Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Sellers/McCurdy

Contributed by Jim Sellars <jimsellars@ymail.com>

Note from Shirley Swillen: Newspaper article which appeared in the Anderson Independent on November 16, 1930. It was written by Lily Doyle Dunlap.

CAROLINA HEROINE OF THE WAR OF THE REVOLUTION; McCURDY-GUYTON

MARGARET SELLARS McCURDY AND MARGARET McCURDY GUYTON
SERVED THEIR COUNTRY WELL.

One as a Woman, Other a Child Probably Saved American Armies from Disaster. Both Left Descendants, Many Now Living in Anderson County.

At the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of King’s Mountain, which was held at that historic spot on October 7th last, there was a reunion of the Guyton-McCurdy family. This reunion was partially brought about by the publication in an August issue of “ The Charlotte Observer” of part of the story below. Since this publication in an August issue of “The Observer”- of these famous people have hunted up lost threads in their lineage and following will prove interesting not only to members of the family but to many of their friends in this vicinity

BY LILY DOYLE DUNLAP

Robert and Archibald McCurdy were brothers, and as their names would imply, of Scottish origin. The immigrant ancestors settled first in New England, and from the same lineage comes the writer, Mrs. Frances Parkinson Keyes, wife of the present United States senator from New Hampshire, who is much interested in the southern branch of the family.

ARCHIBALD AND ROBERT

Archibald, the youngest brother, lived in Mecklenburg County, N. C. the part that was in 1792 formed into Cabarrus County, and Robert lived across the Catawba River in York County, South Carolina.

In an application for a pension Archibald McCurdy says that he was born in Mecklenburg County, April 16, 1752 so his parents were evidently among the very earliest comers to that section. He died November 10, 1843, and his will is on record in Cabarrus County, in Will Book l, page 37. He was twice married, first to Margaret Sellers, the heroine, and second to Elizabeth Greely. This second marriage took place October 19, 1826, and the bride was the grooms junior by 39 years.

MARGART SELLERS McCURDY

Margaret Sellers McCurdy was born to the hard life of a pioneer, and came into the world in a frontier cabin in the southern part of Pennsylvania, near the intersecting lines of Virginia and Maryland. This was a particularly dangerous section during the French and Indian war, and the people suffered massacres at the hands of the Indians who were incited by the French against all English settlements.

One day while Mr. Sellers was at work with some neighbors in a distant field whither little Maggie had gone to take him his dinner; Mrs. Sellers was attacked and scalped by the Indians. She had evidently apprehended danger, and sent the little girl on this errand in the hope of saving her, for the little child told her father that she had left her mother crying.

FOUND HIS WIFE DEAD

Sensing danger, he accompanied by his neighbors, returned home with all speed to find his wife dead on the doorsteps.

Saddened and discouraged, he soon joined the tide of colonists that was flowing southward to escape the persecutions of the Indians. They found a haven of refuge and pleasant land in the upper Carolinas and hewed out good homes for themselves.

Here Margaret Sellers grew to young womanhood along with a neighbor lad named Archibald McCurdy. Neighborliness and liking deeper to love and shortly after attaining to their majorities they were wed.

The youth of these happy lovers had been one of reasonable peace and security though attended with hard work and few comforts. But this was not to last. The king’s officers began to penetrate to these frontier settlements and demanded taxes, quit rents, etc, in exorbitant and oppressive proportions. This settlement was of the liberty or death kind and resented injustices. This resentment came to a tangible expression on May 20, 1775 when Thomas Polk read the immortal declaration from the steps of the log courthouse in Charlotte.

CHEERS FORN LIBERTY

Archibald McCurdy heard it and made the welkin ring with stentorian cheers that came from a heart that meant business. He hastened home to tell Maggie and that night they sat long---- the spring fire and made a verbal and mental list of those in the neighborhood who could be counted on to stand by the document and of those who would oppose and of those who would straddle.

A year went by in patient, watchful waiting and as if in celebration of the notable day 12 months previous, on May 20, 1776 twins, a boy and a girl came to make glad the hearts of Archie and Peggie McCurdy.

As the heat of summer advanced the heat of tempers increased. The passion for liberty paramounted every other issue and the fourth of July found the whole colonies united in a determination to “ hang together or hang separately” for freedom and independence. Armies were formed and men girded for battle.

