Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Arthur Dobbs to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Dobbs, Arthur, 1689-1765
August 24, 1755
Volume 05, Pages 353-364

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 12. C. 87.]
Letter from Governor Dobbs to the Board.

My Lords,

I sett out the 17th of June to view my Lands, and at the same time the Western Frontier and fix a place to station our Frontier Company and proposed viewing the South Carolina Line, as formerly proposed by the Commissioners, at 35° and also the situation of the Catawba's Nation having taken with me a very good Quadrant of 18 inches radius, by which I could take the latitude accurately to a minute of a degree, I took my roote by the Heads of New River in Onslow County, called the rich Lands, which I found to answer the same all along the Banks of the several branches, I passed thence to the North East Branch of Cape Fear river, I found the Lands there tolerable, but upon the rising betwixt the rivers generally piny, after crossing it I proceeded to Duplin Court House, the lands there are generally pretty good; I hence went to the branch and the six runs, which falls into Black river to view some lands I had there the Bottoms I found

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very good, the rising grounds generally all piny, and then proceeded to the North west Branch of Cape Fear, at Gibson's store a Virginian store House, within two miles of which I took the latitude, and found it to be 34° 24' about four miles above it I rode to a high steep Bluff called sandy Bluff above 50 feet high, and apprehending it must have been above a rock, I went down the Banks, and found the bottom of the river all a flat rock, and some stones washed from the bank I had broke, and found it a fine file stone, out of which I made a scythe stone, and heard that higher up the river it grows coarser, and has a right millstone grit from whence they got Millstones.

This convinces me that the whole flat Country along the Coast, has a free stone Bottom, near the highest rise of the tides or a little higher, along the rivers a shelley lime stone rock appears which makes a cement, above which lies the free stone, this free stone Bottom and the sands time out of mind washed by the freshes from the Banks, is the cause of all the low sandy grounds at the mouths of these great rivers, and the Banks in the great sound, and also all the small Islands which keep off the sea, and the perpetual burning of the underwoods, and all the shallow rooted kindly grass, has burnt all the top rich soil, and left nothing but the sand which can't be burnt, and is the cause of all the pine barren sandy land, so that nothing rises in the woods but deep rooted weeds and herbs, and some strong deep rooted grass, and this makes the great difference betwixt these Lands and the low wet Savannas and swamps, which are very rich, because so wet that the soil is not burnt, this Practice I think ought to be restrained at least the only pretence they have for it, is to destroy the Ticks which abound in the woods, and sometimes destroy their young Cattle, & that it is done by Indian and other straggling Hunters, and often by smoking Tobacco, in kindled fires in the woods, their fences are split rails and they choose to do it themselves, to preserve their fences, and burn the woods and leaves to get young grass for their Cattle; I thence proceeded some distance from the No. West Branch near 60 miles on the top of Sand hills, on which grew nothing but scrubby red and black oak scarce six inches diameter, and pine not exceeding 12 inches and mostly under 6 or 8, these hills divide the streams that fall into Pedee, and the north west of Cape Fear, and seem to be incapable of improvement, the farther I advanced northwestward, the rock grew coarser & harder on some of the Heights where it showed itself at 60 miles distance the lands lowered, and the rock changed into a hard firestone intermixed with white Marcasite or Spar, upon the Branch running into deep river, which enters into Cape Fear river, where the Saxapahaua and it join above which it is called the Sax

