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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Episode 7: Dysart Family, Continued

On May 4 of this year, I introduced you to the Dysarts of Dysartsville. As there are none left in the area, I cannot share memories from interviews. I have edited some of my earlier findings that may have been untrue. This past summer I did meet a John Dysart who grew up in the Mackey Mountain area of Pleasant Gardens, where Pete Gibbs of Lake Tahoma Steak House legend lived. (The Bear Hunter’s Son) Although, Mr. Dysart denied knowledge of family in Dysartsville, he claimed relation to the Greenlees, and they were all involved in the gold mining era that came to Dysartsville in the 1800’s. However that will come later in my story. For now, we are tracking down the James Dysart family, and I have contradicting information, probably because there was an abundance of James and Johns.

In fact, a James Dysart from Donegal, Ireland, came to Philadelphia in 1761, and settled around the Little Holston River area in Tennessee. He married Mattie Beattie and had three sons and three daughters who stayed in Tennessee and Kentucky. However, this James Dysart answered the call of the Overmountain Men and fought at King’s Mountain in 1780 where he was badly wounded; his hand was crippled for life, according to Lyman Draper, pg 404 of King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes. He died in 1806. Ironically our James Dysart was there as well, but he died in 1781, at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford.

At the western foot of Pilot Mtn that stands alone
South Mtn range to the right

In the McDowell County Library research room, there is a prized historical scrapbook put together by Nina Greenlee, a noted historian. She records that Captain Bill Moore was the “first white settler west of the French Broad River.” Before that, he had a cabin on the South Muddy Creek in the area to be Dysartsville. Moore’s Fort surrounded at least one large log building that served as the “Muddy Creek Mission,” a community meeting place for worship among other uses. His first residence in North Carolina, on property later sold to “Mr. Bill Owens, a well-to-do and well-respected black farmer from Brackett Town.” (from My Father’s Folks: Laughridge Family, an article by Jennie Lee Laughridge, 1906-1992, in Burke Co library) Mr. Moore bought two grants, making a total of about a thousand acres at the foot of Pilot Mountain. Mr. Charles McFeeters was an adjoining landowner. William Higgins, Morrisons and Pearsons were also neighbors.

Bill Moore’s standing rock chimney was said to be on the old Bridgewater Road (Dysartsville Rd) two miles north of the “Crossroads.” It might be found in the fork of Mills and Muddy Creek, close to Rhom Duncan’s current house, which is said to be on former Owens land. William Hamilton Moore’s family gave land to build the Drucilla Presbyterian Church, also north of this area, and within its cemetery rest settlers and soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and WWI and WWII.

Here is another possibility for confusion. Mr. Draper wrote in 1881 about a Mr. William Moore from Washington County in Tennessee from the Watauga settlements who came down the mountain to fight at King’s Mountain in 1780. He was so badly injured there that his leg had to be amputated. His pioneer wife came down to fetch him in the family wagon and carry him back to the Holston area. This was in November, not a good time to travel over a mountain. Mr. Moore hung on until 1826, receiving his invalid pension for 37 years.

Our Dysartsville Captain Moore married Margaret Patton, daughter of Benjamin Patton, one of the signers of the Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence, (Charlotte) and that seemed to be worthy of four grants to 1200 acres on both sides of Hominy Creek. The census of 1790 showed Captain Bill living on South Muddy, but in 1794 he gave up the questionable “safety” of civilization and moved up the Blue Ridge to Hominy Creek. He was 68 years old. Soon other settlers joined him, and the area became Asheville and Buncombe County where his family has flourished for over 200 years. Folks in western North Carolina put down deep roots. Captain Bill’s tombstone reports death visited him on November 12, 1812. His descendant, Daniel Moore, would be governor of North Carolina, 1965-1969, when governors could only serve one term, but he then served on the NC Supreme Court, 1969-1978.

Another pioneer who came to Dysartsville in 1776 was Hampton Cowan, who owned property adjoining Moore’s land on both sides of the road (now US-64) that meandered from Quaker Meadows (now Morganton), to Gilbert Town (now the county seat Rutherfordton) of Rutherford County. Captain James Jack was another early settler in the area on what was later known as the Hemphill place. According to Jennie Lee Laughridge, Captain Jack carried the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to Philadelphia on horseback in 1775. His sister Charity married Dr. Cornelius Dysart, son of James and Margaret Dysart. Other property owners in 1776 were Robert Patton, John Dysart, and John’s mother, Margaret Dysart, all located close to the South Muddy Creek and the road that would become Hiway 226. The intersection of two roads here gave the settlement its first name of Crossroads.

