History Podcasts

Exploration and Settlement of North Carolina

Exploration and Settlement of North Carolina

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed along the coast of present-day North Carolina and established a French claim to the area. Francis I was not impressed by reports of the discovery; he had hoped for either a passage to the East or gold and silver.About 1526, Spain entered the scene when Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon established a small settlement at Cape Fear, but it failed because of disease and lack of food. Hernando De Soto, also representing Spain, marched his men northward in a search for gold and entered western North Carolina in 1540. No permanent settlements resulted from the French and Spanish efforts in this area.English efforts began in 1587 when an expedition formed by Sir Walter Raleigh was sent to establish the ill-fated settlement on Roanoke Island.

In 1629, a grant of the southern portion of greater Virginia was issued to Sir Robert Heath, a prominent court figure under Charles I. Other than honor the king by naming the colony for him (Carolus being Latin for Charles), Heath did nothing to develop his holdings.The first permanent European settlement in northern Carolina was established in the Albemarle Sound region by Virginians, around 1653. In 1663, Charles II rewarded eight of his most loyal supporters by making them "lords proprietors" of Carolina. The new owners promptly divided their holding into three districts:

  1. the Albemarle district in the north,already home to a small settlement of transplanted Virginians
  2. the short-lived Clarendon district surrounding Cape Fear
  3. the Craven district, which became present-day South Carolina.

Sir William Berkeley of Virginia, one of the proprietors, was designated governor of Albemarle in 1664; this area would assume the name North Carolina in 1691 and become a separate colony in 1712.The settlers in northern Carolina were isolated from one another and other colonies. The coastal region was only slightly above sea level and choked with swamps and forests. Development centered around small farms engaged in the production of tobacco, corn and livestock; large plantations on the scale of those in South Carolina were rare.Many colonists insisted that they were ill-served by the proprietors, and this domestic unrest, coupled with an unresponsive royal government and some outside threats, led to a series of unsettling events in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. These included Culpeper's Rebellion, the Cary Rebellion, the Tuscarora War, the predations of Blackbeard the pirate and the Regulator Movement.North Carolina was designated a royal colony in 1729, a change that loosened the restraints on westward settlement. The settlers' increasing presence on the frontier led to further friction with the natives, particularly the Cherokee. The latter suffered a crippling defeat at Fort Dobbs, near present-day Statesville, in 1760.The following year, a treaty was signed in which the Cherokee surrendered their claim to enormous amounts of land.

See Indian Wars Time Table.

The Founding of North Carolina Colony and Its Role in the Revolution

The North Carolina colony was carved out of the Carolina province in 1729, but the history of the region begins during the Elizabethan period of the late 16th century and is closely tied to the Virginia colony. The North Carolina colony is the direct result of British colonization efforts in the New World it was also the place where the first English settlement was built and mysteriously disappeared.

Fast Facts: North Carolina Colony

Also Known As: Carolana, Province of Carolina (combined both South and North Carolina)

Named After: King Charles I of Britain (1600–1649)

Founding Year: 1587 (founding of Roanoke), 1663 (official)

Founding Country: England Virginia Colony

First Known Permanent European Settlement:

Resident Indigenous Communities: Eno (Oenochs or Occoneechi), Chesapeake, Secotan, Weapemeoc, Croatons, among others

Founders: Nathaniel Batts and other colonists from Virginia

Important People: The "Lord Proprietors," King Charles II, John Yeamans

First English Colonies

Related entry: Lost Colony play

The Roanoke colonies, the result of three attempts at colonization on the eastern shores of what would become North Carolina, laid the foundation for later English colonization initiatives. In April of 1584, explorers Phillip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe set out from England to survey the coast near Cape Hatteras. In the course of their expedition, they encountered few obstacles and their positive report prompted Sir Walter Raleigh to establish a colony in the New World. In 1585, Sir Richard Grenville, Raleigh’s cousin, sent seven ships loaded with colonists and provisions to establish a colony on Roanoke Island. Although the settlement survived, poor relations with the natives and food shortages constantly plagued the colony.

After English supply ships failed to reach Roanoke Island, the colonists returned to England, and in the process missed the arrival of a re-supply ship. The ship’s crew found the colony deserted and left fifteen men at the site to await their return. They never did, and eventually the men returned to England. Two years later, Grenville sent another colonial expedition of 150 men, led by artist John White. The third colony, choosing the same location their predecessors had abandoned, saw improved relations with natives and the 1587 birth of Virginia Dare, the first child born to English parents in the New World. Soon after Dare’s birth, White returned to London to secure more provisions for his fledgling colony, only to return three years later to find the colony abandoned, with no trace of inhabitants and most structures destroyed. The vanquished settlement is often referred to as the “Lost Colony,” a story retold each summer on Roanoke Island in Paul Green’s outdoor drama.

Although the first English colonies were unsuccessful, the attempts brought attention to the dangers inherent in creating a new society in a foreign world, and laid a course for future colonists.

References and additional resources:

Powell, William Stevens, and Jay Mazzocchi. 2006. Encyclopedia of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 982-983.

Roanoke Colonies Research Newsletter. Online in the NC Department of Cultural Resources Digital Collections.

Quinn, David B. 1985. Set fair for Roanoke: voyages and colonies, 1584-1606. Chapel Hill: Published for America's Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee by the University of North Carolina Press.

Exploration and Settlement of North Carolina - History

1570: Western hemisphere (map #3: Ortelius, Americæ sive novi orbis)
1595: Western hemisphere (map #10: Mercator, America sive India nova)

  • HERNANDO DE SOTO explored the southeast region of North America for Spain, searching for gold, a suitable site for a colony, and an overland route from Mexico to the Atlantic. From 1539 to 1543, starting in Florida with over 600 men, 200 horses, 300 pigs, and a pack of attack dogs, the expedition meandered for thousands of miles through the interior. At every point the Spanish attacked Indian villages, pillaging, murdering, and commandeering food, supplies, and captives. They "discovered" the Mississippi River—a major challenge to cross—and continued west to Texas (without de Soto, who died from fever on the banks of the river). Finally the surviving 300 men reached Mexico with no gold and no colony, having amassed only the hardened antagonism of the Indians. In these selections from the account by a Portuguese member of the expedition, known only as the "Fidalgo (gentleman) of Elvas," we read brief excerpts from the chapters recounting the mainland expedition from Florida to Mexico.
    [A Gentleman of Elvas, Relação Verdadeira dos Trabalhos . . . (True Relation of the Vicissitudes That Attended the Governor Don Hernando de Soto. . . ), 1557]
  • FRANCISCO CORONADO trekked through the southwest for two years (1540-42) with over 300 soldiers and 1,000 Indians for "Glory, God, and Gold." While they did convert some Pueblo Indians to Christianity, they found no gold and no glory (although they did "discover" the Grand Canyon along the way). Failing to subdue the Indians, Coronado responded brutally, laying a winter-long siege to a town, burning resisters at the stake, enslaving hundreds, and driving many Indians to suicide (as did de Soto). In his report to King Charles I from Tiguex (near present-day Albuquerque), Coronado admits his dismay at learning the famed Cibola is just "villages of straw houses," but he describes the region near Tiguex as offering productive land for settlement.
    [Letter from Francisco Vazquez de Coronado to His Majesty . . . , 20 October 1541]
  • PHELIPE DE ESCALANTE and HERNANDO BARRADO, soldiers who accompanied the 1581-82 expedition from Mexico to explore New Mexico, submitted this report to King Philip II to encourage Spanish settlement in the region. The nine men, led by Francisco Chamuscado, visited over sixty pueblos of the native inhabitants, estimating their population as over 130,000. They reported vast herds of "humpbacked cows," lucrative deposits of silver and salt, and "much more wherein God our Lord may be served and the royal crown increased." They warn the king, in fact, that the promise and wealth of this region could be lost if the area is not settled quickly.
    [Escalante & Barrado, Brief and True Account of the Exploration of New Mexico, 1583]
  • GASPAR PÉREZ DE VILLAGRÁ was the official historian of the first Spanish expedition to attempt a settlement in New Mexico. Sixteen years after the small Chamuscado expedition, four hundred soldiers departed from Mexico City to head north across the Rio Norte (Rio Grande), led by the ambitious and single-minded Don Juan de Oñate. More conquistador than colonial official, he was eventually called back to Mexico City in disgrace, having neglected the isolated settlers, alienated the Indians with his cruelty, and squandered imperial resources by searching in vain for gold, silver, and the "western sea." In 1610 Pérez de Villagrá published a thirty-four-canto epic poem to chronicle the expedition—its goals, hardships, courageous soldiers, and, most notably, the warfare and brutality led by Oñate. Considered the first epic poem created by Europeans in North America, The History of New Mexico is a political device as well as a literary account, for Villagra's intended audience-of-one is the king of Spain with his control of the empire's purse. (In this translation, the cantos are rendered into prose. Permission was not granted to exerpt the 1992 translation in verse.)
    [Villagrá, Historia de la Nueva México, 1610]

1556: New France (map #1, La Nuova Francia)
1664: Canada (map #9, Le Canada faict par le Sr. de Champlain)
1673: Map of Marquette's expedition (Carte de la découverte faite l'an 1673)

    JACQUES CARTIER explored the northeast part of the continent intending to find the elusive passage to the Orient. Sailing west of Newfoundland he "discovered" the St. Lawrence River and explored the region in three voyages between 1535 and 1541. He met several Iroquoian tribal groups, establishing friendly relationships, though cautious on both sides. He did not find a route to China indeed the large sea described to him by the Indians—"there was never man heard of that found out the end thereof"—was probably Lake Ontario.

