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

 
 
 

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      Rednap Howell, the “Regulator Poet,” first appears in North Carolina records in a Regulator advertisement dated April 30, 1768. He is listed among men appointed to meet with government officials a few days later. Howell is believed to have moved from New Jersey to work as a teacher, living with families in the vicinity of what is now Chatham and Randolph counties. He is known for having written several humorous poems satirizing men and events that were targets of the Regulators, backcountry settlers who felt oppressed by the royal government.

      Howell played an active role in the Hillsborough riot on September 12, 1770, being among those who “insulted some of the gentlemen of the bar, and in riotous manner went into the court-house and forcibly carried out some of the attorneys, and in a cruel manner beat them.” A few months later, the same men are described as “still continuing their riotous meeting, and severely threatening the judges, lawyers, and other officers of the court.”

      Howell was the writer of a letter to James Hunter that was intercepted and given to Governor William Tryon, convincing him “of the wicked designs of those people.” In the letter, composed while in Halifax, Howell wrote, “I have animated the people here to join the Regulators. If it once takes a start here it will run into the neighboring Counties . . . and will undoubtedly bring Justice to poor Carolina.” He goes on to say that the Regulators will “stand in defiance” and “drive (crooked officials) out of the country.”

      After the Battle of Alamance, Tryon declared four Regulator leaders—Rednap Howell, James Hunter, Herman Husband, and William Butler—to be outlaws and offered a reward for their capture. Howell escaped to Maryland, where James Hunter visited him in 1772. He later moved back to New Jersey where he died in 1787. Rednap Howell’s legacy is in his writings that have survived. His role in the Regulator movement was that of a key agitator. His articulate use of language and his ability to turn a carefully crafted phrase made him a foe of the royal government.


References:
William S. Powell and others, Regulators in North Carolina: A Documentary History, 1759-1776 (1971)
Marjoleine Kars, Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina (2002)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 220-221—sketch by Elmer D. Johnson
William L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, online at http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/
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