Episode 17: Slow Changes Lost to History

Drucilla Independent Fundamental Church 2017

Three Dysartsville churches were each relocated twice but haven’t been moved again in the last 100 years. Just the names of the roads have changed. The Trinity Methodist Church was started around 1858, one mile from Dysartsville on the Bridgewater Road. It was later rebuilt at the present location, on Trinity Church Rd. Several years later, Drucilla Presbyterian Church was moved about two miles from where it was on the Marion Road, now 226.

There is much speculation about the location of the Bridgewater Road. According to Jennie Lee Laughridge Owens in an article published in The Heritage of Burke County, Volume 1, 1981, “The two-story brick house of William Dysart with very high ceilings, plastered walls and full length, spacious halls was known as the Higgins House. It faced toward the old “Cross Roads” of Bridgewater Road and present 226. A cookhouse was separate from the brick house and near the slave quarters.”

“Today a ranch-style house stands there made from half of the old turned brick.” (Today, meaning the 1981 date of the article.) According to resident Mike Allison, the Higgins House was two story with eight rooms, a hall down the middle with two rooms on each side, up and down. He remembers the handmade brick from the creek on the property, and he remembers when the Shepherds tore it down in the late 50’s and built a ranch style house facing the road. That house is gone now, in 2018, but the big barn is still there on the property of a gated community at the corner of Trinity Church Loop and Dysartsville Road that runs north across Interstate 40 to Highway 70.

Jennie Owens wrote “William Hamilton Moore settled during the 1700’s near the foot of Pilot Mountain in Dysartsville.” (A mile or so behind the current nursing home which used to be the school.) “The Bridgewater Road led through Moore property past one of the Seals’ places and the Bower’s house. In the early days this was a route to the Rutherford Plantation, the Shelby-Asheville stagecoach road. Men went in wagons to the Catawba River for fishing and overnight camping.”

In this same article, Owens writes that “the Moore property was owned and farmed by Mr. Bill Owens, a well-to-do and well-respected black man from Brackett Town near Vein Mountain.” “The remains of the hand-adzed log cabin Moore built for his home in the early 1700’s are said to be standing in the fork of Mills and Muddy Creek. Moore bought two more grants making a total of about a thousand acres. Romulus Jolley Duncan now owns the Bill Owens section of the Moore property, and the remodeled house faces a road called Dysartsville at the corner with Sain Rd., but we don’t know which of these roads followed the stagecoach route from Shelby to Asheville.

In a recent article in the Morganton, NC, newspaper The News Herald, my columnist-friend Tammie Gercken researched the Rutherford Plantation at Bridgewater, “a community located near Lake James.” The lake was not created until the 1980s from the Catawba River whose headwaters are in McDowell County near Old Fort. Bridgewater is where the Muddy Creek runs under Highway 70, seven miles west of Glen Alpine, before the McDowell County line. Of course, there was no McDowell County until the 1840s.

Gercken reported that the Bridgewater community was named after Francis Egerton, the third Duke of Bridgewater.” He was “born in England in 1736 and became friends with John Rutherford, Sr., born in Bedford County, Virginia, in 1755.”

“Rutherford was a farmer who founded a plantation in Burke County in 1781, located on the Catawba River near the mouth of the Muddy Creek…The house he built there survived until it was consumed by fire in 1940.” One of his five children, John Jr. is “most widely known for donating money to purchase land to establish Rutherford Academy, which eventually became Rutherford College.”

Romulus Jolley Duncan
Staying Sharp at 96 in 2018

Living in a nursing home forty miles away, Jolley Duncan is now 96 and does not remember the details of his farm purchase back in the 1970s. He believes it was 250 acres, and he remembers an old saw mill up at the Bridgewater community near the head waters of Muddy Creek at Lake James. But he cannot remember a road named Bridgewater. “Just too much water’s gone under the bridge now.” His sense of humor is still sharp. And what a reader, Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Nelson DeVille, David Baldacci, Georgia Wilson!! (He bought my Pete Gibbs biography The Bear Hunter’s Son)

Jolley is a long time popular member of Trinity Methodist Church. He was born in 1921 in Spruce Pine, NC, at his Granddad Duncan’s house. “I don’t remember ever seeing him. I was just six months old when he passed away. But I had a good grandmother there, little scrawny thing, I’m tellin’ you–not much bigger than you are!” And he laughed. “She had, well, you know how they dressed with their skirts right down on their shoe tops. Many a times I’ve gone with her to the garden to pick up whatever, somethin’ for supper there, and fix a big pone of cornbread there, and have sweet milk. That would be supper.”

“I had a twin brother, but he just lived six months. Back before the days of antibiotics. Double pneumonia, I don’t know what all. He was the healthy one, but somehow I was the survivor. Yeah, law. Jack and Jolley.” The Romulus part of his name came from his dad, “and Jolley was my mother’s family name. All the Jolleys were from Rutherford County. Granddad had a forty acre cotton farm down there. He didn’t have that much in cotton, maybe 5 to 7 [acres.]”

“I still have my first boll of cotton to pick, thank goodness. Somehow I missed being down there when they were pickin’ cotton. I know nuthin’ about pickin’ cotton. I found out my mother went to school rather than being on the farm there pickin’ cotton. Cotton doesn’t grow in Spruce Pine. I loved going down there but never at cotton picking time.”

When asked how he got there, Jolley said, “When I was just a boy, they had passenger service on the train that went through Spruce Pine. The old CC&O–Carolina Clinchfield and Ohio.”

“My Dad had seven acres where I was raised going toward Beaver Creek, on the Avery County highway about a mile out of Spruce Pine. The road that takes off to the left there.” And Jolley tells us visitors about the garden and his dream to have a dairy. “I just never…it takes money, and that’s one thing I never had.”

His dad raised corn for their cattle, and vegetables to sell. I reminded Jolley about an earlier conversation when he told me about his Dad taking the produce down the mountain to Marion, a visual that has always remained vivid in my mind because the roads I think dangerous now are improved over the roads his daddy had to travel. Jolley said, “He’d load the produce on the farm wagon, and he’d drive to Marion and the next day he’d stay and sell the produce and then go back to Spruce Pine. They’d take a day to make the trip there. That’s twenty miles, a long trip with a horse and wagon.”

When we asked him about the route, he said. “He had to go by Little Switzerland. That was the only road. They’d pretty well take all day to make the trip. There was no shortcut. You had to go by Little Switzerland, go up to the top of the mountain and go down, or you could go by the Orchard (at Altapass) and go down that way. That was probably your shortest most direct way. It was a dirt road.” (See Nanney Saga Chapter 5: Overmountain Men). I told Jolley I felt sorry for the poor horse with the heavy load behind him, pushing him down the mountain. Jolley said, “Well, they had brakes on the thing.”

In the next episode, I will tell you more of Jolley’s story. Aside from his hearing, he has few health problems. He does move a little slower but don’t we all.

Copyright 2018 Georgia Ruth Wilson


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Episode 16: Meeting Areas

Every community requires space to accommodate the gathering of a large group of neighbors. I have already mentioned that one of the first assemblies in Dysartsville grew out of the Muddy Creek Mission in the 1780’s, later becoming the Drucilla Presbyterian Church at Dysartsville. It was established close to where the First Baptist Church is located now, the corner of Club House Drive and Hiway 226. According to an old history found last year in the Dysartsville Community Club, today’s central meeting place on Club House Drive, the Dysartsville Baptist Church was organized May 2, 1857, with eleven charter members. It was located where their cemetery is now, on the hill across the street from today’s church. Clear as Muddy Creek???

From the same source, I learned that “Dysartsville was known as ‘Crossroads’ before a post office was established around the year 1850. The post office had its first location at the home of Mrs. Betsy Dysart.” (Her home was built on the property referred to in 1974 as the Elija Blankenship house.) “When Mr. Dysart built a store across the street from his house, the post office was moved to the store. A small school was located between the two churches at that corner. It consisted of two rooms, one of logs and one of planks.”

Not having a photo of any of these buildings, I have to use my imagination as to what they looked like. I am fairly confident that every gathering place had a piano or an organ. But how did they get one, and how much money was collected for this community acquisition? Last week, I was blessed to get a copy of a 1900 Sears, Roebuck and Company, Inc. Consumer Guide. (Catalogue #110). On the cover is the declaration: “This book tells just what your storekeeper at home pays for everything he buys and will prevent him from overcharging you on anything you buy from him.” ie, Advertising 101 is not a contemporary convention. The catalogue’s Musical Goods Department starts on page 230 with illustrations and photos of a variety of instruments and descriptions in tiny print. Really interesting–to me.

1900 Sears Catalogue $1 down

The first page of this department details the terms of purchase. Upon receipt of a $1.00 good faith down payment, purchases would be shipped for a thirty-day free trial if a banker issued a receipt of said money held for the trial period. Guaranteed full refund was promised if the consumer was not satisfied.

I loved the sales pitch on this page: “It will pay you to borrow money and pay $98.50 to $155.00 for a piano, rather than pay some local dealer $300 to $600 and get time payments.” I can imagine the orders pouring in from churches and saloons.

The second page has the details and a sketch.

Organ Cheap in 1900 Sears Catalogue


“25 years binding guarantee accompanies every instrument during which time if any piece or part gives out by reason of defect in material or labor, we will replace it free of charge. With care, our instruments will last a lifetime.” European, Asian, or American goods no longer claim this. They can’t afford the promise of quality.


Of course, I got sidetracked on history and discovered that Richard W. Sears, a watch repairman, founded a watch company in Minneapolis, MN, in 1886. (I have to mention that my great grandfather, Julius Lehmann, was also a watch repairman at that same time but with the Swiss company Gruen in Minneapolis.) The following year, Sears moved his business to Chicago and hired Alvah C. Roebuck to repair watches, and my great grandpa lost out. The fledgling entrepreneur got the sterling idea to dabble in a mail-order business with catalog. He sold his business a couple years after that for investment cash.

