John Lawson-An Untimely Death

The Capture of John Lawson by Indians North Carolina Archives and History
The following images and brief history are posted in order to give readers a snapshot of the time - in Beaufort and surrounding areas in the very early part of the 18th century. 

John Lawson - Explorer, naturalist and writer/illustrator of A New Voyage to Carolina began life in Scotland in 1674, but was schooled in England. He first traveled to Carolina in 1700, explored and recorded his extremely detailed impressions of Carolina - the land, the Indians, flora and wildlife. His writings are still appreciated today by historians, naturalists and readers like us. Lawson also participated in the founding of Bath in 1705 and New Bern in 1710.

Unfortunately, he met his fate much too early. Aware of the impending danger, he made out his last will and testament in 1708.

In September 1711 John Lawson and his associate Christoph Von Graffenried were captured by Tuscarora Indians while ascending the Neuse River. They held Von Graffenried prisoner but brutally tortured and killed Lawson - the one who had written almost admiringly about these Native Americans just a few years earlier.


The Death of John Lawson - Drawing likely by Christoph Von Graffenried

An Illustration by John Lawson
Von Graffenried wrote: ………"The day after the execution of Surveyor General Lawson the chief men of the village came to me with the report that they had it in mind to make war on North Carolina. Especially did they wish to surprise the people of Pamtego, Neuse, and Trent Rivers, and Core Sound. So that for good reasons they could not let me go until they were through with this expedition. What was I to do? I had to have patience, for none of my reasons helped. A hard thing about it was that I had to hear such sad news and yet could not help nor let these poor people know the least thing of it."
It was, thus, that tensions between Indians and settlers erupted into a bloody conflict known as the Tuscarora War - a turning point in not only North Carolina but American history.