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IV
Watauga

        We have come to the fourth generation of the Hailes in America.  Just by chance, each successive head of household in this particular line bears the name Nicholas.  Here is a good point at which to pause and take stock.

       The Nicholas born in England in the year of the Petition of Right (1628) received land patents
on the Corotoman.  He died at an early age, in 1672,  but his family was now established in Virginia.

       A son who sought his fortune in Baltimore County
was granted a long life (1657-1730), while his family became prosperous and well connected in Baltimore County.  They were strong supporters of the Church of England and its cathedral in Baltimore Town.

       It was a
grandson then (ca. 1702-52) who joined the Quakers in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and accompanied them to the frontier in Bedford, Virginia.  Here he played a prominent rôle, as did especially his associates and sons-in-law.  He died at middle age.

       T
he great grandson,

Nicholas of Watauga (1724-1818),

was another to enjoy a long life.
  This last of our direct line to bear the name Nicholas witnessed such great changes in America as to stagger our imagination.  This Nicholas was born during the reign of George I, a king who scarcely heeded our fringe of English settlement along a remote American coastline.  But Nicholas  lived out the reign of George I and also that of of George II, at last saw George III actually lose the American colonies.  This Nicholas became citizen of an American republic established on unheard of principles, and chary of any government power.  He actually experienced the presidential administrations of all four founders, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.  Nicholas's birthplace in Baltimore swelled with new immigrants. His grandfather, also born there, would scarcely have recognized the new landscape.

       For this Nicholas, the wilderness was no longer impenetrable.  Opportunities beckoned all the way to the Mississippi basin.  As a ninety-three year old, he saw yet one more Virginian, also a framer of the new Constitution, assume the presidency of a United States of America.
Nicholas himself, of course, had no idea of such a perspective as ours, in telling about him, looking at this map and comparing it with the one of his day.



             As a sixteen-year-old Nicholas was  married to a Baltimore County girl, Ruth Acre.  Their extended family was already settled in Virginia by the time their first children were born (Richard, Elizabeth, William, and Sarah).  Their new home lay along the Great Wagon Road: their whole world may have seemed to be on the move.  New settlers kept arriving in Bedford, pioneers continued to pass on southward.  Several relatives joined and went off with the new adventurers.  Together with friends and cousins--the Talbots, for example--Nicholas's little family also set out to explore further down the Blue Ridge, into Rowan County.  That was a far western corner of North Carolina, which at that time extended all the way to the Mississippi (see the map above).

        Three more sons were born to Nicholas and Ruth:  Nathan, Amon and, yes, a Nicholas.  They  found the Carolina backwoods much wilder than
the Virginia hills where their parents had settled.  They  encountered more recent immigrants come down out of Pennsylvania, others even directly from Europe.   Their Virginia grandparents had regarded themselves as Tuckahoes, proudly above alliances with any other than Virginia stock.  In this more diverse populace the once familiar distinction between gentry and servant became blurred.



    Life in these parts was described just a few years later by one Francis Baily, a young British banker who was to become a noted astronomer.  Baily reports the Carolina breakfasts to be remarkable, not so much for the prodigious quantity as for the way all the guests sat around the same table without regard to rank or station. Even the prices were indiscriminate:

If our table were spread with all the profusion of American luxury, such as ham, cold beef, fried chicken &c. &c., (which are not uncommon for breakfast in this part of the world), or whether we sat down to a dish of tea and hoe-cake, our charge was all the same. The accommodations we met with on the road were pretty well, considering the short time this country has been settled, and the character and disposition of its inhabitants, which are not those of polished nations, but a character and disposition arising from a consciousness of independence, accompanied by a spirit and manner highly characteristic of this consciousness. It is not education alone that forms this character of the Americans: it stands upon a firmer basis than this. The means of subsistence being so easy in the country, and their dependence on each other consequently so trifling, that spirit of servility to those above them so prevalent in European manners, is wholly unknown to them; and they pass their lives without any regard to the smiles or the frowns of men in power. (p. 42)

Baily here hits upon that characteristic by which Americans continued to be recognized throughout the world.   
This easy social structure which shocked Baily at the frontier did not prevail in the older colonies.  It may never have affected New Englanders at all.  It certainly contributed to differences which set the northern colonies off from the South, but it was also typical in the territories drained by the Ohio, called the Western Waters.   Baily's eye was sensitive to the rude and sometimes filthy frontier living conditions. With his rigid British social consciousness, he spoke of three classes, finding that the coarseness of manners, food, and shelter was gradually refined as new waves of settlers achieved better living conditions.  The first to venture into the wilderness had been itenerant hunters, trappers, Indian traders, a  few feral hogs.  Then came pioneers able to cope with increasingly vicious Indian resistance.  They laboriously felled the huge trees, clearing the soil and tilling it for beans, corn, perhaps even a "money crop." At last, a family could strive for a modicum of cleanliness and regularity.  Nicholas's parents had established such domesticity back in Virginia.  He was trying to do the same on the Watauga.