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apahaw, from this to Lord Granville's line about 15 miles further W. N. W. where the four Counties of Anson Rowan, Orange, and Cumberland meet in a point, the Land rises to be mountaineous or very high steep Hills and continues so to Uwarry which falls into the Yadkin, the rocks are mostly Marchasite or white Spar, but the soil intermixed with the rock and gravel a rich loamy red earth, an indication of a mineral soil, the oak and pine to the top of the Hills being of a tolerable size, I rode off the road to the highest hill which I ascended at least ¾ of a mile to see the Country which I could not see, on my whole road anywhere above a mile, unless on the Banks of a river, and found the very top well wooded, I here saw as far as my eye could reach from the westward by the North, to the South East, over the tops of all the Trees, these rich dry rocky Hills I think must be very good for Vineyards, for they can choose any aspect, and any height to plant them on, so as to prevent their ripening too early, or bursting with the August or summer rains, which has hitherto prevented our having good Wines, and here the Vines grow naturally. The Lands upon the Banks of Uwarry are very good, but the hills soon rise beyond it of the same kind of gravel, for 20 miles till I came near Abbott's Creek, which falls into the Yadkin, here the Lands begin to improve, and beyond it, to the Yadkin above 7 miles, and all along the Yadkin, is very rich level ground, free from rocks or gravel, but all a rich dark red, and some inclining to yellow of the richest Loams, here they sow barley, wheat rye and oats, and have yards to stack it in. The Yadkin here is a large beautiful river where is a ferry, It is near 300 yards over, it was at this time fordable scarce coming to the horses bellies. At 6 miles distance I arrived at Salisbury the County town of Rowan the Town is but just laid out, the Court House built and 7 or 8 log Houses erected, from this unto the end of Lord Granville's Line which is as yet run no farther, upon cold water Creek on the Catawba's path, is 14 miles, the Lands still very good, here I was within 3 miles of the North west corner of my Lands, which lye upon Rocky river, and its several Branches, it being very rocky, being very rapid with many falls until it joins the Yadkin, which has also many falls, where they join the river takes the name of Pedee, and falls into the sea near George's Town or Winyaw, all the lands here are very hilly and gravelly, with rocky bottoms, intersperced with Veins of marchasite or spar, on all the runs, branches or Creeks which run into it are good rich Lands.

There are at present 75 families on my Lands I viewed betwixt 30 and 40 of them, and except two there was not less than from 5 or 6 to 10 children in each family, each going barefooted in their shifts in the

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warm weather, no woman wearing more than a shift and one thin petticoat; They are a Colony from Ireland removed from Pensylvania, of what we call Scotch Irish Presbyterians who with others in the neighbouring Tracts had settled together in order to have a teacher of their own opinion and choice; Besides these there are 22 families of Germans or Swiss, who are all an industrious people, they raise horses cows and hogs with a few sheep, they raise Indian Corn, wheat, barley, rye and oats make good butter and tolerable cheese, and they have gone into indigo with good success, which they sell at Charles Town, having a waggon road to it, tho' 200 miles distant, because our roads are not yet shortened, and properly laid out, and from the many merchants there, they afford them English goods cheaper, than at present in this Province, the trade being in few hands they take a much higher price, This year they have suffered much by the dry season, having not had as much rain from the middle of March to July, as to enter the Earth 2 inches, and since only chance thunder showers, so that great part of their indigo is so short as not to yield a Crop, and their corn hurt, the air is fine, water good, running springs from each Hill and the Country so healthy that few or none have died since their settlement 7 or 8 years ago, they sow flax for their own use and cotton, and what Hemp they have sown is tall and good, All these high hills which they call barren, and won't take are excellent for vines, with which they are overspread but burnt down yearly, that few are left to bear grapes, the whole soil a rich red loaming soil intermixed with marchasites and spar, and after every thunder shower the earth washed away leaves, a black shining sand like pounded lead ore, or iron with particles of Spar and here are symptoms of rich mines, in many places iron ore has been found, none yet has been found in quantity to encourage the setting up of forgeries or Bloomeries, the greatest inconveniency they labour under is the want of lime stone, which they have not found nearer than the Mountains or Congeries. A german miner has just now brought down his family to my lands upon the symptoms of its being a mineral Country, and an ingenious german smelter from Pensylvania has encouraged him, and if he finds any rich and large, that he will remove, he had but just got his Tools when I was obliged to come away, but showed me some samples of Ore struck off the spary rock, one of copper which looked very rich, and others like lead or tin, iron ore he found but as he had not his Tools, he could not search into the Veins. There are very rich lead mines discovered on New river in Virginia near our Line, and I am told also within our Line, they won't at present buy lead at our stores when they buy gunpowder having enough of their own.

