powered by google
Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Advanced Search Options
Report by Charles Woodmason concerning religion in North Carolina, including a list of taxables
Woodmason, Charles, ca. 1720-1776
1766
Volume 07, Pages 283-288

[N. C. Letter Book S. P. G.]
Mr. Woodmason's Account of North Carolina made in 1766.
A List of the Counties in North Carolina with the number of members each send to their General Assemblies. Which counties (by a late act) are raised into Parishes and endowed with £100 Stg. per annm for an Incumbent charged on the Public Treasury and under the Patronage of the Lord Bishop.
NAMES.
TAXABLE PERSONS IN EACH COUNTY (I. E. WHITE MEN ABOVE 18 CAPABLE OF BEARING ARMS.)
NO. OF MEMBERS.
Anson
800
2
Beaufort
742
2
Bertie
1634
3
Bladen
1244
2
Brunswick
186
2
Bute
200
2
Carteret
541
2
Chowan
745
5
Craven
1175
2
Cumberland
652
2
Currituck
709
5
Dobbs
954
2
Duplin
1085
2
Edgecombe
1207
2
Granville
2882
2
Hallifax
2029
2
Hertford
1393
2
Hyde
604
2
Johnston
899
2
-------------------- page 284 --------------------
Mecklenburgh
791
2
New Hanover
446
2
Northampton
1169
2
Onslow
978
2
Orange
2699
2
Pasquotank
850
5
Pitt
741
2
Rowan
1486
2
Tyrrill
996
5
TOWNS.
29706 which at 4 to a family (deducting the Heads or Texables) are 119,164 Souls & but one or two clergy of the Church of England among them.
Bath
1
Brunswick
1
Edenton
1
Hallifax
1
New Bern
1
Salisbury
Wilmington
1
Tarborough
Total
75 Members.

As to North Carolina, the state of Religion therein is greatly to be lamented—If it can be said there is any Religion or a Religious person in it. A church was founded at Wilmington in 1753, another at Brunswick in 1756 the Walls of each are carried up about 10 or 12 feet and so remain. Govr Dobbs used great endeavours to get these Buildings finished and to lay out Parishes—But lived not to effect it—But the present Governor has got an act passed for a church to be built in each Parish or district and church matters settled on the plan of So Carolina—He has given public notice here to the clergy—Inviting them to come abroad promising of them his protection encouragement and support: at the same time mentioning what numbers of Sectaries over spread the country & the danger that not only the church Established but even Religion itself will be totally lost and destroyed if not quickly attended to.

-------------------- page 285 --------------------

Here is an opening—a large Harvest for all that are sincerely disposed to act for the Glory of God and the Good of Souls. How many thousands who never saw much less read or ever heard a chapter of the Bible! How many ten thousands who never were baptized or heard a sermon? and thrice ten thousand who never heard of the name of Christ, save in curses and execrations! Lamentable! Lamentable is the situation of these people, as to spirituals, even beyond the power of words to describe.

There are two or three Itinerant Ministers in the northern part (or Lord Granville's Division) of the Province and several small chapels are built in that district—But not a church or Minister in any one Town of this Province Maritime or Inland.

In the Back part of this Country between the heads of Pedee & cape Fear Rivers is a District of 12000 acres formerly granted to Whitfield and by him sold to Count Zinzendorft—It is very rich Land situated just at the foot of the Lower Hill and where the springs take their rise, that form these great Rivers above mentioned. The spot is not only Rich fertile & luxuriant but the most romantic in nature. Sir Philip Sidney's description of Arcadia falls short of this real Arcadia Georgia Circassia Armenia, or whatever region it may be compared too. To this spot Zinzendorft transplanted his Hernhutters; who being joined by others from Pennsylvania & elsewhere now form a very large and numerous body of people acting under their own Laws and ordinances, independent of the community constitution or Legislature, in and over of them. They are a set of Recabites among the people of Israel—Forming a distinct body different in all things from all people—Here they have laid out two Towns—Bethlehem & Bethseda; delightfully charming! Rocks Cascades Hills Vales Groves Plains Woods Waters all most strangely intermixt, so that imagination can not paint any thing more vivid. They have Mills Forges Furnaces Potteries Founderies all Trades and things in and among themselves—Their manners are not unlike the Dunkers of Pennsylvania. Like them they have all things (save women) in common, and receive to their community persons of all Nations Religion & Languages. They are seated near some valuable copper mines from which they draw great advantages; and having all things free, setting all hands at Work according to their ability (for they are all Bees not a Drone suffered in the Hive) what they do not consume they sell in the adjacent Territory, receiving for their Meal

-------------------- page 286 --------------------
Flour Earthen ware Peach Brandy whiskey Tools of Iron & utensils of copper wood & Turnery wares &c. &c. Deer Skins Fox Otter Raccoon and other furs & Peltry—These they send off to Virginia on the one hand and into South Carolina on the other, receiving in return Rum Sugar Linen & Woolen Goods Pewter & Tin wares and other necessaries.