  • MICHAEL LOK, as a member of one of London's leading merchant families and an underwriter of Martin Frobisher's voyages, had a deep interest in expanding England's international trade. In this excerpt from his account of their project, he offers a concise summary of the reasons why he and his countrymen sought the Northwest Passage. (This text is included with the Settle account below.)
    [Michael Lok, manuscript, 28 October 1577]
  • DIONYSE SETTLE, a gentleman who, in 1577, accompanied Frobisher on his second voyage to Arctic waters, gives us a "true report" of what it was like to search for the Passage. In his account we get a sense of both the optimism and the greed that propelled the early explorers, and we see how heavily they relied upon the skill of their navigators and the courage of their leaders. We also see how desperate Frobisher was to bring back gold, a desire that may have distracted him from his original mission. He had returned from his 1576 voyage with ore samples that yielded uncertain results when assayed for gold. To entice investors in another voyage, perhaps suggesting returns akin to those realized by the Spanish to the south, he embraced the most optimistic assay findings. Now he had to back them up. Thus in 1577 he was under considerable pressure to show his supporters that "the bowels of those Septentrionall [northern] Paralels" will yield "much more large benefite." (This text is included with the Lok text above.)
    [Dionyse Settle, A True Reporte of the Last Voyage into the West and Northwest Regions, &c. 1577. worthily achieved by Captain Frobisher of the said voyage the first finder and general, 1577]
  • AUTOPSY REPORT. Ore samples were not the only things Frobisher brought back to England. In 1576 he returned with an Inuit (Eskimo), whose somewhat Asiatic features helped to persuade the English that Frobisher was on the right track to the Orient. A year later he aroused great interest with three Inuit—a man, a woman, and an infant. (Settle refers to them in his report.) Frobisher thought the man and women were husband and wife, but they were not. All three died shortly after their arrival in England, with Calichoughe, the man, dying first. A physician named Edward Dodding performed an autopsy and concluded that he died when two broken ribs punctured a lung causing an "incurable ulcer." In the post mortem Calichoughe becomes something of a metaphor for the English experience thus far in the New World. Dodding likens the economic resources England sought through the Northwest Passage to "nerves and life-blood," the very things that England lost, quite literally, with the death of Calichoughe. Lamenting the man's death, Dodding vents frustration over England's failure to realize any gain from the "Herculean labour" of Frobisher and other explorers, and he expresses his disgust over the superstitions of the New World inhabitants.
    [Dr. Edward Dodding, Postmortem report on the Thule Inuit brought by Frobisher, 8 November 1577]

Roanoke, 1590, by de Bry after White (map #1, America pars, Nunc Virginia dicta)
Florida, 1591, by de Bry after Le Moyne (map #1, Floridae Americae Provinciae)

  • THOMAS HARRIOT served as the historian, natural scientist, and surveyor/cartographer on the 1585 British expedition to Roanoke Island (North Carolina). His account of the region and the Algonquian Indians was reprinted in 1590 by Theodore de Bry, with de Bry's engravings based on the watercolors by John White, a leader of the 1585 and 1587 Roanoke voyages. 14 engravings and accompanying text.
    [Harriot, A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, 1590]
  • JACQUES LE MOYNE DE MORGUES was the official artist on two French voyages to Florida in the 1560s, and he documented the Timucuan Indians of the region as well as the construction and fate of the French settlement at Fort Caroline. His account is less well known for its text than for the forty-four engravings produced by Theodore de Bry from his drawings (all but one have disappeared). 11 engravings plus the one extant watercolor, and accompanying text.
    [Le Moyne, Brief Narration of Those Things Which Befell the French in the Province of Florida in America, 1591]
  • You can also return to las Casas's A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies in Topic I: CONTACT to view four engravings of Spanish atrocities in the 1598 de Bry edition.

- Francis Drake, Martin Frobisher, et al., Dedicatory poems urging an English colony in North America, 1583
- Richard Hakluyt, Reasons for an English colony in North America, 1584

By the 1580s, English financiers and navigators became anxious that their chances for North American wealth and claims were fading. Spain dominated the Caribbean and southern regions of the continent, and France had established missionary and trading posts deep into the northern woodlands. Mexico City was a metropolitan center of trade, politics, and culture. Tadoussac was a small but vital French post on the St. Lawrence River. And both nations had fledgling settlements on the Atlantic coast—San Agustín and Fort Caroline. The continent was being divided up, and England wasn't there.

  • FRANCIS DRAKE, MARTIN FROBISHER, and other well-known navigators contributed dedicatory poems for George Peckham's 1583 account of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's expedition to Newfoundland. It was more than a history for, as Peckham promised in his subtitle, he would also "briefly set down her highness's lawful title thereunto, and the great and manifold commodities, that is likely to grow thereby, to the whole realm in general, and to the adventurers in particular. Together with the easiness and shortness of the voyage." Six of the dedicatory poems are presented here, in addition to the book's table of contents.
    [George Peckham, A True Report of the Late Discoveries and Possession, Taken in the Right of the Crown of England, of the Newfound Lands: by that Valiant and Worthy Gentleman, Sir Humphrey Gilbert Knight, 1583]
  • RICHARD HAKLUYT (hak-loot) was an English scholar and writer who compiled numerous accounts of European voyages into the mega-volumes known as Divers Voyages and Principal Navigations. In 1584 he wrote the promotional piece known as Discourse of Western Planting to urge a reluctant Queen Elizabeth I to support English colonies and to convince rich businessmen to invest in them. Usually one finds only its chapter headings in anthologies and online collections, but a closer look is necessary to reveal Hakluyt's careful reasoning . . . and earnest naïveté, as historian David Quinn points out in his edition of Discourse. Also included is Hakluyt's final chapter in which he lists necessary personnel and supplies for a colony, again with astounding naïveté.
    [Hakluyt, A Particular Discourse Concerning the Great Necessity and Manifold Commodities that are Like to Grow to this Realm of England by the Western Discoveries Lately Attempted, Written in the Year 1584, known as Discourse of Western Planting, 1584]

- French/Spanish: Accounts of the Spanish attack on Fort Caroline, 1565
- Spanish: Letter requesting food for Ajacan, 1570
- English: Account of the rescue attempt at Roanoke, 1590

If you were to recount the earliest European presence in North America as a history of the "proto-United States," you might start with Columbus in 1492, jump to Jamestown in 1607, and treat the intervening 115 years as a few decades. It is true there was little European presence in the midregion in the 1500s, due primarily to the disappointing forays into Parte Incognita that revealed no golden cities or Edenic sanctuaries, not even a water passage through the continent to Asia.

In addition, many of the first attempts at settlement north of the Caribbean failed. Roanoke, Ajacan, Fort Caroline, Sable Island, Charlesfort, Pensacola, San Miguel de Gualdape, Charlesbourg-Royal, France-Roy—all were short-lived settlements in the 1500s. A hurricane destroyed the first Pensacola settlement. Frigid winters and scurvy claimed several settlements starving settlers abandoned others. Indians laid siege to settlements or attacked them outright. Rebellion by brutalized soldiers or starved African slaves ended two colonies. Settlers were left to their own resources when the founders left for provisions (or for good). In most cases a few surviving settlers made it back to Europe, but in one famous case—the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke in what is now North Carolina—the settlers disappeared with little trace, their fate still undetermined. Most share the dooming factors of poor planning and unrealistic appraisals of the North American environment. Simply put, settling this continent was not going to be easy.

Especially with the added obstacle of rival Europeans. By the late 1580s the Spanish and French found themselves closer to each other's claims on the southeast Atlantic coast, and word had it that the English would soon join the competition. Attack-by-rival became another cause of failed colonies. The Spanish massacred the French Huguenots near Florida in 1565 and sent spies to Jamestown in 1613 to determine if eradicating the fledgling colony was its best move. The English destroyed the French trading post of Port Royal on Nova Scotia in 1612 and defeated the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in 1664. The imperial rivalries that would coalesce in the 1700s were taking shape.

Early History of Native Americans in North Carolina

The names of the North Carolina tribes included the Algonquian, Bear River Indians, Cape Fear Indians, Catawba, Cheraw, Cherokee, Chowanoc, Machapunga, Moratok, Natchez, Occaneechi, Saponi, Shakori, Tuscarora and Waccamaw tribes.

At the time of the first European contact, North Carolina was inhabited by a number of native tribes sharing some cultural traits, but also distinguished by regional and linguistic variations. Three major language families were represented in North Carolina: Iroquoian, Siouan, and Algonquian based upon their native languages: Iroquois (including the Cherokee, Tuscarora, Meherrin, Coree, and Neuse River tribes), Algonquin (including the Bear River, Chowan, Hatteras, Nachapunga, Moratok, Pamlico, Secotan, and Weapomeoc tribes), and Siouan (including the Cape Fear, Catawba, Cheraw, Eno, Keyauwee, Occaneechi, Saponi, Shakori, Sissipahaw, Sugaree, Tutelo, Waccamaw, Wateree, Waxhaw, and Woccon tribes). The Iroquois tribes inhabited the mountains in the western portion of the state. The Siouan tribes lived in the central piedmont area, and the Algonquin tribes lived in the southern tidewater area.

Experts believe approximately 7,000 coastal Algonquin people lived in the area prior to contact with Europeans in the 16th century. Many of these had migrated from the north. There were probably around 6,000 people from Siouan tribes, although we know very little about these groups prior to the settlement of Europeans. They seem to have been a loosely connected alliance of tribes who eventually joined with the Catawba tribe. The largest of the three groups of natives was the Cherokee, a part of the Iroquois tribes, who had probably migrated southward into the Appalachian Mountains prior to the time of Columbus' exploration of the New World.

The French have a rich history of exploration in North America

France in the Middle Ages was divided into a number of small feudal regions. The counts and dukes controlled these little principalities and were virtually independent, but gave nominal allegiance to the French king.

France grows strong

By the end of the 15th century, the King of France had consolidated his power and extended authority over the whole of France. The monarchy gradually increased its sovereignty until it was the strongest in Europe and eager to challenge England, Spain and the Netherlands for leadership in the New World.

In the early 1600s, France was ready to undertake the serious business of establishing settlements in present-day Canada. Giovanni Verrazano (1524) and Jacques Cartier (1534-1542) had done the preliminary work of staking French claims in the New World. Two failed attempts at colonization in Florida (1562-67) and South Carolina had taught the French lessons that were to prove valuable in later colonizing attempts.


With the coronation of Henry IV, a strong-willed king, France was eager to “flex her muscles.” The King found a super-agent in Samuel de Champlain who earned the title “Father of New France.”

In March 1603, Champlain set out, with royal approval, for the North American coast. Entering the St. Lawrence at the mouth of the river, where fur traders had been bartering since the days of Cartier, he made his first contact with the natives. For several years, he crisscrossed the Atlantic attempting to secure permanent settlers for colonization and finally established Port Royal at Acadia and Quebec.

In time, other settlements appeared at Three Rivers and Montreal. In 1615, Champlain made his farthest trip west and reached the lower end of Lake Huron. Appointed governor of New France, he cultivated the friendship of the Algonquin Indians who dominated the great fur-bearing region in America, resided in Quebec and died there in 1635.

Hard living

The location of New France was not a happy one. The colonists had a highly centralized government of state and church, controlled from home, with no popular representation and a land policy semi-feudalistic in nature. The soil was poor, and the climate was hard. The seacoast was far away, and for fully half a year, ice flowed in the St. Lawrence River blocking communications and trade with the mother country.

But the way to the west was temptingly easy. No such formidable barrier existed as the mountains that lay back of the English settlements, and the pathway of the Great Lakes and rivers invited exploration.


Meanwhile a new force entered the colonial life of New France. The 17th century in Europe witnessed a revival of the Roman Catholic Church and revival meant missionary spirit and activity.

The passionate order of Jesuits, untiring missionaries who were always looking for new worlds to conquer, took an interest in New France and its Indian allies. In 1613, two Jesuits, the forerunner of a devoted army of clergymen, sailed to the French outpost. They came in dribbles, then in a stream and finally in a flood.

Strange partnership

The Jesuit missionary and fur traders formed a strange partnership in America’s backcountry. The Jesuits were primarily interested in saving the souls of the natives and in lifting them to a higher standard of living. To accomplish this mission, the Jesuits underwent all sorts of hardships and suffering and asked for no material rewards in return.

The traders, on the other hand, were usually concerned only with the profits afforded by their business and their daily life. In pursuit of these aims, they would stoop to what unscrupulous methods were available at the time. This was usually selling the Indians brandy and setting an example of licentiousness that tended to debase the tribal morals.

The Jesuits protested strongly against these practices but feared the Indians would take the English rum if they complained too much and all would be lost.

The French proved to be better at exploration and fur trade with the Indians than at colonization. In contract with the English, they were slow in persuading their countrymen to settle the area in large numbers on the seacoast and along the St. Lawrence River. The economy was based on the fur trade and fisheries, not on mineral wealth as in Spanish America or on agricultural products as among the 13 colonies. Because they did not try to take away the Indians’ land and had smaller settlements, except for Quebec, the French had better relations with the native tribes than the Spanish and English.

Further exploration

With Catholic missionaries, fur traders and explorers, the French penetrated into the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi River valley. These bold leaders like Louis Joliet and Father Marquette appeared in the Wisconsin backcountry and explored the beginning of the “Big Muddy” in some swampy grasslands.

In 1673, they sailed their tiny craft through 450 miles of roaring water to present-day Arkansas. Much to their sorrow, they discovered that the great river did not enter the Pacific Ocean but the Spanish-controlled Gulf of Mexico.

La Salle

The greatest of all the French explorers in the West was Rene Robert Cavalier, better known as Sieur de La Salle, who after several attempts crossed the Great Lakes, found the Illinois River, and drifted down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. On April 9, 1682, he claimed this vast interior for King Louis XIV and named it Louisiana.

Despite the failure of La Salle’s early adventures, the French government was unwilling to forgo the advantages of colonies in the lower Mississippi and the backcountry of the English colonies and in the face of the Spanish. In 1699, they erected a fort at Biloxi, but later moved it to present-day Mobile.

New Orleans

In 1718, New Orleans became the capital of the province and the southern anchor for a continuous chain of forts that connected France’s settlement all along the Mississippi. The New Orleans colony prospered and had a population of some 7,000 by 1731. The French continued their active efforts to occupy the West right up to the French and Indian War (1756-1763).

French and Indian War

By the middle of the 18th century, their explorers and trappers had reached the Rocky Mountains, and a number of forts had been constructed in strategic places both east and west of the Mississippi. The overlapping of French and English claims in America was the occasion for the Seven Years War which embroiled Europe.

Called the French and Indian War in America and unlike earlier intercolonial wars, this war started in the New World. Years of exploring, of trading for furs, of fishing in Acadia, of draining the coffers of money, was all in vain. By the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France had lost all of her possessions on the continent of North America. England was suddenly the leading colonial and naval power in the world. That’s your history!

North Carolina's First Colonists: 12,000 Years Before Roanoke

Four hundred years ago the English Roanoke colonists met numerous native inhabitants along the coast of what would become the state of North Carolina. Even earlier, during the 1540s, Spanish explorers under the leadership of Hernando de Soto "discovered" several Indian groups occupying the interior regions of the Carolinas. Today we know that the coastal Indians were part of a larger group occupying the entire mid-Atlantic coastal area, identifiable by a shared language and culture called Algonkian. The Native Americans whom de Soto met included Siouan, Iroquoian and Muskogean speakers, whose descendants are now recognized as the historic tribes of the Catawba, Cherokee and Creek Indians. Within a very short period of time--some 50 years--after those first contacts, the early European explorers of North Carolina had met, interacted with, and begun the process of significant cultural displacement of all the major native groups in the state.

What can we learn about those Indian groups from accounts of the earliest European explorers? Surviving chronicles from de Soto and the Roanoke colonists include many details of the land and its potential or imagined wealth. But with the notable exceptions of the John White paintings and Thomas Hariot's writings, we possess surprisingly little knowledge about the early historic Indians who lived in our state. Tantalizing bits of information can be gleaned from the early series of exploration accounts, but when the actual diversity and complexities of "Indian" culture are considered, we must conclude that their description by explorers was incidental to those for geography, searches for treasure, or daily hardships of the first European explorers.

