Carolina - The Virginians' Influence

How did the Virginians and their short "history" influence Carolina?

As early as 1632, the Virginians considered parts of what is now North Carolina to be their "Southern Plantation." As the James Town settlement finally started growing, the population soon wanted more land. However, the Great Dismal Swamp made it seem that anything south of James Town was not worth pursuing. Soon, intrepid explorers discovered that the Great Dismal Swamp did not go forever and there were actually "wonderful lands" within a few days' trek south of James Town. Click Here to see Virginia's claimed "Southern Plantation."

Almost from the beginning of formal government in Albemarle there was friction. The first executive of any description was Samuel Stephens, appointed by the Virginia Assembly as "Commander of the Southern Plantation," in 1662. It seems, however, that Stephens was little more than a deputy for Virginia's Governor Berkeley.

As we all know, the eight (8) Lords Proprietors were granted Carolina in 1663. Within months after this first grant, there were challenges to the claims of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina. Claimants to land under the old Heath grant began to make nuisances of themselves. To counter these allegations, the eight Proprietors submitted a "humble request" to Charles II, soliciting an extension of the boundaries of their domain. The result was the Charter of 1665, little more than a supplement to the 1663 Charter, but expanding the limits of Carolina two degrees southward and one-half a degree to the northward. This enlargement definitely placed the Albemarle area within the jurisdiction of the Carolina Proprietors and nullified the claims of the Virginians to that disputed territory.

On May 14, 1607, one hundred and eight (108) English settlers founded James Town along a bend sixty miles up the James River from the Chesapeake Bay in what is now southern Virginia. The first representative assembly in the New World convened in the James Town church on July 30, 1619. The General Assembly met in response to orders from the Virginia Company "to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia" which would provide "just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting."

It was the structured leadership of Captain John Smith that kept the James Town colony from dissolving. The "starving time" winter followed Smith's departure in 1609 during which only sixty (60) of the original 214 settlers at James Town survived. That June, the survivors decided to bury cannons and armor and abandon the town. It was only the arrival of the new governor, Lord De La Ware, and his supply ships that brought the colonists back to the fort and the colony back on its feet.

The other crucial event that would play a role in the development of America was the arrival of Africans to James Town. A Dutch slave trader exchanged his cargo of Africans for food in 1619. The Africans became indentured servants, similar in legal position to many poor Englishmen who traded several years labor in exchange for passage to America. The popular conception of a race-based slave system did not fully develop until the 1680s.

Many more ships brought new settlers to James Town throughout the 1600s, mostly inappropriatedly-prepared colonists sent from a changing England that had no other place for them, and even a period of tyrannical martial law when missing church three times was a capital offense. These unprepared settlers were soon faced with blistering heat, swarms of insects spawned in the nearby wetlands, typhus, unfit water supplies, starvation, fierce winters, and many Indian attacks. Most eked out an existence by planting small fields of crops, but none knew the New World soil well enough to actually create a profit from their efforts. The new colony drastically needed a cash crop.

Thanks to the local Indians, they soon found it. In 1614, in what has been called by at least one historian the most momentous event of the 1600s, the first shipment of Virginia tobacco was sold in London. By 1639 James Town exported 750 tons of tobacco. Tobacco was now the English colonies' chief export.

The James Town colonists had not found gold, nor a route to the South Seas, nor the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island. What they had found was tobacco. Tobacco brought the settlement from wretched failure to giddying success. Tobacco fed the need for more labor and - since it wore out the soil every 4-7 years - the mad rush for land all through the waterways of the Chesapeake Bay, or as the entire area soon became known, the "Tobacco Coast."

The settlers in northern Carolina were isolated from one another and other colonies. The coastal region was only slightly above sea level and choked with swamps and forests. Development centered around small farms engaged in the production of tobacco, corn and livestock; large plantations on the scale of those in South Carolina were extremely rare.

Virginia became a crown colony in 1624. The original palisaded fort only existed into the middle of the 1620s, but as James Town grew into a "New Town" to the east, written reference to the original fort disappeared. James Town remained the capital of Virginia until its major statehouse burned in 1698. The capital was moved to Williamsburg that year and James Town itself began to slowly disappear.

In March, 1620, a committee of the Virginia Company adopted the recommendation of Sir George Yeardley, governor of Virginia, that Marmaduke Rayner be employed to explore the surrounding region in a logical manner "which would produce good benefit to the Plantation." The company would pay all expenses, and in the summer Rayner made the voyage for which he had been employed, exploring "to the Southward to Roanoke." In July, 1621, an account of this and two other voyages to the north by others were read to the officers of the Virginia Company in London.

Less than two years after the first "new" visit to Roanoke (North Carolina) by his friend Marmaduke Rayner, the secretary of the Virginia government, John Pory, led an expedition to the south. His is the first such trek from James Town of which more than a bare mention survives. News of Pory's discoveries was relayed quickly to London. He went to the Chowan River region in February of 1622.

In 1646, an expedition from Virginia was launched against the Indians along the Chowan River. This group was led by Major General Richard Bennett (by land), and Colonel Thomas Dew (by water). In 1648, Henry Plumpton, Thomas Tuke and others from Virginia purchased from local Indians, "All lands from mouth of Roanoke River to Weyanook Creek." There has never been any proof that these Virginians actually settled on these lands. In 1650, Thomas Bland and seven other Virginians explored the Chowan, Meherrin, and Roanoke River valleys. Upon their return to James Town, they petitioned the Virginia Assembly for permission to begin settlement, and a grant was made by Governor William Berkeley, but there is no proof that these lands were ever settled by this group.

Sir William Berkeley was appointed colonial governor of Virginia in 1641, but he did not arrive until 1642. Berkeley defeated the Native Americans and the Dutch, extended explorations, and encouraged agriculture, but so persecuted dissenters that many of them left the colony. An uncompromising royalist, he made Virginia a haven for supporters of Charles I and declined to recognize the Commonwealth.

Berkeley was deposed by a Puritan force from England in 1652 and lived quietly on his Virginia plantation until the Restoration in 1660, when he was reappointed governor. His second term as governor was marred by great domestic discontent and strife. A drop in tobacco prices brought great economic suffering to the James Town colony.

In 1653, the Virginia Assembly granted land along the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers to Rev. Roger Green, but again, there is no proof that this was ever settled. The next year, Francis Yeardley and five others are the first white men to have seen the "Cittie of Raleigh" since Captain John White's departure in the 1580s. In 1656, Captain Thomas Francis and Colonel Thomas Dew were commissioned by the Virginia Assembly to make discoveries between Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear, along the southern coast of what is today North Carolina.

In 1663, Governor William Berkely of Virginia became one of the eight (8) Lords Proprietors of the new colony to the south - Carolana. Berkeley now had a "vested interest" in sending Virginians down to Carolina to settle the new colony, and he did just that. He also authorized all "illegal" settlers in the new colony to now be "made legal," granting them the lands that they had held for nearly a decade (or perhaps much longer, there simply are no records to prove one way or the other).

The Virginians that settled in the northern part of the new colony of Carolina were primarily English of various Protestant sects. Many were Quakers, and these greatly influenced the new Carolina government. Some of the early Carolina governors appointed by the Lords Proprietors were strict Anglicans (Church of England) with little tolerance for "dissenters" (all those opposed to the Church of England), yet the newly settled Quakers stood up for their rights and managed to slowly change the official posture of the colonial government in Carolina.

In 1694, John Archdale was appointed Governor of Carolina, the first Quaker. His administration was a blessing. The people of northern Carolina were almost as free in their opinions and actions as the air they breathed. There were few restraints of any kind, legal or moral, yet the people were generally enemies to violence, and gentle-tempered. They were widely scattered, with not a city or town, and scarcely a hamlet in their sylvan domain. There were no roads, only bridle-paths from house to house, and these were indicated by notches cut in trees. There was no settled minister of the gospel among them until 1703. The first church erected in what is now North Carolina appeared in 1705.

