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FIRST CHURCH IN COUNTY

 
Surry county was formed in 1770 from Rowan county, which, until this date, comprehended a large portion of Western North Carolina from beyond the Yadkin to the Mississippi river, including all the upper valley of the Yadkin to the Virginia line. In l770 Surry was a frontier county. The Mulberry Field Meeting House was the only church in the entire county. This church, or meeting house as it was called, was situated where the town of Wilkesboro now stands. Some of our oldest citizens think this church stood about where the Chronicle building now stands, or probably a few yards further south. It was a Baptist church and the first to be built in the county.
 
It required no little zeal and Christian energy to prompt our early settlers to expose themselves to great danger and hardship to come to this church, traveling scores of miles through dense forests and jungles and over the rudest kinds of roads, knowing that an attack of the treacherous Indians to the take their lives was probable at any moment. But is was a gracious privilege to those sturdy Christians to be permitted to worship God according to their own will and as their own conscience directed, even though they did so at the peril of their lives. They knew what it was to be deprived of that privilege by tyrannical rules and laws, and from such oppressions they had fled to this country, and erected Mulberry Fields Meeting House, where they might worship when and in whatever manner they saw fit. The Holy Spirit of Almighty God must have directed them and stayed the tomahawk and arrow in the hands of the treacherous enemy. I admire such faith and zeal, and it is no wonder that these faithful, sturdy, reign and tyrants can not live. We cannot too much appreciate the perseverance and patriotism of our ancestors who came to Wilkes to build homes and plant civilization for us.
 

Early Schools

 

Until 1839 there were no public schools in North Carolina; and for several years after that date the system of public schools did not reach all the people in all sections of the State. In the early history of the county the opportunity of obtaining an education was scant. There were only two or more private schools, with school houses made of logs, sticks and mud, scattered about over the county. The following account of some of our early schools is taken from the report on Education by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for 1898:

"Incorporated Schools -Philomathian Academy, chartered 1804; Wilkesboro Academy, chartered 1810, and again in 1819.

"At a very early period in this century there was a notable 'Grammar School' with John Harrison as principal. It was described as 'ten miles below the court house.'  Latin and Greek were offered. The tuition was $10 for ten months, and board could be had at $25 per year.

"The only teacher of the Wilkesboro Academy whose name I have been able to discover is that of Rev. Peter McMillan, whose tuition was fifty percent higher than Mr. Harrison's and the board from 75 to 100 percent higher."

 

"TO THUMB THE NOTCH"

 

Revolutionary times wore indeed trying to the settlers along the frontier. Both Indians and Tories gave much trouble. The way in which punishment was inflicted in those days was severe and effective. The following account of the punishment of Shade laws will give the reader some idea of the character of those times:

"The depredations of the Tories were so frequent and their conduct so savage that summary punishment was demanded by the exigencies of the times. This Cleveland inflicted without ceremony. General Lenoir relates a circumstances that occurred at the Mulberry Meeting House. While there an some public occasion, the rumor that mischief was going on by the Tories. Lenoir went to his horse tied at some distance from the house, and as he approached a man ran off from the opposite side of the horse. Lenoir hailed him but he did net stop; he pursued him and found that he had stolen one of the stirrups off his saddle carried the pilferer to Col. Cleveland, who ordered him to place his two thumbs in a notch for that purpose in an arbor fork and hold them there while he ordered him to receive fifteen lashes. This was his peculiar manner of inflicting the law and gave origin to the phrase "to thumb to notch." The punishment on the offender above named was well inflicted by Captain John Beverly whose ardor did not stop at the ordered number. After the fifteen had been given, Col. Herndon drew his sword and struck Beverly. Captain Beverly drew also and they had a tilt which, but for friends, would have terminated fatally."

The tree in which the notches were cut was still standing in 1850. Wheeler in his history of North Carolina, says, "There is a tree in Wilkes county which bears the name of "Shade Laws Oak" on which the notched thumbed by said Laws under the sentence of Cleveland, are distinctly visible." The tree stood about half a mile west of the Village of Moravian Falls on the top of the hill just above the Old Shiloh church. The tree was cut down several years ago by some one who, probably from personal reasons, wanted the tree destroyed. The stump is still visible.

 

Daniel Boone

 

Daniel Boone was not a native of Wilkes, but it was here he spent a portion of his life, and here it was that he was trained in our forests for the life, he afterwards lived. His name is loved and cherished all over the country but nowhere more than in Wilkes county. His history is a part of the county's and it would be an injustice. not to give a sketch of this pioneer in this book. The sketch following is from the pen of John H. Wheeler and is the best short sketch of Boone I have ever seen:

Daniel Boone was born in 1746 in Burkes county, Pennsylvania, near Bristol, about twenty miles from Philadelphia. When he was but a child,. his father emigrated to North Carolina, and settled in one of the valleys of the Yadkin. Here Boone was reared and here he married Miss Bryan.

