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

Part 3 out of 6

Tories, under Colonel John Moore, but failed to reach that place
before they had been subdued and routed by Colonel Locke and his brave

General McLeary was in the fight against a considerable body of Tories
assembled at Coulson's Mill, at which place General Davidson was
severely wounded.

After this service he again volunteered in Captain William Alexander's
company, Colonel Irwin's regiment, watching the movements of the
enemy. About two miles south of Charlotte, Lieutenant James Taggart
captured two wagons loaded with valuable supplies from Camden for the
British army, then encamped near the former place. In this dashing
exploit, two of the British guard were killed, and the remainder made
prisoners, who were afterward turned over to Colonel Davidson. At the
same time, an express was captured from Lord Cornwallis to Colonel
Turnbull, in command of the forces at Camden. Here, as elsewhere in
the surrounding country, it will be seen the vigilant "hornets" of
Mecklenburg were engaged in their accustomed work.

Captain Alexander's command continued to hang on the enemy's rear for
the purpose of making rapid captures and picking up stragglers, and
followed them to the Old Nation Ford, on the Catawba. Colonel Davidson
having been promoted in the meantime to the rank of Brigadier General,
marched down and encamped near Six Mile Creek, where he was joined by
Generals Morgan and Smallwood, in November, 1780. Near this time
General Morgan was ordered to move with a detachment to the relief of
the upper districts of South Carolina. He set off immediately, and
remained there until after the battle of the Cowpens, on the 17th of
January, 1781.

General McLeary again volunteered in Captain John Brownfield's
company, in General Davidson's brigade, watching the movements of Lord
Cornwallis in his pursuit of General Morgan, encumbered with five
hundred prisoners on his way to a place of safety in Virginia.

General Davidson, anticipating the movements of Cornwallis, had placed
guards at four or five crossing-places on the Catawba river, making
his headquarters near the Tuckasege Ford, on the eastern bank of the
river. On the 31st of January, he left his headquarters to inspect the
position of his guard at Cowan's Ford. Here the British army crossed
at dawn of day, on the 1st of February, 1781. At the close of the
skirmish which ensued, General Davidson was killed. General McLeary
continued in service until after the battle of Guilford, when he
returned home, and was soon afterward discharged. He was highly
respected, represented his county several times in the State
Legislature, and died at a good old age.


Major Thomas Alexander, born in 1753, was one of the earliest and most
unwavering patriots of Mecklenburg county. He first entered the
service in 1775, as a private, in Captain John Springs' company, and
marched to the head of the Catawba river, to assist in protecting the
frontier settlements, then greatly suffering from the murderous and
depredating incursions of the Cherokee Indians. In 1775 he also
volunteered in Captain Ezekiel Polk's company, and marched against the
Tories assembled at the post of Ninety, in South Carolina.

In 1776 he volunteered in Captain William Alexander's company, under
Colonels Adam Alexander and Robert Irwin, General Rutherford
commanding, and marched to the Quaker Meadows, at the head of the
Catawba, and thence across the Blue Ridge to the Cherokee country.
Having severely chastised the Indians and compelled them to sue for
peace, the expedition returned.

In 1779, he volunteered under Captain William Polk and marched to
South Carolina, to subdue the Tories on Wateree River. Soon after this
service he was appointed captain of a company to guard the magazine in
Charlotte, which, on the approach of Cornwallis, in September, 1780,
was removed to a place of safety on the evening before his Lordship's

After Cornwallis left Charlotte, Captain Alexander raised a company of
mounted men to guard the Tuckasege Ford. He occupied this position
until it was known Cornwallis had crossed the Catawba River, at
Cowan's Ford.

After the death of General Davidson he placed himself under Colonel
Lee, of the Continental line, Gen. Pickens commanding, and marched to
Hillsboro, near which place they defeated Colonel Pyles, a Tory
leader, on Haw River. After this service he volunteered under Colonel
Davie and was with him at the battle of Hanging Rock. After Gates'
defeat he was appointed Quarter-master, with orders to attend the
hospital in Charlotte.

Major Alexander married Jane, daughter of Neil Morrison, one of the
signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and died in
1844, at the age of ninety-two years.

In the "Charlotte Journal," of January 17th, 1845, an obituary notice
of this veteran patriot was published, in which it is stated, "he was
allied by blood to the two most distinguished families of the
period--the Polks and Alexanders, and in his own person blended many
of the qualities peculiar to each. He was remarkable for the highest
courage and the greatest modesty; for marked dignity of personal
deportment, and a disposition the most cheerful, and a heart
overflowing with kindness. He crowned all his virtues by a simple,
unostentatious and humble piety, and concluded a life, protracted to a
period far beyond that allotted to mankind, without a blot, and
without reproach, and with the respect, the affection and veneration
of all who knew him."


Captain William Alexander was born in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, in
the year 1749. He was long and well known in Mecklenburg county, N.C.,
among numerous other persons bearing the same name, as "Capt. Black
Bill Alexander," from being the reputed leader of a small band of
ardent patriots who, in 1771, _blackened their faces_, and destroyed
the king's powder, on its way to Hillsboro, to obey the behests of a
cruel and tyrannical governor. (For further particulars, see sketch of
"Black Boys" of Cabarrus County.)

He first entered the service of the United States as captain of a
company, in 1776, under Colonel Adam Alexander, and marched to the
head of the Catawba River. The object of this expedition was to
protect the valley of the Catawba from the incursions and depredations
of the Cherokee Indians during the time the inhabitants were gathering
in their harvest. He again entered the service: as captain, under
Colonel Adam Alexander, General Rutherford commanding, and marched to
the head of the Catawba River, and across the Blue Ridge Mountains,
against the Cherokee Indians, who were completely routed and their
towns destroyed, compelling them to sue for peace.

In 1780 he commanded a company under Col. Francis Locke, and marched
from Charlotte for the relief of Charleston, but finding the city
closely invested by the British army, the regiment fell back to
Camden, and remained there until their three months' service had

He again served a four months' tour as captain, under General Sumter,
and was in the battles of Rocky Mount, Hanging Rock, and in the
skirmish at Wahab's (now written Walkup's.)

He also served six weeks as captain under Colonel Thomas Polk, in the
winter of 1775-6, known as the "Snow Campaign," against the Tory
leader, Cunningham, in South Carolina.

He again served a three months' tour as captain in the Wilmington
expedition, General Rutherford commanding, immediately preceding the
battle of Guilford, but was not in that action, on account of an
attack of small-pox.

He again marched with General Rutherford's forces against the Tories
assembled at Ramsour's Mill, in Lincoln county, but the action having
taken place shortly before their arrival, they assisted in taking care
of the wounded and in burying the dead.

He again entered the service as captain, for ten months, under General
Sumter, in Colonel Wade Hampton's regiment in South Carolina, and was
the first captain who arrived with his men at the place of rendezvous.

He was also in the fight at the Quarter House, Monk's Corner, capture
of Orangeburg, battle of Eutaw, and in numerous other minor but
important services to his country.

Captain William Alexander resided on the public road leading to
Concord, six miles east of Charlotte, where he died on the 19th of
December, 1836, aged about eighty-seven years.


Elijah Alexander, son of William Alexander, blacksmith, was born in
Mecklenburg county, N.C., in 1760. In 1819, he moved to Maury county,
Tenn., where he died at a good old age. In March, 1780, Colonel Thomas
Polk called out detachments from the nearest companies of militia to
serve as a guard over the public powder placed in the magazine in
Charlotte. He then volunteered for three months under Captain Thomas

After Cornwallis crossed the Catawba River at Cowan's Ford, on the 1st
of February, 1781, at which place General Davidson was killed, a call
was made for more men to harass the progress of the British army. For
this purpose, a rendezvous was made at the "Big Rock" in Cabarrus
county, under Colonel William Polk, Major James Harris and Captain
Brownfield. At this time, the small-pox broke out in camp, from the
effects of which Moses Alexander, a brother of Governor Nathaniel
Alexander, died. After the battle of Guilford, on the 15th of March,
1781, General Greene returned to South Carolina to recover full
possession of the State. He then joined his army under Captain James
Jack (the bearer of the Mecklenburg Declaration to Congress in 1775)
and in Colonel Thomas Polk's regiment. The command marched from
Charlotte, along the "Lawyer's Road," to Matthew Stewart's, on Goose
Creek, and thence towards Camden, to fall in with General Greene's
army. They halted at the noted "Flat Rock," and eat beef butchered on
that wide-spread natural table. The command then marched to Rugeley's
Mill, where it remained a week or more. After this service he returned
home and was honorably discharged.


Captain Charles Alexander was born in Mecklenburg county, N.C.,
January 4th, 1753. He first entered the service of the United States
as a private in July, 1775, in the company of Captain William
Alexander, and Colonel Adam Alexander's regiment, General Rutherford
commanding, and marched across the Blue Ridge Mountains against the
Cherokee Indians. The expedition was completely successful; the
Indians were routed, and their towns destroyed.

He next served as a private for two months, commencing in January,
1776, known as the "Snow Campaign," in Captain William Alexander's
company, and Colonel Thomas Folk's regiment, and marched to Rayburn's
creek, where the Tories were dispersed. In one of the skirmishes,
William Polk was wounded in the shoulder.

In October, 1776, he again served under the same Captain, and in
Colonel Caldwell's regiment, but the command of the regiment during
this tour of duty, was under Major Thomas Harris, who marched to
Camden, S.C., and remained there about three months.

In 1776, he served in the cavalry company of Captain Charles Polk, who
marched to Fort Johnson, near the mouth of Cape Fear river, Colonel
Thomas Polk commanding. He again served as a private in 1778, in the
company of Captain William Gardner and Lieutenant Stephen Alexander,
General Rutherford commanding, who marched to Purysburg, S.C., and
there joined the regulars under General Lincoln, at a camp called the
"Black Swamp." In 1780, shortly after Gates' defeat, he joined Captain
William Alexander's company, and Colonel Thomas Polk's regiment, under
General Davie, marched to the Waxhaws, and was in the engagement
fought there against the Tories.

He again served under Captain William Alexander, as one of the guard
over wagons sent to Fayetteville to procure salt for the army.

In September, 1781, he was elected Captain of a cavalry company, under
Major Thomas Harris, and marched against the Tories at Raft Swamp.

Besides the tours herein specified, Captain Alexander performed other
important services, of shorter duration, in scouring the surrounding
country, and protecting it against the troublesome Tories.

In 1814, Captain Alexander moved to Giles, now Lincoln county, Tenn.,
and in 1833, to Maury county, where he died at an extreme old age.

The Alexanders, who performed a soldier's duty in the Revolutionary
War, residing principally in Mecklenburg county, were very numerous,
several of whom can here receive only a passing notice.

_John Alexander_, son of James Alexander, was in active service for
upwards of five years. He was the husband of Mrs. Susanna Alexander,
long known and highly esteemed in Mecklenburg county as the
ministering angel, who was eminently instrumental in saving the life
of Captain Joseph Graham, after he was cut down by the British
cavalry, near Sugar Creek Church, and left by them, supposed to be
dead. She found him by the roadside, conducted him to her house,
dressed his wounds, made by ball and sabre, and tenderly cared for him
during the night. On the next day, his symptoms becoming more
favorable, she conveyed him to his mother's, about four miles distant,
_on her own pony_. Her husband died in 1805. In 1846, when eighty-six
years of age, and in needy circumstances, she was granted a pension by
the General Government, in behalf of her husband's military services,
and lived to be nearly one hundred years old, enjoying the kind regard
and veneration of all who knew her.

_Dan Alexander_, who moved to Hardeman county, Tenn., was born in
Mecklenburg county, in March, 1757.

