Many interesting events which transpired within the territory of “old Rowan” during the war of the Revolution, have unfortunately been buried from our view by those who have passed away. A few traditions still linger in the memory of the descendants of those who were actors in those scenes relating more particularly to the north-eastern portion of Iredell, and of some of the families who resided there. And although such traditions can only be now presented as detached and fragmentary items of history, yet they are worthy of being preserved and placed on permanent record.
The facts given in this sketch relate to that part of Iredell lying between Statesville, its county seat, and Yadkinville, the county seat of Yadkin county, and mostly near to the dividing line of these two counties.
The numerous creeks and small streams which water this portion of Iredell, empty into three large streams of about the same size, flowing through it, named South Yadkin, Rocky Creek, and Hunting Creek. These streams mingle their waters in a common channel before their confluence with the Great Yadkin, in the county of Davie.
In the year 1778, Thomas Young removed from Mecklenburg, Virginia, to North Carolina, and settled on Hunting Creek, within three miles of the place where the counties of Yadkin, Davie, and Iredell now form a common corner. He was then passed the age for military service, but had furnished three sons-in-law and two sons to the army of General Washington, and a third son, at sixteen years of age, to the army at Norfolk, Va.
One of his sons-in-law, Major William Gill, entered the service at the beginning of the war, and became connected with the staff of General Washington. He served in the capacity of aid to the Commander-in-chief through the war, and was with him at the surrender of Cornwallis, at Yorktown. From this point he returned to his family, in Mecklenburg, Va., who had not heard from him in two years.
Soon after the establishment of peace, Major Gill, with his family, and the other two sons-in-law of Mr. Young, viz: Major Daniel Wright and Dr. Thomas Moody, and his sons, William, Henry, and Thomas Young, removed to North Carolina and settled near him. Major Gill settled on Rocky Creek, near to the site of the present village of Olin, and, at his death, was interred in the family burying ground on the lands of his father-in-law. The record on his tombstone states that he died on the 4th of September, 1797, in the 47th year of his age. His commission is now in possession of his descendants, in Iredell county.
The part which Major Gill bore in the great struggle for independence, was once familiar in the traditions of his family, and must have been satisfactory to General Washington, from the fact that he continued with him to the end of the war, and bore with him into retirement the commission which made him one of the military family of the father of his country.
A single incident will show the spirit with which Maj. Gill bore himself on the battle-field. At the battle of Brandywine, while discharging his duty, he became separated from his command, and, in the dense smoke of the conflict, rode into the ranks of the enemy. Upon discovering his situation, the only means of escape which presented itself, was to leap his horse over a high rail fence, which was being scattered by the artillery of the enemy. This feat he accomplished successfully, and afterward received the congratulations of his General for the spirited adventure and escape.
It has not been recorded in history that the mortal remains of a member of the staff of General Washington repose on the banks of Hunting Creek, in the county of Iredell, N.C. The tradition here given of the fact, can be yet fully attested by surviving members of the family of Major Gill, as well as by his commission.
Captain Andrew Carson was a younger son-in-law of Mr. Young, having married after the family removed to North Carolina. He and his brother, Lindsay Carson, both joined the service in the southern army. And let it be recorded, in passing, that Lindsay Carson was the father of Christopher Houston Carson, now widely known as “Kit Carson,” the great Indian scout, and that “Kit” was born on Hunting Creek, within half a mile of the residence of Mr. Thomas Young.
Andrew Carson, like his nephew, “Kit,” was of an adventurous disposition, and was the bearer of dispatches from the commanding officers in the up-country to those in South Carolina. This duty made him acquainted with the command of General Francis Marion, which suited his taste, and he connected himself with it. He was with the “Swamp Fox,” so greatly dreaded by the British and the Tories, in many of his stealthy marches and daring surprises, the recital of which would send the blood careering through the veins of his juvenile listeners, half a century ago. The memory of them now awakens a dim recollection of the thrill and absorbing interest then experienced.
Captain Carson was connected with the command of Baron DeKalb, at the battle of Camden, and was by the side of that noble officer when he was shot down while crossing a branch, and bore him out in his own arms. Captain Carson also sleeps in the same family cemetery with Major Gill.
With a family thus engaged in the defense of their country, it will be readily understood that their parental home was no ordinary rendezvous for sympathizers in its vicinity. When Mr. Young settled in an almost unbroken forest on the banks of Hunting Creek, he located and constructed his improvements with the view of defense in cases of emergency. He built two substantial log houses, about forty feet apart, fronting each other, and closed the end openings with strong stockades. Port holes were provided to be used for observation, or otherwise, as occasion might demand. The buildings are yet standing, in a good state of preservation. This was headquarters for the Whigs for many miles around. It was the point for receiving and distributing information, as well as for concerting measures for the aid of the cause of freedom, and for depositing supplies for friends in the field. The Brushy Mountains were but a few miles distant, and were infested with Tories, who made predatory incursions into this part of Iredell, carrying off stock, devastating farms, and ambuscading and shooting Whigs, who were especially obnoxious to them.
Mr. Young’s fortifications presented a rallying point for defense against such invasions, as Fort Dobbs did four miles north of Statesville.
He was himself a member of an association of eight neighbors, who were engaged in manufacturing powder in a rude way for the use of their home department. Against this association the Tories were extremely bitter, and conspired to kill them. They succeeded in murdering seven of them, and detailed one of their number to way-lay and shoot Mr. Young. The man assigned to this duty was named Aldrich, who concealed himself in the woods near the dwelling of his intended victim, and watched for an opportunity to perpetrate the murderous deed. The habitual circumspection of Mr. Young foiled him in his purpose until he was discovered by a member of the family, and became so frightened as to induce him to abandon the effort.
After peace had been proclaimed, Captain Andrew Caldwell, who resided on Rocky Creek, and was the father of Judge David F. and Hon. Joseph P. Caldwell, and other sons well known in the public offices of Iredell, was appointed the Commissioner to administer the oath of allegiance in that part of the county. Aldrich presented himself among them, but the recollection of his seven murders, still fresh in the memory of all, so aroused the indignation of Captain Caldwell and Captain Andrew Carson, who was present, that instead of making him a loyal citizen of the United States, they went to work and forthwith hung him on one of the joists of the barn, in which they were transacting their lawful business.
In many places, Whigs who were past the age for service in the field, organized themselves into vigilance associations for the welfare of the country and their own protection. The duties devolving upon them rendered them familiar with events as they really transpired, and often caused them to pass through thrilling and adventurous scenes. They learned to know and how to trust each other. Attachments thus formed by heads of families were strengthened, and more strongly united in ties of friendship after the restoration of peace. The descendants of these associated friends were educated to revere the memories of the fathers, and to cultivate the society and friendship of their children. The traditions of the “dark days” of the war were always topics of family and fireside conversation with the “old folks,” and they always found attentive listeners in their posterity, upon whose youthful minds impressions then made were as enduring as time.