©Diane Siniard




The Friends have every right to claim that it was their denomination that first flourished in Perquimans, and the Colonial records are proof of the fact. It may also be a fact that the Church of England here was established simultaneously, but no documentary proofs can be found to establish the claim, and the letters of ministers sent out by the English Church bear out the point, testifying as they do that Friends had four well appointed Churches in Perquimans before a single one of any other denomination was erected. It is claimed that Henry Phillips was the first Quaker to set foot in the precinct, coming from New England in 1665, and it is a well known fact that the first religious service held in Perquimans was that of William Edmundson in the spring of 1672. Tradition coming down through Quaker sources has it that Henry Phillips wept for joy on seeing the Quaker minister, and well he may have, had he realized how strong his society would grow in the new land. Old records show that this “meeting” of Friends was held on the banks of Perquimans River, under several large Cypress trees, two of which are still standing by the side of beautiful Perquimans. Henry Phillips, so the story goes, lived on the “Point.” His humble dwelling offered to the great preacher for the service of God being too small to accommodate the crowd of worshipers who came to hear this noted speaker, and some probably coming through curiosity, they gathered in the spring sunshine under the venerable trees to hear him expound the “truth” as he understood it, and many converts were there made. In his Journal Edmundson states that “many received the truth gladly,” chief among them being one “Tems” (Toms) who embraced the new religion on the spot and requested them to “meet” at his home the next day, which house is reported to be two miles away across the water. The records of Perquimans show that the lands of Francis Toms here mentioned were on the head of Vosses Creek, somewhere in the vicinity of the present Mount Sinai Church neighborhood, which is about two miles from Hertford and the water they had to cross was none other than Perquimans River, a rather formidable stream to get over in that day. The supposition is plausible that up to that date Francis Toms had not embraced Quakerism, but from that day he became one of the most influential in the county, his son Francis, Junior, following in his footsteps. In fact all the early Tomses were of that belief, and married into families of the same persuasion. Edmundson was followed in the same year by the noted Quaker minister, George Fox, who came in the fall, giving in his Journal a most interesting account of his visit to Perquimans. Four years later Edmundson returned to the precinct and wrote in his Journal afterward that he found “Friends finely settled” in the county, and “things well among them.”

From records still extant it seems certain that Little River “meeting” was the earliest to be “set up” in Perquimans, and the Virginia records are authority for the fact that Henry White built the first “Meeting House.” He, it appears, was already a resident of Perquimans Precinct as early as 1699, at which time a “meeting” was held at his house, where Quaker marriages were solemnized. Taking into consideration the fact that he lived in that part of Perquimans bordering on Little River, somewhere near the present town of Woodville just across the line from Pasquotank County, makes it all the more evident that the church he built was somewhere in the vicinity of his own home, then too records show that part of Perquimans was the earliest and most thickly settled. Hertford and its environment had not then come into prominence, although there were no doubt settlers in and around the “Point.” Deeds in Perquimans are authority for the fact that “Little River Meeting House” stood at the turn of the road going over Weeks Bridge, which is just beyond the village of Woodville, and it is spoken of as being “at the head of Little River” where today a Quaker burying ground can be seen on a small eminence on the right side of the road going toward the old Weeks home across Little River, on the Pasquotank side. A large sycamore tree marks the location and many small grave stones lift their mute testimony for all to see. Here in tranquil peace lie numbers of old residents of Quaker faith, probably in their midst the renowned Herny White, and certainly Joseph Jordan.

Why the Quaker settlers abandoned the Little River neighborhood and finally congregated in the Piney Wood section is one of the unsolved problems of the past, but it is true nevertheless that they did move, in and around Belvidere which has from early times been the stronghold of that faith. At the present date not any or very few live anywhere else in the county, and a large proportion of this once flourishing sect have moved away, some to Baltimore, others to Raldolph County, North Carolina, from which section they went west to Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and even as far as California. These good people in their new homes have made for themselves a name that makes those remaining in Perquimans proud. Among the families given in this book will be found the names of many who so migrated, who still keep up with the doings in the old State and county. Joseph Jordan, one of that splendid family of Nansemond County, Virginia, came early to Perquimans and lived on Little River, where he taught school in the first place of learning mentioned in the precinct. He was also a Quaker minister, being named in the Quaker Records in Virginia as “that great and worthy man and Minister” according to Lower Monthly Meeting, Nansemond County, Virginia. He was a son of Thomas Jordan, a prominent Quaker of said county and state, and his wife Margaret Brasurre (French Huguenot) who took an active part in the Church and civic activities in Virginia.

