Slavery certainly existed in Currituck County, as evidenced by the tax lists and other legal transactions. What isn’t evident is the race of the slaves. Only two or three separate items provide us with a glimpse into that type of information.
Many people mistakenly assume that slavery means Africans, but that assuredly was not the case. The first people enslaved here were Native Americans, and the practice was pervasive until they began to run out of slaves. Indian nations, having become indebted to traders, raided other Indian nations for slaves to sell into bondage, much as African slavers did to other African people on that continent.
Once within the system of slavery, there was seldom any escape, and the African and Indian slaves, often along with indentured servants, became a type of subculture. They lived together, “married’, and had families, as best they could, given the circumstances. The Indian people as well as the Africans lost their native culture, and instead it was replaced within a couple of generations with the culture of slavery and in another couple of generations, not even oral history remained.
In the early Currituck records, we find a few mentions of Indians in slavery. If the white families who held these slaves were studied carefully, one might be able to track the slaves owned by the family forward in time. In cases where one is lucky, the slave families and the slaveholder families were indeed allied for generations. In other cases, the slaves were sold at an estate sale. Even in those cases, it’s often possible to track the families.
In 1720 Foster Jarvis declared 4 tithables, including Davy, an Indian man, 2 tracts of land that be obtained by patent, 685 acres in total at Cowinjock
In 1721 Foster Jarvis had 5 tithables, 2 negro men, 1 Indian man and 1 apprt. man (probably an apprentice), 2 tracts of land totaling 689 acres obtained by patent.
In 1720, Mr. William Williams declared 5 tithables which included his son Stephen, 2 negroes, Jack and Bess, Sue, an Indian woman, 4 tracts of land, 1 by deed, 3 by patent, 1035 acres total in Powells Pt.
Mr. William Williams in 1721, on the tax list, declared 5 tithables including his son Stephen, 2 negroes, one named Jack, and 1 Indian woman. Interestingly enough, this man did not declare any land, which may have been an oversight, as he had in previous years declared around 1000 acres at Powell’s Point.
In 1720 William Swann living in Powells Point has 5 tithables including “Tom: Hall Malt.”, Lewis, an Indian and Cro and Nan, negroes. He had 9 tracts of land, 4 by survey and 5 by patent for a total of 2784 acres.
In 1721 William Swann had 6 tithables including “Tom Matt: Man, Lewis Indian man,” Crow, a negro man and Nan and Jenny, negro women, and 9 tracts of land. I have always wondered if Tom was a Mattamuskeet man, but if he was, what held him in slavery when he could simply just walk away and be in his home element. White men could not find either slaves or Indians who decided to hide in the swamps.
One other entry in the court records somewhat later also speaks to Indian slavery.
In 1765, a William Gibbs was called to show cause why an Indian woman named Cati Collins should not be set free. Of course, this woman may not have been local, she may have been a remnant of the Indian slave trade that occurred with veracity during and before the Tuscarora war of 1711-1715, although 50 years later it is very unlikely. We don’t know the outcome of this case. However, the Gibbs surname certainly suggests close geographic proximity with the Mattamuskeet on the mainland. To my knowledge, a William Gibbs never lived on Hatteras Island.