        Nicholas and Ruth probably had no memory at all of any family origins as "gentry" on the English countryside, or
as "cavaliers" in early Virginia.  But they certainly did still count themselves members of respectable society from Baltimore County, where in time of trouble they might find shelter in their grandparents' home.  Did they still carry in their hearts that fierce resentment of absolute authority which prevailed among Englishmen like their great grandfather when he put in on the banks of the Corotoman?

        As we have seen, his departure from England was intertwined with that tragic quarrel over the people's rights vs. royal authority which culminated in the execution of Charles I and the exile of his son.  More than a century later, Nicholas and Ruth may have paid little heed when George III became their king in 1760.   But they did find the Carolina backwoods governed by a ruling English elite, and tensions reminiscent of that much earlier conflict
between Governor Berkeley and the James River rabble.   If we should accept what Baily saw as class difference between the Carolina farmers and their governor, then we might accurately use the word "revolution" for the hostilities which were just about to break out.

       A typical object of indignation was "Tryon's Palace," as they called their governor's new residence.




Although by no means an evil man, William Tryon's burgeoning administrative personnel did actually draw profit from malfeasance.  The British Parliament, like any government, demanded revenues.  The notorious Stamp Act in 1765, and then the Quartering Act (which required colonials to provide housing and food for the Redcoats) provoked a Continental Congress to assemble at Philadelphia. Yet further taxes (the Townsend Act (1767) set the stage for the much touted Boston Tea Party up in Massachussetts.
Revolution?

        The first comprehensive history of the United States hailed this Boston fracas as the beginning of an "American Revolution."  See The History of the United States of America, six volumes (1849-1853) by Richard Hildreth, the Bostonian who introduced this French term into American history writing.  It was another Bostonian, like Hildreth a Harvard professor, who immortalized Paul Revere's Ride.  Yet another New Englander called the Battle of Lexington "the shot heard round the world."  History professors ever since, wistful revolutionaries themselves, have continued to parrot Hildreth's "American Revolution" in context with that New England narrative.  Had Hildreth, or Longfellow, or Emerson taken thought of the unrest a decade earlier among Carolinians --which did truly involve an impoverished proletariat exploited by an indifferent ruling class wallowing in alien luxury--well, then our legendary American Revolution might have been passed down to us quite differently, and in more accurate terminology.

       As schoolchildren we might have learned about the eloquent "Nutbush Address," published on June 6th, 1765 by a North Carolina school teacher, George Sims.   Sims explains how the King's officials and legal counsel  ruin a poor farmers with fees and court costs alone.  Sims argues that where there is no law, failure to comply with arbitrary demands can be no transgression.  He goes on to require "a well regulated society [italics added]."  The new Governor Tryon threw Sims in jail.  But the Nutbush line of thought was not soon forgotten, and regulation became a popular demand.  Organized resistance emerged  among Carolinians who styled themselves "Regulators."  Their meeting for redress of grievances in April of 1767 produced a list of "outrages."   "Regulator Advertisement Number 6" from the subsequent March 22nd announced a meeting to "regulate" the payment of taxes.  It culminated in a written agreement where the keynote was: "An officer is a servant of the publick, and we are determined to have the officers of this country under a better and honester regulation than any have been for some time past."  Obviously, these were people who desired no "revolution" and disorder, but rather thought in terms of the primary justification for any government, law and order.  On the frontier, Americans were again and again confronted by the fundamental problem as to how to establish such a structure to govern themselves.  It was a choice which they had not yet faced as Englishmen, nor even during their first few generations as colonists in Virginia.

          To a European aristocrat like Sir William Tryon, a crowd suggested danger.  An assembly for the purpose of protest frightened the authorities. 
Governor Tryon ventured out onto the sparsely populated Carolina countryside to confer with the Regulators in the spring of 1771.  He routinely brought along soldiers and some heavy artillery.  The Regulators sent an emissary to confer with the governor's party. Tryon ordered the emissary shot.  His Redcoats then had no difficulty routing the assembledge.  It came to be called the Battle of Alamance.   Tryon hanged several of their leaders.  When he later caught up with one who had not been present, Benjamin Merrill, Governor Tryon used that tedious English fashion of hanging, drawing, and quartering (familiar to the Scots from the fate of William Wallace). 

