Archive for March, 2009

Sign Painter at Work

March 31, 2009

History keeps happening around us every day, if we become aware of it.

Yesterday I saw my friend Louis Brady’s truck parked across the street from my office and discovered him repainting a Coca-Cola sign on the south-facing wall of 103 North Fayetteville Street.

Louis is a Franklinville resident and local artist who, years ago, did a series of paintings and prints of old mills in Randolph County. We ought to look at those here some day, I’m thinking.

Louis got into the sign-painting business in 1964, when the Coke people hired him and an assistant to paint signs in Randolph, western Davidson and eastern Chatham. He covered the territory from Lexington to Pittsboro. At one time Coke had 6 sign painters working out of Greensboro, Louis said. The company had a variety of sign patterns, and had “posterized” the various designs so the painters could quickly trace the patterns on a wall and start painting. Louis was the last Coca-Cola sign painter on the payroll when he quit in 1972 to start his own sign painting business.

This Coke sign was first painted, he thinks, in the 1950s.  At least, it was already there when he started in 1964.   He last worked on it ten years ago, when Tim Allen (then the owner of the building), paid him $100 to repaint it.

His work truck…

The eye-catching sign, like most of the designs, only uses six colors of paint despite its bright look. It had faded considerably over the years, and even though the current owner refused to pay for any repainting, Louis volunteered his time and materials to freshen it up.

this ‘lighthouse’ design was particularly popular in North Carolina.  Several years ago he painted an exact copy of it on the side of a little wooden store building that once sat near the mill in Central Falls. Tom Britt had it restored at his house on Iron Mountain Road as a old country store; he has since sold it to Terry Tucker, who has moved it to his home off Old Farmer Road.

Hand-painted advertising billboards and signs are virtually a thing of the past- “virtually,” only because someone like Louis refuses to let some of them fade away.

Mile Posts and Sign Boards

March 28, 2009


[Published in The Greensborough Patriot, Feb. 3, 1844]

” MILE POSTS, SIGN BOARDS, &C.

Riding across the county of Randolph recently, going and returning over different roads, we had occasion to notice that every mile was marked by a new post, neatly dressed and lettered. A magistrate of the county who was in company informed us that every public road in the county leading from the courthouse, or branching off from any of the courthouse roads, were thus measured and marked.

This brought to mind an order of the county court of Guilford made at August term, 1843, printed and conspicuously posted up at various places, requiring similar services of our overseers of roads to be performed previous to the succeeding term of the court in November. Has this order been attended to all over the county? We made the inquiry lately of some person who had travelled a good deal over the county, and he answered, saying, “sorter–in some places.”

In our sister county of Randolph we were likewise struck with the appearance of the sign boards at the forks of the roads. They were large and legibly lettered, so that he “who runs may read.” They occasioned the indulgence of a melancholy reflection upon the old shingles and strips of clapboards tacked up at various forks of the highway in our old dominion of Guilford, on whose dim and weatherbeaten surface, carved to all appearance with a rusty nail, may be deciphered some such mysterious heiroglyphics as these–“To G B”–“To J T”–“To O S”–“To K K R,” &c.,–meaning, in the opinion of the learned and such has have been brought up in a boarding school, “To Greensborough,” “To Jamestown,” “To Old Salem,” “To Kerner’s Kross Roads,” &c.

All which is nevertheless as intelligible as the red blazonry sewed upon the coat tails of a military company we wot of somewhere in these United States; that is, the letter V on the left skirt and T on the right. Shades of Bonaparte and Wellington! ghosts of Steuben and Lee! what would you suppose these characters, stiched in that conspicuous position, stand for? Why, for VolunTeer, ye bonentition! It is just as plain as that yf spells wife, according to the orthography of Dr. Franklin’s maid; or that &ru Jaxn spells the name of the old hero of the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson.

But we have some how got out of the road subject, owing either to the want of mile posts to show how far we had travelled, or of sign boards to indicate the proper fork to take, or, possibly, unconsciously allured to leave the track and take the field by the splendor of the muster doings…… J. T.”

