1776 A Year In North Carolina

The Birth of a New State


The citizens living during the late 18th century in North Carolina were met with many challenges and many achievements. The eventful year of 1776 desires a closer look and the details are filled with blood, pride and a determination of survival in a troubled world. The atmosphere among the majority of settlers held resentment to the crown and longed for a chance to allow more freedom to change the current status. Individual households, churches and other gathering “hot spots” inspired either loyalty to the King or the opportunity to live without a monarchy. By year end, North Carolina begins a new chapter of statehood and freedom on the horizon.


January 10-Royal Governor Josiah Martin, pictured above, appealed to the Loyalists to end the rebellion which was now raging across Carolina. Martin called upon the people to be “faithful subjects” and defend the Crown. Those who refused were labeled “Rebels and Traitors”. The Governor was planning an attack by February and was trying to raise 9,000 men in order to create an army of Highland Scots, Regulators and Tories. He expected Lord Cornwallis to arrive with 7 regiments and Sir Peter Parker’s fleet of 54 ships. He also expected Sir Henry Clinton from Boston to bring his 2,000 experienced British troops. Martin expected everyone to arrive in Brunswick no later that February 15th.

Flora Macdonald

February 18-A Scottish heroine, Flora MacDonald, pictured above, was challenging her fellow countrymen to fight the Patriots. It is said that Flora mounted a white horse and addressed the men in Gaelic to encourage them to cross the Cape Fear and end the Patriot’s rebellion. As the army marched away, Flora returned to her estate in Anson County. Within 9 days, her husband would be taken prisoner along with many fellow Highlanders.


February 27-The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, pictured above, takes place on this date. The Patriots removed many of the boards from the center of the bridge prior to battle. They also smeared the remaining portions of the bridge with soap and bear’s grease. The Patriot’s then hid on the eastern bank waiting on the 1,600 Highlander Scots to arrive. The Scots arrived at the bridge just before dawn armed with swords and daggers. An explosion of gunfire from the Patriots rained down on the Scots leaving 50 wounded, killed or drowned. After this battle, the Loyalist  army scattered and the British left Carolina headed for Charleston.


April 12-Delegates to North Carolina’s Fourth Provincial Congress adopted the Halifax Resolves. The delegates were all for independence and urged the Continental Congress to declare independence for all colonies and to form alliances. The document also stated that North Carolina held the right to form it’s own constitution and laws.


May 5-British General Henry Clinton, pictured above, finally arrives with his troops to North Carolina. With Lord Cornwallis, Clinton conducted several raids throughout North Carolina. General Clinton offered amnesty to all rebels who would lay down their arms with the exception of Cornelius Harnett and Robert Howe of Wilmington. Clinton’s offer was ignored and he followed Lord Cornwallis back to Charleston.

May 21-The Fourth Methodist Conference meeting located in Baltimore appointed 3 preachers to serve the Carolina circuit. The circuit riders brought the word of God and the message of John Wesley at a time when independence was felt throughout the area. Edward Dromgoole, reared in the Catholic Church in Ireland, brought the “flow of tears” during his sermons. Francis Poythress was a serious man who often mispronounced common words; “this he attributed to the loss of his teeth.” Isham Tatum traveled for a few years, then married and ceased his travels.


June 22-Four men, believed to be army deserters, entered into the Moravian community of Salem. They entered the tavern, pictured above, and ordered brandy and liquor. They began loading their guns and arguing about the bill. They struck a man in the head with a gun barrel and threatened to kill everyone in the room. Several men entered the tavern and chased the criminals to the Single Brother’s House. “They kicked open the door, smashed windows, broke furniture and wounded 5 people with tomahawks”. The 4 men were eventually caught and a trial began. The prisoners were sent to the Salisbury jail escorted by Captain Henry Smith.

Cherokee village

July-During the month of July, the battle between the Patriots and the British had shifted southward to South Carolina, but other battles were fought. Indian uprisings during the month of July were keeping the settlers on constant alarm. General Griffith Rutherford led 2,400 men to Swannanoa Gap and crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains. 36 Indian villages were burned to the ground along the route. Majority of the Cherokee fled, but some stayed and fought it out. An excerpt from a soldier’s journal stated that he found the body of an Indian woman. “She had painted and armed herself as if she were a warrior.”

August 2-The Declaration of Independence was actually signed on this date. The July 4th date portrayed only two signatures, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. 3 men represented North Carolina as they signed the document. Joseph Hewes, John Penn and William Hooper

September-Neighbor against neighbor was beginning to terrorize many communities. The Loyalist refused to accept paper currency and were destroying neighbor’s property such as crops and livestock. The Patriots often would seek Tories who refused to pledge allegiance to the Revolution. Once found the Tories would be “tarred and feathered”, escorted out of the community or at times, hanged until death.

November 12-The Fifth Provincial Congress Convened in Halifax to draft a new state constitution. The delegates decided to vote by “voice” rather than by town or county. The hero of Moore’s Creek Bridge Battle, Richard Caswell, was unanimously chosen president of the convention.

December 18-North Carolina’s state constitution is complete allowing North Carolina to be named as a state.


