William GRAHAM

Male 1742 - 1835

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  • Name  William GRAHAM 
    Born  1742  Augusta County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender  Male 
    Died  Mar 1835 
    • From "Our Heritage"
      A History of Cleveland County
      The Revolution
      Chapter 8

      One day in Sept. 1780-a month before the Battle at Kings Mountain- a group of Tory raiders descended on a dwelling called Graham's Fort on Buffalo Creek, and for the part she took in repelling the marauders, a 17year-old girl's name passed into local legend.
      She Susan Twittv.
      Her stepfather was Col. William Graham, a Virginian by birth, who had come to what was then Lincoln County with his father, Archibald Graham, born in Scotland in 1704
      Cleveland County can claim Col. Graham as one of its famous and distinguished sons of the American Revolution. Certain of his contemporary felt the colonel was something less than a hero owing to his request to leave ranks just before the Battle of Kings Mountain was to be fought. Graham's wife was expecting a child and a messenger had arrived at the mountain to tell him she was in very bad shape. He asked for permission to go attend her and it was granted. The commander who took his place was killed. Graham's record of achievements in war and peace speak for itself. Yet, hard feelings did exist against him after that day.
      His home was "on the west bank of Buffalo Creek in then Lincoln, now Cleveland County," according to Lyman C. Draper's King Mountain and its Heroes.
      "It was a large, hewn-log house, weather boarded and, to some extent, fortified; well fitted for a successful defense against any party with a small arms alone and who were not prepared to prosecute a regular siege."
      Graham's Fort, it later was called, was the "strongest and largest" place around where the elderly and women and children could take refuge from Indian and, later, Tory raids.
      In Sept. 1780, "one of these marauding parties consisting of about 23 in number, suddenly made their appearance before Graham's Port. The only persons there capable of bearing arms for the defense of the many helpless people, old and young, congregated there, were Col. Graham, David Dickey and the colonel's stepson, William Twitty, a brave youth of 19," Draper wrote.
      The colonel's stepdaughter, Susan, had been taught by her brother to "ride the swiftest horse without a saddle and to shoot his Deckard rifle with true aim, Lutie Andrews McCorkle wrote in Old Time Stories of the North State (1903-1930).
      Women were crouched that day "low in the room with the frightened children, seeking to keep themselves and the Little ones out of the way of the bullets which were coming through the cracks between the logs of the wall," McCorkle wrote.
      For the Tories had demanded they be admitted, but Col. Graham had refused, and the Tories opened fire.
      "Damn you, won't you surrender now?" they cried, according to Draper.
      "One fellow, John Burke, more venturesome than the rest ran up to the house, and through a crack aimed at young Twitty."
      William Twitty's sister pulled him down "just as the gun fired, the ball penetrating the opposite wall."
      Susan peeked through the crack and saw Burke reloading for another fire, Draper's account continued, and cried: "Brother William, now's your chance-shoot the rascal."
      William Twitty shot the "bold" Tory "through the head."
      It was at this point that Susan "at once unbarred the door, darted out and brought in, amid a shower of Tory bullets, Burke's gun and ammunition as trophies of victory. She fortunately was unhurt. It was a heroic act for a young girl of 17."
      When the Tories departed, their party had suffered one killed and three wounded.
      "Anticipating that the enemy, smarting under their repulse, would return with increased numbers, Col. Graham and friends retired to a more distant place of safety, when a large Tory party reappeared, with no one to oppose them, and plundered the house of clothing and other valuables."

      Col. Graham, according to Clarence Griffin's History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties, was born in Augusta County, Va., in 1742 and emigrated to North Carolina a few years before the Revolution.

