Monday, December 3, 2007

Col. Benjamin Cleveland (1738-1806)

Benjamin Cleveland was born 28 May 1738 in Orange County, Virginia, the son of John and Elizabeth Cleveland. He moved to what later became Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1769. He built his estate, called "Roundabout," near what is today Ronda, North Carolina in eastern Wilkes County.
Cleveland was very active in the early history of Wilkes County, North Carolina--at various times, he worked as a hunter, trapper, farmer, carpenter, and surveyor. By the time the American Revolution began in 1775, he was probably the wealthiest and most prominent citizen in Wilkes. A large, bulky man, he earned an early nickname from his size and his estate; he was called "Old Roundabout."
At the beginning of the war he was appointed a Colonel in the North Carolina militia. A fierce believer in the patriot cause, Cleveland became known as the "Terror of the Tories" for his treatment of pro-British colonists. In 1779 two Tories raided and looted the home of George Wilfong, a patriot farmer and friend of Cleveland. The tories used Wilfong's clothesline to chase away his horses. The tories were captured by Cleveland's militia and brought before him for judgement; he had them hanged from an oak tree using the same clothesline they had stolen from Wilfong. Soon a small group of tories led by a captain in the Tory militia tried to kidnap Cleveland, but their attempt was foiled. They were captured by Cleveland, then hanged from the same oak tree. The tree became known as the "Tory Oak" and stood for many years as an historic landmark behind the old Wilkes County courthouse (now the Wilkes Historical Museum).
Benjamin Cleveland played a key role in the Battle of Kings Mountain. According to legend, he had climbed atop Rendezvous Mountain in Wilkes County and blown his powder horn to summon over 200 Wilkes County militiamen to fight in the battle. Cleveland led his men to the battlefield, and was one of the primary American commanders in the battle. During the battle Cleveland's horse was killed, and he subsequently commandeered British Major Patrick Ferguson's horse. Ferguson had been shot off his mount and killed earlier in the fight. After the battle, Cleveland claimed Ferguson's white stallion as a "war prize", and rode it home to Roundabout. Following the war, Cleveland relocated to the South Carolina frontier and became a commissioner in the Pendleton District. He died at his home in Oconee County, South Carolina 15 October 1806.

(from: Wikipedia,