In what has become a classic Anthropology text, author Keith Basso in “Wisdom Sits in Places: Language and Landscape Among the Western Apache” explores how Apache culture and place names are inextricably linked. Before European colonization, every mountain, forest, river, lake, road, canyon, etc had a place name in the local indigenous language. How each land feature earned its name, is a history lesson in itself so these place names are also ways of learning about the past. In this blog post, I will discuss what the historical record has revealed about the indigenous place names in Granville County found in the Siouan, Iroquoian, and Algonquian languages.
In an earlier blog post, I discussed the work of local historian Oscar W. Blacknall who wrote about the Native community. In one essay, Blacknall presented a story about how Gibbs Creek which runs off the Tar River, received its name. Gibson/Gideon Chavis 1737-1777 (son of William Chavis and Frances Gibson) of the Native community had a racing horse named “Black Snake” which won him a lot of money. After another successful horse race, Gibson Chavis’ losing opponents killed him at that creek and it was afterwards called Gibbs Creek. So the story of what happened to Gibson Chavis lives on forever in the name of that creek.
The tribes indigenous to the area that became Granville County are the Saponi and Tuscarora. During colonial times in the 1700s, especially after the Tuscarora War, the area was more so a Saponi settlement as indicated by the the numerous reports of a Saponi Indian community living next to Col. William Eaton who was an Indian trader. (These are the direct lineal descendants of Granville’s Native community – see my previous blog posts here and here for more info). Thus the indigenous place names found within and around Granville County are going to be in the Saponi/Tutelo (the Saponi and Tutelo spoke nearly identical languages) and Tuscarora languages. The Saponi language is an Eastern Siouan language and the Tuscarora language is an Iroquoian language. Although Algonquian speaking tribes are not indigenous to Granville County, many Granville Indians have some roots among the Algonquian-speaking Powhatan Confederacy and Algonquian speaking tribes in North Carolina were not that distant. Long, windy rivers that stretch across the ancestral territory of many tribes carry place names in the Algonquian language, often times because they were the peoples with whom European colonists had first contact with.
It is important to remember in our discussion about indigenous place names that none of these languages before European contact, were written languages. So applying the Roman alphabet to indigenous languages, is going to cause all kinds of corruption and inconsistency in how these indigenous words were transcribed. So in the historical archive, we are going to find multiple variations of the exact same place name. To the best of my ability, I will provide all variations that I am aware of.
The Roanoke, The Tar, and The Neuse Rivers
Let us first start with the three major waterways that pass through or are immediately adjacent to Granville County. The Roanoke, Tar, and Neuse Rivers all flow into the Atlantic Ocean and have long, winding courses that pass through diverse topography. In addition to sources that are linked within the discussion, I was assisted with the translations in this section by my Tuscarora friend/cousin/fellow researcher Duane Brayboy Williams. Nya:weh (thank you) to Duane for all his help.
The Roanoke River does not technically touch Granville County, but comes very close when it passes through northern Warren County, NC and on Granville’s northern border with Mecklenburg County, VA. Many smaller creeks in Granville County are tributaries of the Roanoke.
“Roanoke” is an Algonquian word meaning a string of wampum beads. Wampum is made from a highly prized clam shell called a quahog which is found only in salt water. Thus it would be quite odd for fresh water to be named after something found in salt water. Therefore it is possible that the English colonists mistook the name “Ohanoke” for “Roanoke”. Ohanoke is an Algonquian word for a crooked place, and perhaps it may have referred to the crooked, winding shape of the river.
Before the river was called the Roanoke, it was called the Moratuck River (also “Moritoco”). Moratuck is also an Algonquian word but it appears to be a corrupted Algonquian word because there is no “r” sound in the Algonquian dialect called Renape which is spoken in current day Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. The “r” would be pronounced more like a “d” and it is believed that the name is rooted in the Algonquian world “madah” which means bad. The Roanoke River is noted for being a river with violent currents and so it is understandable how that would play a role in its naming. Our ancestors probably had many heroic and tragic stories about the rapid currents of the river. And when we consider both words: “Ohanoke” meaning crooked and “Moratuck” meaning bad river, it’s clear that the tumultuous nature of the river is how it was characterized.
