William Tryon

Biography

Photo of a large, two-story red-brick building, nine windows wide, with a brick gate in front
Tryon Palace in New Bern (AmRevNC photograph)

Englishman William Tryon was an infantry captain when we married into a widow’s money. A professional soldier from age 22, he fought in France during the Seven Year’s War. He used his marriage connection to Lord Hillsborough to be named Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of North Carolina in 1764. Six months after arriving, he rose to the top job when the sitting governor died. Tryon often found himself caught in the middle of crises. When local Sons of Liberty were agitating against the Stamp Act, which put a tax on all paper in the colonies, he prevented the elected Provincial Assembly from meeting to take action against it. But he also offered to pay back the fees he was due from the Act. A few years later, he made some attempt to negotiate a solution with the Regulators who were protesting unfair government practices. However, Tryon did not address the underlying issues, and the substantial palace he had built at New Bern contributed to their complaints. Ultimately he raised an army—authorized by the assembly, it must be said—to end the insurrection at the Battle of Alamance in 1771. Shortly after he transferred to the governorship of New York. Like his successor here, Josiah Martin, he was forced to take refuge on a ship there in 1775, returning to land after the British retook New York City the next year. In effect he was only governor of the city and immediate surroundings, because that was all the British controlled. He took command of a Loyalist army in 1777 that raided towns in Connecticut and New Jersey. Three years later he returned to England and became a lieutenant general. But he never saw active service again, and died on his 59th birthday at home in London. Tryon lives on in the name of Tryon, N.C., and as a character in the Outlander book and TV series.

More Information

Red tote bag with a picture and list of female patriots
Mug with an African-American soldier and the words, "Fighting for Freedom."