He first entered the service in 1778, for three months, in Captain
William Alexander's company, (commonly called "Black Bill Alexander,")
and Colonel Irwin's regiment.

In 1780, he served under Captain Thomas Alexander to assist in
guarding the public magazine in Charlotte.

In this same year he served in the expedition to Ramsour's Mill, under
General Rutherford, and afterward, against Tories assembled in the
forks of the Yadkin river, captured several and conveyed them to
Salisbury jail. Soon afterward, he joined the command of Colonel
Davie, and marched in the direction of Camden, S.C. Near the South
Carolina line, they met Gates' retreating army. He represented Gates
as "wearing a _pale blue coat, with epaulettes, velvet breeches, and
riding a bay horse_."

Colonel Davie's command returned, and encamped ten miles north of the
Court House.

His last important service was in forming one of the party dispatched
by Colonel McCall to surprise a guard of eighteen British grenadiers,
stationed at Hart's Mill, near Hillsboro. The movement was successful;
several were killed, six made prisoners, and one escaped in the creek.

_William Alexander_, of Rowan county, entered the service in 1776, and
marched under General Rutherford's command against the Cherokee
Indians, and in that expedition (Sept. 8th,) was wounded in the foot
at the "Seven Mile Mountain."

In 1781, he was elected the Captain of a company of spies, and was in
the ten month's service under Colonel Wade Hampton and General
Sumter, in South Carolina, acting efficiently in this capacity, until
the close of the Revolution.


Joseph Kerr was born in Chester county, Pa., Nov. 3rd, 1750. At an
early age moved with his parents to North Carolina, and settled in
Mecklenburg county. He was a _cripple from infancy_, but becoming
indignant at the ravages of the British and Tories, and actuated with
a true, patriotic spirit, he repaired to the camp of Gen. McDowell and
offered his services as _a spy_. In this capacity Gen. McDowell
accepted him, and immediately sent him to Blackstock's Ford, on Tiger
River, S.C., where the British and Tories were encamped, about fifteen
hundred strong. After secreting his horse he proceeded as _a poor
cripple, and beggar-like_, made a full examination of the enemy's
camp. Furnished with this information, he quietly withdrew, returned
quickly as possible to General McDowell, and apprised him and Captain
Steen of his discoveries. He was well mounted, and traveled day and
night--a distance of ninety miles. General McDowell's forces, upon
this intelligence, marched in great haste, attacked the enemy near
Blackstock's Ford, and routed them. In this engagement four of Captain
Steen's men were killed and seven wounded. He took no prisoners and
gave no quarters. Kerr then returned to Mecklenburg county, and soon
after joined Colonel Williams' command as _a spy_. Captain Steen
informed Colonel Williams that he might safely rely upon Kerr in this
kind of service. They then marched to join the _over-mountain boys_,
under Sevier, Shelby and other officers. Upon the junction of their
forces, a council of war was immediately held, at which Kerr was
present. They learned that Ferguson was about twenty miles from them,
at Peter Quinn's old place, six miles from King's Mountain. The result
of the council of war was that he (Kerr) should go and reconnoiter
Ferguson's camp. He did so without delay, and found the British and
Tories encamped--arms stacked, and about twelve hundred strong.

As a _poor, innocent cripple_, they informed him they were ready and
willing to give "protection" to all who would join them. He soon
afterwards withdrew, mounted his fleet charger, and in a brief space
of time reported to Colonels Shelby, Sevier and other officers the
enemy's strength and situation. Acting upon his report, these officers
marched that night a distance of twenty-seven miles, and reached the
mountain on the next day, about three o'clock. After a brief
consultation as to the plan of the engagement, Ferguson was vigorously
attacked on his boasted eminence of security, and, after a fierce
conflict of about one hour, was completely conquered. Ferguson and two
hundred and twenty-five of his men were killed; one hundred and eighty
wounded, and upwards of six hundred made prisoners. The loss of the
Whigs was twenty-eight killed and a great many wounded. Colonel
Williams was severely wounded in the groin, from the effects of which
he died a few hours after the battle. In a few days after this
victory, Kerr returned to Mecklenburg county, to the house of his
uncle, Joseph Kerr. The brave Captain Steen was afterwards killed by
the Tories. He was from Union county, S.C., and not far from
"Thicketty Mountain," in the district known as Ninety-six.

At the instance of Captain Barnett, in command of some refugees who
returned with him to Mecklenburg, Kerr was sent to York county, S.C.,
to gain information of the enemy's force and position. His crippled
condition readily gained him access to the camp of Colonel Floyd and
Major Hook--the latter in charge of the dragoons. He was recognized by
some of the Tories, and came very near losing his life. He managed,
however, to escape, and traveled all night in order to inform Captain
Barnett of the enemy's strength. Captain Barnett immediately set out
with thirty-one men, and uniting with Captains Bratton and McLure,
completely surprised and routed the enemy, killing ninety-seven, among
the number Major Hook and Colonel Ferguson, of the Tory militia. This
was Kerr's last service as a spy. After the war he moved to Tennessee,
and died in White county, at a good old age.


Robert Kerr, a soldier of the Revolution, was born in December, 1750,
in Chester county, Pennsylvania, and came to North Carolina with his
parents when only three years old.

He first entered the service in 1776, in Captain John McKnitt
Alexander's company, in the expedition, General Rutherford commanding,
against the Cherokee Indians, then severely molesting the frontier

In 1778, he was drafted into Captain John Brownfield's company,
Colonel Frances Locke's regiment, and marched by way of Camden, to the
defence of Charleston. After his return, he served under the same
officers in the battle of Ramsour's Mill, in Lincoln county.

When Cornwallis was in Charlotte in 1780, he served under Captain
James Thompson, the gallant leader of the Spartan band against the
foraging party at McIntire's farm, seven miles from Charlotte, on the
Beattie's Ford road.

In December, 1780, he joined the company of Captain John Sharpe, at
which time, General Davidson, with his accustomed vigilance and
activity, announced that all who would then promptly volunteer for six
weeks, such service should stand for a three months tour. On this
occasion he volunteered, and served under Captain William Henry.

After the death of General Davidson at Cowan's Ford, he was placed in
Colonel Locke's regiment, General Pickens commanding, which forces
were ordered to harass and impede the march of Cornwallis to Guilford
Court House. This was his last important military service.


Henry Hunter was born in the county of Derry, Ireland, on the 11th of
August, 1751. About the time he became of age, he married Martha
Sloan, and, after remaining a little upwards of one year longer in
Ireland, he emigrated to America, and landed at Charleston, S.C.,
after a long and boisterous voyage of thirteen weeks. After reaching
the shores of the New World, to which his fond anticipations of
superior civil and religious privileges had anxiously turned, on
surveying his situation, grim poverty stared him in the face; for, his
stock of cash on hand was just "one silver half dollar." Yet, being
raised to habits of industry, he did not despair, feeling assured
that, "where there is a _will_ there is a _way_" to act in earnest,
and battle against the adverse fortunes of life.

Finding in Charleston a wagon from North Carolina, he made suitable
arrangements with its owner, and accompanied it on its return to
Mecklenburg county, whither his mother and four brothers had emigrated
several years before, and settled in the neighborhood of Poplar Tent
Church. Here, by strict economy, and persevering industry, he was
prospered as a farmer; blest in his "basket and his store," and soon
enabled to purchase a comfortable homestead for himself and his rising

When the war of the Revolution broke out, being deeply imbued from
childhood with the principles of liberty, and the justness of the
American cause, he did not hesitate to assist in the great struggle
for freedom.

He first entered the service of the United States as a volunteer in
Captain William Alexander's company, Colonel George Alexander's
regiment, and marched to suppress a large body of Tories assembled
under Colonel John Moore at Ramsour's Mill, near the present town of
Lincolnton, but failed to reach that place before the battle had been
fought and the Tories signally routed by Colonel Locke and his brave

He next entered the service under Captain Thomas Alexander, and was
ordered to Charlotte for the purpose of guarding the public magazine
in that place. Captain Alexander succeeded in having it removed to a
place of safety on the evening before the entrance of the British army
into Charlotte on the 26th of September, 1780.

He again entered the service a short time afterward, in Captain
William Alexander's company, and Colonel George Alexander's regiment.
The rendezvous of the regiment was about four miles south of
Charlotte. After this service, on account of severe local injury, he
was honorably discharged by Colonel Alexander.

Henry Hunter had twelve children, ten sons and two daughters. He was
signally blest to see them all attain the age of maturity, and settle
on comfortable homes around him. His wife, Martha, the worthy partner
of his joys and sorrows, and whose earthly pilgrimage was protracted
beyond the usual bounds of life, died on the 30th of September, 1832,
in the eightieth year of her age.

He was long a consistent member and ruling Elder of the Associate
Reformed Presbyterian Church. Like a sheaf fully ripe in its season,
he met his approaching end with peaceful resignation. On his
tombstone, in a private cemetery, on the old homestead property, is
the following inscription:

"In Memory of HENRY HUNTER,
Who departed this life on the 18th of May, 1836, in the
eighty-sixth year of his age, leaving a posterity of eleven
children, and one hundred grand children, with thirty
great-grand children to mourn his loss."


James Orr was born in Pennsylvania in 1750. He early espoused the
cause of freedom, and first entered the service in a company of
riflemen, commanded by Captain Robert Mebane; marched to Cross Creek
(now Fayetteville), and thence to Wilmington, to the assistance of
Generals Ashe and Moore. In 1776, he volunteered under Captain Thomas
Polk, in Colonel Charles' corps of cavalry, General Rutherford
commanding, and marched against a body of Tories assembled at Cross
Creek, but they were dispersed before the expedition reached that
place. Again, in 1776, he volunteered under Captain Mebane, and
marched from Charlotte to the Quaker Meadows, at the head of the
Catawba River, against the Cherokee Indians, committing murders and
depredations on the frontier settlements. In 1777 he served under
Captain Elaby, Colonel Hicks' regiment, in South Carolina.

In 1780 he served under Captain William Alexander, in Colonel William
Davidson's battalion, General Rutherford commanding, and marched
against the Tories assembled at Ramsour's Mill, in Lincoln county; but
the battle had been fought, and the Tories subdued and routed, before
the expedition reached that place. This was his last important


After the battle of Camden, Cornwallis, believing that he would soon
bring the rebels of North Carolina into speedy submission to the
British Crown, left the scene of his conquest with as little delay as
possible, and designated Charlotte as the most suitable place for his
headquarters. This town had been previously the rallying point, on
many occasions, for the American forces, and from which they marched
by companies, battalions and regiments, to the front, whenever their
services were needed.

Cornwallis entered Charlotte on the 26th of September,
1780. His approach to the town was from the south, on Trade street,
and, after taking possession of the place, his army lay encamped
eighteen days in the old field, or commons, nearly opposite the
residence of the late M.L. Wriston, with the exception of one
regiment, which pitched their tents about midway between Charlotte and
Colonel Polk's mill (late Bissell's). The head-quarters of his
Lordship was in the second house in the rear of the present Springs
building, with a front yard facing on Trade street. Many years after
the war this building, in which Cornwallis slept _unquietly (per
noctem plurima volvens_), was moved round on Tryon street, and
constitutes a part of the house now (1876) occupied by Mr. Taylor,
gunsmith, but so changed and remodeled that little of the original
structure can be identified to remind us of the past.

