The Fraudulent Land Sale
1777 – Lewis Thompson Papers – UNC Collection 716
Petition of 1777 to Gov. Richard Caswell at New Bern
The petition for the Tuskarorah Nation of Indians living in Bertie Co. humbly sheweth that our Brothers the White people after their Landing in this Country and a Long and Bloody Warr between our fathers and them was ended were please’d by a treaty in writing now in our possession on our giving up all pretentions to every other part of this country to allow us a certain tract of land in this country mentioned the said treaty since which the same land has been confirmed to us and our posterity to the latest generation by sundry acts of your assembly and we the said Tuskarorah Indians have ever since peaceably and quietly possessed and enjoyed the same under the protection of our good Brothers the White people all but that we have voluntarily and of our own free will when sober and not intoxicated with rum or other spirituous liquors spared and leased out to sundry of our good brothers of this country for which they have and do fully satisfy us after all which we had not more land than we thought absolutely necessary for the support and maintenance of our wives and children in provisions, as the rents of lands that we have leased out are not more than sufficient to supply us with blankets, clothing and with powder and shott for the young men to hunt with.
Notwithstanding all which one William King of this county having before obtained a lease for a large tract of our said land being not yet satisfyed did on the blank day of blank in this present year most wickedly and perfidiously contrive and intend into an agreement with one William Cane an Indian of the said nation to cheat and defraud the rest of the Tuskarorah Indians of another large tract of land more valuable than the first by calling them the said Indians together under pretence of giving them a treat did after he had got them all quite drunk and intoxicated with strong liquor cause and prevail by that means upon them to subscribe a ready drawn lease for that purpose for a long term unto him the said tract of land mentioned in the said lease to contain but 200 acres when in act there is within the limits and bounds mentioned in the said lease as your petitioners are informed by many of our white Brothers not less than 1000 acres by means whereof it the said lease should be confirmed your petitioners will not have land sufficient left for cultivation or to subsist themselves and their wives and children with all but will be reduced to great necessity and want in so much that they will be under the necessity of becoming burthensome to the good Brothers the White people which they would willingly by every means in their power indeavor to avoid as much as possible. Wherefore your petitioners do must humbly pray that after duly considering the premises you would be please do to pass some publick act of your assembly to disallow, disannull and totally make void the above mentioned lease so fraudulently obtained from us by the said William King or otherwise relieve your poor distressed and unhappy petitioners as in your Great Wisdom you shall think fit.
In 1781, it was found that this lease was fraudulent and the land was given back to the Indians.
1778 – Document written in 1778 but found in the Laws of North Carolina. A. D. 1878, chapter 136, page 359, vol. I. By Potter, Taylor & Yancey.
“An Act for quieting and securing the Tuscarora Indians, and others claiming under the Tuscarora, in the possession of their lands.
” Indian lands secured to the Indians.
Article I. Be it enacted, &c., That Whitmell Tuffdeck, Chief or head man of the Tuscarora nation, and the Tuscarora Indians now living in the county of Birtie, shall have, hold, occupy, possess and enjoy, all the lands lying in the county of Birtie aforesaid, whereof they are now seized and possessed, being part of the lands heretofore allotted to the Indians aforesaid by solemn treaty, and confirmed to them and their successors by act of assembly, in the year one thousand seven hundred and forty-eight, without let, molestation or hindrance, clear of all quit-rents, or any public demands by way of tax whatever, to them the said Tuscarora Indians, and their heirs and successors: and that they, the said Tuscarora, and their heirs and successors, shall forever be clear and exempt from every kind of poll tax.
” No purchases to be made of the Indians, nor their lands cultivated .
Article II. And whereas, the said Tuscarora Indians, by nature ignorant, and strongly addicted to drinking, may be easily imposed on by designing persons, and unwarily deprived of their said lands: Be it enacted. That no person, for any consideration whatever, shall hereafter purchase, buy or lease, any tract or parcel of land now claimed by, or in possession of the said Tuscarora Indians, or any of theirs; nor shall any person settle on or cultivate the said lands, or any part thereof, in his own right, or under pretence as acting as overseer for the Indians: and if any person shall hereafter purchase, buy or lease lands of the said Indians, or settle on or cultivate any part thereof in his own right or as overseer for the Indians, all such purchases, sales, leases or agreements shall be and they are hereby declared null and void; and the person so purchasing buying or leasing, settling on or cultivating such lands, or any part thereof, shall forfeit and pay the sum of three hundred pounds current money for every hundred acres by him so purchased, bought or leased, settled on or cultivated as aforesaid, one-half to the use of the Tuscarora Indians, the other to the use of him or her who shall sue for the same: to be recovered by action of debt, bill, plaint or information in any court having cognizance thereof. Provided that the said Tuscarora Indians may sell or dispose of their lands or any part thereof, with the consent of the general assembly first had and obtained.
” Former purchases from the Indians under the sanction of the Assembly, secured .
