North Carolina While the inland section of the colony had once been predominately composed of planters with an agriculture based economy, merchants and lawyers from the coastal area began to move west, upsetting the current social and political structure. At the same time, the local agricultural community was suffering from a deep economic depression, due to severe droughts throughout the past decade. The loss of crops caused farmers to lose not only their direct food source, but primary means of income, which led many to rely on the goods being brought in by newly arrived merchants. Since income was cut off, the local planters often fell into debt, which could not be paid off immediately. In turn the merchants would rely on lawyers and the court to settle the debate. Debts were not uncommon at the time, but from 1755 to 1765 the number of cases brought to the docket increased 15 fold, from 7 annually to 111 in Orange County alone. Court cases could often lead to planters losing their homes and property, who naturally grew to resent the presence of the new merchants and the lawyers. The shift in population and politics eventually led to an imbalance within the colony's courthouses, where the newly arrived and well educated lawyers used their superior knowledge of the law to their unjust advantage. A small clique of wealthy officials formed, and became an exclusive inner circle in charge of the legal affairs of the area. The group was seen as a 'courthouse ring', or a small bunch of officials who obtained most of the political power for themselves. By 1764, thousands of people from North Carolina, mainly from Orange, Anson, and Granville counties in the western region, were extremely dissatisfied with the wealthy North Carolina officials, whom they considered cruel, arbitrary, tyrannical and corrupt. Taxes were collected by local sheriffs supported by the courts; the sheriffs and courts had sole control over their local regions. Many of the officers were deemed to be very greedy and often would band together with other local officials for their own personal gain. The entire system depended on the integrity of local officials, many of whom engaged in extortion; taxes collected often enriched the tax collectors directly. At times, sheriffs would intentionally remove records of their tax collection in order to further tax citizens. The system was endorsed by the colonial governor, who feared losing the support of the various county officials. The effort to eliminate this system of government became known as the Regulator uprising, War of the Regulation, or the Regulator War. The most heavily affected areas were said to be that of Rowan, Anson, Orange, Granville, and Cumberland counties. It was a struggle between mostly lower class citizens, who made up the majority of the population of North Carolina, and the wealthy ruling class, who comprised about 5% of the population, yet maintained almost total control of the government. The primary aim of the Regulators was to form an honest government and reduce taxation. The wealthy businessmen/politicians that ruled North Carolina at this point, saw this as a grave threat to their power. Ultimately they brought in militia to curb their anti-government sentiments and crush any efforts to start a rebellion. It is estimated that out of the 8,000 people living in Orange County at the time, some six or seven thousand of them were in support of the Regulators.
Although the "War of the Regulators" is considered by some to be one of the first acts of the American Revolutionary War, it was waged against corrupt local officials and not against the king or crown. Edmund Fanning graduated from Yale in 1757 and studied law in New York, before moving by 1761 to North Carolina, where his brother Dr. William Fanning was the first rector of St. George's Parish in Northampton County. He served as the register of deeds, 1763-1768, and was also a judge of superior court and a militia colonel. Governor William Tryon assumed the position following the death of Governor Dobbs. Tryon had an extremely lavish home built in 1770 in New Bern (now known as Tryon Palace), which became one of the main points of resentment for the Regulators, who were already paying substantial taxes. William (The Regulator) Butler was quoted as saying "We are determined not to pay the Tax for the next three years, for the Edifice or Governor's House, nor will we pay for it."