Archie McCurdy polished this broadsword, cleaned his musket and left his threshold with fire in his eyes and tears in his heart. He realized to what dangers he was leaving his wife and twin babies whose sole protection was a Negro girl named Aggie. But Mrs. McCurdy was thoroughly in sympathy with the cause that her husband had espoused and waved him away with a smiling cheer, Yes, “the bravest are the truly, the loving are the daring” “ I could not love thee halfwell, loved I not honor more”. Of industrious turn, Maggie McCurdy set about her work which there was a plenty, and fought against loneliness and heartache, and for the gathering in and preserving of such things as would provide for the necessities of a war-stricken country.

Her Tory neighbors had nicknamed her “she-rebel” and annoyed her on many occasions by driving off her hogs and cattle and threatening to raid her larder and burn her house. But she kept patient and sweet and practiced the spirit of neighborliness to all alike and so disarmed much that might have happened.

However, serious times would come now and then and make her brave heart quail. Once a group was heard approaching with cursing and threats. Frightened, she took Aggie and the twins and fled beneath the floor into a cellar that her Pennsylvania thrift had let her to prepare. This was entered by raising one of the broad planks left loose for this purpose, and when replaced gave no indication of what was beneath it. Hidden here they heard the stamping of rough shod feet and angry threats and cursings from four mouthed Tories. Once they spoke of burning the house, but postponed that until the “ she-rebel” could be caught in it.

During this hour of terror little Samuel, the twin that Aggie held began to cry and she choked him. For the moment Tory fear was overcome by a fear for her child and she whispered, “Aggie, would you kill my child?” She replied “better him die than all of us be killed?”

By this time the Tories were departing and little Samuel was not the worse for his neck squeeze, and lived to rehearse the tale many times to his own grandchildren.

SLEPT IN HAY STACK

For several succeeding nights after this Mrs. McCurdy and her household slept in a haystack, fearing the Tories would consummate their threat and return and burn the house.

Days of peace and danger sporadically came and went as the new of the success of defeat of the patriots sifted into the community. British victories pepped up the Tories and made them vicious and rampant, while defeats quelled and scared them. So the years passed until the fall of Charleston.

This event great rejuvenated the Tories, who began to drop sinister hints regarding the” she rebel”. But she was apparently unseeing and went on her neighborly way with equable calm, attending the quilting and workings as had always been her custom.

But appearances are often camouflages and Maggie McCurdy had her ear to the ground and knew far more than she gave evidence of knowing.

ATTENDS QUILTING PARTY

A day came when a quilting party was to be held in the neighborhood and Mrs. McCurdy, armed with thimble and needle and the……..boarded her horse and send…neither to participate in this social domesticity, leaving Aggie to conceal herself in the hay rick and keep watch over the premises. Just then the times were tense and great anxiety and uncertainty abode in all hearts. The war was coming close home. Cornwallis had marched on Mecklenburg, and groups of patriots were gathering up their numbers to be ready to receive him. People were eager for news and there was a large number at the quilting party, and a sprinkling of husbands, mostly of Tory or neutral sentiment.

Sewers being plentiful and everybody more or less nervous there was a constant changing and resting amount the quilters. The idle gathered into groups and went to the spring or to get tooth brushes, or to see the calves, etc. Of course the times were discussed and opinions and news exchanged.

OVERHEARS PLAT

Mrs. McCurdy’s time coming to be relieved, she went into the kitchen, and seeing the fire about to go out went to a shed in the yard to get a stick of wood. While so engaged she heard her name called from a concealed fence former nearby. Listening, she heard a plot rehearsed which was to surprise the American camp that was beyond Rocky River toward Salisbury at midnight that night, and Arch McCurdy was to be an especial prize for this particular group. She lingered to hear the signals, password, sign and countersign for both armies given and then returned to the house with the wood.

Steeling herself to a courageous calm she resumed her quilting and gave no outward sign of the knowledge that was pounding in her heart and brain. Her first caution was not to let anybody know that she knew.

It came to the ears of some of the fence corner whisperers that Mrs. McCurdy had been out and they feared that she might have gotten wind of their conversation, and so began an effort to draw her out and see, but to all their queries she returned such innocently indifferent answers that she deceived them, entirely and they felt assured that she had heard nothing.