(This is an English milestone.)

A year before the above article was published, the Justices of the Randolph County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (the antebellum version of the County Commissioners), had ordered mile posts to be erected on all the main roads. Measurements were to begin at the intersection of Main and Salisbury streets in Asheboro (the location of the court house) and run to the county boundaries. It stated that “The number of miles shall uniformly be designated in the same order by the [Roman] numeral letters, I for one mile, V for five miles, X for ten miles, to be cut in the front side or face of posts made of durable wood or stone pillars neatly dressed, and that each and every post or piller shall contain also on some suitable and conspecious [sic] part thereof a number of notches or scores corresponding with the number of miles.” [Randolph County, 1779-1979, p. 63.] (The notches were obviously for those citizens who were unable to read Roman numerals!)

None of the mileposts and signs mentioned by the article above have survived to the present, though Randolph County continues to mark all of its local roads (and even private driveways) with substantial signs. This date from the institution of 911 addressing, begun in the early 1990s.

Abram Brower House, Liberty

March 27, 2009

Southwest corner of Fayetteville and Raleigh Streets (destroyed)


Warren Dixon is working on a history of the Town of Liberty, and found this photo in the Town’s walk-in safe. It is captioned “the old house on the corner of Fayetteville and Raleigh St.”

Writes Warren: “Supposedly the Brower house, the first house built in Liberty, at the corner of Fayetteville and Raleigh Streets. I had seen the house in a 1939 clipping from a newspaper [article about] the 50th anniversary of Liberty’s incorporation. In the clipping, the house (a different photo, but faded) was described as “the first house built in the community 160 (sic) years ago by Abram Brower, who owned the land on which the town now stands. The house is still in use.” Well, this would date the house to 1779 [and] even I… don’t believe this. Anyway, this is the Brower house that stood on the lot Abram Brower first owned. It’s certain that James Washington Brower 1813-1875 lived in the house and many of his children. Swannanoa Brower, b. 1864 and her brother, Henry Lilly Brower, b. 1866 (and Liberty’s first mayor) grew up in the house.

Another clipping, dated June 1, 1960 (and with quite a few errors) says the house was torn down in November of 1957. Wachovia Bank now stands on the lot.

Across the street, where the Lutheran Church is now, stood [Brower’s] store, on Lot #1. The Brower house would be the southwest corner, Lot #1 the northwest. Then lots 2-6 run behind lot #1 to the west.”

Local historian Francine Swaim wrote portions of a history of Liberty called “Our Town” where she states that “James Patterson Montgomery who bought lot #1 in the “new town of Liberty”, was a cabinet maker. He was paid 4.00 for the casket he made for pioneer Christian Brower when he died in 1819. At his death in 1814, Col. John Brower owned lot #2 on the northwest corner of the public square in Liberty. Jacob Brower, guardian of John’s minor children, sold the lot to William Dicks in 1817.  Given the fact that William Dicks paid $58 for the lot, while Abram Brower paid only $20 for his two lots on the opposite corner of the square, would lead one to believe the building in which William Dicks had his store (said to have been the first store in Liberty) was on lot number two when he bought it. When William Dicks died in 1831, Abram Brower purchased the store and lot from the heirs of William Dicks, who lived in Guilford County.”

Warren continues that “Other than the photo, another interesting item in the safe was an account book dating 1834-35. Whoever had it had started a scrapbook in it, pasting…on the first few pages. Thus I was unable to see whose account book it was. I need to go back and copy the numerous names from it. Sandra [Warren’s wife, a former Town Clerk for Liberty] said that Judy Reitzel donated the collection to the town before she died. I knew Judy, she lived just down the street. Judy and her husband Armp had no children. A little research showed that Judy’s husband was the son of Guy Reitzel and Sallie Patterson. Sallie’s mother was Sarah Lavina Brower b. 1845, a dt. of James Washington Brower and granddaughter of Abraham Brower, b. 1785. Guy Reizel and his brother Roy (Liberty mayor who put in water and sewer and was immediately voted out of office) married sisters, Nellie and Sallie Patterson, daughters of Dr. A.J. Patterson and the aforementioned Sarah Levina Brower. There are account books from Dr. Patterson in the collection as well. Looking through Francine’s material again, I found this note: “Records of licenses issued in 1833 list a peddlar’s license to Abram Brower. A store account book in the possession of Delene Reitzel, a descendant of Abram Brower who grew up in the old Abram Brower home place, would indicate the store may have been operated by the Brower family for numbers of years.”  Delene Reitzel was an unmarried cousin of Armp and this would explain how the account book came to be in Armp’s wife’s hands and then later donated to the town. So it seems right now that this is Abram Brower’s account book.”

