Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Forgotten Dead

The Harris family of old Anson, and later Montgomery, North Carolina are an enigma to me. Mainly because there is so much information on this one family, yet there still does not seem to be enough to pull together their origins. Even DNA testing seems to have presented more problems than it has solved. I think some of the confusion is generated by books written years ago making claims that may not have been fully proven. DNA testing has certainly questioned some of the early research. 

Those men who descend from West Harris of Montgomery County and have Y-DNA tested are in Group 4 at the Harris Project at Family Tree DNA. See for some enlightened, albeit heated, discussions on the Harris origins. 

I am not here to debate or solve Harris origins. I will leave that to those who descend from the many Harris lines in Virginia. To my knowledge, I do not directly descend from West Harris, or any other Harris line, but what would a Blog about Montgomery County be without a mention of this famed man who is still talked about today? 

West Harris Senior was born, according to his gravestone, Aug 13, 1715. Most researchers believe he was born in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. West died, according to his gravestone, May 14, 1795, in Montgomery County, North Carolina.

After being buried more than 120 years, in 1916, his remains were moved to the Old English Cemetery in Rowan County, North Carolina due to the damming of the Yadkin River that was planned to flood the old Harris cemetery, where West Harris and other family members rested on land near Beaverdam Creek that was once owned by the Harris family.
West had migrated to Granville County, North Carolina probably as early as 1746, at the age of about 30, when the county was formed from Edgecombe. He was listed as an officer of the county when it was created. West can be found on very early deeds for Granville, dated 1748.
West can be found in Bute County, created from Granville in 1764, as late as 1767 when he was ordered to help find the most convenient way to lay off a road between Jumping Gut and Hub quarter Bridge, directing its course up stone House and to intercept the main country road leading to Halifax, and report back to the court. I know for sure that this is West Harris Senior as West Junior was only 11 years old in 1767.
In 1770, West Harris attended the estate sale of Jane Harris. I think Jane may have been his sister-in-law and wife to his brother Daniel. This record is one of the latest I have found, and I believe West left for Anson County soon afterwards.

Land records in Anson County show West Harris Senior may have moved to Anson County about 1773-1774, about 5 years prior to Montgomery being carved from Anson County and about a year before the Revolutionary War began. He would have been about 60 years old. I find it hard to believe that he fought in the Revolutionary War, mainly because I have not seen any evidence or proof to the claim; yet, I have seen many researchers who do list him with rank of Major or Colonel in the Revolution. I have seen references made to Captain West Harris who served in the Anson County Regiment of Militia from 1776. This certainly could be either West Senior or West Junior and I tend to think it was probably West Junior who would have been about 21 years of age versus his 60-year-old father. 

In 1774, West Harris Senior of Anson County, purchased a tract of land from Thomas Jones of Rowan County, who had acquired the land from Thomas Fry, who had been granted the land in May 1773. The land lying in the county of Anson on the north-east side of the Yadkin River beginning at a pine in McCulloh [Henry McCullough] line about a quarter and half quarter of a mile from the mouth of Beaverdam Creek near the Deep landing...containing 200 acres. 

The deed was witnessed by Roger Williams and Roland Harris and proved in open court by Roger Williams and ordered registered.

Anson deed records also show West Harris Senior purchased 100 acres of land from John Hopkins of Guilford County in February 1775 for 20 pounds proclamation money. The boundaries of the land were laid out on the north-east side of the Yadkin River beginning at a large red oak in McCullok's [Henry McCullough] line on the north-east side of Plumb Branch of Beaverdam Creek. This land had been granted to John Hopkins by His Majesties Patent bearing date 22nd January 1773. 

The deed was witnessed by Walton Harris and Roger Williams and proved in court April 1775 and ordered registered.

I am not sure who Roger Williams is yet, but whenever I see a name repeat itself in association to a family I am researching, I will attempt to find information on who the person is, mainly because researching neighbors or associates of a family leads to clues on the family. Roger Williams looks to have served in the Revolutionary War as there is a pay voucher found for him, but no mention in pension file is found. He died around 1819 in Montgomery County. Arthur Harris qualified at October term 1819 as Administrator to the estate. An ad was published in 1820 asking all persons with demands against the estate to present them for settlement.
West Harris went on to obtain many more acres of land through land grants. At least 3 of the grants we can be sure of because they list him as Senior. His son, West Harris Junior, is also listed and we can be sure of those grants. West Harris Junior was born in 1756 and would, in 1777, when he obtained the age of 21 years, be able to legally own land and apply for land grants on his own; so, the other grants while most likely some belonging to Senior, would also imply that some may have belonged to Junior.
Beaverdam Creek, close to the Montgomery-Davidson County line, flows into what is now Badin Lake, formed about 1917 from the damming of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River. I would guess that either most or all the land that West Harris owned is now under Badin Lake. Certainly, the old Harris cemetery is.
In 1796, an article was published in The North-Carolina Journal, a publication in Halifax, by Arthur Harris, Executor of West Harris, deceased, forewarning all persons from purchasing a bond given by West Harris Senior and Rowland Harris, security, to George McCulloh for one hundred and sixty nine pounds, dated 15 December 1794 and payable June 1795 witnessed by Samuel Warren and West Harris Junior for land lying in Montgomery County for which George McCulloh had no right or title to sell or dispose of. At this time, I have no clue who Samuel Warren is but find the name intriguing as I have seen it before in relation to this Harris family – more to come in another Blog on that.
West Harris (or his son, West Jr) was not the only one who had problems with McCulloh land grants. Jesse Harris, John Baker, Thomas Williams, Joseph Bell, Richard Tillman, Cary Pritchard, and John Stewart, in 1786, petitioned for title to lands they had purchased from Henry McCulloh. His son, Turner Harris, had issues getting title to land he had bought. Moses and Nathaniel Steed, brothers who migrated from Virginia to Montgomery County, also had a run in with George McCulloh.

