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



Marker Text:

     Born into a large, well connected, politically active family on his father’s plantation near Littleton in Halifax County, Willis Alston became a prominent political figure at the state and national level. While a student at Princeton in 1791, he was elected to serve in the North Carolina House of Commons. He served in the House of Commons for another three terms and in the Senate from 1794 until 1796. His political career moved him to the national scene as he served in Congress from 1799 until 1815. An outspoken politician, Alston became known as a staunch supporter of Jeffersonian politics.

     Following a brief retirement at home from 1815 until 1820, Alston re-emerged as a political figure in the state House of Representatives from 1820 until 1824 and in the Congress from 1825 until 1831. Alston’s role in Washington politics most often is noted for his close relationship with John C. Calhoun and other “War Hawks” during the War of 1812 as well as his position on the powerful Ways and Means Congressional Committee. While working in state politics, Alston favored internal improvements, sought to investigate potential fraud of the state treasurer John Haywood, and worked to reform banking.

     Alston married first Pattie Moore of Halifax County and second to Sarah Potts of Wilmington. Pattie did not provide Alston with children but Sarah was mother to five children: Charles, Ariellah, Leonidas, Missouri, and Edgar. Alston operated a large plantation in Halifax County and, according to the 1830 census, owned 102 slaves. Alston died in Halifax on April 10, 1837 and was buried in the private burying ground at his plantation, “Butterwood,” near his birthplace.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 30—sketch by Daniel McFarland
W.C. Allen, History of Halifax County (1918)
D. H. Gilpatrick, Jeffersonian Democracy in North Carolina (1931)
Biographical Directory to the United States Congress online:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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