Vosses Creek meeting was probably the next to be “set up” and was built on land donated by Francis Toms (second) but the location is not definitely certain, however, as his land can be traced and the location of that is proven, there is not much doubt that this church was built near his home, probably near Boswell Fork. The record of Vosses Creek meeting was carried west by one of the old residents of Perquimans where it reposed for many years, finally being copied by an old gentleman in Richmond, Indiana, who sent the old record back home, but in some way it was lost and no one knows what became of it. As represented to the writer the copy made by the Richmond gentleman is a wonderful piece of recording, and posterity should and will be undyingly grateful to him for his labor in years to come.

Suttons Creek Meeting house stood on ground where Newbolds school house now stands. Just back of it in the woods is the old Quaker burying ground, and Quaker records show that numbers of their dead are buried there, among whom if stones could be found would probably be found Albertsons, Nixons, Townsends, Suttons, Tomses, Hollowells, Newbys, Morrises, Henbys, Moores, Morgans, and many more whose names appear on Suttons Creek Register, who attended and affiliated with the personnel of this particular “meeting.”

The location of Wells Meeting house is well authenticated, but the time it was built is not indicated by any record so far found in Perquimans. The place where this old house once stood remains in the memory of some of the oldest citizens of the county, being on Perquimans River across from the old Jessop residence not far from Blanchands Bridge. After a number of years for some unexplained reason the church was moved out on the road across from the Peele place, going towards Belvidere and here it still stands as part of a barn on the property of Mrs. Jack Trueblood who was before her marriage a daughter of Mr. Thomas Jessop. The old structure was for many years used as a school house, called “Jessops Schoolhouse” and here the children of the neighborhood went to study the Blue-back Speller, where formerly their ancestors came to worship God. It is claimed by old residents in Perquimans that there was at one time a “float bridge” across Perquimans River where the old Blanchard place stands, which was later replaced by a ferry. At this time it seems that part of the county was more prosperous than it is at the present day, and Ephrim Blanchard, himself a Quaker, probably lived there and gave the place its name. A store of thriving trade did business at the crossing and Mr. Blanchard accumulated there a handy sum, from which some descendant of his laid by enough to come to the town of Hertford and set up a store, from which has emerged “Blanchard Brother since 1832” still going strong. Mr. Blair who arrived in Carolina January 24, 1704, in an epistle written later mentions the fact, “that the roads were deep and difficult in Perquimans, and that there were seven great Rivers over which no passing was possible with horses, over one of which the Quakers had settled a ferry for their own conveniency and no body but themselves had the privilege of it.” From the fact that Wells meeting house stood near this point and further that Quakers were settled on both sides of the river at that date the “ferry” here named was probably the same as that spoken of as being at Blanchards Bridge. Wells was probably a rather weak “‘meeting” and was absorbed by the stronger sister “Piney Woods” at what date can not be ascertained. As in other sections of the precinct this “Meeting” was kept up and attended by those near by and among those lifting their hearts to God in this sanctuary are to be found the names of Pritlow, Nicholson, Elliott, Lamb, Cannon, Haskit, Saint, Fletcher, Cosand, Draper, Anderson, Copeland, Albertson, Chappel, Sanders, Ratcliff, Munden Jordan, Barrow, Charles, Jessop, Guyer. It may be that this “meeting” was named for Francis Wells, an influential Quaker residing in this neighborhood.

The most staple of them all appears to have been “Piney Woods” which is the only remaining Friends meeting in the county except “Up River” a place of much less importance. This meeting was probably “set up” about the time Wells came into being, and unlike the others has kept its light burning through all the changes that have laid low the others, and up to the present time Belvidere continues to dominate the section in which it is situated. According to old deeds in Perquimans it appears that the town derived its name from an old farm belonging to Ann Scott of Nansemond County, Virginia, who left to her nephew an estate called “Belvidere” which was just across the River from the site of the town, and later became the property of Exum Newby, for whom Newby's Bridge was named. It is thought with good authority that this estate was the same as that now called “the old Lamb place” and it is said that the house thereon was built in 1767. The land of this place is said to have joined the land of Pleasant Winslow, who was the widow of Joseph (2) Winslow, son of Thomas (1) Winslow and wife, Elizabeth Clare.

