Tuscarora Populations

“Their true names, their true numbers only written now in God’s own hand……”

Editor’s Commentary

This document, originally published in the Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter, is the combined effort of many people.  The compilers, to whom we are very grateful, wish to remain anonymous.  Our many thanks for your efforts.  The Tuscarora played a pivotal role in the development of North Carolina in many ways. 


Tuscarora Historical location: VA and NC – villages were located along the Neuse and Roanoke Rivers. Estimated population precontact – 25,000; By 1700 that population was estimated to be roughly 5,000.

In early times the Tuscarora territory stretched from the Atlantic shores to the Shenandoah and Appalachian Mountains.  They had as many as 24 large towns and could muster 6,000 warriors. Lawson wrote that in 1708 the Tuscarora had 15 towns and about 1,200 warriors.  Perhaps a minimum estimate of the true number of their fighting men would be 1,200 persons and 6 towns. 

In the 17th and early 18th-centuries, there were two main branches of the Tuscarora in NC and VA: a northern group led by Chief Tom Blount/Blunt, and a southern group led by Chief Hancock. Varying accounts circa 1708-1710 estimated the number of Tuscarora warriors from 1200-2000. Historical estimations put their total population at about three to four times that number.

As time went on, years of harsh treatment were endured by the Tuscarora.  These included loss and encroachments of game and fishing lands along with broken treaties.  Kidnappings, rape, beatings, murder and Native slavery finally culminated in The Tuscarora War.

Continued conflicts between Colonists and Tuscarora resulted in numerous deaths to the general population on both sides.  The final straw seemed to be twofold; first the enslavement of Tuscarora children and secondly, the Tuscarora Village, Chattokka, was “given” by John Lawson to Barron DeGraffenreid for the town of New Bern.  The caused the powder keg that had been simmering to explode, beginning the Tuscarora War.

Chief Hancock killed 120 colonists on Sept 22, 1711, took others captive, burned houses, and seized crops and livestock in Bath County.  Then white settlers retaliated.  The Tuscarora War was put into motion…..

It is thought that about 3,000 Tuscarora survived the war of 1711-1713.  Later however all but about 1,000 fled their villages and forts led by Chief Tom Blount.

Tuscarora Total population: 7,500+.  Regions with significant populations are NY, NC, Ontario by 2008 statistics.



The Chowanoc and Weapemeoc people gradually abandoned their lands. Some become slaves, indentured servants, and others migrate south to join the Tuscarora.

Only about 500 American Indians remain in the Albemarle region.

An escaped slave serves as an architect in the construction of a large Tuscarora Indian fort near the Neuse River.


Surveyor Gen John Lawson, identified 15 major Tuscarora towns along the North Carolina waterways.

Settlers begin moving west and south of the Albemarle area.


Bath becomes the first incorporated town in North Carolina.


In his book, “A New Voyage to Carolina,” published in 1709, but compiled over the prior decade, John Lawson describes the colony’s flora and fauna and its various groups of American Indians. Lawson also publishes a map of Carolina.


Baron Christoph von Graffenried, a leader of Swiss and German Protestants, establishes a colony in Bath County. The town of New Bern is founded at the junction of the Trent and Neuse Rivers, displacing an American Indian town named Chattoka.

June 8: Tuscarora Indians on the Roanoke and Tar-Pamlico Rivers send a petition to the government of Pennsylvania protesting the seizure of their lands and enslavement of their people by Carolina settlers.


In a series of uprisings, the Tuscarora attempt to drive away white settlement. The Tuscarora are upset over the practices of white traders, the capture and enslavement of Indians by whites, and the continuing encroachment of settlers onto Tuscarora hunting grounds.


Early September: Tuscarora capture surveyor John Lawson, New Bern founder Baron von Graffenried, and two African slaves. Lawson argues with the chief, Cor Tom, and is executed near Tuscarora village of Catechna. The Indians spare von Graffenried and the slaves.

