Land Grants, Patents, and Warrants  

Pre Colonial North Carolina

The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina

Drafted by Lord Ashley (Anthony Ashley Cooper, a poor supporter of he King Charles the 1st of England, who was rewarded for his loyalty by King Charles the 2nd with the chancellorship of exchequer and given the title of Lord Ashley ) and his secretary, John Locke.

"It created a Carolina nobility. anyone who purchased 3000 acres could be a baron and lord of the manor; 12, 000 acres gave the owner the title of cassique; and an owner of 20,000 acres could have the German title of landgrave." 1 About 40 landowners did use the titles, but most of them were absentee landowners and the titles held no real meaning in the colonies. When the time came to settle the Carolinas, the proprietors found that public opinion in England was not in favor of sending its citizens to populate the new lands. They decided to look to the colonies for their settlers.

The early settlements of North Carolina were settled by poor whites and former indentured servants from Virginia. They were eager to move on since tobacco prices were low and they were being forced out by the practice of Negro slavery. The headright system, which was more generous than the one used in Virginia, was instituted by the proprietors.

In 1710 Baron Graffenried of Bern, Switzerland was attracted by land opportunities in North Carolina. He received the title of landgrave and brought over about a thousand Swiss and German emigrants. Their settlement of New Bern was almost wiped out after confrontations with the Tuscarora Indians

The Lords Proprietors, absentee landlords, were disappointed that their investment in the Americas did not reap them the wealth they had expected. In 1729 all the proprietors, except Lord Granville, sold their grants back to the Crown. North and South Carolina became two separate royal provinces.

Between 1713 and 1763 North Carolina's population grew because land was available at such low prices. The royal governors were directed to "grant 50 acres free to each settler, and Lord Granville, who held the counties bordering on Virginia, charged only three shillings for 640 acres. "2

These grants, for 50 acres for each person they brought into NC, was usually based on the passage being paid for by the emigrant applying for the patent. These patents were usually called headrights and there were no fees required of those who qualified for these patents. It was common practice for settlers to sell their headrights entitlement to an assignee. (A person to whom property, rights, or powers are transferred) The rules changed through the years.


Purchase Patents.

Another way of obtaining land in the Carolinas from 1720 -1754 was for settlers to pay fees to cover the cost of the paperwork involved with entering the plot in the records, the warrant, and plat. In 1754 through the early years of NC statehood, this became the only way of acquiring vacant land.

Government Land Grants
After being granted a patent, the new owner could sell or transfer his property to others.

Entries or applications. A person chose a piece of vacant land, entered a claim or applied for it by describing its features to a government official or entry-taker. "The entry-taker would record the description on loose sheets or into bound volumes, depending on the time period. These descriptions show the name of the person seeking the land, a description of the land, the number of acres, the name of adjacent land owners, and the date the entry was made. "3

Warrants. "If, after three months, the person seeking the land received no opposition to his entry by way of legal caveat, the entry taker would convey a warrant to the assigned surveyor. This warrant was the authorization for the surveyor to complete a plat. Sometimes as many as 10 years could pass between entry and warrant." 3

Plats or surveys. "After receiving the warrant, the surveyor would survey the land and draw a plat map. This map may vary from the land description given in the entry or warrant. The surveyor sent copies of the plat to the land office". 3

Grants or patents. "After officials received the necessary papers and fees, the new land owner was given the grant document that was his patent to the land." 3

Warranty Deed - " A deed in which the seller warrants having a valid title and that the property is clear of any liens." 3


Sources Used

The Oxford History of the American People by Samuel Eliot Morison

A Short History of British Expansion - The Old Colonial Empire by James A. Williamson

The Readers Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary


1 The Oxford History of the American People by Samuel Eliot Morison, New Your, Oxford University Press 1965, page 95

2 A Short History of British Expansion - The Old Colonial Empire by James A. Williamson, third edition, London, Macmillan and Co LTD, New York * St Martins' Press, Printed in Great Britain 1955, page142