FOR THE FIRST TIME, today, I had access to the 1782 tax list for Gates County, North Carolina. I was surprised because I wasn’t aware there was even a list for 1782. Which goes to show you — keep searching. There are more insights to be discovered. Gates County was created from parts of Hertford, Chowan, and Perquimans counties in 1779. The western part of Gates, where my ancestors were living, was part of Hertford from 1759 to 1779. Before that, the eastern bank of the Chowan River was in Chowan County.
A 1779 tax list for Hertford County exists. However, it was apparently collected after the formation of Gates County. Prior to these lists, we enter a dark period. A 1770 tax list for Chowan County exists, but few of the men from this area are on that list. Prior to this, the next landmark records are the tax fee books of William Murfree for 1768 and 1770.
There were two persons of interest for me in the 1782 list: John Collins and George Russell. Neither Thomas Collins nor William Collins, who both begin appearing in the lists in 1785 are in the 1782 list. George Russell had actually witnessed the marriage of John Collins to Sarah Hinton in Chowan County in 1779. I have wondered if Sarah Hinton Collins is the same Sarah Collins named in James Arline’s 1783 bastardy bond. It may have been another. There is no way to tell.
Based on the 1768/1770 list for Hertford, there were two men with the name Russell in this area at this time: Charles Russell and George Russell. In the 1782 list, the only Russell in the list is George Russell. By this time we might presume that the elder Charles Russell listed in the 1740s deeds for the area had died and that the younger Charles Russell had moved to Johnston County. Moreover, there is no definitive link between these two men.
This George Russell is the one whose 25 acres were inherited by James Russell. And this James Russell, of George, is the one who first appears in the Nansemond County tax lists in 1796 with 66 acres. All of these people: George Russell, James Russell, John Collins, etc., were “Scratch Hall Folk,” the quasi-outlaws living in the swamps along the Chowan River. Note: the names Russell and Collins do not appear on any of the 1754 Gates militia lists.
Two other interesting names I encountered in the 1782 list, Claiborne Austin and John Grant, were of the “Scratch Hall breed” as well. Neither name appears on the 1786 state census for Gates County. Richard and Claiborne Austin do appear in the 1790 census. John Grant appears in neither list. It is reminiscent of the characters who appear on George Russell’s Gates County estate record in 1791, such as John Fleming and William Wyatt, who similarly do not appear in the census for 1790, or John Sherrod on some documents from the 1800s, but does not appear in the census at the time either.
John Fleming is in the 1757 tax list for Bertie County. The name is on the early Chowan Indian land conveyances in the 1730s, and was the name of a trader out of New Kent County. (William Wyatt was also the name of a settler on Mattaponi Creek in New Kent). I’ve written previously how a number of the “Scratch Hall” families were, at least in name, connected to early Indian traders out of New Kent County.
These are people who were not always recorded, yet existed. There are few land records surviving that would allow one to trace location or descent. It’s unclear what the source of this population was. The 1733 Moseley map shows Meherrin Indian cabins in this area. These people were reportedly living among the English settlers, while other Meherrin moved west to establish their town on the Potecasi. It’s hard to imagine that many people living in this area, as it is low-lying, overgrown, dense, and swampy.
There are other anecdotes about Tuscarora moving into this area. And then of course, there is the question of who was a Meherrin, Nansemond, or Tuscarora, or if these people were even Indian. History has recorded them (mostly) as white, with a few listed as mulattoes. The Wyatts in Gates were “white.” Across the river in Hertford, they were “mulatto.” The names lead researchers everywhere. To Norfolk. To Bertie. To New Kent. They do not appear at first glance to be linked to the Chowanoke at Bennetts Creek. Maybe they were.