Alfred Moore, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

May 21, 2014



Alfred Moore was a North Carolina judge who became a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Moore Square, a park located in the Moore Square Historic District in Raleigh, North Carolina was named in his honor. Moore County, established in 1784, also in the state of North Carolina, is named in his honor.

Moore was born on May 21, 1755, in New Hanover County, North Carolina. Moore’s father, Maurice, preceded him in the practice of law and served as a colonial judge in North Carolina. Alfred was sent to Boston to complete his education, but he returned to North Carolina and read law as an apprentice to his father before being admitted to the bar at the age of twenty.


Portrait of Justice Alfred Moore. No artist information available.

In 1775 the American Revolution broke out and Alfred served as a captain in the First Regiment, North Carolina Line, of which his uncle, James Moore, was colonel, and took part in the defense of Charleston, S.C. in June 1776. He resigned in 1777, but served in the militia against Cornwallis after the Battle of Guilford Court House. The war was costly to the Moore family. British troops captured the Moore plantation and burned the family home, and Alfred’s father, brother, and an uncle were among those who served and died.

At the end of the war Moore was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly, which eventually elected him to serve as Attorney General; a position he held from 1782 to 1791. As Attorney General in 1787 he argued the State’s case in Bayard v. Singleton [I NC (Mart) 5], which as decided (against the State) became an important early instance of the application of judicial review. Moore was an ardent Federalist favoring a strong national government and he took a leading role in securing North Carolina’s ratification of the United States Constitution after the state had initially rejected it in 1788. After North Carolina’s admission to the Union as the 12th state, Moore worked as a lawyer, was active in political affairs, and served as a judge of the superior court in 1798 and 1799. [1] He served in the North Carolina State legislature, but lost by a single vote in his run for the United States Senate.

Moore was nominated by President John Adams to a seat vacated by James Iredell. Moore’s service was terminated on January 26, 1804, due to resignation.

In 1799, Associate Justice James Iredell died suddenly. On December 4, 1799, President Adams responded to the vacancy by nominating Moore, who was then confirmed by the United States Senate on December 10, 1799, receiving his commission the same day. At 4 feet 5 inches tall he is the shortest justice ever to sit on the Supreme Court and, due to poor health, Moore’s contribution to the court was abbreviated. In his five years of service he wrote only one opinion, Bas v. Tingy, upholding a conclusion that France was an enemy in the undeclared Quasi-War of 1798–1799. Moore’s scant contribution led one Court observer to place him atop a list of the worst justices in the history of the Court.[1]

In the early 1780s, he married Suzanne Eagles. After leaving the Supreme Court in 1804, he helped found the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He died in Bladen County, North Carolina, on October 15, 1810. Moore was buried at the St. Philip’s Church at Winnabow, North Carolina, near Wilmington.


The inscription on his gravestone reads:


His summer home, Moorefields, built around 1785 in Orange County, North Carolina near Hillsborough, still stands, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. Bernard Schwartz, “Ten Worst Supreme Court Justices”, A Book of Legal Lists (1997)

Brigadier General Jethro Exum Sumner, North Carolina patriot

March 18, 2014

Jethro Exum Sumner was a brigadier general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

Sumner was born in Virginia in 1733. He was active in the measures that preceded the Revolution, and in 1760 was paymaster of the provincial troops of North Carolina and commander at Fort Cumberland. He was also a commissioned officer in the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War. In 1776 he was appointed by the Provincial congress colonel of the 3rd North Carolina Regiment, and served under George Washington in the north. He was commissioned brigadier-general by the Continental Congress in 1779, was ordered to join General Horatio Gates in the south, and was at the Battle of Camden in 1780. He then served under General Nathanael Greene, and at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, September 8, 1781, made a bayonet charge, after which he was active in keeping the Tories in check in North Carolina until the close of the war.

Sumner was active after the war in the creation of North Carolina’s chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati, serving as its first president.


He died on March 18, 1785, in Warren County, North Carolina. Sumner County, Tennessee (originally part of North Carolina) was named for him.


Brigadier General William Lee Davidson, killed in action at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford

February 1, 2014

William Lee Davidson was a North Carolina militia general during the American Revolutionary War.


