NOTE: THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES ARE FROM THE WORDS OF COL. THOMAS GEORGE WALTON, 1894.
"My first recollection of Morganton and it's enviorns was at the age of three years, in the month of Dec,1819, when my brother WILLIAM McENTIRE WALTON was born. At that time, my father, THOMAS WALTON was living in a house in which he was merchandising, at the intersection of Union and Greene streets. I remember the crying of the babe. There was snow upon the Ground, and my two elder brothers, JAMES and JOHN WALTON , were engaged in catching snowbirds. My long tried and beloved friend, the late Gov. T.R. CALDWELL (1818), born about 2 years after I was, in the same town, and myself, speaking our first recollections"......
...remembered the death of a child of Major JACOB FORNEY's of Cedar Grove, "caused by falling on a pair of pointed scissors."
Burke County was erected out of a part of Rowan County 8 Apr 1777. Morgan District was made up of the counties of Burke, Wilkes, Rutherford, Lincoln, Washington and Sullivan.
"Among the first settlers of Burke County of whom I had either personal knowledge or from information received from old residents during my early years, were MCDOWELL, BOWMAN, GREENLEE, ERWIN, AVERY, PICKENS, CARSON, MORRISON, TATE, HEMPHILL, MURPHY PERKINS, HILDEBRAND, CALDWELL, PEARSON, FORNEY, WALKER, BRITTAIN, DUCKWORTH, BALLEW, BOUCHELLE, and others too numerous to mention by name. These were men of mark, many of whom were distinguished for their patriotism during the Revolution; others had won the esteem and respect of the people, as evidenced by their selection as representatives in congress, legislature and offices of trust and profit of the county. Morganton, the county seat, was located shortly after the erection of the county in 1777. CHARLES MCDOWELL,SR and ALEXANDER ERWIN were appointed Commissioners by the Legislature to select a site, purchase or have donated, land to erect public buildings, etc........"
"The lawyers whom I saw and knew during my childhood, youth and early manhood, and whose practice extended to many counties west of the Yadkin River were composed of many who had an exalted reputation for their skill and astuteness in conducting their cases, their legal attainments, brilliant oratory, and impressive arguments before a judge and jury.....being the brothers ROBERT H. and ALFRED BURTON, JULIUS and WALLACE ALEXANDER, JOSEPH WILSON, DAVID F. CALDWELL, BARTLETT SHIPP, DAVID L. SWAIN, THOMAS DEWS, SAMUEL HILLMAN, JOS. MCD. CARSON, MICHAEL HOKE, B.S.GAITHER, and others of later time, of the Morganton bar, who, if placed in the same constellation with those named, would only have added to it's brilliancy......."
The MCDOWELLs, BOWMANs, and GREENLEEs came from Virginia to Burke County previous to the Revolution (late 1750). JOSEPH MCDOWELL's grant on Quaker Meadows was dated 1749. They were all related by marriage or consanguinity. JOSEPH MCDOWELL, SR., was of Scotch descent, and emigrated from North Ireland to America. He was born in 1715, and emigrated with his wife at an early age, having offended his wife's relatives, the proud O'NEALs, the descendants of the ancient Irish kings, by his marriage with their sister, MARGARET O'NEAL. Wheeler, in his History of North Carolina writes as if they(Joseph and his wife Mary) only had two sons, Generals CHARLES and JOSEPH MCDOWELL. On the contrary, there were four: HUGH, CHARLES, JOSEPH and JOHN MCDOWELL. Charles died the owner of Quaker Meadows; Joseph died the owner of the fine plantation on John's River, where the widow of the late Dr. JOHN MCDOWELL now lives (1894). Dr. MCDOWELL was grandson of Major JOSEPH MCDOWELL, of Pleasant Gardens, the son of HUNTING JOHN MCDOWELL, the brother of JOSEPH MCDOWELL,SR. HUGH MCDOWELL was the father of MARGARET, who married Capt. JAMES MURPHY, and the only child, JOHN HUGH (MURPHY) was the offspring of this marriage. He married MARGARET STRINGER AVERY, a niece of Col. WAIGHTSTILL AVERY, SR.
