|Walton War Map
|Location of the Walton War
The Walton War: December 1804
Arguments between states in this country are usually settled more or less decorously and peacefully through
debate and compromise. In at least one instance, however, such a quarrel resulted in armed conflict and loss of life. In December
1804, in disputed land along their common border, several Georgians assaulted and killed a Buncombe County, North Carolina
constable, and North Carolina responded by sending in a detachment of militia to restore order and assert its authority in
the area. Called the Walton War, this incident was part of a series of more peaceful boundary conflicts between North Carolina
and its neighbors which were caused by confusion inherited from British colonial rule and territorial pressure resulting from
the creation of the new American nation.
At the time of the American Revolution, North Carolina's boundary with South Carolina was in dispute, particularly
in the western part of the state. After the Revolution the new government of the United States pressed states that had claims
on land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River to cede those lands to the national government. North
Carolina gave up its claim to a broad swath of land from which most of the state of Tennessee was later formed. South Carolina,
however, had only a narrow strip to cede between the southern border of North Carolina and the northern border of Georgia.
In 1802, after long negotiation with the federal government, Georgia surrendered claim to the territory from which Alabama
and Mississippi were formed. As part of the negotiation, the federal government gave Georgia the strip recently ceded by South
Carolina, giving Georgia and North Carolina a common border. Unfortunately, this common border had never been accurately surveyed,
and there was substantial debate about how it should be defined. The eastern edge of this strip, as Georgia defined it, contained
land at the head of the French Broad River that North Carolina believed to be part of Buncombe County which at that time was
the only county in the far western end of the state.
This messy situation was aggravated by the presence of settlers in the disputed territory who began coming
over the Blue Ridge about 1785. By 1802 there were some 800 people in the area. The fundamental problem was that many of the
settlers held their land by grant from South Carolina while many others had North Carolina grants. In the confusion over state
authority settlers saw the possibility of losing their land and hence their livelihood. In 1803, to solidify its claim, Georgia
organized the disputed territory into Walton County, named for George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Relations between residents in the new county rapidly deteriorated. Holders of South Carolina land grants supported the new
county government and resisted the authority of Buncombe County officials. North Carolina grant holders supported Buncombe
and refused to acknowledge the Walton County government.
The crisis came in December 1804 when Walton County officials and their supporters attempted to intimidate
and possibly dispossess several outspoken partisans of Buncombe. One of these, John Havner, a Buncombe County constable, was
struck on the head with the butt of a musket and killed. In response, Buncombe County called out the militia. A detachment
of seventy-two men, under Major James Brittain, marched into Walton County on December 19, 1804, where they were joined by
twenty-four North Carolinians living in the disputed area. Ten important Walton County officials were taken prisoner and sent
to Morganton, North Carolina, to be tried in the death of Havner. The Walton County government was effectively crushed. North
Carolina and Georgia continued to quarrel over the disputed territory until 1807 when commissioners from both states met to
establish the boundary. Joseph Caldwell, president of the University of North Carolina, and Joseph Meigs, president of the
University of Georgia, were charged with making the scientific observations for the party and after several trials established
that the true boundary was a number of miles south of its assumed position. The commissioners from Georgia admitted that all
of Walton County was in fact in North Carolina.
In the end, North Carolina recognized the South Carolina land grants and extended amnesty to those who had
opposed the state in the Walton War -- except for the ten men accused of the death of John Havner. They, however, had escaped
from the jail in Morganton and fled the state, never to be seen again. Although Havner was the only fatality, stories of the
Walton War grew over the years creating a legend of the conflict in which truth and fiction freely mixed. In the legend, dozens
of Georgians died in pitched battles with North Carolina militia. The frustrated farmers of Walton County, worried about the
legality of their land grants, became, in some stories, bands of vicious desperados inhabiting a "no man's land" beyond the
By the late twentieth century the Walton War was almost, but not quite, forgotten. In 1971, Georgia questioned
the location of its boundary with North Carolina, and the North Carolina General Assembly, reported by the press to be in
a "jocular mood," passed a resolution urging that the National Guard be called out to defend the border.
Recommended Reading: Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Hardcover)
(1328 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press). Description: The first single-volume reference to the events, institutions, and cultural forces that have defined
the state, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is a landmark publication that will serve those who love and live in North Carolina for generations to come. Editor William S. Powell, whom
the Raleigh News & Observer described as a "living repository of information on all things North Carolinian," spent fifteen
years developing this volume. With contributions by more than 550 volunteer writers—including scholars, librarians,
journalists, and many others—it is a true "people's encyclopedia" of North
Carolina. Continued below...
includes more than 2,000 entries, presented alphabetically, consisting of longer essays on major subjects, briefer entries,
and short summaries and definitions. Most entries include suggestions for further reading. Centered on history and the humanities,
topics covered include agriculture; arts and architecture; business and industry; the Civil War; culture and customs; education;
geography; geology, mining, and archaeology; government, politics, and law; media; medicine, science, and technology; military
history; natural environment; organizations, clubs, and foundations; people, languages, and immigration; places and historic
preservation; precolonial and colonial history; recreation and tourism; religion; and transportation. An informative and engaging
compendium, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is abundantly illustrated with 400 photographs and maps. It is both a celebration
and a gift—from the citizens of North Carolina, to the citizens of North Carolina.
