Defining the Boundaries of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” Reservation in Bertie County

In 1717, after the conclusion of the Tuscarora War, the colony created a reservation for King Blount’s “friendly Tuscarora” in what is now Bertie County. The reservation became to be known as “Indian Woods”. The “friendly” Tuscarora who resided there did not take up arms against the colony, so they were rewarded for their neutrality. Some of the Native American families in Granville County have Tuscarora tribal roots from “Indian Woods”, so this reservation plays an important role in the history and genealogy of the community. My goal in this blog entry is to document the boundaries of the reservation through historical records and maps.

In her blog Native Heritage Project, Roberta Estes cites the research of Fletcher Freeman who describes the boundary of Indian Woods as follows:

In 1717, the NC Council created the Indian Woods Reservation for the Tuscarora in a Treaty with Chief Tom Blount. It consisted of “all the land lying between Mr. Jones’ lower land on the North side of the Moratoc River (Roanoke) to Quitsana Swamp” Two towns were created, one of which was “Resootska” or King Blounts’s Town. This reservation was approximately 60,000 acres. It was not specifically defined until 1748 at which time it was delineated from Quitsana Swamp north to Rocquist Swamp, west to Falling Run Creek/Deep Creek and south to the Roanoke River and back to Quitsana.

Though Freeman says the reservation land was about 60,000 acres, I found more records that indicate the land was 53,000 acres so that is the estimate that I’m working with. 53,000 acres is approximately 84 square miles.

I also found an additional reference to the layout of the reservation in another blog entry from Roberta Estes, which includes the following information:

1752: When Moravian missionaries visited the Indian Woods reservation, they noted “many had gone north to live on the Susquehanna” and that “others are scattered as the wind scatters smoke.’ Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg of the Moravian Brethren visited among the Tuscaroras in Bertie Co. while trying to secure land for the Moravians. He finds them to be “in great poverty.” At that time their land was about twelve miles long and six miles at its greatest width.

1752 is just a few decades after the reservation was created, and you already see a reference to many of the Tuscarora families moving North (to join the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) as well as many families scattering to surrounding areas. This means that early on in the history of the reservation, we know that the Tuscarora in North Carolina were not bounded by the Indian Woods reservation. This important and crucial detail is essential in documenting Tuscarora families that remained in North Carolina through to the present.

The observations of this Moravian missionary are very telling because he indicates that the reservation is twice as long as it is wide. 12 miles by 6 miles is 72 square miles, which is 12 square miles less than the original 84 square miles set aside in 1717. So we also know that also within a few decades, some of the reservation land was lost, most likely due to encroachment by colonists.

So knowing that the reservation was bounded by the Roanoke River, Quitsana Swamp, Roquist Creek, and Deep Creek and that it was a rectangular shape, I went to various maps to draw out the border.

Roanoke, Quitsana, and Roquist I found easily, but no Deep Creek! I found Deep Creeks in neighboring Hertford County and Northampton County but those Deep Creeks were too far out of the way to create a realistic border for Indian Woods. All of this lead me to realize that what was called “Deep Creek” back in the 1700s, is likely called by another name today. I’ve come across numerous waterways that underwent name changes over the years, so this was not out of ordinary. And my suspicions were confirmed when I found this reference:

Indian Creek:  rises in NW Bertie County and flows S into Roanoke River. Creek was the N boundary of the Tuscarora Indian property in Indian Woods Township. Mentioned in local records as early as 1723. Appears as Deep Creek on the Collet map, 1770. See also Resootskeh.

So the Deep Creek that was referred to as a boundary of Indian Woods, is today known as “Indian Creek”.  And by using all of the above information, I present to you my initial map of the original boundary of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation:

Map of Bertie County showing the boundaries of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation. Circled are the closest major municipalities: Windsor, Woodville, and Lewiston. Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/7753/rec/12
Map of Bertie County showing the boundaries of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation. Circled are the closest major municipalities: Windsor, Woodville, and Lewiston.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/7753/rec/12

After posting this blog, Forest Hazel, historian for the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation provided me with the 1748 land plat for Indian Woods. The plat follows the waterway borders: Roanoke River, Indian Creek (“Deep Creek”), Roquist Creek, and Quitsana Swamp:

