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by Joseph A. Hoskins
The North Carolina booklet: Great events in North Carolina ..., Volumes 19-20 By Martha Helen Haywood, Mrs. Hubert Haywood, Mary
Bruce's Cross Roads
By Joseph A. Hoskins
The name of Charles Bruce is deserving of mention in connection with Bruce's Cross Roads (now Summerfield). In colonial times, and up to 1832 when he died, aged almost 100 years, he lived here.
Charles Bruce was a remarkable man. He was a strong whig and ardent patriot. Was member, together with Ralph Gorrell, Joseph Hines, Isham Browder and David Caldwell, of the Halifax Congress (November, 1776) that framed our constitution and organized the state. Was appointed agent, with Daniel Gillespie, by the Provincial Congress (April, 1776) to purchase firearms and ammunition for the troops. Was made a member of the Committee of Accounts by the Halifax Congress. Appointed general recruiting officer (September, 1777) by council of state. Member House of Commons 1782. State Senator 1783. Appointed 1782, together with Fraugott Bagge and James Hunter, auditor for Salisbury District for settlement of claims against the state. 1784 was made Commissioner of Confiscated Property. Member of Council of State under Governor Alexander Martin, 1790, and was councillor at the time of General WashingtonSs southern tour, 1791, and had the honor of entertaining the President on his reutrn trip north after leaving Salem. Was justice of peace for many years and postmaster for thirty years. Was Chairman of County Court for many years and on Boundary Commission, 1785, for dividing Guilford County. Was on commission to build courthouse and jail at Greensboro. County seat moved 1808. He married Elizabeth Benton, stated to be a sister of the father of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, of Missouri. (Bruce had lived in Orange County, E". C., before settling in Rowan (now Guilford), as had Mr. Benton.)
Mr. Brucc's home was a center of the revolutionary spirit and a meeting place for the organization, Friends of Liberty. He was a large land owner and slaveholder, merchant and surveyor. He obtained grants from Granville and State of North Carolina for thousands of acres in what is now Guilford and Rockingham Counties. Bruce's Cross Roads was a general muster ground. In 1776 Captain Dent was killed there at a general muster, being one of the first North Carolinians to fall in the struggle. Ashe says: "In Guilford, Colonel James Martin assembled the Whigs at the Cross Roads, but the Tories resolutely pressed against them. A company of which Samuel Deviney, one of the former Regulators, was the head, on being opposed by Captain Dent, shot him." It was at Bruce's Cross Roads that the encounter between Light Horse Harry Lee and Colonel Tarleton occurred February 12, 1781. Lee was encamped at Bruce's house on Greene's retreat to the Dan. He was attacked by Tarleton and Lee's bugler boy, Gillis, was killed in cold blood. In the counter attack Lee avenged the death of the devoted bugler by slaying seven of the dragoons. Greene and his army continued the retreat, pursued by Cornwallis. That night part of the British army under GeneralO'Hara camped at Bruce's. He had fled with Colonel Lee across the Dan and was with him at the Battle of Guilford March 15. The Charles Bruce home plantation is now owned by Joseph A. Hoskins. The Bruce house stood where now stands the Hoskins home. It is traditionary that the Bruces were exiles from Scotland, and that antipathy to the house of Hanover partly accounts for Charles Bruce's extreme Whig principles and great activity in the Revolution.
Two other names are worthy of mention in connection with Bruce"s Cross Roads. It was here that Hezekiah Saunders kept a wayside inn and where the stage coaches north to south changed horses. In the autumn of 1822 two young men from New England journeying to South Carolina and Georgia, respectively, alighted from the stage coach to break58
fast with Mr. Saunders. The young men were Sidney Porter and Jiathanial Boyden. Impressed by the attratcions of the locality and the bountiful repast, they decided instanter to end the journey and cast in their fortunes with the people of the Old North State. This decision changed the whole course of their lives.
The Saunders house still stands and is the home of Mrs. Catherine Brittain. Nathanial Boyden taught school here fall and winter of 1822, boarding with Mr. Saunders. He became famous as eminent lawyer, Whig Congressman and Supreme Court Judge, and the ancestor of the distinguished family of that name in this state. Colonel A. H. Boyden ,of Salisbury, is a son of Judge Nathaniel Boyden.
It is probably not too much a stretch of imagination to conjecture that Sidney Porter lingered many days at this hospital hostelry, before finally locating in Greensboro. He became the ancestor of the distinguished Porter family of Guilford. The versatile genius, William Sidney Porter (O. Henry), is probably the most famous offspring of this Porter family.
Referring to Charles Bruce. His son George represented Guilford in the House of Commons 1798-99 and 1801, and was a member of the State Senate, 1802. He was a soldier of the Revolution. Another son of Charles, Abner, was Clerk of the Court of Orange County for many years. Hon. Willis Dowd, of Charlotte, was a grandson of Abner, as is Prof. Jerome Dowd, of the University of Oklahoma, and great-grandsons of Charles Bruce.
Charles Bruce, Jr., settled in Darlington, S. C., and became ancestor of the family of that name there and at Camden. Alfred and Felix settled in Caroll County, Tennessee, on the lands of their father, Charles Bruce. James Allen lived at Summerfield in the old days prior to 1840. William E. Allen, of Greensboro, is a grandson. The postoffice was called Bruce's Cross Roads in colonial times and up to about 1820. It was one of the important settlements in the county, antedating Martinsville (Guilford Courthouse). It was on the great stage road north to Piedmont and Western North Carolina, upper South Carolina and Georgia. This continued the leading thoroughfare till the coming of the North Carolina Railroad.
When Greene withdrew after Battle of Guilford, he sent his baggage via Bruce's Cross Roads to the Dan. This road is still called Baggage Road. The late Charles H. Wilson was a garndson of Hezekiah Saunders, as is John B. Ogburn. Mrs. J. Thomas Rhodes is a granddaughter.
[Reprinted from the Proceedings of the N. C. Historial Association, 1917]
The land of John and Benedict Middleton in Guilford County, North Carolina adjoined the land of Charles Bruce.
||The North Carolina booklet: Great events in North Carolina ..., Volumes 19-20 By Martha Helen Haywood, Mrs. Hubert Haywood, Mary |
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