Documenting the American South Logo
Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Theodorus Swaine Drage to Daniel Burton
Drage, Theodorus Swaine, ca. 1712-1774
February 28, 1771
Volume 08, Pages 502-507

[N. C. Letter Book S. P. G.]
Letter from Revd Mr Drage to the Secretary.

Salisbury St Lukes Parish, North Carolina, Feby 28th 1771.

Reverend Sir,

I ask the favor of you to inform the Honorable Society, that I did not before transmit an account relating to my mission by reason of uncertainty of my situation. The place where I reside is named Salisbury in the parish of St Luke in the county of Rowan, Three hundred miles distant from the Seat of Government, and near Four hundred from the Sea, Fine air, temperate climate and a fertile country. It was with his Excellency Governor Tryons approbation I came into these parts having received repeated applications from the people for a church Minister, two thirds of whom are of the church of England, the other a motly mixture, but the most distinguishable are the Irish Dissenters, who had the whole power of Government, as to these parts, invested in them by the late Governor: also composed of many different Sects. His Excellency Mr Tryon was apprehensive there would be an opposition as to my settlement from them.

I found the people of the church of England disheartened, and dispersed like Sheep, but have collected them into about forty congregations, or have as many preaching places where I meet them, consisting upon a moderate calculation of Seven thousand souls men women and children or 900 families inhabiting a country of one hundred and eighty miles in length and one hundred and

-------------------- page 503 --------------------
twenty in breadth of whom I have baptized since the 20th of December 1769 and the 20th of December 1770.—The Reverend Mr Cupples having also baptized many the preceding Summer, being on a visit into these parts—

Under one year of their age
Two years of age
Three years of age
Four years of age
Five years of age
Six years of age
Seven years of age
Eight years of age
Nine years of age
Ten years of age
Eleven years of age
Between Twelve years of age and Sixteen years of age,
Sixteen years of age and Twenty years of age,
Twenty years of age and Sixty years of age,

There is a law here, that the freeholders shall annually choose on Easter Monday twelve men as a vestry to manage parish affairs. A Freeholder is properly a person who hath got a Deed or Patent for his land, but for some years past the Lord Carteret, who is proprietor of the Soil in the part where I am, hath granted no patents and the Irish Dissenters being possessed of their Patents before that time, therefore make up the principal number of the Freeholders, and have the power of determining all Elections to their views. On the Election Easter Monday 1770 their list was composed of nine Magistrates, two of whom were members for the county in the Assembly, one Captain of militia, and two senior Elders (all Dissenters) the Election in their favor and then they would not qualify, this had been practiced the year before, declared they could keep out the church by this means, had done it, and always would. The voters further said their purpose in voting, was, not as to whom should compose the vestry, but that there might be none, upon which those of the other List, who were members of the church of England, men of repute and character, excepting one declared they would act as a vestry, met, but proceeded no further, than to answer a Letter from his Excellency the Governor sent by

-------------------- page 504 --------------------
me directed to the Vestry of St Lukes parish which he supposed there was at that time, in which they returned him thanks for the kind provision he made as to a clergyman and desired he would be pleased to give me an immediate Presentation.

I wrote an account to his Excellency of the proceedings, that the members of the church of England had behaved with moderation, and avoided any riot or disturbance, which apparently was designed on the part of the Dissenters, submitting it entirely to his opinion as to presenting me or not, assuring him I rested satisfied with what he should determine. His Excellency was pleased to send me a Presentation in July with an approbation of my conduct in very obliging Terms.

The members of the Church of England prepared a petition in November in which they set forth the great favor the Governor had done them in sending me for their Minister and desired an act might pass to take away this their incapacity for want of Deeds, that parishioners might vote for Vestrymen as in England. This Petition was sent down signed by the most reputable and worthy part of the Inhabitants of the parish, though the names of the greatest part of the persons who signed, which would have exceeded a thousand, did not come time enough to hand to be transmitted. The petitioners did not doubt of success, and it was what the Governor gave encouragement to in his Letter under the name of a Memorial, to put it out of the power of the Dissenters to evade the Law and prevent a Vestry; But it hath so happened that the petition which was sent to the House of Assembly by His Excellency did not meet with the desired success, and the Dissenters to repeat the same mode of evading the Law.

