George Durant

Albemarle's First Settler

By Howard Draper, Museum of the Albemarle

Pasquotank County takes great pride in knowing that the first land grant in North Carolina occurred there in 1660 when Kiscutanaweh, chief of the Yeopim Indians deeded to Nathaniel Batts "all ye land on ye southwest side of Pascotank River from ye mouth of ye sd river to ye head of New Begin Creeke." What falls between the cracks many times, however, is that the land at that time was a part of Norfolk County, Virginia, the deed was actually recorded there. Therefore, the first recorded land grant in North Carolina actually belongs to George Durant.

Very little is known of George Durant. In fact, the only substantial biography is Mattie Erma Parker's entry of Durant in William S. Powell's landmark Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. However, the story of Durant and the tract of land that would come to be known as Durant's Neck in present-day southern Perquimans County is a very interesting story.

Shortly after his marriage in January 1658 in Northumberland County, Virginia to Ann Marwood, Durant decided he wanted to make a home away from his Nansemond County residence. Where Durant was living at the time is not known. Possibilities include Northumberland County, Westmoreland County, or Nansemond County. It is known that at this time, he joined with at least six other gentlemen including John Battle, Thomas Relfe, Roger Williams, Thomas Jarvis, John Harvey, and John Jenkins to explore the Albemarle area, at the time a Virginia frontier called Roanoke. Many of these men brought land which Durant was witness to, including the one dated September 24, 1660 to Nathaniel Batts. It is possible that Durant was employed by Batts. Richard Batts, Nathaniel Batts brother, was a sea captain, and it is known that Durant was a mariner.

It is known that land was purchased from Cisketando, a Yeopim Indian chief on August 4, 1661. Shortly after, Durant purchases more land from the Yeopim. This deed is now recorded in the Perquimans County records, making it the oldest deed in North Carolina. The area that Durant settled, now known as Durant's Neck, proved to be a good location for him. Located in present Perquimans County on a tract of land jutting into the Albemarle Sound, the soil proved to be good for growing corn and wheat. In addition, cattle and swine were prosperous, as were the numerous forest animals. Unfortunately, Durant would have many problems with this tract of land.

One year after Durant settled his land, Virginia Governor William Berkeley informed all settlers that if they obtained land from the Indians, they must now obtain grants from Virginia. Under these rules, Berkely granted George Catchmaid of Northumberland County, Virginia the same land that Durant was living upon. Durant, feeling the land was rightfully his, refused to move. It did not take long for the two men to temporarily settle their differences.

They both agreed that Durant could settle the western side of the point, Catchmaid the east. Catchmaid also promised to have the land patented in Durant's name. Unfortunately for Durant, Catchmaid died before the patent was obtained. To complicate matters for Durant, Catchmaid's widow, remarried a wealthy Quaker, Timothy Biggs, with whom he did not get along. Biggs, ignoring the gentlemanly agreement made between Durant and Catchmaid, pursued the title. Not until 1697, almost three years after Durant's death was a suit won by Durant's son giving them legal title to the land they had been living for thirty-five years.


George Durant - Albemarle Patriot and Politician

George Durant (a.k.a. Duren, Duram and Duran) was born in England. The most accepted date for his birth is 1 Oct 1632 - although 1 Aug 1632, is also seen in some records. His father is unknown. He was possibly the son (or brother) of John Durant, who was appointed a lecturer by the House of Commons. John was an ardent supporter of the Roundheads during the English Civil War. It was reported that he always left the line "as we forgive them that trespass against us" out of the Lord's Prayer. Instead, he substituted "Lord, since Thou hast now drawn out Thy sword, let it not be sheathed again till it be glutted in the blood of the malignants" - the malignants being the Cavaliers. George Durant often reported having a brother in London by the name of John, as well as nephews named George, Henry and John Durant - the sons of his brother John. The last theory is that George Durant was the son of William Durant and Alice Pell of England.

