Pine Tree

Pine Tree Store Community
alias Pitch Landing, or Bethlehem,
Ahoskie twsp, located near Powellsville, NC

This is my working hypothesis – the way I see it as of this moment!!

Long leaf pines, that covered the land, were the big attraction to Bertie County.
They were not only harvested for masts and spars for ships but the trees were tapped for their sap from which was made tar, pitch, and turpentine. naval stores

Tar Kiln

Van Pelt’s Landing on the Chinquapin was later known as Pitch Landing.
It was also a King’s public landing and place of inspection.
Here was a warehouse and also an inspector of the commodities for sale or export who was appointed annually and kept there until just prior the Civil War.
Tar, pitch, turpentine, staves, headings, lumber, shingles, flax seed, pork, beef, rice, flour, indigo, and butter were among the exports.

a Possession report of the area ca 1758

“One of the first post offices in Hertford County was established in Harrellsville Township at Pitch Landing, four miles from Harrellsville. John Cooper was the first postmaster. The first returns from that office were made to the Post office Department on October 1, 1802, but there is no record of the exact date of its establishment. The office was discontinued on December 7, 1866, and re-established on September 5, 1870. The office at Pitch Landing was permanently discontinued on March 9, 1881.”John O Askew III writing on the “History of Harrellsville” in 1939 for an Historical Edition of the Hertford County Herald.
The Pine Tree Store or Trading Post was originally established by the Sessoms family.

Later, the Pine Tree Store had belonged to James Jones 1765-1816.

Another “keeper of the store at Pine Tree” was Jesse A. Jackson who also was the biggest promoter in building the steamer that was later known as “the Southern Star.” About him, J W Moore relates “He was the contractor for making the bricks used in the construction of the two female colleges [in Murfreesboro] and had realized profit in the undertaking. With the help of Glines & Graham, a New York commission house, and the contributions of numerous citizens of this vicinity, a fund was raised to build a steamer [the “Chowan”] which was to become a regular packet between Murfreesboro and the great city on Manhattan Island. ”

Married Lately in the woods near Piney-tree Store, in this county by torch light Mr. Isaac Barnes of Bertie to Mrs. Rachel Green. The Hornets Nest, Murfreesboro, NC Jan 7, 1813

Josiah Perry in the 18th item of his 1820 will lends unto my Beloved wife Amelicent Perry all my Black smith tools, Cooper tools, & the following Negroes (viz) York, Bridget, Pat, Tamar, & children, Haywood Simon Dick & George my Brandy still also one third part of the land & plantation whereon I now live bounded as follows Beginning at Timothy Walton’s line at the part leading from my house to said Waltons Avenue which leads to pine Tree Store formerly Belonging to James Jones running thence to a pond and through to a small Branch at the School House thence along the cart path which leads to where the old school house stood to the Near branch thence down said branch to barbecue Swamp thence down the said Swamp to Timothy Walton’s line thence along his line to the first station. I also lend my beloved wife as much land on the South Side of the Near branch as shall make pines enough to . . .. …….(line missing) .. . . of that purpose also the lightwood on the South side of the Road which is or may be on the Land which I exchanged with James Ward for the pines & lightwood thereon growing & standing there lands to be given up when Each of us are done making Tar & Turpentine on Each Track & Exchanged for the purpose aforesaid to have the said property during the period of her Natural life.

Deed Bk R-441 Bertie Co 26 May 1797 John Campbell, Jr. sold his father’s seine fishery to Josiah Perry, Samuel Rayner, James Ward, Charles Freeman, Jeremiah Freeman and Joshua Freeman, Jr. It was located on the beach at Colerain.

About Pitch Landing by James Elliott Moore ca 1970

Pitch Landing was a small shipping station on Chinkapin Creek. The Van Pelts, a New York family, had established the landing. It had its beginning with the naval stores industry, a major source of income in colonial Carolina. All of the products came from the native pine tree and included pitch, tar, turpentine, staves, headings and lumber. Although the industry had its impetus under the auspices of the British navy, it continued to be a vital part of the economy after the Revolution. Speculation on the market was as wild as modern Wall Street gambling, and many a man lost or won his proverbial shirt while dealing in naval stores. Despite its present deserted appearance, Pitch Landing was a scene of bustling activity in its day. For years it was a vital institution in the life of southeastern Hertford County handling all mail and freight for the region. It finally faded when sailing ships became too large to navigate the channel.