The Tar River also has an interesting and complex history. The Tar cuts right through the center of Granville County and the Native community is most concentrated off of tributary creeks of the Tar River such as Fishing Creek, Tabbs Creek, Gibbs Creek, and more. We know from earlier historical records that the Tar River was called the Taw (or Tau) River but that is also not the river’s original name. For that we need to turn to the map created by German explorer John Lederer in 1671. Lederer lead several expeditions from Virginia through the North Carolina Piedmont and back in 1669/70. Most of the men who accompanied Lederer on his voyage left early on, leaving just Lederer and his Iroquoian speaking Susquehannock Indian guide. Because of the lack of other eyewitnesses to corroborate his journey, many of Lederer’s contemporaries believed that he fabricated aspects of his voyage and historians today still debate the veracity of the expeditions.
However what is clear is that on the map that Lederer created, he refers to the Tar River as the Torpaeo (also Tarpaeo and Tarpaco) River. From the map we can see that Lederer erroneously believed that river was a tributary of the Roanoke. Because Lederer’s Indian guide was an Iroquoian speaking person, it would be a fair assumption to think that “Torpaeo” was an Iroquoian word. The problem is that there is no known translation of this word. It could be that Lederer mistranscribed the word and unfortunately his accounts do not give us any additional background information. “Torpaeo” may also be an Algonquian word but if so, no definition has been located.
Another strong possibility for the original place name of the Tar River, could be from the Tuscarora village known in English as Torhunte or Tarhuntes. The correct Tuscarora spelling of the village is Teyurhę̀h·θa?. We know from accounts from Col. John Barnwell who lead the attack against the Tuscarora during the Tuscarora War, that Torhunte was located off of Cotechney Creek which runs northeast off of the Neuse River. However the Tar River is very close by, and it is believed by some that after the war, the village was reestablished closer to banks of the Tar River. Whatever the case may be, the fact that a Tuscarora village called Torhunte was in very close proximity to the Tar River is quite revealing and it’s conceivable that Torhunte/Tarhuntes could be corrupted and shortened to Taw/Tar. Torhunte means “a place to stay overnight”.
But there is still more…
The Tar River and the Pamlico River are actually the same river. What happened was that during Lederer’s time, a different group of European colonists lead an expedition on the river, starting from the Atlantic Coast. There they encountered Algonquian speaking Indians referred to as the Pamlico (also the Pamticough) Indians and they became the namesake of the river.
The Neuse River barely touches Granville’s southern border with Wake County but many creeks that run through lower Granville County are tributaries of the Neuse. The Neuse River was the home of the Neusiok Indians. Neusiok is an Algonquian word, meaning a settlement at the neck of a place. However the Neusiok Indians themselves were actually believed to be Iroquoian speaking peoples. Neusiok is what their Algonquian speaking neighbors referred to them as, and because it was the name that European colonists heard first, it became the name of the tribe. The Neusiok peoples likely lived in a bend/neck of the Neuse River and thus derived their name from their settlement along the river. During the Tuscarora War, what remained of the Neusiok people were absorbed into the Tuscarora.
Local Granville County Place Names
The following discussion focuses on place names found within Granville County. The information on these place names comes primarily from the expedition that Col. William Byrd II (1674-1744) lead in 1728 along the Virginia/North Carolina border. In addition to other Euro-American colonists, Byrd brought along Saponi Indian guides from the Saponi reservation at Ft. Christanna. One of these men was Ned Bearskin, and he provided important information about Saponi culture and the local landscape. Byrd authored “The History of the Dividing Line” based upon the 1728 expedition and the full text can be found here. In addition, I reviewed the material from some of the other men including the Christopher Gale/Edward Mosely/John Lovick/William Little journals found here and the fieldbook of Alexander Irvine found here.
James Mooney (1861-1921) was an American ethnographer who was doing field research on the Ghost Dance of the Great Plains in the late 19th century. During this research, he became interested in studying the Eastern Siouan speaking tribes. Mooney was drawn to the linguistic evidence which showed that the Siouan speaking people of the East and Siouan speaking people of the Plains spoke a similar language. In “Siouan Tribes of the East” published in 1894, Mooney drew upon the Saponi language that Ned Bearskin provided in Byrd’s notes to make that linguistic connection. Therefore I also used Mooney’s book to help translate the Saponi place names that Bearskin provided. A full text can be found here.
All of these place names are of creeks and the suffix “mony” or “moni” refers to water.
Place names in the Saponi language provided by Ned Bearskin:
Mausa-mony (also spelled Massa-mony): This translates into “paint creek” and is a reference to the red ochre paint that is found along the banks of the river. Natural paints like red ochre were used for a variety of purposes including for ceramics, burial ceremonies, and body paint. This creek is today called Island Creek and is located in northern Granville County.