Warren asked me to examine the photo and tell him what I could tell about the house. I first look at it overall, to form a general impression; then I look at specifics. If I have the original photo, I’ll look at it with a magnifying glass, as early photographs have amazing definition and detail. Scans, not so much: though photo viewers allow really convenient magnification, to have a really high resolution scan takes a huge amount of memory.

The house stands at a crossroads of some sort (houses usually face toward the main road; this one has a road running by its side so the main road must be out of the photograph). That may be some kind of gravel sidewalk between the house and the road. The shade trees in the side yard are rather young- less than 10 years old, surely. I would date the photo itself to circa-1890; the enclosed garden is a clue; not the garden itself (it has some beautiful detailing, such as the arched flower arbor and the wooden palings, which probably date to the 1850s-70s at the latest), but the fact that it is enclosed by the fence at all. The “stock laws” passed in the 1890s required livestock to be fenced “in” by their owners; previously the law had allowed livestock to forage in “the common lands,” and homeowners were required to fence livestock “out;” so enclosed gardens became uncommon after the turn of the century.) The glass-ball lightning rods are also a late-19th/ early-20th-century feature.

It is a two-story, four-bay gable-roofed clapboard house, one room deep, with a hipped-roof porch and an attached one story rear wing. In the South, rear wings like this were almost always originally a separate kitchen, separate to isolate the house from the heat of the fire burning in the fireplace every day and night, all year. The real giveaway of the identity of the little one-story wing is the size of its chimney— 3 ½ bricks deep and 6 bricks wide, while the end chimney of the house is only 2 1/2 bricks deep and 5 bricks wide. A chimney that large in a wing that small can only be designed for cooking. The free-standing kitchen was often attached to the house by an open passage, which sooner or later became an enclosed dining room as fireplace cookery gradually turned into wood stove cookery (starting in the 1840s, and becoming nearly universal by 1900). Here we see what may be an open passage separating the house and the kitchen (or it may be a side door into the kitchen wing- hard to see exactly).

My read is that the house we see here is an 1850s-era expansion of a much earlier house. There are several clues.

The house is four bays wide; that is, it has four second-floor windows on the principal façade. However, the windows are only symmetrical on the side to the left of a vertical board dividing the clapboards of the third of the house to the right from the 2/3s to the left. There is a chimney marking this same division, and I read this as saying that the original house was expanded at some point. I’m saying the date of the expansion is the 1850s, because of the construction of the roof. It has a deep overhang, along the dripline and along the gable ends. Early roofs were almost flush at the gable and dripline- look at any house in Williamsburg. As the 19th-century advanced, roofs of southern houses especially began to widen, so as to shed water farther away from the house. This is exactly the kind of roof that was built on the 1850 Columbia Manufacturing Company mill, and exactly the same as that of the Franklinsville mill when it was rebuilt in 1852 after the fire.

Another big clue toward house dating is the design of the windows- early windows have smaller, more numerous panes of glass. Here the windows are concealed by the closed shutters (it’s obviously summer from the vegetation, so it makes sense that the shutters are closed: they are the functional equivalent of window screens, so when the windows are open, the shutters should be closed. The one visible window in the kitchen wing is a six-over-six sash, which was a common size before 1880.

