Finding Aid of the Andrew S. Austin Collection, <date calendar="gregorian" era="ce" normal="1800/1989">1800 - 1989</date>, PC.5079

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Finding Aid of the Andrew S. Austin Collection, <date calendar="gregorian" era="ce" normal="1800/1989">1800 - 1989</date>, PC.5079

Abstract

Andrew S. Austin, a native of Hatteras, North Carolina, acquired a tract of land in the 1950s from the heirs of George S. Rollinson and Jesse Rollinson. According to public records of Dare County, the last land transaction that affected this parcel of property, prior to Andrew Austin's acquisition, was in 1849. After Andrew Austin's death, the tract, which borders the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, was divided among his children. In 1985, Howard Phipps, Jr. and his wife, Mary N. S. Phipps, filed a lawsuit against eight Hatteras families, claiming that they were the owners of the property as a result of land transaction that originated with a land grant to a Georgia A. Gaskins in January 1910. The "Gaskins Grant" was a large tract of land that described 400 acres or more and ran several miles along the oceanfront in the Hatteras-Frisco area. Six of the eight families named in the lawsuit claimed their ownership through Andrew S. Austin and were represented by Kitty Hawk attorney Roy A. Archbell, Jr. Though it became apparent that the Phipps' claims, under the Gaskins Grant, would be defeated, it also appeared that they had other potential claims to the same property through George Rollinson. Since both sides recognized the extreme difficulty in establishing the true dividing lines between the George Rollinson parcels, they decided to settle the litigation. As a result there was never a final court adjudication.
The materials in this collection are Archbell's research materials and court documents. They include: correspondence, photographs, genealogical information, deeds, land surveys, maps, witness depositions, and trial exhibits.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Roy A. Archbell, Jr., Collection on Andrew S. Austin
Call Number
PC.5079
Creator
Archbell, Roy A., Jr.
Date
1800-1989
Extent
7.66 cubic feet
Language
English
Repository
Outer Banks History Center

Series Quick Links

  1. Collection Contents

Restrictions on Access & Use

Access Restrictions

Available for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], PC.5079, Roy A. Archbell, Jr., Collection on Andrew S. Austin, Outer Banks History Center, Manteo, N.C., U.S.A.

Collection Overview

Archbell removed most of the original litigation materials, such as pleadings, briefs, and motions. These materials are a matter of public record and can be accessed through the repository for the records of the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. These materials also contain occasional redactments indicating deletions. These deletions generally involve billing matters and matters of no historical content. These materials will be of particular interest to anyone interested in early land grants covering Hatteras Village; the earliest landowners of Hatteras Village; and the genealogical connections of Hatteras Island's earliest settlers. Included among these materials are modern surveys that depict the relative location of the original Revolutionary War land grants covering virtually all of Hatteras Village; copies of original land grants covering the time period 1711-1766; extensive genealogical notes; U. S. Census reports; aerial photographs; notes revealing the chains of title to almost all oceanfront property in Hatteras Village; surveys and materials which reveal the extensive erosion that has occurred in Hatteras since 1711; and a 1797 division of 684 acres formerly owned by William Ballance among his nine children. Also included in these materials are correspondence and witness depositions.

Arrangement Note

This collection is divided into six main series: Correspondence, Photographs, Trial Research Materials, Defense and Plaintiff Discoveries, Witness Depositions, and Trial Exhibits.

Historical Note

Andrew Shanklin Austin (c. 1889-1962), a life long resident of Hatteras, North Carolina, acquired a tract of land in the 1950s from the heirs of a George S. Rollinson and Jesse Rollinson. According to public records of Dare County, the last land transaction that affected this parcel of property prior to Andrew Austin's acquisition, was in 1849. After Andrew Austin's death, the tract, which is adjacent to the Sea Gull Motel and borders the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, was divided among his children. In 1985, Howard Phipps, Jr., a steel tycoon, and his wife, Mary N. S. Phipps, filed a lawsuit against eight Hatteras families that claimed they were the owners of the property as a result of land transaction that originated with a land grant to a Georgia A. Gaskins in January 1910. The "Gaskins Grant" was a large tract of land that described 400 acres or more and ran several miles along the oceanfront in the Hatteras-Frisco area.

Prior to the litigation filed in 1985, the Phipps family filed an earlier lawsuit in 1962, that also claimed ownership of the same property. The first trial resulted in a determination that the Gaskins grant was invalid because it "did not close." Subsequent to the first litigation being concluded, the Phipps hired new attorneys to investigate their property holdings and to try to establish their claims. These lawsuits filed in 1985, were the second attempt by the Phipps family to establish their claim of ownership under the Gaskins Grant.

