George Hairston (1750 - 1827) MP

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Birthplace: Bedford County, Province of Virginia, (Present USA)
Death: Died in Henry County, Virginia, United States
Managed by: John Roger Tyler Moore
Last Updated:

About George Hairston

A Patriot of the American Revolution for Virginia with the rank of COLONEL. DAR Ancestor #: A049162

Beaver Creek Plantation: Home of George Hairston

http://www.hairston.org/homes/beaver_creek.htm

George Hairston: (1750-1827) Soldier of the Revolution

by Judge Peter Wilson Hairston

Would anyone among us choose to live in any country but ours? I think not. For all the change s we may want to make, indeed should make, our America is still the most beautiful, the greatest land on earth. Among the patriots of Henry County, few did more to make the United States possible than the first George Hairston.

He was born in 1750 in that part of Virginia which is now Campbell County. His father, Robert Hairston, was born in Ireland of Scottish ancestry. He came to this country settling first in Pennsylvania and later near Charlottesville. In 1748 Robert married Ruth Stovall whose father was Clerk to the House of Burgesses. They had eight children, three sons and five daughters. George, the first born, was followed by Peter, who eventually settled Upper Saura Town, and Samuel. When George was five years old, his father, Robert, was named County Lieutenant of Bedford County. Soon afterward, the French-Indian War broke out. The father with his two brothers, Samuel and Andrew, all officers in the Bedford militia became active in that combat.

George must have found himself at a very early age shouldering many responsibilities of the home. How he received an education, we do not know; but there seem to have been no schools in the neighborhood during this early period. Perhaps his mother found time to teach him or a tutor was brought in. Whatever instruction he received must have ended fairly early, because he was a mere twenty years old when he bought Beaver Creek, then a plantation of 20,000 or more acres. It is said that he paid ten cents an acre for it, thereby establishing the foundation of a considerable fortune.

Six years later he built the first house on this hill, a house which unfortunately burned to be replaced by George's youngest son Marshall who built the one we see about 1827.

We have only to look around us to see that George had an eye for beauty as well as a knowledge of real estate. With these qualities and incredible energy, he eventually amassed a holding of 238,795 acres in Virginia as well as valuable holdings in Mississippi and North Carolina. To cultivate this property, he eventually acquired 2,960 slaves. From such extensive property, George’s was legendary. To each of his twelve children he gave as a wedding gift land and slaves worth $500,000.00. To Henry County he gave the site for its Courthouse.

As the Revolution approached, George and his father were among the first citizens of Henry County to subscribe to the oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Virginia. The records show that in 1776 he furnished corn to the troops of militia. His brother, Peter, led a company to the Holston against the Overhill Cherokees in that year; and George in the following year was commissioned a captain of Militia. What he did to earn this promotion has not come down in the records but it is evident that he was occupied in the business of his new rank for he found it necessary to get leave from his military duties when a personal emergency arose in 1780.

On August 2, 1780, a Tory named John Nicholds shot through a crack in the cabin of George's friend William Letcher. Captain Letcher was at home for a brief furlough to visit his wife, the former Elizabeth Perkins. In his own home and in the horrified presence of his wife and baby daughter, Captain Letcher died from the wound. Militia was sent to protect the family and catch the Tory, but the first mission was unsuccessful. George Hairston, whose second commission as captain of militia was dated in June of the same year, had more success. He caught Nicholds, tried and executed him for his crime.

Lest Elizabeth and her daughter Bethenia be left to the mercy of marauders, they were escorted back across the mountain to Henry County.

