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September 2010



North Carolina - Discovery of Navigable Rivers

DEC. 1656 −−− 7th OF COMMONWEALTH.

UPON the petition of Coll. Thomas Dew to be impowered to make a discoverie of the navigable rivers to the southward between Cape Hatterras and Cape Feare with such gentlemen and planters as would voluntarily and att their owne charge accompanie him, It is ordered that the said Coll. Thomas Dew be hereby authorized and impowered to make the said discoverie. Provided it be done at the proper charge of the vndertakers, and not at the cost of the publique, and in the absence or in case of the mortality of Coll. Thomas Dew, Capt. Thomas Francis is hereby invested with the like power.


Voyage of discovery of the navigable rivers between Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear, authorised

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Thanks to Joy King for this contribution!


We're very pleased to have another wonderful article by Baylus Brooks. 

Did you know that the Outer Banks was involved with whaling?  No?  Well, read on and let's join Baylus for another adventure.....

Nantucket Whalers in North Carolina: 

The  Pinkhams

There’s a different world on the coast.  Outer Bankers are said to have spoken an older English dialect which still has traces today and while most North Carolinians can trace their ancestry back to England and Barbados, few of us realize the enormous maritime contribution of New Englanders like the Barnards, the Coffins, Folgers, Chadwicks, Colemans, Harkers, and numerous other families that still survive in North Carolina today.  Another factor which contributes to that 

“alien” feel to the Outer Banks, drawing a distinct line  between farmer and seaman, is the recent presence on our coast of an industry that no longer exists today.  Creatures of the sea were hunted to extinction and the industry died with them.  The oil and ambergris they produced were no longer found off North Carolina.  These were “right whales” (shown above) and the enormously profitable whaling business has been conducted until the 19th century right here, off the coast of the Old North State.

Still, New England led in this industry and provided the whaling crews and captains that became a part of New England legend… and some that contributed to Carolina legend and folklore.  What were these men chasing whales for, you may ask?  I asked.

Whale oil was then used for making soap and burning in lanterns and candles, purely personal items.  In 1736, London, England went from the reputation of being the darkest city in Europe, with the darkest and most dangerous street corners to a lighted city, thanks to the discovery that “right-whale” and spermaceti whale oil burned cleaner and with a distinctly sweeter smell than vegetable oil, in use before 1736.  The lanterns went 

 on poles and the street light was born.  The increased use of oil lamps on streets made whales very important in the English maritime world and contributed to great fortunes in the Americas.  Without an agricultural staple of value in New England, whale oil became a leading export, rising over three times in price from 10 pounds to 30 pounds by 1770. 

England's desire for the oil shows in the bounty provided from the British government on whale oil, increasing from 20 shillings per ton in 1733 to 40 shillings in 1749.  By 1757, the Lords of Trade and Plantations declared, "whale-bone and whale oil are materials indispensably necessary for the manufactures of this Kingdom."  The price of whale oil had risen so fast, in fact, that merchant Aaron
Lopez, in 1761, joined eight other merchants to form a trust to control the price and distribution of whale oil.

In his History of Massachusetts, II (Boston, 1767), 445, Hutchinson writes, with reference to this period: "The increase of the consumption of oyl by lamps as well as by divers manufactures in Europe has been no small encouragement to our whale fishery. The flourishing state of the island of Nantucket must be attributed to it. The cod and whale fishery, being the principal source of our returns to Great Britain, are therefore worthy not only of provincial but national attention."

Still, whaling was a dangerous occupation, with the dangers of an open flame on board an already storm-threatened ship in the dangerous North Atlantic.  Still that’s where the whales were to be found… from Newfoundland to Cape Hatteras.  And that’s where many a whaler met his death.  Whalers always died young and rarely left wills.  Many of them died passing the deadly shoals of Cape Hatteras.  Numerous eighteenth-century newspaper articles reflect a sailor’s preoccupation with the Cape.  This example is only one of many:


Cape Hatteras, meeting place of the Gulf Stream and Labrador sea currents, churning dangerous shoals, topped off with Nor’easters immediately following hurricane season, became known as an obstacle to mariners and a place of danger.  Thrill-seeking whalers from Nantucket must have liked it.  They found it a great place to camp during the fall whaling season.

