John Stewart of Fourth Creek

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John Stewart

Also Known As: "John Stuart"
Birthdate: (75)
Birthplace: Stuart's Run, Augusta County, Province of Virginia, (Present USA)
Death: August 18, 1823 (75)
Shepherds Fort, Ohio County, Virginia (Present West Virginia), United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Capt. James Stuart and Mary Ann Stuart
Husband of Margaret McKee Stewart (Potts)
Father of James Potts Stewart and Ralph Stewart
Brother of Robert Stewart; Mary Catherine Elliott; Capt. Ralph Stewart; William Riley Stewart and William Stewart

Managed by: Ric Dickinson
Last Updated:

About John Stewart of Fourth Creek

A Patriot of the American Revolution for North Carolina with the rank of Private. DAR Ancestor #: A109550

From We Relate's page on John Stuart, posted by Vangale (family researcher):

Name John Stuart

The following are excerpts from MY STEWART AND OTHER KIN OF IREDELL COUNTY, N. C. by Jeanette H. Kelly.

"In Iredell County, North Carolina, there is a high flat ridge between Fourth Creek and Morrison Creek just north of Statesville, North Carolina. William Sharpe's Map of the Old Fourth Creek Congregation, drawn in 1773, shows several families whose homes were located on the two creeks along the trail leading from William Morrison's Mill on Third Creek to Fort Dobbs.

Among these Scotch-Irish Presbyterian families lived John Stewart, usually identified as John Stewart of Fourth Creek.

S. W. Stevenson included the following story in the History of Concord Church written around the turn of the century. His account reads:

John Stewart and his father, mother and brother came from Pennsylvania before the French and Indian War and settled on what is now known as the Nicholas Stikeleather place." They took refuge in Fort Dobbs in 1756. They ventured out to get some fodder during their stay at Fort Dobbs, and the Indians killed his father and brother but John Stewart got away in Fourth Creek Swamp and reached the fort that night. He swore vengeance against all red skins and went with every company that formed to fight the Indians. It is said that on these raids he spared neither age nor sex. When the Revolutionary War came on he went to Washington's Army and did not come home until the end. It is said that when the call came for men that he was working in a new ground and that he left his mattock sticking in the ground and that when he returned he found it again, but the handle had entirely rotted away.

He is buried in the Morrison Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

The home of Moses Potts was on the opposite side of Fourth Creek from the John Stewart family. Moses Potts married Jane McKee.

Jane McKee Potts and two of John Stewart's children are buried at a site which cannot now be precisely located, but was described by P. F. Laugenour as the first location chose n on which to build a church for the Old Fourth Creek Congregation. Dr. Laugenour wrote:

"The ancient road going out of town north turned down the first branch, crossing the next one about the north end of Tradd Street, ascended some distance and then turned to the right above the millpond, intersecting the Salisbury and Fort Dobbs Road and crossed the creek at the same ford with it. By the side of this road, so much traveled from here northward in the early times, was a spring on lands then owned by A. N. Allison. This was the first place selected for a house of worship.

So confident were the people that it would be built, they began to bring their dead there. James McKee...his sister Mrs. Jane Potts, wife of Moses Potts, two children of John Stewart... and others are said to be entombed there. The plow has long since obliterated the spot and it is doubtful if the spot can be identified by anyone living."

A different site was chosen sometime later for the church house.

The Potts and Stewart homes were only a few miles from Fort Dobbs, the fort built in 1756 for the protection of the early settlers from the Indians.

An abstract of John Stewart's Pension Application reads:

"Stewart, John S.7619 Iredell Co., N.C., Aug. 28, 1832

John Stewart, age 76 states that Rutherford was the Brigadier General at the time he entered service and was his Commander, that Francis Locke was his Colonel and James Pervines (Purviance) was his Captain. He lived in Rowan Co., N.C. (now Iredell) and served three months marching to Montgomery County, then to Cross Creek (now Fayetteville) where they disposed of the Tories. He served from September 1781 to November 1781.