Historical Marker on the west side of 64 and Cane Creek

What better way to resume the history of my neighborhood than to attend a presentation at the McDowell library about the Battle of Cane Creek, often confusingly called the Battle of Cowan’s Ford. But I explained this in the last episode. The historical marker now reads Battle of Cane Creek, and we will go with that. Archaeologist Kenneth Robinson, whose mother Evelyn Daves Robinson was born in Dysartsville in 1926, was hired by the Foothills Conservancy which obtained an American Battlefield Protection grant from the National Park Service to investigate the site of the battle that took place on September 12, 1780. This was less than a month before the crucial Battle at King’s Mountain in South Carolina that many say changed the momentum of the Revolutionary War.

Looking North where 64 cuts through a mountain over the probable battle area on a now tame Cane Creek

Robinson first examined the area of concentration for the project, the Upper Crossing of Cane Creek, south of Bedford Hill where today’s US-64 is cut into a steep slope of the South Mountains and its foothill on Fortune Road. Bedford Hill is close to the grassy field where Overmountain men camped on their way from Quaker Meadows to King’s Mountain in 1780. Back then, the road had a steep grade. Robinson suggests that the mountainous terrain would have offered possibilities of retreat, especially in the dense forest.  On September 11, The Patriots were returning to Watauga settlements for a meeting, but when they heard Ferguson was giving chase, they picked a suitable place for an ambush, near the crossroads where Cane Creek seemed to follow a volcanic fault line in a gorge west of the highway toward the old Marshall place. The exact spot of battle has not yet been determined. According to Anne Landis Swann, The Other Side of the River, pg 228, the William Marshall property was purchased in 1859 by Jonathan Walker, and later by her ancestor Joseph B. Landis, Jr, to whose family a portion of the land still belongs.

The British officer leading about 150 Tories had brought forty men from New York and New Jersey with him, but the larger part of his force was from local communities in South Carolina and North Carolina. I don’t often think of the Revolutionary War as neighbors fighting neighbors, but they were. J.D. Lewis has an online site on which he has compiled the names of those who fought. The Goforth kids from Rutherfordton wiped each other out, and that is just one family’s story. I can hear mamas crying.

On page 50 of Draper’s book, he described Ferguson’s outstanding capabilities. “He invented a new species of rifle, which could be loaded with greater celerity, and fired with more precision than any then in use. He could load his newly constructed gun at the breech without using the ramrod, and with such quickness and repetition as to fire seven times in a minute. He was regarded as the best rifle shot in the British army, if not the best marksman living.” He was also goal-oriented as evidenced by his determined recovery from a wound that would have sent other men back home. Ferguson’s right arm was shattered and rendered useless by an opponent’s bullet. He had to learn how to shoot and use a sword with his left hand while astride his valiant white steed.

Ferguson also used a brief charisma to appeal to a moral superiority shared by some local Carolinians. “We come not,” declared Ferguson, “to make war on women and children, but to relieve their distresses.” (King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, page 72) Unfortunately, not all of his troops got the memo.

Captain Patrick Ferguson was a worthy foe, but his pride ignored the expertise of the American frontiersman who used their rifles to feed their families.

However, the initial confrontation with Carolinians started out badly for the home team in July of 1780. There were three skirmishes in which the Tories prevailed over the Patriots led by Colonel Charles McDowell from Quaker Meadows in Burke County. In the third encounter, Colonel Andrew Hampton lost his son and forever held McDowell accountable since he had refused to post sentries. Noah Hampton and his friend were run through with bayonets as they woke up. This attack was in retaliation for an earlier bloodless raid on the Loyalists by the Patriots.

Ferguson was camped in Gilbert Town, and it looked as though everything was going his way. On the coast, Charleston had fallen, and a British victory near Camden in August made Cornwallis appear to have conquered South Carolina. But power was laced with cruelty. If a suspected Whig (Patriot) fled to escape an insult, the whip or the rope, followers of Ferguson and Tarleton often burned his house down and raped his women. If sons refused to betray parents, they were hung. The criminal Tories probably were a small minority, but their atrocities were real. We must remember our history so we do not repeat it. Erasing it fosters ignorance.

From a British journal written by Lt. Anthony Allaire from New York, we know that Ferguson got his troops in motion at two o’clock that morning and marched up Cane Creek in Rutherford County, near the 2nd Broad River, all the way to its headwaters in the next county at daylight. About 15 miles. According to Robinson’s presentation at the library , it was very common for soldiers to move at night because they were avoiding the sun’s heat that would drain their energy. The Loyalists had to cross Cane Creek 19 times because it was so crooked. (Since then it has been straightened.) Mr. Robinson also pointed out that Lt. Allaire might not have looked favorably upon the locals. In his journal he reported that a Mrs. Bowman who lived near Cane Creek had a young child who had smoked tobacco for three years. Fake news? Or history?