One of General Davidson’s pistols

His father moved with his family to Rowan County, North Carolina, in 1750, and William, the youngest son, born in 1746, was educated at Queen’s Museum (later Liberty Hall) in Charlotte.[1]

Active in the war from the beginning as adjutant to General Griffith Rutherford during the Snow Campaign in December 1775, he was promoted to major of the Fourth Regiment of the North Carolina line in 1776. He marched with the North Carolina line to the north and was at the Battle of Germantown, after which he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the Fifth Regiment of the North Carolina line. At Valley Forge with Washington, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, Daniel Morgan and others, he became friends with most of the influential military commanders in the Continental Line. Left without a command he had been ordered out for the purpose of preventing the British from crossing the Catawba. Griffith Rutherford appointed Davidson his second in command. Severely wounded at the Battle of Colson’s Mill on July 21, 1780, he did not participate in the Battle of Camden at which Rutherford was captured. Davidson was promoted to brigadier general and given command of Rutherford’s Salisbury District militia. He participated in resisting the entry of Lord Cornwallis into Charlotte in late September 1780. He was killed at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on February 1, 1781 while opposing the re-entry of Cornwallis into North Carolina. Davidson’s body was recovered after the battle and was buried at Hopewell Presbyterian Church located on Beatties Ford Road North of Charlotte.[2] [3] [4] [5] [6]


Congress voted $500 for a monument to him, but it has never been erected.[1]


  1. “Davidson, William”. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1900
  2. William S. Powell, Ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill: 1991), Vol. 2, pp. 27-28
  3. Charles B. Baxley, “Battle of Cowan’s Ford”, SCAR, Vol. 3, No. 2, February 2006, p. 3
  4. Chalmers Davidson. Piedmont Partisan: The Life and Times of Brigadier General William Lee Davidson. Davidson: Davidson College, 1951
  5. O’Kelley, Patrick. Nothing but Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas: Volume Three 1781., 2005
  6. Muster Roll of 5th NC Division at Valley Forge

Private Isaac Garrison, survey companion of George Washington

January 28, 2014

Isaac Garrison was born in 1732 possibly in North Carolina. As listed in the DAR Patriot Index, Isaac was a recognized patriot in North Carolina during the Revolutionary period. He is on several tax lists for Surry County, North Carolina and also fought as a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

Isaac married his first wife (name unknown) in about 1767 when he would have been 35 years old. They had 4 children: Sarah, Isaac, John, and Mary.

His first wife having died, Isaac was married to Martha (last name unknown) in about 1783 in Surry County, North Carolina. Isaac and Martha had 4 sons and 4 daughters. Only the sons’ names are known: David, Joseph, William, and James.

According to family tradition, Isaac Garrison knew George Washington in his youth and went with him on surveying trips. He is also said to have known Daniel Boone well and supposedly went with him on trips into the Kentucky Territory. It was a source of pride with him that he had come from the same generation as George Washington and Daniel Boone and had outlived both of them.

Isaac Garrison is believed to have first served in the North Carolina troops under either General Francis Nash or Col. Edward Buncombe. Their troops were from Surry, Wilkes, and other Northern counties of North Carolina. And their men served in the Battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777 and in the Battle of Germantown on Oct. 4, 1777. Both Nash and Buncombe were mortally wounded at Germantown along with six other officers. After the deaths of these two commanders, it is believed that their regiments combined to become the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment.

The Pennsylvania Archives do give record that Isaac Garrison served as a private in Joseph Howell’s Company, 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment from July 1, 1777 to August 1778 when it became Capt. Peter Gosner’s Company. This company served at Valley Forge under General Nathaniel Greene. He continued serving in this company until 1781.

After the Revolutionary War ended, Isaac Garrison was granted land in the Lick Creek area of Rowan and Surry County, North Carolina. He came to own 981 ½ acres of land in Surry County, North Carolina. This land became part of Stokes County in 1789. He sold the last of his North Carolina property in 1791, when he moved to Grayson County, Virginia. He moved back to Stokes County in 1795 but stayed only a short time.

He then went westward to Hawkins County in eastern Tennessee, where he bought land from John Cotteral in 1798. There he purchased 200 acres in Puncheon Camp Valley. Amazingly, he left Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1832 at the age of 100 and came to Missouri with his sons Joseph, James, and William. Joseph settled on the Dry Auglaze in what is now Camden County. The other two settled in Greene County, Missouri, in a place known as “The Rich Woods” on Finley Creek, northwest of the present site of Ozark. This is where the Richwood Cemetery got its name in later years.

After 4 years of living in southwest Missouri, Isaac Garrison died in 1836 in what was Greene County, Missouri and now is in Christian County. He was 104 years old at his death. His marker is in the southwest corner of the Richwood Cemetery.


