Historic Homes of North Carolina

by Alphonso C. Avery*


The following was written sometime around 1900, and is reproduced here without permission. It is not known if a copyright was obtained, but even so it would have expired in 1907.

There is always great interest in historic homes, and in the families who built, occupy and adorn them, and connect them with the stirring legends and important events in the annals of a country. Amongst the earliest settlers in the valley of the upper Catawba, in the old county of Burke (North Carolina), were Joseph McDowell the elder, a grandson of Ephraim, the founder of the family in Virginia, Kentucky and North and South Carolina, and his cousin, known as Hunting John, who was near the same age. They migrated somewhere about the year 1760, during the French-Indian war, from the old home of Ephriam McDowell in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and because the country west of the Catawba was rendered unsafe by roving bands of Cherokee and Catawba braves, went with their families through Rowan and Mecklenburg Counties to some point in South Carolina, near the northern boundary line. Their sturdy Scotch-Irish [sic] friends had already drifted from Pennsylvania, where they, with thousands of Germans, were first dumped by the English land agents upon American soil, to upper South Carolina, and had commemorated their first American home by naming the three northern counties of that state York, Chester and Lancaster.

Ephriam McDowell was born in the north of Ireland. When only sixteen years old he distinguished himself as a soldier in the siege of Londonderry. He emigrated to America at the age of sixty-two, and, after a short sojourn in Pennsylvania, moved with his sons to the old McDowell home in Rockbridge County, Virginia. He was descended from Someril, Lord of the Isles, through his son, Dougald, who founded the clan of MacDougald. Ephraim married Margaret Irvine (1), also of Scotch [sic] descent. His son, Captain John McDowell, fell in repelling a Shawnee incursion, and was the first white man killed by the Indians in the valley of Virginia. His daughter, Mary, married George Greenlee and was the mother of Grizzell, or Grace Greenlee. She first married Captain Bowman, who fell at Ramseur's Mill, and, after the war, her cousin, General Charles McDowell, of Burke County, who had inherited Quaker Meadows in 1775, at the death of his father, Joseph McDowell, the elder, the first settler on that place.

"Hunting John" McDowell, so-called because of his venturing into the wilderness so far from the white settlement in pursuit of game, probably first took possession of his beautiful home, Pleasant Gardens, in the Catawba Valley in what is now McDowell County, about the time when his cousin, Joseph, settled at Quaker Meadows. I have not been able to ascertain the maiden name of the wife of "Hunting John," nor of the lady who married Joseph McDowell the elder, but there is abundant evidence that both had improved the advantages of being raised near Lexington, the Scotch­Irish [sic] educational center of the Valley of Virginia, and made their homes attractive to the most refined and cultured people of their day. They were doubtless religious, for we find that the first Presbyterian minister who ever made his home in old Burke, reported to the Synod in 1770, as the pastor at two points: Quaker Meadows and Pleasant Gardens.

According to tradition the Quaker Meadows farm was so-called long before the McDowells or any other whites established homes in Burke County, and derived its name from the fact that the Indians, after clearing part of the broad and fertile bottoms, had suffered the wild grasses to spring up and form a large meadow near where a Quaker had camped before the French-Indian war and traded for furs. On the 19th of November, 1752, Bishop Spangenburg recorded in his diary that he was in camp near Quaker Meadows, and that he was "in the forest fifty miles from all settlements." The Bishop described the lowlands of Johns River as the richest he had seen anywhere in Carolina. But, after surveying the large area, he abandoned the idea of taking title for it from Lord Granville, because the Indian War began in 1753, the next year, and lasted nominally seven years, though it was unsafe to venture west of the Catawba until after 1763, and few incurred the risk of doing so before 1770.

"Hunting John" McDowell first entered "Swan Pond," about three miles above Quaker Meadows, but sold that place without, occupying it, to Colonel Waightstill Avery, and established his home where his son Joseph, and grandson James, afterwards lived, and where, still later, Adolphus Erwin (2) lived for years before his death. His home is three miles north of Marion on the road leading to Bakersville and Burnsville. The name of Pleasant Gardens was afterwards applied not only to this home, but to the place where Col. John Carson lived high up the Catawba Valley, at the mouth of Buck Creek.

