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WHO WAS RICHARD CASWELL?


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urveyor- Patriot-Soldier-Governor
Richard Caswell
Father of Our State
 Led the Way for North Carolina

  • Deputy surveyor of the North Carolina Colony

  • Served in the North Carolina Colonial Assembly

  • Sponsored legislation to form the town of Kinston

  • Commander of the Dobbs County Militia

  • Served as Brigadier General of the New Bern District of North Carolina.

  • State controller (treasurer)

  • Fought at the Battle of Alamance

  • Delegate to the first and second Continual Congress.

  • Revolutionary War Hero at the Battle of Moore’s Creek

  • Helped draft the first North Carolina constitution

  • Major General of all North Carolina troops

  • Fought at the Battle of Camden

  • North Carolina’s first constitutional governor

  • Stricken with a fatal stroke while presiding over the NC General  Assembly

     

    Richard Caswell Legacy

    Richard Caswell, Jr., born Aug. 3, 1729 in Joppa, Maryland—son of Richard Caswell Sr., Maryland state legislator, military leader and businessman—came to North Carolina in 1746 with a letter of introduction from the Royal Governor of Maryland to the Royal Governor of North Carolina, Gabriel Johnston in New Bern.

    Caswell trained to become a surveyor under James McIllwean and lived at Tower Hill near present day Kinston. In 1747 he received a land grant and built a home called The Hill in what is today Kinston.

    He was elected to the Colonial Assembly in 1754 where he served for 20 years. During the early years of his political career, Caswell was loyal to the King of England and a close associate of Royal Governors William Tryon and Josiah Martin. But Caswell’s attitudes began to change and by 1774 he had switched allegiance to the colonial patriots.

    He was a member of the Provincial Congress of North Carolina in 1774 and although he was serving the royal government as a district treasurer, Caswell was elected as one of North Carolina’s representatives to the First Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia, Sept. 1774.

    By 1776 Caswell’s commitment to the patriots’ cause was complete and he was elected first a Colonel and later Brigadier General by North Carolina’s 4th Provincial Congress.

    The 5th Provincial Congress, with Caswell as its President, drafted a new Constitution for a free North Carolina, providing for the election of a chief executive. Caswell was elected and took the oath of office Jan. 16, 1777 in the council chamber of Tryon Palace in New Bern. Royal Governor Josiah Martin had vacated the palace and fled to Maryland. Caswell was re-elected governor 1778 and 1779. In the meantime, believing New Bern was too vulnerable to British attack, Caswell ordered all state records moved from New Bern to Kinston, housing them in what is now Harmony Hall, home built in 1772 by brother-in-law Jesse Cobb.

    Kinston was the de facto state capital from 1777 to 1781 when state records were moved again to Salisbury.  In 1780, Caswell left the governor’s chair but was Major General in the state militia. From May 1782 until 1785, he was state Controller General, and then Governor again from 1785 until 1788.

    On November 5, 1789, Caswell collapsed while presiding as President of the State Senate meeting in Fayetteville. He died five days later, November 10, 1789 at the age of 60.

    A funeral conducted under the rites of the Masonic Order was held in Fayetteville, attended by members of the General Assembly. It is believed by many that his body was shipped to Kinston for burial in the family plot which is now a part of the Richard Caswell Historic Site in Kinston.