Chapter 44-B: Once Upon a Time

A stockade called Davidson’s or Rutherford’s Fort was the westernmost outpost for the white settlers exploring the Blue Ridge in 1730. After the Revolutionary soldiers returned to their homes with tales of available farmland, mild climates and beautiful valleys, the word spread, Go west, young man. Europeans still searching for peace and quiet came further south. The earliest planter class, represented by Joseph McDowell, John Carson, and Ephraim Greenlee settled along the rich bottomlands of the Catawba River, now called McDowell County, in North Carolina.(Jerry Cross, MOUNTAIN HEARTLAND)

Back when there were no roads, only deer paths and Cherokee trails, the sixth generation of American Ledbetters from Virginia found a foothold in Montford Cove. But Richard Ledbetter, III, born in 1738, did not find peace the first time, in fact lost two daughters to an Indian raid at nearby Potts Fort and retreated back to Virginia. Eventually he returned. His brothers and sister were settled in Montford Cove, and you can’t get away from family. (See Nanney Saga Chapter 19 for the backstory)

Richard bought 220 acres in 1780 situated on both sides of Cedar Creek for “200#, current money.” This was property given in a 1768 grant to William Wrey. Ledbetter then bought another land grant plot adjoining Wrey land. Then he bought 200 acres for 100# on both side of Greasy Creek, and in 1795 he was given two land grants of 50 acres each. He also bought land along the Broad River in the south part of the county. In other words, he put together a small country. (LEDBETTER FAMILY by Mary Ledbetter Morgan Peters 1969/Carson House Library) The tradition back then was to pass an estate to the eldest son, but Richard did things differently. He divided up his land as the boys grew up, and this kept them close. Then he moved!

I told you about Richard earlier, the man who had five sons, four of them named John in some form or another. After his namesake Richard IV, there was John W. born in 1790, Johnston in 1810, Johnson b ?, and “Jonathan born in 1798 on this father’s Rutherford County home on Cedar Creek,” according to the National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form. John W. had a John, Jr., and thankfully a Barzallia who then had another John W., as though they had a leftover name tag. In 1832 Richard at age 94 took his sons Johnson and Johnston and his daughter, Martha Ward, to Lumpkin Co., Ga, where they built a home for Richard and his second wife Elizabeth Berry. However John W. and Jonathan stayed in Montford Cove. Jonathan named his son Jonathan who named his son John (Rucker). It never ends.

In 1803, Richard, III, gave 325 acres on both sides of Cove Creek to his son John W. as a wedding present when he married the neighbor’s daughter Elizabeth Whiteside. This John accumulated more land, and his plantation was actively run by family until 1948 when it was divided and sold off. At least 34 Ledbetter children were born here in the Richard O. Ledbetter, Isaac Ledbetter, Thomas Ledbetter, and Mary Ledbetter Bradley homes. In the 1800’s, the related families were a community among themselves.

In 1825, Richard, III, sold to son Jonathan 350 acres adjoining his own place on the north end of Greasy Creek. (I think both boys actually had to pay ten shillings for the paperwork.)

Mantle to the ceiling. The lighter wood is where a woodstove was installed in the 20th century.

Mantle to the ceiling. The lighter wood is where a woodstove was installed in the 20th century.

The first home that Jonathan built in 1826 was a pioneer’s log house. In 1836 when he was a more prosperous farmer, he enlarged the house. His son Albertus Burgner Ledbetter was born that year.

Original Door and Hinges

Original Door and Hinges

According to the report by Mrs. Peters noted above, “there were two large rooms on each side of a central entrance hall. Each had a great fireplace with mantle running to the ceiling. The woodwork was beautifully carved and stenciled in blue paint.” Mrs. Peters noted that in 1969 it was still in good condition. “A deep veranda runs the front length of the house.”

 Spring House of Spring House Farm, Montford Cove NC

Spring House of Spring House Farm, Montford Cove NC

To the side, at the back of the house, is a welled spring and a log spring house.” (My photos are 2015 after an academic restoration which, according to the owner, does not make any permanent changes in the styling or the general architecture. A museum quality restoration would be without plumbing and electricity. (No, thank you, some progress is good.)

Jonathan served as postmaster for Montford Cove for nine years, a community leadership position, and was a prosperous farmer. He and his children became one of the most prominent families in this area. In 1839, when Montford Cove Baptist Church was established, Jonathan was one of the first deacons.” Mrs. Peters mentioned that the oldest members of the Ledbetter family are buried in the church cemetery, mostly in unmarked graves before 1839.

Jonathan Ledbetter's house, academic restoration, registered as Albertus Ledbetter House

Jonathan Ledbetter’s house, academic restoration, registered as Albertus Ledbetter House

Son Albertus also farmed, and when his father died in 1845, he received his 14 acres portion and an equal interest in the dower tract given to his mother. When mother Nancy died in 1872, Albertus tried to buy back the interest of his 11 siblings which had to be confusing since the new McDowell County of 1842 had a line running through Ledbetter property. The two homes of Albertus and his brother Dr. Jonathan next door were now in McDowell, while the rest of his father’s property was still in Rutherford County.

In 1861, Albertus married Arminta Bradley (1842-1917), and fourteen months later joined the Confederate Army in Co K of the 50th NC regiment. So think of Arminta as Scarlett O’Hara out in the cove by herself when the Yankee rascals came calling. That’s why they needed to have a bunch of Ledbetter cousins within mule racing distance. And maybe that’s why I haven’t turned up any war stories like Margaret Mitchell told.

Albertus and Arminta Ledbetter

Albertus and Arminta Ledbetter

By 1874, Albertus had title to 84 acres. The 1880 census showed he and his wife living by themselves in his father’s house. They outlived their five children. At the time of his death in 1920, Albertus owned 125 acres.

FYI NOTE: Did you know that K.H. after most of the females on the census meant “keeping house?”

In the same census was brother Jonathan age 51 listed as a physician, and his wife Amanda, age 45. They had three sons, William P, age 19, Johnathan R, age 17, and James D., age 9, and a little six year old daughter Laura. Their house was not the showplace the father’s was built to be, but then father Jonathan was a planter with more than 700 acres, a local preacher, a slave owner, and he exported whiskey on the property. Besides that, he had eleven children to house!

In 1921, James D., son of Dr. Jonathan, sold his uncle Albertus’ house and 125 acres to W.V. McCurry who lived there until his death. The house eventually passed on down to his daughter Harriet who had married Ralph F. Haynes. In 1980, a document by Jerry Cross, certified that the 160 year old house had been occupied by only two families, very rare indeed.

Ledbetter/McCurry outbuilding still standing

Ledbetter/McCurry outbuilding still standing

Unfortunately the old house was feeling its age, and there was not enough money to get the doctor. This is where the Cinderella part comes in. Next time.




Copyright 2015 Georgia Wilson


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