The Davenports

“If you want your horses fed, feed them yourself,\” replied ten-year-old William Davenport to Tory leader John McFall in September of 1780. Channeling his father\’s courage he would become a leader in his own right as he grew older.  The Davenport College for Women in Lenoir, NC was formed through his philanthropy.

John McFall served in Major Ferguson’s 1000-man army in the mountains and helped to subdue the rebel element there.  All through the mountain back country Ferguson’s men would search for the patriot militiamen and turn their wrath on rebel families when the men folk were not at home.  The women and children were turned out and the property was destroyed.  With nowhere to go, these refugees of liberty were found wandering and living off the land with bare clothes upon their backs. 

A poor and emotional sight that would help induce the back-country inhabitants to rise up against the Brits.

McFall and his men had rushed the Davenport home near Wilson Creek at the John’s River in search of Captain Martin Davenport of the Burke County militia.  The good Captain was off serving in the field so McFall forced Mrs. Davenport to feed his band of Loyalists.  When young Davenport boldly refused McFall’s demands and took up his father’s independent spirit, McFall whipped him. 

McFall would pay eternally for his misstep and swing from the hangman’s noose during the time of reckoning a few weeks later.(1)

A few years after the war the Davenport’s moved further up into the mountains off the Toe River.  Captain Martin Davenport sought freedom and independence in the solitude of the mountains just west of the Linville caverns.  He would become a hunting guide, an entertainer to foreign guests, protector of the poor and a coroner.(2)

The young William Davenport would become a prominent member of the community around Lenoir as well.  He was a magistrate, State representative and State Senator.  The Davenport Women’s College was his namesake and the buildings upon that hill still house an elementary school as well as the Caldwell Heritage Museum.(3)  Freedom Reigns!


(1) King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It, Lyman C. Draper, Anthony Allaire



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