Martha McFarland McGee

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Martha McGee (McFarlane)

Also Known As: "Mattie"
Birthdate: (85)
Birthplace: Alamance, NC, USA
Death: September 9, 1820 (85)
Randolph, NC, USA
Place of Burial: Randolph, North Carolina, USA
Immediate Family:

Wife of Col. John McGee and Capt. William Bell
Mother of Andrew McGee; Martha Jane Henderson; Rev. John McGee; Susannah Mendenhall and Reverend William McGee

Occupation: midwife, Midwife/Revolutionary War Heroine/Plantation Owner/Inn (ordinary) keeperr
Managed by: Alan Christopher Smillie
Last Updated:

About Martha McFarland McGee

Patriot Spy - [http://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2010/12/martha-mcfarland-mcgee-bell.html]

Martha "mattie" Bell (born Mcfarlane)

  • MyHeritage Family Trees
  • Radford Family Site (23andMe), managed by Homer Dale Radford (Contact)
  • Birth: 1735 - Orange, Alamance, North Carolina, United States
  • Death: Sep 9 1820 - Mile Old Union Church, Randolph, North Carolina, United States
  • Parents: William Mcfarlane, Martha Mcfarlane
  • Husband: Col John Mcgee
  • Husband: William Bell
  • Children: Nancy Ann Mcgee, Samuel Mcgee, John Welborn, Jonathan Bell, Jane "jean" Mcgee, Jane Mcgee, Susannah Mcgee, Susannah Mcgee, John Mcgee, Frances Mcgee, John Mcgee, Martha Mcgee, Thomas Joyner Mcgee, Andrew Mcgee, Timothy Walton Mcgee, William Mcgee, William Mcgee, William Mcgee, William Mcgee, Rev. William Mcgee, Rev. William Mcgee, Jane Mcgee, Susannah Mcgee, <Private> Mcgee, Andrew Mcgee

Martha McFarland was born in 1735 in Alamance County, North Carolina. In 1759, Martha married Colonel John McGee, a prosperous farmer and trader who came to North Carolina in 1750. They had five children: Jane (1760-1835), Susannah (1761-1843), John (1763-1836), William (1768-1817) and Andrew McGee (d. 1819). The McGees were among the wealthiest people in the county. John McGee died in 1773, but left his family well provided for. Martha carried on his business and farming, just as he had been doing. His farming operations were quite extensive for a new settler, and in the store, he bartered a great deal, by exchanging goods for deer skins, furs, flaxseed, beeswax and such items.

