Ch 6 VOICES - What The Missionary Saw
Extracts from The Church of England in North Carolina, Documents 1699-1741. The Colonial Records of North
Carolina. Ed. Cain.
P. xiii Permanent white settlement in North Carolina began in the 1650s, and for the next forty years would be confined to
the region above Albemarle Sound, mainly along the extensive system of rivers and creeks. Settlement gradually spread
south with the Pamlico River area receiving its first white settlers around 1691. By 1703 the Neuse was settled as well,
and in the mid-1720s the Cape Fear region followed suit. The colony enjoyed no semblance of an urban center until the
establishment of Bath Town near the mouth of the Pamlico River in the opening years of the eighteenth century.
Xiv In the first decade of the eighteenth century the secretary of the SPG characterized NC as “this sad Country where
there was hardly any face of religion, no ministers, no churches, no towns, nor anything but a vast scattered flock without
shepherds and running wild in the desert.” At about the same time a London bishop argued for a substantial supplement
to the salary offered missionaries to NC for he wrote “they must live among Barbarians.” The Rev William Gordon and
John Urmston were sent to this region in a first wave of SPC missionaries.
Missionary Urmston’s farm plantation and his assigned parish were located at Queen Anne’s Creek, now Edenton, 1710-
1716. He was assigned to a large missionary precinct including Bath and Bath County between the Albemarle Sound and
the Pamlico River. See below Urmston’s details about his sloop provisioning attempts to supplement his income. In one
place he says Bath has 9 houses.
Missionary Gordon in 1709 (p.86) states Bath has 12 houses, and further describes a center of trade, the only town in the
province, a better inlet for shipping, surrounded by savannas, useful for stock and cattle. On provincial commerce:
there is no money, uses commodities to buy and pay. Staples for trade included corn, pork, pitch and tar. Pork at 45
shillings/barrel, 250 lb. weight. pitch at 25s/bl and tar 12 s/bl. Corn 20s/bl.
The aristocratic Virginian, William Byrd, called North Carolinians “arrant pagans” in the 1720s and condemned
Virginia’s southern neighbor as being a place where “everyone does what seems best in his own eyes.”
Xvi The lords proprietors theoretically governed NC from the time they received royal charters (from King Charles II
1663 and 1665) and governed through 1729 when they sold 7/8 of the province back to the Crown.
Xxii According to Wm Price Ed NC Higher Court Records 1702-1706 by 1706 the NC population had grown over half a
century from a few hundred to an estimated 10,000 whites plus several hundred black slaves.
Interestingly a NC legislative act of 1715 (which was a revision of a 1711 act) addressed the structure of church
establishment defining precincts and nine parishes. The act also named the vestry twelve members for each parish
including names of several captains. See notes. Several of the vestry powers were civil not ecclesiastical, for example the
legislative act of March 1702 charges vestry with verification and land boundaries, as well as verifying standard weights
and measures used in port and local trade. An act of assembly of 1741 complaining that “many notorious frauds and
deceits” were being “ daily committed by false weight and measures” so Bath soon followed practice in England where
duty was assigned to county courts , along with that of overseeing triennial walking the boundaries of lands.
(p.196) Related to NC legislative act of 1715. A few local captains are named among the twelve vestry members each of
the nine eastern NC parishes. Vestry conducted both civil and church business and were periodically convened by the
Marshall or Deputy at church chapel or courthouse. Captains named were: Capt. Fredrick Jones of Eastern Parish
Chowan precinct, Capt. Henry Bonner, Capt. John Bird, SW parish Chowan precinct, Capt. John Clark, St. Thomas
Parish… other names St. Thomas Parish vestry: the honorable Charles Eden (governor) Col. Christopher Gale, Mr.