The Bass family in Granville County is one of the larger, if not the largest Native American family in the county. It is a “core” lineage whose family members have intermarried with just about all other “core” families of the Native community in Granville. The Basses have a well documented tribal origin with the Nansemond tribe who are indigenous to the Nansemond River area of Virginia. Today known as the Nansemond Indian Nation, the tribal nation received federal acknowledgement in 2018. Due to the rapid movement out of the Nansemond homeland as a result of increased colonization, many Basses settled in the “frontier” of North Carolina. Their descendants today can found in a number of tribal communities such as: Haliwa-Saponi, Meherrin, Occaneechi-Saponi, and Lumbee.
Nansemond Tribal Origin
Much of the source material for this blog entry comes from the research of Bass descendant and genealogist Lars Adams. Lars has invested a lot of time in correcting past research mistakes. Nikki Bass is another Bass descendant and researcher who publishes her Bass related genealogy in a blog here. I also drew from Paul Heinegg’s research on the Bass family as well as from Albert Bell’s book, Bass Families of the South (1961). And finally it is important to point out that I author of this blog, Kianga Lucas, am also a Nansemond Bass descendant which is how I first came to research the family and is why I am dedicated to preserving our family history.
The Nansemond 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. Their marriage was recorded in the Bass family sermon book that has survived to the present. Albert Bell’s book contained an incorrect transcription of this marriage record that falsely states Elizabeth’s name was “Keziah Elizabeth Tucker” and that her father was “Robin the elder”. However as you can read from a copy of the original marriage entry, 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 helpful map of the sub-tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy:
John Bass/e and Elizabeth the Nansemond 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 made their home in what was then known as Lower Norfolk County, Virginia along the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River. 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 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, VA area with some descendants moving a very short distance across the state line into Camden County, NC and neighboring counties. 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 Edward Bass and John Bass are found in Granville.
William Bass Sr in 1726/1727 received a certificate from the Norfolk Co, VA court stating that:
An Inquest pertaining to possession and use of Cleared and Swamp lands in and adjoining ye Great Dismal by William Bass, Sr. and His kinsmen who claim Indian Privileges, Sheweth by the testimony of White Persons and sundry records of great age and known to be authentic, That said William Bass, Thomas Bass, and Joseph Bass and spinister daughter Mary Bass are persons of English and Nansemond Indian descent with no admixture of negro, Ethiopic, and that they and all others in kinship with them are freeborn subjects of his Majesty living in peace with his Majesty’s Government entitled to possess and bear arms as permitted by Treaties of Peace by and between Charles II of blessed memory and ye Indians of Virginia and the said William Bass, Sr. and als are in Rightful, and Lawful possession thereof and are not to be further Molested by any person or persons whatsoever under any pretended Authority under Penalties etc. etc., whilst ye said Bass and his kinsmen claim Indian privileges pursuant to the aforesaid Treaties of Peace.
17 day of March 1726/27
Solo. Wilson, Cl. Cur.
William Bass’ sons Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) are not included in this certificate because they had already relocated to North Carolina several years prior. However it is important to note that this certificate extended to all of William Bass’ kin who were not specifically named in the certificate. This is a compelling detail because it demonstrates that William Bass had the foresight to ensure all of his relations had these same treaty rights.
Later William Bass’ 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 secure their Nansemond Indian identity and treaty rights and in order to do this, it required them to distance themselves from any “negro admixture”.
William Bass Sr, wrote a will on 1 Oct 1740 which was proved on 17 Sep 1742 in Norfolk County. In the will, William gives 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 Bass 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 (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) in Norfolk, Virginia
Before moving to North Carolina, brother Edward Bass and John Bass spent the early part of their adulthood in Norfolk. On 17 Nov 1698, Edward Bass appeared in Norfolk court to admit that he owed 500 lbs of tobacco to Hugh Campbell. Hugh Campbell was a Scottish born merchant who was licensed to operate in the West Indies and who later settled in Norfolk. Campbell was also a merchant of human chattel when it was recorded on 8 Jun 1680 that he was paid for transporting an enslaved Indian woman of Bermuda into the Virginia colony. The following year on 16 Nov 1699, Edward Bass purchased 15 acres of land on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, from John Fulcher. This is the same John Fulcher whose 1712 will freed the Anderson slaves. Within the next generation, the offspring of these freed slaves repeatedly intermarried with Edward Bass’ offspring. The Andersons moved with the Basses out of Norfolk and into Granville and became one of the core families of the community. My blog post on the Andersons can be found here. Thus, it appears there is a yet unknown direct relationship between Edward Bass and John Fulcher (perhaps Edward Bass’ wife was a relative of John Fulcher?). In June 1702, Edward Bass was back in Norfolk court to admit he owed 70 lbs of tobacco to Thomas Winfield from items he purchased at the estate sale of William Whitehurst. And on 15 Nov 1709, Edward Bass sued Henry Lawley for a 3 lb debt. Edward Bass was brought to the Norfolk court again on 20 July 1711 for retailing liquor without a license. The charges were subsequently dropped. On 16 Dec 1715, Edward Bass sued John Muns Jr for 20 lbs for unlawfully riding his mare. What these records show us is that Edward Bass was a land owner on Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, likely had a farm, and earned enough money to make large purchases. The records also demonstrate his knowledge of the laws and court system, as he was a plaintiff in few of the cases.
To date, records for his brother John Bass in Norfolk are not early as extent. On 15 October 1701 in Norfolk court, John Bass paid the costs for a suit brought against him by Thomas Hodges. This is the only record I know of for John Bass in Norfolk. Hopefully more records for uncovered for him, to better understand his life and his relationships in Norfolk before he settled in North Carolina.
