The American Revolution in North Carolina

Quaker Meadows

July 1776


Patriot Cdr:

Capt. Matthias Barringer
Cherokee Cdr:

Unknown
Killed:

8
Killed:

Unk
Wounded:

0
Wounded:

Unk
Captured:

0
Captured:

0
Original County: 

Rowan County
Present County:

Burke County

As directed by the British, the Cherokee Indians in both Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia made numerous attacks all across the frontier in concert with Sir Peter Parker's attack on Charlestown, South Carolina during the summer of 1776. Settlements loyal to the Crown were instructed to erect "Passover Poles" so they would be spared.

McJunkin wrote, "In the early of 1776 a combination was entered into by the Tories and Indians for a general massacre of the Whigs residing along the frontiers from North Carolina to Georgia. The Tories set up peeled poles at their houses, around which white cloth was wrapped. These were called passovers. On June 20, in accordance with previous arrangements, the Indians commenced the work of death among the Whigs, but the Tories sat under their passovers in safety. To this, however, there was one exception. Capt. James Ford, who resided on the Enoree River at a place called the Canebrake, was killed while sitting under his passover. His wife was also killed and his two daughters taken captives."

Capt. Matthias Barringer and seven of his men were on a scouting expedition in the Quaker Meadows of Burke County, North Carolina, when they were massacred by a "Cherokee war party armed with British rifles." The retaliation for these attacks was devastating. From Virginia and the Carolinas, four thousand militia came from north, east, and south to destroy the villages of the Cherokees. Some who came to assist were Loyalists.


Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford led his large army into Cherokee country, specifically aimed at freeing Col. Charles McDowell and nine other men, plus about 125 women and children, who were withstanding an onslaught in Cathey's Fort in what is now McDowell County.

Prior to this large army's arrival, Capt. Matthias Barringer and his small squad encountered some Indians while on a scouting mission. Capt. Barringer, leading his men, was the first killed. His squad returned fire and a fierce battle ensued.

When the Indians saw that all the white men were dead but one, they left their hidden positions and came yelling towards Philip Fry. He happened to be near a large chestnut tree that had blown down. On the back side of this log the leaves had drifted until they were more than two feet deep. Fry jumped into this pile of leaves and remained perfectly still.

According to folk lore, he could see out a little through the leaves, and while the Indians were scalping his fellow Patriots, one of them came and stood on top of the chestnut log. Fry was supposed to have said afterwards that he looked square into the enemy's eyes, but the savage did not see him.

In a short time, the main army came up, and the Indians fled. General Rutherford ordered some of his men to remain behind and to bury the bodies. This they did, scraping out the soft earth with their frying pans. They covered the shallow graves with stones to mark the place.

Tradition relates that Capt. Barringer's wife, who was at home with her children, Matthias and Catherine, told her friends on the day of the skirmish that she knew her husband was either dead or badly wounded, because she had heard him groan.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Tryon County Regiment detachment, led by Capt. Matthias Barringer, with seven (7) known men (all killed except Philip Fry):

- Mr. Lipiscom
- Mr. Adam
- Mr. Grunt
- Mr. Haas
- Mr. Wilson
- Mr. Unknown

Philip Fry escaped

Unknown number of Cherokee

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