N.C. Highway Historical Marker to Recognize Revolutionary Era Colonel and Congressman


Irish-born James Gillespie eventually settled in Duplin County and became active in the fight for freedom from British rule. During the Revolutionary War he was a militiaman, advancing to the rank of colonel. He also served in the Provincial Congress in Halifax in 1776 that drafted the state constitution. A North Carolina Highway Historical Marker will be dedicated in his memory Friday, July 6, 11 a.m., at 609 Routledge Rd, Highway 24 East, Kenansville.

Gillespie was a wealthy planter who owned more than 2,000 acres, as reported in the 1790 census. He was appointed captain of the First Battalion of NC Volunteers in November 1776, and was present for the British defeat of the Patriots Aug. 2, 1776, at the Battle of Rockfish in Duplin County. He also fought Aug. 27 when the Patriots took their revenge, humiliating the British in neighboring Bladen County at the Battle of Elizabethtown, dispatching them into what became called the “Tory Hole.” The British destroyed Gillespie’s plantation “Golden Grove,” in 1891, as retribution for that defeat.

Additionally, Gillespie served intermittently in the State House or State Senate from 1779 to 1791. A member of the constitutional conventions of 1788 and 1789, Gillespie was fiercely Antifederalist, wishing not to cede authority of the state’s political affairs to the federal government. He won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving 1793-1799 and 1803-1805. In 1788, he also took part in the meetings that led to the merger of Cross Creek and Campbellton to form Fayetteville, where Gillespie Street is named in his honor.

For additional information on the Highway Marker Program, call (919) 807-7290. The Highway Marker Program is within the Office of Archives and History and administered by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The program is collaboration between the N.C. Departments of Natural and Cultural Resources and Transportation.

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