From the Historical Society

Last updated: October 04. 2013 10:19PM - 1154 Views
Jean Thornton Johnson

Historical marker on Highway 58 northwest of Snow Hill.
Historical marker on Highway 58 northwest of Snow Hill.
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A monument to the Tuscarora Indians was dedicated Saturday March 23, 2013, three hundred years following the massacre that killed 950 Indians, causing most of those surviving to flee to the Iroquois reservation near Niagara Falls, New York.

In 1700, John Lawson, an English explorer and naturalist, founded the town of Bath, NC. Lawson admired the Indians. As more colonists arrived, however, misunderstandings and mistreatment of the native peoples occurred. In some cases, colonists arrived having previously bought land sight unseen, unaware that the Tuscarora were already living on those lands. Tensions flared. The Tuscarora lived primarily on land located along the Roanoke, Tar, Pamlico and Neuse Rivers.

On one occasion John Lawson was canoeing up the Neuse River, looking for a new route to Virginia, when he was captured by the Tuscarora. Lawson was set free by the Tuscarora, but another local tribe, the Coree, captured Lawson and their chief had him executed. So began the Tuscarora War against the colonists, when on September 22, 1711, 130 whites were killed along the Trent and Pamlico Rivers by more than 500 Indians, primarily Tuscarora.

The colonists in eastern Carolina retaliated. With the help of 1,000 Yemassee and Cherokee Indians, tribes hostile to the Tuscarora, they attacked March 21-23, 1713. The Tuscarora fort in the village of Nooherooka was located on present day farm land in Greene County, a few miles from Snow Hill. It is the site of the major battle of the Tuscarora War. The fort and some of its inhabitants were burned, as the attacking colonists used an early form of grenades to set the fort walls afire. Even though the Tuscarora were well-armed with muskets, they could not meet the challenge of the 3 lb. cannons. A total of 950 Indians were killed or captured. According to the Goldsboro New Argus newspaper, that location is the single largest burial site of Native Americans in North America.

The George Mewborn family has owned and farmed the land since 1909. In the 1990’s East Carolina University professors dug the site, locating the fort’s walls and skeletal remains. The Mewborns donated the land for the placement of a monument next to Highway 58. Recently, approximately 150 Tuscarora from Lewiston, N.Y., George Mewborn, and Larry Tise, ECU history professor and many others were involved in the 300th year commemoration. From March 21-23, 2013 speeches, meals, and a competition between the N.Y. Tuscarora and the ECU lacrosse teams honored the Tuscarora Nation. Mewborn hopes the Tuscarora will always come to North Carolina to visit this sacred ground that is a part of their heritage. The monument’s predominant pearl finish is unique and more beautiful than photos can show.

Some Tuscarora did not flee to New York. Some remain in North Carolina to this day. They meet annually in Maxton, which is partially in both Robeson and Scotland Counties. They, too, are proud of their Tuscarora Heritage.

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