April 25, 2012. From Jane Brumley. This is just a really cool
map. Done at the time of the Dividing Line of 1728. Note "Notts
Island". Such an interesting time in our history.
March 21, 2014. The first boundry marker is in Carova at the state line and the second one is on Knotts Island Rd.
August 30, 2010. From Anne Bright. This is the section pertaining
to Knotts Island from the book written by William Byrd.
William Bryd's Histories of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina
One of the most important and entertaining documents of early America is this work by William Byrd (1674-1744). A Virginian aristocrat. landowner, author, and governor, Byrd served as a commissioner in the 1728 survey conducted to establish the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina.
Byrd wrote two accounts of that expedition. The shorter Secret History of the Line is a baldly stated, frank account in which the sharp antagonism among the members of the commission is wittily reported and the participants concealed behind mocking fictitious names. The more formal History of the Dividing Line contains invaluable notes on the botany and zoology of the area (complete enough a coverage to amount to an early natural history of this part of the country) and on the customs, superstitious, and ways of life of the Indians and the few white settlers.
In this edition, with its introduction and numerous running footnotes by William K. Boyd, the two Histories are printed on facing pages, each adding perspective to the other. They can be read as journals of wildemess exploration and adventuring, as social and natural history, or as the major work of one of the finest pre-Revolutionary writers in America.
The Secret HistoryThey were the rather perswaded to this by the Peremptory Words of our Commission, by which we were directed to go on with the Business tho' the Carolina Commissioners shou`d refuse to join with us therein. However by reason of some Proof that was made to us by the Oaths Credible Persons, that the Spit of Sand was advanced about 200 Yards to the Southward since the Year 1712 when the Proposals between the Governours Eden & Spotswood were agreed upon, we thought it reasonable to allow for so much. And accordingly made our Beginning from thence. Upon the high-Land we found One kind of Silk Grass, and plenty of Japon, which passes for Tea in North Carolina, tho’ nothing like it. On the Sands we saw Conque-Shells in great Number of which the Indians make both their Blue & white Peak, both colours being in different Parts of the same Shell.
7. We drove down a Post at our Place of beginning, & then crost over to Dosior’s Island, which is nothing but a flat Sand with Shrubs growing upon it. From thence we past over to the North End of Knob’s Island, our Line running thro' the Plantation of Wm Harding. This Man had a wife born and bred near Temple Bar, and stil talk’t of the Walks in the Temple with Pleasure. These poor People bestow’d their Wood and their Water upon us very freely. We found Shoebrush a merry good humor’d Man, and had learnt a very decent behaviour from Governour Hyde, to whom he had been Valet de Chambre, of which he still carry’d the marks by having his coat, wast-coat and Breeches of different Parishes. Puzzlecause had degenerated from a New England Preacher for which his Godly Parents design’d him, to a very wicked, but awkward, Rake. I had almost forgot to mention a Marooner who had the Confidence to call himself an Hermit, living on the South Shoar of Coratuck near the Inlet. He has no other Habitation but a green Bower or Harbour with a Female Domestick as wild & as dirty as himself. His Diet is chiefly Oysters, which he has just Industry enough to gather from the Neighbouring Oyster Banks, while his Concubine makes a Practice of driving up the Neigbbour’s Cows for the advantage of their Milk. Orion seem’d to be grievously puzzled about Plotting off his Surveyor’s Work, and chose rather to be oblig’d to the Carolina Commissioners, than to Mr Mayo, for their Instruction, which it was evident to every Body that he wanted. The Truth of it is, he had been much more discreet to loiter on at the College, and receive his Sallary quietly (which he ows to his Relation to the pious Commissary) than to undertake a Business which discover’d he knew very little of the matter.
