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

 
 
 

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     For someone who spent an aggregate of three years of his life in the colony, Thomas Child was a man of power and influence in North Carolina. Born in England around 1720, Child was the youngest of three sons born to Richard Child, a physician in Suffolk County. With his father’s encouragement, Child applied for the position of attorney general for the colony of North Carolina. The appointment was granted February 8, 1746, and Child was in the colony by June of that year. Child stayed only a few months before returning to England.

     Although he told Governor Gabriel Johnston that he needed to attend to some affairs at home, Child reported to the secretary of state for the southern provinces that he left because of unrest and confusion in the colony. Child joined an anti-Johnstonian group that attempted to have the governor dismissed. During his time in England, Child was appointed proprietary agent for the Granville Land Office, a position that he shared for about a decade with Francis Corbin. Child was only in the colony for about one year of that time, but worked diligently from England negotiating contracts. When, in 1759, Corbin came under attack for mismanagement of the Granville land office, Child was made the exclusive agent. Reaffirmed as the colony’s attorney general, he returned to North Carolina later that year for his longest stay. He cleared the land office of all of Corbin’s associates and, by July of 1760, had the office in good order, having processed a tremendous backlog of land grants.

     Thomas Child represented Chowan County in the General Assembly in 1760 and 1761. His advocacy of the political and economic interests of the northern counties drew the admonition of Governor Arthur Dobbs. Child resigned his offices and moved to Virginia in August 1761. When the Granville land office closed in 1763 upon the death of John, Earl Granville, Child settled all of his American affairs and returned to England. There he attempted to purchase all of the Granville District lands from the second Earl Granville. Although he failed in that scheme, Child maneuvered the purchase of the quitrents for the nearly 100,000 acres owned by the Moravians. Child sold the quitrents to the Moravians in 1767 for an undisclosed figure, but the fact that the Moravians were still making payments on the purchase in 1789 implies that it was a lucrative deal. The sale of the Moravian quitrents severed Childs’ final link to the colony. He died in London in the early 1790s.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 367-368—sketch by George Stevenson
Adelaide L. Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, I and II (1922)
William L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, IV-VII (1886-1890)
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