The people living in North Carolina experienced turmoil and frustration that escalated to new heights in 1780. Segment One of this series explains how men and their families made critical decisions that would affect them for the remainder of their lives. Choosing to support a new nation was not an easy decision. They could easily remain loyal to England; after all, they traveled to the colonies to do that very thing. But this idea of freedom brought hope for the future. Picture yourself in this scene with your ancestor and think about the consequences they faced. Many of these same families remembered and endured hardships and losses from the Battle of Alamance in 1771. Nine years later, they choose a side, Patriot or Loyalist.
The last article ended with Gideon Wright, a Loyalist who lived near the Yadkin River. He first appeared in the Moravian diaries on December 28, 1763. This entry was a notification to Brother Gammern that a false report was circulating among the people along the Yadkin. Rumors of the Moravians supplying guns to the Cherokee near the New River concerned Wright. By August 5, 1769, the diaries refer to Wright as Justice of the court. On June 1, 1771, the Moravian journals mentioned Gideon Wright again. This time the entry explains the actions of Wright as he informs Governor Tryon of the good behavior from the Moravians during the Regulator’s movements. Governor Tryon sent a proclamation to the Moravians, naming them as the only people in the area who were “true loyal subjects.” The Moravian diaries mention Gideon Wright many times throughout his life. Noted for recording details, the Moravians failed to document the details of Wright’s death in 1782. But a clue emerges from the past as we discover who this man named Gideon Wright, really is.
The surname, Wright, has been prevalent in North Carolina since 1694. Cornelius Lerry, a planter, received a land grant for 150 acres in Perquimans Precinct on January 1, 1694. Lerry received the land by providing transportation to the colony for John, Elizabeth, and Austin Wright. Captain John Wright did not live long to enjoy his new life in North Carolina. He died later that same year. Years later, a Joseph Clarke Wright living in Westmoreland, Virginia, appears as the son of one Captain John Wright of the same area. Other documents prove a John Wright died in North Carolina in 1762. Finally, another man called Captain John Wright appeared in the Flat Rock area of Surry County during the American Revolutionary War. Past family historians state that Gideon Wright’s ancestors lived in Oyster Bay, New York. The proof for this suggestion lacks referenced documented material. Upon studying the proven evidence of Wright surnames in North Carolina and Virginia, we must suggest the possibility of a different lineage. As materials pinpoint Gideon’s character as a loyalist leader, we wonder about his past.
Timeline of Colonel Gideon Wright
April 17th: Captain Gideon Wright and company received £131, 14s, 8p for a scouting expedition consisting of 52 days.
August 8th: Land grant consisting of 69 acres on the east side of the Yadkin River opposite of Benjamin Pettit.
December 28th: Gideon Wright informs Br. Gammern that a false report was circulating among the people in the area along the Yadkin that the Moravians were supplying guns to the Indians along the New River.
July: Named Justice of the Peace in Rowan County and was part of the jury to lay out a new road from Shore’s to Mitchell River.
August 5th: Justice Gideon Wright summoned Br. Jacob Meyer to appear before him and give evidence in the matter of a lost horse.
Wright appears as a juror to lay out a road from Hart’s store crossing the Yadkin at the Yellow Banks Ford and to Edward Riggs’ new cut road from Allen’s sawmill to Shallow Ford.
September, Justices are to receive taxables for the year. Gideon Wright is responsible for all forks below the mouth of Hunting Creek and as far up as the mouth of Deep Creek and west of Brushy Creek.
November, Gideon Wright has not returned the taxables in his district.
March 8th: Wright returns from Salisbury and the general court. The Chief Justice and the King’s attorney failed to appear due to Regulators threatening to take over the court.
March 11th: Gideon Wright wishes to borrow £20 from the Moravians in order to secure from the Governor a charter for the new courthouse in Surry County. Martin Armstrong will also charter for the new courthouse.
April: Gideon Wright receives £20 from Governor Tryon for bounty money for his men and the services conducted in Tryon County.
April 30th: Gideon writes a letter addressed to Brother Frederick Marshall of Salem requesting guns and ammunition for his newly enlisted 25 men. He prepares to march to Hillsborough and assist the Governor.
May 6th: Gideon Wright recruits 15 additional men and marches to assist the Governor.
May 7th: Gideon and his enlisted men confront Regulators along the road.
May 9th: Gideon is promised the commission of Colonel.
May 19th: Giery Wright’s wife and child arrive in Bethania afraid that the Regulators will burn their house.
May 20th: The opening of the new court in Surry County takes place in the home of Gideon Wright.
June 1st: Gideon Wright informs the Governor of the Moravian’s good behavior during the Regulator Movement. The Governor sent a proclamation to the Moravians naming them as the only ones in the area who were true loyal subjects.
June 22nd: Gideon Wright and his men are honorably discharged by the Governor.
Listed as an official coroner for Surry County, Jesse Benton is listed as the clerk.
November term, Gideon Wright sits as a member of the Surry County court with Martin Armstrong. Benjamin Cleveland is appointed as a juror to attend Salisbury court and was also a member of the committee to plan a tax to pay for the Surry courthouse.
January, Governor Josiah Martin summons Gideon Wright and commissions him as a Colonel.
