North Carolina's Two Revolutionary James Hunters: Disambiguating the Regulator and the Legislator
Research Branch, NC Office of Archives and History, 2005
Two James Hunters—one most noteworthy as a Regulator and the other a legislator—were prominent in North Carolina during the late colonial and Revolutionary periods. Erected in 1901 at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro and moved in 1962 to Alamance Battleground, the Regulator Monument—also called the James Hunter Monument—has the two James Hunters combined in the text about the Regulator to whom it was dedicated. Likewise the State Highway Historical Marker, placed in 1964, mixed facts concerning the two men. In 1953 a Rockingham County chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was established in honor of James Hunter, Regulator and legislator. Regardless of how the James Hunters became intertwined, Vearl Guymon Alger set the record straight in an article in 1977. Through Alger’s meticulous research into primary sources, most importantly deeds, Alger effectively identified the James Hunters and settled the controversy. Modern scholars now recognize the two as separate individuals.
James Hunter, the Regulator, was born around 1735, probably in Pennsylvania. While his father’s name is uncertain, it is clear that he is the son of the “widow Ann Hunter” who purchased land in 1755 from her son-in-law Gilbert Strayhorn in Orange County. James Hunter acquired a land grant for 200 acres in Orange County (later Alamance) in 1757. Active in local affairs and displaying some degree of education, Hunter was at the forefront of the Regulator movement in the backcountry. He is believed to have helped write the “advertisements” and petitions, and was entrusted to deliver some of them. While he did not consider himself a military leader and is even said to have refused to assume command at the Battle of Alamance in 1771, Hunter later became known as “the General of the Regulators.” Following the battle, Governor William Tryon issued a proclamation outlawing Hunter and other Regulator leaders. Tryon took his troops through Hunter’s farm, which was about eight miles from battlefield. There they burned down his “dwelling house, Barn, & (etc).”
The second colonial and Revolutionary era James Hunter, the soldier and legislator, sided with the King during the early days of the Revolution. He went to Cross Creek to join other Loyalists in February 1776, and then proceeded to New Hanover County. Hunter was captured at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge and paroled a few months later. He took the Oath of Allegiance on September 6, 1776, and was accepted as a “free citizen” of North Carolina. James Hunter married Mary Walker. They had five children. Hunter died intestate sometime between October 1779, when he and a partner made and entry for a land grant adjoining his old lands, and February 1783, when Mary was named administrator of his estate.
Vearl Guymon Alger, “The Case for James Hunter of Stinking Quarter and Sandy Creek: Regulator Leader, 1765-1771,”
North Carolina Genealogical Journal (May 1977): 70-83
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 237-238—sketch by Vearl Guymon Alger
William S. Powell, James K. Hunta, and Thomas J. Farnham, eds.,The Regulators in North Carolina: A Documentary History, 1759-1776 (1971)
Marjoleine Kars, Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina (2002)
17 November 2015 | Wegner, Ansley Herring