Disappearing Indians

Written by Fred Willard, November, 2001


White-deBry Map, 1590

    According to the histories of the seventeenth century of North Carolina, the coastal Native Americans, found at the time of European contact, ceased to exist as an identifiable, political group about 1690. In 1701, John Lawson visited the famous Croatan Indians (by this time they were called Hatteras Indians). He noted light hair and blue eyes and their affection for the English, stating they had ancestors whom "could talk in the book". The last recorded mention of these Coastal Indians was in 1729 by the Surveyor General of North Carolina, Edward Mosley. "There are no Indians living on the coast but seven or eight Hatteras Indians living at Indian Town, with the English". (Present Cape Point on the Outer Banks in what is now called Buxton). The Croatan Indians, as a group, from this point forward, until now, are reported to have disappeared off of the face of the earth.

    This well-documented scenario may not be the case about one of the most famous Indian tribes of North America. Croatoan is the enciphered message left on the tree for John White, the Governor of the 1587 "Lost Colony", indicating where the colony could be found.

    There are presently 250 to 300 people living seventeen miles due east of Greenville, North Carolina in a small town with the Indian name of Chocowinity. This group of people all live within a three-mile radius of a "targeted" Indian village named Panawicky (there are seven variant spellings of this name). The Panawicky village is on the 1588/1618 Theodore deBry maps and its location, as of this date, has not been confirmed. This contact period Indian village appears on about twenty or more maps up to about 1700. This group of people, living in Chocowinity, have recently been informed that they and their ancestors may be a finite part in the famous mystery of the "Lost Colony of 1587".

    The Croatan Group, along with the eminent archaeologist Dr. David Phelps from East Carolina University, started finding new information about the Croatan Indians in 1993. Since that time a small group of volunteers named The Lost Colony Center for Science and Research have found six of the last recorded transactions (grants and deeds) of the Hatteras (Croatan) Indians. Other information found on deeds, wills, head rights, marriage banns and census reports all bear the same Croatan Indian last names. The last name on all of these legal instruments is Elks. The discovery of this name in connection with the Croatan Indians may be one of the most important discoveries about what happened to this culture that dominated the Coastal Plains of North Carolina in the late sixteenth century. Because the Croatan Indians are intertwined with the famous story of the "Lost Colony of 1587", this research has received a surprising amount of interest.

    When the first European migrations moved south from the Jamestown settlement they were predominantly young and male; very few of them were women until late in the nineteenth century. The eminent historian Thomas Parramore's conjecture (Department of History, Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina) is that there was only one woman for each eight men that migrated to the Albemarle region during this time frame (1650/1750). There must have been serious contentions between the Native male population and the European males seeking female affection.

    The Elks name first appears in the southern district of Virginia in what is now the Albemarle region of North Carolina, in the seventeenth century. Richard, An, (sic) Richard Jr. and Margaret Elks are listed as people brought into the province as head rights (indentured servants). An interesting sidelight that will be alluded to later is that Richard, in 1694, is listed along with Henry, Ruth, Lavern and Mary Keeton; it is noted that the Keetons are Indians from Massachusetts.

    The Lost Colony Research Center was able to establish a continuing line of the Elks lineage to Marmaduke Elks, who resided on the Perquimans watershed and had a son named Samuel Elks and another son named Jacob.

Elks' Deed, Buck Ridge

    Samuel Elks purchased the land called Buck Ridge near the headwaters of the Alligator River, in Tyrrell County, NC. This land was sold in 1777 to an ancestor of one of the primary informants of our research, Mr. Buddy Brickhouse, who now lives a few miles from Buck Ridge in Tyrrell County, North Carolina. The Buck Ridge site has been registered as a possible Indian site by the Lost Colony Center, but it has not been scientifically confirmed at this time. The grandparents of the people that now live near Buck Ridge, in the community called Gum Neck, told their grandchildren that they had ancestors who had lived on Buck Ridge and they were Indians (they report that the last Indians moved "up country" about 1885). Dr. Roy Sawyer, who now lives in Wales, and Wayne Norman's families were told the same story. We were able to locate the site with old maps and satellite imaging in a short time. Mr. Norman was able to take us directly to the Buck Ridge site where we found Indian and English pottery and stone discarded implements within ten feet from where we parked, in a cut-out ditch bank. Most of the people living in Gum Neck have large surface collections from the ridge and surrounding areas, which they have shared with us.

