February 5, 2011.

Currituck County. It's Beginnings by Henry Beasley Ansell


To cull a glimmer of the early history of Currituck County, at least the fifty or more years of its first settlement, we must take into consideration in part, the Colonial History of Virginia, the first English Colony placed on this continent. In this connection, we should remember that all the territory from Maine to Florida was at first named Virginia, which indefinite term embraced the New England, as well as the Carolina and other Colonies.

The Colony of Virginia was settled in 1607, and laid special claim 150 miles both North and South of Cape Henry.

From 1607 to 1665, this Virginia Colony spread out like a fan in all directions from its hub, and had peopled, or had partially done so, that portion of territory north of Albemarle Sound to the present North Carolina Virginia line, and had the same full control and management of this as of any other portion of its colony. Therefore, grants for lands were issued continually. In one day, September 25th, 1663, patents for 4800 acres were given to settlers that had located and were then locating themselves in this Albemarle section, by the Governor of Virginia, who had been issuing these patents from the right gleaned, for a decade before, and who continued to do so afterwards.

This Albemarle section up to the date aforesaid, was as much Virginian as Princess Anne and Norfolk counties; and its government, if any, came from the same source, for up to 1665, there was no dispute about a boundary line.

In 1663, the territory from the 30th to the 36th degree of North latitude was conveyed by Charles II King of England, to eight noblemen who were joint Proprietors, with full power to settle and govern the territory aforesaid, viz: Edward of Earl of Claredon, George Duke of Albemarle, William Earl of Craven, John Lord Berkeley, Anthony Lord Ashley, Sir George Carteret, Sir William Berkeley, and Sir John Carleton.

This 36th parallel ran down Albemarle Sound, so the lands North thereof was still Virginian. Governor Berkeley of Virginia visited this property and gave it the name of Albemarle in honor of the Duke of Albemarle - hence the name of Albemarle Sound. This sound before this had gone by various names - Roanoke Bay, Roanoke River &c. The land north of this Sound to the present state line was made a county and named Albemarle by which we may know it for a while hereafter.

On the 8th of September, 1663, the Proprietors empowered Governor Berkeley of Virginia to inaugurate a government in this Albemarle section "in order that the King might see they slept not with their patent". Governor Berkeley was one of these Proprietors; everything being left into his hands; he appointed William Drummond Governor and a better one, likely, we never have had.

Afterwards Drummond went to Virginia, participated in Bacon's Rebellion and died a tragic death--hanged by order of Governor Berkeley.

Why these Lords Proprietors should have claimed this strip of land North of Albemarle Sound, I cannot well see, for it was not granted in their charter and still belonged to Virginia as before. The fact is, they did not know where this 36th parallel lay, for before this Albemarle had been placed at the 35th degree, which would in fact throw it south of Ocracoke. All of these Proprietors, except Berkeley, were officials in England and knew little of the territory granted them. Berkeley, very likely, knew they claimed more than belonged to them, but he of course was one of them. It was all the same with Berkeley, for he could rightfully appoint Governors and inaugurate a government for it was Virginia still.

There is little question that in the two years following the first grant, the Proprietors found out that it did not cover this coveted territory and applied to the King for another grant that would do so. In compliance with their request, on the 7th of June, 1665, another grant was issued in favor of these Proprietors, as a mark of special favor and extended the first grant northward as far as the north end of Currituck River or Inlet (Knotts Island Bay) thence a due west course to Wyonoke Creek (Notoway River) which lies within or about 36̊30' north latitude, thence west &c.

So this second grant took in this Albemarle section, which was now a county, and which was divided into four precincts known as Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans, and Chowan. This was considered an encroachment by Virginia on her rights from prior grants.


To cull a glimpse of light of the time and the place of the first settlement in what is now North Carolina, we must go back prior to the date, 1663, when that portion of territory east of Chowan River and north of Albemarle Sound was named Albemarle County given by Governor Berkeley of the Colony of Virginia when he personally took charge of it.

Now Virginia had been spreading out and settling territory in all directions from its hub for about 56 years prior to the naming of this Albemarle County. Taking, all in all, the most reasonable grounds are that its wheel spokes covered this Albemarle territory and its rim turned in Albemarle Sound. Furthermore, it is reasonable to suppose that many hunters, trappers and other prospectors were penetrating this territory north of Albemarle Sound and domiciling themselves, at least 30 years before any grant was given to the Lords Proprietors.

All of this 30 years or more, this Albemarle territory, which afterwards, 1663, was named Albemarle County, was truly Virginian territory, and its inhabitants, few or many, were Virginian.

The first permanent white settlement in this section is placed, generally by historians, east of Chowan River, which is a very indefinite location, for east of Chowan River reaches to Currituck's Atlantic shore.