Africk never more abounded with new Monsters than Pennsylvania with New Sects who are continually sending out their Emmissaries around—one of these parties known by the Title of New Lights or the Gifted Brethren (for they pretend to Inspiration) now infect the whole Back country and have even penetrated South Carolina—One of C. W's strongest endeavours must and will be to disperse these wretches which will not be a hard task as they will fly before him as chaff—Some of them lately killed a travelling Person and cut him into atoms singing Hymns making processions and Prayers and offering up this inhuman sacrifice to the Deity as an acceptable oblation. Six of them were secured and brought down to Charles Town where they were kept Six months. During which period not all the expostulation reasonings & remonstrances of our Gentry & clergy could make any impression on their diabolical minds or bring them back to reason or reflection—One of the principals was hang'd and that made impression on them, and after some Months confinement they showing marks of penitence & contrition were banished the Province.

Lately they took another extraordinary step For after deluding a Rich Planter, wasting his substance and perverting his understanding—One of their Teachers pretended to work Miracles and declared that he had power equal with Christ and that God had given him authority even to raise the Dead—and that to evince his assertion he would raise the first Dead Body they should meet with. The bigoted Planter had not such strong faith but that he called on him to realize his assertions—this now pleased the Villain and put him on a scheme how to deceive his votary and bring himself off—So one of the Fraternity was procured & promptly he tried to counterfeit himself dead & to revive on certain Prayers & Breathings being uttered over him—accordingly this abominable farce was play'd. The fellow lay as dead—The pretended prophet prays anoints, exercises and calls on the seemingly inanimate Wretch to arise—But whether the fellow kept his breath so long as to suffer suffocation or the exorcist made his cunjurations too long

-------------------- page 287 --------------------
certain it was the Wicked Wretch was really gone, and by playing the Fool too well was with great difficulty recovered—The person thus imposed on was Mr Skinking Moore of Little River, the Boundary between the two Carolinas. This Moore was always reckoned a sensible man nor was his senses so far darkened by these factinations but for him to perceive some gross delusions some great deceptions. These children of Satan gave out that the party was in a Trance—and they would have persuaded the unhappy victim, to have uttered blasphemies and prophesies, as matters revealed to him, while his Soul had left the Body, & till the reentering his Hous of Clay. But the poor Sinner's pain had been so great & the sense of his Guilt bore so heavily on his mind, as to make him confess the whole cheat to Mr Moore & thereby recover him from his Lethurgy but not to his Estate which he had so foolishly lavished on them.

The most zealous among the Sects to propagate their notions & form establishments are the anabaptists. When the Church of England was established in Carolina the Presbyterians made great struggle but finding themselves too weak, they determined to effect that by cunning (the principles they work by for they are all Males) which strength could not effect—Wherefore as Parish churches were built only along the Sea coast they built a sett of Meeting Houses quite back behind in the interior parts, Imitating the French—who by making a chain of Forts from Canida to Louisiana endeavour'd to circumscribe the English & prevent the extension of their Trade—So did the Presbyterians with our Church—If they could not suppress they would cramp the progress of the Liturgy and church established—and accordingly did erect Meeting Houses as aforesaid—None of the Church opposed them and the Almighty by taking these people in their craft have suffered them to fall into the Nett they spread for others. For the Anabaptists of Pennsylvania resolving themselves into a Body & determined to settle their principles in every vacant quarter began to establish Meeting Houses also on the Borders—And by their address and assiduity have wormed the Presbyterians out of all these their strongholds & drove them away—So that the Baptists are now the most numerous & formidable body of people which the Church has to encounter with in the interior and back parts of the Province & the antipathy that the two Sects bear each other is astonishing—

Wherefore a Presbyterian would sooner marry ten of his children to Members of the Church of England than one to a Baptist—The

-------------------- page 288 --------------------
same from the Baptists as to the Presbyterians—their rancour is surprising—but the Church reaps great good by it and thro' their jealousies gains ground on them very fast. But the Baptists have great prevalence & footing in North Carolina & have taken such deep root there that it will require long time and pains to grub up their layers.

The manners of the North Carolinians in general are vile & corrupt the whole country is a stage of debauchery dissoluteness & corruption, and how can it be otherwise? The people are composed of the Outcasts of all the other Colonies who take refuge there—The Civil force is hardly yet established—But they are so numerous—The necessaries of Life are so cheap & so easily acquired & propagation being unrestricted that the increase of people there is inconceiveable even to themselves—

Marriages (thro' want of Clergy) are performed by every ordinary Magistrate—Poligamy is very common—Celibacy much more—Bastardy no disrepute, Concubinage general. When will this Augæn Stable be cleansed!