My 50th birthday last week was a great excuse to check out a few places I’ve read about for several years but never actually visited. I gathered content that I’ll be posting in my blog for months to come but for now I wanted to post a quick overview and share some photos.

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Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Our first stop was the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill so I could check out the Southern Historical Collection on the 4th floor of the Wilson Library. From their website:

“The Southern Historical Collection is a vast collection of distinct archival collections. These collections are comprised of unique primary documents, such as diaries, journals, letters, correspondence, photographs, maps, drawings, ledgers, oral histories, moving images, albums, scrapbooks, and literary manuscripts.”

The two collections I wanted to explore were letters to family members in Haywood County in the Jonathan Jacocks collection and letters from Penelope Johnston to her cousin Samuel Johnston in the Hayes Collection.

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Letters from family in Haywood County, Tenn.
to Jonathan Jacocks of Bertie County, N.C.

I only had four hours before we needed to check out of the hotel, so I photographed what I found faster than I could read it. I still don’t exactly what content is in all these letters but it will be fun sorting them out and posting the names and dates in coming months.

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Letter from Penelope Johnston to her brother
written on 26 Jun 1758

I am still trying to connect John Dawson Castellaw’s mother, Margaret Dawson, to Penelope Johnston Dawson beyond any doubt and I am hopeful her letters may provide some clues. I was able to get through two of more than 20 archival boxes and took photos of many letters and documents. I will be going through those in coming months and sharing those contents here on my blog also.

In multiple places online I have found comments that John Castellaw “married a Dawson from Eden House.” If I can find proof, this would connect those of us with John Dawson Castellaw ancestry with Gabriel Johnston, a defining figure in early American history.

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Reproduction of early 19th-century library from Hayes Plantation

I found a library inside the library.

The possible family connection with Gabriel Johnston made this discover even more exciting.

Johnston and his brother, Samuel Johnston, who he brought to America from Scotland, both loved to collect books. Gabriel began the collection with books originally owned by Charles Eden, the first Royal Governor of North Carolina. Johnston was married to Eden’s step-daughter, Penelope. Later generations continued the collection at Hayes Plantation in Edenton, N.C. and in 1999 it was donated to the Wilson Library by Gilliam and Annette Wood, the present owner of Hayes.

You can check out more pictures I took inside the library inside the library here.

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Meeting the Indian Chief Pemisapan who later in the evening
would be beheaded by the English. That’s show business…

That night, after dropping off our things at our beach house on Nag’s Head, we headed to catch a performance of “The Lost Colony” which is, according to their website, “America’s longest running outdoor drama.” It was a great experience all of us in my family would highly recommend. I was especially surprised by the level of quality in the production. I would suggest you take advantage of the behind-the-scenes tour that takes place before the show begins.

That’s where you learn a lot more of the history of the actual colony that was lost and discover some interesting trivia about show itself. For example, what television actor got his start playing Sir Walter Raleigh in “The Lost Colony” in the early 1950s? Answer

You can check out a few of my pictures from the production here.
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Video from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, Edenton, N.C.
We began the next morning in Edenton, N.C. with a visit to St.  Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery. The early service was just ending so I got a quick video of the cemetery with music provided by the congregation.
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Charles Eden, is that you?

Charles Eden, Gabriel Johnston, Penelope Golland Johnston and other likely ancestors are buried in the cemetery but their headstones have worn away and I couldn’t identify any of them.

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Wooden bridge to Hayes Plantation

Because I had seen the old library at UNC, I wanted to check out Hayes Plantation but you have to drive over a wooden bridge and down a driveway that is clearly marked, “Do not drive down our driveway.” This was as close as I got but you can check out photos of the house here and here.
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“Salmon Creek and Eden House, Seedbed of the Colony”

On the way to Bertie County, we stopped by Eden House. Nothing remains but this historic marker. Erected in June 2001, the large marker replaced four older markers, all of which were scrapped when construction began on the US 17 bridge we used to drive across the Chowan River.

The text from the marker:

“Along the banks of the Chowan River and Salmon Creek, the seeds were planted for the colony and state of North Carolina. From these roots in the 1600s emerged the refined plantation life of the ruling colonial gentry in the 1700s, made possible by the displacement of Indians and with slave labor. The earliest settlers in this region, largely natives of the British Isles, transplanted their folkways, building techniques, agricultural methods, and adventurous spirit to these shores.

