Mad about taxes, Rowan citizens resolved to rebel
By Jessie Burchette
Rowan residents were mad about taxes, upset over corruption of public officials, and not about to suffer silently.
While that might sound a lot like today’s news, the time was 1753 to 1775.
Settlers battled to survive, build homes and grow crops while dealing with Indians and the whims of English kings and their surrogates bent on control and filling their coffers.
Years before the Declaration of Independence, leaders from across the wide expanse that was Rowan County came together to approve the Rowan Resolves, critical of the political and economic policies of the British government.
Several dozen Rowan citizens turned out Saturday at the Rowan Public Library for the premier of “The Struggle for Liberty,” the latest installment in “A Ramble Through Rowan History,” the video series hosted by Dr. Gary R. Freeze of Catawba County.
The 30-minute film includes clips of Revolutionary-era re-enactors, period maps and sketches along with Freeze visiting key sites, including Fort Dobbs, north of Statesville. The Fort protected the families from the Cherokee Indians.
One of the government protests cited in the film was a march on Salisbury by citizens who demanded the king’s officials cough up or “disgorge” themselves of the unlawful fees.
Freeze explained that in that era public officials didn’t get a salary, instead they got fees for various functions including recording deeds.
Officials would increase the fees and sometimes pull a land grab when someone couldn’t pay the fee.
After the film, Freeze fielded a wide array of questions, observing that Lord Tryon, who was governor of North Carolina, messed up the state sufficiently to get promoted to governor of New York.
Responding to another question, Freeze said the original copies of the Rowan Resolves are lost or destroyed. They are recorded in a book published in 1851.
The film was the centerpiece of the kickoff of Rowan Resolves Day at the Rowan Public Library.
Jeff Hall, library director, said the goal is have an annual observance of the Rowan Resolves, focusing attention on the political ideas and struggles of our ancestors.
Early on in the film, Freeze points out there was little talk of freedom in the era. Instead, the call was for liberty ó liberty from taxes and constraints of the British government including trying to force settlers into the Anglican church.
Several public presentations of the new film are scheduled, and work is about to begin on the next installment, which will cover Rowan’s experience in the War for Independence, including the British invasion of the county by troops led by Lord Cornwallis.
“The Struggle for Liberty” is the fourth in a series on county history that is used in local schools and shown on local access cable channel.
The Genealogical Society of Rowan County funded the film.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.