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Taking a Closer Look at Mecklenburg, NC: William Kennon and Dr. Ephraim Brevard

Mecklenburg County Courthouse 

Previously we looked at Rev. Hezekiah James Balch believed to be one of the committee of three who wrote the Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence. The other two men believed to be on the committee are William Kennon and Dr. Ephraim Brevard. Today we will take a closer look at these men of liberty and freedom:

The website The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story tells us:

"William Kennon (circa 1735 - ?) was one of the original signers of the Meckenburg Declaration of Independence. Although most of the signers were Presbyterians, William Kennon was Anglican and not even a citizen of the county. Although born and raised near Petersburg, Virginia, he went to the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton University, to finish his formal education.

"After his time there, he moved to Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina. Why he was in Charlotte on the day the Declaration was supposedly written is a mystery. Perhaps business or friendships brought him to the city on this monumental day. One speculation is that he had heard about the plan for this convention and wanted to learn first-hand how the Mecklenburg citizens would react to this latest news about the British.

"Kennon's father, William, Jr., was a member of the Virginia House of Burgess, so his interest in politics may have been a family matter. William, Sr.'s father, Richard, was reportedly the original immigrant to America. The Kennon family acquired large holdings of land in Virginia.

"William Kennon was a colonel in the Revolutionary War and was on the Rowan County Safety Committee, where he was elected chairman in April 1774. He also was chairman of the first assembly of the colony held without permission of the British government, a meeting held in New Bern in August, 1774. He signed a resolution protesting patriot's removal to England for trial. Kennon was married and had one son and three daughters."

Access Genealogy gives us this biographical sketch of William Kennon:

“'William Kennon' was an early and devoted friend of liberty. He was an eminent lawyer, resided in Salisbury, and had a large practice in the surrounding counties. He was one of the prominent advocates for 'absolute independence' at the Convention in Charlotte, on the 19th and 20th of May, 1775. He, with Mr. Willis, a brother-in-law, Adlai Osborne, and Samuel Spencer (afterward Judge Spencer), took an active part in arresting two obnoxious lawyers, John Dunn and Benjamin Booth Boote, preceding the Revolution, in giving utterance to language inimical to the cause of American independence.

They were conveyed to Charlotte for trial, and being found guilty of conduct inimical to the American cause, they were transported to Camden, S.C., and finally to Charleston, beyond the reach of their injurious influence. Colonel Kennon was a member of the first Congress which met at Newbern on the 25th of August, 1774, in opposition to royalty, and 'fresh from the people,' with Moses Winslow and Samuel Young as colleagues. He was also a delegate to the same place in April, 1775, with Griffith Rutherford and William Sharpe as colleagues; and to the Provincial Congress at Hillsboro, in August, 1775, associated with William Sharpe, Samuel Young and James Smith. In 1776, he was appointed commissary of the first regiment of State troops. He was ever active and faithful in the discharge of his duties. Soon after the Revolutionary war he moved to Georgia, where he died at a good old age.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story tells us this biographical information regarding Dr. Brevard:

"Ephraim Brevard (17??-1781) was one of the original signers of the Meckenburg Declaration of Independence. Dr. Brevard was one of this area's first physicians. He was born in Maryland and moved at a young age with his family to North Carolina.

"He attended school at Nassau Hall of the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton University, prior to studying medicine in Philadelphia. Brevard followed his teacher to Maryland but left after a few short years as an assistant and returned to Iredell County. Charlotte was a growing, new community, so he moved his practice. He married Martha Polk, the daughter of Captain Thomas and Susannah Spratt Polk. His father-in-law was one of the most influential men in the county. His wife died as a young woman, leaving him with only one child. Martha was buried in Settlers' Cemetery in Charlotte.

"He served as a trustee and instructor at the Queen's Museum Academy in Charlotte. When approached with the petition for this school, the King of England denied it, fearing it would cause more problems. The citizens erected a building anyway and proceeded without a charter. Dr. Brevard approached his maternal uncle, Dr. Alex McWhorter of Maryland, to become the headmaster. He declined the offer. The Legislature granted the college a charter if a minister of the Church of England was headmaster. This would defeat the purposes of having Presbyterian influence in the area to help the seven congregations already established here. Local citizens turned down this proposal and proceeded to have a school on South Tryon. The school name was later changed to Liberty Hall, to reflect the political feelings of the times.

