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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Burton, Robert

by Mrs. John C. Bernhardt, 1979; Revised November 2022.

20 Oct. 1747–31 May 1825

Robert Burton. Image courtesy of the NC Museum of History. Robert Burton, member of the Continental Congress, Revolutionary War officer, and planter, was born in Goochland County, Va., the son of Tabitha Minge and Hutchings Burton and perhaps the grandson of Noel Burton, barrister, of Henrico County, Va. Burton moved to Granville County in about 1775, in which year he married Agatha Williams, daughter of Judge John Williams.

At the beginning of the Revolution, Burton became a lieutenant of Continental artillery; afterward he was quartermaster general of North Carolina with the rank of colonel. He served as a member of the council of state from 1783 to 1785, again during the period 1800–1807, and again in 1813–15. He was president of the council in 1807, 1813, and 1815. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1785 but not seated until 1786; although he was elected again in 1787, to replace Timothy Bloodworth, there is no record to indicate that he attended. In 1789, Burton gave the state a bust of John Paul Jones, destroyed in 1831 when the capitol burned. Granville County records for 1790 indicate that he enslaved 14 people and owned 2,405 acres of land there, as well as nearly 6,000 in what was to become Tennessee. In 1813 he was a member of the commission to establish the line between North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Burton's wife died in 1831; at his own death, he was survived by nine children. Two of his sons, Alfred M. and Robert H., both of whom attended The University of North Carolina, moved to Lincoln County. Robert H. was the grandfather of Confederate general Robert F. Hoke. The elder Robert Burton was the uncle of Hutchins G. Burton, governor of North Carolina.

Burton was buried on his plantation, Montpelier, at Williamsboro.


Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, vol. 1 (1887).

Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, vol. 3 (1905).

John H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina (1851).

Additional Resources:

"Burton, Robert, (1747 - 1825)." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Washington, D.C.: The Congress. (accessed May 15, 2013).

Robert Burton Papers, 1775-1866 (collection no. 03973). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,Robert.html (accessed May 15, 2013).

Wheeler, John H. (John Hill). Historical sketches of North Carolina, from 1584 to 1851. Philadelphia : Lippincott, Grambo. 1851. (accessed May 15, 2013).

Image Credits:

"Photograph, Accession #: H.1914.198.29." 1880-1900. North Carolina Museum of History.

Origin - location: