Letter from Carolina, 1682

Letter from Carolina, 1682

Thomas Newe’s account of his experience in Carolina offers an interesting counter to Robert Horne’s prediction of what would await settlers. Newe describes deadly disease, war with Indians, and unprepared colonists. Newe longs for news from home but also appears committed to making a new life for himself in Carolina.


May 29th, 1682, by way of Barbados

Most Honored Father:

. . . one thing I understand (to my sorrow) that I knew not before, [that] most have a seasoning, but few dye of it. I find the Commonalty here to be mightily dissatisfied, the reason is 3 or 4 of the great ones, for furs and skins, have furnished the Indians with arms and ammunitions especially those with whom they are now at War, for from those they had all or most of their fur, so that trade which 3 or 4 only kept in their hands is at present gone to decay, and now they have armed the next most potent tribe of the Indians to fight the former, and some few English there are out, looking after them, which is a charge to the people and a stop [to] the further settling of the Country. The soil is generally very light, but apt to produce whatsoever is put into it. There are already all sorts of English fruit and garden herbs besides many others that I never saw in England, and they do send a great deal of Pork, Corn and Cedar to Barbados, besides the victualing of several Vessels that come in here, as Privateers and others which to do in the space of 12 years the time from the 1st seating of it by the English, is no small work, especially if we consider the first Planters which were most of them tradesmen, poor and wholly ignorant of husbandry and till of late but few in number, it being increased more the 3 or 4 last years then the whole time before the whole at present not amounting to 4000, so that their whole Business was to clear a little ground to get Bread for their Families, few of them having wherewithal to purchase a Cow, the first stock whereof they were furnished with, from Bermudas and New England, from the later of which they had their horses which are not so good as those in England, but by reason of their scarcity much dearer, an ordinary Colt at 3 years old being valued at 15 or 16 lies. as they are scarce, so there is but little use of them yet, all Plantations being seated on the Rivers, they can go to and fro by Canoe or Boat as well and as soon as they can ride, the horses here like the Indians and many of the English do travail without shoes. Now each family hath got a stock of Hogs and Cows, which when once a little more increased, they may send of to the Islands cheaper then any other place can, by reason of its propinquity, which trade alone will make it far more considerable than either Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and those other places to the North of us.

I desire you would be pleased by the next opportunity to send me over the best herbalist for Physical Plants in as small a Volume as you can get. There was a new one just came out as I left England, if I mistake not in 8vo. that was much commended, the Author I have forgot, but there are several in the College that can direct you to the best. If Mr. Sessions, Mr. Hobart or Mr. White, should send to you for money for the passage of a servant, whether man or boy that they Judge likely, I desire you would be pleased to send it them, for such will turn to good account here; and if you please to enquire at some Apothecaries what Sassafras (which grows here in great plenty) is worth a pound and how and at what time of the year to cure it, let me know as soon as you can, for if the profit is not I am sure the knowledge is worth sending for. Pray Sir let me hear by the next how all our friends and relations do, what change in the College, and what considerable alteration through the whole Town; I have now nothing more to speak but my desire that you may still retain (what I know you do) that love with which I daily was blest and that readiness in pardoning whatsoever you find amiss, and to believe that my affections are not changed with the Climate unless like it too, grown warmer, this with my most humble duty to yourself and my mother, my kind love to my sister and Brothers and all the rest of our Friends I rest

Your most dutiful and obedient son,

Thomas Newe

A.S. Salley, ed., Narratives of Early Carolina, 1650-1708 (New York: 1911), 183-185.

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