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Home: Regional: U.S. States: North Carolina: Rutherford County

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Re: Tory List - Rutherford County, NC
Posted by: FD Taylor (ID *****2294) Date: October 27, 2006 at 12:34:10
In Reply to: Tory List - Rutherford County, NC by James T. Bell of 2352

There are primary-source historic documents and then there are primary-source historic propaganda. This list is the latter. As someone else has noted, there was a real problem with a rush to grab the land of anyone who could be labelled as a Tory.

Case in point: There's an ongoing debate about my ancestor Benjamin Biggerstaff, who name is on the list. His brother Aaron was a Tory and was mortally wounded at King's Mountain. Some of his family members were Tories, which is probably their property was specifically chosen for the lynchings following King's Mountain. His cousin or uncle John Moore was a Tory leader, particularly at Ramseur's Mill in what is now Lincoln Co., where the Biggerstaffs had lived before migrating to what is now Rutherford Co. a few years before the break-up of old Tryon Co. And Benj. had been a loyal servant of King George just before the Revolution, when he was a constable in Tryon Co. To cinch the case for him having been a Tory, his name appears on a Tory payroll list AND there is a British record of him having pledged to the Tory cause.

But most of that evidence is circumstantial and there's better evidence that he was not of Tory sympathies at all, but instead had a bitter break with his family because he was pro-Patriot. Before the aforementioned battles, Benj. joined a Patriot troop headed to Charleston, S.C., to save it from the British. The effort was doomed and he was captured. His wife Mary VanZant Biggerstaff visisted him in prison and reported him in a deplorable condition. His name was added to the payroll WHILE he was in prison. My guess is that his Tory relatives hoped to rehabilitate his reputation with Loyalists at a time when it seemed likely they were going to win (after the fall of Charleston and other Patriot defeats, but before the turnarounds at King's Mountain, Ramseur's Mill, Guilford Courthouse, etc.). He also had ties to Patriots, including all of his wife's family, the VanZants, who seem to have been the exception among Biggerstaff in-laws during the war. The clincher is that Benj.'s reported "conversion" to the British cause came a few days before his death. Convenient, huh? But if he really had gone over to the British, why was he still their prisoner? Obviously, this was all propaganda.

Unfortunately, that propaganda was used against the families of people like Benj. by greedy "Patriot" leaders after the war. Mary had to fight in court to keep their land, but she did win. However, their children were taken away and raised by other families.

Incidently, I've looked at the families that my ancestor Aaron V. Biggerstaff (Benj.'s son, not his brother) was himself connected with. He married Jane Carter, the daughter of South Carolina Patriot (and later Rutherford Co. resident) Samuel Carter. Their daughter Lurannah Biggerstaff married John Hutchins, the son, grandson and nephew of prominent Patriots from Wake Co., who settled in Rutherford Co. after the war. I don't find any additional Tory connections in this family.

I suspect there are a good many other cases like this one. So be careful about lists like this.

You have to wonder if 250 years from now people will turn up their ancestors on the "Do Not Fly" list and assume they were all terrorists.

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