George Skipper, Chief Man of the Nottoway Indians

Abstract of Deeds; Northampton County, North Carolina; Public Registry; Deed Book One and Deed Book Two; 1741 to 1759, as abstracted by Margaret M. Hofmann, found at the Salt Lake City Family History Library, among other places, contains the following entry:
pg. 358  EDWARD GOODSON  of Northampton Co. to JAMES TURNER of Isle of Wight Co., Va.
23 Nov. 1748  7 pounds Va. money  400 acres more or less on the south side of Potacasa swamp,
joining the mouth of the Spring branch and the swamp, part of a patent to  GEORGE SKIPPER  1 May
1668, all houses, orchards, gardens, fences, etc.  Wit: JOHN SIMPSON, NICHOLAS MONGER  Reg.
Northampton Co. Nov. Ct. 1748 J. Edwards C. Ct.

If anyone has a copy of the original 1668 deed I would be very grateful to be able to post it here.

The earliest Skippers in the historical record in the southern colonies are John Skipper, William Skipper, Francis Skipper, and the above mentioned George Skipper.  Their names are variously spelled Skipper, Skiper, Skepper, Sciper, Scipper, Skipor, and even Supper.  John bought land in South Carolina in 1685 and by 1688 he was dead.  There is also a John Skipper mentioned in Middlesex County, Virginia in 1681/2 who may or may not be the same person.  William was a bricklayer in Charleston, South Carolina who married  the widow Anne (Barker) Furguson, had three sons and two daughters, owned what became the Oak Grove Plantation, and predeceased his wife on January 2, 1723/4.  Francis is mentioned, according to Paul Heinegg, "...a white man, whose "Negro" wife, Ann, was tithable in Norfolk County, Virginia in 1671...she was still living there in 1691..".  George, however, left some footprints. 

Let's examine the 400 acres mentioned in the 1741 deed which were only part of a patent to George Skipper.  Settlers were granted a fifty acre 'head right' when they arrived in Virginia in the seventeenth century, which is to say for every head, with body attached, for whom you paid the cost
of transportation and maintenance, usually about six pounds, including, but not necessarily yourself, you were entitled to fifty acres.  Furthermore, land grants were restricted to the coastal area in early and mid century, and settlers were forbidden by law to encroach upon the Indian lands or even to approach them.  Well, Skippers are known to break better laws than that, but the question of how he had the resources to acquire something more than 400 acres is puzzling.  It was probably 615 acres because in 1729 George Skipper, Jr. sold that number of acres at Potecasi Swamp to Jean Herrin who was either his aunt, sister or daughter for twenty pounds, a real sweetheart deal.  The next troubling issue is the location.  Potacasi (Potacasa) is in North Carolina in what is now Northampton County and was then Bertie County.  In 1668 there barely was a North Carolina, the border with Virginia being established in 1665.  In 1664 Englishmen from Barbados arrived on the west bank of the Cape Fear River, but abandoned the settlement in 1667.  It is thought that they fled into Virginia.  There is no evidence of George Skipper among them and there is no evidence of any Skippers having been in Barbados, at least before my trip in 2007.  So the second half of the puzzle is from whom did he buy the land.  The entire colony was owned by the Lords Proprietors who were given the grant by Charles II in March of 1663,  but in 1653 Roger Greene with a hundred men made a settlement in what became Chowan on the north shore of Albemarle Sound.  In 1662 a colony was settled in the Perquimans precinct just east of Chowan.  The names of the settlers is not known.  If the date of the patent is correct, he was certainly a very early settler in the area.

Some suppose, although the tangible record is not produced, that 1668 George Skipper led Nansemond and/or Nottoway Indians from their lands in Virginia to relocate at Potacasi Swamp.  The Nansemond were somewhat removed from Potacasi although not an impossible distance, but the Nottoway were closer.  However, the Nottoway did not abandon their lands in Virginia in 1668.  This must be true because as part of a compromise they were granted two unique parcels of land on their ancestral lands.  The Nottoway Indian Official Website tells us that the Circular and Square tracts of land were granted to them in 1705; viz: 

In 1705 the House of Burgess granted two tracks of land to the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe – the Circle and Square Tracks [sic] consisting of some 41,000 acres of Reservation Land.  The tracks of land fell within the confines of what was then Isle of Wight County – now Southampton and Sussex Counties.  Note: Southampton County was annexed [sic] from Isle of Wight County in 1749.


