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Postcard from circa 1918 of the Rowan County Court House
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The County Seat was first called Rowan Court House. It has been called Salisbury since about 1755.
Rowan County was formed in 1753 from Anson County, and was named for Matthew Rowan (d. 1760), Acting Governor at the time the county was formed. The county seat is Salisbury. Initially, Rowan County included the entire northwestern sector of North Carolina, with no clear western boundary, but its size was reduced as a number of counties were split off.
The first big excision was to create Surry County in 1771. Burke and Wilkes counties were formed from the western parts of Rowan and Surry in 1777, leaving a smaller Rowan County that comprised present-day Rowan, Iredell (formed 1788), Davidson (1822), and Davie (1836). Surry, Burke, and Wilkes subsequently fragmented further as well. Depending on where your ancestors lived, you may want to look at records for some of these later counties also. Records of very early land grants in the Rowan County area will be found with Anson County.
Click Here to learn about all of the known officers and men who served in the Rowan County Regiment of Militia during the American Revolution. All names in "blue/underscore" can be clicked on for additional information.
A Colonial History of Rowan County, North Carolina, by Samuel Ervin, Jr., published by the University of North Carolina, 1917, Edwards & Broughton Printing Company, Raleigh, North Carolina [with minor edits]
CHAPTER 1. Description of Rowan County.
DESCRIPTION OF ROWAN COUNTY
The heirs of the eight nobleman to whom Charles II had granted
Carolina in 1663 found that vast territory an unprofitable and
unruly charge. In 1728, therefore, the owners of seven of the
eight equal undivided shares offered to sell all their interest
in Carolina to the Crown, and the proposition was accepted. In
the following year the purchase was completed, the seven proprietors
who surrendered their claims receiving 17,500 pounds sterling,
and the relinquishment of the lands being confirmed by an act
of Parliament. John, Lord Carteret, afterwards created Earl Granville,
alone of the eight lords retained his share.(1)
1) Ashe, 217; Williamson, 26-27.
erals. Among the trees found in the forests are the white oak, the white hickory, the white ash, the elm, the maple, the beech, the poplar, the persimmon, the black walnut, the yellow pine, and the mulberry. Most of what has been said of the Piedmont district is also applicable to the Mountain division. The Blue Ridge Mountains a portion of the Appalachian Range lie partly within its borders. Here the wild cherry, the white pine, the hemlock, the black birch, the white walnut, the chestnut, the beech, the locust, and many other trees grow. The mineral resources of this section are more abundant than those of the Piedmont. The Mountain region is above all else a land of health and beauty.(3) The earliest visitor to this territory who recorded anything was John Lawson, the Surveyor General of the Province of North Carolina. In December, 1700, accompanied by several other Englishmen and Indian guides, he left Charles Town for an exploration of the northern province.(4)
His tour extended as far west as the section later erected into Rowan County. The land embracing the southern part of the county as it now stands and the counties to the south he described as "Pleasant savanna ground, high and dry, having very few trees upon it, and those standing at a great distance. The land was very good and free from grubs or underwood. A man near Sapona (the Yadkin) may more easily clear ten acres of ground than in some places he can one; there being much loose stone upon the land, lying very convenient for making of dry walls or any other sort of durable fence. The country abounds likewise with curious, bold creeks, navigable for small craft, disgorging themselves into the main rivers that vent themselves into the ocean. These creeks are well stored with sundry sorts of fish and fowl, and are very convenient for the transportation of what commodities this place may produce."(5) Lawson continued his journey a few miles further north, passing through a country which he characterized as "a delicious country; none that I ever saw exceeds it." Fine bladed grass, six feet high, grew along the creeks, and the sepulchres of dead In-
3) Hand-book of N. C., 22-46.
dians were seen. Lawson found the town of the Sapona Indians
located in an open field about a mile square on the fertile and
pleasant banks of the Sapona River, as the Yadkin was then called.(6)
This town was near Trading Ford, a few miles east of the site
of the present city of Salisbury. Trading Ford was so called
because it was on the ancient Trading Path which traders from
Virginia traveled at an early date in going to the Catawbas and
other southern Indians.(7) Lawson was delighted with the scenes
around the Yadkin. He says: "This most pleasant river may
be something broader than the Thames at Kingston, keeping a continual
warbling noise, with its reverberating on the bright marble rocks.
. . One side of
6) Lawson, 81.
Beavers, swan, geese, and deer were plentiful in the neighborhood
of the Yadkin. During the stay of the explorers at Sapona town
a party of the Toteros, "tall, likely men," came down
from the west "having great plenty of buffaloes, elks, and
bears with other sort of deer amongst them." One of the
Indian doctors acquainted Lawson with a large quantity of
11) Lawson, 84-85.
Cherokees who lived beyond the mountains and who at a future date were to make incursions into the settlements, bringing devastation and destruction with them. The Saponas, Keyauwees, and Toteros combined with several small tribes and removed to Virginia soon after Lawson's departure. After dwelling in Virginia, a few miles north of the Roanoke, for twenty-five years, they returned to Carolina and lived with the Catawbas.(l4)
THE SETTLEMENTS AND BOUNDARIES OF ROWAN COUNTY
The exact date of the appearance of settlers in Rowan County
cannot be determined. We have already seen that long before the
cabin of a permanent settler was erected traders from Virginia
frequented the region in order to barter with the Indians. The
chief contributors to the population were the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians
from the north of Ireland, the Germans, usually known as Pennsylvania
Dutch, who adhered to the tenets of the Lutheran and German Reformed
Churches, and the Moravians, or United Brethren, from Moravia
and Bohemia. From time to time men belonging to no
14) Ashe, 180.
liberty than they enjoyed in the old world; and the ease with
which land could he obtained in America was a third powerful
incentive to their coming hither.(3) Some came to Charles Town
and pushed into the frontier country from that place, but most
of them landed in Pennsylvania and, after making some settlements
in that. province, turned southward, and by
3) Williamson, 70-71.
The Scotch-Irish were soon followed by another stream of immigrants
the Germans who had previously located in Pennsylvania. The route
which the German and Scotch-Irish settlers took in making the
overland journey from
On Jeffrey's map, a copy of which is in the Congressional Library at Washington City, there is plainly laid down a road called "the Great Road from the Yadkin River through Virginia to Philadelphia, distant 435 miles." It ran from Philadelphia through Lancaster and York to Winchester, thence up the Shenandoah Valley, crossing the Fluvanna River to Looney's Ferry, thence to Staunton River, and down the river through the Blue Ridge, thence southward, crossing Dan River below the mouth of Mayo River, thence still southward near the Moravian settlement to the Yadkin River, just above the mouth of Linville Creek and about ten miles above the mouth of Reedy Creek.(9)
The Germans did not extend their settlements quite so far west as the Scotch-Irish did. They were industrious and economical in their habits and formed a valuable part of the population. As the laws were written and expounded in English and all public business was transacted in that language, the Germans were incapable, in most instances, of participating in public affairs.(l0) The process whereby they were naturalized was the taking of several oaths prescribed by law and the repeating and subscribing of the test. The test, as entered on the court records of the county, was in this form:
I, A. B., do believe in my conscience that there is not any transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper or in the elements of bread and wine at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever.(11)
Among the early German settlers appear the names of Bernhardt, Heilig, Meisenheimer, Beard, Mull, Rintelman (Rendleman), Layrle (Lyerly), Kuhn (Coon), Friese, Eisenhauer, Suther, Winecoff, Cress, Walcher, Harkey, Savitz, Henkel, Moser, Braun (Brown), Lingle, Fisher, Berger, Lippard, Peeler, Holtzhauer, Kluttz, Roseman, Foet, Shupping, Beam, and Buin.
9) Col. Rec., IV, xxi.
Other settlers from Virginia and the north came by a route
further east that passed through the section now embraced by
12) Ashe, 277.
place for their settlement, made an extensive tour of western
North Carolina. Leaving Edenton in September, on November 12th.
he camped on the Catawba near what he called the "Indian
Pass." The nearest cabin was that of Jonathan Weiss, or
Perrot, a hunter, twenty miles distant. The bishop found a number
of hunters in the vicinity who lived like Indians and secured
furs and skins for sale. A week later he was near Quaker Meadows,
about two miles from where the town of Morganton now stands,
which he considered to be fifty miles beyond the settlements.
Bands of Cherokees pursuing game filled the woods. Continuing
his course northward, he found remains which indicated that Indians
had inhabited the country in earlier times.(17) It being in the
beginning of winter and his guide mistaking the way, Spangenberg's
party entered the mountains where they endured great hardships
and difficulties owing to the severity of the
17) Col. Rec., V, I et seq.; Ashe, 278; Clewell, 6-9.
County, which, comprehended most of the western part of North Carolina, was read in the lower house of the General Assembly. The petitioners set forth the great difficulties they had to undergo in traveling the vast distance to the courthouse of Anson County and prayed that the frontier section of the county be erected into a new one.(22) Two days later Mr. Sampson introduced a bill to this effect, and the bill in its final form received the assent of Matthew Rowan, the acting governor, on April 12th.(23) The section of the act defining the boundaries of the new county, which was named in honor of Matthew Rowan, read as follows:
Be it enacted . . . that Anson County be divided by a line,
to begin where Anson line was to cross Earl Granville's line,
and from thence, in a direct line north, to the Virginia line,
and that the said county be bounded to the north by the Virginia
line, and to the south by the southermost line of Earl Granville's
land; and that the upper part of said county, so laid off and
divided, be erected into a county and parish, by the name of
Rowan County and St. Luke's Parish; and that all the
The design was to include in Rowan all that part of Anson
which lay within. Earl Granville's tract, that is, all north
of latitude 35ø34' as far north as the Virginia line.
As near as can be determined, the eastern boundary of the new
county was a line running north and south along the eastern boundaries
of the present counties of Randolph, Guilford, and
22) Col. Rec., V, 59.60.
tains was unknown and the French territory of Louisiana practically
made the Mississippi River the western limit.(25) In 1754, the
act to establish Rowan County was revoked by George II simultaneously
with the acts establishing Orange and Cumberland, which had been
passed a short time before. Arthur Dobbs, the newly arrived governor,
in a letter to the
In 1756 the Assembly itself repealed the act creating Rowan.(28)
In the same year, however, with the consent of the king, Rowan,
Orange, and Cumberland were reestablished with the same boundaries
and limits as formerly, and all deeds
During the first year not less than fifty acres of land had been prepared for farming purposes. They recognized that, in this sparsely set-
25) Rumple, 32-33.
tled section, it would be difficult to secure provisions,
hence at the very outset they began to raise cattle and to plant
a variety of grain for their future use and comfort. In the first
summer they gathered wheat, corn, flax, millet, barley, oats,
buckwheat, turnips, cotton and tobacco, in addition to the garden
vegetables. Fruit trees were planted and various
In October, 1755, two years after the establishment of Rowan
County and St. Luke's Parish, upon the request of the Moravians
of Wachovia, the Assembly passed an act creating Wachovia into
a separate and distinct parish with all the privileges and immunities
which the other parishes of the province enjoyed. The new parish
was called Dobbs in honor of the Governor.(33) In 1759 eight
married couples from Bethabara and others founded Bethania, three
miles northwest of Bethabara. Settlers continued to come to Wachovia.
In 1766 the settlement of Salem was begun.(34) A few years later
Friedberg, which had gradually grown up in southern Wachovia,
and Friedland, in the southeast of the tract, which was partly
settled by Germans from Broad Bay in the present State of Maine,
were formally set off and recognized.(35) The growth of Rowan
in population was continual and rapid from the beginning, except
during the Indian wars of 1759-60, when the Cherokees devastated
the outlying settlements. At that time immigration almost ceased.(36)
The immigrants obtained titles to Earl Granville's lands through
his agents, Francis Corbin and James Innes.(37) The land offices
in his territory were closed at his death in 1763.(38) The offices
remained closed until 1773, when Governor Josiah Martin was
32) Clewell, 24-25.
ever, does not seem to have been resumed. Despite the fact
that no titles to land could be obtained after 1763 settlers
continued to move into the Granville tract. Much discontent arose
among the inhabitants, some dreading the expected reopening of
the land offices because of the abuses of the agents, and others
being displeased because they could not
40) Ashe, 320,401.
of counties in their respective neighborhoods, in order that
the administration of public affairs might be carried on with
greater convenience. Bills were introduced in the Assemblies
of 1766 and 1768 to erect the western part of Orange and the
eastern part of Rowan into a new county. These, however, failed
to be enacted into law.(46) In January, 1771, Griffith Rutherford,
a member of the Assembly from Rowan, introduced a bill for ascertaining
the boundary line between Rowan
At the same session the General Assembly recognized the urgent
necessity of setting up new counties within the vast territory
embraced by Rowan. A bill was passed establishing Guilford County
and Unity Parish in the region lying between
46) Col. Rec., VII, 325, 364, 915, 929.
that body. Governor Tryon considered these acts very timely
because of the too great extent of Rowan. He declared that the
creation of Guilford out of Rowan and Orange was "a truly
political act," for it separated the main body of the Regulators
from Orange and put them in the new county.(52) By the act of
January, 1771, the boundary between Rowan and Surry began at
a point in the Guilford line forty-two miles north of the Granville
line, and ran due west parallel to the southern limit of Granville's
tract.(53) This line split the Wachovia Tract, or Dobbs Parish,
into halves to the disadvantage of the Moravians. The inhabitants
of Dobbs Parish found it more convenient to transact their business
in and to attend the courts of Surry County. Accordingly they
petitioned the Assembly to pass a law including the entire Wachovia
Tract in Surry.(54) Although it was asserted that such alteration
of the boundary would "greatly facilitate the inhabitants
of the north part of Rowan and enable the people of Surry to
erect their public buildings," the lower house rejected
a bill for
In 1773 the request of the residents of Wachovia was acceded to. The Assembly enacted that the line between Rowan and Surry should begin at a point in the line dividing Guilford and Rowan counties, thirty-six miles north of the southeast corner of Rowan, and run west to the range separating the waters of the Yadkin and Catawba rivers, and thence follow that ridge and the mountains northward to the Virginia line. The boundary was parallel to the southern line of the Granville grant save where the bounds of Wachovia interfered, all of this tract being included in the county of Surry, and Dobbs Parish being established separate and distinct from St. Jude's. A committee was appointed to ascertain the boundaries and take charge of the erection of the public buildings of Surry. Griffith Rutherford, Anthony Hampton, John Braby, Robert Lanier, and Christian Ruiter were the members of the committee.(56) During the following year, as the work on the
52) Col. Rec., VIII, 527.
public buildings was unfinished and a majority of the commissioners
resided in Rowan, a new commission composed of residents of Surry
was chosen by the Assembly.(57) The attempts to establish a county
in western Rowan were unsuccessful, though Rutherford proposed
bills for that purpose in 1771 and 1773.(58) By 1771, the western
settlements had reached far into the mountains. Many of the settlers
lived more than one hundred miles from Salisbury, and as there
were no magistrates among the far outlying settlements the administration
of the laws in those parts was a matter of
The first Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions met somewhere in the county in June, 1753. The place of its meeting is unknown.(l) The court chose a site for the public buildings of Rowan. and Edward Hughes was directed to obtain a grant of forty acres from Earl Granville's agents for this purpose. John Dunn and John Whitsett were appointed to see that the land was laid off in a suitable manner, and the latter was awarded the contract for
57) Col. Rec., IX, 927; State Rec., XXIII 973.
building the court house. This house, the court directed,
should be of framework, weatherboarded, thirty feet long and
twenty wide, a story and a half high, with two floors, the lower
one raised two feet above the ground. It was to be provided with
an oval bar and a bench raised three feet from the floor. There
was to be a good window behind the bench,
2) Rumple, 44-47.
