Orange County, North Carolina historic information cache - Few family farm
The Few family farm
In the late 1750s, William Few, Sr. and two neighbors (one was likely his brother, James) traveled from Maryland to North Carolina in search of a more favorable climate and good land to farm (the land is where “Few’s Ford” is located in present-day Eno River State Park). They looked around, and soon “purchased lands on the banks of the river Eno, in the county of Orange. These lands were in their natural state. Not a tree had been cut." He also “employed a man to build a house on his lands, and returned [to Maryland] to remove his family” (Few 1881:343). In the fall of 1758, the Few family moved to Orange County. Few purchased additional property in this area for the next several years, and his brother, James Few, Sr., also lived in the area of "Few's Ford," where he and his brother managed various operations such as a mill and a tavern.
Few's Mill as depicted on John Collet's 1770
Few's Mill as depicted on John Collet's 1770 A compleat map of North-Carolina from an actual survey
It is unknown if Few owned any slaves or had indentured or free servants or laborers working on his properties; however, at the time it was the norm for a family of this stature to have either slaves or at the very least compensated laborers. According to William Few, Jr., when the Few family moved from Maryland to North Carolina, his father “brought his four servants," which most likely refers to African-American slaves, although indentured servitude was still taking place so he possibly may have meant white servants or laborers (but not likely); a twentieth-century secondary source – which used Few’s autobiography as its primary source – states that “with [the Fews] came four negro slaves” (Nash 1908).

Approximately 560 acres of land was granted to William Few, Sr., in February 1763 just east of Hillsborough (apparently property which had been originally owned by James Hall but was owned by Thomas Wiley when Few purchased the property; this is the present-day Ayr Mount historic site). From the sources available, it is impossible to determine whether the property was purchased with improvements (i.e. any structures) or as unimproved land. William Few, Jr. (1881:344) stated that in 1764 his father “purchased a farm and removed his family near to Hillsborough… .”
The Few family home and farm depicted on the 1768 Claude J. Sauthier map of Hillsborough
The Few family home and farm depicted on the 1768 Claude J. Sauthier map of Hillsborough
The 1768 map of Hillsborough surveyed and drawn by Claude Joseph Sauthier shows what appears to be William Few, Sr.’s property (with three structures clearly marked; the main house and two outbuildings) about 400 fathoms (2400 feet) east of Hillsborough on the Road to Halifax. The house depicted on the map is believed to have been built in 1764.

In April of 1770, Few conveyed his land outside Hillsborough to John Butler, sheriff of Orange County and officer in the Orange County militia, for £100: “a certain Tract of Land and Plantation… on the North side of Enoe River and on both sides of the Main Road containing Estimation Two hundred acres… together with all houses and every other appurtenance” (HABS 1965:2). John Butler may have been trying to help his friend, since William Few, Sr. had, along with John Butler, insured the Regulator William Butler’s – John Butler’s brother – bond in September of 1768, by taking control of Few’s property so that it couldn’t be taken to settle several lawsuits that were brought against Few and perhaps even to keep it from being either confiscated or destroyed by Tryon or Fanning. Even though the property had already been “conveyed” to John Butler, the Few family apparently continued to live on and farm the property into 1771, when they moved to Georgia. William Few, Sr. "had now unfortunately got entangled in law; he had been security for [Hermon Husband and William Butler and] several law-suits had been commenced against him and judgement had been obtained, with which his property was embarrassed” (Few 1881:345). John Butler sold the land to Ralph McNair (a close friend of Edmund Fanning) in July, likely soon after the Fews moved to Georgia.

From June 14 to 19, 1771, Governor William Tryon’s North Carolina militia troops camped near and likely even on the Few farm, following James Few’s hanging by Tryon’s troops after the Battle of Alamance, and during the time the six other captured Regulators were tried and hanged. According to Tryon, they “Marched through the Town of Hillsborough and encamped one mile to the Eastward of it, adjoining to Few’s Plantation. The Horses and cattle turned into the plantation, the owner having been very active in promoting the disturbance of the country” (Clark 1901:845, 852).

The Few family, minus William, Jr., who remained in Hillsborough, and his brother Benjamin, who had already migrated to Georgia in 1770, moved en masse to Georgia likely in June or early July, 1771. On February 9, 1772, William Few, Sr. conveyed “all of his remaining property in North Carolina” to his son, William, Jr. William, Jr. stayed behind in Hillsborough until the fall of 1776 to settle his father’s “business” (Nash 1908:94; Few 1881:345, 346). In 1773 William Few was compensated for the loss of his crops when Tryon’s army's cattle and horses were let loose to forage on them two years earlier; it appears that the state legislature retroactively compensated Few due to William Few, Jr.’s stature in the community and state and also perhaps due to the dubious legality of Tryon's seizure/destruction of Few's property: “Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Committee that the following Claims be referred to the Consideration of the House, to wit, William Few for a field of Wheat, Barley & Oats_______37 [pounds] 10 [shillings] 0” (Saunders 1890:490), and “Resolved, That…William Few for a field of wheat, barley and oats [be compensated] thirty seven pounds ten shillings it being for so much furnished the Troops on the late Expedition against the Insurgents.” (Saunders 1890:408).

Clark, Walter (ed.). The State Records of North Carolina. Vol XIX. Goldsboro: Nash Brothers, 1901.

Few, William. Autobiography of Col. William Few of Georgia. The Magazine of American History. Volume VII. New York: A.S. Barnes & Company, 1881.

Historic American Buildings Survey. Ayr Mount (Kirkland Place) Saint Mary's Road, Hillsborough, Orange County, NC. HABS No. NC-220. National Park Service, 1965.

Nash, Francis. Hillsboro, Colonial and Revolutionary. Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton, 1903.

Saunders, William L. (ed.). The Colonial Records of North Carolina. Vol IX. Josephus Daniels, 1890.

David Southern, personal communication.
[Last updated: 10 December 2008]