George Burrington

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For the cricketer, see George Burrington (cricketer).

George Burrington (1682 – 22 February 1759) was the governor of the Province of North Carolina, from January 1724 to April 1725, and again from February 1731 to 1734.

Burrington gained his office as governor through family influence. He was known principally for physically threatening other North Carolina officials, including most notably Chief Justice Christopher Gale. The Lords Proprietors of Carolina replaced him as governor because so many colonists complained about his behaviour.

However, Burrington's successor, Sir Richard Everard, proved even more unpopular with the people of North Carolina and they eventually requested that Burrington be re-appointed. When the Crown bought the colony back from the Lords Proprietors in 1729, Burrington was appointed as the first royal governor of North Carolina. He was instrumental in exploring and settling the Cape Fear area of the colony.

Maurice Moore, Edward Moseley, John Porter[disambiguation needed], John Baptiste Ashe, and other members of the "Family," a group of mostly South Carolinian families, allied by marriage, began the Lower Cape Fear in 1726 in Brunswick Town, originally with Burrington's help. After Burrington's return to London in 1726, however, this South Carolina-biased settlement became wholly "illegal" in North Carolina; Maurice Moore and his brother-in-law Edward Moseley built the settlement with blank patents (official patents with dates and acreage left out), many of which were inflated to as much as three times the acreage indicated on their self-inscribed warrants. In 1731, Governor George Burrington was sent back to North Carolina to deal with the Family. He voided Moore's patents on the east side of the Cape Fear River and filled them with his own "creatures" as the Family called them to begin the town of New Town, Newton, New Liverpool, New Carthage or... the name it has held for the past 274 years: Wilmington. The Family's Brunswick Town soon failed because of the competition. The powerful Family, with Martin Bladen's brother-in-law Nathaniel Rice's help, then ran Gov. Burrington out of the colony after possibly killing a few of his supporters.[1]

Burrington's 1731–34 term was almost as controversial, and he was again removed, but not before starting the town that would become the successful port of Wilmington, North Carolina, to help royal officials oppose the Family's illegal Brunswick settlement. His successor, Gabriel Johnston gave it its current name, in honor of Spencer Compton, Lord Wilmington. Burrington later returned to England and was killed in an apparent robbery attempt on 22 February 1759 in St. James's Park, London. Thanks to an early North Carolina historian who was also a friend and fellow U.S. Congressmen with the Family's John Baptiste Ashe, Jr., Hugh Williamson, Burrington's reputation had suffered tremendously when Williamson published his biased history in 1812.

Williamson told (probably) Ashe's version of Burrington's death: Having money in his pocket from selling his Haw Fields property in North Carolina, Williamson said, “and rioting in his usual manner, [Burrington] fell a sacrifice to his own folly.” He then added that Burrington “was found murdered, in the morning, in the Bird Cage Walk, in the corner of St. James Park.” Williamson felt certain enough to put a specific (and wrong) date on this occurrence: April 1734. The made-up reference to "Bird Cage Walk" actually referred to a part of St. James Park where men went to cruise for male prostitutes.[2]

Most references to George Burrington in North Carolina history since this time have been based on the falsehoods created by Ashe and Williamson. A new history is desperately needed for the governor.

While governor, Burrington acquired a large amount of land, namely Stag Park near today's Burgaw, North Carolina, but his son, also named George, sold it to Samuel Strudwick in order to clear debts incurred by the elder Burrington with the Strudwick family.

Preceded by
William Reed
Proprietary Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Everard
Preceded by
Proprietary Gov. Sir Richard Everard
Governor of the Royal Colony of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Nathaniel Rice


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