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There was also produced to me near the Yadkin a mineral which is either antimony or tin, of which they have discovered veins along the Country near 25 miles, but they have not been able to extract any metal from it. The river from Winyaw is navigable to the Fork of Yadkin, & Rocky river, from whence they have all their salt and heavy goods, which makes it more reasonable than the north east of that river should be our Boundary with South Carolina I had ordered Capt Waddell with our Frontier Company to scout upon the edges of the mountain, and upon their return I set out to fix upon a proper and most central place for them to winter at, and erect a Barrack, and afterwards if found proper there to build a Fort; I went N. W. to the Catawba's river, which runs by the Catawba's Town into the Santee, and proceeded Northward to the Latitude 35°, 40' to third Creek which falls into the South Yadkin, where I found an Eminence and good Springs, and fixed upon that as most central to assist the back settlers and be a retreat to them as it was beyond the well settled Country, only straggling settlements behind them, and if I had placed them beyond the Settlements without a fortification they might be exposed, and be no retreat for the Settlers, and the Indians might pass them and murder the Inhabitants, and retire before they durst go to give them notice. As I was returning I was alarmed with a report of our Troops being defeated and Generl Braddock being killed, but that night having Letters by a Messenger acquainting me with an incursion of Indians near Potomack, who had murdered some families, and another incursion on New river near the Frontiers I was in hopes it was false, and raised upon account of these murders, and I proceeded to Rocky river with design to take the Latitude of the lowest corner of my Land, and to take the Latitude of the Catawba's Town to ascertain the situation when the Boundary Line would be taken into consideration, but that night received a letter express from the North West store with Extracts of Letters from Virginia which confirmed the news of our Defeat, upon which I set out next morning, but having taken the latitude where I was about 35°, 13', at a medium of 3 observations, the South West corner of my Tract must be in 35°, 1', and not more, and from the best Accounts I had of the northerly Catawba Town, it lay very near West of it, at the Distance of about 24 miles. As I came away I sent Expresses for the field officers of the Militia of Anson and Rowan to meet me at the Yadkin, and there ordered out a piquet to be chosen out of the most active men of the Militia of each County with a chosen officer at their head of fifty men each and a central place of rendezvous to be fixed for each to the northward and Southward of our Frontier Company, to be under Captain Waddell's command,

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to join him when necessary or for him to march to assist them in case of any incursion, and ordered down two waggons to Charles Town for ammunition and two waggons here for arms, to be replaced again by the money in their hands, which they had kept in their hands, in breach of the trust reposed in them, having not so much as contracted for the same, I therefore ordered them directly to send down the money by the waggons after paying for the ammunition sent for on pain of their being immediately sued for the money, and being prosecuted for breach of Trust, and then returned express here where I arrived the 9th Instant.

I must beg leave to mention, to what I had wrote formerly in relation to the Boundary's being fixed by the river Pedee from the sea, until it reaches the latitude his Majesty may be pleased to fix it, as it seems still to appear more reasonable, since otherwise they may lay a tax upon all the necessary heavy goods which are wanted in the back Country, who have no other navigation but the Pedee, and to allow an equivalent to So Carolina beyond the Savanna towards the mountains. It will be also prudent in my judgment to fix the Catawbas in one or the other Colony being at present in the Verge of the proposed Line in 35°. And it is also I think necessary to have this decided soon for Mr. Glen to ingratiate himself with that Nation by Virtue of his old instruction, fixing the Line 30 miles west of the Springs of Cape Fear River, thinks he may dispose of these Lands as he pleases, and from a wrong Judgment has declared that he can grant Warrants within Lord Granville's Line, and has wrote to the Catawba King Haglar not to let any Englishman or European settle within 30 miles of his nation, and in his letter tells them that he has wrote to his Majesty upon it, who he is sure will make good his grant to them. This letter Haglar has produced to several of our Militia Officers of which I desired a Copy, but my unexpected sudden return prevented my getting it, this I can't conceive to be with any other View but to irritate them with the Planters of this Province, who have taken many hundred patents within that Bounds, because they won't admit the right of South Carolina, and taken out their Warrants from him, but these settlers had rather take out their rights from this Province if they could be supported, even South of 35°, because they don't like the Constitution of that Colony, for no person can commence or prosecute a suit, or defend a suit, altho' at 200 miles Distance from Charlestown, without prosecuting being heard in that Town, so that they rather choose to loose their debt, whereas we have County Courts four times a year to determine all Debts under £40 “ “ and all trespasses and small felonies, and supreme Courts by our last Law in 5 distant parts of the Province, yet Mr. Glenn would extend his power