Yankee Raid at Pitch Landing Dec 4, 1864 The raid is reported by local historian, John W. Moore and also in the Official Record of the Navies.

civil war maps showing the area showing how the community is both in Hertford and Bertie Counties Pitch Landing on the Chinquapin is just to the top right of the map


Yes, the Gilmer map is what I have been referring to when I keep hearkening to the Civil War map. Glad to know that you are aware of its existence. You will see that White Plains is very clearly marked. That is all now thick woods. The houses were all derelict when Granddaddy was a boy and the fields there grown up in scrub pine. You will also see that on the road from White Plains to Pine Tree there were farms of Archer, Robertson and Adkins. I believe all of these places too are now preserves belonging to Union Camp. My understanding is that Raby Woods was in this area. You see the very large millpond. This would be White’s Mill. The Gilmer Map doesn’t show the little pond for Garrett’s Mill, so I must have seen that somewhere else.

The big house that John Simons built is near the site of the old VanPelt home; the VanPelt cemetery was in the field beside the old Sessoms homestead, perhaps the Van Pelt land extended across the road.

robinson2 robinson1

The Sessoms homestead was in the immediate vicinity. Just across the way from the store.

Then there were the Perrys. J.J. Perry was living next door in 1863. The cemetery there the earliest stone was for Mary E. Perry, daughter of W.W. & Sallie Sessoms and wife of J.J. Perry, Born Nov 24, 1825 and died April 15, 1879. Jos. J. Perry, son of Freeman & Martha Perry, who was born Dec 25, 1817 and died May 9, 1882. I think this was earlier the home of Freeman who was one of the younger sons of Josiah Perry. I think this Josiah was the youngest son of John Perry and Sarah who died about 1760 in Bertie.

The Bass place on the map is the old Ward home place, which Ann and John Moore traded to the Basses when their home burned ca 1855 which was adjacent to Maple Lawn.

The Daniel VanPelt Sessoms are shown living in the old Col. William Jones home.

The map does not show the old Jones Place at the Jones Hole.

Timothy Walton was resident there in 1820.

Dear Aunt Sally:  I think the road going past Luther Brown’s to White’s Mill was a through road continuing on towards Trap on the other side.  Isn’t it amazing that apparently the Waltons lived that close but that this knowledge was completely lost to later generations of the family? A suggestion: perhaps Magnolia Grove, the Simmons place, was originally the Walton place. The land could have gone from the Luther Brown lane or from that other road running towards Trap all the way back up to Pine Tree. Incidentally, there is a Civil War map of the area showing all of the houses labeled with the owner’s names. I don’t recall there was anything on the south side of that road running from Powellsville to Pine Tree. These tracts were probably continuations of the Sessoms and Perry holdings on the north side of the road. For example, I think I remember Harold Sessoms saying that his grandfather originally owned property on the other side of the road from his house. Funny that you mentioned about the line being changed, because I now recall Harold Sessoms saying something about that. Also, I think that there may be a note about this somewhere in Winborne’s history. The county line today is next to Carl Brown’s brick house a good little ways before Pine Tree and Magnolia Grove. James

Abstract of Bertie co Deed M-238 Thomas Garratt of Chowan Co. to Timothy Walton of Bertie Co. 11 Nov 1775. 100£ 700 acres (Part in Bertie Co and Part in Hertford Co), joining Meadow Branch, Josiah Perry, James Jones, Rivats, Long Branch, Lewis Williams, the road, Barbique Swamp. Wit: Starkey Sharp, Josiah Perry. Nov. Ct. 1775. John Johnston CJC

