nc history

Tarheel Founding Fathers: Joseph Hewes

Joseph Hewes was one of three NC Delegates featured in the first entry of this series eleven years ago, and I thought it fitting to give him his own diary to better explore the man. He was originally from New Jersey but moved to NC to start his own business:

Born in 1730 at Maybury Hill, an estate on the outskirts of Princeton, N.J., Hewes was the son of a pious and well-to-do Quaker farmer. He received a strict religious upbringing, and studied at a local school. After learning trade from a Philadelphia merchant, he entered business for himself. About 1760, anxious to expand his modest fortune, he moved to the thriving seaport town of Edenton, N.C. There, where he was to reside for the rest of his life, he founded a profitable mercantile and shipping firm and gained prominence.

By the time he had begun to prosper in Edenton, his rejection of many aspects of Quakerism was already in action. After that first diary in 2008, I had some conversations with a few people who remarked about a Quaker getting involved in the War effort, and we speculated that abuses of the Crown drove him to it. I'm now leaning towards another (less noble) reason: His overbearing father probably drove him away from the faith. Whatever the case, Hewes was not only a capable businessman, but also a cunning tactician. From a letter in January 1776 to Samuel Johnston:

Tarheel Founding Fathers: Willie Jones

Willie (pronounced Wylie) Jones was the son of a wealthy crown agent, and at the young age of 12 was sent to England to attend Eton, like his father before him. And like a few of our other Founding Fathers, was loyal to Governor Tryon and assisted in the crackdown on the Regulators:

As might be expected from his heritage, he was identified during these early years with the royal governors, William Tryon and Josiah Martin, and their clique. He marched with Tryon's colonial militia to Orange County and was appointed Tryon's aide-de-camp on 15 May 1771, the day before Tryon's victory over the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance. Several days later Captain Jones was sent to raid the plantation of Herman Husband, a leading Regulator. When Tryon left North Carolina to become governor of New York, Jones "publicly lamented his removal . . . as a calamity to the province." As a further indication of his allegiance to the royal clique, he was appointed, on Governor Martin recommendation, to His Majesty's Council of the Province of North Carolina on 9 Mar. 1774.

But that loyalty soon frayed, and Willie joined the cause of liberty, adding his sharp intellect to mix. In his (brief) one year career in the Continental Congress, his grasp of the military situation and his determination to make sure it succeeded contributed greatly to the cause:

Must-see tv: "Klansville, USA" tonight on PBS

Facing the truth will set you free:

The rise and fall of the KKK in North Carolina in the Sixties is the subject of a new documentary, called Klansville USA, that is airing nationally at 9 pm. on PBS’ The American Experience. The history of the civil rights movement in the state, with the sit-ins at the Woolworth’s in Greensboro, is well known. The white backlash against the freedom movement has largely been swept under the rug.

Which is why Callie Wiser, a noted documentary maker for PBS, took on the subject. A Tennessee native, Wiser was a Morehead scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and now lives in Massachusetts with her husband.

Unfortunately, the "fall" wasn't complete. The Klan still exists in North Carolina, in numbers hard to quantify, and its maybe not-so-distant cousin (the Tea Party) is actually a political force, that has enjoyed mixed successes in their ability to influence politicians and the public policy they determine. It might be hard to watch for many reading this, but it's important. 9:00 p.m.

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