Otway Burns Statue, Burnsville
A full-length copper statue of Otway Burns stands atop a granite plinth. Burns is clad in formal naval dress, likely representing his involvement in the War of 1812. He is shown in a posture suggesting both action and composure, with his left leg stepping forward and his left arm held bent at his side. At the time of dedication, the sculpture depicted Burns with a sword and scabbard in his right hand and a bugle in his left hand. The statue was damaged and defaced on a number of occasions resulting in the separation of these elements from the statue.
A small stone block has been later installed next to the monument base.
Images: Plaque | Base inscription
Plaque: OTWAY BURNS, / BORN IN ONSLOW COUNTY / N.C. 1775. / DIED AT PORTSMOUTH / N.C. 1850. / SAILOR - SOLDIER - / STATESMAN. / NORTH CAROLINA'S FOREMOST SON / IN THE WAR OF 1812-15. / FOR HIM, THIS TOWN IS NAMED. / HE GUARDED WELL OUR SEAS, / LET OUR MOUNTAINS HONOR HIM.
Monument Base: ON MARCH 6, 1834, JOHN "YELLOW- / JACKET JOHN" BAILEY CONVEYED / 100 ACRES, INCLUDING THIS SQUARE / TO COMMISSIONERS APPOINTED BY / THE NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL / ASSEMBLY TO ESTABLISH A TOWN / SITE FOR YANCEY COUNTY.
Town of Burnsville, NC
July 5, 1909
35.917210 , -82.299660 View in Geobrowse
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Copper, Mount Airy granite
Walter Francis Burns, Sr., grandson of Otway Burns, gifted the statue to the county in 1909.
Walter Clark, Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, provided the dedicatory address. The unveiling ceremony was attended by a number of Otway Burns' decendents.
Captain Otway Burns, Jr. was one of North Carolina’s most lauded naval heroes in the War of 1812, and later a state legislator (in both the house and senate). When the war broke out, Burns and business partners bought a ship and renamed it the Snap Dragon. The ship operated privately throughout the war, authorized by the government to attack enemy shipping. The privateer had a crew of up to 100 sailors and eight cannons. Burns commanded the ship on three wartime missions, sailing it from Newfoundland to South America. Between 1812 and 1814, the ship and its crew captured more than forty British ships and their cargoes.
After the war, Burns moved to Swansboro with his profits and built the Prometheus, one of the state’s first steam-powered boats. He became a shipbuilder and, later, a state senator. He lost all of his money and was destitute until appointed by President Jackson as the Keeper of the Brant Island Shoals Light Boat near Portsmouth, N.C., where he lived out his life. He died there on October 25, 1850 and buried in Beaufort, N.C.
Burnsville in Yancey County and Otway in Carteret County are named for Burns. See Otway Burns Statue in Swansboro, Onslow County and his tomb at Old Burying Grounds, Ann St United Methodist Church, Beaufort, N.C.
The statue was given by his grandson, Walter Francis Burns, Sr. The statue was damaged or defaced on a number of occasions, resulting in damage and separation of the sword and bugle. In the 1960s, the Burnsville Garden Club organized restoration of the statue. Daniel Boone, VI, a local smith, crafted a new sword and scabbard and bugle.
[Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: This person enslaved and owned other people. Many Black and African people, their descendants, and some others were enslaved in the United States until the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865. It was common for wealthy landowners, entrepreneurs, politicians, institutions, and others to enslave people and use enslaved labor during this period. To read more about the enslavement and transportation of African people to North Carolina, visit https://aahc.nc.gov/programs/africa-carolina-0. To read more about slavery and its history in North Carolina, visit https://www.ncpedia.org/slavery. - Government and Heritage Library, 2023.]
The statue sits in the town square in the center of the Main Street traffic circle.
The statue sits in the center of the square, in the middle of a circular brick walkway. A lawn with plantings and small shrubs surrounds the walkway.
Shortly after the Second World War, the United States Navy presented the town of Burnsville with the ship's bell from the destroyer USS Burns, also named after the Privateer. The bell was for a short time displayed alongside the statue. Today, the town square in which the monument stands is frequently used for community activities, including craft fairs and seasonal stargazing gatherings.