He was later drafted and served three months; he volunteered to fight the Cherokees and left home in August 1776 and returned November that year. He served another time with General Davidson and Captain Thomas Morrison and was in the engagement when General Davidson fell. He was born in Augusta County, Virginia. William Feemster and Jeremiah Scroggs filed affidavits in his behalf.

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Cross Creek, now Fayetteville, and the battle at Moore's Creek is historically significant to the lives that the early settlers of Iredell County faced under the British rule. Governor Josiah Martin planned to unite the Tories (British loyalists) at Cross Creek to join with seven regiments under Lord Cornwallis and a detachment under General William Howe from New York at the Cape Fear to conquer North Carolina and return it to royal control.

Unlike the western Scottish Highlanders, the eastern Scottish Highlanders were recently arrived and had been granted land and taken loyalty oaths to the King of England. Many of the Scottish Highlander merchants of Cross Creek made other settlers take an oath of allegiance to the King before they were permitted to sell their surplus produce or to purchase needed supplies such as iron, salt, and sugar.

This was unacceptable to the Whigs (patriots) who set about keeping the Tories from joining Cornwallis at the Cape Fear. Whig forces were collected at Salem, Salisbury, Hillsboro, and Charlotte to march against the Tories at Cross Creek. On February 18, 1776, Whig forces drew up beyond a Bridge over Moore's Creek, a tributary of the Cape Fear, each camping in view of the others camp fires over night.

The Whig forces removed the flooring and greased the supporting logs with soft soap and tallow over night. The Tories charged the bridge the next morning, were surprised by the missing flooring, and the first volley by the Whigs swept the bridge clean. Many of the Tories wounded, fell into the creek and drowned. Those who crossed were shot. Only two Whigs were wounded while there were at least thirty Torie casualties but an undetermined fell into the creek and drowned. Many of the Tories were captured.

While most were paroled upon their oath not to take up arms against the Whig cause, their leaders were retained and jailed. Large quantities of Torie arms and supplies were confiscated.

After the battle at Moore's Creek, the North Carolina Provincial Congress empowered its delegates to the Continental Congress to declare for independence, making North Carolina the first colony in America to vote explicitly for independence. Further, the victory had completely frustrated the British plan for the invasion of North Carolina.

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For the upper Yadkin, the battle of Moore's Creek swept away all vestiges of neutrality and forced wide and deep cleavages of sentiment toward the Revolution. Bitterness turned to violence. Shootings, hangings, burnings, plundering were common affairs. The Tories were numerous enough to participate in this kind of warfare. The Whigs responded in kind. Benjamin Cleveland became the "Terror of the Tories" on the upper Yadkin and no where else did the war show its true nature of a civil war more plainly.

Jeanette H. Kelly has concluded in her book MY STEWART AND OTHER KIN OF IREDELL COUNTY, N. C., James Stewart of south Iredell was the father of John Stewart as well as James Stewart, Jr. of Rocky Creek, a daughter Mary Stewart, and a daughter Sarah Stewart all children of a marriage to a n unnamed mother. James Stewart, Jr. came to America with his father, James Stewart and his father's two brothers.

John Stewart was born in America, specifically Augusta County, Virginia as stated in his pension application of August 28, 1832. If this is true then John Stewart had a half brother James Stewart, who was the son of James Stewart Sr. and Lilias Morton Mitchell Stewart, this son dying during the Revolutionary War.

The origin of John Stewart of Fourth Creek will require more investigation to determine what is the true situation. It is reasonable to conclude by his Pension Application the John Stewart was born in America, fought in the Revolutionary War, and was among the first citizens of the United States of America, of which all his descendants are extremely proud.