Courts of Oyer and Terminer and general jail delivery, and
the Superior Courts of the western counties were held.(8) In
1766, Salisbury returned its first member to the Assembly as
a borough town.(9) In 1770. a special statute was passed by the
Assembly called "An act for regulating Salisbury."
The preamble stated that the town had "a healthy, pleasant
In order to afford protection against fires, every householder
was compelled to keep two "sufficient" leather buckets
and a ladder always ready for use. The title to the burying ground
was vested in a body of commissioners appointed by the act. Immoderate
riding and driving were prohibited under penalty of 5 shillings.
All persons owning land within the original plan of the town
and adjoining either side of Corbin and Innes streets, the two
main streets of the village, were required to build a "house,
twenty-four feet by sixteen feet in the clear, of brick, stone,
or hewed logs, with either a good brick or a stone chimney,"
within three years after the passage of the act. Failure to do
so entailed a forfeiture of the land to the town. Those persons
owning a lot or part of a lot adjoining the two streets running
parallel to Corbin and Innes streets were
8) Rumple, 61-63.
All persons in Salisbury, including servants, slaves, and
travelers were allowed free access to all springs and natural
fountains of water in the town and the town common, and trees
standing upon the town common could be cut down by any person
for sale or use. The town commissioners were authorized to select
and lay out a suitable place for a market and other public buildings.
William Steele, John Dunn, Maxwell Chambers, John Lewis Beard,
Thomas Frohock, William
10) State Rec., XXIII, 810-813.
The members in the Provincial Congresses were William Kennon (August, 1774), Hugh Montgomery, and Robert Rowan (August, 1775), and David Nisbet (April, 1776).(15)
RELATIONS WITH THE INDIANS
The contest between England and France for supremacy in North
America, which had ceased for the time being with the treaty
of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, was renewed in 1754. Most of the
tribes of North America were in alliance with the enemy. The
frontier of North Carolina was placed in a very precarious situation.
At the beginning of the war the Cherokees and Catawbas were friendly
to the frontiersmen, but soon the savages began to molest the
whites. There was
15) N.C. Manual (1913), 381, 408.
militia officers of Rowan that a party of Indians, supposed
to have been Catawbas, had committed several gross abuses on
the people of Rowan and Anson.(4) Alexander Osborne and James
Carter were directed by the Assembly to investigate the alleged
grievances and to represent the same to the Indians. In August
they consulted with King Hagler and other warriors of the Catawba
nation at the house of Matthew Toole, who acted as interpreter.
It developed that some of the young warriors of the Catawbas
had been guilty of some misconduct. King Hagler laid the blame
for their actions upon the whites who sold "strong spirits"
to the braves. The Catawbas promised to give assistance to the
North Carolinians and Virginians in case the war
A few weeks later Matthew Rowan, who as President of the Council acted as governor during the interim between Gabriel Johnston's death and Arthur Dobbs' arrival, received intelligence from Colonel Clark, of Anson, that sixteen whites had been murdered and ten carried into captivity by Indians. Thereupon Rowan sent the available supply of powder and lead to the frontier and ordered Colonel Smith, the commanding officer of Rowan County, to cooperate with Colonel Clark.(6) These facts serve to give an idea of the state of uncertainty prevalent in the west. The defeat of General Braddock by the French and Indians on the Monongahela in July, 1755, left the western frontier of the southern colonies at the mercy of the hostile Indians. The news of the defeat reached Governor Dobbs while he was inspecting conditions in the frontier country. He summoned the field officers of the militia of Rowan and Anson to meet him at the Yadkin. At the meeting he ordered that fifty of the most active men of the militia of each county be placed under the command of Captain Hugh Waddell. He also directed that the militia should join Waddell when necessary, and that Waddell should assist them in case of an incursion.(7) Captain Waddell was at the west at this time in charge of a company of frontiersmen.(8) Though he was not a resident of Rowan he owned land in the county and was
4) Col. Rec., V, 175-176.
prominently connected with public affairs in the west for
a considerable time.(9) Upon his return to New Bern in September,
Dobbs addressed the Assembly in regard to the dismal state of
affairs existing in the western counties. He asked that body
to grant aid for the defense of the distressed inhabitants of
the frontier and for offensive warfare against the enemy, and
recommended the erection of a fort for refuge to the settlers.
He had chosen the site for such a fort between Third and Fourth
creeks in Rowan during the summer.
Soon after its completion Richard Caswell and Francis Brown were sent by the Assembly to view the western settlements, to find sites for other fortifications, and to inspect Fort Dobbs. Their report included the following quotation:
"And that they had likewise viewed the State of Fort
Dobbs, and found it to be a good and Substantial Building of
the Dimentions following (that is to say) The Oblong Square fifty-three
feet by forty, the opposite Angles Twenty-four feet and Twenty-two,
in height Twenty-four and a half feet as by the Plan annexed
Appears, the Thickness of the Walls which are made of Oak Logs
regularly diminished from sixteen Inches to Six, it contains
three floors, and there may be discharged from each floor at
one and the same time about one hundred Musketts; the same is
beautifully situated in the fork of Fourth Creek, a Branch of
the Yadkin River. And they also found under the command of Capt.
Hugh Waddell Forty-six Effective men Officers and Soldiers, as
by the List to the said Report Annexed Appears, the same being
sworn to by the said Capt. in their Presence, the said Officers
and Soldiers Appearing well and in Good Spirits Signed the 21st
In the same year Captain Waddell entered into an offensive and defensive treaty with the Catawbas and Cherokees in behalf of the Assembly. Atta-Kulla-Kulla, of the Cherokee nation, whom
9) Waddell, 32.
Hewat "esteemed to be the wisest man of the nation and
the most steady friend of the English," and Oraloswa, King
Hagler, and others of the Catawba tribe, were the representatives
of the Indians who agreed to the compact. By one of the stipulations
of the treaty North Carolina undertook to erect a fort for the
protection of the Catawbas. It is not known where this fort was
built, but the location is thought to have been at Old Fort in
McDowell County.(13) After making
Having endured some discomforts at the hands of the Indians and being disturbed by accounts of the massacre of their Brethren in Pennsylvania, the inhabitants of Bethabara, in Wachovia, fortified their town with stockades. This was done in July, 1756.(16) An independent company of militia was formed by the Moravians for defense, and Jacob Loesch was commissioned as its captain.(17)
In 1757, after returning from a campaign in Virginia, a party of Catawbas robbed a wagon. They were followed and the stolen goods were retaken. Thereupon, the Catawbas returned and insulted the Chief Justice, who was holding court in Salisbury. In May, 1758, a petition was read in the Assembly setting forth that murders recently committed on the Dan River in the northern part of Rowan County had caused the settlers of the forks of the Yadkin to abandon their settlements and praying that Captain Bailey, who had succeeded Waddell, and his company, or some other, be continued for their protection.(18)
The Cherokees, however, adhered to the provisions of the treaty of 1756. Hugh Waddell, who was now a major, led one hundred men from the western frontier on General Forbes's successful expedition against Fort Duquesne in 1758. They were accompanied by a number of Cherokee warriors.(19) As a convenience to the
13) Waddell, 32-33.
