Tag Archives: colonial history

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.

Documenting the World of Outlander #2: Meeting Governor William Tryon

[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 three 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 episode one of Outlander, Season 4, “America the Beautiful,” Jamie and Claire are introduced to  Governor William Tryon at a dinner party. He seems interested in the couple’s future plans in North Carolina and takes an opportunity to propose a land deal that interests Jamie a great deal. He offers Jamie large tracts of free land in exchange for recruiting settlers to the back country. If he accepts the deal, Jamie realizes that Tryon will expect his loyalty and gratitude in the future.  Claire knows that conflict with the British is coming and she is suspicious of Tryon’s motives. Is William Tryon to be a friend to the Fraser’s or will association with him bring them unhappiness in the future?

The historical William Tryon served as royal governor of North Carolina from 1765-1771.  He was born in 1729 to a landed gentry family in Surrey, England.  He served in the British military during the Seven Years’ War and rose militarily and politically. Through family connections he obtained a political appointment as governor of North Carolina in 1764 and arrived with his wife, Margaret, and their young daughter, assuming his duties in 1765. He made some internal improvements in the colony such as successfully negotiating a boundary dispute with the Cherokee Indians, establishing a postal service and completing church building projects for the Church of England.  However, he arrived in North Carolina during a period of political unrest in the back county where the Regulator movement was gaining support over such issues as insufficient currency, currency fraud, unequal taxation, and discontent with local officials. Though his time as governor was short, he had to contend with violent conflicts and political upheaval in the years prior to the American Revolution. You can read more on the life of William Tryon on the NCpedia website https://www.ncpedia.org/

List of Land Grants to Scots, Isle of Jura, Argyle Shire, Nov.4, 1767

List of Land Grants to Scots, Isle of Jura, Argyle Shire, Nov.4, 1767 Colonial Governor’s Papers: William Tryon C.G.P.10

In the State Archives we have the official governor’s papers of William Tryon. Most of them have been digitized and made available on the Digital Collections webpage where the public can search by subject, place and time. The papers include petitions from the colonists, proclamations and orders and correspondence on a wide range of topics.

Are you curious to see what kind of genealogical information may be found in his papers?  The image to the left is a list of land grants awarded to Scots from the Isle of Jura, Argyle Shire dated November 4, 1767. It lists not only the names of the families, but the acreage they were allotted in Cumberland and Mecklenburg Counties. This kind of document would have been helpful to Roger and Brianna if they were searching for proof that Jamie and Claire settled in North Carolina.

Are you interested in historical topics included in Tryon’s correspondence of 1765-1771, or do you want to read his proclamations concerning unrest in the back country? You can read all about it in the Governor’s Papers, Historical Collection on the Digital Collections webpage http://digital.ncdcr.gov/

Tryon’s final legacy in North Carolina is the “palace” he commissioned in New Bern in 1767. He was convinced that the colony needed a house of government that was equal to more prosperous British colonial buildings at the time.  It was completed in 1770, but it was controversial from the beginning. The General Assembly allocated a budget for the project, but the costs quickly went over. At the same time settlers were petitioning Tryon to pay taxes with commodities instead of cash because currency was scarce, he was persuading the General Assembly to require an extra poll tax to help pay the cost of building the mansion.  He miscalculated how unpopular this would be with the settlers in the west who did not agree with the need for such an unnecessary extravagance. It only added to existing tensions and was one of the catalysts in North Carolina’s War of the Regulation.

The image below is a list of expenses for the building of Tryon Palace. You can see why some colonists questioned the necessity versus the cost.

Expense for Governor’s Mansion, 1767

Expense for Governor’s Mansion, 1767 Colonial Governor’s Papers : William Tryon C.G.P.6

Gov. Tryon left North Carolina in 1771, to become governor of New York after living in the mansion only a little over a year. It was used as a meeting place for the General Assembly sporadically, but was abandoned in 1792 when the state capital moved from New Bern to Raleigh. Shortly after that, the main building burned in an accidental fire. A reconstruction of the palace was built in the 1950’s using the original architect’s plans and period inventories. Today it is a thriving historic site open  to the public. You may learn more about visiting Tryon Palace at   https://www.tryonpalace.org/

Jamie and Claire will no doubt cross paths with Governor Tryon again, especially now that Jamie has accepted his offer of a land grant knowing that, in return, Tryon is expecting his loyalty and help with any disturbances among his neighbors in the back country.  Accepting an offer of free land where you can begin anew is very tempting, but will Jamie and Claire regret taking Tryon’s deal?

Stay tuned for more…

 

 

Documenting the World of Outlander #1: Land Grants

[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 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’ll tackle land grants. In the first episode of the season, “America the Beautiful,” Governor William Tryon offers a land grant to Jamie Fraser as payment for his recruitment of new residents in the North Carolina colony. While Jamie’s path to a grant was unique, he wasn’t alone in using a grant to find a corner of North Carolina as his own. Thousands of new residents of the colony took advantage of the land grant process to start a new chapter of their lives.

