Tryon Resolves

Westerners Take a Stand

Location


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Coordinates: 35.3382, -81.3219.

Type: Stop
Tour: Overmountain
County: Gaston

Access LogoFull

You can park anywhere within view of the state historical marker at the coordinates. The shoulders are wide and solid on both sides.
 

Computer with a sticker of the AmRevNC logo on it, a state map with pins in it on a 13-star American flag

 

 
Girl in a white tee shirt with a picture and list of patriot women

Description

Tryon Courthouse

Button for audio tourBehind the state historical marker stood the log cabin of Christian “Christy” Mauney, built in 1770. It doubled as a courthouse for Tryon County, formed the year before and named for Royal Gov. William Tryon. Quarterly court sessions were held here from 1774–83 (though they were sometimes held in other homes around the county). In those days courts were also the county governments. “In this court deeds and wills were probated, estates settled, land entries recorded, guardians appointed, orphans apprenticed, highways opened, overseers appointed, and many other matters attended to.”[1]

One room of the house was supposedly used as the jail, mostly to hold people until trial: Criminal cases in those days rarely resulted in jail terms. For example, a man convicted of a low-value theft in one of the first trials held here was sentenced to, “‘at the hour of one o’clock… on his bare back at the public whipping post receive thirty-nine lashes well laid on.’” But convictions for cursing in public, working on the Christian sabbath day, or failing to maintain part of a public road all resulted in fines.[b]

Photo of a granite monument and historical marker by a two-lane road with trees behind them
(AmRevNC photograph)

The April after Mauney’s home became a courthouse, a British Army raided Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts in search of arms that could be used against them. Many groups of citizens in North Carolina gathered to register their support for the northern rebels who fought the British. The Committee of Safety for Tryon County invited property owners here on Monday, August 14, 1775, to add their voices. They wrote up an agreement called the “Tryon Association.” After calling out the “the Hostile opperations (sic) & Traiterous Designs now Carrying on by the Tools of Ministerial Vengeance & Despotism for the Subjugating all British America,” the men wrote:

“We therefore the Subscribers freeholders & Inhabitants of Tryon County, do hereby faithfully unite Ourselves under the most Sacred ties of Religion Honor & love to Our Country, firmly to Resist force by force in defence of our Natural Freedom & Constitutional Rights against all Invasions, & at the same time do Solemnly Engage to take up Arms and Risque our lives and fortunes in Maintaining the Freedom of our Country whenever the Wisdom & Council of the Continental Congress or our provincial Convention shall Declare it necessary…”[2]

That said, they also included their “ardent desire” for reconciliation with Britain, and specifically reaffirmed their loyalty to King George III, “so long as he secures to us those Rights and Liberties which the principles of Our Constitution require.”

The document also prohibited the export of gunpowder and lead (used for bullets) from the county. Eventually 49 men signed it. One result was the creation of a county militia independent of the royal government.[a]

Over time, the word “association” lost that meaning. This and similar documents, like those from Mecklenburg and Liberty Point, came to be known as “resolves.” The original “Tryon Resolves” document is at the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh.

One of the signers, Charles McLean, was named a captain in the provincial militia in 1770. By 1774 he was a justice of the court, and part of the colonial commission charged with finding a site for a formal courthouse building. He was elected a delegate to the Provincial Congress that declared support for independence in April of 1776, and then to the new state’s legislature the next two years. He also became a colonel in the Tryon regiment of the state’s militia.[c]

A crossroads near this spot was selected for a courthouse, but it was never built.[d] Not wanting any association with the British, the residents of Tryon County petitioned the General Assembly to change the name. In 1779 it was instead split into two counties, named for Continental Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln and N.C. militia leader Col. Griffith Rutherford. (Lincoln County later was divided to create Gaston, which you are in now.)

Signature of Thomas Espey on 1782 summons (AmRevNC photograph)

Another signer, Thomas Espey, was captured by Loyalists during the Revolutionary War, and may have been one of the men rescued from being hung at Ramsour’s Mill when Patriots attacked Tories there. His son Samuel was wounded at the Battle of King’s Mountain. Thomas became a justice of the peace for Lincoln County, and issued a summons in 1782 to have a large number of people brought before the court by the sheriff to prove why their lands should not be confiscated as Loyalists under state law. But he was suspended in 1785 after being indicted for corruption and bribery. [e]

The British Respond

Color drawing of a valley filled with white triangular tents around some buildings, guarded by sentries in the foreground
“British Camp 1777-80”

Button for audio tourSix years after the Resolves were issued, the British army of Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis camped all around here on Friday, January 23, 1781. With nearly 4,000 soldiers and followers, the camp may have stretched a mile or two along both sides of the road, depending on how wide the camp was. This was the army’s second stop in North Carolina during the Race to the Dan, in which Cornwallis chased the Continental Army through the state. From here it moved toward a former battleground at Ramsour’s Mill in modern Lincolnton.

What to See

A monument listing the signers is next to the state marker, with family and other information on the other side. Mauney descendants placed it here in 1919.[3]

Photo up a two-lane rural road with the monument in the distance and trees on the right
Direction of British approach, and monument (AmRevNC photograph)

[1] Nixon, Alfred, ‘The History of Lincoln County, North Carolina’, The Lincoln County News (Lincolnton, NC, 1935) <http://archive.org/details/historyoflincoln00nixo> [accessed 16 June 2020]

[2] Parker, Hershel, ‘The Tryon County Patriots of 1775 and Their “Association”’, Journal of the American Revolution, 2014 <https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/08/the-tryon-county-patriots-of-1775-and-their-association/> [accessed 27 April 2020]

[3] In addition to the other footnoted sources, “Stop” information comes from one of two guidebooks; NCpedia; the online essay for the relevant North Carolina Highway Marker; and related Sight pages (see “About Sources“).

[a] Anderson, William, ‘Lincoln County Men at Kings Mountain’ (EleHistory Research, 2017) <http://elehistory.com/.

[b] Nixon.

[c] Graham, Robert, ‘The People Who Fought at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill & Afterwards’, 2003, Lincoln County Public Library, North Carolina Collections.

[d] Sherrill, William, Annals of Lincoln County (Lincolnton, N.C.: Frank Crowell, 1937).

[e] Graham; Pruitt, Albert Bruce, Abstracts of Sales of Confiscated Loyalists’ Land and Property in North Carolina (Rocky Mount, N.C.: A.B. Pruitt, 1989), Durham Main Library, North Carolina Collection; ‘Minutes of the North Carolina Senate, November 19, 1785 – December 29, 1785, Volume 20, Pages 1-117’, Documenting the American South: Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, 1785 <https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr20-0001> [accessed 1 June 2022].

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