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home : community : education June 10, 2023

1/25/2022 10:03:00 AM
Vesuvius Furnace Founders
Gen. Joseph Graham and Capt. Alexander Brevard were partners at Vesuvius Furnace. Both of these Revolutionary War officers are buried at Machpelah Cemetery, on Brevard Place Road just off NC73, in Iron Station.Photo on left is Wm. Graham, SAR president, 1930-31
Gen. Joseph Graham and Capt. Alexander Brevard were partners at Vesuvius Furnace. Both of these Revolutionary War officers are buried at Machpelah Cemetery, on Brevard Place Road just off NC73, in Iron Station.

Photo on left is Wm. Graham, SAR president, 1930-31
+ view more photos
Fred Learned, Stephen McKee, Roy Lightfoot, Ben Setser

Compiled by Jennifer Baker, Vesuvius Furnace DAR and Ben Setzer, Catawba Valley SAR

The SAR and DAR are marking the graves of many of our ancestral dead and battle sites of the American Revolution in remembrance of their sacrifices. On January 22nd, the Catawba Valley SAR paid tribute to two soldiers of the Revolutionary War who went on to become active in Lincoln County’s emergent iron industry. Jennifer Baker of the Vesuvius Furnace chapter of the DAR compiled the following about the Vesuvius Founders.

Lincoln County was in the throws of the activity of the day as the Lincoln County Regiment was created by the North Carolina General Assembly of 1778 on February 8, 1779, at the same time that Lincoln County was created from part of Tryon County and includes modern day Gaston and Catawba Counties. This regiment was active until the end of the war. Many of those soldiers were farmers, politicians, and businessmen of the county.

Joseph Graham was one of those Revolutionary soldiers - a politician, and iron entrepreneur born in Chester County, PA to James and Mary Barber Graham.  Joseph Graham was educated at Charlotte's Queen's Museum (later Liberty Hall Academy), where he proved himself a good scholar of "mannerly bearing." He was in Charlotte when the patriots of that town adopted the Mecklenburg Resolves on 31 May 1775. The events of May made a lasting impression on the young scholar.  Throughout his long life, Graham attested to the revolutionary intent of his Mecklenburg neighbors. Serving periodically from 1778 to 1781 as a volunteer, Graham, aged eighteen to twenty-one years, fought in fifteen minor engagements in NC and SC, while rising in rank from private to major. His most memorable service was commanding the rear-guard action against Tarleton's cavalry, which enabled General William R. Davie to evade Cornwallis's troops after the British capture of Charlotte. Wounded nine times, six by saber and three by lead, the bleeding and exhausted Graham was left on the field for dead; however, he survived and, after two months' recuperation, became major of a company of dragoons that engaged Tories and British regulars in the Cape Fear region. Graham demonstrated capacity as a soldier and impressed those who knew him with his youthful determination and devotion to duty.

Alexander Brevard was also a Revolutionary War officer and a native of Iredell County.  By 1775, Brevard had acquired the rudiments of education and was prepared to devote his energies to service against the king. Early in the war he participated in the Snow Camp expedition against SC Tories. He returned home in March 1776 but was soon called to go to Cross Creek to quell a rising among Scottish Tories. Subsequently, he joined the Continental Line as ensign in the 4th NC Regiment; in December 1776 he was promoted to first lieutenant. He fought in several battles in the North, most notably at Brandywine and Germantown in the abortive defense of Philadelphia. He went into winter quarters at Valley Forge, but with his health so endangered by the rigors of campaigning that he was ordered home by General Washington himself. In 1779, Brevard became a captain in the NC Militia; he joined the southern army of Horatio Gates in the campaign of 1780. He acted as quartermaster at the Camden fiasco, where, anticipating defeat, he tried unsuccessfully to save the wagons and supplies in his charge. After a change in commanders in which Nathanael Greene replaced Gates, events in the Carolinas moved rapidly to a conclusion. Brevard served throughout the campaign, undergoing the fiercest fighting at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, SC, where he commanded a beleaguered company that sustained heavy losses. He resigned his commission on 1 Jan 1783 and moved to Lincoln County.

By the early 1790s, Major John Davidson had convinced sons-in-law Graham and Brevard, that their future lay in Lincoln County's emerging iron industry. In 1787, Joseph Graham married Isabella Davidson, a refined daughter of the Revolutionary War hero and Alexander Brevard had married her sister, Rebecca Davidson.

In October 1791 Graham purchased twenty-eight acres, mostly sand and water, on the Lincoln County side of the Catawba. Soon afterwards the three kinsmen—Davidson, Brevard, and Graham—bought an interest in a productive ore bank from Peter Forney, a pioneer in the Lincoln County iron industry; they purchased a share in the "big ore bank," a few miles east of Lincolnton, and made plans to erect facilities to manufacture iron products. With Forney they formed the Iron Company. Other land was obtained in 1792, and Graham built Vesuvius Furnace on Anderson Creek in east Lincoln County. A suitable residence was constructed on a nearby bluff. There Graham settled his growing family. Brevard moved his family to Lincoln County and settled on Leeper's Creek, where he built Mt. Tirza Forge; on adjoining land, Graham built Vesuvius Furnace. In 1795, Forney sold his interest in the partnership, and the others continued to operate under the name Joseph Graham and Company, with Davidson leaving actual management to his sons-in-law. The business proved highly lucrative, and additional land was acquired. By 1804, when Davidson sold his interest to Brevard and Graham, the company assets included over five thousand acres; nine slaves; improvements, equipment, and stock valued conservatively at $5,000; and cash and notes receivable in the amount of $8,876. Ten years later when Brevard and Graham amicably ended their partnership, both were wealthy men. Subsequently, Brevard built Rehoboth Furnace near Mt. Tirza Forge. He manufactured and sold iron until his death in 1829 and he was interred at Machpelah.

The War of 1812, which also resulted in an uprising among the Creeks, touched Graham more directly. Long interested in military affairs, he was appointed brigadier general of a brigade of NC and SC militiamen in 1814. Although the brigade arrived after Andrew Jackson's victory over the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend, General Graham was considered an efficient officer. Major General Thomas Pinckney, a South Carolinian who commanded the 6th Military District, characterized him as having "conducted his Brigade with judgment and propriety" and noted "that he and the officers and men under his command have displayed much zeal, patriotism and attention to discipline." For many years after this renewed military service, Graham was major general of the 5th Division, NC Militia. Upon his death in 1836, Joseph Graham was buried at Machpelah Presbyterian Church. These burial grounds were located between the family plantations of the Brevards and the Grahams.

Graham’s descendant, William Alexander Graham III served as the State SAR President from 1930-1931. There was a grave marking and remarking of damaged and stolen markers of Patriots Gen. Joseph Graham and Capt. Alexander Brevard on Saturday January 22nd, 2022.  Several of the photos in the attached gallery to this article are from that event.  


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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Article comment by: Madam Johnsie Rebecca Brevard

Very interesting article.
I am a DNA Descendants of Alexander Brevard.
The 1870 United States Federal Census recorded my great grandparents, Young and Amelia Brevard living in Catawba Springs, Lincoln County North Carolina.

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