Gravesite of first native-born NC governor gets some TLC

A historical photo of the gravesite of Richard Dobbs Spaight, seen at right. (Photos courtesy of New Bern-Craven County Library)

NEW BERN, Craven County - A restoration project made possible in part by funding from the Daughters of the American Revolution is helping breathe some new life into the burial site of the first native-born governor of North Carolina.

Orphaned at the age of 8, Richard Dobbs Spaight went on to become one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution at the age of 29. He was born in New Bern, served four years as governor and another four years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

His life, however, met a tragic end when he was killed in 1802 in a duel with a political rival.

"They actually fought until the end, which, in the end, Spaight was wounded and died several days later of his wounds," historian Nelson McDaniel said.

He was buried along Brices Creek Road at what was at the time known as Clermont Estate - a property now owned by the State of North Carolina.

"After a couple hundred years, it's pretty fragile," Craig Ramey, the director of marketing and communications for Tryon Palace, said. "The first step is that was actually trying to do some restoration work on the gate and now we are at the point where we are trying to do some work on the gravesite covering."

Tryon Palace now manages the former Clermont Estate after it was bequeathed to the state in 2008.

The idea is to preserve what is already there, and not to replace anything with new material if it can be helped.

"Materials like this - a gravesite, a house, a painting - they give us those touchstones to help us remember," McDaniel said.

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