Courtesy Archives of Ontario

We Americans like to ponder our patriotic roots, of being born to that generation of heroes, who, as we’d like to believe, served valiantly during the Revolutionary War. Walking the grounds of old cemeteries we gravitate to the old and important grave stones. I’m talking about those old ones accompanied by bronze shields indicating the interred served in the Revolution. But, our collective family is much broader than what we’d like to believe –they really were a mixed lot. Resting among those old graves are also the bodies of men who never betrayed their homeland. They remained English to the bitter end. And, there are also those of non-English heritage who bought into and gave aid in defense of the King. Beyond the life and death of all this, of soldiers from all sides, cemeteries are filled with generations of descendants whose stories are not complete without the retelling of some ancestral stance taken during the transformative war years.

My last post was about Flat Rock Lutheran Church in present day Stanfield in western Stanly County NC.  Before 1841 Stanly County was part of Montgomery County and prior to 1778 Montgomery was part of Anson. There are but a handful of records remaining of the long forgotten Lutheran church. As luck is sometimes good, these few remaining documents are from the very important first years. Appearing in the 1830’s and 40’s records of Flat Rock Lutheran Church, nearly half of the names on the surviving membership list are marked with plus signs indicating persons who had “move away.” Unique and a nice surprise, these were people who had left the church to move west beyond the lands of old Montgomery County. Where did they go? Yet unclear as to the exact reasoning why, almost all of those who left the little church ended in Pope County Arkansas.

Finding the names Isaac and David Harkey on the old church membership list made my imagination go wild. That’s because of what I know of their grandfather and of the curious devotion they must have reserved for him. Even though their grandfather served among North Carolina’s most known Tories during the Revolutionary War, every such grandchild would surely be both troubled and yet driven to do their best in understanding the life their grandparent lived. For me it’s a lesson not to judge too deeply as I was not there. It really was a family affair and it was they who felt the sting of American justice.

Isaac Harkey married Maria Phillipina Shinn and David married her sister Elizabeth Shinn. Leaving with the others to Arkansas in 1839, we learn more from the sisters’ younger brother Silas Monroe Shinn who also made the trip. He penned a fabulous personal memoir after journeying to the California gold fields during the 1840’s rush. Silas tells of being born in Montgomery County, of his widowed mother’s struggle to maintain the family, and of his own quest in search of the one true religion. Also gleaned from the memoirs, we learn of Silas’ brother Thomas Jefferson Shinn and of his trip to Pope County Arkansas where family from all over met to attend a reunion. On his way back home by train, Thomas J. Shinn suffered from a stroke and died soon after his arrival in Charlotte. He’s buried at the old Tucker Methodist Cemetery not far from Flat Rock Church cemetery near the river crossing at Hagler’s ford.

Like their wives, we know that Isaac and David Harkey also had interesting roots in Montgomery County. It’s believed that Isaac and David are sons of George Harkey who once lived in Montgomery County. Not far from Flat Rock Church, being just northwest of the present day town of Locust, in 1802  their father George Harkey received a land grant and deeded land adjoining the properties of nearby Reed gold mine:

Lands of George Martin Harkey

Tract A: Grant #196, Cabarrus NC, issued 5 Dec 1800 to John Reed being a combined three entries making up 330 acres surrounding Grant # 3325, Mecklenburg NC (in red) issued 2 Nov 1784 to Frederick Ciser, being 30 “in the forks of the first Meadow Creek where Killone Wagon Road crosses it in tract no. 5.”

Tract B: Grant # 401, Cabarrus NC, issued 6 Dec 1809 to John Reed, being 88 acres on the waters of Meadow Creek joining George Harkey and John Tucker land. Chainbearers: George Harkey, John Barba.

Tract C: Grant # 307, Cabarrus NC, issued 26 Jul 1804 to George Harkey joining Thomas Berry, Thomas Maynor, John Reed and his own lands. Chainbearers: Leonard Cagle, Daniel Perry.

GRAY CROSSHATCHED AREA Deed 14-41, Cabarrus NC, 13 Nov 1815. Jno. McLellon, High Sheriff to Lewis Tucker. Being 115 acres sold by virtue of an execution issuing from Cabarrus County against Silas B. Shinn for a debt of $2.25 which sum was collected by James Love.

Deed 12-360, Cabarrus NC, 13 Mar 1812, prv’d Oct 1831. Silas B. Shinn to David Karr of Mecklenburg. Situated on Meadow Creek and adjoining Paul Furer, Dan’l Boger, and Henry Wilhelm.

