Sketches of Western North Carolina, Historical and Biographical
C. L. Hunter

Part 1 out of 6


Illustrating Principally the Revolutionary Period of Mecklenburg,
Rowan, Lincoln and Adjoining Counties, Accompanied with Miscellaneous
Information, Much of It Never before Published







History has been defined, "Philosophy teaching by example." There is
no branch of literature in a republic like ours, that can be
cultivated with more advantage to the general reader than history.
From the infinite variety of aspects in which it presents the dealings
of Providence in the affairs of nations, and from the immense number
of characters and incidents which it brings into view, it becomes a
source of continuous interest and enjoyment.

The American Revolution is undoubtedly the most interesting event in
the pages of modern history. Changes equally great and convulsions
equally violent have often taken place in the Old World; and the
records of former times inform us of many instances of oppression,
which, urged beyond endurance, called forth the spirit of successful
resistance. But in the study of the event before us--the story of the
Revolution--we behold feeble colonies, almost without an army--without
a navy--without an established government--without a good supply of
the munitions of war, firmly and unitedly asserting their rights, and,
in their defence, stepping forth to meet in hostile array, the veteran
troops of a proud and powerful nation. We behold too, these colonies,
amidst want, poverty and misfortunes, animated with the spirit of
liberty and fortified by the rectitude of their cause, sustaining for
nearly eight years, the weight of a cruel conflict upon their own
soil. At length we behold them victorious; their enemies sullenly
retiring from their shores, and these feeble colonies enrolled on the
page of history as a _free, sovereign and independent nation_.

The American struggle for freedom, and its final achievement, was an
act in the great drama of the world's history of such vast magnitude,
and fraught with such momentous consequences upon the destinies of
civilization throughout the world, that we can scarcely ever tire in
contemplating the instrumentalities by which, under Divine guidance,
it was effected. It has taught mankind that oppression and misrule,
under any government, tends to weaken and ultimately destroy the power
of the oppressor; and that a people united in the cause of freedom and
their inalienable rights, are invincible by those who would enslave

No State in our Union can present a greater display of exalted
patriotism, enduring constancy and persistent bravery than North
Carolina. And yet, how many of our own people do we find who know but
little of the early history of the State, her stern opposition to
tyranny under every form, and her illustrious Revolutionary career.

On the shores of North Carolina the first settlement of English
colonists was made; within her borders the most formidable opposition
to British authority, anterior to the Revolution, was organized; by
her people the _first declaration_ of independence was proclaimed, and
some of the most brilliant achievements took place upon her own soil.

For several years, at intervals, the author has devoted a portion of
his time and attention to the collection of historical facts relating
principally to Western North Carolina, and bordering territory of
South Carolina, to whom, as a sister State, and having a community of
interests, North Carolina frequently afforded relief in her hour of
greatest need.

Such materials, procured at this late day--upon the arrival of our
National Centennial year, are often imperfect and fragmentary in
character--merely scattered facts and incidents gathered here and
there from the traditional recollections of our oldest inhabitants, or
from the musty records of our State and county offices; and yet, it is
believed such facts, when truthfully transmitted to us, are worthy of
preservation and rescue from the gulf of oblivion, which unfortunately
conceals from our view much valuable information.

Being the son of a Revolutionary patriot, and accustomed in his
boyhood to listen with enraptured delight to the narration of
thrilling battle-scenes, daring adventures, narrow escapes and feats
of personal prowess during the Revolution, all tending to make
indelible impressions upon the tablet of memory, the author feels a
willingness to "contribute his mite" to the store of accumulated
materials relating to North Carolina, now waiting to be moulded into
finished, historic shape by some one of her gifted sons.

Several of the sketches herein presented are original, and have never
before been published. Others, somewhat condensed, have been taken
from Wheeler's "Historical Sketches," when falling within the scope of
this work. To the venerable author of that compilation, the author
also acknowledges his indebtedness for valuable information furnished
from time to time from the "Pension Bureau" at Washington City,
relating to the military services of several of our Revolutionary

The author and compiler of these sketches only aspires to the position
of a historian in a limited sense. It cannot be denied that the
history of our good old State, modest in her pretensions, but filled
with grand, patriotic associations, has never been fully written.
Acting under this belief, he feels tempted to say, like Ruth following
the reapers in the time of Boaz, he has "gleaned in the field until
even," and having found a few "handfuls" of _neglected_ grain, and
beaten them out, here presents his "ephah of barley"--plain,
substantial food it is true, but yet may be made useful _mentally_ to
the present generation, as it was _physically_ of old, to the
inhabitants of Palestine.

In conclusion, the author cherishes the hope that other sons, and
daughters too, of North Carolina--some of them forming with himself,
_connecting links of the past with the present_--will also become
_gleaners_ in the same field of research, abounding yet with scattered
grains of neglected and unwritten history worthy of preservation.

If the author's efforts in this direction shall impart additional
information, and assist in elucidating "liberty's story" in the Old
North State, his highest aspirations will be gratified, and his
agreeable labors amply rewarded.






The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence--A brief account of the
Mecklenburg Centennial--The Grand Procession--Exercises at the Fair
Grounds--James Belk, A Veteran Invited Guest--Signers of the
Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence--Origin of the Alexander
Families of Mecklenburg county--Jack Family--Captain Charles Polk's
"Muster Roll,"--President James K. Polk--General William Davidson,
General George Graham--William Richardson Davie--Battle of the Hanging
Rock--General Michael McLeary--Major Thomas Alexander--Captain William
Alexander--Elijah Alexander--Captain Charles Alexander--Joseph Kerr,
"The Cripple Spy"--Robert Kerr--Henry Hunter--James Orr--Skirmish at
Charlotte; or, First attack of the "Hornets"--Surprise at McIntire's,
or, the "Hornets" at work--Judge Samuel Lowrie--The Ladies of the
Revolutionary Period--Mrs. Eleanor Wilson--Queen's Museum.



The "Black Boys" of Cabarrus--Dr. Charles Harris--Captain Thomas



Route of the British Army through Mecklenburg and Rowan Counties--
General Griffith Rutherford--Locke Family--Hon. Archibald Henderson--
Richard Pearson--Mrs Elizabeth Steele.



Col. Alexander Osborn--Captain William Sharpe--Major William Gill--
Captain Andrew Carson, and others--Captain Alexander Davidson--Captain
James Houston--Captain James Houston's Muster Roll--Rev. James Hall--
Hon. Hugh Lawson White.



Battle of Ramseur's Mill--Route of the British Army through Lincoln
county--Gen. Joseph Graham--Brevard Family--Col. James Johnston--
Genealogy of Col. James Johnston--Jacob Forney, Sr.--Gen. Peter
Forney--Major Abram Forney--Remarks--Genealogy of the Forney Family.



Rev. Humphrey Hunter--Dr. William McLean--Major William Chronicle--
Captain Samuel Martin--Captain Samuel Caldwell--Captain John Mattocks--
William Rankin--General John Moore--Elisha Withers.



Battle of King's Mountain--Colonel William Campbell--Colonel Isaac
Shelby--Colonel James D. Williams--Colonel William Graham--
Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Hambrigh.



Battle of the Cowpens--General Daniel Morgan--General Charles McDowell
and Brothers.



Colonel Benjamin Cleaveland--Colonel John Sevier--General William



Lord Cornwallis--Colonel Tarleton--Cherokee Indians--Conclusion.



1492 October 12, Columbus discovered America.

1584 July 4, Amadas and Barlow approach the coast of North

1663 Charter of Charles II, William Drummond, first
Governor of North Carolina.

1678 John Culpeper's Rebellion.

1693 Carolina divided into North and South Carolina.

1705 First Church erected in North Carolina.

1705 First Newspaper published in the United States.

1710 Carey's Rebellion.

1729 Charter of Charles II, surrendered.

1765 Stamp Act passed.

1771 May 16, Battle of Alamance.

1774 August 25, Popular Assembly at Newbern.

1775 May 20 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

1775 June, General Washington commander-in-chief.

1775 June 17, Battle of Bunker's Hill.

1775 August, Josiah Martin, Royal Governor, retreated.

1775 December 9, Battle of Great Bridge, near Norfolk, Va.

1776 February 27, Battle of Moore's Creek, N.C.

1776 August 27, Battle of Long Island.

1776 December 12, Constitution of North Carolina formed at Halifax.

1776 December 26, Battle of Trenton.

1776 Aug. & Sept., General Rutherford subdues the Cherokees.

1777 January 3, Battle of Princeton.

1777 September 11, Battle of Brandywine.

1777 October 4, Battle of Germantown.

1777 October 7, Battle of Saratoga.

1778 June 28, Battle of Monmouth

1779 March 3, Ashe defeated at Brier Creek.

1779 June 2 Battle of Stono, near Charleston.

1780 May 17 Surrender of Charleston.

1780 June 21, Battle of Ramsour's Mill.

1780 August 7, Battle of the Hanging Rock.

1780 August 16, Gates defeated at Camden.

1780 October 7, Battle of King's Mountain.

1781 January 17, Battle of the Cowpens.

1781 March 15, Battle of Guilford Court House.

1781 September 8, Battle of Eutaw.

1781 October 19, Battle of Yorktown.

1783 January 20, Treaty of peace at Versailles.

1783 September 3, England recognizes the Independence of the United

1787 May, Constitution of the United States formed.



North Carolina, in the days of her colonial existence, was the asylum
and the refuge of the poor and the oppressed of all nations. In her
borders the emigrant, the fugitive, and the exile found a home and
safe retreat. Whatever may have been the impelling cause of their
emigration--whether political servitude, religious persecution, or
poverty of means, with the hope of improving their condition, the
descendants of these enterprising, suffering, yet prospered people,
have just reason to bless the kind Providence that guided their
fathers, in their wanderings, to such a place of comparative rest.

On the sandy banks of North Carolina the flag of England was first
displayed in the United States. Roanoke Island, between Pamlico and
Albemarle Sounds, afforded the landing place to the first expedition
sent out under the auspices of Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1584. "The
fragrance, as they drew near the land, says Amadas in his report, was
as if they had been in the midst of some delicate garden, abounding in
all manner of odoriferous flowers." Such, no doubt, it seemed to them
during the first summer of their residence in 1584; and,
notwithstanding the disastrous termination of that, and several
succeeding expeditions, the same maritime section of North Carolina
has presented its peculiar features of attractiveness to many
generations which have since arisen there, and passed away. In the
same report, we have the first notice of the celebrated Scuppernong
grape, yielding its most abundant crops under the saline atmospheric
influence, and semi-tropical climate of eastern Carolina.

From the glowing description of the country, in its primitive
abundance, transmitted to Elizabeth and her court, they gave it the
name _Virginia_, being discovered in the reign of a _virgin Queen_.
But having failed in this and several other attempts of a similar
kind, Sir Walter Raleigh surrendered his patent, and nothing more was
done in colonizing Virginia during the remainder of that century.