In May, 1769, Boone informs us himself, "accompanied by John Findley, John Stuart, Joseph Holden, James Nonay and William Cool,"  left his home and quiet joys for the "dark and bloody ground" of Kentucky. Then inhabited only by wild animals and savages. But in the boundless forests he seemed to be in his appropriate sphere. Here he pursued the deer, buffalo and wild beasts. After a hard day's hunt, as Boone and Stuart were returning to their camp, they were seized by a horde of savages who made them prisoners; that night they escaped, but what was their surprise when they came to their camp and found their comrades were gone, either prisoners or murdered, for the camp was deserted. But the spirit of Boone knew no despair. He called all the resources into action, husbanded his game and ammunition, and prepared to return to North Carolina. At this time Boone's brother, fired by the same ardor for wild excitement, came out to their camp with one companion. This infused fresh joys and new hopes. But soon after Stuart fell in a foray with the Indians, no persuasions could induce their companion to remain, and he left Boone and his brother alone in the vast wilderness. They erected a house to protect them, and supplied plentifully with game, they passed the winter in comfort. But their ammunition and salt becoming scant, the brother of Boone return for a supply, and Daniel Boone was left alone in the wild forests of Kentucky. This voluntary exile was not unpleasant to his temper. In his journal he assures us that his mind was filled with admiration of the boundless beauties of nature. The magnificent forest was clothing itself in the rich attire of spring, the gorgeous flowers wore unfolding their glories to his eye alone, the wild deer and buffalo were not fearful of his presence.

He continued in these solitary quarters until the 27th of July when his brother returned loaded with ammunition and salt, to them more precious than the mines of California. They made an expedition to the Cumberland river, naming the rivers they passed, and making such observations as might be of future use.

In March, 1771 they returned to North Carolina. He was so charmed with the rich soil, the bountiful productions of nature, and the abundant game that he sold his farm on the Yadkin, and by his representation, five families and his own set out for their return to Kentucky, on the 25th day of September, 1773. As they passed Powell's valley then one hundred and fifty miles from the settled parts of Virginia, forty hardy sons of the forest joined them. They pursued their journey until the 10th day of October, when they were furiously attacked by a large body of Indians. By their skill, unflinching courage and resolution, the superior force of the savages was beaten off, but Boone's party lost six men killed and one wounded. Among the killed was Boone's oldest son, a youth of much promise and daring.

This repulse forced them to retreat to the settlement on Clinch river. Herr he remained with his family until the 6th of June, 1774 when the Governor of Virginia (Dunmore) engaged him and an adventurer by the name of Starer to conduct a party of surveyors to the falls of the Ohio, near eight hundred miles; this he performed on foot in sixty-two days. On his return Dunmore gave him the command of the garrisons on the frontier, which he maintained during the war at this period against the Shawnee Indians.

In March, l775, he attended at the request of Judge Richard Henderson, a council of the Cherokees, by which they ceded their lands south of the Kentucky river.

In April he erected a fort a the spot where the town of Boonsboro now stands. The Indians wore very much dissatisfied at the erection of this fort. After it was finished he returned in June for his family on Clinch river. Mrs. Boone and her daughter were the first white women that ever stood on the banks of the Kentucky river.

In December the Indians made a furious assault on this fort by which Boone lost one man killed and another wounded; but the Indians were repulsed with great slaughter. This defeat was so severe that the Indians treacherously appeared reconciled and seemed to give up all ideas of assaulting the fort or molesting the whites. This caused the inhabitants of the fort to be less guarded, and they made visits and excursions into the forests around. On the 14th day of July 1776 - just seven from their last attack - as three young ladies, two daughters of Col. Caloway and the third of Col. Boone were leisurely strolling in the woods they were pursued by the Indians and caught before they could reach the gates of the fort. At this moment Boone was off hunting, but when he returned, without any aid he followed alone the tracks of the Indians. He knew that if he waited to collect a force the cunning robbers would be entirely beyond pursuit. With a sagacity peculiar to hunters, he followed their trail without the least deviation, while the girls had the presence of mind to snap off twigs from time to time as they passed through the shrubbery in their route. At last he came in sight of them, and by the aid of his unerring rifle, killed two of the Indians and recovered the young ladies, and reached the fort in safety.

The crafty foe now made open war. On the l5th of April, 1777, the united tribes made an attack on the fort, but it was unsuccessful.

In July twenty-five men arrived from North Carolina, and in August Captain Bowman, with one hundred men, arrived from Virginia. By this powerful reinforcement they no longer dreaded the savages, but rallied and made attacks on the Indians and drove them from the vicinity.

On the first of January, 1778, Col. Boone with thirty men commenced making salt for the first time in that region at the Blue Licks, or Licking river, and he made enough of this essential of life for a civilized inhabitants of the infant community.

On the 7th of February as Col. Boone was hunting alone, he was surprised by one hundred Indians and two Frenchmen. They took him prisoner. He learned then that a famous attack was to be made by a strong force on Boonesboro. He capitulated for the fort, knowing its weak state, as it had only twenty-seven men, the rest had gone with salt into the settlements of Virginia.

The Indians, according to their treaty, carried their prisoners to Chillicothe, the principal town of the Miami, where they arrived on the 18th of Feb. and according to their terms, the Indians used him kindly.

In March they carried Boone to Detroit to offer him for ransom to the Governor; but on the route the Indians became so much attached to him that they refused to part with him; and after leaving at Detroit the other prisoners, they returned with Boone to Chillicothe. He was adopted as one of the tribe and pretended to be very fond of his new father and mother, and take great interest in their sports and his plan of escape was hurried by an alarming circumstances; while mediating upon it he was astonished to see an assemblage of four hundred warriors at Chillicothe. An attack on Boonesboro was planned.