"Before examining the Revolutionary War record of John Stewart more carefully, I want to relate a story given to me by Barton Stewart, born September 27, 1894, and a great great grandson of John Stewart of Fourth Creek. In a letter dated October 16, 1981. Barton Stewart, now deceased, wrote:

"I wish to say I was told that the first Stewart to come over, he and one Wallace, stayed in Virginia before coming to North Carolina... They... then joined the army in the Revolution First Stewart fought in the French and Indian War. I don't know whether Wallace did or not but I was told he was in the Revolution also. Stewart was in George Washington's army and knew him personally. He said that the only time he saw Washington have a good laugh was when the British fled when they saw some dummy cannons they rigged up from logs."

The above story is tradition more than 200 years old. Again, making an effort to place tradition alongside of documented evidence in hopes of finding truth, I want to trace John Stewart, to some degree, through the Revolutionary War.

Though drafted at least once for a three month term of service, John Stewart of Fourth Creek volunteered to fight the Cherokees and left home in August of 1776. What does history record of the war against the Cherokees? Using a history of the Revolutionary War period, written in 1877, by C. L. Hunter, the Cherokee engagement reads as follows:

On the 4th of April 1776 he (Griffith Rutherford) received the appointment of Brigadier General of the "Salisbury District." Near the close of the summer of 1776, he raised and commanded an army of 2,400 men to subdue the "Over Hill" Cherokee Indians who were committing numerous depredations, and occasionally murdering the inhabitants on the frontier settlements.

General Rutherford crossed the "Blue Ridge," or Alleghany mountains, at Swannanoa Gap, near the western base of which the beautiful Swannanoa River ("nymph of beauty") takes its rise. After reaching the French Broad he passed down over the stream at a crossing-place which to this day bears the name of the "War Ford." He then passed up the valley of Hominy Creek, leaving Pisgah Mountain on the left, and crossed Pigeon River a little below the mouth of East Fork. He then passed through the mountains to Richland Creek, above the present town of Waynesville, ascended the creek and crossed the Tuckasegee River at an Indiantown.

Pursuing his course, he crossed the Cowee Mountain, where he had a small engagement with the enemy, in which one of his men was wounded. As the Indians carried off their dead and wounded, their loss could not be ascertained. Thence, he marched to the "MiddleTowns," on the Tennessee River...

In skirmishes at Valley Town, Ellajay, near Franklin, General Rutherford lost three men but the expedition commanded by Gen. Rutherford was completely successful, the Indians were routed, their towns destroyed and a considerable number killed and made prisoners. Nothing short of this severe chastisement of the Indians for their depredations and murders would serve to cause them to sue for peace. He then returned home by the same route, since known as "Rutherford's Trace.

The Rev. James Hall of Iredell County accompanied this expedition as Chaplain. The uniform of the Officers and men was a hunting jacket of domestic, trimmed with cotton; their arms were rifles, and none knew better how to use them. November found the soldiers home.

John Stewart in his Pension Application stated that Rutherford was Brigadier General at the time he entered service and that he volunteered to fight the Cherokees. The above story attests the veracity of that statement to the satisfaction of the author.

John Stewart also spoke of being drafted and stated that he served for three months at that time. He also said he served another time with General Davidson and was in the engagement when General Davidson fell. Where was John Stewart during the three month period of service? I cannot say definitely, but again by placing tradition alongside of documented history, I can venture a guess.

In 1780, General Horatio Gates was placed in command of the American Army in the South. As Commander of the American Army in the North, he had defeated British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga. He boasted that he would do to Cornwallis what he had accomplished against Burgoyne. In his own words as Commander in the South, he was determined upon "Burgoyning Cornwallis."

But on the 16th of August 1780, Gates was defeated by Cornwallis at Camden, S.C. General Griffith Rutherford was taken prisoner at Camden, S.C. Events moved quickly. In 1780, General Nathaniel Green replaced Gates as Commander of the American Army in the South. General William Davidson replaced Rutherford who, as stated, had been captured at Camden, S.C.

