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



Marker Text:

      The Alston House, more commonly called the House in the Horseshoe, was built in present-day Moore County on the Deep River in 1772. The name House in the Horseshoe stems from the structure's location within a horseshoe bend in the Deep River. The builder, Philip Alston, led troops in the defense of the house from David Fanning's Tory militia in 1781. In the early nineteenth century North Carolina Governor Benjamin Williams lived in the house which he called “Retreat.”

      Philip Alston purchased 4,000 acres along the Deep River in 1772. In the bend, he constructed one the of the earliest “big houses” of backcountry North Carolina. Alston’s home was the site of a small Whig-Tory skirmish in July 1781. Although the date of the skirmish is debated, the most likely date is July 29. Leading up to the battle, the Patriot and Loyalist factions of North Carolina had fought intermittently for control of the state throughout 1781.

      Beginning the assault in the early morning, Fanning's men quickly surrounded the Patriot forces. Fanning led around eighty men into the attack on Alston's twenty-five men. The Whigs eventually were forced to surrender but, because of fears of execution, Alston’s wife, Temperance, negotiated the surrender. The Whigs surrendered and Alston was paroled by Fanning and returned to his house, where he lived until fleeing from jail following his indictment in the murder of a political rival.

      After Alston fled North Carolina, the House in the Horseshoe changed ownership. In 1798 it was purchased by Benjamin Williams, who served as governor from November 1799 until December 1802, and again between December 1807 and December 1808. Williams lived on his 2,500 acres surrounding the House in the Horseshoe until his death in 1814. He was buried elsewhere before being moved and reinterred at the House in the Horseshoe.

      The house is a fine example of a typical eighteenth century plantation house similar to those found throughout the southeastern United States. The Moore County Historical Association acquired the property in 1954. It then was refurbished to its skirmish period condition, leaving the damage such as bulletholes inflicted on the house by Fanning's men. The site was acquired by the state in 1955 and operates as a State Historic Site.

George W. Willcox, A History of the House in the Horseshoe: Her People and Her Deep River Neighbors (1999)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Lindley S. Butler, ed., The Narrative of David Fanning (1981)
John D. Hairr, Colonel David Fanning: The Adventures of a North Carolina Loyalist (2000)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI, 203-204—sketch by Gertrude S. Carraway
House in the Horseshoe State Historic Site website:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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