The Governor’s Coffin

From: Bernhard1848@att.net

The Northern occupation troops in New Bern were not Sherman’s mercenaries, but certainly acted like them.

Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
www.CFHI.net

The Governor’s Coffin

Richard Dobbs Spaight (1796-1850), son of a Revolutionary War veteran who was also a member of the North Carolina Legislature, United States Congressman and delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, served as governor of The Old North State from 1835 to 1837. He was born in New Bern, and prior to being governor, he served in the State Legislature from 1819 to 1822, and again from 1825 to 1834. Spaight was the last governor to be elected by the legislature, and was a member of the 1837 Constitutional Convention which transferred the gubernatorial election to popular vote.

During the War Between the States, Northern occupation troops used the Stevenson House (corner Pollock & George Streets) in New Bern as a hospital for wounded soldiers. In a truly unbelievable act of barbarism, "the body of Governor Spaight was dug up by Northern soldiers, the skull placed on a gate post, and the metal coffin used to send the body of a federal soldier back North."

(A New Geography of North Carolina, Bill Sharpe, Sharpe’s Publishing Company 1961, page 1232)

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Philanthropy and Emancipation in Antebellum North Carolina

From: Bernhard1848@att.net

The ongoing manumission and emancipation of black slaves in the South before 1861, despite the work of the fanatical abolitionists of the North in fomenting racial hatred, is underscored by those like General James Iver McKay of Bladen County, North Carolina. General McKay freed his slaves by will, and repatriated them to Africa. By doing so, he inspired a love of liberty and homeland in his former slaves, who returned to encourage others to emigrate. McKay’s desire to free and repatriate his slaves was common at that time, and many ships carrying freedmen to Liberia were leaving North Carolina for Liberia—ironically, retracing the route taken by Massachusetts slavers heading for Africa laden with rum to trade for slaves some 80 years earlier.

Had Southerners like General McKay been left unmolested by the insurgents of radical abolitionism, our country could have been rid of the problem of slavery peacefully and to the benefit of the Africans race, and the one million Americans who perished in the 1861-1865 war would have lived meaningful and prosperous lives. And, the republic of the Founders might have lasted beyond 1861.

Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
www.CFHI.net

Philanthropy and Emancipation in Antebellum North Carolina:

General James Iver McKay of Bladen County was born on July 17, 1792, and died September 14, 1853.

General McKay represented District 5 in the United States Congress from 1831 to 1849. He served as the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee from 1843 to 1849, and was given the nickname of "Watch Dog of the Treasury." He was a Philanthropist, Statesman, Lawyer, Planter and one of the most beloved men who ever came from Bladen County. He was highly respected by the people of North Carolina and across the United States. In 1848, his name was presented as a candidate for Vice-President of the United States. It was while General McKay was in Congress that he helped secure appropriations for the construction of the Arsenal at Fayetteville and for building Fort Caswell at the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

General McKay died suddenly in Goldsboro, North Carolina on Thursday, September 14, 1853, at a quarter before eight o’clock in the evening. At Wilmington his body was met by the militia. There was a great public demonstration as his body was carried through the city. Bells were tolled. A group of the first citizens of Wilmington accompanied his body to the home plantation in Bladen County where he was buried. The steamboat which carried the dead General from Wilmington to the plantation was decked in black.

Item 7 of his will reads as follows:

"I give, bequeath, and devise after the termination of my wife’s widowhood my above named Bellefont Plantation to William J. Cowan and my executors hereinafter named and their heirs in trust for the County of Bladen on the express condition that the said plantation shall be used as an experimental farm and that the poor of the county and the indigent orphans who are directed by law to be bound out shall be kept, maintained, and employed on said plantation under such rules and regulations as the county court of said county may prescribe."

In like manner he provided for his slaves. Item 10 of his will reads:

"It is my will and desire that the slaves hereinbefore excepted be hired out by my executors for two or three years in order to raise funds for their transportation to the Colony of Liberia, and as soon as that object can be affected, my executors are hereby strictly enjoined to take the necessary means for the transportation of said slaves to Liberia under the direction and patronage of the Colonization Society."

When the Negroes left Elizabethtown for Wilmington where they were to board the ship, they cried and were very unhappy because they had to leave their old home and go to a strange land. Some years later, however, one of the Negro women came back from Africa. It seemed that she had done very well over there. She reported that the McKay Negroes had prospered in their new home, and that her grandfather had become an outstanding man in the Colony of Liberia. Her purpose for returning to Elizabethtown was to persuade other Negroes to go back with her.

His burial place is marked by a North Carolina Historical Marker on Highway 87.

(by Rev. Nash Odom, Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Dublin, N. C. and President of the Bladen County Historic Society.)