The Royal Colony of North Carolina

The Quaker Settlers During the Royal Period (1729 to 1775)

In 1681, when the Society of Friends (Quakers) leader William Penn (1644-1718) parlayed a debt owed by King Charles II to his father into a charter for the province of Pennsylvania, many more Quakers were prepared to grasp the opportunity to live in a land where they might worship freely.

By 1685, as many as 8,000 Quakers had come to Pennsylvania. Although the Quakers may have resembled the Puritans in some religious beliefs and practices, they differed with them over the necessity of compelling religious uniformity in society.

In 1672, George Fox and William Edmundson traveled to America. The two made their way to Carolina and visited Henry Phillips and his wife, the only known Quaker settlers at that time in the Albemarle region of what is today known as North Carolina. As early as 1680, monthly meetings were established around the Albemarle Sound. The establishment of a yearly meeting in North Carolina dates from 1698, as shown by the following record:

"At a Quarterly Meeting held at the house of Henry White, Fourth Month 4th, 1698, it is unanimously agreed by Friends that the last Seventh-day of the Seventh Month, in every year, be the Yearly Meeting for this country, at the house of Francis Toms, and the Second day of the week following to be set apart for business."

The fight during these early years to establish and hold political power raged in North Carolina between Quakers and Anglicans. Cary’s Rebellion, pitted Thomas Cary, a prominent Bath resident favoring the Quakers, against Edward Hyde, an Anglican supporter. The prize was the colonial governorship and Hyde eventually prevailed. Because many Bath citizens had served as Cary's chief lieutenants and, because it was Cary’s stronghold, the region underwent constant turmoil. From 1708 until the rebellion’s collapse in July of 1711, the town courts and government did not function and destruction of private property was rampant.

The peak in the development of Quaker political leadership in this region was achieved in the appointment of John Archdale, convinced Friend, as Governor of the Carolinas in 1695-1696. During the period beginning with his governorship, a number of Friends were elected to the House of Burgesses, and Quakers were the dominant power in the Carolinas in the last decade of the 17th century.

From the 1720s into the 1750s, the westward expansion of the Albemarle region included many new Quaker immigrants from both Pennsylvania and Delaware. The only other significant records of Quaker settlement into North Carolina were the settlement of a small group into Guilford County in 1750 and Alamance County in 1751, and a sizeable group arriving in Randolph County sometime in the 1750s.

There are virtually no other references to large-scale Quaker immigration into North Carolina during the Royal Period, but one can certainly believe that at least a few more Quakers made their way from Pennsylvania and Delaware into the colony between 1732 and 1775. When more information is available, it will be added herein.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved