On August 14, 1775 some North Carolina colonial men, possibly as many as four dozen or so, met at the Tryon County courthouse. That is, they crowded into Christian (“Christy”) Mauney’s isolated log house at a country cross roads thirty some miles west of Charlotte. There they drafted and copied into the minutes a document they called “An Association.” That term in patriotic documents of 1774 and 1775 did not identify the signers as having joined a civic group or social club. The meaning, now long obsolete, was a written pledge to carry out an enterprise. At the risk of their fortunes and their lives they were pledging to take up arms against British soldiers in defense of what they saw as their natural rights under the British constitution. The men at Mauney’s resolved that their “Association” should “be Signed by the Inhabitants of Tryon County.” Presumably many signed there at Mauney’s, but the document may have been carried around to encourage other “Inhabitants” to sign it.[1] The document said,

The unprecedented, barbarous & bloody actions Committed by the British Troops on our American Brethren near Boston, on the 19th of April & 20th of May last together with the Hostile opperations & Traiterous Designs now Carrying on by the Tools of Ministerial Vengeance & Despotism for the Subjugating all British America, Sugest to us the painful Necessity of having recourse to Arms, for the preservation of those Rights & Liberties which the principles of our Constitution and the Laws of God Nature & nations have made it our Duty to Defend.—

We therefore the Subscribers freeholders & Inhabitants of Tryon County, do hereby faithfully unite Ourselves under the most Sacred ties of Religion Honor & love to Our Country, firmly to Resist force by force in defence of our Natural Freedom & Constitutional Rights against all Invasions, & at the same time do Solemnly Engage to take up Arms and Risque our lives and fortunes in Maintaining the Freedom of our Country whenever the Wisdom & Council of the Continental Congress or our provincial Convention shall Declare it necessary, & this Engagement we will Continue in & hold Sacred, till a Reconciliation shall take place between Great Britain & America on Constitutional principles, which we most ardently desire. And we do firmly agree to hold all such persons Inimical to the liberties of America, who shall refuse to Subscribe this Association.[2]

These are the “subscribers”—those who inscribed their names or made their mark under “An Association”:[3]

“Traiterous Designs” is often printed as “Treacherous Designs.” Two or three letters near the start of the word are written over, but the word ends with “terous,” and no one has proposed a better reading than “Traiterous.” These patriots did not see themselves as traitors to King George III; to their mind Great Britain by the Intolerable Acts had betrayed what the First Continental Congress called the “English Constitution.” The Tryon document clearly says “19th of April & 20th of May” but I don’t find a battle of May 20. By the “tools of Ministerial vengeance” the Tryon signers meant the agents of the Royal Governor of North Carolina, Josiah Martin, who had taken refuge off shore in the sloop-of-war Cruizer.[4]

From the Cruizer on August 8 Governor Martin had issued a proclamation denouncing the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia for directing “the Committee of the several Towns and Counties of North Carolina” to execute its resolves. The patriots in Charlotte, the seat of Mecklenburg County, had goaded him into this frenzy: “I have . . . seen a most infamous publication in the Cape Fear Mercury, importing to be resolves of a set of people styling themselves a Committee for the County of Mecklenburg, most traitorously declaring the entire dissolution of the laws, government, and constitution of this country, and setting up a system of rules and regulation repugnant to the laws and subversive of His Majesty’s government.” This was Martin’s response to the version of the May 1775 Mecklenburg resolutions that he saw in the newspaper.[5] Martin warned his colony not to heed the rebels’ invitation to assemble in Convention on the 20th of August in Hillsborough. Such a convention would be “subversive of the whole Constitution of this country.” John Green, the Chairman of the Newbern Committee of Safety, mocked Martin’s “enormous proclamation, in length no less than six feet, in breadth three.” It should, Green continued, be burnt “by the common hangman” as “the just reward of treason and rebellion against our happy constitution”—the “English constitution” so fervently idealized by the colonists even as they prepared to take arms against British soldiers.

On July 10, 1775 Samuel Johnston had written from Edenton asking the Committee of Safety of Tryon County to send a five-man or larger delegation to the provincial convention at Hillsborough on August 20. The Tryon “Freeholders” responded on July 26 by selecting as delegates John Walker, Robert Alexander, Joseph Hardin, William Graham, Frederick Hambright and William Kennon. Then on August 14, openly defying the Royal Governor by looking ahead to Hillsborough, the Tryon patriots resolved that their Committee would “meet at the Court House of this County on the 14th Day of September next there to Deliberate on such matters as shall be Recommended by Our Provincial Convention.” The Tryon delegates may have gotten to Hillsborough on time, but others did not, so the Provincial Congress began on August 21, a week after the Tryon signings. Walker and the others carried with them news of their “Association” and their further plans. They had authorized “every Captain or other Officer in their Respective Companies” to “detain and Secure all powder and Lead that may be removing or about to be Removed out of the County.” The gunsmith Daniel McKissick was to apply “to the Council of Safety of Charles Town for 300 weight Gun powder 600 weight Lead, and 600 Gun Flints to be distributed under the direction of this Committee when it shall be Judged necessary.”

1919 marker placed by the Frederick Hambright Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

Some of these men probably hoped for a “Reconciliation” with Great Britain even as they signed. Moses Moore’s son John became a Tory leader. By late 1780 James McAfee was protecting a Tory stepson. But Frederick Hambright, William Graham, Robert Alexander, John Dellinger, and Charles McLean fought the British. Others who fought included John Walker and six of his sons, Thomas Espey’s sons Samuel and James, and Jacob Forney’s sons Peter and Abraham. As early as September 14, 1775, several signers formed the Tryon County Militia and prepared to use arms against the British. At a Committee of Safety meeting on January 23, 1776, fifteen signers were selected for various county militia companies. A notable soldier, as it turned out, was Frederick Hambright, one of the heroes of King’s Mountain. Many of the signers remained active in civic affairs. For instance, Andrew Neel was public registrar in 1777, John Walker in 1778 and Thomas Espey in 1779 were coroners, and others held public office after the war. Some of the signers died early, like Major Jacob Costner who drowned in the South Fork of the Catawba River in 1779. Some lived well into the 19th century.

My interest in the Tryon Resolves started with seeing that a signer was Jacob Costner, an uncle (a few times removed) of my mother, Martha Costner. Uncle John Dellinger, a brother of Jacob’s brother Peter Costner’s wife, had signed, along with another Dellinger, George. Uncle Jonathan Price, another signer, was the husband of Aunt Betsy Ewart, a daughter of the Salisbury Committee of Safety member Robert Ewart, twice my GGGGG Grandfather.[6] Then I found a chart that shows Adam Sims as a cousin on my father’s side, kin to “the Sims Intruders” who were twice burned out by soldiers in what became Alabama. Adam Sims was the brother of George Sims, the author of the great 1765 Nutbush Address that inspired the Regulators. Stop while you are ahead, I said! Another genealogical chart may be different! And could the Carpenter (formerly Zimmerman) signers not be kin to my Zimmermans? Frederick Hambright was not kin but a slew of his descendants were my cousins; Jacob Costner’s nephew Michael Rudisill married Jacob Carpenter’s daughter Mary; a Bell cousin soon married a Neel; I am kin to all of the descendants of Jacob Forney’s granddaughter Nancy, who married the son of Aunt Jane Ewart and her husband, Col. James Johnston, and so on. This was all very bemusing, so I kept looking up signers, finding more connections in 19th century and later generations. As my Natchez triple cousin Lois Gore says (just look at her last name), if you are Southern, you are either kin or connected.

But what about Robert Hulclip, who was not traceable, not kin, not connected, not even a neighbor? He was a signer, said historian Joseph Seawell Jones.[7] Others kept copying from Jones.[8] “Robert Hulclip” was memorialized on a bronze monument, even, but no such person had been in Tryon County. Then I found an identification of a brother of the fairly well documented Andrew Heslep as Robert Heslep, who signed “the Tryon Declaration of Right and Independence from British Tyranny as Robert Haislip.”[9] Fair enough—Haselip, Hazelip, Heslip, any spelling went. The editor of Tryon County Documents 1769-1779 had seen Haslep, Heslep, Heslip, and Hislip as she worked with the actual documents, and transcribed the signature on the “Association” as Robert Haselip.[10] How do you go about changing a name on a bronze monument? Will Robert Hulclip, a North Carolina Kilroy, live on in lists of the signers, cheating the Haselip’s out of the glory of having a signer of the Tryon Resolves in the family?

Wait! How much glory was attached to the signers of the Tryon Resolves, anyhow? In 1834 Jones declared that the Tryon document had been “discovered during the last year [1833?], among the papers of General William Graham of Rutherford, one of the signers.” It had been published, he said, in the “North Carolina Spectator” of May 11, 1834 (or 1833?). Jones apparently based his text and his list of signers on the Spectator, which I have not seen. Naturally, the original transcriber had trouble with many of the signatures. Jones did not try to regularize anomalies such as one “Carpinter” and another “Karbender,” although later historians did. Jones understood the “Association” in its historical context better than later writers, but he was interested in it primarily to support his views on the Mecklenburg Declaration. C. L. Hunter recognized the historical context just as Jones had done: “During the year 1775, the Province of North Carolina, ever in the van of early patriotic movements, formed “Associations” throughout her territory, mainly as tests of patriotism. The county of Cumberland formed an Association on the 20th of June, 1775. The county of Tryon (embracing Lincoln and Rutherford) formed a similar ‘Association’ on the 14th of August following.”[11] Working from “MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State” William L. Saunders gave fresh attention to the document without knowing much about the signers;[12] at last the documents were printed in an official state publication.

No one in the 19th century was even calling the Tryon document a set of “resolves.” After Jones in 1834 and Hunter in 1877 had called attention to the Tryon “Association,” Alfred Nixon in 1910 praised the “bold document” which “a gallant band of patriots” had signed “as early as August 1775.”[13] It was merely “a bold declaration” in a story in the Charlotte Observer on August 24, 1924. Also pretty much lost from sight in the 19th century were two other significant North Carolina documents: the Cumberland (the term Hunter used) or Liberty Point Resolves, which the signers labeled “The Association” (June 20, 1775) and the Halifax Resolves (April 12, 1776), this last indisputably a declaration of independence. Google one of these now and you get links to the others—a linkage, I think, common only in the Age of the Internet, not in 19th and 20th century newspaper articles and book-length histories of North Carolina. “Resolves” was a common late 18th century term, all right, but my scanning of North Carolina histories and newspaper databases has revealed no such term as “Tryon Resolves” until (could this be true? or almost true?) the Age of the Internet, and no such early grouping of the three as the “Liberty Point Resolves, “Tryon Resolves,” and “Halifax Resolves.” Why were these documents all but forgotten in the 19th century? That’s easy: from 1819 on, excitement and ferocious controversy about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence sucked all the attention away from the others.[14]

Even the families forgot. Take my Costners. Some of the next generations edged southwestward through South Carolina and Georgia, fighting in the Civil War from Mississippi, homesteading in the Panhandle of Oklahoma Territory. By the 20th century my Grandfather Costner knew nothing about his North Carolina ancestors, nothing he ever told his children. None of my recent ancestors knew that any of their folks had been in battle at a place called King’s Mountain until a Costner cousin dug up some news half a century ago. That cousin did not find anything called the “Tryon Resolves.” Even the Costners who stayed in North Carolina forgot, judging from a 1919 history which contains a long article on James A. Costner, the Mount Holly banker; that Costner valued his Great Great Grandfather Jacob because by doing “his full duty as a soldier” he had entitled the banker to membership in the Sons of the American Revolution.[15] That duty consisted of being sheriff of the county – pretty clearly Cousin James could have gotten the Tryon signing into the biographical piece if he had known about it and had taken pride in it. In 1952 Gilbert H. Hendrix gained SAR membership through his descent from Jacob Costner (SAR 74557) by the somewhat confused claim that the Committee of Safety for Tryon County “formed Aug. 14, 1775 was signed by 48 freeholders among whose name appears Jacob Costner. (See pages 239-240 & 242 ‘Our Kin’ a family History).”[16]

Early in the 20th century descendants of Christian Mauney began gathering at the site of the log house where “An Association” was signed. The Charlotte Observer on August 21, 1916, said that over 1000 descendants and friends attended. They heard speeches on the Mauney family, the history of Tryon County, and the shifting names and shapes of counties. But if anyone mentioned “An Association,” the Observer said not a word about it. The Mauneys were holding grand-scale family reunions, not celebrations of the signing of “An Association.” These gatherings bore little resemblance to the many annual celebrations of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in Charlotte.

It was not historians (all of them male) who most forcefully called attention to the three North Carolina documents that had been neglected in the 19th century. Women, especially members of the Daughters of the Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution, deserve credit for awakening public interest in the Liberty Point Resolves and the Halifax Resolves. The March 20, 1903, Charlotte Observer reported that “a large gathering” in the city hall “including many prominent Fayetteville women” had met to form a “permanent Liberty Point Association.” The Observer on October 10, 1911 reported that the “Liberty Point Monument association, composed of “patriotic women” of Fayetteville, had “accepted the designs of a monument to be erected to the signers of the Liberty Point articles of independence.” The Richmond, Virginia Times-Dispatch on July 6, 1913, reported: “The Bloomsbury Chapter [of the Daughters of the Revolution] discussed especially ways and means of increasing the fund for the Halifax Resolves tablet to be placed in the rotunda of the Statehouse along with the tablet already there to the Mecklenburg Resolves.” By the mid-1900s the Liberty Point Resolves and the Halifax Resolves were competing for attention with the Mecklenburg documents, but the Tryon “Association” was still neglected. The 1919 plaque on the site of Mauney’s log house at NC State Road 274 five miles north of Bessemer City, erected by descendants of Christian Mauney, chattily identified the spot as the site of Mauney’s home, the “Tryon Court House,” and the camp of Lord Cornwallis’s British Army in January 1781—with not word of the Tryon Resolves. Finally in 1919 the Frederick Hambright Chapter of the DAR placed a bronze plaque on the reverse of the Mauney plaque. The heading read: “Here, in August, 1775, was formulated and signed the Tryon Declaration of Rights and Independence from British Tyranny.”