Late Sept: The Tuscarora in alliance with other displaced coastal tribes take retribution on colonists along the Neuse River.

September 22: The Tuscarora War opens when Catechna Creek Tuscaroras begin attacking colonial settlements near New Bern and Bath. Tuscarora, Neuse, Bear River, Machapunga, and other Indians kill more than 130 whites.

October: Virginia refuses to send troops to help the settlers but allocates £1,000 for assistance.

Finally Gov. Edward Hyde called out NC militia with assistance from SC, which provided 600 militia and 360 allied Native Americans under Col. Barnwell.


January: SC sends assistance to her sister colony. John Barnwell,  member of the SC Assembly, leads about 30 whites and some 500 “friendly” Indians, mostly Yamassee, to fight the Tuscarora in NC.

In a letter dated at Ft. Narhantes, Feb. 4, 1712, Barnwell gives a list of  various tribes of Southern Indians who compose his motley army.  In his own spelling: The Yamasses, Hog Logees, Apalatchees, Corsaboy, Watterees, Sagarees, Catawbas, Suterees, Waxams, Congarees, Sattees, Pedees, Weneaws, Cape Feare, Hoopengs, Wareperes, Saraws, and Saxapahaws.

Col. Barnwell said the Tuscarora can’t be less than 1,200 or 1,400 [warriors], but Gov. Spotswood of VA had placed their fighting strength at 2,000 men in 1711.


January 24: Edward Hyde is commissioned as governor. North Carolina and South Carolina officially become separate colonies.

March 20-23:  Barnwell’s force attacked and laid waste to villages of the southern Tuscarora and other nations from the Pee Dee Border Lands up to Craven Co, NC.  At the Tuscarora stronghold of Fort Narhontes (also spelled Neherooka and Neoheroka ), on the banks of the Neuse River, the Tuscarora were defeated with great slaughter. 

The force from South Carolina, consisting of 900 Indians and 33 whites, begins a three-day siege on the Tuscarora stronghold of Fort Neoheroka.  Approximately 950 Tuscarora are killed or captured and sold into slavery, effectively defeating the tribe and opening the interior of the colony to white settlement.

Native Accounts generally record the number higher than 1000 taking into consideration numbers  from nearby villages and countryside as well as the number of Native people sold into slavery.  Those days of tragedy are commemorated by the Fort Neoheroka Historical Marker near present day Snow Hill, Greene Co., NC.

Although a few renegades fight on until 1715, most surviving Tuscarora migrate north to rejoin the Iroquois League as its sixth and smallest nation.

April: Barnwell’s force, joined by 250 North Carolina militiamen, attacks the Tuscarora at Fort Hancock on Catechna Creek. After ten days of battle, the Tuscarora sign a truce, agreeing to stop the war.

Summer: The Tuscarora rise again to fight the Yamassee, who, unsatisfied with their plunder during earlier battles, remain in the area looting and pillaging. The Tuscarora also fight against the continued expansion of white settlement.

September 8: Governor Hyde dies of yellow fever, during an outbreak that kills many white settlers.

After the Tuscarora War, many of the Tuscarora left NC and migrated north to Penn. and NY, over a period of 90 years. The Tuscarora that sought hidden sanctuary in the swamps of Eastern NC  are the ancestors of the present day Tuscarora Tribe of NC/SC.

Immediately following defeat, about 1500 Tuscarora fled to NY to join the Iroquois Confederacy.  As many as 1500 additional Tuscarora sought refuge in the colony of VA.  Although some accepted tribal status in VA, the majority of the remaining Tuscarora ultimately returned to NC.

Unrecorded numbers, perhaps as many as 3000 by some counts, fled into the swamps of NC, hiding out, at times creeping back to see their homeland, but continuing to hide out for many years to save their families.

So the refugee pattern was such that the end of the Tuscarora War resulted in the migration of whole Tuscarora villages or towns. As time went on, these migrations became more of individuals and groups of different sizes.