In 1607, the first permanent settlement was made by the English at
Jamestown, Va., under the charter of the London or Southern Company.
This charter contained none of the elements of popular liberty, not
one elective franchise, nor one of the rights of self-government; but
religion was especially enjoined to be established according to the
rites and doctrine of the Church of England. The infant colony
suffered greatly for several years from threatened famine,
dissensions, and fear of the Indians, but through the energy and
firmness of Capt John Smith, was enabled to maintain its ground, and
in time, show evident signs of prosperity. The jealousy of arbitrary
power, and impatience of liberty among the new settlers, induced Lord
Delaware, Governor of Virginia in 1619, to reinstate them in the full
possession of the rights of Englishmen; and he accordingly convoked a
Provincial Assembly, the _first_ ever held in America. The
deliberations and laws of this infant Legislature were transmitted to
England for approval, and so wise and judicious were these, that the
company under whose auspices they were acting, soon after confirmed
and ratified the groundwork of what gradually ripened into the
_American representative system_. The guarantee of political rights
led to a rapid colonization. Men were now willing to regard Virginia
as their home. "They fell to building houses and planting corn." Women
were induced to leave the parent country to become the wives of
adventurous planters; and during the space of three years thirty-five
hundred persons of both sexes, found their way to Virginia. By various
modifications of their charter, the colonists, in a few years,
obtained nearly all the civil rights and privileges which they could
claim as British subjects; but the church of England was "coeval with
the settlement of Jamestown, and seems to have been considered from
the beginning as the established religion." At what time settlements
were first permanently made within the present limits of North
Carolina, has not been clearly ascertained. In 1622, the Secretary of
the colony of Virginia traveled overland to Chowan River, and
described, in glowing terms, the fertility of the soil, the salubrity
of the climate, and the kindness of the natives. In 1643, a company
obtained permission of the Virginia Legislature to prosecute
discoveries on the great river South of the Appomatox of which they
had heard, under a monopoly of the profits for fourteen years, but
with what measure of success has not been recorded. These early
exploring parties to the South, bringing back favorable reports of the
fertile lands of the Chowan and the Roanoke could not fail to excite
in the colony of Jamestown a spirit of emigration, many of whose
members were already suffering under the baneful effects of intolerant
legislation. In 1643, during the administration of Sir William
Berkeley, it was specially "ordered that no minister should preach or
teach, publicly or privately, except in conformity to the
constitutions of the church of England, and non-conformists were
banished from the colony."[A] It is natural to suppose that
individuals as well as families, who were fond of a roaming life, or
who disliked the religious persecution to which they were subjected,
would descend the banks of these streams until they found on the soil
of Carolina suitable locations for peaceable settlements.

In 1653, Roger Green led a company across the wilderness from
Nansemond, in Virginia, to the Chowan River, and settled near Edenton.
There they prospered, and others, influenced by similar motives, soon
afterward followed. In 1662, George Durant purchased of the Yeopim
Indians the neck of land, on the North-side of Albemarle Sound, which
still bears his name. It was settled by persons driven off from
Virginia through religious persecutions. In 1663, King Charles II,
granted to the Earl of Clarendon and seven other associates, the whole
of the region from the thirty-sixth degree of north latitude to the
river San Matheo, (now the St. John's) in Florida; and extending
westwardly, like all of that monarch's charters, to the Pacific Ocean.

At the date of this charter, (1663,) Sir William Berkeley, Governor of
Virginia, visited the infant settlement on the Chowan, and being
pleased with its evident signs of prosperity, and increasing
importance, appointed William Drummond the _first Governor_ of the
Colony of Carolina. Drummond was a Scotch Presbyterian, and,
inheriting the national characteristics of that people, was prudent,
cautious, and deeply impressed with the love of liberty. Such were the
pioneer settlements, and such was the first Governor of North
Carolina. The beautiful lake in the centre of the Dismal Swamp, noted
for its healthy water, and abundantly laid in by sea-going vessels,
perpetuates his name.

In 1665, it being discovered that the "County of Albemarle," as the
settlement on the Chowan was called, was not in the limits of the
Carolina charter, but in Virginia, King Charles, on petition, granted
an enlargement of that instrument so as to make it extend from
twenty-nine degrees to thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes, north
latitude. These charters were liberal in the concession of civil
rights, and the proprietors were permitted to exercise toleration
towards non-conformists, if it should be deemed expedient. Great
encouragement was held forth to immigrants from abroad, and
settlements steadily increased. They were allowed to form a
representative government, with certain limitations; and thus a degree
of popular freedom was conceded, which it seems, was not intended to
be permanent, but it could _never be recalled_; and had an important
influence in producing the results which we now enjoy. As the people
were chiefly refugees from religious oppression, they had no claims on
government, nor did they wish to draw its attention. They regarded the
Indians as the true lords of the soil; treated with them in that
capacity; purchased their lands, and obtained their grants. At the
death of Governor Drummond in 1667, the colony of Carolina contained
about four thousand inhabitants.

The first assembly that made laws for Carolina convened in the Fall of
1669. "Here," says Bancroft, "was a colony of men scattered among
forests, hermits with wives and children resting on the bosom of
nature, in perfect harmony with the wilderness of their gentle clime.
The planters of Albemarle were men led to the choice of their
residence from a hatred of restraint. Are there any who doubt man's
capacity for self-government? Let them study the history of North
Carolina. Its inhabitants were restless and turbulent in their
imperfect submission to a government imposed from abroad; the
administration of the colony was firm, humane, and tranquil when they
were left to take care of themselves. Any government but one of their
own institution was oppressive. North Carolina was settled by the
freest of the free. The settlers were gentle in their tempers, of
serene minds, enemies to violence and bloodshed. Not all the
successive revolutions had kindled vindictive passions; freedom,
entire freedom was enjoyed without anxiety as without guarantees. The
charities of life were scattered at their feet like the flowers of
their meadows."[B] No freer country was ever organized by man. Freedom
of conscience, exemption from taxation, except by their own consent;
gratuities in land to every emigrant, and other wholesome regulations
claimed the prompt legislative action of the infant colony. "These
simple laws suited a simple people, who were as free as the air of
their mountains; and when oppressed, were as rough as the billows of
the ocean."[C]

In 1707, a company of Huguenots, as the French Protestants were
called, settled on the Trent. In 1709, the Lords Proprietors granted
to Baron de Graffenreidt ten thousand acres of land on the Neuse and
Cape Fear rivers for colonizing purposes. In a short time afterward, a
great number of Palatines (Germans) and fifteen hundred Swiss followed
the Baron, and settled at the confluence of the Trent and the Neuse.
The town was called New Berne, after Berne, in Switzerland, the
birth-place of Graffenreidt. This was the first important introduction
into Eastern Carolina of a most excellent class of liberty-loving
people, whose descendants wherever their lots were cast, in our
country, gave illustrious proof of their valor and patriotism during
the Revolutionary war.

In 1729, the Lords Proprietors (except Lord Granville) surrendered the
government of the province, with all the franchises under the charter
of Charles II, and their property in the soil, to the crown for a
valuable consideration. The population at that time did not exceed ten
thousand inhabitants. George Burrington. Governor of the province
under the Lords Proprietors, was re-appointed to the same office by
the King. In February, 1731, he thus officially writes to the Duke of
New Castle. "The inhabitants of North Carolina are not industrious,
but subtle and crafty to admiration; always behaved insolently to
their Governors; some of them they have imprisoned; drove others out
of the country; and at other times have set up a governor of their own
choice, supported by men under arms. These people are neither to be
cajoled nor outwitted. Whenever any governor attempts to effect
anything by these means, he will lose his labor, and show his
ignorance." Lord Granville's part of the colony of North Carolina
(one-eighth) was not laid off to him, adjoining Virginia, until 1743.
At that date, a strong tide of emigration was taking place from the
Chowan and Roanoke, the pioneer attractive points of the colony, as
well as from abroad, to the great interior, and Western territory, now
becoming dotted with numerous habitations. The Tuscarora Indians, the
terrible scourge of Eastern Carolina, having been subdued, and entered
into a treaty of peace and friendship in 1718, no serious obstacle
interposed to prevent a Western extension of settlements. Already
adventurous individuals, and even families of hardy pioneers had
extended their migrations to the Eastern base of the "Blue Ridge," and
selected locations on the head-waters of the Yadkin and Catawba
rivers. In 1734, Gabriel Johnston was appointed Governor of North
Carolina. He was a Scotchman by birth, a man of letters and of liberal
views. He was by profession a physician, and held the appointment of
Professor of Oriental Languages in the University of Saint Andrews.
His addresses to the Legislature show that he fully appreciated the
lamentable condition of the colony through the imprudence and vicious
conduct of his predecessor (Burrington) and his earnest desire to
promote the welfare of the people. Under his prudent administration,
the province increased in population, wealth and happiness. At the
time of its purchase by the crown, its population did not exceed
thirteen thousand; it was now upwards of forty five thousand.

In 1754, Arthur Dobbs was appointed Governor by the crown. His
administration of ten years presented a continued contest between
himself and the Legislature on matters frivolous and unimportant. His
high-toned temper for royal prerogatives was sternly met by the
indomitable resistance of the colonists. The people were also much
oppressed by Lord Granville's agents, one of whom (Corbin) was seized
and brought to Enfield, where he was compelled to give bond and
security, produce his books, and disgorge his illegal fees. But
notwithstanding these internal commotions and unjust exactions, always
met by the active resistance of the people, the colony continued to
increase in power, and spread abroad its arms of _native inherent
protection_. During the entire administrations of Governors Johnston
and Dobbs, commencing in 1734 and ending in 1765, a strong tide of
emigration was setting into North Carolina from two opposite
directions. While one current from Pennsylvania passed down through
Virginia, forming settlements in its course, another current met it
from the South, and spread itself over the inviting lands and
expansive domain of the Carolinas and Georgia. Near the close of
Governor Johnston's administration (1750) numerous settlements had
been made on the beautiful plateau of country between the Yadkin and
Catawba rivers. At this time, the Cherokee Indians, the most powerful
of the Western tribes, still claimed the territory, as rightful "lords
of the soil," and were committing numerous depredations and occasional
murders. In 1756, Fort Dobbs about twenty miles West of Salisbury, was
built for the protection of the small neighborhood of farmers and
grazers around it. Even the thriving colony of "Albemarle county" on
the seaboard now felt its growing importance was beginning to call for
"more room," and seek new possessions in the interior, thus
unconsciously fulfilling the truth of the poet's prediction, "Westward
the course of empire takes its way."

On the 3d of April, 1765, William Tryon qualified as Commander
in-chief, and Captain-General of the Province of North Carolina. The
administration of Governor Tryon embraces an important period in the
history of the State. He was a soldier by profession, and being
trained to arms, looked upon the sword as the true scepter of
government. "He knew when to flatter, and when to threaten. He knew
when 'discretion was the better part of valor,' and when to use such
force and cruelty as achieved for him from the Cherokee Indians, the
bloody title of the 'Great Wolf of North Carolina.' He could use
courtesy towards the Assembly when he desired large appropriations for
his magnificent palace; and knew how to bring to bear the
blandishments of the female society of his family, and all the
appliances of generous hospitality."[D] Governor Tryon first met the
Assembly in the town of Wilmington on the 3d of May 1765. "In his
address, he opposed all religious intolerance, and, although he
recommended provision for the clergy out of the public treasury, yet
he advised the members of the Church of England of the folly of
attempting to establish it by legal enactment. Under such
recommendations, a law was passed legalizing the marriages (which
before were denounced as illegal) performed by Presbyterian ministers,
and authorizing them and other dissenting clergymen to perform that

On the 22nd of March, 1765, the Stamp Act was passed. This act
produced great excitement throughout the whole country, and no where
was it more violently denounced than in North Carolina. The
Legislature was then in session, and so intense and wide-spread was
the opposition to this odious measure, that Governor Tryon,
apprehending the passage of denunciatory resolutions, prorogued that
body after a session of fifteen days. The speaker of the House, John
Ashe, informed Governor Tryon that this law "would be resisted to
blood and death."

