Documenting the World of Outlander #5: Mapping Colonial North Carolina

[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.

With a few weeks left to go in Season 4, Jamie and Claire have now traveled from the bustling colonial port of Wilmington through Cross Creek and up to Fraser’s Ridge. Our intrepid adventurers have traversed the colony from ocean to mountains, seeing the varied landscapes that make North Carolina such a geographic wonder. To parallel with their journey’s end at Fraser’s Ridge, we would like to showcase our map collections to get a better handle on Jamie and Claire’s Carolina voyage.

We’ll start with a map of the Wilmington area, where Jamie and Claire first arrived in the colony in the first episode of Season 4.

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Map Collection. MC.195.W743.1743v. (Vault Collection No. 4). A plan of Wilmington scituate [sic] on the east side of the north-east branch of Cape Fear River agreable [sic] to the original survey by Jeremiah Vail, c.1743.

This map, dating to circa 1743, is the earliest map in our holdings that shows the city of Wilmington. Prepared by cartographer Jeremiah Vail, this map was the earliest plan of the city of Wilmington as laid out by the city’s proprietors in 1733. No place names, street addresses, or property owners appear on this map due to its early date. However, you can use the Cape Fear River’s placement to map out the equivalent current areas of the still-bustling port city. It’s possible that Jamie and Claire may have used a map such as this example to navigate their way through Wilmington’s streets when they first arrived in North Carolina.

Our next example takes us up the Cape Fear River to the town of Cross Creek, site of Jamie’s aunt’s plantation and the harrowing events of the second episode of Season 4.

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Map Collection. MC.195.F284.2014ma. Fayetteville, N.C. about 1770 (after Sauthier), by Dan MacMillan, 2014.

A couple of characteristics about this map should jump out at you immediately. The first idiosyncrasy is that the map shows Fayetteville, not Cross Creek. Fayetteville became an incorporation city in 1783 when Cross Creek and the neighboring town of Campbellton merged and named the new city in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette. The fact that Fayetteville appears on this map rather than Cross Creek, in addition to the modern type face, is a giveaway to the second peculiarity; this map is not actually from Jamie and Claire’s time but rather is a contemporary depiction of the Fayetteville area circa 1770. Fayetteville resident Dan MacMillan painstakingly created this map of Fayetteville in 1770 using land records from the State Archives of North Carolina, including deeds and land grants. Many of the property owners shown on this map could have interacted with the Frasers as they made their way through Cross Creek. Notice that the Cape Fear River snakes right through the middle of the city, thus connecting Fayetteville to Wilmington. It should therefore come as no surprise that Fayetteville would later become one of the most prominent distribution centers in North Carolina, especially after the advent of railroads allowed Fayetteville to become a transfer point of goods from the Cape Fear River to all points inland.

We end our pictorial journey with a map of the entirety of the colony from 1770.

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Map Collection. MC.150.1770c1. A Compleat Map of North-Carolina from an actual Survey, by John Bayly, William Churton, John Abraham Collett, and Samuel Hooper (publisher), 1770.

In this map, colloquially known as “the Collett map,” we see the colony from the Atlantic to the Appalachians. Unlike earlier maps, the Collett map utilizes surveyed information to create what was in 1770 the most accurate map of the colony ever produced. The summary of the map from our online catalog MARS provides further information:

This map was prepared by Captain John Abraham Collet (1756-1789), a Swiss-born army officer and commander of Fort Johnston at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and [it] was based largely on surveys conducted by William Churton (1749-1767), surveyor of the Granville Land Office. It was engraved by John Bayly and published in London by Samuel Hooper. The map portrays all of North Carolina west to the Blue Ridge Mountains near present day Morganton. The Collet map is far more accurate and comprehensive than any previous map of North Carolina and depicts for the first time the roads and settlements in the growing western part of the colony.

From Cross Creek, Jamie and Claire would have taken the rivers and roads depicted on the Collett map as they journeyed further west toward Frasers Ridge. What modern features can you spot on this map?

