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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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Nisbet, John

by E. Thomas Sims, 1991


John Nisbet, general merchant, Patriot, and state legislator, was born in New Jersey, one of six children of John and Sarah Nisbet. In 1750 his parents moved from New Jersey to that part of Rowan County that later became Iredell.

Nisbet was a member of the Rowan County Committee of Safety in 1774. Fifteen years later he became the first member of the state senate from Iredell County, serving in 1789 and 1790. Nisbet also was a delegate to the Fayetteville convention of 1789 that approved the U.S. Constitution for the state. In 1790 he was one of the commissioners chosen to lay out the town of Statesville as the seat of the new county of Iredell.

After operating a general store in Salisbury, he opened one at his plantation four miles northwest of Statesville. He later had a store in Statesville, but when it burned he did not replace it.

Nisbet married Mary Osborne, the daughter of Colonel Alexander Osborne, and they became the parents of eight children: James, Nancy, Sarah, Elizabeth, Alexander, John, Milus, and Jane. The mercantile interests of the family continued through three generations.


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

Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, vols. 21–22 (1903–7).

First Census of the United States, 1790 (1908).

John Nisbet Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

William C. Pool, "An Economic Interpretation of the Ratification of the Federal Constitution in North Carolina," North Carolina Historical Review 27 (April, July, October 1950).

John H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584 to 1851 (1851).

Additional Resources:

Rowan County (N.C.). Committee of Safety. "Minutes of the Rowan County Committee of Safety." September 23, 1774. Colonial and State Records of North Carolina vol. 9. 1072-1075. Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (accessed December 2, 2013).

Wooten,Hugh Hill. "The Land Valuations of Iredell County in 1800." The North Carolina Historical Review 29, no. 4 (October 1952). 525. (accessed December 2, 2013).