8. We quitted our Camp about 7 & early dispatch’t away the large Periauga with the Heavy Baggage & most of the Men round the South End of Knots Island. About 9 we embark’t ourselves on board the Resser Periauga under the Pilotage of Capt Wilkins, & steer’d our Course towards the North End of the Island. This Navigation was so difficult by reason of the perpetual Shoals, that we were often fast aground: but Firebrand swore us off again very soon. Our Pilot wou’d have been a miserable Man if One half of that Gentleman’s Curses had taken effect. It was remarkable to see how mild & unmov’d the poor man was under so much heavy displeasure insomuch that the most passionate Expression that escap’t him was, O for ever & after! which was his form of Swearing. We had been benighted in that wide Water, had we not met a Canoe that was carrying a Conjurer from Princess Ann to Carolina. But as all Conjurors are sometimes mistaken, he took us at first for Pyrates, what was worse for him, he suspected afterwards that we were Officers, that were in pursuit of him & a Woman that past for his Wife. However at last being undeceiv’d in both these points, they suffer'd us to Speak with them, & directed us in the Course we were to Steer. By their Advice we row’d up a Water called the Back-Bay, as far as a Skirt of Pocoson a quarter of a Mile in Breadth. Thro’ this we waded up to the Knees in Mud & got Safe on the firm Land of Princess Ann County. During this Voyage Shoebrush in Champing a Biscuit, forc’t out one of his Teeth, which an unlucky Flux had left loose in his Head. And tho’ one of his Feet was inflam’d with the Gout, yet he was forc’t to walk 2 Miles as well as the rest of us to John Heath’s where we took up our Quarters. Amongst other Spectators came 2 Girls to see us, one of which was very handsome, & the other very willing. However we only saluted them, & if we committed any Sin at all, it was only in our Hearts. Capt White a Grandee of Nott’s Island, & Mr Moss a Grandee of Princess Ann made us a visit & helpt to empty our Liquor. The Surveyors & their attendants came to us at Night, after wading thro’ a Marsh near 5 Miles in Breadth, which stretches from the West Side of Knot’s Island, to the high-Land of Princess Ann. In this Marsh several of the Men had plung’d up to the Middle, however they kept up their good Humour, & only made Sport of what others wou’d have made a Calamity.
History of the Dividing Line
Here we began already to reap the Benefit of those Peremptory Words in our Commission, which in truth added some Weight to our Reasons. Nevertheless, because positive proof was made by the Oaths of two Credible Witnesses, that the Spitt of Sand had advanced 200 Yards towards the Inlet since the Controversy first began, we were willing for Peace-sake to make them that allowance. Accordingly we fixed our Beginning about that Distance North of the Inlet, and there Ordered a Cedar-Post to be driven deep into the Sand for our beginning. While we continued here, we were told that on the South Shore, not far from the Inlet, dwelt a Marooner, that Modestly call'd himself a Hermit, tho` he forfeited that Name by Suffering a wanton Female to cohabit with Him.
His Habitation was a Bower, cover’d with Bark after the Indian Fashion, which in that mild Situation protected him pretty well from the Weather. Like the Ravens, he neither plow’d nor sow’d, but Subsisted chiefly upon Oysters, which his Handmaid made a Shift to gather from the Adjacent Rocks. Sometimes, too, for Change of Dyet, he sent her to drive up the Neighbour’s Cows, to moisten their Mouths with a little Milk. But as for raiment, he depended mostly upon his Iength of Beard, and She upon her Length of Hair, part of which she brought decently forward, and the rest dangled behind quite down to her Rump, like one of Herodotus's East Indian Pigmies. Thus did these Wretches live in a dirty State of Nature, and were mere Adamites, Innocence only excepted.
7. This Morning the Surveyors began to run the Dividing line from the Cedar·Post we had driven into the Sand, allowing near 3 Degrees for the Variation. Without making this Just allowance, we should not have obeyd his Majesty's order in running a Due West Line. It seems the former Commissioners had not been so exact, which gave our Friends of Carolina but too just an Exception to their Proceedings. The Line cut Dosier`s Island, consisting only of a Flat Sand, with here and there an humble Shrub growing upon it. From thence it crost over a narrow Arm of the Sound into Knot’s Island, and there Split a Plantation belonging to William Harding.
The Day being far spent, we encampt in this Man’s Pasture, tho’ it lay very low, and the Season now inclin’d People to Aguish Distempers. He sufferd us to cut Cedar·Branches for our Enclosure, and other Wood for Firing, to correct the moist Air and drive away the Damps. Our Landlady, in the Days of her Youth, it seems, had been a Laundress in the Temple, and talkt over her Adventurers in that Station, with as much pleasure as an Old Soldier talks over his Battles and Distempers, and I believe with as many Additions to the Truth.