The McDowells and Carsons of that day and later reared thoroughbred horses and made race paths in the broad lowlands of every large farm. They were superb horsemen, crack shots and trained hunters. John McDowell of Pleasant Gardens was a Nimrod when he lived in Virginia, and we learn from tradition that he acted as guide for his cousins over his hunting grounds, at the risk of their lives. They with their kinsmen, Greenlee and Bowman, traveled over and inspected the Valley of the Catawba from Morganton to Old Fort, and selected the large domain allotted to each of them. They built and occupied strings of cabins, because the few plank and board used by them were sawed by hand, and the nails driven into them were shaped in a blacksmith shop. I have seen many old buildings, such as the old houses at Fort Defiance, the Lenoir home, and Swan Pond, where every plank was fastened by a wrought nail with a large round head, sometimes half an inch in diameter. From these homes the lordly old proprietors could, in half an hour, go to the water or the woods and provide fish, deer or turkeys to meet the whim of the ladies of the house. They combined the pleasure of sport with the profit of providing for their tables. The old Quaker Meadow home is two miles from Morganton, but the eastern boundary of the farm is the Catawba, only a mile from the Courthouse. From the northwestern portion of the town, since the land along the river has been cleared, this magnificent and lordly estate is plainly visible, and the valley and the river presents a charming view for a landscape painter.

From his house on a hill on the eastern bank of the river, Peter Brank and his son-in-law, Captain David Vance, the grandfather of Z.B. Vance, could see the home of the McDowells. The place in the early days was surrounded by the newly-found homes of the Greenlees, Erwins and Captain Bowman, whose only daughter by his marriage with Grace Greenlee, was the grandmother of Mrs. Harriet Espy Vance, first wife to Governor Vance. She was married to Governor Vance at Quaker Meadows, in full view of his grandfather's first home in Burke. "Hunting John" must have died during the early part of the War for Independence, probably near the time his cousin Joseph died in 1775.


The Council Oak

On the 29th of August, 1780, Colonel Ferguson and his troops (British Army) moved into Troy, (now Rutherford County) and camped, first at Gilberttown, three miles north of Rutherfordton with the purpose of capturing Charles McDowell and destroying his command, and ultimately crossing into Washington and Sullivan counties (now in Tennessee) and dealing with Shelby and Sevier of the Watauga settlement. Ferguson left Gilberttown with a detachment in search of Charles Mc­Dowell, but McDowell laid in ambush at Bedford Hill, on Crane Creek, and fired upon his forces while crossing the creek at Cowan's Ford. Major Dunlap was wounded and Ferguson. was forced to retire to Gilberttown.

After this affair, Charles McDowell retreated across the mountains to warn Shelby and Sevier of the threatened desolation of their country, and to invite their co-operation in an attack on Ferguson. It was agreed that the transmontane men should be gathered as expeditiously as possible, while McDowell should send messengers to Colonels Cleveland and Hernando, of Wiles County, and Major Joseph Winston, of Surrey. The energies of Shelby, Sullivan and Sevier, of Washington County, N. C., then embracing the present State of Tennessee, were quickened by the message which Ferguson had released a prisoner to convey, to the effect that he would soon cross the mountains, hang the leaders and lay that country waste with fire and sword.

The clans were summoned to meet at Quaker Meadows on the 30th of September, 1780. Meantime Charles McDowell returned to watch Ferguson, protect cattle by assailing foraging parties, and give information to Shelby and Sevier of Ferguson's movements.

Rev. Samuel Doak invoked the blessings of God upon the Watauga men, as they left for King's Mountain to meet Ferguson, whose blasphemous boast had been that God Almighty could not drive him from his position. Those trustful old Scotchmen [sic] afterwards believed in their hearts that the hand of God was in the movement which cost him his life and destroyed his force.


The McDowells at King’s Mountain

Charles McDowell had organized the clan into a compact, formidable force. The proposed scene of conflict was in his district, and, under military rules then in force, he was entitled to command. When, however, it became apparent that jealousy might impair the efficiency of the little army, he cheerfully agreed to go to Mecklenburg or Rowan and invite General Davidson to take charge. After he had left on this mission it was deemed by the council of war best to attack Ferguson before his forces could be strengthened by Cornwallis, and the result indicated the wisdom of this conclusion.

