Documenting the World of Outlander #4: Cherokee Land Boundaries

[This post was written by Alison Thurman and Josh Hager, Reference Archivists]

This blog is intended as a “bonus feature” for fans of Outlander who want to explore the world of Jamie and Claire through original documents housed at the State Archives of North Carolina. SPOILERS for the first 9 episodes of Season 4!

Outlander, the hit series from Starz, has officially arrived in colonial North Carolina. This season, Jamie and Claire will traverse the state from Wilmington to the mountains. The State Archives of North Carolina will join them on this journey as we showcase documents that provide a window into their world. Welcome to our biweekly series, Documenting the World of Outlander, wherein each new entry in our series will focus on one topic that appears on screen in Outlander.

In the most recent episodes of Outlander we have seen Jamie and Claire receive a land grant for 10,000 acres in the back country of North Carolina upon which they build a homestead they name Fraser’s Ridge. Fraser’s Ridge appears to be a successful farm and happy home for the Frasers, but there is always a new challenge around the corner wherever they go.  In this case, one of the realities of living in the North Carolina back country in 1767 for Jamie and Claire, is carving out a peaceful and respectful relationship with their closest neighbors, the Cherokee Indians, also referred to as the Tsalagi. In this entry of our blog series we would like to focus on Native Americans, specifically the Cherokee, and showcase some of the documents in the State Archives that pertain to the complicated history of colonial expansion and changing land boundaries in North Carolina during the late 1760’s and beyond.

When Jamie decided not to accept his Aunt Jocasta’s offer of taking over management of and eventually inheriting her plantation, River Run, he knew that his desire to create a home for his family in the west might come at the expense of the American Indians living there. It is often hard to reconcile the idea that to begin a new chapter in their lives, early American settlers, like the fictional Fraser family, often displaced those that had occupied that land for many generations.

The Cherokee Indians once occupied an area encompassing approximately 140,000 square miles that became parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The Cherokee that lived in what is now North Carolina lived in village communities and had a thriving farming and hunting culture. They first crossed paths with Europeans during Hernando De Soto’s expedition in 1540, however regular interactions with European traders did not begin until the late seventeenth century. There existed periods of peaceful trade interrupted by devastating epidemics of disease that killed thousands because American Indians had little or no immunity to the European diseases that swept through their villages. Unfortunately, they also often found themselves caught in the middle of the constant struggle between England and France over control of North American colonization and trade in the 1740’s-1760’s. Allying themselves with the British might bring repercussions from the French or vice versa. Conflict in the back country could also damage trade relations with their colonial neighbors.

The one constant the Cherokee could expect was that colonial expansion never ceased. The Cherokee had made land concessions to European settlers in 1721, 1730 and 1755, however, by the end of the French and Indian War in 1763 there was a surge of new colonial expansion that increased tensions as colonists began crossing over into Cherokee territory.  In episode 4, “Common Ground”, the Frasers encounter the Cherokee for the first time while they are marking the boundary of their land as awarded by royal grant. It is obvious to the Cherokee that the Fraser’s intend on permanently settling there as they watch them set up boundary line posts and lay out foundations for their new dwellings.  It is the fall of 1767 and Jamie and Claire have arrived in the back country just as a new effort to reestablish peaceful relations between the colonial government and the leaders of the Cherokee had resulted in a new boundary agreement which came to be known as the Western Boundary Agreement of 1767. The agreement fixed the new boundary for the Cherokee hunting grounds as follows:

Governor William Tryon: Western Boundary Agreement, 1767

Governor William Tryon: Western Boundary Agreement, 1767

“In pursuance to which Talk His Excellency William Tryon Esquire Governor and Commander in Chief in and over his Majesty’s Province of North Carolina &c by commission, under his hand and seal, did appoint the Honorable John Rutherford, the Hon. Robert Palmer Esquire and John Frohock Esquire, Commissioners to run the said Boundary Line between the Frontiers of North Carolina and the Cherokee Hunting Grounds

and the Commissioners aforesaid with Alexander Cameron Esquire Deputy Superintendant and the head Chiefs and Warriors of the said Nation (to wit) Juds Friend, Tufftoe Sallowee, or the Young Warrior of Estatoe, Ecoy, Chenesto of Sugar Town, and the Wolf of Keowee and others Met on the Fourth day of June One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty Seven at Reedy River

and Run the Line as follows, Beginning at a Waughoe or Elm tree on the South side of Reedy River Standing on the Bank of the River where the South Carolina Line Terminates and Runs thence a North Course about Fifty Three Miles into the Mountains to a Spanish Oak marked with the Initial Letters of the Commissioners names and several other Trees with the names and marks of Juds Friend Sallowee Ecoy and others standing on the Top of a Mountain called by us Tryon Mountain on the head Waters of White Oak and Packet Creeks, White Oak running into Green River and Packet running into Broad River and as it was found Impracticable that a Line should be Run and marked through the Mountains to Colo Chiswell’s Mines”

A copy of the complete original agreement is available for viewing on the North Carolina Digital Collections website at http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p16062coll24/id/13397

In a previous blog about Gov. Tryon we showcased records from the Governor’s Papers and there are many documents pertaining to the Cherokee and the western lands in those papers. However, we also have a group of records from the Governor’s Office which are mainly comprised of documents created during the daily course of business by the governor and staff. During the period of royal governors such as Tryon, there existed a Governor’s Council that served as the upper house of the colonial General Assembly and sat as the Court of Chancery for the colony. However, they primarily acted as an advisory board to the governor. The six to twelve men of the Council were usually appointed by the King and were among the most prosperous citizens of the colony and as such were leaders of society. Typically, the governor would meet with the council to report any issues in the colony that needed addressing and seek their advice on how to proceed.