Cherokee allies, commissaries were appointed in the western
counties to furnish necessaries for the Indians while passing
to and from Virginia in the service of the colonies. George Smith
was commissary for Rowan.(20) The reports of the Committee of
Public Claims of the province show that others were allowed claims
for furnishing provisions to the Indians during their transit
to and from Virginia.(21) Many Cherokees and Catawbas going north
went through the Moravian
When returning from the campaign against Fort Duquesne, worn out with fatigue, a party of the Cherokees seized a number of horses running wild in the backwoods of Virginia to aid them on their homeward journey. The backwoodsmen of that province fell upon them and killed twelve or fourteen of the warriors. This act provoked the Cherokees to hostility.(23)
In May, 1759, Governor Dobbs informed the Assembly that he had received expresses stating that several murders had been committed by Indians, thought to have been Cherokees, on the western frontier. Major Waddell was given the commission of colonel and two companies of provincials to protect the inhabitants of the west. He was authorized to call out the militia of Anson, Rowan, and Orange if the Indian devastations should continue. In the autumn Governor Lyttleton of South Carolina conducted an expedition against the Cherokees. The provincials and 500 militia under Colonel Waddell were ordered to cooperate with Lyttleton. Though the great majority of the militia refused to march outside the borders of North Carolina, Waddell continued his march with the remainder until ordered back by Lyttleton, who patched up a peace with the Indians.(24)
Now the Indians burst upon the settlements with all their fury. Captain Ashe, in his "History of North Carolina," describes the situation in this manner:
"In October, 1759, the people who had made their homes
on the waters of the Yadkin and
20) Col. Rec., V, 835, 853, 854.
"Cherokees, theretofore friendly, had declared war against the English. Bands of Indians began to pass the defiles of the mountains and roam along the foothills. A reign of terror set in. Accounts of atrocities and butcheries and of destroyed homes came thick and fast to Salisbury and Bethabara. They were intensely harrowing, while some of the escapes were marvelous. Many brave men, reluctant to abandon their homes, fortified them with palisades, and forts or strong-houses were erected where neighboring families could assemble for safety. The men slept with their rifles at hand, and the most resolute were in dread of stealthy attack, of ambush, and of having their houses burned at night. It was then that Fort Defiance and other forts in that region were hastily constructed by the people."
The narratives of those who escaped were heartrending, while many men, women and children fell victims to the cruel tomahawk of the merciless foe. Few particular accounts of these individual experiences have been preserved; but all the section west of the Catawba and of the upper Yadkin was desolated.(25)
On February 27, 1760, the Indians attacked Fort Dobbs, but were beaten off by the small garrison under Colonel Waddell and Captain Bailey.(26)
Though atrocities were perpetrated in the immediate vicinity by the score Bethabara was not attacked. This village was a city of refuge to the distressed. For six weeks the Cherokees devastated the surrounding country and waited for an opportunity to assail the town. Once when a large body had stealthily surrounded the village, they retired at the sound of the village bell, fearing that they had been discovered. Again, under similar circumstances, they retired at the sound of the watchman's trumpet. By Easter, 1760, the residents and refugees of Bethabara were secure, for 400 soldiers had arrived at the town.(27)
After the reduction of Canada, Colonel Grant of the British Army was sent south to lead an expedition against the Cherokees. Early in 1761, he invaded their country by way of South Carolina and defeated the hostile Indians. The Cherokees sued for peace and the war came to an end.(28)
The end of the struggle was followed by rapid expansion to the west. In April, 1766, Governor Tryon wrote the Board of Trade
25) Ashe, 299-300.
that Fort Dobbs was then in ruins, and the inhabitants of the province had extended their settlements upwards of seventy miles beyond the fort.(29)
In May of the following year Tryon went to Salisbury to have
the boundary between the people of North Carolina and the Cherokees
marked out. The design was to separate their respective lands
so as to put an end to the disputes between the whites and the
Cherokees in the west, which had resulted in bloodshed more than
once. At Salisbury Tryon was joined by John Rutherford, Robert
Palmer, and John Frohock, who had been. appointed to run the
line. They were later joined by Alexander Cameron, Deputy Superintendent
of Indian Affairs for the southern colonies. On May 21st they
left Salisbury accompanied by detachments from the militia regiments
of Rowan and Mecklenburg.(30) Colonel Hugh Waddell was in command
of the escort. The staff officers were Edmund Fanning, adjutant
general; Isaac Edwards, aide-de-camp to the
Tryon departed before the real work of running the line began. On June 4 the commissioners, with a guard of twenty men and the assistance of Cameron and Cherokee representatives, began the actual survey. They ran the line as far north as Tryon Mountain in the present county of Polk, south of the territory included in Rowan.(34)
29) Col. Rec., VII, 203.
THE COURTS AND OFFICIALS OF ROWAN COUNTY AND SALISBURY DISTRICT
Before the Revolution, Salisbury was the judicial center of Western North Carolina. In addition to the county court of pleas and quarter sessions, the superior court of justice, and the court of oyer and terminer and general jail delivery for the western counties were held there. The court of pleas and quarter sessions had both judicial and administrative functions. It had jurisdiction over minor cases, and the local government of the county was vested in it. The court was composed of the justices of the county, and it assembled at the county seat four times annually. As we have already seen, the court of pleas and quarter sessions met for the first time somewhere in the county in June, 1753. The justices who presided over the courts during the first year were Walter Carruth, Thomas Lovelatty, James Carter, John Brandon, Alexander Cathey, Thomas Cook, Thomas Potts, George Smith, Andrew Allison, John Hanby, Alexander Osborne, James Tate, John Brevard, and Squire Boone, the father of the great hunter and explorer Daniel Boone, who was reared in Rowan County. (l)
The first court busied itself with registering the brands which the settlers employed in distinguishing their cattle and in selecting a site for the public buildings. Constables were appointed to preserve the peace in the different sections of the county.
The grand and petit juries for the first court were composed of Henry Hughey, John McCulloch, James Hill, John Burnett, Samuel Bryant, John McDowell, James Lambath, Henry Dowland, Morgan Bryan, William Sherrill, William Morrison, and William Linvil. The county officers were Richard Hilliar, deputy attorney-general; John Dunn, clerk of court; James Carter, register; John Whitsett, treasurer; Francis Corbin, colonel of the Rowan regiment of foot; and Scotton Davis, captain in Corbin's regiment.(2)
1) Rumple, 38.
In 1755. John Dunn and William Monat presented their commissions as attorneys to the court. Of Monat nothing can be discovered.(3) John Dunn was a prominent lawyer and held many public trusts. He was at one time attorney for the Crown, being succeeded by Waighstill Avery in 1775.(4)
Prior to 1770, the following men served as sheriff of Rowan,
in the order named: David Jones, Edward Hughes, Benjamin Miller,
William Nassery, Francis Locke, Griffith Rutherford, Andrew Allison,
and William Temple Cole.(5)
COLONIAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY
1746 (47)-1754. James Carter and John Brandon, who took their
seats at the thirteenth session.