Draper’s account reports the Patriots awaited the arrival of the British, and “an indecisive fight transpired. The enemy, after receiving the unexpected fire of McDowell’s backwoodsmen, rallied, and beat back the Americans, killing, among others, one Scott, of Burke County…By the heroic efforts especially of Major Joseph McDowell–the Colonel’s brother–Captain Thomas Kennedy, and one McKay (often pronounced Mackey), the Whigs were brought again into action. Major McDowell was particularly active, swearing roundly that he would never yield, nor should his Burke boys–appealing to them to stand by and die with him, if need be. By their united bravery and good bushwhacking management, in which their real wickedness was concealed, and by their activity and well-directed rifle shots, they succeeded in inflicting considerable execution on their antagonists–killing several, and, among others, wounding Major Dunlap.” (Draper, King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, pg 148-149)

Two British journalists have similar accounts of the Patriots loss, one fatality and seventeen prisoners, along with seizure of 12 horses and all ammunition. The reports were supported by two Patriots when they filled out their pension applications years later. According to Robinson, Richard Ballew remembered that, “We had battle on Cane Creek, and Hemphill was killed. We got whipped.” Hemphill is buried at the Drucilla Presbyterian Church in Dysartsville. Robinson also said that in John Dysart’s pension application, he admitted, “We were rather defeated.” Truth to them, and not forgotten. History to us.

After Cane Creek, Ferguson was anxious to complete his victory lap and emboldened to the point of arrogance. He released prisoner Samuel Phillips with a message to be delivered to the officers on the western borders at the Watauga settlements, Nolachucky and Holston. This is where Col Charles McDowell and Col Andrew Hampton had taken their 160 men after the fight at Cane Creek. There was a rendezvous planned at Sycamore Flats at the Shoals in Tennessee on September 25.The men were demoralized, and since the Patriots at the edge of the frontier had crops to tend and Indian threats, the month of October might have been a well-needed rest for the militia.

The message that Ferguson unwisely sent was his death warrant served at the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 6, 1780. He told the settlers, “if they did not desist from their opposition to the British arms, he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword.” (Draper citing three references in King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, pg 169)

The resistance of 160 men became a furious force of thousands. The rest is our history.

Surrender at Yorktown 1781
Artist John Trumbell/courtesy of Wikimedia Common


Copyright @2017 Georgia Wilson Edited Nov 26, 27, 28, 29


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William Brown (Pete) Gibbs II

On June 7, 2017, the line of mourners from the casket at the alter of the historic First Presbyterian Church ran along the right hand aisle and down the steep steps outside in Marion, NC. Hundreds showed up to show their respect for a man who spent his entire life in service to others. His large family mingled with neighbors and those who travelled from far points on the map to celebrate the life of Pete Gibbs.

I tarried in that line and listened to conversations of folks who had known each other for years, as they renewed contacts and shared memories of school events, the Pleasant Gardens neighborhood, Marion history, and especially the Lake Tahoma Steak House and Gibbs Motel, the local trademarks of the family. Pete managed the restaurant until 1979 when it was leased as Little Sienna.

As author of Pete’s biography, The Bear Hunter’s Son, I had spent many hours listening to Pete’s reflections from his life, the happiest hours surrounded by his family and in service to his Lord. In the late 1960s, Pete and his wife, Betty, helped to open Life Mission that helped locally with food and clothing donations. In the 1970s and 80s, he served as a leader in the McDowell County Children’s Ministry, influencing lives in underprivileged neighborhoods. He has made a loving mark on many hearts, never to be forgotten. Two of his caregivers at the end were named in the book as being with him from the beginning of his children’s ministry.

Pete’s family allowed me the courtesy of visiting him in his final hours at his home, where he has lived since 1948, within a mile of his parent’s home and the restaurant. His funeral service was held in the Gibbs home church although Pete had been attending Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in the years since Betty passed on. No doubt the family chose the larger church to accommodate the crowd, but his pastor Michael Smith from Mt. Moriah gave the eulogy and sang the opening hymn. Most appropriate for this humble, devout Christian, the words rang true and pure:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for thee, for thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!*

*penned by Horatio G. Spafford in 1873


RIP William Brown Gibbs II, July 3, 1928 – June 2, 2017


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Episode 6: James Dysart of Dysartsville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1789 Mecklenburg Co, NC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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