Sketches of Western North Carolina, Historical and Biographical
C. L. Hunter
Part 4 out of 6
in August, 1774, the delegates from Rowan were William Kennon, Moses
Winslow and Samuel Young.
To the same place, in April, 1775, the delegates were Griffith
Rutherford, William Sharpe and William Kennon.
To Hillsboro, on the 21st of August, 1775, the delegates were Matthew
Locke, William Sharpe, Moses Winslow, William Kennon, Samuel Young and
James Smith. This Provincial Congress appointed as Field Officers and
Minute Men, for Salisbury District, Thomas Wade, of Anson, Colonel;
Adlai Osborne, of Rowan, Lieutenant Colonel; Joseph Harben, Major.
To Halifax, on the 22d of April, 1776, Rowan sent Rutherford Griffith
and Matthew Locke as delegates.
At this assembly Griffith Rutherford was appointed Brigadier General
of the Salisbury District; Francis Locke, Colonel of Rowan; Alexander
Dobbins, Lieutenant Colonel; James Brandon, 1st Major; James Smith, 2d
To the Congress at Halifax, November 12th, 1776, which formed the
first Constitution, the delegates were Griffith Rutherford, Matthew
Locke, William Sharpe, James Smith and John Brevard.
In 1775 the Royal government ceased in North Carolina by the retreat
of Governor Martin.
The Civil Government, vested in: 1. A Provincial Council for the whole
State, composed of two members from each Judicial District, and one
for the State at large, who was chairman and _de facto_ Governor. 2.
Committees of Safety for the towns; and 3. County Committees of
Safety, a part of whose duty it was to arrest suspicious persons, and
take especial care that the public interest suffered no detriment.
The journal of the Committee of Safety for Rowan county, from the 8th
of August, 1774, to the 17th of May, 1776, has been preserved, and
throws much light on the patriotic transactions of that exciting
period in our Revolutionary history. The journal in full may be seen
in Wheeler's "Historical Sketches."
ROUTE OF THE BRITISH ARMY THROUGH MECKLENBURG AND ROWAN COUNTIES.
After Cornwallis effected his passage over the Catawba river, at
Cowan's Ford, on the 1st of February, 1781, he only remained about
three hours in attending to the burial of his dead. Tarleton was
dispatched in advance to pursue the Whigs retreating in the direction
of Torrence's Tavern. Early in the morning of the same day a
simultaneous movement was made by Colonel Webster, with his own
brigade, the artillery, and a small supporting detachment to Beattie's
Ford, six miles above Cowan's Ford, where a small guard had been
placed on the eastern bank. Colonel Webster, with a view of dispersing
the guard, fired several shots (six pounders) across the river, which
had its intended effect, and thus enabled him to pass over without
meeting with serious opposition. This was a mere feint, intended to
create the impression that the whole British army would cross there.
The two British forces pressing forward with as little delay as
possible, united at Torrence's, ten miles from Cowan's Ford, where a
considerable body of the Whig militia had hastily assembled; but
having no one to assume command, and greatly discouraged by the death
of General Davidson on the approach of Tarleton's cavalry, poured in
one effective fire, killed seven of the British horsemen, wounded
others, and then dispersed in all directions with a small loss. This
skirmish, occurring soon after Tarleton's defeat at the Cowpens, led
him to boast of it in his journal as a brilliant victory!
Lord Cornwallis, in his general orders on the 2d of February, returns
his "thanks to the Brigade of Guards for their cool and determined
bravery in the passage of the Catawba, while rushing through that long
and difficult ford under a galling fire."
Another order, issued from his camp on the evening of the preceding
day, does credit to his head as well as his heart, and shows that he
was sometimes governed by the noble principles of moral rectitude. The
order is in the following words:
"HEADQUARTERS, CROSS ROADS TO SALISBURY, February 1st, 1781.
"Lord Cornwallis is highly displeased that several houses
were set on fire during the march this day--a disgrace to
the army. He will punish, with the utmost severity, any
person or persons who shall be found guilty of committing so
disgraceful an outrage. His Lordship requests the commanding
officers of corps to find out the persons who set fire to
the houses this day."
It is presumable his Lordship never received the desired information.
The order, no doubt, has reference to the burning of the houses of
John Brevard, who had "seven sons at one time in the rebel army," and
of Adam Torrence, a staunch Whig, where the skirmish had taken place.
General Greene, having been apprised of the battle of the Cowpens, and
the result, on the same day when Cornwallis commenced his pursuit of
General Morgan, ordered General Stevens to march with his Virginia
militia (whose term of service was almost expired) by way of
Charlotte, N.C., to take charge of Morgan's prisoners, and conduct
them to Charlottesville, in Virginia.
General Greene being anxious to confer with Morgan, personally, left
his camp on the Pee Dee, under the command of General Huger and
Colonel O.H. Williams, and started with one aid, and two or three
mounted militia, for the Catawba. On the route, he was informed of
Cornwallis' pursuit. General Morgan had previously crossed the Catawba
at the Island Ford. On the 31st of January, General Greene reached
Sherrill's Ford, a few miles below the Island Ford, where he had an
interview with Morgan, and directed his future movements.
The British army readied Salisbury on that night, and on the next
morning started in pursuit of Green and Morgan. These officers did not
await the dawn, but crossed the Yadkin river at the Trading Ford, six
miles beyond Salisbury, while his Lordship was quietly slumbering, and
dreaming, perhaps, of future conquest and glory! When Cornwallis awoke
on the morning of the third, he hastened to strike a fatal blow on the
banks of the Yadkin, but the Americans were beyond his reach, and
Providence had again placed an impassable barrier of water between
them. Copious rains in the mountains had swollen the Yadkin to a
mighty river. The horses of Morgan had forded the stream at midnight,
and the infantry passed over in boats at dawn. These vessels were
fastened on the eastern shore of the Yadkin, and Cornwallis was
obliged to wait for the waters to subside before he could attempt to
cross. Again he had the Americans _almost within his grasp_. A corps
of riflemen were yet on the Western side when O'Hara, with the
vanguard of the British army, approached, but these escaped across the
river, after a slight skirmish. Nothing was lost but a few wagons
belonging to Whig families, who, with their effects, were fleeing with
the American army.
Lord Cornwallis, after an ineffectual cannonade over the river,
returned to Salisbury, and, on the 7th, marched up the western bank of
the Yadkin, and crossed at the Shallow Ford, near the village of
Dr. Read, the surgeon of the American army, has left this record of
the cannonading scene:
"At a little distance from the river was a small cabin, in
which General Greene had taken up his quarters. At this
building the enemy directed their fire, and the balls
rebounded from the rocks in the rear of it. But little of
the roof was visible to the enemy. The General was preparing
his orders for the army, and his dispatches to the Congress.
In a short time the balls began to strike the roof, and
clapboards were flying in all directions. But the General's
pen never stopped, only when a new visitor arrived, or some
officer for orders; and then the answer was given with
calmness and precision, and Greene resumed his pen."
It is related as a truthful tradition that, after the British army
reached Salisbury, Lord Cornwallis, Tarleton, and other royal
officers, were hospitably entertained by Dr. Anthony Newman, although
he was a true Whig. There, in presence of Tarleton, and other
spectators, Dr. Newman's two little sons were engaged in playing the
game of the "battle of the Cowpens," with grains of corn; red grains
representing the British officers, and white grains the Americans.
Washington and Tarleton were particularly represented, and as one
pursued the other, as in a real battle, the little fellows shouted,
"Hurrah for Washington, Tarleton runs! Hurrah for Washington." Colonel
William A. Washington, it will be recollected, commanded the American
cavalry. Tarleton looked on for a while, but soon becoming irritated
at the playful but truthful scene, he exclaimed: "See these cursed
The pursuit of Morgan by Cornwallis was the most exciting and
prolonged military chase of the American Revolution. Under various
tangible interpositions of Providence, the retreat, as we have seen,
proved finally successful, and Morgan's forces saved for the future
service of his country.
GENERAL GRIFFITH RUTHERFORD.
General Griffith Rutherford was an Irishman by birth, brave and
patriotic, but uncultivated in mind and manners. He resided west of
Salisbury, in the Locke settlement, and actively participated in the
internal government of the county, associated with such early and
distinguished patriots as Moses Winslow, Alexander Osborn, Samuel
Young, John Brevard, James Brandon, William Sharpe, Francis McCorkle,
and others. He represented Rowan county in the Provincial Congress
which met at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776, and during this
session he received the appointment of Brigadier General of the
"Salisbury District." Near the close of the summer of 1776, he raised
and commanded an army of two thousand four hundred men against the
Cherokee Indians. After being reinforced by the Guilford Regiment,
under Colonel James Martin, and by the Surry Regiment under Colonel
Martin Armstrong, at Fort McGahey, General Rutherford crossed the
"Blue Ridge," or Alleghany mountains, at Swannanoa Gap, near the
western base of which the beautiful Swannanoa river ("nymph of
beauty") takes its rise. After reaching the French Broad he passed
down and over that stream at a crossing-place which to this day bears
the name of the "War Ford." He then passed up the valley of "Hominy
Creek," leaving Pisgah Mountain on the left, and crossed Pigeon River
a little below the mouth of East Fork. He then passed through the
mountains to Richland Creek, above the present town of Waynesville;
ascended the creek and crossed the Tuckasege River at an Indian town.
Pursuing his course, he crossed the Cowee Mountain, where he had a
small engagement with the enemy, in which one of his men was wounded.
As the Indians carried off their dead and wounded, their loss could
not be ascertained. Thence he marched to the "Middle Towns," on the
Tennessee river, where, on the 14th of September, he met General
Williamson with troops from South Carolina on the same mission of
subduing the Indians.
In skirmishes at Valley Town, Ellajay, and near Franklin, General
Rutherford lost three men, but he completely subdued the Indians. He
then returned home by the same route, since known as "Rutherford's
Trace." The Rev. James Hall, of Iredell county, accompanied this
expedition as chaplain.
The uniforms of the officers and men was a hunting-shirt of domestic,
trimmed with cotton: their arms were rifles, and _none knew better how
to use them_. Many of the hardy sons of the west there experienced
their first essay in arms, and their bravery was nobly maintained
afterwards at King's Mountain, the Cowpens, and elsewhere in the
General Rutherford commanded a brigade in the battle of Camden, (16th
of August, 1780), and was there made a prisoner. After he was
exchanged he again took the field, and commanded the expedition which
marched by way of Cross Creek (now Fayetteville) to Wilmington, when
that place, on his approach, was evacuated by the British, near the
close of the war.
He frequently represented Rowan county in the Senate during and
subsequent to the war, showing the high appreciation in which his
services were held by the people. Shortly after his last service in
1786, he joined the strong tide of emigration to Tennessee, where his
well-earned fame and experience in governmental matters had preceded
him. The Knoxville _Gazette_ of the 6th of September, 1794, contains
the following announcement:
"On Monday last the General Assembly of this territory
commenced their session in this town. General Rutherford
long distinguished for his services in the Legislature of
North Carolina, is appointed President of the Legislative
General Rutherford died in Tennessee near the beginning of the present
century, at a good old age, and it is to be regretted more has not
been preserved of his life and services.
Matthew Locke, one of the first settlers of Rowan county, and the
patriarchal head of a large family, was born in 1730. He was an early
and devoted friend of liberty and the rights of the people. His
stability of character and maturity of judgment caused him to be held
in high esteem in all controversial matters among his fellow citizens.
In 1771, during the "Regulation" troubles, he was selected by the
people, with Herman Husbands, to receive the lawful fees of the
sheriffs, and other crown officers, whose exorbitant exactions and
oppressive conduct were then everywhere disturbing the peace and
welfare of society. In 1775, he was a member of the Colonial Assembly,
and in 1776 member of the Provincial Congress, which met on the 12th
of November of that year, and formed the first Constitution. From 1793
to 1799 he was a member of Congress, and was succeeded by the Hon.
