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William Lenoir (1751-
Lenoir was born the youngest of ten in a French Huguenot family in Brunswick County, Virginia, but the family moved to eastern North Carolina when he was nine years old. Lenoir had no formal education, but could read and write Latin, Greek, and French. His first occupation was that of teacher and schoolmaster, before he became a surveyor. While surveying in western North Carolina, Lenoir decided to permanently settle there. He brought with him his wife, Ann Ballard, and a baby daughter, when he arrived in March 1775. The Lenoirs had nine children in all.
Historian Samuel Ashe called Lenoir an "active and zealous and efficient supporter of the cause of independence." He served with distinction in the American Revolutionary War, in particular taking part in the Battle of Kings Mountain as a Captain in the militia. He received minor wounds at that battle. Otherwise, his military service consisted mostly of skirmishes with Loyalists and Cherokee Indians. He last saw action at Pyle's massacre, at which his horse was said to be the only American Patriot casualty.
After the war, William and his wife, Ann, built their home, called Fort Defiance
(plantation). Only years after the war did Lenoir achieve the rank of Major General
from service in the state militia. Shortly after achieving that rank, he desired
to fight in the War of 1812, but was deemed too old to do so. The disappointment
of that led Lenoir to resign from the militia. Fort Defiance continues today, restored
as a tourist and historical attraction in modern-
Lenoir, an anti-
From 1781 to 1795, Lenoir was also a member of the North Carolina General Assembly representing Wilkes County and served as Speaker of the North Carolina Senate from 1790 to 1795. He was a member of both the state convention of 1788, which rejected the United States Constitution, and the convention of 1789, which ratified it. Lenoir was suspicious of the new constitution and argued that it needed an amendment guaranteeing religious freedom (which, of course, it later got).
General Lenoir died on May 6, 1839, two days shy of his eighty-