If you’re interested in further map research, your best resource is NC Maps, an award-winning website collaboration between the State Archives of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Outer Banks History Center. You’ll find maps sorted by location, date, and more. Plus, you can view maps in different sizes and zoom in to the smallest detail to find that one elusive town, road, or body of water.

Now that we’ve mapped the Frasers to their new homesite, we’ll now turn our attention to a slightly more dangerous topic. Join us in our next entry as we look at piracy in the world of Outlander!

The Conservation of the 18th Century Sloan-Osborne Ciphering Book

[This blog post was written by Garrett Sumner, a graduate student at West Dean College and summer intern in the Conservation Lab]

As part of my internship at the Conservation Lab in the State Archives of North Carolina, I had the opportunity to work on a number of projects, but the one object that garnered most of my time was the Sloan-Osborne Ciphering Book (PC.1955). The Sloan-Osborne Ciphering Book is actually two distinct notebooks, one from the 1750s, and the other from the early 1780s, which were later sewn together. The notebooks contain numerous ciphering problems, such as long division and unit conversion, and were composed by two individuals, Adlai Osborne and Henry Sloan. While their exact relationship to one another is unclear, Sloan may have served as Osborne’s pupil at Charlotte’s Liberty Hall Academy, where Osborne may have given Sloan his notebook. The most intriguing aspect of the book is that it contains two partial snake skins that are still adhered to the paper. Most likely the book was stored in an attic or basement and one or more snakes slithered between the papers to shed their skin.

The book arrived in the conservation lab in a very poor condition, preventing its use by researchers. The paper was very brittle and cockled, and had suffered extensive water and pest damage. Furthermore, some pages were missing, removed either intentionally or accidentally. The iron gall ink used to write the notebook was fading, and in some areas had even burned through the paper.

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Example of iron gall ink burn and damage to paper.

In conservation practice we aim to follow two principles when treating an object: minimal intervention (doing as little as is needed), and reversibility (that any treatment performed can be reversed). However, when an object is so extensively damaged it cannot be safely handled, a more aggressive treatment may be necessary to stabilize it. Such was the case with the Ciphering Book.

The treatment plan for the book involved removing the original sewing thread to allow the paper to be washed. Because iron gall ink can be water-soluble, we first had to perform solubility tests by placing droplets of water, ethanol, or a mixture of the two in different areas to see if the ink migrated. The tests showed that some ink was water soluble, and so to err on the side of caution we used a solution of 50/50 water and ethanol for the bath. Although washing paper is a risky, non-reversible procedure, it can also remove dirt, discoloration, and the acidity that makes the brittle, as well as flattening out the folds and cockling in the paper.

The sheets were gently placed in the bath for 25 minutes. The paper was so dirty we could actually see the discoloration floating out of the paper. After washing, the sheets were then placed between felts to dry. A less invasive washing method was needed for the snakeskin pages. Instead of immersing the sheets in a bath, we placed them between sheets of blotting paper saturated with the 50/50 solution, along with a hole cut out in the areas around the snakeskin in order to not disturb them.

After drying, the paper was noticeably cleaner and flatter, and some of the writing was more legible as a result of the increased contrast between the ink and the now-cleaner paper. However, washing left the paper a bit weak and limp, so the paper was re-sized with a 0.5% gelatin solution. Paper was traditionally sized with gelatin, a type of animal-based adhesive, which would fill in the gaps of air between the paper fibers to give the paper more strength and protect it.

After more drying, the paper was ready to be mended. There were countless tears and holes on every sheet, in all shapes and sizes. When mending paper, conservators typically prefer to use Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. Japanese tissue is thin yet strong, with long fibers that allow it to easily blend into the original paper. Wheat starch paste is a refined paste made by hand using just starch and water. Together, these form a strong repair that can be reversed in the future with water, if needed. To mend the tears and holes, pieces of Japanese tissue were carefully torn to the appropriate shape, then brushed with paste and applied to paper.

