Dr. Joseph Dobson, Sr.


Preface, General Disclaimer, Thoughts, Notes & etc.

  I would like to take this opportunity to point out that this work on Dr. Joseph Dobson, Sr. (my great-great-great-great-great grandfather) is still in a "draft" form. I say that because no work on a man of Dr. Dobsonís political, social, and professional status can ever be "finished." Every time I think I can find no more information, something else always surfaces. Some times the new information expands upon the old, and some times the new information will totally contradict what was once believed (and often times printed) as truth. A classic example is the "Old Dobson Homeplace" that has always been stated to be "... near the old Duke Power Club House and now covered by the waters of Lake James." This information has been accepted for many, many years and has been printed as fact in several publications. However, upon close scrutiny of the land grants of the time and from personal exploration and observation, it is evident that the homeplace of Dr. Dobson was well below the Lake James dam and is not under water. The homeplace near the old Duke Power Club House was that of Joseph Dobson, Jr. (Dr. Dobsonís son) who moved there (most likely) some time after 1780.

I have tried my best to record information that is factual; anything that is speculative or unsure, I have tried to note accordingly. This is not a definitive work on Dr. Dobson; for I am but an amateur and I am sure my writing abilities are faulty, at best. I feel sure I have made mistakes and errors and, with further research, I will continue to learn new facts that should be told. This paper should only serve as a starting place for the quest of information concerning Dr. Joseph Dobson, Sr.

I have included extra sheets of paper in the back of this work so that anyone with additional, supporting, or conflicting information can make notes. I would encourage anyone who reads over this work to scrutinize it closely. Please record any information you have. If our information conflicts, let me know. I am always ready to learn and share information concerning Dr. Dobson.


Thank You,

William F. Brown, III

[email protected] (e-mail)



Table of Contents

Introduction *

Early Life and Background Information *

Dr. Dobson Comes to America; Life in Virginia *

Dr. Dobson Relocates to the Frontier of North Carolina *

Dr. Dobsonís Life in Frontier Burke County *

Dr. Dobsonís Service in the Revolution *

Dr. Dobson Serves as Clerk of Superior Court *

Dr. Dobson Serves as Entry Taker *

The Children of Dr. Dobson *

Dr. Dobsonís Death *




Dr. Joseph Dobson, Sr. was a very interesting individual. He was a University educated Physician, a wealthy and influential land owner, an educator, and a prominent political figure. He was born in England and educated in Scotland and Wales. Dr. Dobson came to America at the time of the French and Indian War, settling in southern Virginia. Following the close of the war, he moved to the frontier of western North Carolina where he and his family were involved with great hardships and dangers. He served as a Physician for the Revolutionary Army during Americaís War for Independence and, following the close of the war, was instrumental in the governmental affairs of western North Carolina. In short, Dr. Dobson was a colorful figure with the cosmopolitan background of a well-learned and wealthy man coupled with the rugged experiences of a frontier settler and Indian fighter.


Early Life and Background Information

Very little documentation has been found which points to the early life of Dr. Dobson. Research done by Mr. Albert S. McLean in the late 1920ís and the early 1930ís provides some information, although very few references were made in any of the surviving documents of Mr. McLean as to any of his source information. It is known, however, that Mr. McLean was a respected researcher and had spent considerable time, effort and resources on the study of Dr. Dobson and the Dobson family. At one point, Mr. McLean was in the process of publishing a book or manuscript concerning the Dobson family and was said to have had compiled a considerable amount of documentation and research notes. If any such book or manuscript was published by Mr. McLean, no copies are known to be in existence. Also, none of Mr. McLeanís resource material or notes could be located by any of his surviving family members.

Correspondence between Mr. McLean and Cecil B. Dobson (great-great-great grandson of Dr. Dobson) indicated that William Dobson, Esq. was the great-grandfather of Dr. Dobson. According to Mr. McLean, William Dobson, Esq. was a subscriber to the Virginia Company of Adventurers and came to America from England about the year 1660. Mr. McLeanís research further indicated that William Dobson, Esq. moved from either the Jamestown area settlements in the Colony of Virginia or from the Colony of Massachusetts. It should be noted that at one time Mr. McLean was in correspondence with a man from Boston, Massachusetts concerning the Dobson family. This may add some credibility to the Massachusetts connection, however this is purely speculation at this point.

