The History Museum

of Burke County

1780 Council Oak


The Council Oak at Quaker Meadows represents a proud moment in Burke County’s history. During the American Revolution beneath this stout tree colonial patriots met September 30, 1780 before marching against the British forces at Kings Mountain. These backwoods forces fought to defend a way of life, unique to the world, based upon justice, freedom and individual rights.

The History Museum of Burke County, Inc. has adopted the Council Oak as it’s symbol.

Although the first battles of the American War for Independence occurred in the north, the fighting later shifted to Charleston and the southern Back Country due to a plan by British commander Sir Henry Clinton to divide and conquer the rebel colonies. With this strategy, a British army led by General Charles Cornwallis would destroy all Continental forces in the Carolina Piedmont while Major Patrick Ferguson raised an army of American Volunteers in the Back Country. At the same time, Major Ferguson intended to incite Cherokee Indians of the Blue Ridge Mountains to attack colonial frontier settlements from Georgia to Virginia.

As battles raged in South Carolina, British regulars and American Tories marched as far north as Ramsour’s Mill (Lincolnton), Cane Creek (Dysartsville), and Pleasant Gardens (Marion) to only be turned back by local militia units. This threat of further invasion caused the backwoods settlements along the eastern foothills to develop their own scheme to stop the British.

During the summer of 1780, Isaac Shelby and John Sevier organized mountain villages in “Old Burke” along the Watauga and Nolachucky rivers (present northeast Tennessee) and sent messagers into the countryside to raise defenders. On September 25, Shelby and Sevier gathered at Sycamore Shoals with over 400 men. William and Arthur Campbell of Virginia arrived with an additional 400 riflemen. A unit of some 160 Old Burke militiamen were already camped in the area, and their leader, Colonel Charles McDowell, traveled home to announce that these mountain men were on their way.

Now numbering more than 900 strong, the Sycamore Shoals militiamen marched south on September 26 intending to fight Major Ferguson somewhere near Rutherfordton. This impressive number arrived at Joseph McDowell’s Quaker Meadows farm on September 30, 1780. On the same day they were joined by Colonel Benjamin Cleveland from Wilkes and Joseph Winston from Surry with an additional 350 men.

The combined forces camped at Quaker Meadows now totaled almost 1,400 men. That evening the leaders, all colonels, met in council under a handsome, wide-branching oak tree in a nearby field to discuss their plans. As history records, it was these “barbarians” (as British Major Ferguson named them) who then ambled southward from Quaker Meadows to meet their destiny at the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780.

Today, at the intersection of Bost Road and highway 181 north, a young oak tree proudly stands near a small stone marker. The attached plaque records: “Near this spot stood the oak which sheltered the brave men who here met in council September 30, 1780, and marched on to glorious victory at King’s Mountain. Erected by Council Oak Chapter D.A.R., September 30, 1914.”

  “The Over Mountain Man, hardened by the toil of pioneering, was further hardened by Indian fighting. His life could indeed be short, nasty, and brutal. But if he survived falling trees, fever, snake bites, drowning, disease, backbreaking labor, blood poisoning, and the scalping knife, he rode into a fight a warrior for the ages.”[John Buchanan, “The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas,” John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1997, page 207.]