Location: Franklinville, south side Deep River, looking east from the SR 2235 bridge. The concrete storage silos of the former roller mill are to the left.
Rising out of Deep River several hundred feet upstream of the site of Elisha Coffin’s grist mill and textile factory is Franklinville’s major geological landmark, a huge bluestone outcrop known as Faith Rock. It was the setting for one of Randolph County’s most legendary Revolutionary War incidents.
While taking a wagon of produce to trade for salt at the Pedee River market on May 2, 1782, local resident Andrew Hunter was captured by the notorious Tory guerrilla leader David Fanning. Facing immediate execution, Hunter made a desperate escape. In Fanning’s words, Hunter “sprung upon my riding mare, and went off with my saddle, holsters, pistols, and all my papers… We fired two guns at him; he received two balls through his body but it did not prevent him from sitting the saddle, and make his escape.” [David Fanning, The Narrative of Colonel David Fanning (Spartanburg: The Reprint Company, 1973; pp. 59-62.]
Enraged, Fanning plundered Hunter’s home, holding his pregnant wife hostage for the return of the horse, “a mare I set great store by, and gave One Hundred and Ten guineas for her.” [ibid.] However, Fanning’s guerrilla band was forced to release Mrs. Hunter and ride out to join the British evacuation of Charleston, South Carolina.
But Fanning risked a final return to Randolph on September 5, 1782, solely in an attempt to recover his mare. The incident at Faith Rock must have occurred at this time. Hunter “was riding the Bay Doe, on the high ground south of Deep River, and not far above the …ford; but found they were heading him in that direction. He then turned his course up the river, but they were there ready to receive him. The only alternative was to surrender, which would be certain and instant death, or to make a desperate plunge down a precipice, some fifty feet high into the river. He chose the latter… It was such a daring adventure that his pursuers… stopped short, in a kind of amazement, and contented themselves with firing two or three pistols after him. As there was no level ground at the bottom of the descent, he plunged right into the river… sometimes swimming and sometimes floundering over rocks, until he found a place where he got out on the north side and made his escape.” [E.W. Caruthers, Revolutionary Incidents And Sketches of Character Chiefly in the “Old North State.” Philadelphia: Hayes and Zell, 1856; pp. 280-281.]
Fanning left the country in frustration on September 22, neither recovering his horse nor gaining revenge.
The incident at Faith Rock is the only event of the Revolution in Randolph County that has received extensive historical examination. In the years after the war, the exploits of Colonel Fanning were investigated by some of North Carolina’s earliest historians. One of these was the Rev. Eli Caruthers of Greensboro, a portion of whose 1856 two-volume history of the Revolution was quoted above. Judge Archibald DeBow Murphey, legal tutor of Governor Jonathan Worth, extensively researched “the Adventures of Colonel David Fanning” and some of his notes were published in the North Carolina University Magazine in 1853 (Vol. II, pp. 72-80).
On May 31, 1847 the Salisbury newspaper Carolina Watchman published “Incidents of the Revolution in North Carolina,” an extensive account by Alexander Gray of Randolph County written in the form of a letter to Professor A.M. Henderson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gray, a retired General of the War of 1812, was the county’s largest slaveowners and one of its first historians.
Gray may also have been the anonymous author (“76″ is the only signature) of the earliest known account of Andrew Hunter’s escape from Fanning, published in The Southern Citizen, Asheboro’s local newspaper, on August 24, 1838 (and reprinted in the Greensborough Patriot on August 10, 1844). Entitled “Fanning’s Mare,” the short story is more self-consciously literary than the later historical accounts, but it shares with them the name of Fanning’s horse: “He called her Red Doe, from her resemblance in color to a deer.”
All of the earliest accounts agree that the name Fanning’s mare was “Red Doe,” although Carruthers without explanation changes the name to “Bay Doe.” For more than 150 years thereafter, the name “Bay Doe” has been the preferred name of Fanning’s mare. Here’s one possible explanation: “Red” is not an accepted name for equine hair color; “chestnut” or “sorrel” is the proper term for a horse with an all-reddish coat, mane and tail. The shade usually considered “bay” is a bright red hair coat, also called “blood bay.” “Bay,” however, is a generic term for coats that vary from light reddish brown to dark mahogany brown, but always with black “points” (mane, tail, feet or legs). (For more on equine genetics, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equine_coat_color ).
So the name “Bay Doe” tells us that “Red Doe” was not only bright red, but bright red with black “points.”
Local wisdom in Franklinville has always repeated the claim that Bay Doe’s hoof prints can still be seen, embedded in Faith Rock. The truth of that, as well as the likelihood that any horse and rider could jump off a 60-degree slope into a river normally as shallow as Deep River, must be left to the opinion of visitors.
Several generations of Eagle Scouts have established and maintained a rough trail from the Andrew Hunter footbridge in Franklinville, up to the top of the rock. In this 21st-century, there are said to be “geo-caches” stashed around Faith Rock which game-players may discover with their GPS locators.