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Early North Carolina History

Early North Carolina History

The Kings of the owner countries usually assigned land in the Americas to court favorites for the purpose of setting up colonies that were to establish trade to the mother country in America's natural resources.  Carolina was originally conferred upon Sir Robert Heath in 1629, but he made no effort to colonize it.  Following the restoration of kingship from the Cromwell's, Charles II in 1663 granted the region to 8 proprietors.  The region was later divided into 2 separate political units, South Carolina and North Carolina.

During the period of proprietary control, 1663 to 1729, confusion and disorder reigned in the North Carolina government.  The proprietary governors, some of whom were unusually inept and unscrupulous, were harassed, deposed and even imprisoned by the unhappy residents of the colonies.  Because of its chaotic political life, the colony received a bad reputation that further retarded the settlement.  With the royalization of the colony, government became more effective and the political scene more stable. 

The Scotch-Irish back country settlements preceded the Highlander lower internal settlements by about 45 years.  The Highlander settlements along the Cape Fear River started about 1730.  Between 1700 and 1730, other groups migrated to the back country from Virginia and Pennsylvania, but mostly from Ireland, including three of the most prominent raiding, reiving and rustling families from the Border country of Scotland - the Grahams, Bells and Bankheads.  Northern Irish or Ulster Irish are terms used by many historians, but that does not accurately reflect the true migration patterns of the times.  While large numbers sailed from the Northern Ireland province of Ulster, the Ulster emigration was but a part of the large outpouring from the Scottish Lowlands, northern England and Northern Ireland.  Scotch-Irish is a term used by many genealogists, but seldom used in Britain.  As one said "We're no Eerish bot Scoatch". 

It is also important to identify from where in Scotland the immigrants came.  Border dwellers had limited contact, much of it hostile, with the highlanders.  During the American Revolution, many of the North Carolina highlanders became Tories because their Ulster Scot neighbors were Whig.  These rivalries continued in the colonies.  Common values and beliefs were shared by many Border families.  Intermarriage was a common practice among many regional families.  Also common among these early families was the intense desire to ensure that this settlement of colonies in America was a very real new beginning with opportunity for all.  This brought about a fierce movement called the Regulation, which impacted back country settlements in North and South Carolina from 1765 to 1771.  Regulators were vigilantes from the area who tried to enforce order over corruption in their region.    

One of the earliest of the Carothers / Caruthers / Carruthers family to settle in North Carolina was Robert Caruthers, along with his brothers.  Excellent research on this side of the family has been provided by Warren Woodrow Carothers, supplementing research done in the 1930's and 1940's by S. M. Carothers.  While more articles on early North Carolina family members will be provided, this first one on Robert Caruthers starts the process. 

ROBERT CARUTHERS
(b. about 1744 - d. 1811)
Son of Hugh and Sarah Caruthers

Revolutionary War Patriot of North Carolina

Compiled December 1996 by Warren W. Carothers
Parts taken from the work of E. M. wright and Ludelle Cathey Dickey 

Robert Caruthers, son of Hugh and Sarah Caruthers (Carithers, Carothers), was born before 1744, possibly in County Tyrone, Ireland.  He married Margaret White about 1760 and they had a son named Robert born near Rocky River Church, North Carolina about 1762. Both Robert Caruthers and his son Robert fought in the battle of King's Mountain.  She was born in 1744 and died August 12, 1794.  She is buried in the Old Linker Graveyard within 300 yards of the site of the present church.  Rocky River Church is about ten miles southeast of Concord and three miles East of Harrisburg. She was the daughter of James White who emigrated from Ireland about 1742 and who married the daughter of Hugh Lawson. She had three brothers who played an important part in the Revolution ‑‑ James was the eldest of six brothers and was a soldier of the Revolution. He moved to East Tennessee, in 1786, and was one of the original founders of the now flourishing city of Knoxville, Tennessee. He was distinguished for his bravery, energy, and talents and was a brigadier general in the Creek War.  His remains sleep peacefully under the vines and grass of the churchyard of the First Presbyterian Church of Knoxville.  His illustrious son, Hugh Lawson White, was a judge of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, a Senator of United States Senate, and in 1836, a candidate for the President of the United States.  (History of Rowan County, by Jethro Rumple, p. 24)    

Robert and Margaret Carothers lived in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, before settling in Sumner County, Tennessee after Margaret's death.  He served in the Revolution and much is found in early histories. He was at the battle of King's Mountain.  For his military services, he was granted land in Sumner County, Tennessee, and moved there in 1795.  A division of his estate is found in Sumner County Deed Book 7, p. 212, dated May 3, 1815, between the legatees of Robert Caruthers descendants, viz. David Wilson, Thomas Caruthers, Sarah Caruthers, and Ezekiel Carothers, all of Sumner County, ~a parcel of land ‑‑  northeast corner of Hugh Carothers tract.  (William, James and Peggy are known to be dead at this time).   

Robert Caruthers was one of "the Cabarrus Black Boys" of the Revolutionary War.  They risked their lives for their country against the tyranny of the British.  On May the 27th 1930, the DAR marked the spot.  The exercises read that day as taken from the Charlotte Observer as follow:  "We, the people whose signatures appear below on this document, being moved through patriotic impulses to preserve inviolate this spot upon which the immortal and patriotic "Cabarrus Black Boys" fixed and destroyed the munitions of war enroute from Charleston, South Carolina, to Hillsboro, North Carolina, to strengthen the forces of Gov. Tryon of the colony of North Carolina, in his effort to put down the spirit of independence as showing the vehemence and acts of the regulations, do solemnly declare and mark this spot to be correct as it is possible this day to identify."  The actual site of the culmination of the gunpowder plot must have been on a slope about a hundred yards southeast of the old spring in Cabarrus County, about three miles from Concord on Poplar Tent road.  (Wheeler's Colonial Records of North Carolina)  

In an article appearing in a special opportunity issue of Times Tribune, North Carolina, in February 1916,  J. M. W. White,  of Number 11 Township, a great‑grandson of William White, one of the "Cabarrus Black Boys", told the story as partly gleaned from Kirkpatrick's History of Rocky River in which it is stated that at a sale in the Alexander neighborhood about the last of April 1771, and attended by many Rocky River people, they learned that Colonel Moses Alexander, an officer of the Crown, living about nine miles from Concord, was to take charge of a quantity of power that had been hauled from Charleston, South Carolina,  by wagon and where he would turn it over to General Waddell, of the British forces.  The Rocky River folks immediately returned to their homes and organized a company, and arrangements were made with William Alexander to notify them when the wagons left Charleston.  This he did on May 2, 1771, according to history.  

The following is a condensation of the story as maintained in Wheeler's Colonial Records of North Carolina:  Major James White, William White, and John White, three brothers, reared on Rocky River, and their cousin William White, Robert Carothers, their brother‑in‑law, Benjamin Cockrane, James Ashmore, and Joshua Hadley (it is said, William Alexander of Sugar Creek, although his name is not given in Wheeler's account), having resolved to destroy powder designed to be used against their countrymen, bound themselves by solemn oath not to betray one another.  To prevent detection, they blacked themselves and succeeded in deceiving even the father of the White brothers, whom they met returning from mill and from whom they demanded horses.  Coming upon the three wagons containing powder, flint, and blankets, whose drivers were encamped on what was then called Phifer's Hill, three miles west of Concord, on the road to Charlotte and Salisbury, midway between these two places near what is called Long's Tavern,  the heroic "Black Boys" unloaded the wagon's kegs;  threw the powder and flint into a pile, tore the blankets in strips, made a train of powder a considerable distance from the pile,  then fired a pistol shot into the train causing a terrific explosion.  A stave from the pile is said to have struck Major James White on the forehead inflicting a wound, the scar of which he carried to the day of his death.   

When the deed was made known to the Royal officers, dire threats were made against the "traitors of his Majesty" and a pardon was offered to any of the "Black Boys" who would betray his comrades.  It is said Ashmore and Hadley, half‑brothers, wishing to avail themselves of the pardon, set out unknown to each other to tell Colonel Alexander the identification of the "Black Boys" and met accidentally at his house.  In consequence, the "Black Boys" had to escape from their homes and flee into the province of Georgia, where they remained for years.  Wheeler insists that Ashmore fled from his country, lived a miserable life and died unwept, unsung, and unhonored and that Hadley became intemperate and cruel to his family and later was beaten by some of the "Black Boys" and their friends, attired in female attire.   

