MAJOR CELEBRATION SET
FOR RICHARD CASWELL
be the site in mid-August of a week-long Celebration of Governor
Richard Caswell, one of Kinston’s first landowners, a Revolutionary
War hero and the first governor of the State of North Carolina.
Planned for August 12-19 and including
dozens of commemorative events, the celebration is being organized by
the Lenoir County Colonial Commission under the auspices of the
Historical Preservation Group. It is expected to attract attendees from
all over the state, possibly as many as (25,000) throughout the week.
The Gov. Richard Caswell
Memorial State Historic Site Museum, also a partner in the celebration’s
planning, will re-open with new exhibits during the observance of
Caswell’s contributions to the state.
Dr. Keats Sparrow, retired
dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University, is
chairing the steering committee for the Caswell Celebration. He said,
“Richard Caswell is certainly a central character in the early
development of North Carolina and one of the state’s ‘first citizens.’
We intend for the celebration to honor him appropriately and demonstrate
the importance of his life.”
Sparrow added, “Given the
celebration’s cultural and historical implications, the Celebration
of Governor Richard Caswell could well be the most important event
of its type ever held in Kinston. As a native of the city, I’m both
proud and excited.”
The observance will
formally begin with the Richard Caswell Memorial Service at St. Mary’s
Episcopal Church on Sunday, August 12 at 3 p.m. At 5 p.m. a series of
commemorative events will begin at the courthouse’s Caswell Monument,
including the laying of a wreath and a presentation of flags.
On the following day, the
Colonial Commission will release the first biography of Governor Caswell
at a Kinston Community Council of the Arts reception. The book, already
being called a valuable resource for the study of colonial and
revolutionary periods in the state, will then go on sale.
Throughout the week, there
will be concerts, lectures, exhibits of period artifacts and special
observances. Caswell will even be honored at a Kinston Indians baseball
game and many of his descendants will be attending a Caswell Family
Reunion in the city.
On Friday, August 17,
major events will conclude with a mock funeral for Caswell conducted by
local Masons. A glass-covered, horse-drawn hearse will deliver the
Caswell “body” to the Caswell Family Cemetery, where full Masonic Rites
will be performed.
Many state dignitaries
will be on hand for the “funeral” and the general public is invited.
Military demonstrations and similar living history events will continue
throughout the afternoon.
As a young man, Caswell
bought land in an area that later became Kinston. As a professional
surveyor, he laid out the town and helped name the streets, including
Caswell Street. He also married the daughter of William Herritage, a
In 1774, Caswell was
elected to represent North Carolina at the First and Second Continental
Congresses held in Philadelphia, along with William Hooper and Joseph
Hewes. John Adams was to later say, “We always looked to Richard
Caswell from North Carolina. He was a model man and true patriot.”
Later, he was to lead
colonial forces at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge where the
colonials defeated the Tories, a victory that established Caswell as a
Revolutionary War hero. He became a brigadier general and commanded the
Army of North Carolina.
Caswell was elected as North Carolina’s first governor, a post he held
for six terms. He is credited with firm leadership and sound guidance
as the state went through the turbulent post-Revolutionary years.
While presiding in 1789
over the state’s General Assembly meeting in the capital city of
Fayetteville, Caswell died of a stroke. His body was returned to
Kinston where he is thought to have been buried in the family cemetery.
Dr. Sparrow noted,
“Richard Caswell made a stunning contribution to the United States in
its beginning. Furthermore, he can be called the “father” of North
Carolina with little exaggeration.”