ELISHA BATTLE

 

In a list of jurymen in the time of Cromwell is John of Battle.  A few years afterward, in 1662, we find John Battle buying land of Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia, lying on Pasquotank River, one of the earliest settlers of his State.  It is probable that the juryman and the early settler in North Carolina were the same.

A son of this John Battle, William, either the oldest or the only son, inherited his father’s land, but for some reason sold it and removed to Nansemond County, Virginia.  He had certainly two sons, Elisha and William.  William died early, and his son of the same name removed to Georgia and became the ancestor of many notable and worthy citizens.

In 1744 the share of Earl Granville in our territory was laid off to him in severalty.  He opened his land offices, offered attractive terms, and soon numbers of valuable immigrants flocked in to accept them.  Elisha Battle, then twenty-five years old, born January 9, 1723, concluded to locate on the rich bottom lands of Tar River.  He brought with him his young wife, Elizabeth Sumner, first cousin of General Jethro Sumner, of the Revolutionary army, and their two children.  The land that he bought, part of the Cool Spring plantation, five miles from Rocky Mount, down the river, is still owned by a portion of his descendants, his grandson’s grandchildren.

Elisha Battle was a man of intelligence, activity, and high character.  He was prosperous in his business, constantly added to his broad acres, and soon became one of the most substantial men of his county.  The tenets of the Primitive Baptist Church and their democratic form of government attracted him, and we find him a member of the congregation of the church at the falls of Tar River in 1764.  He was chosen a deacon and continued in that office for twenty-eight years.  The Kehukee Association, meeting in the church of that name in Halifax County, the first in the State, was organized November 6, 1769.  He was a member and was appointed clerk.  The subsequent meetings he attended regularly, not being absent except when on public business.  It is much to his honor that he joined in promulgating as a rule of morals binding on the members of his church that lotteries are sinful, thus being far in advance of the major part of the community.  This decision was in 1770, and shows vividly the sedate and right-seeing judgement of those early Christians.

He served the State in many capacities – as justice of the peace, as chairman of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, and as commissioner of the town of Tarboro.  For twenty years he represented Edgecombe in the General Assembly.  He was likewise a delegate to the State Congress of April, 1776, and joined in the memorable resolution empowering our members of the Continental Congress to vote for independence, a measure in which North Carolina has the priority over all the other colonies.  He was also a member of the State Congress which met at Halifax in November and December of the same year, and, after transacting important business, adopted our Declaration of Rights and Constitution, so conservative and wise, considering the turmoil and excitement of the times.

Elisha Battle was the Senator from Edgecombe during the Revolutionary War, and afterward until 1787, with the exception of two years, and supported all measures looking to the vigorous prosecution of the war, and a sound settlement afterward.

In 1788 he was delegate to the Constitutional Convention of that year.  The consideration in which he was held is shown by the fact that during much of the session he was chairman of the Committee of the Whole.  He fully concurred with the majority that the new Federal Constitution needed amendments in order to make secure the reserved rights of the State, that it would be dangerous to adopt the new government, the powers of which would be determined by its own judiciary, without a declaration of rights.  He therefore voted to postpone the adoption of the Constitution, and to adopt twenty-six amendments to be recommended to the other States.

His health failing, he was not a delegate to the Convention of 1789, which agreed to enter the American Union, but not until satisfactory assurances were received that the amendments deemed most important would certainly be made a part of the Constitution.

On the failure of his health he quit active business of all sorts, declining further elections and dividing most of his ample estate among his eight children.  He died in 1799, the year of the death of his great chieftain, Washington.  He has had over two thousand descendants, nearly half of whom are living.  He left eight children – Sarah, who married first Jacob Hillard, and second Henry Horn; John, who married Frances Davis; Elizabeth, who married Josiah Crudup.  Their child, Josiah, was a member of Congress.  Elisha Battle married Mary Bunn; William married Charity Horn; Dempsey married Jane Andrews; Jacob married Mrs. Penelope Edwards, born Langley; Jethro married Martha Lane.

Kemp P. Battle.

Transcription from the book, Biographical History of North Carolina, volume VI, edited by Samuel A. Ashe, Stephen B. Weeks, and Charles L. Van Noppen, published in 1907, pages 9-11, found on the website, Hathitrust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org), accessed 2 February 2021. 

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