SKETCHES OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA, HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL
Illustrating Principally the Revolutionary Period of Mecklenburg, Rowan, Lincoln and Adjoining Counties, Accompanied with Miscellaneous Information, Much of It Never before Published
C. L. HUNTER
TO THE DESCENDANTS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY PATRIOTS OF NORTH CAROLINA, WHETHER NOW ABIDING WITHIN HER BORDERS AND SHARING HER PROSPERITIES AND ADVERSITIES, OR SCATTERED ABROAD IN OTHER STATES OF THE AMERICAN UNION, BUT WHO STILL CHERISH A LASTING VENERATION FOR THE MEMORIES OF THEIR HEROIC FOREFATHERS; AND TO THE YOUNG MEN OF THE STATE GENERALLY, WHO WOULD DRAW LESSONS OF WISDOM, PATRIOTISM AND ENDURANCE FROM THE EXAMPLES HEREIN DESCRIBED, THIS VOLUME IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR.
History has been defined, "Philosophy teaching by example." There is no branch of literature in a republic like ours, that can be cultivated with more advantage to the general reader than history. From the infinite variety of aspects in which it presents the dealings of Providence in the affairs of nations, and from the immense number of characters and incidents which it brings into view, it becomes a source of continuous interest and enjoyment.
The American Revolution is undoubtedly the most interesting event in the pages of modern history. Changes equally great and convulsions equally violent have often taken place in the Old World; and the records of former times inform us of many instances of oppression, which, urged beyond endurance, called forth the spirit of successful resistance. But in the study of the event before us—the story of the Revolution—we behold feeble colonies, almost without an army—without a navy—without an established government—without a good supply of the munitions of war, firmly and unitedly asserting their rights, and, in their defence, stepping forth to meet in hostile array, the veteran troops of a proud and powerful nation. We behold too, these colonies, amidst want, poverty and misfortunes, animated with the spirit of liberty and fortified by the rectitude of their cause, sustaining for nearly eight years, the weight of a cruel conflict upon their own soil. At length we behold them victorious; their enemies sullenly retiring from their shores, and these feeble colonies enrolled on the page of history as a free, sovereign and independent nation.
The American struggle for freedom, and its final achievement, was an act in the great drama of the world's history of such vast magnitude, and fraught with such momentous consequences upon the destinies of civilization throughout the world, that we can scarcely ever tire in contemplating the instrumentalities by which, under Divine guidance, it was effected. It has taught mankind that oppression and misrule, under any government, tends to weaken and ultimately destroy the power of the oppressor; and that a people united in the cause of freedom and their inalienable rights, are invincible by those who would enslave them.
No State in our Union can present a greater display of exalted patriotism, enduring constancy and persistent bravery than North Carolina. And yet, how many of our own people do we find who know but little of the early history of the State, her stern opposition to tyranny under every form, and her illustrious Revolutionary career.
On the shores of North Carolina the first settlement of English colonists was made; within her borders the most formidable opposition to British authority, anterior to the Revolution, was organized; by her people the first declaration of independence was proclaimed, and some of the most brilliant achievements took place upon her own soil.
For several years, at intervals, the author has devoted a portion of his time and attention to the collection of historical facts relating principally to Western North Carolina, and bordering territory of South Carolina, to whom, as a sister State, and having a community of interests, North Carolina frequently afforded relief in her hour of greatest need.
Such materials, procured at this late day—upon the arrival of our National Centennial year, are often imperfect and fragmentary in character—merely scattered facts and incidents gathered here and there from the traditional recollections of our oldest inhabitants, or from the musty records of our State and county offices; and yet, it is believed such facts, when truthfully transmitted to us, are worthy of preservation and rescue from the gulf of oblivion, which unfortunately conceals from our view much valuable information.
Being the son of a Revolutionary patriot, and accustomed in his boyhood to listen with enraptured delight to the narration of thrilling battle-scenes, daring adventures, narrow escapes and feats of personal prowess during the Revolution, all tending to make indelible impressions upon the tablet of memory, the author feels a willingness to "contribute his mite" to the store of accumulated materials relating to North Carolina, now waiting to be moulded into finished, historic shape by some one of her gifted sons.
Several of the sketches herein presented are original, and have never before been published. Others, somewhat condensed, have been taken from Wheeler's "Historical Sketches," when falling within the scope of this work. To the venerable author of that compilation, the author also acknowledges his indebtedness for valuable information furnished from time to time from the "Pension Bureau" at Washington City, relating to the military services of several of our Revolutionary patriots.
The author and compiler of these sketches only aspires to the position of a historian in a limited sense. It cannot be denied that the history of our good old State, modest in her pretensions, but filled with grand, patriotic associations, has never been fully written. Acting under this belief, he feels tempted to say, like Ruth following the reapers in the time of Boaz, he has "gleaned in the field until even," and having found a few "handfuls" of neglected grain, and beaten them out, here presents his "ephah of barley"—plain, substantial food it is true, but yet may be made useful mentally to the present generation, as it was physically of old, to the inhabitants of Palestine.
In conclusion, the author cherishes the hope that other sons, and daughters too, of North Carolina—some of them forming with himself, connecting links of the past with the present—will also become gleaners in the same field of research, abounding yet with scattered grains of neglected and unwritten history worthy of preservation.
If the author's efforts in this direction shall impart additional information, and assist in elucidating "liberty's story" in the Old North State, his highest aspirations will be gratified, and his agreeable labors amply rewarded.
ORIGINAL SETTLEMENTS IN NORTH CAROLINA AND CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE.
The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence—A brief account of the Mecklenburg Centennial—The Grand Procession—Exercises at the Fair Grounds—James Belk, A Veteran Invited Guest—Signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence—Origin of the Alexander Families of Mecklenburg county—Jack Family—Captain Charles Polk's "Muster Roll,"—President James K. Polk—General William Davidson, General George Graham—William Richardson Davie—Battle of the Hanging Rock—General Michael McLeary—Major Thomas Alexander—Captain William Alexander—Elijah Alexander—Captain Charles Alexander—Joseph Kerr, "The Cripple Spy"—Robert Kerr—Henry Hunter—James Orr—Skirmish at Charlotte; or, First attack of the "Hornets"—Surprise at McIntire's, or, the "Hornets" at work—Judge Samuel Lowrie—The Ladies of the Revolutionary Period—Mrs. Eleanor Wilson—Queen's Museum.
The "Black Boys" of Cabarrus—Dr. Charles Harris—Captain Thomas Caldwell.
Route of the British Army through Mecklenburg and Rowan Counties— General Griffith Rutherford—Locke Family—Hon. Archibald Henderson— Richard Pearson—Mrs Elizabeth Steele.
Col. Alexander Osborn—Captain William Sharpe—Major William Gill— Captain Andrew Carson, and others—Captain Alexander Davidson—Captain James Houston—Captain James Houston's Muster Roll—Rev. James Hall— Hon. Hugh Lawson White.
Battle of Ramseur's Mill—Route of the British Army through Lincoln county—Gen. Joseph Graham—Brevard Family—Col. James Johnston— Genealogy of Col. James Johnston—Jacob Forney, Sr.—Gen. Peter Forney—Major Abram Forney—Remarks—Genealogy of the Forney Family.
Rev. Humphrey Hunter—Dr. William McLean—Major William Chronicle— Captain Samuel Martin—Captain Samuel Caldwell—Captain John Mattocks— William Rankin—General John Moore—Elisha Withers.
Battle of King's Mountain—Colonel William Campbell—Colonel Isaac Shelby—Colonel James D. Williams—Colonel William Graham— Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Hambrigh.
Battle of the Cowpens—General Daniel Morgan—General Charles McDowell and Brothers.
Colonel Benjamin Cleaveland—Colonel John Sevier—General William Lenoir.
Lord Cornwallis—Colonel Tarleton—Cherokee Indians—Conclusion.
1492 October 12, Columbus discovered America.
1584 July 4, Amadas and Barlow approach the coast of North Carolina.
1663 Charter of Charles II, William Drummond, first Governor of North Carolina.
1678 John Culpeper's Rebellion.
1693 Carolina divided into North and South Carolina.
1705 First Church erected in North Carolina.
1705 First Newspaper published in the United States.
1710 Carey's Rebellion.
1729 Charter of Charles II, surrendered.
1765 Stamp Act passed.
1771 May 16, Battle of Alamance.
1774 August 25, Popular Assembly at Newbern.
1775 May 20 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.
1775 June, General Washington commander-in-chief.
1775 June 17, Battle of Bunker's Hill.
1775 August, Josiah Martin, Royal Governor, retreated.
1775 December 9, Battle of Great Bridge, near Norfolk, Va.
1776 February 27, Battle of Moore's Creek, N.C.
1776 August 27, Battle of Long Island.
1776 December 12, Constitution of North Carolina formed at Halifax.
1776 December 26, Battle of Trenton.
1776 Aug. & Sept., General Rutherford subdues the Cherokees.
1777 January 3, Battle of Princeton.
1777 September 11, Battle of Brandywine.
1777 October 4, Battle of Germantown.
1777 October 7, Battle of Saratoga.
1778 June 28, Battle of Monmouth
1779 March 3, Ashe defeated at Brier Creek.
1779 June 2 Battle of Stono, near Charleston.
1780 May 17 Surrender of Charleston.
1780 June 21, Battle of Ramsour's Mill.
1780 August 7, Battle of the Hanging Rock.
1780 August 16, Gates defeated at Camden.
1780 October 7, Battle of King's Mountain.
1781 January 17, Battle of the Cowpens.
1781 March 15, Battle of Guilford Court House.
1781 September 8, Battle of Eutaw.
1781 October 19, Battle of Yorktown.
1783 January 20, Treaty of peace at Versailles.
1783 September 3, England recognizes the Independence of the United States.
1787 May, Constitution of the United States formed.
ORIGINAL SETTLEMENTS IN NORTH CAROLINA AND CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE.
