by Susan Taylor Block
There is a long-standing tradition that Orton and Kendal plantations, in Brunswick County, NC, were named for picturesque towns in England in which the Moore family, who were the original owners, once lived. Fresh research indicates that is not the case. The real naming source is much more interesting and exciting. The Moores were military leaders, and do not seem like the kind of people who would name something important for something bucolic.
Maurice Moore, a son of Governor James Moore of South Carolina, was the first Moore to walk the land. In 1725, he became the original owner of Orton and Kendal. Maurice sold Orton to his brother, “King” Roger Moore, who built the fortified house that is now contained within the present larger structure.
Thirty years ago, Dr. William Craig, of Salina, Kansas, provided a single clue to the naming of the plantations when he stated that Maurice Moore was most likely named for Prince Maurice of England. Brothers Prince Maurice and Prince Rupert were nephews of Charles I, and commanders in the Royalist army. Working from that supposition leads to the Moore’s long military history in Ireland, and their very brief but dramatic war experience in England. The following information was gathered over a period of months from an assortment of sources detailed in the bibliography.
A Military Heritage
The Moores of Cape Fear descend from one of Ireland’s most ancient families. The original spelling, O’Mordha, is Irish-Gaelic for “stately and noble.” That progressed to O’More, O’Moore, and then to Moore. The O’Mores were a leading sept of Ireland, who ruled the region of Leix for approximately 500 years. The Judeo-Christian faith was fundamental to their identity, and always a factor in their military history.
The O’Mores, all Roman Catholic, emerged as towers of strength and acquisitive warriors so early they were written into Ireland’s diaphanous mythologies. The recorded life of Conall Cearnach, the most famous of the Moore’s earliest known ancestors, is a good example of fairy tale blended with true war stories. His skill at decapitation and his habit of hospitably sharing his bed with the heads of those he had slain were real, but Irish tradition wove fantasy into his origins.
After Gahan O’More became Lord of Leix in 1016, documentation of the family’s genealogy improved. A long list of O’More princes followed Gahan. Brains, brawn, earthiness, and bravery were required to rule in Ireland’s hostile, rugged, woodsy conditions. It was a human process of natural selection in which only the fittest survived – or at least lived long enough to pass their genes on to the next generation.
By the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, at least 47 generations of O’Mores had lived in and dominated Leix. Many of them are represented in the long list of O’More’s who ruled the area, now Laois – a 660 square-mile county located inland, southwest of Dublin. For most of them, the cause of death would be listed simply as “slain.” Known today as County Laois, the Leix region, renamed by Mary Queen of Scots as “Queen County,” is sometimes still referred to as “O’Moore County.”
The O’More family’s dominance of Leix was diminished by two strong Plantation settlements enforced by the English. The first occurred in 1556, and the second, in the 17th century. However, neither was completely successful because of continuous incursions and assaults by the O’Mores.
The Moore’s high spirited ways; their unfaltering allegiance to the country of Ireland and the church of Rome; and their record of creating “disturbances” kept them in the forefront of royal attention. Not surprisingly, the English chose Leix as the first Irish region to seize and Anglicize. Newcomers were charged to replace Irish culture with English culture. In some cases, this caused an interesting mix, but rarely were Irish culture and customs diminished. In fact, it was said that some Englishmen and women became more Irish than the Irish.
This period in Ireland’s history has a North Carolina perspective. Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom Raleigh, NC is named, received the largest Irish grant during the plantation period. Eventually Raleigh’s land was sold to Sir Richard Boyle, known later as the Earl of Cork – the wealthiest descendant of the Early Stuart monarchs. It was Boyle who colonized much of Ireland for the English. However, when the Crown turned against Boyle, he helped Rory O’More, Maurice and King Roger Moore’s great-grandfather, stir up the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
Rory O’More’s uncle, Rory Oge O’More, set the stage for rebellion against the Tudors after he failed to build a bridge of peace between England and Ireland through an alliance with young Edward VI and his court. Edward was only nine years old when he ascended to the throne in 1547, and a bevy of advisors made most of his decisions for him. Edward’s father, Henry VIII, had sought earnestly to neutralize tensions by inviting the Irish chieftains to England for an airing of grievances. At those meetings, the Irishmen were treated with respect.
