Tag Archives: Tar River

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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Geography of Granville County and Regional Native American Sites

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.

The path labeled number 10 on this map is the Great Trading Path. Source: http://ncpedia.org/indian-trading-paths
The path labeled number 10 on this map is the Great Trading Path.
Source: http://ncpedia.org/indian-trading-paths
Another map of the Great Trading Path that includes county borders. You can see how the path enters and exits Granville County. Source: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Occaneechi_Path
Another map of the Great Trading Path that includes county borders. You can see how the path enters and exits Granville County.
Source: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Occaneechi_Path

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.

Map showing the upper half of the Carolina Colony known as Granville District. Source: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-colonial/2040
Map showing the upper half of the Carolina Colony known as Granville District.
Source: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-colonial/2040

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.

Map of
Map of “Old” Granville County which includes the modern counties of Vance, Warren, and Franklin. Dates along the modern county borders in the map explain the divisions.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ncmaps/id/3569
Map of Granville County in 1880, just one year before Kittrell, Henderson, and Townesville were separated to form Vance County. Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/654/rec/8
Map of Granville County in 1880, just one year before Kittrell, Henderson, and Townesville were separated to form Vance County.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/654/rec/8

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.

Map of Granville County's waterways Source: http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncgranville/other/gran-landmarks.pdf
Map of Granville County’s waterways
Source: http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncgranville/other/gran-landmarks.pdf

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.

Census Designated Areas of Granville County Source: http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncgranville/other/gran-landmarks.pdf
Census Designated Areas of Granville County
Source: http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncgranville/other/gran-landmarks.pdf

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.

Map of Northeastern North Carolina and Southside Virginia Native American sites © Kianga Lucas
Map of Northeastern North Carolina and Southside Virginia Native American sites
© Kianga Lucas
Key to the Map © Kianga Lucas
Key to the Map
© Kianga Lucas