Sunday, May 10, 2020

History lesson

Because I keep looking for stuff to do while staying in place in the middle of a pandemic, I find myself doing a lot of reading.

I like to read. I probably have 200 books in my home library, nearly half of those about the Civil War, and fully two-thirds of my collection about history in general, with the rest mostly about sports.

Because of the lockdown, I'm reading some of my books for the third, maybe even fourth time. I can't wait for access to the Davidson County Public Library again.

Anyway, my wife's boss, Mac Parrott, let me borrow one of his books: "Centennial History of Davidson County North Carolina" by (Rev. Dr.) Jacob Calvin Leonard. It has a copyright date of 1927, even though the actual centennial of Davidson County would have been December 9, 1922 when, 100 years prior, an act of the North Carolina General Assembly carved out Davidson County from the enormous and far-ranging borders of Rowan County (Named for Matthew Rowan with borders ranging from present day Anson County to present day Burke County, if I understand correctly).

Consider 1822 was only 33 years after the United States Constitution was ratified and put into effect. Davidson County, as a governing entity, was nearly as young as the entire country.

I guess it took Dr. Leonard several years to accumulate his information and then assemble it into a 523-page work. Some of it is dry reading, as history usually is, but Dr. Leonard occasionally injects a little bit of himself into his tome, which can liven things up a bit for the curious reader.

I'm guessing a good number of current Davidsonians know that Davidson County was once a part of Rowan County. Maybe fewer know that colonial North Carolina saw its own western border reach the Mississippi River.

Look how big the colony of North Carolina was.
 Here's where it gets kind of interesting. Davidson County was named for Rev-olutionary War hero General William Lee Davidson, who was actually born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

He was wounded in the battle of Colson's Mill, SC, while a major of the Fourth Regiment of North Carolina Troops.

Then, sadly, while serving with Gen. Nathanael Greene, Davidson – now a brigadier general promoted for his conspicuous bravery – was shot through the heart and killed during the battle of Cowan's Ford on the Catawba River in May, 1780.

Then there's this (from Dr. Leonard's book):

"Davidson County ... is the second North Carolina county of the same name. This information was called to the attention of The Dispatch in a letter from Major W. A. Graham, Commissioner of Agriculture, who recalled that one of the early sessions of the Legislature of North Carolina saw the creation of the county of Davidson, with Nashville as its capital.

"Shortly after the creation of Davidson County the territory of the west seceded and formed the State of Franklin. In 1784 North Carolina ceded this territory to the Union as an independent state. The name was then changed to Tennessee, after the river that winds itself across the State several times and which got its name from the Indians that still roamed the country toward the Mississippi.

"Davidson County, Tennessee, still remains and Nashville its county seat, is the capital of the State. It was named after General William Lee Davidson, who fell at Cowan's Ford on May 1, 1780. Nashville was named for General Francis Nash, another distinguished North Carolinian. ..."

So, apparently, there was a Davidson County before there was a Davidson County. According to Dr. Leonard's book, "From 1749 to 1822 Davidson County was included within the limits of Rowan County." I'm not sure how that could be, but Dr. Leonard (who was a pastor of First Reformed Church of Lexington) continues by writing, "In 1749, Rowan was constructed out of Bladen. Rowan at that time covered the whole of Western North Carolina and Tennessee, such distinction continuing until 1770, when Surry County was formed. Rowan was truly a great county. In the year 1822 Davidson County was erected from the portion of Rowan east of the Yadkin River."

The book is filled with all kinds of tidbits like this, and there are plenty of pictures of faces with familiar last names like E. Odell Hinkle, William Moffit, John W. McCrary, Emery Raper, George Mountcastle, William Holt, B. Cabell Philpott and Irvin L. Sink, to name a few. No women, though. Times change. That's what history is about.

Clearly, I need to get out of this quarantine.

1 comment:

  1. Bruce, I would frequently Google looking for information about Davidson County and find myself reading about the one in Tennessee. Incidentally, I was replying to a woman from Indiana that I met on a cruise in 2007 a week or so ago, when she mentioned that she'd found ancestral information from the Rowan co library about her family and when she provided her family surname, I knew that there is a road in the Churchland area named for that family. The world gets smaller and smaller.