NAIRN-L Archives

Archiver > NAIRN > 2003-06 > 1055241927

Subject: [NAIRN] John Nairn of NC
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 06:45:27 EDT

Greetings to the Nairn List:

I have written a sketch of the early Nairn family in America,
with emphasis on John Nairn and his early descendants from
the beginning days of Bertie Co, North Carolina. This was
done for another purpose and might be too long to be posted,
as I am new to the list and am not familiar with the type of
messages that have been posted. If so, I am hoping that most
of you will be able to delete this without too much effort when
you tire of the details.

John Nairn of early Bertie County left more than 75 deeds and
other legal records, and his sons John, Jr, and William were
named in perhaps another 25 records. Unfortunately, none of
them left wills to document their families. I decided to undertake
the task of using those deeds and other records to decide: (1)
which of the various Nairn families in NC by 1800 were the sons,
and in some cases grandsons, of the two sons of John Nairn, Sr,
who was the ancestor of all but perhaps one of the families with
that name in NC by 1800, and (2) to make a best guess as to the
identities of the surnames of their wives. Because the son William
moved into Johnston Co. by 1760 and the eldest son John, Jr,
stayed on lands that had been owned by his father, I believe that
I was largely successful in the first task. I also feel comfortable
in saying that the wife of William was the Mary Narron named in
the 1748 will of Caleb Coker in Edgecombe Co, and I have some
confidence that the wife Christian of John Nairn, Jr (named in his
sale to Marmaduke Norfleet in 1737 of land inherited from his
father) was the daughter Christian Jones named in the 1721 will
of her father Richard in Isle of Wight Co, VA. Another of his
daughters Ann was married to William Bell to whom John Nairn, Sr,
sold land in 1733, and I believe that William Bell and John Nairn, Jr,
were brother-in-laws.

I am more uneasy about suggesting that the wife Mary named in
land sales of John Nairn, Sr, before 1725 was the widow Mary
(Fewox) Lawson who sold land to Thomas Pollock in 1714 which
was witnessed by John Nairn and John Hardy. This was the first
record that I have found for John Nairn and was the only one of
some 75 records in which he was associated with an unmarried
woman. William Nairn did not sell his inherited land until 1740
to the same Marmaduke Norfleet, at which time William was still
unmarried. I believe that both sons sold their land at very near
the time that they turned 21, placing their births back to about
1716 and 1719. This was not too long after their father John
had witnessed the land sale for the widow Lawson. When John, Sr,
made a land sale in 1725 his wife Mary was not named, so she had
apparently died by that date.

A good deal more went into this than has been sketched here, but
the problem was that my original effort to support the suggested
conclusions continued to grow until it had exceeded 20 pages. I began
early on thinking that I would send this information to the Nairn list,
but when it grew to such a length I knew that such a long message
would not be suitable to send to the entire list.

I am always interested in any historical connections that turn up in
family research and, having summarized the theories above, my plan
now is to take the original message and remove most of the other
parts from that first attempt. Naturally, if anyone sees something
that I have proposed above that could not be true, then I would like to
learn of that so that new theories could then be considered. Before
beginning surgery on my original document, though, let me mention
an area in which I was not satisfied with the results. John Nairn was
granted five patents for some 2,000 acres in total. From the adjoining
land owners mentioned, I believe that four of these were adjacent or
at least nearby to one another, while the one remaining is the only one
for which I have some confidence that I can look at a present-day
map and know that this was where John Nairn once owned land. This
location was at Rainbow Banks on a sharp turn of the Roanoke River
nearby to the town of Hamilton in Martin County. A fort was built on
that commanding site during the Civil War (Fort Branch).

Lands from the other four grants, nearby to one other according to
the neighbors mentioned and on the SS of the Morratock (Roanoke)
River, were associated with the names:

Jumping Run at Flaggy Run
Ready Branch and Flaggy Run
Runny Marsh on Flagg Run
Beaverdam Swamp at Goose Meadow
Great Marsh at the Beaver Dam
"Cheslfield" on Cattail Marsh and Goose Meadow
"Cheartfield" at Cypress Swamp
Great Cane Marsh
Canaan Marsh
Meadow Marsh
Cypress Swamp
Deep Bottom Creek
River Pocosin on SS of Morratock
Head of Scotland Neck on SS of Morratock,
which may or may not be near the town of that name.

How could 2,000 acres be near so many bodies of water?
Was there any dry land in that part of Bertie Co, and does
anyone know exactly where this was?

Also, all deeds found were in Bertie Co. up until the ones of
1737 and 1740, when the sons of John Nairn, Sr, were
selling some of their inherited lands, at which time they
were said to be in Tyrrell. However, the actual deeds were
recorded in Edgecombe. By 1790, the residue of the family
of John Nairn, Jr, and others associated with them in earlier
times, were found in Halifax Co. where the town of Scotland
Neck is located. However, I have seen it said that Halifax was
formed from Edgecombe in 1758, with no mention being made
that any part of Tyrrell was incorporated into Halifax. This land
situation seems confusing to me.