Early in the year 1766, the sloop-of-war, Diligence, arrived in the
Cape Fear River, having on board stamp paper for the use of the
province. The first appearance and approach of the vessel had been
closely watched, and when it anchored before the town of Brunswick, on
the Cape Fear, Col. John Ashe, of the county of New Hanover, and Col.
Hugh Waddell, of the county of Brunswick, marched at the head of the
brave sons of these counties to Brunswick, and notified the captain of
their determination to resist the landing of the stamps. They seized
one of the boats of the sloop, hoisted it on a cart, fixed a mast in
her, mounted a flag, and marched in triumph to Wilmington. The
inhabitants all joined in the procession, and at night the town was
illuminated. On the next day, Col. Ashe, at the head of a great
concourse of people, proceeded to the Governor's house and demanded of
him to desist from all attempts to execute the Stamp Act, and to
produce to them James Houston, a member of the Council, who had been
appointed Stamp Master for the Province. The Governor at first refused
to comply with a demand so sternly made. But the haughty
representative of kingly power had to yield before the power of an
incensed people, who began to make preparations to set fire to his
house. The Governor then reluctantly produced Houston, who was seized
by the people, carried to the market house, and there compelled to
take a solemn oath never to perform the duties of his office. After
this he was released and conducted by a delighted crowd, to the
Governor's Palace. The people gave three cheers and quietly dispersed.
Here we have recorded an act far more daring in its performance than
that of the famous Tea Party of Boston, which has been celebrated by
every writer of our national history, and

"Pealed and chimed on every tongue of fame."

It is an act of the sons of the "Old North State," not committed on
the crew of a vessel, so disguised as to escape identity; but on
royalty itself, occupying a palace, and in open day, by men of well
known person and reputation.

Another event of great historic importance occurred during the
administration of Governor Tryon. On the 16th of May, 1771, the battle
of Alamance was fought. It is here deemed unnecessary to enter into a
detail of the circumstances leading to this unfortunate conflict.
Suffice it to say the Regulators, as they were called, suffered
greatly by heavy exactions, by way of taxes, from the Governor to the
lowest subordinate officer. They rose to arms--were beaten, but theirs
was the _first blood shed_ for freedom in the American colonies. Many
true patriots, who did not comprehend the magnitude of their
grievances, fought against them. But the principles of right and
justice for which they contended could never die. In less than four
years, all the Colonies were found battling for the same principles,
and borne along in the rushing tide of revolution! The men on the
seaboard of Carolina, with Cols. Ashe and Waddell at their head, had
nobly opposed the Stamp Act in 1765, and prevented its execution; and
in their patriotic movements the people of Orange sustained them, and
called them the "Sons of Liberty." Col. Ashe, in 1766, had led the
excited populace in Wilmington, against the wishes and even the
hospitality of the governor. The assembled patriots had thrown the
Governor's roasted ox, provided for a barbecue feast, untasted, into
the river. Now, these patriotic leaders are found marching with this
very Governor to subdue the _disciples of liberty_ in the west. The
eastern men looked for evils from across the waters, and were prepared
to resist oppression on their shores before it should reach the soil
of their State. The western men were seeking redress for grievances
that oppressed them at home, under the misrule of the officers of the
province, evils scarcely known in the eastern counties, and
misunderstood when reported there. Had Ashe, and Waddell, and Caswell
understood all the circumstances of the case, they would have acted
like Thomas Person, of Granville. and favored the distressed, even
though they might have felt under obligations to maintain the peace of
the province, and due subordination to the laws. Herman Husbands, the
head of the Regulators, has been denounced by a late writer, as a
"turbulent and seditious character." If such he was, then John Ashe
and Hugh Waddell, for opposing the stamp law, were equally turbulent
and seditious. Time, that unerring test of principles and truth, has
proved that the spirit of liberty which animated the Regulators, was
the true spirit which subsequently led to our freedom from foreign

On the 24th of May, Tryon, after committing acts of revenge, cruelty
and barbarity succeeding the Alamance battle, returned to his palace
at Newbern, and on the 30th took shipping for New York, over which
State he had been appointed Governor. Josiah Martin was appointed by
the crown, Tryon's successor as Governor of North Carolina. He met the
Legislature, for the first time, in the town of Newbern, in November,
1771. Had he lived in less troublesome times, his administration might
have been peaceful and prosperous. Governor Martin had the misfortune
to differ very soon with the lower House of the Assembly; and during
the whole of his administration, these difficulties continued and grew
in magnitude, helping, at last, to accelerate the downfall of the
royal government. In this Assembly we find the names of a host of
distinguished patriots, as John Ashe, Cornelius Harnett, "the Samuel
Adams of North Carolina," Samuel Johnson, Willie Jones, Joseph Hews,
Abner Nash, John Harvey, Thomas Person, Griffith Rutherford, Abraham
Alexander, Thomas Polk, and many others, showing that, at that early
date, the Whig party had the complete control of the popular House of
the Assembly, in accordance with the recommendation of Governor
Martin, the veil of oblivion was drawn over the past unhappy troubles,
and all the animosities and distinctions which they created. The year
1772 passed by without a meeting of the Assembly; and the only
political event of any great importance, which occurred in the
Province, was the election of members to the popular House. Such was
the triumph of the Whig party, that in many of the counties there was
no opposition to the election of the old leaders, nor could the
Governor be said to have a party sufficiently powerful to effect an
election before the people, or the passage of a bill before the
Assembly. The Assembly, however, in consequence of two dissolutions by
the Governor, did not convene in Newbern until the 25th of January,
1773, and the popular House illustrated its political character by the
election of John Harvey to the office of Speaker. To this new Assembly
many of the leading members of the House in 1771, were returned.
Thomas Polk and Abraham Alexander were not members; the former having
been employed in the service of the Governor, as surveyor, in running
the dividing line between North and South Carolina, and the latter not
having solicited the suffrages of the people. The county of
Mecklenburg was, in the Assembly, represented by Martin Pheifer and
John Davidson.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Harvey, laid before that
body resolutions of the House of Burgess of Virginia (1773) of the
12th of March last; also, letters from the Speakers of the lower
houses of several other provinces, requesting that a committee be
appointed to inquire into the encroachments of England upon the rights
and liberties of America. The House passed a resolution that "such
example was worthy of imitation, by which means communication and
concert would be established among the colonies; and that they will at
all times be ready to exert their efforts to preserve and defend their
rights." John Harvey, (Speaker) Robert Howe, Cornelius Harnet, William
Hooper, Richard Caswell, Edward Vail, John Ashe, Joseph Hewes and
Samuel Johnston were this committee. This is the first record of a
legislative character which led to the Revolution.

During the summer of 1774 the people in all parts of the province
manifested their approbation of the proposed plan of calling a
Congress or Assembly, to consult upon common grievances; and in nearly
all the counties and principal towns meetings were held, and delegates
appointed to meet in the town of Newbern on the 25th of August, 1774.

On the 13th of August, Governor Martin issued a proclamation
complaining that meetings of the people had been held without legal
authority, and that resolutions had been passed derogatory to the
authority of the King and Parliament. He advised the people to forbear
attending any such meetings, and ordered the King's officers to oppose
them to the utmost of their power. But the delegates of the people
attended on the day appointed without any obstruction from the "king's
officers." The proclamation of Governor Martin availed nothing. (_Vox
et praeterea nil_.) Excited at this state of affairs, Governor Martin
consulted his council on the steps most proper to be taken in the
emergency. They advised him that "nothing further could be done." This
first Assembly, or Provincial Congress, independent of royal
authority, in Newbern, on the 25th of August, 1774, is an important
epoch in our history. It was the first act of that great drama of
revolutionizing events which finally achieved our independence.

After the adjournment of this Provincial Congress Governor Martin
visited New York, ostensibly for the "benefit of his health," and,
perhaps, for the benefit of his government. The tumults of the people
at Newbern, that raged around him, and which threatened to overthrow
his power, were, by his own confession, "beyond his control"; but he
hoped the influence of Governor Tyron, who still governed New York,
might assist him in restoring peace and authority in North Carolina.
Vain, delusive hope, as the sequel proved!

The year 1775 is full of important events, only a few of which can be
adverted to in this brief sketch. In February, 1775, John Harvey
issued a notice to the people to elect delegates to represent them in
a second Provincial Congress at Newbern on the 3rd of April, being the
same time and place of the meeting of the Colonial Assembly. This
roused the indignation of Governor Martin, and caused him to issue, on
the 1st of March, 1775, his proclamation denouncing the popular

In his speech to the Assembly, Governor Martin expressed "his concern
at this extraordinary state of affairs. He reminded the members of
their oath of allegiance, and denounced the meeting of delegates
chosen by the people, as illegal, and one that he should resist by
every means in his power." In the dignified reply of the House, the
Governor was informed that the right of the people to assemble, and
petition the throne for a redress of their grievances was undoubted,
and that this right included that of appointing delegates for such
purpose. The House passed resolutions approving of the proceedings of
the Continental Congress at Philadelphia (4th of Sept. 1774) and
declared their determination to use their influence in carrying out
the views of that body. Whereupon, the Governor, by advice of his
council, dissolved the Assembly, by proclamation, after a session of
four days.

Thus ceased forever all legislative action and intercourse under the
Royal government. Indeed, from the organization of the first
Provincial Congress or Convention, in Newbern (Aug. 25th, 1774)
composed of delegates "fresh from the people" the pioneers in our
glorious revolution, until Governor Martin's expulsion, North Carolina
was enjoying and exercising an almost unlimited control of _separate
governmental independence_. After the dissolution of the Assembly on
the 8th of April, 1775, Governor Martin lingered only a few days,
first taking refuge in Fort Jonston, and afterwards, on board of the
ship of war, the Cruiser, anchored in the Cape Fear River. Only one
more frothy proclamation (8th of Aug., 1775,) appeared from Governor
Martin, against the patriotic leaders of North Carolina, issued this
time, not from "the palace," at Newbern, but from a _cruising_ source
and out-look, and on a river, whose very name typified the real origin
of his departure, and present retirement.

These glimpses of the colonial history of North Carolina, necessary to
a proper understanding of the following sketches, will serve to
illustrate, in a limited degree, the character of her people, and
their unyielding opposition to all unjust exactions, and encroachment
of arbitrary power. While these stirring transactions were transpiring
in eastern Carolina, the people of Mecklenburg county moved, in their
sovereign capacity, the question of independence, and took a much
bolder, and more decided stand than the Colonial or Continental
Congress had as yet assumed. This early action of that patriotic
county, effected after mature deliberation, is one of the ever
memorable transactions of the State of North Carolina, worthy of being
cherished and honored by every lover of patriotism to the end of time.
The public mind had been much excited at the attempts of Governor
Martin to prevent the meeting of the Provincial Congress at Newbern,
and his arbitrary conduct in dissolving the Assembly, when only in
session four days, leaving them unprotected by courts of law, and
without the present opportunity of finishing many important matters of
legislation. In this state of affairs, the people began to think that,
since the proper, lawful authorities failed to perform their
legitimate duty, it was time to provide safe-guards for themselves,
and to throw off all allegiance to powers that cease to protect their
liberties, or their property.

