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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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Nash, Frederick

by Jaquelin Drane Nash, 1991; Revised by SLNC Government and Heritage Library, March 2023

9 Feb. 1781–5 Dec. 1858

An 1859 engraving of Judge Frederick Nash. Image from Frederick Nash, fourth chief justice of North Carolina, was born at Tryon Palace in New Bern. He was the son of Governor Abner Nash and his second wife, Mary Whiting Jones. Young Frederick grew up with his brother and three sisters at Pembroke, the Nash plantation on the Trent River near New Bern. His father died in 1786 and his mother died in 1799. After their deaths, he studied under the Reverend Henry Patillo in Williamsboro and under the Reverend Thomas Irving in New Bern. In 1799, he graduated as salutatorian from Princeton College. Returning to New Bern, Nash studied law under Edward Harris and was admitted to the bar in 1801. He represented New Bern in the House of Commons in 1804 and 1805.

In 1803 he married Mary Goddard Kollock of Elizabethtown, N.J. Seeking a healthier climate after the loss of their first child, they moved from New Bern to Hillsborough in 1807, where Nash purchased "a small one-story house, an office, and cabins for slaves' quarters" from Duncan Cameron. Nash represented Orange County in the House of Commons in 1814, 1816, and 1817 and the town of Hillsborough in 1828–29. In 1814 he was speaker of the house.

Nash was elected a superior court judge in 1818 and held the office until 1826, when he resigned to resume his lucrative private law practice. In 1836 he again won election to the superior court, serving until Governor John Motley Morehead elevated him to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1844 to complete the term of Judge William Gaston. This interim appointment was confirmed when the legislature elected him Judge Gaston's successor. In 1852, on Judge Thomas Ruffin's resignation, Nash became chief justice of the supreme court; he continued in this office until his death six years later. 

Elected a trustee of The University of North Carolina in 1807, Nash remained an active supporter of the university, from which he received an LL.D. degree in 1853. Although raised in the Episcopal church, he and his wife became ardent Presbyterians around the turn of the century. For nearly fifty years they were among the leaders of the Presbyterian church in North Carolina.

Nash was also an enumerated enslaver throughout the course of his life. According to the 1810 Census, Nash was the enslaver of 10 people. By 1820, he was the enslaver of four males and six females. By 1830, seven males and nine females were enslaved by Nash. By 1840, one male and 11 females were listed under Nash's ownership. By the census of 1850, the last before Nash's death, eight males and 13 females were listed with Nash as their enslaver. Nash' will (dated July 3, 1858) also provided provisions for the people he enslaved after he died. Upon his death, Nash's will bequeathed ownership of his entire estate, including all people he had enslaved, to his son-in-law, Dr. Edmund Strudwick.

Nash and his wife had seven children: Susan Mary (m. Isaac Read III), Ann Eliza (m. Dr. Edmund Strudwick), the Reverend Frederick Kollock, Henry Kollock, Shepard Kollock, Sally, and Maria. Sally and Maria, who never married, ran the Nash-Kollock school in Hillsborough.

Nash suffered his last illness while returning from a meeting of the synod in New Bern. He died December 5, 1858. He was buried in the Hillsborough Old Town Cemetery. A portrait of Judge Nash hangs on the wall of the supreme court chamber in Raleigh.


"Frederick Nash." Third Census of the United States. 1810. Hillsborough, Orange, North Carolina. Roll 41. Page 788. Image Ncm252_41-0226. FHL Roll 0337914. Accessed March 8, 2023 from

"Frederick Nash." Fourth Census of the United States. 1820. Orange, North Carolina. Roll M33_82. Page 408. Image 226. Accessed March 8, 2023 from

"Frederick Nash." Fifth Census of the United States. 1830Orange, North Carolina. Series M19. Roll 123. Page 249. Family History Library Film: 0018089. Accessed March 8, 2023 from

"Frederick Nash." Sixth Census of the United States. 1840. Southern Division, Orange, North Carolina. Roll 367. Page 265. Family History Library Film 0018096. Accessed March 8, 2023 from

"Frederick Nash." Seventh Census of the United States. 1850Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. Accessed March 8, 2023 from

John H. Bryan, "Memoir of Hon. Frederick Nash, LL.D," North Carolina University Magazine 9 (December 1859 [portrait]).

John L. Cheney, Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585–1979 (1981).

Francis Nash Collection (North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh).

Francis Nash Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

"Frederick Nash: July 3, 1858." North Carolina, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998. Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2015.
North Carolina - Orange County District and Probate Courts. 

"Social Reminiscences of Distinguished North Carolinians," The Land We Love 5 (1865).

Additional Resources:

"(FORMER) NASH SLAVE DWELLING / YARBOROUGH HOUSE." OpenOrange. April 15, 2021. Accessed March 8, 2023 at

"Frederick Nash." July 23, 2007.*11dtx37*_ga*MzAxODc4MzA5LjE2NjI3Mzg5MjE.*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MTY3ODI4MjQ1NS4zNi4xLjE2NzgyODI2NzEuNTQuMC4w

"Frederick Nash: The Fourth Chief Justice." North Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society. (accessed June 12, 2013).

Wheeler, John H. (John Hill). Reminiscences and memoirs of North Carolina and eminent North Carolinians. Columbus, Ohio: Columbus printing works. 1884. 332-333. (accessed June 12, 2013).

Image Credits:

Sartain, John. "Hon. Frederick Nash, LL.D. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of N.C. by order of the Editors of the N.C. Univ. Mag. for 1859-1860." North Carolina University Magazine 9, no. 5 (December 1859). (accessed June 12, 2013).

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