A total of eight lawsuits were filed against different property owners in Hatteras Village. Six of these individuals claimed their ownership through Mr. Andrew S. Austin, all of whom retained Kitty Hawk attorney Roy A. Archbell, Jr. to represent them. The other two defendants retained other attorneys to represent them.

Archbell's initial investigation led him to conclude that the Gaskins Grant "overlapped" the properties that had been claimed or owned by Hatteras Islanders for many years prior to the Gaskins Grant of 1910. In order to prove this, Archbell tried to locate the original land grants that covered the property in dispute. After an intensive investigation, he concluded that all of Hatteras Village had been previously granted before the Revolutionary War to various early settlers in Hatteras. These land grants were issued between 1711 and 1766. In the course of Archbell's investigation, it became necessary to try to identify the chains of title to the majority of the property located in Hatteras. This proved to be a difficult undertaking since deed descriptions prior to the 1950s were very weak. Most deed descriptions simply referred to adjoining property owners and frequently did not contain either courses or distances. It then became necessary to develop a comprehensive understanding of all the adjoining properties, in order to determine who the adjoining property owners were from the 1700s through the time of litigation. The development of this information resulted in a "rediscovery" of the history of much of Hatteras Village. It became necessary to identify most of the early settlers of Hatteras Village and to determine who their parents and children were. As a result, a lot of genealogical information regarding the original Hatteras Island families was established.

It became increasingly apparent to the Phipps' attorneys that the defendants would defeat the Phipps' claim, under the Gaskins Grant. However, the Phipps family had other potential claims to the same property. It was discovered that an oceanfront parcel of property had been conveyed by George Rollinson to Colonel John Wainwright in February 1885. This parcel apparently made up part of the "Wainwright Lands" that were utilized as a porpoise factory during the 1800s. This property was ultimately acquired by the Phipps family through some of the same land transactions that involved the Gaskins Grant.

After Phipps' attorneys realized that there was a potential claim under which the same George Rollinson conveyance that Archbell's clients claimed, the nature of the lawsuit changed. The position which Phipps' attorneys took was that the property in dispute lay within the property transferred by George Rollinson in 1885 to John Wainwright. Archbell's clients took the position that the parcel Rollins conveyed to Wainwright was now in the ocean. Archbell's clients claimed that their property was part of another parcel owned by George Rollinson. As a result, the litigation turned into a question of where the dividing lines were between the two George Rollinson parcels. Both sides recognized the extreme difficulty in trying to establish the true dividing lines between the parcels and agreed that it was in everyone's best interest to settle the litigation. As a result, there was never a final court adjudication.

In the course of Archbell's representation of the Andrew S. Austin family, a number of experts were retained to assist in unraveling the complex early history of the village. These experts included: Thomas L. White, Jr., Jasper Hassell, and Margaret N. Hofmann. Thomas White, Jr. was a practicing Dare County attorney from 1970 until his retirement in 2002. A significant portion of White's practice involved the examination of land titles in Dare County. Jasper Hassell, from Edenton, North Carolina, graduated from North Carolina State University in 1960, and became a licensed surveyor in 1961, specializing in "problem surveying." Margaret Hofmann is a professional genealogist and author of numerous books regarding genealogical research and the use of land patents.

The lawyers representing the Phipps family also employed a number of prominent experts to assist in proving their case. These experts included Wesley Mearle Meekins, Jr., McKay Whatley, Jr. and Robert Dolan. Wesley Meekins, Jr. is a Dare County native and has been involved in professional land surveyor in Dare County since 1976. McKay Whatley, Jr., has worked as an architectural historian for the Division of Archives and History of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. He was engaged to examine a large volume of historical materials throughout the country. Dr. Robert Dolan is a full-time professor of the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. He has done substantial investigation and research into the issues of beach erosion along the North Carolina coast.

Anyone reviewing these materials should be aware that the court never ruled on who was right or wrong. As a result, the materials reflect both sides' opinion on a variety of issues, with no final resolution having ever been achieved through the court system.

Contents of the Collection

Collection Contents
Finding Aid
1:1.1
Introduction to the Andrew S. Austin Collection
1:2.1
Correspondence
4974
Photographs
4985
Trial Research Materials
4993
Defense and Plaintiff Discoveries
5060
Witness Depositions
5084
Trial Exhibits
5125

Subject Headings

  • Austin, Andrew S., 1889-1962
  • Austin Family
  • Deeds--North Carolina--Hatteras Island
  • Land titles--North Carolina--Hatteras Island
  • Hatteras (N.C.)
  • Hatteras Island (N.C.)--Genealogy
  • Hatteras Island (N.C.)--History
  • Acquisitions Information

    Donated by Roy A. Archbell, Jr. in 2002.

    Processing Information

  • Processed by Kelly R. Grimm, November, 2009
  • Encoded by Kelly R. Grimm, November, 2009