Whatever his background, George Durant was in Northumberland (later Westmoreland) County, Virginia by 1650 or before. He would have been about eighteen years old in 1650. By trade, Durant was a "marriner" - as attested in his will dated 9 Oct 1688. The earliest sailing voyage that is documented for George Durant was in 1658, when he sailed aboard the Patomack Mecht, commanded by Robert Clarke. Young George Durant was about twenty-five years old at the time. The Patomack Mecht was possibly of Dutch construction and sailed from Virginia to Holland with a cargo of tobacco and other goods. We know of this voyage because there is a court case associated with the thirty hogsheads of tobacco stowed on board. This tobacco was owned by the Lee family, who were represented in court by Ms. Hannah Lee. Upon arrival in Zeeland, the tobacco was found to be rotten and unfit for sale. The Dutch refused to buy and the Lees sued for damages. On 20 Jul 1658, George Durant testified on behalf of his commander, saying that the hold remained dry during the entire voyage and that the tobacco was spoiled when it was loaded back in Virginia. The verdict of this case remains unknown.

George Durant married Ann Marwood (a.k.a. Moorwood, Norwood, or Harwood) in Northumberland County, Virginia on 4 Jan 1658/9. The Reverend David Lindsey performed the Anglican ceremony. On 24 Dec 1659/60, a son George Jr. was born. On 15 Feb 1661, a daughter Elizabeth was born and on 26 Dec 1662, a son John was born. These children were possibly born at Durant's Virginia home. All other Durant children were born in North Carolina.

It is not known whether George Durant lived on the waters of the Potomac in Westmoreland County, or in Nansemond County near the Carolina border. He originally purchased 300 acres of land in Westmoreland County, but it is suspected that he spent most of his married life in Nansemond. There is a Nansemond land grant made to Anthony Branch in October of 1665 for the transportation of six persons. George Durant is listed there as being transported three times and his wife once. There is also a Nansemond land grant made to Godfrey Hunt in April of 1664 for the transportation of twelve persons, including a George Duram. In April of 1665, George Durant sold his Westmoreland County property to Richard and Thomas Bushrod. We know that this property was on the south side of the Potomac River near an area called Nomeny Bay. He had purchased the land from a gentleman named Dr. Rice Maddocks. Northumberland County was a very large county and was later divided - one part retaining the name of Northumberland and the other becoming Westmoreland County. When George bought the Maddocks land in the late 1650s (around the time of his marriage), Dr. Maddocks retained the plantation house. As part of the payment, George Durant built Dr. Maddocks a 50-foot tobacco barn. Rice Maddocks, a well-known local doctor, did not live to see his new barn used for very long. He was murdered by three men (Edmund Goddard, John Fryer, and William Webb) around 1662. The three men were convicted and jailed, but Ann Maddocks was left a widow. Robert Noble, a chirurgeon, was paid 500 pounds of tobacco for performing the autopsy on Rice Maddocks' body.

George Durant often appears in both Northumberland and Westmoreland County court documents of the time, indicating that he was an active member of the community. On 18 Dec 1660, he signed a document stating that he owed Mr. Charles Ashton (the high sheriff of the County) "one man servant betwixt the age of sixteen and thirty, to be paid 1 March next." On 3 Feb 1661, George Durant was authorized as the attorney of Robert Mosely in his case against a suit by one Richard Granger. George had several other grants for land in Virginia prior to leaving the colony. One of these was for 400 acres in Lower Norfolk County and another was for 700 acres in what is now Currituck County, North Carolina. He received the Carolina property in September of 1670 for the transportation of fourteen persons. Soon after the initial settlement of Virginia, the colony's best lands along the Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James Rivers were granted to wealthy planters in large tracts of as much as 175,000 acres. The southern frontier of Roanoke offered fertile land for small farmers - land that was now unavailable in their current location.