The Regulator Movement. The years preceding the American Revolution many people in North Carolina experienced strong feelings of discontent with the way in which the provincial government's officials were conducting the affairs of the colony. The Regulator Movement in mid-eighteenth-century North Carolina was a rebellion initiated by residents of the colony's inland region, or backcountry, who believed that royal government officials were charging them excessive fees, falsifying records, and engaging in other mistreatments. The movement's name refers to the desire of these citizens to regulate their own affairsTheir quarrel was not with the form of government or the body of laws, but with the abuses and malpractices of those empowered to administer that government and those laws. In 1764, several thousand people from North Carolina, mainly from Orange, Anson, and Granville counties in the western region, were extremely dissatisfied with North Carolina officials whom they considered cruel, arbitrary, tyrannical and corrupt. "Local" officials in many counties, particularly in the western segment of the back-country were not local men at all, but friends of the royal governor, William Tryon. These so-called "friends" often collected higher fees than authorized by the law while obtaining tax money or divided a single service into many services and charged fees for each. Lawyers who followed the judges around the colony also fell into the same habit. While the inland section of the colony had once been predominately composed of planters with an agriculture based economy, merchants and lawyers from the coastal area began to move west, upsetting the current social and political structure. At the same time, the local agricultural community was suffering from a deep economic depression, due to severe droughts throughout the past decade. The loss of crops caused farmers to lose not only their direct food source, but primary means of income, which led many to rely on the goods being brought in by newly arrived merchants. Since income was cut off, the local planters often fell into debt, which could not be paid off immediately. In turn the merchants would rely on lawyers and the court to settle the debate. Debts were not uncommon at the time, but from 1755 to 1765 the number of cases brought to the docket increased 15 fold, from 7 annually to 111 in Orange County alone. Grievances included excessive taxes, dishonest sheriffs, and illegal fees. The sheriffs and courts had sole control over their local regions. Many of the officers would band together with other local officials for their own personal gain. The entire system—which depended on the integrity of local officials, many of whom engaged in extortion; taxes collected often enriched the tax collectors directly. At times, sheriffs would intentionally remove records of their tax collection in order to further tax citizens. The system was endorsed by the colonial governor, who feared losing the support of the various county officials.
Some settlers like the Ellis’ and Alexander Davidson simply moved their families further southwest out of Orange County, into the frontier where no county courts, unfair taxes and fees from the newly implemented Stamp Act existed, and self appointed bands of men styling themselves as Regulators provided law enforcement.
Those residing in the western part of the province, were isolated and out of sympathy with the easterners; it was from these frontier counties that the War of Regulation originated and grew. The citizens of Anson, Orange, and Granville counties were the first to make themselves heard. In 1764, this band of citizens, referred to by the eastern planter society as “the mob," created a number of local disturbances until Governor Arthur Dobbs passed a proclamation forbidding the collection of illegal fees, the practice that the people complained of the most. Their protests were calmed only temporarily. However, the effects of the new law wore off soon enough, and sheriffs and other county officers returned to their old dishonest practices. Citizens complained largely in part because money was so scarce; local trading was almost limited to barter. Often, property was seized and resold, and citizens felt that their property was being sold to a friend of an official for much less than its true value. A small clique of wealthy officials formed, and became an exclusive inner circle in charge of the legal affairs of the area. The group was seen as a 'courthouse ring', or a small bunch of officials who obtained most of the political power for themselves. At times, sheriffs would intentionally remove records of their tax collection in order to further tax citizens. The system was endorsed by the colonial governor, who feared losing the support of the various county officials. The effort to eliminate this system of government became known as the Regulator uprising, War of the Regulation, or the Regulator War. The most heavily affected areas were said to be that of Rowan, Anson, Orange, Granville, and Cumberland counties. A group of men, apparently enthusiastic over the success of the Sons of Liberty in resisting the Stamp Act, called citizens together to determine whether they were being treated justly or not. Minor oppositions continued to occur until the spring of 1768 when the sheriff of Orange County announced he would be collecting taxes at certain areas of the colony only, and if colonists did not pay at these particular locations a charge would be incurred. This occured at about the same time Tryon gave word about the construction of Tryon Palace. This was very inconvenient for the settlers for two reasons. The widely scattered population made it difficult to arrive at these tax stations. Lack of money was also a concern. Opposition to these moves influenced people to join the Regulator association. The Regulators declared their purpose in a