    In addition to the Samuel Elks deed of 1777, we have found the following deeds and grants:

  1. A grant to William and Mary Elks, "Hatteras Indians", for Indian Town (Croatan) around 1756. (The site referred to above which was first discovered in 1993, by the Croatan Group).
  2. A grant to William Elks "and the rest of the Hatteras Indians for Old Indian Town, 1754" (Brooks Point and Kings Creek in present town of Frisco, NC).
  3. A deed dated 1777 for the sale of 100 acres "part of Old Indian Town" to Isaac Farrow (Farrow is another well-documented Indian name).
  4. A deed from William Elks to William Clarke for a part of "Old Indian Town" ... "and no Indian shall interfere with your rights to this land in any way".
  5. A deed dated 1788, from Mary and Elizabeth Elks, "Indians", for the sale of two hundred acres (a part of) "Old Indian Town" to Nathan Midgette (William must have died prior to this date).
  6. A deed from Elizabeth Elks, "Native Indian", dated 1802 in trust to Nath Pinkham for land known as "Indian Lands" (probably Indian Town, another name for Croatan; more research needs to be done on this conveyance. Mary Elks' name is not on this deed. She may have died just before this date). "...And Nath Pinkham shall have this land to use occupy and enjoy all the profits of the said lands and timber without any molestation or hindrance of any White person whatsoever...". (Pinkham must also be of Indian origin?) "...during his (Pinkham's) natural life provided my son shall live to the age of twenty one years then and in that case the land shall be at my sons disposal and for his only...".

    The son's name is not given here or when the deed is registered. In as much as the deed is recorded 21 years later, the male child must have been an infant at the time of the writing of the deed. Elizabeth Elks may have died right after this document was written. (We have not found any documentation about her later than the above date which might indicate that she may have had complications in childbirth with this apparent only child. The other conjecture that may lead to the name of the child's father is: Who is Nath Pinkham and what are his origins?).

    In the search for Nath Pinkham, new and exciting unreported historic information about migrations of the Indians in the seventeenth century in North America are emerging. Mr. Charles "Sweet Medicine" Shepard, a self-proclaimed Mattamuskeet and Croatan Indian has been collaborating with the Lost Colony Center on early Indian history of the Coastal Plains of North Carolina. The Lost Colony Center's research supports Mr. Shepard's findings that most, if not all, of the people living in his community of Free Union near Plymouth, North Carolina, have their roots in the Indian cultures of North Carolina.

    From Mr. Shepard's unpublished essay, new information has come to light about the migrations to North Carolina of the Assassamough Indians from Massachusetts. This migration took place in a unique and previously unreported way. The immensely profitable Right Whaling Fleet was centered in Massachusetts in the late Seventeenth Century. Before New Bedford, Sag Harbor and Well Fleet became the centers for these industries, it was centered on the island of Nantucket off the coast and south of Cape Cod. The area of greatest concentration for this maritime industry was between Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Mr. Shepard's research has indicated that all of the crews on these ships from Nantucket were Assassamough Indians. Armed with this new and exciting information some of the unanswered questions of Indian migrations in North Carolina may now be forthcoming.

    The entire Pinkham lineage now residing in North Carolina, (possibly 80 people), came from the island of Nantucket. Zephaniah Pinkham is listed as the father of Nathaniel Pinkham. Zephaniah is a whaling captain from Nantucket and was a lieutenant in the Revolutionary War. A Nathaniel Pinkham is listed as living in Nantucket until about 1770. A Nathaniel Pinkham was employed at Shell Castle Island at the Ocracoke Inlet in the employment as a Ship's Captain for John Gray Blount in 1796. He is listed on the census report of 1790 from the Carteret County District. The Outer Banks as far north as the Hatteras Inlet was in the Carteret district at this time. Nathaniel Pinkham died the year before the Elizabeth Elks deed was recorded in 1823. The deed, when recorded, has a sworn witness stating that all the parties (signatories) to the deed had died. Going back to the head right notices for the Elks family, and the notation regarding Henry, Lavern, Ruth and Mary Keeton being Indians from New England, fits this new disclosure nicely. Information about other Croatan and Mattamuskeet Indians are also being tied in with this migration pattern not contemplated before Mr. Shepard's discovery.

    An interesting item about the coastal Croatan Indians is possibly only two original Croatan names may have survived into the present time. The surviving Indian names are derived from the original names found on early maps in the area called Croatan Lands near Mann's Harbor and Buck Ridge near Gum Neck. The name at Mann's Harbor is first seen as Caron, Carron, Caroon; it then takes on many machinations such as Carrow, Carowan, Carroway, Carrrowac and Cahoon. Even this name may be derived from a European migration. The name Buck has not been ruled out as an original Indian name. Every other Croatan name that we know of is a European name either by marriage or just assimilated (at this time about twenty Croatan Indian/Europeanized names are extant).

