Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Cape Fear River

Cape Fear River in North Carolina
The first known European explorer of the Cape Fear region was Giovanni da Verrazano of  Spain who had an interest in acquiring this land for Spain. In October 1662, the English explorer, William Hilton, Jr., sent by the Massachusetts Bay Colony,  first visited the lower reaches of the Cape Fear River.
"ye [þe] 4th Octob. we weighed, and went into ye Haven, where was fathoms water, and in a weeks time, spent with ye indians, and in sounding ye River and ye ship turning up alway against ye wind, we gott up 15. or 16. leagues into ye river; and after in our long boate, half of us went 15. leagues further, till at ye head of ye river we could not tell, which of ye many rivers to take, and so returned to our ship, and as we went and came, we found many faire and deep rivers, all ye way running into this Charles River."  (Charles River named after Charles I)  Pictured is what is called the muscle of the river.

Sir Robert Heath, attorney-general of Charles I, was granted the Cape Fear area, which was incorporated in 1629 as the Province of Carolina.  Heath wanted to settle French Huguenots on the land, when Charles forbade the use of the land to any who were not of the Church of England, Heath assigned his grant to George, Lord Berkeley.

John Vassall led some adventurers from Barbados in 1664 to the Lower Cape Fear whereupon they created the county of Clarendon, founding Charles Towne located about 20 miles upstream near the mouth of what later was known as Town Creek.  This settlement advanced to about 800 persons but began to dwindle after negotiations with the Lords Proprietors failed. The Lords Proprietors then appointed Sir John Yeamans as the governor of Clarendon County who selected a site further South of the Cape Fear, thus discouring colonization on the river. This caused the settlers to abandon the region and by 1667 the native Indians occupied it.

About 1726 , after Governor George Burrington spent the winter exploring the Capt Fear and issued grants of 9,000 acres, Maurice Moore occupied the land on the South side of the river and laid off the town of Brunswick. The Moore families and their relatives acquired more than 100,000 acres of land. During the 1730s, the town of Wilmington was established by another group of settlers.

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