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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.

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Simpson, John

by Armistead J. Maupin, 1994

8 Mar. 1728–1 Mar. 1788

John Simpson, Revolutionary leader, was born in Boston, the son of John and Mary Randall Simpson. Shortly after 1750 he moved to Beaufort County, N.C., with a group of New Englanders. In 1757 he was commissioned lieutenant by Governor Arthur Dobbs in Captain John Hardee's militia company, and in 1760 he was elected one of Beaufort County's representatives in the Assembly. Having introduced the bill to create a new county to be named Pitt, he was appointed one of the commissioners to set it up. The county seat was established at Hardee's Chapel a few miles southeast of the present city of Greenville. Following the creation of Pitt County, Simpson was elected to represent it in the colonial Assembly for three consecutive sessions between 1764 and 1769 and for three more between 1773 and 1775.

During that time, when the Regulator uprising took place, Simpson was colonel of the Pitt County militia. Governor William Tryon called on him to provide troops for the protection of the Assembly against threats by the Regulators. Although Simpson was not present at the Battle of Alamance in 1771, some of the troops from his regiment participated.

On the eve of the American Revolution, between 1774 and 1776, Simpson represented his county in the first four Provincial Congresses. As a member of the colonial Assembly in 1774, he was also a delegate to the First Provincial Congress, both bodies being composed of virtually the same men and meeting in the same hall. Simpson was one of those whom royal governor Josiah Martin condemned for their Revolutionary activity. In addition, he was named to the Council of Safety in 1776 and served two terms on the Council of State in 1778 and 1779. He represented Pitt County in four sessions of the General Assembly, serving in the House of Commons in 1778 and 1782–83 and in the senate in 1780–81 and 1786–87.

During much of the Revolutionary period Simpson was a justice of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions. In 1780 he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, but there is nothing to suggest that he saw active military service.

In 1758 Simpson married Elizabeth, the daughter of John Hardee, and they became the parents of nine children: Mary Randall, Susannah, Elizabeth, Samuel, Alice, John Hardee, Ann, Joseph, and Sarah. Susannah married Lawrence O'Bryan, Ann married John Eason, and Sarah married Dr. Joseph Brickell. The others never married. Simpson was buried in Pitt County on the south side of the Tar River at the old Hardee place, five miles south of Greenville.


Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, vol. 4 (1905).

John L. Cheney, Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585–1979 (1981).

Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, vols. 11–13, 16–19, 22 (1895–1907).

Marshall DeLancey Haywood, Builders of the Old North State (1968).

Henry T. King, Sketches of Pitt County (1911).

William S. Powell, ed., The Correspondence of William Tryon and Other Selected Papers, vol. 2 (1981).

William L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, vols. 6, 8–10 (1888–90).

Additional Resources:

CSR Documents by Simpson, John, 1728-1788, Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Documenting the American South, UNC Libraries:

Ashe, Samuel A. (Samuel A'Court). Biographical history of North Carolina from colonial times to the present. Greensboro, N.C., C.L. Van Noppen. 1905. (accessed April 15, 2013).

"One Militia Commission Of John Simpson, Signed By Gov. William Tryon, Accession #: P.TP.1966.077.001." c. 1766. North Carolina Tryon Palace.

Simpson Family Bible Records. 1702-1855. (accessed April 15, 2013).

Tryon, William, 1729-1788. Correspondence of William Tryon and other selected papers: Volume 2. Raleigh [N.C.]: Division of Archives and History, Dept. of Cultural Resources,1980-. 1981. (accessed April 15, 2013).


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