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Journal of the Virginia Boundary Commissioners during the survey of the North Carolina/Virginia boundary
Byrd, William, 1674-1744; Fitzwilliam, Richard; Dandridge, William
March 05, 1728 - April 05, 1728
Volume 02, Pages 750-757

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[B. P. R. O. B. T. Virginia. Vol. 18. R. 84.]

March 5th The Commissioners on the part of Virginia after a fatiguing Journey of 8 days arrived punctually at the North Shoar of Carotuck Inlet about noon. In less than two hours they were joined by Col. Gale & Col. Moseley two of the Commissioners for Carolina. However they could not go upon any business for want of the Carolina Commission, which was in the hands of the other Commissioners, who came not hither till late the next day.

March 6th The Surveyors in the mean time employed themselves in taking the bearings of the Coast, & the Islands adjacent According to the most exact observation they found the Latitude to be 36 degrees 31 minutes. About 3 in the afternoon Mr Lovick & Mr Little the other Commissioners for Carolina arrived. Immediately the Commission of each side being read, it was agreed that each party should deliver a Copy thereof to the other. 'Twas also moved by the Virginia Commissioners, that those for Carolina should produce their Instructions; but they excused themselves by saying, what Instructions they had related to those matters only, which the Commissioners on the part of Virginia were expressly forbid to treat upon Then a debate arose concerning the place where they ought to begin, the Commissioners for Carolina were strenous for beginning at the point of high land, because they said the former Commissioners had agreed to begin there: But those on the part of Virginia insisting that the Spit of Land stretching from thence to the Inlet, was properly the North Shoar, it was at last consented to by those of Carolina, with only a small allowance of about two hundred yards, which was proved to be gained since the Proposals had been signed by the Governors Spotswood & Eden. At night the Surveyors discovered the variation to be 3 degrees West by a Meridian taken from the North Star.

7. This morning the Commissioners ordered that a Post should be drove deep in the Sand at the place of beginning From thence they ran the Line due West allowing 3 degrees for the Variation, which it seems the former Commissioners had not done. The Line crost Dansiers Island, & thence into Notts Island over a narrow part of the Sound, which they past in two Periangas hired at the landing of North West River. In the

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evening they encampt on the East side of North Island on the Plantation of William Harding which was cut by the Line.

8. They proceeded with the Line thro' the Highland of Notts Island, which exceeded not half a mile Then they entered a large Marsh which was very wet & mirey extending as far as a Water called back-bay. this they crost by the help of a canoe sent round for that purpose, and then crost over another Marsh to the High Land of Princess Ann County. It is to be observ'd that Notts Island improperly so called, being only a Peninsular the water not surrounding it but at very high tides, when the Marsh is overflowed. We encampt on John Heaths Plantation a little to the Southward of the Line at the mouth of North River.

9th The Line was continued thro' Eylands Plantation to the East bank of North River. This the Surveyors past in a Perianga & crost over Gibbs Marsh near a mile in breadth to the high land. Soon after they were interrupted by a Pocoson made quite impassable by beaver Damms & Otter holes. On this account they were obliged to make a Traverse in order to make good their Line without going thro' this impracticable Place The days work ended about a mile & 3 quarters to the Northward of Christopher Merchants House, not far from North West River. To this Field the Commissioners encampt correcting by a great fire the bad air occasioned by a Swamp which encompast it.

10th This being Sunday we rested in our Camp, but Mr Fontain being left at North West Landing with the hopes of baptizing a great many Children we had no Sermon.

11th The Line was carried on about 3 miles thro' high land and afterwards allmost 2 miles thro Swamp & Pocosan full of beaver damms and otter holes, into which some of the men plunged up to their Middle. This unpleasant days work ended at the mouth of Northen's Creek, which discharges itself into North west River. But we encampt a little higher up the River near a deserted house belonging to Capt Willis Willson. This was for the benefit of shelter from the rain which not only threatened us but fell plentifully in the Night.