About the time of his marriage, George Durant apparently formed the purpose of making a new home for himself in some more favored spot. In the year of 1658, he joined a party composed of John Battle, Dr. Thomas Relfe, Roger Williams, Thomas Jarvis, John Harvey, John Jenkins and others to explore and settle the wilderness of the Albemarle - which was then a frontier of Virginia called Roanoke. Most of these men were from Isle of Wight and Nansemond County. The other explorers speedily bought land from the Indians and George was a frequent witness to these deeds. One deed, found in the Norfolk County records in 1965, is dated 24 Sep 1660. This deed grants the entire tip of the peninsula (which is now Pasquotank County in North Carolina) to Captain Nathaniell Batts. It is signed with the mark of Kiscutanewh (also known as Kilcocanen), chief of the Yeopim Indians. The deed granted Batts "all ye land on ye southwest side of Pascotanck River, from ye mouth of said river to ye head of new Begin Creeke." This deed was recorded in Virginia, as Roanoke was considered part of the colony at that time. It is not known if George Durant was in the employ of Nathaniell Batts at the time of this land sale. Captain Nathaniell Batts was a famous explorer and fur trader who lived in Lower Norfolk County. His brother Richard Batts was a wealthy sea captain and merchant from Barbados, who traded with Virginia. As Durant was a mariner, it is possible that he could have worked with Richard Batts and later become acquainted with his brother Nathaniell. George Durant may also have known Nathaniell Batts in Northumberland County. There is a court record for a person by that name, who was accused of beating a man while intoxicated. Nathaniell Batts reputedly was a hard drinker and was also fond of swearing.

Although Durant helped to locate land for others, he spent two years exploring and determining the best spot for his new home before purchasing land. On 4 Aug 1661, land was purchased from Cisketando, a Yeopim Indian Chief. On 13 Mar 1661/2, a second purchase was made. The new land was bought from Kilcocanen, the same chief that had sold land to Nathaniell Batts. This deed is still in existence and is now the oldest deed in North Carolina. The land chosen by Durant still bears the name of Durant's Neck (formerly known as Wikacome) and is located on a point of land bordered by Roanoke Sound (now Albemarle Sound) in southern Perquimans County. Perquimans means "land of beautiful women" and was named by the Yeopim Indians. Although much of the new frontier was composed of swamp and watery marsh, Durant chose his plot well. His land had virgin forests, holly trees, lofty pines, white juniper and rhododendrons. The soil was a mixture of sand and heavy humus; it grew corn and wheat well. Cattle and swine thrived and the animals of the forest furnished skins. The tall pines were generous with the tar and pitch so wanted by naval interests. The ground itself yielded the herbs, including "saxafras," so desired as "druggs" by the apothecaries of Europe. The wide rivers offered transportation for the settlers and teemed with fish. By 1662, Durant had already built a house and had cleared a part of the land.

A year later, the governor of Virginia (Sir William Berkeley) told all settlers who had obtained land from the Indians that they must now obtain grants from Virginia. It was at this time that the governor granted George Catchmany (a.k.a. Catchmaid) of Northumberland County, the same land purchased by Durant. Durant was already settled on the land and refused to leave. He believed that he had purchased the land fairly. Catchmaid, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, first employed men to "settle and seat" this land. However, by 1664 he resided on the land himself and began construction of his new estate called Birkswear. In 1663, the land matter was temporarily settled to both men's satisfaction. Durant settled the western side of the point and Catchmaid settled the eastern side. Catchmaid acknowledged Durant's right to the land and promised to have the land patented in Durant's name. Unfortunately, this patent was never obtained. George Catchmaid, the speaker of the first Assembly of the Albemarle, passed away before the proper papers could be signed. After his death, Catchmaid's widow remarried a wealthy Quaker by the name of Timothy Biggs. Biggs and Durant had little love for each other and Biggs renewed the land claim feud. It was not until 1697 (after George Durant's death) that the title was cleared by Durant's sons. A suit was brought against Edward Catchmaid of London, who was nephew and heir to George Catchmaid. The suit resulted in a decree giving the Durant sons title to their father's land, on which the family had lived for over thirty-five years.

