Sunday, August 18, 2013

WRITING "ORNERY PEOPLE"-- Northwestern North Carolina Revolutionary History from PENSION APPLICATIONS of Old Codgers

Someone is badgering me to tell how I will organize ORNERY PEOPLE. I'm still at the accumulation stage, I say.

But for the Sparks family of Wilkes/Surry County (they didn't know which they were put in from one tax season to the next) there's a thrilling challenge. Because so many men joined the Revolution in their youth and lived so very long, there's a dozen and more pension applications telling close to the same story with different emphases and different gaps. Those barbaric Highlanders down in the sandy part of the state! Those rampaging Tories in our counties! The Tory Ben Cleveland gave a choice--be hanged or take a dull knife and cut off your own ears. Cousin William, who told what happened after Tories looted his father's house.

There's an unsung hero of American History, Will Graves, who has devoted himself to transcribing these Southern Campaign pension application. Bless him and give him years of healthy life! This is Will's transcription of 85 year old William Sparks's application, made in Nacogoches, Texas.

In less than a year after my return from the campaign against the Cherokees above detailed, a party of Tories, about 150 in number, robbed my Father, taking a horse, saddle, and bridle , six guns, all our pewter (we had no delftware in those days) and whatever else they could carry. My company was immediately called out and others amounting in all to about one hundred and fifty mounted gunmen under the command of Colo. Benjamin Cleveland. We pursued the above named Tories a distance of between 60 and 70 miles and overtook them in Coxe's settlement near the Virginia line. They were feasting, frolicking and many of them drunk. We killed and wounded 25 or 30 of them in a fight, made prisoners of nearly all the rest, of whom hung five or six, the balance of the prisoners were discharged by Col. Cleveland upon their promise not to molest the patriots for the future. In this expedition I was engaged three weeks.


One chapter of ORNERY PEOPLE only, I think, built up ONLY from Pension Applications. Well, almost only--the basic story from the pension applications.  There! I am beginning to think about organization. Is this what Retirement means? And how will I deal with the story of the notorious old Tory, Solomon Sparks, who, bound captive but not gagged, in a canoe kept shouting GOD SAVE KING GEORGE. Now, Solomon Sparks ought to be mine. This is the name of my GGGGG Grandfather's grandfather. But it is also the name of several other men.  DNA is one thing but evidence of sheer ORNERY-NESS is more compelling. Well, it could be an old cousin, or it could be a mistake. There's work to be done. I want ALL the Sparks men in NW North Carolina to be on the right side, but oh, there's an appeal of defiant behavior like that old Tory's!

A chapter telling one little episode of Revolutionary History from the ground up, old codgers, Sparks brothers and Sparks cousins and several of their neighbors, all trying to remember. I like it.

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