John Maiden and the North Carolina Regulators


Brief History of The Regulators

The War of the Regulation (or the Regulator Movement) was a North Carolina uprising, lasting from approximately 1760 to 1771, where Western farmers joined together to fight against corrupt colonial officials who were overtaxing them and charging extortion fees. While some historians consider it a catalyst to the American Revolutionary War, it should be noted that the Regulators were not rebelling against the King of England or even the government of North Carolina, but rather against the local officials of the Western counties, who were appointed by the governor himself. But, the issue of British loyalists taking advantage of western American colonists bears a striking similarity to the upcoming American Revolution.

painting: Governor Tryon and the Regulators
While there were other factors that played a part in the western dissatisfaction, most notably the droughts and depression of the 1760s, the main factor was the influx of wealthy North Carolina officials, whom the farmers considered cruel, arbitrary, tyrannical and corrupt. Taxes were collected by local sheriffs supported by the courts; the sheriffs and courts had sole control over their local regions. The entire system depended on the integrity of local officials, many of whom engaged in extortion; taxes collected often enriched the tax collectors directly. At times, sheriffs would intentionally remove records of their tax collection in order to further tax citizens. The system was endorsed by the colonial governor, who feared losing the support of the various county officials.

The primary aim of the Regulators was to form an honest government and reduce taxation. The most heavily affected areas were said to be that of Rowan, Anson, Orange, Granville, and Cumberland counties. It was a struggle between mostly lower class citizens, who made up the majority of the population of North Carolina, and the wealthy ruling class, who comprised about 5% of the population, yet maintained almost total control of the government. The wealthy businessmen/politicians that ruled North Carolina at this point, saw this as a grave threat to their power.

plaque at Alamance, Orange county
While small acts of violence had been taking place for some time, the first organized conflict was in Mecklenburg County in 1765. Then, in 1768, realizing their grievances had not been heard for the past three years, the farmers assembled into an organization calling themselves Regulators -- this rebellion against the local officials was to speak with one voice, much like the Sons of Liberty in Massachusetts. No one man controlled the group nor decided their fate, it was an association of disgruntled individuals. Minor clashes followed for the next several years in almost every western county, but the only true battle of the war was the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771. The Governor brought in the militia to crush the rebellion, and then hanged their leaders and destroyed the properties of the most active Regulators. Many Regulators remained in hiding until 1772 when they were no longer considered outlaws; many Regulators moved further west into Tennessee. Virtually everyone captured in the battle was fully pardoned in exchange for an allegiance to the crown. The Governor also raised taxes to pay for his militia's defeat of the Regulators.

While the great majority of people in Orange county were in support of the Regulators, at the time of the Regulators' defeat at the battle of Alamance, the press initially was decidedly against them, seeing them as a bunch of “lawless desperadoes” and Governor Tryon as a hero. However soon many newsmen, especially in the Boston area, began to question the reasons behind the rebellion and came to admonish Tryon himself for his methods used to win the battle of Alamance -- the use of a riot act, giving the farmers a 2 hour warning period before the battle began, and subsequently breaking that agreement to bombard them with artillery fire, and the execution of rebellion leaders after the battle. And despite their loss at Alamance, the efforts of the Regulators, for the most part, were successful. The Governor issued proclamations requiring the immediate halt of sheriffs and lawyers overtaxing and overcharging the people in western counties, namely Orange County.

Although the "War of the Regulators" is considered by some to be one of the first acts of the American Revolutionary War, it was waged against corrupt local officials and not against the king or crown. In reality, many anti-Regulators went on to become Patriots during the American Revolution, such as William Hooper, James Robertson, and Francis Nash; while many Regulators became Loyalists -- the fight for independence from Britain in 1776-1781 coalesced former enemies from both sides of the Regulator Movement.

Was Patriot ancestor John Maiden a Regulator?

I hypothesize that the Maidens in Rowan county (and maybe the Passwaters in Surry and the Polks in Mecklenburg) were involved in the Regulators Movement in 1760-1771, although to date only a Thomas Polk has been found on the list of known members. Note that the Patriot John Maiden is thought to have been born circa 1752, and while he would have been too young to be involved at the beginning, he would have been ~16 upon the organization of the Regulators and ~19 at the time of the Battle of Alamance.

There is more than just knowing that the Maidens, Passwaters and Polks were Patriots, and in the case of the Polks, early advocates of independence (the Mecklenburg Declaration in 1775). And it is more than just the statement of how Rowan was "heavily affected" or that Mecklenburg county was the scene of the first organized conflict in 1765. Primarily, it is based on the fact that John Maiden seems to have been a close friend of Regulator ringleader William Butler (~1740 VA-1790 SC), and since 1770/1771, prior to the Battle at Almanance and prior to his purchase of neighboring land on Hunting Creek, Iredell/Rowan in 1783 (when he no longer needed to be in hiding). Note that William Butler Jr was born on October 2, 1770 in Rowan; subsequent children were born in 1772 in MD, and 1774 in VA, before the family moved back to Rowan by 1776.