Archibald Henderson. He married a daughter of Richard Brandon, an
early patriot of the same county. He died in 1801, aged seventy-one
Matthew Locke had at one time four sons in the Revolutionary war.
Francis Locke, his eldest son, was appointed by the Provincial
Congress which met at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776, Colonel of
the 1st Rowan Regiment, with Alexander Dobbins as Lieutenant Colonel;
James Brandon, 1st Major, and James Smith, 2d Major. He was attached
to General Lincoln's army when General Ashe was defeated at Brier
Creek, and composed one of the members of the court-martial to inquire
into that unfortunate affair. Colonel Locke commanded the forces which
attacked and signally defeated a large body of Tories assembled at
Ramsour's Mill, under Col. John Moore. (For particulars, see "Lincoln
county"). Another son, Lieutenant George Locke, a brave young officer,
was killed by the British in the skirmish near Charlotte, in
Hon. Francis Locke, son of Francis Locke, the "hero of Ramsour's
Mill," was born on the 31st of October, 1766. He was elected Judge of
the Superior Court in 1803, and resigned in 1814, at which time he was
elected a Senator in Congress in 1814-'15. He never married, and died
in January, 1823, in the forty-fourth year of his age. His mortal
remains, with those of his father, Colonel Francis Locke, repose in
the graveyard of Thyatira Church, Rowan county, N.C.
HON. ARCHIBALD HENDERSON.
(Condensed from Wheeler's "Historical Sketches.")
Hon. Archibald Henderson was born in Granville county, N.C., on the
7th of August, 1768; studied law with Judge Williams, his relative,
and was pronounced by the late Judge Murphy, who knew him long and
well, to be "the most perfect model of a lawyer that our bar has
produced." ... No man could look upon him without pronouncing him one
of the great men of the age. The impress of greatness was upon his
countenance; not that greatness which is the offspring of any single
talent or moral quality, but a greatness which is made up by blending
the faculties of a fine intellect with exalted moral feelings.
Although he was at all times accessible and entirely free from
austerity, he seemed to live and move in an atmosphere of dignity. He
exacted nothing by his manner, yet all approached him with reverence
and left him with respect. His was the region of high sentiment; and
here he occupied a standing that was pre-eminent in North Carolina. He
contributed more than any man, since the time of General Davie and
Alfred Moore, to give character to the bar of the State. His career at
the bar has become identified with the history of North Carolina: and
his life and his example furnish themes for instruction to gentlemen
of the bench and to his brethren of the bar. May they study his life
and profit by his example!
He represented his district in Congress from 1799 to 1803, and the
town of Salisbury frequently in the State Legislature. He married
Sarah, daughter of William Alexander, and sister of William Alexander
and Nathaniel Alexander, afterward Governor of the State. He left two
children, the late Archibald Henderson, Esq., of Salisbury, and Mrs.
Boyden, wife of the late Hon. Nathaniel Boyden.
He died on the 21st of October, 1822, in the fifty-fourth year of his
(Condensed from Wheeler's "Historical Sketches.")
Richmond Pearson, late of Davie county when a part of Rowan, was born
in Dinwiddie county, Va., in 1770, and at the age of nineteen years
came to North Carolina and settled in the forks of the Yadkin river.
When the war of the Revolution broke out he was a Lieutenant in
Captain Bryan's company (afterward the celebrated Colonel Bryan, of
Tory memory). After the Declaration of Independence, at the first
muster which occurred, he requested some on whom he could rely to load
their guns. When Captain Bryan came on the ground he ordered all the
men into ranks. Pearson refused, and tendered his commission to Bryan,
whereupon he ordered him under arrest. This was resisted, and he was
told that the men had their guns loaded. They then came to a parley,
and it was agreed by the crowd, as matters stood, that Bryan and
Pearson, on a fixed day, should settle this national affair by a fair
_fist fight_, and whichever whipped, the company should belong to the
side of the conqueror, whether Whig or Tory. At the appointed time and
place the parties met, and the Lieutenant proved to be the victor.
From this time the Fork company was for liberty, and Bryan's crowd, on
Dutchman's creek, were Loyalists. The anecdote illustrates by what
slight circumstances events of this period were affected. When
Cornwallis came south, Pearson, with his company, endeavored to harass
his advance. He was present at Cowan's Ford on the 1st of February,
1781, where General Davidson fell in attempting to resist the passage
of the British. Captain Pearson was a successful merchant and an
enterprising planter. He died in 1819, leaving three sons and one
daughter: 1st, Jesse A.; 2d, Joseph; 3d, Richmond; and 4th, Elizabeth
Pearson. Jesse A. Pearson was frequently a member of the General
Assembly from Rowan county. In 1814 he marched as Colonel of a
Regiment to the Creek Nation, under General Joseph Graham, and was
afterward elected Major General of the State Militia. He died in 1823,
Hon. Joseph Pearson was a member of the General Assembly in the House
of Commons from Rowan county in 1804 and 1805, and a member of
Congress from 1809 to 1815. He died at Salisbury on the 27th of
October, 1834. He was thrice married. By his first wife, Miss McLinn,
he had no issue; by the second, Miss Ellen Brent, he had two
daughters--one, the wife of Robert Walsh, Esqr., of Philadelphia--the
other, the wife of Lieutenant Farley, of the U.S. Navy; and by the
third wife (Miss Worthington, of Georgetown), he left four children.
Richmond Pearson married Miss McLinn. He was never in public life, but
was an active, enterprising man. He left the following children: 1st,
Sarah, who married Isaac Croom, of Alabama; 2d. Eliza, who married
W.G. Bently, of Bladen county, N.C.; 3d. Charles, who died without
issue; 4th. Hon. Richmond M. Pearson was born in June, 1805, educated
at Statesville by John Mushat, and graduated at Chapel Hill in 1823.
He studied law under Judge Henderson, and was licensed in 1826. He
entered public life in 1829 as a member to the State Legislature from
Rowan county, and continued as such until 1832. In 1836 he was elected
one of the Judges of the Superior Court, and in 1848 was transferred
to the Supreme Court, which elevated position he now occupies; 5th.
Giles N. Pearson married Miss Ellis, and was a lawyer by profession.
He died in 1847, leaving a wife and five children; 6th. John Stokes
Pearson married Miss Beattie, of Bladen county. He died in 1848,
leaving four children.
The reader may be curious to know something of the fate of Colonel
Samuel Bryan, who commanded the Tory regiment in the forks of the
Yadkin, which was so roughly handled and cut to pieces by Colonel
Davie and his brave associates, at the battle of the hanging Rock.
About the time Major Craig evacuated Wilmington in 1781, Colonel
Bryan, Lieutenant Colonel John Hampton and Captain Nicholas White, of
the same regiment, returned to the forks of the Yadkin, were arrested
and tried for high treason, under the act of 1777, entitled "An Act
for declaring what Crimes and Practices against the State shall be
Judges Spencer and Williams presided. The prosecution was ably
conducted by the Attorney General, Alfred Moore, and the defence by
Richard Henderson, John Penn, John Kinchen and William R. Davie, truly
a fine array of legal talent.
Public indignation was so greatly excited that Governor Burke found it
necessary, after the trial, to protect the prisoners from violence by
a military guard.
Colonel Davie's defence of Colonel Bryan, in the argument made to the
jury upon the occasion, was said to have been a brilliant exhibition
of his forensic ability. For many years afterwards his services were
required in all capital cases, and as a criminal lawyer he had no
rival in the State. They were all convicted, had sentence of death
passed upon them, were pardoned, and subsequently exchanged for
officers of equal rank, who were at the time, confined within the
MRS. ELIZABETH STEELE.
The long, arduous and eventful retreat of General Morgan through the
Carolinas, after the battle of the Cowpens, and the eager pursuit of
Cornwallis to overtake him, encumbered with more than five hundred
prisoners, on his way to a place of safety in Virginia, affords many
interesting incidents. General Greene having met Morgan on the eastern
banks of the Catawba river, at Sherrill's Ford, and directed his
forward movements, proceeded to Salisbury, a little in advance of his
forces. It had been slightly raining during the day, and his wet
garments, appearance of exhaustion and dejection of spirits at the
loss of General Davidson at Cowan's Ford, as he dismounted at the door
of the principal hotel in Salisbury, indicated too clearly that he was
suffering under harassing anxiety of mind. Dr. Reed, who had charge of
the sick and wounded prisoners, while he waited for the General's
arrival, was engaged in writing the necessary paroles for such
officers as could not go on. General Greene's aids having been
dispatched to different parts of the retreating army, he was alone
when he rode up to the hotel. Dr. Reed, noticing his dispirited looks,
remarked that he appeared to be fatigued; to which the wearied officer
replied: "Yes, fatigued, hungry, alone, and penniless!" General Greene
had hardly taken his seat at the well-spread table, when Mrs. Steele,
the landlady of the hotel, entered the room and carefully shut the
door behind her. Approaching her distinguished guest, she reminded him
of the despondent words he had uttered in her hearing, implying, as
she thought, a distrust of the devotion of his friends to the cause of
freedom. She declared money he should have, and immediately drew from
under her apron two small bags full of specie, probably the earnings
of several years, "Take these, General," said she, "you need them and
I can do without them." This offering of a benevolent heart,
accompanied with words of kindness and encouragement, General Greene
accepted with thankfulness. "Never," says his biographer, "did relief
come at a more propitious moment; nor would it be straining conjecture
to suppose that he resumed his journey with his spirits cheered and
lightened by this touching proof of woman's devotion to the cause of
General Greene did not remain long in Salisbury; but before his
departure from the house of Mrs. Steele, he left a memorial of his
visit. Seeing a picture of George III. hanging against the wall, sent
as a present to a connection of Mrs. Steele from England, he took it
down and wrote with chalk on the back, "O George, hide thy face, and
mourn," and replaced it with the face to the wall. The picture, with
the writing uneffaced, is still in possession of a grand daughter.
Mrs. Steele was twice married; her first husband was a Gillespie, by
whom she had a daughter, Margaret, who married the Rev. Samuel E.
McCorkle, a distinguished Presbyterian minister; and Richard
Gillespie, who was a Captain in the Revolution, and died unmarried. By
her second husband, William Steele, she had only one child, the Hon.
John Steele, who died in Salisbury on the 14th of August, 1815. He was
a conspicuous actor in the councils of the State and Nation, and one
whose services offer materials for an interesting and instructive
Mrs. Steele died in Salisbury on the 22d of November, 1790. She was
distinguished not only for her strong attachment to the cause of
freedom, but for the piety which shone forth brightly in her
pilgrimage upon earth. Among her papers was found, after her death, a
written dedication of herself to her Creator, and a prayer for support
in the practice of christian duty; with a letter, left as a legacy to
her children, enjoining it upon them to make religion the great work
Iredell county was formed in 1788 from Rowan county, and named in
honor of James Iredell, one of the Associate Judges of the Supreme
Court of the United States.
At the time of the war of the Revolution the county of Rowan embraced
all that beautiful and agricultural region extending from the foot of
the Blue Ridge Mountains, eastwardly, to where the Yadkin river loses
its name in the great Peedee; comprising a territory equal in extent
to several of the States of the American Union, and presenting a
varied topography, unsurpassed for bold mountain scenery and lovely
landscapes spreading over the charming champaign country lying between
the Yadkin and Catawba rivers. Within this territory are now organized
many counties, with attractive features, one of which is the county of
COLONEL ALEXANDER OSBORN.
Alexander Osborn was born in New Jersey in 1709, and emigrated to the
western part of Rowan county (now Iredell) about 1755. He was a
Colonel in the Colonial government, and as such marched with a
regiment of Rowan troops to Hillsboro in 1768 to assist Governor Tryon
in suppressing the "Regulation" movement.