Research sources independent from that of Mr. McLeanís indicate that William Dobson, Esq. eventually settled on a plantation in Albemarle County in the Colony of North Carolina. William Dobson, Esq. executed a Will which was filed in Chowan County, NC in the year 1690. In his Will, William Dobson, Esq. bequeathed his plantation to his wife Katherine and his son, William Dobson, Jr.. William Dobson, Jr. (Dr. Dobsonís grandfather) appears to have returned to England to live, as no further record has been found for him in America. It is possible that William Dobson, Jr. named his son John Dobson (this would be Dr. Dobsonís father); however this can not be stated as a fact. This supposition is based on the 18th century tradition of naming the first-born son after the paternal grandfather and the second-born son after the father. It is known that Dr. Dobson named his first-born son John and his second-born son Joseph, Jr. Again, the identifying of Dr. Dobsonís father as "John Dobson" is purely speculation and should be so noted in any further research efforts.

From Mr. McLeanís research, Dr. Joseph Dobson, Sr. was born cir. 1720 in London, England. As a young boy, Dr. Dobson most assuredly received a good education. He completed his formal schooling as a Physician by attending Universities in Scotland and Wales. It should be noted that becoming a university educated Physician in the 18th century required a knowledge of the classics and a very substantial amount of money. This fact indicates the status of the Dobson family in England at the time. Additionally, at the time of Dr. Dobsonís university education, a Physician was required to submit his graduating thesis in Latin. Although a Physician possessed a very well rounded education and was exposed to all modern medical theories of the times, in most instances the Physician graduated without ever having seen a living patient.

Following the completion of his education and while living in England, Dr. Dobson married Anne (whose last name is not known) some time during the years 1745 to 1750. They shortly thereafter began a family and Dr. Dobson established his medical practice while living in London. Dr. Dobson continued in this capacity and location until the beginning of the French and Indian War in the American Colonies. No additional supporting information has been discovered relative to Dr. Dobsonís life in England.



Dr. Dobson Comes to America; Life in Virginia

According to Colonial Virginia court records, Dr. Dobson left England and moved his family to the Colonies; settling on a plantation in Lunenburg County, Virginia in 1753. An interesting family legend relates, that while coming to America on ship Dr. Dobson had a large trunk of money stolen from him. This family story may, however, have its roots in a documented occurrence that happened many years later in Burke County, NC (this will be explained later in this work). Information indicates that Dr. Dobson and his family entered America through the port at Norfolk, Virginia. In 1757, Dr. Dobson appeared in open court and claimed his "Importation Rights" in Lunenburg County, VA. Court records state:

Joseph Dobson came into court and made oath that he imported himself and Ann, his wife, John, Ann, Anna Maria and Joseph his children, Catherine Ward and Timothy Ward from London, Great Brittain, into this colony in the year 1753 and that this is the first time of his proving and his claiming these importation Rights.

Quote I: Dr. Dobson's Importation Statement

It would appear from Dr. Dobsonís statement that he imported himself and a number of his children; however, the birth dates of his children differ from the time frame Dr. Dobson relates. This fact can be easily explained because the number of children in a family directly influenced the amount of land an individual could claim as part of his "importation rights." Therefore, the more children, the more land. The practice of "inflating" the number of family members was common practice at this time, and it appears Dr. Dobson was no different from any other individual. Additionally, Dr. Dobsonís statement appears to infer that he had a daughter, Catherine, who was married to Timothy Ward. This is not true, as Catherine Ward and Timothy Ward were more than likely indentured servants to the Dobson family. This erroneous fact has been passed down for many years and it has been recorded in many works that Timothy Ward was Dr. Dobsonís son-in-law.

While in Lunenburg County (that part which today is Mecklenburg County, VA), Dr. Dobson lived on a 382 acre plantation situated "... on the lower side of Canoe Gut [of the Roanoke River] and adjacent to the land of ... John Davis ... Nicholas Roberson... While living in Lunenburg County, Dr. Dobson was a member of the Cumberland Parish of the Church of England. He continued with his medical practice along the frontier, with several entries in the Vestry Books of Cumberland Parish listing payments made to Dr. Dobson for services he rendered to the people of the area:

29 Nov. 1758

Paid to Jos. Dobson for his accot. for curing Elizabeth Taylor 5-0-0

12 Nov. 1759

To Dr. Jos. Dobson his acct. 6-10-0

3 Nov. 1760

To Dr. Jos. Dobson for curing Agathia Dodd 3-

To Ditto for means given Mary Matthis as p. accot. 7-14-10 1/2

Figure 1: Examples from Cumberland Parish Records

As a matter of note, one source has been found which list a "Captain Dobson" serving with General Bradock during the French and Indian War. While this may be a reference to Dr. Dobson, there is, at this time, no way of knowing for sure. However, the time, social position, education and geographic location of Dr. Dobson at this time in history make the assertion a reasonable one. Other supporting arguments for the assertion that Dr. Dobson may have served as a Surgeon in the British Army during the French and Indian War is the lack of any reason why a University educated Physician with an established medical practice in London and sound financial resources would leave England and come to the frontier of America. It should be further noted that Dr. Dobson was, given his educational and professional standing, in a very elite population; as university educated Physicians, even at the time of the Revolution, consisted of only about 300 persons.



