The American Revolution in North Carolina

William Cray

Colonel over the Onslow County Regiment of Militia - 1775-1778

On September 9, 1775, the NC Provincial Congress appinted William Cray as Colonel/Commandant over the Onslow County Regiment of Militia. Col. William Cray led the Onslow County Regiment of Militia at the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. He retained this position until his death on November 28, 1778.

William Cray was a delegate to the First Provincial Congress of August 1774 in New Bern, and at the Second Provincial Congress of April 1775, also in New Bern. In 1777, William Cray was elected to represent Onslow County in the NC Senate. He was replaced by John Spicer on December 8, 1777.


The following is an abridged and edited account from "The Commonwealth of Onslow - A History" by Joseph Parsons Brown in 1960:

William Cray lived on his farm located at the intersecton of Duck Creek and New River, and he was a prominent member of the Onslow County and State affairs for twenty years until his death in 1778. He considered himself to be a merchant. For several years he held the offices of Clerk, Register, Treasurer, Coroner, and Colonel of Militia.

In 1761, William Cray was named, along with Richard Ward and Henry Rhodes, as Trustees in charge of deepening New River. They raised 1200 pounds via a lottery, which was later looked upon as gambling, and when the Board of Trade in London heard about it, they objected to Gov. Arthur Dobbs, but it was too late.

In 1764, William Cray was elected to the Colonial Assembly and served every year, except for one, until 1775, the last year of that assembly.

In 1771, Col. William Cray was called upon to march with Col. William Bryan of the Johnston County Militia to join up with Gov. William Tryon against the Regulators. During the battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771, the Onslow County Militia formed on the left of the second line. After the battle, Col. William Cray was appointed to sell the captured horses and to turn the proceeds over to the public Treasurer.

The famous news of the "shot heard around the world" (the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775) was carried by messengers from Boston southward. It was received in Onslow County by Col. William Cray on Sunday morning at 10 o'clock on May 7, 1775. He soon forwarded the news on to New Hanover and Brunswick Counties.

Onslow's part in the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge was to send Col. William Cray and his Militiamen to prevent the passage of the Loyalists through Duplin County. The Patriot victory discouraged the Loyalists and encouraged the Patriots all over North Carolina.

After the State Constitution was adopted in late 1776, starting in 1777, each county was allowed one Senator, and William Cray was elected to that office for Onslow County. He was also elected to the Council of State, where he was again elected in 1778 and voted in as the President of the Council. He held this position until his death on November 28, 1778.

William Cray was buried at his plantation on Duck Creek. When the US government took the land for the Marine Base in 1948, Col. William Cray's remains, like many others, were removed to a new cemetery at Montford Point Road near Jacksonville.



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