Settlement (1750-1800)

These factors opened the Northeast Creek basin to settlement: the creation of Orange County in 1754; the designation of the county seat at the location of the  Occaneechi village on a bend in the Eno River; the opening of the Earl of Granville’s office for granting lands in the new county and the dispatching of land agents to operate locally.

WIlliam Churton, the surveyor for the Earl of Granville’s land  office named the county seat Orange.  Francis Corbin, the Earl of Granville’s principal land agent from 1744 to 1759, operating the land office from the Cupola House in Edenton.  In 1754, he received an honor from the General Assembly in New Bern when it named the county seat Corbin Town. When Corbin lost his post with Granville in 1759, the General Assembly renamed the county seat Childsberg  in honor of the Earl of Granville’s new land agent and the North Carolina attorney general at the time. The processing of land grants in Edenton was subject to delays from the politics involved and the possibility of corruption in the land office operations.

Granville’s land office ceased operation in 1763 following the death of John Earl Granville.  A long chancery court action on the will and finally the American Revolution ended the Granville grants completely.  In 1777, the Provisional Assembly of the State of North Carolina (the Revolutionary government) declared sovereignty over all the land between Virginia and South Carolina, called for confiscation of all property of those property owners who supported the British, and effectively confiscated Granville’s remaining land holdings.   That is why the early grants are so difficult to interpret during the period from 1759 to 1777. After the confiscation, the State of North Carolina set up a land office operation.

The Royal Governor of North Carolina granted land and the Earl of Granville, a former Proprietor of Carolina, also granted land.  Near the dividing line of the Earl of Granville’s tract, there are often duplicate land grants or conflicting land grants.  Access to granted land was by existing trails or by water where the traveling by boat was possible.  After the American Revolution, owners of land often sought re-granting to recognize their previous land grant. The first time the Northeast Creek basin appears in history is in the land grants for settlers.  The process for receiving a land grant required a warrant that described a tract; next came a survey to plat the claim and ensure that there were no competing claims; next was the entry in the land records; finally, a land grant document was issued and the courts became available to enforce the claim.

Hillsborough was the closest outpost of what in the backcountry were urban amenities.  Other similar settlements further away included Salisbury, Fayetteville, and Halifax, and a few other recently founded court house towns.  There was no Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, or Pittsboro yet.  And by “urban amenities”, look at William Few’s description of Hillsborough in 1764, a decade after Hillsborough’s founding as a court house town:

“…the metropolis of the county, where the courts were held and all the public business was done.  It was a small village, which contained thirty or forty inhabitants, with two or three small stores and two or three ordinary taverns, but it was an improving village.  Several Scotch merchants were soon after induced to establish stores that contained a good assortment of European merchandise, which changed the state of things for the better.  A church, court-house and jail were built, but there was no parson or physician.

Two or three attorneys opened their offices and found employment. Superior and inferior courts of justice were established and a fair field was opened for the lawyers.”

In 1749, William Barbee (died 1758) was listed  as a chainbearer on a survey of 490 acres on New Hope Creek done for Mark Morgan and recorded in what was then Bladen County. Apprenticing as a surveyor’s chainbearer was a common way to become a surveyor and also to spot potential good land to claim.  His son Christopher “Old Kit” Barbee was the largest  landholder in Orange County in 1787 and is best known for having given 225 acres (the largest portion) to found the University of North Carolina.  Note that the settlement of the Northeast Creek area is the result of children of settlers closer to Hillsborough seeking their own land.  Settlers would scout out land (in this case from Hillsborough) before committing to  a move from tidewater Virginia.

Henry Beasley received a land grant some time between 1750 and 1755 for 640 acres of land in Orange County on “the northeast prong of New Hope.” The property description said that the tract began at the lower end of a beaver pond. Subsequent land transactions placed Beasley’s property near where O’Kelly Chapel Road crosses Northeast Creek.  Division of Chatham County from Orange County later split this tract.