Other historians assert that the two repented of their treachery, entered the Continental Army and helped defend the country they had once betrayed.  Major James White became a distinguished officer of the Continental Army, riding a fleet horse named "Stono" and proving a veritable pest to the British. Some of the "Black Boys" served under the celebrated "Swamp Fox", General Marion in his guerrilla warfare."  From Sketches of Western North Carolina, by C. L. Hunter, the following account is taken.   

Previous to the battle of Almance on the 16th May 1771, ­at length, Colonel Moses Alexander, a magistrate under the colonial government, succeeded in getting wagons by impressment to convey the munitions to Hillsboro to obey the behest of a tyrannical governor.  The following individuals, viz. James, William, and John White, brothers; and William White, a cousin; all born on Rocky River and one mile from Rocky River Church, Robert Caruthers, their brother‑in‑law, Robert Davis, Benjamin Cockrane, James Ashmore, and Joshua Hadley, bound themselves by solemn oath not to divulge the secret object of their contemplated mission, and, in order to prevent section, blackened their faces preparatory to their intended destruction work. They were joined and led in this and other expeditions by William Alexander of the Sugar Creek Congregation, a brave soldier, and afterwards known and distinguished from others bearing the same name as "Captain Black Bill Alexander" and whose sword now hangs in Liberty Hall in Davidson College.   

They set out in the evening, while the father of the Whites was away from home with the two horses, each carrying a bag of grain. The White boys were on foot but fortunately met their father and demanded the horses. The old gentlemen, not knowing who they were, pleaded heartily for the horses until he could carry his burden home but his petitions were in vain. They ordered him to dismount, placed the bags of meal by the side of the road, then mounted the horses and joined their comrades and in short space of time came  up with the wagons encamped on "Phifer's Hill" three miles west of Concord, on the road to Charlotte from Salisbury. They immediately unloaded the wagons, stove in the heads of the kegs, threw the powder in a pile, making a train of powder a considerable distance from the pile, and then Major James White fired a pistol in the train, which produced a tremendous explosion. A stave from a pile struck White and cut him severely on the forehead.   

As the bold exploit became known to Col. Moses Alexander, he put his whole ingenuity to work to find out who could have performed such a foul deed against His Majesty. The transaction remained a mystery for some time. A pardon was made to any one who would turn King s evidence.  Ashmore and Hadley, being half‑brothers and of the same rotten material, set out unknown to the others to avail themselves of the pardon, and accidentally met on the threshold of Colonel Alexander's. The rest of the "Black Boys" fled into the State of Georgia where they had to remain for awhile.  The Governor held out insinuations that if they returned and confessed their guilt, they should be pardoned. In a short time they returned to their homes.   

As soon as it became known to Col. Alexander, he raised a guard consisting of himself, his two brothers Jake and John, and a few others, and surrounded the house of old man White, the father of the boys. Caruthers, the son‑in‑law of White happened to be at his house at the time. To make the capture doubly sure, Alexander placed a guard at each door. One of the guards wishing to favor the escape of Caruthers struck up a quarrel with Moses Alexander at the door, while his brother, David Alexander, whispered to Mrs. White if there were any of them within, they might pass unnoticed by him; in the meantime out goes Caruthers, and in a few jumps was in the river, which fortunately flowed near the mansion.  The alarm and pursuit followed but was fruitless.   

Thus at another time, the royalists heard of some of the boys being in a harvest field and set out to capture them. One in the company rode up and raised his hand which was a signal. On that occasion they pursued Robert Davis so closely that he jumped his horse thirty feet down a bank into the river and dared then to follow.  The "Black Boys" frequently would lie concealed in the woods while the neighbors brought them food.  When the "Black Boys" were pursued by the Loyalists, the Whigs would collect in bodies consisting of twenty or thirty men, ready to pounce on the pursers if they captured any of the boys.  They kept themselves concealed until patriotic sentiment grew so rapidly that it was no longer necessary, May 20, 1775.  "When the cause of the Revolution opened, these same "Black Boys" stood up manfully for the cause of American freedom, and nobly assisted in achieving on many a hard fought battlefield, the independence of our country."

Descendant Charts will be added soon. For additional information, see our page on Caruthers in Tennessee.

                                                                                                                                                                 

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