Tuscarora
Tuscarora “Indian Woods” land plat from 1748.
Source: Forest Hazel

However as was also pointed out to me, the Collett Map of 1770 and the various versions of the Mouzon map of 1775 found here and here, show the Indian Woods reservation with a slightly different border that followed the Roquist Creek to the very end past Quitsana Swamp. This additional land includes a peninsula known as Conine Island:

The Collett map of 1700 showing the Tuscarora
The Collett map of 1770 showing the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation. Circled in blue is the additional peninsula known as “Conine Island”
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/467/rec/1

If you will recall from earlier, the Indian Woods reservation was first created in 1717 but without a defined border. It was simply referred to as the land between the Roanoke River and Roquist Swamp (Creek). However in 1748, the reservation’s borders were defined, placing Deep Creek as the Northwestern border and Quitsana Swamp as the Southeastern border. This is why the land plat for Indian Woods from 1748 does not include this additional land known as “Conine Island”. So with that in mind, here is my update version of Indian Woods showing both sets of boundaries:

Updated map of the Tuscarora
Updated map of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation showing the 1748 boundaries defined in the land plat, in addition to the Collett and Mouzon map boundaries which likely reflect the original 1717 land.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/7753/rec/12

Rethinking William Chavis’ Granville County Land Tract

So now having drawn out the boundary of the Indian Woods reservation, something about it looked very familiar to me – William Chavis’ original Granville County land tract!

As you’ll recall from my earlier blog post where I discuss local historian Oscar W. Blacknall’s writing about the Native American community, Blacknall described William Chavis’ land as being situated on the Tar River and going upstream for about 16 miles bordered by Lynch Creek and Fishing Creek, and then going 5 miles inland. Here is the boundary that I drew of William Chavis’ land:

Granville County's Native American community founder William Chavis originally owned land that stretched from Lynch's Creek 16 miles upstream to Fishing Creek and went 5 miles inland from the Tar River. This is approximately 80 square miles or 51,200 acres of continuous land. This was the land base for the community. © Kianga Lucas
Granville County’s Native American community founder William Chavis originally owned land that stretched from Lynch’s Creek 16 miles upstream to Fishing Creek and went 5 miles inland from the Tar River. This is approximately 80 square miles or 51,200 acres of continuous land. This was the land base for the community.
© Kianga Lucas

Both William Chavis’ land and Indian Woods were situated on two of North Carolina’s major waterways: the Tar River and the Roanoke River, respectively. These rivers have always played a crucial role in the lives of Native Americans in North Carolina, before and after colonization. Both land tracts were rectangular, bounded by creeks and both went inland for 5-6 miles. Blacknall suggested that William Chavis received this land directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl of Granville, because it was such a large amount of continuous land with natural waterway borders.

This all makes me wonder if perhaps the Saponi living in Granville County were situated on some sort of recognized land base. As I discussed in this blog post on the colonial records of Saponi Indians in Granville County, it was documented many times that the Saponi were living on lands next to Col. William Eaton who had a trade relationship with them. And that is the precise location of William Chavis’ large land tract. I have not recovered any records to indicate that William Chavis’ land was recognized as a reservation or was communally owned, but clearly more research into his land records needs to be done.

To be continued…

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5 thoughts on “Defining the Boundaries of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” Reservation in Bertie County

  1. Hi Kianga, An interesting and informative post. Mr. Arwin Smallwood will be doing a free talk, “The Tuscarora at Indian Woods in Bertie County, NC, 1717-1803” in New Bern at the Tuscarora Homecoming and ENC Family History Fair. More info is available at http://www.ENCFamilies.org. We will also do a link on our facebook page back to your blog as many of our readers will be interested. All The Best, David
    FHS of ENC Facebook Page:
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Family-History-Society-of-Eastern-North-Carolina/135918599779475

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear David,
      I appreciate the wonderful feedback. I did hear about the Tuscarora Homecoming at ENC but will not be able to attend. I’m sure it will be quite a historic and successful event.
      Kianga

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      • Good Morning Kianga, You are welcome. Sorry to hear that you will not be able to attend as I think you would greatly enjoy it and you would have a great deal to offer in talking with people about your research. All The Best, David

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  2. Hello my grandmother came frim Indian Woods. She married a man from lewiston in Bertie County I am Searching her maiden Outlaw. First name Nellie O. Any information would bre wonderful. Thankeep you in advance.

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