Seventy of the southern Tuscarora went to SC to assist against the Yamasee. Those 70 warriors later asked permission to have their wives and children join them, and settled near Port Royal, SC.

Chief Blount had no more than 800 by 1715. 

A treaty with remaining North Carolina Tuscarora is signed. They are placed on a reservation along the Pamlico River. The Coree and Machapunga Indians, Tuscarora allies, settle in Hyde County near Lake Mattamuskeet. The land will be granted to the Mattamuskeet in 1727, and a reservation will be established.

North Carolina adopts its first slave code, which tries to define the social, economic, and physical place of enslaved people.

The General Assembly enacts a law denying blacks and Indians the right to vote. The king will repeal the law in 1737. Some free African Americans will continue to vote until disfranchisement in 1835.


The few Tuscarora remaining in the colony, led by Tom Blount, are granted land on the Roanoke River in Bertie County, near present-day Quitsna. The Tuscarora left their reservation on the Pamlico River because of raids by tribes from the south.

1719 -1721

Piece meal migrations continue with some stopping short of their intended NY goal.  For example, some Tuscarora settle for a time in the Juniata River valley of Pennsylvania.  At present-day Martinsburg, WV, on Tuscarora Creek, another  group of migrating Tuscarora refugees stop.  

A third group is found in present-day Maryland along the Monocacy River.  Eventually with continued settlement by European colonists in that area from around 1730, the Tuscarora continue on northward to join the Oneida Nation in western NY.


Tuscaroras become the Sixth Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy in New York.  They were originally given refuge by the Oneida and are now considered younger brothers of the Seneca.

300 fighting men; along with their wives, children, and the elderly, resided on Indian Woods.

Bounded by the Roanoke River and Roquist Creek, the reservation contained some of the more fertile land of the county, and it was not long before settlers began to encroach upon this territory. As early as 1721 interlopers threatened to “create Feuds and disturbances.”  This contributed to overall circumstances that made Reservation life less than satisfactory.


A reservation of 53,000 acres is laid out for the Tuscarora and the Chowan in Eastern NC.  

1725 – 1726

Brunswick Town is founded. It will be incorporated in 1745. Roger Moore builds Orton Plantation House

The area surrounding Brunswick Town, NC was originally inhabited by the Tuscarora . After they were defeated in the Tuscarora War (1711–15), more English colonists began to move into the Cape Fear region.  Finally in 1725 the Tuscarora were expelled from the area that was soon to be known as Brunswick Town. This new settlement was founded in July 1726 by Maurice Moore with the help of his brother Roger, owner of the nearby Orton Plantation on the Lower Cape Fear. Brunswick Town lasted from 1726 to 1776. It was destroyed by the British  during the American Revolution and was never rebuilt.


The Cheraw (Saura) Indians incorporate with the Catawba living near present-day Charlotte.


The Coree and Machapunga Indians, Tuscarora allies, settle near Lake Mattamuskeet in present day Hyde Co. The land was granted to them in 1727, and a reservation established at that time.


Surveyors begin determining where the North Carolina–Virginia line will lie.


North Carolina’s population numbers about 35,000, but a new wave of immigration is beginning.


The original 800 Indians under King Tom Blunt, the Tuscarora chieftain, are now reduced to 600.  Of that 200 were fighting men.

By 1731 northern Indians had enticed away all but about 600. A treaty with the remaining NC Tuscarora is signed placing them on a reservation along the Pamlico River.  But not withstanding this and other agreements, over the next several decades the Tuscarora were pushed progressively out of areas they had previously inhabited .


The NC Indian Trade Commission is established to regulate trade with native peoples.


A smallpox epidemic decimates the Indian population in NC, especially in the eastern part of the colony and the Cherokee. It is projected that this epidemic decreased the number of Cherokee by about 50 percent.