Despite the trouble about his land, George Durant decided by 1665 that he would live permanently in Roanoke. He sold his Virginia lands and became one of the area's most prosperous merchants. The wharves of the plantations on the Little and Perquimans Rivers served the white-sailed ships that carried tobacco, indigo, tar and pitch to New England, the West Indies and Great Britain. By 1665 the Roanoke area was no longer part of Virginia, but had been included in the province of Carolina. King Charles II of England (newly restored to the throne) designated eight Lords Proprietors to govern the new colony. The Roanoke area was renamed the County of Albemarle. However, the Proprietors were to cause many future problems for the Carolina settlers. Communication between England and Albemarle was laborious and settler's complaints were often ignored for months at a time. The main concern of the Proprietors was the extreme southern frontier, the new area later known as South Carolina.

George Durant (along with Captain John Hecklefield and Captain Richard Sanderson) offered the use of his home for court to be held, council meetings to convene, and assemblies called. In fact, court was held so often at Durant's home, that a set of stocks was eventually erected on his property. Durant was a popular man, who had a reputation for fairness. By the 1670s, he had become a leader of the political party representing the interests of the original settlers. This put him increasingly in conflict with the Lords Proprietors, who were imposing restrictive measures on trade. George and others especially opposed new restrictions on tobacco shipped from Albemarle. They felt that the restrictions would produce undo hardship in a colony still struggling to establish itself.

These new rules were part of a set of British laws called the Navigation Acts. In these acts, all colonial trade was required to be carried in English ships, while all European goods destined for the colonies had to be first landed in England. Certain items, such as tobacco shipped from Carolina, could land only in England. In addition, heavy customs duties had to be paid on the tobacco once it entered British ports. This effectively cut off the New England market, one of Albemarle's prime trading partners. Carolina planters did not wish to be forced into paying expensive customs duties and were unhappy with the fact that they were no longer allowed to trade with other foreign countries.

To circumvent the Navigation Acts, Albemarle merchants began smuggling. The New England coastal traders opened a profitable illegal trade with the Carolina planters. Tobacco was carried by sloop to Boston. From there it was transported to heavy ships bound for Scotland, Ireland, Holland, France, and Spain. England quickly caught on to the fact that they were losing valuable customs revenue and retaliated by passing the Plantation Duty Act in 1673. This act stated that colonial ships leaving port had to pay customs duties prior to sailing. Parliment appointed customs officials in Albemarle to collect the duties.

The Carolina planters were outraged. They felt that they should be able to trade with whomever they pleased. As many of the planters and merchants had settled in Albemarle before the Lords Proprietors gained control, they resented English intrusion into their affairs.

Anti-proprietary factions were afraid that the main aim of England was to establish an aristocracy in Carolina, reducing all others to a state of poverty and servitude. The freedom and independence that the original colonists attempted to gain by settling in Albemarle and carving out a new life, was in danger of being lost. The settlers were supported by many New England merchants who wished to maintain trade relations with Albemarle.

In 1675 or the following year, Durant went to London and presented his party's views to the Proprietors. He protested against conditions then existing in the Albemarle and warned of trouble to come. His comments were ignored. However, he was informed that the Lords Proprietors had chosen a new governor for North Carolina named Thomas Eastchurch. Eastchurch would enforce the collection of the customs duties and the rules of the Plantation Duty Act. Durant told the Lords that he would revolt before he would support Eastchurch and that he refused to allow the appointment! These were strong words for a colonial settler and reveal much concerning Durant's important role in Albemarle politics. Durant promptly sailed back to Albemarle aboard Zachariah Gilliam's 5-gun ship the Carolina. On the way to his new assignment in North Carolina, Thomas Eastchurch's ship stopped at the island of Nevis in the West Indies. There the governor courted and married a wealthy widow.

