Posts Tagged ‘Alpheus Gollihorn’

What’s in a Name?

April 13, 2015


It is pretty common, living in Asheboro, North Carolina, for visitors to confuse our community with our cousin to the West, Asheville, North Carolina.

Both of us are named after the 9th Governor of the state, Samuel Ashe (1725-1813), who is best remembered for lending his name to Ashe County, Asheville and Asheboro.

People have had enough problems over the years just figuring out the spelling- “Ashboro” and “Ashville” are the most common variations, to those who don’t realize “Ashe” was a man’s name.

“Asheborough” was the official version during the Civil War, only shortened to “Asheboro” by the U.S. Postal Service in the 20th century.

But whether Ashboro, Asheboro or Asheborough, our town in central North Carolina is often mis-identified with our larger, more liberal and super-scenic cousin to the West.

There are numerous examples known to our tourism workers of people who call or show up in Asheboro, wondering where all those Blue Ridge mountains and beer brewers are…

What I consider as the most notorious example of this name confusion happened 150 years ago, in a letter between two well-known people:

WTS Orders 13 April 1865


The next move of Sherman’s army from Raleigh west was NOT, of course, to be Ashville, then Salisbury or Charlotte.  It would have been a relief to Randolph County if he had skipped over us, but the plan was to head for the cotton mills on Deep River, east of Asheboro, and capture the railroad connections in High  Point and Greensboro.  All were to be destroyed as thoroughly as had been done in Fayetteville.

If President Jefferson Davis had had his way, General Joe Johnston would have fought Sherman’s forces tooth and claw, laying waste to Piedmont North Carolina.  Davis ordered Johnston to prolong the fight as long as possible, to cover the escape of the Confederate leadership.  At a meeting with the President, then residing in exile in Greensboro, Johnston entreated him to face reality:

“I represented that under such circumstances it would be the greatest of human crimes for us to attempt to continue the war; for, having neither money nor credit, nor arms but those in the hands of our soldiers, nor ammunition but that in their cartridge boxes, nor shops for repairing arms or fixing ammunition, the effect of keeping in the field would be, not to harm the enemy, but to complete the devastation of our country and ruin of its people.  I therefore urged that the President should exercise at once the only function of government still in his possession, and open negotiations for peace.”

Johnston recognized that the Confederate army was facing an age-old question: who wants to be the last man to die in a war?

Sherman’s men had been in the Randolph County area for weeks, whether spying or encouraging desertion and civil unrest is still under debate.  On March 22, 1865, state troops had surprised local outlier leader Alpheus Gollihorn meeting with a man near Page’s plank road toll house (now Seagrove).  Gollihorn was summarily executed by firing squad, but his companion gained a reprieve by identifying himself as Pvt. William F. Walters of Company L of the Third Indiana Cavalry.  Walters was brought to Asheboro, where his presence created a problem for Lt. Colonel A.C. McAlister, the commander of the local Confederate forces.  Better that Walters had been executed in the field than tried in public with Sherman on the way, thought McAlister, but he deferred to Governor Vance, who ordered a public court martial.  Walters’ trial began in Asheboro on March 28, 1865, and he was eventually found “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…”  Walters had been “shot to death with musketry” on April 1, 1865.

In Asheboro, not Asheville.



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.)