Archive for July, 2008


July 21, 2008

Seagrove, between Ridge Street and the Old Plank Road

With a majority of its population morally and philosophically opposed to secession and the Confederacy, Randolph County from 1861 to 1865 suffered what has been called an “Inner Civil War,” setting neighbor against neighbor in murderous attacks and guerrilla raids which laid waste to the countryside. The hidden places of the county began to fill with “Outliers” (what we would call ‘draft dodgers) and “Recusant Conscripts” (army deserters) who raided pro-Confederacy farms for food and cash. Companies of Home Guards and Senior Reserves were detailed to guard the county’s factories from threats of sabotage and arson, and both regular troops and gangs of bounty hunters patrolled the roads looking for roving robbers and desperadoes.

One of these militant Unionists was William Gollihorn, aged 46 in 1860, who with his wife and seven children lived in the Christian Union settlement where the Plank Road crossed the Randolph-Moore line. Until the fall of 1862 Gollihorn served as a Justice of the county Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (the equivalent of a modern-day county commissioner), and was a man of some social and economic prominence. Near the beginning of the war his son Alpheus Gollihorn served as 3rd corporal of Company B of the 52nd Regiment of North Carolina troops. But by 1864 Alpheus and his brother Milton had earned a reputation as “notorious outlaws” terrorizing southern Randolph County, and in the spring of that year William Gollihorn was indicted by Randolph County Superior Court for harboring deserters.

In the spring of 1865 Col. A.C. McAlister and 600 regular troops were sent on detached service to Randolph County by General Robert E. Lee to arrest and execute deserters. On March 22nd the soldiers cornered some deserters in “the neighborhood of old Goleyhorns:” Milton Gollihorn escaped and Alpheus Gollihorn was captured, together with Private William F. Walters of Company L of the 3rd Indiana Cavalry. The prisoners were taken to the detachment’s headquarters near Page’s Toll Gate on the Plank Road (now Seagrove), where Gollihorn was staked and shot by a firing squad. Captain D.C. Green explained that Gollihorn, “from his fortified position… fired upon two of our men with the intention no doubt of killing them… If I had been present when he was first taken he would not have been brought to camp… I gave him the benefit of a Drum head court martial which condemned him to be shot to death with musketry on the 22nd day of March 1865 at 4 P.M.”

This spring is known by local residents as the Gollihorn Spring, as it was at or near the site of Alpheus Gollihorn’s execution. It was no doubt a landmark on the Plank Road, due to its central location near the Toll Gate and several intersecting roads. The area was undoubtedly a campsite and way station for wagons using the Plank Road before the war, and was the logical site for Captain Green’s headquarters camp.

Private Walters, identified as the leader and officer of the armed band of deserters, was taken to Asheboro where a military court tried him for robbery and the murder of a Confederate soldier named John Vanderford. The transcript of this trial gives interesting insights to Walters’ attempts to organize the “better class” of deserters in open defiance of Confederate authority. The verdict of the court found Private Walters “guilty of robbery and of associating with armed bands of deserters and robbers; of resisting military authority of the Confederate States and of being a leader and counsellor of such armed resistance.”

He was “shot to death with musketry” in Asheboro, on April 1, 1865.

(Written in 1998 for the historical society tour of southern Randolph.)