Baron von Graffenreid and the Swiss Colony of New Bern

An image of von Graffenreid from Tryon PalaceOn October 23, 1711, Baron Christoph von Graffenreid, founder of the Swiss colony of New Bern, penned a lengthy description of his capture by the Tuscarora Indians.

In mid-September of that year, von Graffenreid and John Lawson led a surveying expedition up the Neuse River. Lawson was the Surveyor General of the colony and was well-known to the Indians. When the Indians discovered the party in their territory, and unannounced to their leader King Hancock, they captured the men and took them to the Tuscarora village of Catechna, near present-day Grifton.

The Indians were angry over encroachment on their lands and they believed the surveying party was out to take more.  Graffenreid was spared, but Lawson was executed.  Held at the village for several weeks, von Graffenreid, bargained for the safety of the New Bern colony. Nevertheless the Tuscarora, in alliance with other aggravated tribes, attacked settlements on the Pamlico, Neuse and Trent Rivers, and in the Core Sound region in what would become known as the Tuscarora War.

A drawing of DeGraffenreid and John Lawson under capture by the Tuscurora. This drawing is sometimes attributed to von Graffenreid.

After his release from the Tuscarora, von Graffenreid wrote his account of the ordeal in order to explain Lawson’s fate and to clarify the promises that he made to the Indians during his capture.

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