In a Newspaper article dated 1879, an article, The Forgotten Dead, was published that provides some insight into the West Harris family at a time before the land on Beaverdam Creek was flooded and the old Harris cemetery lost to history with the bodies moved to other cemeteries. The author of this article, even though many years removed from West Harris (though not as many as I am), still lived in an era where some of the gravestones could still be read and other, elderly citizens, and possibly the grandchildren of West Harris, may have been able to remember some of the stories told. 

The Newspaper article tells us that in 1879, the West Harris land was known as the Smith Place and was about a mile from the Narrows of the Yadkin. The author of this article, knelling down, recorded the writing on West Harris’ gravestone, as well as others found in the cemetery. He wrote about the traditions he had been told by those elders in the community and told us what type of stone was on each grave. 

He informed us that West Harris was the father of six sons and two daughters, Isham, Turner, Dred, Roland, West, Arthur, Martha, who married Buckner Kimball, and Patience, who married Richard Parish. Nemo, the author of the article, goes on to praise the descendants of West Harris Senior, who are scattered all over North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. 

"It is supposed his posterity, if brought together, would constitute an army of immense size and among them many who are worthy of the high toned and virtuous English stock from which they sprung."

Clearly, West Harris Senior lived a life worthy of the calling he had received.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Old Town

The location of the third county seat of Montgomery, North Carolina was settled about 1792 at the confluence of the Yadkin and Uwharrie Rivers between Island and Dutchman’s Creeks. The people of that time called the town Henderson; today, we call it Old Town.

On a map located at the State Archives of North Carolina, is shown a plat of Montgomery County depicting the date of circa 1794-1813. The map delineates a 20-mile road from Henderson Town to Colson’s Ferry and proposes a new road from the ferry to Little River.

The Colson family had settled in Bladen County, later Anson County, prior to 1750. These parts later became Montgomery and Richmond in 1779 when Anson was divided. Their loyalties lay with King George III. When William Lee Davidson’s, for whom both Davidson County and Davidson College are named, Whig militia defeated Samuel Bryan’s, the father-in-law of Daniel Boone, Tories on land owned by William Colson, and near his cousin, John Colson’s ordinary in 1780, the Colson families fled.

In 1781, orders were sent to construct a supply depot on a high hill near the east bank of the Pee Dee River to support General Greene’s army. General Thaddeus Kosciuszko oversaw the construction and built the installation on a steep hill with a commanding view of the Pee Dee Road (current day Montgomery-Richmond County Line Road) and Colson’s Ferry on the Pee Dee River. Records indicate a stockade, surrounded by trenches, was in place. The depot became known as Colson’s supply depot.

Today, Historical Marker K-39 and L-51, stand as memorials to this place.

The earliest mention I can find of Henderson in Newspapers is an 1804 article noting tracts of land that were sold to pay taxes for years 1802 and 1803. Thomas C. Williams, Sheriff of Henderson, sold the land at the courthouse in the Town of Henderson on 29 June 1804. Sadly, the purchase deeds no longer exist due to destruction in courthouse fires. The Newspaper article does provide us the names of people who lived in the county and on what creek their land was located.

Clarks Creek – the heirs of Flower McAaskeit,

Uhary River - Arthur Harris, West Harris Jun, William Cranford, Bobby Brook, Ransom King, Samuel Hancock

Barns Creek - Ed Young, John Hopkins, Reuben Milsaps, James Munday, heirs of Cox & George

Little River - John Haywood, Richard Evans, William Edins, Alexander Hunt, William Lar, John Allen

Peedee - Thomas Blewet, Zedekiah Ledbetter, Wilson Randle

Cheeks Creek - Charles Ledbetter, Dougald McArling

Mountain Creek - Benjamin Bradford, John Moore, Luke Marbury, William Smith

Enochs Creek - Frederick Redwine, Michael Redwine

Gar Creek - James Higgins, John Smith

The 1810 Census names those who inhabited Henderson. James Perry, Thomas Steele, Ann Nall, Henry Delamothe, Jacob Page, and John Tilman.