On 1 Jul 1821 and probated Oct 1828, George Harkey wrote  his last will and testament witnessed by John Barba. This is a copy from the typed Will Book A housed at NC State Archives:

George Harkey does not name his children but does name Mary, his wife. Showing that Mary too made the trip west, she appears in the 1850 Pope County Arkansas census as living in the home of her apparently single son named John. With them are John’s two unmarried sisters Elizabeth and Catherine:

Looking beyond George Harkey, this post begins in earnest with the life of his father David Harkey. This would be the grandfather of Isaac and David who left the congregation of Flat Rock Lutheran Church for Arkansas. As is well documented online, we know that the elder David Harkey joined and was loyal to the British forces. He followed them all the way to their defeat at Yorktown and even moved beyond to live a new life in Nova Scotia.

Seeking to lay my hands on the records from which such story is based; I visited North Carolina State Archives where I was shown the collection from the English and British Records Office that was officially hand-copied in London ca. 1902. What I’m about to show is not the original, but is my copy of a 1902 hand written official copy of the originals.

Outlining his services and losses as an American Loyalist, the claim by David Harkey is comprised of four pages. Written during late winter of 1786, David Harkey’s memorial states that he lately lived in New Montgomery in the State of North Carolina. I like that. For him, the county was new as it had been recently formed during the Revolutionary war period. Today, to me and many others, it’s old Montgomery County.

David Harkey joined the British Army in 1780 under the command of Lord Cornwallis and raised a company in the Commissaries department for which he received a commission. He was in actual service until being taken prisoner at Yorktown in Virginia. The memorial was completed and signed with his mark “David (x) Harkey” at the City of St. John, Nova Scotia on 9 Mar 1786.
Losses sustained by David Harkey “during the late unhappy dissentions in North America” are outlined on the next page. Totaling £1133, the accounting included reparation for services, livestock, wearing apparel, riding gear, and eight acres of Indian corn.

Completed on 17 Feb 1787 at St. John, Nova Scotia, David Harkey provided evidence of his claims. He stated that he arrived in Nova Scotia on the second fleet and went up the river before the winter. He came back down, never hearing a word, until he heard of Captain Vanderburgh. From there, David repeats his statement from the memorial adding that “he raised a company of Militia in the backwoods.” “His men were defeated, he made his escape himself and joined the British in Campbeltown [Fayetteville].” He stayed with Lord Cornwallis until taken prisoner. He had 25 men under him and was 19 months a prisoner at Yorktown. He now lived in Grand Bay. David Harkey produced a letter from George Stedman to show he was in the Commissary department. “He had 300 acres bought of George Crowell in 1779 for £60 and house, -his wife and children were driven off and land sold.”  <<<<< that’s a huge clue!

Continuing onto the last page of his claim, David Harkey states that all were left behind when he joined the British. David Harkey produced a certificate from David Fanning received on 7 Feb 1787 at St. John, Nova Scotia. Fanning stated that he knew of David Harkey and believed him to be a Tory. David Fanning, North Carolina’s most well-known Tory, led many skirmishes throughout the piedmont of North Carolina. Also included, Henry Underwood claims to have known David Harkey while David served in the Commissary department. Henry “heard he [David] had been raising militia before he came to Lord Cornwallis, heard he had lived very well and had a pretty plantation.” 

So, exactly what is a Commissary Department and what kind of service did David Harkey provide? An explanation of this can be found in the following two page status report outlining the commission or payment to which David was entitled and had yet to receive. Apparently David Harkey was paid to “collect cattle and sheep for the use of his Majesty’s army for which service he was to be paid 4/8 sterling a head for cattle and 2/11 for sheep – that he and those under his command drove to the army at different times two thousand and four good cattle and six hundred and seven sheep – which at the rate aforesaid amounted to £556-2-5.” “That the accounts of cattle so drove were kept in Mr. Stedman’s books who secreted himself from fear of ill-usage from the enemy upon the taking of Yorktown which was the reason why Harkey never received a certificate of the number of such cattle and sheep –but instead of it got the account marked “A” taken from Mr. Steadman’s books by Benjamin Booth another commissary to the Army –that he was taken prisoner and deprived of the warrant above mentioned and other papers –and that he only recovered the same papers marked “A”. Andrew Horne and Thomas Hale swear that they were employed under Harkey and that the said account “A”, to the best of their knowledge and belief is just fine and exact.”

