by Roberta Estes
While sometimes records are sparse, there are often clues held within records that convey more than the actual words. Let’s take a look at the Jonas Squires records and see what we can determine.
According to the research records of Jonas Squires descendant, we first find Jonas Squires, planter, purchasing land, 88 acres on “Matchapongo Swamp” in 1732, adjacent to William Barrows, land first surveyed for Francis Gurganus. In 1741, Jonas witnessed a will for Cornelius Collier. In 1738, Jonas Squires, also again called “planter”, purchased land and in 1750 he trades his original 88 acres. In this document, Jonas signs his name. Jonas is shown on the 1743 and 1744 tithable tax lists and is not noted as a person of color. By 1765, Jonas was dead because his son, Appleton, conveys his land to his other son, Eyaberton.
Aside from what these records say directly, there is a great deal more information just beneath the surname.
First, this man had money to purchase land. This was not a land grant. Secondly, Jonas witnessed a will. A man of mixed race would never have been called up on to witness a will for a white man. Third, Jonas is referenced as a “planter”, twice, a term associated with the aristocracy of rather well-to-do farmers. Fourth, Jonas is on the tithable list. Indians holding Indian lands did not have to pay taxes on their land. Jonas is not listed as a “person of color”. Fifth, and perhaps most telling, Jonas knew how to sign his name. Native people and people of “mixed blood” in this era never knew how to sign their name and they always signed with a mark.
For the past several years, the Lost Colony Research group has been compiling all records relating to various surnames of interest in Eastern NC. In this case, the first mention we find of the Squires surname is in 1728 in a 450 acre land patent on “the west side of the NW river of Cape Fear at the place where Samuel Swann and Mr. Squires were building a saw mill, joining Ephraim Vernon, Levingston's Creek to the mouth and the said river.” While this record does not give “Mr. Squires” first name, we know from this reference that he was a respected man, as only men of relatively high social stature were references as Mr. or Esquire or even as a planter. This record certainly implies that this man was white. An Indian would never have been referred to as “Mr.”.
However, there certainly were Indians living in this area who had adopted the surname of Squires. The first record of these men is found in a 1731 deed that was not recorded until 1737 that says “John Squires, King of Aromallsket (sic) Indians with advice and consent of John Mackey and Long Tom to William Spencer Jr. all of Currituck County, 20 pounds, land on North side of old Aromattskeet Creek called Table of Pine Creek, 140 acres, total cost of 180 pounds, rest to be paid later.
This man was definitely Indian, as he was stated to be such. John Squires could not sign his name.
This begs the question of just how John Squires, the Mattamuskeet Indian, obtained his Squires surname. It’s well know that Native people often adopted surname of those they knew or respected or with whom they were establishing “fictive kinship relationships”. For example, one of the Mattamuskeet in a 1738 Mattamuskeet Indian land transaction was Charles Eden, an Indian who had adopted the same name as the Governor of NC.
We know that in 1728 there is a successful white man by the surname of Squires on the Cape Fear River. We know that in 1732, Jonas Squires, who appears to be white, is purchasing land on the Mattchepungo Swamp and in 1731 a deed which was not filed until 1737 (assuming the 1731 or 1737 is not mis-transcribed) conveys land from the Indian John Squires, also living at Mattamuskeet, stated variously in different deeds as the King of the Aromuskeet and Mattamsukeet, by different spellings. John Squires, the Indian, could not spell his name and signed with a mark.
Perhaps the Native Squires gentlemen took the surname of Jonas Squires, or Mr. Squires from the 1728 transaction.
Taking a look at the Lost Colony Y-line DNA project, we have four descendants of Jonas Squires and all four individuals match. His haplogroup is definitely European, although it’s not unusual to find Native men who were (or their ancestors were) sired by European men, often traders. In this case, Jonas appears to be white based on the historical records and the DNA confirms that this line is genetically European. Now of course, we need the DNA from one of the Native Squires men for comparison.
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