North Carolina, in the days of her colonial existence, was the asylum and the refuge of the poor and the oppressed of all nations. In her borders the emigrant, the fugitive, and the exile found a home and safe retreat. Whatever may have been the impelling cause of their emigration—whether political servitude, religious persecution, or poverty of means, with the hope of improving their condition, the descendants of these enterprising, suffering, yet prospered people, have just reason to bless the kind Providence that guided their fathers, in their wanderings, to such a place of comparative rest.
On the sandy banks of North Carolina the flag of England was first displayed in the United States. Roanoke Island, between Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, afforded the landing place to the first expedition sent out under the auspices of Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1584. "The fragrance, as they drew near the land, says Amadas in his report, was as if they had been in the midst of some delicate garden, abounding in all manner of odoriferous flowers." Such, no doubt, it seemed to them during the first summer of their residence in 1584; and, notwithstanding the disastrous termination of that, and several succeeding expeditions, the same maritime section of North Carolina has presented its peculiar features of attractiveness to many generations which have since arisen there, and passed away. In the same report, we have the first notice of the celebrated Scuppernong grape, yielding its most abundant crops under the saline atmospheric influence, and semi-tropical climate of eastern Carolina.
From the glowing description of the country, in its primitive abundance, transmitted to Elizabeth and her court, they gave it the name Virginia, being discovered in the reign of a virgin Queen. But having failed in this and several other attempts of a similar kind, Sir Walter Raleigh surrendered his patent, and nothing more was done in colonizing Virginia during the remainder of that century.
In 1607, the first permanent settlement was made by the English at Jamestown, Va., under the charter of the London or Southern Company. This charter contained none of the elements of popular liberty, not one elective franchise, nor one of the rights of self-government; but religion was especially enjoined to be established according to the rites and doctrine of the Church of England. The infant colony suffered greatly for several years from threatened famine, dissensions, and fear of the Indians, but through the energy and firmness of Capt John Smith, was enabled to maintain its ground, and in time, show evident signs of prosperity. The jealousy of arbitrary power, and impatience of liberty among the new settlers, induced Lord Delaware, Governor of Virginia in 1619, to reinstate them in the full possession of the rights of Englishmen; and he accordingly convoked a Provincial Assembly, the first ever held in America. The deliberations and laws of this infant Legislature were transmitted to England for approval, and so wise and judicious were these, that the company under whose auspices they were acting, soon after confirmed and ratified the groundwork of what gradually ripened into the American representative system. The guarantee of political rights led to a rapid colonization. Men were now willing to regard Virginia as their home. "They fell to building houses and planting corn." Women were induced to leave the parent country to become the wives of adventurous planters; and during the space of three years thirty-five hundred persons of both sexes, found their way to Virginia. By various modifications of their charter, the colonists, in a few years, obtained nearly all the civil rights and privileges which they could claim as British subjects; but the church of England was "coeval with the settlement of Jamestown, and seems to have been considered from the beginning as the established religion." At what time settlements were first permanently made within the present limits of North Carolina, has not been clearly ascertained. In 1622, the Secretary of the colony of Virginia traveled overland to Chowan River, and described, in glowing terms, the fertility of the soil, the salubrity of the climate, and the kindness of the natives. In 1643, a company obtained permission of the Virginia Legislature to prosecute discoveries on the great river South of the Appomatox of which they had heard, under a monopoly of the profits for fourteen years, but with what measure of success has not been recorded. These early exploring parties to the South, bringing back favorable reports of the fertile lands of the Chowan and the Roanoke could not fail to excite in the colony of Jamestown a spirit of emigration, many of whose members were already suffering under the baneful effects of intolerant legislation. In 1643, during the administration of Sir William Berkeley, it was specially "ordered that no minister should preach or teach, publicly or privately, except in conformity to the constitutions of the church of England, and non-conformists were banished from the colony."[A] It is natural to suppose that individuals as well as families, who were fond of a roaming life, or who disliked the religious persecution to which they were subjected, would descend the banks of these streams until they found on the soil of Carolina suitable locations for peaceable settlements.
In 1653, Roger Green led a company across the wilderness from Nansemond, in Virginia, to the Chowan River, and settled near Edenton. There they prospered, and others, influenced by similar motives, soon afterward followed. In 1662, George Durant purchased of the Yeopim Indians the neck of land, on the North-side of Albemarle Sound, which still bears his name. It was settled by persons driven off from Virginia through religious persecutions. In 1663, King Charles II, granted to the Earl of Clarendon and seven other associates, the whole of the region from the thirty-sixth degree of north latitude to the river San Matheo, (now the St. John's) in Florida; and extending westwardly, like all of that monarch's charters, to the Pacific Ocean.
At the date of this charter, (1663,) Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia, visited the infant settlement on the Chowan, and being pleased with its evident signs of prosperity, and increasing importance, appointed William Drummond the first Governor of the Colony of Carolina. Drummond was a Scotch Presbyterian, and, inheriting the national characteristics of that people, was prudent, cautious, and deeply impressed with the love of liberty. Such were the pioneer settlements, and such was the first Governor of North Carolina. The beautiful lake in the centre of the Dismal Swamp, noted for its healthy water, and abundantly laid in by sea-going vessels, perpetuates his name.
In 1665, it being discovered that the "County of Albemarle," as the settlement on the Chowan was called, was not in the limits of the Carolina charter, but in Virginia, King Charles, on petition, granted an enlargement of that instrument so as to make it extend from twenty-nine degrees to thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes, north latitude. These charters were liberal in the concession of civil rights, and the proprietors were permitted to exercise toleration towards non-conformists, if it should be deemed expedient. Great encouragement was held forth to immigrants from abroad, and settlements steadily increased. They were allowed to form a representative government, with certain limitations; and thus a degree of popular freedom was conceded, which it seems, was not intended to be permanent, but it could never be recalled; and had an important influence in producing the results which we now enjoy. As the people were chiefly refugees from religious oppression, they had no claims on government, nor did they wish to draw its attention. They regarded the Indians as the true lords of the soil; treated with them in that capacity; purchased their lands, and obtained their grants. At the death of Governor Drummond in 1667, the colony of Carolina contained about four thousand inhabitants.
The first assembly that made laws for Carolina convened in the Fall of 1669. "Here," says Bancroft, "was a colony of men scattered among forests, hermits with wives and children resting on the bosom of nature, in perfect harmony with the wilderness of their gentle clime. The planters of Albemarle were men led to the choice of their residence from a hatred of restraint. Are there any who doubt man's capacity for self-government? Let them study the history of North Carolina. Its inhabitants were restless and turbulent in their imperfect submission to a government imposed from abroad; the administration of the colony was firm, humane, and tranquil when they were left to take care of themselves. Any government but one of their own institution was oppressive. North Carolina was settled by the freest of the free. The settlers were gentle in their tempers, of serene minds, enemies to violence and bloodshed. Not all the successive revolutions had kindled vindictive passions; freedom, entire freedom was enjoyed without anxiety as without guarantees. The charities of life were scattered at their feet like the flowers of their meadows."[B] No freer country was ever organized by man. Freedom of conscience, exemption from taxation, except by their own consent; gratuities in land to every emigrant, and other wholesome regulations claimed the prompt legislative action of the infant colony. "These simple laws suited a simple people, who were as free as the air of their mountains; and when oppressed, were as rough as the billows of the ocean."[C]
In 1707, a company of Huguenots, as the French Protestants were called, settled on the Trent. In 1709, the Lords Proprietors granted to Baron de Graffenreidt ten thousand acres of land on the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers for colonizing purposes. In a short time afterward, a great number of Palatines (Germans) and fifteen hundred Swiss followed the Baron, and settled at the confluence of the Trent and the Neuse. The town was called New Berne, after Berne, in Switzerland, the birth-place of Graffenreidt. This was the first important introduction into Eastern Carolina of a most excellent class of liberty-loving people, whose descendants wherever their lots were cast, in our country, gave illustrious proof of their valor and patriotism during the Revolutionary war.
In 1729, the Lords Proprietors (except Lord Granville) surrendered the government of the province, with all the franchises under the charter of Charles II, and their property in the soil, to the crown for a valuable consideration. The population at that time did not exceed ten thousand inhabitants. George Burrington. Governor of the province under the Lords Proprietors, was re-appointed to the same office by the King. In February, 1731, he thus officially writes to the Duke of New Castle. "The inhabitants of North Carolina are not industrious, but subtle and crafty to admiration; always behaved insolently to their Governors; some of them they have imprisoned; drove others out of the country; and at other times have set up a governor of their own choice, supported by men under arms. These people are neither to be cajoled nor outwitted. Whenever any governor attempts to effect anything by these means, he will lose his labor, and show his ignorance." Lord Granville's part of the colony of North Carolina (one-eighth) was not laid off to him, adjoining Virginia, until 1743. At that date, a strong tide of emigration was taking place from the Chowan and Roanoke, the pioneer attractive points of the colony, as well as from abroad, to the great interior, and Western territory, now becoming dotted with numerous habitations. The Tuscarora Indians, the terrible scourge of Eastern Carolina, having been subdued, and entered into a treaty of peace and friendship in 1718, no serious obstacle interposed to prevent a Western extension of settlements. Already adventurous individuals, and even families of hardy pioneers had extended their migrations to the Eastern base of the "Blue Ridge," and selected locations on the head-waters of the Yadkin and Catawba rivers. In 1734, Gabriel Johnston was appointed Governor of North Carolina. He was a Scotchman by birth, a man of letters and of liberal views. He was by profession a physician, and held the appointment of Professor of Oriental Languages in the University of Saint Andrews. His addresses to the Legislature show that he fully appreciated the lamentable condition of the colony through the imprudence and vicious conduct of his predecessor (Burrington) and his earnest desire to promote the welfare of the people. Under his prudent administration, the province increased in population, wealth and happiness. At the time of its purchase by the crown, its population did not exceed thirteen thousand; it was now upwards of forty five thousand.