Many people might read the expansion and assume that the 3-bay section is the original house because it is the symmetrical side (at least on the second floor level—the vegetation along the porch hides any look at the layout of entrances doors). The symmetry of this section of the house is even more emphasized by the fact that the center window is slightly longer than the two on either side. So it is visually natural to think that the original house was a two-story frame house with chimneys at each end. I think this is incorrect, mainly because of the chimneys. The end chimney facing the camera is smaller than the chimney which is now in the center of the house. The center chimney is 3 ½ bricks deep and 7 bricks wide- even larger than that of the kitchen wing. As a general rule, the earlier the house, the bigger its fireplaces, and bigger fireplaces require bigger chimneys. So my deduction is that the original house is the section with one window to the far right, and that it was originally a square, or almost-square, two-story house with one end chimney and fireplaces on both floors. That configuration would be what 18th-century people called a “mansion house” (two stories, two full rooms on each story with a fireplace on each floor). The fact that it was square, and had only a single window suggests to me that it may have been a log house, though that is just my assumption.

The hipped-roof of the porch is an 1850-ish feature; hip roofs were common in the Italianate style which became popular in that decade. The openwork porch posts are also from that period- I first saw them in a book of house plans written by A.J. Downing in the 1850s, They were easy for a carpenter to build, and didn’t require a large turning lathe as did the later porch posts we call “Victorian.” And as we see here, they provided a built-in trellis for the climbing roses and vines that gardeners loved so much in the 19th century.

That’s about all the story I can tell from this picture. Can you see any more?

Brower House in Snow

Brower House in Snow

4-3-09

Warren found another photo of the Brower house in a scrapbook.  It’s from a much later time- possible 40 or 50 years after the first picture.  The second window to the left has been blocked up, it seems.  The Victorian garden fence has been removed, and some new trees have been planted at the intersection.  And there appears to be a concrete well cap in the front yard, which I’d date no earlier than the 1930s or 40s.    As Warren said earlier, the house was torn down in 1957, so this is obviously what it looked like late in its life…

Andrew Balfour Family Cemetery

March 24, 2009

Doul Mountain Road, Cedar Grove Township

Randolph County Landmark Report.


The dramatic story of the assassination of Colonel Andrew Balfour on the steps of his own home is by far the best known and best documented episode of Randolph County’s Revolutionary War history. Balfour’s grave site is the only remaining physical evidence of his residence in the county, but his memory lives on in numerous ways. Not only is the local chapter of the DAR named for him, but the Asheboro Masonic Lodge and an entire neighborhood of North Asheboro bears the Balfour name. His grave was originally located on his farm somewhere near the site of his house, the exact location of Balfour’s house is now unknown, but he was buried on a west-facing slope of what is now called Doul Mountain, west of Tot Hill Farm Road and Bettie McGee’s Creek. The grave became the center of a family graveyard now accessed from Doul Mountain Road, and situated on property now belonging to the City of Asheboro but outside the fenced boundaries of the Airport Authority. Once overgrown and surrounded by corn fields, the cemetery was renovated by the DAR and local Boy Scout troops. Five marked graves are enclosed by a stone wall and shaded by crepe myrtles and two young trees. The stone marking Colonel Balfour’s plot in the center is inscribed “murdered by a band of Tories at his home;” a more pious epitaph also reads “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord.” It is flanked on one side by the grave of his second wife, Elizabeth Dayton who died in 1818 and their son, Andrew Balfour Jr., Oct. 22, 1776-Dec. 31, 1825. On his other side are the markers of the colonel’s sister, Margaret Balfour, who died in 1816, and Margaret B. Hughes, 1775-1820 (his daughter by Elizabeth Dayton).


The cemetery, located at or near the site of Balfour’s home and marking the site of his murder, is historically valuable in illustrating and explaining the vicious guerrilla warfare that centered around Randolph County in the aftermath of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Andrew Balfour was not the only Whig killed in the “Tory War,” but he became its best known victim. David Fanning was the partisan leader of the royalist Tory forces based in the southeastern section of the county. His greatest exploit was a surprise attack on the state government meeting in Hillsborough, where he captured Governor Thomas Burke and a number of members of the General Assembly, and marched them to Wilmington as prisoners of war. But the majority of Fanning’s work in the year 1782-1783 lay in terrorizing the friends and families of local patriot leaders, burning their barns and homes, intimidating local government, and engaging in several pitched battles with Whig cavalry and militia forces. Fanning’s assassination of Andrew Balfour was part of his plan to deprive the local Whig forces of any competent leadership.