"When fighting broke out at the Cross Creek section of North Carolina, he took his 21 students towards Fayetteville. When the British left, he returned to Charlotte to resume school. However, this peace did not last long. He entered the service as a surgeon and went to Charleston, SC. When the British captured the city and Dr. Brevard, he was transported to Florida. Disease and poor nutrition caused his health to fail. He planned to return to his mother's home in Iredell County for rest. When he stopped at the home of John McKnitt Alexander in the area that is now called Croft in Mecklenburg County, he died at age 37, never making it to his mother's home. Brevard Street in Charlotte is named in his honor."

Access Genealogy gives us more insight to this man's life and early death:

“'Dr. Ephraim Brevard', the reputed author of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, proclaimed on the 20th of May, 1775, was born in Maryland in 1744. He came with his parents to North Carolina when about four years old. He was the son of John Brevard, one of the earliest settlers of Iredell, then Rowan, county, and of Huguenot descent. At the conclusion of the Indian war in 1761, he and his cousin, Adlai Osborne, were sent to a grammar school in Prince Edward county, Va. About a year later, he returned to North Carolina and attended a school of considerable notoriety in Iredell county, conducted successively by Joseph Alexander, (a nephew of John McKnitt Alexander) David Caldwell, then quite young, and Joel Benedict, from the New England States. Adlai Osborne, Ephraim Brevard and Thomas Reese (a brother of David Reese, one of the signers), graduated at Princeton College in 1768, and greatly contributed by talents and influence to the spread and maintenance of patriotic principles. Soon after graduation, Ephraim Brevard commenced the study of medicine under the celebrated Dr. Alexander Ramsey, of South Carolina, a distinguished patriot and historian of the Revolutionary war.

"In 1776, Dr. Brevard joined the expedition of General Rutherford in his professional capacity, during the Cherokee campaign. Soon after this service he settled in Charlotte, where he married a daughter of Col. Thomas Polk, and rapidly rose to eminence in his profession. He had one child, Martha, who married Mr. Dickerson, the father of the late James P. Dickerson, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the South Carolina regiment in the Mexican war, and who died from a wound received in a battle near the City of Mexico. After the death of his beloved and youthful wife, Dr. Brevard again entered the Southern army, as 'surgeon’s mate,' or assistant surgeon, under General Lincoln, in 1780, and was made a prisoner at the surrender of Charleston.

"While engaged as one of the teachers in the Queen’s Museum he raised a company, from the young men of that institution, to assist in putting down the Tories assembled on Cape Fear River. Of this company he was made captain. They marched immediately in the direction of Cross Creek (Fayetteville), but, on learning of the dispersion of the Tories, they returned home. Inheriting from his family a devotion to liberty and independence, he early became distinguished for his patriotic ardor and decision of character. He was a fine scholar, fluent writer, and drew up the resolutions of independence which the Convention of the 20th of May, 1775, adopted, with very slight alteration, acting as one of the secretaries. During his confinement in Charleston, as a prisoner of war, he suffered so much from impure air and unwholesome diet that his health gave way, and he returned home only to die. He reached the house of his friend and fellow patriot, John McKnitt Alexander, in Mecklenburg county, where he soon after breathed his last. He lies buried in Charlotte, in the lot now owned by A.B. Davidson, Esq., near the grave of his beloved wife, who, a short time before, preceded him to the tomb. Upon this lot was located the Queen’s Museum College, receiving, in 1777, the more patriotic name of 'Liberty Hall Academy.' Within its walls were educated a Spartan band of young men, who afterward performed a noble part in achieving the independence of their country."

An additional resource is the book The Mecklenburg declaration of independence, May 20, 1775, and lives of its signers  which is a pdf file and can be dowloaded at the Electric Scotland website. I encourage you to read it as there is some controversy concerning the Declaration and if it was written before our national Declaration of Independence. You can also learn more about this controversy at: Declaration | MeckDec, a webiste of the Mecklenburg Historical Society.

I encourage you to examine the facts, weigh the evidence and decide for yourself.

Truly these men of notable character and bravery should never be forgotten. May God give us the integrity to truly honor our founding fathers and mothers of this great nation and may we treasure the liberty and freedom they fought and died for. 
In Lord Jesus Name I pray, amen. - Mercy Adams


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