When he wanted a supply of goods he took his produce to Petersburg in wagons; and with a little money in addition, he obtained his supplies. After loading his own wagons, he rode along with them on horseback, keeping with the wagons through the day, and lodging in some house at night. Having learned from him the route and the names of all his lodging places on the road, Martha set off on her first trading expedition and found no difficulty either on her way or in making her purchases. But after leaving Petersburg, it began snowing early in the day, and and she decided to leave the wagons and get out of the snow as soon as possible. For a whole day’s journey, there was not a house of any description, and the only growth of timber was pine. The snow was whirling about in every direction, driving in her face and blinding her until she became completely lost. But having learned that the largest limbs of the pine tree grow on the south side, she used that as her guide, and arrived at her destination, where she rested for the night. On May 6, 1779, Martha McGee married William Bell, who was also quite wealthy, and moved to his home on Deep River, in Randolph County, North Carolina, where he operated a mill and store. Bell was the first sheriff of Randolph County. There were no children from this marriage. Martha was characterized as a “woman of strong mind, ardent temperament, and remarkably firm resolution.” Martha was also a midwife, and often traveled about the countryside to attend the births of children and to care the sick. She was a devoted Presbyterian and an ardent Patriot during the Revolutionary War. The War in Randolph County The area where the Bells lived was divided between Patriots and Tories (American colonists loyal to the British), and there was a great deal of violence on and off the battlefield. William Bell, a well-known business and political figure, had taken so active a part against the Tories, that he knew if he fell into their hands they would take his life. For this reason, Bell spent a good deal of time away from home during the war – not as a soldier but under the protection of local militia. Martha was determined, at all risks, to prevent their property from being plundered, and took up the responsibility of caring for their home and family and operating the gristmill. After the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, British General Lord Charles Cornwallis went to Bell’s Mill to confiscate corn and meal to feed his hungry army. (A historian found ruins of Bell’s Mill a few years ago, but the site is now covered by a lake.) While there he briefly occupied Martha Bell’s home as his headquarters. According to her biographer, Eli Carruthers, Martha confronted the general, saying, “Sir, you possess the power, and, of course, will do as you please without my consent; but, after using our mill, do you intend to burn it before you leave?” His lordship then assured her that the mill would not be harmed, and added that “by making her house his headquarters, he would be a protection to herself, her house, and every thing that was in or about it; for, said he, ‘no soldier of mine will dare to plunder, or commit depredations near my quarters.'” To which she replied: ‘Had your lordship said that you intended to burn our mill, I had intended to save you the trouble by burning it myself before you derived much benefit from it; but as you assure me that the mill shall not be burned, and that you will be a protection to me, and to the property about the house, I will make no further objections to your using our mill, and making my house your headquarters.'” Having been warned of their coming, Martha had hidden her most precious possessions before they arrived. It had been a common expedient with the people in the area to hide their treasure under rocks or to bury it in the ground, and the British had not only learned this fact from the Tories. Martha took her supply of bacon over the river and hid it among some rocks where nobody would ever think of looking. Her money, all in specie (coins), much more valuable than the worthless Continental Dollar, and by far of more value than anything else the soldiers might take. This she had hid under a large rock which formed the bottom step to the door. The rock was so large that she could only pry up one side of it by herself. Martha did not expect the army to be so near to the house, and to her great chagrin soldiers were all the time passing over the rock. She feared that the rock might be moved and all her cash, several years’ earnings, would not only be lost to her, but would go to feed and clothe her mortal enemies. She decided that it should not be lost without an effort to place it out of danger. For this purpose, she went deliberately into the yard, under the pretext of making some request of the soldiers. Then she walked about carelessly, looking at the tents, until the soldiers’ attention was turned to something else. Casually she raised the side of the rock, took out her money and returned to the house, without attracting their attention. In the evening of the day the British left her home, Martha made a visit to their camp to reconnoiter – to scout with the aim of gaining information – but under some other pretext. She might have been induced to go to there by Colonel Henry Lee III, better known as Light Horse Harry Lee. Lee and Colonel William Washington were now hanging on the rear of the British, harassing their foraging parties and cutting off stragglers. General Nathanael Greene was preparing to pursue the retreating foe, and it was important for him to obtain information regarding their condition and movements. The British army, crippled as it was, pressed with the difficulty of getting provisions, and encumbered with a large number of wounded officers and soldiers, moved very slowly. Cornwallis had left his men who were too badly wounded to travel at New Garden, trusting in the humanity of the Quakers there for their care. But Cornwallis still had a great many wounded with him who could not bear long or rapid journeys, and they were dying all along the road. After leaving Bell’s Mill, they went only a few miles to the plantation of Mr. Walker and camped there for the night. Colonel Lee was at Bell’s the day the British left, and he was well aware that Martha was familiar with every road and path, every plantation and hill in the area. Her patriotism and fearlessness made her an ideal candidate to scout the enemy camp. She would be in no danger, because Cornwallis had been so recently sheltered under her roof, he felt obliged to treat her with courtesy and respect. And she never left home without being armed with a dirk (dagger) and a pistol. Martha’s objective was to ascertain the condition of the British army, especially whether they were receiving any reinforcements of Tories. Complaining that the soldiers had damaged her property, which she had not learned about until after they had left, she went into the camp and spoke to Cornwallis. While she was there, Martha managed to get the information she wanted and returned home safely, very pleased with what she had done. The Tories were still making it dangerous for William Bell to be at home. During the autumn of 1781, he came for a short visit with his family. The Tories were soon aware of his return, and went there that night to take his life. The doors were all locked, so they decided to set the house on fire. If Bell attempted to run, they intended to shoot him and perhaps his step-sons. As the intruders were passing around the house, Mr. Bell leaned out the window to shoot at them, but one of them struck him on the head with his sword and inflicted a severe wound. Martha called to her sons, boys in their teens who were upstairs in bed, to get ready to fire out the windows. She then called to their servant boy Peter, loud enough for the men outside to hear, and told him to run tell John Clarke, who lived on the neighboring plantation, to bring his men right away. Though the men outside were ready to set the house ablaze, they dropped everything and ran. Realizing that it was as unsafe as ever to remain in his own house, especially at night, Mr. Bell did not come home again for months. Martha still remained at home; but usually got eight or ten young men, on whose bravery she could depend, to stay in the house at night; it was usually during the night that the Tories committed their acts of terror. Martha lived nearly forty more years after the Revolution. There is no record telling exactly when Mr. Bell died, but Martha was a widow, for the second time, for many years. Martha McFarland McGee Bell died peacefully September 9, 1820, at her home in Randolph County, North Carolina, at the age of eighty-five. She was buried at the Bell-Welborn Cemetery. SOURCES Family History Bites Blogging the Revolution Martha McFarlane McGee Bell Bell’s Mill National Historic Treasure Women Honored at Guilford Courthouse

MARTHA McFARLANE McGEE BELL, 1734-1820 Martha McFarlane was born in 1734 in Alamance County, North Carolina of Scottish Parents. At this time I do not have any information about her father or mother. Sometime around 1850 Martha Married John McGee who was born about 1716 and about 15 years her senior. John McGee at his death in 1773 had seven plantations in North Carolina of 40,000 acres and seven children. Martha took over the managing of this large property at this time. Robert McGee in his paper written in 1992 quoted an artical written about Martha but he did not say from whom.