Article III. And whereas, the chieftains and head men of the Tuscarora Indians living in the county, did, on the twelfth day of July, in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-six, for the consideration of fifteen hundred pounds to them paid by Robert Jones, Jun., William Williams and Thomas Pugh, by indenture under their hands and seals, demise, grant and to farm let, unto the said Robert Jones, William Williams and Thomas Pugh, a certain tract of land lying in the county aforesaid, containing about eight thousand acres, more or less, bounded as follows, to wit: Beginning at the mouth of Deep creek, otherwise called Falling Run; thence running up the said creek to the Indian head line: thence by the said line south seventeen degrees east, twelve hundred and eighty poles: thence on a course parallel with the general current of the said creek to the Roanoke river and then up the river to the beginning, together with the appurtenances thereto belonging, to be held and enjoyed by the said Robert Jones, William Williams and Thomas Pugh their executors, administrators and assigns in severalty for and during the term of one hundred and fifty years as may more fully appear by the said indenture, registered in the count of Birtie aforesaid and ratified by act of Assembly, passed at Newbern, in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-six: Be it enacted, That each and every of the persons entitled to claims under the demise aforementioned, or by grants from the persons claiming under the same, or either of them, and their heirs and assigns, shall and may have, hold, occupy, possess and enjoy the several shares, dividends or parcels of the said land to them belonging, in as full, free and absolute manner, and with the same legal privileges and advantages in every respect, and subject to the same taxes as if the said land had been originally granted to the said Robert Jones, William Williams and Thomas Pugh by Lord Granville or by this State.
” Regulations in regard to former demises .
Article IV. And whereas, the said Tuscarora Indians, for good and sufficient reasons, and for valuable consideration, have, since the twelfth day of July, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-six, and previous to the first day of December last, demised, granted and to farm let sundry tracts or parcels of land lying in said county of Birtie to sundry persons, as by indentures duly executed may more fully appear: Be it enacted. That all the land contained in the last mentioned demises, if the said demises were fairly, bona fide and without fraud, made by and obtained from the said Tuscarora Indians since the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty- six, and previous to the first day of December last past, shall not be deemed vacant lands, or be liable to be entered as such in the Land Office, unless the General Assembly shall hereafter so direct, but nevertheless shall be subject to the same taxes as other lands in this State are liable to.
” Method of trial for demises alleged to have been unfairly obtained .
Article V. And whereas, it is suggested by the Tuscarora Indians, that unfair dealings have been used in obtaining one or more of the demises aforementioned, and that they, the said Indians have at present no mode of obtaining redress in such cases. Be it therefore enacted, that the commissioners herein mentioned or a majority of them, shall and may, upon complaint of the said Tuscarora Indians, in court or meeting assembled, that a person or persons has or have unfairly or fraudulently obtained any grant or demise for lands to them belonging since the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-six, and previous to the first day of December last, summon the person or persons so complained against, or cause him or them to be summoned to appear before them on a certain day on the land in dispute (giving at best ten days’ notice previous to the day in such summons appointed), then and there to answer the complaint of the Indians for having fraudulently or unfairly obtained a grant or demise of the land in question; and shall also summon, or cause to be summoned, a jury of twelve men, being freeholders in the county of Birtie and not resident on or owners of any lands purchased of the said Tuscarora Indians; and the said commissioners, or a majority of them, shall attend at the time and place appointed, with the jury aforesaid, and having first sworn the jury to try and determine fairly between the said Indians and the person or persons complained against, shall and may cause witnesses to be examined on both sides, receive the verdict of the jury and return the same, with the panel, to the next County Court of the said county of Birtie, to be entered upon the record; and such verdict shall be as good and effectual as if obtained in any court of record; and if the same be general the said commissioners, or a majority of them, shall and may appoint one or more persons to carry the same into execution; but if special, then the court shall decide thereon, and cause the Sheriff of the county to carry such decision into execution.
” Commissioners for Indian affairs.
Article VI. And whereas the said Indians are often injured by horses, cattle and hogs, driven on their lands by white people, the said horses, cattle and hogs breaking into the enclosure and destroying their corn and other effects, and are also frequently deprived of their property, and abuses by ill disposed persons; for remedy whereof, and also for recovery of suits or demands now due, or which may hereafter become due and owing to the said Tuscarora Indians; Be it enacted, that William Williams, Thomas Pugh, Willie Jones, Simon Turner and Zedekiah Stone, be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners for the said Indians, and they, or any three of them, shall and may inquire into the complaints made by the said Indians, summon the persons complained against, before them, and award such restitution and redress as to them shall seem just and necessary; and may appoint an Officer or Officers to serve subpoena as, and to execute such awards and determinations as they shall or may make in regard of the premises; and the court of said county of Birtie, is hereby authorized and required to fill up, from time to time, by new appointments any vacancies which may happen among the commissioners by death or resignations; and upon complaint of the chiefs or head men of the nation, and the rest of the Indians, in court or meeting properly assembled, against any of the commissioners for misbehavior, may inquire into the conduct of the person or persons complained against, remove him or them if necessary, and appoint another or others in his or their stead.
” Reversion of Indian lands.
Article VII. And be it further enacted, that the lands leased by the said Tuscarora Indians to Robert Jones, Jr., William Williams and Thomas Pugh, and to other persons, shall revert and become the property of the State, at the expiration of the terms of the several leases mentioned, if the said nation be extinct; and the lands now belonging to, and possessed by the said Tuscaroras, shall revert to and become the property of the State, whenever the said nation shall become extinct, or shall entirely abandon or remove themselves off the said lands, and every part thereof. Provided, that no person shall have any preference of entry to any of the said lands by virtue of any lease or occupancy whatever, since December, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, whenever the general assembly shall declare the said lands to be vacant.”
Read three times and ratified in general assembly, the 2d day of May, A. D. 1778.
Signed by Whitmill Hill, S. S. Thomas Benbury, S. C.
1780 Petition – NC State Archives General Assembly Session Records
Whitmell Tufdick, head man and the rest of the Tuskarorah Nation living in Bertie Co., – The Tuscarorah are complaining that while the assembly passed a measure in 1778 to help remedy their situation, that not enough jurors will show up to hear a trial due to “artful persuasion” by the people who contend with the Indians, and they are asking the assembly to compell jurors to attend sessions.
The general assembly did pass an act penalizing jurors who did not show up.