17 September 2002. Richard M. Leland III
This picture furnished by Susie Mohr from the Kennedy Reunion of 2002.
Few genuine Revolutionary relics are to be found today in the home of Moore County families, but Solomon Stewart of Robbins owns a valuable one that holds personal associations for him. It is one of the famous "Kennedy rifles," made by Alexander Kennedy, who was a Revolutionary soldier and whose guns were used in the Continental armies.
The gun is nearly as tall as Mr. Stewart. It is polished and trimmed with brass, and has a silver gunsight. Engraved on a brass plate is the name of its maker, "A. Kennedy." Mr. Stewart plans to keep this age-old relic in his family, and has already stipulated that it is to be passed down to his eldest son, now stationed in Korea, at some future day.
Alexander's son, David Kennedy, gun-smith, mill-owner and fiddler, carried on the gun-making business, and had at one time the largest gun factory in this part of the south. At times he worked as many as seventy to ninety men. Other gunsmiths in the country were John Kennedy, William Williamson, Captain John Ritter, Phil Cameron and James Ray.
While Moore was still part of Cumberland, however one Robert Davis, great - grandfather of the late Dr. H. B. Davis, was making and repairing guns for the Revolutionary soldiers. This factory, which stood on Bear Creek, just west of the town of Robbins, was later bought by Kennedy, and then sold by him to Cornelius Shields. David Kennedy moved to Alabama around 1835.
The old Plank Road, from High Point to Fayetteville is too well known to mention. But another road, called the Salisbury road, crossed Bear Creek at the sight of the old gun factory. Salisbury Street, in the town of Robbins, is named for this old highway, and a good portion of it occupies the old road bed. Old Mechanics Hill Church stood where the present filtering plant is, and the Salisbury road went directly by the side of this church. Indeed, the whole community of what is now Robbins was then known as Mechanic's Hill. It took the name from the large gun factory operated there by Alexander Kennedy and his son David Kennedy.
To obtain water power to operate the emory wheels and drills that were used in the gun making business, a dam wasconstucted across Bear Creek. Later, the dam was used as a mill site and in its last years went by the name of the Shields mill site. In the year 1849, Cornelius Shields and G. C. Mendenhall were granted the right and privilege of building and erecting a toll bridge across Bear Creek, at the site of the ford, and adjacent to the dam. Free passage over the bridge was given customers bringing grain for grinding at the mill.
Photograph furnished by Susie Mohr, from the Kennedy Reunion of 2002.
Mr. Stewart states that the site of the old gun factory is well known to him, and that a few years ago he ploughed up old pieces of guns and cinders. The gun barrels were cooked for days at a time - stacked like stove wood. The cinders indicate coal was used for this process, and likely came from the old coal diggings between Robbins and Carthage, where highway 22 to Highfalls leads off from the Raleigh-Charlotte highway.
Site well Known
As the site of an industry that flourished in Colonial days, and one which supplied rifles to the Revolutionary soldiers and later made guns for use in the war of 1812, it seems a pity that the place has never been marked. Here is a project that the Moore County Historical society might undertake, or else some civic minded citizens of Robbins. This gun factory site was the oldest of several such industries in and near Mechanic's Hill. A gun factory was located at or near Brown's Mill, and another one run by John Kennedy, was near, or on, the location of the present Slack home in Robbins.
*It is now almost 45 years since this article appeared, has this site been marked? Evidently, in 1976 they erected the above marker.
more on the Kennedy Rifle from"Longrifles of North Carolina" by John Bivens, Jr.