Georgia Ruth Writes

Episode 6: James Dysart of Dysartsville


I have written about Dysartsville’s gold rush in the Bracket Town Saga, and recently about fire and schools. You might ask how did this little “ville” originate, and who was Dysart? Good questions, and I have spent some time to come up with an answer.

The story starts in Normandy, according to McDowell County Heritage, North Carolina, 1992, pg. 171. The Dysart family migrated to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland seeking religious and political freedom in the 1500s.

As an interesting sidenote, the 1st Earl of Dysart was William Murray, then Lord Huntingtower, (Love that name). His Uncle Thomas Murray had taken young William to court when just a boy, about the same age as Prince Charlie, and Uncle educated them together so they became close friends. When Prince became King, William Murray was made one of the “Gentlemen of the Bedchamber.” (I do not love that name.) The king also leased him Ham House, an abode close to the palace in London, according to Wikipedia. William was known as a commoner until 1651, even though Charles I created a title for him in 1643. The title did not receive the official “seal of approval” until Charles II stamped it in 1651. Just before William died in 1655.

Historic Ham House of the Earl of Dysart on the River Thames in Ham, near London. 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia

His descendants benefitted. The Peerage of Scotland were titles created by the King of Scots before 1707 when the Treaty united the island under “Great Britain.” There have been only 13 Earls/Countesses of Dysart since then. When our James Dysart (Soon to be the impressive Earl of Dysartsville, North Carolina!) came to America in 1744, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Earls of Dysart were all named Lionel Tollemache, the name passed down until 1799. Then it was William Tollemache, and then the first woman Earl who was called Countess Louisa, then another Lionel Tollemache, and his grandson William John Tollemache (whose father William spent his fortune before he inherited so Earl Lionel gave his fortune and Earlship to William John.) Thanks to William John, the historic Ham House on the River Thames was rescued from demolition.

Then there were three Countesses in a row with cool names like Wenefryde Agatha and Rosamund Agnes. And of course Katherine (Grant). The current Earl of Dysart is John Peter Grant of Rothiemurchus, whose son is heir apparent with the same name, and heir apparent’s son also has the same name. I can’t decide if this makes genealogy more difficult or easier. But it is what it is.

Our North Carolina James Dysart was born in Londonderry, Ireland, in 1727, and came to America in 1744. He settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania, married Margaret in 1747, moved to Mecklenburg Co, NC. and had five children. Before 1776, James and his brother Samuel moved to (Edited 12 Mar 2018) Mecklenberg County, according to Burke County Heritage, Vol 1, page 164. And page 163. (Edited) “Within a short time his wife and children settled in Burke County, in the area now known as Dysartville.” James and his sons John and William served in the Revolutionary War. Major James Dysart and his son William, were killed in battle at Cowan’s Ford on 1 February 1781. They are buried at the Drucilla Presbyterian Church in Dysartsville as is James’ son-in-law Captain Robert Patton, who died 18 March 1813, and  daughter Elizabeth Dysart Patton, who died 9 June 1844. Elizabeth and Robert had eight children. (Edited 12 Mar 2018) In a pension statement (revised Nov 2017) according to the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution website, Elizabeth applied for Robert’s pension, describing Robert as a “Captain of a Horse Company” at King’s Mountain. This bold soul also testified that Robert’s first tour of duty was as “Indian Spy” under William Morrison’s leadership in western North Carolina. According to her the name of Hominy Creek near Asheville came from an incident when these Indian hunters shot “a large Indian and discovered a quantity of hominy came out of the bullet hole.” Not politically correct, but that’s what is recorded. This was her truth, her words, her history. Elizabeth’s brother William was also killed at Cowan’s Ford on the Catawba River, twelve miles from her father’s house in Mecklenburg Co, where she was staying. She said she heard the gunfire. Her brother William was childless. (Edited 12 Mar 2018 by Ann Myhre: The posted map shows Cowan’s Ford marked. The Dysarts lived south of Rocky River near the county line, known in the deeds as the Barony Line. Although Ann thinks Dysart squatted on the land before he had title, she references two grants online at Cowan’s Ford is now under Lake Norman.

