Waightstill Avery, the tenth son of Humphrey and Jerusha Avery was born on May
10, 1741, in Groton, Connecticut. He attended school in Long Island, New York,
and graduated from Princeton in 1766. After teaching for a year, he studied law
in Maryland then moved to North Carolina to practice in 1769. Waightstill Avery
traveled throughout the state and spent a year in Salisbury (Rowan County)
before boarding with Hezekiah Alexander in Charlotte (Mecklenburg County). An
advocate for education, he helped establish Queens College, a classical school
named for British Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg. In 1772, he was elected to the
provincial assembly, and was appointed attorney general for the Crown.
Waightstill Avery became an advocate for independence and signed the disputed
Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775. He was a member of the
committee that drafted the Mecklenburg Resolves signed May 31, 1775. Later that
year, he was he was appointed to the Provincial Council. He resigned his
position as the attorney general for the Crown in May 1776 and was appointed
member of the committee that met in November 1776 to write North Carolina's
first constitution. In 1777, Avery was elected to the first General Assembly and
was named North Carolina's first attorney general.
In October 1779, Waightstill Avery became
a member of the governor's council, and resigned as the attorney general to lead
the Jones County militia, where he earned the rank of Colonel. He acquired
property in Burke County and named his plantation Swan Ponds; he joined his
family (wife Leah Probart and children Issac, Polly, Elizabeth and Selina) there
in 1781. After the Revolution, Avery continued to practice law and was active in
politics, representing Burke County in the House of Commons, 1782-1785 and 1793,
and in the State Senate, 1796.
After a paralyzing injury and political
retirement, Waightstill Avery died on March 15, 1821. In 1911, Avery County,
the last of 100 counties in North Carolina was formed from portions of Mitchell,
Watauga and Caldwell Counties and named in honor of Waightstill Avery.
AVERY, Waightstill or Waitstill, lawyer, born in Groton, Connecticut, 3 May 1745; died in Burke County, North Carolina, in 1821. He was graduated at Princeton in 1776, and went to Mecklenburg, North Carolina, where he became a lawyer. In 1775 he took part in the convention and signed the paper known as the "Mecklenburg Declaration," and in the same year he was sent to the Hillsborough congress. In 1776 he was a member of the state congress, and in 1777 the first attorney general of the state. In 1779 he was a colonel of militia in active service.
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