was former chief of the Eno-Occaneechi Tribe (precursor to the state recognized Occaneechi-Saponi tribe). On Joel’s mother’s side he is descended from the Granville County Day, Stewart, Cousins and yes the Bass family again from the Edward Bass Sr line.
Alford Pettiford is another Bass descendant and in fact has multiple Bass lines that trace back to both brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732). One of his Bass lineages is as follows:
Alford Pettiford; James Pettiford; William Pettiford; Dicey Bass; Nathan Bass; Lovey Bass; John Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief.
Cappie Frances Anderson also has multiple Bass lineages going back to both brothers Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732). One of her Bass lineages is as follows:
Cappie Anderson; James Anderson; Winnie Anderson; Henry Anderson; Rhody Anderson; Winnie Bass; Benjamin Bass; Edward Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth daughter of the Nansemond chief.