September 14, 1788: NC's John Penn, Who Signed Declaration of Independence, Dies at 47

On September 14, 1788, John Penn died in Granville County at age 47. With nothing more than a very basic education, Penn rose through legal and political circles to become one of three North Carolinians who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Born in 1741 in Virginia, Penn received instruction in rural schoolhouses. After his father’s death, a neighbor offered young Penn use of his library. Through self-instruction, Penn acquired knowledge of the law sufficient for admittance to the bar in 1762.

In 1774, Penn and his family settled in what is now Vance County, a center of the colony’s growing independence movement. Penn served in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1775 and soon earned the respect of constituents and colleagues.

In the summer of 1776, he joined North Carolinians William Hooper and Joseph Hewes in signing the Declaration of Independence.

Later in his career, Penn served on North Carolina’s Board of War, established by Governor Abner Nash, and on an advisory council to Governor Thomas Burke. He retired to his home near Stovall, where he was buried. In 1894, Penn’s remains were transferred to what would become Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro.

Other related resources:

·         Early North Carolina: Educational Resources Related to the Colonial Era and Revolutionary War

·         It’s Revolutionary!, a two-year commemoration of North Carolina’s early history

·         The American Revolution, the Reasons Behind the Revolutionary War and the Stamp Act on NCpedia

·         North Carolina in the American Revolution from N.C. Historical Publications

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts, nature and culture, visit DNCR online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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