      "He had general superintendent of several forts and blockhouses erected on and near the frontiers of Tryon County, as protection against the Cherokee Indians. Incidentally, while in command of Fort McFadden near Rutherfordton, he formed the acquaintance of Miss Susan Twitty widow of William Twitty, and married her."
      From 1775 to 1778, Griffin continues, Graham was justice of the peace in Tryon County and clerk of court of pleas and quarter sessions 1776 to 1777 He was one of the six Tryon delegates to the Third Provincial Congress in Aug. 1775 and, the same year, appointed colonel of the Tryon Militia. The colonel was one of Tryon's delegates to the Fifth Provincial Congress at Halifax in Nov. 1776, Griffin states.
      Graham commanded a regiment from Tryon County and marched with Griffith Rutherford in 1776 against the Cherokee Indians and commanded in 1780 a regiment from Lincoln County that marched to "the relief of Charleston. . . on the arrival of several forces at Charleston they found the city so completely infested by the British Army that they could not render assistance to the American garrison and retired." Later, the colonel served at Thicketty Fort and Cedar Springs (Griffin). In June of 1780, Graham led a regiment at the Battle of Ramsour's Mill near Lincolnton.
      On Oct. 7, 1780, Col. Graham was with the Overmountain men group moving into position to do battle with Ferguson at Kings Mountain.
      Draper gives this account of what happened:
      "Colonial William Graham, who was at the head of the Lincoln men, and had rendered good service the past summer in connection with Shelby in the Spartanburg region, and had so successfully defended his fort on Buffalo creek, received at this point certain intelligence that his wife was in a precarious condition, some 16 miles away, near Armstrong's Ford on the South Fork, and his presence was imperatively demanded at the earliest possible moment. When he stated the case to Col. Campbell, the latter replied that if he could venture to remain, share in the impending battle and carry the tidings of victory to his companion, it would prove the best possible intelligence to her. Turning to Chronicle (Maj. William), also from the South Fork, Campbell inquired, as if the Major knew something of the urgency of the case-'Ought Col. Graham to have leave of absence?' 'I think so, Colonel,' responded Chronicle, 'as it is a woman affair, let him go; and David Dickey, much against his wishes, was assigned as an escort. Campbell, judging that Maj. Chronicle was a younger and more active officer than Lt. Col. Hambright (Frederick), observed to the major, 'Now you must take Graham's place'; and turning to Hambright, Campbell asked if he had any objections. He generously said it was his wish that Chronicle should do so, as he best knew the ground. As this was satisfactorily arranged, Chronicle exclaimed, 'Come on, my South Pork boys,' and took the lead."
      Chronicle was killed in the battle. Command of the unit passed to Hambright, who was wounded.
      Ed Smith, Kings Mountain businessman and historian, said there were eyewitnesses who reported that Graham, after leaving the scene, heard the guns of battle, and returned to take part in one of the final charges. Most people, Smith said, don't understand that in those days there were few if any doctors and a woman "had to depend on her husband. They came to him, said, come on, she's in bad shape. He was asked: can't somebody else do it and Graham said, "there isn't anyone else."
      Smith pointed out that although Graham's request for leave appeared to have been based solely on honorable intentions "hard feelings" grew up out of the incident-heightened, probably by the death of Chronicle, and for the rest of his life Graham had to contend with the feelings harbored in some hearts, at least, that he had "chickened out" at Kings Mountain.
      The colonel's wife gave birth to a daughter, Sarah.
      After the war, Col. Graham was a farmer, justice of the peace in Rutherford County from 1780 to 1830 and was Lincoln County's first representative in the General Assembly (Griffin).
      "He was one of the first three commissioners for the town of Irvinsville on Broad River, from about 1800 to Jan. 1819. This town ceased to exist a few years later. He was elected coroner of Rutherford County in January, 1779," Griffin wrote.
      John Phifer of Shelby has done extensive research on the Graham family. His mother, the late Florence Graham Phifer, was the great-great-granddaughter of Arthur Graham, the colonel's brother.
      Susan Twitty Graham's first husband, William Twitty, died fighting Indians in Kentucky in 1775, Phifer said.
      In 1967, the N. C. Department of Archives and History and state highway commission erected a historic marker at what was then thought to be the site of Graham's Fort-off Highway 150 near Sharon Methodist Church, west of Shelby.

      In 1972, an article appeared in The Shelby Daily Star by Miss Elizabeth Simpson (now Mrs. Ed Smith) which presented evidence the marker was in the wrong spot. Phifer at that time began his own investigation into the matter. The state subsequently moved the Graham's Port marker to its present location-off Highway 226 between Shelby and Grover.
      Draper placed the site of the fort on Buffalo Creek as did a map in the 1903 McCorkle book.
      At the State Department of Archives and History, Phifer located land grants to Archibald Graham and Arthur Graham which established the fact that Colonel William Graham owned land adjoining theirs in Lincoln (now Cleveland) County.
      Another document revealed that the colonel had lands on the First Broad River.
      Confusion over the fort's location resulted from the fact that the colonel and his wife are buried in a private cemetery near the First Broad in the vicinity of Sharon Methodist Church.
      His father Archibald and brother Arthur, among others are buried near Buffalo Creek.
      The colonel and his wife apparently settled on the plantation land around the First Broad after he retired. Their tombstones read: "Col. William Graham: a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Died March 1835 Aged 90 Years," and "Susan Graham, wife of Col. W. Graham, Died in 1825. Aged 74 Years."
      Griffin states that Rutherford County court of pleas and quarter session minutes show the colonel died May 3, 1834. The tombstone, he wrote, was erected many years after Graham's death by a relative. The death had been reported to the court at the September, 1835 term and the May 3 date was "probably more correct than either of the references quoted or on the headstone."
      The colonel's stepdaughter, Susan Twitty, heroine of Graham's Fort, married John Miller and died April 14, 1825, age 62, according to Draper. She is buried in a family cemetery in the Cleghorn section of Rutherford County. Her son was W. J. T. Miller who represented Rutherford County in the General Assembly 1836-1840 and later Cleveland County. Miller was a backer of legislation to create the new county of Cleveland.
      Susan's brother, William Twitty, did fight at the Battle of Kings Mountain and lived at Twitty's Ford on the Broad River after the war. He died Feb. 2, 1816, aged 56, according to Draper.
      The colonel and Mrs. Graham's only child, the one born the day of the fighting of Kings Mountain, married Colonel Abram Irvine (1770-1824) who, according to Griffin, "settled in that portion of Rutherford County now included in Cleveland County, near the South Carolina line."
      Irvine was elected Sheriff of Rutherford County when he was 21. A farmer, he was captain of a troop of state Militia during the war of 1812. As did his father-in-law, the distinguished colonel Graham, Irvine was for a time commissioner of the new Broad River village of Irvinsville.
      "This artificial town never materialized," Griffin wrote. Irvine is buried at Buffalo Baptist Church near his plantation.
    Person ID  I5587  Mosby Childers
    Last Modified  23 Sep 2006 

    Father  Archibald GRAHAM,   b. 1704, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1748 
    Mother  Margaret SHED 
    Family ID  F2472  Group Sheet