Waxhaw Indians, decimated by smallpox, abandon their lands in present-day Union Co and join the Catawba just to the South.


When Moravian missionaries visited the Indian Woods reservation, they noted “many had gone north to live on the Susquehanna” and that “others are scattered as the wind scatters smoke.’  Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg of the Moravian Brethren visited among the Tuscaroras in Bertie Co. while trying to secure land for the Moravians. He finds them to be “in great poverty.”  At that time their land was about twelve miles long and six miles at its greatest width.


The census of 1754 placed the Tuscarora population in eastern North Carolina at an estimated  total of 300, 100 men and 201 women and children. This reflected a loss of about 700 during the previous forty years.

The census was undertaken to determine what strength could be mustered from the Tuscarora and used in the French and Indian War for the British.

With the Nottoways, the combined group was sent to Winchester, VA for guard duty on the frontier.  During this time, the North Carolina Assembly voted forty pounds proclamation money for support of wives and children of Tuscarora, Nottoway and  Meherrin warriors.


A second smallpox epidemic devastates the Catawba tribe, reducing their population by half.


In 1763 and 1766 additional Tuscarora migrated north to settle with other Iroquoian peoples in Penn and NY.


May 17: Diagawekee, sachem of the NY Tuscaroras and a delegation of the Six Nations arrived in NC. He had come to lead all the Tuscaroras that were willing to march and join the Six Nations. Thus during the first week in August of that year Diagawekee led 155 Indians northward, leaving  about 100 older Indians behind.

By this time many of the Tuscarora remaining in the Carolinas had migrated into the Bladen Co., area of NC.  From there they dispersed primarily into Robeson and Richmond Co., NC and Orangeburg District, SC.  By 1766 there were about 259, but in that same year 155 removed to the north.  By 1767 about 104 individuals continued to reside on the reservation in Bertie Co.


The number of 104 seems to have dwindled to about 80.

The decrease of population together with increase in poverty seems to have accelerated after the death of King Tom Blount/Blunt about 1739.


A few Tuscaroras joined the Iroquois allies of the British.  As a result these allies had to leave their villages in the United States and went to live near what is now Brantford, Ontario, Canada.  About 130 Tuscaroras went to the Grand River territory with Joseph Brant and the Mohawks where their descendants remain today.

The original reserve was granted by Frederick Haldimand under Haldimand Proclamation of Oct  to Brant and his Iroquois followers for their support of the Crown during the American Revolution.


A census showed 1,843 Natives on the reserve mentioned above. This included 448 Mohawk, 381 Cayuga, 245 Onondaga, 162 Oneida, 129 Tuscarora and 78 Seneca. There were also 400 from other tribes including Delawares, Nanticokes, Tutelos, even some Creeks and Cherokees (Kelsay 1984). Joseph Brant also invited members of Brant’s Volunteers and Butler’s Rangers to live on the grant as well.

The Tuscaroras remaining in the US eventually established a reservation by purchasing lands near present-day Lewiston, NY.


NC Census Data  

Total 393,751

Free white persons 288,204

All other free persons 4,975

Slaves 100,572


The migration from NC to NY is finally concluded.  By then, approx. 20 “Old families” remained on the Indian Woods, NC. reservation.


There were 400 Tuscaroras living on the 6,249 acre NY Tuscarora Reservation.  Also about  400 Tuscaroras living among the Six Nations of Grand River, Ontario. Today the Six Nations territory covers about 44,000 acres in Tuscarora Township in the County of Brant.


Tuscarora Reservation, Lewiston ,NY population was 1,138 at the 2000 census.


Six Nations of Grand River, Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Members now stand at approx. 20,000 with at least half of the tribal members living within the community.  Six Nations now has a land base of about 45,000 acres.

