River: Homes, Seine fishing, Bertie Life 1850

Seine Fisheries of the Chowan River

point on a clear day
Point on a Clear Day photo by Lucy Daniels

John Campbell is credited with introducing “seine fishing” to the area in the 1740’s.
The herring came in great numbers each spring to the Albemarle Sound and Chowan River. Farmers would buy the fish from the fishery directly on the beaches by the cart load to corn in barrels. Salt herring was a main stay in the diet of all the farmers of the region. Some folks ate salt herring three times a day usually with corn pone, beans or peas, sweet potatoes and bacon. The fisheries would pay their help with fish, which would in turn be used to pay for their debts they had run up over the year. At Maple Lawn, some of the blacks would work each spring in this great harvest which usually lasted six weeks to two months. And I can remember when I was very young there were barrels of salt herring kept in the shed of the smoke house.

fish2 fish3 fish1
Action at the Fisheries ca 1850 “Most of the fishing was done at night with torches ablaze.” Lucy Daniels contributed this piece her Grandmother Ella Harrell Evans wrote for her when Lucy was a little girl. Ella was raised at Mt. Gould landing, close to Colerain

herring story1 herring story2 herring story3 herring story4

Avoca Fishery 1896

Avoca – ca 1900 -home of Dr. Wm. R Capehart (On your right with beard) the woman in black on the left is his wife Clara Cotton Bond Capehart. photo compliments of Dixie


Avoca (F. Speight sketch)

The River Plantations
scotshall shgardens

Capehart homes in Bertie Co Scotch Hall and gardens ca 1968 photo by James Moore

Capehart Chapel at Avoca photo by James Moore


Black Rock photos by James Moore ca 1970


Mount Gould

Neighboring Bertie County River Plantations

about life on the River plantations in Bertie County 1840.

Bertie, Life in the Old Field by Gregory Seaworthy (George Higby Throop)

A description of life in Bertie County along the Chowan River in the 1840’s…
George Higby Throop (1792-March 9, 1896)
George Throop wrote both prose and poetry
while devoting himself to teaching throughout the Southern States.
He was hired as a tutor in late 1840 for the Capehart children,
and especially for William Rhodes Capehart,
the son of George Washington and Susan Bryan (Martin) Capehart
living at Scotch Hall.
Returning north after his stay there,
he recorded his experiences in this autobiographical novel
published under the pseudonym Capt. Gregory Seaworthy
called Bertie: Life in the Old Field.
Mr. Throop had been hired in late 1840 as a tutor
for the Capehart children at Scotch Hall.
In his novel, Throop gives descriptions of not only the house,
but also the activities of its inhabitant.
“The opening scene is Norfolk, with Seaworthy [Capt] and Matters [Professor] heading toward Bertie and Cypress Shore
[fictitious name of Scotch Hall]…six miles from Merry Hill post office.
On a small boat they are towed through the Dismal Swamp Canal (p.39)
and pass a hotel not far from Lake Drummond (p.45).
Two days later they arrive at “the pretty village of Edenton” (pg.52)
Seaworthy proceeds to Plymouth, thus passing very near Cypress Shore,
which ‘is not two hundred yards from the head of the sound, between the mouths of the Roanoke and the Chowan’ (p 52)
and within walking distance of ‘the mouth of the Cashie’ (p 91).
He continues to Windsor to execute a commission for a New York merchant to his factor in Bertie (p 55)
On March 29, 1849, after a three hours’ ride on horseback through the pine woods, he arrives at Cypress Shore.”…
..”Beyond the house lies the beautiful sound, on a calm day with ‘not a ripple on its broad surface.
To the right were the mouths of the Roanoke and the Cashie. They were barely discernible among the low cypresses that lined the shore ..
…Steamers and sailing boats are often gliding past. In the distance is the familiar light-boat guarding the entrance to the Roanoke.

“The plantation of Colonel Smallwood [ficticus name],
who had come to Bertie from Virginia, spreads over ten thousand acres.

Employing some 250 Negroes,
it has an annual yield of about a hundred bales of cotton

and fifty thousand bushels of corn (pg 76)
Among the animals are ‘horses, mules, sheep, and cows’.
The slaves are happy for they are provided with allowances,
good quarters and a hospital (pg 198)

For six to eight weeks every spring the Colonel’s interest
turns to his near-by shad and herring fishery,

where he has built twenty fisherman’s cabins
as well as a guest house in which he entertains his friends.

Most of the fishing is done at night with torches ablaze.
The families of the eastern Bertie residents lead no dull lives.
When not visiting and dining with one another,

they go fishing in Salmon Creek (p 223) or fox-hunting (p68).
There is ‘the excitement of the mail-days’,

when ‘a score of country gentlemen’ lounge about the store,
talking and ‘awaiting the
arrival of the mail’ (pg 131)
On court days they go to the county seat to observe a variety of activity (merchantil and entertainment).
“On another day the gentlemen return to Windsor Muster Day,
when the local military
‘some fifteen men and possibly 50 in the ranks of the infantry parade to the music of ‘a shrill, squeaking, squealing, singing, broken-winded clarionet’ (pg 169.)
Exciting also are the big quarterly church meetings at one of the churches,
where everyone has his fill of preaching and feasting and visiting”
In summer, ‘about the middle of July’,
the Colonel exports all his household and friends to Nag’s Head
in a steamer
loaded with furniture, live-stock and passengers.
“The Mysterious Case of George Higby Throop”.
The North Carolina Historical Review. vol 33, 1956
contributed by Virginia Crilley
used on this site with her permission.

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