Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lost Granville Grants

Eve B. Weeks transcribed the Register of Orange some years back. The Register was a notebook used by the Clerk of Court from 1752 to 1768 to note minimal information about deeds that were proved at each session of Court. The list of deeds does not include legal descriptions of the parcels being conveyed, but it does give the names of grantors, grantees and the acreage for each parcel.

This list of deeds is important and useful for early Orange County land record research because all but one of the pre-Revolutionary deed books of Orange County were destroyed in the aftermath of the Revolution. Though one deed book survived and though many deeds were brought back in to be re-recorded, it appears that a whole lot of information was lost. For many parcels in Orange County, the Register of Orange is the only pre-Revolutionary information we have.

I find Weeks’ transcript particularly interesting because it includes references to at least 133 grants from Earl Granville which do not appear in the surviving Granville Land Office Records for Orange County (housed at the NC State Archive). In a few cases, I was able to trace some later title history for some of these lost Granville Grants by looking at the names of the parties to the deeds and the acreage. While I cannot be certain that all of the connections drawn below are in fact correct, I present my notes here. Please take the following with a grain of salt.

References such as w534 refer to line number 534 in Weeks's transcript of the Register of Orange. ODB 3/23 refers to Orange County Deed Book 3, page 24.

Here then are the Lost Granville Grants:

w534 Earl Granville to John Alston, 300 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w738 Earl Granville to Joseph Anderson, 24 acres, proved: August 14, 1759 w701 James Anderson to Isaac Anderson 240ac? Nothing further in Weeks.

w842 Earl Granville to John Armstrong, 250 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 w2465 John Armstrong to Stephen Norton 250ac Nothing further in Weeks.

w211 Earl Granville to Thomas Armstrong, 300 acres, proved: March 9, 1756 w144 Thos Armstrong to Thos Harrison 300 ac. See also ODB1/47 Nothing further in Weeks.

w232 Earl Granville to James Bailey, 422 acres, proved: June 8, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w334 Earl Granville to Joseph Barbee, 640 acres, proved: December 14, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w467 Earl Granville to William Barbee, 585 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 Nothing further in Weeks.

w814 Earl Granville to William Blakeley, 362 acres, proved: November 11, 1760 w1721 James Blackley to James Dinkins 362 ac. Nothing further in Weeks.

w588 Earl Granville to Margaret Boggan, 216 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 w543 Margaret Boggan to John Brown 216ac Nothing further in Weeks.

w650 Earl Granville to James Bowie, 295 acres, proved: December 12, 1769 or 1759? Nothing further in Weeks.

w1188 Earl Granville to Henry Braswell, 346 acres, proved: November 8, 1763 Nothing further in Weeks.

w535 Earl Granville to Watson Bromfields, 320 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w740 Earl Granville to Joel Brooks, 258 acres, proved: August 14, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2090 Earl Granville to John Brooks, 400 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 Nothing further in Weeks.

w597 Earl Granville to Frederick Brown, 233 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 perhaps w1668 Fred'k Brown to Phillip Cooper 116ac Nothing further in Weeks.

w608 Earl Granville to Robert Bumpas, 648 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Weeks shows some Transactions within the Bumpass family but nothing that is clearly this land.

w2234 Earl Granville to Peter Burmor, 223 acres, proved: November 12, 1765 w2312 Peter Brusnor to Francis Nash 223ac. w2389 Francis Nash to George Lea 223ac.

w1194 Earl Granville to William Cannon, 328 acres, proved: November 8, 1763 Nothing further in Weeks.

w258 Earl Granville to James Carter, 640 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w463 Earl Granville to James Cary, 2 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 w2000 James Cary to Thomas King 2ac Nothing further in Weeks.

w1489 Earl Granville to Edward Chambers, - acres, proved: February 14, 1764 w1667 EdwChambers to Burges Harrelson 528ac ?? Nothing further in Weeks.

w288 Earl Granville to William Chambers, 200 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w255 Earl Granville to William Churton, 900 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w259 Earl Granville to William Churton, 510 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w271 Earl Granville to William Churton, 332 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w1169 Earl Granville to William Churton, 256 acres, proved: November 8, 1763 Nothing further in Weeks.

w260 Earl Granville to William Churton, 300 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 w1640 Wm Churton to Abraham Hill 300ac? Nothing further in Weeks.

w536 Earl Granville to George Clapp, 320 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w626 Earl Granville to Thomas Clark, 304 acres, proved: December 12, 1769 or 1759? Nothing further in Weeks.

w472 Earl Granville to Francis Collins, 320 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 Nothing further in Weeks.

w807 Earl Granville to Samuel Craig, 237.5 acres, proved: November 11, 1760 Nothing further in Weeks.

w855 Earl Granville to John Curson, 337 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 w2671 John Carson to Daniel Cloud 337ac Nothing further in Weeks.

w2108 Earl Granville to Jacob Cushall, 228 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 w2643 Jacob Cushatt to Isaac Towns 228 ac Nothing further in Weeks.

w486 Earl Granville to Thomas Dobbins, 475 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w351 Earl Granville to John Dunnagan, 640 acres, proved: March 8, 1757 w300 John Dunnagan to John Gray 640ac? Nothing further in Weeks.

w2519 Earl Granville to Thomas Dunnagan, 200 acres, proved: November 10, 1767 Nothing further in Weeks.

w1583 Earl Granville to John Forrest, 329 acres, proved: May 15,1764 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2048 Earl Granville to Gabriel Freeman, 500 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 Nothing further in Weeks.

w894 Earl Granville to Thomas Gibson, 200 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 Nothing further in Weeks.

w895 Earl Granville to Thomas Gibson, 50 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 See ODB 3/468 and 3/401. Nothing further in Weeks.

w2091 Earl Granville to David Hambree, 400 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 w928 David Embree to David Alley 400ac. Nothing further in Weeks.

w866 Earl Granville to Samuel Harrington, 394 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2041 Earl Granville to John Hawkins, 308 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 Nothing further in Weeks.

w314 Earl Granville to James H

ricks, 200 acres, proved: December 14, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w843 Earl Granville to Samuel Henley, 400 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 w2517 Sam'l Henley to Wm Hill 280ac?? Nothing further in Weeks.

w308 Earl Granville to John Holley, 200 acres, proved: December 14, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w728 Earl Granville to Nathaniel Howel, 700 acres, proved: August 14, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w446 Earl Granville to James Hunter, 200 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 Nothing further in Weeks.

w476 Earl Granville to Harmon Husbands, 640 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 Nothing further in Weeks.