Tuscarora Tribe of Southern US, eastern NC/SC border lands. These are bands, groups, and organizations without federal recognition, but with continuous ancestry dating back prior to the Tuscarora War and European Contact:

     Tuscarora Nation of the Carolinas, Maxton, NC and McColl, SC

     Southern Band Tuscarora Indian Tribe, Windsor, NC

     Hatteras Tuscarora, Cape Fear, NC

     Skaroreh Katenuaka Nation at Robeson Co, NC’

     Skaroreh Katenuaka,Tosneoc Village, Elm City, NC

 American Indian Populations in NC Past and Present


1600: 5000

1709: 1,200 warriors and 15 towns

1752 – 1761: 300

1766: 220-230

1767: 105 on the Roanoke, Neuse, Tar and Pamlico Rivers in N.C

2000: Lumbee (descendants of the Tuscarora)   56,000 in Robeson, Hoke, Scotland and Cumberland Counties

Many migrated steadily to N.Y. and other northern states from 1713 (end of Tuscarora War) to 1802 (closing of Bertie County reservation). With a substantial number of descendants  remaining in the Carolinas  and merged with various eastern NC/SC tribes.

Other Tribes:

Cheraw: 1,000 in 1,600; 510 in 1715. Traditionally found in Northwest SC, western NC, central NC, central SC.  Some may have merged with Catawba and Saponi.  Descendants among many of today’s state-recognized tribes, including Haliwa-Saponi, Sappony, Lumbee, and Occaneechi-Saponi.

Chowanoc: 700 warriors in 1584–1585;1,500 in 1600; 240 in 1713; 20 families in 1731; 5 in Chowan River, north central N.C. The tribe is thought extinct, but members of Meherrin tribe trace ancestry to Chowanoc.

Coree: 1,000 with the Neusiok in 1600; 75 in 1709 Neuse River in N.C.  Thought extinct.  Some may have merged with Tuscarora following the Tuscarora War.

Keyauwee: 500 in 1600 near current High Point, N.C., Albemarle Sound in NC, Pee Dee River in SC.  Merged with Catawba and possibly Robeson Co. Indians.

Meherrin: 700 in 1600;180 in 1669; 7–8 warriors in 1755; 20 warriors in 1761.  Found on the Meherrin River along NC – VA border.  Following the Tuscarora War, many Meherrin moved to the Tuscarora reservation in Bertie County.  When the reservation closed in 1802, some moved to N.Y. Descendants of those who remained live in Northampton County and surrounding counties. Present day Meherrin claim Iroquois, both Tuscarora and Algonquin ancestry.  NC population in 2000: Meherrin 800 in Hertford, Bertie, Gates Counties, NC .

Nottaway or Notowega: 1,500 in 1600; 300 in 1715; 47 in 1825; 300 in Va. in 1827.  Found in western NC.  Some may have merged with the Meherrin or Tuscarora.

Waccamaw: 610 in 1715.  Found on the Waccamaw River in NC and the Lower Pee Dee River in SC.  Some may have moved to Lumber River and Green Swamp areas of N.C., with descendants among the Tuscarora, Lumbee and Waccamaw-Siouan.  Population in 2000 was Waccamaw-Siouan 2,000 in Columbus, Bladen Counties, NC .


Access Genealogy, “Tuscarora Indian Tribe History”, 2011

Blakistone, Teresa and John Herr, et al. “American Indian Population in NC,

Past and Present,” NC Museum of History, 2011.

Chavis, George L., Research and Traditions of the Tuscarora of the Carolinas, SC, 1971-2011

Clark, Wayne E., “Indians in Maryland, an Overview”, Maryland Online Encyclopedia, 2004-2005, accessed 22 Mar 2010

Cusick, David , “History of the Six Nations,” NY 1828

Fenn, Elizabeth, “Natives & Newcomers: The Way We Lived in North Carolina Before 1770, ” UNC Press, 1983.

