Update about blog

Come on over to my other blog, Alchemy of Clay and Living in Black Mountain NC, where the scenery and my ceramic arts life are combined. I've moved some personal blog posts, (as well as those that are about my ancestors) back here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Edenton Tea Party

Edenton Colony

In 1658 adventurers from the Jamestown area, drifted through the wilderness from Virginia, found a location on the bank of a natural harbor, the site of present day Edenton.

Edenton Colony was the first permanent settlement in what is now the state of North Carolina (in the United States). It became the modern town of Edenton, North Carolina.

Edenton was established in 1712 as the Towne on Queen Anne's Creek. It was later known as Ye Towne on Mattercommack Creek and, yet later as the Port of Roanoke. It was renamed Edenton and incorporated in 1722 in honor of Governor Charles Eden who had died that year.[4]


Edenton served as the capital of North Carolina from 1722 to 1743, with the governor establishing his residence there and the population increasing during that period.

Easy sea access halted with a 1795 hurricane which silted Roanoke Inlet. The 1805 Dismal Swamp Canal also took business elsewhere by diverting shipping to Norfolk. Locals also didn't want a railroad, thus further impeding the local economy.[7]


Edenton Tea Party

The Edenton Tea Party was one of the earliest organized women’s political actions in United States history.  On October 25, 1774, Mrs. Penelope Barker organized, at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King, fifty-one women in Edenton, North Carolina.  Together they formed an alliance wholeheartedly supporting the American cause against “taxation without representation.”

Penelope Barker is credited for organizing the women who participated in the Edenton Tea Party. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.
Penelope Barker is credited for organizing the women who participated in the Edenton Tea Party. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.

In response to the Tea Act of 1773, the Provincial Deputies of North Carolina resolved to boycott all British tea and cloth received after September 10, 1774.  The women of Edenton signed an agreement on October 25, 1774, saying they were “determined to give memorable proof of their patriotism” and could not be “indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country . . . it is a duty that we owe, not only to our near and dear connections . . . but to ourselves.”

The custom of drinking tea was a long-standing social English tradition.  Social gatherings were defined by the amount and quality of tea provided.  Boycotting a substance that was consumed on a daily basis, and that was so highly regarded in society, demonstrated the colonists strong disapproval of the 1773 Tea Act.  The Boston Tea Party, in December 1773, resulted in Parliament passing the “Intolerable Acts.”  It was proof of the Crown’s absolute authority.  Following the example of their Boston patriots, the women of Edenton boldly protested Britain’s what they considered unjust laws.

At the meeting, Barker said, “Maybe it has only been men who have protested the king up to now.  That only means we women have taken too long to let our voices be heard.  We are signing our names to a document, not hiding ourselves behind costumes like the men in Boston did at their tea party.  The British will know who we are.”  Part of the declaration stated, “We, the aforesaid Ladys will not promote ye wear of any manufacturer from England until such time that all acts which tend to enslave our Native country shall be repealed."

Barker sent the proclamation to a London newspaper, confident the women’s stance would cause a stir in England.  British journalists and cartoonists depicted the women in a negative light, as bad mothers and loose women, and did not take them seriously.  However, the Patriots in America praised the women for their stance.  Women all over the colonies followed Barker’s lead and began boycotting British goods.

From England, in January 1775, Arthur Iredell wrote his brother, James Iredell, describing England’s reaction to the Edenton Tea Party.  According to Arthur Iredell, the incident was not taken seriously because it was led by women.  He sarcastically remarked, “The only security on our side … is the probability that there are but few places in America which possess so much female artillery as Edenton.”  The Edenton women were also satirized in a political cartoon published in London in March 1775.

 Even though the Edenton Tea Party was ridiculed in England, it was praised in the colonies.  The women of Edenton represented American frustrations with English monarchical rule and the need for American separation and independence.

Lindley S. Butler, North Carolina and the Coming of the Revolution, 1763-1776 (Raleigh, 1976); Richard M. Dillard, “The Historic Tea-Party of Edenton: An Incident in North Carolina Connected with British Taxation,” in The North Carolina Booklet (Raleigh, 1926); William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989); and Lou Rogers, Tar Heel Women (Raleigh, 1949).

A British cartoon satirizing the Edenton Tea Party participants

The list of the 51 women is somewhat confusing...the same name appears 3 times, so it's possible that the transcription has an error, or there were 3 women named Elizabeth Roberts, and 2 named Mary Creacy, a small possibility.  You can view the list and a biography of Penelope Barker here.

I was looking for the mother of my ancestor James Moore Powell, born in the same county (Bertie) as the town of Edenton. Apparently his mother was Secaley Celia (Sally) AVERITT Powell.  No Averitt, or Everitt, nor Powell on the list.

James Powell was born in 1791, so either his mother or grandmother may well have been part of the tea party.

My quandry these days is who his father might have been.  There are two gentlemen on his family tree, with birth and death dates different, and both supposedly married to Sally Averitt.

James himself may have been two people, because he married Nancy Jones Traylor, but another James Powell married someone named Mary.

I'm enjoying playing sleuth and searching through records.  I found a James Powell lived in Warrenton, NC, and was in the army during the War of 1812, though he didn't see any fighting apparently.

Or was this the other James Powell?  Unless it says James M. Powell, it is still a question, and the soldier didn't use any initial.  But the 1820 census of Warrenton does have James M. Powell, so it's more likely that this single man is my ancestor.

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