On the 16th of June he escaped and reached Boonesboro on the 20th a distance of one hundred and sixty miles, during which he ate but one meal. He found the fort in bad condition and set all hands a repair it. The Indians, finding that he had escaped, postponed the attack.

On the 1st of August with nineteen men, Boone set out to attack an Indian town called Paint Creek, on the Sciota. Within four miles of the fort they met forty Indians on their way to attack them. A desperate fight ensues, in which Boone conquered, without the loss of a man.

On the 8th of August the largest force that they ever had appear before Boonesboro orders it to surrender. The assailants were four hundred and forty-four Indians and eleven Frenchmen, command by Capt. Duquesne. Boone requested a parley of three days during which he made every preparation for an active and vigorous defense.

On the 9th Boone informs the French commander that "he would defend the fort as long as a man could raise a rifle."

The wily Frenchman, knowing the prowess of his opponent, seeks to effect by stratagem what he dares not attempt by arms. A treaty is agreed to. Boone with the required number go forth to sign the document. He is informed, after signing, that it was an Indian custom from time immemorial for two Indians to shake the hands of one white man. This he reluctantly consented to, and the moment the savages took hold of each white man they endeavored to hold him fast. Boone feels the sinewy grasp of two athletic Indians, and his companions are betrayed into a like perilous condition. Now arose the mighty struggle for liberty and for life.

"Now gallant Boone now hold thy own,
No Maiden arm is round thee thrown;
That desperate grasp thy frame would feel
Through bars of brass and triple steel."

Fortunate favors at this moment of peril her gallant son; the knife of of Boone finds a bloody sheath in one of his opponents; the other is thrown down, and Boone and his men escape to the fort.

His name can never die. The memory of this chivalric exploit, and the name of Boone will live as long as the Kentucky river rolls its troubled tribute to the "Great Father Waters;" and when the marble in our National Capitol, which commemorates this deed, shall have crumbled to its original elements.

The Indians, after an unsuccessful attack, raise the siege, after a loss of several killed and wounded.

During the absence of Col. Boone in captivity among the Shawnees, his wife, thinking her husband was killed, returned with her family to her father's on the Yadkin North Carolina. Boone came to North Carolina after them.

He returned with them in about two years to Boonesboro, during which time many battles had been lost and won.

As he and his brother were returning from the Salt Licks, they were attacked by the Indians, his brother was killed by a shot from the Indians. Boone was not hurt and only escaped by rapid flight, killing the dog the Indians had sent on his trail.

Such was the life Boone led until the defeat of the Indians by Wayne (1792) introduced peace and quiet in this dark and country.

Between this time and the time (1792) the new territory came into the Union.  Virginia had enacted so many laws, which Boone in the simplicity of his nature had failed to comply with, or his business was done so loosely, that the very land he had bought and paid for, in the sacrifices of himself and the blood of his son and his brother was wrested from him. How sad a commentary upon human nature. How mournfully true the Latin adage, "home hom mi lupus" (man is a wolf to man). In 1798 he shoulders his rifle and goes to the wilds of Missouri. Here was a country as wild and unclaimed as his heart desired. The republic was that of the forest, and the rifle and the hunter; and Boone was commander-in-chief. He never sighed for what was lost. He said Kentucky was too crowded, he wanted more elbow-room. Here he lived until 1813, when he lost his wife; the faithful companion of all his trials and troubles exchanged this for a brighter world. This was the severest blow Boone received. He left Missouri and come his son, Major Nathan Boone, where he lived, employing his leisure with his favorite rifle and trapping beavers until 1818 when he calmly and resignedly breathed his last, in the eighty-fourth year of his age surrounded by affection and love. It was stated in the papers at the time of his death that he was found dead at a stand, watching for a deer with his rifle sprung and raised ready to fire. In the Indian idea he had gone to hunting ground of the warrior alone, where his spirit would be happy when the stars would cease to give their light.

The Character of Boone is so peculiar that it marks the age in which he lived; and his name has been celebrated in the verses of the immortal Byron

-------------of all men-----------

Who pass for in life and death most lucky,
Of the great names which in our faces stare.
Is Daniel Boone, backwoodsman of Kentucky.
Crime came not near him - she is not the child
Of solitude. Health shrank not from him, for
Her home is in the rarely trodden wild.
                        Don Juan, Canto VII, LVI

And tall and strong and swift on foot were they,
Beyond the dwarfing city's pale abortions,
Because their thoughts had never been the prey
Of care or gain: the green woods were their portion;
No sinking spirits told them they grew gray,
No fashions made them apes of her distortions;
Simple they were, not savage; and their rifles,
Though very true, were not yet used for trifles.

Motion was their days, rest in their slumbers,
And cheerfulness the handmaid of their toils;
Nor yet too many, nor too few their numbers;
Corruption could not make their hearts her soil;
The last which stings, the splendor which encumbers,
With the tree foresters divide no spoil;
Serene, not sullen, even the solitudes
Of this unsighing people of the weeds.
              

In North Carolina was Boone reared. Here his youthful days were spent; and here that bold spirit was trained, which so fearlessly encountered the perils through which he passed in after life. His fame is a part of her property, and she has inscribed his name on a town (Boone) in the region where his youth was spent.

