Arthur Dobbs, Colonial Governor of North Carolina

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Arthur Dobbs, Gov.

Birthdate: (75)
Birthplace: Carleton Fishery, South Ayrshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Death: March 27, 1765 (75)
Cape Fear, Harnett County, North Carolina, United States
Place of Burial: Winnabow, Brunswick County, North Carolina, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard Dobbs, III and Mary Dobbs
Husband of Justina Nash and Anne Dobbs
Father of Chesley Dobbs and Conway Richard Dobbs
Brother of Richard Dobbs; Daughter Dobbs; Mamaduke Dobbs; Jane Dobbs and John Dobbs

Occupation: Arthur is Surveyor General
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Arthur Dobbs, Colonial Governor of North Carolina

Arthur Dobbs (2 April 1689 – 28 March 1765) was an Anglo-Irish politician with large landholdings in North Carolina who served as the colonial governor of the state from 1754 to 1765.

Early life and career

He was born the eldest son of Richard Dobbs of Carrickfergus, County Antrim, who had been Sheriff of Antrim in 1694. He was a neighbour and family friend of Jonathan Swift despite their political differences. He served briefly in a dragoon regiment in the Irish Army, and afterward managed his family estate.

He became an engineer and Surveyor-General of Ireland, supervising the construction of the Irish Parliament House in Dublin, as well as other Irish public buildings. He was appointed High Sheriff of Antrim in 1720 and in 1727 was elected Member of Parliament for Carrickfergus, a seat he held until 1760.

Whilst a member of the Irish Parliament, he purchased 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) in North Carolina in 1745 and encouraged settlement in the colony, especially by Irishmen. Following the death of North Carolina governor Gabriel Johnston, Dobbs was confirmed to succeed him on 25 January 1753. However, he did not arrive to assume his duties until October of the following year.

Governor of North Carolina

While governor of North Carolina, Dobbs sought unsuccessfully to establish a permanent capital, to be called George City, near Tower Hill and the Neuse River. Plans were drawn up for a Palladian governor's mansion similar to Tryon Palace, which Dobbs' successor, William Tryon, would erect 10 years later in New Bern. Dobbs' governorship was overshadowed by the French and Indian War and the start of the American Revolution. Shortly after his arrival, Dobbs visited the western frontiers of North Carolina, organised the construction of Fort Dobbs, and attempted to raise troops to fight in the French and Indian War. Dobbs moved to Brunswick Town, North Carolina in 1758 where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1759 and 1760, Governor and Assembly were often at odds. Debt, Indian affairs, public complaints about Lord Granville's agents and about Dobbs' failure to put down riots in Edgecombe County and elsewhere, and Dobbs' frequent vetoes of Assembly bills led to intense tensions. Dobbs even dissolved the Assembly in 1760 and ordered new elections, but this plan backfired; a secret committee drew up outlandish charges against the governor to be sent to the King. Only the succession of King George III, which brought additional powers to Dobbs, saved him from further conflict with the Assembly.

Other interests

Apart from his North Carolina interests, Dobbs was heavily involved in attempts to find a Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic during the 1740s. He actively worked to have the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trade monopoly revoked on the grounds that they showed little or no interest in promoting discovery expeditions relating to the Northwest Passage. Dobbs felt that others might finance exploration if they had some expectation of trade. Revoking the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trade monopoly was his solution for stimulating exploration. From 1741 to 1747, Dobbs managed to stimulate exploration, the result of which convinced most people that such a passage did not exist. A British Parliamentary inquiry in 1749 ended attempts to revoke the Hudson’s Bay Company’s charter. Dobbs' involvement in the Canadian Arctic exploration resulted in a substantial increase in geographical knowledge as well as increased awareness of the economic potential. Dobbs was also an amateur scientist and published several astronomy articles as well as a pamphlet on honeybees.

Private life

He had married in 1720 Anne, daughter and heir of Captain Osborne of Timahoe, County Kildare and the widow of Captain Norbury. They had three sons and a daughter.

In 1762, Dobbs, then seventy-three, married fifteen year old Justina Davis at St. Philip's Church in Brunswick. A few months later he suffered a stroke and was bound to a wheelchair. In the fall of 1763 he attended a conference of Southern governors and Indian tribes in Augusta, Georgia, which resulted in the Treaty of Augusta. In 1764 Dobbs look a leave of absence to return to England, and Tryon arrived as lieutenant-governor to fill his place. Dobbs later decided to retire and return to Ireland, but while packing, suffered a fatal seizure on 28 March 1765, just two weeks before he was to depart. He was buried at St. Philip's. Today no sign of his grave remains.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, Conway Richard Dobbs.

Other References

North Carolina Governor. He served as North Carolina's royal governor from 1754 to 1765. Born in the small fishing village of Girvan, Scotland, he grew up in County Antrim, Ireland. He served in the Irish House of Commons from 1727 to 1730, and as surveyor general of Ireland in 1730. Prior to serving in the House of Commons, he was appointed to the life long position of high Sheriff of Antrim in 1720, and also served as the mayor of Carrickfergus. He was appointed and confirmed as the royal governor of North Carolina on January 25, 1753, following the death of Governor Gabriel Johnston, but did not officially take office until November 1, 1754. While living in Ireland, he purchased over 400,000 acres of property throughout western North Carolina, and became a strong supporter of Captain Christopher Middleton's expedition to find and explore the Northwest Passage. Arriving in America at the beginning of French and Indian War in 1754, he was forced to build numerous defensive fortifications for the protection of settlers and farmers, including the construction of Fort Dobbs at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1756. As colonial governor he became a strong proponent of land reforms, colonial trade, pioneer settlement, and the strict enforcement of British rule over the colonies. He was the author of "An Essay on the Trade and Improvement of Ireland" (1729), "Captain Middleton's Defense" (1744) and "An Account of the Countries Adjoining to Hudson's Bay" in 1748. He died two weeks before he was scheduled to return home to his native Ireland. (bio by: Nils M. Solsvik Jr.)

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Arthur Dobbs, Colonial Governor of North Carolina's Timeline

April 2, 1689
Carleton Fishery, South Ayrshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Age 59
Culpepper, Virginia, United States
March 27, 1765
Age 75
Cape Fear, Harnett County, North Carolina, United States
Winnabow, Brunswick County, North Carolina, United States