Archiver > ELDRIDGE > 1999-11 > 0943655298

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Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 17:28:18 EST

1765 - 1775

2420 pg. 561 NATHANIEL ELDRIDGE 9 April 1770 100 acres in Tryon on the
branches of Litle Catawba Creek, joining Berrys Corner.

5649 pg. 38 NATHANIEL ELDRIGE 27 April 1767 300 acres in Mecklenburgh on
a branch of Crowders Creek, joining ALEXANDER ROBERSON.

6651 pg. 238 JAMES SCOTT 28 April 1768 200 acres in Mecklenburgh on the
Dividing Ridge between little Catawba creek and Crowders creek, joining

9063 pg. 212 NATHANIEL ELDREGE 28 February 1775 180 acres in Tryon on
the waters of Bridge branch of Crowders creek, joining Fosters line.


Publication of this volume completes Margaret Hofmann's abstracts of
grants of patents for land in North Carolina throughout the colonial period,
from 1663 through 1775, whether issued by the governor and council under
authority of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina (1663-1729) or under authority
of King George I, King George II, or King George III (1729-1775). There
remains only one other group of records conveying original title to land in
colonial North Carolina, and abstracts of those are in preparations by Ms.
Hofmann. That group is the body of indented deeds issued out of the
proprietary land office of John Carteret, Earl Granville, from 1748 until his
death in 1763; they are commonly called "Granville Grants."
In the foreword to the volume of these abstracts for the years 1735
through 1764, the user's attention was called to the fact that after 1744
Crown patents were not issued for land that lay within the Granville
Proprietay. At the risk of appearing repetitious or pedantic, one feels
obliged to emphasize once more the fact that in this present volume the
resarcher will not find record of instruments of original title to land in
the Granville Proprietary. This district comprised the northern half of
North Carolina and included all land lying between the Virginia boundary and
the southern boundary of the present counties of Dare, Tyrrell, Washington,
Randolph, Davidson, Rowan, and Iredell. Theoretically, the eastern and
western boundaries of Lord Granville's tract were formed by the two oceans.
For all practical purposes, had that title to be made good, the earl probably
could have established his western boundary only at the Mississippi River.
The researcher will not, then, find in this volume any titles to land in
Northampton County, for example, or Wilkes, or Yadkin, or Davie, or Burke, or
any other present day county that lay within the old boundaries of the
Granville Proprietary.
This does not mean, let me hasten to say, that researchers will not find
names of patentees who lived within the Granville Proprietary but obtained
grants within the Crown district in he southern half of North Carolina. One
did not have to reside in either half of the province in order to own land
there. Some individuals owned enormous landholdings in both districts. A
greater number lived first in one district, then in the other, and owned land
in both Lord Granville's district and in the Crown's district. Easily
available, relatively inexpensive, vacant land is a powerful motivator; it is
frequently the underlying force in the movement of population. Conversely, a
well-stocked geographical territory is a continuing desideratum of
governments and proprietaries. Both the Crown and Earl Granville desired a
well-populated district.
The opening of Lord Granville's land office in 1748 obliged the governor
of North Carolina to introduce changes in the operation of the Crown land
office, since both districts were in competition for the same market. We,
therefore, see influences and alterations in the methods of operation of the
Crown land office that it may be useful to speak of specifically.
From the earliest days of the Lords Proprietores it ws usually possible
to secure land only by immigrating or by importing immigrants (called
"headrights"). So much land was granted per headright -- usually 100 acres
per adult male, and vaying amounts of females, children, and slaves. Land
was seldom sold by the Lords Proprietors for mere cash. The Crown officers
continued the headright system of granting land upon importation of settlers
and payment of surveyro's and office fees. The headright system was dealt a
severe blow from which it never recovered when the Granville land office
opened. Lord Granville's agents sold land outright to any purchaser with
ready money and did not concern themselves with headrights. The system of
granting land in the Crown's district as a reward for immigrating or for
importing immigrants appears to have been allowed to lapse just prior to or
with the death of Governor Gabriel Johnston (1752). The royal instructions
to Governor Arthur Dobbs, dated 17 June 1754, stipulated merely that land be
granted to persons who were "in a condition to cultivate and improve the same
by settling thereon in proportion to the quantity of acres a sufficient
number of white persons or negroes." Surveyors' fees and office fees were
still charged by the Crown to the settlers, and an annual quitrent (a form of
tax) was reserved to the Crown, of course.
The grants of patent abstracted in this present volume, then, do not
represent "headright" grants, and researchers should be careful not to
speculate on the size of families by applying to these grants an old
headright formula of so many acres per person imported. Great caution must
be used, as well, in attempting to deduce inferences about economic
well-being of the patentee by the size of his grant. While it is true that
the criterion for grants was altered from headrights to "a condition to
cultivate and improve" the land that the settler wanted, there is another
factor at work in determining the size of the tract granted. In the eastern
end of the province, there was naturally less desirable vacant land in the
second half of the eighteenth century than there was in the more recently and
more sparsely populated western end of the province, where there was an
expanding frontier. One should expect to find, and will find, therefore, a
great number of grants for small tracts in the eastern counties that have no
bearing on the patentee's economic condition.
In addition to abandoning the headright system, Crown officers made
improvements in their land office. In the earliest years all applications
for vacant land were made directly to the Provincial Secretary who brought
the fact of the "entries" to meetings of the governor and council sitting as
a Court of Claims. Initially the Crown continued this method of making an
"entry" for lands after it had purchased the soil of North Carolina from the
Lords Proprietors of Carolina. When Earl Granville's land office opened in
1748, however, his agents rode the court circuit and made themselves readily
available throughout the northern half of the province to any who wished to
make an "entry" directly with them. The Crown land office did not
immediately adopt this convenience of making the entry takers more readily
