ancestryink fisherman

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why Nantucket Friends and Whalers Settled in North Carolina


 What follows is a summary - a rather wildly loose one - think of an old and much-used fisherman's seine, or a rain-soaked spiderweb in the wind, or...the endless bouts of snow that have been falling between the much much fewer days of sun here on Cape Cod.

In other words, this is just a very quickly put-together introduction to jump-start your research in exploring Nantucket Quakers and Whalers (and at times the twain did meet) in North Carolina.


Around 1771, a large number of Nantucket Quakers and whalers left their island home of Nantucket, and moved to North Carolina.  It seems likely that the first leaders of this migration were the whalers who were able to lease whaling rights off the coast of North Carolina at a time when whaling in New England was starting to decline. Certainly, they were already far flung in their whaling travels, but North Carolina proved a lucrative and friendly destination.

The sandy, hardly-fertile soil of Nantucket was not conducive to much farming and families were left struggling for a means of support.  Thus a movement came about. The island Quakers, some whalers and some farmers, eventually settled in New Garden, Guildford County, North Carolina. New Garden had been populated by Pennsylvania Quakers since 1750.  Between 1771-1775, the Nantucket Friends arrived to New Garden. Eventually some sought out Meetings in various surrounding towns.  Many Nantucket family surnames are still to be found prominently in this area of North Carolina. 

Below are just a few sources explaining the migration of the Quakers and whaling families, of Nantucket.  There are many more, particularly in regards to the changes of the whaling industry and how it affected Cape Cod and Island families.  But these will get you on your way.


Author: Mary Warshaw:  “Beaufort, North Carolina: Histories and Images from the Past.”


The following article relates to the presence of Nantucket Quakers and whalers in North Carolina:

Authors:  Reeves and Mitchell : Publisher: U.S. Department of Commerce: NOAA Technical Report, March 1988 

“History of Whaling in and Near North Carolina”: pp. 6-8 (PDF)



And in this article relating the history of the Starbuck surname in New England: 

The story of Edward Starbuck and his friend Tristram Coffin who sailed from Cape Cod to Nantucket and settled there, forming a prosperous whaling community.  To further cement these whaling families, Coffin’s daughter Mary, married Nathaniel Starbuck, Edward’s son.  This Mary was thought to have introduced Quakerism to the Island.

Author of surnames website:  Colin Shelley


In this book found on the Google Books database:


The story of the expansion of the Quakers to North Carolina includes the name of Libni Coffin, who in this book, is referred to as the first Nantucket man to move to North Carolina, specifically, New Garden, in 1771.  In 1780, two/thirds of Nantucket’s population was Quaker.

This account indicates the poor arability of the land on Nantucket.  The island Quakers moved to New Garden, and later Guildford, NC as farmers, not whalers.  This migration halted in 1775 at the onset of the Revolutionary War.


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