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HIST 234 Web Exhibit

Chris Burris and Autumn Locklear

I. Introduction

For this exhibit, we will discuss our assigned topic of 18th century migrations in the context of the Lumbee Indians and Robeson County. Essentially, we are investigating the nature of and motivations behind the coalescence of the modern population of the region by determining the movement of different cultural groups and interaction between them in the area during the 18th century. While we cannot hope to cover the entire picture, we hope to elucidate some of the 18th century roots behind the present-day population of Robeson County by analyzing the unfortunately scarce primary source documents available from the area in that time period.

Our three main subtopics are: 1) the original native population of the region, predecessors of the Lumbee who were already settled there in the early 1700s, which we will investigate through a few available maps from the period and the Tuscarora War-era journal of John Barnwell; 2) the migration of Gaelic-speaking Highland Scots to the region in the middle part of the century, and their interaction with the local population; and 3) tracing common Lumbee surnames such as Lowery, Locklear, etc and variants thereof to parts of Robeson County by studying land deeds and grant records and plotting them on a 1793 map of the county. By investigating these three areas, we hope to paint a partial portrait of the county as it was shortly after its incorporation near the end of the 18th century.

II. Original Native Population

Excerpt from the journal of John Barnwell

Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection

The Robeson County area has been home to native populations since prehistory, long before Europeans made their way across the ocean to the New World. Nothing at all is known about pre-contact peoples in the area, for obvious reasons, and even by the beginning of the 18th century the area was still extremely remote and generally untraveled by Europeans, with few exceptions. However, it can be surmised that the native people who lived in the region at that time make up a part of modern Lumbee heritage and therefore warrant investigation under our topic.

John Barnwell was a South Carolina colonist, originally from Ireland, who came to the New World in 1701 and quickly rose to prominence in the political world of the colony. When the Tuscarora War broke out in 1711 between European colonists and the Tuscaroras of North Carolina, Barnwell commanded the first of two armies, comprised of colonial militia and friendly Indians (mostly Yamasee), that South Carolina sent north to fight. He kept a journal during the campaign to report to his superiors in South Carolina and overseas, and additionally helped create the map you see above. His journal has several mentions of native populations in the area around present-day Robeson County, and the map shows an unnamed native village on the Little Pee Dee. He does not name or specifically reference what tribe occupied the area, but does confirm the presence of a native population.

Barnwell Expedition Map

Courtesy of the UNC Research Labs of Archaeology

During Barnwell’s march from the Peedee to the Cape Fear River (which is present-day Robeson County), he noticed that there was a mass desertion of Indians in all of the troops. He didn’t want to discourage the remaining men so he told them that the Indians were taking another route under his order and would be meeting them later, but of course, this was not the case. The night before he crossed the Neuse River, he found that a majority of the Indians were gone. We can’t conclusively say that we know why the Indians would have deserted, but we speculate that it was to join a native population already inhabiting the area. Either way, it can be concluded that some of the present-day inhabitants of Robeson County are descendants of these runaway Indians.

Excerpt discussing mass desertions in the general area of Robeson County

(Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection)

A map of northern South Carolina (with much of southern North Carolina on it as well) by a trader and colonial official named John Herbert was drawn some decades later in 1744 and labels the same village that is on the Barnwell map as being inhabited by Wacomas. Herbert was a trader and traveled extensively through the mostly uncharted area. You can view the Herbert 1744 map here. Another map from the Tuscarora War period shows Barnwell’s path (thick dashes) and has a few more villages labeled in the area; view that map here.

II. Highland Scots

A large number of Gaelic-speaking Scots moved into the Piedmont region of North Carolina in the mid-1700s, including the area that would later be demarcated as Robeson County, and were slowly integrated into the pre-existing population. Their interaction with the local Indians is a very vaguely defined area of history but some relationship can be established by looking into the archives of land grants. Our research into the Robeson County Register of Deeds from the late 18th century reveal that the Scottish immigrants mostly bought and sold land from one another and from whites, illustrating that at this time there was still a significant cultural divide between the Indian population and the white and Scottish populations. The following example, which lists sales by the surname McDugald to four other Scottish surnames, is typical when looking through the index of deeds; Scots sell to, and buy from, Scots.

Robeson County Register of Deeds

However, there are some examples of Scottish surnames selling land to known Lumbee surnames, although they are relatively scarce and constitute a very small fraction of the overall land dealings involving Scottish surnames from the period. For instance, in 1793 a Mary McGee sold land to James Lowery in Aaron Swamp, and in 1804 Malcolm McMillan sold land to Malcolm Locklear.

These Scots constitute a large portion of the fresh settlers who moved into the area in the 1700s, and therefore they are significant not only because of the fact that they were inbound migrants, but also because their cultural influence on the local population was important and the effects thereof can still be detected in modern-day Robeson County. Our findings suggest that by the close of the 18th century, this relationship was still fledgling and far from being heavily established; Scottish immigrants appear to have primarily dealt with one another and with white settlers, whereas instances of a Scottish surname granting land to a Lumbee surname are quite rare in comparison. Thus we can determine that while there was some cross-pollination, so to speak, between these two markedly different cultural groups, at this time they were still early in the process of becoming culturally dependent on one another.