L-2-332 James Boon Wynns planter of Bertie Co to Thomas Garrett Sr. of Chowan Co. 6 Mar 1771 70£ proclamation. 700 acres in Bertie & Hertford counties, joining Meadow Branch, Josiah Perry, James Jones, Rivats, Long Branch, Lewis Williams, Barbeque Swamp. Wit: W P Kippax, Richd. Garret, James Garrett. Proved at Edenton 30 Apr 1771 bef. M Howard CJ

H-309 Burrill Bell & wife Sarah to Daniel VanPelt Feb 18 1756. 20£ for 157 A. adj. James Jones & Thomas Sissons, Peter Evans, John Davidson, John Smith on Chinkopen Swamp. Wit: John VanPelt, Mary Ann Wynns, July Court 1756. Benj. Wynns C/C

H-354 Burrill Bell & wife Sarah to James Boone Wynns Oct 25 1756. 200¬£ for 7713 A. (1) 5480 A. between Chowan River and Chinkopen Creek “being a tract granted Col. William Maule which said land descended to Penelope Cathcart wife of Doctor Wm. Cathcart who was daughter and sole heiress to the said Col. Wm. Maule…..and by do. William Cathcart and Penelope his wife conveyed to John Wynns….” (Sept. 20 1742.) John Wynns by last will and testament gave to his wife, Sarah, now wife of said Burrill Bell. (2) 380 A. conveyed to John Wynns by James Castellaw, the Public Treasurer at sale March 9, 1745. And to Sarah Wynns by will. (3) 640 A. conveyed to John Wynns by Treddle Keele (Keefe) Aug 4, 1738 and by Wynns devised to his wife. (4) 253 A. Patented by Benjamin Holloman April 20 1745 and assigned Feb 9 1750 to John Wynns. (5) 320 A. patent to Coll. William Maule for 640 A. Feb 1, 1725 and endorsed by William Cathcart & wife Penelope Maule Cathcart Aug. 24 1748 to John Devereaux and John Wynns. Wit: Joseph Perry, Benj. Brown. Oct. Ct 1756.

H-65 Burwell Bell & wife Sarah to Richard Rayner June 20, 1753. 20¬£ for 200 acres land on ES Chinkapin Swamp adj. William Tyner, John Freeman. Wit: George Barlow, Joseph Boons, —- Wynns, May Ct. 1754.

H-92 Bridgett Folkes to John Rainer Nov 12 1753 7£ for 150 A. Part of a tract bought of John Perry containing 300 A. on Barbeque Swamp Wit: James Droughhan, John Droughan, James Holey. May Ct 1754

G-387 Richard Brown to Thomas Sison (Sisson) June 22 1751 45£ for 100 A. in Chinkepen Neck adj. Isaac Hill Wit: Peggy Wynns, Benjamin Wynns Aug Ct 1751

M-196 James Jones of Hertford Co to John Ramsy of Bertie Co. 6 May 1775. 25£ proclamation 100 acres joining Barbeque Swamp, Pigpen Branch, Reedy Branch. Wit: Henry Lightfoot, Timothy Walton, James Wiggans. May Ct 1775. John Johnston CJC

NC Gazetteer by William S Powell — “Barbecue Swamp rises in ne Bertie County and flows ne into Hertford County where it enters Chinkapin Creek.”

“Long Branch rises in s Hertford County and flows se into Chinkapin Creek.”

Grist Mills [Water Mills]

old Gristmill in the Smokey Mt. Nat Park and Sally
1958 photo by Bob Koestler

One of the earliest scenes in my memory is being in the corn barn where we all are preparing corn to be taken to Mr. Wynns’ little grist mill in Powellsville to be ground into meal. The barn is piled high with the corn, and there are yet a couple of the large hickory baskets of yesterday being utilized. The corn was first shucked and removed from the cob by hand and then carried to the mill in a flour bag. [That mill happened to be powered by a gasoline motor but the earlier ones were all turned by water wheels.] The accompanying mill pond afforded great recreational opportunities to the community — fishing, wading, and swimming in the old mill holes continued long years after the mills themselves had disappeared. At the little mill pond, a few yards from our grandmother Parker’s home at Sarem in Gates County we and our cousins wiled many a day as children.

