The Torch Light
Transcribed and contributed by Tina Tarlton Smith
The names of many of the men whose lives I purpose to write in this series of brief sketches have never appeared in history. Others, have been barely mentioned, while Chief Justice Henderson, his no less gifted brothers, Judge Jno. Williams, Rt. Rev. Jno Stark, Ravenscroft, and hosts of true-hearted patriots and intellectual giants who lived in Granville “in the brave days of old” have received meagre tributes from a posterity that should be proud, even at this late day to honor them. Many of the facts I will give were related to me by two venerable gentlemen who treasured the traditions of Granville’s glory, and who knew personally, nearly every individual of local or national prominence in the county. These facts were given to me interspersed, it is true, with fairy tales and ghost stories, either around the fireside on winter evenings or under the shade of Granville’s mamouth oaks in the summer time, but they are indelibly impressed on my mind. In spite of the glamour experience throws around the reminiscences of happy childhood, and the imaginary company of elves and visitors from the spirit land in which these facts were presented to me, I am sure that I can repeat them almost verbatim. They made a lasting impression on my mind, and the same facts cannot now be procured from any other living person. Since hearing these incidents of the former times of Granville, these legends of a historic period, now so “pathetic with the tender grace of a day that is dead.” I have had access to several quaint books which have thrown some light on the ante-Revolutionary record some of the largest families among your readers. I begin with
Capt. Robt. Hicks
a landed gentleman, who lived about a mile from Oxford in 1770 on a plantation recently owned by John Taylor, Esq. The house stands on an eminence and overlooks what was then known as Hick’s Mill. His family came from England to Brookland New York and lived in that city in the locality which to this day is known as Hick’s Street, until they came to Granville county and bought land near Oxford. In the Mother-Country for many generations they were distinguished for their ungovernable pugnacity,, one of them Sir William Hicks--Baronet--having won the approbation of King William by several deeds of splendid daring. Capt. Robt. Hicks is made the subject of my first biography because I think in common justice he, with another Granville commander, did enough at the battle of Guilford Court House to wipe out forever, the stain which the retreat of the North Carolina militia from that historic field, has thrown on the escutcheon of the State. When the militia turned and fled before the red-coats, Capt. Hicks stood firm and faced the enemy alone with his sword in one hand and the flag he had taken from the frightened ensign in the other, and fought single handed until the enemy were about to surround him, and his men had gone a considerable distance from him. Then, by a rapid movement, he escaped, and shared the dangers of the first Rebellion to the end. He was an uncompromising Whig, and his compatriots and fellow soldiers declared he never knew the meaning of the word fear.
He buried,at the breaking out of the Revolution, somewhere on his plantation or near his mill, a pot of gold and silver coin. That money is still buried. It has never been taken from its hiding place, and some enterprising negro--conjurer, or perhaps some northern firm, in which search of Granville’s mineral wealth, will yet find the “pot of gold.” Capt. Hicks concealed this portion of his wealth on account of the hatred of several Troy families in the vicinity toward him. His sudden death of heart disease prevented the secret of its hiding place from being know. It is suppose to be n the dam at Hick’s mill pond. The family are scattered far and wide, though a number of his descendants are yet to be found in Granville. One of his sons a Professor, in a medical college in New Orleans, another went to Arkansas, and another, Dr. Jno. R. Hicks, one of the best and purest men, recently died at his residence. Ravenswood, near Williamsboro. Another son went to Mississippi. Both in Mississippi and Arkansas the grandsons of this Old Granville gentleman and soldier, have filled some of the highest and most responsible offices in the gift of a common wealth. I have no doubt that they sometimes think of the old homestead near Oxford, and I have heard that a favorite family name with some of them is Granville. The homestead is now owned by a slave whose wife belonged to a family of Negroes that composed a part of the marriage dowry of one of Capt. Hick’s daughters, and Aunt Sukey now reigns mistress in a home from which her mother’s young mistress went eighty years ago a bride ! What a strange commentary on her the times we live in ! The old man who spilled his blood for his country and in the cause of liberty, now sleeps, by the sufferance of the children of his former slaves--in the old family burying ground. I venture to digress a moment, and remark that this family tendency to fight-- of course, not without good cause--was most strongly developed in Dr. Jno. R. Hicks late of Granville Dr. Hicks was a gentleman whose manners in the social circle were distinguished for gentle courtesy : was a physician, the most timid child loved and trusted him, and his prayers by the invalid’s bedside were most impressive, as a friend he was sincere, constant, and affectionate, but to the day of his death no man in Granville would have dared to provoke him beyond a certain point, for no gladiator in the forum could wield a surer blow, and no young knight errant in quest of an opportunity to test his prowess was ever readier to strike when he thought the occasion called for it.
