A History of Gilbert Town, North Carolina

Gilbert Town, served as the first county seat of Rutherford County from 1779 to 1787. It was named for William Gilbert. The people complained about the muddy condition around the courthouse and Gilbert Town. This mud made it difficult for them to reach the courthouse. Although the courthouse was at Gilbert Town, the first county court session to be held in Rutherford County was in the home of Colonel John Walker on Cain Creek.

At this session of the County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, the following appointments were made: Felix Walker, clerk of county court; Richard Singleton, sheriff; Benjamin Hardin, public register; David Miller, entry taker; Jonathan Gullick, county surveyor; Davis Whiteside and William Gilbert, representative of the House of Commons; and William Porter, senator.

The General assembly appointed a commission of five men: Thomas Rowland, William Nevill, Felix Walker, James Miller and James Whiteside to select a new site for the county seat of Rutherford County - the existing county seat of Gilbert Town was no longer convenient.

In September 1787 the above named commission purchased fifty (50) acres of land from James Adair for the new county seat. It was located on a hill with a good water supply. Ezekiel Enloe surveyed and platted the land. The new town was given the name of Rutherford Town. Later the "w" was dropped from the spelling and today is spelled "Rutherfordton." This is the oldest county seat in western North Carolina.


John Earle, James Miller, and Robert Porter of Rutherford County were appointed a commission to build and erect a courthouse and jail on property of James Holland, 400 yards from the forks of Shepherd's Creek. In July, 1781, court was in session at the home of William Gilbert and court adjourned for half an hour so that Justices George Black and William Gilbert could visit the new courthouse. In January, 1782, court was held at the new building above the still-standing cabin, a temporary affair.

Gilbert Town was located about the center of Rutherford County with the courthouse about in the middle of the community. The small village of Gilbert Town consisted of a number of buildings and log homes: the log courthouse, William Gilbert's house, a log tavern building, and small outbuildings. It was said that William Gilbert brought a group of Scotsmen to the area, where they manufactured furniture and other wood products.

At the meeting of the North Carolina legislature in 1784, it was charged that the Rutherford County courthouse was not convenient for the citizens and was unfit in every respect for its intended purpose of use. Felix Walker, James Whitesides, William Nevill, William McMurray, and Alexander McDonald were appointed commissioners to buy land for a new courthouse. They bought 50 acres of land from James Adair for courthouse and jail on the north and west sides of Cleghorn's Creek.

Gilbert Town lay on the high ground between Cathey's Creek to the north and Holland's (Shepherd's) Creek to the south. Ferguson's Hill overlooked it all on the west. Ferguson's Hill is now generally called Ferguson's Ridge. Roads entered from Cane Creek, Fort McGauhey, and Brittain Church to the east; Quaker Meadows and Camp Creek to the north; Montford's Cove and Mountain Creek to the west; and the Broad River and Cleghorn's Creek to the south. Marlin's Knob in the South Mountains on the east side of Cane Creek was easily visible from Ferguson's Hill and the other high points.

Loyalist Lieutenant Anthony Allaire, in his diary, describes Gilbert Town as consisting of "one dwelling house, one barn, a blacksmith's shop, and some out-houses." But this does not match information taken from the court records. In addition to his home, William Gilbert received a license to operate a tavern and a brewery. He was said to have men working for him in the wood trade. Of course, the courthouse was also in the village.

In addition to Ferguson's army, Patriot forces were stationed at Gilbert Town at various periods from 1775 through 1783. British and Loyalists prisoners from Musgrove's Mill, King's Mountain, and Cowpens passed through Gilbert Town on the way to prison camps elsewhere. In addition, a hospital was operated for most of the time, possibly in the tavern building. A small cemetery is located near the tavern site and contains graves of wounded who died in the hospital. A separate Gilbert family cemetery is located on Ferguson's Hill.



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