College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)


Troy L. Kickler


Regulator Movement, Herman Husband, John Allen House, Tryon Palace, Edmund Fanning, William Tryon


Architecture | History


A defining feature of North Carolina is her geography. English colonists who founded the first settlements in the east adapted their old lifestyles to their new environs, and as a result, a burgeoning planter and merchant class emerged throughout the Tidewater and coastal regions. This eastern gentry replicated the customs, manners, and traditions of the Old World: donning the latest London fashions, hosting lavish balls, horseraces, and foxhunts, and erecting homes furnished with luxurious appointments. In the Piedmont, in what was then the western frontier, German and Scots-Irish immigrants streamed down the Great Wagon Road in search of similar opportunities. Theirs was a hardscrabble existence, forged from raw wilderness through sheer perseverance and self-reliance. Over time, members of the eastern gentry also drifted westward, looking to capitalize on their connections with the colonial legislature to establish a backcountry elite. These men, many of them corrupt, permeated local governments, occupying the offices of sheriff, clerk of court, and register of deeds—often simultaneously. They exerted their influence to collect excessive taxes, extort illegal fees, and conduct illicit land deals at the expense of unsuspecting settlers. When the backcountry immigrants grew weary of these “courthouse rings,” they organized to regulate provincial administration. Although the backwoods insurgents failed in their objective, state legislators addressed many of their grievances in 1776, incorporating Regulator proposals into North Carolina’s first constitution. The architecture of the period helps illustrate these two worlds—an eastern mansion reveals the luxury of the well-born, while a log cabin embodies western austerity—with each one symbolizing the social, economic, and political divides separating the classes.