Dr. Dobson Relocates to the Frontier of North Carolina

In 1764, following the close of the French and Indian War, Dr. Dobson sold his plantation in Lunenburg County, VA and moved his family to the Western frontier of North Carolina. Records indicate that he received a Crown Grant for 200 acres of land "... on Henry Weidners fork of the South fork of the Catawba ... ." This Grant became final on 28 April 1768. The land was situated in what was then Tryon County, NC in the vicinity of the "Horse Ford" of the Catawba River (the present-day location being in Catawba County, near the town of Catawba). While at this location, Dr. Dobson added more land to his original 200 acre grant. Several times the court records of Tryon County mention Dr. Dobson, primarily in the purchase and sale of lands. One particular record, dated 15 October 1771, indicates Dr. Dobson sold his original 200 acre grant on the South Fork of the Catawba River to John Fisher. This document helps to establish the approximate time frame when Dr. Dobson moved from Tryon County on up the Catawba Valley into Rowan County (the part that would, in 1777, become Burke County).

Other records indicate that Dr. Dobson was associated with Joseph McDowell, Sr. (father of Charles McDowell and Joseph McDowell, Jr. of Quaker Meadows, both Revolutionary War leaders of note) and John "Hunting John" McDowell (father of Joseph McDowell of Pleasant Gardens), all of whom were residents of the upper Catawba in Rowan County (now Burke County). It is apparent that Dr. Dobson was more than just a business acquaintance of the McDowellís, as he was a witness to the 1770 Will of Joseph McDowell, Sr. of Quaker Meadows.

Additional evidence that helps establish the time frame of Dr. Dobsonís relocating is a Committee of Safety report. This report, issued on 20 September 1775, uses Dr. Dobsonís plantation on the Catawba as a reference point for establishing a Militia District.

The earliest date for establishing Dr. Dobsonís relocation to the upper Catawba River Valley and what is now Burke county, comes from the fact that by 1768, Dr. Dobson was operating a private school on his plantation.



Dr. Dobsonís (Burke County) Homeplace Along the Catawba

Research, along with traditional family history, had always established the location of Dr. Dobsonís home on the Catawba River to be just inside present McDowell County. This homeplace and the "old Dobson Graveyard" are on the banks of Lake James (what was once the north side of the Catawba River) and near the North Fork of the Catawba. More specifically, this property is in the immediate vicinity of the old Duke Power Club House. The graveyard contains several unmarked grave stones and the marked stone of Alexander Dobson (grandson of Dr. Dobson). The foundation of the Dobson home and the remains of the old spring house are also visible. The remainder of the plantation is covered by the waters of Lake James. However, recent research has proved conclusively that this homeplace is not that of Dr. Dobson, but was the home of Dr. Dobsonís son, Joseph Dobson, Jr.

Evidence proves that Dr. Dobson lived along the South side of the Catawba River in the vicinity of present Glen Alpine, NC. When the State land office opened in 1778, Dr. Dobson entered 200 acres of land upon which he had been residing for some time. The exact and correct location of Dr. Dobsonís Burke County plantation was fixed by plotting his land grant, along with the surrounding land grants of other individuals of the same time. The result was a composite map of the Catawba River that could be compared to a present-day map of Burke County. By overlaying the composite map of 1778 locations with the modern map, the location of Dr. Dobsonís home was established and was determined to be along the Catawba River and well below the dam at Lake James. Additional conformation was made by taking the physical descriptions of various landmarks described in 1778 and actually viewing the terrain along the Catawba. The result was conclusive; Dr. Dobsonís homeplace in Burke County was not covered by Lake James and remains essentially untouched by development.

One particularly interesting item was the reference in an old land grant to "... Joseph Dobsonís fish trap ... ." Fish traps were constructed by placing rocks in the river in the shape of a huge "V". In this way, fish would enter the wide part of the "V" up river and be forced to swim down the sides of the trap and into baskets at the narrow end of the "V". It is not known if Joseph Dobson (Jr. or Sr.?) constructed this fish trap or if it were constructed many, many years earlier by Cherokee or Catawba Indians. What is amazing is that this fish trap is still clearly visible in the Catawba River adjacent to Dr. Dobsonís homeplace.



