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James Greenlee II
(October 19, 1740 - November 8, 1813)

The following excerpts were taken from:
Walton, Col. Thomas George. "Sketches: Of the Pioneers in Burke County." Old Morganton Herald.
The Heritage of Burke County 1981. Burke County Historical Society. Hunter Publishing Company, Winston-Salem, NC. 1981.
"Mountain View: A Condensed History and A Few Facts on Interest about the Home" From Greenlee Genealogy, owned by Miss Ruth Greenlee, Old Fort, NC Greenlee Genealogy p. 230-231.
Roster of Soldiers of NC in American Revolution p. 381.
Personnel of NC Convention of 1788.
Personal letters of correspondence between Mrs. Ellen David Rodgers of Memphis, Tennessee, and Mr. J. Harvey Greenlee of Morganton, NC; April, 1961. (Held at the Burke County Library, NC).
Ervin, Eunice. "Grace Greenlee's story has a fairytale ring." News Herald: August 21, 1978.


The Greenlee's originally lived in England in the time of King Alfred, in the county of Warwick. They later settled in Lochwinnoch, Scotland, but following Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603 and the rise of King James the VI, (who had a fixed aversion to the Presbyterian Church), the Greenlee's fled to Ireland and lived near Limerick until their Hall was sacked and burned. Mr. James Greenlee, who was born in 1707 in Ireland, and was known as "a Presbyterian Irishman of English descent," immigrated to America in 1727, arriving in Delaware. He soon moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania and married Mary Elizabeth McDowell**, the daughter of Ephraim McDowell* and Margaret Irvine.


James and Mary were among the first settlers in the Valley of Virginia in 1737, and settled in Rockbridge, Virginia on Burden's Grant comprised of 500,000 acres. James and Mary McDowell Greenlee had eight children that were noted in writing:

John Greenlee - born 1738 (who is said to have been the first 'white child' born in the Valley of Virginia, and High Sheriff of Rockbridge County, Virginia)
James Greenlee II - born October 19th, 1740
Infant Son - deceased at birth
Mary Greenlee - born in 1745, married Hugh Hayes
Margaret Greenlee - born in 1748, married to William/James Montgomery
Grace Greenlee - born June 23, 1750, married (1) John Bowman, (2) Col. Charles McDowell
David Greenlee - born 1752, married (1) Jane White; (2) The Widow-Hunter
Samuel Greenlee - born 1751 and married Mary Paxton


In the summer of 1757, James Greenlee, Sr. went on a business trip to Pennsylvania where he fell ill and died. James' mother then raised the younger children with the help of her father, Ephriam McDowell. She remained in Virginia until the date of her death on March 15, 1809, at the age of ninety-seven, although some records list her as living until the age of 104.


James Greenlee Jr., would later become Burke County's second sheriff and one of the largest land owners in Western NC and Tennessee. James Greenlee was born October 19th, 1740 in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, now Rockbridge County, Virginia. He married Mary Elizabeth Mitchell Greenlee, his first cousin and daughter of James Mitchell and Margaret McDowell, on June 10th, 1770 in Charleston, South Carolina, at Ten-Mile House (tavern).


They had eight children, all born in Morganton, NC:

James M. Greenlee III - b. March 29, 1771 who married Mary Poteat; and Sarah Hoard Hunter (2nd wife)
Daughter who died at a young age
John Mitchell - born June 25th, 1775 and married his cousin, Mary Greenlee of Virginia
Margaret Greenlee - born January 14th 1778 and died young
William M. Greenlee - born May 19th, 1779 and died young
Samuel Greenlee*** - born January 26th, 1782-84 and married Minerva Keziah Sackett, d. 5-5-1848
Ephraim McDowell Greenlee - born February 22, 1787 and married to first wife Sarah Carr Shaw; and second wife Sarah Hallingsworth Brown; Justice of Burke Co. Court (1827)
David Washington Greenlee - born January 28th, 1787, married Mary Howard McIntire, and purchased 'The Glades' in Marion, North Carolina, built in 1770.

Note: James first wife, Mary Mitchell, died when her last son was six days old, and James was remarried to a Mrs. Ruth Howard Greenlee who died January 22, 1812


As a child, James Greenlee, Jr. lived in cabins in the great wilderness with other settlers, teeming with bears, wolves, deer and bands of hostile Indians. James, Jr. would have been about 15 years old when the French and Indian Wars erupted. While many families abandoned their homes in search of safety, the Greenlee's and McDowell's stayed, and suffered greatly. James Jr.'s uncle, Col. John McDowell (his Mother's brother) was killed by Indians on Christmas Day. Another member of his family, Mrs. Estil was captured and carried away by Indians, only to be rescued by her brother, Col. Moffet. Communication between settlers was done by horse-back and merchandise was hauled hundred of miles in wagons.


Despite these circumstances, James Jr., and his siblings were schooled by the first school of high grade, west of the Blue Ridge, known as Augusta Academy. He began his education under Robert Alexander who was educated in Edinburgh, Scotland. Alexander was succeeded by Rev. John Brown, a Princeton graduate, who taught for twenty years. Washington and Lee University later became an outgrowth of the Augusta Academy.


Around 1774-1778, James Greenlee Jr., along with his sister (Grace Greenlee Bowman) and her husband, John Bowman (please see Sheriff John Bowman for more information) and an unknown amount of others, left for North Carolina on the Old Wagon Road south. The group reached Moravian settlements at Salem and were informed that Cherokee Indians were on a war path in the upper Catawba settlements (it is very probable that at the time they were deferred from directly coming to Burke County, the Cherokees were raiding the Catawba Valley during the summer of 1776, in which they crossed the Blue Ridge and murdered and scalped 37 people.)