"Truly an exhaustive and exciting view of every aspect of the Old
Reading: The Tar Heel
State: A History of North Carolina
The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina constitutes the most comprehensive and inclusive single-volume chronicle of
the state’s storied past to date, culminating with an attentive look at recent events that have transformed North Carolina into a southern megastate. Integrating tales of famous
pioneers, statesmen, soldiers, farmers, captains of industry, activists, and community leaders with more marginalized voices,
including those of Native Americans, African Americans, and women, Milton Ready gives readers a view of North Carolina that
encompasses perspectives and personalities from the coast, "tobacco road," the Piedmont, and the mountains in this sweeping
history of the Tar Heel State. The first such volume in more than two decades, Ready’s work offers a distinctive view
of the state’s history built from myriad stories and episodes. The Tar Heel State is enhanced by one hundred and ninety
illustrations and five maps. Continued below...
with a study of the state’s geography and then invites readers to revisit dramatic struggles of the American Revolution
and Civil War, the early history of Cherokees, the impact of slavery as an institution, the rise of industrial mills, and
the changes wrought by modern information-based technologies since 1970. Mixing spirited anecdotes and illustrative statistics,
Ready describes the rich Native American culture found by John White in 1585, the chartered chaos of North Carolina’s
proprietary settlement, and the chronic distrust of government that grew out of settlement patterns and the colony’s
early political economy. He challenges the perception of relaxed intellectualism attributed to the "Rip van Winkle" state,
the notion that slavery was a relatively benign institution in North Carolina,
and the commonly accepted interpretation of Reconstruction in the state. Ready also discusses how the woman suffrage movement
pushed North Carolina into a hesitant twentieth-century
progressivism. In perhaps his most significant contribution to North Carolina’s
historical record, Ready continues his narrative past the benchmark of World War II and into the twenty-first century. From
the civil rights struggle to the building of research triangles, triads, and parks, Ready recounts the events that have fueled
North Carolina’s accelerated development in recent years and the many challenges that have accompanied such rapid growth,
especially those of population change and environmental degradation.
Editor's Recommended Reading: Western North Carolina: A History from 1730 to 1913
(Hardcover: 679 pages). Description: From the introduction to
the appendix, this volume is filled with interesting information. Covering seventeen counties—Alleghany, Ashe, Avery,
Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, and
Yancey—the author conducted about ten years searching and gathering materials. Continued...
the Author: John Preston Arthur was born in
1851 in Columbia,
South Carolina. After relocating to Asheville,
North Carolina, in 1887, he was appointed Secretary of the Street Railway Company,
and subsequently the Manager and Superintendent until 1894. Later, after becoming a lawyer, he was encouraged by the
Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) to write a history of western
Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads (Touring the Backroads). Editorial Review: This guidebook, unlike most, is so encyclopedic in scope that I give it as a gift to newcomers
to the area. It is also an invaluable reference for the visitor who wants to see more than the fabulous Biltmore Estate. Even
though I am a native of the area, I learned nearly everything I know about Western North Carolina
from this book alone and it is my primary reference. I am still amazed at how much fact, history and folklore [just enough
to bring alive the curve of the road, the odd landmark, the abandoned building] is packed in its 300 pages. The author, who
must have collapsed from exhaustion when she finished it, takes you on a detailed tour, laid out by the tenth of the mile,
of carefully drawn sections of backroads that you can follow leisurely without getting lost. Continued below...
The author is completely absent from the text. The lucid style
will please readers who want the facts, not editorial comment. This book, as well as the others in this publisher's backroads
series, makes an excellent gift for anyone, especially the many seniors who have relocated, or are considering relocating
to this fascinating region. It is also a valuable reference for natives, like me, who didn't know how much they didn't know.
Sources: Carpenter, Cal. The Walton War and tales of the Great Smoky
Mountains. Lakemont, GA: Copple House Books, 1979; Reidinger, Martin. "The Walton War and the Georgia-North
Carolina Boundary Dispute." Typescript in North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1981; Skaggs, Marvin Lucian. "North Carolina Boundary Disputes Involving Her Southern Line." James Sprunt Studies in
History and Political Science, Vol. 25, No. 1. University of North Carolina Press, 1941; Durham
Morning Herald, 12 September 1971 as found in North Carolina Collection Clipping File through 1975, Subject Clippings,