The skirmish at Charlotte has been pronounced one of the most
"brilliant affairs" of the Revolution; and the correct account of it
will be here given in General Davie's own words, taken from his
auto-biographical sketches in manuscript, and now on file in the
archives of the Historical Society of the State University at Chapel

He says:

"Charlotte, situated on a rising ground, contains about
twenty houses, built on two streets, which cross each other
at right angles, at the intersection of which stands the
court-house. The left of the town, as the enemy advanced,
was an open common on the woods, which reached up to the
gardens of the village. With this small force, viz., one
hundred and fifty cavalry and mounted infantry, and fourteen
volunteers, under Major Graham, Davie determined to give his
Lordship a foretaste of what he might expect in North
Carolina. For this purpose he dismounted one company, and
posted it under the court-house, where the men were covered
breast high by a stone wall. Two other companies were
advanced about eighty yards, and posted behind some houses,
and in gardens on each side of the street. While this
disposition was making, the Legion (Tarleton's) was forming
at the distance of three hundred yards, with a front to fill
the street, and the light infantry on their flanks. On
sounding the charge, the cavalry advanced at full gallop
within sixty yards of the court-house, where they received
the American fire, and retreated with great precipitation.

"As the infantry continued to advance, notwithstanding the
fire of our advanced companies, who were too few to keep
them in check, it became necessary to withdraw them from the
cross street, and form them in line with the troops under
the court-house. The flanks were still engaged with the
infantry, but the centre was directed to reserve their fire
for the cavalry, who rallied on their former ground, and
returned to the charge.

"They were again well received by the militia, and galloped
off in great confusion, in presence of the whole British
army. As the British infantry were now beginning to turn
Colonel Davie's right flank, these companies were drawn off
in good order, successively covering each other, and formed
at the end of the street, about one hundred yards from the
court-house, under a galling fire from the British light
infantry, who had advanced under cover of the houses and
gardens. The British cavalry again appeared, charging in
column by the court-house, but upon receiving a fire, which
had been reserved for them, they again scampered off. Lord
Cornwallis, in his vexation at the repeated miscarriage of
his cavalry, openly abused their cowardice. The Legion,
reinforced by the infantry, pressed forward on our flanks,
and the ground was no longer tenable by this handful of
brave men.

"A retreat was then ordered on the Salisbury road, and the
enemy followed, with great caution and respect, for some
miles, when they ventured to charge the rear guards. The
guards were of course put to flight, but, on receiving the
fire of a single company, they retreated.

"Our loss consisted of Lieutenant Locke, and four privates
killed, and Major Graham and five privates wounded. The
British stated their loss at twelve non-commissioned
officers and privates killed, and Major Hanger, Captains
Campbell and McDonald, and thirty privates wounded."

This action, although it subjects Colonel Davie to the charge of
temerity, only to be excused by the event, and a zeal which we are
always ready to applaud, furnishes a striking instance of the bravery
and importance of the American militia. Few instances can be shown
where any troops, who in one action, changed their position twice in
good order, although pressed by superior force, and charged three
times by cavalry, thrice their own number, unsupported, in presence of
an enemy's whole army, and finally retreating in perfect order.

The graphic account of the skirmish at, and near Charlotte, from
Colonel Davie's manuscript sketches, corrects a mistake into which
several historians have unintentionally fallen in stating that Colonel
Francis Locke was killed in the retreat near Sugar Creek Church, when,
on the contrary, it was one of his younger brothers, Lieutenant George
Locke, a brave and meritorious officer. This statement is confirmed by
the notice of the family of "Hon. Matthew Locke," in Wheeler's
"Historical Sketches," by the sworn declaration of William Rankin, of
Gaston county, who received his discharge from Colonel Locke in
Salisbury, near the time of the battle of Guilford, in March, 1781,
and by the declaration of Michael McLeary, of Mecklenburg, who served
under Colonel Locke after Cornwallis crossed the Catawba in February,
1781, as will be found published in this work.

The reader may be curious to know the estimate the British officers
placed upon this affair--the hornets-like reception his Lordship
experienced on his entrance into Charlotte.

Tarleton, in his "History of the Southern Campaign in 1780, and 1781,"
page 159, says, "Earl Cornwallis moved forward as soon as the Legion
under Major Hanger joined him. A party of militia fired at the
advanced dragoons and light infantry as they entered the town, and a
more considerable body appeared drawn up near the courthouse. The
conduct of the Americans created suspicion in the British; an
ambuscade was apprehended by the light troops, who moved forward, for
some time, with great circumspection; a charge of cavalry, under Major
Hanger, dissipated this ill-grounded jealousy, and totally dispersed
the militia. The pursuit lasted sometime, and about thirty of the
enemy were killed and taken. The King's troops did not come out of
this skirmish unhurt; Major Hanger, and Captains Campbell and McDonald
were wounded, and twelve non-commissioned officers and men killed or

Stedman, the English historian who accompanied Cornwallis in his
southern campaign, says in his "American War," Vol. II, p. 216,

"Charlotte was taken possession of, after a slight
resistance from the militia, towards the end of September.
At this period, Major Hanger commanded, Colonel Tarleton
being ill. In the centre of Charlotte, intersecting the two
principal streets, stood a large brick building, the upper
part being the court-house, and the under part, the market
house. Behind the shambles, a few Americans on horse-back
had placed themselves. The Legion was ordered to drive them
off; but, upon receiving a fire from behind the stalls, this
corps fell back. Lord Cornwallis rode up in person, and made
use of these words: 'Legion, remember you have everything to
lose, but nothing to gain,' alluding, as was supposed, to
the former reputation of this corps. Webster's brigade moved
on, and drove the Americans from behind the court-house: the
legion then pursued them, but the whole British army was
actually kept at bay, for some minutes, by a few mounted
Americans, not exceeding twenty in number."

Stedman, who is generally accurate and impartial in his narratives, is
mistaken in calling the old court-house a "brick building." It was, as
previously stated, a wooden building, placed on brick pillars ten or
twelve feet high, and hence the mistake. Some allowance should also be
made for Stedman's mistake, as, very near that time, the fierce and
buzzing attacks of the "Hornets" greatly obscured the accuracy of his
vision. Upon the whole, the account we have of this skirmish, even
under British _coloring_, and evasion of the _whole truth_,
exemplifies the spirit and bravery of the "handful" of men who
actually kept the whole British army in check for some time, and then
retreated in good order.

Kendal, in his "Life of Jackson," chapter 4, in speaking of the
military school in which the "hero of New Orleans" was educated, says:

"In the chieftains by which he was surrounded, the virtues
of patriotism, disinterestedness, caution, enterprise and
courage exhibited themselves in the highest perfection. As
military leaders, Marion was particularly distinguished for
enterprise, vigilance and courage; Sumter was his equal in
enterprise and courage, but had less circumspection; Davie,
who was generally the leader of the Waxhaw settlers, appears
to have united the virtues of the two. Perhaps in no
instance, where the chief command was in him, did he fail to
accomplish the object he undertook. His intelligence was
accurate; his plans judicious, and kept profoundly secret;
his movements rapid; his blows sudden as the lightning, and
his disappearance almost as quick. To pursue him was
useless, and it was seldom or never attempted. He frequently
dared, with a handful of men, to face an army; and we have
seen, by his encounter with the British van at Charlotte,
that he knew how to strike terror into an enemy he was not
strong enough to conquer."

The situation of Cornwallis in Charlotte was far from being agreeable.
The sentinels placed around his encampment were frequently shot down,
compelling him to have pits sunk, five or six feet deep, for their
protection. He possessed, it is true, a few timid friends and
supporters in the adjacent country, but these could not render him any
material aid. The panic which had overspread South Carolina, after the
British successes in that State. had extended itself, though in a less
degree, into North Carolina, and had driven many of the wealthier
class to "take protection," and thus save their property. But
notwithstanding the terror of arms which preceded his arrival,
Cornwallis soon became convinced that his situation was surrounded
with humiliating realities which he could not easily remove. The
reasons assigned by Tarleton are truthfully set forth, when he says,
"Charlotte town afforded some conveniences, blended with great
disadvantages. The mills in its neighborhood were supposed of
sufficient consequence to render it for the present an eligible
position, and in future a necessary post, when the enemy advanced. But
the aptness of its intermediate situation between Camden and
Salisbury, and the quantity of mills did not counterbalance these
defects." And again he says, "It was evident, and had been frequently
mentioned to the King's officers, that the counties of Mecklenburg and
Rohan (Rowan) were more hostile to England than any others in America.
The vigilance and animosity of these surrounding districts checked the
exertions of the well-affected, and totally destroyed all
communication between the King's troops and loyalists in other parts
of the province. No British commander could obtain any information in
that position which would facilitate his designs, or guide his future

No higher encomium of the principles and patriotism of the people of
North Carolina could have been well given. It is the testimony of an
eye-witness, and he a cruel enemy, with the best means of information
before him. Tarleton goes on to say, "The town and its environs
abounded with inveterate enemies. The plantations in the neighborhood
were small and uncultivated; the roads narrow and crossed in every
direction; and the whole face of the country covered with close and
thick woods. In addition to these disadvantages, no estimation could
be made of the sentiments of half the inhabitants of North Carolina
whilst the royal army remained in Charlotte."

And, again, Tarleton informs us, "The foraging parties were every day
harassed by the inhabitants, who did not remain at home to receive
payment for the product of their plantations, but generally fired from
covert places to annoy the British detachments. Ineffectual attempts
were made upon convoys coming from Camden, and the intermediate post
at Blair's Mill, but individuals with expresses were frequently
murdered. An attack was directed against the picket at Polk's Mill,
two miles from the town. The Americans were gallantly received by
Lieutenant Guyon, of the 23rd Regiment; and the fire of his party,
from a loop-holed building adjoining the mill, repulsed the
assailants. Notwithstanding the different checks and losses sustained
by the militia of the district, they continued their hostilities with
unwearied perseverance; and the British troops were so effectually
blockaded in their present position, that very few, out of a great
many messengers, could reach Charlotte in the beginning of October, to
give intelligence of Ferguson's situation."

The repulse at McIntyre's, elsewhere noticed in these sketches, is a
good illustration of what Tarleton says in these quotations. Truly,
the "Hornets" were enraged about that time--more vigilant and
out-flying than ever before; but it should be borne in mind they were
then fighting the invaders of their own soil, and in defence of the
undisturbed enjoyments of "home, sweet home."

Stedman describes, in much the same terms as Tarleton has done, the
difficulties encountered by the British in procuring supplies for
their army. He says:

"In Col. Polk's mill were found 28,000 lbs. of flour and a
quantity of wheat. There were several large cultivated farms
in the neighborhood of Charlotte. An abundance of cattle,
few sheep; the cattle mostly milch cows, or cows with calf,
which, at that season of the year, was the best beef. When
the army was in Charlotte we killed, upon an average, one
hundred head per day. The leanness of the cattle will
account for the number killed each day. At this period the
royal army was supported by Lord Rawdon's moving with one
half of the army one day, and Colonel Webster with the other
half the next day, as a covering party to protect the
foraging parties and cattle drivers."

The English people had then, as now, the reputation of being great
beef-eaters; nor should we blame them, as the florid complexion the
Englishman generally wears is mainly owing to the free use of this
non-febrile and healthy food, washed down with a few potations of good
old London ale.

The surprise at McIntyre's compelled the British to move with greater
forces in their foraging expeditions. It is seldom, in the historic
annals of any people, that we find it required "one half" of a large
army, in a sparsely settled country, to "protect the foraging parties
and cattle drivers." It indicated a spirit of determined resistance by
the patriots of Mecklenburg and of the State generally, which can only
be construed as a faithful maintenance of the principles of freedom
proclaimed on the 20th of May, 1775.

After the victory of the Whigs at King's Mountain, and the loss of
Ferguson, one of his bravest officers, and his entire command,
Cornwallis concluded to leave the rebellious post he then occupied.