One unusual demographic factor amongst these whaling crews was the presence of the Native American.  Algonquians, mostly, comprised a large portion of whaling crews and often shared in the dangers of the whaling trade.  Another danger to whaling crews, as if fire and storms weren’t enough, were the French:


Pinkham was one of the old time whaling Nantucket families.  Zephaniah Pinkham, recently married to Sarah Maxey in 1744, was commanding a vessel that had fourteen crew, including these three Indian men.  Pinkham and several men escaped from Canada in short time:

This intrepid mariner’s son, Zephaniah Pinkham Jr. found North Carolina to his liking (probably because of family money problems) and came there in 1762, purchasing land in Carteret County on the “Straits” from two fellow Nantucket Chadwick brothers.  Presumably, Indian crews followed or Algonquians of North Carolina found work on whalers just as Mordicai Job and his friends.  Certainly, there was interchange because the whaling industry thrived on following the herds, as Sioux with buffalo.


Soon, North Carolina entrepreneurs desired a piece of the whaling action and fitted out a vessel expressly for that purpose… with Zephaniah Pinkham as the master of this sloop, named Sally, owned by Richard Ellis and refitted in 1768.  No massive whaling industry developed.   It may be that North Carolinians were content with hunting porpoises.  Still, Pinkham continued his base in Carteret until his death.

North Carolina held even more attraction for Zephaniah Pinkham in the lovely feminine form of Susanna Hampton, probably of the Currituck County Hamptons.  Zephaniah had at least two children by her, for in a deed, dated 1771, he leaves “Susanna Hampton” his land in the Straits for the love and affection he bore to her two sons, “Nathaniel and Job Hampton.”

The trouble that Zephaniah had, after 1770 was the woman that he married in Nantucket, Mary Coffin.  It has been surmised, not by myself… rather by my colleague, Roberta Estes, that Zephaniah gave Susanna the land because he feared her wrath.  That’s quite possible!  A male just doesn’t see these clues as well… or so my wife tells me.  As Roberta guesses, he had at least two children (3-5 years of personal history), with Susanna’s expectations shattered by the news of his marriage to Ms. Coffin.

That Pinkham still operated his Carolina trade we know from a 1774 Greenwich Hospital record on the Thames in London.  “EXTRACT from accounts of the collector of the Greenwich Hospital sixpenny duty: MARY and HENRY, of North Carolina, Zepha. Pinckam, master, of North Carolina trade. 6 Oct.”

What’s the phrase?  A girl in every port?  We can only wonder what Mary Coffin knew.  Perhaps her surname helped to form a picture not unlike the dangerous storms and shoals of North Carolina.  Davy Jones together with James Coffin and his shotgun… not pleasant.

Zephaniah Pinkham later settles in North Carolina permanently, records showing that Mary Coffin Pinkham married a cousin of Zephaniah’s, Charles Pinkham, by 1775.  Mary probably got wind… Susanna then adopts the name “Pinkham” as do the two boys, Nathaniel and Job.  We’re giving them the benefit of the doubt and declaring them to be married.

Zephaniah serves North Carolina in the Revolution as 1st lieutenant of Fort Hancock on Cape Lookout, a patriot like his sons, Nathaniel and Job in the War of 1812.  Zephaniah eventually passes on c1787.  Susanna married again to John Larrance (Lawrence) in 1796.

Nathaniel, now "Pinkham," becomes quite a North Carolina personality, serving John Gray Blount as crewman of the Beaver before joining in Blount’s venture of Shell Castle Island at the inlet at Ocracoke.  Nathaniel ran the tavern on that man-made island for “Governor” John Wallace, an uncle of David Wallace, a probable son-in-law of Zephaniah Pinkham.  Shell Castle Island was terraformed into a 25-acre facility that held storehouses and retail supplies for mariners, attracted to Carolina fishing.  As Pinkham would testify, it also held some entertainment at his establishment… the island’s tavern.

Shell Castle Island Tavern offered lodging, rum, wine, beer Porter, and many kinds of liquid refreshment as well as food.  Windsor chairs were even ordered by Wallace to spice up the atmosphere, which included imported wines and beer, all the way from Liverpool, New York, and Philadelphia.  Not to worry, fellow mariners and whalers, the state controlled the prices of the liquor:  







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