A Patriot Makes a Daring Escape
Tour: Tory War
Your visit starts in the parking lot of Riverside Park in Franklinville, northwest of the center of town. It requires a short but somewhat challenging hike on a sand-and-gravel trail, past a bridge with steps.
Nearly a year after the main British army in the south surrendered in Yorktown, Va., Loyalist and Patriot militia are still settling old scores.
On May 2nd of 1782, Loyalist (“Tory”) militia leader Col. David Fanning left his base near Ramseur to pursue Andrew Hunter. Hunter was a Patriot who had broken his parole agreement, a promise he would not take up arms again in exchange for being released as a prisoner of war. After a ten-mile ride, Fanning overtook Hunter in a wagon and put him under guard while examining his papers. Hunter knew Fanning’s vigilante reputation, and according to Fanning, “took the opportunity, and sprung upon my riding mare, and went off with my saddle, holsters, pistols, and all my papers of any consequence to me. We fired two guns at him; he received two balls through his body but it did not prevent him from sitting the saddle; and make his escape.”
Fanning loved that mare, Red Doe. He kept Hunter’s pregnant wife hostage for three days while demanding return of the horse and property. Hunter offered by letter not only to return the horse, but to let Fanning keep Hunter’s eight horses and enslaved workers as ransom. Fanning set free all but one of the horses, kept the slaves, and released the wife. But for unknown reasons he left for South Carolina without Red Doe, perhaps fearing capture.
Sunday, September 22, 1782.
Imagine the Scene
Visit the memorial (rock with plaque) to the left of the pedestrian bridge if you like. Then walk across the bridge. At the end, turn right and walk 0.3 miles to the southern edge of Faith Rock. It is a wide “bluestone outcropping” running from uphill of you all the way down to the river. (You will see a smaller rock outcrop on the way.)
At Faith Rock, go left to the flat area at the top of the rock, where the trail continues to the left when you are facing uphill. Look to your right into the woods on the far side.
In September, on the way from Upstate South Carolina to Charleston to leave with the British, Fanning make a last side trip to try to regain his mare. With some local followers he goes to Hunter’s home nearby, only to learn Hunter had been warned and took off. Fanning decides he must give up and continues toward Charleston.
But a few of his local followers fan out to continue the search. Hunter is riding downstream—to the right when looking down the rock—when he runs into some of Fanning’s men. He turns back in this direction to escape.
Two more Tory militia on horseback are riding toward you through thick woods on the far side of the rock. You, and they, hear the hoofbeats of multiple horses coming from behind you. They draw their flintlock pistols.
Turn around and look along the trail from the near side of the rock.
Andrew Hunter is probably galloping straight at you on a magnificent reddish-brown horse with black feet, Red Doe. But he sees the Loyalists ahead of him. He pulls up, perhaps where you are standing (though he might have gone further past the rock and come back). Maybe he looks back at his pursuers and up the sharp rise above you before deciding what he has to do: He yanks the reins, spurs Red Doe, and they head straight down the rock, the horse barely maintaining its feet.
The Tories fire a couple of shots but halt here at the top. They watch along with you as Hunter and Red Doe slide into the river far below.
One of them remarks, “If he has faith enough to try to escape that way we will not shoot again.” (Hence the name Faith Rock.) They pursue him no further, so Hunter disappears downstream and into the history books.
You can return the way you came. Or to get some more exercise, continue the remaining half-mile of the loop trail by either going straight uphill or taking the trail to the left, which leads via switchback to the same place. A marker at the top summarizes this incident and provides information on plants around the rock.
- A grist (grain) mill was already in operation across the river by the time of this event. Another was built on its ruins in 1801. Franklinville grew out of the mill village that was established uphill of that. The nearby site later transformed into a textile mill, and was joined by a second one closer to town.
- This was Fanning’s last action in North Carolina. He and his wife left Charleston with the British in December. The Fannings were transported with other Tories to Nova Scotia by the British, where he wrote his memoir and lived out his days in continuing controversy (see his biography page).
- Barefoot, Daniel, Touring North Carolina’s Revolutionary War Sites (Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, Publisher, 1998)
- ‘Faith Rock’, Town of Franklinville, 2018 <https://franklinvillenc.org/faith-rock/> [accessed 2 March 2020]
- Fanning, David, The Narrative of Colonel David Fanning (New York, NY: Reprinted for Joseph Sabin, 1865) <https://archive.org/details/toryintherevolu00fannrich/page/n8/mode/2up>
- Lewis, J. D., ‘Faith Rock’, The American Revolution in North Carolina, 2009 <https://www.carolana.com/NC/Revolution/revolution_faith_rock.html> [accessed 2 March 2020]
- Whatley, L. McKay, ‘Faith Rock’, Notes on the History of Randolph County, NC, 2009 <https://randolphhistory.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/faith-rock/> [accessed 2 March 2020]