I am indebted to a sketch in the National Portrait Gallery, by W.A.C., for the leading facts and dates in the life of Boone.

It was on a farm near Holman's ford that Boone's early life was spent. There are objects still existing in that locality which were associated with him in his hunting expeditions and travels. There are trees standing to this day bearing marks which indicate that at or near the spot Daniel Boone killed a bear. Boone's Gap in the Brushy mountains, near Boomer, is so called because it was in Boone's route across the mountain on his hunting expeditions. A short distance from this gap, on a tributary of Warrior creek, is a beautiful water-fall which owes its name - Boone's Falls-to this great hunter.

 

KING'S MOUNTAIN

 

The battle of King's Mountain is very closely connected with the history of Wilkes County. Nearly or probably more than, half the American soldiers, engaged in this famous battle for freedom of the American people were from Wilkes county, as her boundary lines were at that time. Wilkes furnished three distinguished leaders for this battle - Col. Benjamin J. Cleveland, Col. John Sevier and General Isaac Shelby. The forces - assembled at Watauga, in Wilkes county (now in Carter county, Tenn.) and decided to attack the British forces under Major Ferguson.

At that time the Western part of North Carolina was a strong-hold for the Tories and many of the men in the British ranks at King's Mountain were Tories.

Following is a circular letter issued by Major Ferguson to the Tories just seven days before the battle of King's Mountain:

Donard's Ford, Tryon Co. Oct. 1, 1780

Gentlemen: Unless you wish to be cut up by an inundation of barbarian, who have begun by murdering the unarmed son before the aged father, and afterwards lopped off his arms, and who by their shocking cruelty and irregularities, give the best proof of their cowardice and want of discipline; I say if you wish to be pinioned, robbed and murdered, and to see your wives and daughters, in four days, abused by the dregs of mankind--in short, if you wish desire to live and bear the name of men, grasp your arms in a moment and run to camp.

The backwater men have crossed the mountains; McDowell, Hampton, Shelby and Cleveland are at their head, so that you will know what you  have to depend upon. If you choose to be p--d upon for ever and ever by a set of mongrels, say so at once, and let your women turn their backs upon you and look out for real men to protect them.

Pat Ferguson Maj. 71st Regiment 

Ferguson was expecting an attack from the Americans and directed a letter to Lord Cornwall at Charlotte, soliciting aid. At this time Ferguson and his division of the army were at Gilbert town, from which place he began his march to King's Mountain. He camped the first night at Cowpens (soon to become famous for the success of our arms over Tarleton, Jan, 17, 1781). On the 5th of Oct. he crossed Broad river at Deep Ferry and marched sixteen miles; on the 6th he marched up the ridge road, until he came to a right hand fork across King's creek and through a gap towards Yorkville, about 14 miles; and on the summit of King's Mountain he encamped. Here he declared was "a place where God Almighty could not drive him from."

About 3 o'clock on the 7th of Oct. 1789, after being in the saddle for 30 hours, without rest, and drenched by a heavy rain, the fearless Americans approached King's Mountain.

This mountain is in Cleveland county, on the borders of North and South Carolina; it extends East and West and on the summit is a plateau about five hundred yards long and sixty or seventy broad. On the summit was Ferguson posted. The Americans divided into three wings, The right wing under the command of McDowell, Sevier, and Winston; Campbell and Shelby commanded the center, while the left wing was under the command of Cleveland and Williams. The plan of battle was to surround the mountain and attack each side simultaneously. The center commenced the attack and marched boldly up the mountain. The battle here was fierce, furious and bloody. The center gave way, but rallied and reinforced by Campbell's regiment, returned to the charge. Towards the latter part of the action the enemy made a furious onset from the eastern summit and drove the Americans to the foot; there they rallied and in close column returned to the attack and in turn drove the enemy before them to the western end, where Cleveland and Williams had been contending with another part of their line, Campbell now reached the summit and poured in on the on the enemy a deadly fire. The brave Ferguson, like a lion at bay, turned on these new adversaries and advanced with fixed bayonet. They gave way for the moment, and rallied under their gallant leaders to the attack. "The whole mountain was covered with smoke and seemed to thunder." Attacked on all sides, the circle becoming less and less, Ferguson in a desperate move endeavored to break through the American lines and was shot dead in the attempt. This decided the day. The British flag was lowered, and a white flag raised for quarters.

One hundred and fifty of the enemy, including their commander, lay dead on the field, 810 wounded and prisoners. 1500 stands of arms and the American authority restored, were the fruits of this victory.

This was the turning point of the fortunes of America. This decisive blow prostrated the British power for the time, vanquished the Tory influence, and encouraged the hopes of the patriots.

Lord Cornwallis left Charlotte and fell back to Winnsboro, desiring any proximity to such fearless men unsafe for the main army, nor did he advance until reinforced by General Leslie with troops from north.

The total loss on the American side was 28 killed and 60 wounded.

 

THE SIAMESE TWINS

 

The celebrated Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng after traveling all the world and seeing the advantages and disadvantages of every country, chose the quiet of glens of Wilkes as the loveliest spot retirement and repose.

They were born in May, 1811, at Maklong, Siam, and died in Wilkes county, near Hays post office, about the year 1880.