In 1893, Sears, Roebuck, and Company was founded. Julius Rosenwald, a wealthy clothing merchandiser, bought out Roebuck and reorganized the mail-order business, helped immensely by the Rural Free Delivery Act of 1896. Their 1908 catalog proclaimed, “We solicit honest criticism more than orders.” In 1909 Rosenwald became president of the company and emphasized a range of merchandise at low prices to rural outlets. Sears taught America how to shop. The establishment of parcel-post system in 1913 streamlined delivery and expanded mail-order opportunities.

Between 1920 and 1943, Sears, Inc, owned Encyclopaedia Britannica, which they sold through their catalog. The first retail store was opened in Chicago in 1925.

A reference at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/rise-and-fall-sears-180964181/ states Sears was “not seriously challenged as America’s largest retailer until 1980s when Kmart Corporatiaon surpassed it in total sales. Walmart became the largest retailer in the world before the end of the 20th century.” And now there’s Amazon!

According to History of McDowell County by Mildred Fossett in 1976, page 82,”The Dysartsville School was an early Peabody School. The first teacher was Robert Logan, who built a little log school house near his home and taught the neighborhood children.”

Ms Fossett, a noted local historian and journalist, connects the early school to the Peabody Education Fund which was established by Baltimore banker George Peabody in 1867 to aid elementary education by strengthening existing schools in the south. Two schools on Vein Mountain Road in McDowell County were also supported by Mr. Peabody’s generosity. (See Episode #4: Learning Dysartsville)

Ironically, two Peabody schools are part of my life. In the 1850’s, Winona, Minnesota was on the frontier, and George Peabody Education Fund established the First State Normal School of MN in 1858, the first tax-funded school west of the Mississippi, and the first institution devoted to the education of new elementary school teachers. In 1860, the school closed for the Civil War 1862-1864, so the first graduating class was not until 1866. A hundred years later my big sister graduated from the school, then called Winona State Teacher’s College, which became a university in 1975. I was on that campus last summer visiting this little Mississippi River town where I spent my childhood.

And I have to mention that I graduated from the Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. As an English major, not a teacher. Mystery author James Patterson did much better with his degree than I did. Maybe because he went back to New York, and I stayed in Nashville. Just kidding!


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Episode 15: Cornelius Dysart: Fifth or Not?

Back in Dysartsville Episode 6 James Dysart of Dysartsville, I quoted a source Burke County Heritage, Vol 1, page 163. This article was written by Nell James Elmore quoting information reported by three historians in addition to the records of the DAR, census records and court records.

I wrote that the origin of the local Dysarts species, James and Margaret Dysart, had five children. I was including Dr. Cornelius who married local Charity Jack. Recently, I received a lengthy rebuttal to that information. Since my reader Ann Regen Myhre has spent innumerable hours chasing down ancestry records for her family, and since I know firsthand how difficult a task this is, I am not going to choose which account is correct. Above my paygrade. However, I will pass this bit of history on to you readers as written in its entirety for the sake of full disclosure. She has done her homework, folks, and Ann Myhre wrote to me the following lengthy message:

Cornelius Dysart (ca. 1735-1800)

“Most ancestry trees on which Cornelius is listed say he was born about 1753 in Chester County, Pennsylvania. James and Margaret were living there at that time. However, there were at least two James Dysarts living in Chester County then. I believe that Cornelius was the son of the older James, listed as an ensign in the militia, at the same time that our James was a private. I also suspect that he was born about 1735 or so; that would be a better fit with his future wife, Charity Jack, born about 1739 according to most sources. Another private in that company was Patrick Jack (see below).

“Cornelius Dysart on the following Wiki Tree, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Dysart-215, managed by Ann Dysart, is well-documented for the most part. According to her, the “other” James was born in 1714 and was in Chester Co, PA, by 1734, when he purchased land in Fagg’s Manor and Penn’s Manor. Her records show that he and his wife Catherine had three sons: William, who went into Western PA; Cornelius, who went to South Carolina (he was in SC before he moved to GA); and Archibald who went to Maryland. Ann, who descends from Archibald, believes that this James died in Maryland.

“We posit that Cornelius was the son of this James and the brother of Isabella and Archibald. Ann and I corresponded about his origins. This James appears to have been in Chester County before our James immigrated. In the earlier list of taxpayers, he lived next door to a man whose surname was Steven Cornelius. According to Ann, that branch of Dysarts has had several members named Cornelius.

“Cornelius became friendly with the family of Patrick and Lillas McAdoo Jack either in PA or Mecklenburg area NC. The Jacks had emigrated from Ireland, first to Pennsylvania, and later to Rowan County and finally to Charlotte in Mecklenburg County. They had several sons and five daughters. Patrick and his sons were very involved in pursuing liberty for the colonies. Son James carried the Mecklenburg Declaration to the group meeting in Philadelphia who produced the Declaration of Independence. It was said that, when the British soldiers came through Charlotte, they dragged Patrick out of his bed and burned his house to the ground. He died of exposure.

“Charity, the eldest Jack daughter born about 1739, married Cornelius Dysart in 1778. In C. L. Hunter’s book, Sketches of Western North Carolina: Historical and Biographical, published by the Raleigh News Steam Job Print in 1877, (Hunter) quotes a newspaper report from the South Carolina and American General Gazette, of February 9th, 1776, the following paragraph, illustrative of female patriotism under a manly and singular incentive:”

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

“When the Committee of Safety was held in Salisbury, Mary 8th, 1776, the following was entered into their minutes:

‘A letter from a number of young ladies in the county, directed to the chairman, requesting the approbation of the committee to a number of resolutions enclosed, entered into, and signed by the same young ladies being read. Resolved, That this committee present their cordial thanks to the said young ladies for so spirited a performance; look upon these resolutions to be sensible and polite; that they merit the honor, and are worthy of the imitation of every young lady in America.’

“Three of the women listed as signers were: Miss Mary Brevard, sister of the above, who married General William Davidson, killed at Cowan’s Ford, on 1 February 1781. [James and William Dysart were killed with General Davidson.]; Miss Charity Jack, sister of Captain James Jack, the bearer of the Mecklenburg Declaration to Philadelphia, who married Dr. Cornelius Dysart, a distinguished surgeon of the Revolutionary army; Miss Lillis Wilson, daughter of Samuel Wilson, Sen., by the third wife (Margaret Jack), who married James Connor, a native of Ireland, who came to America when 21 years old, volunteered in the army and fought all through the Revolutionary war. [Charity’s niece]

“Kathleen Marler in Residents of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina 1762-1790 lists Cornelius and Charity (Dysart) with their sons Jack and Robert. I have found no further information about the sons. According to Hunter listed above, Dr. Dysart is said to have built the first house on the “Irwin Corner” assisted by his brother-in-law, Captain Jack, who owned the lot until his removal to Georgia, shortly after the war.”

Ann writes, “But first, what about military records? According to a list of Revolutionary War patriots in South Carolina, Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution, Volume I, A-J, by Bobby Gilmer Moss, Cornelius enlisted in October 1775 in a volunteer company of militia under Capt. William Fullwood; he was later a brigade sergeant under General Thomas Sumpter. Apparently, two of the Jacks and Cornelius went to South Carolina to fight in the Revolution.

“However, he seems to have been friendly toward British sympathizers, according to Charles Jones in Memorial History of Augusta Georgia: ‘Cornelius had assisted physicians who had been British sympathizers…at one time he was one of the commissioners to administer the sequestered estates of the loyalists.’

“Extracted from Marriage Notices in The South Carolina and American General Gazette, From May 1766 to February 28, 1781: ‘MARRIAGE. Dr. Cornelius Dysart to Miss Charity Jack, daughter of Mr. Patrick Jack of N. Carolina. (Thursday, February 28, 1781)

From Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions, by Herman W. Ferguson: ‘October 1783 session of Mecklenburg County, NC Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions: Ochiltree Martin & Co. vs Cornelius Dysart–Trespass. An impanelled Petit Jury found the defendant “Guilty” and assessed the plaintiff Damage to L5.0.0 and six p(ence) Cost. [Note: Ochiltree Martin & Co was a general merchandise company.] July Session 1790. Jury impanelled and sworn, 28 July. Case No. 10. David McRee vs Cornl. Dysart & Colo. Sml. Jack. Find that the “Assumsion intitled” the Plaintiff to recover his Demands upon the Not, & that the Statute of Limitations does not debase, and assess his Damages to L6.9.16 and Costs of Suit.’

Ann’s Question: “When did they move to Augusta, GA? Probably in 1783. From an article in The Georgia Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 11, 1971, ‘Some Pioneer Doctors of Georgia,” by Grace William Davidson: ‘Cornelius Dysart was another prominent doctor of Richmond county…two of Patrick Jack and Lillie McAdoo’ sons, Col. Samuel Jack and Capt. James Jack, the renowned bearer of the Meklinburg (sic) Declaration of Independence, came to Georgia and Dr. Dysart probably followed them.’

‘In 1783 the Trustees of Richmond Academy sold various tracts to Cornelius Dysart of Augusta, “practitioner of physic.” He bought Lot 44 in Augusta in 1784, and in 1786 half of Lot No. 20 on Reynolds Street. McCarton Campbell and wife Sarah in 1782 sold one acre on Broad Street to Cornelius Dysart and Dennis Smelt, commonly called Dysart and Smelt, practitioners of physic.’

‘The board binding of Deed Book “C” Elbert County is lined with an issue of December 1786 of the Augusta Chronicle. In this there is a long list of drugs. Dr. Dysart informs his friends he lately purchased in Philadelphia and he “intends to sell them lower than they have ever been sold” in this part of the state.’

“After listing the drugs, he states that he ‘intends to continue the practice of physic and surgery with particular attention.’

“In 1796, Cornelius Dysart, Samuel Jack, and several other men were declared a body corporate ‘by the name and style of ‘The trustees of the August Meeting House,’ and the Trustees of Augusta were instructed to convey to them and their successors one of the public losts within the town, containing at least one acre of ground and conveniently situated, for the purpose of erecting thereon a ‘House of Public to the Divine Being by whose blessing the Independence of the United States had been established.’ (Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia: from its settlement in 1735 to the close of the eighteenth century, Charles C. Jones, Jr., L.L.D.)