proclamation soon after claiming they would: "assemble ourselves for conference for regulating public grievances and abuses of power, in the following particulars...that may occur: (1) We will pay no more taxes until we are satisfied that they are agreeable to law, and applied to the purposes therein mentioned, unless we cannot help it, or are forced. (2) We will pay no officer any more fees than the law allows, unless we are obliged to do it, and then show our dislike and bear open testimony against it. (3) We will attend all of our meetings as often as we conveniently can... (4) We will contribute to collections for defraying the necessary expenses attending the work, according to our abilities. (5) In case of differences in judgement, we will submit to the judgment of the majority of our body. (6) The Regulators also did not allow drinking of alcohol at their meetings because they knew that different opinions could result in an internal clash. These meetings often took place at the local church building. Churches that were led by men like Joseph and William Murphy
1764 Riots and disturbances were breaking out at court houses in nearly every major county, the upland farmers were finally considering in organizing and amassing a concerted response to the government, all of which was being cultivated and taking root in local non-Anglican rural churches. 1768, An association of "Regulators" was formed, allied in opposition to what they considered unjust and tyrannical practices of government officials. The wealthier ruling class considered these Regulators to be "a mob." Discouraged over the failures to secure justice through peaceful negotiations, and considering the government indifference to their distress with deliberate slowness of legal remedies to take effect, the Regulators took a more radical stand. When punitive measures were taken against them, the Regulators defiantly refused to pay fees, and terrorized those who administered the law, and successfully disrupted court proceedings. It fell to the Royal Governor William Tryon to bring this backcountry revolt to a speedy conclusion. In March, 1771, the governor's council, determined to squelch the angry rebel farmers, advised Governor Tryon to call out the militia and to march against the Regulators and their “spiritual” ringleaders.
War of the Regulation Although the "War of the Regulators" is considered by some to be one of the first acts of the American Revolutionary War, in fact it was against the corrupt local officials, and not against the king or crown. Governor William Tryon assumed the title and role as the Royal Governor of North Carolina following the death of Governor Dobbs in 1765. In 1770, Tryon had built an extremely lavish home built in New Bern (now known as Tryon's Palace), which became one of the main points of resentment for the Regulators, who were already paying substantial taxes. Edmund Fanning, a young and ambitious local prosecutor for the crown, crony and henchman of Governor Lord Tyron. He was also the local public registrar for the county and given a commission in the county’s militia, both prime jobs for an up and coming good ol’ boy. Eventually he became the Superior Court justice for the Salisbury district and elevated to the rank of Colonel in the Orange County militia. With strong-arm assistance of the local sheriff in property confiscation and collusion with other governmental offices, he became the major landowner in the town of Hillsboro, which his friends commonly called Fanningsburg. With his acquisition of power, arrogance towards the locals and apparent streak of cruelty everyone had to pay dearly to do business with Fanning’s office. It was not uncommon for the local Sheriff to embezzle nearly 50% of the local taxes collected. Edmund Fanning and his connections to Governor Tyron came to epitomize everything that was wrong with local government to the great majority of Orange county residents. Edmund Fanning viewed the backwoods Baptist churches as a hotbed of sedition to the Crown and he made it his single ambition to round them up and tried for sedition, punishable by death. Fanning’s brother was an Anglican clergyman in Tidewater, Virginia who believed the Quakers and Baptists were aimed at undermining the Church of England, Needless–to-say, Edmund Fanning was one of the Regulators principal targets having confiscating unfortunate Regulators’ property for delinquent taxes at every turn. Col. Edmund Fanning had been found guilty of embezzling money, but was only fined a minuscule amount, which only proved the government’s corruption to the Regulators. At an unfortunate moment with feeling between the two opposing sides come to a peak, when officials in Hillsborough seized a Regulator's horse, saddle, and bridle and sold them for taxes. Outraged, a band of Regulators rode into Hillsborough, rescued the horse, and before leaving town, fired several shots into Edmund Fanning's house. Fanning, who was in court in Halifax, immediately ordered the arrest of three Regulators who played a big role in the Hillsborough horse incident, William Butler, Peter Craven, and Ninian Beall Hamilton. The majority citizens of Orange County were sympathetic with the Regulators, but Fanning gathered a handful of armed men and assisted the sheriff in arresting the guilty Regulators, the men were charged with inciting the people to rebellion and were confined in the Hillsborough jail. While small acts of violence had been taking place for some time, mainly out of resentment, the first organized conflict was in Mecklenburg County in 1765. The Regulators pursued their purpose with tremendous force. They broke into courts of justice, drove judges from the bench and set up mock trials. They dragged unoffending attorneys through the streets almost until death and publicly assaulted peaceful citizens who refused to express public sympathy for the Regulation.