In 1754, Arthur Dobbs was appointed Governor by the crown. His administration of ten years presented a continued contest between himself and the Legislature on matters frivolous and unimportant. His high-toned temper for royal prerogatives was sternly met by the indomitable resistance of the colonists. The people were also much oppressed by Lord Granville's agents, one of whom (Corbin) was seized and brought to Enfield, where he was compelled to give bond and security, produce his books, and disgorge his illegal fees. But notwithstanding these internal commotions and unjust exactions, always met by the active resistance of the people, the colony continued to increase in power, and spread abroad its arms of native inherent protection. During the entire administrations of Governors Johnston and Dobbs, commencing in 1734 and ending in 1765, a strong tide of emigration was setting into North Carolina from two opposite directions. While one current from Pennsylvania passed down through Virginia, forming settlements in its course, another current met it from the South, and spread itself over the inviting lands and expansive domain of the Carolinas and Georgia. Near the close of Governor Johnston's administration (1750) numerous settlements had been made on the beautiful plateau of country between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers. At this time, the Cherokee Indians, the most powerful of the Western tribes, still claimed the territory, as rightful "lords of the soil," and were committing numerous depredations and occasional murders. In 1756, Fort Dobbs about twenty miles West of Salisbury, was built for the protection of the small neighborhood of farmers and grazers around it. Even the thriving colony of "Albemarle county" on the seaboard now felt its growing importance was beginning to call for "more room," and seek new possessions in the interior, thus unconsciously fulfilling the truth of the poet's prediction, "Westward the course of empire takes its way."
On the 3d of April, 1765, William Tryon qualified as Commander in-chief, and Captain-General of the Province of North Carolina. The administration of Governor Tryon embraces an important period in the history of the State. He was a soldier by profession, and being trained to arms, looked upon the sword as the true scepter of government. "He knew when to flatter, and when to threaten. He knew when 'discretion was the better part of valor,' and when to use such force and cruelty as achieved for him from the Cherokee Indians, the bloody title of the 'Great Wolf of North Carolina.' He could use courtesy towards the Assembly when he desired large appropriations for his magnificent palace; and knew how to bring to bear the blandishments of the female society of his family, and all the appliances of generous hospitality."[D] Governor Tryon first met the Assembly in the town of Wilmington on the 3d of May 1765. "In his address, he opposed all religious intolerance, and, although he recommended provision for the clergy out of the public treasury, yet he advised the members of the Church of England of the folly of attempting to establish it by legal enactment. Under such recommendations, a law was passed legalizing the marriages (which before were denounced as illegal) performed by Presbyterian ministers, and authorizing them and other dissenting clergymen to perform that rite."[E]
On the 22nd of March, 1765, the Stamp Act was passed. This act produced great excitement throughout the whole country, and no where was it more violently denounced than in North Carolina. The Legislature was then in session, and so intense and wide-spread was the opposition to this odious measure, that Governor Tryon, apprehending the passage of denunciatory resolutions, prorogued that body after a session of fifteen days. The speaker of the House, John Ashe, informed Governor Tryon that this law "would be resisted to blood and death."
Early in the year 1766, the sloop-of-war, Diligence, arrived in the Cape Fear River, having on board stamp paper for the use of the province. The first appearance and approach of the vessel had been closely watched, and when it anchored before the town of Brunswick, on the Cape Fear, Col. John Ashe, of the county of New Hanover, and Col. Hugh Waddell, of the county of Brunswick, marched at the head of the brave sons of these counties to Brunswick, and notified the captain of their determination to resist the landing of the stamps. They seized one of the boats of the sloop, hoisted it on a cart, fixed a mast in her, mounted a flag, and marched in triumph to Wilmington. The inhabitants all joined in the procession, and at night the town was illuminated. On the next day, Col. Ashe, at the head of a great concourse of people, proceeded to the Governor's house and demanded of him to desist from all attempts to execute the Stamp Act, and to produce to them James Houston, a member of the Council, who had been appointed Stamp Master for the Province. The Governor at first refused to comply with a demand so sternly made. But the haughty representative of kingly power had to yield before the power of an incensed people, who began to make preparations to set fire to his house. The Governor then reluctantly produced Houston, who was seized by the people, carried to the market house, and there compelled to take a solemn oath never to perform the duties of his office. After this he was released and conducted by a delighted crowd, to the Governor's Palace. The people gave three cheers and quietly dispersed. Here we have recorded an act far more daring in its performance than that of the famous Tea Party of Boston, which has been celebrated by every writer of our national history, and
"Pealed and chimed on every tongue of fame."
It is an act of the sons of the "Old North State," not committed on the crew of a vessel, so disguised as to escape identity; but on royalty itself, occupying a palace, and in open day, by men of well known person and reputation.
Another event of great historic importance occurred during the administration of Governor Tryon. On the 16th of May, 1771, the battle of Alamance was fought. It is here deemed unnecessary to enter into a detail of the circumstances leading to this unfortunate conflict. Suffice it to say the Regulators, as they were called, suffered greatly by heavy exactions, by way of taxes, from the Governor to the lowest subordinate officer. They rose to arms—were beaten, but theirs was the first blood shed for freedom in the American colonies. Many true patriots, who did not comprehend the magnitude of their grievances, fought against them. But the principles of right and justice for which they contended could never die. In less than four years, all the Colonies were found battling for the same principles, and borne along in the rushing tide of revolution! The men on the seaboard of Carolina, with Cols. Ashe and Waddell at their head, had nobly opposed the Stamp Act in 1765, and prevented its execution; and in their patriotic movements the people of Orange sustained them, and called them the "Sons of Liberty." Col. Ashe, in 1766, had led the excited populace in Wilmington, against the wishes and even the hospitality of the governor. The assembled patriots had thrown the Governor's roasted ox, provided for a barbecue feast, untasted, into the river. Now, these patriotic leaders are found marching with this very Governor to subdue the disciples of liberty in the west. The eastern men looked for evils from across the waters, and were prepared to resist oppression on their shores before it should reach the soil of their State. The western men were seeking redress for grievances that oppressed them at home, under the misrule of the officers of the province, evils scarcely known in the eastern counties, and misunderstood when reported there. Had Ashe, and Waddell, and Caswell understood all the circumstances of the case, they would have acted like Thomas Person, of Granville. and favored the distressed, even though they might have felt under obligations to maintain the peace of the province, and due subordination to the laws. Herman Husbands, the head of the Regulators, has been denounced by a late writer, as a "turbulent and seditious character." If such he was, then John Ashe and Hugh Waddell, for opposing the stamp law, were equally turbulent and seditious. Time, that unerring test of principles and truth, has proved that the spirit of liberty which animated the Regulators, was the true spirit which subsequently led to our freedom from foreign oppression.
On the 24th of May, Tryon, after committing acts of revenge, cruelty and barbarity succeeding the Alamance battle, returned to his palace at Newbern, and on the 30th took shipping for New York, over which State he had been appointed Governor. Josiah Martin was appointed by the crown, Tryon's successor as Governor of North Carolina. He met the Legislature, for the first time, in the town of Newbern, in November, 1771. Had he lived in less troublesome times, his administration might have been peaceful and prosperous. Governor Martin had the misfortune to differ very soon with the lower House of the Assembly; and during the whole of his administration, these difficulties continued and grew in magnitude, helping, at last, to accelerate the downfall of the royal government. In this Assembly we find the names of a host of distinguished patriots, as John Ashe, Cornelius Harnett, "the Samuel Adams of North Carolina," Samuel Johnson, Willie Jones, Joseph Hews, Abner Nash, John Harvey, Thomas Person, Griffith Rutherford, Abraham Alexander, Thomas Polk, and many others, showing that, at that early date, the Whig party had the complete control of the popular House of the Assembly, in accordance with the recommendation of Governor Martin, the veil of oblivion was drawn over the past unhappy troubles, and all the animosities and distinctions which they created. The year 1772 passed by without a meeting of the Assembly; and the only political event of any great importance, which occurred in the Province, was the election of members to the popular House. Such was the triumph of the Whig party, that in many of the counties there was no opposition to the election of the old leaders, nor could the Governor be said to have a party sufficiently powerful to effect an election before the people, or the passage of a bill before the Assembly. The Assembly, however, in consequence of two dissolutions by the Governor, did not convene in Newbern until the 25th of January, 1773, and the popular House illustrated its political character by the election of John Harvey to the office of Speaker. To this new Assembly many of the leading members of the House in 1771, were returned. Thomas Polk and Abraham Alexander were not members; the former having been employed in the service of the Governor, as surveyor, in running the dividing line between North and South Carolina, and the latter not having solicited the suffrages of the people. The county of Mecklenburg was, in the Assembly, represented by Martin Pheifer and John Davidson.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Harvey, laid before that body resolutions of the House of Burgess of Virginia (1773) of the 12th of March last; also, letters from the Speakers of the lower houses of several other provinces, requesting that a committee be appointed to inquire into the encroachments of England upon the rights and liberties of America. The House passed a resolution that "such example was worthy of imitation, by which means communication and concert would be established among the colonies; and that they will at all times be ready to exert their efforts to preserve and defend their rights." John Harvey, (Speaker) Robert Howe, Cornelius Harnet, William Hooper, Richard Caswell, Edward Vail, John Ashe, Joseph Hewes and Samuel Johnston were this committee. This is the first record of a legislative character which led to the Revolution.
During the summer of 1774 the people in all parts of the province manifested their approbation of the proposed plan of calling a Congress or Assembly, to consult upon common grievances; and in nearly all the counties and principal towns meetings were held, and delegates appointed to meet in the town of Newbern on the 25th of August, 1774.
