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Life Stories of Gallant Americans—The Lanes Cavaliers of the South

In the Wars of Early America

By Mrs. Louisa Kendall Rogers
Barnesville, Georgia

THIS is the story of one of the most distinguished and influential of the early settlers of Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas.

The family is said to be collaterally descended from Sir Ralph Lane who sailed from Plymouth, England, in one of the vessels fitted up by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1585- Captain Lane was a brave, daring young cavalier, the son of Sir Ralph Lane of Orlingbury, whose wife, nee Parr, was first cousin of Catherine Parr, the favored queen of Henry VII. Sir Ralph Lane, junior, was the first colonial governor appointed on American soil. Although history asserts that the colony was broken up by the Croatan Indians at Roanoke, it is generally believed some of the party drifted into North Carolina and assisted greatly toward building up the commonwealth of the state. Sir Ralph Lane died in i6o4, while on a visit to Ireland, so it is not positively known how long he remained in America.

During the summer of 1618, two years before the Pilgrims and Puritans landed in America, Joseph Lane (supposed to be a descendant of Sir Ralph Lane) came from England to Jamestown, Virginia, which was settled in 1607 by Captain John Smith and his London Company, who established a code of laws for the colony. From there this family of Lanes found their way to Roanoke and Halifax, North Carolina. There was born Joseph Lane, junior, the true lineal ancestor of a noted family of American patriots whose descendants are scattered throughout all the states, from the storm-washed coast of the Atlantic to the middle Pacific and from the great lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The old family records handed down for many generations have grown to vast proportions, and several volumes might be filled with thrilling accounts of their daring exploits during the Revolution, the Mexican War, The War between the States, and the late Spanish War.

Joseph Lane of 1710 married Patience McKinne, daughter of a wealthy Scotch immigrant who owned vast quantities of land in what was then known as the Caledonian regions. Their sons were Joel, Jesse and Joseph Lane. They moved from the vicinity of Halifax on the Roanoke to a comparative wilderness in Johnson County where Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, now stands.

Colonel Joel Lane was a statesman “to the manner born,” and during the War for Independence was at onetime its presiding justice.* Throughout the entire conflict with Great Britain he served with fidelity in many important civil stations. He not only represented his county as senator for fourteen years, but his name appears in “Colonial Records” as Lieutenant Colonel, 1772. His dwelling still stands, a landmark of the Revolution, and was considered at the time a rare specimen of architectural elegance. He was a member of the first Provisional Congress which met at Hillsorough twenty-first of August, 1775, in defiance of the proclamation of Governor Martin, issued twelve days it, advance, forbidding such an assemblage.

Governor Martin accused them of being “rebels and traitors,” against the king and his government, denouncing the resolves of a set of people styling themselves a “Committee of the County of Mecklenburg,” who traitorously declared the dissolution of the laws, government and constitution of the country, the preposterous enormity of which cannot be adequately described and abhorred.

At any rate, in defiance of this libelous proclamation, the brave and patriotic convention was determined to build up a republic in America. Consequently, the General Assembly of this “most rebellious of provinces,” amidst the darkest hours of the Revolution, met at the house of Joel Lane in June, 1781, and elected Thomas Burke, one of the most eminent of the men of revolutionary renown, the third governor of the state, Colonel Lane at the time being senator of Wake. Wishing to establish the capitol in his own vicinity, on the fourth of April, 1792, he conveyed to the state one thousand acres of land. Subsequent to this arrangement for Raleigh, he presented six hundred acres for the site of the University, as an inducement to locate the institution near the capitol. Thus did this grand old patriot lend his wealth and influence toward the up building of the American Republic, well deserving a monument to his memory, although it has never been reared.

His sons served their country, and at the present day one of his great, great Granddaughters is State Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Tennessee.

Joseph Lane, the second brother, was as a member of the Tribunal of the First Court in North Carolina, which was held fourth of June, 1771. He married Ferebe Hunter, reared a large family and died 1798. One of this family, Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Lane, received large grants of land for his services during the Revolution and is mentioned in history.

Jesse Lane, the third brother, was born 1733, married Winefred Hycock and reared a happy household of fifteen children, all of whom lived to a good old age, contributing of their “basket and store” to the formation of a permanent government. He is the ancestor of thousands of America’s noblest men and women, among them General Joseph Lane of Oregon, called “The Marion of the War with Mexico,” who was candidate for vice president of the United States, governor of Oregon, and senator eight years.

Jesse Lane served his country with the Third North Carolina Continentals and with his sons bravely fought in the battles of Guilford Court House, Cowpens, and King’s Mountain.

General Ferguson of the British Army was a brave, fearless officer and at first eyed the motley crowd of American “rebels” with scorn, not deigning to think that they really meant to attack him, but when his practiced eye reconnoitered the situation he chafed like a lion at bay. The Americans were divided into three sections, Campbell and Shelby leading the center, Sevier and McDowell the right, and Cleveland and Williams the left. Ferguson met the attack with the bayonet, and as there was not a bayonet among the poorly equipped Americans, they were at first repulsed. Soon the British were attacked from another quarter, and Ferguson’s fury knew no bounds when he saw that the party he had driven down the hill with the bayonet were renewing the attack with more vigor than before. He rode from point to point, leading his men with desperate bravery, but soon fell to the ground pierced by a well-aimed rifle ball.

The American loss was only about thirty men, while the British lost one hundred and fifty killed and nine hundred prisoners. At this battle of the mountain, Jesse Lane, his son John (who was father of General Joseph Lane of Oregon), Charles Lane, another son, and his sons-in-law, gallantly threw their whole strength into their efforts for independence, so that the battle of King’s Mountain, not- withstanding the smallness of the numbers engaged, put a new phase on the struggles of the South. When the news of the entire destruction of Ferguson’s army reached Cornwallis he was made to tremble for his own safety. The heroes of King’s Mountain having so well accomplished their plans, returned in triumph to their homes and delighted in handing down to their descendants a true history of their victories. They scarcely realized the immense service they had rendered the United States, but the value of that service was soon to be realized by General Greene who had been appointed commander at the South, and who, whether fighting or retreating, was to justify the confidence by which he had been chosen for this post by General Washington.

The little town of Halifax is one of the oldest in North Carolina, and not only its first settlers, the Lanes, were brave and courageous, but all of its whole population. It was the first to celebrate the Declaration of Independence after it was signed in Philadephia, and it was there Cornwallis and his army were quartered several months, as was also General Tarleton. William Hooper, one of the signers of the Declaration, though put down as a delegate from Wake, came from the eastern part of the state.

A late historian who had occasion to, refer to the history of Raleigh in connection with the triumphant march and occupancy of the city by Sherman’s army, speaks of Colonel Joel Lane as the progenitor of the notorious ” Jim Lane” of Kansas. This is a mistake. They are not of the same family. General Joseph Lane, who won fame and renown in Mexico, Governor Henry S. Lane of Indiana, General Alfred H. Colquitt of Georgia, “The Hero of Olustee,” Lieutenant-Governor Robertson of North Carolina, Governor David Swain of Chapel Hill, and Honorable George W. Lane of Alabama, District judge of the United States, were all cousins, great nephews of Colonel Joel Lane, and grandsons of Jesse Lane. The latter moved to Elbert County, Georgia, in 1786, and died in Missouri, 1806, leaving descendants throughout all the states of the union. who, like the three brothers, are noted for their uprightness, patriotism and integrity of character.