his kindred near St. Johns. He married Sarah, eldest daughter of Matthias Brickell. When the Revolution commenced, his children had reached maturity, but they differed in their sentiments. His son John left the paternal roof and joined a Virginia Corps, the command of General Lafayette, and attained distinction.
His daughter Sarah married Godwin Cotten, who was in the army under Howe.
Yet in spite of politics he was highly respected, and unmolested by those opposed to him in sentiments.
Kenneth Rayner long resided in Hertford County, and represented the county in the Legislature. He also represented this district in Congress. He is a native of Bertie. His father was a worthy and exemplary minister of the Baptist Church, a soldier of the Revolution in his youth.*
Mr. Rayner, after a partial
classical education at Tarboro Academy, studied law with Chief Justice Ruffin,
but his active and ambitious temper seemed rather to prefer the excitements of
political life, than the quiet pursuits of the law. His first appearance in
public life, was as a member of the Convention of 1835, to revise the
Constitution. At this time, it had been more than forty years since the State
had formed her first
The speech of Mr. Rayner, on "Abolishing the religious tests for office," which our puritan fathers had inserted in the first Constitution, was the speech of the Convention. The State felt the magnetism of its power, and it placed him at once among the leading men of his age. Its impassioned tones aroused the State; all acknowledged its power and its truth; all predicted from this gallant beginning, a brilliant career in the future.
The next year he was elected to the Legislature, and continued until 1839, when he was elected a Member of the 26th Congress.
William Nathan Harrell Smith, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, is a native of this county.
His father, Dr. William L. Smith, was a native of Connecticut, a graduate of Yale College and a physician by profession. In 1810 he came to Hertford County where he settled, and married Ann Harrell; he died in 1813.
His son was born in
Murfreesboro, in September 24, 1812; here his early education was conducted at
the Hertford Academy. After graduating at Yale College in 1834, he studied law
at the Yale Law School, and returned to his home to practice. He soon rose by
his solid acquirements and attention to his profession, to its highest rank. He
was elected, in 1840, a member of the Legislature, and in 1848 he was elected
Senator from this county, and at the same session Solicitor of the Judicial
District for four years; he was re-elected to the same position. In 1857 he ran
for Congress, and was defeated by Dr. H. M. Shaw; but was elected a member of
the next Congress, (36th, 1859-61.) In 1858 he was again returned to the
Legislature. The sections of the North and the South were arrayed in hostile
attitude, and civil war seemed then imminent. The South after many ineffectual
struggles to elect a Speaker, put Mr. Smith forward as its candidate, and he was
elected. But before the result was announced E. Joy Morris and some others
changed their votes to Mr. Pennington, of New Jersey, who was accordingly
declared Speaker. He served through the exciting and
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