Tag Archives: Outlander

Documenting the World of Outlander #6: The Frasers and the Gentleman’s Pirate

[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 all episodes of Season 4!

Outlander, the hit series from Starz, has officially arrived in colonial North Carolina. Starting In Season 4, Jamie and Claire traversed the state from Wilmington to the mountains. The State Archives of North Carolina has joined 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.

The time has come to mourn the end of Season 4 of Outlander, but our journey sharing records from the State Archives that document Jamie and Claire’s experiences in North Carolina is far from over. This week we would like to focus on piracy; a topic that was introduced in Episode 1 and was intertwined with the story throughout the entire season. As you will remember, Jamie and Claire began their journey in the coastal city of Wilmington and, for many history buffs, there can be no discussion of coastal, colonial North Carolina without examining the rich history of the “golden age” of piracy.

What would a good drama be without a colorful and sinister villain? This season, pirate Stephen Bonnet was introduced as that villain; he has been a nemesis to the Frasers since their first meeting in Wilmington. His presence follows them throughout the rest of their journey as they travel westward from Wilmington, to Cross Creek and Fraser’s Ridge.

Many fans have speculated that the character of Stephen Bonnet in Outlander is inspired by the historical pirate, Stede Bonnet, a scourge of the seas in 1717-1718. They are certainly both colorful characters. Stede Bonnet was a unique figure in the pirate world as evidenced by his nickname the “Gentleman’s Pirate.” He abandoned a prosperous plantation and respectable family in Barbados while experiencing one of the most interesting midlife crises in nautical history. He ordered a ship built to his specifications, hired a crew with money from his own pockets, filled the captain’s cabin with a library of books worthy of a gentleman and, with no seafaring experience, sailed off on his ship, Revenge, to live the life of a pirate. Bonnet was a contemporary of the fearsome buccaneer, Blackbeard, a name that many along the North Carolina coast and the towns of Bath, Wilmington and Edenton knew well in 1717 and 1718. Bonnet sailed alongside Blackbeard off and on during this time and he became familiar with the hidden inlets and creeks of the Cape Fear River and the various shallow waterways and sandbars that make up the dangerous waters off the Outer Banks. He was a part of Blackbeard’s flotilla of ships when his flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was grounded in what is now Beaufort Inlet. He and Blackbeard shared a complicated professional relationship and parted ways in 1717. Bonnet led a very intriguing life which you can read more about at  https://www.ncpedia.org/, the Blackbeard 300 Anniversary blogs, and many other published secondary sources.

Have you ever visited the quaint town of Southport or taken the ferry to Bald Head Island? If so, you have traveled through the waterways that were the site of the Battle of the Cape Fear River in 1718. Bonnet, who was using the aliases Edwards and Thomas at the time, had anchored his ship, Royal James, off the mouth of the Cape Fear River to make repairs. When the governor of South Carolina, Robert Johnson, heard that Bonnet was close by, he sent Col. William Rhett, commander of two sloops, to confront him. After several hours of battle, Bonnet and his crew surrendered, were taken prisoner and sent to Charleston, South Carolina for trial.

MC_167_C237_1798ps

Map of Cape Fear River and its vicinity from the Frying Pan Shoals to Wilmington MC.167.C237.1798ps

The sites involved in the Battle of the Cape Fear River in 1718 were included in a map prepared by Jonathan Price and John Strother at the request of the commissioners of the port of Wilmington, published in 1798. It portrays Frying Pan Shoals and the Cape Fear River from its mouth to Wilmington. Soundings are given, and the depth of the water is also indicated by shading. Tributary streams are shown and named. Smith’s Island is present day Bald Head Island. Can you see on this map the point of land where the Elizabeth River and Dutchman’s Creek meet? On the Moseley Map of 1733 this land was called Bonnet’s Point.

The map reveals that the topography of the land has changed very little, although the shifting sands and varying depths of the waterways make this area one of the most dangerous areas for vessels to navigate. To learn more about the battle of the Cape Fear River and the history of piracy in the Cape Fear and southern coastal North Carolina regions, be sure to visit the Maritime Museum in Southport, NC.