w477 Earl Granville to Harmon Husbands, 375 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 Nothing further in Weeks.

w1542 Earl Granville to Harmon Husbands, 696 acres, proved: May 15,1764 Nothing further in Weeks.

w265 Earl Granville to Osborn Jeffers, 605 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w269 Earl Granville to Osborn Jeffers, 126 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 w2653 Ozborne Jeffers to Jones Griffin 126ac. Nothing further in Weeks.

w473 Earl Granville to Francis Johnson, 640 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 Nothing further in Weeks.

w313 Earl Granville to Henry Johnson, 269 acres, proved: December 14, 1756 w339 Henry Johnson to Francis Shoemaker 50ac?? Nothing further in Weeks.

w210 Earl Granville to William Johnson, 540 acres, proved: December 9, 1755 w291 Wm Johnson to James Elliot 540ac. w292 Jas. Elliot to William Reed 540ac.

w480 Earl Granville to Francis Jones, 500 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w469 Earl Granville to Robert Jones, 384 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 Nothing further in Weeks.

w470 Earl Granville to Robert Jones, 500 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 Probably a repeat of w480. Nothing further in Weeks.

w516 Earl Granville to Robert Jones, 384 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Probably a repeat of w470 Nothing further in Weeks.

w95 Earl Granville to Edward Jones Saddler, 395 acres, proved: January 14, 1755 Nothing further in Weeks.

w215 Earl Granville to John Jones Saddler, 250 acres, proved: March 9, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w471 Earl Granville to Richard Kenady, 382 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 w705 Wm Kennedy to Francis Day 382ac. w704 Francis Day to William Castleberry 382ac.

w347 Earl Granville to Edward Kirksey, 300 acres, proved: March 8, 1757 Nothing further in Weeks.

w459 Earl Granville to Thomas Langley, 360 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 w187 Thos. Langley to Edward Williams 150ac?? Nothing further in Weeks.

w332 Earl Granville to John Lawrence, 640 acres, proved: December 14, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w335 Earl Granville to John Lawrence, 640 acres, proved: December 14, 1756 Repeat of w332? Nothing further in Weeks.

w2063 Earl Granville to Luke Lea, 700 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 w1405 Luke Lea to Thomas Rue 174ac? w1611 Luke Lea to John Graves 174 ac? Nothing further in Weeks.

w952 Earl Granville to Enoch Lewis, 550 acres, proved: November 10, 1761 Nothing further in Weeks.

w51 Earl Granville to Enoch Lewis, 295 acres, proved: December 11, 1753 w714 Enoch Lewis to Richard Cheek 295ac. Nothing further in Weeks.

w739 Earl Granville to John Lewis, 600 acres, proved: August 14, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w249 Earl Granville to Thomas Lloyd, 630 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w622 Earl Granville to Thomas Lloyd, 195 acres, proved: December 12, 1769 or 1759? Nothing further in Weeks.

w759 Earl Granville to Henry Maddock, 300 acres, proved: November 11, 1760 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2043 Earl Granville to Zachariah Martin, 180 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 Nothing further in Weeks.

w148 Earl Granville to James May, 240 acres, proved: September 9, 1755 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2135 Earl Granville to Henry Eustace McCulloch, 1000 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2136 Earl Granville to Henry Eustace McCulloch, 1120 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 Nothing further in Weeks.

w1189 Earl Granville to James McElroy, 550 acres, proved: November 8, 1763 w1497 Jas McElroy to Absolam McDaniel 350ac?? w1588 Jas McElroy to William Trogdon no ac. given?? Some subsequent deeds from Abs. McDaniel listed in Weeks, but no clear connection to this grant.

w857 Earl Granville to William McFurs?, 231 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 Nothing further in Weeks.

w1183 Earl Granville to James McWhithon, 693 acres, proved: November 8, 1763 Nothing further in Weeks.

w209 Earl Granville to Alexander Mebane, 320 acres, proved: December 9, 1755 Nothing further in Weeks.

w779 Earl Granville to Alexander Mebane, 612 acres, proved: November 11, 1760 w773 Alex'r Mebane to Thomas Ogle 612 ac. w1481 Thomas Ogle to Jacob Summers 612ac.

w275 Earl Granville to Benjamin Merritt, 75 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 w220 Benjamin Merritt to Ann Smith 75ac. w1942 Ann Smith to Martha Smith 75ac.

w762 Earl Granville to James Merritt, 450 acres, proved: November 11, 1760 Nothing further in Weeks.

w537 Earl Granville to John Mitchell, 500 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w207 Earl Granville to Edmund Moore, 145 acres, proved: December 9, 1755 w503 Edw. Moor to William Jay 145ac. Nothing further in Weeks.

w251 Earl Granville to William Moore, 400 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 See ODB 3/373. Nothing further in Weeks.

w243 Earl Granville to Mark Morgan, acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w828 Earl Granville to John Murdock, 355 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 w1960 John Murdock to John Emree 355ac. Nothing further in Weeks.

w492 Earl Granville to John Overton, 200 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 w713 John Overton to Robert Wilkins 170ac? See also ODB 3/526. Nothing further in Weeks.

w362 Earl Granville to Richard Parker, 456 acres, proved: March 8, 1757 w2142 Rd. Parker to Elijah Cain 140ac?? Nothing further in Weeks.

w465 Earl Granville to John Patterson, 530 acres, proved: September 12, 1758 w451 John Patterson to Charles Johnson 530ac. Nothing further in Weeks.

w204 Earl Granville to Robert Patterson, 640 acres, proved: December 9, 1755 Nothing further in Weeks.

w248 Earl Granville to David Pinkerton, 250 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w1549 Earl Granville to Samuel Portis, 700 acres, proved: May 15,1764 Nothing further in Weeks.

w1547 Earl Granville to Phillip Pryor, 238 acres, proved: May 15,1764 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2114 Earl Granville to John Rainey, 400 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 Nothing further in Weeks.

w353 Earl Granville to Thomas Ransome, 634 acres, proved: March 8, 1757 Nothing further in Weeks.

w161 Earl Granville to William Reed, 112 acres, proved: September 9, 1755 w747 Wm Reed to Barnaby Cabe 112ac. See ODB 1/88. Nothing further in Weeks.

w823 Earl Granville to William Reeves, 660 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2089 Earl Granville to AndrewRollinger, 275 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 Nothing further in Weeks.

w621 Earl Granville to Stephen Scarlet, 1 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2087 Earl Granville to John Sharp, 365 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 w906 John Sharp to Nathaniel Walton 200ac? Nothing further in Weeks.

