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

 
 
 

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Essay:
     When the Lords Proprietors of North Carolina sold their claims to the Crown in 1729, Lord Granville maintained control of his right, and what became known as the Granville District, including modern Halifax County, fell to his share. In territories belonging to the King, quitrents were paid into the colonial Treasury and covered governmental expenses. In the Granville District, however, quitrents were paid to Granville, leading to some dissent among colonists in the district. Granville’s lands were also subject to an annual rental per acre, paid in addition to the land’s purchase price

     Granville employed two agents, Francis Corbin and Thomas Bodley, to collect his rents. The agents were accused of extortion and fraud and were investigated by a committee of the Colonial Assembly. The investigation was slow and the Assembly adjourned without action, leading citizens in Halifax to become agitated, threatening to act on the matter themselves. As a result, on January 24, 1759, a group of men from Halifax and Edgecombe Counties rode to Corbin’s house in Edenton and seized him during the night. Bodley was also seized while in Edgecombe County. The men were taken to Enfield, where they were held in jail and forced to give bonds for appearance at the spring term of court, agree to new rules governing land offices, and agree to refrain from suing the “rioters” for their actions. During the court session, the agents were released after they promised to return all illegal fees and taxes collected.

     Following his release, Corbin filed a lawsuit against his abductors but soon dropped the suit, fearing his guilt would come to light. Additionally, the rioters warned Corbin that the lawsuit should be dropped or he would be held accountable to the mob. The suit was dropped and Corbin paid the court’s costs. The Colonial Assembly investigated and some of the rioters were jailed for their actions. Friends and sympathizers promptly broke into the Enfield jail and released the men. After all of the activity had subsided, the wheels of government were in action—Corbin was dismissed from the Governor’s Council several months later and removed from duty by Lord Granville. Once the matter was settled, Halifax was again peaceful.

     The Assembly’s actions against the rioters were severe. Governor Arthur Dobbs was more lenient, perhaps because he was at odds at the Assembly and took every occasion to take an opposite stance. Modern historians have considered the actions of the Halifax citizens as a foreshadowing of those of the men of Alamance and Hillsborough during the Regulator crisis.


References:
Wayne E. Lee, Crowds and Soldiers in Revolutionary North Carolina: The Culture of Violence in Riot and War (2001)
W.C. Allen, History of Halifax County (1918)
Hugh T. Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome, History of a Southern State: North Carolina (1954)
William L. Saunders and Walter Clark, eds., Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
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