The primary source of the details of Balfour’s murder were assembled by the Rev. Eli W. Caruthers in his 1854 book “Revolutionary Incidents And Sketches Of Characters, Chiefly In The Old North State” (commonly referred to as “The Old North State in 1776”).  Chapter 20, starting on page 297, contains information on Colonel Balfour gathered by Caruthers and pioneer historian Judge Archibald D. Murphey. The Rev. Caruthers, a minister in Greensboro, interviewed numerous Randolph County residents and descendants of Col. Balfour in the early 1850s in preparation for writing his book. It appears that the family also allowed him to read and copy the private correspondence of Margaret and Eliza Balfour.


Colonel Andrew Balfour was born February 23, 1736 (old style) at Braidwood Estate near Edinburgh.[i] He was the son of Andrew Balfour, a well-to-do member of the Scottish gentry and his wife Margaret Robertson. Andrew (who may actually have been the third in his family bearing that name) attended Edinburgh University, engaged in a mercantile business with his brother Robert Scott Balfour, and later opened his own business.  Balfour married Jane McCormick in 1769 and fathered a daughter Isabel (nicknamed “Tibby”) in 1771. 


[i] Geneaological information on “Andrew Balfour iii” is from the Balfour family website http://andrewbalfour.com/Descendants%20and%20Ancestors/Descendants%20of%20Andrew%20Balfour%20III.htm

He emigrated to America from Grenock, Scotland in May of 1772, leaving his wife and child to follow later, and arrived in Boston on the 18th of July, 1772. While working in Enfield, Connecticut, he received news that his wife had died in Scotland of fever on June 17, 1773.  His sister Margaret Balfour sailed with Balfour’s daughter Tibby to Charleston, South Carolina, where their brother John Balfour resided. Meanwhile, Balfour met Elizabeth Dayton of New Port, Rhode Island and married her there on May 1, 1774, before embarking for Charleston to reunite with Margaret and Tibby.

Balfour moved south in 1777, leaving his wife with her relatives in New England while he investigated family land in North Carolina and visted his brother in Charleston. Balfour’s father had purchased land in South Carolina for his son John, and before 1773 he evidently purchased a thousand acres in North Carolina from Lord Granville, and offered it to his son Andrew if he would homestead it. Balfour, basing himself in Salisbury, had the property surveyed in May, 1779, and found it to contain 1,900 acres on the “waters” of Bettie Magee’s Creek, a tributary of Little River and the Pee Dee River basin. Balfour moved to the property with a number of slaves and began operating a “plantation.” As a prominent landowner Balfour became highly regarded in a short time, and was elected Second Major of the local militia in 1779. In 1780 he was elected one of the county’s first state representatives to the General Assembly and a short time later was appointed Colonel of the Militia.

It is interesting that Andrew Balfour became a Whig, as his brother John living in Charleston and Cheraw remained a Tory loyalist. Balfour may have served in General Ashe’s Georgia campaign, which Caruthers theorizes led him to be captured by a band of armed Tories in South Carolina. In the fall of 1780, he and Jacob Shephard, father of the Hon. Augustine H. Shephard, who was also a prominent Whig, were captured by a party of Tories, from the Pedee, under the command of Colonel Coulson, who were carrying them as prisoners to the British at Cheraw, but were attacked by Captain Childs, from Montgomery, who completely dispersed them, and set their prisoners at liberty to return home.” [ii]


[ii] Quoted in Caruthers, “REVOLUTIONARY INCIDENTS AND SKETCHES OF CHARACTERS, CHIEFLY IN THE OLD NORTH STATE” (commonly referred to as: “The Old North State in 1776”), Chapter 20. The book is most easily found on the web at http://andrewbalfour.com/Colonel%20Andrew%20Balfour/Caruthers.htm.