Monument to Isaac Garrison

The monument currently at Isaac’s grave, was placed there by Jack Farthing of Ozark, Darrell Garrison, and other members of the Isaac Garrison Family Association in about 1976. The DAR marker was placed by the Meyongo Chapter of DAR from Buffalo in about 1990. About 20 Garrison descendants were present at that grave marking ceremony. Ozark Mountain Chapter SAR held a dedication service on November 19, 1994 (an SAR insignia had been placed at his grave several years earlier.)

Source: RootsWeb

Archibald Maclaine, North Carolina Federalist

December 9, 2013

By Jessica Lee Thompson, North Carolina History Project

An influential supporter of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Archibald Maclaine may have been even more influential if not for his defense of Tories within the state. One of the original trustees of the University of North Carolina, Maclaine was known for his belief in the law and order and for his willingness to stand in the minority for issues he supported.

Although his father was of Scottish decent, Maclaine was born in Banbridge, Ireland on December 9, 1728. As a young man, Maclaine worked as a mercantile apprentice until he moved to America at age twenty-one. Originally landing in Philadelphia in June 1750, Maclaine left for Cape Fear, North Carolina the following month. On November 6, 1752, Maclaine married Elizabeth (Polly) Rowan, the stepdaughter of acting governor (1753-1754), Matthew Rowan, in Wilmington.


Sketch of Archibald Maclaine by Henry Bone after Unknown artist (1807) courtesy National Portrait Gallery

Maclaine worked in Wilmington as a merchant but his business eventually failed when his partner, John Maclaine, died. Shortly afterward, Maclaine studied law, despite his alleged minimal formal education. Maclaine quickly became an influential barrister in the colony and was appointed as a clerk for the Supreme Court.

Although Maclaine greatly respected many of the political officials under the British crown (such as his stepfather, Matthew Rowan), Maclaine defended the Patriot cause early and opposed the government’s actions during the Stamp Act crisis. In 1774 Maclaine served on the committee that issued Wilmington residents’ call for a Provincial Congress, was elected to that congress in 1775 and 1776, and was a member of the Safety Committee in 1776. Also in 1776, Maclaine sat on the committee responsible for drafting the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Maclaine served a member of the General Assembly from 1780 to 18781 and again from 1783 to 1787. Maclaine was nominated twice to serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress but he refused the proposal both times.

While Maclaine clearly stood with the Patriot cause, he also faced political repercussions for his opinions on how North Carolina law should treat Tories and Loyalist. For instance, during an August 1782 session of court in Bladen County, Maclaine was assaulted while defending a loyalist in court. A North Carolina Continental officer, Robert Raiford, burst into the Bladen County Court House at the head of thirty men and provided testimony that clerk John White was rumored to be “a damned Tory.” Maclaine believed that Raiford was drunk and told the sitting justices that Raiford’s remarks were “highly derogatory to its [the court's] Dignity, and that Rayford should be reproved.” Raiford then attacked Maclaine with a “horseman’s sword” which led to a small riot in the courthouse that left Maclaine with serious injuries.

The mob beat the court clerk for no apparent reason and then moved the riot out into the street. After electing “field officers,” the mob marched around the county apprehending Loyalists without any orders from a higher commanding officer.

A warrant was issued for Raiford’s arrest, but he had returned to Maj. Gen. Greene’s army where he had been put in command of the light infantry. A year later, Raiford was brought to trial, but he was acquitted.

Maclaine also associated himself with the Tory cause spending time and political capital in an attempt to obtain a safe return to North Carolina for his stepson, George Hooper, who had fled the state at the onset of the war.

Maclaine backed North Carolina’s participation in a constitutional convention and in 1788 he served as a delegate to the Hillsborough convention. Maclaine supported adoption of the constitution and voted in the minority at the Hillsborough convention. Maclaine wrote pamphlets arguing in favor of the adoption of the constitution under the pen name, “Publicola.”

Maclaine passed away on December 20, 1790, at his home in Wilmington. His daughter and son-in-law, Catherine and George Hooper, inherited Maclaine’s estate with a bequest for his wife.


John R. Maass, “The Cure for All Our Political Calamities: Archibald Maclaine and the Politics of Moderation in Revolutionary North Carolina”, The North Carolina Historical Review 85 (July, 2008); William Powell ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography: Vol. 4 L-O (Chapel Hill, 1996).

General Elijah Clarke, leader of Southern "frontier guerillas" against the British

December 5, 2013

Elijah Clarke (sometimes spelled Clark) was born in 1742 in Anson County, North Carolina, but some sources place his birth in 1736. He was the son of John Clarke of Anson County, North Carolina. He married Hannah Harrington around 1763. As an impoverished, illiterate frontiersman, he appeared in the ceded lands, on what was then the northwestern frontier of Georgia, in 1773.

