East Tennessee Roots
- the history and genealogy of East Tennessee
East Tennessee Roots Database:
North Carolina Land Grants 
We've been given this storage bin full of copies of grant papers from their 1777 North Carolina Land Act. These were made in person at their archives about 1980. 

They are - forgive me for putting it this way - the most important of the most important ones: the earliest ones, from Washington and Greene counties, the Watauga and Nolachucky settlements...

All these copies will be turned into pdf documents and uploaded here as soon as possible.

North Carolina Land Grants in now East Tennessee

Look people: I don't want to hear anyone else claim their ancestor "received a North Carolina land grant"! Just stop it already! 

Would you say your ancestor "appeared in a census"? Would you say your ancestor "served in a war"? No! To convey any useful information, you would say which census, which war and which side.

But yet you say your ancestor "received a North Carolina land grant." This empty sentence conveys no useful information either! In fact, its worse than nothing. One type of land grant precludes the other: if it is a, then it is not-b. (If your ancestor is in the 1850 Greene County, TN, census, then he is not in another census. See?)

You need to know what the land grant is: under which land act the grant issued, where the land was located, when it was claimed, and so forth. And if you don't know that already - as apparently you don't - then you need to find out! Then you can say that your ancestor "received Washington County, North Carolina, Land Grant #xxx" or "received Eastern District Land Grant #xxx" -- and this will convey an enormous amount of information!

Land Act of 1777 and Land Act of 1783

Several types of land grants were issued by North Carolina in the area now Tennessee. The two most applicable to East Tennessee are the Land Act of 1777 and the Land Act of 1783

Its easy to tell whether the grant you've located was issued under the Land Act of 1777 or the Land Act of 1783. However, its only 'easy' once you do two things: 

First, you must understand the differences between each act. Each is extensive and there are many revisions, amendments, and so forth. Nevertheless, I've condensed the major points that differentiate one act from the other into the following bullet points:

Under the Land Act of 1777...

  • only lands in these counties in uppermost East Tennessee were available: all the present counties of Johnson, Washington, Sullivan, Carter, and Unicoi, and the eastern parts of Hancock and Greene. 

  • each county had an Entry-Taker; that's where you went to enter the land and start the process rolling. This is easy, since there's only three counties: Washington (beginning February, 1778), Sullivan (beginning when Sullivan was created, 1780), and then Greene (beginning when Greene was created, 1783). No other county had an Entry-Taker for the Land Act of 1777. 

  • lands were available for entry during three time periods. (Yes, I am aware there are places on the Internet that claim there was only one time period for entering lands. They are wrong.) The vast majority of lands were entered in 1778-79 and early 1780.

  • one paid for the land at 50 shillings per hundred acres. (Or, 2 pounds and 10 shillings per hundred acres.)

  • settlers who had already improved their property were afforded the opportunity to legally acquire it: this Act was designed to encourage settlement. Many - in fact, most - of these warrants describe the tract as "the plantation where he now lives..." or some similar note as to who occupies/occupied the tract.

Under the Land Act of 1783...

  • only lands west of the Land Act of 1777 were available. As it pertains to present East Tennessee, the Land Act of 1783 covered lands west of the above-mentioned counties and excluded lands in southeast Tennessee which were reserved for Indians. This area was designated the "Eastern District" of the "Western Lands."

  • there was only one Entry-Taker and only one place to enter land: in John Armstrong's Office in North Carolina.

  • there was only one brief period when lands could be entered: 20 Oct 1783 to 25 May 1784.

  • one paid for the land in specie certificates, 10 pounds specie per hundred acres.

  • land speculators and investors could obtain rights to many hundreds, even thousands, of acres: this Act was designed to clear North Carolina's debt. (This act has been referred to as "the land-grab act.")

Second, you must obtain all the relevant papers associated with your grant. You're not going to rely on some summary, or some abstract; you're going to get all the documents - copies of the original warrant, survey, plat, and grant - and you're going to read them for yourself. Why do you need to get all the documents? Because there is unique information in each! 

