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Early 1800's

Up Gold Mining The Brevard Family

The Brevard Family

Mt. Tirza - Home of Robert Alfred Brevard and later his son Alexander Franklin Brevard as it stood in 1968. Home was unoccupied for many years prior to time of photo and shortly thereafter was burned by vandals.

The Brevards were French Hugenots who moved to Ulster County in Ireland with the belief that there, religious freedom could be found. When it was realized that, in fact, the Church of England was in power, the Brevards along with many of the Scots-Irish left Ireland for America.

It was John Brevard's father who moved his family from France to Ireland. Among the friends of the Brevards in Ireland was a family by the name of McKnitt who invited young John in their emigration to America.

In America the McKnitts and John Brevard settled in Cecil County, Maryland. John Brevard soon married the daughter of the McKnitts. Their first child, also named John, grew up in Maryland. Upon maturity he married Jane McWhorter.

John and Jane Brevard came down the Great Wagon Road to North Carolina, first living in the areas that would later become Rowan County and later still Iredell. John Brevard became one of Rowan County's most prominent citizens and at the time the county was formed in 1753 he was appointed sheriff.

On 23 May 1913 an article in the Statesville Landmark told of a field near Mooresville which was in old Iredell County that was cleared by John Brevard. At that location the home of John Brevard and Jane McWhorter and their children was built. The paper continues the story that because the Brevards had eight sons participating in the Revolutionary War, their family home was burned to the ground by the British and the old mother, Jane, who was then alone was not allowed to save any of their belongings.

During the Revolutionary War, Alexander Brevard fought first with the Northern army under General George Washington until he was ordered home because of failing health. After a period of recooperation he then joined the Southern army and fought until the end of the war.

In 1784 Alexander Brevard married Rebecca Davidson, who was born 20 March 1762 and was the daughter of General John Davidson of Mecklenburg County, one of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

In 1791 Alexander Brevard purchased from Peter Forney an interest in the iron industry. Alexander and Rebecca then moved to Lincoln County to engage in the iron business. Along with them came Alexander's brother in law and partner in the iron industry, General Joseph Graham who had married Isabella Davidson, sister of Rebecca. Together they erected Vesuvius and Mt. Tirza forges. Later Alexander Brevard built Rehoboth forge. Because of their interest in the iron mines they purchased large quantities of land in Lincoln County.

In the interest of increasing the production of iron in the country in the late 1700's, the government awarded thousands of acres of land to persons who had established furnaces which were producing iron. By this means the Brevard land acreage increased immensely.

According to Rudolph Young, a Stanley historian, as reported in the Gaston Gazette on 26 February 1996, "When these furnaces were founded in the 1790's, skilled German iron masters were recruited from Pennsylvania. Soon the Brevards as well as other furnace owners began to buy slaves from Africa who already were skilled in the iron industry, this being a means of obtaining cheaper skilled labor."

"A plantation of as many as 60 slaves, including clothes weavers and wooden shoemakers was required to work an iron furnace."

"A slave named Hannibal Smith worked as a forger at Alexander Brevard's Vesuvius Furnace. His skills were so valued that at the time Vesuvius Furnace was sold, Hannibal Smith was included in the transaction. He was 80 years of age at the time, and lived to be nearly 100 years of age."

Alexander and Rebecca Brevard built their home near Mt. Tirza Forge and her sister, Isabella and Joseph Graham built their home five miles away near Vesuvius Furnace.

As the years went by a family cemetery was created on the land between the two families. On that land near the cemetery they were instrumental in establishing the Macpelah Presbyterian Church and the burial ground became known as Macpelah Cemetery. There they, also, were buried. Rebecca Davidson Brevard died on 24 November, 1824. Captain Alexander Brevard lived five more years dying on 1 November 1829.

While the home stood, Mount Tirza was the largest plantation house in the Catawba River region. Built some time prior to the Civil War, probably around 1800, it was said to be of typical Scots-Irish design with a Georgian hip roof, though it did have some French Huguenot influence with an elaborate interior and multiple doors. It measured sixty six feet across the front. Just inside the front door and to the left was a ballroom with benches for seating along the walls, and a large expanse in the center for dancing.

Robert Alfred Brevard, son of Alexander and Rebecca Brevard, acquired a large quantity of land during his lifetime in addition to the Mount Tirza Forge lands that had been inherited from his father.  Robert Alfred Brevard was born 30 December 1799  and lived until age 80.

Sometime in the early 1820's Robert A. Brevard married Sarah Harriet Davidson. The couple had three children, Jane McWhorter Brevard who died in infancy, Alexander Franklin Brevard and Ephraim Joseph Brevard.

On 4 November 1829 Sarah Harriet Brevard died.  Robert Alfred Brevard never remarried, living out his years with his son, Alexander Franklin, at the homeplace, Mount Tirza.  Ephraim Joseph lived in Charlotte at died 8 June 1885 and is buried in the family cemetery at Macpelah.

Alexander Franklin Brevard was a lawyer by profession and never married. Alec, as he was called, owned property in and around the town of Stanley for many years. He died on 22 October 1909, and he, too, is buried at the family cemetery at Macpelah.

After the death of Alexander, Mount Tirza became primarily a tenant dwelling and farm and later sat empty for many years until being burned to the ground by vandals in 1968.

Up Gold Mining The Brevard Family

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