Dr. Dobsonís Life in Frontier Burke County

As stated earlier, by 1768 Dr. Dobson was operating a private school on his plantation along the Catawba River. At least two of Dr. Dobsonís students would become men of note in history. One was Joseph McDowell of Pleasant Gardens. Joseph McDowell apprenticed under Dr. Dobson to become a Physician. Joseph McDowell went on to become a hero of the Revolution, commanding a company at the Battle of Kingís Mountain and, following the war, was influential in civic and political affairs of Burke County and Western North Carolina. The second of Dr. Dobsonís famous students was Felix Walker. Following his education from Dr. Dobson, Felix Walker served as a surveyor for Daniel Boone, a Senator from the Western North Carolina District, one of the organizers of the first government in Kentucky, and the first Clerk of Court of Washington County, Tennessee. Felix Walker stated in his diary, that in 1772:

... my father put me to school to Dr. Dobson of Burke County from whom I received the best education I have ever been in possession of...

Quote II: Felix Walker's Comments on Dr. Dobson's School

Life on the frontier of North Carolina was very dangerous at this time. The Cherokee Indians were an ever-present threat to the people who settled on what was then the western fringes of the colony. Following the close of the French and Indian War, the British government had established a boundary line to divide the Whites from the Indians. This line originally ran through what is now the eastern edge of Lake James; placing Dr. Dobsonís plantation on the very fringes, if not within, the area reserved for the Cherokee. Encroachment into this "neutral zone" was not uncommon, as this land was good land that was basically free for the taking. There were certainly risk living in this virtual wilderness, however the rewards, should one survive, were great.

The individuals who settled along the upper Catawba found that they were basically "... living beyond the bounds of government...", a situation that they found to be very agreeable to themselves. By 1770, enough individuals were living in the western frontier of the county (the area was Rowan County at that time) that they felt the need to form a government of their own. Dr. Dobsonís oldest son, John Dobson, was one of the men who, in 1770, signed a petition to request the establishment of a new county. The petition was denied, and it would be 1777 before the Legislature would pass a resolution to establish Burke County as the westernmost county in the new state. The failure to have a seat of government close did not encumber the residents of the upper Catawba, and Dr. Dobson was no different.

When the Revolution erupted in 1775, the British began making plans. One scheme was to have the Cherokee Indians go to war against the settlers on the western frontier. These acts of war would force the Americans to split their resources so as to protect the frontiers. In 1776, the plan was put into action. The Cherokee, enticed and encouraged by British agents, began unmerciful attacks along the frontier of North Carolina. These attacks were to be timed to coincide with a planned British invasion of Wilmington, NC and the uprising of the Scotch-Tories from the Cross Creek (now Fayetteville, NC) area. While the militia was tied up in putting down the Tory uprising and making the proper defense of Wilmington, the Indians were to begin their attacks. The western frontier would be left almost defenseless.

In July of 1776 a major attack struck the upper Catawba. Many helpless men, women, and children were killed. One of the children killed was a Dobson child, most likely the child of Dr. Dobsonís son, John. The settlers in the vicinity of Dr. Dobsonís plantation took refuge at the plantation of Charles McDowell at a fort called "McDowellís Station" or "Fort Charles." Dr. Dobson was responsible for the care of the sick and wounded during the siege of the fort. Militia General Griffith Rutherford, who had been dispatched from Salisbury, related the state of affairs along the Catawba to the Legislature. On 12 July 1776 Gen. Rutherford noted from his encampment near the head of the Catawba:

This is furder to acquent you of oure Troubles, ... one Middleton is killed there - Indians was seen meny miles furder Down the Cutaba River. I am applied Daley tow for Relefe; ancesly wating for youre Instructions; pray send, if Possible at Least 1000 lbs. more Powder.

Quote III: Gen. Griffith Rutherford on the Cherokee Attack of 1776

Two days later, the situation remained grim for Dr. Dobson and the others besieged at McDowellís Station. Gen. Rutherford was so disturbed over the state of affairs that he sent another urgent dispatch to the state Legislature:

I am under the Nessety of sending you by Express, The Allerming Condition this Contry is in, the Indians is making Grate prograce, in Distroying and Murdering, in the frunteers of this Contry, 37 I am Informes was killed last Wednesday and Thursday, on the Cuttaba River ...

