Thomas Person

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Thomas Person
Born(1733-01-19)January 19, 1733
Surry County, Colony of Virginia
Died(1800-11-16)November 16, 1800
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchHillsborough District militia
Years of service1776–1783
RankUS-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General 1776–1800
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War

Thomas Person (1733–1800) was an American politician and Anti-Federalist organizer.

Born January 19, 1733 in the Colony of Virginia to William and Ann Person.[1] He married his cousin, Johanna Philpot; the two had no children, and his nephew William Person Little was adopted as his heir. General Thomas Person spent most of his life in service to Granville County, North Carolina.

Pre-Revolution Career

In 1756, after several years working for Earl Granville as a surveyor, Thomas Person was recommended for the position of Justice of the Peace for Granville County.[2] By the year 1762, he had become the county's sheriff.[3]

After his election to represent Granville County in the North Carolina General Assembly in 1764, Thomas Person would find himself on the side of the disaffected colonials in the War of the Regulation. When the Battle of Alamance ended in defeat for the Regulators, Governor William Tryon issued a series of amnesty proclamations for combatants and rioters, from which Thomas Person was specifically excluded,[4] even though he was not present at the battle. Person was held for three weeks in Hillsborough but was eventually released without trial, due either to lack of evidence or his personal friendship with Edmund Fanning.[5]

In spite of his issues with Governor Tryon, Representative Person continued to serve in the state General Assembly until the beginning of the American Revolution, when he was named to the extra-legal North Carolina Provincial Congress. This body would eventually "concur with the delegates of the other colonies in declaring independency."[6] In April 1776, Person was elected Brigadier General of the Hillsborough District militia. His service consisted mostly of raising troops and collecting supplies rather than fighting on the field, and he turned over command the following year to John Butler, who would lead the unit in the Battle of Guilford Court House. Person spent the rest of the war serving on the North Carolina Council of State.[7]


After the war ended, Thomas Person became a leader of North Carolina's Anti-Federalists. They opposed the ratification of the United States Constitution on the grounds "that the Senate would become a bastion of aristocratic privilege, that an imperial president would overawe a complacent Congress, and that an intrusive federal court system would engender costly and oppressive litigation".[8] Though there was broad support for the anti-federalists in North Carolina (outside of the wealthy coastal regions),[9] the ratification by 11 of the other colonies and the formulation of the Bill of Rights made it clear that ratification was inevitable by the end of 1789. Nevertheless, at the final constitutional convention in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Thomas Person would vote Nay.

After Ratification

Person's Ordinary at Personton, now known as Littleton

General Person was an early supporter of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He granted them a gift of one thousand silver dollars to complete their chapel, which later bore his name.[10] He sat on the inaugural Board of Trustees and the Memorial to Founding Trustees outside Person Hall bears his name.[11]

By the time of his death in 1800, Thomas Person owned over 125 square miles of land in North Carolina and Tennessee.[12] He also owned at least 34 slaves that he kept at his estate in Goshen, North Carolina.[13]

When Caswell County was divided in 1791, the newly formed Person County was named in honor of General Thomas Person. He died at the home of his sister Patty Person Taylor.[14] The Patty Person Taylor House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.[15] Person's Ordinary at Littleton, North Carolina was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.[15]


  1. Thomas Person, Stephen B Weeks, North Carolina Booklet, vol. IX, no. 1 (July 1909), 16-35
  2. List of Justices for Granville County July 6, 1756
  3. Minutes of the Lower House of the North Carolina General Assembly, November 03, 1762 - December 11, 1762
  4. Proclamation by William Tryon Concerning a Pardon for Rioters, June 11, 1771
  5. Preface to Volume 8 of the Colonial Records of North Carolina, page xxvii
  6. Minutes of the Provincial Congress of North Carolina, page 512
  7. Ordinances of the Provincial Congress of North Carolina December 20, 1776
  8. North Carolina History Project The Antifederalists: North Carolina's Other Founders
  9. Encyclopedia of North Carolina Anti-Federalists
  10. Thomas Person (1733-1800) and Person Hall
  11. Memorial to Founding Trustees
  12. Thomas Person Dictionary of North Carolina Biography: Vol. 5
  13. Settlement of Thomas Person's Estate
  14. Survey and Planning Unit Staff (November 1974). "Patty Person Taylor House" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2014-11-01.
  15. 15.0 15.1 National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.