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Journal of a Lady of Quality
Appendices: - V. Description of North Carolina by Alexander Schaw


IN the province of North Carolina there are several rivers, which run a considerable way into the country. Upon the south is Cape Fear river, which is navigable for ships of large burden as far as a shoal which they call the Flats, about seven miles above Brunswick town, which is situated twelve miles within the bar. In consequence of this impediment, vessels which have a draught of above nine and a half feet of water cannot go up to Wilmington, which is the next port above and the most considerable town on the river, even at spring tides, till they are lightened to that draught. Above, or rather at Wilmington, the Northeast and Northwest branches of the river join. The Northwest is the least considerable, and upon the whole extent there is no town, tho' its banks are very well settled. The first town is Cross Creek, about 100 miles above Wilmington. Here the whole trade with the back settlers is carried on for a great way round.

"From Fort Johnston at the mouth of the river to Brunswick is twelve miles. From Brunswick to Wilmington there are two roads: one goes up the right side of the river upon which Brunswick stands and crosses two ferries opposite to Wilmington, occasioned by the river being there divided by a large swampy island, through which there is a very bad road of a mile and a half. The length of this road is reckoned sixteen miles. To go by the other road, one must cross a ferry at Brunswick of a mile over, from whence to Wilmington it is about ten miles. Every part of these roads is more or less sandy. Some of them for miles together is very deep, as the surface often is a pure white sand, without a particle of soil to bind it together. This is the case with almost every part of the province near the sea.

"The roads on both sides of the river cross a few water runs, which in the country are called creeks; they are generally swampy along the sides, which are crowded with trees, bushes, vines, and brambles. Over all these creeks are wooden bridges. Wherever the land is dry, there is little or no brush. The woods in general are in the style of open groves in England, except in such places as have once been cleared and afterwards abandoned. These are always covered with brush. The roads upon the Northwest branch of the river grow more solid every mile above Wilmington, and long before they reach Cross Creek are v'ry hard. The only making they bestow upon the roads in the flat part of the country is cutting out the trees to the necessary breadth, in as even a line as they can, and where the ground is wet, they make a small ditch on either side. The roads through swamp land are made by first laying logs in the direction of the road and covering them cross ways with small pine trees, layd regularly together over sod, with which the logs are previously covered. The roads run constantly thro' woods, which tho' they are generally pretty open, yet objects at any considerable distance are intercepted from the eye, by the trees crowding into the line of direction as the distance increases.

"The next navigable river to the northward is the Neuse, upon which Newbern, the Governor's residence, is situated, about forty miles from the Sound. This river can admit only of small vessels.

"Albemarle sound is the inlet to Roanoke River, upon which Edenton is situated, sixty miles within land, and about 140 miles further up the river is Halifax, which carries on considerable trade. In the neighborhood of Halifax they have a good breed of horses; to the southward the horses are smaller, but spirited and handy.

"The lower parts of the province are subject to agues, pleurises and bilous complaints; the people of the hack counties are not subject to these disorders.

"The rivers in the lower parts of the country have no fords. Their banks are in general covered with impenetrable swamps and bottomless morasses, a very few spots excepted, upon which generally plantations are settled in the back country, they have good fords. "The settlements upon the lower part of Cape Fear river do not produce grain enough, particularly wheat, to answer their own demand. Large quantities are therefore sent down from Cross Creek in row boats, which in return carry up whatever goods are wanted for the use of the back settlers.

"Every proprietor of ever so small a piece of land raises some Indian corn and sweet potatoes and breeds some hogs and a calf or two, and a man must be very poor who walks on foot.

"Brunswick county contains fewer of the lower class of country people than any part of the whole province, particularly near the sea.

"There is no specie in the province and there never was a person who could command a sum of any consequence even of their paper currency. Nothing in the stile of a banker or money merchant was ever heard of.

"Governor Tryon left the province very soon after the submission of the Regulators, and when Colonel Martin succeeded to the Government, their wounds were still bleeding and they had received no protection from the oppression of the pettyfogging attorneys, whose rapacity had been the original cause of the rebellion. Governor Martin arrived in the province at this very critical time. He made a progress through his Government ; and when he was in this part of the country his attention to the relief of these poor people was such as won him their highest confidence and esteem.

"There is now a numerous body of the sons and grandsons of the first Scotch highland settlers, besides the later emigrants who retain that enthusiastic love for the country from which they are descended, which indeed scarce a highlander ever loses, that they will support its dignity at every risk. The Governor has attached them strongly to him, as well as the later emigrants by many services he has had opportunities of doing them. Many highland gentlemen are now in that country, several of whom have been officers, and still retain their influence among the people.

"Many of the people of the largest property in the country, tho' they now languish under the hand of oppression, will instantly join to support the Constitution, upon the first appearance of a chance of support.

"The low country people in general have fire-arms. I never was in a house without seeing one or more muskets. Indeed the militia laws required them. The highland emigrants carried few arms with them and the Regulators delivered up the greater part of theirs to Governor Tryon.

"The town of Brunswick, which is indeed but a straggling village, is twelve miles within the bar. At low water there is ten feet of water upon the bar; at spring tides there is from 19 to 20 feet, so that in fine weather ships of deeper draught can easily go in. The water, both below and above the flats is deep enough for any vessel. Vessels can run from the bar to Brunswick in three or four hours with the tide, with almost any wind.

"There is good anchorage within half a musket shot of the town. The bank is pretty high for this country and the woods are cut down a good way round the town. This is the only town on the west side of the river. Brunswick county is thinly settled, consequently cattle and horses are few." (Alexander Schaw to Lord Dartmouth, written from Orange Street, London, October 31, 1775. Dartmouth Papers.)

An earlier and more particular account of the province can he found in Governor Dobbs's "Answers to Queries" of December, 1761, N. C. R. VI, 605-623; and another and contemporary account in American Husbandry (1775).


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