The Regulator Movement

Last weekend I drove to Siler City, North Carolina to attend a lecture on The Regulator Movement of Chatham County, North Carolina, given by Mr. John H. Emerson. The lecture was sponsored by the Chatham County Historical Society and took place at the Rives Chapel Church in Siler City, North Carolina.  Tours of the church and the nearby Old Tick Creek cemetery, where the Regulator James Emerson was buried, were given prior to the lecture.  I did not make it to the church in time for the cemetery tour, however I made it inside the hall in time to get a good seat. I think attendance was higher than they expected because the organizers had to set up more chairs. The lecture itself ran for just about an hour. The Chatham County Historical Society had some books and pamphlets on a table at the back of the room that we could visit after the lecture. Another gentleman also had some weapons on display for us to look at.

The Regulator Movement is said to be the precursor and possibly even the first battle of the American Revolutionary War.  What started out as a peaceful movement enacted to change the policies governing land and property taxation and to rid the colony of corrupt politicans, ended in a gun fight at the Battle of Alamance Creek.

I decided to attend this lecture for a couple of reasons: My ancestor, Henry Williams, was living in nearby Caswell County, NC during this time (1766-1771) and was believed to have been in the Caswell County Militia. I think he may have had some involvement in the Regulator Movement. There’s been some confusion about his involvement in the Revolutionary War (see previous post here) and I was hoping to clear it up by learning about his possible role in the Regulator Movement.

I also wanted to have any excuse to drive out that way. Siler City is on the outskirts of Randolph County, North Carolina. My Godwin family settled in Randolph County in 1800 in the small community of Seagrove. Seagrove is about a 20 minute drive West of Siler City. A few weeks ago I took my first trip out to Randolph County to visit the Genealogy room in the Randolph County public library located in downtown Asheboro. You can read about my visit on my other blog here. I hope to make more trips out there to take in more of the scenery.

I did not learn any new information about my ancestor, Henry Williams, believed to have been an officer in the Revolutionary War.  There was a copy of William Powell’s book, The Regulators in North Carolina: A documentary history, 1759-1766 on one of the tables.  I did not find any mention of my ancestory, Henry Williams, in it. This was not surprising as I had already read much of the book in 2006 when I wrote a paper on the Regulator Movement for my North Carolina History Class.

A Mr. Brooks Gilbert opened up his family home, originally owned and  occupied by Isaac Brooks, also a Regulator, to the lecture attendees.  His home is located at 1958 Ike Brooks Rd, which was just a quick turn off of the Rives Chapel Church Road in Siler City. Isaac Brooks was a descendant of John and Susan Brooks, whose descendants meet every August in Siler City for a huge family reunion.  I have yet to find a connection between this Brooks family and my own of Caswell County, North Carolina, however I believe both families came from the same part of Virginia prior to their migration to North Carolina.  This Brooks family even has a highway named after them!  More to come about my visit to Isaac Brooks’ House.

Henry Williams – A Revolutionary War Soldier?

Many researchers of my Henry Williams have indicated that he was a Colonel in the Revolutionary War, citing page 71 of William S. Powell’s book When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County, North Carolina 1777-1977  (Durham, NC: Moore Publishing Company, 1977) as their source. This is the only source I can find indicating that Henry Williams was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  I did not find a pension application for him or his widow or heirs in Heritage Quest’s Revolutionary War database.

Maybe Henry Williams was in the Caswell County militia and maybe he was active in that militia during the Regulator Movement (of which William S. Powell also wrote a book about – The regulators in North Carolina: a documentary history, 1759-1776).  However, I do not believe he saw duty during the Revolutionary War.  His brother, Colonel James Williams, was instrumental in the War.  He was living in the 96th District of South Carolina at the time.  In 1780, James Williams travelled to Caswell County, NC to visit his brother. It was there he wrote his will and transferred much of his property and possibly his slaves to his brother’s house for safe-keeping from the Tories. That Henry Williams was at home with his family, instead of away at war also indicates to me that he did not participate in the War.

After James’ death during the Battle of King’s Mountain in October 1780, Henry Williams, his brother and executor of his estate, reported an accounting of $25,000 that had been given to his brother, James Williams from the State of North Carolina to use to raise militia in Caswell County and surrounding counties to fight against the Tories. James’ son John Williams testified that this money was used to rally troops who were taken to King’s Mountain with him.  There is no mention of Henry Williams’ active participation in the rallying or marching of said troops. [Source: Graves, William T., James Williams: An American Patriot in the Carolina Backcountry, San Jose: Writers Club Press, 2002, p. 56]

The Author, William S. Powell, did not provide any sources or a bibliography to his book aforementioned. He did, however, note that all notes, chapter materials, and source material was given to the Gunn Memorial Library in Yanceyville, NC.  I therefore intend to visit this library and review his notes to see what source he used for his list of Caswell men who saw action in the Revolutionary War.

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