George and Elizabeth were married the following New Years Day. Their lives were interrupted by the British invasion of the South by Lord Cornwallis. This general had captured Charleston and followed up that victory by administering a severe defeat to the Americans under General Gates. The Battle of Camden, August 16, 1780, was a disaster so complete that the conquest of North Carolina and Virginia seemed certain. Some hope was restored by the victory of the overmountain boys, with whom George's brother Peter may have served, wiped out Colonel Ferguson's command at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The delay which this caused in the British advance gave enough time for Gates' replacement, General Nathaniel Greene to arrive and save the remnants of the American forces by a masterful retreat through North Carolina and across the Dan River into Virginia. When Greene's hopes of being reinforced by Virginia Militia were realized and he recrossed the Dan to meet Cornwallis, Colonel Penn issued an order that the Henry County Regiment should march from Beaver Creek to the assistance of the patriots. His order was dated March 11, 1781, just in time for the militia of Henry County to reach General Greene and take part in the Battle of Guilford Court House.

The brave men who marched with the regiment in Hairston's company were Richard Parsley, Joseph Blackley, Samuel Jamerson, Arristiphus Baughn, John Kitchen, John Jamerson, John Rivers, John Crouch, John Jones, Lewis Bradbury, Thomas Finch, Jesse Elkins and James Davis. The other officers of the company were Joshua Rentfro, Lieutenant, Jesse Corn, Ensign and John Smith, Sergeant .

The Henry County militia after leaving Beaver Creek first crossed at Rowland's 'Ford, just below Fontaine's , they then followed an old road, still visible in 1925, and thence up the Marrowbone valley crossing the creek west of where Ridgeway stands. Thence they marched along the ridge for two miles and crossed Matrimony Creek. From there it was a half mile to the State line. The regiment arrived at Guilford Court House in time to fight in the Battle of March 15th.

General Greene's plan of battle, worked out earlier, was to post the North Carolina militia in the front rank behind a brush covered fence. They faced the British who had to march up a long open hill to reach the village. The orders for the Carolina men were to fire two rounds and then retreat.

The greatest danger of the plan was that the front line fled from the enemy's bayonets a panic would commence and the

Virginians in the next line behind would take fright and run. General Edward Stevens commanding the Virginia line skillfully prevented this contagion by ordering his troops to open up and let the front line through. By the time the crack 23rd Regiment of English guards and the 71st Highlanders approached the Virginians these had their lines redrawn and put up a protracted and stubborn fight. They were finally forced to retire as Greene had anticipated, but it took a charge from Tarleton’s Calvary to gain this.

In t he end, although General Greene prudently withdrew, to insure saving the only American forces left in the South, the battle had so weakened Cornwallis that the British were forced to retreat to the coast. They had lost a third of their men and many of their best officers.

Abram Penn's regiment stayed with Greene as he pursued the British past Deep River, then with Greene they turned south to reconquer South Carolina. They were with the American forces in the bloody battle of Eutaw Springs which forced Lord Rawdon, the British Commander to retreat to Charleston.

Our Virginians then returned to their home state in time to take part in the siege of Yorktown. Their attitude shows in George Hairston's often quoted statement, "I came here to fight”. On October 17, 1781 Cornwallis' army marched out to the tune of "The World Turned Upside Down." They stacked their arms in surrender. Fighting ended, but no treaty of peace was signed until November 11, 1782.

In the meantime, George had returned home and in March of 1782 his heroic deeds were recognized and he was recommended for promotion to Colonel, a recommendation which was followed in June of that year by his appointment to that position.

Most of the next twenty years he spent at Beaver Creek. During this time twelve children were born to George and Elizabeth: Robert, George, Jr., Harden, Samuel, Nicholas Perkins, Henry, Peter Constantine, John Adams, America, Marshall and Ruth Stovall. But not all of George's life was spent during these years in domestic pursuits. His father was named High Sheriff of the county and George with his two brothers became his under sheriffs. George was named one of the justices of the county and after Robert's death in 1783 George became sheriff of Henry County

The management of his vast estates was an (increasing burden. He wrote his brother Peter that his sons did not help him and “I have no such slaves to help me as you have." At one time, there was reason to believe that he was the object of a slave plot to poison him. Some idea of the cares which came upon him can be learned from his correspondence. There was one sale of 87 deer skins he kept strict accounts of the bill for recapturing one of his brother's slaves, including seventeen cents a day jail fees, and had to advertise for one of his who ran away. He wrote in detail to Peter the state of the markets for hogs and cattle, not only giving the prices and supply and demand both in Petersburg and Lynchburg, but even the numbers en route to these places from the west.