In September, 1770, Judge Richard Henderson was presiding over the superior court in Hillsborough when a mob of one hundred fifty Regulators, armed with sticks and switches, broke into the courthouse, attempted to strike the judge, and forced him to leave the bench. Edmund Fanning was pulled out from the courthouse by his heels and dragged from the courthouse before being brutally whipped. The mob then broke into Fanning's house, burned his papers, destroyed his furniture, and demolished and burned the building. Many others were whipped as the Regulators rioted through the streets of Hillsborough. Windows of private homes were broken and the inhabitants of the town were terrorized. Court was adjourned when Judge Henderson was unable to keep order. On March 19, 1771 Tyron called for volunteers for the militia, he offered a payment of forty shillings. The offer helped tremendously, and on April 23 the troops got under way. Guns, ammunition, and other equipment for these troops had been sent at Tryon's request from Fort Johnston on the Cape Fear River. General Hugh Waddell was ordered to march to Salisbury to halt the advances of the Rowan County Regulators, to retrieve the western militia, and then march to Hillsborough from the west. There were 1,068 men; 151 were officers. General Waddell, Tryon left Hillsborough on May 11, leading the militia through the heart of "Regulator country." On the fourteenth day they reached the banks of Alamance Creek where they rested for a day. On May 16, 1771, Tryon ordered his army into battle formation. With these troops Tryon was set to destroy a large body of Regulators reported assembled five miles ahead. The Regulators, estimated at about 2,000, were waiting for Tryon's confrontation.
1771 - Battle of Alamance Before the shooting began, the Regulators were given a choice to retreat, dissolve their group or be fired upon. The Regulators gave no response and thus the Battle of Alamance began. Tryon's well-equipped troops soon put the Regulators to flight. The Regulators had no officer higher than captain and each individual company fought independently. Tryon's artillery fire was very effective forcing many Regulators to seek refuge behind trees and rocks. The Battle of Alamance lasted only two hours. The Regulators had nine killed, but had a large, but undetermined number of men wounded. Tryon took about fifteen prisoners, and executed one on the spot with the idea of making an example of the Regulators. The Regulators were compelled to retreat and live life in the wilderness. Many migrated, some going to Tennessee and down into the Mississippi River Valley. Others followed Daniel Boone's trail into Kentucky. By 1772, just one year later, about 1,500 of the former Regulators left North Carolina altogether.
Following the Battle of Alamance, Tryon's militia army led by Col. Fanning traveled through Regulator territory where he had the Regulators and their sympathizers sign loyalty oaths and destroyed the properties of the Regulator leaders. Several trials were held, resulting in the hanging of six Regulators at Hillsborough on June 19, 1771. Others, who were accused of being leaders remained in hiding until 1772, Joseph Murphy was one of them.
Benjamin Merrell, was one of the North Carolina "Regulators" (leader of 300 man Rowan Co. militia) was hanged by colonial North Carolina Governor Tyron, June 19, Capt. Benjamin Merrell, faced Governor Tyron's sentence: "You are to be hanged by the Neck; that you be cut down while yet alive, that your Bowels be taken out and burnt before your Face, that your head be cut off, your Body divided into Four Quarters, and this be at his Majesty's Disposal; and the Lord have Mercy on your Soul." Benjamin Merrell was an intelligent, ambitious and hardworking young man as a farmer and prospered and we know by court records that he had become a leader in the area. His wife and eight children were forced to watch, including his youngest, Jonathan, age six. Benjamin Merrell been converted to the Baptist faith just a few years earlier by the preaching of Joseph Murphy. The "Records of the Moravians” (in North Carolina) tell us that a meetinghouse was built on the Yadkin River, at the invitation of its members, Rev. Joseph Murphy preached there on November 30, 1768.