Among Quakers who were imprisoned for not bearing arms, are found the names of William Bundy, John Pierce, Jonathan Phelps, James Hogg, Samuel Hill, who suffered confinement for six months. 4, 5mo, 1680. The book of suffering would add much to the history of Perquimans, but the writer has not had the good fortune to consult said book for data.

The first Episcopal Church in Perquimans was undoubtedly Nags Head Chapel which has more mention than any other on account of the deeds using it as a boundary for lands in and around its location. Every deed without exception speaks of it as “Old Nags Head Chapple” showing that it was considered “Old” even when the county was young. Mr. William Gordon in writing to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, on May 13, 1709, states that “there was in Perquimans at that date a compact little Church which was still unfinished by reason of the death of Major Samuel Swann” who was dead September, 1707. When all facts are reviewed no dubious opinion can arise to question this fact, for Major Swann labored long and dilligently to establish his faith on a firm foundation in Perquimans during his life as a citizen of the colony. The sons of Major Swann probably carried on their father's zealous work after his death but as they later moved from the county to Swann Quarter, Hyde County, their support was withdrawn. This Church was said to have been “beter contrived” than the one in Chowan County of same date, and we feel sure promoted religion “where there was none in the county.” In this small house of God worshiped the gentry of Durants Neck. Here came in stately carriages the bewigged gentlemen and the furbelowed and flounced ladies who graced their homes. Outside sat the well trained negro servant to lift down his old-fashioned mistress or do some humble service for his dignified master. From neighboring plantations gathered such men as Richard Sanderson, Charles and Edmund Blount, Thomas Jacocks, Gilbert Leigh, with his young son James (who had not thought of then the beautiful brick house he was to build and give the Neck fame), John Whidby and later his son, Richard, the Stevensons, Durants, Hecklefields, both father and son here raised up thankful hearts for liberty in the new country, Joseph and Christian Reed (brothers), who had married daughters of George Durant (2) grandson of George in all the trappings of fine gentlemen came here to worship, and here Thomas Corprew got his early training in religion, and many others of substance who lived in the Neck, or on the outer fringe of its boundary. Old citizens are agreed on the fact that Nags Head Chapel stood on ground which was conveyed by Mr. James P. Whedbee to the Methodists, and they claim the site is identical with the one where now stands New Hope Methodist Church, and it is further stated that the Methodist Church arose on the foundations of the old Chapel. Could it be possible that this gave to the town its name? A new hope on an old foundation, a new church on crumbling walls, a new beginning out of past failure. Why Nags Head Chapel was abandoned no one knows but it may be that this church suffered the same fate of others, notably in Virginia, being left to fall into decay after the Revolutionary War. When Hertford became a town many old residents of Durants Neck flocked to the new center where educational facilities were better and others moved out of the county, thereby Nags Head Chapel lost its strongest supporters, and some others went over to the newer religion then introduced and joined either the Methodist or Baptist churches. It is a very comforting thought, however, that the sacred place is still used for a sacred purpose, and that prayer still ascends as of old from the same spot.

Land was donated by Elizabeth Mathias, daughter of Jeremiah Pratt, one-half acre for the “worship of God after the order of The Church of England” which was called Yeopim Chapel. From the deed giving this site and other records in Perquimans it is learned that the present Baptist Church at Bethel in said county occupies the exact site of old Yeopim Chapel. That also fell into disuse after the Revolution and was probably like Nags Head abandoned, when the Baptists acquired the property. Yeopim supplied the need of a place for calling on the Lord in all time of need, mothers came with infants to be baptized, the young to be wedded and many a sad funeral procession wended its way from the doors of this Chapel to the last resting place. Here worshiped dwellers in historic Harveys Neck. Statesmen and Councilors sat with silent attention riveted on the face of the Rev. Daniel Earl who served in Perquimans as well as in Chowan, while mothers nodded their disapproving heads at some wayward child and coaxed them into good behavior during the long and tedious service.

Berkeley Parish was created in 1715, and embraced every part of the present county and part of what is now Gates County extending as far north as the Virginia line.