Quote IV: Gen. Griffith Rutherford on the Cherokee Attack of 1776

The situation was not to remain grave for long. Troops were freed up to counter attack. With this knowledge, the Cherokee pulled back and Gen. Rutherford prepared to attack into their homeland. Dr. Dobson would go with Gen. Rutherford on this expedition. Also joining would be Dr. Dobsonís son, Joseph Dobson, Jr., just back from the victorious campaign against the Scotch-Tories at the Battle of Mooreís Creek Bridge. It is most probable that Dr. Dobsonís older son, John Dobson, also went along (as he was a Militia Captain); however, this is only speculation as no documentation has been found.

Dr. Dobsonís son, Joseph Dobson, Jr. gave this description of Rutherfordís 1776 Cherokee Expedition:

We destroyed their Towns [and] crops and took a considerable amount of plunder. We returned and said company was discharged near the head of the Catawba River in Burke County NC during the campaign I was transferred from Capt. McDowell's Company to Capt. Thomas Lylles company of spies and served under him for some time.

Quote V: Joseph Dobson, Jr. on Rutherford's Expedition of 1776

William Lenoir, a Militia officer from adjoining Wilkes County, described the expedition against the Cherokee in his journal. He also provided some insight into the way of life of the people in the area where Dr. Dobson lived:

I believe our whole number was between two and three thousand, with small supply of ammunition and provisions. I believe the Gen'l himself was without a tent. A few officers and men had something like a wagon cover stretched to keep off the rain. There were very few imported blankets in camp, and at that time there was not a store within 45 miles of Fort Defiance, and very few sheep in this newly settled country and no attempt to raise cotton. Our whole means of procuring clothing were of hemp, flax and tow. Our blankets were usually made of the same materials, when striped, they were called Linsey blankets. At that time if a gentleman could procure a hunting shirt made of good tow linen and died black with a motto across the breast in large letters "Liberty or Death" and a pair of stout breeches and leggins of the same texture, and a buck's tail on his wool hat for a cockade, he was fine enough for anything. In fact, our good Gen'ls hunting shirt was inferior - a dingy colored, ordinary looking one, we had no government to provide for us, it being before our state constitution was formed.

Quote VI: William Lenoir on Rutherford's Cherokee Expedition of 1776



Dr. Dobsonís Service in the Revolution

During the Revolution, Dr. Dobson served as a Physician for the Southern Department. Although there has been no documentation found which list the specific engagements Dr. Dobson was involved with, it is known through records of the times he was paid considerable sums of money for his services throughout the war . The following, taken from Revolutionary War Army Accounts, is but one example:

The United States are debited by the State of North Carolina for the following allowances made by Committees of Claims and Accounts issued 26 Apr 1777:

To Whom

For What


Griffith Rutherford

Services of Spies &c.


James Patterson

Transportation &c.


Charles McDowell



Joseph Dobson



Thomas Evans



John Walker




Services of Negroes &c.



transporting Sick Soldiers


Figure 3: Example of Revolutionary War Accounts

Throughout the American Revolution, Dr. Dobson was engaged in providing medical services to Patriot army where his services were very well received. This is evidenced by a quote from Major Daniel McKissick of Lincoln County, NC, an officer of the Whigs. On 27 July 1781, Major McKissick wrote Dr. Dobson:

Having myself experienced in some measure your abilities and vigilance I can with confidence recommend you to a friend

Quote VII: Maj. Daniel McKissick Describing Dr. Dobson's Services


Not only did Dr. Dobson follow the army on campaigns, but he provided care for wounded soldiers at his plantation along the Catawba. Following the Battle of Kingís Mountain (7 October 1780), it was reported that Dr. Dobsonís had over 18 wounded soldiers at one time billeted with him and under his care.

The Southern Colonies, particularly North Carolina, saw some of the most brutal fighting during the war. The war in the South has been described as a "civil war," with neighbor fighting against neighbor. Burke County was no different. Dr. Dobsonís plantation was located along one of the major fords of the Catawba (Island Ford); with the road being the route taken on the return from Kingís Mountain. An interesting story involving Dr. Dobsonís son, Joseph, Jr., illustrates the fighting in and around the Dobson plantation. At the time of this incident, Joseph Dobson, Jr. lived across the river from his father, Dr. Dobson:

... to your questions, I knew: Joseph Dobson and his place on the Catawba river and some miles below where Col. Carson lived I also know of an Islet in the river - around large rock, with a tray - shaped depression in it and it still is known by the name of Dobson's feed trough because it was there that Dobson and his horse spent their nights when ever the Tories were in the ajacend cut. Once when the Tories were a plundering said Dobson learned of their coming and prepared for them and as the road to his house lead through a wide swampy bottom the road made many zigzag bends and at each one of these Dobson placed a gun and when the raid was made Dobson killed and wounded several Tories by passing the river cuts from one gun to another and in this way had six fires on them before they got through. This caused him for months afterwards to spend his nights on his rock in the river.