Yapatsco Creek (also spelled Yapatio Creek): This translates to “beaver creek” and is a reference to the many beavers and beaver dams situated along the river. In fact Byrd makes specific note that they had some difficulty crossing that creek because of the manner in which the beavers had dammed the water. Col. Byrd also tells a story of how our ancestors would mix the “juice” from the body of a dead beaver with ground up bark from the sassafras tree which grows in abundance in this territory and would use that as a bait to attract more beavers. Today the creek still goes by its English translation of Beaver Pond Creek and is located in northern Granville County.
Ohimpa-mony (also spelled Ahimpa-mony): This translates into “jumping creek” and is named so after the jumping of fish in the creek. Clearly fish was an important part of our ancestor’s diet and they knew which creeks provided the best opportunities for fishing. Today this creek is known as Grassy Creek, located in northern Granville County.
Tewawho-mony (also spelled Keew-ahomony): This translates to “Tuscarora creek” and is a reference to a story about a Tuscarora who was killed by the Saponi and his body was thrown into the creek. The Saponi and Tuscarora during these colonial times were “enemies”, but later on some Saponi were adopted into the Iroquois when they relocated to upstate NY and the “neutral” Tuscarora who remained in the Indians Woods reservation did have friendly relations with the Saponi. This creek though serves as a reminder to a time period when the two tribes were warring against one another. Today this creek is known as Aarons Creek and is located in northern Granville County.
Hico-oto-mony (also spelled Hycoote-mony): This translates into “turkey buzzard creek” and is a reference to the large number of buzzards who roost in the trees situated along the banks of the river. Turkeys provided both food and feathers for adornment for our ancestors. The name over time was shortened and corrupted to “Hyco” and today the river is known as the Hyco River and is located in northern Person County (borders Granville County to the West). Hyco Road which is an east-west road in northern Granville County is also named for this river.
I think you can see from these several place names in Granville County, an insight into Saponi culture and social values. The more place names that we are able to recover, the better we can understand the lives of our ancestors and the relationship they had with the land that they have called home since time immemorial.
The Boon(e) family in Granville County descends from a woman named Rebecca Boon (born 1805) who moved to Granville in the 1840s. Her Boone family originally came from the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation in Bertie County. In addition to Granville County, there are Boon(e) descendants in the Haliwa-Saponi tribe and the Meherrin Tribe. This blog entry will take a closer look at the historical records that connect the Boon(e) family to the Indian Woods reservation.
Rebecca Boon (born 1805)
Before discussing the Boon family’s tribal origins, I will first provide more background information on Rebecca Boon. She is the most recent common ancestor of every Boon that I have identified from Granville County.
Rebecca first appears in the census in 1840 in Northampton County, NC. She is the head of a household that includes 1 Free Colored Female 24-35; 1 Free Colored Male 10-23; 1 Free Colored Male Under 10; 2 Free Colored Females 10-23; 2 Free Colored Females Under 10. From this census data, we can surmise that Rebecca Boon is the head of a household that includes 6 children (2 boys, 4 girls) that are most likely her children.
The next record for Rebecca Boon is in 1847, when she married Iverson Mitchell from the Native American/”free colored” Mitchell family in Granville County. By marrying Iverson Mitchell, Rebecca relocated her family to the center of the Native American community in Granville. In the 1850 census for Granville County, she is listed as “Rebecca Mitchell” and is living with her husband Iverson Mitchell, and her youngest children Jane Boon and Margaret Boon.
Rebecca last appears in the 1860 census in Granville County, when she is listed in the household of her son-in-law Lewis Anderson who is married to her daughter Ruth Boon.
Below is a list of Rebecca Boon’s children:
1. James Boon (born 1825) – married first Martha Curtis and second Mary Drew
2. Martha Boon (born 1827) – married Cuffy Mayo (this is not the same Cuffy Mayo who was married to Glathy Ann Pettiford-Hawkins and Julia Pettiford- Hawley)
3. Betsy Boon (born 1828) – married John Mills
4. Willis Boon (born 1829) – married Isabella Mayo
4. Ruth Boon (born 1832) – married Lewis Anderson
5. Jane Boon (born 1837)
6. Margaret Boon (born 1842)
and possibly 7. Emeline Boon (birth date unknown) – married Samuel Hawley
The earliest verified records for the Boon(e) family are found in Bertie County in the mid/late 1700s. Unfortunately there are no land records or estate records associated with the Boones during this time period. There are however a number of court cases that involve several Boon(e) children being bound out. In these records, the Boones were labeled as “mulatto” and were free people, not enslaved. Some of the genealogical information on the Boon(e) family comes from Paul Heinegg’s research.
