In recent conversations with Betty Schaub, I learned that she has a very interesting corollary in her family.
Betty’s fourth great-grandfather, Hezekiah Alexander, was a framer of the North Carolina State Constitution and Bill of Rights, and her cousin, another of Hezekiah’s descendants, Ray Garrison, helped draft the Illinois Constitution in 1965.
Hezekiah’s story is told in the book, “Hezekiah Alexander and the Revolution in the Backcountry,” by Norris W. Preyer, and I have drawn from this reference to tell his story.
Hezekiah Alexander’s name is not so easily recognized as that of Benjamin Franklin, but the work he and others did on May 19-20, 1775, in Charlotte, and again on May 31, deserve a spotlight directed on the history they made.
In early May 1775, Col. Thomas Polk called for representatives from each of the county militia units to meet at the Mecklenburg Courthouse. Here, they were joined by other prominent gentlemen – including Hezekiah Alexander; his brother, James McKnitt Alexander, who served as secretary; Waightsill Avery (later North Carolina’s first attorney general); Rev. Hezekiah Balch; and Dr. Ephraim Brevard.
The result was the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which some point to as a guidebook for the July 1776 national Declaration of Independence.
Two weeks after the May 19 meeting, Hezekiah was again present when the Mecklenburg Resolves were enacted, stating, “all laws and commissions…derived from the authority of the king and Parliament are annulled.”
Their stated goal was “to create a government that was responsive to the average man…a simple democracy, or as near as possible.” The Mecklenburg Resolves would remain in force until Great Britain should “resign its unjust and arbitrary pretensions with respect to America.” Anyone taking orders from the crown was branded “an enemy to his country.”
Royal Gov. Josiah Martin called the resolves the most “horrid and treasonable publication yet produced within the colonies.” Hezekiah was dubbed “Squire Subtle” by his foes for the subtlety with which he directed events.
The seventh of 10 children of James and Margaret McKnitt Alexander, Hezekiah was born on Jan. 13, 1729, in Cecil County, Md. His father, James, was a justice of Cecil County from 1723-1733, and a commissioned officer in the colonial militia as well as elder of the New Castle Presbytery.
Hezekiah and Mary Sample were married early in 1750, and moved with Mary’s family to the Conocoheaque Valley. Hezekiah had completed his blacksmith apprenticeship and his knowledge was needed in the wilderness of the back country.
Hezekiah’s leadership ability was demonstrated in 1755 after Braddock’s defeat when the Indians rose up against the settlers along the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia borders. He helped formulate and carry out a plan for defending the Conococheaque Settlement by transforming the Rev. Steele meeting house into “Fort Steele” with a palisade of sharpened stakes around it.
In 1768, Hezekiah was appointed county magistrate by Royal Gov. Tryon, a position he held until the War of Independence. He became increasingly active in the local resistance, and in August 1775 was appointed to the Committee of Safety for the Salisbury District. The Committee of Safety was the supreme power in the state during the revolution.
President George Washington made a tour of the Southern states in 1791. As hero of the revolution and symbol of the new nation, he was fast becoming a national symbol. A banquet was held at the home of Col. Thomas Polk and, as chairman of the County Court, Hezekiah was one who greeted and dined with the Washington that evening.
Hezekiah and Mary lived through a time in our nation’s history that was exceedingly dangerous. Between the British rule and the French inciting the Indians, these early settlers were on the front lines of history.
The photograph accompanying this story is of Hezekiah and Mary’s fieldstone house, the oldest surviving structure in Mecklenburg County. Built in 1774 from native piedmont stone quarried on the property, the house is 33.5 feet wide by 36.5 feet long, and has 5,000 feet of living space on four floors.
Dubbed “The Rock House,” the Georgian-style home is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Betty’s link to Hezekiah Alexander is through his daughter, Esther, who married Samuel Garrison. Samuel and Esther were parents of a son, John Milton Garrison, who married Sarah Stamps. Their son, Charles Milton, married Sarilda Thaxton, and they were parents of William Robert Garrison.
William Robert Garrison married Virginia Young, and their daughter, Rachel, is Betty’s mother. Rachel Garrison first married William Harvey Stein, who died in 1922, and she later married Adolph E. Francis.
Later this year, a reunion of Hezekiah Alexander’s descendants will be held at “The Rock House” in Mecklenburg County. Betty Francis Schaub, with her daughter, Pam Marty, and a niece will be there to represent the Illinois branch of this historic family whose roots reach back to the formation of America.