William McCafferty, a resident Scotchman, and a man of considerable
wealth, was employed as the guide to lead the British army by the
nearest road to Winnsboro, S.C. Tradition says, that after so
bewildering the army in the swamps that much of their baggage was
lost, he contrived to escape, and left them to find their way out, as
best they could, by the returning light of day. As the British army
progressed, passing through the Steele Creek neighborhood, they
encamped about three days on Spratt's plantation, waiting to cross the
swollen Catawba, and for the collection of additional supplies. A
guard was placed around the encampment, and one of the number assigned
to a position between the Charlotte road and a neighboring cane-brake.
On the second or third day the sharp crack of a rifle was heard up the
Charlotte road, and a small detachment of the British army was
immediately dispatched to investigate its meaning. When the detachment
arrived at the position of the sentinel, he was found dead, at the
foot of a black oak, against which it is supposed he was leaning at
the time. Captain William Alexander (better known as "Black Bill,")
one of the "terrible Mecklenburg Whigs," fired the fatal shot from the
adjoining cane-brake. Many others of the Sugar Creek rebels were with
Captain Alexander on this occasion, but he alone ventured within
killing distance. Long before Tarleton and his dragoons could reach
the scene of action, Alexander and his party were entering the brushy
woods of Steele Creek, on their way back to the Whig settlements of
Upper Sugar Creek. The associates of Alexander were the Taylors,
Barnetts, Walkers, Polks, and other kindred spirits, who shot many of
the sentries around the British encampment at Charlotte, and seriously
annoyed or cut off the enemy's foraging parties. The last one of the
Barnetts, belonging to this "terrible party," died in 1829, at a good
old age, within two miles of Cook's mills, on Big Sugar Creek.

A singular incident, occurring at this period, is here deemed worthy
of narration. A relative of the Spratts, named Elliott, was living on
the plantation at the time the British army arrived there from
Charlotte. Believing that they would capture him, if in their power,
he broke and ran for the cane-brake, about a half or three-quarters of
a mile below the spot where the sentinel was shot. As soon as the
alarm was given of his departure, Tarleton's terrible dragoons pursued
him, but he succeeded in making good his escape into the densest part
of the cane-brake thicket.

While he was listening to the terrible denunciations of Tarleton's
dragoons on their arrival at the swampy and imperious thicket, and
what they would do if they could only see a bush or a cane move, he
felt perfectly safe as long as he could remain motionless in his muddy
retreat. But when his fears had somewhat subsided in his place of
concealment, still more alarming apprehensions of danger presented
themselves, on his espying a venomous moccasin of the largest size,
moving slowly along in the water and mud, and directing its course so
near that, in all probability, it must strike him. He could not make
the least defence against his ugly approaching visitor, for fear of
exposing himself to the pistols of the British dragoons. All that he
could do in this dreadful predicament was to wave his hand in a gentle
manner towards the snake, which caused it to stop its course and throw
itself into a coil, preparatory for battle. Fortunately, just at this
time, the British dragoons made their welcome departure, and Elliott
moved out of the way of his serpentine majesty.

This was the _first_ and _last_ visit of Lord Cornwallis to "Charlotte
town." He came flushed with victory, and firmly anticipated similar
success in North Carolina. He departed laboring under vexation and
sore disappointment; not without bestowing a characteristic name
("Hornets' Nest") upon the patriotic sons of Mecklenburg around which
appellation cluster many thrilling historical and traditional
associations, destined to enshrine their memories in the hearts of
their countrymen, throughout all coming time.


After the British army had been in Charlotte about a week, and having,
in the meantime, consumed the most of their forage and provisions,
Lord Cornwallis was placed under the necessity of procuring a fresh
supply. He had already experienced something of the _stinging_
propensities of the "hornets" with which he was surrounded, and the
fatalities of their attacks upon his sentries near his camp. In order
to meet the emergency of his situation, he ordered out on the 3d day
of October, 1780, a strong foraging party, under Major Doyle,
consisting of four hundred and fifty infantry, sixty cavalry, and
about forty wagons, who proceeded up the road leading from Charlotte
to Beattie's Ford, on the Catawba river, intending to draw their
supplies from the fertile plantations on Long Creek.

Captain James Thompson, and thirteen others who lived in that
neighborhood, anticipating the necessity the British would be under to
forage, had early in the morning assembled at Mitchell's mill, (now
Frazier's) three miles from Charlotte, at which farm the corn was
pulled--at most other places it was standing in the field. Captain
Thompson and his men were expert riflemen, and well acquainted with
every place in the vicinity. At this place they lay concealed about an
hour, when they heard the wagons and Doyle's party passing by them and
up the main road. As soon as the party had passed about half a mile,
Captain Thompson and his brave followers started through the wood, and
kept parallel with Doyle's party, and _almost in sight_,
reconnoitering the movements of the enemy until they reached
McIntyre's farm, seven miles from Charlotte. A boy plowing by the
road-side, upon seeing the British soldiers pass by him, quickly
mounted his horse, dashed through the nearest by-paths, and barely had
time to warn the intervening families of the approach of the "red
coats." After the foraging party reached McIntyre's, they left a part
of their men and wagons to lay in supplies, while the other part
passed on under Doyle with the expectation of proceeding two or three
miles further. For this reason, Doyle was not _numbered with the
slain_ in place of his second in command.

Thompson's party, finding some were halted at this place, moved
directly towards the thicket down the spring branch, about two hundred
yards from the house. The point of a rocky ridge, covered with bushes,
passed obliquely from the road to the spring, and within fifty yards
of the house which sheltered them from the view or fire of the enemy.
They formed into a line about ten feet apart, and advanced silently to
their intended positions. The British were soon engaged in their work
of plunder; some were at the barn throwing down oats for the wagons,
others were running after the chickens, ducks and pigs, while a third
party were robbing the dwelling house, the inmates having previously
fled out of danger. The soldiery, assisted by the dogs in chasing the
poultry, had knocked over some bee-hives ranged along the garden
fence. The enraged insects dashed after the men, and at once the scene
became one of uproar, confusion and lively excitement. The officer in
command, a portly, florid Englishman, laughed heartily at the gestures
and outcries of the routed soldiers. The attention of the guard was
drawn to this single point, while, at a distance in the fields, the
wagons were seen slowly approaching with their cumbrous loads.

The owner of the plantation had cautiously approached,
under cover, within gun-shot of his house; the rest of the party, his
neighbors, with equal care, advanced sufficiently near for the sure
action of their rifles. The distress and anger of the patriots were
raised to the highest pitch when they saw the reckless merriment of
their enemies, and the fruits of their industry thus suddenly
withdrawn. Their feelings could now be no longer restrained while they
were anxious to try the effects of their trusty rifles. "Boys," cried
one of the sturdy farmers, "I can't stand this any longer--I'll take
the captain--each one of you choose his man, and look out for

These words were scarcely uttered in a suppressed tone, when the sight
of his unerring rifle was drawn upon the expanded breast of the portly
Englishman, who suddenly fell prostrate from the doorposts between
which he was standing.

In two instances, where two of the patriots were firing at the same
man, and seeing him fall, the second one had to quickly change from
his _sighted object_ and seek another. A sentinel placed near the spot
to which they had advanced, appeared to be alarmed, although he had
not seen them, probably thinking of the fate of others in his
situation around the camp of Cornwallis in Charlotte. Nor were his
fears unduly excited.

Captain Thompson, at the distance of seventy or seventy-five yards,
killed him instantly, when his companions, with a precision of aim
equally fatal, laid low on the earth his respective foe. To Captain
Thompson is also ascribed the honor of mortally wounding the
commanding officer, when he was standing near the barn door. He was
conveyed to Charlotte, with several others in similar condition, in
one of the foraging wagons, and died of the wound received, at the
house of Samuel McCombs, two days after. When the smoke rose, after
the first discharge of the rifles, the commander, nine men and two
horses lay dead or wounded on the ground. The trumpets immediately
sounded a recall. But by the time the scattered dragoons had collected
and formed, a straggling fire from a different direction, into which
the patriots had extended, showed the unerring aim of each American
marksman, and greatly increased the confusion of the surprise.
Perfectly acquainted with every foot of the grounds, the patriots
constantly changed their position, giving in their fire as they
loaded, so that it appeared to the British they were surrounded by a
large force. When that portion of Doyle's command who had proceeded
forward to forage upon other farms heard the firing, they immediately
returned to the assistance of his party at McIntyre's branch. Every
preparation for defence, attack and retreat was made by the Americans.
The alternate hilly and swampy grounds and thickets, with woods on
both sides of the public road, baffled the efficient action of the
British dragoons. Some dismounted, while others called out to "set on
the hounds" against a foe scarcely visible, except from their deadly
effects. The dogs, at first, seemed to take the track, and were
followed by the soldiers. The foremost hound approached very near one
of the patriots who had just discharged his rifle, and was in full
retreat after his companions; but as soon as the hound came near with
open mouth, he was shot dead by a pistol drawn from the breast of the
rifleman. The next hound stopped at the dead body, and, after smelling
it, gave a whining howl, and the whole pack retreated from the

A considerable number of the dragoons were killed. The leading horses
in the wagons were killed before they could ascend the hill, thus
blocking up the road. Many of the soldiers in charge of the wagons cut
loose some of the uninjured animals, and galloped after their
retreating comrades. The precise loss of the British is not known. It
is believed, however, from reliable tradition, that they had at least
twenty killed and _a few_ wounded.

That a British detachment of four hundred and fifty infantry and sixty
cavalry should be compelled to desist from a foraging expedition and
return to Charlotte with only a small amount of provisions and a
considerable loss of their number by a handful of patriots, well
exemplifies the vigilance, pertinacity and courage of the "hornets" of
Mecklenburg in endeavoring to protect their homes, and repel the
invaders of their soil.

The country people, early advised of the advance of the foraging
party, mounted their horses, rifle in hand, from every direction; and,
occupying well protected positions along the main road, also
faithfully endeavored to diminish the number of his Majesty's forces,
and hastened the retreat of the British into Charlotte, the survivors
swearing after their arrival that "every bush along the road concealed
a rebel."

The names of this gallant band of patriots, of "Hornets' Nest"
notoriety, were: 1. James Thompson, captain; 2. Francis Bradley; 3.
George Graham; 4. James Henry; 5. Thomas Dickson; 6. John Dickson; 7.
George Houston; 8. Hugh Houston; 9. Thomas McLure; 10. John Long; 11.
John Robinson; 12. George Shipley; 13. Edward Shipley.

REMARKS.--Tradition says Francis Bradley was a large and very strong
man, and a "terror" to the British as well as the Tories. The British
officers were extremely anxious to take him as a prisoner, for his
activity in harassing their scouts and foraging parties, and more
particularly for the fatal aim of his rifle in _picking off_ their
sentries while their army was encamped at Charlotte. The rifle he
carried for six years during the Revolution, and which did such
_telling_ execution, was the property of Major John Davidson (now in
possession of one of his grandsons,) who, being a staff officer, could
not make it perform, as it should, its death-dealing mission upon the
enemies of his country. About three weeks after the gallant affair at
McIntyre's Branch, Bradley was attacked, overpowered and killed by
four lurking and base-hearted Tories (said not to be natives of the
county). His mortal remains now repose in the graveyard at Hopewell
Church, where also sleep many of his illustrious compatriots in arms.
On his gravestone are sculptured two drawn and crossed swords, and
beneath them the motto, _Arma Libertatis_. The inscription reads thus:

"In memory of
A friend of his country, and privately slain by the enemie
of his country, November 14th, 1780, aged 37 years."