In 1829 they left their country for America, and since they have traveled over the whole of this continent, England, France, and other countries, exciting the admiration of the crowd, and the investigations of the scientific Sir Ashley Cooper, of London, Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell of New York, and others, who have reported upon this singular phenomenon in the natural world.

They were united together as one by an ensiform cartilage from the side. The blood vessels and nerves of each communicated. There seemed to be a perfect sympathy, for when one was sick so was the other. They went to sleep At the same moment, and woke at the same. Both died the same day, only a few moments intervening between their deaths.

A time or two was appointed to separate the twins but the scientific doctors decided that such an operation would terminate their lives.

They were wealthy, well settled, and both happily married and had interesting families around them. They married twin sisters named Yates, late of this county. Ex-County Commissioner, Robert Yates, who lives near Boomer is a nephew of the wives of the Siamese Twins. Several of their descendants yet live in Surry county and they have adopted the name Bunker as their surname. The house now owned and occupied by Ambros Wiles was built by the Siamese Twins, and they lived and died there.

They differed widely in appearance, character and strength. One was sober and patient; the other intemperate and irritable. It is said that they frequently fell out - generally about their movements - when they should or should not go somewhere - and sometimes fought like dogs. In 1870 Chang was stricken with paralysis from which he died a few years later. In a short time-probably about 30 minutes - Eng followed him to the great beyond. They were the most interesting persons that ever lived in the county. In the natural history of the world there is not another case like them.

 

THE SHOW FIGHT

 
Between the years of 1855 and 1860, in Wilkesboro, occurred one of the most remarkable fights in the history of the county. Robinson's show had pitched their tents in the vale on the north side opposite the place where the new Methodist. church now stands. The show people had a stand where they sold candy, lemonade, etc. It was at this stand that the trouble arose. George Johnson went up to the stand to buy some candy; the showmen wanted to charge him about three times the usual price in the stores at that time, when finally Johnson told him to take the candy and go to h--l with it. This insulted the showman who in turn insulted Johnson, who was something of a fighter and he at once began to fight. The showman's partner came to his aid armed with sticks, single trees and such other weapons as they could get their hands on. Johnson' s friends came to his aid about as fast as the showmen to the aid of their comrade. A desperate battle followed.

Among Johnson's friends who engaged in the fight may be mentioned the following: Ellis Anderson, Andy Porter, "Bill" Transou, Wesley Nicolls, Peter Johnson, Jones Transou, and others.

Such weapons were used as were most convenient and several on each side were badly hurt, but no one killed.

Sheriff Staley was informed of the fight and he soon had the participators under arrest and under guard. After the showmen who had engaged in the fight had been released, a party who were absent with the horses during the fight, came up. They were attacked by the Wilkes party, who by this time had procured sticks, axes, and other deadly weapons, and were prepared to do some fatal execution. The showmen told them they knew nothing of the trouble and were not concerned with it, but the enraged citizens were not disposed to hear them. About that time Sheriff Staley appeared on the scene and informed the citizens that the showmen who had engaged in the fight were under under arrest; then the citizens calmed down and another bloody fight was averted.

The showmen under arrest were marched to the court house and a preliminary trial was held before Dr. R. F. Hackett, who was a Justice of the Peace at that time. The trial lasted until about midnight when the whole party was bound to court. The showmen did not want to go to jail and the jail was not sufficient to hold them, so they were kept in the courthouse, under guard, until morning when, after the showmen had paid him $500, Gen. James B. Gordon stood surety for their appearance at court.  They never appeared and finally the case was dismissed upon payment of the cost by Gordon. The cost in the case amounted to about $130, so Gordon cleared about $370 in the transaction.

After the ones engaged in the fight were arrested  the show proceeded and a large crowd witnessed the exhibit.

 
JAMES HENRY SPAINHOUR
By Frank B. Hendron
 
James Henry Spainhour was born in Burke county in 1835 and came to Wilkes county in 1858. New Hope Academy in Lewis Fork township, had just been completed and was in quest of a principal. Maj. Jas. H. Foote recommended Mr. Spainhour to the position and he was elected. He remained in this position until the outbreaking of the war, when he enlisted in Company B, Capt. Stokes., which company was attached to First Regiment N.C. Volunteers. Mr. Spainhour being a licensed minister of the Baptist church, was appointed Chaplin of this Regiment in which capacity he served until his death at Fredericksburg, on the 17th day of October, 1861.

It was under Prof. Spainhour's principalship, that New Hope Academy enjoyed its brief period of ascendency among the schools of this county and had its career not been cut short by the war it would doubtless become one of the leading institutions in the western part of the state. It was located in what was justly considered at that time the most progressive community in the county. The Academy was burned during the war and after that unhappy struggle still-houses took its place and the community long suffered from their blighting influence. Recently, however, the Acadamy has been rebuilt and the community, which contained some of the best people in the county, is regaining some of its old time activity and progress.

The late Maj. H. Bingham, as well as many of the leading citizens of this county, of the older class received their education of New Hope Academy.

 

COL. W. H. H. COWLES

 
(For the loading facts in this sketch the author is indebted to Jerome Dowd's sketch of Col. Cowles in "Sketches of Prominent Living North Carolinians," and to the sketch by W. W. Barber, which appeared in "The Wilkesboro Chronicle" Jan. 8, 1902.)