He married Agnes McWhorter, a sister of Dr. Alexander McWhorter,
president of Queen's Museum College in Charlotte. His residence
(called Belmont) was one of the earliest worshiping places of the
Presbyterians of Rowan county before the present "Center Church" was
erected, and became by compromise the _central_ meeting-house of
worship for a large extent of surrounding country. Colonel Osborn was
a man of fine character and wielded a strong influence in his day and
In the graveyard of Center Church, on a double headstone, are the
"Here lys the body of Col. Alexander Osborn, who deceased
July y'e 11th, 1776, aged 67 years;" and, separated by a
dividing upright line, this record appears:
"Here lys the body of Agnes Osborn, who deceased July y'e
From these records it would appear that this worthy couple left the
scenes of earth for a brighter world only two days apart, and not on
the same day, as stated by some authorities. They left one son, Adlai
Osborn, who graduated at Princeton College in 1768. He was Clerk of
the Court for Rowan county under the Royal government, and continued
in that office until 1809. He was a man of fine literary attainments,
the warm friend of education, and one of the first Trustees of the
State University. He died in 1815, leaving a large family, among whom
were Spruce McCay Osborn, who graduated at Chapel Hill in 1806;
studied medicine, entered the army as surgeon, and was killed at the
massacre of Fort Mimms in the war of 1812; and Edwin Jay Osborn, who
was distinguished as a lawyer of eloquence and learning, and was the
father of the late Judge James W. Osborn, of Charlotte, one of
Mecklenburg's most worthy, gifted and lamented sons.
CAPTAIN WILLIAM SHARPE.
Captain William Sharpe was born on the 13th of December, 1742, and was
the eldest son of Thomas Sharpe, of Cecil county, Maryland. At the age
of twenty-one he came to North Carolina and settled in Mecklenburg
county, where he married a daughter of David Reese, one of the signers
of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. He was a lawyer by
profession and had a large practice. Soon after his marriage he moved
to the western part of Rowan county (now Iredell) and took an active
and decided stand for liberty. The Journal of the "Committee of
Safety" for Rowan county, from 1774 to 1776, presents a noble record
of his activity and influence.
He was a member from Rowan county to the Provincial Congress which met
at Newbern in April, 1775; and also of the Congress at Hillsboro, in
August, 1775. In November, 1776, he was a member of the Convention at
Halifax which formed our first State Constitution. He acted as aid to
General Rutherford in his campaign against the Cherokee Indians in
1776. In 1777 he was appointed with Waightstill Avery, Joseph Winston
and Robert Laneer to form a treaty with the same tribe of Indians.
In 1779 he was appointed a member of the Continental Congress at
Philadelphia, and served until 1782. He died in July, 1818, in the
77th year of his age, leaving a widow and twelve children. Two of his
sons, William and Thomas, were in the battle at Ramsour's Mill,--the
former commanding a company with distinguished bravery, and, near the
close of the action, shot down one of the Tory captains which speedily
terminated the fortunes of the day in favor of the American arms.
His eldest daughter, Matilda, married William W. Erwin, of Burke
county, who, for more than forty years, was Clerk of the Superior
Court for that county, and in November, 1789, was the delegate to the
Convention at Fayetteville which ratified the Federal Constitution.
Like a faithful vine she raised fifteen children who have held
honorable positions in society. His second daughter, Ruth, married
Col. Andrew Caldwell, of Iredell county, who was often a member of the
State Legislature. He was the father of the late Judge David F.
Caldwell, the Hon. Joseph P. Caldwell, Dr. Elam Caldwell, of
Lincolnton, and others.
MAJOR WILLIAM GILL, CAPTAIN ANDREW CARSON, AND OTHERS.
Many interesting events which transpired within the territory of "old
Rowan" during the war of the Revolution, have unfortunately been
buried from our view by those who have passed away. A few traditions
still linger in the memory of the descendants of those who were actors
in those scenes relating more particularly to the north-eastern
portion of Iredell, and of some of the families who resided there. And
although such traditions can only be now presented as detached and
fragmentary items of history, yet they are worthy of being preserved
and placed on permanent record.
The facts given in this sketch relate to that part of Iredell lying
between Statesville, its county seat, and Yadkinville, the county seat
of Yadkin county, and mostly near to the dividing line of these two
The numerous creeks and small streams which water this portion of
Iredell, empty into three large streams of about the same size,
flowing through it, named South Yadkin, Rocky Creek, and Hunting
Creek. These streams mingle their waters in a common channel before
their confluence with the Great Yadkin, in the county of Davie.
In the year 1778, Thomas Young removed from Mecklenburg, Virginia, to
North Carolina, and settled on Hunting Creek, within three miles of
the place where the counties of Yadkin, Davie, and Iredell now form a
common corner. He was then passed the age for military service, but
had furnished three sons-in-law and two sons to the army of General
Washington, and a third son, at sixteen years of age, to the army at
One of his sons-in-law, Major William Gill, entered the service at the
beginning of the war, and became connected with the staff of General
Washington. He served in the capacity of aid to the Commander-in-chief
through the war, and was with him at the surrender of Cornwallis, at
Yorktown. From this point he returned to his family, in Mecklenburg,
Va., who had not heard from him in two years.
Soon after the establishment of peace, Major Gill, with his family,
and the other two sons-in-law of Mr. Young, viz: Major Daniel Wright
and Dr. Thomas Moody, and his sons, William, Henry, and Thomas Young,
removed to North Carolina and settled near him. Major Gill settled on
Rocky Creek, near to the site of the present village of Olin, and, at
his death, was interred in the family burying ground on the lands of
his father-in-law. The record on his tombstone states that he died on
the 4th of September, 1797, in the 47th year of his age. His
commission is now in possession of his descendants, in Iredell county.
The part which Major Gill bore in the great struggle for independence,
was once familiar in the traditions of his family, and must have been
satisfactory to General Washington, from the fact that he continued
with him to the end of the war, and bore with him into retirement the
commission which made him one of the military family of the father of
A single incident will show the spirit with which Maj. Gill bore
himself on the battle-field. At the battle of Brandywine, while
discharging his duty, he became separated from his command, and, in
the dense smoke of the conflict, rode into the ranks of the enemy.
Upon discovering his situation, the only means of escape which
presented itself, was to leap his horse over a high rail fence, which
was being scattered by the artillery of the enemy. This feat he
accomplished successfully, and afterward received the congratulations
of his General for the spirited adventure and escape.
It has not been recorded in history that the mortal remains of a
member of the staff of General Washington repose on the banks of
Hunting Creek, in the county of Iredell, N.C. The tradition here given
of the fact, can be yet fully attested by surviving members of the
family of Major Gill, as well as by his commission.
Captain Andrew Carson was a younger son-in-law of Mr. Young, having
married after the family removed to North Carolina. He and his
brother, Lindsay Carson, both joined the service in the southern army.
And let it be recorded, in passing, that Lindsay Carson was the father
of Christopher Houston Carson, now widely known as "Kit Carson," the
great Indian scout, and that "Kit" was born on Hunting Creek, within
half a mile of the residence of Mr. Thomas Young.
Andrew Carson, like his nephew, "Kit," was of an adventurous
disposition, and was the bearer of dispatches from the commanding
officers in the up-country to those in South Carolina. This duty made
him acquainted with the command of General Francis Marion, which
suited his taste, and he connected himself with it. He was with the
"Swamp Fox," so greatly dreaded by the British and the Tories, in many
of his stealthy marches and daring surprises, the recital of which
would send the blood careering through the veins of his juvenile
listeners, half a century ago. The memory of them now awakens a dim
recollection of the thrill and absorbing interest then experienced.
Captain Carson was connected with the command of Baron DeKalb, at the
battle of Camden, and was by the side of that noble officer when he
was shot down while crossing a branch, and bore him out in his own
arms. Captain Carson also sleeps in the same family cemetery with
With a family thus engaged in the defence of their country, it will be
readily understood that their parental home was no ordinary rendezvous
for sympathisers in its vicinity. When Mr. Young settled in an almost
unbroken forest on the banks of Hunting Creek, he located and
constructed his improvements with the view of defence in cases of
emergency. He built two substantial log houses, about forty feet
apart, fronting each other, and closed the end openings with strong
stockades. Port holes were provided to be used for observation, or
otherwise, as occasion might demand. The buildings are yet standing,
in a good state of preservation. This was headquarters for the Whigs
for many miles around. It was the point for receiving and distributing
information, as well as for concerting measures for the aid of the
cause of freedom, and for depositing supplies for friends in the
field. The Brushy Mountains were but a few miles distant, and were
infested with Tories, who made predatory incursions into this part of
Iredell, carrying off stock, devastating farms, and ambuscading and
shooting Whigs, who were especially obnoxious to them.
Mr. Young's fortifications presented a rallying point for defence
against such invasions, as Fort Dobbs did four miles north of
He was himself a member of an association of eight neighbors, who were
engaged in manufacturing powder in a rude way for the use of their
home department. Against this association the Tories were extremely
bitter, and conspired to kill them. They succeeded in murdering seven
of them, and detailed one of their number to way-lay and shoot Mr.
Young. The man assigned to this duty was named Aldrich, who concealed
himself in the woods near the dwelling of his intended victim, and
watched for an opportunity to perpetrate the murderous deed. The
habitual circumspection of Mr. Young foiled him in his purpose until
he was discovered by a member of the family, and became so frightened
as to induce him to abandon the effort.
After peace had been proclaimed, Captain Andrew Caldwell, who resided
on Rocky Creek, and was the father of Judge David F. and Hon. Joseph
P. Caldwell, and other sons well known in the public offices of
Iredell, was appointed the Commissioner to administer the oath of
allegiance in that part of the county. Aldrich presented himself among
them, but the recollection of his seven murders, still fresh in the
memory of all, so aroused the indignation of Captain Caldwell and
Captain Andrew Carson, who was present, that instead of making him a
loyal citizen of the United States, they went to work and forthwith
hung him on one of the joists of the barn, in which they were
transacting their lawful business.
In many places, Whigs who were past the age for service in the field,
organized themselves into vigilance associations for the welfare of
the country and their own protection. The duties devolving upon them
rendered them familiar with events as they really transpired, and
often caused them to pass through thrilling and adventurous scenes.
They learned to know and how to trust each other. Attachments thus
formed by heads of families were strengthened, and more strongly
united in ties of friendship after the restoration of peace. The
descendants of these associated friends were educated to revere the
memories of the fathers, and to cultivate the society and friendship
of their children. The traditions of the "dark days" of the war were
always topics of family and fireside conversation with the "old
folks," and they always found attentive listeners in their posterity,
upon whose youthful minds impressions then made were as enduring as
CAPTAIN ALEXANDER DAVIDSON.
Captain Alexander Davidson was one of the earliest settlers of the
western part of Rowan county (now Iredell.) He took an active part in
the Revolutionary struggle for independence. When Cornwallis was
moving from Charleston toward North Carolina, and General Gates was
ordered to meet him, Governor Caswell, of North Carolina, ordered a
draft of men to strengthen Gates' army. In response to this order the
people in that part of Iredell county bordering on the Catawba river
below the Island Ford, assembled at a central point, afterward known
as Brown's Muster Ground, when a company was formed under the draft
and Alexander Davidson was elected its captain. Soon afterward Captain
Davidson marched his company to Gates' rendezvous, when that officer
moved his army to the unfortunate and sanguinary field of Camden, S.C.
In that disastrous engagement Captain Davidson's company took an
active part, and the greater portion of them was cut to pieces.
Captain John Davidson, a grand son of Captain Alexander Davidson, now
(1876) resides near Statesville, in Iredell county. He well remembers
that the commission of his grand father, as captain of this company,
and a diary of his services during the war of the Revolution, were in
the possession of his father's family until 1851 when they were taken
to Washington City by the late Hon. J.P. Caldwell and were not
Captain John Davidson is one of the most prominent and public-spirited
citizens of Iredell county, and implicit reliance may be placed in his
CAPTAIN JAMES HOUSTON.
Captain James Houston was born in 1747, and was an early and devoted
friend of liberty. In the battle of Ramsour's Mill, near the present
town of Lincolnton, he took an active part, and by his undaunted
courage greatly contributed to the defeat of the Tories on that
occasion. During the engagement Captain Houston was severely wounded
in the thigh, from the effects of which he never fully recovered.