12th The Surveyors took the Course of North west River, then Crost from the mouth of Northerns Creek, and carried on the Line 3 miles thro Marsh & high Land, cutting several Plantations. At night we encampt on Robt Ballance's Plantation, a little way to the southward of North west River bridge. Having first discharged the two Perrianga's we had provided to transport us over the many waters we had occasion to pass in this difficult part of our business.

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13th The Line was continued 3 miles farther thro the woods which were full of briers & Gall-bushes, as far as the East side of the Dismal or great desert. 'Tis hardly credible how little the bordering Inhabitants were acquainted with this Swamp, tho' most of them had lived all their Lives within sight of it. They were positive it was not above six or eight miles to the other side, yet none of them so much as pretended they had ever past it. This was therefore the best information we could gain of a Desert so unknown, but in order to be better acquainted with it, we made the necessary disposition to enter it the next morning. We allotted for this service Mr Mayo, Mr Erwin and Mr Swan with 12 men, so many being thought necessary for clearing the way for the Chain, for marking and carrying the Luggage. The men were so desirious to be of this number, that it was thought proper to determine their chance by lot. This night we took up our quarters at Mr Wilkins House, about a mile from the place where the Surveyors left off. By nine this morning the Provisions, Bedding etc were made up in packs for the men to carry into the Dismall. They victualled for eight days, which we judged sufficient to carry them thro' this inhospitable place. Nor indeed could more be carryed without making the Luggage too troublesome for the men. As it was, their Loads were 40 to 70 pounds weight a man, which was full enough to bear thro grounds hardly passable without any burden at all. However the men carryed them cheerfully, and for their better encouragement some of the Commissioners went with them half a mile into the Dismal. The ground was wet & boggy full of tall reeds, everywhere interlaced with Briers, which hampered the feet very much. Two men went before to clear an opening for the Surveyors and enable them to take their sight At the end of half a mile, they came to a small Island of high land about one hundred yards over. Here the Commissioners recommending vigour & constancy to the men returned, & the Surveyors proceeded with them their Line one mile further in all one mile & a half. The ground continued much the same only some part of it was overgrown with Gall bushes and the trees which grew here & there amongst them were generally Cypresses. While the Surveyors were thus engaged in the Dismal, the Commissioners in order to meet them on the west side, having sent away the Baggage followed it to Capt James Wilsons. Here we had left the horse and some of the men to look after them, when we embarked on the Periangas for Corrotuck.

15th The Surveyors proceeded to run the Line in the Dismal but the ground being wet and thicker set with Reeds Briers & Gall bushes than they found it yesterday, it was impossible after a long days work to go

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further than one mile, 15 chains and a half. Another great hindrance proceeded from Trees blown down, which lay horsing on one another, with sharp snaggs pointing every way, and requiring great caution to get over them. These trees were generally Cypresses which are easily blown down in this wet place, as indeed all other Trees are, because there is no firm earth for the roots to shoot into. In the mean time the Commissioners in their way round marched to Timothy Ives's with the horses and baggage in whose field they pitched their Tent.

16th The Surveyors ran their Line one mile & a half & 8 chains the greater part of the ground was Juniper Swamp with very thick underwoods and fallen Trees pilled upon another. The water here was found a little purgative by some of the People from too strong a tincture it had received from the Juniper Roots. In the evening they came upon another small piece of High Land, which was the more convenient because about 8 a clock it began to rain, which would have rendered the Low part of the Swamp a very uncomfortable lodging. The Commissioners went this night to Mr Andrew Mead's where they met with very generous entertainment.

17th This being Sunday the Commissioners halted at Mr Mead's, where Mr Fontain gave them a Sermon. It rained very hard in the morning which gave them great concern for their Friends in the Dismal. However it had no other ill effect upon the Surveyors, but by hindering them from carrying on the Line, for which they had a Dispensation notwithstanding it was Sunday, because it was really a work of necessity; but the rain had made everything so wet, that it saved them their labour, tho' not their Provisions.

