The Woccon, Sissipahaw, Cape Fear, and Warren-Nuncock Indians

Of the North Carolina tribes bearing the foregoing names almost nothing is known, and of the last two even the proper names have not been recorded. The Woccon were Siouan; the Saxapahaw and Cape Fear Indians presumably were Siouan, as indicated from their associations and alliances with known Siouan tribes, while the Warren-nuncock were probably some people better known under another name, though they cannot be identified. The region between the Yadkin and the Neuse, extending down to the coast, was probably occupied by still other tribes whose very names are forgotten. They were virtually exterminated by smallpox and other diseases long before the colonization of this region in the middle of the eighteenth century, and probably even before the Yamasi war of 1715 disrupted the smaller tribes.

About all that is known of the Woccon was recorded by Lawson, who states that about 1710 they lived not more than two leagues from the Tuskarora (who occupied the lower Neuse and its tributaries), and had two villages, Yupwauremau and Tooptatmeer (p. 383), with 120 warriors, which would indicate a population of 500 or 600 souls. This was by far a larger population at that period than any other of the eastern Carolina tribes excepting the Tuskarora. He gives a vocabulary of about 150 words, which shows that their dialect was closely related to that of the Catawba, although the two tribes were separated by nearly 200 miles 1 . His map of 1709, reproduced by Hawks, places the Woccon between the main Neuse and one of its tributaries, perhaps about the present Goldsboro in Wayne county or Snow Hill in Greene county. They joined the Tuskarora against the whites in the war of 1711-1713, as learned from incidental references in the colonial documents of that period. Since there are no later records concerning them, they were probably destroyed as a tribe by that war, and the remnant may have fled northward with the hostile Tuskarora to the Iroquois, or southward to the Catawba and Yamasi; or perhaps they were assigned to the reservation with the friendly Tuskarora who remained in North Carolina.

The Sissipahaw must have been an important tribe at one time, as Haw river, the main upper stream of the Cape Fear, derives its name from them, and the site of their former village, known in 1728 as ” the Haw old fields,” was noted as the largest body of fertile land in all that region. It was probably situated about the present Saxapahaw on Haw River, in the lower part of Alamance county, North Carolina. They are probably identical with the Sauxpa mentioned by Vandera in 1579; Lawson mentions them, but he did not meet them in his journey in 1701, as they lived below the point at which the regular trading path crossed the river. He incidentally mentions meeting among the Eno a slave taken from this tribe 2 . Nothing more of them is known beyond the general statement by Martin that they and other tribes of that region joined the Yamasi against the English in the war of 1715.

The proper name of the Cape Fear Indians is unknown. This local term was applied by the early colonists to the tribe formerly living about the lower part of Cape Fear river in the southeastern corner of North Carolina. Their first intimate acquaintance with the English was made about the year 1661, when a colony from New England made a settlement near the mouth of the river, but soon incurred the ill will of the Indians by seizing their children and sending them away, ostensibly to instruct them in the ways of civilization, but really as the Indians believed, with a semblance of probability, to make them slaves. The result was that the Cape Fear Indians, although as yet without guns, began a determined war against the colonists and finally succeeded in driving them from the country. In 1663 another party, from Barbadoes, explored the river and its branches for a considerable distance. Not far from the mouth they found an Indian settlement called Necoes 3 , together with numerous cleared fields of corn. They found the Indians generally friendly, manifesting their friendship by cries of ” bonny bonny,” which may have been a reminiscence of previous contact with Spaniards. The Indians gave them corn and other provisions, and in return received presents of beads. One of the Indians, however, shot an arrow at them as they were passing under a cliff. They pursued and fired at him but missed. Afterward they came upon him in his canoe. What followed, as told in their own words, well indicates the summary methods of the English in dealing with the Indians:

We went on shore and cut the same in pieces. The Indians perceiving us coming towards them ran away. Going to his but we pulled it down, broke his pots, platters, and spoons, tore the deerskins and mats in pieces and took away a basket of acorns.

