Letter from Arthur Dobbs to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Dobbs, Arthur, 1689-1765
Volume 05, Pages 341-344
[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 12. C. 69.]
My Lords [of the Board of Trade]
I am come so far in my progress viewing the Country to fix the Seat of Government and the sea coast to fix upon proper places to erect Forts or Batteries to protect our Harbours and Ships and finding a Ship ready to sail for Liverpool wou'd not delay writing to your Lordships what I had viewed and fixed upon as I cant tell when I may have another opportunity.
I set out from Newbern the 9th of April to view the River Neuse and proceeded up it near 100 miles to the Falls to see what proper situations
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were upon that River for the seat of Government as being the most Central and Convenient for the whole Province most places upon the River are low and swampy but there are several Dry Grounds and a few high Bluffs upon the River from 16 or 18 to 40 feet higher than the River But the most convenient place is a Stringers Ferry on the North side of the River, Where is a fine rising ground from the Ferry dry, Healthy, and good Springs; and extends a considerable way pritty level back from the River, where the lands are very good altho they are Piney at some distance from the river this is the only place so high and extensive on the River below the Falls and overlooks the River at about 3 or 400 yards from it upon a gentle rising ground near 40 feet higher than the river it is about 50 miles by water above Newbern and is Navigable for Canoes and small Periaguas in the Dryest summer and for large flats the stream very Gentle and with little expence upon one or two Fords may afford above 3 or 4 feet navigation in the dryest summer it is about 42 miles by land from New Bern to it; and it is navigable downward from the Falls on the River for above 60 or 80 miles Except in the height of summer which will be a great conveniency for the back settlers to bring down heavy goods and the River in great freshes does not overflow the Country as the Rivers Roanock and Northward of Cape Fear, do, rising in some places above 40 feet: the Gentlemen both to the Northward and Southward also approve of fixing it up the Neuse as it will be much more convenient for them and a better and Shorter Road than to go to New Bern; as they to the Northward will avoid 2 or 3 large Ferries, 2 of which are of 6 and 4 miles at Edenton and Bath, and that at New Bern near 2 miles, when they will have only a Ferry over Chowan, and Roanoak, which are narrow in respect to the others and may be passed at any time and a ferry at Tar River and Canterbury [Contentnea] Creek which are only 100 to 200 yards over, and the Southern Gentlemen from Cape Fear will have a better and shorter road and avoid New River ferry having only the ferry near Wilmington to cross which they must do, to either place which is not above 4 or 500 yards over: so that they as well as the northern settlers will be all pleased in case his Majesty approves of fixing it there and then I Believe the Assembly will Proceed Briskly in erecting publick Buildings and offices which have been so long unsettled that almost all the old Records are lost and I hope that you will give an instruction that all publick officers who ought to keep their Offices in the Capital should also reside in or near it and the members of the Council should all have houses there and half of them in Rotation shou'd reside half yearly at the Capital and not always be obliged upon emergencies to send expresses
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above 100 miles each way to Summon a Council this I expect they will object to unless they have an allowance for their attendance as has been given in Virginia, I believe £50 per an to each wou'd satisfy them for half a years attendance which if we can Increase the Quit Rents as I expect we shall may be granted by his Majesty and all the Debts be soon paid and then there will be a considerable Quit Rent remaining at his Majestys disposal if the Quit Rent Law be approved of—I hope therefore that your Lordships will lose no time in advising his Majesty to fix the seat of Governmt
that we may immediately prepare materials and apply to the Assembly for a fund to proceed upon the Buildings the conveniences for holding the Assembly being extreamly bad and inconvenient and it will require some time to have houses built at the Capital to lodge and accommodate the Members and other Officers.
I arrived here last night from Edenton by water in a Sloop we passed thro' Albemarle Sound Roanoak or Croatan and Pamplico Sounds and so over the swash to Ocacock Island and from thence to this road near Core Banks where I summoned the Commissioners to meet me to fix upon a place to erect a fort or Battery and Barrack to protect the Ships in the Harbour out of which they were taken by Privateers last war; the Storms they tell me for some years past has made vast havock among these sandy Islands the opening of Ococock Inlet betwixt this and that Inlet is enlarged from 2 miles to 4 miles wide Beacon Island which lay betwixt them within the Entrance is one half washed away and become only a dry Sand at low water and a Considerable part of this Island near the Bar expected to be carryed away in a few years two or three great storms will make a Passage thro' it the Islands being mostly sand hills and low marshes are often overflowed so that the Commissrs think it will be better to erect a fascine Battery secured by Piles with 2 faces one to Secure the passage in coming down a Narrow Channel to this Harbour and the other to play Cross the Channel where it is not above 300 yards wide and to build a Barrack behind the Battery to secure it, which will require at least 40 men which with the Assistance of the men on board the ships in the Harbour will prevent any Privateer from attempting the Ships and a Town is laid out called Portsmouth where the merchants propose to erect ware houses to lodge their goods in and load all their goods in the large ships here by lighters from the several Towns of Edenton, Bath Town and New Bern and the Several other creeks on their several Sounds I shall endeavour to get a chart of this Inlet and Sands to send to your Lordships. The Company sailed from hence to Virginia about 3 weeks ago we hope they are now near their Rendezvous I proceed from this to view the Harbour at Cape Lookout and topsail Inlet to fix
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upon a place to erect a Fort there I have had no letter yet from your Lordships in answer to any of my letters from this Province which I impatiently expect and refer you to all my former letters having Time to say no more at present from hence.
I am, &c.,
Portsmouth Core banks. near Ocacock Inlet May the 10th 1755.