Alexander County Records
This article was written by James W. Miller, Jr., 510 Clover Church Rd. Granite Falls NC 28630 and is copyrighted by him. It is not to be used in any publication for monetary gain or electronically stored in any retrieval systems without the author's written consent. It is being made available to the Alexander County GenWeb as a means to help other Bentley researchers in tracing their family history.
The greatest sadness to be experienced in this life is the loss of one’s parent, child or spouse. Perhaps the next greatest sadness would be the loss of one’s home through fire or any other natural disaster. In less than two month’s time this writer has experienced both. My mother, Mary Lou Bentley Miller, passed away 25 August 2006 just four days short of her 78th birthday. Then on 16 October 2006 I learned of the tragic fire on 17 February 2005 which destroyed the 230-plus year old log house which had been built by Thomas Bentley in the forks of the Yadkin River (present Davie Co., NC) after he moved his young family to the area from Frederick County, Maryland. I count it a great privilege to have had to opportunity to have stood inside this house where my ancestors once lived, ate their meals, slept and attended to the daily demands of life on the North Carolina frontier.
Thomas Bentley was born about 1716 in England and came to America as an indentured servant in the 1730’s. Settling in Frederick County, Maryland, he purchased his first tract of land, called Hill Spring, which consisted of 50 acres. It was here he met a lady by the name of Hannah (maiden name unknown), who was probably a daughter of one of the many Quaker and Brethren families in the area, who became his wife about 1744. Here, while residing in Frederick County, Maryland, Thomas and Hannah Bentley became the parents of the following children: Benjamin, born 1745-46; Mary born 1749-51; Daniel, born 1752; Rachel, born 1752-56; Lydia, born 1755; Patience, born about 1760; and Margaret, born about 1765, Thomas continued to add to his land holdings, purchasing one tract called “Carolina,” another called “Addition to Carolina.” In the mid-1760s Thomas began selling his land. The 1768 Frederick County Tax List shows “Thomas Bentley, gone to Carolina.”
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE FAMILY
The names of Thomas Bentley and his son, Benjamin, are listed in the 1768 Rowan County Tax list of Morgan Bryan’s district at one poll each. This area is presently situated in southern Davie County, NC, and in the area called “the forks of the Yadkin,” several miles south of the county seat of Mocksville. Thomas Bentley probably made excursions into the area from Maryland seeking the land he wished to claim before he moved his family. The French and Indian War began in 1754 and attacks of the Cherokee Indians forced many settlers in the area to flee to safer parts. In 1759 the Squire Boone family (father of Daniel Boone) was forced to flee to Virginia for a short time Squire Boone’s home was in northern Davie County. With the end of the Indian War in 1763, some of the earlier settlers began to return to their lands. However, this area was part of the Earl of Granville’s district. No settler was able to obtain a land grant in the district from the time of Granville’s death in 1763 until the state of North Carolina opened it’s land office in 1780 Benjamin Bentley was quick to obtain a state grant for the Bentley land in 1780 to protect the Bentley house and holdings. Others applying for lands grants were his adjoining neighbor, John Wilcockson, who had married Sarah Boone, sister of Daniel Boone; Daniel Lewis, Alex Cearns/Carns, Anthony Peeler, James Carson and Thomas Maxwell.
Mr. Armand T. Daniel purchased the former Bentley property in 1945. His research and remodeling efforts of the log house were featured in the Davie County Enterprise Record, August 7, 1975, page 1B, as follows:
ABOUT THE BENTLEY HOUSE
The Bentley House Over 200 Years Old
For over two years Armand Daniel tried to sell what he thought was just an old frame house on his property.
It wasn’t until years later he discovered underneath the exterior of boards and paint was an old log house dating back more than two centuries.
Benjamin Bentley, according to Daniel’s research, was apparently in this vicinity when the Boone expedition first came this route through Davie County. His research shows this location as being the first known community in the county and it was named “Bentley.” Daniel says there was the Bentley School, Post Office trading post, and in fact it was the community for the entire group of our first settlers.
Archibald G. Carter lived in this old log house. He purchased Bentley around 1823 and the school was then known as the “Baldy Carter School.”
The original house was two 20 ft. x 20 ft. square rooms downstairs separated by a 10 foot wide entrance way and there were studded together by four 50-foot long logs. The upstairs floor space was the same.
Daniel has a map of the entire farm, dated in 1800, which has helped him considerable in his research. He has also found on the land an old ice pond, where ice was frozen then cut into blocks and stored in the ice house, located near-by. He is in the process now of filling in the pond.