The 1754 tax list for Orange County shows Henry Beasley with 1 taxable (himself).  That next year in Orange County there were 724 households.  A total of 660 households had no slaves, 60 households with 1-4 slaves, and 4 households with 5-10 slaves; no household in Orange County held more than 10 slaves.  In all of Orange County in 1755, there was a black population of 64. [Harry Roy Merrens, Colonial North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century: A Study in Historical Geography, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1964, p 76.]

In 1756, the land office registered a survey for Christopher Rhoads for 593 acres both sides of Crooked Creek Waters of New Hope, with adjoining property owners Mark Morgan, Joseph Bary [Barbee?], Henry Beesley {Beasley], and Richard Hobson [Hopson].

A deed in 1765 shows a transfer from Benjamin Saxon to Nathaniel Almond.

Wake County issued a warrant in 1778 to Thomas Roberts  for 320 acres on “the East side of the East side of No. [North] East of New Hope Creek and on the waters of Buck Branch & great Branch Including the plantation where he now lives.”  This is roughly in the area of Lowes Grove in Durham County.

On 16 May 1756, George Herndon received a warrant for 640 acres of land to be surveyed for him on both sides of Northeast Fork of New Hope Creek.

William Barbee’s brother Christopher Barbee obtained his land by buying it from John Bohannon in 1759.  The deed indexes survive but not the deed records themselves; subsequent transactions show that he was in the part of Orange County that in 1771 became part of Wake County [and later to Durham County]. The survey for Christopher Rhodes done in 1756 shows the tract to be on both sides of the waters of the Northeast prong of New Hope adjoining the Beasley line and Rhodes corner.  Current estimates place this on Kitts Creek [for this Christopher (Kit or Kitt) Barbee].  In 1763, he was granted 700 acres on Obed Creek [Wilson Creek, tributary of Morgan Creek in today’s Orange County].

Henry Beasley

Henry Beasley first appears in North Carolina in a 1754 Granville land grant of 640 acres on the North East Prong of New Hope on both sides of the creek and including a small prong in low ground.   The price was three shillings and the annual rent of twenty-five shillings seven pence half-penny per year.   Joseph Barbee was the chain carrier for the survey.

Later evidence shows this to be where today’s O’Kelly Chapel Road crosses Northeast Creek.

In 1758, Henry Beasley received a tract of 226 acres of land south of the 1754 tract, adjoining Joseph Barbee, for 10 shillings and an annual rent of 9 shillings half-penny rent per year . John Bohannon and Francis Martin were the chain carriers.

In 1763, for 10 shillings and an annual rent of 28 shillings, Henry Beasley received 700 acres on Obed’s Creek [now Wilson Creek south of Chapel Hill].  Joseph Barbee and Christopher Barbee were witnesses.

In 1780, for 50 shillings per hundred acres, [son?] Henry Beasley received from the State of North Carolina a grant of 125 acres on the North East prong of New Hope whose northern boundary ran along the county line.

From 1759 to 1784, Henry Beasley served on road juries.

In 1790, Henry Beasley was exempted from having to pay the poll tax for 1789 and into the future. [One researcher says this indicates that Henry Beasley was “up in years and not well”.]

George Herndon

When George Herndon left Caroline County, Virginia, he had explored his move by going and seeking a warrant at the Hillsborough land office.  When he moved he was confident of satisfactory land and the opportunity to be part of a growing community.  He soon got public responsibility; in June 1757 he was appointed constable of the northern settlement of New Hope Creek. The constable was the local law enforcement agent in his district.  In 1761, George Herndon was in charge of his first road survey.  In August 1761 he was responsible for summoning the taxables in the district of John Patterson, Esq.

In less than 20 years, by 1785, he had accumulated 2,420 acres of land in the vicinity of what is today I-40 and NC 55.