Seeing the man who inflicted the severe and painful wound he shot him
in the back and killed him as he ran. When it was ascertained that
Cornwallis had crossed the Catawba river at Cowan's Ford, and was
approaching with his army, the family of Captain Houston conveyed him
to the "big swamp" in the immediate vicinity, known as "Purgatory,"
and there concealed him until the British had marched quite through
When the British army passed the residence of Captain Houston some of
them entered the yard and house, and threatened Mrs. Houston with
death if she did not quickly inform them where her husband was, and
also where her gold and silver and China ware were kept, using, at the
same time, very course and vulgar language. Mrs. Houston, knowing
something of "woman's rights" in every civilized community,
immediately asked the protection of an officer, who, obeying the
better impulses of human nature, ordered the men into line and marched
Mrs. Houston and "Aunt Dinah" had taken the timely precaution to hide
the China ware in the _tan vats_ and the _pewter-ware_ in the mud
immediately beneath the pole over which it was necessary to walk in
conveying provisions to Captain Houston in his place of concealment.
The pole was put under the water and mud every time by aunt Dinah when
she returned, so that no track or trace could be discovered of her
pathway into the swamp.
Captain James Houston was the father of the late Dr. Joel B. Houston,
of Catawba, and the grandfather of R.B.B. Houston, Esq., who now wares
the gold sleeve buttons of his patriotic ancestor with his initials,
J.H. engraved upon them. Dr. J.H.G. Houston, of Alabama, who married
Mary Jane Simonton, is another grandson.
The following is
CAPTAIN JAMES HOUSTON'S MUSTER ROLL.
Captain, James Houston; Lieutenant, William Davidson;
David Evins, David Byers, Robert Byers, Nat.
Ewing, Alexander Work, William Creswell, William
Erwin, John Hovis, John Thompson, John Beard, John
Poston, Robert Poston, Paul Cunningham, John M. Connell,
Moses White, Angus McCauley, Robert Brevard,
Adam Torrence, Sr., Adam Torrence, Jr., Charles Quigley,
James Gulick, Benjamin Brevard, Thomas Templeton,
John Caldwell, Joseph McCawn, James Young,
James Gray, Philip Logan (Irish), William Vint, Daniel
Bryson, John Singleton.
Many of these have descendants in Iredell at the present time, and
they can refer with veneration to the names of their patriotic
Captain James Houston died on the 2d of August, 1819, in the 73d year
of his age, and is buried in Center Church, graveyard.
REV. JAMES HALL, D.D.
Rev. James Hall, a distinguished soldier of the Revolution--the
Captain of a company and Chaplain of a Regiment at the same time--was
born at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on the 22d of August, 1744. When he
was about eight years old his parents, who were Scotch-Irish, removed
to North Carolina and settled in the upper part of Rowan county, (now
Iredell), in the bounds of the congregation to which he afterward gave
thirty-eight years of his ministerial life.
Secluded in the forests of Rowan, and removed to a great extent from
the follies of the great world, James Hall grew up under the watchful
care of pious parents, receiving such early instruction as the country
schools then afforded.
In his twenty-sixth year he commenced the study of the classics, and
made rapid progress, as his mind was matured and his application close
and unremitting. When duly prepared he entered Princeton College,
under the direction of President Witherspoon, one of the signers of
the National Declaration of Independence. He graduated in 1774, in his
thirty-first year. The Theological reading of Mr. Hall was pursued
under the direction of Dr. Witherspoon, that eminent minister and
patriot, whose views in religion and politics were thoroughly imbibed
by his student. In the spring of 1776 he was licensed by the
Presbytery of Orange to preach the Gospel of everlasting Peace. During
the exciting scenes of the Revolution, in which he had been licensed
and ordained, Mr. Hall held the office of pastor over the three
congregations of Fourth Creek, Concord and Bethany, which extended
from the South Yadkin river to the Catawba. After the Revolution he
served these three congregations until 1790, when, wishing to devote
more time to the cause of domestic missions, he was released from his
connection, with Fourth Creek and Concord. His connection with Bethany
continued until his death, in July, 1826.
A full account of Mr. Hall's patriotic services during the Revolution
would far transcend the prescribed limits of this sketch. The
principles of civil and religious freedom which he received in his
parental, as well as in his collegiate training, would not allow him
to remain neuter or indifferent, when a cruel, invading foe was
trampling on the just and dearest rights of his country.
Accordingly, in response to the warm, patriotic impulses of his
nature, when General Rutherford called out an army of over two
thousand men from the surrounding counties to subdue the Cherokee
Indians, who were committing numerous murders and depredations on the
frontier settlements, Mr. Hall promptly volunteered his services, and
was gladly accepted by the commanding officers as their Chaplain.
In the brief, diary notes of Captain Charles Polk, (now before the
author), who commanded a company in this expedition, he says:
"On Thursday, the 12th of September, we marched down the
river three miles, to Cowee Town, and encamped. On this day
there was a party of men sent down this river (_Nuckessey_)
ten miles, to cut down the corn; the Indians fired on them
as they were cutting the corn and killed Hancock Polk, of
Colonel Beekman's Regiment."
On Friday, the 13th, they remained encamped in Cowee Town. On
Saturday, the 14th, "we marched to Nuckessey Town, six miles higher up
the river, and encamped. On Sunday, the 15th, one of Captain Irwin's
men was buried in _Nuckessey_ Town. On Monday, the 16th, we marched
five miles--this day with a detachment of twelve hundred men--for the
Valley Towns, and encamped on the waters of Tennessee river. Mr. Hall
preached a sermon last Sunday; in time of sermon the express we sent
to the South army returned home. On Tuesday, the 17th, we marched six
miles, and arrived at a town called _Nowee_, about 12 o'clock; three
guns were fired at Robert Harris, of Mecklenburg, by the Indians, said
Harris being in the rear of the army. We marched one mile from _Nowee_
and encamped on the side of a steep mountain, without any fire."
These extracts show that Mr. Hall was then at his post of duty, and
ready to deliver religious instruction to the American army. The
sermon was directly prompted by the death of a fellow soldier. Who can
tell how many hearts were touched and benefitted by the gospel truths
proclaimed by the youthful preacher on that solemn occasion? The
counsels of Eternity can alone answer the question.
In 1779, when South Carolina was overrun by the British and Tories,
Mr. Hall's spirit was stirred within him on receiving intelligence of
the massacres and plunderings experienced by the inhabitants of the
upper part of that State. Under this state of feeling he assembled his
congregation and addressed them in strong, patriotic language on what
he believed to be their present duty. He pictured to their view, in a
most thrilling manner, the wrongs and sufferings of their afflicted
countrymen. The appeal to their patriotism was not made in vain. With
as little delay as possible a company of cavalry, composed of choice
young men from his congregation, was promptly raised. On its
organization, Mr. Hall was unanimously chosen for their Captain; all
his excuses were overruled, and, in order to encourage his countrymen
_to act_ rather than _to talk_, he accepted the command. "Heart
within, and God o'erhead." During this tour of service two of his men
were taken prisoners. As he could not recover them by force of arms,
their case was made the subject of prayer, both in his private
devotions and in public with his company. In a few days afterward the
prisoners made their escape and rejoined their fellow soldiers.
They stated that, as their captors lay encamped one night on Broad
River, in South Carolina, the sentinel placed at the door of the
guard-house was observed to be drowsy; they remaining quiet, he soon
fell asleep. When the prisoners discovered he was truly reposing in
"balmy sleep," they quietly stepped over him as he lay with his gun
folded in his bosom, and quickly ran for the river. The noise of their
plunge into the water, aroused the attention of another more wakeful
sentry; the alarm was given, and boats were manned for the pursuit,
but the active swimmers reached the opposite bank in safety and thus
effected their escape, to the great joy of the praying Captain and his
In the winter of 1781, when Lord Cornwallis was approaching the
Catawba river with his army, General Davidson, who was in command of
the Whigs on the opposite or Mecklenburg side of that stream,
concentrated his forces, stationed at different points on the river,
to resist him at Cowan's Ford. In order to strengthen himself as much
as possible, he sent couriers to the adjoining counties, calling on
the Whigs to rally to his assistance. One of these couriers, sent to
Fourth Creek Church, (now Statesville), in Iredell county, arrived on
the Sabbath, while the pastor, the Rev. James Hall, was preaching. The
urgency of his business did not permit him to delay in making known
the nature of his mission, and, as the best course of doing so, he
walked up to the pulpit and handed Davidson's call to the pastor, the
Rev. James Hall, whose patriotic record was well known. Mr. Hall
glanced over the document, and understanding its purport, brought his
discourse to a speedy close, descended from the pulpit, and read it to
After reading it he made a patriotic appeal to his audience to respond
to this call of their country. Whereupon, a member of the congregation
moved that they organize by calling Mr. Hall, the pastor, to preside,
and proceed to take such action as the circumstances demanded. The
pastor accepted the position of President of the meeting, renewed his
appeal to the patriotism of his people, and demonstrated his sincerity
in calling for volunteers by placing his own name at the head of the
list. His example was quickly followed by a sufficient number of his
congregation to form a company. It was then decided to adjourn, and
meet again at the church at 10 o'clock next morning, mounted, with
arms and supplied with ammunition, and five days rations, at which
time they would elect officers and proceed to the scene of conflict.
Accordingly, on the following morning the pastor and the greater part
of the male members of his congregation responded to roll call under
the noble oaks, where then, and now, stands Fourth Creek Presbyterian
Church, in the corporate limits of the town of Statesville, the county
seat of Iredell.
The assemblage proceeded immediately to the election of officers, when
the Rev. James Hall, their pastor, was unanimously chosen Captain.
In accordance with the choice of his beloved congregation, so
cordially given, Mr. Hall instantly assumed command, put his men in
rapid motion, and, in due time, reported to General Davidson and took
his position in line, to resist the invaders of his country.
This was the sort of patriotism that burned in the bosoms of the
Scotch-Irish Presbyterians between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers;
which was enkindled by the pastors of the seven churches of
Mecklenburg, and burst forth into a flame upon the classic site of
Charlotte, on the 20th of May, 1775.
When the war of the revolution had ended, Mr. Hall devoted himself,
with undivided energies, to his beloved work, the gospel ministry. The
effects of the long and harassing war upon the churches in Carolina
were deplorable; the regular ordinances of the gospel had been broken
up, and the preached word had become less valued. His efforts in
promoting vital godliness met with the Divine approbation, were
attended with His blessing, and resulted in a revival of religion.
One sphere of usefulness in which Mr. Hall excelled, was the education
of young men. Near the commencement of the war he conducted for a time
a classical school, called Clio's Nursery, on Snow Creek, in Iredell
county. This he superintended with care, and through its agency
brought out many distinguished men that might not otherwise have
obtained an education.
This eminent minister of the gospel died on the 25th of July, 1826, in
the eighty-second year of his age, and is buried in the graveyard of
Bethany Church, in Iredell county.
HUGH LAWSON WHITE.
Hugh Lawson White was born in Iredell county in 1773, on the
plantation now owned by Thomas Caldwell, Esq., about two miles west of
Center Church, and five miles east of Beattie's Ford, on the Catawba
river. The old family mansion has long since disappeared, and the plow
now runs smoothly over its site. His grandfather, Moses White,
emigrated to America from Ireland about 1742, and married a daughter
of Hugh Lawson, one of the patriarchal settlers of the country. He had
six sons, James, Moses, John, William, David and Andrew; many of whose
descendants now reside in Iredell county. James White, the father of
Hugh, was a soldier of the Revolution. About 1786 he moved to Knox
county, East Tennessee, and was one of the original founders of the
present flourishing city of Knoxville. When the Creek (Indian) war
broke out he entered the army, was soon made a Brigadier General, and
was distinguished for his bravery, energy and talents.