At last the Tryon patriots were suitably recognized, but not everyone was respectful. In 2012, thieves stole the plaque from Tryon Courthouse Road. An editorial lamented that “Those who commit such an abominable act show no respect for the freedom they enjoy because of the sacrifice of brave patriots who signed the Tryon Resolves.” Fortunately, members of Gastonia’s William Chronicle Chapter of the DAR raised enough money to replace the plaque, and a local monument company installed the new one without charge.[17] Monuments may be vandalized, but thanks to the some 19th century historians, the DAR, and the Internet, the “Tryon Resolves” will not again be forgotten.

[FEATURED IMAGE: Tryon County sign. Source: The Unreconstructed Tarheel]

[1] The first signer, John Walker, seems to have arrived late. Someone using such evidence as the records of chain-bearing neighbors, the Tryon County Record of Deeds, and the first two or three United States censuses might trace out a route a horseman might have taken in rounding up signatures.
[2] “Minutes of the Proceedings of Committee Tryon County 1775,” State Archives of North Carolina. A comprehensive study is Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Tryon County Documents 1769-1779: A North Carolina County (Forest City, North Carolina: Genealogical Society of Old Tryon County, 2000).
[3] Images courtesy State Archives of North Carolina. The only image of the signatures previously available on the Internet is a spliced together and re-photographed list in two columns, but not the original two columns on each of two pages.
[4] I have checked many newspapers in America’s Historical Newspapers and GenealogyBank, especially, but rely mainly on the chronologically arranged Documenting the American South / Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/
[5]. What set off Governor Martin’s hysterical fulminations was the printing in the Cape Fear Mercury of the May 1775 Mecklenburg County resolutions which contained a near-enough declaration of independence.
[6] My GGGG Grandfather Peter Costner (brother not only of Jacob but of Thomas, a King’s Mountain man) died at Ramsour’s Mill, June 20, 1780. A German speaker under a German King, he may simply have been confused about which side he was with. The less said the better; he is actor Kevin Costner’s GGGGG Grandfather. In the 1877 Sketches of Western North Carolina, Historical and Biographical, C. L. Hunter devoted pages 174-184 to “Colonel James Johnston,” a hero of King’s Mountain. A paragraph on page 180 is devoted to the family of Johnston’s wife, Jane Ewart. Hunter identified her father, Robert Ewart, as “one of the Committee of Safety for the ‘Salisbury District,’ which included Rowan, Mecklenburg and other western counties.” He itemized the “marriage connections of other members of the Ewart family” and concluded with this rousing sentence: “At the battle of King’s Mountain Robert Ewart, James Ewart, Robert Knox, Joseph Jack, Thomas Bell, Jonathan Price, Abram Forney, Peter Forney, and other brave spirits, were in the company commanded by Colonel James Johnston, and performed a conspicuous part in achieving the glorious victory on that occasion.” Honesty requires me to disclose that at ninety, in his pension application, my GGGG Grandfather Robert Knox (husband of Mary Ewart) says that he missed the battle at King’s Mountain because Colonel Johnston had sent him away on some business. My GGGG Grandfather Thomas Bell (husband of Rachel Ewart) died just too soon to apply for his pension. Joseph Jack’s wife was Margaret Ewart and Jonathan Price’s was Betsy Ewart. C. L. Hunter himself was the son of the great Revolutionary patriot, minister, and historian Humphrey Hunter, and Sketches was a family book to a significant extent, as shown by the pages on the Johnston family and also the Forney family (184-203). C. L. Hunter married Sophia Forney, a granddaughter of the signer Jacob Forney, so his children were first cousins of the children of Sophia’s sister Nancy and William Johnston (the son of Col. James Johnston and Jane Ewart). Robert Ewart was the great grandfather of William Johnston’s children, and Jacob Forney was the great grandfather of William Johnston’s children as well as Hunter’s children. This will be perfectly clear to any Southerner.
[7] Joseph Seawell Jones, A Defence of the Revolutionary History of the State of North Carolina from the Aspersions of Mr. Jefferson (Boston: Charles Bowen; Raleigh: Turner and Hughes, 1834), 180-192. Jones sets the Tryon “Association” in context, showing that it was a response to Samuel Johnston’s July 10 invitation to the Hillsborough convention. He changes the order of the signers’ names and does not list James McIntyre.