Patt Boone (born abt 1742) and her offspring
The Bertie County court bound out several of Patt Boon’s (born abt 1742) children to James Brown in 1774. These children were: Lewis, Katie, Judah, and Arthur. Patt Boon’s age is unknown and can only be estimated based upon the birth dates of her children. So with that in mind, researcher Paul Heinegg estimated her birth date to be 1742. In 1772, Rachel Boon was a “mollatter” listed as a tithable in the household of a white man named James Purvis. In 1769, it appears Rachel was also in James Purvis’ home because he was charged with a tax for having a free non-white woman in his home. Heinegg believes this Rachel is a daughter of Patt Boon. Two of Rachel Boon’s sons – Willis Boon and Hill Boon, were bound out in 1791 to Richard Veal. A girl named Sarah Boon who Heinegg suspects is a daughter of Rachel Boon’s, was bound out to Thomas Pugh Jr in 1789. Another suspected daughter of Patt Boon’s named Rebeeca Boon (born about 1767) had a son named Cary Boon bound out also to Richard Veal in 1792.
Boon(e) Family and Indian Woods
When we take a closer look at these men from Bertie County who are associated with various members of the Boon family, we start to see the Tuscarora Indian Woods connections.
James Purvis, the man who Rachel Boon was living with in 1769 and 1772, is recorded in 1766 selling land on the north side of Roquist Swamp (Creek).
1765: Deed Book K, 659 (475), 18 May 1765. James Purvis of Bertie Co. to Charles King of same, £33.6.8 proclamation money, 1/3 part of land which MARTIN GARDNER gave to his 3 daughters, on north side of Rockquis Swamp, joining William Sparkman, John Rhoads. Witnesses: William Gouge, James Purvis. June Court 1765. CC: John Johnston.[Deeds of Bertie County, North Carolina, 1757-1785, Part 1, by Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., page 61]
James Purvis’ wife was Jane (Gardner) Purvis, daughter of the above mentioned Martin Gardner. Jane inherited this land from her father’s 1760 will in Bertie County and so that is why her husband James later sold it.
Recall from my blog post about the boundaries of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation, that Roquist Swamp (Creek) forms a long natural border of the reservation. The reservation abuts the southside of the creek, and James Purvis’ land that his wife inherited from her father Martin Gardner, abuts the north side of the creek.
Also of important relevance is that Martin Gardner was a close friend of Needham Bryan (1690-1770), who served as executor of Martin Gardner’s 1760 will that granted land to Jane (Gardner) Purvis. Needham Bryan owned Snowfield Plantation located within the Indian Woods reservation and he held a number of important public offices. The location of Needham Bryan’s land within Indian Woods is confirmed in this colonial record from 1773 (Moratuck is the Roanoke River):
Upon a Complaint of the Chief of the Tuscarora Indians that one William King had entered upon and committed waste upon the Lands lying on the North side of Moratuck which lands were granted to Col. Needham Bryan by the Lords proprietors upon the failure of that nation of Indians and afterwards confirmed to him by the Legislature of this Province, it was the opinion of this Board that His Excellency should write a letter to Mr Wm King to remove off the Land or shew cause why he had possession of it.
Then we have Richard Veal – the man who Rachel Boon’s sons Willis and Hill and Rebecca Boon’s son Cary were bound to. Richard Veal purchased land in 1805 next to Roquist Swamp (Creek):
Witnesseth that the said DEMPSEY VEALE hath bargained
sold and put into possession of the said RICHARD VEAL a
certain tract or message of land lying and being in the
State and County aforesaid lying in ROCQUIST POCOSIN, it
being a prt of the land that belonged to MORRIS VEAL
So two men – James Purvis and Richard Veal, both living on land adjoining the Indian Woods reservation, have several members of the Boon family residing in their homes.
There is also James Brown, the man who four of Patt Boone’s children – Lewis, Katie, Judah and Arthur were bound out to in 1774. According to land transactions found here and here, James Brown lived near the fork of the Cashie River, close to the Harrell family that frequently appears in the Bertie County records. This land is not immediately adjacent to the reservation but is still extremely close to the reservation as indicated in the map above.