The most famous settler in this area was probably Henry Delamothe. Originally from France, Henry migrated to America in the early 1800s in hopes of finding wealth in the North Carolina gold rush. Henry quickly obtained a large tract of land in Montgomery County, to include the old county seat of Henderson. Dr. Francis Kron, nephew-in-law to Henry, made a journal entry in 1835 writing that his wife’s uncle, Henry Delamothe, and the heirs of one McArthur, owned the town called Henderson.

Henry Delamothe passed away about 1838. He must have left a mark on Montgomery County as the people were still talking about him in 1879. According to an article dated 3 Jul 1879, the grave of Henry Delamothe could still be seen, enclosed by a neat, stone, wall. Henry is buried in Old Town.

Alexander McArthur, the other inhabitant who Dr. Kron mentioned in his journal, was probably of Scottish descent. He died around 1805. Donald McInnish, who lived in Fayetteville, formed in 1783 from Cross Creek and Campbellton, was the Administrator of McArthur’s estate. I have not yet found a complete estate record for him, but Newspapers and documents found elsewhere, i.e.: Dr. Kron’s journal, provide enough information to confirm Alexander lived in Henderson and, most likely was a merchant, owning perhaps a General Store in the town of Henderson, supplies probably being funneled from Donald McInnish in Fayetteville.

In 1809, Donald McInnish placed an ad in the Weekly Raleigh Register advertising the houses and lots belonging to the estate or Mr. Alexander McArthur, situated near the courthouse in Henderson, lately occupied by Matthews & McInnish were for rent.

Ann Nall, also an inhabitant of the town of Henderson, in 1812, advertised in the North-Carolina Star, a Raleigh paper, that she was renting to the highest bidder for one year a Tavern and Boarding house. The paper states that the establishment had been in operation for at least 15 years (since 1797) and had made more money than any other part of the county. When people came to the county, they rented rooms at the Nall boarding house.

By 1819, Henderson seems to all but disappear from record and Lawrenceville (sometimes seen as Laurenceville) begins to show up. The Lawrenceville Academy is opened for business in 1819 and the Trustees are authorized to raise a sum of money by way of Lottery for the purpose of completing the buildings for the Academy. In 1820, an advertisement to hire a new Superintendent at Lawrenceville Academy is published.

In 1823, James Crump advertises for sale 35 tracts of land in the town of Henderson to be sold at the courthouse in Laurenceville for ready money. Henderson has been abandoned and Lawrenceville is now the county seat.

Years later, in 1889, a Newspaper called Carolina Watchman, claims Henderson was named for the Honorable Archibald Henderson, an eminent lawyer of Salisbury, North Carolina. Born in Granville County, North Carolina in 1768, he attended the common schools. After graduation from Springer College, he moved to Salisbury, North Carolina, about 1790, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Salisbury. He died 21 October 1822 and is buried there. The Archibald Henderson Law Office at Salisbury was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Archibald Henderson built his law office, shown in the above and below picture, about 1796. The building is noted as one of the best-preserved examples of the era and depicts what a similar building may have looked like in Henderson, or in any courthouse town, in the late 1700s.


We have no buildings that survive from Henderson. However, there are buildings from other areas of North Carolina, like Archibald Henderson’s law office in neighboring Rowan County, that show the architecture from the era. The Carteret County courthouse-built c. 1796 shows a one room building with modest steps leading to the courthouse door. It is probable that the courthouse in Henderson was of a similar wood or possibly a log structure.

Today, we rarely think twice about travel. Roads are plentiful today. But in the 1700 and 1800s, that was not the case. People were driven to come up with new and unique ways to move themselves and their goods to the nearest market towns to sell or trade. Farming was the biggest trade, but produce was perishable and had to be moved quickly and sold soon after arriving at market.

An 1889 Newspaper provides us the reason that Henderson was abandoned. The Newspaper notes that Henderson was laid off at the mouth of Uwharrie River and was scourged out of existence, made uninhabitable and desolate from fever. Attempting to make Henderson, and Montgomery County, profitable, the people dug canals to avoid the shoals in the Pee Dee River. 

These shoals were an accumulation of sediment in the river and were potentially dangerous to water vessels. Montgomery County was situated between two marketplaces, Fayetteville, on the Cape Fear River, and Cheraw, South Carolina on the Pee Dee River. People needed a way to move merchandise faster than wagon. However, digging the canals brought disease to the workers and the inhabitants of the county. An outbreak of fever, perhaps Malaria or Typhoid, brought Henderson to its knees.

A fascinating history of transportation can be found at

In 1900, The Morning Post, a Newspaper in Raleigh, published an article called A Lost Town. While the article gets some facts wrong, such as Henderson being the site of the first courthouse, it was at least the third, and states that Dr. Kron’s wife was the daughter of Henry Delamothe, she was his niece, the paper does provide some genealogy gold by telling us that Jonathan Bell, now 92 years old, provided some of the information for the article. Jonathan Bell was the son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Ledbetter Bell. He was born about 1808 in Henderson and died 1901 in Stanly County.

I dare say that Henderson is not a lost town. Its rich history is alive in the Uwharrie area of Montgomery County. We just call it by another name now – Old Town.