Behind the main house is what he called a summer house. "this is where the kinds slept in the summertime because it was too hot upstairs in the main house.” he explained. The summer house was three stories, including a basement and two stories above.
When Kerr Clement purchased this tract of land in 1929, he remodeled the house and it has since been remodeled again. In the original portion of the house the double rafters are significant of the remodeling. The old rafters of the log cabin are easily detected.
When Daniel bought this property 35 years ago and even rented the house, he had no idea it was an original log cabin built over two hundred years ago. Daniel’s research shows this to be the best house in Davie County when it was built in the 1700s and remains today one of the better built houses, he says.
Daniel has now torn away all except the original log cabin and when the renovation is complete he says it will be good for another 200 years. His remodeling plans include building seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms along with the other necessary rooms. “And I’m gonna build an outdoor kitchen, he said, with a patio between it and the main house." Daniel plans to invest a great deal of time and money into this project. Upon completion he says he will move his family here from their present location, which was formerly the John Wilcoxson House featured in another edition.
Mr. Daniel was never able to complete his remodeling of the Bentley House before he passed away in 1979. During the four years he worked on the house he was able to add a two-story addition to the rear of the house, plus adding a brick façade to the exterior, three dormers across the front roof, and a slate roof on the entire house. The house sat empty for 26 years until 2005 when it was lost to an unforgivable act of arson. Exterior and interior photos of the house made by this writer in April 2002 are posted with his Benjamin Bentley article at the Alexander County, NC, GenWeb site.
In a telephone conversation with History Room librarian of the Davie County Public Library in Mocksville, NC, on October 16, 2006, this writer was shocked to learn of the demise of the Bentley house on 17 February 2005 through a senseless act of arson. With the librarian’s help, he was able to locate two newspaper articles which give details about the tragic fire.
Teens Charged With Setting Fire To House
by Mike Gunning
Davie County Enterprise-Record
Feb. 24, 2005 page 1.
Two students at South Davie Middle School were charged with arson after they confessed to burning down a 200-year-old house in Cooleemee.
Police have not released their names because of their ages.
The boys, ages 14 and 13, cut school last Thursday and during the morning hours entered the Family Dollar Store on Wilkesboro Street, said Davie Sheriff's Detective Robert Trotter.
They were charged with larceny of one cigarette lighter and a box of cigars, which the boys smoked after breaking into the unoccupied house at the corner of Daniels Road and Carter Lane, the detective said.
At 11 a.m. neighbors reported seeing smoke billowing from the structure and called the fire department.
"I could see the smoke all the way from the firehouse. It was coming up pretty good," Chief Wayne Williams of the Jerusalem Fire Department said. Jerusalem is approximately three miles from the scene.
William's unit was the first to respond, and he immediately noticed the fire had spread to the woods behind the house. Williams knew he had to call in back up. "We were concerned with the way the wind was blowing that day." Williams said. "Plus, it was difficult to put the fire out because the house was being used to store hay for feed."
Cooleemee and Mocksville departments assisted. Lt. Andy Lipscomb of the Mocksville Fire Department said there was not much left of the house when they arrived. "It was burned up pretty good," Lipscomb said. "The house was a total loss."
Trotter and Detective Stuart Parker investigated. Trotter said that neighbor's reported seeing two boys in the area. After driving around, Trotter said they spotted the boys who matched the description.
"We asked a few questions, then brought all the parents in for a complete interview at the sheriff's department," Trotter said, "they admitted to starting the fire and stealing a lighter from the store. It was no accident."
According to court records, one of the suspects has a prior arson conviction, and is on probation for that offense. The other child has no prior convictions.
Letter to the Editor, Davie County Enterprise-Record, March 3, 2005 written by Evelyn Daniel, Majorie D. Foster, and the Daniel Family.
Firefighters Tried to Save Historic Structure
To the editor:
With life moving at the speed of light, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the simple acts of kindness and bravery. Like the dedication, commitment and work ethics of our volunteer firefighters. On Thursday, Feb. 17, one of the oldest homes in Davie County was destroyed by fire. My family has owned the old log “Bentley House” since 1945. According to the historical records and genealogical research done by my late father, Armand T. Daniel, the home was constructed between 1780 and 1784. Benjamin Bentley is credited with the original construction of one grandest and largest homes in the area now called Davie County. The original house consisted of two rooms, 20x20 ft. each, constructed of hand hewed forest pine logs spanning 20 feet each. The rooms were spaced 10 feet apart leaving a total of 50 feet of width. Two 50-ft. pine logs were then laid on top of the structure across the front and back. An upstairs story, called a garret, of the same size was placed on top with addition 50-ft. logs spanning the width. The original Bentley House was 2,000 square feet, a very large home for the period. In the early 1800s, a 20x20 kitchen was added 15 feet away and later enclosed for a dining room. Other floors and rooms had been added throughout time. My father, during his period of restoration before his death in 1979, had added more rooms for a total of 8,500 square feet. Unfortunately, he was never able to complete his dream but he had uncovered the history of the home and had the major architectural designs on display.