Thomas Pugh Sr (1728-1806) and Thomas Pugh Jr (1748-1799)
When we closely examine Thomas Pugh Jr, the man who Rachel Boon’s probable daughter Sarah Boon was bound to, we see an even stronger connection between the Boon family and Indian Woods.
In 1778, the General Assembly of North Carolina appointed Thomas Pugh Sr. (1728-1806), William Williams, Willie Jones, Simon Turner and Zedekiah Stone as commissioners for the Indian Woods reservation. Roberta Estes provides additional information about the 1778 act:
It appointed William Williams, Thomas Pugh, Willie Jones and Simon Turner and Zedekiah Stone commissioners for the Indians and empowered the said commissioners to hold courts, etc. for the redress of the grievances of the Indians. It further enacted that the land leased by the Tuscarora Indians to Jones, Williams and Pugh and to other persons prior to ’77 “shall revert to and become the property of the State at the expiration of the terms of the several leases mentioned, if the said Nation to then extinct. And the lands now belonging to and possessed by the said Tuscaroras shall revert to and become the property of the State whenever the said Nation shall become extinct, or shall entirely abandoned or remove themselves off the said lands and every part thereof.
In 1766, Thomas Pugh, Robert Jones, and William Williams had leased 8,000 acres of reservation land from the Tuscarora. The money from this lease was used to relocate some of the Tuscarora to upstate New York to rejoin the Haudenosaunee Confederacy:
Between James Allen, John Wiggins, Billy George, Snipnose George, Bille Cain, Charles Cornelius, Thomas Blount, John Rogers, George Blount, Wineoak Charles, Bille Basket, Bille Owens, Lewis Tuffdick, Isaac Miller, Harry Samuel, Bridgers Thomas, Senicar Thomas Howett, Bille Sockey, Bille Corelius, John Senicar, Thomas Baskett, John Cain, Billy Denis, William Taylor, Owins John Walker, Bille Mitchell, Bille Netop, Billy Blount, Tom Jack, John Litewood, Billy Robert, James Mitchell, Capt. Joe and William Pugh, Chieftains and Principal persons of that part of the Nation of Indians commonly called Tuskarora Indians dwelling in the county of Bertie in the Province of NC on the one part and Robert Jones, Jr., his majesty’s attorney general of the province aforesaid and William Williams and Thomas Pugh of the said province, gentlemen of the second part. Witnesseth that the said Tusckarora Indians as well for and in consideration of the sum of 1500 pounds proclamation money to them in hand paid or secured to be paid for their own use and for the use of the rest of that part of the said Nation of Tuscarora dwelling in the county and Province aforesaid. As for the yearly rents and covenants herein after mentioned have demised granted and to form let and by these presents in behalf of themselves and their said nation to demise ??? and to form let unto the said Robert Jones Jr., William Williams and Thomas Pugh, all that dividend or tract of land lying and being on the North side of Roanoke River in Bertie County and bounded as follows, to wit. Beginning at the mouth of Deep Creek otherwise known as Falling River then running up the sand creek to the ?? or head line thence by the said line south 50 ?? degrees East 1280 poled thence with the course of said Creek to Roanoke River and the River to the beginning….together with appurtenances….unto the said Robert Jones, William Williams and Thomas Pugh….8000 acres of land to be enjoyed severally, each holding one third equal part…for the term of 150 years….to be paid yearly every year one peppercorn if demanded on the feast of St. Michael. This deed was registered in the September Court of 1767.
Again in 1775, Thomas Pugh, William Williams, and Willie Jones leased 2,000 acres of reservation land from the Tuscarora:
298-(316) Whitmell Tufdick, Wineoak Charles Jr., Billie Roberts, Lewis Tufdick, West Tufdick, Billie Blunt Sr., Billie Blunt Jr., John Rodgers, John Smith, Billie Pugh, Billie Baskit, John Hicks, Samuel Bridgers, John Owens, James Mitchell, Isaac Cornelius, Tom Tomas, & Walter Gibson, chieftans of the Tuskarora Indians to Thomas Pugh, Willie Jones & William Williams. 2 Dec 1775. For the yearly rent of 80 Duffield Blankets, 80 Oznatrig Shirts, 80 prs of boots, 50 pounds of powder & 150 pounds of shot. 2000 acres which was part of the land called the Indian Lands, joining Town Swamp, the old path that leads to Unarowick Swamp, James Wiggins, Unrinta Road, Quitana Swamp, Rocquist, Jones, Williams, Pugh, excepting 300 acres Watking now tends. Signed by: Bille(x)Cain, John Hicks, John Rogers, John(X)Owen, James(X)Hicks, Bille(x)Smith, Bille(x)Mitchell, Billie(x)Pugh, Wineoak(x)Chalres, James(X) Mitchell, Bille(X)Blunt, Jr., Saml(X)Bridgers, Tom Roberts.