III. Surnames and Land Acquisition

While doing our research, we found this 1792 map of Robeson County, part of the William Blount papers and courtesy of the North Carolina Maps collection. Our final section has the intent of determining roughly where some of the original Lumbee families owned land near the end of the 18th century. While the map is not comprehensive and many of the locations we found in the Register of Deeds that were owned by Lumbee surnames could not be plotted on it, we still managed to find a good amount of data with the areas that are labeled on the map. We established that these surnames were Lumbee by using Morris Britt’s excellent research into Lumbee surnames, which can be found online here.

Once we gathered a sufficient amount of data from the Robeson County Register of Deeds, we then plotted them as best we could on the map to show where some of these Lumbee families owned land around the year 1800.

Lumbee Surnames who Bought or Sold Land, 1787-1805

(click for a much larger version)


1 – Ten Mile Swamp – Wilkins

2 – Back Swamp – Chavis, Lowery

3 – Ashpole Swamp – Chavis, Locklear, Lowery

4 – Shoe Heel Swamp – Chavis, Driggers

5 – Long Swamp – Chavis, Locklear, Lowery

6 – Raft Swamp – Braveboy

7 – Hog Swamp – Drinkwater

8 – Juniper Branch – Lowery

Note that some names have been consolidated to make up for spelling errors; for example, Locklear also has the alternate spelling Locklier, and Lowery is often spelled Lowry or Lowrey. As you can see, the plotted map reveals that the ancestral Lumbee were spread out all over the county, and indeed probably in adjacent Bladen and Ansom counties, although we could not find access to their deed or land grant records. It is also interesting to note that most of the records involve the Lumbee surnames buying and selling land between each other – just like the Scottish Highlanders, the Lumbee tended to stick together and dealt primarily with one another rather than other cultural or ethnic groups.

IV. Further Reading and Bibliography

– 103rd Cong. Lumbee Recognition Act. Report together with dissenting views to accompany H.R. 334. House Report no. 130-290. House Committee on Natural Resources. Dated 14 October 1993. Approximately 194 pages.

This is the text of the Lumbee Recognition Act, which is resplendent in a wealth of general information about the Lumbee, with a lot about their origins and coalescence and theories on what tribes may have conglomerated to become the modern Lumbee.

– Cindy D. Padget. The Lost Indians of the Lost Colony: A Critical Legal Study of the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina. American Indian Law Review, Vol. 21, No. 2 (1997), pp. 391-424
University of Oklahoma College of Law

This is a brief review of Lumbee origins and coalescence, and spends quite a lot of time focusing on the Lost Colony theory, which we did not go into in this exhibit due to its extremely flimsy nature as a theory.

– Knick, Stanley. Robeson Trails Archaeological Survey: Reconnaissance in Robeson County. Pembroke: Native American Resource Center, Pembroke State U, 1988. NC Docs. Depository: microfiche G85 2: R65

Knick’s work reviews hundreds of archaeological sites in Robeson County and assesses the significance of individual sites. Shows that the region has been inhabited continuously for many thousands of years.

-Meyer, Duane Gilbert. The Highland Scots of North Carolina. Raleigh,: Carolina Charter Tercentenary Commission, 1963.

This short book discusses the migration of Gaelic-speaking Highland Scots to North Carolina in the middle period of the 18th century, as well as discussing their motivations for migrating, impact on the area in terms of political and economic involvement, and other relevant factors such as land acquisition.

-Britt, Morris F. “Appendix T. List of Lumbee surnames with dates of appearance in the greater Lumbee Settlement (N=523 surnames) 1740-2007.” 107 pages. 2007.

This is an appendix to an unpublished book which details every known typically Lumbee surname and refers to places it can be found (deed records, graveyards, etc) as well as determining the earliest time the names appear to have lived in the Robeson County area.

V. Conclusion

We had a pretty esoteric topic to tackle. The available primary source material from the 18th century is extremely scarce – we’ve displayed much of what we could find in this exhibit. Our investigation revealed three things: first, that there was an original native population in the region of Robeson County around 1700 before much European contact had been made; second, that the Scottish highland immigrants that came to central North Carolina in the middle of the 18th century had not yet been culturally assimilated by the end of the century, and that there was still significant cultural divides and boundaries at that time; and third, that many prototypical and common Lumbee surnames could be found in the area around the year 1800, some of which we specifically have plotted on a map. Overall, it seems that at this point the general ethnic and cultural components of modern-day Robeson County had already been established, with many different groups migrating to the area during the 18th century, but their interrelationship was still relatively minimal and cultural boundaries were still very clearly defined and for the most part adhered to.

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