August, 1774. Moses Winslow and Samuel Young.
3) Rumple, 43.
Samuel Young, William. Kennon, William Sharpe, and Robert
In 1754 the governor chose Salisbury as the proper place for
holding the courts for the counties of Rowan, Anson, and Orange.(7)
At the same time an act was passed establishing a superior court
of justice and a court of oyer and terminer and general jail
delivery for these counties to he held at Salisbury.(8) Orange
was soon taken away and put into a different district, and in
1760 and 1762 Salisbury District was composed of Rowan and Anson.(9)
Other frontier counties were
The superior court of justice had jurisdiction over "all pleas of the crown" (treason, felony, and other crimes committed in breach of the peace), suits at common pleas, legacies and estates of intestates, whether original or on appeal from the inferior courts.(10)
Robert Jones, the Attorney General of the province, prosecuted suits in the superior court of justice of Salisbury District against the commissioners of Rowan and Anson who had misapplied the public funds entrusted to them for the defense of the frontier.(11)
At March Term, 1766, James Hasell, who had been appointed Chief Justice of the province by Governor Tryon, qualified by taking the oaths prescribed by law. Edmund Fanning qualified as Associate Justice for the District of Salisbury. He resigned the office of Attorney General of the court, which he had theretofore occupied, and was succeeded by William Hooper.(12) The fact that Edmund Fanning was a judge at this time seems to have been overlooked by historians. At September term Chief Justice Hasell and Judge Fanning presided. Isaac Edwards took the oaths of an attorney and was appointed by the court as attorney for the Crown in the absence of Mr. Hooper, who arrived several days late. Frederick Fraley, George Logall, George Adwicke, and Christopher Blake were naturalized.(13)
6) N.C. Manual (1913), 381-382, 408.
Salisbury District was now composed of Mecklenburg, Anson
and Rowan counties.(14) September term of 1767 was held by Associate
Justice Fanning. Richard Henderson, of Granville County, was
appointed attorney for the Crown during the absence of the attorney
general. Chief Justice Hasell and William Hooper appeared later.(15)
Richard Henderson afterwards purchased a large tract of land
lying in Tennessee and Kentucky and employed Daniel Boone to
blaze the way
The superior court of justice in March, 1768, was held by Maurice Moore and Richard Henderson, who took the oaths of Associate Justices of the colony. William Hooper was appointed attorney for the Crown, and James Forsyth qualified as a lawyer.(17)
In September, Chief Justice Martin Howard and Judges Henderson and Moore presided. William Hooper produced a commission constituting him Crown attorney.(18)
At the session in March of the following year, held by Judge Henderson, Thomas Frohock gave bond and qualified as clerk of the court for Salisbury District.(19) In 1772, Adlai Osborne, of Mecklenburg, was appointed to this position. (20)
The third colonial court which assembled at Salisbury was the court of oyer, terminer and general jail delivery. This court had jurisdiction of criminal cases. The court met in June and December of each year.(22)
A typical term was that held in June, 1775, for Rowan, Anson, Mecklenburg, Tryon, Surry, and Guilford, the counties which then made up Salisbury District. Judge Alexander Martin, of Rowan, presided. Adlai Osborne was appointed clerk, and Benjamin B. Boote took the oath as deputy attorney-general for the district. William Kennon's name appears in the records as a practicing
14) Col. Rec., VII, 477.
lawyer. Many criminal cases were disposed of at this term. Thomas Ward was convicted of stealing 11 shillings and sentenced to receive "thirty-nine lashes on his bare back, well laid on, at the public whipping-post." James Patterson was acquitted of the charge of counterfeiting and David Jones of murder. William Woodliff was found not guilty of horse- stealing. Stephen Herring and Joseph Pettoway, being convicted of robbery, and Oliver Wallace of murder, the court sentenced them to be hanged "by the neck" until they were "dead, dead, dead," and the sheriff of Rowan was directed to put the sentence into execution on the conventional day Friday.(23)
The execution of a criminal was not a rare occasion in those days. There were a score of crimes which bore the death penalty, and, as appears from the records of Rowan, the judges did not scruple to put these laws into effect. The blow of the law fell swiftly upon the guilty.
The question, as to the character of the Regulation has been often and fully discussed by the historians of North Carolina. Some think that the Regulators were an oppressed people contending for justice; others that they were a misguided mob seeking to prevent the enforcement of the law. It is not the purpose in this sketch to side with either group, but merely to state the occurrences of the trouble in Rowan County.
The Regulators complained of the injustice of the officials, of extortion, of corrupt courts, and of being compelled to pay taxes in money, of which there was a scarcity in circulation. The movement was most prevalent in Orange, Anson, and Rowan, though it existed to a less degree in many other counties. The discontented men formed a systematic organization. Meetings were held and petitions were sent to Governor Tryon, but they were either refused or ignored.(1) One of the chief policies of the Regulators was the refusal to pay taxes.(2)
23) Col. Rec., X, 1-9.
The people were especially bitter towards Edmund Fanning, of Hillsborough, and John Frohock, of Salisbury. Rednap Howell, "the Poet Laureate of the Regulators," lampooned them in this wise:
"Says Frohock to Fanning : 'To tell the plain truth,
The Regulators resisted all efforts on the part of the sheriffs of Rowan to collect taxes. In October, 1763 [a misprint for 1768?], Francis Locke informed the inferior court that two thousand taxes for the year 1766 were unpaid, and that the collection of them was violently opposed by the Regulators. He attempted to "take, seize, and destrain a sorrel gelding" belonging to James Dunlap for his taxes for 1764, 1765, and 1766, but Dunlap and fifteen others unlawfully rescued the horse from Locke.(4)
Andrew Allison, who was sheriff in 1765, was able to collect only two hundred and five taxes.(5) The situation became so perplexing that in 1770 there was no sheriff in Rowan, Adam Allison who had been appointed by Tryon being unable to give security for the discharge of the duties of the office. His friends did not doubt his integrity or honesty, but feared that the confused state of the county would involve them in many suits.(6)
In April, 1768, Edmund Fanning, of Hillsborough, wrote Tryon that the Regulators claimed that they could command a powerful force from Anson, Rowan, and Orange. He asked Tryon for orders to raise the militia and advised immediate war upon the
3) Col. Rec., VIII, xli.
insurgents. Tryon gave him permission to call out the militia of Bertie, Halifax, Granville, Rowan, Mecklenburg, Anson, Cumberland, and Johnston.(7)
About the 1st of July Tryon went to Hillsborough, where Husbands
and Butler, who had been arrested several months before, were
to be tried. Husbands was a Quaker preacher and the prime mover
in the Regulation. Tryon visited Rowan and enlisted troops for
the protection of the court.(8) Nearly two hundred of the Rowan
militia and three hundred of the Mecklenburg attended the court
at Hillsborough.(9) At this time matters quieted a little, but
soon. the situation became
An excellent opportunity for a peaceable solution of the problem
in Rowan occurred in March, 1771. The Regulators of the county
decided to visit Salisbury superior court. On March 6 four or
five hundred assembled on the west bank of the Yadkin. Hearing
of their plans, Alexander Martin and John Frohock went to them
and found some armed and some unarmed. The Regulators said that
their intention was not to disturb the court or to injure the
person, or property
They were informed that the judges did not deem it prudent to hold court in Salisbury. The Regulators replied that there would have been no danger for the Chief Justice, but as to the other judges they were silent. In behalf of the officers of Rowan, Martin and Frohock offered to give the Regulators satisfaction for their complaints, and the Regulators selected a committee to confer with the officers.
