Story submitted by - Helen Arthur Cornett
Why name one of Cabarrus County's newest schools Patriots Elementary, out there in the western part of the county? We are so glad you asked, those of us who are descendants of those 1740's people who made their way to what is now Cabarrus County - from Scotland, Ireland, Germany and eventually England, Wales and other countries.
Well, you can thank Mr. Wayne Williams, who, last year, was on the Cabarrus County School Board (and now is chairman of that august body.) For he knew that the new elementary school was quite near Rocky River Presbyterian Church, which dates back to 1751, and in those earliest times, one of the church's more, um, liberal ministers, Reverend Craighead, preached long and hard about freedom and liberty along with his Gospel messages and other churchly duties.
There were nine members of his flock, all young men, who took his words to heart, and in 1771 - two years before the famed Boston Tea Party, three years before the American Revolution and four years before Thomas Jefferson wrote our Declaration of Independence - secretly organized themselves, took a dreadful oath of secrecy, then formed their attack party. For they had just learned, in those tumultuous pre-Revolution times, that England's old King George's men in this country were to drive a horse-and-wagon powder train, loaded with ammunition and various supplies, through this area.
They were headed for Hillsborough, North Carolina, where some Colonists there had been rebelling on another matter and his Royal Highness' forces were ordered to go there and subdue them.
So our young men, that night, blacked their faces with soot, to avoid recognition, and silently crept through the primeval forests hereabout, to where the wagon train was camped for the night, in the general vicinity of Poplar Tent Road.
There they attacked and hijacked that ammunition train. They piled up all the munitions, blankets, wagons and other inflammables, withdrew all men and horses well back from the site, and fired a gun into it, causing a mighty explosion heard for miles around. Our Rocky River boys had committed one of the first overt acts in little America against the mighty British Crown.
Given the name, Cabarrus Black Boys, they became local heroes - and today are still heralded for their 1771 heroic act. For the Crown was mighty mad, termed them treasonous and ordered them to be shot on sight. For four years they fled, to havens as far away as Georgia, always assisted by loyal Americans. That sentence of death against them did not end until the Declaration of Independence was signed and we won the Revolution.
Those nine young men were Major James White, William White , John White, all brothers; a cousin William White, Robert Caruthers, Robert Davis, Benjamin Cochran, James Ashmore and Joshua Hadley. Most of them served with distinction during the Revolution.
As you can guess, thousands of their descendants are still living today in Cabarrus County, and still hail them as heroes.
There is much more to their story, as two of them broke that oath of silence, ratted on the other seven to the king's men - Ashmore and Hadley, who were half-brothers. Their lives were ruined - Ashmore died by suicide, the other became a hated outcast.
Of course, Mr. Williams knows this story well and felt the school's closeness to Rocky River Church made the Patriots choice an exceptionally apt one. The school board agreed with him, after he presented the proposal to them about a year ago.
"I have a strong sense of history," Mr. Williams said. "I also feel that the many newcomers to Cabarrus County need to know Cabarrus County has a long and distinguished history, especially in the Rocky River community."
Other school board members made name suggestions, he said, but they ultimately approved the name Patriots.
The new school, located on Holden Road, just off Rocky River Church Road, will open its doors this coming August.