Graham’s Fort

A Teen Saves Her Brother


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Type: Hidden History
County: Cleveland

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A modern house hidden from sight at the top of the hill nearest the coordinates, on narrow Graham’s Fort Drive, is said to contain the bones of Graham’s Fort. Please note it is surrounded by private property and cannot be seen from the road, which is part of the reason this is “Hidden History.” AmRevNC also could not confirm this is the house described in a 1998 guidebook that said the “fort” was incorporated into the current home.[1]


Girl in a white tee shirt with a picture and list of patriot women

Mug saying, "Do Whig Out!" on a parchment scroll


In September 1780, the remainder of the regular Continental Army in the South was in distant Hillsborough after a bad defeat at the Battle of Camden (S.C.). The main British army was south of Charlotte, and a “Flying Corps” was at Gilbert Town near modern Rutherfordton. With these forces nearby, part-time Loyalist or “Tory” soldiers (“militia”) felt emboldened to attack their Patriot counterparts.

A Patriot officer, Col. William Graham, was in his home with his pregnant wife Susannah, their children, two of his men, and some number of civilian neighbors. Like some other homes on the frontier, it was a heavily built log cabin with portholes for gun barrels, intended to protect local residents under attack from Native Americans. Now they are hiding from Loyalists.

Roughly two-dozen Tory militiamen surrounded the cabin one day that month, probably taking cover behind the tree line. Some approached the front door and called for Graham to surrender. He refused. The men stepped back, an order was given, and the Tories began to fire volleys at the cabin. After each they demanded his surrender. Frustration growing, one time they supposedly called out, “Damn you, won’t you surrender now?”

Graham continued to refuse. Finally John Burke ran up to the house and poked his gun through a crack or porthole. He aimed at Graham’s 19-year-old stepson, and soldier, William Twitty. Susannah was the widow of a Capt. Twitty who was killed serving with Daniel Boone in Kentucky. Graham adopted all eight children.

Twitty’s sister Susan, 17, saw the barrel and yanked her brother out of the way, so the bullet hit the opposite wall. Susan snuck a look out the hole and saw that Burke had not left. He was on a knee, reloading. She is said to have yelled, “Brother William, now’s your chance—shoot the rascal!” He did, and Burke fell dead of a head wound.

Susan unbolted the door and rushed out. Everyone was stunned into inaction. Before the Tories could recover and fire, she retrieved Burke’s cartridge box and gun and got back inside. She joined the fight with it. Finally, with Burke dead and four wounded, the Loyalists gave up and slinked back down the hill. Thanks in part to Susan’s quick reactions and bravery, none of those inside the home were hurt.

Graham moved everyone to an unknown location, leaving enslaved workers to maintain the farm. Eventually the Tories came back, stole his ale and clothing, and took away six of the slaves.

More Information

[1] Barefoot 1998.