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NC Land Grants before 1800: 1775-1796

Information on the different types of land grants in Colonial North Carolina through the Revolutionary War and some resources available at the Government and Heritage Library.

Land Grants from the State

The practice of land patents during the colonial era continued through the Revolutionary Period of 1763-1783. The land office in the upper portion of the state closed in 1763 upon the death of the Earl of Granville, and in 1775, the British Crown closed land offices in the lower portion of the state before royal authority collapsed.

In 1776, North Carolina was declared a sovereign state. The first session of the state’s General Assembly was created in 1777.

In November of that year, a law was passed that allowed all free men of age who took an oath of allegiance to the state to purchase land. The cost of land was set at two pounds and ten shillings (£2.10.0) per 100 acres. Limits on the amount of land that could be purchased were as follows:

  • A single man could purchase 640 acres.
  • A married man could purchase 640 acres for himself and 100 acres for his wife and each child.
  • A fee was set of 100 shillings (£0.100.0) for any land above these limits.
  • A person made a claim on a vacant parcel of land, known as an entry. At the time of entry, all fees were to be paid.
  • The entry taker issued a warrant to the county surveyor to survey the land. In some cases, not all the acreage in the warrant could be found. When this happened, the surveyor created a “certificate of deficiency” so that some of the money paid could be returned by the entry taker. This situation would also result in the acreage difference between the entry document and the final grant received. When completed, the surveyor sent two copies of the plat map he created and the warrant to the secretary of state.
  • The office of the secretary of state drew up the land patent that included the grantee’s name, number of acres, the county, a description of the land, and an assigned grant number. Then the patent along with a copy of the plat map was sent to the Governor.
  • The Governor signed the patent and affixed the Great Seal. These were then returned to the Secretary of State
  • Twice a year, county entry takers went to the Secretary of State’s office to pick up the patents. Upon returning to their home county, they would issue the patents to the owner.

The entire process could take several months to even a few years. In the 1777 law, the entry taker was to record the claim for vacant land in the books and then wait for three months to see if there was any dispute. Any disputes were referred to the county court. Orders from the court would determine how the entry proceeded to the next step.

Several amendments were made to this law. For example, in 1778, the fees for the surveyor were to be paid to the surveyor rather than the entry taker. In 1779, a further amendment stated that if a person who made entry died before the patent was issued, that his heirs or assigns in fee simple. Because of this amendment, it is possible to see a grant in the name of a person who died before the process was complete as well as in the name of another person for land that your ancestor made entry for. In rare cases, the name on the final grant may be of child.

From 1781-1783, new entries for vacant land could not be made. Entries made before 1781 were still processed and warrants and land patents were still issued. In 1783, a new law was passed regarding the cost of land grants and the cost rose to ten pounds (£10.0.0) per 100 acres. The process for land grants remained the same through the end of the 18th century and into the 19th century. The cost of land after the 1783 law varied over the years.

The Wataugah Land Purchases, 1775-1782

Before the Revolutionary War, land in what is known today as Tennessee was sold by the state of North Carolina. The settlement was on the the Watauga and Nolichucky rivers and south of the Holston river in present-day Tennessee.

Author Troy R. Keesee wrote the book The Wataugah Land Purchases, which discusses these land grants. This land in the book primarily deals with the locality that is now the northeast tip of the state of Tennessee in the following counties: Johnson, Sullivan, Carter, Washington, Union, and Greene. The land was originally settled by white squatters and the first settler is often credited as Capt. William Bean and his wife Lydia, in 1769, who settled on a tributary of the Watauga river in what is today known as Washington County, TN. The land was purchased from the local Cherokee tribe and deeded to Charles Robertson who represented the Wataugah settlement. The cost of the purchase was £2000. Land from this purchase was sold to individuals who were among the first white settlers in what is now Tennessee.