North Carolina Society of the Cincinnati

From humble beginnings in October 1783 the North Carolina Society of the Cincinnati has grown to a membership of more than 400 members, each of whom represents an ancestor who served as a commissioned officer of the Continental Line between April 19, 1775, and September 3, 1783. (Each officer is represented by only one hereditary  member.) Three members of the North Carolina Society have served as President General of the national organization.  Several members have been elected to other offices in the General Society, including the current North Carolina Society president, William Pless Lunger, who is the Assistant Secretary General.  Other North Carolinians serve on various Committees at the national level. North Carolina in recent years has consistently led in the percentage of members contributing financially to the General Society.

The North Carolina Society was founded by a group of former officers of the North Carolina Continental line who gathered near Hillsborough on October 23, 1783, in a cabin owned by James Hogg, a Scottish merchant and member of the Hillsborough Committee of Safety. Little remains of the cabin today, but the site is owned by the Society, and the brick remains of its chimney and foundations are protected by a fence erected in 2012.

Some six hundred commissioned officers from North Carolina served in the war. Of this number, 66 contributed one month’s pay to join the Cincinnati. Brigadier General Jethro Summer was elected president, General Thomas Clark vice president, the Rev. Adam Boyd secretary and Lt. Colonel Howard Murfree treasurer.  Delegates were elected to represent North Carolina at the meeting of the General Society the following spring, and soon the veterans’ organization and its individual members were exerting a significant influence on post-war North Carolina. Gradually, however, as the Society’s founding members left the state during the western expansion of the United States, many to claim Revolutionary War land grants, its influence diminished until by the turn of the century the Society had become dormant.

In 1896 a small number of descendants of the original members gathered in Raleigh to revive the Society. By the turn of the century the North Carolina Society once again was a constituent part of the national organization.  Since that time membership has increased to more than 400, a number exceeded only by the Virginia Society.  Meetings are held in the fall and spring at various locations, including Anderson House in Washington, D.C., headquarters of the national organization. In September 2007, conscious that it lacked a safe location for its records, the North Carolina Society purchased a house on Fairview Road in Raleigh, where small gatherings are held and where the Society’s records are safely stored. Through the generosity of the members, the Society’s headquarters are free and clear of any indebtedness.

North Carolina is one of the few state societies that have their own distinctive Eagles, the insignia of the Society. The North Carolina Eagle was modeled on an original 18th century Eagle manufactured from 1784 to 1791 and sold in Philadelphia and Savannah. North Carolina authorized the issuance of this Eagle in 1904, and a small number were manufactured by a Baltimore jeweler. But in the great Baltimore fire that year the jewelry company was destroyed, along with the original dies for the North Carolina Eagle, only a few copies of which survived. One of these descended in the family of Lewis Castleman Strudwick, who as president of the North Carolina Society in 1998 arranged to have the Eagles reproduced and once again made available to members.