18th The Surveyors fell to work with fresh vigour and finding the grounds a little better pusht on the Line 2 miles and 19 chains. In the afternoon their industry received some check from a Juniper Swamp very difficult to pass. In the mean time the Commissioners marcht round to Mr Speights's in hopes to meet with some intelligence. But instead of that Mr Speights was positive the Dismal could not be less than 30 miles over in that part of it where the Surveyors were to pass. This would have been dreadfull news had that Person had any Rule to judge by better than Conjecture. For neither he nor any other had ever made Trial of the Distance. At night we ordered guns to be fired on the Edge of the Dismal, and a drum to be beaten to give notice to the Surveyors (in case they were within hearing) that they were not far from Land And likewise that by answering our Signal we might have notice of their approach. But no such good report was heard from thence.

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19th The Commissioners ordered men both to the Northward and the Southward to fire more guns on the side of the Dismal, who could hear none in return. Many people came to Mr Speight's to satisfy their Curiosity, and brought many children to be baptized but none of them could tell any good tidings of the Surveyors Nor was it possible they should, because they were still in the midst of the Desart. They ran this day a mile & sixty one Chains thro' a terrible Juniper Swamp, where the ground was very soft, and the passage interrupted by a multitude of fallen Trees. Towards the evening they fancy'd they heard 4 guns to the Northward of their Course, by which they flattered themselves they were not far from Land.

20th The Surveyors proceeded a mile & 64 chains thro' the same Juniper Swamp, only the trees were thicker and smaller, by which tis probable, that this part of the Desart may have been formerly burnt, by the spreading of the Fire which is often made on the skirts of it by the bordering Inhabitants. While the Surveyors were thus employed, the Commissioners who remained at Mr Speights were in great pain for them, and the rather because they know their Provisions must be near spent. Men were continually dispatched upwards & downwards to fire guns and make enquiry, but could gain no intelligence.

21st The Surveyors began to be alarmed with Famine, and not without reason for their Provisions grew very scanty Nor could they discern any marks of being near Land. They had seen neither Bird nor Beast since their Entrance into this barren wilderness, to supply their wants, nor so much as an insect or a reptile. This must proceed from the moisture of the ground, and the everlasting shade which hinders the friendly beams of the Sun from warming it. These considerations determined them to abandon the Line for the present, and make the best of their way out, according to this resolution they marcht early in the morning, and steered due West as near as they could by the sun. At night they computed the Journey to be five or six miles, which was a great way considering the badness of the ground. It was all Juniper Swamp, so difficult & perplext, that if the People had not travelled for their Lives they could hardly have reacht so far. However they had the comfort in the evening of hearing the dogs bark and the Cattle lowe, which made them forget the fatigues of the foregoing day In the mean time the Commissioners receiving no news of their approach were exceedingly uneasy.

22nd The Surveyors pursued their Journey early in the morning, being encouraged by the good Omen of seeing Crows fly over their heads, & in an hour found themselves among Pines, soon after they waded thro'

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a deep swamp extending a full mile in breadth & taking the men almost up to the knees. After this about 10 in the morning they had the pleasure of recovering firm Land, and immediately repaired to Peter Brinkly's House to satisfy the importunity of their stomachs. In the afternoon Mr Swan brought the Commissioners the joyful News of their arrival in perfect health, this was the more fortunate because several of the men had been troubled with Fluxes & small feavers during their stay in the Dismal. They all came to Mr Speights in the evening.

23rd It was necessary for the Surveyors and the men who had shared in their fatigue to rest themselves, and prepare to enter the Dismal again on Monday, in Order to bring the Line quite thro' it.

24th This being Sunday a large Congregation flocked to Mr Speights from the adjacent parts to hear a sermon and get their Children baptized. In the afternoon the People who were to reenter the Dismal were furnisht with Provisions, and sent under the direction of Mr Mayo and Mr Swan to Peter Brinklys that they might be ready next morning to enter upon their business without loss of time.

25th These Surveyors with the Chain and burthen carryers returned into the Dismal with great alacrity, and by the help of the path they had made in coming out, arrived at the place where the Line had been discontinued. Here they lay as they had every night before in that Mirey Place, upon Juniper bark, over which they spread their blankets. The water was so near the surface that if a fire was kindled, so soon as the Crust was burnt thro', which Commonly happened in half an hour, it sunk into a hole and was extinguished. In the mean time the Commissioners continued at Mr Speights till their return not without a great deal of impatience.