And again in 1777, Thomas Pugh leased 100 acres of reservation land from the Tuscarora:
297-(315) Whitmell Tufdick, William Roberts, William Blount, Lewis Tufdick, John Randal, William Pugh, James Mitchel, Winoak Charles, William Basket, John Owens, Thomas Roberts, Walter Gibson, Billy Cane chieftans of the Tuscarora Indians in Bertie County to Thomas Pugh Sr. of same. 28 May 1777. The lease for 99 years @ 8 pounds per year of 100 acres, joining Black Gut Neck on Town Swamp, Roanoke River. Signed by: Billy (x) Blunt, Wineoak (x) Charles, Ben (x) Smith, Walter (X) Gibson, Thomas (X) Roberts, John (X) Ra nndel, Whitmell (x) Tuffdick, Billey (X) Cane, Lewis (x) Tufdick, Billey (x) Baskit, William (x) Pugh, Williams (x) Roberts, James (x) Mitchell. WITNESSES: Zedekiah Stone Jr., Thomas Whitmell Jr., May Ct 1777. John Johntston CJC
Thomas PughSr’s son Thomas Pugh Jr, who Sarah Boon was bound out to, was a witness to a reservation land lease between the Tuscarora and Zedekiah Stone (one of the Indian Woods reservation commissioners) in 1777:
296-(314) Articles of agreement between WHITMELL TUFDICK, WILLIAM ROBERTS, WILLIAM CAIN, WILLIAM BLOUNT, TOM SMITH, JOHN SMITH, & LEWIS TUFDICK of Bertie Co., chieftans of the Tuscarora Indians on Roanoke River to ZEDEKIAH STONE of same. 10 Feb 1777. Sd chieftains were desirous that sd STONE should clear land, joining Coniack Neck, TITUS EDWARDS, Cesars Island, the river. Sd STONE agrees not to disturb JOSEPH LLOYD & THOMAS SMITH & SARAH HICKS. Sd STONE will be permittd to occupy the sd land for the space of 99 years. SIGNED BY: William Basket, Molley Smith, Benja. Smith, Sarah Hicks, Sarah Baskett, Watt & Gibson, Whitmell Tuffdick, Thomas (x) Smith, John Rodgers, Samuel Bridgers, William Roberts, Wineoak Charles, ZEdekiah Stone, John Owens, Thomas Baskett, William (x) Caine, Edward (x) Blount, John (x) Smith, James (x) Mitchell, John (x) Randle, William (x) Blount, Lewis (x) Tufdick, William (x) Pugh, West Whitmell (x) Tuffdick. WITNESSES: Thomas Pugh, Jr., Titus Edwards, Thos. Pugh, Sr.. May Court 1777. John Johnston Clerk of Court
You will also notice that one of the Tuscarora chieftans on the land deeds named “William Pugh” likely adopted his Pugh surname from Thomas Pugh Sr. Clearly the Pugh family was closely involved with the Tuscarora at Indian Woods in a formal and personal capacity. Sarah Boon being a Tuscarora girl bound out to the Pugh family who are commissioners and leasers of the Indian Woods reservation makes sense.
I believe a reasonable explanation for all the above historical records is that the Boon family were Tuscarora from the Indian Woods reservation. That is why there are no early land purchases or estate records associated with them because they were living on communally owned reservation land. Due to increasing impoverished and deteriorating conditions and with many of the Tuscarora families moving up North or away from the reservation, the Boon family were forced to place their children as indentured servants in the homes of neighboring white families. This is why the Boones seem to suddenly emerge out of nowhere in the court records in the 1760s/1770s. This was the exact same time that large numbers of Tuscarora were moving North and leasing their reservation land to the same men who many members of the Boon family were bound out to.
Descendants of Patt Boon
Lewis Boone (born 1757-1844):
Patt Boon’s son Lewis Boone (1757-1844) was bound out in 1774 in Bertie County. He then appears in the 1800 census for Northampton County, NC and in the 1810, 1820, and 1830 censuses for Halifax County (his household was enumerated in every census as “free colored”). Lewis filed a Revolutionary War pension application (excerpts found here) in 1843 in Halifax County which confirmed that he was born in Bertie County and lived a short while in Northampton County before relocating to Halifax County. The pension application includes some very important details about Lewis Boone’s service which further verifies the Boone family’s origins with the Tuscarora at Indian Woods.