Despite the differences in the Land Act of 1777 and the Land Act of 1783, both consist of similar documents so I'll describe them here:

This document is from the Entry-Taker to the Surveyor. It says some version of this: "To the Surveyor of _____, greeting. You are hereby required to measure and lay off __ acres of land for _____ lying on the waters of _____ Creek [or wherever]. Given under my hand this __ day of __, 17__." Then it will be signed by the Entry-Taker.

This document - one of two documents made by the surveyor - is a written description of the tract. It says some version of this: "Pursuant to a warrant to me directed I have proceeded to measure and lay off __ acres of land for _____ lying on the waters of ____ Creek [or wherever] and bounded as follows..." Then the calls follow as in an ordinary deed; then it will be signed by the Surveyor and chain carriers.

This is the other document made by the surveyor. It is a drawing of the written description of the tract. Many times this is the most important document! It may, for instance, show streams, springs, or other features that are not even mentioned in the survey! Many times the plat and survey are on the same sheet of paper, but sometimes not.

This is the actual grant, signed by the Governor of North Carolina. It repeats the calls from the written description done by the surveyor. This is the document that the new landowner had to have recorded in the county in which the land lay.

And now that you've got all these documents and have pored over every word, you will see several phrases that tell you under which Act the land was claimed and then granted. Find these phrases in your documents and refer to the above bullet lists to find the answers. For example:

Where is the land located?
  • If it is in Washington or Sullivan County, NC, its under the Land Act of 1777. (For Greene, see below.)
  • If it is in the Eastern District of North Carolina's Western Lands its under the Land Act of 1783.

Where was the claim entered?
  • If it was entered in Carter's Office its under the Land Act of 1777. (The vast majority of these lands were entered in Carter's Office; Sullivan lands were entered in John Adair's office, Greene lands were entered in
  • If it was entered in Armstrong's Office its under the Land Act of 1783.

When was it entered?
  • If the entry date is anything other than below, its under the Land Act of 1777.
  • If the entry date is between 20 Oct 1783 and 25 May 1784, its under the Land Act of 1783.

​What was the price paid? 
  • If it is 50 shillings per hundred acres its under the Land Act of 1777.
  • If it is 10 pounds specie per hundred acres its under the Land Act of 1783.

Examples: Jacob Brown, Andrew Greer, Jeremiah Dungain, Henry Farnsworth

Here's a Warrant and Survey for Jacob Brown
Let's start with the warrant. Go look at it now and read along with me:

"State of North Carolina Washington County November 27th 1778. No. 652."
     So this tract was entered in Washington County, North Carolina, on Nov. 27, 1778. It was the 652nd tract that had been entered (presuming no shenanigans occurred) since Washington County had been created 23 Feb 1778. Yes, its under the Land Act of 1777.

"To the surveyor of said County..."
     This is directed to the Washington County surveyor. Had the land fallen into Sullivan or Greene counties, and had those counties been created when the warrant issued, it would have been directed to the surveyor of those counties, whichever one was appropriate.

"...you are hereby Required to measure and lay off According to Law Six hundred and forty acres of Land for Jacob Brown..."
     This specifies how many acres and who it is for.

"...on Nolechucky River at the Mouth of Cherrokee Creek including an Isleland in Sd. River and running up and down for Complyment above and below the mouth of sd. Creek for Complyment [sic]..."
     This tells exactly where the tract is located: on the Nolachucky at the mouth of Cherokee Creek, and including an island in the river. The tract is up and down the river on both sides of Cherokee Creek.

​"...Purchased in open Treaty of the Cherrokee Indians, in the Year 1775, the said Treaty being held on the said Land..."
     Notice this! This is a part of Brown's Purchase: that vast tract of land Jacob Brown 'purchased' back in March, 1775, immediately after the Watauga Purchase. 

"...Given under my hand this 27th of April 1779. [Signed] John Carter E.T."
     This warrant issued April 27, 1779, and was done by John Carter, Entry Taker.