About the same time Balfour was fighting for the Whigs, David Fanning arrived in the county from South Carolina and assembled a guerrilla army of pro-British Tories. Fanning and Balfour became linked in opposition. The only good account of their continuing series of battles comes from the Autobiography of Fanning himself:

I returned to Coxe’s Mill and remained there till the 8th June [1781]; when the Rebels embodied 160 men to attack me, under the command of Cols. Collyer and Balfour.  I determined to get the advantage by attacking them, which I did with 49 men in the night, after marching 10 miles to their encampment.  They took one of my guides, which gave them notice of my approach: I proceeded within thirty steps of them; but being unacquainted with the grounds, advanced very cautiously.  The sentinel, however, discovered my party, and firing upon us, retreated.  They secured themselves under cover of the houses, and fences; the firing then began; and continued on both sides for the space of four hours; being very cloudy and dark – during which time I had one man killed, and six wounded; and the guide, before mentioned, taken prisoner; whom they killed next morning in cold blood.  What injury they suffered, I could not learn; As the morning appeared we retreated, and returned again to Deep River; leaving our wounded men at a friend’s house, privately.

. . . About the 7th March 1782 Capt. Walker and Currie, of the Loyal Militia fell in, with a party of Rebels, and came to an engagement, and fired for some time, ’till the rebels had fired all their ammunition; and then, wished to come to terms of peace between each party; and no plundering, killing or murdering should be committed by either party or side… which was to be agreed upon by each Colonel… Soon after my men came to me and informed what they had done; we received the rebel Col. Balfour’s answer; ‘there was no resting place for a Tory’s foot upon the Earth.’  He also immediately sent out his party, and on the 10th, I saw the same company coming to a certain house where we were fiddling and dancing.  We immediately prepared ourselves in readiness to receive them, , their number being 27 and our number only seven; We immediately mounted our horses, and went some little distance from the house, and commenced a fire, for some considerable time; night coming on they retreated and left the ground.

Some time before, while, we were treating with each other, I had ordered and collected twenty-five men to have a certain dress made which was linnen frocks, died black, with red cuffs, red elbows, and red shoulder cape also, and belted with scarlet, all fringed with white fringe, and on the 12th of March, my men being all properly equipped, assembled together, in order to give them a small scourge, which we set out for.  On Balfour’s plantation, we came upon him, he endeavored to make his escape; but we soon prevented him, fired at him, and wounded him.  The first ball he received was through one of his arms, and ranged through his body; the other through his neck; which put an end to his committing any more ill deeds.

We also wounded another of his men.  We then proceeded to their Colonel [Collier] belonging to said county of Randolph; on our way we burnt several rebel houses, and catched several prisoners; the night coming on and the distance to said Collier’s was so far, that it was late before we got there.  He made his escape, having received three balls through his shirt.  But I took care to destroy the whole of his plantation.  I then persued our route, and came to one Capt. John Bryan’s; another rebel officer.  I told him if he would come out of the house, I would give him a parole; which he refused, saying that he had taken parole from Lord Cornwallis, swearing ‘by God! he had broken that and he would also break our Tory parole.’  With that I immediately ordered the house to be set on fire, which was instantly done.  As soon as he saw the flames of the fire, increasing, he called out to me, and desired me to spare his house, for his wife’s and children’s sake, and he would walk out with his arms in his hands.  I immediately answered him, that if he walked out, that his house should be saved, for his wife and children.  When he came out, he said ‘Here, damn you, here I am.’  With that he received two balls through his body: He came out with his gun cocked, and sword at the same time.

The next following being the 13th march, was their election day to appoint Assembly men, and was to meet at Randolph Court House.  I proceeded on in order to see the gentlemen representatives; On their getting intelligence of my coming they immediately scattered; I prevented their doing any thing that day.

