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Cartographers John Love and Thomas Nairne: Crisp Map Part II

By Peg Eastman

"A compleat description of the province of Carolina in 3 parts...” Photo from Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The Crisp Map Part I discussed the upper right quadrant that was prepared by Maurice Mathews and John Love. Although Mathews was relatively well known, little is known about John Love, who explored Carolina and discovered that many surveyors had difficulty laying out large land grants in a virgin wilderness. Love left his mark in history by being the first Englishman to publish a practical guide written specifically for field surveyors in America. Geodaesia: or, The Art of Surveying and Measuring Land Made Easy: Shewing, by Plain and Practical Rules, How to Survey, Protract, Cast Up, Reduce or Divide Any Piece of Land Whatsoever: with New Tables for the Ease of the Surveyor in Reducing the Measure of Land was published in London in 1688 and has gone through numerous reprints since that time.

Explorations of the third cartographer, Captain Thomas Nairne, take up three quarters of the Crisp Map. The top left quadrant depicts the Carolina coast to the Mississippi River. This map is complimented by a journal that was later discovered in a British Library and published as Nairne’s Muskhogean Journals: The 1708 Expedition to the Mississippi River. The lower section of the map is devoted to the coast of Carolina and Florida from Cape Henry to Havana in the Island of Cuba. This includes a quaint notation near the St. Johns River labeled “Here the Carolina Indians leave their Canoes when they go to war against ye Florideans,” and the “villages of ye Florideans” south of that. The prominent boundary line about halfway between St. Augustine and Cape Canaveral is labeled “the South Bounds of Carolina” based on the 1665 Charter and England’s claim to the northern part of the peninsula.

Who was Thomas Nairne? An educated and thoughtful man, he arrived in Carolina from Scotland in 1695 and obtained grants in St. Helena Parish. Living near the colony’s exposed southern frontier, he was concerned about the government’s mismanagement of Indian trade and wrote extensively on the subject before his horrific death in 1715.

As a captain in the militia, Nairne participated in James Moore’s failed attempt to take St. Augustine in 1702. He served on numerous commissions, and in 1707 he was elected to the Ninth Assembly, which Governor Nathaniel Johnson abruptly dissolved because of widespread opposition establishing the Church of England as the state church. The Dissenters (opposition) carried the elections the following year, and Nairne was returned to the assembly representing Colleton County. The new assembly passed Nairne’s Indian Trade bill, and he became the colony’s Indian agent at a salary of £250 per annum.

Because the office required the agent to spend ten months a year among the Indians, Nairne traveled from Virginia to the mouth of the Mississippi. According to the Muskhogean Journals, Nairne, along with a Carolina trader, Thomas Welch, left Charles Town with a group of Indians, traveled to the Mississippi River and proceeded south toward the Gulf of Mexico. This was an extraordinary exploratory expedition intended to confirm the Chickasaws’ allegiance to the English and a futile attempt to draw the Chocktaws away from their French allegiance. The journals give rare insight on marriage and mourning ceremonies, rituals, techniques of hunting and warfare, and the political culture of the Chickasaws and Creeks.

In his first year in office, Nairne ran into trouble when he accused Thomas Broughton, son-in-law of Governor Johnson, of enslaving friendly Cherokees and stealing 1,000 deerskins belonging to the public. Governor Johnson retaliated by falsely accusing Nairne of treason and imprisoned him. Not only did Johnson refuse to accept a bond; he also suppressed evidence when Nairne’s supporters asked to see it. While in prison, Nairne was elected to the 11th Assembly, and because the governor’s party controlled the House, he was removed from the Indian agency and expelled from the assembly.

During his confinement, in July 1708 Nairne wrote a letter outlining an Indian policy that advocated an orderly settlement of the frontier, creation of a buffer between Carolina and Spanish Florida and expansion to the Mississippi. He also urged the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to turn its missionary efforts to the Indians instead of the African slaves.

Released from prison in November, Nairne sailed to England to regain the Indian agency and clear his name. The Lords Proprietors exonerated him and made him judge of the Vice Admiralty Court. The Proprietors also removed Johnson from office.

In 1710, Nairne published A Letter from Carolina: giving an account of the soil, air, product, trade, government, laws, religion, people, military strength, &c. of that province. Together, with the manner and necessary charges of settling a plantation there, and the annual profit it will produce. Presumably, he also collaborated to have his explorations published on the Crisp Map.

Nairne returned to the colony in 1711 and was again elected a member of the House of Commons (1711-1712). He was also reinstated agent of Indian Affairs in 1712. Unfortunately, this appointment coincided with egregious abuses the Yamassee Indians endured during Queen Anne’s War. Settlers had encroached on their lands, and unscrupulous traders engaged in fraudulent transactions when buying skins and captives, seizure of property on demand of debt and exorbitant prices for articles of trade including contraband rum.

After the war, Indian fear of white expansion escalated, and by 1715, vivid letters from parish missionaries told of slaughter and unexpected treachery. When rumors of Indian unrest reached the commissioners and Governor Craven in Charles Town, the governor decided to meet the Indian leaders personally and summoned the militia. He was unaware that the combined forces of the 15 Indian tribes in the south and the southeast had already assembled. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

On April 14, 1715, the day before Good Friday, Samuel Warner and William Bray, traders from Port Royal, made a friendly visit to the Yamassee camp. They were accompanied by Thomas Nairne and John Wright (two of the most important people in the Indian trading system), as well as Captain Seymour Burroughs and an unknown South Carolinian. The men promised to redress their grievances and told them that Governor Craven was on his way to the village. The visit was so pleasant that the men agreed to spend the night.

While their guests slept, the Yamassee debated over what to do. Some were not fully pledged to a war, but ultimately war was chosen. At daybreak the emissaries were awakened by a loud war whoop and dancing Indians painted red and black, colors of war and death. The visitors were killed or tortured and only two escaped.

Thomas Nairne lasted for several days enduring the “petit feu,” a slow torture in which strips of pitch pine were inserted under the skin and set on fire by the tribal women. The men sat around a bonfire and derided Nairne as he was forced to dance until he dropped. The massacre marked the beginning of the Yamassee War.

Nairne’s maps and the efforts to cohabitate with the Native Americans in the early years of the Carolina colony are the legacy he left behind.

My appreciation to Bob Stockton from contributing to this article.

Anyone with an interesting story for the Charleston Mercury is welcome to contact


Love, John. Geodaesia: or, The art of surveying and measuring land made easy, 1688. 8th ed., corrected and improved by Samuel Clark, London, printed for J. Rivington, 1768.

“Old Florida Maps.” University of Miami Libraries.

Nairne, Thomas. Nairne’s Muskhogean Journals: The 1708 Expedition to the Mississippi River. Alexander Moore, ed. University Press of Mississippi, 2005.

Nairne, Thomas. A letter from South Carolina: giving an account of the soil, air, product, trade, government, laws, religion, people, military strength, &c. of that province; together with the manner and necessary charges of settling a plantation there, and the annual profit it will produce. London: Printed for A. Baldwin, 1710. University of Pittsburgh Library System.

Edgar, Walter B., and N. Louise Bailey. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, vol. II: The Commons House of Assembly 1692-1775. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1977. 491-92.

McCrady, Edward. History of South Carolina under the Proprietary Government 1670-1719. New York: The McMillan Company, 1897. 533-34.

McIntosh, William III. Indians’ Revenge: Including a History of the Yamassee War, 1715-1728. Self-published, 2009. 97-98.


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