        It was during these turbulant times that Nicholas and Ruth were exploring Rowan County.  The Regulator disturbance had put a great fright into the populace, so that some retreated into the Watauga valley (near present day Kingsport).  The Watauga Petition of 1776, sometimes referred to as the first American Declaration of Independence, was an early effort toward self governance at the unregulated frontier.  The John Haile whose signature appears on the Petition is Nicholas's cousin.*   John himself fought at Kings Mountain in October of 1780, together with his cousin Matthew Talbot (also mentioned above).  It was the decisive battle in the War for Independence.  John Haile and Matthew Talbot called themselves Patriots.  Needless to say, both had once been as loyal to their king as were their forebears of times past--or as were their Loyalist kinsmen whom they defeated at King's Mountain. 
* Born in 1743, son of Nicholas's uncle George.  This John had a grandson named Nicholas P. Haile, who would eventually marry our Nicholas's great granddaughter, Nancy née Haile.  She turns up a little later in these pages, the aunt of my grandfather.

       By this time the young Nicholas Haile family was no longer at the frontier, but had already taken refuge back home in Maryland.  The record of their children's births enables us to judge how they had moved down to Rowan County during the French and Indian war, or some time after 1755, and stayed there until the Regulator disturbances of the 1760s.  But by the time their last child came along (Joshua, in 1767), they were dwelling at Hailes Fellowship in Baltimore.  This is where their older boys (Richard, Nathan, and Amon) joined Washington's Continental Army in Pulaski's Legion (formed in 1778), famous as the first American cavalry.  When peace at last returned, these boys together with their parents and their uncles George and Shadrack, and all their wives and children, headed back down the Blue Ridge for the Watauga.

      These were obviously people who had given some thought to the uses and misuses of the power to rule.  They had overthrown the insolent king.  The new federal government in Philadelphia scarcely suited their taste any better than had Royal British rule.  As early as 1784, they petitioned the North Carolina Assembly for an independent state of their own, Franklin.  Two of the signatories to this Franklin Petition were Nicholas's brother Shadrack (b. 1735, in Baltimore), and Shadrack's son of the same name.  These men of the fourth and fifth generations on American soil represent a populace now formally separated from England.  As we have seen, they had long since acquired a distinctive character of their own.  When they called themselves Patriots, that reflected their classical orientation (Cicero:  pro salute patriae) toward homeland or place of origin. 
It certainly did not mean they were championing any American government.  In 1776, they had signed the Watauga Petition for independence from North Carolina's governance, and in 1787-88 they were among those refusing to ratify the new Constitution.

          The Franklin Petition reveals that the elder Shadrack Haile, born in Baltimore, still knew how to sign his name.  The son born on the frontier marks with his X.   The father may still reflect something of the old Tuckahoe culture and attitude, but both he and his son are now obviously post revolutionary men.  The Franklin Petition expresses the now characteristic American rejection of any remote authority.  This same abhorrence of a national power divided the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia during the long summer and fall of 1787.*  It continued to characterize the southern and western states.  Vestiges are still apparent in national elections of the twenty-first century.
*By all means re-read Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen, 1966.

       Nicholas's last will and testament was not made out until April of 1807.  Even then, more than a decade of life remained to the old boy (he was to outlive the youngest son mentioned in his will).  Here is the best place for it, however, since it still reflects ways and mores of the 17th and 18th centuries.

 


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In the Name of God Amen I Nicholas Haile
Senr of Washington County and state of Tennessee
being of a Sound mind & memory thanks be to almighty God
Do by these presents make and ordain this my last
will and testament in manner following viz.
first as I have given to my Six Sons Richd William
Nicholas Nathan Amon and Joshua Haile
Heretofore their full portions in land & other property
& So my will is my Six Sons above mentioned to Receive
one Dollar out of my Estate each of them & no more
Secondly after all lawfull Debts being paid
my will is my three Daughters Elizabeth Cage
Ruth Haile & Sarah Gray to have the Remainder of
My personal Estate to be equally divided among
those, thirdly a certain tract or parcel of land laying
Between Thomas Murrys line and Thomas Barrons line
and Michael Eddlemans line Supposed to be between
Eighty and Ninety acres to be equally Divided between
the Heirs of John Haile Deceasd and Reason for this
is the said John Haile Died Intestate-------
Being a piece of land I gave to my Son Amon Haile
& he Sold it to the Said John Haile & they have never
had any title from me for it yet so my will is
To leave it as above---
Fourthly, my will is that my mulatto man Bob at my
Death be set at his liberty & become a free man --
Except there be a Crop on hand & then at the Coming in
of the Crop to be set at his liberty --
fifthly my will is that my son Richd Haile have the
whole managing of my affairs.  Wherefore I Set my hand
and seal this 29th day of April 1807--
Witnessed
George Parkinson                Nicholas Haile
Rowland Derry

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