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Province of the Carolanas


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The Province of the Carolanas from 1629 to some time following 1649, was a North American patent granted by King Charles I of England to his Attorney General Sir Robert Heath. On paper the province stretched from coast-to-coast, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It included all of the lands that stretched from 36 degrees south of the southern border of present-day Virginia, into the northern border of present-day Florida at 31 degrees north along the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, and this included all of the land from these points to the Pacific Ocean (which was called the South Seas.) The only exemption was for lands already owned by a Christian king.


1 Brief history
1.1 Granting of patent
1.2 Royalists lose civil wars
1.3 Restoration of the monarchy
1.4 Old claims restored
2 Texas discovery
2.1 Six flags over Texas
2.2 Settlement and moat
3 Province of Carolina

Brief history

Although many documents record this transaction, the fate of this patent remains somewhat unclear due to the execution of King Charles I in 1649 and the flight of Sir Robert Heath into exile. However, the heirs in succession to these patents kept their legal claims alive in the English courts well into 18th Century.

Granting of patent

Nine years after the 180 tons ship Mayflower had left England on her two and a half month voayage to America in September 1620, King Charles I gave his Attorney General Sir Robert Heath a patent for the lands between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans from a point just below the southern border of present day Virginia to a point just below the northern border of present day Florida. The patent was called the Province of the Carolanas.

Royalists lose civil wars

It was Sir Robert Heath who had held John Lilburne captive during the Civil Wars when protestors rose up to threaten the lives of Royalist prisoners if Heath harmed the life of John Lilburne. On November 22, 1645 Parliament stripped the Royalist Heath of all of his possessions as though he was already a dead man. These possessions included the patent for the Province of the Carolanas. Heath fled to France where he died in 1649 and in that same year the victorious Roundheads executed King Charles I and declared England to be a republic and it retained that status until 1660 under a succession of different forms of government headed by Oliver Cromwell and then his son.

Restoration of the monarchy

In 1660 the monarchy was restored in England under an arrangement betweem Parliament and King Charles II, who had been crowned in Scotland following the execution of his father in England. In the following years the king began to assume many of the old powers that the Parliament believed that they had stripped away from the monarchy during the civil wars, and as a result Charles II began to attack those who had executed his father and reward those who had helped restore the monarchy. Several of the persons who had signed the death warrant of Charles I either fled abroad or were rounded-up and imprisoned.

Those who fled abroad were also pursued. Three of these regicides managed to escape to North America. Although they attempted to disguise their identity in order to survive, their identity eventually became known and the local history of New Haven, Connecticut remembers their arrival with the legends of these “Three Judges”.

Old claims restored

Because Sir Robert Heath had his property stripped from him as though he were a dead man when he fled abroad in 1645, interest in the Province of the Carolanas was lost. For his part, Oliver Cromwell took an interest in developing the northeast coast of America, he paid no attention to the Carolana territory. Consequently by 1663 the territory was looked upon as unsettled and this meant that the patent could be awarded again. This time Charles II granted a patent to a few people who had assisted in the reestablishment of the monarchy.

This action provoked the heirs of Sir Robert Heath to also clamour for a restoration of their own rights, since Heath had been loyal to Charles I. Although legal battles raged on in British courts over the rival claims, no one gave any thought about previous attempts at settlement until 1986.

In 1986 construction workers digging a trench for the Houston Fire Department stumbled into an old abandoned graveyard. Under Texas law, graveyards have special protection which resulted in the City calling upon Dr. Kenneth Brown of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Houston to determine the origins of the graves, which at first appeared to be a part of an old city cemetery and an earlier Confederate cemetery. Doubt was created due to the fact that the graves were unlike any others that Dr. Brown had been familiar with because they had simply been buried in fresh black earth and leaves.

Dr. Brown’s research began with a survey of recorded burial practices and it was then that he discovered a law concerning the burial of plague or smallpox victims in England. This law had been placed on the statute books at the behest of the government of Queen Elizabeth I of England in the year 1563. At that time it was thought that the “fumes” of plague victims spread the disease. In the late 1500s and throughout most of the 1600s little was known about the fleas which fed off plague victims and caused the spread of the disease. The question facing Dr. Brown was why would English law become applied to an area of Texas when the English were not known to have inhabited the area at that time.

In mid-December 1987 Dr. Brown went to the press for help in publicising his find. On December 13 of that year the Houston Chronicle newspaper ran with a story just over the fold on the front page of its major Sunday edition. It was written by reporter Bob Tutt and it began with the headline: “Unearthing a mystery. English may have settled here in the 1600s.” The article began with these words:

“Mysterious graves discovered in Houston’s old City Cemetery may prove that the first Europeans to settle in this area were Englishmen who came here in the 1600s, roughly a century earlier than any previously known settlers an archeologist says.”

Brown had just returned from England where he had visited the British Museum and other notable research institutions searching for evidence that the English had in fact settled in Texas long before tradition said that they had arrived. His press conference resulted in worldwide publicity at the time and caused a debate among established historians who had previously maintained that the English were not among the first settlers of Texas.