The words portrayed here can only give a small glimpse into the past. The fact remains that each and every family member living in 1776 witnessed and endured the year’s events. Many planted their crops only to watch them burn by British soldiers, or Indian raids or even by their own Loyalist neighbors. There were many family members who perished due to the events of 76, but just as many, if not more, proclaimed in it’s glory. North Carolina gained the reputation of standing on her own as a new state with a people united together for independence and freedom.





Voices of The American Revolutionary War

Thunder & Liberty

The majority of us can recite the beginnings of our country. We can name men associated with the Son’s of Liberty, we can produce the names of our founding fathers and the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Many among us, can trace their ancestor to militia, or the Continental Army by application for pension or by a random discovered document. Numerous books have been written on the battles, the skirmishes and brutal tactics used during the war. Re-enactments are organized at many battle sights. So, we understand a great portion of why the war occurred and how, but do we really understand what it was like to live during the war?

revolutionary war battle of charlotte

The Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townsend Act of 1767 both contributed to the onset of the Revolutionary War. These acts taxed the colonists and separated them from Great Britain. A majority of these citizens immigrated from other countries several years earlier in hopes of freedom and new opportunities. These immigrants each took the oath of allegiance to Great Britain and acknowledged the laws and freedom of the new land. But, as the years continued and their own personal families grew, Great Britain continued to create separations among the colonists and imposed new taxes on imports which many families could not afford. The colonists felt the pressure of Great Britain much more in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and other northern colonies. This brings us to the fact why so many families migrated southward down the Great Wagon Road to an unsettled area such as North Carolina. The majority of these pioneers migrated on the trail between the years of 1753 through 1770, just prior to the Revolutionary War.

Grace Lower Stone Church Rockwell NC

Grace Lower Stone Church, Rockwell, NC

Governor Tryon of North Carolina (1765-1771) expected the taxes to be paid by the new settlers and if payment was not received, horses, tools and even cooking pots were taken to cover the amount due. To the new settlers who just arrived from northern colonies, this was disheartening. The taxes prevented them from improving their properties and they felt mistreated. The settlers would hear the news from Boston and other areas.  Soon, tensions arose in many North Carolina settlements. Before the Boston Tea Party occurred, The Battle of Alamance took place on May 22, 1771 in an open field in the piedmont region of North Carolina. After the battle, that lasted approx. 2 hours, the surrounding settlements heard the news of James Few. Few was hanged the next day, May 23, 1771 without conviction in a military court. 14 regulators (participants of the battle) were tried and 12 of these were convicted. Of these 12, 6 men were hanged. Governor Tryon felt that the settlers would look upon this action as the government forgiving the regulators for their participation in the skirmish. However; this was not the case. This area of North Carolina was gaining new settlers on a daily basis and the growth rate was much higher versus the eastern sections of the state. The Governor was trying to control the area with the taxes that were now law, but hostilities grew with the numbers of new settlers.


Traveling ministers, such as George Whitefield were creating tent revivals all through the piedmont area of North Carolina. These revivals were very popular among the settlers and at times, hundreds would attend. The mission of these revivals were to bring religion to the new settlement and to also quieten any disgruntled feelings against the government. For the most part, the settlers were divided in half after the Battle of Alamance. Many did not seek confrontation and wanted to remain loyal to Great Britain. Through the following years, several skirmishes would occur and overtime, men would gather and organize their communities with armed watchmen and guards. The settlements would begin to look at neighbors who remained loyal to the king much differently as time went by. News from other areas also influenced the settlers and meetings were held in churches, homes, taverns, etc. to discuss the situation.


Our history books tells us that on May 20, 1775, the Mecklenburg Declaration was allegedly produced. Also, the Declaration of Independence, shown above, was submitted to newspapers all through the land. This enabled the settlers of many communities to read the words and fully understand that the colonies have now separated from Great Britain. Word was swirling through North Carolina, that British ships were in route to North Carolina’s coast line and this encouraged numerous settlers to now take up arms and defend their homes. Due to the need of armed men in the North Carolina area, many volunteers were given land for a 2 year service. This land bounty was located in Tennessee and was granted after their military service was completed. Majority of the military records for North Carolina were destroyed by fire, but the National Archives has numerous records for North Carolina Revolutionary War Veterans.

The pioneers who endured the hardships of traveling down The Great Wagon Road were seeking means for a better life. They were aware of the changes that Great Britain was imposing upon them and with these changes came tensions that fueled the onset of war. In North Carolina, the settlers were determined individuals who were strong in character and moral values. They valued their families, their religion and their morals to strive for their personal best. The new laws of Great Britain brought turmoil that endangered their freedom and their livelihood. The Revolutionary War represented new independence to create a free country that was open to all religions, beliefs and equality. This is what ultimately led each patriot to bear arms and fight for liberty. Each family was affected by the war, many members were killed while others were left with memories and scars. Their stories were passed down through the generations in hopes that the acts made by our patriot fathers would never be forgotten.

alamance battle

Site of Battle of Alamance, NC

Several links are listed below. These are research tips to locate ancestors who were associated with the American Revolutionary War.

