Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Latter Day Spartan

Magnet # 440:  Walnut Grove Plantation

Material:  Vinyl

Purchased By:  Me

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens, when American forces won a decisive victory against the British during the Southern campaign of the American Revolution.  The troops fought in South Carolina, and the American triumph helped pave the way for the colony's freedom, as it was under British control.  The Battle of Cowpens also produced one particularly interesting hero, Kate Morgan Barry.  She was born in 1752, the eldest of Charles and Mary Moore's ten children.  They were immigrants from Northern Ireland who had landed in Maine and traveled all the way down to Spartanburg, South Carolina by horse and carriage.  There, they established a home, cashing in land grands worth about 3,000 acres that had been issued to them by King George III.  It came to be known as Walnut Grove Plantation after the trees that Kate planted there.  Charles Moore worked as a schoolteacher and by the time she was fifteen, Kate was married off to Andrew Barry, who would later serve as and officer in the American Army and one of the first elders of the Nazareth Presbyterian Church.  A dedicated Patriot, she volunteered her services to the American side when war broke out, working as a scout, a spy, and even chasing some British loyalists off of her property.  But in 1781, when it was clear that the General Daniel Morgan's forces would stand up against the British troops who had been in pursuit of them at Cowpens, Barry truly proved her mettle.  Legend has it she tied her newborn child to a bedpost to keep it safe as she mounted her horse and rode out into the night from home to home to warn the locals that the British were on their way, in a flight not unlike that of Paul Reevere's.  Thanks in part to her efforts, a superior force was assembled to take on the British, and when the Americans won, Barry went on to be known as the Heroine of Cowpens.  Still, the attention that her fearlessness brought her wasn't all positive.  The Tories later caught her and tried to force her to surrender her husband's whereabouts by whipping her, but she refused to give him up.  And in the fall of 1781, she narrowly escaped when some British soldiers came looking for trouble at Walnut Grove.  Their leader, "Bloody" Bill Cunningham was still able to kill three other Patriots there, including John Steadman, an officer who showed promise, but was confined to a sickbed there.  Those times certainly weren't easy on Barry or those around her, but she lived to see the birth of the nation she had done her part to create, finally passing away in 1823.  Her remains were buried beside those of her husband in the family cemetery in Moore, South Carolina.

Kate Moore Barry's former home in Spartanburg has been well preserved over the years and has been open to the public since 1967.  I stopped by Walnut Grove Plantation on my way home from my trip to West Virginia and Kentucky last year.  It's just a few minutes off Interstate 26 and is worth the detour.  Unfortunately, I didn't arrive in time for a tour, and sticking around to take one would have taken too long, but they were nice enough to let me wander around the grounds.  The two-story home the Moores once lived in has been kept in very nice condition and while it's not the most impressive plantation house I've ever seen, it's still very attractive.  And Charles Moore's original school house is still standing there, along with a few other outbuildings.  I also asked the employee at the gift shop if they had any ghost activity there, and he said not really.  But I've since read that some have claimed to spot a young lady wearing a cape walking the grounds, and think it might be the spirit of Kate Barry.  And for many years, some dark stains on the floor in the bedroom where John Steadman perished were said to be his bloodstains, but modern technology has proven that whatever material caused it isn't from a human.  Regardless, this is one place that has seen a great deal of history, and still stands as a testament to the great family that established it.

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