John Lawson

 

 
 

John Lawson, historian, was born in in Scotland and he died on the Neuse River in North Carolina in 1711.

He came to this country as Surveyor-General of Carolina, and began his surveys in 1700, starting out in Charles Town, but fell a victim to the jealousy of the Tuscarora Indians, who confused the surveyor of their territory with those that despoiled them of it. He was captured while he was exploring North Carolina in 1711, in the company with the founder of New Bern, a Swiss/Palatine named Christopher von Graffenried.

Graffenried was permitted to buy himself free, but Lawson was put to death, probably in the manner he thus describes in his book: "Their cruelties to their prisoners are such as none but devils out of hell could invent. Others keep their enemy's teeth which are taken in war, while others split pine into splinters and stick them into the prisoner's body, yet alive, then they light them, which burn like so many torches, and in this manner they make him dance around a great fire, every one buffeting and deriding him till he expires."

Lawson left one of the most valuable of the early histories of the Carolinas, entitled "A New Voyage to Carolina, Containing the Exact Description and Natural History of that Country, Together with the Present State Thereof, and a Journal of a Thousand Miles travelled through Several Nations of Indians, giving a Particular Account of their Customs, Manners, etc." (London, 1700; new editions in 1709, 1711, 1714, and 1718). The volume is a quarto of 258 pages, well illustrated with one of the best maps of the time, and with various other engravings, chiefly in natural history. The original edition is now very rare; it was reprinted in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1860.


When John Lawson visited the Carolina interior in the 1690s, he encountered the Congaree people, whose numbers and villages had been dramatically reduced by Smallpox and other diseases. He traveled more than a thousand miles as an employee of the colony's Lords Proprietors, who were eager to attract additional colonists and foster economic development. Lawson's keen eye for the native and non-native people, flora, and fauna of the region was evidenced in his journal A New Voyage to Carolina, published in 1709.
Click Here to download a "Word" document of Lawson's entire book of 1709. Click Here to see his map of 1709.

 


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