He was called upon to layout the Town of Martinsville and to supervise the clearing of the Dan and Roanoke rivers. As Colonel he travelled at least twice deep into hostile Indian Territory as far as Lookout Mountain.

All of these activities stopped abruptly when he was called into active service during the War of 1812. The City of Norfolk was threatened with invasion in the winter of 1814. The hard earned freedom from Great Britain was at stake a second time. The official actions of his deeds in this crisis were found in three large volumes, leather-bound, of his order books.

Under March 26, 1814 I found "Lt. Col. Hairston has arrived and being the senior officer will take command of t he Brigade." The command consisted of the 3, 4, 5, and 6th Virginia Militia Regiments and the North Carolina 23rd. This constituted a brigade and it was from this command that George's rank as an acting brigadier general was justified.

While he was there in command, the British endeavored to attack Norfolk but failed in the attempt and Richmond as well as Norfolk was protected by t his defense. They were however to sail up the Chesapeake Bay, burn Norfolk and assault, though unsuccessfully, Baltimore.

The order books tell of the efforts necessary to discipline the raw militia and set forth the careful orders for the protection of Craney's Island. This 35 acre tract of low lying land commanded the entrance into Elizabeth River and Norfolk. The expected attack finally came on Jun e 22nd. Fifteen hundred attackers approached the island, today occupied by the U. S. Refueling Station. They were repelled by 730 defenders.

The hard work in training the soldiers in George's force had paid off. The books are full of punishments for all sorts of

transgressions. They range from a stoppage of whiskey for ten days imposed on a sentry who fell asleep on his post to twenty days hard labor for a soldier caught drunk on duty. Appeals to patriotism appear too: "It is not believed," reads one order, "that any man of Virginia particularly will be disposed to abandon his post when danger threatens and at this time an attack by t he enemy is apprehended in a few days."

Five days after the attack was repulsed it appears "Col. George Hairston from Henry County left the service after having served his tour of duty."

Three years after the Battle of Norfolk, General George Izard, who was travelling through Pittsylvania County, kept a diary of his journey. He tells of a dinner at Berry Hill, the home of Robert Hairs ton , George ' s oldest son and his wife. George, himself, and his party, were there too. The entry reads, "Old H. a devilish shrewd old Fellow - was a tower of Duty at Norfolk at the close of the War- has just discovered a lead mine on his estate in Henry County, Virga- said to be very rich- Immediately after Dinner (which was at 2) old and young guests mounted their horses and set out for their homes." He adds that Mrs . H.- "Is much less of a Bear than her husband or his father."

George's wife died in 1818 and he lived on until 1827. Both buried near us.

His epitaph may best be stated in his own language written into his 1814 order book and signed G. H. "To remember your Creator in t he days of your youth; he has decreed that they only who seek after wisdom shall find it, that fools shall be afflicted, Because of their transgressions and that whoever Refuseth Inst ruction, shall destroy his own soul. By listening to this admonition and temporizing the vivacity of youth with a proper mixture of serious thought you may ensure cheerfulness for the rest of your life; but by delivering yourselves up to giddiness and levity, you lay the foundation of lasting heaviness of heart.”

These words may well have been written to instruct his children, but he abided by them. It is altogether fitting that for such a man the Daughters of the American Revolution should establish a marker of their and our respects and gratefully remember him in this way.

This was the text of a speech by Judge Peter W. Hairston at Beaver Creek Plantation, when the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) dedicated a plaque to Captain George Hairston in 1987.

