Copyright notice

This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page
Average: 3.2 (6 votes)

Kenan, James

by Thomas S. Kenan III, 1988

23 Sept. 1740–23 May 1810

Revolutionary war voucher issued to James Kenan. From The Kenan family and some allied families of the compiler and publisher.James Kenan, colonial and state official and Revolutionary officer, was born at his father's plantation, The Lilacs, in Turkey, N.C., the oldest son of Thomas and Elizabeth Johnston Kenan. Elected sheriff of Duplin County, he served from 1762 to 1766 and again from 1785 to 1786. Kenan led a company of volunteers to Wilmington in 1765 to oppose enforcement of the Stamp Act, and he was a member of the Assembly in 1773 and 1774 and of the Provincial Congress in August 1774, August 1775, and November 1776. He was chairman of the Duplin Safety Committee and a member of the Wilmington Committee.

As colonel of the Duplin militia, Kenan participated in military operations during the American Revolution. Immediately after the war he was chosen brigadier general for the Wilmington District. He served ten terms in the North Carolina Senate between 1777 and 1793, was a member of the state constitutional convention in 1788–89, and became councilor of state. He also was a trustee of The University of North Carolina.

Kenan married Sarah Love in 1770, and they had eight children: Thomas, Catherine, Elizabeth, Owen, Susannah, Daniel Love, Sarah, and Jane. A member of the Presbyterian church, he died at his plantation in Turkey. His grave has since been moved to the Liberty Hall Restoration in Kenansville.


Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, vols. 12, 19–21 (1895–1903).

W. R. Kenan, Jr., ed., Incidents by the Way (1946).

Faison W. McGowen, ed., Duplin History and Government (1971).

Alvaretta Kenan Register, ed., The Kenan Family (1967).

Additional Resources:

Kenan Family Papers, 1748-1996 (collection no. 04225). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (accessed February 15, 2013).

Register, Alvaretta Kenan. The Kenan family and some allied families of the compiler and publisher. Statesboro, Ga., J. S. Kenan II. 1967. (accessed February 15, 2013).

"James Kenan." N.C. Highway Historical Marker F-26, N.C. Office of Archives & History. (accessed February 15, 2013).

(Raleigh) News and Observer, February 4, 1950

A. T. Outlaw, “General Kenan, Duplin’s Revolutionary Leader” (copy in marker files, Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History)

Image Credits:

Register, Alvaretta Kenan. The Kenan family and some allied families of the compiler and publisher. Statesboro, Ga., J. S. Kenan II. 1967. (accessed February 15, 2013).


I stumbled across your family name (Kenan) when researching my family name, Kennon. Is there any chance the spellings are of the same family? My family of Louisa Co Va have no past after 1782 in Louisa Co. Just wondering if they migrated north . The ancestor was in a family bible as a marriage, James Kennon to a Mary ? Thanks for any reply!

Hello, I came across this page trying to do our geology from my father's side (Price). You listed one of his children as "Elizabeth" but I have her and seen her documented as Mary Elizabeth Kenan. If it's the same one, and she married James S Price, please let me know so I can make sure it's correct. Also, if you have any information on her, it would be a blessing. Thanks so much!

Dear Anne,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and taking time to share your project and question.  

That is a very good question!  Unfortunately, I am unable to answer this.  I believe that this entry was written by one of James Kenan’s descendants.  Of course this doesn’t mean that an error didn’t occur or that she didn’t go by another name.  

Otherwise, we unfortunately do not have any additional information directly about her.  You may be interested in a book on Kenan family history.  It has been digitized and is available online:  I see that she is referred to as Elizabeth in this compilation.  It does have some footnotes and citations so that may be helpful to you.

Additionally, if you have any sources that you can share that might help me make an update, that would be fantastic.  As you know, confirming some of these details back into the 18th century can be very difficult! Please feel free to post another comment back in NCpedia.

I hope this helps!  Please let me know if I you have additional questions.

Best wishes,
Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at