A late author has truly said, "Men will not be fully able to
understand North Carolina until they have opened the treasures of
history, and become familiar with the doings of her sons, previous to
the revolution; during that painful struggle; and the succeeding years
of prosperity. Then will North Carolina be respected as she is




Mecklenburg county was formed in 1762 from Anson county, and named in
honor of the native place of the new Queen, Princess Charlotte, of
Mecklenburg, one of the smaller German States.

This county has a peculiar historical interest. It is the birth-place
of liberty on American soil. No portion of the State presents a more
glowing page of unflinching patriotic valor than Mecklenburg, always
taking an active part in every political movement, at home or abroad,
leading to independence.

The temper and character of the people were early shown. In 1766,
George A. Selwyn, having obtained, by some means, large grants of
lands from the British Crown, proceeded to have them surveyed, through
his agent, Henry E. McCullock, and located. On some of these grants,
the first settlers had made considerable improvements by their own
stalwart arms, and persevering industry. For this reason, and not
putting much faith in the validity of Selwyn's claims, they seized
John Frohock, the surveyor, and compelled him to desist from his work,
or _fare worse_. Here was manifested the early _buzzing_ of the
"Hornets' Nest." which, in less than ten years, was destined to
_sting_ royalty itself in these American colonies. The little village
of Charlotte, the seat of justice for Mecklenburg county, was in 1775,
the theater of one of the most memorable events in the political
annals of the United States. Situated on the beautiful and fertile
champaign, between the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers, and on the general
route of the Southern travel, and among the earliest settlements in
the Carolinas and Georgia, it soon became the centre of an
enterprising and prosperous population. The fertility of the soil, the
healthfulness of the climate, and abundance of cheap and
unappropriated lands, were powerful inducements in drawing a large
influx of emigrants from the Northern colonies, and from the Old
World. These natural features of middle and western Carolina; in
particular, were strongly attractive, and pointed out, under
well-directed energy, the sure road to prospective wealth and

The face of the country was then overspread with wild "pea vines," and
luxuriant herbage; the water courses bristled with cane brakes; and
the forest abounded with a rich variety and abundance of
food-producing game. The original conveyance for the tract of land,
upon which the city of Charlotte now stands, contained 360 acres, and
was made on the 15th day of January. 1767, by Henry E. McCullock,
agent for George A. Selwyn, to "Abraham Alexander, Thomas Polk, and
John Frohock as Trustees and Directors, of the town of Charlotte, and
their successors." The consideration was "ninety pounds, lawful
money." The conveyance was witnessed by Matthew McLure and Joseph

A few words of explanation, as to one of the Trustees, may be here
appropriate. The Frohock family resided in Rowan county, and, before
the revolution, exerted a considerable influence, holding places of
profit and trust. William Frohock was Captain of a military company,
and at one time, (1771) Deputy Sheriff under General Rutherford.
Thomas Frohock was Clerk of the Superior Court, in Rowan, and Senator
to the State Legislature from the town of Salisbury, in 1785 and 1786.
John Frohock, named in the conveyance, was, for several years, Clerk
of the County Court, an active Surveyor, and resided, during much of
his time in Mecklenburg, employed in the duties of his profession.

Soon after the town of Charlotte was laid out, a log building was
erected at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets, and in the
centre of the space now known as "Independence Square." This building
was placed upon substantial brick pillars, ten or twelve feet high,
with a stairway on the outside, leading to the court room. The lower
part, in conformity with primitive economy and convenience, was used
as a Market House; and the upper part as a Court House, and frequently
for church, and other public meetings. Although the original building
has long since passed away, yet it has historic associations connected
with its colonial and revolutionary existence, which can never cease
to command the admiration of every true patriot.

In May, 1775, its walls resounded with the _tones of earnest debate
and independence_, proclaimed from the court house steps. In
September, 1780, its walls resounded with the _tones of the musket_,
by the same people, who "knew their rights, and knowing, dared

At this period, there was no printing press in the upper country of
Carolina, and as no regular post traversed this region, a newspaper
was seldom seen among the people. Important information was
transmitted from one colony to another by express messengers on
horse-back, as was done by Captain Jack in bearing the Mecklenburg
Declaration to Philadelphia. The people were accustomed to assemble at
stated places to listen to the reading of printed hand-bills from
abroad, or to obtain verbal intelligence of passing events.

Charlotte early became the central point in Mecklenburg county for
these assemblages, and there the leading men often met at Queen's
Museum or College, to discuss the exciting topics of the day. These
meetings were at first irregular, and without system. It was finally
agreed that Thomas Polk, Colonel of the militia, long a surveyor in
the province, frequently a member of the Colonial Assembly, and a man
of great excellence of character should be authorized to call a
convention of the Representatives of the people whenever circumstances
seemed to require it. It was also agreed that such Representatives
should consist of two delegates from each Captain's Company, chosen by
the people of the several militia districts, and that their decisions,
when thus legally convened, should be binding upon the whole county.

When it became known that Governor Martin had attempted, by his
proclamation, issued on the 1st of March, 1775, to prevent the
Assembling of a Provincial Congress at Newbern, on the 3d of April
following; and when it was recollected that, by his arbitrary
authority, he had dissolved the last Provincial Assembly, after a
session of only four days, and before any important business had been
transacted, the public excitement became intense, and the people were
clamorous for some decisive action, and a redress of their grievances.
A large majority of the people were willing to incur the dangers
incident to revolution, for the sake of themselves, their posterity,
and the sacred cause of liberty.

In this State of the public mind, Col. Polk issued his notice to the
committee-men, two from each Captain's district, as previously agreed
upon, to assemble in Charlotte on the 19th of May, 1775, to consult
for the common good, and inaugurate such measures as would conduce to
that desirable end. The notice of the appointed meeting spread rapidly
through the county, and all classes of citizens, intuitively, as it
were, partook of the general enthusiasm, and felt the importance of
the approaching convention. On the appointed day, an immense concourse
of people, consisting of gray-haired sires, and vigorous youths from
all parts of the county, assembled in the town of Charlotte, then
containing about twenty-five houses, all anxious to know the result of
that ever-memorable occasion. After assembling in the court house,
Abraham Alexander, a venerable citizen and magistrate of the county,
and former member of the Legislature was made chairman; and John
McKnitt Alexander, assisted by Dr. Ephraim Brevard, Secretaries, all
men of business habits, and of great popularity. A full, free and
animated discussion upon the exciting topics of the day then ensued,
in which Dr. Ephraim Brevard, a finished scholar; Col. William Kennon,
an eminent lawyer of Salisbury, and Rev. Hezekiah J. Balch, a
distinguished Presbyterian preacher, were the chief speakers. During
the session of the convention, an express messenger arrived, bearing
the news of the wanton and cruel shedding of blood at Lexington on the
19th of April, just one month proceeding. This intelligence served to
increase the general patriotic ardor, and the assembly, as with one
voice, cried out, "Let us be independent. Let us declare our
independence, and defend it with our lives and fortunes." The speakers
said, his Majesty's proclamation had declared them out of the
protection of the British Crown, and they ought, therefore, to declare
themselves out of his protection, and be independent of his
government. A committee consisting of Dr. Brevard, Col. Kennon, and
the Rev. Mr. Balch, was then appointed to prepare resolutions suitable
to the occasion. The excitement of the people continued to increase,
and the deliberations of the convention, including the framing of
by-laws, and regulations by which it should be governed, as a standing
committee, were not completed until after midnight, showing the great
interest which every one felt, and that a solemn crisis had arrived
which demanded firm and united action for the common defence. Upon the
return of the committee, the chairman proceeded to submit the
resolutions of independence to the vote of the convention. All was
silence and stillness around (_intentique ora tenebant_). The question
was then put, "Are you all agreed." The response was one universal
"aye," not one dissenting voice in that immense assemblage. It was
then agreed that the proceedings should be read to the whole
multitude. Accordingly at noon, on the 20th of May, 1775, Colonel
Thomas Polk ascended the steps of the old court house, and read, in
clear and distinct tones, the following patriotic resolutions,


"_Resolved_, 1. That whoever directly or indirectly abetted, or in any
way, form or manner, countenanced the unchartered and dangerous
invasion of our rights, as claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to
this country, to America, and to the inherent, and inalienable rights
of man.

"_Resolved_, 2. That we, the citizens of Mecklenburg county, do hereby
dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the mother
country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the
British Crown and abjure all political connection, contract, or
association with that nation, who have wantonly trampled on our rights
and liberties, and inhumanly shed the blood of American patriots at

"_Resolved_, 3. That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and
independent people; are, and of right ought to be a sovereign, and
self-governing association, under the control of no power, other than
that of our God, and the general government of the congress; to the
maintenance of which independence, we solemnly pledge to each other
our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred

"_Resolved_, 4. That, as we acknowledge the existence and control of
no law, or legal officer, civil or military, within this county, we do
hereby ordain and adopt, as a rule of life, all, each, and every one
of our former laws; wherein, nevertheless, the crown of Great Britain
never can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or
authority therein.

"_Resolved_, 5 That, it is also further decreed that all, each, and
every military officer in this county is hereby retained in his former
command and authority, he acting conformably to these regulations. And
that every member present of this delegation shall henceforth be a
civil officer, viz.: a justice of the peace, in the character of a
committeeman, to issue process, hear and determine all matters of
controversy, according to said adopted laws; and to preserve peace,
union and harmony in said county; and to use every exertion to spread
the love of country, and fire of freedom throughout America, until a
more general and organized government be established in this

After the reading of these resolutions, a voice from the crowd called
out for "three cheers," and soon the welkin rang with corresponding
shouts of applause. The resolutions were read again and again during
the day to different parties, desirous of retaining in their memories
sentiments of patriotism so congenial to their feelings.

A copy of the proceedings of the convention was then drawn off, and
sent by express to the members of congress from North Carolina, at
that time in session at Philadelphia. Captain James Jack, a worthy and
intelligent citizen of Charlotte, was chosen as the bearer; and in a
few days afterward, set out _on horse-back_ in the performance of his
patriotic mission. Of his journeyings, and _perilous adventures_
through a country, much of it infested with Tories, we know but
little. Having faithfully performed the duties of his important trust,
by delivering the resolutions into the hands of the North Carolina
Delegation at Philadelphia (Caswell, Hooper and Hews,) he returned to
his home in Charlotte. He reported that our own Delegation, and
several members of Congress, manifested their entire approbation of
the earnest zeal and patriotism of the Mecklenburg citizens, but
deemed it premature to lay their resolutions before their body, as
they still entertained some hopes of reconciliation with the mother

A copy of the foregoing resolutions were also transmitted to the
Provincial Congress, at Hillsboro, and laid before that body on the
25th of August, 1775, but for the same prudential reasons as just
stated, they declined taking any immediate action.

It has been deemed proper to present this summarized statement of the
circumstances leading to the Mecklenburg Convention of the 19th and
20th of May, 1775, as a source of reference for those who have no
other history of the transaction before them. For a more extended
account of its proceedings, the reader is referred to the pamphlet
published by State authority in 1831, and to the exhaustive treatise
of the late Ex-Governor Graham on the authenticity of the Mecklenburg
resolutions, with notices of the principal actors and witnesses on
that ever-memorable occasion.

Since the publication of Governor Graham's pamphlet shortly before the
Centennial Celebration in Charlotte another copy of the Mecklenburg
resolutions of the 20th of May, 1775, has been found in the possession
of a grandson of Adam Brevard, now residing in Indiana. This copy has
all the outward appearances of age, has been sacredly kept in the
family, and is in a good state of preservation. Adam Brevard was a
younger brother of Dr. Ephraim Brevard, the reputed author of these
resolutions, frequently performed his brother's writing during the
active discharge of his professional duties, and was himself, a man of
cultivated intellect, and christian integrity. He kept a copy of these
patriotic resolutions, mainly with the view of preserving a memento of
his brother's hand writing, and vigor of composition--not supposing
for a moment, their authenticity would ever be called into question.
This venerable patriot, in a manuscript account of a celebration in
Iredell county on the 4th of July, 1824, in discoursing on a variety
of revolutionary matters, says among other things, he was in Salisbury
in June 1775, attending to his professional duties as a lawyer, and
that during the sessions of the General Court in that place, the
bearer of the Mecklenburg Declaration arrived on his way to
Philadelphia. When the object of his mission became known, and the
Mecklenburg resolutions of independence were read in open court, at
the request of Col. Kennon, several Tories who were present said they
were treasonable, and that the framers of them were "rushing headlong
into an abyss where Congress had not dared to pass. Their
intemperance, however, was suddenly arrested by a gentleman from the
same county, who had entered with all his powers into the impending
contest and offered to rest the propriety and justness of the
proceedings, both of Mecklenburg and the Delegate, upon a decision by
the _arm of flesh_ with any one inclinable to abide the result.
Matters, which threatened a conflict of arms were soon hushed up by
this direct argument _ad hominem_, the Delegate retired to rest for
the night, and, on the next morning, resumed his journey to

He also states, in the same manuscript, that in the autumn of the year
1776, he was one of the number who composed the College of Queen's
Museum, and lived with his brother, Dr. Ephraim Brevard, and that in
ransacking a number of his brother's papers thrown aside as useless,
he came across the fragments of a Declaration of Independence by the
people of Mecklenburg. Upon inquiry, his brother informed him they
were the rudiments out of which a short time before, he had framed the
instrument despatched to Congress. The same authority states that he
was in Philadelphia in the latter part of the year 1778, and until May
of the year 1779. During that time, William Sharp. Esq., of Rowan
county, arrived in Philadelphia, as a Delegate to Congress from North
Carolina. Amidst a variety of topics introduced for discussion was
that of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Hon. John Penn,
of North Carolina, said in presence of several members of Congress,
that he was "highly pleased with the bold and distinguished spirit
with which so enlightened a county of the State he had the honor to
represent had _exhibited to the world_, and, furthermore, that the
bearer of the instrument to Congress had conducted himself very
judiciously on the occasion by previously opening his business to the
Delegates of his own State, who assured him that the other States
would soon act in the same patriotic manner as Mecklenburg had done."

This important and additional testimony, here slightly condensed, but
facts not changed, is extracted from a communication in the _Southern
Home_, by Dr. J.M. Davidson, of Florida, a gentleman of great moral
worth and christian integrity, and grandson of Adam Brevard, a brother
of Dr. Ephraim Brevard, the reputed author of the Mecklenburg
Declaration of Independence.

A brief extract from Governor Martin's dispatch to the British
Secretary of State, dated 30th of June, 1775, as found in Wheeler's
"Historical Sketches," will now be given, which cannot be viewed in
any other light than that of disinterested evidence. The Governor
proceeds by saying, "the situation in which I find myself at present
is indeed, my Lord, most despicable and mortifying. ... I live, alas!
ingloriously, only to deplore it. ... The resolves of the Committee of
Mecklenburg, which your Lordship will find in the enclosed newspaper,
surpass all the horrid and treasonable publications that the
inflammatory spirits of the continent have yet produced; and your
Lordship may depend, its authors and abettors will not escape, when my
hands are sufficiently strengthened to attempt the recovery of the
lost authority of the Government. A copy of these resolves was sent
off, I am informed, by express, to the Congress at Philadelphia, as
soon as they were passed in the committee."

The reader will mark, in particular, the closing sentence of this
extract, as confirmatory of what actually took place on the 20th of
May, 1775. Captain James Jack, then of Charlotte, a worthy and
patriotic citizen, did set out a few days after the Convention
adjourned, on _horse back_, as the "express" to Congress at
Philadelphia, and faithfully executed the object of his mission. (For
further particulars, see sketch of the Jack Family.)

The resolutions passed by the county committee of safety on the 31st
of May following, and which some have erroneously confounded with
those of the 20th of May, were a necessary consequence, embracing
simply "rules and regulations" for the internal government of the
county, and hence needed no "express" to Congress.

The preceding testimony, conjoined with that of Gen. Joseph Graham,
Rev. Humphrey Hunter, Captain James Jack, the hearer of the
Mecklenburg Declaration to Congress, Rev. Francis Cummins, Major John
Davidson, Isaac Alexander and others, previously referred to in the
State pamphlet of 1831, and the exhaustive "Memoir" of the late
Ex-Governor Graham--all men of exalted worth and Christian integrity,
ought to be "sufficient to satisfy incredulity itself," as to the
genuineness of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and of its
promulgation to the world on the 20th of May, 1775. And yet, in the
face of this strong phalanx of unimpeachable testimony, there are a
few who have attempted to rob North Carolina of this brightest gem in
the crown of her early political history, and tarnish, by base and
insidious cavils the fair name and reputation of a band of
Revolutionary patriots, whose memories and heroic deeds the present
generation and posterity will ever delight to honor.

Mecklenburg sent as a Delegate to the first Provincial Congress direct
from the people, which met at Newbern on the 25th of August, 1774,
Benjamin Patton.

To the meeting at Hillsboro', on the 21st of August, 1775, Thomas
Polk, John Phifer, Waightstill Avery, John McKnitt Alexander, James
Houston, and Samuel Martin.

To the meeting at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776, John Phifer,
Robert Irwin and John McKnitt Alexander.

To the meeting at Halifax, on the 12th of November, 1776 (which formed
the first State Constitution) John Phifer, Robert Irwin, Waighstill
Avery, Hezekiah Alexander and Zaccheus Wilson.

All of these Delegates were unwavering patriots, and nearly all were
signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Not only were
the patriotic sons of Mecklenburg county active and vigilant in those
trying times, but no portion of our State was more constantly the
theater of stirring events during the drama of the American
Revolution. "Its inhabitants," says Tarleton in his campaigns, "were
more hostile to England than any others in America."


The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, proclaimed to the world
on the 20th of May, 1775, was celebrated in Charlotte on the 20th of
May, 1875, with all the honors and ceremonies befitting such an
important occasion. A vast assemblage of at least 25,000 persons were
present to enjoy the "welcome" extended to all, and participate in the
festivities of this gala day of North Carolina. For three days
preceding the grand holiday, (17th, 18th and 19th) visitors were
continually pouring into the city. Enthusiastic excitement and
necessary preparations were everywhere visible. Flags and streamers
greeted the eye in every direction. Many private residences were
handsomely decorated. One of the most _exalted_ ideas was a Centennial
pole, 115 feet high, erected by Capt. Thos. Allen, in the centre of
Independence Square, from the top of which floated to the breeze a
large flag, capped with a huge _hornet's nest_ from Stokes county. To
preserve the _Centennial_ feature as far as possible of the Convention
of the 19th of May, 1775, called out by Col. Thos. Polk, accordingly,
on the 19th of May, 1875, a procession was formed, and the military
companies formed into a hollow square around the Centennial pole, the
bands, in the meantime, rendering sweet music, and the artillery
firing minute guns. The Mayor, Col. William Johnston, then addressed
the multitude, extending to them a cordial welcome in behalf of the
citizens and authorities of Charlotte; after which Governor Brogden
was introduced, and spoke substantially as follows: He said the
principles of liberty enunciated by the fathers of the revolution, one
hundred years ago, upon the spot he then occupied would live
throughout all time. Here, as free American citizens, they had
proclaimed the principles which North Carolina had ever since upheld,
and of which this glorious flag, which waves protection to American
citizens on land and sea was the star-gemmed type. Under this old flag
we have a duty to perform in peace as well as in war. We have the
principles of the fathers of the Mecklenburg Declaration to maintain.
All should remember the sacrifices which gave us the right to that
standard of our country; and we should not forget our duty to North
Carolina, and her daughter, Tennessee, to the sister State of South
Carolina, and to the whole country. Alluding to the growth of the
United States in one hundred years, the Governor said that at the date
of the Mecklenburg declaration of Independence, there were not more
than six post-offices in North Carolina; now there are nine hundred
post-offices; then there was no steam traveling; now there are twelve
hundred miles of rail-way in this State alone. He hoped the country
would go on to prosper in the fulness of civil liberty until there was
no opposition to the principles we cherish. In the name of North
Carolina he welcomed all her sons to this festival, and the sons of
all other sister States.

May 20th, 1875--Centennial morning! Of the large number of illustrious
patriots who participated in the exercises of the Mecklenburg
Convention of the same date, 1775, not one was present to animate us
with their counsel, or speak of the glorious deeds of the
Revolutionary period--all having succumbed to the irrevocable fiat of
nature, and passed to "that bourne whence no traveler returns." Their
example, their precepts, and sacrifices in the cause of freedom,
constitute their rich and instructive heritage to us. A cloudless sky,
a balmy atmosphere, and a glow of patriotic feeling beaming on every
countenance, all conspired to add impressiveness to the scene, and
awaken hallowed remembrances of the past. Agreeably to the published
programme, the day was ushered in by the ringing of bells, and a
salute of one hundred guns by the Raleigh and Richmond artillery. From
six o'clock in the morning until several hours afterward, the whistles
of locomotives every few minutes told of the arrival of trains, packed
with visitors, firemen, military and bands of music. The various
committees were kept busy in directing the movements and assigning
quarters for the organized bodies; while landlords and keepers of
boarding-houses showed an accommodating spirit, and received visitors
until their utmost capacity for room was more than exhausted--full to
overflowing. And, although some difficulty was observed in procuring
bed room, yet an abundance of provisions was everywhere exhibited for
the comfort and well-being of the "inner man."


General Joseph E. Johnston, Chief Marshal, having been prevented from
attending on account of severe sickness. General W.R. Cox, of Raleigh,
was selected to fill his place. General Bradley T. Johnston, of
Richmond, was placed in charge of the Military Department, and John C.
Gorman of the Fire Department. The soldiers were nearly all dressed in
gray suits, and the firemen in red and black, except the Wilmington
company, which also appeared in gray. While the Chief Marshal and his
assistants were endeavoring to bring order out of the immense mass of
humanity in the streets, six splendid bands from Richmond, Newbern,
Raleigh, Wilmington, Fayetteville and Salem, besides the Cadet band of
the Carolina Military Institute, were exerting their sonorous energies
to move the listening million by "concord of sweet sounds," and
thereby prevent them from ever becoming subjects "fit for treason,
stratagems and spoils."

