north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Located on US 17 Business in Elizabeth City, the subject marker was long situated in front of the Museum of the Albemarle, which has since relocated to the city waterfront area. The facts recorded on the sign mark a seminal event in the history of North Carolina. The sale in 1660 of a tract of land by King Kiscutanewh to Nathaniel Batts, earliest known white settler and owner of the earliest known house within what is now North Carolina, is the earliest known recorded deed in North Carolina.

     The house, built for Nathaniel Batts by carpenter Robert Bodnam in 1654 or 1655, is shown on the 1657 map prepared by Nicholas Comberford. The discovery of the Batts deed in a Chesapeake, Virginia, courthouse in 1966 made headlines. The 1660 deed, for property apart from that on which his house was situated, granted the entire tip of the peninsula which is now Pasquotank County to Batts, specifying “all ye Land on ye southwest side of Pascotanck River from ye mouth of ye sd. River to ye head of new Begin Creek.”

     Batts divided his time between Virginia, where he owned 900 acres, and his house—or more correctly his trading post—in the 1650 and 1660s. In 1672 George Fox, a Quaker missionary, visited Batts, noting that he “hath been a Rude, desperate man.” One of the witnesses to the 1660 deed was George Durant, who acquired land in the area a year later. In time Batts also purchased Heriots Island (later known as Batts Island) at the mouth of the Yeopim River in Albemarle Sound. Place names in northeastern North Carolina today bear the names of both Batts and Durant.

Elizabeth Gregory McPherson, ed., “Nathaniel Batts, Landholder on Pasquotank River, 1660,” North Carolina Historical Review (January 1966): 66-81
William P. Cumming, North Carolina in Maps (1966)
William P. Cumming, “The Earliest Permanent Settlement in Carolina: Nathaniel Batts and the Comberford Map,” American Historical Review (October 1939): 82-89

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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources