A noisy night in 1771—Part II


By Janet Morrison
Did You Know?

This is the second in a series of seven columns about “a noisy night in 1771.” At the conclusion of the first article two weeks ago, word had reached the Rocky River community that a shipment of gunpowder was on its way to Salisbury.

Knowing that the gunpowder was destined to be used to put down the Regulator Movement in counties north of Mecklenburg, nine youths and young men from the Rocky River congregation put their heads together at a sale “in the neighborhood of Moses Alexander” in an effort to design a plan to make sure the gunpowder never reached General Waddell in Salisbury. 

“Did you Know?” readers will recall from the May 31, 2006, column, “George Washington Ate Here,” that Colonel Alexander’s plantation was where Lowe’s Motor Speedway now sits; however, it is not known if “neighborhood” meant the immediate vicinity of Alexander’s home or just the general area of Harrisburg and Rocky River.

It was late April in 1771.  While the nine conspirators made plans in secret to intercept and blow up the gunpowder shipment, a thunderstorm developed.  They took cover in the springhouse on the Andrew Logan farm.* 

Not all sources agree on the names of the conspirators, but it is believed they were as follows:  James White, Jr.; John White, Jr.; William White; Robert (Bob) Caruthers (who was married to a sister of James White, Jr.); Robert Davis; Benjamin Cochran; William White (a cousin of the other Whites and son of the “Widow White”); James Ashmore; and Joshua Hadley, who was a half-brother of James Ashmore.

One source credits Joshua Hadley with producing a New Testament on which each one swore that if anyone should ever divulge their plot that a ball might be shot through his heart and his soul sent to the lowest hell. Furthermore, they swore that if one of them ever revealed the names of the participants, he might die where no one should see him and that he should be denied a Christian burial.

Meantime, the three munitions wagons from Charleston, S.C., arrived in Charlotte but, upon learning that the gunpowder was destined to be used to put down the Regulators in Alamance and Rowan counties, the teamsters refused to take the munitions any further. It is said that Militia Colonel Moses Alexander had difficulty securing volunteers to take the wagons on to Salisbury. 

Did Colonel Alexander find teamsters willing to transport the gunpowder to Salisbury? Did the gunpowder plot conspirators get to carry out their plans? Look for the “Did You Know?” column on May 14 to find out what happened here 237 years ago.

*Some sources identify the springhouse as being on the Archibald property.  William Spears bought 400 acres from Andrew Logan in 1777, and William H. Archibald subsequently purchased 26 acres from Isaiah Spears in 1827.  I believe the confusion stems from the property changing hands through the years.

• The Black Boys, May 2, 1771, by R.L. Trout
• June 22, 1771, deposition of James Ashmore.
• Robert Kirkpatrick’s unpublished history of Rocky River Presbyterian Church written in 1854

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