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beyond 350 miles from the Capital, which would be a great grievance to the settlers, your Lordships may then Judge what benefit it would accrew to the Settlers if they were under the South Government, besides if I may speak as a private person, he has spirited up some of the Settlers on my Lands, which were patented in 1746, (who had not got Titles before I came over and were catching at the Lands of each other) to take out Warrants of survey from him, and he would support them, and 8 or 10 of them upon it had actually paid him for their Warrants, & the lands were surveyed for them soon after my arrival; This might have occasioned the loss of some lives, for the people near the proposed Line of 35° were not willing to yield any part of this Province to South Carolina, expecting next day it might be their own case, but as they were told the Warrant and Survey gave no Title, and I was just come over and would see it rectified they prudently declined opposing them, When Mr. Glenn would begin with me, it may be presumed no private person would escape him, if any wanted, from him.

I am persuaded your Lordships can never approve giving away 1,800,000 Acres, a circle of 60 miles diameter to a nation that does not exceed 300 Warriors, in the whole 1500 men, women and children, when before they were very easy, tho' some Planters took out Patents within 6 or 7 miles of them, and there are now many hundred families settled within that Bounds. But since I am now mentioning the Indians, I must relate what has happened last month betwixt him and these Indians and the Cherokees, and have Mr. Glen to justify what he has done at this critical Juncture, which he might have done four months sooner, and then probably our unfortunate defeat could not have happened. The Treaty he has made would have been of Vast benefit four months ago, for then he could have obtained a Vast body of Cherokee and Catawbas Indians, the want of whom was the loss of the Action, and Mr. Dinwiddie informs me that he promised to send a body of these Indians to Virginia, yet he choose the very time they were wanted to appoint a meeting for this Treaty, which most people imagine was to prevent their going and in case he could not make a merit of it when he arrived in England, he might probably choose to remove to a more southerly Country where he might make it a merit. The Treaty was carried on whilst I was in Anson, and Lieutnt Colo Clarke of the Anson Militia attended the meeting, and therefore did not come back, until I was upon my road hither, but followed & overtook me at the north west store on Cape Fear. He is esteemed to be a person of capacity and character, and he gave me the following Information of what passed and what he had heard, who is answerable for the truth of it.

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He says the Catawbas were dismissed with the Letter I have already mentioned before he arrived there, but no solicitation for aid to Virginia; but as he was informed he had moved his Council to make a great present to the Cherokees, in order to procure what is granted by the Treaty; but they answered that what he intended was to be a benefit to himself, and to make a merit of it upon his return to Britain, in order to make his peace there, and as he had obtained great riches by the Indians, and in his Government, they thought he might well afford it out of his own wealth, upon this he prepared large presents summoned near 700 people to attend him at their own Expence, to make a shew, & thus went with a great parade to the place of meeting, where he was met by about 1100 Indians, these he treated with meat and liquour for several days, whilst the Carolinians maintained themselves. One of the Chiefs of the Cherokees as [at] a meeting gave him very gross words (which he bore with patience) and said he would not return to the Conference. He then gave the Interpreter presents to the value of £100 sterl: to gain him, and bring him back to the Conference who at last prevailed with him, he eat & drank with them, took off his laced cloths and changed them with the Chief, and put on his Indian dress, and gave a fine ring which he called a diamond, and said it was worth £60 to carry to his Queen, so that by repeated presents and liquour, he prevailed with them to sign a Treaty by which they gave up all Title to the Lands they claimed towards the Mississippi to the Crown of Britain, that he saw all the Indians sign their mark, and about 700 English, with which he returned in triumph, but did not hear that they mentioned going to assist our Troops in Virginia. How far this will be meritorious time must shew, but it seems he only regarded himself and not the Public Service in choosing the only time they could have been of service to us to be the time of meeting to keep them away.