Hugh L. White's education was conducted under the care of Rev. Samuel
Carrick, Judge Roane, and Dr. Patterson, of Philadelphia. After
completing his studies he returned home and commenced the practice of
his profession. By close attention to business he soon acquired
eminence, numerous friends, and a handsome competency. At the early
age of twenty-eight he was elected one of the Judges of the Superior
Court. In 1807 he resigned his Judgship and retired to his farm.
There appears, says a writer on biography, always to be a congeniality
between the pursuits of agriculture and all great and good minds. We
do not pretend to analyze the _rationale_ of this, or why it is that
patriotism exists with more elevation and fervency in the retirement
of a farm than in the busy mart of crowded cities. The history of man
proves this fact, that the noblest instances of self-sacrificing
patriotism which have adorned the drama of human life, have been
presented by those who are devoted to agricultural pursuits. It is the
only pursuit that man followed in his state of primal innocence, and
surviving his fall, allows the mind
"To look through nature, up to nature's God."
But his well-known abilities were too highly appreciated by his
fellow-citizens to grant him a long retirement. Soon after his
resignation of the judicial robes he was elected a Senator to the
In 1809, when Tennessee remodeled her judiciary department, and
created the Supreme Court, Judge White was unanimously chosen to
preside over this important tribunal of justice. He could not with
propriety refuse to accept a position so cordially tendered, and
highly honorable in its character. For six years he presided over its
deliberations with such fidelity and strict integrity as to win
universal esteem and unfading honors for his reputation. At the same
time he was elected President of the State Bank. Under his able
management its character acquired stability and public confidence.
The State of Tennessee was then severely suffering from the hostile
incursions and savage depredations of the Creek Indians. At the
darkest period of the campaign, when General Jackson was in the midst
of a wild territory, and surrounded, not only by cruel savages, but
enduring famine, disaffection and complaints, Judge White left the
Supreme Court Bench, and with a single companion, sought and found,
after days and nights of peril, the camp of the veteran Jackson. He
immediately volunteered their services, and they were gladly accepted.
While Judge White was absent on this campaign he lost several terms of
his court; and as the Judges were only paid for services actually
rendered, the Legislature resolved that there should be no deduction
in his annual salary as Judge. This continuance of salary, so
gratefully offered, he declined to receive.
In 1822 he was appointed, with Governor Tazewell of Virginia, and
Governor King, of Alabama, a commissioner under the convention with
Spain, which position he accepted and held until its term expired in
In 1825, General Jackson having resigned his seat as a Senator in
Congress, Judge White was unanimously elected to fill out his term. In
1827 he was unanimously elected for a full term; and in 1832 was
chosen President of the Senate. In 1836 he was voted for as President
of the United States.
He died, with the consciousness of a well spent life, at his adopted
home in Tennessee, on the 10th of April, 1840, aged sixty-seven years.
Lincoln county was formed in 1768, from Mecklenburg county, and named
Tryon, in honor of William Tryon, at that time the Royal Governor, but
his oppressive administration, terminating with cold-blooded murders
at the battle of Alamance in 1771, caused the General Assembly in 1779
to blot out his odious name and divide the territory into Lincoln and
Rutherford counties. These names were imposed during the Revolution
when both of the honored heroes were fighting the battles of their
Lincoln county, separated from Mecklenburg by the noble Catawba river,
has a Revolutionary record of peculiar interest. In June, 1780, the
battle of Ramsour's Mill was fought, which greatly enlivened the
Whigs, and, in a corresponding degree, weakened the Tory influence
throughout the surrounding country. In January, 1781, Lord Cornwallis,
with a large invading army, passed through the county and camped for
three days on the Ramsour battle-ground. General O'Hara, one of his
chief officers, camped at the "Reep place," about two miles and a half
west of Ramsour's Mill. Tarleton, with his cavalry, crossed the South
Fork, in "Cobb's bottom," and passed over the ridge on which
Lincolnton now stands (before the place had a "local habitation and a
name,") in approaching his lordship's headquarters. Although Lincoln
county contained many who were misled through the artful influence of
designing men, and fought on the _wrong side_, yet, within her borders
were found a gallant band of unflinching patriots, both of German and
Scotch-Irish descent, who acted nobly throughout the struggle for
independence, and "made their mark" victoriously at Ramsour's Mill,
King's Mountain, the Cowpens, and at other places in North and South
Lincoln county, as Tryon, sent to the first popular Convention, which
met at Newbern, on the 25th of August, 1774, Robert Alexander and
David Jenkins. To Hillsboro, August 21st, 1775, John Walker, Robert
Alexander, Joseph Hardin, William Graham, Frederick Hambright and
William Alston. To Halifax, April 4th, 1776, James Johnston and
Charles McLean. To the same place, November 12th, 1776, (which body
formed the first State Constitution,) Joseph Hardin, William Graham,
Robert Abernathy, William Alston and John Barber. Several of these
names will be noticed in the subsequent sketches.
BATTLE OF RAMSOUR'S MILL.
The unsuccessful attempt made by General Lincoln to take Savannah, and
the subsequent capture of the army under his command at Charleston,
induced Sir Henry Clinton to regard the States of South Carolina and
Georgia as subdued and restored to the British Crown. The South was
then left, for a time, without any regular force to defend her
territory. Soon after the surrender of Charleston, detachments of the
British army occupied the principal military posts of Georgia and
South Carolina. Col. Brown re-occupied Augusta; Col. Balfour took
possession of Ninety-Six, on the Wateree, and Lord Cornwallis pressed
forward to Camden. Sir Henry Clinton then embarked with the main army
for New York, leaving four thousand troops for the further subjugation
of the South. After his departure the chief command devolved on Lord
Cornwallis, who immediately repaired to Charleston to establish
commercial regulations and organize the civil administration of the
State, leaving Lord Rawdon in command at Camden. North Carolina had
not yet been invaded, and the hopes of the patriots in the South now
seemed mainly to rest on this earliest pioneer State in the cause of
Charleston surrendered on the 12th of May, 1780. On the 29th of the
same month Tarleton defeated Col. Buford in the Waxhaw settlement,
upwards of thirty miles south of Charlotte, on his way to the relief
of Charleston. Just before the surrender, a well organized force from
Mecklenburg, Rowan and Lincoln counties, left Charlotte with the same
object in view, but arrived too late, as Charleston was then
completely invested by the British army. And yet this force, after its
return, proved of great service in protecting the intervening country,
and prevented the invasion of North Carolina until a few weeks after
the battle of Camden.
At this critical period General Rutherford ordered out the whole
militia, and by the 3d of June about nine hundred men assembled near
Charlotte. On the next day the militia were addressed by the Rev.
Alexander McWhorter, the patriotic President of "Liberty Hall
Academy," (formerly "Queen's Museum"), after which General Rutherford
dismissed them, with orders to hold themselves in readiness for
another call. Major, afterward General, Davie having recovered from
his wounds received at Stono, near Charleston, again took the field,
and part of his cavalry were ordered to reconnoiter between Charlotte
and Camden. Having heard that Lord Rawdon had retired with his army to
Hanging Rock, General Rutherford moved from his rendezvous to Rea's
plantation, eighteen miles north-east of Charlotte, to Mallard Creek.
On the 14th of June the troops under his command were properly
organized. The cavalry, sixty-five in number under Major Davie, were
equipped as dragoons, and formed into two companies under Captains
Lemmonds and Martin. A battalion of three hundred light infantry were
placed under the command of General William Davidson, a regular
officer, who could not join his Regiment in Charleston after that
place was invested. About five hundred men remained under the
immediate command of General Rutherford. On the evening of the 14th of
June he received intelligence that the Tories, under Col. John Moore,
had embodied themselves in strong force at Ramsour's Mill, near the
present town of Lincolnton. He immediately issued orders to Colonel
Francis Locke, of Rowan; Major David Wilson, of Mecklenburg; also to
Captains Falls, Knox, Brandon, and other officers, to raise men to
disperse the Tories, deeming it unwise to weaken his own force until
the object of Lord Rawdon, still encamped at Waxhaws, should become
On the 15th General Rutherford advanced to a position two miles south
of Charlotte. On the 17th he was informed Lord Rawdon had retired
towards Camden. On the 18th he broke up his camp south of Charlotte,
and marched twelve miles to Tuckasege Ford, on the Catawba river. On
the evening of that day he dispatched an express to Col. Locke,
advising him of his movements, and ordering him to unite with him
(Rutherford) at Col. Dickson's plantation, three miles northwest of
Tuckasege Ford, on the evening of the 19th or on the morning of the
20th of June. The express miscarried, in some unaccountable way, and
never reached Colonel Locke.
When General Rutherford crossed the river on the evening of the 19th,
it was believed he would march in the night, and attack the Tories
next morning; but still supposing his express had reached Colonel
Locke, he waited for the arrival of that officer at his present
encampment in Lincoln county, where he was joined by Col. Graham's
regiment. At ten o'clock at night of the 19th, Col. James Johnston, a
brave officer, and well acquainted with the intervening country,
arrived at Gen. Rutherford's camp. He had been dispatched by Colonel
Locke from Mountain Creek, sixteen miles from Ramsour's Mill, to
inform Gen. Rutherford of his intention of attacking the Tories next
morning at sunrise, and requested his co-operation. Gen. Rutherford,
still expecting his express would certainly reach Col. Locke soon
after Col. Johnston left his encampment on Mountain Creek, made no
movement until early next morning.
In pursuance of the orders given to Col. Locke and other officers from
headquarters at Mallard Creek, on the 14th of June, they quickly
collected as many men as they could, and on the 18th Major Wilson,
with sixty-five men, crossed the Catawba at Toole's Ford and joined
Major McDowell, from Burke, with twenty-five horsemen. They passed up
the river at a right angle with the position of the Tories, for the
purpose of meeting other Whig forces. At McEwen's Ford, being joined
by Captain Falls with forty men, they continued their march up the
east side of Mountain Creek, and on Monday, the 19th, they united with
Col. Locke, Captain Brandon and other officers, with two hundred and
seventy men. The whole force now amounted to nearly four hundred men.
They encamped on Mountain Creek at a place called the _glades_. The
officers met in council and unanimously agreed it would be unsafe to
remain long in their present position, and, notwithstanding the
disparity of the opposing forces, it was determined that they should
march during the night and attack the Tories in their camp at an early
hour next morning. It was said that the Tories being ignorant of their
inferior force, and being suddenly attacked would be easily routed. At
this time, Col. Johnston, as previously stated, was dispatched from
Mountain Creek to apprise General Rutherford of their determination.
Late in the evening they commenced their march from Mountain Creek,
and passing down the south side of the mountain they halted at the
west end of it in the night when they again consulted on the plan of
attack. It was determined that the companies under Captains Falls,
McDowell and Brandon should act on horseback and march in front. No
other arrangement was made, and it was left to the officers to be
governed by circumstances after they reached the enemy. They
accordingly resumed their march and by day light arrived within a mile
of the Tories, assembled in strong force, about two hundred and fifty
yards east of Ramsour's Mill, and half a mile north of the present
town of Lincolnton. The Tories occupied an excellent position on the
summit of the ridge, which has a gentle slope, and was then covered
with a scattered growth of trees. The foot of the hill on the south
and east was bounded by a glade and its western base by Ramsour's mill
pond, The position was so well chosen that nothing but the most
determined bravery enabled the Whigs, with a greatly inferior force,
to drive the Tories from it, and claim the victory of one of the most
severely contested battles of the Revolution.
The forces of Colonel Locke approached the battle ground from the
east, a part of his command, at least, having taken "refreshments" at
Dellinger's Tavern, which stood near the present residence of B.S.
Johnson, Esq., of Lincolnton. The companies of Captains Falls,
McDowell and Brandon were mounted, and the other troops under Col.