Hodge, F.W. “Tuscarora”, Handbook of American Indians, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1906, Access Geneaology, 2009

Johnson, Elias, “Native Tuscarora: Legends, Traditions and Laws of the Iroquois, or Six Nations, and History of the Tuscarora Indians,” 1881

Johnson, F.Roy, “The Tuscaroras, Vol. 2: Death of a Nation”, Murfreesboro Historical Assoc,

Murfreesboro, NC.  Reprinted Coastal Carolina Indian Center, Emerald Isle, NC, 2010.

Jones, Elaine, “The Ones that Stayed Behind: Tuscarora Ancestors of the Carolinas,” Generations, Sierra Home, Horseshoe, NC 2006.

Kelsay, Isabel, “Joseph Brant 1743-1780 Man of Two Worlds,” Syracuse University Press, NY, 1984.

Mejorado-Livingston, Marilyn, Southern Band Tuscarora Tribe, “Onkwehonweh-the first people-Tuscarora”, Windsor , NC, 2011.

New World Encyclopedia, Editors and Contributors, “Tuscarora (tribe).”, World Wide Web, Oct, 2008

Pottmyer,Alice Allred, editor, et al, “1700’s Timeline,” Allred Family Newsletter, Allred Family Organization,1989-2011.

Rights, Douglas L., ”The American Indian in North Carolina,” Duke University Press, 1947, Durham, NC, Reprinted:  John F. Blair Publisher, Winston-Salem, NC: 1957 and 1988.  Reprinted:  Carolina Algonkian Project, 2001.

Six Nations Writers, “Our Community: The Six Nations of the Grand River,” Ohsweken, ON, 2011

Staats, Sheila, Working World New Media/GoodMinds.com, “The Great Peace…The Gathering of Good Minds”, 1997

Trigger, Bruce ed., “Handbook of American Indians;” Volume 15, 1978, pp. 287-288


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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9 Responses to Tuscarora Populations

  1. Catherine Scott says:

    Mrs. Jestes, I would like to speak with you, about my listing of residency
    in Elm City, N.C.
    I am Tuscarora.
    Oneh! Catherine Scott

  2. I would like to know what evidence there is proving the statement below. If this can be indeed. Be substantiated, then there should be no problem attaining both state and federal recognition as Tuscarora.

    By this time (1766) many of the Tuscarora remaining in the Carolinas had migrated into the Bladen Co., area of NC. From there they dispersed primarily into Robeson and Richmond Co., NC and Orangeburg District, SC.

    • Follow the genealogy and follow the plantations owned by the richer Indiana agents and traders who owned plantations in Johnston Co. All the way down to Bladen Co. There was movement between those plantations and Indian Woods over several years until the New Yorkers sold it out from under those that actually occupied it.

  3. Many Tuscarora stayed behind right in Greene county and the surrounding areas of Pitt, Lenior, Craven, etc. after the war. All of us did not migrate out. Many who stayed behind were “forced” to take on new racial terms on paper as in white, mulatto, black, negro, and the ambiguous term (colored) due to Paper Genocide by white census workers who wanted to paint the southern landscape in only black and white. The intentional and erred information also carried over to many Indians vital records in birth and death certificates in North Carolina.

  4. jaidyn says:

    This teaches kids about the Tuscarora tribe.

  5. Pingback: Defining the Boundaries of the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” Reservation in Bertie County | Native American Roots

  6. donna daniels says:

    I’m looking for Lester Williams. Can you help? I heard he was in Brantford.

  7. kerra says:

    I didn’t see how big the tribe was

  8. Dan says:

    This is the best, and most thorough Tuscarora history that I’ve seen…the general histories I read in the past pay very scant attention to the Tuscarora who stayed in NC..and the state of NC is resistant to admitting Tuscarora still are in NC..and there is also resistance by some of the leadership of the NY Tuscarora to viewing the NC Tuscarora as legitimate…but they agree that the NC folks are descendants of the Bertie Woods Tuscarora and other extended families that eventually settled in and around Robeson County..

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