The two Dicksons moved to Tennessee; the two Houstons and McLure moved
to Kentucky; Robinson settled on Crowder's Creek, Gaston county.

Doyle, the British commander, before the close of the war was made a
Colonel, and afterward a Brigadier-General. In 1816 he was styled Sir
John Doyle, and Governor of the Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney
and Sark, on the coast of France. Surely, it could not have been for
his gallant behavior at McIntyre's he acquired such honor and


Judge Lowrie was born in New Castle county, Del., on the 12th of May,
1756. His parents moved, when he was a child, to North Carolina, and
settled in Rowan county. He was educated at Clio Academy (now in
Iredell county) under the Rev. James Hall, an eminent Presbyterian
minister of the gospel, and Captain of a company during the
Revolutionary War. He studied law in Camden, S.C., and, soon gaining
eminence in his profession, was elected to the House of Commons from
Mecklenburg county in 1804,-'5 and '6. In the last named year he was
elected a Judge of the Superior Court, which position he held until
his death on the 22d of December, 1818, in the sixty-third year of his

In 1788, he married Margaret, eldest daughter of Captain Robert
Alexander, of Lincoln county. His wife died, leaving him with several
children. In 1811, he again married, Mary, daughter of Marmaduke
Norfleet, of Bertie county, N.C. He was a man of fine talents, and
dignified the responsible position he held. He resided in Mecklenburg
county, about three miles north from the Tuckasege Ford, on the
Salisbury road, (now owned by Robert S. McGee, Esq.)

His mortal remains, with those of his first wife and three infant
children, and other relatives, repose in the graveyard of Goshen
Church, Gaston county, N.C.


It has been well said that "patriotic mothers nursed the infancy of
the Republic." During the progress of British encroachment and
arbitrary power, producing great colonial discontent, every sagacious
politician could discern in the distant future the portentous shadow
of the approaching conflict. In the domestic circle was then nurtured
and imparted that love of civil liberty which afterwards kindled into
a flame, and shed its genial and transforming light upon the world.
The conversation of matrons in their homes, or among their neighbors,
was of the people's wrongs and of the tyranny that oppressed them.
Under such early training their sons, when grown to manhood, deeply
imbued with proper notions of their just rights, stood up in the hour
of trial prepared to defend them to the last. The counsels and the
prayers of mothers mingled with their deliberations, and added
sanctity to all their patriotic efforts for American independence.
They animated the courage, confirmed the self-devotion, and shared in
the sacrifices of those who, in the common defence, "pledged their
lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor."

Among the widowed mothers who early instilled into their rising
generation a deep love of their country, and a manful determination to
defend their firesides and their homes, might be named Mrs. Steele,
Mrs. Flinn, Mrs. Sharpe, Mrs. Graham, Mrs. Hunter, Mrs. Jackson and
many others, as bright examples in Mecklenburg, Rowan and adjoining
counties. In the hour of deepest gloom they frowned upon apathy in the
common cause, materially assisted by their benefactions, and urged on
the desponding in the path of patriotic duty.

General Moultrie, in his "Memoirs of the American Revolution," pays a
handsome compliment to the ladies of that section of country in which
his military services were performed. He says:

"Before I conclude my memoirs I must make my last tribute of
thanks to the patriotic fair of South Carolina and Georgia
for their heroism and virtue in those dreadful and dangerous
times whilst we were struggling for our liberties. Their
conduct deserves the highest applause, and a pillar ought to
be raised to their memory. Their conduct was such as gave
examples even to the men to stand firm; and they despised
those who were not enthusiasts in their country's cause. The
hardships and difficulties they experienced were too much
for their delicate frames to bear; yet they submitted to
them with a heroism and virtue that has never been excelled
by the ladies of any country; and I can with safety say that
their conduct during the war contributed much to the
independence of America."

Nor were the young ladies of that period less patriotic than their
venerable mothers. Their kind sympathies and voluntary contributions
were exhibited on every occasion, calling for prompt and beneficent
action for the gallant soldier. With fair and willing hands they
embroidered colors for military companies, and presented them with the
animating charge, _never to desert them_. They formed themselves into
associations throughout the colonies, renouncing the use of teas and
other imported luxuries, and engaged to card, spin and weave their own
clothing. And still further, to arouse a patriotic spirit in every
hesitating or laggard bosom, we find in the "South Carolina and
American General Gazette," of February 9th, 1776, the following
paragraph, illustrative of female patriotism under a manly and
_singular_ incentive:

"The young ladies of the best families of Mecklenburg
county, North Carolina, have entered into a voluntary
association that they will not receive the addresses of any
young gentlemen of that place, except the brave volunteers
who served in the expedition to South Carolina, and assisted
in subduing the Scovillite insurgents. The ladies being of
opinion that such persons as stay loitering at home, when
the important calls of their country demand their military
services abroad, must certainly be destitute of that
nobleness of sentiment, that brave, manly spirit, which
would qualify them to be the defenders and guardians of the
fair sex. The ladies of the adjoining county of Rowan have
desired the plan of a similar association to be drawn up and
prepared for signature."

Accordingly, at a meeting of the Committee of Safety, held in
Salisbury, May 8th, 1776, we find the following entry in their

"A letter from a number of young ladies in the county,
directed to the chairman, requesting the approbation of the
committee to a number of resolutions enclosed, entered into,
and signed by the same young ladies being read,

"_Resolved_, That this committee present their cordial
thanks to the said young ladies for so spirited a
performance; look upon these resolutions to be sensible and
polite; that they merit the honor, and are worthy the
imitation of every young lady in America."

And who were the young ladies of Mecklenburg and Rowan counties then
prepared to sign such an association, and willing to bestow their fair
hands, and pledge their loving hearts _only to those brave soldiers_,
who, on the calls of duty, fought the battles of their country?
Imagination carries us back to that eventful period, and pictures to
our admiring view, among others, the following daughters of Western
Carolina, as actuated by such patriotic motives:

Miss Elizabeth Alexander, daughter of Abraham Alexander, Chairman of
the Mecklenburg Convention of the 20th of May, 1775, who married
William Alexander, son of Hezekiah Alexander, one of the signers of
the Mecklenburg Declaration.

Miss Mary Wilson, daughter of Samuel Wilson, Sen., who married Ezekiel
Polk, grandfather of James K. Polk, one of our best Presidents, who
consented to serve _only for one term_.

Miss Violet Wilson, sister of the above, who married Major John
Davidson, one of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration.

Miss Jane Morrison, daughter of Neill Morrison, one of the signers of
the Mecklenburg Declaration, who married Major Thomas Alexander.

Miss Polk, daughter of Colonel Thomas Polk, who married Dr. Ephraim
Brevard, one of the secretaries and signers of the Mecklenburg

Miss Margaret Polk, sister of the above, who married Nathaniel
Alexander, Representative to Congress from 1803 to 1805, and in the
latter year, elected Governor of the State.

Miss Jane Brevard, daughter of John Brevard, and sister of the "seven
brothers in the rebel army," who married General Ephraim Davidson.

Miss Mary Brevard, sister of the above, who married General William
Davidson, killed at Cowan's Ford, on February 1st, 1781.

Miss Charity Jack, sister of Captain James Jack, the bearer of the
Mecklenburg Declaration to Philadelphia, who married Dr. Cornelius
Dysart, a distinguished surgeon of the Revolutionary army.

Miss Lillis Wilson, daughter of Samuel Wilson, Sen., by the third wife
(Margaret Jack), who married James Connor, a native of Ireland, who
came to America when 21 years old, volunteered in the army, and fought
all through the Revolutionary war.

Miss Hannah Knox, daughter of Captain Patrick Knox, killed at the
battle of Ramsour's Mill, who married Samuel Wilson, a soldier of the

These are the names of a few of the patriotic young ladies, then on
the theater of action, who would be willing to sign such an
association, stimulate the "loitering young men" to a proper sense of
their duty, and promote the cause of freedom by all _fair means_.


The wives and mothers of Mecklenburg county bore a large share of the
trials and dangers of the Revolution. Among these, and as a fair type
of many others that might be mentioned, was Eleanor, wife of Robert
Wilson, of Steele Creek--a woman of singular energy of mind, and
warmly devoted to the American cause. Her husband, with three brothers
and other kinsmen, settled in Mecklenburg about 1760, having moved
from the colony of Pennsylvania. These brothers were Scotch
Presbyterians, and arrayed by early religious education against
tyranny in every form. At the Convention in Charlotte on the 20th of
May, 1775, Zaccheus Wilson, representing all his kinsmen, signed that
declaration, pledging himself, and his extensive connections, to its
support and maintenance. At this crisis of our history there were a
considerable number of timid persons, who shook their heads and
characterized the actors in this opening scene of the bloody drama of
the Revolution, as _madmen, rebels and traitors_. From the first to
the last, Mrs. Wilson espoused the cause of liberty, and exulted in
every patriotic success.

Animated by her enthusiasm, her husband and sons entered warmly into
the contest. At the surrender of Charleston, her sons, Robert and
Joseph, were made prisoners, but having given their parols, were
allowed to return home. But they had scarcely reached their home in
Mecklenburg when the British general issued his proclamation declaring
the country subdued, and requiring every able-bodied militiaman to
join the royal standard. Refusing to fight against their country, and
being no longer bound as they believed, by their parols, they
immediately repaired to the standard of General Sumter, and were with
him in several battles. In the battle of the Hanging Rock, Captain
David Reid, one of their kinsmen, was mortally wounded, and being in
great agony, called for water, when Robert Wilson brought him some in
his hat. In the same action, Joseph, a little in advance, was
assaulted by a Tory, a powerful man, whom he knew; after a severe
struggle, he killed him, and bore off his sword, now in possession of
his son, David Wilson, of Maine county, Tennessee.

The elder Robert Wilson and his son John, having collected a supply of
provisions and forage for General Sumter's corps, from the
neighborhood of Steele Creek, were hastening to meet them at Fishing
Creek, and reached that vicinity a short time after the surprise.
While engaged in this employment, the two Wilsons and the supplies
were captured. The prisoners were hurried to the rear, after having
been brutally threatened with hanging on the nearest tree, and by a
forced march reached Camden next day, where they were added to a crowd
of honorable captives, such as Andrew Jackson, Colonel Isaacs, General
Rutherford and others.

In the meantime, Cornwallis, leaving Rawdon at Camden, marched with
the larger portion of his army to "rebellious" Charlotte, to forage
upon its farms, and to punish its inhabitants for their well-known
resistance to royal authority. He reached Charlotte on the 26th of
September, 1780, and during his stay of eighteen days, many scenes of
rapine, house burnings and plunderings took place in and around that
place. But the bold Whigs of Mecklenburg--the "hornets" of that
section--although unable to keep the open field, were vigilant and at
work, constantly popping the sentinels, and insolent dragoons of
Tarleton, sent out as scouts and on foraging excursions. Becoming
uneasy by these bold attacks of the rebels, frequently driving his
foraging parties within sight of his camp, Cornwallis, when he heard
of the defeat of Ferguson at King's Mountain, concentrated his army,
and, on the 14th of October, commenced his retrograde march towards
Winnsboro, S.C. During this march, the British army halted for the
night at Wilson's plantation, near Steele Creek. Cornwallis and
Tarleton occupied the house of Mrs. Wilson, requiring her to prepare a
meal for them as though they had been her friends. Cornwallis, in the
meantime, finding out that her husband and one of her sons were his
prisoners in the Camden jail, artfully attempted to enlist her in the
King's cause.

