Relationship Between the Tuscarora and Haliwa Indians by Michelle Lawing

In 1980, Michelle Lawing was retained to write a preliminary report reflecting her findings relative to any relationship between the Tuscarora Indians and the Haliwa.  That report, titled “Preliminary Report on the Relationship Between the Tuscarora and the Haliwa Indians” was based on 40 hours research.  Lawing states that the Haliwa Indians of North Carolina intended to petition the federal government for federal recognition.  Today they are known as the Haliwa-Saponi and they are state, but not federally, recognized.

Lawing referenced primary and secondary sources in the North Carolina State Archives, in Bertie County and in other locations.  Her conclusion is that there is nothing specifically to indicate that the Tuscarora are among today’s Haliwa-Saponi, but she did point out some interesting possibilities.

Lawing opens by reviewing the history of the Tuscarora Indians after the Tuscarora war when they were awarded the Bertie County land through 1803 when the last of the Tuscarora went north, or at least the last of them that we know of.  There is, of course, a possibility a few remained behind, and it is those few that Lawing was seeking.

I have covered this extensively, in more detail than Lawing was able to do in this report, in my series titled, “Tuscarora People Identified in Land and Other Transactions,” parts 1 through 15.  You can view part 1 at this link.

Subsequent links can be found by using the website’s search function to search for the word Tuscarora.

While no direct relationship was found between the Tuscarora and the Haliwa, some surnames were found in common.

For example, two Mitchell men signed deeds as Tuscarora in the 1700s, and Mitchell is a surname found among the Haliwa today.  However, in the 1790 census, no Mitchell was listed in the “other free,” meaning not free whites and not slaves, so Native, mulatto or free blacks, in either Warren or Halifax Counties, the home of the Haliwa-Saponi people.  In 1820, one Isaac Mitchell was listed in Warren County as “free colored” and Olive and Joel Mitchell as “free colored” in Halifax County.  It’s not known if these people descend from the Tuscarora or if they are the ancestors of the Haliwa-Saponi.

There is also a John Blount listed as free colored in Warren County in 1820.  Blount is a name used by the Tuscarora, but also by white families from whom the Tuscarora likely adopted the surname.  Lawing adds that there may be black Blount families as well.

The 1790 census in Bertie County shows no Tuscarora names as “other free”, with the exception of Wiggins where a Michael and Samuel both appear with large families.  Lawing adds that if they were Native, then they were likely not living on the reservation because Indians who were viewed as Native by their neighbors were not counted in the census, and were not taxable.

Pleasant Basket, Basket being another Tuscarora name, is found in only one family, listed as white in 1790, in Warren County where there were several deeds and marriage bonds beginning in 1810.  In the 1800 census were recorded Pleasant Basket in Warren County and a Thomas Basket in Wilkes County.

Whitmel appears among the Tuscarora, generally as a first name, adopted from one white man, a Thomas Whitmel (or Whitemel), a Tuscarora interpreter who helped them manage their affairs into the 1750s.  A Whitmel Alston is listed in the 1820 Warren County census as a “free colored” person.  Alston is not a name found among the Haliwa today, but the family could have been connected to the early Haliwa and/or the Tuscarora.

The surname Mitchell is the only name in common between the Tuscarora and the Haliwa.

Lawing reported that Dr. Robert Thomas reported seeing a letter from a Jacocks to the Smithsonian stating that the Jacocks family had purchased land from Tuscarora who had the same surnames as Indian people in Halifax and Warren Counties.  She checked the Jacock’s papers, which was fruitless, then extracted the list of deeds conveyed to the Jacock’s family and found all white conveyors with no connection to the Tuscarora.

William Richardson, the progenitor of the early 20th century Haliwa left a will in 1798 that named, among others, his daughter, Morning Bass.  The Bass family is well documented to be among the Nansemond tribe, but it is not known who Morning Bass was married to, as no marriage records survive.  In 1638 John Bass married Keziah Elizabeth Tucker, the daughter of “Robin the Elder” of the Nansemond Indian Tribe.  Lawing suggests a further search of will and estate records that might serve to tie Morning to her husband and her husband to the Bass family.  The Bass family has a long line of both white and black families.

Lawing closes by providing a bibliography and several lists:

  • Tuscarora signing deeds in Bertie County
  • Jacock’s land conveyances
  • 1790 – Bertie County census – other free persons
  • 1790 – Halifax County census – other free persons
  • 1790 – Warren County census – other free persons
  • 1820 – Bertie County census – free colored persons
  • 1820 – Halifax County census – free colored persons
  • 1820 – Warren County census – free colored persons

Hat tip to Chris for contributing this document.


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Haliwa, Saponi, Tuscarora. Bookmark the permalink.

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