“Other land dealings included the following: Land grant #34 for 150 acres of land 15 Sep 1784 in Richmond Co, SC.

“From Historical Collections of the Georgia Chapters, Daughters of the American Revolution, Volume II, Records of Richmond County, Georgia, Formerly Saint Paul’s Parish, abstracted and compiled by Grace Gillam Davidson:

‘William Wallace and wife Margory – Folio 41 – Jan. 2, 1789. To Cornelius Dysart, 287 1/2 acres in Washington Co. granted said Wallace 1784, adj. John Crawford and Robt. Hudson. Test: S. Cosby, J.P., Patrick Jack.’

‘Dysart, Cornelius and wife Charity – Page 83 – Apr. 10, 1789 of Augusta, To George Graves of Richmond Co, 50 acres. W. Freeman, J.P. Nov 1, 1792, Charity relinquishes all right of dower in above land. Wm. Longstreet, J.P.’

“From The Augusta Chronicle:  1792 – The following were elected Augusta aldermen: John Milton, Amasa Jackson, Rueben Coleman, Cornelius Dysart, William Longstreet, George Barnes and Seaborn Jones. Another source stated that Cornelius became Mayor of Augusta in 1794. In an August, GA newspaper, the August Herald dated Wednesday, 26 March 1800, Ann Dysart found the following death notice for Cornelius indicating that he died 23 March 1800 in Augusta: ‘Died, on Sunday evening last, Doctor Cornelius Dysart, an old resident of this city, after a long and painful illness.’

“As mentioned previously, Dr. Dysart left a widow and two children, James and Robert Dysart, who settled in Georgia. I have found no record of the boys, and they are not mentioned in Charity’s will.

“From the DAR source: ‘Dysart, Dr. Cornelius, dec’d. June 25, 1800 – Charity Dysart and Samuel Jack app. Admrs. Wm. Longstreet, Samuel Barnett, Sec.’

“In 1804 Charity and Samuel were given permission to sell the real estate. Later Charity moved to Greene County where she died. I was unable to determine when, but I located her will in Green County, Georgia Wills, 1786-1877, abstracted by Freda Reid.

“The will is undated. Charity’s sons were apparently dead, as they were not mentioned. She left to Margaret Jack, her brother Samuel’s widow, the proceeds of the sale of two slaves, Jebber and her daughter Phillis; to her niece Eliza D. Hodge, her furniture; to Mary Elenor Hodge, a slave named Diane; to niece Charity Grimes, household items; to niece Cynthia Cosby, household items, “should she return home and should she never return, to her brother William H. Jack.”

“Several other legatees were mentioned to receive more slaves and the proceeds of the sales of over two thousand acres of land.”

“There were two reasons to research Cornelius Dysart:

To determine whether Cornelius was a member of James and Margaret Dysart’s         immediate family, and To compile the copious information available about him.”

“To summarize, historical evidence points to Cornelius being the son of the James Dysart who stayed, at least until after the Revolution, in Chester County PA. Thus far, DNA evidence points to this branch not being closely related to the James who died at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford or the James who fought from Washington County VA. Descendants from both groups match the DNA of my family members who have tested.”

Signed Ann Regen Myhre, 23 October 2017

Received with gratitude for this Post on 2 March 2018



Posted in Dysartsville Saga, McDowell County, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 14: Dear Editor

One of my “informants” supplied me with the following letters published in 1880 in the local news section of The Blue Ridge Blade, the newspaper of Morganton, county seat of neighboring Burke County. Remember McDowell had only been a county for 38 years at that time, so Dysartsville folks were comfortable with a foreign newspaper!!! All of these letters were sent from a gentleman named Victor; perhaps each community had their spokesman.


Letter #1 (February 14, 1880)

“Mr. Editor: I wish to say a few things about Dysartsville and the surroundings. There is one store at this place, one shoe shop, one blacksmith shop and a tannery. There are two churches (Baptist and Presbyterian) and a good school house. The Baptists are supplied by Elder F.H. Poston, of Cleaveland [sic] county. Not far off is a Methodist church–Rev. Mr. Little, pastor. Nearby are two flourishing saw and grist mills, and there are three other mills and a wool carder at no great distance. A few miles from Dysartsville are several other trading places. Dysartsville is situated in the gold regions and is a good place for trade. The gold mines still furnish the means for much trade, and large quantities of gold dust are sent to the mine from this section. I have been told that one man, a short time ago, sent off 1300 pennyweights. While other parts of the country are complaining about hard times and scarcity of money, this makes her own from the bowels of mother earth.”


Letter #2 (February 21, 1880)

“Mr. Editor: The gold production seems to be much more promising than usual. Mr. Jesse Fisher, with four hands, took up 101 dwts. and 10 grs. in one day last week, and it is reported that he has found a spring that actually boils up gold. Other mines promise well. Capt. J.C. Mills is mining extensively. A.B. Taylor has just opened a new mine. W.J. Walker and son are working a mine. Jerry Baling and John R. Kirksey are working a mine on Cane Creek, besides all these, there are various single handed miners who live from that source. The aggregate amounts to hundreds of dollars. There have been some large land sales near here recently. Mr. D. Beam, of Shelby, bought what is known as “Twitty Lands” on Cane Creek for $7000 or $7500.

“There are ten stores within six miles of Dysartsville. These stores sell (I suppose) about $15,000 worth of goods annually. Rev. J.R. Denton’s time is occupied in work, study, teaching his children and selling goods. His oldest son who is but 11 years old is about through Quackenbos’ Higher Arithmetic. His only daughter who is but 10 years of age is studying Quackenbos’ Practical Arithmetic.

“Miss Millie E. Taylor is teaching school at Dysartsville. Miss Agnes Dysart is teaching a [sic] Pinnacle. Miss J.M. Taylor is trying to make up a school at Cowen’s school house. Mr. W.H. Taylor, the well known farmer of Dysartsville, has just completed and moved into his new residence. Vance H. Cowen speaks of going to Texas. J.B. Landis is mining in Brackett-town [sic]. J.L. Cowen is keeping his merchant mill. J.B. Walker, alias “Doc” has recently opened a blacksmith shop near J.L. Cowen’s merchant mill. Chas. W. Laughridge has moved into his new home. Mr. Albert Higgins is storekeeper and ganger [sic] for a government still near Dysartsville. W. Jason Allen says he has the most Jack in this country. W.A. Laughridge has rented the Blanton farm and is living there. Henry Moore (colored) has the contract to cut the Muddy Creek canal. This is grain growing country as well as a good producing one. Society is in the main good and conveniences such as mills, shops, stores, etc., etc., abound.”

Letter #3 (April 28, 1880)

“Dear Editor: Having learned that “our Dysartsville letters” are inquired after by “the aged and the young,” I write again to give you the news of our township. Jonathan Walker, Esq., who was dispossessed a few weeks before McDowell Court, has, through the advice of Col. B.S. Gaither, taken possession of his premises again and has gone to work like a hero. He states that he has not eaten his dinner at his house since the 4th day of April, having his dinner brought to him in the fields. Neither does he unhitch his beast, but feeds him hitched and drives again as soon as he and his beast are done eating. Mr. Walker is the celebrated boot and shoemaker.

“Mr. H.H. Taylor says he wants 2,500 hens. His theory to make them profitable, is as follows: He says 2,500 hens will average 1,200 eggs per day, being 100 dozen, and at 8cts per dozen, would be $800. He thinks $3 per day will feed them, leaving him a net gain of $5 per day.

“John Rutherford Kirksey has commenced the study of Dentistry. Mrs. Kirksey and her daughters are the finest performers on the Piano in the country, and some of our young gentlemen seem to be very fond of good music, when there is a single performer.

“The Methodists have decided to move their house of worship up near Dysartsville, on Dr. Hogue’s land. J.D. Taylor was ordained in the office of Deacon in the Baptist church at Dysartsville on Saturday, the 10th day of April, by the laying on of the hands of Elder J.C. Grayson, J.R. Denton, and F.H. Poston. There are five houses of worship in Dysartsville Township: two Baptist; two Methodist, and one Presbyterian. There are three Baptist preachers, J.C. Grayson, J.R. Denton and W.H. McKinney. There is one lawyer, R.D. Wilson. One doctor, Daniel Hogue. Three Justices of the peace, A. Higgins, W.L. Morrison, and J.H. Patton.

Dinner on the Hoof

“There are seven corn mills, two flouring mills, and two saw mills. There are seven blacksmith shops and one wool carder. There are five stores, and good farms in abundance. The Muddy Creek bottoms are being cleared up again; and it is hoped, that this fertile region will once more produce a large yield of the staff of life.”

And that was Dysartsville in 1880 from the source.


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Episode 13: Dysarts Sit Down–Laughridges Stand Up

I don’t want to suggest that there were only a couple families in town. On the contrary, there were many, but I am involved with family names and how some have lasted for a hundred years and some have disappeared. In the 1870 Census, the Dysartsville Township reported that Francis Morrison, age 35, was a farmer with “real estate value of 2,000.” In his household was Stephen Morrison, age 60, Elizabeth, age 72, and Elizabeth A., age 33, four children with the last names of Patton, a sixty year old mulatto farm worker and a mulatto woman with three children, all with the last names of Morrison.

How could this be? In 1860, there was Frances and two brothers, all in their 20s, as well as two adult sisters. Brother William L. Morrison married Sarah Moore in 1861 and then went to war. When he came home, he went to work for the Moore’s farm in Dysartsville where the “real estate value was 2,700,” which sounded good compared to others. Brother James Dysart Morrison had married Henrietta Moore in 1853. He followed his brothers into war, mustering out in September 1863 after Chickamauga. I don’t know where they went. Francis enlisted in July of 1862 and mustered out in August 1863 and came back home to pick up the pieces in a different world.