"JOHN BOWMAN, the husband of GRACE GREENLEE, came from Virginia about the same time as the MCDOWELLs and others. He was killed at the Battle of Ramsour's Mill; he had but one child, MARY BOWMAN, who married WILLIAM TATE, SR. of Hickory Grove, the old homestead of JOHN BOWMAN; his widow, nee GRACE GREENLEE BOWMAN, married Gen CHARLES MCDOWELL. Major ROBERT MCDOWELL TATE is the only living child of WILLIAM TATE, SR.. JAMES GREENLEE, SR. owned the place on which I (Col. Thomas George Walton in 1894) live ("Creekside"), and was living there before the Revolution. He, by his thrift, foresight and industry, was possessed of large and valuable bodies of land in North Carolina and Tennessee. He had five sons by his wife, MARY MITCHELL GREENLEE, who was his cousin, viz: Col. JOHN M. GREENLEE, EPHRAIM M., WILLIAM, JAMES and DAVID. He was regarded as the wealthiest man in the county........"
"JOHN MCDOWELL, fourth son of JOSEPH MCDOWELL, SR. (of Quaker Meadows), left two daughters; they married brothers, JOHN and ROBERT McELRATH, both of whom were good and highly respected citizens of this county. The extensive lands on which they lived and died were inherited by their wives from their father."
"The elder GREENLEEs, MCDOWELLs, TATEs and many of their relatives and descendants, at their decease, were interred on an eminence overlooking the beautiful low grounds of Quaker Meadows, and the adjacent lands of the Catawba. Col JOSEPH MCDOWELL (Ash Hill), as well as his brother, Gen CHARLES MCDOWELL (of Quaker Meadows) were highly distinguished in the Revolution. They were very popular and held in high esteem by all who knew them....."
"I have heard my Mother speak in terms of the highest laudation of Gen JOSEPH MCDOWELL, his benevolence and sympathy with all suffering from any adversity; as a proof of this, he even shielded the Tories when the Whigs who had fought under his command (after the War) would threaten to maltreat and drive them out of the town. He would in words they dared not disobey, command them to cease their persecutions; that the War was over, and we must live in peace and harmony. He died in 1801 at the early age of 45, and is buried by the side of his elder brother, Gen. CHARLES MCDOWELL. I went with his nephew, the late Capt. CHARLES MCDOWELL, several years previous to the late War, to find his grave, thinking it might throw some light on a private matter in which we were personally interested. On a rough, unhewn stone, rudely carved, was his name. In a short time, if not already, the name will be obliterated, and the humble resting place of this hero and good man, can no longer be recognized. It will meet with the approbation of every good citizen of Burke County, if some members of the senatorial district, elected to the next Legislature, will ask the assembly to vote an appropriation for the erection of a monument to the memory of one who aided so much in obtaining the liberties we enjoy."
The AVERY Family
"The life and character of Col. WAIGHTSTILL AVERY, his patriotism, love of liberty, and activity in all measures that availed to the beginning and success of the struggle for independence, have been so well set forth and portrayed in Wheeler's History of North Carolina, that I will only write of such incidents characteristic of his sterling worth, kindness of heart, benevolence, etc. His family, of English origin, emigrated early to the colonies and settled in New England, and are known there as the AVERYs of GROTON. They must have been of Puritan stock, as the name WAIGHTSTILL indicates. From a letter in the possession of a descendant of one of Col AVERY's brothers, dated "Groton, the 5th of ye 3 Mo. A.D. 1794", I learn that there were five-- LEMUEL, JAMES, LATHAM, ISAAC, and WAIGHTSTILL AVERY. The writer, LATHAM, was a Quaker, his letter written in a beautiful, round hand and quaint style, peculiar to his sect. In closing the long letter, he writes, "My son and daughter, with myself concluded last fall to set out to the Genesee country, and from that down to see WAIGHTSTILL and thee; three times were set, but Providence forbid; so we laid it by. Desire to hear from thee. Inform us about WAIGHTSTILL if thee can, of whom we have not heard these many years; ISAAC, I remember thee. LATHAM AVERY."