An Act of Assembly of 1669 for the promotion of morality authorized the civil officers of each precinct to perform marriages as no ordained ministers were at that time living in Carolina. In a letter written by Governor Walker to the Bishop of London, October 21, 1703, he says in part, “we have been settled here near fifty years and for the most part of twenty-one years without priest or altar, for which cause the Quakers continued to grow very numerous.” In 1709 they constituted one-tenth of the population in Carolina. Mr. William Gordon, another Episcopal minister sent out as a missionary by the English Church in making his report to the home station bewailed the fact that the Quakers were “constant opposers of the Church of England” which can be easily accounted for by their own persecution in other parts of the country before coming to Perquimans and as they had become well rooted in Perquimans before the church began to really assert herself, it was but natural that they should not be very hospitable to a doctrine which they had learned by ill usage to distrust.

All persons by Act of Assembly were charged to enter the births, deaths and marriages of their families in the county register kept for the express benefit of such unregistered persons and a fine was imposed upon such careless residents as failed to comply with the regulations laid down.

Henderson Walker wrote to the Bishop of London April 24, 1703, deploring the fact that “Mr Brett after a half year of modest manner had broken out in a way shameful to all of the faith, which gave the dissenters much to charge us with.” He also stated that one church had been built and another was in course of construction, Francis Nicholson of Virginia having contributed to the building of same £10 to each. Mr. Blair who came to Carolina in January, 1704, said “‘he married no one that seeming to be the perquisite of the Magistrate.” There were in Carolina at this date three Glebes and a fund of £30 per annum was appropriated by the Assembly for the support of a minister.

The church people were few in number but were said to be of the “better sort.” The ministers complained that the people were “planted only on the Rivers” and that it took the greater part of twelve weeks to make the rounds of any minister's parish. Far the greater inhabitants were dissenters and, according to all reports, lived in great peace, being willing to give to even the Church of England some support. Carolina gave to every man the freedom of religious belief, under the great Charter given the Earl of Clarendon March 24, 1663, when toleration and indulgence to all Christians in the free exercise of their opinions were made into one clause of the Constitution, and no person could be excluded from the Assembly on account of his faith.

The Rev. Richard Marsden, on his way to South Carolina, passed through the province of North Carolina, and on September 25, 1708, administered the “Holy Supper on Trinity Sunday for the first time in Carolina, when forty five persons were baptized.” Soon after this (1709) the records show there were twelve vestrymen in Perquimans but, according to Rev. William Gordon, “very ignorant loose in life and unconcerned about religion and their ill example caused many to stray from the mother Church” and become affiliated with the Friends who appear to be more circumspect. The country was described to be at that date “wild and imperfect in circumstances with here and there a gentleman of sunstance” whose methods and managing qualities lifted them far above the ordinary settler.

The first school mentioned is that established at Sarum under the management of Mr. Mashburn July, 1712, which school Perquimans can not rightfully lay any claim to, it being in Chowan County, but no doubt the youth of the precinct sought knowledge there under the tutelage of said Mashburn. Sarum is now in Gates County since the division in 1779.

Vestrymen as appointed by Act of Assembly in 1715 were as follows: Francis Foster, Maurice Moore, John Hecklefield, Thomas Hardy, Richard Sanderson, James Minge, Samuel Phelps, Rich. Whedbee, William Kitching (Kitchin) and John Stepney. Three of these were residents of Durants Neck, probably affiliated with “Old Nags Head Chapel” and the others with the exception of Maurice Moore were all land owners and members of the little “Chapel” called Yeopim. William Kitchin lived in what is now Gates County, his land being well up in said county near the Virginia line. The Tithables taken in 1739 numbered 755. Church wardens in Perquimans at different periods of time were found in the loose papers, and a list as far as resurrected shows that Benjamin Perry and Nathaniel Caruthers had that honor, serving January 20, 1741, for what length of time the record did not specify, most probably for six years as they were followed by Thomas Weeks and John Harvey in April, 1747, and they in like manner were superseded by Jesse Eason; Thomas Weeks continuing to serve, November 2, 1753. Several vestry meetings are recorded on the deed books of Perquimans, giving the then Vestrymen. It seems a little strange to see the name of Benjamin Perry as one of the Church Wardens from the fact that that family adhered strongly to the Quaker faith. This shows that the Church augmented its ranks from the Friends equally as often as the Friends from other denominations. Friends were extremely strict and they churched their men and women for every trivial offense and no doubt this habit drove out some of rebellious nature. If a man happened to be of a convivial nature and attended a dance or took one drink too much he had to give reason why to the next Friends monthly meeting and women also came in for their share of chastisement by being called before the woman's monthly meeting where she was required to give a strict account of her shortcomings. At a day like that when all men were breaking away from restraint of every kind, it is not to be supposed that free thinkers would long submit to punishment submissively when an outlet stood right at the door.