Upon learning of this information, the Greenlee's and Bowman's went first to the homes of their relatives (Margaret McDowell Mitchell, Mary Greenlee's sister) in South Carolina. It is most likely on this trip to S.C. that James Greenlee wooed and won his cousin, Mary Mitchell, to whom he was married. After learning that the Rowan militia had driven the Cherokees back, the Greenlee's and Bowman's made their way to Burke County. (Exact dates are unknown but it was around the time of the battle of Point Pleasant 1774-1778. Most likely their arrival was during or after 1776 since records indicate that Grace Greenlee married John Bowman in Virginia in 1776, as well as numerous entries of land by James Greenlee and John Bowman.)


It is also written that James may have purchased a farm on the Dan River but sold it before he arrived in Morganton. It should be noted that James and his sister were the first Greenlee's to settle in Burke County. On arrival to Burke County, James Greenlee and John Bowman were entertained by relatives (McDowell' at Quaker Meadow's), and upon learning of their desire to settle in Burke, Gen. Charles McDowell took both men to see "a fine tract of land embracing the lower valley of Canoe Creek and fronting the Catawba River at the mouth of that stream." Both men fell in love with the land and at the suggestion of Joseph McDowell, Sr., the question of was to be settled by a wrestling match, which James Greenlee won. His land on Canoe Creek (near the Walton residence at "Brookwood") remained in possession of his heirs for hundreds of years, and is now occupied by the Mimosa Hills Country Club.


James Greenlee's land acquirement; however, did not stop there. A little hamlet called "Alder Springs" sprung up on the hills south of the Catawba in full view of the Quaker Meadows home. The 230 acre land embraced within the limits of the embryo town had been purchased from James Greenlee, John Stringfield, James Jewell, Joseph Morgan and Robert Brank on September 20, 1779. This "Alder Springs" later became the town of "Morgansborough," and is now the site where Morganton now stands. James Greenlee owned all of the best lands about Morganton as well as lands in Yancey County, Mitchell, Rutherford, McDowell County, and Memphis, Tennessee.


His lands in Memphis were awarded to him for his services in the Revolutionary War. He also owned farms in Turkey Cove and land on Catawba River, where his youngest son, David Washington Greenlee settled, and became owner of a large plantation. This land later became five farms. According to Col. Thomas George Walton, "He [James Greenlee], by this thrift, foresight, and industry, was possessed of large and valuable bodies of land in North Carolina and Tennessee…He was regarded as the wealthiest man in the county." (pg 8) He raised cattle and sold in Philadelphia and Charleston, and was the owner of many slaves.


During the Revolutionary War, as he fought with McDowell's army at King's Mountain and Cowpens, the Torries, under Gen. Patrick Ferguson, robbed him of his stock and grain and took off with a slave. Throughout the Revolution he also furnished supplies and wagons to Colonel Charles McDowell and General Griffith Rutherford's militia forces. During some expeditions from the Salisbury District, Greenlee acted as quartermaster (chief supply officer and wagonmaster.)


He was a well known businessman and land inspector in NC, and when the Morgan District was created in 1782 (which would later become Morganton), Greenlee was selected as one of the military auditors who was in charge of settling all debts that occurred during the war. During and after the Revolutionary period, Greenlee acquired hundreds of acres of land in Burke and Buncombe Counties, where he continued to be a cattle raiser and slave owner.


When Burke was established in 1777, the governing body of the County was manned by the Justice of the Peace, and around 1792, James Greenlee was appointed to this position. He also became Coroner of the county at the time of its creation and held that position for nineteen years. However, his duties did not cease there. He was a member of the NC Convention in 1788, which rejected the U.S. Constitution. (He did not serve in the second Constitutional Assembly the following year, which accepted.) He also served as Burke County's High Sheriff from 1780-1783.


He was known to be a Whig in politics, which identified his as a supporter of the Revolution, as well as an elder in the Quaker Meadows Presbyterian Church. James was listed as a trustee of the Morgan Academy which was the first formal educational institution in the County. James Greenlee died on November 8, 1813 (according to Bible Records) and is buried at the Quaker Meadows Cemetery in Morganton, NC; along side his sister and many other relatives. His tombstone reads: "Here Lies All That's Mortal of James Greenlee Who departed this life 8 Nov 1813 Aged 73 Years."


*Note: Ephraim was a Scot-Irish solider who fought as a youth at Boyne River and siege of Londonberry. Upon burying his wife, Margaret, in an old church yard in Raloe, Ireland, he and his children (only children listed: John, James, Margaret, and Mary McDowell- wife of James Greenlee b.1707) immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around 1729.


** Note: It is said that James' mother, Mary E. McDowell, lived to be 104 years of age, which "caused whispers to pass that her longevity was due to the practice of witchcraft." -Excerpt from Ervin, Eunice. "Grace Greenlee's story has fairytale ring." News Herald: Aug. 29,1978.


*** Samuel Greenlee built his home on the highest point in Morganton in 1815 and named it Mountain View. The bricks of his home were made by the slaves on the property (in 1820 it was reported that he owned 45 slaves). His home is one of, if not the oldest home in the city of Morganton. He married a girl twenty years younger than he at the age of 38 and the couple had nine children. He built for his daughter, Mary Minerva Greenlee and her husband, Dr. Lucius McRee, "The Cedars" which was sold to Samuel McDowell Tate after Dr. McRee died. (Heritage 204-205).


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