The other officer to whom I referred above, also commanded a company of Granville militia during the Revolutionary war. His name was,
Captain Benjamin Norwood
He Lived near Williamsboro, when the company was collected, far the time on the village green near Williamsboro, the report came that Lord Tarleton was approaching with a large force. The citizens were thoroughly alarmed. After the drill was over and night came on, Capt. Norwood, assembled his, company in St. John’s Church, and told them to take a long, sound sleep as preparation for the anticipated battle of the next day. He alone preferred to stand sentinel during the entire night, over his company and the village. With his eye on the road that leads from Oxford to Williamsboro, he kept his vigil. Lord Tarleton did not come, and the next day Capt. Norwood set out with his “raw recruits” to meet the enemy. They meet Lord Cornwallis at Guilford Court House and nefas dicter, they ran when the balls began to fly too fast! I must here except Capt. Norwood for---I have it from a most honorable and truthful source---he like Capt. Hicks stood unmoved and mortified, and fought several minutes unsupported by a single man in his company! Later his same Granville Militia redeemed itself and made ample amends for the laurels lost in that battlefield.
I counted that the brave action of these two Captains is enough to wipe out any disgrace that the retreat of a body of men unused to the honors of war, utterly undisciplined and perhaps ignorant of the motives which actuated the leaders of 1775!
Capt. Benjamin Norwood had tow brothers. They settled in other portions if the state. The descendants of one brother live near Lenior, Cadwell County, the descendants of the other live in Orange County, while I promise, presume the Norwoods in Granville, are either the direct descendants of the subject of this paper or are related to him.
Capt. Norwood’s grandchildren and great grandchildren live in every portion of the county, bearing different names. Capt. Norwoods wife Miss Aiken, sister of the father of ex-Gov. Aiken of South Carolina. Her brother, I think, settled Aiken, SC.
I have carried the readers back a hundred years. The above paragraph, naturally suggests the name of Leonard Henderson one of Granville’s noblest sons, a gentleman of a most exalted type and the intellectual peer of the great men who were his contemporaries!, will be the subject of my next paper.
The Torch Light
Our Pen Portraits.
We learn from Mrs. Cicero W. Harris, that she called on Hon. Joseph Waddell at the suggestion of Dr. Wm. F. Henderson son of chief Justice Henderson, and obtained some interesting facts in regard to Judge Leonard Henderson, The next issue of “The Torch Light” will therefore contain sketches of these two distinguished Granville Judges. Mr. Waddell obtained his license from law in Granville a number of years. Mrs. Harris tells us that Mr. Waddell relates many anecdotes of Judge Richard and Leonard Henderson which finely illustrate their characters.
In our sketch of Capt. Robt. Hicks, we should have date the life of Sir William Hicks from William, the Conqueror, whom he served during the Norman conquest. See “Book of Ancient English Healdry.”
©2002- 2010 Tina Tarlton Smith and Deloris Williams for the NCGenWeb Project. All Rights Reserved. No portion of any document appearing on this site is to be used for other than personal research. Any republication or reposting is expressly forbidden without the written consent of the owners. Last updated 12/01/2011
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