Colonel Cowles, subject of this sketch, was born Hamptonville, Yadkin county, April 22, l840 and spent his youth in his father's store and on his farm. He attended the common schools and academies of his county. He was fond of outdoor exercise and delighted in hunting.

In 1861 he volunteered as a private in a cavalry company formed by T. N. Crumpler, but upon the organization of the company he was elected First Lieutenant. Much caution was used in selecting  the company; every member was strong and soldierly.

In the latter part of 1861 Col. Cowles company marched to Centerville, then the seat of the war, where the First N. C. Cavalry became a part of the First Cavalry Regiment of the Confederate army, and was connected with the Army of Northern Virginia until the surrender. Cowles was promoted to Major and later to Colonel of his Regiment. His dashing bravery and courage won the admiration of his superior officer so much that in the First Maryland raid he was put in command of the extreme advance guard of the cavalry by Stewart. On return he was placed in command of the extreme rear guard.

At Auburn, where Col. Thomas Ruffin fell, Cowles rallied the the men and continued the charge. At Brandy Station he led the charge that drove the 10th New York Cavalry out of line and to the rear. He followed them up for several miles toward Kelly's Ford, capturing Maj. Forbes, Maj. Gregg's commissary and Wm. Buckly, private correspondent though at the' end of the charge he was entirely within the enemy's lines. In the beginning of the charge, Preston Hampton, son of Wade Hampton, joined Cowles for a short distance but his horse was shot from under him and when he had obtained another horse he found that his squadron had passed ahead and that Gregg's entire column was moving down the road in the direction that Cowles had just gone. As Hampton could not rejoin the squadron, he returned to the Confederate lines and reported that Cowles was surely captured.

When Cowles attempted to retrace his steps he was met by a Confederate coming at full speed with the news that a large body of Federal Cavalry were in the road a short distance off, coming in that direction. Cowles passed with his men and prisoners through the field and across a deep stream where there was no ford; he crossed safely and just in time to witness the advance of General Gregg's column at the point in the road where Cowles had left.

At the beginning on the battle Mine Run General Ewell was in need of a competent officer to take command of the skirmish line in his front and requested General Stuart to suggest the man. General Stuart detailed Captain Cowles for the duty and directed him to take in addition cavalry he would find with General Ewell one hundred picked men, which he did, quickly joining General Early. He went to the front and established his skirmish line and next morning met the enemy's advance  gallantly checking its movements every inch of the way to the Confederate main lines. In this engagement  he received his first wound by a mine ball through the body. His wound was thought to be fatal but the following spring he rejoined his command in time to take part in the first of that memorable campaign of 1864, and was in command of the right wing of General Gordon's forces at Brook church near Richmond, where Gordon fell. He continued in active service until the 31st of March, 1865, when, in leading a desperate assault on the right of the enemy near Petersburg, and after his horse was shot leaving him on foot and knee deep in water he was shot in the head. Those who saw him thought he was killed and he was left unconscious to fall into the hand of the enemy. He was taken to the hospital where he heard the news of the surrender of Lee. It happened that he met there an officer of his own name and probably his kinsman, Maj. Cowles, of Federal army, who promised him the best treatment and who allowed a number of his friends to go home on parole. Colonel Cowles took the boat for Norfolk under guard. At Norfolk he was imprisoned for a day then he left for New Bern. He was badly treated on the vessel and he came near being thrown overboard. At New Bern, by the aid of a friend, he managed to get across the Federal lines. He went to Raleigh, then to Salisbury with Thad Coleman. They reached Third creek in private conveyance and attempted to walk the rest of the way to Statesville, but it was too much for men who apparently were nearer their graves than their homes. When within three miles of Statesville, Col. Cowles offered a farmer $3.00 in greenback and $20.00 in Confederate money to take them to Statesville, and after much persuasion prevailed upon the farmer to comply. Cowles finally reached Wilkesboro.

At the close of the war he came home poor, and in suffering intensely from the wounds received March 31st, 1865. As soon as health would permit he began the study of law under Judge Pearson, his roommate being Hon. Charles Price of Salisbury.

After obtaining license in 1868 he located in Wilkesboro and immediately entered into a lucrative and successful law practice. This was during the dark days of North Carolina, and he had stood by his State in time of peril and war so in the great political battles in 1868 and 1870 he did not shrink duty or responsibility, but entered actively into the campaign and did good work for his party. In 1872 he was elected Reading Clerk of the State Senate. In 1874 he was elected Solicitor of the 10th Judicial district, which office he held till 1879, and was an able and fearless prosecuting officer.

In 1882, he was nominated by the Democrats for the Legislature, and although he was defeated, he made a campaign that won a great reputation for him.

In 1884 Colonel Cowles was nominated for Congress and was elected by a handsome majority. He entered his duties as Congressman March 4, 1885, the same day President Cleveland was first inducted into office. He was re-elected in 1886, 1888 and 1890, and voluntarily withdrew in 1892 before any county conventions were held.

He represented his district with fidelity and credit during the 8 years in Congress, always glad to attend to any business for any of his constituents, and was noted in Washington for his interest in and fidelity to his constituents.

As a commander he ranked among the best in the state, and during the four canvasses he made for Congress he made many able and interesting speeches.