And now let's look at the survey which resulted from this warrant. Go look at it now and read along with me:

"February 12th 1784. Then surveyed a tract of land for Jacob Brown, Situate, Lying and Being In Washington County and State of North Carolina By Virtue of a Warrant to Me Directed for that purpose Bearing Date April 22d 1779 and No. 652, the plat of which is hereto prefixed..."
     The tract was surveyed on 12 Feb 1784 (the nearly 5 years that elapsed between warrant and survey was more time than usual). Actually the No. 652 was the Entry Number.

"...Beginning at a Black Oak standing on the South Side of Nola Chucky River a Small Distance above the Uper End of an Isle Land and Running thence North forty two poles Crossing the sd. River and passing by a Marked Black walnut Tree to a Marked White oak Tree and Hicory Saplin thence West four Hundred and Ninety two poles passing over Cherokee Creek To a Stake Thence south three Hundred and five Poles Crossing the sd. River to a Stake Standing on the bank thereof Thence Up the Different Meanders thereof to the Place of Beginning Containing Six Hundred and forty acres of Land - Plated By a scale of 100 poles to an Inch..."
     This is the standard written description of the tract; this is the wording that is on the resulting grant.
What you want to pay attention to here is the plat at the top of the page! First, notice whether it is drawn with north the top of the page - this one is, but often times they are not; if not, then rotate it. From this plat you can see the course of the Nolachucky, you can see where exactly Cherokee Creek and (it looks like) Canny Branch empty into it, you can see the big 'Isleland' as well as a smaller one  -- and now you can identify this tract of land so precisely that you can overlay it on a modern map!

"...Wm. Moody & Jacob Casner Chain Carriers. [Signed] James Stuart, C.S."
     Moody and Casner were the chain carriers. Pay attention to these -- often they were relatives of the claimant, or even the claimant themselves. In this case I am unfamiliar with Moody and Casner. James Stuart was the Washington County Surveyor. However, sometimes surveys were done by the Deputy Surveyor - in which case you will see a "D.S." following their name.

Why am I showing you this? 
Because its an excellent example of the kind of unique information found in the warrant - and only in the warrant! First of all, it confirms that Jacob Brown did indeed hold a 'treaty' with the Indians and 'purchase' property. Second, that this is the tract he purchased. Third - and in my opinion perhaps most important - it explicitly states that Jacob Brown's purchase - his treaty - was held on this land! That bears repeating: whereas the Watauga Purchase between the Wataugans and Indians was transacted at Sycamore Shoals, this treaty was held on this land - not at Sycamore Shoals! You'll see many sources that claim Brown's Purchase was concluded at Sycamore Shoals: they are wrong! And here is the proof!

Here's a warrant and survey/plat for a tract of land for Andrew Greer
Let's look at the warrant:
"State of North Carolina, Washington County, Octb. the 5, 1779. No. 1795. To the Surveyor of Sullivan County... this 10th of Octr. 1780. [Signed] Landon Carter, E.T."
   This tract was entered in Washington County on Oct. 5, 1779, and it was the 1795th tract that had been entered since the land office opened there. Yes, its under the Land Act of 1777. It was directed to the Sullivan County surveyor, since by then (Oct. 10, 1780) the land lay in newly-created Sullivan County. 10 Oct 1780 is the date of the warrant and Landon Carter was at that time the Washington County Entry-Taker.

Let's look at the survey/plat:
"...I have surveyed for Andrew Greer December 18th 1792...in the Territory South of the River Ohio...[Signed] George Vincent, C.S."
   The survey was done on 18 Dec 1792. This is 12 years after the warrant issued (again, longer than usual). George Vincent was the Sullivan County surveyor (C.S.=County Surveyor).

