The 250th Anniversary of the Edenton Tea Party

The 250th Anniversary of the Edenton Tea Party

From the Battle of Bunker Hill to the Boston Tea Party, American history is rife with tales of rebellion and the patriotic fight for colonial independence. 

In 1774, one such tale was documented in the Virginia Gazette, and the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser

This daring story is now referred to as the Edenton Resolves, or the “Edenton Tea Party”, and showcases the determination and courage of the women of Edenton in October 1774. 

Though many colonists fought against the tyranny and unfair taxes of King George III, the Edenton Tea Party was the first organized, written political protest by women recorded in Colonial America. 

Spearheaded and organized by Penelope Barker, the wife of a prominent lawyer and politician, the Edenton Resolves was written as a protest to boycott English goods and was sent directly to the British Crown with 51 signatures of women from and around Edenton. 

As one local legend recalls, Penelope invited 50 women from around the colony to a tea party at the house of her friend, Elizabeth King.  Today, the location of this house, near King Street, is marked by Edenton’s famous teapot.  

It was there, while sipping on a homemade tea of local mulberry leaves and lavender, that these 51 valiant women penned their names to the famous document in solidarity against British imported tea and other goods. 

But this oral history has been called into question by some who argue that there is no evidence of a Mrs. King living in Edenton in 1774. 

“The Edenton Tea Party has some mysteries, one of which is where did it happen?” explains Mrs. Sally Francis Kehayes, a Commissioner with the Edenton Historical Commission. “We may not know where it happened, but do know that it did happen.” 

And that’s due to the extant documentation from 1774 as well as the efforts of Edenton’s former Town Historian, Mrs. Elizabeth Van Moore, who found the original list of 51 names, 50 of which the Edenton Historical Commission has been able to verify. 

The Edenton Tea Party was not a copycat protest. These 51 courageous women did not hide behind costumes or masks and dump tea into the nearby Albemarle Sound.

Rather, on October 25, 1774, they publically affixed their 51 signatures to a document which survives, even today, as a testament to their resolve and pursuit of independence.

To kick-off the celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Edenton Tea Party, the Edenton Historical Commission, in cooperation with local businesses and organizations, has planned a year-long series of events leading up to October 2024. 

The celebration will begin with special guest speaker, Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, President of the Museum of the American Revolution.

Dr. Stephenson will be speaking at Historic St. Paul’s Church on West Gale Street at 6:00 p.m. on October 26th. He will be joined by The Albemarle Chorale and The John A. Holmes High School Concert Choir. This event is free and open to the public. 

In cooperation with the Penelope Barker House, the Edenton Historical Commission will be offering special Tea Trolley Tours on Friday and Saturday, October 27th and 28th. 

Featuring costumed interpreters as Signers of the Resolves, the Tea Trolley Tours will not only offer guests a chance to learn about some of the women who signed the Resolves but also allow them to visit five locations throughout Edenton where these women lived and are buried. 

The 45-minute Tea Trolley Tours will conclude with an invitation to a tea party at the home of one of the signers, which will include refreshments and entertainment. 

Tickets for these special tours can be purchased online or in-person at the Penelope Barker House Welcome Center.  

Additional Tea Trolley Tours will be scheduled throughout 2024 with new locations for the tea party receptions added each month.

This momentous weekend in October is only the beginning of a year-long celebration that will feature events and activities for the whole family.

Local businesses, the library association, and historical societies will join together to commemorate this important political action taken by the women of Edenton who helped to secure the future of a free America for those of us who enjoy it today. 

We invite you to join our celebrations and plan to visit Edenton during this year-long 250th Anniversary celebration of the Edenton Tea Party! We can’t wait to see you soon.


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