The Tuscarora in Colonial Records
In the Colonial Court Records, Misc. Papers 1695-1705 – Mr. Brice, his petition…recovered an order at a counsell held at Mr. Thomas Blountt in Chowan against one Thomas Blount, an Indian, for ye returning of a mare within ye tirm of 3 months after ye said date or to pay fifty doe skins….
1721-1722 – Indictment of John Copes, a Christian Indian belonging to King Blount’s tribe, for committing burglary by breaking into the house of Colonel Thomas Pollock, Esq., President of this province at Chowan in the county of Albemarle, in the night of 4 August, Pollock being in the house at the time. Back says “Not guilty.” No year is given, but affiliated depositions and records indicate that this was either 1721 or 1722.
In 1721, Mr. Robert Hicks power received from Albemarle County, a Tuskarooroe Indian named James having in council been ordered a reward for some services done publicly.
In 1722, 300 fighting men along with their wives, children, and the elderly, resided at Indian Woods.
In 1723, a reservation of 53,000 acres is laid out for the Tuscarora in Eastern NC.
In 1723 in Albemarle Co., NC., in a deposition, John Gardner says that Mr. Dudley broke the arm of an Indian named Lighaea Blount who wanted to hunt beaver. He is later referenced as Sighacks: Blount. King Blount is referenced so is still living at this point.
By 1731 the original 800 Indians under King Tom Blunt, the Tuscarora chieftain, were reduced to 600. Of that 200 were fighting men.
In 1738 –1739, a smallpox epidemic decimated 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. There are no records of how it impacted the Tuscarora, but it may well have had similarly devastating effects.
Chief Tom Blount is reported to have died in 1739. If this is accurate, he may have succumbed to the smallpox epidemic.
The census of 1754, undertaken to determine what strength could be mustered from the Tuscarora and used in the French and Indian War for the British, 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. An average of one child per couple also suggests a population in crisis, unable to reproduce themselves. The rule of thumb for early populations is typically 4 children, sometimes 5 and in some unstressed populations, more.
A combined group of Meherrin, Nottaway and Tuscarora 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.
When in 1752 Moravian missionaries visited the Tuscarora reservation, they noted “many had gone north to live on the Susquehanna” and that “others are scattered as the wind scatters smoke.”
In 1757, in Bertie County, an Indian names James Strawberry murdered a white woman by the name of Elizabeth Knott.
In 1763 and 1766 additional Tuscarora migrated north to settle with other Iroquoian peoples in Pennsylvania and New York.
On May 17, 1766, 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 155/160 Indians northward, leaving about 100 older Indians behind.
This would indicate that there was a total of about 255 Tuscarora living in Bertie County at that time, before departure. On July 20th, just before leaving in August, the “Chieftains and Principal Persons” of the Tuscarora signed a deed. Of these people, we have a list of 36 of them. If you presume that the average family size was 5 people, we appear to have about three-fourths of the heads of households represented on the signature list.
We are told in a letter from Sir William Johnson, writing to the Earl of Shelburne on Dec. 16, 1766, referencing the letters that the interpreter to the Indians gave him, that during their journey, their lives “were several times attempted by the frontier people, who assembled for that purpose, to prevent which for the future, one of my officers that way, was necessitated to put the Crown to the charge of an attendant white man, and that on their return, having sold part of their lands in Carolina, and purchased sundry horses, wagons, etc., for carrying some effects, they were again used ill at Paxton in Pennsylvania and robbed of several horses, etc., valued at 55; of this the Tuscarora chiefs complained to several of the Six nations and I have just now with difficulty prevented them from making a formal complaint to the whole Confederacy, on promising them that it should be inquired into.”
By 1767, about 104 individuals continued to reside on the reservation in Bertie Co.
By 1775 the number of 104 seems to have dwindled to about 80.
On the 1777 deeds, of which there were eight, we have between 7 and 23 signers on each deed. Combined, we have the names of 51 or 52 different individuals on these 1777 deeds, including a few women. Most of those people, except for the three that the purchasers promised “not to bother,” probably moved north. If their population was 80 just two years earlier, then we may very well have all or nearly all of the signatures of the adult males in the tribe, and a few females as well. If this is the case, then that population number of 80 was likely only adults, without children being counted. In that day and time, many, if not most children were not expected to live to adulthood, so perhaps counting children was considered a waste of time and unproductive.
In 1802 the Tuscarora negotiated a treaty with the United States, by which land would be held for them which they could lease. As the government never fully ratified the treaty, the Tuscarora viewed the treaty as null and void. However, records from 1802 and 1803 in both the United States House and Senate indicate that both ratified the treaty, the Senate last on March 1, 1803, but the President never signed the document.
By 1804, the migration from North Carolina to New York was finally concluded. By then, approximately 20 “old families” remained at Indian Woods, NC.
Finally, an 1831 deed signs away the remainder rights of the Tuscarora to the State of North Carolina.