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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Clinton, Richard

by Alvaretta K. Register, 1979


Richard Clinton, county and early state official, is believed to have been a natural son of John Sampson and a nephew of Colonel Charles Clinton, the father of Governor George Clinton and of General James Clinton of New York. The Clintons came from Ireland with Colonel John Sampson in about 1736 and were among the first to settle in the wilderness on the headwaters of the Northeast branch of the Cape Fear.

In 1775, Clinton represented Duplin County in the provincial congress held at Hillsborough. In February 1776 he organized a company of militia minutemen from upper Duplin and as captain of the company took part in the defense of Wilmington against the British. He was appointed colonel of cavalry in 1787 and later brigadier general of the Fayetteville District. When the state government of North Carolina was established by the adoption of the constitution at Halifax in 1776, Clinton became one of the first members elected to the House of Commons from Duplin; he continued as a representative from Duplin in each succeeding annual session until the creation of Sampson County at the April session of 1784. He was elected Sampson's first senator for the fall session of 1784 and was reelected as senator for eight of the following annual sessions. He also represented Sampson in the conventions held at Hillsborough in 1788 and at Fayetteville in 1789. He was one of the first justices of Sampson County and served as its first registrar of deeds. The seat of Sampson County was named Clinton in his honor.

In 1763, Clinton married Penelope Kenan (d. 1814), daughter of Thomas Kenan and his wife, Elizabeth Johnston Kenan. The Clintons had nine children: William Sampson, who married first Sarah Seawell and second Patience Cook; Richard, married to Ferebee Hicks; Nancy Ann, married to Owen Holmes (1762–1814); Mary Eliza (1784–1858), who married Alfred Rowland (1777–1829); Rachel, who married Jacob Rhodes (ca. 1758–1824); Arabella, married to Isaac Lanier; Elizabeth, married to David Bunting; Owen; and Thomas.


Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, vol. 5 (1906).

Cora Bass, "Duplin County Marriage Bonds," Sampson County Yearbook (1957).

Daughters of the American Revolution, Richard Clinton Chapter, "North Carolina Gravestone and Bible Records" (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

Ida Kellam, "Gravestone Records, Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington" (in possession of Mrs. Kellam, Wilmington).

Raleigh Register, 13 Sept. 1811, 11 Nov. 1825, 27 May 1830, 25 June 1847, 4 Oct. 1848.

Alvaretta Kenan Register, The Kenan Family (1967).

Robeson County Will Book 1 (North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh).

Sampson County Will Book 1 (North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh).

Additional Resources:

"Richard Clinton." N.C. Highway Historical Marker I-35, N.C. Office of Archives & History. (accessed June 11, 2013).

Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing But Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas, III, 234, 271

Oscar Bizzell and Virginia Bizzell, “Footprints of Richard Clinton, 1741-1795,” Huckleberry Historian, X, 1-2

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