Explorers venturing south from Virginia included John Pory who in 1622 visited the Chowan River area, reporting the natives friendly and prospects for settlement good. Among the first permanent European settlers was Nathaniel Batts, a trader in animal pelts. In 1655 he hired a carpenter to build a house about three miles south near the mouth of Salmon Creek. By the time Charles II of England granted a charter to the Lords Proprietors in 1663, a small but growing community was in place along this river. The area was designated one of three official ports of entry in 1676.

While the proprietors legally headed the government, power rested in the hands of the governor and the council. Six colonial governors lived nearby during the proprietary (1663-1729) and royal (1729-1776) periods:

*     Samuel Stephens, the first of the leaders to settle on Salmon Creek, encountered dissension and despair among the colonists during his term, 1667-1670.
*     Seth Sothel in 1678 acquired 4,000 acres where Batts and Stephens had lived. As governor beginning in 1682, Sothel incurred charges of oppression, tyranny, extortion, and bribery, leading to his conviction and banishment in 1689.
*     Edward Hyde also served a stormy tenure as governor, 1711-1712, witnessing the outbreak of the Tuscarora War that devastated the colony. Hyde, who took up residence on Salmon Creek in 1710, was the first governor of the separate colony of North Carolina, the division of Carolina taking place in 1712.
*     Thomas Pollock, who had been jailed by Sothel, served as acting governor, 1712-1714 and again in 1722. His plantation house, “Balgra,” was two miles south on the north side of Salmon Creek. There he and Hyde withstood a small naval attack in 1711 during Cary’s Rebellion.
*     Charles Eden, governor from 1714 to 1722, purchased the property in this immediate vicinity in 1719 and constructed “Eden House” a few yards north. His home in time became an elegant center of social life for the Albemarle aristocracy. Following his death in 1722, the “Town on Queen Anne’s Creek” was renamed Edenton and soon supplanted this area as the social and political center.
*     Gabriel Johnston, who served as royal governor from 1734 to 1752, married Eden’s stepdaughter Penelope Golland around 1740 and lived at Eden House. By the close of his term North Carolina was undergoing tremendous growth and settlement had extended to the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.

Over time the colonial estates along the Chowan River and Salmon Creek have been lost to shoreline erosion, fire, or decay. The area south of Salmon Creek, owned through most of the 1700s by three generations of the Duckenfield family, was acquired by the Capeheart family in 1829 and afterwards known as “Avoca.” Pollock’s grave at “Balgra” and those at Eden House were moved to Edenton around 1890. In 1996, prior to construction of the improved US 17 bridge, archaeologists excavated an area a short distance southeast uncovering remnants of two houses constructed in the late 1600s and later owned by the Eden family.”

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Photo of Eden House approximately where it originally sat.

Although Eden House is no longer there, an interesting archaeological project came about as the result of a highway project designed to widen US 17 and replace the bridge over the Chowan River.

“After taking measures to avoid a cemetery and other parts of the site, NCDOT funded a major excavation at the Eden House site. Archaeologists from Coastal Carolina Research of Tarboro, North Carolina worked at the site during the summer and fall of 1996. There they uncovered the remains of one of the oldest settlements in the Albemarle region. Traces of two houses, a barn, a well, trash pits, fence lines, a privy (outdoor bathroom), and thousands of artifacts thrown away by those living at the site through the years.”


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Capeharts Baptist Church,

I’ve been reading about this church since I first became interested in genealogy. Located in Merry Hill, N.C. in Bertie County, Capeharts Baptist Church first began 10 Dec 1824. My fifth great grandparents, John Dawson Castellaw (possibly the son of Penelope Dawson, the granddaughter of Gabriel and Penelope Golland Johnston) and his wife, Zilpha Spruill Castellaw helped begin this church.

Other family names of original members who are also in my line include Cobb, Williams, Butterton, Demspey, and Hardy. Many of these families loaded up 10 years later and followed John Dawson Castellaw to Haywood County, Tenn. where they helped settle the area.

You can check out other photos, including the inside of the church, here.

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Colerain Baptist Church

Beginning as Wiccacon Baptist in 1757, Colerain Baptist Church was established as a mission of Cashie Baptist, Windsor. A few of my ancestors left this church to help start Capeharts Baptist Church.

Some of these same church members started Zion Baptist Church when they arrived in Haywood County and then later, Holly Grove Baptist Church.

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Sage growing in a field in Bertie County, N.C.

One thing I will always remember about this trip is sage. There was sage growing in nearly every field we passed and I had never even seen sage before. We had to google it just to figure out what it was. Bertie has to be the sage capital of the world. That, combined with all the old wood houses with tin roofs, created some amazing photo opportunities.

You can see more photos of sage, cemeteries and churches from our trip here.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

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50th Birthday Genealogy Road Trip