At half-past ten o'clock the grand pageant was fully displayed. As far
as the eye could reach the brilliant procession filled the streets,
presenting a glittering, undulating line of infantry, artillery,
firemen, laddermen, axemen, zouaves, cadets, grangers, masons,
templars, highlanders, citizens, &c, with gleaming arms, rustling
flags, soul-stirring music, and other manifestations of patriotic
enthusiasm. Nearly every window, piazza and house-top was crowded with
feminine loveliness, to cheer with their smiles and lend their
graceful approbation to the _moving_ exhibitions of the occasion. On
the side-walks "miles of spectators" were seen submitting to the
stifling effects of clouds of dust, with the laudable desire "to see
and be seen." While immense flags were floating to the breeze across
the principal streets, countless numbers of miniature ones, in red,
white and blue, fluttered from windows and porches. A large number of
military and fire companies followed by delegations of the Masonic
Order, Good Templars, Odd Fellows, Caledonian Clubs, Grangers, invited
guests, visitors, &c, all joined in the grand procession to the fair


Arriving at the Fair Grounds, the immense concourse of people gathered
around the large stand, which had been erected amidst a clump of
trees, for the ladies and invited guests. The stand was beautifully
decorated with evergreens, festoons, flags, hornets' nests, and other
emblematic devices. The ladies of the city had been diligently weaving
these evergreen and floral adornments for several days preceding the
Centennial. A precious bouquet and wreath, sent by Mrs. L.H. Walker,
from the grounds of Washington's tomb at Mt. Vernon, added a venerated
sanctity to the whole.

At 11 o'clock, Rev. Dr. A.W. Miller, of the First Presbyterian Church,
opened the exercises with an eloquent prayer. The "Old North State"
was then rendered in stirring tones by the Citizens' Band.

Ex-Gov. Graham then called the assembly to order, and said there was
cause to congratulate the vast assemblage of patriotic citizens
convened on this centennial occasion, for the bright, auspicious
weather that prevailed, and for the general health and prosperity of
the country. He felt highly gratified with the patriotic
demonstration, and rejoiced to see in our midst so many prominent
citizens from sister States. The Governor of North Carolina, and
several of the Judges of her Courts were present. The Governor of the
far-off State of Indiana, (Mr. Hendricks,) was here, representing one
of the great Western States which sprung from old Virginia. There was
a representative present (Mr. Bright) from Tennessee, the daughter of
North Carolina. The Governor (Mr. Chamberlain) of South Carolina; the
ex-Governor (Mr. Walker) of Virginia, and a large delegation from both
of these States were all present to participate in the centennial
festivities. In the name of North Carolina, he bade all a hearty

After the conclusion of ex-Gov. Graham's remarks Maj. Seaton Gales, of
Raleigh, was introduced to the audience, who, previous to the reading
of the Mecklenburg Resolves, delivered a short address expressing his
entire confidence in their authenticity.

The orator of the day, Judge John Kerr, of the fifth Judicial
District, was then introduced amidst loud applause. He spoke for half
an hour in stirring, eloquent language, worthy of his high reputation
as an impressive speaker.

Hon. John M. Bright, of Tennessee, was next introduced. He delivered
an address of great power, abounding with many interesting historical
facts relating to the early history of North Carolina, and the
character of her people. As these speeches will be published, it is
deemed unnecessary to present a synopsis of their contents.

The speeches being concluded, the invited guests, firemen, military,
&c., marched into Floral Hall, and were entertained with toasts, short
addresses and music, while the cravings of hunger were rapidly
dispelled by the sumptuous food, and rich viands set before them.

On Thursday night, a stand having been erected around the Centennial
Pole in Independence Square, a number of short and stirring addresses
were made by ex-Gov. Hendricks, of Indiana; ex-Gov. Walker, of
Virginia; Gov. Chamberlain, of South Carolina; Gov. Brogden, of North
Carolina; ex-Gov. Vance, Gen. W.R. Cox, Gen. T.L. Clingman, Judge
Davidson and Col. H.M. Polk, the latter two of Tennessee.

Gov. Hendricks, at the commencement of his address, spoke
substantially as follows:

"This is one of the greatest celebrations that has ever
taken place in this country. Here your fathers, and mine,
one hundred years ago, declared themselves free of the
British crown. I need not refer to the events since. In
intelligence, wealth and power, we are ahead of the world.
Right here I must tell you that the fame of the Mecklenburg
Declaration belongs not to the people of Mecklenburg alone,
nor to the State of North Carolina, but its fame belongs to
Indiana as well--in fact, to all the States of the Union. I
claim a common participation in the glory of this great
event. They were not only patriots, these Mecklenburgers of
1775, but they were also wise statesmen. One has but to
carefully read this Declaration to discern the truth of this
statement. The resolutions looked to a delegation of powers
in the Continental Congress for their protection against
enemies abroad, and all general purposes of nationality, but
they assert most unequivocally the right of local
self-government, and all the reserved powers not plainly
granted to the general government. These old patriots showed
their wisdom by providing against an interim of anarchy for
want of lawful officers to protect life and property; so
they resolved that each military and civil officer under the
Provincial government should retain all their authority. I
ask the people of North Carolina to join with us in the
National celebration, to take place in Philadelphia in 1876.
Shall I see North Carolina represented there? (Cries of yes!
yes!) What a lesson it will be to the whole country! The
troubles of the war can be yet settled by a system of good

Other speakers indulged in similar patriotic sentiments.

After the speaking was over on Centennial night, the Mayor (Colonel
Johnston) ascended the stand, and congratulated the large audience
upon the excellent order and good feeling which had prevailed from the
beginning to the end of the exercises. He thanked those present for
their attendance and participation in the honors and festivities of
the occasion.

Then commenced the pyrotechnical display which had been witnessed to
some extent during the intervals of the addresses. The "rocket's red
glare," without the "bombs bursting in air," gave proof _on that
night_ our people were there. The streets, and the houses in the
vicinity were never before so handsomely illuminated, and a brilliant
and appropriate closing scene of "the day we celebrate" conspicuously
displayed on a broad waving banner. Hundreds of the descendants of the
patriots of Mecklenburg, and surrounding country, were present, as
well as a goodly number of descendants of kindred spirits from the
Cape Fear region, whose ancestors proved themselves "rebels" by
_stamping underfoot the stamp paper_ intended for the use of the
Colony--an act "worthy of all Roman, or Grecian fame." The celebration
of the 20th of May, 1875, was a grand success--such a celebration as
has never before occurred in the history of North Carolina, and will
never again be witnessed by the present generation. May the Centennial
of the 20th of May, 1975, be still more successful, pass off with the
same degree of order and good feeling, and be attended with all the
blessings of enlightened civil and religious liberty!


Among the honored invited guests of the Mecklenburg Centennial, on the
20th of May, 1775, was James Belk, of Union county (formerly a part of
Mecklenburg), now upwards of one hundred and ten years old! As
recorded in a family Bible, printed in Edinburg in 1720, he was born
on the 4th of February, 1765. He still resides on the same tract of
land upon which he was born and raised, his father being one of the
original settlers of the country. He is a man of fine intelligence;
acted for many years as one of the magistrates of Mecklenburg county,
and is still well preserved in mind and body. He recollects the death
of his father, who was mortally wounded in the Revolutionary war, near
the North Carolina line, and knows that his mother, fearing the
mournful result, visited the place of conflict, and found him,
severely wounded, in the woods near the road-side. She assisted him to
their home, but soon afterward had him transferred to the residence of
his grandfather for better attention, where he died.

He remembers distinctly the great meeting in Charlotte (then upwards
of ten years old) on the 20th of May, 1775, when a Declaration of
Independence was read by Colonel Polk, and heard his father speak of
it, in presence of the family, after his return from Charlotte. His
mother seemed to be greatly disturbed, supposing it would bring on
war. Although then but a youth of tender years, the _scene_ and the
_declaration_ made an indelible impression upon his memory. He says
his recollection of events of that period, and a few years
subsequently, is more vivid and distinct than those which transpired
thirty years ago.

He has been twice married, having ten children by the first, and
twelve by the last wife. He was accompanied to the centennial meeting
by one of his younger sons, a lad _forty-one years_ of age. His oldest
child, a daughter, is still living, aged _eighty-eight years!_ He
named one of his sons Julius Alexander, an intimate friend and junior
schoolmate. As he and Alexander grew up, they frequently heard the two
meetings of the 20th and 31st of May, 1775, spoken of as being
separate and distinct.

Having already attained a longevity seldom allotted to frail humanity,
may continued health, prosperity, and, above all, the consolations of
the Gospel, attend him in his remaining days upon earth!

P.S.--Thus the author wrote soon after the centennial celebration in
Charlotte, on the 20th of May, 1875, but before these sketches go to
the press, he is informed of the death of this veteran and worthy
citizen; passing away calmly and peacefully, at his home in Union
county, N.C. on the 9th of May, 1876, at the extreme old age of _one
hundred and eleven years three months and five days!_


_Abraham Alexander_, the Chairman of the Mecklenburg Convention of the
19th and 20th of May, 1775, was born in 1718, and was an active and
influential magistrate of the county before and after the Revolution,
being generally the honored chairman of the Inferior Court. He was a
member of the popular branch of the Assembly in 1774-'75, with Thomas
Polk as an associate; also one of the fifteen trustees of Queen's
Museum, which institution, in 1777, was transformed into "Liberty Hall

After the involuntary retreat of Josiah Martin, the royal Governor, in
June, 1775, from the State, its government was vested in--1. A
Provincial Council for the whole province. 2. A District Committee of
Safety for each county, of not less than twenty-one persons, to be
elected annually by the people of each county. The members of the
Provincial Council for the Salisbury district were Samuel Spencer and
Waightstill Avery. The members of the District Committee of Safety
were John Brevard, Griffith Rutherford, Hezekiah Alexander, James
Auld, Benjamin Patton, John Crawford, William Hill, John Hamilton,
Robert Ewart, Charles Galloway, William Dent, Maxwell Chambers. The
county committee, elected annually by the people in each county,
executed such orders as they received from the Provincial Council, and
made such rules and regulations as the internal condition of each
county demanded. They met once in three months at the Court-house of
their respective counties, to consult on public measures, to
correspond with other committees, to disseminate important
information, and thus performed the duties and requirements of courts.
The county committees exercised these important functions until
justices of the peace were appointed by the Legislature and duly
commissioned by the Governor.

It was this committee which met in Charlotte on the 31st of May, 1775,
and passed a series of rules and regulations for the internal
government of the county--a necessary sequel, as previously stated, of
the more important meeting of the 20th of May preceding. This
statement is strongly corroborated by a communication published last
summer in the "Charlotte Observer," by D.A. Caldwell, Esq., one of
Mecklenburg's most aged, intelligent and worthy citizens. The portion
of the communication most pertinent to our subject reads thus:

"I was born and raised in the house of my maternal
grandfather, Major John Davidson, who was one of the signers
of the Mecklenburg Declaration. I have often heard him speak
of the 20th of May, 1775, as the day on which it was signed,
and the 31st of the same month as the time of an adjourned
meeting. The '20th of May' was a household word in the
family. Moreover, I was present (and am now the only
surviving witness of the transaction) when he gave a
certificate of the above dates to Dr. Joseph McKnitt
Alexander, whose father, John McKnitt Alexander, was also a
signer, and the principal secretary of the meeting. This
certificate was called forth by the celebrated attempt of
Thomas Jefferson to throw discredit on the whole affair. A
certificate to the same effect was given on that occasion by
Samuel Wilson, a brother-in-law of Major Davidson, and a man
of undoubted integrity. Mr. Wilson, although not a signer,
was present at the signing on the 20th of May. I often heard
my grandfather allude to the date in later years, when he
lived with his daughter, Mrs. William Lee Davidson, whose
husband was the son of General Davidson, who fell at Cowan's

Under the administration of Abraham Alexander as Chairman of the
Committee of Safety, the laws passed by that body of vigilant
observers of the common good were strictly enforced; and each citizen,
when he left the county, was required to carry with him a certificate
of his _political standing_, officially signed by the chairman.