"WAIGHTSTILL and ISAAC, (Rev. ISAAC never came to N.C.) are the ancestors of the North Carolina AVERYs, the remaining brothers of the New England states, and known, as before said, as the AVERYs of Groton. Two descendants of this branch of the family visited relatives in North Carolina a short time previous to the late War; they were ladies, highly accomplished, HARRIET and LILY PUMPELLY. The former, after her return to New York, married THEODORE FRELINGHUYSEN, who was a candidate for the Vice Presidency in 1844 on the Henry Clay ticket. ISAAC AVERY, of Virginia, lived on the peninsula that divides York and James Rivers, in Warwick County. He was an Episcopal clergyman, and was ordained priest and deacon by RICHARD YERRICK, Bishop of London, England, Oct 18 in 1769. His letters of ordination are now in the possession of his granddaughter, HARRIET L. WALTON, given to her by her mother, MARGARET STRINGER MURPHY, nee AVERY. He preached before the War in the old Bethel Church, where the first battle of the late War was fought by the First Regiment of North Carolina, under the command of Col. D.H. HILL. ISAAC AVERY died in Norfolk, Va., and is buried in the Cross Church, built in colonial times. Col. ISAAC T. AVERY, nephew, of Swan Ponds, was named for him."
"Col. WAIGHTSTILL AVERY, after the death of his brother, invited his orphan children to make their home with him. Embracing this affectionate offer of their uncle, the two daughters, MARGARET AND ELIZA, lived happily until the marriage of MARGARET to (1st) JOHN MURPHY (2nd) JOHN COLLETT. ELIZA afterward married Col. J. Mc.K ONEAL."
"JAMES AVERY, the son of ISAAC, came to North Carolina from Virginia with his sisters. He married a Miss ELIZABETH BROWN, of the North Cove; she was a lovely character, esteemed by all who knew her."
"Col. WAIGHTSTILL AVERY was somewhat eccentric although full of the milk of human kindness. He was in the habit of taking his dinner, when in town, at my grandfather's, and was fond of a very rich pudding; before eating, he would invariably ask the writer, "Does this pudding have any butter in it? I cannot eat anything that has butter in it." The servant, who was prompted, would answer, "Oh, no, sir." Eating heartily of the pudding, although rich in butter, he never discovered the fact. My grandfather McENTIRE became blind several years before his death, so that he couldn't read. His good friend, Col AVERY, sympathizing deeply with him on account of his bereavement, would read to him for hours the newspapers of the time, always beginning with the name of the paper, where published, editor, date, etc., including every item, and ending with advertisements."
"......Col AVERY was very fond of honey and ate it in unusual quantities. On one occasion he met a woman on the road as he was traveling; discovering she had a bucket of honey, he asked what she would charge for as much as he could eat. Supposing he could not eat more than a pound, she said, "Twelve and a half cents." Getting off his horse, seating himself under a tree, he began eating from the bucket. The owner, seeing her honey was rapidly diminishing, said: "Stranger, if you will stop, I will charge you nothing for what you have eaten." "That was not the bargain", he said, finishing; he gave her double the amount promised."
"Swan Ponds", the home of Col WAIGHTSTILL AVERY and his son (the only one), Col. ISAAC T. AVERY, was always distinguished for it's profuse hospitality, and par excellence for the delightful entertainments enjoyed by young and old; and this may be truthfully said, to a large extent, of the homes of many citizens of "Auld Lang Syne". I can remember when a citizen might travel through the length and breadth of the county and could not offer to pay for a meal or night's lodging without insulting his host, unless it was a public boarding house."
THE ERWIN family
"Col. WILLIAM WILLOUGHBY ERWIN of "Belvedere", one of the most highly respected and useful citizens of the county, was a man of great dignity of person and manner; so much so, that young men when first meeting him became shy and diffident, which was speedily removed by his general affability. He was long Clerk of the Superior Court, and was afterwards cashier of the first branch bank of the State established in Morganton, and no doubt the well known business talent of some of his living descendants and others, was inherited from him."
