The Quarter: A Nickens Nucleus

Jarvis Jones (originally of Norfolk County, VA) was a man of great influence in Pasquotank County, NC. In 1754 he was a field officer in the Pasquotank County Militia at the onset of the French and Indian War and his brother (?) Nehemiah Jones was captain of the third company “on the Fork Creek on the North side of the Pasquotank River and on the upper of said county.” The third company included South Mills, Tar Corner, Pearceville, and Upper Woods (all names that came into use later) and the most common names on the roster were Bright (Brite), Overton, Spence, Taylor, Burnham, Jones, Kight (Knight), and Upton.

Post 1770 Map
Post 1770 Map Depicting “Fork Land” and “River Bridge” in Pasquotank County, NC

Jarvis Jones acquired 7 land grants (totaling 3800 acres) from 1748 to 1762 and commanded a Pasquotank County Militia again in 1766. Throughout his life he carried the titles of Captain, Major, Merchant, and Esquire indicating that he was a military man who was also active in both business and law. Jarvis Jones and Nehemiah Jones are relevant to this story because their land acquisitions and military units represent the precise place of convergence for a number of my ancestors.

Jarvis Jones 615-Acre Patent
Jarvis Jones’ 615-acre land grant on the south side of the Great Swamp in Pasquotank County, NC adjoining William Norris and Joseph McPherson (issued on December 20, 1748).

The land within and surrounding Jarvis Jones’ 615-acre land grant was referred to as “The Quarter1 in the early 1700s. The origin of this term is unclear but it is clear that “The Quarter” was located on the south side of the “Great Swamp” at the head of the Pasquotank River. Tracing Jarvis Jones’ land sales from this grant connects several families of interest and, in more recent generations, the land descriptions increase in detail to reveal the exact location of “The Quarter.”

The Distribution of Jarvis Jones’ 615-Acre Land Grant

Deed Information Land Description Grantee Grantor Witnesses
Acknowledged April 1747, Registered 18 April 1751 (Pasquotank County, NC, Deed Book B, Page 144) 70-acre tract of land and swamp on the south side of the Great Swamp by the Road Side. Part of a 615-acre land grant from the Earl of Granville to Jarvis Jones. Richard Nickens of Currituck (Tailor) Jarvis Jones of Pasquotank (Planter) Joseph Jones, Henry Lamb, Henry Hollowell
27 March 1758 99-acre tract of land at the head of the Pasquotank River in a place called “The Quarter,”
beginning at Keziah Linton’s land and continuing to Richard Nickens’ land.
Willis Bright (Planter) Major Jarvis Jones Joseph McPherson, Isaac Bright, Silas Linton
27 June 1758 150-acre tract of land at the head of the Pasquotank River in a place called “The Quarter” beginning at Willis Bright’s land in the Flat Swamp, continuing along to Alexander Spence’s line, then along to William Morris’2 line. Joseph Pritchard (Planter) Jarvis Jones, Esquire John Cartwright, Hugh Moorecroft, Rob Relf
Will of Richard Nickens (1774) A parcel of land called “Overtons3 to be equally divided with daughter Leah Rael to have the part where Overton lived and daughter Margaret Nickens to have the part where Sarah Smith lived. Leah Rael and Margaret Nickens Richard Nickens of Currituck (Tailor) Original Purchase: Pasquotank County, NC, Deed Book I, Page 101.
Will of Richard Nickens (1774) Land and swamp lying in Pasquotank County near the Great Swamp. Rachel Nickens Hall (Daughter of Richard Nickens, Wife of Absalom Hall) Richard Nickens of Currituck (Tailor) Original Purchase: Pasquotank County, NC, Deed Book B, Page 144.

This is not a complete list of all deeds that reference “The Quarter” (see Abstracts of Pasquotank County, North Carolina, Deeds, 1750-1770 by John A. Brayton) but this small set represents exchanges between several important people in Camden County, NC research. Richard Nickens was a pioneer of the free community of color at the “The Quarter” which was part of Pasquotank County, NC and later Camden County, NC (after its formation in 1777).

It was uncommon for free people of color to travel or migrate without connections so understanding Bass and Hall relationships with Richard Nickens is an integral part of understanding why they felt comfortable traveling through and migrating to Camden County, NC. Though Richard Nickens was a pioneer in the area, he and he descendants did not remain in Camden County, NC. By analyzing Richard Nickens’ will and subsequent Nickens deeds we can see who purchased Nickens’ land and supplemental records identify the neighbors of the Nickens’ extended family in the area.