Poem: “Going to the Mill” by Julia Godwin Moore [Lawrence]

Boones-Cabin Boones-Mill-Pond

Boone’s Mill House – Boone’s Mill Pond, Jackson, NC photos from “Footprints in Northampton”

Aug Bertie Ct 1732 – The Petition of John VanPelt Praying leave to Build a Grist Mill Upon Barbeque Swamp a Branch of Chickapin on the Land of John Parker & Wm Badham: wither most Convenient read & refd. Nov Ct 1732 The Petn of John Van Pelt contd. Feb Ct 1732[33] A deed of sale from John Willson to John VanPelt was ackd. &c. Nov Ct 1733 John Sweany to John VanPelt & J. Wynns Jurat. Feb Ct 1733 [34] John Willson to John VanPelt Senr. was proved by Jurat John Wynns. Aug 1736 Upon Petn. of John VanPelt praying leave to Build a Grist Water Mill on Barbeque Swamp on the Land of Wn. Badham & John Early Ordered that the sd. Badham & John Earley have Notice according to Law. Aug 1736 – Read this day the Petn. of Sundry Inhabitants about Looseing Swamp & Chinckapen Creek Granted &c Ordd that John Wynns, John VanPelt, Ffras. Brown, John Mitchell, Jer. Maglohon, Nichs. Sessums, Fras. McClendon, Sol. Alston, Tred. Keefe, John Keefe, Allexr. Vollantin, John Smith, Geo. Smith, Isaac Hill, Wm. Bush, Jos: Watsford do lay out sd. Road according to law. John VanPelt overseer & to have Jer: Maglohons & John Wynns companys to clear the sd. Road & build the sd. Bridge (Including his own hands who are exempt from working on Chinckapin Road. Nov 1736 – Fras Brown overseer of Chinckapen Bridge &c in the room of John VanPelt for ye Ensueing 3 months. Feb 1736 [37] – Ffras Browne overseer of the new road & Bridge & to keeps fferrey & to have all the Western Inhabitants of John Wynns company including Thos. Johnson & Henry Vollantine & John VanPelt. Aug 1739 – Jno VanPelt to Jacob VanPelt a deed ackd.

F-480 Dom Rex to John VanPelt Grant 150 A. …”grant as of Our Manner of East Greenwich in Our County of Kent…” Yearly rent of 4 sh/100 A. Land on NS Barbeque Swamp adj. Thomas McClendon. Signed Gabriel Johnston, Capt. General & Gov. in Chief at Edenton March 11, 1741. John Rice, Gov. Sec’t’y

F-482 John VanPelt to Elias Stallings, Yeoman June 11, 1742. 400£ for 150 A. within mentioned patent. Wit: Daniel VanPelt, Mary VanPelt. Aug Ct. 1743. (Is this 400 an error!?)

G-119 Thomas Parker, wheelwright to John Freeman, wheelwright Feb 24 1747/48 25¬£ for 150 acres on NS Barbeque Swamp adj Thomas McClendons former line. Also a Grist Water Mill on Barbeque Swamp Also an acre on SS Barbeque Swamp “which said mill Thos. Parker & John Freeman bought of Elias Stallings….” Wit: Benjamin Wynns, Richard Brown May Ct 1748 John Lovick C/C

G-196 John Freeman to Thomas Freeman Aug 4 1748 50¬£ for 150 A + one water grist mill. On NS Barbeque adj. Thomas McClendon, __ Green “ by plans thereof Dated 10th day of Aug 1745…” Wit: Peggy Wynns, Benjamin Wynns, May Ct 1749

G-232 Thomas Freeman to John Reed Oct 8, 1749 50¬£ for 151 A. “….one messuage or tract of land with a grinding mill upon it & all that belongs to the said mill…” On Barbeque Swamp adj. Thomas McClindon, ___ Green at Chinkapin Fork Wit: John Smith, William Colthred Nov Ct John Lovick C/C