2004 cattle and 607 sheep? The above makes me wonder to what degree livestock was commandeered versus being purchased? To some degree I suspect livestock was simply taken from the unknowing and from those openly against the King. But seems such actions would also not advance the favor of those sympathetic to the British cause. I imagine Mr. Stedman’s stance was well founded and can imagine the dislike for him, …and David Harkey, lived on after the war’s end.

The minutes as shown relating to David Harkey’s claim include a final determination which was made on 21 Feb 1787. It reads simply as follows: “The claimant is a Loyalist & bore arms in support of the British Government.” From this it appears David’s service was validated and that his claims were acknowledged.

What happened next and what did David Harkey do with his new life in Nova Scotia?  We know that David Fanning, who provided certification in support of David Harkey’s service held political office in St. John but was really detested by the local establishment. At one point Fanning was  charged with rape for which crime he was exonerated. David Fanning moved across the Bay of Fundy to the little town of Digby where he lived out his life operating a small fleet of ships. Interestingly, the next town up the coast from Digby is named Cornwallis.  And, today, David Fanning’s North Carolina blood stained bayonet scabbard is on display in the local museum. Did David Harkey leave such a legacy?

As has been widely researched, other websites tell of David Harkey receiving a grant for 200 acres in the county of Sunbury, Nova Scotia. They go on to say that the land was subdivided among 22 other loyalists. Making it less than 10 acres each, I’d have to believe this is in error as that would only provide ten acres per claimant. Another site  states that “on August 11, 1784, he [David Harkey] and 26 other Loyalists were granted 4,400 acres by the British Crown, said tract was situated on the northern shore of the Bay of Fundy between Musquash Cove and the mouth of St. John River.” David Harkey received lot #19 consisting of 200 acres. There were 22 lots of 200 acres each. If the latter scenario is correct, then David Harkey’s land was situated somewhere between Musquash Cove and the Mouth of St. John’s River as pinpointed on the map below. However, at that time the history as it’s told online reaches a dead end. There is nothing else published on whether or not David Harkey stayed put on his land. Did he die, freeze? Was he enveloped by the great tides of Fundy? The story pretty much ends there.

Looking back at David Harkey’s Loyalist claim, there’s two points that need to be mentioned before I close. Arising from David’s claim that “he had 300 acres bought of George Crowell in 1779 for £60 and house, -his wife and children were driven off and land sold,” is there any evidence that the believed George Harkey (and others?) is/are the offspring of David Harkey? I have not found the proof if there is. Circumstantially, George Harkey is of the right age, at the right place, and right time. And, as for David’s land bought of George Crowell, do we know where it was located? Where had David called home in his New Montgomery? Somewhere not too far from Reed mine I believe David was forced to give up his land. He left behind his wife and family to join the British army. As a result, his family was driven off the land, having to start anew.

This past week I visited NC State Archives and looked through the confiscated Loyalists’ lands recovered and sold in Anson, Montgomery, and even Rowan County. I found nothing. Unfinished business, I hope my future effort in platting lands in Montgomery County will yield some deeper clue as to how we might find David Harkey’s North Carolina homeplace.  If George is his son, which he likely is, then David’s land should have been situated somewhere nearby. Where was George Crowell’s land and where did he live? Somewhere there’s a record of 300 acres that was later taken up by somebody new. There’s still lots to ponder and that’ll hopefully be the basis of a revealing story told some day in he future.



  1. Nancy Charlene Edgar

    I found this very helpful. I believe that David Harkey is my 5th GG and George is my 4th GG. I have tried to attach a photo of my family tree – no luck.

    I was born and raised in Pope County Arkansas. My entire family still lives there except me…I live in the Tulsa OK area.

    I had no idea why they came to Arkansas so early; this explains it. Please feel free to contact me.

    Thank you.

    1. geothos Post author

      Thanks for your response. It really is an interesting family though I don’t think the move to Arkansas was due to David’s stance during the Revolution. The move west was fifty years later. I think it may have had more to do with a period of bad economy and overcrowding and faltering deals here in NC.
      You can contact me at geothos@bellsouth.net

    2. Seven Harkey

      Hello, I would love to hear more about your family tree and any information you may have about David and his (abandoned) family. David’s brother, Martin Luther, is my ggggg grandfather. My email is writewood7@gmail.com.


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