The process for obtaining a land grant from the Crown government started with a petition to the Secretary of State from the prospective land owner for a specific piece of vacant land somewhere in the North Carolina colony. The Secretary of State then presented the list of petitioners to the Governor’s Council, who generally approved the petitions without objection. North Carolina’s royal government wanted to attract as many new residents to their relatively impoverished colony as possible, so most potential land owners found success with their initial petition. After receiving approval, the land owner received a warrant from the Governor and the Secretary of State including a vague description of the land in question. The land owner then hired a surveyor to draw a plat of their tract. Finally, the Secretary of State’s office received a copy of the plat and then issued a land patent to the new owner. Once the owner received his patent, the land became his property to cultivate as he saw fit.

At the State Archives of North Carolina, we have surviving warrants and plats in the Secretary of State Record Group. As an example, we have an early land plat from 1758 for Rowan County. It is possible that Jamie and Claire settled in what was Rowan County, so their land grant warrant and plat might have looked quite a bit like this record.

Benajah Penington

Secretary of State Record Group, Land Office, Land Warrants, Plats of Survey, and Related Records, 1693-1959, Rowan County, Box 1765, File No. 484, Plat of Grant Awarded to Benajah Penington

Since Governor Tryon spoke to Jamie and offered him a grant as payment for recruiting settlers to North Carolina, we also wanted to show you a warrant signed by the Governor himself. In our Private Collections, we have a land warrant awarded by William Tryon in 1771 on behalf of King George III to William Sprout for an area along the Cape Fear River. Jamie would have kept this document on his person as documented proof that he could settle at Fraser’s Ridge.

William Sprout Papers [PC 950}

PC 950. William Sprout Papers. Warrant of Land Grant from George the Third to William Sprout, Witnessed by William Tryon, 1771).

Are you curious to see who else might have received a land grant? We encourage you to check out our online catalog, MARS, where we have indexed all our land grants by name in the Secretary of State Record Group. Geographic features are often included as subjects, so you might also find success searching for grants near a specific river or creek.

Receiving a land grant in colonial North Carolina was often the first step for new immigrants from Scotland and the rest of the British Isles to become residents of the colony, but obtaining land was easy compared to the day-to-day struggles of settling in rural North Carolina. Jamie and Claire certainly have more challenges in store and we’ll be here to document the real history behind their adventures.

Document Facsimiles Relating to Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge on Display at the State Archives of North Carolina

[This blog post comes from Donna E. Kelly, head of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

A page of handwritten text of Court minutes for men accused of storing Blackbeard's booty.

Part of the General Court minutes for men accused of storing Blackbeard’s booty. Colonial Court Records. State Archives of North Carolina [call number: C.C.R. 103]

To commemorate the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death, the State Archives of North Carolina is displaying several facsimiles of documents relating to his exploits along the coast, including his capture and death. The display, “Gone Out a Pirateing”: Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge, is currently on display in the State Archives’ Search Room and will run through early October.

“Gone Out a Pirateing” features a 1709 map of North Carolina and pages from the Chowan General Court Papers and the Executive Council Journal, both dated 1719. They include descriptive testimony against Edward Thatch, otherwise known as Blackbeard. The display also includes photocopies of four documents from the British National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office [PRO]). They were obtained through the Colonial Records Project, an initiative in the 1960s to copy all documents pertaining to North Carolina that were filed in the PRO.

From September 18 through October 1, this small exhibit will be displayed on the second floor of the Archives and History/State Library Building (109 East Jones St., Raleigh). It will run Tuesdays through Fridays, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A digitized version of the document, with additional pages, is available for viewing 24/7 in the North Carolina Digital Collections.

Treasures of Carolina: the Carolina Charter of 1663

The first Wednesday of each month will feature 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.

Detail NC_Charter-Pg1

Page 1 of the Carolina Charter features an elaborate drawing of King Charles

Considered the “birth certificate” of the Carolinas, the Carolina Charter of 1663, so named after King Charles II of England, gave the province of Carolina to eight of his loyal supporters, known later as Lords Proprietors of Carolina, in return for their service to the Crown during the English Restoration.  The original Charter designated land between 31°and 36° north latitude and extending east to west, ocean to ocean, covering parts of what is now Florida, Mexico, Texas, and California.

Written on vellum (calf- or sheepskin), this remarkable document is composed of four pages and bears a striking pen-and-ink portrait of King Charles II of England on the first page. The Charter marks the beginning of organized, representative government in the province of Carolina, granting to the colonists rights that were to have lasting influence on the region’s population and its history. For example, the Charter guaranteed the rights of property ownership, the establishment of courts, and representation of delegates of “Freemen of said Province.”

The Carolina Charter of 1663 is both a government document—as a land grant and a treatise for governing—and a work of art.  In 1949, using privately-donated funds, the Department of Archives and History paid $6,171 for its purchase from a bookseller in England. Two years of research on both sides of the Atlantic had confirmed the Charter’s authenticity. Today it is housed in one of two climate-controlled security vaults in the State Archives. Because of preservation concerns and its intrinsic and documentary value its display is carefully monitored.