Source: Ralph C. Deal Collection (ECU Manuscript Collections #0027)
Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
This deed, survey and plat seen above, dated 25 September 1799, granting 240 acres of land in Bladen County, North Carolina to Thomas Smith, was signed by North Carolina Governor Richard Dobbs Spaight, who also signed the U. S. Constitution. Spaight (1758 – 1802) was North Carolina’s 8th governor after American independence. The first native-born American to be elected Governor, he served three one-year terms, 1792 – 1795. Born in New Bern to the son of a colonial official, Spaight was educated in Ireland and Scotland. He returned to America to serve as an aide to American General Richard Caswell, during the Revolutionary War, 1778 – 1781.
After the Revolution, Spaight served as a representative from North Carolina in the Continental Congress, 1782 – 1785, and in the North Carolina House of Commons, 1785 – 1788, where he became Speaker of the House. In 1787 he became a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He was only 29 when he signed the document.
During his term as Governor, Raleigh was chosen as the site for the new State Capitol and Chapel Hill was chosen as the site for the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. As governor, Spaight was also the chair of the first UNC Board of Trustees. Spaight died in 1802 as the result of an wound sustained in a duel at New Bern with his bitter political rival, Federalist John Stanly. Spaight’s son, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. (1796 – 1850) served as both congressman, 1823 – 1825, and governor, 1835 – 1836; his grandson, Richard Spaight Donnell (1820 – 1867) served as a congressman from North Carolina, 1847 – 1849.