Edward Bass and John Bass Move to North Carolina
From here our discussion shifts to documenting Edward Bass (1672-1750) and John Bass (1673-1732) movement into North Carolina. Let’s first start with Edward Bass. The last known record of him in Norfolk was recorded in 1715. By 1720/1721, Edward Bass owned land in Horsepool Swamp in Chowan County (modern Gates County), North Carolina. In that land deed dated 30 January 1720/21, he is called “Edward Bass of Norfolk County, Virginia, Parish of Elizabeth”, so we know it is the same Edward Bass from Norfolk. Edward Bass did not remain on the Horsepool Swamp land for long, because on 26 March 1723 he purchased 200 acres of land along Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County and what is today Northampton County, NC. On 28 March 1726, he sold his Horsepool Swamp land. Over the next couple of decades, Edward Bass purchased an additional 615 acres of land adjoining his Urahaw Swamp land in Northampton County, bringing his total land ownership to 815 acres. On 25 July 1748, Edward Bass wrote his will which was proved in August 1750. The will named Edward Bass’ children who all inherited shares of their father’s land, thus making it possible to trace out his descendants. The will also named Edward Bass’ widow as Lovewell. She was called “Love”, when she and husband Edward Bass sold their Horsepool Swamp land in 1726. There is no surviving marriage record for the couple, so Lovewell’s maiden name and origin in unknown. Edward Bass likely married her when he still resided in Norfolk, so she is perhaps from one of families who were neighbors to the Basses.
All of Edward Bass’ children moved from Northampton to Granville County beginning in 1758. Soon after settling in Granville, they sold their shares of land in Northampton that they inherited from their father. The Anderson family who was freed in 1712 in Norfolk, made the move with the Basses to Northampton County and then to Granville County where the families continued to frequently intermarry. When Edward Bass’ children arrived in Granville, they became neighbors and intermarried with the already established and land owning Chavis, Harris, Pettiford, Hawley, Goins, Evans, and Mitchell families.
The offspring of Edward Bass’ brother John Bass (1673-1732) are also found in the Granville community, but they are not as numerous as Edward’s offspring. John Bass was first married to Love Harris. A record of their marriage still exists:
As researcher Lars Adams points out, despite John Bass and Love Harris both being residents of Nansemond County, VA (formerly Upper Norfolk County) they married in North Carolina. John Bass who was Indian and Love Harris who was white were a couple during time period where Virginia passed strict laws forbidding interracial marriages. So they may have 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 County (now Gates Co), NC in 1720/1721. This shows the two brothers a concerted effort by the brothers to remain close in North Carolina. And just like his brother Edward Bass, John Bass then moved to Urahaw Swamp in what was then Bertie County (now Northampton County) where he accumulated a total of 1,060 acres of land that adjoined his brother’s. John Bass died young in 1732. Fortunately he left a Bertie 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. These offspring typically intermarried with wealthy, slave owning, planter families, and from that point forward were documented as “white”. Subsequent generations moved to the deep South to expand their plantation economies. 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). on 26 July 1784, Mary Bass sold the 100 acres of land along the Urahaw Swamp that she inherited from her father John Bass 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 married to her first cousin Elijah Bass (1743-1781). It had been assumed by earlier researchers 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) was the granddaughter of 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. The Gibsons were originally from Charles City County, Virginia where one of the earliest Gibson family members, Jane Gibson (the elder), was known as a free Indian woman. She is the female progenitor of the Evans family who settled in Granville. You can read my Evans/Gibson blog post here. The previously mentioned 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 made by Edward Bass (1672-1750). This shows a direct earlier connection between the Basses and Gibsons. 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 there several years later. Much more research is needed to learn why these families moved from Northampton to Granville.
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 settle into other tribal territory? 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, VA 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 along the Nansemond River.
Without a bordered, recognized land base, it seems the Basses were pushed out of Virginia as a result of encroachment by European colonists. This brings to mind Edward Bass’ (1672-1750) 1715 court case against a European colonist John Muns Jr. for riding his mare. 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 Native American family from the Virginia tidewater area that made this journey. I suspect a number of Native American families in Granville that have tidewater Virginia roots, were Powhatan tribal peoples who were pushed out due to encroachment. Granville County was one of several locations in North Carolina, where these families rebuilt their communities.
The Nansemond Basses in 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. In Granville, these Bass descendants practiced endogamy and often married their own Bass cousins. As a result, most living Bass descendants from Granville have multiple Bass pedigrees.
The Bass family continued living and thriving in Granville County as can be seen from a variety of primary source records. The Basses are found in the very high numbers in the census records, marriage records, land deeds, estate records, military pension records, tax lists and more. 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 was enumerated by name 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 head counts of course do not reflect female Basses whose surnames changed due to marriage and does not include Bass descendants whose surnames were no longer Bass.
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 as well as those Basses who continued to move West into Person, Orange, Caswell, Alamance, Chatham, and Guilford Counties.
The Bass lineage of the three brothers pictured below who were sons of William Bass b. 1831 and Sarah Evans is as follows:
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 these 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.
Eliza Louisa Richardson (1828-1909) resided in Halifax County, NC and is a descendant of the Bass family in Granville. Her Bass pedigree is as follows:
Eliza Louisa Richardson; Hardy Richardson; Mary Bass; Benjamin Bass; Edward Bass; William Bass; John Bass(e) the English colonist and Elizabeth the daughter of the chief of the Nansemond.