On the 13th of August, Governor Martin issued a proclamation complaining that meetings of the people had been held without legal authority, and that resolutions had been passed derogatory to the authority of the King and Parliament. He advised the people to forbear attending any such meetings, and ordered the King's officers to oppose them to the utmost of their power. But the delegates of the people attended on the day appointed without any obstruction from the "king's officers." The proclamation of Governor Martin availed nothing. (Vox et praeterea nil.) Excited at this state of affairs, Governor Martin consulted his council on the steps most proper to be taken in the emergency. They advised him that "nothing further could be done." This first Assembly, or Provincial Congress, independent of royal authority, in Newbern, on the 25th of August, 1774, is an important epoch in our history. It was the first act of that great drama of revolutionizing events which finally achieved our independence.
After the adjournment of this Provincial Congress Governor Martin visited New York, ostensibly for the "benefit of his health," and, perhaps, for the benefit of his government. The tumults of the people at Newbern, that raged around him, and which threatened to overthrow his power, were, by his own confession, "beyond his control"; but he hoped the influence of Governor Tyron, who still governed New York, might assist him in restoring peace and authority in North Carolina. Vain, delusive hope, as the sequel proved!
The year 1775 is full of important events, only a few of which can be adverted to in this brief sketch. In February, 1775, John Harvey issued a notice to the people to elect delegates to represent them in a second Provincial Congress at Newbern on the 3rd of April, being the same time and place of the meeting of the Colonial Assembly. This roused the indignation of Governor Martin, and caused him to issue, on the 1st of March, 1775, his proclamation denouncing the popular Convention.
In his speech to the Assembly, Governor Martin expressed "his concern at this extraordinary state of affairs. He reminded the members of their oath of allegiance, and denounced the meeting of delegates chosen by the people, as illegal, and one that he should resist by every means in his power." In the dignified reply of the House, the Governor was informed that the right of the people to assemble, and petition the throne for a redress of their grievances was undoubted, and that this right included that of appointing delegates for such purpose. The House passed resolutions approving of the proceedings of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia (4th of Sept. 1774) and declared their determination to use their influence in carrying out the views of that body. Whereupon, the Governor, by advice of his council, dissolved the Assembly, by proclamation, after a session of four days.
Thus ceased forever all legislative action and intercourse under the Royal government. Indeed, from the organization of the first Provincial Congress or Convention, in Newbern (Aug. 25th, 1774) composed of delegates "fresh from the people" the pioneers in our glorious revolution, until Governor Martin's expulsion, North Carolina was enjoying and exercising an almost unlimited control of separate governmental independence. After the dissolution of the Assembly on the 8th of April, 1775, Governor Martin lingered only a few days, first taking refuge in Fort Jonston, and afterwards, on board of the ship of war, the Cruiser, anchored in the Cape Fear River. Only one more frothy proclamation (8th of Aug., 1775,) appeared from Governor Martin, against the patriotic leaders of North Carolina, issued this time, not from "the palace," at Newbern, but from a cruising source and out-look, and on a river, whose very name typified the real origin of his departure, and present retirement.
These glimpses of the colonial history of North Carolina, necessary to a proper understanding of the following sketches, will serve to illustrate, in a limited degree, the character of her people, and their unyielding opposition to all unjust exactions, and encroachment of arbitrary power. While these stirring transactions were transpiring in eastern Carolina, the people of Mecklenburg county moved, in their sovereign capacity, the question of independence, and took a much bolder, and more decided stand than the Colonial or Continental Congress had as yet assumed. This early action of that patriotic county, effected after mature deliberation, is one of the ever memorable transactions of the State of North Carolina, worthy of being cherished and honored by every lover of patriotism to the end of time. The public mind had been much excited at the attempts of Governor Martin to prevent the meeting of the Provincial Congress at Newbern, and his arbitrary conduct in dissolving the Assembly, when only in session four days, leaving them unprotected by courts of law, and without the present opportunity of finishing many important matters of legislation. In this state of affairs, the people began to think that, since the proper, lawful authorities failed to perform their legitimate duty, it was time to provide safe-guards for themselves, and to throw off all allegiance to powers that cease to protect their liberties, or their property.
A late author has truly said, "Men will not be fully able to understand North Carolina until they have opened the treasures of history, and become familiar with the doings of her sons, previous to the revolution; during that painful struggle; and the succeeding years of prosperity. Then will North Carolina be respected as she is known."[F]
SKETCHES OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA.
Mecklenburg county was formed in 1762 from Anson county, and named in honor of the native place of the new Queen, Princess Charlotte, of Mecklenburg, one of the smaller German States.
This county has a peculiar historical interest. It is the birth-place of liberty on American soil. No portion of the State presents a more glowing page of unflinching patriotic valor than Mecklenburg, always taking an active part in every political movement, at home or abroad, leading to independence.
The temper and character of the people were early shown. In 1766, George A. Selwyn, having obtained, by some means, large grants of lands from the British Crown, proceeded to have them surveyed, through his agent, Henry E. McCullock, and located. On some of these grants, the first settlers had made considerable improvements by their own stalwart arms, and persevering industry. For this reason, and not putting much faith in the validity of Selwyn's claims, they seized John Frohock, the surveyor, and compelled him to desist from his work, or fare worse. Here was manifested the early buzzing of the "Hornets' Nest." which, in less than ten years, was destined to sting royalty itself in these American colonies. The little village of Charlotte, the seat of justice for Mecklenburg county, was in 1775, the theater of one of the most memorable events in the political annals of the United States. Situated on the beautiful and fertile champaign, between the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers, and on the general route of the Southern travel, and among the earliest settlements in the Carolinas and Georgia, it soon became the centre of an enterprising and prosperous population. The fertility of the soil, the healthfulness of the climate, and abundance of cheap and unappropriated lands, were powerful inducements in drawing a large influx of emigrants from the Northern colonies, and from the Old World. These natural features of middle and western Carolina; in particular, were strongly attractive, and pointed out, under well-directed energy, the sure road to prospective wealth and prosperity.
The face of the country was then overspread with wild "pea vines," and luxuriant herbage; the water courses bristled with cane brakes; and the forest abounded with a rich variety and abundance of food-producing game. The original conveyance for the tract of land, upon which the city of Charlotte now stands, contained 360 acres, and was made on the 15th day of January. 1767, by Henry E. McCullock, agent for George A. Selwyn, to "Abraham Alexander, Thomas Polk, and John Frohock as Trustees and Directors, of the town of Charlotte, and their successors." The consideration was "ninety pounds, lawful money." The conveyance was witnessed by Matthew McLure and Joseph Sample.
A few words of explanation, as to one of the Trustees, may be here appropriate. The Frohock family resided in Rowan county, and, before the revolution, exerted a considerable influence, holding places of profit and trust. William Frohock was Captain of a military company, and at one time, (1771) Deputy Sheriff under General Rutherford. Thomas Frohock was Clerk of the Superior Court, in Rowan, and Senator to the State Legislature from the town of Salisbury, in 1785 and 1786. John Frohock, named in the conveyance, was, for several years, Clerk of the County Court, an active Surveyor, and resided, during much of his time in Mecklenburg, employed in the duties of his profession.
Soon after the town of Charlotte was laid out, a log building was erected at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets, and in the centre of the space now known as "Independence Square." This building was placed upon substantial brick pillars, ten or twelve feet high, with a stairway on the outside, leading to the court room. The lower part, in conformity with primitive economy and convenience, was used as a Market House; and the upper part as a Court House, and frequently for church, and other public meetings. Although the original building has long since passed away, yet it has historic associations connected with its colonial and revolutionary existence, which can never cease to command the admiration of every true patriot.
In May, 1775, its walls resounded with the tones of earnest debate and independence, proclaimed from the court house steps. In September, 1780, its walls resounded with the tones of the musket, by the same people, who "knew their rights, and knowing, dared maintain."
At this period, there was no printing press in the upper country of Carolina, and as no regular post traversed this region, a newspaper was seldom seen among the people. Important information was transmitted from one colony to another by express messengers on horse-back, as was done by Captain Jack in bearing the Mecklenburg Declaration to Philadelphia. The people were accustomed to assemble at stated places to listen to the reading of printed hand-bills from abroad, or to obtain verbal intelligence of passing events.
Charlotte early became the central point in Mecklenburg county for these assemblages, and there the leading men often met at Queen's Museum or College, to discuss the exciting topics of the day. These meetings were at first irregular, and without system. It was finally agreed that Thomas Polk, Colonel of the militia, long a surveyor in the province, frequently a member of the Colonial Assembly, and a man of great excellence of character should be authorized to call a convention of the Representatives of the people whenever circumstances seemed to require it. It was also agreed that such Representatives should consist of two delegates from each Captain's Company, chosen by the people of the several militia districts, and that their decisions, when thus legally convened, should be binding upon the whole county.
When it became known that Governor Martin had attempted, by his proclamation, issued on the 1st of March, 1775, to prevent the Assembling of a Provincial Congress at Newbern, on the 3d of April following; and when it was recollected that, by his arbitrary authority, he had dissolved the last Provincial Assembly, after a session of only four days, and before any important business had been transacted, the public excitement became intense, and the people were clamorous for some decisive action, and a redress of their grievances. A large majority of the people were willing to incur the dangers incident to revolution, for the sake of themselves, their posterity, and the sacred cause of liberty.