G-413 John Reed to Thomas Green April 11, 1751 40¬£ for 150 A. “…one messuage or tract of land with a Grist Mill thereon…” on WS Barbeque Swamp adj. Thomas Mclendal. Wit: Henry Reed, Thomas Green, John Smith Nov Ct 1751 Samuel Ormes
One other tidbit, I noticed Garretts intermarried with the Perrys. Garrett’s Mill was a tiny grist mill just off of the road that went from the Bethlehem to Powellsville road over to the Powellsville to Colerain road. I’m talking about the road that starts just before the Byrd Nest and where the Belches and some of the Hudsons lived. This road crosses a small stream. Civil War maps show a millpond just off to the right – if you’re headed towards the Ward place. Granddaddy told me that this run originally had four mills on it: Garrett’s Mill, Green’s Mill, White’s Mill and then the Big Mill I alluded to yesterday. He said they had a lot of rain one spring or summer. This caused a freshet at Garrett’s which broke the dam. This started a chain reaction which broke the dams all the way down the stream. None of the mills was ever repaired.
White’s Mill was up that road that ran between Mr. Brown’s house and barn lot. Brown as in Carl and Arthur. Can’t remember his name. Anyway, Granddaddy took me back there once and the milldam was still quite evident. I don’t know where Green’s Mill was. Possibly it was reached from The Trap side.

Barbecue Swamp must be the run with the four mills on it leading down to Chinqapin Creek at Pitch Landing. I think part of what is being alluded to in these petitions are the millpond rights. Granddaddy used to talk about these. Millpond rights were basically damages paid to other landowners whose lands went underwater when a mill dam was constructed.

Feb Ct 1775: Exhibited the Petition of Benjamin Brown praying leave to build a Water Grist Mill on Barbaque Swamp which is ordered to be laid over till next Court and it is further ordered that Josiah Perry, Watkin Williams Wynn, Thos Ward and James Holly Junr be appointed to lay off view and value one acre of Land on the opposite side of the Swamp the property of Timothy Walton and that the said Timothy Walton be summoned etc.
Exhibited the Petition of Timothy Walton praying leave to Build a publick Water Grist Mill on Barbeque Swamp and that the flowering freeholders be appointed to view and value one acre of Land the property of John Ramsay on the opposite side of the Swamp (to wit) Josiah Perry, Joshua Freeman, Nathaniel Holly & Jesse Garret and that a Summons Issue to John Ramsay the proprietor of the Land on the opposite side of the Swamp to appear at next Court and Shew cause etc.

The Sessoms Places

Another mill was on the road from the Col. William Jones place out to Highland Memorial Gardens on Stoney Creek. It was at that branch with the bend in the road just below Wig’s house. This was run by William Sessoms, whose house was also in that area. This explains why the Sessoms cemetery is down there. He married a Miss Van Pelt and they were the parents of Daniel Van Pelt Sessoms, who bought and enlarged the Col. William Jones place; William Wynn Sessoms, who lived at Pine Tree and Dr. Harrell Bell Sessoms, who lived on the land where his son Dr. Joseph W. Sessoms later built Sunnyside Acres (Leigh Sessoms house).

coljones1 coljones-5 coljones-2 coljones-3 coljones-4

Col. William Jones-Daniel VanPelt Sessoms Home photos by James Moore ca 1970 Billy Raynor of Ahoskie says the house is “Tydewater Construction.” Col Jones’s widow and children sold the house and farm to VanPelt Sessoms in 1828 and removed to Haywood County, TN. The large marble monument on Col. Jones’s grave placed there by his widow and children has vanished sometime since 1960.

William Wynn Sessoms Home/ Roberson place photos by James Moore ca 1970 I remember Johnnie Roberson removed the cemetery stones and plowed over the graves that were located near this house ca 1950. My father said that was the old Van Pelt Cemetery.