In the meantime, the new bridegroom sent a deputy (Thomas Miller) to govern Albemarle in his place. In Aug 1677, Miller arrived back in Albemarle and began collecting customs with a vengeance. A guard force was organized to enforce his dictates. A sloop, chartered by Miller, cruised the Albemarle Sound, ready to pounce upon merchants trying to sail out of the harbors without settlement. Merchants who had not paid any customs fees since the passing of the Plantation Duty Act, were forced to pay back duties. Unhappy planters eagerly awaited the return of George Durant from London. The setting was ripe for rebellion.

On the first Saturday of December, 1677, Captain Zachariah Gilliam sailed into Albemarle Sound. On board was George Durant and in the hold was a large amount of firearms, ammunition, and swords. Gilliam's response to authorities, when questioned about the nature of his cargo, was that it was to be sold to white settlers for defense against the Indians. Gilliam, a native of Boston, had been in the Carolina trade since 1674 and was firmly allied with the planters. Upon dropping anchor, Captain Gilliam went ashore to tender his papers to Miller. To the Collector's question if Gilliam had ever carried tobacco out of Albemarle, the captain answered that he had carried some 180 hogsheads. Triumphant, Miller said that Gilliam would have to pay back duties of one penny a pound on that cargo. Gilliam stated that the duties had already been paid in England, but Miller arrested him anyway. The captain's papers were seized and his boat crew placed in confinement.

Among Gilliam's papers was his passenger list. After discovering that George Durant was a passenger aboard the Carolina, Miller armed himself with a brace of pistols and rowed out to the ship at about eleven o' clock at night. Stepping on deck, he thrust his cocked pistols into Durant's chest and "in an insolent Hectoring manner," arrested him as a "Traytour." The crew onboard quickly overpowered him. Benjamin Gilliam, the captain's son, offered Miller the use of the ship's longboat to go ashore, but the Collector angrily refused. For the next two hours he was kept confined aboard ship, all the while railing against the indignities to which he was subjected.

During this time, several planters came out to the ship for a hurried conference with Durant. The plan of action was quickly laid. The rebellion that would become known as Culpeper's Rebellion, was to begin in earnest at first light. It is now seen as one of the earliest uprisings against the British Crown in the New World.

Furnished with muskets and cutlasses from Gilliam's ship, the rebels began a wholesale arrest of the proprietary faction. Timothy Biggs (Eastchurch's customs official and a leading Quaker politician), Henry Hudson, John Nixon, and other proprietary men were rounded up and imprisoned in the house of seaman William Crawford. The prisoners were later moved to Durant's plantation. Timothy Biggs later recalled that Durant's home was often the site of rebel meetings and considered "their usual rendezvous."

Durant had called a new Assembly and his supporters included John Jenkins (whom Durant declared governor), Alexander Lillington, Thomas Collen (speaker of the Assembly), James Blount, Henry Bonner, Thomas Jarvis, and nearly all of the leading planters. A trial was begun to convict Thomas Miller and his supporters of "several odious crymes, including blasphemy and treason." The trial was cut short by word that Governor Thomas Eastchurch, back from the West Indies, had finally landed at Jamestown.

The rebels, determined that Miller and should not be freed, moved him to William Jenning's house, along the upper reaches of the Pasquotank River. Later, a small log jail was constructed to hold the prisoner. Not only was Miller "clapt in irons," but he was allowed no communication with anyone and was treated in what he claimed was "a cruell and barbarous manner shut up from all society."

As the return of Eastchurch from Virginia meant that the rebels would be tried for treason, armed troops were sent to guard the border between the two colonies against his return. Eastchurch promptly applied to Virginia's Governor William Berkeley for an armed force to invade Albemarle. However, before a force could be organized, Thomas Eastchurch fell ill of a fever and was soon dead.

No longer threatened by the presence of a duly authorized government, the rebels began to fashion their own. With Culpeper acting as Collector, the people got what they wanted - no duties on tobacco. For a short time, peace reigned in the area and merchant business flourished. Unfortunately, the Crown's officials would not let the matter end so easily. After about seven weeks of imprisonment, Timothy Biggs escaped and made his way back to England to report the turmoil in Albemarle. Aware that Royal justice would be swift and severe, the rebels began going through confiscated proprietary records and papers, carefully selecting those best suited to justify their cause.

Surprisingly, the information provided by Biggs only made the Lords Proprietors in London stubbornly insist that the matter should be settled within the colony of Carolina. Biggs was returned to Albemarle with the title of Comptroller and Surveyor-General in late 1678. Once there, he had his authority immediately revoked by John Culpeper. The rebels controlled the government and Biggs found the situation even worse than before. He grew accustomed to sleeping with a loaded musket at his side and took turns with members of his family in guarding his house every hour of the day.

George Durant's home was now the unofficial seat of government and Timothy Biggs, in an effort to deny recognition to the rebels, refused to set foot in it. After learning that Thomas Miller was still imprisoned, Biggs and several loyal proprietary men helped him to escape. Miller headed immediately back to England and Biggs fled to Virginia. At this news, the rebel government dispatched John Culpeper to London, in order to counter the charges that were sure to be levied. John Culpeper sailed first to Boston with Benjamin Gilliam and from there to London with Benjamin's father Zachariah.

By the time that Culpeper arrived in London in late November, Biggs had already informed officials that 58,392 pounds of tobacco had been embezzled by the Carolinians. Culpeper was arrested until he promised to deliver the tobacco within a year. With things thus settled to everyone's satifaction, Gilliam and Culpeper boarded the Carolina and dropped down the Thames towards the Atlantic Ocean. Luck was not with them however, for soon Thomas Miller arrived in London, penniless, sick and bitter. Miller quickly gave additional evidence to the Commissioners of Customs. He charged that, besides the tobacco confiscated by the rebels, that they had also stolen some of His Majesty's customs receipts and fines amounting to 1,242 Pounds Sterling.

Gilliam and Culpeper were still at the mouth of the Thames awaiting a favorable wind and were quickly apprehended. They were returned to London where they were kept in custody by order of the King in Council. Both Culpeper and Gilliam were charged as "being two of the Principall Contrivers and Promoters of the said Rebellion." On 31 Jan 1680, depositions were taken from Thomas Miller, Timothy Biggs, Henry Hudson, John Taylor and Solomon Summers. The weight of their evidence was overwhelmingly against Culpeper and he was found guilty of "Treason in abetting and encouraging a Rebellion in Carolina." The following day the prisoner was committed to Newgate Prison. Zachariah Gilliam was called before the Lords of Trade and Plantations a week later. He skillfully defended himself as an innocent ship's captain, caught up in events of which he had nothing to do. As there was no direct evidence against him, he was allowed to go free and promptly sailed away.

John Culpeper's treason case dragged on and on until 20 Nov 1680, when the trial finally began. Representing the Lords Proprietors during the trial was Lord Shaftesbury, the Earl of Craven. Lord Shaftesbury's devotion to his "darling Carolina" was well-known and he surprised everyone by siding with the accused! Apparently he was aware that, should Culpeper be found guilty, the Carolina charter could easily be revoked. The Lords Proprietors were taking no chance of losing their favorite cash cow. Shaftesbury argued that John Culpeper, George Durant, and the others rebelled only due to Thomas Miller's loose tongue, his threats, and his fanatical zeal in governmental operations. Culpeper's claim that his authority was derived from the Assembly of the people, said the Proprietor, was not without basis. Under their constitution, the people of Carolina had been granted the privilege of electing delegates to the legislature every two years. Therefore, Albemarle's "pretended Parliament" was in itself a legal body! The verdict was acquittal for John Culpeper. The Proprietors gave assurances that restitution would be made for the confiscated customs, which was done by the Carolinians.

After several years, the uprising finally drew to a close. The Culpeper Rebellion lasted from 1677-1680 and Durant's estate had been a frequent meeting place for insurgents, as well as a jail for political prisoners. An Act of Oblivion granted pardons to the rebels and in 1681 the Proprietors relaxed their claims on all products of the whaling industry for seven years, in order to allow the inhabitants to steady their fortunes. John Jenkins was eventually recognized as governor and George Durant became attorney general in 1679. He also served as speaker of the Assembly. However, some of his contemporaries claimed that "though Jenkins held the title, yet in fact Durant governed and used Jenkins as his property."