Quote VIII: Silas McDowell Describes a Tory Raid and the Actions of Joseph Dobson, Jr.


Following the close of the Revolution, Dr. Dobson continued serving the population of western North Carolina as one of its only Physicians. He has been termed "the father of modern medicine in western North Carolina" and was, in his time, the only university educated Physician practicing in western North Carolina.



Dr. Dobson Serves as Clerk of Superior Court

About the time of the close of the Revolution, Dr. Joseph Dobson entered political life as the Clerk of the Superior Court for the Morgan District. He served in this capacity from 1782 until 1785. As the Morgan District was formed in 1782, this made Dr. Dobson Burke County's first Clerk of Superior Court. From the beginning of the county, the office of Clerk of Superior Court was a position of influence and responsibility. Initially the Clerk was appointed for life by the Judge holding the Superior Court of the District (this was later changed, and the General Assembly fixed the term at four years and provided that the Clerk be popularly elected). A number of the Court records of Dr. Dobson appear to have survived. Two of these records are preserved in the files of the Burke County Public Library and have to do with arrest warrants in relation to slave records. The warrants are dated 10 September 1783 and 11 March 1785. Other records of Court proceedings under Dr. Dobsonís administration are preserved in the NC State Archives in Raleigh and make for interesting reading.


Dr. Dobson Serves as Entry Taker

Following his tenure as the countyís first Clerk of Superior Court for the Morgan District, Dr. Dobson became the Entry Taker for Burke County. He served in this capacity from 1785 until his death in 1791. It was at this time that Dr. Dobson, along with his son, Joseph Dobson, Jr. who served as Deputy County Surveyor, began to acquire much of his vast land holdings in Burke County and western North Carolina. One must remember that at this time Burke County was the largest county in the state, with the countyís boundaries extending across the Blue Ridge mountains and to what is not the Tennessee line. To fully understand the significance of the position Dr. Dobson held as the Entry Taker, one must be familiar with the land transfer process of the time.

The transfer of land in North Carolina from state ownership to private ownership was regulated by law. The land act of 1777 required Justices of the Peace in each county, sitting as the county court, to elect an Entry Taker and a County Surveyor. These individuals were allowed to "serve during good behavior." Any citizen of the State was authorized to register with the county Entry Taker a written claim for land. This claim related the county in which the land was located and a simple description of the boundaries of the tract. The Entry Taker then endorsed the statement with the name of the claimant and the number of acres claimed. He would also make a proper entry into his Entry Book. If no other person made claim to the same land within three months, the Entry Taker would deliver a copy of the entry to the claimant and issue an order to the County Surveyor to survey the land. If other claims were filed within the three month period, a jury summoned by the Sheriff under order from the County Court would determine the individual who could claim the land.

Upon receiving the order or warrant of survey, the County Surveyor or his Deputy would survey the land and prepare two plots with descriptions of the boundaries and indicating the number of acres the survey contained. The individual making the claim was required to pay the Entry Taker 2 pounds 10 shillings per 100 acres for amounts of land not in excess of 640 acres for himself and an additional 100 acres for his wife and each child. Any acreage in excess required payment of 5 pounds per 100 acres.

Both of the plots and the survey warrant were transmitted to the office of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State filed one copy of the plot and attached the other copy to the Grant he made out. The Grant was authenticated by the Governor and countersigned by the Secretary of State. The Grant was then recorded in the office of the Secretary of State and held for delivery to the individual making the claim on 1 April or 1 October. The individual who made the claim, known now as the Grantee, had 12 months from the date of issuance to register the Grant in the county where the land was located.

A set fee was allowed to the Entry Taker, County Surveyor, Governors Secretary, Secretary of State, and the County Register. The Entry Taker was required to pay into the state treasury on 1 April and 1 October all the money he had received, after deducting 2 per cent for his services and risk.