Quoting: " After the death of her husband (John McGee), being the richest widow anywhere in the region, she was much sought after. . . she was 'a little haughty' but this probably orginated with those who could not succeed in gaining her affections. . . 'a good looking woman'. There was nothing about her that could be regarded as masculine and nothing in her deportment, ordinarily, that was at all inconsistent with the modesty and delicacy of her sex but she was a woman of strong mind, ardent in her temperment and remarkably resolute in whatever she undertook. . . Strong in her attachments, and equally so in her dislikes; there could be no better friend, and no more undesirable enemy; but there was no woman in the country who sustained a better character, or was respected by all the better part of the community. High minded, conscious of her integrity, and inflexable in her adherence to what she believed to be right, she seems to fear nothing except her Maker, and to desire nothing so much as the universal perseverance of peace and freedom, truth and righteousness."

Even prior to the Revolutionary War Martha was noted for her courage and intelligence. Caruther's noted that she could instantly create appropriate responses to emergency situations. After John McGee died in the period before the Revolutionary War Martha carried out his job. In one case she rode a horse, with only her memory of his talking of the places that he stopped along the way to guide her. Taking servents with wagons filled with deerskins, furs, flax-seed, and beeswax she set out to trade for provisions for the plantations and supplies for the store. On the 400 mile winter journey to Petersburg and back she found her way through a heavy snow storm by relying on the knowledge that the largest, heaviedt limbs grew on the south side of the pines.

The Revolutionary War actually started many years before official hostilities in savage partisan rivalry. The american Revolution was part regular and part guerilla warfare, part revolution and part civil war and in this war the Scotch-Irish were largly pitted against the british and their supporters the Tories. It was a savage war, as all wars are. It was said that Martha could not stand the sight or the mention of the name of a Tory and refused to intercede on behalf of those condemned to die. During the war the widowed Martha associated with William Bell, a neighbor who lived near Sandy Creek. They were married on the 6th of May 1779 during the war and six years after John McGee's death. William Bell was a rich but childless widower who owned a grist mill on Deep River called Bell's Mill and 40,000 acres of land. Bell's Mill was located about a mile above the Deep River ford on the road from Greensburo to Ashburo at a point where Muddy Creek emptied into Deep River. It was situated just below a high beautiful knoll on which stood their house. In 1990 the chimney was still standing at the house site. Robert McGee stated in 1990 that Bell's mill was still standing a few years ago. The mill site in now under a lake and highway 220 crosses a new bridge over the area of the mill area, the State of North Carolina named the bridge 'Martha McGee Bell Bridge'.

During the war, Tories burned their barn, wounded one of her sons, wounded and drove William Bell into hiding, and threatened to shoot the entire family or burn the house down with them in it. One day when Martha's aged father was visiting her, Tories came with the intention to kill the old man, they draw their swords and started to advance on him but instantaneously, Martha seized a broad-ax and raised it over her head threatening to bring it down on the head of one of the swordsmen, speaking in her Scottish accent with a sternness which was irrestible, " if one of ye touches 'em I'll split ye down with this ax. touch 'em if ye dare." They dared not, sheathing their swords they left the house.

==Find A Grave==

Birth: 1735, Alamance County, North Carolina, USA Death: Sep. 9, 1820, Randolph County, North Carolina, USA

Martha "Mattie" McFarlane married Col. John McGee (d. 1773) around 1759. He was a prosperous land owner and merchant, a widower with two children: Samuel McGee (c.1752-1810) and Ann "Nancy" McGee (1753/4-1832, Mrs. Robert Lindsay). There were five children born to the marriage of Martha and John: Jane McGee (1760-1835, Mrs. John Welborn), Susannah McGee (1761-1843, Mrs. Elisha Mendenhall), Rev. John McGee (1763-1836), Rev. William McGee (1768-1817) and Andrew McGee (d. 1819).

After John McGee's death, Martha married Captain William Bell, who was the first sheriff of Randolph County, NC, and there were no children born to this marriage. Martha was a midwife, and often traveled about the countryside to see to the birth of children, and also to care for those who were ill. She was a devoted Presbyterian, and converted her first husband from the Church of England to the Presbyterian Church, and persuaded him to leave some property to the Church. She was a fiery patriot....and made something of a name for herself as a spy during the Revolution.