In 1778 from Wake County, George Hearndon [Herndon] received a warrant for 640 acres of what was then in Wake County “lying on both sides of No. [North] East of New Hope Creek.”  The adjoining property owner was Christian Pealer [Peeler], who was already settled there although there are no records of how he claimed his tract.  Herndon also received warrant the same day for 392 acres “Joining Jesse George’s Lines & his own lines Including his Improvements” and 500 acres “on flat Branch Joining his own Lines & the Lines of Thomas Person & Joseph Booth Including his two improvements.”

During the American Revolution, the colonial assemblies of the colonies created a colonist military from its constable system and county patrols, which allowed a rapid call-up of those who were willing to protect communities from British and loyalists and to interfere in the Royal Governor’s attempts to re-establish his authority.  George Herndon, as a large local landowner and constable, served as captain of infantry under Colonel Richard Caswell and served at the Battle of Moore’s Bridge in February 1776.

During this period he continued to buy and sell land; in the 1787 tax listings he retained 1,279 acres, making him the third largest landholder in St. Mark’s District of Orange County, behind Christopher “Old Kit” Barbee and Mark Patterson.

When he died in 1796, his will revealed the names of the people in his life–both family and slaves: Sarah Wingfield Herndon, his wife, received Chloe. Daughter Mary married a Roberts; she received Ben. Daughter Ruth also married a Roberts; she received “a boy named Brass.”  Son James received a “girl named Pat.”  Daughter Sally married a McCoy; she received  a “man named Nat.”  Son George received a “boy named Prince.”  Son Zechariah received “a girl named Tamar.” Son Reuben received a “boy named Samson.”  Daughter Betty married a Cole; she received “girl named Candace.” Daughter Esther married a Barbee; she received a “boy named Jerry.” Son Edmund received a “boy named Armstead.” Son Lewis received a “boy named Ned.”   Daughter Delilah married a Rhodes; she received a “girl named Milley;” in addition, she received a “man named Sam.”  In addition, daughters Ruth Roberts, Mary Ann Trice, Betty Cole, and Esther Barbee received the right to one of four women: Doll, Liller, [another] Tamar, and Phyllis.

Son Reuben received one feather bed and furniture.

Wife Sarah is bequeathed the use of the still and apple mill during her natural life.  The estate of 1,079 acres and improvements is to be divided between sons Edmund and Lewis on her death.  On Sarah’s death the remaining “negroes” are to be divided  among the named sons and daughters. Son Lewis is to receive  a fourth part of the cattle and hogs and also a horse valued “at twenty pounds current money of the State.”

And “I give to Sarah, my wife, all my brandy to do what she please with.”

Grandson George Roberts receives “one tract of land supposed to be one hundred and ninety-five acres, joining the land that I sold John Scogin.” [That brings the total land to 1,274 acres.]

Sarah lived until 1802 and in her will added some of her own property.  Daughter Delilah Rhodes receives a “woman named Chloe.”  Grandaughter Sarah Jordan received her grandmother’s side saddle. Son Lewis, son James, son George, daughter Mary Roberts, daughter Sarah McCoy, and Reuben each received five pounds.  Zechariah Herndon redeived one hundred and forty dollars out of “my present money”.  [Note the distribution of both pounds and dollars.]

“My desire is that my corn, meat, millstones, and one feather bed and furniture and all the rest of my property be sold and the money split among her seven’ aforementioned” children.

The scope of the plantation economy in eighteenth century Orange and Wake counties is fairly clearly documented in these two wills.  A still, an apple mill, and millstones are the industrial capital listed.  One wonders how much brandy was produced on this plantation and what the exports from this plantation for the market might have been.

Christopher Barbee of Kit’s Creek

The second son of John and Ann Barbee of Essex County, Virginia, Christopher (“Kit”) Barbee owned land in Essex County that he sold in 1757.  In March 1759, he registered two tracts of land he had purchased from John Bohannon

After Wake County was created, the Wake County Court began to create roads so that people could travel to Raleigh for court.  In 1773, Christopher Barbee, Thomas Hopson,  Edward Sorrell, Sr., Micajah Barbee, and others were ordered to lay out a road from the Orange-Wake line “near Archibald Cain and near Herndons,” down the ridge between Indian Branch and Middle Branch, across Crabtree Creek, to Hillsborough Road. Twice in 1774, the same group was ordered to work on the road.

