Thomas Wynns (1760-1825)

Written By Mathew Shaeffer

Thomas Wynns was born at Barfields, the Wynns family plantation in Hertford County, North Carolina, and into a prominent local family.  His father, Benjamin Wynns, was the state legislator who introduced the bill to create Hertford County. Winton, the Hertford County seat, was established on land donated by Benjamin Wynns. Thomas Wynns was educated at a local academy.

In the spring of 1780, as Wynns sailed to tour Europe aboard the Fair American, a British frigate seized the boat two weeks after departure. Wynns was transported to England and questioned. He spent six weeks in London, and while there, he contacted friends and relatives in Europe and America to secure passage home. He arrived back in North Carolina in the spring of 1781.

In 1786, Thomas Wynns was elected to the North Carolina State Senate as a representative from Hertford County. The following year (1787) he represented Hertford County in the North Carolina House of Commons. In 1788 and 1789, Wynns attended both the Hillsborough and Fayetteville ratification conventions. In 1788, he was again elected to the State Senate and served until 1800. During this time, Wynns worked to secure funding for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was one of the University’s first trustees. He also served as the Indian commissioner of the Southern District.

Thomas Wynns’s political career soon moved to the national level, when in 1802 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives to replace Charles Johnson, who had died in office. He was reelected twice more and served in the United States House of Representatives until 1807.

After his tenure in Washington, Wynns returned home to Hertford County and ran the Barfields plantation. He returned to state politics, however, and served in the North Carolina Senate from 1808 to 1817. During this period, Wynns was commissioned as major general in the militia in command of the First Division of the North Carolina troops and held the position until 1813.  He also served as a member of the North Carolina Executive Council from 1818 to 1824.

Thomas Wynns was married to Susanna Maney of the prominent Maney family in Hertford County. Thomas and Susanna never had children. Susanna died in January 1822 and Thomas died a few years later on June 4, 1825. Both were buried at the Maney plantation at Maney’s Landing in Hertford County.