Remember Mayo Elizabeth Landis from my last Episode? Her father came to McDowell County from Graham County, N.C. In the 1870 and 1880 Census(Censi?), Joseph Benjamin Landis is noted as having 300 acres in real estate. He was married to Joanne Cooper from McDowell County and had several children, one of them Mayo born in 1886. In the 1900 Census, Dad is gone and the head of the household is his 19 year old son, Joseph B. Landis, Jr. He is described as a farmer and the family who depends upon him is his mother Joanne, age 53, and four sisters, Lucy Roe age 22, Addie J. age 17, Nora R. age 15, and Mayo.

I bring this up because this is my tie to the old Dysartsville, although it is a flimsy connection. In 1901, Joseph B, Jr married Zonie Lee and of their many children, one was Georgia Landis Melton and one was John Wayne Landis. I was fortunate to be friends with Wayne at the Trinity United Methodist Church until his death in 2014. I miss his weather predictions, like how the amount of snowfall relates to the number of heavy fogs in August! I met Georgia’s son when a deer Steve was hunting at dusk, jumped at my car and tore up my radiator and front bumper. I pulled into Wayne’s driveway to check out the damage. My car died. It was country dark out here but my headlights picked up a man walking toward me with a rifle in his hands. I didn’t have mine so I shouted out, “Hi, Wayne, it’s me Georgia.” But it wasn’t Wayne, it was his nephew Steve Melton, a wonderful guy who helped me out, and I paid him with a deer carcass.

Back to Mayo Elizabeth Landis who married James Lee Laughridge. There was a mystery in his parents background. I mentioned in an earlier post that his sister Lillie Belle married a man named Zebulon Vance Daves. Since I have often lamented the number of James and Williams I have looked up in ancestry records, my little head swimming in confusion, I must spotlight the imagination of these new parents, particularly William Alfred Laughridge, born in 1842. I reported that he married Emily Virginia Dysart, but she was born in 1869, and several of her husband’s children were born in the 1870s. Like John David in 1873, William Nelson in 1877, James Lee in 1882, and Robert Cleveland in 1885. She was too young to be their mother. (Remember the reference to the first Laughridge in the area, Samuel David?)

Then I found a mention of William Alfred’s marriage to Eliza Cowan in 1868. She was born in 1843, closer to his age. So it seems likely that Emily Virginia was a second wife. Note that William Alfred’s next four children with Emily have unusual names, highlighting a transition in the nursery: Bratcher Hadden in 1891, George Franklyn in 1893, Lillie Belle in 1895, and General Cronje in 1897.

The Laughridge family has done a lot of research, making notes in parentheses on documents, to help elderly readers like me. In McDowell County Heritage, North Carolina, Ms Edith Davis gave a great description of this William. He was called “Big Bill” and stood “over 6′ and wore a size 13 shoe. He was a farmer, active in politics, McDowell County commisioner, a Civil War Vet of the 35th NC Infantry, a Mason, active in the Methodist Church and local school.” A note on the Find A Grave page for his son General Cronje says the baby was named after General Piet Cronje, veteran general of the army for the South African Republic during the Second Boer War. Who would have thought!

William Alfred’s son James Lee Laughridge married our Mayo Elizabeth Landis in 1907, and they moved away from the ‘hood. To Marion, the county seat of McDowell, i.e. the same county, just twenty miles north. Before Jim was elected in 1921 as Clerk of Court for twelve years, he was the shipping clerk for the Western Furniture Company for several years. Later he managed the furniture department for McCall Brothers. Laughridge Furniture opened in December of 1934 on West Henderson in Marion and was in business until 2016. It was managed until 1941 by James Landis Laughridge and his brother Phillip, according to Edith Laughridge Davis, who was their big sister and knows all this stuff. Hers has been the guiding hand that went ahead of me and found out that in the 1920 Census J.L. Langbridge was really James Lee Laughridge married to Mayo Elizabeth Landis. Edith was born in 1903; her brother who died in infancy in 1910, listed as Owen was really William Erwin. So have patience with your genealogy searches. They can scramble your brains.

Round Hill Academy in Union Mills NC
Sweatt Administration Building 2015

They can also give great satisfaction when the circle you seem to be stuck in crosses a familiar path. I must point out that Mayo’s husband James Lee Laughridge went to Round Hill Academy in Union Mills. This is another connection to the other end of Vein Mountain Road even though he didn’t marry a Nanney. (See my Round Hill Academy posts in the Nanney Saga, Chapters https://georgiaruthwrites.us/2015/03/23/chapter-34-round-hill-academy/ 34-37.)

At a neighborhood meeting at the new Dysartsville fire hall four years ago, Marie Laughridge Howell introduced herself to me. She no longer lives in Dysartsville but her brother is close in Burke County. Gene Laughridge has researched his family and recorded his findings in professional style. My Father’s Folks can be read in the research room of the Morganton library.

I must mention here that in June of 1914, T.B. Dysart was one of the first persons employed by S.B. Penick company of Marion, NC, pioneer in the medicinal-botanical drug industry. After WWI, this business skyrocketed (probably not even a word back then). Local woodsmen would bring wagons full of ginseng, goldenseal and bloodroot leaves, a good source of legal income, unlike the stills hidden in the hollows. Mr. Penick opened up a NY office and transferred local operations to Asheville, closer to the supply center,” according to Mildred Fossett, on pg 114 of her History of McDowell County. In the 1940’s, he moved his business back to NY Queens and branched out into the perfume industry. Penick also harvested spearmint, wintergreen, peppermint, and some orange and lemon oils for food, candy , and chewing gum industries. In 1967, he merged with Corn Products Company, now C.P.C. International.

There goes another Dysart!


Copyright@2018 Georgia Wilson


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Episode 12: Playing With Genealogy

Warning: This is complicated and might require several sittings to get through and/or a stiff drink.

In the U.S. Census of 1870, the Dysart family was represented quite well: John Dysart, age 45, and his wife Tabitha, age 42, had nine children living at home. Rebecca, 21, William W. 18, Sam 15, James 13, Emily 11, Davis 9, Sallie Ann 6, Elizabeth 4, and Janesa 2 (some places called Henrietta–the writing of court clerks can be very creative, and they change the course of history with their loop-de-dos.) Many of the Dysarts and their neighbors were active in the Civil War. According to a database, U.S. Civil War Soldiers 1861-1865, there were approximately 6.3 million soldiers, but it takes a lot of patience to track everyone. I will sum up the list by saying there were several James Dysarts fighting for both the Confederacy and the Union, from all over the country. There was even a J.Y. Dysart in the Confederate Infantry from Louisiana. Several Dysarts from Missouri.

According to a list of 549 Confederate Soldiers serving from McDowell County, 18 were buried at Drucilla, 16 at the Dysartsville Baptist cemetery, 13 at Trinity Methodist, and 9 at Harmony Grove. SVC Camp 379 listed their names and assignments on a website dated November 20, 2014. The dates of their deaths were not recorded here, but this is a good reference for ancestry probes.

The Dysartsville Dysarts were fortunate; when the Civil War was over, they still had a large family. And they had relatives in the township, as it was called. All of these guys were farmers, but some had less land than others and had to rethink their options.

Move West, young man, was one option. In the 1840 Census, there were a lot of Dysarts listed in Marshall County in Tennessee. But what about the home team?

For example, a Dysartsville Dysart such as William F. Dysart age 44, his wife Celia age 45, William 12, Whit age 10, John 8, and Joseph age 4, according to the 1870 Census. William F. had no acreage, but 175 in personal value, whatever that meant. On the other hand, William F. had married Celia C. Daves, and his property may have been part of the package. Their son James is listed on the 1850 Census as a Deputy Sheriff, not the more popular farmer description.

The records are kept in a different language from 2017. Help me out, if you have enlightenment to share.

BTW, on the same 1850 census, Joseph and B.M. Brackett are listed as miners. They are middle age here, so something must have been lucrative, and I have to mention Samuel Dysart at age 25 was then living with JYSD but working as a miner in 1850, not a farmer, according to the census.The Bracketts were still in the neighborhood; one of them built the house that the Mike Allisons remodeled and live in comfortably today. The Dysarts are scattering.

On the 1870 Census, John Dysart had nothing. Mary Dysart, the widow of JYSD’s and Jennet’s son, JYSD, Jr, had 2,000 acres. This may have something to do with her maiden name, Moore. She was the daughter of James Hilliard Moore and Henrietta Sherrill Moore.

John Dysart’s oldest son, William Washington, married Laura Cooper in 1886 and tried to make a living down on the farm he didn’t own. The census that spelled Dysart as Dysort does say that he owned his own home, there was no mortgage, but he piled up debt when he and Laura had children every two years for 18 years. Eventually, William got a job with the railroad and moved his family to Lenoir in Caldwell County, NC. This was a good move for his oldest son, Louis Albert, who became a banker and retired there. So that accounts for the disappearance of one Dysart family. But he had three brothers to carry on the Dysart name, and I am wondering where they are today. None in Dysartsville.

John Dysart’s family deserves much more research. In 1870, he also had nine children but he had a domestic servant, Mahala Jackson, to help. She was 60 at that time, and must have liked the job because she was on the 1880 Census also.

Mary Dysart’s family was easy to track down. She was widowed in 1837, raised her kids, and in 1860, she lived with her daughter Ann, age 31. Her son Samuel had died, never having married or had children. Mary died in 1886; she and Samuel are buried at the old family cemetery at Drucilla. Ann married Albert Beattie Taylor (buried at Dysartsville Baptist) and had a son in 1865, William H. Taylor, who is buried at Drucilla. William H. married Mary Carroll but they had no children. She is buried at Dysartsville Baptist Church. (A lot of church hopping even back then.)