Tradition gives the fact that the first Episcopal Church in Hertford at one time stood on the corner diagonally across from the Post Office, where a funeral parlor and Service Station now stand. This church so it is claimed, stood on ground now in the street, and the cemetery came across the street and extended into the yards of several residents. When the church occupied this location the records do not mention, but there must be truth in the old story for not many years ago while having a flower pit dug a human skull was unearthed in the back yard of Mrs. G. D. Newby who owned the home directly in front of the supposed location of the old church, and in the yard next door no depth can be penetrated without digging up bricks. Two large stones, one on each side of the sidewalk, mark the spot where it is claimed an Indian chief lies buried, and they have been ever thus without molestation as long as the memory of man can reach. It has been suggested by some imaginarily inclined that this might be the resting place of Kilcoconen, King of Yeopim Indians, who made the deed to George Durant but of course it can not be verified. Since he was a proven friend to the whites in the colony it would not be such a bad guess that they in return wished to repay him for his loyalty and naturally in first line of endeavor along that line would want to make a Christian of him. If that effort had proved to be a success and he had embraced Christianity as many did, the church people would have gone further and honored him by having his remains given a Christian burial in consecrated ground. Furthermore as the family of George Durant were Episcopalians they would most surely wish to put away this chief in their own churchyard, seeing that he had so abundantly favored their father. The present Episcopal Church was built in 1855, Benjamin Skinner making a deed for land for that purpose in that year and the Rev. Mr. Snowden offered his services to the Church Wardens of Holy Trinity parish for the stipend of $300 per annum, which was accepted.

The Baptist Church at Bethel is the oldest church now in use in Perquimans, being built about 1806. One of the early deacons of this church was Joshua Skinner who had come up in a Quaker family and he married Martha Ann Blount who was raised an Episcopalian so they both compromised by becoming Baptists. He with his numerous family sleeps the sleep that knows no waking close beside Bethel Church. Except for the deed conveying land for the church to the trustees by William Creecy and the fact that Martin Ross was the first preacher who officiated in the new church we have no knowledge of when the church was really built. A celebration was held here in 1906 commemorating the founding of Bethel Church and it is known that such men as Charles Skinner, Job Pettijohn and the family of Richard Felton were instrumental in bringing about a building for the worship of God according to the doctrine of the Baptist faith at this spot. The Church

 stood in a community of strong Baptist persuasion and still makes its appeal to the brethren congregated about. This church was built on land given by Elizabeth Mathias, nee Pratt, daughter of Jeremiah Pratt, and wife of John Mathias, the deed bearing date of July 17, 1732, and reads in part “To the Parish of Perquimans ½ acre square of land for the Worship called the Church of England by Yawpim Creek bridge where a Chapple is now built, land formerly belonging to my father, Jeremiah Pratt.” The Chapel was still standing and in use for said “worship” in 1745. Yeopim Chapel was named as a boundary many times for land lying in that neighborhood. The bridge here mentioned probably fell into decay or was replaced by a new and modern one as the roads grew to be improved and new ones were constantly being made. Probably Yeopim Chapel continued to do its work of service for the good to the surrounding country until the Revolutionary War when the Church of England became taboo. Having done the work appointed for it to do the little structure either became too small or the congregation moved away or changed with the times whichever was the case, in some way, the land fell into the hands of private citizens who sold it to the trustees for the erection of Bethel Church in 1806.

William Creecy of Perquimans conveyed to Joshua Skinner of Perquimans and Job Pettyjohn of Chowan, Deacons of the Baptist Church, “out of Respect goodwill and affection which he hath toward the Baptist Society whereof Martin Ross, Joshua Skinner and said Pettyjohn are members do grant to them land called Creecy's Mill tract formerly called Yoppim Chapel” for the use of a church called Bethel. Martin Ross, first minister so far as records prove, made his home on a farm near Hertford now owned by Mr. John O. White, a prosperous farmer, and he, with his good wife, lie buried on the land not far from Mr. White's house.

The Methodist Church in Hertford came into being about 1838 and records are extant showing the Hertford Baptist Church was of much later date than Bethel and was a child of Bethel. It was built in 1854.


From:  History of Perquimans County by Ellen Goode Winslow, published Raleigh, NC 1931


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