Carolina - The Native Americans

The Cape Fear Indians

Named after the Cape Fear River area, their native designation being unknown or indeed whether they were an independent tribe or a part of some other.

No words of the language of the Cape Fear Indians have been preserved, but early references clearly associate them with the eastern Siouan tribes, and they may have been a part of the Waccamaw, since Waccamaw River is close to the Cape Fear River. They would then have been connected with the Siouan linguistic family and probably with the southern Atlantic division of which Catawba is the typical member.

The only village mentioned by name is Necoes, about 20 miles from the mouth of Cape Fear River, probably in Brunswick County. In 1715 five villages were reported.

They were first visited by Capt. William Hilton in 1663.

While the Cape Fear Indians were probably met by several of the early voyagers, our first specific notice of them comes from the narratives of a New England colony planted on Cape Fear River in 1663. These settlers seized some of the Indian children and sent them away under pretense of instructing them in the ways of civilization and were themselves in consequence driven off.

In 1664 a colony from Barbados was established at the mouth of Old Town Creek in Brunswick County, on the south side of the river, on land bought from the Indians, but, though the latter were friendly, like the others this attempt at settlement was abandoned in 1667.

In 1695, they asked to be taken under the protection of Governor John Archdale. The protection was granted and shortly afterward they rescued 52 passengers from a wrecked New England vessel who formed the nucleus of Christ Church Parish north of Cooper River.

A few Cape Fear Indians accompanied Colonel John Barnwell on his Tuscarora expedition in 1711-12. They were active in his behalf as scouts and also guarded the region around Port Royal.

After the Yamasee War (1715-1716) they were removed to South Carolina and settled inland from Charleston, probably in Williamsburg County (Milling. 1940).

In the latter part of the eighteenth century, a remnant of this tribe and the Pedee lived in the parishes of St. Stephens and St. Johns under a chief called King John.

By 1808 only a half-breed woman remained of these two tribes, though others may have removed to the Catawba.

Mooney (1928) estimates a population of 1,000 Cape Fear Indians in 1600. The census of 1715, above mentioned, gives 206.

In 1808, white neighbors remembered when as many as 30 Peedee and Cape Fear Indians lived in their old territories.


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