The Roundabout Plantation
The original Spruill grant included over a thousand acres of the south shore of Albemarle Sound and west side of Scuppernong River between Back
Creek and Bunting Bay (now Bull's
Bay). In this beautiful, primitive setting, called Heart's Delight by explorers a decade before, the Spruills set down their roots. Behind the high banks of the sound shore lay ridges cut here and there by quiet creeks and forested with virgin timber. On this location about 1705 was founded Roundabout Plantation, the seat of the Tyrrell Spruills for the next century.
Unlike many of Scuppernong's colonial
land barons -- the Pettigrews, Collinses and others who held land on
the South Shore but whose interests lay
elsewhere -- the Spruills settled in
Scuppernong and began the task of
clearing and exploiting the rich dark land.
Dr. Godfrey Spruill, probably one of
Carolina's first medical men, became
well-known throughout the struggling
Albemarle Colony, being called on
numerous occasions across the sound to
Queen Anne's Creek, the site of present
Edenton, to care for the sick. At his
death the Roundabout fell to his son
Samuel Spruill and then to his grandson
Joseph Spruill. Around 1710 near
Backlanding, the private wharves of the
Roundabout, was erected Saint Paul's
Chapel, one of the earliest churches in
Carolina. Thirty years later Joseph
Spruill gave this chapel to St. Andrew's Parish.
The Roundabout and the Spruill lands at
Backlanding were the center of colonial
activity in Scuppernong. Here in 1746
was erected "His Majesties Warehouse"
and twenty years later Benjamin Spruill
invited the county court to meet at the
"big house." Subsequently he gave the
land for the building of the Tyrrell
Courthouse at Backlanding following the
outbreak of the Revolution. Here also
sailing schooners docked momentarily on
their voyage from Ocracoke to Edenton.
For the next five generations Spruills
played important roles in local as well as state religious and political life. Probably not many families in Carolina can boast such a continuous record of public service. Samuel Spruill served in the Provincial Assembly from 1754 until his death in 1760. His brother Joseph Spruill, an early vestryman of South Chowan Parish, was major of the county militia, magistrate and supervisor of "the King's high roads." He also served as sheriff and a member of the Assembly. It was his brother Colonel Hezekiah Spruill who was among Tyrrell's leaders in the Revolution. Benjamin Spruill, a member of the General Assembly, introduced the bill creating Martin County from Tyrrell in 1774.
Nemeniah Spruill built the first bridge
across Scuppernong River near Cool
Springs (now Creswell) during early
colonial times. This crossing is still called Spruill's Bridge today. It opened transportation into a new territory above Creswell and Lake Phelps to settlers.
Two Spruills, Joseph and Benjamin,
were members of the First and Second
Provincial Congresses in the turbulent
opening days of the Revolution. Joseph
Spruill was a signer of the Halifax
Resolves and was appointed a major in
the battalion being gathered in Tyrrell at Lee's Mill under the leadership of
Colonel Edward Buncombe. Hezekiah Spruill and Stephen Lee were appointed by the Second Provincial Congress to "receive, procure and purchase firearms for the use of the troops and to receive, maintain and repair all swords, dirks, pistols and other implements of war which have been taken by the Tories."
Like many of the hard-pressed farmers
of the southern Albemarle many Spruills
migrated to the Deep South and to the
Mid-West. Today seldom a week
passes that the Tyrrell Register of
Deeds office does not receive inquiries
from genealogists and researchers about
this now fairly widespread name. Many
take the time and expense to come to
Columbia to search the county's colonial records for information about this lost generation of early Carolinians. John W. Melson of Columbia, who has for several years done research on the history of the Spruills, has uncovered most of the information known today about the family. From 1750 until 1860 there was hardly a North Carolina General Assembly without a Spruill representing Tyrrell or neighboring Washington County. The main branch of the Spruill family, established in Alligator by Colonel Hezekiah, remained on the north shore until the latter part of the 1800's when the place was sold and gradually passed away, much of it reclaimed by the dense forests. Only a few Tyrrell countians now bear this old name.
Source: "The Spruills--a Family of Colonial Notables." Our State magazine. August 1, 1964 by David E. Davis. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. ... show more