In 1548, Edward’s crafty advisors enticed the Irishmen chieftains to do them harm instead. The group consisted of leading members of the O’Moore family of Leix and the O’Connor family of neighboring county, Ofally. Soldiers seized Rory Oge O’More and the others upon their arrival at court, then threw them into dark, dank jail cells. While the Irishmen lived like rodents, King Edward’s deputies took advantage of the absence of home leadership in Ireland by taking possession of additional properties that belonged to the O’More and O’Connor families.
Prison merely incubated Rory Oge’s rebellious nature and he emerged with so much fire and stealth that the English eventually would spend 200,000 pounds trying to catch and kill him. In the meantime, he organized forces responsible for torching at least 500 homes and killing many hundreds of Englishmen. Finally, a 1,000 pound reward led to Rory Oge’s capture. He was killed in 1578 and his head was displayed at Dublin Castle.
Rory Oge’s brother, Callough, was father of Rory O’More, who gained fame as a leader of the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Rory was born in 1600 and died about 1653. Though he spent most of his youth in Ireland, he may have attended military school in Spain. He married Jane Barnwell, daughter of Sir Patrick Barnwell of Leix. The Barnwell and O’More families stayed close, even after coming to America where the two families owned neighboring South Carolina estates, and where Col. John Barnwell and Col. Maurice Moore fought Indian Wars together.
Along with three other rebels, Rory helped plan a bloodless overthrow of English rule in Ireland. His motivation was, generally, the dream that Ireland would be set free from tyranny and oppression, and, specifically, the hope of recovering his family’s estates from the English, What began as a movement to surprise-and-conquer soon changed to violent conflict between established Irish Catholic families and Scottish and English newcomers. Despite Rory’s involvement in numerous battles, apparently he escaped physically unscathed.
The rebels attempted to take Drogheda, a city on Ireland’s east coast, in 1641. The seige failed, but eight years later Oliver Cromwell would succeed. He led a massacre of Royalist defenders, another great blow for the O’More family who were Royalists at that time. Later, Cromwell bragged that his forces killed one in ten captives, clubbed the officers, and shipped the rest to Barbadoes. The O’Mores apparently made their way to England before moving to Barbadoes, but many folks of Irish Catholic descent peopled the island by the time they arrived. This gave the O’More family advantages.
Rory escaped with his life, but lived in exile as a walking target . There are conflicting reports on his last years, but a tablet inscription on the island of Inishbofin, Ireland may hold the truth: “In memory of many valiant Irishmen who were exiled to this Holy Island and in particular Rory O’More, a brave cheiftain of Leix, who after fighting for Faith and Fatherland, disguised as a fisherman escaped from his island to a place of safety. He died shortly afterwards, a martyr to his Religion and his County, about 1653. He was esteemed and loved by his countrymen, who celebrated his many deeds of valour and kindness in their songs and reverenced his memory, so that it was common expression among them; ‘God and Our Lady be our help, and Rory O’More’.”
The Rory O’Moore Bridge in Dublin memorializes the man who remains a hero to many. Rory and Jane O’More had at least three children: Charles, Anne, and Nathaniel. Little is known about Charles, except that he might have moved to County Cork. Anne married Patrick Sarsfield. One of the their sons, also named Patrick, became the first Earl of Lucan and was an Irish hero of the Jacobite Resistance. King James II created him Baron Roseberry, Viscount of Tully and Earl of Lucan. Rory’s other son, Nathaniel, was the father of Governor James Moore and the grandfather of King Roger Moore.
A Dizzying Trail of Connections
It seems certain that Orton, Kendal, and York, the plantation south of Orton and Russellborough, were named in remembrance of places meaningful to the Moores because of the English Civil War. As stated earlier, the Moores were Royalists. The war raged intermittently from 1642 until 1651, and spanned the reigns of Charles I and Charles II, both of whom arranged favors for the Sarsfield family. The Sarsfields owned fine residences in the Devonshire region of England. It is almost certain that two of Rory O’More’s children, Anne Moore Sarsfield and Nathaniel, lived near one another during the mysterious years that followed Rory’s rabble-rousing in 1641.It’s possible Nathaniel’s son, James, attended French military school with his first cousin, young Patrick Sarsfield. John Yeamans, who is forever entwined in Moore history, resided not far away, in Bristol He was connected with the Sarsfields and had been a landowner in Barbados since the late 1630s. His stepdaughter, Margaret Berringer, would be mother to Maurice, Nathaniel, and King Roger Moore.