Governor Shelby published an account in 1823, in which, after lauding General Charles McDowell as a patriot and a brave and able officer, he said that after it was decided by the council to send to headquarters for a general officer to take command, Charles McDowell requested, as he could not command, to be allowed to take the message, and added that “He accordingly started immediately, leaving his men under his brother, Major Joseph McDowell.” It was Shelby who next day made the generous move to place Campbell in command to obviate the danger of delay. Within the next twenty years some of the lineal descendants of Joseph McDowell, of Pleasant Gardens, have insisted that the command of the Burke men at King's Mountain devolved on their ancestor, not on his cousin Joseph, of Quaker Meadows. The writer would be rejoiced to be convinced that this contention is well founded, but, is constrained to conclude that it is not. Shelby had come over with Sevier, at the instance of Charles McDowell, under whose command he had previously fought, with all three of the McDowells, at Musgrove’s Mill (3), and other places. He must have known whether the brother or the cousin of Colonel Charles McDowell was next in rank to him, and he said it was the brother.

Poor’s Sketches of Congressmen state that Joseph McDowell, who was born at Winchester, Virginia, in 1756, and died in 1801, was elected a member of the third and also of the fifth Congress, and commanded a portion of the right wing of the army that stormed King's Mountain. In a subsequent sketch of Joseph J. McDowell, he says that he was born in Burke County, N. C., Nov. 13, 1800, was a son of Joseph McDowell, member from North Carolina, and was himself a member from 1843 to 1847. The widow of Joseph McDowell, of Quaker Meadows, left North Carolina with her little children and went to Kentucky soon after her husbands death. His home was on the banks of the Johns River, near where Bishop Spangenburg must have encamped when he declared that the land was the most fertile he had seen in Carolina. These sketches have always been prepared after consultation with the member as to his previous history, and we must conclude that both father and son bore testimony to the truth of history—the father that he was in command, the son that such was the family history derived from his mother. Dr. Hervey McDowell, of Cynthiana, Kentucky, who presided over the first Scotch-Irish [sic] Convention, at Nashville, Tennessee, and who died at the ripe age of four score, a year or two since, had devoted much of his life to the study of family history, and had conversed with members of the family who knew Joseph of Quaker Meadows, and Joseph of Pleasant Gardens, and were familiar with their history.

Speaking of the agreement of Colonel Charles McDowell to go to headquarters, Dr. Hervey McDowell says:

He thereupon turned over the command of his regiment to his brother, Joseph, of Quaker Meadows, who was thus promoted from the position of Major, which he had held in his regiment, to that of acting Colonel, and in the regular order of promotion Captain Joe, of Pleasant Gardens (the cousin and brother-in-law of the other Joe) became Major Joe, he having been senior captain of the regiment.

With the rank, one of Colonel and the other of Major, these cousins of the same name led the brave sharpshooters who fought so heroically at Cowpens (4) and in the many fights of less consequence. Sarah McDowell, a daughter of Captain John, who was killed by the Shawnees, married Colonel George Moffitt, a wealthy and distinguished officer in the war for independence. His accomplished daughter Margaret married Joseph McDowell, of Quaker Meadows, and her youngest sister became the wife of Joseph of Pleasant Gardens. The cousins served Burke County acceptably in the House of Commons and Senate of the State Legislature and in the Con­vention at Hillsboro, as they had both won distinction while fighting side by side on a number of battlefields. The writer has inclined to the opinion that both served in Congress, Joseph McDowell, Jr., of Pleasant Gardens, from 1793 to 1795, when he died, and Joseph, Sr., of Quaker Meadows, from 1797 to 1799. But this is still a debated question.


The Two Josephs

Joseph McDowell, of Quaker Meadows, was a handsome man, wonderfully magnetic, universally popular, and of more than

ordinary ability. He wax a born leader of men, and was represented by the old men of succeeding generations to have retained to his death the unbounded confidence and affection of the old soldiers. Margaret Moffitt was a woman of extraordinary beauty, as was her sister, Mary.

After the battle of King's Mountain (5),  in October, Joseph McDowell, of Quaker Meadows, remained in the field with 190 mounted riflemen, including the younger Joseph, as one of his officers, until he joined Morgan on December 29, and participated in the battle of Cowpens.

