Who Were the Scratch Hall Folk?

FROM NUMEROUS ACCOUNTS there was a mixed, mestizo population resident at one time in current day Hall Township, in the western part of Gates County in North Carolina. The historian F. Roy Johnson in Tales of Old Carolina (1965) describes a local legend that people of Indian background lived in Fort Island, a geographic feature that is part of Hall Township, up until a few decades before the Civil War. More recently, Bland Simpson in his 2007 travelogue The Inner Islands references the “Mestizo population of Chowan and Gates Counties’ Scratch Hall.”

Here are two images that better illustrate the location of this area.

The location of Gates County on the left, with a view of townships on the right. Hall Township is in the southwest corner of the county.

The location of Gates County on the left, with a view of townships on the right. Hall Township is in the southwest corner of the county.

In It Happened Like This, by Bob Kellison, the nature of the local inhabitants is described. “From the earliest times of colonial civilization, it was the stepchild of the eastern half of the county where large farms predominate. The reason for its low station in life is that it is sandwiched between the nutrient-poor sandbanks of the Chowan River, and extensive swamp forests to the south.” This area attracted a “gaggle of ruffians that was given to fight with fists and implements of diverse nature, the notoriety of the bunch gave the location its initial name of Scratch Hall.”

But who were these people? Is there any way to tell?

There are number of land grants in Gates County that mention the name “Scratch Hall” or, more specifically, “Fort Island.” One of the earlier deeds that refers to this area is between John Collins and James Eure.

3 May 1726 John Collins and wife Martha to James Your 199 A. beginning at a line in Henry Hackley’s line. calls for John Harris’ line on the West side of Scratch Hall Pocosin.

5 July 1735 — Collins to James Eure 100 A. adj tract — purchased of said Collins 5 July 1735.

So Collins and Eure are two very early families to the area.

Here is another very interesting grant, and I will post it in full…

FHL#1730346…Deeds 1719-1750 28 May 1728
This indenture Made the 4 June 1728 betwen Jno. Norris of Chowan Precinct of the one part and Wm Umfleet (Umphlett) of the Upper Parish of Nansemond County in Virga of the other part Witnesseth the sd Jno. Norris…with the Consent of Mary his wife fir & in Consideration of Five Pounds Currt Money of Virga to him in hand Pd. by the sd Wm UmFleet (Umphlett) where the Sd. Jno. Norris and Mary his wife do acknowledge themselves to be fully Satisfyd and by these presents do acquitt Exonerate & Discharge the sd Wklm Umfleet his Heirs Exor. & assignes fir Ever Hath granted bargained sold &…unto the sd. Wm Umfleet all that Tract or Parcell of weoodland Ground Scittuate lying U being in the Precinct of Chowan part of a greater Tract of Land formerly granted by Pattent unto one Jno Collins as by his Pattent relation being there unto had more fully & at large it doth & may more fully & at large appear. And is sbounded as followeth Vizt. Beginning at a white Oak Standing on the West Side of Scratch Hale Poceson a Corner tree of Andrew Hambleton Land, dthence running along the sd. Hambleton’s Line & bounded by the same to a Mark’d Pine from thence Crossisng the sd Land by a Row of Mark’s trees to another Mark’ Pine standing by..the fod. Scratch Hale Pocoson being Henry Hackley’s Line tree thence runing along Hackley’s line and bounded bly the Same to the first Station all which sd. Tract of parcell of Land containing in whole by Estimation be the Same more or Less Two hundred Acres. To have & to hold d&…use to him the sd. Wm Umfleet(Umphlett) his Heirs & assignes fir Ever. In Witness &…Jno. Norris & Mary his wife have hereunto Sett their hands and Seals the Day & Year first above written. Jno, x Norris Mary x Norris
Sign’d Seal’d & Deld in presence of
Robt. Reddick, Jas Hambleton
The above written Deed having been a knowledged by Jno. Norris party thereto this 11th day of June 1728 before me
Lett it be Registd C. Gale D.J.

From this document, we can find a number of other local surnames — Norris, Umphlett, Reddick, Hambleton, Hackley, and, again, Collins.

Here are a few more …

3 May 1726 …at a pine in Henry Hackleys line calls for John Harris’ line on W side Scratch Hall Pocoson. (Hathaway Vol 2 pa292)

13 Jan 1728 Henry Hackley, to Thomas Norris Jr, deed of a gift 50 acs in a branch running out of Sarum Swamp, adjoining lands of James Files, also 100 acs at Scratch Hall Bridge, adjoining Thomas DUKE. Test. Abraham Odium, George Otway. (Hathaway I pa 108)

1 July 1735 John Collins to James Eure 240 acs in Scratch Hall Pocosin. Test: Richard Taylor , Robert Thomas. (Hathaway I pa107)

2 Aug 1748 Francis DUKE of Nans. Co to Amasa DUKE of the said county of the other part. “the plantation wheron he now lives Adam Knight.” 100 acs..”is part of tract of 800 acs. land formerly granted unto Henry Hackley, dec’d by patent dated 14 April 1702 ” was sold to Christopher Dudley & by him sold to Thomas DUKE by deed dated 12 April 1705. “Beg. at a pine near Scratch Hall branch…” Jurat: Wm Fryer , Thomas Piland Reg. 29 April 1749. ( Chowan Deed Book C-2 pa 167-168)

2 Aug 1748 Francis DUKE of Nans Co to John DUKE of Chowan Co. “the plantation whereon he now lives” 100 acs. “part of a tract of 800 acs. formely granted to Henry Hackley, dec’d by patent 14 April 1702 & by him was sold to Christopher Dudley & by him sold to Thomas DUKE by Scratch Hall branch and running…” Jurat: Wm Fryer Thomas Piland James fryer Chowan April Ct. 1749 Reg 29 April 1749. (Chowan Co Deed Book C-2 pa 159 – 160)

Now our surname list swells to include Fryer, Piland, Duke, Knight, Thomas, and Taylor.

Here are a few more that concern Fort Island specifically.

13 April 1749 – John Webb of Upper Parish Nansemond Co VA sold to Stephen Your of Chowan Co for 25 bbls of tar land called the fort Island in Chowan Co … 185 acres.. part of a grant to the said Webb for 420 acres bearing date 1 April 1723. Wit: Rich Webb, James Your, and James Your Senr.

14 February 1777 – John Harrell of Hertford Co. to Jesse Harrell… 20 pds… 100 acres, plantation of which his father was possessed in Fort Island in Hertford Co … beginning at a maple … to mane river pocosin and down pocosin to Charles Russell’s line, with his line to James Brady’s … part of a patent granted to John Ross 1 May 1668

23 August 1781 – Jesse Harrell to Ezekial Jones … for serving three months in militia service … 50 acres on north side of Fort Island … John Carter, Elisha Ellis, Moses Jones witnesses

24 February 1782 – Stephen Eure to Lemuell Keen … 42 pds … 50 acres in Fort Island … beginning outside a pocosin at a black gum, across to Samuel Harrell’s line … running down a black gum to William right’s line … part of a patent granted to John Webb in 1723 … witnesses Jesse Harrell and James Keen

13 September 1783 – Samuel Harrell to Jesse Harrell … 50 acres in Fort Island … Demsey Harrell, William Crafford witnesses

9 November 1791 – William Crafford to Claiborne Oysten … $75 … 50 acres in Fort Island

11 December 1800 — State of North Carolina to Henry Goodman … 10 pds … 100 acres in Fort Island

From all of this, we can name at least some families associated with this area …


If you look at the 1860 US Federal Census for Hall Township and focus on the mulatto families, another crop of surnames appears … BOON, GREEN, DILDAY, and LEE, including a young woman named Pocahontas Lee. It is not possible to search by township in the 1850 census, but a perusal of mulatto families in Gates yields the names BOON, BRADY, COLLINS, REED, BUTLER, CUFF, DILDAY, ELLIS, EURE, GOODMAN, GREEN, HYATT, JOHNSON, JONES, KNIGHT, LEE, MANNING, MARTIN, OVERTON, PRICE, REED, ROBBINS, ROOKS, SAUNDERS, SKEETER, and SMITH.

The key name that is missing here is Hall, of course. After all, it is from the Hall family that “Scratch Hall” earned its name.

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