The log framing in the house and the enormous additions made it a unique place. Although restoration had to be abandoned after my father’s death, it held many memories of my childhood while he worked on it in his final years. Many historians have come from as far away as Ohio just to view the home. The 225-year-old logs went up in a flash. The slate roofs came crashing down. The volunteers of the Jerusalem Fire Department and others spent the entire day pumping water and foam on the remains. We knew the structure could not be saved, but hoped the surrounding buildings, trees and land could be spared. The wind made for a terrible day to fight a fire. The smoke was horrendous, yet the firefighters stood among the rubble for more than eight hours. They had to cut a very old burning oak tree near the structure along with employing the use of a bulldozer. All of this was a very dangerous job. I did mention a volunteer job. Most fire department in the county were involved in some way, either assisting or on backup call. The refilled water and foam trucks just kept coming. As I understand it, at least 55,000 gallons of water, that’s more than 42 tanker truck loads, plus 25 gallons of concentrated foaming solution at a cost of over $650 were used in the containment of the fire We especially want to thank the brave men and women of the Jerusalem, Mocksville and Cooleemee departments for the majority of the work. There may have been other departments that I failed to see, but we want to thank any and everyone who assisted in controlling the calamity. The sheriff’s department, the EMTs, the US Forest Service, the Fire Marshall, the NC Wildlife, we had them all. Everyone worked well together, and we understand the responsible parties have been detained It’s a sad day when we lost part of our history to such a senseless act perpetrated by two teen-age boys.
The moral here is, please support your local fire departments. Let them know you are thankful for their dedication and humbled by their unselfish donation of their own time to help someone in need. Buy their chicken pie dinners or whatever else they sell. Or, lend a hand, it’s the least we can do.
Marjorie D. Foster, Evelyn Daniel and the Family of the late Armand T. Daniel Mocksville
Following is this writer’s Letter to the Editor, Davie County Enterprise-Record, which was published in the newspaper October 26, 2006:
To the Editor, Enterprise-Record:
It was with great sadness I recently learned of the destruction of my family's ancestral homestead though a senseless act of arson committed by two teen-age boys from South Davie Middle School on February 17, 2005. The house I am referring to was the two-story log Bentley house which was located on Daniel Road near Cooleemee. This house was at least 230 years old, having been built by my fifth great-grandfather, Thomas Bentley, when he moved his young family about 1765, or possibly earlier, from Frederick County, Maryland, to settle in the forks of the Yadkin in what is now Davie County The house next passed to his son, my fourth great-grandfather, Benjamin Bentley
In their Letter to the Editor published in the March 3, 2005, edition of the Enterprise-Record, Marjorie D. Foster and Evelyn Daniel gave a history of the Bentley house based on the late Armand T. Daniel's genealogical and historical research of the house and surrounding area. The house and lands were purchased in 1945 by Mr. Daniel and passed to his family after his untimely death in 1979. Mr. Daniel was in the process of restoring and enlarging the house. Although the house was unoccupied and being used for hay storage at the time of the arson, it was still a historic structure. Having researched the history of the Bentley family for almost twenty-five years myself, I am appreciative of the research and findings left by Mr. Daniel, who stated Bentley was a home and later a trading post, post office, and community and probably the first, most important and largest community in present Davie County. Settlers in this area included, to name a few, John Wilcockson and Daniel Lewis. Located in this area also was the Lewis Quaker Meeting House.
The Bentley family removed from the Davie County area about 1782, with Benjamin Bentley selling "Bentley" to Alexander Carns in 1784. Thomas Bentley and his wife, Hannah; his son, Daniel, who had married Nancy Lewis in 1782, along with their daughters removed to eastern Lincoln County, NC, settling on Indian Creek. Benjamin Bentley and his family removed to what is now northern Alexander County, NC, settling in the Cedar Run area of the South Yadkin River.
It is my hope these two young boys will some day realize they have destroyed a monument in the history of not only the Daniel family but also the history of many, many Bentley descendants across western North Carolina, eastern Kentucky, western Tennessee, and other parts of the United States. A flick of a lighter erased a house which had withstood the ravages of time for over 230 years.
James W. Miller, Jr.
510 Clover Church Road
Granite Falls, NC 28630-8492
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