Twenty-five hours later, the mending was complete, and the repaired book was ready to be resewn. Replicating the original sewing pattern would have been difficult and potentially damaging, so instead the book was sewn through five new holes using linen thread. A paper wrapper was sewn on the outside of the book in order to provide more protection. In all, the treatment took 49 hours to complete. After treatment, the book is now much cleaner and can be safely handled by researchers, snakeskins and all.

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I would like to thank the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources for facilitating this internship and for providing guidance and assistance during its course, especially Dr. Kevin Cherry, Emily Rainwater, Kate Vukovich, and Mathew Waehner.

The Sloan-Osborne ciphering book is now available as part of our North Carolina Digital Collections!  http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p16062coll28/id/5601

 

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.

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Documenting the World of Outlander #3: The Records of Enslaved Persons

[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 second episode 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.

This week, we tackle the most tragic aspect of the colony to which Jamie and Claire have migrated—slavery. In the second episode of Season 2, Jamie and Claire arrive at River Run, a plantation in Cross Creek (modern day Fayetteville) owned by Jamie’s aunt, Jocasta. At first, Jamie intends on manumitting the over 120 enslaved persons owned by Jocasta when he inherits River Run, but he finds out that granting sweeping manumission is rather difficult in North Carolina. The most tragic moments of this episode arrive when Jamie and Claire become involved in a dispute where an enslaved man named Rufus struck his overseer. Rufus is “sentenced” to death without a trial. Jamie and Claire try to rescue Rufus from his unjust fate, but their rescue attempt becomes moot when white residents of River Run fatally assault Rufus. This episode captures a part of the tragedy that was the institution of slavery in colonial North Carolina. In this entry, we want to show where in our records you can find out more about enslaved persons and their stories.

Before we begin in earnest, we want to make a quick caveat. In most official, i.e. government-created, archival records both in North Carolina and elsewhere in the US, the experiences of enslaved persons show up through what slaveowners and people in positions of power documented about those enslaved persons. It is one of the many tragic elements of the institution of slavery that the stories of so many people are lost to history because enslaved persons, lacking the legal designation of personhood, could not create their own official records. The existence of diaries, letters, and other writings from enslaved and formerly enslaved persons provide a rare but immeasurably valuable counterbalance on the preponderance of the archival record.

We will examine records from State Agency collections that speak to the experiences of enslaved persons. The County Records hold a great deal of material as well, but we’ll save those records for another spotlight down the road. We’ll first focus on the North Carolina General Assembly. Jamie’s frustration that manumission was difficult in North Carolina stems from strict laws passed by the General Assembly to prevent the practice of anti-slavery persons from buying enslaved persons expressly to then free all of them. The General Assembly did occasionally consider petitions for manumission from slaveowners, particularly if an enslaved person (in the eyes of the slaveowner) demonstrated merit through extraordinary actions. One of the earliest examples of such a petition in the General Assembly Session Records appears after statehood in the 1790 session, wherein George Merrick of New Hanover County asked for permission to manumit Richard, Dolly, and Nathan. The result of the petition is unknown, but at least one member of the House of Commons wrote to the Speaker to express his opposition to manumission. If Jamie and Claire had tried to manumit the enslaved persons at River Run, the petition included here would have represented the start of a cumbersome process designed to bury the applicants and enslaved persons in a bureaucratic rigamarole and ultimately deter the applicant from proceeding any further.

General Assembly Session Records

General Assembly Session Records. Session of November-December 1790. Box 3. Senate Bill. Bill to Permit George Merrick to Emancipate Certain Slaves (Petition and Messages only). November 22.

If you would like to examine the early General Assembly records for yourself, you’re in luck. All the surviving General Assembly Session Records from 1709 through 1799 are now available on our Digital Collections site. Among the collection you’ll find other petitions for manumission as well as laws relating to slavery, claims for monetary value from owners looking to redress a financial grievance involving enslaved persons, and other miscellaneous records relating to enslaved persons. These records are not typically catalogued at the name level, so we encourage you to browse through the records to see if you find any items that interest you.