On December 16, 1987, the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London ran a story written by correspondent Ian Ball in New York with the headline: “Lone Star corner that is forever England”. The article began with these words:

“The BRITISH, not the French or the Spanish, were the first European settlers in Texas, establishing, perhaps as early as Stuart times, an ill-fated settlement on Buffalo Bayou, now downtown Houston.”

Six flags over Texas

Part of the problem facing Dr. Brown concerned the idea that only six national flags had flown over the land which is today known as Texas. The first of the accepted flag histories belongs to the Spanish from 1529 to 1685 and from 1690 to 1821. The second flag according to accepted history belonged to the French from 1685 to 1690. The third flag belonged to Mexico from 1821 to 1836. The fourth belonged to Republic of Texas from 1836 to 1845. The fifth belonged to the United States of America from 1845 to 1861 and from 1865 to the present day and the sixth flag belonged to the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865.

Many cultural and business enterprises have been established on the theme of “Six flags over Texas”. But according to Dr. Brown, this national list should be expanded by two more flags: the Grand Union flag of England and Scotland (not the Union Jack which also includes Ireland), and the Province of the Carolanas flag, both of which would have flown between 1629 and at least until 1649. It is possible that these two flags could have been used up until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, since Oliver Cromwell only paid attention to developments around the area of Rhode Island and whatever the Texas colony was, it seems to have been wiped out by the plague.

Settlement and moat

Dr. Brown revealed the existence of documents relating to the granting of the patent to Sir Robert Heath which took on a life as its own as a legal property that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Brown’s team then undertook exploratory digs and determined that the remains of a settlement and moat existed on the same site as the black earth graves.

In a 1988 on location interview from the Carolana site with Dr. Brown for the 4FTN (Four Freedoms Television Network), he described the colony by pointing out various features. The following is excerpted from the audio recording offered the same year as the telecast with the publication The Lost Page of Texas Heritage (see reference section for details.):

“… out here, under the street, and partially under the building across the street, we did some geological bore holes – about four inch push holes, and we were able to discover a very deep, probably ten, well at least ten foot deep and ten to twelve foot wide – trench, which changes angles in several locations and appears to be identical to the kinds of moat and wall features associated with early English settlements, and outside of the moat and under the parking lot across the street we discovered two additional graves which appeared to be of the black earth pattern. At this point we are looking down the street, basically on the line of the original defense wall and kind of panning back through what would have been the interior part of the colony. Based again on our bore holes I suspect we had the defense wall here on the south, the churchyard under the building; the cemetery to the north of the church and then the more administrative kinds of structures connected with the English colony as we pan back towards Jefferson Davis hospital here in the background. All of this should have been sitting on sitting on top of the English colony.

The suggestion from the evidence that we have is that the colony was a rather substantial, probably five to seven acre area at the time of its settlement. … The main partof the colony then, was sitting on the highest land actually in this area of Houston, it was clearly defended on three sides.

… A number of issues have been raised by historians about the importance or lack of importance, let alone whether the colony even existed, and I think a couple of things need to be said to clear up some general misunderstandings or at least misstatements. We believe the colony to have been founded and we have some documents to suggest it.

It was founded approximately 1632 and was likely abandoned early 1650s, not a particularly long period of time but a period of time in which the Spanish were themselves not a bit interested in this area of Texas. A period of time where the English and the Spanish had a treaty giving areas from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans above thirty degrees north lattitude to the English, rather than the Spanish. This area is at twenty-nine, seventy-five more-or-less, it is barely below the thirty-degree parallel.

I would point out that St. Augustine is barely above it. They simply kind of averaged things out. The Carolana grant which was given in the 1620s to Sir Robert Heath, specifically states he has the right to this territory and the Spanish agreed as long as they were not in the area, We have one Spanish source, from a priest in the area that is now San Antonio, who discusses with dispair the fact that the Spanish are not giving him … very much support given as he put it, that they are front line against the English on the coast. I believe that that states fairly clearly that something is going on …

The question of the significance of a colony here, given that it is not well known, is something that I don’t intend to worry about. Historians can worry about its significance. The fact is, it was here. We have ceramic evidence, we have grave pattern evidence, we have the laws, we have the court decision in England in 1664 which established the Carolinas which states very clearly something was going on by the English on the Gulf Coast.

I think an interesting question as to what was going on is probably raised by the slave trade which Sir Robert Heath … was one of the biggest of the slave traders our of England, and the attempt to establish a sugar slave-kind-of production mode … It is something that they attempted to do, it failed and they left. I believe that political activities in England are also responsible for the collapse of the colony since the people who originally supported it were pushed out when Cromwell came in.”

Province of Carolina

In 1663 the Province of Carolina became the successor to a portion of the Province of the Carolanas. In 1729 the new Province of Carolina was then divided into the provinces of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Source Wikipedia