Notwithstanding this severity, the Indians at the next village received the whites kindly, and their chief expressed the greatest regret and displeasure at the misconduct of his man. They afterward “made a purchase of the river and land of Cape Fair, of Wat Coosa and such other Indians as appeared to us to be the chief of those parts.” The tribe seemed to be populous, with numerous villages along the river, and excepting in the single instance mentioned, displayed the utmost friendly feeling toward the whites 4 . In 1665 another colony settled at the mouth of Oldtown creek, in Brunswick county, on the southern side of the river, on a tract bought of the Indians, who still remained friendly. The colony was not successful, consequently was disbanded a few years later 5 .

No more is heard of the tribe for nearly a hundred years. As they were evidently a warlike people, it is probable that like most of their neighbors they took part in the Yamasi war in 1715. It is also probable that they suffered with all the Carolina tribes from smallpox and other diseases until only a handful remained. They do not seem to have incorporated with the Catawba, however, as did many of the smaller tribes in their decline, but to have maintained their separate existence within the English settlements. They are last noticed in 1751 as one of the small friendly tribes with whom the South Carolina government desired the Iroquois to be at peace 6) .

For the name Warren-nuncock there is only the authority of a single statement by Lederer, who tells us in 1672 that the southern Alleghanies (or Blue Ridge) at Sara “take the name of Suala; Sara in the Warren-nuncock dialect being Sasa or Sualy.” The name has an Algonquian appearance, and is probably only a Powhatan synonym for some Carolina tribe (having the l instead of the r) better known to us under some other name.


Waccoa.-Morse, Report, 1822, p. 145.
Waccoam. -Ibid (misprint).
Waccon . -Document of 1712 in N. C. Records, 1886, vol. i, p. 891.
Wacon . -Lawson, map of 1709, in Hawks, History of North Carolina, vol. ii, p. 101.
Woccon. -Lawson (1714), History of Carolina, reprint 1860, p. 378.
Wocons.-Rafinesque in Marshall, History of Kentucky, 1824, vol. i, p. 23.
Wokkon. -Drake, Book of the Indians, 1848, p. xii
Woocon. -Schoolcraft, Indian Tribes, 1853, vol iii, p. 401.
Workons. -Domenech, Deserts of North America, 1860, vol. i, p. 445.
Sauxpa.-Vandera (1579) in Smith, Documentos inéditos, 1857, pp. 15-19 (probably the same).
Saxapahaw. -Bowen, Map of the British American Plantations, 1760.
Saxapahaw.-Byrd (1728), History of the Dividing Line, 1866, vol. i, p. 180.
Sippahaws.-Martin, History of North Carolina, 1829, vol. i, p. 129.
Sissipahau.-Lawson (1714), History of Carolina, reprint 1860, p. 94.
Sissispahaws.-Latham, Varieties of Man, 1850, p. 334 (misprint).
Cape Fears.-Albany Conference (1751) in New York Colonial Documents, 1855, vol. vi, p. 721.
Warrennuncock.-Lederer, Discoveries, 1672, p. 2.Citations:

  1. Lawson, John. The history of Carolina, containing the exact description and natural history of that country, etc., p. 2. (Reprint from the London edition of 1714.) Raleigh, 1860.[]
  2. Ibid, pp. 16-17.[]
  3. Ibid, p. 115.[]
  4. Ibid, p. 15.[]
  5. Martin, François Xavier. History of North Carolina from its earliest period, vol. i, pp. 143, 153. 2 volumes. New Orleans. 1829.[]
  6. New York. Documents relative to the colonial history of the state of New York. Procured in Holland, England, and France, by John Romeyn Brodhead, etc. Edited by E. B. O’Callaghan, Albany Conference of 1751, vol. vi, p. 721. Albany, 1856-’77. 12 vols. (N. Y., 18[]

Mooney, James. Siouan Tribes of the East. Bulletin 22. Washington: Bureau of Ethnology. 1894.

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