Historical Figures

Many influential men and women played important roles in the formation of the Province that later became known as the Colony of North Carolina; in its development; and maybe more importantly, in defining the motivations for the revolution against the Crown that led to Independence and the birth of the United States. Edentonians also shaped the first US Supreme Court; gave women their first role in political affairs; established basic principles of judicial theory that are still currently in force; and made Edenton the significant historic town it is today.

Charles Eden (1673-1722)

Eden was the first man appointed by the Lords Proprietors as a “full” Governor for North Carolina. Perhaps one of the most colorful Governors of Colonial Carolina, Charles Eden has also proven to be one of the most controversial subjects for many historians and is the person for which Edenton is named. 

Penelope Barker (1728-1796)

When you explore Edenton, you’ll learn how Penelope Barker, according to tradition, led the resolution signing of the Edenton Tea Party on October 25, 1774 becoming the first political action taken by women in the colonies, as well as the western world. It caused such a ruckus that a caricature printed in London made fun of women being involved in politics.

Joseph Hewes (1730-1779)

Hewes signed the Declaration of Independence for North Carolina in 1776. His little recognized contribution to our country may have been his participation in the creation of the US Navy. He also served as the first Secretary of the Navy.

Hugh Williamson (1735-1819)

Attended the constitutional convention in Philadelphia and signed the Constitution on behalf of North Carolina in 1787 and served in the first U.S. Congress.

James Iredell (1751-1799)

Attorney General of North Carolina during the American Revolution, worked tirelessly to convince North Carolina to ratify the U.S. constitution, and was appointed to serve on the first U.S. Supreme court in 1790 by President Washington and confirmed 3 days later by Senate. Is considered to be the Father of the 11th Amendment to the U.S. constitution, and served on the Court till his death in 1799.

Samuel Johnston (1733-1816)

Governor of North Carolina presided over both state conventions called to ratify the US Constitution. He then served as the State’s first U.S. Senator

Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897)

Edenton native, escaped slave, abolitionist and writer – hid here for seven years as a fugitive. Her memoir, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, was one of the first narratives about the struggle for freedom by female slaves.