"Col. JAMES ERWIN, of "Erwin's Delight", a cousin of Wm. W. ERWIN, was also a highly esteemed citizen; he was for many years an efficient clerk of the county. He accumulated a handsome fortune. In some things he was peculiar. He was appointed guardian of JAMES MURPHY's grandchildren, who had inherited from their grandfather what was considered a large fortune in this part of the state at the time. After my marriage, in 1837, to the eldest of the heirs, he insisted upon resigning, and that I should take his place. Riding home with him shortly afterward, he said, "Tommy, my son, one of my neighbors said to Capt. MURPHY he believed little JIMMY ERWIN was a little cracked. "Well," said MURPHY, "if he is cracked, I never knew him to leak any. But, my son, I leaked a little when I bought the Cherokee land." Impelled by this anecdote we both laughed heartily."
GEN. ISRAEL PICKENS
Hon. ISRAEL PICKENS represented the County of Burke in the State Senate, 1808-09, and afterwards in Congress, 1811 to 1817. He was very popular and very much beloved by the people. He lived on the eminence known as "Vine Hill", near where the splendid structure is being finished by the munificence of the State, for the education of the deaf and dumb, overlooking the flourishing town of Morganton and the valley of the Catawba River, and a panoramic scene of "Where mountains rise and unbrageous dales descend.", unsurpassed for magnificence and beauty. On this attractive spot, Mr. PICKENS erected a picturesque building, in a measure comporting with it's surroundings. Afterwards, in turn, it was the residence of Col. JOHN M. GREENLEE and Col. B.S. GAITHER. My father became the owner in 1842, and soon thereafter pulled down the picturesque old house, cut down the grove of ancient oaks and the hedge of English hawthorn planted by Mr. PICKENS. Expostulating with him, he said. "I did it for fear some one of my children might be so foolish as to live where wood and water could not be had without descending and ascending a mountain." Mr. PICKENS removed to Alabama in 1817, and was subsequently first Governor of that state."
Hon. FELIX WALKER
"Hon. FELIX WALKER succeeded PICKENS as a member of Congress from this district from 1817 until 1823. Whilst canvassing the county on one occasion, addressing a large assemblage of people at the court house, he was charged by his competitor with being a Tory during the Revolution. Appealing to Capt. JAMES MURPHY, he asked whether they had fought as Whigs together. MURPHY replied he did not so well remember the fighting but he did distinctly recollect their running together! This reply met with loud applause and WALKER was elected."
Hon SAMUEL P. CARSON
"Hon. SAMUEL P. CARSON, son of Col. JOHN CARSON, of Pleasant Gardens, by his second wife, relict of Major JOSEPH MCDOWELL, JR., succeeded WALKER as a member of Congress in 1825, and served continuously until 1833. SAMUEL P. CARSON had only limited educational advantages, but he was a born orator; gifted with such forensic genius that the crowds of people whom he frequently addressed would be so enthused by the glamor of his eloquence, as to become almost frantic with emotion and enthusiasm, impressed by his appeals to their patriotism, prejudices, and passions. No man in Burke County, asking for political office, ever had more enthusiastic or faithful followers than SAMUEL P. CARSON, until he endorsed and advocated, in a public speech, South Carolina's treasonable doctrine, Nullification. In the winter of 1833, deserted by his old friends, he moved with his family to Arkansas."
The CARSON - VANCE Duel
"His duel with Dr. R.B. VANCE, uncle of our Gov. ZEBULON B. VANCE, on the border of the Carolinas, at Saluda Gap, in 1827, resulted in the death of VANCE in a short time, after receiving a mortal wound. --the only duel ever fought in Western North Carolina that terminated fatally. It was said at the time that VANCE's last words were the following quotation from the tragedy of MacBeth:
"Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Happily duelling, a relic of the feudal ages, has long been banished from the good old North State, frowned upon by the laws and all good citizens."
Biographical Sketches from Burke County, NC
from articles published in Newspaper in 1894
[These sketches were originally written by Col Thomas George Walton (1815-1905),first published in the old Morganton Herald in 1894]