Eighteen years after settling by Kit’s Creek, Christopher Barbee died and his will was proved in June 1777.  Daughter Martha married Lewis Wimberley; she received a “boy named Dick” and instructions that a her decease he be sold and the proceeds distributed among her children.  She received no other part of the estate.  Daughter Anney [married Goin Barbee, son of John Barbee?]; she received “a boy named Clarkson” and the same instructions.  Son Thomas received a “boy named Prince, to him and his heirs forever;” he received no other part of the estate. Son Joseph married Eleanor [maiden name unknown]; she received a “boy named Samson, to him and his heirs forever;” he received no other part of the estate. Daugher Saryan [Sarah Ann] married Ephraim Beasley; she received a “fellor named Jack and the first child that Rachel brings” and instructions that these slaves are to be sold after her decease and the money; if “she dies without an heir, for the negro to fall to her sisters Rose Barbee and Suckey Barbee” [Sukey, a nickname for Susan]; she received no other part of the estate.

Wife Margit [Margaret] receives all the rest of the estate, “both parsinal [personal] and perashabl [perishable],” land to be divided equally between Christopher Barbee and Belego [Abimileck] Barbee, with “Belego to have the upper end on the land and Christopher to have the lower end of the land.”

“And the rest of my negroes, stock, household goods to be equally divided between Christopher Barbee, Benelge Barbee, Joseph Barbee, and Suckey [Susan, Sukey] Barbee,” Suckey’s share to fall to to Rosey Barbee if Suckey dies without heirs.  Christopher’s and Beneleg’s shares pass to the other if they die without heir.

The witnesses were William Maner, Thomas Barbee, and Samuel Saxon. All three of the witnesses were neighbors of Christopher Barbee and Ephraim Beasley at the corners of what is now Chatham, Durham, and Wake counties.

Joseph Barbee

Joseph Barbee, another son of John and Ann Barbee of Essex County, Virginia, applied for a land grant in Bladen County; the land was surveyed in 1751.

In the 1755 tax list of Orange County, Joseph Barbee and Christopher Rhodes are listed jointly along with 5 unnamed slaves.

In 1760, Joseph Barbee was appointed one of the justices of the peace for Orange County.

In 1771, part of Joseph Barbee’s property became part of newly formed Chatham County. It included both sides of Northeast Creek roughly north of Panther Creek.

Joseph Barbee died in 1773; his will was unwritten but in August 1774, Henry Beasley and his wife Mary testified under oath to the contents, allowing the court to appoint Gray Barbee and his wife Mary Barbee as executor and executrix of the will.

Based on A. B. Markham’s land grant map of Old Orange County and his map of Wake County, his oldest son Gray Barbee continued to obtain land grants adjacent to the tract during the interim.  His widow Mary Barbee was ordered to provide hands for road construction in 1782.

Christopher Barbee of Kit’s Creek

By the 1775 will of his father Christopher Barbee, this Christopher Barbee received the lower [downstream?] end of the tract that his father purchased from John Bohannon and Thomas Barbee became the minor ward of his older brother Thomas Barbee.  In 1782, Christopher was still a minor.  By 1784 he had married Dicey Hopson, the daughter of Thomas Hopson; in 1792, Christopher Barbee’s will leaves all of his estate to his “wife Dicy Barbee, and if she have a son [Christopher Barbee, III, was born in 1792], I give him the land and plantation on which I live for him to take possession of at twenty one years age, and if not, and she should marry, I give my estate betwixt my wiff and all my girls, my wife a share and a half, and each girl a share, but if she should marry and and should have a son, the son  to have the land before mentioned and an equal share with the girls.”

Neighbors Goin Barbee, Ephraim Beasley, and Ransom Davis are witnesses.

As for the children, Eady Barbee married Willie Markhamin 1812; Milley Barbee married Briton Harward in 1809; Patsey Barbee married William Lynn in 1808;  Christopher Barbee, III, married Jeaney Shepherd.  This shows how the land relationships in the Northeast Creek basin among the families most visible in the records tended to become interlinked over time.   The community was organized through family relationships.  And relative newcomers could be incorporated into these relationships; Christopher Barbee III and Jeaney Shepherd had two of their children marry O’Kellys; Elizabeth Barbee married Franklin O’Kelly and Bartlett Barbee married Martha O’Kelly.

Land Grants

The following list of land grants in the Northeast Creek basin are taken from the A. B. Markham maps of land grants in Old Orange County and Wake County.

Orange County, now Chatham County

Henry Beasley 1778
Ephraim Beasley 1779
Fendal Beasley 1778
Joseph Barbee 1761
Gray Barbee 1779
Thomas Barbee 1780, nd
John Gregory 1779
Jacob Wimberley 1779
Lewis Wimberley 1780

Orange County, now Durham County

Henry Beasley 1754
Benjamin Saxon 1761
Thomas Hopson 1780, nd
William Roberts 1782
Moses Roberts 1782
John Saxon 1761
Kennedy Almond 1784
Thomas Person 1762
Benjamin Saxon 1761
James Waldrop nd
William Weatherspoon nd
Thomas Roberts 1782, nd
George Herndon 1779, 1782, nd
Allen George 1782
Paul Castleberry 1780
John Humphries nd
John Booth 1762
John Trice 1780
Thomas Hall 1788
Andrew Borland 1789
John Barby, Sr. 1762
John Holder nd
Christian Peeler 1779
Benjamin Rogers nd

Wake County

Ephraim Beasley nd
William Beasley 1780
William Rogers nd
Isaac Hunter 1780
Aaron Johnson 1782
William Mainard 1780
John Rhodes 1755
Joseph Barbee 1763, 1798
Richard Heron nd
Moses Heron 1782
George Taylor 1782
Henry Searls 1803

(Multiple years indicate multiple land grants in the Northeast Creek basin. The abbreviation “nd” indicates that evidence of a land grant exists but without a date. Names are spelled as recorded on the land grant.)

The families of these people can be considered the European settlers of the Northeast Creek basin.


St. Mark’s District of Orange County is much larger than the Northeast Creek basin.  The major part of the Northeast Creek basin lies in St. Mark’s District of Orange County.  The patterns of slavery and landholding are likely representative of the entire creek basin.  The data is from the 1790 Orange County tax listing, which taxed “White Polls”, “Black Polls” , “Acres”, “Stud Horses”, and “Carriage Wheels”:

Name White Polls Black Polls Acres Stud Horses Carriage Wheels
Rosey Sears 3 806
Thos. Horn 1 270 1/2
Enoch Lewis 3 350
John Green 1 1 200
John Rhodes 1 1 602 1/2
Joseph Bilbo 1 6 940
Joseph Fennell 1 1 182
Joseph Booth 1 1 560
Daniel Booth 1 1 1127
Sam’l Daniel 3 250
Wm. Marcom 2 1 662
James Vaughn 1 2
John Davis 1 1 357
George Daniel 1 2 341
Edward Grice, Jr. 1 3 625
Charles Collies 1 2 300
Christopher Barbee 2 7 2145
Thos. Price 1 8 1094
James Price 1 1 419
John Leigh 1 1 180
William Sheperd 1 2 582
Edward Price 1 4 713
John Moore 1 3 488
Wm. Rhodes 1 6 330
John Barbee, Sr. 2 482
Leonard Carlton 1 3 200
Wm. Price 1 1 450
Francis Moreland 1 4 565
Thos. Couch 1 1 294
George Herndon 1 8 1279
Zechariah Herndon 1 1 350 1
Wm Glenn 1 1
Thos Lloyd 1 2 400
Reuben Westmoreland 1 2 387
John Mitcham 1 2 1000
Rich’d Leigh 1 2 200
Wm. Burton 1 1 640
Leonard Stringer 1 1
Peter House 1 2
Joseph Barbee 1 1 213
Benj. Peeler 1 5 900
Mark Patterson 1 1 2031
Christopher Barbee 1 1 500
Rob’t Campbell 1 7 789 1/2 1

Forty-four (44) slaveholders (out of 216 polls or 20%) with a total of 109 slaves and 2 carriages (Zechariah Herndon and Robert Campbell) taxed.  Notice that no one had a taxable stud horse.  Racehorse breeding was not a viable economic venture for Northeast Creek farmers in 1790.