Was John Stewart at Camden with General Rutherford? The evidence that he was is now given. The time is December 4, 1780. The first hours of General Nathaniel Green's command, so stated two South Carolina historians, were brightened by the news of a colorful incident which promised to be a favorable omen to come.

Colonel William Washington, a cousin of General George Washington, who had narrowly escaped capture by the Tory Tarleton at Monck's Corner in April 1780, had been patrolling with his calvary between Charlotte, N.C. and Camden, S. C. Colonel Washington rode down to Rugeley's Mill, twelve miles north of Camden, to investigate a body of Tories quartered there. Here at Rugeley's Mill, the Tory Commander Rugeley had assembled a force of considerable size and fortified his log barn and dwelling house. Colonel William Washington arrived with his troops at Rugeley 's Mill, alongside Grannies Quarter Creek, to learn that a party of Tories were indeed posted in Colonel Henry Rugeley's strongly fortified barn and house located across the Creek and up the hill from the mill.

Washington, realizing the impossibility of dislodging Rugeley's garrison with only small arms, resorted to an ingenious stratagem to capture the post. Taking a Pine log, Washington fashioned it to resemble a cannon and propped it up in such manner as to command both Rugeley's barn and house. Colonel Washington demanded the Tories to surrender, threatening to blow them to bits if they did not heed the summons. Alarmed, Colonel Rugeley, fearing the destructive consequences of the formidable "cannon," Promptly surrendered his whole force of 112 men. No gun was fired by either side.

Rugeley's Tory career was ruined. Hearing the news of Washington's successful stratagem, British General Cornwallis wrote the notorious Tory Tarleton, "Rugeley will not be made a Brigadier. One of General Green's biographers wrote that when news of Rugeley's defeat reached the American camp, "the happy union of triumph and mirth, diffused through the camp by this fortunate though ludicrous occurance, gave the first day of vivacity to the army that it had enjoyed since the late defeat (Camden)."

Recalling the story of the "log cannon," as written to me by Barton Stewart, though I made many inquiries, writing to the Virginia Historical Society, the Maryland Historical Society, and the National Archives, I found no evidence that General George Washington ever used a "pine log cannon; " but his cousin Colonel William Washington did,

For the "pine log cannon" story to have survived in the family for more than 200 years, I can only conclude that John Stewart was at Camden with General Rutherford and heard the story, or was perhaps "loaned" to Colonel Washington for this foray against the Tories at Rugeley's Mill.

Remembering that General William Davidson replaced General Griffith Rutherford after Rutherford was captured at the battle of Camden, we find General Davidson, promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, given a brigade with the assigned duty of watching the movements of British General Cornwallis; that is, the plan of opposing Lord Cornwallis in crossing the Catawba was arranged by General Greene, and its execution assigned to General Davidson. General Davidson, anticipating the movements of Cornwallis, had placed guards at four or five crossing places on the Catawba River, making his own headquarters near the Tuckasegee Ford, on the eastern bank of the river. On January 31, 1781, Davidson left his headquarters to inspect the position of his guard at Cowan's Ford.

At half-past two o'clock, on the morning of February 1, 1781, Cornwallis broke up his camp at Forney's plantation, and went with his troops to a private crossing place known as Cowan's Ford six miles below Beattie's Ford. As he approached the river a little before dawn, the camp fires on the eastern bank assured him of resistance. When Cornwallis ' infantry had reached the middle of the river, they were challenged by one of General Davidson's sentinels. Receiving no response to his challenge, the sentinel gave the alarm by discharging his musket.

Upon hearing the firing, General Davidson, stationed about half a mile away in the Lucas house which was still standing when Hunter wrote his Sketches of Western North Carolina in 1877, hastened to the scene of conflict. General Davidson arrived at the river, and in attempting to rally his Whig forces for renewed action, received a fatal shot in the breast, fell from his horse, and almost instantly expired."

And, as John Stewart said in his Pension Application," I was in the engagement when General Davidson fell."