Joseph, of Pleasant Gardens, was a brilliant man, of more solid ability than his cousin, of the same name. The late Silas McDowell, who died in Macon County, but lived during his early life first in Burke and then in Buncombe, in discussing in an unpublished letter, of which I have a copy, the prominent  men who lived west of Lincoln County, "reaches the conclusion that prior to the day of D. L. Swain, Samuel P. Carson and Dr. Robert B. Vance, no man in that section had, according to tradition, towered far above his fellows intellectually, except Joseph McDowell, of Pleasant Gardens, whose "light went out when he was in his noonday prime, and in the last decade of the eighteenth century." He was born February 26, 1758 and died 1795. His widow married Colonel John Carson, whose first wife was the daughter of "Hunting John." Samuel P. Carson, the oldest son by the second marriage of Mary Moffitt McDowell, was a member of the Senate of North Carolina in 1822, and was born Jan. 22, 1798. Joseph, of Quaker Meadows, was born in 1756, was two years older, and therefore must have been Joseph, Sr. Wheeler records the name of Joseph McDowell, Sr., as having served successively from 1787 to 1792 inclusively, as a member of the House of Commons from Burke County, but not after a later date. Joseph McDowell, according to the same authority, was a State Senator, succeeding General Charles from 1791 to 1795, inclusively, and during that time did not serve in Congress, though he unquestionably served, later. These and other facts have led the writer to believe Joseph Jr., served one term in Congress from 1793 to 1795, when he died, and that afterwards, and up to the time of his death, the elder cousin was a member. Joseph McDowell, Jr., was not in public life after 1792, unless he served one term in Congress before his death. It is not probable that he lived from 1792 to 1795 without holding an official position.


The McDowell Women

Mrs. Margaret Moffitt McDowell, says Dr. Hervey McDowell, was a beautiful and charming woman. After the death of her husband she returned to the Valley of Virginia and went thence to Kentucky. Amongst her descendants was a son, Joseph J., already mentioned, a member of Congress, and many other people prominent in public and social life, both of Kentucky and Ohio.

Mrs. Mary Moffitt McDowell was the mother of Mrs. Anne McDowell, who married her cousin, Captain Charles McDowell, a son of General Charles, and was the mistress at the Quaker Meadow home, where she kept a house always open for her friends, until her death, in 1859. Her oldest daughter, Mary, first married Gen. John Gray Bynum, in 1838, and subsequently became the second wife of Chief Justice Pearson, in 1859. The late Judge John Gray Bynum was the only son. Another daughter, Eliza, was the wife of Nicholas W. Woodfin, one of the ablest lawyers of his day, and another, Margaret, married W. F. McKesson, and was the mother of the first Mrs. F. H. Busby, and of C. F. McKesson. Another daughter married John Woodfin, a prominent lawyer, who fell at the head of his battalion resisting Kirk's invasion at Warm Springs. The only son who survived Mrs. Annie McDowell was Colonel James C. S. McDowell. He married Miss Julia, daughter of Governor Charles Manly. His first service was, as a second lieutenant of Company G, of the Bethel regiment, he participated in the first battle of the war. Later he became Colonel of the 54th North Carolina regiment, and fell gallantly leading it in a charge on Marye's Heights in 1863. James McDowell, oldest son of Mary Moffitt, married Margaret Erwin (6), and was the father of Dr. Joseph McDowell of Buncombe, and Dr. John C. McDowell of Burke, both of whom were members of the Secession Convention of 1861, and of Col. William, who was Captain in the Bethel regiment, and afterwards Major of the 16th North Carolina. Another son, John McDowell, was the father of Colonel John of Rutherford County.

After the death of her husband, Mrs. Mary McDowell married Colonel John Carson, and made her home at his mansion, near the mouth of Buck Creek, on the Catawba. The name of Pleasant Gardens followed her, and was applied to her new as well as her old home. Her oldest son by the second marriage, Colonel Samuel P. Carson, after serving in the Legislature of the State, served four terms in Congress. He was at first a favorite of Old Hickory, and was selected as the readiest debater in the House to defend the administration on the floor of that body. He afterwards became the friend of John C. Calhoun, and his defense of nullification estranged Jackson and led to Carson's retirement from Congress. The last service of Carson to the State was, as one of the members from Burke, of the Constitutional Convention of 1835. His father had been one of Burke's members of the Convention of 1789, when the Constitution of the United States had been ratified by the State.