Clarke was a Continental Army officer and hero in the American Revolutionary War. He fought in the southern theater and in the Battle of Kettle Creek.


Elijah Clarke, by Rembrandt Peele, courtesy University of Georgia

Clarke’s name appears on a petition in support of the king’s government in 1774. However, he subsequently joined the rebels and, as a militia captain, received a wound fighting the Cherokees in 1776. The following year, he commanded militia against Creek raiders. As a lieutenant colonel in the state minutemen, Clarke received another wound at the Battle of Alligator Bridge, Florida. Then on February 14, 1779, as a lieutenant colonel of militia, Clarke led a charge in the rebel victory at Kettle Creek, Georgia.

All of Georgia and most of South Carolina fell to the British in 1780. Elijah Clarke and thirty men passed through the Native American lands to continue the fight in the Carolinas. As a partisan, Clarke led frontier guerrillas in inflicting a heavy toll against the British and American Loyalists at Musgrove’s Mill, Cedar Springs, Wofford’s Iron Works, Augusta, Fishdam Ford, Long Cane, and Blackstocks. Although he was not present at the battles at King’s Mountain and Cowpens, his campaigns were partially responsible for both of those major patriot victories. Besides receiving several battle wounds, Clarke also survived smallpox and the mumps during the Revolution. The state of Georgia rewarded his services with a plantation. He also obtained thousands of acres of land grants, some by questionable methods, and participated in the notorious Yazoo land fraud of the 1790s.


After the war Clarke served in the state assembly from 1781 to 1790, on the commission of confiscated estates, and in the state constitutional convention of 1789. He also acted as a commissioner for Georgia’s treaties with Native American groups. As a general of militia, he led his men in defeating the Creeks at Jack’s Creek, in present-day Walton County, on September 21, 1787. However, Clarke grew impatient with the failures of the national and state government to bring peace to the frontier and took matters into his own hands. He tried to form an independent republic, known today as the Trans-Oconee Republic, by seizing Creek lands on the Oconee frontier. At least twice, he became involved in plots to invade neighboring Spanish East Florida.

Disenchanted with a settled Georgia, discredited, and almost bankrupt, Elijah Clarke died in Augusta on December 5, 1799. His burial site is now the Elijah Clarke State Park near Lincolnton, Georgia.


Elijah Clark State Park, Lincolnton, Georgia

Clarke County, on the former Oconee frontier, is named for him. Several of his descendants have been prominent in politics, including his son John Clark, governor of Georgia from 1819 to 1823.


  1. George R. Lamplugh, Politics on the Periphery: Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806, Newark, University of Delaware Press, 1986, pp. 64-68


  • New Georgia Encyclopedia, History & Archaeology, 1733-1775
  • Edwin Bridges, “To Establish a Separate and Independent Government,” Furman Review 5 (1974): 11-17
  • Louise F. Hays, “Chronology of Georgia, 1773-1800,” typescript, Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta

Leonard Henderson, North Carolina jurist

October 6, 2013

Leonard Henderson was an American jurist who served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1829 to 1833, and an associate judge of that court beforehand.

Henderson was born in Granville County, North Carolina on October 6, 1772. His father, Richard Henderson, was a pioneer, state Superior Court judge and politician. His brother, Archibald Henderson, was a state legislator and member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He read law under his father’s cousin, Judge John Williams.

On November 3, 1795, he was married to Frances Farrar, the niece of his law mentor, Judge Williams. The couple had four sons and two daughters: Archibald Erskine, William Farrar, MD, John Leonard, Richard, Frances Taylor and Lucy Sneed.

Henderson served as a state superior court judge from 1808 until 1816. When the North Carolina General Assembly created the state Supreme Court in 1818, it elected Henderson as one of the first members of the three-judge court. The judges of the Court elected Henderson their Chief in 1829 after the death of Chief Justice Taylor. Henderson was also a trustee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Judge Henderson died in Williamsboro, in what is today Vance County, North Carolina, on August 13, 1833. He is buried in the Williams Family Cemetery at Henderson, Vance County, North Carolina.


Henderson, North Carolina; Hendersonville, North Carolina; and Henderson County, North Carolina are named for him.


  • The Heritage of Vance County. Vance County Historical Society. 1984. page 24
  • North Carolina Reports, NC Supreme Court, 1919


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