The Culpeper Rebellion received its name due to John Culpeper's trial in London. Yet it was George Durant who initially determined that Culpeper should go to London and it was Durant that first encouraged the arrest of the proprietary faction. Until his death, Durant continued to influence the colony and did not hesitate to punish his enemies - particularly the Old Neck Quakers who had supported the proprietary faction during the rebellion.

Some years later, it being considered that one of the Proprietors should have the administration, Seth Sothel was appointed governor of Albemarle. On the way to Carolina, Sothel's ship was captured by Turkish pirates and he was held for ransom. By the time of his liberation, Sothel's formerly placid personality had been greatly altered. Upon arrival in Albemarle in 1681, he immediately developed into a tyrant and was guilty of many excesses. One of the allegations made against him was that he liked to obtain the property of other men. On one occasion, two ships from Barbados - on legitimate business - were seized by Sothel as pirates. The captains of both vessels were thrown into prison, where one of them died through ill treatment. The dying man made a will, but Sothel refused to let the will go to probate and seized the dead man's effects. The captain's Executor, Thomas Pollack, threatened to carry the story to England.

Afraid that his dirty politics would be disclosed back home, Sothel arrested Pollock and threw him in jail. Durant denounced these events, whereupon Sothel seized and imprisoned Durant and took possession of some of his property. Durant led a movement that resulted in seizing the governor, incarcerating him in a log house ten feet square and convening an Assembly. The Assembly determined to send Sothel to England for trial. Sothel was so alarmed at these proceedings that he compromised with the people and accepted a trial by the Assembly. The sentence was banishment from the colony. In 1689, after an oppressive tenure of several years, Sothel left the Albemarle. Durant was seen as responsible for the "Rebell rout" and "all along when at home beene one of the most violent, active and most outrageous of all the Conspirators and Insurrecters."

During his lifetime, there were no church buildings in Albemarle, except for those where the Quakers held their services. Therefore, no knowledge exists concerning Durant's religious beliefs. Some theorize that he may have been Quaker, but this is highly unlikely. His marriage was performed by an Episcopal minister and all of his children but one (Deborah), married into Episcopalian families. Many think that he was a Scotsman, and therefore of the Presbyterian faith, but his church affiliations in Perquimans County are uncertain.

Durant's will was probated on February 6, 1694, some thirty-five years after his first arrival in Albemarle. At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, George Durant's Bible - printed in London, England in 1599 - is displayed in a locked cabinet. He brought this Bible with him when he came to the New World. It is one of the oldest English Bibles in the United States.

The Durant plantation was called Wicocombe and was also used as an inn. Wikacome was the name of the area before it became known as Durant's Neck. The exact location of the house, or of the Durant burial grounds, is shrouded in mystery. It is said that George Durant's grave was once to be seen under a sweetgum tree, on the bank of a large drain overlooking the Albemarle Sound - and that in cutting out the ditch, the stone was undermined and mud from the bottom was thrown over the grave until it disappeared. In the will of William Therrell, George Durant's plantation is referred to as "Berty Point" and the deeds of Perquimans County speak of the home as being located on a "Point which divides sd land from a Neck called Langleys." An old map of Durant's Neck shows a Berty Point at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. There is also a Langley's Neck on the southwestern side of the point. It seems certain therefore, that Wicocombe was located on the southwestern side of Durant's Neck, somewhere near the village of Little River. However, the actual site of the home has probably been covered by the encroaching Albemarle Sound. George Durant died on February 6, 1692, leaving a legacy as one of North Carolina's outstanding colonial leaders. He was 60 years old.

By Deborah Barclift Adenan of Alexandria, VA, The Descendants of William Bartlett Website


 


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