In the writer's boyhood, older men spoke of Sam Carson as the most eloquent speaker and the most fascinating gentleman they had known. In the early part of the year 1835, he went, with the view of finding a home, to the Republic of Texas, then struggling with Mexico for independence. It was during his absence that he was elected a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1835. He emigrated to Texas in 1836, and soon after his arrival was chosen a member of the Convention of 1836, which framed a Constitution, and upon the election of General Samuel Houston to the Presidency of the young republic, was made Secretary of State. The efforts of Carson to secure recognition of the Lone Star State were potent in beginning the agitation which culminated, in 1845, in recognition and annexation.


The Carson-Vance Duel

Stung by defeat in 1825, Dr. Robert B. Vance determined to break him down in 1827. He believed, it is supposed, on account of Carson's great amiability, that Carson was a coward, though a more fatal mistake was never made, and, acting upon that belief, charged in a public discussion at Morganton that Colonel John Carson, the father of his opponent, and who has already been mentioned as a member of the Convention which adopted the Constitution of the United States, at Fayetteville, was a Tory, and took protection when Ferguson invaded Burke. Colonel Carson arose and denounced Vance as a liar. Vance tauntingly said to him: "You are too old. You have a gallant son whose duty it is to fight your battles." I am reliably informed that Vance did not believe that Samuel Carson would resent this insult, and he knew that if he should not he could never be elected again after the election which was to take place in a few days.

To show how widely mistaken Dr. Vance was in his estimate of Carson, the writer has heard from his father that on the night after this discussion Samuel P. Carson, his six brothers and his father, met at the old family home, at the mouth of Buck Creek, and though the old Colonel insisted upon sending a challenge, his sons overruled him, and agreed that after the approaching election Samuel should challenge Vance, and should Samuel fall, each of the brothers, beginning with the oldest, Joseph McDowell Carson of Rutherford, should challenge him in succession. The Colonel was appeased by an agreement that should Vance kill all of his boys, he should then have the opportunity to avenge the insult. All of the brothers were cool, and courageous, and were crack shots. Soon after the election Car­son crossed the Tennessee line to avoid a violation of the law of his state, and sent by Col. Alney Burgin of Old Fort an invitation to Vance to come over to Tennessee and discuss the grievance complained of. Carson, with the distinguished Warren Davis of South Carolina as a second, and accompanied by David Crockett as a friend, met and mortally wounded Vance at Saluda. Just before taking his place, Carson, who was kind as he was courageous, said to Warren Davis: "I can hit him anywhere I choose; I prefer to inflict a wound that will not prove fatal." Davis said: "Vance will try to kill you, and, if he receives only a flesh wound, will demand another shot, which will mean another chance to kill you. I will not act for you unless you promise to do your best to kill him." Carson promised, and Vance fell mortally wounded. Carson's heart was tender, and he died lamenting that the demands of an imperious custom had forced him to wreck his own peace of mind, in order to save the honor of his family and remove the reproach upon his name.

The oldest son of Colonel Carson, Joseph McDowell Carson, was a prominent lawyer, and represented Rutherford County in the Convention of 1835, and frequently in the Legislature. He was the grandfather of Captain Joseph Mills of Burke, and of Mrs. Frank Coxe, of Asheville, as well as of Ralph P. Carson, a promi­nent lawyer of South Carolina.

Anne, one of the daughters of "Hunting John," married a Whitson, and her descendants for a century have been honored citizens of McDowell and Buncombe counties. One of them married the only daughter of Samuel P. Carson. Joseph McDowell Burgin, of Old Fort, a son of General Alney Burgin, who bore the message to Vance, is another of his worthy descendants, and the accomplished daughter of Captain Burgin is the wife of the golden­tongued orator of the West, the Hon. Locke Craig.