Abraham Alexander was a most worthy, exemplary and influential member
of society; was, for many years, a Ruling Elder of the Presbyterian
Church, and lies buried in the graveyard of Sugar Creek Church. On his
gravestone is this brief record:

"Abraham Alexander,
Died on the 22nd of April, 1786,
Aged 68 years."

"'Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end
be like his.'"

_Adam Alexander_ was chiefly known by his military services. He was
appointed Lieutenant Colonel of a battalion of minute men, with Thomas
Polk as Colonel, and Charles M'Lean as Major, by the Provincial
Council held at Johnston Court-house, on the 18th of December, 1775;
and Colonel of Mecklenburg county, with John Phifer as Lieutenant
Colonel, and John Davidson and George A. Alexander as Majors, by the
Provincial Congress, held at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776.

He was a brave and energetic officer; and his name will be found in
nearly every expedition which marched from Mecklenburg county to
oppose the enemies of his country. He was for many years, before and
after the war, an acting Justice of the Peace, and tradition speaks of
him as bearing an excellent character. He died in 1798, aged seventy
years, and is buried in the old graveyard of Rock Spring, seven miles
east of Charlotte. Many of his descendants lie buried in the graveyard
at Philadelphia Church, two miles from Rock Spring, at which latter
place the congregation worshipped before the Revolution, mingling with
their pious devotion many touching and prayerful appeals for the final
deliverance of their country from the storms of the approaching
conflict of arms in a righteous cause.

_Hezekiah Alexander_ was more of a statesman than a soldier. He was
born in Pennsylvania in 1728. He was appointed a member of the
Committee of Safety for the Salisbury district by the Provincial
Congress which met at Hillsboro on the 21st of August, 1775, with
General Griffith Rutherford, John Brevard, Benjamin Patton and
others--a position of much responsibility and power. He was appointed
by the Provincial Congress, in April, 1776, with William Sharpe, of
Rowan county, on the Council of Safety. He was elected a member of the
Provincial Congress from Mecklenburg county, which met at Halifax on
November 12th, 1776, and framed the first Constitution of the State,
with Waightstill Avery, Robert Irwin, John Phifer, and Zaccheus
Wilson, as colleagues. At the Provincial Congress, which met at
Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776, he was appointed Paymaster of the
Fourth Regiment of North Carolina Continentals--Thomas Polk, Colonel,
James Thackston, Lieut. Colonel, and William Davidson, Major. He was
the treasurer of "Liberty Hall Academy" (formerly "Queen's Museum")
during its existence. He died on the 16th of July, 1801, and lies
buried in the graveyard of Sugar Creek Church, of which he had long
been an active and worthy member. The inscription on his tombstone
reads thus:

"In memory of Hezekiah Alexander,
Who departed this life July 16th, 1801,
Aged 73 years."

_John McKnitt Alexander_, of Scotch-Irish ancestors, was born in
Pennsylvania, near the Maryland line, in 1733. He served as an
apprentice to the trade of tailor, and when his apprenticeship
expired, at the age of twenty-one, he emigrated to North Carolina,
joining his kinsmen and countrymen in seeking an abode in the
beautiful champaign between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers--the land of
the deer and the buffalo; of "wild pea-vines" and cane-brakes, and of
peaceful prosperity. In 1759 he married Jane Bain, of the same race,
from Pennsylvania, and settled in Hopewell congregation. Prospered in
his business, he soon became wealthy and an extensive landholder, and
rising in the estimation of his fellow-citizens, was promoted to the
magistracy and the Eldership of the Presbyterian Church. He was a
member of the Provincial Assembly in 1772, and one of the Delegates to
the Convention which met at Hillsboro, on the 21st of August, 1775.

He was also a member of the Provincial Congress, which met at Halifax
on the 4th of April, 1776, with John Phifer and Robert Irwin as
colleagues. In 1777, he was elected the first Senator from Mecklenburg
county, under the new Constitution. He was an active participator in
the Convention of the 19th and 20th of May, 1775, and preserved for a
long time, the records, as being its principal secretary, and the
proper custodian of its papers. He gave copies of its important and
ever-memorable proceedings to Gen. William R. Davie, Dr. Hugh
Williamson, then _professing_ to write a history of North Carolina,
and others. Unfortunately, the original was destroyed in 1800, when
the house of Mr. Alexander was burned, but Gen. Davie's copy has been
preserved. He was one of the Trustees of the "College of Queen's
Museum," the name of which was afterward changed to "Liberty Hall." He
was for many years, a ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church, and by
his walk and conversation, its firm supporter.

By the east wall of the graveyard at Hopewell Church, is a row of
marble slabs, all bearing the name of Alexander. On one of them, is
this short inscription:

"John McKnitt Alexander,
Who departed this life July 10th, 1817,
Aged 84."

It is a singular fact, that the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration
were all, with perhaps one or two exceptions, members of the
Presbyterian Church. One of them, Rev. Hezekiah J. Balch, was a
Presbyterian preacher, and nine others Elders of that Church, which
may be truly styled, at and before the Revolution, the "nursing mother
of freemen."

_Waightstill Avery_ was an eminent lawyer, born in the town of Groton,
Connecticut, in 1747, and graduated at Princeton College in 1766.
There were eight brothers of this family, and all true patriots; some
of them were massacred at Fort Griswold, and some perished at Wyoming
Valley. Some of the descendants still reside at Groton, Conn., and
others at Oswego, and Seneca Lake, N.Y. He studied law on the eastern
shore of Maryland, with Littleton Dennis. In 1769, he emigrated to
North Carolina, obtained license to practice in 1770, and settled in
Charlotte. By his assiduity and ability, he soon acquired numerous
friends. He was an ardent advocate of liberty, but not of

In 1778, he married near Newbern, Mrs Leah Frank, daughter of William
Probart, a wealthy merchant of Snow Hill, Md., who died on a visit to
London. He was a member of the Provincial Congress which met at
Hillsboro on the 21st of August, 1775. In 1776, he was a delegate to
the Provincial Congress which met at Halifax to form a State
Constitution, with Hezekiah Alexander, Robert Irwin, John Phifer and
Zaccheus Wilson as colleagues. He was appointed to sign proclamation
bills by this body. On the 20th of July, 1777, with William Sharpe,
Joseph Winston and Robert Lanier, as associates, he made the treaty of
the Long Island of the Holston with the Cherokee Indians. This treaty,
made without an oath, is one that has never been violated. In 1777, he
was elected the first Attorney General of North Carolina.

In 1780, while Lord Cornwallis was encamped in Charlotte, some of the
British soldiery, on account of his well-known advocacy of
independence, set fire to his law office, and destroyed it, with all
his books and papers. In 1781, he moved to Burke county, which he
represented in the Commons in 1783-'84-'85 and '93; and in the Senate
in 1796. He was held in high esteem by all who knew him, and died at
an advanced age, in 1821. At the time of his death he was the
"Patriarch of the North Carolina Bar;" an exemplary Christian, a pure
patriot, and of sterling integrity. He left a son, the late Colonel
Isaac T. Avery, who represented Burke county in the Commons in 1809
and 1810, and three daughters, one of whom married William W. Lenoir;
another, Thomas Lenoir, and the remaining one, Mr. Poor, of Henderson

_Rev. Hezekiah J. Balch_ was born at Deer Creek, Harford county, Md.,
in 1748. He was said to be the brother of Col. James Balch, of
Maryland, and the uncle of the late distinguished Rev. Stephen B.
Balch, D. D., of Georgetown, D. C. He graduated at Princeton in 1766,
when not quite eighteen years old, in the class with Waightstill
Avery, Luther Martin, of Maryland, Oliver Ellsworth, of Connecticut,
and others. He came to North Carolina in 1769, as a missionary, being
appointed for this work by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia.
Although ordained before the war, he served four years as Captain of a
company in Maryland, under General Somerville. Soon after this
service, he removed to North Carolina, and settled on "Irish Buffalo
Creek," in Cabarrus county. He was the first Pastor of Rocky River and
Poplar Tent Churches, where he continued to faithfully labor in the
cause of his Divine Master, until the time of his death. Abundant in
every good word and work, he took an active part in moulding the
popular mind for the great struggle of the approaching Revolution. He
combined in his character, great enthusiasm with unflinching firmness.
He looked to the achievement of principles upon which a government of
well-regulated law and liberty could be safely established, and which
should be removed from its strong foundations no more forever. Hence,
he was a prominent actor in the Convention at Charlotte on the 19th
and 20th of May, 1775, which declared independence of the British
crown. But in the inscrutable ways of Providence, he did not live long
enough to see the warmest wish of his heart gratified--the
independence of his country, for which he was ready, if necessary, to
yield up his life in its achievement. He died in the spring of 1776,
in the midst of his usefulness, and his mortal remains repose in the
old graveyard of Poplar Tent Church.

On the occasion of a railroad meeting at Poplar Tent Church in 1847,
attention was called to the fact that no monument of any kind marked
the grave of this eminent divine and patriot; whereupon, a voluntary
subscription was immediately made, and the necessary funds promptly
raised to build a suitable monument to his memory. Fortunately, Abijah
Alexander, then ninety years of age, was still living, a worthy
citizen, and long a member of Poplar Tent Church, who was present at
the burial of his beloved pastor, and who could point out the precise
spot of sepulture, near the centre of the old graveyard. The following
is a copy of the inscription over his grave:

"Beneath this marble are the mortal remains of the Rev.
Hezikiah J. Balch, first pastor of Poplar Tent congregation,
and one of the original members of Orange Presbytery. He was
licensed a preacher of the everlasting gospel, of the
Presbytery of Donegal in 1766, and rested from his labors
A.D. 1776; having been pastor of the united congregations of
Poplar Tent and Rocky River, about seven years. He was
distinguished as one of the Committee of Three who prepared
the Declaration of Independence, and his eloquence, the more
effectual from his acknowledged wisdom, purity of motive and
dignity of character, contributed much to the unanimous
adoption of that instrument on the 20th of May, 1775."

_Dr. Ephraim Brevard_, the reputed author of the Mecklenburg
Declaration of Independence, proclaimed on the 20th of May, 1775, was
born in Maryland in 1744. He came with his parents to North Carolina
when about four years old. He was the son of John Brevard, one of the
earliest settlers of Iredell, then Rowan, county, and of Huguenot
descent. At the conclusion of the Indian war in 1761, he and his
cousin, Adlai Osborne, were sent to a grammar school in Prince Edward
county, Va. About a year later, he returned to North Carolina and
attended a school of considerable notoriety in Iredell county,
conducted successively by Joseph Alexander, (a nephew of John McKnitt
Alexander) David Caldwell, then quite young, and Joel Benedict, from
the New England States. Adlai Osborne, Ephraim Brevard and Thomas
Reese (a brother of David Reese, one of the signers), graduated at
Princeton College in 1768, and greatly contributed by talents and
influence to the spread and maintenance of patriotic principles. Soon
after graduation, Ephraim Brevard commenced the study of medicine
under the celebrated Dr. Alexander Ramsey, of South Carolina, a
distinguished patriot and historian of the Revolutionary war.