PREPARES FOR RIDE

When the quilts were finished Mrs. McCurdy manifested to undue haste, but took plenty of time to say good-bye and rode among the last of the departing guests.

But turned into her own lane her demeanor changed and the light of her eyes grew dim with fear. The American army was in danger of a surprise attack from the British army supported by the Tories, and that army lay between her and the Americans, who must be warned, but how? There was not time to go to friends and besides, all the patriot men were with the army. There was none to go but herself, and that she resolved to do.

Giving the reigns to the faithful Aggie she told her to give Liberty (she and Archie and named their horse for the cause they loved) an extra shaking of provender and a bit of the bread corn from the crib.

WILD ADVENTURE

The sun was setting as she entered her door, and passing beneath the stoop; she looked at it and wondered what would have happened when nit came up again on the morrow.

She told Aggie to prepare her a nourishing meal while she fed the twins and put them to bed, for she knew that her body would need fuel for the strain to which she meant soon to subject it.

Then she told Aggie what she intended to do. The Negro girl wept and begged her not to do so rash a thing. She pointed out the dangers of such a trip, and as if nature were supporting her argument the sound of thunder rolled in the west and lightning flashed across the sky. But Maggie McCurdy had made her resolve and it was not to be shaken.

HUSBAND’S CLOTHES

However she took every precaution for safety and success that her wit could devise. She dressed herself in a suit of her husband’s clothes and gathered her air into a coonskin cap that she pulled well down around her face. Man fashion she bestrode Liberty, and set forth on her perilous trip after charging Aggie to take every possible care of the twins.

She always said that the horse seemed to understand the importance of their mission and that he went with the alert and cautious step, and yet swiftly. To comfort herself and strengthen her courage she kept repeating to herself the words of Patrick Henry “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Just before reaching Rocky River she had to pass near the British camp and was stopped by the picket, who said,” Who goes there? “A friend,” came the answer, “on a mission of life and death.” The picket , thinking that the friend was on the way to the home of Dr. Charles Harris, who was the physician for that section and whose residence was not far away to get the doctor for a patient, let her pass after demanding the signs and password which she readily gave.

SOME TALL THINKING

Relieved that the worst was over she pressed onward with all haste to the American camp. Arriving, she gave the password and asked to se General Green. She had some “tall talking" to do to gain his presence, but he was finally aroused and she told her story. Inclined to be incredulous, he asked if she knew anybody in the camp. "I know Captain McCurdy” she replied. The young captain was brought, and when asked if he knew the man he said no, whereupon, she pulled off her cap and, letting her long hair all about her face and shoulders said, "Don't you know me, Archie?” "Oh, it’s Maggie”, he cried.

All doubts were immediately dispelled and the general gave orders to break camp and retreat. Silently and quickly the men obeyed and wee soon on the quick step to safety.

COMES BACK SAFELY

General Green asked her to go with them, but learning of the family at home, offered her an escort back. This she declined, saying that it would increase the danger. So, after a brief rest and visit with Archie, she mounted Liberty for the return home.

Reaching the river, she found it swollen by the recent rains, but since both she and the horse were well acquainted with the ford, they plunged in and partly swam across.

She met the British army on their return, but was unmolested as she and Liberty waited quietly aside for them to pass on.

Wet and tired, but light of heart, she rode into her own yard just as the sun was coming up. Pausing she lifted her cap and said “Yesterday I bade you a fearful and anxious good night: today, I give you a happy good morning.

MARGARET MCCURDY GUYTON

Robert, the elder McCurdy brother, was only a private in the Revolutionary war, but like Archibald, he was the particular hatred of the Tories on account of a very ardent and active patriotism. He had married Mary Watson, who like Maggie Sellers, was of Pennsylvania birth, but of New England descent.

Also, like her sister-in-law, she was left alone for a soldier husband with three little girls, the youngest an infant in arms. She too, was harassed by Tory neighbors and that more seriously for they burned her home and everything in it, not even allowing her to take the blanket in the baby's cradle-aye, threatened to not let her take the baby- nor the bread in the cupboard for the other two children. Her only defender was a large dog that the Tory commander slew with his sword when he attempted to drive them away.

