This article was written by Roberta Estes and first published in the Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter in July, 2012.
The Indian Village on Hatteras Island was granted to William Elks and the Hatteras Indians in 1759. They were already living there as had been demonstrated in a 1756 NC legislative record wherein Thomas Elks complains that Thomas Robb is infringing on the Indian’s lands. Robb’s response was that he wasn’t infringing on anything because the Indians didn’t have a land grant or patent. In 1759, that small detail was taken care of when William Elks was granted the 200 acres on Hatteras Island where the Indian town was located.
In 1771, William Elks sold 50 acres of this land to George Clark, and the beginning survey marker was a forked live oak stump.
Currituck Deed book 3 deed , p. 340: 25 July 1771, Dec [–], 177[–]; WILLIAM ELKS of CT, planter to GORGE CLEARK of CT, cons. 50 pounds proc., 50A, on Hatarass Banks, beg at a forked live oak stump, “running ye sd: Courses of the patron;” wit: THOMAS OLIVER, JOHN SCARBROUGH, THOMAS MILLER, Junr., jurat; signed: WILLIAM [E] ELKS.
So, ask yourself, what are the chances of that forked Oak stump still existing today? We do know where this land is today and we know the approximate location of this stump, but could we find it?
In the photo below, this tree is exactly where, using today’s property lines, we think the forked stump should be. But it’s not a stump and it doesn’t appear to be old enough, although we’ve been cautioned by tree experts not to compare Hatteras trees to other trees when determining age because the environment tends to stunt Hatteras trees, so they are older than they appear.
However, look what we found just a few feet away, not exactly where we thought it should be, but very close. We also have to take into consideration that the survey equipment of the 1600s wasn’t as accurate as what we have today, nor were the surveyors as precise. It appears that the 200 acre land grant actually contained significantly more acreage.
This surely looks like a forked live oak stump, and it’s old, quite old. Could this be the actual boundary marker tree in question? You can see the fork quite well in the next photo. What tales and secrets this tree could tell if it could only talk.