The Regulator committee proposed to leave every complaint to the decision of men chosen by the two parties. They selected Herman Husbands, James Graham, James Hunter, and Thomas Person, and the officers chose Matthew Locke, John Kerr, Samuel Young, and James Smith. This committee was to meet in May and arbitrate and settle every difference. Only the officials of
7) Col, Rec., VII, 115. 748.
Rowan County, and those voluntarily, were included in the compact.(10)
On the 7th the officers agreed "to settle and pay unto
any and every person within the county any and all such sum or
sums of money as we or our deputies have taken through inadvertency
or otherwise over and above what we severally ought to have taken
for fees more than the law allowed or entitled us so to receive,
without any trouble or law for the recovery of the same."
John Frohock, William Frohock, Griffith Rutherford, Thomas Frohock,
Benjamin Miller, John
Thereupon the Regulators returned quietly to their homes. Three companies of Rowan militia and seventy or eighty men from Mecklenburg were in Salisbury ready to oppose them had any violence been offered.(12)
When Governor Tryon received intelligence of the proposed settlement with the Regulators he immediately wrote Alexander Martin a letter which included the following quotation:
"This mode . . . of your agreement with the insurgents,
by including officers who are amenable
Tryon's rebuke and disapproval of the plan caused its failure. If Tryon had been farsighted probably the difficulties could have been settled without a struggle. As it was, however, both factions prepared for the final test of strength. Governor Tryon sent
10) Col. Rec., VIII, 533 et seq.
General Hugh Waddell rode through Rowan and Mecklenburg to raise troops. Waddell enlisted one hundred in Mecklenburg and almost twice that number in Rowan. When marching to join Tryon, Waddell was intercepted at the Yadkin by a larger force of Regulators and turned back, so that he did not join the governor until after the battle.(14)
Meanwhile Tryon proceeded westward with ten or twelve hundred men.(15) He met the forces of the insurgents at Alamance Creek and defeated them, thereby bringing open opposition to an end.(16)
From May 30th to June 20th, the supreme court of oyer and terminer was held at Hillsborough for the trial of captured Regulators. Twelve were convicted of high treason, and six of them were executed. The most distinguished victim was Benjamin Merrill, who had formerly been a captain of the militia in Rowan. In concluding his sentence, the Chief Justice said:
"I must now close my afflicting duty by pronouncing upon
you the awful sentence of the law;
It is impossible to conceive of a more brutal, barbarous sentence being pronounced. Soon afterwards the Assembly passed an act allowing the sheriffs an additional year in which to collect the taxes which had not been paid.(18) James McCoy was appointed to collect those for 1770, the year when no sheriff served Rowan.(19)
14) Tompkins, 38-39.
THE CHURCHES OF EARLY ROWAN
The early inhabitants of the county were a distinctly religious people. Many of them had come to the new world that they might worship God in their own way. Consequently, as soon as they were settled in their new surroundings they proceeded to found places of worship.
The destruction by fire of the early records of Orange Presbytery has rendered it difficult to give an account of the different Presbyterian churches with the dates of their establishment. The Presbyterians formed a considerable part of the population of Rowan, most of the Scotch-Irish being of this faith. In the list of taxables for 1767 it is remarked that the population was "mostly Presbyterians." (1)
A congregation was organized before Rowan was taken from Anson
County. On January 17, 1753, John and Naomi Lynn conveyed twelve
acres of land, more or less, "to a congregation belonging
to ye Lower meeting house, between the Atking River and ye Catabo."
It is stated that this congregation, adhered to a minister belonging
to the Synod of Philadelphia. On the following day another deed
was made conveying an additional tract of twelve acres to the
Further west, near the present town of Statesville in Iredell
County, was the Fourth Creek congregation, which was later divided
among the churches of Fourth Creek, Concord, and Bethany. Fourth
Creek congregation was organized and its boundaries were defined
by the two missionaries, the Rev. Messrs. Spencer and McWhorter,
who visited it in 1764. Fourth Creek church, however, was in
existence long before that time. It is said that Fourth Creek
1) Col. Rec., VII, 541.
and its place of worship selected by 1756. The Rev. John Thompson. appeared in this locality as early as 1751. He resided near the historic Centre Church. Mr. Thompson preached at Fourth Creek and other stations in Rowan for about two years. He was a very influential pastor. People came twenty and twenty-five miles to hear his sermons and "sometimes he baptized a score of infants at once." In 1773, the people who made up the congregation of Fourth Creek were divided among 196 families of 111 different names. All of these communicants lived within ten miles of the church.(2)
In 1753, the Synod of Philadelphia sent two missionaries, Mr. McMordie and Mr. Donaldson, to visit Virginia and North Carolina. They were directed by the Synod "to show special regard to the vacancies of North Carolina, especially betwixt Atkin and Catawba rivers." (3)
In 1755, the Rev. Hugh McAden made a missionary tour through
North Carolina.(4) Early in September he arrived in eastern Rowan,
and thence continued his course westward, preaching at several
meeting houses and in private homes. Sometimes he preached to
congregations "pretty regular and discreet," but sometimes
he found them "solemn and attentive, but (with) no appearance
of the life of religion." He delivered a sermon at the meeting
house which had been
In the same year the Synod of New York directed the Rev. John Brainard and the Rev. Elihu Spencer to supply vacancies in North Carolina. They do not seem to have done so, for there is no record of their visit.
For ten years the congregations of the Presbyterians held together, though no regular minister appeared.(6) No doubt, from time to time, itinerant preachers passed through Rowan and preached at the meeting houses and in private homes. In 1764
2) Rumple, 333-335.
and 1765 the Rev. Messrs. Spencer and McWhorter visited the county and fixed the limits of the different congregations. A new congregation called Centre was established, its name being derived from the fact that it was composed of territory between Fourth Creek and Thyatira. The Centre congregation lived in Mecklenburg and in that part of Rowan which now lies in Iredell County. It appears that this region was filled with various preaching places before Spencer and McWhorter persuaded the inhabitants to combine into one church.(7)
In 1765, Fourth Creek and Thyatira united in a call to the Rev. Mr. Spencer, who had returned to New Jersey. They sent wagons all the way to that province to bring his family to Rowan, but he declined to accept the call. Thyatira was without a regular pastor until 1772. Then Rev. Mr. Harris became its minister and remained about two years.(8) The Rev. Samuel E. McCorkle became the pastor of Thyatira in 1777, and James Hall, the soldier-preacher, became the minister of Fourth Creek Church one year later.(9)
The Presbyterians did not found a church in Salisbury until about the year 1821.(10)
There was a Presbyterian meeting house in eastern Rowan (now Guilford) before 1768. In that year, Adam Mitchel conveyed an acre of land to John McKnight and William Anderson, "trustees for the Presbyterian congregation on the waters of North Buffalo." This congregation belonged to the Synod of New York and Philadelphia. The deed shows that a "meeting house and a study house" had already been erected.(11) The building designated as a "study house" was probably a school. The inferior court of Rowan licensed the North Buffalo meeting house soon afterwards.(12) The church was situated near the present site of Greensboro.(13)
In 1764, the Rev. Henry Pattillo, a Presbyterian divine, who labored in Orange, established a church called Alamance about
7) Foote, 36, 433-434.
