Early Pioneers of Western North Carolina

Present Day Watauga County

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Many families traveled The Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and settled throughout Virginia. Others migrated further south to the Piedmont area of North Carolina during the mid 18th century. North Carolina was a wild frontier at the time and yet other families traveled west to forbidden lands. These pioneers traveled across the Yadkin River and endured the rough terrain of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This blog will give details of the early settlers in present day Watauga County, NC. Watauga was established in 1849 from several counties, Ashe, Caldwell, Wilkes and Yancey. By the mid 19th century, over 600 families were living in present day Watauga County and held a history for nearly 100 years in this vast mountainous terrain. Various reasons caused these families to settle here, such as the privacy the mountains could provide. Another reason was the words shared by so many of the upcoming war for independence. Taxes, opportunities and freedom for religion and freedom to dream are just a few of the explanations why these early settlers arrived.

A Glimpse Into Watauga County, NC

John Adams was a drummer at the age of 15 during the American Revolutionary War. He was present during the Battle of Yorktown which began October 9, 1781 and ended with Cornwallis surrendering October 18, 1781. Adams was among the French fleet of General the count de Rochambeau. The fleet soon departed for the West Indies still under the pursuit of the British. Young John Adams stayed behind, hiding in a sugar barrel. Once he was sure his ship had sailed, he wandered the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and learned how to become a cabinetmaker. He later sailed on a whaling ship along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. He departed the ship and traveled to Rowan County where he met and married Esther Hawkins on September 17, 1795. The couple’s first two children were born in Rowan County, Francis and Squire. During the year of 1799, John Adams brought his family to the Cove Creek area of present day Watauga County, then located in Ashe County. He built a log cabin, farmed and became known as a cabinetmaker in the area. John was born circa 1762 and was later known to be living in Sarlat, which is 40 miles from Bordeaux, France. The French fleet to which he was assigned returned to Philadelphia in order to retrieve soldiers who deserted or who were left behind. It is at this time that John embarked on the whaling vessel for North Carolina. This very same reason could have been the result of John Adams settling in Watauga County and the remote area of Cove Creek. The couple had ten known children. John died at 1:00pm, Thursday, July 24, 1823 and was buried the next day. Esther Adams was born in 1774 in Orange County, NC. She was a charter member of the Cove Creek Baptist Church which was organized in 1799. Esther continued to live in the log home after John’s death until 1859, the time of her death. Children of this union are 1-Francis(1797-1846), Squire(1799-1877), Rachel(1800-1834), Sarah(1802-1823), Tarleton(1805-1877), Allen(1807-1893), Martha(1808-?), George(1809-1827), Alfred(1811-1870) and Elizabeth(1813-?).

Dr. Ezekiel Baird was born in Monmouth, New Jersey to Andrew and Sarah Baird. His mother, Sarah died in New Jersey and left her son twenty shillings in her will. Soon after her death, Ezekiel Baird traveled the Great Wagon Road with his wife Susanna Blodgett Baird to North Carolina. They traveled with a small party to the Watauga County area known today as Valle Crucis along Baird’s creek. The couple built a home and had three sons, Bedent(1770-1862), Blodgett and William. During 1795, Ezekiel and his son, Blodgett left the area to travel west. The family may have contemplated the idea of moving further west as many families during this time were doing. But, Ezekiel and his son never returned to Watauga County. Susannah continued to live in the home and was the first person to be buried in the Baird Cemetery located in Valle Crucis.

Watauga River

Thomas Bingham was born in Norwich, Conn. to his parents, namely Thomas Bingham and Mary Rudd. Thomas traveled the Great Wagon Road to Virginia where he met and married Hannah Backus. This family continued to live in Virginia until William, grandson of Thomas II moved to Reddy’s River, Wilkes County and married Mary Elizabeth McNeil. William’s son, George moved to Watauga County and married Mary Ann Davis in 1833.

William Coffey was born November 29, 1782 in present day Wilkes County, NC. He lived with his parents, Thomas and Sarah Fields along the upper Yadkin River. William married Anna Boone on October 18, 1804 in a small log home near present day Boone, Watauga County. They lived at the forks of Mulberry Creek and had the following children. Daniel(1805), Welborn(1807-1897), Gilliam(1810). Celia(1813-1899) and Calvin(1819) William Coffey died in 1839 and Anna remained a widow up to her death which occurred in 1876.