Colonel William Carson, second son of Mrs. Mary Moffitt Carson, and J. Logan Carson, third son of her marriage with Colonel John Carson, both lived and died on one of the farms known as Pleasant Gardens.. William married twice and amongst his descendants are many prominent men and accomplished ladies. William Carson Ervin, of Morganton, is a grandson of William Carson, and J. L. Carson was the grandfather of Mrs. W. McDowell Burgin and Mrs. P. J. Sinclair, of Marion. C. Manly McDowell is the Sheriff of Burke County, and her most popular citizen. He is a son of Colonel James C. S. McDowell, of the Fifty­fourth North Carolina, who fell at Marye's Heights, and the grandson of Captain Charles and of Annie, daughter of Joseph of Pleasant Gardens and Mary Moffitt. William Walton, a grandson of Colonel James, and a graduate of the University, won a commission as lieutenant in the Philippines by his gallantry and good conduct, and, thanks to his university training, stood the examination for the regular army.


The Present Condition of the Old Homes

The sacredness of the home is dear to all of us, because of its associations with loved ones who have entered into our lives. So, we listen to the historical legends which connect homes with people who have won a place in history.

The Quaker Meadows of the Revolutionary War era was known historically as the place where patriots rallied and where chiefs, under the old Council Oak, laid the foundation stone of our independence. Later it was known to visitors as the home where Grace Greenlee McDowell dispensed a lavish hospitality to her friends and to the old comrades of her husband. She was known as the cultured woman, who (with an infant in her arms, the grandmother of Mrs. Harriet Espy Vance), rode to Ramseur's Mills to nurse her wounded husband, and afterwards went into a cave to aid in the secret manufacture of powder. To her family she was the lovely Christian mother who whispered into the infant's ears the story of the Cross, and taught her children, growing into manhood and womanhood, how, though remote from towns, to be cultured ladies and gentlemen.

It seems sad to those who have inherited the old English idea of establishing and maintaining family ancestral homes that descend from sire to son for ages, that these old dwellings have passed into the hands of good people outside of the families who founded them. Though their connection with family names has ceased, it is a patriotic duty of all who love their country and appreciate the blessings of liberty to perpetuate the history of these old homes as the scenes of great events. I have tried to show that many good and true and some great people trace their origin to the founders of these homes that in the last century were nurseries of the courage and fortitude that carried King's Mountain.


Editor’s notes:

  1. Margaret Irvine (1674–1728) was the daughter of Robert Irvine (1670-1729) and Margaret Wylie. Robert Irvine was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and died in Pennsylvania.

  2. This was probably Adolphus Lorenzo Erwin (1789-1855), son of William Willoughby Erwin. Both descended from Sir William de Irwyn, Laird of Drum. Adolphus married Mary Gertrude Simianer (1798-1875), and they had eleven children.

  3. The Battle of Musgrove Mill, which took place on August 19, 1780, was one of the early turning points in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution, and stands as an excellent example of the guerilla conflict and civil war that raged near the Musgrove Mill on the Enoree River at the present day Clinton, South Carolina. During the course of the battle, a force of some 200 Patriot militiamen defeated a combined force of Loyalist militiamen and approximately 300 British Army regular soldiers.

  4. The Battle of Cowpens was fought January 17, 1781. It was a classic military victory, one of the most famous of the war. The   entire British force was captured. They lost 910 men; 110 killed and 800 taken prisoner, as well as all of their supplies. The Americans lost only 73 people; 12 killed and 61 wounded.