February 8th: Several minute men marched to Shallow Ford, and they had with them James Glen and Giery Wright who were arrested as Tories. They were shacked together in the blacksmith shop located in Bethania.
February 11th: It was reported that Gideon Wright was taken prisoner, but he actually surrendered himself to Heinrich Schmidt.
October 3rd: Gideon Wright raided the Richmond Courthouse and along with his men, killed the sheriff.
October 8th: John Krause, a soldier killed at Richmond Courthouse by Gideon Wright and his men.
October 9th: The son of Andreas Volk arrived at the Moravian settlements and requested a doctor for his brother-in-law, Johann Krause. He was shot in the leg by the local Tory militia led by Gideon Wright. The ball remained in his leg after Joseph Dixon attended to the wound. Local Tories were heard saying that the bullet was not meant for Krause but for someone else.
October 14th: Colonel Gideon Wright led approximately 400 men into battle along Battle Branch near the Shallow Ford crossing on the Yadkin River.
November 1st: Bethabara and local communities such as Hausertown and Richmond are seeking shelter from violent attacks. Giery Wright was shot and killed in his home.
March 26th: Gideon Wright attended the Easter sunrise services at Salem.
September 10th: Captain Campbell arrested several local Tories in the area surrounding Bethania. Hezekiah Wright was whipped several times as many others.
September 11th: More Tory prisoners arrive bringing the total to 50 in Salem. Colonel Martin Armstrong speaks to the prisoners and states if they join the American forces, they would be set free.
Gideon Wright’s probate and the sale of his property and personal possessions.
Evidence appears that a petition was received from Gideon Wright in Charlestown, known today as Charleston, South Carolina to the British Parliament in 1782. The majority of these petitioners expected free transportation for their families to east Florida. However, transportation was the sole responsibility of the petitioner and British plans were already underway to evacuate East Florida by 1785 forcing many of the petitioners to return home. The only remaining choices for these refugees were lands located north in Canada or south along the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands. I believe Gideon Wright returned home before 1782 either to retrieve his family and personal possessions or to attempt to stay permanently in North Carolina. By November of 1782, Gideon Wright is mentioned at the local court of Surry County, North Carolina as deceased, but this is not the first documentation associated with Wright’s death in the county court records. It may very well be that Gideon Wright met the same fate as Giery and Hezekiah Wright. Gideon Wright may lie buried along the banks of the Yadkin River in the Wright family cemetery near his home.
This article only highlights a small portion of Gideon Wright. The rival between Martin Armstrong and Gideon Wright deserves a separate article as their actions against one another also contributed to the local Richmond courthouse and the town of Richmond. A great number of North Carolina Loyalists migrated to Missouri and Kentucky right after the war. Missouri is very interesting as you read through several of the American Revolutionary War pensions and find familiar names such as Gideon Wright, Bennet Tilley, and Neal Murphy. Daniel Boone and many of his family members left Kentucky for Missouri where he died years later. Missouri and its territory hold a spectacular history for many North Carolina families from this time period. There are many more details currently available that fully explain Wright’s loyalty to Great Britain and his actions in North Carolina. The pension record of Colonel William Lenoir states that he was part of a party of men who captured Colonel Gideon Wright and “done away with him”. However, the year that Lenoir states this act occurred was 1776 and land records reveal Gideon purchasing property in North Carolina as late as 1781. Elizabeth Wright, Gideon’s wife, remained in North Carolina until her death in 1796. The Surry County court deemed on January 5th, 1783, the confiscation acts of property and land carried out by James Badget and Martin Armstrong were illegal. The land was returned along with the majority of perishable items by August of 1783. Elizabeth Wright presented additional legal manners to the court and became plaintiff against defendant James Badget. Gideon’s widow was awarded an additional £32 from Badget. The records also indicate that the death of Gideon Wright occurred prior to February of 1782 as 12 bushels of corn belonging to the estate were taken by Commissioner Matthew Brooks and returned to Elizabeth Wright on the 15th.
Stay tuned for more updates about Colonel Gideon Wright and his family in North Carolina. Segment 3 of this series will be arriving soon. Until then, enjoy your journey to the past.
- Absher, W.O. “Surry County, NC Court Minutes” Volumes I & II 1768-1789 Southern Historical Press Greenville, SC 1985
- American Revolutionary War Pensions from states North Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri.
- ERRINGTON, JANE. “Loyalists and Loyalism in the American Revolution and Beyond.” Acadiensis, vol. 41, no. 2, 2012, pp. 164–73, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41803357. Accessed 9 Apr. 2022.
- Fries, Adelaide “Records of the Moravians 1752-1771” Volumes I, II, IV Edwards & Broughton Printing Company Raleigh, North Carolina 1922
- Hayes, Johnson J “The Land of Wiles” Wilkes County Historical Society Wilkesboro, North Carolina 1962
- Land Grants & Estate Records from the North Carolina State Archives Raleigh, North Carolina
- Troxler, Carole Watterson. “Refuge, Resistance, and Reward: The Southern Loyalists’ Claim on East Florida.” The Journal of Southern History, vol. 55, no. 4, 1989, pp. 563–96, https://doi.org/10.2307/2209041. Accessed 9 Apr. 2022.