seven miles from Greensboro.(14) These two churches secured as their pastor Dr. David Caldwell, a Pennsylvanian by birth, and a graduate of Princeton. In 1766 he married Rachel, the daughter of the Rev. Alexander Craighead, of Sugar Creek Church, in Mecklenburg, and settled with his congregations of Buffalo and Alamance.(15) Caldwell established a school in the neighborhood about 1767. This school obtained the name of the "Log College," and was the means of training a number of the foremost men of North Carolina.(16)
At a meeting of the Presbytery at Buffalo in March, 1770, David Caldwell, Hugh McAden, Joseph Alexander, Henry Pattillo, Hezekiah Balch, and James Criswell petitioned the Synod of Philadelphia and New York for the organization of a new presbytery, to be called Orange. Their petition was granted.(17)
THE GERMAN REFORMED AND LUTHERAN CHURCHES IN ROWAN
The German Reformed Church originated in Switzerland, its
doctrines being derived from the Swiss reformer, Ulric Zwingli,
who was a contemporary of Martin Luther. This Church differed
from the Lutheran upon the question of the sacrament of the Lord's
Supper and other theological doctrines. It is a Calvinistic church.(18)
Denying Luther's theory of consubstantiation, Zwingli regarded
the sacrament as efficacious merely for its commemorative and
14) Foote, 283.
years there was no pastor to minister to the needs of those who worshiped at the Hickory Church.(20) Before Hickory Church obtained a minister the Lutherans in and around Salisbury formed a congregation. This church was the first Lutheran church organized in North Carolina and was named St. John's. John Lewis Beard, a prominent and wealthy resident of Salisbury and a Lutheran by profession, was bereaved by the death of a daughter. Her remains were buried in a lot containing nearly an acre of ground belonging to her father. Desirous that the grave of his daughter should never be disturbed, Mr. Beard donated the lot to the German Lutheran Church. On September 9, 1768, he conveyed the land to the trustees of the church. It was stipulated that ministers of the Church of England and the Reformed Church might utilize the church when not used by the Lutherans. Soon after the lot was granted to them the Lutherans erected a log church upon it. This structure was the first house of worship built in Salisbury. The lot is now known as the Lutheran graveyard, or the Salisbury Cemetery.(21)
Where the Germans were to obtain a pastor was a difficult problem to solve. As there was a scarcity of ministers in Pennsylvania. it was futile to consider the possibility of securing one there.(22) As some three thousand German Protestants were located in Rowan, Orange, Mecklenburg, and Tryon counties and their numbers were rapidly increasing by birth and immigration, sixty Lutheran families residing on Second Creek in Rowan decided to seek help from the Protestants of Europe. They declared that the want of a minister of their denomination had produced "a great ignorance of the word of God and a melancholy dissoluteness of living," and feared that such evil "must provoke the Almighty God to anger and vengeance." They appointed two of their number, Christopher Layrle, of Mecklenburg County, and Christopher Rintelman, of Rowan, to seek aid among the Protestants of England, Holland, and Germany for securing and supporting a minister and school- master who spoke the German tongue. The Rev. Mr. Drage, the Episcopal minister of St. Luke's Parish, pronounced their purpose
20) Col. Rec., VIII, 744, 759; Bernheim, 244-845 ; Rumple,
laudable, and Governor Tryon countenanced their plans and
referred their requests to the Bishop of London and the Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The undertaking
met with the approval of the Society at its meeting in London,
July 19, 1771. The Society promised that if Layrle and Rintelman
raised such a sum as would afford a reasonable prospect of establishing
a fund adequate for the permanent support of a minister and schoolmaster,
Rintelman and Layrle went to Europe in 1772. They first went
to London and then to Hanover, and through the kind efforts of
"the late Consistory Counselor, Gotten," obtained the
Rev. Adolph Nussman as their pastor and Mr. Gottfried Ardnt as
schoolmaster. Nussman and Ardnt arrived in North Carolina in
1773.(24) Among those who contributed to the fund which enabled
the Germans to secure their minister and schoolmaster were the
Bishop of London, the Earl of
23) Col. Rec., VIII, 630-631.
was ordained a minister of the Lutheran Church, and he served Organ and St. John's churches until the close of the Revolution.(28)
THE BAPTISTS IN ROWAN
Information as to the Baptists in early Rowan is very meagre. When the Rev. Hugh McAden passed through this section in 1755 he found a meeting house in the Jersey Settlement. There was much confusion in the congregation, many of whom were Baptists and several professing to be Presbyterians. One cause of the trouble arose from the labors of a Mr. Miller, a Baptist minister.(29) With the aid of a Rev. Mr, Gano, Miller established a Baptist Church in the Jersey Settlement.(30)
About the year 1755, Shubal Steams came to eastern Rowan, now Randolph, and in a few years had a church on Sandy Creek with a membership of 606 persons. At the same time Daniel Marshall had charge of a Baptist Church on the Uwharrie, and Joseph Murphey was minister to a congregation on Deep Creek in the present county of Surry. Dr. Caruthers says that other Baptist ministers went about preaching from place to place, and that there was a church on Abbott's Creek, and others elsewhere.(31)
Dr. Rumple says that there was no organization of Methodism in the county before the Revolution.(32)
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN ROWAN
The royal government of the province attempted to make the Church of England the established church of North Carolina. Many acts were passed with this end in view. We have already seen that St. Luke's Parish was established simultaneously with Rowan County and included the same territory until Wachovia was set off under the name of Dobbs Parish. The freeholders, that is, men owning fifty acres of land or a lot in some town, were required, under penalty of twenty shillings, to elect twelve vestrymen to serve three years. The vestrymen so elected had to subscribe an oath that they would "not oppose the doctrine, discipline,
28) Col. Rec., VIII, 759, 760, 763; Bernheim, 260-261.
and liturgy of the Church of England as by law established." If a dissenter was elected and failed to qualify, he was liable to a fine. The vestry was authorized to levy a tax of ten shillings on each. taxable in the parish for the erection of churches or chapels, the payment of the salaries of ministers, the purchasing a glebe for the building of a parsonage. According to an act of 1765, the minister of a parish was to receive an annual salary of one hundred and thirty-three pounds, six shillings and eight pence and a fee of twenty shillings for every marriage solemnized in the parish, whether he performed the service or not, provided he did not neglect nor refuse to do so.(33) The inhabitants of the west paid little attention to the vestry and parish laws.
By the marriage acts of the province no minister or magistrate could perform the rite of marriage without a license or the publication of banns. The parish minister, if there were one, should be entitled to the marriage fee unless he refused or neglected to perform the ceremony. The Presbyterian ministers in the west performed the marriage service without license or publication of banns. An act passed early in Tryon's administration made all such marriages valid and permitted Presbyterian ministers, regularly called to any congregation, to celebrate the rite of marriage when a license was issued. By a law of 1770 the ministers of the same denomination were authorized to perform the service by the publication of banns, but the law was disallowed by the authorities in England.(34)
The marriage and vestry acts were extremely unpopular in the
west. Petitions were presented to the Assembly asking their repeal.
