William Tryon

William Tryon (1729-1788), English colonial official, was governor of both North Carolina and New York colonies. He led a loyalist force during the Revolution.

Born at Norbury Park, Surrey, William Tryon entered the army in 1751 with a commission as lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards. In 1758 he became a regimental captain with an army rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1757 he had married Margaret Wake, whose connection with Lord Hillsborough probably was responsible for Tryon's appointment as lieutenant governor of North Carolina in 1764. After the death of the governor in 1765, Tryon was appointed to the position. When he insisted on supporting the British government during the prerevolutionary Stamp Act controversy, local inhabitants so intimidated him that he suggested the use of British regulars. He successfully negotiated a boundary dispute with the Cherokee Indians, and he was finally able to locate a permanent capital for the colony at New Bern, where "Tryon's Palace" was constructed.

Tryon was popular in the tidewater area, but in the west the Regulator movement arose over such issues as inadequate currency, unequal taxation, and unhappiness with local officials. Tryon was sympathetic to some Regulator demands and was a personal friend of some of the leaders, but in 1768 he marched the militia to Hills-borough to put down Regulator demonstrations. In 1770 the Regulators arose again and broke up the superior court at Hillsborough, intimidating court officials and lawyers. After the ringleaders were convicted and outlawed, Tryon, in March 1771, led 1, 100 militia into Regulator country and on May 16 inflicted a crushing defeat on 2, 000 Regulators.

In July Tryon left for New York as he had succeeded Lord Dunmore as governor of that province. There he was faced with the land grant dispute with New Hampshire and difficulties arising out of land purchases from the Mohawk Indians, in which he was personally interested to the extent of 40, 000 acres. He was recalled to England for an explanation and sailed in April 1774.

Tryon returned to New York 14 months later, after the Revolution had begun. He was forced to remain aboard a ship in New York harbor from October 1775 until the arrival of William Howe's fleet in August 1776. In 1777 he was given permission to command a loyalist force and a year later was promoted to major general in North America and colonel of the 70th Foot. His primary military activity was a series of diversionary raids in Connecticut. In 1780 chronic illness compelled his return to England, where he was promoted to lieutenant general in 1782 and colonel of the 29th Foot in 1783. He died in London on Jan. 27, 1788.

Further Reading on William Tryon

Marshall D. Haywood, Governor William Tryon and His Administration in the Province of North Carolina, 1765-1771 (1903), was updated by Alonzo T. Dill, Governor Tryon and His Palace (1955).

Additional Biography Sources

Nelson, Paul David, William Tryon and the course of empire: a life in British imperial service, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.