A petition also from these parts was presented on the part of the Dissenters, formed by the Synod which meets at Philadelphia for an act to pass not to pay towards the support of the Parish Minister, to publish and marry by their own clergy, an act directly levelled at the constitution, contrary to the original and subsequent charters, to many Acts of Assembly and the instruction given the Governor with respect to the Toleration, is passed, with a suspending clause until His Majesty's pleasure be known.

It would be supposed from the request of this their petition that there are many Dissenting clergy in this Country, there is but one, neither hath there been any regular congregation for Fifteen years, as the Dissenters can not agree in principles. They have only Itinerant

-------------------- page 505 --------------------
preachers, who come from the Northward, preach once in a place, and return, getting considerable contribution from the people of the church of England as well as from others. The Dissenters countenance any Fellow who will stand up and preach in any part of the Parish, but in their Settlements in order to distract and make confusion amongst the rest of the people. This under the name of Anabaptists and as to what they in part apply for under protection of Law, they have and do practice against the Laws which are in force at present, marry by their own Justices and Itinerant preachers, bidding me defiance and paying no Marriage Fees. The Courts of Law are open to me, and the penalty Five pounds but they would represent me as litigous, and it might submit me to a peculiar insult. I aim at a regular conduct, and to be diligent in the discharge of my office, which is disagreeable to them. Being also superior to any little insult and giving no offence, peace is preserved.

The late Assembly have taken off one whole county out of my parish, also another part, which with a part taken from an adjoining county, makes also a second new county. These are named for Parishes but in the division it is so considered, and the thing principally consulted, that the Dissenters, separate Baptists, and Moravians should be the stronger or have an equal Interest with the church of England with the view if possible to prevent any clergymen from being received. The meaning that they should not pay to the Ministers of the church of England, is not merely with respect to the Ministers Salary which the members of the Church of England would afford, but the building of a church at a proper time, chapels, paying readers or clerks Salaries, purchasing a Glebe and building a House is a Tax which they could not for some time afford, and the Dissenters have told the separate Baptists who were in a declining way since my arrival, and really not under the act of Toleration in the manner they act, That they are as legal congregations as the church of England, and have nothing to pay towards the support of the church. They design a third county, which stopped with the council, by this they would have so limited me that I should not have had fifty families of the church of England in my parish, a proper Division of the counties would have been very agreeable to me, as the scene of my Labours was too extensive to have the proper efficacy, but by a constant application have succeeded so through the blessing of God to give the church of England

-------------------- page 506 --------------------
a countenance, before not seen here, concealed in the hearts of the People.

I thought it my duty to represent the state of the church here, which it was expected by the members of the church of England, as well as by those of the Lutheran church, and the Quakers also by most of the Presbyterians, would have been supported by Government and as the Members of those of the church of England and of those who are desirous of its establishment are five to one of the others; but most of them disqualified for want of Deeds, all their hope now is, as there is a suspending clause in the Law by the case thus being made known to the honorable Society they shall meet with their gracious protection and assistance that such law may not be in force.

I am greatly obliged to the Honorable Society for the honor that hath been done my Draughts, as I have received but few fees taking nothing for Baptism, no burial fees allowed, and excepting their assistance am entirely at my own expence, cannot send for my family, as there is a years salary now due from the parish and no Vestry to assess it, and have little expectation but it will be the same as to the current year, as there is no probability of a Vestry, no great reliance can be had on a free donation of the people, as money is scarce, and it carries a subjection with it.

From my manner of behaviour and steady zealous discharge of my duty, the Dissenters fear the church will be settled in a peaceable and quiet manner amongst them, therefore are indefatigable in their schemes to prevent it, but only by preventing any addition to their power, the constitution of the province preserved on the present footing, the church of England through the favor of the Almighty will steal like a slow still water upon them and establish itself in all these parts.

I have herewith sent you copies of the several papers mentioned in this address.—Pray present my duty to the Honorable Society and assure them of my most faithful services, and zealous discharge of my Function.

I am yours &c.
Rector of St Luke's Parish.

P. S.—The Bearers hereof are two Germans, my Parishioners, who are commissioned by the Governor to collect in England and Germany, towards a sum which sixty Lutheran families propose to

-------------------- page 507 --------------------
raise as a capital, with the Interest of which to maintain a Lutheran Clergyman and a schoolmaster and whom they are to bring from Germany. The union they desire to live in with the Church of England and the kind assistance they are at all times ready to give, and frequently those who understand English attend the service, I hope will recommend them to the notice of the Honorable Society, and would be a means of cementing the union which at present exists amongst all the Lutherans in these parts, who are a very considerable body of people.