In 1783 the Entry Taker's fee was fixed at 4 shillings and the Surveyor's at 16 shillings for a plot not in excess of 300 acres. For plots in excess of the 300 acres, they received 4 shillings for each additional 100 acres. The Surveyor was required to complete the surveys within 12 months from the issuance of the warrant and was required to submit the plots and warrant to the Secretary of State's office within 18 months of his receipt of the warrant of survey. In 1790 the price of public land was fixed at 30 shillings per 100 acres and in 1794 at 50 shillings per 100 acres. Due to some difficulty experienced in collecting moneys from the Entry Takers, the Legislature of 1794 directed the Secretary of State not to issue any Grant until the claimant presented a certificate from the Comptroller's Office indicating that the Entry Taker had made a proper return to his office and also a receipt from the State Treasurer for the payment of the purchase money by the Entry Taker.

With Dr. Dobson as the countyís Entry Taker and his son as the countyís Deputy surveyor, this put the Dobson family in a very favorable position to acquire land. What typically transpired was, Joseph Dobson, Jr. would locate a tract of land he or his father desired and would then enter the claim. Naturally, with Dr. Dobson as the Entry Taker, he would validate it to the most advantageous date. It was required that the land be surveyed; however, there have been numerous instances where the physical descriptions of the land entered were so vague it was extremely questionable if the younger Dobson had ever set foot on the land. Nevertheless, the grant was issued and the title transferred to Dr. Dobson or to his son, Joseph, Jr. In this manner, the Dobsons acquired over one hundred thousand acres of land in western North Carolina.

As stated earlier, the Entry Taker collected all of the funds associated with the land grant process, transmitting the moneys twice yearly to the state land office. This made Dr. Dobson the holder and responsible partner for considerable amounts of money. Court records indicate that the entry money was once stolen from Dr. Dobson. This occurred about the time of his death in 1791. At the beginning of this work it was related that a story from family history related a large trunk of money was stolen from Dr. Dobson while on ship bound for America. That story, more than likely, has its roots in the loss of the entry money in 1791. As Dr. Dobson was responsible for the entry money prior to its release to the state, he was therefore responsible to repay the loss. Due to the fact that he had died about the same time the money was stolen, his wife Anne was left with the responsibility to repay the loss. In 1791 she entered the following petition :

Petition of Anne Dobson, read in the House of Commons 9 December 1791:

To the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina

The Petition of Ann Dobson widow & Relict of Joseph Dobson Deceased late Entry Officir of claims for the Entring of Lands in Burk County most Humbly Sheweth

That your Petitionir with Sensible Distress do by these presents Signify to your body - That it will appear by a Deposition filed, that of the specie Indents, the said Joseph Dobson had recd. for entrys of Land in said County he had to the Amount of five hundred pounds Stolen the man who stole the same was Detected, and not able to Reimburse the Sum nor no part of it Your Petitioner Begs and requests for Justice & Lenity shewn her, as aged, & infirm, & the only one of the family, Left in Distress, That you will take the matter under your wise Consideration as she is indebted to the public a Certain Sum of Indents, etc. & Tolerate her to pay up the Indents part she is indebted to the public at the rate of 4/ in the pound, otherwise it will indubitably reduce Your Petitioner to a Certain State of Beggary or want. and your Petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray Ann Dobson





Figure 4: Petition of Anne Dobson



The Children of Dr. Dobson

Information suggests Dr. Dobsonís oldest son, John Dobson, may have preceded him to the upper Catawba Valley. John Dobson was born in London, England sometime between 1745 and 1750. John Dobson was married and had a family, although the name of his wife is not known. One of John's children was killed by the Cherokee Indians during the July, 1776 raid on the upper Catawba Valley. Records indicate that John Dobson was well established along the frontier of western NC. Rowan County records indicate that John Dobson owned and operated a tavern near the Catawba River as early as 1768. Also, John Dobson was a signer of the 1770 Petition to create the County of Burke from Rowan (the petition failed and it would be 1777 before Burke County was created out of Rowan).

It is interesting to note that one of Burke Countyís 1778 land grants which a Ebenezer Hobbs obtained relates that the land on the north side of the Catawba River opposite to Dr. Dobsonís plantation on the South side was once in the possession of John Dobson and that he formerly resided on the land. Situated on this tract of land was the Buckhorn Tavern. Burke County history records the Buckhorn was operated by the Alexanders. There is no specific date associated with the opening of the Buckhorn or when the Alexanders first began operations. It is ironic, however, that the tavern was on land formerly owned by John Dobson, and later adjacent to the land of Johnís younger brother, Joseph Dobson, Jr. Also, Joseph Jr.ís mother-in-law was an Alexander prior to her marriage (Ann Alexander Mackey). This may only be coincidence, but the possibility is good that John Dobson was the original owner and operator of this tavern along the old Yellow Mountain Road.

