Thursday, June 18, 2015
Fanning the flames
Everybody needs a nemesis. Without the Joker, Batman would be suffering in that hot rubber mask for nothing. And Superman would have to go back to Kryptonite if it weren't for Lex Luthor.
Working on my narrative genealogy I discovered that the nemesis makes the story work. I've been trying to figure out the puzzling death of William Merrell. No, not the William Merrell I wrote about before who was "killed with lightning." This is his son, the fourth William Merrell in a row. I just call him Bubba.
According to his great grandson, Orson Merrill, who reported family history in his Personal Notes in 1886, Bubba was kidnapped from his home by "British Soldiers" one night in early 1782. My history books said the British surrendered at Yorktown in October of 1781. What were soldiers doing kidnapping people out of their beds six months later? Didn't they get the memo?
That's when I heard about David Fanning. After the "regulars" marched out of North Carolina in 1781 and finished their fighting in Virginia, the Loyalist militia under Col. David Fanning continued fighting those dang patriots. Fanning was considered a military genius. During the revolution, he managed to kidnap the Governor of North Carolina and the whole state assembly.
But by 1782 his Tory War was down to terrorizing the folks of Randolph County, North Carolina which happens to be where Bubba lived. In fact, when Randolph County was formed in 1779, Bubba was one of 15 county justices on the first county court.
Reading up on Fanning and the Tory war, I came across an article in last month's issue of the Journal of the American Revolution about "Bloody Sunday" on March 10, 1782, when Fanning and his band killed two men in front of their families and burned several homes. The names of the victims sounded eerily familiar. Two of them sat on that same county board with Bubba. The names of the creeks and rivers where they lived sounded familiar too. This was Bubba's neighborhood.
Two of Bubba's sons, John and Dan Merrell, were mentioned in the article as Revolutionary era soldiers. But the article doesn't say Bubba was one of the victims of that Sunday rampage. Yet North Carolina archives show that 10 days later, March 20, 1782, Bubba's oldest son Benjamin filed to become the executor of the estate of his father, "deceased."
I don't know if Bubba was kidnapped on that "Bloody Sunday" or some other day about that time. But I know his strange disappearance wasn't an oddity in those times. And I am somehow pleased to read that when North Carolina pardoned the Loyalists after the war, Fanning was one of three men who were not pardoned and had to leave the country. He went to New Brunswick, Canada, until he was found guilty of raping a 15-year-old and was run out of New Brunswick to Nova Scotia.
Wow, what a nemesis he turned out to be!
Posted by Sue Merrell at 11:31 AM