In 1776, Dr. Brevard joined the expedition of General Rutherford in
his professional capacity, during the Cherokee campaign. Soon after
this service he settled in Charlotte, where he married a daughter of
Col. Thomas Polk, and rapidly rose to eminence in his profession. He
had one child, Martha, who married Mr. Dickerson, the father of the
late James P. Dickerson, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the South Carolina
regiment in the Mexican war, and who died from a wound received in a
battle near the City of Mexico. After the death of his beloved and
youthful wife, Dr. Brevard again entered the Southern army, as
"surgeon's mate," or assistant surgeon, under General Lincoln, in
1780, and was made a prisoner at the surrender of Charleston.

While engaged as one of the teachers in the Queen's Museum he raised a
company, from the young men of that institution, to assist in putting
down the Tories assembled on Cape Fear River. Of this company he was
made captain. They marched immediately in the direction of Cross Creek
(Fayetteville), but, on learning of the dispersion of the Tories, they
returned home. Inheriting from his family a devotion to liberty and
independence, he early became distinguished for his patriotic ardor
and decision of character. He was a fine scholar, fluent writer, and
drew up the resolutions of independence which the Convention of the
20th of May, 1775, adopted, with very slight alteration, acting as one
of the secretaries. During his confinement in Charleston, as a
prisoner of war, he suffered so much from impure air and unwholesome
diet that his health gave way, and he returned home only to die. He
reached the house of his friend and fellow patriot, John McKnitt
Alexander, in Mecklenburg county, where he soon after breathed his
last. He lies buried in Charlotte, in the lot now owned by A.B.
Davidson, Esq., near the grave of his beloved wife, who, a short time
before, preceded him to the tomb. Upon this lot was located the
Queen's Museum College, receiving, in 1777, the more patriotic name of
"Liberty Hall Academy." Within its walls were educated a Spartan band
of young men, who afterward performed a noble part in achieving the
independence of their country.

_Richard Barry_ was born in Pennsylvania, of Scotch-Irish descent, and
joining the great southern emigration of that period, he settled in
Mecklenburg county, in the bounds of the Hopewell congregation, many
years previous to the Revolution. In this vicinity he married Ann
Price, and raised a numerous family. A.M. Barry, Esq., who now (1876)
resides at the old homestead, is the only surviving grandson. Mrs.
A.A. Harry, Mrs. G.L. Sample and Mrs. Jane Alexander, are the only
surviving grand-daughters. He acted for many years as one of the
magistrates of the county, and was a worthy and useful member of
society. He was a true patriot and soldier, and was present at the
affair of Cowan's Ford, when General Davidson was killed, on the 1st
of February, 1781. After this short conflict he, David Wilson and a
few others, secured the body of General Davidson, conveyed it to the
house of Samuel Wilson, Sen., where, after being properly dressed, it
was moved by these devoted patriots to the graveyard of Hopewell
Church, and there buried by _torch-light_.

_John Davidson_ was born in Pennsylvania in 1736. He performed much
civil and military service to secure the independence of his country.
He was appointed by the Provincial Congress, which met at Halifax on
the 4th of April, 1776, a field officer (Major) with Adam Alexander as
Colonel, John Phifer as Lieutenant Colonel, and George A. Alexander as
second Major. He was with General Sumpter in August, 1780, at the
battle of the Hanging Rock, and was a General in the State militia
service. He was enterprising, and successful in business. With
Alexander Brevard, and Joseph Graham, his sons-in-law, he established
Vesuvius Furnace and Tirza Forge iron works in Lincoln county. He
married Violet, daughter of Samuel Wilson, Sr., and raised a large
family. His daughter, Isabella, married Joseph Graham; Rebecca married
Alexander Brevard; Violet married William Bain Alexander, son of John
McKnitt Alexander; Elizabeth married William Lee Davidson, son of
General Davidson, who fell at Cowan's Ford; Mary married Dr. William
McLean; Sallie married Alexander Caldwell, son of Rev. David Caldwell,
of Guilford county; Margaret married Major James Harris. He had only
two sons, John (or "Jackey") and Robert; John married Sallie Brevard,
daughter of Adam Brevard; Robert married Margaret Osborne, daughter of
Adlai Osborne, grandfather of the late Judge James W. Osborne, of

Major Davidson's residence was about one mile east of Toole's Ford, on
the Catawba river. A large Elm, of his own planting, is now growing in
front of the old family mansion, with over-arching limbs, beneath
whose beneficent shade the old patriot could quietly sit in summer,
(_sub tegmine patulae ulmi_) whilst surrounded with some of his
children, grand-children, and other blessings to cheer his earthly
pilgrimage to the tomb.

_Robert Irwin_ was a distinguished officer, and performed important
military service during the Revolutionary War. In 1776, he and William
Alexander each, commanded a regiment under General Rutherford, in the
expedition from Mecklenburg, Rowan, Lincoln, and other counties, to
subdue the Cherokee Indians, who were committing murders and numerous
depredations upon the frontier settlements.

After the fall of Charleston many of the unsubdued Whigs sought
shelter in North Carolina. Early in July, 1780, General Sumter had
taken refuge in Mecklenburg county, and having enlisted a considerable
number of brave and dashing recruits in that chivalric region,
returned to South Carolina prepared for new and daring exploits. Soon
thereafter, accompanied by Colonels Neal, Irwin, Hill and Lacy, he
made a vigorous assault against the post of Rocky Mount, but failed in
reducing it for the want of artillery. After this assault General
Sumter crossed the Catawba, and marched with his forces in the
direction of Hanging Rock. In the engagement which took place there,
and, in the main successful, the right was composed of General Davie's
troops, and some volunteers under Major Bryan; the centre consisted of
Colonel Irwin's Mecklenburg Militia, which made the first attack; and
the left included Colonel Hill's South Carolina Regulars.[G] In 1781
Colonel Irwin commanded a regiment under General Rutherford, in the
Wilmington campaign. He was a delegate to the Provincial Congress,
which met at Halifax, on the 4th of April, 1776, with John McKnitt
Alexander and John Phifer as colleagues. He was again a delegate to
the Provincial Congress which met at Halifax, on the 12th of November,
1776, which body formed our first Constitution. His last civil
services were as Senator from Mecklenburg county, in 1797,-'98-'99 and
1800. For many years he was a worthy and influential Elder of the
Presbyterian Church at Steele Creek. He died on the 23rd of December,
1800, aged sixty-two years.

_William Kennon_ was an early and devoted friend of liberty. He was an
eminent lawyer, resided in Salisbury, and had a large practice in the
surrounding counties. He was one of the prominent advocates for
_absolute independence_ at the Convention in Charlotte, on the 19th
and 20th of May, 1775. He, with Mr. Willis, a brother-in-law, Adlai
Osborne, and Samuel Spencer (afterward Judge Spencer), took an active
part in arresting two obnoxious lawyers, John Dunn and Benjamin Booth
Boote, preceding the Revolution, in giving utterance to language
inimical to the cause of American independence.

They were conveyed to Charlotte for trial, and being found guilty of
conduct inimical to the American cause, they were transported to
Camden, S.C., and finally to Charleston, beyond the reach of their
injurious influence. Colonel Kennon was a member of the first Congress
which met at Newbern on the 25th of August, 1774, in opposition to
royalty, and "fresh from the people," with Moses Winslow and Samuel
Young as colleagues. He was also a delegate to the same place in
April, 1775, with Griffith Rutherford and William Sharpe as
colleagues; and to the Provincial Congress at Hillsboro, in August,
1775, associated with William Sharpe, Samuel Young and James Smith. In
1776, he was appointed commissary of the first regiment of State
troops. He was ever active and faithful in the discharge of his
duties. Soon after the Revolutionary war he moved to Georgia, where he
died at a good old age.

_Benjamin Patton_ was one of the earliest settlers in the eastern part
of Mecklenburg county (now Cabarrus). He was a man of iron firmness
and of indomitable courage. Descended from the blood of the
Covenanters, he inherited their tenacity of purpose, sagacity of
action and purity of character. He was an early and devoted friend of

He was a delegate to the Provincial Congress which met at Newbern on
the 25th of August, 1774. This was the first meeting of
representatives direct from the people. The royal Governor, Josiah
Martin, issued his proclamation against its assembling, as being
without legal authority. It constitutes an illustrious epoch in our
colonial history, transpiring nearly two years before Congress _would
dare to pass_ a national declaration. Although it was not a battle, or
conflict of arms, yet it was the first and leading act in a great
drama, in which battles and blood were the _direct and inevitable
consequences_. Had Governor Martin the power at that time, he would
have seized every member of this "rebellious" body and tried them for
treason. In this dilemma, he summoned his ever obsequious Council for
consultation, who, becoming alarmed at the "signs of the times,"
declared "nothing could be done."

Tradition informs us that Mr. Patton, not being able to procure a
horse, or any conveyance, walked all the way from Charlotte to
Newbern, about three hundred miles rather than not be present to vote
with those determined on _liberty_ or _death_. Although then advanced
in years, he showed all the enthusiasm of youth. At the Provincial
Congress which met at Hillsboro on the 21st of August, 1775, he was
appointed Major of the second Continental regiment, with Robert Howe
as Colonel, and Alexander Martin as Lieutenant Colonel. Of his
military record, in such high position, little is known, but we find
him acting as a member of the Committee of Safety for Mecklenburg
county, with very full powers, associated with John Paul Barringer and
Martin Phifer. They were a "terror unto evil doers." He was a man of
considerable learning, of ardent temperament, and of Christian
integrity. He died near Concord, in Cabarras county, at a good old
age, and is buried on the banks of Irish Buffalo Creek. No monument
marks his grave:

"They carved not a line, they raised not a stone.
But left him alone in his glory."

_John Phifer_ was born in Cabarrus county (when a part of Bladen) in
1745. He was the son of Martin Phifer, a native of Switzerland, and of
Margaret Blackwelder. He raised a numerous family, who inherited the
patriotic spirit of their ancestors. The original spelling of the name
was _Pfeifer_. He resided on "Dutch Buffalo" Creek, at the Red Hill,
known to this day as "Phifer's Hill." He was the father of General
Paul Phifer, grandfather of General John N. Phifer of Mississippi, and
great grandfather of General Charles H. Phifer, a distinguished
officer in the battle of "Shiloh," in the late war between the States.
At the Provincial Council, held at Johnston Court House in December,
1775, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the first battalion of
"Minute Men," in the Salisbury District; General Griffith Rutherford,
Colonel, and John Paisley, Major. He was a member of the Provincial
Congress which met at Hillsboro on the 21st of August, 1775,
associated with Thomas Polk, Waightstill Avery, James Houston, Samuel
Martin and John McKnitt Alexander; and also of the Congress which met
at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776, with Robert Irwin and John
McKnitt Alexander.

By this latter body, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the


Back to Full Books