Mary Dysart’s third child, John (1823-1909) married Telitha Dobson and they had three daughters. Two remained in Dysartsville and married the Laughridge boys. Irene had five sons and a daughter. Sister Emily Virginia married William Albert Laughridge and had four sons and a daughter she named Lillie Belle, born in 1896. Beautiful Lillie Belle married Zebulon Vance Daves whose father had obviously served in the Confederate Army. (He was not the only one who named his son after this popular Confederate officer who later became a two term Governor of North Carolina. One example is a Zebulon Vance Davis from Wilkesboro.) But Lillie Belle had her own claim to fame. She was famous as the designer of lady’s undergarments, some of which are on display at the county museum.

We mentioned Samuel David Laughridge in the last post, He may have stayed in Burke County when it split, but his son Joseph Larkin Laughridge, born in 1818, married Catherine Elvira Fox of Burke County and moved to Dysartsville in time for the 1870 Census. His son Joseph, born in 1843, was a private in the War Between the States, married Sarah Dale in 1879 and moved to Brackett Town in time for the 1900 Census. He had a six year old son at that time, named Joseph Larkin, of course. In 1880, I ran into confusion with a J.L. Lackridge married to a Sallie (which was a nickname for Sarah back then). They lived in the  gold mining town of Jamestown. Joseph and Catherine were the parents of William Alfred Laughridge who had several children before he married Emily Virginia Dysart in 1883 when she was 22. (In one census she was named Elmie U, in another Edmee U Langlondge. It should be a requirement that the census takers know how to listen and spell the name according to the victim. Creativity is very annoying here.) In the 1900 Census it is plain that the first wife is the mother of four, but there are eight living children for William Alfred.

BTW neighbors included the Fortunes, Kirkseys, Simmons, Bracketts and Dr. T. Davis next door.

I would award a creativity honorable mention to the Landis family for the name Mayo Elizabeth. And she brings a mystery. In 1907 Mayo Landis married a William Laughridge. However, in the 1910 Census, Mayo was married to James Lee Laughridge, and they were parents of Eda, age 1, and an infant named Owen, whose name was changed to William Erwin Laughridge (added by family in parenthesis). Later records for William show his father listed as James Lee, and I didn’t find a marriage certificate for Mayo and James. After all, this is a part time job. Digging further, I find out that the certificate listing William must be wrong or William died and James Lee took over. That kind of brotherly love is in the Bible. Why not in Dysartsville? And I must add that Emily’s sister Irene Dysart Laughridge named her daughter Mayo Alley in 1903; the father was Joseph Monroe Laughridge.

In the 1870 Census, Elisabeth, 52 year old widow of JYS Dysart, Jr., lived with a shoemaker, Caleb Crawford and his wife in Dysartsville. Okay, hard times? But Elisabeth’s son Samuel, age 26, who was credited as having 500 acres, worked as a merchant, and his brother, Joseph, age 22, was listed as a farmer, possibly on above mentioned 500 acres???? And there was Agnes Dysart, age 13, with her whole life in front of her. Where did she go? And why did they live with the Crawfords? Sisters? I need some help here!

The 1880 Census told me that Elisabeth and Agnes moved in with son John Dysart and his wife and four little boys under five years old. Poor Grandma. Reminds me of the Waltons, a TV show I really enjoyed because of the close knit family. I’m older now, and think about the noise!

My biggest consternation comes from the Higgins family through the Dysarts. In the 1850 Census, Alberto Higgins is listed as a merchant, age 29, owning real estate of 800 (I presume acres). With his wife Eveline, age 28, they have three children: Joseph, age 7, Sarah, age 5, and Emma, about 6 months. A death certificate was issued 30 June 1858 for (Henrietta) Eveline Higgins, reportedly buried at the Neal Cemetery in McDowell County, but I couldn’t find her grave on line.

I did find that Alberto Higgins wrote a contract or marriage proposal for the hand of Earlene or Eveline Dysart for January 1860. It was very much like the one between Samuel David Laughridge had for Sally, Christian Bartles daughter in the last Episode. I understand. He needs a mother for his children. In the census of 1860, children listed under Alberto, age 39, and Eveline, age 20, are William (Joseph?) age 17, Sarah, age 15, and Emma, now age 10. All understandable in the ten years that have passed from the last census. And now there is Jasper Bulow, age 7. Finally a different name but his records are wrong because of penmanship, making me wonder about all the Johns and Williams. And suddenly, Alberto Higgins has real estate of 10,000 acres and a personal value of 8,000? What happened here?

Since I am trying to find out what happened to Dysarts, I look at the family of JYS Dysart who has a daughter Henrietta born in 1840 and died in 1889, buried at Trinity Methodist Church in Dysartsville. Her middle initial is “E.” Jasper (or Joseph) Bulow Higgins 1852 to 1929 is also buried in the Neal Cemetery but he says his mother is Henrietta. There are two marriage records, Eveline Dysart to Alberto Higgins, 5 Jan 1860, and Earlen Dysart to Alberto Higgins on 6 Jan 1860. There is also a marriage contract for Eveline Dysart to Alberto Higgins on 19 Aug 1862. The marriage contract I read could be either Earlene or Eveline because of the handwriting flourishes so proudly presented.

The end of the story is that Alberto, born 30 Jan 1819, died 5 May 1900 and is buried at the Trinity Methodist Church cemetery in Dysartsville. On the Death Certificate, his spouse is listed as Henrietta Eveline Higgins. His children use different names for mama. The oldest one, Jasper Bulow, writes Henrietta Eveline as mother, as does Emma who is buried with her husband in Cleveland County. Joel Stewart, born in 1861, died in 1889 and buried at Trinity, referred to his mother as Henrietta. Likewise, Samuel, born in 1865, died in 1892 and buried at Trinity, and also Mattie Dorsett, born in 1873, died in 1911 and buried at Trinity. They called Henrietta “mama,” as did Robert Albert, born in 1877 and died in 1933, buried in AZ. But Wiley Reuben born in 1888, died in 1959, and buried in TN…I don’t know about this one.

I found Agnes! She married Alfred Kenneth Weaver in 1884, and they stayed in the county. She lived a long time, until 1939, and was buried at the Marion city cemetery, Oak Grove.

At least we are over the gluttony of James and John names. Unless the Laughridges are fond of them also. I am enjoying Ancestry.com research, but my father’s name may have died out in my generation. Is that easier or harder? Or more expensive if you have to hire a genealogist?


Copyright@2018 Georgia Wilson

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Episode 11: Gold Fever in Vein Mountain

John Samuel Dysart was born in McDowell County on 30 June 1855 (son of John Dysart, who was the son of William, who was the son of James YSD, Sr). In March of 1878, he married Lucy Ann Queen who taught at the free public school at Rain Hill in the Silver Creek Township off Hiway 64 in Burke County. Lucy Ann had a pair of earrings made out of the first gold her husband mined in Dysartsville, according to their granddaughter Nancy Scott Oxford, The Heritage of Burke County, Volume 1, 1981, page 164. And gold mining was big business then.

John Samuel and his brothers helped cut the logs that built the first permanent structure, featuring a practical dirt floor, for a congregation that had met since 1826 on Bridgewater Road (old Dysartville Rd) across from the Duval place on Mack Laughridge property. In 1784, the Church founded by John Wesley in the United States was opposed to slavery. According to Sandra Warren, who wrote “Trinity United Methodist Church 150th  Anniversary” for a contemporary congregation, the “cultural differences over slavery that were dividing the nation in the mid-19th century were also dividing the Methodist Episcopal Church. A decision to remove a Bishop for owning two slaves caused the churches in the south to break off to form a separate denomination, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MEC-S).” William and Mary Taylor later sold the group two acres of wooded land for $100, and a log building became the Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church South of Burke and McDowell County Charge.

My neighbor Richard Buchanan was the first to tell me the story of a weary traveler headed through our neighborhood in 1828 when Dysartsville was still in Burke County. (See Brackett Town Saga in my blogs) Sam Martin was a disappointed gold miner who had given up on finding riche$ in South America and caught a ship that docked in the Gulf. Walking home to Connecticut on what was called the Old Colonial Road, he saw a rough board with crude letters of charcoal and tallow advertising a service he desperately needed, a cobbler near Brindletown. The generous North Carolinian offered him dinner in addition to his shoe repair. How could he turn that down? Inside the cobbler’s cabin, Sam noticed in the chinking between the logs the gleam of gold that he had $ought half a world away. He was told the mud came from the creek out behind the house, and he asked permission to stay the night. The next day he became partner$ with the cobbler, and six months later, he continued his journey to Connecticut as a pro$perou$ miner. The news travelled fast, and folks looking for riche$ came to this area. Richard also told me the rest of the story. The cobbler had received his half of the gold, which was $19 an ounce, but ten years later he and his wife were buried in unmarked graves. His children squandered the money on fancy art, jewelry, race horses, and gambling until they were destitute. Sounds like lottery winners although I wouldn’t refuse an opportunity to see if I could do better.

I requote an article from esteemed local historian Mary Greenlee in Gold Mining In McDowell County which is shared by Anne Landis Swann. She is a contemporary historian who wrote Heart Pine, Memories of Mountain Valley, an area in McDowell County that now encompasses two old townships Higgins and Glenwood, protected on the SE by Polk Mountain and on the NW by Smith Mountain. (See her page 448) I cannot hope to improve on this most excellent description of those days.

Buchanan’s Liveable Replica of Miner’s Cabin

“The price of land and mineral rights skyrocketed. Newspapers such as The North Carolina Spectator and the Western Appraiser reported, in the 1820s, sales or leases for small acreages on mountain lands in the neighborhood for $6,000 to $45,000.”

“It has been estimated by several gentlemen who are engaged in gold mining in Burke {McDowell} County, and whose sound judgment and experience enable them to make the most accurate calculations, that the daily production of gold mines in that county amounts to 3,000 pennyweights per day, worth about $2,400 to $14,400 per week and nearly $60,000 per month.”

And on page 450 of Heart Pine: “Living conditions were crude. The shelters were the flimsiest wooden shanties or one-room lean-tos which were little more than sheds.”