"Madam, said he, your husband and son, are my prisoners; the fortune
of war may soon place others of your sons--perhaps all your kinsmen,
in my power. Your sons are young, aspiring, and brave. In a good
cause, fighting for a generous and powerful king, such as George III.,
they might hope for rank, honor and wealth. If you could but induce
your husband and sons to leave the rebels, and take up arms for their
lawful sovereign, I would almost pledge myself that they shall have
rank and consideration in the British army. If you, madam, will pledge
yourself to induce them to do so, I will immediately order their

To this artful appeal, Mrs. Wilson replied that "her husband and
children were indeed dear to her, and that she was willing to do
anything she thought right to promote their real and permanent
welfare; but, in this instance, they had embarked in the holy cause of
liberty; had fought and struggled for it during five years, never
faltering for a moment, while others had fled from the contest, and
yielded up their hopes at the first obstacle. I have," she continued,
"seven sons who are now, or have been, bearing arms--indeed, my
seventh son, Zaccheus, who is only fifteen years old, I yesterday
assisted to get ready to go and join his brothers in Sumter's army.
Now, sooner than see one of my family turn back from the glorious
enterprise, I would take these boys (pointing to three or four small
sons) and would myself enlist under Sumter's standard, and show my
husband and sons how to fight, and, if necessary, to die for their

"Ah General," interrupted the cold-hearted Tarleton, "I think you've
got into a hornet's nest! Never mind, when we get to Camden, I'll take
good care that old Robin Wilson never comes back."

On the next day's march, a party of scouts captured Zaccheus, who was
found on the flank of the British army with his gun, endeavoring to
diminish the number of His Majesty's forces. He was immediately
conducted to Cornwallis, who, finding out his name, took him along as
a guide to the best ford on the Catawba. Arriving at the river, the
head of the army entered at the point designated by the lad, but the
soldiers soon found themselves in deep water, and drawn by a rapid
current down the stream. Cornwallis, believing that the boy had
purposely led him into deep water in order to embarrass his march,
drew his sword, and swore he would cut off his head for his treachery.
Zaccheus replied that he had the power to do so, as he had no arms,
and was his prisoner; "but, sir," said this resolute boy, "don't you
think it would be a cowardly act for you to strike an unarmed boy with
your sword. If I had but the half of your weapon, it would not be so
cowardly, but then you know, it would not be so safe."

Cornwallis, struck by the boy's cool courage, calmed down, told him he
was a fine fellow, and that he would not hurt a hair of his head.
Having discovered that the ford was shallow enough by bearing up the
stream, the British army crossed over it safely, and proceeded to

On this march, Cornwallis dismissed Zaccheus, telling him to go home
and take care of his mother, and to tell her to keep her boys at home.
After he reached Winnsboro, he dispatched an order to Rawdon, at
Camden, to send Robin Wilson and his son John, with several others, to
Charleston, carefully guarded. Accordingly, about the 20th of
November, Wilson, his son, and ten others, set off under the escort of
an officer and fifteen or twenty men. Wilson formed several plans of
making his escape, but owing to the presence of large parties of the
enemy, they could not be executed. At length, being near Fort Watson,
they encamped before night, the prisoners being placed in the yard,
and the guard in the house and in the portico. In a short time the
arms of the guard were ordered to be stacked in the portico, a
sentinel placed over them, and all others were soon busily engaged in
preparing their evening meal. The prisoners, in the meantime, having
bribed a soldier to buy some whiskey, as it was a rainy day,
_pretended_ to drink freely of it themselves, and one of them
seemingly more intoxicated than the rest, insisted upon treating the
sentinel. Wilson followed him, as if to prevent him from treating the
sentinel, it being a breach of military order. Watching a favorable
opportunity, he seized the sentinel's musket, and the drunken man
suddenly becoming sober, seized the sentinel. At this signal, the
prisoners--like vigilant hornets, rushed to the stacked arms in the
portico, when the guard, taking the alarm, rushed out of the house.
But it was too late; the prisoners secured the arms, drove the
soldiers into the house at the point of the bayonet, and the whole
guard surrendered at discretion. Unable to take off their prisoners,
Wilson made them all hold up their right hands and swear never again
to bear arms against the "cause of liberty, and the Continental
Congress," and then told them they might go to Charleston on parole;
but if he ever found "a single mother's son of them in arms again, he
would hang him up to a tree like a dog."

Wilson had scarcely disposed of his prisoners before a party of
British dragoons came in sight. As the only means of escape, they
separated into several small companies, and took to the woods. Some of
them reached Marion's camp at Snow Island, and Wilson, with two or
three others, arrived safely in Mecklenburg, over two hundred miles
distant, and through a country overrun with British troops.

Mrs. Wilson was the mother of eleven sons. She and her husband lived
to a good old age, were worthy and consistent members of the
Presbyterian Church, died near the same time, in 1810, and are buried
in Steele Creek graveyard.

About 1792, all the sons moved to Tennessee, where at the present
time, and in other portions of the West, their descendants may be
counted by the hundreds. Robert Wilson, who was said to be the first
man that crossed the Cumberland mountains with a wagon, married Jane,
a daughter of William and Ellen McDowell, of York county, S.C. Both
Jane and her mother went to King's Mountain after the battle, and
remained several days in ministering to the wants of the wounded
soldiers. It was mainly on the account of Robert Wilson's
distinguished bravery at King's Mountain that William McDowell gave
him his daughter Jane in marriage--a worthy gift, and worthily
bestowed on a gallant soldier.


One of the most useful institutions of the Revolutionary period, and
around which cluster many patriotic associations, was the College in
Charlotte, known as Queen's Museum. As the early fount of educational
training in Mecklenburg, and the _nursery of freemen_, as well as of
scholars, it should ever claim our warmest regard and veneration. A
brief notice of its origin, progress and termination may be acceptable
to the general reader.

The counties of Mecklenburg, Rowan and other portions of the State,
lying in the track of the southern tide of emigration from more
northern colonies, were principally settled by the Scotch-Irish, who,
inheriting an independence of character and free thought from their
earliest training, soon became the controlling element of society, and
directed its leading religious and political movements. They were not
only the friends of a liberal education, but the early and unflinching
advocates of civil and religious liberty. The "school-master was
abroad in the land," and as duly encouraged as in our own day.
Wherever a preacher was established among them, to proclaim the gospel
of salvation, there, with rare exceptions, soon sprang up into lively
existence a good school, both of a common and classical order.
Prominently among these seminaries of learning may be named Sugar
Creek, Poplar Tent, Center, Bethany, Thyatira, Rocky River, and
Providence, all located in Mecklenburg and Rowan counties. Of all
these, Sugar Creek was probably the oldest. The time of its
commencement is not certainly known.

After the death of the Rev. Alexander Craighead, in 1766, the first
settled pastor of Sugar Creek, the Rev. Joseph Alexander (a nephew of
John McKnitt Alexander) became his successor for a short time,
previous to his removal to Bullock's Creek, S.C., where he ended his
days. Mr. Alexander was a fine scholar, having graduated at Princeton
College, and through his influence, confirmed by that of the
Alexanders and Polks, Waightstill Avery, Dr. Ephraim Brevard and
others, residing in or near Charlotte, vigorous efforts were made to
elevate the Sugar Creek school to the rank and usefulness of a
college; nor were their efforts in vain. The Colonial Legislature
which met at Newbern, in December, 1770, passed an Act entitled "An
Act for founding, establishing and endowing of Queen's College, in the
town of Charlotte." This charter, not suiting the intolerant notions
of royalty, was set aside by the King and council; afterward amended;
a second time granted by the Colonial Legislature, in 1771, and a
second time repealed by royal proclamation.

"And," enquires a writer in the "University Magazine," of North
Carolina, "why was this?" An easy answer is found in the third section
of the act for incorporating the school at Newbern, and afterward
engrafted upon the act incorporating the Edenton Academy (which were
the only two schools incorporated before Queen's College), compared
with the character of the leading men of Mecklenburg, and the fact
that several of the Trustees of the new College were Presbyterian
ministers. No compliments to his queen could render _Whigs_ in
politics, and _Presbyterians_ in religion, acceptable to George III.

A College, under such auspices, was too well calculated to insure the
growth of the "_numerous democracy_."

The section referred to in the charter of the Newbern school, is in
these words:

"Provided always, that no person shall be permitted to be
master of said school, but who is of the Established Church
of England, and who, at the recommendation of the trustees
or directors, or a majority of them, shall be duly licensed
by the Governor! or Commander-in-Chief for the time being."

"The Presbyterians," says Lossing, "who were very numerous, resolved
to have a seminary of their own, and applied for an unrestricted
charter for a college. It was granted; but notwithstanding it was
called Queen's College, in compliment to the consort of the King, and
was located in a town called by her name, and in a county of the same
name as her birth-place, the charter was repealed in 1771 by royal
decree. The triple compliment was of no avail."[K]

But Queen's Museum, or College, flourished without a charter for
several years, in spite of the intolerance of the King and Council.
Its hall became the general meeting-place of literary societies and
political clubs preceding the Revolution. The King's fears that the
College would prove to be a fountain of Republicanism, and calculated
to ensure the growth of the "numerous Democracy," were happily, for
the cause of freedom, realized in the characters of its instructors
and pupils. The debates, preceding the adoption of the Mecklenburg
Declaration, were held in its hall, and every reader can judge of the
patriotic sentiments which pervade that famous document. After the
Revolution commenced, the Legislature of North Carolina granted a
charter, in 1777, to this institution, under the name of "Liberty Hall
Academy." The following persons were named as trustees, viz.: Isaac

Alexander, M.D., president; Thomas Polk, Abraham Alexander, Thomas
Waightstill Avery, Ephraim Brevard, John Simpson, John McKnitt

Alexander, Adlai Osborn, and the Rev. Messrs. David Caldwell, James

Edmonds, Thomas Reese, Samuel E. McCorkle, Thomas H. McCaule and James

The Academy received no funds or endowment from the State, and no
further patronage than this charter. At the time the charter was
obtained the institution was under the care of Dr. Isaac V. Alexander,
who continued to preside until some time in the year 1778. From a
manuscript in the University of North Carolina, drawn up by Adlai
Osborne, one of the trustees, it appears, the first meeting of the
board of trustees was held in Charlotte, on the 3rd day of January,
1778. At this meeting Isaac Alexander, M.D., Ephraim Brevard, M.D.,
and the Rev. Thomas H. McCaule, were appointed a committee to frame a
system of laws for the government of the Academy. They were also
empowered to purchase the lots and improvements belonging to Colonel
Thomas Polk, for which they were to pay him L920. The salary of the
president was fixed at L195, to be occasionally increased, according
to the prices of provisions, then greatly fluctuating in consequence
of the war.

In the month of April, 1778, the system of laws, drawn up by the
committee, was adopted without any material alteration. The course of
studies marked out was similar to that prescribed for the University
of North Carolina, though more limited. Shortly before these
transactions, overtures were made to the Rev. Alexander McWhorter, of
New Jersey, so favorably known to the churches by his missionary visit
in 1764 and 1765, with the Rev. Elihu Spencer; and also by a more
recent visit to the Southern country, to encourage the inhabitants in
the cause of independence, soliciting him to succeed Dr. Alexander in
the presidency of the Academy.

Dr. McWhorter having declined accepting the presidency on account of
the deranged state of his affairs at that time, Mr. Robert Brownfield,
a good scholar, and belonging to a patriotic family of Mecklenburg,
agreed to assume the duties of the office for one year. During the
next year, the invitation to Dr. McWhorter was renewed, and a
committee consisting of the Rev. Samuel E. McCorkle, and Dr. Ephraim
Brevard was sent to New Jersey to wait upon him; and in the event of
his still declining, to consult Dr. Witherspoon and Professor Houston,
of Princeton College (the latter, a distinguished son of old
Mecklenburg,) respecting some other fit person to whom the presidency
should be offered. In compliance with this second invitation, Dr.
McWhorter removed to Charlotte and immediately entered upon the duties
of his office with flattering evidences of success. Many youths from
Mecklenburg and adjoining counties, yet too young to engage in the
battles of their country, and others of older years, whose services
were not imperiously needed on the tented field, flocked to an
institution where a useful and thorough education could be imparted.

