Britain’s Tea Act of 1773 did not seem to have strong repercussions in North Carolina. But when subsequent coercive measures were passed to punish Boston, Tar Heels argued that, if tolerated, statues might be applied to other colonies. Rev. Daniel Earle from Edenton publicly stood against Britain and what he considered infractions of the rights of free peoples.
Rev. Daniel Earle was born and spent most of his young adult life in Bandon, Ireland in the early 1740s. He was the son of an Irish nobleman and was from the line of General Earle, who served as Queen Anne’s Chief Justice. Earle served as an officer in the British army until his marriage to a high church official’s daughter he then resigned his post in the army to take holy orders.
In 1757 Rev. Earle was sent to North Carolina by the Bishop of London to act as curate for the aged Rev. Hall who was presiding as the rector of St. Paul’s in Edenton and whose health was failing fast. In 1760 Earle was made full rector and his charge not only included Edenton but also numerous mission stations throughout Chowan, Hertford, and Gates counties.
Upon becoming full rector, Rev. Earle bought 1400 acres on the Chowan River and named the plantation Bandon, after his native town in Ireland. Earle thoroughly enjoyed farming and especially fishing for herring on his land. He established one of the very first fisheries in America and shipped his salt-dried herring to England. Many of his parishioners began calling him, “Herring-Catching Parson” although the nickname was later affectionately shortened to “Parson.”
Aside from pasturing, Parson Daniel Earle also started a classical school for boys, one of the first in the South. He used the bottom floor of his plantation home for classrooms. He taught Greek, Latin and mathematics.
As tensions escalated between the colonies and Great Britain, Parson Earle became an active sympathizer in the struggle for independence. The colonial spirit of the impending revolution was stirred in Edenton on August 22, 1774, when Rev. Daniel Earle gathered his parishioners outside the courthouse and denounced unjust taxation and the Boston Port Act. Earle became famous throughout North Carolina for his exhortation to the people to join along side the ranks of Boston in speaking out against the British. He urged them, “The cause of Boston is the cause of us all!”
On account of his inflammatory remarks, Rev. Daniel Earle was defrocked from preaching in his church in 1775, and the Rectorship of St. Paul’s was given to Charles Pettigrew. Throughout the rest of the Revolutionary years, several attempts were made by the British to capture him, but all failed.
In the remaining years of his life Parson Earle continued to be an admired leader in the Edenton community. After his death in 1790, he was remembered as one possessing great wit and humor and unflinching patriotism.
Federal Writers Project of Federal Workers Agency, North Carolina: A Guide to the Old North State (Chapel Hill, 1939); Martha Lamb, ed. Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries (New York City, 1892); North Carolina State Library, Edenton, http://hal.dcr.state.nc.us/nc/ncsites/edenton.htm, (last accessed August 26, 2010).