From thence I proceeded on, to one Major Dugin’s house, or plantation, and I destroyed all his property; and all the rebel officers property in the settlement for the distance of forty miles. [iii]


[iii] David Fanning, “The Narrative  of Colonel David Fanning” printed in Richmond, Va., 1861 and reprinted by the Reprint Company, Spartanburg, SC. This book can be found on the web at http://andrewbalfour.com/Colonel%20Andrew%20Balfour/David%20Fanning%27s%20Narrative.htm#%22The%20Narrative%20of%20Colonel%20David%20Fanning%22


The impact on the community can be seen in the following letter from Balfour’s second-in-command of the local militia, Major Absalom Tatom, who had also been Randolph County’s first elected Clerk of Court in 1779. Tatom wrote to Governor Thomas Burke:


Hillsboro’, March 20th, 1782.
Sir: – – On Sunday the 11th inst., Col. Balfour, of Randolph, was murdered in the most inhuman manner, by Fanning and his party, also a Captain Bryant and a Mr. King were murdered in the night of the same day, by them. Colonel Collier’s and two other houses were burned by the same party.
Colonel Balfour’s sister and daughter, and several other women, were wounded and abused in a barbarous manner.
There, sir, are facts. I was at that time in Randolph- -saw the Tories and some of their cruelties. Without a speedy relief, the good people of that county must leave their habitations, and seek refuge in some other place.
I am, sir, your o’bt serv’t,
A. Tatom.

Fanning blamed Balfour for refusing to approve the truce negotiated by his own men in their skirmish with the Tories, and obviously saw Balfour as the chief impediment to Fanning’s control over the county. The account of Fanning and his men dressed in their special black and red uniforms provides an even more intimidating picture of their terrorizing sweep across the county. Andrew Balfour was not the only one to die during Fanning’s ride of terror, but interestingly, he is the only one to be remembered by the general public even though Fanning’s account of the death of John Bryan is much more dramatic.


Many additional accounts of the assassination of Andrew Balfour have survived. On Sunday, March 10, 1782, Balfour was resting. His wife, son and younger daughter were still in Connecticut, but Balfour’s sister Margaret and daughter Tibby were at home with him. Family tradition says that he had recently returned home sick from some tour of military service and was convalescing in bed.
Judge A.D. Murphy, writing in the University Magazine of March, 1853, gave a succinct account of the murder: “

In one of his predatory and murderous excursions, [Fanning] went to the house of Andrew Balfour, which he had plundered three years before. Stephen Cole, one of Balfour’s neighbors, hearing of his approach and apprised of his intentions, rode at full speed to Balfour’s house and gave him notice of the danger that threatened him. Balfour had scarcely stepped out of his house before he saw Fanning galloping up. He ran, but one of Fanning’s party, named Absalom Autry, fired at him with his rifle and broke his arm. He returned to the house and entered it, and his daughter and sister clung to him in despair. Fanning and his men immediately entered and tore away the women, threw them on the floor and held them under their feet until they shot Balfour. He fell on the floor, and Fanning taking a pistol, shot him through the head.

The pace of communication at the time is illustrated by the fact that Balfour’s wife Eliza learned of her husband’s murder on May 14th, two months after his death but just two days after she received two letters from him. Margaret Balfour wrote her with details of the day on September 24th, from Swearing Creek near Salisbury, where she and Tibby had gone to live with friends:

On the 10th of March, about twenty-five armed ruffians came to the house with the intention to kill my brother. – – Tibby and I endeavored to prevent them; but it was all in vain. The wretches cut and bruised us both a great deal, and dragged us from the dear man before our eyes. The worthless, base, horrible Fanning shot a bullet into his head, which soon put a period to the life of the best of men, and the most affectionate and dutiful husband, father, son and brother. The sight was so shocking, that it is impossible for tongue to express any thing like our feelings; but the barbarians, not in the least touched by our anguish, drove us out of the house, and took every thing that they could carry off except the negroes who happened to be all from home at the time. It being Sunday, never were creatures in more distress. We were left in a strange country, naked, without money, and what was a thousand times worse, we had lost forever a near and dear relation. What added to our affliction, was the thought of his poor, helpless family left destitute, and it was not in our power to assist them. I wish his two families were united together… Until then, I shall hire out my negroes, and go to Salisbury, where we intend to try the milliner’s business. If there is good encouragement for that business with you, please let me know it, as soon as possible. If there is not, I beg you will come to us; and while I have a sixpence, I will share it with you. We are at present about tem miles from Salisbury, at Mr James McCay’s, where we have made a crop of corn. We remained only a few days on our own plantation, after the dreadful disaster, having been informed that Fanning was coming to burn the house and take the negroes.