The later colonial period of North Carolina history likewise exhibits an unfortunate lack of interest on the part of white Americans for details of Indian life. Although colonial government records included brief descriptions of military expeditions and political affairs involving Indian populations, detailed pictures of Indian culture elude modern researchers. Despite crucial involvement of the Carolina Indians in colonial economic ventures, as suppliers of skins for the enormously profitable deerskin trade, as military allies or, too frequently, as slaves, most knowledge we do have comes from unofficial sources. Only the observations of a few men like John Lederer, William Bartram and John Lawson give us even an incomplete view of declining Indian cultures, one roughly comparable to the purposely detailed accounts of White and Hariot. Indeed, it would not be inaccurate to say that the writings of Lawson and Hariot, supplemented by White's paintings, constitute the best history of American Indians in North Carolina until the nineteenth century, by which time much of Indians' culture was gone forever. Population estimates, locations and accurate names for various tribal groups, and clear descriptions of Indian political and social life unfortunately cannot be gained from historical documents alone.

And what about the ancestors of those historic period Indians? Where did they come from, and how do we know anything at all about their cultures? None of the native cultures in North Carolina had any sort of written language. They relied instead on oral traditions for their origins, myths and histories. Most of our knowledge of North Carolina's prehistoric inhabitants comes from the scant early historical accounts and, especially, the types of information that can be gained through archaeology.

Archaeology is the discipline which provides extensive time depth to studies of change in human societies, population distributions, and cultural adaptations in response to long-term environmental changes. Archaeology is the science (some would say an art) which provides us with answers to questions about the very first "colonists" in North Carolina. In the most general sense, archaeology is the study of human societies for which no or few written records exist, through the careful recovery and analysis of the material remains--the "artifacts"--of these extinct cultures. Archaeology is a branch of anthropology, which involves other types of humanistic and scientific studies of human cultures.

Archaeology is also a discipline with its own set of capabilities and limitations. Trained in methods of excavation, analysis and report writing, archaeologists devote considerable time to adapting the skills of many other disciplines to their own advantage. Application of scholarly techniques from zoology, chemistry, physics, botany, mathematics and computer studies enables archaeologists to explore the immense complexity of environments and cultures which surrounded our ancestors.

Archaeologists trace the chronicle of Native Americans to at least 12,000 years ago. The earliest aboriginal groups reached North Carolina not long after people first crossed into the New World from Siberia during the final stages of the last Ice Age, or Pleistocene era. The distinctive fluted projectile points used by the earliest Indian groups show remarkable similarities across the American continents. The distributions of such artifacts suggest rapid population growth and movement of the initial colonizing bands of people through Canada and the Great Plains, and into the eastern woodlands of which North Carolina is a part.

PaleoIndians, as archaeologists call those first people, were well adapted, technologically and socially, to climates, vegetation and animal populations very different from those of today. The late Pleistocene era saw wetter, cooler weather conditions as a general rule for areas like the Eastern Seaboard, which was some distance from the southern reaches of the glacial ice. Now-extinct elephants (mastodons and mammoths), wild horses, ground sloths, camels and giant bison roamed the forests and grasslands of our area. Animals not extinct, but now absent from the Southeast, included moose, caribou, elk and porcupine. PaleoIndians preyed on these animals, using their meat, skins and other parts for food, clothing, tools and other needs. They also devoted considerable time to gathering wild plant foods and likely fished and gathered shellfish in coastal and riverine environments.

Native groups who followed the PaleoIndians are called Archaic cultures by archaeologists. Those people occupied eastern North America during a long time period from about 9000 to 2000 B.C., and were the direct descendants of the PaleoIndians. Archaic Indians improved techniques of fishing, gathering and hunting for post-glacial (Holocene) environments, which differed from the Pleistocene. Forest types in the Southeast gradually became more like those of today, as weather patterns changed and the vast glacial ice sheets retreated from the margins of North America.

Archaeologists see Archaic cultures as very successful adaptations to the new forest communities and animal populations of those times. Archaic people made a wide variety of stone, wood, basketry and other tools, that reflect the varied subsistence patterns of generalized fishing, gathering and hunting of the many different species of plants and animals that shared their post-glacial environments. Archaic people possessed great knowledge of their environments and the potential food and raw material sources that surrounded them. Their camps and villages occur as archaeological sites throughout North Carolina, on high mountain ridges, along river banks, and across the Piedmont hills..

Archaic people did lack three things, however, that most people associate with prehistoric Indians. These cultural elements are: bows and arrows, pottery and plant agriculture. In fact, the acceptance of these elements into North Carolina's Archaic cultures marks the transition to the next cultural stage called Woodland.

No overnight change from a pre-ceramic, non-agricultural Archaic stage to Woodland times is recognizable in the archaeological record. Instead, there was very gradual and piecemeal adoption of these new traits into local groups' cultural patterns. For example, there probably were several "beginnings" of pottery manufacture by North Carolina Indians. Agriculture likewise underwent a long period of acceptance. Woodland Indians continued to follow most of the subsistence practices of their Archaic forebears, hunting, fishing, and gathering during periods of seasonal abundance of deer, turkeys, shad and acorns. Labor was committed to tasks of clearing fields, planting and harvesting crops like sunflowers, squash, gourds, beans and maize only when it was certain that those efforts could assure surpluses needed for winter and early spring months when natural food sources were sparse.

Bow and arrow equipment was also an innovation of the Woodland stage, although the ultimate origin of that hunting technology is unknown. Small triangular and stemmed projectile points, suitable in terms of size and weight for attachment to arrow shafts, are recovered for the first time on Woodland period sites. Prior to then, the hafted stone tools of Archaic and PaleoIndians were used for spears, knives and dart points (used with spear throwers, or atlatls). Use of bows and arrows probably led to shifts in hunting patterns among Woodland Indians, since the primary game animals like white tail deer could now be harvested efficiently by single, stalking hunters.

Despite the introduction of these new elements into prehistoric Indian lifeways, much remained the same. Woodland Indians continued patterns of seasonal exploitation of many game and plant resources. Archaeological sites from the period, which began some time around 2000 B.C., are found on all portions of the landscape, although there was a tendency to settle in larger, semi-permanent villages along stream valleys, where soils were suitable for Woodland farming practices utilizing hoes and digging sticks.

The house patterns, defensive walls (or palisades), and substantial storage facilities at some sites also demonstrate that Woodland Indians were more committed to settled village life than their Archaic predecessors. Distributions of ceramic (pottery) styles and other artifacts suggest to archaeologists that Woodland Indians began to recognize territorial boundaries. The more obvious boundaries may reflect early language groups of the Siouan, Iroquoian and Algonkian Indians later met by the Europeans. Intangible cultural elements cannot be recovered from archaeological deposits at any site, of course, so related questions about tribal affiliations, language or religious practices will remain unanswered forever.

Woodland cultures dominated most of North Carolina well into the historic period. Most Indian groups met by early European explorers followed Woodland economic and settlement patterns, occupying small villages and growing crops of maize, tobacco, beans and squash, while still devoting considerable effort to obtaining natural foods like deer, turkey, nuts and fish. A few cultural elements, however, suggest that some Indians had adopted religious and political ideas from a fourth major prehistoric tradition, called Mississippian. Archaeologists recognize certain patterns of artifacts, settlement plans and economics that distinguish Mississippian Indian culture from earlier or perhaps contemporary Woodland occupations.

Mississippian culture can be described neatly as an intensification of Woodland practices of pottery-making, village life and agriculture. But much more was involved in the distinction, especially in terms of political and religious organization and associated militarism. Mississippian culture had few representatives in prehistoric North Carolina. Exceptions are the so-called Pee Dee Indians, who constructed and occupied the major regional center at Town Creek (Montgomery County), and ancestral mountain Cherokee groups. Mississippian-type town centers are more common to the south and west of North Carolina. Centers typically included one or more flat-topped, earthen "temple" mounds, public areas and buildings ("council houses") used for religious and political assemblies. Wooden palisades, earthen moats or embattlements were placed around many villages for defensive purposes.

Mississippian societies described by early French and Spanish explorers were organized along strict lines of social hierarchies determined by heredity or exploits in war. Military aggressiveness was an important part of Mississippian culture, serving to gain and defend territories, group prestige and favored trade and tribute networks. The surviving, and often flamboyant, artifact inventories from Mississippian sites reflect needs for personal status identification and perpetuation of favored lineages. Pottery vessels were made in new and elaborate shapes, often as animal and human effigy forms other artifacts of exotic copper, shell, wood and feathers mirror the emblematic needs of the noble classes to confirm their status. Far-reaching trade and tribute networks were maintained at great expense to provide necessary items to the ruling classes of Mississippian Indian groups throughout the Southeast and Midwest.

The direct involvement of North Carolina Indians with those large, powerful Mississippian groups is difficult for archaeologists to measure. Minor elements of Mississippian culture may be found in various parts of our state, at least in the forms of pottery designs or ornaments connected with religious or political symbolism. Algonkian Indians met by the Roanoke colonists exhibited some religious ties with Mississippian practices more common in the far South. Cherokee religion and certain traits of pottery manufacture likewise may hint at more "elaborate" parallels in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and elsewhere in the heart of Mississippian territory. Ancestral ties of language or other cultural elements probably always linked North Carolina's Indians more closely with northern and western traditions, however, and such associations may have prevented the total acceptance of Mississippian cultural traits so pervasive in other Southeastern regions.

Through the 18th and 19th centuries, Native Americans in the eastern and central portions of North Carolina were largely displaced as the colony's and state's frontiers were populated by Euro-American and African-American colonists, farmers, slaves and townspeople. Some Indian "tribes" in the coastal and piedmont regions voluntarily relocated in advance of colonial frontier expansion. Painfully direct results of armed conflicts like the Tuscarora and Yemassee Wars included forced removals of native populations onto a few small reservations. More commonly, native populations were forced to join allied tribes in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and elsewhere.

Native Americans who avoided direct involvement in such situations nevertheless participated in larger systems of colonial politics, settlement and trade that produced far-reaching disruptions of their traditional cultural patterns. The historical effects of disease on native populations may never be precisely defined, for instance, but the aggregate effects included major population displacements, or splitting up and reconsolidation of populations (especially across the Piedmont).

The fracturing of social ties, group identities, and loss of native languages and other cultural elements during the 18th and 19th centuries persisted into the 20th. Some of these problems have been addressed through Federal and state government recognition of modern Indian tribes and communities, which began, for a variety of legal and social purposes, in the early 19th century and which continues today.

There are at present several modern Native American groups in North Carolina--direct descendants of prehistoric and early historic ancestors recognized in archaeological and historical records. Groups include: Indians of Person County Haliwa-Saponi Coharie Cumberland County Association of Indian People Lumbee Waccamaw-Siouan Guilford Native American Association Metrolina Native American Association and, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Some 70,000 Native Americans now reside in North Carolina and are represented by those tribal governments or corporate structures and through the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs.

Archaeological information is imperfect archaeologists are limited in what they can explain by vagaries of preservation, modern destruction of sites, and the simple fact that many cultural elements leave no direct traces in the ground. But archaeology exists as the only science with the techniques, theories and evaluative frameworks for providing any information on the 12,000 or more years of human occupation which occurred before the "discovery" of the New World only 500 or so years ago. The inherent curiosity that we possess about things that are old, mysterious or simply unfamiliar expands quite naturally into a desire to truly understand how prehistoric North Carolinians lived, adapted and thrived. Archaeology provides us the means to achieve that goal.

Reprinted with permission from The Ligature©, NC Division of Archives and History (1986). Revised 15 March, 1996

Migration of the Scotch-Irish from Ulster to Western North Carolina

Migration has been a major feature of human history, beginning with the earliest hunter-gatherers who ranged widely in pursuit of food. Other motives for migration have included war, economic hardship, religious strife, and the promise of a better life. The migratory history of the British people known as the Scotch-Irish (sometimes referred to as Scots-Irish or Ulster Scots) illuminates many of those issues.

Movement across the Irish Sea between Scotland and Ireland had occurred for millennia, but the historical Scotch-Irish migration, unfolded in the early seventeenth century when Britain’s King James I encouraged his Scottish subjects to migrate across the Irish Sea to his Irish domain. The forces motivating this migration were mixed: Presbyterian James’s optimistic desire to convert and control his Irish Catholic allure subjects by planting loyal Protestants there economic hard times in Scotland the promise of a better life in Ireland. Throughout the 17th century, Lowland Scots along with smaller numbers of English from the Borders region settled in the northeast (Ulster) region of Ireland where they became known as Ulster Scots.

One consequence of this movement of people was conflict. The Irish who were dispossessed from their lands violently resisted the newcomers. Eventually this regional conflict was drawn into the mid-century Civil War that impacted all the people of the British Isles in the late seventeenth century it became a theater of conflict in a global war. In addition to the physical destruction inflicted by warfare, the Ulster Scots suffered religious persecution and economic hardship. By the end of the seventeenth century, many of them were desperate enough to seek salvation in emigration once again.

Between the 1680s and 1815 at least 100,000 Ulster Scots embarked on a new migration, this time across the Atlantic to North America. They were pushed out of Ulster by discrimination by the Anglican Church of Ireland against their Presbyterian religion, by a depression in the linen trade that provided income to so many of them, and by a steep increase in land rents (rackrenting) driven by an explosion of population. Ulster, which had seemed so attractive a destination earlier in the seventeenth century, now appeared to more and more Ulster Scots to be a vale of tears.

Coincidentally, at this time of growing suffering in Ulster, a new land of opportunity beckoned in North America. Exploration and settlement of that newest part of the British Empire had grown apace during the seventeenth century. By the 1680s trade between American and Irish ports had expanded, driven by the importation of American flaxseed so crucial to the Ulster linen industry. As more ships unloaded their cargoes in Ulster ports, their crews brought glowing reports of the wonders of America. Many of the Ulster Scots migrants, or their descendants, decided that migration could once again be their salvation.

Although Scotch-Irish immigrants arrived all along America’s Atlantic coast, the major flow of newcomers landed in Pennsylvania. That sea route was driven by the important trade that linked the port of Philadelphia with Ulster ports. After unloading their American cargoes in Ulster, ship captains filled their vessels with emigrants for the return trip. As more and more Ulster people traveled to America, encouraging tales of its widespread opportunities flowed back to Ulster. This migration grew steadily until the outbreak of the American Revolution after a decade of interruption by war, it picked up again at a slower pace until the 1820s.

Most Scotch-Irish emigrants to America traveled in family groups. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, some were forced to accept indentured servitude to pay off their travel costs. But once their indenture ended, typically after seven years, they were free to pursue their own fortunes. Land in America was abundant and cheap. For decades most immigrants could take up enough land to support a family through farming, often paying only minimal fees known as quitrents. The earliest arrivals filled the fertile soils of southeastern Pennsylvania. But as the flow continued, latecomers had to seek land claims further inland. The mountainous geography of Pennsylvania’s western interior, combined with its hostile Indian inhabitants, encouraged many of them to turn southwestward instead, into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. That region of mild climate and fertile soils drew a steady influx of settlers from the 1720s on.

But eventually the backcountry of Pennsylvania and Virginia could not accommodate all of the immigrants who kept arriving. By the time of the Revolution, and in its immediate aftermath, the flow of settlers moved onward. By the 1780s it had pushed into the western Appalachian Mountain region of the Carolinas and Tennessee. These settlers found a less favorable farming environment than their predecessors who had obtained land in the Shenandoah Valley. The lands of western North Carolina were more mountainous and less easy to traverse. Nevertheless, by the outbreak of the Civil War, western North Carolina was well-settled. Some veterans of the American Revolution were given land there by the financially-strapped new federal government which could not afford to pay them in cash for their military service. Other immigrants bought extremely cheap land confiscated from the Cherokees through a series of one-sided treaties that culminated in the forced Removal of the Cherokees to Oklahoma in 1838-39.

By the Civil War, the migration of the Scotch-Irish to western North Carolina was basically completed. Tens of thousands of them had arrived, in a complex multi-generational movement of settlement and re-settlement. They brought with them their religion, folk traditions, and cultural traits which contributed to the distinctive cultural mix that developed in Southern Appalachia out of the mingling of three very different ethnic groups—native American, African, and European—in the region. The Scotch-Irish influence still continues to impact the people of western North Carolina.

North Carolina American Indian History Timeline

Pre-Sixteenth-Century American Indian History

ca. 40,000–15,000 B.C.
People migrate to North America from Asia at irregular intervals by way of the Bering Land Bridge.

10,000–8000 B.C.
Paleo-Indian-period American Indians are nomadic and hunt large animals for food. They also eat small game and wild plants. They leave no evidence of permanent dwellings in North Carolina.

8000–1000 B.C.
Archaic-period American Indians move from big-game hunting to small-game hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plants. These people change their patterns of living because of the changing climate in North America.

ca. 8000 B.C.
Possibly this early, American Indians begin to use a site in present-day Wilson County for either permanent or seasonal habitation.

ca. 1200 B.C.
Southeastern Indians begin growing squash gourds.

1000 B.C.–A.D. 1550
Woodland-culture American Indians settle in permanent locations, usually beside streams, and practice a mixed subsistence lifestyle of hunting, gathering, and some agriculture. They create pottery and also develop elaborate funeral procedures, such as building mounds to honor their dead.

ca. 200 B.C.
Southeastern Indians begin growing corn.

A.D. 700–1550
Mississippian-culture American Indians create large political units called chiefdoms, uniting people under stronger leadership than the Woodland cultures have. Towns become larger and last longer. People construct flat-topped, pyramidal mounds to serve as foundations for temples, mortuaries, chiefs' houses, and other important buildings. Towns are usually situated beside streams and surrounded by defensive structures.

Many groups of American Indians live in the area now called North Carolina. These include the Chowanoke, Croatoan, Hatteras, Moratoc, Secotan, Weapemeoc, Machapunga, Pamlico, Coree, Neuse River, Tuscarora, Meherrin, Cherokee, Cape Fear, Catawba, Shakori, Sissipahaw, Sugeree, Waccamaw, Waxhaw, Woccon, Cheraw, Eno, Keyauwee, Occaneechi, Saponi, and Tutelo Indians.

A.D. 1492
Italian explorer Christopher Columbus leads expeditions for Spain to explore new trade routes in the western Atlantic Ocean. This results in European contact with native peoples in the Caribbean and South America, creating a continuing and devastating impact on their cultures.

Sixteenth-Century American Indian History

A Spanish expedition led by Hernando de Soto explores the western portions of present-day North Carolina, looking for gold. De Soto and his men visit Indian communities and probably introduce smallpox and other deadly European diseases to the native populations.

Spanish explorer Juan Pardo, seeking gold, leads an expedition through what is now western North Carolina. Pardo visits the Catawba, Wateree, and Saxapahaw Indians.

Sir Walter Raleigh sends explorers Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to North America in search of potential colony sites. At Roanoke Island the explorers meet Native American chief Wingina and find the site excellent for settlement. They return to England with two Indians, Manteo and Wanchese, who learn English and are used to create publicity for Raleigh's colony.

The first English settlement is established at Roanoke Island, and Ralph Lane is appointed governor. The Roanoke Indian people, some of whom initially welcome the colonists, begin to see the English as a drain on food and other resources.

Ralph Lane leads an expedition into the interior of North Carolina in search of gold and other precious metals. Roanoke Indians warn inland tribes about the English, but Lane makes an alliance with the Chowanoke, who hope to use the English against their enemies the Tuscarora. Chief Wingina plots to get rid of the English settlers, and Lane has him killed.

Sir Francis Drake arrives at Roanoke Island and takes most of the colonists back to England, leaving an exploring party. Possibly Drake also leaves Africans and South American Indians that he captured from the Spanish. A relief ship arrives at Roanoke Island and, finding none of the colonists, leaves fifteen men to hold the area for England.

Raleigh sends explorer and artist John White to Roanoke Island as leader of a new group of settlers—the second English attempt to settle there. The colonists find bones of the 15 men left behind in 1586. White enlists the help of Manteo to build relationships with the Roanoke and Croatoan Indians. Most of the native peoples decide to let the colonists fend for themselves.

Governor White leaves Roanoke Island for England to acquire supplies for the colonists. With England and Spain at war, White cannot make an immediate return to the colony.

White finally returns to Roanoke Island to find the colony deserted, with little evidence of what happened to the colonists. He attempts to sail to Croatoan Island in hopes of finding some of them, but severe weather prevents him from reaching the island, and he never returns to the area. The Roanoke settlement is known afterward as the Lost Colony.

Seventeenth-Century American Indian History

Jamestown leader John Smith sends expeditions to the Roanoke Island area to seek information about the Lost Colony. His men find nothing conclusive.

Because of Spain's rivalry with England, the Spanish government develops an alliance with the Tuscarora people to monitor the Jamestown colony.

White settlers begin to move into Indian lands along the coastal sounds and rivers of North Carolina.

Virginia legislator Francis Yeardly hires fur trader Nathaniel Batts to explore the Albemarle Sound region as an area of possible settlement. Yeardly agrees to purchase land from the Roanoke Indians but dies before his settlement is established. Batts settles along the Chowan River in a building that serves as both his home and a trading post. He trades with local Native Americans and becomes the area's first permanent white settler.

March 1: King Kilcocanen of the Yeopim Indians grants land to George Durant in the earliest grant on record in the colony.

Chowanoc Indians attack white settlements in Carolina. The uprising is quelled with the "loss of many men."

Cherokee traders establish trade agreements with the English at Charles Towne (present-day Charleston, S.C.)

Eighteenth-Century American Indian History

The Chowanoc and Weapemeoc peoples have gradually abandoned their lands. Some have become slaves or indentured servants, and others have migrated south to join the Tuscarora. Only about 500 Native Americans remain in the Albemarle region.

An escaped slave serves as an architect in the construction of a large Tuscarora Indian fort near the Neuse River.

Surveyor John Lawson, who began a thousand-mile journey through the colony at the end of 1700, publishes A New Voyage to Carolina. It describes the colony's flora and fauna and its various groups of American Indians. Lawson also publishes a map of Carolina.

Settlers begin moving west and south of the Albemarle area.

Baron Christoph von Graffenried, a leader of Swiss and German Protestants, establishes a colony in Bath County. The town, called New Bern, is founded at the junction of the Trent and Neuse Rivers, displacing an Indian town named Chattoka.

June 8: Tuscarora Indians on the Roanoke and Tar-Pamlico Rivers send a petition to the government of Pennsylvania protesting the seizure of their lands and enslavement of their people by Carolina settlers.

Early September: Tuscarora capture surveyor John Lawson, New Bern founder Baron von Graffenried, and two African slaves. Lawson argues with the chief, Cor Tom, and is executed. The Indians spare von Graffenried and the slaves.

September 22: The Tuscarora War opens when Catechna Creek Tuscaroras begin attacking colonial settlements near New Bern and Bath. Tuscarora, Neuse, Bear River, Machapunga, and other Indians kill more than 130 whites.

October: Virginia refuses to send troops to help the settlers but allocates £1,000 for assistance.

In a series of uprisings, the Tuscarora attempt to drive away white settlement. The Tuscarora are upset over the practices of white traders, the capture and enslavement of Indians by whites, and the continuing encroachment of settlers onto Tuscarora hunting grounds.

January: South Carolina sends assistance to her sister colony. John Barnwell, a member of the South Carolina Assembly, leads about 30 whites and some 500 "friendly" Indians, mostly Yamassee, to fight the Tuscarora in North Carolina. A battle takes place at Narhantes, a Tuscarora fort on the Neuse River. Barnwell's troops are victorious but are surprised that many of the Tuscarora's fiercest warriors are women, who do not surrender "until most of them are put to the sword."

April: Barnwell's force, joined by 250 North Carolina militiamen, attacks the Tuscarora at Fort Hancock on Catechna Creek. After 10 days of battle, the Tuscarora sign a truce, agreeing to stop the war.

Summer: The Tuscarora rise again to fight the Yamassee, who, unsatisfied with their plunder during earlier battles, remain in the area looting and pillaging. The Tuscarora also fight against the continued expansion of white settlement.

March 20–23: Another force from South Carolina, consisting of 900 Indians and 33 whites, begins a three-day siege on the Tuscarora stronghold of Fort Neoheroka. Approximately 950 Tuscarora are killed or captured and sold into slavery, effectively defeating the tribe and opening the interior of the colony to white settlement. Although a few renegades fight on until 1715, most surviving Tuscarora migrate north to rejoin the Iroquois League as its sixth and smallest nation.

A treaty with remaining North Carolina Tuscarora is signed. They are placed on a reservation along the Pamlico River. The Coree and Machapunga Indians, Tuscarora allies, settle in Hyde County near Lake Mattamuskeet. The land will be granted to them in 1727, and a reservation will be established.

The General Assembly enacts a law denying blacks and Indians the right to vote. The king will repeal the law in 1737. Some free African Americans will continue to vote until disfranchisement in 1835.

The few Tuscarora remaining in the colony, led by Tom Blount, are granted land on the Roanoke River in Bertie County, near present-day Quitsna. The Tuscarora left their reservation on the Pamlico River because of raids by tribes from the south.

The Cherokee cede land northwest of Charleston to the colony of South Carolina, the first of many land cessions the Cherokee make to Europeans. The treaty also regulates trade and establishes a boundary between the Cherokee and European settlers.

The Cheraw (Saura) Indians incorporate with the Catawba living near present-day Charlotte.

Cherokee leaders visit London and confer with the king. They pledge friendship to the English and agree to return runaway slaves and to trade exclusively with the British.

The North Carolina colony establishes an Indian Trade Commission to regulate trade with native peoples.

A smallpox epidemic decimates the Indian population in North Carolina, especially in the eastern part of the colony. The epidemic decreases the number of Cherokee by 50 percent.

Waxhaw Indians, decimated by smallpox, abandon their lands in present-day Union County and join the Catawba. The vacated lands are taken up by German, English, Scottish, and Welsh immigrants.

Armed conflicts arise between the Cherokee and colonists, who continue to expand areas of settlement further into the western part of the colony.

The French and Indian War is fought between England and France all along the frontier of North America. North Carolina troops serve both in North Carolina and in other colonies.

The Indian population in eastern North Carolina is estimated at around 356. Most of these are Tuscarora who have not moved north.

The colonial governor approves a proposal to establish an Indian academy in present-day Sampson County.

North Carolina militia and Cherokee assist the British military in campaigns against the French and Shawnee Indians. The Cherokee decide to change sides after receiving ill treatment by the English, and they return home, where they eventually attack North Carolina colonists.

The French and Indian War intensifies as the Cherokee raid the western Piedmont. Refugees crowd into the fort at Bethabara. Typhus kills many refugees and Moravians there.

A second smallpox epidemic devastates the Catawba tribe, reducing the population by half.

An act of assembly permits North Carolinians serving against Indian allies of the French to enslave captives.

February: Cherokee attack Fort Dobbs and white settlements near Bethabara and along the Yadkin and Dan Rivers.

June: An army of British regulars and American militia under Colonel Archibald Montgomerie destroys Cherokee villages and saves the Fort Prince George garrison in South Carolina but is defeated by the Cherokee at Echoe.

August: Cherokee capture Fort Loudoun in Tennessee and massacre the garrison.

June: An army of British regulars, American militia, and Catawba and Chickasaw Indians under Colonel James Grant defeats the Cherokee and destroys 15 villages, ending Cherokee resistance.

December: The Cherokee sign a treaty ending their war with the American colonists.

King George III issues a proclamation that demarcates the western edge of settlement. This "proclamation line" through western North Carolina is meant to separate the Native Americans and the colonists.

February: The Treaty of Paris ends the Seven Years' War in Europe and the French and Indian War in North America.

The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals (now Elizabethton, Tenn.), between Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Company and the Cherokee people, is signed. It opens for settlement the area from the Ohio River south to the Watauga settlement. The Shawnee people, who inhabit the lands, refuse to accept the terms of the treaty.

The Coharie, Catawba, and ancestors of the Lumbee join the Patriot cause.

May–June: Cherokee village councils discuss going to war against the American colonists. The Cherokee decide to fight, knowing that the consequences are enormous. However, the Cherokee are fighting to protect the existence of their society, so they ignore the overwhelming odds against them.

June: White settlements in Watauga and South Carolina are raided by the Cherokee, allies of the British, who have promised to protect the Indians from encroachments by colonial borders.July 29–November: General Griffith Rutherford with 2,400 men invades Cherokee country, destroying 32 towns and villages. Rutherford is joined by Colonel Andrew Williamson with South Carolina troops and Colonel William Christian with Virginians. This expedition breaks the power of the Cherokee and forces them to sue for peace.

July 20: By the Treaty of Long Island of Holston, the Cherokee cede territory east of the Blue Ridge and along the Watauga, Nolichucky, Upper Holston, and New Rivers (the area east of present-day Kingsport and Greenville, Tenn.).

Despite the Indian treaty of 1777 fixing the boundary at the foot of the Blue Ridge, the assembly declares lands open for settlement as far west as the Pigeon River.

July 2: The Cherokee sign the Treaty of Holston, by which they cede a 100-mile tract of land in exchange for goods and an annuity of $1,000.

October 2: By the Treaty of Tellico, the Cherokee cede a triangular area with its points near Indian Gap, east of present-day Brevard, and southeast of Asheville.

Nineteenth-Century American Indian History

The Cherokee establish a law code and the "Light Horse Guards" to maintain law and order.

The Cherokee abolish clan revenge as a mechanism for social control.

March 27: Cherokee Indians aid General Andrew Jackson in defeating the Creek Indians in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama. After the battle, Jackson tells the Cherokee chief Junaluska: "As long as the sun shines and the grass grows there shall be friendship between us, and the feet of the Cherokee shall be toward the East." As president, Jackson later plays a major role in the effort to move the Cherokee west.

The Cherokee cede land in exchange for land on the Arkansas River, and 2,000 Cherokee move west.

The Cherokee agree to a treaty by which a large amount of their land in present-day Henderson, Transylvania, and Jackson Counties is ceded to the federal government. The Cherokee are allowed to receive land grants as individuals and can resell the land to white settlers to earn money.

The Cherokee establish a judicial administration and eight judicial districts.

Sequoyah completes his work of establishing the Cherokee alphabet, making the Cherokee people the only group of American Indians to have a written language.

The Cherokee National Supreme Court is established.

The Cherokee approve a new tribal constitution.

The first edition of the Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper printed in Cherokee and English, is released.

President Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act calling for American Indians to be forced from their homes to lands west of the Mississippi.

The state constitution is extensively revised, with amendments approved by the voters that provide for the direct election of the governor and more democratic representation in the legislature. However, new laws take voting rights away from American Indians and free blacks.

A small, unauthorized group of men signs the Cherokee Removal Treaty. The Cherokee protest the treaty, and Chief John Ross collects more than 15,000 signatures, representing nearly the entire Cherokee population, on a petition requesting the United States Senate to withhold ratification.

The Senate approves the Cherokee Removal Treaty by one vote.

Approximately 17,000 North Carolina Cherokee are forcibly removed from the state to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). This event becomes known as the Trail of Tears.

An estimated 4,000 Cherokee people die during the 1,200-mile trek. A few hundred Cherokee refuse to be rounded up and transported. They hide in the mountains and evade federal soldiers. Eventually, a deal is struck between the army and the remaining Cherokee. Tsali, a leading Cherokee brave, agrees to surrender himself to General Winfield Scott to be shot if the army will allow the rest of his people to stay in North Carolina legally. The federal government eventually establishes a reservation for the Eastern Band of Cherokee.

Yonaguska, chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, dies at age 80. His adopted white son, William Holland Thomas, becomes chief of the Cherokee and fights to secure reservation land for them.

The General Assembly passes a law prohibiting Indians from owning or carrying weapons without first obtaining a license.

Those Cherokee who avoided forced removal in 1838 and remained in North Carolina are given citizenship. In 1848 Congress grants them a small amount of money to use for the purchase of land.

The Coharie community establishes subscription schools for Indian children.

Approximately 42,000 North Carolinians lose their lives in the Civil War. Native Americans have varying experiences during the war. Many Cherokee in western North Carolina support the Confederacy. Thomas's Legion, a well-known fighting unit, has two companies of Cherokee soldiers. The Lumbee in eastern North Carolina are treated quite differently. They are forced to work on Confederate fortifications near Wilmington. Many flee and form groups to resist impressment by the army. Henry Berry Lowry leads one such group, which continues to resist white domination long after the war's end.

March 3: The killings of Allen and William Lowry, the father and brother of Henry Berry Lowry, spark what becomes known as the Lowry War in Robeson County.

The Lowry band employs guerilla tactics in its war against Robeson County's power structure, robbing prominent citizens and killing law enforcement officers. Indians, blacks, and poor whites unite in support of the outlaw group.

February: Henry Berry Lowry vanishes, leading to years of speculation about his death.

After the death of Steve Lowry at the hand of bounty hunters, the Lowry War ends.

The North Carolina constitution is changed, giving free men of color over the age of 21 the right to vote.

1882–early 1900s
Three schools are established in Halifax and Warren Counties to serve Haliwa-Saponi children.

February 10: The state recognizes the Croatan Indians, now known as the Lumbee, as an official American Indian tribe. With recognition come separate schools for Indian students.

A normal school for Indians opens in Pembroke, Robeson County. This school evolves into the present-day University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Hamilton McMillan publishes Sir Walter's Lost Colony, which claims that Lumbee Indians are descended from the ill-fated Roanoke settlers.

December 4: Fifty-four Croatan Indians in Robeson County petition the federal government, requesting funds for schools.The Indians of Person County construct a school on land donated by Green Martin another school will be constructed within the next few years.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee is incorporated under North Carolina law.

Twentieth-Century American Indian History

Diotrion W. and Mary Epps deed land for a school for Indians in Person County, North Carolina, and southern Virginia. The school will be rebuilt in 1925 by Person County, North Carolina, and Halifax County, Virginia.

Shiloh Indian School is established in Dismal Township, Sampson County, to serve Coharie children.

March 8: A North Carolina law changes the name of the Croatan Indians to the Indians of Robeson County.

The Coharie receive state recognition, but this recognition is rescinded two years later.The State of North Carolina names recognizes a group of Indians descended from the Saponi, Tutelo, and Occaneechi tribes as the Indians of Person County. State recognition will be rescinded in the 1970s.New Bethel Indian School is established in New Bethel Township, Sampson County, to serve Coharie children.

March 11: The Indians of Robeson County change their name to Cherokee Indians of Robeson County.

Eastern Carolina Indian School is established in Herring Township, Sampson County. The school will operate until school desegregation in 1966, eventually serving children in grades 1–12. In 1942 the school begins accepting children from Indian communities in other eastern North Carolina counties, including Harnett, Hoke, Columbus, Cumberland, Bladen, and Person.

Cherokee lands are placed in trust status with the federal government.

Wide Awake Indian School opens in the Waccamaw-Siouan community of Buckhead in Bladen County, with Welton Lowry, a Lumbee, as teacher. The school, serving students in grades 1–8, follows the tradition of Doe Head School, founded in 1885 Long Boy School, founded in 1901 and St. Mark's School, founded in 1920. It will close in 1952.

A federal memorandum allows Indians in Robeson County to organize under the Wheeler-Howard Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. To receive recognition, individuals must be at least one-half Indian.

December 12: Only 22 of 209 Robeson County Indians qualify for recognition under the Wheeler-Howard Act of 1934. Qualification is based on "race" testing to determine an individual's Indian blood.

The Indian Normal School (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke) in Robeson County grants its first college degree.

East Carolina Indian School is established in Sampson County to serve American Indians in seven surrounding counties. The school will close in 1965.

The first Indian mayor of the town of Pembroke is elected. Previously the governor appointed the mayors, all of whom were non-Indian.

The Cherokee Historical Association receives funding, and the first performance of the outdoor drama Unto These Hills takes place.

Waccamaw Indian School opens in Columbus County. The school will close in 1969 following the desegregation of North Carolina schools.

The State of North Carolina recognizes the Lumbee (formerly called the Cherokee of Robeson County).

The Hickory Hill School in the Waccamaw-Siouan community of St. James, Columbus County, closes after having operated since at least 1927.

Congress passes the "Lumbee Bill," which recognizes the Lumbee as an Indian tribe but denies them services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Haliwa School opens in Warren County, serving children in grades 1–12. The school is tribally controlled and state recognized under the county school system. It will close in 1970 as a result of school desegregation.

January 18: A large group of Lumbee, angered by racist agitation and threats of cross burnings, descend on a Ku Klux Klan rally near Maxton, scattering the Klan. Two Klan members are later indicted on charges of incitement to riot.

June: English E. Jones becomes the first Lumbee president of Pembroke State College (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke).

The Haliwa receive state recognition as an Indian tribe.

The General Assembly, in removing obsolete laws from the books, inadvertently rescinds state recognition of the Indians of Person County.

The state recognizes the Coharie and Waccamaw-Siouan tribes.

July 2: The General Assembly establishes the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs. Bruce Jones, a Lumbee, serves as director.December 22: The Lumbee Bank is established in Pembroke. It is the first bank in the United States owned and operated by Indians.

August: The new Department of American Indian Studies at Pembroke State University (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke) begins offering courses.

The Carolina Indian Voice, an Indian-owned newspaper, begins operation.September: Horace Locklear, a Lumbee, becomes the first Indian to practice law in North Carolina.

October: Tuscarora from Robeson County join other Indians from across the nation in occupying the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C., during the Trail of Broken Treaties protest. The Tuscarora steal 7,200 pounds of records from the building and bring them to Robeson County.

March 18: Old Main, the oldest building on the campus of Pembroke State College (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke), is gutted by fire. The building is reconstructed and will eventually house the Department of American Indian Studies and the Native American Resource Center.

March 19: Henry Ward Oxendine, a Lumbee from Robeson County, becomes the first American Indian to serve in the General Assembly in North Carolina.September 5: The Guilford Native American Association incorporates in Greensboro.

January 5: The Metrolina Native American Association incorporates in Charlotte.

The Waccamaw-Siouan tribe begins governing by tribal council and tribal chief.

The Meherrin Indian tribe receives recognition from the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs.

February 1: Two Tuscarora Indians, Eddie Hatcher and Timothy Jacobs, hold 17 people hostage in the offices of the Robesonian newspaper in Lumberton. The two demand to speak with Governor Jim Martin, hoping to publicize corruption and drug dealing among Robeson County's law enforcement officials. They will be acquitted of federal charges but convicted on state charges.

May: The General Assembly passes a bill restoring state recognition, rescinded in the 1970s, to the Indians of Person County.

November: Harrah's Cherokee Casino opens on Qualla Boundary reservation, with 175,000 square feet of space and 1,800 video gambling machines.

North Carolina Maps: An Introduction to North Carolina Maps

Theodore DeBry, "Americae pars, Nunc Virginia," 1590. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

The mapping of the area we now call North Carolina began in the sixteenth century from early exploration. The first British settlement in 1585 was mapped showing Cape Fear as well as several Native American villages. Here we see a depiction of the area the British called, "Virginia." This map, printed in 1590, is a good example of the early maps of the period. Look at the compass in the bottom right area. North is actually to the right rather than pointing to the top. These maps are colorful and imaginative, depicting ships, sea-monsters, mountains, and Native Americans. See if you can identify the Outer Banks on this map. Can you find the Native American Villages?

"Virginia et Florida," 1607. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

Later maps left out the sea-monsters, but they still depicted ships caught in tidal winds. You can also see many of the islands of the Outer Banks. By the time of this map, published in 1610, there was an area the Spanish termed "Florida" south of Virginia. Several towns are along the cost of the Mar Del Nort, or the "Sea of the North." There was still no land termed "Carolina," but can you see the name "Americae" engraved in the top?

"Virginiae partis australis et Floridae," circa 1640. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

This map, published around 1640, shows a much clearer picture of the coast and looks more like what we see in maps today. There are many towns shown by the Outer Banks, and cartographers, or mapmakers, stopped drawing a sea to the west. The explorers knew by then that the land stretched much farther west than they had previously thought.

"A new discription of Carolina by the order of the Lords Proprietors," circa 1671. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

By 1663, letters from the Lord Proprietors of the settlements began to refer to a province called "Carolana" (named for the British king Charles I) between Florida and Virginia. By the 1670s, maps were clearly showing Carolina as a separate province. This map, published in 1671 and called "Description of Carolina by the Order of the Lords Proprietors," shows the new province. At the time, the Lord Proprietors described Carolina as "lying southward of Virginia . . . enjoys the fertility and advantages thereof . . . on the main continent of America, between the degrees of 30 and 36 . . . 30 degrees bound by Virginia and 36 degrees bound at the south, yet not fully explored, but bound by the east by the Mare Atlanticum and by the west the South Sea." Can you see the name of the mountain range? How close is it to what we call those mountains today? Also, look for the Coat of Arms on the map. The creator, John Ogilby, obviously wanted the current monarch in power to use the map!

"A New Map of Carolina," 1685. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

This map, drawn in 1685, was sold in a London at a toy and china-ware shop. It clearly shows the Carolina area, including the Ashley and Cooper rivers near Charles Town. This map shows the area with the top pointing to the north, much like maps we see today. Can you see the animals depicted on the map? The top table lists all of the known settlements on the coastline. By the late 17th century, exploration of the area of Carolina was fully underway, although the travelers mainly went south instead of west into the mountains.

"Carolina," 1729. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

By the beginning of the 18th century, the various land owners began to push for a clearer boundary between Virginia and Carolina, considering the crop boom that was occurring there. In 1710, two governors, on behalf of Queen Anne, pled for a firm boundary to be drawn between the two provinces. Their main complaint was that the Native Americans from Virginia were encroaching on the lands of Carolina . The Governor of Virginia apologized profusely, and after much negotiation, the boundary was made in 1723. Meanwhile, in 1712 , North and South Carolina made an official split. This map, drawn in 1729, shows the boundary of North Carolina and Virginia and the one between South Carolina and North Carolina. The bottom right corner describes the British claims of the land. Can you find any towns that have familiar-sounding names? Can you find Albemarle and Bath?

"Chart of his Majesties Province of North Carolina," 1738. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

How about in this map, drawn in 1738? Can you find familiar names?

"A Map of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland with part of New Jersey etc.," 1755. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

By the mid-1700s, the lines between Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina were drawn, but the land to the west was owned by the French. This map, dated 1755, shows Louisiana to the west, as well as the major bodies of water as we know them today—the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Also, can you see the new colony between South Carolina and Florida?

"An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina With Their Indian Frontiers . . . ," 1775. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

This map, aptly titled "An Accurate Map of North Carolina," shows the northern and southern boundaries of North Carolina. It also shows known Native American paths, rivers, and major towns. Tennessee hasn't been outlined yet, but we can see Mecklenburg County. What other counties can you see? Can you find Orange County? Johnston County?

"North America with the boundaries of the thirteen United States, as settled by the Treaty of 1783," circa 1780s. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

This map, printed in 1783, shows all thirteen colonies after the Revolutionary War. At this time, North Carolina is shown stretching all the way to the Mississippi River. Western North Carolina, now Tennessee, is shown as the Cherokee area.

"North Carolina," 1795. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

"A new map of part of the United States of North America," 1806. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

In the 1790s, the government of Tennessee moved to become a separate state. This map, drawn in 1794, shows the Tennessee Area. The next map, drawn in 1795, shows the new Western boundary.

". . . First actual survey of the state of North Carolina," 1808. Click on the image for a full view and description of the map.

By the end of the 18th century, North Carolina was a fully-formed state with permanent boundaries. This 1808 survey map by Price and Strother shows clear western, northern, and southern borders. In addition, North Carolina's most famous towns are shown. Can you find Chapel Hill? Do you see the state capital, Raleigh? Can you find Charlotte in Mecklenburg county?

Watch the video: What Happened to the Lost Colony at Roanoke? National Geographic (August 2022).