w359 Earl Granville to Henry Simmons, 500 acres, proved: March 8, 1757 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2023 Earl Granville to Richard Simpson, 100 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 w434 Rd. Simpson to Daniel Adams 100ac?? Note that the deed to Adams was proved much earlier than the Granville grant however. Nothing further in Weeks.

w732 Earl Granville to Robert Stewart, 186 acres, proved: August 14, 1759 w1380 Robert Stuart to Francis Dorset 186ac. Nothing further in Weeks.

w1243 Earl Granville to Michael Synnot, 250 acres, proved: November 8, 1763 w1427 Michael Synnot to William Ray 250ac? Nothing further in Weeks.

w1947 Earl Granville to George Tabor, 269 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 Nothing further in Weeks.

w205 Earl Granville to Hosea Tapley, 400 acres, proved: December 9, 1755 See ODB 1/175. Nothing further in Weeks.

w245 Earl Granville to James Taylor, 356 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w246 Earl Granville to James Taylor, - acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w400 Earl Granville to James Taylor, 276 acres, proved: December 13, 1757 Nothing further in Weeks.

w134 Earl Granville to James Taylor, 640 acres, proved: September 9, 1755 w546 James Taylor to William Few640ac? Nothing further in Weeks.

w556 Earl Granville to James Taylor, 640 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 w546 James Taylor to William Few640ac? Nothing further in Weeks.

w637 Earl Granville to James Taylor, 381 acres, proved: December 12, 1769 or 1759? w23 James Taylor to Thomas Wiley 381ac. w96 Thomas Wiley to William Reed 381ac.

w858 Earl Granville to William Ursery, 252 acres, proved: February 13, 1761 Nothing further in Weeks.

w206 Earl Granville to Aaron Van Hook, 400 acres, proved: December 9, 1755 Several VanHook to VanHook transactions, though nothing that is clearly this parcel. Nothing further in Weeks.

w2033 Earl Granville to James Vestal, 183 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 w2513 James Vestal to Enoch Pugh 183ac. Nothing further in Weeks.

w273 Earl Granville to John Wade, 430 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w366 Earl Granville to John Wade, 500 acres, proved: March 8, 1757 Nothing further in Weeks.

w367 Earl Granville to John Wade, 384 acres, proved: March 8, 1757 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2047 Earl Granville to John Wade, 620 acres, proved: August 13, 1765 w46 John Wade to James Wilkinson 620ac. Note that the Granville grant was proved much later than the deed to Wilkinson however. Nothing further in Weeks.

w230 Earl Granville to James Watson, 577 acres, proved: March 9, 1756 w177 Jas Watson to William Moreat (or Mowat) 577ac. See ODB 1/116. w/231 Wm Moreat to James. Watson 577ac. Possibly a deed of trust and a subsequent cancellation of deed of trust? Nothing further in Weeks.

w1590 Earl Granville to Robert Wells, 229 acres, proved: May 15,1764 Nothing further in Weeks.

w2257 Earl Granville to Robert West, 576 acres, proved: May 13, 1766 Nothing further in Weeks.

w90 Earl Granville to John White, 227 acres, proved: January 14, 1755 Nothing further in Weeks.

w262 Earl Granville to John White, 385 acres, proved: September 13, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w1544 Earl Granville to Robert Wiley, 700 acres, proved: May 15,1764 Nothing further in Weeks.

w1219 Earl Granville to William Wiley, 484 acres, proved: November 8, 1763 w2306 Wm Wiley to John Wiley 242ac? Also w2307 Wm Wiley to John Wiley 242ac? Two different transactions conveying the entire 484ac?? Nothing further in Weeks.

w317 Earl Granville to Robert Willson, 265 acres, proved: December 14, 1756 Nothing further in Weeks.

w690 Earl Granville to William Wilson, 416 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

w533 Earl Granville to James Woods, 200 acres, proved: March 13, 1759 Nothing further in Weeks.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November Fifth

In 1991, as a 20 year-old rising Senior at the University of North Carolina, I did the most outlandish and absurd thing I have ever done in my life. Once and for all, here is the story:

Though my father was a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Washington, he was in reality what was known in former centuries as a Naturalist. He was fascinated by the natural world and its inner workings. I grew up helping him hunt in the woods for mushrooms to distill in his laboratory. Wherever we travelled, my father always made a point of knowing all the trees and wildflowers. We camped in the rain on the Olympic Peninsula, in the snow in the Canadian Rockies and in the heat and sun in the California deserts. If you keep up with me on FaceBook, then you already know that my father taught me to be likewise fascinated by the natural world.

When I was ten, my parents sent me to a summer camp that focused on science education. Nature Camp is tucked into a valley in the Blue Ridge in Virginia, inside the George Washington National Forest. Nature Camp taught me a tremendous amount about science and nature, but there was much more I came to understand over the 8 summers that I was a camper there.

At camp I learned that the natural world is under constant assault from the works of humankind. Our cars and factories pollute our atmosphere; our streets and houses pollute our waterways. Our unrelenting demand for metal, paper and most of all petroleum is drives us to tap into more and more remote areas, destroying the few remaining wild areas of our planet. But I also learned at camp that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can reduce our impact through conservation; we can use resources more efficiently; we can live our lives in ways that protect the natural world.

The summer before I went to college I joined the staff of Nature Camp and I worked there every summer in college. That Fall I came to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Freshman. Outside the classroom, I got involved on campus by working at the Daily Tar Heel – doing paste-up for the editorial page every afternoon, selecting which letters-to -the-editor to print etc. But by my Sophomore year, I was sick of being on the outside of the discussion looking in. So I left the Daily Tar Heel staff and joined a relatively new student activist organization, the Student Environmental Action Coalition.

For the next 3 years, the University considered my major to be Geography, but in reality I majored in Student Activism. I was one of the central people in SEAC; for two years I co-chaired the Tar Heel Recycling Program (TARP). TARP was the first recycling program on campus and it was entirely student lead, funded and run. John Heiderscheidt, Bonnie Moellenbrock and I worked hard to both expand our recycling program and agitate for the Chancellor to increase and institutionalize waste reduction and recycling.

Ruby Sinreich and I worked on several environmental issues involving Chapel Hill Town government, advocating against raising the bus fare and in favor of building sidewalks and bikelanes. We fought the UNC administration (successfully) on their proposed Southern Loop and on the Pittsboro Street Extension, among other issues. In the Spring of 1991, Student Body President Matt Heyd appointed me as the Student Government Liaison to the Town of Chapel Hill and I became still more involved in Chapel Hill town government.