The Perry Place and Cemetery/Dell Holloman’s This house located between the W.W. Sessoms house and the Leigh Sessoms house, although recently bulldozed, was very similar to the James Ward home I am always told. The cemetery minus its wrought iron fence is still apparent with some stones tumbled into the graves. This may have been the home of Josiah Perry 1740-1820 and his wife Amilicent Freeman. It was the home of Freeman Perry ca 1781 and his wife Patty Simons. Also the home of Joseph J. Perry 1817-1882 and his wife Mary E. Sessoms 1825-1879.

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Leigh Sessoms Home was called Sunnyside Acres constructed 1855/57 photos by James Moore ca 1970

Harold Sessoms of Ahoskie told me that his name was a corruption of the original Harrell. This Dr. Harrell Sessoms he said had a house between the Leigh Sessoms house and Moore’s Lane. Dr. Sessoms died young and his son and daughter were raised by Van Pelt Sessoms. The house burned. He said you could see the wells out in the field when he was a boy. Therefore, Dr. Joseph W. Sessoms built Sunnyside when he married Nannie Underwood in the 1850s.

Another Sessoms seat was at Stoney Creek where the Powellsville town cemetery is located. This is where Uncle Elisha Sessoms (Eunice’s father) was raised. There was a house and cemetery there which seems to have simply been abandoned. I could never understand this. Uncle Lish after his marriage seems to have always lived on the other side of the creek at the house where Hazel and Otis ended up when they retired and at a house-now gone- on Church Street in Ahoskie. I think Uncle Lish’s forebears come down from a brother or cousin of the William Sessoms who married Miss Van Pelt. As this Sessoms house was right there on the creek, it probably was contemporary with the original Jones foundation down at Jones Hole. James

Our Neighbors for 200 years, the Sessoms of Hertford County:

Naval Stores

The land was covered primarily with longleaf pine trees. James Jones and his friends were attracted to the area not only by the available land but by the naval stores’ industry. Because of their importance to the maritime industry, tar, pitch, and the crude resin or turpentine that produced them came to be known as “naval stores.”


To acquire raw turpentine (resin) colonists used at least two techniques. During the off season (winter) people would go into the pine forests to cut two or more deep grooves in a standing tree so that the cuts converged near the base, where they installed several planks to act as a trough for the resin. The second, more common method was cutting large rectangular notches, called “boxes” on both sides of larger long leaf pines. The sap collected on the flat bottom edge on the box, where as John Brickell noted, “the Negroes with Ladles take it out and put it into Barrels.”

(Barrel making was a major occupation for many. A number of my ancestors listed their profession as Cooper.) My father pointed out to me on the ground impressions of ancient tar “kilns.” “Colonists sought a slightly elevated mound or knoll on which they dug a circular pit. Four to six feet away, they scooped out another shallower depression connected to the first by a narrow ditch. Known as a kiln, the entire structure was lined with clay to facilitate the flow of tar. During winter colonists went into the pine forest to gather dead dry pine boughs called lightwood. They placed the wood in the pit and covered it with clay or sod, leaving small openings near the bottom of the woodpile. The “tar burners” then set the highly volatile wood on fire, but because the holes at the base of the kiln afforded only a slight draft, the pile smoldered for weeks. They tended the kilns constantly making sure the fire did not go out or burn too hot.


Tar, produces by the slow combustion, collected at the center of the pit and flowed through the ditch to the receptacle where it could be ladled into barrels for export.” Because colonists preferred dry light wood for the kilns, they did not need to cut living trees to feed the furnaces. John Brickell reported that colonists often sent their slaves into abandoned turpentine orchards to split those dead and dying trees into usable lightwood. Likewise, smaller branches and residue from pines cut for lumber and those toppled by wind or ice could be salvaged for the kilns. Settlers were camping out, not always on their own land, making naval stores. Pitch Landing was a center from which the naval stores were shipped in small boats. The barrels of raw sap were shipped to England for distillation. Production of navel stores was the main industry of the area throughout the entire colonial period and during much of the first half of the 19th century. (Ref: Timothy Silver’s A New Face on the Countryside 1990 & Parker Bros. “Hertford County Herald”)

09 April 2012

This is my working hypothesis – the way I see it as of this moment!!

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