Copyright notice

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.

Printer-friendly page
Average: 3.2 (12 votes)

Kenan, William Rand

by Thomas S. Kenan III, 1988

4 Aug. 1845–14 Apr. 1903

House Built for William Rand Kenan, Sr. Image courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library Digital Archives.William R. Kenan. William Rand Kenan, merchant and port collector, was born in Kenansville, the son of Own Rand Kenan and Sarah Rebecca Graham Kenan. After attending Grove Academy, he entered The University of North Carolina in 1860 at age fifteen. In 1863 he withdrew from the university to enlist as a private in the Duplin Rifles of the Forty-third North Carolina Regiment, rising to the rank of captain. He subsequently moved to Wilmington and became a life insurance agent and later a wholesale merchant. Kenan was collector of the port of Wilmington under President Grover Cleveland. He served as treasurer of the Presbyterian Church and was ordained first a deacon and then a ruling elder. In February 1903 he was appointed a trustee of The University of North Carolina, two months before his death in Wilmington where he was buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

Kenan married Mary Hargrave of Chapel Hill in 1864, and they had four children: Mary Lily, Jessie Hargrave, William Rand, Jr., and Sarah Graham. A portrait of William Rand Kenan is in the possession of his daughter Sarah's nephew, James Graham Kenan of Atlanta, Ga. In his memory, his children established the Kenan Professor Trust Fund at The University of North Carolina and donated the funds for Kenan Memorial Stadium, also in Chapel Hill.


Kenan family records in the author's possession.

W. R. Kenan, Jr., ed., Incidents by the Way (1946).

Alvaretta Kenan Register, ed., The Kenan Family (1967).

Additional Resources:

Kenan Family Papers, 1748-1996 (collection no. 04225). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (accessed February 14, 2013).

Finding Aid for the Russell Autograph Book, 1861 - 1863, State Archives of North Carolina:  

Image Credits:

House Built for William Rand Kenan, Sr. Image courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library Digital Archives. Available from (accessed February 15, 2013).

Clark, Walter. Histories of the several regiments and battalions from North Carolina, in the great war 1861-'65. Raleigh, E.M. Uzzell, printer. 1901. (accessed May 21, 2013).


What is the history of this house? Are there pics of the inside and outside of the house since it was built? Did something tragic happen in this house? Any information would be appreciated.

Are there other pictures recorded and available to view of this house? Specifically of the interior in its original state and/or other stages?
Thank you,
R. Haas

Did William Rand Kenan man the gatling gun which killed many Blacks in the 1898 Wilmington Massacre lead by Alfred Moore Waddell?

Dear Lionell,

This document lists William Rand Kenan, Sr. as the "Rapid Fire Gun Squad Captain" of the Wilmington Light Infantry in 1898.

Thank you.

Mike Millner, NC Government and Heritage Library

I am the current owner of 110 Nun St. in Wilmington, NC. I would like to get in touch with Thomas S. Kenan III regarding the house. I have owned it since 2002, have read a great deal of history about the Kenan family, including Across Fortunes Tracks. My son grew up in the same bedroom that William Rand Kenan Jr had as a boy. I raised 3 children in the house. If at all possible, please contact me via my email, as I have questions regarding the house.
Thank you

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at