William Hilton, Jr.

William Hilton Jr. provided the first detailed English descriptions of the Carolina coast.

Hilton was born in Northwich, Cheshire, England in 1617. In 1621 his father, William Hilton, emigrated to New Plymouth colony; young William and his mother followed two years later. The family settled in Piscataqua. As an adult, Hilton lived in Newbury and Charlestown in the Massachusetts Bay colony. He married Sarah Greenleaf of Newbury. After her death he married Mehetabel Nowell of Charlestown, the daughter of Increase Nowell, a former Secretary of Massachusetts Bay colony.

On August 14, 1662, Hilton set sail from Charlestown, Massachusetts on his first voyage to explore the Carolinas, commanding the Adventurer. He returned in November with enough information for Nicholas Shapley, a Charlestown navigator, to draw a detailed map of the Cape Fear area.

Engaged by a group of businessmen from New England, London, and Barbados, Hilton embarked on a second exploration of the southeastern coast. On August 10, 1663, again commanding the Adventurer, he set out from Speights Bay with Captain Anthony Long and Peter Fabian. Upon their arrival in the vicinity of St. Helena Sound and the Combahee River they discovered the English castaways being held captive by the local American Indians. During negotiations with the local natives for the release of the castaways, he learned much about the local culture.

After sounding the entrance to Port Royal Sound, he set out for Cape Fear, but the ship was blown off course toward Cape Hatteras. On October 12, the crew of the Adventurer finally arrived at the entrance to the Cape Fear River and explored the area until December.

In 1664, Hilton published a book about this expedition called "A Relation of a Discovery Lately Made on the Coast of Florida," which spurred interest in colonizing the area. An early colony established on the Cape Fear river in 1664 led to the establishment of Charles Town in 1670 (later Charleston, South Carolina) nearby on the Ashley and Cooper rivers.

William Hilton died in 1675.

Click Here for a detailed account of his explorations, written by William Hilton, Jr. himself. 


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