-------------------- George Hairston: (1750-1827) Soldier of the Revolution

by Judge Peter Wilson Hairston

Would anyone among us choose to live in any country but ours? I think not. For all the change s we may want to make, indeed should make, our America is still the most beautiful, the greatest land on earth. Among the patriots of Henry County, few did more to make the United States possible than the first George Hairston.

He was born in 1750 in that part of Virginia which is now Campbell County. His father, Robert Hairston, was born in Ireland of Scottish ancestry. He came to this country settling first in Pennsylvania and later near Charlottesville. In 1748 Robert married Ruth Stovall whose father was Clerk to the House of Burgesses. They had eight children, three sons and five daughters. George, the first born, was followed by Peter, who eventually settled Upper Saura Town, and Samuel. When George was five years old, his father, Robert, was named County Lieutenant of Bedford County. Soon afterward, the French-Indian War broke out. The father with his two brothers, Samuel and Andrew, all officers in the Bedford militia became active in that combat.

George must have found himself at a very early age shouldering many responsibilities of the home. How he received an education, we do not know; but there seem to have been no schools in the neighborhood during this early period. Perhaps his mother found time to teach him or a tutor was brought in. Whatever instruction he received must have ended fairly early, because he was a mere twenty years old when he bought Beaver Creek, then a plantation of 20,000 or more acres. It is said that he paid ten cents an acre for it, thereby establishing the foundation of a considerable fortune.

Six years later he built the first house on this hill, a house which unfortunately burned to be replaced by George's youngest son Marshall who built the one we see about 1827.

We have only to look around us to see that George had an eye for beauty as well as a knowledge of real estate. With these qualities and incredible energy, he eventually amassed a holding of 238,795 acres in Virginia as well as valuable holdings in Mississippi and North Carolina. To cultivate this property, he eventually acquired 2,960 slaves. From such extensive property, George�s was legendary. To each of his twelve children he gave as a wedding gift land and slaves worth $500,000.00. To Henry County he gave the site for its Courthouse.

As the Revolution approached, George and his father were among the first citizens of Henry County to subscribe to the oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Virginia. The records show that in 1776 he furnished corn to the troops of militia. His brother, Peter, led a company to the Holston against the Overhill Cherokees in that year; and George in the following year was commissioned a captain of Militia. What he did to earn this promotion has not come down in the records but it is evident that he was occupied in the business of his new rank for he found it necessary to get leave from his military duties when a personal emergency arose in 1780.

On August 2, 1780, a Tory named John Nicholds shot through a crack in the cabin of George's friend William Letcher. Captain Letcher was at home for a brief furlough to visit his wife, the former Elizabeth Perkins. In his own home and in the horrified presence of his wife and baby daughter, Captain Letcher died from the wound. Militia was sent to protect the family and catch the Tory, but the first mission was unsuccessful. George Hairston, whose second commission as captain of militia was dated in June of the same year, had more success. He caught Nicholds, tried and executed him for his crime.

Lest Elizabeth and her daughter Bethenia be left to the mercy of marauders, they were escorted back across the mountain to Henry County.

George and Elizabeth were married the following New Years Day. Their lives were interrupted by the British invasion of the South by Lord Cornwallis. This general had captured Charleston and followed up that victory by administering a severe defeat to the Americans under General Gates. The Battle of Camden, August 16, 1780, was a disaster so complete that the conquest of North Carolina and Virginia seemed certain. Some hope was restored by the victory of the overmountain boys, with whom George's brother Peter may have served, wiped out Colonel Ferguson's command at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The delay which this caused in the British advance gave enough time for Gates' replacement, General Nathaniel Greene to arrive and save the remnants of the American forces by a masterful retreat through North Carolina and across the Dan River into Virginia. When Greene's hopes of being reinforced by Virginia Militia were realized and he recrossed the Dan to meet Cornwallis, Colonel Penn issued an order that the Henry County Regiment should march from Beaver Creek to the assistance of the patriots. His order was dated March 11, 1781, just in time for the militia of Henry County to reach General Greene and take part in the Battle of Guilford Court House.

