Indian Slaves in Currituck Co., NC

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.


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Hatteras, History, North Carolina. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Indian Slaves in Currituck Co., NC

  1. Margaret (Speaks) Waters says:

    Hi Roberta, I’m part of the Speke/Speake/Speaks Family. Been a bit stumped about my husbands family line. Is there anything that can be done to find out if his family is really Cherokee. Supposedly his grandmother was full blooded Cherokee. Having trouble with finding things out.
    Thank you,
    Margaret Speaks Water

  2. Christin says:


    I am having trouble with my Cogdell slaves family in Wayne county North Carolina. the other descendants and my family said they were part native or fullblood native slaves. I have a document of Silas Cogdell being yellow complexion from the USCT 135th regiment troops. He is also listed as mulatto in the slave schedule in 1850.

    • Deborah R Jones says:

      Christin I am researching Silas Cogdell as part of my genealogy studies. I live in Wayne County. Can you contact me. My name is Deborah

      • Christin Dionne Gorham says:

        Hello Deborah R Jones, I was curious what other information that you may have on Silas Cogdell.

      • Deborah Jones says:

        Hi Christin, I started researching him because he was listed as a witness on My great great grandmother’s marriage certificate to a Robert Cogdell. I wanted to know if he was the same Silas Cogdell listed for the 135th US Colored troops. I do and found 2 marriage certificates: one to his first wife Amanda(Mandey) Smith, then to a Mary Jane Sanders later. There is a death certificate with a Silas Cogdell buried in Princeton, NC. Plus there is a pension certificate that Mary Jane Cogdell was able to apply to receive with a Squire Cogdell witnessing it. Are you part of his bloodline? I live in Goldsboro, NC. Where are you? Would to talk with you. Deborah


  3. Elizabeth Boyd says:

    I have traced my Barber ancestor to possibly the Yeopim Indians of Currituck in a deed with maybe a son,(James Barber, Indian). I just don’t have any information on his genealogy. The person in question is the father, Andrew Barber who was born around 1686. He eventually moved to Craven Co but was thought to have an Indian wife. Is there any way to research any records of the Yeopim to discover more about the mixed Indian/Whites?

  4. Robin Burgess "Ross" was first married name. "Denny" maidian name grandma was a "Pendelton" and her mother "Spencer", her mother "Oniel" says:

    In reference to the, “1765 William Gibbs of Currituck”, wasn’t there a portion of “Currituck” (Powell’s Point) on the mainland north of the Albemarle Sound extremely near to Norfolk County (Virginia Beach/Princess Anne Co./Lynnhaven Parish VA? William Gibbs may not have necessarily been in Hatteras. My family was island hopping, was all along the Outer Banks, and on the main lands of both NC and VA. My “grandma” was born in Powell’s Point/Currituck, NC in 1924. She was married in Elizabeth City, NC. Her mother was born in Engelhard, NC/Lake Mattamuskeet. It was highly common on census records for both her mother’s and father’s families to go back and forth to downtown Norfolk and to 2 little towns in Norfolk Co., VA called Hickory and Great Bridge. Norfolk, VA was the nearest deep sea port for trade and booming with jobs. Also, cousins in my “grandpa’s” family married into the Gibbs who were also of Englehard, NC. Those Gibbs lived for a time in Norfolk Co, VA before making a u-turn back down into NC. But this time to Knotts Island, NC which is uniquely situated in Currituck Co., NC, because, it can only be accessed via a causeway through Virginia. The Island is in both states. But, as you well know in early days everyone got around by boat through the Back Bay/Black Bay and Sounds.

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