The Soil is good in many Places of this Island, and the Extent of it pretty large. It lyes in the form of a Wedge: the South End of it is Several Miles over, but towards the North it Sharpens into a Point. It is a Plentiful Place for Stock, by reason of the wide Marshes adjacent to it, and because of its warm Situation. But the Inhabitants pay a little dear for this Convenience, by losing as much Blood in the Summer Season by the infinite Number of Mosquetas, as all their Beef and Pork can recruit in the Winter.
The Sheep are as large as in Lincolnshire, because they are never pincht by cold or Hunger. The whole Island was hitherto reckon’d to lye in Virginia, but now our Line has given the greater Part of it to Carolina. The Principal Freeholder here is Mr, White, who keeps open House for all Travellers, that either Debt or Shipwreck happens to cast in his way.
8. By break of Day we sent away our Largest Periauga, with the Baggage, round the South end of Knot’s Island, with Orders to the Men to wait for us in the Mouth of North River. Soon after, we emharkt ourselves on board the smaller Vessel, with Intent, if possible, to find a Passage round the North End of the Island.
We found this Navigation very difficult, by reason of the Continued Shoals, and often stuck fast aground; for tho’ the Sound spreads many miles, yet it is in most places extremely Shallow, and requires a Skilful Pilot to Steer even a Canoe safe over it. It was almost as hard to keep our Temper as to keep the Channel, in this provoking Situation. But the most impatient amongst us strokt down their Choler and swallow’d their curses, lest, if they suffer’d them to break out, they might sound like Complaining, which was expressly forbid, as the first Step to Sedition.
At a distance we descry’d Several Islands to the Northward of us, the largest of which goes by the Name of Cedar Island. Our periauga stuck so often that we had a fair chance to be benighted in this wide Water, which must certainly have been our Fate, had we not luckily spied a Canoe that was giving a Fortune-teller a cast from Princess Anne County over to North Carolina. But, as conjurers are Sometimes mistaken, the Man mistrusted we were Officers of Justice in pursuit of a Young Wench he had carry’d off along with him. We gave the Canoe Chase for more than an Hour and when we came up with her, threatend to make them all prisoners unless they would direct us into the right Channel.
By the Pilotage of these People we row’d up an Arm of the Sound, call’d the Back-Bay, till we came to the Head of it. There we were stoppt by a Miry Pocoson full half a Mile in Breadth, thro’ which we were oblig’d to daggle on foot, plungeing now and then, tho' we pickt our Way, up to the Knees in Mud. At the End of this Charming walk we gain’d the Terra Firma of Princess Anne County. In that Dirty Condition we were afterwards oblig’d to foot it two Miles, as far as John Heath’s Plantation, where we expected to meet the Surveyors & the men who waited upon them.
While we were performing this tedious Voyage, they had carried the Line thro’ the firm Land of Knot's Island, where it was no more than half a Mile wide. After that they travers’d a large Marsh, that was exceeding Miry, and extended to an Arm of the Back-Bay. They crosst that water in a Canoe, which we had order’d round for that Purpose, and then waded over another Marsh, that reacht quite to the High Land of Princess Anne. Both these Marshes together make a breadth of five Miles, in which the Men frequently sunk up to the Middle without muttering the least complaint. On the contrary, they turn’d all these Disasters into Merriment.
It was discover’d, by this day’s Work, that Knot’s Island was improperly so call’d, being in Truth no more than a Peninsula. The N W Side of it is only divided from the Main by the great Marsh above mentioned, which is seldom totally overflow’d. Instead of that, it might, by the Labour of a few Trenches, be drain’d into firm Meadow, capable of grazing as many cattle as Job, in his best Estate, was master of. In the Miry Condition it now lies, it feeds great Numbers in the Winter, tho', when the Weather grows warm, they are driven from thence by the Mighty Armies of Mosquetas, which are the Plague of the lower Part of Carolina, as much as the Flies were formerly of Egypt, and some Rabbis think those Flies were no other than Mosquetas.
All the People in the Neighbourhood flockt to John Heath’s, to behold such Rarities as they fancied us to be. The Men left their belov'd Chimney Corners, the good women their Spinning Wheels, and some, of more Curiosity than Ordinary, rose out of their sick Beds, to come and stare at us. They lookt upon us as a Troop of Knight Errants, who were running this great Risque of our Lives, as they imagin’d, for the Public Weal; and some of the gravest of them questiorfd much whether we were not all Criminals, condemned to this dirty work for Offences against the State.