The brave men who marched with the regiment in Hairston's company were Richard Parsley, Joseph Blackley, Samuel Jamerson, Arristiphus Baughn, John Kitchen, John Jamerson, John Rivers, John Crouch, John Jones, Lewis Bradbury, Thomas Finch, Jesse Elkins and James Davis. The other officers of the company were Joshua Rentfro, Lieutenant, Jesse Corn, Ensign and John Smith, Sergeant .

The Henry County militia after leaving Beaver Creek first crossed at Rowland's 'Ford, just below Fontaine's , they then followed an old road, still visible in 1925, and thence up the Marrowbone valley crossing the creek west of where Ridgeway stands. Thence they marched along the ridge for two miles and crossed Matrimony Creek. From there it was a half mile to the State line. The regiment arrived at Guilford Court House in time to fight in the Battle of March 15th.

General Greene's plan of battle, worked out earlier, was to post the North Carolina militia in the front rank behind a brush covered fence. They faced the British who had to march up a long open hill to reach the village. The orders for the Carolina men were to fire two rounds and then retreat.

The greatest danger of the plan was that the front line fled from the enemy's bayonets a panic would commence and the

Virginians in the next line behind would take fright and run. General Edward Stevens commanding the Virginia line skillfully prevented this contagion by ordering his troops to open up and let the front line through. By the time the crack 23rd Regiment of English guards and the 71st Highlanders approached the Virginians these had their lines redrawn and put up a protracted and stubborn fight. They were finally forced to retire as Greene had anticipated, but it took a charge from Tarleton�s Calvary to gain this.

In t he end, although General Greene prudently withdrew, to insure saving the only American forces left in the South, the battle had so weakened Cornwallis that the British were forced to retreat to the coast. They had lost a third of their men and many of their best officers.

Abram Penn's regiment stayed with Greene as he pursued the British past Deep River, then with Greene they turned south to reconquer South Carolina. They were with the American forces in the bloody battle of Eutaw Springs which forced Lord Rawdon, the British Commander to retreat to Charleston.

Our Virginians then returned to their home state in time to take part in the siege of Yorktown. Their attitude shows in George Hairston's often quoted statement, "I came here to fight�. On October 17, 1781 Cornwallis' army marched out to the tune of "The World Turned Upside Down." They stacked their arms in surrender. Fighting ended, but no treaty of peace was signed until November 11, 1782.

In the meantime, George had returned home and in March of 1782 his heroic deeds were recognized and he was recommended for promotion to Colonel, a recommendation which was followed in June of that year by his appointment to that position.

Most of the next twenty years he spent at Beaver Creek. During this time twelve children were born to George and Elizabeth: Robert, George, Jr., Harden, Samuel, Nicholas Perkins, Henry, Peter Constantine, John Adams, America, Marshall and Ruth Stovall. But not all of George's life was spent during these years in domestic pursuits. His father was named High Sheriff of the county and George with his two brothers became his under sheriffs. George was named one of the justices of the county and after Robert's death in 1783 George became sheriff of Henry County

The management of his vast estates was an (increasing burden. He wrote his brother Peter that his sons did not help him and �I have no such slaves to help me as you have." At one time, there was reason to believe that he was the object of a slave plot to poison him. Some idea of the cares which came upon him can be learned from his correspondence. There was one sale of 87 deer skins he kept strict accounts of the bill for recapturing one of his brother's slaves, including seventeen cents a day jail fees, and had to advertise for one of his who ran away. He wrote in detail to Peter the state of the markets for hogs and cattle, not only giving the prices and supply and demand both in Petersburg and Lynchburg, but even the numbers en route to these places from the west.

He was called upon to layout the Town of Martinsville and to supervise the clearing of the Dan and Roanoke rivers. As Colonel he travelled at least twice deep into hostile Indian Territory as far as Lookout Mountain.

