Kenan Progenitor James Kenan

James Kenan: Revolutionary leader, member Provincial Congresses, conventions 1788, '89; militia brigadier general; trustee of University. Grave 2 mi. N.On May 23, 1810, Revolutionary era military and political leader James Kenan died.

Born on his family’s plantation near what’s now the town of Turkey, Kenan was elected sheriff of Duplin County when he was 22. He displayed strong leadership early, assembling a group of volunteers to go to Wilmington in vocal opposition of the British Stamp Act.

After serving in the colonial assembly and provincial congress, Kenan joined the Duplin militia at the outset of the Revolutionary War. He helped lead a group of volunteers against Scottish loyalists at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in 1776, and rose through the ranks to become brigadier general for the Wilmington District shortly after the war ended.

A Revolutionary War voucher issued to James Kenan. Image from UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.

Kenan served more than 10 terms in the state legislature after independence and was prominent in the state’s political scene, acting as a member of the State Constitutional Conventions of 1788 and 1789, becoming a member of UNC’s original board of trustees and sitting on the council of state under Richard Caswell.

Active in the Freemasons, Kenan was the first Master of the original Masonic lodge in Duplin County.

Kenan died 1810. His descendants remained active in North Carolina’s civic, political and social life for generations.

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