Rosters of the Continental Line North Carolina

North Carolina Digital Archives

North Carolina Oath of Allegiance 1778

Patriot Service Link

Colonial Records of North Carolina

Military Indexes for Revolutionary War All States

Edenton Women Who Refused to Purchase Britain’s Tea

Military Land Grants

North Carolina Patriots 

On a personal note, I’ve researched details of battles, skirmishes and dates associated with the American Revolutionary War. I have documents linking my ancestors to a battle, years of service, etc. But, through the years, I have found that I was fascinated by the information I was able to locate on the families, how the war impacted their daily lives and routines. These small details describe the way of life during 1771 through 1781. Wishing you all great success on your personal research. Thank You All So Much For Your Support of Piedmont Trails.


The Life of Thomas Johnson(1764-1846)

Stokes County, North Carolina Partriot

Thomas Johnson was living in Surry County, present day Stokes County, NC as early as 1774 and was appointed to serve as a member of Surry County Committee of Safety.  Thomas gave his birth date as 1764 but no proof has been provided for the location of his birth. It is believed that he was born in Virginia and moved to North Carolina with his family as a small child. According to the Colonial Records of North Carolina, Thomas enlisted in 1779 and was discharged in December of 1779 serving 9 months of service during the Revolutionary War. I was able to locate him listed in the 10th Regiment of Quins Company. More information on the 10th Regiment.


Land Grants for Thomas Johnson are listed as follows:#562 was entered September 25, 1785 for 50 acres in Buck Island which is present day Hanging Rock area of Stokes County, NC. #569 entered September of 1787, an additional 50 acres in Buck Island. The third grant #764 contained a tract of land consisting of 100 acres lying on the banks of Buck Island Creek entered November 29, 1800. Thomas married Frances(Fanny) Boatright who lived near present day Mountain View, Stokes County. Thomas raised his family of 14 children as listed below.

William(3/1/1794-2/27/1883) married Temperance Kiser and is buried in Stokes County, NC

Thomas Jr.(1797-1864) married Elizabeth(1820-1842) served in Co. K, 148 Indiana Infantry during the Civil War

Catherine(Caty) married Larkin Hall. Traveled back to NC to visit her brother, William

Edmund(1814-1877) married Isabel(1814-?)

Pendleton(1815-1873) married Eliza(1824-?) Traveled back to NC in 1839 to visit his brother, William

Sara married George Brockus


Patsy married Byrum Harroll

Frank married Tempy Hall

Nancy married Joel Harroll

Francis living in Wabash County, Indiana in 1861

Poley married Curtis Hall


Washington married Fanny

buck island stokes county nc

The picture above portrays Buck Island Creek along the falls now located in Hanging Rock Park near present day Danbury, Stokes County. The nearest community settlement during the time the Johnson family lived in the area would have been Germanton, founded in 1790. Located 13 miles south of Danbury, this would have been the center of trade and obtaining goods to sustain the family through the seasons. Germanton is the oldest settlement in the area. Veterans of the Revolutionary War were offered incentives to settle in the area and Thomas Johnson was one among many who chose to do so.

germanton nc

Picture of Courthouse located in Germanton, NC circa 1898

Thomas made the decision to move his family to Indiana circa 1820 and I found him in Henry County after purchasing 80 acres in 1824. Many NC settlers moved to Indiana during this period for several reasons, mainly for the vast amount of land available for much lower prices. William, son of Thomas, did not travel with the family and it is recorded that William climbed a tree in order to watch his family leave as long as possible. Thomas lived in Henry County, Indiana until his death in 1846. He is buried in Dunreith Cemetery beside his wife, Frances.

thomas johnson

During his lifetime, Thomas Johnson portrays to all of us his patriotism, principles, devotion to family and adventurous personality. The trip to Indiana during the 1820’s would have been a long and weary trip for the family. Endurance was proven as the family settled in Henry County and contributed to the community. I should note here, Thomas Johnson’s will was affirmed in open court on August 11, 1846 by Samuel Hoover, Clerk. Reuben Morris and Joseph Cox were listed as witnesses. Thomas mentioned all of his children and even mentioned his son-in-law. James Rose was to receive 1 dollar from Thomas’ estate and nothing more. No additional explanation for the inheritance of James Rose but I’m sure the reasons were very well known to the family at the time.

dunreith cemetery

Below is a copy of a letter written by Pendleton Johnson and Thomas Johnson Jr. addressed to William Johnson in Stokes County, NC. It is dated June 18th, 1839.

Times is tolerable good at this time in our country. Corn is worth 37 1/2 cents per bushel, wheat is worth 75 cents per bushel, oats is worth 31 1/2 cents per bushel. Other articles about the same in propotion. We also inform you that it is uncommon healthy here at this time. We here of no one that is sick at all in the hole settlement. We have had a very fine spring and summer so far except for one nite we had a very hard frost that killed our frute.

A huge amount of these letters can be located at the Henry County Historical Society. Stay tuned for a more detailed description on William Johnson, son of Thomas, in the upcoming months.