“Wagon trains which operated from the sources of supply provided only the commonest staples at high prices and were usually paid with grains of gold. There were pathetic  incidences of diseases, illness and death; inadequate food and shelter; exposure to the rigors of winter’s ferocity and summer’s scorching heat. Lack of medicine and medical care and a gross lack of sanitary conditions persisted.”

The following are quotes on Heart Pine’s page 450 from Miles P. Flack whose letter of 1908 is found in the Carson House Library in Marion. “Transportation through the area was so poor that whenever a miner died, he was buried in the vicinity.”

“In many instances, a family never learned of the miner’s fate or the whereabouts of his resting place. Some times miners who realized the certainty of their impending demise, yet who still had the strength to manage it, would simply bury their gold where they fell. And there it remains.”

Richard Buchanan repeated these stories recently at a September meeting of the McDowell Historical Society. The topic was Gold Mining, and four local experts were invited to share their knowledge with a large crowd. In addition to Buchanan, was Lloyd Nanney, owner of Thermal City Gold Mine (See Nanney Saga in my blogs), Doug McCormick, owner of Lucky Strike Gold Mine on Polly Spout Road at the end of Vein Mountain Rd, and John Dysart from Pleasant Gardens, now working for Reed Gold Mine in Cabarrus Co, slightly east of Charlotte. Mr. Dysart left McDowell County to attend college in Raleigh and stayed there as a professor for 25 years. When Dr. H.G. Jones, Director of Archive and History bought John Reed’s mine, all 825 acres, Dysart went to work for him. http://www.nchistoricsites.org/reed/main.htm

Mining Leftovers in Tailing Piles

Reed’s mine was the first one to put North Carolina in the spotlight as a source of treasure. In 1779, a twelve year old boy, searching for an arrow that missed the target found fame and fortune and didn’t recognize it. He thought the 17# rock was beautiful and lugged it home. His Dad thought it was pretty enough to be used as a door stop, where it stayed until 1803 when Dad thought it worthwhile to show to an assayer who identified it as gold. To the Reeds’ amazement, the assayer bought it for $3.50, (about $3,600 now) which was more than enough for supplies and a dress for the wife. A good year’s work. This story is slightly different than the one at http://www.nchistoricsites.org/reed/history.htm but I have to go with a Dysart on this one.

Note: John Dysart also mentioned the Mecklenburg Pipe Foundry off Hiway 70 known as Ironworks. It is still in business. It used to make the amalgamate trays for rocker boxes that divided the gold from lighter material. Lloyd Nanney has part of a stamp mill from this Ironworks. Not all gold was caught by mercury as it proved to be lethal for those who handled it regularly.

Thermal City Gold Mine

Lloyd Nanney lived on the property where generations of Nanneys put deep roots. His wife Page was a Nanney and married a Nanney from a different branch of the family. (She is the one to contact if you want to attend the Nanney reunion on the third Sunday in August.)

When asked by Don Markham who works on the Gold Festival held every spring in Old Fort, N.C., how he got started in the gold business, Lloyd responded that “forty years ago a couple from California settled about two miles from a power pole near the upper edge of our property. They had been hunting gold in CA.” Lloyd had known that there had been mining on their family property on Second Broad but assumed it was mica mining “because that was the last thing done in this area. I didn’t have sense to know you don’t dig mica out of a placer deposit on a river bank.” This new neighbor taught Lloyd how to use his first gold pan. The fever grew, and Lloyd built a dredge with a friend, and the hobby became a nationally known campground for recreational gold mining. http://www.thermalcitygoldmine.com/

Doug McCormick also has a recreational mining company and currently does business with Lost Dutchman Mining Association on Vein Mountain Road. I hope to track them down for an article, when we are Back to the Future.


Copyright@2018 Georgia Wilson

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Episode 10: Moving On

Pioneer Cabin Model

In 1781, folks were living and loving one day at a time, as always. The good news of King’s Mountain and Yorktown would be remembered forever, but the well-being of family and community was still a daily struggle. After the Dysarts lost James, the head of their household, along with his son William at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford, the oldest son, John, stepped up. He had plenty of leadership experience, having served under Captain William Moore guarding the frontier until 1776, and then transitioning to Captain Robert Patton’s company for six months and also serving under Captain Samuel Woods. In the local battles against the Tories, John Dysart marched with Colonel McDowell’s militia. After he lost his first wife, Martha Patton, he married Martha Woods, and he had a conglomerate of twelve children. Eventually he moved to Lewisburg, Tennessee, so one of them could take care of him. He died there in 1842, according to Burke County Heritage, Vol 1, page 163. (Dysartsville was part of Burke County until 1842 when McDowell County was created with land from Burke and Rutherford counties.)

James Dysart’s second son was named James Young Stewart Dysart. JYSD liked his name so much that when he and his wife Jennet Woods had a son, they named him James Young Stewart Dysart, Jr., but Senior outlived Junior and two other sons. Senior JYSD lived in Dysartsville his entire life. Another son, William Samuel (named after JYSD’s brother William, killed in battle, and their uncle Samuel who had come to Burke County with JYSD’s Papa James) had five children. His three sons were named, James, John Samuel, and William F. If I am correctly keeping up. Since the two daughters married men whose first names were Francis, I wouldn’t be surprised if William F. was a William Francis! The older daughter Margaret, named after grandma Dysart, married Francis P. Glass. (I’m thinking his family had a mill that later became the John A. Daves Mill around 1910.) JYSD’s and Jennet’s second daughter, Elizabeth, named after her Aunt Elizabeth, married Francis Morrison (a big local property owner.) Poor Jennet didn’t get to use her own creative name, but maybe she had a niece named after her. Then JYSD Jr’s daughter Henrietta married Francis A. James! Like putting too much onion in the stew? Complicated to say the least.

But names became more diverse as the neighborhood grew with George Hodge, Decatur Daves, and Elijah J. Kirksey. Although W. L. Christy and W.T. Landis may have been Williams also, Joseph B. Landis (1832-1887), who bought the Hemphill place, named his son Wayne so maybe Joe’s father was a Wayne not a William. On the other hand, on 3 April 1889, a William L. Landis, age 24, married H.E. Dysart, age 22. Witnessed by J.L. Dysart and J.W. Laughridge. And a William Edwin Landis, Sr. invested in Western Furniture in Marion in 1900! There were at least two or three Williams and Johns in each generation of the same family. Maybe they had nicknames.

In the early 1800s, new blood came from Scotland: Samuel David Laughridge sailed into the Charleston harbor. According to Edith Laughridge Davis in McDowell County Heritage, North Carolina, edited by JoAnne Johnston, pg 228, Samuel Laughridge was “brought to Morganton by Christian Bartles who ran a wagon with livestock and produce to Charleston.”

I haven’t found any reason for his move. There was a Renaissance going on in Scotland, population of 1,608,000. A massive road project was underway under the direction of Thomas Telford. The first Gaelic language version of the Bible was published in 1801. “Charlotte Dundas” was the world’s first steam-powered tug and later the world’s first practical steamboat. There was no potato famine–yet–and the Radical Rising was not until 1820. But maybe Samuel wanted an opportunity to have land; maybe he just wanted to see the new world, America.

Through Ancestry.com, I found a North Carolina marriage contract which looks very much like a Bill of Sale: “Know all Men by these prefects, that we, Samuel Laughridge, and Charles Bartels in the state aforesaid, are held and firmly bound unto the Governor of the State of North Carolina for the time being, in the just and full sum of Five Hundred Pounds current money of this state, to be paid to the said Governor, or his successors or assigns: To the which payment well and truly to be made and done, we bind ourselves, our Heirs, Executors and Administrators. Sealed with our Seals (squiggly pen marks) and dated the 23 day of April Anno Domini 1811. The Conditions of the above obligation is such, That whereas the above bounder Samuel Laughridge hath made application for a License for a Marriage to be celebrated between him and Sally Antony Bartles (Bortles) of the county aforesaid: Now in café it shall not appear hereafter that there is any lawfull cause to obstruct the said marriage, then the above obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force and virtue. Sealed and Delivered in the presence of us. Bondsman Christian Bortl”

I didn’t find Samuel David on the 1810 Census. Ms Edith Laughridge Davis reports in her article that he enlisted in the 1st Regiment from Burke County in the War of 1812 until 1814. I did find a record of a marriage of Samuel Laughridge to Sall Bealler on 23 April 1817 for 500#. Same guy? Possibly since the name continues in our neighborhood. Remember, we were Burke County until 1843. I also found a marriage date of 23 April 1811 between Samuel Laughridge and Sally A. Bortles, but somebody had edited the spelling to Lochridge. And by the way, her name was Sarah. Her nickname was Sally.

We will ignore the problems and move forward with a new dynasty, new names to remember. Samuel Laughridge, born in 1829, represented Burke County as a Private in the Confederate Army. John David Laughridge, born in 1873 represented the area in WWI, his nearest relative signing for him as Jennie Frank Laughridge, witnessed by Herbert Daves. (I noticed that his description was black hair and blue eyes.)

Drucilla Independent Fundamental Church 2017

In an earlier post, we established that Drucilla Presbyterian Church grew out of the Muddy Creek Mission in 1780, making it one of the oldest churches in the area, along with Siloam Presbyterian in the Greenlee community near Pleasant Gardens of the McDowell and Carson families. In Morganton newspaper News-Herald on 16 July 1962, Curtis Patton wrote a history of the “white church with stained glass windows” now on Drucilla Church Road north of Dysartsville Township. It has been built a couple times but his article pointed out that “Yankees burned the church and contents,” and locals rebuilt the church, then called “Hebron.” The story I heard was that a Confederate soldier with smallpox stayed in the church until he died; that is why the church was burned and rebuilt. An unconfirmed story by Mr. Patton was that the first person to be buried in the cemetery in 1710 had “cramp colec,” and the grave is elevated one foot with rocks at the far end of the cemetery. Actually that sounds like the grave of James Hemphill recognized by others as a Celtic cairn. It seems that the more years accumulate, the more stories are available to twist and turn. I get confused.

