Title: U.S. Congressman
Birthdate: 1748
Death Date: June 4, 1798
Plot Location: Section 112, First Baptist Church plot

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The Bryan family was one of the earliest to settle in the coastal plain of eastern North Carolina. Nathan’s father was one of several brothers that established plantations. As such, the family tradition of enslaving Black people was passed down to Nathan and his descendants.

Just before the American Revolution was about to begin, Nathan married his cousin, Winifred Bryan. Her father, Needham Bryan, was in the North Carolina Provincial Congress in 1774, a colonel in the Revolutionary War, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1788.

One of Nathan’s five brothers was appointed by the Continental Congress as a general, and Nathan himself was a colonel of a militia. Between 1774 and 1781 he also managed to have six children.

Because he was a noted Whig leader, his home was ransacked, and the 15 people he was enslaving were carried off by the British forces on their way through North Carolina in August 1781. Later in the decade he also performed the duties of justice of the peace.

As part of a wealthy land-owning family, Nathan was easily elected to the North Carolina State Senate in 1781, and to the State House of Commons in 1787 and 1791-94. In November of 1789 he represented his county at the state convention when North Carolina ratified the Constitution of the United States. 

His greatest honor was being elected in 1794 to the U.S. House of Representatives. Congress met in Philadelphia while it was the temporary capital of the United States from 1790-1800. The county courthouse was converted to become Congress Hall, at 6th and Chestnut Streets. Nathan was reelected to a second term in 1796.

As the Congressional session headed into the summer of 1798, Nathan might have been planning another bid for reelection. It never happened after a sudden illness must have overtaken him, followed by a sudden death. Having a Baptist background and probably attending First Baptist Church, a place was provided for him in their burial ground. The church bought Section 112 at Mount Moriah and relocated most of the graves here in 1860.

His colleagues paid tribute to him by funding this gravestone at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. It is a cenotaph, a marker in memory of someone who is buried elsewhere, and is inscribed as follows: “In memory of the Hon. Nathan Bryan, a representative in the Congress of the U.S. from the state of North Carolina who died June 4, 1798, aged 49 years.”


Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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