John D. Bridgers M.D.

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Edie's Family

Chapter 3, George and Nancy (Cook) Hamrick

In Germany, George "Hambrich" or "Homrick" was a passport examiner for the Kaiser. 

He was also a Predestinarian or Hard Shell Baptist.

In 1730, he, and others, either looking for religious autonomy or fleeing "The Little Ice Age" or both sailed from Rotterdam, Holland  --  the main seaport on the Rhine.

Another passenger was Nancy "Koch," a neighbor of George Hambrich. 

They were married somewhere along the way either in Germany, during their voyage to the new world, or shortly after they arrived in Pennsylvania.

They sailed on the Lowther, or Louther, along with a coterie of their neighbors, stopping in England to pick up other passengers from the British Isles  --  in all, the voyage required nine months.

When they arrived in Philadelphia in 1731, Ben Franklin got them settled in what would become Germantown, then a new rural community.

Nine months seems a long voyage considering that many years earlier the Mayflower made a similar trip in about three months.

This discrepancy may have had to do with the stops the Lowther made enroute or perhaps the ship itself.

The Lowther was a "snow"  --  a small, two-masted sailing packet with a large thwart-rigged, square-sail at mid-ship and an after-sail mounted fore and aft on a boom.

According to R.C. Anderson's The Sailing Ship, Six Thousand Years of History, "snows" were typical of the many ships crossing the Atlantic from northern Europe in the 1700's.

And so we have now connected Ben Franklin with me, sun spots, the New World and the Hamricks.

I say Hamrick because, as it worked out, Edie's immigrant ancestors changed the spelling of their names to Hamrick and Cook, respectively, shortly after they arrived in America. 


The quest for land was ever an ambition among the European colonists coming to the New World. 

These immigrants were prolific folk.

Usually one branch of a family would remain in place and enlarge their homes while the others would spread out to the west and to the south  --  initially moving down along the eastern slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.

The Hamrick's were no exception.  George Hamrick and Nancy Cook had twenty-four children.

As their children reached adulthood they moved in both directions.

First they spread west from Germantown into York and Lancaster Counties into what is yet today known as "Pennsylvania Dutch Country."

Beyond these two counties lay the mountains.

These highlands diverted the path of the migrants to the south, traveling down the valleys of the Appalachians.

From Philadelphia this dog-legged trail soon became a parade of sleds and wagons heading south  --  some pulled by mules and some by oxen, both accompanied by many afoot.

This pathway became known as "The Great Wagon Road" stretching ultimately from Philadelphia south to the region of Georgia that would become Atlanta where trekkers could finally traverse around the foot of the mountains and head west unimpeded.

It is interesting that in times to come the railroads first and then the highways and even later the air lanes would all three follow this same route with Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta now one of the largest and busiest air terminals in the country  --  so busy that it's said that one can't go to hell without changing planes in Atlanta.

Among those early travelers heading south on "The Great Wagon Road" were the Hamricks.


When one now reads of these folk from the northeast moving south, it's thought of as one long trip.  But this is a bit misleading. 

It was, indeed, long for it often took successive generations, each of which would live out their years at some spot along the way while successive collateral branches would then move on to elsewhere.

So it was with the Hamricks.

Of the two-dozen Hamricks in the second American generation, three brothers traveled together from Pennsylvania down "The Great Wagon Road" into western Virginia.

These migratory siblings were Richard Moses Hamrick, a second generation George Hamrick, and Benjamin Hamrick.

They stopped in Mecklenburg County along or near the Shenandoah River Valley somewhere between the foothills and the upper Blue Ridge peaks of the Appalachian chain.

The children of George and Benjamin would later move south while those of Richard Moses would head west to Illinois but we'll get back to their peregrinations directly.

The southern terminus of the "The Great Wagon Road" in the 1780's was North Carolina.

The town of Salisbury was the main crossroad and consisted of no more than a courthouse and eleven crude dwellings.

At that time this area was part of Tryon County spreading indefinitely and uncharted to the west.

Over the years this particular area  --  where the Hamricks settled  -- would be split off and become Rutherford County only later to be divided once again creating Cleveland County.

To this day Cleveland County remains home to many Hamricks and this is where Edie was raised, though we are once again getting ahead of our story. 


First it would serve us well to know how North Carolina grew. 

As told in BOOK ONE of these chronicles, settlers overflowing from Virginia and South Carolina moved into North Carolina and eventually filled the eastern part of the state.

With it's treacherous coastline, few settlers came directly to the colony from Europe.

The first counties were in the coastal plain along the Atlantic coast, and they were imagined to extend vaguely into the unknown lands to the west.

For the greater part, most of these early settlers of eastern North Carolina were from the British Isles, mostly English, with some Welsh and to a lesser extent, some Scots.

On my side of the family, the Bridgers, the Whichards, the Jordans and the Suttons were among this migration.

As the eastern regions of the colony filled, folks would settle farther away from the county courthouses and eventually new counties would split off from the original ones.

By the late 1700's  --  as the Hamricks wended their way down the "The Great Wagon Road"  --  these divisions had proceeded as far west as what is now central North Carolina which is where we find the town of Salisbury.

To the settlers, how far these seemingly endless county areas spread towards the Pacific was both un-mapped and unknown and almost unimaginable.

The Hamrick's of our particular interest moved into the western expanses of Tryon County later to become Rutherford County and now known as Cleveland County.

Formally established as an independent county in 1841, Cleveland County was named for one of the colonels commanding colonial troops in the Battle of Kings Mountain  --  Kings Mountain being a significant geographical landmark in the area.

This battle took place as the Revolutionary War was winding down and was an early example of guerilla warfare. 

Col. Patrick Ferguson had led his British troops to the summit, armed with the first breech-loading rifles ever to be used in combat. 

The sharp-shooting mountaineers armed just with muskets were able to overcome the armament advantage of the Tories through their knowledge of the terrain.  The colonists escaped scarcely scathed while the British were totally wiped out, but, once again, we're getting off track.

Shelby is the largest town in Cleveland County and its county seat, it too named for a colonel from the Battle of Kings Mountain. 

The second largest town in the county is Kings Mountain, named after the great hill or small mountain  --  depending on your geographical point of view  --  upon which the aforementioned battle of the same name was fought. 

Returning to "The Great Wagon Road," immigrants of varied roots drifted in from the north and east all along it's way.

Traveling down to Tryon County with the Hamricks were future collateral members of Edie's family including the Moores, the Greens, the Pleasants, the Golds and the Hollands, among others.

These families were to be the area's original settlers and, when they first arrived, had only each other with whom to marry and mate so cousin would marry cousin.

So, it is not surprising to discover when scanning The Heritage of Cleveland County  --  published for the bicentennial year of 1976  --  that many of the county's early families trace their beginnings back to George and Nancy Hamrick of Germantown, Pennsylvania

In fact, Edie and I once calculated that Edie had descended from George and Nancy Hamrick by twenty-two different family lines, which seems to be true for many of the descendents of the original settlers of what was to become Cleveland County.

In those days, as these settlers first moved forth into the county, the countryside was still native wilderness.  They often found Indians, which  --  in the best "shaggy dog" tradition  --  brings us to the story of "Red-headed" and "Black-headed" George.

Next chapter    Chapter 4, The Tale of the Two Georges

Previous chapter    Chapter 2, 'tis a Small Connected World

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