Locke were arranged in the road, two deep, behind them. Under this
organization they marched to the battle-field. The mounted companies
led the attack. When they came within sight of the picket, stationed
in the road a considerable distance from the encampment, they
perceived that their approach had not been anticipated. The picket
fired and fled to their camp. The cavalry pursued, and turning to the
right out of the road, they rode up within thirty steps of the line
and fired at the Tories. This bold movement of the cavalry threw them
into confusion, but seeing only a few men assailing them they quickly
recovered from their panic and poured in such a destructive fire upon
the horsemen as to compel them to retreat. Soon the infantry hurried
up to their assistance, the cavalry rallied, and the fight became
general on both sides. It was in this first attack of the cavalry that
the brave Captain Gilbraith Falls was mortally wounded in the breast,
rode about one hundred and fifty yards east of the battle ground, and
fell dead from his horse. The Tories, seeing the effect of their fire,
came a short distance down the hill, and thus brought themselves in
fair view of the Whig infantry. Here the action was renewed and the
contest fiercely maintained for a considerable length of time. In
about an hour the Tories began to fall back to their original position
on the ridge, and a little beyond its summit, to shield a part of
their bodies from the destructive and unceasing fire of the Whigs.
From this strong and elevated position the Tories, during the action,
were enabled at one time to drive the Whigs nearly back to the glade.
At this moment Captain Hardin led a small force of Whigs into the
field, and, under cover of the fence, kept up a galling fire on the
right flank of the Tories. This movement gave their lines the proper
extension, and the contest being well maintained in the center, the
Tories began to retreat up the ridge. Before they reached its summit
they found a part of their former position in possession of the Whigs.
In this quarter the action became close, and the opposing parties in
two instances mixed together, and having no bayonets they struck at
each other with the butts of their guns. In this strange contest
several of the Tories were made prisoners, and others, divesting
themselves of their mark of distinction, (a twig of green pine-top
stuck in their hats), intermixed with the Whigs, and all being in
their common dress, escaped without being detected.
The Tories finding the left of their position in possession of the
Whigs, and their center closely pressed, retreated down the ridge
toward the pond, still exposed to the incessant fire of the Whig
forces. The Whigs pursued their advantages until they got entire
possession of the ridge, when they discovered, to their astonishment,
that the Tories had collected in strong force on the other side of the
creek, beyond the mill. They expected the fight would be renewed, and
attempted to form a line, but only eighty-six men could be paraded.
Some were scattered during the action, others were attending to their
wounded friends, and, after repeated efforts, not more than one
hundred and ten men could be collected.
In this situation of affairs, it was resolved by Colonel Locke and
other officers, that Major David Wilson of Mecklenburg, and Captain
William Alexander of Rowan, should hasten to General Rutherford, and
urge him to press forward to their assistance. General Rutherford had
marched early in the morning from Colonel Dickson's plantation, and
about six or seven miles from Ramsour's, was met by Wilson and
Major Davie's cavalry was started off at full gallop, and Colonel
Davidson's battalion of infantry were ordered to hasten on with all
possible speed. After progressing about two miles they were met by
others from the battle, who informed them the Tories had retreated.
The march was continued, and the troops arrived at the battleground
two hours after the action had closed. The dead and most of the
wounded were still lying where they fell.
In this action the Tories fought and maintained their ground for a
considerable length of time with persistent bravery. Very near the
present brick structure on the battle-ground, containing within its
walls the mortal remains of six gallant Whig captains, the severest
fighting took place. They here sealed with their life's blood their
devotion to their country's struggle for independence.
In addition to those from their own neighborhoods, the Tories were
reinforced two days before the battle by two hundred well-armed men
from Lower Creek, in Burke county, under Captains Whiston and Murray.
Colonel John Moore, son of Moses Moore, who resided six or seven miles
west of Lincolnton, took an active part in arousing and increasing the
Tory element throughout the county. He had joined the enemy the
preceding winter in South Carolina, and having recently returned,
dressed in a tattered suit of British uniform and with a sword
dangling at his side, announced himself as Lieutenant Colonel in the
regiment of North Carolina loyalists, commanded by Colonel John
Hamilton, of Halifax. Soon thereafter, Nicholas Welch, of the same
vicinity, who had been in the British service for eighteen months, and
bore a Major's commission in the same regiment, also returned, in a
splendid uniform, and with a purse of gold, which was ostensibly
displayed to his admiring associates, accompanied with artful speeches
in aid of the cause he had embraced. Under these leaders there was
collected in a few weeks a force of thirteen hundred men, who encamped
on the elevated position east of Ramsour's Mill, previously described.
The Tories, believing that they were completely beaten, formed a
stratagem to secure their retreat. About the time that Wilson and
Alexander were dispatched to General Rutherford, they sent a flag
under the pretense of proposing a suspension of hostilities for the
purpose of burying the dead, and taking care of the wounded. To
prevent the flag officer from seeing their small number, Major James
Rutherford and another officer were ordered to meet him a short
distance from the line. The proposition being made, Major Rutherford
demanded that the Tories should surrender in ten minutes, and then the
arrangements as requested could be effected. In the meantime Moore and
Welch gave orders that such of their own men as were on foot, or had
inferior horses, should move off singly as fast as they could; so
that, when the flag returned, not more than fifty men remained. These
very brave officers, _before the battle_, and who misled so many of
their countrymen, were among the first to take their departure from
the scene of conflict, and seek elsewhere, by rapid flight, _more
healthy quarters_. Col. Moore, with thirty of his followers, succeeded
in reaching the British army at Camden, where he was threatened with a
trial by court-martial for disobedience of orders in attempting to
embody the Loyalists before the time appointed by Lord Cornwallis.
As there was no perfect organization by either party, nor regular
returns made after the action, the loss could not be accurately
ascertained. Fifty-six men lay dead on the side of the ridge, and near
the present brick enclosure, where the hottest part of the fight
occurred. Many of the dead were found on the flanks and over the ridge
toward the Mill. It is believed that about seventy were killed
altogether, and that the loss on either side was nearly equal. About
one hundred were wounded, and fifty Tories made prisoners. The men had
no uniform, and it could not be told to which party many of the dead
belonged. Most of the Whigs wore a white piece of paper on their hats
in front, which served as a mark at which the Tories frequently aimed,
and consequently, several of the Whigs, after the battle, were found
to be shot in the head. In this battle, neighbors, near relatives and
personal friends were engaged in hostile array against each other.
After the action commenced, scarcely any orders were given by the
commanding officers. They all fought like common soldiers, and
animated each other by their example, as in the battle of King's
Mountain, a little over three months after. In no battle of the
Revolution, where a band of patriots, less than four hundred in
number, engaged against an enemy, at least twelve hundred strong, was
there an equal loss of officers, showing the leading part they
performed, and the severity of the conflict. They were all
"Patriots, who perished for their country's right,
Or nobly triumphed on the field of fight."
Of the Whig officers, Captains Falls, Knox, Dobson, Smith, Bowman,
Sloan, and Armstrong were killed. Captain William Falls, who commanded
one of the cavalry companies, was shot in the breast in the first
spirited charge, as previously stated, and riding a short distance in
the rear, fell dead from his horse. His body, after the battle was
over, was wrapped in a blanket procured from Mrs. Reinhardt and
conveyed to Iredell (then a part of Rowan) for burial. Captain Falls
lived in Iredell county, not far from Sherrill's Ford, on the Catawba.
There is a reliable tradition which states that when Captain Falls was
killed a Tory ran up to rob the body, and had taken his watch, when a
young son of Falls, though only fourteen years old, ran up suddenly
behind the Tory, drew his father's sword and killed him. Captain Falls
was the maternal grandfather of the late Robert Falls Simonton, who
had the sword in his possession at the time of his death, in February,
Captain Patrick Knox was mortally wounded in the thigh; an artery
being severed, he very soon died from the resulting hemorrhage.
Captain James Houston was severely wounded in the thigh, from the
effects of which he never fully recovered. Captain Daniel McKissick
was also severely wounded, but recovered, and represented Lincoln
county in the Commons from 1783 to 1787. Captains Hugh Torrence, David
Caldwell, John Reid, all of Rowan county, and Captain Smith, of
Mecklenburg, came out of the conflict unhurt. William Wilson had a
horse shot down under him, and was wounded in the second fire. Several
of the inferior officers were killed. Thirteen men from the vicinity
of Fourth Creek [Statesville] lay dead on the ground after the battle,
and many of the wounded died a few days afterward. Joseph Wasson, from
Snow Creek, received five balls, one of which it is said he carried
_forty years to a day_, when it came out of itself. Being unable to
stand up he lay on the ground, loaded his musket, and fired several
The brick monumental structure on the southern brow of the rising
battle-ground, about fifty or sixty yards from the present public
road, contains the mortal remains of six Whig Captains; also those of
Wallace Alexander, and his wife, who was a daughter of Captain Dobson,
one of the fallen heroes on this hotly-contested field of strife.
The loss of the Tories was greater in privates, but less in officers,
than the Whigs. Captains Cumberland, Warlick and Murray were killed,
and Captain Carpenter wounded. Captains Keener, Williams and others,
including Lieutenant-Colonel John Moore and Major Welch, escaped with
their lives, but not "to fight another day."
On the highest prominence of the battle-ground, in a thinly-wooded
forest, is a single headstone pointing out the graves of three Tories,
probably subordinate officers, with the initials of their names
inscribed in parentheses, thus: "[I.S.] [N.W.] [P.W.] "--with three
dots after each name, as here presented. A little below are two
parallel lines extending across the face of the coarse soap stone,
enclosing three hearts with crosses between, as much as to say, _here
lie three loving hearts_.
Near a pine tree now standing on the battle-ground, reliable tradition
says a long trench was dug, in which was buried nearly all of the
killed belonging to both of the contending forces, laid side by side,
as the high and the low are perfectly equal in the narrow confines of
INCIDENTS OF THE BATTLE.
Early on the morning of the 20th of June, 1780, when the Tories were
forming their forces in martial array near the residence of Christian
Reinhardt, situated on the south-western brow of the battle-ground, he
conducted his wife, with two little children in his arms, and several
small negroes, across the creek to a dense cane-brake extending along
and up the western bank of the mill pond as a place of safety. He then
returned to his residence, and in a very short time the battle
As the contest raged, and peal after peal of musketry reverberated
over the surrounding hills and dales, his dwelling-house, smoke-house,
and even his empty stables were successively filled with the dead, the
dying and the wounded. When the battle was nearly over, and victory
about to result in favor of the Whigs, many of the Tories swam the
mill pond at its upper end, and thus made their escape. Two of these
fleeing Tories, with green pine tops in their hats, [their badge of
distinction], rushed through the cane-brake very near to Mrs.
Reinhardt and her tender objects of care, exclaiming as they passed.
"We are whipped! we are whipped!!" and were soon out of sight. During
the unusual commotion and terrific conflict of arms, even the deer
were aroused from their quiet retreat. One of these denizens of the
cane-brake, with sprangling horns, dashed up near to Mrs. Reinhardt,
and after viewing for a moment, with astonishment, the new occupants
of their rightful solitude, darted off with a celebrity little
surpassing that of the fleeing Tories. As soon as the firing ceased,
Mrs. Reinhardt came out of her covert with her little ones, and, on
reaching the bridge, at the mill, found it had been torn up by the
retreating Tories, but, being met there by her husband, she was
enabled to cross over, reach her home, and witness the mournful scene
which presented itself. The tender sympathy of woman's heart, ever
ready to minister to the wants of suffering humanity, was then called
into requisition, and kindly extended. In a short time her house was
stripped of every disposable blanket and sheet to wrap around the
dead, or be employed in some other useful way. Neighbors and
relatives, a few hours before bitter enemies, were now seen freely
mingling together and giving every kind attention to the sufferers,
whether Whig or Tory, within their power.
ROUTE OF THE BRITISH ARMY THROUGH LINCOLN COUNTY.
After the battle of the Cowpens, on the 17th of January, 1781, Lord
Cornwallis left his headquarters at Winnsboro, S.C., being reinforced
by General Leslie, and marched rapidly to overtake General Morgan,
encumbered with more than five hundred prisoners, and necessary
baggage, on his way to a place of safety in Virginia. His Lordship was
now smarting under two signal defeats (King's Mountain and the
Cowpens) occurring a little more than three months apart. But the race
is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong. "Man
proposes, but God disposes."