    One of the early names associated with the Croatan Indians on the Outer Banks is Henry Gibbs. His name is written on the Edward Mosley map (1729) near the location of "Old Indian Town", which is also on several of the Elks deeds. A John Gibbs is named as an Assassamaugh Indian who was the first Indian minister on Nantucket Island in 1665. In the North Carolina records from 1773, a John Durrant is listed as the King of the "Yawpim Indians" (probably the same as Weapemeoc on the White 1585 map), and Harry Gibbs and George Durrant as "great men" of this Native American Indian tribe.

    This new migration model may answer some more puzzling migration questions. After the Tuscarora War, two names appear as the Kings of the Mattamuskeet Indians in Hyde County from about 1729 to about 1745 or '46. John Squires and Long Tom are two of the principle men of the Mattamuskeet tribe. Both men are found 30 years before this date living in Maryland and are used extensively as interpreters in negotiations between the governments of Maryland and various Indian groups in peace negotiations. Contemplating how these two migrated to North Carolina was not forthcoming with a reasonable conclusion prior to this new possible migration methodology./p>

    The whaling fleets would set out for months at a time following the migrations from Cape Cod to the Hatteras Banks and then back. It is hypothesized that when these fleets would run low on provisions they would naturally seek inlets and harbors to replenish supplies. The Ocracoke and Chesapeake Bay ports were two of the deepest and most widely used and would both fit into the scheme of thinking to accomplish these goals. John Squire and Long Tom were located in a port town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and may have been involved in the whaling industry as possibly were Harry Gibbs and Nath Pinkham. Certainly one of the next names we will be seeking in the Nantucket records in the near future will be Elks.

    One last item that was learned in the research some time ago is that this same John Squires is possibly connected with the Yawpim Indians from the Camden, Pasquotank area. He shows up as the King of the Arrowmuskeet, Marrowmuskeet and Mattamuskeet Indians in deeds in Currituck and Hyde County land transfers. The first property sold by John Squires and the Mattamuskeet Indians after the Tuscarora War was to Henry Gibbs, 500 acres on the north side of Whapopin Creek.

    The name Whapopin Indians (Four variant spellings) are etched in early Hyde County history, but no information as to how they got there or who they might be has come forth prior to this writing. The name Whahab is a Croatan Indian name. The Whahabs moved to Whapopin at the same time as Henry Gibbs and the name of Whapopin probably came from their name. The Mattamuskeet, Croatan and Mattchapungo and Whapoppin Indians all merged at the Mattamuskeet Indian Reservation about 1730. The Elks name is documented in Hyde County as Native Indians as late as 1890/1910. The Elks name has not been found in Hyde County after this date (Garrett: The Mattamuskeet Documents, an unpublished thesis).

    Samuel Elks and his brother Jacob are next found listed on the Pamlico River in Pitt County in 1779, where the Elks have resided ever since. There is an Elks Road and there are sixty-six Elks and fifty-five Bucks now living in the community of Chocowinity. These migration patterns are interesting but how they might fit into the historic fabric of Indian and European assimilation is just now being learned and understood.

    As of this writing a complete genealogical family tree has been completed from Richard Elks (1694 above) to Samuel Elks from Buck Ridge on the Alligator River (1777). And lastly to a small village on the Pamlico River named Chocowinity, where about three hundred people with possible Croatan Indian heritage live (about half of the known Croatan names are to be found in this community). The Bucks, from Buck Ridge and Carrrow, from the Croatan lands at Mann's Harbor are the most prevalent.

    These and the other Croatan names are intermarried hundreds of times with the lineage of the sixty-six people who now sit at the top of our new family tree. They have the last name of Elks and are in almost all odds direct descendants of the last known documented kings and queens of the famous "Lost Croatan Indians".

    Mr. and Mrs. David Elks, Emily, their daughter, and two sons have been collaborating for almost a year with The Lost Colony Center researching the Croatan/Hatteras Indians. They are now totally absorbed in finding out who they are and where they came from. A very large part of the research presented in this paper was found and documented by this Elks family. Prior to this authorís correspondence with them, which has been tape-recorded, the Elks family did not have any knowledge or comprehension of their Indian roots. Their Indian culture amazingly has totally disappeared!

Post Script

    The Elks family and the rest of the members of the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research are in awe of the possible ramifications of what we have found. It feels as if we are in movie story. We will never have a way of knowing if any genetic traces of the Lost Colony have survived. If this genetic material has assimilated into the Native American cultures, the place to start looking is in a small town on the shores of the Pamlico River called Chocowinity, North Carolina. It can only be imagined what alarm, terror and degradations could have driven the complete memory of a culture so far down and deep that any consciousness or memory of their Native American ancestry has totally DISAPPEARED.


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