[8] William L. Saunders, The Colonial Records of North Carolina Vol. 10 (Raleigh: Josephus Daniels, 1890) has “Hulclip” and does not have James McIntyre; Alfred Nixon The History of Lincoln County (Lincolnton[?]: North Carolina Society, Daughters of the Revolution, 1910) has Hulclip and also has McIntyre. William L. Sherrill in his 1935 Annals of Lincoln County in the Lincolnton Lincoln Times has “Hulchip” instead of “Hulclip,” and has McIntyre. Perhaps you can read “McIntyre” on the illustration, second page, first column, next to the bottom, below “Jacob Castner” and “Robert Haselip” and above James Buchanan. William Lee Anderson III takes his list, including “Hulclip” and “McIntyre,” from Clarence W. Griffin, The History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties (Asheville: Miller, 1937). See Anderson’s 2009-2010 Lincoln County Men at Kings Mountain, www.elehistory.com/amrev/LincolnCountyMenAtKingsMountain.pdf
[9] Billie Heslep Barton in GenForum at Genealogy.com, May 27, 2000.
[10] Sullivan, Tryon County Documents.
[11] Hunter, Sketches of Western North Carolina, 239. Hunter listed some of the signers, especially those who had served in the Revolution. Among them were the two Dellingers and Jacob Costner. There was only a neighborly and political connection between the Costner family and the Ewarts, Johnstons, and Prices until the Costners in Mississippi a century later began marrying Knox-Bell double descendants of Robert Ewart. As far as I know, Hunter himself had no family connection to Jacob Costner or the Dellingers.
[12] Saunders, The Colonial Records of North Carolina.
[13] Nixon, The History of Lincoln County, 119.
[14] Anyone studying the contexts of “Tryon Resolves” has to spend days reading 18th, 19th and 20th century newspaper stories on the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The removal of Governor Martin’s Cape Fear Mercury from the British archives on August 15, 1837, by Andrew Stevenson, the American Minister, and its subsequent disappearance! Peter Force’s discovery in 1839! George Bancroft’s new discovery in 1848! Big 1875 centennial articles in the New York Herald and the New York Tribune! The discovery in 1904 of Traugott Bagge’s contemporary diary, written in German! Dozens of articles and chapters of books celebrating or denouncing the “Mec Dec.” A hardnosed, skeptical Melville scholar, I accept that the declaration as produced in 1819 (or late 1818, it seems) was a reconstruction, not a piece of paper preserved from 1775. Nevertheless, I am convinced, not least by Bagge’s diary, that there was a Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. I believe the affidavits of eye-witnesses mustered in the 1820s and 1830s. I do not believe that James Jack rode to Philadelphia carrying anything less than a Mecklenburg declaration of independence, and I see every reason to believe that the North Carolina delegates at the Continental Congress absolutely did not want it discussed openly for fear that timid delegates from other colonies would pack up and go home. Jack would not have lied in his affidavit. Most of the eye-witnesses were upstanding Presbyterians—a fact that oddly has been used to suggest that they banded together in deceit. At work, still, is the prejudiced ignorance of historians of the Revolution who write as if everything happened in the mid-Atlantic and North. Representative is Gordon S. Wood, who in The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Knopf, 1992) makes breathtakingly ignorant comments on North Carolina, but only a few. “Tryon,” man or county, is not in his index. The North Carolina patriots of 1775 risked their fortunes and lives in support of their “Brethren near Boston” after news of April 19th reached them, whether or not it was the arrival of that news that triggered the declaration.
[15] History of North Carolina: Volume IV, North Carolina Biography (Chicago and New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1919), 349.
[16] This was Laban Miles Hoffman’s Our Kin: Being a History of the Hoffman, Rhyne, Costner, Rudisill, Best, Hovis, Hoyle, Wills, Shetley, Jenkins, Holland, Hambright, Gaston, Withers, Cansler, Clemmer and Lineberger Families, published privately by Daniel E. Rhyne, Laban L. Jenkins, and L. M. Hoffman, 1915. Hoffman’s information about the events of August 14, 1775, came from Hunter’s Sketches. The written notes in it in Hoffman’s hand are from the copy in the possession of his daughter, whose married name was Mrs. W. K. Mauney.
[17] Gaston Gazette, July 24, 2013.

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