Featured Articles

Piedmont, North Carolina Explorations: Introducing John Lawson(1674-1711)

“This day we passed through a great many towns and settlements that belong to the Sugeree Indians. About three in the afternoon, we reached Kadapau King’s house where we met with one John Stewart, a Scot, then an inhabitant of James River, Virginia.”

John Lawson 1709

The quote mentioned above the photo first appeared on a small sheet of paper written by John Lawson(1674-1711). A surveyor by trade, Lawson embarks on an exploration in 1709 through the frontier areas known today as North and South Carolina. His personal manuscript is a treasure for all who read his words and capture the true essence of his travels and discoveries. Updated daily throughout his trip, the journal brings stunning details back to life from this particular point and time. His daily narratives are a great resource for genealogists and historians alike. Vivid descriptions allow us to travel back in time and understand exactly what was taking place and where while revealing the Carolina landscape from visions of Lawson and his traveling party. This fascinating journey would later be shared with the world by way of a book entitled, “A New Voyage To Carolina”. Written by John Lawson and published in London, this book is one of the major gateways used to advertise the lands of North and South Carolina. The pages reveal the people of the past from handwritten daily accounts while invigorating the senses surrounded by various flowers, trees and shrubs. Native American dialects, plants and wildlife, rivers and mountainous terrain all come to life with Lawson’s words. Who is this man named John Lawson? How can his experiences broaden your horizons with family research? One article will not thoroughly expose you to all the extraordinary perceptions of Lawson, but it will introduce you to the man, his words and his world.

John Lawson was born on a tract of land called Kingston of Hull in England during 1674. Family history seems to guide the path to well above the poverty line within England economy. Young Lawson attends Gresham College located in the heart of London. Majority of these young students associate themselves with royal society often. Further research into John Lawson and his family would be needed to confirm his personal background along with subjects he studied at the college to properly provide a final analysis of his youth. Many historians determine the reason for Lawson’s sail to America due primarily to a specific conversation held with a personal friend, Christoph von Graffenried. However; additional research points the time period of this friendship much later into the year of 1710. It appears that Lawson applies his skills as a surveyor and travels to the new colonies of America. Regardless of the reasons why he chose to set sail, John Lawson arrives in Charlestown(Charleston), South Carolina on August 15, 1700.

The first expedition originates on December 28, 1700 and involves a 57 day trip into North Carolina. Lawson will embark on many of these exploration trips spanning the years of 1700 to 1709. Each of these are well documented by his personal hand and remain among his personal manuscripts and letters. Regarding his personal life, Lawson marries and has one daughter, Isabella. His wife, Hannah, is pregnant with their second child when Lawson embarks on the famous 1709 journey. Upon his return, the second child dies and Lawson sails for London to make preparations for his book soon to be printed. When he returns to North Carolina, the hostilities between the Native Americans and the English settlements have deteriorated greatly. Lawson prepares to begin yet another exploration trip and this time a friend, Graffenried accompanies him. They are both captured by the Tuscarora tribe and tortured. The details of both the capture and the death of Lawson stem from the words of Graffenried as he manages to trick the natives and escape. John Lawson died mid September of 1711 at the age of 36. His daughter, Isabella married John Chilley in 1727 and lived well into her eighties and was still alive in 1790.

This journal equips the family historian with vivid portrayals of the 1709 Carolina landscape. The fascinating information within the bindings of this book not only give you a description of the piedmont area of North Carolina but it also shares with you the surprising details of Native American settlements, the people and even gives dialect examples of their language. An illustration of this appears on page 169 where Lawson provides the lesser known facts of the Carolina Native people and their habits. He describes the cabins as seven feet in height and raised above the ground on a rock formation lining the outer frame. The inner walls lined with deerskins, blankets and hanging pottery. He writes of their customs, dances and how they appear to him with facial expressions, complexion and overall appearance. One of the most striking documentations within this book gives an explicit description of the dialect spoken by the Tuscarora, Pamlico and Woccon tribes. He describes the words as they are heard with the ear. For instance, the word “one” in English translates in accordance to John Lawson to “unche” for the Tuscarora tribe. The same word for the Pamlico tribe is “weembot” and for the Woccon tribe is “tonne“. You can visibly see the difference with each language and how they would have sounded differently when spoken.

To those who seek this valuable resource, visit the link attached here. “Link to A New Voyage to Carolina by John Lawson“. Piedmont Trails will have much more about the journals of John Lawson in the coming months. In the meantime, Enjoy Your Journey To The Past !!


1 reply »

  1. Thanks for posting this item about J Lawson. I read his book several years ago. I think it’s now time to take it off the book shelf, give it a good dusting, and a re-read.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s