The summer of 1991 was my fourth summer on staff at Nature Camp. Working at Camp we got one day off each week. In the second week of Second Session, fellow Tar Heel Caroline Philson and I drove down to Chapel Hill for our co-inciding days off. On the way back, we stopped at the Orange County Board of Elections office in Hillsborough, where as a fresh-faced 20-year old, I filed to run for the Chapel Hill Town Council. By the time we got back to Nature Camp that night, I was being summoned to the phone in the back of the kitchen to be interviewed by reporters.

At the end of Closing Week at Camp, I did not take off on an August road trip west across the continent as I had in past summers. Instead I headed straight for Chapel Hill. Academically, the fall semester was more or less a blur for me; I spent all my time knocking on doors and organizing canvassers, not studying for exams. Friends like Ruby Sinreich, Caitlin Reed, Caroline Philson, Chris Marthinson, Mark Kleinschmidt, Donna Bell, Preston Dunlop, Richard Hess, and many others helped canvas neighborhoods, make yard signs, hand out flyers and everything else! We must have knocked on half the doors in Chapel Hill that fall.

Not long into the campaign season, one of the incumbents in the race, Joe Herzenberg, began giving me advice about people I needed to talk to and neighborhoods I needed to visit. It was an at-large pick-four race, so Joe and I weren’t necessarily running against each other; four of the thirteen candidates would win that fall. Joe and the other incumbent Roosevelt Wilkerson were a shoe-in for re-election, so the race was really all about which 2 of the 11 challengers would pick up the third and fourth place seats.

You don’t need to know much about the other candidates in order to guess that my candidacy was, from the start, a bit implausible. I had only lived in Chapel Hill for three years. I was just 20 years old, and I wasn’t even a property-tax-payer at the time. Meanwhile Joe Capowski, a middle-aged neighborhood activist and instructor at UNC was looking a whole lot more like the demographic profile of the Chapel Hill Town Council. But the environmental themes and issues addressed by my campaign resonated with a lot of people in Chapel Hill, and soon many people knew about ‘that student environmentalist candidate’ – even if they might not yet have been able to remember my name.

Local Sierra Club activist Greg Gangi strategized that the local Sierra Club chapter could maximize the impact of its endorsement by being the first in the season to issue endorsements and I was honored to receive their support. The progenitor organization of the Hank Anderson Breakfast Club soon followed suit and so did the Orange County Greens. All of these endorsements felt great and gave my campaign a lot of momentum. When the Independent endorsed my campaign, I was elated.

Cal Horton later told me that a few days before the election he saw Roosevelt Wilkerson leaving Town Hall on a Friday night and asked for a prediction about whether there would be any surprises on election day. Roosevelt Wilkerson looked at him stone-faced and said: “Mark Chilton is going to win.”

Election day was long, I stood outside the polls handing out flyers and talking to voters from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM. When the polls closed, we all gathered at Estelle Mabry’s house. Early returns showed me trailing in 7th place but with only a modest margin separating me from a 4th place win. I was scheduled to go on WCHL and Village Cable simultaneously around 9 pm for an in-studio interview with the one and only Roland Giduz. So I drove over to McClamroch Circle to be interviewed listening to updates on 1360 AM.


Back in 1991, I ran on a platform of expanding public transportation, building bike lanes and sidewalks, reducing solid waste and increasing recycling opportunities. Many, many people deserve credit for where our community is today on these issues, but I played my part. Orange County was the first and only county to achieve the state mandated waste reduction goals and continues to lead all other counties in recycling and waste reduction. We have an expanded public transportation system with no bus fares at all on Chapel Hill Transit. Chapel Hill and Carrboro have built miles of new bike lanes, greenways and sidewalks and many other improvements are funded and/or in the works.

I am proud of all the environmental initiatives that I have helped further in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Back in the early 1990’s some elected officials would talk about Light Rail as being a distant dream for the Research Triangle, but next year we hope to vote as a County on whether to tax ourselves ¼ of a percent to actually build a Light Rail system.

Back then, when OWASA would talk about its 30 year water supply plan, fellow Councilmembers would smirk and whisper, “2022? I’ll be dead by then!” I whispered back: “And I’ll be your age.” In 1991, I was always the youngest person at any governmental meeting. Now, I am occasionally still the youngest person in a meeting, but it is getting rare. In the intervening time, we’ve upped OWASA’s water supply planning horizon to 50 years – through 2061! And I am the one who will probably be dead by then.


Over at the Village Cable studio on election night the cameraman said we were to go on the air in 30 seconds and I was sweaty and uncomfortable. The race was not over yet, but things were looking grim and somehow I was going to have to make my way through this interview while still unsure whether I had won or lost. “15 seconds.” Then suddenly the news desk called out new vote totals with all precincts reporting. Roosevelt was right. Three thousand and thirteen people went to the polls that Tuesday and marked their ballots for Mark H. Chilton, putting me in 4th place and picking up the fourth seat up for grabs that fall! Instantly I was a Cheshire Cat as we went live on Village Cable and Roland congratulated me on my victory.

After the interview, I drove back to Estelle Mabry’s house on Pritchard Avenue to find the house and yard exploding with disbelieving supporters and I started to realize how few of my supporters actually believed that I was going to win! As the party subsided, a core group made its way over to Joe Herzenberg’s victory party around the corner at Columbia Street Bakery.

After celebrating with Joe and his supporters, I finally got home probably near midnight. As Council-Member Elect of the Town of Chapel Hill, I slept that night as soundly as I had slept in months.

I’ve already gone on longer about all this than I should have, but my life changed forever that Election Day. This morning I have been thinking about that day a lot. You see, that was November 5th, 1991 - twenty years ago today.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Alston Quarter or Porter Tract

Some readers of this blog recently bought a copy of the map Old Land Claims of the Saxapahaw Quadrangle. They wrote to say that they live near Saxapahaw and enjoy going for walks in the area including near the Alston Quarter. I've written a little about the Alston Quarter before, but having learned a bit more in the last few years, I figured now would be a good time to post some information here about the origins of the Alston Quarter.

The Alston Quarter or Austin Quarter is a large area just east of Saxapahaw in Alamance County along Austin Quarter Road, and occupying the area north and west of the confluence of the Haw River and Little Cane Creek - part of the Saxapahaw Old Fields. It was a part of a larger tract of 3,025 acres which was one of the first European land grants anywhere within 75+ miles of here.

