Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Some Customs, Incidents and Episodes of its Early Days.
By Richard Dillard Dixon

            The State magazine for August 5, 1933 carried the following about Edenton, Chowan County, NC.
            A marriage in those early days was something not to be entered into lightly but was a ceremony carrying many requirements and legal preparation. “That all regular Ministers of the Gospel of every Denomination, having the CURE OF SOULS, shall be empowered to solemnize the Rites of Matrimony; That any person applying for a Marriage License shall give bond, with sufficient security, in the sum of Five Hundred Pounds, with the condition that there is no lawful cause to obstruct the marriage; and that every Minister is authorized to publish the Banns three Sundays in the Congregation immediately after or during divine worship and may demand and take for his services the sum of four shillings, and no more.”
            In those days the process of getting a shilling changed into pennies took more time than is today required in getting a long-distance call to San Francisco. First the cashier at the old bank would unlock a small door in the brick wall; from this hole in the wall is taken a brass key (weight two pounds); with this key a massive wooden door is opened; then an inner door of steel is unlocked, exposing a vault built into the house, a dungeon-like place; then a lighted taper is brought and within the recesses of the vault an old hair-covered trunk is opened and the change made.
            Registrations of deeds and mortgages awaited the sitting of the court, meeting four times a year and presided over by the Chief Justice and the justices of the peace of the county. No deed or mortgage could be recorded until this court went through a long examination of the paper, heard sworn testimony of the witnesses to the transaction and questioned the parties thereto. If the instrument was found in order and ‘in compliance with His Majesty’s statutes in such cases made and provided,” the paper-writing was with deep solemnity ordered spread upon the records.

            … On a morning in April, 1781, as was his wont, Jeremiah Mixson, 80-year-old town crier, started on his daily rounds of the town. But that day unusually shrill and nasal was his voice and there was a nervous rapidity to the clang of his big bell with which he called the people to each corner before crying out the news. The citizens soon sensed that something out of the ordinary was in the air. Information had come that a strong British force, then near Suffolk, had orders to proceed to Edenton and to destroy it for having been one of the centers of resistance to English authority. Panic ensued. People ran to and fro, knowing not what to do. Alarms were sounded, bells rung and soon every man and woman had congregated on the green, seeking some way to escape their impending peril and the loss of their homes.
            A small speck is seen at the mouth of the Chowan (River) and soon a bateau touches the sand on the shore of the bay. Out jumped a messenger, telling the excited crowd: “I am from Windsor. We, too, have heard of Edenton’s danger. Our commissioners invite you to take refuge in our town. All public and private buildings are offered you as shelter. Come.”
            Renewed activity and hope. The people hastened to their homes and all night the streets were filled with the inhabitants, lugging their possessions to the docks. All craft of every kind were pressed into service. Into these piled the folks with their belongings. At dawn the strange armada moved westward, headed for Windsor. No living person was left in the town. Even the stock, dogs and cats were carried away. For seven days the town was like a city of the dead; houses empty, streets and stores deserted. Windsor was overrun, but the hospitable citizens received the refugees and made them as comfortable as means and facilities permitted.
            Then better news came. Cornwallis, hard pressed on his way to his last stand at Yorktown, recalled the Suffolk detachment to his army; the intended invasion and destruction of the town was rescinded; the people returned and Edenton still carries on.

[The State, August 5, 1938]

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