One from Mecklenburg states that if Rowan, Mecklenburg, and Tryon
counties "were wholly relieved from the grievances of the
marriage act and the vestry acts, it would greatly encourage
the settlement of the frontiers, and make them a strong barrier
to the interior parts of the province against a savage enemy.(35)
Little is known of the early
33) Ashe, 385; Rumple, 72-74.
was ordained minister. He lived irregularly and wandered about from parish to parish. It is not known that he settled in, Rowan.(36) In 1766, Tryon wrote the Board of Trade that the Rev. Mr. Micklejohn had just gone to St. Luke's.(37) Nothing further is recorded of him. No attempt was made to put the parish and vestry laws into force in Rowan until about 1770. Some time prior to that date more than one hundred inhabitants of the county petitioned for a "lawful vestry."(38)
There seems to have been a number of members of the Church
of England in Rowan, though they did not make up any considerable
part of the population. They were principally found in Salisbury
and the Jersey Settlement.(39) It is impossible to estimate the
number with any degree of accuracy. The late Hon. John S. Henderson,
in his interesting sketch on "Episcopacy in Rowan"
in Rumple's history, thinks that they amounted to one-fourth
or one-third of the entire
The first clergyman of the Church of England who settled in
Rowan was the Rev. Theodorus Swaine Drage, who came to the county
about 1769 and attempted to organize St. Luke's Parish on a permanent
basis. He was successful in having a chapel erected in the Jersey
Settlement.(41) His letter to the Society for the Propagation
of the Gospel in Foreign Parts portrays the situation in Rowan.
Tryon had received repeated applications from the people for
a clergyman, and he
36) Col. Rec., VI, 1040.
Mr. Drage was very active in his labors. Upon his arrival he found the English churchmen "disheartened and dispersed," but soon he had forty preaching places where he ministered to "seven thousand souls, men, women, and children." Between December 20, 1769, and the same date in 1770, he baptized eight hundred and two persons. Their ages varied from less than a year to sixty years, the majority being infants. A Rev. Mr. Cupples had paid a visit to St. Luke's during the preceding summer and baptized many.
Mr. Drage's efforts to establish the parish on a legal and
permanent foundation were less fruitful. At an election held
Easter Monday, 1770, the Dissenters, having control of a majority
of the votes, elected a vestry, all of whom were Dissenters and
two of whom were elders. The vestry refused to qualify. The same
procedure had been practiced in the preceding year. The voters
declared that "their purpose in voting was not as to who
should compose the vestry, but that there
The contest between Drage and the Dissenters continued to
grow warm. The unfortunate clergyman seems to have received no
salary and to have been dependent upon a few fees and the Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts for his support.
He found friends only in the Lutherans and in Governor Tryon.(43)
He informed Governor Martin, Tryon's successor, that the clerk
of court encouraged the people who obtained marriage licenses
to have the rites
42) Col Rec., VIII, 602-504.
order to deprive him of the fees to which the parish minister was entitled.(44) By February, 1773, the Dissenters succeeded in expelling Drage by withholding his salary and thereby forcing him to leave the parish.(45) No other clergyman of the English church appeared in Rowan before the Revolution.
EDUCATION IN ROWAN
The record of education and the early schools of Rowan is very meagre. Most of the inhabitants possessed at least an elementary knowledge of reading, writing and the principles of mathematics. The Germans had Luther's translation of the Bible and their Union Hymn Book. At this time the old field schools were established and taught by citizens who had better educations than the average. There must have been a number of these schools in old Rowan. The boys spent their leisure hours in playing "town-ball," "bull-pen," "cat" and "prisoner's base," and the girls amused themselves with "blind-man's bluff," "drop-the-handker-chief," "fox and geese," and "chichama-chichama-craney-crow." Dr. Rumple says: "The passing traveler could easily identify the log schoolhouse, by the bell-like tones of the mingled voices of the boys and girls as they studied their spelling and reading lessons aloud sometimes rendering the schoolroom a very Babel of confused sounds."(1)
In 1760, Crowfield Academy was established on the headwaters of Rocky River, in the bounds of the Centre congregation, about two miles north of where Davidson College now stands. This was a classical school where many of the prominent men of Rowan and the nearby counties were educated. Among them were Colonel Adlai Osborne, the Rev. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle, Dr. James Hall, and Dr. Ephriam Brevard.(2)
44) Col. Rec.. IX, 267.
About the year 1767, Dr. David Caldwell founded his famous
classical "Log College" on the headwaters of North
Buffalo, near the present city of Greensboro.(3) In 1773, Gottfried
Arndt arrived, and for several years instructed the German youth
THE SAFETY COMMITTEE
Rowan County has the distinction of being the first county
in North Carolina to organize a safety committee.(1) This fact
shows that the people were keenly alive to the cause of the colonies.
The first committee met August 8, 1774. Its members were James
McCay, Andrew Neal, George Cathey, Alexander Dobbins, Francis
McCorkle, Matthew Locke, Maxwell Chambers, Henry Harmon, Abraham
Denton, William Davidson, Samuel Young, John Brevard, William
Kennon, George Henry Barringer, Robert Bell, John Bickerstaff,
John Cowden, John Lewis Beard, John Nesbit, Charles McDowell,
Robert Blackburn, Christopher Beekman, William Sharpe, John Johnston,
and Morgan Bryan.(2 ) The records of the Rowan Committee of Safety
have been preserved in Wheeler's "History of North Carolina"
and in the Colonial Records and they give an insight into the
opinions and purposes of the times. Though this committee began
3) Caruthers, 30-31.
SOCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL CONDITIONS
The inhabitants of Rowan and the other western counties lived among surroundings quite different from those who dwelt in the east. While the latter passed a life of ease and gayety on their large plantations with numerous African slaves, the former felled the forests and built homes on the fertile and pleasant lands lying along the countless streams which watered the country. The Indians who lived beyond the mountains were a constant source of alarm. The woods teemed with game. As is the case in all frontier communities, the sterner and stronger qualities of men predominated.
Slave labor was introduced into the territory embraced by
Rowan County before it was taken from Anson. The list of taxables
for Rowan for the year after its establishment indicate that
there were then fifty-four black taxables in the county. (1)
As after this date the white and black taxables were not listed
separately, there is no means of determining the number of slaves
owned by the inhabitants, No doubt many others were brought in,
but slavery did not assume such large
Practically all of the people derived their living from the
soil. In the summer of 1755, Governor Dobbs visited the west
in order to inspect his lands on Rocky River. Along the Yadkin
he found fields of barley, wheat, rye, and oats.(2) Continuing
his course to Rocky River, he visited between thirty and forty
of the families situated on his lands. These people were prolific,
there being from five to ten children in each family. The settlers
raised horses, cows, hogs, and sheep, and planted
1) Col. Rec., V, 575.
record that the Moravians cultivated cotton and tobacco in
addition to grains and vegetables.(5) Wild animals proved a great
inconvenience to the frontier agriculturists. Accordingly bounties
were offered to all persons who killed a wolf or a wild cat or
a panther within ten miles of any settled plantation.(6) In 1767,
an act was passed requiring every master or mistress of a plantation,
or the overseer in case the owner did not reside in the county,
to kill or cause to be killed every
The rates charged by the tavern keepers of Salisbury may be
of interest. In 1755, the inferior court fixed the following
rates for keepers of ordinaries:
5) Clewell, 24.
lenburg court house and from Salisbury the "nearest and best way" to Campbelton. The plan was not carried out by the committee, and the west continued its commerce with the merchants of Charlestown. The people of the west had great difficulty in communicating with one another for want of roads.(12) Such roads as existed were far from being in a state of perfection. Practically all of the manufactured commodities were made in the home. Tompkins, in his "History of Mecklenburg County," says: "The people made their own hats and shoes, and wove their own cloth. They were hatters and shoemakers and weavers and tailors. They raised indigo for dyeing. They raised flax and made it into linen."(13) Though this statement is made primarily of the people of Mecklenburg County, it applies with equal truth to those of Rowan.
Colonial Records of North Carolina,
11) State Rec., XXIII, 870-871.