But, owing to the invasion of the Carolinas by Cornwallis in the fall
of 1780, the operations of the Academy were suspended and not resumed
during the remainder of the war. After a short service in the
Presidency of the Academy, Dr. McWhorter, to the great regret of the
patrons of learning in the South, returned to New Jersey.

During the occupation of Charlotte by the British army under Lord
Cornwallis, Liberty Hall Academy, which stood upon the lot now owned
by A.B. Davidson, Esq., was used as a hospital, and greatly defaced
and injured. The numerous graves in the rear of the Academy, visible
upon the departure of the British army, after a stay of eighteen days,
bore ample evidence of their great loss in this "rebellious
county"--the "Hornet's Nest" of America.

After the close of the war, Dr. Thomas Henderson, who had been
educated at the Academy, and who frequently represented Mecklenburg in
the Legislature near the beginning of the present century, set up a
High School, and carried it on with great reputation for a number of
years. Classical schools of a high order were numerous after the
Revolutionary war, principally under the direction of Presbyterian
clergymen. These early efforts in the cause of a sound and liberal
education, constantly mingled with patriotic teachings, made a telling
impress upon the Revolutionary period, and greatly assisted in
achieving our independence.



Cabarrus county was formed in 1792, from Mecklenburg county, and was
named in honor of Stephen Cabarrus, a native of France, a man of
active mind, liberal sentiments, and high standing in society. He
entered public life in 1784, and was frequently elected a member from
Chowan county, and, on several occasions, Speaker of the House of

The Colonial and Revolutionary history of Cabarrus is closely
connected with that of Mecklenburg county. No portion of the State was
more fixed and forward in the cause of liberty than this immediate
section. In the Convention at Charlotte, on the 20th of May, 1775,
this part of Mecklenburg was strongly represented, and her delegates
joined heartily in pledging "their lives, their fortunes and most
sacred honor" to maintain and defend their liberty and independence.

The proceedings of that celebrated Convention, its principal actors,
and attendant circumstances, will be found properly noticed under the
head of Mecklenburg County. But there is one bold transaction
connected with the early history of Cabarrus, showing that the germs
of liberty, at and before the battle of Alamance, in 1771, were ready
to burst forth, at any moment, under the warmth of patriotic
excitement, is here deemed worthy of conspicuous record.


Previous to the battle of Alamance, on the 16th of May, 1771, the
first blood shed in the American Revolution, there were many discreet
persons, the advocates of law and order, throughout the province, who
sympathized with the justness of the principles which actuated the
"Regulators," and their stern opposition to official corruption and
extortion, but did not approve of their hasty conduct and occasional
violent proceedings. Accordingly, a short time preceding that
unfortunate conflict, which only smothered for a time the embers of
freedom, difficulties arose between Governor Tryon and the Regulators,
when that royal official, in order to coerce them into his measures of
submission, procured from Charleston, S.C., three wagon loads of the
munitions of war, consisting of powder, flints, blankets, &c. These
articles were brought to Charlotte, but from some suspicions arising
in the minds of the Whigs as to their true destination and use, wagons
could not be hired in the neighborhood for their transportation. At
length, Colonel Moses Alexander, a magistrate under the Colonial
Government, succeeded in getting wagons by _impressment_, to convey
the munitions to Hillsboro, to obey the behests of a tyrannical
governor. The vigilance of the jealous Whigs was ever on the lookout
for the suppression of all such infringements upon the growing spirit
of freedom, then quietly but surely planting itself in the hearts of
the people.

The following individuals, viz.: James, William and John White,
brothers, and William White, a cousin, all born and raised on Rocky
River, and one mile from Rocky River Church, Robert Caruthers, Robert
Davis, Benjamin Cockrane, James and Joshua Hadley, bound themselves by
a most solemn oath not to divulge the secret object of their
contemplated mission, and, in order more effectually to prevent
detection, _blackened their faces_ preparatory to their intended work
of destruction.

They were joined and led in this and other expeditions by William
Alexander, of Sugar Creek congregation, a brave soldier, and afterward
known and distinguished from others bearing the same name as "Captain
Black Bill Alexander," and whose sword now hangs in the Library Hall
of Davidson College, presented in behalf of his descendants by the
late worthy, intelligent and Christian citizen, W. Shakespeare Harris,

These determined spirits set out in the evening, while the father of
the Whites was absent from home with two horses, each carrying a bag
of grain. The White boys were on foot, and wishing to move rapidly
with their comrades, all mounted, in pursuit of the wagons loaded with
the munitions of war, fortunately, for their feet, met their father
returning home with his burdens, and immediately demanded the use of
his horses. The old gentleman, not knowing who they were (_as black as
Satan himself_) pleaded heartily for the horses until he could carry
home his bags of meal; but his petitions were in vain. The boys (_his
sons_) ordered him to dismount, removed the bags from the horses, and
placed them by the side of the road. They then immediately mounted the
disburdened horses, joined their comrades, and in a short space of
time came up with the wagons encamped on "Phifer's Hill," three miles
west of the present town of Concord, on the road leading from
Charlotte to Salisbury. They immediately unloaded the wagons, stove in
the heads of the kegs, threw the powder into a pile, tore the blankets
into strips, made a train of powder a considerable distance from the
pile, and then Major James White fired a pistol into the train, which
produced a tremendous explosion. A stave from the pile struck White on
the forehead, and cut him severely. As soon as this bold exploit
became known to Colonel Moses Alexander, he put his whole ingenuity to
work to find out the perpetrators of so foul a deed against his
Majesty. The transaction remained a mystery for some time. Great
threats were made, and, in order to induce some one to turn traitor, a
pardon was offered to any one who would turn King's evidence against
the rest. Ashmore and Hadley, being half brothers, and composed of the
same rotten materials, set out unknown to each other, to avail
themselves of the offered pardon, and accidently met each other on the
threshold of Moses Alexander's house. When they made known their
business, Alexander remarked, "that, by virtue of the Governor's
proclamation, they were pardoned, but they were the first that ought
to be hanged." The rest of the "Black Boys" had to flee from their
country. They fled to the State of Georgia, where they remained for
some time.

The Governor, finding he could not get them into his grasp, held out
insinuations that if they would return and confess their fault, they
should be pardoned. In a short time, the boys returned from Georgia to
their homes. As soon as it became known to Moses Alexander, he raised
a guard, consisting of himself, his two brothers, John and Jake, and a
few others, and surrounded the house of the old man White, the father
of the boys. Caruthers, the son-in-law of White, happened to be at his
(White's) house at the same time. To make the capture doubly sure,
Alexander placed a guard at each door. One of the guard, wishing to
favor the escape of Caruthers, struck up a quarrel with Moses
Alexander at one door, while his brother, Daniel Alexander, whispered
to Mrs. White, if there were any of them within, they might pass out
and he would not notice it; in the meantime, out goes Caruthers, and
in a few jumps was in the river, which opportunely flowed near the
besieged mansion. The alarm was immediately given, but pursuit was

At another time, the royalists heard of some of the boys being in a
harvest field and set out to take them; but always having some one in
their company to favor their escape, as they rode up in sight of the
reapers, one of them, duly instructed, waved his hand, which the boys
understood as a signal to make their departure. On that occasion they
pursued Robert Dairs so closely that it is said he jumped his horse
thirty feet down a bank into the river, and dared them to follow him.

And thus the "Black Boys" fled from covert to covert to save their
necks from the blood-thirsty loyalists, who were constantly hunting
them like wild beasts. They would lie concealed for weeks at a time,
and the neighbors would carry them food until they fairly wearied out
their pursuers. The oath by which they bound themselves was an
imprecation of the strongest kind, and the greater part of the
imprecation was literally fulfilled in the sad ends of Hadley and
Ashmore. The latter fled from his country, but he lived a miserable
life, and died as wretchedly as he had lived. Hadley still remained in
the country, and was known for many years to the people of Rocky
River. He was very intemperate, and in his fits of intoxication was
very harsh to his family in driving them from his house in the dead
hours of the night. His neighbors, in order to chastise him for the
abuse of his family, (among whom were some of the "Black Boys"),
dressed themselves in female attire, went to his house by night,
pulled him from his bed, drew his shirt over his head and gave him a
severe whipping. The castigation, it is said, greatly improved the
future treatment of his family. He continued, however, through life,
the same miserable wretch, and died without any friendly hand to
sustain him or eye to pity his deplorable end.

Frequently, when the royalists ranged the country in pursuit of the
"Black Boys," the Whigs would collect in bodies consisting of
twenty-five or thirty men, ready to pounce upon the pursuers, if they
had captured any of the boys. From the allurements held out to the
Boys to give themselves up, they went, at one time, nearly to
Hillsboro to beg the pardon of the Governor, (Tryon), but finding out
it was his intention, if he could get them into his hands, to have
hanged every one of them, they returned, and kept themselves concealed
until patriotic sentiment grew so rapidly from that time (1771) to the
Mecklenburg Declaration, (20th of May, 1775), that concealment was no
longer necessary. When the drama of the Revolution opened, these same
"Black Boys" stood up manfully for the cause of American freedom, and
nobly assisted in achieving, on many a hard-fought battlefield, the
independence of our country.


Dr. Charles Harris was born in the eastern part of Mecklenburg county,
(now Cabarrus), on the 23rd of November, 1762. He was distinguished as
a patriot, a soldier and a physician. While pursuing his studies in
Charlotte, the invasion of the town by the British army, under Lord
Cornwallis, caused him to exchange the gown for the sword.
Accordingly, when a call was made for troops to resist and hold in
check the invaders of his country, he joined the corps of cavalry
under Col. William R. Davie, and was with that brave and chivalric
officer in much of his daring career.

After the war was ended he resumed his studies at Clio Academy, in
Iredell county, (then a part of Rowan) under the control of the Rev.
James Hall. Soon after this classical preparation he commenced the
study of medicine under Dr. Isaac Alexander, at Camden, S.C. and
graduated at Philadelphia. On his return home, he settled in
Salisbury, and practiced there for some length of time with
encouraging success. He then removed to Favoni, his family seat in
Cabarrus county, where he ended his days.

Devoted to his profession he soon became unrivaled as a physician and
surgeon. In a short time his reputation was widely extended over the
surrounding country, and his skill and success justified this
celebrity. He kept up for many years, a medical school, and instructed
_ninety-three_ young men in the healing art. In his day and
generation, good physicians and surgeons (especially the latter) were
remarkably scarce--something like angels' visits, "few and far
between." He was frequently called upon to perform surgical operations
from fifty to one hundred miles from home.