Very few original records pertaining to Stede Bonnet and piracy off the North Carolina coast survive at the State Archives of North Carolina.  Most of the relevant documents are found in a collection of records called the British Records. The British Records consist of photocopies and microfilm of documents at the Public Records Office in London, as well as other European repositories, which contain information about colonial North Carolina. They are drawn primarily from the papers of the Admiralty, Board of Trade, Colonial Office and Treasury Board, among many others in the Public Records Office and include a wealth of information on a variety of topics such as trade, shipping, correspondence between colonial NC government officials and crown officials, military matters, Native American relations, immigration and others. A concerted effort began in 1969 by the Colonial Records Project to collect these records for use at the State Archives. We are fortunate to have them today because, even though they are not original records created by the people of NC, they contain information critical to North Carolina history and culture. There are finding aids for them in the Archives Search Room, including paper files and card files. They are arranged by series or chronologically. Much of the information in the finding aids is in the MARS online catalog, but not all. The paper finding aids have been scanned and are available on our website at https://archives.ncdcr.gov/records-foreign-collections#british-records  One thing to keep in mind is that they are available for viewing and research only. No reproductions of them for publication are possible without the permission of the Public Records Office in London.

Most of the information we have today on Stede Bonnet and his pirate activities came from the testimony given at his trial and those of his crew. The trials took place in Charleston, SC and the original records are not in North Carolina. However, for those of you interested in the Battle of the Cape Fear River and the fate of Bonnet, there is information in the Treasury Board records at the State Archives that might be helpful to you. One such document representative of the collection is included here. Located in the Treasury Board, Admiralty’s Sessions records, it is a document describing the “Minutes of proceedings in trial of Stede Bonnet, alias Edwards, alias Thomas, for taking sloops FRANCIS and FORTUNE. 28 Oct. – 12 Nov. The FRANCIS taken at “Cape James alias Cape Inlopen”, and the FORTUNE, Thomas Read, commander, taken at Cape Fear. Details of Cargoes taken, etc.”

The document records the proceedings of the trial of Stede Bonnet, alias Edwards, alias Thomas. It includes not only the charges, but also lists the names of the crew members, their pleas and testimony about their activities not only in North Carolina, but all along the Atlantic coast. Most of his crew were convicted and hanged. Bonnet did escape while in captivity in Charleston, however, unlike Outlander’s fictional villain, Stephen Bonnet, who escaped the authorities with the help of Jamie and Claire, the historical Stede was recaptured, tried, convicted and hanged on December 10, 1718.

The demise of Blackbeard off the island of Ocracoke in 1718 ended the “age of piracy” in colonial North Carolina. The legacy of piracy has remained strong, especially with the discovery of the Queen Anne’s Revenge in Beaufort in 1996. For information about the Queen Anne’s Revenge Project you can visit  https://www.qaronline.org/ For those interested in underwater archaeology, there is also information about the conservation lab dedicated to the artifacts recovered from the ship’s site located at East Carolina University.  As one of several institutions displaying the ship’s artifacts and interpretation, you also should not miss a visit to the Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

We sometimes romanticize pirates like Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard, but the notion of Outlander’s Stephen Bonnet as a charming rouge quickly faded for the Fraser family in Season 4. Will he reappear in seasons to come or have the Fraser’s escaped his hold on them? Time will tell.

As the Droughtlander begins, we hope to help fill the gap by continuing our blog series, Documenting the World of Outlander. We will now be posting a new blog monthly, showcasing documents focusing on a topic that was covered on screen during Season 4. We hope you will continue to share with us in the fun of exploring the world of Jamie and Claire Fraser through documents at the State Archives of North Carolina.

Advertisements

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.

mc_195_w743_1743v

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.

mc_195_f284_f284_2014ma

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.

mc_150_1770c1

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!

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.

Continue reading

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.