Lewis Boone enlisted via the draft in 1778 in Bertie County with Uriah Dunning and served under Captain James Blount of the 10th Regiment. Lewis Boone also indicated that Captain William Williams marched him from Bertie County to Halifax which is where he enlisted under Captain Blount. This Captain William Williams is the same William Williams who was appointed as a commissioner of the Indian Woods reservation in 1778 and whose name appears on several Indian Woods land leases with previously mentioned Thomas Pugh. Captain James Blount who commanded Lewis Boone’s regiment, was from the Blount family who was the namesake for Tuscarora chief – “King Blount”. It was not uncommon for Native Americans to adopt the names of “friendly” colonists. The pension application did not list the names of Lewis Boone’s wife or children. However through the rejected Cherokee Dawes and Eastern Cherokee/Guion Miller applications that were filed by Lewis Boone’s descendants, we know who some of his children were. Many non-Cherokee Native American families from North Carolina were often mislabeled and sometimes self-identified as Cherokee, which resulted in these families applying for Cherokee status. This will be a subject of a future blog post. Cherokee anthropologist Robert K. Thomas, who did fieldwork in the mid 1970s to investigate the claims of many of the self-identified “Cherokee” communities of the Southeast, had this to say about the Tuscarora heritage of the Haliwa-Saponi (the tribal community of Lewis Boone’s descendants):
They do not accept the term Haliwa and refer to themselves as Cherokee although the term Haliwa is gaining more acceptance as time goes on. This tribe appears from the research I have done, to be the remnants of the North Carolina Tuscaroras. When the Tuscaroras fled north in the early 1700s they left a large body, of so-called neutral Tuscarora, on a reservation just to the east of the modern Haliwa country near Windsor, North Carolina. There were several hundred Indians left on that reservation after the “hostile” Tuscaroras fled north and became part of the Iroquois League in New York. Slowly throughout the 1700’s, parties of Indians left that reservation and joined their brethren in New York. In the first decade of the 1800’s the few remaining Tuscarora sold their lands at Windsor, North Carolina. It appears they simply moved west a few miles to the present Haliwa area. There were a few other Indians, possibly Tuscarora, already living in that area. In any case, it appears that the Haliwa are remnants of the neutral Tuscarora.
The Haliwa-Saponi tribe officially states to be descended mostly from the Saponi, Tuscarora, and Nansemond tribes. Like Thomas, historian and Haliwa-Saponi tribal member Marvin Richardson also noted the very short distance between the Indian Woods reservation and the Haliwa community:
The Tuscarora Reservation, known as Reskooteh Town and Indian Wood, was located in Bertie County, North Carolina, approximately thirty miles east of the modern Haliwa-Saponi community. The reservation consisted initially of 40,000 acres, bordered eastern Halifax County, and included a village known as the Sapona Town. By 1734 some Nansemond were also living with the Nottoway Indians in Virginia, and other Nansemond had resettled near the Tuscarora in North Carolina.
1. Dorcas Boone born about 1794 was married to Hardy Richardson, son of Benjamin Richardson and Mary Bass (of the Nansemond Bass family). Dorcas Boone and her husband Benjamin Richardson are the progenitors of many of the Richardsons in the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Dorcas’ Native identity is asserted in the Richardson family’s rejected 1896 Cherokee Dawes applications and rejected 1906 Eastern Cherokee/Guion Miller application, where she is referred to as being an Indian doctor and midwife. Some of Dorcas’ descendants list her maiden name as “Pope” despite Lewis Boone being Dorcas’ father. It is likely that Lewis Boone’s wife/Dorcas’ mother was a Pope.
2. Caroline Boone born about 1810 was unwed and had one son named William Boone. In William Boone’s Dawes application, which can be found fully transcribed on researcher Deloris Williams’ website here, he verified that his mother Caroline was Dorcas’ sister. From William Boone’s 1896 rejected Dawes application, it states:
Your petitioner WM. BOONE the undersigned respectfully states that he is a Cherokee Indian by blood and asks to be enrolled as a member of the Cherokee Nation of Indians in the Indian Territory.
That he derives his Indian blood from his grandfather LEWIS BOONE who was the father of CAROLINE BOONE, who was the mother of petitioner. CAROLINE BOONE and DARCUS RICHARDSON were sisters and both were Cherokee Indians by blood.