Secretary of State Saunders, who compiled our Colonial records, says: Neither the date nor the location of the first settlement, in what is now North Carolina, can be fixed with absolute certainty. However the settlements first made in what is now N. C. were made in this Albemarle Section and truly became the hub of North Carolina afterwards

. The writer thinks from what he can gather, it probably began to settle about 1630. The places, location and the time appears to be a guess--at by all, as there is little or no history at all to inform us.

The writer, an old man, knowing Pretty well the geography of this Albemarle section, within which we live, his guess probably is as trustworthy about this matter of settlement as others that don't know, for if you will read what Saunders says about our historians, you will find their conclusions were often erroneous.

Now the writer's opinion is, there were settlements made in Currituck as early as any portion of Albemarle, at least the equal of that generally attributed to Chowan, which location must have reference to what is now Gates County, for the following reasons: The moving cause of immigration into Albemarle was its delightful climate, bountiful products, and above all bottom lands, in plenty, along sounds, rivers and up creeks. It appears this bottom land search was always in view, more bottom land and better bottom land. The sounds, rivers. and creeks afforded good harbors, divides easily crossed in Currituck, where marsh and bottom land were in plenty, and further, the more east a settlement was made, more secure from hostile Indians, as thicker the forests the better for the Indian.

Now it is very certain that Princess Anne was early settled and joined Currituck, water courses, reaching and connecting, one with the other. So a person standing on the northeast border of Currituck can see half of the eastern border of Princess Anne County.

Now, from Cape Henry to Currituck Inlet where the state line begins, is scarcely 25 miles, and small vessels and perriaugers could make the trip from Cape Henry to Currituck in less than half day. Besides there is the sound and Back Bay running from Currituck to Sandbridge, halfway or more to the Cape aforesaid, and there is North River that penetrates Princess Anne and flows into Currituck Sound.

Now while Virginia was peopling Princess Anne, is there any reason why the stream of settlers should not have kept right on in a southward march into what is now called Currituck, for mind you, the first settlers had no State line to cross, but were spreading out in Virginia settlements and the Virginia Governors granted most of the lands we now live on, especially so up to 1665. After this, till 1728, when the state line was run and both colonies quarreling, each colony would give grants to settlers bordering on where it was thought the line would run. This quarrel lasted 63 years.

Now Currituck being surrounded and interspersed with waterways, making transportation easy, plenty bottom lands, dotted with islands and the mainlands suitable for farms and residences, sounds, rivers and creeks nearly surrounding the whole, with a soil unsurpassed for fertility, the safest place in Albemarle from the Indians; there in peace and quiet the immigrant could live for the catching, on oysters, fish and fowl, hammer their corn in mortars for hominy--there they are. Then again there were two inlets, one sticking its nose against that beautiful, residential Island called Knotts, the other pressing its tides against that fertile spot, Church's Island, then wending its way to wash the banks of Currituck shores, from which shores, a sound in front that mocks the Bay of Venice, while in plain view are the bursting of the waves of the Atlantic that would put in the shade the Venetian Adriatic.

This surely was the place for the immigrants, and I am sure they were there, if they were people of good sense; for food, methinks, at first, was the hardest to obtain, it was here by nature in abundance.

Taking all these stated facts, we can with reasonable certainty say, that the writer's conclusions arrived at, justifies us in saying, that the first English settlement in Albemarle was in Currituck. The inducements here were surely ahead of a settlement in Chowan, for the navigable waters of Virginia to the navigable waters of Carolina in that section, was computed in those days, from 18 to 25 miles, through thick forests, where Indians dwelt in plenty.

Eventually, there was a big road cut leading from Virginia camps, stretching southward, into that part of Carolina now called Gates.

This road came through Suffolk, but this was when Albemarle was peopling up plentifully.

After the 1665 grant to the Proprietors, the quarrel commenced between the two colonies about the dividing line, which lasted 63 years.

In these years, Currituck was taking it easy.

When the sheriffs of Lower Norfolk and Princess Anne Counties came for taxes, the people living for miles from the supposed line, could say, we pay our taxes in Carolina, and when the tax collectors of Carolina came along, we pay our taxes to Virginia, so each one may have got but little funds out of this disputed territory.

Virginia got some tithes from Knotts Island, Morses Point, and Gibbs Woods from its Princess Anne collectors, for the most of them considered themselves Virginians until the line was run in 1728, for all their lands were granted by Virginia and she was humiliated when the line cut off five miles of Knotts Island, all Mackay's Island, two miles of Morse's Point, and Gibbs Woods, to North Carolina. Virginia had for almost a century, been receiving tithes and other dues from these people; for the church of England as they were bound to do by the laws of Virginia. But a time arrived when a Wesleyan Methodist disciple, of the type of Lorenzo Dow, came to the Island, then it rebelled from paying tithes to the Church of England.

What could Va. or North Carolina say to them; the line had not been run; they considered themselves belonging to no country; they did as pleased them. Currituck was so far back in the seas, methinks, they were not much molested by tax collectors till the line was run.