Kinsearching November 27, 2011




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     Although much has been written about the Tar Heel State’s Regulator Movement through the years, the debate over whether it was a true forerunner of the Revolutionary War lingers. While Carole Watterson Troxler’s new book does not settle the dispute, FARMING DISSENTERS: THE REGULATOR MOVEMENT IN PIEDMONT NORTH CAROLINA updates and expands the subject.

     Holding its first organized effort in 1766 and culminating in the battle of Alamance in 1771, the Regulator Movement originated in the frustrations of North Carolina’s backcountry inhabitants, most of whom were farmers. (At that time, the “backcountry” referred to the colony’s interior Piedmont area, where streams were not navigable by vessels connected to the settlements along the coast.) The frustrations were threefold: local officials who ran their offices for personal gain, a complicated land grant system that did not guarantee clear ownership, and a colonial legislature dominated by the political and economic interests of the coastal region.

     Emphasizing the fact that historical events do not occur in a vacuum, Troxler explains how the participants’ Scots-Irish and English roots (especially the religious “Dissenter” or “Nonconformist” culture, which included Presbyterians, Baptists, and Quakers) affected the outlook and actions of the Regulators. She also includes a broad range of data about the entire movement, details about the pivotal battle of Alamance on 16 May 1771, and the repercussions in the aftermath that finally led to the American Revolution. In addition, she points out that not all Regulators supported the War for Independence and that many who opposed the Regulators were in favor of the Revolution. To show readers how perspectives about the Regulators (for example, were they heroes or a mob?) have changed over time, Troxler furnishes a bibliographic essay demonstrating how and why the views mutated.

     As she discusses the history of the Regulator Movement, Troxler reveals how family connections, though sometimes distant, played a role in land and political dealings. John Frohock of Rowan County, for instance, was tied to land speculator Henry Eustace McCulloh through his brother who was a son-in-law to McCullogh’s cousin. The controversial McCulloh, in turn, was agent and attorney for his merchant father, Henry McCulloh of London, who held more than one million acres of land in the Piedmont area. The Alexander, McNitt, and Polk families, who were related by marriage, held sway over transactions in Mecklenburg County. In Orange County, members of the Mebane family operated public houses which acted as important communication centers during the Regulator era. Familial ties sometimes became complicated as was the case for Regulator Herman Husband of Orange County. For his third wife, he married Amy Allen, whose mother had married into the large Cox family. Husband’s first wife had belonged to the Cox family and his second wife was also related to the Coxes.

     Of particular interest to genealogists is the partial roster of men whose names are found on various documents pertaining to the Regulator Movement. Although most individuals were of Scots-Irish or English descent, some German names also appear. Researchers should be aware that although these men may have sympathized with Regulator issues, not all of them necessarily took part in Regulator activities. Some names, like that of James Hunter of Orange County, will be easily recognizable as participants.

     Well-written and organized in an orderly manner, FARMING DISSENTERS: THE REGULATOR MOVEMENT IN PIEDMONT NORTH CAROLINA is a scholarly work that manages to tell the story of this fascinating era in detail and still remain very readable for the general public. Utilizing excerpts from contemporary records of the period, Troxler strives to put a human “face” on an important milestone in the colony’s history. Reminiscent of David Hackett Fischer’s highly touted ALBION’S SEED: FOUR BRITISH FOLKWAYS IN AMERICA in the way Troxler intermingles genealogy and history with Old and New World culture and events, the volume is a valuable research tool. FARMING DISSENTERS will be an asset in any library collection.

     Sporting a reproduction of the engraving of the battle of Alamance on the front cover, the 221-page paperbound book contains a foreword, an introduction, a list of 45 illustrations and maps, two appendices, end notes, a thirteen-page bibliography, and a thorough index of names of persons, places, and subjects. Priced at $24.97 (which includes tax and shipping costs), the volume may be ordered online at or at It may also be purchased through local bookstores or from the Historical Publications Section (R), Office of Archives and History, 4622 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-4622. For credit card orders, call 919-733-7442, extension 0.

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