1825 Iredell County NC court record
State of North Carolina Iredell County - 1825
This day came John Maiden before me William Harbin one of the acting Justices of the peace for said court in and after being Duly sworn deposit and sayeth that he Has beene acquainted with William Butler from his Infancy and was also acquainted with his father William Butler and his mother Feeby Butler former Feeby Childers and formerly was acquainted with General John Butler of Orange County in the Hawfields and always have understood that General John & William Butler were brothers and does Believe that William Butler now of this County is a son of the said William and Feeby Butler and that the first acquaintance that I had with the above designated William was an infant at the breast and He the former William was a citizen of Randolph County and lived on the waters of deep river and He thinks that it was in 1770 or 1771 To the best of his recollection and belief sworn to and subscribed this 18th March 1825.
Before me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Maiden
William Harbin Jr.

And it is noteworthy that John Maiden specified he was familiar with John Butler of Orange before that; John Butler was also on the list of regulators. The Maidens did not apparently live in Rowan/Iredell in 1759 as they are not found on that tax list, but do live in Rowan by the time of the 1768 tax list (and no Butler is on the list). It is of interest that Sarah Maiden Hay said the Maidens were related to the ancestors of president James Knox Polk, who married Sarah Childress (1803-1891); William Butler was married to Phoebe Childress (1752->1825), unknown relation.

All of the skirmishes of the Regulator movement were in Orange, including the site of the most famous final battle, Alamance in 1771, and all of the men considered to be the main agitators were also from Orange -- while three are universally accepted as the top men, Rednap Howell (~1729 NJ-1787 NJ), James Hunter (~1735 PA-~1881 NC), and Hermon Husband (1724 MD-1795 MD), the fourth universally accepted as a main agitator was William Butler:

1768 - William Butler and Herman Husband were arrested in Sandy Creek (Orange) on a charge of "inciting to rebellion."
1768 - William Butler was quoted as saying, "We are determined not to pay the Tax for the next three years, for the Edifice or Governor's House, nor will we pay for it."
1768 - court-trial for four men of Regulator principles: Herman Husband, William Butler, Samuel Devinney, and John Hartzo; Husband aquitted but the other three found guilty
1769 - cited as the year the Orange County Regulators in contact with like groups in the surrounding counties -- Anson, Rowan, Granville, Mecklenburg -- Prominent Regulators such as James Hunter, Rednap Howell, William Butler, and Herman Husband were engaging in various propaganda activities. Note that John Maiden would be ~17.
As the movement progressed, the pacifist Husband's desire to negotiate was no longer favored and James Hunter and William Butler became the leaders.
1770 - Second Hillsborough riot
1771 - Twelve Regulators were tried for their role in the Battle of Alamance on June 15, 1771, and all twelve men were convicted of high treason. The six hanged were Benjamin Merrill, captain of the Rowan County militia; Captain Messer; Robert Matear; James Pugh; and two others whose names are unrecorded.
1771 - Governor Tryon marched into the plantations of Husband, Hunter and several others and laid them to waste. A reward of 1000 Acres of Land, and 100 Dollars, was offered by his Excellency for Husband, Hunter, Butler, and Rednap Howell -- dead or alive.

Only Butler stayed in North Carolina, in hiding until 1783 when he bought land in Rowan, neighboring that of John Maiden, and was a supporter of the Revolution. Husband escaped to western Pennsulvania, had been a member of the NC legislature and became a legislator again in PA and was a supporter of the Revolution. Rednap Howell returned to New Jersey. James Hunter escaped to PA but returned to Orange where he was a Loyalist.

Besides the personal acquaintance of John Maiden to William Butler, there is a subtle reason for support of this theory. It is curious that the family stories, handed down from Sarah Maiden Hay, had the only North Carolina reference as "near Raleigh" in Orange and not the more western counties of Rowan/Iredell, 150 miles away. Sarah did not seem to know that she and her father had been born in Iredell in 1800 and ~1772 respectively, and that the family lived there for over 30 years before her birth (1768-1806). She even had many Maiden cousins who remained in Iredell. Even though her family left Iredell for Indiana when she was just a baby, she had stories about North Carolina and the time her father fought in the Revolution there, and mentioned how her mother Mary Passwater saw the Battle of Cowpens as an infant, but at least as told by her children and grandchildren, the only references were to Orange.

This makes me wonder how this confusion came to be, assuming that Sarah herself only remembered Orange. One possibility is the shifting of county lines -- the Hunting Creek part of Rowan became Iredell, and Orange was split into five counties. Clearly, the Maidens had indeed been in Orange in 1754; Lawrence Maiden was specific about that on his pension application, and since he spent the remainder of his life in Iredell, he would not have been confused. Maybe since Sarah had left Iredell as a toddler, she merely had thought of the family as living "near Raleigh" as it was the only city she knew of, and it simply designated the family as being "backcountry" Carolinians as opposed from the East Coast Carolinians. However, another possibility is that the stories her father told her of his early life in NC might only have highlighted the pre-Revolutionary battles of the Regulators in Orange.

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