In this State of the public mind, Col. Polk issued his notice to the committee-men, two from each Captain's district, as previously agreed upon, to assemble in Charlotte on the 19th of May, 1775, to consult for the common good, and inaugurate such measures as would conduce to that desirable end. The notice of the appointed meeting spread rapidly through the county, and all classes of citizens, intuitively, as it were, partook of the general enthusiasm, and felt the importance of the approaching convention. On the appointed day, an immense concourse of people, consisting of gray-haired sires, and vigorous youths from all parts of the county, assembled in the town of Charlotte, then containing about twenty-five houses, all anxious to know the result of that ever-memorable occasion. After assembling in the court house, Abraham Alexander, a venerable citizen and magistrate of the county, and former member of the Legislature was made chairman; and John McKnitt Alexander, assisted by Dr. Ephraim Brevard, Secretaries, all men of business habits, and of great popularity. A full, free and animated discussion upon the exciting topics of the day then ensued, in which Dr. Ephraim Brevard, a finished scholar; Col. William Kennon, an eminent lawyer of Salisbury, and Rev. Hezekiah J. Balch, a distinguished Presbyterian preacher, were the chief speakers. During the session of the convention, an express messenger arrived, bearing the news of the wanton and cruel shedding of blood at Lexington on the 19th of April, just one month proceeding. This intelligence served to increase the general patriotic ardor, and the assembly, as with one voice, cried out, "Let us be independent. Let us declare our independence, and defend it with our lives and fortunes." The speakers said, his Majesty's proclamation had declared them out of the protection of the British Crown, and they ought, therefore, to declare themselves out of his protection, and be independent of his government. A committee consisting of Dr. Brevard, Col. Kennon, and the Rev. Mr. Balch, was then appointed to prepare resolutions suitable to the occasion. The excitement of the people continued to increase, and the deliberations of the convention, including the framing of by-laws, and regulations by which it should be governed, as a standing committee, were not completed until after midnight, showing the great interest which every one felt, and that a solemn crisis had arrived which demanded firm and united action for the common defence. Upon the return of the committee, the chairman proceeded to submit the resolutions of independence to the vote of the convention. All was silence and stillness around (intentique ora tenebant). The question was then put, "Are you all agreed." The response was one universal "aye," not one dissenting voice in that immense assemblage. It was then agreed that the proceedings should be read to the whole multitude. Accordingly at noon, on the 20th of May, 1775, Colonel Thomas Polk ascended the steps of the old court house, and read, in clear and distinct tones, the following patriotic resolutions, constituting,
THE MECKLENBURG DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
"Resolved, 1. That whoever directly or indirectly abetted, or in any way, form or manner, countenanced the unchartered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to this country, to America, and to the inherent, and inalienable rights of man.
"Resolved, 2. That we, the citizens of Mecklenburg county, do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the mother country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown and abjure all political connection, contract, or association with that nation, who have wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties, and inhumanly shed the blood of American patriots at Lexington.
"Resolved, 3. That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people; are, and of right ought to be a sovereign, and self-governing association, under the control of no power, other than that of our God, and the general government of the congress; to the maintenance of which independence, we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor.
"Resolved, 4. That, as we acknowledge the existence and control of no law, or legal officer, civil or military, within this county, we do hereby ordain and adopt, as a rule of life, all, each, and every one of our former laws; wherein, nevertheless, the crown of Great Britain never can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or authority therein.
"Resolved, 5 That, it is also further decreed that all, each, and every military officer in this county is hereby retained in his former command and authority, he acting conformably to these regulations. And that every member present of this delegation shall henceforth be a civil officer, viz.: a justice of the peace, in the character of a committeeman, to issue process, hear and determine all matters of controversy, according to said adopted laws; and to preserve peace, union and harmony in said county; and to use every exertion to spread the love of country, and fire of freedom throughout America, until a more general and organized government be established in this province."
After the reading of these resolutions, a voice from the crowd called out for "three cheers," and soon the welkin rang with corresponding shouts of applause. The resolutions were read again and again during the day to different parties, desirous of retaining in their memories sentiments of patriotism so congenial to their feelings.
A copy of the proceedings of the convention was then drawn off, and sent by express to the members of congress from North Carolina, at that time in session at Philadelphia. Captain James Jack, a worthy and intelligent citizen of Charlotte, was chosen as the bearer; and in a few days afterward, set out on horse-back in the performance of his patriotic mission. Of his journeyings, and perilous adventures through a country, much of it infested with Tories, we know but little. Having faithfully performed the duties of his important trust, by delivering the resolutions into the hands of the North Carolina Delegation at Philadelphia (Caswell, Hooper and Hews,) he returned to his home in Charlotte. He reported that our own Delegation, and several members of Congress, manifested their entire approbation of the earnest zeal and patriotism of the Mecklenburg citizens, but deemed it premature to lay their resolutions before their body, as they still entertained some hopes of reconciliation with the mother country.
A copy of the foregoing resolutions were also transmitted to the Provincial Congress, at Hillsboro, and laid before that body on the 25th of August, 1775, but for the same prudential reasons as just stated, they declined taking any immediate action.
It has been deemed proper to present this summarized statement of the circumstances leading to the Mecklenburg Convention of the 19th and 20th of May, 1775, as a source of reference for those who have no other history of the transaction before them. For a more extended account of its proceedings, the reader is referred to the pamphlet published by State authority in 1831, and to the exhaustive treatise of the late Ex-Governor Graham on the authenticity of the Mecklenburg resolutions, with notices of the principal actors and witnesses on that ever-memorable occasion.
Since the publication of Governor Graham's pamphlet shortly before the Centennial Celebration in Charlotte another copy of the Mecklenburg resolutions of the 20th of May, 1775, has been found in the possession of a grandson of Adam Brevard, now residing in Indiana. This copy has all the outward appearances of age, has been sacredly kept in the family, and is in a good state of preservation. Adam Brevard was a younger brother of Dr. Ephraim Brevard, the reputed author of these resolutions, frequently performed his brother's writing during the active discharge of his professional duties, and was himself, a man of cultivated intellect, and christian integrity. He kept a copy of these patriotic resolutions, mainly with the view of preserving a memento of his brother's hand writing, and vigor of composition—not supposing for a moment, their authenticity would ever be called into question. This venerable patriot, in a manuscript account of a celebration in Iredell county on the 4th of July, 1824, in discoursing on a variety of revolutionary matters, says among other things, he was in Salisbury in June 1775, attending to his professional duties as a lawyer, and that during the sessions of the General Court in that place, the bearer of the Mecklenburg Declaration arrived on his way to Philadelphia. When the object of his mission became known, and the Mecklenburg resolutions of independence were read in open court, at the request of Col. Kennon, several Tories who were present said they were treasonable, and that the framers of them were "rushing headlong into an abyss where Congress had not dared to pass. Their intemperance, however, was suddenly arrested by a gentleman from the same county, who had entered with all his powers into the impending contest and offered to rest the propriety and justness of the proceedings, both of Mecklenburg and the Delegate, upon a decision by the arm of flesh with any one inclinable to abide the result. Matters, which threatened a conflict of arms were soon hushed up by this direct argument ad hominem, the Delegate retired to rest for the night, and, on the next morning, resumed his journey to Philadelphia."
He also states, in the same manuscript, that in the autumn of the year 1776, he was one of the number who composed the College of Queen's Museum, and lived with his brother, Dr. Ephraim Brevard, and that in ransacking a number of his brother's papers thrown aside as useless, he came across the fragments of a Declaration of Independence by the people of Mecklenburg. Upon inquiry, his brother informed him they were the rudiments out of which a short time before, he had framed the instrument despatched to Congress. The same authority states that he was in Philadelphia in the latter part of the year 1778, and until May of the year 1779. During that time, William Sharp. Esq., of Rowan county, arrived in Philadelphia, as a Delegate to Congress from North Carolina. Amidst a variety of topics introduced for discussion was that of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Hon. John Penn, of North Carolina, said in presence of several members of Congress, that he was "highly pleased with the bold and distinguished spirit with which so enlightened a county of the State he had the honor to represent had exhibited to the world, and, furthermore, that the bearer of the instrument to Congress had conducted himself very judiciously on the occasion by previously opening his business to the Delegates of his own State, who assured him that the other States would soon act in the same patriotic manner as Mecklenburg had done."
This important and additional testimony, here slightly condensed, but facts not changed, is extracted from a communication in the Southern Home, by Dr. J.M. Davidson, of Florida, a gentleman of great moral worth and christian integrity, and grandson of Adam Brevard, a brother of Dr. Ephraim Brevard, the reputed author of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.
A brief extract from Governor Martin's dispatch to the British Secretary of State, dated 30th of June, 1775, as found in Wheeler's "Historical Sketches," will now be given, which cannot be viewed in any other light than that of disinterested evidence. The Governor proceeds by saying, "the situation in which I find myself at present is indeed, my Lord, most despicable and mortifying. ... I live, alas! ingloriously, only to deplore it. ... The resolves of the Committee of Mecklenburg, which your Lordship will find in the enclosed newspaper, surpass all the horrid and treasonable publications that the inflammatory spirits of the continent have yet produced; and your Lordship may depend, its authors and abettors will not escape, when my hands are sufficiently strengthened to attempt the recovery of the lost authority of the Government. A copy of these resolves was sent off, I am informed, by express, to the Congress at Philadelphia, as soon as they were passed in the committee."
The reader will mark, in particular, the closing sentence of this extract, as confirmatory of what actually took place on the 20th of May, 1775. Captain James Jack, then of Charlotte, a worthy and patriotic citizen, did set out a few days after the Convention adjourned, on horse back, as the "express" to Congress at Philadelphia, and faithfully executed the object of his mission. (For further particulars, see sketch of the Jack Family.)
The resolutions passed by the county committee of safety on the 31st of May following, and which some have erroneously confounded with those of the 20th of May, were a necessary consequence, embracing simply "rules and regulations" for the internal government of the county, and hence needed no "express" to Congress.
The preceding testimony, conjoined with that of Gen. Joseph Graham, Rev. Humphrey Hunter, Captain James Jack, the hearer of the Mecklenburg Declaration to Congress, Rev. Francis Cummins, Major John Davidson, Isaac Alexander and others, previously referred to in the State pamphlet of 1831, and the exhaustive "Memoir" of the late Ex-Governor Graham—all men of exalted worth and Christian integrity, ought to be "sufficient to satisfy incredulity itself," as to the genuineness of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and of its promulgation to the world on the 20th of May, 1775. And yet, in the face of this strong phalanx of unimpeachable testimony, there are a few who have attempted to rob North Carolina of this brightest gem in the crown of her early political history, and tarnish, by base and insidious cavils the fair name and reputation of a band of Revolutionary patriots, whose memories and heroic deeds the present generation and posterity will ever delight to honor.
