JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Another reliable guide has been hiding in plain sight. John H. Wheeler, the editor of the 1861 Narrative, a decade earlier had treated Fanning briefly in his history of North Carolina. In his “Introduction,” Wheeler acknowledged Caruthers’s work. Also, he had “met with a letter from Genl Alexander Gray to Dr. A. Henderson dated Randolph county N. Ca. March 30, 1847, which gives much information as to the adventures and exploits of Col’o Fanning.” Although this letter is clearly of great interest, it has remained largely unnoticed by historians perhaps because its only known publication was in a local newspaper.
Gray (1768-1864), “Brigadier General” in 1815, had been a store-keeper since 1792, and a frequent member of the State Assembly – the “most prominent citizen” of the county. In Salisbury early in 1847, Gray and Col. James Wellborn (1767-1854), a state senator born in what became Randolph County, had conversed with Dr. Alexander M. Henderson (1807-1873). Henderson’s father, Pleasant Henderson, had pursued of Lord Cornwallis down the Deep River, and the older men had such exciting Revolutionary stories that Henderson persuaded Gray to record what he knew of the infamous David Fanning (1755-1825). Back home, Gray consulted “several of the oldest men” he could find from the lower (more Tory) part of the county but obtained from them “very little more than a confirmation” of what he already knew. Gray knew plenty: facts had been “stated” to him face-to-face “by Colonels Collier, Clark, Dougan and other gentlemen of respectability, who were often in pursuit, and sometimes came in contact with Fanning and his party.”
[The bloody article runs on for 12 pages.]