I hope upon his extraordinary Letter to the Catawbas that I shall be empowered to have a Meeting to purchase the adjoining Lands to the Catawba's Town to quiet the Indians, and leave them such a reasonable District as may be agreed upon, and whether or not His Majesty will not allow a proper sum out of his Quit rents your Lordships will advise as it is in effect securing the Settlements, and payment of the Quit Rents around them There is an Indian begotten by an Englishman, a brave man, well beloved by the Indians, who they want to make their King, as they despise Haglar he calls himself Prince of Wales, and is a great friend to the Colony, he had been in the service against St Augustine, and behaved well and killed Spaniards. Coll. Clarke recommended him to me to be made a Captain in his Nation so I sent him a Commission

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by the Coll. as that gives him a distinction in his Nation without which they dont readily elect their King.

As I have had an opportunity of seeing a great deal of the Country and Settlements, I can the more fully mention to your Lordships how far it may be necessary to enforce the Instructions of the Grants, as to the Quantity and Cultivation and insisting upon Rights. It is not now as it has been, when many valuable Tracts were lavished away in great numbers of Acres in a grant, not with an immediate view of settling or cultivating but to raise it upon the next Planter who should want valuable Lands, which were scarce near navigable rivers, where the Lands were generally swampy or sandy, one not valuable the other not to be reclaimed without considerable expence, and were therefore thrown generally into the Patent without survey, as the surveyors to save trouble would never enter into miry marshes and Thickets, nor indeed, as I have observed, have they ever closed their figure, but beginning at the March near the river, went round the 3 or more sides, until they approached the river again and then conclude, and so on to the first station only entering what the course ought to be to close the figure, without ever knowing what curves were on that Line, or proving whether their survey was right, which if wrong as too often it was, would have obliged them by their Oaths if they valued them to go over it again to find the mistake, frequently they have only marked a corner tree, then formed a square which would take in the number of acres in their Warrant, laid down the courses and lines according to that plan and that was their survey, leaving it to the Planter to mark his Trees as he pleased, and take in what more land he pleased within his marks, which were never after enquired into, some indeed exceeded this, & enquired what sort of timber was upon it and at the fire side laid down their plan, if not joined to any neighbouring Plantation then named an imaginery Tree, a pine red white or black oak or hiccory etc and so enter beginning at a hiccory and so name imaginery Trees at any angle and conclude as usual so on to the first station, leaving the people when the patent was obtained to choose on the Creek proposed what Lands they pleased and to mark it for themselves according to the plan, if they knew it if not at random. You may judge what confusion that has & does create where several Patents interlock each other, and when these were not taken up other Warrants issued and patents granted upon the same Tracts, and how any Draughts can be made, had the surveys been preserved & patents regularly entered or audited, so that no Draught of the Kings part of the Province can be had without surveying the several Counties, and afterwards running the particular Plantations, and as many of them are not contiguous,

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running a line along the vacant land to know the distance and bearing from each other. As to the granting the Lands by the Rights, I have already mentioned in my former letter of November last that I thought it would be prudent to relax me so far as to grant 640 Acres to any who demanded it, and would settle upon it The poor won't take so much, because they won't engage for too much Quit rents, which they find now they must pay, and can't cultivate so much as to save their Lands; the rich think it not worth their while to settle, without a range for their Cattle, as most of the lands along the navigable rivers have been taken up for some time, there is little left, but large ranges of pine barren & Savanna Lands with small marshes, or laurel thickets intermixed and these lands which are all that are left (except large dismal Swamps, Thickets near the Sea) to be settled, I think no limitation ought now to be made to those who would take them up by patent, and pay his Majesties Quit rents, for they are now a common, not likely to be taken up by the poor upon rights, who would rather wander farther to get better Lands, As to the back Country it is much better settled than the Sea Coast, and near Navigation, as the climate and Land is so good, and well watered, but no poor man dare venture to take up lands upon an exposed Frontier to the merciless Indians, and none but rich Planters and German Families will remove from the Northern Colonies with a View of enlarging their Properties, and having a large scope of land to divide among their children, so that 640 Acres will not be sufficient for these Migrants, and they have no way to obtain larger Grants, than to take 2 or 3 such patents either in their own or a Trustee's name for which they are obliged to pay more Fees, so that upon the whole your Lordships will judge how far to enlarge my Instructions on this Article, and not insist regularly on rights. If I was to speak on my own account it would be better for me to limit them as low as possible as more warrants and Patents would be issued for the same Land, and consequently a multiplication of Fees to me and the offices.