The 3,025 acre tract was granted to John Porter by patent bearing the date 12 Nov 1728 , although it may well have been granted a little later, but back dated. It seems that after the Lords Proprietors of Carolina sold 7/8ths of Carolina to the King of England in 1729, but before the King's new Governor arrived in early 1731, the out-going colonial administrators issued themselves and their cronies huge land grants all over North Carolina. These grants were issued in 1729 and 1730, but back-dated to look as though they had happened before the King bought the colony back, so that the King's new agents would never collect the payments for those grants - presumably the colonial officials were pocketing the money - if there was even any payment made for these grants at all. It's not clear whether the Porter Tract (i.e. the Alston Quarter) was among those that were obtained fraudulently or not, but it may well have been.

John Porter apparently sold this land to Roger Moore in the 1730's or 40's. Roger Moore’s 1751 will (NHDB C, pg 288) left to his son George Moore “all that Tract of Land I bought of Mr. John Porter, Decd., on the No. West [Cape Fear] River at or Near the Saxapahaw Old fields, being Three Thousand & Twenty five Acres.”

The property passed to George Moore’s sons who leased all 3,025 acres to one Thomas Davis shortly after the Revolution. Governor Samuel Ashe purchased the shares of several of George Moore’s sons, assembling for himself over 1,350 contiguous acres along Cane Creek and the Haw River, about 45% of the original Porter Tract.

One of Gov. Ashe’s deeds gives us a glimpse of how the Ashes were using the Porter Tract in the early 19th century, mentioning that the property was conveyed “with all the Rents Except the wheat and the Rent from John Smart and the Oats sewed by the said Ashe and others.”

Thomas S. and Richard D. Ashe subsequently sold this 1,350 acres to Samuel S. Jackson and Jackson sold the property to Joseph John Alston in the early 19th Century. The Alston name is the one that has stuck to this land, the area still being known as the Alston Quarter – or Austin Quarter - today.

In 1779 John Elliott, Mary Taylor and others obtained state land grants, which were in direct conflict with the 1728 Porter grant. For example, Elliott’s state grant NC387 would have included about 1/3 of the 1,000+ acres that Richard D. Ashe sold to Samuel Jackson. The state grantees were no doubt the families that the Ashe family considered their tenants, but at that time there were many Hawfields residents who were contesting the validity of the These claims must have been invalidated at some point, though I have found no record of any actual litigation over the Porter Tract.

The Cameron Trust of Wilmington, NC still owns about 1,000 acres at the confluence of the Haw River and Cane Creek – over 2/3 of the old Alston Quarter - almost 1/3 of the original Porter Tract, perhaps the single largest privately held lot in Alamance County today. But the chain of title to the Alston Quarter (indeed to all parts of the Porter Tract) involves no deed from Elliott, Taylor or any other state land grantees. Thus it appears that all modern land titles within the Porter Tract draw their authority from Porter’s Proprietary grant of 1728.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kent Court and Eden Court

Because construction is expected to start this Fall at the site of the former Perfomance Bikes in downtown Carrboro, my friend archeologist Steve Rankin suggested that Ernie Dollar, David Southern and I get together to look one last look at the area before the bulldozers come. As it turns out the few buildings that will be destroyed are cheap cinderblock structures from the 40's or 50's and will probably not be missed by many.

But we noted too that Boyd Street in Carrbro may have been part of an earlier network of streets that was at some point cut off when the end of Franklin Street was connected over to Main Street. Look for example at this detail from the 1915 Sanborn Insurance Map:

Notice that the corner in the upper right of this detail is that of W. Franklin Street and Merritt Mill Road. A small network of streets (Kent Ct and Eden Ct) can be seen just west of this intersection and seemingly connected to Merritt Mill Road just north of Franklin Street - as if through the parking lot of Saint Paul's AME Church. While the 1915 map shows these streets as "arbitrary" (meaning locations not actually surveyed), we can perhaps assume that these locations are at least approximately correct.

It's tempting to think that Kent Court was an earlier manifestation of Carr Court (Tin Top), but this appears to have been further north of Carr Court - perhaps where Boyd Street is today. Boyd Street is highlighted in red below with dashed lines suggesting possible former connections:

We didn't draw any definite conclusions about Boyd Street and Kent Court, but certainly Boyd Street was once part of a vision for a different street grid than the one that eventually prevailed.

The Old Pumphouse

While on our downtown Carrboro historical tour, we visisted the old hexagonal pump house off of Maple Street:

An old plat of the former mill there shows a pumphouse in this location for pumping fire suppression water up to the mill in case of emergency. The pump symbol is circled in red:

This very similar hexagonal building behind DSI Comedy Theatre must have been built by the same person and used for the same purpose:

The same pump symbol is used on this portion of that plat:

The plat is framed and hanging in the hall way of the second floor of the old part of Carr Mill Mall.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

XPost: Civil War Experiences of Nancy Brewer

[The following is a cross-post from the Southern Unionist Chronicles blog created by Victoria Bynum.

[It drew my attention because the incidentally mentioned husband Green Brewer is a figure in Chapel Hill history about whom little has ever been written or was even known. Green Brewer was appointed to the Chapel Hill Board of Commissioners (i.e what is now the Town Council) in 1869 by Gov. William W. Holden and is listed in census records as being African-American. Along with Thomas Kirby and Wilson Caldwell, he was one of three 19th century African-Americans who served on what-is-now the Town Council. I have written previously about Thomas Kirby:

[And I'll have to get started on Wilson Caldwell soon! Meanwhile, here is Victoria Bynum with the brave struggle of a free woman of color through the Civil War - and incidentally some detail on the end of Green Brewer's life . . . ]

The Civil War Experiences of Nancy Brewer, A Free Woman of Color
By Victoria Bynum
Renegade South

One of the women who will make a brief appearance in my book-in-progress, Southern Communities at War, is Nancy Brewer of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In 1871, fifty-year-old Nancy applied to the Southern Claims Commission for compensation for wartime damages caused by the Union Army (#11545). Specifically, she testified that soldiers under the command of Gen’l S. D. Hopkins had in April 1865 seized a horse worth $100, forty lbs of bacon worth $10, and 1000 feet of lumber worth $20, from her farm.

Nancy Brewer’s claim was one of many submitted under the act passed by Congress in March 1871 allowing for “Claims of Loyal Citizens for Supplies furnished during the Rebellion.” Hers caught my eye because she was both black and a woman. I opened her folder not so much to learn what she believed the government owed her, but to glean whatever insights I could into what Nancy Brewer’s life was like in slaveholding and Civil War Chapel Hill.