Mecklenburg sent as a Delegate to the first Provincial Congress direct from the people, which met at Newbern on the 25th of August, 1774, Benjamin Patton.
To the meeting at Hillsboro', on the 21st of August, 1775, Thomas Polk, John Phifer, Waightstill Avery, John McKnitt Alexander, James Houston, and Samuel Martin.
To the meeting at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776, John Phifer, Robert Irwin and John McKnitt Alexander.
To the meeting at Halifax, on the 12th of November, 1776 (which formed the first State Constitution) John Phifer, Robert Irwin, Waighstill Avery, Hezekiah Alexander and Zaccheus Wilson.
All of these Delegates were unwavering patriots, and nearly all were signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Not only were the patriotic sons of Mecklenburg county active and vigilant in those trying times, but no portion of our State was more constantly the theater of stirring events during the drama of the American Revolution. "Its inhabitants," says Tarleton in his campaigns, "were more hostile to England than any others in America."
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE MECKLENBURG CENTENNIAL.
The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, proclaimed to the world on the 20th of May, 1775, was celebrated in Charlotte on the 20th of May, 1875, with all the honors and ceremonies befitting such an important occasion. A vast assemblage of at least 25,000 persons were present to enjoy the "welcome" extended to all, and participate in the festivities of this gala day of North Carolina. For three days preceding the grand holiday, (17th, 18th and 19th) visitors were continually pouring into the city. Enthusiastic excitement and necessary preparations were everywhere visible. Flags and streamers greeted the eye in every direction. Many private residences were handsomely decorated. One of the most exalted ideas was a Centennial pole, 115 feet high, erected by Capt. Thos. Allen, in the centre of Independence Square, from the top of which floated to the breeze a large flag, capped with a huge hornet's nest from Stokes county. To preserve the Centennial feature as far as possible of the Convention of the 19th of May, 1775, called out by Col. Thos. Polk, accordingly, on the 19th of May, 1875, a procession was formed, and the military companies formed into a hollow square around the Centennial pole, the bands, in the meantime, rendering sweet music, and the artillery firing minute guns. The Mayor, Col. William Johnston, then addressed the multitude, extending to them a cordial welcome in behalf of the citizens and authorities of Charlotte; after which Governor Brogden was introduced, and spoke substantially as follows: He said the principles of liberty enunciated by the fathers of the revolution, one hundred years ago, upon the spot he then occupied would live throughout all time. Here, as free American citizens, they had proclaimed the principles which North Carolina had ever since upheld, and of which this glorious flag, which waves protection to American citizens on land and sea was the star-gemmed type. Under this old flag we have a duty to perform in peace as well as in war. We have the principles of the fathers of the Mecklenburg Declaration to maintain. All should remember the sacrifices which gave us the right to that standard of our country; and we should not forget our duty to North Carolina, and her daughter, Tennessee, to the sister State of South Carolina, and to the whole country. Alluding to the growth of the United States in one hundred years, the Governor said that at the date of the Mecklenburg declaration of Independence, there were not more than six post-offices in North Carolina; now there are nine hundred post-offices; then there was no steam traveling; now there are twelve hundred miles of rail-way in this State alone. He hoped the country would go on to prosper in the fulness of civil liberty until there was no opposition to the principles we cherish. In the name of North Carolina he welcomed all her sons to this festival, and the sons of all other sister States.
May 20th, 1875—Centennial morning! Of the large number of illustrious patriots who participated in the exercises of the Mecklenburg Convention of the same date, 1775, not one was present to animate us with their counsel, or speak of the glorious deeds of the Revolutionary period—all having succumbed to the irrevocable fiat of nature, and passed to "that bourne whence no traveler returns." Their example, their precepts, and sacrifices in the cause of freedom, constitute their rich and instructive heritage to us. A cloudless sky, a balmy atmosphere, and a glow of patriotic feeling beaming on every countenance, all conspired to add impressiveness to the scene, and awaken hallowed remembrances of the past. Agreeably to the published programme, the day was ushered in by the ringing of bells, and a salute of one hundred guns by the Raleigh and Richmond artillery. From six o'clock in the morning until several hours afterward, the whistles of locomotives every few minutes told of the arrival of trains, packed with visitors, firemen, military and bands of music. The various committees were kept busy in directing the movements and assigning quarters for the organized bodies; while landlords and keepers of boarding-houses showed an accommodating spirit, and received visitors until their utmost capacity for room was more than exhausted—full to overflowing. And, although some difficulty was observed in procuring bed room, yet an abundance of provisions was everywhere exhibited for the comfort and well-being of the "inner man."
THE GRAND PROCESSION.
General Joseph E. Johnston, Chief Marshal, having been prevented from attending on account of severe sickness. General W.R. Cox, of Raleigh, was selected to fill his place. General Bradley T. Johnston, of Richmond, was placed in charge of the Military Department, and John C. Gorman of the Fire Department. The soldiers were nearly all dressed in gray suits, and the firemen in red and black, except the Wilmington company, which also appeared in gray. While the Chief Marshal and his assistants were endeavoring to bring order out of the immense mass of humanity in the streets, six splendid bands from Richmond, Newbern, Raleigh, Wilmington, Fayetteville and Salem, besides the Cadet band of the Carolina Military Institute, were exerting their sonorous energies to move the listening million by "concord of sweet sounds," and thereby prevent them from ever becoming subjects "fit for treason, stratagems and spoils."
At half-past ten o'clock the grand pageant was fully displayed. As far as the eye could reach the brilliant procession filled the streets, presenting a glittering, undulating line of infantry, artillery, firemen, laddermen, axemen, zouaves, cadets, grangers, masons, templars, highlanders, citizens, &c, with gleaming arms, rustling flags, soul-stirring music, and other manifestations of patriotic enthusiasm. Nearly every window, piazza and house-top was crowded with feminine loveliness, to cheer with their smiles and lend their graceful approbation to the moving exhibitions of the occasion. On the side-walks "miles of spectators" were seen submitting to the stifling effects of clouds of dust, with the laudable desire "to see and be seen." While immense flags were floating to the breeze across the principal streets, countless numbers of miniature ones, in red, white and blue, fluttered from windows and porches. A large number of military and fire companies followed by delegations of the Masonic Order, Good Templars, Odd Fellows, Caledonian Clubs, Grangers, invited guests, visitors, &c, all joined in the grand procession to the fair grounds.
EXERCISES AT THE FAIR GROUNDS.
Arriving at the Fair Grounds, the immense concourse of people gathered around the large stand, which had been erected amidst a clump of trees, for the ladies and invited guests. The stand was beautifully decorated with evergreens, festoons, flags, hornets' nests, and other emblematic devices. The ladies of the city had been diligently weaving these evergreen and floral adornments for several days preceding the Centennial. A precious bouquet and wreath, sent by Mrs. L.H. Walker, from the grounds of Washington's tomb at Mt. Vernon, added a venerated sanctity to the whole.
At 11 o'clock, Rev. Dr. A.W. Miller, of the First Presbyterian Church, opened the exercises with an eloquent prayer. The "Old North State" was then rendered in stirring tones by the Citizens' Band.
Ex-Gov. Graham then called the assembly to order, and said there was cause to congratulate the vast assemblage of patriotic citizens convened on this centennial occasion, for the bright, auspicious weather that prevailed, and for the general health and prosperity of the country. He felt highly gratified with the patriotic demonstration, and rejoiced to see in our midst so many prominent citizens from sister States. The Governor of North Carolina, and several of the Judges of her Courts were present. The Governor of the far-off State of Indiana, (Mr. Hendricks,) was here, representing one of the great Western States which sprung from old Virginia. There was a representative present (Mr. Bright) from Tennessee, the daughter of North Carolina. The Governor (Mr. Chamberlain) of South Carolina; the ex-Governor (Mr. Walker) of Virginia, and a large delegation from both of these States were all present to participate in the centennial festivities. In the name of North Carolina, he bade all a hearty welcome.
After the conclusion of ex-Gov. Graham's remarks Maj. Seaton Gales, of Raleigh, was introduced to the audience, who, previous to the reading of the Mecklenburg Resolves, delivered a short address expressing his entire confidence in their authenticity.
The orator of the day, Judge John Kerr, of the fifth Judicial District, was then introduced amidst loud applause. He spoke for half an hour in stirring, eloquent language, worthy of his high reputation as an impressive speaker.
Hon. John M. Bright, of Tennessee, was next introduced. He delivered an address of great power, abounding with many interesting historical facts relating to the early history of North Carolina, and the character of her people. As these speeches will be published, it is deemed unnecessary to present a synopsis of their contents.
The speeches being concluded, the invited guests, firemen, military, &c., marched into Floral Hall, and were entertained with toasts, short addresses and music, while the cravings of hunger were rapidly dispelled by the sumptuous food, and rich viands set before them.
On Thursday night, a stand having been erected around the Centennial Pole in Independence Square, a number of short and stirring addresses were made by ex-Gov. Hendricks, of Indiana; ex-Gov. Walker, of Virginia; Gov. Chamberlain, of South Carolina; Gov. Brogden, of North Carolina; ex-Gov. Vance, Gen. W.R. Cox, Gen. T.L. Clingman, Judge Davidson and Col. H.M. Polk, the latter two of Tennessee.