Michael Cook was born July 23, 1773, son of Adam Cook. He married Ann Elizabeth Arney. The couple moved to present day Watauga County and entered 600 acres by paying 5 cents an acre. The couple had at least 11 known children: Catherine(1798-1840), John(1800), Adam(1802-1865), Henry(1804), Mary(1806), Jacob(1808-1873), Michael Jr(1810), David(1814-1850), William(1815-1876), Elizabeth(1818-1846) and Robert(1820). Michael operated one of the first grist mills in the area and was located along the banks of Goshen Creek. Michael Cook died during the spring of 1844 according to will documents.

Benjamin Dugger was living in present day Watauga County during the year of 1787. He purchased land in the Brushy Forks area and was the father of at least 3 children. Several of Benjamin’s family members followed him to the area between the years of 1795 and 1805. John Dugger, born 1780 in Wilkes County, moved to the Watauga County area and settled near his relative, Uncle Benjamin.

Landrine Eggers is the son of George and Arie Beard Eggers. Landrine was born in 1757 and lived in Freehold, New Jersey until the family moved to Goshen, New York. Landrine and brother, Daniel Eggers both settled in the Jersey Settlement of Rowan County, NC. Both of these men served during the American Revolutionary War. Landrine married Joanna Silvers on April 16, 1779 and traveled to Watauga County later that same year along with his brother, Daniel and his family. They settled near Three Forks Baptist Church where they all were active members.

Conrad Elrod settled in present day Blowing Rock, Watauga County before 1800. His friends referred to him as “Coonrod”. He was born in 1749 to Wilheim and Anna Boschel Elrod. He was baptized in 1750 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Frederick, Maryland. Conrad had at least 5 children: Adam(1787-1875), Mary, Peter, William(1795-1867) and Alexander(1802-1894).

Ebenezer Fairchild was born in 1730 and lived with his parents, Caleb and Anne Fairchild in Stratford, Conn. Ebenezer married Salome Goble in August of 1750 at the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey. Salome died during childbirth and Ebenezer married Mary in 1755. Ebenezer’s children are Sarah(1751) Salome(1753), Abigail, Ann and Cyrus(1767-1853). Ebenezer was a charter member and elder of Dutchman’s Creek, now known as Eaton’s Baptist Church. Ebenezer was a known minister of Three Fork’s Baptist Church.

This marks the end of segment 1 in this series. Please be sure to visit our site for weekly updates and upcoming segments on this series and others, such as Stokes County, NC Early Settlers, Rockingham County, NC Early Settlers, Surry County, NC Early Settlers, Ashe County, NC Early Settlers and Early Migration Trails. Thank You All So Much for your support, Piedmont Trails greatly appreciates each of you. Stay the course and Enjoy Your Journey to the Past !!

The Moravian Settlements

A Guide To History And Genealogy In North Carolina

If you have an ancestor who was living in the Piedmont area of North Carolina during the 18th century, you can rest assure, your ancestor associated with the Moravians or was a member of the Moravian church. This religious group traveled from Pennsylvania in 1753 and purchased 100,000 acres of land in North Carolina. Their first settlement was established in Bethabara in the year of 1754. By 1759, Bethania had been established near the Great Wagon Road which allowed travelers to stop at the small village and trade goods, spend the night and make new acquaintances. During these years, the French and Indian War was creating turmoil in the area. Many families sought refuge within the barriers of Bethabara and Bethania during this time. Other communities were Salem in 1766,  Friedberg, organized in 1773, Friedland in 1780 and Hope in 1780.

wachovia-1766

The Moravians were industrious, hard working and eager to share their religious beliefs with anyone who was willing to listen. All of the settlements were equipped with several businesses that traded various goods needed by the settlers. There were potters, blacksmiths, tailors, wheelwrights, bakers, taverns and doctors. The Moravians used The Great Wagon Road during the 18th century to travel back and forth to Pennsylvania and transport several items back to the Carolina settlements. They would also travel south to Fayetteville and Charleston, South Carolina. Gottlieb Kramer(Cromer), son of Adam Kramer worked for his father, a tailor by trade, and he would also transport goods back and forth via wagon. The settlers depended on the Moravians just as the Moravians depended on the early settlers. Together, they populated and grew the surrounding areas into large towns and communities.

The Moravians had strict rules in order to join their churches and become a member. Majority of the early settlers did not wish to join, but they needed the Moravians to purchase their crops or trade for needed supplies. The settlers also needed the Moravian doctors to attend to the sick which at times included not only the family members but the livestock as well. The Moravian settlements were the center of 18th century living in North Carolina.

