Friday, May 22, 2009

What about those who left to serve?

As I search the state, the story of the Revolution unfolds logically and is heavy to read. By the time most of the excitement emerged in the 1778-1782 period, many NC men had already left to join the Continental army or were decidedly loyalists. Their contributions to the southern campaign were in fact minimal because they were contributing to the northern campaigns or the relief of Boston or the defense of SC the first time around.  

So I am searching in vain for battles or meetings in Gates County.

Gates county is of interest to me because my mom has cousins there too. We know them well. We visited the grand homeplace in Gatesville occasionally when I was little. It had four floors with a ballroom on top. It sat at the end of a long drive between rows of pecan trees. I stayed a week as a little girl and I LOVED it. My 2nd cousins and 1st cousins once-removed are just the nicest people!  The house was stately and ancient by our standards by that time. But the stairway, two parlors and an entry big enough to count as a dance floor - it was just a castle to me.

There were horses, cows, pigs, goats, lambs and we could jump off the front porch which as memory serves, was almost 7 feet off the ground, more than twice my height.   Our relatives left Pitt county to get this marvelous house, but the land was just not as rich as in Tarboro, so farming was not so profitable. 

My cousins also still hold a reunion every year but they meet in Greenville where they originated. I remember them telling me as late as the 1930s they branded cattle and sent them out free to graze and then fenced in the gardens and orchard. I mean there isn't much there but land and sky hemmed in by the swamp and the cattle could always be found and herded home. I was just surprised by that.  That was a self-sustaining home and I LOVED it!

We have a tinplate image of that home somewhere. Unfortunately the house itself burned in a fire in recent years. It went up in a hurry.

Gates is named for Horatio Gates who was at once a hero and then a head-shaking shame at Camden, SC.  George Washington tried before the Revolution to drain the Great Dismal Swamp for timber. (Well, that didn't happen) Men left there to fight in the Continental Army, but the English did not go there as far as I know. 

Now Gates County did see action and mustering in the second war of 1812, but that is not part of this study.  Maybe Merchant's Mill State Park had a revolutionary connection. I will write someone and ask that they look.

Okay, last story - when RG and I got married we had a big church wedding and a musical extravaganza reception at the Foothills Arts Council building.  I knew that all the hillbilly music would just be a cultural experience to my flatland relatives (BUT! we had friends from Switzerland yodeling, Irish fiddling, Bluegrass of course, Bagpipes and  during the ceremony, our organist played that incredible French Toccata in F major by Charles-Marie Widor ...which we only get to hear at Easter)  so despite having done this before, I invited everyone.  I slipped in engraved "No gifts please" cards and created this little what-to-do in Elkin ( if you have to drive 5 hours to get here) brochure and map. 

I had them going to Mt. Airy, to Stone Mountain, to Bethabara, and to the Wild, wild Wilkes, to wineries and to car shows. But you know what they said? "Oh, we know Elkin - Granddaddy used to shear the sheep, send the fleece to Elkin and get blankets back here in Gates county as payment to sell to his neighbors"  They came all the way here. They knew everything about it and they wanted to see the Chatham mill...after the wedding of course.

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