With respect to John Stewart's experiences " in the engagement when General Davidson fell", HISTORICAL SKETCHES OF NORTH CAROLINA by John Hill Wheeler, gives an account of the battle ( page 232).


After the battle of the Cowpens on the 17th of January, 1781, Lord Cornwallis, being joined the next day by reinforcements under General Leslie, at Winnsboro', advanced rapidly to intercept Morgan with his prisoners.

I am enabled, by means of an original manuscript of Lord Cornwallis, now on file in the archives of the Historical Society of the State, at the University; and the excellent maps in Tarleton's campaigns: and the History of Stedmen, to t race accurately the movements of the British army.

General Leslie's head-quarters on the 17th January, 1781, were at Sandy Run, in Chester District, a branch of Broad River.

At Hillhouse's plantation, York District, on the 18th, General Lesliereturns his thanks to the troops under his command for their ready obedience, and informs them that all orders in the future will issue from Lord Cornwallis and the Adjutant-General. At eight o'clock at night Lord Cornwallis issues his orders to the army to march at 8 o'clock in the morning in the following order:-

1, Yagers; 2, corps of pioneers; 3, two three-pounders; 4, Brigade Guards; 5, Regiment of Bose; 6, North Carolina Volunteers; 7, two six-pounders; 8 Lt.-Colonel Webster's Brigade; 9, wagons of the General; 10, field officers wagons; 11 ammunition wagons; 12, hospital wagons; 13, regiment wagons; 14, provision train; 15, bat horses; a captain, two subaltersn, and 100 men from Colonel Webster's brigade, to form a rear guard.

On the 19th the army camped at Smith's House on Broad River, near Cherokee Iron Works; on the 20th at Saunders' plantation, in South Carolina, on Buffalo Creek; on the 23rd they reached Tryon Court House, in the west part of Gaston, about 20 miles from Lincolnton; on the 24th at Ramsour's Mill, near where Lincolnton now stands. Here the army remained until the 28th, when they marched to Beattie's Ford. The river, from recent rains, being deemed impassable, Lord Cornwallis falls back to Fortney's plantation, now occupied by James Anderson, Esq., where he remained drying his powder and procuring forage for his cavalry, until the first of February, when, at half past two in the morning, he took up his line of march, and crossed the Catawba River at Cowan's Ford, about six miles below Beattie's Ford. Here about 600 militia, under General Davidson, were posted, and a slight skirmish occurred. A British Colonel (Hall) and three privates were killed, and 36 wounded. Lord Cornwallis' horse was shot from under him, and fell dead as he reached the bank.

The brave Davidson fell here of our side, by the hand of a Tory.

Lord Cornwallis, in his general orders, at camp, on the 2nd, returns his "thanks to the brigade of Guards for their cool and determined bravery in the passage of the Catawba, while rushing through that long and difficult ford under a galling fire."

A part of the British force crossed at Beattie's Ford (Col. Webster's Brigade). They united at the House of Alfred D. Kerr, where a skirmish had taken place--then called Torrence's.

Another order from his manuscript order book does credit to his head as well as his heart.

"Head Quarters, Cross Roads to Salisbury, 1st Feb. 1781.

"Lord Cornwallis is highly displeased that several houses were set on fire during the march this day-a disgrace to the army. He will punish with the utmost severity any person or persons who shall be found guilty of committing so disgraceful an outrage. His Lordship requests the commanding officers of corps to find out the persons who set fire to the houses this day."

General Morgan had previously crossed safely the Catawba at the Island ford; and met General Greene on the east bank of the river, and with him continued his retreat from the advancing forces of the British. The Americans crossed the Yadkin at Trading Ford, on the night of the 1st add on the 2d of February; which on the 2nd, from rains, was so swollen that the British attempted in vain that day to cross. Lord Cornwallis, after an ineffectual cannonade over the river, returned to Salisbury, and on the 7th crossed at the Shallow Ford.

The following excerpts are from Jeanette Kelly's MY STEWART AND OTHER KIN OF IREDELL COUNTY, N. C.