Gov. Hendricks, at the commencement of his address, spoke substantially as follows:
"This is one of the greatest celebrations that has ever taken place in this country. Here your fathers, and mine, one hundred years ago, declared themselves free of the British crown. I need not refer to the events since. In intelligence, wealth and power, we are ahead of the world. Right here I must tell you that the fame of the Mecklenburg Declaration belongs not to the people of Mecklenburg alone, nor to the State of North Carolina, but its fame belongs to Indiana as well—in fact, to all the States of the Union. I claim a common participation in the glory of this great event. They were not only patriots, these Mecklenburgers of 1775, but they were also wise statesmen. One has but to carefully read this Declaration to discern the truth of this statement. The resolutions looked to a delegation of powers in the Continental Congress for their protection against enemies abroad, and all general purposes of nationality, but they assert most unequivocally the right of local self-government, and all the reserved powers not plainly granted to the general government. These old patriots showed their wisdom by providing against an interim of anarchy for want of lawful officers to protect life and property; so they resolved that each military and civil officer under the Provincial government should retain all their authority. I ask the people of North Carolina to join with us in the National celebration, to take place in Philadelphia in 1876. Shall I see North Carolina represented there? (Cries of yes! yes!) What a lesson it will be to the whole country! The troubles of the war can be yet settled by a system of good government."
Other speakers indulged in similar patriotic sentiments.
After the speaking was over on Centennial night, the Mayor (Colonel Johnston) ascended the stand, and congratulated the large audience upon the excellent order and good feeling which had prevailed from the beginning to the end of the exercises. He thanked those present for their attendance and participation in the honors and festivities of the occasion.
Then commenced the pyrotechnical display which had been witnessed to some extent during the intervals of the addresses. The "rocket's red glare," without the "bombs bursting in air," gave proof on that night our people were there. The streets, and the houses in the vicinity were never before so handsomely illuminated, and a brilliant and appropriate closing scene of "the day we celebrate" conspicuously displayed on a broad waving banner. Hundreds of the descendants of the patriots of Mecklenburg, and surrounding country, were present, as well as a goodly number of descendants of kindred spirits from the Cape Fear region, whose ancestors proved themselves "rebels" by stamping underfoot the stamp paper intended for the use of the Colony—an act "worthy of all Roman, or Grecian fame." The celebration of the 20th of May, 1875, was a grand success—such a celebration as has never before occurred in the history of North Carolina, and will never again be witnessed by the present generation. May the Centennial of the 20th of May, 1975, be still more successful, pass off with the same degree of order and good feeling, and be attended with all the blessings of enlightened civil and religious liberty!
JAMES BELK—A VETERAN INVITED GUEST.
Among the honored invited guests of the Mecklenburg Centennial, on the 20th of May, 1775, was James Belk, of Union county (formerly a part of Mecklenburg), now upwards of one hundred and ten years old! As recorded in a family Bible, printed in Edinburg in 1720, he was born on the 4th of February, 1765. He still resides on the same tract of land upon which he was born and raised, his father being one of the original settlers of the country. He is a man of fine intelligence; acted for many years as one of the magistrates of Mecklenburg county, and is still well preserved in mind and body. He recollects the death of his father, who was mortally wounded in the Revolutionary war, near the North Carolina line, and knows that his mother, fearing the mournful result, visited the place of conflict, and found him, severely wounded, in the woods near the road-side. She assisted him to their home, but soon afterward had him transferred to the residence of his grandfather for better attention, where he died.
He remembers distinctly the great meeting in Charlotte (then upwards of ten years old) on the 20th of May, 1775, when a Declaration of Independence was read by Colonel Polk, and heard his father speak of it, in presence of the family, after his return from Charlotte. His mother seemed to be greatly disturbed, supposing it would bring on war. Although then but a youth of tender years, the scene and the declaration made an indelible impression upon his memory. He says his recollection of events of that period, and a few years subsequently, is more vivid and distinct than those which transpired thirty years ago.
He has been twice married, having ten children by the first, and twelve by the last wife. He was accompanied to the centennial meeting by one of his younger sons, a lad forty-one years of age. His oldest child, a daughter, is still living, aged eighty-eight years! He named one of his sons Julius Alexander, an intimate friend and junior schoolmate. As he and Alexander grew up, they frequently heard the two meetings of the 20th and 31st of May, 1775, spoken of as being separate and distinct.
Having already attained a longevity seldom allotted to frail humanity, may continued health, prosperity, and, above all, the consolations of the Gospel, attend him in his remaining days upon earth!
P.S.—Thus the author wrote soon after the centennial celebration in Charlotte, on the 20th of May, 1875, but before these sketches go to the press, he is informed of the death of this veteran and worthy citizen; passing away calmly and peacefully, at his home in Union county, N.C. on the 9th of May, 1876, at the extreme old age of one hundred and eleven years three months and five days!
SIGNERS OF THE MECKLENBURG DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
Abraham Alexander, the Chairman of the Mecklenburg Convention of the 19th and 20th of May, 1775, was born in 1718, and was an active and influential magistrate of the county before and after the Revolution, being generally the honored chairman of the Inferior Court. He was a member of the popular branch of the Assembly in 1774-'75, with Thomas Polk as an associate; also one of the fifteen trustees of Queen's Museum, which institution, in 1777, was transformed into "Liberty Hall Academy."
After the involuntary retreat of Josiah Martin, the royal Governor, in June, 1775, from the State, its government was vested in—1. A Provincial Council for the whole province. 2. A District Committee of Safety for each county, of not less than twenty-one persons, to be elected annually by the people of each county. The members of the Provincial Council for the Salisbury district were Samuel Spencer and Waightstill Avery. The members of the District Committee of Safety were John Brevard, Griffith Rutherford, Hezekiah Alexander, James Auld, Benjamin Patton, John Crawford, William Hill, John Hamilton, Robert Ewart, Charles Galloway, William Dent, Maxwell Chambers. The county committee, elected annually by the people in each county, executed such orders as they received from the Provincial Council, and made such rules and regulations as the internal condition of each county demanded. They met once in three months at the Court-house of their respective counties, to consult on public measures, to correspond with other committees, to disseminate important information, and thus performed the duties and requirements of courts. The county committees exercised these important functions until justices of the peace were appointed by the Legislature and duly commissioned by the Governor.
It was this committee which met in Charlotte on the 31st of May, 1775, and passed a series of rules and regulations for the internal government of the county—a necessary sequel, as previously stated, of the more important meeting of the 20th of May preceding. This statement is strongly corroborated by a communication published last summer in the "Charlotte Observer," by D.A. Caldwell, Esq., one of Mecklenburg's most aged, intelligent and worthy citizens. The portion of the communication most pertinent to our subject reads thus:
"I was born and raised in the house of my maternal grandfather, Major John Davidson, who was one of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration. I have often heard him speak of the 20th of May, 1775, as the day on which it was signed, and the 31st of the same month as the time of an adjourned meeting. The '20th of May' was a household word in the family. Moreover, I was present (and am now the only surviving witness of the transaction) when he gave a certificate of the above dates to Dr. Joseph McKnitt Alexander, whose father, John McKnitt Alexander, was also a signer, and the principal secretary of the meeting. This certificate was called forth by the celebrated attempt of Thomas Jefferson to throw discredit on the whole affair. A certificate to the same effect was given on that occasion by Samuel Wilson, a brother-in-law of Major Davidson, and a man of undoubted integrity. Mr. Wilson, although not a signer, was present at the signing on the 20th of May. I often heard my grandfather allude to the date in later years, when he lived with his daughter, Mrs. William Lee Davidson, whose husband was the son of General Davidson, who fell at Cowan's Ford."
Under the administration of Abraham Alexander as Chairman of the Committee of Safety, the laws passed by that body of vigilant observers of the common good were strictly enforced; and each citizen, when he left the county, was required to carry with him a certificate of his political standing, officially signed by the chairman.
Abraham Alexander was a most worthy, exemplary and influential member of society; was, for many years, a Ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church, and lies buried in the graveyard of Sugar Creek Church. On his gravestone is this brief record:
"Abraham Alexander, Died on the 22nd of April, 1786, Aged 68 years."
"'Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.'"
Adam Alexander was chiefly known by his military services. He was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of a battalion of minute men, with Thomas Polk as Colonel, and Charles M'Lean as Major, by the Provincial Council held at Johnston Court-house, on the 18th of December, 1775; and Colonel of Mecklenburg county, with John Phifer as Lieutenant Colonel, and John Davidson and George A. Alexander as Majors, by the Provincial Congress, held at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776.
He was a brave and energetic officer; and his name will be found in nearly every expedition which marched from Mecklenburg county to oppose the enemies of his country. He was for many years, before and after the war, an acting Justice of the Peace, and tradition speaks of him as bearing an excellent character. He died in 1798, aged seventy years, and is buried in the old graveyard of Rock Spring, seven miles east of Charlotte. Many of his descendants lie buried in the graveyard at Philadelphia Church, two miles from Rock Spring, at which latter place the congregation worshipped before the Revolution, mingling with their pious devotion many touching and prayerful appeals for the final deliverance of their country from the storms of the approaching conflict of arms in a righteous cause.
Hezekiah Alexander was more of a statesman than a soldier. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1728. He was appointed a member of the Committee of Safety for the Salisbury district by the Provincial Congress which met at Hillsboro on the 21st of August, 1775, with General Griffith Rutherford, John Brevard, Benjamin Patton and others—a position of much responsibility and power. He was appointed by the Provincial Congress, in April, 1776, with William Sharpe, of Rowan county, on the Council of Safety. He was elected a member of the Provincial Congress from Mecklenburg county, which met at Halifax on November 12th, 1776, and framed the first Constitution of the State, with Waightstill Avery, Robert Irwin, John Phifer, and Zaccheus Wilson, as colleagues. At the Provincial Congress, which met at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776, he was appointed Paymaster of the Fourth Regiment of North Carolina Continentals—Thomas Polk, Colonel, James Thackston, Lieut. Colonel, and William Davidson, Major. He was the treasurer of "Liberty Hall Academy" (formerly "Queen's Museum") during its existence. He died on the 16th of July, 1801, and lies buried in the graveyard of Sugar Creek Church, of which he had long been an active and worthy member. The inscription on his tombstone reads thus:
"In memory of Hezekiah Alexander, Who departed this life July 16th, 1801, Aged 73 years."