Why am I showing you this? 
I want you to pay attention to all those dates and places and what they mean. First, see that this tract was entered in Washington County on 05 Oct 1779. But - wait a minute! - that land was north of the Holston River; it wasn't in Washington County! How can that be? Land 'north of Holston' was accepted as being in Virginia until the NC/VA line was officially surveyed. And as soon as it was surveyed, it was clear the land belonged to NC. Now, look at the entry date: 05 Oct 1779. This was right after it was surveyed, and just before the NC assembly created Sullivan County (which they did at their October, 1779, Session). Andrew Greer was aware of all this - and he didn't waste any time! Now, when the warrant issued, 10 Oct 1780, Sullivan County had been created, so the warrant issued to the Sullivan County Surveyor. And lastly, when it was surveyed, 18 Dec 1792, this wasn't NC anymore; it was the Territory South of the River Ohio! You see all of this reflected in these documents.

Here's a question for you: Why is this particular tract so extra-special?

Here's a survey and plat for Jeremiah Dungin/Dungain
Let's look at the survey/plat now:
"...Survey'd...September 5th 1783...in North Carolina Washington County...beginning...at the mouth of Brush Creek...crossing Caney Run...crossing the mouth of said Brush Creek...."
   So I'll not analyze it in detail as by now should understand what everything means.

Why am I showing you this?
Specifically to illustrate how you need both the plat (the little sketch) and the survey (the written description). Yes, the plat is very detailed; so detailed that you can overlay this plat on a modern map of Brush Creek at the Watauga River! But the plat doesn't show calls (S 87 degrees E 192 poles) or adjoining property owners. The plat by itself would be of little use to you in tracing the chain of title; it's detailed, but it stands alone. And, yes, the survey is detailed also; with a protractor and pen you can make your own plat of the tract and the perimeter would be accurate. But how exactly do you interpret "Crossing Brush Creek"? How do you interpret "Crossing Cainy Run"? You don't know where the streams crossed or how they ran - until you look at the plat! There is unique information in each document; they they complete each other. You need both!

Again, who knows why this tract is extra-special?

​Here's a warrant and survey for Henry Farnsworth
Let's start with the warrant:
"...John Armstrong, Entry Officer of Claims for the Western Lands...In Green County On the N Side of Nolechucky river at a sinking spring...this 7 day of June 1784..."'   
   John Armstrong... Western Lands... why, yes, this one is under the Land Act of 1783! Some of the 1783 warrants were pre-printed, fill-in-the-blanks; some were entirely handwritten, as this is. (Actually, it should have been directed specifically to the Greene County surveyor.) And the land is located in Greene County on the north side of the Nolachucky.

And now the survey/plat:
"...In pursuance of a warrant to Me directed...I have surveyed upon the 27th of March 1786 for Henry Farnsworth a Tract of Land sutuate in the County of Greene Joining Benj. Jameson's Land that Lays Upon the water that Burnt Cabbin place is...[Signed] F.A. Ramsey, D.Sr."
   Francis Alexander Ramsey was at that time Deputy Surveyor of Greene County, and surveyed many, many of these tracts. You have to watch out with him - his handwriting was atrocious. Notice Benjamin Jameson's name as adjacent landowner. Also notice that the plat is not drawn with north to the top. I've found that 1783 Land Act surveys were, by and large, less detailed than 1777 Land Act surveys.

Why am I showing you this? 
To illustrate to you the unique position of Greene County surveyors. Greene County was divided between the two land acts: most of large Greene County fell under the Land Act of 1783 - but a small part of Greene County was under the Land Act of 1777. The Greene County Surveyor - appointed by their county court to survey 1777 lands - was also appointed by the North Carolina legislature to survey 1783 lands that lay in Greene County - aka the "Eastern District" of the "Western Lands." Thus the Greene County surveyor had plenty of work to do!

I'm looking for an example of land that was entered in Sullivan or Greene; also for an example of a supernumerary grant....check back soon. 

Other North Carolina Land Acts

So far we've been talking only of North Carolina's Land Act of 1777 and Land Act of 1783. But there were other North Carolina land acts, the most famous - or infamous - being North Carolina's