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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - February/March 2005
Rural Hill Farm

Rural Hill Farm
Center of Scottish Heritage
4431 Neck Road, Huntersville, NC, 28078

Contact: Keets F. Taylor, Executive Director


Huntersville, NC - 1781 - See the Spirit of the Hornets Nest! Just as it was in the days of the American Revolution, Patriots and Redcoats will clash in battle as the Battles of Cowan’s Ford and Cowpens are re-enacted at Rural Hill Farm on February 19th and 20th, 2005.

The gates open at 10:00 am. Learn from demonstrations such as a Militia Drill, 18th Century dancing, and weaponry displays. Experienced folk artisans demonstrate 18th Century skills and crafts such as basketry, candle dipping, cooking, pewter smithing, spinning, weaving, blacksmithing, soap making, quilting, woodworking, storytelling and music. See what they wore (clothing). Learn and enjoy Colonial children’s games.

The co-hosting reenactment units are The 6th North Carolina, The 2nd Regiment South Carolina Line, Continental Establishment and The Royal North Carolina Regiment.

On Saturday, February 19th the reenactment of the Battle of Cowan’s Ford will be presented at 2:00 PM followed by the pageantry of the Grand Muster and Parade.

On Sunday, February 20th the Memorial to General William Lee Davidson will be presented at 11:30 AM, musket demonstrations at 12:30 PM, the reenactment of the Battle of Cowpens at 2:00 PM followed by the Grand Muster and Parade.

Admission for Adults - $6.00, Seniors (60+) $5.00, youth (5 - 17 years)- $4.00
4 and under Free ($1.00 off each ticket purchased by February 10, 2005) MC/VISA accepted. Admission includes the re-enactment activities and tours of the Cultural Center. Concessions and Colonial crafts are available for purchase.

Alcohol is prohibited. All events handicap accessible. Access to Cultural Center limited. All events will be held rain, snow, sleet or shine. Remember there is no such thing as bad weather just improper clothing. There will be NO REFUNDS.

The Spirit of the Hornet’s Nest is sponsored by:
Corporate partners: -Coca-Cola Consolidated, The McIntosh Law Firm and McCall Brothers, Inc
And supported by EnergyUnited, Town of Cornelius, Tathwell Printing,
Town of Huntersville, Lake Norman Convention & Visitors Bureau, Windswept Hills Carriages,
Hauser Rentals, McMahan Audio Visuals, Family Cleaners and Artisan Signs & Graphics.

Rural Hill Farm-Center of Scottish Heritage is a Mecklenburg County historic property managed by the Catawba Valley Scottish Society, Inc. (CVSS), facilitated in cooperation with Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission has oversight of plans for restoration and preservation. The CVSS was chartered in 1992 and has received confirmation of its non-profit 501c3 status.

The Story of the Battle of Cowan's Ford...

During the last weeks of January 1781 Lord Cornwallis, the British commander in the South, was in hot pursuit of patriot forces under General Daniel Morgan following their victory over the British Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17th. General Morgan sent orders to General William Lee Davidson of the Salisbury Militia District to muster his forces and defend the Catawba River crossings, giving General Morgan’s forces time to link up with General Nathanael Greene’s troops.

General Davidson summoned the men of Mecklenburg and Rowan counties, gathering 800 men at Rural Retreat (the modern Rural Hill Farm), the home of Major John Davidson, William Lee Davidson’s cousin. From Rural Retreat, the militiamen marched to Beattie’s Ford on the Catawba River where, on January 31st, they confronted the British advance. The presence of so many armed men gave Cornwallis pause. His hesitation was reinforced when he noticed that the American Southern Commander, General Nathanael Greene, was present on the opposite bank of the river.

Because of the uncertainty of the situation, Cornwallis did not try to cross the Catawba that day. During the night the British army divided, with half of the troops remaining on the western bank at Beattie’s Ford while the other half marched down the Catawba River to Cowan’s Ford. The plan was to have the troops at Beattie’s Ford feign an assault; the troops sent to Cowan’s Ford would cross the river and deliver the knockout punch from an unexpected direction.

General Davidson, however, knew about Cornwallis’ preferred battle tactics and moved to counter the British plan. He assembled a total of 300 men at Cowan’s Ford. When the 1,200 British troops began to advance at dawn there was no surprise, except possibly for the British! Patriot musket fire greeted the British as they crossed the river, slowing down their progress.. The Patriot forces were too small to do more than delay the British crossing. Slowly, the Patriots made an orderly retreat to a ridge about 120 yards from the river's edge. Then, as General Davidson was organizing a new battle line a single shot killed him.

The sight of their fallen leader took all the fight out of the Patriot forces. They had fought courageously against a much larger force for about 45 minutes, but now without a General to lead them they turned and fled, scattering in all directions while the British turned their attention to securing the field of battle. Cowan’s Ford was a Patriot defeat, but it did give Daniel Morgan's men time to get across the Yadkin River and unite with Nathaniel Greene's forces. Cornwallis' effort to catch Morgan had failed.

The Patriots may have lost the battle, but their main objective was accomplished. But who shot General Davidson? The fatal rifle bullet was a small one, not a regulation size round from a Brown Bess musket. Suspicion immediately fell upon Frederick Hager, a local loyalist who had guided the redcoats to Cowan’s Ford, as it was known that he owned a rifle which could have fired the shot. Hager did nothing to change people’s minds, fleeing to Tennessee and remaining there even when other Loyalists returned to North Carolina around the war. He then moved on to the Arkansas River country with eight or ten others, all said to be “fugitives from justice” when members of the Davidson family moved into Tennessee some years later.

Cowan’s Ford was located on the Catawba River just north of Highway #73 where the Cowan’s Ford Dam hydroelectric plant is now located. A monument to General William Lee Davidson is located near by as well as one at Hopewell Presbyterian Church where he is buried.

Special Event Notice:

"The Spirit of the Hornet's Nest" program will celebrate the events of January and February, 1781, with re-enactments of the Battle of Cowpens and The Battle of Cowan's Ford. The Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) will lay a wreath in honor of our Patriots who fought in these battles plus special recognition for General William Lee Davidson. The memorial service will be officiated by Rev. Jeff Lowrance:

Location: Davidson Family Cemetery, Rural Hill Farm
Date: Saturday, February 19, 2005
Time: 10:00 am service


Sam Powell,
NC Central Area V-Pres

Return to February/March 2005 magazine


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