After his retirement from Congress he devoted himself to farming and was one of the best farmers in the county.

Colonel Cowles was twice married, first in 1870 to Miss Cora Worth of Ashe county. She died in 1877. By that marriage two children survive -Carrie Lizzie who married T. B. Finley and Cora who married J. A. Gaither of Newton. In 1883 Col. Cowles married Miss Lura Best of Newton, who survives him with six children.

On the 30th day of Dec. 1901, with scarcely any warning, death claimed him as a victim. He was taken with pneumonia on Saturday and died on the following Monday. He was buried in the Wilkesboro cemetery.

 

REV. GEORGE W. GREENE
By Frank B. Hendren

 
The subject of this sketch was born in Watauga county. He come to Wilkes and took charge of Moravian Falls Academy upon its completion about the year of 1877, and remained there for about 15 years. Under his principalship the school enjoyed a high degree of popularity, becoming the leading school in all this section. Many of the officials and leading business men of the county received their education under the tuition of Prof. Greene. It is to be doubted if any other man ever gave a greater impetus to the educational progress of the county. He is a ripe scholar and a man of unsullied honor. He is at present a missionary of the Baptist church to China.
 

DR. TYRE YORK

 

Dr. Tyre York, son of Mike York, was born at Rockford, Surry county, in 1836. He was educated in the common schools of his county. He studied medicine at the Charleston Medical College, from which institution he is a graduate.

He was married to Eliza Crumpler, of Surry county, daughter of Thomas Crumpler and sister of the famous T. N. Crumpler. By this union was born three children - all girls. The oldest married Hilliary Cockerham; the next married H. F. Bryan, and the third married Benjamin Taylor, of Alleghany county.

About 1869 Dr. York located in the Trap Hill section where he practiced his profession and tended his farm. When the Civil War broke out, he being a physician, was exempt from military service. He was very friendly to those who chose to conceal themselves in the mountains and caves rather than enter the army, and he would go to their dens to give them medical attention in the time of affliction. Many a poor soul was kept out of the army by his certificates of unsound health.

Immediately after the war Dr. York sold his property at Trap Hill and started for the State of Arkansas to make his future home. He and his wife and children started on the long journey in a wagon. After  many days of weary traveling they reached the Mississippi river. There they camped on the bank of the "Father of Waters." In the morning after their arrival Mrs. York began washing some clothes that had been soiled during the journey and the Doctor started for a day's tour in Arkansas where they intended to make their future home. In the evening the Doctor returned; Mrs. York had finished her washing and the clothes were hanging out to dry. The Doctor had seen enough of Arkansas and was satisfied that Wilkes was the best place to live, and without waiting for the clothes to dry, he pulled up his tent and started back to Wilkes.

After he returned from his Arkansas trip he purchased a farm a mile and a half from Trap Hill and here he has lived ever since, except what time he was in the Legislature and Congress.

York has always taken a lively interest in politics, and in 1870 he was elected to the Legislature. He was again elected to the same position in 1887. He was elected to the State Senate in 1879 and also in 1881. In 1881 he was the  Republican candidate for governor and made a brilliant campaign but was defeated by Alfred L. Scales, the Democratic candidate. In 1882 he was elected to Congress as an independent. In 1896 he was elected as Presidential Elector for the 6th NC district.

Dr. York is remarkable for his wit and he did not withhold his jokes in his campaign speeches. He always attracted the crowd and his jokes told in his own original and familiar way, always brought "side-splitting laughter." Public speakers, and especially politicians often reiterate his jokes, and it is only necessary to say that they are Doctor York's to assure closest attention.

After Dr. York was elected to Congress and was making arrangements to start to the National capital he included among his vesture a pair of hip boots made by a first class country boot and shoe maker. This is told to show the Doctor in his simplicity, representing his constituents as they were.

Dr. York was the owner of a mule that was almost as celebrated as the Doctor himself. The mule was known as "General Jackson." York rode "General Jackson" on his campaign tours, and they were the subjects of much comment both among the people and in the newspaper. The newspapers sometimes had cartoons of Dr. York riding "General Jackson. It has been told that York rode "General Jackson" all the way to Washington to attend as a member of Congress, but I am informed that the statement is untrue. "General Jackson" died a few years ago and York has quit politics and is content to live quietly on his farm under the shadow of the towering mountains round about his country home.

He is surrounded by multitudes of friends who love him for his efforts in their behalf while a public official and for his professional services in time of affliction.

 

MONTFORD STOKES

 

The subject of this sketch, and the first of the Stokes family that was afterwards to play an important part in the affairs of Wilkes county, was born on the 12th of March, 1762. He entered the American army during, the Revolutionary war and was taken prisoner near Norfolk in 1776, being then only fourteen years of age, and was confined as a prisoner of war for seven months on a British warship.

Montford Stokes was Clerk of the County Court of Rowan county for several years when that county embraced the territory of Wilkes and other counties in this section.

He was also Clerk of the State Senate for a number of years, where he was very popular.

Montford Stokes was the first and only man to refuse a seat in the United States Senate. He was elected to that position while he was Clerk of the State Senate but refused to accept. In 1816 he was again elected to fill the important position of United States Senator; this time he accepted and served in that branch of the National Legislature until l825, when he voluntarily retired.

