N is for Nat and Navigation - Nat Ming was an 8 year old unknown English
immigrant son and navigation apprentice. Nat was indentured by his mother
to live with Christopher Gale and wife in Bath at Kirby Grange. Nat’s English
parents had sailed over a few years before and bought a plantation outside
Bath Towne in the county. After his father a sea captain and planter-
merchant died his mother decided when Nat was only 8 years old that it would
be best in 1707 that he learn navigation as an apprentice to Gale. Gale’s son
Miles was 5 years old at the time, born in 1702 so they would have been
playmates too.
In August 1716 Nathaniel would have been close to 17 years old with a few
years left on his long 13 year apprenticeship at Kirby Grange plantation with
the Gales. The St. Thomas Church had not yet been built, so he may have studied books
from the state’s first library, the “Bray Library” which circulated at colonist homes until
it had a permanent home. We are told at times readings from the Bray books were held
at Kirby Grange. Many of the books were religious books but a few were general
education since visiting missionaries and clergy were expected to teach children as part of
their duties. Among the 1000 books sent to Bath one used to teach navigation was
Richard Blome’s “The Gentlemen’s Recreation” series about gardening, hunting,
hawking, navigation and other pursuits. A copy can be seen today in the Van de Vere
house exhibit at the Bath state visitor center and at the Pepsi education center at Tryon
Palace in New Bern. Nathaniel’s apprenticeship papers to Chief Justice and Mrs.
Christopher Gale were recorded and witnessed by John Lawson, Isabella’s father. The
1707 entry says: he is 8 years old on 17 Nov next. Apprenticeship to be 13 yrs 3 mo and
odd days and to expire 17 Nov 1720. Gale to give Nathaniel apparel, teach him to read and
write and teach him the art of navigation. Wit: Wm Glover, John
Lawson. Ack in Ct in Bath town 8 Oct 1707. Test John Lawson, Coun
CL (county clerk)
The name Nat Ming appears a few years after the 1715 Port Bath
decree but this time in a runaway Indian slave intrigue. If this is the
same Nat Ming, in 1718 a few weeks before Blackbeard was killed he
was still a servant but no longer with the Gales. His indenture papers
appear to have been transferred to another wealthy Bath family, the
Worsleys. (One of Merchant Worsley family’s green glass bottles was
found locally and reproduced and is for sale at the Bath site gift
shop.) At a Council held at the Court House in Chowan Nov 11, 1718,
one Nathaniel Ming, servant to Thomas Worsley, apparently discovered “roguery
involving a confederacy of Mr. Worseley’s children and Servants.” The roguery incident
involved a runaway Indian Slave Pompey, who subsequently was ordered to be taken
dead or alive. Nat was given 29 lashes on his bare back at the same time and Mr.
Worsley’s son was to be given “39 lashes, well laid on,” on his bare back. Indian scouts
were ordered out to apprehend the runaway Pompey with promises of a reward.
Nat would have dreamed of one day completing his apprenticeship term, being at the
helm or even owning a pilot ship and to one day being a sea captain and Ocracoke pilot
like his boyhood friend Miles Gale. Being a sea captain was a good way to earn enough
Pastel portrait of Christopher Gale, painted
while Chief Justice of Bahamas.
The gentleman’s
recreation in two
parts : the first being
an encyclopedia of the
arts and sciences ...
the second part treats
of horsemanship,
hawking, hunting,
fowling, fishing, and
agriculture : with a
short treatise of cock-
...London: Printed by
S. Roycroft for Richard
Blome, 1686.
This was one of Bath’s
one thousand Bray
Library books sent
over from England by
SPG, the Society for
Propagation of Gospel
in Foreign Parts. Bath
had the first library of
North Carolina. There
were actually two
libraries, one religious
and one for clergy and
laymen to teach
children. Many
missionaries passed
through Bath
baptizing children and
teaching them to
read. Their duties also
included wedding,
church services and
officiating at burials.
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