1789 Mecklenburg Co, NC

Another difficulty in accurate reporting is having two battles with the same name. The Battle of Cowan’s Ford in Mecklenburg County was on 1 February 1781, on property now owned by Duke Power. I understand both battles were on land then belonging to the John and Joseph Cowan family. In our area (Burke, now McDowell) we changed the name to the Battle of Cane Creek with an official Highway 64 marker. This property is now owned by a farmer with cows. Col. Charles McDowell encamped near here, according to a Loyalist’s journal, about a quarter mile from the base of South Mountain in a forested area surrounded by soft swamp. After the skirmish on September 12, 1780, the British army retreated to Gilbert Town (now Rutherfordton). From there they moved on to King’s Mountain, where the Patriots defeated the British under Patrick Ferguson in a battle on October 7  that changed the momentum of the Revolutionary War. The first Monday of each October, we celebrate the  ride through here made by the Overmountain men who reenact the story at the Dysartsville Community Club. (See Chapter 5 of the Nanney Saga.)

James Dysart’s son John Dysart, born Christmas Day, 1749, married Martha Patton in 1773. Edit 12 March 2018 per Ann Myhre: The Pattons came from Scotland to PA and moved to Mecklenburg Co and then to Burke Co. John served in Capt Wm. Moore’s company that guarded the frontier until 1776, and then served six months in Capt Robert Patton’s company until October of 1776. It seems he made a good decision to transfer to Capt Samuel Wood’s company and march with Col. McDowell in 1781 to the victorious battle at King’s Mountain. Sgt John Dysart was given a grant of land “at the crossing of the main East-West and North-South roads.” (McDowell County Heritage.) This site became Dysartsville Township in Burke County. McDowell County was not established until 1843.

When Martha Patton Dysart died, John married Martha Wood. (An odd pattern to be related to his commanding officers?) (Edit from Ann Myhre 12 Mar 2018: Three Dysart marriages were celebrated in Garrard Co, Ky: John married Martha Woods 1 April 1800, John’s daughter Charity married John Woods 18 Nov 1799, and his son Robert married Susannah Denny 11 March 1801.) John Dysart died in Lewisburg, TN, in 1842, leaving 12 children from both marriages.

Of the descendants remaining in McDowell County, one became a judge in Marion, the county seat, and one a manager of the local fish hatchery. Harold Dysart married Mary Margaret Johnson at the well-known Greenlee family home called “the Glades.” He gave up his job as a Dupont chemist to move back to McDowell County and work as a builder in Pleasant Gardens. (The manse of the Siloam Presbyterian Church and other homes.) He was on the McDowell Board of Education for seventeen years, as told by Sarah Elizabeth Dysart Dalton and Harold Ernest Dysart, Jr.

James’ third son was James Young Stewart Dysart who was 12 when his dad and brother were killed at Cowan’s Ford. James YS and his mother lived all their lives in Dysartsville. He married Jennet Woods in 1791 and left two daughters. Margaret married Francis P. Glass and Elizabeth married Francis Morrison. The Morrison family was a big landowner back then. (Edit: Researcher Ann Myhre believes that the Dysarts who stayed in North Carolina were from James YS and Jennet.)

Edit 12 Mar 2018: James YS Dysart, Sr, was preceded in death by his three sons having the repetitive names of James, John, and William, giving researchers heartburn. The children of his deceased son, William, were: Jane A., James, John, William F., and Ann. More heartburn. Edit 12 Mar 2018: I am including more information here because of a recent reader’s interest in the Halliburtons. Daughters of James YS Dysart, Jr. were Jane Caroline who married Benjamin Logan Burgin; Sara Louise who married Thomas Hallyburton. One of their children was William Fletcher who was remembered as “Uncle Billy Hallyburton.” And the third daughter was Henrietta who married Francis A. James. (I mention her elsewhere.) One of their children was William W. James, the grandfather of Nell James Elmore who wrote the article for Burke County Heritage, Vol 1, p. 163.

Are you getting an idea of a close-knit community, everyone related? That’s how it was in Dysartsville. And the church cemeteries of Drucilla Presbyterian and Trinity Methodist tell the story.

However, the first settler in the area was William Hamilton Moore, who settled during the 1700’s near the foot of Pilot Mountain on property later sold to Mr. Bill Owens, a well-to-do and respected black man from Brackett Town down Vein Mountain Road. (See my Bracket Town Series) I’ll leave you with that homework and chase down more details.

There are no Dysarts living in Dysartsville listed in the phone book. If any readers know one, I would like to hear their story.


Copyright@2017 Georgia Wilson (Edited November, 2017, and March 2018)