John Motley Morehead

26th Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1841 to 1845

Date Born: July 4, 1796

Date Died: August 27, 1866

Place Born: Pittsylvania County, VA

Place Buried: Old First
Presbyterian Church
Cemetery,
Greensboro, NC

Residence: Blandwood in Greensboro, NC

Occupation: Lawyer, President
of the NC Railroad


John Motley Morehead was born on July 4, 1796 in Pittsylvania County, VA, the son of John Morehead and Obedience (Motley) Morehead. When he was two years old, his parents moved to Rockingham County, NC. Morehead attended the Caldwell Institute (aka David Caldwell's School) in Greensboro and then graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1817.

John Motley Morehead completed his education by studying law under Archibald D. Murphey and passing the bar exam in 1819. Shortly afterward, he opened a law practice in Wentworth, NC.

In 1821, John Motley Morehead was first elected as one of two men to represent Rockingham County in the NC House of Commons of the:
- 46th General Assembly that met in 1821

On August 25, 1821, John Motley Morehead married Ann Eliza Lindsay, daughter of Robert Lindsay and Letitia (Harper) Lindsay of Greensboro, and they had eight known children. They soon moved to Guilford County.

In 1826, John Motley Morehead was elected as one of two men to represent Guilford County in the NC House of Commons of the:
- 51st General Assembly that met from 1826-1827
- 52nd General Assembly that met from 1827-1828

In 1835, John Motley Morehead was chosen to be a delegate to the NC Constitutional Convention. While there, he fought for legislative representation based on population.

In the 1840 general election, John Motley Morehead was elected by the people as the next Governor of North Carolina. He served two two-year terms from January 1, 1841 to January 1, 1845. He was the first governor inaugurated in the new State Capitol. Gov. Morehead supported the new public school system, the extension of railroad lines, the improvement of rivers and harbors, and the construction of waterways and turnpikes. Gov. Morehead was instrumental in raising private funds for a railroad line to accompany $2 million provided by the state legislature.

In 1850, former governor John Motley Morehead was also elected the first President of the North Carolina Railroad. The terminus of the railroad, Morehead City, NC, was named after him in 1857. He later worked for the expansion of the railroad, built a cotton mill in Leaksville, and served on the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

After his term as governor, John Motley Morehead returned to his home, Blandwood, in Greensboro, NC, designed by New York architect Alexander Jackson Davis. There, he entertained numerous politicians and personalities of the day, including Dorothea Dix.

In 1858, John Motley Morehead was again elected as one of three men to represent Guilford County in the House of Commons of the:
- 72nd General Assembly that met from 1858-1859

In 1861, John Motley Morehead represented North Carolina at a conference to avoid war. With the failure of the conference and the secession of North Carolina, Morehead served in the Confederate Congress from 1861 to 1862.

John Motley Morehead died at Rockbridge Springs, VA on August 27, 1866 and is buried in the Old First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Greensboro, NC.


John Motley Morehead (4 July 1796 – 27 August 1866) was Whig governor of the U.S. state of North Carolina from 1841 to 1845. He is known as "the Father of Modern North Carolina."

Born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Morehead moved to Rockingham County, North Carolina at the age of two.

Morehead graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1817 and trained as a lawyer. He served in the North Carolina General Assembly for several sessions and was the first governor inaugurated in the new State Capitol.

During his term in office, Morehead supported the new public school system, the extension of railroad lines, the improvement of rivers and harbors, and the construction of waterways and turnpikes. Morehead was instrumental in raising private funds for a railroad line to accompany $2 million provided by the legislature. For his efforts, Morehead was elected president of the North Carolina Railroad.

After his term, he returned to his home Blandwood in Greensboro, North Carolina, designed by New York architect Alexander Jackson Davis. There, Morehead entertained numerous politicians and personalities of the day, including Dorothea Dix. In 1861, he represented the state at a conference to avoid war. With the failure of the conference and the secession of North Carolina, Morehead served in the Confederate Congress. Morehead died in 1866 and is buried in Greensboro.


John Motley Morehead, governor of North Carolina, was born in Pittsylvania County, VA on July 4, 1796. His education was attained at the University of North Carolina, where he earned an undergraduate degree in 1817, as well as receiving an A.M. degree in 1837. He went on to study law, and then established his legal career in Wentworth. Morehead first entered politics as a member of the NC House of Commons, a position he held from 1821 to 1822 and 1826 to 1828. He also served as a member of the 1835 NC State Constitutional Convention. Morehead next secured the Whig gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in 1840. He was re-elected to a second term in 1842. During his tenure, railroad development was advanced; a state home for the handicapped was founded; and improvements in the state school system were lobbied for. After completing his term, Morehead continued to stay active in politics. He chaired the 1848 National Whig Convention; was a member of the NC House of Commons from 1858 to 1859; and served in the NC Senate from 1860 to 1861. He also was a state representative at the 1861 Peace Conference in Washington; and served in the Provisional Congress from 1861 to 1862. John M. Morehead passed away on August 27, 1866, and was buried in the First Presbyterian Churchyard in Greensboro, NC.

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