The counties built roads within their boundaries by having the county court commission a road jury that used their own equipment and labor and the labor of their “hands” to construct the roads. Here is a selection of road jury orders that relate to the Northeast Creek basin.

Chatham County

1782 – Road – William Allen overseer: road by Henry Beasley; William Monetts; Mary Barbee’s hands; Gray Barbee; Thomas Barbee; Henry Barbee; Jesse Beasley; Ephraim Beasley; Presley George; and John Howard [Harward?].

1783 – Road – Orange County Line to Henry Beasley’s  running by Gray Barbee’s plantation crossing near the mouth of the Northeast Branch.  To wit: Gray Barbee, Lewis Wimberly, Jacob Wimberly, John George, Henry Kelly, William Allen, Presley George, John Hatley Sr., Herndon George [George Herndon?] Henry Beasley Sr., John Harward, and Jesse Beasley.

1784 – Road – Ephraim Beasley, overseer – road from Orange County line to Wake County line: Henry Beasley Sr., Jesse Beasley, Thomas Barbee, Christopher Barbee Jr., Fendal Beasley, and John Harward.

Orange County

1759 – Road from the leading from the Great Road that leads to Cape Fear where James Trice lives [present NC 54 and NC 751?] to the county line leading to Halifax and that Joseph Barbee, John Barbee Sr., Henry Beasley, Christian Rhodes, James Trice, Edward Trice, Edward Trice, John Trice, Mark Morgan, Hezekiah Rhodes, Nathanial Kimbrough, Jacob Bledsoe, and Benjamin Saxon be a jury to lay out the same and that Nathaniel Kimbrough and Benjamin Saxon be overseers.

1760 – Road from Childsburg (present Hillsborough) to Johnston County line: Mark Morgan, Joseph Barbee, Henry Beasley, John Patterson, George Herndon, John Barbee, James Trice, Christopher Barbee, Christopher Rhodes, William Rhodes, Thomas Capper, James Aycock, Edward Stone, William Cox, Benjamin Saxon, William Pickett, Arthur Cook, and William Williams.  They to appear at the Court House in Childsburg on 2nd Tuesday in February (formerly Corbin Town).

Wake County

1783 – Road – Nathaniel Jones Sr. appointed overseer of the Old Hillsborough Road from the Orange County line to the fork above Henry Cole’s Sr. and that the following hands work on said road, to wit: Henry Beasley, Henry Searls, Jesse Beasley, Isham Beasley,…



Governor Dobbs and Governor Tryon extensively toured North Carolina  (in 1755 and 1764, respectively). Both reported that corn (Indian corn, maize) was the first crop planted by newly arrived settlers.    It was the subsistence crop for corn meal, which was made into bread and a variety of other uses.

An anonymous publication in Britain in 1775, American Husbandry, estimated that cleared land yielded 60 to 70 bushels of corn per acre, sometimes as much as 80 to 100 bushels.  The land grants in the Northeast Creek basin have steep slopes, rocky areas, and wet bottomlands that affect the proportion of the total land that can be cultivated.

For comparison, current North Carolina production averages 35 bushels an acre with record farm production approaching 240 bushels an acre.


Settlers sought a cash crop that they could sell or barter for items they could not raise of make locally: sugar, rum, molasses, salt, and so on.  Wheat was such a crop even if raised in moderate quantities.  When wheat was  in demand overseas, the ports of North Carolina exported it, and the market town for the Northeast Creek area was the first river port on the Cape Fear River, Cross Creek (today’s Fayetteville).  One of the early roads along New Hope Creek was the “Great Cape Fear Road” from Hillsborough to Cross Creek, Wilmington, and the port of Brunswick.

Most settlers who grew wheat tended to grow it for export.  No one knows how extensive this trade was from the area of the Northeast Creek basin or what portion (probably minor) of the 13,400 bushels officially cleared from North Carolina ports originated  in this area. Most likely, the available wheat in this area was converted into flour, a higher value product, before it was exported.


Cross Creek in 1767 had a tobacco warehouse with an inspector.   In 1791, George Washington reported that the Fayetteville warehouse exported around 6000 hogsheads of tobacco. Scottish merchants with connections to Glasgow merchants and offices in Halifax and Cross Creek and later Fayetteville promoted the growing of tobacco for export and facilitated exports.  It is not known whether farmers in the Northeast Creek basin occasionally grew some tobacco during periods of high export prices.


Wills and estate inventories provide the best information about the kinds of livestock kept on farms in the Northeast Creek basin.  Cattle, hogs, and poultry were common items mentioned in wills and inventories, along with horses.


From the 1750s until the 1770s, subsistence production was the rule for most farmsteads in the Northeast Creek basin. What small surplus was available likely was taken occasionally into Hillsborough and exchanged for purchases of imported or manufactured goods or luxuries like sugar, molasses, rum, and coffee.  The roads from the Northeast Creek basin to Hillsborough during this period were frequently impassible for wagons and sometimes impossible for riders on horses.  Being able to make it to the widened path that became the Ramsgate Road or the path that became the Great Cape Fear Road was not an easy task because of the soils that became mucky and swollen in rains and the flash flooding of streams underlain by Triassic basin soils.

During the 1760s, the road situation changed somewhat as the county courts put juries in charge of their maintenance, at least enough to encourage Scottish merchant James Hogg to set up an office in Hillsborough in 1775.  Soon afterward, Hogg was sending goods (likely wheat) in  wagons to Wilmington for export by way of Cross Creek.  Cross Creek was reported as receiving forty or fifty wagons a day from Charlotte, Hillsborough, Salisbury, and Salem.

The firm of Hogg and Campbell, headquartered in Wilmington, was prosperous enough that in 1775 James Hogg invested in Robert Henderson’s Transylvania Company.   After Nathaniel Hart negotiated a treaty with the Overhill Cherokees ceding territory between the Cumberland and Kentucky rivers, Hogg was commissioned to present the company’s plan to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and petition to be the 14th colony in the Congress, essentially representing what is now Kentucky and Tennessee; the Continental Congress was not ready in 1775 to provoke Great Britain and took no action.   Daniel Boone and 30 woodsmen created a trail to Kentucky later called the “Wilderness Road”.  Thus did the profits for one wave of settlement finance the next wave.

By 1789, Cross Creek and Campbelltown had become Fayetteville, and the trading town had enough trade that the new newspaper listed the current prices in the current money of pounds, shillings, and pence. [Prices from Fayetteville Gazette, Vol. I, No. 4, Monday, September 14, 1789.]

