Documenting the American South

Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
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  • Monument Name

    Cornelius Harnett Grave, Wilmington

  • Type


  • Subjects

    Historic Political Figures

    Revolutionary War, 1775-1783

  • City


  • County

    New Hanover

  • Description

    The stone grave marker bears an inscription to the memory of Cornelius Harnett, North Carolina patriot and statesman. Although the marker indicates the date of death as April 20, 1871, the correct date of Harnett's death is more likely April 28, 1781. A small plaque commemorating Harnett is located in the ground in front of the marker. It was dedicated in 2009 by the Stamp Defiance Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

    Another Wilmington commemoration, the monument to Cornelius Harnett, a granite obelisk, stands across the street from the St. James Episcopal Church graveyard.

    Image: St. James Episcopal Church graveyard

  • Inscription

    CORNELIUS HARNETT / DIED / April 20, 1781 / Aged 58 Years / Slave to no sect, he took no private road, / But looked through nature up / to nature's God.

  • Custodian

    St. James Episcopal Church, Wilmington

  • Dedication Date

    Sometime after April 28, 1871, the date of Harnett's death

  • Decade


  • Geographic Coordinates

    34.235520 , -77.944690 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      Connor, R. D. W. Cornelius Harnett. An essay in North Carolina history (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Printing Company, 1909), (accessed August 22, 2013) Link

      Lennon, Donald R. 1988. "Harnett, Cornelius,", (accessed August 22, 2013) Link

      Smith, C. Alphonso. "Our Debt to Cornelius Harnett. An Address by C. Alphonso Smith, Ph.D., LL.D., of the University of North Carolina," (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Magazine, 1907), (accessed May 29, 2012) Link

  • Public Site


  • Materials & Techniques


  • Subject Notes

    Cornelius Harnett, Revolutionary patriot and statesman, was a leader in the resistance to the Stamp Act organized in the Lower Cape Fear area and chairman of the Sons of Liberty. He served as the first president of North Carolina's Provincial Council, also known as the Council of Safety, from 1775 to 1776, as a delegate to the Continental Congress, and was a signer to the Articles of Confederation. Harnett was captured in Wilmington in 1781 by the British during their occupation of the city. He died soon after his release from prison.

    [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 To read more about slavery and its history in North Carolina, visit - Government and Heritage Library, 2023.]

  • Location

    The marker is located in the graveyard of St. James Episcopal Church, on the corner of 4th and Market Streets.
    Another Wilmington commemoration, the monument to Cornelius Harnett, a granite obelisk, stands across the street from the St. James Episcopal Church graveyard.

  • Landscape

    The marker sits in the grass in the graveyard next to the church buildings. The graveyard is separated from the street and sidewalk by a low gridiron fence and is graced by shrubs, plantings, and mature shade trees.

  • Death Space


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