Given that Nancy was claiming loss of property, I was not surprised to learn that she had been a free woman even before the Civil War. Although she could not sign her own name, Nancy had also been a prosperous free woman. Two years before the war, she explained, she had bought a lot and a house in Chapel Hill for $400. She had also purchased her future husband, Green Brewer, out of slavery in order that they might live as a married couple.

These are the sorts of personal family histories that we might never know about without the existence of records that address totally unrelated issues that happen to involve African Americans. Nancy’s deposition further reveals the complexities of life for people who opposed the Confederacy, yet suffered depredations committed by Yankee soldiers. According to Nancy, her late husband, Green, had belonged to the Union League, and they had always sympathized with the Union cause because it was “God’s will for the colored race to be free.” But during the last months of the war, as Union Army encampments surrounded Chapel Hill, the Brewers’ pro-Union views did not protect their property. Soldiers had taken the Brewers’ horse despite her protest that without it they could not make a crop.

Testifying on Nancy’s behalf was another African-American woman, Nelly Stroud, a washer woman who now lived with her. Nelly admitted that the Brewers had not shared their political views with her while the war was raging. “It would not do for colored people to talk here,” she explained, “a still tongue made a wise head.” But Nelly had little good to say about Union soldiers either. During the war, she washed and cooked for them, but feared them at the same time. They threatened to “show me the devil” if General Johnson did not surrender, Nelly told Commission agents. When asked why they would make such a threat, she responded that “I just believe the Devil made them do it.”

Thomas M. Kirkland, a white merchant, also testified on behalf of Nancy Brewer. Kirkland claimed to have known Nancy’s husband, Green, for about ten years, though he quickly explained that he had not been on “intimate” terms with him during the war because Green was a black man. In typical paternalistic fashion, he characterized him as “sober & upright,” and generalized that almost all blacks were loyal to the U.S. Government during the Civil War.

Nancy Brewer’s claim was approved by the Commission. This final comment from a Claims Commission officer appears on her file, giving us further valuable information about the experiences of this African American couple of the Civil War Era South:

The claimant is a colored woman & a widow—her husband having died since the war. He was formerly a slave, but she had bought him & he belonged to her!—or rather was freed during the war—. He was a rather superior colored man. After the war, Governor [William] Holden appointed him a magistrate—Loyalty proven.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Farewell Forever Old Road to Durham?

Have you ever wondered why there is no rail line between Chapel Hill and Durham? Do you want to know how we can ever create one? Do you want to know how you can help? Let me tell you . . .

University Station

When the North Carolina Railroad was built across the Piedmont from Goldsboro to Salisbury in the 1850’s, there were several competing proposals about the route of the rail line. A route through Chapel Hill was considered for the NCRR, but the Hillsborough alternative was ultimately built. The nearest point to UNC on this line was not in any existing community, so a stop was established five miles east of Hillsborough at what became known as University Station. Students were dropped off there and would either walk or pay for a wagon to take them 10 miles to UNC. For about 25 years, this route was UNC’s connection to the railroad and the rest of the state. But this was never viewed as a satisfactory arrangement.

university station
The former station house at University Station, east of Hillsborough, NC

In February of 1861, the legislature created a corporate charter for the University Railroad Company to establish a rail connection from Chapel Hill to some point on the North Carolina Railroad. The charter called for the commencement of construction by 1863 and completion by 1867. Of course, the Civil War derailed these plans, but even at this early date, engineers considered whether it was better to connect to the NCRR by following what we now call Old Chapel Hill-Durham Road or by building a line to University Station. “That route was surveyed by Prof. C[harles] Phillips fifteen years ago when the prospect of a railroad or a plank was agitated for the University. It is but eight miles, four miles shorter than any road leading from Durham could be made, and is said to run mostly on a ridge and will require but little grading.” (NC Presbyterian, 2/12/1873).

By the beginning of 1878, the Trustees of the University had come to feel that a rail connection to Chapel Hill was essential, resolving that they “look with deep interest to the early completion of the railway communication between Chapel Hill and the steam lines of travel already in existence, and would urge upon the Legislature of the State and upon the people of the country the duty and value of a speedy establishment of such line.” (UNC Trustees Minutes, 1/16/1878).

A Rail Line to Durham?

Immediately Durham interests sought to secure a connection from Chapel Hill to Durham. The Durham Tobacco Plant editorialized in 1879: “Durham can and will do more for such a road than any other point . . . this would be on a direct line to Oxford and connected with the Clarksville branch and thereby make it a very important road. The charter should be granted running from Durham.” The Chapel Hill Weekly Ledger (3/8/1879) agreed: “Durham will help us build the road if we build it to that place – she has promised and is able to aid in its construction. There are many reasons why the road should be built to Durham. It will be beneficial to both towns to a greater extent than if it were built to any other point.” These pleas did not fall upon deaf ears, but in 1879 when the legislature authorized the creation of the State University Railroad Company (SURR), the question of where to connect was left in the company's hands.

Because the line to Durham was longer and more expensive, it was clear that a line to Durham could only be justified by investment from Durham. The Chapel Hill Ledger (11/8/1879) reported that a meeting of the incorporators resolved to take subscriptions for $10,000 to run the line through Durham. Battle relates in his History: “I spent a day in the endeavor to persuade [Durham residents] to do this, but met with no response . . . One merchant replied, ‘Your road is against the interests of Durham. Trade would stop at Chapel Hill.’”

In early 1880 the Chapel Hill Ledger (1/10/1880) reported: “An interesting debate was participated in . . . as to what point the road should be run . . . Messrs. Battle and Hoke favoring University Station . . . They would be glad to see the road go to Durham if the requisite amount could be raised. Messrs. [Julian[ Carr and [Paul] Cameron warmly advocated Durham as the point to which the road should be run. Mr. Carr pledged himself to raise $4,000 in Durham . . . K P Battle offered a resolution to locate the road from Chapel Hill to University Station.” The resolution passed.

The State University Rail Road

So ultimately the rail line was built to University Station, rather than Durham. Ironically, Jule Carr wrote a letter to the Ledger (1/24/1880) casting doubt on the success of a route that did not connect at Durham: “I trust that your railroad to University Station may prove of as much benefit to the good people of Chapel Hill as some of your very clever citizens seem to think it will, but, to be honest with you, I have very little hope of it myself.” As it turned out, the railroad to University Station was not only a benefit to “the good people of Chapel Hill,” but it was so successful that it spawned a new town that would, thirty-three years later, be named for Mr. Carr.

