The Penland Historical Society, Inc. was organized in North Carolina on 24 August 1985. The formation of the Society was announced a day later at a "Penland Reunion" held at the Clay County Community Center, in Clay County, North Carolina. More than a hundred Penland family members & their guests, from ten states attended this reunion. Over the years, the purpose of the Society has evolved to include: (1) collecting genealogy data on "Penlands" and their related families, (2) documenting their historical, or other significant accomplishments, (3) learning about early Penland families who migrated westward, (4) creating a closer and more personal relationship between all families, and (5) documenting the Penland family history, so future generations wll know about, and be better prepared to carry on the " Penland Heritage"!
A year later, at the Penland family reunion on 20 July 1986 with a similar size group from eleven states attending, Mr. Talmage Newton Penland spoke to the group about the political and military environment that the early Penland ancesters had to deal with as they moved into North Carolina during the late 1700s. In his remarks he called "A Chapter In The History of The Penlands of North Carolina," Talmage said the following:
" Since the advent of Christ, two events have had the strongest impact in shaping the history of the world. The first of these is the Protestant Reformation and the second is the American Revolution. In 1776, Burke County did not exist. it was a part of Rowan County, whose County seat is Salisbury. The country west of that was largely Indian country, with a few pioneer settlers. During the earliest part of the revolution, there was no county seat in Burke County.
The settlers in Burke County area faced four major foes. Number one, the British soldiers fought against the settlers. Number two, the British soldiers aroused the Cherokee Indians against the settlers. Number three, the Loyalists or Tories fought against the settlers. And number four, the wilderness itself fought against the settlers because it was wild and untamed, with large forests and mountains.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Colonel Christopher Beekman was the highest ranking military officer of the revolutionary forces in western Rowan County. Captains who served under him included William Moore, Captain William McDowell and Captain Charles McDowell, who later became a General, and Captain William Penland and Captain George Penland. These people all lived in the Quaker Meadows area of Burke County.
The Tories were strong in Burke County and caused the settlers a lot of trouble. Because of the hostility of the Indians, several forts were built to protect the settlers. The largest of these forts was Davidsons Fort, which was built west of Morganton asnd is now known as Old Fort, North Carolina.
The colonial troops had three major duties. One was to control the Indians; another was to repel the Tories; and the other was to supply the troops for battles which were going on in nearby counties and states.
During the early part of the war, the Indians kept attacking the forts, including the Fort at Quaker Meadows, where they massacred 37 settlers and scalped several people. After that incident, Colonel McDowell gathered 2,400 men to retaliate against the Indians. They went west and attacked and virtually destroyed 36 Indian villages. This was so devastating to the Indians that the Indians ceded all of the land east of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Colonists. This cession was done on June 20, 1777. No doubt Captain William Moore was among those 2,400 as no doubt also were William and George Penland and probably Robert Penland. Skirmishes in the Blue Ridge and west of the Blue Ridge continued, however, and peace was not made with the Indians until 1790. By that time, Captain William Moore had become a famous Indian fighter.
During the revolution, Clay County was still deep in Cherokee country, and there were no perminent white settlers in the area. An Indian Village stood where Hayesville, North Carolina now stands and their burial ground was situated close to Hayesville between town and the Hiawassee River. This mound was still quite visible when I was a boy, and I presume it still is.
In June of 1778, Sir Henry Clinton, the new British Commander in the War, decided to shift the campaign to the south. Before that, the major campaigns had been in the north. Burke County troops were sent to Augusta, Georgia and to Charleston, South Carolina to help repel the British troops. However, they were singularly unsuccessful. Things did not well for the Patriots; many were killed in Augusta and Charleston, and on April 14, 1780, at Monck's Corner, South Carolina. Things were indeed looking very bad for the colonists.
In June 1780, a force of loyalists or Tories was soundly beaten in a fierce battle with the Patriots at Ramseurs Mill. Ramseurs Mill is in upper South Carolina. History records that Robert Penland was a member of the Colonial troops in the battle of Ramseurs Mill. After this battle in which the Tories were soundly beaten, the Tories fled south and Colonel McDowell, along with Robert Penland and others, pursued them into South Carolina. The Tories joined up with a force of British regular army at Musgroves Mill on the Enoree River.
There the men from Burke County soundly defeated both the Tories and the British regular army. History records that Robert Penland was in the battle of Musgroves Mill.