A Report of Research on Lumbee Origins by Robert K. Thomas – Part 5 – Waccamaw Theory

A continuation of Robert K. Thomas’s Report of Research on Lumbee Origins.  This was transcribed from a photocopy of an original report at the Wilson Library, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC in June of 2012.   Any comments I have will be made at the end of these transcriptions and it will be evident that they are mine.  To see more about Robert K. Thomas, go to:  http://works.bepress.com/robert_thomas/

One of the most recent theories on Lumbee origin comes from Wesley White’s research.  White found an old map which demonstrated clearly that in 1725 there was a village of Waccamaws on the Lumbee River probably about where James Lowery had his ferry, a few miles west of present day Pembroke, NC.  Then in 1754 White found a citation which states that there was a mixed crew of rather lawless and violent squatters who were living on Drowning Creek in Bladen County.  Robeson County was part of Bladen County and from Pembroke west the Lumbee River was called Drowning Creek in those days.  Further, White can pretty well pinpoint the time period, probably around 1718, in which the Waccamaws fled from SC and established their village near modern Pembroke.  This village was noted on an early map in 1725.  Then, as I said, White used this citation about a “mixed crew” on Drowning Creek in 1754 which he takes as evidence that the Waccamaws remained in the area.

I do not interpret his material as he does.  I think his citation of 1754 does not refer to Indians or to even people of mixed (p 12) racial background.  In 1754 there were, in fact, Scots settlers living on Drowning Creek.  The area around present day Laurinburg was settled shortly after the battle of Colloden Moor of 1745.  The members of the rebel highland clans came into the Laurinburg area from Fayetteville in the late 1740s.  Then they began to move northeast out of Anson County into Bladen County, what would now be Hoke County, and on into what would now be Harnette County.  They were in 1750, settled on Drowning Creek which was the border between Anson and Bladen Counties, now the border between Hoke and Scotland Counties.  Then their next move was over the Little River.  There are family traditions that many Scots in these early days were squatters on the land.  I would guess that a mixed crew does not refer to mixed racially.  I think that if they had been mixed racially they would have been referred to simply as mulattoes by the writer, Colonel Rutherford, who was the head of the Bladen militia.  I would think “mixed crew” would mean perhaps mixed in language spoken, in nationality, in geographical origins, in class level, or even in educational level.  It is very possible that a group of Scots on Drowning Creek, some speaking English, some speaking Gaelic, perhaps of varied educational backgrounds, might seem like a “mixed crew” to a standard Englishman  from further south on the NC coast.  So I do not accept White’s proposition that this citation refers to the ancestors of the present day Lumbees who, supposedly, some 30 years before had moved into the area as Waccamaws.

In fact, all of Michelle Lawing’s research indicates that in the 1750s there was no one bearing present day Lumbee family names in Bladen County.  If White is correct then all the Waccamaw women (p 13 of the report, his page 12) married men coming in from the north and the Waccamaw men moved away or else took over the family names of these later settlers.  There is not one Lumbee family name which cannot be traced back to northeastern NC.  I find such a situation unlikely, to say the least.  Further, Lumbee traditions which say they come from Roanoke in Virginia do not record that they encountered an Indian group already in the Robeson County area.

There is a citation which indicates that there was trouble among the Indian tribes in SC in 1755 and it was reported to the governor of SC that some Natchez and Cherokees killed some Peedees and Waccamaws that year in the SC settlements.  The Waccamaws and Peedees were allies and the main Peedee settlement was at a place still called Peedee Town on the Peedee River east of the present Florence, SC.  At this time in the 1750s Peedee Town would have been on the edge of white settlement or perhaps even enclosed by white settlements.  I would gather from this evidence that the Waccamaw had simply drifted down the Peedee Town to live with their friends. In other words they had gone back to SC, perhaps not to their original country, but to their friends the Peedees.

I would also gather from later evidence that the Indians at Peedee Town were absorbed by refugee Indians from NC settling in the area after the Revolution.  These new immigrants into Peedee Town were obviously from northern NC and bore the names of Goings, Taylor, Gibson, etc.  I would guess that what is left of Peedee genes would be found in the present day Indians in SC, at least these Indians who are descended primarily from these northern Indian migrants.  I am excluding here (p 14) the more aboriginal groups close to Charleston, but I’m thinking of the Smilings who formerly lived in Sumter County, the very prolific Goings family who live in Going Town, plus Indians in Orangeburg and Bamburg Counties west of the Santee River in SC.  But this is just a guess and needs some further research.

My main point is that I do not think White makes his case well and, in fact, there is evidence that the Waccamaw returned to SC to the general area of the Peedee Indians on the edge of SC settlements and probably did not sojourn very long on the Lumbee River.  I would guess that by 1740 they were probably back in SC.

Roberta’s Comments:  I have never seen Michelle Lawing’s work, nor seen it referenced before.  Does anyone know where it is or how to access it?

I do have some of Wesley White Taukchiray’s work.  I respectfully disagree with Thomas about the identification of the “mixed crew” in 1754.  In the records I’ve seen in the years I’ve been focused on Native and mixed heritage research, I have never seen “mixed” used to mean anything other than racially mixed.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Lumbee, Peedee, Waccamaw. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Report of Research on Lumbee Origins by Robert K. Thomas – Part 5 – Waccamaw Theory

  1. The Waccamaw Theory has always been highly suggestive and speculative considering the proximity between the two groups. DNA evidence however, suggest they do not share a common ancestor (particularly males) but they do show kinship through marriages. The Lumbee (on surname alone) appear to have a high Tuscarora/Algonquian connection with a paper trail that tracks them back to VA/NC border areas. They also have DNA matches to those areas. Waccamaw surnames (particularly Mitchell, and Freeman) appear to come from small displaced Tuscarora groups migrating into the Cape Fear area. Paper trail attest to this movement and settlement making the Tuscarora theory more plausible.

    Some Algonquian (out of VA) appear to be mixed in with the Waccamaw (my guess some kind of tribal consolidation of small bans forced to move as a result of the Tuscarora war). This group split, some migrating into Cumberland County to the Cape Fear River and the other into Lake Waccamaw area roughly after the Tuscarora war. Waccamaw deeds appear much earlier than Lumbee deeds and Waccamaw names show up as creek names on very early maps. Jacobs swamp is one example, named after Isaac Jacobs who is present near Lake Waccamaw in 1702. He is the progenitor to the Waccamaw Jacob family residing in Bladen, Columbus, and Robeson counties, with a second large Jacob clan appearing later on the Black River in New Hanover County about 1748.

    1727 document recorded in South Carolina records a large group of “mixblood” Indians residing just north of Lake Waccamaw (present day Columbus) that appear to have been there forever, as was observed by newly arrived settlers to the area who purchased land from a local Chieftain.

  2. Dee says:

    Robert K Thomas seemed to have a bit of a political agenda where he assessed some of this information. I’m noticing some patterns in some of the core families of various tribes throughout the Carolinas and Va. Some of his info seems more speculative than fact based

    • Dee says:

      Based on some of my own DNA matches at FTDNA, Ancestry, 23andme, and MyHeritage as several lines on my tree were early FPOC

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