accessible to enteres, but within five years of the closing of the Granville
land office (1763), additional entry takers were commissioned to assist the
Provincial Secretary by taking the initial entry and forwarding it to him.
The Provincial Secretary then presented the entry at the Court of Claims.
(The ordinary steps of issuing a warrant to the surveyor authorizing him to
lay off the land, his return to the Provincial Secretary of a plat map of the
tract of land, and the issuance of a patent out of the Provincial Secretary's
office under the signature of the Governor and the great seal of North
Carolina all remained in force and were not altered.)
Probably the major factors influencing the addition of more entry takers
in the Crown land office were the growth of the population in the southern
half of the province, the expansion of the western frontier by Cherokee
Indian land cessions in 1768, and the increase in the Crown's land office
business due to the unavailability of grants through Lord Granville's land
office after his death in 1763. By 1768, the year of the Cherokee cessions
which led to the formation of Tryon County and the opening of the Catawba,
Pacolet, and Tyger river lands, the Crown's land office divided the southern
half of the province into three geographical districts (Western, Northern,
and Southern) and appointed sub-entry takers. The Western district initially
included Mecklenburg and Tryon counties, and Martin Phifer was the entry
taker; by 1773 John Kirconnel was made entry taker for Tyron County, where
there was a booming land office business. The Northern district included
Craven, Dobbs, Carteret, Hyde, and Beaufort counties and that portion of
Johnston County that lay below the Granville line; Christopher Neale was
entry taker in 1768, and by 1773 he had been succeeded by Peter Johnston (at
which time Onslow County was added to the district). The Southern district
remained the responsibility of the Provincial Secretary and included the
counties of Duplin, New Hanover, Brunswick, Bladen, Cumberland, and Anson;
initially Onslow County fell into the district. By 1773 the land office
business in Anson had become so brisk that James Cotten was commissioned
entry taker for that county. This final appointment put individual entry
takers in the three western counties of Anson, Mecklenburg, and Tryon, and in
those appointments lies a useful hint concerning the growing density of the
frontier population on the eve of the American Revolution. The greater part
of this growth can probably be dated from the Cherokee Indian cession of
1768, under which the Indians surrendered title to land lying west of the
Catawba River and east of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. (It
was in this area that Tryon County was formed.)
The southern line of Tryon County was meant to be the North
Carolina-South boundary. This however, had never been surveyed. When it was
surveyed in 1772, North Carolina agreed to a line that placed the southern
strip of Tryon County and much of the Pacolet and Tyger river lands in South
Carolina. Consequently, a large number of patents abstracted in this volume
represent the instrument from which devolve a very large number of
present-day South Carolina land titles.
It is not known to what extent the closing of the Crown's land office
motivated North Carolinians to join in the rebellion that was the American
Revolution, but it certainly must have been one of the moving forces. By
order of the King in Council dated 7 April 1773, Governor Josiah Martin was
ordered to close the land office. Accordingly, the land office closed in
North Carolina on 28 June 1773, when the order was received and read to the
council of state. Although the Court of Claims continued to sit, and
although patents based on old entries, warrants, and surveys continued to
ripen and were issued as late as 25 July 1774, applications for new entries
and warrants were denied. Rumor spread through the province that it was the
Crown's intention to secure an Act of Parliament that would vacate all
American titles to land by annulling former patents, thereby causing all
titles to land to revert to the Crown. Governor Martin issued a proclamation
to suppress this rumor. He even went so far as to hold another Court of
Claims in February 1775 in which 74 petitions for patents were accepted. It
was too late. The Crown land office had closed forever. When the land
office reopened in 1778, it opened as the State land office under authority
of a sovereign people who had assumed title in themselves to all vacant lands
within their charted boundaries.
The question occasionally arises as to whether or not North Carolina
emulated South Carolina after the American Revolution by requiring citizens
to present memorials setting forth their land titles. North Carolina did not
do this. It accepted the fact that natural title to vacant land vested
originally in the chartered proprietor or sovereign power, whether the Lords
Proprietors of Carolina or the kings of Great Britain. It merely held that
in 1775 title to all vacant lands within its boundaries had demised on the
new state upon the cessation of the king's sovereignty within those
boundaries. North Carolina allowed no question to shake earlier titles; she
held her citizens secure in their lands.
In the preparation of this volume, as in her volumes of abstracts for
the years from 1663 through 1729 and from 1735 through 1764, the compiler has
consulted (and where necessary, conflated) the patent books in the office of
the Secretary of State in Raleigh, the Auditor General's record of patents in
the British Public Record Office in London, the Provincial Auditor's records
of patents in the North Carolina State Archives and the Secretary of State's
office in Raleigh, and the records of the colonial Court of Claims in the
North Carolina State Archives. (The minutes of the closing years of the
Court of Claims, from 1772 through 1775, are not with their fellows in the
Archives but are in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of
North Carolina Library in Chapel Hill, where they have been assigned the
collection number of 2145.)
Researchers who wish to obtain copies of the original abstracts of
patents or copies of the warrants an d plats for them should address their
inquiries to the Land Grant Office, New Legislative Office Building -- Room
302, 300 North Salisbury Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27611.
Perhaps writers of forewords should not praise the books they intend to
introduce. But to say that this volume is another milestone in opening to
researchers the single most important goup of records in North Carolina is no
more than to acknowledge what is a self-evident truth. And to say that
Margaret Hofmann has placed the world of researchers irretrievably in her
debt is mere understatment.

George Stevenson
Reference Unit Supervisor
North Carolina State Archives
Raleigh, North Carolina
June 1984

Source: "Colony of North Carolina 1765-1775, Abstracts of Land Patents,
Volume Two" by Margaret M. Hofmann.

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