The original manuscript journal of Lord Cornwallis, now on file in the
archives of the Historical Society of the State University at Chapel
Hill, discloses, with great accuracy, the movements of the British
army through Lincoln, Mecklenburg and Rowan counties.
On the 17th of January, 1781, the headquarters of General Leslie were
at Sandy Run, Chester county, S.C. On the 18th, at Hillhouse's
plantation, in York county, he returns his thanks to the troops under
his command, and informs them that all orders in future will issue
from Lord Cornwallis and the Adjutant General. At eight o'clock at
night, Lord Cornwallis issues his orders to the army to march at eight
o'clock on the ensuing morning in the following order: 1. Yagers; 2.
Corps of Pioneers; 3. two three pounders; 4. Brigade Guards; 5.
Regiment of Bose; 6. North Carolina Volunteers; 7. two six pounders;
8. Lieutenant Colonel Webster's Brigade; 9. Wagons of the General; 10.
Field Officers' wagons; 11. Ammunition wagons; 12. Hospital wagons;
13. Regimental wagons; 14. Provision train; 15. Bat. horses; a
captain, two subalterns, and one hundred men from Col. Webster's
Brigade, to form a rear guard. On the 19th the army camped at Smith's
house, near the Cherokee Iron Works, on Broad river. On the 20th the
army camped at Saunder's plantation, on Buffalo creek. On the 23rd the
army crossed the North Carolina line, and camped at Tryon old Court
House, in the western part of the present county of Gaston. On the
24th the army arrived at Ramsour's Mill, near the present town of
Lincolnton. Here Cornwallis was compelled to remain three days to lay
in a supply of provisions for his large army. To accomplish this,
foraging parties were sent out in different directions to purchase all
the grain, of every kind, that could be procured. Ramsour's Mill,
surrounded with a guard of eight or ten men, was set to work, running
_day and night_, converting the grain into meal or flour.
General O'Hara camped at the "Reep place," two miles and a half
northwest of Ramsour's Mill. His forces crossed the South Fork, about
a mile above the bridge, on the public road leading to Rutherfordton.
Tarleton's cavalry crossed the same stream in "Cobb's bottom," passing
over the present site of Lincolnton, to form a junction with
Cornwallis. This small divergence from the direct line of travel, and
subsequent concentration at some designated point, was frequently made
by sections of the British army for the purpose of procuring supplies.
Lord Cornwallis, during his transitory stay, made his headquarters
nearly on the summit of the rising ground, two hundred and fifty yards
east of the Mill, on which had been fought the severe battle between
the Whigs, under Colonel Francis Locke, and the Tories, under
Lieutenant Colonel John Moore (son of Moses Moore), in which the
former were victorious.
Christian Reinhardt, one of the first German settlers of the county,
then lived near the base of the rising battle ground, and carried on a
tan-yard. He owned a valuable servant, named Fess, (contraction of
Festus,) whose whole _soul_ was exerted in making good _sole_ leather,
and upper too, for the surrounding country. This servant, greatly
attached to his kind master, was forced off, very much against his
will, by some of the British soldiery on their departure; but his
whereabouts having been found out, Adam Reep, and one or two other
noted Whigs, adroitly managed to recover him from the British camp, a
few days afterward, and restored him to his rightful owner.
The Marquee of Lord Cornwallis was placed near a a pine tree, still
standing on the battle ground, left there by the present owner of the
property, (W.M. Reinhardt, Esq., grand son of Christian Reinhardt,) in
clearing the land, as a memento of the past--where Royalty, for a
brief season, held undisputed sway, and feasted on the fat of the
Reliable tradition says that some of the British soldiery, while
encamped on the Ramsour battle ground, evinced a notable propensity
for depredating upon the savory poultry of the good old house-wife,
Mrs. Barbara Reinhardt--in other words, they showed a fondness for
procuring _fowl meat_ by _foul means_, in opposition to the principles
of honesty and good morals. As soon as the depredations were
discovered by Mrs. Reinhardt she immediately laid in her complaints at
head-quarters. Whereupon his lordship, placing greater stress upon the
sanctity of the eighth commandment than his loyal soldiers, promptly
replied, "Madam, you shall be protected," and accordingly had a guard
placed over her property until his departure.
Another incident relating to the advance of the British army is to the
following effect. As Tarleton's cavalry passed through the southern
part of Lincoln county (now Gaston) they rode up to the residence of
Benjamin Ormand, on the head-waters of Long Creek, and tied one of the
horses, which they had taken, to the top of a small white oak, growing
in his yard. This little Revolutionary _sapling_ is still living in
the serenity of a robust old age, and now measures, two feet from the
ground, _twenty-seven feet in circumference!_ Its branches extend all
around in different directions from forty to fifty feet, and the tree
is supposed to contain at least ten cords of wood.
When Tarleton's cavalry were on the point of leaving, they took the
blanket from the cradle in which James Ormand, the baby, was lying,
and used it as a saddle-blanket, and the large family Bible of
Benjamin Ormand was converted into a _saddle!!_
The Bible was afterward found near Beattie's Ford, on the Catawba
river, in the line of the British march, and restored to its proper
owner. Mr. Z.S. Ormand, a grandson of Benjamin Ormand, and a worthy
citizen of Gaston county, now lives at the old homestead, where the
Bible, considerably injured, can be seen at any time, as an abused
relic of the past, and invested with a most singular history.
Tarleton's cavalry also seized and carried off the bedding and
blankets in the house, and some of the cooking utensils in the
Mr. Ormand also informs the author that he frequently heard his
grandmother, who then lived near Steele Creek Church, say that she was
present at the great meeting at Charlotte, on the 20th of May, 1775,
and that she exhibited, on that occasion, _a quilt of her own
manufacture_. She said it was a large turn out of people from all
parts of the county, and was considered a suitable time for the _fair
sex_ to exhibit productions of their own hands.
Having replenished his commissary department as much as possible while
encamped on the Ramsour battleground, and having experienced too much
delay in his late march in consequence of the encumbrance of his
baggage, Cornwallis destroyed, before moving, all such as could be
regarded as superfluous. The baggage at head-quarters was first thrown
into the flames, thus converting the greater portion of his army into
light troops, with a view of renewing more rapidly the pursuit of
Morgan, or of forcing General Greene into an early action.
It is said "pewter plates" were freely distributed among some "loyal"
friends in the immediate vicinity, or thrown into the mill-pond; and
large numbers of very strong glass bottles, originally filled with
English ale, or _something stronger_, were broken to pieces on the
rocks, fragments of which may be seen scattered around at the present
Thus disencumbered, Cornwallis, early on the morning, of the 28th of
January, broke up camp and marched to the Catawba River, but finding
it much swollen, and rendered impassable in consequence of heavy rains
at its sources, he fell back to Forney's plantation, five miles from
the river. Jacob Forney was a thrifty, well-to-do farmer, and a
well-known Whig. The plantation is now (1876) owned by Willis E. Hall,
Esq. Here the British army lay encamped for three days, waiting for
the subsidence of the waters, and consumed, during that time, Forney's
entire stock of cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry, with all of which he
was well supplied. (For further particulars, see sketch of "Jacob
Having dried their powder, and laid in an additional supply of
provisions and forage, the British army was now prepared to renew more
actively the pursuit of Morgan.
On the evening before the marching of the main army, Colonel Webster
moved forward with the artillery, and a small detachment as a rear
guard, and took position at Beattie's Ford. This was a mere feint,
intended to create the impression that the whole British army would
cross there, as it was the most eligible pass, and thus elude the
vigilance of the Whigs.
At half-past two o'clock, on the morning of the 1st of February, 1781,
Cornwallis broke up his camp at Forney's plantation, and marched to a
private crossing-place known as Cowan's Ford, six miles below
Beattie's Ford. As he approached the river, a little before the dawn
of a cloudy, misty morning, numerous camp fires on the eastern bank
assured him his passage would be resisted; but General Davidson had
neglected to place his entire force, about three hundred and fifty in
number, near the ford, so as to present an imposing appearance. As it
was, only the companies of Captain Joseph Graham, and of two or three
other officers, probably not more than one third of the whole force on
duty, actually participated in the skirmish which immediately took
place; otherwise, the result might have been far more disastrous to
the British army.
The river at Cowan's Ford, for most of the distance across, has a very
rugged bottom, abounding with numerous rocks, of considerable size,
barely visible at the low water of summer time. With judicious
forethought, Cornwallis had hired the services of Frederick Hager, a
Tory, on the western bank, and, under his guidance, the bold Britons
plunged into the water, with the firm determination of encountering
the small band of Americans on the eastern bank.
Stedman, the English commissary and historian, who accompanied
Cornwallis in his Southern campaigns, thus speaks of the passage of
the river at Cowan's Ford:
"The light infantry of the guards, led by Colonel Hall,
first entered the water. They were followed by the
grenadiers, and the grenadiers by the battalions, the men
marching in platoons, to support one another against the
rapidity of the stream. When the light infantry had nearly
reached the middle of the river, they were challenged by one
of the enemy's sentinels. The sentinel having challenged
thrice, and receiving no answer, immediately gave the alarm
by discharging his musket; and the enemy's pickets were
turned out. No sooner did the guide (a Tory) who attended
the light infantry to show them the ford, hear the report of
the sentinel's musket than he turned around and left them.
This, which at first, seemed to portend much mischief, in
the end, proved a fortunate incident. Colonel Hall, being
forsaken by his guide, and not knowing the true direction of
the ford, led the column directly across the river to the
nearest part of the opposite bank."
This direct course carried the British army to a new landing-place on
the eastern, or Mecklenburg side, so that they did not encounter a
full and concentrated fire from the Whigs. Upon hearing the firing,
General Davidson, who was stationed about half a mile from the ford,
(in the Lucas house, still standing,) with the greater portion of the
militia, hastened to the scene of conflict, evincing his
well-established bravery, but it was too late to change the issue of
the contest, and array any more effectual resistence. At this moment,
General Davidson arrived near the river, and in attempting to rally
the Whig forces for renewed action, received a fatal shot in the
breast, fell from his horse, and almost instantly expired. The few
patriots on the bank of the river nobly performed their duty, but had
soon to retreat before vastly superior numbers.
The British infantry waded the river, preceded by their Tory guide,
staff in hand, to show them the proper ford, and the statement made by
some historians that General Davidson was killed by this guide is not
corroborated by Stedman, the English historian; but, on the contrary,
he leaves us to infer that the American General met his death at the
hands of one of their own troops. The same authority states their own
loss to be Colonel Hall and three privates killed, and thirty-six
wounded. The horse of Lord Cornwallis was fatally shot and fell dead
just as he ascended the bank. The horse of General O'Hara, after
tumbling over the slippery rocks several times, producing a partial
submersion of his rider, finally reached the bank in safety. The
British reserved their fire until they reached the eastern shore, and
then pouring in two or three volleys into the ranks of the opposing
Whig forces, now considerably disconcerted, soon compelled them to
retreat with small loss.
Colonel Hall was buried on the edge of the alluvial land a short
distance below the crossing-place, with a head and foot stone of rock
from the adjoining hill, which were long visible and could be pointed
out by the nearest neighbors; but these were finally concealed from
view by successive overflows of sand from the swollen river. The
privates of both contending forces were buried on the rising ground,
near the scene of conflict, and with such haste on the part of the
British interring party as to leave one of their mattocks behind them
at the graves of their fallen comrades, eager to overtake the vigilant
GEN. JOSEPH GRAHAM.
(Condensed from Wheeler's "Historical Sketches.")