John Dobson served as a Captain of Mounted Horse in the Rowan County (later Burke County) Militia during the Revolution and was involved in numerous engagements. He was killed 20 June 1780 at the Battle of Ramseur's Mill in what is now Lincolnton, NC and was buried on the battlefield.

Dr. Dobson's second-born son was Joseph Dobson, Jr. He was born 4 June 1756 in Lunenburg County, VA. During his early life he was engaged as an Indian fighter, spy, and surveyor. He served during General Rutherford's Cherokee Expedition of 1776 and was known throughout the county as an ardent Whig. Joseph, Jr. married Mary Mackey on 18 March 1778 and raised a large family on his plantation along the Catawba River. The site of his first home was on the North side of the Catawba River opposite to his fatherís plantation. He later moved several miles up river near the confluence of the North Fork of the Catawba and established a very large and prosperous plantation there. Joseph Dobson, Jr. became a very wealthy individual from the practice of speculating on land with his father. At the time of Joseph, Jr.'s death in 1836 he had accumulated well over 100,000 acres of land in Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee.

Dr. Dobson's daughters did well for themselves also. All of them married well and established families. Dr. Dobson's daughter, Frances, married Ute Sherrill, brother-in-law to John Seveir. Ute and Frances lived on the North side of the Catawba River just opposite Dr. Dobsonís plantation and adjoining the plantation of Francesí brother, Joseph, Jr. Ann married Alexander Hall and Anna Maria married Thomas Scott. Anna Maria and Thomas Scott lived on Irish Creek in Burke County. Thomas was killed during the Revolution at the Battle of Cedar Springs. Anna Maria lived the remainder of her life as a widow and is buried on a hill in the vicinity of what is now the State Fish Hatchery in upper Burke County.



Dr. Dobsonís Death

As was the custom and practice of many plantation owners of the time, Dr. Dobson enjoyed horse racing, card playing, gambling, and drinking. Family tradition records that Dr. Dobson was returning from a visit with one of his friends, John Carson, and, being drunk, fell from his horse while crossing the Catawba River and drowned . It was claimed by A.S. McLean that Dr. Dobsonís body was taken home and was buried on a hill overlooking "his plantation and the beautiful Catawba River Valley." This is debatable, as Dr. Dobsonís residence was further down the Catawba than his son, Joseph, Jr.

It is known that Anne Dobson, some time after the death of Dr. Dobson, resided with Joseph, Jr. Dr. Dobson's wife, Anne, was named Administrator of the estate. She filed the following:

Ann Dobson Administratix for Joseph Dobson Diseast A true inventory of all the goods he a posest at his death July 21st 1791 Five Negros, Sixteen head of Cattle, Ten Head of Sheep, Seven Head of Hogs, three Head of Horses, & the Hous hold furnuter.

Settling the estate of Dr. Dobson appeared to be no small task. The theft of the entry money and various claims the Dobson Estate filed against several individuals continued in the Court at least until January, 1801.

It has always been stated and believed that Dr. Joseph Dobson died 21 July 1791. This date was taken from the estate inventory filed by Anne Dobson. However, recent research indicates this date is incorrect. Court actions concerning the estate of Dr. Dobson were in process as early as April, 1791. Several of these actions are outlined below.

The Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for Burke County, October, 1791 term recorded:

Committee to examine Entry Books: ordered that James Greenely, James Murphy, Charles McDowell be a Committee to examine and report to the Treasurer of the State of the Books of the late entry taker, to wit: Joseph Dobsons Books, on the 5th of November at the widow Dobsons

On 21 November 1791 Charles McDowell and James Murphy entered the following report:

Nov. 21, 1791 Charles McDowell & James Murphy Ordered by Court to examine Entry Book of Joseph Dobson, dec, Late Entry Taker - 19672 acres legally entered before January 1791 and 2100 acres since.

The earliest indicator found, so far, is a receipt from Charles McDowell to Anne Dobson dated 2 April 1791:

Received of Mrs. Ann Dobson by the hand of Thomas Smith indents to the amount of 723 pounds 15 shillings possible which I oblige myself to return or pay them into the Treasurers Office.

These Court actions would indicate the date of Dr. Dobsonís death to be between December, 1790 and January, 1791. The fact that Court records begin to appear in the April, 1791 term and the report of the Entry Books would give strong support to January, 1791 as the date of Dr. Dobsonís death.