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The records of the Moravians portray life during this time vividly and with great detail. The Moravian Archives Southern Province located in Winston-Salem, NC houses thousands upon thousands of records, diaries and journals dating back to 1753. These records contain data on all citizens living in the area and has proven to be a vital asset within my own personal genealogy research. The primary language among the settlements at the beginning was German, but as the years went by, English was spoken everywhere but during church services by the end of the 18th century. So, some of the records may be in old German dialect, but are searchable through the catalog database. The National Moravian Archives are located in Bethlehem, PA and hold all records pertaining to the Moravian church located in the northern region. The online website guides you through the process of researching their vast amount of records. The Moravian Historical Society is affiliated with the Northern Province Archives and together work hard on preserving the history of the Moravian beliefs and customs.

99 Garden Shed

“Felix Motsinger with a wagon full of turnips to trade. Allotted sugar.” Entry dated January 15th, 1773. The above is a translation from the tavern ledger book of Salem. Another entry: “Mary Hensen arrived from South Carolina wishing to join the brethern. She is an orphan and has nowhere else to turn.” Entry dated spring of 1783. I later located a reference to the same Mary Hensen that she was allowed to become a member of the church. Mary married and moved away from Bethania and lived her remaining days in the Meadows area of Stokes County. These are actual documents that I have collected through the years from the archives. Felix Motsinger was not a member of the church, but he was active within the Moravian settlements. According to the catalog, Felix was documented over 20 times in various journals and documents. This is a prime example of how the Moravians documented their daily activities. Without this vital information, many details of our ancestor’s lives would be forever lost.

The original Wachovia tract pictured earlier, portrays the exact location of the land purchase. In present day, the north line lies within the heart of Rural Hall, the south borders present day Forsyth County line with the east ending at Walkertown and the west ending at Muddy Creek in Clemmons. If you can trace your ancestor to the surrounding area, chances are the Moravian Archives has information pertaining to them.

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During the year of 1756, Indian uprisings occurred all throughout the area and many families living near Bethabara took refuge in the settlement. These families were living west of the Muddy Creek and north into present day Stokes and Surry counties. A typhus epidemic occurred during the summer of 1759 and killed many settlers all throughout the area. Moravian ministers were summoned often to conduct funerals and assist in burying the dead. There were also families located south and to the east in present day Guilford county. The majority traveled the Warrior’s Path from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia. Nearly every settler stopped at Bethabara between the years of 1755 to 1759. When Bethania came into existence, Bethabara became a small rural farming community. Bethania was located right on the path of the Great Wagon Road, present day Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem and allowed settlers to stock up on supplies, spend the night and gather local news before heading to their destinations.

Friedberg is located in the northern section of Davidson County. The majority of these members arrived from Broadbay, Maine and were German descent. Friedland is located in Winston-Salem, just south of present day I-40 and High Point Road. Hope is located just east of the Yadkin River near present day Clemmons.

According to the Moravian diaries, no settlers were documented along the Yadkin River prior to 1752. That is not to say that no settlers can be found living in the Yadkin area during the time before 1752. The Moravians noted no settlers when traveling through the area in search for your desired property. Indian parties hunted these grounds and some of their artifacts can still be found today. Settlers who were not members of the Moravian church and settled west of the Wachovia tract are as follows. William Johnson-1757-600 acres, Evan Ellis-1758-651 acres, George McKnight-1762-611 acres, these names were among the largest tracts at that time. Other surnames were Long, Phillips, Matzinger, Teague, Rothrock, Kerner, Tesh, Weavil, Bodenhamer, Green, Collett, Iams, Dean, Crews, Dorsett, Braun, Valentine, Waggoner, Smith and Reid. These settlers arrived prior to 1770.

brothers house

The Moravian history of North Carolina affected our ancestor’s daily lives, whether it was trading crops for supplies, seeking medical assistance with the sick or requesting a sermon in someone’s house. The Moravians influenced the culture and the population of the area. Their presence enticed others to follow and settle in North Carolina. By early 19th century, many of the original Moravian customs were abolished such as allowing the church to determine who marries and what job you would have in the community. But, many of the original customs still exist today. For instance, all married women are buried along side of each other as well as married men are buried near other married men. Small boys with small boys and single men buried with other single men. Many Easter Sunrise Services were newsworthy due to the turnout by so many people during the late 19th and 20th centuries. Old Salem, of Winston-Salem offers tours in the 18th century village and the smell of fresh baked bread fills the streets from Winkler Bakery.

As a researcher of genealogy, I am so thankful for the precise record keeping of the 18th century Moravian church. They preserved our history with such vivid detail that it brings the past to the future. Don’t limit yourself on your search, visit the areas of your ancestors and contact local churches. You never know, you just might locate the missing link from your family tree. As always, Thank You all so much for your support and I wish you well on your research. Enjoy your journey!!