Nonetheless, there are veterans from five wars keeping each other company in the Drucilla Church Cemetery: the War Between the States in 1861, the Spanish-American War of 1898, WWI in 1914, WWII in 1939, and the Korean War in 1950. Hundreds of graves, of which possibly, “many have been mutilated due to age,” according to Patton’s article.

Thermal City Miner
by Ramona Nanney 1990
Images of the Blue Ridge

But no war could match the excitement of the discovery of gold in 1828, nor could any war attract the number of participants gathered by a gold strike in the neighborhood. The number of named wide places along Vein Mountain Road grew quickly, towns so close it was difficult to know where one stopped and the next began. In a fifteen mile stretch, there were groups of new residents in Brackettown (Deming), Dealsville, Placerville, Pattonville, Hildrup, Jeanstown, and upper and lower Jamestown.

The invasion of thousands of unruly miners competing for unlimited wealth may have necessitated additional spiritual guidance. According to Jennie Lee Laughridge Owens, in The Heritage of Burke County, a body of deacons and the pastor of First Broad Church in Rutherford County sponsored the new congregation of Dysartsville Baptist Church in 1857 on US Hiway 226. Certainly the quiet Dysartsville paradise was interrupted, and The Battle of Cane Creek was old news.


Copyright@ Georgia Wilson

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Episode 9: A Colonial Christmas

When I was busily selling books at a Christmas bazaar benefitting a domestic violence shelter, I encountered my friend Amanda Finn, Director of the historic Carson House in McDowell County, who told me about a candlelight tour that very night. Even though it was a long drive after a “hard” day, I convinced my husband that a Mexican dinner and a Colonial Christmas were an appropriate combination. Neither of us was disappointed, even though my expectations were scattered.

The Biltmore House, Asheville
FB page First Snow of the Year, 12-08-2017

I confused my time periods. I was expecting decorations of Victorian elegance and overindulgence and awesome beauty, like what we could have found at The Biltmore in the next county. Instead we found a simple warmth and welcome, hospitality with history, very much to my delight.

What should I have expected? Harold Gill, Jr. wrote about Christmas in Colonial Virginia on website: http://www.history.org/almanack/life/christmas/index.cfm

“Christmas is come, hang on the pot; Let spits turn round, and ovens be hot; Beef, pork, and poultry, now provide; To feast thy neighbors at this tide; Then wash all down with good wine and beer; And so with mirth conclude the Year. (Virginia Almanac Royle 1765)”

In this same article Gill wrote: “Not all English settlers celebrated Christmas. The New England Puritans declared observation of Christmas illegal.” I think his point was that “Virginia settlers tried to recreate the ambiance they had known back home.” In 1762, Thomas Jefferson wrote “Christmas was a day of greatest mirth and jollity.” Love that word jollity.

So I should have had visions of turkey and wine, not sugarplums.

Our first host at the Carson House was Jim Haney, in period costume with tall black hat, and he immediately said that in the early 1800’s the pioneer Christmas celebration was low key: no tree, no nativity scene, and no greeting cards. But there was lots to eat and drink and festivities shared with slaves and guests. Colonel Carson gave his servants practical gifts like shoes, cloth, sugar, and coffee.

Photo of Elk in 2017 at Cherokee Reservation in western NC

On display was an exceptionally large jug Colonel John Hazzard Carson filled with peach brandy to share with his guests. No doubt, lots of them were political acquaintances since he served in different leadership positions from justice of the peace to delegate for the Constitutional Convention. President Andrew Jackson was a close friend whom the Colonel entertained with horse races and cockfights. Probably not at Christmas, but this season was an especially good time for hunting parties that extended the visitation two or three weeks. Guests were stocking the larder faster than depleting it.

Historic Carson House
FB Photo 12-3-2014

In addition to soft candlelight, the Carson house was decorated with fragrant pine boughs and cones, holly, nuts, wood shavings, and corn husks. A docent in the Carson House parlour, Anne McNutt, told us that the slaves were tasked with procuring the largest yule log they could find because their holiday would be as long as that fire burned. She also pointed out a beaded screen about 18″ long that hung on a stand next to an armchair. Women’s makeup was heavy and tended to melt in the heat of a fire, so if a lady wanted to warm her toes, she needed to keep her face from running. (And she needed to wear a heavy shawl if fashion demanded bare shoulders while the men stayed warm in shirts and jackets.)

Round Hill Gravesite on Marion Greenway

Carson’s first wife died about 1795, and he married the neighbor, Mary Moffit McDowell, widow of Joseph McDowell of Pleasant Gardens. Although Colonel John had named his house “Garden Hill,” when Mary moved the four miles down the road, she brought slaves, furniture, and the name “Pleasant Gardens” which is still the name of the neighborhood. (See my book The Bear Hunter’s Son). Mary needed a lot of servants since she immediately had five children in addition to the seven already there. Mary gave birth to Samuel Price (1798-1838), Matilda (1799-1824), William Moffitt (1801-1863), George M. (1804-1863), and Jonathan Logan (1807-1866).

In my last post, I mentioned Samuel Price Carson’s duel with Robert Vance. At the Carson house candlelight tour, we heard the famous story, reminding me that THE David Crockett was Samuel’s second for the duel, and his picture hangs in the hallway. Subsequently, Samuel followed Davey to Texas, both of them probably exasperated with Washington politics. On the parlour wall were paintings of Samuel and his wife, Sarah Catherine Wilson. Married in 1831, the couple had one daughter, Rebecca Rachel, and adopted Sam’s illegitimate daughter Emily, according to Wikitree.com, edited 11-29-2017. Samuel’s descendant, Marion native Moffitt Sinclair Henderson, wrote a book in 1972 about the duel, A Long, Long Day in November, and worked with the Greenlee sisters in researching the history on the Carson House.

When Samuel died in Arkansas in 1838, Sarah returned to Pleasant Gardens and the Carson House. She married Sam’s younger brother, William, who lived nearby in a red brick home that still stands on now Lake Tahoma Road.

Historic Carson House
FB Page Photo:
Governor Stokes’ (Governor of North Carolina from 1830-1831) Turkey Platter on display

Jonathon Carson, the youngest son of Colonel John, inherited the family home and framed in the back porch downstairs with imported wood paneling used on the interior walls in a board and batten style, if I heard correctly. Our docent for the master bedroom, Martha Jordan, opened a cupboard-size door cut into the wall for tour purposes to show us the original logs. Jonathon did not favor the log cabin look. In the dining room, the horizontal log walls are painted to resemble a marble design popular in his time. Not my favorite facade, by the way. Nor did Carson add closets because the homeowner was taxed on the number of framed doorways in the structure. Martha is a Conley descendant whose family donated a handsome breakfront that survived the 1916 flood when the Conley house slid down a mountain of mud.

When I was researching for The Bear Hunter’s Son, I interviewed William Brown (Pete) Gibbs’ cousin Dr. Henry Seawall Brown of North Cove. Of the same generation, they are related to the Brown family who lived in the Carson House in the early 1900’s. The North Cove family took over the Carson Mill, and the name changed to the Brown’s Mill, but the Carson House retained the name from Colonel John. Dr. Brown showed me postcards of that time that were curiously postmarked “Garden City” from an aunt in that area.

Dr. Brown told me of his family’s tradition of everyone gathering at Grandma Brown’s house in North Cove for a week at Christmas. That family lived near each other and were so close that Dr. Brown said he only went to Marion about six times before he left home for college. Everything they needed was right there in the family village. Church, school, and general store. “When my dad was growing up, he and Uncle Dewey and maybe my Granddad, hitched a team to a wagon and they’d go to town. They’d leave early in the morning, go down the old Linville Highway, (that went around the base of the mountain, not straight down the valley like 221 does now) get into Marion, park behind the courthouse, do their shopping or trading. Then they would come back. By the time they got half way, it was night, so they camped out and come on home the next day. Going to town was a two-day trip.”

“A lot of us lived here on the farm, and we’d get together every Sunday afternoon, for Sunday lunch. My first cousin, Uncle Dewey’s oldest, would sometimes spend Saturday night down here then we’d walk a mile to church. By the time we walked back here, the dinner would be out and my uncles and aunts and cousins would be here and we’d sit around and talk. That was our social life, the family.”

He told me how they celebrated Christmas when he was a youngster, and I imagine it was somewhere between the Victorian decorations and Colonial mirth and jollity. They would start on Christmas Eve. “By then we had all the corn shucked and put in the corncrib. In the afternoon we went to get the Christmas tree, come back to decorate it. Go home to milk the cows, feed the chickens, and stuff, and come back down here, have supper and wait on ole Santa Claus. We stayed down here (Grandma’s house where he now lives) except for going home to take care of the livestock, until New Years Day. We went home that afternoon, a full week. That was what we had.” Indeed, they had a lot.

Dr. Brown showed me photos of his extended family making molasses with the mule turning the press. (Uncle Dewey lived a half mile up the road.) “Molasses-making time was a celebration. People would come around with fruit jars, wanting to get some molasses. Hog killing was a dirty job, but a celebration. Thrashing wheat, people would come in from all over, and they would go to their neighbors and help out. There were a lot of events we did at the farm that turned out to be a celebration, like shucking corn. People would come in at night, and we’d go into the barns, go up in the loft and shuck corn. The air would be full of ears of corn and shucks behind; you had to keep the shucks pushed back. And Christmas Eve, we had to crib all that corn; we’d just shove it in the barn.”

I mentioned that it was ironic that the Brown name stayed with the mill, not the Carson name, and I asked if some of the employees took on the Carson name as the slaves did long ago. Dr. Carson had a photo of a boy named Horace who worked as a field hand. “At that time, they gave all the field hands ten cents an hour and their dinner. In fact when I was growing up, they were still paying that in the 1930s. Money was hard to get in those days.” And the house didn’t have electricity or running water until after Dr. Brown bought it from his Aunt Bea in 1965.

