north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



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     The Marquis de Lafayette, a close confidant of George Washington,was one of the great heroes of the Revolutionary War. In 1824 Lafayette returned to the United States at age sixty-eight on a celebratory tour. Although he originally planned to only visit New England and the mid-Atlantic, he extended his trip to the southern states as well, including North Carolina. While in North Carolina, Lafayette was hosted by his namesake town, Fayetteville, for one night, staying with Duncan McRae during his visit.

     Fayetteville, incorporated in 1783, was one of the first towns in the newly independent United States named for the Marquis de Lafayette. It originally consisted of two separate settlements on the Cape Fear River, the commercial center of Cross Creek and the county seat of Campbelton. In 1783 the state legislature renewed an act, initially passed in 1778, ordering the establishment of Fayetteville. The town was laid out in a grid pattern surrounding green spaces and squares, traditional for the late eighteenth century. It was named in honor of the young French hero of the Revolution, who trapped Cornwallis at Yorktown and “saved the South.”

     The Marquis de Lafayette was born into a wealthy family in France in 1757. Orphaned at 13, he was a courtier before meeting Silas Deane, an American recruiting Frenchmen to the Patriot cause, in late 1776. Lafayette received a letter of introduction from Deane, fitting his high status in France, and traveled to America to join the Patriot cause. He was appointed a Major General in the Continental Army in 1777, serving as a volunteer. He quickly established a close relationship with General George Washington. Commanding the Continental Army in Virginia between July 1779 and October 1781, the Marquis de Lafayette became very widely and well known for his heroism and strategy in battle. He returned to France after the British defeat.

     In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States as an official guest of the people. He traveled extensively throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic before extending his trip to include the southern states. Arriving in North Carolina in February 1825, he stayed at the Indian Queen Inn in Murfreesboro, at the Rocky Mount home of Henry Donaldson and attended a banquet at the Eagle Tavern in Halifax. He then traveled with a military escort to Raleigh where he visited the Governor Hutchins Burton and William Polk, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Following his time in Raleigh, Lafayette journeyed to Fayetteville, where he lodged overnight at the residence of Duncan MacRae. After extensive celebrations in Fayetteville, the Marquis de Lafayette departed North Carolina for South Carolina, continuing his tour of the United States.

E. J. Hale, “Monseiur le Marquis de Lafayette,” North Carolina Booklet, vol.1, no. 8 (1901)
Roy Parker Jr., Cumberland County: A Brief History (1990)
Lucille Miller Johnson, Hometown Heritage: Fayetteville, North Carolina (1978)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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