  • Tobacco, second quality – 13 shillings to 13 shillings 6 pence (cash), 45 shillings to 50 shillings (goods)
  • Indigo – 7 shillings to 8 shillings
  • Flour, superfine and common – 25 shilling to 28 shillings
  • Wheat – 9 shillings to 28 shillings
  • Indian corn – 4 shillings to 5 shillings
  • Oats – 3 shillings to 4 shillings
  • Barley – 5 shillings
  • Butter – 1 shilling
  • Cheese – 1 shilling
  • Beer – 5 pence
  • Mutton – 6 pence
  • Bacon – 1 shilling to 1 shilling 2 pence
  • Tallow – 1 shilling
  • Hemp – 50 shillings to 60 shillings
  • Flax – 2 shillings
  • Deerskins, trimmed – 2 shillings
  • Deerskins, untrimmed – 1 shilling 6 pence to 1 shilling 8 pence
  • Otter skins – 20 shillings to 30 shillings
  • Raccoon skins – 1 shilling 6 pence to 2 shilling 6 pence
  • Salt – 7 shillings
  • Molasses – 6 shillings
  • Iron – 9 pence
  • Steel – 2 shillings to 3 shillings
  • Castings – 9 pence to 10 pence
  • West India rum – 10 shillings
  • New England rum – 8 shillings
  • Hyson [Lucky Dragon] and green tea – 36 shillings
  • Souchong [smoked] tea – 28 shillings
  • Bohea [black or oolong] tea – 10 shillings to 12 shillings
  • Loaf sugar – 3 shillings to 4 shillings
  • Brown sugar – 1 shilling 6 pence to 1 shilling 8 pence

Those farmers who had enough quantities of export crops and the willingness to journey to Fayetteville could turn those crops into money of trade them for crops that the did not or could not grow or for luxury goods like rum, tea, and sugar.  Generally younger residents of the area could hunt for skins to sell.  And there still remained a long-distance trade in animal skins with the now distant indigenous settlements.

This same issue of the Fayetteville Gazette was reporting the events of the Constitutional Convention and the details of some of the last compromises before approval.

Doing History

Local history is a growing activity for citizen historians, who do the examination of primary records and secondary references to tell the story of very local communities. The growth in interest in the history of ordinary people and not just the powerful politicians and inhabitants of the big and stylish houses has benefited from citizen historians whose avocation is researching, transcribing, and analyzing historical records and putting them in the context of a township, a small crossroads community, or other very local geography.

There is much history about the 18th century in the Northeast Creek basin yet to uncover and sort through.  The records are sparse and generally were generated as matters of law.  There were no incentives for generating private business records, and life was hard enough for everybody in the first 50 years of settlement to minimize the leisure to generate private reflections.  More difficult is determining the locations at which specific people lived and farmed, which requires tracing title of land forward until you find a property you can locate.  Another help is knowing where the early roads ran and when they were built.

The North Carolina collections of the public libraries in Chatham, Durham, and Wake County, the North Carolina State Archives, and the Genealogy Room of the North Carolina State Library are major resources as is the North Carolina Collection of the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.  Most of these libraries also have digital collections of historical maps and documents.  The librarians are knowledgeable and can provide guidance for your research.

For further reading:

Anderson, Jean Bradley, Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina, Durham, Duke University Press, 1990, 2011.

Hadley, Wade Hampton, Doris Goerch Horton, Nell Craig Strowd, Chatham County, 1771-1971, Durham, NC, Moore Publishing Company, 1976.

Malinda Maynor Lowery,  The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle, Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

Merrens, Harry Roy, Colonial North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century: A Study in Historical Geography, Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 1964.

Murray, Elizabeth Reid, Wake: Capital County of North Carolina, (2 vols.), Raleigh, Capital County Publishing Company, 1983.

Carole Watterson Troxler, : “Land Tenure as Regulator Grievance”, in Larry E. Tise and Jeffrey J. Crow, New Voyages to Carolina: Reinterpreting North Carolina History, Chapel Hill NC, The University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

Citizen Historian Activities:

  • Trace the chain of title of where you live or of some property in the Northeast Creek basin back as far as you can.  Notice when land uses changed, when the current residential subdivisions get reunited into farmland, when the property heirs received was subdivided from a will, when inheritances included all sorts of property — real estate, buildings and structures, livestock, equipment, tools, wagons, buggies, and slaves. Notice when people identified as people of color, mulattoes, or black are also listed as the property owners. Notice what farm workers were households near what farmers or what older people living alone had people in the household who were youth.
  • Search for the earliest newspapers that had news of your area.  Ask history collection librarians for help in sorting this out.
  • Look for early quitrent and tax lists for your area.  Who were the major taxpayers? What did they pay taxes on the years of the tax lists?
  • Work with other people searching similar local history.

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