north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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      Edward Moseley, early eighteenth-century colonial official, was born in England around 1682. Hardly anything is known about his early life, including his parents’ names. Raised in Christ's Hospital orphanage in London, the first record of Moseley is of his apprenticeship aboard a merchant vessel called the Joseph in 1697 at age fifteen.

      By 1703, Moseley resided in Charleston, South Carolina, where he served as a librarian for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Two years later, he married Anne Walker in the eastern Chowan District of North Carolina. Exactly how and why Moseley left Charleston for the Albemarle region is unknown.

      Equally mysterious is how a former sailor and Anglican librarian became the justice of the peace shortly after arriving in the Albemarle. He served as a member of the Proprietary Council from 1705 to 1707 and as speaker of the Assembly in 1708. His service in the assembly coincided with the turbulence of Cary’s Rebellion. Moseley, a strong supporter of Thomas Cary in his battle with William Glover for the governorship, was referred to by Thomas Pollock as “the chief contriver and carry-er on of Col. Cary’s rebellion.”

      Moseley served as a member of the Propriety Council again in 1709-11 and 1723-24. He also held an Assembly seat for nearly every year he was not on the Council, and served as speaker, 1722-1723 and 1731-1734. In 1734 he received an appointment to the royal Council, upon which he served until his death. In addition to his political appointments, Moseley also functioned as the colony’s surveyor-general, treasurer, a vice admiralty court judge, chief justice of the General Court, and alongside William Byrd II as a member of the commissions that established the colony’s boundaries with South Carolina and Virginia. As surveyor he produced the Moseley map of North Carolina, published in 1733, one of the finest early cartographic representations of the colony. William Byrd’s Secret History portrays Moseley as an insensible brute, although he states that North Carolinians looked to him for leadership, and that Virginians turned to Moseley when disputes arose with their southern neighbors.

      Aside from his relationship with Thomas Cary, Moseley played a significant role in several other important incidents in early North Carolina. In 1718 he joined Maurice Moore in attempting to discredit Governor Charles Eden and Tobias Knight for their involvement with Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard. In December 1718, Moseley and Moore broke into Secretary John Lovick’s home attempting to discover incriminating evidence in the Council’s records. Caught in the act, Moore and Moseley were tried the following year, resulting in Moseley being fined and barred from public service for three years.

      In 1735, Moseley moved his family to the Lower Cape Fear region near Rocky Point. Taking his post in the royal Council, he soon became involved in a dispute with Governor Gabriel Johnston over whether Newton, now known as Wilmington, or Brunswick should serve as the main port of entry. For the remainder of his political career, Moseley fostered measures that would support the Lower Cape Fear region.

      Moseley died in July 1749, leaving a widow, five sons, and a daughter. Moseley’s first wife died in the 1720s, and he remarried in 1734 to Ann Sampson. At his death, Moseley served as colonial treasurer, and owned plantations in Chowan, Edgecombe, and New Hanover counties (with acreage totaling over 30,000 acres) as well as ninety slaves. Probably reflecting a love of books that explained his time as a librarian, Moseley’s personal library consisted of nearly 400 volumes. Seventy-six of his books had been donated to Edenton in 1726, serving as the foundation for the city’s public library.


References:
William Byrd, Prose Works: Narratives of a Colonial Virginian (1966)William L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, II - IV (1886)
Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XXII - XXIII (1904-1907)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 332-333—sketch by William S. Price, Jr.
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina History (2006)
Daniel H. Hill, Edward Moseley: Character Sketch (1906)
Elizabeth G. MacPherson, “Edward Moseley: A Study in North Carolina Colonial Politics” (M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina, 1925)
A. Roger Ekirch, “Poor Carolina”: Politics and Society in Colonial North Carolina, 1729-1776 (1981)
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