Now, on with surgery on my original document, leaving mostly
those parts that have something to do with history and even this
is likely to be too long now that the lands have been mentioned. I
will, however, attach to the end of this message the conclusions
that I have made about the composition of the early Nairn/Naron
families in North Carolina, with a word of caution that this is still
a work in progress but is my best judgment at this time.

=====================Remaining Part of Original Message

John Nairn was a man of considerable influence in the early
colony of North Carolina. He first appeared in legal records there
in 1714. Over the next 25 years his name appeared in at least 75
records. He was a Justice of the Peace, a Deputy Marshall, then
Sheriff, served as a lawyer, received land grants totaling over
2,000 acres, and did a brisk business in land deals. He was also
called a planter on a few occasions, but in today's terms it would
likely be said of him that he was a land speculator involved in local
overnment service and had a good knowledge of the law and how
to use that in obtaining his five land grants.

It was about the third generation before the original Nairn name
from Scotland became changed to Naron. Either name is rather
rare in America, but in Scotland the name is common, with there
being a town of Nairn, a county Nairn, and a Nairn River. There are
many families in which a "three brothers story" emerges from the
mists of time, and such a family legend exists about the origins of
the Nairn family in America, as it is said that three brothers came
over from Scotland and that they came wearing coats with fancy
buttons down the back (as was shown in the "Bravehearts" movie).

Well, it does turn out that there were apparently only three early
Nairn families in America. There was a Thomas Nairn from South
Carolina, an Indian agent who traveled widely throughout the
"Western lands," all of the way to the Mississippi River. In 1711
he drew up one of the early maps showing that region. However,
he was killed by the Yemassee Indian tribe during an uprising in
1715. Then, Robert Nairn, a surveyor and Navel officer, was
found in Somerset County, Maryland, by 1690. He died in 1733
at roughly the same time as did John Nairn of North Carolina, who
must have been born by or before 1685, and perhaps a good deal
earlier. These were all very accomplished men, but were widely
separated in their locations and no evidence of contact between
them has been found. It would appear that it would have been
John's father who was closer in age to Thomas and Robert Nairn,
though, so it has entered my mind that John's father might have
died soon after arriving in America before there was time for him
to appear in the skimpy records available from those early days.
If so, this would explain how John appeared to spring up out of
nowhere as an adults in 1714 North Carolina, without leaving
previous records elsewhere.

Marmaduke Norfleet, who bought some of John's lands from his sons in
1737 and 1740, owned inherited family lands elsewhere, as in 1766 he
had sold for 1200 pounds about 1100 acres in Perquimans Co, NC, and
moved into Northampton Co. on the VA border just above present-day
Halifax and Bertie Counties. It is of some interest that his land sale
in 1766 was to George Washington before he gained much of his later
fame. Thus, the Nairn brothers did business with and probably knew
quite well a man who later had dealings with Washington.

Thomas Pollock --the buyer in 1714 when John Nairn and John Hardy
witnessed a deed for the sale of two tracts of land by Mary Lawson,
widow, with one being a plantation on which William Hardy (brother of
John) was living and the other land she had bought from her younger
half-brother, Robert Fewox -- was Governor of North Carolina in
1712 and 1714 and was a man of great wealth, owning over 30
thousand acres on the 1717 tax rolls of Chowan County. He signed
several land grants to John Nairn, and in 1717 there is a record
indicating that Pollock lived adjacent to Capt. Downing, who was
probably the William Downing next to whom John owned land in
1726. In addition, deeds of 1727 and 1730 indicted that John's
land was adjacent to lands formerly owned by Charles Eden, who
was Governor of North Carolina between 1713 and 1722. John
also witnessed the will of William Maule in 1725, and Maule's widow
later married Gabriel Johnston who became governor in 1734. These
associations with three governors of North Carolina are mentioned
to indicate that John moved in high society in those early days,
which was probably of some help in securing land patents in good

Getting back to Mary (Fewox) Lawson, her father James Fewox
in his will of 1710 left land to John Lawson that was adjacent to
land of William Hardy and mentioned the son Lemuel of Edith and
William Hardy, so it is clear that the land sold by Mary Lawson in
1714 was nearby, if not identical, to the land left to John Lawson
by her father in 1710. It turns out that William Hardy was married
to Edith Batchelor, whose mother Ann in about 1688 had become
the second wife of James Fewox (father of Mary Lawson), by whom
he had sons Robert and John Fewox. Thus, Mary (Fewox) Lawson
would have been born before 1688 and would have been at least
40 years old when the wife Mary of John Nairn died by 1725. I have
the strong feeling that it was she who was the wife of John Nairn.
Regarding this Hardy family, in a few generations it is from them
that came the mother of General Douglas MacArthur, who at age 82
in his Farewell Address at West Point gave what in my opinion was the
finest speech ever given on American soil, not withstanding Lincoln's
famed Gettysburg Address.