We must think about the logistics of George Skipper arriving in colonial Virginia sometime between 1607 (although he is not in the list of original colonists; thus probably did not arrive before circa 1650), and must have arrived sufficiently before 1668 to establish himself and ingratiate himself with the Indians.  To gauge how long it might take to ingratiate oneself with potentially hostile Indians might depend on how much rum one could produce, but that is immaterial.  First the settlers had to be received by the colonial government that might order flogging for having contact with Indians, almost certainly would, depending on one's status, for selling rum or firearms to them.  So how did this man cross the Fall Line, and establish himself with two groups of natives, and in fact found a dynasty.

Apparently, yes, a dynasty.  The historical record is dubious from 1668 to 1735, but from 1735 there are records that we must study in depth to understand the Skipper connection to these Native Americans.  Initially we cannot dismiss the motive of access to women who were decidedly scarce in Colonial Virginia, and the Nottoway by contemporary accounts were flirtatious and comely except for a dependency on bear grease as a cosmetic.  If it is true that George Skipper, 1668, had enough clout to move some Indians from their ancestral lands into North Carolina, then it must be true that he became a significant figure in their society, and that his son was also a trusted member of the tribe which is evidenced by the fact that a George Skipper did become a Chief Man of the Nottoways.

There are three clusters of land records that name George Skipper in this geopolitical space.  First we have the unfinished record of the 1748; viz. 1668 deed.  If 1668 George is accurately portrayed, then he must have had a son between 1668 and 1700 who is identified in the historical record as George Skipper, Sr., and this must be true because there is a George Skipper, Jr. identified with him.  George Skipper, Sr. and Jr. are spread all over the historical record, but his page will focus on the Indian connection.  

On August 7, 1735, thirteen or fourteen Chief Men of the Nottoway Nation sold twenty-three parcels of land from the Circular Tract.  George Skipper was not among them.  Their names vary from deed to deed which seems to indicate that the clerk was uncertain what they were saying.  They are:

 King Edmonds        
 William Hines
 Sam Cockerowse (sometimes Cherrino)
 James  Frank  Tom Cockerowse
 Harrison  Wainoak Robbin, Jr.
 Will Cherrino (sometimes Cockerowse, Will, also just Will
 Peter  Ned  
 Wainoak Robbin
 Robbin Scholar (also Robin)

They sold 6693 acres and earned ₤396/6/6.  A transcript of one of the 1735 deeds follows this page.  It is transcribed in script to give a sense of the original document.  It is as close an approximation as Word 2007® would allow with capitalization, boldface, superscripts, underlining, and misspellings.  I no doubt have added my own misspellings for which I apologize.  The Indians made unique marks for their signatures which I found interesting since the Anglos simply made an 'X'.  Again within the limits the word processor, I tried to show something close to the shape of each mark.

The Family History Library's call number for the film is 32003.  The following table gives the names of the buyers, the acreage, and the sale price.

 Page number    
 Buyers name / remarks
Acreage  Sale price 
    Richard Hines  (note:  William Hines was one of the Chief Men)
    454     Thomas Hines  (Thomas Hines signed as a witness on the transcribed deed)     250    
    456     Samuel Blow  ( Samuel Blow signed as a witness on the transcribed deed)
    James Harris
    Benjamin Clements
    Benj Simmons  (400 acres was the maximum allowed for one person to buy)
    John Rawlings (this deed had 14 Indian signers: Cherrino and Cockerowse Will)
    William Barton
    Thomas Cocke  (One of the Indian Trustees appointed by the Colony)     400     
    Ogburn Branch
    William Sawery
    Richard Parker
    Etheldred Taylor
    Charles Simmons
    John Simmons
    Robert Will
    George Briggs  (this is one of the clearest and readable deeds)
    Walter Bayley  (this is the transcribed deed)
    James Stanton (witnessed the transcribed deed)
    Charles Briggs
    Robert Long
    Thomas Davis
    Thomas Williams

These deeds were difficult to read so I copied them onto 11 x 17 sheets which are too large for our scanner to scan onto one page, and since George is not mentioned, I only copied two.  If anyone wants to see a copy of the original, please contact me for details.