  5. The Battle of Kings Mountain, on October 7, 1780, was an important Patriot victory in the Southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War. Frontier militia overwhelmed the loyalist militia led by British Major Patrick Ferguson. In The Winning of the West, Theodore Roosevelt wrote of Kings Mountain, "This brilliant victory marked the turning point of the American Revolution." The Patriots (Whigs) were entirely volunteer forces who fought under men that they chose to follow. William Campbell, John Sevier, Frederick Hambright, Joseph McDowell, Benjamin Cleveland, James Williams, John McKissack, and Isaac Shelby led their militia units as colonels, while Captain Joseph Winston and Edward Lacey commanded the other mostly autonomous units.The battle began on October 7, 1780, when 900 frontiersmen (including John Crockett, the father of Davy Crockett), approached the steep base of King’s Mountain at dawn. The rebels formed eight groups of 100 to 200 men. Two parties, led by Colonels John Sevier and William Campbell, assaulted the “high heel” of the wooded mountain, the smallest area but highest point, while the other seven groups, led by Colonels Shelby, Williams, Lacey, Cleveland, Hambright, Winston and McDowell attacked the main Loyalist position by surrounding the “ball” base beside the “heel” crest of the mountain.The Patriots crept up the hill and fired on the scarlet-clad Loyalists from behind rocks and trees. Ferguson rallied his troops and launched a bayonet charge against Campbell and Sevier's men. With no bayonets of their own, the rebels retreated down the hill and into the woods. But Campbell rallied his troops, returned to the base of the hill, and resumed firing. Two more times, Ferguson launched bayonet attacks. During one of the charges, Colonel Williams was killed and Colonel McDowell wounded. But after each charge, the frontiersmen returned to the base of the hill and resumed shooting. It was hard for the Loyalists to find a target because the Patriots were constantly moving, using cover and concealment, similar to what is taught in combat training today.After several hours of combat, Loyalist casualties were heavy. Ferguson rode back and forth across the hill, blowing a silver whistle he used to signal charges. Growing desperate, he slipped on a plaid shirt to cover his officer's coat. A soldier saw this and alerted his comrades immediately. At the crest, as the Patriots overran the Loyalist position, Ferguson fell dead from his saddle with eight rifle balls in his body.Seeing their leader fall, Loyalists lost heart and began to raise their arms in surrender. Eager to avenge defeats at the Waxhaw Massacre and elsewhere, the rebels were in no mood to take prisoners. Rebels continued firing and shouted, “Give ‘em Tarleton’s  Quarter!” But after a few more minutes of bloodletting, the colonels asserted control and gave quarter to around 700.

  6. Margaret Caroline Erwin was the ninth child and fourth daughter of William Willoughby Erwin (1764-1867) and Matilda Sharp (1769-1843), and granddaughter of immigrant Arthur Erwin, who was born in Northern Ireland. Arthur was a descendant of Sir William de Irwyn, Laird of Drum.


*Alphonso Calhoun Avery (1835-1913) was the thirteenth of sixteen children of Col. Isaac Thomas Avery and Harriet Eloise Erwin. His maternal immigrant ancestor was his great-great-grandfather Nathaniel Irwin/Erwin, who was himself a descendant of Sir William de Irwyn. Avery was born September 11, 1835 at Swan Ponds in Burke County, NC. He attended the Bingham School in Oaks, Orange County, NC, and was graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1857. He studied law and obtained his license to practice in the Orange County courts in June 1860.

On February 27, 1861, Avery married Susan Washington Morrison (1838-1886), daughter of the Reverend R. H. Morrison of Lincoln County, NC. In May 1861, Avery was commissioned a first lieutenant in Company F of the 6th North Carolina Regiment, which was commanded by his brother, Col. Isaac Erwin Avery (1828-1863). Avery saw action at the Battle of Manassas and was promoted to captain after the Battle of Seven Pines. In December 1862, Avery was transferred to the staff of his brother-in-law, General D. H. Hill, where he was promoted to major. In 1864, Avery went with Hill to the Army of the West and then served on the staffs of generals John C. Breckenridge, Thomas C. Hindman, and John B. Hood. In the summer of 1864, due to his father's illness and the battle-related deaths of his three older brothers, Avery received a leave of absence to return home. He was then transferred to the Department of North Carolina and formed a regiment to protect the state's western frontier. Avery was captured by Union troops in the spring of 1865 and imprisoned at Camp Chase in Tennessee until he was paroled in August 1865.

After the Civil War ended Avery returned home to Swan Ponds, began practicing law in Morganton, and obtained his license to practice before the North Carolina Supreme Court. In 1866 he was elected to represent Burke, Caldwell, and McDowell counties in the North Carolina Senate. He lost his political office in 1867 when the Republican Party gained control of state government. Following the return of the Democrats to power in 1878, Avery was elected to serve as a judge in the North Carolina Superior Court.

After serving as a Superior Court judge for ten years, Avery was elected to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1888. In 1892, he also acted as the dean of the law school at Trinity College. Following his retirement from the Supreme Court in 1897, Avery resumed his private law practice and taught law classes in Morganton. In addition to his legal work, he also wrote prolifically on legal topics, the Civil War, and western North Carolina history. His extensive papers can be reviewed in the manuscript department of the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After a long struggle with diabetes, Alphonso Calhoun Avery died in Morganton, NC on June 13, 1913.