8 The Whooper
"The Whooper" ran from University Station to Carrboro for over 40 years.

Whether the community leaders of old made the right decisions could be debated. On the one hand, the route actually got built and served (and still serves) important functions for southern Orange County. That rail line spawned the Town of Carrboro, which (pardon my bias) I view as a good thing. On the other hand, had they worked harder to connect UNC to Durham, our region and its challenges would look quite different today.

Will Rail Ever Come?

Now at last we may be coming to the time when the problem of a rail connection to Durham could actually be solved. Two years ago the General Assembly authorized Triangle area Counties to implement an additional ½ percent sales tax to support public transportation. While other funding sources were considered by the Legislature, only a sales tax was ultimately permitted, and only on the condition that it be approved by a county-wide referendum in each county.

After years of careful planning, Triangle Transit and Orange and Durham governments are finally coming together around a plan to build a light rail system to connect from Durham to UNC. The plan is essentially this:

Orange and Durham County voters would go to the polls in November of 2011 or 2012 to consider a referendum on whether to increase the sales tax in each county by ½ of a percent to finance a major expansion of public transportation. If approved, the new public transportation plan would include:

1. Major bus service upgrades along US 15-501 and NC 54,
2. A Bus Rapid Transit system on Martin Luther King Boulevard,
3. A new Carrboro-Chapel Hill- Durham regional express bus service.
4. Expanded service on the 420 Bus Route between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill.
5. Full Chapel Hill Transit service on Saturdays (expanding the limited existing Saturday schedule).
6. Limited Chapel Hill Transit service on Sundays (currently there is no service),
7. A new Efland-Hillsborough-Durham regional express bus service along US-70,
8. A major evening service expansion on Chapel Hill Transit,
9. Permanent funding for bus service within the Town of Hillsborough (currently grant funded, but with funds running out in 2014 unless this referendum is passed),
10. Commuter rail service from Durham to RTP starting in 2018. This service would eventually extend far into Wake County as well, but only after Wake implements the same sales tax. This service could be further expanded to serve Hillsborough and points both further east and west, but that is not a part of the immediate plan, and
11. Light Rail service from UNC to Duke, Downtown Durham and NCCU in 2025. This service could be expanded to points further west at some point in the future if further funding were to be identified.

How to Get Involved

The next six weeks will be critical to making this plan come to fruition. The Orange County Board of County Commissioners will need to pass a resolution placing this issue on the ballot in order for us to get to vote on it in November.

We need to vote on this referendum THIS YEAR. All environmental indicators show that we should have implemented a system like this a decade or more ago. Orange County’s Green House Gas (GHG) Inventory shows that over half of all GHG emissions in our community come from automobile traffic and a major expansion of public transportation is the single greatest opportunity to reduce those emissions. The price of gas continues to spiral out of control and there is no end in sight. The sooner we move to a more sustainable future centered around public transportation, the better off both our region and our planet will be.

As well, 2011 will be a great time to vote on this matter. The political pendulum is singing back in the direction of environmental protection and sustainability and we should ride that wave to victory this November. If you agree with me that this plan needs to be the future of Orange County, then please let your County Commissioners know: Now is the time and this is the plan!

You can email the entire County Commission by emailing the Clerk of the County Commission at:


Battle tells us in his History: “When the grading was finished the ladies of the village gave the employees and convict [laborers] an excellent dinner.” There was also a grand ceremony to mark the occasion. Cornelia Phillips Spencer’s daughter Julia drove the last spike in the rail line. As Battle says“Speeches were made by President Battle, Mr. Jones Watson, and others.” And Julia Spencer wrote a song for the occasion, which I take the liberty of excerpting here:
"Farewell, old wagon/Jolting hack and phaeton/Farewell forever/We’re going to take the train . . .
"Farewell forever/Old road to Durham/Farewell forever/We’ll travel now by train . . .
"And all along the coming years/That time for us may fill/We’ll bless the men that brought the road/To dear old Chapel Hill . . ."

Sources consulted:
Battle, Kemp P., History of the University of North Carolina, Vol. II, UNC Press, 1912.
The Chapel Hill Ledger, George T. Winston, ed., 1879-1880.
Hoke, William F. papers, North Carolina State Archives.
Hoke, William F. papers, Southern Historical Collection, UNC-CH.
Love, James Lee, ‘Tis Sixty Years Since, UNC Press, 1945.
The Tobacco Plant, Caleb B. Green, ed., 1879-1882.
Trustees Minutes, UNC Archives, UNC-CH.
The Weekly Ledger, Cornelia Phillips Spencer, ed., 1878-1879.
Wilson, Louis R. ed., Selected Papers of Cornelia Phillips Spencer, UNC Press, 1953.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Content within the Bounds of Reason

Could there ever be any semblance of justice for any of North Carolina’s Native Americans? Perhaps.

Before the Europeans

I am not an archeologist or anthropologist, but it is clear from historical records that the area that is today Orange County was inhabitted by Native Americans long before the advent of Europeans. The closely related Eno (a.k.a. Occaneechi or Sapponi) and Saxapahaw (a.k.a. Sissipehaw) people lived throughout the Haw and Eno River valleys. There were numerous Native American villages in this area, but there was a particularly prominent village called Acconeechy (or Occaneechi) on essentially the same site that is now Hillsborough.

The Native Americans also had a major trade route which extended for a thousand miles from the vicinity of modern Petersburg, VA to Mobile, AL. This trade route, called the Trading Path passed through Acconeechy town on its way across what-is-now Orange County. The Trading Path was such a prominent feature of the pre-European landscape of Orange County that old land records frequently mention it. Even today the Trading Path is still well traveled. The modern route of Saint Mary’s Road and Old NC 10 are pretty much exactly the Trading Path.

Here in southern Orange County, there is also vestigial evidence of former Native American settlement. Old Field Creek, which flows northeast out of Chapel Hill into New Hope Creek was almost certainly the site of some sort of Native settlement. The term ‘old field’ in old North Carolina land records refers to lands that were developed agriculturally by Native Americans – land that had been cleared before the arrival of Europeans – literally old fields – ancient fields. Further to the west of here, the Haw Old Fields had belonged to the Sissipehaw or Saxapahaw people into the 1720’s, when a major smallpox epidemic ravaged the Native Americans of the North Carolina Piedmont.

The Saxapahaw Old Fields

That great North Carolina explorer and chronicler John Lawson wrote of his journey through this vicinity in his book A New Voyage to Carolina. In traveling through the area in 1701, Lawson remarked: “Here is plenty of good Timber, and especially, of a Scaly-bark'd Oak; And as there is Stone enough in both Rivers, and the Land is extraordinary Rich, no Man that will be content within the Bounds of Reason, can have any grounds to dislike it.” Lawson does not much discuss the Native people in this area, but he does refer to the Hawfields in saying: “The Savages do, indeed, still possess the Flower of Carolina, the English enjoying only the Fag-end of that fine Country.”