After his retirement from the United States Senate Stokes wanted to lead the life of a private citizen on his Morne Rouge plantation (now known as the Gray farm), but the people again called him into public service and in 1826 elected him to the States Senate. In 1829, he was elected to the House of Commons, and also in 1830.

In 1830 he was elected Governor of North Carolina, but resigned in 1831 to accept the appointment from President Jackson as Indian Agent in Arkansas, where he lived until his death in 1842 at Port Gibson.

On Dec. 17th, l842, Hon. D. M. Barringer introduced the following resolutions in the House of Commons:

"Whereas the House of Commons have heard with regret of the death of Ex-Governor Montford Stokes, whose life has been connected with, for more than half a century, the history of North Carolina, and has occupied many distinguished stations in her gift, therefore resolved unanimously.

"That as a mark of respect to the memory of Montford Stokes, this House do now adjourn until Monday morning, ten o'clock."

I am sorry that I am unable te give more information of the public life of this man, but it has been impossible to obtain further data.

Governor Stokes was one of the great men of his time. From the account of his public services given in this short sketch, it will be seen that he felt the responsibility of his position as representative of people. Governor Stokes was one of the early settlers of Wilkes. He married Rachel, daughter of Hugh Montgomery, one of the two heirs who inherited the Moravian lands in Wilkes, embracing nearly ten thousand acres. By this union was born Montford Sidney Stokes on Oct. 6, 1810.

Gov. Stokes was very fond of card-playing, and while he was at Fort Gibson, after being absent from home for several years, his only son Sidney paid him a visit. Sidney called at the house where was staying and was informed he was upstairs playing cards. Sidney went up to the room and found his father seated at the card table. Gov. Stokes at once recognized his son but was so deeply absorbed in the game that he only said, "Hello, Sid, is that you?  Have a seat, I'll be through here in a few minutes." After the game was ended he gave Sidney a royal welcome.

 

C. C. PETTY (Col.)

 

One of the smartest negroes of the 19th century was a native of Wilkes county. That negro was Charles Calvin Petty. He was born in the year of 1850, about four miles east of Wilkesboro, and was the son of Jordan and Fannie Petty. He was educated at Biddle University and was a graduate of that institution.

Early in life he associated himself with the M. E. Zion church. He began his career as a local preacher at Charlotte, and displayed such talent and ability that his denomination soon promoted him to Presiding Elder. About 1890, at Newborn, N.C., he was elected Bishop, in which capacity he served his church and race until his death in 1899.

He was emigrant agent to California for about a year, before he was elected Bishop; with this exception his life was spent in the service of his church.

 

THE CLEVELAND OAK

 

The old oak tree that stands north of the court house and in front of the old I. T. Prevette residence is a relic of Revolutionary times when Colonel Cleveland was engaged in suppressing the Tories. Several Tories were hung to this tree by Cleveland and his associates. Among the number was Captain Riddle and two other Tories who had previously captured Cleveland at Old Field and would have killed him doubtless, had it not been for the timely rescue by his brother Captain Cleveland. There was several other Tories hung to this tree. Coyle and Brown, two notorious horse thieves were hung there with the clothesline they had stolen from Maj. Wilfong and converted into halters to lead away Wilfong's horses.

It is not known where nor in what manner the remains of the Tories were executed here were buried; but is reasonable to suppose that they were not taken very far away and that no great pains were taken to inter them very securely. Dr. F. H. Gilreath recently found a joint of the spinal column of a human being in the lot back of I. S. Call & Co.'s store. It is thought that, that was a part of the remains of some one of the Tories executed by Cleveland, and doubtless the remains of all those Tories are scattered in the same locality.

 
RUFUS A. SPAINHOUR
By Frank B. Hendren
 

Rufus A. Spainhour was born in Burke county in 1839 and came to this county first in l859 and entered New Hope Academy. He remained here part of the time as pupil and part of the time as an assistant to his brother, who was principal of the academy, until the commencement of the war when he together with his brother and several of the pupils of the school enlisted in company B, First Regiment N.C. Troops. He served throughout the war. He was made quartermaster of his regiment.

Returning to his native county, Burke, after the war he engaged in teaching school for about two years, and again returned to Wilkes county and taught school at Oak Forest for about two years. He then bought out the late W. H. Reese's mercantile business at that place and conducted it two years. He has been in the mercantile business ever since either at Moravian Falls or at Wilkesboro and is one of the most successful merchants and business men in the county. Being one of the most public- -spirited and liberal men in the county he has done as much for the material and educational upbuilding of the county as any man who has ever lived in it. It was largely through his energy and influence that Moravian Falls Academy was built and maintained through so many years of conspicuous usefulness to this and many surrounding counties. He represented this county in the lower house of the General Assembly in 1880 and has held several other positions of trust and usefulness, being at present chairman of the County Board of Education.

 

LOVER'S LEAP

 
About a mile west of Wilkesboro there is a precipice that overhangs the south side of the Yadkin river which is known as Lovers' Leap. Tradition has it that many years ago when there were but few white people in this country, a young Indian fell in love with a native Squaw and were engaged to be married. The father of the Indian girl refused to give her up, and she and her lover consented to end their lives by leaping from the cliff into the river, which they did. Ever since the place has been known as Lovers' Leap.

 

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