26th The Commissioners agreed that Mr Fontain should make a Journey to Eden Town to give the Inhabitants a Sermon and christen their children. This seemed the more expedient because there is not a minister in the whole Province of North Carolina.

27th This morning we apprehended rain, but it blew over again to the great Comfort of the Surveyors and People who were still labouring in the Dismal.

28th The Surveyors this evening finisht the Line thro' the Desart having in three days proceeded five miles. This made the whole distance over it to be 15 miles in that part which is supposed to be its breadth, while the length which extends from North to South is conjectured to be double that distance. After the Surveyors had carry'd the Line 25 Chains up into the High Land, they dispatcht a Messenger to the Commissioners

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at Mr Speight's to receive their orders, which were to proceed with the Line the next morning. They came out of the Dismal not far to the North of Peter Brinkly's.

29th The Surveyors having by order of the Commissioners set up a post in the great Road where the Line cut it, expressing the bounds betwixt the two Colonys, proceeded one mile and fifteen Chains, wadeing over a Mill Swamp which took them above the knees.

30th The Surveyors continued the Line 6 miles & 35 chains They found the Woods pretty clear, and interrupted by very little Swamp or wet ground. Several Posts were set up in the Roads thro' which the Line past to show the Bounds. At night they took up their Quarters at Richard Parkers House standing about a third of a mile to the South of the Line.

31st It rained a little this morning but this day being Sunday it gave no interruption to the business. All the Inconvenience of it was that it lessened Mr Fontain's Congregation.

April 1st The Surveyors now being got upon high Land they proceeded with their Line Eleven miles & three quarters and 13 chains. They left Somerton Chappel near two miles in Virginia, and ran to the East side of Somerton Creek. They Cut thro' William Speights Plantation, taking the Tobacco House into Carolina and leaving the Dwelling House in Virginia. This has been the Case of Several other People in the Course of this Survey.

2nd The Surveyors past Somerton Creek and Continued the Line three quarters of a mile 12 chains & 30 links to the banks of the Black-water River. This they cut about half a mile to the Northward of the mouth of Nottoway River, which agreed to half a minute with the observation made formerly by Mr Lawson He had made the Latitude of the mouth of Nottoway River to be 30° 30' and our Line made it 36 30½ wch was but a small difference. However according to His Majestys order, the Surveyors came down Blackwater River and ran a due West Line from the middle of the mouth of Nottoway. This River they crost just above the mouth where it turns off to the Northward, and carr'd on the Line about half a mile thro' a deep Pocoson, to an Indian old Field. Here we encampt notwithstanding it was Low ground, and enclosed on two sides with a Swamp. At this place we found the variation of the needle lessened to 2-30.

3rd The Surveyors ran the Line 12 miles and three quarters. Great part of the way was thro' clear woods, but as they approacht Meherrin River, they cut thro' several Mirey Branches. They reached Meherrin

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about Sun Set, and the grounds were so uneven near the River, that it was difficult to find a Place level enough to encamp upon. The distance from the mouth of Nottoway River to the banks of Meherrin where the Line Crost was found to be 13 miles and a quarter.

4th We forded the River and found the Bank on the West side very steep. The Surveyors carry'd on the Line 2 miles and 39 chains, in which distance the River was so winding that they crost it no less than 3 times.

5th The Commissioners considering the great fatigue already undergone, and the danger of Rattle snakes in this advanced season, determined to proceed no further with the Line till the Fall. The Surveyors form'd a Mapp of the Line they had run from Coratuck Inlet to this Place, and found the distance from East to West to be 73 miles and 13 chains. Of this Mapp they made two Copys which agreeing exactly were subscribed by the Commissioners of both Colonys, and one of them was delivered to those of Virginia and the other to those of Carolina, who are to meet again the tenth of September.



Journal of the Commissioners for settling the Boundaries between Virginia & North Carolina and a Plan of the said Line bound up with the other Mapp.

Referred to in Majr Goochs letter of 8 June 1728.

Recd: 30th July 1728
Read. 30th July 1728