John Stewart does not appear in the Census of 1840, but he is known to have lived until after April 25, 1833, when he made a supplementary statement pertaining to his Revolutionary War Pension, the original application being made on August 28, 1832.

The French and Indian Wars ended, the War of the Revolution fought and freedom won, life in Iredell County, N.C. became normal for those days. John Stewart, Sr., a farmer and wheelwright by trade, on November 20, 1792, was sworn as constable in the county court. In November 1794, John Stewart took James Henry Thompson as an apprentice to the wheelwright's trade.

William Stewart, son of John, took John Smith as an apprentice on February 19, 1811. Abner Stewart also took young men as apprentices in the carpentry trade. Apparently both of these sons of John Stewart, who listed a joiner shop for taxes in 1800, worked as a joiner; that is, a skilled workman who makes woodwork products and furniture.

Abner Stewart was also a builder of bridges. On May 18, 1815, a jury was appointed by the Iredell County Court of Pleas and Quarterly Sessions "to view a river bank at the place where a bridge was lately built and carried off by high water and fix upon any situation which may answer to rebuild at Caldwell's said bridge." Abner Stewart had filed a petition with the court to rebuild the bridge. The appointed jury was instructed to "return their proceedings to the August term of Court. John Stewart, Jr. like his brothers William and Abner, and according to his occupation as given in the Iredell County Census of 1850, was a skilled woodworker and carpenter. And, of course, all tilled their land.

The Iredell County Census of 1790 enumerated John Stewart, who lived on Fourth Creek, as 3 - 5 - 4; that is, two sons over 16 years of age and John, the head of the house; Five sons under 16; and four females of all ages, including the wife. If no married son or daughter was living in this household, unlikely since John and Margaret had been married only twenty years, then John and Margaret Potts were the parents of ten children, seven sons and three daughters in 1790.

In the 1800 Census, four sons and four daughters are at home. Assuming that no married son or daughter is living at home, another daughter was born after 1790.

The names of five sons are known, namely: James Potts Stewart, who married Margaret Witherspoon; Ralph Stewart, who married Rebecca Johnson; William Stewart, never married; Abner Stewart, who may have married Jane Gracy; John Stewart, Jr., who married a Miss Hyler. Two children of John and Margaret Potts Stewart, neither age nor sex known, were buried at a site first chosen as the location on which to build a house of worship for the Old Fourth Creek Congregation. This accounts for seven of the eleven children born to John and Margaret Potts Stewart.

No records are available about the daughters of John Stewart. There is an Elizabeth buried at Concord Presbyterian Church, Iredell County, N. C. She was born May 11, 1794 and died April 13, 1844. She may be the daughter living with John and Margaret Potts Stewart in the Iredell County Census of 1830.

Concord Church grew out of the old Fourth Creek Church, organized in 1764 or 1765 by Elihu Spencer. Samuel Harris, found in the 1790 Census of Iredell County, made a list of the members of Concord Congregation in his own hand writing. Though the date of Samuel Harris' list is not given, the list includes many names on the 1790 Census of Iredell County. Most of the names were familiar to one who has made a study of Iredell County in the Colonial days, the years of the Revolutionary War, and the years following. Many are woven into the story of the Stewart family of Iredell County.

Those on the 1790 Census and also on the Concord Church roll, included James Purviance, William Morrison , Archibald Sloan, Alexander Moore, William Watts, William McClelland, John Purviance, John Wallace, John Sharpe, James Morrison, Samuel Harris, Andrew Morrison, William Feemster, and John Stewart who lived on Fourth Creek.

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John Stewart of Fourth Creek's Timeline

Stuart's Run, Augusta County, Province of Virginia, (Present USA)
Age 22
Age 27
Rowan County (now Iredell), N.C.
August 18, 1823
Age 75
Shepherds Fort, Ohio County, Virginia (Present West Virginia), United States