All of these activities stopped abruptly when he was called into active service during the War of 1812. The City of Norfolk was threatened with invasion in the winter of 1814. The hard earned freedom from Great Britain was at stake a second time. The official actions of his deeds in this crisis were found in three large volumes, leather-bound, of his order books.

Under March 26, 1814 I found "Lt. Col. Hairston has arrived and being the senior officer will take command of t he Brigade." The command consisted of the 3, 4, 5, and 6th Virginia Militia Regiments and the North Carolina 23rd. This constituted a brigade and it was from this command that George's rank as an acting brigadier general was justified.

While he was there in command, the British endeavored to attack Norfolk but failed in the attempt and Richmond as well as Norfolk was protected by t his defense. They were however to sail up the Chesapeake Bay, burn Norfolk and assault, though unsuccessfully, Baltimore.

The order books tell of the efforts necessary to discipline the raw militia and set forth the careful orders for the protection of Craney's Island. This 35 acre tract of low lying land commanded the entrance into Elizabeth River and Norfolk. The expected attack finally came on Jun e 22nd. Fifteen hundred attackers approached the island, today occupied by the U. S. Refueling Station. They were repelled by 730 defenders.

The hard work in training the soldiers in George's force had paid off. The books are full of punishments for all sorts of

transgressions. They range from a stoppage of whiskey for ten days imposed on a sentry who fell asleep on his post to twenty days hard labor for a soldier caught drunk on duty. Appeals to patriotism appear too: "It is not believed," reads one order, "that any man of Virginia particularly will be disposed to abandon his post when danger threatens and at this time an attack by t he enemy is apprehended in a few days."

Five days after the attack was repulsed it appears "Col. George Hairston from Henry County left the service after having served his tour of duty."

Three years after the Battle of Norfolk, General George Izard, who was travelling through Pittsylvania County, kept a diary of his journey. He tells of a dinner at Berry Hill, the home of Robert Hairs ton , George ' s oldest son and his wife. George, himself, and his party, were there too. The entry reads, "Old H. a devilish shrewd old Fellow - was a tower of Duty at Norfolk at the close of the War- has just discovered a lead mine on his estate in Henry County, Virga- said to be very rich- Immediately after Dinner (which was at 2) old and young guests mounted their horses and set out for their homes." He adds that Mrs . H.- "Is much less of a Bear than her husband or his father."

George's wife died in 1818 and he lived on until 1827. Both buried near us.

His epitaph may best be stated in his own language written into his 1814 order book and signed G. H. "To remember your Creator in t he days of your youth; he has decreed that they only who seek after wisdom shall find it, that fools shall be afflicted, Because of their transgressions and that whoever Refuseth Inst ruction, shall destroy his own soul. By listening to this admonition and temporizing the vivacity of youth with a proper mixture of serious thought you may ensure cheerfulness for the rest of your life; but by delivering yourselves up to giddiness and levity, you lay the foundation of lasting heaviness of heart.�

These words may well have been written to instruct his children, but he abided by them. It is altogether fitting that for such a man the Daughters of the American Revolution should establish a marker of their and our respects and gratefully remember him in this way.

This was the text of a speech by Judge Peter W. Hairston at Beaver Creek Plantation, when the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) dedicated a plaque to Captain George Hairston in 1987.

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Colonel George Hairston (Continental Army)'s Timeline

1750
September 20, 1750
Bedford County, Province of Virginia, (Present USA)
1781
January 1, 1781
Age 30
Virginia, United States
1783
April 1, 1783
Age 32
Henry Co, VA
1784
November 27, 1784
Age 34
Henry Co, VA
1786
October 23, 1786
Age 36
Henry County, VA, USA
1788
November 19, 1788
Age 38
Henry Co, VA
1791
October 18, 1791
Age 41
Henry Co, VA
1793
July 23, 1793
Age 42
Henry Co, VA
1796
January 16, 1796
Age 45
Henry Co, VA
1797
December 17, 1797
Age 47