In 1699, a zealous friend of the Church of England, Henderson Walker, became governor of all of Carolina. In 1700, he persuaded the General Assembly to pass a vestry act establishing the Church of England (Anglican) as the colony's official church, to be supported by taxes to be levied upon the colonists. At almost the same time Queen Anne came to the throne, thus necessitating the renewing of various oaths of loyalty by the colony's officials and assemblymen. The Quakers, unable to swear to an oath (a tenet of their faith), offered to affirm as they had done in the past.

The friends of the Anglican establishment now in power, however, refused to accept this as sufficient, thereby barring all Quakers from public office in the colony. On these and similar issues the colony quickly split into two parties - the Church party, which supported the establishment, and the Quaker party which opposed it. Matters went from bad to worse, and politics became increasingly bitter as time went on.

Some of the early Virginians that settled in the northern part of the new colony of Carolina were French Huguenots. The Huguenots came to Virginia as early as 1620, when Elias La Guard, James Bonnall and David Poole settled in Elizabeth City. In the 1630s Nicholas Jamew, John Broche, William Savary, Nicholas Martiau, Giles Tavernor, John Vallet, and John Galliott settled in what is now York County. Also at that time, many French names appear in the upper County of New Norfolk. More French settlers came over the next three decades, settling in Lower Norfolk, Princess Ann, and Isle of Wight Counties.

The early Virginian "influence" on Carolina was entirely upon the northern part of the colony in the Albemarle region. They had virtually no desire to seek out their fellow colonists in Charles Town and very few ever picked up and moved that far south. As will be seen in the section on the Barbadian Influence - which primarily focused on Charles Town and not northern Carolina - one begins to understand that these two factions contributed significantly to "the Split" of Carolina. The Virginia/English culture of northern Carolina was virtually nothing like the Barbadian/English culture of southern Carolina, and the two groups simply preferred to leave each other alone, thereby creating another dimension in the "rift" that was growing wider as each year went by.


Another Perspective on the Settling of Albemarle:

While the experiments at Cape Fear and on Ashley River were in progress, another colony was slowly developing on Albemarle Sound and the Chowan River. Its inhabitants came from Virginia and New England, a few from Bermuda, a few also from various parts of the British Isles.

At a later time this colony was strengthened and extended southward to the Pamlico and Neuse rivers by French Protestants, Swiss, and Germans from the Palatinate. But during the period of which we are now speaking its population was English, was chiefly of colonial origin, and numbered only a few hundred.

As occurred elsewhere, especially in the colonies south of the Delaware river, the people of this province established themselves in straggling settlements or detached plantations along the courses of the rivers and sounds. So peaceful was the attitude of the natives during the first generation, that the colonists were not forced to seek protection in compact settlements.

They were also kept apart by the deep streams and broad sheets of water which intersected the country from east to west. These streams facilitated travel to and from the coast; but to intercourse and the building of roads along north and south lines, or along east and west lines north of Albemarle sound, they presented almost as serious obstacles as did the forests themselves. The sandy and treacherous coast line proved an hindrance, as in the days of Raleigh, to settlement from Europe.

When the redoubtable James Blair came to the Albemarle region as a missionary, in 1704, he found "mighty inconveniences in travelling there." He stated that the roads were not only "deep and difficult to be found," but that there were seven great rivers in the country, five of which could not be crossed with the aid of horses alone.

Over one of the other two rivers the Quakers had established a ferry, but nobody except themselves was permitted to use it. Along the banks of these streams settlers were then scattered for a distance in each case of twenty miles or more, while the land back from the streams was almost wholly unimproved.

Blair declared that he would sooner undertake a journey from England to Holland, than to go from the Albemarle settlements to those on the Pamlico; for the only means of transportation across the upper sound which intervened was a small periagua, while beyond lay a wilderness fifty miles broad. These statements are confirmed by the accounts of other missionaries who remained longer in the country than did Blair. [Osgood, Herbert L.]


 


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