3. William Boone was born about 1790 and was most likely a son of Lewis Boon though I’d like additional confirmation of their relationship. William’s descendants ofter intermarried with the descendants of Hardy Richardson and Dorcas Boone. Wife Fanny’s maiden name is unknown.
Arthur Boon (1773-?)
Patt Boon’s son Arthur Boon was born around 1773 and like his brother Lewis Boone, he was also bound out in 1774 in Bertie County. In the 1790 census, Arthur Boon was recorded in Hertford County, head of a household of 6 “Free colored persons”. I cannot locate him in the census again until the 1840 census where he was recorded living alone in Northampton County, head of his own household of 1 free colored male. However directly under Arthur Boon’s name in the 1840 census, is his probable daughter Rebecca Boon (born 1805). This is the Rebecca Boon who is the progenitor of the Granville County Boon family. Arthur most likely had other children but but I do not have them identified at this time.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
In this post, I’m going to discuss the geography of Granville County that will help illustrate the settlement of the Native American community.
The Great Trading Path also known as the Occaneechi Path was a Native American road that began in Petersburg, VA and on some accounts ended with the Catawba Nation on the South Carolina/North Carolina border just below Charlotte and in other accounts, terminated in Augusta, GA. In the area surrounding Petersburg, lived numerous Indian traders and this path gave them direct trading access to tribes. The Great Trading Path cuts right through Granville County, entering Northeast from neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA and exiting through the Southwest to neighboring Durham County. Not only was it beneficial for Indian traders to live on the path, but it was also necessary for tribes to live close to or have access to this path. Col. William Eaton (1690-1759) who I have mentioned in previous blog posts was an Indian trader from Prince George Co, VA who moved to Granville County by the 1740s. Both of Eaton’s residences were along the Great Trading Path and it explains why a group of Saponi Indians were living next to his land in Granville in the 1750s. This means the origins of the Native American community in Granville are very much tied into this trade relationship between the colonists and local tribes and it explains why that specific location became the land base for the community.
Granville County was originally created in 1746 from Edgecombe County. Previously, the entire northern half is what was then the Carolina Colony was claimed by John Cateret, 2nd Earl Granville (1690-1763) and became known as Granville District.
Originally, “Old” Granville County included the land that is today known as Granville, Vance, Warren, and Franklin Counties. This changed in 1764, when the areas known today as Warren and Franklin Counties were split from Granville to form Bute County (a short lived County, that quickly split into modern Warren and Franklin Counties in 1779). Finally in 1881, the eastern section of Granville that included the Kittrell, Henderson, and Townesville/Nutbush townships was separated to form newly created Vance County.
In addition to old Indian Trading Paths, being familiar with the local rivers and creeks is vital to understanding Native peoples’ relationship to Granville County’s geography. The Tar River cuts right through the middle of the county, the Neuse River forms the southern border of the county, and the Roanake River just barely touches Granville County’s northern border with Mecklenburg County. The Tar, Neuse, and Roanake are major waterways that local Natives have used since before European colonization. This blog post takes a closer look at the indigenous place names local to Granville County.
The land base for the Native American community in Granville, is mostly concentrated off of Fishing Creek and Tabbs Creek which run north off of the Tar River. Founding community member William Chavis (1706-1778), originally owned a continuous land tract that stretched all the way from Lynch Creek to Fishing Creek along the Tar River and went 5 miles north inland.
In this map, you can see The Great Trading Path labeled “Trading Road”. Buffalo once inhabited in this region, and “Buffalo Creek” off of the Tar River along with many other local buffalo name places, reflect this history. The buffalo is also what originally brought the Eastern Siouan speaking Saponi from the Ohio River valley into this region.
When reviewing census data for Granville County, it’s helpful to know exactly what section of the county you are looking at. The following map displays the census designated areas of Granville County. Also note in northwestern Granville in the township of Oak Hill, is “Bearskin Creek” named after Saponi guide Ned Bearskin who accompanied William Byrd II on the Diving Line in 1728.
Finally, I made a map of Northeastern North Carolina and Southside Virginia showing current Native American communities, former reservation land, and other important sites. The very close proximity of the sites to one another and to the Native American community in Granville County, demonstrate the interconnectedness of indigenous peoples living in this region. Please note that this map does not reflect all past or current Native American sites but rather shows locations that are most relevant to Granville’s Native Americans.