1761 Rowan Co. Circuit Court records show on Aprl 25th, 1761 a case where we find Jas Smith, Benjamin Merrill, Andrew Smith and William Ellis (Alexander Davison’s father-in-law) serving on the same jury.
Following the battle, Dragoons were sent through the settlements to burn, pillage, and round up and bring to camp those charged with being dangerous Regulators.... these horsemen were riding through the settlements just across the Yadkin to seize Regulators and bring them as prisoners to Tryon's camp, among them Abraham Cresson who was a regular attendant an the services at Mr. Murphy's church, and who was sent on to Hillsboro by Tryon to be tried for his life. Several others of the prisoners named as being from neighborhoods convenient to Mr. Murphy's church were Baptists. It became known that Tryon's chief henchman, leading the expedition against the Baptists, was Col. Edmund Fanning, who had plans to seize Elder Joseph Murphy, who had led in the growing Baptist development in this section. On June 3, Br. Traugott Bagge, who had charge of the business interests of the Moravians, noted the presence of Fanning with his corps in the vicinity of Murphy's home. "The vile Col. Fanning accused him (Murphy) of aiding and abetting the Regulation whereof he was as clear as any man whatsoever; yet a party of horses was sent to seize him, but could not find him." A second account, reads: "He (Murphy) suffered by the regulation though' he had no hand in it; for a detachment of dragoons entered his house, stole his papers, and a new pair of stockings which were the most valuable things, they saw in his little cot."
It is the general belief that if Joseph Murphy had been found at home he would have been sent to Hillsboro, tried for treason, and suffered the same cruel and barbarous death as his fellow Baptist, Benjamin Merrill, who had been seized by the Governor's forces only a few days before. Since Murphy was the best known and most successful Baptist leader in this section, his removal was probably much desired by all those who shared Tryon's enmity against the Baptists on the ground that they were enemies of "Mother Church." Br. Traugott Bagge’s statement is: "He could not be found or he would have shared the fate of Merrill." William and Joseph Murphy were forced to leave their homes and their congregations they were leading and hide in the western wilderness of the North Carolina and settle in the Holston River valley in Eastern Tennessee as they were considered outlaws by the crown under the terms of the Riot Act.
Joseph Murphy had found refuge in what is known as Boone's Cave, a cavern under the bank of the Yadkin near Boone's Ford and the home of the parents of Daniel Boone on the east side of the Yadkin. They would later return to fight the British at the Battle at Kings Mountain as the “Over the Mountain Men” Following the May 1771 Battle of Alamance, Sandy Creek Church membership dropped from 606 to 14.
Although there is no proof that the Murphy’s were Regulators themselves the churches they led at Little River and Dan River churches, were stocked full of Regulator sympathizers if not outright participants, and at least two known Regulator leaders Benjamin Merrill and James Stewart, were admitted Baptists in their church About 1780, William Murphy, moved into what was called the Holston country, when it was in a wilderness state, and much exposed to the ravages and depredations of the Indians. These ministers were all Virginians, except Mr. Tidence Lane, who was from North Carolina.
The “Over Mountain Men” The Overmountain Men were American frontiersmen from west of the Appalachian Mountains who took part in the American Revolutionary War. While they were present at multiple engagements in the war's southern campaign, they are best known for their role in the American victory at the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780. The term "overmountain" refers to the fact that their settlements were west of, or "over", the Appalachians —the range being the primary geographical boundary dividing the 13 American colonies from the western frontier. The Overmountain Men helped to solidify the existence of the fragile settlements in the Watauga, Nolichucky, and Holston river valleys.