The cartographic wanderings of Carolana

Carolana on the map

On 30 October 1629, King Charles I issued a grant to Sir Robert Heath, his attorney general, for all the land in North America between 31° and 36° north latitude. This land was designated Carolana, i.e. “land of Charles.” During the next 150 years, Carolana made sporadic and wandering appearances on maps. Heath never succeeded in colonizing Carolana. In 1632, Heath assigned the Carolana patent to Lord Matravers, Henry Frederick Howard, who also did not achieve any success in colonizing Carolana. Although by 1651 Carolana still existed only on paper, that was enough to put it on a map.

Carolana on the map
From the John Carter Brown Library. For a high resolution image of the entire map, please click on the image above, or use the following URL:

In the mid seventeenth century, English civil war put Carolana on the back burner… the far back burner. Following the restoration of the Crown, Charles II vacated the Carolana patent on the grounds that no settlement had been made. In 1663, he awarded the same land to eight buddies who helped him claim the Crown, the Lords Proprietors. The name of the territory was changed to Carolina.

Despite supposedly being extinguished by Charles II, the Carolana patent, via inheritance or purchase, continued to pass through multiple owners until it came into the possession of Daniel Coxe in 1696. Coxe and his son, Daniel Coxe, Jr., focused their energy on establishing Carolana in the still unsettled part of Carolina, specifically the lower Mississippi River valley. Although they were also unsuccessful, Coxe, Jr., did publish a book in 1722 with a map depicting their concept of Carolana.

map of Coxe's Carolana
Coxe, Daniel. “A map of Carolana and of the river Meschacebe &c.” Map. 1741. Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center, (accessed December 03, 2018).

Over the next several decades, heirs of Coxe refused to let the Carolana patent evaporate. Finally, in 1769, they were granted a tract of land in the Mohawk River valley of New York in exchange for relinquishing their claims in the South. Thus, Carolana, which first appeared on a map in the region just south of what is now the NC/VA boundary, and subsequently migrated to the lower Mississippi River valley, found a final, though brief, home in upstate New York.

Carolana on 1779 map of New York
Detail from 1779 map showing Coxborough [sic] northwest of Oriscany Creek and Carolana southeast of Oriscany Creek in the Mohawk River valley of upstate New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Click on image above for the full map, or use this URL:
The confiscation of Loyalists’ lands during the Revolutionary War insured a very brief cartographic depiction of the Coxe-Carolana tracts in New York.

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Further reading

  • Kopperman, Paul E. “Profile of Failure: The Carolana Project, 1629-1640.” The North Carolina Historical Review 59, no. 1 (1982): 1-23.
  • Melvin, Frank E. “Dr. Daniel Coxe and Carolana.” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 1, no. 2 (1914): 257-62.
  • Powell, William S. “Carolana and the Incomparable Roanoke: Explorations and Attempted Settlements, 1620-1663.” The North Carolina Historical Review 51, no. 1 (1974): 1-21.
  • Crary, Catherine Snell. “Forfeited Loyalist Lands in the Western District of New York–Albany and Tryon Counties.” New York History 35, no. 3 (1954): 239-58.
  • A description of the English province of Carolana, by the Spaniards call’d Florida, and by the French La Louisiane : as also of the great and famous river Meschacebe or Missisipi … together with an account of the commodities of the growth and production of the said province …by Coxe, Daniel, 1673-1739. .
  • The first explorations of the Trans-Allegheny region by the Virginians, 1650-1674 by Alvord, Clarence Walworth, 1868-1928; Bidgood, Lee, 1884-1963.
  • Coker, William S. “The English Reaction to La Salle.” In La Salle and His Legacy: Frenchmen and Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley, edited by Galloway Patricia K., 129-36. University Press of Mississippi, 1982.
  • Detailed ownership history of Carolana patent up to Daniel Coxe:
  • Yes, I realize there is not a consistent format for the above citations; that’s what happens when you copy & paste instead of type it all out.

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