The battle site at Ramsour’s Mill in Lincolnton gets visitors at times other than during the battle weekend. During Christmas week, Valari Dobson Staab and her husband, R.C., stopped by the battle site on their way to Thomasville, Georgia from where they live in New York City. Dobson Staab had been doing her family’s genealogy for several years and discovered she was a descendent of Capt. John Dobson, who fought and died during the battle of Ramsour’s Mill.
Dobson Staab was also interested in her Cherokee heritage, which was really what provoked her genealogy searches.
“I read a lot about the early settlements and the North Carolina Cherokee tribe moving to Georgia and eventually Oklahoma, which the Cherokees we were related to did,” she said. “I wanted to figure out our connection to the Cherokees.”
The couple got a tour of the battle site, the mass graves and memorials by Carole Howell, the current president of the Lincoln County Historical Association and Bill Beam, the past president. Then Beam brought them to meet Ann Dellinger, a local historian and genealogist who works on a frequent basis with the historical association.
“Ann’s so knowledgeable about the area and the battle,” Dobson Staab said. “She actually discovered some things that I didn’t know. My direct ancestor is Capt. John Dobson’s son, John. I can’t find out exactly what year he was born. It was either 1779 or 1780. He was either born the year his father died or was just a baby. Ann had some records of him when he went to court to appoint a guardian in 1795, which would have meant he was at least 14, so that helps narrow down his actual age.”
Dellinger gave Dobson Staab a copy of the material she had gathered on Capt. Dobson.
‘Everybody was so nice,” she said. “They went out of their way and didn’t have to. We had just reached out to the historical society to find out where the grave was. We knew it was on the battlefield, but we didn’t know where. All they were obligated to do was answer the email, but instead they showed up and took us around the site and to meet Ann.”
When she was in her teens, Dellinger started to put together her own family’s lineage and writing down the stories that her grandmother would tell. She started working on genealogy and historical research in earnest in the 1970s. She got interested in Ramsour’s Mill and the battle in the mid-1970s, when she and her husband started to go to the Lincoln County Historical Association to attend programs they offered.
At a program that was offered on the Battle at Ramsour’s Mill, Dellinger realized some of the information that was being passed out wasn’t quite accurate.
“I made the mistake of saying, ‘I don’t think this is correct, there’s errors here,’” she said. “There was dead silence in the room and I’m sure they wondered who this young whippersnapper was who was criticizing their history.”
The error had to do with Patriot troops stopping at Henry Dellinger’s Tavern, which was right at the battlefield. Supposedly, while they were in the tavern, firing started at the battlefield and the Patriots rushed out and joined the battle.
“I knew good and well that if they were at Henry Dellinger’s Tavern, they were a good 10 miles away in another direction,” Dellinger said. “I had documents that could prove that.”
From there, Dellinger started to look closer at the battle site and history of the battle.
For an Eagle Scout project, one of her sons, Ted, chose to work with the grave where Capt. John Dobson is supposed to have been buried. The brick was collapsing away from the grave, so he rebuilt the wall. They took samples of the existing brick to a brick company in another county and they examined it.
“They told me that the brick was really old and had been handmade,” Dellinger said. “They duplicated the brick that our son needed to do his repair work and gave it to him for free.”
The belief originally was that six people were buried in this particular grave, but Dellinger didn’t think there were any more than three or four bodies.
“You simply couldn’t bury that many people there unless you stacked them one on top of another,” she said. “When I began to go back and look at the participants and who was there. The fact that John Bowman was buried there. He and Dobson supposedly had died immediately and were buried where they fell on the battlefield.”
While doing research, Dellinger discovered that Bowman was alive four days after the battle, writing an extensive will.
“I don’t know when he died from the wounds he suffered during the battle,” she said. “It could have been a couple of months later. I’m pretty sure Capt. John Dobson died there or within a day or two afterwards.”
Dellinger believes John Dobson, his daughter, Nancy, and her husband, Wallace Alexander, a prominent Lincolnton lawyer, are buried there and that’s why there was a brick enclosure.
This year is the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. The Lincoln County Historical Association has a lot planned for battle week.
The Lincoln County Historical Association is a non-profit organization that serves to research, record, document and promotes the history of Lincolnton and Lincoln County, North Carolina, through educational programs, publications, special events, and seminars, while encouraging public interest in local history and preservation. For more information, visit https://lincolncountyhistory.com or call (704) 748-9090.