This entry in the minutes of the North Carolina Governor’s Council, dated 1769, records that Gov. Tryon presented the Council with a copy of the land boundary agreement agreed upon by John Stuart, Superintendant of Indian Affairs in the Southern District, and chiefs and representatives of the Cherokee Nation.  He also passed along a letter he received from John Stuart detailing grievances put forward by the Cherokee that North Carolina settlers had entered their hunting grounds without authorization.

A transcription is provided below.


“At a Council held at Brunswick 14th April 1769

Present

His Excellency the Governor

The Honble James Hasell Esquire

The Honble Lewis DeRosset Esquire

The Honble Willam Dry Esquire

The Honble Benjamin Heron Esquire and

The Honble Saml Strudwick Esquire

His Excellency laid before this Board a Copy of a Treaty transmitted to him by John Stuart Esqr His Majestys Agent and Superintendant of Indian Affairs in the Southern district, Ratifying and Confirming several Cessions to His Majesty at different times by the Cherokee Nation of Indians of certain lands lying within the limits of the Provinces of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia dated at Hard Labour in the Province of South Carolina the 14th day of October 1768—

And also a letter he received from the said John Stuart Esqr dated Charles Town 16th February 1769, respecting complaints He received by the Cherokees of numerous bodys of hunters from North Carolina having this year infested their hunting Grounds and destroyed their game—with his Excellencys answer thereto dated the 28th March 1769—These papers being read His Excellency desired the opinion of this Board, what measures ought to be pursued to prevent the continuation of those abuses—This Board gave it as their Opinion, That His Excellency recommend to the Assembly at the next meeting the passing of an Act to prevent such Abuses for the Future, but that they conceive no act will operate effectually until the Temporary Line between this Province and South Carolina be compleated.

Ordered that the Treaty before mentioned between Superintendant on the part of his Majesty and the Cherokee Chiefs be recorded in the Secretary’s Office.”

The fact the Cherokee submitted a formal grievance and that the Council advised that the General Assembly pass an act to prevent such trespassing in the future seems to be evidence that a good faith effort was made by both parties to uphold the new boundary line agreement.

The Governor’s Office records have not been digitized at this time, but most of them have been transcribed and printed in The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina series. This is a twenty-six volume set of transcribed and printed records compiled from different sources in the US and several European repositories that document the history of North Carolina from the founding of the colony through early statehood. It is an invaluable resource for those interested in North Carolina history. The volumes are available in print form in the Search Room of the State Archives of NC as well as many libraries and other archives. The volumes have also been digitized and may be accessed online through the Documenting the American South website. You may learn more about the history and content of the series and how to research them online at https://docsouth.unc.edu/index.html

Looking beyond documents concerning land, researching maps will often lead you to discover details that complement a larger story. The map below is “Plan of the Province Line from the Cherokee Line and Salisbury Road between North and South Carolina, 1772”. Studying the left side of the map reveals a location for a Tryon Mountain on the Cherokee Line. Further research in the North Carolina Gazetteer revealed that the mountain was “named for William Tryon by the Cherokees in 1767 when a new boundary was established between colonial settlers’ lands and Cherokee lands.”

“Plan of the Province Line from the Cherokee Line and Salisbury Road between North and South Carolina, 1772,” M.C.187.1886h

The State Archives has a collection of over 6,000 maps depicting North Carolina geography and culture.  Manuscript and published maps have been brought together from a variety of sources and compiled into a reference collection that is available for viewing in the Archives Search Room. They range from regional geographic maps arranged by county, town and city, as well as rivers, canals, railroads, highways, military fortifications and insurance maps. They are arranged chronologically within their classification and are indexed in our online catalog, MARS, which may be accessed at https://mars.archives.ncdcr.gov/BasicSearch.aspx

Most of the maps in the custody of the Archives have been digitized and may be found online as part of the NC Maps website which you may access at https://web.lib.unc.edu/nc-maps/ If you are interested in maps, you are in luck because our next blog will be focusing on mapping early North Carolina and will showcase maps from the NC Maps Collection.

The boundary agreements of the late 1760’s changed several times over the course of the early nineteenth century and as the Cherokee ceded more land to the federal government the land was surveyed and sold off.  At the State Archives we have Cherokee Survey books, 1819 -1837, in the Secretary of State records that record the land surveys that resulted from these sales. At present these books are not available online, but they are available for viewing in the Archives Search Room.

When the Cherokee and the Fraser’s met in episode 4 it was a meeting filled with wariness and uncertainty about the future.  As a survivor of the suppressed Jacobite Rebellion of 1746 in Scotland, Jamie is familiar with the reality of adapting to cultural and political changes and he and Claire are certainly believers that a new beginning is something worth working for.  As evidenced in episode 6, “Blood of My Blood”, Jamie makes a point to stress to visitors at Fraser’s Ridge that the boundary lines between Cherokee lands and his land awarded by royal grant are clearly marked and that they must never cross over the boundary. His intentions may be sincere, but life in the back country is always complicated.

Join us next time for a look at colonial North Carolina through maps.