Looking beyond the General Assembly records, there are several other state agency record groups where you can find further documentation of enslaved persons. In the District Superior Court Record Group, for example, you can find estate files from large land owners that often contain listings of enslaved persons as part of the inventory of the decedent’s property. We will focus here on a rarely-utilized portion of the Secretary of State Record Group—the records of the Magistrates and Freeholders Court. The records of this court consist of only one box and spans from 1740 to 1789. The Magistrates and Freeholders Court had the explicit function of trying enslaved persons in capital cases. Far from a trial by jury, a legal right first afforded to enslaved persons in 1791, the Magistrates and Freeholders Court consisted of several slaveowners who acted as judges of guilt and handed down death sentences as a matter of course. As Outlander demonstrated, not all enslaved persons suspected of a “crime” went before the Magistrates and Freeholders Court; some slaveowners conducted summary executions without any legal actions, although taking the law into their own hands was not technically legal. In the example provided below, John MacKenzie of New Hanover County has taken an enslaved person named Peter to the Magistrates and Freeholders Court on charges of burglary on March 15, 1757. Peter was found guilty and sentenced to hang. Note that the relatively sparse record of this hearing also demonstrates that the Magistrates and Freeholders made sure to compensate Mr. MacKenzie eighty pounds for the loss of property.

Secretary of State

Secretary of State Record Group. Series XVIII: Recordkeeping, Courts, Box 1. Magistrates and Freeholders Courts, 1740-1789. Sentencing of Peter of New Hanover County, March 15, 1757.

Jamie and Claire are repulsed by what transpires at River Run with just cause, as the historical record demonstrates the horrible situations that enslaved persons faced every day in Colonial North Carolina and up until emancipation in 1865. While Jamie and Claire left River Run and embarked further into the colony, their experiences with slavery would persist with them throughout the course of their adventures in the colony. We should also keep this context in mind when experiencing the ups and downs of Colonial North Carolina over the course of their story.

Veterans Oral History Project Now Live!

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The Veterans Oral History Transcription Project featuring 12 audio format interviews, 12 remarkable NC women vets is now live! Please help us transcribe their stories by clicking this link > http://bit.ly/NCVetsOHTP <  This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Treasures of Carolina: Photograph, 1910

The first Wednesday of each month features a document or item from the State Archives considered a treasure because of its significance to the history and culture of our state or because it is rare or unique. Sometimes the featured item just illustrates a good story. The items highlighted in this blog have been taken from the exhibit, “Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives” and its companion catalog. 

Chase Ambler, M.D., nature enthusiast from Asheville, stands on a mountain cliff in 1910. He remarked that his view was of an “unbroken forest canopy to the horizon.” Dr. Ambler, his associates and friends laid the foundation for the eventual development of national parks in the Southeast by establishing the Appalachian National Park Association. Efforts to establish park and forest reserves in the Southern Appalachian Mountains date from the 1880s, the push prompted from both the tourist industry and from the conservation movement, especially those concerned about flooding in deforested areas and destruction of scenic views. This photograph and other materials from the association are preserved at the Western Regional Archives in Asheville.

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Photograph, 1910, General Records, Appalachian National Park Association, Western Regional Archives.

 

Announcing the Veterans Oral History Project!

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The State Archives of North Carolina & North Carolina Government & Heritage Library are proud to present the Veterans Oral History Transcription Project featuring 12 remarkable women.

The LSTA grant-funded and crowdsourced audio transcription project is one of the first of its kind!  We have 12 audio format interviews with military veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces for any military service, engagement, or war, and who were born and/or raised in the state of North Carolina; were stationed for extended time in North Carolina military installations; or have lived in the state for an extended time.

We invite you to be a part of history by helping us transcribe.

Together, we can make women’s military history more accessible!