He possessed a cheerful temper, and suavity of manner which gained for
him a ready admittance into the confidence and cordial friendship of
all classes of society. But, before he had reached his "three-score
years and ten," the infirmities of old age were rapidly stealing upon
him, and admonishing him of his early departure from the scenes of
earth. He died on the 21st of September, 1825, leaving several
children. One of his sons, the late William Shakspeare Harris, Esq.,
widely known as a worthy and intelligent citizen, represented Cabarrus
county in the House of Commons in 1836. Another son, Charles J.
Harris, Esq., resides at present about one mile from Poplar Tent
Church, and is a gentleman of great moral worth and Christian

On the tombstone of Dr. Harris is the following inscription:

"This monument is erected to perpetuate the memory of
Charles Harris, M.D., born 23rd of November, 1762; died 21st
of September, 1825, aged sixty-three years. Dr. Harris was
engaged in the practice of medicine and surgery for forty
years; eminent in the former, in the latter pre-eminent. He
was a man of extensive reading, of an acute, inquisitive
mind, friendly to all, and beloved by all. His heart entered
deeply into the sufferings of his patients, mingling the
medicine he administered with the feelings of a friend. He
lived usefully, and died resignedly; and we humbly trust,
through the sovereign virtue of the all-healing medicine of
the Great Physician, he was prepared to rest in this tomb,
'where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at

Dr. Charles Harris was one of five brothers who emigrated from
Pennsylvania to North Carolina, viz: Robert, James, Richard, Thomas,
and Charles, the subject of this sketch. His father married the widow
Baker, a daughter of the Rev. John Thompson, who is buried in Baker's
Graveyard, five Miles east of Beattie's Ford, in Iredell county.


Capt. Thomas Caldwell, of Irish parentage, was born in the eastern
part of Mecklenburg county, (now Cabarrus), in 1753. He early espoused
the cause of liberty, and entered the service in 1775, in Capt. John
Springs' company as a private, and marched to the protection of the
frontier settlements from the murderous and plundering incursions of
the Cherokee Indians.

He again joined the service in Capt. Ezekiel Polk's company and
marched against the Tories in South Carolina, near the post of
Ninety-Six. In 1776, he volunteered under Captain William Alexander,
Colonels Adam Alexander and Robert Irwin, General Rutherford
commanding; marched to the Quaker Meadows, at the head of the Catawba
River, and thence to the Cherokee country, beyond the mountains. After
severely chastising the Indians, killing a few, and laying waste their
country, causing them to sue for peace, the expedition returned.

In 1870, he was appointed Captain by General Thomas Polk to assist in
opposing the advance of Lord Cornwallis.

After Cornwallis left Charlotte, in October, 1780, he raised a
company, placed himself under Colonel Williams, of South Carolina, and
fought under him and Colonel Lee, at Pyles' defeat, on Haw River. He
also acted for some time as Quartermaster, at the Hospital, in

In 1781 he volunteered under Colonel Davie, and was with him at the
battle of Hanging Rock.

This was Captain Caldwell's last important service.

The distinguished physician, Dr. Charles Caldwell, also of Irish
parentage, and nearly related to Captain Thomas Caldwell, was born in
the immediate vicinity of Poplar Tent Church, in Cabarrus county, on
land now owned by Colonel Thomas H. Robinson, a worthy son of Dr. John
Robinson, D.D., who so long and faithfully proclaimed the gospel of
salvation to this congregation. No vestige of the family mansion now
remains, but its site is easily recognized at the present time by a
large fig bush, growing at or near where the chimney formerly stood,
as a lingering memento of the past, and producing annually its
delicious fruit.

Although this eminent physician, in his ardent pursuit of material
Philosophy, wandered for many years "after strange gods," until much
learning made him mad; yet, it is pleasing to know, in his maturer
age, and under calm reflection, the early gospel precepts so
impressingly instilled into his youthful mind by his pious parents,
yielded at length their happiest results, and that he died at the
Medical College of Louisville, in Kentucky, in 1853, full of years and
of honors, and in the faith of his fathers, many of whom sleep in the
graveyard of Poplar Tent Church.



Rowan county was formed in 1753 from Anson county. In 1770 Surry, and
in 1777 Burke counties were severally taken off, previous to which
separations Anson county comprehended most of the western portion of
North Carolina and Tennessee. Like a venerable mother, Rowan beholds
with parental complacency and delight her prosperous children
comfortably settled around her. Salisbury, her capital, derives its
name from a handsome town in England, situated on the banks of the
classic Avon, and near the noted Salisbury Plain, a dry, _chalky
surface_, which accounts for the origin of its Saxon name, which means
a _dry town_.

Rowan was first settled by Protestants, about 1720-25, from Moravia,
fleeing from the persecutions of Ferdinand, the Second, by the Scotch,
after the unsuccessful attempts of Charles Edward (commonly called the
"Pretender") to ascend the English throne, and by the Irish, after the
rebellion of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, who were offered
their pardon on condition of their emigrating to America and in
assisting to colonize the English possessions there. The staid
prudence of the German, the keen sagacity of the Scotch, and fiery
ardor of the Irish commingled on American soil, and were fit materials
to form the elemental foundations of an _industrious, progressive_ and
_independent_ nation.

The early history of Rowan, and of her distinguished sons, affords of
itself ample materials to fill an instructive volume. Within her
borders resided such venerable patriots as Matthew Locke, Moses
Winslow, Griffith Rutherford, John Brevard, William Sharpe, Samuel
Young, William Kennon, Adlai Osborne, Francis McCorkle, James Brandon,
James McCay, and many others, all true and constant friends of
liberty; but alas! how little of their eminent services has been
preserved. Even yet, it is believed, some one of her gifted sons might
do much in collecting from traditional sources, and from her musty
records a rich store of historical facts, hitherto unwritten,
illustrative of the fair name and fame of her Revolutionary career.

In the struggles of the Regulators against the extortions of Governor
Tryon and the crown officers, the spirit of the people of Rowan was
plainly manifested. In March, 1770, Maurice Moore, one of the Colonial
Judges, attended Salisbury to hold the Superior Court. He reported to
Governor Tryon at Newbern that "from the opposition of the people to
the taxes, no process of the law could be executed among them."

Upon this information Governor Tryon repaired in person to Salisbury.
In his original journal, procured from the archives of the State Paper
office in London by the Honorable George Bancroft, late our envoy at
that Court, we can see his actions, and admire the spirit of a Captain
Knox, who refused to join him with his troops. Violent as were the
acts of the Regulators, the subsequent oppressive measures of the
crown officers justified their conduct. The Clerk of Rowan county
(Thomas Frohock) was allowed to charge _fifteen dollars_ for a
marriage license. The effect of this official extortion was such as to
constrain some of the inhabitants on the head-waters of the Yadkin
river to "_take a short cut_," as it was termed in uniting their
conjugal ties for "better or for worse," as man and wife.

The indignation of the people of Rowan, Guilford, Orange, and other
counties, was aroused against such official misconduct. On the 7th of
March, 1771, a public meeting was held in Salisbury, when a large and
influential committee was appointed, who, armed with the authority of
the people, met the clerk, sheriff, and other officers of the crown,
and compelled them to disgorge their unlawful extortions. By a writing
signed by these officers, they agreed to settle and pay back all
moneys received over and above, their lawful fees.

This was indemnity for the past. The security for the future was, that
when any doubt should arise as to fees, they should not be paid to the
officers themselves, but to such other persons as were appointed by
the people.

Matthew Locke and Herman Husbands were among those selected to receive
these lawful fees. An instance, says Wheeler, "of more determined
resistance, or of purer democracy, is not to be found in the annals of
any people."

Most of the histories of the day have done the Regulators great
injustice, and denounced this whole body of men as composed of a
factious and turbulent mob, who, without proper cause, disturbed the
public tranquility. Nothing could be more untrue or unjust. Their
assemblages were orderly, and some evidence of the temper and
characters of the principal actors may be gathered from the fact that
from these meetings, by a law of their own, they vigorously excluded
all intoxicating drinks. But they had been oppressed and exasperated
by the impositions of corrupt officers until forbearance, with them,
had ceased to be a a virtue. On their side was the spirit of liberty,
animating the discordant multitude, but, unfortunately, without
trained leaders, or a sufficiency of arms, going forth to make its
first essay at battle on American soil. Redress of grievances was
sought at first by the Regulators in a quiet way, by resorting to the
courts of law. The officers were indicted and found guilty, but the
punishment was the mere nominal one of "a penny and costs." In short,
all resorts to the tribunals of justice ended in a perfect mockery,
and hastened the "War of the Regulation" in North Carolina.

The public press of that day was used by the Regulators in a peaceable
way to set forth their grievances. Their productions, circulated in
manuscript, or in print, display no proofs of high scholarship, or of
polished writing, but there is a truthful earnestness in some of them,
and cogency of reasoning more effective than the skill of the mere
rhetorician. Sometimes they appeared in ballad form, and sometimes as
simple narrative. The rough poet of the period (the American
Revolution can boast of many) was Rednap Howell, who taught the very
children to sing, in doggerel verse, the infamy of the proud officials
who were trampling on their rights. A short selection from the many
similar ones will be here presented for the amusement of the reader.

"Says Frohock to Fanning, to tell the plain truth,
When I came to this country, I was but a youth;
My father sent for me; I wasn't worth a cross,
And then my first study was stealing a horse,
I quickly got credit, and then ran away,
And haven't paid for him to this very day.
Says Fanning to Frohock, 'tis folly to lie,
I rode an old mare that was blind of one eye;
Five shillings in money I had in my purse,
My coat was all patched, but not much the worse;
But _now_ we've got rich, and its very well known.
That we'll do very well, _if they'll let us alone_."

The truthful sentiment conveyed in the last line will find many fit
illustrations in our own times.

The power of the Royal government was called into requisition to put
down this "Regulation" movement. The military spirit of Tryon resolved
to appeal to the sword. On the 24th of April, 1771, he left Newbern at
the head of three hundred men, a small train of artillery, and with a
considerable number of his adherents. General Waddell was sent forward
to Salisbury to raise troops, munitions of war having been previously
ordered from Charleston. While he was in Salisbury waiting for the
arrival of this supply of warlike munitions, the "Black Boys" of what
is now Cabarrus county, under the lead of "Black Bill Alexander,"
seized the convoy of wagons, and completely destroyed the "King's
powder," well knowing it was intended to obey the behest of a
tyrannical Governor. When Waddell advanced his troops from Salisbury
to join Tryon, the bold sons of Rowan rose in arms and ordered him
back. On the 10th of May, 1771, at Potts' Creek, he held a council of
his officers, and they, believing "prudence to be the better part of
valor," fell back, and recrossed the Yadkin. Waddell soon found that
many of his own men sympathised with the cause of the Regulators. He
promptly sent a message to Tryon, then encamped on Eno, informing him
of his critical situation. Tryon hastened on with his forces, crossed
Haw river on the 13th of May, and, on the next evening, pitched his
camp on the bank of the Alamance. On the 16th of May, 1771, the
unfortunate battle of Alamance was fought in which was shed the _first
blood_ of the American Revolution. After that disastrous event, in
which, for want of skilful leaders, and concert among their men, the
Regulators were subdued, the bloody "Wolf of North Carolina," as Tryon
was called by the Cherokee Indians, advanced in all "the pomp and
circumstance" of official station, and joined Waddell on the 4th of
June, near Salisbury, about eight miles east of the Yadkin river. He
then marched by a circuitous route to Hillsboro, where he had court
held to try the Regulators, by his pliant tool, Judge Howard. On the
20th he left Hillsboro, and reached Newbern on the 24th; and on the
30th left North Carolina for the colony of New York, over which he had
just been appointed Governor. Thus was our State rid of one who had
acted the part of an oppressive ruler and a blood-thirsty tyrant.

The efforts of Tryon had been too successful in enlisting under his
banners, before the designs of the British government were openly
discovered, many of the bravest and best officers of his day. Caswell,
Ashe, Waddell, Rutherford, and other distinguished persons who gave in
their adhesion to Governor Tryon in 1771, only three years later, at
the first Provincial Congress, directly from the people, held at
Newbern on the 25th of August, 1774, were found to be true patriots,
when it became apparent the entire subjugation of the country was the
object of the British crown. To the first assemblage of patriots,
adverse to the oppressions of the British government, held at Newbern


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