William Houston came to North Carolina from County Antrim, Northern Ireland in the mid 1730’s. The nephew of wealthy English merchant John McCulloch, William served as agent and trustee of his uncle’s colonization efforts.

Following passage of the stamp act, Houston’s powerful connections likely led to his appointment to the politically unpopular position of stamp distributor.  Public outcry led to his forced resignation after first being hanged in effigy. William’s aspirations realigned with that of the colonists based on the people’s will.

Settling in his home, Soracte, on the Northeast River near Kenansville, William Houston was also an important force in developing Duplin County.  Owner of several large tracts of land, it is in that sort of enterprise, and surely influenced by his uncle, that William appears in the early deed books of Anson County.

In 1768, Dr. William Houston and wife Ann of Duplin County sold 12,500 acres in Anson County to His Excellency William Tryon Esq. Captain General Governor and Commander in Chief in and over his Majesty’s Province in North Carolina …whew. The land sold was situated “in Mecklenburg County formerly part of Anson County on the Branches of Great Pee Dee and Johnston [Rocky] River.” I think the mention of Mecklenburg is in error and hopefully I will be able to convince you of my reasons why. As for Gov. Tryon, I found no deeds of his selling the purchase and following the conveyance he moved north where he served as governor of New York from 1771-1777.

Digging deeper in the deed, the conveyance is described as:

 “subdivided from the tract of land Number Six surveyed by Mathew Rowan Esq. and bound by tract of land Number Fifteen to the west and by Tract Number Seventeen to the north which said twelve thousand five hundred acres of land was granted to the said Doctor William Houston, one of the associates of Murry Crymble and James Huey, by patent bearing the date the third day of March one thousand seven hundred and forty-five …”

This is surely located within McCulloch’s 100,000 acre Great Tract Number Six which I’ve written about from various perspectives. However, though a small corner of Tract Number Six fell into old Mecklenburg [now Cabarrus], no way do I believe the above was situated in the county of Mecklenburg.

Also, it really makes no sense that Tract Six could be bound by tracts fifteen or seventeen. However, if looking specifically at the Great Tract Six (below), note that it is broken into eight lesser tracts. Looking closely, note that sections fifteen and seventeen are properly located per the deed description. Tract 15 is to the west and 17 to the north. That makes me believe the land being sold was tract number 16 and not 6.

Should six have been sixteen? Was six referencing the great tract and not one of the lesser tracts? I think so. Also, what about the description of the land as lying in Mecklenburg? More is needed to answer that dilemma, and to that end the answer was found through a happenchance observance of an important “zero”. Actually, this post is based on working backward from a proposed answer in hopes of learning how it came to be.  Isn’t that the purpose of genealogy and history?


Concerning North Carolina Secretary of State land grant records, a file number beginning with a zero indicates the grant was officially entered, but never issued. The grant never matured and therefore never became property. While working on my previous post about that subject, I visited NC State Archives where I spent time rolling through a reel of microfilm dedicated to grants beginning with zeros.  Rather than merely heading straight to my targeted document, I had the afternoon free and spent a little time visually scanning every document on the reel. There are a lot of cool plans that went wrong and lots to be learned from them!   Passing one image, I had a whoa kind-of moment upon seeing something that caught my eye.

File number 0532 represented a failed grant in the amount of 12,500 acres.  In the name of William Houston, the record included no date of entry or issuance. However, and at first not realizing what I was seeing, I made a copy of the cool survey which is really the subject of this post.

Surveyed on what appears to be 20 Mar 1770 by Robert Edwards, who I think lived in Anson County, the lower left corner of the plat identifies “Long Creek” which is in present day Stanly County. Comparing the plat to the eight lessor tracts making up Great Tract 6, it is clear the failed land grant 0532 represented section 16 from that map. Issues mostly resolved, it remains curious how William Houston acquired land in 1745 that was then entered by grant ca. 1770 …after the said Houston and wife sold it by deed to Gov. Tryon in 1768. I see hands with money under a table.

Now with the large tract physically located, what does that and a nickel do for us? Well …for the 1770 survey date, the plat physically locates lands of several people along with a simple name of an important settlement. Near the top left corner, a “C” shaped bend in Long Creek is identified as “Timothy Taylor’s Settlement.”

Timothy must have been a man of importance and is it possible he relates to a person of same name from even earlier in Chowan County NC?   Notice also at the top of the page that the big bend lies next to Long Lake, the water supply for Albemarle. Amazing how nearly 100 years earlier, a named settlement was in place at/near the present-day town of Albemarle.   This is clearly written on paper and therefore it must be so.

Looking broader afield, note that the plat shows Long Creek, which system forks to the east.  To the west is a creek or branch called Scaley Bark. Looking closer at the plat, you can see Timothy’s Settlement along with his other tract of 100 acres located at a fork further south. And on Scaley Bark Branch, one can see the lands of John Harbert Sugg and John Cooper. Even though this identifies only three different owners, the early documentation of physical location may be hugely beneficial in piecing together connecting properties.  I know from experience that numerous properties in the area mention abutments with the lands of these three people.

For instance, my ancestor is Solomon Burris who acquired land traceable to Nimrod Taylor on Scaley Bark Branch. I believe the land is in the area where Canton Road and Scaley Bark intersect. That location is very near the lands of John Herbert Sugg.

Try as we may, it’s not been possible to identify the heritage of Solomon’s wife Judith Taylor. And yet the name Timothy runs in the family. She may not be related to the family of Timothy though the following gives ammunition on why such thinking may need to be rethought.  Also, it’s cool to know that Albemarle once was located very close to a place with a different name.

I always find it interesting the ways in which seriously impactful information can be buried in unrelated sources. Ferreting out the connective tissue, sometimes accidental, is what keeps me digging. You never know where the next discovery will lead you. I wish now that I knew more about the first people who called present-day Stanly County home.


  1. Bryan H Bender

    I am looking for information for land grant of 1000 acres of land from Governor Tryon in the 1700’s in Jones County on Mill Creek Road in the Pollocksville, NC township.


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