WATCHES HOUSE BURN

My own great-grandmother told her grandchildren of how she remembered clinging to her mother's skirts as she held the other two children in her arms and watched the house burn, and her heart ached for the brave dog that she saw slain as long as she lived.

Robert McCurdy was out and in with the South Carolina militia as he was needed. Sometimes he was at home for several months at a time, soon “threw up “another house for his wife and children. This was frugally furnished with such tings as more fortunate neighbors could spare, and again Mrs. McCurdy took up the lonely, anxious life of housekeeping in an enemy-infested community.

IN 1780, when Lord Cornwallis was on his expedition in the Carolinas, it so happened that he made camp near the McCurdy home and remained there for a fortnight. The eldest McCurdy child, christened Margaret, but called Peggie, was a beautiful child, of merry blue eyes and dark curls. “Tis said that she retained the merry eyes to the day of her death. She was just seven years old at this time-aye, she had a birthday while he was there for 'twas December and near to Christmas.

Lord Cornwallis must have had good in his heart for he “fell for” this little lassie who played about his camp He bed her dainties from his tent and held her often "upon his knee and twirled her curls about his fingers.”

But her baby heart remembered the burnt home and dead dog, and she knew too that all was not well, for "Daddy Bob" was hid across the hill in a thicket on Broad River with Tac Bullock and some other of her good friends. Still she smiled brightly at the British lord and "loved him a bushel and a peck and a hug around his neck.” She had been schooled by her mother to practice this deception because "all is fair in love and war".

Mrs. McCurdy heard that there was a band of several hundred Tories over on Bush River and that plans were being laid to snare some of General Morgan's men. She wanted General Morgan to know about this and decided to try to get the word to her husband and Tac Bullock, who she knew were hidden near by to watch the movements of Cornwallis.

RUN OF THE CAMP

Since little Peggy had the run of the British camp and was allowed to go where she willed without question or molestation, she decided to write a message which she concealed in the sole of Peggy’s rough, home-made shoe, and sent her over the hill to call the cattle home.

Not suspecting that so young a lassie could be used for any harm, and knowing her standing with the chief commander, the guards never though of questioning her so she passed over the hill with mother McCurdy watching from afar.

With acutely sensitive hearing cultivated because the dangers of the times demanded it, Bob McCurdy heard and recognized his daughter's voice. Knowing that something was in the air he crept stealthily forth to meet her. The message was quickly taken and the lassie sent immediately back after a bear hug from "Daddy Bob" who followed with great caution to a place where he knew she would come under her mother’s eyes.

TORIES SURPRISED

General Morgan was informed and he sent Colonel Washington and his men, who surprised the Tories on Bush River and killed and captured them before they would consummate their plans.

With Bob McCurdy was a young eighteen-year -old boy named Aaron Guyton. This youth was so mightily taken with the beauty and pluck of this little Peggy that he made a vow that he would await her maturity when he would court and marry her.

In a short time the battle of Cowpens was fought, “which diminished his lordship’s army nearly one-fourth.” (Colonial Records of North Carolina Vol. 15, Page 239)

All that summer “ Daddy Bob" and Tac Bullock and Aaron Guyton were skirmishing around, and when autumn came they foregathered with others and gave the decisive stroke at Kings Mountain.
Both Robert McCurdy and Aaron Guyton were active throughout the seven years of the Revolutionary War. Each were in the battle of Kings Mountain and Aaron Guyton was in the battles of Eutaw Springs and Cowpens. Aaron Guyton left a written record of his activities during the war.

KINGS MOUNTAIN GUNS

"Daddy Bob" came home all bloody and ragged and scratched and Peggy told him of how she had heard the guns roar. Son the glad news of peace spread over the country and a great relief came into the hearts of the people.

The years went by and fortune smiled on the McCurdy home, so that when "Daddy Bob” lay down to die on the anniversary of the battle of Cowpens, January 17, 1803, he had much goods to bestow upon his three daughters, Peggy, Mary, and Jean , and their children. (Will Book l. p. York County, South Carolina)

Aaron Guyton ever remembered his vow and kept a jealous eye on the trio of McCurdy girls, whom he dubbed the three graces. When she ( Peggy _ was sweet sixteen and he twenty-eight he brought his suit, and in memory of the great day in 1782, when her father came home for good, and her country emerged triumphant from a seven year struggle, she chose the anniversary of the battle of Kings Mountain for her wedding day, and in sight of its blue top with rainbow shades in the autumn leaves leading down her slopes to the McCurdy acres, she was married October 7, 1789 by the Reverend and Justice Abraham Smith ( The smiths of York seem ever to have been in the marrying business.). Some years after their marriage they moved to Anderson count, South Carolina where Peggy died at the age of 90 years and is buried in old Hopewell church cemetery.

The McCurdys were Presbyterians of the blue stocking variety, while the Guytons, a French Huguenot family, had embraced the Baptist faith with all the ardor of their race.

Peggy held out for infant baptism and open communion until her 85th year when she gave in and was immersed.
'Tis said that many shouts and hallelujahs went up from the old saints of Hopewell when Grannie Guyton went under the water and come up spry and sparkling.

A BIT OF GENEALOGY

Robert McCurdy's father was of New England birth. His parents came to Pennsylvania and from there to North Carolina. His father is said to have been drowned in the Susphehannah river when crossing en route. The widow and children came on with friends and neighbors and settled near what is now the dividing line between the Carolinas.

Robert McCurdy was granted the land in York County by Gov. Josiah Martin of North Carolina Nov 14 Th 1771. Witnesses to this transaction were Wm. Greer and George Plaxico. This was entered in the office of the auditor general at Charleston in Book M- No. 12, page 55.

Robert McCurdy married Mary Watson believed to be a daughter of Samuel Watson and wife Katherine. Of their daughter Margaret’s marriage we have already heard and the two other sisters, Mary and Jean, both married John Bank heads, senior and junior - uncle and nephew. Congressman Wm. B. Bank head Democratic nominee for the senate and Wm. S. Bank head, who was maternally a great-grandson of President Thomas Jefferson.

Aaron Guyton, who married Margaret, was born in Baltimore County, Md. October 27, 1761. He was the son of Joseph and Hannah Guyton who were French Huguenot refugees. They died and are buried in Union county.

Aaron and his wife Margaret moved to Anderson County soon after their marriage reared their children there and are buried in the graveyard of Old Hopewell Baptist church. Aaron passed away June 30, 1841 while his wife survived him for twenty years passing away in 1861.

The twelve children were : Mary Welborn Dec 15, 1751, who married David Sherrill; Hannah Dec 18th 1793, married Wyatt Smith, Elizabeth, Nov 7t 1795 married Wm. Webb; Katherine and Jane born in 1798 and 1790 respectively and both died in infanc7; Robert McCurdy, Nov 21st,1802 married Hester Duckworth; Joseph April 14th, 1805, married Zemily McCleskey; Margaret Watson, Jan 7 th 1807 married Capt. Wm Steele; Aaron W. , Nov 22nd 1808, Sarah M. Feb 9th, 1810, married Thomas Duckworth; John W. , June lst, 1814,married Susan Welborn and the youngest Gite- Mary and her husband moved to Missouri; Joseph and Aaron V - went to Mississippi. Joseph left a large family of whom is a grandson, Judge Percy Guyton of the supreme court bench. Gite went to Texas and died there unmarried. Margaret who married Capt. Steele lived at Old Pendleton in Anderson and Oconee counties. Capt. Steele was midshipman on the battleship Constitution during the war of 1812. When Jas. L. Orr was in the senate he had a walking stick made for him from some of the wood of the Constitution. Capt. Steele, represented Anderson County a number of times in the general assembly. A grand-daughter of the union still survives- Miss Ola Steele, Deer Lodge, Mont.

All of the other children of Aaron and Margaret Guyton remained in Anderson County where many of their descendants are still to be found. Living grandchildren of this illustrious couple are: Mrs. Myra Doyle of Ansonville, N. C., Miss Lou Alice Steele of Jackson, Miss. Mrs. Lurie McCorkle of Atlanta, Ga. Mrs. Estelle Sloan of Macon, Ga. , Mrs. Zemily Morgan of Kosiusco, Miss, Joseph W. Guyton of Sallis, Miss. , Mrs. Hattie Smith of Williamston, and Mrs. Mary Bet Rogers of Anderson county.

ANDERSON COUNTY LINEAGE

A dear old lady in a rolling chair, whose smile of welcome always warms the heart, smiled more merrily than ever as she was told of those days long ago, when as a tiny child, she visited the home of her grandmother for Mrs. Hattie Guyton Smith's grandmother was no less than Margaret McCurdy Guyton. Mrs. Smith's father being the llth cn… of this famous woman of those trying days when our land sought its freedom. Mrs. Smith says she remembers well the thrilling stories her grandmother told and especially the one here related of the burning of the home and killing of the dog. On one occasion also the Tories visited the home taking out all of the feather mattresses and ripping them open, scattering feathers to the four winds.

Four score and forty years have laid their hands very gently on Mrs. Smith’s head, despite the fact that she had been an invalid in a rolling chair for more than fifty years. She seems always happy and, as sunshiny as can be whenever one goes to call. She lives in Williamston with her daughter Miss Rosa Smith and her niece, Miss Fannie Christine Guyton.

Mrs. Smith is double connected with these famous folks, for her husband was Baylis Smith, whose mother was Hannah Guyton Smith. Among Mrs. Smith's treasures is a quaint daguerreotype of Hannah Guyton, very lovely in lace cap, black silk tippet and apron and fine black silk lace mittens. The picture is in a case of carved mahogany with brass frame, carrying one back on memory's wings to those days when lavender and old lace made fragrant, atmosphere always lovely, where demure maidens and courtly beaux danced ‘neath candle gleams.

Other descendants of this illustrious couple. Now living in Williamston, are Mrs. J. A. Major, who was Miss Eva Guyton, Grandaughter of John Washington Guyton, and daughter of William Guyton; she being a sister of Miss Fannie Christine Guyton, and Dr. C. L. Guyton who was the only son of Aaron Guyton, the third, this Aaron Guyton being a brother of Mrs. Smith both children of John W. Guyton. Mrs. Major has eight children and three grandchildren. Dr. Guyton is the father of two daughters and five sons and he has one granddaughter.

James R. Guyton, another son of John Washington, has two living children, Aaron Guyton, the fourth, and Mrs. T. L. Hogg, who was Miss Irma Guyton.

Mrs. Emma Guyton, who is the widow of John Guyton, lives in Anderson. John was a son of John Washington and the children of this union, Mrs. Jim Famer of Anderson and Mrs. D. M. McLeod of Marion are therefore great-grandchildren.

The four living children of Mrs. Mary Bet Rogers are Misses Sallie and Annie Rogers and Messrs. Claude and Thomas Rogers.

The Misses Nettie, Ada and Margaret Rogers of Anderson County and their sister, Mrs. Cora Rogers Dacus of Greenville are granddaughters of Sallie Guyton Duckworth.

Elizabeth Guyton Webb has the following descendants in Anderson County, all grandchildren, A. C. Webb, Clayton Webb, Thom D. Webb, Will Webb, Gee Webb, Mrs. Cora Webb Martin, and Mrs. Ruth Webb Wallace.

W. O. Guyton of Anderson is the son of White Guyton who was a son of Robert Guyton. Misses Daisy and Bessie Duckworth, Mrs. Sloan Maxwell, and Mr. Carol Duckworth of Anderson, and Miss Willie Bell, Rufus and Malcolm Duckworth of Anderson County are descendants of Sallie Guyton Duckworth, a daughter of John Washington Guyton.

And so the list goes on- the blood of these fiery patriots, fighters for the liberty we now enjoy, coursing through the veins of their descendants. Instilling them with the same desires for right and just that made our fore-fathers.

NOTE: SPELLING, PUNCTUATION - EVERYTHING IS AS ARTICLE APPEARS- NO CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE. ORIGINAL IS VERY FRAGILE, AND UNABLE TO LOCATE DATE OF PUBLISHMENT. ALSO CONTAINS TWO PICTURES - Three living grand-daughters of Peggy McCurdy Guyton, Revolutionary heroine- Zemuly Guyton Morgan, of Kosciusko, Miss. And Mrs. Myra A Doyle of Ansonville (seated) and Lou Alice Steele, of Jackson, Miss.