Though Lawson gives few details in this part of his book, he does say that the Native Americans were living there, and in the same breath he hopes for colonization: “It is call'd Hau-River, from the Sissipahau Indians, who dwell upon this Stream, which is one of the main Branches of Cape-Fair, there being rich Land enough to contain some Thousands of Families; for which Reason, I hope, in a short time, it will be planted.”

It is clear that from earliest times the Europeans admired the area that is now Orange County. Lawson related in 1701: “The Virginia-Men asking our Opinion of the Country we were then in, we told them, it was a very pleasant one. They were all of the same Opinion, and affirm'd, That they had never seen 20 Miles of such extraordinary rich Land, lying all together, like that betwixt Hau-River and the Achonechy Town.”

European settlers kept essentially no records of the Native Americans they encountered upon arriving in Orange County and so it is unclear how many Native Americans there were at the time of European settlement. But it is clear that there were at least some Native people still here at that time.

Even as late as 1770, the former Native American presence in our county was still palpable, as John F. D. Smyth related in A Tour of the United States of America Containing an Account of the Present Situation of that Country: “I have reason to believe, that some of the Haw fields have been cleared of woods by the Indians, in ages past, who were undoubtedly settled here; many insignia, and vestiges of the remains of their towns, still remaining.”

How the West Was Lost

Unlike some parts of the United States, there was never any treaty or agreement signed between the Europeans and either the Saxapahaw or the Eno people. Instead of relying on the terms of some sort of dubious treaty, the Europeans pointed to a still shakier source of land title authority.

Sir Richard Grenville

In 1585, Sir Richard Grenville, the head of Sir Walter Raleigh’s first colonization party sailed to the Outer Banks. Grenville and his men then explored along the outer banks encountering various Native settlements including the village of Aquascogoc. The Englishmen accused the Algoquin natives of stealing one of their cups and in retaliation sacked their village and burned their chief at the stake. With this moral foundation, Grenville laid claim to ‘Virginia’ on behalf of Queen Elizabeth. As conceived at that time, Virginia included the entire east coast, from the Spanish colonies in Florida north to the French settlements in Quebec. Of course, the resulting Roanoke Island Colony soon became the Lost Colony. Still, the Crown maintained that Grenville’s 1585 ceremonial declaration entitled the English to most of North America.

Queen Elizabeth did little with the area that became North Carolina after the disappearance of the Roanoke Island Colony. In the early 1600’s, English colonization shifted to Jamestown, VA and Plymouth, MA. Charles I attempted to restart colonization in North Carolina in 1629, but he was executed by Oliver Cromwell in 1630. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II rewarded his allies with huge and valuable real estate grants. Through several twists and turns of fate and history, one man wound up with a deed to the northernmost sixty miles of North Carolina – literally a swath of North Carolina extending due west from the Outer Banks, bounded on the north by what is now the Virginia State line and extending south to what is now the southern boundary of Chatham and Randolph Counties, NC. That man happened to be the grandson of Sir Richard Grenville: John Carteret, Earl Granville.

The Origins of Land Title in Orange County

Lord Granville’s deed included all of what is now Orange County. And from 1744 until his death in 1763, Lord Granville issued deeds to the European settlers who came and staked claims on the land that had once been the land of the Eno and Saxapahaw. These deeds from Granville comprised a major portion of modern Orange County. Probably somewhere around half of Orange County’s current land area traces its title history back to one or another of Granville’s grants, including most of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough as well as many other areas of the county.

John Carteret, Earl Granville

After Granville’s death, his estate was embroiled in a grand legal battle in the English courts in London and the estate was not settled until well after the American Revolution. During the 15 years between Granville’s death and the Revolution, much of the rest of Orange County was occupied by European immigrants. But these relative newcomers were unable to obtain title to the lands that they were occupying because of the on-going legal battle over Lord Granville’s estate. This problem (which existed affected many counties) was at the top of the non-military agenda of the newly impaneled legislature of North Carolina. The issue was such a priority that despite the then on-going Revolutionary War, the General Assembly passed legislation making it clear that the lands in North Carolina formerly belonging to Earl Granville (as well as the King) were forfeited to the new State of North Carolina.

So it was that in 1778, the legislature created the North Carolina State Land Grant system. Virtually all of the remaining land in Orange County that had not already been granted by Granville was soon granted to the settlers who were then on the land. Thus, the other half of Orange County’s land area traces its title history back to one or another of these State Land Grants.

So, regardless of whether a particular piece of land in Orange County was originally granted by Lord Granville or by the State of North Carolina, the ultimate source of its legal authority is founded on a brief ceremony conducted by Sir Richard Grenville 200 miles east of here, 426 years ago, immediately following the sacking of Aquascogoc.

Justice Too Long Delayed?

My point in recounting this long tale of woe is this: Across America there were many different methods used to cheat, steal and defraud the Native Americans out of their land, but in the area that is now Orange County, the land was simply occupied by the Europeans under the pretense that Grenville’s 1585 claim staked on the Outer Banks wound up vesting valid title in the hands of Earl Granville and later the State of North Carolina. No person of conscience could seriously believe that this was a just or even legally valid result.

Many people would probably argue that we cannot be held responsible for the wrongdoing of our forbearers and others would argue that whatever injustices happened in the past, the victims of those wrongs have been dead for centuries. But it seems to me that all of us who own real estate in Orange County benefit to this very day from unjust acts carried out centuries ago – not in some abstract or theoretical way, but in a way that history still demonstrates. And though the victims of those injustices have indeed been dead for centuries, their descendants are still among us here today.


In fact, not only are their descendants among us, living along the border of Alamance and Orange County, but they are organized and working on economic development through heritage tourism. I believe that in the past they have sought help from both the Orange and Alamance Boards of County Commissioners and that they maintained the small Occaneechi Village that once stood behind the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough.

So, my question is this: While we will never be able to lift the moral and ethical cloud that hangs over the actions of our predecessors, could there ever be a way to lift the legal and moral cloud that hangs over all modern land titles in Orange County? What if, as a County, we were to explore a partnership with the Occaneechi Band to promote heritage tourism and economic development through their proposed park/museum, and as a part of such a partnership the Occaneechi Band might agree to what would essentially be a quitclaim deed to the entirety of Orange County?

Thursday, January 27, 2011