James Fewox was listed as a headright in old Bath County in 1696,
and a John Lawson was a surveyor who laid out the historic town of
Bath there in about 1705 and bought two of the first lots in 1706.
He was also an early explorer, who made a thousand-mile journey
through "Indian lands" and published a map of the region and also a
book describing its flora and fauna and the various groups of Native
Americans therein (The History of North Carolina, London, 1714).
Unfortunately, he was executed by the Tuscaroras tribe in 1711 and
was not still around to see his book published. He seemed at first to
be a good candidate for the deceased husband of widow Lawson
in 1714, but the problem is that he left a will of 1708 in Bath Co.
in which his estate was left to Hannah Smith and the children that
she had had by me. There is no question that this was the explorer
because Hannah Smith was involved in law suits of 1712/13 that
attempted to lay claim to a "haire trunk" and the writings that it
contained. I have not been able to discover the name of the late
husband of the widow Lawson, and that information might help to
decide if she could have been the wife of John Nairn, as I have

Having discussed explorer John Lawson in some detail without
much purpose, the parallels between he and Thomas Nairn of
South Carolina are striking. They were exploring lands of the
Native American tribes over the same time periods, were both
making maps of the lands over which they traveled, and both lost
their lives in the process in 1711 and 1715, respectively. It would
not be at all surprising if their paths crossed during their travels.
If John Lawson was the deceased husband of Mary Fewox, or
connected to him in some way, I have wondered if a possible
association between these two men might have in some way
played a part in the meeting of John Nairn and the widow Lawson
by 1714, after John Lawson had been killed and Thomas Nairn
was still alive. This seems like a long shot, indeed, but when
speculations regarding a Nairn and Fewox marriage are as flimsy
as the ones presented here, no straw is too short to grasp.
Incidentally, I recently noticed an original printing of the Nairn
map of 1711 put up for bids on a web site offering historical

Descendants of John Nairn, Jr, did not seem to carry on the
name as effectively as did those of William Nairn in the
Johnston/Nash area, and it is here where the Narron name in
North Carolina has been handed down to the present day. The
name today is found largely outside its origins in North Carolina,
though, and the study done in 1981 by Mr. Wesley Naron on the
descendants of Eli Naron (son of Thomas, grandson of William,
and great-grandson of John Nairn, Sr) gives a good example of
how well a surname can multiply when there is a high proportion
of males in the family. From this single line, he documented 725
descendants that had been born with the Naron name, not
accounting for those born to Naron women who had married
into other families. I have no idea how many people with the
name might be found in America today, but a high percentage of
them would go back to Old John Nairn who died in Bertie Co. before
1738. His wife Mary, be she Fewox or what not, and the wife Delila
of Eli Naron had a little something to do with this, and it would be
nice if they could be better recognized by surname.

Eli Naron and brother John were found together on the 1802 tax
rolls of Clarke Co, GA. From there, John moved into Robertson
County, TN, where he died by April of 1808 at an early age, leaving
three young sons as had his father before him, who according to
family tradition was hanged by Tories loyal to England during the
American Revolution. John might have arrived there at about the
same time as did John Bell, son of William Bell who had lived next to
John's great-grandfather in Bertie Co. some 80 years earlier and
whom I believe to be the brother-in-law of John Nairn, Jr. This John
Bell was born in about 1750 and in 1782 Edgecombe Co. he married
Lucy Williams, the daughter of John Williams and his wife Mourning.

There might well be some connection of her Williams family to
the John Williams found associated in several records with
John Nairn, Sr, in Bertie Co. between 1716 and 1725 and to
Elizabeth Williams to whom John's orphaned daughter Sarah in
1738 was apprenticed to learn to spin. Back to the John Bell
family, they left Edgecombe Co. in 1804 with six children and
settled in Robertson Co, TN. Quite famous in its day was the
"Bell witch" legend connected with the John Bell family, about
which five books have been written. A nice sketch of this can
be found on the Internet at:

>From Bertie County, then, we have connected to the Nairn family
a man who sold land to George Washington, the family from which
General MacArthur descended, and the family involved in the
"Bell witch" legend. Now, how is that for a combination?

My best regards, Ron Bullock
(1a) John Nairn (ca. 1685-1737)/Mary Fewox (?), died by 1725
(2a) William Nairn (ca. 1719 -1764)/Mary Coker; m ~1746
(2a-1) John Naron (ca. 1749 -1818)/Charity
(2a-2) Thomas Naron (ca. 1750 - 1782)/Sarah
Eli Naron, b. 1779
John Naron, b. ca. 1780
Thomas Naron, b. ca. 1774
(2a-3) Aquilla Naron (ca. 1760 -?)/Miss Bailey
(2a-4) William Naron (ca. 1763 -?)/Unknown

(2b) John Nairn, Jr (ca. 1716 -?)/Christian Jones (?); m ~1736
(2b-1) Jesse Naron (ca. 1740 -?)/Unknown
(2b-2) John Naron (ca. 1745 -?)/Unknown
(2b-3) Drury Naron ( ca. 1755 -?)/Unknown

(2c) Sarah Nairn (1725 - ?)/Unknown

(1b) Elizabeth Nairn-? (b. ca 1700 - ?)/Unknown

This thread: