north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

      In 1761, John McPhaul, a Scottish immigrant, established a tavern and mill alongside Little Raft Swamp with his son Neill. During the American Revolution, McPhaul’s (McFall’s) Mill served as a Tory stronghold. Neill McPhaul was one of the leading Loyalists in the county, and often operated under the command of David Fanning. In July 1781, Fanning encamped at the mill with the prisoners taken in the attack on Chatham Courthouse, and in late September he bivouacked there with individuals captured in the attack on Hillsborough.

      On September 1, 1781, Fanning received word that a body of Whig militia led by Thomas Wade was headed towards McPhaul’s Mill. Combining his force with that led by Hector McNeill, Fanning mustered nearly 350 men to oppose Wade’s 600 troops. Despite being thoroughly outnumbered, Fanning took the offensive and marched towards Wade’s men, who were positioned on a small hill near McPhaul’s Mill.

      The Loyalists attacked the Whig right flank along the lowest part of the ridgeline. When the Tories advanced to within twenty-five yards, both sides fired their volleys. Wade’s men fired high, a common mistake among soldiers firing downhill. Fanning’s men were more accurate, killing nineteen and wounding several more. The volley evidently terrified Wade’s men, who promptly fled the battlefield in confusion. Fanning’s force pursued them for seven miles and captured fifty-four Whigs, four of whom died in the night. Tory losses consisted of five men wounded, one mortally, and five dead horses.

      After defeating Wade’s force, Fanning’s men united with other Tory militias at Cox’s Mill in Randolph County. Eleven days later, he attacked Hillsborough, capturing a number of prisoners including Governor Thomas Burke. On the route to Wilmington to deliver the captives to British authorities, Fanning again encamped at McPhaul’s Mill.

      Notwithstanding the Tory victory at Lindley’s Mill on September 13, the tide of war began to turn against Fanning in October. A large Whig army under the command of Griffith Rutherford pursued him across southeastern North Carolina, culminating in the American victory at Raft Swamp. Along the march, Rutherford’s men camped at McPhaul’s Mills, destroying much of the property.

      After the war, the McPhauls left the country for Nova Scotia, and their land was confiscated. The mill and tavern continued in use until the middle eighteenth-century under new owners. Lafayette stopped there on his tour of the South in 1825.

John H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina, II, 85, 235
Eli W. Caruthers, The Old North State in 1776, 2 vols. (1856)
Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XXII, 205-206, 546-550
Samuel A. Ashe, History of North Carolina, I (1908)
“Historical Sketches of McPhaul’s Mill” (marker files, Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources