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Showing posts from March, 2012

Settlement north of Albemarle Sound, 1650-1710: the founding of Albemarle

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When North Carolina Became a Refuge

Albemarle Sound in the northeast corner of modern North Carolina was once, pretty much, the southern reach of  Virginia.  Rivers produced this result, specifically the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers.  Both are difficult to cross and obstruct traffic moving south and west from the Chesapeake.  But east of the Chowan there are two lovely passages for land traffic on the north-south axis, one east of and several west of the Dismal Swamp.  The Dismal Swamp, itself, was essentially impenetrable for most travelers; it was a great place to hide out, but an awful place to pass through.  Into this matrix of channels and barriers fled North Carolina's first permanent settlers, proto-Quakers from Virginia and Maryland.  It can be argued that their flight through "Southside" Virginia, past the Dismal Swamp, and into the buffered lands of the Albemarle District profoundly altered the trajectory of both Carolina and American history.

Sixty-five years b…

Some Artifacts Near the Forks of the Eno River

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One little note on an obscure map published in 1798 drew attention to the forks of the Eno River.  There a mapmaker noted the presence of one "Col Shepherd."  This, naturally enough, resulted in our saying, "Who he?"

To have one's place located on a state-wide map in that era indicates you were a person of note, or the place was somehow a landmark.  Yet, if you visit the spot indicated on the map today there is no sign of prior occupancy.  In fact, the land north of the forks of the Eno is a deeply silted flood plain, subject to regular inundations.  So, this raises questions about map accuracy and may suggest changes to the land subsequent to map publication.

A modern topo showing the forks of the Eno indicates the Price-Struthers map was probably a poor rendering of the upper Eno, but a pretty fair rendering of the roads near the upper Eno.  Compare the road layouts of the three roads shown in the topo with the roads shown on the older map.  The road running…

The Haw Fields

Haw Fields lying between the Haw and Eno Rivers, was a 50,000 acre cleared meadow once used by Native Americans as a hunting field.  They burned it off a couple of times each year so that there favored game animals would come there to feed on the resulting grass shoots.  All that slash and burn attention meant the land was both relatively unwooded, and had rich top soils resulting from both the burning and the manuring of the grazing herds of deer and buffalo and maybe even elk.   After harvesting their summer crops, native folks probably moved up, away from the foggy, cold corn-bottoms to their hunting grounds.  There as hunters harvested hides and laid in venison for jerky, the ladies harvested the rich, oak mast; they mashed and dried acorn flower for the coming seasons.  The first Europeans who saw the Haw Fields probably thought they'd died and gone to heaven.   John Lawson waxed euphoric about that land in his 1709 real estate prospectus,  New Voyage to Carolina…