NC MRF History Tour - July 23, 2005
The House in the Horseshoe
The fourth of five scheduled NC
MRF History Tours was held on July 23rd. The tour started in Apex,
NC and traveled to The House in the Horseshoe in Moore County. Twenty
five riders attended this history tour. Riders from the Jordan
Lake SCRC, Greater Raleigh
SCRC, CMA, Raleigh
Wings, along with several independent riders attended.
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During the American Revolution, irregular warfare was being waged in the backcountry of North Carolina by groups of citizen-soldiers: the whigs--or revolutionists, and the tories--who were still loyal to the King of England.
The House in the Horseshoe was then the home of whig colonel
Philip Alston. The home is named from its location on a horseshoe
bend in the Deep River.
Although Alston was distinguished as a lieutenant colonel in the state militia, a justice of the peace, and a state senator, his career was marked by corrupt activities. He was twice indicted for murder, removed as justice of the peace, and suspended from the state legislature for a variety of reasons. In 1790 Philip Alston sold the house and plantation and left the state.
In 1798 the twenty-five-hundred-acre plantation was acquired by Gov. Benjamin Williams who, in addition to serving four one-year terms as the governor of North Carolina, had been a colonel under George Washington, was a member of the first board of trustees of the University of North Carolina, and served in the national Congress at Philadelphia.
Williams enlarged the house by adding two wings containing a kitchen and a master bedroom. One of Williams's ambitions was to become a planter. The growing of short staple cotton was becoming a profitable pursuit as a result of Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin, and the Horseshoe land was excellent for that purpose. In 1801 Williams planted forty-two acres of cotton; he grew nearly two hundred acres the following year. By 1803 his plantation was being worked by approximately fifty slaves and was valued at thirty thousand dollars.
Williams died on the plantation in 1814. Though he was first buried some distance away, his grave was subsequently relocated on the grounds of his former home. Williams's family occupied the house until 1853. The dwelling changed ownership several times until 1954, when it was purchased and restored by the Moore County Historical Association. In 1955 the state acquired the property.
The architectural style of the house follows that of the coastal lowlands. The two-story frame dwelling is a typical eighteenth-century plantation house that features a gable roof with large double-shouldered Flemish bond chimneys and a shed porch. The center-hall plan reflects Governor Williams's early nineteenth-century remodeling of the house. It is distinguished by the strikingly elaborate and well-executed detail of the doorways and some of the interior woodwork, including the especially fine mantel in the north parlor. The interior is furnished with interesting late colonial and early Federal-period pieces. In the summer and spring, bright flowers surround this white plantation house.