“At ten cents a day, you got a dollar every day working for my grandfather. And he had several workers. When this guy was working down here on Granddad’s farm, he was Horace Brown. When he went up to work on grandmother English’s farm, he was Horace English. He took on both names. He slept upstairs here in this house in a bed at the upper end of the hallway toward the little portico up there. It was just a little 3/4 size bed but around Christmas time, all of the kids would fight over who got to sleep in the Horace bed.”

“In fact Uncle Dewey and his boy, Bill, during Christmas time would sleep in the Horace bed. And one Christmas, my Uncle Gene, the youngest boy in Granddad’s family was sleeping in a bed right up there. Home from WWII, Bill had gone a half a mile up the road to call on a girlfriend that evening after supper, so we started to go to bed, and Uncle Gene said, “Let’s fix him a trap.” So he got a string and tied it across the stairway. Then the other end of it was to an old dishpan hanging up on a shelf. I heard the door open, and creak, creak, creak coming in. It was dark and everyone asleep. All of a sudden, Bam, Bam, Bam. Uncle Gene raised up in bed and hollered. “Bill, is that you?” Cousin Bill continued up the stairs without pretense. Everyone was awake. Stomp, stomp, stomp. “We had a lot of fun.”

These are the Christmas memories that we share and the reason to get together with family, no matter the year, no matter the inconvenience. The closest ties of the heart are made at home, where you are all that you can be.


Copyright@2017 Georgia Wilson




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Episode 8: After the Battle of Cane Creek

I thought I was ready to publish this post but I usually let my words cool for a day or two in case I have to eat them. I don’t like to go back and edit especially to correct an error, as in Episodes #6 and #7. Sometimes, I just add new details. So glad I waited, because Insomnia got me up early, and I was looking for something to read. I had finished a good Michael Connelly murder mystery, and had started an Elizabeth Berg novel but it didn’t fit my 3:00 am mood, so I perused my bookshelves. Of course! Anne Landis Swann’s The Other Side of the River: The Struggle for the McDowell County Frontier!

On page 224, I was reminded of the amusing incident related by Nina Greenlee in Stories Not Told in History Books. The story was about Elizabeth Patton Hemphill, the wife of James Hemphill who bought Capt Jack’s property, today the site of a Boy Scout Camp at the corner of 226 and Vein Mountain Road. And I’ll tell you about that later.

Cane Creek had Personality

Back in 1780, the Tory soldiers were raiding the herds of the locals in order to feed their soldiers. Presumably, the families who supported the Crown donated to the menu freely, but James Hemphill was a Rebel serving under Col Charles McDowell. He was not home when Ferguson’s men stole his sheep; Hemphill had been killed at Cane Creek. However, his wife was not dead and not shy, possibly seeking revenge for her husband’s death on September 12. Elizabeth drove herself over to Ferguson’s camp and gave him what-for. (Maybe she rode or walked, but I am thinking of the movie Driving the feisty Miss Daisy). Ferguson relented, as the story goes, to return half of her sheep and allowed her to select the ones she wanted. All she had to do was pick the leader, called the bellwether. When she left, the entire flock followed her home. For some reason, maybe he was busy, Ferguson didn’t retaliate. (Greenlee’s story does not give a date, but the sheep could have been seized on Sept 20 since Ferguson was still in their area.)

This reminded me of another story from Nina Greenlee, The Duel–between Robert Vance and Samuel Carson in 1827. Stories Not Told in History Books, pg 209. Almost fifty years after the Revolutionary War but the result of an incident in 1780.

It was a political contest, and there were poor choices in words. Imagine! Robert Vance cast aspersions upon the character of Sam’s father, the venerable Col. John Carson of Buck Creek, Pleasant Gardens. Sam’s mother was the widow of Gen. Joseph McDowell of Pleasant Gardens. Sam had a shiny pedigree. After the loss to the Tories at the Battle of Camden in 1780, Colonel Carson, Benjamin and William Davidson and others, were designated to take protection (from Cornwallis) and thus save many valuable herds of cattle from the grasp of the Tories, according to Lyman Draper, King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, pg 150. Draper writes, “while they accomplished the object they had in view, their motives, in the course of time, were unjustly misjudged and impugned.” There was a vehement difference of opinion among the leaders. “Captains Thomas Lytle and Thomas Hemphill, Robert Patton, and Hunting John McDowell absolutely refused to engage in any such course and stated that they would drive all the stock they could collect into the deep coves at the base of the Black Mountain.” And so years later, Robert Vance was so desperate to retain his Congressional seat, he attacked Samuel Carson by referring to his father’s actions as treasonous. After winning the election, Sam Carson challenged him to a duel. Carson also defeated Vance in the duel, but was never the same, according to Silas McDowell who told the story. It was as though when Sam killed Vance, he killed himself, “driven to the bottle and an early grave.”

Ms Swann’s book also reminded me that Kenneth Robinson had mentioned in his Cane Creek presentation a couple weeks ago the skirmish at the Loyalist Allen property. Lyman Draper quotes Lt. Allaire’s report that the Tories stayed at “one Allen’s to refresh ourselves,” after the Cane Creek incident. North Carolinians were politically divided, and it appears Allen was a supporter of the Crown. From there, Ferguson took his troops north to ford the Catawba at Buck Creek hoping to surprise Col. McDowell on September 16, but the Patriots had already gone. The British journalist, Allaire, wrote, “Pleasant Gardens is a very handsome place. I was surprised to see so beautiful a tract in the mountains. This settlement is composed of the most violent Rebels I ever saw, particularly the young ladies.” Kings Mountains and It’s Heroes, pg 508. They continued to make a visit to Major Davidson’s place but he was gone to the Watauga settlements also. The Tories returned to Gilbert Town on September 23. Battle of King’s Mtn was October 7, 1780, in South Carolina. Soldiers on both sides did a lot of hiking in those two weeks.

Historical Marker on Highway 226 south of intersection with US 64

After the Whig victory at King’s Mountain, emotions skyrocketed. The Patriot leadership had the difficulty of escorting several hundred prisoners somewhere, some way, and tasked with feeding them and controlling tempers.  Allaire wrote in his Diary, an appendix to Drapers’s account, in October, “Wednesday, the eleventh, the (Patriot) army marched twelve miles, and encamped at Colonel John Walker’s.” A footnote on page 325 reports that Walker had purchased, for a doubloon, a fine tract of four hundred acres five miles northeast of Gilbert Town, from the mouth of Cane Creek on the east side to a mile below the present Brittain Church. Walker had been a Judge of the Court for the Colonial government for many years but was one of the first to “pledge resistance to British encroachments.” A month earlier, Ferguson’s troops had swept through Walker’s property. The farmland had already been stripped of provisions because of this war, and the hungry Whigs were of no mind to cook for their enemies. The best fare offered to prisoners was raw pumpkins and corn still on the cob.

On October thirteenth, Colonel Campbell issued an order dividing the Patriots with some of them staying back with all the wounded who could not march. According to Draper, that day the troops and prisoners moved six miles northeast to “Bickerstaff’s Old Fields, since known as the Red Chimneys, where a stack of chimneys long stood after the house had decayed and been demolished” on Robertson’s Creek. Colonel Campbell came down hard on Patriot deserters and those who ravaged the little food and property left to the farmers. His officers called his attention to the abuse that their own troops had endured under the Tories, including the hanging of Patriot prisoners at Camden, at Ninety Six, and at Augusta. Maybe it was time for retribution, as some of these Tories were now Patriot prisoners. Colonel Campbell obtained a copy of North Carolina law, “authorized two magistrates to summon a jury, and forthwith to try, and, if found guilty, to execute persons who had violated its precepts” of murder, arson, house-breaking, riots, and other criminal offences. The prevailing wisdom was to assure the Tories still fighting in other counties that their crimes would be punished. According to Annals of the Army of Tennessee, 1878, thirty-two were condemned. And then the Colonels weighed in. Colonel Shelby, Colonel Cleveland, Colonel Williams, Colonel Brandon, etc, along with Major McDowell and Captain McDowell, and on pages 329-339 of Draper’s book, you can read the opinions and arguments of early democracy at work. By nightfall, decisions were made and a sturdy oak tree selected, hereafter called the Gallows Oak. Draper described the event based on memoirs: “It was a singular and interesting night scene, the dark old woods illuminated with the wild glare of hundreds of pine-knot torches: and quite a number of the Loyalist leaders of the Carolinas about to be launched into eternity.” Nine were hung.

The rest of the story: you’re gonna love this part!!!

The plan was to hang three at a time, and the next group was assembled, tied up, and waiting their turns. A boy approached and asked permission to say goodbye to his brother, Isaac Baldwin, who had been convicted of gory violence against his neighbors in Burke County. “He threw his arms around his brother, and set up a most piteous screaming and lamentation as if he would go into convulsions, or his heart would break of sorrow. While all were witnessing this touching scene, the youth managed to cut the cords confining his brother, who suddenly darted away.”…”Although he had to make his way through more than a thousand of the best marksmen in the world, yet such was the universal admiration or feeling on the occasion, that not one would lift a hand to stop him.” Draper, King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, pg. 342

Shelby put a stop to further executions.

At two in the morning, one of those spared made his way to Colonel Shelby to tell him that British Colonel Tarleton would be there in the morning. He had failed to reinforce Ferguson at King’s Mountain, because “the County of Mecklenburg…and the adjoining County of Rowan were more hostile to England than any other portion of America.” And, he was sick with a fever. Draper, pg. 364.

Colonel believed the report, and at 5:00 am, the Patriots were hiking again in an effort to cross the Catawba River during a torrential rain before Tarleton could catch them. They made it. Ironically, Tarleton was running the other way, in fear of the mountain militia.

Mrs. Biggerstaff and neighbors were left to bury the dead. Captain Aaron Biggerstaff had served under Ferguson and had died at King’s Mountain with him.

For some reason, that community is now called Sunshine.

And as a postscript, I should tell you that Isaac Baldwin was eventually caught and killed when he returned to the scene of his crime.


Copyright Nov 2017 Georgia Wilson



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