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Thomas "Kanawha" Spratt

By Jim Williams

Him Williams was a noted Colonial historian, author, North Carolina history expert and longtime officer of the Mecklenburg Historical Association. He died in 2020.

Among the earliest settlers in Anson County, in what is now Mecklenburg County, was the Spratt family. Around 1750, Thomas Spratt (1685-1757), along with James, Andrew and Samuel – probably his brothers – and their families moved from Pennsylvania and settled here. There is a persistent legend that Thomas Spratt was the first person to bring a wheeled cart across the Yadkin River and that his daughter was the first European child born between the Yadkin and the Catawba Rivers. However, these stories are probably baseless since settlers were there many years before the Spratts arrived.

Through the years the Spratts prospered and settled near each other. Thomas had a son also named Thomas and five daughters. He bought land grants from the Royal Governor for three plantations and when he died, in 1757, his will divided the land between his son and his unmarried daughter Martha. One of the daughters, Susannah, married Thomas Polk, the founder of both Mecklenburg County and of Charlotte. Other sons-in-law included two Barnettes and a Neill, other prominent families in the area.

One of the plantations inherited by the younger Thomas Spratt was on the north side of Twelve Mile Creek, near Fort Mill, South Carolina. . When Pratt inherited the land, he believed it was located in North Carolina due to the fact the two colonies had not reached an agreement on the border between North and South Carolina.

Recently, a chain of title in a petition to Governor William Tryon (1729-1788), dated April 1769, was discovered. The document showed that Thomas Kanawha Spratt sold his Twelve Mile Creek property on May 22, 1758. Although Thomas Spratt inherited other land in Anson County, and no deeds have been found showing he bought or leased land in South Carolina, it is assumed that he continued to live on Catawba land until his death.

In 1760, the Treaty of Pine Tree Hill, later confirmed by the 1763 Treaty of Augusta, the Catawba Nation was granted 225 square miles of land along the Catawba River. Thomas Spratt’s land, which he inherited from his father, was within the southern edge of the Catawba land grant.

Prior to his inheritance, around 1753, Thomas Spratt moved to Twelve Mile Creek and farmed it for his father. During that time he was a fast friend of the Catawba, often accompanying them on hunting and war parties. It was on one such trip, during Lord Dunmore’s War of 1774, that Thomas, while fighting along side the Catawba against the Shawnee on the Kanawha River in present day West Virginia, received the name “Kanawha.”

In 1772, the Royal Governors of North and South Carolina agreed on the dividing line between the two colonies. It ran around the northern edge of the Catawba land to the South Branch of the Catawba River and then due west. Thomas Spratt’s brother-in-law, Thomas Polk, was one of the surveyors. This border agreement led to the Spratt land on Twelve Mile Creek officially becoming part of South Carolina.

The Spratt family played an important role in developing land in modern day Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and was a great friend to the Catawba Nation. Although they weren’t the first settlers in the region, the Spratt land and family influence helped preserve the Catawba culture and contributed to the growth of Mecklenburg County. 


Robert F. Cope and Manley Wade Wellman, The County of Gaston (Gastonia, North Carolina, 1961).

Ned Cline, Pioneers in Faith, the Story of Historic St. John’s Lutheran Church & the Foundations of Lutheranism in North Carolina (Concord, NC, 2006).

Will of Thomas Sprot [Spratt] recorded in Anson County Will Book 30, p 7, January 15, 1757. Transcribed from image of the original at The State Archives of North Carolina. Royal Land Grants transcribed from images of microfilm of the originals at the State Archives of North Carolina.

James. W. Merrell, The Indians’ New World, (Chapel Hill 1989).

Marvin Skaggs, North Carolina Boundary Disputes Involving her Southern Line (Chapel Hill 1941).

Tags:   Catawba  |   Colonialism  |   Biography

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