Seth Sothel, Governor of North Carolina

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Seth Sothel

Also Known As: "Southwell", "Sothell"
Birthplace: England
Death: before February 03, 1693
Salmon Creek plantation, present day, Bertie County, North Carolina
Immediate Family:

Husband of Anna Lear and unknown Sothel

Occupation: colonial administrator
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Seth Sothel, Governor of North Carolina


Seth Sothel (also spelled Sothell and Southwell, d. c. 1694) was a colonial American proprietor and governor of the Province of Carolina. He ruled the northern portion, Albemarle Sound (future North Carolina), in 1678 and the southern portion (future South Carolina) from 1690 to 1692. He died in North Carolina in about 1694.


Seth Sothel (d. ca.1694), known to history as among the most corrupt of chief executives, was commissioned by the Lord Proprietors in 1678 but did not serve. His tenure in office came four years later when those same men persuaded him to lead Albemarle in the aftermath of Culpeper’s Rebellion. They believed that Sothel had the ability to remedy the disorder, but he turned out to be a dreadful governor. In 1675 Sothel, “a person of considerable estate” in England, planned to acquire land in Carolina and establish a town, yet those plans never came to realization. Two years later Sothel purchased the earl of Clarendon’s proprietorship.

While Sothel was sailing for Albemarle in 1678, Algerian pirates captured his ship and took him to Algiers where they enslaved him. The English government offered two pirates in exchange for Sothel. However, the Algerians also demanded 6,000 pieces of eight. Two Englishmen living in Algiers provided the bond for the ransom, and Sothel was released returning to England in 1681. Sothel refused to pay the ransom and ended up in debtor’s prison. Upon release Sothel left for Albemarle.

By 1682 Sothel was in Albemarle. In his private life, Sothel was a large landowner married to the twice-widowed Anna Willix. They had no children and resided in a two room dwelling at a plantation at Salmon Creek (present-day Bertie County). On his plantation, Sothel established a trading post for conducting business with Indians. Sothel, an owner of Indian and black slaves, cultivated tobacco and raised cattle, sheep, and hogs.


Sothel (or Sothell, Southwell), Seth by Mattie Erma E. Parker, 1994 d. 1693 or 1694. See also: Seth Sothel, Research Branch, NC Office of Archives and History

Seth Sothel (or Sothell, Southwell), Proprietor of Carolina and governor of North Carolina and South Carolina, is first mentioned in extant records in a letter of June 1675 written by Lord Shaftesbury, one of the Carolina Proprietors, to the governor and Council of South Carolina. In the letter, which pertained to plans Sothel had for establishing a settlement in South Carolina, Sothel was described as "a person of considerable estate in England." Nothing is known of his earlier life. ....

.... Sothel appears to have been moved largely by avarice and to have recognized no deterrent to satisfying his greed. He took what he wanted, whether it was a plantation, a pewter plate, or a piece of lace. He stole from both the rich and powerful and the poor and helpless. On pretext that the land had escheated, he had the Council issue to him a patent for a plantation of 4,000 acres belonging to the wife of Colonel Philip Ludwell, a member of the Virginia Council, who had married the widow of Sir William Berkeley, one of the original Carolina Proprietors. Charging that George Durant, an early settler and influential leader in Albemarle, had committed "an Infammous Libell," Sothel confiscated and appropriated to himself Durant's plantation of 2,000 acres. Pretending that two traders from Barbados were pirates, although their papers were in good order, he confiscated their goods and threw them in prison, where one of them died. He refused to permit the dead trader's will to be probated, taking his property for himself, and when the executor, the prominent Thomas Pollock, undertook to go to London to complain, Sothel threw him in prison. Entrusted with delivery of a box sent to an Albemarle woman by her brother in London, Sothel stole from the box several yards of lace, some cloth, and two guineas. When confronted by the woman's attorney, he admitted the theft and displayed some of the lace sewed to "head-linnen" by his wife, nevertheless refusing to compensate the intended recipient. He kept for himself some pewter plates belonging to the estate of a colonist and forced an orphaned boy, who was under age, to sign a deed conveying to him the boy's plantation. Those who protested against such acts were put in jail and held for long periods without trial, while common criminals escaped punishment by bribing the governor. ....



"Sothel also had been married before. In his will he identified an Albemarle inhabitant, Edward Foster, as his father-in-law and bequeathed to Foster a plantation and some cattle."

From The Lincolnshire origin of some Exeter settlers by Sanborn, V. C. (Victor Channing), 1867-1921; Hall, Virginia S Published 1914.  Hall, Virginia, "The Daughters of Balthazar Willix of Exeter." page 18

'Anne WILLIS of ipswich, Massachusetts,' married first Robert ROSCOE of Roanoke; secondly James BLOUNT, whose will was proved 17 July 1686; thirdly Seth SOUTHEL, governor of North Carolina, whose will was proved 3 Feb. 1693/4. ...

"'Whearas Hon. Seth SOUTHELL, Esqr. and James BLUNT, both of North Carolinah, did by their Last Wills give and bequeath unto Anna: first wife of said BLUNT and afterwards the wie of said SOUTHWELL and her heirs, afterwards wife of Col. John LERE of Vergenea and so Died. Whose Sisters and Brother-in-law, Hazelpony WOOD of Ipswich in the Province of Massachusetts in New England, and Francis JOWNES and Suzana his wife of Portsmo. in the Province of New Hampshire, said Hazelpony and Suzannah own sisters both by father and mother's side to the above said Anna and so right heirs, in consideration of £250 sell unto our kinsman Thomas PICKERINGE of Portsmo. formerly our attorney, all the estate given to our sister Anna LERE by said BLUNT and SOUTHELL in North Carolina.' Dated 4 June 1697. Witnesses: James ALLEN, John PICKERINGE. Recorded 6 Sept. 1709. (N.H. Province Deeds, vol. 7, p. 344.)

From Albemarle Co. Will Abstracts Page 3 of 3 Seth Sothell Will written 20 Jan 1689-1690 Proved Feb 1693-1694

Executrix: Anna Sothell. Thomas Hartley (plantation for five years, Signory on Flatty Creek and Pasquotank River until death). Father-in-law: Edward Foster (plantation at Cuscopincum and 30 head of cattle). William Dunkinfield, William Wilkeson and Henderson Walker (five pounds each for gold ring), Edward Wade (plantation on Little River until death). Anna Blunt, wife (all estate and personal property not otherwise willed). Witnesses: Wm. Wilkeson, Henderson Walker, John Lowes, Will. Wollard, Sarah Wollard. Clerk of the Court: Edward Mayo.

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Seth Sothel, Governor of North Carolina's Timeline

February 3, 1693
Age 55
Bertie County, North Carolina
August 30, 1996
Age 55
February 24, 1998
Age 55