Zachariah Wells hanged in 1781 by Col Benjamin Cleveland in Wilkes County NC, Wells was neighbor and suspected Tory, Zachariah Wells may have been adopted as infant on parents’ death


The curious case of Zachariah Wells who was hanged by Colonel Benjamin Cleveland in 1781 in Wilkes County NC for being a suspected Tory.

I attempted to find Zachariah Wells’ ancestors to determine if we were related. I could find none.

The best answer to his heritage was found here.

“Zachariah Wells was born about 1745 in an area that became Effingham Co. GA. The Stewart family has handed down the following on Zachariah Wells.

A young couple had moved into the Frontier Territory and established their home. A traveler passing heard the cry of a baby coming from the cabin. On inspection he found the parents both dead of the floor and recognized the cause of death as cholera.

The infant was taken in and raised by a neighbor. The family name “Wells”. The lad was given the name of Zachariah meaning “noticed by Jehovah”. Probably indicating God’s power in directing the passerby to notice the baby’s cry. I have no proof of this story except the Stewart family has passed this story down.

Zachariah grew into manhood and married Elizabeth (surname) not known about 1765 in GA.

With the outbreak of the American Revolutionary, Georgians quickly expressed their allegiances, either with the Revolutionary Whigs or with the Tories, who were loyal to the Crown. Zachariah went North with the Tories and was in Wilkes Co. North Carolina when he met with a group of soldiers who were with Colonel Cleveland a Colonel known as a ruthless killer of any who were loyal to the crown. The Tories all escaped except Zachariah who was hung from a large oak tree.”

18th Century North Carolina New River Settlers.

“The first residents of the New River Valley on the North Carolina side have been a bit more difficult to determine than those on the Virginia side. The 1778 tax list of Wilkes County gives some good clues, however, some of the people on this list were land speculators who never lived what became Ashe County, e.g., Enoch Osborne. There were 83 persons listed on the 1778 tax list, however, only 40 of these persons were on the 1782 tax list (estimated population 250). It appears that the tax assessor missed many of the residents of the trans-Blue Ridge, as many later appear on the 1787 state census. There are others who should have appeared on 1778 list who do not, e.g., Joshua Weaver and Zachariah Wells.”

Zachariah Wells was not on the 1782 tax listing because he was hung in 1781.

Zachariah Wells Wilkes County NC records.

“A James Boggs appears on the 1787 State Census in Wilkes County, North
He appears on the 1790 census as James Bodge, living in the Morgan
District of Wilkes County, North Carolina with a household made up of
three males and three females. In December 1778 he claimed 100 acres
in Wilkes County on the North Fork of the New River adjoining
Zachariah Well‘s claim”

From Historical sketches of Wilkes County.

“It was not long until one of Cleveland’s men captured Zachariah Wells who had not yet recovered from the wounds received at Riddle Knob. He was taken to High’s bottom about a mile below Cleveland’s Round About residence. Here James Gwyn, a youth of thirteen, with a colored boy, was at work in the field, when Cleveland, who had joined those having the prisoner in charge, took the plow-lines from the horse with which to hang Wells, to a tree on the river bank. Young Gwyn, who knew nothing of the stern realities of war, was shocked at the thought of so summary an execution. Being well acquainted with Col. Cleveland he begged him not to hang the poor fellow, who looked so pitiful and was suffering from his former wound. This excited the Colonel’s sympathies, and he said, “Jimmie, my son, he is a bad man; we must hang all such dangerous Tories, and get them out of their misery.” Captain Robert Cleveland who at present was cursing the wincing Tory at a vigorous rate. With tears coming down his cheeks, the Colonel adjusted the rope, regretting the necessity for hanging the trembling culprit–remembering very well the rough treatment he had received at the hands of Wells at the Perkins place at the Old Fields; and firmly convinced that the lives of the patriots of the Yadkin Valley would be safer,.and their slumber all the more peaceful, when their suffering country was rid of all such vile desperadoes. Wells soon dangled from a convenient tree and his remains were buried in the sand on the bank of the river.”

There are records of a Zachariah Wells after 1781, possibly his son.

“On 24 Jun 1790 Theophilus Evans sold 400 acres to William Maxwell for 100 pounds, being on Little Elk Creek. Witnessed by Elisha Baldwin, Zachariah Wells and Enoch Osborn.”

From a comment on WikiTree.

DO NOT CONFUSE THIS ZACHARIAH WELLS WITH NO. 1 Zachariah Wells (1750-1833) or NO. 2 Zachariah Wells (1739-1825)



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