Nickens Deeds in Pasquotank & Camden Counties
After Richard Nickens’ Death

Deed Information Land Description Grantee Grantor Witnesses
8 June 1780 (Deed Book B, Page 134) 50-acre tract of land in the upper part of Camden County adjoining the Great Swamp Road leading from Lebanon to the land of Willis Brite and Joseph Pritchard.  Gideon Lamb Absalom Hall and Rachel (Nickens) Hall Isaac Guilford, Timothy Jones (Younger brother of Joseph Jones)
30 August 1793 (Pasquotank County, NC, Deed Book M, Page 295) 50-acre tract of land formerly know by the name of Willoughby Nichols land beginning at the mouth of a ditch at the head of Jacob Richardson’s Mill, binding to Benjamin Richardson’s line, then binding to Stephen Richardson’s line. Simon Smith Nickens (of Currituck) John Jennings, Willoughby Nichols, and Jesse Cox (of Pasquotank) Bailey Jackson, Polly Jackson
29 October 1801 75-acre tract of land beginning at the Great Swamp adjoining Joseph Pritchard’s land (part of Jarvis Jones’ 615-acre land grant). Willis Cartwright (of Camden) Edward Nickens (of Currituck) Benjamin Rawls, Joshua McPherson, Jr.
20 February 1805 Lease for 5 acres of land in New Lebanon Mills (part of the tract formerly owned by John F. Pendleton). The land was adjoining Abbott’s old land. Benjamin Jones (of Camden) Elizabeth Nickens (of Camden) Dismal Swamp Canal Company
10 November 1838 (Camden County, NC, Deed Book V, Page 251) 30-acre tract of land called the “Billy Williams tract” originally purchased from Caleb Wilkins. Silas Keeter (of Camden) Noah Nickens (of Pasquotank) Archibald Cherry
10 November 1843 (Camden County, NC, Deed Book Y, Page 17) 30-acre tract of land called the “Billy Williams tract” originally purchased from Caleb Wilkins. Willis Keeter (of Camden) Noah Nickens (of Camden) Archibald Cherry

These deeds reveal that several Nickens sold land in Camden County, NC without personally buying land and without being residents; however, Absalom Hall (with his wife Rachel (Nickens) Hall) was taxed in Camden County, NC in the 1780s, Simon Smith Nickens bought land in Pasquotank County, NC in 1793, Elizabeth Nickens was called “of Camden” (in 1805) and Noah Nickens was called “of Pasquotank” (in 1838) then “of Camden” (in 1843). By 1851 Noah Nickens was documented in the Norfolk County, VA Free Negro Register as a 56 year old man of Indian descent. Elvin Bass (the son of Nelson Bass and Nancy Price of Deep Creek) was recorded immediately after him as a 28 year old man of Indian descent.

There is still more to discover in this story but I share these deeds as direct evidence of the influence of individuals who were scarcely documented in the US Federal Census and as documentation of sustained kinship between Camden County, NC and Norfolk County, VA into the 1850s.

1In addition to Brayton’s book, I also recommend Camden County North Carolina Deed Books A-D 1777-1790 and Camden County North Carolina Deed Books E-F 1790-1795 by Sharon R. Gable. Each of these books contain Place Indices which provide community insight beyond adjoining land owners.

2Will Morris, A Free Negro” was recorded in Pasquotank County, NC in the 1790 US Federal Census. This is likely a different Will(iam) Morris than Richard Nickens’ adjoining land owner but it is possible that this neighbor was also a free person of color.

3This land was purchased on 9 April 1768 from the heirs of Robert Overton (Alice Jackson (widow), Ann Glasgow (widow), David Jackson with Anna (wife), William Jackson with Courtney (wife), Richard Bright with Anna (wife), and James Ward with Patty (wife)). The land that Simon Smith Nickens later bought may have been adjoining this land (note the Jacksons who witnessed the deed).

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I am a Washington, DC-based genealogist, tribal citizen of Nansemond Indian Nation, and published member of both the Family Research Society of Northeastern North Carolina and the North Carolina Genealogical Society. I am an advocate for the Genealogical Proof Standard and I am also interested in environmental influences on historical communities and migration. Questions, CORRECTIONS, and connections are always welcome. Thank you for reading!

2 thoughts on “The Quarter: A Nickens Nucleus

  1. Hi Nikki,

    I am writing you to know more about the Bass Family lineage, but not in Norfolk or Granville, but rather what you may know about my Bass Grandmother Nellie, my Bass Grandfather George, and my Bass Great Grandfather, Elbert who all resided in Darke County Ohio with another Family–The Clemens. There are even graveyards in the names of both the Bass’ family and the Clemen’s family. I would really appreciate any help you can give me to link my Bass relatives back to either North Carolina or Virginia. I would like to know if I too, am from the same Bass family that started with John & Elizabeth Bass.

    Thank you for any and all help that you can give me.

    Like

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