The instruction relative to cultivation I think cannot be put in execution with any prudence, and it is extremely difficult to know what true Cultivation is, for different parts of the Province require different kinds if it be chiefly intended to clear the Land of Wood this they already do as far as it is advantageous for them, to have land to plant and sow for their consumption when they are at a distance from the Market; their method upon entering their Lands is to cut down, where they build their Loghouses, all the Trees fit for logs near their Houses, lest they fall upon them, as many are blown up by the rocks every season, and as many as will make rails to fence their corn field, the others within the

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Bounds of the field they bark for about 2 or 3 feet round the Tree, so that they die next year, and the Bark rots and falls off, and there is a forest of white dead Trees in the field, the anual burning of the woods has cleared all the dry grounds of underwood, so with one horse plow they pare of the upper swad of grass, and sow their Indian corn etc. among these dead Trees, and use hows to earth and weed them, when plows can't do it sufficiently, in a few years these Trees rot, whilst they are taking in another field, and they proceed in the same manner. They then fell these dead Trees, and they break to pieces with the fall, and then they burn them, and all the black stumps of the Trees that are left 3 feet high remain in the field for many years before they decay, as many of these are red and black oaks and Hiccory, which won't split into rails, and are chiefly used as firewood, the bark being extremely good for tanning, tho' of little use here, but all extremely good for pot ash, the Hiccory I believe the best in the world, for its common ashes will blister like Spanish flies, and when put to it they use it as salt. It is rather a waste than improvement to loose all these Trees by being obliged to cut away more than is necessary to clear annually so many Acres, and when they have cut down more than they can sow, and lay it down in grass, in 3 or 4 years it would be a young forest, and three times more expence to clear than old woods, for the small roots shoot up every year among their Corn, and if they are not howed away grow faster than the Corn, so that without keeping them down several years, they would grow up as close as in a nursery, besides on cutting away all the old Timber, they would soon want rails for their fences, and be at considerable Expence in drawing rails for to repair them, as they soon rot, and often are burnt down, as they burn their woods notwithstanding their care to prevent it. These things considered and that the people are industrious and are desirous to cultivate as much as they can accomplish to turn to account, I think your Lordships will think it prudent to relax that Instruction, since no jury here would vacate the Lands that are occupied, the word cultivation being of so large a signification, as not often to determine what is or what is not cultivation, so that if the Patentee seats and occupies the Land, and pays his Majestie's Quit rents, I hope you will think that sufficient. I have nothing further to remark upon at this time, but hope your Lordships will consider whether upon Mr. Glen's letter to the Catawba's, you won't think it proper to limit what land that nation should have, and advise his Majesty to allow a sum out of his Quit Rents sufficient to induce them to quit with their surplus Lands, and not think of giving up 180000 acres of land, the Quit rents of which would amount to £2700 per annum to comply with Mr. Glen's ill judged proposal or make these
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Indians ill neighbours, who at present upon it go and shoot the Planters Cattle and Hogs, and go into their Houses and take what they please, having been supported by him, and I hope you will not delay fixing the Boundary Line, otherwise great confusions will ensue on raising Taxes, which some who have paid now refuse, expecting to be supported by the South Government.

I hope your Lordships have got my Letter about fixing the seat of Government about 40 miles higher up this river, to which I refer as it will be highly necessary to do it soon, as all our offices are in great confusion, & don't know where to fix them.

We are going on with the Battery at Core Banks to secure Ocacock Harbour, and if the War continue there will be an absolute necessity of Artillery and Stores for that Battery, and Fort Johnston at Cape Fear, for which I apply'd last winter. As I had applied to your Lordships, I thought it also proper at this Critical juncture to apply to Sir Thomas Robinson for artillery and stores both for the Fort and for the Battery at Ocacock, and also for 20 barrels of Gunpowder as we have none in the Colony, and our powder Duty can't be yet received in kind only in money until the masters of Vessels frequenting this Trade come to know it. I am with the greatest respect

My Lords, yours, &c.,

Newbern 24th Augt 1755.