It was surely during this period that the O’Mores pulled the drapes on their lives. They Anglicized the spelling of their name to “Moore;” would soon find the Anglican church inviting ; and fell silent concerning their past. Governor James Moore, Nathaniel’s son, made a mystery of his childhood, youth, and early adulthood. He had the marks of a man with much formal schooling, yet no one knows for certain where he received it. His early life story is so obscured we do not even know the name of his mother. After he became Governor of South Carolina, he used a seal that bore the swans and arms of Devonshire – a stop along the way when compared to hundreds of years’ worth of family history in Ireland.
Sir John Yeamans’ cousin Robert, a fierce Royalist, conspired with Charles I to overthrow Cromwellian dominance in Bristol. Just hours before the King’s’ nephew, Prince Rupert, reached Bristol, Robert Yeamans and his co-conspirators were arrested. Yeamans was hanged, drawn, and quartered – adding fuel to the Royalist fire in John – who would become Gov. James Moore’s step-grandfather.
Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice were involved in trade with Barbados. Sir John Yeamans and James Moore spent years in Barbados, and sailed aboard the Loyal Jamaica together, from Barbados to America in 1665, when Moore settled permanently in South Carolina.
Family history states that Nathaniel Moore, son of Irish rebel Rory and grandfather of King Roger Moore, fought under Col. John Yeamans during the Civil War. Yeamans left England after the war and established residence in Barbadoes, where he was rewarded properties he named, with gratitude, “Kendal Point” and “Orton Plantation.” Prince Rupert was given the title Baron Kendal. Royalists were victorious at Cole Orton Hall, in Leicester, England where the Sarsfields, and perhaps Nathaniel, lived in comfort.*
Prince Rupert was the leader in the freeing of York and York castle. Thus, we get the name York Plantation from the same source. All but forgotten today, York was owned by Nathaniel Moore, brother of Maurice and King Roger. Nathaniel’s house sat on bluff that was sixty feet high.
Together, with the naming of Maurice, there seems to be too many coincidences to ignore the importance of the English Civil War and its princes in the naming of York, Orton, and Kendal plantations. Nathaniel Moore and Yeamans knew the king’s nephews and fought in at least some of the battles. The war stories, passed down with emotion, were still fresh when the Cape Fear Plantations were named. These symbols from the distant past are like slender shafts of light peeking through those drapes. What is revealed is an important period of Moore family history that echoes along the western bank of the Lower Cape Fear.
Today, Orton and Kendal plantations are owned by Louis Moore Bacon, a great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of King Roger Moore.
(* It is ironic that Wilmingtonian Richard Bradley actually was from Kendal, England, and his son, also named Richard, named his Wrightsville Sound property Edgehill, about 1812. Edgehill was the name of the first battle of the English Civil War, and Prince Rupert was involved. At least one Edgehill battle was fought near the Sarsfield’s hometown.)
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Chisholm, Hugh (editor), Patrick Sarsfield. Cambridge University Press. 1911.
Connor, R. D. W., “Cornelius Harnett: The Pride of the Cape Fear.” The North Carolina Booklet, Vol. V, No. 3, January 1906.
Connor, R. D. W. A Documentary History of the University of North Carolina, Volume I (1776-1799). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1953.
Connor, R. D. W. A Documentary History of the University of North Carolina, Volume II (1776-1799). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1953.
Davis, J. Kenneth, Jr. Patriarch of the Lower Cape Fear: Governor James Moore & Descendants. Wilmington, 2006.
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Lee, Lawrence. The Lower Cape Fear in Colonial Days. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1965.
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Methodist Episcopal Church, South -Minutes of the Sixty-First Session (December 1 – 6, 1891). LeGwin Bros., Printers and Binders, 1897.
Moore, Augusta Jocelyn. Moore Reminiscences. 1899. (Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear.)
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Perdew, Margaret Yeamans Moore. The Margaret Yeamans Moore Perdew Collection.
Powell, William S. The First State University: A Pictorial History of The University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill. The University of North Carolina Press, 1972.
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Thomas, Cornelius M. D, James Forte. Wilmington, NC: J. E. Hicks, 1959.
Copyright 2012: The Orton Foundation