General Joseph Graham was born in Pennsylvania on the 13th of October,
1759. His mother being left a widow with five small children, and
slender means of support, removed to North Carolina when he was about
seven years of age, and settled in the neighborhood of Charlotte. He
received the principal part of his education at "Queen's Museum" in
Charlotte, (afterward called "Liberty Hall Academy,") and was
distinguished for his talents, industry and manly deportment. His
thirst for knowledge led him at an early period to become well
acquainted with all those interesting and exciting events which
preceded our Revolutionary struggle. He was present in Charlotte on
the 20th of May, 1775, when the first Declaration of Independence was
formally and publicly made. The deep impression made upon his mind by
the solemn and illustrious decisions of that day gave good evidence
that he was then preparing for the noble stand which he took during
He enlisted in the army of the United States in May, 1778, at the age
of nineteen years. He served in the Fourth Regiment of North Carolina
regular troops, under Col. Archibald Lytle, acting as an officer in
Captain Gooden's company. The troops to which he was attached were
ordered to rendezvous at Bladensburg, Md. Having marched as far as
Caswell county they received intelligence of the battle of Monmouth,
when he returned home on a furlough.
He again entered the service on the 5th of November, 1778, and marched
under General Rutherford to Purysburg, on the Savannah river, soon
after the defeat of Gen. Ashe at Brier Creek. He was with the troops
under Gen. Lincoln, and fought in the battle of Stono, against Gen.
Prevost, on the 20th of June, 1779, which lasted one hour and twenty
minutes. During nearly the whole of this campaign he acted as
quartermaster. In July, 1779, he was taken with the fever, and after
two months' severe illness was discharged near Dorchester, and
After the surrender of Charleston, and defeat of Col. Bufort at the
Waxhaw, he again entered the service as adjutant of the Mecklenburg
Regiment, and spent the summer in opposing the advance of Lord Rawdon
into North Carolina, and assailing his troops, then within forty miles
When it was understood that the British were marching to Charlotte he
was ordered by General Davidson to repair to that place, and take
command of such a force as he could readily collect, and join Col.
Davie. _About midnight_ of the 25th of September, 1780, Col. Davie
reached Charlotte. On the next day the British army entered Charlotte,
and received such a _stinging_ reception as to cause Lord Cornwallis
to designate the place as the "Hornets' Nest of America." After a
well-directed fire upon the British from the Court House to the gum
tree, Gen. Graham, with the troops assigned to his command, retreated,
opposing Tarleton's cavalry and a regiment of infantry for four miles
on the Salisbury road. On the plantation formerly owned by Joseph
McConnaughey, he again formed his men, and attacked the advancing
British infantry. After again retreating, he formed on the hill above
where Sugar Creek Church now stands. There, owing to the imprudent but
honest zeal of Major White, they were detained too long, for by the
time they had reached the crossroads a party of British dragoons were
in sight, and, after close pursuit for nearly two miles, overtook
them. It was at this time that Lieut. George Locke, a brother of Col.
Francis Locke, of Rowan county, was killed at the margin of a small
pond, now to be seen at the end of Alexander Kennedy's lane. Between
that spot and where James A. Houston now lives, Gen. Graham was cut
down and severely wounded. He received nine wounds, six with the saber
and three from musket balls. His life was narrowly and mercifully
preserved by a large stock buckle which broke the violence of the
stroke. He received four deep gashes of the saber over his head and
one in his side; and three balls were afterward removed from his body.
After being much exhausted by loss of blood, he reached the house of
the late Mrs. Susannah Alexander, where he was kindly nursed and
watched during the night, and his wounds dressed as well as
circumstances would permit. On the next day he reached his mother's
residence, where the late Major Bostwick resided, and from that place
transferred to the hospital in Charlotte.
Thus, at the tender age of twenty-one years, we see this gallant young
officer leading a band of as brave men as ever faced a foe, to guard
the ground first consecrated by the Mecklenburg Declaration of
Independence, leaving his blood as the best memorial of a righteous
cause, and of true heroism in its defence.
As soon as he recovered from his wounds, he again entered the service
of his country. Gen. Davidson, who had command of all the militia in
the western counties of the State, applied to him to raise one or more
companies, promising him such rank as the number of men raised would
justify. Through his great energy, perseverance and influence he
succeeded in raising a company of fifty-five men in two weeks. These
were mounted riflemen, armed also with swords, and some with pistols.
They supplied themselves with their own horses and necessary
equipments, and entered the field without commissary or quartermaster,
and with every prospect of hard fighting, and little compensation.
After Tarleton's signal defeat at the Cowpens, Cornwallis resolved to
pursue Gen. Morgan, encumbered with upwards of five hundred prisoners.
At that time Gen. Greene had assumed command of the southern army, and
stationed himself with a portion of it at Hicks' Creek, near to
Cheraw. After Gen. Morgan's successful retreat, Gen. Greene left his
main army with Gen. Huger, and rode one hundred and fifty miles to
join Gen. Morgan's detachment near the Catawba river. The plan of
opposing Lord Cornwallis in crossing the Catawba was arranged by Gen.
Greene, and its execution assigned to Gen. Davidson. Lieutenant Col.
Webster moved forward and crossed the Catawba in advance with a
detachment of cavalry co create the impression that the whole British
army would cross there, but the real intention of Cornwallis was to
make the attempt at Cowan's Ford. Soon after the action commenced,
Gen. Davidson was killed, greatly lamented by all who knew him as a
brave and generous officer. The company commanded by Gen. Graham
commenced the attack upon the British as they advanced through the
river, and resolutely kept it up until they ascended the bank. The
British then poured in a heavy fire upon Graham's men, two of whom
were killed. Col. William Polk and Rev. T.H. McCaule were near Gen.
Davidson when he fell. Col. Hall and three or four of the British were
killed and upwards of thirty wounded. The British were detained here
about three hours in burying their dead and then resumed their march
in pursuit of Gen. Morgan.
The body of General Davidson was secured by David Wilson and Richard
Barry, conveyed to the house of Samuel Wilson, Sen., there dressed for
burial, and interred that night in the graveyard of Hopewell Church.
The North Carolina militia were then placed under the command of
General Pickens, of South Carolina, and continued to harass the
British as they advanced toward Virginia. General Graham with his
company, and some troops from Rowan county, surprised and captured a
guard at Hart's Mill, one mile and a-half from Hillsboro, where the
British army then lay, and the same day joined Colonel Lee's forces.
On the next day, under General Pickens, he was in the action against
Colonel Pyles, who commanded about three hundred and fifty Tories on
their way to join Tarleton. These Tories supposed the Whigs to be a
company of British troops sent for their protection, and commenced
crying, "God save the King." Tarleton was about a mile from this
place, and retreated to Hillsboro. Shortly afterward General Graham
was in an engagement under Colonel Lee, at Clapp's Mill, on the
Alamance, and had two of his company killed, three wounded and two
made prisoners. Again, a few days afterward, he was in the action at
Whitsell's Mill, under Colonel Washington. As the term of service of
his men had expired, and the country was annoyed with Tories, General
Greene directed him to return with his company and keep them in a
compact body until they crossed the Yadkin, which they did on the 14th
of March, 1781.
After the battle of Guilford the British retired to Wilmington, and
but little military service was performed in North Carolina during the
summer of 1781. About the 1st of September Fannin surprised Hillsboro
and took Governor Burke prisoner. General Rutherford, who had been
taken prisoner at Gates' defeat, was set at liberty, and returned home
about this time. He immediately gave orders to General Graham, in
whose military prowess and influence he placed great confidence, to
raise a troop of cavalry in Mecklenburg county. These troops of
dragoons, and about two hundred mounted infantry, were raised and
formed into a legion, over which Robert Smith was made Colonel and
General Graham Major. They immediately commenced their march toward
Wilmington. South of Fayetteville, with ninety-six dragoons and forty
mounted infantry, made a gallant and successful attack against a body
of Tories commanded by the noted Tory Colonels, McNeil, Ray, Graham
and McDougal. This action took place near McFalls' Mill, on the Raft
swamp, in which the Tories were signally defeated, their leaders
dispersed, and their cause greatly damaged. In this spirited
engagement one hundred and thirty-six Whigs opposed and vanquished six
hundred Tories, reflecting great credit upon the bravery and military
sagacity of General Graham.
A short time afterward he commanded one troop of dragoons and two of
mounted infantry, and defeated a band of Tories on Alfred Moore's
plantation, opposite Wilmington. On the next day he led the troops in
person, and attacked the British garrison near the same place. Shortly
afterward he commanded three companies in defeating Colonel Gagny,
near Waccamaw lake. This campaign closed General Graham's services in
the Revolutionary war, having commanded in fifteen engagements with a
degree of courage, wisdom, calmness and success, surpassed, perhaps,
by no officer of the same rank.
Hundreds who served under him have delighted in testifying to the
upright, faithful, and undaunted manner in which he discharged the
duties of his trying and responsible station. Never was he known to
shrink from any toil, however painful, or quail before any danger,
however threatening, or stand back from any privations or sacrifices
which might serve his country. After the close of the war he was
elected the first Sheriff of Mecklenburg county, and gave great
satisfaction by the faithful performance of the duties of that office.
From 1788 to 1794 he was elected to the Senate from the same county.
About the year 1787 he was married to Isabella, the second daughter of
Major John Davidson. By this marriage he had twelve children. Not long
after his marriage he removed to Lincoln county and engaged in the
manufacture of iron. For more than forty years before his death he
conducted a large establishment of iron works with great energy and
In 1814 General Graham commanded a Regiment of North Carolina
Volunteers against the Creek Indians, and arrived about the time the
last stroke of punishment was inflicted upon this hostile tribe by
General Jackson, at the battle of the Horse Shoe. For many years after
the war he was Major General of the 5th Division of the North Carolina
Militia. By a life of temperance and regular exercise, with the
blessing of God, he enjoyed remarkable health and vigor of
On the 13th of October, 1836, he made the following minute in his
day-book: "This day I am seventy-seven years of age, _Dei Gratia_." He
rode from Lincolnton on the 10th of November, soon thereafter was
struck with apoplexy, and on the evening of the 12th closed his eyes
upon the cares and trials of a long, useful and honorable life.
General Joseph Graham was the father of the late Ex-Governor William
A. Graham, one of North Carolina's most worthy, honorable, and
(Condensed from Wheeler's "Historical Sketches.")
The Brevard family acted a very conspicuous part during our
Revolutionary war. The first one of the name of whom anything is known
was a Huguenot who fled from France on the revocation of the edict of
Nantes in 1685, and settled among the Scotch-Irish in the northern
part of Ireland. He there formed the acquaintance of a family of
McKnitts, and with them set sail for the American shores. One of this
family was a young and blooming lassie, "very fair to look upon."
Brevard and herself soon discovered in each other kindred spirits, and
a mutual attachment sprung up between them. They joined their
fortunes, determined to share the hardships and trials incident to a
settlement in a new country, then filled with wild beasts and savages.
They settled on Elk river, in Maryland. The issue of this marriage
were five sons and one daughter; John, Robert, Zebulon, Benjamin,
Adam, and Elizabeth. The three elder brothers, with their sister and
her husband, came to North Carolina between 1740 and 1750. The three
brothers were all Whigs during the Revolution. John Brevard, whose
family is the immediate subject of this sketch, married a sister of
Dr. Alexander McWhorter, a distinguished Presbyterian minister from
New Jersey, who had for a time the control of Queen's Museum in
Charlotte. Soon after his marriage, Brevard also emigrated to North
Carolina, and settled about two miles from Center Church, in Iredell
county. Dr. McWhorter was a very zealous Whig, and it is said the
British were anxious to seize him on account of his independent
addresses, both in and out of the pulpit. But they failed in their
endeavors, and, after the invasion of Charlotte by Cornwallis in 1780,
he returned to the North.
At the commencement of the Revolutionary war, John Brevard, then an
old and infirm man, had eight sons and four daughters, Mary, Ephraim,
John, Hugh, Adam, Alexander, Robert, Benjamin, Nancy, Joseph, Jane and
Rebecca. He was a well known and influential Whig, and early instilled
his patriotic principles into the minds of his children. When the
British army under Cornwallis passed near his residence a squad of
soldiers went to his house and burned every building on the premises
to the ground. No one was at home at the time except his wife, then
quite old and infirm, the daughters having been sent to a neighboring
house across a swamp to preserve them from any indignities that might
be offered to them by a base soldiery. When the soldiers came up a
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