Sunday, February 21, 2016

Legend of Batz's Grave


            Near Drummond’s Point (Perquimans County) on the upper waters of Albemarle Sound, lies a solitary island, now uninhabited (Chowan County), once the home where the goat browsed and the gull built its nest and defied the storm with its discordant scream. Its name is “Batz’s Grave.” Within living memory no man has dwelt thereon, but, within living memory it was the roost of myriads of migratory gulls, who held undisturbed possession of their island home.

            There is a legend about that desert island that furnishes food for the contemplative, a legend of love and sadness, a legend of Jesse Batz and Kickowanna, a beautiful maiden of the Chowanoke tribe of Indians.

            Batz was a hunter and trapper on the upper waters of Albemarle Sound, and was one of the earliest settlers that made a home in that paradise of the Indian hunter, where the wild game alone disputed his supremacy.

            Jesse Batz made his temporary home on the island that the Indians sometimes visited and called Kaloha, from the innumerable flocks of sea-gulls that disturbed its solitude. Batz was friendly, and sometimes joined the Indians in their hunting parties. He was young, comely and athletic. He became familiar to the Indians in their wigwams, and the chase.

This is a portion of the 1733 Moseley Map showing the tiny island, Batts Grave.
The map is at East Carolina University.
      There was one who was the light of the wigwam of the Chowanokes—who sometimes looked at Jesse Batz with the love-light in her eye—the pretty, nut-brown Kickowanna. Her eye was as a sloe, and her long and glossy hair was as a raven’s wing. Her step was agile and graceful as the “down that rides upon the breeze.” 

      While Batz, the hunter, let fly the bowstring that brought down the antlered stag of the forest, a better archer aimed at Jesse’s heart the fatal arrow, and he, too, fell, a victim of Cupid’s unerring aim. The insidious poison rankled in his veins. He was a changed man in every look and tissue of his being. The chase had lost its charm. His eye would droop when Kickowanna came. She was daughter of the old King of the Chowanokes, Kilkanoo, the jewel of his eye. Kickowanna was a peri [sic] of beauty. Famed she was throughout the land. The great Pamunky chief of the Chasamonpeak tribes to the north had sought her hand, and had offered alliance to Kilkanoo, chief of the Chowanokes, but his suit was rejected and he sought to obtain by violence what he could not by courtly supplication. 

      War raged for a time between Pamunky and Kilkanoo. Batz fought with the Chowanokes. His valor, his strategy and his success were conspicuous. He led the Indian braves. In a hand-to-hand personal encounter with Pamunky he clove him down with his Indian club, but the prostrate Pamunky sued for mercy. Batz’s ire softened, and he gave him his life. For Batz’s deeds of bravery Kilkanoo adopted him as a member of the Chowanoke tribe, under the adopted name of Secotan, which, interpreted, is— “The Great White Eagle.”

            Batz grew in favor and influence with the Chowanokes. He was always present at their councils, at their harvest dances, their war dances; and when they smoked the calumet he was given the biggest pipe of peace. Batz became an adopted Indian of the Chowanoke tribe. He adopted the Indian dress and customs. 

     The pretty Indian maiden, Kickowanna, whom he loved, and by whom he was loved, with winning words of love distilled into his willing ears the siren voice of ambition, and whispered low that when her father, Kilkanoo, should be beckoned up to the “happy hunting grounds,” he would be his chosen successor, King of the warlike Chowanokes. Batz and Kickowanna lived and loved together. She penciled his eyebrows with the vermilion of the cochukee root. She put golden rings in his nose and ears. She wound long strings of priceless pearls around his neck. She put the moccasin shoes and leggings around his feet and limbs. She folded his auburn locks in fantastic folds around the top of his head, and decked it with the eagle’s feather, emblematic of his rank and station. And then she gave him the calumet of peace and love. And while he smoked the calumet of peace and happiness, eye met eye responsive in language known alone to love. He then looked the big Indian indeed, and the dream of love encompassed them.

           While this dreamy delirium prevailed the stream of love ran on in its varying smooth and turbulent current. Batz, now a recognized power with the Chowanokes, made frequent visits to his old island home, sometimes prolonged. While there in his solitude, the waves and the seagulls sang a lullaby to his weird fancies. The beauteous Indian maiden sometimes came from her home at the upper broad waters, and her visits were love’s own paradise. She came from the opposite shore of the mainland, paddling her light canoe. No season knew her coming. Sometimes in the silent watches of the night, sometimes in the glare of midday. Always alone. Always aglow with love. And when she came it was love’s high pastime. The scream of the white gull was the chant of love. The monotone of the waves was the lullaby of love. The sighing of the winds as they swept through the pendant mosses was a sigh of love, the very solitude and silence of the forest was love’s chosen temple, and every nook and recess was a shrine.

            One night—alas, it was a night of destiny! The Indian maiden came, as was her wont. The angry clouds looked down, the storm raged, every scream of every sea-bird betokened danger nigh. The wind blew as ‘twas its last, the lightning flashed, thunder pealed and the welkin rang with the echoes of the blast. But love defies danger, and the pretty Indian maiden pushed through the storm to the lone island, with the roar of thunder for her watery funeral requiem.

            Batz never left the island more. He remained there till he died, a broken-hearted man, shattered in mind and body, and he rests there in his final rest till the resurrection note calls him to meet his loved Kickowanna.

[This was taken from Literature in the Albemarle by Bettie Freshwater Pool, 1915. 
The story was written by Col. R. B. Creecy.]

Nathaniel Batts (1620–1679) was a fur trader. In 1655, he was the first recorded European to permanently settle in North Carolina. His deed from King Kiscutanewh for “all ye Land on ye southwest side of Pascotanck River from ye mouth of ye sd. River to ye head of new Begin Creek” was witnessed by George Durant in September, 1660. Later he purchased an island in Albemarle Sound near the mouth of the Yeopim River that became known as Batts Island. Some charts refer to the island as Batts Grave since he lived a solitary life on the island and was buried there. The island eroded through the years and was totally destroyed by a hurricane in 1950.   Quaker missionary, George Fox, noted that Nathaniel Batts “hath been a Rude, desperate man.” In his later years, Nathaniel  spent more time with Native Americans than he did with other European settlers.  A 1650 map  identifies “Batts House” on the western bank of the Chowan River and the northern bank of the Roanoke River where the two intersect.

               A 1696 Chowan County Deed documents the sale of 27 acres known as Batts Grave.  The 1733 Mosley Map of North Carolina and the 1770 Collett Map both show an island in the Albemarle sound near the mouth of the Yeopim River and identify it as “Bats Grave.”

[Taken from Native Heritage Project Website:]

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