Ann Clark Hooper
Wife of William Hooper, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
1747 – 1814 A.D.
Anne Clark, daughter of Thomas Clark, Esq., and sister of Thomas Clark, Jr., afterward General of the U.S. Army, was married in 1767 to William Hooper, a brilliant young lawyer from Boston, who, after graduating from Harvard, studying law with James Otis, and visiting the South for some months, had decided to locate in Wilmington, N.C., and establish a practice. Of his bride it is written: “His choice was most fortunate, considered in reference to the qualifications of the lady to adorn and sweeten social and domestic life. It was most fortunate, too, considered in reference to that firmness of mind which enabled her to sustain without repining the grievous privations and distress to which she became peculiarly exposed in consequence of the prominent station which Mr. Hooper held in the War of the Revolution.”
But there were other dangers that the young lawyer had to face before he had become obnoxious to the British authorities. A paper written for Wheeler’s History of North Carolina, by a Mr. Heart of Hillsborough, in the early part of the last century, throws a side-light on some of these dangers as well as giving an interesting picture of the times:
“His life was very strenuous at this time, the distance between the courts being great and the roads being poor; also the hospitality of his friends was trying to his health. Times were prosperous, and the dissipation which arose out of an excess of hospitality exhibited an even more animated picture in the surrounding country. Who families and sometimes several families together were in the practice of making visits, and, like the tents of the Arabs, seemed continually on the move. The number of visitants, the noise and bustle of arriving and greeting, the cries of the poultry yard, and the bleatings from the pasture would require some sounding polysyllables to convey an idea of the joyous uproar…Every visit was a sort of jubilee. Festive entertainment, balls, every species of amusement which song and dance could afford, were resorted to. The sports of the turf and the pleasure of eager pursuit. Everywhere on the eastern and western branches of the Cape Fear River were men of fortune, related to one another by blood or marriage, whose settlements extended almost as far as the lowlands of Crossneck.”
It was among these hospitable, happy-go-lucky, fox-chasing, horse-racing planters that young Hooper travelled [sic] from court to court, spending a week or so in a place, working assiduously for his clients by day and being “entertained” much of his time out of court. It was a lucrative practice and he accumulated money, but it was trying upon his frail constitution.
It was natural that he should almost at once be drawn into politics. In 1773, he was elected to the Legislature, and, the year following, was sent as a delegate to the Congress of 1774 and continued in ’75, ’76, and ’77, but was granted leave of absence early in ’77 to return to North Carolina and look after his family.
Mr. Hooper had left his wife and children in Wilmington when he first went to Congress, but, because of his activities and especially after he signed the Declaration, the British became very offensive. His property was destroyed on frequent occasions; a British captain went out of his way to sail up the Cape Fear River about three miles from Wilmington and shell a house belonging to Mr. Hooper. The brutal David Fanning who raided Hillsborough treated Mrs. Hooper and her family with rudeness amounting to downright cruelty. Mrs. Hooper had moved her family from Wilmington back to their plantation, about eight miles, but even there they were constantly harassed, and finally Mr. Hooper brought them back to Wilmington, and after the evacuation of that city took up his permanent residence at Hillsborough.
His health was badly broken, however, and he was compelled to give up most of his practice and other duties in 1778, while his wife looked after their plantation very successfully. Mr. Hooper died in 1790, leaving the widow to care for their three children, two sons and one daughter.
Reference: The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. Third Volume, Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.