Even after the war ended and Fanning had fled to Canada, Margaret Balfour continued to advocate for justice for her brother. Writing to Eliza Balfour on June 6th, 1783 Margaret says:

Some time last February, having been informed that my horse [stolen by Fanning’s men] was at one Major Gholson’s, I got Mr. John McCoy with me, and we went to the Major’s, where we found the horse, but in such poor condition, that it was with great difficulty that we got him home. However, he is now so much recruited, that he is fit for a little service. When I was after the horse, I heard that one of Fanning’s men was in Hillsboro’ jail; and, as the court commenced on the 1st of April, I went to Hillsboro’, and witnessed against him. The crime was proved so plainly, that not one lawyer spoke a word in his favor, though he had three of them employed. My story was so affecting, that the court was willing to give me every satisfaction in their power; and in order to do this, they broke a little through the usual course, for they had the villain fried, condemned and hung, all in the space of the court. While the judge was giving the jury their charge, I heard several gentlemen of my brother’s acquaintance wishing to God the jury would not bring him in guilty, that they might have the pleasure of putting the rascal to death with their own hands; and if the jury had not brought him in guilty, I am sure they would have killed the wretch before he had got out of the house. If it is an inexpressible happiness for one to know, that his dear friends are much beloved, we have that happiness; for I believe, that there has not a man fallen since the beginning of the troubles, who was more sincerely and generally lamented, than our dear Andrew.


Margaret Balfour’s account is confirmed by an indictment obtained by Attorney General Alfred Moore in Hillsboro Superior Court in April, 1783, which states that

The jurors for the State, upon their oath, present that David Fanning, late of the county of Chatham, yeoman, and Frederick Smith, late of the county of Cumberland, yeoman, not having the fear of God in their hearts, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, on the ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and in the sixth year of American Independence, with force and arms, in the county of Randolph, in the District of Hillsboro’, in and upon one Andrew Balfour… did make an assault, and that the said David Fanning, [with] a certain pistol of the value of Five shillings sterling… charged with gunpowder and one leaden bullet, which pistol, he, the said David, in his right hand… held, to, against, and upon the said Andrew Balfour, then and there feloniously, wilfully , and of his malice aforethought, did shoot and discharge, and…by force of the gunpowder, shot and sent forth…in and upon the head of the said Andrew…the leaden bullet aforesaid…so as to… strike, penetrate, and wound…in and upon the head of him the said Andrew, one mortal wound of the depth of four inches and of the breadth of half an inch, of which said mortal wound, the aforesaid Andrew Balfour then and there instantly died; and that the aforesaid Frederick Smith, then and there, feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, was present, aiding, helping, abetting, comforting, assisting and maintaining the said David Fanning…against the peace and dignity of the said State.”



After the murder Margaret Balfour settled in Salisbury with her neice Tibby. Eliza Balfour and her children joined them on December 25, 1784, after a voyaging to Wilmington, journeying up the river to Fayetteville, and across country past the plantation and grave of her husband before arriving in Rowan County. In 1790 Tibby Balfour married John Troy of Salisbury, and had by him two daughters and a son, John Balfour Troy, who became a prominent merchant and Justice of the Peace in Randolph County (and the ancestor of Colonel Guy Troy, of Liberty). Margaret Balfour resided on the Balfour plantation with her grand-neice Rachel Troy, who had married Lewis Beard. She died in 1818 and was laid to rest in the burying ground beside her brother.