John McKnitt Alexander, of Scotch-Irish ancestors, was born in Pennsylvania, near the Maryland line, in 1733. He served as an apprentice to the trade of tailor, and when his apprenticeship expired, at the age of twenty-one, he emigrated to North Carolina, joining his kinsmen and countrymen in seeking an abode in the beautiful champaign between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers—the land of the deer and the buffalo; of "wild pea-vines" and cane-brakes, and of peaceful prosperity. In 1759 he married Jane Bain, of the same race, from Pennsylvania, and settled in Hopewell congregation. Prospered in his business, he soon became wealthy and an extensive landholder, and rising in the estimation of his fellow-citizens, was promoted to the magistracy and the Eldership of the Presbyterian Church. He was a member of the Provincial Assembly in 1772, and one of the Delegates to the Convention which met at Hillsboro, on the 21st of August, 1775.
He was also a member of the Provincial Congress, which met at Halifax on the 4th of April, 1776, with John Phifer and Robert Irwin as colleagues. In 1777, he was elected the first Senator from Mecklenburg county, under the new Constitution. He was an active participator in the Convention of the 19th and 20th of May, 1775, and preserved for a long time, the records, as being its principal secretary, and the proper custodian of its papers. He gave copies of its important and ever-memorable proceedings to Gen. William R. Davie, Dr. Hugh Williamson, then professing to write a history of North Carolina, and others. Unfortunately, the original was destroyed in 1800, when the house of Mr. Alexander was burned, but Gen. Davie's copy has been preserved. He was one of the Trustees of the "College of Queen's Museum," the name of which was afterward changed to "Liberty Hall." He was for many years, a ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church, and by his walk and conversation, its firm supporter.
By the east wall of the graveyard at Hopewell Church, is a row of marble slabs, all bearing the name of Alexander. On one of them, is this short inscription:
"John McKnitt Alexander, Who departed this life July 10th, 1817, Aged 84."
It is a singular fact, that the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration were all, with perhaps one or two exceptions, members of the Presbyterian Church. One of them, Rev. Hezekiah J. Balch, was a Presbyterian preacher, and nine others Elders of that Church, which may be truly styled, at and before the Revolution, the "nursing mother of freemen."
Waightstill Avery was an eminent lawyer, born in the town of Groton, Connecticut, in 1747, and graduated at Princeton College in 1766. There were eight brothers of this family, and all true patriots; some of them were massacred at Fort Griswold, and some perished at Wyoming Valley. Some of the descendants still reside at Groton, Conn., and others at Oswego, and Seneca Lake, N.Y. He studied law on the eastern shore of Maryland, with Littleton Dennis. In 1769, he emigrated to North Carolina, obtained license to practice in 1770, and settled in Charlotte. By his assiduity and ability, he soon acquired numerous friends. He was an ardent advocate of liberty, but not of licentiousness.
In 1778, he married near Newbern, Mrs Leah Frank, daughter of William Probart, a wealthy merchant of Snow Hill, Md., who died on a visit to London. He was a member of the Provincial Congress which met at Hillsboro on the 21st of August, 1775. In 1776, he was a delegate to the Provincial Congress which met at Halifax to form a State Constitution, with Hezekiah Alexander, Robert Irwin, John Phifer and Zaccheus Wilson as colleagues. He was appointed to sign proclamation bills by this body. On the 20th of July, 1777, with William Sharpe, Joseph Winston and Robert Lanier, as associates, he made the treaty of the Long Island of the Holston with the Cherokee Indians. This treaty, made without an oath, is one that has never been violated. In 1777, he was elected the first Attorney General of North Carolina.
In 1780, while Lord Cornwallis was encamped in Charlotte, some of the British soldiery, on account of his well-known advocacy of independence, set fire to his law office, and destroyed it, with all his books and papers. In 1781, he moved to Burke county, which he represented in the Commons in 1783-'84-'85 and '93; and in the Senate in 1796. He was held in high esteem by all who knew him, and died at an advanced age, in 1821. At the time of his death he was the "Patriarch of the North Carolina Bar;" an exemplary Christian, a pure patriot, and of sterling integrity. He left a son, the late Colonel Isaac T. Avery, who represented Burke county in the Commons in 1809 and 1810, and three daughters, one of whom married William W. Lenoir; another, Thomas Lenoir, and the remaining one, Mr. Poor, of Henderson county.
Rev. Hezekiah J. Balch was born at Deer Creek, Harford county, Md., in 1748. He was said to be the brother of Col. James Balch, of Maryland, and the uncle of the late distinguished Rev. Stephen B. Balch, D. D., of Georgetown, D. C. He graduated at Princeton in 1766, when not quite eighteen years old, in the class with Waightstill Avery, Luther Martin, of Maryland, Oliver Ellsworth, of Connecticut, and others. He came to North Carolina in 1769, as a missionary, being appointed for this work by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia. Although ordained before the war, he served four years as Captain of a company in Maryland, under General Somerville. Soon after this service, he removed to North Carolina, and settled on "Irish Buffalo Creek," in Cabarrus county. He was the first Pastor of Rocky River and Poplar Tent Churches, where he continued to faithfully labor in the cause of his Divine Master, until the time of his death. Abundant in every good word and work, he took an active part in moulding the popular mind for the great struggle of the approaching Revolution. He combined in his character, great enthusiasm with unflinching firmness. He looked to the achievement of principles upon which a government of well-regulated law and liberty could be safely established, and which should be removed from its strong foundations no more forever. Hence, he was a prominent actor in the Convention at Charlotte on the 19th and 20th of May, 1775, which declared independence of the British crown. But in the inscrutable ways of Providence, he did not live long enough to see the warmest wish of his heart gratified—the independence of his country, for which he was ready, if necessary, to yield up his life in its achievement. He died in the spring of 1776, in the midst of his usefulness, and his mortal remains repose in the old graveyard of Poplar Tent Church.
On the occasion of a railroad meeting at Poplar Tent Church in 1847, attention was called to the fact that no monument of any kind marked the grave of this eminent divine and patriot; whereupon, a voluntary subscription was immediately made, and the necessary funds promptly raised to build a suitable monument to his memory. Fortunately, Abijah Alexander, then ninety years of age, was still living, a worthy citizen, and long a member of Poplar Tent Church, who was present at the burial of his beloved pastor, and who could point out the precise spot of sepulture, near the centre of the old graveyard. The following is a copy of the inscription over his grave:
"Beneath this marble are the mortal remains of the Rev. Hezikiah J. Balch, first pastor of Poplar Tent congregation, and one of the original members of Orange Presbytery. He was licensed a preacher of the everlasting gospel, of the Presbytery of Donegal in 1766, and rested from his labors A.D. 1776; having been pastor of the united congregations of Poplar Tent and Rocky River, about seven years. He was distinguished as one of the Committee of Three who prepared the Declaration of Independence, and his eloquence, the more effectual from his acknowledged wisdom, purity of motive and dignity of character, contributed much to the unanimous adoption of that instrument on the 20th of May, 1775."
Dr. Ephraim Brevard, the reputed author of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, proclaimed on the 20th of May, 1775, was born in Maryland in 1744. He came with his parents to North Carolina when about four years old. He was the son of John Brevard, one of the earliest settlers of Iredell, then Rowan, county, and of Huguenot descent. At the conclusion of the Indian war in 1761, he and his cousin, Adlai Osborne, were sent to a grammar school in Prince Edward county, Va. About a year later, he returned to North Carolina and attended a school of considerable notoriety in Iredell county, conducted successively by Joseph Alexander, (a nephew of John McKnitt Alexander) David Caldwell, then quite young, and Joel Benedict, from the New England States. Adlai Osborne, Ephraim Brevard and Thomas Reese (a brother of David Reese, one of the signers), graduated at Princeton College in 1768, and greatly contributed by talents and influence to the spread and maintenance of patriotic principles. Soon after graduation, Ephraim Brevard commenced the study of medicine under the celebrated Dr. Alexander Ramsey, of South Carolina, a distinguished patriot and historian of the Revolutionary war.
In 1776, Dr. Brevard joined the expedition of General Rutherford in his professional capacity, during the Cherokee campaign. Soon after this service he settled in Charlotte, where he married a daughter of Col. Thomas Polk, and rapidly rose to eminence in his profession. He had one child, Martha, who married Mr. Dickerson, the father of the late James P. Dickerson, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the South Carolina regiment in the Mexican war, and who died from a wound received in a battle near the City of Mexico. After the death of his beloved and youthful wife, Dr. Brevard again entered the Southern army, as "surgeon's mate," or assistant surgeon, under General Lincoln, in 1780, and was made a prisoner at the surrender of Charleston.
While engaged as one of the teachers in the Queen's Museum he raised a company, from the young men of that institution, to assist in putting down the Tories assembled on Cape Fear River. Of this company he was made captain. They marched immediately in the direction of Cross Creek (Fayetteville), but, on learning of the dispersion of the Tories, they returned home. Inheriting from his family a devotion to liberty and independence, he early became distinguished for his patriotic ardor and decision of character. He was a fine scholar, fluent writer, and drew up the resolutions of independence which the Convention of the 20th of May, 1775, adopted, with very slight alteration, acting as one of the secretaries. During his confinement in Charleston, as a prisoner of war, he suffered so much from impure air and unwholesome diet that his health gave way, and he returned home only to die. He reached the house of his friend and fellow patriot, John McKnitt Alexander, in Mecklenburg county, where he soon after breathed his last. He lies buried in Charlotte, in the lot now owned by A.B. Davidson, Esq., near the grave of his beloved wife, who, a short time before, preceded him to the tomb. Upon this lot was located the Queen's Museum College, receiving, in 1777, the more patriotic name of "Liberty Hall Academy." Within its walls were educated a Spartan band of young men, who afterward performed a noble part in achieving the independence of their country.