Benjamin Williams

9th Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1799 to 1802 and 1807-1808

Date Born: January 1, 1751

Date Died: July 20, 1814

Place Born: Johnston County

Place Buried: Carthage, Moore County

Residence: Johnston County, Moore County

 

Occupation: Farmer


Benjamin Williams was born on January 1, 1751 near Smithfield in Johnston County, NC, the son of John Williams and Ferebee Savage Pugh Williams. Williams attended rural schools and became a farmer in Johnston County, NC.

Benjamin Williams was first elected to represent Johnston County in the:
- 1st Provincial Congress that met in August of 1774
- 2nd Provincial Congress that met in April of 1775
- 3rd Provincial Congress that met in August of 1775

On September 1, 1775, Benjamin Williams was commissioned as a Lieutenant under Capt. Nathaniel Keais in the 2nd NC Regiment, which were considered Provincial Troops at that point in time. On November 28, 1775, this regiment was placed on the Continental Line. On July 19, 1776, he was promoted to Captain under Col. Alexander Martin. He led his company at the battles of Brandywine Creek, PA (9/11/1777), Germantown, PA (10/4/1777), and Monmouth, NJ (6/28/1778). He resigned his commission in 1779 and returned home.

In 1779, Benjamin Williams was elected as one of two men to represent Craven County in the House of Commons of the:
- 3rd General Assembly that met in 1779
- 4th General Assembly that met in 1780 - he resigned to accept a seat in the Senate

In 1780, Benjamin Williams was also elected to represent Johnston County in the NC Senate of the:
- 4th General Assembly that met in 1780
- 5th General Assembly that met in 1781
- 8th General Assembly that met in April of 1784
- 9th General Assembly that met in October of 1784

In either late 1779 or early 1780, Benjamin Williams was commissioned as a Colonel in the Johnston County Regiment of Militia, alongside Col. John Smith (it was typical for each county in NC to have two colonels). In the late Spring of 1780, he was assigned to the staff of Maj. Gen. Richard Caswell, who led all of the NC Militia under Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates in the defeat at the battle of Camden, SC (8/16/1780).

On March 15, 1781, Col. Benjamin Williams was given temporary command of the Franklin County Regiment of Militia at the battle of Guilford Court House, and he was noted for his bravery and courage in this famous battle against the British.

In August of 1781, Col. Benjamin Williams was given command of the newly-recreated NC State Regiment (State Troops). The legislature dragged their feet in recreating this regiment, which had first been established in 1779, but again it was poorly funded and ill equipped. Williams resigned in frustration on November 5, 1781.

Benjamin Williams married Elizabeth Jones, daughter of Robin Jones and Mary (Eaton) Jones, on 10 August 1781; they had one son, Benjamin William Williams.

In 1785, Benjamin Williams was again elected as one of two men to represent Johnston County in the House of Commons of the:
- 10th General Assembly that met in 1785

In 1786, Benjamin Williams was again elected to represent Johnston County in the NC Senate of the:
- 11th General Assembly that met in 1786-1787

In 1789, Benjamin Williams was again elected as one of two men to represent Johnston County in the House of Commons of the:
- 14th General Assembly that met in 1789

In 1793, Benjamin Williams was elected to represent North Carolina's 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and he served until 1795.

In 1798, Benjamin Williams bought a home on Governor's Creek in Moore County, where he became a successful farmer and one of the largest cotton planters of the period with over 2,500 acres.

On November 23, 1799, the General Assembly elected Benjamin Williams as the next governor of North Carolina, and he served three terms until December 6, 1802. On December 1, 1807, he was again elected governor for only one term, which ended on December 12, 1808.

In 1807, Benjamin Williams was elected as one of two men to represent Moore County in the NC Senate of the:
- 32nd General Assembly that met in 1807
- 34th General Assembly that met in 1809

Benjamin Williams spent his last years at his home in Moore County, which he purchased with over 2,500 acres of land and named "Retreat." His house had been built about 1772–73 in a wide bend of the Deep River by Col. Philip Alston of the Cumberland County Regiment of Militia during the American Revolution. Known as the "House in the Horseshoe," the residence was acquired in 1954 by the Moore County Historical Society, which restored it to its appearance in 1781, when Col. Alston's Patriots were defeated there by Col. David Fanning's Loyalists. Bullet holes are still in the front wall. Since 1955 it has been open to visitors.

Benjamin Williams died on July 20, 1814 and was buried on his estate, House in the Horseshoe, in Moore County, NC.

Benjamin Williams was a Mason and was a member of St. John's Lodge in New Bern.


Benjamin Williams was born in Johnston County near Smithfield. He attended public schools, was a farmer, and served in the Revolutionary War army. In political life, he served in two provincial congresses, a committee of safety, in the state House of Commons, and in the state Senate.

In 1799, he was elected governor, first serving for three years, then only to be elected for a one-year additional term in 1807.

During his first term as governor, George Washington died. The legislature instructed the governor to commission two-full length portraits of Washington. After years of delays, a portrait by Sully was finally commissioned to be hung in the House of Representatives. Following his term in office, Governor Williams retired to the life of a planter. He died in Moore County and is buried near Carbonton.


Benjamin Williams was born near Smithfield, North Carolina on January 1, 1751. His education was attained in the commons schools of his native state. Williams first entered politics in 1774, serving as a member of the state's first revolutionary convention. From 1774 to 1775 he served as a member of the Provincial Congress. Williams served as captain in the 2nd North Carolina Continental Regiment from September 1775 until he resigned in 1778. He, afterward, commanded a North Carolina militia regiment at Camden in August 1780 as a lieutenant colonel, and the following year, commanded the Warren County militia at the battle of Guilford Courthouse as a militia colonel. After the war, he resumed his political career. He served in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1779, 1785, and 1789; was a member of the North Carolina Senate in 1780, 1781, 1784, 1786, and 1807; and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1793 to 1795. Williams first won election to the governorship in 1799, and went on to win re-election annually until 1801. In 1807 he was re-elected to one more term. During his tenure, educational improvements were lobbied for. Also, Governor Williams granted a pardon for John Stanly, who had killed former Governor Richard Dobbs Spaight in a duel. After completing his final term, Williams retired from political life. Governor Benjamin Williams passed away on July 20, 1814. He is buried on his estate, "House in the Horseshoe," in Moore County, North Carolina.

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