Family links:

Spouse:
 John McGee (____ - 1773)*

Children:
 Jane McGee Welborn (1760 - 1835)*
 John McGee (1763 - 1836)*
 William McGee (1768 - 1817)*
  • Calculated relationship
 

Burial: Bell Welborn Cemetery Randolph County North Carolina, USA


Created by: John Field Pankow Record added: Feb 18, 2007 Find A Grave Memorial# 17972512


Martha McFarlane was born in Alamance County. No positive record of her parents’ names has been located, but her maiden name indicates that she was Scotch-Irish ancestry. From her childhood she possessed a strong mind and will and manifested devotion to the country of her birth. In 1759, she married John McGee. His untimely death in 1773 left her the richest widow in that frontier region. She was sought after by many widowers and bachelors, but she carried on by herself the business she had inherited. In one case, with her memory of John McGee talking of the places that he stopped along the way to guide her, taking servants with wagons filled with deerskins, furs, flax-seed and beeswax, she set out on a 400 mile winter journey to trade for provisions for the plantations and supplies for the store.

On 6 May 1779, Martha married William Bell, a childless widower. He operated a gristmill in the Deep River community called the Bell’s Mill, which became part of the new Randolph County formed that year. The mill was located about a mile above the Deep River ford on the road from Greensburo to Ashburo at a point whereMuddy Creek emptied into Deep River. Bell was elected the first sheriff of the county 13 Dec 1779 and later became clerk of court. His mill was a gathering place for Whigs. There were no children born to this marriage.

Martha was a midwife and nurse, and often traveled about the countryside to see to the birth of children, and care for those who were ill. She was a devoted Presbyterian and converted her first husband from the Church of England to the Presbyterian Church, and persuaded him to leave some property to the Church. She was a fiery patriot and made something of a name for herself as a spy during the Revolution. She is recorded in the Sons of the American Revolution as a spy.

Her greatest fame is based on General Cornwallis’s visit to Bell’s Mill after the Battle of Guilford Court House on 15 Mar 1781. Cornwallis moved southward to the mill in order to rest, regroup and care for the wounded. He also needed provisions and wished to use the mill for grinding corn mill to feed the troops. Family annals state that Martha regarded Cornwallis as a perfect gentleman even though he was an enemy. She extracted a promise from him that he would do no harm to the home or mill in exchange for her hospitality. As soon as Cornwallis left Bell’s Mill, General Harry Lee arrived. Martha served as his guide to the next campground of the British general, and her knowledge of the countryside enabled Lee to stage a successful counterattack with his small cavalry force. Her services as a nurse kept her in touch with events, and she was often able to penetrate enemy lines and report on troop movements.

Before the cessation of hostilities, she rode horseback with Mrs. Mary Dougan to Wilmington, NC in an unsuccessful attempt to see her son, Colonel Thomas Dougan, who was a prisoner aboard a British ship in the harbor.

Because the Bells were such active Whigs, Colonel David Fanning, leader of the Loyalist troops in the area, made many attempts to catch William Bell at home. This constant danger forced Bell to hid out or stay with patriot forces for months at a time. While he was away, Martha assumed responsibility for the home, children, mill and farm. On one day in 1781, Fanning came to the mill intent on killing the Bells, but the family’s display of strength caused the attacking party to leave without killing anyone or burning the house.

During the war, Tories burned their barn, wounded one of her sons, wounded and drove William Bell into hiding, and threatened to shoot the entire family or burn the house down with them in it. One day when Martha's aged father was visiting her, Tories came with the intention to kill the old man, they drew their swords and started to advance on him but instantaneously, Martha seized a broad-ax and raised it over her head threatening to bring it down on the head of one of the swordsmen, speaking in her Scottish accent with a sternness which was irresistible, " if one of ye touches 'em I'll split ye down with this ax. touch 'em if ye dare." They dared not, sheathing their swords they left the house.

Martha Bell was also instrumental in founding Old Union Methodist Church, where some of the first camp meetings in North Carolina were held.

Martha Bell died a year before her husband, whose death occurred on 22 Oct 1821. They were buried in the Bell-Welborn graveyard near New Market School in Randolph County. A marker at the site of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, placed there in 1929 by the DAR, honors her memory. The tribute reads, “Loyal Whig, Enthusiastic Patriot, Revolutionary Heroine.”



            
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Martha McFarland McGee's Timeline

1735
1735
Alamance, NC, USA
1757
1757
Age 22
1760
March 5, 1760
Age 25
Guilford County, Province of North Carolina
1763
June 9, 1763
Age 28
Guilford, NC, USA
1768
1768
Age 33
1768
Age 33
Guilford, NC, USA
1820
September 9, 1820
Age 85
Randolph, NC, USA
????
Randolph, North Carolina, USA